LLU Line Share finally a reasonable price in Ireland

(Line Share allows other operators to rent just the internetty part of the line, without having to take the phoney part.)

ComReg set it to 77c in August of last year and Eircom, predictably, appealed. The case is now settled, and the 77c price stands. For once ComReg didn’t wet themselves on the courthouse steps and run away crying like a little girl. Or did they? What did Eircom get out of it?

Micro-USB Mobiles in Europe

Obsolete before it actually happens?

Top mobile telephone suppliers have agreed to back an EU-wide harmonization of phone chargers, the European Commission said on Monday, hailing the pact as good news for consumers and the environment.

The Commission said the agreement would involve the creation of an EU norm, and that the new generation of mobile phones would use a standard micro-USB socket to ensure compatibility.

via Reuters.

Tesco Credit Card Security

An open letter to Tesco and the Financial Regulator.

CC: Financial Regulator, Dublin 2
CC: Tesco Ireland, Gresham House, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin
CC: Tesco Customer Service, PO Box 73, Baird Avenue, Dundee DD1 9NF
CC: Tesco Card Center, PO Box 5747, Southendon-Sea, SS 11 9AJ

RE: Tesco Credit Card Security Procedures


I would like to file a formal complaint about Tesco Personal Finance security procedures for contacting customers by telephone. I have been contacted twice by their staff in recent weeks, and I was shocked by their call procedures in both cases.

The first time I was contacted, via a private number, the staff member wouldn’t introduce themselves or who they represent “for security reasons”. They then proceeded to ask me for personal information to authenticate myself to them. When I explained that there was absolutely no way I was going to authenticate myself to someone that is unwilling to authenticate themselves, they cited the Data Protection Act as justification. I hung up.

At this point I guessed it was Tesco Personal Finance that was contacting me, but there’s no way I could have been sure of this until it was confirmed by the second caller a week later, who at least had the courtesy to introduce themselves and the company. However they also asked me to authenticate myself, which I again refused to do. When I complained about the procedures they didn’t attempt to resolve the situation in any way, they simply cited chapter and verse back at me.

I understand why Tesco was trying to contact me; I received a letter about an overdue amount on my account and sent a cheque to bring it in order on the 31st of March. I accept that was my error and apologise to Tesco for the inconvenience, although in my defence I would add that I changed banks recently and simply had no way to pay the outstanding amount, as my previous account was closed automatically by my old bank before the new account was fully open.

I would also add that if Tesco had invested in just one Irish staff member to handle payments locally, or had invested in an online account management tool for Tesco credit cards, I would have been aware of the issue earlier and they would have received the payment already. I understand the service is outsourced, but Tesco can’t afford 50 or 100k for these simple features?

That’s neither here nor there though, my issue is with the security procedures. While I understand the need for these procedures, their implementation in this case is incompetent at best and dangerous at worst. Consumers are told every single day via various sources not to respond to hoax emails or phone calls, not to give authentications details to just anyone, yet here is Tesco ringing me out of the blue, on a private number, asking for my date of birth and mother’s maiden name.

Please change these procedures to protect Tesco customers, and the customers of other financial institutions whose senses may be dulled by these nonsensical security procedures. A security professional could and should be contacted to discuss the best way to go about it, but even someone like me with the most basic interest in security can suggest something better:

  1. The call shouldn’t come from a private number. The number doesn’t even have to work inbound, a simple recorded message can be used to authenticate.
  2. The staff member should introduce themselves by name.
  3. If allowed by data protection law, the company should be introduced. If this is an issue, tell them that their personal credit card provider is calling, but due to data protection law further details cannot be disclosed. I would be very surprised if the Data Protection Commissioner wouldn’t allow this, but they can and of course should be contacted to confirm this. Rest assured it won’t cost anything.
  4. It should be explained to the customer that the provider is trying to get in touch to discuss the details of the account, but for security reasons they need to initiate contact by calling the freephone number on the back of their card.
  5. Apologise for the inconvenience.

You can even automate this part of the procedure because no actual conversation will take place; not a bad idea in my opinion given the inability of Tesco’s staff to work off-script. Again though, I’m not a security expert, and one should be consulted. I’d strongly suggest Bruce Schneier of Counterpane Systems as one of the most respected experts in the industry.

But of course you should do your own research into this and not take my word for it, since I could be anybody; in much the same way that I don’t take the word of someone that rings me out of the blue. Seeing a pattern here? Please, do something about this idiocy. It’s dangerous.

This is an open letter, the full content will be published on my website at the following address:

All recipients are welcome to respond there or by email to [REMOVED] instead of in writing. If you would prefer that your response remain private, please make this clear in same. I reserve the right to post a summary of responses on my website.

Yours sincerely,
Adam Beecher

Palm Pre

[This has been in my drafts since January 9, only noticed it now. It does have a motion sensor and landscape mode btw.]

The wife’ll kill me, I want one of these and I only have my Treo Pro a couple months.

Palm Pre

It seems to settle a major deficiency in the Treo Pro, namely Windows Mobile. It’s not a bad mobile OS per se, but the hardware is a tad underpowered for it, and it has niggles that can’t be addressed because of it’s closed nature. That said, I don’t know if the Pre’s webOS will be open either, but hopefully Palm will have generated Clue from their Windows adventure. And drop it forevermore…

One other apparent deficiency would appear to be a motion sensor and/or landscape mode. You’d think that if it had it, the presenter in these PC Pro videos – well worth watching by the way – would have demoed it; although it has to be said that despite best effort, he’s no Steve Jobs and might have been better off deferring to someone with more charisma.

(Via Slashdot.)

.TEL Coming Soon

New TLD sunrising on December 3, landrushing Feb 3, GA March 24.

Very cool service with no hosting required, everything is done via the DNS. Put your contact details in a few NAPTR records, add your location in a LOC RR and perhaps a few keywords in TXT RRs, and your details will appear neatly formatted on your automatically generated .TEL website. (Tucows is the registrar I use in Beecher Networks.) But of course since that’s just generated from your raw data, it can be used in a multitude of other ways, by your mobile, your GPS unit, etc.

Not cheap though, at least not for sunrise. I haven’t set pricing yet, but I reckon sunrise registrations’ll run at least €300.

Nokia to buy and open source Symbian

I wouldn’t be mad about the Symbian platform, but this is still huge news, it has a huge install base.

Symbian co-founder Nokia announced Monday night that it is buying the 52 percent of the software maker that it doesn’t already own and releasing its mobile operating system under an open source license.

Someone should buy nineties-thinker Tavis McCourt some clue though:

“With the success of Apple’s and RIM’s models, we would have thought traditional handset vendors would develop and maintain similar proprietary OS models,” said Tavis McCourt, a Morgan Keegan analyst. “We view this move as a long-term positive for the smartphone vendors that own their own OS (RIM, Apple and, soon, Palm).”

4 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Cell Phones

I was just telling Walter that I don’t come across anything worth blogging these days – christ, I’m liveblogging now – when lo and behold this pops up:

  1. Luxembourg’s mobile phone penetration rate is 158%. 158 active cell phones for every 100 people.
  2. 15-19 year old Koreans send an average of 60 texts a day.
  3. You’re not the only one that uses your phone as a torch. Not by a long shot.
  4. Half of Japan’s top fiction was written on mobile phones.

(The article lists 10, but the rest or ho-hum.)

O2 Ireland’s ARPU falls in Q1

Excellent, about time they stopped raping Irish users. Now all they need to do is cut it by another 50% or so.

SiliconRepublic: Mobile operator O2 said this morning that monthly blended average revenue per user (ARPU) “combining voice and data revenue” fell from €45.2 in the fourth quarter to €44.2 in the first quarter of 2008.

Stephen Fry Blogs

And his first post is about smartphones. I never fail to be impressed by that man. I think he’s a bit harsh on the Treo 680, but by god is he right about Palm in general — I don’t think they know what they fuck they’re doing, never mind their customers.

Perhaps they could take Stephen on to develop and roll out his idyllic 800, which really isn’t asking all that much in the current technical environment. He could replace the fuckwit that came up with the giant waste of time and money that was the Foleo.

(Thank the gods I can say “was“.)