Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thoughts on Today's Technology

Today, Apple unveils it's next generation of iPads, and probably announces the public release of OS X Mavericks, along with the new iWork suite and the date for the Mac Pro release.  Tablets are a hot ticket item right now.  I love my iPad.  I've had two - a first generation and a third generation one.  I also love my Microsoft Surface (first generation).    

I've never fully understood why the Surface has had such a tough time.  It's a solidly built piece of hardware and I've found it performs wonderfully.  It's a cinch to program apps on it, and it runs MS Office.

The public on the other hand seem less than enamoured with them.  I can only assume that most people don't understand the concept that Windows RT is designed to run on ARM processors - which is what's inside the Surface.  It's not the machine's fault if it doesn't run your Intel/AMD designed software - that's like complaining that it's your cars fault for only using diesel not petrol like your other car.  They are different things.

Whilst we have come a long way in the past ten years to eradicate the mystery of computing and make it accessible to the masses, it's things like this that make me realize that we still have a long way to go.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Escalating when CIBC drops the ball.

So a quick update on the Interac farce at CIBC.

As you know, I pinged CIBC about this yesterday:

Naturally, nobody at CIBC communicated acknowledgement that they were looking into it, or even considering fixing the issue.  Then this morning, I get a note from the University of Toronto that they got another two invites.

(Click Image for Original)

Just out of curiosity, I gave the authorisation to see if it worked.  Of course it did.  As shown here:

So, now, what CIBC said had not gone through (i.e. $0) has left me $750 down in my account, $250 I assume is at Interac and the recipient now has to fire back $250 of the $500 they have cos they have twice what they needed, and CIBC still wants to exact charges on me to fix this?

So, given CIBC has dropped the ball yet again, I'm now bringing this farce to Interac's attention.

Awareness and Priorities

There's currently a culture of having weeks, days or months dedicated to raising awareness of certain causes, but this culture has inadvertently allowed society to conveniently put pressing issues back on the shelf when the day, week or month is over.

It's almost like the act of having a day to raise awareness of, say, the WHO mental health initiative (Oct 10) is enough of an effort that the issue can and should packed away on October 11th for the next 364 days.  People seem to be actually proud of having the one day and don't see a need to keep things at the fore-front.  

This month is Black History month and we see the same phenomenon here. The TV shows and documentaries are brought out and put on parade to make each channel look like they're participating, then it gets put away again for another 11 months.

The problem with this approach is the underlying issues that these causes are trying to raise don't get fixed in a day, week or month.  So, they get talked about once a year, then they're conveniently shelved until the next year.

Call me a cynic but we've got bigger awareness of "Shark Week" than we do of many other pressing issues in society.

It seems that we've got our priorities wrong, and the media isn't actually helping matters here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

CIBC and Interac - It's like Laurel and Hardy, only different.

People might think that I go around actually trying to be miserable at certain organisations, but the truth is that I don't.  It's just that certain organisations repeatedly foul up in ways that just should not be possible, and eventually I lose my temper with them.

One such organisation is CIBC.

I've said this before, and I'll repeat it again...  A bank should have three qualities:

  1. It should be dependable.
  2. It should never surprise you.
  3. It should be utterly pedantic.

CIBC, as ever, continues to defy these qualities and cause me want to rip out my spleen and bash them over the head with it.  Here's a little story about their latest cock-up.

On the afternoon of October 2nd 2013, I tried to send a very simple $250 Interac payment from my account.  Having addressed the payment, I hit the "Send" button.

I get this screen.

(Click Image for Original Size)

As you can clearly see, it says "We were unable to complete your request due to an unexpected error. Please try again."...

Now, how would you interpret that?

I would interpret "We were unable to complete your request" as "The request did not go through".  I would also interpret "Please try again" as an instruction from the bank to try the transaction again, as a corrollary to the prior sentence that the instruction did not go through, and therefore you're safe to try again as the money didn't leave your account.

Three times I tried.  Three times I got told "We were unable to complete your request".  I questioned this with CIBC's twitter team and they confirmed there were some Interac issues being worked on.  So, I stopped trying to send the money.  It could wait.

At this point, if the bank is explicitly telling you it's not completed the transaction, you'd be correct in thinking that the transaction had not completed.  Right?  

Wrong. Being CIBC, we have to break the rule #2 above, so here comes a surprise:  
When they explicitly stated "We were unable to complete your request", the truth was the request was going through every time.  My account got drained three times of $250. The recipient got invitations to collect $750.

Now to address pedanticness in rule #3 above.  A bank should be accurate.  It should be "to the penny" accurate with numbers.  It should say what it means in communications.  There should be no room for interpretation.  It should be black and white.  No grey areas.  (I'm still annoyed at CIBC over that whole email scam - they should not say that they'll do one thing, then do another.)  

In short, the more pedantic, the better.  As a bank, it's got a duty to be the most hair-splittingly accurate and most particular organisation in the average person's daily life.

As a programmer, here is where I get really frustrated in this latest farce;  When a computer (say, at a bank) hands off a financial instruction to another computer (say, at Interac), it's not like an Olympic baton race where one entity passes the baton to the other and gets nothing in return whilst the second entity races off with it.  Instead, a computer hands off the instruction and it gets a receipt in return to acknowledge the transfer.  

If you understand that, you'll understand why as a programmer I get so pissed off when I know that the system knew it had sent the money (it had to know, as the alternative would be that the "bank is confused as to where your money is" and you should never have a situation where the bank doesn't know if it's got your money or not), yet despite knowing that the money was sent, it's reporting a direct lie to the customer to the contrary, and then it's compounding the problem by inviting them to send the same thing again.

And that brings me to point #1, about being dependable.

Naturally, I now wanted to stop the other two erroneous payments and get my money back.  CIBC's stance on stop payments for Interac says this:

"a stop payment fee will be charged to the account you indicate as part of the stop payment request."

Oh, really?  So having ignored the fact that they knew at all times where the money is, and still egged-on the customer with incorrect information, you now want to charge me additional fees to fix it?

Of course, I wasn't happy about this, so I logged on to CIBC's website and wrote to customer service using the CIBC "Contact Us" functionality of their site.

Upon hitting "send", I got greeted with this nugget.

 (Click Image for Original Size)

The "contact us" to report that the "contact us" failed reminded me of the "Keyboard error, press any key to continue" error, and just about wraps up this latest farce. 

Seriously, why does banking have to be so damned difficult?