The iPad 2 saga (aka Best Buy fail)

Having resisted the original iPad, I succumbed to the temptation of the iPad 2 and placed an order via the online Apple Store at 9am on the UK launch day, March 25th. Unfortunately, due to demand, I was given an estimated shipping date of 15 April, with estimated delivery on 26 April, inexplicably eleven days after shipping – a far cry from the experience I had when I pre-ordered my iPhone 4 and it arrived on launch day.

I thought I’d be OK to wait, but having played with one in the Birmingham Bullring Apple Store last week (who didn’t have any stock available to take away on the day), I started getting twitchy fingers – as well as considering going for a 32GB model instead of the 16GB I’d ordered through Apple – so started watching the very useful iPad-Stock.co.uk website.

After a couple of false alarms – Tesco Direct occasionally showed stock but every time I got to the checkout, I was told it was out of stock, and a friend managed to order one from HMV only for his order status to change to “pre-order” within hours – I eventually managed to find some stock, this time at Best Buy, the US electronics giant who have recently opened up shop (physically and online) in the UK. All went well, until I put my credit card details in… declined!

I tried a couple of different cards – one credit, one debit – and strangely both of those failed as well. My phone then rang – it was Tesco Bank, the issuer of my main credit card, who wanted to go through a few transactions with me to make sure they weren’t fraudulent. Having verified that the declined Best Buy transaction (along with a few previous purchases elsewhere) were legit, the operator unblocked my card and said that I should be able to put the order through again.

Great, I thought, so I input my card details again – still no joy! So I phoned Best Buy, who helpfully told me that my account had been blocked for 24 hours due to the original declined transaction and I was welcome to try again tomorrow. When I asked if there was any way around this, I was told not – I couldn’t even order over the phone. A friend of mine had a similar experience, so I wonder how many potential orders Best Buy have lost out on due to this dubious “security” measure – I can imagine a lot of banks and card issuers have declined cards as people suddenly dropping some £500 on an electronics website could well appear fraudulent without speaking to the customer first.

Knowing that the Best Buy stock was likely to have run out by the following day, I decided to go elsewhere. At the time, Insight were showing stock of the black 32GB Wi-Fi model that I wanted, so I decided to place an order with them. The deal wasn’t as good as the Best Buy one, as I had to pay £12 delivery, but if it meant I could have the iPad in my hand sooner, I was happy to fork out.

I was pleased to see that the website accepted my credit card details… then dismayed when I got an email later saying that it had been declined. By the time I read the email on that same evening, Insight’s phone lines had closed, and as it was a Friday I wouldn’t be able to give them a different card to try until the following Monday. Another retail fail – why doesn’t the site have an option to update the payment method via the website when the phone lines are closed?

So, having exhausted my options, I gave up for the day. At around 10.30 this morning, I had a quick look at iPad-Stock, not expecting to see anything, but to my surprise there was stock showing at Comet. They were offering free delivery for Tuesday, or £6 for a Monday (7am-6pm) delivery. It’s not like me to pay extra to receive something a day early, but this is the iPad 2 we’re talking about… My order went through successfully and I got an email confirmation, so all good so far.

I haven’t cancelled my Apple order yet – I thought I’d wait until my Comet order is fulfilled, so I have something to fall back on in case of problems. However, a friend of mine also put an order through with Comet and tried to cancel his Apple order immediately, and was told that the order was already being shipped and couldn’t be cancelled – so he ended up cancelling his Comet order. I’ll wait and see what happens on Monday – worst case is I can’t cancel it and have to return it to Apple when it arrives, or sell it on to a friend or colleague (at cost price, naturally – I can’t be bothered eBaying it).

Tesco Bank rejecting some non-IE browsers for “security reasons”

When attempting to log into my Tesco Bank savings account recently, I was greeted with a message stating that my browser – the latest stable build of Google Chrome – is unsupported:

Tesco’s security concerns seem unfounded given that Google Chrome – which, incidentally, is based on same the WebKit rendering engine as Safari - was recently proven to be one of the most secure browsers.

Also, despite the site’s recommendation of a “modern version of Firefox”, I found that I was also prevented from logging in using the latest version of Firefox 3.6. Trusty (or should that be rusty?) old Internet Explorer 6 seems to work fine, and that’s not a particularly secure browser by any stretch of the imagination!

Strangely, I’m able to log into my Tesco Bank credit card account just fine with Chrome; it’s just the savings area that locks me out.

Fortunately the only reason I logged in was to withdraw my full balance ready to add to my 2010/11 ISA, but if I were looking to continue saving with Tesco, their short-sighted approach to browser support would certainly have me thinking twice.

An end to comment spam bots on Digg?

Social bookmarking and technology news website Digg has decided to implement CAPTCHA testing within the comment posting mechanism, presumably to stop scripts automatically posting unwanted comments on popular story pages.

Unfortunately, neither a CAPTCHA image nor a box to enter your result is visible yet, effectively disabling commenting until Digg’s programmers get around to finishing their implementation. This is most likely a case of test code being pushed to the live server prematurely rather than a deliberate attempt to prevent comment submission entirely.

Screenshot:
Captcha? There is no captcha!

Update: Oops, it seems like story submission is broken too. Step 2 spits out a load of SQL before the normal page content; the rest of the submission procedure (including CAPTCHA verification) appears to complete normally, but the story is nowhere to be found in either the relevant digg area nor my profile.

Update 2: Looks like they’re fixing it as we speak. All pages now display “take a break, we’ll be back in 10. +digg”.

Update 3: Back to normal, just about. They’ve removed the CAPTCHA verification for comment posting, and story submission is working too (the story I posting during their “outage” has now appeared). The top search box on every Digg page isn’t working correctly – it’s showing a blank search form instead of the search results I’m expecting – but apart from that, everything’s fine and dandy.

Goodbye Webfusion, hello uptime!

For the past few years, this domain has been hosted on a server operated by Webfusion, a UK web host. Unfortunately, since being taken over by a certain large ISP, reliability has gone through the floor, to the point where the servers are rebooted almost daily, taking down my website and email at the most inconvenient time. The general consensus is that Webfusion are simply cramming too many users onto each server (it’s a shared hosting setup) causing them to fall over, and I’m not the only one who’s unhappy: Google “Webfusion reviews” and you’ll see what I mean.

Fortunately, W2-S Internet Services, through whom I purchase my hosting, have taken proactive action and have begun migrating customers to US-based servers operated by a separate company. Already I have noticed the increased reliability and response, and I’m getting additional features (such as hosting for multiple domains and PostgreSQL support) for the same as I was paying with Webfusion.

My only concern about migrating to servers in the US was that it would slow my site down; however this proved to be unfounded as I’m still able to max out my 1Mbps ADSL connection when downloading from this server. When I think about it, most of the sites I visit are probably hosted in the US anyway, and they don’t seem considerably slower than UK-hosted sites.

The most arduous part of the process was moving my data from the old server to the new, and even that only took a day. It also gave me a chance to give my Web space a well-needed Spring clean.

So, thanks to W2-S, who I highly recommend by the way, and goodbye to Webfusion – let’s hope they sort themselves out, but it’s too late for me I’m afraid.