Thursday, January 27, 2011

IBM turns 100

This centennial film features one hundred people, who each present the IBM achievement recorded in the year they were born. The film chronology flows from the oldest person to the youngest, offering a whirlwind history of the company and culminating with its prospects for the future. More at

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Standard Bank's surprise Cheque Deposit Fee annoys customers

I hate it when companies introduce unpopular charges and then weasel their way out of explaining it to their customers. Did they think that no one would notice? Or that they'd be happy about it? Or that their business customers would shrug it off?
I searched their web site press release page, and found nothing. How surprising. It's in their 2011 Bank Fees document, but that's about as far as it goes. It has a section on deposit fees, but deliberately avoids mentioning the cheque deposit fee, although it mentions that cash deposits at an ATM are free. Evasiveness is not that different to dishonesty.
A complaint on HelloPeter is answered equally evasively, with no one owning up to the new fee structure or admitting anything. How nice. I'm sure "agrityre" at HelloPeter must be delighted. "Emile" on Facebook was thrilled. He wrote
Now my biggest customer is having to charge R12.49 for any cheque payments under R1000, even if the cheque is from another bank. That's because R12.50 without VAT is R10.964, so rounding it off to the nearest cent and then adding VAT gives either R12.49 or R12.51. What a nightmare.
Update 27 Jan: My customer received the following notification via email from Gary Larsson, Account Executive, Standard Bank Business Banking - Sandton:
On 1 January 2011 Business Bank introduced a cheque deposit fee of R12.50 for each cheque deposited. Following further feedback received on this matter, we have decided to suspend the cheque deposit fee with immediate effect and reverse all cheque deposit fees that have been incurred by yourselves from 1 January 2011 to date.
Please note that this is a fee suspension and not a fee withdrawal. The intention remains for the Bank to promote alternative forms of making and receiving payments that are more affordable, more secure and faster to use.
Where it becomes necessary to review our position on this matter, we will do so and advise you accordingly.
That's the closest we'll get to the bank admitting that it screwed up. I guess they can always blame it on "the man with the melon hat". That's why I no longer bank with the (sub)Standard Bank.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Face to face with a false defrag program

I don't encounter malware very often, and this program reminded me how bad it can be. Michael Kaur from the Malware Removal Instructions blog sent me a copy of this program, since I requested it. It's a nasty piece of work, installing itself surreptitiously in your system, and then pouncing when you reboot.
When you boot up it runs its "scans" and then falsely tells you lies about your machine. I prepared my "FRAGG" test machine and made sure the files were fully defragmented and everything was in order, so I knew all the "errors" it reported were bogus.
I had to deactivate the Microsoft Security Essentials program in order to be able to install the malware, but once it was installed my machine was effectively held to randsom. It wouldn't let me run any other programs, or even copy files to my USB memory stick.
Even the payment information is bogus. To prevent the malware from spreading on my network, I had unplugged the network cable before installing it. Nonetheless the malware managed to dupe Internet Explorer into believing that the payment URL was legitimate (the domain is not registered) and secure. Who knows what they'll do with my credit card details? I'm not about to try to find out.
I eventually had to boot up from an Ubuntu boot CD just to copy the files for this blog post. Then I wiped the hard drive using DBAN, to make sure the darn thing was gone. Nasty. Fortunately there are helpful web sites like the Malware Removal Instructions blog to clean up your machine, if this stuff manages to get past your antivirus program. What do you mean you don't have one??? I suppose you don't do backups either ...

Monday, January 03, 2011

My Blackberry isn't working

This is the modern day version of the parrot skit. Brilliant!