Wednesday, 14 November 2012

How to Beat BT's Support Nightmare

Its taken 4 weeks to get a customer's broadband line raised from 2Mbps to 8Mbps.  They're in the middle of nowhere - so its MaxADSL only (upto 8Mbps) - so BT is their ISP and they provide all the hardware, so methinks this will be a simple 5minute support call.  Be aware that I'm not familiar with BT's ways.  Suffice to say I hope I don't have to go through this again.

4 weeks of numerous hours on the phone to India, Glasgow and who-knows where else. It was a challenge to start with but the pain soon followed.  Here's my guide to getting your BT Broadband line sorted out in a pain free way.

A. Do a Line Test
Perform your own line test as follows.
1. goto

2. Click the Yes round radio button
Select the top-left blue "ADSL and Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) Diagnostics" box.

3. Enter your line's phone number, click go and then ok.
The results in the grey box are what BT will be interested in.  Make a copy of these.

B. Contacting Support

1. When normal support routes fail, for they almost certainly will, register at the BT Care Community Forums.

2. Post your problem at
Include the line test results you copied earlier.

EDIT: the link in step 3. below is now not used. The message at it states "The moderators no longer use this contact link so please logon to the forum for further help"
3. Immediately raise a call with BTCare Digital Support.  These are the guys who know what they're doing. Strange thing is they don't have a telephone number.  Very strange but true.
This is the contact link you must use:-
You'll need to refer to the post that you made in the forum above.  You'll get an incident number.

4. You should get an email from BTCare within 24hours.  They will fix your problem 99% gauranteed.

5. If BTCare goes quiet - very unusual - but it happened to me - the very last resort  is ....Twitter.
Yes, good old Twitter to the rescue.
Follow @BTCare.  Tell them you have a problem and can they follow you so you can post DirectMessage  to them -> The incident number, phone number and contact person.  They will then prod the engineer and support WILL resume.


Monday, 22 October 2012

Win8Pro Ugrade - what home users need to know.

Thinking of upgrading on Friday 26th October?  Here are a few pointers that may help.

Why upgrade?  There are a couple of reasons why you might choose to upgrade.
- Your current Windows Operating System is ancient and you really need to refresh your computer.
- You like the new Metro style  (sorry - not allowed to call it that anymore) or "Windows 8-style UI"
- You want to cut in half your computer's boot time (Windows 8 uses a new hybrid-hibernation startup)
- You like collecting Windows Operating Systems

Cost of upgrade. Microsoft are quite keen for people to upgrade. No surprise there.  Until the beginning of 2013 the upgrade cost is low.  For downloads its £15 if you have a new PC (since June 2012) and before that, assuming you have a valid XP SP3, Vista, or Windows7 license, its £25

£15 Win8Pro Upgrade.  Register your interest NOW for this upgrade.  Click the link

£25 Win8Pro Upgrade.  You'll have to wait until Friday for the download.  Alternatively you can order a DVD (NB. -15% if you go through

On Friday, when you run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant and identify to it a qualifying existing Operating System (XP SP3, Vista or Windows 7) - and pay your £15 or £25 - you should download the Win8Pro Upgrade as an ISO and burn it to USB or DVD.  This will enable you to do the upgrade in your own time and save you from having to perform multiple downloads should you wish to upgrade more than one client.

You can upgrade ANY Windows installation.  What does this mean?  If you bought the £15 upgrade you do not have to upgrade your new PC.  But if you have another, older, installation, you can upgrade that instead.

Simple rule:  One Win8Pro Upgrade is required per qualifying existing Windows installation.
e.g. if you have a triple-boot PC with XP SP3, Vista and Windows 7 and you wish to upgrade all 3, then you would need to buy 3 upgrade licenses.
** "qualifying existing Windows installation" is a partition with XP SP3, Vista or Windows 7 installed.

Can I upgrade from Windows 8 pre-release?  No you cannot.  You can only upgrade a partition that is installed with XP SP3, Vista or Windows 7.

Can I perform a clean installation of Win8Pro using the Upgrade?  Yes, as follows:-
1. Purchase your upgrade.
2. Install your upgrade (saving personnal data as required and making a note of installed applications as required).
3. Start your computer (Win8Pro).
4. Press Windows key + i on your keyboard to show the Charms bar (If you are using a touchscreen: Touch the right edge of your screen and swipe your finger to the left)
5. Click Settings
6. Click Change PC settings
7. Click General in the left column
8. Under Remove everything and reinstall Windows, click Get started
9. Follow the instructions that will be provided on the screen to reinstall Windows on your PC. 

At this point it may be worth doing a full backup.

Backing up your new Win8Pro installation
Whether you back up after the upgrade or after the clean install is up to you.  Follow the instructions at this link
(references Windows 7, but the same principles apply to Windows 8).

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

St Peter's Cream Stout. Somebody help me.

Just bought 4 bottles of this Stout from Ocado (4 for £6).  The retail price of this beer is £1.89 which, for a 6.5% ABV beer, has me a little puzzled.  Why is the retail price so low?

Ignoring that I looked on Ratebeer where it is scoring very highly.  Looks good I thought.  But then I see The Ormskirk Baron only scored it 2/5.  Must try it...

Quite lively with a tan head.  Creamy certainly. Fiz carpet on the tongue stretching to the back of the throat. Flavour?  Some light chocolate in the aftertaste but is that it!?  WFT!?!  (That fiz carpet is still clinging to the back of my mouth.)

This reminds me of home brews I used to do at college.  Its meant to be 6.5%  I don't believe that at all.  More like 5%. Has this been bottled too early?  It tastes like its half-way through fermentation - has a metalllic taste - is that the hops?  Very strange.  If this is in the condition that its meant to be in I'm very dissappointed.  I'll ask St. Peters and see if they can tell me what's going on.

Damn - I've got 3 more to drink...

Sunday, 30 September 2012

My GBBH Winners (et al)

A bit of a disappointment this Beer Hunt. Too many pale beers for me. Perhaps they're all (trying to) jump on the IPA bandwagon?  The Lemon Head and Double Espresso tried something different but they don't stand a chance in a 2 week best-seller-wins competition. The label as much as anything will probably dictate which beers win. Sadly.

With only a couple of days left to buy Sainsbury's Beer Hunt beers (competition closes Tuesday October 2nd) my GBBH winners are :- Double Espresso, Willy Nilly, Prodigal Sun, 99 Baboons and Wild Hop Gold.

Which 2 will win is, of-course, anybody's guess. I loved the Double Espresso but is too unusual to appear on supermarket shelves. If I had to pick 2 they would be 99 Baboons and Wild Hop Gold.

GBBH remaining Round 1 beers

Round 1 remaining beers:-

Bad Elf
Blimey, I'm getting a little tired of these pale/light/golden beers. It's a Winter's Ale. I could think of many, and I mean many, beers I'd prefer to drink over Winter. And they wouldn't be pale. A brewer who is clearly thinking "how can a badge this beer to catch as many sales as possible". It didn't work. Ordinary. 6/10

Poppy Ale A pretty grim golden ale. With added honey? Never. Might as well have been in a clear bottle. Ashtray taste. Say no more. Quality-wise ok. 5/10.

Lemon Head
A very different golden ale tasting of ginger and lemon. You'll either love it or hate it. Perhaps TOO different to win this competition. Great try though. 7/10.

Scarborough Fair IPA
Its described as an IPA but its malt is quite sweet and heavy (it is 6%). Its nice and I'd guess many would describe as a very well balanced beer. So I'll give it a very well balanced score. 7/10

Surprised by this one. Preferred to the Scarborough. Hop resin, not lager like in my view, with a bit of sweet malt. Another 7/10

Screech Owl.
I really like this. It would have earned 8/10. But the 330ml for 5.5% What's going on there? 7/10

99 Red Baboons
Label says "Is it a sort of porter or maybe a mild"? Who wrote the label? Too fruity & hoppy for either. But a bit of chocolate. Going for an 8/10 here.

Wild Hop Gold
Plain and simple citrous IPA. Hoppy with a dry finish. Better than their "IPA"? 8/10

Pumphouse Pale Ale
I didn't get this one. Light and sweet but no marmalade. Its good though. 7/10

Unfairly, perhaps, I've skipped 2 of the clear bottled beers - Elgood's Indian Summer and Cotleigh Snowy. So they cannot win my taste test. These will be sampled when I've got a friend round who I either don't like or who isn't bothered about what he/she drinks :-)

Monday, 17 September 2012

Round 1 Ruby and brown beers.

First the winner of the Double Espresso v. Manchester Dark Ale.  This has caused me difficulties because I thought the double Espresso tasted great but is a beer you cannot drink alot of and the chances of it winning the Beer Hunt?  About nill.

The Manchester Star Ale on the other-hand was a straight forward McEwan's Champion Ale immitator.  But it was better.  Smoother and with a darker chocolate taste.  This has a much better chance of winning the competition.

WINNER is Scottish Traditional Ales Double Espresso.  I've voted for this because its just a bit different.  Smooth and lovely. Sainsbury's customers would love it. (In my dreams).

Next is a 3-way taste test of brown/ruby/red ales - Willy Nilly (Brains), Dot Goody's Blissful Brown (Wye Valley) and Ivanhoe (Ridgeway).  The latter is a "red ale".  I may be comparing it incorrectly but let's have a go...

Willy Nilly is a 4.0% ABV ruby ale.   Bottled beers have a problem at this (and lower ABVs).  The taste can be washed out by the fiz.  Although this is quite fizzy the malty body makes this much better than average. I quite like this beer (considering the taste/ABV ratio).  A solid 7/10.

Dot. Goody's Brown Ale is 0.6% higher ABV than the Brain's beer but its body seems thinner and doesn't have the impact of Willy Nilly.  Strange - I was expecting more. Medium malt, medium hop.  Bottle says "Bottle Conditioned" - it did't appear to be to me.  Ok, perhaps there's a little sediment.  Bottle conditioning or not this is a very average 5/10.

And finally Ivanhoe to finish this 3-way taste-off.  Ridgeway won the 2011 Beer Hunt with their Bad King John dark strong ale at 6.0%  This is a "red ale" with an ABV of 5.2%.  Actually I note the bottle also says pale ale. I'm confused again...  Slight haze due to bottle conditioning - I've no problem with hazing at all - the supermarkets won't like it though;)

Straight away we've got a sour touch which immediately puts me off.  If somebody can tell me whether this is deliberate or a problem I'd appreciate it. Perhaps I let too much sediment into my glass?  Would a little sediment affect the taste in this way? I'm not going to go any further but the sour touch means I'm finding it difficult to review this beer properly. 3/10.

Winner Brain's Willy Nilly.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

J W Lees Manchester Star Ale (7.3%)

I should be excited by this beer.  Although the bottle doesn't say "porter" this beer is in the porter style.  Its "recipe comes from an 1884 Lees brewing notebook, a hoppy strong porter," on their website.  I wonder why "porter" hasn't been used on the bottle?  It says "ALE" on the bottle.  I'm confused before I've started...

Its very dark (not black) with a short tan head. Its aroma is standard roasted malts. It looks thinner than 7.3%.  Its body is thinner than 7.3%  Its sweet.  Perhaps the sweetness will reduce with maturity. Its close to something like McEwans Champion Ale, also 7.3%  Is that comparison harsh?  I think the Manchester ale, sorry porter, is better. Its smooter and the dark chocolate taste is stronger.

One way to look at this is on current price.  You can get 3 of these for £4.  That's a bargain. In fact if you like sweet porters I'd go to your local Sainsbury's and grab the lot NOW.  If this beer wins the competition it'll be £1 more expensive.

Back to my tasting test.  This beer is up against the Double Espresso from Scottish Traditional Ales. This was a nice smooth coffee beer.  Which one should be the winner? HELP!

Round 1 Beers Summary

Here's my Round 1 beers summary from Sainsbury's Beer Hunt 2012.  Beer details at Sainsbury's
Join in any time you want!

Beers 1and2. White Lady v. Prodigal Sun <- WINNER

Beers3,4and5  Double Espresso Premio Caffe Bira v. Batemans Mocha v. JWLees Manchester Star Ale
The Espresso beat Bateman's.  Now its up against the Manchester Star Ale.

Beers6,7and8 will be the battle of the clear-bottled-beers, this taste test being prompted by Bailey's comments in his blog at
The beers are Elgood's Indian Summer, Cotleigh Snowy and Wadworth's Horizon.

Beers9,10and11 will be ruby and brown  beers Brain's Willy Nilly, Dot Goodbody's Blissful Brown Ale (Wye Valley) and Ridgeway Brewing Co. Ivanhoe.

The IPAs et al tasting will then follow.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Chocolate and Coffee Beers

Round 1. Beers 3and4 will be Double Espresso Premio Caffe Bira v. Batemans Mocha
If I was really into coffee and/or chocolate beers I'd be looking forward to this.  But I'm not a massive fan.  The Double Espresso from Traditional Scottish Ales gives off a massive coffee aroma and had me salavating.  Poured very dark with a low carbonation, this is a great coffee beer. Smooth and sweet with vanilla hints, this beer scores a well deserved 7/10.

Bateman's Mocha next.  Not looking forward to this. Bateman's beers tend to be over sweet for my palate but I do like my chocolate!

The other question is whether I should also test the Manchester Star Ale as I see its also got "chocolate flavours".  This will be a 7.3% beer. The previous 2 were both 6%.

The Bateman's. It had a very strange aroma. Not nice like the Espresso. Not as dark and more fiz too. And not as smooth. There is chocolate there but there's the Bateman's characteristic sweet background which makes me think this beer doesn't know what it is.  Consequently its not half as good as the Espresso. 4/10

Manchester Star Ale next (some time tonight anyway).

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Sainsbury's Beer Hunt 2012 - Battle of the Beers

So I (eventually) found a Sainsbury's with this year's beer hunt selection. Its a shame Sainsbury's haven't put a little bit more effect into this year's hunt. For example, their websites  (and at time of writing point to the 2011 beer selection. I've suggested that the easiest way to fix this is to point these URLs to  this sainsburys link which, I guess, is at least fairly recent.

Visiting my 2 local Sainsbury's today also dissappointed. One didn't even have the hunt beer shelf up yet! Apparently the current refurb has got in the way. Up the road I found the beer but, embarrassingly, I had to ask where it was. It certainly wasn't next to the usual beer. It was at the front of the store hidden behind a rack of house plants! Pic:-

On to the tastings!  I'm pairing beers up, a little unfair, but adds a bit of fun.

Round 1.  Beers 1and2.
White Lady v. Prodigal Sun

The White Lady is described as a wheat beer.  Its not. At least not what I think of as a weissbier. Point deducted there.  But this is a really clean drinkable beer with a caramel malt taste.  No orange peel or coriander for me.  As the first beer hunt beer it gets a 5/10.

Prodigal Sun.  Pear drops! The Sainsbury's website (link above) says this is a blonde beer. No its not. The bottle accurately describes this as a "light amber beer". I am a fan of WilliamsBros. Their March of the Penguins (stout) is great and their Caesar Augustus was a winner of the hunt last year. Their Profanity Stout was also excellent but, alas, not many customers of Sainsbury drink stout.

I think this is a good bottled beer.  The ABV is 4.1% and at that level its quite a challenge to get a bottled beer with a bit of body and flavour. It may be a bit too fizzy (actually a character that Penguin has also picked up).  Its a shame. Point knocked off.  Citrus? No.  Pear drops I sware. 7/10