Category: Telecoms

Blueface make personal attack, unfounded slurs on former customer

Blueface would appear to be losing it.

Feargal Brady, Blueface CEO has, out of the blue, decided to start leaving deliberately inaccurate, bizarre and unsubstantiated accusations against me in comments on a post on this blog. Some of these allegations are more personal than factual. Challenged to back them up he has repeatedly demurred.

Long story short – Blueface are a VOIP telephony provider in Ireland. I opened an account with them in January 2006. I had repeated problems with the service and in November 2006 I closed my account (after spending in excess of €300 with them).

Excruciating detail:
Because of the allegations made against me by Blueface I will now go through my dealings with them in detail to document the issue online. Skip down to the non-italicised text if you want to see what allegations Blueface are throwing around about me.

I raised my first issue with them on January 13 06, the day I set up my account. My account was configured incorrectly and I was unable to call 076 numbers.

The next problem I had was on February 7th. Again another configuration issue with the way my “calls were localised” which was sorted reasonably quickly.

On March 22nd, because of ongoing call reliability issues I was having with the service I enabled port forwarding (using the port forwarding instructions on Bernard’s site) which seemed to help at the time. I confirmed this with an email to S.O’C in Support sent at 11:28am and confirmed in reply by S.O’C at 11:40am. Up until then when I phoned support, the advice I received was to “Restart the ATA”.

I had more issues in April. I raised a ticket about my inability to make calls on April 3rd which was never satisfactorily explained. This was well over a month after I enabled port forwarding, you will note.

On May 11th when I reported another call issue, I was asked by S. O’C over email to try port forwarding! I reminded him that I had port forwarding in place for a couple of months. This issue appeared to be resolved on 15th of May.

On the 21st of June I again was unable to make calls.This time support advised me to:

switch off the modem and ATA for 30 secs and then switch them back on and leave them for 5 mins

This appeared to work so I took to doing that every time I had a problem instead of contacting support and waiting for them to respond. The problem kept getting worse. It got to the point that by October the service was failing at least once a day (often more). I would only be aware that there was a problem when the phone didn’t ring for a while or when I tried to make outgoing calls. I would try to call my office number from my mobile phone and discover that it wasn’t ringing. As this was my published business number, this was an intolerable situation so I wrote a blog post saying that the Blueface service ‘is crap’.

On October 11th at 17:09 the Blueface CEO, Feargal Brady kindly emailed me. He said:

I ready your blog regarding the service and I’d like to see what problems you are experiencing and how we can address them

At 22:09 I explained that:

the problems I am having are that the service keeps failing. At least once a day (usually more often) I realise I am not receiving any incoming calls. I try to ring from my mobile and get nowhere. Alternatively, I go to make a call and am unable – either no dial tone or the call fails to connect. Calling from my mobile gets through every time.

Sometimes unplugging the ATA resolves the problem for a time, sometimes not.

Feargal came back at 22:32 suggesting:

you may have to set up port forwarding on your broadband modem, so that it sends incoming calls to the modem

I responded at 22:38 by saying:

I set up port forwarding on the router when I installed the ata at the start of the year.

Most of the issues I have had with the service has been in the last two weeks.

To which Feargal replied at 23:08:

in the last 2 weeks we have had 10 minutes of downtime so this would not explain why you could not make a call. It may be that the ATA is faulty or perhaps there is a conflict between it and the router? If you like I can arrange a new one and you can try that?

On the following afternoon at 15:46 I replied to Feargal saying:

please do forward a new ata and I will try it out.

As a side note I am still waiting for that ata!

At 16:03 on Oct 12th Feargal emailed me saying:

You have experienced problems with the phone service because of your setup, your ATA and are [sic] downtime. I looked at your support queries and the last support request was almost a year ago, we had no other contact from you. If we had know you were having problems then we could have tried to resolve them.

By now I was getting irate as the problems were persisting and being told it was my fault was not making me feel all warm and fuzzy so at 16:07 I responded:

excuse my language but that’s a bunch of crap.

I have been on to Blueface support many times – and a lot more recently than a year ago. In fact I only got the service installed in January or February of this year so I couldn’t have been raising support issues a year ago.

I got sick of contacting support because i always got the same old line – “Have you tried re-starting the ATA?”

Pretty soon I got into the habit of re-starting the ATA instead of calling support.

This was the only time I got angry in my communications with Blueface. At 16:32 Feargal’s response was:

its not a bunch of crap, if the ATA needs restarting its because it has lost connectivity with our server. This happens because of the port forwarding issue – this is common to all SIP based VoIP platforms, and so I think that your annoyance is not so much with us but with the inherent reliability of the system in comparison with the PSTN, and how it can be setup correctly to get around this problem.

You signed up in January and have had 4 queries, beginning in April, and the last one in June. There are no others. Clearly we have failed in addressing your incoming call problems and the registration drops and we are happy to try and fix it. As I said, we do this for everyone not just for people with Blogs. Having looked at the blog now, there are people expressing their satisfaction with the service we provide.

All I want to do is fix any problems we have, try and provide a good service, and keep our customers happy – regardless of who they are. You are welcome to come into the office and see for yourself how we manage support, look at our queues etc. Why would we intentionally sell a service which is unusable or provide poor service? It makes no sense.

You are clearly fed up with the technology, with us and with the service you’ve received. All I want to do is alleviate your frustration if possible, and stop this happening again.

As I documented above, I obviously had more than the 4 ‘queries’ Feargal referred to here but I chose not to bother correcting him.

Apart from my outburst on the 12th October 2006, I think you will agree it has all been reasonably polite and friendly. I closed my account with Blueface in November 2006 and thought that was the end of it. Boy was I wrong!

For some reason Blueface CEO Feargal Brady saw fit to revisit my blog post on February 1st and leave this highly inaccurate comment:

just to clarify we did contact Tom a number of times. We advised him that he needed to make some changes on his router on account of his particular setup. He decided that he didn’t require our advice however and never implemented the changes. Despite our looking at his account and seeing his device drop its registration as we predicted, Tom still refused to make the changes. I personally contacted him to offer support and was met with a number of sarcastic and cynical (many would say downright childish) replies. Feargal.

Along with this comment on another post:

your incoming calls did not work for reasons we explained to you about 20 times. Each time we were met with your arrogant refusal to implement the changes – if you implemented them your phone would work perfectly.

On the 5th of February he left the following unbelievable comments:

you were rude and abusive to our support staff. You did not know how to set up port forwarding on your router – when we offered assistance it was declined – disdainfully is being polite. In summary you decided to ignore our help and when your service didn’t work you complained that it was our fault that you wouldn’t take our advice. There was nothing for us to do but leave it at that. Interestingly I had a call from another company who also suffered similar abuse from you in similar circumstances – seems you’re building up quite a reputation.

Then on February 11th this one:

you had not set up port forwarding on your router – as I mentioned, you did not know how to set it up and our offer to assist you was declined. Hence your calls failed as we told you they would, and now you are happy to make out that this is our fault.

Later again on February 11th

you don’t know how to set up port forwarding – I’ve read the mails, read our support tickets, spoken to our support staff. But thank you for showing us all your true character.

In response to another commenter on my blog Feargal said:

Steve – I contacted Tom a number of times and each time my attempts to resolve the situation were met with disdain.

Then Feargal went on to accuse me of commenting on my own blog, in support of myself, using pseudonyms!

I wonder do we have any proof that Al and Steve aren’t Tom’s alter egos or ’supporting act’

You really couldn’t make this stuff up.

To summarise Feargal accused me of:

  • being “sarcastic and cynical (many would say downright childish)”
  • Being arrogant
  • never implementing the changes Blueface support recommended (port forwarding and re-start the ATA)
  • being “rude and abusive to our support staff”
  • being technically incompetent (“not know how to set up port forwarding on your router”)
  • disdainfully declining the help offered by Blueface support
  • commenting on my own blog, in support of myself, using pseudonyms

I asked Blueface CEO Feargal Brady numerous times in the exchanges to back up his incredible charges. Never once has he done so, he has merely gone on to make ever more preposterous claims.

Even if any of these claims were true (and not one of them is), I really don’t see how it profits Blueface to be trashing a former customer in a public forum.

Frankly, if I had a poor opinion of the Blueface service before now, my opinion of their senior management and Blueface as a company could not be any lower now.

Cubic Telecom forms strategic alliance with Global Roaming Inc

I see Pat Phelan’s Cubic Telecom has announced a “strategic alliance” with Global Roaming Inc who trade under the CelTrek brand.

The press release on Pat’s blog is short on details and pat is travelling at the minute so I’m not sure what exactly the alliance delivers to each company apart from what they say in the release:

The partnership will allow both companies to offer extended geographic coverage and data roaming on their existing products.

From further reading of the release, it seems to get CelTrek a foothold in the European market and Cubic Telecom appears to get some cost reductions out of the deal.

There is no mention of any monies changing hands.

Well done Pat on landing this alliance – looking forward to seeing where this takes you.

BT Broadband users can be hacked!

James Galvin posted a couple of weeks ago about a recently published exploit which made hacking Eircom’s wireless routers trivial.

As Eircom are the largest provider of residential broadband in Ireland, this is potentially a big deal. As Joe Drumgoole commented at the time:

they have inadvertently created Ireland’s largest free WIFI network. Good man Eircom!

However, BT is now facing an even more serious issue on its wireless routers according to an article in the Register today. At least in Eircom’s case, the vulnerability only exposed the WEP key, allowing use of the wifi on the router.

In the case of the BT router, the Reg is reporting that

a remote attacker can quietly gain full administrator control over a device simply by social engineering a user into visiting a website. The exploit makes it possible to steal a user’s WPA key, listen in on VoIP calls, steal VoIP credentials or change DNS settings so users are silently redirected to fraudulent websites

This is a far more serious an issue then the Eircom one and the number of routers this affected is likely to be orders of magnitude greater.

The one saving grace is that the hack hasn’t been published in the wild, as was the case with Eircom. Yet.

First iPhone photo editor app?

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Pixenate on the iPhone, originally uploaded by pxn8.

Having recently successfully deployed their Pixenate FaceBook app (a photo editor for Facebook), it looks like Sxoop Technologies are now out to be the first company to deploy a photo editor for the iPhone!

How cool is that? There is a beautiful fit between the iPhone, which people will be using to take pictures, and photo editing software.

Go Walter – woo hoo!

Cubic Telecom make the final 40 in TechCrunch40

Paul Boutin is reporting the finalists in the TechCrunch40.

This has been a closely guarded secret for several weeks now but Paul spotted the names on banners in the Palace hotel!

One of the names is Pat Phelan’s Cubic Telecom – the only Irish finalist out of over 700 entries – well done Pat.

There are some other great names in the list. Pat really has his work cut out for him but I have no fear he will do us proud.

Update: Robert Scoble is predicting Pat to win outright!

Cork-based telecoms firm raises â‚¬5m

Pat Phelan’s Cubic Telecom have released details of €5m worth of investment they have received. Cubic Telecom is the parent company of the Roam4free and Yak4ever brands.

From the release Cubic has raised a

EUR3.5M investment from private backers in order to develop a suite of innovative global mobile and home phone products under the Cubic Telecom brand, together with its own international virtual carrier network. A further EUR1.5M has been raised to fund a series of international launches of products and services in the coming six months.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, Cubic Telecom are also the only Irish company to make it to the final 100 of the uber prestigious TechCrunch 20.

iPhone EU launch limited to 3 countries

I spotted an article in the Financial Times last night which said Apple has succeeded in persuading 3 mobile operators to sell the iPhone in Europe using the same revenue share as AT&T in the US.

The three mobile operators mentioned are T-Mobile of Germany, Orange of France and O2 in the UK. According to the article:

The operators are set officially to announce the partnerships at the IFA trade fair in Berlin at the end of August

The article goes on to say that

[Apple] will continue the roll-out elsewhere in Europe next year, when it will also launch in Asia

Damn! I realise it is unlikely but is there any chance the UK O2 launch will include Ireland?

Did you kill Skype last week?

I did!

Skype are claiming that with their outage last week was due to massive numbers of people re-starting their computers after downloading Microsoft’s monthly software update!

I am sure they are correct, despite how implausible it sounds.

I am just curious about how Skype managed to keep the service running every other month that Microsoft has released patches.

UPDATE: – Skype have published a more detailed explanation of the outage.

Skype offline

In case you hadn’t noticed (or read about it elsewhere) Skype has been offline since around 11am this morning. It is now 5pm.

This is the first time I can remember Skype being unavailable since I started using it 3-4 years ago.

Is anyone using it as their only means of telephony? Up to now, that would have been quite tempting.

3 Ireland's Mobile broadband offering – slow and unstable?

Getting broadband from your mobile operator is a very tempting proposition as I have mentioned previously. It allows you to finally get rid of that landline you so rarely use (and pay a fortune in monthly charges for) and mobile broadband means you can take it with you when you travel – no more looking for wifi hotspots.

However, reading FrankP’s experience with 3 Ireland’s mobile broadband offering I think I’ll hold off on going the 3 Ireland route for mobile broadband for now.

I spoke to Frank this morning after reading his post and I asked him about the speed of the connection – he said:

1288 kbps right now

yesterday it was 504 kbps when I checked

10th it was 612 kbps / 1141

9th 334 kbps

8th from 30 to 70kbps

This is quite a bit different from the promise on the 3 Ireland Broadband page:

speeds of up to 3.6Mbps – smooth surfing guaranteed

Is Frank’s experience with 3 Ireland unique or have others had similar issues?

Paul Giltenan of Choice Communications has promised me a review O2 broadband modem to trial so I’m looking forward to seeing how that works. I wonder are O2 customers having similar problems – they are, after all, using the same Huawei usb modem.

And if this is a more general problem than 3 Ireland Mobile, should Comreg be getting involved? Of course we all know the telcos find Comreg about as intimidating as Bambi.