Evil geniuses and world domination are 2 of our goals... we also like Dr Who

New Video from Titanium Bunker TV

no comment

I went for a ‘walk’ at lunch yesterday – spotted this on the pavement.

no comment

It’s not easy being green – and for this little chappie, I’d suggest it’s downright impossible



Dessicated Frog found on pavement – closeup

The Mystery of the pig corkscrew.

no comment

You may remember this post, well I tweeted @Tesco about it.

and got he following response :

I’ve also informed them through the product page.

Looking to book a MS Exam in Birmingham UK…

no comment

I popped onto the Prometric testing site to try to book a Microsoft Development exam, and after fighting my way through the interface, I thought I’d share my experience with you all.

Prometric 1

So – first of all we’re asked about our location – this makes sense as I want to book a test location close to a location where I am, or at least where I am scheduled to be.  I am a bit annoyed that the page updates the list of state/province for United Kingdom to contain only — None –.  That would be an ideal opportunity to remove that field if it isn’t applicable.  However it only seems to be applicable if you’re from the United States or Canada – so for the rest of the world – here… have an input box that you’ll never use.

My suggestion : Provide an interface that adjusts based on the user.  If the user picks United states or Canada then show the State/Province options.  How about some map based input?  Perhaps a google map?  So I pick United Kingdom, and select Next.

Prometric 2

Now I am presented with a list of options.  I’m interested in booking an exam, so I’ll pick “Locate a test center.  Quickly and easily find a test centre nearest you.” – hey guys – in the UK we write that as Centre.  Oh – and did you notice that all of the options in the main content of the page, are the same options from the left hand column of the page – but don’t worry – there’s yet more duplication and inefficient design to come 🙂

Prometric 3

And then for some reason I’m asked for my country again. So I’ll just tell you that again….  Hopefully you’ll remember that now…

Prometric 4


And yes – it looks like you have remembered it – and I’m offered yet another way of altering my current location.  So now I need to specify which test I am interested in to determine which tests centres are most applicable for me:

So I’ll pick the appropriate answers here – Microsoft and Microsoft (070, 071, 074, MBx) and I’m presented with another screen.

Prometric 5


Registration?  All I wanted to do was check seat availability.  I’m not entirely sure that this page is 100% required, as I can click Next without clicking on anything else, and I’m presented with another screen.  Notice that the orange banner to change location has mysteriously disappeared.

Prometric 6

So I now search through this large unwieldy list for the exam I’m planning on taking.  What’s interesting is that for some reason, the language and the currency are important for me to know to book availability.   I pick English, and the currency (GBP) from the list that only has GBP in it (sigh) and click next.

Prometric 7

Hey! the orange banner has returned  – welcome back!.  So all I have to do now is find a centre near Birmingham.  In my opinion this is weak.  we should be presenting this geographical information based on nearest town.  Asking for a list of UK test centres isn’t going to help me if I’m based in or near Birmingham and the top of this list of for Londonderry – a mere 394 mile, 8.5 hour drive (and a ferry crossing) away. What would be more practical for this geographical information would be a map based interface – like a google map.

Anyway – let’s look at what availability QA Training, Birmingham have.  So I click on seat availability.

Prometric 8


They have one day – 19/03/2014.  That’s it.  1 day for the whole of this year going forward.

Nothing in April :

Prometric 9

So – I phoned them – If you’re interested Prometric list their number as 44 121 6656465 whereas QA list their number as 0845 074 7821 – Might be worth taking a note of that number in light of the costs associated with Non geographic numbers.

Turns out that QA Birmingham are having the whole of April off as holiday, according to the receptionist that I spoke to, and that the availability is only provided up to 8 weeks.

Well this is news to me as there was nothing on the web page to say that – so I have tweeted the 2 prometric addresses I could find (@PrometricEvents, @Prometric_News ), and sent them an email via their contact form – Trying to find a phone number for them was nay on impossible.  Click on contact us – for phone, it asks you to identify your test sponsor – click on Microsoft, click on contact us and it asks to identify test sponsor again, 

This 8 week availability restriction also might be news to Birmingham University, who have a date in May currently available.

Prometric 10 - Bham University


Here’s what I asked :

Can someone please confirm – when I’m looking at the seat availability, how far is that valid? does it show to the end of the year, or only 8 weeks ? Doesn’t say on your page.


Mike Hingley

Here’s the response I received :

Dear Candidate,


Thank you for your email.


Please be informed that dates availability is subject to change on the website. In order to locate suitable test site as well as testing date, you are requested to either keep checking on the website www.prometric.com or you may contact the Care Department by calling at +0800-592-873 or +31-320-23-9895 on Monday-Friday 9:00-18:00 GMT for further assistance.

Should you have further queries please do not hesitate to contact us again.

We hope this information Is helpful.


So the official guidance is to just keep checking – So you keep checking over and over hoping for an update – not that you’d know there’s been an update because date ranges where there is no data look the same as date ranges when there is no seat availability. If we could know how far prometric has received seat availability data for that would be something.

Notes :

  • To be fair I could only get the “forgetting the country” bug to occur once while recording these screenshots.

Quaker oats

no comment

In a previous post, I hinted that I had found an issue with the Quaker Oats So simple sachets.  A picture paints a 1000 words and here’s 2000 worth :).   In this first picture we can see the three sachets in question – Winter Pudding, Caramel and Sweet Cinnamon


Oats so Simple sachets – Winter Pudding, Caramel and Sweet Cinnamon

Here are the backs of the sachets.


Oats so Simple reverse of sachet showing preparation instructions

I’ve noticed a couple of issues with these instructions. One issue is that the instructions make reference to a tear line – except that there is no tear line. The tear line is shown on the front only – so a quick fix to make these instructions more obvious would be to drive the behaviour of the consumer and add a tear line on the back. In design parlance this is what is referred to as affordance and Constraints. Looking at other sachet design like this tomato sauce sachet from Heinz :

Heinz Tomato Ketchup Sachet

Heinz Tomato Ketchup Sachet

The physical size of the sachet (being only a single serving of tomato ketchup) prevents a lot of instructions, but the user is shown that the sachet can have its top right hand corner ripped off to open the sachet. This is suggested through the use of the dotted line indicating how far and what shape to tear, and the jagged edge to the sachet, which provide an edge contour which should make it easier to tear.

I would suggest that Quaker make a small nick in the side of the sachet to aid tearing, and reinforce that with a tear line on the reverse of the sachet.  To be fair there is a nick in the side of the packet – but I believe that this is on the wrong side of the packet for right-handed people (70-90% of world population).  A second nick could be placed on either side of the packet

modified quaker oats sachet

modified Quaker oats sachet

The other issue is the difference between the fill levels.  Looking at the sachets, notice that the Sweet Cinnamon sachet has its fill line lower down that the other sachet – yet the instructions for all of the flavours say to fill with milk to the fill level (180 ml). The sachets are the same size (12.7cm x 10.4cm) so it is highly likely this is a printing issue, but I really wanted to confirm that, so I carried out some experiments comparing the Caramel, Sweet Cinnamon and Winter Pudding flavours in terms of the finished product following only the instructions on the back of the sachet, and using the fill line.

Making Oats so Simple using the sachet measuring level.

Caramel Flavour

Filling to the fill line on the Caramel sachet results in nearly 250 ml of milk.

Caramel – Sachet to fill line

I filled the Caramel flavoured sachet with milk to the fill line, and measured it using a measuring jug. The photo shows that following the sachet instructions results in nearly 250 ml of milk rather than the 180 as presented in the printed instructions – approximately a 32% inaccuracy. Here’s what that looks like when you follow the sachet instructions :


Sweet Cinnamon Flavour

Filling to the fill line on the Sweet Cinnamon sachet.

Sweet Cinnamon – Sachet to fill line

I repeated the same procedure for the Sweet Cinnamon flavour, filling the sachet to the fill line and measuring it using a measuring jug. The photo shows that sachet holds just over 200 ml of milk, and less than 250 ml.



Winter Pudding Flavour

Filling to the fill line on the Winter Pudding sachet

Winter Pudding – Sachet to fill line

I repeated the same procedure for the Winter Pudding flavour, filling the sachet to the fill line and measuring it using a measuring jug. The photo shows that sachet holds just over 200 ml of milk, and less than 250 ml.



Making Oats so Simple using measured ingredients.

Next I followed the instructions, but measured the milk using a Pyrex scientific measuring beaker.

Overall the results obtained using an accurate measure of the milk were better than using the fill line from the sachet.  I therefore decided to examine the accuracy of the fill line.  Taking a Winter Pudding sachet, I measured 180 ml of milk, and poured it into the sachet, marking on the sachet the actual fill line. This line was 2.5 cm lower than usual fill line on the sachet.  This means that – for winter pudding sachets – that instead of the line being 10.5cm from base, the line should be 8 cm from base.  Translating this line on a Sweet Cinnamon sachet reveals that this sachet fill line is only 1cm higher than it should be.

Updated Packet - Winter Pudding

Updated Packet – Winter Pudding

Updated Packet - Sweet Cinnamon

Updated Packet – Sweet Cinnamon



Conclusion : There’s been some mix up relating to the sachet graphics.

This is supported when looking at the “So Simple” graphics  at the bottom right of the packet.  The Sweet Cinnamon packet has the graphics lower down the sachet when comparing to the caramel or winter pudding flavours – but in combination the graphic itself is also inaccurate.  To fix this Quaker Oats needs to drop the fill line on the graphic by 1cm, and ensure that the graphics are printed from the same registration point, and that this registration point should probably be based around the Sweet Cinnamon registration point.

Alternatively I suggest investing in a Pyrex scientific measuring beaker – however this removes some of the convenience of working with oats so simple.

Micro Men

no comment


Martin Freeman as Chris Curry Left and Alexander Armstring as Sir Clive Sinclair Right

On Saturday, Miss Vicki and myself spent an evening with Saul Metzstein. second unit director on Dredd and The director of Doctor who stories ‘The Name of the Doctor ‘, ‘ The Crimson Horror’, ‘The Snowmen’ ‘A Town Called Mercy’ and ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’. Specifically he directed the 2009 film Micro Men starring Martin Freeman and Alexander Armstrong detailing the rivalry between Sir Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry.

I remember missing the film when it first aired and looked forward to the screening which was held at the centre for computing history in Cambridge. Now I know where it is, I will be kicking myself I hadn’t found it sooner.  Expect future posts on this most interesting place.

The film was a more lighthearted take on the events of the time, but it would be wrong to classify it as a comedy. Saul stopped for a Q+A afterwards and he was most interesting.   However, given the history of the BBC micro, and recent events trying to get kids into coding, the Q+A was derailed for a minute while a room full of computer programmers vented their collective spleens about the poor quality of modern IT education. My hand is up, it was my fault

Saul lamented that the film would probably never get a DVD release, down to rights issues and simply that it’s not a very international story, which is a shame.

It’s possible the whole film is lurking on YouTube someplace. I wouldn’t even begin to speculate if that was possible, but you know, it’s the internet. Surely it must be out there somewhere.



Flora Proactiv fail

no comment

Tried signing up this morning for the proactiv news letter – got the following error



The actual error is :

Server Error in ‘/’ Application.

A connection attempt failed because the connected party did not properly respond after a period of time, or established connection failed because connected host has failed to respond

Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code.

Exception Details: System.Net.Sockets.SocketException: A connection attempt failed because the connected party did not properly respond after a period of time, or established connection failed because connected host has failed to respond

Source Error:


An unhandled exception was generated during the execution of the current web request. Information regarding the origin and location of the exception can be identified using the exception stack trace below.

Stack Trace:


[SocketException (0x274c): A connection attempt failed because the connected party did not properly respond after a period of time, or established connection failed because connected host has failed to respond]
   System.Net.Sockets.Socket.DoConnect(EndPoint endPointSnapshot, SocketAddress socketAddress) +525
   System.Net.Sockets.Socket.InternalConnect(EndPoint remoteEP) +51
   System.Net.ServicePoint.ConnectSocketInternal(Boolean connectFailure, Socket s4, Socket s6, Socket& socket, IPAddress& address, ConnectSocketState state, IAsyncResult asyncResult, Int32 timeout, Exception& exception) +606

[WebException: Unable to connect to the remote server]
   System.Net.HttpWebRequest.GetRequestStream(TransportContext& context) +938
   System.Net.HttpWebRequest.GetRequestStream() +23
   Traction.Fusion.HttpPostService.ProcessRequest(RequestContext context, Boolean closeConnection) +797
   Traction.Fusion.HttpPostService.ProcessRequest(RequestContext context) +63
   Traction.Fusion.Customers.AddCustomerService.AddCustomerInternal(IMatchKey matchKey, UpdateAttributeCollection attributes) +649
   Traction.Fusion.Customers.AddCustomerService.AddCustomer(IMatchKey matchKey, UpdateAttributeCollection attributes) +80
   Unilever.Flora.VitalityAcquisitionEmailPromotion.AddCustomerFormProcessor.ExecuteAddCustomer(IAddCustomer form) in C:\Projects\MUK\FloraVitalityAcquisition\Templates2010\Unilever.Brand.Template\AddCustomerFormProcessor.cs:38
   FloraVitalityForm2010.Acquisition.SaveToTractionAddCustomer() +168
   FloraVitalityForm2010.Acquisition.ProcessForm() +164
   FloraVitalityForm2010.Acquisition.Submit_Click(Object sender, EventArgs e) +51
   System.Web.UI.WebControls.Button.RaisePostBackEvent(String eventArgument) +159
   System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequestMain(Boolean includeStagesBeforeAsyncPoint, Boolean includeStagesAfterAsyncPoint) +3482


Version Information: Microsoft .NET Framework Version:4.0.30319; ASP.NET Version:4.0.30319.1016