2020-09-21

The blue M&M test

There is a famous story of the Van Halen concert contract requiring the removal of some M&Ms. It is a test to confirm that the contract had been read properly. Clever idea. More on that at snopes.

However, I first encountered it from a friend who referred to it as "The blue M&M test" and explained the story, which I indeed thought was clever.

But there is a problem! As you can see from the Snopes article, the actual story is that they banned brown M&Ms, not blue ones.

So where did this come from? Well, my friend is adamant he always heard it as blue.

Try googling.

Yep, 2 results. Guess what they are? My blog!

Sounds like my friend did not read the contract properly, and so failed the test :-)

2020-09-20

Tech: Managing calls

iPhone
I have just issued a new alpha release of FireBrick, by popular demand, allowing some call filtering based on CLI. Basically you can do a lot more than simple anonymous call reject now. Whilst most people know the FireBrick as a firewall/router it is also a SIP VoIP PABX (phone system).

But one of the things that this highlights is the increasing need to "do something" with calls you receive. Systems like the FireBrick allow you to do all sorts on your own network, making your own "phone system" for VoIP phones. If you look at systems like asterisk the level of controls you have are quite incredible - essentially a programming language for how calls are handled and even allowing recoded messages and DTMF menus and so on.

On a private system you also have means to log things and even manage call recordings yourself.

This is all great for a "desk phone" but what about your mobile?

This is where some of the stuff we sell comes in - and we have customers doing some clever stuff. Recently we have managed to make a few improvements, but basically we have means to have a normal 07 UK mobile number, and a mobile SIM, and put your own phone system (whether FireBrick, or asterisk, or anything else) in the middle.

This means you can have a mobile phone with a SIM card, and do things like log, or filter, or record calls, and texts, either way. The SIP2SIM service looks like a VoIP handset has registered and connected to your phone system, but is in fact a normal Mobile telephone service (i.e. no special app on the phone). This means you can even make internal calls on your phone system from your mobile. (The mobile leg does have call costs even for these).

The texts can be passed by email or using http/https on your own server where you can do things with them. The latest improvements mean much better handling of unicode characters as well. You can also handle the texts from the mobile. You could just join the dots to make texts or calls, in and out, like a normal mobile, or you could do much more with your own scripts on the way.

We have people doing things like opening doors using calls, and clever tricks with texts.

Obviously we also have services that simply link calls, or texts, or both, in and out between an 07 mobile number and the SIP2SIM service without needing your own phone system. We have options like call recording and logging. But we are happy for you to make your own systems, as simple or as complex, as you wish in the middle.

Of course this also allows mobile on a normal landline style number, but texting to such numbers remains a challenge in the UK, and a lot of companies and web sites will refuse to even try texting what they think is a landline number. So using a normal 07 mobile number does the trick nicely.

We can even port in an 07 mobile number to the service, and if you don't like it, port back out again. No minimum term on the SIP2SIM or VoIP services.

So if you are techie, but want a lot more control of your mobile phone service, it is worth taking a look.

One little trick I do a lot is steal a call, transferring it between my mobile and my desk phone mid call, without the other party even realising I have done it. E.g. answer on mobile, walk to desk, put on headset, switch call to desk phone and work on computer while on the call. All seamless.

2020-09-19

UK government digitally signed my penis!

It appears that the COVID-19 QR code generator government web site does not allow emojis, but it does allow hieroglyphs, so it seems I have managed to have the UK government digitally sign a penis.

The QR code, signed by the government/NHS, includes

{"id":"53WVKKW5","opn":"𓂸","vt":"005","pc":"SW1A2AA"}

I know it is childish, sorry, and you definitely should not check in to 10 Downing Street by using this barcode, obviously. That would be bad. It does show how daft it is making these QR codes so huge by digitally signing them though.  See the other blog post for more details on these QR codes, and what else is wrong with them.

There is a practical use though - making a QR code for your own home will allow you to "check out" of where you have been, otherwise the app assumes you were there until Midnight.


For those with character set challenges, this is what it looks like

2020-09-18

How not to QR (NHS COVID-19 App)

There is now law requiring (from 24th Sep) a QR code to be displayed in various premises so people can scan it in to the NHS COVID-19 App. See The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Collection of Contact Details etc and Related Requirements) Regulations 2020. The law has plenty of issues, but let's look at those QR codes...

It seems you can request the QR code poster for your venue, see here. The poster is emailed to you.

This is an example.

This is not how you do it - and I wonder if they got any technical advice from anyone on the matter first.

What's in this huge QR code?

The content of that QR code is: UKC19TRACING:1:eyJhbGciOiJFUzI1NiIsImtpZCI6IllycWVMVHE4ei1vZkg1bnpsYVNHbllSZkI5YnU5eVBsV1lVXzJiNnFYT1EifQ.eyJpZCI6IlJLWTMyV01SIiwib3BuIjoiUFVCTElDIFRFTEVQSE9ORSIsInZ0IjoiMDA1IiwicGMiOiJMRTE4M1RFIn0.ix66d7uRe_vhpB4BPb0Nzbq2vEC3IShdX7UOqfp0XVyg7YI88R_bOCY1DpgQZo9dy07xcga4e1MTmcKV9ZHi1A

The data contained is an RFC7515 JSON Web Signature (JWS) base64 coded string which contains:-
  • {"alg":"ES256","kid":"YrqeLTq8z-ofH5nzlaSGnYRfB9bu9yPlWYU_2b6qXOQ"}
  • {"id":"RKY32WMR","opn":"PUBLIC TELEPHONE","vt":"005","pc":"LE183TE"}
  • Binary signature
So what's wrong?

  • It is not user friendly - and requires the app installed first so you can use it (see below). This is perhaps the biggest issue. P.S. even with app installed, they have not hooked the QR code to the app, as they could have, so could be used from camera app - just lazy!
  • This QR code is far too big (i.e. dense)! The denser the code the harder to read reliably. There is no need for it to be this dense. A small code is quicker and easier to read.
  • One reason it is dense is poor choice of QR encoding options. It could be less dense with exact same content easily.
  • Another reason it is too dense is that the content is base64 coded JSON which itself contains base64 binary. This is crazy. The actual underlying data is quite small, and even signing it, it does not have to be anywhere near as big.
  • Another reason it is too dense is they have chosen to sign the data, which is pointless (see below)
  • Another reason it is too dense is they have chosen to encode some simple data (venue ID and name) in JSON, when there really is no need.
  • You have to use the gov web site to make the QR code, a large company could not, for example, automate making posters for all their sites centrally.
  • This is not actually a valid QR code! Yes, pretty much everything will read it, but the specification requires a 4 unit white space all around, and this does not have that - it has grey at 2 units and text within the whitespace area.
  • If you request a poster more than once for a venue, you get a different venue code, so the app will see each poster as a separate venue, it seems. I can easily see that happening as it may be easier to request a new poster than to find the PDF / email you previously saved if you need to print more.
  • Oh, and the instructions are to display the poster and ask people to scan it with the app, as soon as you get it, even though the app is not actually working yet, so people cannot scan it with the app!
  • The poster has no link to where to get the app, just the store you have to search, and guess what, searching does not work (depending on exactly what you type):-



In summary this is thrown together with some standard libraries and very little actual thought - is not even a valid QR code, and is going to be a mess with every waiter now expected to provide tech support on app installation on Android and iPhone to every customer that comes along - but this is very much what we have come to expect.

How to make it more user friendly

Many people have QR readers built in to their phone, for example an iPhone will pop up with a link from the camera app itself, so there is a really simple trick for this - make the QR code a URL which the app can read as data, but if used simply as a URL itself you end up going to a web site which redirects you to the app or the app store to download the app. The data can be after a # in the URL so not even sent to the server when used as a URL. This allows it to be used from the app or from the camera, and helps for people that don't yet have the app, and those that mistakenly did not realise they have to launch the app first. It makes it a lot simpler to use.

It is not hard, basically, instead of UKC19TRACING:1:blah use https://c19qr.uk/#blah
(well, obviously, an nhs.uk domain would be used)

(Update: Just to clarify, the use of a URL at the start is not to make the QR code usage rely on an internet connection or a web site in any way. If the app is installed it would be used purely as a version/ID confirmation, like the UKC19TRACING:1: string, and the app would then just use the data in the QR code, not visit a web site. The URL is there to make it easy for people to use from camera, and to install the app in the first place).

Why is signing daft?

Signing means that there is an extra chunk of information in the QR code (making it a lot bigger/denser) that ensures the data is genuine, i.e. that it definitely came from the government QR code generator web page. There are many good reasons to sign things, but not in this case.

The signing a tad daft as :-
  • Anyone can make a code for anywhere on the gov web site, and it gets signed.
  • You can copy a code from somewhere else and it is signed.
  • It makes the QR massive! and so harder to scan.
  • Obviously not done too try and avoid vulnerabilities, as one can get
    سمَـَّوُوُحخ ̷̴̐خ ̷̴̐خ ̷̴̐خ امارتخ signed, no problem (which some may remember would crash iPhones).
  • If, instead of signing, they just published a specification (as done by other countries), large companies with lots of sites could have made posters for all their venues centrally and easily as well as allowing individual posters via the gov website.
If some establishment did not want to risk being shut down, they could put the barcode for a competitor, maybe with a vague establishment name in the QR code, so not obvious when using the app. The gov website lets you make a signed QR code for anywhere, and even if they did not, you can literally copy a signed QR code you can see anywhere, and it is still signed.

And yes, they will sign almost anything. Emojis seem to be banned, but hieroglyphs are not. So I seem to have got the UK Government to digitally sign a penis!
{"id":"53WVKKW5","opn":"𓂸","vt":"005","pc":"SW1A2AA"}

How it could be a lot less dense, so easier to read

As an example, if I just include the actual data, and some sort of signature (an MD5 in this case, there are many ways to sign things), and a URL prefix to get the app (which acts as ID/version), you could make a code like this... Way less dense, and easier to use.


If you don't sign the data (and why would you?)

All that is really needed in the code is the location, a postcode with DPS, e.g. LE183TE9Z, or maybe just a UPRN (Unique Property Reference Number), e.g. 100032050996. The postcode/DPS may be better as you can then quote the venue postcode in the app. You probably do need the venue name as well to quote in the app. That is not a lot of data that is actually needed.

If you do that, you can make a code like this which has a URL, UPRN, and premises name in it, and is way less dense and easier to scan.


With just a postcode/DPS it is possible to go even smaller!


Is the app OK though?

Just to be clear, this is criticism of the QR code not the track and trace app. There is a blog on that which is quite interesting, but does not explain why they felt it necessary to sign the QR codes, or why they did not make them a URL format for easy access to the app. Here: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/blog-post/nhs-test-and-trace-app-security-redux


P.S. I have a QR code generation library available free on GitHub. here.

2020-09-17

Dull images

I have been busy on all sorts of little things, none of which seemed worth blogging.

But one of the more fun little distractions was fixing my photo site. I upload images direct from camera on wifi, and they have Exif data extracted and all put in a database. But it was slow, and I ran in to a slight snag with the latest camera. It is still slow, but a complete rewrite of the javascript and the C/database backend has made a hell of a difference.

I am recording images in HEIC (Canon HIF) files. This is 10 bit colour and set with absolute minimal compression. It seems a good compromise. Obviously Canon raw files would be better, and JPG would be easier, but I thought I would give these a try.

There is a nice library called libheif, which has a tool heif-convert which converts the image from the Canon HIF file to JPG. Sorted, or so I thought. I do have to use the latest version as Canon use something odd, it seems, in the header, but that does work.

Unfortunately I am then in a world of weird with colour profiles. The resulting JPG is reduced to 8 bits per colour, as expected, but also has a colour profile applied. This works fine when viewed on my mac and in some browsers. However, it breaks, badly, in other cases. Notably viewing in firefox (even on Mac) and if sent to some social media - twitter just strips the colour profile. Facebook makes an effort. The other issue is various tools to get a thumbnail or make a scaled image, also strip the colour profile. So I had to make things re-apply it at each stage.

The problem is that without the right colour profile the images look, shall we say, dull!

These three images a) with colour profile, b) with profile stripped, c) converted profile.

Update: Blogger fixes the "preview" on image a) here, click on it in firefox to see the problem!


The solution was to use a tool called jpgicc which will convert profiles really quickly on JPG files. Just running it with no options to understand the original profile and convert to a default sRGB for JPG works a treat.

This was not the only issue. The convert from HIF tool also had some slight challenges, but the library allowed me to make my own convertor. The main issue was that the image was coming out of the library rotated correctly - e.g. a portrait image was portrait. This is great until you copy over the Exif data, which says the image needs rotating. The end result is a JPG that claims to need rotating. I was able to strips the rotation from the Exif.

With these two tweaks I now have JPG files that look OK on the photo site, and work for preview on social media, but the raw HEIC available for printing, etc.

I also made nice social media preview links, e.g. https://k.gg/213678

And yes, I know, my photo site is k.gg now, sorry, challenging times.

2020-08-27

Pseudo C++ using cpp (the RevK macro)

I am not sure if this is evil, or genius, or both. Either way I take full credit.

Mainly for a library where we want to add extra optional options in the future, so want almost C++ style optional and tagged arguments to a function, but in normal C (because C++ is just evil all by itself).


Not quite as flexible as C++, as no defaults for missing arguments, but you can often live with that knowing they are zero or NULL.

Unless someone can cite a prior art - please call this the RevK macro.

P.S. I have updated my string decimal library to use this, and it is way neater!

Some explanation...

Normally a function call in C has a fixed set of arguments. Well, not quite, some can have variable arguments at the end, like printf(...) but that is handled in a special way and you have to know (usually from a format string) how many arguments and which type.

However, in some languages, like C++, you can have optional arguments which are pre-defined types and names, but you can stop early in the list. In C++ you can say what default these missing arguments have. You also have the option to leave some arguments our and "tag" some others.

So, the idea you can call myfunc("hello",flag2:1) is setting the first argument (s), and the third (flag2) and not specifying the middle one (flag1) which ends up zeroed. I can't set defaults but can expect unspecified to be zeroed.

Now, normally, if I had some function you call as func(a,b,c) and I want some extra option later on, I would have to either change to func(a,b,c,d) everywhere it is used in every program, even if people specify d as 0 or NULL,  or make a new separate function that takes the extra argument as an alternative, e.g. func2(a,b,c,d).

With this trick I am able to add this extra argument which is optional, knowing that if the extra argument is not specified it has a known value of 0/NULL.

The way the trick works is by using the standard C pre-processor which does text substitution, and expanding the full list of arguments (...) in the macro (as __VA_ARGS__) within a structure initialisation. Unlike function arguments, C has a syntax to initialise a structure which allows you to omit arguments and tag arguments. I am using that syntax in the function, so myfunc("hello",flag2:1) becomes a structure initialiser {"hello",flag2:1} and this structure is passed to the function.

Of course I could just used C++, but that comes with a lot of other baggage, and not something I am that keen on. It has its merits and works well for some applications.

💩

 I have been involved with SMS (i.e. text messaging) for a long time. I was even on the ETSI committees that designed GSM (not specifically SMS, sadly), and have been doing things with SMS for nearly 30 years in one way or another, including an SMS->fax/email gateway, and even the ETSI landline SMS module for asterisk. Now, at A&A, we have code to send and receive SMS via a variety of carriers and even a SIP a-law based ETSI landline SMS system.

The specification for SMS is a typical telecoms specification - very different to internet specifications where single bits packed in some small data header can subtly change the interpretation of some or all that follows. These specifications are normally very precise but absolutely horrid, in my view.

But where does the pile of poo come in, and how does it relate to a 30 year old specification for SMS? Well, you may be surprised, but SMS allows for 💩.

SMS are actually coded in the signalling used for calls, and so had limited space. There were actually only 140 bytes (or more correctly octets) of data for the text itself. As you may know SMS allow 160 characters, so this is achieved by packing a 7 bit alphabet in to the 140 bytes.

In fact SMS allows 4 ways the data can be coded, a 7 bit special alphabet, an 8 bit Latin-1 alphabet, and 16 bit unicode (allowing 70 characters). There are also ways to send one longer message in smaller parts. The SMS can also be raw data to be sent to a SIM rather than displayed. Had I written this I'd have used 2 bits to say which it is, but no, the specification uses a Data Coding Scheme which is complicated to say the least. Some times the coding is in 2 bits but others it is implied. It is not fun.

The 7 bit alphabet is sort of ASCII, but does allow some interesting characters - being a European spec it includes some accented characters and even some Greek letters.

Of course this also leaves out some key ASCII such as {, }, [ ], and does not even have € (which was added later). These are coded as two character sequences using ESC.

The 8 bit character set is just normal Latin 1, and the 16 bit is unicode. The unicode allows all unicode characters U+0000 to U+FFFF, but where is pile of poo? It is U+1F4A9 which is too big for 16 bits.

The way this is done is to use a little known trick called UTF-16. There are reserved 16 bit unicode characters U+D800 to U+DFFF. Using two such codes it is possible to encode U+10000 to U+10FFFF.

This means 💩 is actually coded as two 16 bit sequences, 0xD83D 0xDCA9 in SMS!

Why does this matter, I mean, who sends 💩 by SMS? As you can imagine, in the early 90's nobody had heard of 💩, and the best emojis we had were :-)

But we do care, honest, as we use it as a blue* M&M test for carriers we deal with. If they have enough attention to detail to handle a pile of poo they probably have the rest sewn up, technically. We are working with a new carrier for SMS messages, and I am pleased to say the unicode is working. They properly translate to/from UTF-8 coding in the messages we exchange (which is what we use internally). Unlike our previous carrier who could not cope. (* see comments)

We have seen a range of such failures, even the case where one carrier could not handle an @ symbol (presumably as it coded to 0x00 which is an end of string in languages like C). Thankfully that carrier was happy for us to send a raw hex TPDU for SMS, and hence allowing us to code any characters. Our SIP2SIM service has handled pile of poo since we launched it...

The end result is that, shortly, we will be handling a lot more SMS with unicode characters correctly, in most cases, both incoming and outgoing. Watch this space.

2020-08-15

Making a meme?

This is my attempt to make a meme.


Of course, there is a danger that it will be seen as insensitive. Tricky one. If anything I am having a go at ofqual. I do feel rather sad for students struggling with downgraded exam results this year. The whole situation is crazy.

I know there are plenty of people that say that they got poor results and did fine, and I know that a lot of companies would not worry about A-level grades when hiring someone, but it is a gateway to university. I vaguely remember my concern over results and whether it met the offers I got from universities. Wrong grades can ruin a promising carrier before it starts, especially in vocations like medicine. I really hope they fix this somehow.

As for making a meme - we will see. I did include a "deliberate mistake" so people can feel smug pointing it out - I think that is a feature that helps a meme happen. (well, one mistake, one that looks like a mistake but sort of isn't, so people can argue over it).

P.S. My keyboard broke, started constantly repeating keys - ones I went nowhere near with the screw driver. I think it is just getting it's own back at me.

2020-08-01

A simple flat tyre - but this is 2020, so no...

Really boring post for your today...

On cycling out of Bracknell town on one of the cycle paths (see, I do use them when they go where I want), I hit a pot hole. I have been back and looked since and it looks really innocuous, but it was very jarring and my first thought is that it will have killed my tyres.

Unsurprisingly, within half a mile, or so, I had a flat back tyre. Crap!

I got a lift back from Tescos, and later walked in (3 miles) with my cycle repair kit and pump. The puncture was obvious, and not that small, so I used the sandpaper thing on the rubber and applied a self adhesive (skabs) patch, pumped up and cycled home. Perfect, job done.

Next morning, tyre flat! I investigated and it was the patch, it had popped allowing air out the side. WTF? I patched again and it immediately popped when pumping up.

I figured that maybe the glue goes off, this repair kit was a few years old, so ordered more. When that arrived, patched, and the same!

So I ordered a different make of self adhesive patch this time.

Again, popped as soon as inflated. This is mental.

I figured it was on a seam in the tyre, so I carefully trimmed that flat with a scalpel blade and tried again, no joy.

OK, time to go old school. I ordered good old fashioned repair kit with the rubber patches and the rubber glue.

I have probably done hundreds of puncture repairs in my life, and never had this trouble.

To my surprise, that did not work either, WTF?

Just to be clear, and thanks for all of the helpful advice, I did apply glue and wait for it to dry before applying the patch. I also, on some attempts, applied glue to the patch, which I don't normally have to do.

I tried the large patch sideways to cover where it popped, no joy.

I even applied a patch on top of the patch where it popped, no joy.

As an almost last resort I even used some Loctite 480 which is especially for bonding rubber. Close, but still popped.

This really is getting beyond a joke. I have never had this much trouble with a simple patch to an inner tube in my life.

I think I now have six puncture repair kits.

I have ordered a new inner tube, and some would say that should have been step 1, or at most step 2. Well, yes, except this is the back wheel with hub brakes, hub gears, and enclosed chain guard, all of which need removing, and at least one cable needs unhooking (and hence re-fitting and adjusting) and to be honest that seemed like a lot of hassle. Hence trying the simple puncture repair.

I then had a brain wave... This puncture is not a usual puncture. Well, apart from now being a tear around 5mm long because of the number of patches I had removed, it was on the inside of the inner tube, i.e. facing the wheel. This fits with it being pinched when I went over a pot hole - after all the tyres I have are meant to be puncture resistant. So not the usual place to get a puncture, which would typically be from a spiky thing through the tyre and hence on the outside. In fact, it was almost certainly exactly on the part where the inner tube is not going to be smooth when inflated, but actually a step where the inside of the tyre is in the wheel. This may be the clue, and why it only popped when inflated ing the tyre (I could inflate quite a bit outside the tyre with no issue).

My fix! Well, for a start I used the Loctite to weld the tear shut anyway, and applied a rubber patch over that. The trick, though, was a plastic card (credit card sized) bent round on the inside of the tyre between the wheel and in inner tube. A real hack, but magically the tyre inflated, and I have managed to cycle round the block and no sign of it deflating yet.

Yay, sorted, and, bollocks, the front tyre is now flat. That seems to be a much smaller slow puncture which was actually simple to fix with a patch as normal (well, so far).

So yay. I do have a spare inner tube coming tomorrow, and I hope I don't need it.

I would stress that this has taken (I think) 4 days now, and so given my run of luck I fully expect to find both tries flat tomorrow, probably pecked by a crow or eaten by a squirrel or something...

Update: Using a card was certainly a clue, as it lasted a lot longer than anything else, but today (the next day) the back tyre is flat again - so fun with dismantling stuff when the inner tube arrives. FML.

... And someone has "borrowed" my Allen keys, arrrg!

Update: I have two inner tubes and new Allen keys. Yay. I figured I would change front one first. It literally exploded in the tyre at around 50psi. WTF?! So now waiting until tomorrow for another new inner tube. I did not have this on my 2020 bingo card.

Looks like it is a full moon at just before 5pm today - is that a bad sign I wonder?

Update: Finally, new inner tube fitted to the back. All working. Pain in the arse to take it all apart though.


P.S. I now find I put the front wheel back wrong and have been cycling with brakes partly on - I thought I was just unfit (which I am), but that was daft. Finally all sorted now.

2020-07-16

Account switching (Barclays to Monzo)

As you almost certainly know, there is an "account switching service" which UK banks use. I had never used it before.

TL;DR: Switching works, but it seems Barclays "mess about" for a whole day, losing details of payments and even losing credits down the cracks - yes, money just going missing!!!

Why have I not used it before? well, I have accounts with several banks, and there is really no reason to close an "old" account at any point, especially given the hassle it is to open most bank accounts (Monzo and Starling being obvious exceptions). So why would I "switch"? I can simply start using a new account for some things, simples. I appreciate that some people can't do that quite as easily.

The switching does several things - moving over your Direct Debits, and Standing Orders, transferring the old balance over, and closing the old account. Importantly any credits to the old account are forwarded to the new account.

I was interested in the mechanics of the process. I know from dealing with BACS and Direct Debits that there is a method to advise when an account has changed. As a Direct Debit originator we get told if someone changes their bank account and we are required to update the Direct Debit details. We also get told if we send money to a closed account that we used the wrong details (the money is forwarded).

I would hope there is a process for Fast Payments in the same way...

So here goes...

Setting it up (on Monzo)

Monzo make it easy - they have a button with a simple step by step guide. But there is a snag - the step by step instructions say you need last 5 digits of a debit card on the account. Hmm, the account in question did not have a debit card, so I had to order one from Barclays and wait for it to arrive. However, when I then continued with the process it DOES NOT ask for the card digits because I was moving a business account not a domestic one. I have fed back to Monzo.

I had to confirm the Barclays account, name, and address, and agree some terms, and that was it. Simple. It is then set for 8 days later.

Notifications


Monzo immediately did an in app notice saying it was started, a couple of days later another saying they had confirmation from Barclays, and then on the day a notice saying it was done.

Barclays posted a letter saying I was transferring.

All very slick.

On the day


I was curious as to the timing. Banks (traditional banks) tend to work on banking days. So I expected that it would be everything on 13th (the day before) would be normal, then everything dated 14th would be on new account, with closing balance on 13th being the amount transferred to my new account. To my surprise that was not quite the case.

Barclays were a bit odd, they said they would send printed statements, but that if I had another account and continued access to on-line banking that I would be able to see on there and that they would not send a statement. On the 13th they charged me for sending statements (not checked at office if they did). This was slightly devious as I had cleared the account to £0.00. This unexpected charge would make it overdrawn if I had not checked, and break the switch somehow.

07:09 I sent a £1 fast payment from a Lloyds account to the Barclays account. It arrived as normal, showed on the Barclays on-line banking. So I transferred out leaving £0.00 still. So the switch had not happened yet.

09:00 Monzo popped up and said switch done. So I checked Barclays, and account no longer showing. Seems the switch happens at 9am. Would have been good to know to be honest. It was lucky I had downloaded the CSV for previous day from Barclays before 9am, as I could not after 9am.

10:08 I sent another £1 fast payment. It went, and vanished!

15:34 I get a transfer to Monzo, not with the details of the fast payment I sent, but cryptically BFA ACC SWITCH GLOS reference  RESIDUAL BALANCE from account 20-33-83 88010803...

So I assume Barclays idea of when the switch was done, is not quite the same...

16:41 I send another £1, and to my surprise it is not immediately sent to Monzo. It has vanished!

Also, to my surprise, the Fast Payment process has not updated the payee details. Does it lack the simple "wrong account" logic that exists in BACS? That would be really silly, surely? I suppose, as a stretch, the BACS AWACS system is used to update, and so will happen in a day or two.

I emailed my Barclays account manager, and she said "it takes a day to switch" and that it will be all OK tomorrow... Hmm...

Next day


Still no sign of the missing £1.

A download CSV all accounts download from Barclays DOES NOT INCLUDE the old account, so I don't have the transaction on the day of transfer - that is a tad annoying!

08:52 I sent £1.15 from Lloyds to Barclays, and ka-ching, Monzo showed the payment instantly. Monzo shows correct sender sort code and account (i.e. not the Barclays one) and the correct reference. This is working nicely.

The bank details on my Lloyds account have not updated. So looks like fast payment does not have a "push back" to advise the new details. Maybe it uses BACS AWAS, in which case it will be a day or two, so I'll check.

The day after


I checked my Lloyds account, and now the details shown have magically changed to the new account. I assume this was BACS AWACS, but it works. Yay!

Issues


  • It is unclear why Barclays "mess about" for a whole day - surely they could simply set a time, such as 9am, transfer the balance at that time, and relay all payments after that time. It is messy.
  • Whilst a payment in the morning did arrive later as a "residual balance" there are no details. I assume if I had several payments in the morning I would not have seen any details of them, or even how many payments, just a balance. That is crazy. It is fortunate we already had most customers using the new account.
  • The payment in the afternoon is missing still! I will wait and see if it turns up. Of course, customers could have also paid us in the afternoon and also be missing. Very worrying!
  • Of course, I could only download CSVs of my Barclays accounts to the day before, and only because I checked before 9am, so no way to get a CSV of transactions on the day of the switch - also crazy.
My account manager at Barclays says it is the same for all banks - which I doubt. Has anyone else done a bank switch and can they confirm if they have the same fiasco for transactions on the day?

I'll update if I hear any more of the missing £1. I half expected it to arrive 15:30 on 15th, but no, it had just vanished in to thin air. Scary stuff.

Update: After 2 days of nagging my account manager, they say they have found the £1 and sent it to me. However, it has not turned up, even allowing for 2 day BACS (why would they do that anyway), so still chasing. Worrying.

Update: After more chasing, 15:34, 3 days later, they fast payment me the missing £1. Finally.