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  • Name: Gary M. Gadsdon, BSc
  • Date of Birth: 17th July 1987
  • Age: 29
  • Hometown: London, UK
  • Job: Student, Web Designer, SMF Customiser
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"You don't need a reason to help people "
- Zidane Tribal, Final Fantasy IX
My rage against Virgin Media Gary - March 08, 2015, 12:20:30 AM
This is going to be an extended version of a tweet I'm get to make to Virgin regarding my now cancelled account, and explain my reasons behind what I'm saying it's also a review of my experience and serves as critique, where I believe them to be a rash one can't get rid of. The issues I have with them do nothing but make me angrier and all the more towards telling people to keep away from their poor services. I've already explained some of these numerous times before, but lets start from day one, back in 2013.

INSTALLATION
Issues were abound from Day One as the engineer who came to fit the system did not know what he was doing, there were issues aplenty and when he said that he had to meet up with his manager and said he would be back with him later in the day to sort things out that never happened. I had to phone up and book another appointment, the second engineer fixed the issue within five minutes, so props to that guy, I'll say that much.  So, do the engineers get different levels of training or something?

From there, things were generally okay, though the wireless connection onto my PlayStation 3 was a bit slow taking over eight hours to attempt to download the Beta version of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, only to fail. Twice. I ended up downloading the PC version instead. I don't play the game but that's not the point, it outlines a terrible issue between Sony and Virgin, and this persisted even on the PlayStation 4, where downloading games would take absurd amounts of time. I ended up throwing an Ethernet cable out the window from my bedroom to the living room temporarily until I could install Powerline adapters.

But I started to get really annoyed when my uploads for My Website, YouTube and Cloud Backups through Backblaze were regularly slowed down due to an unforgiving and stupid throttling policy. Nine hundred Megabytes in a given hour is pathetic for regular Streamers and YouTubers, and from what I've seen these days, Virgin is now the only ISP in the UK that still has a throttling policy.

PRICING
The pricing was reasonable originally, at about 25 for the Broadband at 60 MBit down without line rental. Over the next year, it went up to 31.50, which I think is too much for one service, and I was right. I now get three services for less than that, with Line Rental included, so technically four. What really pissed me off though, was the fact that the Virgin payment system would constantly give me white screens of death when trying to set up a Direct Debit, which means I'm paying an extra fiver for no reason. Virgin made no attempt to apologise, or refund the extra money I spent to pay bills through a method where no Virgin Media staff was ever contacted, or had to press any keys on their keyboards.

BILLING STAFF
Virgin's billing staff has had to be some of the rudest Customer Service reps I've ever had to come in contact with. I've had "pay your bill by <x> date, okay? <hang up>" and attempts to work out a payment plan that was just the same without taking my situation into account, the issue was very one sided, and meant, with me putting it sarcastically "Give us your money now!" with no ifs ands or buts about it. I was actually quite offended.

SOCIAL MEDIA STAFF
Though, not to knock any one person here, they "try" (sarcasm again) but the Virgin Media Social Media staff don't do that much of a better job either. I've asked for information regarding my "final bill" (I'll get to why that's in quotes in a minute) and even after a week, I've gotten nothing, which tells me that the company is very eager to demand whatever they want from customers, but is unwilling with anything the other way around.

All they ever do is tell you to phone their team, with a premium rate number which I dont want to call because I dont have a landline and must use a mobile which will charge you lord knows how much giving them extra money. That kind of behaviour defeats the purpose of having a Social Media presence in my opinion, my new ISP, TalkTalk, so far has had excellent Social Media interactivity with me in my opinion, not every solution they've tried has worked, but they tried and that's what I find important and more importantly, I didn't need to phone their customer services, they did everything themselves, including replace derpy Powerline adapters, which turned out to be incompatible with others I had on my network, so I have to at least applaud TalkTalk for their efforts.

CANCELLATION
To a point, cancellation was met with no actual complaints aside from wanting to know why, which is all the previous issues I've talked about plus some marketing, snail mail abuse and very weak network stability to the point that I could've failed many university coursework assignments including my dissertation, I did have a guy phone me pretty much admit that there's no way he was going to be able to convince me to stick around, because of the things I had issues with.

The Social Media team did attempt to cut a deal through email, offering to max out my connection at 152 MBit (from 60) for the same price I was paying, but that came with the sneaky addition of tying me to a new 12 month contract, it's a good thing I'm young enough and smart enough to actually read through the whole email and noticed it, because that could easily have caught someone else out, but maxing out my download speed would've done nothing to address the issues I have with upload speed or the throttling, which were bigger issues for me, so I didn't respond to that as it wasn't warranted, my decision had been made already and had long since been made final since we were already using the new TalkTalk service when that retention attempt came.

The kicker issue that really pisses me off is that they're sending me a "final" bill for 30-something quid for what I believe to be for a billing cycle that was after I cancelled the account, and because of that, I don't want pay it until I know for certain that it's on a service I used. I see no logic in paying for a service I didn't use simply because a company says so. That's not my personality. I'm a person who will only spend his money on something that he gets use out of, and I'm not seeing any benefit out of my spent money, then I'd be simply throwing it away, and with the limited funds I have I can't do that.

I asked the Twitter team to send me the information on what billing periods this "final" bill applies to, I've been met with nothing, except the typical "phone our team on our premium number so you can give us more free money" (sarcasm). I sent a request for the info via a Social Media enquiry form, but that didn't go much further a week later either, so, they're very quick to send reminders and/or threats to customers, but ignore anything the other direction where customers want valuable information, so they can spend their money properly.

They've also threatened to charge me to equipment that they themselves have made no attempt to reclaim, I don't need it, I don't want it, and they're welcome to take it back, it's currently sitting in a corner of our living room, permanently unplugged and collecting dust.

Let me be clear that I'll readily pay Virgin Media an appropriate amount of money relative to the services I used (basically with the following formula: Monthly bill divided by 30 times number of days service was used before cancellation. For example: 31.50 / 30 x 10 days = 10.50), should the billing cycle apply to any date prior to my request to cancel services, anything post the date I made that request is wasted money.

Dealing with this one company has become a saga in and of itself, and it's pathetic. I could just end it all and pay everything in full (though not for a month or two due to financial situations), but I want to stand my ground on my logical thinking, and pay a proportionate amount to what I used so they get something rather than having to go through a huge process of bailiffs and/or court action, to which I doubt the higher ups will agree with, though should I be surprised on that?

Legal Disclaimer: This post is all opinionated content of the author and does not reflect the opinions of companies affiliated with the author. The author reserves the right to refer persons away from Virgin Media but will not prevent others from doing the opposite.
Speaking with my wallet Gary - December 17, 2014, 05:35:58 PM
I'm done dealing with Virgin Media and I will now not be giving them anymore of my money, so I am in fact going to be cancelling my service within the next few days. I'm bound to get asked why in regards to a Tweet I made, so this will serve as an explanation as to why I'm annoyed and going to cancel, though there's not really a lot of things they can do that'll get me to change my mind, I'm out of contract so I can leave any time I want.

Upload Speed and Upload Throttling
I've become more dependant on my uploading for YouTube Lets Plays which you can see at the top of my blog, and on the YouTube channel itself (duh) and some of these can total more than two or three gig in filesize because they're 1080p which causes it as well as uploading those Lets Play videos to a Cloud Backup service (Backblaze) for archiving.

That leads into the next point of the "Data Management" which throttles your uploads once you hit 900MB in an hour. Apparently, my upload speed of a mere 1.9MBit/sec is capable of doing faster than that, and because I have a lot of data to back up with the Lets Play videos being so large, that 900MB disappears rather quickly which slows the backups to a crawl.

I stand strongly that bandwidth is so widely available, and so cheap that throttling on neither up nor down traffic needs to be throttled regardless of the protocol being used, be it HTTP, FTP or even P2P. Other ISPs are capable of not having to throttle traffic, so I thing there's no excuse here.

Pricing
I wanted to save money by not having to pay Line Rental. Virgin Media is the only ISP in the country that offers that ability because they use cable connections instead of ADSL, this resulted in paying 31.50 per month for 60MBit broadband and nothing else. That turned out to be a very bad call as thanks to an offer I found for an alternate provider, I found a Fibre Broadband connection offering upto 74.3MBit plus a Basic Weekend phone connection, plus a basic TV set up AND Line Rental for 30.50. Sure, I'm saving a quid, but think about the added extras that are included.

I like charts so here's a comparison run down on the differences on what I'm getting and what I pay.

Factor VirginMedia New ISP
Broadband Present Present
Down Speed 60MBit/Sec (Reaches 62MBit/sec wired 30MBit/sec Wireless) Up to 74.3MBit/sec unconfirmed
Up Speed 1.9MBit/Sec (Reaches 2.2MBit/sec wired, 1.1MB/sec Wireless) Upto 19MBit/sec unconfirmed
Throttling Throttles 33% up after 900MB in 1hr and 66% after 1.2GB in 2hrs None Present for up nor down
Line Rental None Included
Phone Line None Basic Weekend Package
TV None Basic TV Package (70 Channels or such)
Price for ALL services 31.50/month 30.50/month for 12 months, then 40.80 after

Not quite so unlimited when it comes to uploads now eh?

Even after you take into account the after 12 month price, the price is still cheaper then a comparative plan with Virgin. (Which is nearly about 50 for 100MBit/sec since they no longer offer the 60MBit/sec plans)

Silly Extra Fees
Virgin Seems to have a thing with tacked on fees that don't help the consumer, in fact, I'm actually going to straight up say that they're anti-consumerist. These fees include 5 admin fees for paying by ANY method that is not direct debit, that actually includes manual online payments that DO NOT REQUIRE ANY VIRGIN MEDIA STAFF AT ALL. So, I'm paying a fiver for their staff to NOT communicate with me, and to NOT process a payment, because I'm doing it myself instead.

Lateness fees occur when you don't pay a late bill on time, which is obvious, but as a student at the time those situations were occurring, I was given no reprieve. I get being late on a payment is bad news, but are late fees needed, just tack the previous bill onto the end of the next one and be done with it, that's what the previous ISP I moved from BeBroadband did (now part of BSkyB), my time with BeBroadband was decent enough with quick resolutions to issues I had, the only reason I left was Line Rental which is become a moot point now because I can apparently get both broadband and line rental for just as much resulting in more services for the same price.

I've been getting these charges because of a situation that's server side, recently when I've tried to set up a Direct Debit to get out of these fees, I get White Screens of Death, which causes the data to not get processed, meaning that the Direct Debit is not set up. I should actually start demanding refunds on that.

Impatience
Some context is needed here. I was once so late on a payment that my services had to be cut off. How long for you ask? One month? Nope. A week maybe? Also no. The answer is ONE DAY. I had to pay a bill by the 2nd of January 2014, to which I got paid my student loan on the 4th, two days later. I told them this on the phone when they tried to establish a "payment plan" and I use that term loosely, since when I explained the situation of when I got my loan I was given no reprieve to delay the disconnection for a mere one day, a Friday (3rd), wherein I sent the money on the Saturday (4th)

But that's not the end of the tale, on the following Monday (6th) I got a SMS text message to contact their Debt Collectors, I did that and they told me everything was fine, and that their systems were out of date, which is fair. A few days later, I get a snail mail letter about it, which was dated the second of January, the day my services were due to be cut off, meaning that Virgin Media wasted literally no time in getting their debt collectors involved.

That's actually a first for having Debt Collectors after me. I posted about this in a private area on Simple Machines since I'm a team member there, one of the other team members who worked as a Customer Support rep for an ISP in Australia outlined their processes for the same situation I had with Virgin and he was genuinely surprised because for his company to escalate the situation to Debt Collectors, it would take them four months, zero days is a bit much I'd say.

I've also had billing reps try to get me to pay my unpaid bill which is fair, that's their job I don't fault them. I fault their attitude, which has been some of the rudest I've ever had from a representative of a company. One situation was where I was trying to explain a situation of when I can pay the bill because that would've been the day I got my student loan, same scenario as before, but different time of year, just before the new academic year was about to start, this representative literally said to me "pay by the 27th of August or well cut off your services okay" then before I had a chance to say anything, they hung up. I had to borrow money from an online friend just to keep Virgin happy.

Silly Marketing
This has been resolved sure, but that's not the point. The point is that even after you're signed up, you'll get marketting snail mail about their "oh-so great" phone and TV services (in my case) because they think that I'll like them. Nope, I have a mobile and I haven't watched TV proper since 2007. (DISCLAIMER: The new ISP plan is split between me and my mum, wherein we pay for services that we use the most, Virgin's was paid exclusively by me so it featured only services I used) I knew from day one what I wanted, if I wanted Phone and TV, logically, I would've ordered them on day one. I even got phone calls about it, and told them on multiple occasions I'm not interested. Obvious hints were not taken. I had to message on twitter about it and Opt-out.

And speaking of marketing, what's the point of telling me that 80% of my neighbourhood is connected when I myself am one of them? I had to opt-out of that too.

Marketing messages like both cases should be opt-out by default.

Snail mail abuse
This is also added to the situation with billing where the company will send snail mail reminders that you bill is not paid, upto at least five times, then if needed a notice that 10 lateness fee has been added, and then one more to say that your bill has been paid in full and settled. We joked that they spend more money on notifying me that my bill is unpaid then what said bills are actually worth.

Intermittent Connection and Hardware issues
These were rare admittedly, and the former situation can happen to anybody, but what really annoyed me is that they for some mysterious reason always happened when I was preparing coursework and were within a few hours or so of that coursework's deadline, and it's strange how that happened on more than two occasions. They lucked out that their engineers were fast enough to resolve the situation and I can get my coursework submitted on time, but what if I had failed because I missed the deadline? Would Virgin pony up the 3,100 tuition + 4,500 maintenance to resit? My answer would be no.

Then there's also the fact that my mother often works from home which requires an internet connection, not being able to connect means loss of income because her work is based on commission.

The hardware issue is a new one springing up today, using their Superhub 1 (since I believe they've come out with a 2 since I joined) and has for no explicable reason rendered all Ethernet connections void, which covers five different devices (two laptops, my mums work phone, my PS3 and PS4) offline, all but the phone can be switched to Wi-Fi as needed since that still works, so for the time being 70 worth of Powerline adapters and 15 worth of Ethernet cables are temporarily obsolete.

The router itself runs the default settings except for a couple of Ports being opened for Minecraft and Remote Desktop, so any explanation as to why it would stop Ethernet while I was out is beyond me especially since my mum would have no clue on how to even access the router to make any setting changes to begin with. And to tell the truth, I'm not interested in getting it fixed since the service is being replaced, I can put up with Wi-Fi latency until then.

So... that should probably answer a load of question as to why I'm going to cancel my services and switch to a different provider. My online style and requirements have changed and Virgin's services don't fit the bill, but their price gouging, poor attitude and other factors only make me all the more willing to move. Even though the new service has been purchased, and I've already received the router, the only reason I'm maintaining the Virgin line for now is to have a connection whilst we wait for the engineer to re-establish the phone line once done, I'll be making the call to cancel.
A rant about Virgin Media Gary - May 02, 2014, 11:47:52 AM
This is a reply of sorts to a query asked by a staff member at Virgin Media in regards to a comment I made on Twitter, since Twitter only offers 140 characters, I feel it'd actually be better to do it here.

First, a little backstory, the reason I'm with Virgin Media is because they're the only ISP in the UK that'll offer their broadband services without the need for Line Rental, but given the amount I'm paying, it might actually be cheaper with line rental then it might be without it. But that's a different issue.

Anyway, what this is really about is how they handle their billing and pretty much everything surrounding it, simply put, if you miss a payment then you better be prepared for the world of grief.

First up, they'll send you about five or six snail mail letters about being unable to claim the money, and that they'll be adding a £10 lateness fee, which I think is stupid as anything since no other company I've ever dealt with in the last ten years has ever charged one, and then they tack on another £5 to pay the next month's payment because my bank cancelled the direct debit. Why offer multiple different payment methods if you're going to charge extra silly fees for using any of them but one? Personally I think both types of practices should be illegal anywhere on the planet as they're fees that make a person's financial situation worse and do not help the customer in any way shape or form.

Once they're done with their wasting of money sending snail mail (which is what the comment on Twitter was), they'll actually phone you. On multiple occasions if needed if they miss you, or they get bored waiting beyond two rings and will try to work out a "payment plan" which in actuality means "Gives us your money" the people who do this job are EXTREMELY childish, unprofessional and will do nothing to actually help work something proper out. In fact, I had one person actually say "Just pay £30 by (date I can't remember) or we cut your services, okay?" and then hung up, without even giving me a chance to respond.

But it gets better than that, they're actually impatient enough to not want to wait TWENTY FOUR HOURS between the day they cut ones services off and the date one gets paid. Back in January I had my services cut off on the 2nd (it was actually the 3rd though technically), only to be paid my student loan on the 4th. The folks who phoned me to establish a "payment plan" weren't interested. Most companies I would gather would be perfectly willing to wait that one day.

But that's not even the tip of the iceberg here, the 4th was a Saturday so on the 6th I get an SMS text message from their Debt Collecting Agency, asking to call them which I did (and recorded it for my own personal archives), and while everything was sorted out on that front because the bill was already paid two days before, I was pissed off because Virgin Media wasted no time in calling them in. In fact a few more days later, I got YET ANOTHER snail mail letter from said debt collector, and that was dated the SECOND OF JANUARY, so officially, they waited ZERO days for the money, despite being told straight up WHEN I would have it. I have a friend in Australia who works for an ISP, similar to Virgin Media and he outlined their processes when dealing with late payments and I learned that for it to reach debt collectors, they try other avenues for FOUR MONTHS, that person was legitimately shocked by how impatient Virgin Media are.

So apparently, Virgin Media thinks itself is big enough that they can charge whatever extra silly fees they want, and can pretty much harass their customers for money that's to them going to be nothing but chump change and continue to harass them even after they've been explicitly told when the money will be sent their way. As a student, I have other things to worry about then when they'll get their money, y'know like my dissertation)

I'm all about trying to get the best deals and the best customer service, and I have no problems in taking to Twitter to vent my frustrations, and while it's not a lot, and I'm only one man, I don't care, and I will voice them.

So, as some suggestions to Virgin Media they need to do an overhaul in it's internal systems allowing staff to adjust cut-off dates based on when they've been informed from customers when they get money (such as the day after the said date, I say 4th, change date to the 5th), as well as abolish any and all lateness fees, as well as stop charging extra fivers for paying by anything other than direct debit, and on top of that, if they really want to continue harassing customers with "reminders" then do it by email (after all, don't you charge for paper bills), so at least I can mark them as spam to get them to shut up.
Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse Comic Review Gary - March 19, 2014, 04:21:30 PM
If you look in the top navigation of the blog, you'll notice that I'm a comic collector, particularly for The Simpsons. I keep them professionally stored in white comic boxes with bags and boards. I don't really review them outside of a short blurb, but this time I'm going to give it a different shot.

This comic is a Kickstarter reward for BROKEN SWORD 5: THE SERPENT'S CURSE. A game I backed in September 2012 for $100. This is just my opinion and I'm not a proper reviewer just like in the review for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.

There will be spoilers.

BROKEN SWORD 5: THE SERPENT'S CURSE COMIC BOOK

Story:
The comic is a tie-in to the main game, and serves as a prequel. The comic opens with a scene in pre World War II Turkey, with a group of explorers unearthing an artifact in the desert, but from what I can tell is that this so far has nothing to do with Broken Sword 5's main content, at least not in Episode 1, as I don't recall anything about Turkey being mentioned in the game, I would need to watch my Lets Play of Episode 1 in full to make sure, so it must serve as something to do with Episode 2, which is a tad spoilerish in it's own right and while I'm generally not too bothered about spoilers, (I once watched the entirety of Metal Gear Solid 4 before I even bought the game), but for those that care, it would be advisable to avoid the comic for the time being.

Isn't the game about a painting called "La Maladiccio"? The comic shows a group of explorers finding some stone tablets and monuments. I thought subtitle of the game was referring to the serpent in the painting. Where did these stone tablets and monuments come from?

Something that is related to the game however is that it also uncovers how George and Nico "coincidentally" met up at the gallery, and being the sneaky guy that he is, George was behind it all. It also explains where the killer of Henri got his bike, though to be honest, I don't think it really matters, and didn't need to be shown.

The story itself is okay I guess as it explains things that lead up to the games opening. But as it stands as of writing the events in Turkey have no relevance, and the scenes with the murderer didn't need to be explained, I would've been fine with just assuming that it's a hire bike.

Presentation:
Graphically, the comic is well presented the lines are crisp and consistent with vibrant colours that match those used in the game. That said, some of the mouth positions are really weird, and it's most noticeable on George over any other character.

The text and speech is consistent with what's in the game as well, character names match, as does the Waterloo Motors emblem. Minor details are what I tend to focus on for some reason, and they bug me, as an example, there's a comic for Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, one of my favourite games, and one I own on 4 different platforms, but one detail I noticed in the comic George buys a souvenir of the Eiffel tower, for ten Euros, yet in the sequel game, Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror, he refers to having French Francs as a source of currency. I get that when the comic was made the Euro was in effect, but it really should've stuck to using French Francs and set the comic in the same time period as the game for consistency.

Okay, now I'm rambling, the length of the comic is short a scant 8 pages. It's not your traditional comic book that you'd expect to buy from the shelf sure, far be it for me to knock a freebee, but I'm imagining on if this was something that was paid for on the shelf, and it's not worth anything more than say 75 cents at the high end. It's perhaps ironic that I'm calling a comic short when it has unnecessary or irrelevant story within it.

Final Grade
So when taking only Episode 1's game content into account I'm going to give the tie-in comic a 3.7 out of 10, visually the comic is well drawn with a few minor weird spots. The story is short yet somehow manages to contain a lot of content that is not relevant when the second half of the game hasn't been completed yet, and there's no mention of the main plot point of the game portion that we do have. (La Maladiccio)

Once episode 2 comes out, the comic can get some relevance again since I'm assuming that Turkey is one of the locales that players will get to visit. So, once that happens, the grade of the comic can actually change.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Gary - March 10, 2014, 05:23:19 AM
I just finished playing Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII for my Youtube channel, it's semi-blind, so don't expect perfection. I did have to look some things up since some aspects are either not explained, or too difficult.

Anyway, here's my quote-unquote review of the game. I'm not a proper reviewer by any stretch, and to be honest I'm not good at articulating my thoughts into a proper well-rounded opinionated piece anyway. I'll say what I can though.

LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII

While I doubt it matters, but the version I played was for the Playstation 3.

The story, was meh. Lightning Returns is the sequel to a game that didn't need to exist, Final Fantasy XIII was just fine on it's own, the problems that Final Fantasy XIII had could've been fixed in Final Fantasy XV instead of Final Fantasy XIII-2. You'll see the story once I start uploading the Lets Play of the game after XIII-2. Graphically, the game is great, it's the standard you'd expect from Square Enix.

But the main issue I have is the battle system. I don't like it too much. Especially towards the end. What was great about the Paradigm Shift system in Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 is that you KNEW how you were progressing when it came to staggering an enemy, while you know in Lightning Returns as well, but it's much more vague here and the window for stagger is much lower in some cases. Which for me, I found difficult to judge on what attacks I should be using to initiate a stagger, and there's too much timing involved with it as well. You have to guard at the right time to be able to mitigate or nullify damage, which is okay, but to be honest, I'd much rather have queued my commands from a menu.

Action oriented gameplay is fine, since Dissidia has also done it, but unlike Dissidia, your movement speed is extremely slow so you can't dodge attacks that way making moving around the arena pointless, and you can't jump into the air either. So in my opinion, the battle system just isn't very fun to play, so to be honest, I can't see myself returning to Lightning Returns for a second playthrough.

My rating for the game is 6/10. For what it is, it's about average, it's fast paced and the story is probably interesting enough for Final Fantasy veterans and those who want to see how the trilogy ends, but that's really about it.
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