HRMC and Concentrix

Not that long ago we received a letter from Concentrix a company that we had never heard of before. Concentrix is an outsourced company that are working on behalf of HRMC. The overall aim is to investigate benefit claims and to try to cut how much is payed out in benefits by weeding out those that are either claiming fraudulently or incorrectly.

However the way they go about this isn’t very pleasant as the letters can be rather nasty and they work on a guilty until proven innocent basis which means dealing with them can be described as difficult. The letters ask for numerous bits of sensitive data depending on what they are accusing you off, and to top this off they give you a pretty short amount of time to get the documentation they demand sent to them. When you do this, due to the volume that they are receiving the chances of them even getting them on the system on time is remote let alone looked at. Calling them also often means holding for an hour only to be cut off automatically without ever speaking to a human.

This leads to perfectly innocent people being left without the money they are entitled to and a whole load of stress and aggro.

Fortunately and as we expected our claim was finally sorted and the result fell in our favor.

If you search online for concentrix you’ll find dozens of cases there are even newspaper articles about it

Independant

Mirror

There are plenty of places offering support and advice one such facebook group is called Concentrix Mums which has a lot of friendly and helpful people, Its also worth looking up mumsnet and netmums and of course your local Citizens Advice.

If you get one of these dreaded letters try not to panic and seek advice but most of all dont ignore it. Their is lots of help available and as long as you are claiming what you should things will get sorted.

I hope that this post helps and good luck.

 

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More Car Trouble

So this month has pretty much started off as well as September ended.

The car broke down again, meaning that I was a few hours late for my proper job. This time it was the starter motor sticking. £140 later and it hopefully is once again all fixed.

I’m praying that, that is the last time the car needs money spent on it this year.

All this has meant that my time has been very limited and yet I’m still managing to get videos out on time which is somewhat of an achievement for me.

I have spent most of today after getting the house hold chores out-of-the-way making some adjustments to my artwork for my YouTube and twitch accounts as well as better organising my xsplit presentation.
As its Wednesday today I have also been sorting out the Playstation to be able to fit the new goodies coming free from ps+ which is no mean task trying to decide what games the kids play and which ones can be culled.

I have also been playing around with windows 10 and am planning on doing a blog post about my experiences with that.

so In theory there is more to come soon.

Check my twitter @ctyxxxx and my youtube http://www.youtube.com/yxxxx for all my latest stuff.

The End of Games For Windows Live….. Or Prehaps Not

It had been widly reported that come the end of the 31st of june the much maligned and some would say hated games for windows live would become no more as microsoft were set to switch it off for good.

This would have left several games unplayable with out a patch not unlike the recent closure of gamespy.

However according to MCV this is not happening and microsoft themselfs saying that they are continuing to support the platform which is good for games that rely on it and didnt look like they would have had any chance of a patch.

It’s good news for the games that were in limbo and for the players that still play them.

The big question is what have Microsoft got planned for games for Windows live now? What do they have planned for the pc? Time will only tell.

A tax on all our plastic (bags)

So it finally seems that like the rest of the UK, England will be getting charged for the use of plastic bags from next year.

The queen in her speech at the opening of Parliament today said:

“The Government will introduce a 5p plastic bag charge in England from October 2015, which it hopes will cut the number of plastic bags used in the country.”

It’s not really that much of a surprise perhaps it’s actually a bigger surprise that it has taken this long seeing as how Wales, Scotland and Northern island have done it for a little while now.

Personally I think that it’s a good thing as plastic bags really are horrible for the environment and they are very difficult to recycle so many end up in landfill and others just end up flying around and when they end up in the environment  they cause issues for wildlife as well as just looking horrible hanging off tree’s and bushes or floating in rivers

The idea is that the money raised from this charge does not go back into profits but is donated to charity which means that it doesn’t feel like an extra tax which it so easily could have been.

It does only affect large retailers and smaller stores arent going to be affected which is good news for them. I would kinda hope that they would try to also discourage their use and I know some already do.

From what I have heard from people who life in Wales it does take a little while to get used to but the scheme does cut down on the amount of plastic bags around and it makes people think about using and reusing bags that they have or bags for life.

You can read more

Daily Mail

Telegraph

Independant

 

 

RIP CombatTesting.com

On the 10th of march 2014 part of my digital life off 7 years came to an end.

CombatTesting was a company that specialised in community led alpha and beta testing of the highest caliber. It was also a community of gamers from all walks of life across the globe that were and still are passionate about gaming and doing there damnedest to make sure that the games that was tested were as bug free as possible.

I have made many friends and learnt  a lot during my time at Combat Testing.I have learned about the processes that goes on behind the scenes to make games and how even a small change can cascade down the line into a massive problem. Its a shame that the latest trend is for publishers and in some cases developers choosing to go for paid beta’s/alphas  and cutting costs in QA costs in general. For some it works and I cant deny that it does but for most it doesn’t and just leads to a far greater cost down the road. It is I’m sure in large, part of the reason that has led to this unique community shutting its doors.

As part of Combat Testing I personally have been involved in many different games, web apps and even gaming videos I am proud of the work that we have done although it could be frustrating at times due to circumstances beyond our control. Seeing bugs that we knew about and had reported early on in development still being there at launch or even the game being held back due to platform/time/cost constraints when we could see the potential that it had.

The sadest part for me is losing a group of dedicated and passionate bug hunters many like myself that were willing to spend hours a day to hunt out bugs or potential problem areas for free and not expecting any other reward than the satisfaction of a job well done.

I joined CombatTesting when they were working on the Northern Strike addon for Battlefield 2142 Im not sure of the circumstances but I found an advertisement for them somewhere and signed up and that was the start of what would turn out to be a 7 year journey. I made my way up the ranks over the next couple of years going from General tester, to Senior tester then Lead tester where I was in charge of Mantis the old bug tracking system we used until we changed to a diffrent system and finally to CT level. Each level added more responsibility and more of a challenge.

Here follows a list of some of the stuff that Combat Testing and In turn I had a hand in.

Combat Testing was a division of Combat Studios LLC. was responsible for the testing of:
*Medal of Honor Warfighter*

*Homefront*

*Crysis 2 XBox 360 Beta Support*

*Medal of Honor*
PC, PS3
and Xbox 360
Beta Support

*Outspark*
Download Installer
Fist of Fu
Divine Souls
Fiesta

*Battlefield: Bad Company 2*
PS3 and PC beta support

*Rock Band*
Alpha, Beta, and Load Balancing test support

*Rupture*

*Battlefield 2142*
Alpha1
Beta 1
Beta 2
Patch 1.05
Patch 1.10
Patch 1.2

Northern Strike Booster Pack
Patch 1.4
Patch 1.41
Patch 1.51

*Battlefield 2*
Patch 1.3
Patch 1.4

EA Downloader (EADM)
EA Web Sales

And many other titles you love to play!

There are many more that I have had a hand in this list is by no means all inclusive.
I hope that perhaps there is a chance that in the future CT will live again and if not then the possibility of something similar is possible. I’m sure that the current trend of paid beta’s will end up going away and there are signs already of change in that area. And I’m sure that recent events for certain games will mean that QA testing will once again become a very important part of the development process.

RIP COMBAT TESTING

2006 – 2014

SOPA & PIPA – A Day Of BlackOuts

As has been reported all over the world and internet today the english pages of wikipedia have gone black in protest of SOPA and PIPA . You can see just an  example of the coverage by following these links  BBC , SKY , CNN.

Now wikipedia is far from the only site to go black and the BBC has a slide show that shows many more and how the sites are supporting the cause, its well worth a view as once again there are some really interesting ways of showing their support. You can view it Here

Now you might be wondering what SOPA and PIPA actually are and why are people making such a big fuss about it, you may also be wondering why a law that is essentially american should affect us and the net as a whole.

SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act and PIPA Is short for Protect Interlectual Property Act.

They are basically both trying to do the same kind of things which as you can see from their names is to crack down on copyright infringement and illegal sharing. The problem lies in the ambiguous way in which these acts are going about doing this and in part whether the us government can be trusted to use the legislation in the way that it is meant for, Which as has been shown in the past with various governments in many different countries is unlikely. It will also give a lot of power  to an industry that again in the past has shown itself to be unscrupulous in the way it deals with people and the people who it accuses of violating even the current laws.

Now im not going to claim that i understand everything about these to acts but fortunately people cleverer than me have gone through the acts and places like the BBC have tried to explain them.

BBC Explanation – Here

EFF – Here

CNN – Here

Wikipedia – Here

There is also this video Which is currently on the Rock Paper Shotgun Blackout page

The reason that its important that people outside of the USA also take note of these ACTS is that not only will it affect websites such as Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia  other sites that are based in the US, it will also affect funding for sites that are outside of the US and whats more where the us leads the rest of the world will follow.

You can’t think that the company’s that support these acts such as Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), News Corp and Walt Disney among many others some of which you can view in this google doc file HERE will not turn their gaze like Sauron to Europe and the rest of the world.

Is PlayStation Plus A Good Deal? Part Two

This is part two of my ongoing mission to track my Playstation plus transactions and to see whether or not Playstation plus is a good deal.

I have bought the year subscription for £39.99 English pounds and just like This Article from the guys at IGN.com im tracking my savings.

I’m following the same rules that have been set out by IGN which are as follows

For the next year, IGN PlayStation Executive Editor Greg Miller and IGN Guides Guru Colin Moriarty will track their PlayStation Plus PlayStation Network purchases every Wednesday. If they buy a full price game, it won’t be logged here. On the chalkboard below, we’ll track what the “free” content would have cost them as well as the discounts they’re receiving. Now, these figures will only include new stuff that the boys have downloaded. If they already own a piece of content, it won’t be included just because it has been discounted or marked as free. This is strictly what they’ve downloaded under the PlayStation Plus umbrella to date.

I will trace how much i actually save assuming that i actually save anything. I will try to do this as quickly as i can after the uk store has been updated and intend to do it quicker than i did this time around this has been delayed due to a dead ps3 you can read about my thoughts on my new slim Here.

So this is how it stacks so far at the current time [31/07/10]

All price are from the UK store and in Pounds and pence (£)

Playstation plus -39.99
Wipeout HD +13.99
Destruction Derby +3.99
Field runners +3.99
Age of zombie +3.99
Steel & titanium pack +4.79
Sackboy on the run theme +1.59
Alien Zombie Death +2.49
Blast Off +2.49
Origami Swan Avatar +0.20
Origami Butterfly Avatar +0.20
Grand Total -2.27

It was a bit of a quiet update for me i already owned a lot of the stuff that was available still got a couple of good games to play for 5 mins also had an hour full game trial of mushroom wars. That games a lot of fun might well purchase it at some point in the future. Also a couple of demos were made available early to us plus subscribers so although store content for me was poor there has been one or two nice surprises.

I expect that the new Playstation plus content will be on tomorrows [Wednesday  1st September] And with me having the weekend off of work the next update should be up by the end of the week.