Factory96 Walkthrough

6 12 2012

Factory96:

Hey guys, this is my walk-through / cheat sheet for Factory96 by Virtual Vinyl.

Factory96 is an escape the room genre game. Each level has a three digit code you need to enter to reach the next level and more often than not the code is just lying around somewhere in the level or hidden in the environment so it’s not like your average escape the room game but it’s thoroughly entertaining and has excellent graphics for a free game.

There are no videos or pictures in this walk-through, just simple and clear instructions to help you solve each level. Each level has a hint to help you solve it on your own (with a little help of course) and also the code if you are in a hurry.

Level 1:

On the left hand side of the level there is a diamond shaped sign made up of 4 smaller diamonds. Three of those diamonds (blue, red, yellow) have numbers in them. From left to right is your answer.

Level 1 code is 242.

Level 2:

On the door is a sign with three numbers next to a telephone symbol. From left to right is your answer.

Level 2 code is 112.

Level 3:

At the bottom of the level is a rake attached to the wall. Pick up the rake to add it to your inventory. Select the rake and tap on the brown ivy above the window to reveal the number.

Level 3 code is 335.

Level 4:

In the bottom right hand corner of the level is a can of paint, tap it to add it to your inventory. Select the paint and swipe around the area next to the yellow graffiti to “tag” your code.

Level 4 code is 891.

Level 5:

In the bottom left hand corner of the level is a white box, tap it to add it to your inventory. Select the box and fix it to the exposed wires next to the brown box. This will cause some lights to reveal your code number by number.

Level 5 code is 675.

Level 6:

In the bottom right hand corner of the level is a hammer, tap it to add it to your inventory. Select the hammer and smash the window to reveal the code in the clouds.

Level 6 code is 832.

Level 7:

The broken windows have sunlight streaming through them to project a number on the floor. This is your code.

Level 7 code is 135.

Level 8:

In the bottom right hand corner of the level is a brush, tap it to add it to your inventory. Select the brush and sweep around the wall to reveal your code.

Level 8 code is 592.

Level 9:

Tap the empty picture frames to reveal three photos. Count the number of people in each photo to reveal your code starting with the upper left, then the bottom, then the right hand painting.

Level 9 code is 724.

Level 10:

On the wall are a number of equations. You need to work out what A, B and C are but first pick up the torch by the chair, you’ll need this later. It’s not hard to work out but if you’re in a rush the letters and numbers are below.

A=3, B=6, C=8

Level 10 code is 368.

Level 11:

On the wall is some faded blue paint, within the paint there are three names of months of the year; JAN, MAY, MAR. The month numbers is the answer.

Level 11 code is 153.

Level 12:

On the garage door are three “Chinese” letters. Look closer and you’ll see that these Chinese letters are made up of English letters spelling out the combination.

The first spells F.O.U.R, the second spells O.N.E, the third spells T.W.O

Level 12 code is 412.

Level 13:

In this level there is a table with some playing cards scattered around and a knife. The code is the numbers from the cards to the right of the knife. Two of hearts, Ace of spades and Three of spades

Level 13 code is 213.

Level 14:

Shake your device and a grenade will drop to the floor. Tap the grenade to remove the pin. The door will explode to reveal the code.

Level 14 code is 684.

Level 15:

Tap the bottom left hand corner of the level to remove a brick and add it to your inventory. Take out the piece of paper to reveal your code.

Level 15 code is 471.

Level 16:

Pick up the crowbar and use it to open the fridge. Inside you will see a pack of beer and a pack of eggs. The code is the three digits the beer and the eggs have.

(6 pack of beer, 12 eggs)

Level 16 code is 612.

Level 17:

This is a tough one unless you are familiar with atomic numbers. There are three barrels and the code is the atomic numbers of Nitrogen, Beryllium and Oxygen

Level 17 code is 748.

Level 18:

There is what at first appears to be a clock on the wall. This is not a clock and you do not need to work out the time. What you need to do is work out the angle between the two hands which is 2 and a half right angles.

Level 18 code is 225.

Level 19:

Use your brick to smash the window to reveal the code.

Level 19 code is 894.

Level 20:

This is a really clever level which can have you guessing for ages. What you need to do is follow the numbers in order, so all the 1s to draw out a number. Do the same for the 2s and the 3s and you will have your code.

Level 20 code is 351.

Level 21:

Tap repeatedly on the bottom right hand corner of the broken cabinet to reveal the sign “FBI – 141”. This looks like a file number or procedural code but it is in fact an equation. You need to subtract 141 from the figure that FBI spells out, eg ABC = 123.

Level 21 code is 488.

Level 22:

This level is pitch black, don’t worry, the app hasn’t frozen. Use your torch from level 10 and look around the right hand side for a number. This is your code

Level 22 code is 883.

Level 23:

Tap the projector and it will start to shine colours on the columns. The changing colours are the clues. Count the number of letters in each colour.

Green, Purple, Yellow.

Level 23 code is 566.

Level 24:

Tap each square in the window once until they all turn blue, then tap each window again to change the colour, some will turn green and others will turn a browny-yellow. The brown-yellow panes will spell out the code.

Level 24 code is 714.

Level 25:

Turn your device upside down to reveal some random letters. Rearrange these letters to spell three numbers. Arrange the numbers in ascending order for your code.

Level 25 code is 136.

Congratulations! You have completed the first 25 levels of Factory96. Please check back for solutions to future levels.

I really hoped that this walk-through/cheat sheet helped you complete this very entertaining game.

If you found this walkthrough helpful please take a moment to leave a comment.

Please check out my other walkthroughs

 





The Curse Walkthrough

6 09 2012

The Curse Game:

Hey guys, this is my walk-through / cheat sheet for The Curse Game by Mojo Bones / Toy Studio.

The Curse Game is a puzzle/strategy game with over 100 unique puzzles and engaging cutscenes, one of which will have you scratching your head for ages whilst shaking it in disbelief.

It’s a really engaging game with lots of different types of puzzle. Some of them are really hard and I suspect are designed to get you to buy hints which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a cracking game and has many levels that you can’t “cheat” on or look up the answer which makes it all the more interesting and infuriating at the same time. This walk through will give you the answers and the tools you need to pass every level apart from the cheat proof ones but there are still over 80 answers!

I really hope that you find this helpful, feel free to share this on your social pages but please do not copy any of the work. I will happily allow you to post this on your own site as long as you credit me.

  1. Tangram #1 – solution here
  2. Riddle #1 – STARS
  3. Magic squares – it’s different every time – simple add up game
  4. Sliding Blocks #1 – Solution here – follow the screenshots. It’s not move by move but should be quite easy to follow, just make sure your screen matches the screenshot before moving to the next one.
  5. Button gauge #1 – buttons change positions but it’s quite easy
  6. Match-it #1 – Matching icon changes every time but it shouldn’t be too hard
  7. Bulbs #1 – I can’t help you here. You need to copy the movements of the lights.
  8. Tangram #2 – solution here
  9. Draw the line #1 – solution here
  10. Riddle #2 – PAPER
  11. Circuit #1 – solution here
  12. Jars #1 – There are three jars Large (L), Small (S) and Medium (M). Divide the liquid as follows L to M, M to S, S to L. You have 6 in the large jar and 2 in the medium jar. Pour M into S, L to M, M to S and S to L to solve
  13. Lights Out #1 – solution here
  14. Untangle #1 – Trial & error puzzle but not too difficult
  15. Sliding Blocks #2 – Solution here – follow the screenshots. It’s not move by move but should be quite easy to follow, just make sure your screen matches the screenshot before moving to the next one.
  16. Burn The Rope #1 – solution here
  17. Logic Wheel – Trial and error but it’s not hard to line up the gems as long as you use both directions
  18. Draw The Line #2 – solution here
  19. Riddle #3 – ORGAN
  20. Hamiltonian #1 – solution here
  21. Rotating Picture – solved picture here – you’ll need to match it

    #21 – Rotating Picture

  22. Burn The Rope #2 – solution here
  23. Dominoes #1 – It’s slightly different every time but not too difficult to solve.
  24. Stopper #1 – Reflex game; cant’ help you with that!
  25. Hamiltonian #2 – solution here
  26. Riddle #4 – PRANK
  27. Lights Out #2 – solution here
  28. Tangram #3 – solution here
  29. Circuit #2 – solution here
  30. Sliding Blocks #3 – Solution here – follow the screenshots. It’s not move by move but should be quite easy to follow, just make sure your screen matches the screenshot before moving to the next one.
  31. Solitaire #1 – Number the grid as shown in the picture and follow the numbered instructions ie 8>;18 means move the stone occupying box 8 to box 18 etc.

    Solitaire 1 Solution

  32. Riddle #5 – REVEL
  33. Burn The Rope #3 – solution here
  34. Code Box – Harder version of mastermind code changes every time so you’ll need to buy some hints or hope for luck. If you’re really struggling I suggest following these instructions, the principles are the same and with a hint extending your guesses to 20 the puzzle should be solved relatively easily.
  35. UnTangle #2 – Trial and error
  36. Tangram #4 – solution here
  37. Match-it #2 – Matching icon changes every time – You might get a lucky guess
  38. Jars #2 – Large, Medium, Small. L to M, M to S, S to L, M to S, L to M, M to S to solve
  39. Sliding Blocks #4 – Solution here – follow the screenshots. It’s not move by move but should be quite easy to follow, just make sure your screen matches the screenshot before moving to the next one.
  40. Riddle #6 – RADAR
  41. Draw The Line #3 – solution here
  42. Circuit#3 – solution here
  43. Lucas Problem – solution below or click herefor the full sized image

    Lucas Problem Solution

  44. Bulbs #2 – You just need to copy the sequence. A simple memory game
  45. Button Gauge #2 – Reaction game
  46. Sliding Blocks #5 – Solution here – follow the screenshots. It’s not move by move but should be quite easy to follow, just make sure your screen matches the screenshot before moving to the next one.
  47. Burn The Rope #4 – solution here
  48. Tangram #5 – solution here
  49. Lights Out #3 – solution here
  50. 1 To 8

    1 to 8 Solution

  51. Riddle #7 – TEARS
  52. Draw The Line #4 – solution here
  53. Hamiltonian #3 – solution here
  54. Sliding Picture

    Sliding Picture Solution

  55. Tangram #6 – solution here
  56. Sliding Blocks #6 – Solution here – follow the screenshots. It’s not move by move but should be quite easy to follow, just make sure your screen matches the screenshot before moving to the next one.
  57. Riddle #8 – NTGNY
  58. Burn The Rope #5 – solution here
  59. Combination – The numbers change positions – pot luck can really help with this level
  60. Pathway – Memory game, use a pen and paper if you’re having trouble
  61. Dominoes #2 – It’s slightly different every time but not too difficult to solve.
  62. Lights Out #4 – solution here
  63. Hamiltonian #4 – solution here
  64. Circuit #4 – solution here
  65. Riddle #9 – HOUSE
  66. Stopper #2 – Reflex game, quite difficult but the trick is not to get frustrated with it, try a few times and leave it for a while if you’re having trouble.
  67. Tangram #7 – solution here
  68. Solitaire #2 – Number the grid as shown in the picture and follow the numbered instructions ie 15>;17 means move the stone occupying box 15 to box 17 etc.

    Solitaire 2 Solution

  69. Riddle #10 – QUEUE
  70. Magic Square #2 – it’s different every time, trial and error
  71. Sliding Blocks #7 – Solution here – follow the screenshots. It’s not move by move but should be quite easy to follow, just make sure your screen matches the screenshot before moving to the next one.
  72. UnTangle #3 – Trial and error, you may have to buy extra time with a hint
  73. Match-it #3 – You just need to look closely. Failing that pick a spot and keep choosing that one until it’s right as the pictures move places every time you try. The last method should take no more than 8 re-tries.
  74. Button Gauge #3 – trial and error again I’m afraid
  75. Tangram #8 – solution here
  76. Riddle #11 – HOLES
  77. Draw The Line #5 – solution here
  78. Circuit #5 – solution here
  79. Sliding Blocks #8 – Solution here – follow the screenshots. It’s not move by move but should be quite easy to follow, just make sure your screen matches the screenshot before moving to the next one.
  80. Bulbs #3 – Memory game, marking the bulbs as numbers and writing the “combination” down helps.
  81. Burn The Rope #6 – solution here
  82. Lights Out #5 – solution here
  83. Tangram #9 – solution here
  84. Hamiltonian #5 – solution here
  85. Hanoi – This video on YouTube will help
  86. Mimic – You need to choose the bust that is mimicing another. It’s a case of just watching closely. You may need to purchase a hint
  87. Riddle #12 – PEACE
  88. Sliding Blocks #9 – Solution here – follow the screenshots. It’s not move by move but should be quite easy to follow, just make sure your screen matches the screenshot before moving to the next one.
  89. Draw The Line #6 – solution here
  90. Circular Picture – This is quite a tough one as the starting points are always different but I suggest getting the three moveable rings lined up in order at any angle and starting with the outer ring move it in any direction just one “notch” and then move the second ring to move it in line again. Repeat this until the picture has rotated around to it’s correct position.
  91. Tangram #10 – solution here
  92. Lights Out #6 – solution here
  93. Circuit #6 – solution here
  94. Burn The Rope #7 – solution here
  95. Riddle #13 – THREE
  96. Lights Out #7 – solution here
  97. Hamiltonian #6 – solution here
  98. Sliding Blocks #10 – solution here – follow the screenshots. It’s not move by move but should be quite easy to follow, just make sure your screen matches the screenshot before moving to the next one.
  99. Burn The Rope #8 – solution here
  100. Cogs – This is the final puzzle and you need to arrange the cogs so that they interlock and can power the mechanism to open the final part of the game. You should arrange your cogs like this.

    How to line up the cogs

  101. Once you have sorted the cogs you have a code to submit and this is how it works. All ten numbers correspond with one of the 99 levels. Answers: [1 = 04] [2 = 36] [3 = 95] [4 = 35] [5 = 59] [6 = 50] [7 = 54] [8 = 21] [9 = 90] [10 = 70]

    Final puzzle code – Congratulations you have completed the game

    I really hoped that this walk-through/cheat sheet helped you complete this very entertaining game. I think Mojo Bones & Toy Studio have made a cracking puzzle game and I look forward to the next instalment.

    If you found this walkthrough helpful please take a moment to leave a comment.

Please do check out my other walkthroughs





The importance of good service

23 04 2012

Those that know me well know that I bang the “this is why I got into recruitment” drum a bit but for those that don’t it was a conscious decision because I was sick of being treated poorly by recruiters and decided that I could do a better job. Poor service in recruitment is a really big bug bear of mine and in general. Britain doesn’t really do good service. Service seems to be beneath most people yet it is something we all complain about.

I’m getting married in September and I was astounded at how poor the service was at some of the companies I have been dealing with and the stark comparison with many recruitment companies. Like many people who have been together for a while we are getting married because of course we love one another but probably more because it is the next natural step in our relationship before children and because we have been together for so long we don’t really want a big fuss so are having a small and cheap (but elegant) wedding. ‘Small’ weddings to businesses in the industry seems to bring out a certain amount of dickheadedness in the salespeople and is probably the main cause of the lack of interest.

I’m going to take a few examples of recent interactions with companies in the wedding industry and compare them to a few situations that crop up in the recruitment industry on a daily basis.

Let’s start with the flowers. Flowers in this case are going to represent a client requesting two contractors for a short-term project and by short-term I mean, say, a fortnight.

The florist took our requirements as a recruiter would do with the project spec and then gave us a quote. We are only having a small wedding so do not need many flowers as both of our venues are naturally stunning and don’t really need much dressing up. Therefore we only really need a bouquet and about 6 button holes for the dads and brothers etc. The florist gave us a quote which I felt was a little high so I got in my car, drove to the florists and went in and got a quote for flowers for a ‘party’. The crucial drop of the word wedding made the quote 20% cheaper. I immediately (but non-aggressively) confronted the florist and asked them why 15 minutes before they gave me a much larger quote for the same flowers when I said it was for a wedding. Needless to say they struggled to justify themselves and decided to just ask me to leave the shop. Which I did gladly.

The recruiter in this situation would want to make as much money as possible because it is a very short-term contract which most recruiters do not like. Ironically most recruiters are very short-term-ist in their views but are constantly after the long-term contracts. Like the florist the recruiter here would overcharge their client or underpay their contractors in order to ‘justify’ the time spent on a short project.

This is a massively flawed way to look at things. I recently had a 10 day contract requirement which I probably would have been lucky to make about £300 from (about 10%) out of which I would have had to cover additional costs contractors incur which would have left me with about £200 for two days work plus any extra time dealing with contractor queries. Most recruiters would sniff at that but luckily I’m not most recruiters and I am self-employed. I decided that it was worth it because the long-term potential with this great company and indeed other great companies that they may have been able to unlock doors was excellent. Sadly the contractor did a bunk (as some do) and it ended up costing me about £500 on top of the lost turnover and profit. Hopefully the quality of my service and accessibility will see me through this set-back with this client. If the service was bad I would bet my house that they would never use me again.

Another example would be the wedding attire, her dress and my suit.

I’ll start with her dress. I cannot vouch for how accurate this version of events is because I was not there but as I understand it she had tried on a few dresses and decided it was between two dresses, one in each of the bridal shops she was having fittings at. The service in shop A. was poor (incidentally a chain). The shop assistant whom I only know as “bitchface” (that’s what the mother-in-law called her anyway. I’m not sure if she was first name bitch, last name bitch but I’ve gone for the Madonna-esque mononym) was unpleasant, disinterested in the needs and requirements of my fiancée and just wanted to get her in and out of the shop as quickly as possible stopping only to take her credit card details. Shop B. in contrast were helpful, attentive and patient. They understood that choosing a wedding dress (like a new hire) was a big decision and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Like a good recruiter they recommended dresses (candidates) based on their many years of experience of bridal dresses and their new knowledge of the bride (the company) through their comprehensive requirements gathering. They presented her with a number of excellent choices and after trying a few on (interviewing) and having each dress (candidate) cross referenced against the original requirement she made up her mind on which dress she liked best and decided that although there wasn’t much between the dress at Shop A. and the dress at Shop B. apart from the one at Shop B. being slightly more expensive that she was not going to give “bitchface” her business because of the way she treated her in the shop, as though she wasn’t important.

A good recruiter will be like Shop B. They will gather requirements and the meticulously set about ensuring a good fit between potential candidates (dresses) and the client (bride). They will treat all parties with respect and will not pressure the client (bride) into making a decision but will use their years of experience to add value to the process and help make easier what is already a difficult enough decision without being pressured.

I had similar experiences with suit hire. I’m not having a best man because choosing one would be too difficult and then out of guilt I would probably end up having 5 or 6 groomsmen to compensate for them not getting the best man gig and that would just be ridiculous because it would mean more bridesmaid and that would all mean more money. So it’s just me. Just one suit. But just one suit isn’t good enough business for some of the bigger companies out there (the corporate recruiters).

I tried Moss Bros to start with. I went into an empty shop early on a Saturday morning and was greeted with the slimy warmth you get when someone who works on commission sees a potential kill and tries to lure you into their sticky web. As soon as I mentioned that I would not be needing more than one suit the glint and sparkle in the salesman’s eyes died the fastest death known to man. Coincidentally the store was about to become very busy with pre-booked customers for consultations and that if I was interested I should book but they had no appointments for 3 weeks.

The recruiter version of this is when a client who can only afford to work on a low margin asks you to help them recruit a new hire. The recruiter will accept it because it is business but they won’t give it 100% and will probably ignore it for days on end and spin the client lines like “it’s a really tough market at the moment and there aren’t many people around at the salary you are looking for”. It’s a ruse to increase the salary banding to increase the invoice value which makes spending time on it more justifiable.

The second place I tried was Young’s Hire inside Debenhams (not part of Debenhams, just a concession) who pounced on me like an experienced cold-calling recruiter with “pitch, pitch, trial close, pitch, pitch, pitch, trial close, sign-posting, alternative close, pitch, pitch, trial close, pitch”. I was listening to them for a good 3 minutes before they even asked me one question about what I wanted. Like many recruiters they were so sure that they knew what I wanted and what I needed that they could just tell me what I wanted and that I would just accept that as truth.

When I said it was just for me they started to lose interest again but then decided to change tactics and get me signed up and out of the door as quickly as possible. The old “trial start” scenario – “trust me John, this guy is perfect for you, I’ll send him to start on Monday and if he doesn’t work out by 11 just send him home”.

Out of nowhere (like a recruitment team manager) another salesperson swooped in and they tried to double team me and deflected my questions with “pitch, pitch, pitch, pitch”. I wanted to know how they would measure me because I planned to lose some weight before the wedding but wanted to get the suit booked in early. They laughed that off with a “everyone says they’re going to lose weight and none of them do”.

Firstly, that is extremely rude and patronising and secondly, I’ve lost 7 kilos since February and plan to lose 5 more by the wedding!

They told me that I would come in a week before the event and if my measurements had changed they would send off for the right sizes. I questioned how wise that was incase they didn’t have the new size in the same style or at all, or what if it got damaged or lost in transit etc etc and that 6 days wasn’t enough time to guarantee I’d have the suit I requested.

These objections, in the style of a bad recruiter, were handled with blanket responses that did nothing to reassure me such as “we’re the biggest, we’re the best, we have the most stuff, that will never happen blah blah blah blah blah”. When I said that I was not reassured they did the only good thing they had done all day and asked me a valuable question. They asked me what I thought was enough time to come in for my final measurements. I said 4 weeks and they laughed at me and said that it was standard industry practice to do it 7 days before. The camels back was well and truly broken about 30 seconds into meeting these cocks but what took the biscuit was them trying to revive a dead sale by slagging off the opposition.

Note to recruiters. NEVER slag off the opposition. If they are doing a bad job it is not your job to highlight that fact.

I eventually went with a company called Frocks and Tails in Cotham in Bristol who were magnificent.

The experience I had with them is exactly what I am trying to recreate in my business, Level 99.

They were polite, attentive, knowledgable, genuinely interested in me and did not try to ‘sell’ to me once. I am a big believer that the best form of selling is honesty and quality of service. If you are honest with people and try your best to give them a good service it will be noticed. Not just by them but by other people as well. People say it is word of mouth but you have to impress someone first for them to start spreading the news. The best type of selling/advertising starts with good service.

The suit I went for (which I look rather dashing in if I say so myself) was quite different from what I thought I wanted when I went in but like a good recruiter the shop assistant listened to my requirements and made a few suggestions that turned out to be everything I wanted but didn’t know that I did.

They consulted with me. They listened and then they listened some more and when they finally heard me then and only then did they make suggestions and recommendations. They sold to me without selling to me and although they were over £50 more expensive than their competitors their quality of service won me over.

The wedding industry like the recruitment industry to me seems to be full of people who don’t really care about the industry they are in or the clients they serve just the amount of money they can make but like the recruitment industry the wedding industry has a few shining lights who do their job properly with passion and thoughtfulness and deliver a first class service.

My recommendation to any recruiter out there or indeed any business person is to value the quality of your service, it’s the only way to do business.

 





Honesty is the best policy

10 04 2012

When people ask me what I do for a living I hear the pantomime boos before I’ve even finished saying “I’m a recruiter”.

It’s good natured ribbing but being painted as a villain for your job title can be a little tedious. There are many things that are levelled at recruitment consultants and often they are justified and enforce the base reasons so many hate recruiters but some things just cannot be helped. As a recruiter you need to take the unfair criticism on the chin because sometimes no matter the situation, no matter how blameless you are the mud just sticks and you will be viewed to be at fault.

Such a potential situation happened to me recently and whilst I have assurances from my client that I am not considered to be at fault I cannot shake the feeling that my reputation has been tarred or damaged even if ever so slightly. And that is probably because it has even if it hasn’t been realised yet.

I won’t divulge many details but let us just say that a contractor had an opportunity to be honest about their abilities, chose not to and left many people in a tight spot with a deadline looming all because they could not be honest.

Recruiters are famed, fairly and unfairly depending on which recruiter you are referring to, as dishonest people. This is one of the things that help paint recruiters as pantomime villains in the business world, maybe being marked as something can drive you to become that thing and that might explain why so many recruiters are worthy of such a reputation. A vicious circle but something for another day. Ironically I would say that dishonesty is the thing that recruiters hate the most as it is the thing that quite often that leaves them out of pocket and in some cases out of a job. In my case, being self-employed it is almost the same thing.

I write this as an open letter to anyone looking to find a job or anyone working in the recruitment industry.

Be honest. Be upfront.

Smoke and mirrors won’t hide you forever. Smoke clears and mirrors can be broken.

If something is outside of your capabilities then you must be upfront about it because in the long term it will only damage you.

If you are looking for a job but find at interview stage or on your first day that you cannot do the job then you must say so.

If you cannot make an interview then say so. If you do not want to attend an interview because you’ve accepted another role or for whatever reason say so. If you don’t you are damaging your own reputation by being a time-waster.

The biggest no-no is fabricating a personal tragedy to avoid letting someone down. The truth may not be pretty but people will respect it, even if in the heat of the moment they don’t seem to because of their annoyance at being let down. Never do this, you will be found out at even if you don’t it’s just plain wrong.

Recruiters, always be honest. No matter how ugly the truth, no matter how difficult it may be you must always be honest. Your clients may not understand, they may even blame you but at least you can always cling to your integrity and honesty and that will always carry you much farther than any white lie.

Lying or even masking of the truth serves the benefit of no-one and your reputation will be damaged regardless of which side of the fence you sit on.

I’m several hundred pounds out of pocket today (not in lost fees but in solicitors fees I have to pay to have legal letters drafted etc), have an angry wife-to-be (we’ve finally set a date but that’s not for here) for cutting a trip short to try to get a handle on a situation I could never control and a client, who to be fair have been fantastic to me but I doubt will give me another shot as not only will I always be the recruiter whose contractor let them down but now probably second best to a recruiter who didn’t have a contractor that let them down. They may be better than me or they may just have been lucky enough to be a recruiter in the right place at the right time. I hope that I am wrong and I do get another crack but if anything I’ve been grateful for the journey and glad to have worked with genuinely nice people. Am I angry with the contractor who caused this? A little but not as much as I am with myself. I mostly disappointed, not for me, partially for my client but mostly for the guy who plays jenga with truth and honesty. The tower will eventually fall.

I’ve learnt the hard way over the years that nothing is for certain in recruitment and people will let you down given the right circumstances and that as a recruiter I can only be open and honest to everyone I deal with and hope that one day I won’t be booed when I walk on stage.

Hopefully my next update will be a more cheerful affair.

Until next time….





Web hosting nightmare

21 02 2012

Bad service annoys me but what annoys me more is companies that give bad service yet prosper in spite of it and as such get the impression that it is okay to treat your customers like garbage.

I thought I knew what bad customer service was until I became a customer of 123-Reg.

In 2011 when setting up my business website www.level99.co.uk I was looking for a simple and cheap web hosting and design package. I didn’t need a fancy a website with bells on it; not straightaway at least. All I needed was a functional website with a couple of email addresses and a decent amount of bandwidth.

I looked around and decided to go with 1&1 as their website builder looked very simple to use and to be honest my coding skills aren’t up to building a website from scratch so I needed a drag and drop system. Best of all 1&1 were really cheap for registering domain names. I signed up to their ‘free’ 60 day trial and within 5 days decided that it wasn’t for me. The website builder was okay but really only worked if your business was relevant to one of their templates (great if you are a builder/plumber/accountant/crafts person) which mine wasn’t. My biggest issue with them was the fact that their technical support team were based overseas, most likely in the Philipines. Which in itself wasn’t an the issue, the issue was the ability of the people in this particular call centre to communicate in English (which as an English speaking person is the language I’m going to be making support calls in).

The people at 1&1 are well-trained and work well with scripts and speak perfect English with excellent pitch, diction and enunciation albeit it in very annoying faux American “Microsoft Sam” accents. My issue was that although their spoken English was fine they struggled to understand simple questions and simple instructions. Essentially they were not fluent in English. They could speak it but they didn’t really understand it.

Basic questions such as “my website is not showing the same information on the front-end as it is the back-end” was too difficult for them to understand. Maybe my accent was too strong for them or maybe I was phrasing the questions poorly but it was obvious that the relationship wasn’t going to work. I decided to leave after a 2 hour support call with them trying to explain that they had billed me upfront for a service that I had on a free 7 day trial and that I had in fact cancelled the service the same day I ‘bought’ it because it didn’t work for me. Eventually and after speaking with 3 different support staff and 2 supervisors they realised my issue and promised to refund my money (which they took 2 months to do!).

I had a look around and I decided to sign up to a trial with 123-reg. Their sales people were nice and polite and understood my worries about moving across and my support/communication issues.

The web builder that they use, SiteFusion, seemed great, it was drag ‘n’ drop, point, click and type your crap here and did all of the “right” things. It seemed perfect. I spoke with the sales people and said that I really liked the website and wanted to move across but before I did I wanted to know how long it would take for my domain to migrate. They said 7 days. I wasn’t comfortable with having my site down for 7 days but they said they could set up a redirection and that I could buy a new domain name (incidentally now hosting this blog) and create my site on that and when the domain had transferred that I just flip the site to my original domain. I was also assured that I was on a monthly rolling contract and wasn’t tied into anything.

All seemed great at first and the site was looking okay but after 10 days (not 7 as promised) when my level99.co.uk domain had moved across they told me it was impossible to flip my site to the new domain and that I would either have to have a redirection in place permanently or start all over again and that they didn’t do backups of pages and that if I changed my template that I would lose everything. I was obviously quite annoyed at this as not only did they lie to me but I would also have to face rebuilding my site from scratch which would have been time-consuming and time was something I am often short on.

I set up the permanent redirection and just went about my business until about 3 days later I noticed that the formatting of the site was thrown cross browser and that the front-end didn’t match the back-end. For the next 3 months there was a new problem for every day. I spent more time fixing the site than I did anything else and the ‘support’ staff at 123-reg did nothing about it.

The support guys were not only unbelievably unhelpful and rude they were also immensely stupid. The default response was “it all looks fine from our end, clear your cache” despite clearing my cache on a daily basis and also using one browser to design the site and others to view it. The process with them was incredibly frustrating as to get any thing other than a blanket response I would have to take screen shots of the back-end, time stamp it, take screen shots of the skewed front-end and time stamp those too, attach them to a support ticket and wait 48 hours for a response which would usually be “it looks fine from our end”. I would then point out the screen shots and they would ask me to re-attach them. I would and they would take another 48 hours to respond and then they would tell me that it was my fault and that I had changed something. Another 48 hours would pass from my response (because they refused to deal with me over the phone) before they would finally look into it. They would then claim that it was a second line issue which meant referring the ticket to 2nd line who do telephone calls as much as Mariah does stairs. 2nd line would email me after another 48 hours and claim it was a 3rd party developer issue and that they would liaise with them on my behalf and get back to me. Turnaround time from logging the issue and having it resolved was usually about 10 working days in which time 9 more issues would have come up.

One issue that sticks in my mind was it taking 30 days to fix a problem that they had caused. What originally happened was my side panels turned luminous green overnight. I called them to fix it which they did in a rather fast 24 hours although in doing so they had doubled the size of my side panels and squeezed all of my content in the middle of the page and thrown off all of my formatting and modules. A concept they struggled to understand. Their levels of comprehension of the English langauge were so bad I almost wished I was speaking to Microsoft Anna at 1&1 again. Then I couldn’t log onto my site, my email or the 123-reg site and Twitter was alive with similar complaints. Supposedly it was an issue with my ISP but it wasn’t something my ISP was aware of at all. Eventually it all came back on-line but 123-reg could have done a much better job of communicating that problem to their customers.

After weeks and weeks of issue after issue being left unsolved, complaint after complaint ignored I decided enough was enough and decided to look elsewhere. I was contacted by a great company but more of that later and decided to move on. I gave notice to 123-reg and that was when things started to get nasty.

They started sending me invoices claiming that I was in a contract and that I couldn’t cancel and that if I did I would have to pay the rest upfront. I told them I wasn’t in a contract and that all of my invoices from them were monthly renewals as stated on the invoices. Things went from bad to worse and everyone I spoke to was rude and generally being a bit of a dick to me.

I finally managed to get through to someone in their cancellations/customer retention’s team who was actually really nice. She was polite and understanding and said she would do her best to get me cancelled so I could just get on with my business until I mentioned that I was in dispute about being in a contract. She told me that her system said I was in a contract and that I would have to speak to her manager. I spoke to her manager who was about as charming as an ingrown toenail. She immediately started shouting at me and saying that I was in a contract and that I couldn’t cancel (great job on trying to retain my business by the way). I told her that when I spoke to the sales team that I was assured that I wasn’t in contract and that my invoices all stated that I was paying for a monthly renewal of service, not an installment but an actually renewal like when your car insurance comes through. She retorted that they didn’t have a sales team. After a bit more of her shouting at me and calling the odds she said that she would check up on a lot of my claims and call me back the next day at 12pm.

12pm went, so did 1pm and 2pm and 3pm. By 3.30 I was getting pretty hacked off so I started a Twitter campaign against them, airing my complaints and responding to all of the other complaints people were posting on Twitter with my own experiences. They very quickly tried to pour water on the fire and kept asking me to DM them my issues which I eventually did in conjunction with my continued Twitter rampage. I told them that I was expecting a call at 12pm and got nothing. My phone rang 5 minutes later and it was the retention’s manager. She started off nice and polite and said that as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ that they would reduce my 9 month ‘contract’ down to 6 months to reduce the cost for me. I said that a gesture of goodwill would be paying me back all of the money I had spent with them plus the cost of my telephone calls and the lost earnings from the amount of time I spent fixing their mess and that I wasn’t in a contract so a reduction is hardly going to appease me. And then she started shouting the odds again, seriously, this one was angry lady.

She then said that the offer of reducing my payments was withdrawn and that they would be chasing me for the money I ‘owed’ them. I’d had enough by this point so I told her that I would just cancel the direct debit. She must have had many threats like this because she came back at me with ninja speed and said “HAH! That won’t stop us. We have your card details so we’ll just charge your card”. Crap. She had me. I told her that she was being unreasonable and that her attitude was unacceptable and that I wanted to speak to her superior. She told me that he wasn’t in until the next day so I hung up. I called my bank immediately and asked if they could still take payment if I cancelled my card. They said that it was technically still possible so I cancelled my account. HAH to 123-reg at least hah that they can’t get at my money but hah at me for having to waste my time getting a new bank account. I started my Twitter campaign again and after realising they had had enough bad press they offered to cancel my services and ‘waive’ all outstanding charges.

To that point my experience with hosting companies had been atrocious so I was understandably dubious when I was contacted by the guys at SW Broadband (www.swbroadband.co.uk). They seemed too cheap and they didn’t have a web builder which meant I would have to put more time and effort into my site.

How wrong I was!

The move to SW Broadband was probably the best decision I have made this year. They took care of everything, they migrated me across, they got the skeleton of my site built in Joomla, which by the way I have found as infuriating as I have fantastic, and even took the time to teach me how to continue developing my site in Joomla. They took the time to show me what I’d be getting for my money, to understand what I needed from my site and to explain how exactly the migration process would work.

I get unlimited support, two websites hosted, unlimited emails, access to loads of applications and the odd bit of free consultancy. All of this for just £1.49 a month! How great is that? That is less that a 3rd of what I was getting at 123-reg for almost 100 times the service!! My website looks better than ever and has more capabilities and functions than I thought were possible to have on such a small budget.

The staff there are really helpful, quick to respond to support queries and most of all they “get” it. They get why a site is important to a person or a business. They get what the site needs to do and even offer fantastic suggestions on what it could have and the best way to build that into your site. They do so much fantastic stuff included in the monthly hosting fee or for very reasonable consultancy fees.

These guys bring a level of service to the UK hosting industry that puts most others to shame. America is great at customer service, the UK is abysmally poor at giving customer service. There is something about the culture here that makes people think that service jobs are beneath them or to be looked down upon and that is why so many of our companies have such poor customer service and get away with it. People expect to be treated like garbage and to have to pay for the privilege of it.

I for one am glad to say that my hosting company is as British as they come when it comes down to value, quality and choice but as American as you can be when it comes to good old fashioned customer service. Looking for a hosting company… give SWB a whirl, you won’t be disappointed.





Early birds get the worm and other such crap on business websites

7 02 2012

Regular visitors to my blog will remember my post about crap that is posted on LinkedIn and how it really winds me up that some of this tripe can be considered business journalism. These articles are usually links that have been shared by enough people to make it into my homepage based on what LinkedIn thinks my interests are. Most of the time these articles are pieces by so called business journalists and they usually contain business ‘tips’ from ‘top executives and directors’. More often than not they are full of crap.

I have nothing against LinkedIn; I think it is a great tool and a great business networking site but the articles that some people think are worth sharing just wind me up. The most recent one that has offended me was the “5 Early Birds Share Everyday Productivity Strategies”

I’m guessing that it is something to do with getting up early.

The evil side of early birds

Here are some of the ‘tips’.

Early bird number one is a CEO of an online business starts by saying “hold the caffeine”. These are her tips

Hmmm.... breakfast

Early Bird Strategy
“Skip the caffeine and spin! I wake up every morning at 5:45 a.m. naturally, without the help of an alarm clock, and for breakfast have half a granola bar with a cup of decaf tea. I spin for one hour, which truly helps me charge my batteries for the day.”

Making the Day Work for You
“While spinning, I answer emails from last night, check my social networks, and watch the local news. Then I shower and get dressed. Much of my day I’ve prepped the night before because I have two sons in grade school and won’t have time to waste in the morning. I briefly go over our to-do list for the day as a family together and we pack the car up and leave at 7:40 a.m. Before I go into the office, I like to stop by the local coffee shop across the street for another decaf tea to go. I have my tea, my agenda planned, and my iPhone alerts on – now I know I’m ready to take on the day.”

To summarise you should eat an unsubstantial breakfast and exercise the crap out of yourself before 7am and then you should go and do a full day’s work.


Early bird number two is a CPO at a cloud services company. These are his tips.

Early Bird Strategy

“I get up at 6:00 a.m. and have a grande mocha, no whip.”

Making the Day Work for You
“The first part of my day is my thought time; when I work on any strategic initiatives. I jump “into the fire” of the day starting around 9:00 a.m. and take care of anything that needs to be addressed immediately. I also review operational dashboards, my commitment plan dashboard, a status of all ongoing programs, and if I find any new projects to deal with I’ll either email or call the person to understand the issue. I’ll also get another espresso if necessary.”

To summarise you should get up super early but don’t get into work for 3 hours and make sure you are hyped up on caffeine.

Just...one....more....coffee.......

Early bird three is the President of a large circulating magazine. These are his tips.

Early Bird Strategy
“I am out of bed by 5:30 a.m. and have a good cup of coffee before my morning workout. I usually have breakfast when I get to the office or when I am having a customer meeting. I will have anything from an egg white omelette to a Power Bar.”

Making the Day Work for You
“The first thing I do in the morning is work out for an hour at home while watching the local news. I’m usually on the train to work before 7 a.m. I try to get to the office or a breakfast meeting between 7:45 a.m. and 8 a.m. Once I’m at the office, I address administrative work and prepare for the day ahead.
The rest of the day is focused on achieving my company’s key business activities.”

To summarise, get up before the birds start singing. Drink caffeine, work out, go to work and eat a sad breakfast at your desk.

Early bird 4 is the CEO of a large communications agency. These are his tips.

Early Bird Strategy
“I wake up at 4:25 a.m., drink a shot of room-temperature espresso made the night before. I do a quick check of email and respond as needed. I already packed a gym bag the night before and I keep my swim gear in my car at all times. I’m in the water at 5:15 a.m. and I am back home by 6:45 a.m.
I usually make my kids breakfast (pancakes) and myself a smoothie of low-fat chocolate milk, a banana, oats, peanut butter, flaxseed oil, chia seeds and rice protein powder.”

Making the Day Work for You
“I check email again and may take a quick call with our London office. I put one of our kids on the bus and then I go for an 8-mile, slow, hilly run outside for about an hour and 15 minutes. That’s 2,500 calories burned before 9 a.m. Then, I go to work. I am usually in bed before 10 p.m. every night.”

To summarise, get up so early the birds get you ASBO’d for disturbing the peace, drink a super shot of caffeine, work off more calories than you will probably take in for the day and then try and concentrate at work for the whole day whilst your achy body screams for respite and sustenance.

Early bird number 5 is the CEO of a budget transport company. These are his tips.

Early Bird Strategy
“I get up at 6 a.m. and I’m usually at the computer by 6:01. That is my sacred hour–by far my most productive hour of the day. I’ll glance through my inbox to make sure nothing catastrophic has happened, but other than that I try to steer clear of emails or any other distractions. My advice for anyone who wants to be productive in the morning: Don’t check email!”

Making the Day Work for You
“The rest of my day I’ll spend on emails, calls, meetings, putting out fires. Whenever possible I try to go for a run in the middle of the day. I’ll probably pull it off twice during the week. It’s a great way to break up the day, de-stress, and step back from the minutiae that I often get stuck in. To the extent that I ever have good ideas, they always come while I’m running. Late at night, once everyone’s asleep, I’ll sneak back to the computer and I’ll again get to do some real work for however long I can stay awake.”

To summarise get up early and start working immediately! Don’t go to the toilet, don’t get dressed or wash. Just work! As soon as your hit your computer, don’t check your emails but do check your emails quickly but don’t check them as that is unproductive. Then do a full day of work, go home and work until you have completely burnt the candles at both ends. Simples.

SERIOUSLY???

The tips include waking up early, eating a pathetic breakfast and then doing hard exercise until your legs fall off, topping up with caffeine all day but not drinking any caffeine, checking your emails but not checking your emails and to top it all off the best way to be productive is to work so many hours that you literally don’t stop until you have fallen asleep.

How many people have a spin machine in their house? How many people want to do hard physical exercise at 5/6am? Where would they find the energy with only half a granola bar in them?

These aren’t tips to being productive at all. These are things that crazy people do who just so happen to also be successful. There is no link between being successful and all of the things these people do. They just happen to be successful AND do these things.

Sleep in a bit...

Do you want some real tips for being productive?

  1. Get some proper sleep. At least 8 hours. Lack of sleep can dramatically reduce your concentration and productivity levels. You might think you are on top form but if you didn’t sleep properly the night before then chances are you could be on better form. Imagine that!
  2. Eat a proper breakfast, even if you aren’t a breakfast person. Eat cereal/toast AND fruit and a yoghurt if you can. You won’t feel as hungry leading up to lunch and your concentration levels will be better.
  3. Work smart not hard. Work in short but concentrated bursts of say 60-90 minutes then have a 10-15 minute break. That might be checking your emails, browsing the web or even taking a short walk. Don’t crunch and don’t break your day into 3 slots, morning, lunch, afternoon – it isn’t productive
  4. Get active. Not 8 mile runs active but a couple of 5-10 minute walks every day. Fresh air, light exercise and change of scenery are the best ways to break tasks down and enable you to tackle tasks with a fresh head and a new burst of energy. The optimum time for maximum output is 60-90 minutes. A normal four hour task would probably be completed in 2 bursts of 90 minutes because you are fresh and energised. That’s a hour saved right there. Put your money away… my advice is free.

Your body is not a temple it is a machine and you need to maintain it. Simply put, eat well and often and get plenty of sleep and regular exercise.

Being productive isn’t rocket science and it certainly isn’t about getting up at crazy o’clock. Forget these the early bird gets the worm techniques. You are not a bird; you are a human being… well some of you are ;oP





Uncharted 3 – Review

3 02 2012

Now that I have completed Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception four times (normal x2, hard and crushing difficulty setting) I feel like I’m in a good place to review this game.

There are loads of reviews out there that drool over this game calling it a game that “redefines the genre” and “sets a new benchmark” etc etc.

I’m not here to slag off the game as I thought it was great but I wouldn’t really call it game of the year or even put it close to Uncharted 2.

Let me start my review by saying that it is a great game and visually it is stunning my only problem with the game was that as a player I felt like I was getting in the way.

Those that watch The Apprentice (the UK version mostly) will understand me when I say that Naughty Dog were like the contestants who fancy themselves as advertisement directors. The guys (and girls) on The Apprentice who make it past week 6 always seem to get a task where they can create a new product brand and then shoot a TV advert for it. Most of the time it is a complete cock up. They get too excited and start thinking they are Steven Spielberg and are creating some sort of cinematic masterpiece and completely lose site of the goal of the task.

Naughty Dog seem to have done something similar. Now I know there is an Uncharted movie in the pipeline (and I think Mark Wahlberg will make a good Nate) and I will go and see it but Uncharted 3 looks and feels like Naughty Dog have decided to make their own movie before Hollywood have their way with their franchise (supposedly Sully is going to be played by De Niro but will actually be Nate’s Dad??). They have conveniently scattered some gameplay in between scenes so they can pass it off as a game rather than a blu-ray movie.

Just as the action starts to get good we enter a cut-scene and it’s a good 5 minutes before we are back in control of Nate. Now I know you can skip the scenes and that is exactly what I did on my second go of normal (treasure hunting) and I completed the game in under 2.5 hours!! That is complete with deaths and animation that you can’t skip and veering slightly off course to seek and collect treasure. Uncharted 2 in comparison was 5 hours at best. I think the main gulf is that Uncharted 2 had about seven quite difficult chapters; Uncharted 3 has two.

I think Uncharted 3 has a few more puzzles to solve, well more difficult puzzles anyway but there is a bit of a cheat that if you stand still for long enough Sully (or even Nate himself) will give you plenty of clues on what to do.

The cinematic sequences were lovely and something truly great to behold but the flow of the game made me feel like I, as a gamer, was in the way.

Another example of this is how limited the environment seemed to be compared to Uncharted 2 and possibly even Uncharted. The game would only really let you veer off the main course ever so slightly to find poorly hidden treasure. My first go of Uncharted 2 I only collected 46 treasures. Uncharted 3 74. Lots of the chapters would restrict you to moving in one direction a bit like the old side-scrollers on the NES where you couldn’t go back to pick up a box you’d missed or something. Okay it wasn’t that bad but almost.

I’m going to move on from the movie-game-but-not-quite-a-game-but-more-like-a-movie-with-options thing and talk about the game a bit more because I don’t want to sound too down on the game as I loved it, I really did. I just thought Uncharted 2 was better.

As always with Nate you embark on a race against a dangerous criminal mastermind and their cronies to discover a mythical treasure of immeasurable power and value. There is a lot more fist fighting and puzzle-solving than previous Nathan Drake games and there are times when the game will force you to put away or throw away your gun. Frustrating at first but then you realise the reasons behind it and you begrudgingly congratulate Naughty Dog and the writing team for creating yet another believable adventure. The fist fight controls are superb I must say. There is something extremely satisfying about beating multiple guys to death with just your fists and random objects like bottles, spanners and chairs. Fighting armed enemies with just your fists can make you bounce up and down in your chair with glee as you kick a guy, counter the swing of his gun butt punch him in the face and kick his gun in the air and catch it ready to shoot the next guy in one swift move. But when you get to shoot some people you really get to shoot some people! The improved shooting controls allow you to target weak spots with ease and it is possible to put together an insane run of head-shots. Although having said that there are times when you point blank shoot someone in the face and they don’t drop! ARRGGH!!

I’m not sure if I would say the climbing and jumping controls have greatly improved as there are still times when you have to make precision jumps to collect treasures or to get a perfect hiding spot to pick off the hordes of enemies that want to kill you and then laugh at your dead body (which is the most frustrating and amusing thing ever) and it will take you forever to get it right. On the other hand it seems that when a jump is important to the story, say in a chase scene or a getaway scene that the game compensates for your mistakes by giving Nate a little boost so he lands where he is supposed to without harm which is another little thing which says “you there, gamer, you’re in my way” but I promised I’d move on.

What Uncharted 3 does best is deliver a fast paced game with variable and exciting combat tactics that make you feel like you are choreographing a fight rather than executing a quick time sequence with a delightful story that plays like a book you can’t put down and it’s “just one chapter more”.

The game is as good as it is frustrating and like it’s predecessors boy is it frustrating. There is one particular level where a heavily armoured goon tries to gun you down with a machine gun that will kill you with two shots and the only way to kill him is to throw three or four grenades at him but you can only get the required grenades by killing the normal goons that will also try to shoot you but the problem is that not only are there tens of goons the grenade spawning is random and most of the time you need to pick up the grenade they threw at you and aim it back at the big guy before it detonates or do it the hard way and wait for them to take a grenade from their belt, line up your shot and shoot them before they pull the pin and then pick up the grenade whilst avoiding being shot. Oh yeah… you also have to do this whilst being thrown around violently because you are on a boat during a storm!

The pros

  • Excellent pace
  • Realistic environment based combat – use of surroundings and ability to throw back grenades.
  • Amazing cinematography, audio and voice acting

The cons

  • More cut-scenes than action
  • Environment based creative restrictions (platforming)

 

All in all this is a fantastic game and a real treat to play despite my negging about the cinematography overshadowing the gameplay. For those that haven’t played it yet I would recommend that you don’t get too hyped about it being a great improvement on Uncharted 2. If it isn’t then you won’t be too disappointed. If you think it is better then at least you exceed expectations.

If you want to prolong the gameplay I seriously suggest playing it on the hardest setting available so you can play it for as long as possible. Or complete it multiple times like me!