January 1, 2017

Kuching Trip

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Our latest holiday was a week in Kuching over Christmas. Kuching is the capital of Sarawak state in Malaysia and on the island of Borneo. While there we spent some time jungle trekking, but mostly just hanging out in the relaxed town. As is traditional on Malaysian holidays there was much partaking of the local (and very good) cuisine. Unfortunately, as our trip coincided with rainy season, the weather was usually overcast and thus many of my photos are overly dark.

My best photos from the trip are in a short slideshow available here.

November 5, 2016

Ipoh and Cameron Highlands Trip

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I’m just back from a 4-day trip up to Ipoh and the Cameron Highlands north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While I can’t say that those places are worth a dedicated visit, it was a pleasant enough week: eating street food in Ipoh, and discovering how tea is made in the Cameron Highlands (with a side interest in the very different architecture at the two locations).

My best photos from the trip are in a short slideshow available here.

September 1, 2016

RBS (First Time) - Part 2

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Part 1 is available here.

As the SCRS project at RBS began to come to a finish, the team started to disperse. I was the last technical person to leave and to prevent me leaving RBS entirely, the SCRS project manger arranged for my contract to transfer over to the Sales Account Opening (SAO) project so I could still be around if SCRS needed me. They didn’t, so my last 9 months at RBS were spent on the largest most dysfunctional IT project I have ever seen.

SAO aimed to allow potential and existing customers of RBS to open accounts online. Current accounts, savings, credit cards, overdrafts, the whole range of retail account should be available. Basically it was a set of webpages that took a customer’s information, and then passed it through to various backend systems to actually create the account and send out any required paper forms. At the time many banks were setting up similar systems – now it is expected functionality for a bank’s online presence, but still fairly new for most banks in early 2004 when I started on the project. The technical difficulty was not particularly high, but greatly complicated by non-technical factors. The final system had to integrate with the existing customer database and credit checking systems. The information collected had to meet anti-money laundering, fraud and terrorism laws (collectively referred to as “Know Your Customer” or KYC). Security and reliability had to be bulletproof as this was a public website and must inspire confidence in potential customers. The site also needed to look pretty, well-designed and enticing. The webpages needed to conform to UK & EU disability laws, so blind people or people unable to use a mouse or a raft of other issues should still be able to use the system easily. Also, RBS owned a number of subsidiary banks. They would all use this system too since they all shared the same backend. This meant the webpages had to change branding, wording and structure to match the bank being viewed.

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August 31, 2016

RBS (First Time) - Part 1

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After Java developers became surplus to requirements at the MCPS-PRS Alliance I had to suddenly hunt around for work again. The PRS people were very nice to me and had no problems with me looking for new jobs while at work. With almost year of working in London behind me, it was surprisingly easy to get interviews. Rather than the months of waiting previously experienced, a number of positions came through agents quite quickly. The best of these was at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), in their corporate and retail banking operations (very separate and distinct from their investment banking operations).

So I began a 3 month contract as a Team Leader on the Service Charge Review System (SCRS) just as it started. The project had a 12 month timeline, so if things went well I expected to hang around for further contracts. SCRS was driven by the corporate relationship managers. These are the people who dealt with businesses, big and small. Unlike retail customers (normal people going to bank branches), businesses and corporations paid a raft of fees for the services they use (thus service charges). While there are a set of “standard” fees that businesses pay by default, in reality all the fees are negotiable. The bigger the business, the more negotiable the fees they pay. There are a large number of possible fees, from receiving a cheque, running a credit card or having an overdraft. Perhaps a medium-sized consumer firm has a need for large amount of cash-handling (cash passed to a branch has to be secured, counted and transported), but rarely makes international transfers. It might look for the cash fees to be lowered in return for higher international fees. Part of a relationship managers’ job is to work out if that is a change the bank is willing to make, and if so arrange it. The relationship managers also create speculative fee structures to tempt business to shift banks.

RBS Logo

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August 3, 2016

Glorious Day!


Yes! This week is the culmination (but not termination) of the last four years’ work. My game Concealed Intent has reached 1.0 status and been fully released. No longer is it marked with the stigma of Early Access.

For the next week there is a 34% launch discount on Steam, and now for the first time it is also available on the Humble Store too (same discount).

Development work is not over, there will still at least be a version 1.1 update at some point. However, I think the largest part of game is now complete. Reaching a standard I felt happy about and then saying that people can pay for it without that Early Access caveat is a huge step. Also, as well as the 1.1 update, there will be work on another game (as stated in this year’s goals).