Sampo bank software upgrade, Ubuntu and beta culture

Even if you are not Sampo bank’s customer, but live in Finland, you have most probably heard by now about continuous problems Sampo had with their web-bank system.

When Sampo launched the new system this Easter, they took into use Java-based authentication system. Of course it didn’t work in my Ubuntu 7.10, but after removing Open JDK and installing latest Sun JDK it started functioning again – at least log in worked. This Java solution raised a lot of concerns in internet community.

After upgrade to Ubuntu 8.04 that has Firefox 3.0b5 as default browser, Sampo web-bank Java login stopped working again. This time installing latest JRE didn’t help. Hardy Heron (Ubuntu 8.04) contains JRE 1.6.0_06-b02 and it fails on the second security code request during login process. (Remarkably, Sun itself offers only 1.6.0_05 version for Linux). Solutions proposed in Finnish Ubuntu discussion forum (tweaking plugins) didn’t work for me either.

What worked was replacing JRE 1.6 with an older version 1.5:

$sudo apt-get remove sun-java6-bin sun-java6-fonts sun-java6-jre sun-java6-plugin openjdk-6-jre openjdk-6-jre-headless openjdk-6-jre-lib

$sudo apt-get install sun-java5-bin sun-java5-fonts sun-java5-jre sun-java5-plugin

Then I ran

$sudo update-alternatives --config java

command to make sure correct JRE was selected as default.

While struggling with this issue I tried to check Sampo’s technical support pages. There was a nice “Check your computer page” that kindly informed me that my operating system is Linux and “You may be able to run eBanking, but your operating system is not supported by Customer Support.”

This is really frustrating. 14% of the readers of this blog use Linux. On regular sites that I maintain this figure is from 7% to 10%. Sampo caused a lot of grief to its customers, me including, with this software system upgrade. Even after they promised to waive four months’ worth of service charges I’m still not sure it is going to be enough to keep all their customers.

I’ve experienced quite a lot of problems by far – non-\0-terminated strings in UI, transactions with no explanations that I don’t remember authorising, transactions in our web shop that were reported as failed, although money were withdrawn from customer’s accounts, simple web-bank downtimes with HTTP 503 and the latest one is my credit card – Sampo claims that I don’t owe them anything – probably it is one of the Monopoly’s famous “Bank error in your favour, collect $200” cases.

Beta culture seems to be spreading from internet startups to bank systems (although in this case I would be more inclined to say that this was a huge screw up on Danske Bank IT department’s part). I’m not sure I like it. Gmail beta, Flickr beta, but Sampo Bank beta? It’s definitely fun to participate in debugging of the new web service, but not when it deals with your real money.

This case bring interesting thoughts on how much we trust online services and what is the pain level when we say “that’s enough, I’m leaving”. Is it the same for data banking as for traditional banking. Would you trust your bank to keep your family photo archive or your computer backups? Is it any safer than Flickr/Google Documents? And the other way around – if you trust your data to Google or Yahoo, would you trust them with your money?


6 responses to “Sampo bank software upgrade, Ubuntu and beta culture”

  1. Thomas Poulsen

    Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Had the same problem (different bank, though) and your solution (down-grading java) solved it for me as well.

    Have you reported this as a bug?

  2. Hmm… If same Java build has problems with two different bank systems, there must be something wrong with that build. I previously thought it is a problem with Sampo’s applet implementation.

  3. Atanas Boev

    You would think the situation is better under Windows, but its not really so much better. At home I have some older tabletpc, running winxp (why its not running xp tablet is another long story). The point is that the pc runs on 900mhz, and I really keep the installed software at minimum.
    One day Sampo webpage insisted that I install java, it said its “crucial” for accessing webbank, so I had to give up and follow the link offered, installing yet another thing on my old and faitful tablet. I was tired after work, I had to pay some bills, so I run through the wizard fast – open, yes, next, next, next, finish.
    And guess what – I got Google toolbar. I like Google toolbar, but I don’t want it on my tablet, and I definately don’t want it pushed on me. It was right there, in the middle of the wizerd, checked by default. If I was some average guy, I might think its also “crucial” for accessing Sampo webbank. I immediately got furious (remember, tired from work) and deinstalled the damn thing. No really, its beyound any expectation that my bank pushes Google toolbar on me – and I am sure there is a link where one could get JRE without getting Google toolbar.
    Apart from staying in my system tray and definately eating resources, couple of days later the java cried out of the systray that it needs update. “Cried out” is exactly what it did, as it showed a baloon tooltip in the tray, and for everyone that reads comicstrips it looked like the systray himself said “Java needs an update!”.
    I was still angry with the whole java issue, so I did – damn, again that java, next, next, finish. And guess what – I got Google toolbar again.
    So, I could not agree more when you wrote Sampske Bank feels like Beta – and that is exatly how it is.

  4. I too have this very same problem, after calling the Sampopankki helpdesk the operator suggested downgrading, and admitted that 1.6.06 version (on linux) has caused/experienced problems with authetication – in my case, I am unable to authenticate the actual paying of the bill, and in some case inability to type into the requested fields. 8.04 Hardy user here too, not going to downgrade unless I absolutely must – Ill just have to resort to paying my bills at work or somewher else until the problem resolves/I grow weary.

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