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Online banking with RISC OS

By Chris Williams. Published: 1st Sep 2005, 16:46:11 | Permalink | Printable

We thought this would be of high interest

Online banking with RISC OS: A piggy bankOne of the great strengths of the Internet is online banking: The ability to move funds around, view statements and more gives web surfers a stronger grasp on their finances. This, for a refreshing change, includes RISC OS users too. We investigated which banks work with which RISC OS web browsers and the results were quite uplifting. We also noted that many of the banks' websites used CSS, which degraded well for older web browsers including Oregano 1.

Oregano 1 and 2 both work with Barclays Online Banking and it's possible to pay monthly bills, view transactions and search for someone to pay money to. NetSurf is able to log into the service although it apparently gets into a tangle with navigation buttons once inside.

Despite reassurances from Barclays customers, I personally was unable to even access Barclay's website regardless of web browser, at first. However, I found that if you issue sysctl -w net.inet.tcp.rfc1644=0 at the command line or in a suitable Obey script file, the RISC OS networking stack should be able to successfully connect to barclays.co.uk. The sysctl command enables a user to configure the internals of RISC OS whilst it's running, incidentally.

Bank of Scotland
Oregano 1, Oregano 2 and Firefox all work with the Bank of Scotland's online service, although Oregano 1 tends to misinterpret the website's HTML and displays things incorrectly. At one point Oregano 1 couldn't access the service, however we're told that now it can. Once logged in, statements and recent transactions can be reviewed, users can enjoy 'paperless banking' option, credit card debt can be paid off and standing orders and direct debits can be managed.

The Co-operative Bank
This is known to work with the Oreganos and Fresco. The login process is apparently a two stage process involving random questions. Once inside, users can view statements going back 2 years, transfer funds, manage standing orders and direct debits, request a new cheque book and order a bank statement. Co-op customer Martin Wynn told us that NetSurf also works provided you keep the link to the online banking section of the website bookmarked, as the browser can't as yet handle the refresh tag that the main webpage uses to redirect users to the service.

Oregano 2 and Firefox are capable of logging into HSBC's Internet Banking website, allowing the user to transfer money between accounts, pay bills, and administrate standing orders and direct debits. Dr Peter Young, an Oregano 2 and Firefox user, noted that Oregano 2 "doesn't draw the windows quite correctly; in particular, the account statement windows come out rather too small, which is a nuisance rather than a real problem."

It is possible to use Fresco, Oregano 1 and 2, and Firefox with Nationwide Online Banking. Originally, the service could be accessed via three different interfaces: One for TV based Internet terminals, one for PDA users and one for desktop PC users. The TV based format apparently worked the best as it was light on graphics and gimmicks but has since been closed. The PDA and desktop PC formats still work, although Oregano 1 must be set to fake its user-agent string to that of Netscape. Nationwide customer Gary Jones gave his thumbs up to the bank, adding that the service was, albeit some years ago, prepared to fix a problem that locked Fresco users out of the website. "Over the many years that I've been using Nationwide's OLB service, I've never found anything that Oregano 1 couldn't cope with on the main PC banking site," said Gary.

And the rest
Whilst Egg's online banking website continually crashed our copy of Oregano 1 and banished from the iconbar, we're assured that the service works with Oregano 2, Fresco and NetSurf. Kevin Wells told us that he uses the bank for checking and printing out statements. Oregano 2 users have also had success with Alliance Leicester, Ing and Halifax. Natwest, on the other hand, is a complete show stopper for RISC OS browsers. Similarly, the Woolwich shrugs off the Oregano family of browsers and also allegedly fails to believe that Firefox is a real web browser.

Interestingly, Alliance Leicester are currently developing a new website, which is to be deployed at the start of 2006.

Overall, it would seem that Oregano 2 is the most capable browser for online banking, with the Firefox port only scuppered by its speed and stability (or lack of it). NetSurf and Fresco also manage with websites that use little or no Javascript. Going by the response we received from readers, Barclays and Nationwide appear to be the top dogs for at least acknowledging RISC OS and helping their customers regardless of their choice of web browser.

Feel free to post a comment if you've found a bank and browser combination that we haven't. Many thanks to those who contributed to this article.


NetSurf Firefox

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Egg's site is great. :) It's very clean and clear - by far the best online banking site I've used. NatWest, on the other hand, seem to feel they own the internet and deny access to everything except a couple of specific browsers. (For instance, they block Opera on "security" grounds! Anyone interested can look at the opera.com security forum for long discussions on the subject...)

 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 1/9/05 5:03PM
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P.S. Isn't [link] a more comprehensive source for this info?

 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 1/9/05 5:05PM
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The Alliance Leicester had problems with WebsterXL and Oregano 1 / 2.

Registering failed before halfway through.

After registering using IE at work, I found that Oregano 2 would allow access into my banking area.

The problem then was that I could not do anything. This was due to the account access links on the left hand side of the screen being missing.

I assume this was due to unsupported Javascript being used.

I have had to use telephone banking till Firefox became available.

Firefox has given me no problems with the site. I can see the links and transfer funds easily. Great!

 is a RISC OS Userajb on 1/9/05 5:47PM
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RBoS appears to use the same system as NatWest.

 is a RISC OS Usergovind on 1/9/05 6:11PM
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O2 seems to work fine under RO5.09, with TD Canada Trust. We've set up payments and transferred money to other Canadian accounts.

Statements can be viewed without problems. Not much use in the UK or Europe but handy for doing things in Canada.


 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 1/9/05 6:12PM
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LloydsTSB works with O2, Firefox and Netsurf. It is fastest, by a long chalk on Netsurf which also renders the front page. O2 spends ages attempting to display it. You can do EVERYTHING!

 is a RISC OS UserDaveW on 1/9/05 6:26PM
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Barclays internet banking works very well with Firefox beta3, as does the NatWest site, contrary to your comment: I managed to access it and apply for (and receive) an online house insurance quote via their secure site.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 1/9/05 6:27PM
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Although it's been a long time since I tried it, HSBC's personal banking site works fine with Fresco - or at least used to. The business site is (or was) a non-starter.

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 1/9/05 7:02PM
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RBS and Netwest are now the same company, so probably have the same developers for their internet sites. So does Halifax and Bank of Scotland (HBOS). Since my RPC isn't on the net yet can anyone tell me how Halifax fares?


 is a RISC OS UserJDC on 1/9/05 7:53PM
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It's interesting to see that access has improved for RISC OS over the years and not just because the browsers have improved. It seems that banks do now take browser access more seriously. The co-op used to require all access to go through a java applet, but now the site pretty much only uses TLS and when they made this change they said it was to improve accessibility.

I wonder whether this is due to the Disability Discrimination Act, because they now trust Internet security (e.g.TLS) more, because they want the custom of a more diverse range of users, or just because so many people complained?

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 1/9/05 8:16PM
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For the german living in the north-west (Schleswig-Holstein / Dithmarschen): Fresco, Netsurf and O1 will do fine with "SPK Hennstedt-Wesselburen" :o)

Well i am not sure but i guess a lot of small and mid size Sparkassen (SPK) uses the same online banking system and similar interfaces so it should work in most cases.

However i would like to see a HBCI support in RISC OS as i think that this will replace PIN and TAN in a few years - or even earlier.

Sincerely Hauke

 is a RISC OS UserVLIW on 1/9/05 8:16PM
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I too find Lloyds works great with O2 and Netsurf. One area which is a problem for our browsers and its off topic are travel sites, whether Opodo, BA, Virgin and many other travel sites.

 is a RISC OS UserHairy on 1/9/05 10:13PM
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Hairy: have you tried Firefox? I've recently booked several tickets via Expedia and also checked flight arrival times on the BA site without problems. Firefox's ability to interact with sites seems markedly superior to other RO browsers I have used (including Fresco, O1 and O2).

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 1/9/05 11:17PM
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Yes. It is better, though it stalled a bit through the BA site at the very end regarding the ' clicksafe ' bit.. and I had to use a PC to get that flight ! but generally with our browsers its not good :(

 is a RISC OS UserHairy on 1/9/05 11:24PM
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O2 is slow on Lloyd's main page, but once you're past that it's fine.

bucksboy: There's not a lot Firefox dosn't work with, but it's usually a lot more pleasant to use another browser if possible, simply because of the speed benefits.

Hairy: All too true about the travel sites. I'm sure the Trainline used to work OK, but I had problems last time I tried (but then again the trains don't work either).

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 1/9/05 11:51PM
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Halifax Online works fine for me with Netsurf (on an Iyonix), provided I go straight to [link] rather than trying to follow the link from the main Halifax website. There's a message in red complaining about the browser's lack of Javascript, but in prectice it doesn't seem to need it for any of the services I use.

 is a RISC OS Userpcnewble on 2/9/05 12:18AM
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SimonC: FF's lack of speed may be more apparent than real: I find it accesses sites via 1Mb broadband on the Iyo about as quickly as O2 did on my Kinetic (i.e. about 30% slower than O2 on the Iyo). Given that it caches pages, offers a full History, works practically everywhere (but not yet with the MotoGP site sadly!) and IME is already less prone to crashing than O2, I would maintain that in any given hour I can cover just as much ground with FF as with O2. Netsurf does appear to be much faster than anything else judging by comments, but having tried it a few months ago I gave up on it; a browser which works super-fast 75% of the time and not at all 25% of the time did not do it for me.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 2/9/05 9:08AM
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I use O2 for HSBC, HSBC Invest direct (Merril Lynch as was), MBNA, Egg and Cahoot with no problems, FireFox also works with these sites. One thing FireFox (RISC OS or Win) doesn't work with is Fidelity (investment supermarket), but O2 works fine - which is a releif as if the only was in was IE on a PC, I'd have gone elsewhere.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 2/9/05 10:32AM
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bucksboy: FF's speed problems are that it's like wading through treacle to use, even though it's definitely faster than any other browser on RISC OS at actually fetching and presenting some complex pages (not to mention that it's more likely to display them correctly).

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 2/9/05 1:46PM
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SimonC: When using FF I've found the Tab key useful in quickly and reliably navigating a series of text input boxes rather than the mouse; likewise the up /down keys are best when selecting a dropdown box option. In general FF seems to react quicker to keyboard input. But you're right; it is ponderous to use compared to other browsers.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 2/9/05 2:56PM
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Smile Bank works fine with Oregano 1, not tried with any others.

I can also confirm that it works with MBNA (Acorn Visa) as well. In fact it works in general anyway.

 is a RISC OS UserWakeman on 2/9/05 4:43PM
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Halifax seems OK for me with O2. A gave up with Alliance & Leicester some time ago using this browser - perhaps I could now try again with Firefox if I can find my sign on details.

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 2/9/05 7:18PM
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Unfortunately First Direct does not work with O2 . . . and Firefox timed out . . .I'll try Firefox again though, as initially it seemed quite promising.

 is a RISC OS UserRickCB on 3/9/05 11:25AM
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Good news, Fidelity have fixed the cookie problem with their site, and its now working with FireFox on RISC OS.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 3/9/05 11:25PM
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Last time I checked First Direct it used Java, not sure if it still does mind you.

 is a RISC OS UserRevin Kevin on 5/9/05 4:26PM
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The NatWest system (nwolb.com) has now been updated and claims to support Apple Safari 1.3 and 2.0 for the first time. I checked RBoS as well and their system hadn't yet changed to reflect this, though a news update saying "We are making the service easier to use and more accessible for customers with disabilities. We will be launching this new service..." suggests it will happen soon. I've been using the NatWest site with Firefox on the PC with no problems, so today I decided to give it a try with FireFox beta 3 on RISC OS. However, a certificate warning came up, so I chose to accept the certificate temporarily, and on making it through, the NatWest page stated "The Internet Browser you are using is not supported by OnLine Banking. Please use a recent version of IE, Netscape, Mozilla, Firefox, Safari or AOL" Maybe the Firefox beta is identifying itself as something else, possibly "Deer Park"?

 is a RISC OS Usergovind on 9/9/05 4:59PM
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I found with Firefox that using shopping / travel sites which I always used with O2 if I didnt accept the certificates permanent my payments or anything further would get rejected.

 is a RISC OS UserHairy on 10/9/05 11:23AM
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The RBoS Digital Banking site will let you in using O2 if you change its ID string to IE5.5. It's okay on the log-in pages and you can see a mini-statement and download a full statement in CSV format. But trying to enter an amount in its money transfer boxes gives an 'invalid character entered' error. The same is true for RO Firefox. Egg banking works perfectly with O2; I don't think I've tried it with FF.

 is a RISC OS Userdevine on 25/9/05 8:30AM
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