Archive for October, 2007

Calling tech support sucks*

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

*no offense to those who work tech support.  I’ve done it too, and it’s not you, it’s just the experience…

So, we have satellite based broadband which works well enough, but last week around Monday evening, the satellite got sick and we lost connectivity.  Of course, this happened right as the leading edge of a serious thunderstorm started passing over us, so at first I assumed it was due to the weather.  The next day was very heavy clouds with rain again, and the satellite was still incommunicado, but again I thought this was due to the weather.  Wednesday dawned bright and sunny though, and still no connectivity – it was time to call tech support.  Sigh.

So, I call the support number (thanks Mike for getting it for me – since I couldn’t look it up online myself).  After listening to their whole message for about three minutes (because, you know, their options have changed recently and you better listen to the whole thing) I finally get to talk to a human being.  I found it ironic that their message goes on at length to tell you how much support is available online.  I’m guessing that 95% of the time somebody calls their support number it’s because they CAN’T GET ONLINE in the first place.  But I digress.

So, the first person I get to talk to is a gentleman named “Mike” with a very heavy Indian accent.  I’m betting “Mike” is not his real name, but it’s something to call him.  He has me pull up the diagnostics on my satellite modem, and sure enough, it’s not working…just like I told him.  He does a bit of checking of things behind the scenes and tells me that there is a problem with the satellite, that it’s being actively worked on, and that my connectivity should be back in two or three hours.  He says if it’s not back on by then to call back.  I thank him for his time, and he mentions that I may receive a survey via email about my support experience, and would I please take a few minutes to fill it out?  I think…sure, if I actually get my connectivity back, I’ll fill it out.

Three hours pass, and the internet is still MIA.  So I call back.  I listen to the whole silly spiel about how much help is available online (grumble, grumble) because I couldn’t remember what buttons to push to cut it off.  This time I’m connected to  “Steve” who also has a suspiciously Indian accent.  I tell Steve about my earlier call and provide him with the case number.  Steve has me run through the same checks that Mike did, and I’ll be darned if the satellite still isn’t having problems.  Sigh.  He assures me that it should be back on in two to three hours, and if it’s not back on by then to call back.  Oh, and by the way, I may receive a survey via email asking about my support experience, and would I please take a few minutes to fill it out?  Hmmm…that remains to be seen.

Three more hours go by, and still no internet.  I call support again.  Again I listen to the stupid message about how much support is available online if I would just go to h-t-t-p-:-/-/-m-y-h-u-g-h-e-s-n-e-t.com.  They’re very careful to spell it out for you.  FOUR TIMES.  This time I write down the sequence of buttons I push, ’cause if I have to listen to it again I’m gonna go nuts.  This time I get to speak to another Indian gentleman, that, to his credit, actually provided his own name, or at least an Indian name and not an American one.  Consequently, I have no recollection of what it was at all.  He walks me through the same diagnostics AGAIN.  And tells me the same thing AGAIN – two or three hours and the satellite will be back, and I should call back if it’s not.  Well in three hours I’ll be in bed, so I give it up for the day.

Thursday is another bright sunny day.  The satellite guys have had another twelve hours or so to work on it since the last time I called, but guess what?  No satellite.  I have to go to work (I took Wednesday off – not to talk with tech support, it just worked out that way) , so I resign myself to talking to them in the evening when I get home, and hoping that maybe, just maybe, it’ll actually be back on when I get home.  No luck – I get home from work, and their’s still not any connectivity.  Thursday turned out to be a busy evening though, so I never called.

Friday rolls around, and while we still have no connectivity, the status lights are different, so I think maybe they’re doing something.  Previously the error I was having was that the TCP Acceleration was not working.  Now it turns out that not only is my TCP Acceleration not working, my signal strength has dropped from 65 or so down to 8.  8 is not a good place for signal strength to be.  However, Friday was also a busy day so I didn’t call support.

Saturday morning – still no connectivity.  Signal strength is still down around 8.  I call support (HA!  I didn’t have to listen to the whole stupid message that time, ’cause I kept my notes!).  This time I get to speak with “Judith”, who probably sits right next to Mike, Steve, and What’s His Name there in Bangalore.  I explain things to Judith, and provide her with case numbers.  She runs me through the SAME diagnostics routine AGAIN, and lo and behold…I don’t have a strong enough signal.  Well, duh.  So she has me adjust a few frequency settings and that gets me a good strong signal, but the TCP Acceleration is still out, so Judith kicks me up to “advanced support”, but first she mentions that I might be getting a survey about my support experience via email and would I please take a few minutes of my time to fill it out?  Right…you just bet I’ll fill it out.

After holding for a minute or two, I’m connected to John, and by golly that just might be his real name, ’cause he sounds like he was born and raised right here in the mid-west somewhere.  John runs me through the SAME DIAGNOSTICS AGAIN and then checks a few things behind the scenes.  John decides that there’s actually something going on.  He sends a request to update something with my account to the network operations center and tells me that I should have connectivity again in about a half an hour, and if I don’t I should call back.  John says nothing about a survey.

I wait another hour just to be safe, but I still don’t have any connectivity.  So I call back AGAIN.  (And I bypassed the spiel again!).  And I was connected to the Indian call center again.  This time to “Joe”.  I tell Joe what’s going on, and give him the case numbers.  He runs me through the diagnostics AGAIN, and has me fiddle with the frequencies AGAIN.  And then he decides that I need to talk to advanced support, but he let me know that I might be receiving a survey about my support experience, and would I please take a few minutes of my time to reply to it?  I’d be happy to Joe, in fact, I can’t wait until I get that survey, because at least that would mean my INTERNET CONNECTION WAS ACTUALLY WORKING AGAIN!!!!  Deep breaths…sorry, I’m better now.

I speak to another advanced support person – I can’t remember her name, but she was another native speaker of English.  This lady was great – she wasn’t taking no for an answer, she wasn’t going to let my stupid satellite modem beat her.  This is an attitude I greatly admire in a support person.  We tried a LOT of things, and after something like two hours we finally got my modem talking to the satellite, and downloading new system files.  She tells me this should take about 30 minutes and as soon as it’s done we should be back online.  She thanks me for my patience, and I thank her for her help, and I hang up.  Thirty minutes goes by.  The system is done updating, everything on my satellite modem says it’s functioning properly (and by now I know how to run the diagnostics myself), but guess what?  No internet.

So, I call back AGAIN.  Guess who I get to talk to?  It’s “Mike” from back on Wednesday!  He doesn’t remember me though, even though I’m sure his name is attached to the case numbers I provide.  I tell him what’s going on, and guess what?  That’s correct!  He runs me through the diagnostics.   He then forwards me to advanced support again, but not before reminding me about the survey.  I get connected to Joe.  No, not “Joe” in India, this is another Joe that grew up speaking English.

I tell Joe all about it, he starts to run me through the diagnostics, but then some inner sense tells Joe that this really doesn’t need to be done again.  Maybe it was because he said “Ok, let’s start by opening Internet Explorer” and I responded “I’m already looking at the diagnostics page, and the results from the testing that Mike had me do a couple of minutes ago says everything is fine”.  Joe was a smart guy and moved on to the next step.  We checked other things, both on the modem and on my laptop.  We tried things from another computer in the house.  Joe had the “this stupid thing isn’t going to beat me” attitude too though, so we kept digging.  Finally Joe got in touch with somebody at the network operations center, and it seems that the satellite thought I should be talking on one frequency, and the servers down here on Earth though I should be talking on another.  Joe puts me on hold to work with the network operations center folks.  This takes about 15 minutes, but Joe comes back every few minutes to let me know they’re still working on it.  I won several hands of solitaire while I was waiting.  Finally Joe is back, and we have to run through the modem registration process again.  Finally after being on the phone with Joe for about an hour, I can actually get on the internet.  I thank Joe, Joe thanks me.  Joe says nothing about surveys.

And that my friends, is why calling tech support sucks.  If I ever do get one of those surveys (I haven’t yet), I’ll be sure to let you know how I respond to the answers.  I hope there are places for comments.

Progress in the fiber arts, or lack thereof

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

So as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been learning to spin yarn and knit.

The yarn spinning is coming along – I don’t spin as often as I should (’cause hey, I write articles about this stuff and I really need to get better at it) but every time I do sit down and work on it, the skill improves.  Which is very gratifying and encouraging.

The knitting on the other hand…not so good.  I’ve started two or three different projects that didn’t work out, and I was able to rationalize my failure.  One project was with charcoal colored yarn, which is frikkin’ impossible quite difficult to see unless you’re knitting in broad daylight.   One project was with a three-ply yarn that had a funky ply – two tight plies and one loose ply, and I kept getting the needle between the plies.  Then I tried to start on a sock using multiple double pointed needles.  Imagine trying to knit with a porcupine…that’s kind of what it’s like.  A live porcupine.  An angry live porcupine.  With hemorrhoids.  And a hangover.  Perhaps a sock was a little bit ambitious, no?

So, I back peddled a bit, and decided I’d just do another dish cloth.  Boring, yes…but good practice.  Lots of knitting, lots of purling, but nothing complicated.  It’s what might be referred to as “low hanging fruit”.  I needed a success to boost my ego and keep me motivated.  I’ve started it twice now, and ripped it all out both times.  My ego is bruised.  The first time was due to a stupid user trick…I accidentally let a couple of loops come off the needle and it unraveled and I couldn’t figure out how to put it back together.  Not a big deal – it could happen to anyone (right?).  The second time however was not just your everyday, run of the mill stupidity.  This was stupidity on a grand scale!  After knitting several rows, I notice that one side of the knitting has more rows than the other side of the knitting.  Neat trick eh?  All I can figure is that I put it down in the middle of a row, and then picked it back up upside-down.  Twice.  One end had six rows, the other end had two rows.

Sigh.  Maybe the third time will be the charm.

Cave exploration, Fiber swap loot, and birthdays

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

So, it’s been about a month. I’m getting to be a terrible slacker when it comes to posting to the blog. I’ve had a couple of things to post about, and I have pictures and I keep forgetting to get the stinking pictures off of the camera. So, now that I’ve finally done that, I’m going to make one big ol’ post about all of it.

Several weeks and I Dominic and I had the opportunity to go cave exploring. We went to Smittle cave, which is located about about 20 miles South of Lebanon, Missouri. The DNR only lets people into Smittle cave two months out of the year – September and May (I think) – due to there being a large bat colony in there. Dominic and I were joined by our friends Andrew and Damien from Kansas City. That’s Damien on the left below and Andrew on the right.

Explorers

Smittle cave has a very large opening and we were able to just walk through the cave for a good long time. The cave is very muddy though. I think we were about 200 feet into the cave and I sank up to my knees in the mud. The deepest mud I discovered was up to my belt (and I’m 6′ 5″). There were a lot of really beautiful formations in the cave – the pictures don’t really do them justice. You can see more pictures of the cave in the Smittle Cave photo gallery.

Later on in the cave things got a little tighter. There was a lot of tunnel that we were able to kind of squat-walk in, or at least crawl. Further on it got REALLY tight. I haven’t low-crawled since I was in the army. For those who aren’t familiar with that term, low-crawling involves sliding on your stomach with your head flat against the ground. In the army you low-crawl to keep from getting shot. In a cave you low-crawl because that’s the only way you can squeeze through the little crack you’re trying to call through. I’m not normally claustrophobic, but I actually got a little nervous. When you’re crawling on your belly with no space to turn around, it is not a good time to think about a cave collapsing on you! Things soon opened up a bit though – at least we could sit up and turn around. I was really proud of Dominic on the whole adventure – there were a few places where he was obviously scared but he powered on through and had a great time. Did I mention the cave was muddy?

Muddy

The next thing I wanted to talk about in my cumulative post is the Spindle And Wheel fiber frenzy swap. I participated in the “goodies” swap – and I got some really cools stuff. Most of it is pictured below, but both of my pals sent some candy and it just didn’t last long enough to make it into the picture. Anyhow, I got some really soft sock yarn from each pal, as well as some nice roving. From one pal I got some really big “man sized” knitting needles, and from the other I got some tiny needles for knitting socks with. I think I may try to knit a cargo net with the big needles. I also got some gourmet coffee (I’m a coffee snob so I love this!) a book mark, a “real men knit” magnet, some stitch markers and post-it notes. Thanks very much to Nancy and Lea for all the great stuff!

Loot

The final portion of the multi-post is about birthdays, of which we’ve had a several lately. All of our kids birthdays fall in a short period of time so in the last couple of months, Elizabeth turned 5, Dominic turned 14, Teresa turned 3 and yesterday William turned 1. So, today we had a big party with lots of kids over for cupcakes and hotdogs and lots of running around and playing. I think this was William’s favorite gift, but all of the kids have had fun with it (even Dominic!).

Truckin’

I had a Tonka truck a lot like this one when I was a kid. They’re dang tough and I expect it’ll see a lot of of use.