Archive for the ‘Soapbox’ Category

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-:-/-/  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.

Just another day

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything meaningful here…sorry ’bout that. I’ve had deadlines at work (big project!) and deadlines at home with the new Spindle And Wheel issue coming out on the 15th. Still, it hasn’t been work, work, work and nothing else. We’ve been to the lake a couple of times. Kept up with the house work (sort of). Saw some fireworks and what-not.

Sometimes I slack a bit here because Allena posts pretty much the same thing I would on her blog, and I don’t want to sound redundant.

I get to go to court tomorrow (whoopie! not). I had a little…ahem…incident in the McDonald’s drive thru. An impatient man a couple of cars behind us decided to yell obscenities out his car window because we weren’t getting out of the way fast enough for him. I replied in kind. Things, shall we say, escalated. Ultimately, I was charged with disturbing the piece. I don’t know if he was or not. Seems like he should be too, but I got out of my car to confront him, and he stayed in his, and apparently that makes all the difference.

In light of that, I’m going to step on my soap box for a moment. A lot of folks like to talk about the good-old-days. One of the themes that comes up often is how people used to take care of things themselves without involving the police or suing. Now, I’m not advocating vigilante justice here, but I do think that certain things ought to be considered settled without involving the police. As an example, if I were to provoke somebody so badly that they came over and beat me up, I would just take my lumps and not call the police – especially if I got a few shots in too. There’s a threshold on that of course. If I provoked somebody and they came over and beat me within an inch of my life with a steel pipe, I’d probably call the police. I guess you can’t really have it both ways. Mostly I’m irritated that this guy provoked me, and then filed charges when I had the gall to do something about it. Sigh. End of rant.

I get to go to an oral surgeon next week (whoopie again! still not). I have a wisdom tooth that is growing at an angle into my molar. Because of this, it will never come up on its own. However, it does occasionally cause an infection which is quite painful. This happens once or twice a year – typically it aches for a day or two and goes away. I live with it because a) oral surgery is expensive even with insurance and b) because the roots of the tooth are wrapped around a nerve and there’s a chance that if they take it out I’ll have a numb spot on my jaw. This time, the infection was much worse. I ended up getting some antibiotics to clear it up, but I was alternating advil and tylenol every two hours to keep the pain tolerable for FIVE DAYS. So, next week – oral surgeon, and I’ll just have to hope he’s good enough to miss the nerve. I’ll also have to hope that he’ll finance things. Last time I checked (years ago) it was going to cost around $1000 to get the tooth out AFTER insurance.

Dominic has been working on a 4-H robotics project that we took to the fair last night. We were actually a few minutes late past the entry deadline, but they let him enter it anyway. I really dropped the ball on this project of his – he had a couple of broken/lost parts that had to be replaced. I ended up getting parts at Radio Shack last night at about 5:00pm – I got home with them and he was writing up a summary of his project. We all ended up getting in the car and driving to the fair (40 miles or so) and we got there at 7:08pm – entry cut off was at 7:00, but hey…it’s 4-H, they’re used to dealing with kids and the parents that make them late!

Dominic was making repairs to his robot in the car on the way over. They didn’t work. He had a print-out of his code and looked through it and found his bug (my heart swells with pride! My little boy debugs!). Poor kid was very frustrated/flustered when we got there – I think he was ready to just walk away and forget it. He couldn’t get past the “my robot doesn’t work” frame of mind. The judge was very kind though – she had him explain the things he learned, and what it was designed to do (it follows a line around using infra-red sensors). I think she was impressed by the amount of effort he put into the project – which was a lot – and also because he’s truly interested in it. That’s what’s truly important about 4-H. Not that it works, but that you learn and grow. She said she thought it was worth a blue ribbon. I think he’ll be able to take it to the state fair. That would be really cool, especially as he could make his repairs and have a working robot to demonstrate. I’ll keep you posted on that.

Anyhow, those are the highlights.


A new “most annoying” kind of web advertisement.

Monday, May 7th, 2007

I’m a geek, and as such I occasionally read Slashdot.  Today I followed this link to an article about a bill to outlaw genetic discrimination (like by insurance companies).

So, I’m reading the article, when all of a sudden, this big picture of some stupid looking dude slides out of the top of the screen and covers what I’m reading.  My immediate thought is WHAT THE F…cough, er, um…HECK!  The goofy guy disappears back into the top of the screen, only to slide out on the left side and cover what I’m reading AGAIN!  This is so much worse than a pop-up that I can’t even describe my irritation.  It wasn’t triggered by anything – I didn’t hover over the actual ad on the right side of the screen, or click or anything.  This goofball just appears out of nowhere.  I was so disgusted that I didn’t even finish the article.

You know the worst part?  I’m guessing marketing people will really LOVE this and we’ll start seeing this crap EVERYWHERE.

Ok, rant done.  You may now return to your normal lives.

Laughable, and yet, annoying

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Pakistani Clerics Demand Pope’s Removal

Ok…I read the above article, and just thought “how stupid are these people?” Do they really think that they can demand the Pope’s removal? It’s not a job he can be fired from. It’s not like the Church has a board of directors or something, and he can be removed. The faithful of the Church don’t vote for the Pope, and can’t impeach him. It’s a lifetime position. They’re demanding his removal…I wondering who they’re are demanding it of? God? I think most people would agree (even Muslims) that you can’t really demand that God do anything.

Of course, I suppose they could be subtly “demanding” that some upstanding suicide bomber take it upon himself to act. Who knows? But I think most Muslims are pretty rational people. At least, the Muslims I’ve met are…and I’ve socialized, worked, and gone to school with more than a few.

I’m going to rant a little bit now:

The problem is that the press gives WAAAAAAAYYYY too much attention to the extremists. Why? It sells papers, or builds ratings. If you put a picture of a bunch of little old Islamic women in the paper, and quote them as saying “shame on the Pope…it wasn’t nice to insult our faith”, well that just wouldn’t keep people very interested. But put a picture of a bunch of wild-eyed, long bearded, gun-toting nuts in the paper. with big posters condemning the Pope’s remarks (written in ENGLISH?!?!?)? Then follow it up with a quote like this:

The “pope, and all infidels, should know that no Muslim, under any circumstances, can tolerate an insult to the Prophet (Muhammad). … If the West does not change its stance regarding Islam, it will face severe consequences”

Well, hey! That’s front-page material baby. NOTE: that bit above about wild-eyed, long bearded, gun-toting nuts is a stereo-type used to make a (sarcastic) point. Sorry for that, but it’s people like the ones in this article that DEFINE the stereo-types.

And you know what? The stereo-type setters are WRONG. MILLIONS of Muslims tolerate all kinds of insults to the Prophet…every single time the Prophet is insulted. They may be hurt or angry or saddened by the ignorance of the people doing the insulting, but they realize that it’s not a capital offense to insult somebody. But there are a few nut-jobs out there that start killing people, and burning buildings in the name of Islam and the great insults to it. And the press reports it, because the rest of the world eats it up, and the stereo-type gains all that much more credibility.

When was the last time you heard of a Jew killing somebody (or even threatening to kill somebody) because Abraham, or Moses, or any Hebrew prophet was insulted? When have you heard of 1,000 Christian priests, ministers, and Christian faithful getting together and demanding the removal of some Islamic leader because he (gasp!) had the gall to say something that might be construed as insulting to Jesus? Probably never. Why? Because if there is anybody doing that, the press isn’t reporting on it. If there is anybody doing that, it’s old news, and nobody wants to hear about it. Terrorism, and particularly Muslim terrorism SELLS.

Ok…deep breath…calm down…

Now that I’ve calmed down a bit and stepped off of my soap box, I’m left feeling sad. Sad for the extremists of the world (not just Muslim extremists – anybody who’s so far out there that they have no tolerance for any way but their own). Sad for the people who believe the whole Muslim world is up in arms over the words of the Pope, just because the press has told them so. Sad for the Muslims who must think the whole Christian world hates them (because THEIR press tells them so).

We should all pray for patience, and compassion, and healing. And we should all make sure we don’t believe everything the press says or implies, just because it’s in the press.

Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and provocative statements in general.

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

I read this article today about Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. He was addressing the U.N., and referred to Pres. Bush as “the devil”. He referred to the “American empire placing at risk the very existence of the human species”. My favorite bit is when he says the podium still smells like sulfur (GW addressed the U.N. from the same podium the day before).

Anyhow, it struck me as ironic, because not an hour earlier, Allena and I were discussing posts in forums, and how it’s the provocative ones that get reactions. I’ve noticed that if you say something insightful or profound in an online forum, you *might* get one or two responses. If you say something provocative, you get a LOT of responses. It doesn’t matter how innocuous the topic, a provocative statement will open the door wide to everyone else that has an opinion on the subject.

For example, if I say that I always put my left shoe on first. That’s pretty lame, and nobody will respond. If I say I put my left shoe on first, and to do otherwise indicates some kind of social problem on the part of the right-shoe-first person, then I better duck quick because the responses will fly. The funny part is, some people will just flame away, and other people will post legitimate opinions about why it’s really better to put on your right shoe first. Others will post stuff like “right on! tell it like it is brother! left-shoe-first people rock!”.

I find I get similar reactions in work related discussions. If I ask a group “how should I handle situation ‘X’?”, I almost always get either no response at all, or “I don’t care” or the like. If I state to a group “this is how I’m going to handle situation ‘X”, then suddenly everyone has an opinion. Try it sometime…it’s startling.

I have to wonder why Chavez chose to rant about our president, our country, and the aroma of podiums at the U.N. What kind of response was he trying to provoke? It’s funny…the article was all about his comments. It didn’t even say what the subject of his actual speech was. Maybe all he did was rant?

BTW…all you right-shoe-firsters are wacko. :)