Monday, December 28, 2009

Customer Torture

Companies ought to call it what it is. It isn’t “Customer Service” by any stretch of the imagination. It’s customer torture, pure and simple. At this point, companies have given up the old school thinking about how valuable customers are. They must figure that if they treat customers just as crappy as the next business does that the number of people who leave do to the bad service will equal the number of people who join due to someone else’s bad service. A recent example would be the nightmare scenarios two arstechnica staff members went though just trying to move to a new house and get internet connectivity. Take a moment and read those. Can you believe this is the type of service AT&T and Verizon offer? (Cue Andy Rooney: I can.).

I recently bought an HP L2245wg flat panel for my wife for Christmas. We tried to hook it up today. What a mess! Turn it on and it displays a beautiful, crisp image – for all of 7 seconds. Then it displays nothing. Analog, DVI, a second computer – doesn’t matter, it is DOA. But, try to get any information out of the HP web site and you are feeling DOA yourself. Nothing at all about how a consumer who doesn’t have a service contract can get warranty service. No place to file a warranty service ticket unless you are either a business or have a contract. Several links to “contact us” that go to “I’m sorry, this page doesn’t exist” messages. I spent 35 minutes attempting to get something through the manufacturer and finally gave up and filed an RMA through New Egg. Supposedly this monitor has a 3 year warranty but HP sure doesn’t intend to let me ever use it.

Speaking of the Christmas Holiday I was recently in Napa visiting relatives. The “Map for That” from Verizon shows that they have 3G at the address we were going. But they don’t. At least, not usable 3G. Now, maybe Verizon considers it usable when you have to click “retry” 4 times from “no connection” messages just to load the google home page. But I sure don’t. At another location in Pittsburg, CA they also claim to have 3G – but the phone goes to 1X and even then looses its connection all the time. These are places WELL within the coverage zones shown on the “Map”. I spent 30 minutes today trying to find out how to tell Verizon about their coverage area map vs. reality (so they can either fix the map or fix the network), but there doesn’t appear to be any way to report this online.

Anyone else had it with Customer Torture?

Monday, November 16, 2009

You’re a noid and I’m a droid

Pithy line picked from Star Trek, I know. An update on my Motorola Droid situation: it is working just perfectly. It seems to do everything except BT voice dial. There’s huge threads on that lack all over the place, so no need to revisit fully here. As far as my replacement unit – it has been working just great. Emails, satellite photos, Google Voice integration, YouTube, and the awesome Google Navigation – all working and no more lockups or freezes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Droid Update

Well, I was about to publish that the new Droid phone I received (after I swapped out the one that randomly rebooted and locked up all the time) was just perfect. However, 10 minutes ago it wouldn't turn on. I was expecting a text message from a coworker (I had watched him send it) and after 4 minutes or so of not receiving it, I thought I would turn the phone on and look. It wouldn't turn on. Removed the battery and put it back. Still wouldn't turn on. Held down the camera button and the power button until it powered up and rebooted. Then the text came in right away. When this type of thing happens, you can't receive calls or texts - so you are looking at an unreliable phone. Not good!

It hadn't done this for 24 hours or more after I got this replacement. I started thinking back to what I had changed. This morning, I had added the built in power widget to the home screen - so I could easily turn Blue Tooth off and on (I only need BT in the car). I wonder if this had anything to do with it. I have now removed the power widget from the home screen and will see if it does this again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Droid Redux

Well after a hard reset (master reset), the rebooting robot – that automaton of lockups – kept locking up. In fact while driving to work, with the phone sitting on the passenger seat, it rebooted twice. Then once more in my jacket pocket while walking in to the office. I tried to show it to some folks in the office and it locked up and rebooted on them too.

I emailed Verizon customer support back with the news and asked if I could take it to a local outlet to have it replaced. I got some awesome service here and I want to give Kudos to Verizon on this – a rep checked for the closest store, called them and checked availability on the devices, then called me and let me know the address, who she spoke to at the store, and that they had some in stock and currently had quite a line of folks (so expect a little delay). All this from my email note. Well done Verizon.

I went to the store after work and only had to wait a couple of minutes. I now have a new Droid – and I expect this one will work fine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

These aren’t the Droids you’re looking for…

If my sly waving of my hand before my face while I said that didn’t work, perhaps you are Jabba the Hut. Anyway, I got my Motorola Droid phone yesterday! It seemed pretty nice, but locked up a few times almost right away. After having it for a couple of hours, and only using it with the screen on for perhaps 25 minutes it had locked up 10 times. Sometimes just turning on the screen and attempting to do the “swipe” motion that unlocks the phone would result in a lockup. Other times it would be in the web browser or just at the home screen trying to tap the “settings” icon. It would either freeze for 20 seconds then reboot itself (the bat signal Motorola Logo followed by the Red Eye – which is cool the first 3 times you see it). Other times it would just freeze and I would have to turn it off. On these occasions it would not turn back on without the “hold the camera button pressed while hitting power” trick.

It seems the hardware is pretty slick, and unless the reviews I have seen on this phone are extremely highly edited I must be the only person having this problem. I contacted Verizon support via email and they got back to me right away (Kudos there). The suggestion is to try the hard reset (also known as master reset), then setup the phone again and if it doesn’t work – have the phone replaced for a hardware problem. I’m going through setting it up again now. I’ll post back on progress.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Windows 7 Failed Install Reboot Loop Explained

As per my previous post, I spent the weekend upgrading my son’s and daughter’s Dell Latitude D820 notebooks. These were running Vista Ultimate 32 bit edition and I was upgrading them to Windows 7 Ultimate 32 bit using the in-place upgrade method. I had previously done my own Dell D820 quite some time back. My son’s machine went fine. My daughter’s – not so much. It would start the upgrade, do the Copying Files, the Gathering programs and settings, the Expanding files, the Installing Features, and then at some point during the last phase (restoring programs and files) it would reboot and say “The upgrade was not successful. Your previous version of Windows is being restored. Do not restart your computer during this time”. This was after about 2 hours of “upgrading”. For those who have not been privileged enough to see this screen, it looks like this:


This would be on the screen for about 20 seconds or so, then the computer would reboot and do it all over again – to infinity and beyond as long as the power held out. Once I figured out the cause I reproduced this in a VM and left it doing it all night. In the morning it was blithely rebooting away. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. On reboot, it would show these choices:


Note that there is no “Windows Vista” option – and both of the listed options result in the same thing – that failed upgrade screen.

So, I restored the original configuration of the machine using Windows Home Server. (Yes, we did a backup immediately before starting the upgrade – didn’t you?) The restore took just about an hour and worked beautifully. This was the first time I have actually restored a backup with Home Server and it was flawless.

Now, even the first time we went though the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor and uninstalled the few things it didn’t like (Learning essentials for Office, Microsoft Math, iTunes). I resolved to keep trying, so we went through preparing again and also removed printer drivers this time. Started the upgrade and waited about 2 hours. Would it work this time? Of course not. It did the same thing.

Restored the machine again (2nd time). Ran through the uninstalling of programs again, printer drivers again, and this time disabled some non-default services (some Windows Mobile connector ones). Started the upgrade and – same damn thing. This time I booted into WinPE and went through all of the Panther logs (setupact.log, setuperr.log, rollback.log). There wasn’t actually anything listed as a real “Failure”, but I did find one “warning” note about a redirected Documents folder. Just to be clear there are LOTS of warning notes even in the cleanest of installs, but this one made me wonder since the problem was NOT during the install phase. The problem was happening during the restore of profiles, programs, and files.

Restored the machine again (3rd time – way to go Home Server). This time after uninstalling programs, printer drivers, stopping non-default services, etc. I checked the folder redirection. Sure enough – the Documents folder was redirected from the normal “C:\Users\<user name>\Documents” to “C:\Users\<user name>\Documents\Documents”. Yes, that’s right – it was a subfolder of where it would be by default. Thinking “There’s no way this is going to work”, I changed it back to the default and ran the upgrade for the fourth time. What do you know? It worked.

Not content to simply leave it at that, I had to know if this is something that can be reproduced (and possibly happen to other people). So I fired up a Virtual Machine to test it Sunday evening. For this, I used Enterprise Edition as that was what I had handy. The steps were something like this:

  1. Install Vista Enterprise Edition
  2. Create a Documents folder under the Documents folder
  3. Create a couple of files and folders there
  4. Redirect C:\Users\<user id>\Documents to C:\Users\<user id>\Documents\Documents using the “Location” tab on the Documents folder properties dialog.
  5. Apply Vista SP1
  6. Apply Vista SP2
  7. Apply the 31 other updates from Windows Update
  8. Start the Windows 7 Enterprise Upgrade process
  9. During the last phase, it reboots and you get the same problem as we had on my daughter’s machine

I let this go all night and this morning it was still rebooting and saying it was going to put the prior OS back. After several thousand reboots I gave up waiting for it to accomplish this miracle. So, anyone else have this problem? I know I spent mostly all weekend on it with four tries at the upgrade, three restores from backup then a repro in a VM.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Windows Home Server saves the day when Windows 7 upgrades fail

I’ve had Windows 7 on a few of our machines for quite some time. My wife’s machine got it right after the Beta ended (one of the free copies some Beta participants got), my test / dev machine got an MSDN copy the day it showed up on MSDN, etc. I upgraded my main notebook the first day it was available and I upgraded my son’s notebook yesterday. Then I tried to upgrade my daughter’s notebook. (Mine, my son’s, and my daughter’s are all Dell Latitude D820 machines with identical hardware configuration and Windows Vista Ultimate). Her machine went through the gathering files, expanding files, installing updates etc. just fine. It would get to the last phase where it moves the files back in place and would fail and then go into a reboot loop. It would say that the upgrade failed and it was restoring the previous version of Windows – then reboot in 10 seconds over and over and over and over – well you get the idea. It wouldn’t stop rebooting. This isn’t the “62% hang”, it isn’t the "BSOD” one, and doesn’t seem to have a solution yet.

Fortunately, I always make sure we have a current backup on Windows Home Server. We restored this (first time I have needed to) and it was right back to Vista running fine. Tried the upgrade again (after first making sure the upgrade advisor was green) and got the same problem. Restored from Home Server again and went to bed. This had taken the whole day.

Strange how both of our other D820 machines upgraded just fine.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I am an Idiot

If you patronize amusement parks, you too are an idiot. For example, today I plunked down $53 for the privilege of standing in line for 2 hours and 55 minutes for a 2 minute and 12 second ride. Let’s do the math here. 2 hours and 55 minutes is 10,500 seconds. 2 minutes and 12 seconds is 132 seconds. So my ratio of standing in the heat in a long line of people to time spent zooming around a roller coater was 98.7%. That’s right – I spent 98.7% of my time STANDING IN LINE (or for those not from the USA – standing on queue). I paid good money for the privilege of standing in that line too. Hence, I am an idiot, doofus, dork, you name it.

In fact, this Monday and Tuesday I have been a double idiot. That’s right – two amusement park visits in two days. Two bad experiences. Let’s see how those visits worked out:

Not Merry Farm

The first visit, on Monday, was to Not Merry Farm – a staple of the Greater Smog Angeles area. This area is so smoggy in fact that on the rare occasion that you get out of line and onto a coaster you can’t tell the difference between the sky and the ground when you go upside down because the sky is almost the color of asphalt. Think of your lungs and stay home. Anyway, we first went to the Not Merry website and checked out any special events. They showed that they were open from 10 AM to 10 PM. A quick check of the full events list for the day showed “yep, open 10 to 10”. Nothing else. At the Not Merry Farms gate, there is no indication of any problems. Yet, you go in and the two biggest attractions – the Coors Light (Silver Bullet anyway) and another big coaster are “not running today”. Also the BMX / Skateboard exhibition doesn’t run on Monday or Tuesday. Since the web site didn’t say this, and there was no sign at the gate saying “the following attractions are closed today” BEFORE you pay your money, we call bullshit on the operators of this park. We actually went there JUST TO RIDE THOSE COASTERS.

So, we decided to eat and then try some of the tamer rides. I decided not to get the pulled pork because they wanted $8.50 for it as opposed to the $7.50 for the cheeseburger – without fries. $4.50 extra for fries. Total for my wife, son, and I for a couple of pulled pork sandwiches, a burger, some fries, and a couple of sodas? $50.57! Can you believe the rip off? I’ve got news for them too – their fries suck. We rode a couple of rides but never got over the disappointment of the two main attractions being shut down.

Sick Flags Tragic Mountain

Mark me down as a double loser. Here in Santa Clarita is where I plunked down $53 in order to stand in line for 98.7% of my time. It’s no joke and no exaggeration. A full 2 hours and 55 minutes in line for the Excema 2 (they call it X2 for short) – and did that ever leave me scratching my head. It was a Tuesday, but the park was full so of course out of three cars they have they were running only one with the other two sitting there on a siding teasing us. There was no evidence anywhere of the little “wait is two hours from this point”, “wait is 45 minutes from this point”, etc. signs that other parks have. So we just melted along in the heat with a bunch of other drones all standing in line singing choruses of “I’ll stand in line and melt with you”. And standing, and standing. To break this down, we arrived at the park at 10:04 (they open at 10), parked the car where the guys in uniforms specified, made our way to the gate, plunked down our $53, ran for the bathrooms (shortest line all day!), then ran to the Excema 2. By this time it is 10:50. We wait 2 hours and 55 minutes, ride for 2 minutes 12 seconds, walk to the exit and it is 2:00 PM already! I guess you could ride the thing 3 times and that would be your entire day! All along the ride they have somebody in marketing’s interpretation of a “Type A Personality” which is NOT what I learned from psychology or from TV (That marketing droid needs to go back to school!). So we gave up on that and went to ride the log ride as it was a hot day. That line was only 26 minutes, with about a 3 minute ride. That brought my total to 97.4% of my time waiting in line!

I did notice that this park would like you to pay an extra $50 to get a flash past which lets you cut in line. Apparently bad manners are OK with them as long as you pay for the privilege. We decided that since they purposely only had one car running on the Excema 2, their business model must be “let’s frustrate everyone into paying for a flash pass”. Everyone else was scratching their heads too.

All in all a staycation would have been better than this, and my lawn would have gotten mowed. I think we should all avoid these amusement parks until they find a way to hold lines to a 30 minute maximum. I’m starting my boycott today.

I paid to stand in line – have you? Better yet, are you going to do it again?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Apple adds Security Vulnerabilities

Say what you want about Microsoft including Internet Explorer 8 in its Windows Update. At least you already had Internet Explorer installed and IE 8 is a more secure version than what you had. Sending version 8 to computers as part of Windows Update seems a reasonable and necessary thing. What’s Apple’s excuse? Why does Apple want to add security vulnerabilities to my computer and that of my wife, kids, etc.? That’s right: even after many months, nay a year, of outcry about Apple including Safari and MiniMe (sorry – MobileMe) in their “Updates” for iTunes the worm ridden ones are still at it:


Note the title bar says “Apple Software Updates”. Now, sure – they do say somewhat farther down that "Safari 4” and “MobileMe Control Panel” are new software. However, for folks used to Mozilla Firefox updates every few weeks, Windows Updates once a month (sometimes more), and other security updates – this looks like a needed security update. Never mind that its real purpose is to block Palm Pre owners from accessing the iTunes store. Yesterday I noticed my wife running her updates. Yes, she then had Safari and MobileMe installed. Thanks Apple for ADDING security vulnerabilities to her machine!

That’s right: adding vulnerabilities. Check Secunia here and see that Safari has its share of them – some not patched yet. Any time you add new software – especially a browser – to a machine you are adding vulnerabilities. Apparently Apple is so worried about getting some market penetration for their lame browser that they need to attempt to disguise it as a needed update and then must hope to trick unsuspecting users into clicking it. Not cool Apple! In fact, if your darn iPods didn’t require iTunes in order to update them correctly I wouldn’t have any of your software on any of our machines.

Fortunately in this case, Safari was installed for all of 10 minutes. Here’s hoping that Apple will come to their senses and stop trying to pass off this foistware on folks.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Digital Gouging

An update on our forced conversion to Digital cable – after another 25 minutes on the phone with Comcrap they did indeed get all of the boxes working and no longer showing the silly “problem with your service” or the “available shortly messages from the prior post. Now, we had been assured back when they shipped these 5 boxes to us that there would be no change to our bill. However, we were informed by this agent that not only did we have an additional $6.99 monthly for that second box (you know, the one they advertise that you can switch your “on demand” movies to when your wife or husband is snoring too loud and never bother to mention that it costs extra for the extra box?) but we would also have to pay an additional $1.99 for the silly little DTA box. So $108 extra a year to have one less tuner than we had before this silly conversion. Still Craptastic. It took a couple of hours, but I finally did get up the nerve to take the little DTA from the garage (making that TV back to only getting 2 – 30) and hooking it up to the TiVo. So there is one Comcast DCH70 sitting there hooked to the TV and a DTA sitting right next to it for the TiVo. It was a pain getting the IR receiver to accept the TiVo’s channel changing codes. Fortunately, the code is 10104-B for these Pace manufactured DCX50 boxes and if you peruse the internet long enough to learn how to put the TiVo into advanced selection mode you can select that code easy enough. If it wasn’t for House, Psych, and Burn Notice being on channels that have been “converted” by Craptastic to digital only we would call them up and say come get your stupid boxes. As it is, we will be calling their bilking dept. to find out why they insist on substantially charging more for less service (and asking for our two days of time spent on this back).

It’s Craptastic

Or is that Comcraptic? I never remember. All I know is on June 29th, we had the TV service we wanted. All 5 TV’s (4 in the house, 1 in the garage for workouts) could view any of the channels from 2 to about 70 or so. The Series 2 Humax branded Tivo could record any channel, and I could watch a different channel by using the tuner in the TV itself. Pure analog bliss. We could get a “season pass” to House on channel 42 (I am still catching up on older years as I just discovered House this year). We could even watch TV in the kids rooms upstairs if we wanted to. It was the American Couch Potato Dream.

Then, on July 1st, (in some areas) Comcraptic decided to change all that. Down came the dreams of watching House chow Vicodin while humiliating some clinic patient. Channels above 39 just up and went away. Not even a “hey idiot, you need a new box now, bwahhhaaahaha” on the screen for those channels. The reason? Who knows – it could be that they want to free up bandwidth on their cable infrastructure so that they can get more people to buy on demand movies. It could be that they just want people to have to pay them more to have more TV’s in the house. It could even be that they want to take over the DVR market from Tivo. I don’t know, and I don’t care. A few months back they had contacted my wife and told her that this would happen. At the time, they said they would send us “boxes” that would allow us to survive the changeover without losing access to Gregory House and Cuddly – oops, I mean Cuddy – in the process. They also stated that it would not change our billing (which was a lie – check our bill and see!)

These boxes turned out to be a couple of DCH-70’s with M-cards in them. M-cards are cable cards that allow multiple streams, but these boxes are locked to one stream. They also had three of the "DTA” boxes which I believe is short for “Doesn’t Televise Anything”, while DCH must be “Disturbingly Crappy Hardware”. We spent a couple of hours hooking all these things up yesterday so we could get back to watching Thirteen spar with House. As with anything to do with Comcraptic, I figured, “It’ll never work”, but tried it anyway.

So, we followed the directions to hook all the stuff up. We wrote down all the serial numbers of the boxes, the host ID’s, and even the MAC addresses. We turned them all on. We went to the website and it only listed the two DCH-70 boxes. Not only that, but they didn’t even show a serial number that was even close to the same format as what we wrote down. It appears that, even though the instructions say to get the serial numbers of the boxes – they mean the serial number of the m-cards somehow. So we clicked to activate them and were rewarded with a “thanks, now go wait 45 minutes” message.

After we waited, and waited, and went to dinner, and waited, we finally decided – OK 6 hours should be more than enough. My wife called the number which was proudly displayed by all of the TV’s hooked to the “DTA’ boxes:


Appearances to the contrary, this means that “at least the device can output an NTSC signal over cable”. Its even a useful one as it gives the phone number. Hurray!

So she got “Agent J” on the phone who said, “There is an outage in your area and it may take 24 hours”. This translates from the fairly opaque helpdeskese into “My shift ends in 5 minutes and I know our shit doesn’t work but I want to go home.”. Needless to say it has been over 24 hours now and it still doesn’t work. The two TV’s hooked to the DCH boxes show this:


We press “OK” and get this rewarding message:


According to the instructions, you press OK and it will activate. Actually no, the instructions say to push the “on demand” button and then go buy an on demand test movie that is supposed to be no charge but will “activate” you. However you can’t do that – you have to get past this blue stuff first – and I think we may have worn out the batteries on the remote pressing OK. It’s nice to know that I can watch thousands of free shows whenever Comcraptic gets around to saying I can though.

Now, the channels seem to work on those two main DCH boxes. At least 2 – 42 or so for sure as I have tried those. But since it won’t “activate” the other three TV’s just say to call Comcraptic. We’ll do that again later, hopefully before shift change is due. If we do get it fixed, we’ll have to then be transferred to the bilking dept. so we can request a pro-rata refund for this lack of service.

Oh yeah – and then I need to go to the store and buy a newer Tivo that can handle a cable coming from the back and getting glued to the stupid DCH box’s infrared receiver so the Tivo can change channels again. At which point I will have ONE tuner instead of two so can only watch what the Tivo records. Progress at its best, in fact, its Craptastic!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Cover Flow – lots of notes

Yes, I know I’ve already told you that Apple hates me and my family. However, they are at it again. The other day, my son mentions that all of his Rise Against albums are missing their cover art – both on his computer and on his iPod. So I fire up iTunes on my computer. Sure enough, Apple has deleted the cover art PAINSTAKINGLY added to 39 of my 160 albums. Yes, 25% of the album art gone – replaced by these:


Yes, Apple must think that we all want 1/4 of our albums to look like this in iTunes and our iPods – it is just so cool looking who wouldn’t want it to look like that, right?

So – I check my backup copies on the server. Sure enough, iTunes has decided to “update” the afflicted files. The modified date/time is much newer than the backups on my home server. Figuring that if I restore the backups, Apple will decide to “update” them again, I resigned myself to going back to (which got me most of them) and Google images (for the rest) and painstakingly tell iTunes to USE the images again.

Fun, Fun, Fun ‘til Apple Takes our Album Art Away.

Apple: please learn to write software that doesn’t suck like this. Eating your customer’s data is “not cool”.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Buying shoes – a pain in the sole

I hate buying shoes. I’m a tightwad anyway, and lately I have been running on the treadmill in my old, old, “basketball” style shoes – the ones that are leather all the way around. The only problem is that they also had holes in the soles and also the insides were so worn out that the plastic inners were showing through. So, I decided it was time to only use those for mowing the lawn and time to get some running shoes for the treadmill.

I went to Sports Authority to look at some the other day. I was amazed at how many brands and models of running shoes they have! A veritable smorgasbord to choose from. The only differentiator seemed to be price and color, because all any of them said was “man made uppers”. Nothing about “stability”, “cushioning”, etc. Nothing about for “over prontators” or “under pronators”, etc. Not only did the boxes and labels on the shoes themselves not say, but there was no literature explaining it either. How the hell was I supposed to pick from this morass? So I came home and looked at the manufacturers web site for one of the brands that was well represented at Sports Authority. I started with ASICS. These folks had a decent site and good information about their shoes and which were meant for which type of foot, etc. However you couldn’t print the list of their shoes with pronation range because they put it in some stupid little sub-window with its own little non-standard scroll bar. (ASICS – fix your site; this is a great resource – we need to be able to print it). So I had to pick a couple of models, print them, and head back to the store.

Well, I found those models actually hurt my left ankle. The right one was fine, but the left on both models hurt. I tried a couple of pair of each to be sure it wasn’t just some strange defect. OK, back to the web sites.

Next, I tried the New Balance web site. Not as well organized as the ASICS one, and didn’t easily offer data on what type of foot/gait their shoes were designed for – you had to dig for it. About this point, I found that the Sports Authority site gave better info on these shoes than the New Balance site. Between the two sites, I picked two more models of shoes and went back.

Of course, the Sports Authority brick and mortar store didn’t carry either of those two models. About this time I was getting tired of this and just picked a New Balance model that seemed to have the right level of arch for my near flat feet and looked to me to be a stability shoe. Bought them, came back and checked the web sites, and sure enough they were the right type.

I got to run in them today for the first time and they felt fine.

But I have to ask: why in the hell do they make this so hard? It should have been EASY to go to any of these manufacturer web sites, click “men”, click “running”, click “compare” and get a printable list of what foot type / gait type each of their shoes is made for and what its key characteristics are. How can they NOT do that? All I can think of is massive incompetence on the competitive advantage they could get by making this easy and by placing such information clearly on their boxes and in stores.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Apple Still Hates Me

Today I woke the computer from sleep mode a few minutes after I resumed from sleep. My computer usually resumes a little better than I do: most of the time in a happier state and it doesn’t even need to shave. Anyway, this morning after the computer woke up the Apple Software Update came up. I figured, oh, there must be an update for some critical vulnerability in QuickTime! Possibly they released a new firmware version for the iPod and want me to update iTunes. Something at least marginally in my interest was bound to be there, right? Wrong! All they had in the list was a lame-oh also ran browser aptly named “Safari” and some silly thing called the MobilMe Control Panel. Of course I didn’t want to go on Safari as FireFox (default browser) and IE 8 are good enough for me and I sure didn’t want to become Mini-Me or MobilMe or whatever.

Revenge of the turds

So I simply hit the quit button as their disingenuous attempt to get me to load useless crap had once again been foiled. However, they managed to extract their revenge: for the next hour – until I killed it in Task Manager – the Apple Software Update program managed to take an entire core (causing Task Manager to show 50% utilization). Good thing Apple didn’t write it to take both cores or the computer would have become completely unresponsive.

Apple – stop trying to foist your silly crapware on me. I could understand advertising it on your web site. But just because I am required to load your excuse for a media player to manage the music on my iPod doesn’t mean that you should get to advertise junk neatly disguised as updates. Take a hint from say Ubuntu. Their software updates are just patches and upgrades to the THINGS I ALREADY HAVE INSTALLED. Same thing for Microsoft – critical updates and recommended updates are just for what is already installed. Get with the program guys.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

I am in Hell, sir!

Or at least I’ve just been there. Dell Hell that is, and the line from Mr. Christian in The Bounty sums up that mephitic place of perdition nicely. For those that haven’t heard “Dude, you’re getting a Dell” lately, Dell Hell is where you are when your machine won’t work and support doesn’t seem to respond. I’ve actually been there twice recently.

The first time, my son’s machine was going into thermogenic shock. Yes, it was overheating. This was a Latitude D820, and it would reproduce by playing an MP3, booting from a memory key into the diagnostics and running them, or just entering the BIOS screen and moving around between items for 30 seconds. After several emails back and forth with Dell “technicians” (all of which told them the specific of an overheating machine and that it would do it in their diagnostics), I got a suggestion back from them: reinstall Windows. I figured, gee – that may somehow miraculously cure Windows (how I sure don’t know), but it won’t do a whole lot for the machine overheating and turning itself off during their diagnostics. I finally got nasty and sent the “flame note” asking them what part of Windows was running when booted from their diagnostics on a memory key and insisting on escalation to a supervisor.

That got a new mainboard installed. However the problem remained. We then got a new board again, a new fan, a new heat sink, new memory, and a new processor. Problem solved (it was apparently the heat sink all along).

I thought I was out of the Dell Hell, that Latitude Limbo, that processor purgatory. Alas, no – next my machine (an identical Latitude) started on the journey to Gre’thor to see Fek’lhr. I came down to use the notebook and found it on a Blue Screen – something about memory management – and it had hung at 0% on the dump file. I powered it off and it would not come back on. At least the screen wouldn’t show anything. No post test, no logo, no boot, nada.

So I took it out of the dock and opened the screen, but that produced nothing better. It would have on solid green LED, two blinking ones and then would power itself off after 60 seconds. Not good. I look up that particular combo of blinking Christmas Tree lights and it is something to do with memory. So I swap the memory with another machine that is working. The bad machine is still bad and the RAM from mine is chugging along great in the other box. I then try just one stick of RAM (1 GB instead of 2) in mine. Low and behold that works and it passes the diags. Put any 2nd stick of RAM in and the machine is useless. OK, needs a mainboard.

Back to the email with Dell Support. I have next day on-site service so this should be a snap, right? Send them a note on a Sunday (3/22/2009) and again, and again, and then finally get a reply on Friday. Still in Dell Hell like this guy. A couple more emails back and forth and they dispatch the mainboard which gets installed on Tuesday. OK, so that’s 9th day on-site support.

Every been in Glade Gehanna, Trough Torment, or Dell Hell yourself? Well I have! (I can just see Andy Rooney starting out with that one…)