Dell hell, continued: Self-service

Dell hell, continued: Self-service:

I was thinking about this service process, in which Dell and other computer makers make us suffer through service with them. They take some S&M glee in making us wait on hold and talk to their people for hours (costing them money, by the way).
But with computers, we are expected to suffer through the process; we aren’t allowed to say, “Just fix it: The machine you made is broken so fix it and make sure it’s fixed.”

Why the hell do we tolerate this?

(Via BuzzMachine.)

Good question.

I think:
Computer people used to be electronics experts and software experts. They were totally able to take care of this stuff themselves. Now we have the average person who isn’t a computer or software expert and actually doesn’t like fixing computers themselves.

This is an artifact from the early days of computing, and I think we’re slowly moving away from that, but computers are still in their infancy. Think cars in the very early 20th century. They weren’t for any old consumer. If you had a car, you were probably a mechanical hobbyist and enjoyed tearing apart your car and putting it back together again.

Same thing with computers. The industry started out with people who liked to mess with electronics and software, and knew their way around a computer. Tech support by phone was a way to get the darned thing fixed without having to send it in, and that was considered a good thing by computer users of the day.

That mindset is still in the institutions and I think it won’t change quickly.

My sordid past

I must confess, I’m a gamer. That’s right, behind this ultra-cool exterior lies a Dungeons and Dragons nerd. I am one of those people you’ve heard of who likes to play role-playing games, though that isn’t all of it. Not only did I play a Dungeons and Dragons like game, sank even further into nerdity by playing a more obscure game.

I made a chart so you can see just how much of a nerd I really am:

Dungeons and Dragons —– Many normal people have heard of it.

GURPS —– No normal people have heard of it. Some Dungeons and Dragons people.

Fudge —– A few Dungeons and Dragons people. Some GURPS people have.

Fate —– No Dungeons and Dragons people, a few GURPS people, some Fudge people.

This is where I’m at. My game of choice is Fate, a game so obscure that even Dungeons and Dragons people haven’t even heard of it.

But, my friends, that isn’t the end of it. I also play wargames. Sure, I can play Chess, but I prefer Go. I can play Checkers, but I really like the (you guessed it!) more obscure wargames that are simulations of actual historical battles. I know your eyes are glazing over as you contemplate all of this, so I won’t continue.

I just wanted to let you know who you’re dealing with.

P.S. Thanks for giving me a topic to write about Hank! See HJO3 Project on the blogroll for more about Hank.


Morgan recently started calling me Michael.

If I’m making him popcorn and leave, when the microwave beeper goes off, he calls out, “Miiichael!”, and points at the microwave. If he wants me to open a door for him or come over and look at something, if calling Daddy doesn’t work, he uses Michael.

He learned my name for school. One of the things they taught him was Ash and my name, our address, and phone number. He was never really good at the address, but he had the phone number and our names down pretty good. I also think he heard Ash calling me that.

Ash wondered if I minded him calling me Michael. I don’t really. It’s my name after all, and everyone else calls me that, so why not him. It is a little strange, though. It’s also a little amusing, since he only calls me Michael when there is something specific happening. It’s when he’s calling my attention to something that I need to do. Any other time, it’s daddy.

Strange, but I get a kick out of it.

Another power outage!?

Not again! Tonight our power went out again. It wouldn’t be so bad, but it seems that it only goes out in our apartment complex. I see the lights still on across the field from where we live. I can’t see anything on the other side, because that overlooks the inside of the complex and of course everything is out there.

I think it has something to do with the excessive heat. Ash says it’s probably the construction people across the road. I don’t think so, because it’s pretty late and I don’t think they are working after hours on that building. I think the heat caused more people to use their air conditioning and fans, and that overloaded the power here. I get the feeling that we don’t have enough capacity in this apartment complex for everyone to turn on their AC at once, which is probably what’s happening.

It’s pretty damned hot here, too. We’ve had over 90 degrees for the past month and it shows no signs of letting up all summer. We have a nice high pressure cap in place over Texas and nothing can budge it. We’re definitely going to have a drought by the time this is all done. Everything is drying out, and the only hope we have for rain is renegade thunderstorms that might drop something if they can push their way south of Oklahoma. For the rest of the week, we’re anticipating 100+ degree weather.

This is why I like air conditioning.

Update: 9:21 and the power is back. Looks like almost an hour tonight. Any bets for tomorrow night?

Installing a new CD/DVD drive

Today we got Ash’s new DVD drive in the mail. She bought Sims 2 last weekend and was excited about the fun she was going to have playing it. Unfortunately she was to be disappointed. It comes on a DVD, not a CD, and her Quicksilver Power Mac G4 desktop computer only has a CD drive. It can’t read the DVD. We ran into this problem when we got the new Mac OS (Tiger), but I was able to install it from my iBook, which has a CD/DVD drive. You can slave one Mac to another over a firewire drive, so that the slaved Mac looks like a hard drive on the master computer. I just did that and told OSX to install on Ash’s hard drive instead of my own.

This time, it wouldn’t work, because although I could install it, I’m pretty sure the program also requires the disk be in the drive when it is running. So, on Saturday she let me know that we needed to get a DVD drive that day. I started looking around on Small Dog Electronics and Mac Warehouse to see what they were selling that might be compatible. We narrowed the choice down to two different ones, and finally settled on the LaCie. We have a LaCie external hard drive and we’re very happy with it, so we decided to go with the same brand. This one also has something called LightScribe, which lets us inscribe the label directly on the other side of the disk. Total cost was a little over a hundred bucks.

We ordered it on Tuesday and it arrived today. I started installing it and naturally, it was a snap with the instructions on the Apple Web Site. Now it’s ready to go. The only problem is that halfway through putting the drive back into the computer, the power went out. It is still out as I write this. We got out the battery powered lanterns and I finished the job of screwing it back in and connecting the power and other cords. Now it is just sitting near the desk, waiting for the power to come back on before I hook it back up to everything.

Right now the only thing I’m hoping is that we didn’t need to install the Utilities before we took out the CD drive. Hopefully the DVD drive just works. It’s for a Mac, so I’ll be somewhat surprised if it doesn’t just work. I’m sure we’ll need the utilities to set up some of the extra functionality, but not the plain DVD reading.

I showed Ash the hard drive, and where we would install the second hard drive when we get it. I noticed that her hard drive is as slow as the one in my iBook. We’ll be getting a new one eventually, but bigger and faster. It will be the main drive and her old one will be for backups only.

When Morgan saw that the box came in, he wanted to open it immediately, of course. Ash was talking to her ex-husband, Steven (more on that later), so she didn’t open it immediately. When I got home from work, the first thing Morgan did was bring me the box and say “Open present?”

These days, anything in a box that gets delivered is a present for him.

Well, it’s 9:38 p.m. and the power finally came back on (along with the Air Conditioning!). Ash reconnected the computer and what was the first thing she did? Pop in the utilities disk for the DVD drive? Pop in the Sims 2 to see if it worked? Nope. She took the vacuum cleaner and started vacuuming up little areas of the house that needed it. I swear I can’t understand that woman.

She finally got back to the computer and popped in the disk and (ta da!) it worked. Typical Macintosh. It just works. Suck it Microsoft! Plus I’m good, I know.

The Banshee

Only two decent pictures came out today for Morgan on his trip to Inflatable Insanity, or “Jumping” as he likes to call it. He did ok today until we had to come home. He was a little rough with Dawn Siau’s little girl, but I think that was accidental. He also kept trying to put his head in the lap of a poor lady in the jump house who was trying to play with her own son. I pulled him away but she didn’t seem too upset.

Like I said, he was fine until it was time to go home. Then he didn’t want anything to do with me. I had to carry him over to the chair to put his shoes on, and while I was carrying him, he took the opportunity to scream right in my ear as loud as he could. I swear I’m going to go deaf before he grows out of this phase. Meanwhile, I’m trying to get his shoes on, and he’s busy hitting and scratching me in the face.

On the way home in the car, he kept asking to go to Office Max (he likes to look at their floor lamps), or to Wal Mart (he just likes to go there). When I said no, he was going home, he started screaming again as loud as he could. Luckily, I anticipated this, so the car windows were all closed and the air conditioning was running. I don’t usually run the AC because I’m a manly man and it isn’t usually unbearable. Only if it is really humid do I turn it on. My ears still hurt.

One thing I know he’s going to start asking for at Wal Mart is to look at the steering wheel covers. I made the hugely stupid mistake of showing him the wheel covers in the automotive section last time we were at Wal Mart getting some wiper fluid. He loved playing with the wheel and pretending he was driving a car. Unfortunately, he didn’t want to give it up. I figured it wouldn’t be too bad to buy it for him and let him play in the car with it. Well, the one he had picked out was (naturally) the most expensive one. When I tried to swap it with a less expensive one, he didn’t want it. He kept pointing to the other, leather, stitched, wheel cover. “This one!”

I eventually wound up leaving without either one, and he threw a temper tantrum. He likes for me to push the shopping cart, so his punishment was that Ash pushed him around for most of our grocery shopping trip. He didn’t like that at all, but we were firm about his misbehaving. I’ll be looking into buying one for him to play with eventually, or maybe a different toy car steering wheel. I don’t know what I’ll finally end up doing.

A safe for a dollar bill?

I was just amused at myself today, thinking about some of the things I’ve set up for security on this blog. For example, I have a new plugin on WordPress (my blogging software) called Bad Behavior. I just installed it this morning. You can see it in the Statistics section of the sidebar. It is supposed to be a really great program for stopping spam attacks on your blog. I thought it was amusing mainly because my blog doesn’t get that much traffic. Here I am setting up this great spam blocking tool, and no one really wants to spam my blog.

Same thing for the email notification signup I recently had. It is supposed to let someone sign up to get notified when I post a new entry. I took it down because Ash just told me it doesn’t automatically send out notifications after all. I’m still working on a new system so that people can sign up, but once again, who would want to or need to? If you have an RSS reader, like NewNewsWire for Mac, FeedDemon for Windows or NewsGator for anyone you don’t need email notifications. Every time you use your RSS reader, it just tells you about new posts anyway. If you come to the website on a regular basis, you will see new content anyway. And let’s face it, only two people signed up for email notification anyway, my wife and my brother (but not my sister because I think she’s mad at me. She didn’t even say hi to me when she was talking to Ash the other day).

I’m putting up all these world class tools to manage my blog so I don’t have to spend a huge amount of time maintaining all the spam and requests to get updated, and that isn’t even happening. Just something I wanted to laugh at myself about. I’m easily amused.

My Purse

Rhinoskin2000I have a bag from Rhino-Skin, which I use to hold my PDA and Cell Phone, plus business cards and a pen. Ash started calling it my Purse, which of course I absolutely will not stand for. I insisted that she call it a Man-Purse. Not only that, she must call it a Man-Purse with a German accent.

Ash: “Here’s your purse.”

Me: “My what?”

Ash: <sigh> “Your man-purse.”

Me: “My vhaaat?”

Ash: “Your maaan-porse.” <in a German accent>

Me: <Smiling> “Thank you, babe!”

And all is right with the world again.

Poor Morgan is sick again

The poor guy has been sick all week, so no school for him. He was in a summer school program for two weeks. He went last week but couldn’t go this week. He was feeling better yesterday and I sent him to school (well, took him since the schoolbus didn’t show up).

I got a call at 9 am that day, just as one of my classes started at work (I’m training my fellow employees on a new software system). I had to cancel the class and go pick him up. It turns out that since his face was chapped from wiping his nose for the past three days, they thought he had an unknown rash and couldn’t keep him due to school policy.

This is just another example of what’s wrong with our schools. I told them it was just chapped skin, but they can’t bend on the policy. I understand that they are so afraid of lawsuits that they can’t ever make exceptions to their policy, but it is still stupid.

Anyway, Morgan will be home today as well, meaning he’s missed half of this session. He will be going back for another two weeks after the July 4 holiday, though.