An example of just how bad Customer Service is these days…

Chat Transcript

Please wait while we find an agent to assist you…
You have been connected to !Mary D.
Eric Longman: Outage in St. Louis since Monday – what is the status?
!Mary D:  Thank you for contacting T-Mobile Live Chat. My name is Mary D. Rep ID 145-XXXX. I’m sorry to hear that. I’ll be more than happy to assist you with your service, Eric.
!Mary D:  Can you please provide me your complete address?
Eric Longman:  I’ve talked with other people who live near me who also have T-Mobile. The problem is right around XXXXXXXX, St. Louis, MO. This has been going on since Monday. Service is mostly non-existent. Kind of seems like a tower is down or something.
!Mary D:  So that I can check here on our system.
Eric Longman:  (ZIP Code is XXXXX)
!Mary D:  Thank you. Please allow me 3-5 minutes to check my resources.
Eric Longman:  When we go to other parts of the city, phones work fine. But I’ve got four phones in my house that aren’t connecting from home, and my neighbor has at least one.
Eric Longman:  I should say that we usually have excellent reception here.
!Mary D:  I appreciate your patience. Upon checking, you have an excellent signal on your area and there are no outage.
!Mary D:  How many signal bars do you have?
Eric Longman:  It varies. Sometimes I’ll have four or five bars, but can’t make any outgoing calls or send texts. Most of the time, though (like right now) I have no bars – just an ‘X’ and the phone says “No Service”
!Mary D:  If that is the case we will perform basic troubleshooting on your phone, and afterwards, if needs advanced troubleshooting, I would need to refer you to our Techical Specialists. Would that be fine?
Eric Longman:  It’s not the phone, I promise you. The problem is affecting FIVE different phones, all at the same time, all in the exact same time frame (starting on Monday). ALL of them work fine when we travel away from this specific location. The phone is fine.
!Mary D:  I perfectly understand, however to be able to resolve the issue we need to perform the basic troubleshooting.
Eric Longman:  What a complete and total waste of time. Do we have to perform basic troubleshooting on all five phones?

 

And just so you know, yes, we actually DID perform “basic troubleshooting” on every phone I could lay my hands on before we arrived at a groundbreaking idea:

 

Eric Longman:  Now I have one bar and the provider says T-Mobile, but it will not make an outgoing call. When I try to call voice mail, there is a delay of about 30 seconds, then the phone beeps and says “Call Ended. Not Connected.”
!Mary D:  I’m sorry to hear that. What I can do is to file a servcie tickect for this issue. Our Engineers Specialist will work on it within 24 to 48 hours.
Eric Longman:  That would be excellent!

Uggh.

MIUI FTW!

For almost a year now, I’ve been running CyanogenMod CM7 on my rooted T-Mobile MyTouch 4G, and liking it a lot.  Originally, it was a way to get Gingerbread on the phone months before HTC (who builds the phone) managed to release it through the usual channels.  But it also solved some problems for me (especially in connecting to the Exchange server here at Concordia Seminary), and it just ran faster and stroked the geek in me.

Yesterday, I jettisoned CM7 and flashed MIUI 2.8.10 on my phone…and I don’t think I’m going back.

For one thing, I was left hanging with Cyanogen Mod, since CM9 (based on Ice Cream Sandwich) was nowhere to be seen for my phone.  MIUI is based on Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich), so it has the latest mainstream version of Android (Jelly Bean – Android 4.1.x – is out there, and there are some beta versions of MIUI based on it, but it’s  really only running on the Nexus 7 tablet at this point).

And it’s beautiful!  The overall look and feel shares a lot of good stuff with iOS (the operating system on the iPhone and iPad), which is a good thing.  It is a much more polished interface than CM7, and it runs really well on my aging hardware.  So far, I’ve only found one dangerous bug: If you switch to manual control of the screen brightness, you need to understand that the scale runs from 100 all the way down to ZERO…as in, no display at all.  If you accidentally crank down to the lowest brightness, you will literally have no display, and will have to fumble around with the keys and a particular sequence of taps in hopes of finding the toggle that turns automatic brightness back on…very scary.

If you have a rooted Android phone, and you’re interested in trying a new ROM, definitely give MIUI a shot.  I think you’ll like it.

Christ Builds the Church

Liked this when I read it, so I’m sharing…

It is not we who build.  [Christ] builds the church.  No man builds the church but Christ alone.  Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it.  We must confess – he builds.  We must proclaim – he builds.  We must pray to him – that he may build.

We do not know his plan.  We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down.  It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of construction.  It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down.

It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me and I alone will build where it pleases me.  Do not meddle in what is my province.  Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough.  But do it well.  Pay no heed to views and opinions.  Don’t ask for judgments.  Don’t always be calculating what will happen.  Don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge!  Church, stay a church!  But church, confess, confess, confess!  Christ alone is your Lord; from his grace alone can you live as you are.  Christ builds.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Does anybody blog anymore?

I’m wondering if anybody blogs anymore…at least in the sense that we used to.  Back in the day, I used my blog to post commentary about events happening around me.  Most of my posts were short and relatively to-the-point.  They were observations, ruminations, complaints, celebrations, and commentaries.  Occasionally, I would take the time to write up something longer and more thoughtful, but that was the exception rather than the rule.

It occurs to me that (for me at least) almost all of these things happen on Facebook nowadays.  Rarely, I will write up something longer on my blog and, thanks to a little digital pixie dust, it finds its way – or at least a link to it does – onto the “real” media of Twitter and Facebook.

I suppose there are still people who actually blog, but I’m guessing that the vast majority of them are probably still tracked and found via social media like Facebook.  That’s likely the reason that Facebook is so “sticky” – like Google, it has become the hub of our online wheel, and everything we care to find exists down one of those spokes radiating from it.

Which, if you think about it, is probably unfortunate, since more than a few really interesting destinations may not actually lie on any of those arteries.  We miss the serendipitous discoveries that we used to have when we surfed the web the old-fashioned way (ha! five years ago).  Then you followed links from site to site, tracking things from friends, to acquaintances, to strangers and beyond.  You never knew where you’d wind up.  But nowadays, it seems that we don’t spend much time exploring the outer limits of those six degrees of separation…we hang out a lot closer to two degrees.  That’s too bad.

Hmm…nice place you’ve got here.

Just looked at my blog and was stunned to find that I haven’t posted anything here in over SEVEN MONTHS!

I find myself posting micro-status updates on Facebook much more frequently than I end up posting thoughtful blog posts these days (although a quick look through my old blog posts would likely reveal that they are, on balance, far from “thoughtful”).  Oh well, c’est la vie.

If I am seized by a good idea that needs a more thorough treatment, I promise I’ll post it here.  Meantime, you can move along…there’s (really!) nothing to see here.

Index all tables in one shot

Here’s a nice little snippet of T-SQL code that will reindex all tables in the database with one line of code:

EXEC sp_msForEachTable @COMMAND1= 'DBCC DBREINDEX ( "?")'

Keep in mind that the DBCC DBREINDEX command will put a lock on the table while it does its thing, so you may not want to do this during peak times.  But from time to time, you may find need to reindex all of the tables in a database in one fell swoop, and this’ll do it.

(Found here)

 

My last Blockbuster Rental…ever

I just returned the last movie I will ever rent from Blockbuster Video.

Perhaps you recall that back in 2005 Blockbuster made a big deal out of their new “No Late Fees” policy.  They had to do something; even at that point Netflix was already eating their lunch with a business model that included the ability to hang on to a movie for as long as you wanted to, but no new movies for you until you return it.  Of course, despite Blockbuster’s flashy ads, “No Late Fees” didn’t REALLY mean “NO late fees”.  It actually meant something more like “a ten day grace period before we start dinging your credit card and/or simply charge you the full retail price of the movie.”

If you recall that, do you remember the big campaign that they rolled out to let you know that they decided to start charging late fees again?

No?  That’s probably because there was no such campaign.

In fact, if my experience is any guide, not only did they start charging late fees again, but they decided to do so without telling anybody about it.

We rented a couple of movies on New Year’s Eve.  For reasons that don’t need to be detailed here (suffice it to say that my attention has been focused elsewhere for good reason), I didn’t return the movie until tonight.  ”No problem,” thought I, “they don’t charge a late fee unless it’s crazy late, so we should be fine.”

Not so much.

Six days late times two movies plus tax equals $12.60 (on top of the $7 or so we had paid for the original rental).  That’s about FOUR MONTHS of my Netflix service, which allows me to have one movie at a time, no more than two in a month, and keep them as long as I want to.

“Yeah, we started charging late fees again.  Nobody was bringing back their movies,” said the guy behind the counter.

“Too bad for you,” I replied.  ”From now on, I’ll just get my movies from Netflix.”

“Oh, you should use our online service.”

Yeah, right.  You already poked me in the eye over the movie I rented in the store.  Like I’m going to give you an opportunity to do it online, too.

No wonder Blockbuster is in bankruptcy.  I can pretty much guarantee that treating customers like this won’t help their situation even a little bit.

Amazon Route 53

Amazon Route 53 DNS HostingAmazon announced their new Route 53 DNS service a few days ago.  Never one to let a gizmo go untested, I immediately signed up and I’m now hosting DNS for eal.us through Route 53.  Looks good, but I wish there were a nice control panel to front it…setting everything up via API (and manually edited XML files) was a little tedious, but it seems to perform quite well, and I’m betting it’s highly resilient.

Dump Chrome for Firefox? Maybe so…

I have been an avid and delighted user of Google’s Chrome browser almost since the first day it was available.  It is wicked fast, unobtrusive, and rock solid.  Mostly.

But lately the love affair with Chrome has cooled substantially, mostly (and ironically) due to performance problems.

As Chrome has matured, more and more often I’ve encountered bizarre performance glitches.  Cases when the browser would simply hang up waiting for a page to load, or would act as if it was not connected to the Internet, when all sorts of troubleshooting proved otherwise.  The little bit of advice I can find online suggests that this maybe has something to do with the Microsoft TCP/IP stack; remedies generally involve tinkering with the Proxy settings in Chrome, which actually pull up a Microsoft control panel.  It’s consistent enough across all of my computers that I don’t believe it’s a configuration problem of my making.  I think there’s a bug in there somewhere.

Hot on the heels of all this discontent comes the beta version of Firefox 4.  I liked Firefox a lot early on, but then it became a big old bloated Elvis of a browser (you know, like 1970′s Elvis, not svelte and trim 1960′s Elvis).  I switched to Chrome when Firefox felt like it was hauling around too much baggage and had gotten slow and unweildy.  But Firefox 4 seems to address much of that.  The interface is slimmed down (much like Chrome), and the browser feels much faster than its predecessor.

So, is it time to dump Chrome?  Not quite yet, but I’m spending about equal time in Chrome and Firefox 4 Beta now, which is something I haven’t been able to say about any other recent browser versions (including, by the way, the beta of IE9, which I uninstalled within a week of installing it!)

Not likely…

It was at that moment, in my spam quarantine report, that I found the email that would utterly change my life:

Spam Quarantine Report