Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Microsoft Fail

If Microsoft resorts to spam, its times must be really tough. Look at what I've received today (clickable):

Microsoft Fail

Quite a few things are strange.

First of all, during most of my professional career I've consciously stayed away from Microsoft products - would that be OS/2, Unix or Java.

Second, I've never contacted Microsoft, or was contacted by its representatives.

Third, none of my public reflection gives any hints that I am in any way interested in anything related to Microsoft.

And a final nice touch - being addressed as [VADIM ] is somewhere between hilarious and insulting, especially coming from such an entity as Microsoft.

Not even speaking of the content - pompously starting with "There's no avoiding the obvious. Times are tough."

Times are tough for Microsoft indeed.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ubuntu 10.4 LTS: Careful With That Axe, Eugene

Recipe for disaster:
  1. Start installing Ubuntu 10.4 off the CD image next to already existing OS installation;
  2. Encounter a CD or hard drive read/write error;
  3. Watch installation process bail out unceremoniously;
  4. End up with an unbootable system.


Ubuntu 10.4 LTS installer, for reasons unfathomable, installs a fresh boot loader (which it, of course, can't yet initialize) before the end of the installation.


Either spend time fiddling with GRUB and/or Super Grub Disk, or boot from Windows XP installation disk (if that's what you had there before), get into Recovery Console and execute FIXMBR - this will render the system bootable again.

Caveat: the Recovery Console will ask you for the administrator password. It is possible that you'd be staring at that in disbelief, for you never had to specify it (apparently, this is the case with really old pre-SP2 installation disks) - just tap Enter.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Corporate Ineptitude: The Way We Do Business

Today's glutton for punishment:
  • Create an account at one of two major US shipping providers (name withheld to protect the guilty);
  • Ship a package or a few;
  • Bang your head against the wall trying to get a list of packages you've just shipped, without providing a tracking number.
It's not that I don't want to provide the tracking number, it's just the monstrous stupidity of the whole design that makes me speechless. Obviously, people who dictated the user interface design don't ship packages often.

PS: The other one is not much better.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dear APS: You Suck

So, APS gets a sniff of this new great thing called Internets and creates this magnificent site which allows me to... gasp... pay my bill online. There was also a great marketing campaign with flyers sent to all customers, all flashy and looking good.

All right, think I, let me try to save some trees and manual work and give you my precious account information so you can take it whenever you feel like it. Hmm... Wire transfer only... Kinda unusual and dangerous (there are no consumer protections on bank accounts similar to what every credit card provides), but understandable. Fine, twist my arm.

Cool, says APS and sends me a notification of a successful payment via email, like all normal institutions do.


Three weeks later, I find a snail mail letter from APS saying that
  • My payment was declined because my bank was "unable to locate the account";
  • I will now have to get off my ass and make the payment in person, cash, money order or cashier's check only;
  • There is an extra $15 charge on the next bill (read: slap on the credit history);
  • Quote, "when two or more dishonored checks are received in a twelve month period, we will require payment in cash, money order or cashier's check for the next twelve months".
First thing I do is try to see whether there is a problem with the account information that I provided... only to find out that I can't find it on the site within five minutes of stumbling through the endless maze of links on APS site.


Next I call APS and this nice lady says that yes, indeed, there is an extra digit in the account number (though it is unfathomable how could I put an extra digit into my account number twice - they have this silly "verify account number" entry field). No, she can't correct it. No, she can't waive the $15 because this is what my bank slapped on them. Yes, I will have to get off my ass and make a payment in person.

No, there is no bleeping way to verify that I provided a correct account number, which means that if I, God forbid, make a mistake again, I will be (see above) put on cash-only status for the next year (and what she either doesn't know or simply isn't telling is that I'll also get a huge stain on my credit history).

Dear APS: you suck.

First of all, there is this nice thing called bank account verification. Google it up, everyone knows about it.

Second, if you're sending me an email about me successfully giving you money, be a nice buddy and also send me a message about the fact that there was a screwup, also via email. Even better, don't send me a false positive "payment accepted" notification unless you have a positive confirmation about the payment actually making it through.

Third, if you threaten to make my life difficult for the next twelve months, not acting to the best of due diligence not only makes you look bad, it also takes away your customers' trust in you and will cost you real dollars.

In my particular case, it'll cost me time spent on writing checks and cents spent on stamps, but you'll spend much more time and dollars processing all these envelopes, taking out checks, reading them, amortizing the hardware that does it, paying salaries to people maintaining it, and so on and so forth. I think I'm better off.

Now, if you will excuse me, I really need to get back to writing my checks.

Oh, and almost forgot. Stop treating me like a villain. Not everyone is a deadbeat.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Logitech Customer Service: I'm Impressed

A power supply for my four year old Squeezebox Classic has died. Yes, it's a trivial piece and I probably even have a couple lying around in the workshop, but for some reason I decided to check if Logitech sells these. Didn't find it on the site, called in and... they sent it to me for free.

Now, *that* is what I call customer service.

UPDATE: ...and yet another reminder of a rule: Sometimes, all you have to do is ask nicely.