Geek Plague – Fanboyism

In the world of geeks we have a problem. A serious epidemic that threatens our peaceful natures. This plague must be stopped before needless violence rips from us the very thing that binds us together: our overwhelming passion for tech/sci-fi/fantasy stuffs. This plague is the mutation of a mild mannered geek into a frothing-at-the-mouth fanboy. Fanboyism really isn’t a new phenomenon. As long as there have been geeks, there have been the radical right-wing zealots that evolved into full blown fanboys. It isn’t restricted to a specific genre of geekdom either. For today’s purposes, though, we will look at the OS Fanboys.

Probably the most famous group of fanboys in current times is the Apple Fanboy. Oh sure, there have been Apple Fanboys since the birth of the computer company in an unsuspecting garage. Since the advent of the iPod, however, the Apple Fanboy has been propelled into the Spotlight (see what I did there?). These are the guys that swear by everything Apple and condemn everything Microsoft. They are touted to have an unwavering belief in Jobs, their “messiah”. But they are not alone.

Microsoft Fanboys are always ready to return a volley of scathing remarks about Apple’s “toy” computers. They all but worship the corporate empire that Gates built and believe that the only reason people resent the object of their near-worship is its unparalleled business success. They resent the idea that any software or hardware offering could dare to think it can compete with their Titan Champion. They stand resolute and declare that all other systems are either just as vulnerable or more vulnerable than theirs. They proudly preach that the only reason their beloved OS is unfairly targeted more than any other is because it is so awesome. It doesn’t stop here, however.

The third leg of this unholy trinity is the Linux Fanboy. He lives by the mantra that all software should be free and open to everyone. He denounces Microsoft and Apple for their evil and secretive ways and blames any faults discovered in their systems on this closed environment. In the eyes of the Linux Fanboy, only the almighty Linus understands the truth in how to get the most out of a computer. Only open-source can save the geek world according to this steaming waste of carbon-based life form. Okay, that was unfair…all fanboys are steaming wastes of carbon-based lifeforms.

I’ve been accused of being each of these over the years. I find that funny. While it’s true that I do not like them all equally, the levels at which I do like them changes with time. I have a tendency to ramble on about one more than the others at any given moment. It has to do with which one I’m learning new things about or spending the most time on. See, I keep saying this in many different places: Each systems has its strengths and weaknesses. Each OS has tasks it performs a bit better than the others. The best thing to do is know them all and use the right system for the job. I really don’t see what is so hard about that idea.

Do I agree with Microsoft’s marketing practices? Not really. Do I believe that open-source is the silver bullet (ugh, I just used a buzzword) for cracking the computer world into an ecosystem that dwarfs what we have now? Not a bit. Do I think that Apple’s idea of totally locking down everything is the solution to the world’s computer problems? Not even close. But each of these groups does have important things to offer. The hard part is navigating the Fanboy Minefield to find real information. I think Dwight Silverman found this out with his article on Mac pricing. I’m guessing he wasn’t expecting a three way war to break out in the comments like it did. Unfortunately, that’s life on the intarwebs.

So to all Fanboys: Until you can stop frothing at the mouth and open your minds a little…shut up. Learn to recognize that other systems…other opinions…can have merit. I’ll be glad to calmly debate the merits of any system over any other. Is that too hard for you?

Comcast in the Kiddie Pool

Comcast gets a lot of press and most of it is bad. I still, despite my glowing praises for the Digital Media Outreach, agree with most of what’s said. The service is flaky. The content is mediocre. The price is outrageous. The hardware just plain sucks. But there are even more frustrating problems. Finally, though, I can take one of them off my list.

It seems they have decided to stick a toe into the kiddie pool of the intarweebs. You can at last get an email notification that your bill is ready. I am amazed that one of the largest communication providers in these United States has had the audacity to buck the trend of convenience by not doing what even little mom and pop shops have been doing since 1996. Any third grader with a keyboard can hammer out a quick and dirty script to send a little SMTP message to a specified email address on a specific day of the month.

I won’t get into it too deeply this time since I ranted about this in an earlier post. The long and short of it is this: Comcast has finally started coming out from under its rock and is beginning to offer some of the basic convenience services to its customers that other web enabled companies have offered for no less than 10 years. So if you have Comcast cable or internet service, you can now log into the website and sign up for email notifications for billing.

Sheesh guys, I know corporations move like slugs, but this is downright embarrasing.

I Suppose Reality Computing is Next

I’m browsing the headlines today and the question finally comes to mind: Who comes up with IT industry buzzwords? I mean really…cloud computing? Clouds are nothing more than large swaths of moisture suspended in the atmosphere. That isn’t exactly the most appropriate environment for electronics. Besides, what would clouds want to do on a computer anyway? I suppose playing solitaire is better than floating around the sky all day with nothing to do, but I really don’t think I want laptops hovering at ten thousand feet above my head. What if the cloud gets mad and throws it down…at me?

Then there’s the whole new economy. I know the “old” economy is having a rough time of it right now, but we should be serious. It’s all the same economy. It just has a fancy new parking garage. Don’t try to argue that it’s new because it uses the internet. It’s still just mail order and that’s been around for ages. Don’t try to argue that it’s new because it’s global. We get too many goods from other countries. Heck, I’ve heard it suggested that if Wal-Mart ever folded, China’s economy would collapse because of the amount of business they do. It’s all the same. Quit trying to be special.

Dot-bombs sound more like some kind of IED or spy gadget. It’s bad enough that we get this overload of buzzwords, but do you have to mix them with bad slang as well? They’re just failed businesses. It happens all the time. Why do you people insist on this obnoxious demarcation line between that which is internet and that which is not internet. Haven’t we been trying to converge everything with the internet? It seems like a self defeating purpose. How about trying something different.

And just so you don’t think I’m griping to the tech industry in general, I have one generic buzzword peeve for you. Offline. I do not think it means what you think it means. Offline means not online. It means you are working with some sort of software or device that normally functions with an internet connection but for some reason is not doing so right now. It does not mean that you want to talk to me away from the meeting. Offline and in private are not interchangeable. Ever. Stop it.

I have a few others that kind of grate on my ears when I hear them but I think the point has been made. Buzzwords are silly and unnecessary. It is just a way for the clueless to try and sound like they have a clue. And unfortunately it is contagious enough that those with a clue end up using them, too.

A-Loan in the Dark

Have you ever noticed that important paperwork is right where you put it for safe keeping…until the moment you need it? Take for instance the situation I am currently in. I have one of those small fireproof boxes in my house for the purpose of keeping my deed, car titles, and custody paperwork. These are documents I don’t want to lose, whether from misplacement or fire. Everything I put in there is right where I left it, too. Well…everything except the title to my Amigo. Which is odd since I haven’t touched that box since I put the title in there.

Why does this matter since I’m not selling my vehicle? I need it for loan collateral. The problem now is that I need the money for the loan in my account by the last day of the month and it takes about 14 days to get a title replaced. The way around this is to go to the local tax commision office where they actually print the things and for a $30 premium you can get one within minutes. Seems easy enough so I choose that course of action. It takes half of my lunch break just to get to the backwoods alternate reality where they located this massive chuck of steel building. But I did manage to find it and fill out my little form with the VIN (and you better know you’re VIN because they will NOT look it up…yay for customer service) and other relevant information.

Then the lady hands me a newly printed form which, by the way, is the exact same form I filled out with ink and handed her save for one little change. Apparently something got screwed up when I paid it off over three years ago. The bank is still listed as the lien holder. I certainly hope I don’t owe them anything. I haven’t made a payment in nearly four years. And I am completely certain I got a title from the State that did not list any lien holders. Yet there it was on screen as plain as day. Of course the lady couldn’t tell me how in the world I got a correct title when the information in the system was wrong. So now I have to get a lien release form from the bank so I can get a copy of the title to hand them so they can put a lien on the title. Still with me? Good because here’s where it gets bumpy.

I tried calling the bank and got stuck on hold for about 45 minutes. Now I only get an hour for lunch and it took 30 minutes to get here and then another 15 to do the paperwork shuffle. Now I’ve been on hold for another 3/4 of an hour and have another 30 minute ride in 98 degree weather to look forward to. Frustrated I contact my mother for reinforcement on trying to get the bank on the phone. She has worked with the lady that’s handling my loan for years so she’s got back lines of communication that I do not have. It also frees me up to make the sweltering ride back to work. Murphy’s Law is having a lot of fun at this point and decides to let my whole family share the joy.

Nobody I know can get anyone at the bank to answer and now I’m back at work with a screwed up laptop, a faulty wireless NIC driver, a problem with a cellular air card, and two weeks of reports that people want done in a matter of minutes. Oh, and let’s not forget the scanner system that lost all of its settings. I make alternate arrangements via SMS for collateral until I can get my title situation figured out. I now have to get everything done at work by 4PM so I have time to finish the bank stuff up today. Somehow I manage. I don’t know how but I manage to get all the broken stuff fixed by 4:04PM. So I run out the back door and head towards my bike.

You guessed it. I have another problem. Now I park my bike out back under the huge shed. It’s about the only place that is concrete and not gravel. The slab is huge and usually mostly empty. For the last week, though, people seem to have been going out of their way to pile pallets and trailers and boxes and cars around the bike so I cannot get out to go home. Today I tried parking right at the edge of the slab instead of the middle to fix that. What did they do? They parked closer and boxed me in more tightly than before. I swear that if I didn’t love my bike so much I would ram it smooth into their $40k plus cages. It’s not like I’m asking for super special treatment and climate controlled parking. I just want something solid under the kickstand and a path out when I get ready to go. It seems this is far too much to ask.

A few more minutes of wriggling and I’m able to squeeze the bike between the rusty Toyota and the Ford SVT pickup. It’s a good thing I’m not spiteful or I would have “accidentally” dragged the highway bar pegs down that lovely white paint job on the SVT…or the black paint of the Pontiac G8. But I didn’t and now I’m off to finally get the money in my account from the loan. Of course the reason I couldn’t get the lady on the phone is that she’s out today. Also, she’s been talking to me on and off for two weeks now about this loan and everything has been approved and is ready to go…except the other ladies cannot find any record of it in the system. So now I have to start all over. This is after the 12 minutes it takes to fill in the 6 blanks on the release of lien form. Eventually I get everything finished. And by that I mean I waited 45 minutes while the lady tapped away on her keyboard so I could sign one piece of paper on a line she drew with a pen.

Why can’t things just be simple? Oh and for those that think this isn’t enough…I just picked up the GMC truck that I’m buying from my dad on a deferred payment. He can’t find the title and after driving over 140 miles back to my house I notice the tag expired two months ago. Now I can’t get him on the phone to tell him I need a bill of sale so I can title, tag, and insure it ASAP. As usual, Murphy’s Imp of Perverse is right on top of things.

Whoop De Doo, A New iPhone

Media is all atwitter (yep…a pun in the first sentence) about the launch of the 3G iPhone. Well I say whoop-de-doo. Apple finally released the device they should have unleashed upon the masses when it first hit the market a year ago. Seriously, why wouldn’t you make your ground-breaking new piece of hardware take advantage of the latest and greatest technology like 3G?

Think about it. One of the major selling points was online media a-la Youtube. What possessed the creators to settle for EDGE? We all know EDGE sucks. We all know 3G is much faster and makes the entire mobile online experience tolerable. We all accept 3G as the best thing to use next to WiFi and real broadband. But you settled for EDGE. 3G always wins because EDGE is dumb.

You touted how great it was to have online map lookups for places you might be interested in and yet you didn’t include GPS. So I can know where I’m going but not where I’m at? Who comes up with this stuff? If I’m using the map to find a place to eat, I am probably in a place unfamiliar to me so it would help to know where I’m sitting in relation to my destination. It makes it easier to determine my travel route. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just full of crazy talk.

You finally decided to let AT&T subsidize the price so more people can buy it. Why didn’t you do that before? Sure the whole profit sharing thing may have sounded interesting but did you not learn a lesson from Wal-Mart? It’s far better to get a dollar from thousands than ten dollars from hundreds. You make more in the long run that way. If you don’t believe that then you haven’t been to ebay lately.

You say it has wonderful Exchange integration. Like it or not they own the market. Why wouldn’t you support that right out of the gate? There are several clients that can talk to Exchange so it shouldn’t have been a huge deal to get working. Did you have some delusion that by offering this “must-have” device to the masses that corporate attitudes would change overnight? I certainly hope not. I really don’t understand what you were thinking there, Steve.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not an Apple hater. I adore my iMac and I use it far more than my Windows laptop. I really like the iPhone and I want to get one. But I think you goofed. You brought out a device that, while revolutionary, lacked in many key areas. You also flubbed the pricing and had to offer some compensation to stifle the ire of the masses. The intial offer seems more and more like a beta and popular opinion would say that doing such a thing is a Microsoft thing, not an Apple thing.

Then to top it all off you earn the Fail Whale trophy for activation. You had the stock out there. You really should have known what kind of bombardment you were going to have as AT&T doors opened. But it’s okay. You aren’t the only one that loused it up today. AT&T is right there with you. They had the gall to allocate every last store rep to iPhone sales. Every last one. I needed to get a phone for an employee today…a Nokia…before he left for a job out of town. I was told point blank that I couldn’t and I would have to wait until this afternoon or tomorrow. You know, AT&T, you aren’t the only game in town that offers standard ho-hum phones. I can get one somewhere else if my business isn’t worth 10 minutes of one rep’s time.

All in all I say that the Fail Whale award for today goes to Apple with support from AT&T.

AT&T Business Care(less)

I was on the phone the other day with AT&T. I manage wireless phones for the company I work for and I needed to upgrade one employee’s phone and remove two numbers from suspension so I could issue phones to a couple of new employees. That should be simple process. It should take less than five minutes per task to complete. The problem is that there is a difference between “should” and “is”.

Let me take a quick moment to explain how business accounts work. You have a Foundation Account Number or FAN. This is the master account. Under this (like subfolders on a computer) you have Billing Account Numbers or BANs. These are where Subscriber Lines (phones) are located. This allows you to separate groups of numbers by department or region or manager. Now that we have that down…back to the story.

Apparently AT&T has decided that we need a new FAN but didn’t bother to tell me or give me access to it on the Premier site. For the past week or so I have noticed that I haven’t been able to pull up information on voice lines (our air cards are on another BAN and require far less maintenance). Any time I tried to get into the information or perform an upgrade I got a notice about technical difficulties with some long unintelligible string of characters in pretty red text. I tried to give it a little time because I knew that Premier isn’t exactly known for being the most reliable system out there. Go Java!

So anyway, I get tired of this and call the Premier support number. I run through the voice menu options that make the most sense and finally get a person on the phone. This person is not in Premier Support. He advises me I should call this number to get to the proper department…which was the number I dialed that sent me to him. AT&T – Your World Delivered (to the wrong place). We argued back and forth about whether I called the correct number or not and eventually I convinced him that I did indeed dial the correct number and that he should try to get someone on the phone from the correct department to help me out. This results in me being put on hold.

About twenty minutes later I’m finally back on with this guy who tells me the proper option sequence to select in the voice menu system to get to the support department. Someone tell me why the number dedicated to Premier Support puts the option to actually get Premier Support down at option three. Apparently when it asks if you are having trouble with your service on the Premier Support line it doesn’t mean Premier. AT&T wins again with great design. Okay, enough digressing…the guy informed me he had the right place and was transferring me now. I thanked him and heard myself transferred…to the call queue. Yep, stupid music met my ears and the recorded voice thanking me for my patience. Apparently he failed in locating a fellow human being. At this point we’re nearly forty-five minutes into the call when all I wanted was three little things done. Oh, those tasks still haven’t been completed.

Here I am in the call queue of what I can only hope is the right place. I’m not really holding my breath because I usually get transferred incorrectly at least twice before I get to a person that can actually help me. I started all of this at roughly three o’clock. I hit the queue just a little before four o’clock. It is now four forty-five and I am still listening to stupid music and annoying recorded voices thanking me for my patience. I hung up and haven’t gotten my problem fixed yet. And don’t bother trying to get help from your account representative. That’s not his job any more. He’s there to put contracts in front of you and to tell you which useless numbers to call for help. This isn’t like the old days when a rep actually tried to get problems resolved. Nope. He’s a paper and responsibility pusher.

I’d like to thank AT&T for this absolutely wonderful lack of service, confusing voice menus, and absolute most retarded customer service restructure in the history of man. If the guy in charge of my account isn’t really there to service my account. Then call him by a different title. I suggest going with something like Corporate Rape Specialist or Blame Pusher.

Movies With Flair

I just got back from watching Wall-E. Most of the movie had no dialogue. When there was, it was mostly made up of the same two or three words. After all, we are talking about robots here. Now I won’t get into movie spoilers because everyone should take the time to go see this flick. However, I do have to ask a few questions of Hollywood in general.

First off, why do you feel the need to continue pumping out brainless crap every year. It’s not even original brainless crap…you recycle regurgitate the same old crap you foisted on us a year or two ago with different actors and a number tacked onto the title. Has all of the talent died? Is there nobody left with the capability to tell a story you haven’t already raped into oblivion?

This is why Wall-E is such a wonderful experience. There is almost no craptacular script to be voiced. It is a story told the old fashioned way, through expression. You don’t have to have a guitar shredding soundtrack with gratuitous explosions and headlining names to make a great story. You need only a great story to tell a great story. Wall-E has that. In spades. Period.

So much can be conveyed to the audience with just a change of the eyes or a twitch of the hand. It can be further enhanced by a truly well composed score…that’s score…not bad hair band knock off riffs. Wall-E is a tale that was beautifully conceived and masterfully told. I may even go see it again in the theaters and regular readers will understand how much that means considering my displeasure with parting with my meager money supply.

So how about it Hollywood? Why do you think that your audience is composed of imbeciles that are incapable of understanding a well told story? What is it that makes you so afraid to deviate from brainless remakes of movies that were mediocre at best to begin with? What the hell is your problem? I, for one, would like to know. But you won’t answer, will you? You’ll just continue on your same old path and wonder why people are stealing so much from you through pirating. Let me give you a little hint: People don’t want to spend their hard earned cash buying the crap you spew forth in the guise of blockbusters. Make it worth our money and we’ll actually get it legally.

Actually, I’m not going to get too deep into that argument right now. I can’t speak for the population in general but I can say that for myself and a goodly number of people I know, we will pay gladly when it is actually good. When it isn’t we’ll find other ways to get our hands on it for those random occasions when we want to see the brainless uninspired disgorged fecal matter you call movies.

George Carlin – RIP (NSFFW)

No, I did that right. It’s NSFFW. I think you can guess what the other F is for considering this post is about the comedic icon George Carlin. He died yesterday at age 71 of heart failure, which sucks. Am I mourning him? Hell no. I loved that man in a purely heterosexual way. He was one of my heroes. But I’m not going to insult the guy that made seven words famous by crying at his grave.

Continue reading “George Carlin – RIP (NSFFW)”

Welcome to the 21st Century, Comcast

In the long struggle with my cable service there has always been one thing that has bugged me. Comcast is arguably one of the largest communication companies in the United States. So why are they about the only company in the United States that still doesn’t have an e-bill option? They give me internet and (sometimes) cable television and can even supply me with telephone service. But I can only get my bill via snail mail. Is it really so hard to send me an email?

I would imagine with all the money Comcast makes from the gouging prices standard in the cable industry they could afford a programmer or two to write a couple of scripts to generate a little email to all subscribers that opt-in saying that their bill is ready. I mean, damn, I can view my bill at the site and I can pay it there as well. All I want is a freakin’ email telling me it’s ready to be taken care of. I’m not asking for a full blown html bill with personal information that can be stolen…just a message that says “Your Comcast bill for <date> is ready. Please visit Comcast.com to pay your bill.” I’ve got an eleven year old daughter that could probably write a script to do this.

That being said, I talked to a lady at Comcast today that said they were supposed to roll that very feature out yesterday but had a problem so it will most likely be a couple of weeks to a month before they try it again. So again I ask, what’s so hard about this? I’m making the assumption that billing information is kept in a database. So all you need is a script to run a query for a bill date and opt-in status that then generates the emails for those people and sends them out. You are planning on making a form on the site to opt in to such a thing, right? After all, I know I’m not alone in the people that have never used their Comcast.Net address.

I’m sure they want a fancy html laden beast of a message but I don’t think that people in general give a damn about how pretty it is or how much it looks like the site (which in my opinion is craptastic). Please hire some people to address this guys. I want email notifications of my bills so you can stop killing trees on my behalf. Besides, I use my inbox as a bill reminder system. Only unpaid bill emails stay there. Everything else is filed away. Anything that hits my physical mailbox is usually forgotten unless it comes from Netflix.

** If you’ve been following my service saga, I promise that I’m working on a new update post. I just need to give the latest developments a little time to simmer before I serve them up.

Comcast Episode Three: Revenge of the Box

Another week and still the high signal issues persist. I figured that since the tech that came out Saturday was one that had been there before and managed to get me fixed back then, I would see some satisfaction. I was wrong. While attempting to watch Good Eats last night I got frozen frames, pixelated video, trilling sound…the full Max Headroom treatment…that culminated in a nice box in the middle of the screen once again informing me that I needed to subscribe if I wanted to watch Food Network. Come on guys, it can’t be that hard to fix a signal problem. Continue reading “Comcast Episode Three: Revenge of the Box”