Dell-pocalypse 2017

Not unlike the upcoming Transformers films, Dell’s crappy support is something no one asked for, but seems to remain indefinitely like a stain upon the Earth. If you recall, after a poor experience with Dell’s “consumer grade” XPS 15, I purchased a customized “business/enterprise class” Precision 5510 laptop workstation. Could my existing relationship, however poor, with Dell get any worse?

Yes. Far worse.

Truthfully, I should have known better. However, I figured Dell’s enterprise/business lineup was similar to Lenovo – comprised of quality, stable, tested, and reliable products. After all, they are being used in the enterprise, and no one likes having to work through major technical issues when you have hundreds or thousands of systems in your organization. But within the first week or two of owning the Precision, it was clear I was wrong. The sounds of the trumpets played and my world was turned upside down. The Dell-pocalypse begins in March 2016, shortly after the system was ordered.

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Why TiVo Owners Pirate More TV Content Than Any Demographic

Alright, that’s not entirely true. It seems to be becoming more and more true however, as I find myself attempting to use my TiVo services over time. That’s right folks – TiVo. Remember them?

TiVo is (mostly) alive. In 2012 TiVo had approximately 2.3 million US subscribers, down from 4.36 million at their peak in January 2006. That was over 10 years ago of course, it’s quite likely they have less subscribers in the US at this time. Especially if one of their customers spent any length of time with their software; the consistent faults in which are beginning to take their toll on my patience and mind.

If you’ve ever had a TiVo you probably know their customer support is a bit shit, to say the least. I would rather call Comcast than call TiVo. I’m unsure of the company to whom TiVo, Inc has outsourced calls, however there are people working the register at McDonalds who are more competent. Since Rovi finalized the acquisition of TiVo and their IP, it seems support has become worse, actually.

My frustrations with corporate mergers and overpaid under-challenged TiVo call center trainers aside, TiVo has always had a few good spots, such as the UI on the TiVo, big graphical buttons, and a comfortable “peanut” remote. They’ve also had a few bad spots as well. For me:

  1. customer service & technical support
  2. online streaming via online.tivo.com
  3. nonsensical requirements for connecting your TiVo directly to the router

A room of cats riding a Roomba, wearing a shark costume and headsets would provide better, more comprehensive, and professional support to their customers than what they have now.

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I converted to Android and found out why you should only use Squaretrade for extended warranties!

September 16, 2016

Apple announces iOS 10. A storm brews as my excitement for new features is destroyed by poorly crafted UI changes to the Messages app. My “loyalty” to the last remaining Apple product I would ever purchase fades into the night. Of course, I wouldn’t replace it with a Windows Phone; been there, done that, and to use a cliché – I have the t-shirt. My only choice was a dumb phone or an Android phone.

I’m no fan of Samsung or HTC, and was left with few options.

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Dell XPS 15 (9550) Review & My Disastrous Experience with Dell

This post has been rewritten since original publishing. Blog mea regulae meae!

With regard to the acquisition of computers, I have a rule – buy business or enterprise class hardware. Yes, they are more expensive, but more often than not, the hardware and technical support you receive are better than consumer grade hardware. Business class products are typically engineered to last longer as companies tend to buy large quantities of computers and don’t rotate them out for several years at a time.

Recently, I broke that rule and through my own doing, paid the price.

Several weeks ago I decided I wanted to sell my beloved Fujitsu Lifebook U904. It’s somewhat of a collectible, in my opinion, given they didn’t sell them for very long, making it a limited edition of sorts. I created an eBay account just to sell this item, and after a few scam attempts, sold the computer to a good home. I was undecided in which computer the Lifebook would be replaced with. Another Fujitsu perhaps? The previous one never gave me an ounce of trouble, despite it’s awful trackpad and “shallower than a kiddie pool” keyboard.  Unfortunately, as of this writing, Fujitsu doesn’t seem to sell a ultrabook or ultrabook-esque notebook with a QHD+ resolution, or higher, like my U904.

In a market where the PC is allegedly dying as more and more people use tablets or convertibles, I was somewhat limited in choice. Then I noticed many blogs were covering the newly refreshed Dell XPS 15″ with the Skylake processor from Intel. It was pure happenstance I found one in the Dell Outlet with the configuration I wanted:

  • Intel “Skylake” i7 quad core processor
  • 16 GB RAM, user accessible and upgradable
  • 512 GB SSD, also user accessible and upgradable
  • 4K Infinity Edge Display
  • among other core features…

The laptop was priced well for a refurbished model, and surprisingly came with a 1 year warranty, instead of 90 days or similar, as several other manufacturers do. Little did I know my experience with Dell would end in frustration.

“Frodo, Throw it in the fire!” I heard in the distance as I unboxed the notebook for the first time. I should have listened.

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Banished from the Apple Store (and also my experiences with Apple Music)

If you’re an avid reader of my blog, you’re probably familiar with the ongoing saga that is Me vs. the Apple Store in Jacksonville, FL. If you’re new here, here’s a brief recap:

  • Incident 1: Several years ago I spilled some sort of liquid on my MacBook. The logic board was toast. I visited the Apple Store in Jacksonville to recycle the machine. I made the unfortunate mistake of not removing my hard drive prior to the visit, and upon asking them if either they could remove it, or while I stand at the genius bar, let me use the teeny-tiny screwdriver they use, I could remove it. Their answer was a flat no with the added “You could use it as a weapon”. Tensions escalated, and I removed the battery (back when you could!) and in front of the store, beat the hell out of the hard drive, shattering the platters beyond recovery. Handing the MacBook to the Apple guy, they refused to accept it, stating “it’s too beat up”. Why that matters when it’s going to be melted down or whatever they do, is beyond me. Needless to say, after some choice words, they kept that laptop.
  • Incident 2: Just last year, my Airport Extreme went tits up, and needed a hardware replacement. After a pleasant conversation with AppleCare, they phoned the Jacksonville store and setup the hardware swap (as it was faster, and I needed my router). On arriving to the store – I provided the “Apple Concierge” with the information given to me by AppleCare only to be asked “Do you have an appointment?”. The encounter didn’t end well for this gentleman, after some phone calls and dealing with one of their Managers, I got my hardware swap.
    In between, I have had a consistently poor customer service experience in the store, year after year, visit after visit. Many, of their staff have a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, and it really reminds me of the brief romance Verizon Wireless and I had, where after cancelling and returning my device, the manager chased me out of the store, shaking his finger, while shouting “You’ll be back! Verizon is the best!”. Staff in this Apple store are rude, and often hard to locate. To be blunt, I receive better customer service from the IRS than the local Apple Store and much prefer the store in Orlando.
  • The above said, I still have a few Apple products in personal use. While we have replaced our home router with gear from Ubiquiti, I do have an iPhone 6 and an Apple Music subscription.

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My last experience with Office Depot – the “Comcast” of Office Supply Stores

Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.

-Lois McMaster Bujold

It’s too bad a certain office supply company isn’t aware of this. As you may have surmised, I have a running tally of companies on my, well, let’s face it – ‘shit list’, and Office Depot is the most recent award winner! Congrats guys, a membership card and welcome basket is in the mail!

It began about a week ago when I spotted a deal on Lifehacker, or was it Gizmodo? I’m not sure. Anyway, the deal was for a 3M dual arm/articulating monitor stand at Office Depot for $59.99 instead of the usual $332.99. What a fantastic deal! I had been considering re-doing my desk by purchasing a solid wood table top, some legs from IKEA, and mounting my monitors on an articulating stand for ergonomics and convenience. This huge price difference, $273 before tax, would enable me to do that and have minimal out of pocket expenses.

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Is providing customer service a blessing or burden to your company?

For many companies, customer service is their lifeblood, not their product. After all, customers give them money in exchange for an expectation of excellent service. It’s a dying art, customer service, in which no one is an expert, merely a student. Unfortunately, some companies take the easy way out – offer a good-to-excellent product, build an extensive knowledge base, and in the event someone contacts them, offer a canned reply in the hopes of “shooing” them away.

The scenario I just described happened to me this week. Sadly, it was from a company I least expected – BackBlaze.

BackBlaze is an online backup service. They compete with your Carbonites, CrashPlans, and Mozy’s of the world. Their bread and butter is their $5.00 monthly plan with unlimited storage, a deal compared to Mozy’s $9.99/mo for 120 GB, Carbonite’s clumsy and somewhat unreliable software, and CrashPlans cumbersome interface.

Don’t be fooled though. Where BackBlaze has pioneered in great software, they’ve created huge setbacks in their customer service arena.

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Two Factor Authentication + Forgotten/Lost Authenticator Tokens

Everyone’s heard of the “domain name”, in fact, you use one every day. Whether it’s www.google.com, https://gmail.google.com, or even your local news, that’s a domain name. They come in many shapes and sizes, from .com to .xyz. What many aren’t familiar with are the companies who sell domain names. (Side note: Many aren’t aware of how domain names work either, but that’s an article for another day).

A bit of background first:

  • Until 1999, only one company operated the three domain registries: .com, .net, and .org. This meant they not only sold the domains, but they also were the only company who was able to register domains. To put this simply: Imagine having the choice of 3 cars: Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus, but you can only buy them & insure them with 1 dealership.
  • The monopoly ended after a failed anti-trust suit and pressure from the United States Department of Commerce. This created the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, also known as ICANN.
  • ICANN governs the issuance of IP addresses on the internet & the policies/policing of domain registrars (such as eNOM, GoDaddy, and many others). Note: That’s a nutshell version of what ICANN does; describing their full scope of power would be like deciphering who really runs IKEA. If you’re curious, there is a well written article about ICANN here.

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Another one bites the dust…

Continuing the saga that is the tragic romance between Apple products and myself, we have suffered yet another premature product loss. If you recall, I recently had a bout with Apple when my AirPort Extreme went wonky and I was forced to deal with the insufferable staffers at my local Apple Store. (In case you don’t recall, click here and read all about it).

As you know, in the aforementioned interaction Apple replaced my AirPort Extreme with a new one, not their “store service unit”. Nice of them to do! One problem….. that “new” AirPort Extreme just went tits up.

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On Apple’s Customer Service – Missing The Mark

Generally, I won’t write about Apple. After all, I worked as an AppleCare agent for some time and was a Mac user for 6 or 7 years, I don’t have much more to say other than I admire the company Apple_graphite_airport_base_station_frontfor their competitive edge, industry stamina, and culture. We all know I’m a little biased to Microsoft, but if you think I’m “above” using a Mac or Apple product, you’d be wrong.

My favorite home/pro-sumer router has always been the Apple Airport. I’ve actually had one since they came out in 1999, back when they were shaped like a UFO (and graphite/silver, to boot!). The product was, and remains, stable. I rarely have to reboot my Airport.

Sure, things are a bit different with the product. You don’t get a web interface, and it can be a bit tedious to configure advanced features, like port forwarding. But it’s reliable, and doesn’t crash like other brands I’ve had in the past, and doesn’t cost as much as a Cisco or Juniper router (which requires another set of skills to manage).

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