Archive for the ‘Technical’ Category

More interface with Shaw Cable: Or, it only hurts when I pound my head on the table

July 12, 2010

Just when I was starting to have semi-fond feelings for the technical staff at Shaw Cable – at least the ones who work with the business accounts (don’t even talk to me about the residential account people) – I was brought down to earth.

Over the years I have had my ups and downs with Shaw over various things. But after I realized that because my e-mail was a business account and not residential (how I got there is a story in itself) and started dealing with the technicians in that department I thought I had reached Nirvana. The business technicians seemed much more technically competent and helpful.

Then came the reckoning.

For the past 15 years or so I have sent out a little e-mail ALERT, under the name of the BC Wildlife Federation, to about 450 people; a list that I have accumulated over that period. I forward articles, etc., that I think will be of interest to most of the group (you can’t please everyone all of the time or, more correctly, any of the time).

However, recently a nasty problem has raised its head.

A while back, I sent out an ALERT and it just disappeared into the black hole of the internet. I send out the emails with my recipients listed as blind copies and nothing came back to me and nothing went to anyone on my list. It was just gone!

I contacted Shaw and discovered that after all of this time I had been tagged as a spammer. When I tried to determine why, after all of these years, I had suddenly been blocked I was given a number of reasons: Too many addresses on an e-mail, although I was within the limit set for me by Shaw. Inactive addresses that I had not deleted from my list, of which I was guilty.The fact that I was blind copying the addresses on my list,which according to the technician raised the spam suspicion level (this seemed ridiculous to me).

So I reduced the number of addresses per e-mail, which meant that I had to send out more e-mails to cover my list. I deleted the old inactive addresses from my book but I continued to blind copy my list as I didn’t want to have everyone’s e-mail address out there for all the world to see.

I was back on line and everything went well for a while. Then I was closed down again.

This time I was told that I needed to put a line on my posts that told the recipient how to opt out of receiving the ALERTs. I was naive enough to think that anyone who wanted off the list would simply hit reply and ask to be removed – which various people had done over the years. So I added this information and eventually was able to get off the blocking list.

Then the other day it happened again. I sent out an ALERT and it disappeared.

I called Shaw and this time I was told that there had been complaints about the list being spam. I asked them for the nature of the complaint and who had made the complaint(s) so I could remove them from the list. They said they couldn’t do that, although they did indicate that they did have that information (whether or not that was actually true, I don’t know).

I pointed out to them that their handling of this was similar to being tried in court and not being allowed to know what the charges were or who was making the accusations. This argument did not resonate with them in any way – obviously not civil libertarians.

The told me that it was my problem and it was up to me to fix it and they did this to protect their customers. I pointed out to them that I was their customer and they should be trying to help me. Again they were unmoved by this venture into logical discourse.

What they now told me was that I needed to contact everyone on my list and get confirmation from them that they wanted to continue to receive the ALERTs. (This was not a short conversation as I tried the patience of a technician close to the breaking point – although he gamely managed to stay civil – and then did the same with a supervisor. None of which gained me any ground in my attempt to get them to assist me in solving my problem).

Knowing when I was whipped I decided to go the route of getting ‘opt-ins’ from my list.

In my first attempt I wrote up a note asking the recipient to give me a ‘yes’ or’ no’ answer to the question of whether they wished to continue receiving the ALERTs. I put 70 addresses on one email and sent it. Of course it also disappeared into the blogosphere. Now I was in a catch-22 situation. I had to contact my list but Shaw was blocking me from doing so.

So I phoned back to Shaw.

Now if anyone has ever had the need to phone into a call-in centre you know it’s not a process for the impatient. There is a wait (although admittedly Shaw has a call-back process that works fairly well if you choose to use it). But by now this was about 11:00 PM so I opted to just hang on to the phone and eventually I got another technician.

I gave him a ticket number I had received from Shaw some time back which (I presume) explained the history of my problem and I would hope all that had happened since. I told him about my problem with trying to follow their instructions about sending out an opt-in request.

His solution? Send individual e-mails to each of the 450+ list members. I said that bordered on ridiculous. It could have been a serious suggestion, but I think it was a standard call-in centre ploy to try and get your customer off the phone and out of your hair in the quickest time possible. However, that may just be me being cynical.

He then went away and studied further on the situation and came and told me that my e-mails had now been limited to 20 addresses each. At this point, being late and my frustration level set at maximum I hung up. Rudely, I’m afraid.

Then I decided, OK we will play by the new rules. So I set up an e-mail and, playing it safe, put on 18 addresses. It disappeared, presumably into Shaw’s spam folder. I tried it again with 18 different addresses with the same result. I then tried to send an e-mail with 5 addresses, again with the same result.

At that point I gave in to the inevitable. But it is an interesting conundrum.

Shaw shuts down my service because they have tagged me as a spammer. The can’t or won’t reverse their decision when I explain the situation but tell me that I have to fix the problem on my own. Then to complete the circle, they won’t let me even try to fix the problem.

For this I pay them money.

Welcome to the new world of customer service.


WiFi on the road

May 9, 2010

This article makes note of something that has struck me as amusing (and annoying) when I am traveling. It seems that the more expensive the hotel, the more likely it is that you will be charged to access their WiFi system.

A while back I was in Ottawa and staying at a downtown hotel which stuck you for about $10 a day to connect into their WiFi. However literally all of the low to medium cost motels and hotels that you stay at around the country has their system available as a free service.

Obviously they figure that anyone staying and paying in the top dollar hotels is probably on company business and will charge the cost back to the company, so they really aren’t too concerned about the extra cost.

But it does seem rather bizarre that if you are staying at a $200 plus hotel you get tapped extra for internet access but in a $50 per night unit (and there still are some decent ones out there) you get your internet with no charge.

However, it’s better that way than the reverse.

The above-noted article also links to Hotel which has its 2010 Annual WiFi Report.

In its Worst Hotel WiFi section, they note that Las Vegas is consistently bad in trying to get decent WiFi. I suspect that they are talking specifically about the casinos. When passing through Sin City we usually stay at a Clarion Hotel just off the strip, which does have free WiFi, but not a very strong signal. To the point that I found it mostly unusable. But I gave them a slight nod for at least trying.

Last fall while in Laughlin for a golf tournament, the Casino where we stayed had no WiFi at all (and probably the crappiest TV I have found in a hotel for a couple of decades), but I reasoned that they wanted you down in their casino flushing your money through their machines and not sitting around your room watching TV or surfing the internet.

I suspect that if there is poor WiFi service in the Las Vegas casinos it would be for the same reason.

Magic Jack: My new favourite thing

March 28, 2010

Usually when I travel into the U.S. we buy a phone card or two and use them for any long distance calls we need to make. However prior to my latest trip south I was told about the Magic Jack, which I initially thought was too good to be true.

The deal was that you bought the Magic Jack for just under 40 bucks and set it up on your computer. Then you subscribed for $10 to their service for a year. Plug the phone into the Magic Jack unit and the unit into your phone and you can dial out  to any phone number in the USA or Canada with no further costs. Plus they issue you a phone number with the area code of your choice.

I bought it. I set it up. I connected my phone. And it works like a damn.

The only problem I encountered was that they couldn’t supply my 250 area code and I had to take a 604 code. A minor inconvenience and one I hope to be able to rectify in the future.

Now when I travel, I will just take along my netbook, the magic Jack unit and a phone set and I can make calls (local or long distance) as long as I can get computer service.

As I have said before: Ain’t technology wonderful.

Tracfone reactivation. Service Call Centres. Incompetence.

March 12, 2010

There is one rule to follow when you are forced to phone into a call centre for technical assistance: You need to reconcile yourself to phoning back as many times as necessary until you eventually find someone with enough technical knowledge to solve your problem.

Unfortunately, this may take some time and an incredible amount of patience.

I have been around the track on a number of occasions with Shaw Cable and Telus to name a couple but I just had an experience trying to re-activate a tracfone, add time and change its area code that  almost broke my spirit once and for all. I should have kept track of the actual time spent on the phone but overall it was a minimum of 5 hours and possibly as high as 8 hours.

I initially phoned in and talked to one of the representatives based in some far off country. I explain that I want to change the phone’s area code from 206 to 623. That apparently isn’t available, but they can use 602, which is satisfactory to me.  I give the phone serial number as requested and she keeps going away for “2 minutes” and has me typing in codes and finally says that I should turn off the phone and turn it back on in one hour and my phone will be as requested. I am elated.

One hour later I turn my phone on and nothing has changed. So, being an eternal optimist, I leave it over night and turn it on again the next morning. No magic.

So I phone again, and get another person, probably at another call centre, in some other far corner of the world and we go through the same routine. Serial numbers and codes. We have some trouble with the code.  She can’t seem to differentiate between 206 and 602. By this time the phone is actually activated and the time added. We are simply down to the area code change. She transfers me to another person/department to do the job. No information is passed on so I again go through the explanation and give the serial number and we type in codes. This time I am told to turn off the phone and turn it back on in 15 minutes. We have reduced the time frame!

But unfortunately, 15 minutes later we still have the 206 area code.

As my wife points out, at this point I could let it drop and live with the old area code. But they said they could change the code and I will persevere. So I call again and go through all of the same procedures – serial number, type in codes, turn phone off and on. No change. After well over an hour of this I get a busy signal and I am cut off from the call centre.

I phone back, but at this point I ask to talk to a supervisor. Of course I go back on hold until someone is available and am on hold long enough that I am beginning to suspect that they are hoping that I will give up and go away. Finally I get the supervisor, but there has been no information forwarded to him and of course we go through the same stuff all over again.

He works away on the problem and lo and behold the 602 area code shows up on my phone. I am ecstatic. I feel as though I have won the game. I thanks the guy for his hard work and for solving the problem. We hang up. I am pumped.

Then I try the phone. I can’t send or receive calls.

I phone back and again wait until someone becomes available in some far off country. And we do everything again but he can’t make the  phone work. He transfers me to a supervisor and we do the dance again. After a while he says he has it fixed and that I should turn my phone off and wait a short time and all will be well. I tell him that my confidence level in their capabilities has been severely diminished and that I don’t think that I have ever worked with such an incompetent group in my life. He tells me that he is sorry that I feel that way, but I doubt his sincerity  and suspect that he has heard this before.

But I did the man a disservice. When the phone gets turned back on its new area code is 480, which is also satisfactory – and the phone sends and receives. Problem solved. I’m exhausted. I feel as though I’ve gone 9 rounds and lost.

However, to add insult to injury, at one point while trying to change the area code, one of the people asked me for the area code where we were. Then he asked for my street address and my email address. I was trying to figure out  what value this info was to him in solving the problem. When I was dealing with the final person, he also asked me for my email address. But by this time I am way bent out of shape and  asked him why the hell he needed my email when he wasn’t sending me any messages anyway. Well, he said, ‘you don’t have to give it but we will send you out promotional material’. At which point I came unglued. I had been on the phone phone for so long with these yahoos that my ear was becoming deformed and he wanted to send me promotional material! And I was dumb enough to give them the mailing address as well.

I can only plead mental exhaustion.

Isn’t technology wonderful.

Your everyday home defence flashlight

January 26, 2010

This is incredible. Just spotted it over at Dave Petzal’s Gun Nut blog.

They would ban that one in Canada before you had time to turn the flashlight on.

The Joke in Copenhagen

December 23, 2009

I have now gone from being merely skeptical of the global warming frenzy to being angry by the revelations that we have been defrauded by people who have manipulated data and stonewalled any critical analysis of their findings and who have had the unmitigated gall to call themselves scientists. I am angry because  politicians and bureaucrats seem determined to forge ahead with policies that will do mortal damage our economies in spite of the information now becoming available that data was doctored in order to prove a predetermined hypothesis.

To add to all of this, after the e-mails out of East Anglia and just when the “scientists” and the global warming theorists were getting into their damage control mode attempting to explain that what the e-mails said meant something entirely different than what it sounded like, they were hit by a report from Russia that the temperature database from that country had been manipulated by the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) to show greater warming in Russia that was actually the case.

From there we went to the circus in Copenhagen where demagogues such as Venezuala’s president Hugo Chavez received standing ovations for his attacks on capitalism and his arch-enemy the U.S.

Assembled world leaders cheered on Chavez Wednesday during his first, scheduled speech, a ringing attack on all things capitalist that earned him standing ovations from leaders of the Third World.

Chavez berated developed nations for creating an “imperial dictatorship” that rules the world and urging his audience to “fight against capitalism,” the “silent and terrible ghost” that was haunting the elegant conference chambers in the Danish capital.

“I promise I won’t talk more than others have talked this afternoon,” he said at the start of a rambling, 25-minute diatribe that outshot other speakers by a full 20 minutes. In the wide-ranging speech, he called capitalism the “road to hell” responsible for poverty, murder, AIDS — and even unfair climate agreements, the Toronto Star reported.

And there were others

Over in Copenhagen, we have Robert Mugabe, perhaps the most brutal and corrupt despot in Africa, whose life’s work has been to destroy the once-prosperous country of Zimbabwe, lecturing the West on the “hypocrisy” of its position on climate change. (Zimbabwe doesn’t have to worry about greenhouse gas emissions, because, thanks to Mugane, its economy is in a state of collapse.) Update: Here’s Stephen Lewis talking about a new report on Mugabe’s use of rape as a weapon.

We have the government of China, which won’t allow its citizens free access to the Internet, complaining that the climate summit is “not transparent.”

We have Hugo Chavez, who took time off from shutting down Venezuela’s radio stations to fly to Denmark, complaining about western “dictatorship.” (If anyone back in Venezuela disagrees, he’ll toss them in jail).

Of course we also have the patriotic Mayor of Toronto, David Miller, standing up for Canada – sorry, my mistake. You have David Miller slamming Canada by volunteering to accept a Fossil award in Canada’s name.
“Like most Canadians, I’m embarrassed … our government continues to be one of the biggest obstacles to reaching agreement,” Mr. Miller said as he accepted two “Fossil of the Day” awards on behalf of Canada last week.
Two other commentaries that are well worth reading.
As always, a well-written, thoughtful column by Rex Murphy, which says in part:

If the hard science of global warming, or at least as much of that emergent discipline that may be called hard science, is to be the factual and scientific fulcrum on which policies for the world’s energy are to be decided, then it logically follows that such science must be absolutely untainted. That it not be infused with the activist spirit, that advocacy follows the science, not that science seeks to comport with advocacy. It is really impossible to read some of those e-mails and not to take, from both their tone and their substance, that the necessary neutrality and disinterest of true scientific enterprise – the essential virtues of science – have been severely disobliged.

Has the science been tainted, is the question of our time. Has the authority and prestige of scientific practice been invoked at the very moment when its methods – its practice – has been, to any degree, corrupted or degraded? This would be a reasonable question – and let me stress it is still a question – even if the project or subject was one of far less consequence and scope than the planet’s climate and its economic practice.

That question is not being asked with the rigour we should expect. There is something about the great cause of global warming that tends to disarm scrutiny, to tamp down the normal reflexes of tough questioning and investigation that the press brings to every other arena. The great conference at Copenhagen seems to have whistled by the quite momentous challenge that the East Anglia e-mails presents to the centrality of the claims made by the global warming cause. Lots of fossil-of-the-day moments – not many hard press conferences.

Then another by Roger J. Simon on Pajamas Media, who was in Copenhagen for the conference and who observes that the conference was less about CO2 reduction than about moving power into the hands of the UN.

It will say the same of Copenhagen, no doubt. At least the presence of the various despots (Chavez, Mugabe, the re-upped A-jad, etc.) was not as damaging this time. It was more of sideshow, compared to the true objective of COP15 – the cementing of UN bureaucratic power under the guise of CO2 regulation. That was why the Climategate revelations were particularly poorly timed for the United Nations. Yes, they were largely ignored or dismissed at press conferences, but they were an overwhelming presence about which many were aware.

But much of the reality of the conference seemed to me to be an opportunity for third world countries to try and extract money from the west to use for their own purposes. This comment from a US agricultural reperesentative at the conference had the same take on the proceedings.

“To me, it appeared like they wanted our money to fix the problems they have that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with greenhouse gases or climate change,” he says. “It’s just the fact that they wanted to redistribute the wealth.  They wanted our dollars because we were the ‘rich Americans’.”

I think that pretty much sums it up: redistribution of wealth. That’s the plan.

Troubleshooting with Shaw Cable

September 10, 2009

It’s not just Shaw Cable. I have had the same problem with Telus and other organizations that have call centres for their service work. It just seem to me that they hire people to man the lines, give them some basic knowledge and then turn them loose on their unsuspecting customers. And if they can’t solve your problem using the few tricks they’ve been shown, they simply try to find a way to bullshit you off the phone. Perhaps a little harsh, but here’s my story.

We bought a new flat screen TV and decided to also buy a PVR unit from Shaw (marked down $150 from the original price of $650) which would upgrade us to HD and also give all of the recording advantages that go along with the unit.

To make a long story short, when I hooked it up to the TV and called Shaw they couldn’t get it to work. (One of the reps I talked to said she was going to “force” a signal through, which I thought was interesting technical terminology). It was decided that the signal into the our unit was too weak (this turned out to be the case) and booked me for a technician’s visit. The best we could negotiate was a time about 10 days down the road. Fine.

When the anticipated day arrived, so did the technician. Good guy. Weak signal, which he was able to fix. We checked the HD channels and they were all there. The problem was solved, or so we thought. But we made the fatal error of not checking all of the other channels.

After the tech left I found that almost all of the lower channels showed up as unsubscribed. It was weird in that between channels 3 & 50 I was only receiving channels 4, 5 and 30 and was also missing Fox news on the digital end (which I assumed could have been part of a far left conspiracy).

Called Shaw again and was told that they would try to get the technician back, but after a few hours had passed and no tech, I called again. Nope, the technician couldn’t come back today – hadn’t anyone called me? This new service rep tried all of the resetting again to no avail and said that she would book another appointment with a technician, but it would be a while.

And I said – “This is not satisfactory. If I don’t have a technician here by tomorrow, I am bringing back the PVR for a refund and I going to look at satellite systems”. And she said, “Let’s not be hasty, let me go and check something”.

Shortly thereafter I had all of my channels back. Turns out – according to the rep – the channel codes were wrong and they had to be manually inputted. I’ll accept that explanation, but I was pretty damned sure that the problem I was having wasn’t at my end and if the technician had shown up another week down the road he would have just phoned the Shaw office and told them to fix it.

It was a day of high stress levels.

I have tagged this posting under “humour” as I am sure that some day I will see it as such.

SHOT Show report

January 19, 2009

Jim Shepherd from the Outdoor Wire did some excellent interviews at the SHOT Show. This one with Insight Technology on their line of tactical flashlights made my wallet twitch. I think I need one of those programmable ones.

I love the SOS feature.