This is what I do when I’m not at work.

r0c-n0c Rocks!

Posted: May 24th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: computers, review, technospiel | No Comments »

Some customer service experiences go well above the norm. One I’d like to report is with a network products reseller called r0c-n0c. A few years ago, when asking around for a good place to purchase a simple network switch, multiple folks came forward to recommend r0c-n0c. So, I decided to give them a try and ordered a Mikrotik RouterBoard RB260G. The price was affordable, and the delivery was swift. On experience #1, so far, so good.

Recently, I was looking for a larger switch with more ports and the ability to perform multiple spanning ports. I wanted to go back to www.r0c-n0c.com and see what they had available. This time I had my heart set on the much beefier Mikrotik Cloud Router Switch CRS125-24G-1S-2HnD-IN. This appeared to be exactly what I was looking for, so I ordered it. Along with my order, I put a comment in the note field saying “If this switch cannot do multiple span ports, then please cancel this order.” 

To my amazement, I actually got a follow up phone call and email from Tom at r0c-n0c. He wanted to make sure I knew why my order was declined, and it was for precisely the reason outlined in my note. So, what was so good about this customer service experience? Read on…

First, most companies would have ignored the note and sent the item along, allowing me to discover (after a certain amount of frustration) that the device did not do the function I needed. They would have been interested in shipping another unit and letting the customer figure it out.

Second, Tom took the time to contact me promptly to make sure I understood what was going on.

Third, Tom and I exchanged several emails and phone calls, where he did his best to answer my questions and help me understand why this device didn’t serve my needs.

And fourth, Tom spent a good deal of time contacting the manufacturer and posting to Mikrotik support forums about my query. I wouldn’t even have known where to look for these forums or wanted to wade through the posts and responses. Tom took the time to figure out that the CRS125-24G-1S-2HnD-IN did not do what I needed NOW, but that in a future firmware revision, should likely be able to perform multiple span ports across the same network plane.

I was impressed at one and two. By three and four, I was quite amazed. Tom displayed patience with a confused customer and went beyond that to provide great information. He was not out to sell and ship another unit, but to foster great customer service and maintain a good customer relationship. So, as you can imagine, when I need networking products in the future, I will be returning to the pages of r0c-n0c.com. Thanks, Tom!


10 Years, 5 Cell Phones

Posted: March 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: computers, technospiel | 1 Comment »

I was the last person I knew to get a cell phone (way back in 2005). In the ten years since, most folks have had a dozen phones or more. I have maintained my phones long-term and been fairly easy on them.

5 cell phones with boxes

As of early 2014, all of them still worked (or at least powered on) and I’m just now getting around to selling them. I am keeping the new Moto X on the right hand side. The Galaxy Nexus and Deft XT phones are gone, but the iPhone 3G and RAZR are still available! LOL

5 cell phones powered on

Below is a simple breakdown of the phones, features, and average service costs per provider. The cost of owning a cell phone has exponentially grown over the past few years, but thanks to Republic Wireless they have now become affordable. Their average plan runs $25 per month and the service has been quite good.

5 cell phones with features and service costs

AT&T cell phone coverage was fantastic, only dropping 2 or 3 phone calls in 6+ years. However, data speeds were mediocre. Once the iPhone 3G got on in years and software upgrades, it definitely got slower and more glitch-ridden, but the data service was still quite slow at the time. AT&T may be better now with 4G and network upgrades. YMMV

Since Galaxy Nexus from Samsung was to be the hot new thing, I resigned to leave AT&T and join up with Verizon Wireless. My negative premonitions all came true, with Verizon touting the worst customer service reps of all time. “Even worse than Time Warner Cable” Their costs were always over $125 per month with added fees; over $200 per month for 2 phones. Data service was great if you were close to an unobscured 4G tower. In the two years I was on Verizon, I’d say that on average their service dropped half (50%) of my phone calls. I brought this up several times with Customer Service and was told “you have trees in your neighborhood.” Yet I was losing calls all over RTP. I cancelled my 2-year plan in December 2013 and Verizon kept auto-billing me full price for two months until I caught it on my credit card statement and complained. Overall, not recommended.

The first Republic Wireless phone (the Motorola Defy XT) was a beta and more of a “Proof of Concept” for the viability of the new WiFi-based mobile service. The phone was tough, compact and was comfortable to hold. The screen was smaller than most smart phones today and thus felt cramped. The camera was not very good, but coverage for the most part was acceptable. Some glitches with some minor issues, such as duplicate SMS.

Eventually they worked it out and got a top-notch phone (the Motorola Moto X). Similarly, there were a few initial issues, such as call loss with auto-transfer between a WiFi network and the cellular network. All these issues seem to be sorted and the phone and service have been great.

Based on current costs and capabilities of the Moto X, I’ll likely keep this combo for quite a while. I’m hoping that they will continue to roll out new Android OS updates to the phone, so its life can be extended. Overall, saving cash and satisfied. Republic Wireless For The Win.


How to clone your Windows 7 hard drive

Posted: December 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: computers, technospiel | 1 Comment »

Recently I got a nice, new Dell Vostro laptop and wanted to upgrade the standard 250GB hard drive to a 500GB one. I wanted to take the disk image as it existed and clone it to the larger hard drive. This simple task was a bit harder to execute than one might think.

I went Googling on this topic and found a few software recommendations. The top hits included Paragon Backup & Recovery Free, Macrium Reflect Free, and EaseUS Todo Backup. Based upon positive reviews, I tried them one-by-one.

At first, I tried Backup & Recovery Free, but it wouldn’t install on Windows 7. Then I tried Macrium Reflect Free and it said the clone completed successfully. When the disks were swapped, Windows 7 would not boot. I used the Windows backup image (made by Dell Backup and Recovery Manager software) to repair that cloned image, but when it finally did boot properly, the fingerprint reader software wasn’t working and the OS gave several errors while running.

Getting desperate, I did another build directly from the Windows 7 backup/restore media. This worked, but again the fingerprint reader software was not present. Annoying!

Choose "Disk clone" from the Home menu

So I downloaded EaseUS Todo Backup 3.5 software and ran a Sector by sector clone with the source disk in the laptop and destination disk in an external bay. This completed successfully, but then the disk wouldn’t boot when it was installed into the laptop. The Sector by sector option also did not allow me to expand to the full usage of the newer, larger disk.

Select source & destination disks, uncheck Sector by sector clone

As an absolute last attempt before going to Linux, I left the 500 GB drive in the laptop, and used the EaseUS Todo Backup software to clone from the smaller hard drive in an external drive cage. This time I did not select Sector by sector clone and it allowed me to grow the final partition on the newer drive to use all the disk space. This clone completed successfully and the system booted. It seems this final approach worked the best.

Verify settings, drag slider to use full disk, and click Proceed

After several days of testing, everything appears to be working fine. No Windows OS errors, system updates have been successful and system restore point snapshotting is working properly. So I’m finally happy with this end result. This process took way too long and involved too many mistakes. Hope this write up helps you!

If you have advice on ways to improve this process, such as newer/better software to use or other tips, then please leave a comment.


The Power of Social Networks

Posted: December 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: computers, interwebby, social | 2 Comments »

This is, like, a graph of social networking and stuff.

What a year! 2009 turned out to be the Year of The Social Networks. Your mom joined Facebook. The news media wouldn’t stop talking about Twitter for months. And now everyone is a “Social Media Expert.” Actors and musicians connected with fans, as did sports stars. (I’m sure Tiger enjoyed more than a few ‘random’ TweetUps). People used social media to cover war, the loss of Michael Jackson, and the story of a small Oregon boy risking his life in an airborne balloon craft. The latter turned out to be a hoax, but the impact of these new forces of immediate social communication became very real. You could send out an alert if you were in trouble or you could post up some mind-numbing minutiae if you were feeling bored. You could connect with and ‘follow’ people of interest which you had never had access to before. It was an exciting time and this emerging trend served as a handy distraction from whatever else was going on in the world.

It wasn’t all just welcoming handshakes and joyous LOL’ing, either. A study was released that attempted to show social stratification amongst the social networking set. I believe the conclusion was that lower socioeconomic individuals gravitated towards MySpace, while those slightly up the scale were trending towards Facebook. This led to further musing on the idea of “segregated” online networks and the potential for online inequality. Authors and journalists decried the dissolution of language to a bunch of abbreviations, emoticons, and short burst induced incompleteness. (These same people don’t seem to like text messaging for the same reasons). Computer connected employee productivity has taken a nosedive to such proportions as to almost cause a global financial meltdown. Privacy experts are practically having a conniption over this whole exposing oneself idea. Clearly, all is not rosy in the social networking arena.

So, why then are these newfangled social networks taking root and growing so fast? What is the value add? What do we get out of it? And why are these ephemeral and immediate networks so powerful?

First of all, online social networking is not new. Supernerds have been convening on the Internet since the early 1970’s. There were early bulletin board (BBS) systems, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), and (of course) electronic mail (now commonly and coyly referred to as ’email’). [The first Web-enabled chat I recall was ICQ circa 1998. I found the “group-shout” interaction intriguing, but rather annoying. Clearly, I wasn’t ready for short burst communications just yet. But I digress…]

Anyway, these perfect new online social networks are full of pizazz! Full of allure! And full of potential vectors for malware and privacy invasions. But mostly full of pizazz and allure — The pizazz to show off your own unique self and super-fantabulousness to the universe and the allure that you can connect with ‘anyone at any time’ and likely for any reason. Lots of people use it to follow their preferred news sources or to catalog information regarding their industry or career. Yet the killer feature seems to be localization. You can find people near you who do what you do. Or you can follow your local politicians (check to see if they’re on there). You can ask questions like “Where can I find a great Italian restaurant around here?” or “What bands are playing in Raleigh tonight?” One of my favorite services for this type of localized search is Aardvark. You should go there and sign up. (Or let me know if you still need to have an invite.)

My favorite use of social networking technology is to remake connections with friends from the past. It has been quite interesting to see all my high school friends emerging online almost two decades later. Not only that, but many people I didn’t have the opportunity to know better in the past have connected and enhanced our relationship via online social networking. Beyond that, I have often gone to my vast legions of social network peeps and sought job leads, medical advice, shopping consultancy, and all sorts of things.

There is also the notion of communicating for communicating’s sake. I like to crack jokes and mash-up the day’s events into (quasi-)witty status updates. I rarely tell Twitter “What’s happening?” and instead just throw out “What’s on my mind?” I think there is a lot of value in the new social network scene, despite the non-extraneous time they seem to consume. If you can enjoy your time on these networks and not get carried away, then I guess you’ve won the battle.

What say you? Will the Web 2.0 social networks shepherd about the end of language? Will Twitter be responsible for the decimation of our final strands of time/information management? Will pictures of you holding a beer can in high school ruin your entire life? Why do you do (or don’t do) the online social networking thing? And how the hell did anyone solve any problems or research anything before The Google? Shout it below.

Image above:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/silkcharm/ / CC BY-ND 2.0

Tragistrophic Leopard Upgrade

Posted: January 19th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: computers, grousing, sorrow | 4 Comments »

LEOPARD EQUALS DEATH!

The advertisement from Apple says “So advanced, it practically installs itself.What a load of garbage! Here is the story of my nightmarish upgrade to Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard).

Before we even begin, I have to own up to my culpability for not ensuring I had full and complete system backups before beginning the software upgrade. In my defense, I did not have sufficient external disk drive space to perform this backup, otherwise I would have done so. And while I have seen glitches and issues with Apple upgrades in the past, I have never experienced complete, total, catastrophic data loss. Now I know what true suffering feels like…

The new Mac OS X release “Leopard” came out while I was accepting a new job and moving across the country, thus it wasn’t a good time to perform an operating system upgrade. So I waited. It wasn’t until I had settled into my new town and was learning the ropes at my new job that I felt the urge to see what all the fuss was about. November 12th was that fateful day. A day that will live in infamy as far as I’m concerned. I had three years of customizations and perfected settings in my 10.4 Tiger system and was concerned about losing those settings. I should have been a lot more concerned.

I have been having data storage problems lately, as my music library grows well over 300 Gigabytes in size and my movie collection is easily 100 Gigabytes or more. Currently I cannot afford to purchase more external disk drives and the idea of burning everything onto DVDs is about as appealing as unnecessary root canals. I had as much as possible copied onto my external hard drive, but there was not enough free space to make a current copy of my user directory or the all important ~/Library directory (hint: your email lives here if you use Mail.app). Like I stated above, I’d seen some funky behavior at upgrade time in the past, but never had everything destroyed.

My main system drive is 500 GB, which in real terms means 465 GB. At the time, I was using 460 GB on this disk. The first Leopard upgrade attempt failed because there was not enough disk space to install the new operating system. So I grudgingly deleted a few crappy movies and other random files of lesser importance. Once I had about 7 GB of free space, I chose the most minimalist upgrade option and the installer told me it would need just under 5 GB of disk space. I figured “No problem! I’ve got at least 2 GB to spare.” This was where my thinking was terribly, terribly wrong.

On a fast system, the average time to upgrade an OS is about 20-25 minutes. Mac OS X likes to perform a system analysis before actually beginning the upgrade and this can run a couple of minutes tops. Well, it was stuck in an “Analyzing system” state for a good hour or so before even beginning the install process. This was my first clue that something was going awry. I assume it was indexing all the files on my hard drive during that time, but it should have stopped itself at some point with a message akin to “Dude, your hard drive is too full. This upgrade is going to make your data toast.” Instead, it ran the disk through a grinder for hours and hours — always telling me that it was 99% installed and “1 minute from finishing installation.”

After four or five hours of waiting and praying that this wasn’t the end of my happiness, I called my friend Ian in a panic. It was the middle of the night where he was, but I had an emergency! He nervously tried to offer trouble shooting advice from thousands of miles away and we finally conceded that my only option was to power the box down and pray for the best. Well, the power up was a bit shaky with screen resolution doing some crazy things and it seemed like it took 10 minutes to boot (but was probably closer to 5 minutes). Behold! A login prompt!!

From the first moment I logged in, the machine was exhibiting bizarre behavior. Lots of GUI errors and things jiggling and fritzing with no correlation to user input. My data was still there, however, and I was now running a Leopard system. But the instability bugged me and I wondered if there was an Apple patch to deal with issues on freshly installed systems. I don’t remember checking available disk space, but if I had to guess, the main drive only had a couple of MB left free. Foolishly, I went to Software Update and commanded it to heal thyself. This was a bad idea.

Had I known what lie ahead, I would have gone immediately to the all-night external disk drive store and purchased an emergency drive (you can always return it in the morning, right?). So, the PowerMac hurled and wheezed and spun its wheels for hours downloading Apple patches and filling up the remainder of space on my drive. Then it wouldn’t boot. At all. Like nothing. Nada. Blue screen of “You’re a dumbass.” And with that, all my years of diligently acquired data were gone. I spent more hours into the wee morning trying to access it, perhaps boot it as a firewire target drive, anything. All to no avail. My Mac was gone. I was making the sad Mac face. Well, it was more like the completely exhausted and utterly pissed Mac face. I had to go to work in, like, three hours.

The next day I sat at work completely disgusted with myself. I ran over every data recovery scenario in my head and thought of my mistakes along the way. As you can see, I am taking most of the blame for this royal screw-up, but I still refute Apple’s claim that Leopard is “So easy to install, a monkey could do it.” It told me that it needed 5 GB of disk space. I had 7 GB of available disk space. At no point did it say, “Oh yeah, we was just kidding about the 5 GB claim. ABORT! ABORT!!” That error message would have been a welcome sight compared to losing all my files.

So here is the post mortem: I lost ten years of meticulously archived and sorted email. TEN YEARS! A folder for each friend, family member, business contact, you name it. All gone. This has burned my britches the most. I am sad that there are people I will probably never hear from again and I have no real way to contact them without an email address. I lost every single imaginable system preference, saved password, application customization — basically anything that helped me work better, harder, faster, stronger. I lost every single file I had added in the month prior to November 12th. That was hundreds of MP3 files, quite a few movies, lots of personal photographs, and many text files with notes about important shit that I have now forgotten. The frustration, at times, has been too much to bear. Oh, and I also lost all my applications — the things that enabled me to make websites and edit photos and record music and do just about anything. All gone.

November 2007 was one of the saddest months of my life because of this data loss. All thanks to a wonky OS installer that told LIES! Lesson learned: NEVER TRUST AN APPLE UPGRADE! Now I don’t want to have any data on my machine at all. I am looking for a network file server solution to house all my important data and I’ll just keep current working projects on my workstation — with regular backups, of course. I don’t know what is embarrassing in other lines of work, but when you are paid to do computer work and you completely hose your home system it is more than egg on your face. It is like a Denver omelette with jalapenos and motor oil all over your face. I felt like I had been Jackassed and Punk’d and Flip This House’d all into one. Total Lame-Tard status.

Anyway, in case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been doing with myself over the past few months, I can tell you I’ve been working a lot. And in the few hours I’m not eating, sleeping or working, I am tiring endlessly to restore my system to the state it was in before November 12th. I am now living in a post-11/12 world and it is painful and terrifying. Never forget November 12, 2007. The day I lost my data and all related happiness. That is my tale of the tragistrophic Leopard upgrade. I hope it didn’t happen to you!

As a final note, I want to plug Joe Kissell and his amazing work on the Take Control series of eBooks for Macintosh. This guy is awesome and historically I have purchased every version of his “Upgrade to [new OS X version]” eBook ever published. This time I was in a hurry and look what happened. I should have bought his eBook, read its contents, meditated on the Kissell koans and then hired a shaman to do my upgrade. If you try to tell me there is a better person out there writing about Mac upgrades, then I will beat your ass. Capiche?


Virtualize Me

Posted: June 25th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: computers, travel | 5 Comments »

2007 Virtualization Conference in NYC

So here I am in New York City attending the 2007 Virtualization Conference (a part of the larger 2007 SOA World Expo) and trying to learn a bit more about the future of enterprise computing. I had not done any traveling in a while and also had not been to a conference in ages, so I’m feeling very lucky to be here. And while this is essentially the premier SOA/Virtualization conference in the States, I still find the ambiguity of conference speakers to be frustrating.

I am so used to hands-on techie learning (a la SANS Institute) that to hear everything abstracted and spun into business-speak often leaves me less than satisfied. Thankfully, the speakers are not solely focused on plugging their companies and products. And from what I’ve heard so far, most of the large vendors are working together (via a SOA Best Practices Working Group) to make all of our lives easier in the future. (*fingers crossed*)

Regardless, New York City is beautiful right now and I’m enjoying it as much as possible. Nice sunny days and warm nights without the brutal humidity that usually keeps folks locked up in their air conditioned spaces. As a bonus, I got to take in a good portion of the massive Gay Pride Parade that took place yesterday. It was totally awesome to see so many happy dancing and smiling people flooding the city. When I get home I will post my photos to flickr, so please check back for that link.


Call Me GSEC 5730

Posted: September 6th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: computers, technospiel | 1 Comment »

Woo-haa! I keep those packets all in check!
When you go to write some shell code, best not disrespect!
Woo-haa! I gots you all in check!

GSEC Silver

That’s right, people. My week of buckled down studying has paid off and on Monday I took the two big exams. As Mark phrased it, I “gave those tests the smack-down.” Somehow I was able to pull a 96 on the Networking and Internet Security Technologies exam and a 94 on the Secure Communications and Windows/Unix Security exam. Woo-haa!! (You can verify that by going to the GIAC website and searching for my name.)

By Tuesday my name and scores were posted to the website and I had to go back to check it every hour or so just so the gravity of this accomplishment would set in. I am still surprised that I did so well considering how much material is covered. As you can imagine, I am totally on Geek Cloud 9. Many thanks to my excellent local mentor Doug Brown and to all the friends and family who were so supportive of me all Summer while I had my nose in the books. Yay! I can be social again!! 🙂

(Please note that my use of the GSEC Silver logo in no way implies an endorsement from nor a partnership with SANS Institute or GIAC. The logo is used only to indicate that I have passed the GSEC exams and obtained GIAC Silver certification. Proper permission for logo use has been explicitly obtained.)


Apple … Cares?

Posted: August 6th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: computers, grousing | 8 Comments »

Apple Don't Care About Its Customers

If you know me (even casually) then you know that I am pretty much obsessed with the Macintosh line of Apple Computers. I was working on Apple IIe machines when I was about 8 years old and I was there in 1984 hanging around UNC Student Stores so I could produce my Sixth Grade book reports on the first Macintoshes. I used the Mac labs pretty exclusively while attending Auburn University and have always felt happier and more productive using a Mac.

I did lose touch with the Mac family a bit in the late 1990’s when I went to work in the IT sector and found that no one had ever heard of Macs. That world was dominated by Windows (on the user end) and Unix/VMS (on the backend). This was an ugly time of adjustment when I realized that the most dominant operating system on Earth was an insecure, unstable, kludgy hacked piece of crap. I know people keep saying “But Windows is getting better!” however I liken that to putting lipstick on a pig and calling her “pretty.” If you have the richest, most powerful computer company in the world, then you can afford to build the best products. Microsoft is so far from that goal that they have to throw chairs around the office just to make themselves feel better.

Anyway, back to Macintosh. So I was utterly relieved and filled with joy when in 2001 I heard about the advent of Mac OS X — a gorgeous merger of the Mac user interface with the clearly superior BSD Mach kernel Unix sub-structure. Gone were the days of OS 7 and OS 8 limited network functionality or the OS 9 stability nightmare. Finally, a responsive, beautiful system that I could actually put to work as a Unix Administrator. Goodbye, CDE! (There are many haters out there who talk sh!t about the Mach kernel and other aspects of OS X, but to them I say “Build a better OS and I’ll buy it.”) I had my boss order me a G4 PowerBook and off I went, browsing into the computer bliss sunset.

This was when all the problems began. The first machine was a lemon. I’m talking severe hardware problems, continual system shutdowns and bi-hourly OS seizures. It took quite a bit of arguing through Fall 2001 to get Apple to acknowledge the problem, but eventually they relented and sent me a new PowerBook. That machine is still going strong, used regularly, and sitting on my desk waiting for me to greet it tomorrow morning. But I learned a valuable lesson from this experience — ALWAYS buy the AppleCare Protection Program for any Apple item you purchase. Without AppleCare, their attitude is basically the same as a disreputable used car salesman. If you have problems after the purchase, they don’t know who you are and they don’t care.

For years I was left wondering if maybe I had just had a bad experience and that they “got it right” most of the time. Sadly, I must report that this was not the case and that five years later not much has improved in this department. Sure, Wil Wheaton is willing to tow the party line and talk about how incredibly awesome Apple service is, but I’m not willing to be bought out by “The Man.” Both in person and online I have found countless instances of folks being completely screwed by Apple because of faulty products and even worse service. I can forgive a few lemons when you are the vanguard of innovation, but bad service? Sorry that is for fast food employees, not IT professionals.

Apple Doesn't Care About You

It is bad enough to add a $150-$350 “service tax” to every machine that you sell, but then to turn around and provide lousy service for customers who shelled out the bucks to be covered is like a slap in the face.

Case in point (of which I can cite many ), last Fall I got a new G5 iMac at work to supplement my aging G4 PowerBook. The machine ran quite well from October 2005 until April 2006. At that point, it randomly began “just turning itself off.” I would notice when I arrived at the office in the morning that my machine was powered off and wonder “Did the cleaning service unplug my machine?” And then over the next few days I discovered that something was very, very wrong with the power units within this machine.

By mid-April the box would suddenly power itself down while I was in the middle of composing an email or ssh’ing into a server I was working on. You can imagine how frustrating, not to mention productivity-sapping this was. The first approach was to deal with (and I’m putting this kindly) the ham-fisted, crap-attitude dickwad who acts as the Apple service person for our university. This guy seemed to get off on accusing me of making up the problem because he “couldn’t get it to do it” while it was in his care for 24 hours. Well, I’m sorry, but I did mention that the behavior was intermittent.

I heard a lot of hemming and hawing about parts being on back order and over the course of three weeks he made 2 failed attempts to repair the machine. The first was to re-image the hard drive, thus erasing months of work on my machine which unfortunately had not been backed up. Then the whole backplane/motherboard was replaced to no avail. We were deep into May and I still didn’t have a functional machine.

Finding no satisfaction with on-campus Apple representatives, I had to step up my approach and begin contacting Apple directly. (Remember, the 3-year AppleCare Protection Plan had been purchased, so they had no excuse to deny service). Well, this was nothing more than a run around where every few days I would get passed off to another AppleCare person because the guy they had put me in touch with “couldn’t help me.” I would make phone call after phone call and send in-depth technical emails again and again trying to get someone within Apple to give a damn.

By this point I was steamed and only requesting a replacement machine, but about two weeks into my hounding they “decided to contact me” and refused to take the machine back without one more attempt at repair. Two days later a black helicopter landed atop Davis Library and out popped William, obviously a highly-skilled technician from their crack ops team. In about 45 minutes he replaced both the power supply and the power inverter. (At this point, most of the computer had been removed and replaced.) We booted the iMac and watched it operate for about one minute before he disappeared in a cloud of smoke. I assume he choppered back to NORAD or wherever Apple keeps the flying monkey army.

Not 10 minutes after his departure, the machine powered itself off again. This time, like all the other times, I tried to boot the hardware diagnostics cd-rom and the box would spin and spin. Finally, I re-installed OS X and upon install reboot, the machine blue screened… Never to return. That was the beginning of June, roughly two full months after the problems started.

More phone calls to Apple reps. More voice mails saying they’d “love to help me, but couldn’t” and lots more non-returned emails and calls. Finally, one day while I was at lunch, someone from Apple called my office and said they were sending an RMA out to have the dead iMac returned. They also said “Once we receive the bad machine, we can send you a replacement.” Wow. If we have anything go wrong with any of our Dell hardware, we usually have a replacement part or machine within roughly four hours. Not bad Apple — only took two and a half months.

What is the point of my bitching? I’ll tell ya. Over the past three years or so, I have spent almost $25,000 of my own money on Apple machines because I believe they are the best personal workstations currently made today. I have referred friends and clients to Apple thinking I was doing them a favor by leading them away from the virus-prone and clunky interface of “that other company.” I have either bought or sold so much Apple hardware and software that they should compensate me with a manufactured home in Malibu with a nice view of the Pacific. And, for my machines and others, I always stress “Buy the AppleCare Protection Program or you’re f****d.” Now I’m starting to think that you are fscked even if you do buy AppleCare.

So you are the underdog. So you have a stranglehold on the digital music player market. So you want to convince the world that you build handsome, highly-functional devices. So someday you might like to garner more than 3 percent of the computer marketshare. Well, why are you letting us all down with such lackluster service? Seriously? In 2006 I’ve had more friends and family members tell me they would never buy an Apple product ever again after bad experiences with Apple service personnel. I have been humiliated by an “Apple Expert” in my local Apple Store because he thought he was a comedian and that my hardware problems “weren’t that bad.” I have been avoided by AppleCare employees to the point that I thought they had entered into the Witness Protection Program.

This is not simply the mumblings of a loud-mouthed malcontent hell-bent on rattling a few cages. No, instead I am a seriously disappointed customer who, by the nature of my trade and reputation, advises a lot of folks what to buy when they are looking for a personal computer. I also get to make decisions about what machines are purchased for use within my organization. Many people respect my technological opinion and, unfortunately for Apple, my long-held positive opinion of Macintosh is changing. Next time I think about dropping more than $8,000 on a home development workstation I will be checking a lot more websites than just www.apple.com.


Australia Wants Women In IT

Posted: July 12th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: computers, photography | 9 Comments »

Sonja Internet Goddess

Last year I was thinking about moving to Australia and getting an IT job down under. Unfortunately, the reason(s) for going disappeared and I found the bar to entry was just too high. Plus, it was going to be a complete nightmare to get my beautiful dog Alva over there. However, I really enjoyed my visits there and the people I met and the culture in general.

As a result of my new-found Aussie obsession, my Google News page is customized with all kinds of Australia-related content. I like to keep up on what is happening down there and I especially like to read their perspective on news related to the USA. Today all the planets must have aligned or something to deliver to me divine inspiration.

I was lured in by the headline in The AgeMaking IT a ‘sexy career choice’,” but I honestly wasn’t prepared for just how sexy Australia has made Information Technology. So the idea is to attract more females to the IT industry by helping to shed the myth that we are all pasty white, zit-covered, socially-awkward nerds with bad hair. Enter the IT Screen Goddess 15-month calendar.

These ladies are smart, sassy and on top of their game. I’m so glad this idea came to fruition and that someone is attempting to destigmatize the IT field for women. One thing I was not happy about is the grotesque censorship and prudishness offered by more than half of the web commenters regarding this effort. Many referred to it as “pornography” — which, for as much as I have looked at the images, I just cannot see the genitalia, penetration or smut regularly accepted as porn.

This is a really well done calendar and I think it looks great. I say “Good on ya!” to the organizers and the models and pray that they don’t listen to the narrow-minded detractors. We are approaching a very problematic epoch globally where people just cannot accept the human body in any way, shape or form. Shame on these fools for feeling the need to pervert everything instead of appreciating natural beauty.

I know it wouldn’t serve their cause very well, but this calendar may have convinced me to start job shopping in Oz again.


Had To Go For The 71" Monitor

Posted: July 2nd, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: computers, eShopping | 2 Comments »

LG 71

My eyesight is getting so bad that I finally had to upgrade from my crappy 30″ Apple LCD display. After shopping the entire Internet, I ultimately decided to order this monstrosity from LG Electronics. The MW-71PY10 will be installed Monday so that I can watch all the July 4th fireworks from around the USA on the monitor in my living room.

I think I’ll get cable again. I can just watch the Travel Channel and pretend that I am visiting all the most exotic sights in the world. This method of global travel would not only offer greater long-term safety and stability, but would also ensure access to clean and sanitary restroom facilities. Let the adventure begin!!