Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Great Name, Bad Store

from the fine folks at ZDNet:

CompUSA is going to close more than half its stores.

CompUSA, the computer and gadget retailer owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, said on Tuesday it would close more than half of its U.S. retail locations over the next two to three months to focus on top performing locations.


This dude is named Carlos Slim. He's now the 3rd wealthiest man on the planet.

How come I am just now learning of his name?

He sounds like he should be on the World Series of Poker. "And, in the final match, Chris Moneymaker versus Carlos Slim."

Or he's a hitman in a Quentin Tarantino flick.

Either way, rock on with your awesome name, Slim.

And, good call closing CompUSAs. The stores have become pretty useless lately. Too many TVs, not enough computers, and lousy pricing. Microcenter is so much better for PC/Mac stuff from a brick-and-mortar place.

Friday, February 23, 2007

How NOT to do Customer Support

Of all the many jobs I have had, IP network tech is the one I've done the most recently. My roommate and I have Comcast Cable for our TV and Internet, and can't wait for Verizon's fiber optic service to hit my neighborhood in Northern Virginia.

However, I must admit Comcast hasn't been as bad as I feared. I have heard and lived through horror stories of improper billing, bad service and lousy throughput, but things, knock on wood, have been fine for 17 of the 18 months we've had Comcast.

The past month, though, the cable modem has had difficulty synchronizing to the cable network. Cable TV is fine, router is fine, but the modem will just suddenly reset with the connection, and requires a power cycle just to resync with the Comcast network.

My roommate called to their tech support during Super Bowl week. The tech confirmed that the signal between the cable modem and the network was weak. He asked if we could call again when it was completely out. Sure thing.

We did, and again, their first-level tech support said the signal was weak. They'd send a truck out.

The guy was just here. He was, for all intents and purposes, not the swiftest cat they could have sent out. He was a subcontractor (always a bad sign) and said - get this - that our router was causing the problems. I said "How can our router knock your cable modem offline and deteriorate the signal on the Comcast network?" He said "Because your cable modem only supplies one IP."

I said "Right...and the router takes that one IP and supplies us with private IPs. What's your point?"

He said "The cable modem is fine."

I said "OK, then why is it dropping the signal?"

He said "your router burn out cable modem."

I said "Then why does it still work occasionally and the Comcast folks say that the signal coming to the cable modem is weak?"

He insisted that we were connecting too many computers to the router, and it burned out. The cable modem is fine, he said again. For the record, we have a laptop, 2 desktops, a Wii and a TiVO on the network, with a media server and a Xbox as sometime-connectors.

I told him that I was a networking tech, and what he was saying didn't make any sense. Comcast gives us an IP address that we sub out into a private IP range - in other words, exactly what 90% of the rest of their customers do. I asked him to show me the specs.

He fired up IE on my roommate's desktop, and showed the diagnostic screen. I took a look at the network address, saw a Surfboard logo (we have a Netgear router) and said "dude, you're not on our wireless network. This is our neighbor's net."

He said "See? Your cable modem is fine. Look at these diagnostics."

Sure enough, the stats were fine...but it wasn't our network. He was looking at a Surfboard and a Motorola. I told him "We don't have a Surfboard or a Motorola, we have a Netgear and an RCA." I looked at the ipconfig properties of my roommate's PC and saw that they weren't the IP range I put in. He had logged her into our neighbor's unprotected connection.

He told me I was wrong.

I said "Go downstairs, look at our cable modem and router, and you'll see it's a simple mistake. Wrong private network, wrong wireless network. We're on with a SSID of Netgear. You're on with a SSID of Wireless. Big difference."

He again said it was the router's fault. He refused to look at the correct diagnostics.

Now, at this point, I got a little indignant. I pulled up the diagnostics of our cable modem, and showed him the correct diagnostics page, showing nearly 200 sync outages and hundreds of thousands of frame errors, dozens of T3 and T4 errors - all of which indicate Comcast network issues. Those are big backbone circuits - the kinds that hook up entire neighborhoods and office buildings. I asked him "How does our netgear router knock down the much-bigger Comcast network, especially in frame sync?"

He said "Sir, for the third and fourth time, it's your router."

I went off. I explained to him what I have done (designed long haul IP networks and built terminal servers, Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexers, Cable Modem termination systems , t-1s, frame relay, OC-X circuits, etc...) and what I do (provide telecom support to the DoD) and that he might want to reconsider his thoughts. I showed him the correct cable modem diagnostics page (of which I took a screen shot) and said "Now that you're looking at the right network, try your analysis again. It's a signal error. A Netgear router is not going to cause TFTP and T-4 errors. Those are cable networking error codes, carrier error codes, not layer 2 and 3 crap from a consumer router to a cable modem."

This went on for nearly 10 minutes. It didn't matter how many times I showed him the errors coming directly from the cable modem, it was our router's fault.

"Sir, it's your router. Too many things hooked up to cable modem."

Only the router is hooked up to the cable modem. He never once went downstairs to see that. He tried to say that Comcast only allows one device to be connected to their cable modem (a flat-out lie if ever there was one).

I told him to get out. I used the F-bomb. I'm not proud of my language, but I expect an on-site tech to be somewhat competent. Don't tell me I'm wrong when you don't even have the intelligence to know when YOU'RE wrong. Even after I pointed out that he was looking at the wrong network, he wouldn't admit he was wrong. He had refused to do his job and would not go look at the router and cable modem itself. That's like taking your Honda to the mechanic, and the mechanic says your Honda is fine because he looked at your neighbor's BMW earlier, and it's fine.

We called up Comcast's tier one support again. They'll send out a new tech who will either replace the cable modem or boost the signal from the network access node. Of course, they have no idea when they'll be able to do that.

We've had spotty internet access for a month now, and considering our cable bill is close to a small car payment (nearly 140 bucks a month), you'd expect a modicum of service.

The moral of the story: Comcast has guaranteed themselves of a new Verizon FiOS customer. Not only is FiOS dramatically faster, they're cheaper.

Now Verizon's PR department - since I know you surf the web looking for anti-Comcast stories, let me tell you this - I have worked for CLECs for 8 of the past 10 years. I've worked with independent telephone companies who have deployed FTTC and FTTH systems, and I know that it flat-out rocks.

The main reason why we're going with you is because you have, at the end of the day, the best product available. If the FCC wasn't so busy looking to fine the hell out of any radio or TV station that dares mutter an expletive rather than investigate how Comcast has repeatedly screwed the hell out of consumers, then there'd never be a need for county utility boards to hold hearings to allow for FiOS competition. They'd BEG for you to step in and show Comcast how it's done.

As somebody who's worked for CLECs for 8 of the past 10 years, I never thought I'd write this - you're not nearly as bad as Comcast.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Breaking News - A Slut Has Died.

I figured the Anna Nicole Smith death would be old news by this weekend, but there is still the breathless reporting style on the cable nets. The Fourth Estate won't let this woman just die until they TELL you every possible detail of it. I wish I knew somebody who gave a rat's ass about it.

I know it's not considered PC to bash the dead, but, here's a woman with THREE different men claiming to be the baby's father.

What kind of a world-class slut do you have to be to have *3* men claim paternity of your child?

They wouldn't be making the claim if they hadn't have had sex with her at about the same time as the baby was conceived. And when she was still alive, she didn't deny any of those rumours too strongly.

Dirty, dirty cooze. That's all that is. If America had any real sense left, her stupidity would be a cause for derision, not celebrity.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

R.I.P. iRon

My beloved iron, iRon, has now died.

Cause of death - too hot to handle.

Time of death - right when I needed to iron something this morning.

iRon, our six years together were great. I hope you have a peaceful journey to the landfill or recycle bin or whereever it is dead irons go.

You shall be missed.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

From - Whatever Happened To...?


A few months ago, I set out to chronicle the ways in which Alexandria's charming Del Ray neighborhood can rot your teeth and ruin your diet. An eating tour of Del Ray is a delicious invitation to gain weight and keep your dentist's kids in private school. There's so many fun little eateries in the neighborhood that I felt compelled to break the article into two parts, thereby giving it a more proper review. Part one would be the places I know best, and then after a careful sampling of other places in the area, I was going to write part two.

One small problem with that idea - while my teeth are fine, my diet was ruined. I gained over 15 pounds since I started writing Part II. And those were not "happy pounds" either. Angry, vicious pounds - more bitter than a jilted bride on Valentine's Day and colder than a divorce attorney. I felt Morgan Spurlock's pain. Being a FUD writer Super-Sized Me. I drew a line in the sand a few weeks ago and vowed to be more Dave Matthews than Dave Thomas or Dave Thomas.

In the past year, I've learned 10 unassailable facts about FUD in DC :

1) Del Ray really CAN tack on the pounds, plus the Dairy Godmother is serving Tiramisu AND Thin Mint Cookie custards this month. Courage, my friends.
2) When reviewing beers, candy bars and chili, always mix in a salad. Preferably not fruit salad from a can. And, preferably, not the can too.
3) Don't go to Wegman's when you're hungry. You'll end up with a cart full of food that you don't remember placing in the cart and have no idea how to pronounce. Then you'll drive home for the next hour wondering what in the hell just happened.
4) Don't go to Harris-Teeter when you're hungry. You'll end up with overpriced foods and no idea how to pay for it. Only supermarket I've ever been to that should offer financing and layaway. "Just three more payments and that soymilk is all mine!"
5) The large anything (burger, phở, beverage) may only be a dollar more than the small, but the small will do. Some phở places sell Extra-Large sizes - how can anybody finish one of those and not end up in a food coma?
6) That exercise thing...kinda important. Ever notice how many WSC and Sport & Health Clubs are near supermarkets? If Curves keeps it up, there'll be one in every supermarket.
7) Cakelove's butter cakes need to be brought up to room temperature before serving properly. Don't eat a dozen cupcakes while you're waiting.
8) Every one of those "Limited Edition" candy bars at CVS - meh. Not nearly as good as you'd expect, except the marshmallow Reese's and the Malt and Espresso Kit-Kats. Otherwise...meh. The white chocolates taste like wax and the caramels always seem off somehow. No need to try them - if they were any good, they wouldn't be "Limited Editions" but "Always Available."
9) Latin and Asian markets offer lower prices on meats and veggies and often with better variety. They may not have those bonus club cards, but the staples of a healthy diet are much more affordable. Giant and Soviet Safeway, take heed.
10) You know those people who bring donuts and cakes into the workplace? They secretly hate all their coworkers. They actually wanted a donut themselves, but assuage the guilt by bringing in 11 other sugarbombs to make everybody else fat and lethargic.

So, as I'm sticking to exercise, watercress and protein-shakes, I've been avoiding my normal calorie-rich fare. Regular exercise and a more moderate diet has brought me back down to a more comfortable weight.

I apologize in advance to any reader who lived vicariously through my gluttony, and to any establishment that might notice a sudden downturn in sales. Trust me, I miss you too.

Monday, February 05, 2007

this can't be

We live in a world where Peyton Manning is a Super Bowl winner.

So far, the 21st Century is seriously gord-damned messed-up. In seven short years, it has flipped its middle finger at the 20th Century and pissed in the old century's Corn Flakes.

The Red Sox AND the White Sox have won World Series.

The Seattle Seahawks have been to a Super Bowl.

Once again, the biggest soccer star in the world is coming to America, but this time, he's not graying and 50. He's young, early 30s, and ready to conquer Hollywood.

Plus, his wife is ridiculously skinny and has ridiculously fake boobies. She fits in L.A. perfectly!

America is showing a general interest in soccer. This scares me in more ways than I care to count.

The Wizards ain't half-bad. The best player in the league might well be Gilbert Arenas.

The Caps are playing in front of a largely apathetic home crowd at half capacity. Who'd a thought that the shiny new arena downtown would be worse for them than the hulking suburban bandbox filled to roof 3/4ths of the year?

The Yankees, like the Orioles, Devil Rays, Royals and Pirates, have not won a World Series in the 21st Century.