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Welcome to The Lotus Position, an intermittent collection of extempore navel gazings, ponderings, whinges, whines, pontifications and diatribes.

Everything is based on a Sample of One: these are my views, my experiences... caveat lector... read the Disclaimer

The Budapest Office - Castro Bisztro, Madach ter

The Budapest Office - Castro Bisztro, Madach ter
Ponder, Scribble, Ponder (Photo Erdotahi Aron)

Guest Nutter/Kindred Soul: Bill Bailey

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Monday, 14 May 2007

Heroes and Zeroes

From time to time I like to share my unvaluable opinions on product & service quality, and occasionally to offer a humble snippet of advice to those I find not quite as excellent as they could be, and paeans of praise to those who really do far more than they should do - sometimes even making up for their previous failings.

I like grovelling; I like it when someone bends over backwards to apologise and make amends... it gives me such a... such a... warm feeling inside. Moist almost.

Anyway, I feels it's OK to demand a little grovelling now: I've had to do it in business (keep the contract, win the business, keep people employed...), why shouldn't others?

To this end I keep my H&Z list, and now it's time to publish it. It's all historical, some of it going back years - but if you have a good grudge you should keep it, treasure it, take it out to admire it occasionally... no doubt everyone on the Zeroes list is now a paragon of virtue or rectitude (except Steganos - yet).

Remember folks, this is a sample of one; all facts are opinions, all opinions are mine (well, my opinions are mine, but you get the idea) and if you think that the Anonymous Corporation of Erewhon should be hit where it hurts (stock price, revenue, whatever) that's your choice. I'm just saying that not everything is always rosy.

And likewise if you decide to invest in, buy from - whatever - the Anonymous Corporation of Erewhon and it all goes pear shaped, don't blame me (OK, you can blame me, but I doubt you can sue me)

So here it is...

Hero: Visions Express - completely screwed up my eye test and two pairs of glasses, but apologised fulsomely and made appropriate amends. I have been back to them since; I like them.

Zero: Hewlett Packard - for lousy product quality and technical support of their Pavilion zd8123ea (catchy name, eh?) I replaced it with a Rock Xtreme CTX Pro - Nice!

Hero: Norwich Union insurance - yes, praise for an insurance company! My nice new video camera was stolen from a locked hotel room in Amsterdam; one police report and a simple phone call later all I had to do was wander across to Jessops on New Oxford street to pick up a replacement - as simple as that!

Zero: Nokia for their PC Suite bloatware, whose installation and uninstallation sagas deserve a separate blog of their own... but even I have a life (of sorts)

Hero: Topaz Support for truly outstanding service of my old Toshiba Satellite laptop: fast efficient and they dealt with the unfortunate courier incident (which was not their fault at all) with magnificent aplomb.

Zero: Steganos Gmbh - nice software, Teutonic support. The primary inspiration for this blog.

Zero: (Not enough Heroes to go round) Vodaphone for a website without appropriate security (I'm sure it's been fixed by now) and a 3 month wait to fix it. Oh, and while I was complaining about this they sent personal info around in open emails. That's how important they thought my privacy and security was.

Zero: Paypal - I think they are absolutely right to be extremely security conscious - I've had my identity stolen once and it's not nice. However... it is possible to be a teensy weensy bit over zealous, such as "limiting" an account because the IP address of the machine it was set up from wasn't in the same country as the Visa card billing address. OK, cause for concern and I would have been happy to resolve that if the resolution method basically hadn't involved me handing my financial records over on a silver platter. Why could they not use the Visa Secure service for verification? Who knows. Anyway, the immediate need for a PayPal account evaporated, so I didn't need to resolve the issue I just wanted to close down the limited account - i.e. not send anybody any money ever by PayPal.

Not possible: your account is limited. Please provide your life history, DNA sample and submit to polygraphic examination for identity verification (it's hyperbole, if you take me literally you are an idiot). Did I get it closed down without submitting to this proctologically intimate examination? Yes, but it took an email to the CEO of a billion $ corporation to do it. I'm glad she was listening, but it shouldn't have been necessary.

Steganos Safe 2007 - The Saga Continues

Remember that I told them there was a bug?

"Impossible!" they say.

One large heap of irony later...

"I have to confirm that is a bug in our encryption engine that an UDF file cannot be larger than 2GB. As far as Dev-Team told me right now, they are working for a fix. If this is available, Steganos Update will inform you about automatically and offer you to download. No need to remind, we know what we have to do."

So that's OK then... except it isn't: despite going to look for updates at just about every possible opportunity, thereby causing Vista to annoy me with yet more dialog boxes, the updater finds nothing - despite the fact that at the time there was an update.

Is it fixed? Don't know; they don't seem to publish a change log. There was an update, as I said (9.0.6); I got it, and now I have a whole heap of other little issues - one of which just might have been my fault - but like so many other software vendors, the idea of wiping their own arses when I uninstall (i.e. clean up the registry properly) seems beneath the dignity of such impeccable German software developers.

I can't seem to find out how to completely remove the damn thing just so I can start again.

And do I get any satisfaction from the sogennante "support" department? Nope.

However, I have tracked down the CEO of Steganos and have said he is my next port of call.

CEO's are usually able to fix things, but it is rather sad that one has to attempt the equivalent of low earth orbit insertion using an elastic band and a pair of swimming goggles to resolve what should be resolvable at much lower levels.

I'll let you know what happens...

Steganos Safe 2007 & The Buddha Nature of Support Requests

Whilst it would be soooo easy just to rant (believe me when I say this is not yet a rant) I try hard not to. My thesaurus of abuse is extensive, but being abusive just pigeonholes you as an asswipe - and if you are going to be an asswipe then you can have much more fun with irony.

After notifying Steganos of what I thought was a bug, only to be told "that's impossible" I sent them more information (plenty), but the silence was, as usual deafening, so I decided to incentivise them, the incentive being that if they responded I would stop harassing them with irony.

And just because I liked it, here's what I said...

Dear Herr X

Day 1 of daily reminders.

You have enjoined me on more than one occasion to respond: "If you still experience any difficulties, please don´t hesitate to write back. Thank you."

Well, I am still experiencing difficulties, I have written back. But I am beginning to wonder why. What is the point if there isn't even an acknowledgement, let alone an answer?

When someone says in email "don't hesitate to write back" I rather assume they mean "write back" *by* email. Do these messages even reach your inbox? Will you eventually have to correct your template to say "Please return to the "Customer Support" (sic) portal should you have any further queries. This email address does not accept replies."? (In which case, why not send a "message undeliverable" notice?)

On further consideration I realise you didn't actually say you would read or respond to any replies, the fault is clearly mine for not attending to the precise wording. I expected a response before I realised this, now I wonder what you expected me to expect. "Don't hesitate to write back" perhaps meant "think long and hard about writing anything at all, think harder still before clicking the send button...".

Should I ask myself why I am bothering? Whether I now expect anything at all?

Aha! Is this perhaps the new philosophy of Zen support, in which the user achieves enlightenment concerning the paradoxical nature of the Steganos world of customer support and their own personal difficulties through the apparently endless repetition of pointless activities such as writing emails, until the great truth dawns that there is no world of customer support, that it is all an illusion, and that ultimately the answer to such questions as "Why doesn't this work? Why does that happen?" are discovered to be merely "Because."

I understand. It is not the answering that is important, it is the asking. Of course the failure of the UDF Safe I have demonstrated is impossible. It is the very essence of Possible and Impossible, Yes and No, True and False, Real and Unreal. Nothing is real, and the unreadable safe is merely an encryptic nod towards the unknowability of this world. There are no answers because there are no questions; there are no questions because they are not read. There is no Existence, merely Being... and being a Mere Customer is merely the first step on the path.

Before enlightenment: write email, wait. After enlightenment: write email, wait.

Why do I bother? Because.

Tomorrow: Pace Willard Quine: The Radical Untranslatability of Support Requests,