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Dell Customer Service

December 17, 15 by admin
Hell Customer Service

Hell Customer Service

Dell used to be one of my favorite places to shop. Lately, they have been driving me crazy and it doesn’t get any worse than their customer support. Last November during the Black Friday sales rush, I placed a small order with them in the amount of $300. The order looked fine for almost a week. I would check the order status and they said the order was fine and it was almost here. There was a progress bar that showed the status of the order as 95% complete. In fact, it appeared that it was almost at my doorstep.

One day, all of a sudden, my order was quietly canceled. I got no notice from Dell. No phone call, no e-mail message, nothing! It probably took me a few days to figure out what was going on. My credit is exceptional and I am a longstanding member of Dell for over 20 years.

I called them on the phone last night at 4:30pm. I was put on hold for 30 minutes straight. At 5:03pm, the phone was answered only to tell me that customer support was closed and I should call back the next business day. This was a huge mistake. If someone is in the queue 30 minutes before closing time, your support call should be answered. There’s no excuse for this. A respectable call center should not put calls in the queue that they can’t reasonably expect to answer before closing. Just tell me that you won’t be able to answer my call before closing hours.

The next morning, I called again and waited another 30 minutes. The operators who answer the call are obviously in India. This wouldn’t be so bad if they could understand what I was asking for and treated customers a little friendlier. When I finally got through, the operator told me that I would have to be transferred to another person which initiated another long waiting time. Finally, I got through to someone who could “help” me.

After a lot of back and forth trying to look up my order, the support rep gave me the reason for my cancellation… “Payment was invalid”. Well great, thanks! Did he know I was using Dell’s own payment system? No, he didn’t have the slightest clue. Did he ask me if I wanted to correct the payment or indicate the problem with the payment? No, nothing. It seems as if Dell’s customer support doesn’t care a thing about their customers.

Next, I attempted the online support which allows you to submit your order number and your question via a web form and then a chat window opens to allow you to talk to customer service. I waited nearly two hours for a representative but did not get an answer to my question. The representative cut me off after a very short period of time and did not answer any of my simple questions such as:

  • Why was my order cancelled?
  • What exactly was the problem?
  • Can I change my payment method?

This isn’t my first bad experience with Dell’s customer service, but I can guarantee it will be the last.

Fun times with InstallShield 2009

May 05, 13 by kenrich

installshieldLately, I’ve been fighting with InstallShield (because there is no other better way to put it) to manage some basic installer functinoality.  Actually, I’ve been learning all the various different facets of the software off and on over the past few months.  I know that its used by a lot of different companies and seems to be powerful to do lots of different things, but I have to say that the experience has left me kind of sour.

I have to admit that a lot of the problems I have dealt with have been my own making.  But there were others that were clearly a fault of InstallShield itself.  Now bear in mind that I was using InstallShield 2009 Premier and not the latest version, so some of this may not apply to the newest version.  An upgrade to 2012 is in the works but these issues are only in regards to 2009.

First of all, let me mention the project file format.  It is a combination of binary and plain text.  This makes it virtually impossible to do change revision on the project files.  It makes it difficult for users to see what changes were made and how to undo those changes.  I am dealing with Basic MSI projects and sometimes I can see XML based rules and sometimes I cannot.  I haven’t been able to figure out why this is the case, but its very annoying.

Second, I’d like the mention the horrible user interface.  I get the fact that they are trying to make it look like an IDE (and * have no problem with that).  The tree node navigation is a little non-standard but I guess it is somewhat consistent.  I am wondering what’s with the tabs though.  Sometimes they are on the top and sometimes on the bottom.  You also have the same tables (like string tables) represented in multiple ways in the application.  The Features and Setup nodes mostly represent the same information except one allows you to manage components and one does not.

Next there is the issue of error reporting.  Many of the errors can be cryptic such as when you have a file path which is too long.  Sorry InstallShield, excuse me for having a long path on my development drive.  It’s not like InstallShield creates long paths itself… oh wait a minute, it does!   I had a particularly nasty error  message while creating a chained installation package that read “build error 6151 (Cannot save target database)”.  After days of research, I found out this error occurs when the installer package name is longer than 9 characters in length.  Gee, InstallShield could have just limited the name in the IDE to just 9 characters but instead I get this cryptic message.  (FYI: this has been fixed as of IS 2010).

There are a lot more flaws I could mention here, but I’ll save most of those for another post.  One last point, when trying to build a release, if you have Windows Explorer or a command prompt open to one of the directories under the release folder, InstallShield shows you an error that reads “Cannot rename folder because it is currently in use”.  If programs like Visual Studio can create builds when the folders are open, I don’t understand why InstallShield can’t.

As an aside, I’ve invested time in learning Nullsoft installer and WiX installer.  My preference is to convert everything over to the WiX installer.  WiX is fairly simple, straightforward, and all files are text-based and can easily be version controlled.  Plus, an added bonus is that I don’t have to worry about licensing issues so multiple people can work on the same project at the same time (and the software is totally free).  For now, I am stuck with InstallShield but I hope to be leaving soon.

Rathmann Auto Works in Poway

April 03, 12 by kenrich

If you need to have any service done to your car, or any repair, or if you have a project car, please check out this business located in Poway.  Erik is a master mechanic who can tackle just about any job.  They are located in the Poway business part just off of Scripps Poway Parkway.

This is a new business that is willing to go the extra mile to make sure you are satisfied.  So for quality auto service, choose Rathmann Auto Works, Inc.

iTunes U Provides Free Lectures from Major Universities

March 25, 10 by admin
iTunes University

iTunes University

I just had a chance to check out iTunes U (short for iTunes University) on the iTunes store.  I checked out an introductory Computer Science course from Stanford.  Actually, it is just the lectures that are placed online as far as I can tell.  The lectures are well done and include many major universities.  This information should be a great benefit to a large number of people if they are willing to devote time to it.

Lectures in the form of video podcasts seem to be the only content available through iTunes U.  However, the lectures often mention the website for the class which can be used for downloading assignments and handouts from the class.  This allows anyone to follow along with the class and perform all of the assignments.  However, even though you can do the assignments and projects, you won’t be able to submit your assignments for grading.  Therefore, there is no real way to measure your progress as you follow a class.

This is a major shortcoming of iTunes U and I think it is their biggest issue at the moment.  Without some form of mentoring system to guage students feedback, the value of iTunes U is diminished somewhat.  Doing some searching on Google, I did find that some universities have been addressing this issue.  Brown University has a page on their Wiki which summarized their discussions on the issue.

Maybe a community of users should get together and do mentoring of students interested in learning online.  This way people would be able to take courses online without official credit.  It would provide a free means of getting an education for many people.  Without any degree from an accredited university, the benefits may seem minor.  For technical professions such as engineering, it may be a great way for people to keep their skills up to date.

Dynamic Website Performance Issues

July 13, 06 by kenrich

It’s hard to get any work done for my current employer. Our system is very complex and convoluted and doesn’t respond very fast when navigating our website. That’s one of the drawbacks of working for a smaller company. We don’t have the manpower nor the resources to build a responsive website.

A lot of it boils down to the large amount of data we are sorting through. We have thousands of users on our systems with gigabytes of data for our websites. Despite best programming and database practices, our relatively weak servers cannot keep up with client demands. It seems that we should improve our database server or put in extra effort to optimize our database layer.

The key to keeping your customers happy is to create a fast and responsive website. With a highly dynamic website, the best way to do that is to improve your database speed and use caching on your site to speed up your pages. We have managed to make general improvements in this regard, but more needs to be done if we are to be considered the major player in our field.

Let’s All Welcome the Launch of Google Base

February 27, 06 by kenrich

Today, Google is allowing people to sell items on Google Base. This is a great threat to the long monopoly that E-bay has had over the years. While it’s true they don’t allow you to sell items at auction, the marketshare of Google ensures that any items posted there will reach a lot of eyeballs. This should make it much less painful to sell items without having to deal with all of the fees and charges that Google has.

With any luck, their new payment system will eliminate the exorbitent “final-value” fee that takes a cut of your sales. I am ecstatic to see Google take the lead in this. Our government and big corporations have been waging a war against consumers in America. Their profits are staggering and they needn’t be so. The same services can be offered by other companies for a small fraction of the cost we’re paying now.

It’s up to the consumers of America to respond: “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore!” Hopefully, Google will expand their services to allow sellers to run auctions instead of just classified ads. Kudos to Google for giving consumers another choice. Let’s just hope they adhere to their motto: “Do no evil”.