Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lenovo T400 : Random Shutdowns / Logoffs Anybody?

Here at the new job I got a Lenovo T400 laptop, and it’s been a bit of trouble.  Has a habit of randomly logging me out as if it’s going to suspend, but then never suspending.  Which means a cold boot.  That wreaks serious havoc on virtual machines, let me tell you.  Sometimes it just goes for the classic bluescreen, too.

The help desk has exhausted their “supposed to fix it” fixes, including:

* Do a blue-button system/bios update.

* Disable the fingerprint scanner (I love help desks.  Who’da thought?)

* Swap out the dock.  Swap out the AC adapters.

Best guess is that it has something to do with power management, since that’s normally when the computer would think it has the right to go ahead and shut you down – because you’ve got critical battery.  But this happens consistently on a machine that is plugged into AC with 100% battery.  I’ve mucked with the power management (including hitting combinations that basically say “never shut down no matter what the battery is” to no avail).

What’s really annoying is that this seems to be a systematic problem, as other T400 users in the company report the same problems, so it’s certainly a systematic thing and not just a random bad machine.  Sad, seems like a good box otherwise – built in webcam, 120gig drive…

Anybody run into the problem who found some other odd, “disable the fingerprint scanner” type of solution that actually worked?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bad Businesses Annoy Me

Christmas shopping is a time for businesses to really step up the customer service so you build loyalty.  Then there are those who are so bad at it they make you turn and run the other way.  Some examples I’ve experienced over the past month:

* Target.com – I order two products at once, one for my child and one for my wife.  I start getting emails saying “Something in your order is delayed.”  It does not tell me WHAT, mind you.  But it does tell me “Hey, just so you know, it’s too late to cancel this.  You can always return it.”  I’m not kidding.  They literally taunt me for a month, sending about 1-2 emails a week, always saying the same thing - “Delayed, can’t cancel.”  That is until today when they finally say “Yeah, that thing for your wife?  We gave up and cancelled your order.”  So basically my choices were to go out and buy one and possibly end up with two, and then have to go through the hassle of returning something after Christmas (fun!), or wait and hope it would show up, only to find out now, too late to do anything about it, that it’s not coming at all.

* Ticketmaster.com – I’m not the first to rant about their “convenience charge”, but really, there’s not enough ranting to do this one justice.  I’m already paying $88/ticket, plus a “building fee”, and then they’re going to slap a $12 fee on top of that?  For CONVENIENCE?  Newsflash, Ticketmaster – your site is anything but convenient.  Quite frankly it sucks, it’s one of the worst ticket buying options around.  Do I get to pick my tickets?  Do I get to see how much of orchestra section is available?  Or whether I could compare my seats on a Saturday afternoon versus an evening show?  Nope, none of that.  You know what is convenient?  I used to work in downtown Boston, and for tickets I once walked over to the box office at the Wang Center.  The nice lady broke out a seating chart and began showing me options.  She compared shows for me, and helped pick a good set of seats on a good day.  Charge for that?  Zero.

* T-Mobile – I’m so sad about T-Mobile.  I’ve been a customer forever.  8 years and counting, they tell me.  Since it was Voicestream, since it was Omipoint.  I’m pretty sure it’s even longer than that, it is the only cell phone I’ve ever had.  I once had to buy a phone in a hurry (on vacation my existing one fell in the ocean), and I called them up later to basically say “Yeah, I’d rather not extend my contract, but I still want the discount please.”  And got it.  When I called customer service I would hear them gasp when they looked at how long I’d been a customer, and often they’d thrown in an unsolicited “thank you for being so loyal” comment.  Well, I wanted an Android G1.  I really did.  My wife needs a new phone as well.  So I called up recently and said “Any chance I can get a G1 without the contract extension?”  Lady on the phone said no.  I said, “I’ve been a customer forever, I really don’t like having to lock myself into a contract after all these years.”  Still, no.  So I said, “If you insist on treating me like a new customer no matter how long I’ve been a customer, shouldn’t I just try my business with somebody else?”  She said, “You can do that if you want.”

That’s annoying enough.  What’s worse is that this week I got a letter from their marketing department specifically citing me as one of their top 5% loyal customers.  I realize it’s just a promotional gimmick, but still, the timing is horrendous.  Here’s one operator who basically acknowledges that in real life T-Mobile doesn’t care at all about customer loyalty, and I’m presented with a document that says “Sure we do.”  The offer itself was even more insulting, something about a free “companion airfare.”  The catch being that you had to book your travel 30 days in advance, and the travel had to happen before the middle of February.  So doing the math you basically have to live a life where you get this unexpected letter, drop everything and say “Hey honey let’s go book a trip.”  In this economy.  Yeah.

I once complained on this blog about my Dell laptop, and a Dell customer advocate found it and fixed my problem.  I’m curious if any of these companies are smart enough to keep an eye on the blogs to try and make customers happier.  I don’t really care about Ticketmaster, I think they know they’re bastards who are abusing their monopoly.  Target I expect is just too incompetent to really do anything about the problem (they refunded the money, so other than that, what can they really do?  It’s Christmas, my wife does not have the gift, thanks a lot).  But like I said, I’m upset about T-Mobile, and still wishing that I didn’t have to leave them.  I’m even eyeing the rumors of a G2 coming soon….

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What’s Wrong With A Nice #2?

And by that I mean a pencil, you see.  I’m at the new gig and collecting office supplies. When it comes to randomly taking notes that I might actually value (as opposed to note taking for the sake of appearances), I like a pencil.  Makes me feel like I’ll be more likely to edit/correct/erase, even though that’s not the case.  And besides, as I’ve mentioned before, when you walk the halls with a sharpened pencil you feel like you could stab a coworker if you really needed to.  I never would, of course, but it’s nice to know I could :).

So I find the pencils, and of course they are unsharpened.  I ask the admin/HR lady for a pencil sharpener.  She says, “I think it’s in one of the boxes since we moved.”  She then digs into a box and pulls it out.  “You’re the first one to need it.”

At this, another coworker pops his head into the hallway and asks, “Is that a pencil sharpener?  I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those.”

I take it back to my office (why not, if I’m the only one using it?), plug it in, and sharpen some pencils.  I turn and there’s another coworker in my cube saying, “Wow, that *was* a pencil sharpener I heard!”

The funny thing, though – what’s so obsolete about a pencil?  What new bit of technology has replaced it?  Is everybody running around with mechanical pencils?  I always break those, I write too hard.  Pens?  I lose too many pens.  I told a coworker, “You can tell at a glance if your pencil will work, and you don’t have to actually scribble on your paper first to prove it.”

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Does This Gadget Exist?

As I spend more time in my office and look to optimize it for how I like to work, I've decided there's a gadget I need. I want a device that hooks up to my tv and plays movies. Here's the thing, I want it to read the media from a USB stick. That way it doesn't matter where the media came from, and I don't have to go through the trouble of burning a DVD (it helps that I don't have a DVD burner handy, ya see ;)).

Does such a device exist? I don't need it to be a fancy wireless streaming thingie, but it wouldn't hurt. It's mostly the USB thing that I'd like. I just don't want to watch on the computer monitor or on my iPod, I want it on the tv.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What To Do With A Tivo Box?

So when I switched to FIOS I got rid of Tivo, as I'm sure I've mentioned.  Maybe someday I'll return to them (FIOS DVR service is pretty poor, as I have also mentioned), but until then I'm sitting here wondering if there's any life left in the box.

The particular one I've got is the Humax model with the built in DVD burner.  So by default I've been using it to move my camcorder stuff to DVD, which works fairly well.

But I was thinking this morning, could I get content from any other source?  Did anybody ever decide if there was a way to read media from a USB stick, for example, and show it on the box?

What about the "Tivo At Home" option?  Do I have any "play movies and pictures on my Tivo" choices still available to me, now that I do not pay for the Tivo service?  I was under the impression that you needed a key to make that work.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Dense Words

If you code for a living, there are times you may experience dreaming in code. Or at the very least, spending those last few moments of waking consciousness thinking about code.

Well, being unemployed I'm playing lots of Wurdle on my iTouch :). As such, last night I went to bed dreaming about letters and words. And a puzzle dawned on me -- what word could I imagine that, using just the letters of that word, would allow me to form the most words? I know it's a silly thing, but hey, there are puzzle geeks out there that dig such things.

The word that occupied my brain last night was "stare". I remember finding over 20 words inside that word. Let's see how I do now that I'm awake... (*) Technically I should validate that each of these words is part of some standard dictionary, but it doesn't occupy *that* much of my attention, so forget that.

star tare tares ate
rate rates sate tar
eat eats east rat
rats ear ears tear
tears sat tase taser
art arts

22. I'm sure there are some other words in there that will pop right out to Scrabble players, but those are what I could figure out off the top of my head. Funny what our brains do when they catch on a particular problem.