Entries Tagged as 'Internet'

AT&T Provides Exceptionally BAD Customer Service

Yesterday morning (and well into the afternoon) I spent over two and one-half hours on the phone with AT&T trying to resolve an issue with a “$50 Cash Back”.

First I call the customer service phone number on my bill; and was quickly told I’d have to resolve it online since it related to an online order.

Then I brought up a chat window with online customer service, who was quick to tell me I needed to call the rewards center (which I did was I was chatting with them — and left the chat open exchanging information slowly).

With the rewards center I talked with a useless individual who transferred me to a supervisor who was actually some what helpful; but she told me I had to go through customer service and have the rewards center conferenced in (they apparently can’t access customer records, nor can they make outbound calls).

So I called back customer service, spoke to an individual who wanted to help — but wouldn’t transfer me to a supervisor; determined I need to talk to the rewards center (duh — that’s what I told him — I needed to be conferenced in to the rewards center with a supervisor)… he transferred me to the rewards center (main number) and hung up… so I talked with a rewards center person, and was again transferred to the same supervisor (who told me again there was nothing she could do — and I pointed out that I had done EXACTLY as she ask, and again AT&T had incompetency was the issue).

She transferred me back to customer service — which turned out to be more of a hassle since it was a different office, and I had to enter all my account information.  The person I spoke with was EXTREMELY rude, and the supervisor she transferred me to was an absolute BITCH (trying to play the power game).

I then called back to customer service, was transferred to a supervisor, who did conference into the rewards center and then got an absolute BITCH there.

After that (and noting all their names and operator IDs — at least the operator IDs of the ones that would actually provide them to me) I decide to just call and go through the complaints process…

I explained the whole thing to the woman, she read over the notes; ask me a few questions, and then just said “How ’bout I just credit your account $50 and put this issue to rest”.

It took her less than five minutes to understand the previous two and a half hour nightmare with AT&T individuals who were for the most part in a hurry to say NO, tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about, or tell me I needed to talk to someone else…

And all of this is a result of AT&T designing a system of rebates / credits / incentives that is difficult for an individual to navigate through and redeem… after all, they don’t really want you to get the money, they just want to defraud you.

HORRIBLE company (yeah — I already knew that)… and certainly AT&T doesn’t do anything to retain customers…

I’m already making plans to change my Internet provider as soon as I get the credits for the other promotions.

As far as I’m concerned, if I have to deal with crappy customer service, I’ll just play the providers against each other and maximize my savings.

All I can say is…

Just say NO!

Originally posted 2009-08-04 01:00:18.

Media Com

OK, so I thought Comcast was bad…

After I first moved I had Cox Cable — and it was great.  The installation happened exactly as they promised; I consistently got 15 mb/s down stream out of the 20 mb/s down stream burst they promised, and it was at a fair price.

Then, of course, I bought a house and moved in, and Cox didn’t service my new address — Media Com ( mediacomcc.com ) did…

So I went to the office to order service since there didn’t seem to be any way to do it online.

When I got to the office, and stood in line for about half an hour, I came to find out that they couldn’t setup cable service for me since the address had never had cable and wasn’t in their database and the person who added addresses would take two to three days to complete it.  But I was told that they would call me as soon as my address had been entered.

Never received a call… so I stopped back by the middle of the next week.

My address had indeed been ordered; and I was able to order Internet service (actually TV plus Internet was $0.10 cheaper than Internet alone, so I got both — not that either option was what I’d consider a fair price).

The installer arrived within the window provided; but didn’t actually have everything to complete the installation (no outside box — so he just wired the splitter up with no protection from the elements and promised to come back within a couple days to install the box).

There wasn’t a problem bringing up the Internet (it was a self install) — I can’t tell you anything about the TV service since my TVs (to this day) still remain in the boxes from the move.

The first thing I noticed was that the connection was slow (we’re talking very slow); but I didn’t panic right away and call technical support because I knew that on many system the modem might take 72-hours to provision correctly.

After a few days I started to run speed tests… they consistently showed that I was getting around 400 kb/s down stream out of the 8 mb/s advertised (but, of course, not guaranteed).  I might have been happy with 4 mb/s, but less than 2 mb/s meant that the connection would not be usable.

I placed a call to technical support and of course had to wade through all there attempts to deflect the problem as something I was doing.  Finally they decided that there must be a problem and scheduled an appointment for a four hour window the next Monday (almost a week in the future) with a 30 minute notice call.

Sunday evening came around and their automated system called me to confirm my appointment.  I pressed the button on my cell phone and the appointment was confirmed.

Monday I’d arranged my schedule to be around the house all afternoon… fifteen minutes before the close of their window (fifteen minutes after their notice period had expired) I called technical support.

The first thing I heard was… “we still have fifteen minutes” — then I pointed out that no, since I’d been promised a call 30 minutes before the service technician arrived that they’d officially missed the window.

A little more checking and they discovered that my appointment had been cancelled by the local office because they’d determined the problem was with the head-end and not in my home — of course no one had bother to notify me that I didn’t need to be available.

Immediately the technician offered me a credit for the missed appointment — I ask to speak to a supervisor.

The supervisor assured me that I should have been notified; but he was unable to provide me any information about when I could expect a resolution to the problem — so he committed to have someone call me back within 72-hours.

I stressed to him that if Media Com couldn’t honor simple commitments that I would switch my service to AT&T ADSL.

The week passed, and no return call – so I called in again, go a promise of a call back… and to this day I’ve never received a call back.  I also filed an online support ticket that’s never been answered.

The day after I had AT&T ADSL installed (which gives my consistently 5 mb/s downstream out of the 6 mb/s promised) I returned the equipment to the local Media Com office… and was ask why — I recanted the story so that everyone waiting in line could hear it.

The woman didn’t seem to be the list bit surprised, and never offered an apology.

The following week I called up to make sure that my account was closed and to insure that the 30-day money back guarantee was honored… the person I spoke with just happen to be a supervisor and was actually the first person who genuinely apologized without me needing to underscore how pathetic their customer service had been.

I could have lived with the poor Internet service for some period of time had I believed that the company was actually customer focused and that they would honor their commitments.  Further, I would have been far more willing to work with them had their customer service actually apologized right off, and made me feel that mine was the exception and not the norm.

BUT… 400 kb/s — come on… my cell phone does better than that!!!

Originally posted 2009-08-03 01:00:43.

Flash

Since when does every website seem to think they have to use Adobe Flash?

In my opinion some of the crappiest software on this planet comes from Adobe, and they are one of the very few companies that seem to believe that installing their software on your computer gives them every right to take it over.

The only other software that I know that acts like that we refer to as a VIRUS and we work diligently to keep it off our machines.

Wake up — and just say HELL NO to web sites trying to force you download and install ANY software.  If they can’t figure out how to give you a WEB 2.0 experience without you needing to install viral agents — just spend your money elsewhere… they’ll get the idea soon enough.

Originally posted 2009-02-27 01:00:02.

Dynamic Sitemap

About two years ago I wrote a program that created a sitemap from a local copy of my web pages (I also wrote an automation wrapper so that I could do all my web sites along with other mundane tasks reliably).

When I installed WordPress over a year ago I really liked the fact that the sitemap plug in was capable of dynamically creating a sitemap when a request was made; and I set it as a goal to implement that on my web site.

Well, yesterday that goal was realized.

I wrote a simple PHP script that takes some meta information and creates a sitemap, either uncompressed or compressed based on what is requested.  I used a rewrite rule in my .htaccess file to allow search engines to continue to request the familiar sitemap.xml and/or sitemap.xml.gz file.

Now I don’t have to worry about creating and deploying a sitemap file when I change a file; I only have to make sure that the meta information is updated when I add or remove pages.  Plus, I incorporated the concept of dynamic pages, so that the sitemap can accurately report fresh content.

At the moment I haven’t decided if I’m going to “publish” this code or not.  It’s likely I will once I clean it up and actually test it more completely.  Like I said, it isn’t rocket science – it just takes a little knowledge of what a sitemap is, and you can get everything you need from sitemaps.org; a little ability in PHP, and a basic understanding of how to write a re-write rule for Apache.

Originally posted 2010-02-23 01:00:50.

AT&T U-Verse

I signed up for AT&T U-Verse service about two months ago — I’ve already made a post on that, but I decide to go ahead and do a series of posts on it.

This post will be an over view of what it is; then I’ll do a post on each of the services that are part of it.

The first thing to say about AT&T U-Verse is that it is offered by a company that I think very little of; a company that does not engender trust (in fact I’m suspicious of them at every turn — they seem to make mistake after mistake after mistake — and all their mistakes benefit them).  The sad thing is you might not have any substantially better company in your area to receive similar services from — so it’s not necessarily choosing the best, but often choosing the one that gives you that most without costing you the most.

U-Verse in short is AT&T’s name for an “advance” set of services — voice, television, and internet.

AT&T’s system generally provides these services to the home over copper (fibre is required in fairly close proximity as well).  The technology is called FTTN (fibre-to-the-node) and while they do have some FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) it’s only found in extremely dense areas.

With FTTN a VRAD (video-ready-access-device) is present between the Central Office and the end node consumer; in FTTP it isn’t.  VRADs are generally fairly large pieces of equipment similar to a cable company’s “head-end” (used for digital cable deployment) and much larger than a TELCO’s mini-DSLAMs (used for DSL deployment via copper from fibre from the Central Office DSLAM).

The services offered via U-Verse are: voice (“land line” telephone), television (“cable” tv as well as video on demand), and internet (“high speed” broadband).

When the service is installed it’s likely the installers will work in a team; the outside cable will be run by one person (generally the entry copper from the pole will be replaced) and new inside wiring is run.

It’s important to note that all services are digital.

Voice is provided by voice over IP (VoIP) technology; television is provided through ip video (including live and video on demand [VOD]); and of course the internet service is the core of everything (though an optional part).

The center of the system in the home is a residential gateway which handles all three of the services (along with a battery backup unit — mainly to insure that emergency services work in power outages).

Many people ask the question if they can use their own residential equipment rather than what AT&T provides.  The answer simply is NO.  Currently you must use the AT&T equipment — you may use your equipment in addition to the AT&T residential gateway, or remove your equipment and use exclusively the AT&T provided equipment.

I’ll cover the details of each service with respect to the gateway in the following posts — but your installer will work with you to provide a reasonable installation that should provide you with voice, television, and internet services much as you currently have.

The gateway itself has one WAN side connection, two telephone jacks  (it’s not clear to me whether it’s cable of three lines or four lines, but currently you can only subscribe for two lines of service), four 100-Base-T Ethernet (LAN) connections, one wireless (802.11-N) radio, one USB connection (for a PC), one “F” connector for video, and one Ethernet “broadband” connection (I’m not sure what this is for, it’s got a piece of transparent tape over it on my unit).

Initially the set-top boxes and DVR units must be cabled directly to the unit to insure proper discover; after they are configured you can use a switch if you want more ports; or you can connect your router to the gateway if you like (you will need to reconfigure the gateway if you do this to allow your gateway to work as before).

If everything goes well in the installation, once the wiring is in place the gateway, set-top boxes, and DVR units will register and come online within a few minutes — however, AT&T seems to have quite a few units that are defective, so don’t be surprised if there are some problems.

I had ordered one DVR and two set-top boxes (mainly because I wanted the maximum installation I could get for free).  One of the set-top boxes was DOA (dead-on-arrival), one of the set-top boxes worked (but I decided I didn’t really want to keep it so the install took it back), and the DVR unit wasn’t completely dead, but was defective.  Fortunately the installer had another unit he could replace it with — but since the unit had worked well enough to register itself it took quite sometime for the installer to find someone at AT&T support who was able to clear out the previous registration so my “new” DVR could register.

We also had some issues with the voice service; but by the time the DVR issues were resolved a reboot of the gateway seemed to download the proper service configuration and both inbound and outbound calling worked.

I will note that my install was originally scheduled for a Saturday (it was the first day I could select); and AT&T never informed me that they had moved my installation date to the following Monday.  I found out when I called them 15-minutes before the close of the installation window.  I was more than a little pissed since I had changed my plans Saturday to accommodate them, and now I had to change my plans for Monday as well!

Over all I give my installer fairly high marks for doing a good job (though he still owes me a jack — AT&T doesn’t give there installers a very good supply of equipment or parts); but like almost every AT&T system, it’s brittle and almost appears designed to fail.

The one short coming of my install is that he really didn’t know a great deal about configuring the gateway for a “complex” network; but since that isn’t something AT&T technically supports I can’t fault him on that, and I certainly knew enough to figure out what needed to be changed (the 2Wire device they use could be considered a “pro-sumer” grade device, so it capable of meeting most needs, but don’t expect it to have highly technical descriptions of the various settings).

I will say, that after the initial installation the system appeared to work… though before you place your order you’ll want to read my next three posts as well as do a price-feature comparison with what you have now.

Also, you may find that it turns out to be less expensive to order more services than you want.  For example, if you only want internet service — it’s cheaper to order enough service to get a free installation (well, it’s not free — I found no way to avoid the $29 activation fee — but it’s easy to see how to avoid the $149 installation fee).  If you order a bundle, the installation fee is waived; if you downgrade in the first thirty (30) days there’s a $5 fee — so as the installer is leaving, call and downgrade — save $144 of the installation fee… though taking advantage of some of the rewards and promotions may actually make it less expensive to have more services for longer.

Oh, and one last word — make sure you keep copies of everything you “read” online to do with any promotional credits, rewards, requirements.  As I’ve already said, AT&T does not engender trust.

Originally posted 2010-05-14 02:00:22.

1and1 POP / IMAP / SMTP Settings

If you have a 1and1 hosted domain with email (like my domains are), you can use the following settings for your email client:

POP:

host: pop.1and1.com
port: 110
port: 995, SSL

IMAP:

host: imap.1and1.com
port: 143
port: 993, SSL

SMTP:

host: smtp.1and1.com (requires authentication)
port: 25
port: 587, SSL

You can access 1and1 web mail via:

http://webmail.1and1.com/

Originally posted 2008-05-19 14:26:41.

Web 2.0? Talk About Version Number Creep

Personally I’d say we’re somewhere around Web 0.01 right now, and I’m not totally convinced we’re moving forward.

While AJAX definitely improves the user experience, I would hardly call it an enabling technology for the future, I’d categorize it more as a stop-gap to create a dynamic user interface on legacy systems.

The real question is why are we promoting this as Web 2.0?  We could be focusing on create new standards for browsers and servers that created real interactiveness and addresses many of the short comings of our current systems.

And what’s with the countless frameworks?  How can anyone be expected to be productive without real standards and standard based frameworks?

To me this all seems too reminiscent of the “good old days”…

Originally posted 2008-05-15 20:45:37.

All the news fit to print…

Hmm… maybe that should be all the bs that can be gotten away with!

When you read news articles or when people relay to you “facts” be sure and do your homework; read accounts of the same events on multiple un-related sources.  In fact it’s often good to get a perspective from an international source.

Take a look at any of the facts, figures, and claims — try and verify those against an authoritative source.

If the information reported is important to you; check to see if any of the “facts” it’s based on, or claims it makes are updated over time.

Most journalists report the news impartially from their perspective; but it is from their perspective.  Many journalists and news organization like to sensationalize the news or majorly spin it to suit their agenda.

Question everything.

Originally posted 2009-02-12 01:00:46.

Free Web Hosting

Below is a list of free web hosting sites; most of them don’t place any type of advertisements or links on your pages, some of them support scripting, and some of them have lenient policies as to content.

You’ll have to check each of these to see if they meet your needs.  I have very little personal experience with any of them, and none of them have my endorsement.

Please keep in mind what I generally say:

You rarely get what you pay for!

Originally posted 2009-02-22 01:00:14.

Web Site Version Control

I’m not sure this is something that occurs to everyone, but I use SVN to version control my web pages. Essentially I treat my web pages just like a “software project”.

You do need to be mindful of files that you want to exclude from source control and/or transfer.

But I find the combination of SVN and FileZilla works great to take a local working copy of my web pages, maintain versioning, and push them out to my hosting facility.

While it’s not quite “one click” — it’s fairly simple to do, and it allows you to roll back changes easily.

Originally posted 2008-07-18 21:01:19.