OOBE and Desktop Support

I’m doing something we call “Desktop Support” this week.

It isn’t strictly speaking, Desktop Support since I am working with some 5 year old laptops, but the discipline is the same.

When Kevin came back from Key West, he brought back two computers that needed some help from someone who I do some occasional work for. A friend and in this case a client. He gets these machines about every six months and when I go down there, I set them right. I don’t mind helping him out since we’ve known each other for quite a while.

It was easier this way since he’s due to come up here – or I’m due to go down there soon. I could use a week off my quirky little island, and Key West is a fascinating place, although it’s losing a lot of that wonderful Conch flavor since the locals are being edged out and it’s changing into a combination “1% and day tripper” compound.

The first computer wouldn’t see the internet. I fixed that in five minutes – the little switch that controls Wifi was turned off. After I updated antivirus to Microsoft Security Essentials, and all the software, it’s been set aside. Got to do all this sitting in my comfy chair while watching the TV.

The second one was the trial. It may or may not have a bad hard drive on it. Starting the machine took about a half hour and then it would go “zombie” on me. Meaning it would forget it was a computer and just not do much other than run the clock and make the mouse move very slowly. I was able to grab the personal items from it and put them on the other laptop so the decision was made to completely reload this beast.

See that is where the Desktop Support comes in. It’s a 17 inch monster that will level your tables and hold down papers in a hurricane.

It also needed me to start it on its way for that reload.

5:30AM I was up, clicking on the button saying “Next” to load Windows Vista onto the hard drive before going out for the dog walk.

Yes, Windows Vista. Every Tech Guy’s least favorite current operating system.

Oddly it seems to be taking to that machine fairly well. The load took about the same time as it took me to walk Lettie, feed both her and myself, then sit down with the coffee to click through some buttons.

The problem is that I had the “Oobe Experience”.

I’m not used to home computers. I have never actually gone to a store and bought a computer retail. I’ve always gotten computers meant for the “corporate” market which means the extra software that was installed was a minimum.

This is an HP and apparently HP is well known for putting “crapware” on their computers.

Or at least they did when I started with this HP a year ago.

When you load a computer with a “retail” or “OEM” copy of windows, you get just the operating system. Period.

When you get a computer from the store meant for the home market you get all sorts of icons on the desktop that the manufacturer was paid to put there by the website or software company.

When that computer gets to me, I remove them all. No questions, they’re gone.

Why? Well all that crapware takes up space and slows you down.

When I started the computer the first time this morning, I didn’t expect it to even work, after all I suspect that the hard drive is failing. It took me about 30 minutes to come up to a desktop since all those pieces of software were coming up, demanding attention, begging for my contact information, and generally being a nuisance.

I’ll be removing all of that later. Toolbars on browsers first, since we all seem to live with browsers and the operating system is more of a background thing. I’ll be getting rid of Norton, Ebay, HP Games, MSN, Sling Box, Microsoft Office Trial, and a few others.

After all, it’s Vista. If you want to speed up a Vista computer, here’s a hint – remove it and install Windows XP or Windows 7 depending on how comfortable you are with either. I’d say Windows 7 since I’ve grown to like it but I know of a few folks who still have XP and don’t want to change.

If it becomes mine, it’s getting LinuxCentOS or Ubuntu are excellent choices, and I could use a proper Linux Server here.

One more “helpful hint”. When you are installing new software, always, I mean ALWAYS, take the “expert” or “Advanced” or “Custom” install. You will find out that you have the choice to not have the “Ask Toolbar” or the “Yahoo Toolbar” or the “Google Toolbar” added to your browser. They just slow you down and spy on what ever you are doing anyway – you simply do NOT need them.

Now why the video of the little lamb?

 It’s cute. Enjoy.

Why I Stay With T-Mobile

I got into the whole cell phone use business late.  I see the cell as a desk phone that I just happen to be able to slip in my pocket and go do my thing with.  I don’t take calls if I am driving, which seems to be the exception and not the rule.  I don’t have a “Smartphone”.  Oh if I were given one, I’d use it, but for the most part, I don’t need it. 

For the most part I am sitting at a PC, banging away on a keyboard from before 7am until as late as 11pm some nights.  If you need me you have two options, a voice call or email.  My old beater of a laptop is much more flexible than the most Einstein like phone you can possibly have.  I use the power I have, but I am open to change. 

I didn’t have a phone until around 2003.  At that point we decided that it was time to move to Fort Lauderdale Area and we thought it would be best to have a Florida cell phone.  When we came to Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the beach, we made a survey of the major national carriers and the “deals” of the moment and decided for how I intended to use the phone, T-Mobile was best for me.  In the intervening time I have stayed with T-Mobile through horrendous coverage at my old house, and excellent coverage elsewhere.  If I have a signal I can happily talk away. 

When I was here in Florida on vacation in 2003, I went to the T-Mobile store and was greeted there by the staff after being allowed to browse an appropriate amount of time and we all began to chat.  I decided on a very basic phone which happened to be small so I could fit it in my pocket or my skate pack, and I lived with that phone for another 5 years.  Basically having been treated very well by the people in the Fort Lauderdale Store set me on a good relationship with a large company. 

Corny, I know.

So today I still have the same phone number with the 954 area code.  I still have T-Mobile, and for my needs I get everything I can ask for.  Basic phone got updated about a year and a half ago to Basic phone with FM radio and MP3 player.  I got online to do that upgrade after doing all my research and then calling the company for just the right phone.

It had to be red.

I have that phone now, it serves me well although I find the FM radio is more of a curiosity, and I think I played MP3s with it twice.  There are other ways to do all of that while I am out on a dog walk. 

Today I had an interview, and a client called that phone just as I was putting too much money into the meter and walking into the prospective companies office.  I pressed off and mentally apologized for ducking the call, and went into the office for the interview.

Coming out later, I powered up my little red and grey phone and it booted up flawlessly with a message that I had a message.  When I pressed and held 1 for the voice mail I got a message saying “Sim Not Ready”.

Hmmm not good.

Getting in the car, I disassembled the phone and reassembled it.  It booted back up with the same rude message.   Sim Not Ready.  I’m not playing a game here, you need to work first time, every time!

It gave me an excuse to drive to the same T-Mobile store from 2003, they were still there and I think I may even have parked in the same spot as back then.  I was downtown Fort Lauderdale for the interview and that store was the closest.   I stood in line around 10 minutes, being apologized to by the two people who worked there, and waited.  By the time I was served there were another four groups that came in, and there seemed to be an air of pleasant resolve that we’d all be taken care of.

That’s the point.  We were taken care of.  Minimum of fuss, pleasant people working the counter, and each person was efficiently served moving to the next.  In the case of my Sim Not Ready, the replacement was free.  The woman who pleasantly and efficiently helped me moved my contacts to the new Sim, gave me back the old one, and told me that I will get a message when I was activated. 

Being thanked I was sent on my way with a smile.  No muss, no fuss, no “retail attitude”.

I simply left with the feeling that T-Mobile at Broward and Federal had some excellent people working for the company.   They may move onto other things in the future, but I’ll think that when I get in there the next time in maybe another 7 years, things will be just as precise, just as excellent, and just as high a level of customer service.

I guess that is how things should be.   Try that in a mall or a big box store, I dare you!  T-Mobile, if you’re listening, promote those two who were on duty today from 11 to 12AM.  They’re good!

Why I Stayed with American Express

When someone does something wrong, Tell Them.
When someone does something right, Tell Everyone.

I’ve said that many times in my life.  Positive reviews on my blog are an illustration of that.  Being a Big Brother type, negative reviews are a warning, but that’s a very different story.

We have all gotten used to horrendous support from companies.  The worst seems to be the technical sites like those from computer companies who have decided that in order to pay for upper management’s ivory back scratchers, they lay off the US, UK, Canada, Australia or what have you based expert level support for a cheaper support based out of an emerging economy.  Nothing against the tech people in Bangalore, but when I hear That Accent, I have taken to asking them if they can forward me immediately to a US based group.  I have been almost universally sent back here to someone who has been able to give me the highest level of support that I could expect.

I have been a customer of American Express for years.  I have to say that being able to talk to someone who is much better than average is why I have kept the card.  I am talking to someone in the United States who knows what they’re doing, and will be willing to do what it takes to make me happy.

Yesterday I broke down and made some Customer Support Service Calls.  I don’t like doing that sort of thing, since I have functioned as a Customer Support Manager in a Call Center when I was the Lead Application Manager for a financial package.  I know what these folks go through from both ends. 

I literally wore out my AMEX Blue Card.  The stripe is worn with an even “clear” spot where the many reads of the card had eaten the magnetic stripe away.  The card has a neat dent in it where I took a center punch and a hammer and destroyed the RFID Chip on purpose.  It is now widely becoming known what kind of a “bad technology” RFID is for secure transactions so I won’t go through it here. 

The lamination on the card began to peel up and the thing looks a mess. It got so that I was surprised when it would read instead of reject me.  Gas stations were reliable, the rest… nope.

So I called up American Express from the number on the card.  It was smudged so I got out the magnifying glass and turned up the lights and was able to dial out to them and got through to the call center in less than 5 minutes. 

I spoke with Tiffany.   If you are Tiffany I have to say thank you.  If you are Tiffany’s Boss, you need to give her a raise or at least a bonus.  Tiffany was … well, perfect at what she was doing.  We talked about how I had worn out the card, I mentioned that I use it for the vast majority of my purchases, and that she was happy to help me get a new card.

No muss and no fuss. 

As we worked through the security procedures of giving her the old four digit code off the card and other details, at no time did I feel lost or confused.   Everything was amazingly clear and concise.

The order for a new card was placed and she asked me if there was anything else.   This was where I threw my curve ball at her – could I please have a card with no RFID chip in it. 

She wasn’t sure and had to check.  I sat on hold for under a minute when she found the information and was able to “Turn Off” the RFID chip. 

I feel better about that.  The report about the whole RFID mess and how you can be “Electronically Pickpocketed” has gone viral.  There are a number of reports on You Tube but this one says it pretty well and even shows how easy it is to do the deed.   When I get my passport, I’ll get a foil sleeve and leave the chip alone, but the credit cards have a date with a hammer and a center punch.

According to hackers, you can read an RFID Chip up to 160 feet away.  Around 45 Meters for those who are Foot-and-Inch-Challenged.  Half a football field anyone?

You can see the TV News Report out of a Dallas station on this link here.  At least until it gets pulled.

Anyway once all that happened on the phone, I left Tiffany feeling like everything was done and I forgot about it.  The next morning, 10AM (Now) I am sitting in my chair and I hear the UPS truck drive up.  The friendly driver gave the horn a tap and I went to the door as he got there.  It turned out that American Express sent via UPS Next Day Air a brand spanking new American Express Blue Card.  I now have a new AMEX card with a sticker telling me to please activate it.  From Omaha to me in one night!

So now, I’ve got a call to make …