HAVE YOU BEEN EATING TIDE? – Marilyn Armstrong

EATING TIDE? I THINK I’VE BEEN EATING COMPUTERS AND OPERATING SYSTEMS

I was trying to figure out if I was writing about idiot teenagers eating Tide pods, or the endless tides of the ocean, or how one day is total insanity and by the next, everything has completely calmed down. In tide, out tide.

Whoever said that getting a Mac was the easiest thing in the world meant well and probably, that was their experience. But life is what it is and it can be very easy or ridiculously — and needlessly — complicated.

I was supposed to get a call from Mac to help me set up my Mac. I had a few questions I needed answered because it has been a long time since I used a Mac … 25 years, maybe more. The machines have undergone substantial changes during that period. One of the things with any new computer that runs on a different system is “what do you call that thing that does that other thing?”

Me and a camera, two matching Scottish terriers, and sunshine through the picture window.

Mostly, I needed to set up preferences and for some reason, my preference file wouldn’t open. It would bounce like it should, but no menu. Just the empty bar and “customize” as the single drop-down option.

I wanted to change the security settings so I would not be limited to ONLY buying things from the Apple App store. It’s a big wide world and I do not like being told what to do by a computer. Any computer. Especially not MY computer.

I wanted to get rid of the password. I need these machines to be something Garry can access in case I’m not sitting next to him to help. There’s information on here he might need and even though he has my password, probably stored in many places, he is unlikely to find the most recent one anyway. Passwords, like the tide, keep changing. Sometimes they really want that underscore or hyphen … and sometimes, only the birth caul, blood of a newborn plus a full enchantment might do the job.


“But make sure it’s something you will find easy to remember.”

Right. And if we insist you change it, don’t use the one before the last. You need a spanking brand new one which can’t be your birthday. Oh, and don’t use a repeated number. Today, a hyphen is a no-no, but for that one, you need a capital letter. But NOT as the first letter of the sequence. Also, the numbers can’t be your birthday.

Do make sure you can easily remember it. Otherwise, all those sticky notes with your passwords scrawled on them is insecure.

Duh.

Also, I wanted to install Chrome because it has everything in it — contacts and saved emails and all that. Not to mention my calendar and bookmarks. Apple does not approve of Chrome, but it actually isn’t because Chrome is a battery hog (it is and we all know it), but because Apple and Google had a decade long court battle over something nerdy and no one actually remembers what it was, but they spent a gazillion dollars fighting over it and to punish users since they can’t do squat to Google, they make it hard for us to use it.

In the newest version of the Macbook Air (and probably all the other Macbooks), anything that doesn’t come from their App store or have their Official Seal of Approval gets rejected out of hand. No matter HOW many times you say “No, really, I want this application,” each time you try to open it, there’s an exhausting list of requirements just to write yourself a note.

The worst installation was Apache OpenOffice (it’s Microsoft Office via open source software). It does everything MS Office does — better — and it has everything you could possibly want. But it’s not on Apple’s approved list and it doesn’t even have a manufacturer’s name on it because — IT’S OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE.

Apple isn’t really “into” open source. They like getting paid and are paranoid about anything you got free from the Internet.

Normally, I can set this stuff up using whatever widget manages preferences. I’ve done this on at least half a dozen different systems. It’s one of the few things that’s usually the same from computer to computer. The icon might change, but basically, the contents are similar enough to figure it out.

I couldn’t get it to open. At all.

They didn’t call me at four and by 4:30, I figured out that they weren’t going to call, so I rebooked for 7:30 and they didn’t call then, either. So finally, I called them. Of course, she had no record of any of my earlier correspondence which was part of setting up the interviews that never happened.

It doesn’t matter who you talk to or whether or not they record it: they never have ANY notes or for that matter, any record that you exist.

I got a lovely woman who after trying 25 different versions of “start-up,” decided I needed a new operating system. Three hours later, I had a newer new operating system, but sadly, no preference file. At which point she moved me to level 2 help.

The guy came on, he said “Hi.”

I said “Hi.”

He asked me to see what happened if I double-clicked the “customize” icon. Lo and behold, a screen opened and each item on it had a click box. And empty click box. He said “Damn, never seen that screen before. Must be new. Hm. Try clicking all the boxes, then click DONE.”

I did it. And voilà. Everything appeared. It took about 30 seconds. Getting rid of my password took another minute. Settling OpenOffice so it would work took another two, maybe three minutes. He said: “I love OpenOffice. It’s great to have a product that lets you do what you want to do.” As opposed to Microsoft which is always sure they know what you want to do before you do it.

He apologized for the entirely unnecessary hours of reinstalling the operating system and I said “Shit happens.”

He said: “Well, you obviously know your way around a computer, so now that you’ve got preferences, I think you’re good to go,” and I was.

The motto of the story is that if you don’t have an answer, there’s no reason to exhaust two people proving that you don’t know the answer. Get someone who does have the answer. I waste almost an entire day and most of an evening on something I could have dealt with in a few minutes.

It wasn’t that it was hard to set up. It was that the person I talked to — and let’s not get into the people who never bothered to call me after sending me copious offers to “help get me set up” — didn’t understand the problem or where to look for the solution.

Meanwhile, I was sure it was something I was doing wrong because I can usually take pretty much any computer and make it work reasonably well in about 15 minutes. I just didn’t find the screen.

Of course, there were no instructions. I’m pretty sure Apple invented the directionless computer. It’s their way of telling you no help will be required. Thanks guys!

So, that was the Apple/Mac part of the story.

There was nothing wrong with the computer. There was nothing wrong with me. There was something wrong with Apple’s communications … and after a brief, yet somehow intense struggle, I got Chrome to run and all is well on the Apple. Or will be soon enough.

Sheesh. What a long, long, long day!


But today was a completely different, yet oddly similar day. In the middle of yesterday’s Apple experience, I got an update from Microsoft that failed. When I ran through the process, they told me I “had to detach my hybrid laptop from its connection to the monitor.”

Uh, no.

So I called them which apparently everyone with a hybrid computer has been doing as this is not personal — it just FEELS personal — but is actually a problem relating to all hybrid dual hard drive laptops. They couldn’t fix it and the people to whom I was speaking weren’t willing to even give it a try. Danger lurks in the dark chambers where the wires and the boards all live … They said they would call me today around 12:30.

By 2:30, I had given up and I wasn’t calling them again. This was their problem, not mine. I went back to writing this post.


I went to take a few pictures of my new computer to add to this post. I processed a few of them and was about to install them in this file when — the phone rang.


Microsoft calling. I had moved all the way up to tech support 3. Whoa! Serious!

They said they might need a while — like maybe half an hour (hah!) — so could they call me back when they finished whatever they were going to do to my computer? I said oh sure, I have another computer.

And – I do. The very same little Mac from which I cannot process photographs. Perhaps this wasn’t the best possible day for me to try to work this out. Possibly, I’m a bit distracted.

Everything about this Mac is, by the way, at least twice as complicated as doing the same thing on a PC. Especially graphics. At least they let me download my Topaz filters — and I only had to do it three times before it “stuck.” Yay me. At the same time, Microsoft is DOING THINGS to my expensive computer including (futilely) reinstalling Windows 10. Again.

Trying to convince Microsoft Edge to work and good luck with that

All I’m trying to do is fix a couple of photographs and export them to Serendipity. On the Mac. Which is not cooperating.

So, while Microsoft was busy installing another new operating system on my PC, I was on the Mac trying to extract one picture without a battle to end time.

It was about three hours before the tester called me back to say the problem was NOT solved, but they are working on it. It might be a few weeks and in the meantime, just ignore everything.

Everything. Does that include supper?

Yesterday was quite a day and today has been a about the same, thanks. At least Microsoft just did the work and I didn’t have to do anything but try to ignore what was happening “over there” on the big computer. A good day for chomping down Tide pods, don’t you think?

I have two expensive computers.

I hate computers.

ON BECOMING OBSOLETE

It’s an odd feeling to be declared obsolete. I had been getting increasingly less relevant for a while, but after the dot coms went down, the high-tech world turned on its ear. Venture capital disappeared and so did the start-ups that had been my bread and butter.

Tech writers were replaced by automated systems that generate “documentation” from embedded engineering notes. For years, no one cared if the material these systems generated was useful or readable. As long as “something” was included with the product, it was “good enough.”

Intelligent, human-based technical support had already been exported. Now, the same thinking was applied to documentation.

Need help? Call tech support on the other side of the world. Let your customers wait on hold, get disconnected. Finally, let them talk to someone who knows nothing and will provide incorrect information. Never provide a call back number, so if the solution doesn’t work — and mostly, it won’t — make them go through the whole thing again.

What could go wrong with this?

Who needs a manual?

i_467_old-computer-advertisement-006A lot has gone wrong with this approach. Pretty much everything, really. Belatedly, a wide range of companies seem to have discovered that having horrible customer service and no documentation is affecting business! Imagine that. Industry-wide rethinking came too late for my career, but it’s nice to see respect for customers seeping back into service. Better late than never. It turns out that customers who buy expensive gear do want documentation. The more expensive the equipment, the better service they apparently expect. Who’d have guessed? I’m sure industry execs were shocked to discover people want manuals. Good ones. Written in a language they understand.

The whole “call tech support” thing got old really fast.

I never intended to be a technical writer. I was going to be a “real” writer. You know. An author. Novels. Literature. I eventually wrote a lot of books, all of them explaining how to do something obscurely technical and computer-related. For a gal who barely scraped through basic algebra and never took a physics or chemistry course, I picked up a lot along the way. I rode the high-tech wave until that fateful day when I was informed “no one reads manuals.”

The world keeps turning. I’m seeing “help wanted” ads for tech writers again. It was a long drought.  At last, written (not generated) documentation is making a comeback. I’ve lived long enough to see the full cycle, to watch an industry — and my profession — come 360 degrees back to where it all began.

ADVENTURES WITH CHARTER CUSTOMER SERVICE

It started out to be a bummer of a day and went downhill from there.

We were not watching the inauguration. Pointedly not watching the inauguration. We had been planning all month to not watch the inauguration, so we hadn’t turned on the television. Meanwhile, in today’s mail I got a notice from Charter that the special, discounted rate that brought our monthly fee down from piratical to merely exorbitant, had expired.

customerservice-dilbertI called customer service. We had a disagreeable conversation about how they couldn’t do anything except reduce our package to 165 channels, 160 of which are shopping channels, religious channels, MTV, and radio stations. None of which we would ever use. It would remove all the sports channels, every movie channel including Turner Classics, leaving us with a hefty bill, the networks, and dyspepsia. I asked to be switched to the “customer retention” department because I was feeling in a very “unplug the bastards” mood.

Customer Retention is the department in charge of keeping folks like us from cutting the cord. They are the designated “let’s make a deal” department. I know the routine. I get to do this every year when they hike up my rates because whatever special deal or discount they gave me last time expired.

The little snot assured me there was absolutely nothing she — or anyone — could do. Assured me that “customer retention” would also be unable (unwilling) to help. I said “How about you connect me with them anyhow?” Still protesting, she transferred me.

Customer Retention offered me a $20 a month discount for a year. I said “thank you” but why couldn’t we just make some kind of arrangement so I don’t have to go through the same routine every January? He thought that was pretty funny. I heaved a deep sigh, thanked him, and hung up. Went to the kitchen to make dinner. Which was going to be almond-crusted salmon, except the salmon was full of bones. I was extracting fish bones with my tweezers when Garry called from the living room. The cable box had no signal. It wasn’t doing anything. I suggested he reboot again. If that didn’t work, I’d call Charter.

customer-service-f1-for-help

I continued extracting salmon bones and Garry informed me he had rebooted twice. Still no signal. I was going to have to call Charter. Pull out my fingernails. Burn me with hot pokers. Stretch me on the rack. Waterboard me. But please, don’t make me call Customer Service.

Yet, there was naught else to be done. I called. Got The Robot. Couldn’t seem to get past the robot, so I called again and tried a different sequence of keys, eventually winding up at Technical Support. Nice guy. Couldn’t figure out what exactly was causing the problem, but he tried to fix it. Couldn’t. Finally said he was transferring me back to Customer Retention. Whatever they’d done had made it impossible for them to access my line.

Back at Customer Retention, some guy named Scott (or maybe it was Sean?) told me the discount he’d put through had, for some reason, failed to complete its journey and was clogging the pipes, so to speak. He did stuff and said he thought he was almost done. Just a minute more, he said … and I waited. And waited. And then, I realized I’d been disconnected. Furthermore, not only was the cable box not working, but now the telephone signal was dead. No dial tone. No TV.

I pulled the cell phone out of my bag. Called Charter Customer Service. Fought my way through the robot, the clueless secretary, eventually winding up back at tech support who transferred me to Customer Retention. They said my phone was working fine. I said no it wasn’t and I would appreciate them giving me back both my cable service and my telephone, please. And would they please try not to turn off the WiFi too?

And this is why I shop at Zappos. Because they say this and they mean it.
And this is why I shop at Zappos. Because they say this and they mean it.

They gave me an additional $50 a month discount for a year. Said they had done all they could from their end. Reconnected me with Tech Support. Who explained they had no idea why it wasn’t working, but it should start working. Any time now.

They couldn’t fix the phone. Not their department. Not to worry, though, it would all be fine. Eventually. Just , well, their servers were slower than usual. National events messing with us, no doubt. I didn’t bother to point out that from my perspective, they actually hadn’t fixed anything yet, but it was good to know that my bill would be lower.

Death customer service

Telephone Service Department guy was very pleasant and had the best voice I’ve listened to in a long time. A rich, deep basso profundo that would put James Earl Jones to shame. He also got the phone working in short order. Not just a pretty voice. Sadly, he was unable to tell me why my cable box was still not working, but he was sure it would be working … maximum another hour. Or two. But maybe we should just not plan on television this evening.

I went back to the kitchen and tossed the salmon in the trash. I’d lost my enthusiasm for extracting fish bones. Garry offered to make a run to MacDonald’s. I said I wasn’t eating anything from anyplace with “Donald” in the name, so we had spaghetti. After we’d eaten and cleaned up, we rebooted the system.

No signal.

I rebooted again.

No signal.

I called Charter Customer Service. This time, the robot said it could tell I’d called before and was this the same problem? I shouted “YES!!” into the phone and was transferred to my favorite live person, the clueless secretary whose job it (apparently) is to prevent customers from talking to people who know something. I said I needed Customer Retention and she said I didn’t. I was getting hoarse and tired. Garry was sitting next to me with his head on the table, face down, gently banging his forehead.

Technical Support checked with Customer Retention. Assured me that everything was right as rain, no problem. I didn’t think I was being unreasonable when I asked how come I still didn’t have a signal? He said he was positive I would have a signal … maximum an hour. I said that was what the last guy said. He said he didn’t know why it was taking so long. I assured him that I had been asking myself that very question.

bad-customer-service

We chatted pleasantly about this and that and he asked me how many times I’d called and I said honestly, I couldn’t remember, but it seemed like a lot. He repeated that he was sure it would all work itself out and maybe we should just not even try to watch TV this evening? Who’d want to watch it anyway … because … you know … whatsisname being inaugurated and all.

Two hours later, still no signal. We’re watching “Murdoch Mysteries” on AcornTV. Streaming video, the saving grace of modern viewing. We’ll catch up with our regular shows later. If anyone were to ask my about my day, I’d have to tell them my favorite moment was when while allegedly fixing the cable box, they disconnected telephone service. That was special, don’t you think?

I’m going to have to call Charter Customer Service. Again.

In total: eight calls. Six hours without cable service including three hours without telephone service or TV.

Oh, and they gave us an extra $10 credit on the next bill. Whoopee! So … we weren’t going to watch the inauguration, but if we had been tempted, we were saved by Charter unplugging us. Mysterious ways. Very mysterious.

NO ONE READS MANUALS

It’s an odd feeling to be declared obsolete. I had been getting increasingly less relevant for a while, but after the dot coms went down, the high-tech world turned on its ear. Venture capital disappeared and so did the start-ups that had been my bread and butter.

computer gargoyle

Tech writers were replaced by automated systems that generate “documentation” from embedded engineering notes. For years, no one cared if the material these systems generated was useful or readable. As long as “something” was included with the product, it was “good enough.”

Intelligent, human-based technical support had already been exported. Now, the same thinking was applied to documentation.

Need help? Call tech support on the other side of the world. Let your customers wait on hold, get disconnected. Finally, let them talk to someone who knows nothing and will provide incorrect information. Never provide a call back number, so if the solution doesn’t work — and mostly, it won’t — make them go through the whole thing again. What could go wrong with this? Who needs a manual?

i_467_old-computer-advertisement-006A lot has gone wrong with this approach. Almost everything. Belatedly, a wide range of companies discovered that having horrible customer service and no documentation was actually affecting business.

Industry-wide rethinking came too late for my career, but it’s nice to see respect for customers coming back into style. Better late than never. It turns out that customers who buy expensive gear do want documentation and expect good service, too. Shocking. Who’d have guessed?

The whole “call tech support” got old quickly.

I never intended to be a technical writer. I was going to be a “real” writer. You know. An author. Novels. Literature.

I eventually wrote a lot of books, all of them explaining how to do something obscurely technical and computer-related. For a gal who barely scraped through basic algebra and never took a physics or chemistry course, I picked up a lot along the way.

I rode the high-tech wave until that fateful day when I was informed “no one reads manuals.”

alienware side view computer

The world keeps turning. I’m seeing “help wanted” ads for tech writers again. It was a long drought.  At last, written (not generated) documentation is making a comeback. I’ve lived long enough to see the full cycle, to watch an industry — and my profession — come 360 degrees back to where it all began.

YOUR BUSINESS IS IMPORTANT TO US

It’s an epidemic, a pandemic  — of bad service.

Do you remember when the customer was always right? I do. It wasn’t that long ago.

Customer satisfaction and service was the norm until approximately 2002, at which point everyone — more or less simultaneously — decided to save money by “automating” customer service, eliminating it entirely, or shipping it overseas to be handled by people who speak heavily accented English and don’t know anything about the products they are supposed to be supporting. That was when you and me, the customers, the ones who spend our limited, disposable income on their products or services, became unimportant.

outofserviceThat was the year when we all became not worth the effort of answering a question, or supplying documentation. The gold standard for customer service became … nothing. These days, after slightly more than a decade of working out the details, most organizations do not offer any service to their customers. At all.

The overall attitude is “do the least you can — nothing, if you can get away with it. All customers are liars and thieves. Treat them as such.”

Customer disservice. I think I’m permanently pissed off. Even thinking about calling a customer service department gets my blood boiling. I’m shocked if I’m treated well. Delighted, but shocked.

SO WHAT DO I HATE?

Recorded phone solicitations that interrupt your sleep, meals, conversations, and the show you’re watching. Calls that display on caller ID as familiar phone numbers, but they’ve hacked your data or bought it from someone from whom you bought something.

waiting

Fake charitable organizations, many supposedly in support of breast cancer research or some other form of advocacy. Who take your money and use it to line their own pockets.

“Surveys” that are nothing but scams to collect your private data for sale and misuse.

“Discount cards” for every shop you go to, all of which are a way to collect your personal information so they can sell it. Because you may not be worth much as a customer, but your buying habits sell for big bucks.

Voice-mail systems at doctor’s offices with so many options you can’t recall the first option halfway through the message. The recordings go on and on, until you are ready to scream. Worse, you have to listen to the entire spiel every time you call. The message starts with “Please listen to this entire message before making your selection. Our menu choices have recently changed …” Recently was 10 months ago … or a year or more. You can sing along with the recording because you’ve heard it so many times.

CustServCartoon

Many places no longer offer any option of speaking to a live person. Try to find a live human being at your electric company, cable provider, or credit card company.

Our electric company had customer service. Today, if you can find their phone number, a recorded message will tell you to visit the website. Online. Not quite what you need when the power’s off. Make sure you have their actual phone number on your device. You can’t look it up online when there’s no electricity because if there’s no electricity, there’s also no cable or WiFi.

If your whole life is online, it’s over when the power goes out.

Death cust serv

Assuming you can worm your way through voice mail and finally push the magic number to connect you to a live agent, you hear: “Your business is important to us …” followed by Muzak and a 40-minute wait on hold. Better yet, it’s the long wait, followed by a disconnect and dial tone.

96-Waiting-Worcester

Bad (automated) service is particular noxious when it’s a local company. You know both office workers are probably playing games on Facebook while you listen to their 5-minute voice-mail message. All you wanted to do was ask on which night they are open late. By the end of the message, you no longer care.

THERE ARE STILL SOME GOOD ONES OUT THERE 

Amazon and Audible. Audible is an Amazon company now, but they always had terrific customer service. The more I deal with Amazon, the less I want to deal with anyone else. They are proof getting service does not have to be a nightmare. Trauma need not part of all interactions with vendors, medical facilities, utilities, or other corporations.

AT&T is good. Not as good as Amazon, but you can eventually get a real live person who knows what they are doing. And oddly enough, Medicare and Social Security. Though you may need to wait on hold for a while, you will get a live person in the end — and they will speak your language. They will stay on line with you as long as it takes. Credit where it’s due. These underpaid public servants try hard to help you.

L.L. Bean has wonderful customer service. Land’s End is good too.

To everyone else, I offer a big raspberry and a Bah Humbug in honor of the season.

ASK A SIMPLE QUESTION, GET A SIMPLE — WRONG — ANSWER

I bought a small Dell tablet that I hope will serve a purpose … something compact that I can use to connect to the larger world, but tuck in my bag for quick excursions when I’m not going to be processing photos or writing posts for my blog. It has been ordered, but not yet received. When I ordered it, I was told it accepted a standard SD memory card up to 128 GB in size. Cool. Adorama was advertising a sale on memory today, so I popped over to see what bargains were to be had. I figured I’d get — depending on price — one or two 64 GB cards. And realized that anything larger than 32 GB is XC, not HC.

So I used Dell’s chat to ask a question. I thought it was a simple question. Will the Venue Pro 8 read an SDXC card?

This is how the first call went. After this, I went to working the phone.

This is an automated email sent from Dell Chat. The following information is a log of your session. Please save the log for your records.
Your session ID for this incident is …
Time Details
01/20/2014 11:07:21AM Session Started with Agent (A-D)
01/20/2014 11:07:21AM Marilyn Armstrong: “.”
01/20/2014 11:07:27AM Agent (A-D): “Welcome, my name is A-D. I can be reached at … How may I help you?”
01/20/2014 11:07:45AM Marilyn Armstrong: “I have one question about the Venue Pro 8 which I’ve already ordered”
01/20/2014 11:08:15AM Agent (A-D): “No problem you are free to ask questions Marilyn”
01/20/2014 11:08:19AM Marilyn Armstrong: “I know it takes an SD card, but does it read the newer SDXC cards?”
01/20/2014 11:08:55AM Marilyn Armstrong: “HC is the older format, but all the larger cards – 64GB and up — are SDXC, not SDHC.”
01/20/2014 11:09:42AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Hello??”
01/20/2014 11:10:15AM Agent (A-D): “Yes you can still use other SD card …”
01/20/2014 11:10:24AM Agent (A-D): “I mean other brand”
01/20/2014 11:10:24AM Marilyn Armstrong: “SDXC?”
01/20/2014 11:10:34AM Marilyn Armstrong: “This isn’t a brand. It’s a FORMAT.”
01/20/2014 11:10:46AM Agent (A-D): “Yes it can”
01/20/2014 11:10:53AM Agent (A-D): “It is back ward compatible”
01/20/2014 11:11:21AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Are you sure? Because this is a NEWER NOT AN OLDER FORMAT and I don’t think you understand what I’m talking about”
01/20/2014 11:11:50AM Agent (A-D): “let me double-check for you”
01/20/2014 11:11:53AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Please connect me with someone who understands the technology.”
01/20/2014 11:13:27AM Agent (A-D): “Upon double checking the format can only support SD, SDHC only”
01/20/2014 11:14:08AM Marilyn Armstrong: “So it can’t actually accept a 128GB card because they are ALL in SDXC format. The bigger cards are all SDXC
01/20/2014 11:14:16AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Is there someone I can really talk to?”
01/20/2014 11:14:27AM Agent (A-D): “yes it is …”
01/20/2014 11:14:54AM Agent (A-D): “you can go on this link http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/en/chat?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs&~ck=mn for you technical support”
01/20/2014 11:14:56AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Where? Not on dell, not on Amazon, not on Tiger Direct, not anywhere.”
01/20/2014 11:15:01AM Agent (A-D): “You’ll be able to contact our Technical Support Department at 1-800-624-9896, they are open 24/7”
01/20/2014 11:15:39AM Marilyn Armstrong: “This is a simple question. I don’t want to spend hours on the damned phone. Just have someone who actually knows the specs of the item I already ordered.”
01/20/2014 11:16:41AM Agent (A-D): “I already give you the information that you want…”
01/20/2014 11:18:38AM Agent (A-D): “that is the only format that can support the tablet is SD, SDHC only”
If you require further assistance, please visit us at support.dell.com

Two phone calls later:

The Venue Pro 8 only accepts micro SD cards and only SDXC format. Wow. There’s nothing like really terrific customer service to start the day off right, eh?

The previous is an actual transcript of the conversation. Only the name and other identifying information have been changed to protect the guilty.

GEEKOGRAPHY: DOWN IN FLAMES WITH QUICKSAND AND ALLIGATORS

I’m pretty good with computers. I’m not an engineer, but I’m reasonably competent and not easily daunted. But, there comes a day for humility, when one finds oneself in the high-tech equivalent of quicksand. With grinning alligators on all sides.

PhotoshopIt started, as it so often does, with an update. An Adobe update to CS5. I have CS6, but when I installed it, the guy at Adobe suggested I just leave the earlier version on the computer (bad idea and I shouldn’t have listened). This arrangement was dodgy from the start. My system was never sure to which version it should default … and Adobe kept sending updates for both.

The moment this update downloaded, CS5 started throwing error messages about a missing DLL file and CS6 stopped working. I realized it was a bad download. Not the first bad download of my computer-using life. I didn’t panic, even though I wanted to scream. I calmly did what I usually do: I restored the computer to an earlier point, before the download. That pretty much always fixes the problem.

Not this time.

So I took a deep breath and tried reinstalling CS5, hoping that it would restore the missing DLL and all would be right on heaven and earth.

All of this took place while the Red Sox were whipping the Cardinals and winning the World Series at Fenway Park. A good thing because there isn’t anything more boring than uninstalling, installing, reinstalling and rebooting a computer. Repeatedly. For hours.

Photoshop is a big application, so whatever you are doing, it takes a while. When the reinstall failed, I bit the bullet and uninstalled CS5. Unfortunately, CS6 still wouldn’t load. So I uninstalled CS6. Then I rebooted. And rebooted again. Just to make sure.

Grateful for that I actual own the installation discs, I reinstalled CS5. My version of CS6 is an upgrade and won’t install unless it finds an earlier version of Photoshop (it turns out there’s a way around this, but I didn’t know it).  It installed. I took a deep breath, cheered for the Sox and went to bed.

I repeated the operation on my desktop, after which I decided to adjourn to the living room and relax. I took CS6 with me so I could install it on the laptop where I confidently believed I had already fixed the problem.

When I turned on my laptop, the Adobe updater popped up and without thinking, I clicked okay. At that moment, I knew I was doomed.

Down in flames. Not merely back to ground zero. Underground. Deep underground. I tried uninstalling CS5, but it threw errors up the wazoo. I tried (again) restoring to an earlier point. A much earlier point. Last week. When the world was young and innocent.

This brought back a shadow version of CS6. It looked like the application, except nothing worked. CS6 wouldn’t open. CS5 was dead. I could not uninstall either application. It suggested using the Adobe Cleaning Tool (download it from Adobe’s website). I used it. The situation got much worse.

I threw in the towel. I was in over my head. Far, far over my head. I had to do the thing I most dreaded. I had to call Tech Support.

First call. After 9 prompts, I am told it will be a 9 to 10 minute wait. I try to put the phone on speaker and hit END instead. I look at the dead telephone. Take a deep breath and dial again. Go through all of the prompts.

Second call. I’m told it will be a 4 to 6 minute wait. This time, I carefully find the speaker button and put the phone down and start to check my email. A minute later, I hear the sound of a human voice. Male. Actually, I’ve never gotten a woman at Adobe. Do they employ any? Just asking.

The guy isn’t listening. He’s got a script and he is determined to follow it, no matter what. He’s telling me to uninstall and I’m trying to tell him I can’t. Finally, he says I should wait a moment, he’ll be right back. Forty minutes later, annoying music commences and I realize he’s gone for good.

I reboot my computer and patiently, oh so patiently, call Adobe again.

Third call. The Charm! I get someone who listens (yay). “Did the previous technician do anything with your computer?”

“No,” I reply. “He said he’d be back, but when the music came on, I got the feeling he was gone for good.”

Chuckle. “Okay. I need you to … ”

He took over the computer. Eventually, we went deep into the soul of my laptop and extracted — one piece at a time — both versions of Photoshop. Nine gigs and more than 40,000 files. That’s right. 40,000. I didn’t know my recycle bin could hold that much. It took me almost 15 minutes to empty it. That’s a lot of files.

We then reinstalled CS6 and I discovered you don’t need the earlier version, just its serial number.

I hope all of you forgive me for not checking out your sites today. I was busy. Do I know how to have a good time or what?