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Journal: DSL Extreme - The "extreme" in poor customer service

Journal by Anti-Trend
Who knows DSL Extreme better than me? Probably not very many people. I've been with DSLE with various accounts since 2000. I'm also a 10-year IT vet that happens to know a lot about networking -- not that I expect you to believe "Mr. Random Internets Guy" about his geek cred, but there it is.

DSLE has had their boneheaded technical issues in the past, certainly. But I hate big telco, so I've tried to be a faithful customer. Incidentally, I just started as a sysadmin in the silicon valley area of Northern California, USA. There's obviously a lot of tech here, which means a lot of ISP's. Even so, I tried to keep DSLE in the spirit of supporting the little guy, and because your don't have to be a lawyer to understand their fair access policy. As history will show, that turned out to be a mistake...

Things actually started off well this time, DSLE even kept their original turn on date for once -- maybe the first time ever in my history with them. Only a few days later, AT&T broke something on their end, which took down my lines. When it came back up, no sync. After waiting on hold twice at an hour apiece (something I've come to expect from them), I was told that yep, as I suspected AT&T had messed something up. So they'd have to cancel and reorder my DSL through AT&T - 2 weeks wait time. Well, I telecommute about 50% of the time (including 3:00am maintenance windows), so unfortunately it wasn't even an option for me to wait. I spoke with billing, politely explained my situation and asked to be let out of my contract (come on, 8-year faithful customer with at least a dozen referrals), and she basically told me to get f***ed.

I understand that working with an ISP is high-stress... hell, the whole industry is high stress. But I've never spoken to a customer service rep who was that rude in my entire life. So much for working with the customer. Even if I wasn't already canceling DSLE out of necessity, I would have after that conversation. Not only that, I will warn all of my friends and colleagues with existing accounts and inform them to jump ship. DSL Extreme is not the little guy anymore; they've grown too big for their britches, and their customer support is awful. You'd be better off just going with the big guys for all the bullsh*t they put you through. If you're getting ass for service anyway, might as well be tier-1 ass.

As for me, I went with Comcast, who gave me a turn on date of today, and even threw in a discount because they thought my DSL Extreme story about the rude b*tch in billing was hilarious. Is Comcast a big evil company? Certainly. Are they better to work with than DSL Extreme? In my experience, definitely. According to others on RateItAll.com, I'm not alone in this experience.
Movies

Journal: The Happening: a look into the mind of Shyamalan

Journal by Anti-Trend
In M. Night Shyamalan films, there is supposedly always some trademark plot twist for which he is now so well known. The credits still rolled dutifully by on the screen as I walked from the theater into the stark brightness of the lobby. That's when I had my very own twist; I came to really understand the drive and vision of Mr. Shyamalan.

People think he's about twists, but I would suggest to you that he's not. Instead, I'd have you believe that these gimmicks are actually incidental. That in fact what he's about are realizations. The story, the characters, the plot, the theme -- these things do not matter to him at all. Rather, it's the act of his characters coming to an epiphany. Everything else is disposable.

The glaring problem in all this is that those of us with even a basic measure of intelligence and the capacity for abstract thought usually have these moments of clarity about an hour in advance of the protagonists. Thus we cruise through the entire second half of the movie, which comes across to us as a total failure. The ironic thing is that in his misguided quest to show us other people's awakenings, he himself completely fails to perceive that it's not just about the protagonists. Giving away too much information at the wrong time or too little, and you lose the most important element in a story -- the audience. We are in fact the central-most thread of the story. We have to believe what the characters are experiencing, and feel some sort of pathos about it. That's why we still read Homer and Shakespeare after so many centuries. Story. Plot. Characters. These things touch us, carry us forward, bring us to a point where we care about these people and their circumstances, and we want to see their tales carried through to completion. Even relive them again and again.

What we have with Shyamalan is a would-be storyteller who has not even the most basic idea of what a story is or how to involve the audience once again, as he did with The Sixth Sense. Whether he got lucky with that film or has since lost his vision is debatable. In light of "The Happening", I would say it's most likely to be the former. In conclusion, if you want two hours of pretentious fluff with no content and no storyline, by all means, go and watch "The Happening". I for one will be sitting out the next movie with the words "M. Night" attached to the bill.

-AT
Google

Journal: Scientology Abuses YouTube to Silence Critics 5

Journal by Anti-Trend
The story was carried by major news outlets globally when actor and high-ranking Scientologist Jason Beghe sat down with outspoken Scientology critic Mark Bunker (XenuTV.com) and gave an interview regarding his former membership in the organization last week. A 3-minute teaser video graced YouTube, and met with fierce hostility from Scientology advocates. When Mark promised to upload the complete version of the interview on Thursday the 18th, his account was mysteriously suspended without notice. Similarly, Scientology critic and former member of 30 years Tory Christman was also banned recently, then reinstated, banned and reinstated once more. The noted danger here is the apparent ease of which special interest groups can remove YouTube content with which they do not agree. Others are speaking out on this issue as well.
Linux Business

Journal: Is Linux Really Communist?

Journal by Anti-Trend
While I would argue that a piece of software cannot be communist any more than it can practice Roman Catholicism, there are those who would have you believe that Linux (and indeed free software in general) are part of a larger communist agenda. Indeed, it almost seems like a reasonable assumption since the Linux operating system is free software developed by a large community of developers, most of whom are not even being payed for this massive effort. It isn't published by a single corporation like the other popular OS's, and the fact is that both the software itself and the precious trade secrets therein are being given away free of cost. Certainly, this is merely a ploy to subvert the masses away from the capitalistic software industry? As I will explain, nothing could be further from the truth.

Linux, also referred to as GNU/Linux, is a free, open-source operating system, licensed under the GNU Public License (currently version 2). This means that both the operating system itself as well as it's recipe, known as the source code, are freely available to all. Specifically, we are free to use it as-is, free to modify the code in order to make improvements, and even free to sell it at a profit. Sounds pretty capitalist so far, but how much profit exactly? Is there some price cap in place which is low enough to force closed-source software out of the market? No, in fact we can sell as high as we believe the market will bear. In fact, this is one of the defining points of the Open Source Definition:

1. Free Redistribution
2. Source Code Available
3. Derived Works Permitted
4. Integrity of the Author's Source Code
5. No Discrimination Against People Or Groups
6. No Discrimination Against Fields Of Endevour
7. Distribution Of License
8. License Must Not Be Specific To A Product
9. License Cannot Contaminate Other Software


Also remember that monopolies in any industry are the enemies of a capitalist economy and that of innovation as well. After all, without competition, the free market upon which capitalism thrives will wither and stagnate. If anything, Linux and the Open Source movement serve to spur innovation and stimulate economy by empowering businesses and individuals alike and encouraging strong commercial competition. As such, Linux is a great example of how capitalism can be blended with a hefty dose of altruism.

As long as we're on the topic of communism, let's bring up communist Germany. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall the fences, minefields, barbed wire and turrets were intended not to keep people out of East Germany, but to keep them in it. Are Linux vendors deploying such tactics? Of course not, the whole concept behind open-source is freedom of every type. Indeed, it is Microsoft who's pulling tactics right from the communist playbook, by using FUD , lies , and outright threats to frighten their customers from leaving for freer lands. With that in mind, if anyone must be equated to communists, shouldn't it be Microsoft?

For an entertaining and enlightening overview of Linux and the Free Software movement, consider renting the movie Revolution OS.
Windows

Journal: You can't live in a house of cards.

Journal by Anti-Trend
When challenged with the inferiority of their favorite OS, a Windows fan might point out one feature or another as proof that their OS is better than the rest. But they make the critical mistake of confusing secondary functionality with the operating system's fundamental properties. MS Windows, in it's current state, will never be secure, nor will it ever be incredibly stable or reliable. Fundamental parts of the OS design are to blame for this, so this fact cannot change unless Windows is re-written, nay, redesigned from the ground up. Since this is extremely unlikely to happen, those who are not satisfied with the current state of Microsoft Windows should strongly consider migrating to an operating system with a fundamentally better design. Otherwise, MS will promise the world over and over again, and then deliver the same old stuff we've grown to hate. Remember, Microsoft is a marketing company much moreso than a technology company, and they always have been.

For my part, I made the decision to leave the Windows world a long time ago, and let me assure you, I haven't lost any sleep over it. The biggest problem I have with my OS is the ingnorance of many others concerning it, and this trickles down in the form of less 3rd-party software available than in Windows. That said, my Debian Linux distro has well over 15,000 software packages in its repositories for me to install, and I'm only using a mere few hundred. Besides this, I haven't payed a dime for software outside of retail games for years, all legally mind you, and I want for nothing.

So, in conclusion, if MS Windows is the OS you want, then run it! Buy it, use it and be happy. If you don't want Windows, there are a lot of solid choices today (all UNIX-like OS'es, not coincidentally) which are flourishing despite the MS monopoly. These include Mac OS X, the BSDs, and literally hundreds of unique variations of the Linux platform. All of these are more cost-effective in the long run than Windows (some more than others of course -- BSD and Linux are free), all of these are more secure, and all of them have better user interfaces (IMHO). Linux fits my needs perfectly, even for gaming, so I'm one of the lucky ones who has left MS behind with no regrets at all. If you can do the same, I say go for it!
Windows

Journal: Excerpt from 'CyberSnare'

Journal by Anti-Trend
The marketing power of certain companies distorts reality to such an extent that one is led to firmly believe that the serious defects of some software products are, in fact, the latest must-have functionality. (Incidentally, the computer world has a fitting expression for this: "it's not a bug, it's a feature!"). Another part of the problem is that the specialists who have the knowledge necessary to undo these traps and point out the dangers and manipulations without being mistaken for "bashers" or, in the case of competitors, sore losers, have kept their mouths shut for too long. It is a strange phenomenon: on one hand, no serious-minded scientist wants to publish an article in today's so-called computer press, lest his reputation become tarnished for having mingled with hucksters. On the other hand, without the support of serious scientists, the computer press has become a questionable mirror of the computer industry's advertising campaigns, and thus, even more peddler-like and less likely to be approached by real experts.

From an English translation of "CyberSnare" by Roberto Di Cosmo, first published in French in 1998. The rest of the article can be found here. It's amazing how insightful and relevent this article still is after 8 years, perhaps even moreso than when it was written.

Gosh that takes me back... or is it forward? That's the trouble with time travel, you never can tell." -- Doctor Who, "Androids of Tara"

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