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Microsoft Tech Suport vs Psychic Friends 134

OmahaVike sent in an amusing piece that may just bring you a smile on a slow friday. It's Microsoft Tech Support vs The Psychic Friends Network. The article describes attempts to solve reasonable tech support questions through the 2 seperate support channels. Well written and funny (a rarity in the world of microsoft bashing where "Funny" usual means replacing the "S" with a dollar sign, swearing a lot and comparing various MSFT employees to the truly evil). Next time I need tech support, this might be worth considering.
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Microsoft Tech Suport vs Psychic Friends

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Of course, moderation was added because members of the community were too immature to live without it. Trolling brought about moderation, not the other way around.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This actually works quite well. I've done twice in the past two months.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Its no wonder you're still in tech support if you use the word luser. Thats as bad as using a $ for an s. Its almost scary how immature the people around here are.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Maybe you don't know how this works, but: the people who run the web site and post the stories aren't the same ones who do the moderation. So that's not exactly a fair thing to link together.

    They could maybe do something to improve the moderation system, but all in all, this one is okay.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    How could any one person know the answer to all of the questions asked by the millions of MS users? I'm not suprised the guy didn't know how to fix the graph, but he should of been able to hook the guy up with someone who did, right then, as opposed to making the guy wait a week. Tech support should be routed through a tree going to people who know how to work the programs. If the techs spent 5-6 hours learning the program they would be giving support for (In Fine Detail) I really doubt these situations would occur and maybe, just maybe, with the faster answers, they could cut the $55 fee to something more reasonable for what should be a 5 minute call.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:18PM (#261042)
    I'm not trying to ruin the joke or anything (because it IS pretty funny), but Microsoft support is (imho) one of the better software support providers out there. I know it's not considered very 1337 to say anything positive about M$(+1, Funny), but every time I've had to deal with them, they were helpful and knowledgable.

    Most of you Linux users probably haven't dealt with MS support lately, but I have. All I needed to do was read off some cryptic error message to the representative, and then reboot my machine four times (at his instruction) and then insert my "Windows 2000 System Recovery" disc, and everything was okay. Kudos to microsoft for their quality support.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:24PM (#261043)
    (swap e and s)
    (insert o and x)
  • If you grab the downloadable version, you can run it in Wine. I played it in a build from a recent source tree - it worked great.

    And "Psychic Pigs Network" sounds like they're still more effective than Microsoft tech support. :)
  • USER: Yeah, I'm trying to get my Access Script to talk to two Sybase applications at the same time, and I can't seem to get it to work.
    BOFH: What's your user name agian?
    USER: user10
    (Sound of BOFH tapping away busily on keyboard)
    BOFH: I can see the problem right here. Its definately a ID10T problem. I can fix it though.... for a price
    USER: A... price?
    BOFH: Sure. No big deal, just give me your credit card number over the phone. When I fix it, I'll charge your credit card.

    I'm sure you get the gist.

    Secret windows code
  • Well, instead of hiring a couple programmers, hire someone hourly at min. wage, buy the 100,000 contract, and give them a phone.

  • That was an excellent article... we need more of THAT kind of attitude around.
  • I think this article was unfair to the Psychic Friends. For one thing the author posted all the problems to the same technician back to back. They also ignored his suggestion to call another Psychic Friend the following day.

    I suspect they might have hit a solution on some of the issues if they had treated the friends as they had treated Microsoft. However the refund thing is a different matter.

  • by Jamuraa ( 3055 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @05:40PM (#261049) Homepage Journal
    Realizing that you should use database software with less bugs: priceless.

  • I am pretty certain I saw this more than 2 years ago. Can anybody confirm?
  • Are you planning to sell your own dictionary? "Support" is with two p's.... go back to school will ya?

  • The first thing I asked him (without even thinking about it) was if he had restarted yet.

    Bear in mind, this was somebody who used to be my *boss* at my old tech-support job, and who's quite a bit smarter than I am. I felt bad for days afterward. (Of course, he ribbed the hell out of me for it.)

    You shouldn't have been embarassed. Those idiot lists are useful to go through. I'm moderately computer literate, but about 90% of the time when I'm having a problem it's something dumb and obvious that I completely forgot to check....

    Always check the obvious stuff first... especially when you absolutely don't need to.

  • by Mike Buddha ( 10734 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @02:19PM (#261053)
    Gee, I learned something about tech support reading this:

    If you call the wrong support number, you won't get a satisfactory answer.

    What irony here. If you have a VB problem you need to contac the VB tech support people? Damn, that's too complicated.

    They should've called that Jamaican Tarot Lady and asked her which number they needed to call to get support for their questions.

    "Um, So you're telling me that the Queen of cups says I have to call the VB number for VB problems and the Access number for Access problems? {smarmy} Hehe, yeah sure, I'm smarter than you, you fraud!{/smarmy}"
  • by Dr.Dubious DDQ ( 11968 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:31PM (#261054) Homepage

    Atomfilms (and probably several other places around the net) has Psychic Pigs Tech Support [atomfilms.com] [http://www.atomfilms.com/films/film.asp?film_id=9 07 for those concerned about goatliness.]

    ("The Sun card tells us your problem is server-side..."). It's Macromedia flash format.

  • 1: Microsoft tech support and Psychic Friends Network are about equal in their ability to provide support for Microsoft Products.

    2: Slashdot readers have them both beat all to hell.

  • I dont even need to read this after the number of freakish expereinces I have heard and experienced myself.

    I have both been a customer and worked as a tech support rep. and all I have to say is calling ms tech support is expereince of futility unless your part of there developer network.

    My experience calling MS.
    me: Hi I'm having problems setting up a superdisk drive ( yea I had one) when I spoke to compaq they said the problem is an ms problem.

    rep: hello I am nto the actual rep I am here to get yrou credit card number so you can be build like $50 an hour. you will not be billed if you can prove that there is a problem with our product ( I'm trying not to laugh as I write this) or if you made a deal with the devil.
    me: err hor do I know when I get billed
    rep: if we determine the problem is user error or a problem with your drive we will bill you retroactive.
    me: scooby do sound huuuuhh ?
    that was the end of that call. my suggestion to anyone who is a tech, get a copy of ms technet. actually worth teh cash.

    as a tech support rep I cant' get into how many calls i have taken with customers saying please dont make me call MS they are evil over there just help me to fix this problem. I know it' not yrou software problem.

    not to mention all the time I have spent with developers trying to find out work around to MS problems.
  • I reread it every so often too. My number one fear in life is that King is going to die before finishing off what has already become (IMHO) his best series to date. Plus it seems to be wrapping up several threads from his other books.

    Caution: contents may be quarrelsome and meticulous!


    ...but not for you, gunslinger.

    Caution: contents may be quarrelsome and meticulous!

  • LOL! I've done that. One time our packaging and release manager was having some problems with the kernel he had built for his home machine (IIRC) and I sent him a little 5-step kernel-compile HOWTO. This guy has a degree in Astrophysics and builds our internal Linux distro from the ground up, he could patch, compile and install a kernel in his sleep. He sent a mildly scathing but friendly response pointing out that I was being an idiot.

  • The Psychic Pigs doing tech support is both funny and relevant to the story topic of "Microsoft Tech Support vs Psychic Friends". :-(
  • Check out Atom Films's Psychic Pigs Tech Support [atomfilms.com]. It's a Flash animation and pretty darn funyy.

    Turn your technical problems over to the mystical powers of the psychic pigs, and all will be revealed!

    Late one night, it occurred to filmmaker Mark Clarkson that if he had access to a psychic, he wouldn't need love advice - he'd need to know how to get Netscape Mail to remember his password.

    In his previous career as a software analyst for the Boeing Company, Clarkson was often getting in trouble for the cartoons that he would sketch on the whiteboard during long program compiles.

    Clarkson is a regular contributor to several computer magazines, and a Contributing Editor at Desktop Engineering Magazine.

    This animation took about two weeks to complete.

  • by Checkered Daemon ( 20214 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @01:22PM (#261062)
    One day I'm working on trying to get RAS working on an NT server. After way too much work, I finally got authorization to spend the 2 hundred to make a call to MS tech support.

    I could dial in, but I couldn't get the application to run and display at the remote location. So MS dials in.

    MS: Can you give us a shared directory that we can try and map?

    Me: Sure. Try D colon slash temp.

    MS: Is that a front slash or a back slash?

    My jaw hurt for two days from hitting the floor so hard.
  • by gregbaker ( 22648 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:38PM (#261063) Homepage
    Psychic Friend Ray: "If you'd like, you can call back tomorrow. We have a couple of guys here, Steve and Paul, and they 're much better with computer stuff than I am."

    So, the conclusion is that the Psychic Friends may have actually been able to help, whereas MS Tech Support definitely couldn't? Chock one up for the Friends!

  • Taken from the article

    If all of your data are between 9,800 and 10,000 and you get a scale of 0 to 10,000...

    Appearently all someone's grammer are belong to someone else.

    You have no chance to survive, make your time.
  • by MarcoAtWork ( 28889 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @01:02PM (#261065)
    This is a true story, hard to believe, but true.

    You should have been at the Apache conference this month: one of the lecturers was showing a Java program that emulated a magic 8 ball, while going back and forth between the windows, people in the audience noticed that he was running MS Outlook.

    After a while the guy ran the program and asked for questions to put to it, a guy from mid-back shouted 'Ask the program if MS sponsors you to use Outlook'

    The guy ran the program, and yes, it printed out 'Outlook not so good'.

    Now, the probability of that coming out is already like 1 out of 20, but what is the likelyhood of somebody asking that question? If it was a set-up it was done extremely well, since everybody laughed for quite a while...

    Now back to your regularly scheduled programming...
  • nuff said.

    I for one can relate to Ms tech support being less than worthless. On one particualr problem with SQL server 5 (the thing would not backup data to tape) We also ponied up the dough to call MS tech support. After 3 days of futile "do this, do that" they gave up and said to install on another machine. Well I whack at it for another two days and finally figured out what ihe problem was. The tape drive was on the second SCSI controller. This was a old compaq box (nt3.51) EISA bus and all. To this day MS-SQL server still has problems with tape backups, scheduling and internal memory corruption errors. We have to use ARCServe to back it up reliably thou.

  • by ThePlague ( 30616 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @02:45PM (#261067)
    You sir have a very good point. I find it very interesting that the quality and drama of miracles has been inversely proportional to time, and more to the point, inversely proportional to technical development. Hmmmmm.

    Actually, modeling the situation gives us the following:

    It is generally agreed upon that in a given field of study, the total knowledge in that field doubles every T years. If we average over all fields of inquiry, we have aggregate knowledge increasing at an exponetial rate characterized by the time constant TK.

    K = K(t=0)*exp(t/TK)

    where of course K is total knowledge.

    In contrast, the "quality" of miracles has been observed to decrease with time. Above I conjectured an inverse relationship, but I suspect an exponential decay is more apropos for western civilization: many big miracles around t=0 (~1-30 A.D.), some smaller ones later in the same millenium, decreasing even moreso in the first half of the second millenium, and all but disappearing in the second half of the second millenium. This is more characteristic of an exponential decay than a simple inverse power. Thus we can model:

    M(t) =M(0)*exp(-t/TM)

    where M(0) is the "miracle-value" at t= 0 and TM is the decay constant for the miracle function.

    If we were to multiply these two quantites, we obtain:

    MK(t)=K(t)*M(t)=MK(0)* exp[t((1/TK) - (1/TM)]

    where MK is the Miracle-Knowledge function. My contention, then, is that TK = TM, which leads to a constant value of the MK function for all time.

    Since it has been uttered on more than one occasion that "It would take a miracle to get adequate tech support from a help desk", it seems natural to apply the above results to the topic at hand. Therefore, applying this to tech support, if you have ever found tech support helpful, then you will always find it helpful as MK is a constant in time. If you have had one experience when it wasn't helpful, don't bother ever calling again, as the same constancy of results applies.


  • IIRC, "Outlook not good" is an actual Magic 8-Ball message.
  • Leave it for BMUG and the Silicon Valley "sissies" to try to do a comparison between PSS (Product Support Services) and the Psychotic Friends Network. How utterly LAME!

    For starters, the wholse scenario stinks of a set-up by the original authors at some banal attempt at what most of us call "humor". Next, the actual problem appears to be one they created for themselves; if the authors were using OBDC drivers and connectivity to the Sybase SQL data-source and had the proper target server. addresses and data-sources configured properly in their Access query, there should not have been any problem extracting from the correct data-source.

    For the 2nd "test" of theirs, it would have been much easier to scale the data at the front within Microsoft Access - that was just a plain-old bone-head job on their part, and points to some incredulity on their part.

    For the 3rd test, their approach was absolutely stupefying - their request would have required Access to gain an entry into the hndWin process - which, if they were going to use VB (how STUPID is THAT!!?!), they would have to write a c wrapper for that VB function. The PSS person was absolutely correct in his estimation of the situation and acted as any Tech Support person would.

    Leave it to the BMUG lackeys of Apple to try to smear Microsoft with this sophomorific experiment. Their use of the Psychotic Friends Network in their little fun-time "experiment" makes as much sense as calling Home Depot or HomeBase for questions on performing a Mitral Valve Replacement (one of the valves in your heart) or a Quadruple Coronary Bypass.

    ScottKin - who is *not* a Microsoft Employee, contractor or consultant to Microsoft.
  • by lostguy ( 35444 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @03:07PM (#261070) Homepage
    You get paid by the line, don't you?
  • by revscat ( 35618 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @01:25PM (#261071) Journal

    The next morning my friend is back workign on it and the woman tells him that God told her that the problem was with the CD-ROM drive. After looking around, my friend finds out that someone had pluged the CD-ROM's ribbon cable in backward and that was causing the problem.

    You know, it seems like there was a time when gods did more impressive feats than telling old women that their CD-ROM cable is in backwards. What happened to parting oceans, annihilating entire populations in opposing nations, plagues of locusts, and so forth? If the best God can do is simple tech support type activities then you can color me unimpressed.

    Touched by an Angel: Agitprop for the Xians.

  • by .pentai. ( 37595 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @02:13PM (#261072) Homepage
    you realize that fixing other peoples code isn't always that simple, right? How many different programmers are out there? How many different styles of programming is there? And how many different ways to do one thing? Put that together and something very simple to do, could be coded in a way that just doesn't make sense to you, and you've wasted far more time trying to figure out what their code does, and not why it does it wrong.
  • This is the funniest post I've seen on Slashdot. There should be a BOSD (Best of Slashdot) page where stuff like this could be enshrined. Kudos!
  • > Is it cost-effective to route all our company's product support calls to them instead of Microsoft like we've been doing?

    Maybe. The PSN guy who said "Is it doing the same thing on another computer" exhibited more debugging clue than any of the Micros~1 flunkies.

  • > You know, it seems like there was a time when gods did more impressive feats than telling old women that their CD-ROM cable is in backwards. What happened to parting oceans, annihilating entire populations in opposing nations, plagues of locusts, and so forth?

    I dunno, but I waved a turkey leg (closest thing I had to a chicken) around a SCSI chain and it worked.

    As far as I'm concerned, that's on a par with parting oceans. Not as much fun to watch as annihilating entire populations in adversary nations, but a hell of a lot more useful to me at the time :)

  • by imac.usr ( 58845 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:47PM (#261076) Homepage
    I've been doing tech support for four years next month, and I can tell you without hesitation that in most cases, I do tend to go into auto-luser mode on *any* computer-related question, even pretty hefty ones from my geeky friends. Recently, one came to me about some technically arcane problem he was having with his Mac. The first thing I asked him (without even thinking about it) was if he had restarted yet.

    Bear in mind, this was somebody who used to be my *boss* at my old tech-support job, and who's quite a bit smarter than I am. I felt bad for days afterward. (Of course, he ribbed the hell out of me for it.)

    For those of you reading, if you're in tech support, do yourself a favor: Get out! Get out now!

  • What's really annoying is having to call M$ tech support a lot of times. Like when I worked as a network engineer/consultant, I would usually have to call M$ 1 to 4 times a week. Yes, I knew 90% of the answers or fixes, but when NT4 starts getting pissy and you have absolutely no idea why, you gotta deal with them. At least getting the MSDN stuff helped. But, for gods sake, try getting a straight answer out of M$ tech support. YIKES!

    Dive Gear [divingdeals.com]
  • by dolanh ( 64212 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @01:54PM (#261078) Homepage Journal
    Wow, (probably staged) evangelism for the new age.
  • by TMB ( 70166 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:27PM (#261079)
    He sensed that there was a problem with something connecting, that something wasn't being fulfilled either in a sexual, spiritual or emotional way.

    And how exactly does MS Access get fulfilled in a sexual, spiritual or emotional way?! Submit philosophical queries? Connect to two databases at once, while a third is watching?

    Hmmm, that last one actually sounds kind of like the problem they were having. Maybe there's something to this after all... ;-)


  • Whoah! I just started re-reading that series a week ago! :-) I picked up the fourth book and realized that waaaaay too much time had passed since I finished the first book.
  • You're just jealous, if a god did your tech support then you'd certainly be impressed.

    In the meantime I just settle for Bill Gates to do my tech support. Nice guy on the phone, ass in person.
  • If the best God can do is simple tech support type activities then you can color me unimpressed.

    Well, obviously, the level-2 God can do more advanced troubleshooting, but you have to escalate.
  • Riiiiiiight moderator. Riiiiiiight.
  • Yea, just try and call the Psychic Friends 900 number from work and then try and explain to you boss how their support is just as good as Microsoft but cheaper.


  • by holzp ( 87423 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:09PM (#261085)
    i forsee a story on /. making microsoft look bad. wow i must be a psychic...
  • Microsoft Technical Support and the Psychic Friends Network. As a result of this research, we have come to the following conclusions:

    1. that Microsoft Technical Support and the Psychic Friends Network are about equal in their ability to provide technical assistance for Microsoft products over the phone;

    So now we know where Micro$oft hires its support people... ;-)

  • I agree. I had to work with Microsoft tech support over a year ago for my job regarding an Internet Explorer Java problem, and they were very polite, knowledgeable and helpful. As a tech support person myself, I appreciate seeing a well-run support organization.

  • by magi ( 91730 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @02:06PM (#261088) Homepage Journal
    why bother uninstalling windows if you're going to format your hd? or does it just need to follow the 'rule of 3' for it to be funny?

    Because Windows leaves yucky Windows bits on the hard drive which would bring bad karma (-1) when you resurrect the machine with a Linux soul.

    Since Windows has Scientologist code, there are also probably thousands of body thetans on the hard drive that would cause problems in the new operating system.

    And yes, you have to follow a "threefold law", to remove the bad karma bits and thetans.

  • by magi ( 91730 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:49PM (#261089) Homepage Journal
    The two standard instructions that I give to people who ask for help:

    (1) "Uninstall Windows, format your hard disk, then re-install Windows."

    If that doesn't help:

    (2) "Uninstall Windows, format your hard disk, then don't re-install Windows."

    Usually, the instruction (1) doesn't help them.

  • by GreyyGuy ( 91753 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:45PM (#261090)
    "IDIOTS guide to Microsoft Bob"

    I'm not sure if I'm being trolled or not... :)

    That book should be worth money! I know I'd pay for one just for the humor factor :)
  • by GreyyGuy ( 91753 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:35PM (#261091)
    I' know it is hard to belive, but this is a true story.

    A friend of mine was doing computer support for a local hospital, and one day he got a call from a woman about a progrma not working. He goes down to her office and starts working on it. While he is working, she is chatting him up on what she talks to God about. And what he tells her. My friend is amused by this (being athiest), but puts up with it. After a half hour of working he still can't find the source of the problem. Since it is now after 5 they decide to pick up again the next morning. The woman tells him that she will talk to God and see if he can help with the problem.

    The next morning my friend is back workign on it and the woman tells him that God told her that the problem was with the CD-ROM drive. After looking around, my friend finds out that someone had pluged the CD-ROM's ribbon cable in backward and that was causing the problem.

    He keeps claiming it was a coincidence, but I've been thinking of starting a church for our lord of tech support :)
  • No, no, no, you have to get hold of Dione Warwick if you want to solve a Microsoft Graph question! Paul doesn't know Microsoft Graph from his elbow. He's their Freecell support guy.
  • by tokengeekgrrl ( 105602 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:23PM (#261095)
    I completely agree. TechNet *used* to be extremely easy to use but since it's moved to the web, it's completely declined. MSDN, however, continues to be an exceptional resource. I have found many solutions to ASP/ADO/COM/SQL Server problems very quickly through MSDN online. I'm not thrilled to have to work with MS products but as long as my job requires it, it's a relief that MSDN is available. It's totally saved me from insanity when I've run into completely nonsensical bugs.

    - tokengeekgrrl

  • May sound funny but I have run into stranger stuff. There was a mechanic near where I lived in Virginia called Christian Car Care. Their motto was "We will pray for your car." And they did, they would litterally come out and pray over your car for the power of the Lord to move through it and fix it... when that didn't work (and it usually didn't) they would take into the garage and fix it.

    But I wonder if one could set up a Christian Computer Support. With the mission statement "We will pray for your Computer, and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ MCSE, CCNE, A+, MCSD, CCNA, etc, etc". Hmmmm... this is a good idea, just need to find some venture capital.
  • Why not just subtract 9800 from the results, and plot them, then change the axis labels? Makes more sense to me.

  • Sexual - Check your ethernet connection.

  • by Methicus ( 139249 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @01:25PM (#261104)
    I work for Dell Tech Support (award winning, my ass!) and I think that for the last week I work there I am going to impersonate Miss Cleo in teching problems. A friend and I talked about this and we both think it would be funny as hell. CUST: "Duh, my computer doesn't work." ME: "Dee 7 of Pentacles tells me dat ya got a virus while downloadin' dee porn and ya need to call McAfee." CUST: "What?!? I...I wasn't downloading any porn!" ME: "Sir, dee 5 of Cups tells me ya are very deceitful, and are lyin' right now, call McAfee and your computer will be filled with harmony." CUST: "No, I'm not calling McAfee, I don't have a virus!!" ME: "Yes, ya are sir. Dee 3 of Swords says dat I'm hangin' up on ya." ---CLICK---


  • by ekrout ( 139379 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:16PM (#261106) Journal
    (Jamaican accent) if dey hat cooled Cuh-leo, dey wuda got dee dop ah dee line support, mahn!

  • Didn't your mother teach you how to comment

    ' Leave this subroutine
    Exit sub

    What the fuck?

  • by thrillbert ( 146343 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:29PM (#261109) Homepage
    Me Regis, I would like to use a lifeline.
    Regis And who would you like to call?
    Me The Psychic Friends Network please.
    Regis Our friends at AT and T will gladly connect you...... Hello! This is Regis from Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and we have your friend thrillbert here and he has a question regarding Microsoft Windows 2000 Enterprise Server.. thrillbert, you will have 30 seconds and they begin now...
    Me How do you secure a Windows 2000 Enterprise Server?
    Psychic Put it next to Jimmy Hoffa.
    Me I will make that my final answer
    Regis Congratulations!!! You just became a Millionaire!!!

    sigh.. back to the real world now...
  • I suppose youve never heard of an archaic technology called chalk?

  • by Sapien__ ( 156881 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @04:42PM (#261112)
    ' Create a new variable, SomeVar
    Dim SomeVar as Variant

    ' Put the file name into the variable
    SomeVar = CommonDialog1.FileName

    ' Leave this subroutine
    Exit sub
    You'll lose SomeVar when you exit. And Variants are BAD...
  • Neal Stephenson [cryptonomicon.com] has an interesting take on tech support at In The Beginning Was The Command Line [be.com]
    In the world of open source software, bug reports are useful information. Making them public is a service to other users, and improves the OS. Making them public systematically is so important that highly intelligent people voluntarily put time and money into running bug databases. In the commercial OS world, however, reporting a bug is a privilege that you have to pay lots of money for. But if you pay for it, it follows that the bug report must be kept confidential--otherwise anyone could get the benefit of your ninety-five bucks! And yet nothing prevents NT users from setting up their own public bug database.
    This is, in other words, another feature of the OS market that simply makes no sense unless you view it in the context of culture. What Microsoft is selling through Pay Per Incident isn't technical support so much as the continued illusion that its customers are engaging in some kind of rational business transaction. It is a sort of routine maintenance fee for the upkeep of the fantasy. If people really wanted a solid OS they would use Linux, and if they really wanted tech support they would find a way to get it; Microsoft's customers want something else.
  • ...that was really funny! Too bad it's too involved for the normal cow-worker to 'get', or I'd nominate it for RHF...

    I was (um, seriously!) thinking about learning MS VB but, man, if it can't do that - specifying file names and saving them via a window was just what I Thought I could get with VB - I'm not sure.

    But, ain't it the truth about help? I think that their True Mission in life is to make you never want to call them again, and resign yourself to re-booting 4-5 x a day. The problem is, is that they are creating, or at least propagating, a model of customer interaction (brilliantly pointed out in the piece, btw) that is picked up by other companies. I recall the time when my phone actually ran out of juice during the course of a frantic plea for assistance (about and hour and a half). Yah, the problem was actually solved when I was on the phone with CheapTickets.com (oooo, can I say that??), tring to get my plane ticket for the Next Day, when the AirEx truck finally pulls up. "um, I think the problem's solved, now..."

    I think the writer of that old movie "The President's Analyst" was right in one instance:

    We should all get a phone installed in our head.
  • by Fervent ( 178271 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @01:11PM (#261118)
    Surprise, surprise, free support is available for Microsoft products. It's called Usenet, user web sites, etc. Exactly the same as Linux and FreeBSD, just the source isn't open. Help is easy (and free) to find when you know where to look.
  • If tech support had all the answers to questions like that -- chances are they could get jobs as programmers. (I mean calling Access tech support to find out how to access common dialog functions from code is something that maybe the programmers should be able to pick up online or in a book...) --- Oh yea -- these where Mac users...

    It's like me calling up the guy at jiffy lube who changes my oil and asking him how to replace my transmission. If I am getting paid as a mechanic -- I should know how to change transmissions. My suggestion is to save up your $50 "support line" pool -- and hire a programmer.
  • by scotchie ( 181954 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @01:50PM (#261121)
    I had a similar experience a few years ago. A couple of the minor details may have changed in my memory, but it's mostly accurate.

    The problem was that my MS Access database got corrupted. Whenever I tried to run a certain report, Access crashed. Unfortunately, I had spent over a week creating this report, and I wanted to recover as much of my work as possible.

    I called MS Support, spent a few minutes wading through their phone tree, and then waited on hold about 20 minutes.
    Me: &nbsp My Access database is corrupt. Access crashes whenever I try to run a certain report. I want to get back as much of my report as possible.
    MS Rep:&nbsp Ok, try doing file/open, and pick the name of your database.
    Me:&nbsp Do you want me to kill and restart Access first, because it is crashed.
    MS Rep:&nbsp Huh?
    Me:&nbsp I'll just kill and restart it first. Ok, the database is opened.
    MS Rep:&nbsp And it works, I see. Can you press the "Reports" button?
    Me:&nbsp Ok, I get a list of my reports. Now what?
    MS Rep:&nbsp Can you tell me which reports are on the list?
    Me:&nbsp Sure, here are the reports ...
    MS Rep:&nbsp And which one is having problems?
    Me:&nbsp This one ...
    MS Rep:&nbsp Ok, can you try to double-click it?
    Me:&nbsp Sure. Ok, it's starting to run. Now I get the problem. Access has crashed.
    MS Rep:&nbsp Can you describe your problem?
    Me:&nbsp There are funny colors all over the computer screen and nothing I do in Access has any effect.
    MS Rep:&nbsp Oh, I figured it out. That means your database is corrupt. Goodbye.
    Me:&nbsp WAIT WAIT! I know that it's corrupt. That's why I called. But what can I do about it?
    Ms Rep:&nbsp You need to create a new database. Goodbye.
    Me:&nbsp But what I was asking was how to ...
    CLICK ...
    end of call

  • If you'd like, you can call back tomorrow. We have a couple of guys here, Steve and Paul, and they 're much better with computer stuff than I am

    So, Steve and Paul, who know a lot about computers, work for the psychic friends network? It wouldn't happen to be Allen & Jobs, would it?
  • by Mike1024 ( 184871 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @01:02PM (#261123)
    Interestingly, there is a relitavely easy (if a little counter-intutive) way of invoking a standard dialog, with the CommonDialog control. Create a Microsoft CommonDialog Control named CommonDialog1 on your form, then use the code:

    Private Sub OpenButton_Click()

    ' Instruct an error to be generated on cancel
    CommonDialog1.CancelError = True

    ' Say where to go on error
    On Error GoTo Cancel

    ' Set CommonDialog settings flag (Details [microsoft.com])
    CommonDialog1.Flags = cdlOFNHideReadOnly

    ' Set the pull-down for what filetypes are allowable.
    CommonDialog1.Filter = "Text files (*.txt)|*.txt|All files (*.*)|*.*"

    ' Make the first filetype default
    CommonDialog1.FilterIndex = 1

    ' Set the title of the dialog to be displayed
    CommonDialog1.DialogTitle = "Select file to open..."

    ' Go with the Open dialog!

    ' Create a new variable, SomeVar
    Dim SomeVar as Variant

    ' Put the file name into the variable
    SomeVar = CommonDialog1.FileName

    ' Leave this subroutine
    Exit sub


    'We come here if the user cancels. We do nothing.
    Exit sub

    End sub

    Taa-daa! SomeVar now contains the path to the selected file. It's simple enough if you know what you're doing. COMMENTING YOUR CODE IS EASY TOO.


    ...another comment from Michael Tandy.

  • by Caraig ( 186934 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:55PM (#261124)
    It must be a really slow Friday. This is ancient.

    For more dark humor from the trenches (tip of the hat to that other place) [kuro5hin.org] have a gander at Idiot Watcher's technology section. [idiotwatchers.com] As a burned-out, cerebrally friccassied tech worker whose seen his grey matter served up to himself flambe, though, I can say that a lot of them hit far too bloody close to home to be very funny. Less jaded geeks, though, should see a lot of humor in them!

    Chief Technician, Helpdesk at the End of the World

  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:15PM (#261126) Journal
    Oh, the Mac users were trashing Micros~1 back before Linux was even written!
  • Has *anyone* else noted (and been aware of this article) that this info has been available for the last *couple years*?!? Yes, I know's it been cool to flame the /. editors for the last couple years as well, but it's really pathetic as to how many people who thought this was new and were modded up.

    I know it's a trite concept, but can we have some journalistic integrity here instead of even the fucking editors trolling for content?
  • Uh... technet is NOT worth the cash. There is nothing in tha hunk of crap that can't be found in the online knowledge base. I make many attempts/week to use technet for something useful. Invariably I get wrong or unhelpful information from it. I remember one instance where I had an error dialog popping up whenever the machine was booted. The knowledge base actually suggested just hitting the OK button every time it showed up and not worry about it. Needless to say I figured out how to get rid of it about an hour later. But good god, man!
  • by banda ( 206438 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @01:04PM (#261130)
    It's a shame that MS technical support couldn't answer this question:

    Our research began when we called Microsoft regarding a bug that we had detected when executing queries which pulled data from a Sybase Server into Microsoft Access. If we used the same Access database to query two databases on the same server, we found that all of the queries aimed at the second database that we queried were sent to the first database that we had queried. This problem existed no matter which database we queried first.

    The problem is that the programmers were undoubtedly using the same DSN for both connections.

    They could have solved the problem by creating a second uniquely named DSN in the ODBC control panel and using it for their second connection to the database. This is a common mistake, and should be obvious to the MS help desk.

    That will be $55, please.

  • by Spinality ( 214521 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @05:52PM (#261132) Homepage
    What irony here. If you have a VB problem you need to contac the VB tech support people? Damn, that's too complicated. -- Mike Buddha

    Uh, considering that VB components and VB use are integral parts of MSAccess, that VB under MSAccess is QUITE DIFFERENT from stand-alone VB, that you can't do anything serious with MSAccess without using VB, that MSAccess documentation blurs the line between MSAccess and VB, and VB support guys are equally happy to punt the problem when they hear that Access was involved, no, I don't think calling the Access support number was a stupid thing to do.

    It would be different if he were trying to use the VB stand-alone product to manipulate a Jet .mdb database. But if you buy a box marked "MSAccess" and it lists a telephone support number for that product, I'd say it's a reasonable choice to call for Access support.

  • by singe_69 ( 216940 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @04:32PM (#261134)
    and Bill G was coding for Apple before there was a Macintosh............
  • by wrinkledshirt ( 228541 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @02:00PM (#261139) Homepage

    I understand the point of the article was to be humourous, but did it not occur to the guy to try Usenet? He could have gotten better help for free, and considering the unique and intriguing nature of the questions, he probably would've had no end to the number of people trying to outdo each other with suggestions on how to fix it...

    Problem 1. How was his database structured? Was he doing the querying through Access, or VBA? Could he conceivably do it through VBA or VB instead? How were his connections set up? Was he explicitly closing one connection and then opening up another? Considering that one design flaw early on in the db design could bring into effect all sorts of problems down the road, the MS guy probably WOULD have to be a psychic to figure out what the initial factors were.

    Problem 2. Forget Microsoft Graph. Does the guy have access to VBA and Excel 2000? There's no end to the charting you can do if you access the various Excel objects through a VB program. Yes, it does tend to bloat things and slow them down, and yes, you do need to look up a lot of extra documentation, but it's definitely doable, and if it's doable, it's been done and talked about on Usenet.

    Problem 3. Look into the VB help files regarding the Common Dialog Control. You can create a pretty customized save dialog that looks just like the real thing in an MS Office ap. And yes, it would probably be a VB issue instead of an Access issue because it's a VB control, so being passed off to a programmer's help desk would seem pretty straightforward, IMO.

    I mean, not to excuse MS help at all, but I think questions about various coding techniques and workarounds shouldn't be thrown on the shoulders of some guy who's trained to remind people to make sure their monitors are plugged in. It's probably beyond their scope (especially at $55 per problem), but he could have gotten it for free online. There's no end of people who get off showing how knowledgable they are (yeah yeah, myself included).

  • by Ndog ( 230982 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:32PM (#261140)

    Although not all that original [routergod.com]. (If you haven't seen it, like technology, and need a laugh, check out the rest of routergod [routergod.com])

  • It's been done: see http://www.svtarot.com
  • If your troubles evade the skillful minds of both Microsoft Tech Support and Psychic Friends Network, just call your friendly neighborhood Church of Scientology. Start some auditing sessions and after about $300,000, your computer will be "clear" again.

    Ewige Blumenkraft!
  • by jfdawes ( 254678 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:38PM (#261145)
    • $55 gets you someone that knows that MS Access exists, because it's on the list of products he supports.
    • $195 gets you someone who not only knows that both VB and Access exist, but has used them and can perform simple knowledge base queries.
    • $3950 gets you someone who not only knows how to use VB and Access but can also solve your problem ... in three to six weeks.
    • $100,000 (per annum) gets you the same as $3950, but they will ring you back with an answer in three to six hours

    Don't you wish you were a large multi-national corporation?
  • by baptiste ( 256004 ) <mike@NoSpaM.baptiste.us> on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:10PM (#261146) Homepage Journal
    That was a riot.

    However, even as an avid Micro$oft hater, I have to give them credit for one thing done well (at first) and that is TechNet. The TechNet Cds were great, easy to navigate, and packed with useful info. Only problem is they ruined it when they moved it to the web.


  • A few error types worth considering:
    • IUE = Incompedent User Error
    • PEBKAC = Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair
    • RLETICF = Rather Large Error That I Cannot Fix
  • In terms of technical expertise, we found that a Microsoft technician using Knowledge Base was about as helpful as a Psychic Friends reader using Tarot Cards. All in all, however, the Psychic Friends Net work proved to be a much friendlier organization than Microsoft Technical Support.

    Figures. I mean, I've never worked in techsupport, but I guess it's quite annoying to get thousands of phonecalls per day from ignorant users, but looking from my own perspective: Ignorant user. Or maybe not - I consider myself pretty darn computer literate, and I've called techsupport about five times during my life, all releated to server-side problems that I had no access to fix on my own. The thing is, after reciveing thousands of phone-calls from ignorant $lusers, they automaticly go into "ignorant $luser mode" when they pick up the phone, leaving fellow geeks to be crushed with answers that don't really tell us anything... most of which begin with the words "press the start button", in which cases, I promptly hang up...

    I really don't know why I bother sometimes =)

  • by StJohnsWort ( 260566 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:17PM (#261149) Homepage
    Im an MCSE and I have the "IDIOTS guide to being psychic" on my desk to help with those unanticipated outages on our MS app servers. You would be suprised how informative the book is. Not to mention the looks from the staff when they see it on the shelf next to the "IDIOTS guide to Microsoft Bob"
  • by anon757 ( 265661 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @01:24PM (#261154)
    I must agree. I have been doing tech support for almost 5 years, and all I can say is, get out while you can! before you become bitter (that takes about 2 years). I go into Luser mode automatically now. The start button no longer exists to me, it is "the button in the bottom right hand corner of your screen". Phrases like that and "the my computer icon on your desktop" instead of "my computer" (which invariably confuses the user who thinks your talking about your own computer) slip out without even noticing them, even when talking to guru's who have been in the comoputer industry for longer than I have been alive. I have reached the point where I no longer belive anything anyone tells me, because you can NEVER BELIVE A USER. If they tell you the sky is blue, it's probably raining. Tech support invades every fiber of your being and forever changes you. I yearn for the kind of job where the hardest question i have to ask someone is "would you like fries with that?"
  • by deran9ed ( 300694 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:18PM (#261155) Homepage

    Hacker Tarot Cards

    1.The FOOL: a manager using a Sunblade to run a screensaver.

    2.The MAGICIAN: a hacker with a Mac, a Pentium box, a U10, and a Cray on the table in front of him --- all running the same program with the same GUI. An infinity sign is over his head.

    3.The HIGH PRIESTESS: a woman holding the Documentation, closed and concealed. The crescent moon is showing on an SGI Origin behind her.

    4.The EMPEROR: Steve Jobs sitting on a G4 running OSX, holding an optical disk vertically in his hand.

    5.The EMPRESS: A secretary with a IMAC running OSX.

    6.The HEIROPHANT: Bill Gates with two flunkies kneeling before him, their faces averted, offering him floppy disks. He wears a laptop computer on his head.

    7.The LOVERS: a PowerMAC and an IBM Power PC exchanging software as an angel bathed in glory regards them.

    8.The CHARIOT: A man in a chariot, hurtling up an exponential curve, drawn by the twin sphinxes of Technology (black) and Culture (white).

    9.STRENGTH: A woman holding the entire design and implementation of Microsoft Excel in her mind as she corrects the final error. An infinity sign is over her head.

    10.The HERMIT: An old hacker, white-bearded, burns the midnight oil; its Star-of-David flame illuminates his keyboard.

    11.The WHEEL OF FORTUNE: A rotating wheel. Cray is on the side going down, despite its good technology; Smalltalk is opposite it, and C++ is sitting on top. Four winged beings -- a mouse, a turtle, a dog-cow, and a human -- look on.

    12.JUSTICE. A cold-faced woman holds a calculator in one hand and a delete- key in the other.

    13.The HANGED MAN: A programmer is tied by his ankle to a cable duct. His phase is completely shifted: he awakens at sunset, he sleeps at dawn. His monitor is reverse-video. He programs on, flawlessly, oblivious to his circumstances.

    14.DEATH: A skeleton weilding a scythe surveys a field, on which are scattered Intel P4's, Cyrix's, IBM 360/91's, Xerox Alto's, and many other machines.

    15.TEMPERANCE: An angel stands with one foot on her chair and one on the floor, as she copies files from one disk to another. A cursor blinks from her chest.

    16.The DEVIL: The goat-headed Lord of the Pit stands on a pile of Windows manuals, holding an inverted torch in one hand. Two humans, male and female, are in chains at his feet.

    17.The TOWER: An ivory tower is struck by a bolt of lightning. Two robed figures, denied tenure, are hurtled to the ground.

    18.The STAR: A Mac is running its `warp' screen saver, in a transient fragile moment of peace.

    19.The MOON: A wolf and a jackal are typing at two PC's. A crayfish crawls out of a pool, offering suggestions that may ultimately prove deadly. The moon shines through a window.

    20.The SUN: A naked child riding a winged rocking horse programs clever applications on a high-quality workstation.

    21.JUDGEMENT: An angel blows a trumpet; all over the net, web pages arise, to be rated Cool or not.

    22.The WORLD: A woman dances on the clouds, unclothed, unencumbered, in a ring of clouds, a 3-d mouse in each hand. The four winged beings from the Wheel of Fortune surround her.

    more to come [antioffline.com]

  • by markmoss ( 301064 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:47PM (#261156)
    Some fortune cookies know one thing MS Tech support doesnt: "Outlook not Good"
  • by WolfDeusEx ( 310788 ) <mark@no33 . c o .uk> on Friday April 27, 2001 @01:16PM (#261158)
    Well, at least it makes up for their "QUALITY" programming.


  • by Chakat ( 320875 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:18PM (#261160) Homepage
    Well, it's great 3 year old humor, however, it's now hopelessly outdated, as the Psycho Fiends Notwork, like so many dot.coms, is now dead, god bless its pagan soul. However, I suggest as a follow up, they call up that one West Indian Psychic lady who advertises on the cable channels; though, personally, that lady scares me.
  • by glenebob ( 414078 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:16PM (#261162)
    Tech: Hi. How can I help you today?

    User: My computer won't boot up.

    Tech: Hmmm, I'm seeing another computer in your life. Am I right?
    Damn it Jim, that's my sphincter, not a jelly donut!!!
  • by kaimiike1970 ( 444130 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:13PM (#261165) Homepage
    But you would think that (given the advice the psychic friends gave) they could look forward to you solving it and just tell you what you found...
  • Check out the cnn.com news article, which couldn't have had better timing... http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/internet/04/27/micros oft.virus.idg/index.html
  • He sensed that there was a problem with something connecting, that something wasn't being fulfilled either in a sexual, spiritual or emotional way.

    Nahh, that one's too easy.

  • No kidding... thats definitely the problem. They're so used to people not actually trying to solve the problem with help and their webpage before calling. Usually i try everything level 1 tech support would try, before I call them. Then they get offended when I ask to speak to level 2 or their supervisor.
  • by Very Jerry ( 447380 ) on Friday April 27, 2001 @12:42PM (#261170)
    I know it's not very PC to say this on Slashdot, but I did have a good experience recently with Microsoft tech support when I lost my global catalog (among other roles) to a power outage AND my tape backup. I'm rather new to Active Directory and the tech did help me step through ntdsutil, enabling me to seize all the lost roles.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!