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Comment Re:skynet (Score 1) 258

Yeah, because tags are useful for anything around here. Why do we even have them, and why do people worry so much about them?

I've disabled them and haven't missed a damn thing other than inane gibberish at the bottom of each story saying "yes", "no", "!nuts", and other pointless crap.

Comment Re:Are you serious, or just killing time? (Score 4, Insightful) 268

Do you need a Cisco Catalyst to handle 3 desks on a fairly slow DSL line, who aren't doing outrageous sharing between each other? No.

Sheesh. I wish someone would tell that to our clients. My company provides service to (mostly) small businesses, and half of these little five-man operations have some totally over-engineered Cisco gear acting as their network edge because some smartass, self-styled "IT Guy" told them it was the best. Surprise, he vanishes after plugging it in and collecting his fee, and now the client has all these problems with our SIP service and of course they have no idea how to manage their own equipment, and WE end up looking like jerks because our stuff won't work out of the box with whatever equipment the client has.

Could you do the 3 desk operation with a Linux machine and 4 network cards? Sure. In this example, it's cheaper to pick up a cheap hub, than to take even a salvage machine and put 4 network cards in it.

Here, though, I disagree. At the same company I mentioned, when I joined, we were a three-person operation, and we used a Linux machine with two network cards and a switch as our router. It worked great as we scaled up in staff numbers, particularly when tools like ntop and tcpdump existed to let me see when some joker was ruining it for everyone by torrenting the entire internet. If you never plan to expand, then sure, some cheap little router toy from Dlink or Linksys will do fine, but if you intend to grow, may as well do things right the first time than have to re-engineer your network down the road.

Also, a hub? Who the hell uses hubs anymore? I can't even think of a use for them these days other than packet sniffing, and an inexpensive managed switch will let you do that.

Comment Re:My psychic prediction (Score 1) 306

There are too many of us spread out over too large an area for us to do much beyond temporarily stall technological advancement, much less throw us into the stone age or oblivion.

Except billions of us are packed into highly concentrated areas. They're goners. Of the remainder, millions will die from the effects of nuclear winter, of contaminated food and water, and from the simple fact that most people in developed nations don't have the first clue how to survive, in the most fundamental sense of the word, without modern infrastructure. Survivors will be spread far and wide, ragtag groups of clueless people without effective means of communicating with the other groups.

No, homo sapiens as a species is unlikely to completely perish in an all-out nuclear exchange, but in a very real way, the world would end.

Comment Re:Use Anti-Search Wallpaper! (Score 2, Interesting) 246

What I want is something that comes up and looks like a Windows bluescreen and only allows you access after typing a password (no prompt) within a specific period of time. I'm sure that could be done with some cleverness to the grub menu, but I'm not clever enough to do it.

That way, some clown wants to inspect your laptop, you can say "Well, the stupid thing's broken, but sure, here you go." Agent boots the machine and as far as he can tell, he gets the usual Windows bluescreen. I can't imagine anyone caring enough about your crashy computer to bother investigating further. Idly whine a little bit (don't go overboard) about how you don't know how you're going to get your TPS reports back and you sure hope your computer genius neighbor can fix it for added effect.

Hell, most of them have probably had to go through something similar and know how annoying it is when Windows screws up, so you might even get some sympathy.

Comment Re:Teddy Ruxbin was before its time (Score 1) 214

Yeah, my sister had one too, and it broke constantly. To their credit, Worlds of Wonder would fix or replace it each time, but we had to ship it back to them so often that my sister and I knew the brown UPS van only as "The Teddy Ruxpin Truck" for a long, long time.

That was her problem, though. I got one of Teddy's friends, the fobs, which were basically puppets and rarely broke.

Comment Re:Speaking of crystal radios (Score 1) 156

The simplest and cheapest thing to try would be to just give the wire from the Sennheisers a few wraps around a snap-on ferrite bead at the end nearest the amp.

Brilliant, I never thought of that. I just stole two from some test IP phones we have in the office and I'll try it tonight. Thanks for the tip.

Comment Re:Speaking of crystal radios (Score 1) 156

Oh, yeah--no FM either.

Are you sure about this? I have a pair of Sennheiser 280s, and at home, if they're plugged in but I'm not playing any sound through them, they actually pick up Star 94 through the wire, an obnoxious FM station here in Atlanta that, apparently, plays nothing but "Party in the USA" and "Tonight's Gonna Be A Good Night" over and over and over and over which makes it really annoying when I'm trying to work on music production, which involves wearing the headphones without always playing sound. Ugh!

Anyway, that's my observation. I need to find some kind of shielding to put around the cable, because if I have to hear those songs one more time I may have to kill myself.

Comment Re:yes (Score 1) 1049

Indeed. My day to day email address is kitten@mydomain. On the face of it there's nothing wrong with that, but it does look odd to hiring managers. Rather than take the chance, I just made a second one, which is my initials@mydomain, and use that for all professional correspondance. It's really not that hard.

Even ones you think aren't "unprofessional" quite often are, in my eyes. I've seen email addresses like "supremegeek" and "technerd" on resumes that have come across my desk. While I'm sure the owner thinks those are very clever, and shows the world their immense prowess with all things technological, to me it just says "nerd who doesn't realise he's not impressing his fellow l33t friends in high school anymore".

Comment Re:new to customer service (Score 1) 329

Christ, that happened to me back in about 2002 or 2003, I think. I was with Earthlink DSL for a while but their downtime was well over 50% and I just couldn't take it anymore. They made what semed to me at the time an honest attempt at fixing it, but it just didn't work. It was literally down more often than not, so I cancelled.

(This illustrates what I was saying before -- I gave them a chance to fix the problem, they couldn't, so I dealt with it, rather than staying with them and whining constantly. It's also a decent example of my price-point argument -- at fifty dollars a month, assuming they pay their helpdesk monkeys ten dollars an hour, me spending five hours a month on the phone griping about the problem means I'm wasting more money than I'm giving them, and they'd have been wise to terminate me. Obviously I did not do that, but my point was, SO MANY people do, and fail to realise that they are not longer of any value as customers to the business in question.)

Anyway, so I cancelled Earthlink, and got Bellsouth DSL (who was not a hell of a lot better, but that's another story -- I think the phone wiring in my building just sucked). But there was a gap of a week between terminating Earthlink and when Bellsouth would connect me, so I figured I'd grab one of those free-trial AOL CDs and use dialup for a week. This was in the days before ubiquitous wireless and aircrack and free dialup, you understand.

Bellsouth hooked me up, I no longer needed AOL, so I cancelled the "free trial" thing. But they continued billing me. Worse, they were attaching the bill to my monthly phone bill, so every month I'd get this huge bill for no reason. Being rather poor at the time, I couldn't afford this, and since i couldn't pay, the phone company disconnected me. I had to go through an ungodly hassle to get the whole thing straightened out, including dealing with credit collectors and everything.

Comment Re:new to customer service (Score 3, Interesting) 329

Right, but the reason I suggest you phrase it this way is to make it clear to the customer that you are actually in the process of cancelling the account, right at that moment. It also gives them a few seconds to realise what you're doing, at which point they furiosly backpedal and have an unbelievable attitude reversal.

I've used this trick many times, and it goes like this: the customer has some ridiculous, often imaginary problem, or a problem that simply cannot be supported because it has nothing to do with us, or it is a real problem but it's going to take time to fix and that's just the way it is. At this point the conversation goes:


I'm sorry to hear that, sir. As I've explained we can't do anything about your problem, and I've also explained why. Since we're unable to fix it, I'll cancel your account as you requested. Hang on a moment and I'll get your confirmation number.


It'll only take a moment, sir.


You said that if we can't fix the problem you're cancelling. We can't fix the problem, so I'm cancelling you.


I can, and I'm doing it right now.


You just told me you did. Are you saying you wish to remain a customer?


And I've explained to you why the problem cannot be fixed by us, and told you who to contact / what to do / why it's not even an actual problem. So you have a decision to make: You can follow the avenues I've suggested, or you can cancel, or you can stay with us, but we can no longer address this issue for you, and no more calls about it will be accepted. I'll leave it up to you to decide what you want to do. Anything else? (Make it clear you're wrapping up the conversation.)


And that's it. Letting customers push you around is a sucker's game and calling their bluff is a highly effective tactic to get them to stop wasting your time. In my experience, 90% or better of these customers never call back about that problem and never cancel. You just have to make it totally clear that their one "bargaining chip" is useless, at which point they have no further ammo. Remain polite but firm.

Thankfully I don't have to deal with customers anymore, but for a while there, I was the "escalations guy", meaning any ticket that went through the normal tier two guys and wasn't fixed would get bumped to me, and only me, where my job was to put an end to the situation once and for all, either by fixing it or by telling the customer why it's not going to get fixed. I found this strategy to be the best.

Comment Re:new to customer service (Score 3, Insightful) 329

That's not always true. In certain situations a customer becomes far more trouble than he is worth; a liability rather than an asset. In my job I have had to tell many customers that their options were to cancel the service, or stop complaining. Most of them opted for the latter.

All this depends on the product you're offering, the price point, the customer, and the nature of the complaint, but at a certain price, a customer who is just a chronic complainer is no longer worth it.

This is not just my own attitude, either; it is a business decision. At some point an endlessly griping customer is taking up a disproportionate amount of your or your employee's time, often for total BS non-issues, and it makes no business sense to keep humoring them for the sake of their next month's invoice when that time could be better spent dealing with other customers who have legitimate problems. A company is totally justified in telling the customer to cancel or shut up.

As a side note, in my industry, it's been my experience that the customers who will take their business elsewhere are the ones from whom you never hear. They'll quietly deal with the situation on their own. On the other hand, the chronic complainers are the ones who have absolutely no intention of going to a competitor. It's also easy to call customer bluffs: When they threaten to cancel if you don't do XYZ impossible thing, you say "Okay, sir, since I can't accomodate you, I'll cancel your service right now. Hang on a moment and I'll get your confirmation number." It is truely remarkably how quickly they backpedal.

In short, just because you're charging for something doesn't mean the customer gets to stomp all over you. Companies need to grow spines sometimes.

Comment Re:Real traffic cops too (Score 1) 307

The other day I actually saw somebody get nailed for "failure to yield to a pedestrian".

It amazes me that people think a little paint on the road grants them magical protection from the laws of physics. If you walk out into traffic, you are basically doing one of the dumbest things a human can do, and the law isn't going to protect your 150 pounds of flesh from two tons of 40mph steel.

Pedestrian right-of-way is an idiotic law that should be revoked immediately, as it makes people believe they can blindly stumble out into traffic and be okay. In reality, if you're walking, do what your mother told you to do and LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING THE STREET. If there are cars coming, DON'T WALK -- it doesn't matter that you have "the right of way". Stay put until the cars are gone.

This really isn't hard, and yet idiots continue to wander into moving traffic on a daily basis.

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