Saturday Feb 23, 2008

Acer wins back a customer

I guess many of you saw my rant about the poor support I was getting from Acer over getting my Ferrari 4005 fixed.

I really should have written this up earlier, as it has been resolved now for a bit over a month.

After speaking with the Escalation folks again after still having no joy, I was offered a new machine with the following specs.

  • Travelmate 7720G
  • 17" screen
  • T5700 Core 2 duo running at 2.2GHz
  • 2gb Memory
  • 2x160gb disks
  • webcam, more interesting looking audio, 4 usb ports, ...

A week later I had the local repairer offering me a lower spec'd machine. After I explained what I had already been offered, they agreed and we also managed to have the 3 year warranty replaced, and the internal disks were now two 250gb disks!

I've been using it for about a month now and I quite like it. Nevada simply just installed and ran. I also selected the XP option as I really don't think vista is ready yet. I've actually been using it to perform live into second life (it does have relatively nice audio and in fact it also has a line level input on the front of the machine.

While I am pleased that they replaced the machine and I am very happy with it, the fact remains that I should not have had the poor support experience in the first place.

The two things that really stand out were

  1. the complete lack of correct expectation setting, especially in the light of me being obvious what my expectations were).
  2. making promises that they had no intention of keeping. That is, I did not receive a single one of the promised call backs.

Folks these are Support 101 basics and really need to be fixed.

I will, however, say a big thank you to Acer for the actions that they did end up taking to address the issue.

As an aside, a little investigation of my own showed that the issue I had with the Ferrari was apparently rather common in Ferraris of that model and age, which could explain the difficulty in sourcing a motherboard. The original problem was the video adaptor dieing in such a way as to not receive a hardware notification of an event, leaving the cpu spinning on a lock, ending up getting a BSOD.

Sunday Jan 13, 2008

We have a fence

Well here is the result of what I've been doing this weekend. It was only possible now that our neighbor has had the retaining wall erected. There is a sense of satisfaction around completing something like this that is well outside of your experience.

The nice thing now is that we can have the dogs out the back without having to chain them up.

Wednesday Jan 09, 2008

Happy Birthday to me

Happy Birthday to me,
I'm now 43.

Kind of sad that that's the best rhyming couplet I can come up with.

Thursday Dec 06, 2007

Customer Service (?) from Acer Support

Updated twice (see end of entry)

After having my Dell notebook die outside of warranty two years ago, I made sure to buy the extended warranty when I replaced it with an Acer Ferrari 4005 in November/December 2005.

About a month ago, (around 2 years after purchase interestingly, just like the Dell), I started having problems with it. I noticed a couple of cracks on the top of the screen and that I had two keys starting to be questionable (they work about 50% of the time). Shortly after that I started seeing windows regularly crash and Solaris hang. A little investigation showed that the video card (on the main board) was starting to play up.

So, obviously I arranged to have it sent back under warranty.

This is where the tragedy of errors begins.

I got the tracking number when DHL picked it up from Gordon at about 9:30.

It looks like the driver drove all day before dropping it into his depot at 8:00pm that evening (end of shift?). It then looks like it went out of the depot for an hour at about 3am before being returned at 4am and was finally delivered to the repair center in Flemington at about 9:15am the next morning. Note the distance between the repair center is about an hours drive, if that.

OK I was called a few days later to be told that the screen would not be replaced under warranty, but if I was willing to pay for it they'd replace it. I declined. My belief at this point was that the main board had been done and it would be shipped back to me shortly, and everything I said communicated this expectation. Nothing was done to correct it.

The following week I had a call stating that they wouldn't be replacing the keyboard as there had been a "liquid spill" on both the keyboard and the disk. I reached over my desk and picked up the disk (which I kept as I did not wish it reformatted) and said "hmmm interesting, I have the disk in my hand and see no such evidence. If there is evidence of a liquid spill on the disk currently installed, it must have happened there", which of course prompted denials. The upshot was that they also were not going to replace the keyboard unless I paid for it. Given I can clean a keyboard myself I declined. Again the expectation thing, in fact I also changed the address for them to return it as I would be working from home the next few days. No correcting of that expectation.

At this point they had had it for a week.

Come Friday, I was concerned that I still hadn't got it. So, yet another call to the support line (and the interminable wait being constantly informed of my position in the queue). At this point I discover (for the first time) that the main board is actually on back-order, and everyone that I had previously spoken to had been aware of this and not passed it on. They would not tell me the expected date of delivery.

Monday I tried again after hours and got probably my first good experience with Acer Customer Service. The guy was very helpful and understanding and did actually tell me that my part was expected on November 29.

I called during the day the next day to speak with some in-hours person about my disappointment in the way that I had been mislead and got the usual platitudes.

OK, come Thursday (Nov 29), I called a bit later in the day to verify that work had either been complete or had at least started. The back-order had slipped to the next day.

Let's try again, Monday December 3. It had slipped to December 5 (the following Wednesday).

At this point I demanded that if it slipped again that I would be called immediately that information was known and received that commitment.

I was on training Tuesday & Wednesday so didn't get to call them until after hours on Wednesday. Again, I got another person who really tried their best (hmm why do I have better experiences with their after hours staff?). Unfortunately the case ticket had not been updated, but they offered to email the technician who was doing the repair so that they would call me first thing this morning.

You guessed it, it didn't happen.

I called up a few minutes ago (and waited on a queue that started at length 20). Gave my case number and Identified myself. I was then told that the part had not arrived and that there was an outstanding query to their supplier about when it would be delivered.

I was livid. Especially at the "I understand why you are upset" platitudes.

Apart from not being called this morning as per commitment, from last night, the delivery had slipped again and no-one thought to get in touch with me.

Acer Support is not a small company, but this kind of behavior makes them look decidedly mickey mouse.

I have demanded to be told the instant that they know the new delivery date, and received yet another commitment to be called this afternoon with the information.

It goes to their management if they drop the ball again, I've had it. I've been without my notebook now for more than three weeks. Maybe I should send them a bill for the time I've wasted on the phone trying to sort this out. That should come close to replacing the screen!

One thing is for sure, much as I liked the machine and the good performance it has given me, I will not be replacing this machine with another from Acer when the time comes.

A suggestion to the folks on the phones at Acer support. Your customers are your reason for existence. Without them, you would not have a job. When you make a commitment, you honor it. A Suppliers support division is one of the main reasons that that they get return custom. Here in the Sun Support office in Gordon, we used to have a poster up that simply said "It can take years to win a customer, and seconds to lose them". Truer words were never uttered. If the first people that I had spoken to had set my expectations correctly from the outset, I would not be as angry as I currently am. A simple "To fix your video card, is a main board replacement. We've had to order this in and they normally take 3-4 weeks" would have done this.

If I had treated a customer with the obvious contempt with which I feel I have been treated by Acer Support, I would expect and deserve a serious ass-kicking from my management.

Update #1

Well, it's just gone 5pm here and I have not received the promised call from Acer. Tomorrow we start talking to call center management. Sigh, I wish it hadn't come to this. Folks, you don't promise a customer something only to get them off the phone so you can forget about it.

Update #2

Just got off a phone call with their escalation department speaking with someone called Frank. Unfortunately the phone system somewhere between us was playing up. I noticed while in the queue that I had extended periods of silence and it looks like one of those occurred while I was speaking with this person.

He agrees that this has taken a long time and told me that there is still no ship date on the back-ordered main board. While I am skeptical about this, he has committed to having the repair folks actually see if the board can be repaired, as apparantly this is one of the things that the Highpoint folks in Flemington do. I am to expect to be called by them early next week.

We shall see.

Just before we got cut off, I was pointing out that there appear to me to be call-centre folks in the support centre who will commit to almost anything to get an upset customer off the phone and then ignore it. Unfortunately I did not get to hear his response to this as that's when the line went silent again and then was disconnected a minute later.

Tuesday Oct 23, 2007

Catching up

OK I know I've still got some catching up to do, like I haven't done the last day of CEC. However there will be a couple more blogs before I get there about interesting stuff that happened after I got back. Including the developer days I spoke at in Melbourne and Sydney last week and some stuff I learned while giving those talks.

Wednesday Oct 10, 2007

Tuesday at CEC

I had planned for a 5:30am start to get some online stuff out of the way before breakfast. My alarm had other ideas, not waking me up until 6:30am. I lay in bed for a bit thinking my room mate was showering etc, only realizing about 20 minutes later that it wasn't him and he had wandered off somewhere. Got down to breakfast about 7:15 and came across someone else I'd hoped to meet in Martin Canoy (who helps manage the Performance V-Team). Interesting eating breakfast in a room that had a semi-trailer parked up the front with a black-box on it.

The general session started at 8am with Introductions by Dan Berg and the a talk from our VP for Eco Responsibility David Douglas. One of the standouts in this for me was the work done on the Santa-Clara Data-Center. This site is now a showcase for a green data-centre and tours are conducted through it for companies interested in just what we did. We were encouraged to get customers to tour it, but I would love to see a few you-tube clips put up about it it and perhaps a 30 minute documentary that we could give out on a DVD (are you listening guys), as the world is a lot bigger than the Bay area.

Next up we again we had Jonathan spend some time talking to us and answering some surprisingly targeted questions, all handled very well.

After a short coffee break, we came back for the release of the new T2 boxes. I have to say that these boxes look awesome and are going to kick some major ass in the marketplace. Given the launch was done in front of 3500-4000 technical people, it was observed during the question tat te type of questions that the panel were receiving were a lot more technical than they would normally get during a product launch. Many of the questions focused on the desire for a T2 based laptop or workstation, to whic Andy joking replied along the lines of "I can't comment on future products". When the workstation question came up he pointed back to "i thought we were looking at a laptop" or something like that :) One of the questions asked about a dual socket T2 based machine, and it was confirmed that this is currently being worked on. Now that will be a box to contend with!

During the break between 11 & 12, I spent some time at the Second Life booth in the pavilion, giving a second avatar in the same general area as the one they were using to show things off.

I had a whole lot of breakouts I wanted to go to today, but I also wanted to get some Solaris Certifications done. Unfortunately, the room only seated 30 people and when it opened at 12:15pm, the queue already had 45 in it. The took the sensible move of taking folks names and giving them a rough estimate of when they should come back. After getting my name on the list I wandered over to the installfest and started a live-upgrade of this notebook to nevada build 74 (as I was having some punchin problems with build 73). After I got the initial copy done and the upgrade kicked off, I went back to the certifications to find that there were only about half a dozen people in front of me on the list. I only had to wait 5-10 minutes to get in.

I was a little concerned that as I was doing these examinations cold, that I might not get through. I should not have worried. My 16 years of SA, as well as maintaining my own machines while at Sun, and doing kernel work and Open Solaris Advocacy stood me in good stead.

The Solaris 10 Admin (part one) allowed 90 minutes to complete it and had a 61% pass mark. I finished it in 30 minutes and scored 71.2%. Woo hoo. Heartened by this I spoke to a proctor and asked if I could do part 2 as I'd only used 30 minutes of the potential 90. He agreed and I started part 2. This was a little harder, but I knocked it over in 45 minutes and scored 70.5. So now I'm certified (well you knew I was certifiable, but that's another story).

Wandered back to the installfest to pick up my notebook. Ran up the new build and was pleasantly surprised to see punchin working correctly.

By the time all this had finished, the final breakout session was about to start, but there really wasn't anything I wanted to see in there. As it was now 6pm, headed back to my room to get change for the party at the Palms, as the buses were leaving at 7pm. I'm glad I did, as when I got back down to the lobby at about 6:40, there was already a very long line for the buses.

The party was a blast. The live band was awesome. There was also a number of games put on for us, like air hockey, video mountain biking, surfing, gun fighting, etc. The mountain biking game was murderous and really wore you out in a hurry, of course not being able to adjust the seat to a proper height made pedaling difficult. The game I fell in love with, though, was a water skiing one. Anyone who played it understood just why you would get to the whooping and hollering while you were doing it. It was incredible fun I lost count of the number of times I rode it!

I spent a lot of tonight looking for a couple of friends from the US that I wanted to spend some time with, but didn't manage to find them. Maybe they didn't go, maybe there was just too many people (note to self, get phone numbers next time). I did find a few Australian colleagues whom I spent time with, and Bob Sneed introduced me to some really nice friends of his whom I also spent some quality time with. Oh I also met Bela Amade from the EMEA cluster group who I have also done a lot of work with, as well as a number of other folks that I had backlined escalations with, whose names are too many to recall this late at night (sorry folks, I did enjoy meeting you, it's always good to put a face to a name).

About 10:45, they started herding us to the buses (as the last bus back would be at 11). I continues chatting with one of the folks Bob introduced me too while traveling back on the bus.

All in all a wonderful day. We've got the group specific meetings tomorrow and after that I am doing a podcast with Don Grantham, which should be fun.

I forgot to mention that on Monday at lunch I also met someone else I had ben hoping to meet. Dimitri DeWild. Dimitri works in a similar group to me in EMEA, and we have long communicated with each other over email and IM.

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Catching up - Monday at CEC

I'm more behind than I wanted to be blogging my time here.

I started Monday nice and early with a Breakfast with Ian White. A lovely breakfast, I shared a table with Ian, Linda Park (VP for Services in APAC), Chris Gerhard, Cive King, and some others whose names escape me at this time of night the following day (sorry folks).

We then had a marathon general session which probably could have used a break as about I can recall about it was listening to Andy Bechtolsheim.

Lunch (boxed roll and some other bits and pieces), then breakout sessions for the afternoon.

The standout sessions for me were the Performance ones presented by my mate Bob Sneed and another by Jim Mauro. There was also an interesting session on how support services might use Second Life to do some delivery.

For a while it appeared that dinner on Monday night was going to be fend for yourself, but instead I went up to the unconference. There were probably only about 40-50 people attended this and I find that a shame as it was a damned good session, and they fed us hot dogs and beer.

The unconference consisted of two parts.

  • Ten selected to take folks of to various rooms to give a presentation, and
  • the remainder and any other volunteers to participate in speed-geeking

We had thirteen folks want to present in a room so a vote was held to determine who got rooms.

Speek Geeking is interesting.

The idea is that you get 10 people in front of aboard with butchers paper, and they get five minutes to give a presentation to the folks at the table in front of them. At the end of the five minutes the listeners move to the next table. Every listener is given a poker chip and at the end they give the chip to the speaker they enjoyed the most, and that speaker gets a prize.

Hal Stern spoke on "DRM is for morons", Bob Sneed did five minutes on capacity planning, Clive King did some basic SGRT, and I gave an impromptu five minutes on the development of a DTrace bourne shell provider. There were more speakers, but as I was a speaker I didn't get to hear these and the listed ones are the ones I can recall. I got a grand total of four chips, so wasn't even in the running. I think the winner got 27. As I said earlier this session was a lot of fun and it would ave been nice if it had been better attended.

A few of us including Bob Sneed, Rodney Lindner and myself hung around socializing for quite some time after the session finished, and I didn't get to bed until about 1am. I really can't remember what I did after we broke up and before I went to bed, maybe it will come back to me :)

More on Tuesday soon.

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Tuesday Oct 09, 2007

a first at CEC (for me anyway)

About three hours before I laft last Saturday, I got a gate open email for a bugfix that I was putting back into on10-patch (the Solaris 10 Patch gate). I decided that generally the gatekeepers want you available for a bit after it. As I was flying that day, it probably was not a good idea to do it then.

So, before the Speed Geeking at the unconference (more on that later), I wandered down to the Sun Pavilion, got myself punched in and did the putback while sat on the floor conected through wireless.

When I mentioned tis two Hal Stern he made the point that I had to blog thos. So, here you go Hal!

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Monday Oct 08, 2007

First day at CEC

OK, I'm currently sitting in the hallway outside the ballroom where the general sessions will be held in the morning and it's after midnight.

I've only just managed to get connectivity in the last six hours as the wireless access points have been turned on. My phone only just started working today to, although I've been here 24 hours.

Enough moaning :)

I managed 14 hours sleep last night so I think I'm over the jet lag from te flight between Sydney and Las Vegas.

Went along to the APAC Technical council meeting earlier today to hear John Greaves talk about the Principal Engineer programme (or whatever it is going to be renamed after today) and it seems pretty much the track that I'm interested in following.

Caught up with a few folks that I intended to today including Sara Turner and Leon Nicodemus (I hope I spelled that correctly) at the reception drinks.

Afterwards, I adjourned to another bar in the Paris Casino with Clive King, Chris Gerard and a few others for some cleansing Ales. While on this subject, I have to say that what they have done with the Paris Casino is amazing. With the work done on the ceiling you have the impression that you are outside on a Parisian twilight early evening, constantly. While I can see the advantage to casino of having you lose track of the time and the like, it was still a very pleasant way to spend an hour or so wit colleagues.

I'm also having a play around wit CEC 2007, and these folks have done a marvelous job in te setup to provide access to the sessions and breakouts to those unable to attend in person.

More tomorrow!

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Tuesday Aug 28, 2007

Open vs Proprietry: An effort in mudslinging?

I've just read an "article" by Carla Schroder on Enterprise Networking Planet, where she claims to know the real reason that closed and proprietary code exists.

The point of the article appears to simply be that she doesn't buy ... into the "protect our preciouss IP" excuse because it is so overused.

I see very little in the way of reasoned argument and example to support her stance. Instead I see a lot of mud slinging and cherry picked examples.

We start off with the assertion that the real (and by implication, the only) reason for closed and proprietary code is embarrassment; followed by some "cool" misspellings of phrases like "Trade Sekkkrits" and "Sooper Original Algorithms". There is also another typo in her "conclusion". The typos look to me to be deliberate slurs on anything that a company might say about their code. Really sad reporting Carla, Shame.

She then asserts, without any argument or example that Windows itself is the prime example of this; presented simply along the lines of 'well everybody knows it, I don't have to prove it'. It very well may be the case. It may not. Nothing in this article gives me cause to think it might be.

The rest of the article is a list of cherry picked examples of poor proprietary code.

With regard to the opening of netscape and openoffice, would she have preferred that they not be opened?

The impression that I'm left with is the whole thing was a mudslinging exercise aimed at proprietary code, and not even a very well prepared one at that.

I'm not going to sink myself to the same level as this "article", but I know with pretty much certainty I could find some disgusting examples of embarrassingly poor open source code if I really wanted to do it. She freely admits that there is bad open source code out there too, so I am left even more confused about the point of the article.

Embarrassment, may be one of the reasons for not opening some code up. It's certainly not the only one, which with even a tiny amount of research she could have determined. Nor is it a differentiator between open and closed source.

Carla, you have made an assertion and completely failed to argue your case. You get a D-, and I'm being generous.

A small poke at Jupiter Online Media who run the site. Most articles that I read that are purported to be by trade magazines and journalists at least provide a one liner of the authors credentials. I'm sorry, I can't find it here.

Monday Aug 27, 2007

Something Different

I haven't mentioned it much here, but I was a musician many years ago and I kind of kept my hand in.

I've been helping out at Brackets and Jam North on a monthly basis with the sound desk and I've also been doing the occasional walk-up performance.

I took the next step over last weekend and recorded something I wrote a couple of weeks ago and registered myself as an artist on MySpace. Anyone who is interested can check my page and music at

There is also a blog entry there that discusses some more of the interesting bits of how I got that song recorded.

I also found it heartening of the local artists that I have contacted who have linked to me.

Friday Apr 06, 2007

3rd place in loud shirt competition

Last week I ended up in the office on Friday, which is unusual as I normally work from home on Thursday and Friday, but my boss wanted to do a one on one and they are always best done face to face if possible. Now before I left I recalled that they were running a "Loud Shirt Day" competition, so armed with my favorite BBQ shirt I wandered into the office. Looks like I chose well as I placed third.

Click the photo for a large version (if you dare).

Alan's loud shirt

The astute of you will notice that I've taken a head and shoulders shot out of this for the current blog photo.

And sometimes it doesn't suck as much

I should have made this update earlier. I'll be careful about how specific I get here as I'm not sure how much I can or should make public.

I had a phone call from Gosford Police on the Wednesday following the incident. They had made some arrests and wanted me to go through what I lost with them.

On Thursday I went in to make a statement and recovered everything except a couple of cds and dvds that I had written myself and I couldn't remember what was on them (as well as some blanks).

Something I didn't comment on in the prior blog entry was that when I went back to the station to look for anything that may have been dropped, I heard some arguing further up the street followed by three people running up to the station, jumping onto the tracks and running off. On my way back to the car I was stopped by some people in another car asking if I had seen three kids running away. It turns out that on the train following mine, they had assaulted and robbed another poor guy.

The CCTV footage from both Narara and Gosford, as well as the hat that we had was instrumental in the police getting good photographs of these people and they were able to quickly find them and make three arrests. Watching the CCTV footage was an eye opener for how these people had actually done things.

Anyway, I must add to my thank you list the detectives at Gosford and the folks involved in getting them the CCTV footage in such a timely fashion that my gear had not been disposed of. I also need to thank Steve Lau for the offer of one of his spare Ferrari chargers and Jeff Bailey for actually couriering his spare one to my office on Tuesday so I could use my notebook on Wednesday.

Tuesday Mar 27, 2007

Sometimes life sucks

An unual blog title from me for an unusual entry.

Last night coming home on the train (about 9:20pm) I was sleepily playing a game on my notebook as the train pulled into Narara Station (about 15 minutes from where I would disembark). Out of the corner of my eye I noticed my backpack moving across the seat. Too late I realised it was being taken. I ran after the thief shouting for him to stop. He jumped off out of the car and ran along the tracks, jumping a fence and running off. I jumped after to follow but couldn't catch him.

Inside the bag were:

  • Ferrari Charger
  • 60gb USB disk
  • Ferrari bluetooth mouse
  • VPN Token card
  • Some CDs, pens and other small bibs and bobs

Pretty much nothing to make the theft worthwhile.

I must express my extreme thanks to the folks who watched my notebook while I tried to catch this guy and returned some course material that had fallen out, also to the train guard firstly, for noticing I was beside the tracks and not allowing the train to move; and secondly for his assistance on the rest of the trip home to make sure that it was correctly reported and that I was generally ok.

I know the thief probably won't be reading this, but he will have been caught on CCTV on both Gosford and Narara Stations. The police also have the hat he dropped.

Anyway as I was talking to the guard, I noticed that my shins hurt and I'd cut my hands up a bit, where I'd fallen on the ballast jumping out of the train. After I got to Wyong I went up to Wyong Police Station to report the theft and hand in the hat. I then drove back down to Narara to look around the area to see if anything had been discarded. Gave up after about half an hour and went home.

When I got there Lyn reminded me that as this was my usual journey home, it should be reported through workcover. As I commented earlier I was starting to hurt a little so I ventured up to Wyong Hospital to be checked out. Unfortunately I chose a very busy night, so it was about five hours before anyone could see me (which I don't begrudge as I lost track of the number of ambulances bringing in folks who were hurt worse than me). As it turned out the nurse who ended up bandaging me up after the Doctor had checked me over was a good friend of ours and she was very helpful, even grabbing me a cup of coffee and something to eat before I left (and offerring a lift home if I wasn't up to driving).

Finally got home about 5:30am and decided it really was not worth going to bed until after the kids went to school, which I'm about to do now.

Oh yes, one more thank you, to all the second life folks who sent me their best wishes on hearing what happened. You know who you are, and you have my gratitude.

So I'm basically left with a notebook taht has about 15 minutes of charge on it until I can organise a new power supply. I hope that that is not going to take too long. I guess, I'm also really glad that the notebook was on my knee and not in the bag. I only just finished paying it off in December!

Tuesday Jan 09, 2007

You know you are getting old when, ...

This is really sad.

I've been working today now since 8am (just over three hours). I have made many updates to cases that include time/date stamps.

I only just noticed the date in one of them and thought, ...

Hmmm, January 9, .. hey, happy birthday to me.

I now get to spend a year at the answer to the ultimate question, of life, the universe and everything.


* - Solaris and Network Domain, Technical Support Centre

Alan is a kernel and performance engineer based in Australia who tends to have the nasty calls gravitate towards him


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