Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Tech support as a reflection of the state of politics

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

I am having an issue with my ISP. I have been running an email server for the domain out of my home office for the last 7 years. About a month ago, my server stopped receiving messages from from outside my network. After much diagnosis, I determined that the smtp port (25) is being blocked at my modem. On my firewall, I can pass port ranges. When I set it to pass ports 24-26 I can connect to port 24 and 26 but not port 25.

I called my ISP’s support, and after being transferred to limbo, then being hung up on, I spoke to Ivy. She pretty obviously had a script of issues she could solve. My issue involved email, and my ISP has recently changed changed their email servers to use port 587 and blocked outbound connections on port 25, so the only solution she could propose was that I change my server to use port 587.

We went back and forth on this for 1 hour (my phone said the call time was exactly 1:00:00 when I finally hung up). My problem was inbound connections, but since she didn’t have a script for that situation, she tried to fit my problem into a script she had.

Apart from the technical issues, this reminds me of the political discourse tactic of answering the question a politician would like to answer instead of the question that was asked. Has this tactic infected our business class as well as our political class?

Also Ivy was completely unable to do anything to solve my problem. She had somebody call me back (which I was completely skeptical about being a legitimate offer based on my earlier calls. Sorry Ivy). He (Glen) also had absolutely no power to even diagnose the issue sufficiently to verify that my problem involved their equipment.

The skeptical me wonders if this is deliberate. How many of their customers do not call back after the first hangup? How many get frustrated after the third call and just don’t call back? How many give up with Ivy’s inability to even comprehend the question? The fact is they have a monopoly in my area. I can use them (they are a cable ISP) and get 25Mb or get DSL from a local phone company at 1.5Mb. I run a server and my wife works from home. I have no choice. By providing “technical support” that in any case outside the norm provides a sympathetic ear but is not empowered to actually solve anything more than the basic problem, they provide lip service to caring without spending a dime more than they have to.

I feel sorry for Ivy and Glen. I really think that she was trying to do something to help me. But her ability to respond was limited entirely to the script. Glen was also had absolutely no relevant knowledge or authority, and so had no way to solve any problem outside if the script. That must be a tough job.

But I’ll bet it is cheap for the ISP.


Friday, July 8th, 2011

Premature optimization shows how smart you are, not how well you can solve the problem.

Did I read that somewhere or just make it up?

Personally I believe in solving the problem as quickly and simply as possible. If the solution isn’t good enough (as determined by the people for whom I am writing the program, not by me) I’ll improve it.

One John’s problems

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

I often run into interesting problems in my work and in my play.  But finding solutions on the web can be challenging.  So I decided to start recording them so that if somebody else ran into them as well they might find them.  For the record, I am currently using Gentoo Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Perl at work, so I expect most of the problems to be related to one or more of those systems.  Also, I am not a writer.  So don’t expect wonderful prose.  But please leave a comment if it helps or if you think more clarification is needed.