Sunday, December 30, 2007

Whither Netscape

Hang your heads low, boys, hang your heads low.

Netscape will soon be no more.

Netscape was THE original Internet browser! Back in the days when the Internet was still seen as just a “geek’s toy”, Netscape was THE browser! Yes, Microsoft still had Internet Explorer, but guess what? IT SUCKED! It SUCKED along with pretty much every other web browser that other people were cranking out, including the big online services such as America Online.

The folks at the Mozilla Foundation came through with Netscape and they put it out on the Internet and they told everyone “Hey, come on over and download this FOR FREE! No strings attached!”

Web designers began using Netscape as the standard for their websites. (And, yes, that included the original Brutally Honest website when it got started in 1996.) Mozilla even released the source code for its browser back in 1998, which was seen as a MAJOR step for designers to develop add-ons and find ways to improve the program.

Netscape helped early Internet Service Providers like Mindspring (now Earthlink) compete with the online giants AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe (two of which no longer exist) not only by providing a web browser, but also later email and newsgroup applications which rivaled Eudora. They gave people more and more reasons to just get a simply ISP instead of the supposed “content-rich” Online Service Providers like AOL.

Here’s the funny thing: when Microsoft realized that their Internet Explorer SUCKED compared to Netscape, guess whom they turned to? Yup! They brought in the Mozilla Foundation to fix Internet Explorer!

Sadly, Netscape’s demise was probably sealed back in 1999 when America Online bought it out from Mozilla.

AOL COULD have incorporated Netscape into their system. They COULD have used it to enhance their email and web browsing capabilities instead of using elements from IE. But, no, that would have required THINKING. AOL executives weren’t really THINKING back then. They were too busy going on BUYING SPREES! They bought out Netscape for the same reason that they bought out ICQ… BECAUSE THEY COULD! They didn’t DO anything with it. They just bought it.

Well Mozilla washed their hands clean of Netscape and then came up with an even BETTER web browser called Firefox! And of course because this was a completely open source project, it wasn’t long before elements of Firefox showed up in Internet Explorer 7 and AOL’s “revised” Netscape.

So now it’s officially the end of the road for Netscape. America Online will stop all updates and upgrades after February 1st of 2008, almost nine years after they bought their precious “toy”. After that, users will be on their own. Well, as I understand it, if they’ve been using Netscape as their primary browser, they’ve been on their own for a while now.

Oh, by the way, you should check out this blog entry from one of the Mozilla people about his experience with the AOL-owned Netscape.

If there’s anyone who still uses Netscape (and yes, I have a copy of it too), I SERIOUSLY recommend that you just switch to Firefox. This is going to infuriate the folks at Microsoft, but the Firefox really IS the new standard!

Feel free to lament about Netscape's demise in the comments section.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Dude, you bought an iDud!

This is what happens when you're obsessed with getting the "latest-greatest" toy... you end up with a $4000 phone bill!

This is for real. Check it out!

Wow, and I thought I went through the worst fifteen years ago when my sister ran up a $400-per-month phone bill signing on with Prodigy through long distance lines.

Oh, and dude, you're on Abum, not YouTube... because I can't find it on YouTube! Here's a hint... it's not good to name-drop on vids that end up on other websites.

(12/30 Update: I had to do a little more digging, but I finally found the YouTube video, so I replaced it, because the embedded Abum player continually started their video automatically, which really SUCKS!)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Speaking of which...

Hey, speaking of that unnamed store in my previous post..
As has been typical for this store, once the salesman leaves you to go check on other people, you pretty much won't see him again.

What's up with that? What's up with that whole idea that the salesman will disappear after talking with you, especially after he's leaving you to ponder something over?

For instance, you go check out monitors... the salesman immediately comes up and asks if you need any help. At THAT moment, you don't. So he leaves. But then you make up your mind and you NEED his help to get the item, and he isn't there! He's talking to a few dozen other customers, or he's gabbing away with the other salespeople. You have to wait until ANOTHER salesperson shows up and realizes that you're not just browsing.

Hey, like I said in the previous post, a person with a shopping cart in that kind of store is NOT there for browsing. They have it in their head that they are going to BUY something, and usually not the kind of stuff that they can just hold in their hands. You don't need to dog that person RIGHT as they're showing up in your department, but understand that you have a REALLY good chance that you're going to make a sale off this person. So don't blow it!

Oh, btw, for those stores who pride themselves in saying that their salespeople don't work on commission... just because they're not getting a commission for the sale doesn't mean that they're not putting in the heavy sale for things like your overpriced insurance program, and that can be a turn-off as well. Offer it, but once they say "no", respect it. I don't know why that is so hard for salespeople to understand; especially if, as you claim, they have nothing to gain either way.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Getting talked OUT of a sale

Okay, this is an impromptu rant that really needs to be made.

Came across what I though was a really good computer deal for under $200. I won't say which store, but I will say it was the same franchise that I had the online sale problems with from my earlier article. I needed to get a replacement second computer because my current one is literally dying, and money, unfortunately, was once again a problem.

So after a little hashing over between last night and this afternoon, I came to the decision to go buy that computer.

I show up there WITH a shopping cart and ask the first salesman who dogs me to tell me about that computer other than what I can read on the little information tag.

"You really don't want to get that one."

Excuse me? Here I am with a shopping cart IN HAND ready to make a sale RIGHT THERE, and this guy is actually talking me OUT of a sale!

He tells me that this computer is running Windows Vista Basic. Yes I know this.

He tells me that it only has 512MB RAM. Yes I also know this.

He tells me that the system will run VERY slowly because of the RAM.

You're not dealing with a noobie, gramps. I've been playing this game before you even knew what a computer looked like!

I tell him EXACTLY what I would be using this for. I tell him that I'm replacing a 6-year old computer that is running on 256MB RAM, a 60GB drive that is FAILING, and a video card that refuses to work on a cold startup. I tell him that I would be using this for playing music and some modest web surfing. I even point out that I ALREADY have another computer that I do the bulk of my work with.

But no, he still wants me to look at some of the other computers with more RAM. Oh, hey look at this one... 1GB of RAM, only $400! And here's another one for $599!

Okay gramps, I'll humor you this one time... I'll look around. And then I'll return to the other computer and either you will make the sale for me or someone else will do it and HE will get his name for making the sale.

As has been typical for this store, once the salesman leaves you to go check on other people, you pretty much won't see him again.

Now mind you, as I'm trying to get talked out of this sale, ANOTHER person comes up, sees the same computer as I'm looking at, and he is ALSO getting talked out of the sale! Now this guy starts spouting off how much of a deal it is because he can tell you how much it costs to actually MAKE a computer by buying all of the components (which you can also do right there in the store). But he's also hearing the same spiel from a different salesman. "No, you don't want this, you want the more expensive computers over on the other sales island."

So needless to say, after another twenty minutes of pacing around the little sales island and looking at all of the computer and then coming back to that computer, another salesman figures out that I'm looking for some help. I tell him that I want to buy THAT computer...

"Um... I really don't think you want to get that computer.... it'll run a little slow."

Here we go again!

I give him an even SHORTER version of the story. I'm using this to replace a backup computer that is running on 256mb RAM, a 60gb drive that is FAILING, a video card that is FAILING, and it would be used for music and some modest web surfing. I tell him that I am hampered by two things, necessity and money. I've SEEN the other computer offers, and they are all outside of the affordable price range. Now can you PLEASE get me that computer?

He goes to the back, five minutes later he returns (after talking to another customer), and tells me that he just can't seem to find that computer anywhere on the shelves. Maybe there's another computer they can get for me?

Nope, there isn't. Goodbye.

And I walked. Actually I was TOO kind in that I returned the shopping cart. I should have just left it right there at the other end of the building to remind them that they LOST a sale!

They didn't even offer to box up the computer on display! If they were so desperate to sell out that series (which was their last excuse) then they should have at least offered to do that.

This store made SEVERAL mistakes that cost them a sale.

First: a person who walks into that store with a shopping cart is NOT someone who is causally browsing! That person is looking to BUY. That means that you have a REALLY good chance of making a sale right there. So the very last thing that you want to do is to talk someone OUT of making that sale!

Second: if that person is looking to make a purchase and you think that there is a problem with the product in question, then you don't try to talk that person into trying to buy a more expensive computer. The consumer sees this as bait-and-switch! If they know that you have some complaints about the product and they still want to make the sale then you MAKE THE SALE!

Third: if the product is REALLY sold out - and it's not just a convenient lie to get people to not buy the product for fear that you may have to restock it later when it is returned - then you sell the demo model at a discount! Or you offer to add something to it! If the problem really is with available RAM, then you offer to increase the RAM. That's not bait-and-switch - that's actually showing that you CARE enough to want them to enjoy the purchase.

Now the hard part... figuring out what I'll do to replace the computer that is dying. I'll probably have to go to some discount computer shop and see if they have any refurbished XP systems for that same price range. At least the people there care enough to want a sale made.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Apple's dirty little iPhone/iHype secret

MSNBC's Red Tape Chronicles came up with something rather disturbing for all of you who got suckered into the whole iPhone iHype.

It seems there's an additional cost for the BATTERY.

Anyone remember the iPod's dirty little secret about its battery? You know which one... where you have a finite number of times you can charge it up and then that's it, it's dead. And you can't swap batteries without breaking the seal. The whole thing was designed so that iPod addicts would have to buy more iPod devices once their batteries die.

Well guess what? The iPhone is just as bad!

"The iPhone battery will only survive about 300-400 recharges, the company says. Because the unit is sealed, consumers can't swap out dead batteries. Instead, dead phones must be sent to Apple, where battery replacement will take three business days and cost $79 plus a $6.95 shipping charge. Those who can't live without their cell phones for those three days can rent a spare iPhone for $29.

This pricey, and apparently inevitable, aftercharge never made it into any of the voluminous news stories written and filmed about the iPhone prior to its launch on June 29. Why not?

According to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, Apple's Web site made no mention of the battery fee on the morning of June 29, when thousands of Apple faithful lined up all around the country to buy the phone, which costs $500 or $600, depending on model."

Worse yet, bloggers and MSM hacks who were ga-ga-ing over the iHype actually KNEW about this little "defect" AND SAID NOTHING, or worse yet they glossed over it.

Folks, we're not talking about a $30 music player here. We're talking about a SERIOUS $500-600 investment for the iHype ALONE. You can buy a low-level computer for that price. You can buy a Playstation 3 or an Xbox 360 for that price! And that's not covering the full service package and setup costs and everything else.

And all for an overhyped product that will spoil like the milk in your refrigerator.

If anything I'm disappointed with the bloggers for drinking the Apple Kool-Aid over the iHype. I can understand the MSM players for being essentially iHype whores, but the bloggers who joined in with it really need to rethink their game.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Why idiots and tech should never mix

They probably have emails that end with "" too.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The other side of Apple's ads

This the reason why I'm in tech support.

These are the kinds of sentiments I have to deal with, even though I work with PC-people.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Whither CompUSA – at least in Atlanta anyway

Sad tech news for all Atlanta techno-geeks. CompUSA has announced this week that they will close off over 100 stores, including ALL SIX stores in the Metro Atlanta area.

That’s a serious kick in the nads for people. I mean, normally you’d hear about two or three stores closing in a certain area, but not EVERY store in that chain. That’s a “save us from bankruptcy” move.

CompUSA has pinned the blame of this decision on extremely bad sales. Well I gotta call BS on that one!

It’s not bad SALES that is doing them in… it is bad SALES DECISIONS.

Let’s see if I can break this down for you so that even a corporate executive can understand what I’m trying to say here…

The name of the chain is CompUSA. It was set up to sell computers and computer-related items. That is its claim to fame. That is what got the techno-geeks and techno-newbies showing up. Once upon a time it was very good at doing just that.

It is NOT called CellphoneUSA.

It is NOT called DVD-PlayerUSA.

It is NOT called Home-Theatre-Surroundsound-SystemUSA.

It is NOT called Plasma-Screen-TVUSA.

It is NOT called TiVOUSA.

And yet all of these things started taking prominent shelf space in the local CompUSA stores, pushing the computer-related items to the far extreme walls. And by no coincidence, that’s also when they started experiencing the slacking sales.

Now I can understand the executive stupidity behind it. They feel that they needed to “compete” with Best Buy and with Fry’s Electronics and with all of the other electronics superstores that get into selling a wide variety of electronic goodies.

There is just one simple problem: the other stores didn’t pride themselves at ONLY being a computer superstore! It’s like walking into a KFC restaurant and seeing nothing but cheeseburgers and fish sandwiches and then having to ASK for fried chicken.

Krispy Kreme beats out Dunkin Doughnuts every time. Why? Because Krispy Kreme still sells doughnuts and the folks at Dunkin Doughnuts have to be reminded what the name of their franchise is. Or maybe they should just go ahead and change their name to Croissant Cuisine.

CompUSA dropped the ball when it came to selling computers. There is really no other way to put it. They dropped the ball and Best Buy and the other stores picked it up. Now Best Buy is making mad money and CompUSA is closing down stores just to stay solvent. If they want to get back what they lost, then they need to remember what the name of their store is and stick to it.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

"Console Wars"... guess who won?

Back in November I posted an article about the “new console wars” and how there was just too much damned hype about it and that they really weren’t worth the fuss and aggravation.

Here’s a quick snippet:

Listen, all you're really doing is feeding the selfish nature of your children when you buy into this hype. I'm sure the graphics and sound are phenomenal, but you shouldn't go broke looking for these things. If your kids don't have a game console at all, look a little further up the isle and grab a PS2 instead of a PS3. You'll save about $300 and your kids will have a larger number of games to pick and choose from. You buy the new console now and you're going to have to wait for the really good stuff to come out!

Bear in mind that this was back in November, when the “new console wars” were just beginning.

Well the people at MSNBC have declared the “new console wars” to be over with, and guess who came out on top?

I’ll let them break it to you…

Much ink has been spilled over the so-called “console wars” between the new Nintendo Wii, the PlayStation 3 and the year-old Xbox 360. So now that 2006 is over and the numbers have been tallied, who won the home-console slugfest?

The PlayStation 2.

That’s right. The PlayStation 2 outsold all next-gen consoles by a fairly wide margin.

And the reasons given for this “shocker”? The unrealistic price of $500 per game system, and the lack of games to play on that system. The very reasons why I was telling folks to not spend their money on the system.

As has been demonstrated time and time again, when I’m right, I’m right. That’s not arrogance… that’s experience.

And I’m GLAD that I’m right in this case. I’m sick and tired of these companies cranking out needless hype for game systems that they KNOW they will never have an adequate supply of, to play on games that they KNOW would not be available during that time, and to demand a price that they KNOW is more that it would ever be worth! I’m sick of it! And I’m glad to hear that the consumers are sick of it too!

If Sony and Nintendo and Microsoft want us to buy their “next generation” console system, then they need to add two words to their vocabulary: REVERSE COMPATIBILITY! Sony should have designed their PlayStation 3 to allow us to play PS2 games on it. Same for Microsoft’s Xbox360. They’re running on CD-ROM discs! How difficult would it be to adapt? Cripes, they probably could do that right now and release it as a firmware upgrade! Why have us use TWO separate game consoles to play these games, especially when the really cook games for the new system wouldn’t really be ready for a few more months or years?

Anyway, kudos to those of you who DID NOT drink the Jonestown Kool-Aid of hype. Maybe the console makers will actually learn something from this so that there would not be another “console war” and they will instead release games that we would really WANT to buy.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Computer That ALMOST Never Was

The Computer That ALMOST Never Was
My Misadventures With Online Ordering

– by David Matthews 2

I needed a new computer.

Not “want” or “would like”, but NEEDED.

The desktop computer that I was using has served me very well for over the past few years, but now it can’t handle what I need for it to do. I was running out of space, the latest version of my browsers and media programs require more RAM than my system has, and I don’t have the luxury of using my parents’ computer for things like burning video files to DVD. I’ve stopped buying games for the PC a while ago and I’ve been trying to figure out which programs I don’t use anymore just so I can squeeze some more hard drive space in for the stuff that I DO use it for. I can’t even consider upgrading the Office programs with the system I have now, and my versions of those programs have long since been “retired”.

I needed a new computer.

And yes, I am a techno-geek, but that doesn’t mean that I have money coming out of my butt to buy the latest, greatest, most advanced system available. My last name is neither “Gates” nor “Jobs”. Besides, I’m not the kind of hardcore techno-junkie that drools over the specs of the latest processor. I won’t be offended if my computer doesn’t have the LATEST processor or FASTEST video card. My interest in technology is tempered by reality. I care about computers because they are a means to an end. The “end” in this case is to get what I need to do done.

So buying a computer for me means to look at what I can afford to get. I have a certain set of conditions and a pretty low price range to work with. I wasn’t going to get a new computer that is “just slightly” faster than my current one. Unfortunately all of the computers that I was looking at that have what I’m looking for were OUT of my current price range.

Then, in my umpteenth online search, I came across a certain store sale. A brand name computer, 200 gigabyte hard drive, 1 gigabyte RAM, DVD burner, Windows XP Media Center operating system… all of the things that I’m looking for at JUST UNDER $400! It was just within my price range, so I go ahead and place the order.

Bear in mind that this is an online sale only. I could not purchase this computer at the website’s physical store just up the road from where I live. And the computer on sale is offered as “refurbished”. “Refurbished” can mean pretty much anything. “Refurbished” can mean the previous owner simply returned it. “Refurbished” could mean the computer had a defect that needed to be returned and then the store fixed the defect and restored it to its original factory specs and now needs to get it out of inventory. “Refurbished” could mean that the computer had a scratch or came without a manual. It’s potluck, but at $400, I was willing to roll the dice.

So, like I said, I placed the order. I put in the shipping information, the billing information, click send, and then wait. Hey, it WAS after business hours after all. And I’m all excited, because I though this was a GREAT deal I was getting.

The following morning I get the confirmation email. By the end of the day I got another email from the company. I thought this would be the acknowledgement that the order was shipped.

Thank you for your order! It has become necessary to cancel your order due to discrepancies in the information provided to us, in either the bill-to or the ship-to portion of your order.

Under the circumstances, we recommend that you contact our sales or customer service department by e-mail to have a sales person assist you in placing the order.

Your order number is ########.

We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you in advance for your assistance.

Bill-To and Ship-To were one and the same. The Bill-To had my credit card information.

Well I did send out the email asking for an explanation, but I also called their toll-free number and asked for customer service. And I waited. And I waited. And I waited…

A full forty-five minutes goes by before I get a very polite human who was quick to look up the order and say that there was something wrong with the credit card information and it got kicked back. He didn’t say what it was, and that it could be anything, even so much as a phone number being off, but that I should contact the credit card company to find out why. But if there’s nothing wrong with the credit card, then I should just go ahead and submit a new order.

Fortunately for me, my credit card statement was right in front of me, so I called the credit card company. Even though it was after business hours, there was no waiting with them. I spoke with a very kind and courteous woman whom I could barely hear who confirmed that my credit card was still active and in good standing. She connected me over to the bank. Again, no waiting at all, and the person I spoke with was kind and courteous and she also explained to me that not only was the card in good standing, but nobody’s made any kind of inquiry or approvals in several weeks. If any inquiries got made and then kicked back, they’d know about it.

So someone’s lying to me at this point. It probably wasn’t the human I was speaking to on the phone from customer service. The person who makes an arbitrary yes-no decision usually knows specifically what went wrong to cause the “no” decision.

To be safe, I re-did the online information – line by line – exactly as the bank has it in their records. Phone information, home address, everything. Then I submit a new order to the online company. I also send an email back to the service department explaining everything to them and telling them that if they have a problem again to please contact me immediately so we can resolve it.

The next morning, I get the acknowledgement email. An hour later, I get another email….

Thank you for your order! It has become necessary to cancel your order due to discrepancies in the information provided to us, in either the bill-to or the ship-to portion of your order.

At this point I’m pissed. I’m really pissed. Bear in mind that this is the SECOND arbitrary rejection, and one that comes after a SPECIFIC request to contact me if there is a problem. Why ask even for my work and home phone numbers if you’re not going to use them? (Well, I can guess why, but that’s for another subject.)

So I spend my lunch hour on the phone… on hold… waiting for a human.

Since I was pissed and on hold, I figured that I’d use my trusty old computer to do a little background check. I type in the company’s name and the word “complaints” in the search engine. Oh did I find PLENTY of reading material to keep me busy while I was on hold!!! Horror stories the likes of which would make miserly Scrooge look like the world’s greatest philanthropist in comparison.

A little word of advice to all companies with customer service numbers… you DO NOT want people to be sitting and stewing on hold for more than ten minutes. That just invites people to find ways to keep themselves pissed off. And if your company has a bad track record with customer service, then keeping people pissed off for more than ten minutes invites more trouble for your company.

This time I was on hold for only thirty minutes before I got to speak with a human. Again, she was very polite and listened as I explained everything to her, including how I spoke with both the credit card company and the bank to verify that everything was working and that they had not gotten any kind of notice that the card was rejected. She then says that she will manually submit the order herself.

Oh, but hold on…

“I need to get authorization. Apparently the price on this just went up to $449.”

I didn’t need to hear that! Here I am trying for three days now to get this computer and suddenly the price goes up? Red lights are flashing in my head. I’m trying to decide if I even want to go another round if I’m having to pay even more for this computer. And what happens if this one fails? Will the price go up again? Do they even have the computer or are they all sold out and they just don’t want to admit it?

“Okay, you’re all set. I’ve submitted a new order for $399.”

It’s at the same price, so I’m breathing a sigh of relief. She gives me my new order number and tells me that she’ll be sending me a new email acknowledgement and says that if this doesn’t work that I should contact my credit card company.

Actually at this point I’m thinking a lot more than that. I’m thinking that if this order gets rejected that there will not be a fourth attempt! Three strikes and you’re out. And I’m not going to be submitting a new order if the price of that computer is going to be edging up over my range.

A whole slew of options start running through my head. Whom to contact, who to complain to, and what to do. Should I call consumer reporters like Clark Howard for help? Should I join my voices in the choir of dissatisfied people from my little lunchtime reading list? Maybe I should just write an article and send it out? (Well obviously I went ahead with this idea.)

Out of laughs and giggles, I visited the physical store of this online company. It’s a national chain of stores, although it’s still not big enough for most people to recognize. I go searching for two things. First, what kind of computer I could get off the shelf, cash in hand, for the price that I’m trying to pay for the computer in question? Second, how much would a brand-new, factory-sealed, version of that computer cost?

The answer to the first question shocked me. For roughly $400, I could only get a computer that is SLIGHTLY faster or larger than my current one. Double the current RAM, maybe a slightly larger hard drive, a CD-ROM burner, and the same operating system. In other words, I’d be better off sticking with my old and faithful (and crowded) computer.

The answer to the second question didn’t really surprise me. If I bought that same computer at the physical store, I’d be paying $600 for it. That was clearly outside of my current price range.

The next morning, I get a new message. This time the message has the order number attached to it.

We are happy to inform you that your order has been completed and will be shipped to you.

This was followed by a link to their website that allows me to track the progress of the package so I know when it will arrive.

Well that’s great! Problem averted. Now it’s just a waiting game to see if my potluck gamble will pay off.

Fortunately the computer did show up as scheduled, although it wasn’t entirely a great ending. It appeared that someone didn’t plug the hard drive power cable, or that they didn’t plug it in properly and it got unplugged during boxing and shipping. In other words, when it started up, I was told I had no hard drive. Fortunately with a little help from the manufacturer’s support desk and a little experience of my own, everything was up and running.

By the way, I did eventually get a response to my initial email inquiry as to why the first order was rejected. It showed up in my inbox a couple of hours after I got the approval notice. The response was: “it appears that this matter has already been resolved.” No apologies or explanations (as requested), just that it was resolved and that was it.

So… why bother talking about this whole experience if there is a happy ending to it all? The deal has been made, the order was shipped, and the product is here… case closed.

Well that’s part of the problem right there. This whole episode was fraught with customer mismanagement, and nobody wants to talk about it because the end result is all that matters to most people. It is certainly all that the business is concerned about, and that is not good for them, especially if they’re trying to truly become a big-name brand company.

The truth of the matter is that this was a really good deal that almost did not happen!

If my need for a new computer wasn’t as strong as it was, I probably would have just called the whole thing off after the second email cancellation. I may not have even stayed on the line while being on hold for a half an hour on that second call after reading all of the horror stories about this company if I wasn’t determined to make this deal work. My otherwise cautious and cynical online mind would have told me not to go through with this.

I understand that sometimes online orders just don’t go through. Maybe the wrong numbers were put in. Maybe I put in a 6 instead of a 9. Those things happen even to the best of us. But that second rejection should not have happened if everything was double-checked and put in correctly.

At the very least an attempt should have been made to contact me before making that second cancellation. Why go through the process of getting a person’s phone number if you’re not going to use it for what it was intended for? That in and of itself sets off a few red flags. Anyone remember how telemarketers end up with our phone numbers?

The person who has to go through with a second order is already uneasy about it. Extra effort needs to be made on behalf of the company to make sure this order goes through on the second try, and it didn’t happen.

Also, it goes without saying that long waiting periods for customer service calls – or sales calls for that matter – are things that should not be tolerated. A person who calls customer service is already not a happy shopper to begin with, and they certainly should not be left to sit and stew for any longer than ten minutes. That only serves to further aggravate the situation.

Online companies need to remember that all of the jazzy sales and slick website promises in the world mean absolutely nothing if they cannot get the customer through the point-of-sale and actually deliver the product. I can understand how people can get upset at certain big-name computer distributors if their experience with customer service was anywhere as frustrating as mine was. I would have serious hesitations about making another online purchase with this company, although I have yet to say anything bad about their physical store and will probably rely on making all future purchases from there.

Ten years ago it would have been understandable to say that an online store would have problems with its customer service. But today, with dozens of online marketplaces ready to step in and provide the consumers with what they’re looking for, even the smallest of businesses really need to remember that customer satisfaction is more than just a fancy website and great sales offers. In the online world of business, customer satisfaction starts with the point of sale and it only ends when that customer is happy enough with his or her experience to let others know about it. If you cannot provide it, then you lose the very support you need to keep that business going.


David Matthews 2 is a freelance writer living in the greater Atlanta area. He is a longtime computer user and has been involved with computers since the 1980’s.

This article can be distributed freely provided that it is unaltered and all proper credit is given to the author.

2007 – Get Brutal Productions

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Next-Gen: Real and Phony

Next-Gen: Real And Phony
– by David Matthews 2

Apple Computer’s quasi-deity (and sometimes chairman) Steve Jobs recently made two "stunning" announcements at the 2007 Macworld Expo. The first was that Apple Computers was getting rid of the "Computers" part of its name and simply calling itself Apple Incorporated. Since they managed to resolve their trademark lawsuit with the Beatles over the word "Apple", no doubt the company was just itching to simplify themselves to just the one-fruit reference.

The second announcement was the unveiling of their latest toy: the iPhone! The merger between an iPod music player and a cellphone! You can surf the web, download music and video files, play games, AND talk on the phone!

Isn’t that great? Isn’t that wonderful? Here’s the NEXT GENERATION of technology! Here is THE FUTURE!


Somebody wake me up when the mindless jabbering settles down.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for technical advances. But the merging of a music player and the cellphone is NOT "next-gen"! It’s actually the status quo.

That’s the ugly and bitter truth when it comes to the iPhone: it’s neither the latest, nor the greatest, nor the next best thing since the microprocessor. It’s basically the same kind of cellphone available today with a larger hard drive for music, a Macintosh operating system, and a jazzy "iTitle" on it.

Meanwhile other computer makers are busy transforming their systems to conform to what they believe "next-gen" will be. They think that the computers of the future will no longer be beige metal boxes sitting with its own space. They think that the computer will actually be sleek and thin and fit underneath a huge flat-screen TV as just another component in a mammoth entertainment center.

If that’s all that they think computers will be in the future, I have some SERIOUS doubts about our technological progress.

For the past few decades, there have been two conflicting trains of thought about computers and where they should be heading.

The first train of thought is that computers are for business purposes only. This was the mindset of computer makers like IBM, who made their money creating huge mainframe systems that cost a fortune to have and another fortune to maintain and operate. It also wasn’t hard to figure out why since computers at that time could do very little except crunch numbers and run very limited programs.

But as computers got smaller, more affordable, and could do a whole lot more than just crunch numbers, a second train of thought developed that said that computers were for ENTERTAINMENT purposes only. They believe that computers should be playing games and keeping the masses entertained. This is the train of thought of companies like Apple as they made computers very user-friendly. It was also the train of thought of arcade video game makers like Atari, and later Nintendo and Sega. The rise of the Internet in the 1990’s solidified this train of thought as people began using the computer to play online games, download music and video, and to chat with friends, family members, and even total strangers all around the world.

Both mentalities think that theirs is the true "next-gen" mentality. The business-only people scoff at the entertainment-only people and think that playing games and stuff are just fleeting fads. The entertainment-only people think that the business-only people suck and are fanatically obsessed with security.

The truth of the matter is that NEITHER side has the exclusive on what "next-gen" will be. They don’t get it, because it won’t just be about either mentality. It will actually be both, neither, and everything in between.

Do you want to know what "next-gen" will be? Do you want to know what will be the REAL steps forward in technology? The REAL driving force for the next decade?

One word, my friends: Networking.

The name of the game for the next few decades will be getting everything interconnected. It won’t be JUST about business or JUST about playing games or JUST about surfing the web and keeping tabs with your friends, relatives, and complete strangers all around the world. It will be bringing together the things that you use in your everyday life.

Imagine buying a watch that will never need to be set or reset. A watch that will automatically correct itself and adjust for things such as Daylight Savings Time. It will always give you the correct time. If you travel from one time zone to another, your watch will automatically adjust to give you the correct time no matter where you go. This watch will keep up with your daily schedule and remind you of important events as they are occur. And it will remind you when its battery is about to expire or to let you know if there is a problem with it.

Impossible, you say? Right now, yes. But in a few years that watch will be as commonplace as iPod players are today. In fact, elements of those features are ALREADY present in other devices such as your cellphone and your computer.

That’s just one common device. There are plenty of others to go along with it.

You may have seen the commercials of the cars that will send an email report of how it is doing and when it will be due for service. That too is an example of next-generation networking, and it eventually won’t be just for expensive luxury vehicles. Pretty soon your car will be doing everything related to its own service except driving itself to the service station and giving itself an oil-change. Hopefully by then we will also eliminate the whole oil and petroleum dependency.

Over the past few years we’ve seen homes constructed already wired for networking. Putting in Cat5 cable and installing network switches is pretty much old hat. First, Cat5 cable is being replaces by Cat6, which can handle much more data than its predecessor. And second, the trend now is wireless. Oh, there will be some physical network connections still needed in the short-run, but eventually all devices will be speaking to each other through one common home network system transmitted through wireless frequencies.

You may have heard the word "bluetooth" in regards to cellphones. The wireless technology behind bluetooth appliances will eventually become the technology that connects other devices to that common home network system.

Imagine a touchscreen terminal in your kitchen. You tell the terminal what you want to cook. Your computer will do an inventory of your current supplies to determine what you have and what you need to get. It will compile a list for you of what you need from the store. Then it will give you the option to either print out the list so you can do the shopping in person, to prepare an electronic list for you to export, or it will allow you to electronically order the items and then pay for them in advance through your bank account. Then you can either pick them up at the store or else have them delivered to you for a nominal fee.

And again, elements of that idea are already present! There are refrigerators with network-connected touchscreen computers. They’re hard to find and expensive, but they exist. Touch-screen terminals for the kitchen are already in the works. And the idea of online grocery shopping and personal delivery? Already dabbled with several years ago but only failed because the idea was simply started way before its time.

How about shopping itself? Here’s how that would be done by next-gen technology: You get to the grocery store and you check in with a network-connected shopping cart with a scanner, scale, and wireless terminal built in. You upload your list or use the touch-screen to input what you need, and the terminal will tell you where in the store those items are. It may even let you know as to which item is on sale or has an electronic discount coupon. As you put each item into the cart, the scanner reads the item into the system and checks them off your list. You can use a scale to weigh certain items like fruit and then have that amount entered into the system. When you get to the cashier, he or she visually verifies the items in the cart compared to what’s in the system, and then you electronically pay for it. No more "price check" calls or questions as to how much an item costs. It’s all figured out by the time you get there. You just approve the purchase and you’re on your way. Your time at the cashier’s counter will be measured in seconds, not minutes.

That is real next-gen technology!

We hear about merging cellphones with music players and game consoles and cameras and video recorders, but that is really just a baby-step compared to the REAL next-gen technology. REAL next-gen means getting the computer OUT of the office and OUT of the living room.

There will still be an entertainment center, but rather than having the computer be just another component of it, the entertainment center itself will be the component of the home network system. Your favorite shows can be downloaded and available for you to watch at your leisure from any TV monitor in your house. You go from room to room and if there is a monitor, that feed will be available for you. You want to listen to music? Either stored or streaming audio can be sent to wireless speakers in any room you want to be in.

Phone messages can be sent to a personal communication device similar to a bluetooth earpiece. Instead of dialing a number, you simply tap the earpiece and tell the computer to dial either a number or a preset name. The earpiece would be personalized so that a call coming in for you will be sent to just YOUR earpiece.

Again, this isn’t science fiction! The bluetooth technology for telephone voice command exists right now!

Of course, these technical visions of the future, as incredible as they may be, will come with their own problems as well. The biggest issue in making things interconnected and available on a common network is one that we haven’t even begun to deal with… namely privacy.

Current cellphones have GPS devices on them to track where you are in the event of an emergency. Some companies have capitalized on this by allowing you to see where your friends and family members are at all times. Well what is to prevent a former boyfriend or girlfriend from using that same technology to track where you are at all times? What is to prevent the government from using that technology to track where you are at all times for any reason whatsoever?

The next-gen home networks will have plenty of personal information about you at its disposal, including your bank records, online purchases, favorite movies and songs, and all sorts of contact information about the people you deal with on a regular basis. That’s prime information about you and your life that anyone, including telemarketers and the government, would KILL to get!

Needless to say, if we don’t firmly deal with the issue of privacy now, we certainly won’t be able to when the REAL next-gen technology is here.

The fact the matter is that there is a definitive difference between REAL next-gen technology and hype pretending to be next-gen. REAL next-gen moves us ahead through a particular vision. Hype pretending to be next-gen is just about selling a product. We need to stop looking at the hype and start looking at what’s really coming up.


David Matthews 2 is a freelance writer living in the greater Atlanta area. He is a longtime computer user and has been involved with computers since the 1980’s.

This article can be distributed freely provided that it is unaltered and all proper credit is given to the author.

2007 – Get Brutal Productions