Saturday, January 11, 2003

Recently, my wife's laptop started displaying some interesting errors. "Corrupted registry" has to be the worst possible error message a Windows box can give you, because now you know you're completely hosed. Various bits of error correction, volume scanning, etc kept it limping along for a while as we considered what to do about it. Coincidentally enough, while reading something or other from IBM developerWorks, I saw a banner ad for IBM laptop hard drives. I clicked through (yes, I'm embarassed for me too) to see what was up.

The vendor was, and the deal was a 40GB drive in the right form factor to stuff into the laptop for $131 shipped. If you haven't priced hard drives from Sony (it's a VAIO), then you don't know how astoundingly good this price is. I ordered one immediately. That was late Friday afternoon. I was hoping that since I'm on the east coast and they're in California that it might get shipped out then, but no luck. They shipped it UPS 2nd day on Monday, and posted the tracking number. UPS admitted they had the package and estimated that they'd deliver it on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, I had to run to the grocery store for stuff and, of course, that was when the UPS guy dropped off the package. Or rather, that was when the UPS guy dropped off some other persons' package but not mine. That's right ... the hard drive was AWOL with UPS claiming it had been delivered. I called the 800 number for UPS the instant I got home and told the customer disservice clerk that there had been a misdelivery and my package was still missing. They told me that my package had in fact been delivered and I should go look on the porch. I repeated that no, it had not been delivered, but someone else's package had been delivered instead. The clerk typed in a note and said they'd have the local depot contact me within the hour.

Three hours later I still hadn't gotten the phone call. I called the 800 number again, and told the second rep that I was expecting a call from the local depot and could they give me the phone number or connect me directly. They asked what the story was, so I repeated it. This clerk then looked on their web page and said the package had been delivered and I should go look on the porch. I told them, slightly less politely than I told the first clerk, that no it hadn't been delivered but someone else's package had been misdelivered to me instead. Then I asked them why my previous contact wasn't showing, and what had the first clerk been typing if it wasn't a contact record. They told me that there was a contact record but they hadn't read it. Super. Clerk #2 said they'd call the local depot and I'd get a call within the hour.

Two hours later, the local depot finally called. I told him (clerk #3) the story. He looked on the web page and said the package had been delivered and I should go look on the porch. I used my last remaining smidgen of patience to tell him that I didn't care what his website said, I didn't have my package but instead had someone else's package that had been misdelivered and I wanted him to find my damned hard drive. He said he'd go find the truck and see if it was still on there and call me back within an hour. If it wasn't on the truck, he continued, then he'd have to wait until tomorrow because the driver had already left for the day. I was flabbergasted to find that they hadn't done a damned thing in the five hours since I placed the original call, but told him that would be okay since I had no other choice. He called back eventually, and of course it was more than an hour later. He repeated he'd have to wait until tomorrow to check with the driver, but he'd call first thing in the morning.

By lunchtime Thursday I still hadn't heard anything, so I call back to the UPS 800 number and begin politely demanding that clerk #4 solve my problem and find my hard drive. I wasn't interested in getting a call back, I wasn't interested in hearing anything about online presence, I just wanted her to find my package. She finally said she couldn't do anything and I needed to get the shipper to start a trace. I boggled. "What can they do that you can't?" I asked. "Start a trace" she replied, and continued that she couldn't start one and nothing I could say was going to change her position.

I called Googlegear and they were not only sympathetic but actually helpful. The customer service people there started the trace process, and continued to email me when they said they would with schedule updates. I don't mind that things don't always go perfectly, but if the vendor will just do what they said they would, I would be much happier about giving them my custom. On that metric, Googlegear is worthy of my repeat business.

The moral of this story is Googlegear good, UPS bad. If you're looking to buy computer-y bits online, then I will strongly recommend Googlegear, and will further recommend either (1) using FedEx instead or (2) requiring a signature from UPS since if they think you got your package then they're not going to do a damned thing to help out.

And yes, I'm still pissed off. Why do you think this public jeremiad is making its appearance?

Oh yeah ... the hard drive showed up in my mailbox Friday morning. It was probably misdelivered to a neighbor who stuffed it into the mailbox Friday morning as they went to work. The laptop survived its surgery, and things are back to normal. Now that Kathy can check her email on her own machine again, I'm golden.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Microsoft have finally admitted what the rest of us figured out quite a while back: as a brand, ".Net" can't possibly mean anything if it includes everything in sight. So, they're dropping dot-net from their unrelated products. Occasionally, they do seem to show quick flashes of cluefulness.
Usually, I'm able to resist this sort of thing, but alas, I'm too weak today. (Found via Jim Henley)
Mang! I must have been sleeping or something. The Apache foundation has released Apache Axis, an implementation of SOAP in a yummy stable 1.0 release. It's so tasty, in fact, that it's passed Sun's JAX-RPC and SAAJ compliance tests. I'll be having some now, thank you very much.
How did I miss this? The Supreme Court lifted their injunction on the distribution of the DeCSS program, which decrypts the information off a DVD. Hooray for fair use!

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

A real first on the Internet. Pictures from that haven't been photoshopped. Will wonders never cease?
There used to be a time (long, long ago) when there were images on the Internet which weren't porn. I'm sure many of you nice folks out there can't remember this magical time of lore, but trust me, it once existed. During that time, a brave SA Forum Member did a Google Image Search for the phrase "The Greatest Picture Ever." Google, like always, did not disappoint and returned a marvelous image, but it also brought up the question, "what image do you feel is the greatest picture on the Internet?" Forum members immediately began tossing in their favorite non-Photoshopped images to the thread, turning it into .a surreal, comical series of non-sequiturs. Why are these pictures funny? I don't have any idea, I just know that these are some of the greatest pictures on the Internet.
Apparently, our engineering students do have a little too much spare time. People's Exhibit #1: Squirrel Fishing
Derek Lowe has this to say about the Raelian brouhaha:
My opinion of the human clone claims can be easily expressed: bullshit. Look, you fools: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Come up with multiple blood samples now for DNA microsatellite analysis, in full view of multiple witnesses, or shut up. This is an important issue, and watching all of you hit each other with pies and try to cram yourselves back into the midget car isn't very instructive.
[ed. emphasis in original]

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Hooray! Norwegian court finds Jon Johansen innocent of all charges. This doesn't really establish precedent in the U.S. (unfortunately), but they did state:
Head judge Irene Sogn, in reading the verdict, said no one could be convicted of breaking into their own property, and that there was no proof that Johansen or others had used the program to access illegal pirate copies of films.

"The court finds that someone who buys a DVD film that has been legally produced has legal access the film. Something else would apply if the film had been an illegal ... pirate copy," the ruling said.

It found that consumers have rights to legally obtained DVD films "even if the films are played in a different way than the makers had foreseen."

Johansen said that was the key part of the ruling.

"As long as you have purchased a DVD legally then you are allowed to decode it with any equipment, and can't be forced to buy any specific equipment," he said.

The irony here is just too sweet: globalization is going to save the environment and reduce our needs for ooooooiiiiiiiilllll. That's got to really chap the asses off the hairshirt/Birkenstock crowd, doesn't it?

My only complaint here is there's no mention of where the energy to extract the hydrogen from whatever it's bound up in currently comes from. My (incredibly limited) understanding is that extracting the hydrogen will not reduce actual pollution, but merely transfer it from the cars to the distillation stations and/or the generation plants.

Monday, January 06, 2003

F*cking suicide bombers. I've long since passed the point where I think anything other than "kill 'em all and bury 'em in pig fat", but James Lileks sums up his feelings with rather more elegance than I've managed.