Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to Demonstrate You Don't Care

An encounter I had with the euphemistically named "Yahoo! Customer Care"

To summarize the exchange:
  1. I encountered a completely inexplicable problem using the most basic process on Yahoo Answers.
  2. I thoroughly investigated to make sure it wasn't my end, since I couldn't believe Answers would crash in a trivial case. And I mean thorough - multiple machines, networks, browsers - the works.
  3. I read the FAQ and help section (Which are repeated in the boilerplate email)
  4. Finding no help, posted to customer service. Which is run by another company and works fine, although according to Yahoo!, I'm somehow to blame.
  5. In response to my detailed reports, I get the (un)help parrotted back at me.
  6. I respond to the email (including ticket and incident numbers)
  7. Same blame-tossing boilerplate is sent to me.
My favorite line: "We hope this is resolved for you soon.."
"Hoping" isn't going to fix your broken software.

Flickr is good, but I think it's time to delete the Yahoo! accounts.

Can you imagine a non-tech-savvy person reading this?
If they actually knew what an ISP was, they might actually believe the poop Yahoo! is shoveling and call their ISP. And what would they tell them?

This blaming-the-customer stuff has to stop.
Even if there is something wrong on the user's end (and how could there be? They accessed both the web site and the customer service portal), it's up to the publisher to work around it.

Customer SERVICE. You're doing it wrong.

Hello,

Thank you for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care.

We're sorry you've had difficulty accessing Yahoo!. The error you
received is typically caused by unusual activity from either your
computer or your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to Yahoo!. While this
type of problem is usually temporary, if you continue to experience this
error, we recommend that you try the following suggestions:

1) Contact your ISP and let them know you are experiencing connectivity
problems with Yahoo!. You may have difficulty accessing Yahoo! if we
detect unusual network traffic coming from your ISP. Only your ISP will
be able to address and resolve this abnormal activity.

2) Check that you are not using any third party software program or
application to access Yahoo! services. Please keep in mind that these
types of programs are not supported by Yahoo! and may violate our Terms
of Service, and therefore may contribute to your receiving this error.

3) If you have not scanned your computer for spyware and viruses, please
do so now. Some spyware programs and computer viruses will run separate
programs on your computer for a variety of purposes, sometimes slowing
your computer down in the process, and even preventing you from
accessing certain Internet sites such as Yahoo!.

For detailed information on virus protection, please visit:

http://security.yahoo.com/malware.html

For detailed information on spyware, please visit:

http://security.yahoo.com/spyware.html

4) You may want to try accessing Yahoo! through a different computer or
through a different Internet connection.

We hope this is resolved for you soon so that you may continue to use
Yahoo!.

Regards,




Yahoo! Customer Care

******

For assistance with all Yahoo! services please visit:

http://help.yahoo.com/




Original Message Follows:
------------------------

I already did all the recommended things before contacting.
2 computers. 3 browsers.
2 ISPs.
No viruses or spyware.
No third-party silliness.

This sort of response attempts to put the blame on me or my systems.
An understandable response, but as a customer, I don't want to hear it.
Especially when I go to great lengths to confirm that there is no
problem on
my end.

YOUR third-party customer service system worked fine.
It's Answers that's broken.

I was simply trying to post a question to Answers.

I assure you, I will never attempt to do so again.

Good day.

"Great Artists Ship"
Lon Koenig lon@schnoggo.com
612.965.6305 http://lonkoenig.com



On Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 8:03 PM, Yahoo! Customer Care <> wrote:

> Hello,
>
> Thank you for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care.
>
> We're sorry you've had difficulty accessing Yahoo!. The error you
> received is typically caused by unusual activity from either your
> computer or your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to Yahoo!. While this
> type of problem is usually temporary, if you continue to experience
this
> error, we recommend that you try the following suggestions:
>
> 1) Contact your ISP and let them know you are experiencing
connectivity
> problems with Yahoo!. You may have difficulty accessing Yahoo! if we
> detect unusual network traffic coming from your ISP. Only your ISP
will
> be able to address and resolve this abnormal activity.
>
> 2) Check that you are not using any third party software program or
> application to access Yahoo! services. Please keep in mind that these
> types of programs are not supported by Yahoo! and may violate our
Terms
> of Service, and therefore may contribute to your receiving this error.
>
> 3) If you have not scanned your computer for spyware and viruses,
please
> do so now. Some spyware programs and computer viruses will run
separate
> programs on your computer for a variety of purposes, sometimes slowing
> your computer down in the process, and even preventing you from
> accessing certain Internet sites such as Yahoo!.
>
> For detailed information on virus protection, please visit:
>
> http://security.yahoo.com/malware.html
>
> For detailed information on spyware, please visit:
>
> http://security.yahoo.com/spyware.html
>
> 4) You may want to try accessing Yahoo! through a different computer
or
> through a different Internet connection.
>
> We hope this is resolved for you soon so that you may continue to use
> Yahoo!.
>
> Regards,
>
>
>
> Yahoo! Customer Care
>
> ********
>
> For assistance with all Yahoo! services please visit:
>
> http://help.yahoo.com/



Technorati Tags: , ,

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Taking iTunes 9 for a spin

Yesterday, Apple released a new version of iTunes along with the iPhone 3.1 update.

I assumed the "Genius Mixes" would be a throw-away feature.
But it actually works very well. A sample screen:
iTunes has created a bunch of varied mixes based on the stuff in my library.
And... it did a good job!
All these mixes are very listenable.

The LP Album art thing still seems like a dumb idea though...

The iPhone syncing screen now has a bunch of new tabs and offers a high degree of granularity if you want it.
For example, you can sync just specific artists if you like.
(And they included a handy search box to help you find those artists more quickly.)



There's even an option to fill unallocated space on your iPod with music from your collection:


The ability to layout your iPhone screens is a very welcome addition to the Application management tab. However, I was unable to figure out how to completely delete an unwanted app.

All the interface elements have a little more polish than the previous version.

As expected, iTunes 9 once again prevents the Palm Pre from syncing with iTunes.

The iTunes Store got a larger visual makeover, but I'll save that for a later article.



Technorati Tags:

Friday, September 4, 2009

WiseStamp - HTML email signature for GMail, Yahoo! and More

I love Google Mail.
I'm thrilled to send Google $50 a year to manage my ridiculous email volume.
But the GMail web client doesn't support HTML signatures.

WiseStamp is a Firefox plug-in that adds rich HTML signatures to all popular web-based email clients.

In addition to the expected text color, font, size and style options, WiseStamp includes all the popular social networks and instant message systems.
You can include your own graphics, and even pull in RSS feeds.


It has more in common with the "sig generators" used on discussion boards than a traditional email signature generator.




Now I just need to design a better email signature!


Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Audiobook Builder - Clean Up Your Audiobook CD Files

Audiobook Builder for Mac lets you take a bunch of audio files and repackage them as a proper audiobook with all the bells-and-whistles you want for your iPod.

I buy most of my music on CD. I get a permanent, non-copy-protected version that I can store away.
I haven't actually listened to a CD directly in years. I "rip" the CD into iTune or onto my Linux-based media center and listen there.

I've wanted to get into audiobooks for the iPod, but they are ridiculously expensive ($40+).
I can find a lot of good audiobook CDs on eBay or Craig's List for under $10.

Unfortunately, audiobook CDs usually have one chapter per track. Or worse, just arbitrary tracks breaks.
Trying to play these with the iPod is a hassle: You have to note which file was playing when you take a break, and there's a ton of files that need to get transferred around.

Audiobook Builder for MacOS fixes all that.
You can rip the CD directly in the program (which I haven't tried yet), or you can take all those tracks you've already ripped and make them into a regular audiobook file.

You can drag-and-drop cover art and organize the chapters.

It even puts the finished product directly in your iTunes library - ready to roll.

The single user license is only $9.95. I'll save three times that the first time I rip a "previously owned" CD.



Technorati Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Unison - Two-way file synchronizer

I've found a great tool to keep my laptop work files in sync with my desktop(s).

For my day-to-day work, I use a Mac laptop with multiple operating systems installed, and 3 desktop machines. This way I have both a laptop and a desktop version of MacOS, Windows, and Linux.
My web work often involves all three systems, and my desktop application development usually includes both the Mac and Windows systems.
I used to run Retrospect and backup everything to tape, but now, I just put most projects in version control and replicate everything on all the boxes.

Not really a backup system, but since the boxes live in different facilities, I'm covered against catastrophic loss.

Here's the catch: I manually do these updates every day.
Every day.
For years.


I've used a number of sync tools in the past, but something would fail, and I would find myself back to the manual system.

On a current project, I found myself needing to synchronize many hundreds of gigabytes of media files. I messed up the first pass, and started researching alternative sync tools.

Enter Unison.
Similar to rsync and other tools, Unison has the added ability to "mirror both ways" and runs fine on Mac, Windows, and *nix.

It has a high degree of safety, since it marks file that conflict and lets you interactively choose what to do with them.

For those concerned with such things (and you know who you are), it runs as a user-level application.

There are graphical versions available, but I'm just running the command-line version on all platforms.

The very first version of Unison was written in a research language called Pict, in 1995. There was a Java version in 2007. Trevor Jim and Jérôme Vouillon joined Benjamin Pierce on the project when the codebase moved to Objective Caml in 1998.

So far, I've just synced my Mac and Linux boxes.
I didn't want all the mac-specific invisible files cluttering up the other machines so I added some filters to the Unison preferences.
You can do this with command-line options, but I just add the filters to my Unison Profile.

Here's my ~/.unison/default.prf file:

# Unison preferences
file
fastcheck = true
ignore = Name *.tmp

ignore = Name Thumbs.db

ignore = Name .DS_Store

ignore = Name .Trash

ignore = Name Icon


I've set up a "canonical" copy of my work folder on a server in the cloud.
Each of the machines is now running Unison over ssh to sync to that central server.
So far, so good...

Like Ophcrack, Unison is an open source project that just works.
My favorite kind of software!



Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Ophcrack Live CD - Windows Recovery Disk

Recently, I had to restore a corrupted Windows XP machine.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten the administrator password.
(Actually, I wasn't the one set up the machine, so I never actually had the password.)

I had heard great things about the open-source project, Ophcrack, and this was my chance to try it out.
I downloaded the ISO for the Live CD and burned a CD using my Mac.
Popped it in the PC's drive, booted it up and let it run the the automated tests.
When I got back from lunch, I had working passwords for all the accounts.
In addition to the password tools, you get a pretty complete shell with many useful utilities.

The Ophcrack Live CD now has a permanent spot in my utility bag.


Technorati Tags: , , , ,