Mike’s Dump

September 28, 2005

Wake me up when September ends

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 2:34 pm

The title of this post is the name of a song by Green Day from the
American Idiot album. This is my song of the day. Correction, it has
been my song for the month.

I’ve complained about the service I’ve received on my laptop here and
here. I thought it was about time to phone again to get an update. I
was extremely excited to actually get someone that answered the phone
within the first couple of rings. The answer I received on the progress
of my laptop is more inline with what I have come to expect. The quote,
“I know that the laptop was received [by the company repairing it] but
I have no idea when it will be completed. When we get it back we will
call you”.

Using my extended warranty to have my laptop fixed has been like a
going to see a bad movie that has been hyped up to be the next Oscar
winner. You have high hopes the movie is worth your time and money.
When you get to the movie it starts ok. You sit and wait for it to get
better and live up to the hype but it deteriorates. Just when you think
it can’t get any worse the hidden ankle and wrist restraints come out
and bind you to the chair. A dark figure slowly comes into focus on the
screen and you hear “hey buuuudy”. Oh, yeah, it is a cameo appearance
from Pauly Shore! You can’t get out. You can’t plug your ears or gouge
out your eyes. You must sit and wait for the end. Knowing that the end
has to come sooner or later you just hope you can hold on without
incurring any permanent mental trauma.

The laptop phone call was pretty minor. I didn’t stress at all over it and it isn’t why I’m waiting for September to end.

We bought a digital camera a couple years ago (just after Erika was
born). I think we paid about $380 for the Kodak 3.1 mega-pixel camera.
I don’t believe we have had a single complaint about the camera. A
couple months ago the little piece of plastic that holds in the
batteries broke. The camera was still usable as long as you used your
thumb to hold the batteries in place. It was a pain so we had it sent
away for repair. Well� I found out on Sunday that Kodak would like $400
to fix the camera. Now let’s think about it, I paid $380 for the camera
and they want $400 to fix it. I don’t think I’ll be repairing the
camera. When I looked at the camera before sending it away it looked
like the whole case might need to be replaced but I guessed 100 bucks
tops.

The camera news was pretty minor. I didn’t stress at all over it and it isn’t why I’m waiting for September to end.

Sandy took the van in for the 40000 KM check-up. The dealership changed
the oil, rotated and balanced the tires, did something to the brakes,
and a wheel alignment. Five-hundred fifty dollars later we have our van
back. In the notes it said the power steering fluid is very dirty and
the engine needs to be wash. Both of these weren’t completed today.
Looking at the details of the bill I was shaking my head because we
spent $160 on the tires (rotation and alignment) without getting any
tires. I don’t doubt for a second that people question where all the
money goes when having software developed. I guess today is one of
those days that I sit in the customer’s seat and wonder the same thing.

The van repair bill was pretty minor (in the grand scheme of things). I
didn’t stress at all over it and that isn’t why I’m waiting for
September to end.

Wednesday’s I come home early because Sandy works in the evening. Today
was no different. I come home kiss the kids and Sandy hello, power up
the work laptop and log in to check my work email. Whoops, not today.
Today I had trouble trying to connect through the VPN. I thought my
wireless router was giving me grief so I went downstairs and threw it
against the wall a couple times (I mean cycle the power. I only threw
it against the wall in my head). Checking again, I then had a wireless
connection but still no connectivity to the internet. Ok I try one of
the other computers. Nope, nothing. I finally figured out I wasn’t
getting an external IP through my wireless router.

Reluctantly I decided to phone TELUS. Being in the middle of the labour
dispute I was convinced I’d be on hold longer than I would at Best Buy.
I have to say that I was very impressed. I didn’t have to wait for help
at all. After some troubleshooting and the tech checking my account
there was an answer. I recently signed up for the 2.5 Mb service
because the only thing it costs me is to lock in with TELUS (which I
did for 3 years). The problem was in order to receive the new service
my existing modem would have to be replaced (would have been nice to
know when signing up). The new modem was sent out last week (which I
learned about today). Once I get then modem I’m suppose to hook it up
and my account will be configured September 30th. No internet
connection until the 30th!

So please, wake me up, when September ends.

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September 22, 2005

I’m Back

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 3:20 pm

I have been putting it off, putting it off and putting it off. I’ve
finally got around to replacing the hard drive that I knew would fail
back in June (I don’t procrastinate at all). What pushed me to finally
buying the drive and installing it was the fact the files were becoming
inaccessible (not a good feature in a hard drive).

Instead of having 242 GB of storage I now have 402 GB. Two 200 GB
drives and 2 GB drive for the OS. The first 200 GB drive is full of…
umm media. No it’s not porn or is my plan to acquire 400 GB of porn.
Can you imagine how much porn that would be though? Really, I’m sure if
someone tried to watch that much porn non stop they would just die.

Anyways, I’m hoping to have another outage in the near future. I would
like to get away from hosting myself and try out http://www.webhost4life.com.
The prices seem good and I haven’t heard anything bad about it.

September 15, 2005

Missing the Point

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 2:04 pm

I read this the other day and I had to shake my head. I think it is great that the Canadian government is talking about introducing a do-not-call list like the USA has but when you start reading the exceptions the entire purpose is lost.

These include exceptions for charities, political parties, polling companies, and businesses with existing business relationships

Most of the “spam” phone calls that I get are from either charities or companies that I already deal with that are trying to get more of my money. Sandy and I donate to different charities over the year but I never give to a charity that phones me. We gave to a charity once over the phone and they started calling us twice as much.
I’m still waiting for someone to come out with a system that I can program in what phone numbers I want to accept calls from. Anything else would get routed to an answering machine without ringing my phone. It would have to work without the phone ringing because those people don’t give up until you answer!

One or more files from the Emulator for Windows CE installation is missing

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 11:36 am

I have been trying to do some work on a CE.NET application using the emulator and ran across a problem. When I attempted to launch the emulator I would receive the following error:
Emulator for Windows CE
One or more files from the Emulator for Windows CE installation is missing.
Please reinstall Emulator for Windows CE and try again.

I’m using XP SP2, VS.NET 2003, on a Dell D610 (Pentium M). My VS.NET (2003) installation is quite recent but I attempted the installation repair option anyways. This changed nothing. After a little bit of digging I came across a couple knowledge base articles
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;883989
This one wasn’t my particular issue but it had a link to the following article:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/891667/
This page had a few different instructions but didn’t actually try them. I opened my boot.ini and added the /NoExecute=AlwaysOff option. I found this on another page but I don’t remember where.
Later I found that /execute = /NoExecute=AlwaysOff at http://www.sysinternals.com/Information/bootini.html so following the above instructions would have worked for me.
After a reboot I tried again and my emulator started working.
This link describes the different settings for DEP in the boot.ini. Based on what I read disabling this feature is a potential security risk because it attempts to protect from buffer overflows.
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/875352

Best Buy Jeopardy!

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 11:20 am

Mike: I’ll take Best Buy for $200, Alex
Alex: Turn around time is one week
Mike: What is the amount of time a customer is told it will take to repair a laptop when it’s dropped off?
Alex: Correct
Mike: I’ll take Best Buy for $400, Alex
Alex: Ha, ha, ha, no minimum two weeks
Mike: What the customer service representative says when a customer checks on the progress of a laptop to be repaired after one week?
Alex: Correct
Mike: Best Buy for $600, Alex.
Alex: 20
Mike: What is the number of times the telephone rings before being returned to the automated menu system?
Alex: Correct. We would have also accepted; what is the minimum wait in person for your sick wife to find out when they told you your laptop was fixed they meant that it hadn’t been sent away yet?

Mike: I’ll take Best Buy for $800
{Cheesy sound effect}
Alex: You have found the daily double. How much would you like to wager Mike?
Mike: All of it
Alex: For a true daily double here is your answer. If it came up and bit Best Buy in its collective ass they would have no clue what it is.
Mike: What is customer service?
Alex: Correct
{Applause}
I don’t seem bitter do I? Today is probably the closest in my life I’ve come to completely freaking out on someone. I was just waiting for someone to answer the phone so I could start yelling. If I was there in person I would probably go all Steve Balmer on them. There is nothing like a little game of Jeopardy to take the edge off.
I was really happy to hear yesterday my laptop was fixed and ready for pickup. When Sandy phoned me to tell me about her experience with Best Buy’s customer service and the fact that they don’t have a clue what they are doing (based on the fact that my laptop hadn’t been shipped out for repair yet let alone fixed) I was extremely pissed off.
To make matters worse I tried calling Best Buy to ask what is going on with my laptop. It appears their phone answering capability got worse since I phoned last because it took me half an hour to get through to somebody (either on hold or the phone just kept on ringing). When I finally was able to speak with someone I did my best to remain calm. I would say I had limited success 🙂
I just want my laptop fixed is that really too much to ask? Hopefully Sulley will be back next week.

September 10, 2005

The Evils of Helper Classes

Filed under: Code — mikesdump @ 3:38 am

I came across a couple of good posts here and here on helper classes.
Although I don’t believe helper classes should be thrown out altogether
it is easy to abuse them. In the Java project I was working on recently
there were a couple different helper classes (using the term loosely
here) I refactored into a single singleton class (another one of
those practices you don’t want to overuse). By creating a new class and
renaming the methods to provide a better abstraction eliminated the
need for the two helper classes. The posts along with the comments are
well worth the read.

Sulley Please Come Back

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikesdump @ 2:52 am

Jealously is a horrible thing. I’ve been spending a lot of time with
Dell lately. Late nights, early mornings, breakfast, lunch and supper
sometimes. Dell goes with me everywhere. I’m convinced with all the
extra time that I’ve spent with Dell over the past few weeks Sulley
became jealous. This jealously reached its peak about a week ago
getting so bad that Sulley isn’t communicating with me anymore. Sulley,
my Toshiba laptop which has been my primary computer for the past two
years, won’t boot up.

I had bought the extended warranty on my laptop assuming that if
anything went wrong I could just take it in, it would be fixed and life
would be good. I bought it hoping like any other type of insurance that
I would never need to use it. When Sulley (named after a character from
Mosters Inc because it is big and blue) would no longer boot up I
thought at least I have a year left on my warranty.

I dug up my warranty information and phoned Best Buy. That initial
phone call should have been my first indication of what the customer
service would be like. I listened to the first 3 options on the
automated response and pressed 3. Listened to 7 more options and
pressed 7. Three more options and I pushed the final option
(interesting that it was always the last option). Satisfied that I
successfully navigated the phone options the phone began to ring. Ring
and ring and ring� the phone rang at least twenty times so I hung up. I
was frustrated to begin with because my laptop wasn’t working and now
the company that is supposed to give me support doesn’t answer their
phone.

I phoned back and instead of going through the customer service/repair
option I push the computer sales option. Hmmm, someone picks up on the
first ring. I explain the situation and they transfer me over to the
same department that didn’t bother to answer my call the first time but
this time I got through. I explain one more time my problem and they
said, yep sounds like a hardware issue bring it on in. Before I hung up
the phone I asked what the turn around time would be and I was told
about one week.

Almost a week later I phoned in again (through the same painful set of
options) with no success on the first attempt. Instead of hanging up
after 20-25 rings I waited and was sent back to the last menu and where
I pushed the same option again. Ten more rings and I get a hold of
someone (seemed like they like the phone as much as I do). When I
inform the person that I dropped off my laptop last week and I wanted
to know its status the response I got was laughter. That’s right, they
laughed at me because I wanted to know how my laptop was doing after
nearly a week. I wasn’t all that amused so in a very serious tone I
said I was told it should be done within a week. The guy on the other
end managed to stop laughing and said sorry sir we have so many
computers to work on that there is a two week waiting period before
they can even get to my computer.

I was thinking about the phone call afterwards. The first guy on the
phone tells me about a week (I think he was a salesperson) and the guy
doing the actual work says bare minimum two weeks. Wow, does that
situation ever sound familiar.

Being the customer in this experience I would have been disappointed if
I was told in the beginning it would be a minimum of two weeks before
my computer would be looked at. But if I was told the realistic time up
front my expectations would have been set properly. Even if they do
complete the repairs to my satisfaction what I will remember the most
is that I was told a week but that estimate wasn’t even close.

The moral of the story isn’t to set realistic customer expectations up
front. It isn’t to make sure the people doing the work give the
estimates. The more of the story is you should never ignore your
computer. If you choose to make sure you get a backup before they leave
you otherwise they don’t take half of what you put into the
relationship they take it all!

September 5, 2005

Pro-gram-ing

Filed under: Code — mikesdump @ 2:28 am

It feels like forever since I’ve written anything. I have been
preoccupied for the past couple of weeks with this strange but somewhat
familiar form of written communication called pro-gram-ing. Programming
is also sometimes also referred to as “coding”.

I have been bouncing back and forth between two applications. The first
application requires some fairly simple modifications to a VB.NET
application that adds data to our database (introducing a few new
fields). What has been great about this code is there are existing unit
tests so I have been able to whip through the changes and run my tests
to make sure I didn’t break anything.

The second application is a Java application that works on a few
different models of Motorola phones. These changes have been a little
more challenging because there hasn’t been any safety net of
pre-existing unit tests. This application was in need of some serious
help, I believe the technical term is FUBAR. That isn’t completely fair
because for the most part the application was doing what it was suppose
to. I originally went in to do a small change and investigate a defect.
The more I looked the more defects I found (some of them requiring
large structural changes). The only thing that allowed me to get it
done in a reasonable amount of time was the re-factoring support of
Eclipse.

With the experiences over the past couple of weeks there has been all
kinds of topics that I’ve wanted to write about but haven’t had the
time. Topics like: If you re-factor half the application is it is
re-factoring or rewriting? The million and one reasons why Eclipse is
better than Visual Studio .NET. Why hard-coding and recompiling is less
appealing than using an API call that can replace the hard-coding
altogether. Those topics unfortunately will have to wait. There has
been a break in the rain and my lawn is looking scary.

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