Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Obama Presidency and technology

What effect will the Obama Presidency have on technology?

Almost a year ago President Elect Obama unveiled his technology plan at a visit to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. In his plan he lists several new proposals that are both ambitious and promising.

One of the first points he made in his speech is his plan to make high speed internet available to “all of America” regardless of income or geographic location with emphasis on public schools. This part of Obama’s plan will require major upgrades to the nations infrastructure.

Secondly, President Elect Obama’s plan ties into Universal Heath Care. The idea is that a focus on electronic medical records would reduce medical mistakes and thereby greatly reduce medical costs.

Another important aspect (and one that most technical people support) is the idea of keeping the internet free and open. Barack Obama was very clear when he said: “Because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others then the smaller voices get squeezed out and we all lose. The internet is perhaps the most open network in history and we have to keep it that way.” This commitment to protecting the openness of the internet can also be found on Barack Obama’s web site:

Another interesting part of the plan includes the promise to place certain government information online. The crowd applauded when Obama said: “We will put government data online in universally accessible formats. I’ll let citizens track federal grants, contracts, earmarks and lobbying contracts. I’ll let you participate in government forums, ask questions, in realtime, offer suggestions that will be reviewed before decisions are made. And let you comment on legislation before it is signed.”

Of historical significance, a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) will be appointed (the first in history). Obama envisions this position as one that will "ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century." This position should not be confused with the cybersecurity czar that the Bush administration put in place.

Another goal of Obama’s plan is to bring a higher level of technical literacy to the classroom. Obama said: “If we make technological literacy a fundamental part of education, then we can give our children the skills they need to compete and ensure the next generation of scientists and engineers as being educated right here in America.”

What does all of this mean over the next four years? It could be that some of these or all of these ideas are just election year promises. However, we do know that Barack Obama is one of the most technically “savvy” presidents we have ever had. This is evident when you consider the fact that during his campaign, he had a larger web presence than any other candidate in the history of our nation. If he makes good on his promises, we might just see advancements in the internet that dwarf those of the .com explosion. Time will tell.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Simple Candidate Comparison

OK, I normally write about customer service in the computer world, but with the election coming up I thought it would be important to stray a little (OK a lot). I believe that an informed voter is the key to our countries future, but I also believe that the amount of data about each candidate is overwhelming for some. So here is my attempt at a non- biased simple comparison. Enjoy.

John McCain

Economy -- Cut taxes, reduce government spending.
Iraq -- Voted for 2003 invasion and backed troop surge.
Iran -- Wants a league of democracies to escalate economic sanctions, refuses to rule out military solution if necessary. No unconditional diplomacy.
National Security -- Believes his military background best equips him for national security.
Illegal Immigration -- Believes undocumented workers in the US should be put on program for citizenship.
Abortion -- Wants to overturn Roe v Wade
Climate change -- Says climate change is real and threatening.
Health Care -- Favors tax incentives to encourage people to have personal health insurance.

Barack Obama

Economy -- Would repeal Bush tax cuts. Wants to renegotiate free trade deals. Quoted as wanting to "spread the wealth."
Iraq -- Opposed the war and says there is "no military solution". Opposed surge.
Iran -- Would meet w/ leaders without preconditions. Believes they would change their behavior if given incentives.
National Security -- Wants increased national security funding to be allocated to areas at risk.
Illegal Immigration -- Wants US-Mexico border better protected and backs stricter penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers.
Abortion -- Wants women to make their own choices on abortion.
Climate change -- Wants US to lead a global effort to combat climate change. Would invest $150bn over 10 years for clean energy.
Healthcare -- Backs universal healthcare and wants insurers to be unable to refuse coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

Happy Voting!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Friends Experience

A good friend of mine called me to tell me his experience with Dell over the weekend.

He was working on his computer when suddenly the display showed nothing but black. After checking his cables and trying to reboot, he still only had a black screen. The Dell was just over a year old and just out of warranty. So he called Dell support and a tech from India named "Bob" took his call. The tech had him on the phone for two hours and they were able to get a video signal. The tech wanted to do further troubleshooting and eventually had him taking components out of his computer. My friend told the tech he was not comfortable taking the computer apart, but was reassured that Dell would be liable for any damage. As the support call progressed and more and more components were removed and replaced, eventually the computer wouldn't boot up again. They tried several times after that and the computer never came back to life. The tech told my friend he was sorry and that (as they say) was that.

Well the next day my friend was upset (to say the least) but was surprised to receive a call from the tech stating that his supervisor had told him that Dell would extend his warranty due to the circumstances. My friend was told to take his computer to a local computer shop and Dell would pick up the bill. My friend got all of "Bobs" contact info and then took his computer to Circuit ****. After a day of diagnostics, my friend received a call stating that the motherboard was "dead." He then attempted to call (couldn't email) the tech to let him know what had been found. After a couple of days and many calls/ many voice mails he decided to call Dell's main support number and see if someone else could help. To make an already long story a little shorter, he was told that his computer was out of warranty and that no one could contact "Bob" and they were sorry but could not help.

So now my friend has paid for Dell to help break his computer, he is stuck with a diagnostic fee from Circuit ****, a bad motherboard and no word from "Bob."

This is a classic example of how todays large computer manufacturers lack the ability to give good service.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bad computer and terrible customer service

This is a story posted on I have seen and heard this exact thing happen many, many times before.


“I purchased a computer in late March, two weeks later it started having problems. Little annoyances but problems. They got worse and I contacted customer service who very quickly offered to fix it if I sent in the computer with everything.. I had bought extra memory ($300 worth). I got the computer back and NOTHING was fixed AND they did not return the extra memory! They kept it!!. I called and was given the run around (over THREE hours on the phone!). TWO months have gone by and my computer gets worse and worse. I cannot completely restart it, the screen goes black, the sound sucks... it won't recognize files or accept updates etc etc. At first the techs pretended to be concerned and helpful but I never was allowed to talk to anyone higher up and there is nothing they can do, nothing over the phone for sure. I was told a case manager would contact me to discuss another fix or a new computer. One tried to call me at the time I was NOT able to answer phone. I called back that same day and got routed to leave message,I did, explicitly stating the times I could be contacted. Two weeks later one called back at a time I specified not to call ( I work nights) and left me a message saying they had called me multiple times (they have not.) when I call I leave a message and they never call back, now when I call it says there is no room for messages. Like others before me, it is always a different person and the second caller said the first had left the company (REALLY?? I wonder why? ha). I sit here wondering if I should try to get a lawyer. It has been two months since they promised to find a solution. I have a relatively new laptop that is a piece of junk. I paid over 1000 dollars for nothing! Their customer service is the worst and it is an abuse of a corporation to take your money and not care for the quality of the product they sell.”

It sounds like this lady has fell into the “cheaper computer trap.” She paid over $1,000 for her laptop ($300 of it was the memory upgrade) most likely because it was a good deal. Why was it a good deal?

#1 The companies support is outsourced over seas to save money and lower the price tag.

#2 When she sent it in for repairs they had no way of tracking the fact that she ordered the extra memory and shipped it (or a replacement) back to he just as it would have been with out the upgrade or (stock condition). This is both a failure of internal systems and people. Great systems and great people cost money. Low prices and margins on these “bargain” systems do not allow greatness, only mediocrity at best.

#3 The “complaint department” is also outsourced over seas where there is a language barrier, time differences, low wages, high turn over and (due to the low quality of the product) a huge influx of complaints.

So my question is this:
How do we stop the cycle of wanting high quality computers for low prices. The two things just haven't proven to me that they co-exist. As an example, take Apple computers. Pound for pound they are the most expensive computers on the market. And while they are not perfect, they have an incredibly high customer satisfaction rating.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Technician Steals Customer's Computer, Company Refuses To Refund

According to the Orlando Sentinel, a Geek Choice computer technician disappeared along with a school principals computer. Turns out he couldn't be found because he was in jail.

The company admitted that they don't run background checks on the "technicians" they're sending into a customer's house. Oh, and they also deny all responsibility and refuse to refund the computer because there's, "no evidence of the cost of what was stolen." But they will, "offer discounted future service. " Awesome, 10% off your next opportunity to get a computer stolen.

A few things come to mind here:
1) How many companies are there in the US just like Geek Choice?
2) How do companies like this stay in business?
3) Do consumers have some responsibility in checking out a computer company before they entrust their technology and data?
4) cat-man-du runs full background checks on ALL employees prior to hiring as well as an extensive interview process (we even require a clean driving record).

** The last is shameless self promotion :)

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Sony Recalls Thousands of Vaio PCs Over Burn Risk,2817,2329434,00.asp

Cheap is better, right?

So what are we looking at in this picture (and how is it relevant to this Blog)?

This is one corner of a room full of dead computers. The majority of these are eMachines. You can clearly see a Dell, a "whitebox" system and a couple of HP/Compaq computers.
Most of these computers were just over a year old when they "died" (just outside of the manufacturers warranty). They are also mainly the least expensive (ranging from $399 to $599). Most of the consumers that purchased these systems brought them into one of our offices for repair and were shocked that it was a catastrophic failure (most of these had failed power supplies, motherboards and CPUs upon arrival). They also received no help from the manufacturers tech support because the systems were out of warranty.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? Are the larger desktop makers making cheap computers to meet the public's demand or is the consumer caught up in a price war and ultimately paying the price? Am I being biased due to the large number of these "value" machines that I see come in for repair?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

First Post

As this is my first post, I would like to begin with the question "Where has the service gone in Computer Service?" I would also like to look not only at PC repair, but at the big chain stores and the online computer manufacturers. What happens after the sale? Why are there so many horror stories on the Internet? What has gone wrong. I welcome all comments but request that we keep them clean (or at least **** out foul language).
Thank you.