Archive for the 'Technology' Category

How Windstream Business makes sure they are the WORST in customer service.

You hate Comcast customer service?  Think the former Time Warner was evil to do business with?  Ha! Amateurs.  Windstream Business has engineered a way to make sure there is no direct customer service conduit available.  They funnel everything through a single 800 technical support number.  That magical number is 1.800.600.5050.  If you or ever unfortunate enough to dial this number, plan for suicidal tendencies.

This time I dialed and was greeted with “Thank you for calling Windstream Business” then dead air for a total of 2 minutes and 47 seconds according to the call timer on my phone.  Once you finally reach the automated attendant you get four options (verbatim as of the date of this posting):

  1. “If you are experiencing down or bouncing issue on T1 or DS3 services press 1”
  2. “an issue with data services such as Internet, Ethernet, MPLS or other managed services press 2”
  3. “If you are having trouble with POTS or local lines press 3”
  4. “Experiencing voice relate issues with voice services such as Voice over IP press 4”

Notice none of these options are for customer care or billing.  None.  They all transfer to “technical support”.  Once you get one of these technical support representatives they will be very aggravated they have to handle a billing call because apparently the hand off to “customer care” is a painful process for them.   They insist they must stay on the line because the possibility of getting cut off is a good bet.  Then you wait 15-20 minutes.  Once connected to customer care I voiced my complaint about the lack of number straight to them, having to go through technical support.  My customer care representative said “it says for customer care use option 3”.  Odd.  I played the greeting I dialed into again:

3. “If you are having trouble with POTS or local lines press 3”.

I am not having a problem with POTS or local lines.  I have a problem with bills you are sending me for data services that were turned down in April.  This has precisely ZERO to do with POTS and local lines.

Windstream cut off some of our business services that we discontinued in April 2016.  We are still getting bills for these accounts in August.  They are disputing we never formally disconnected the account through our account rep, supposedly a person named Byron Ball.  I was insured by “customer care” that my request for Byron Ball to contact us has been escalated.  Despite several emails, no Byron Ball.  Some at Windstream have told me he doesn’t work their anymore.  Now they are telling me he does and will be giving me his bosses information.

Meanwhile they gave me Byron Balls bosses number, Bryon Waters.  Now I get to call him and see what the excuses are.  Chances I’m going to ever got to speak to Mr. Bryon Waters are damn near zero since all of this is just stonewalling by Windstream.  Their goal is to get legally binding contracts signed to initiate billing and then forgo any semblance of customer care or account management.

If anyone thought Windstream might be better at business services than they are residential services, for which they’ve lost lawsuits, think again.  This company is the worst in telecom.  Do not make the mistake we did and select Windstream or their former Paetec as a carrier.  Pay more to AT&T or Time Warner Telcom.  They suck too but at least you get someone to talk to about the problems.  What Windstream is doing deserves an FCC investigation, except the FCC is padded with government insiders.  Another perk of the marriage between government and business.  It’s not just residential consumers getting screwed, it’s businesses across America too.   These corporations do not discriminate in who they rip off.



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Difference between UVerse and DSL? Or… Difference between VDSL and ADSL

Uverse is simply AT&T’s marketing name for VDSL or VHDSL, “Very High” Bit Rate DSL and it’s different from Asymmetric DSL in that ADSL can only handle up to 8 Mbps download speeds and 1 Mbps upload speeds whereas VHDSL can handle 52 Mbps download speeds and 16 Mbps uploads. The DSL equipment required for each is different so an old ADSL router cannot be used for Uverse.

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The argued reliability of Apple products continues to elude me.

Apple fanboys gonna hate.  Oh well.  Here comes my truth.  Let me elaborate on how this “truth” was derived.

  • I use Apple products daily.  In possession and provide direct administrative oversight of my iPhone 6, about 12 more in the company, a few iPads, two Mac Pro’s just purchased in late 2014 and three Macbooks of various ages.  Hope that suffices for anyone itching to shout “you’ve just never used Apple products”.
  • I’ve administered and used Apple products for over 16 years.  We used original Macintosh’s in the journalism department at Liberty for photo editing on those 10 inch displays before Apple was even cool.  So much for “you’ve never given them a chance”.  I can say I’ve used damn near every rendition of Apple products ever made.

Here are the experiences I’ve had with Apple reliability recently:

We have 177 PC’s on our network right now.  We have five Apple computers, two Mac Pro’s and three Macbooks.  There were two other Mac Pro’s recently decommissioned so we could spend $6K a piece on the new wine chillers in Marketing.  In the past 5 years I’ve replaced three failed hard drives, two failed displays and two failed video cards on Apple products.  One of the Mac Pro’s was “rebuilt” twice at the Apple store after phone support failed.  This is all a matter of record with “Apple Care” who did the in store diagnostics.  How many failed components on the Windows 7 laptops and workstations have I replaced in the same time period?  One.  A solid state hard drive on a Dell Latitude.  All true stories.

Now let’s talk about the “reliability” of OSx.  Ever put an Apple computer a domain using the “advanced” User and Group options?  Not many people have.  Our “Mac guy”, Phil from MacVantage recommends against it as I showed him how it’s done.  It works…. kinda.  It will juggle suck the nonsense out of users the first time they log in.  Keychain password update?  Maybe…. maybe not.  Who’s sorted out the cryptic world of when Apple wants to update the damn keychain and when it doesn’t?  Why is said damn “keychain password” even necessary for every user.  If you say Linux/Unix, you fail.  It’s the equal of making each user have a local root password in addition to network credentials tied to LDAP profiles.  The geniuses at Apple hold tightly to their keychain nonsense, serving zero practical purpose that’s ever been described to me.  Today I had a user log on to a brand new Macbook for the second time ever… “Apple must repair your application files for some applications to run normally.  Continue?”.  Seriously… the damn thing is factory new.  Please tell me more about this stellar OSx “reliability”.

I’m gonna circle back to the “Administrative” interface of the Directory Server options oddly found under “Users and Groups”.  Why is it that I have to make a selection to create a “mobile profile” on a Macbook?  It’s a fucking laptop.  What, it’s never going to get carried around?  Even better, I listed a domain user account under “Users who can administer this Mac”.  Um, kinda.  It will let them make some modifications while other administrative features continue to prompt for a local administrator account.  Haven’t take the time to put rhyme or reason to this either.  The word in unintuitive and Apple suffers badly from this curse with regards to most advanced administration features.

Let’s get to this Trickstar Hipster iPhone 6 I now carry.  Daringly, I finally broke down after 6 years with Android and got the latest pocket fad.  WTF?  I thought the fanboys proclaimed Apple superior, no argument.  I even read the never ending sales pitc… er, I mean reviews on CNN and a million other paid media hypesters.  I can list the iPhone’s inferiority to Android and screen size’s got nothin’ to do with it.

  1. I can’t hide the icons for Apple’s money apps without downloading a third party app?  Immediate fail.  Out of the box style.
  2. Let me change the channel on my TV.  Wait, what?  No IR blaster.  I had that on an LG G2 almost three years ago.  So much for state of the art technology.
  3. Oh but this amazing camera… which my old LG G2 embarrassed two years ago as well.  So far, I’ve downgraded.
  4. Okay so nifty finger print scanner.  Not unlike the one my Motorola Atrix had on it 4 years ago.  Wait, why do I need this thing again?
  5. I had to Google how to reject an incoming call.  Really?  Yep.  I still don’t have an easy way to reject some calls when the only options are “Remind Me” and answering.  Why does this need to be wrapped in mystery?  Just put a fucking button on ALL incoming calls that says “Dismiss”.
  6. At least let me put one touch icon dialing on my desktop.  Nope.  Cannot be done… “But they are in your recent calls and favorites”.  Ya, if I push 2-3 buttons to get there.  Not exactly like having an icon on the desktop with someone’s face I push.
  7. Why the hell do I have to cut my Wi-Fi on and off when my wireless network freezes?
  8. I can’t replace the battery?

I can go on but anything more would be inflammatory gripe.

These are not subjective problems, a matter of opinion or a learning curve on my part.  They are real examples of why many Apple products are in fact inferior to other technology available in the market.  Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Solaris… hell dare I say even Windows 8 does not suffer many of the problems of these Apple failures.

Do not fret Apple fans.  There are plenty of brand aware Trickstar Hipsters around to keep they hype alive.  They’ll be found in skinny jeans on fixie bikes wearing mismatched clothing sporting odd facial hair.  They will make sure you have pride as you pretentiously pay more for less in a fancy glass store, making every Chinaman glow with envy.  Meanwhile I will push the hell outta every technology I can find that is not Apple.  My past experiences with the pretty Apple interfaces and my new found love of this damned iPhone have insured that I will stick with what works.  To me Apple is simply pretty on the outside, POS on the inside.

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Hand over your credit card number. We need recurring revenue.

Many of America’s business models have digressed to one thing: the quest for credit card numbers they can auto draft for monthly revenue.  They will give you a discount for your card number.  They will give you introductory pricing for a card number.  They will “extend your subscription” for a few months if you put one on file and they will give you a hard time if you insist you do NOT want to put a card number on file “for your convenience”.

Let me be real damn clear.  Auto drafting payments is not “for your convenience”.  It is a tool for companies to guarantee a predictable amount of recurring monthly revenue.  Many subscription based companies use these revenue projections to pad financial numbers.  Worse, companies conspired with the banking industry so that often the the only debit card payments subject to overdraft fees are… you guessed it… auto draft payments.

Here’s a tip: avoid that free month of WHATTHEHELLEVER is being offered and keep your card number to yourself.  This will keep your number out of various insecure databases.  It will also alleviate any unexpected surcharges or unannounced surprise rate increases you may not agree to.  In the case of Amazon, it could keep you from being ripped off by scam sellers when trying to make a legitimate purchase as in the BBB and court documented case of shit bag extraordinaire Robert Oesterlund, his ROSP and Xacti Corporations and their Smart Saving Center scam.

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Constant Smartphone Wars – S4, G2, 5s

I always have to read quite a bit about the latest smartphone technology. I’ve also carried ever major smart phone manufactured in the last six years for routine (and not so routine) use. When I post reviews in forums or make claims in conversation to have carried all these phones I am not often believed.  How could one person get a new phone every 4-6 months?  Even better, I haven’t paid for a phone or paid my own mobile phone bill in over 11 years.

I’ve carried a Samsung Galaxy, S2, S3, S4, a Motorola Atrix 1 and 2, both with lap docks (some of the best phones and technology ever including the worlds first fingerprint scanner).  I’ve carried and used iPhone 3, 4s and 5s.  I have a like new 64GB iPhone 5s in my desk right now I could ask Verizon to swap in place of my LG G2 any time.  Not gonna happen.

The truth of the matter is that iPhones have always been a few technological steps behind other smart phone devices with the display/touch exception.  Apple fanboys will scream this is not true.  The will tout iOS and screen lag as evidence of the iPhone’s equality or superiority.  Lately iOS is just becoming Android.  Yes, the touch processing was given thread priority on an iPhone from day one.  That translates to the iPhone’s fluid feel.  This feel is really apparent on iPads verses Android tablets.   Scrolling seems smoother and response time seems faster making the iPhone superior in gesture response.  But that’s where the superiority ends.

The iPhone’s pretty, brushed aluminum chassis is no match for the LG G2’s processor, battery, screen size, resolution, camera and GPS.  The touch feel is not that far off from an iPhone any more either.  Truth is the iPhone’s aesthetics,  feel and iTunes keep Apple fans in the midst of their marketing realm.  They will even copy the larger screen found on most Android devices this year, tout it as “revolutionary” and Apple fans will regurgitate this tardy, non existent superiority.   Question is, will this larger screen actually hurt iPhone sales since the smaller size is actually coveted by many devoted iPhone fans who called the 4.5″+ Android screens “unnecessary”?  Amazing how such unnecessary things become as necessary as air and water once adopted on an iPhone.  Like NFC (Near Field Communications).  Not necessary according to Apple fans.  We’ll see about that.

In my role I typically carry the most powerful smart phone available in the US market within days of it’s release.  When that’s an iPhone I will proudly let the world know I carry one.

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The real 800 pound gorilla in mobile competition: Apps

The new Blackberry Q10, Z10 and Windows Phones might, argumentatively, have as many hardware features as new Android handsets and the iPhone 5.  Personally I would argue that some Nokia Lumia handsets running Windows Phone might be superior to many Android handsets and any iPhone ever designed.   Yet equal or superior hardware will not help Blackberry or Microsoft wedge their way into the hand held market dominated by Samsung and Apple today.  There is only one real deciding factor that will push consumers to an Android or iPhone.  Very simply: Apps.

On Oct. 30, 2012 Google Play set a milestone.  They reached the same number of apps that Apple had in iTunes on that day: over 700,000.  As of that date Google reported just over 25 million app downloads to Apples 35 million.  Windows Phone is making slow progress in the number of mobile apps available.  To date Instagram, NetFlix, Pandora, and Spotify are still not available for Blackberry.  For many people, including myself, the absence of at least one of those is a show stopper.

As solid as the platform might be, as dependable as the hardware might be, if I can’t run IpBike to track my rides I will be missing an important part of why I carry a smart phone.   Such niche apps will be a long time coming for Windows and BB.  Many major apps have no plan in place to develop for Blackberry, despite several development platform choices, including Java Android Runtime.  Why would they?  The handsets do not have enough market saturation to warrant the expense.  Sure, it’s a chicken/egg thing but why spend money speculating that the new Blackberry handsets might begin to emerge in numbers they’ve not seen since 2004?  The Windows Phone development environment is quite a bit more limited requiring knowledge of Visual Studio, Silverlight and XNA.  Not at all suited for many developers who are used to working with mobile code supported by Android and Apple, including rapid development solutions like AppsBar and iBuildApps among others.



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There is no reason to place more than one bid on ebay. The snipe bid.

Once you’ve used ebay for awhile it is easy to see there is no reason to bid any more than once for any item you really want to buy.  The snipe bid.  Here’s why: If you use ebay’s proxy bidding service you may only be driving the final price up.  Sure, put in the maximum you want to pay and let the proxy bid for you.  You want a camera and you’re hoping to win it for $200.  The bidding started at $90.  You put in $200 as your max nine hours before the auction’s end.  You’re now winning the auction at $91.50.

Closer to the end of the auction the hawks who have been watching the camera swoop in.  First they’re going to try to out bid you.  They know that this camera is worth $350 retail.  You’re not privy to some secret retail price information they don’t have.  So through a series of bids they drive the price above your $200 maximum.  Now they’re going to start a war.  A bidding war against each other.  $225….$240….$242.50….

Five minutes left in the auction and you still want the camera for $275 or less.  But the bidding has paused at $245.   Hold that mouse!  Do not increase your max bid to $275 yet!  Now with three minutes left the other person who really wants to win this auction has plenty of time to run up your price even if they don’t beat it and win the camera.  Wait until the last three to five seconds. Put in your maximum bid of $275.  You’re the high bidder and the auction has ended.  You won.  But at what cost?

First, your time.  There is no way the time you took to place a low ball bid was ever going to work out.  You didn’t find a secret hidden item on ebay.  Others were watching it and your low entry while you hoped for a miracle.  You also set a high bid for the hawks to run against.  If you had not set the $200 max bid it’s possible the other bidders would have fought their war with smaller incremental bids against each other, tiring each other out until the pause at around $185.  That would have been a much nicer price to be sniping at in the last five seconds of the auction.

Sniping is the only real way to bid and win on ebay.  Watch an item, if it is still within your price point in the last five seconds of the auction, fire away!  This is the only bid you will need to make to win.  Sniping is so effective that there are third party services prepared to snipe for you so that you won’t have to stay up until 1:30 AM to place that last second bid.  Sniping is also a way to really piss off all those people who have spent hours of their time and anxiety watching an item run up in price.  Take them all out with one bid at the end and take home the prize.

This entire post also summarizes why I don’t ever post an item on ebay for longer than three days.  More time may attract more eyeballs but it will also lose you just as many bidders because who really want to bid on an item and wait 4 days 29 minutes and 40 seconds to see if they will win.  Most likely they will look for the same item at a different price that’s ending sooner.

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How do I monitor and protect my kids on the Internet?

I am often asked by friends and co-workers what I do to protect my kids when they are using their computers and the internet.  I decided to document, in Lehman’s terms, how I’ve set up my kids systems so in the future I can direct anyone to this post.  This is an overview of the steps I have taken to make sure the kids in our house, not limited to our own, ages 4-13 can use any computer we allow them access to without worrying about them straying to the Porn Parkway, or the Exploitation Expressway.

1. Only install Linux. This is the primary component of protection.  Not Windows XP, Windows 7 or any other flavor of Microsoft operating system.  Why Linux?  First because Linux is no where near as susceptible to web based viruses and malware as Windows based PC’s.  Second, they do not cost as much as Apples.  It is true the Mac OSx and iOS can provide as much protection as a Linux based PC, but not likely.  Malware is now being targeted at the growing Apple user base, because of the flood of devices, so it won’t be long before Apple devices rival Windows for the volume of malicious content approaching them.  That said, just days ago I was told by a co-worker that my recommending a Mac for his kids was the “best advice” he got last year.  But he had no problem paying $1400 for it.  Linux is free and will run on a $200-300 laptop with ease.  There is more information about Linux distributions at the bottom of this post.

2. Install a keystroke monitor with remote reporting capability. There’s no better way to know what kids are doing on-line than well, knowing exactly what they’re doing and saying on-line, per keystroke.  I prefer logkeys from Google.  Available for download right here on my site.  A good keystroke monitor will allow the service to run in “promiscuous mode”, that’s the term you’re looking for, meaning that it runs in the background secretly without any user awareness.  It should also be able to email report logs secretly so physical access to the PC is not required to monitor the keyboard activity.  Keep in mind one of the big benefits of keystroke logging is that even if the visible contents of a website is not logged, any user ID’s and passwords typed in to gain access to a site are captured.  Isn’t this spying on kids?  Ya.  Is it better than wondering what they’re up to on-line for which you, the parent, may ultimately be liable?  Yep.

3. Use browser based parental controls. Did you know that Firefox has several free parental control browser extensions, such as FoxFilter, that are easy to install and configure?  Do you know how many free browser based parental controls Internet Explorer has built in?  None.  Internet Explorer relies on the Windows operating system parental control settings that are much more difficult to configure and have questionable reliability.  Again, a Windows PC running IE is the most insecure setup you can hand over to a kid.  This is coming from a guy who cleans viruses off of a corporate Vice Presidents laptop routinely.  If adults can’t control their browsing habits and security how much attention do you think kids are paying?  Ya, I know, probably more than the adults.   Forget those subscription based filters like Net Nanny for Windows.  I would only recommend these paid services for those bound to Windows without any alternative.  Save your money, get off Windows, abandon Internet Explorer, protect your kids on-line.  Nothing but winning.

There are many variations of Linux available for free, known as “distributions”.  Not long ago I championed Ubuntu Linux.  When Connor was just 4 years old his first laptop ran Ubuntu so he could play Disney and PBS Kids games on-line.  More recently I prefer Linux Mint due to it’s ease of installation and more friendly graphical interface.  Ubuntu recently incorporated a more unique style of user interface (I’ll spare the technical details) but it is not as familiar as the “windows icon” style of desktop kids would be more comfortable with and accustomed to.  With the exception of the wireless network adapter configuration almost anyone can install a Linux Mint distribution on a Intel or AMD processor based laptop or tower PC.  Another great benefit is free software.  From games to OpenOffice there is a software solution that will keep kids and teachers happy.  As a matter of full disclosure another well known Linux limitation is printer compatibility. It can be a challenge to find driver software that is Linux compatible for many printer models.  It is almost unheard of that a Linux print driver will support all of the features of many multifunction printers.  This is because the printer manufactures target all their internal software development at Microsoft and Apple.  Open source community developers are responsible for most of the free Linux print drivers available today.


Putting the Citrix Receiver for Android to work

Installed a Citrix Access Gateway VPX earlier this month so… Migrating 120+ users to Great Plains 2010 R2 published from XenApp 6 using only my cell phone.

The Citrix Receiver for Android allows me to connect to the desktop of a XenApp server via the Access Gateway web interface.  Because the Motorola Atrix contains a full version of Firefox the Access Gateway works flawlessly, even over 128-bit SSL.  I tested this ICA connectivity form the phone alone.  Then the insane benefit of the Atrix Lapdock became apparent.  With a larger screen and keyboard I can administer these Citrix servers anywhere I can get and AT&T data connection.  Verizon has the same setup in the Droid Bionic.  The Bionic tethers to the Motorola Lapdock 100 as does the Atrix 2 as these phones don’t have a proprietary injection molded cradle like the original Atrix 4G.

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Is Dell quietly becoming cooler than Apple?

A few of my investment decisions have been influenced by things that I see my kids and their friends showing the most interest in.  Nintendo vs. Playstation, Nick or Cartoon Network, You Tube or Hulu…

Until recently I didn’t even realize Connor and his friends knew the difference between Dell and Apple.  Let me preface this by saying most of these kids have access to both.  At Connors school they are required to do portion of their homework on-line.  They have Apple computers in their labs at school. Now Connor wants his own computer in his room at his desk.  He specifically said he wanted a Dell.  “One of the ones you can change the case on”.  I asked if he’d rather have an Apple.  He said “um, no”.  Then he very specifically, and surprisingly, said he doesn’t like the browser.  I asked if he meant Safari and he said “ya”.  Then, to my complete surprise, he said “Apple’s are not as cool as Dell”.  One of the more shocking moments of my week as this was without my influence at all.  In fact, I’ve often represented Apple as the solution for kids because they’re a little easier to use and, until recently, harder to corrupt.

Apparently most of the kids in the Senior Academy, the high school at East Wake Academy, carry Dell’s.  Affordability probably factored in the older students purchasing decision but like it or not this type of presence does have an influence on they younger kids.  iPads?  Useless.  Try having an 8-year-old type a paragraph on a freakin’ iPad.  You might as well give them your phone to do it.  In fact, my Motorola Atrix has far more memory, processing capability and docking solutions than any iPad.  I could hook it to the lapdock and provide him a more suitable WORKING platform.  That’s the key here…work to be done.  Ever try actually working productively on a tablet for more than a few minutes?  You won’t do it twice.

Now to be fair Connor and his friends all praise iPods.  Yet they seem to have no interest in tablets.  Not sure what the difference is other than the size.  But they really want Dells.  I’ve heard them praise the name.  Something I never really expected.  When asked about a Macbook or a Dell I’ve even heard 13 and 14 year old girls answer Dell.  Where did this come from and what does it mean?  Are Macbooks going to be relegated to a pretentious, over 25 crowd who are more interested in looking hip than actual productivity? Note: writing email, sorting photos and music is not “productivity”.  Productivity is spending hours upon hours at a physical keyboard.  Most adults I know who use Macs exclusively have never written as much in one sitting as I wrote in this blog post.  Of course there are exceptions and I’m stereotyping but the real point of all this is the cool factor.

Could it be that Dell is gaining traction against Apple at their own game?  Could Dell actually become cooler than Apple?  Gasp!  Has it already happened and adults with their heads in the clouds just don’t realize it yet?  If so, Apple has a real problem because their sales are now solely based on product image.  Not performance or innovative technology but shiny aluminum cases housing flakey, and yes, unstable operating systems when compared to Windows 7.  The loss of Jobs, the emergence of Dells image and Windows 8 on the horizon all may mean trouble for the #1 titan of over priced, gotta have it garbage.

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