New Year’s Resolution | Quit Technology

1451778196_DangerThis is not some post ranting and raving about the societal impact of social media or some wake up call after realizing every person in my family can’t even eat a dinner together without the added appendage that is their smartphone and thereby pledging a righteous fast from all forms of technology for the New Year.  Nay this is simply the rant of a fed up tech nerd.  I started ILikeTek.com as an outlet for somebody who really does nerd out and appreciate most all forms of tech (almost all…selfie sticks are kidding me?!).  I really do like tech and love even more opining about this passion.  Most days I relish my tech savy panache and just last week had someone confide in me how they wished they knew even half what I knew because “the world would be such an easier place”.  That was my mom after I hooked up a flat screen TV that sat idle for a few weeks until the next time I visited to hook it up.  It took me all of five minutes to bring it to life and I even reduced her entertainment center down to one remote (that she already had but didn’t know how to program).  Her wish implied that I just didn’t get tripped up like most other non-techies on gadgets and software.  It implies I breeze through life like a Kardashian.  This actually couldn’t be further from the truth.  In fact you can say today, gasp, I Don’t Like Tech!  You see at any given moment I have a laundry list like most people of gadgets or software that simply aren’t cooperating and like most people it can be downright frustrating and almost debilitating at times.  For full effect here’s a glimpse at my present laundry list:
  • The volume pot on my PC speakers is malfunctioning resulting in a constant tussle to get both speakers to actually play.
  • I wasted over an hour just yesterday trying to reformat a micro SD card for my new Kid’s Kindle Fire that inexplicably was corrupted with no success.  Crashed my computer twice in the process.  Right now my kid is playing with our original Kindle that has a faulty power connector where getting it to charge requires a time sapping jiggle dance with the power cable.
  • My iPhone also inexplicably decides to revert to default text tones robbing me of my glorious “Alright Alright Alright” Matthew McConaughey one liner that serves as my text tone for my B Team phone contacts.  This began with the release of iOS 9 and I still haven’t cracked the puzzle to resolve it and every time that friendly default text tone dings it infuriates me to no end.
  • I’ve spent more time than I care to admit this past week trying to transfer my XBOX gamertag to a more desirable Microsoft account to no avail.
  • Yesterday I had to return my wife’s Fitbit I bought her for her birthday just 4 months ago because its bluetooth radio failed.  It was her fourth activity tracker that failed in the past year alone.  They’re all universally junk.
  • My keyboard occasionally decides to wig out and substitute different characters and commands for key presses.  Not kidding…requires a reboot to clear it up.  Same issue on my old pc so I know it’s driver related to an accessory I recycled from old pc.  Have tried other keyboards with no success.  Forum queries have been fruitless.  Have honestly fought this one for about four years.  It’s quite shameful actually.  Had to take a break writing this to reboot for this very issue.  Fail.
  • My wifi gets crazy slow sometimes.  Every single diagnostic I’ve ever done shows a healthy signal and speed yet my devices drudge on and then magically it’s healed.  It’s secure, doesn’t appear to be hacked.  Also no clue, perpetually unresolved.
  • Have a printer that can’t connect to said wifi.  Also it recently spazzed out and issued several errors codes.  Did a factory reset then it ran out of black ink.  Replaced ink with a new cartridge.  It still said is was out and wouldn’t let me print with color unless I replaced the black ink cartridge…again.  Finally caved and replaced the black ink cartridge with another new cartridge.  It worked but still spurns wifi.  Whatever.
  • Bought my kid a lava lamp for Christmas.  The lava doesn’t float.  It just sticks to the bottom in one congealed blob.  Shook it real good…then read instructions which explicitly states to never shake it.  The blob remains but has now moved to the top.  I’ll have to return it.
  • I have a portable speaker I’m particularly fond of that periodically turns itself off then back on after a couple of minutes.  The next day it’ll work just fine.  As an electro-mechanical engineer by day I am also shamefully clueless as to why.
  • I have a piece of Dell crapware that I can’t get to stop pestering me with daily notifications.  For certain reasons I don’t want to uninstall it.  It’s not found on any of my startup programs or background processes where I could disable it so for now I’m forced to answer it’s rude and overriding interruptions.
  • Recently my engine light to my car started coming on intermittently.  I theorized it was a loose battery terminal, the dealer disagreed and the light never stayed on long enough for them to catch it with their diagnostic machine.  Later there would be a battery terminal recall for this very reason.  It was with no small measure of satisfaction I had them service it under the recall.  The intermittent light has recently returned.  Face palm.
  • Finally the clock on my coffee maker runs fast.  It gains a whopping 4 minutes a day.  If left unchecked for even a week it starts brewing coffee 30 minutes early.
The truth is I’ll only resolve half of my technological issues at any given time and the rest I’ll lose patience and simply replace whatever is malfunctioning.  Today (after I finish this post if my keyboard allows sic) I’ll quit technology.  Tomorrow I’m certain I’ll renig on this resolution.  There is really only one difference between me and most non-techies.  Most of the time technology does not cooperate for me either; I just can’t feign ignorance when it does.
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TekFail | LastPass Won’t Give Me A Final Pass

1426316167_699481-icon-5-thumb-down-512Today’s TekFail comes courteous of LastPass the online password manager.  I’ve been using LastPass for the last couple of years and have come to love its simple interface and painless transition from Norton’s Password Vault.  Best of all it is free for the web version only.  Recently I’ve found myself stuck trying to sign into an app or website while away from my pc.  LastPass offers a premium version that allows you to access your entire vault of usernames and passwords securely from within its mobile app.  A couple of months ago I sprung for the chance at a free two month trial offer delivered to my inbox just to see if I could justify the paid leap.  At the end of two months I could not and simply let it expire.  This though was just not good enough for them.  The emails began a month before my trial period was over and so far continue more than three weeks since it ended.  In the final month I got six emails from them reminding me that my trial subscription was due to expire.  When I let it expire I expected at least one followup.  After three in a week I was fed up.  I’m all for a sales pitch, in fact it was their original sales pitch by email that got me to sign up for the trial period in the first place.  What irks me is nine emails in less than five weeks just to get me to renew.  It’s borderline harassment in my book.  It’s not like I quit using their service altogether.  A simple check of my account usage through a feeble query algorithm would’ve established that I was still using their online service.  Instead though I could count only a handful of emails in the last 2 years as a customer they’re now hounding me almost daily. This has decidedly turned me off as a customer almost completely.

On the 9th email about renewing my subscription I decided to fire back a reply.  In it I wrote simply, “I know already. You’re previous 8 emails told me so. Stop harassing me about it!”  I expected either a canned response about how to contact them for support or maybe even a mail undeliverable return reply.  What I got instead is the reason why I’ve given LastPass a TekFail today.  I got an email describing they’ve responded to my service ticket request.  Service ticket request..huh? That’s right they opened a customer service ticket based on my sarcastic response.  I again ignored this email.  Two days later I was emailed a reminder to the first email about my alleged service ticket request.  This time I read it and opened the link to the service ticket.  Naturally it offered me instructions on how to access my account settings and change my email preferences.  Incredulous!  It was also clear that it would likely continue to hound me unless I officially responded and closed the request.  I did and in the comments section I wrote, “The simple fact that you created a ticket for my snarky email shows that you just don’t get it. Point being that just because I’m a customer and I entrusted you with my email address doesn’t mean you have to abuse this trust. I’m not changing any settings. Just leave me alone.”  That last comment I think just about sums it up for me.  Companies and services think since you’ve entrusted them with your email address even as a customer paid or not they have cart blanche on spamming it.  News flash, if I’m already a customer and I continue using your service, be happy and just leave me alone already!

Customer Service – The Good, The bad, The Ugly Part 2: Get a Clue

1378435745_mailToday is the official start of the NFL football season and to celebrate it I’ve received two emails and counting from ESPN.  One was a reminder that “NFL is back and ESPN has you covered” and the other was a reminder to download the fantasy football app.  Last week I got the same reminder emails about college football and their corresponding ESPN College Football App.  Seems like harmless notifications right?  When I already own both apps and have likewise signed into both with the same credentials that included the very email address these emails were blasted to I find these emails decidedly repetitive and annoying.  This post could be considered a bit of an overreaction but my frustrations go way beyond these emails; they just serve to illustrate a point.  The point is, those emails were dumb.  Ok so now I sound juvenile right?  Couldn’t I have used a more eloquent word than dumb.  Nope.  There are at least two factors that qualify something as simply dumb.  The first is could it have been avoided?  The second…see factor #1.  In the case of the ESPN example a simple algorithm in ESPN’s databases could very easily have filtered out anybody who has downloaded those apps by corresponding registered emails.  The emails were simply pointless to me an already engaged app user.  Is there anything wrong with a reminder email, no but folks these were not reminders emails, they were blatant pitches to download their apps.  A separate reminder email encouraging me to engage with the app would have been just fine and frankly expected if I had opted in to subscribe to their alerts and correspondence.  Junk mail.  Purely avoidable.  Dumb.  ESPN has the means to know that I already own their apps and use them. Read More

Customer Service – The Good, The bad, The Ugly Part 1: Will HELP For Fee

1375855160_call-userWith this post I will begin a four-part series that examines the importance and relevance of good customer service.  For each post I will cover a specific customer service theme and as the title suggests I will offer real world examples good, bad, and ugly.  For my first post I’ve chosen a theme that I believe is at the heart of what customer service means – helping.  In this day and age of easy access to online forums, help articles, how-to videos, etc. it is easy to suggest that customer service doesn’t quite hold the importance it once did but that notion is easily dispelled the second you get a flat, or your AC goes out on a blazing August day, or you’ve made an honest mistake when paying a bill.  In times of crisis we are sometimes forced to rely on good old-fashioned customer service be it via phone, in store, or online and nothing is worse than when you are at your most vulnerable and need help you get hit with fees and fees for fees!  We’ve all experienced that sinking feeling when you ask for help and the response is “Sure, that’ll be $195 including service fees”.  It begs the question, should customer service cost?  The short answer is technically yes, because customer service, like parts and labor, costs companies and must be accounted for somewhere but we the consumers just don’t like to pay for it when we need it most.  I’m no different; it’s like pouring salt on an open wound when I have to pay additional fees for an unexpected expense.  Below I will go into a few personal examples I think illustrate how to properly service a customer and keep a customer because let’s face it bad customer service equates to lost customers.

The Good

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CANCEL FOR CREDIT

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I visited Salesforce.com today to find out what the hub bub I’ve been hearing recently was all about.  I come across at least one mention a day about the workforce service company and my own employer recently instituted it for it’s sales and marketing folks.  Working in engineering I was left out so I decided to hop over to the site for an in depth looksy maybe see if I can find some usable tools for my team.  On the home screen was a link to the obligatory demo videos you usually find for enterprise sites so naturally I clicked on it.  What it took me to precisely sums up everything that companies so easily miss about providing a good consumer/customer experience – a form.  Oh yes, it wanted to know my name company, address, email, and phone number before it promised to give me unfettered access to their products’ demo videos.  Folks this is like saying you have to fill out a form before you can watch the next Apple commercial!  It’s getting so that every site you go, every place you shop wants you to fill something out.  For crying out loud I came to you to shop, let me shop already!!!!  There aren’t enough exclamation marks for that last statement!

Some marketing guru decides they need to gather as many metrics as possible to market effectively that they’ve forgotten one basic metric – what turns off their customers?  Why did they walk out of the store empty handed or clicked that ‘X’ to your site without emptying their virtual cart?  Forms aren’t going to give you that metric because your customer is gone the second you thrust one at them.  The only information you need is my credit card number when I pay and that’s ALL that should matter!  Asking me twenty questions on the card swipe screen feels an awful lot like entrapment!  Have you ever thought to yourself “Well I’ve already swiped my card so they’ve got my information so I guess I better answer all these stupid questions?”  As long as we’re talking about swiping credit cards why on earth don’t they just say CREDIT; why must I press CANCEL  for credit (it’s a rhetorical question of course, it’s because of the difference in fees banks charge between debit and credit transactions but that’s beside the point I’m making)?  Why does paying have to be so complicated (self checkout stations)?  I’ve already shopped with you, I’ve placed goods on your sales counter, I’m now handing you my payment now stop selling me something and say “Thank You!”  That would be good customer service right?  Finally use some common sense already because I’m not going to open up Target Red Card to save 5% on a $4.32 purchase!  I could go on and will soon in an upcoming look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of customer service.  Stay tuned.

Happy Hanuka…I Think?

Credit:  Fantastical

Credit: Fantastical

As long as we are gracing the topic of calendars (see previous post) why is it that not one single digital calendar I access shows any holidays?  Not even my favorite by Fantastical.  It must be because app developers wish to remain universally neutral which I guess makes sense but why not build in the option for country holidays or religious holidays to be shown that can be turned on or off at will?  Doesn’t this just make so much sense?  I found an app that will add holidays based on nationality and/or religion to your native phone calendar called US Holidays 2013-2015 but it costs $0.99.  It seems just silly that if I want to figure out when to wear green for the next St. Patty’s Day I either have to Google it or…gasp…find a printed calendar.  By the way have you ever seen a printed calendar that didn’t list most holidays?

“The Trouble With Tribbles” – Facebook Birthday Notifications Run Amuck

Credit: ThinkGeek.com

I hereby dub this Tek | Angst Day!  Time to rant!  I hate that word and I vowed not be an angry blogger who just uses his site as a virtual soapbox to rant.  I’m in the midst of a crummy week and I just can’t help myself so I’ve decided rare exceptions must be allowed to rant.  Just know that this is as bad as it gets with my posts and being able to vent frustrations on this forum is truly therapeutic but I promise to make this a rare thing.  So here it goes; below is the first of three or four posts today that will tackle a few things that just set me off:

Happy Friggin’ Birthday!

Facebook is barely tolerable most days but one thing that for me rises above all other cannon fodder I could lob its way concerns its birthday notifications.  They’re like that episode of Star Trek with the cute little Tribbles that multiplied at exponential rates!  I’m sure at some point I inadvertently said ok to some oblique pop up that allowed the flood of birthday notifications to enter my digital world.  They’ve literally thrown up all over every screen I turn on and like Tribbles they’re multiplying exponentially now with a flood of related notifications like wanting to know if I want to purchase the birthday boy or girl a gift right after asking if I want to poke them!  If I haven’t seen you since high school it was likely because I picked on you or you picked on me so frankly I don’t care that it’s your birthday.  I probably accepted your friend request in a moment of curiosity to see what kind of train wreck you became or because I felt guilty for successfully blaming that particularly foul silent-but-deadly-one on you during chemistry class.  Trust me for those who I genuinely care about I don’t need a FB reminder for your birthday.  Those same people know that my penchant for numbers would never allow me to fail to remember such an important date.

Nevertheless when I groggily checking my iPhone’s lock screen first thing in the morning, or am at my Windows 8 login screen, or flicking through my great Fantastical calendar app, my email, my notifications bar, or last but not least opening Facebook I must be reminded of some practical stranger’s birthday nearly every day.  Why gripe, was it not my fault in the first place to accept their silly friend request or somehow say yes to the notifications in the first place?  I gripe because I can’t seem to stop the flood.  I’m pretty tech savy and with some instances I have been able to remove those notifications but there are still many places where I have been completely unsuccessful.  My notifications bar on my iPhone is the worst offender because it will not let me clear it.  I must stare at it all day!  For those of you who share my disdain for these very intrusive notifications I vow to find all the secret formulas for ridding your world of Facebook’s birthday notifications and devote a whole post someday to what I will dubiously call “The Great Purge”.

P.S  Notification:  Today is my Unbirthday!  I will freely accept gifts but please poke someone else by sharing this post.

I Just Can’t Get It To Zip Up!

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I have many fond memories of going camping with my family every summer.  Most memorable is the eager anticipation as we drove there, the agonizing wait to set up our tents before we could hit the water, the lazy days that followed, and then the more agonizing task of packing up.  Let’s face it there’s just no joy in packing up particularly at the end of 10 days with your entire family that by now needs another year off from each other.  No camping trip would be complete without the dreaded process of taking down and packing up the tent.  Queue the ominous music “Da da dun”!  Specifically the rolling and putting away of the tent.  This was always a grudge match full of grunting, stretching, and straining the fabric to get it into the tightest bunch we could muster just so we could get it to fit in the tent bag which was clearly designed to fit the tent only if it was precisely folded or rolled just like it was by some automated machine at the factory.  My mom would undoubtedly end up going off on an obscenity laced tirade because we would of course forget the tent poles or rain flap after fussing for ten minutes with the zipper of the bulging bag.  (Thank goodness my mom lives in the technological dark age and will likely never read this or else I would be the recipient of one of her famous obscenity laced tirades).

Did the engineer or designer not ever try to unpack and repack the tent as part of the design process?  Sounds like such a reasonable question right?  I tire of so many things that just don’t fit the container they come in once unpacked.  If it comes with a reusable bag or case it’s a guarantee it is undersized by at least a third.  This goes for the aforementioned tent bags, sleeping bag bags, and headphone bags just to name a few.  Even the almighty product design prowess of Apple is not immune to this.  This is evident in the recently updated Apple earphones.  They come with a case to wrap the cords that like all the other examples I mentioned barely fit unless the headphones are perfectly wound tight.  I struggle to close the lid every time and have even cracked it as well as rubbed some of the jacket off of the cables trying to close it.  I expected more of them honestly.

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Dear AT&T Please Open The Throttle: What I did with access to a month of unlimited data

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I live in the heart of tornado alley, in fact I live within 20 miles of the very powerful EF5 that struck Moore, OK and the largest tornado ever recorded just a few days later near El Reno, OK.  Aside from a very near miss the day before the Moore tornado and spending this past weekend repairing my fence I’ve come out mostly unscathed as this year’s tornado season starts to wind down.  Not that I take joy in others’ misery but a fortunate thing occurred this past month as a result of the massive damage and lives put on hold.  AT&T decided to lift most voice and data restrictions for those in the affected area for a month.  Apparently that included me.  You see I’m one of the dwindling holdouts who purchased an unlimited data plan.   AT&T wooed me into another contract with the promise to grandfather my unlimited data plan in only to throttle me two months later.  That’s been about two years ago now and I’m still very bitter about it.  I pride myself as being one with common sense and knowing when to timely interpret the writing on the wall but on this issue I’ve decided to dig my heels in.  If there’s not a clearer issue of false advertisement I haven’t seen it and I just can’t understand why one of those big brother federal agencies you always hear about haven’t stepped in yet to squash the practice of throttling users with unlimited data plans.  I’ll get off my soapbox for now and get to the meat of this post which is what I did with a month of unfettered data access on a device running on arguably the fastest LTE network in the states.

To start I simply unleashed the reigns on one of my favorite music apps Songza.  Songza is one of many music streaming apps whose approach differs by allowing you to choose playlists by the mood you’re in.  It’s also got a great pool of playlists created by artists and brands.  Tip: check out the Songs From Apple Commercials playlist, it’s fantastic and surprisingly lengthy.  It’s fair to say I streamed from Songza at least four hours a day.  When I was in the mood for a specific artist or song I happily tuned in to Spotify and selected my choice at will at its extreme music quality setting no less.  This was a welcome experience after months of dealing with Spotify’s confusing interface and juggling my iPhone’s limited data storage when on wifi just to download the next day’s playlists.  If I ever felt in the mood for one of my own albums stored in iCloud I guiltlessly downloaded at will scoffing at the data warnings barked at me.

When tired of music I easily cleared out my queue on my Hulu app.  Now I don’t typically spend much time on YouTube except to view a video link I come across through the digital universe but I must say I got into the spirit quite easily a couple of times as I chased a couple rabbits after viewing a link.  There were a couple of  video podcasts that I usually would wait to download offline that I purposely streamed because I could.  When it came to watching Apple’s 2 hour long keynote speech and iOS 7’s unveiling at this year’s WWDC I skipped my employer’s putrid internet connection in lieu of my iPhone’s Safari stream.  The whole experience was quite liberating to be honest.  When the dust finally settled I had burned through 10 GB of data twice the normal amount I’m allotted on my unlimited data plan before being throttled on LTE (note: it is 3GB if you’re on a HSPA+ only device).  To be truthful I probably am the type of user that the powers-that-be at AT&T legitimize the decision to throttle but I must ask why else build the LTE network?

Relaxing restrictions for tornado ravaged victims was quite gracious of AT&T no doubt but I must say there’s massive amounts of irony in the fact that I finally got to experience my promised unfettered access on my LTE enabled device as a result of restrictions lifted to help victims.  Here’s some unsolicited advice AT&T, if you want to create some sort of brand loyalty, don’t offer your customers the promise of the the fastest network in America by getting halfway there by limiting their access.  Final thought, the folks at Chevrolet could make the Silverado the most fuel efficient truck in history overnight by adjusting the speed governor to 35 mph right?  Is this a fair comparison?  Sorry I just couldn’t stay off my soapbox.