Friday, October 31, 2014

Sabotage! Or how to prove you're a loser

One of my customers recently fired an employee for poor performance and not showing up for work. As his "parting shot" to the company that gave him a job he wasn't competent to do, he switched off his computer, and then sneakily changed the voltage selector on the power supply at the back of the computer from 230V to 115V.
The next person who switched it on caused the power supply to burn out, frying the motherboard in the process. We're not sure if it killed the hard drive as well, but at least we have a backup of all of that stuff, such as it is. I'm very tempted to publish his name, but there are too many other people called Shaun Williams who would be wrongly implicated. Pity.
All I can say to the one who did it: we can't prove it was you, but since no one else in the office knew the consequences of doing such a thing, you just proved that you are a malicious jerk and a serious loser. I hope no one ever employes you in a responsible web design or IT job again, for their sake, not for yours. It will come back to bite you on the ass at some point in the future, I'm sure.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

DStv: Turning customers into enemies by being greedy

DStv is the local satellite TV company. Normally I use their "EasyView" option, which has a few free-to-air channels such as the abysmal SABC channels, plus a few useful ones like Aljazeera English and Classic Movies. We also have a "Walka", a 7" LED portable device that allows us to view some of the sports channels. Total monthly bill: R29 for EasyView (25 channels), R79 for the Walka (15 channels), i.e. R108 per month for a total of 39 different channels, or R2.77 per channel.
From time to time we have "upgraded" our subscription to the R665 "Premium" service, in order to watch one of the sports channels (Supersport 2) on a bigger screen, and to catch some of the cricket broadcasts on other random Supersport channels. Essentially we are being forced to pay for 131 channels, even though we may watch possibly a dozen channels, at R5.08 per channel. The only redeeming factor in this monumental ripoff was that one could "upgrade" and "downgrade" once at any time during the month, and be charged pro-rata for the Premium service. Until September, that is.
Now some marketing genius at MultiChoice (the parent company) has had the brainwave of making customers pay for an entire month if they upgrade, whether they want to or not. This customer satisfaction guru and bean-counter extraordinaire has decided that it is too tricky to provide pro-rata refunds, so they have stopped their system from doing so, and the customer can just bloody well put up with it. This up-and-coming manager clearly worked for the SABC or SANRAL before moving to MultiChoice, because he has just single-handedly pissed me off. It must have been "he" because no woman with an ounce of sense would ever do anything to monumentally stupid.
In the past I would call DStv (assuming their lines weren't all busy) and arrange the downgrade, and then ensure that the Walka stand-alone subscription was reactivated. Now to add insult to injury I can't reactivate the Walka subscription during the month I downgrade. I have to remember to do it on the 1st of next month. Or not. Since they just forced me to pay R125 extra for the week of service I don't want, I really don't see why I would want to rush back and pay them their R79 for the Walka on 1st November, since I don't use it much and Penny will be too busy with other stuff. So I'll see if we can do without it for a month or so.
So since DStv have just royally pissed me off by ripping me off, I think I'll just ignore them as much as possible. After all, I don't care if they make more or less money. I am certainly not going to force them to take any of my money. They just made an enemy by sheer arrogance, stupidity or bloody-mindedness. Pick any two. Update 13 November: It turns out that my account is now R538 in credit because they billed me on 1st Nov for the Premium service even though they knew a week before that I wasn't going to be using that service. You can only cancel the service at the end of the month, but the billing run is set up before the end of the month, so their system is designed to steal your money, and they will take 14 days to give a refund. I tried phoning their main switchboard number 011-289-3000 to speak to the head of their accounts department, but she wasn't answering her phone and the next extension I was put through to was engaged or they put the phone down, I'm not sure.
Someone called Charles phoned me to find out what the problem is. WOW! I think he handles escalations. Anyway I will be getting a refund in the next 14 days. At least someone there is paying attention.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Microsoft's one useful feature missing from Outlook 2013

Microsoft's marketing people talked up the "new features" of Outlook 2013 claiming how much more "productive" it would make users. Well, they neglected to mention how they deliberately removed one feature that has made me productive in Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 for years. It's the ability to preview the contents of messages that you haven't read yet. (Click on the image above to see what I mean).
The image above is how it would look if the brain-dead idiots in Redmond hadn't decided to remove it. Now I have two equally dubious choices: display a preview of all messages, including the ones I have read, or disable the preview altogether, and use the "preview pane" instead. This is a time waster because I have to click on each message to preview it, and the default is to mark it as "read" once it has been previewed. This is about as clever as it gets.
So if anyone in Redmond with a brain ever gets to see this post, listen up: either make the screen work as shown above, or at least have a "preview unread messges" next to "all" and "unread". In the meantime, can I have a refund for my purchase of Outlook 2013? I was told that it was the last major release of Office, and that from here out subscribers to Office online would get incremental upgrades with new features. So far I have noticed none. More vapourware? In this case some of the features of Office 2010 have evaporated. Huh?
Update 26 October 2014: I finally realised that this missing feature is a productivity improvement after all: now that Outlook is more difficult to use, I check my mail less often, which makes me far more productive. Genius!