Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

Customer Unservice

December 7, 2009

I don’t ask for much in this life. I’m rarely happier than when left with a pint of gin of tonic, the electronic musical mathematics of Kraftwerk and a small mammal to dissect. I do though, share the frustration of many of you when having to deal with automated phone lines and the extraneous waiting times of a company’s customer services. Only this very week I have been having yet more issues with my broadband internet connection, and had to resort to conversing with an employee of the service provider. I should in the interests of partisanship not disclose the name of said company – but suffice to say it was 02. I had just been in the middle of downloading a rather large amount of free science papers and music when I found my connection entirely uncooperative. Of course, it would be usual in these circumstances for me to try to resolve said problem myself before having to resort to consulting some inferior intellectual oaf over a phone line.  Someone, no doubt, who would have trouble breaking down and explaining Pythagoras’s theorem, or naming the key chemical components of their own DNA strand. What could such a person possibly have to tell me about computers.

But like the rest of you, and despite my best efforts to create my very own internet (or the world wide Human as I favoured calling it), I am subject to the big business chains and corporations too. I won’t pretend that you know anything about how the internet actually works, it is essentially a network of computers all connected to a giant supercomputer the size of a small town secretly located in the American Nevada desert. So it was that I was forced into calling my provider to resolve my connection problem. Firstly I was presented with a voice recognition system that asked what service I required. Well I am never going to be at the beck and call of a machine’s whim, and often take these opportunities to engage the machine in some manner of scientific debate (I have in the past caused a number of automated lines to question their purpose and self destruct) and sure enough after much confusion from the computer I was successfully put through to someone with a more human (although barely) physiology.

I don’t expect to be lectured or told what to do when speaking to customer services on the phone – I do the instructing and tell them exactly how they can help me and what it is they should do. In this particular case it was no different, even as I had to listen to the idiotic blithering of the person on the other end of the line who insisted on wanting to know what my landline number was and name. I like to keep things concise and to the point when dealing with people on the phone, and when I am done and said what I had to say, will immediately hang up. Unsurprisingly the fool on the other end, despite my very precise instructions has failed to rectify my broadband issues, and I still find myself with a frustratingly intermittent signal. I shall be writing to my provider, and demanding a complete apology from them, in the meantime I am taking my laptop with me direct to the source and shall be spending the remainder of the week combing the Nevada desert for the internet itself.

I’m still here…barely!

November 8, 2009

sorry-no-internet-today-2

One of the pitfalls of having to regularly post a blog on the internet – is that if you find yourself without internet access, your laptop is about as useful as a social scientist.

I suppose in this day and age now of ever faster broadband connections, e-bay and twits it seems unimaginable for the young baby sat at a keyboard updating his or hers facebook status – that some fifteen years ago we didn’t even know what the internet was. It is often claimed that people always remember where they were when they heard the news that the US President John F Kennedy was assassinated or even indeed when man first set foot on the moon. Those flash card memory moments imprinted on your brain. Not too dissimilar I remember well as do others here, September 11th 2001 – the first time the wonder of the world wide web was bought into the Human Institute and changed the way I worked forever.

It has been a companion, a confidant, and on occasion a lover – so I am sure you can imagine how distressing it is for someone in my position to feel so suddenly, brutally castrated as I have been these last couple of weeks, having recently moved addresses – where I have been forced to intermittently ‘share’ my internet privileges with that of the common man in cafe’s and tea rooms.

Even now as I write this whilst supping from my usual choice of triple espresso with a shot of syrup, I can feel the eyes of everyone on me. I cannot gauge whether this is more through my general dislike at finding myself mingling with the general public, or that I have chosen to walk down to the local coffee emporium with laptop to do my weekly blog in nothing more than my dressing gown. Still I see the police have arrived so I am sure this should sort out the matter at hand in no time at all…

Mac or PC?

October 21, 2009

mac-vs-pc

Ever since the dawn of man – there will be some who prefer one method, over another. I know during my earliest sexual encounters as a burgeoning teenager, many of my partners preferred to go for the rather straightforward practice of the missionary position, whereas I was always more interested in exploring things from the rear.

Not so dissimilar, is the decision, when it comes to your choice of home computer. As a professor and teacher of science, and also a regular internet blogger, my laptop computer is an essential part of my daily life. With that in mind – as many of you I am sure aware – these type of things fall into two distinct camps. Mac & PC. That’s Apple Macintosh and Personal Computer for those not familiar with some of the more technological terminology I am using here.

For a number of years I have always been a fervent PC owner. My issue with the Mac has always been not unlike my distaste for sports cars. I own and drive a vintage red 2003 Suzuki Swift. It is small, compact, unfussy. It may be lacking in a basic aesthetic grace but I find it performs its given task in a perfectly acceptable, if somewhat functional manner, much like my ex-wife did in the bed. Sports cars are loud, needlessly flashy and prohibitively expensive, and that it a totally unreasonable prejudice I have carried over to my perception of Mac’s.

My loyalty of PC’s however has been tested this week – due to irritation at the constant barrage of windows updates that Bill Gates insists on sending to my computer at the most inconvenient of times. Having recently crossed over to the superiority of Windows Vista as a system, the continual updates I readily accepted came to breaking point only a number of days ago when I went to shut down my laptop and take it with me to the lab, only to have to wait for a number of ‘essential’ updates to download to my computer before I could unplug it.

Of course as a HUMAN – I am not about to let any mere machine be the better of me – no matter how technologically advanced. Although I might add as a SCIENTIST I am more than prepared to eventually make way for our inevitable A.I masters. The one advantage I had over my little laptop friend who now held my time to ransom, was I knew exactly where his button was. All I had to do was hold it for a few seconds and he was helpless not to shut down immediately. (I might add at this point had the computer likewise plied me with Malt Whiskey the effect tends to be much the same).

So I continued about my day – content in my small victory, and happy that whenever I had any kind of technical malfunction, the on/off button always appeared to prove a valuable life raft. This was however until I tried to turn my laptop back on again and the little blighter spat back as me various lines of code and something about needing to CHKDSK – and now there were a number of unreadable files. I was incensed – unable now to update my facebook status, the computer had seemingly won.

I am told by the ‘man in the shop’ that I shouldn’t have turned my computer ‘off’ before it had finished installing the updates – and had subsequently corrupted the hard drive. How could Vista have let me down like this? I would have fired off quite a stern e-mail to that moron Gates had I actually had a computer with which to do so. similar I was going to hand write a letter but now find there is a postal strike on.

So it is Gates gets to sit on his micro-chip throne, continuing to infect our computers with his so called ‘updates’ and we are all held to ransom, all because we chose a PC over a Mac. Well sir I am done. Short of a new improved Windows system appearing, you can call it Windows 7 if you like (best copyright that before someone else comes up with it) me and PC’s are through. I am to embrace the cool, sleek surfaces of the Mac – Alan Turing forgive me….