Andrew Breese

Musings of a professional geek

Tag Archives: service

SuperVPN and Online Anonymity

Important Update: I’ve kept digging since I wrote this post originally and found a heap of reviews talking down Super VPN as a provider. Based on that avoid them. The post below has been edited so that its not misleading.

A good place to start reading about how to use the internet anonymously is TOR, a special browser and apps for hiding your activity.

Read more of this post

Poor transit service

Recently we moved house, so now have to use a train to get to work rather than walking. From day one I missed the walk as it was relaxing and a good time to prepare for work. I was only dependant on myself, and could wander through the backstreets away from other people and traffic.

Now that I’ve had to suffer through the Sandringham train line’s lack of service for months, I miss walking even more. It is typical for at least one of the three trains around 7.30 am to either be delayed or cancelled every morning. Think about that – the trains which are not at the highest load are totally unreliable.

A possible solution would be to catch a later train, except the trains are so full that you can’t get on those either. From around 7:50 am you’re pretty much kidding yourself if you think you’ll always get on the train.

This morning (a) the ticket machine could not process eft-payments, (b) the 7.26 train was cancelled, and (c) the 7.36 was delayed. It is a cruel joke that people have no choice but to use public transport to get to work, the ticket costs increase every year, but the service is unreliable and continues to degrade.

The platform attendant (I don’t know what the person’s realy role is, but they stood near the entry and apologised to everyone) suggested that the “modem connection failed” message from the ticket machine might go away if I tried my Eft card instead of my partners. What? This presents two problems: the modem connection has nothing to to with the card type, and what in heaven’s name would a passenger do if they were not traveling with somebody else? I can’t just ask the next stranger to use their credit card! Perhaps I should carry a spare modem too?

The fall back was to walk around the corner and up the street to a shop and buy a metcard. FFS. When the train station can not sell tickets we have more than a small problem. Travel should be free for these days.

If you think its not that bad I challenge you to log your travel for a month and count how many delays you have. The Melbourne Train Man is doing just that, and his data is damning.

an apple service experience

A few weeks ago I had to replace my iphone due to a hardware fault, and it gave me the opportunity to experience customer service from Apple.

The back-story to this post is the iphone camera unit’s shutter would not open anymore. When the camera app started the shutter would normally start closed, and then open the software iris to let the user know the camera is ready to be used. On my phone it just stayed closed. Searching the web for similar issues indicated that it is a known hardware fault with the iphones, and it is usually replaced.

My steps to get this resolved were:

  1. Check apple website, search for service/warranty area, and then use the online form to find a service centre near work.
  2. Ring the service centre to make sure they were open and available.
  3. Go to the service centre to check in the iphone.
  4. At service centre I was told that they can’t help as only a few stores in Melbourne are authorised to take iphones, but they do most other apple gear. They said the next step was to ring the Chadstone (a large shopping centre) store and book in.
  5. Rang the Chadstone store and was told that I book in via their apple specific web mini-site.
  6. Go to the mini-site and book a time a week or so away.
  7. Visit the store, get the phone looked at, and replaced on the spot.

This was frustrating. The basic apple site did not direct me to the service centre book in for Chadstone. Instead I went through calls, store visits, and store clerks to find that the service was online and could have been easy, but instead was a long process. A 7 step process should have actually been reduced to 2 steps: book in via web and then visit store to get replacement. Blaarg.

Replacing the iphone (or any item that is within warranty) should be easy and the experience should be tailored for the customer. What is odd is that Apple actually had the systems in place, but the staff had no idea what to recommend. They fell back on the “call them and ask, sorry I don’t know” as the default answer. This is the level of service I expect from a fast food vendor earning minimum wage, not a huge multi-national. I’m now better informed about the initial service process for iPhones in Melbourne than the kid working in a city Apple store.

Now I realise that this type of activity is significantly better than some other companies will offer, and it is a negligible problem in the grand scheme of things. A little angst in customer service is standard now, and I think a typical consumer expects to be disappointed by warranty and service.

The last gripe I have with the overall experience is that the “hardware warranty” is basically bullshit as it is offered. The unit had a flaw with the camera equipment which required the unit to be replaced. However instead of the new hardware getting a new warranty period starting from the date it was replaced, the original warranty time still applies.

This basically means that if the same issue occurs again (and it is the same hardware) when the original warranty time expires I will not be able to get the unit replaced. Instead Apple will probably just offer to sell me a new unit. So a known fault just gets flipped for the life of the warranty until you’re screwed. Terrific. I didn’t feel I could argue as the store clerk insisted that it was either this option, or they would not help me.

So what would I expect instead?

The hardware warranty should start again from the date the replacement handset is issued. That unit is meant to be “new” and as such should be fit for purpose. I would also expect that even if the store clerk did not know what the process was, he should have found out on the spot and told me. Or at worse found out and rang me to let me know. This would mean that I would have had a better experience overall, and also that clerk would know for next time.

All we have now is a status quo of poor service based around it being easier to just say sorry and defer the problem. Consider this and think why the support phone lines are so blocked…

So good outcome Apple, but no cigar.

At least the bloody camera works, for the next 210 days more at a maximum when I get to pay for a new one. Guess at that time I’ll be looking seriously at the extended warranty, and what it includes on all sorts of phones.

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