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Wednesday, August 27 12:01 AM EST

BBspot Mailbag

Now you too can enjoy my Inbox without the annoying spam. Every week I get some amazing e-mail. Some amazing because of the sheer cluelessness of the sender, some because of the time and energy that went into crafting them and some are just simply amazing.


We're having a hard time fooling people. Maybe the word has been sent out on the "gullibility mailing list" to watch out for BBspot articles.

Dell Support

A reader responds to yesterday's article about Dell's new patent...

Sent: Monday, August 25, 2003 11:44 PM
Subject: Dell patent article

Great... now my ISP is going to start charging more, since they'll be paying lots of royalties to Dell. Either that, or they'll respond by getting a patent for "the problem is on your end, and if you don't like it, we're going to cancel your service." tech support process.

And some more Dell Hell...

From: JBO
Sent: Thursday, August 14, 2003 9:26 PM
Subject: Dell Support Follies!

Sorry about the long letter, but your Dell Hell series inspired me to share one of my horrible experiences.

Our (large, U.S. defense-related) firm is buying Dell PC's by the pallet-load. Oh, wonderful, I said when the first truckload arrived.

Last year one of my subordinates had what could only be described (at least by Somebody Who Has A Clue) as a hard-drive crash. Every time he started it up, it displayed the typically horrifying message, "Unable to locate boot device." When he rebooted the box, it would sometimes (but not always) "find" the elusive hard drive, but if it did then Scandisk would run and find megabytes worth of bad sectors. Sectors that were, of course, full of valuable data and essential programs.

The Nimrod-in-Chief from IT said that Dell wouldn't send us a new hard disk until we had exhausted all other options (what other options?) and then sent them the hard drive; when they had the bad disk in hand, they'd sent us a new drive - which would leave my valuable and well-paid employee without a computer (and unable to do any work at all) until the new drive arrived. Nimrod would come down to our department, reboot the box, see the error, and run Scandisk and Defrag, thus trashing even more data and programs. Meanwhile he'd walk away and leave us to call him over and over again to reinstall those essential programs (including Windows itself, more than once). This went on for two weeks.

Finally I convinced him to cannibalize one of the dozens of Dells sitting on pallets in the middle of the production floor for a fresh drive. I should mention that I suggested that on the first day that Nimrod came down to see the problem (his MSCE status gave him the "wisdom" to suggest from the beginning that it was a "software issue"; yeah, the software disappeared every time we rebooted).

So, let me see if I understand this: we have about $30K worth of Dell hardware sitting on skids on any given day, more being delivered all the time, but they don't trust us enough to send a new 20 gig drive until they get the bad one back. Where do they find 20 gig drives these days, anyway? eBay? What do they cost Dell, about $15? My employee's downtime cost us more than that before lunch on the very first day. Not to mention the 4MB of video RAM - on the motherboard, of course. No fancy video cards for us. Nope, we're a CAD department running PCs with 1/4 the VRAM as I had on my vintage 1996 Gateway Pentium I.

To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld: "Would I do business with Dell, if I had a choice in the matter? Maybe, if they were the last PC manufacturer on Earth. Or maybe not. Pencils and paper are very underrated, you know."

By the way, I build my own PCs for home use. That way there's nobody to blame but me if there's a problem - but there never has been a problem, so it's a moot point.

Jay (running like the wind from Dell Hell)

A rebuttal rebuttal...

From: Steve
Sent: Wednesday, August 13, 2003 9:29 PM
Subject: Dell C640

Noting your ongoing Dell Support commentary; Chad mentions keyboard problems with a C640 laptop. We've got a bunch of these (8, I think) of which within 6 months, 3 have suffered broken keyboards.

I suspect that in Chad's case, his swift response was due to the fact that Dell *knows* that the problem will be fixed with a replacement keyboard.

We have had no problem in getting our keyboards replaced (I'm typing this on my C640 at the moment, so any typo's are Dell's fault, not mine:) Our laptops tend to boot Win2K, Linux and Solaris at a minimum, plus maybe others. They can use Lilo, Grub, or Solaris boot manager to select OSes. The most recent to be replaced booted into the Solaris boot manager boot screen, which scared the poor engineer sent on site to fix it. The laptop's owner was at lunch when the engineer came, so we confirmed that we knew none of his passwords, but here's a DOS boot floppy if you want, or a Linux rescue disk, or the Dell diagnostics floppy, to confirm the keyboard problems. He ended up asking us to boot the Win2K partition for him, and tested the keys be entering "qwertyuiop", "asdfghjkl", "zxcvbnm" into the login prompt. This was apparently enough to convince him of the keyboard problem, and he replaced the keyboard and repeated his "tests". Good job it wasn't the "Windows" key or anything else not displayable in the Win2K login dialog which was playing up!

Also a good job that he clearly knew before coming on site that the problem was likely to be fixed by replacing the keyboard.


.... Just waiting for my laptop's keyboard to die!

I welcome tech support stories from other companies as well, not just Dell :-)

Star Wars

One Mailbagger a few weeks ago claimed that the Enterprise would conveniently have a species to counteract the force on it if it ever met up with the Death Star. I received a plethora of messages like the following...

From: adam
Sent: Friday, August 08, 2003 12:30 AM
Subject: species NOT unknown

Just thought I'd correct one little inconsistency in "Ben's" Star Wars v. Star Trek e-mail, thus proving myself a true nerd ;-). Says he, "Anyone who's watched Star Trek knows that there would be some previously unknown species conveniently on board the Enterprise when they encountered the Destroyer that would be able to counteract the Force."

This may be true, but anyone who's read some Star Wars novels would know that ysalamiri can counteract the Force, therefore they are not previously unknown. Well, previously unknown to the Enterprise, of course, I'd grant you that.

I'm so proud of all of you.

Future BBspot Writer

By Kyle Bresin

Rick Berman: Thank you all for coming today. George and I are very excited to be backing this project. I'm confident that this penultimate science fiction crossover will do more than enough to revitalize both of our flagging, terribly mismanaged franchises.

George Lucas: Flagging? I'm just trying to make it more accessible!

Rick Berman: Whatever... Anyway, our market research has shown that nearly 50% of people who classify themselves as "nerds" have had asked this exact question, "Who would win in a fight between the Imperial Death Star, Mark II and a Borg Cube?".

George Lucas: <chuckles> I think the answer is pretty obvious.

Rick Berman: <scowls> We're going to great lengths to ensure the ending remains a secret of course.

George Lucas: I mean, only *one* of the ships has a weapon that can destroy *planets*.

Rick Berman: The borg have managed to outwit superior firepower before, as the opening sequence of First Contact proved, in which the borg managed to transport themselves onto the Enterprise while it's shields were down.

George Lucas: HA! The Second Death Star has shields!

Rick Berman: Now, wait a second, this movie isn't called "The Forest Moon of Endor and The Death Star Vs The Borg Cube"! No shields.

George Lucas: Well, I don't need shields, since I'll just blow you up before you come within transport range of me anyway.

Rick Berman: That may very well work Lucas, but, by the time I'm within range, I will have encountered enough of your, pathetic, *unshielded* scout tie fighters to have a sizable borg fleet of my own. <Laughs> What's your compliment of them again, 7,000? Let's see you pick those off with your planet sized compensator!

George Lucas: ...

Rick Berman: Well, now that that's settled, any questions?

Reporter: You have a title worked out yet?

Rick Berman: Our working title is The Empire Strikes Back, Futilely.

George Lucas: I thought we agreed on Attack of the Mysterious Sameoids?

Rick Berman: Oh yeah, you always had a talent for picking out titles
George, next question.

Reporter: Will this be a horror movie or a sci-fi movies.

George Lucas: I think you'll find we blended the two quite expertly. Even taking a few lessons from the masters. In fact, the opening scene is a flashback to Alderaan, involving a young Alderaanian, innocently taking a shower, when the death star sneaks up and, well, I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise for you.

Reporter: Didn't the Death Star Mark II get blown up?

George Lucas: That was just a dream sequence.

Same Reporter: The entire movie?

George Lucas: Yes, the Ewoks were a dead giveaway.

Reporter: Will the Enterprise be making a showing?

Rick Berman: Rest assured that the Enterprise and the Rebel Forces will make a showing, and attempt a ragtag saving of the universe. While, I don't wanna give too much away, imagine a mixup that results in Geordi being on the Millenium Falcon, and R2-D2 in the Enterprise engine room.

George Lucas: And Geeks, try not to stroke your lightsabers in the theater, all right?

Rick Berman: Yeah, that can wait until it comes out on DVD.

George Lucas: No DVD release! I'm awaiting the invention of holofilm to release my perfect masterpieces!

Rick Berman: We have to release on DVD! DVD sales can account for as much as 25% more profit!

George Lucas: Your reliance on aftermarket sales is your weakness!

Rick Berman: Your faith in your "Yes-Men" is yours!

George Lucas: I don't have to take this! I'm the best screenwriter, director, producer who has ever lived! <stomps off>

Rick Berman: Please see this movie. Seriously, I owe people money.

That's all for this week!

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