Friday, August 22, 2008

When technology goes wrong

I'm a techie. I like technology and I'm pretty comfortable with lots of different technology. I like talking about it and most of the time, I like to use it.

Except when it fails.

I've had three incidents recently that have been driving me up the wall.

The first one is work related so I can't go into a lot of detail, let's just say that we had a niggly
problem that was holding us up for a few days. We're over it now, but it was adding a lot of extra stress this week. I've worked with our technology for almost 4 years now, and our technology installs easily, performs well, is well supported by our great support team in Ottawa and is mostly a joy to work with. So when things go a little wrong, you're reminded just how complex computer systems are.

The second has been a really beast to resolve. I've been using CA's internet Security Suite (because it was pretty good value) for a few years, but it began reporting errors a few weeks ago that have been very hard to diagnose. The Personal Firewall component was attempting to apply an update, but either the download was continually failing or the install of the update had a problem. The symptoms were annoying errors messages popping up on a very regular basis and more seriously, the firewall remaining disabled. The very nature of firewalls, puts then in the middle of a lot of core computer functions, so they are very difficult to uninstall (especially this CA product). Just look at the number of hits when you google
uninstall CA security. So I began using some weird uninstall applications from CA and thought I had it solved. I actually got it uninstalled, but when I tried to re-install it (with the latest download from CA) I began getting the same problems again. So drastic measures came into play, I looked a little closer and found out that CA had upgraded their product to a 2008 version that was incompatible with earlier versions. But to install, this newer version, I had to upgrade by license keys. So I did that, and duh, the entire current CA install stopped working, anti-virus and all - ouch. So last night, I finally got the new version in place and everything is safe and secure again.

The third one is with a trial version of Photoshop Elements I've been playing with for a few weeks on my laptop. There have been a few niggly issues that I wasn't able to resolve, including a non-functioning help system, failure of auto correction features and disk failures. My wife and I have decided it is the best photo management and editing product, so I bought the CD packaged product and have installed it on our home PC. So far, things look good, help system works, but the resources it's consuming is up and down - a little mysterious. Lots more time to spend with it and I'm keeping my fingers crossed it is worth the investment.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Customer service experiences

Customer service is something I notice a lot, perhaps it's because of the amount of shopping and eating out I do, or maybe because sometimes I'm providing the service.

A very informal survey of today's customer service experiences:

  • Bourbon Chicken Chinese fast food - efficient, polite (highly consistent)
  • Indigo books - unmemorable
  • Pottery Barn - helpful, friendly and chatty (no surprise)
  • LCBO - muted
  • World's Biggest Bookstore - quick and polite
  • HMV - one guy very helpful, another looked like he didn't want to be there (weird)
  • Canadian Tire - quiet and polite cashier (much better than normal) and MIA helpers (the usual)
I looked back on some brief notes I'd made regarding past customer services experiences, however my notes were way too brief to remember the context, but I'll share because they fit:
  • VW - must have been after a repair or maintenance service - poor service (not surprised there, especially from Downtown Fine Cars)
  • Starbucks - poor service, Second Cup much better. I'd say that the Second Cup I visit the most by the office is very consistent and always a nice experience, except for one mix up I can recall. On the other hand, Starbucks seems to be highly inconsistent in the coffee shop world. Some Starbucks locations have great personalities while others in the more main stream locales seem to suffer from constant staff turnovers and sub-par communicators.
Some other memorable good and bad experiences of late:
  • Black's Camera - nice surprise; Henry's Camera - a little snobby and poor
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill fast food - great; Koryo Korean fast food - disorganized
  • Zorbaz pizza in Minnesota - memorable; The Sunshine bar in Kapuskasing - best kept secret in Kap - great atmosphere and band, great Keith's amber on tap but I'm still floored that they didn't have any bourbon, not even Jack - very odd
I just did a quick look for some material to mix into this post and found some great customer service laffs, enjoy.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Free golf - yes, free golf

We enjoyed a great getaway North of the city this past weekend. Part of the weekend was an amazing discovery of a free golf course. Yes, you read that correctly, a free golf course. We found out about the course from a friend who grew up in the area. As you can image our expectations were very low and we had visions of cow pastures, an occasional rough hole in the ground, and perhaps a stick to aim at. What we found was beautifully kept grounds, yardage boards, challenging greens and bunkers and an altogether beautiful experience. There was a donation box on the first tee to which we generously emptied our change draw and helped contribute a little to the grounds keeping costs.

The story goes something like this: local townster begins building a few par 3 golf holes on his property. This grows to more and more holes over the years, but the man is now in his later years. When he passes away he donates his property and the par 3 course to the town. I'm imaging that either the town folk are either supremely generous people or the man wrote some conditional agreement on the donation. Regardless, the town now maintains the course for local families and lucky guests.

A great golf story.

Photo Blog #3: Mono Wasaga

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

It's a little tricky to write this without being a bit of a SPOILER. So, consider yourself warned if you haven't already seen the movie.

I haven't watched too many serious movies of late, but getting back into the home and work routines after my vacation seemed to warrant a simple, grown-up, serious, movie night.

The movie was captivating. It's not any big secret that the story is about a missing child and of course there is a lot of emotional baggage that accompanies such a heavyweight topic. However, I was ready for it and went along for the ride. Fantastic acting all around, with only one small silly moment that seemed to take away a little from the otherwise brilliant story.

SPOILER WARNING...I think I may have committed too early by saying to myself there's no way I can add this movie to my
Memorable Recent Movies list with such a horrible storyline. However, I've got to take that back. For all the difficult elements in telling in story like this, what wins out in the end is a extremely well-crafted creation of a moment in a life where doing the right thing is a very, very difficult decision to make.


Photo Blog #1: Home

The first in a new ongoing series of photographs that I'll try and post on a regular basis whenever the creative bug bites or when I just want to share a beautiful image of a special place or special people.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Fresh (but quickly fading) observations of the city (post vacation)

20 minutes of photographing random people at lunch hour

I wanted to post a few thoughts before I simulate back to my urban life after being away from the city for a couple of weeks.

Large populations will naturally create more variety, however this city's ethnic diversity and tolerance for all tastes in personal fashion, visible social alignment and appearance can make walking down a city street a giddy affair.

Yesterday was my first day back in the office and I found I had a fresh view of the variety of people on the street, every ethnicity, every shape and size, every fashion statement, walking pattern, goddess or geek, the list of the observed differences in people just keeps going on and on and on. I'm finding that this urban visual landscape is extremely full and can be very distracting and tiring.

And of course with the size of a city like Toronto, the sheer number of people on the street, on the subway and in their cars is huge. With all these people (speaking every kind of language) and the infrastructure and services to support it all, also comes one hell of a noise.

Like the huge variety of music I listen to, I'm probably guilty of channel surfing through my day, without stopping and focusing on the best bits. I love having lots of variety in my life, but experiencing a simpler life away from the city for a few weeks, where choice is rather limited has hopefully made me realize that happiness can be found in simple, uncluttered places. Now the trick is filtering out the noise, selecting and then enjoying (a few) simple urban elements.