Friday, February 27, 2009

XBOX Technical Support

I spend part of every day working with customers, sort of "the buck stops here" technical support. So I have more than a little compassion for people who, day after day, must suffer through clueless customers. But Microsoft's XBOX Technical Support has set a new low.

It all started when my brand new XBOX 360 made grinding noises and ate the demo DVD that came with the system. The problem has been thoroughly documented by the press:

A little one in the house is very attached to one of the games on the DVD and failure was not an option.

Scratched DVD. Easy problem, right? No, not in Microsoft land.

First I try to ask the question online in their support system at The only choices are for console hardware failures. There's not even a choice for "Other." So I call the 800 number.

After wading through menus for at least ten minutes, I finally reached a human. It takes half an hour to explain that my DVD is scratched. Her grasp of English is shaky at best. She says I have to send my console back for repair. Arguing is futile because she doesn't speak English well enough. So I get a service repair order.

After I hang up, I go to the web site to obtain the printing label. I try to go to the support registration system, but it won't let me because the "serial number is already registered." Well duh, she just did that on the phone. But she didn't associate the registration with my Live account.

I fill out a support form on asking what to do. I use the category "Console will not power on" for lack of a better choice. I get a long form letter, starting with "I know how disappointing it is that you're unable to process a repair online. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience you have felt regarding this unfortunate matter." The email takes eight paragraphs to say "call the 800 number." I tabled the registration problem and just printed the pre-paid shipping label from the web site.

I packaged the system as requested. I taped the DVD to the console with a yellow sticky. I write with my fat red Sharpie pen, "BAD DVD."

A few days later, I get back a new console and a second package with a DVD. Microsoft shipped back the same DVD to me, except they took off the label that said "BAD DVD." There are so many incompetent people involved it's hard to know who to be upset at.

I call back the 800 number again. Every time I ask a question, the support person spends five to ten minutes talking to her supervisor. She wants the serial number for the bad DVD. DVDs don't have serial numbers. She wants some information from the DVD's book. The XBOX Arcade DVD is a demo disc and has no book. It becomes clear that she's apparently never even seen an XBOX 360, much less used one.

After 45 minutes on the phone, she hasn't been able to figure out how to get me a new DVD or how to fix the registration with my Live account. She doesn't even know what a Live account is and tries to get me to use the License Transfer option on the web site. I point out that there's no console associated with my Live account, so I can't have any licenses. She insists that I try anyway, which immediately gives an error message.

She finally gives me an incident number and tells me to call back in an hour. I think that's what's called a "brush off."

I call back two hours later. The new person speaks English quite well and understands it at least better than the last two people. I tell her the problems. She says that she can fix my registration problem by just updating my record. At least she understands the problem and the fix. Her fix doesn't work, but I feel that I've at least obtained validation that I'm asking the right questions.

However, she also gives me the brush off about the DVD. She insists that she can do that for me, but says that "I have to call back tomorrow." At which point she will have gone home and I'll have to start this whole process over with someone else.

So this whole thing should have been one phone call that lasted less than five minutes. Instead, Microsoft's collateral damage is as follows:
  • Support reps on the phone for two hours.
  • Paid to ship console to and from customer.
  • Paid to replace customer's console (which probably had nothing wrong with it.)
  • Paid to ship bad DVD back to customer, in a separate envelope.
  • Public display of complete incompetence.

And the sad thing is, I still don't have a disc that works :-(

Monday, February 23, 2009

Windows 7 Beta on a Thinkpad T42/p

This week I bought an old Thinkpad T42/p off of eBay. IMHO, this system was the pinnacle of the Thinkpad T series, with a great keyboard, a spacious 15" display running 1440x1050, Gigabit Ethernet, and most importantly an ATI Radeon Mobility 9600. This particular system has 1GB of RAM, which I'm told is the minimum required to run Aero. The only real downside to this laptop is that it does not support SATA drives, so you can't put in a 7200rpm SATA drive.

I did a clean install of Windows 7 and I have to say that it runs really well - far better than Windows XP ever did with a similar configuration. Superfetch makes a HUGE difference. I haven't tried to add ReadyBoost yet.

Although the system initially came up with the standard VGA display driver, the Radeon 9600 driver was automatically installed the first time I connected to Windows Update.

The Aero interface did not work at first. I'm not sure exactly what I did to get it working - maybe generating the Windows Experience Index under Control Panel / Performance Information and Tools. I also rebooted a few times. In any case, Aero is now working perfectly.

Here are the numbers reported by the Windows Experience Index:
Processor: 2.0
Memory (RAM): 4.1
Graphics: 2.0
Gaming graphics: 3.6
Hard drive transfer: 2.0

As near as I can tell, all features of the laptop are running properly. There are no missing drivers in the device list. Speedstep works properly. The wireless card works (although I had to choose WPA instead of WPA2 to connect properly to my WRT54G router running DD-WRT.) Display brightness works, volume works, even the ThinkLight. The only thing I installed from Lenovo is the Active Protection for the hard drive.

All in all, I'm quite happy with the T42/p and with Windows 7 experience running on this system.

[Update 5/21/2009] I wiped the system and installed Windows 7 RC today. I confirmed that Aero kicks in AFTER you generate the Windows Experience Index and reboot.

Here are the numbers reported by the Windows Experience Index for the RC. Compared to the Beta, Processor and Hard drive transfer went up and Gaming graphics went down.
Processor: 3.2
Memory (RAM): 4.1
Graphics: 2.0
Gaming graphics: 2.0
Hard drive transfer: 4.3

[Update 10/28/2009] Lenovo has published System Update version 4, which provides a few updates for Windows 7, including the HotKey manager for onscreen feedback of volume, brightness, etc. ActiveProtection is also supported. However, most of the other Thinkpad utilities are still not available for Windows 7.