Why Telstra Sucks

Lets face it, it’s a miracle that Telstra is still in operation. They couldn’t organise their way out of a freakin’ paper bag and have zero idea about making their customer experience worth while. The only thing they have going for them is their great mobile phone network, and even that benefit is starting to fade.

My mobile phone is with Telstra due to some work I was doing with a previous company. When I started the gig, I ported my personal number into the company’s account and had it linked to a new Blackberry. When I left, we tried to get my number back to me and give the Blackberry to another staff member. Sadly, this was not possible as Telstra claimed the phone number & Crackberry were locked together until the 18 month contract ran out.

First black mark – the number should be portable, the contract & phone can stay with the company. Whatever.

So, for another project I’m doing I’ve picked up a Telstra $10 prepaid starter kit (SIM card with associated number) because the phone’s going to be texting my phone and a number of others on the Telstra network. Telstra offer a plan with $0.01c SMS rates when sending to Telstra phones. Nice – more testing for less $$$.

OK – that’s a good thing – they get a tick for that.

Then I set up the SIM and get it started. I try to do it online (being the online kinda guy I am) but I’m registering it under my company’s name (it’s being used for a project) and the online registration wants me to enter two forms of proof that my company exists. What are the options? A fixed line phone bill and/or a rates invoice. Say what? We run a small company that has no office or fixed services or rates or anything. WTF?

Yet another black mark – I guess Telstra’s idiotic legal types have stated that all companies must have these so that’s what they’ll use to verify corporate info.

Right, so I call in and get the starter kit happening. YAY. It’s not that painful dealing with a human and I can register it under my company, just supplying both ACN & ABN (why I need both though is odd as usually the ACN is sufficient).

Half mark there – not a full mark, but OK.

Comes now the fun part – I have no credit on the phone. Say what? Where’s the $10 that comes with the pack? It’s not there. WTF?

So, I go to their Prepaid Portal to register online and check where the problem may be. Bzzzt – the registration fails, telling me there’s a problem with their systems and to come back in 24 hours.

Sorry, isn’t this a mega-corporation? Shouldn’t their systems just work? Yes, OK, I know, I’ve worked in Telstra IT before and quite frankly it’s a miracle anything works in that place.

So, major black mark on Telstra’s image as a credible organisation.

A few days later, I manage to get the registration done and can access my account, confirming that there’s no credit.

I call their voice line and, after going through a few prompts, wind up sitting on hold for 3 to 5 minutes and then get through to a human. Clearly not from around here, she is polite and trying to help. She tells me to call their number on the mobile and press 1 then 1 to activate the $10 bonus credit. Gee, that’s news – it wasn’t listed anywhere.

OK, lets do it while we’re on the phone (good thing I called on the landline, yeah? :). I call it on the mobile and follow her instructions but it doesn’t work. I talk her through what’s happening and she realises her advice isn’t correct in this case. She needs my info to look into it further. I’m part way through this when the phone call drops out. Ummm – WHAT???

Yes, that’s right – while talking to Telstra’s helpdesk somewhere in the world other than Australia, the call got dropped. Oh yes, way to go mega-comms company. I feel so much more reassured about purchasing your communications products – NOT!

So, another black mark.

I call the number again, follow the prompts, sit on hold and start talking to the person I get through to (again, not from around here). They look into everything and then tell me that all is good but I first need to purchase some credit for the account and that will activate the “bonus” $10 credit. Ummm – say what??? Where was that plastered everywhere when I purchased the kit? There is something mentioned on page 9 inside the little booklet but it says:

If you have selected a Telstra Pre-Paid offer that gives you an included bonus amount or value, remember to recharge the correct amount to get the included benefits of your offer.

Ummm, yeah, right, whatever. Slightly confusing and also written in small font. Not clear, not obvious. Good grief…

As of the moment, I’ve recharged the prepaid account but the $10 that was supposed to come with it isn’t showing. I give it a day or two and then if it’s not showing up, I’m going to get *really* angry and will call them again to complain.

All this freakin’ effort just to get a prepaid sim up and running?

Hello Telstra, you are farking clueless idiots who deserve to be broken up and made to compete on a level playing field with other telcos. With luck, you’ll finally “get it” and be able to lift your game, but it is highly likely that you will be beaten by other companies that understand quality & customer service.

As soon as my current contract is over, I’m taking my Blackberry to another provider ‘cos clearly Telstra isn’t worth supporting at all.

Flat out working

Wow, I’ve been slack with blog posts, that’s for sure. We’re nine months into the year and I’ve posted almost nothing this year. Hmmmm…

Since July things have rather exploded. In addition to my work with apc.au, working as part-time hot air balloon crew and managing the Experience This! blog, I also picked up some other work:

  • I spent a month working as a digital producer/project manager for an online advertising agency. I was filling in for one of their team who was on leave and it was great to work in the creative world once again, coordinating work with designers, helping out the account managers and keeping some developers in line. Of course, not having to wear a suit helped too :)
  • I started a whole new aviation podcast with Steve and it’s really taking off (to push the inevitable pun :) We’re calling it Plane Crazy Down Under and it’s getting a bit of a following both here in Australia and around the world. Definitely worth checking out – apparently even non flying junkies are enjoying it.
  • Just over a month ago I started a new contract as an IT Infrastructure Project Manager with Aussie Home Saver, a start up company that’s growing rapidly in the home insulation business. As you might expect with a start up, there’s a LOT to do and we’re flat out providing a stable technology platform to support the growth. Fortunately our efforts have been successful and well received so we’ve hit a few home runs and are working hard to keep up the momentum.

It’s certainly kept me busy and at least I’m earning some real money once again. Juggling all my responsibilities and commitments is proving to be rather tricky, but I’m getting there.

Dr Who Rocks My World!

After watching all the Monkey episodes, the whole Robotech saga and a number of other old TV series, we decided it was time to go WAY back and kick off a major adventure. We’re going to watch ALL the Dr Who episodes, starting with the first Doctor, William Hartnell. We’ll work our way through the classic episodes until (eventually) we get to the modern series. This should be a most excellent adventure :)

Ponting needs to review his history

The Australian Cricket team’s captain, Ricky Ponting, recently accused the Pom’s of “cheating” during the recent “nail biting end” of the test match in England (note: played for 5 days and it resulted in a draw – vote: 1 “Cricket” for most boring game in existence :) You can read about his reasons in the news recently.

Technically, the Poms sending in the 12th man and team physio at points during the match (effectively stalling the game) was not against the rules. It could, however, be called “stretching things” :)

It’s kinda like poetic justice for the Australian team to fall afoul of rules that allow sneaky play. Anyone remember a certain underarm incident?.

Been a long time…

Well, it’s been about six months since my last post. A lot can happen in that time and it certainly has:

  • We moved house in February to be in the selection zone for McKinnon Secondary College, a school that should be great for Nykolai when he starts grade 7 next year. It gets great reviews and is supposed to be one of the better public schools in Melbourne. The selection zone is rather small and demand to attend the school is high, so renting costs more in the zone than outside. He’s still going to St Kilda Primary for the rest of this year so there’s been a bit of commuting, juggling and so on but we’re managing.
  • Things didn’t work out at Evolve and I finished up there at the end of February, finding myself without work right in one of the worst job markets anyone’s seen for ages (it’s worse than the recession of the 90’s, that’s for sure). I’ve spent the last few months applying for jobs and it’s only been in the past few weeks that agents have been calling me back – usually it was silence or rejection slips. Very much a buyers’ market as companies can specify exactly what they want and there are so many people looking for work that they can pick & choose. The market appears to be turning as we enter the new financial year, so that’s a plus.
  • I’ve set up and am managing the World Aviation Experience blog. The main aspect of WAE is their Flight Experience Melbourne 737 simulator and the merchandise they have for sale at their online store. We’ve set up the instructors at the simulator on Twitter where they’re tweeting the cool flights that they do and there’s quite a bit of content in the blog already. We have some big plans for expanding the content and linking up with other ventures, so be sure to link in with the blog’s RSS Feed to keep up with the news.
  • I’m back crewing the hot air balloons in both Melbourne and the Yarra Valley. I really enjoy it and have been getting some great photos. Of course, we’re in winter now and the flying drops right off over July/August as the weather gets worse.
  • I’ve been working on a couple of proposals at apc.au, one an international development project and the other for a refugee based project here in Australia. The Australian project’s under way during July but the international one got put on hold. We’ll see how things go over the next month or so.
  • I’m still naffed off that the Australian Government is still pushing ahead with their idiotic Internet Filter plans and have started expanding its intended coverage (gee, there’s a shock). As much as I thought Howard was a complete bastard of a Prime Minister, this insanity is showing that Senator Conroy is the worst Communications Minister we’ve EVER had (and that’s saying something as we’ve had some shockers).
  • We’ve been to see Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion production and thought it was good but Varekai was better.
  • Kitt and I went to see Dylan Moran live at the Arts Centre on Easter Sunday and, more recently, Avenue Q at the Comedy Theatre. Dylan was hillarious and our sides were aching from laughing so much through the whole show while Avenue Q was brilliant (imagine a deranged adults only version of Sesame St merged with a dash of Tray Parker & Matt Stone). Very happy we went to see them.
  • We’ve been watching season 1 shows from Heroes and Dexter (yes, we’re WAY behind – whatever) and have watched all of True Blood (including the latest few episodes on season2). I’d say that these shows plus Battle Star Galactica and the ROME series show that there’s a chance for TV yet, but then I think about the rest of the crap that’s on and have to admit that it’s doomed.

Otherwise, that’s about it and life goes on. I’m keeping busy with applying for jobs and these projects but there’s no real income, so we’re surviving on my savings (now finished) and Kitt’s income. A plus is that I’m getting time to exercise, so I’ve lost a few kilos – still a long way to go, of course…

When in Rome…

We’re watching the Rome mini series and it’s amazing. I am certainly not an historian of the ancient world, but I’ve got an understanding of what it was supposed to be like. Sure, I’ve devoured every Asterix story (in more than one language too), read some historical stories and watched a few documentaries of the epoc. From what I’ve learned, I have to say that this TV-series is amazing in its portrayal of life in ancient Rome. Certainly, at times it’s like watching Dallas (political intrigue, families vs each other, matriachs wanting to kill each other, etc) and the British accents can be grating at times, but damn it’s good.

If you have the chance, I totally recommend watching both seasons of this show. It’s got sex, violence and historical accuracy. Run, don’t walk, to get your hands on the DVDs.

A New Year, a Birthday and a surprise Museum visit

Our New Years Eve was pretty quiet as Kitt wasn’t feeling too well, so we stayed at home and relaxed, watching some movies while eating cheeses, olives & crackers. Not a bad way to see in the new year.

Probably a good thing we didn’t go and push it too hard as January 1st is Nykolai’s birthday so once again we had a quiet day of gifts, family and relaxation. Given most of his mates are away on holiday, we save the real birthday party for February when school’s back.

Today found Nykolai and I out at Williamstown so we decided to go and check out the HMAS Castlemaine museum. The Castlemaine is an Australian Navy Corvette (minesweeper) from World War II that’s being preserved as a floating museum. It’s pretty cheap to get on board and check it out and worth it to check out some very old technology. The scariest part for me was that they used to have a crew of about 90 people on board a relatively small vessel. Talk about cramped quarters…

Anyone for Cricket?

I went and watched part of a Cricket match the other day. It was the third day of the Australia vs South Africa test at the MCG. Now, before you fall off your seats, I went with two American friends who were visiting in Melbourne, so I went along to share the joy of trying to confuse a poor foreigner, not out of any twisted love of the game or anything.

Laura flew in from San Francsico on Christmas Day and Bryce came down from Brisbane on Boxing Day. Given Bryce has been living in Australia for a while, he’s already learned the joys of cricket and has experienced a number of games at the Gabba. For Laura, however, it was all new.

I’d had a go at explaining the rules as I drove Laura in from the airport on Christmas Day. She’s not your average yank, as she watches the BBC, loves reading Terry Pratchett’s books, likes the Pythons and does remember that, according to Douglas Adams, Earth is shunned due to the game of Cricket being a warped parody of the most destructively genocidal galactic war ever fought (the Krikkit Wars). Given all that, she’s already well on the way to “getting” the game.

Thanks to my friend Stephen we were able to get three general admission tickets for the Sunday session. We went by train (Connex were late as usual) and shuffled through the station’s gates, swarming in with the mobs of people who were going to the game. Surprisingly, I ran into someone I used to work with back at EDS (Hi Mark) who immediately realised that I was, perhaps, the last person at the stadium who should have been trying to teach Laura about cricket. Fortunately I do recall that many of my misspent days of youth included watching cricket with my family and playing it with friends. So, while I don’t know shit about the current teams, details of coaching methods & support staff for the team and, in fact, may of the other items that fans may know, I was able to help give her a basic understanding.

Once in the stadium we found a good spot to sit (opposite the view board) that had shade, great views and let us get a feel for the size of the stadium. It was only about 1/3 full which is probably why we were able to easily get good seats. Not long after we arrived the teams came out with South Africa batting and Australia trying to get them all out and force a follow-on to their next inning. This, of course, made it rather more exciting than the usual test match cricket day (which can often be like watching paint dry).

We only wound up staying for the first two hours as Laura & Bryce wanted to scoot off down the Great Ocean Rd. While only a short time, it was enough for Laura to get a feel for the game and experience the following:

  • A good, running catch out near the boundary
  • A variety of different bowling method styles (pace & spin), fielding positions (slips, silly mid off/on, etc) and how the whole field adjusts when changing from a left handed to right handed batsman
  • The basics of the game (overs, changing ends, runs, attempted stumpings, etc)
  • Some poor person in the level above us having a medical emergency and getting CPR for about 15 to 20 minutes – no idea what happened as there’s been no news about it
  • The “yobbo crowd” in Bay 13 getting up to their usual antics (starting waves, chanting, bouncing beach balls, etc)

So yes, a great day to take someone new to the game and let them experience it. It wasn’t quite as exciting as a 1 day match but it did flow quite well.

The one thing that’s sticking in my mind about all this is a major “WTF???!”:

What the hell is it with Australia that you can’t bring glass bottles into the stadium but you can bring a freakin’ cricket bat??? I mean, hello? Leathal frickin weapon here!

Oh well…

I took a few photos of the cricket experience and have loaded them into the Gallery system I recently set up. I intend to sort out its look and feel (currently pretty yuk) and transition most of the current Photos into it soon.

I ate what?

Wow – over a month since the last post and I’ve only logged one post since Oct 15th. Can you tell I’ve been flat out lately? So, what’s been happening – well, here we go:

  • I left EDS and started a new role as Service Delivery Manager for Evolve Information Services, a small company based in Melbourne CBD. We are a small, growing software development (primarily C# .NET) and business intelligence reporting bunch and I’m trying to keep it all ticking over while the boss grows the business (can’t run it & grow it at the same time). It’s keeping me absolutely flat out but I’m loving it – I’m being stretched and challenged by a great bunch of people which is exactly what I need to get my career up to the next level. Woo hoo.
  • Things are ticking over at apc.au as most of the projects are settling into the Christmas quiet time. Andrew’s over in Graz (Austria) with lots more travel likely in 2009, so I’ll be keeping things running as smoothly as I can from here.
  • Nykolai’s doing well and has just finished Grade 5 with good results – he still needs a bit of work on his maths, but otherwise he’s doing great.
  • We’ve managed to survive Christmas staying at home this year. Usually we’ll travel up to Kitt’s mom’s place in Tweed Heads but this year she’s coming down later so we decided to stay home. We’ve picked up a Christmas tree that is, admittedly, plastic but looks extremely realistic. Kitt did a lot of great work cooking & preparing some excellent food for us all to enjoy – check out the photos at the Christmas 2008 gallery.
  • Laura, a friend of ours from San Francisco, decided to come to Australia for a holiday and arrived on Christmas Day so she’s hanging out with us and then travelling around Oz checking the place out. It’s been great fun having her here – especially when trying to explain to her that wonderful game of Cricket – if we’re lucky we’ll get to take her to a test match before she goes and then she will discover that Baseball is not the most boring game on the planet.

There’s been other things happening but these few have been the big ones so far. With luck I’ll have more energy after Christmas (assuming I survive digesting the food and booze, that is) and will be more regular with my blogging.

No matter what your persuasion or alignment, I do hope you’re having a great holiday and enjoying yourselves. We certainly are.