Hurricanes Galore

Gotta feel sorry for the folks in the Bahamas and the Carribean – they’re getting pounded by a series of tropical storms and hurricanes this season. We’ve already had Tropical Storm Fay go up the edge of Florida and Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana. Now there’s Tropical Storm Hanna which was a Hurricane for a short period before it dropped back to TS level. It’s working its way to Florida and North Carolina with a good chance it’ll go back up to Hurricane status. All of these are dumping massive amounts of rain on the area causing flooding, wind damage and general chaos.

As if all that wasn’t enough there’s also Cyclone Ike that’s way out in the Atlantic and was Category 4 (on a scale of 1 to 5) but is (as of the moment) Cat 3. Plus there’s Tropical Storm Josephine all the way over closer to Africa. You can see a lot of this over at the National Hurricane Center

Given the season officially started on June 1st and we’re up to the J’s already, if this keeps up it’s going to be one hell of a bad time to be an insurer. The folks who live around this area are going to be in for a rough ride – glad I’m living well away from it.

More lessons in how not to market your services

About a month ago, I was having a run in with a domain registrar that just didn’t get it. Back then, despite their best efforts, I managed to move my domain to another registrar although they did keep contacting me afterwards about confirming the transfer (ummm, it’s already been done) and then an email re: expiring domain (erm, no, it’s been renewed during the transfer).

Surprisingly, they called me today and left a message saying that my domain was expiring. An amazing demonstration of disconnection between marketing/renewals and actual content. I called back but it was after 5pm on a Friday, so they’d already left. Guess we’ll see how they handle the “Umm, no, it’s already gone” message on Monday.

How not to market your services…

Back at the start of June, I realised that my domain was coming up for renewal. Now that I’m hosting with DreamHost, I figured I should use them as my registrar as well (“first domain registration free” did have an influence :) ).

Both and another of my domains were with an Australian registrar who were charging about AUS$40 per year for a .com – ouch! When I tried to move them to DreamHost I couldn’t find the registry keys anywhere on the current registrar’s control panel. Nor could I unlock the domains so they could be transferred. Most annoying.

So, I logged a support ticket on their web based system and figured I’d give it a few days as it wasn’t critical. A few days later and there’s no response, so I update the ticket to put more info in and ask for a prompt response. Another few days later and it’s been over week with no response, so I call their 1-300 number. Fortunately I get through to someone pretty quickly and they knew what they were on about, unlocking the domains and emailing me the keys. Yay.

I pointed out that I’d logged a support ticket and been waiting for over a week. The guy said it sounded like that queue was stalled again and that he’d organise to clear it out. Nice one…

So, with the domains unlocked and the keys in hand, I went straight back to DreamHost’s control panel and kicked off the transfers. Within about 24 hours the domains were transferred and renewed out another year each. Excellent.

There the issue would have remained had not the Australian registrar demonstrated that stalled support queues were the least of its problems. From out of the blue a few days later I get an email from a person at a completely different company stating that they’d noticed I’d asked to transfer my domain so could I please confirm it so they could allow it. If I had any questions I could contact them or my “account manager” who was also at this entirely different company.

Fortunately I knew that the organisation that sent this “out of the blue” email was actually the owner of the registration company I used to be with. Of course, there’s nothing on either group’s web pages to say this.

I replied advising that the transfer had already occurred so thanks for asking but there’s no need…

Once again, you’d think that’d be it, but no, there’s more. I received a snail-mail letter from the ex-registrar which was dated a day or two BEFORE the transfer took place but arrived just over one month after the date it was printed. It was a reminder to renew along with an invoice to make it all easier. It also featured vertical stripes and fades associated with a printer that badly needs its toner cartridge changed. Such a good look, both in presentation and in content.

Then, I get an email a few days after that which also sought to remind me that my domain was due for renewal – you know, the one I transferred away from them over a month ago (and renewed in the process). Ummm, hello???

So lets see:

  • There’s no way to unlock a domain or find its registry code
  • The online support request went into a stalled queue
  • I get a “please confirm your transfer” request after the transfer is 100% completed
  • I get a “domain renewal reminder” letter/invoice a month later
  • The letter shows that the printer that produced it desperately needed a toner cartridge change
  • I get a “domain renewal” email over a month after I’ve completed the transfer to a new registrar

Way to go gang – a great example of “how not to keep your clients.” Still, at least their phone support was pretty good…

Some days are better than others…

Today was mostly a day of frustration, a day where one considers that no amount of work is sufficient to get on top of things, let alone clear the backlog and that Dilbert is sadly all too real. It’s not as bad as working for Vogons but it did begin to look like it might just be heading that way. The joys of working for large organisations, I guess…

Happy Feet is a boring movie

Finally got around to seeing the movie Happy Feet today – well – most of it. I got up a few times to do other things and didn’t bother getting Kitt & Nykolai to pause it.

Nykolai’s seen it before and was only watching it ‘cos he wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to leave his beanbag. I think that’s the only reason why Kitt stuck it out to the end as well – she wasn’t feeling well either.

Suffice to say, this movie is lucky to reach a 4/10 on my scale. Sure, it’s got some funny bits and Robyn Williams does a good job in it (but no where near as good as he did in Robots). Sadly, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a flop. The feeling I got was that the director was trying to be a new Baz Luhrmann for animation but, you know what, Moulin Rouge wasn’t that great either (although Kitt was OK with that one, she found that Happy Feet just wound up pissing her off).

So, all up, a movie to avoid unless you’re desperate for something new to see. There are far better animated movies out there.

What’s News Today?

Lots happening at the moment – from studying for my Maintenance Authority on balloons through to keeping the computer systems of my clients operating. Then there’s the crap – like the latest bullshit the government keeps throwing at us. As if the new Industrial Relations laws they’re on about weren’t bad enough, now they’re destroying our freedoms with these new “anti-terror” laws.

Right now, I have zero faith in either of the two main parties in Australian government. The Liberals, headed by Jackboot Johnny, are complete bastards while Labour, under Beazley, are almost useless – they’re agreeing to all the changes that are, slowly but surely, turning Australia into a fascist state.

The terrorists have won, and they haven’t had to do a bloody thing since 9-11! We’re destroying our society for them – how stupid can we be?

Don’t Buy DELL Equipment

Way back in 2000, I purchased a DELL laptop over the web and, once it arrived, I was very happy with it. Given I was using it all the time for my work, I took out a 3 year “Next Business Day” onsite warranty. Perhaps the luckiest thing I’ve done in quite a while.

After about a year of operation, I started to experience problems with the keyboard. The 8, I, L and . keys would just stop working – nothing – all the other keys were OK but those would just not produce any characters. I cleaned it out, tried again, same problem. Eventually, things would work again. I called DELL support and they decided to send over a replacement keyboard. This seemed to help for a month or so, then the problem came back.

Over the next few months, DELL replaced the motherboard, keyboard, RAM, etc a number of times. Eventually, they told me that they would be giving me a free warranty replacement unit as they were giving up trying to repair it.

Not bad – I can put up with that…

About a year or so after getting the new replacement laptop, the mouse buttons near the bottom of the trackpad start to come loose. Out comes a DELL service tech to replace the wrist guard and touchpad.

Some time later (about 1.5 years after getting the new unit), I start experiencing new problems. Strange behaviour, etc. After a few calls to DELL, I’m able to catch the problems “in the act” and get concrete evidence for tech support. They send out a new motherboard and RAM.

All seems fine for a while, then the mouse buttons near the bottom track pad start to come loose again. Call DELL, explain the problem, out comes tech with new equipment.

At about the two year mark, the CD/DVD-player in the laptop just ain’t cutting it. I’m trying to rip my CD collection to MP3 for my home system but can’t read the majority of them (they work fine on other equipment). Call DELL, try a few things, out comes a tech with a replacement CD/DVD drive.

Now, a little over two years since I first received the laptop as a replacement, it looks like the hard disk has packed it in. I started getting Windows XP blue screens with spontaneous reboots. Call DELL and they advise it could be new software, convincing me to use System Restore to roll back the config to before these problems started.

I’ve done that, but it’s made no difference as I’ve had the blue-scren+reboot thing a few times. It’s also come up “No Boot Device” a few times. Now it just won’t boot at all :(

So, in short, DELL’s tech support service is really really good (especially when you’ve got a good warranty :) but their products are absolute shite! I’ve had more go wrong with these two units over about 4 years than I’ve had across *ALL* the other laptops and desktops I’ve ever owned.

As the Technology Manager for one medium sized organisation and the Technical Director of smaller one, I’m able to influence the buying decisions of a lot of people & systems (plus I’m always being asked by family & friends re: recomendations, etc). Suffice it to say that I’ll not in any way be recommending DELL equipment! At one location, we’ve ordered a total of 12 laptops in the past year or so – they’ve all been Toshiba – funny that.

Bloody English Language

It’s hard to believe that English is becoming the “language of choice” for the business/technical world. It’s hard enough to learn as a first language, let alone as a second, third or even fourth language.

I’ve been helping my son Nykolai with his spelling home work. Each week the kids are given a list of words to learn and are tested on a Friday. Much fun and we work at it when driving in the car or at the end of the day for his homework.

At the worldly-wise age of six and a half (gotta have the half – that’s important you know :) he has discovered the joys of words that are spelt similarly but pronounced differently. He’s also discovering that some words are spelt differently but pronounced the same.

The classic today was that food and wood are different by one letter but the “oo” is either long (fewd) or short (wud) with no way of knowing except through experience. Hah! Wait until he gets to comb and tomb :)

Then, of course, he’s already meeting there, their and they’re – all pronounced the same bloody way. Hah again! I’m waiting for the moment I can run this line at him:

“As I sat with you under the yew a ewe strolled by.”

Officially, it’s about sitting with someone under a tree and watching a sheep but if you’re not up with your trees and animals, the mind boggles! :)

My second language is Spanish and I’ve really got to hand it to a language where you pronounce it how it’s written. No silly “i before e except after c” or plain old “you just have to know how it sounds” situations. Once you get the hang of the vowel sounds and accent marks, you’re away. Sure, it has irregular verbs (shudder) but don’t most languages?

Anyhow, I’m off to see if I can’t relearn my French and German (they got kicked out due to disuse when I learned Spanish – whoops :) and learn some more Thai. I figure the languages to watch though are Mandarin and Hindi, just by population numbers alone. Add in the fact that China/Asia and India (technically, also part of Asia :) are likely to be the “new barbarians” that take over after the fall of New-Rome (aka the USA), well, ni hao ma? :)

For now, here’s a few other pages with rather amusing comments on the perils of pronouncing the English language :)

Cheap Thoughts on English

Poems on the perils of English pronunciation

Yet another poem on the pronunciation perils