Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sometimes the Most Simple Things ...

An earlier writing deals with our adventures with AT&T and getting a line dropped, DSL moved from that line to our other line, etc. This is about the aftermath.

Before all the changes, we had Caller ID. It’s a nice way to sort the wheat from the chaff, don’t you think? Well, we noticed after all the changes had been made that we no longer had Caller ID. So, I called the business office of AT&T and was told that it’s usual that with so many change orders on one account that sometimes all the services don’t catch up right away. Huh?

Time passed. It’s now a week after my first call and still no Caller ID. I talked to the service folks who said that indeed Caller ID was connected. They had me disconnect phones and check and recheck. Nada. So, they said they would see what could be done from the central office.

Today an AT&T service technician showed up at the door. Good thing I was home. He couldn’t get a Caller ID signal on his equipment. So, he went to the AT&T building down the street where my line showed it was live for the service. Back here and into the basement again, he discovered that the problem was around our alarm system. Heretofore, the alarm had been on one line and the DSL on the other. Somehow, the bandwidth of the Caller ID signal was being filtered out.

He told me it was an alarm problem and not AT&T, and also told me he had never run into this problem before in all his years with the phone company. While he was here, I called the alarm company. In all their years, they also had never heard of such a problem.

The proposed solution was for them to send me one of their DSL filters which I would put onto the alarm box. The AT&T man and I went to the basement to look at the box to see if there was the requisite jack there to do this. We discovered that there was already a DSL filter plugged into the alarm box (even though there never had been DSL on that telephone line before).

Lo and behold, when you take the DSL filter off the alarm box and just have the AT&T DSL filter, all is well. Sometimes too much filtering is not a good thing.

So, when you call, we now know whether to answer the phone.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Manual Reset - An Adventure with AT&T

DAY 1: We have two phone lines dating back to the early days of AOL and telephone modems and a child living in the house. With our use of mobile phones and only the two of us here, we decided to drop one of our lines. It’s the one that had DSL on it.

I spent some time on the phone with AT&T talking to a service representative that I needed DSL and didn’t want to be without it during this switch. She assured me that would not happen. So we scheduled a date to stop service on the line we were dropping, activate DSL on the other line, and a service call by a technician who would switch over the DSL modem’s jack line from the old number to the one we are retaining. All this happened over two weeks ago. You know where this is going, right?

It’s the day when the switchover is supposed to happen. The technician is scheduled to be here between noon and 4:00. About 2:00, Dave from AT&T Broadband Delivery calls. Seems like the order to change service to add DSL to our existing line choked in the system and got thrown out. Not sure why, says Dave, but it happened and it just came up with their office. And there is no way we can get this corrected until at least tomorrow. He has to manually feed all new information into the system to get things perking. I tell him this is exactly what I feared, and the number we wanted disconnected was, in fact, cut off last midnight, so we have zero DSL service and now would have none for two days. Dave commiserates with me and tells me they should never have scheduled the cut off of the old service until the night after the new service was activated. Gee, I had asked that when all this was scheduled and told it would be no problem for us.

Yes, I know in the scheme of things this isn’t a biggie. I mean it’s not whirled peas or health and human services. But it still rankles. Oh, and I’m still waiting to see if the technician shows up today. Dave says that was on a separate order and there will be no problem. Yeh, you betcha.

Well, it’s now 5:00 and no one has shown up. I spent the last 30 minutes talking to people in customer service, who at first had no real answers for me, as well as listening to music while on hold. Their ticket still shows technician pending. Or maybe it doesn’t. And did you know that even when they give you a four-hour window for service (noon to 4:00 in my case) that they can come any time between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM? I wasn’t told this. Be warned.

Finally back on the line, the customer service rep tells me the technician who was supposed to come and do the installation had previous jobs that took longer than expected and that AT&T was not allowing any overtime. Thus, if a service person had torn your walls and system apart and it was the end of his/her shift, it’s bye bye until manana. At this point, the rep told me, since I was stiffed today, I will be first on the list tomorrow morning. Should I hold my breath?

Everyone is very sorry about this. But, as our old German housekeeper used to say: Sorry don’t mean a hill of beans. The only good thing to come out of this is AT&T is waiving any charges for the installation given the aggravation. But we’ll wait for the statement to see if that happens.

DAY 2: Yesterday, some of the villagers were getting restless. There was murmuring, muted cries, something about pitchforks and boiling oil. One departed and parked by a dumpster at an elementary school down the road, unsheathed her laptop, and camped onto an unprotected WiFi from some nearby house. Hours later, sated, she returned home for dinner.

The morning dawns with my not being able to access my email. Sure, you say, you’re not connected to the Internet. Ah, I reply, but I have my trusty iPhone available. After a not-so-pleasant phone call with DSL services, where I was told I would have no access until my new DSL line was up and registered, it somehow all cleared up and I could communicate again.

Around 9:00, a person from AT&T DSL calls me to say that there had been an error on my request (what I had been told yesterday), that it had been forward to the group that deals with such errors, and that they have not heard back from that group. So, while I might get my DSL back today, odds were it would be no sooner than tomorrow. Ah, same song, second verse. I ask for a supervisor to call me. Steve called back around 10:00 to tell me we’re on today’s schedule to be wired. Hey, I’m wired already!

About now, I wonder when/if the AT&T tech will come. I call “Telco.” I’m now adept in knowing what keys to press to get to someone who can tell me something. I am told that several jobs were not done yesterday due to the no overtime rule. A technician has my order and we are next. However, what he/she is doing is going to take a long time. They expect him/her here by about 1:15. Well, there goes another day. Need to cancel, reschedule, scream.

At 3:00, Keith from AT&T showed up … his last call of the day. He quickly did what was needed and used his laptop to login to change what needed to be changed on our DSL modem. So, we’re live again … as the posting of this rant attests.

“Thank you for choosing AT&T”

Sunday, March 15, 2009

You're Getting Sleepy

Perhaps I’m getting Dopey or Sneezy instead. Like many people my age, I am having some nighttime issues … sleeping, that is. Well, that’s all I want to talk about anyway. I can get to sleep instantly, TV on and loud, the remote raised and still clutched in one hand, newspaper falling out of the other, bedside lamp on. It’s staying asleep that’s been the problem. Some nights I am up about every hour to hour and a half. And some nights I basically sleep until the morning alarm.

I was told by a friend that if I were a woman, I would be informed it was hormones. For men, we’re shunted right to the sleep clinic.

One of my problems with specialists is they want to put whatever is happening to you in a neat cubbyhole, a convenient diagnosis of a disease du jour, the ones they are just sure you have. I’ve been through this before a few years back when I had a cough that wouldn’t go away. I went to several different specialists, all of whom had their own idea of what was wrong with me and that differed from each and every other specialist I consulted. There never was a consensus about what I had and the cough just stopped one day.

So, before the foregone conclusion that the doctor is going to tell you to spend the night in the sleep lab, he asks questions and examines you in order to see if going to the sleep lab is called for. Seems like sleep apnea is the holy grail for these guys. Whatever is going on, it must be sleep apnea. If not, it’s restless leg syndrome. By the way, had you ever heard of restless leg syndrome (unless you or someone you know actually suffered from it) before those ads on TV?

Here are some questions and my responses:

1. Do you wake up gasping for air or short of breath? No.
2. Does your wife observe you stop breathing when you’re snoring? No.
3. Do you have night sweats? Only about twice a year.
4. Are you depressed? No.
5. Are you or have you ever ….. No.

He went through all the obvious things that would indicate a sleep apnea problem, none of which seemed to apply to me. However, just because you have no obvious symptoms of sleep apnea, you can still have it anyway. Got that? And he made me an appointment to spend a night at the hospital’s sleep lab.

If you haven’t gone through this, I will tell you the following: You have to be there at least an hour and a half before you would normally go to sleep since it takes about an hour plus to wire you up. For a “simple” test, you get over 30 electrodes glued to your legs, back, stomach, shoulders, neck, face, and all through your scalp. Wires run up your clothes and join those on the top of your head. From there, they all go into a console. Add a blood oxygen monitor on your index finger and an oxygen meter taped to your upper lip and stuck up your nostrils, and you’re ready for a good night in the hay.

I was restless all night, waking up more than I do at home and staying awake for long periods of time. Knowing I was being watched, taped, monitored, I took pleasure in saying “%$#&. I really hate this” a few times. They told me the next morning I had slept about fie hours and that had over 1,000 pages of data to analyze before I met with the doctor in about two weeks.

RESULTS: I was asleep 4.5 minutes after the technician turned off my light and closed the door. I was in bed about 7.5 hours and slept on and off about 5 of those hours. Lots of technical stuff that boiled down to: “We’re not sure why you have intermittent insomnia so let’s experiment with a few things.” Well, at least I’m not being forced to wear a CPAP … yet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lost in Translation

The Secretary of State is not the only one who gets strange translations. When we were in Paris recently, we went to a wonderful chocolate shop named Jadis et Gourmande. I went to their web site today, but it was all in French. So, I went back to my Google search and clicked on the “translate” button. While the site’s contents seem to come through okay (some stilted English), the name of the company did not. Independently looking up “jadis,” I found it means in the past or formerly. And gourmande is a form of gourmand.

The translation: Formerly and Greedy

Monday, March 09, 2009

Let's Get Sirius

I got a letter in the mail today from Sirius. Our first year of service was free with the car we bought and it’s now time to renew. They provided an 888 number to call. There was no reference to a web site where one might renew, but I went to their site anyway. Nope. No way to renew that I could see.

So, I called the 888 number, did business with them, and was told that as part of our package I could listen free to Sirius programming on my computer. All I had to do was to log into my account. He told me what our user name is and password.

When I tried to log on, it didn’t recognize the name or password. When I went to the screen for “Forgot your user name,?” I filled in the account name on the letter I received, my state, and the serial number of my radio from the letter I received. It didn’t recognize this either.

I called customer care, wrestled with the automatic operator who offered less choices than seemed appropriate, none of which had to do with problems with their web site. Then I was put on hold and subjected to music that I don’t like for 23 minutes without any message regarding how long a wait I might have, whether to call back later due to high volume, etc. There was an option, a recorded voice said, to avoid waiting on the phone by just accessing my account at their web site.

“Jim” helped me finally. Seems like the first guy forgot to tell me the username was (a) all one word, and (b) all lowercase. Well, now I’m logged in and listening to “Mac the Knife” in German.

I Am a Beta Test Site

When I was at the university and any new software or update came along, the other faculty members in my department would always want me to install it on my computer. You see, I am a personal beta test site. If there is a way for the software to crash, I can find it without even trying.

I am proud to say that my knack for this has not diminished with retirement or age. In recent weeks I have found iPhone apps that crash, luckily with no harm to me or people in the near vicinity. Yesterday I bought a program that allows you to create your own ring tones for the iPhone. I downloaded it onto my Mac and started creating some ring tones. Yes, you guessed it, I got the program to misbehave and then to crash.

Hey, I never do this intentionally. I just follow a program's instructions and ask it to do what it says it's supposed to. But I must have magic fingers.

So, if you have software you want to check out, I'm your guy.