Verizon Online DSL Tech Support, A+

I recently had occasion to call Verizon DSL tech support, and actually had such a good experience that I decided to share some brief details.  One evening this past week we came back from dinner to find our internet connection in a dysfunctional state.  I did the usual song and dance of rebooting the DSL modem/router combo, unplugging it for a minute and trying again.  Nothing was working.  I pulled up the DSL modem’s Http status page and found that it was reporting timing out on the PPPoE connection.  I knew this was going to require intervention from Verizon.

I braced myself for the inevitable.  I was expecting broken english, and a scripted support tech that would not deviate from their troubleshooting script no matter how little sense it made.  What I found was immensely better.  After a couple of automated responses, I was connected to a real human who even had a strong command of the english language.  I described the problem, and told her that I was already looking at the DSL modem’s http status page, and told her what the page said.  She asked if I’d done the reset dance yet, and then had me try a couple more things from the router page.  I was in awe.  No jumping through hoops (or pretending to jump through hoops I knew weren’t relevant).  She knew exactly what I was talking about, and quickly came to the conclusion that it was probably an issue on Verizon’s side.  After 3 or 4 minutes, she asked me to hold while she connected me to someone from the network group.

The second individual verified a couple more things, mostly dealing with the PPPoE login.  He had me try a “test” account, and then set it back to my account.  My connection was still dead, but he was confident that it was a Verizon network issue and told me he would dispatch it to the appropriate team to handle.

Now my DSL was still dead.  It wasn’t fixed for another 16 hours.  The fact that the tech support personnel I dealt with were proficient, respected my knowledge and the troubleshooting that I had already done, and quickly and efficiently isolated the problem and started the process to get it fixed, all made this a positive experience for me. A+.

Confessions of a Microsoft Loyalist…

Historically, I’ve been a pretty solid Microsoft supporter.  I’m a big fan of the platform.  I’ve taken the time to get MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA certifications, and I work day in and day out with Microsoft tools, Microsoft servers, and a Microsoft language (C#). But today, I watched Apple’s WWDC keynote.  And I liked it.  Actually, I read the Engadget play-by-play earlier, and this evening, I took the time to watch the keynote, even though I had to install Quicktime.

The Microsoft jabs were bit over the top, but at the same time, the Mac team is getting it done.  With the exception of their “we don’t get viruses” claims, almost everything had a ring of truth in it.  That’s why it hurts.

I’ve been questioning my exclusive focus on Microsoft technologies for a while.  I’ve delved into Linux and Perl in the past, but for the most part, my expertise is tied to Redmond.  But the tides seem to be turning a bit, and while I don’t think Microsoft is going away, I think it might be time to diversify my skillset.

I had already decided that I was going to learn Ruby on Rails after I finish up my MBA classes (6 days left!).  Now I’m starting to think about picking up a cheap Mac and getting my feet wet there as well.

Microsoft needs to wake up and realize that no matter how good the products they build are, if they can’t ship compelling software, and ship often, they are going to be left in the dust.  The phrase “compelling software” is the key here.  It’s got to make me excited about using my computer.  While I’m loving the Vista beta for the times that I have to use my computer, it doesn’t make me want to use it more.  Unless you can figure out how to use your resources better to make products customers will love, you may find yourself forced into implementing a certain anonymous blogger’s vision.

The future of mobile UI?

James Kendrick points to an idea from David Beers about a simple but innovative idea for UI’s on mobile devices.  Basically, the user could use a touchscreen to navigate a decision tree, where only the next action would presented. 

From David’s post:

Imagine that instead of the usual smartphone graphical menu–a grid of icons to tap–we had the icons arranged in, say, a ring with a tiny “+” to mark the center. That mark is where you begin the gesture to perform a new task. To check your Gmail account you move the stylus from the center of the screen toward the Email icon, which in turn enlarges and moves to greet your stylus point. Other icons shrink and move out of the way–you’re not interested in them now. As the pen approaches the Email icon the most common email tasks emerge as icons and text around it: perhaps Fetch, New, and Read. Moving the pen smoothly toward Fetch it expands and account option icons blossom from it: Work, Gmail, and All. Change the direction of the pen movement to meet the Gmail icon and lift the stylus point. The email client launches and checks your Gmail account after a single stroke of the stylus. The visual effect could be stunning–variously rendered as flying into the interface or watching a vine sprout in stop motion video. It would be easy to make this the stuff of a Hollywood sci-fi thriller.

After living a couple months with the touchscreen-less Motorola Q, I can definitely appreciate how much more useful something like this could make a phone.
I agree with James that the fingertip interface is much more user-friendly.  It’s my impression that geeks don’t mind pulling out a stylus, but that real people don’t want to look like geeks.