Monday, October 28, 2013

How CenturyLink Sucks

So... after my last post, I thought it was only appropriate to share how CenturyLink sucks.

First, they gave me an activation date, but no activation time. When during this magical date was the activation to occur? I spent about 15 minutes on the phone (most of that time waiting on hold) before I was given a time (5pm). If they had just included that information in my order confirmation emails, they could have saved us both some time. (Granted, I could have been patient and just seen if it was working the day after, but still.)

Next, during the days before the activation date (they call it an "installation date", by the way), I tried to get my modem sort of "pre-configured". I wanted it to be ready-to-go when they were ready to activate it. So, prior to today (my activation and call-to-find-out-what-time day), I spent a while fighting with it on Firefox - the built-in configuration pages wouldn't work on Chrome. CenturyLink refused to help with anything other than "basic setup", which apparently turning it into a simpler device (by disabling wireless, DHCP, et cetera) wasn't considered "basic setup". Odd.

Anyhow, I decided to contact Actiontec - the manufacturer of the modem. Similarly unhelpful, they at least pointed me in the right direction when they said it was caused by security settings in Chrome. I discovered that Opera worked fine with it.

Able to save my settings (the part that Firefox couldn't do on some pages), I made it my own. I turned on DMZ, tried disabling NAT, and a few other things.

Ultimately, once it was activated, I was locked out of my modem. Not necessarily CenturyLink's fault, but still annoying, nonetheless. I had to do a factory reset (losing all of my settings in the process), and re-setup what I had done.

I discovered that disabling NAT disables Internet access (something that Actiontec had warned me about), but that turning on DMZ really seemed to do nothing, when (in theory) it should have forwarded all unused/unassigned ports to the IP address I specified (as consumer devices do).

It didn't work. Instead, I just forwarded all ports (1-65535) to my firewall, and it's working fine now. So I take to Twitter with my discovery. CenturyLink responds, offering to help. Huh? I let them know (briefly) that they wouldn't help, although that doesn't really matter now.

Note: I realize that some of my issues were due to lack of technological literacy, as well as impatience. Nonetheless, CenturyLink's refusal to help didn't make things any better. Better than Mediacom, but still far from "good".

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How Mediacom Sucks

This post it to chronicle some of my recent experiences with Mediacom. Needless to say, given the title of this post, I'm not too happy with them.

I got a bill from Mediacom, as I do every month. But this one was different; I owed $64.95, not the usual $54.95. I've had issues with the cost going up and down before; it has fluctuated by $15 dollars, depending on where I live. If I live as a tenant somewhere that includes cable TV in the rent, it's $15 less ($39.95). This bill was the highest I've ever been charged for normal monthly service.

So, I did the only logical thing, and called them right away. I was informed that my 2-year contract had expired, thus prompting the higher rate. I asked how this was possible, since I hadn't been living at my current residence for even a year and a half, I've had the same Internet service with them for four years, and I hadn't ever paid this much for their internet access (with or without cable TV-by-landowner discounts). They said they didn't know, there was no way to tell, but that the 2-year contract had ended. I am reasonably certain that this is not the case, since I remember renewing the 2-year contract about 3 years ago - not 2 years ago. This means if it were to expire, it would have done so 1 year ago. Also, I asked at that time (whenever it actually was) what would happen after those two years. They told me it would become monthly (quit at any time without penalties), but that service would continue as usual. This is in stark contrast to what actually happened.

The problem I had wasn't so much that they were raising the rate (although that was, and is, part of it); it was more the fact that I had no notice whatsoever that this was going to happen. So I did the next logical thing: complained on Twitter. Here's what happened:

(Link to that Tweet is here.)

This is a lie. There is no information whatsoever on the statement in question that indicates I would have a $10 price jump on my next bill. See for yourself below. I included both the last normal-charge bill, and the fist bill with the $10 rate increase, just to be sure. Also, I'm not sure why, but the last "normal" charge bill is not normal - it's actually $2 more. A minor difference, but noteworthy nonetheless. (Note: I missed my payment by a day or two, hence the excessive charge on the first bill shown here. It's legitimate - just realize the lack of any "notice".) The stuff I have blocked out are account numbers, addresses and barcodes. Otherwise, the content of the papers have not been altered in any way.

(Links to full-size images: Bill 1 - page 1page 2; Bill 2 - page 1page 2.)

Now, on to some more fun stuff: my grandparents decided on Mediacom after moving back to their home here in Iowa. I was reluctant for them to get it, but went along with it nonetheless. The problems started when we tried to setup an installation time. My schedule, my grandparents' schedules, and the available times slots just weren't lining up. This isn't really anyone's fault; just something to take note of. Eventually, we had a date setup. August 12 from 5-7pm, we were told, was the installation window. The installer would have this window of time to get the work done. They might show up at, for example, 6pm (rather than 5pm) at their discretion, but would have the job done by 7pm. Great. Confirmation number in-hand, we felt good that we'd finally gotten this part of the process out of the way.

On August 10, my grandmother got a robocall while she was driving, confirming the appointment for August 12 at 1-3pm. In no position to do anything about it, she called back the next day, August 11, to correct their error. Unfortunately, the customer service representative was less helpful than expected.

After much arguing with my grandmother, barely able to be understood due to a thick accent (and, apparently, not being able to speak fluent English), we finally had to hang up on him. The most he had told us was that 5-7pm time slots don't start until September, and basically that we were full of crap if we thought otherwise.

We called back, got someone else, and were told that they couldn't find the appointment without the job number. Job number? Not confirmation number? No, they needed both. Well, then. After giving them all sorts of other information (such as name, address, social security number, et cetera), they were able to locate it in conjunction with the confirmation number.

We were then informed that there was no time slot available for 5-7pm on August 12, but that 1-3pm was available, and had been confirmed for our installation time. The customer service representative suggested that we call on August 12 before 1pm, to see if it could get bumped to 5-7pm, but that there was nothing further she could do. Okay, fine. We asked for the job number (which she gave us), re-confirmed the confirmation number (which was correct), and then thanked her lots. Done.

August 12, around 10am, after unsuccessfully attempting to get a customer service representative to move the installation time to back to the original 5-7pm, we realized it would just need to happen at 1-3pm. We rearranged our schedules to make it happen. At 2pm, we called Mediacom. Where was the technician? Were they really going to be able to get it all done by 3pm still? No, that's just the arrival window, they told us. As long as they show up by 3pm, they can stay as long as they need to finish the job. Yet more infuriated  we explained our situation to the less-than-sympathetic customer service representative.

Eventually, the technician did show up (a contractor - not an employee of Mediacom), and did a great job with everything - though apparently dispatch didn't give him the proper cable boxes, so we have yet to get the A/V setup we actually agreed to. (He mentioned this before he started, as soon as he showed up. We weren't mad at him at all, though we were more than frustrated with Mediacom.)

So, if you're thinking about getting Mediacom service: please reconsider. I'm likely going to be switching to CenturyLink myself. Not much better, but at least I won't have to put up with Mediacom's poor business practices and awful customer service anymore.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sun Prairie - Laundry Room

So, I live at one of Sun Prairie/PPM, Inc.'s apartments.

The laundry facilities are terrible... or at least, that's the case in my building.

I emailed the Sun Prairie office a while back, and they actually cleaned out the dryer vents, but fixed none of the other issues I'd mentioned.

The sign that lists the prices and advertises $.90 savings per load ($.45 wash, $.45 dry) when using a laundry card? Yeah, it's inaccurate. I thought the washer was undercharging by $.05, and the dryer overcharging by $.07, each time. Instead, I was told that the charges are correct, but the sign is not. To quote: "We obviously need to have the signs updated so that they match what we are charging our residents, and will see that this gets corrected." That was 2013-01-15. Even now, it's still the same sign that's been there since I moved in, around 2012-02-26.

The humidity is insane. Literally puddles on the floor. Clearly a falling hazard - I've had the tight space be my only saving grace from a sure fall several times. Why is it so humid? Well, the fire marshal says the door needs to stay closed (it is a fire door), and all three dryers share a single exhaust vent. It used to be that the door was propped open, but apparently my additional signs and repeated closings have gotten the other residents out of the habit of that. Even when the door was open, the humidity was insane - just smaller puddles. However, the open door caused the entire hallway where the laundry room is to be unbearably humid.

Also, the fact that the three dryers share a vent cause another undesired effect: if someone is already drying their clothes in one dryer, and you go to put your clothes in another, you are greeted by a cloud of dryer lint in your face, since the pressure of the exhaust from the in-use dryer spreads out equally, utilizing the other two dryers as exhaust vents (in addition to the outside exhaust vent).

It's just really frustrating that they haven't really "fixed" anything, despite my multiple requests.

And that's why this is the "Life Gripes" blog.


2014-03-31 Edit:
This post was originally published 2013-06-17 19:22 Pacific Daylight Time, according to the history thingy on my left. I have not spoken to anyone in any form, about this issue since.

Today, when I loaded up two washers with my laundry, I noticed a couple things:
1. The exhaust portion of the dryers are the cleanest I have ever seen them. (I scope out which dryer I'm going to use, when I start the washers).
2. The sign has been updated!

Credit where credit is due. This blog is about being honest, more than complaining. Don't get me wrong - I'll still complain. But I'll also update posts as I see fit, to account for new information, and keep things honest.

I'm very pleased with the changes I saw in the laundry area just now. Would have been nice to have them happen sooner, but I suppose things sometimes take longer than I'd like.

That's all for now.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Potential Projects

So, being the fairly competent geek that I am, I often look for projects to do, to improve and expand my skills and knowledge. However, it can be hard to do so, considering my lack finances for such things. Therefore, I try to look for extremely low (or even no) cost projects to tackle. Like this blog. I've got plenty of free time, just not enough other resources.

What would you like to see? Stuff that I've thought about doing, but have seen done better elsewhere, include tutorials on various technologies, and aggregated data sets. I've considered starting a sort of "non-censored media", but haven't seen a demand for it. What it would be, is basically a database of political fallacies, as well as reporting on various issues - without clever editing to benefit a specific party at the detriment of another. All bias should be removed before it is published. Only the truth, or admission of an inability to find it, should remain.

Coming up, regardless of whether you like it or not, are some more well-thought-out rants from yours truly.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Myths and Misinformation

Contrary to popular belief...
  1. Cell phones don't cause cancer. If you get cancer from a cell phone, it's probably because you ate some of the plastic or part of the circuit board. The radio waves from cell phones are incapable of harming us in any direct fashion. They are non-ionizing, and therefore safe. This one has been reviewed so many times, it's pointless to post evidence. Nonetheless, here's an article for you.
  2. Cell phones don't cause fires at gas stations. Again, it's been reviewed so well, it's not even worth citing evidence - however, I'll link a video here, because I found it interesting. Basically, this myth likely originated from youngsters igniting gasoline with static electricity.
  3. The "Race for the Cure" (Komen foundation) does not donate all of its money to research for finding a cure to cancer. Besides the obvious logic (paying its staff, buying those t-shirts and ribbons, et cetera), most of the money goes to mammograms. This may not be a bad thing, but it's hardly the best thing. For younger women, they don't really do any good, whether or not they do any harm. Also, mammograms can potentially increase the risk of breast cancer for certain people. See links here, here, herehere, herehere, and here. Want to know the best way to prevent cancer in young women? Look here.
  4. Men can get breast cancer. It's not as common or likely for men as for women, but it can happen. See here.