Grumble 48

Another Wanadoo problem (September 2004)

 I was sorting out some problems on a neighbour's computer last week. "Wanadoo are offering 1Meg broadband for next to nothing", I remarked and before long I'd keyed in enough information to have ordered a free modem. I wasn't too concerned as another customer had taken up the offer and he'd had no difficulty getting on line and since June I reckoned they must have got the bugs ironed out. I'd forgotten he was using XP and this latest customer was still with Windows 98. At least, I hadn't actually remembered she was using Windows 98 until I got the plaintive call for help about a week later. The new broadband modem hadn't installed properly. At least it had sort of installed as both green lights were on, and as advised in the paperwork this meant it had installed properly and the line was ready. A quick check in System... Hardware though revealed an exclamation mark so all was not well. I removed the rogue item from the listing and then physically unplugged it from its USB port. Re-installation seemed to fail. Did I mention the string of error reports at boot up? Well there were around 4 or 5 error reports that looked like a network installation had been attempted and it had gone wrong. I made no attempt to fix these, thinking that once the modem had installed properly all would be well. In the end I removed the new WanadooSearch Bar and the modem software before trying again.

The second time I got somewhere as the fresh installation seemed to be going well. True I had to pop back for a Windows 98 CD as the computer couldn't find a particular file in the copy of the CD in folder "Win98" on the hard drive. I returned and popped in the CD and after wrestling with the computer trying to tell it where to find the desired files it suddenly started up and found them. Then... nothing. I had half expected something to happen indicating that broadband was now up and running but no... nothing like that happened.

After some fiddling all that happened was the computer kept trying to dial up using the old 56 k modem... I decided to let it have it's way and allowed the dial-up to run. Nothing much happened except I got a Wanadoo home page. Not at broadband speed but at the old 40 odd k.

I closed Internet Explorer and closed the line then looked for a new icon on the desktop. There was a new broadband modem icon.. I clicked it and instantly... got an error message.

I know i remarked... I'll get a new modem driver from the manufacturer's website... that's what they advised the last time I had trouble... When I'd logged on I found a statement about having to use a specific ISP's driver as the proper one may not work properly... or words to that effect... Not such a good idea then and it was at this point I was more than a little annoyed and rang the Wanadoo number.. not free but at least not a premium number.

I listened to a few recorded excuses about them being overwhelmed with orders then waited for an option that sounded as if it may provide some help.

At last an Engineer Option. He answered quite quickly, surprisingly. I explained what I thought of the installation software and he told me that my copy of Windows 98 didn't include a vital file. He told me what it was and of course it was there where it was supposed to be...."Oh that's odd", he said... Oh I know it must be that you're missing update 1.4 for dial up. Why isn't there some mention of this in the leaflet or maybe even a copy of the missing file perhaps on your CD? I don't know he responded.

Now what if my customer hadn't already got Internet access I thought? How could they log onto the Microsoft site and find the required update. In fact I asked my customer if she could find the missing update given the information from Wanadoo? Blank look...clearly not. In fact it wasn't too easy to find the correct update as Microsoft wanted me to download many megabytes of stuff that would have taken about 3-weeks at 40k or so. I thought for a minute or two and then after a few mouse clicks I'd found the required update for the dial-up program. A few minutes later and it was installed. At this point I must add the the installation was easy.. self installing even. The Wanadoo Engineer had explained how to go about carrying out the update, selecting Add-Remove programs and Windows Update ticking this and that unticking everything etc etc but unfortunately he was completely and utterly wrong.

A few minutes later and I'd sorted out the broadband modem, updated Internet access and email and logged on. I'd have thought the Wanadoo CD would have helped with the latter but it didn't. Quite the opposite in fact as the computer kept trying to dial up using the low speed modem.

As I didn't have any more time I had to leave the strings of error messages coming up at boot-up. Upgrade to XP I suggested and these should go away automatically... in the meantime just keep pressing the Enter key...

I wonder how many Wanadoo customers are tearing out their hair? What if a customer hadn't already got an Internet connection and was told by the Wanadoo Engineer to download a file from Microsoft?

Presumably ISPs don't bother to properly test their products before marketing them or do they just put up with a certain number of returns traded against software engineers' time?

Remember their get out clause, "Para 4.4 of the leaflet said in so many words that in subscribing to the wonderful Wanadoo broadband service a customer was accepting any problems and faults arising in the service. True, Wanadoo would use their help desk to try and put things right but the customer must understand that this would not always be possible and one must expect to have problems and faults despite all the help they could offer".

Broadband may be fast but the computer was stationary (June 2004)

Wanadoo

 Some retailers are really pushing their luck lately.
A customer visiting the workshop today wanted to switch to broadband and had selected Wanadoo, probably because he was already enjoying? their slower service. I hesitate to use the phrase 56k service, as when I last checked a particular customer's access speed, it was below 40k (which amounts to below 20k for incoming data).

The modem had duly arrived and it was installed as per instructions.

"Did you follow the instructions", I'd asked. "To the letter", he'd responded.
After a tantalising sample of fast Internet access the computer froze at its next boot up, he explained and after many telephone calls to the help line, which I might add is not free, a new software driver was advised.

Now I fully understand that mistakes are made when writing programs. After all... programmers are human, and in my long experience in Industry, their mistakes are unavoidable. Pressures to push a product out to customers invariably mean that development timescales are compromised and software debugging suffers.

A new driver was found and installed, albeit at snails pace (38k).
This time Windows 98 seemed to load the new drivers but the desktop icons failed to materialise.
Further telephone calls were made resulting in a "modem engineer" being substituted for Wanadoo's general-purpose problem solver.

"The driver you've been advised to install wasn't right. You must use the latest version after removing the old ones", he was told….

Now at this stage I believe we are moving away from the skills of a standard consumer to a computer engineer, and so when the computer then failed to get beyond repeated "Safe Modes" it had been unplugged and carried to my workshop.

I plugged everything in (except the modem) and when the desktop appeared normally I simply plugged in the Wanadoo USB modem. After a few rattling noises it seemed to have been installed properly.
What's the problem I thought?

I checked the driver version and noted it down and just to check all was well I rebooted the computer.

It got as far as a blank frozen desktop with no icons.

Try as I might this persisted, that is until I unplugged the USB modem… when normal service was resumed.

Following my customers instructions about the new drivers, I downloaded these from the modem suppliers' website. After 3.9Mbytes had been winkled out, albeit at a relatively slow broadband rate over my own computer, I was in possession of the latest drivers as had been advised by the modem engineer. Was the slow download rate because lots of other people were also carrying out the download?

I carried out the instructions supplied and new drivers were duly installed. I plugged in the modem and, just like before, a rattling noise and all seemed well. I checked the driver version. Strange it was exactly as the lesser version advised by the Wanadoo standard help person.

Full of confidence however I rebooted and found… a frozen desktop with no icons. Absolutely no change.

I picked up the Wanadoo leaflet that had come with the new modem.
Para 4.4 said in so many words that in subscribing to the wonderful Wanadoo broadband service a customer was accepting any problems and faults arising in the service. True, Wanadoo would use their help desk to try and put things right but the customer must understand that this would not always be possible and one must expect to have problems and faults despite all the help they could offer.

Amazing. This leaflet of course was only presented after cash had been paid out, although generally if one looks hard enough, terms and conditions are usually presented during a registration. Who reads these though?

I called the help desk.
"All our advisors are currently very busy due to the unprecedented demand was the recorded announcement. Try another time, and not between 6 and 9pm". I looked at my watch. It was 5pm.

I called the customer. Cancel the contract and send the modem back on the grounds it's not fit for purpose was my advice. By the way, did you read Para 4.4? According to its terms this is the end of the road. The help desk had tried their best and there was still a problem.

 

AOL
 Last month a neighbour had ordered wireless networked AOL Broadband setup. It took me hours and lots of time on the the phone to AOL before we discovered that the wireless part of the hardware hadn't got the correct firmware installed in it. True this was easily rectified but we needed detailed instructions from their help person before it could be put right. At least their help line was free.

 

MSI

 I fitted a new MSI motherboard to my computer recently. It came with some clever software that allowed all the latest drivers to be downloaded. "Latest Drivers" is really a phrase that means "Instructions to overcome quite serious faults in software". What really anoyed me was the clever programs, termed "Utilities" about which MSI sing their praises. These Utilities do not work properly (ie crash the computer) if one uses more than one desktop (or user account) in Windows XP.

What did the manufacturer say when pressed? "The Utilities don't work if you have more than one user account in XP. We recommend closing the utility before switching desktops". Not that easy I'm afraid, as if the current desktop times out the computer crashes when trying to log back in.

Now... why doesn't my CD eject when I press the button?

 

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