Orcon I Was Wrong


I’ve had more than my share of troubles with my ISP, Orcon in the past and I haven’t been slow in coming forward sending them brickbats.

I thought this was another of those occasions when I checked my account and it was quite a bit over what I expected. The PDF of the accounts didn’t show why and I didn’t think to check on-line  which I could have done, because the amount I was being charged appeared to be about the same as I was paying before I signed up to a new plan.

I didn’t call them about it straight away because I had spent so much time in the past waiting for their call centre to answer and if there is one thing I can’t stand it is waiting in a queue listening to musak, ads and being told that my call is important.

Yesterday I received an email asking me to respond to an on-line survey and thinking they were in the wrong, I gave them 2 out of 10 for service and explained why.

Today I was delighted to receive a phone call from the call centre on my mobile, discovered that the invoices were in fact correct, I had gone over my data cap of 30GB, but not enough that I should go to a higher plan. I also switched to a new plan that was slightly better than the one I was on and cancelled a service I no longer require.

So while I have no problem in complaining when I feel I’m getting a raw deal, I also want to compliment them on their quick response. I didn’t expect a call at all and I was really impressed with the prompt and friendly service. So this time, thanks Orcon. 10 out of 10.

Now if you wouldn’t drop the connection momentarily from time to time when I’m on-line playing poker and am going all in on a monster hand and playing for real money I would not only be happy, I’d be over the moon.

Whos Looking at you on Facebook?


Sometime ago I wrote a couple of blogs about What can they find out about you on Facebook. In the second blog I did some digging into a random person who hadn’t managed her privacy settings. You will find many references to Facebook and other social network applications in my recent blogs, but here’s the thing, I wrote about what they could find out about you, but not so much about who’s looking.

I have also often blogged about how Science Fiction has a way of becoming reality and it seems that many of my favourite writers were foretelling the future. Some of these blogs were: A San Francisco Artist wanting a bionic eye, Living Longer with Cryonics, using In-Vitro to feed the future, Sky Scrapers and High Society, and tracking people with RFID.

Whether it was Orwell, Bradbury, Philip K Dick, Heinlein or any of my other favourites, they often had a common thread. That is a police state environment where privacy and personal freedom becomes something for people to fight to win back. Where for whatever good reason, governments gave themselves the right, initially with good intentions, to spy on the public or restrict their ability to communicate their personal beliefs. That was what the 5th Ammendment was all about. Of course some countries, like New Zealand don’t have a formal constitution and we generally have the attitude that everyone is trustworthy and honest until proven otherwise. I’d have to say that in many ways this has also served us well downunder, in that even though crime is rising at alarming rates, especially violent crime and the police now charge people for using unreasonable force in defending themselves, we are a much safer country than many I have visited in recent years.

Just on that topic of self defence. What actually is reasonable force. If you are faced with someone with a gun or other weapon, who knows how to use it and has experience with violence and you don’t, the situation is very different for a law abiding person who has never had to defend themselves before. If you know someone else will use whatever means they can to hurt you, possibly even kill you and are unpredictable. At what point does self defence become unreasonable. If the person who attacked you is o the ground but you are afraid they will get up again and running isn’t an option. If you are afraid and your heart is full of adrenalin, how can you be expected to know how or when to stop? Police are trained in the use of restraint and know how to deal with difficult situations, where the public are not. I don’t have the answer, but I do feel that criminals need to know that they won’t always get away with violent crime and that victims should have the rigt to defend themselves. But I digress.

Anyway, what prompted this reminder, that I hadn’t focussed much on who would want to look at your personal information on Facebook, was a story in this morning’s NZ Herald (which I couldn’t find online), with the Headline Govt plans to spy on social website users. I did find a story from the Daily Mail yesterday which in essence says that they plan to be able to monitor all email, social networking sites etc, because it is fertile ground for terrorists to communicate and plan.

Now I don’t have a problem, providing information is monitored under a search warrant, but blanket ability to go through all Internet usage of everyone is pushing it a little too far don’t you think? They are wanting the right to not only read everything you write, publish or comment on the net, but even to get a record of every single URL or website you visit.

I’ve always worked on the basis that I have nothing to hide, and indeed if you Google my name, you will be able to find out pretty much anything you want to know about me and my life. Maybe that’s a good thing because it makes me kind of transparent. But by giving government organisations rights beyond what anyone can do on the internet, the ability to intercept everything you do on the web, must be an invasion of good citizens privacy and I hope that there will be restrictions put in place, just as is required in most countries for telephone taps etc. The fear is that in any society there are corrupt individuals who could abuse their position. That is where we need protection.

There is no doubt that the threat of terrorism means that new measures must be put in place to locate terrorists, terrorist training grounds and do whatever is necessary to keep us safe from harm. But like any law and order legislation and policies, there must be reasonable suspicion and controls. Otherwise the risk that more of the Science Fiction writers stories about oppressive states undermining the rights of its citizens could become a reality in the ‘developed world’. I want to feel safe from harm, but I also want to know that my individual rights to freedom of expression and belief are protected.

 

The Trouble with Orcon


I note that many people are reading my blog about Orcon and the trouble I have had since I signed up, so I feel obliged to give you an update.

Things have improved to some degree, I frequently have days where my connection only drops out 1 or 2 times, but I am still experiencing dropouts, disconnections this week:

  • Saturday 16
  • Sunday 31
  • Monday 27

I also noted that people have found me when searching about the 2 for 1 movie tickets for a year that were promised as part of the connection deal. Well I signed up 4 months ago and still haven’t seen them. If they do arrive, I hope they will still be valid for 12 months and not the remainder of the year. But at this stage I’m not holding my breath on ever seeing them.

I don’t know if it is because of the interleaving, but our Caller ID doesn’t work on the phone about 50% of the time, which is annoying.

My wife wants me to go back to Telecom and thinks I’m an idiot for putting up with Orcon’s poor service. As a footnote, Orcon did come up with a $100 credit for my troubles. Funny thing is that a couple of weeks ago, even though my payment is made automatically by direct credit from my American Express Card, and I had the $100 credit, I got an email saying that my account was overdue and asking me to do something about it urgently. I was tempted to send one back saying that their service was overdue and could they give me a reliable connection urgently.

So, the bottom line? Still having plenty of disconnections, no 2 for 1 movie tickets as promised, intermittent caller id and no satisfaction. Should I be calling Fair Go?

Just another day with Orcon


For those that are following this blog, just a quick update. First of all, I still haven’t got the 2 for one movie tickets that they “send out every week”. I’ve had quite a good week until Saturday, only averaging about 2 disconnections a day, I can live with that.

I did get a bill saying I was overdue with $20 odd dollars on my account after they gave me a compensatory credit of $100 which is strange because I set up an autopayment with American Express to make sure I was always on time.

On Saturday I lost my connection 11 times and yesterday 21, but the good news is that for one of them, most Orcon subscribers lost their connections. Most of mine were in the morning when there were no olympics on the net yet, but the early evening crash was surely an ISP (not Orcon according to the voice message so it must have been Xtra) that didn’t take into account that TVNZ were showing the Olympics on TV. I watched it for a short while and planned to go back when the boxing started, but of course by then there was no connection at all.

So or those of you who couldn’t see some of the awesome streaming video on TVNZ’s website (and it was awesome while it lasted), you know how I feel. The only thing is that for me it is a regualr occurrence. I could have gone to the movies with my new 2 for 1 tickets I was promised, but they didn’t arrive, a bit like the service really.

GPS Tracking of Elderly People Update and Orcon Update


First of all I’d like to give you a quick update on the personal tracking unit I’ve been testing. It’s going really well. Please note I do not work for the company who is developing it, although if they go to market they will be using our mapping data, which I have been testing it with.

So I have tried it out in various parts of the country and it can track me wherever I go. If you had the logon and password to my account you could see where I have been on a map. You can play back my travels around Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. When I was in my car you could see emergancy button

how fast I was driving and my exact route.

If I hit the red emergency button a text message gets sent to a phone (in this case mine). I had it sent to my wife when I first set it up because then she cpould see what I was up to and I thought that would be interesting. Stupid really because I couldn’t see if it was working and she was geting really worried because on some days she would get lots of messages saying that I had an emergency.

Basically the message gives my name and says I had an emergency. If I was inside at the time I sent the emergancy it gives the last known street address, which is usually the correct address because it has a movement sensor and will take a fix every time the device moves which obviously was set off last time I got out of the car. It uses the GeoSmart Reverse GeoCoder to retrieve the nearest street address to the co-ordinates where it was taken. The reason it gives the last address, is because with current satellite technology it can’t get a fix inside the house unless I am in an optimal position. This will of course improve when the Gallileo

It operates as a phone so a call centre can call me if they think there is a problem. It also can function as a phone with a number of preset buttons, which is great for elderly people who only have a few people they need to ring and find mobiles confusing.

A footnote on Orcon, I got a call today saying that they are onto it this time. They said the engineers that have been visiting don’t have sophisticated enough test gear to test a phone line for interference that wouldn’t affect phones and event ordinary ADSL. So hopefully I will see an engineer, at least this time they phoned me:)

The Orcon Problem


You have to laugh, or else you would cry. The other day I was complaining about the problems I have had with Orcon for the last 3 months. Today I was going to write an email to Scott Bartlett prior to phoning him in person, but the latest episode means I may have to wait until after the weekend before I start demanding compensation and head for the media in a big way.

Last month my Internet disconnected 696 times and then last weekend I lost my landline phoe altogether. I know some of you laughed at the fact that I have a landline, but as I said, elderly relatives still have landlines and can’t afford the cost of calling mobiles.

Anyway my landline is back and my internet has a few consecutive good days. But if you read my blog before, you will have read that over a 1 month period my internet disconnected 696 times. Did you think that was bad?

Well how about this. Yesterday my Orcon connection dropped 245 times and today so far it has dropped 451 times. In fact my average continuous connection time could be measured in seconds.

So I rang Orcon again this morning and got a friendly guy who asked me if I had line filters in my house. I felt like jumping from my chair, rushing into their call centre and launching a tirade, but I didn’t. I asked him if he had read the story on my account in their CRM.

He has come up with a new idea of applying interleaving which he said could increase latency by up to 10 mSeconds. I’ll have to see what the impact is on my poker tournaments, but in general that doesn’t sound too bad. he said it would take about 2 days for it to have an impact and my next tournament is tonight, but given that last night I couldn’t even check my email, it sounds like a major potential improvement.

I was giong to call Scott Bartlett at Orcon today and demand a refund, demand the 2 for one movie tickets that they promised and then start calling the media. I will wait until Monday and then decide my next step.

Several people who were thinking of joining Orcon have decided not to and my Glenfield rental tenants have just received a package from Orcon which they are going to show me tonight. There is no way they will join Orcon, having heard about my story.

I thought my problems were over, but it seems as though they are getting worse. In this day and age I can’t believe this. I’m busy working on LBS applications, proximity based marketing and all sorts of exciting mobile applications but in 3 months I can’t get a reliable internet connection at home. Just as well I don’t have a home business anymore. I wonder what my associates at the ICT Cluster tonight will think of this.

Would you put up with this?

I’m almost off Orcon 696 reconnections since 23 June!


As I am writing this my home has no landline phone, we can’t call and can’t be called.

In April we got a DM in the mail saying that Orcon was now able to offer ADSL2 from our local phone exchange through Orcon and that they had an awesome deal to offer us.

The catchy DM letter was signed by Scott Bartlett, the CEO and was full of promises such as:

“Quite simply, we’re not like other phone companies. The’re more than happy to offer an average service to as many people as possible.”

“At Orcon we’re the opposite. We choose our customers very carefully, then go out of our way to deliver truly ourstanding product performance ………………….”

Not only was I being chosen, but if I signed up before the end of May I would get a free modem / wireless router and a 2 for one pass to the movies for a whole year! This deal looked too good to be true, but I looked at their ownership from Kordia whom I have dealt with for business in the past and so I signed up to the top plan. I am a heavy internet user with my songwriting, poker playing, blogging, photography and so on, basically I am a geek. The Platinum Plan for $120 a month would give me 25GB of data at great speeds, free national toll calls and one country of international calls free for up to an hour per call, sounded like heaven.

If I remember rightly I signed up mid week and got emails to confirm that it would all be up and running in a couple of days and not to worry about anything, they would cancel the old account and everything would be amazingly wonderful.

Thursday afternoon I get a phone call from my wife saying that the phone was dead and that I needed to rush home because there was a major family health crisis and the likelihood that a family member might not make it through the night. I rang the Orcon Help Desk before I left home and the response was like, thankyou for telling us, we will refer this to the technicians and we should have your phone on by Wednesday next week. I just about hit the roof and was in real emotional distress when I rang Orcon again when I got home and asked for a supervisor. The response was sorry but the supervisor isn’t in the room right now, I’ll get them to call you back. So I gave them my mobile and waited for the call. It never came so I rang back again after an hour or so and was told, sorry but the technicians and everyone that could help you have gone home and there is nothing we can do right now. We will get back to you. Brilliant.

In desperation the next morning I emailed Scott, having found his details on the net and got a call from his PA who was awesome, she arraged for redirection of the landline to my mobile so we could at least get through the family crisis. Some of the people who needed to talk to us didn’t know our mobile numbers.

Anyway, eventually it was all connected and life was going to be amazing, the speed was awesome, I was able to upload my songs to my web sites in no time flat. All I needed now was the movie tickets to arrive and my faith in Orcon was restored. On that note it is now almost August and the movie tickets haven’t arrived, but given the rest of the sorry saga, that is just par for the course.

I play poker 2-3 times a week and am doing well, in fact this Saturday I a playing in the regional championships having qualified over a 3 month period of evening tournaments. I noticed that during games and sometimes doing music uploads etc that the connection was dropping. I lost out on a couple of major games including a qualifier for the World Series Of Poker, having beaten more than 2000 people in the first qualifier. In the middle of the qualifying game, when I had bet most of my chips, my net disconnected and my cards were automatically folded taking all my chips. This became a regular exercise.

Since May I have made numerous phone calls to Orcon, had 2 technicians come and check out the phone lines, disconnected all my phones from the jack points, reconnected them again, rebooted the modem, disconnected the modem, pulled the plugs out, replaced line filters and then the same all over again.

Now I must say here also that I am no dummy. I qualified as a Technical Service Officer with Telecom, I have written books’ lectured around the world and represented both Telecom and Vodafone as a wireless computing consultant and am a Past President (elect) of the NZ Wireless Data Forum. I owned and ran the NZ SmartPhone and PDA Academy and have been considered an expert in mobile data communications.

In desperation I emailed the CEO again and someone called me and started the process again and got a 3rd technician to come in.They found some corrosion at the local cable box and we started again. Fortunately on the last visit the problem happened while the tech was here so he could see what was happening. Eventually towards the middle of this month they replaced the port at the exchange and things improved.

They never called me back or told me what was going on, each time they wanted to start the process over again and I had to tell them to go and read the notes on their CRM, once they couldn’t even do that because their servers had crashed. Hey I’ve been in ITC most of my career so I know shit happens.

Just on this issue, here’s a quote from their website:

Reliability
Orcon has always believed in developing good systems and excellent people. Over the years we have focused on building one of the most stable and reliable systems in New Zealand, and the more we grow, the more control we have over key services. We constantly examine the current setup, looking to see how we can improve our reliability.

Is it that bad or am I being a whinger and anyway your playing games, I mean really it’s not like its that important (If you were playing a game for $1,000 and you lost the game because your internet connection dropped repeatedly, how would you feel), well you decide.

From June 23 (6 weeks or so after I first complained of this problem) to today according to Orcon’s reports, my internet connection has had to reconnect 696 times!

Now read this from their web site if you are still with me.

Monitoring reliability
Reliability and excellent system practices are only as good as your monitoring. We have three dedicated servers, whose sole job is to ensure that connection speeds between machines and response times from our network meet strict guidelines that we have mapped out. If these aren’t met – say for example, a server response time is not quick enough, all our technicians’ cell phones are instantly contacted by the monitoring computer, supplying details of what might contribute to possible faults.

We have developed systems to monitor helpdesk calls. If more than a certain percentage of calls are of one particular nature, technicians are notified and the event is thoroughly investigated.

My wife wants me to give up and go back to Telecom, she doesn’t care about the movie tickets, she feels very uncomfortable without the phone working, especially as we are expecting to become grandparents in the next 2 weeks. Not everyone has our landline number and of course to call our landline if it works is free.

Everyone has problems from time to time and I judge a company generally by how they resolve the problem. Orcon has had nearly 3 months. The disconnections have reduced, we even had one day a few days ago without disconnections, but we hardly used it that day either. This to me is a systemic failure of all their systems and If I don’t get satisfaction soon, I might be tempted to take them to task on failing to honor their commitments and failing to deliver on their promises.

Are you thinking about moving to Orcon? I’m wishing I hadn’t.

P.S. If you want to ring me, don’t bother with the landline, they still haven’t fixed it.