Nice One Orcon


317019_10150310135863188_76190173187_7703929_5794010_nWhy is it that the little things are so hard? Why do I really dislike credit departments? Do you know how yours talks to your customers?

So today I got home after a long but great day at the office. I found a ‘letter’ from Orcon saying that I had 5 days to pay my overdue account or risk getting my phone and Internet disconnected. I previously took up the option to pay by American Express to make sure that it was always paid on time, along with my power bill.

I rang Orcon and their credit department answered way faster than their support help desk ever has, less than a minute! I gave them my details and said I had received the letter and the person on the phone (Philippines accent I think) responded with “and when are you going to pay it?” I was taken aback. As far as I knew, it was always paid on time by Amex.

It transpired that my Amex card expired at the end of July, but I never received the replacement that American Express subsequently told me they had sent. I didn’t receive anything from Amex asking why the card had not been authenticated, nor did I receive anything from Orcon saying the account hadn’t been paid. I spend over a thousand dollars a year with Orcon, so at least a response like “How may I help you?” Rather than “when are you going to pay?” might have been nice.

So Orcon, I paid your account, that I didn’t know was overdue, on my Visa and American Express will no longer get a commission on that monthly transaction.

If you know that’s how your ‘Accounts Receivable’ treat your customers, you should also know that they don’t like it.

The last company that spoke to me like that was GE Money, through which I once bought a Canon SLR camera on 12 months interest free and was about 5 days overdue (because I didn’t get a reminder note from them). That was about 5 years ago and I have never used them again and told lots of people who follow me, my story.

Maybe it’s time to shop around and see what packages your competitors are offering, Orcon….. I’m sure my blog and social media followers would welcome my opinion. For everyone else, if you use 3rd party call centers, it’s a good idea to check them out as a customer once in a while and see how they are representing your business, because they are your front desk, especially if you don’t have a bricks and mortar presence.

Advertisements

The Internet as a battlefield


I’ve been trying to work on this post for ages, but never seem to get it finished. The more I think about it, the more tangents I head in, so here’s a start anyway. Maybe you can add a comment to the thread.

When we, Joe Citizen think of warfare, the common picture is either soldiers, tanks and planes, or more recently terrorist attacks. Information warfare is not a topic that we think of very often.

Of course using media such as radio, print and TV have been used for decades to provide disinformation, but now that we have the Internet, there is potential for a new front that could cripple economies and cause massive disruption to life as we know it.

Last month 14 Virgin Blue flights were cancelled in Melbourne when a broken cable disrupted their computer systems, stranding thousands of passengers. A total of 48 domestic flights were cancelled as a follow on of this problem.

Periodically there are major EFTPOS failures, which can happen at the worst possible times. For example in 2005 the EFTPOS network in New Zealand broke down for 2 hours on 23rd December. The estimate was that around half a million transactions were lost on one of the busiest days for retailers in the year. Millions of dollars in transactions were lost because people don’t really carry cash any more.

In November last year Brazil and some of Venezuela lost their power. Nine of Brazil’s states were out of power, representing millions of people. Whilst many complained they couldn’t watch their favorite soap opera, traffic lights were not working, trains weren’t running and parts of the country pretty much ground to a halt.

If a country or a terrorist organisation wanted to cause chaos or in some way to a country or city in the modern world, it would be incredibly easy. In Holland a guy called Max Cornelisse has created chaos and recorded it on YouTube to show how easy it is to disrupt services we take for granted. Amongst other things he has meddled with electronic signs on freeways, opened and closed bridges over canals from his PDA, sent people running from one platform to another by controlling automated PA messages at railway stations and in this YouTube Video he controlled the autoprompter at a Dutch TV station causing confusion to the newsreaders on live TV. Unfortunately it is in Dutch, but you’ll get the idea.

This is just a guy having a little fun, but what could you do if you seriously wanted to disrupt a country or city. What chaos would you create simply by shutting down the Internet. How would your business function without the Internet? How would your community function without the Internet? Imagine no email, no Voice over IP, no web browsing, no IM, no Facebook or Twitter? No online share trading. No banking, no EFTPOS, no ATM’s and who carries cash?

That’s just for starters. I wonder how long it would take for a major city, like New York, London or Amsterdam to fall into chaos? What would happen after a day, a week, even longer?

Last week there was a story on NPR about cyber terrorism. It quoted USA Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blaire saying that “Every single day, Blair said, sensitive information is “stolen from both government and private sector networks” as criminals become increasingly more sophisticated.”

Interestingly on 16 February 2010 an event will take place in a simulated Whitehouse Situation Room which is scripted to emulate a cyber terrorist attack. Those taking part will include former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponter and former Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend, who will have to work out how to deal with it as it plays out.

This has happened shortly “after the House overwhelmingly passed The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act. Something that gives the Obama administration the power to switch off the Internet,” according to Techeye. For more on the Act, check here.

Just as a final thought for now. If you know how to defend against an attack, you also know how to initiate one. I’m not for a moment suggesting any Western power would do that, but given the right circumstances…….

I am very happy to be living in New Zealand in that respect. Although we have allowed ourselves to become very dependant on our friends and allies, not even able to fully feed ourselves if we bacame isolated.

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?

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.

The future of Personal Computing Part Two


This is a follow on from my blog last week about a day in my life of personal computing in 2013.

So I’ve had breakfast and I go to my PC to check email and messages. My wireless network at home now consists of a variety of devices and networks linked together. These include my Entertainment Server which links to various TV’s around the house, the Sky Dish, cable TV, media audio players and recorders, HD radio tuner as well as the Toshiba Fenininity Server which allows us to control and monitor the stove, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, climate control, breadmaker and a host of other appliances not to mention the HVS climate control.

I also have the latest Kindle which lets all of us read our personalised news. It aggregates the top stories from mother Herald as well as other papers and magazines of interest so we all get the version we want. Scared the hell out of me the other day when I opened my wife’s logon by accident and all I saw was stories about TV and filmstars and their failed marriages and getting their 23rd adopted child out of Afghanistan which is the new Darfur. But then that is the beauty of it that we all get MeNews and not what someone else wants us to read.

I’m still into social networking in a big way, but have a number of portals that manage and aggregate each of my networks. I check my Music Portal which manages all the sites where I showcase my music. Now I can load my new songs, video’s, blogs and gig calendar onto one site and it updates the 127 sites I feature on in one hit, according to each sites unique specification.

So it’s time to go. I leave the house and activate the alarm which sends a signal to my iPhone to say the system is now armed and hop in the car. I drop the iPhone onto the little tray beside my seat and as I put the key into the ignition and my seat and steering wheel adjust itself to my preferred positions, my phone announces itself to the Wireless CANBUS so that it has access to the entertainment system.

I tell my integrated GPS navigation unit to take me to ‘the office’ select the podcast I want to listen to from those that are just audio as I don’t want to get pinged by the distraction laws and get on the road. As I near the top of Chartwell Drive, my podcast pauses (I used to hate missing stuff when the old system just muted the sound) and the nav tells me that there is a serious traffic incident on High Rd that it has picked up on TMC and would I like to route around it. I say yes, and it seemlessly takes me on down Diana drive and I arrive at work right on time.

As I wait at a set of lights I check the Buddy feature on my GPS and see an image of my wife’s car crawling along Bush Rd on her way to work. Her unit beeps to alert her that I have checked her location and she sends me a smart message back by tapping on the SMS keyboard on her nav unit which uses Bluetooth to send the message via her phone. Her car and system is a bit older than mine. 2009.

When I get to work my phone opens the carpark grill and after I have parked the car, it unlocks the door into the building and then into my office. I fire up my  Touchbook which has just been upgraded to Vista (“WE” like to be cautious about our computer network and go to the machine in the kitchen for a perfectly fluffy flat white.

As I have done forever, I start my day with email. My touchscreen notebook is now running Windows Vista Touch and although Microsoft has announced their new OS I will be using this one for another couple of years until our IT Department is comfortable that it is reasonably robust, especially given that it took 3 years to get most of the kinks out of Vista and for a while they went back to offering Windows XP again as an option in the 2nd half of 2009.

One thing that we have now universally adopted is Unified Communications. All my voicemail whether it comes from my landline, mobile or email is now waiting for me in my Inbox and with my iPhone or my notebook.

My days haven’t changed much. Probably the only major difference is that I do now use video on a lot of my phone calls so I can see the person I am talking to. This has saved me a lot of wasted travel time given the disaster that is Auckland’s roads today. They have started building the Auckland Harbour Tunnel, but it will be a couple more years before it opens for buses and T3 (cars with at least 3 peple in them) let alone ordinary traffic. So many meetings have been replaced by necessity with vidphone calls. Of course I can also do this on my iPhone 6, but unless I’m doing it over the Wireless LAN (and we still don’t have one in the office) the costs are prohibitive.

At lunch time I quite often walk to the Subway for some exercise and of course their food has the Heart Tick. On my way, I check out their menu on my iPhone and wonder if the food will look as good as the picture. I specify exactly what time I will get there. On the way back I get the phone to play me some Utterz messages from friends while I’m walking.

On the way home I drive past a bar and get a Speights Mates message saying there is a Happy Hour Running and sending me an eCoupon to get 2 for one in the next half hour and prompting me to hit the forward button to send the same coupon to any of my personal Speight’s Mates who are within a 2km vicinity to come and join me for an after work beer. I love location based marketing and decide it is only right to support people who have invested in this technology given that I helped to develop it. Isn’t that called the fruits of your labour? Yes. I know hops aren’t strictly fruit.

Before dinner, I go to my home studio and record a lead track on my Gibson LP Guitar onto my 8 track TASCAM for my latest song, nothing has changed there really, call me old fashioned. I still have my music on loads of web sites and while I’ve sold some songs, I haven’t scored a number one hit yet.

I bought the new Internet TV Aggregation Server last year and replaced my MySky. Now that I have cable for internet as well as TV, I can cherry pick and watch exactly what I want when I want and am no longer subject to the whims of SKy TV. Yes, I still subscribe to Sky Sports Channel because they have exclusive rights for many events that NZ teams compete in such as All Blacks Rugby and do support NZ sport better than anything else, especially the biased commentators, although I wuldn’t have a problem if Murray Mexted got some new material, but the rest is pretty much free. I don’t have to watch ads although many programs have very overt displays of product i the story.

I finally got an 80″ TV, the largest my wife would let me buy, and that wasn’t easy. Sometimes we have multple screens running so that we can watch different things at once and have adapted to that. We tried the VR glasses from the new Nintendo, but they are very antisocial. Awesome for 3D movies tough! Home entertainment is now awesome. No more channels full of reruns of programs we have already seen umpteen times, I never have to sit through another show of Friends again! Now I can see exactly what I want when I want, subject to agreement in the house of course and we all have to compromise sometimes,

Along with cable came free international calling to anywhere in the world for a modest flat fee, so I don’t use Skype much anymore. Finally a little music from iLike at the end of the day. I kept my CD’s and vinyl as souvenirs, but for a flat fee of $10 a month to our ISP, the house can access and download unlimited music from almost all record companies in MPEG 9 which is great quality at 960kbit/s.

Not a lot has changed in 5 years, but life is certtainly a little easier than it used to be.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Zimbabwe Elections


I started off, over the weekend, writing about the use of SMS as a tool and the many uses and of course I barely scratched the surface, but the whole Zimbabwe election issue is a concern, even from a technological perspective. ITC (information technology and communication) has provided new media including the mobile phone and Internet as a means of sharing information despite the efforts of political rulers. I.e. it is getting harder and harder for people in power to censor information anywhere in the world. Many countries have tried and failed to stop information travelling out of their geography.

Despite the intentions of the Mugabe regime, there is a continuous flow of information leaving Zimbabwe that is telling the rest of the world what is going on. I suspect that it will be impossible for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF to hoodwink the world again, telling everyone that he has won the election when it is clearly not true. Reuters has reported that bloggers are sharing the news with the world as it happens.

Whilst technology can be used to blur the truth, I think we are living in the most transparent environment in mankind’s short history. It is certainly possible to edit photos and video to distort the truth, but given that IT and communications technologies are available to the masses and not just to a wealthy minority and of course we are now much more IT literate, the opportunities to even stretch the truth such as Hilary Clinton’s recent ‘mistake’ about coming under sniper fire in Bosnia recently are becoming few and far between.

Back to Zimbabwe, I believe that largely due to communications and IT, Mugabe will no longer be able to get away with his version of democracy and the transparency of news and event information in real time has finally forced leaders from around the world to denounce what is going on there, even if they have turned a relatively blind eye to it until now.

It’s nice and comfortable to sit at home and watch this happening on TV and on the net, thinking it won’t happen to me. But I’ll bet the expat’s from Zimbabwe that I have met, who now live here and in other parts of the world and have lost pretty much everything they have worked for over generations, thought that once upon a time. Coups happen somewhere in the world pretty much every year and are at least in part covered up with attempts at disinformation and if it doesn’t directly hurt the major powers, it is often conveniently ignored. It’s my opinion that it’s going to be harder and harder for the powers of the world to do this. And that’s a good thing.

People used to say, “As an individual, there’s nothing I can do”. Today in Zimbabwe there are plenty of individuals doing something with their mobile phones and laptops and hopefully they will be able to bring about change, because if they don’t, there could be a civil war of proportions that make the disaster that is Zimbabwe today look like a picnic.