Sometimes it seems like everyone hates Microsoft

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/08/17 07:24 -04:00, original URI:

Note that this is NOT a Dell exploding battery story -- I do not own a single battery that is on the recall list despite having four different batteries, each one of which had a chance of being on that list!

The other day I was bringing my laptop out of a hibernate and found that

all were coming in Device Manager with different problems that gave them the yellow exclamation point icon (one was "resource conflict" when there was no conflicting resource, one was "could not load" and the third was "unspecified error").

The first thing I did was rebooted; hibernation is a dicey business even for bears, so sometimes a reboot is just the colonic that clears the system. But no dice, the same three problems.

Now I have owned this Dell Lattitude D800 (my "surrogate" laptop, a joke that only true Unicode geeks get!) for a few years now, and have had to use my "next business day" service a few times in the past. Since just about everything these days is connected to the motherboard and since the only thing that could affect all three of the above things simultaneously in such a manner would be the motherboard, I tentatively decided I would need them to get a new motherboard out to me.

I did a bit of verification that the underlying pieces were working -- like

and indeed things were dead of their own volition beyond hope of easy repair. I tried rebooting again for good measure, and then called in to Dell Technical Support.

Hold times were longer than usual (probably due to the whole battery recall thing, amazing how much faster and louder the recall is when the whole "exploding laptops" thing hits the Blogosphere and the online tabloids!), but I was finally connected with someone.

I laid out what had failed, how everything had failed in tandem, and what I had tried already to show that the problem was not intermittent and that it was not due to coincidental secondary failures. I promised myself I would not mention exploding laptops (no sense kicking a man when he is down, and I had checked all four of my batteries -- none of them were on the recall list!), and I braced myself for the checklist of things the support tech would want to try before doing what was needed -- a tech to come out and replace the motherboard).

He wanted me to boot into safe mode, which I promptly did. Then he had me uninstall the PCMCIA card driver, though I explained it was not one of the failing pieces. He mumbled something about drivers failing on Windows and said these steps were important. No harm I figured, so I did it. Then he told me to go the Dell site to get the driver again. I pointed out that he had me in safe mode so I had no internet access -- was I to reboot to get out of safe mode to do this? He was momentarily confused and said yes, so I did this.

Great, the thing that was not broken turned out to still not be broken. Progress.

He then wanted me to try out another SmartCard reader, saying that this was a common problem on Windows; I reminded him that I had already done this. And then he wanted me to try the secondary drive in an external bay as driver corruption of this sort was again common on Windows; I reminded him that I had done this as well.

I should probably point out that I did not rise to the bait about the constant Windows jibes, despite the fact that people enjoy this sort of thing. After all, pissing off the tech would just keep me on the phone longer, and there was no sense delaying the hold times of others just to get an "un-cooperative" tag added to my Dell account.

But I finally stopped him and asked, point blank, did he truly believe that the drivers of three disparate pieces of hardware had simultaneously failed in different ways, or was it not more reasonable to assume that some single, central cause was at work here?

He replied that drivers often spontaneously corrupted on Windows due to silent updates the system did, so that the possibility could not be discounted.

Now as I said, I know that everyone hates Microsoft. And a tech. support guy who has to deal with problems all day is the least likely person in the world to think otherwise. But an hour on the phone and he blamed every single pointless test he was doing on instability in Windows when it was fucking Dell hardware that was broken here.

But I decided not to lose my temper. So in a level voice, I explained that I was on the development team that works on Windows and while it might be form of catharsis for him to diss Windows for an hour for a problem that was not due to Windows, it was not fun for me and I just couldn't take it anymore. I asked to talk to his supervisor or some other tech, so I could move the business along and get back to a more productive state with my Dell laptop, without having the product I worked on insulted in the process.

He immediately put through the service request to have my laptop motherboard replaced. Although he did not apologize, he clearly did not want me saying anything to his supervisor. And now the tech has replaced the motherboard and everything is now working again, I have yet to receive the survey that always gets sent when I call Dell technical support -- usually before the tech even arrives onsite!

I must have really scared this guy.

But I thought about how annoying it was every once in a while to be one of the 70,000+ people working for Microsoft who was going to be insulted even for things that weren't their fault or nay, even Microsoft's fault. I am sure that in the next hundred calls that guy takes he will be just as insulting to Windows, so I doubt it changed any of his behavior. And the fact that his company that sold millions worth of exploding peripherals did not slow him down or humble him at all, and neither did the fact that they did not keep track of the internal part numbers enough to be able to know who had in fact bought one of the kamikaze batteries in the first place -- a fact that no one seems to be pointing out in any of the news stories that I have seen.

That is the sort of thing that would have humbled the crap out of me (by comparison, any time MS does something dumb, it does). Hell, even the Dell issue DID humble the crap out of me to wonder how the obit would have read if I had one of the bad batteries in the four I own and had died in a bizarre exploding laptop accident. Would it be respectful, or would it have been true to my nature and had a fun title involving a pun on the word Latitude or something?

If I have to go, I'd at least like to be remembered in a properly respectfully disrespectful way such as that. :-)

Anyway, I guess people would just rather hate Microsoft. It does make one's own life easier if one has another to deride....


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Ryan Hoffman on 17 Aug 2006 11:56 AM:

This entry is priceless.  I'm sure the other 50 million people who call Dell with similar problems think that this is really a Windows problem.

Shoshannah on 17 Aug 2006 1:09 PM:

I guess that is the way people are. Many of those tech support people do a lot of "voodoo"- they just go down a list of things that worked in the past, and never look for the root problem (they probably don't have enough time to deal with the root problem). And once they see something failing many times, that product is then assumed to fail again, regardless of it is indeed what failed or not.

Also, from I have seen with products I have worked on- people just assume that if X isn't working right with product Y, then the problem is in product Y,  without checking more (and getting annoyed when they are told that "problem X has nothing to do with product Y, and product Y can't really do anything about it".

But indeed, these situations can be really bad for your mood.  In general I try not to insult any product in such a manner when talking to people I don't know- after all, you will never know when you will run in to one of the people who worked on that product (like that tech guy learned the hard way...).

Phil on 17 Aug 2006 1:43 PM:

Typical.  I work in tech support, and when a tech doesn't know what's going on, it's always Windows' fault!  It's never the vendors, didn't you know that? :-) It's almost like a game of customer ping pong... baaaaaaaack and forth.  Seriously, tech training involves very little emphasis on technical matters, instead focusing on call control, handling angry customers, etc.  Those of us who do understand how a computer works have our hands tied by management.  Not a good situation for customers at all, and I can empathize with what you went through.  Incidentally I did have an opportunity to do support for Microsoft when SP2 was released... most fun I ever had at a job!  

Mihai on 17 Aug 2006 2:12 PM:

There is a lot of hate there, true, but I don't think this is the case here.
From what I have seen, it is quite typical for tech-support to blaim problems on anything else. The OS is the most popular "sacrifice goat," followed by anti-virus applications.
Anything to takes you off their back :-)

Phil on 17 Aug 2006 2:40 PM:

Oh... one more thing... it's also common to blame the OS when user error is suspected.  A large majority of calls are from customers who were "going around deleting things" and all of a sudden $X_PROBLEM happened.  Granted, any tech worth his salt should be happy to get a customer like you who knows what they're doing, but for some it's a bad habit... a way of saying "Fine, you won't own up to what you did, so we'll just blame the OS" so they can pass the buck to someone else.

Le sigh.  Your post makes me want to finish school ASAP to get out of this business.

referenced by

2008/03/30 The weird and unpredictable nature of the effects of positive vibes

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