Friday, June 12, 2009

When is "Support" not support?

When it's Canonical support for Ubuntu, that's when. Hard to believe, but it's true.

I've been doing some development using Linux & Ruby on Rails and needed an occasional helping hand with Linux sysadmin duties. Who better than the folks who created the distro that I'm using.

Well... first of all, it took forever to get someone to respond to my email queries as to what would be covered with the support agreement. It took over two weeks to get the answers I wanted (at one point, I had been waiting several days and the sales person finally contacted me and said "We're out all this week so it'll have to be next week" (!) I should have known if they had problems taking my money that they might have problems providing support.

But I really wanted the support so I persisted. Finally, I put together a long email list of applications and services that I would need help with and the sales guy emailed back: "No problem". The list included Apache, Mongrel, and several other apps. I pointed out that I wouldn't need help with the internals of Ruby on Rails, but really wanted sysadmin help (installation, upgrade, initialization... standard stuff like that).

So today I'm authorized and I make my first call: for some reason, I can't get my Mongrel servers to start up at boot time and I want help configuring Apache so that it all works nicely. I get a fellow on the phone pretty quickly (that's good), start to describe my issue and as soon as I say "Apache", he says: "You have desktop support; that's a server issue!". I explain that my requirements have all been documented and approved in detail; he checks his log (the emails are all there - that's good) and informs me that's a mistake and he doesn't support that.

By now I'm pretty sure that this isn't going to work for me, so I try to simplify the whole thing and ask: "OK, how can I just get my Mongrel startup script to run when the system boots?" Rather than answering that he checks his notes a bit, and comes back with the question: "How did you install this? From a separate script or from the Ubuntu standard package?" I start to explain that this was some time ago and I believe I installed from a script, but he interrupts to state: "Did you install this from the Ubuntu package source or not? That's a 'yes' or 'no' question." Things are obviously going downhill at this point, but I still really want the answer to my simple question so I just say "No; not from the Ubuntu script".

Next question from the 'support' tech: "What version of Kubuntu are you on?" I respond: "Kubuntu Hardy". He says: "So I presume you're on Hardy for the LTS (Long Term Support) option?" I start to say: "Well... I'm there because my last ugprade didn't go well and I could use some help upgrading to Jaunty..." but he interrupts again and says: "That's a 'yes' or 'no' question!"

At this point, I'm done and I want a full refund, so I say: "Maybe we'd better escalate this so that I can just cancel this service!" And... you guessed it... he's the only person there and he (of course) can't cancel the service. He can only make a note and tell me to expect a call from London on Monday.

I get the call and they cancel my service with no problems... that's good.

So! How good is Canonical support? That's a 'yes' or 'no' question, folks, and the answer for me is 'no'.