Monday, July 27, 2009

Thanks, Microsoft... NOT!

It seems as if the latest set of Windows XP updates don't work as well as one would like. I've already run into two time-consuming problems and I'm hoping it won't get worse now that Windows 7 is in manufacturing.

1) The first was an update (don't know which one) that reset many of my internet security settings. The result was that FireFox and IE both stopped downloading files and IE kept saying that my setup was insecure. It took me quite a while, but I finally figured it out: Go to "Control Panel | Internet Options | Internet" and click the "Custom Level" button. What I found was that the options under "Miscellaneous" had been reset to "Disable" instead of "Prompt" as they had been. Once I found and fixed that, I could download files again.

2) The second was the disabling/breaking of scanners. I've had all-in-one printer/faxes for quite some time and use them heavily through PaperPort. All of a sudden, it stopped working: the error message said the scanners weren't setup, even though they previously had been. It wasn't a PaperPort problem as two other machines with the same setup but wihtout PaperPort also couldn't scan documents, even using the vanilla Windows software. No amount of fiddling fixed the problem -- the only thing I could do was completely uninstall the printer/fax software and re-install from scratch. At least that did the trick.

Not a very productive few days, as the problems had to be analyzed, and then 3 machines had to be fixed. I don't scan on my Vista machine, but I'll bet they didn't have a problem.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

More GREAT customer service...

Recently I purchased a new Brother color printer (Model# HL-4040CDN). I've wanted a color duplexing printer for some time now so that I can print some of my marketing collateral, but they've always been too expensive. Well... this one was on sale (brand new) at Office Depot for $225.00 and I just couldn't pass it up: competing models from HP were in the $500 and up range. Every thing went fine with the setup until I went to print booklets using Fineprint, an awesome print utility that I've been using for years and wrote up some time back.

Imagine my surprise when the booklets came out wrong! Fineprint has a great little feature that allows you to easily print two-sided (duplex) documents even if the printer doesn't support it automatically. It runs through a series of tests, gets information from you, and then controls the printing so that you put the pages back in for the second side in just the right way - very nice! With automatic duplexing printers, they figure out how to set the duplex parameters on-the-fly so that everything works out fine.

Not on this Brother, however: no matter what I did, the pages always "flipped" in only one way that worked some of the time and not others (without getting into too much of the gory details, pages can be flipped on the long edge or the short edge, which makes a difference for portrait or landscape mode). I worked with fineprint support (they're great) and Brother support and finally realized that the Brother printer was not accepting dynamic printer commands to change the page flipping parameters: the current driver allowed you to manually change them, but that's certainly not what I expect from a modern printer with automatic duplexing.

When Brother tech support told me that it was working "as designed" and that I'd just have to manually change the settings, that was the last straw. I wrote a letter to the President of Brother USA, explained the situation and pointed out how unacceptable this was.

A few days later, I received a call from an customer service advisor in the President's office and was assigned to a technical advisor. We started working together to describe the situation so that the developers could understand what was going on.

To make a not-so-long story shorter, I now have a new version of the printer driver which properly handles all the automatic duplexing features that I expected from this printer.

Now that's what I call service! Thank you Brother.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

GREAT Customer Service... Priceless!

I recently checked in with Timebridge, a relatively new scheduling app that I had previously signed up with and forgotten about. I found that I had two accounts, setup under two different email addresses. I wanted to cancel one account and add that email address as an alternate to the account I was keeping, and -- as usual these days -- there was no way to cancel online: I had to send an email. I used their generic form to request assistance, and resigned myself to the usual delays or complete non-response that I've experienced in the past.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a response within 30 minutes! Not only that, but it was actually an intelligent response, not some canned "We got your email, now sit back and wait..." mumbo-jumbo that you usually get. The fellow (Lior) actually gave me the option of deleting the unwanted account or consolidating it into the one I was keeping. Now that's help! I said 'consolidate' and within another 60 minutes it was done: I had one account with two email addresses.

BTW, Timebridge is a great little scheduling app which (in its free incarnation) let's you contact folks, offer them meeting alternatives, and gives you back information as to who accepted which dates/times. Very helpful for teams that don't work together on a Novell Groupwise or Microsoft Exchange server. The paid versions offer web conferencing and conference calling services.

Highly recommended!