A sad case of poor customer support

In November we bought a Dell for my mother, against my better judgment. The computer was a Christmas gift, and we ordered it in November to be sure I had it before I drove home for the holidays. It was ordered on November 17th, and it arrived at my house late on November 30th.

On Christmas Day, we plugged the computer in and pressed the power button. Nothing. Tried different power cords, a different outlet, even a different room, and still nothing. A green light on the back of the computer came on while plugged in, but the rest of the computer would not turn on.

So, during Christmas dinner, I found myself on the phone with Dell’s support department, who – after an hour of tech support questions for the brain dead (are you sure the computer is plugged in? are you really sure?) – told me they would need to send someone on-site to replace the power supply and motherboard. I guess this happens a lot. However, because of the remote location, it wouldn’t be until long after I had returned home. I wanted to be there when it was “fixed” so I asked if there were any other options; their reply: well, you can call this 1-800 number to return it, but they’re not open today.

Based on this information, the day after Christmas, I went and bought my mom a Mac mini. Amazingly, when I turned it on, it worked!

I called Dell today to arrange for a return of their D.O.A. computer, and they said sorry, regardless of what tech support told you on the 25th, you’re S.O.L. because you’re outside of the 21-day return window. Seriously? You shipped me a computer that didn’t work, and now you won’t take it back?

While yes, I am outside the 21-day window, they need to honor what their support department told me on Christmas Day. Who made no mention, by the way, of the 21-day policy (which, I believe them, is buried 20 pages deep into the terms & conditions screen, in 4-point font). They also need to at least make an effort to understand the circumstances: I wasn’t using the computer for 25 days and suddenly it crapped out; I pulled it out of the box and it wouldn’t turn on. The return policy should start the moment I open the box, not the moment they take my money.

I’ve complained to the Texas BBB and have also filed a dispute with my credit card company.

If neither of those avenues work, I will be making very extensive use of the extended support I bought. Once they replace the power supply and motherboard (and whatever else is required to make this P.O.S. work), every other day I’ll insist that it won’t turn on. When the tech arrives I’ll conveniently mention that I unplugged the power supply or forgot to plug the computer in or removed the RAM. Maybe eventually they’ll realize that they should have refunded my money in the first place.

More importantly, I will never, ever, ever buy a Dell again. And as far and wide as I can stretch, I will never let anyone I know buy a Dell either. I should have known better, as the three previous Dell desktops I’ve owned lasted less than a year. Fool me four times, shame on me? Anyway, thanks Dell, way to be a reputable company, standing behind your product and treating your customers so well.

A quick update on Kirby’s progress

Just wanted to give a quick update on Kirby. He came home on Saturday night – much to the delight of Quigley, who had been rather lethargic in his absence. A few pics (click any for slightly larger):

Yes, Quigley still looks kind of lethargic, but I think he understands, to some extent, that Kirby is not well and does not need to be wired for sound. Kirby, too, seems to be starting to understand his limitations. We believe he over-exerted himself the first couple of days and is now giving us better indication that he wants our help eating, going outside, etc.

The 80-90% recovery is a long way off, and I haven’t really slept since he came home; I’ll spare you from the reasons. But this morning, after arguably his roughest night yet, he made his trademark head tilt a few times. If you haven’t seen this, you really need to. I will try to post some video evidence soon. Seeing him display this behavior in his current condition is definitely uplifting.

I want to send out a very heartfelt thanks to everyone who has had Kirby in their thoughts. The outpouring of love and support from friends, family, co-workers and the SQL community (a.k.a. #SQLFamily) has been overwhelming and greatly appreciated! I can only hope that we never have to repay the favor, at least not specifically.

The (abridged) tale of a beagle

Kirby (click for larger)

Who couldn't love these sad eyes?

Meet Kirby.

Kirby is a 6-year old beagle in the Bertrand home. As a puppy, he was rescued from an abusive home in Tennessee. He’s had some socialization and other personality issues with strangers and certain dog breeds, but anyone who’s met him more than once knows that he is a loving animal and warms up quite quickly.

I finally figured out how to combine YouTube and WordPress. Here is a video of Kirby and Nicole playing the other night (there is another one at the bottom of the post of Kirby dreaming during Monday Night Football). I can’t wait until we have this Kirby back.

After about a year, sensing that he needed some non-human companionship, I procured Kirby a makeshift brother: Quigley, a beagle puppy rescued from Kentucky, who was found abandoned in the woods, no tags, starving to death. For the first good portion of their time together they were okay friends, fighting over food occasionally, normal dog stuff.

Then the trip to New Hampshire happened. Nicole and I rented a house in the mountains, just for a weekend, and brought the dogs. The first morning, I brought the dogs outside with me to do their business. No leashes, just walked right beside them and then walked them back inside. A couple of hours later I was taking a shower, and Nicole decided to do the same thing. They got the scent of something (I said they were beagles, right?) and they were gone. We searched the woods for them until it got dark, at which point we were just as likely to get lost. Never mind freeze to death : at its coldest, the thermometer went to 8°F. Helpless, we hung a couple of our shirts out on the deck, hoping our scent would lure them back (without luring bears or other less desirable animals). I fully believed that the dogs couldn’t have survived the night – either the cold got them, or some animal. At right around the 24 hour mark, my cell phone rang. A local number. I was ecstatic to hear that the person on the other end had one of our dogs in the garage (this turned out to be Quigley), and could see Kirby lurking at a safe distance. (Both of our cell numbers are listed on their collars.) They were in rough shape but alive. On the drive home they were huddled together on the back seat like Siamese twins, which I imagine they must have done for warmth throughout the night. And they’ve been similarly inseparable ever since.

Kirby & Quigley (click for larger)

Flash forward to yesterday afternoon. I let the boys out into the yard. As soon as I opened the door, they went absolutely nuts. I looked around to see what was going on, and there was a rafter of wild turkeys just on the other side of the fence. I grabbed my phone to text Nicole, because we had never seen wild turkeys in this neighborhood before. I looked back up, and saw the dogs running on the other side of the fence – in a matter of seconds they had dug their way out and were chasing the turkeys. Note that I have never said our beagles were smart. So, I chased after them, which proved futile after only about 5 minutes. They were gone. I ran back to the house, jumped in the car, and trawled the neighborhood beyond the woods behind us, which is where they usually end up when they’ve broken out of jail. I stopped at the end of the nearest cul-de-sac, killed the engine, and listened. Usually if they’re on the prowl, you can gradually hone in on them because they sound like, well, a pack of hunting beagles. But for good reason, I saw them before I heard them.

Kirby was lying down in a backyard, by some bizarre coincidence not 40 feet from where I had arbitrarily decided to park. I called to him but he didn’t respond. I jumped out of the car and ran over. Quigley was there too, marching laps in a tight circle around his big brother. When I reached them, my heart absolutely sank. Kirby’s face was bloodied, and he seemed unwilling or unable to move. One of his hind legs was curled up under him in a position that could only be described as uncomfortable. I was hesitant to try and move him, but for lack of a dog airlift approaching, I didn’t really have a choice. I bundled him up in my arms and ordered Quigley to follow us. I laid Kirby down in the back seat of the car, ushered Quigley in behind him, and sped to Ocean State Veterinary Hospital in Warwick.

I can’t even come close to describing that drive to you. I’ve driven from North Bay, Ontario (yes, the one near the Arctic Circle) to places as far away as Atlanta, Georgia. At least 3 times a year, I make the 12-hour trek home over a long weekend. But yesterday’s 30-minute drive was easily the longest in my life, even though I took a few liberties with speed that I don’t think I’ve taken in a decade. Kirby was making gut-wrenching noises that I had never heard before, and all I could do was wish that there was something I could do.

I got to the hospital and they took some initial X-Rays. A couple of broken ribs, but otherwise he seemed ok. They asked me what happened, and I said I wasn’t sure, I didn’t see it. We went back and forth about whether he was hit by a car, attacked by the turkeys, attacked by the jerk dog they leave tied up on a chain all day in that other neighborhood, or possibly some combination – since there seemed to be evidence of each. They took some more X-Rays from different angles and raised their estimate of two broken ribs to five. Serious lung trauma, possible pelvic and forearm issues, difficulty breathing, and signs of pain that were obvious to everyone in the hospital. Things were not looking good at all, and I was expecting to have to make the ultimate choice.

I remember quite vividly the few times I’ve cried as an adult. When my grandmother passed away. When Wayne Gretzky retired. And then yesterday. It really is quite amazing how “human” a pet can become, how tightly woven into your life, and how much you can care about an animal that someone else decided deserved to be beaten or abandoned.

As it turns out, barring any complications that may be revealed through further testing (they can’t test thoroughly yet because of the pain), Kirby’s ribs should heal in about 6-8 weeks, and his life should return to relative normalcy. He is under 24/7 hospitalization right now, and I feel much better about his prognosis than I did a mere 16 hours ago. I can’t visit with him until noon, and I feel pretty useless in the meantime. In fact I’m a little worried that Quigley is traumatized by the whole thing, even though he escaped the entire incident unscathed – he seems quite lethargic and perhaps confused that his brother isn’t around.

Don’t worry, Quigley. Kirby is coming home.

UPDATE 2011-12-09 3:10 PM EST

Nicole and I visited Kirby at the hospital at lunch. It’s quite unbearable seeing the pain he’s in, but the doctor is confident that it will subside and that he will have a good chance at a full recovery, so we have to stay positive.

Nicole took a great shot of me trying to comfort him, though there really isn’t a whole lot we can do:

Kirby & I (click for larger)

We brought one of my T-shirts to mix in with his bedding. I hope this gives him at least a faint sense of our presence, because even though we can’t be in the hospital with him all day long, our hearts are certainly there with him.

There’s definitely an issue with his left hind leg (though X-Rays are negative), and he hasn’t been able to urinate yet without the catheter (they suspect potential bladder rupture). Though they do admit that some of these things could just be symptoms of the pain caused by the 5 fractured ribs.

Stupid turkeys.

Testing video embedding:

An open letter to my fellow bloggers

Please turn comment moderation off.

A few weeks ago, I left a comment correcting a Microsoft Tech Evangelist’s blog post, where a suggestion was made to unnecessarily expose a surface area of SQL Server. My comment suggested that the surface area didn’t need to be exposed, but it was not published immediately (the blog comments are moderated). I let this go for a few days, then I saw a new comment saying something along the lines of, “Great post, thanks man!” So I e-mailed the author directly, and he admitted that he should fix the suggestion. He did, kind of – I still find it ambiguous. My comment remains unpublished, so readers may still be unintentionally misled into believing that the specific surface area needs to be exposed to take advantage of the other technology he was evangelizing.

On Sunday I left a comment on another Microsoft blog, and it has yet to appear. This one is a lot more benign, but the point is the same – if the blogger is too busy to moderate comments, why is there a comments feature at all? How many comments are sitting in this person’s “approve” queue? An issue with blog posts is they get stale very fast. If a reader has a relevant point to make, and you don’t publish the comment until a week later, what good is it? Most of your readers are not checking back day after day to see if anyone has left a comment. I’m not sure about your RSS reader but I have enough in the unread queue that I’m not spending a lot of time doting over 0ld items.

Moderation kind of goes against the point of allowing comments on your blog in the first place. So why do people moderate?

  1. SPAM
    Let’s be completely honest here – nobody cares about the spam. Do you not trust your readers’ ability to ignore an enticing but obvious link for a fake Rolex or Gucci bag? Besides, your spam filter should be worrying about that, not you. So a few spam comments get through – who cares? So a few hundred spam comments get through – ok, time to get a better spam filter? I know some folks (e.g. @AndyLeonard | blog) are adamant that they will never let links to questionable sites get picked up by spiders and be indirectly linked to their own site. Again that goes back to having a better spam-trap in the first place, but I know some can’t control this. For anyone who can, use Akimset and keep it up to date. Even if some spam comes through and someone clicks on it before you delete it – do you really think the reader is going to blame you?
  2. Sensitivity
    I understand that some people are overly sensitive and don’t want to risk their readers seeing a negative or corrective comment. I try to treat blogging like public speaking. You can’t put duct tape over a heckler’s mouth, so why are you doing it to your readers? If someone asks a question and you don’t know the answer, or brings up a point that you disagree with, this is an opportunity for dialog – one of the whole reasons you’re part of the community, right? Maybe another reader has the answer. Maybe another reader wants to hear why you have a different opinion. You don’t necessarily need to be the first responder. We don’t all have to agree, and we don’t all have to be perfect. This is not the Borg.
  3. Damage Control
    I suppose there are some cases where you want to prevent competitors or would-be-saboteurs from saying really negative things on your blog. But I think that falls under #2. Haters are going to hate, and you should rely on your readers to be able to distinguish between nonsense and legitimate criticism. If someone is being a real you-know-what, I think deleting the comment after the fact (or better yet masking the dirty words) is still better than moderating – even if they’re doing it anonymously. If they’ve attached a name to it, now you have quasi-permanent evidence of their behavior.
  4. Keeping Your Private Business Private
    One colleague I talked to has received offers for work on their blog, and this is the sole reason they moderate. I can understand that. However, there is probably some fault on both sides here – if you are a contractor openly looking for work, your prospective clients should already know a better way to contact you than through a comment on your public blog. And, quite frankly, they should know better.

I’d be interested to hear other reasons for moderating. I know that I have already convinced at least one fellow SQL family member to stop moderating comments, and I’d like to convince you too! I’m not asking you to be on standby 24/7, serving as your readers’ Q & A host. You don’t even have to respond to the questions and comments if you don’t want. I just feel it’s unfair to your readers to suppress comments for days, stifling the conversation and preventing other readers from seeing those comments (even if you’re too busy to read them). Some of you moderate but are still really good about turning it around quickly – however you will be leaving your readers hanging when you take a vacation, get sick, or have a power or ISP outage.

NHL realignment : Hell yes!

I’m very excited about the realignment of the NHL. Let me tell you what has changed, and then I’ll tell you why I think this is going to be good for everyone.

Currently, the NHL is divided up into two conferences of 15 teams each; each conference has three divisions with 5 teams each. Each team plays more games against teams in its own division than against teams outside of the division but in the same conference, and teams in the same conference more than teams in the other conference.

During the regular season, this isn’t so bad – some new rivalries have sprung up that wouldn’t have otherwise if certain teams weren’t suddenly playing each other more often. On the other hand, there are all kinds of issues with travel and time zones. For example, because Atlanta moved to Winnipeg, but are still in the Southeast division of the Eastern Conference, they’re constantly traveling to play east coast teams (and east coast teams are constantly traveling to them). Even worse off are teams like Detroit, who play in the Western Conference but are in the Eastern time zone – this has a dramatic impact on their fans because, since most of their away games are against Western Conference teams, and most Western teams are in Mountain or Pacific time, a good portion of their games start at 10:30 local time. So what ends up happening? Kids can’t watch because they’re in bed, and adults can’t watch because they need to get up in the morning. The same is true in the opposite direction – when the LA Kings are visiting teams like Detroit, game time is 4:30 (or 5:00 in some cases). Fans can’t watch these games either because, well, what time does the average person in LA get home on a weekday? Of course this isn’t completely avoidable unless there are teams you don’t play at all – but the *majority* of your games should be in your own time zone or no more than one time zone away. And finally, there are some match-ups that won’t happen at all. For example, Boston does not play in Vancouver this year, and several other cities won’t see the Stanley Cup Champions either.

To put it visually, here is a map showing the wackiness that is the conference / division geography as it stands today (click for larger):

There are seven teams in the Western Conference that lie east of Winnipeg, which is in the Eastern Conference! I wonder if their fans feel more or less slighted than Detroit about their time zone issues and game start times. At least the commute in Winnipeg is nowhere near as suicidal as it is in SoCal!

Come playoff time, at least since the current conference seeding was established in 1994, each division leader automatically makes the playoffs, then the next best 5 teams in the conference. This means that an entire division could, theoretically, send all 5 of its teams to the playoffs, while the two other divisions in that conference send only three representatives in total (two division leaders and then one other). Similar things have happened in the NFL wildcard in recent years, and it’s a shame to see, let’s say, an 11-5 team in a hard division not make the playoffs, only because, let’s say, an 8-8 team won their crappy division. In the NHL this has meant that instead of the old days, where the Bruins and Canadiens typically meet in the early rounds, the Bruins have played teams like Carolina and Washington. Still good teams, no doubt, but in a lot of cases it makes for less spirited playoffs. At least from this fan’s perspective.

A Realigned NHL

It only took about an hour for the Board of Governors to approve the new conference alignment, and once you dig into it, it is quite clear why there were few, if any, objections. There are now four conferences with either 7 or 8 teams each. Teams will play a large portion of their games against those other 6 or 7 teams. And, like today, they will play fewer games against teams outside of their conference. It is yet to be established whether “out of conference” will apply equally to the other three conferences, or whether they will be split into two western and two eastern conferences.

Geography alone makes this a much more sensible layout. While teams will still travel well out of their time zone at various points in the year, they are aiming for only once in each team’s city in the other conference, and I think twice in each team’s city in the same conference (but outside the division). It’s late here and I don’t have my textbook full of schedule builders’ algorithms, but I’m hoping it will still make sense in an 82- or maybe 84-game season. The fact that every team will play in every other team’s building at least once means more exposure of more superstars to each team’s fan base – this can’t be a bad thing.

Compared to the bizarre geographical layout depicted above, here is what the new breakdown looks like (click for larger):

For the playoffs, the top four teams from each conference will make it. The chance still exists, of course, that a mediocre team in a crappy conference could make the playoffs, while an excellent team in a much more challenging conference does not. But since there are more teams fighting for each set of four spots, it isn’t as likely that an entire conference will be made up of complacent teams. And to be honest, I really don’t see a weak conference here.

I think this is more fair overall – both to the teams in terms of travel time, and to the fans in terms of time zones and game starts. Though some teams are going to find their new division alignment quite challenging – I wonder how hard it will be for the Islanders and Devils to make it out of Conference D, never mind the Leafs in Conference C. I guess we’ll see next season.

What happens after the second round, when each of the four conferences has a champion, is another thing that remains to be seen. I have to think that, based on travel alone, they would lean toward pairing conference A & B together, and C & D together. That late into the playoffs it’s going to be impossible to avoid the time zone problems in at least one of the series.

On the Lighter Side

I really hope they go back to naming the divisions/conferences something meaningful. Atlantic and Southeast are boring even when they are accurate, but they made absolutely no sense when they weren’t. I really miss the Adams, Patrick, Smythe, and Norris divisions, and the Clarence Campbell and Prince of Wales conferences, because they meant something other than finger-pointing on a map. Granted, Wikipedia and others report that conference/division naming based on geography is better for dumb people, and the league is in fact moving back toward regional alignment (the earlier eastern/western division names were removed because they were no longer aligned regionally). That aside, here’s what I suggest:

Conference A
Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, LA, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

Let’s call this the Gretzky Division. Why? Because most of The Great One’s legendary career was spent here.

Conference B
Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg

I’m going with the Howe Division here, though Bobby Hull gets a seriously honorable mention.

Conference C
Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto

This one is easy: the Orr Division. The sentimental part of me wants to nominate the late Tim Horton, and certainly not because I like that chain’s coffee.

Conference D
Carolina, New Jersey, both New York teams, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington

Here I’ll have to say it is the Clarke Division. I would go with Lemieux (Mario, not Claude) but I still don’t the NHL is too fond of him for his draft day stunt.

And Even Lighter

The balancing of the conferences leaves me wondering… with only 7 teams in each of the east coast conferences, could there be a strategy to leave room for returning franchises? I would love to see a return of both the Quebec Nordiques and the Hartford Whalers.

Winnipeg is certainly making a good case that hockey has recovered enough to once again support these teams even in small markets. Especially in cities that are missing their former and only major league team across all sports. Even though my heart is with the Bruins, I would love to wear a Mike Liut, Ron Francis or Peter Stastny jersey again.

Conclusion

It’s clear that I see all positives here. But what do you think about the realignment? Would love to hear your thoughts, who your team is, and where you are located.

Stubborn iChat after upgrading to OS X Lion

Well, like the title suggests, after upgrading to OS X Lion, I was having some issues with iChat. Specifically, every time I woke the monitors from sleep, iChat would start itself up and bring its little app window to the forefront. The first few times I just cursed and closed it, but then it started to get really annoying. While I knew it could only be partially related at best, I checked to make sure that iChat was not listed in my Login Items under System Preferences > User Accounts > my account, and it was not. I checked iChat’s preferences for a “launch at startup” or “launch on wake” preference, but nothing was listed. Under General there was a setting for “When I return to my computer, if my status is Away:” and then 3 options for what to do (stay Away, become Available, or Ask). But this couldn’t be related because it would have to mean that iChat was actually running when the computer went to sleep, right?

I performed several searches about what could be causing this issue, but most yielded boring discussions where people wanted iChat to either start or stop launching when they logged in – I couldn’t find any useful discussions about iChat launching itself when returning to my computer after a break and the displays had gone to sleep.

So then I started searching for ways to disable iChat entirely – but those all ended up with suggestions to either (a) log on as root and delete any and all files containing the string “ichat” or (b) using a shareware program called AppZapper to completely remove iChat. Since I’m a little nervous that neither of those things are good ideas, I decided to look deeper into iChat itself. I went to the Accounts screen and it turns out that somehow, in the process of upgrading, GMail added itself as an iChat “Jabber” account. Perhaps I did that somehow, either directly or indirectly, but I certainly don’t recall doing so. In any case, I first tried disabling the account (as well as disabling the AIM account and Bonjour messaging):

Let the computer go to sleep, woke it up, and iChat still popped up. I believe this has something to do with the fact that I keep GMail’s web interface open in Firefox all day long, and I keep Google Chat enabled (though I am always invisible). Since I don’t want to change that behavior, and since I always use the chat functionality in the browser, I simply deleted the Jabber account from iChat. Problem solved.

Now, if you use iChat all the time, or have it set to start up automatically on login, you probably haven’t noticed this. But it was annoying the crap out of me, so that’s how I fixed it.

iPhone 4 on AT&T vs. iPhone 4S on Verizon

This past week my wife and I switched from AT&T to Verizon. She works at a fairly large company in Rhode Island which happens to offer benefits at a lot of national companies, including a 20% discount at Verizon Wireless. While my contract with AT&T wasn’t quite up yet, it was still an easy decision to switch – not only would the savings pay for the early termination fee in a short amount of time, we’d also be back on a network where 1 in 5 calls weren’t being dropped. AT&T might have great coverage in some parts of the country, but in Rhode Island at least we were not having very good luck at all.

Anyway, now that I’ve been using the new phone for a few days, I thought I would comment on some of the things I’ve observed.

It’s faster

Now, this could be solely because of the new processor, but I suspect I owe some of it to some housecleaning I did. When syncing, I unchecked a lot of apps that I wasn’t using anymore, and of course my camera roll is now virtually empty. But the faster processor is certainly noticeable.

The camera is way better

I haven’t tried any of the fancy red-eye reduction techniques, as I typically post-process my images in Photoshop anyway. But that is usually with a “real” camera. Even at 5MP, with a limited set of options the iPhone camera was not my go-to-device, but with the new 4S – at 8MP – it might be sufficient for some trips. Here I tried to take the same picture of a dopey Tom Brady from my DVR. The iPhone 4S is on the left, the iPhone 4 on the right.

brady
(click for larger)

I resized the pictures to match, but based on specs alone you could guess that, in addition to the clearly superior color, the number of pixels in the picture on the left was substantially larger before modification. Of course this quality comes at a price – a typical picture on the iPhone 4 was 1.3MB, while it is over 2.3MB on the 4S. So if you’re going to be taking a lot of pictures, I’d stay away from the 16GB model and go for the 32GB or 64GB. Or be prepared to offload/purge often.

As an aside, who dressed Brady this morning? That hat makes him look like he’s hiding the fact that he’s auditioning for Coneheads 2.

Physical differences

Supposedly the antenna on the Verizon device is more reliable, though I never experienced the death grip issue with the AT&T device either. Size is identical, and weight seems relatively the same. Wasn’t expecting any surprises there. However, the mute and volume buttons are slightly offset due to the changed design of the antenna. This is something that was not a shock to me, as I had read about it long before I  And for the case I use (the Mophie Juice Pack Plus), the difference is more cosmetic than functional. I can still access the mute button, and the volume buttons work perfectly fine, but the cap exposes the mute button at a weird offset. I do hope that Mophie introduces provider-specific caps (they currently offer replacement caps for $9.95, but I’m not sure if these still adhere to the original AT&T design). Here are a couple of shots showing the difference:


(AT&T on top, Verizon on bottom)

And here is how the cap for the Mophie case looks:

Above, on the AT&T phone, the placement of the mute button window is perfectly centered. While below, you can see that while the window exposes the full mute button, it’s off-center (especially cumbersome if you have fat fingers) and also exposes one of the antenna seams. Maybe a good thing for reception, I’m not sure.

UPDATE 2011-12-05: According to @mophie, their current set of replacement caps are a universal design and should expose the mute button appropriately whether you have the old or new iPhone 4 and regardless of network. I’ll order one and let you know.

Provider issues

When we committed to Verizon a couple of weeks ago, the 4S phones were out of stock. Unless we wanted white, which we didn’t. Of course the phones arrived out of sequence; I received mine before we left for Jamaica, but Nicole did not get hers until we returned.I’m not complaining about this, in case it sounds like I am: we actually weren’t scheduled to receive them until December 9th. I guess the sooner they get us the phones, the sooner they get to issue the first bill.

While Verizon was pretty good about setting up our account and merging us into a family plan, the transition was far from flawless. For one, the Verizon Wireless store in Woonsocket is not actually a Verizon Wireless store, even though the storefront and all the branding make it appear to be. It’s actually run by some outfit called Wireless Connection acting as an approved reseller. We brought our phones there the other night and the door was locked. We knocked, and nobody seemed to be coming. We got back in the car and used a phone to search for the next closest VZW store – Bellingham, MA, about 20 minutes away. Then the guy in the store came and unlocked the door; guess he was working alone and took a bathroom break. We walked in and he wasn’t very helpful at all: “Sorry, we’re just a reseller, we can’t set up accounts or phones.” I think he just wanted to get rid of us so he could continue his bathroom break. I don’t know what else an “authorized reseller” can’t do, but I’m going to submit a suggestion to Verizon that they publish a list somewhere (or, if such a list already exists, make it more discoverable).

So we went to Bellingham, waited about half an hour (I guess when a store can actually do useful things for you, it’s busy) and finally got to talk to a CSR. She set up the account no problem, and ported our contacts between old and new phones. In my case, the list of contacts roughly doubled – not every contact, but any contact with an address got split out into two (one with phone + address, one with just phone). My phone was functional right away. Nicole’s did not work until yesterday. The CSR (and the person in Warwick who originally ordered her phone) forgot to tell her that she needed to dial *228 or something in order to port her old number over. This was done for me automatically, but this guy in Warwick for some reason assigned a fake, temporary number to her phone, and it was stuck like that until yesterday when we called Verizon with a WTF. They were great about resolving the issue quickly, but why did it have to happen that way?

Conclusion

All in all I’m very satisfied with the phone, and having been a BAM/Verizon customer for 10 years prior to switching to AT&T when they were the only iPhone provider, I know I’m going to be happier with the network. I think Verizon still has some customer service and process kinks to work out, however I’m hoping that the billing works out correctly and that we won’t have many opportunities to talk to their CSRs anyway.