Friday, December 28, 2007

Hewlett Packard Technical Support(?) - AIO Printer

A customer has been using an HP L7680 All-in-One printer for a couple months - as a network printer. All was fine. Recently he said he wanted to be able to scan documents. I attempted to use the scanning function from his workstation and it was no go. I called HP Technical Support and after working some time with the technician I was advised that we had a faulty unit - they would ship a replacement.

When the replacement arrived I followed the instructions - uninstalled the software and then reinstalled the software. I was able to print via the network to the printer - I could access the web interface of the printer. HOWEVER, if I attempted to launch the HP SOLUTION CENTER I immediately received a reply that NO DEVICE FOUND - along with a button to click that said OK! (as if this was ok).

By the way, what do you think of printer/scanner software that tells you it is going to take 20-30 minutes to install? This to me sounds like BLOAT.

I called HP Technical Support. They established a remote session with my workstation. They redid the steps that I a had already told them I had done - uninstalled the software and then reinstalled the software. NO DEVICE FOUND. You have to love that at least these beasts are usually consistent. After hacking around for a total of about 2 hours this support guy was able to scan by manually launching one of the executables buried deep within their software directories. So, obviously the hardware was working. It got to be 5pm and I told the technician that the business owner had to close up shop and we would have to discontinue the support call and resume at a later date.

The support technician then told me to allow 3 to 4 hours for the next support phone call! At this point, without the followup call, my customer had already paid me more for my time than the $400 cost of the printer.

Instead of making the 4 hour phone call the next day (12/17) I wrote an email to Mark Hurd, CEO of Hewlett Packard. I received an email response the following day (12/18) apologizing for my difficulties and letting me know my issue had been forwarded to the Customer Escalation team and I would hear from them. The Customer Escalation team must have been fairly busy - I received a telephone message on 12/24.

Yesterday I made a site visit to the customer and called the Customer Escalation department. When I explained the issue I was told - 'you need technical support - but let me try and work with the software issue' . This guy had me delete a few files, reinstall some software and try again. NO DEVICE FOUND. Then he said he would transfer me to Technical Support. I asked if there was some higher level of Technical Support I could access since the guys that say 'please be on hold so I may consult my resources' have NO EXPERIENCE and about as little technical knowledge. I wanted to work with someone that was a troubleshooter - not a script reciter. The Customer Escalation guy told me that there was just one access point to technical support. Then he said if I did not find the support technician to be helpful - I should ask to speak to the supervisor because they are technicians and have experience. Before he transferred me he said he would call me back late in the day to followup on my technical support experience.

Then I spoke to 'William' from Banglor or whatever his name was and wherever he really was. I told him what the issue was and for the next several minutes he asked me questions that I had already answered in my initial description of the issue. Eventually he asked me to 'please be on hold while I consult my resources'. Before he could put me on hold I jumped in and told him that the guy who transferred me to him instructed me to ask for a supervisor.

From this point it took about 15 minutes of him asking me my name, email address and other stuff that he already had in the case notes. After all this delay he told me his supervisor was on the telephone, this was the only person available for me to talk to, and he had no way of knowing how long he would be - but that he could have the supervisor call me back - within 90 minutes. I said okay. That was at about noon EST on 12/27. It is now 12/28 and I have not heard from the supervisor.

I did, however, have another phone message from the Customer Escalation department guy.

I returned the call, spoke to a different guy because my guy had finished his day. I gave the different guy my report. 1) Supervisor never called me back. 2) HP AIO software is BLOAT and this is just one of several really bad experiences I have had with it 3) Is this the experience that HP wants to have with their end users (my customers) where they have to pump more money into making something work than the actual device cost in the first place.

I added - as something for the mythical suggestion box - in this day of venders trying to make inroads into the SMB market space - that HP should consider having a Technical Support access for SMB Consultants where we can find someone that knows more about their product than we know - instead of script readers.

By the way, on my own, after getting off the phone with 'William', I found that the web interface for the printer has a SCAN funtion. I doubt that it is as pretty, functional or robust as the workstation scanning software but guess what - I was able to show the customer how to scan with it and CUT HIS LOSSES.

Friday, December 7, 2007

ISP Email Hosting stopped - Mail getting lost

Here's one that I just unraveled.  Perhaps it will save some of you some headache in the future.

 I've got a client that has SBS.  They are a fuse/zoomtown customer.  When I first got involved with them they did not have SBS and fuse was hosting their email.  When we implemented SBS we initially were using the POP mail connector.  Everything was working fine. 

Recently I wanted to switch their mail to be processed by Exchange Defender.  In order to take advantage of ED we needed to get of the POP Connector and get on to SMTP.  Fuse also hosted this company's DNS.  I contacted Fuse network operations and requested they change the MX record in the DNS from FUSE to EXCHANGEDEFENDER.  They made this change promptly and everything was working well – or so I thought.  On a recent office visit one of the staff at this company told me that some emails being sent to them were not being received.  A second staff member heard this and piped in – 'yeah, me too – some people have told me they sent me email and I never received them'.  I asked if they recalled the various senders that had reported sending 'lost' email and they remembered each one.  When we looked at the senders email addresses they were all @ email addresses.  I called fuse/zt tech support and spoke to someone there and explained the situation and asked if they could check this out.  They did something and then told me everything was fine on their end – 'must be something wrong with your exchange server or your Exchange Defender service'.  Today I had a revelation – one of those mental light bulbs that comes on in the shower, on the can, etc. and I figured it out.  I got someone else at fuse/zt on the phone and I told them what the answer was and asked them to dig in their system and confirm it.  Seems that when they changed the mx record to direct mail to a different destination – that was all they did.  They did not update ANYTHING in their mail server.  My client's domain and defunct pop mail boxes still existed in their server.  When the outside world sent email to my client their outbound mail servers did the proper thing and queried DNS and saw that this mail was supposed to go to EXCHANGEDEFENDER and routed it accordingly.  HOWEVER, if a FUSE/ZT customer initiated email – the fuse smtp server did not look at DNS first, it first looked at it's internal mail server and saw that there was a domain and mailboxes sitting right there in house.  They proceded to send emails that originated on the fuse network to these defunct mailboxes.  Voila – or wahla as I've seen.  This mystery solved.

Right now I am still waiting for cinbell to complete the fix.  Their first instruction to me was that I should call the business office and request they cancel our account.  I said 'that's not going to happen'.  When asked 'why not' I said that I KNEW that if I did this then certain other things – like our ISP service, the web site that they host for us would be guaranteed to disappear and we would have a Chinese firedrill ( no political incorrectness intended here) would ensue realtime during business hours.  So far they have deleted the individual mailboxes in their system but not the domain from the mail system.  So now, senders instead of getting no response when they were sending email to the dead letter mailboxes – get an immediate 'bad email address' because fuse still checks the internal mail server and sees there is no longer an individual box for the particular addressee.  I just have to get them to delete the entire domain from their mail server now so they route the mail properly to its correct destination at ED.


Response Point

I attended the one day hands-on training lab in Chicago several weeks ago for the Response Point small business telephone system. Now ALLEN MILLER COMPUTER CONSULTING is set up as a Response Point dealer/installer and we are pretty excited about this new product. We set up our first RP system this week in our head office and it was a snap. Very rich feature set, easy to use, neat integration with Outlook. You can import your OL contacts and then use voice recognition for dialing. You can also get your voicemails as email attachments. Pretty cool.

Managed Services

Yesterday I was talking about some aspect of my business with my wife - usually our conversations stay away from the technical part. I was talking about an opportunity for the Managed Services segment of my company and she said something referring to 'managed care'. That's what she calls this thing I do. I smiled and she asked what was funny. I told her that it's really called managed services and managed care sounds like something they probably have in nursing homes.

Maybe there's not that much difference .

Thursday, December 6, 2007

USB Flash Drives

So I have been trying to educate my small business customers about safety of their IT investment and things like Social Engineering. I explain that hopefully many of the rank and file employees have figured out not to click on .exe file attachments that come with emails from senders that they never heard of (can you say 'duh'?). Then I pose the question - what would you do with a USB Flash Drive that you found laying in the parking lot by your car - or in the hallway outside your office. By now they are on their toes and realize there is a message in this question. They also admit - that if I hadn't brought up the subject of malicious emails they probably would have answered differently.

The day after having one of these conversations I returned to my office to go through the daily snail mail. In this mail I find what you see in this accompanying picture - with absolutely no correspondence or authenticating material. What a great idea - if you are one of the bad guys. It might cost a little more than the spam mail that they are sending us but just think about the returns!

And, what is really more to my point in writing this, I used to expect more from Microsoft than to produce such a sophomorish mailing. This is supposedly one of the leading IT companies in the world. You would think they would have had some way of communicating that this mailing was something to be trusted. Unfortunately, I am coming to learn that big doesn't necessarily mean wise, and that they are more than capable of producing this and many more things like it.

- pause -

Actually I just did a desktop search and found an email from MARCH '07 about a contest called “Growing Small Business Together” which offered a 512k USB Flash drive 'loaded' with stuff. I guess this is what I just received - with no written accompanying correspondence.