Two bizarre events which require explanation

  1. A few weeks ago, I reported a software bug to Bank of America. Their alert system was properly notifying me when my credit card was used overseas, but the amounts in the alert email were multiplied by 100. This caused a seizure the first time, but after I got it, I called them. A nice smart person said she’d forward it to Engineering. Last week the bug was fixed.
  2. Today, my T-Mobile Sidekick decided it was a brick instead of a phone, and refused either to see my SIM card or to see the network. I called up T-Mobile. “Joe” answered on the second ring and told me I needed Sidekick Tech Support. I punched in my phone number and hung up. Five minutes later they called, and the nice smart tech walked me through resetting my radio firmware. In a total of 15 minutes the phone was totally fixed.

Dear Lazyweb: My new Macbook Pro…

…is beautiful, and fast, and useful. However, it has a tiresome bug. Frequently the Airport wireless connection will drop, and on reconnecting it will fail to hand out an IP address. This is true whether my base station is set to act as a dhcp server itself or whether it is bridging to my linux box for dhcp. The Macbook just sit there with its dhcp default address asking for an IP.

When the server side is the Linux box, i can see it trying to hand out an address without any success, showing that the request is being heard. Somehow the response back to the Macbook falls on deaf ears.

This is especially true if the machine has been sitting for a while or comes back from sleep. It will work for a few minutes and then the wireless connection will totally drop, down to zero, and nothing works on reconnection.

The only fix is to power down the Macbook and come back up. This is suboptimal.

I am going to scour the usual help sites and the apple message boards, but anything the Group Mind has to contribute would be great.

Why nobody ever reports anything to anyone, anywhere

If you’re a consumer, in which category I include ordinary members of organizations, citizens, enlisted men in the service etc., there is no point in telling the organization about a problem.

Try telling the call center at your telephone company about a problem with the phone’s software. Try telling the sad vest-wearing people at the megastore that the paint cans are all leaking. Experiment by pointing out a hugely embarrassing typo in the ads for your bank. It’s almost always pointless. Some combination of corporate hostility, personal resentment from the underling you encounter, “policies,” and the complete inability of “first line customer service” to communicate with functional parts of the organization occurs.

There are exceptions. 911, for example; they’re always glad to hear about an oil slick on the freeway or the smell of natural gas, or even the leaky paint can. Individuals who run small stores or one-person open source software projects are generally grateful and responsive to help. Journalists, when you contact them directly, like to fix errors and typos.

My example today is LJ. Once, there was a community of some kind for reporting problems, followed by a bugzilla installation, followed now by an RT installation. RT is a great piece of software. I reported on Sept. 22 that a good chunk of my comment emails were blank. No one took the bug and there were no replies; the problem continued. On november 30 someone categorized the bug but did not take it or assign it. Today I added some helpful information. It’s dead. A useful and necessary feature is totally broken, but submitting this information as an ordinary user is totally pointless.

I wonder what the minimum size is for an organization so that consumers are sealed off from any attempt to provide useful feedback from the bottom up? With big companies it appears to be a point of pride now that the call center droids and email answerers are forbidden to communicate with anyone. And even with a well-intentioned application of bug tracking software, it’s just ennui reporting anything.

THE FUTURE LIES AHEAD

One of our internal webservers at the office blew up. It’s an intricate and bizarre hack on a little-used platform, and we’re terrified of it dying because our knowledge of the internals is bad. I was pretty sad about it, and especially so because I had to fix it.

A careful search of the internet found a mailing list thread in which many, many other people had the same problem, all starting after 2006-05-12.

The thread starts here: http://www.mail-archive.com/aolserver@listserv.aol.com/msg09812.html

What turned out to be the problem? All these systems failed at the same time, exactly one billion seconds before the 32-bit Unix epoch ends in 2038. The timeouts set for database threads caused the software to look ahead, gasp in horror and died.

Ladies and gentlemen I’m in a select club of the first victims of the Year 2038 Bug.

My job is weird.

livejournal bug

When I get comment notification mail now, and I click on a link like “unscreen this comment” or “delete this comment” in the mail, it takes me to the old school url and I get a message that the url doesn’t match the journal owner. Then I have to do it all manually, instead.

Does anyone know where one actually reports bugs like this? The Support thing has never worked for me; I get a response six weeks later after it’s all fixed asking me why I’m reporting this because it’s all fixed.