Development Geek food General Internet/Links

Dotnet Robots

After Eduard posted about Robocode, I remembered that there was a .Net “equivalent” (equivalent in concept, not in completeness) that I’d seen a while ago called IBots.  I did a quick search and also found DotBots which I got to via AIForge which has a list of over 1000 games where you get to program the logic of the “actors”.

They all kinda suck in comparisson to Robocode, but at least you won’t have to learn another language to build a bot. πŸ™‚

General Humour Internet/Links

Fun Flash stuff…

I’m not sure if I linked to these before, but here are two cool flash animations.

“Bang Bang” and “I Like You”


Viral marketing at work…

I just knew I was going to go back on my word when I said that I’d made my last iBurst related blog entry.  But this is kinda cool…  I’m part of some viral marketing.

Last year around November I started hearing about iBurst.  Then a friend of mine subscribed and I heard even more.  In February I started talking about it and soon afterwards my boss started asking questions about getting a faster network connection at work.  (Our team does R&D, so getting new demos/webcasts/products/etc from the internet is part of what we do)

Then at the end of February I subscribed (via FusionReactor) and I blogged about it.  Kevin read about it got it and blogged. My boss got excited about it and got me to demo it to some of our networking guys.  (One of them has already contacted FusionReactor to get them to check out the signal at his home.)  Then another guy at work heard about it from the networking guys and has started looking into it (he might need it in a month or two so that he can communicate with his family in SA while he’s overseas).  And I’m now starting to hear rumors that our company is going to start using iBurst for our connectivity soon.

Isn’t that cool, I’m part of a viral marketing type thing… (aka a new techie meme in South Africa)

[Update: Aparently Craig told Kevin about my blog entry.  So I heard about it from ITWeb, a friend (Sean) got it, I got it then blogged about it, Craig read it and passed it to Kevin who got it and blogged, and now Craig is going to get it too… πŸ™‚  AND last weekend I popped into a computer store near my home (why I popped in is another story) and while I was there I saw that they also have like a mini internet cafe going so I was going to suggest to them that they try iBurst. Today I walked past the store while returning a DVD and I saw an iBurst UTD modem on top of their “main“ PC. So iBurst is cropping up EVERYWHERE. :-)]


I’m 1 year old!

Well, not me exactly…. but my marriage.  Yesterday was our 1st anniversary.  πŸ™‚  We went away for the weekend to Marakele National Park and stayed in the Tlopi Tented Camp (Check it out in their Accomodation section)  The camp was amazing – relaxed and picturesque.

The park was cool, but don’t believe their posts on the forums – you really DO need a 4×4 to see many of the cooler parts of the park.  Well, I’m assuming they’re cooler because my little Tazz just isn’t ready to act like a 4×4 yet, so we didn’t get to see any of the 4×4 trails.  They have about 20km of road in the one section that you can drive on, and in most of that you’re either flanked by dense bush or tall grass (way taller then my car) so we saw rhino and ostrich(at the one camp site), warthog, and some impala in the “main” section.  They also have a drive up one of their mountains to the sentech towers on top.  Its about 1km above the rest of the park so you get some spectacular views.  On that drive we saw stacks of animals (just too far off for us to enjoy it without binoculars), but we had some really close views of Klip springers(sp?). There were 2 of them (1 male, 1 female) that were about 1m from the passenger window of the car, unfortunately they bolted as my wife pointed her camera at them.  The views made the drive more than worth the time, it was great.

On Sunday we decided we’d seen enough grass and went to the Pilanesberg (For a private game reserve they certainly don’t have an easy to find website, anyone know of their official site). πŸ˜‰  We saw rhino, water buck, steenbok, a HUGE (>150) troop of baboons, a herd of about 15-25 elephant, blou wildebees(i think), hippo, springbok, impala, a bunch of birds, and some other animals that my memory is not choosing to remember right now.  We had lunch at the Pilanesberg center (where we managed to find a pair of binoculars).  After that we stopped at Sun City to catch a movie (Shark Tale)

On the whole it was a great weekend… and a wonderful way to celebrate one year of marriage to the most amazing lady.


Feeling bad…

I feel a little bad about my rant yesterday regarding customer service.  It had less to do with iBurst and more to do with the general state of customer service.  Its guys like Shaun (from iBurst) and Grant (from FusionReactor) that give me hope for the future of customer service in their companies.

I’d love it if the world was perfect and all people in customer service roles actually cared about their customers and their products with a passion.   But I don’t know how to achieve that.

One last customer service pet peeve – IVR systems that ask you for your account details but don’t do anything with them.  e.g. “In order to help us process your call efficiently please enter your 20 million digit customer number followed by hash”, after the 5th attempt you finally get all 20 million digits correctly entered (because it won’t let you progress unless you enter a correct number), and you finally get to talk to a human being and the first thing they ask you “Please can you give me your 20 million digit customer number?”   AAAAAAAAAAARGH! Banks are notorious for this mistake… (Not 20Twenty though, they have Caller ID, greet you with your name when they answer, and have your account info on screen immediately – you just have to verify that you are who you are… now that’s cool! :-D)


The sad state of Customer Service

I’ve been hyping iBurst in the past week or so… its Amazing!  However their customer support is not so amazing.  They’ve not yet launched commercially, but they have a great service! It kick’s Telkom‘s butt!  Yeah, lots of people have complained over at, but iBurst is working on the problems and they are getting fixed – even if it is happening slowly.  Fortunately I’m not experiencing 1/2 the problems that some other people seem to have.  However today I experienced their call centre, and I was not impressed.  It reminded me of dealing with “other banks” before I moved to 20Twenty, it reminded me of a call I made to MNet recently…

You see, my decoder had been fried, so I took it in to be swapped out… (I have analog MNet, not DSTV) The lady behind the desk tuned it all for me before I left their customer support desk, but she made a slight mistake.  When I got home, I made sure that the TV was tuned into the decoder’s signal properly, but for some reason my MNet channel was fuzzy…  If I put the decoder onto the CSN channel (also an encoded channel), the picture was perfect… So I assumed that either the lady at the support desk didn’t tune it right, or there was a problem with one of their transmitters.  I waited a few days and it didn’t clear up, so I called them.  I asked if there were problems with their transmitters and they said no, so I asked them to tell me how to tune my decoder so that I could fix the problem. (I also explained the problem to them)… The lady proceeded to ask me to test that my TV was tuned into the Decoder correctly – even though I’d already told her that it was.  She then proceeded to tell me that
   a) my decoder must therefore be faulty,
   b) my arial was incorrectly positioned, or
   c) my decoder needed to be “cleared” (or something like that)…

A) My decoder was not faulty, because it could display CSN at home, and it could display the MNet pretty clearly at home, and it was clear when it was tuned at their offices
B) It was highly unlikely that my arial had “fallen down” in hour it took me to take the old decoder to their offices, and return with the new one.  And anyway, if my arial was broken, surely I wouldn’t get CSN clearly either?
C) My decoder was decoding fine, there were no error messages on the screen

All I wanted was for her to tell me how to tune it… So I told her that, to which she responded “Sir, you called us for help, so let me help you”.  That just pissed me off, I knew what the problem was, I’d explained the same things to her about 5 times already, and still she was trying to get me to flick the “test” switch at the back of the decoder to check that it really was tuned in ok and that I hadn’t lied to her the previous 5 times.  Eventually I kinda lost it with her, and she put me on hold… When she came back she asked me a few more questions and said in an “I told you so” type tone – “Sir, it sounds like you need to re-tune your decoder.”  Now I was livid, so I pointed out that that was EXACTLY what I’d asked her to tell me how to do 20 minutes ago when I first spoke to her.  She eventually explained how to do it, and within 5 minutes I had my MNet signal back up and running perfectly.

That’s how I felt this morning talking to iBurst support.  I take the modem to work with me (in Centurion) so that I can stream audio and check my mail, and its worked fine for the past week.  This morning I could “dial in” and logon, but after that nothing worked… I could ping one of the iBurst routers, but nothing more.  So I called, and spoke to “Sheila”.  I was first told that my PC’s settings were wrong and so it was my fault.  But I was able to work perfectly for the past week, so surely then iBurst must have changed something… “No sir, someone must have changed a setting on your PC to make it not work”.  I mean, do I sound so totally dense on the phone that she thinks I’ll buy that?  Anyway, she shows me how to set my MTU and TCP Recieve Window (or something like that)… and oddly enough the MTU setting she gave me is not the one that they recommend you use in their FAQ. So I now really don’t trust her advice (as if I did before this point).  So I ask her what iBurst has changed, since nothing had changed on my PC, and she suggested that perhaps I was connecting via the Sandton base station “because they’re experiencing authentication problems there”.  Sandton is about 40km away, so there is NO WAY I’d be picking up their signal – all she had to do was to ask for my UTID and she could find out which base station I was connected to – but she didn’t bother to do that.  And anyway, I wasn’t having authentication problems, I’d logged in fine.  But I dutifully changed my MTU settings, and had to reboot my PC.  So I said I’d call her back when it was up again.

It was no suprise that her MTU change didn’t help at all, so I called again.  This time talking to someone else who “put me on hold” (a.k.a moved the mouthpiece away from their mouth while they proceeded to chat to some of the other call center agents, leaving me to listen in to their conversation).  Eventually she tells me that Sheila is still busy, and would I let her call me back. (I’ve read many stories about these famous call back’s… they all say the same thing – it never happens) So I asked if she could perhaps help me.  I told her the story and almost immediately she says that yes, they do have a problem in Centurion.  After some more questioning I find out that she’s not sure what it is or when it will be fixed.  I also ask her why Sheila didn’t tell me that after my first call, and why they haven’t logged it on the incident report page on their website.  For both questions she doesn’t really know… But if I keep trying, it will come right. So I accept that, and go back to trying…

Soon afterwards (11pm), I get a bit peeved at the way the call was handled – so I e-mail the help desk, one of their more public client contacts, and the guys at FusionReactor (who sold me the solution) – basically I just want to raise awareness of the problem, and the negative impact their call center is having.

Around 1pm or so I call again because its still not working, and there still is no report on their incident reporting page.  This time I speak to Tsepo who tells me that they’re having problems with their radio connections in Pretoria East and Centurion.  I ask when it will be fixed, he says he doesn’t know but they’ve just sent technicians out. I ask why its not listed on their incident report page, and he says he doesn’t know.  I get more peeved because “we’ve just sent technicians” at 1pm, when my first call reporting the problem came through at about 9:30am! Anyway, at least he says he’ll call me back when its fixed, so I foolishly believe him.

At 3pm, I get an e-mail from their Chief Technical Officer, and the guy who is “one of their more public client contacts” (I can’t remember his title off hand, but his name is Shaun).  Both apologise and ask for my phone number so that they can call me.  About 30 minutes later I get a call from Shaun.  He apologises and lets me know what the situation is, and says that he’s hoping it will be fixed by the end of the day, he gave me his cell phone number incase it doesn’t get fixed.  I basically try to tell him that my concern is more for the fact that such an amazing technology is having its reputation ruined by a small group of people in their call center. (Read the comments on for more info on that)  And I think I requested again that someone log the incident on their incident report page.

At 7:48pm I get a response from FusionReactor (I’d seen his communication to the Chief Technical Officer, so I knew that he had been getting involved), he basically says what I already knew… They’re busy fine tuning the system, and adding new base stations and so while its unfortunate that the problems arise, they will be fixed by launch… Oddly enough it seems from their responses as if I am one of the few people who is quite happy with the service and who understands that there will be some problems while its basically being beta tested. (Fortunately I actually have had very few problems)…  My biggest frustration is that iBurst offer an amazing service at an excellent cost, and I wouldn’t change to any of the other options we have available in South Africa because they all seem to be so inferior (personal bias)… BUT the “brand”, reputation, trust, and integrity of the company and their amazing service is being sorely let down by bad communication, and a call center that’s not very well skilled in the art of Public Relations, Care, Honesty and Professionalism.  Oh, and there still is no log on their incident report about what went wrong today in Centurion, and now that I think about it, I didn’t even see anything about their authentication problems in Sandton… So why even have an incident report page if they’re not going to use it?

I guess what makes me even more frustrated is that they’re not alone in their lack of communication.  Many SA companies have made the same mistakes, even Microsoft made that mistake but at least Microsoft is learning (e.g. the whole blogging movement in microsoft)… I can’t say it enough… iBurst is excellent, their support however leaves something to be desired.  I actually dread my next call to them, and that is NOT a good thing when they are the only representatives of iBurst that I have contact with now that I’m a client of theirs. 

Maybe I’m also frustrated because I know how it feels to be inside a company where you care about its products, but where your enthusiasm for the company/product is not shared by those who deal with clients all day.  Shaun seems to be in that position.  I’ve been there before – the techies tell you something which you pass on to customers, only to find out that the techies lied, or didn’t do what they promised, and so you end up with egg on your face dealing with frustrated clients all the time because someone else didn’t care enough to actually help the clients who are paying for their salaries.  That was one of the reasons I ended up leaving one of my previous employers – it becomes very draining to continually fight the same battles hoping that something will change in the attitudes of the people who are the first contact for frustrated clients.  So I do not envy the situation that Shaun is in, and I certainly hope his company recognises it before its too late. 

I ended up with migranes every weekend, a fairly shattered social life, failing health due to stress, and a great fear every morning before I had to go into work…  I know that Shaun was off sick a few times in the past month, so I hope he’s not going through what happened to me… and I certainly hope that something changes for the better very soon.

[Update: I got called by Shaun and the CTO of iBurst this morning.  The CTO explained well what went wrong, and said that basically the Help Desk guys will be logging everything on the incident report system, but for now they’re basically moving so fast rolling out the services before the launch that it gets left out sometimes, and it is a priority for them. He sounds like a really nice guy, and it sounds like they’re looking at improving the entire Help Desk experience from top to bottom.  And I can live with that, after all, we’re the beta testers of their service, so we can’t expect it to be 100% functional.  The network is awesome so I don’t mind a few hassles.;-)]

General Internet/Links

“The Book Stops Here”

I just read a Wired News article “The Book Stops Here” about Wikipedia, which just re-affirmed my enthusiasm about Wikipedia.  So I popped onto Wikipedia to see if I could add anything to it and I saw that they had a link to articles that have been requested for over a year.  I’m gonna try and see if there’s one that I can add when I get home. 

The question I pose to you is not what can Wikipedia do to help you, but what can you do to help Wikipedia?  πŸ™‚

General Humour

Quote of the Day

“There is a possibility of peace, but unfortunately there is also a possibility of war”
– Perez de Queliar, Secretary General of the UN

A friend of mine (John) MSN’d me the quote, which he got from an e-mail.  I’m not sure in what context that was said so I could be way off, but wouldn’t it have been better to say “I don’t know” or “No comment” or “It could go either way”.  I guess his way of saying it sounds more official, and makes him sound far more intelligent than my options… But it all comes down to the same thing – he doesn’t actually have a clue.  πŸ˜‰

Geek food General Humour Internet/Links

Mid week humour

I was just reading one of Scoble‘s blog entries about the Numa Numa Dance, so I checked out his link to the Numa Numa video and almost wet myself.  Its a cool song and a cool dance.  Seriously, check it out…

The link path goes something like this:  Gary Brolsma from Saddle Brook, New Jersey recorded the video > Via who knows which friend > New Grounds> Via various news feeds > The Daily Collegian > Purging Poison (Bad Monkey got here via The Birth of Venus)> Bad Monkey > Scoble > Me > You

Geek food General

Last one… I promise… ;-)

Ok, so here’s my last praise for iBurst. I’ve left the iBurst modem at home for the last few days since my work only had 30-40% signal, but I noticed the other day that Centurion’s base station was actually still being implemented.  Hoping that it would improve, I brought my modem to work today.  70-80% signal.  280kbps download (I’ve not been stretching it much so it possibly could go higher)  So I now have fast internet at home and at work… 

Can you tell that I’m just a bit excited about this?  πŸ˜‰

(Oh, I just downloaded a file at 100kBytes per second, can this get any better? :-))