We’re all used to bad customer service; too much so, in fact, that we’ve come to accept it as the norm. So when customer service is good, it can be surprising; when it’s really good, it can put a smile on my face.
But sometimes, what seems like good customer service may actually be the contrary. Here’s a tale about a recent experience I had with what seemed to be good customer service, but turned out to be crappy.
I recently decided to try to go paperless. I have to keep ten years of accounting documents, which is a couple of big boxes worth, and I’m planning a move in the coming months; it seemed like a good time to scan all those documents and shred them.
Using information from two books – my fellow Take Control author Joe Kissel’s Take Control of your Paperless Office and David Sparks’ Paperless – I decided to acquire a Fujitsu S1500M scanner. This is a wonderful device, which has a paper-feed, scans both sides of paper you place in it, OCRs it and creates searchable PDFs. I got this last Wednesday, and started using it on Thursday, scanning hundreds of pages of invoices and bank statements. At the end of the day, some of the pages had colored vertical lines on them; nothing too serious, but annoying.
Friday morning, I started scanning more, and the vertical lines showed up after about 30 pages, and were increasingly visible. I called Fujitsu’s tech support number, and spoke with a very helpful woman who asked me to send samples of the bad scans. She got back to me quickly, said that it was a hardware problem, and that Fujitsu would replace the scanner; the next day! This was a good thing, because I had been planning to scan all weekend, and get this project out of the way before Christmas.
Well, the next day came, and no scanner arrived. Monday came, and still nothing. Tuesday was Christmas, and Wednesday there was nothing either. I tried calling Fujitsu a few times on Wednesday, and there was no answer; only a message in German. (I’m in France, and their support center is in Germany.) I sent an email, and got no reply (whereas the week before, I got replies in less than a half hour.) Thursday morning – today – I tried calling again, and there was still no answer.
I had bought this scanner from Apple’s online store*, and I called them and explained what happened. They immediately set up a replacement, though, unfortunately, it may take a week for it to come. But the person was very helpful and understanding, and I frankly feel a lot more comfortable working with the Apple Store than with a vendor directly; they have a lot more interest in keeping customers happy (especially since I buy most of my Apple products from them directly).
So what happened? What seemed to be top-notch customer service was just pretend? Did they really intend to send me the scanner the next day? I did get an email from DHL confirming that it was sent, but with no tracking number, I have no idea when it was sent, or when the delivery was scheduled. The fact that Fujitsu’s tech support team seems to be on vacation for the holidays is inadmissible; I don’t expect them to work on Christmas day, of course, but taking a week off – if that’s indeed the case – seems to suggest they only care about their customers when it’s convenient for them.
I like the scanner; it’s very efficient, and it’s going to save me a lot of time. And I’m sure the problem I have is not a common one. But I’ll think twice before buying anything else from Fujitsu, because of what they put me through.
* I would have bought the scanner from Amazon, and gotten next-day delivery, but it’s about €30 more expensive there. I guess I should have paid more, because Amazon is very efficient regarding returns and replacements.
Posted: 12/27/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Miscellanea, Tools & Techniques Tags: rants, troubleshooting | 4 Comments »
A Macworld article yesterday pointed out how Tapbots pulled their alpha of Tweetbot for Mac, because of worries about Twitter’s new user caps. Twitter is now limiting the number of users a third-party app can have. As Lex Friedman said in the Macworld article:
For existing apps, the limit is either 100,000 users or double their user counts as of August 16, whichever is greater; for new apps, the limit is 100,000 users.
There is a serious problem here, not only for the future of third-party apps, but also for users who purchase these apps. First, the fact that these “tokens” – when you allow an app to access your Twitter account, it uses a token – are limited means that users may come up against these limits in unexpected ways.
For example, imagine that I’ve bought a Twitter client – I have bought several, in fact, both for OS X and iOS. Today, I have one Twitter account, but I want to set up another. I may be able to do so on Twitter’s web site, but if my client no longer has any available tokens, then I won’t be able to add the account to that client.
Or imagine that a client is approaching the limit. I may be able to buy a copy of the client, but if I don’t set up my account with it quickly, there’s a chance that I won’t be able to use it. This leads to problems of refunds, and we know that refunds via the iTunes Store and Mac App Store are problematic.
Here’s another scenario. I’ve allowed several apps to access my Twitter account. Let’s assume that Twitter decides to revoke these accesses after a certain amount of time if they are not used. This could be a way to free up tokens for third-party apps. However, if my token is revoked, I may find that I can no longer use a specific app that I stopped using, if, after an update to the app, I decide to start using it again. (This assumes that the app in question has hit its limit.)
There actually is some logic to Twitter revoking access. Let’s say that you downloaded a demo of an app, granted it access, then decided you didn’t like it. If you didn’t revoke that access, then that’s a token that can’t be reclaimed. (By the way, it’s a good idea to revoke access to any apps that you don’t use; not just so the tokens are freed up, but for security reasons. Go to your Twitter Apps settings to do this.)
The reason for these caps is simply that Twitter wants to phase out third-party clients, yet it is likely that if they did so abruptly they would face legal action. This is a shame – and stupid – as third-party clients are part of what made Twitter as successful as it is. Creating these caps not only limits what developers can do, but also will limit what users can do with apps that they have paid for.
One final point. If I were a developer, I don’t think I would want to be working with a business plan that says, “If my app is really successful, I can no longer sell it.” In fact, this may be Twitter’s goal. By dissuading developers from creating third-party apps, they hope that these apps will simply disappear.
Posted: 8/28/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPad, iPhone, Tools & Techniques Tags: apps, Twitter | No Comments »
I need a new telephone for my home office, and I really like using headphones when I talk, so I can type while talking with clients, and so I don’t have to hold the phone in my hand and keep my arm raised at other times. I live in France, and there are essentially two brands of telephones available: Siemens (Gigaset) and Philips. (There are many other brands, but they only sell the most basic telephones.)
After doing some research, the only phone I could find that has the ability to connect a headset is the Gigaset SL400. It has a mini USB jack, which you can use to transfer data, and which also allows you to connect a headset. I bought this phone, and bought a mini USB > 3.5 mm adapter, but I get no sound out of my headphones. (I’ve contacted Siemens’ support, which is supposed to get back to me, but the call-center person I talked to didn’t even understand what I wanted to do.) The SL400 does have Bluetooth, but I hate Bluetooth earpieces, and the connection takes several seconds, which is annoying.
I like this phone a lot, but I want a DECT phone that allows me to connect headphones, period. I’m surprised that this seems to be rare, at least in Europe. One friend in the US has an older Motorola phone with a headphone jack, but Motorola sells very few phones here.
It’s odd that you are expected to hold a phone like this in your hand, while all mobile phones come with hands-free kits. This is especially the case for people who use these phones in offices, and may need to use their hands while talking, as I often do when working with clients on the phone.
So, any suggestions? Has anyone found a phone like this?
Posted: 8/2/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Tools & Techniques Tags: gadgets, headphones, telephone | 14 Comments »
Since I have a Mac mini with a Thunderbolt connector, I’d been wanting to try out a Thunderbolt hard disk for some time. Yesterday, I decided I would get the Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt Duo (that’s a name that needs shortening; I’ll just call it My Book in the rest of this article). I ordered it from the Apple Store here in France, and got delivery this morning. (The fastest I’ve ever gotten anything from the Apple Store.)
I have a lot of data to back up, notably my very large music collection, plus important work archives. I have a very strict backup routine, where I back up my backups, and the fewer devices I have, the better. The My Book is a single unit holding two hard disks, with capacities of either 4 or 6 TB (I chose the 4 TB model).
There are many advantages to this type of device. Fewer power bricks and data cables make it easier to set up, and the single Thunderbolt cable allows me to connect it either to my Mac, or to my Thunderbolt Cinema Display. In addition, this device has no fan, which I really appreciate. I have long been on a quest for silence in my office, and the external hard disks that I use all day long are single enclosures without fans.
Setting up the My Book is very simple. You plug in the power cord, then the Thunderbolt cable (not included with the device; this costs about $50). Then, you can use Western Digital’s WD Drive Utilities to format the disk. It comes set up in a RAID 0 format, where the two disks show as a single 4 TB disk; this is the fastest way to use it. You can also use RAID 1 (redundant RAID), or JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks) to have the two disks mount separately. I chose this latter option because I want the full 4 TB, but I also want multiple partitions. (You’ll need to use Disk Utility to partition the disks after you’ve set them up for JBOD in the WD Drive Utilities software.)
In real-world use, I get 120-130 MB/sec, or about 4 times the speed of FireWire 800. One of the limitations of this drive compared to others is that it uses 5900 RPM hard disks to save energy, and to keep heat low enough so it doesn’t need a fan. (That’s not a typo: these drives are indeed 5900 RPM.) So it’s not the fastest Thunderbolt storage device; if you really need speed, you’ll want something with faster disks.
But for me, this is sufficient, and my backups are much faster than before. It’s an ideal solution for a standard office setup. Of course, I’m comparing the speed to the previous fastest technology I had, FireWire 800. When I first got a Mac with FireWire 800, and got some compatible hard drives, I was amazed by how much faster they were than FireWire 400. I’m sure that, in a few years, this Thunderbolt drive will seem slow.
Another plus to the My Book is that, if necessary, the hard disks are easy to replace. I’m not planning on them going bad, but if, in a few years, I need larger disks, I can switch them (as long as they are Western Digital Caviar Green drives; the devices only works with these, again, because of the heat they give off).
I’m very happy with this drive. It will replace two individual drives that are currently connected to my Mac via FireWire 800, and it gives me the flexibility of connecting it either directly to the Mac, or to my Cinema Display. At around $500, this drive isn’t cheap – and don’t forget to factor in the $50 for the cable – but it’s good value for the money. It’s easy to set up, fast, and it’s quiet. Exactly what I wanted.
Posted: 6/28/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, Tools & Techniques Tags: hard disks, Mac OS X, storage | 8 Comments »
A reader sent me an e-mail asking if Bento, FileMaker’s “simple” database tool, could read and import an iTunes library. It can’t, unfortunately, but if it could, it would be a very useful way for people to examine and organize a library. Not only would it be practical to view a music library in Bento, but given that the program offers a number of search options, users with large libraries would be able to search and sort in different ways.
In addition, record collectors who still buy those plastic and vinyl discs could take it with them on an iPhone or iPad when they visit record stores to know what they have and what they don’t. One of the features Bento touts is the use of the program to organize collections, and this would fit in perfectly. (The company has many user-created templates available for download, and there are a lot of templates for managing collections.)
All Bento would need to do is to be able to parse the iTunes Library.xml file, which is quite simple, and be able to create individual records with the information they contain. Adding album art would be a bit more complicated, but this should be possible as well.
While the number of people interested in this may be limited, I’m sure there are still a lot of people who would benefit from this ability. I get occasional e-mails from people who organize lots of sound files in iTunes – sound effects, sermons and others – for whom these advanced sorting and searching features would be a big help.
Update: There is a way. See Doug’s comment below.
Posted: 6/15/2012 by kirk | Filed under: iPod & iTunes, Tools & Techniques Tags: iTunes | 9 Comments »
I don’t take a lot of pictures, but when Dropbox offered a beta of their software that automatically downloaded (and uploaded) photos, I tried it out. (I wrote about it in February.) When you connect a compatible device – digital camera, iPhone, etc. – Dropbox detects it and asks if you want to upload photos automatically. It creates a Camera Uploads folder in your Dropbox folder, downloads the photos (and videos) from your device, then uploads them to the Dropbox server. The photos are then synced to any other devices you have.
This is quick and practical, and for many people will be a good way to get all their photos onto their computer – and synced to other computers – with little hassle. Once they’ve been copied, you can go through the folder and see what you want to save, what you want to add to iPhoto, and what is good for deletion.
Personally, I use this for screenshots when I write articles about iOS software. Instead of hassling to get screenshots from my iPhone or iPad onto my Mac, I just connect the device to my Mac, and the files are there almost immediately.
If you don’t have a Dropbox account, you can get a free account with 2 GB storage that you can sync across computers and access from mobile devices. To get an account, click this link. In addition, if you sign up through my link, I’ll get some additional free space as well: 250 MB per user.
Posted: 4/27/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, Tools & Techniques Tags: Dropbox | No Comments »
Bare Bones Software has released TextWrangler 4.0, the amazing free text editor for Mac. Over the years, Bare Bones has maintained this free text editor and provided the Mac community with a powerful tool that does most of what you’ll need to do with a text editor. Yet I don’t use TextWrangler; I use the company’s flagship product BBEdit. The main reason for this is because of the many HTML tools that BBEdit offers; you can see a comparison of the two programs here. Aside from these HTML tools – which I use regularly when writing blog posts and other texts – most users will find TextWrangler more than sufficient.
The latest version of TextWrangler brings in a few key features that BBEdit got recently, notably a new Preferences window, making it easier to find the many preferences and settings the program offers. If you need a good text editor, check out TextWrangler; then check out BBEdit. While you’re at it, check out the great ebook, Take Control of BBEdit, by my colleague Glenn Fleishmann, who delves into the many obscure and useful features the program offers.
Posted: 4/10/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, Tools & Techniques Tags: Mac OS X, text editors | No Comments »
Update: Today, suddenly, the space bar started failing on the replacement. This means that the first one lasted roughly a month, and the second about two months. I’ve tossed it aside and am now using a standard, wired Apple keyboard.
Original post from November 28, 2011:
About a month ago, I bought a Logitech Solar Keyboard for Mac. This is a wireless keyboard, that works using solar energy. You never, and I mean never, have to recharge it, unless you work in an unlit closet. The amount of light in an ordinary office is enough to keep it charged. I like the idea of not having to worry about batteries – which, in my case, means charging rechargeable batteries, which don’t hold a charge long enough when not in use, so I end up with no charged batteries when the ones I’m using run out.
But there were problems with the keyboard. After about a month, the space bar stopped working reliably. Every 10 or 20 times I’d press it, nothing would happen, which meant I had a lot of words that ran together, and would have to stop and correct them. Logitech was fairly prompt in sending me a replacement, which I received today. I took the new keyboard out of the box, and plugged the “Unifying receiver” into a USB port, then started typing. But nothing happened. I checked to make sure I had turned on the keyboard, which I had. I plugged the Unifying receiver into my laptop, and nothing worked either. I tried different USB ports, until I thought of trying the Unifying receiver that had come with the first keyboard. That worked fine. So they replaced a bad keyboard with one whose adapter doesn’t work. Fortunately, I have the previous adapter; I haven’t sent the first keyboard back. But this, to me, is pretty shoddy. I’m not unfamiliar with computer problems, but having problems with two keyboards in a row – admittedly, one is the keyboard, the other the receiver – is disappointing.
Logitech, you’ve lost my confidence. I’d used a number of your products in the past, but I’m not sure whether I’d trust any in the future. I would have recommended this keyboard, because of the lack of batteries, and the keys, which feel a lot like Apple keyboards, which I like, but I won’t do so now.
Posted: 3/8/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Tools & Techniques | 11 Comments »