Linux

Webcomic: Linux tech support


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Now that Linux is being mainstreamed by Dell, Linux users can expect mainstream tech support, as depicted all too accurately by this edition of the always intriguing xkcd.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

36 comments
Fil0403
Fil0403

Interesting point, which reminds me of a fact: you may have more problems with Windows than with Linux/Unix (no wonder, you run many more software and hardware on it), but at least, unlike with Linux/Unix, when you have a problem in Windows you just need to Google it and most of the times you have a quick free solution.

RichardKP
RichardKP

Reminds me of a time when we had a Gentoo Linux box dialling an ISP via ISDN and regularly had a remote modem hangup as per our log files. The ISP could not help since we were not running [gasp] windoze. Eventuially we changed internet provider and made only 3 changes to our Gentoo box:- 1: Changed the name of the login server, 2: Changed the login name and 3: Changed the password. Presto, everything worked. We did not even have to change the number dialled!

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Dell doesn't know about Linux.Somebody is hacking them.(hackers don't have pass ports)

bradgalliford
bradgalliford

Why would anyone want to wait in a que for a half hour listening to Dells crappy music? Just google it! (and go download some crappy hold que music while your at it to get the full effect of Real Tech support!)

ralphclark
ralphclark

I have run both Linux and Windows for a number of years. I am fairly "hands-on" with both - that is, if I get any sort of problem with it (no matter how minor) I will not rest until either I have nailed it or at least exhausted all possible avenues. So I know very well what sort of support resources exist out there for both systems. OK to address your points: > you may have more problems with Windows than with Linux/Unix (no wonder, you run many more software and hardware on it) Wrong. Since I've always configured my main Linux boxes fully-loaded for desktop use, I am running the same full range of hardware on Linux as I do on Windows. As for software, I mainly use Suse Linux, which tends to ship with about 1500 software packages on the install disks. I install the lot and try to use as many as I can. On Windows this is not feasible because (1) most Windows software is payware and I can't afford to pay for 1500 software packages (2) most Windows software takes up so much disk space I'd be lucky to fit 150 packages on the same machine, never mind 1500. > unlike with Linux/Unix, when you have a problem in Windows you just need to Google it and most of the times you have a quick free solution. Firstly, the advice to "just Google it" is just as appropriate to Linux/Unix users. And they were been posting their questions and answers on the internet long before Windows users ever heard of it. Also the answers you find regarding Linux problems will be at least as well informed as the answers for Windows problems. In most cases Linux users will be better off, because nearly everybody providing answers in the Linux world has some clue about it. With Linux you are either clueless or a grizzled veteran. It's not like the Windows community where many of the "answers" you get for Windows questions are contributed by some well-meaning loser who really has no better idea of what is going on than you do, and where even self-regarding MCSE's and their ilk will arrogantly toss of an ill-considered answer without having even begun to understand the question. With most Linux software, if you have a question that can't be answered by any of your fellow users, you will most likely end up talking directly to the developer himself. This is possible with only a tiny minority of Windows software. In my experience, whereas Linux problems tend to be essentially fixable, most Windows problems are not even well explained so you can forget trying to find any fix. On Linux you can run a program under trace, ltrace or strace which will show you roughly what it is doing under the hood. Having access to the source code makes the trace output particularly informative. Actually the availability of source code on Linux of course means that you can debug the code yourself. I have done this many times and its usually the last thing I do before mailing the developer. It's not just a case of open source vs. commercial software either. There are two fundamental paradigm issues that make Unix/Linux apps more easy to understand when they misbehave. Configuration and Logging. Configuration is a mess in Windows because of the labyrynthine mess found in the registry. Many of the keys consist of long hexadecimal strings. Many of them point to other keys. And you can forget trying to find anything quickly because you can't do sophisticated wildcard searches or structured queries on registry contents. It's not unusual for registry entries to get broken. How you are supposed to find out when they do, is a mystery. On *nix systems, configuration lives in text files in just a couple of well known locations. You can use find and grep to find all the relevant configuration very quickly. And its all plain text and therefore much more readable. Logging: On Windows you will be very lucky to find an application that writes a comprehensible log file. On Linux it is unusual to find one that doesn't. And the Linux one will be in plain text and therefore subject to analysis via grep etc. If you do find a log file on Windows it will probably be in binary and only viewable through some stupid little application window that's too small, doesn't let you search and doesn't let you copy the text into a text file. Yeah I'm particularly thinking of Microsoft's fucking ridiculous "Event Viewer", what a joke. In conclusion, with a decade and a half of experience on both sides of the fence, I would much rather face a software problem on Linux than on Windows.

Fil0403
Fil0403

At least when you get a problem you just need to Google it and you have a quick free solution.

Neil Higgins
Neil Higgins

Press 1 for support,followed by 2. Press 2 to be re-routed,followed by 3. Press 3 if your internet connection has failed. Press 4 for Microsoft. Thanks for calling.

Fil0403
Fil0403

Geeh, didn't know Google was that bad on results nowadays.

F4A6Pilot
F4A6Pilot

There was a time when for less than the $595.00 SCO charged you could buy a system 5 UNIX on DELL server class machines. As an ex-ATT person involved in UNIX since Reagan was a candidate, I welcomed a new entry into the system five race. The tech support was admirable when I finally got to the one guy whose job was device driver development. The result was never good with their service.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

With the Ubuntu distributor being Dell's Linux tech support, I suspect Dell will simply be rerouting calls to the other already existing call centre. On a less serious note, that was some good funny squishy. The Linux relationships post last week had me laughing but this one was definately comical.

apotheon
apotheon

I particularly love the way you explained the situation with regard to logging and configuration issues. One comment: "[i]With most Linux software, if you have a question that can't be answered by any of your fellow users, you will most likely end up talking directly to the developer himself. This is possible with only a tiny minority of Windows software.[/i]" Most of the MS Windows software for which you can contact the developer(s) directly is open source software that was ported to the platform from some Unix or Unix-like OS.

bradgalliford
bradgalliford

The stupid voice options.. "Optiplex" "Did you say.. Dimension?" "NO" "Please say what type of computer" "Opt-I-ple-X" "Did you say.. Printers?" "$#@(*^ you lady!" "Transfering you to .. Sales" *CLICK*

ralphclark
ralphclark

Its unlikely that an Indian call centre person in Bangalore or wherever would answer a call from an English speaking person in Hindi. Frankly that remark was beneath you. You know in the UK we've had to suffer exactly the same thing - corporations buying legislation to alter the rules for importing cheap workers, the whole gamut of IT jobs offshored and outsourced, forcing wages down and reducing the number of skilled and semi-skilled jobs available to indigenous workers. So I feel your frustration. But at what point should remarks like the one you made, directed at Indian IT workers, be considered unacceptably racist? Someone making the same kind of remark about a Native American, a Jew or a black person, would find themselves in hot water for sure. Why would it be acceptable in this case?

Tensegrin
Tensegrin

Hey now dont knock a good cyber magick working KFC usualy does the trick do your ritual then Fdisk and VIOLA windows is fixed

apotheon
apotheon

I've always used the phrase "waving chicken bones over it", or something to that effect -- but yeah, your point is well taken.

ralphclark
ralphclark

In fact I could have gone on and on (you've seen me do this before, heh) but my post was already hideously lengthy. wrt the logging and configuration issues, these are so poor on Windows that frequently one winds up with the only remaining methods for problem analysis and resolution being what have long been known as the "rain dance" and "waving a dead chicken"*. *For those who never wore long hair and sandals, look it up in the "jargon file".

ralphclark
ralphclark

Now you are just being deliberately ignorant. The term "Uncle Tom" was invented by ethnic minorities (Afro-Americans specifically) as an epithet to apply to members of their own community who weren't sufficiently militant in their anti-racism. So it's just not possible to categorize it as a racist term. It's the direct opposite.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

ANY remark on how a certain people should behave is racist.

ralphclark
ralphclark

Do you know the meaning of the phrase "Uncle Tom"? It's not a racist term, it's a phrase that describes victims of racism who make light of their predicament. Settle down, now.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

How dare you denegrate someone by calling them an "uncle tom". You hate hearing impaired people and you are a racist. shame on you.

Tensegrin
Tensegrin

Thank you you have just cemented my point and the truth how IT pros can be paid little more than mcdonalds workers in some ares not joking

Tensegrin
Tensegrin

Lighten up tried of the pc world "PC" its a fact most of our it jobs have gone over seas and we face a reduction in pay so why not blow of some steam

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

one company brought back 40,000 jobs Another one is in the process of doing the same (customers led by someone I know personally dropped an ultimatum. They had the opportunity to bring back the support or loose billions) Another one killed their offshoring entirely (BIG financial company) The noobs at the higher levels don't realize that there is more to the bottom line than the bottom line. Service, good will, value, reputation et cetera are all intangibles, but have a very real effect on a business. The CUSTOMER's time is money too. If he has to navigate a labrynth of folks who can't communicate with him, he'll look for a company that can. A very REAL life example, names have been changed, but this story was related to me by someone involved in one of my earlier examples. Joe calls widget support line (in India). widget tech is on the phone with him for over an hour. Joe is no closer to solving his problem. Joe is loosing money by the minute while his operation is not running. Finally, the widget tech tells Joe that he can not help him and that he needs to be referred to a tech who can... Joe gets frustrated, closes shop for the day, gets on the phone with the main company and chews them out over the tens of thousands of dollars that he has lost due to the boob they had in ts. Joe led a small rebellion, and the company is pulling out of India.

ralphclark
ralphclark

It's "differently abled". Or so the loony left would have it. Now can somebody please come up with a P.C. euphemism for stupid people? That would be *really* useful. Heh heh :-D

ralphclark
ralphclark

In general most people aren't happy with offshored call-center services, often for the very same reasons you've put forward. Now inconvenienced, displaced (and ex-) employees may be constrained from complaining but customers tend to vote with their feet. There have been rumours for some time now that the pendulum is swinging back the other way as a result. Even so there are still some large firms whose offshoring program is still progressing, driven by board-level concerns about operational costs and shareholder value. We can only hope that they will see sense in the end but large businesses tend to have a kind of inertia in that it is very difficult to turn the ship around once it is in motion. I may be cynical but it seems far more likely to me that by the time the directors concerned notice that the offshored services aren't working, the quality of these services will have improved to the point where "on-shoring" is no longer necessary. The Eastern entrepreneurs running these services aren't dumb. Those jobs, once gone to India (or China), may stay gone at least until wage expectations in the West have fallen sufficiently.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

I know of one company that is moving OUT of India because their clients have thrown out an ultimatum. The lack of communication is a very real problem. In Dell's case, they went from having legendary technical support to infamous technical support. Add to the mix that I am hearing impaired and have difficulty with people who can speak english CLEARLY and my frustration factor is that much worse. Volume is not the issue, I can turn my phone up to the highest setting, that does not help when it is the CLARITY I need to hook into due to my particular impairment.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Obviously, your comment was designed to opress me due to my hearing impairment. How very anti-disabled you are to criticise me for not being able to understand accented speach due to my hearing impairment. You should be ashamed of yourself for attacking the disabled in such a fashion.

ralphclark
ralphclark

But, you have to be careful with the language you use when reacting to it, or suffer unpleasant consequences. It's just the way things are now. At some of the banks where I've worked lately you're not even allowed to mention it at all. To do so is a disciplinary offence (or at least they would like you to think it is). I don't like it either.

nighthawk808
nighthawk808

Probably because I've never called IBM's tech support and received a greeting in Hebrew or Ebonics, but I have called them and gotten a person whose accent (guess which country) was so thick that I had to ask her to repeat herself three times before I could figure out that the question she was asking was "What is the model number of your iSeries?" A call that consisted of roughly only the following lines. "Hello. Thank you for calling IBM. How can I help you?" "Hi. One of the hard drives in our AS/400 has failed. We need a replacement." "What is an AS/400?" (No kidding. She actually asked this.) "I believe IBM is calling them iSeries this week." "OK. What is your customer number?" "Foo12345." "OK. What is the model number of your iSeries?" "iBar-0123-4567-89." "Thank you. I'll let your local support representative know. Thanks for calling." This took almost ten minutes due to communication difficulties. IBM is not the only one I've had this experience with; they're just one example from a dozen or so that were roughly as bad. So, please excuse me for telling you to jam your political correctness up your SCSI port.

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