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True Story (the sequel)

Entry 1145 posted in: 6. Self-Made Monsters

One of the latest buzzwords is efficiency. Companies are streamlining their products and services in such a way that customer service, productivity and expenses are optimized although result wise it mostly is in reverse order and with limited success.

There comes a time that the different concepts clash. Last week I had 3 encounters with different helpdesks and all of them guided me, in name of efficiency, wrong.


On Monday I received a HTC smartphone that had been lying in an empty desk at work. I tried to bring it back to the living, visited the HTC website and was impressed with the fact that it had faultless French, German and Dutch versions of their (support) pages, although the country Belgium was somewhat missing in their overview.

I read that there had been a free Windows Mobile 6.0 upgrade for my phone, but alas, for some unintelligible reason the download file had been removed from their servers…

Now the use of the term ‘free’, especially in combination with ‘beer’, ‘pussy’ or ‘upgrade’ has the same effect upon Felix Atagong as the term ‘new Ikea catalogue’ upon the average woman. Somewhere on this world, so I thought, must be a good soul who still has this download and who is willing to share it with others. I was right.

I had the choice over several downloads and picked a decent one for me. The phone upgraded nicely, Windows Mobile 5.0 was gone and was neatly replaced with version number 6.0.

Shit hit the fan when I tried to send my first SMS. For one reason or another my phone had upgraded to QWERTY and not the AZERTY keyboard we Belgians are so proud of. Windows Mobile is Windows in name alone; nowhere I could find a file to change the keyboard settings: no system.ini, no win.ini, no autoexec.bat or config.sys (like in the good old DOS days). I even tried fiddling the settings in regedit, but apparently the keyboard setting registry keys for portable phones are phoney.

Time to contact the HTC helpdesk. Actually, I asked the same question twice, first in Dutch (at the Dutch support site), but after I had realized that Holland is using qwerty keyboards as well I switched over to the French website where I asked in fluent French if they could guide me through the right steps and if that was impossible, to send me a copy of Windows Mobile 5.0 so that I could bring back the phone to its original state (I had checked the cd that came with the phone but there was no utility to do a restore).

A minute after my mails had left the outbox I received an automatic reply that my question was taken care of and, indeed, in the hour I received a nice and friendly answer. It read:

We are sorry but the helpdesk can only reply to questions asked in English.

So why do they create support web forms in 40 different languages if no one is able to help you?


But my phone still had some other problems. I could send nor receive MMS or mail. As usual the Mobistar (Orange) self-help website was absolutely crap so I decided to pick up the phone and ask them. At least they’re a telephone company, right?

The chap at the other side was or in a bad mood or just someone the telephone company had hired to take the piss out of customers.

"I can’t find your model in our database.", he said, "So I can’t send you the details you are asking for."

To my amazement I stayed polite and told him that I already knew that, probably he was consulting exactly the same webpage I had been consulting before.

"All I want...", I told him very slow, very clear and very loud, "...is an overview of the technical geeky stuff you need in Windows Mobile 6.0 to send and receive multimedia content over the phone waves. Those things are all the same regardless of the type or brand you are using and by the way, have you ever heard of Windows before?" I calmed down and continued: “I have made a list. Perhaps we can check if I haven’t forgot something. For MMS the Mobile settings should look something like..."

APN: mms.be
Username: mobistar
Password: mobistar
Server name: MMS
Port: 8080
Server address: http://mmsc.mobistar.be
Version: WAP2.0

"...and for mail one just needs to add…"

Incoming mailserver: pop.mobistar.be
Outgoing server (SMTP): gprsmail.mobistar.be

“Hardly Chinese, isn’t it?”
“Nope.”, he said. “Can’t do. Never heard of it. You will have to contact HTC or the dealer who sold you the thing. Goodbye.”

I tell you, Jean-Claude Van Damme has viciously mutilated people for less than that.


Frankly I had all forgotten about this, but this Friday I had a problem with a professional Epson matrix printer that had gone berserk. The support part of the (Belgian – Dutch language) website could not help me, as they always seem to do whenever I have a problem.

So I logged in to open a support ticket, another company that will send me spam messages till the day I die, and was presented with a webform that asked about 3 dozen of utterly silly questions. After I had given my name, my address, my phone number, my mail address, my mail address (yep, they asked it twice), the 24 numbers that make the serial number, I finally came to a ridiculously small box to put my incredibly complicated technical question in writing. I pushed the send button and received sincere felicitations for making it that far. Probably all the others just give up somewhere in the middle.

Within minutes the ping of an incoming mail woke me up from my nightmares. The message from the Epson helpdesk read:
The mailbox you were trying to reach does not exist.

I suddenly believe there is a god. She hates me.

PS: I managed to get azerty working on the phone by hacking into the system, although hacking is too strong a word. Its keyboard configuration is hidden in; believe it or not, a simple text file that tells which key is which. Needless to say I got this solution from a HTC user forum and not from the company itself.

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: True Story