Friday, May 18, 2012

The Mighty Keep Falling

I was Stumbling around, today, and found this article. To be honest, I've got mixed emotions on it.

I'm sitting here typing on an HP laptop. I chose this laptop because my laptop is my life and HP (and Dell, too) has superlative service when it comes to getting you quickly and conveniently back online in the face of inevitable breakage. Can't even come close to saying the same for Apple, Toshiba, Asus, etc. as they all have "service" offerings that are like a nightmarishly bad joke (seriously: if you own any of their products, buy a spare). The prospect of the likely loss of a quality service offering is a bit of a downer.

I also work for an organization that bought big into HP's software suites. Many of those products show a lot of promise. However, many are also poorly executed and even more poorly engineered, tested and supported.

HP tries to sell us on their professional services to make up for some of the inherent shortfalls int their products. However, when we've had the "experts" from HP's Professional Services group come on site (specifically that group - folks in their other groups - the ones that aren't really supposed to live or die based on their expertise and ability to provide post-sales services), it's been an exercise in pain and frustration from the abysmal quality of the people they send.

This probably comes as a good example of, "you get what you pay for". HP's services folks seem to be of the "whoever's cheapest" variety. I've worked in the professional services realm and "you get what you pay for" definitely comes into play in that line of business.

According to the linked article, HP is supposedly hoping to find salvation in the same path that other companies have - by selling professional services. Unfortunately, when the people that represent your company as "experts" and "professionals" come across so appallingly-poorly, it makes hiring qualified folks that much more difficult. Much as birds of a feather flock together, elite talent tends to avoid working for places they perceive to be well beneath their talents. So, this makes it a self-perpetuating problem and makes salvation through that pursuit even harder.

Oh well, should be interesting to see how this all plays out. I have to deal with some pretty hateful design flaws in HP products. This doesn't bode well for those flaws getting adequately addressed any time soon.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Modern Taxi Service

Friday night, my wife wanted to go to the Jack Rose Dining Saloon (in the Adams Morgan section of Washington, DC). Donna was wanting us to liberally avail ourselves of their rather complete whiskey menu, so she wanted to cab or Metro into the city. The closest Metro station to our destination was a five block walk from the restaurant, so we opted to take a cab, instead.

Normally, I call Red Top cab (out of Arlington). Unfortunately, their corporate policies preclude them from taking reservations between 20:00 and 03:00 on Fridays and Saturday nights. Worse, they could only promise us a cab in a forty minute window. Since Donna was not yet done prepping for a night on the town and we had reservations, I couldn't afford to risk using their service. So, I hit up Google Maps to see what other taxi options we might have.

I found a listing for Alexandria Yellow Cab and gave them a call. They were able to promise me a more reasonable service window and a cab that took credit cards (I don't frequently carry cash), so I set the reservation. Ten minutes before the cab was due to arrive, I received an SMS indicating the cab number, the time dispatched and an ETA. The cab arrived within five minutes of when the original call promised. We hopped in and were on our way.

As we got close to our destination, I slid my card in the back-seat credit card reader. The driver asked if I could pay cash, instead ("it's better for me," he said). I said that I preferred to pay with plastic as I was short on cash (not quite a lie: I was saving what cash I had for the cab back since cabs in the city, more often than not, don't take plastic at all - though DC is supposedly trying to change that - it's only 2012, after all). When we got to the drop-off point, the cabbie claimed that the credit card reader wasn't working. Odd, given that it had indicated that it had accepted my card.

I didn't feel like starting the evening out on the down note of arguing with the cabbie, so I dug through my pockets and scraped together exactly enough cash to pay the fare. Fucker was obviously dicking me over so I figured that turn-about was fair play. Need to call the cab company to find out whether or not the meter was actually broken or if the cabbie was trying to do something off the books (or whatever).

Oh well, at least it was a good night at the "saloon".