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# Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I just heard about the new Nullable type runtime feature being introduced in the August CTP.  That is too cool!  I was initially quite happy about the nullable types provided in 2.0, but after trying to use them, I found them somewhat cumbersome, particularly when dealing with a data reader.  I'm not sure that this change will help that problem much, unfortunately, but it definitely addresses a key pain point for nullable types.  Thanks to MS for listening to the community and making the painful change to make everyone's lives easier! :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 9:51:45 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, August 11, 2005

I've been watching the status of my car order, feverishly waiting for it to move from "On Order" to "Scheduled for Production."  In fact, I'm chagrined to say, I've checked every day since I got the stock number and could log in.  Well, today it finally changed!  I almost couldn't believe it, but now it's official--I have a VIN. :)  Too cool!  And from what I've been told, it shouldn't be long now before the car is delivered (apparently, waiting "On Order" is the slowest of the phases).

In any case, for those with whom I have yet to share my joy, I decided to take the plunge and get a Z4.  They've got a good two and three year lease program for it right now, in case you're considering one.  Here's what the configurator makes mine look like as ordered:

My Z4

Olivine Green Metallic with extended beige leather and the poplar wood trim.  I went pretty minimalist on the options, just getting what I felt are the bare necessities on the factory options (power roof, heated seats, and xenon lights).  The 3.0 comes pretty loaded standard, so it wasn't hard to be minimalist on the options.  Of course, I'm splurging a bit on the accessories.

I did have one of these for a day, and they are sheer pleasure to drive, if you get into that sort of thing.  The automatic is okay--they've got the best fake shifter I've used, but it is just not the same as the manual.  I didn't try out the SMG for the same reason.  There's just something about the interplay of clutch and shifting that, in my opinion, adds to the driving experience. 

It's quite powerful, and it is very solid both in frame and steering.  At 3000 pounds, it is a very sturdy car for its size and has lots of good safety features.  It's roomier than a Mazda Miata and the Z3 (not sure about the 350Z), which is important for someone my size :).  And it gets good gas mileage for a sportscar. 

All in all, I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a roadster, but I don't know if I'd get one if I didn't live in Florida (or somewhere with an equally agreeable climate).  I had a Miata in Tulsa, and that thing was just plain dangerous on ice or snow, not to mention you don't really get to enjoy the top-downness for large parts of the year in cooler climes. 

If anyone in the Tampa area is reading this, I can highly recommend Reeve's Import Motorcars (BMW).  I've been working with a salesman there named Keith Roberts, and he's great.  He's very laid back and doesn't try to force you into something you don't really want, unlike some other local BMW dealer I could name.  He also is email proficient and good about getting back with you, so if you're in the market in Tampa and are considering a BMW, give Keith a call.  You can tell him I sent you, though I don't get anything from it, as far as I know.  He's just a good guy.  (While I'm at it, Dain Carlson at Crown Eurocars in St. Pete is who I'd recommend if you're looking for a Mercedes, Audi, or (haha) Maybach; he too was great to work with.)

Anyway, if you're in Tampa Bay and you see some big, long-haired, and bearded guy in an Aussie breezer tooling around in a green Z4, don't hesitate to honk and wave.  Chances are it's probably me.  (And do the friendly short double-honk so I know you're not just angry with me! :))

Thursday, August 11, 2005 7:20:00 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, August 9, 2005

I am having what is turning out to be one of the most infuriating consumer experiences I have ever had.  I ordered this battery from Dell a few weeks ago.  Everything was going hunky-dory until I received the item (amazingly soon after I ordered it).  Instead of being the primary battery that I ordered, it was the modular bay battery that you can get here.

When I contacted Dell to tell them of the problem and ask them to send me the right battery, they said: "Mr. Little, our records show that, you had placed order for the battery that goes in the modular bay. Hence only option for you is to return the battery back at Dell for credit as exchange is done only for like to like items. So, I apologize, we are unable to process your request for exchange." 

I KNOW I ordered the primary battery; I have no interest in the modular battery, and I'm not some idiot first-time internet shopper who would have accidentally clicked on the wrong item to buy.  To back this assertion up, I have a few items of evidence. 

1) The price (this is just plain and simple logic, though it seems to be eluding the Dell reps):  The battery I ordered listed for $169.00; they had a discount going to make it $152.10.  The modular battery lists for $129.95.  Clearly, since I paid $152.10, I was not paying for the modular battery.

2) My order confirmation email.  This is a copy and paste from it:

Order detail - order placed 2005-08-01 11:40:41

9-Cell Smart Lithium-Ion Battery for Dell Inspiron 8500 and 8600 Notebooks Qty: 1
Unit Price: $169.00

Dell Home Customers: Save 10% off Power!
Expires on 2005-08-04 10:59:59
- $16.90

Note that the battery description and price match up to the primary battery listing, not the modular bay one.

3) The packing slip.  Even the packing slip indicates that I should have been holding a primary battery in my hands when I opened the package.  It lists:

Part #2P700 72WHR, LI-ION,PRMRY BATT,I8500/8600,CUST

If you were to check the part number against the online listings, it obviously is the primary battery part number, and the description itself indicates it is the primary battery, not the modular bay battery.

So, as any idiot who speaks the English language could see, I ordered and should have received the primary battery after which I was seeking.  Yet Dell's response was "we're sorry; you're wrong; you can't exchange it for something else."

You would imagine that a simple reply explaining these facts to them would clear up the situation, but you would be wrong.  After explaining the above to them, I got this reply: "Thank you for contacting Dell Financial Services (DFS).  Please be informed that we are unsure of your request. If you would please reply with further details on your inquiry, we will be happy to assist you."

WHUUAAT? (Imagine Jon Stewart saying that.)  How did I get forwarded to financial services??  I simply replied to the email that Dell sent me.  Of course, I was a bit surprised and didn't really note this initially, so I replied, explaining again that they need to just send me the battery I ordered.

In response to that, I got: "For assistance with your equipment, please contact Dell Customer Service at (800) 624-9897. You may also send them an email at www.dell.com<http://www.dell.com>. Please reference your Dell Order Number 505944332."

It was at this point I realized I had somehow gotten forwarded to financial services.  You can imagine my initial amazement in hearing that I should contact Dell Customer Service when that was, in fact, exactly what I had done.  But I tried once more to reply, saying that I don't know how I got forwarded to financial services but could they please forward it back to the right department. 

In response I got: "Dell Financial Services are the exclusive leasing agents for Dell Inc. We regret we cannot assist you with your issue. For your convenience, we have copied Dell Inc. on this email so they may address your Dell issues. You can reach Dell Customer Service directly by calling (800) 624-9897. You may also send them an email from their website at www.dell.com."

Of course, they did not, in fact, copy Dell.  So I decided to try again, starting from the web site as they suggested (which is what I did in the first place).  Explaining the problem once again, I got this in reply: "Thank you for contacting Dell Technical Support.  I understand your concern regarding ordering the battery for your laptop.  I would suggest you to contact our customer care department regarding the order issue."

Now somehow I had been forwarded to technical support??  I selected customer support from their drop-down on the web site, so I don't know how this happened.  But who knows, maybe I had unintentionally scrolled the drop-down using the mouse wheel or something.  So I went yet again to the web site and filled the form out again, explaining the situation.  You'll never guess what happened next.

"Mr. Little, I understand your concern regarding the wrong battery. I sincerely apologize and truly regret any inconvenience or frustration this matter may have caused.  Please allow me a moment to explain that I can issue you an exchange but exchange is only for like to like items. Hence you will receive the same item and your purpose will not be resolved. Hence in order to resolve your issue, I have setup a credit return of the order number 505944332."

Sound familiar?  That's because it is!  It's the same frickin' thing they said to me when I first contacted them.  Not only is it wrong, it is now non-sensical, seeing as how I've already returned the thing.  AAARRRRGGGHHH!

I think what is most frustrating is that these doofuses in customer support don't seem to listen.  It's almost as if they are automated, just looking at key words, doing a simple system query, and responding with a rote answer.  Clearly, as any human can understand if they'll take a minute to do so, there is a problem with Dell's supply chain.  Somewhere between the packing slip and the shelf, they made an error. 

Now I could just try ordering again; maybe Billy Bob in fulfillment just accidentally grabbed the wrong battery off the shelf.  But maybe they've actually got the shelf labeled incorrectly and I'd have to go through this whole thing yet again.  I'm sick of it.  All I want to do is get a stinking battery for my laptop; it should not be that difficult!  And now the sale on the battery has ended, so I'll have to pay an extra $20 for Dell's incompetence.  Sigh...

Anyhoo, I wanted to vent somewhere, and I figured this would work.  But I also need to have an online reference so that I can reference it the next 10 times I have to reply to them to explain the problem.  So Dell rep, if you're reading this, please actually fix the problem and stop giving me the runaround.

[Update - 8/9/2005 12:00p EDT]
Dell Rep just called me and told me that "it looks like we sent you the wrong battery."  I am assuming that this is just lip service to get me to quit bugging them because he still didn't offer the right solution, saying rather that since the return was already being processed, the best they can do is let me buy it again.  No matter, all of this hassle motivated me to do a little searching, and I found what seems to be a good deal at Pacific Battery.  It's $60 cheaper, has free shipping, and no taxes.  Can't beat that (assuming it is all valid).  We'll see.  At this point, it can't be much worse than dealing with Dell...

[Update - 8/10/2005 8:08a EDT]
Just read an email from Dell saying that they have acknowledged my request to return my product.  Ha!  I never requested to return the thing, AND this is the second time this has happened (I actually returned it the first time).  Poor UPS guy is going to come out to my place for nothing.

Sadly, I think Dell has grown too fast for its own good and has sacrificed quality service bigtime.  Consider also that becuase I bought my laptop via an Employer Purchase Plan, they don't recognize me as a home user, and so every time I go to contact customer service (even when logged in), they prompt me to chat with them live, but when I go to chat, they tell me that their records show I'm not a home customer and therefore can't chat.  What kind of retardedness is that?  I asked them to mark me as a home customer (because that's what I am), but of course, their people-robots couldn't do that. 

As Mitch says, they make great equipment, but their service TOTALLY SUCKS.  Well, almost totally; if you can convince them to come out and fix something, that usually turns out well, but to get to that point, you have to go through the robots first.  I guess all we can do now is speak out and fill out the surveys in a very honest and direct manner.  Maybe they'll figure out they have a problem one of these days and fix it.

[Update 8/22/2005]

I couldn't help but add this.  The thing that started my attempt to get a new battery was a support request to Dell about my existing battery.  Well, no telling if it was the battery at the time; the thing is that the computer would just shut down without warning about 30 minutes after being unplugged.  So I guess it was a good chance that it'd be the battery, and that is in fact what Dell asked me to test, i.e., get a spare battery and see if the same thing happens.

Well, after I got my battery from the aforementioned company (not Dell), I plugged it in, charged it, and have been using it with success for some time now, so it is apparently that the old battery (and it is fairly old) is no good any longer.  So I decided to just reply to Dell on the original support thread, saying "yeah, you were right, it was the battery; I got a new one."

The funny thing is that they replied to me and said, "if you'd like to get a new battery, please go to our online store..."  I couldn't help but laugh at this; after all the trouble I had and after I had just told them that I had bought a new one, they were telling me to go buy a new one!  Just one more example of those support techs NOT LISTENING AT ALL to what you are saying.  BLARRRRRGH!

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 7:26:21 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
# Sunday, August 7, 2005
Hi all, in case you haven't heard, the Indigo Roadshow is coming to Tampa this Thursday, August 11th.  They've got the Indigo experts on board, and you get a free book and a chance to win an Xbox.  If you've not heard of Indigo or have been putting off learning about it, this should be a great event to get your feet wet.  And you may want to hurry; space is limited.  Plus, Joe is offering some other stuff for locals turning out.  So come on and check it out.
Sunday, August 7, 2005 5:34:41 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Sunday, July 24, 2005

It is not surprising to me that so many find the Da Vinci Code so fascinating.  People like to think that they have special knowledge, especially when that knowledge gives them license.  It is also an important thing to remember about history--it is far more important than most people give it credit.  When I was studying history in college, I was asked many times why I'd pursue that instead of something more "worthwhile," more "pragmatic."  "After all, what's so important about history--it's just something that happened a long time ago.  Who cares anyways?"

I should think that the Da Vinci Code is a perfect example of why we should care.  If you rewrite history according to your own agenda, it gives your agenda validation.  The most poignant example of this is the Nazi propaganda in WWII that convinced everyday people that Hitler and his henchmen's final solution was a good idea, based in a grand history of the Aryan race. 

The Da Vinci Code is similar in that it starts out with the presupposition that the Catholic Church is an untrustworthy, self-serving, and oppresive institution, and then the Code rewrites history to support that in order to discredit the Church, who just happens to be one of the few remaining influential forces for truth and morality in our society today.  It is a common theme, actually, as seen in most of the contemporary portrayals of the Church. 

The agenda is, of course, to lessen the influence the Church has on our society today by giving it a bad reputation.  I commented on this previously in Perpetual Absurdity.  People don't want to believe the Church because the Church tells them they can't just do anything that they want--anything that feels good.  So in order to justify and rationalize their desires to do whatever they please (and, notably, instead of confronting the issues head on through honest dialogue), they simply try to discredit the opposition by highlighting and focusing on individual personal failures or, in the case of the Code, rewriting history.  This is, of course, a logical fallacy, but it is quite effective rhetoric because most people are not disciplined or trained enough to detect it. 

In any case, I ran across a handy site today that I just had to share (and partially to make sure I don't lose track of it):


For anyone who's read Da Vinci Code, I urge you to at least consider giving some of these responses a fraction of the time you gave to the Code.  If you care about truth and reality, you really should.  If you just thought the Code was a fun read and don't really buy into it, I congratulate you because that's about all the book is good for.  Oh, and it sure made the author and publishers a lot of money, so I guess that's another thing it was good for. :)

Sunday, July 24, 2005 10:23:04 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, July 22, 2005

This article has a short clip showing that Microsoft has officially named the OS formerly known as Longhorn to Windows Vista.  The title says something about naming a beta date as well, though I didn't see that in the article.  Of course, I still haven't had any coffee today, so...

Okay, I found it...

Friday, July 22, 2005 9:19:30 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, July 18, 2005

ScaleOut Software has created a really promising ASP.NET state server system.  I haven't had a chance to play with it myself, but it does look good.  Check it out, and check out the review on asp.netPRO.

Updated 7/21 18:14:  I've now had a chance to review some more of the specs and reviews for this product, and the folks at ScaleOut were even kind enough to answer some of my inquiries.  In short, I think this is, from a purely theoretical/design standpoint, the best solution to session management available today.  As a matter of fact, this solution even allows other forms of caching, so not only does it solve distributed session management, it also solves other forms of distributed cache via their API.  Too cool!

If I ever have a need to host a scalable web application again, this product will be at the top of my list to solve those issues.  It will be interesting to see how it fares in the market and what the experiences of those who implement it will be.  I tend to think they'll be great.  I don't get excited about third party tools very often, but I am about this one.  You definitely should look into it.

Monday, July 18, 2005 8:22:12 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Sunday, July 17, 2005

Well, Tampa Code Camp went off really well yesterday, and after writing my chapter on caching for ASP.NET 2.0 MVP Hacks tonight, I remembered that I needed to get the code and slides up from my Creating Reusable Application Frameworks session from yesterday since some of you were asking for the code we built in that session.  That download is here

By the way, after I thought about it for a minute, I fixed the little bug that wouldn't get us a good index to add the label at.  Instead of using page, I used ctrl.Parent, which should be (and was) the containing control for the target control.  Once I fixed that, it added the label where we wanted it.  The fix is included in the download.

Also, since it came up a couple times yesterday, the SortableCollectionBase download information is here.

I hope everyone had a great time.  See ya around!

Sunday, July 17, 2005 11:16:29 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 

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