Wednesday, June 8, 2005

software: Symantec renewal heck

I have a home PC running Win98. I bought Norton SystemWorks 2002 for the Anti-Virus and Firewall, also in case any of the Norton utilities would be useful.

My 2004 subscription renewal was an automated piece of cake, but when I renewed this year it was hours of frustration.
  • LiveUpdate's subscription renewal itself has almost stopped working for 2002 products. Symantec's support document instructs you to disconnect from the Internet when you try to run it!?
No matter what I did, LiveUpdate would not accept the renewal keys that Symantec e-mailed me in exchange for my $39.90. Time to call their Customer Support.
  • If you choose the wrong option in Symantec's phone tree, there is no way to return to a previous menu. You get to redial, and it's not a toll-free call.
"Shalini" didn't bother figuring out the problem, she just extended my subscriptions another year. Excellent...

But the next problem is LiveUpdate could not update the Norton Antivirus Virus Definitions, the most important part of the product! It displays error LU4001.
  • Symantec's site has no results for "LU4001". What's the point of giving an error code if there's no documentation for it!
  • The only relevant technical support information suggests this may result from conflicting files from a partial upgrade, thus it recommends uninstalling the product and try again. But Windows' Add/Remove Programs only offers one monolithic uninstall, so I'd probably have to uninstall/reinstall/re-register/re-update/re-subscribe the whole SystemWorks just for this one possible solution.
  • I tried phone support and eventually the phone tree told me Symantec doesn't offer support for 2002 products!
Symantec is guilty of bait and switch here. They'll take my $39.90 to renew subscriptions for an old product that they don't really support.
  • Phone customer service again, this time for a technical problem with a subscription renewal order that I may want to return. That could fall into several different areas in the phone tree, and every time I guessed wrong I would have to hang up and redial because there's no "back" or "up" option in the phone tree. Madness!
Finally I spoke to Vijay who told me I could get a credit for my subscription renewals and instead upgrade to the latest Symantec SystemWorks, including Antivirus and Personal Firewall, for only $39.95. For just a nickel more, I could have brand-new products!

That actually doesn't bother me. I knew before I started that I could go to a store and get new products cheap. But then I'd have to mess around installing and uninstalling and re-registering on an old PC I don't want to destabilize. I'm willing to pay for a simple hassle-free subscription renewal. Unfortunately after three years Symantec can't keep their systems in sync to deliver one.

The Indian technical support people I talked to were intelligible, immediately helpful, and my hold times were minimal. Off-shoring at work.

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Friday, June 3, 2005

cars: Up against the wall when the revolution comes

I'm a big car fan for someone who rides a bike to work.

I read something infuriating recently. Darn, I can't find the exact quote, but it was something like Rolls-Royce considering a cheaper car in the near-ultra-luxury market, with some BMW manager saying "We think there's an opportunity to profit from the $150,000-$200,000 segment". Here's an article like it.

Hello?! So the original vision of these car makers to create something special using their unique skills is completely dead. It's replaced by market droids figuring out where best to exploit their brand, with the minor details of the actual car to be determined later.

What's far more depressing is the investment of time, engineering skill, and money spent going after the "100,000 households in the U.S. worth $30 million plus" that won't be spent on solving the real environmental problems with cars, or even just making a better car for the masses.

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