Different worlds in a new orbit

Well, the story continues…

My 4th July was spent installing a cable modem at my parents-in-law’s house in Melvindale, MI. That in itself was quite a different experience from the UK, where cable TV is not widely distributed and adjustments to your installation need a little man to come and do his black magic. Here, I walk into Best Buy, pick up a self-install kit, take it home and plug it in and then just call the cable company to enable it. More about that in a mo.

I also picked up a couple of WiFi PCi cards for the PCs and a wireless router – the trusty old Linksys WRT54G, which seems to have captured a lot of the market. This thing actually runs a basic Linux and can be modified if you’re that way inclined (I’m not, at present). But it would be fascinating to know, between this box and the TiVo, just how many homes and offices now have Linux in them without realising it…

Anyway, all of this hardware turned out to be remarkably cheap because Comcast were doing a promotion, but it will require me to spend most of tomorrow filling out and posting the ‘mail-in rebate’ forms that accompany every electronic purchase here now. For non-US readers not familiar with this, when you go into a retail store, the price on a device might be $79.99. But in small print on the label, you find out that it’s $129.99 and you can get the difference back by sending in a little form and a photocopy of the receipt and your birth certificate and a pint of your own blood and… well, you get the idea. Sometimes you have to send off two forms, one to the retailer and one to the manufacturer. I have a total of ten of these things to fill in after yesterday’s little spree. Of course, they’re banking on the fact that most people are too lazy or forgetful (or not as cheap as we are) and so just pay the full price while the store advertises a lower one. God save us from this model in the UK!…

Meanwhile, back at home, everything is quickly set up and works out of the box and I just have to call Comcast to enable it. I get through to a very nice guy called Jake who goes through the procedure and sets it up, but he, or somebody else involved, makes a mistake in the database entry which he does not have the authority to fix. Nearly as frustrating for him as it was for me, but he has to refer it to somebody higher up. However, here I have to put in a good word for Comcast. Apart from this little blunder, I have never had such good telephone support from any company anywhere. This will come as a surprise to some, I know, because there are enough horror stories floating around about all cable providers, but I came away with nothing but admiration. Jake was intelligent, apologetic and helpful. He kept calling me back to tell me how things were progressing. He gave me his extension number in case I had any problems. And when we were finally connected he volunteered to spend more time on the phone with me to walk me through the various facilities on offer from the new service etc. I couldn’t believe it. I guess they must have recognised that their future lies in broadband and that they can’t have rumours going around that it’s difficult to set up, and have funded the support department appropriately. Or maybe I just struck lucky. But I wish other companies would learn from their example.

So we now have a 4Mbit connection and it all works nicely. We even worked out that we could cancel the old ISP subscription and one phone line and actually save money. This is a Good Thing.

The next challenge is dealing with my brother-in-law’s Windows machine which has been completely trashed by a virus, and for which we appear to have no original install CDs… No, this isn’t the machine I mentioned a couple of days ago. It’s the other Windows machine that has been trashed by a virus here… Tune in for the next exciting episode of “Melvindale in the new millennium”…

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Don’t forget that you’re supposed to be on holiday, Q

Thanks, FB,

I sometimes do charity work on my holidays, though 🙂


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