Windows update, activation and 10: two major problems and a happy ending

As part of his graduation, we gave my oldest son a gaming computer. It’s nothing too fancy, a middle of the road gaming rig so he can play League of Legends with as little ‘lag’ as possible. The machine we got him, a CyberPower PC special from Best Buy, is no slouch: quad core, 3.7ghz processor, AMD/ATI R 6700 graphics, 8GB of RAM and a 2.2TB HDD.  Oh, it runs Windows 8.1.

Now, the computer came with a lesser graphics card, my son inherited the R 6700 (I think that’s the number) card and, ever since we put it in, it has caused several blue screens.  In all of the time I’ve run 8 or 8.1, I think I’ve had two such issues. Well, with the last blue screen, came an activation issue.

Windows did not think it was activated. 

Great.

So, I proceed to activate.  No go.  After several attempts, I discover the key is now invalid.  What?

A call to Microsoft resulted in finger pointing to CyberPower PC. The key is an OEM key and Microsoft refuses to help on them.  So, I call the OEM. As it was on a Saturday, they had limited hours and I had both limited patience and battery on my phone.  After 45 minutes on hold, my phone was losing juice and I lost patience. 

Remembering that I had a clean, legal copy of WIndows 8 PRO-with an unused key-I thought, well, I’ll just install 8, upgrade to 8.1 and put him on the Windows 10 track.  Simple.

It started out great, Windows 8 took 20 to 30 to install.  Upon the desktop setup, I proceed to the Windows Store to grab 8.1. No go. Have to update first.  How stupid is this? So, I goto Windows Update.  Boy, my friend Sam was right, this damn thing is broken. Sorry Sam. Over 150 updates awaited.  So, I told my son to keep an eye on it and my wife and I went out.

At some point, it appears the computer went to sleep.  DURING UPDATING.  My son lets me know.  Well, the interrupted update BROKE the update process!

Nothing I did fixed it.  It’s 11pm now and I’ve wasted the day-save the two hours I was with my wife-on this bloody computer. Not happy.

So, I recalled that one can go to Windows 10 directly from 7, 8 or 8.1. So, I went ahead and upgraded to the most current build of Windows 10.  The upgraded took about 45 minutes, but it worked like a charm.  We had to install Direct 3d/dx 9, but League of Legends worked and did not need to be reinstalled – which, itself, takes hours and hours and hours.

So far, with one exception, 10 has worked very well.  It did blue screen, but the error was really odd and had to do with sound. This computer has some odd hardware, so I am thinking it is a driver issue and I plan to check them all for compatibility.

This whole process was just a joke.  Windows Activation is the most assinine thing yet.  There is just no reason for Microsoft to continue with that mess. It does not stop those who want to steal it and just causes major headaches for those of who play by the rules.  And Windows Update? Holy hell.  What a major blemish that has become.

Microsoft, I implore you, do the right thing and ditch activation. Fix the update process.  And hire people who can CLEARLY speak the same bloody language as those who call your centers.

That is all.

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T-Mobile, you need to take a customer service lesson from Chik-Fil-A

My wife got me a Lumia 521 Windows 8 Phone for my birthday. It’s a very nice device for the money. It is bigger than the iPhone 4/4s and much speedier too.  The Windows 8 interface is easy to use and looks nice too.  The phone, a prepaid device on T-Mobile, is likely to replace my aging and very slow iPhone 4. We are currently on the Sprint network and have abysmal service. As it is our ONLY phone service, I am anxious to replace it.  I was hoping that T-Mobile would be my answer. So far, however, I have not been able to find out.

We got the phone just before Christmas, 2013. It is now late January and I’ve still not been able to use the phone as, you know, a PHONE. It has been terrific as a WiFi only device, a 4.3 inch tablet. Windows Phone 8 works terrific is this regard.

So, what’s the problem? Well, initially, I could not activate the phone and its included SIM card. Now, this is my first exposure to SIM cards as Sprint does not use them.

I try to activate the phone and prepay for the service. I still have months left on my Sprint contract, so I thought the prepay route would be a great way to test the waters with another carrier.  Upon trying to activate, the web page tells me that there is a problem with the SIM card and that the phone’s IMEI is not valid. So, I call the number provided.

Now, before I go on, let me say that I have nothing against anyone who cannot speak my language very well (hell, I have issues myself) but…if you are going to be in a CALL CENTER answering calls in ENGLISH, then you should damn well know how to speak it and do so that the caller doesn’t have to ask you to repeat yourself time and time again.

When the phone call was answered, it was obvious that I was dealing with someone not in the United States. The person spoke so poorly that I was continuously having to ask him to repeat himself. It was embarrassing for both of us.  I’m sure the gentleman was doing his best, but he did not belong in this particular job.

After a very painful 20 minute or so call, he informs me that I would have to take the device to the store where I got it.  Well, it was ordered online, from Best Buy during one of its sales.

I finally got around to going to a Best Buy store to have the issue resolved. A very nice lady, Shannon, tried, desparately, to get my phone working. And, she got farther than I did.

I explained what happened and she got another SIM card.  She then calls T-Mobile and had a similar experience to mine. They did, however, get the phone activated AND the SIM card setup. Now, mind you, the call center person got the serial number to the new SIM card and assured Shannon that it was the correct card. BUT…

(You just KNEW there was a but, right?)

…the bloody card was too damn big. There are, apparently, many different sized SIM cards and Best Buy only carries the standard size in the stores.  WHAT?

So, Shannon calls the nearest T-Mobile store to see if they would swap out my defective SIM for a new one and activate it.  They said sure, for $21.  WHAT?

Yep, they want to charge $21 to swap out a defective card that T-Mobile gave me in the first place! Mind you, the defective SIM was IN THE BOX, FROM T-MOBILE.

I see why they are a distant fourth in the cell business. AT&T may have been smart to not buy them.

Shannon then proceeded to check around the local Best Buy stores to see if they had a micro SIM that I could get. They didn’t. She found out that Best Buy does carry them, but only online. She ordered me one. Should be in in about a week.  I’m OK with that.

I don’t blame Best Buy for this problem. The blame is squarely on T-Mobile. They packaged the phone and SIM card.  They should have taken care of it.  When I called them the first time. They should have just sent me a replacement card or, at the very least, had me go to one of their stores and pick one up, as an exchange. The didn’t do that.

Now, to be fair, I did take to Facebook and complained on the T-Mobile page.  I was instructed to go to the web site and make the complaint there. I did. I got a reply back, a day later, saying that they were ‘very sorry’ and that IF I had to pay for another card, they ‘would make it right’, implying-but not saying directly-that I would be refunded the amount.  Sorry, folks, that’s not good enough. I should NOT have to pay at all. This was their mistake, THEY should have made it right.  Best Buy went above what I expected of them. I only went there because I was told to take the phone back to where I got it.

Looking back, I think the guy meant to say to take it to a T-Mobile store, but that is not what he said.

I’m still willing to switch my family over to T-Mobile if the service (the radio service, that is) is more reliable and better than Sprint. I suspect it will be. Even though the phone was not usable as a phone, it still connected to T-Mobile and showed me both the speed and signal strength. I get solid 4G service where I live, which is important. Most places we go seem to get the solid, 4G service, so I am hopeful.

So far, though, I am far from impressed with T-Mobile.  They are worse than Sprint in the Customer Service arena so far, and that is saying something.  They could take a lesson or two in excellent customer service from Chik-Fil-A, a company that prides itself on excellent service.

I’ve been a Sprint customer for nearly 16 years now and have rarely ever gotten what I would call good service, customer service or cell service. I’ve stayed with them mainly for convenience. However, since moving three years ago, the cell service in this area is just abysmal.

So, I will know in a week or so if I like the actual T-Mobile service.  I will follow up this post with how it goes with the new SIM card.

The free Sprint iPhone 4: just try to actually get one

iphone4About a year and a half ago, I got my son a Samsung Android phone (the Intercept.) The phone was inexpensive, either $49 or $99, but it turned out to be a real piece of crap. Android notwithstanding, the phone was just junk. It randomly loses connectivity, boots very slowly and runs the battery down very quickly.  He really wanted-and still wants-an iPhone.  Well, he is now eligible for an upgrade, and since Sprint carries the iPhone 4 with a zero to me upfront cost, I thought I would bite the bullet and retract my no Apple stance and get him the phone he wanted. Soooo….

I go to Best Buy to get the phone.  What a mistake. First, the store looks like it is on the verge of closing. The front section, where the checkouts used to be, was sparse. Two counters and some displays. It looks like they are having supply issues and have spread out the stock. It just didn’t feel fully stocked. Not like a normal Best Buy. The mobile area, however, was very busy. We waited, approximately, 10 minutes before someone asked if we needed help.  I said yes and they replied it would be a few more minutes. That was fine, I know phones take too much time. Then, a manager type asked what I was looking for and I explained I wanted the Sprint iPhone 4. He said ‘oh, we are out of stock. The closest store that still has them is in Colonial Heights.’ Well, that store would have been a 45 minute drive by the interstate, which we did not want to do. So, we left.

I thought, surely the Sprint store would have them.  The closest Sprint store was just a few minutes away, so we went there. Upon telling the sales guy what I wanted, he explained that ‘Apple has pulled them all back and you must order them online.’  Well, it seems that is not quite accurate. A check online (I missed this nugget when it happened) reveals that Sprint has discontinued them from the retail stores, but they are still available online.

While having dinner, I decide to try the local Apple store. So, I pull out my HTC Shift and lookup the number.  Finding the number to the local retail store on Apple’s site was an exercise in frustration. They have the retail stuff buried. But, I did find it and called the number. After be quizzed by a male-sounding Siri like automated answering service, I was finally transferred ‘to the right specialist. Only, I was not. A pleasant sounding female voice told me there were five calls ahead of me. After waiting nearly ten minutes, and still having five calls ahead of me, I just hung up. 

I tried calling the Target just across from where we were eating.  Not only do they carry phones for Sprint, they carry the iPhone 4 and 4s. Great! “Oh, you said Sprint!?  Sorry, that one is out of stock and I don’t think we are getting any more.”  Well, damn.

Another call to the Apple store ended in frustration as well.  With seven calls ahead of me for another ten minutes, I just hung up.

Now, I was resigned to the fact that I would have to order the bloody thing online.  Sprint is making a big deal about carrying iPhone but only the ones that cost any real money.  I know they have sunk nearly five billion dollars into this phone and they do need to recoup some of that cost upfront, but, seriously, I might have been open to upgrading to the 4S, but not now. I am determined to stick with the 4 just because of the hassle.

And, Apple, if you want me to visit your stores, make them more available on your website and on the damned phone.  Oh, and why the hell can’t I find out, online, if a product is available in my local Apple store? Seriously, Wal-Mart does it. Target does it. Certainly, your developers can cobble something together. Right? Oh, yeah…maps…maybe they are busily fixing the maps. Yeah, that must be it.

I had to activate my Westinghouse television just to watch it…bad move, Westinghouse

Why are even the simplest of things made difficult these days?  Recently, our Vizio 32 inch flat panel television decided to take an eternal rest.  The set was in our bedroom and, to replace it on a temp basis, I used a spare Windows 7 computer and USB tuner stick.  Over the last few days, however, we decided to bite the bullet and buy a TV.  Best Buy had a 37 inch Westinghouse on sale for a really low price, so we got it.

Getting the set home from the store was easy (the Best Buy purchase online and pick up in store experience was outstanding, I might add) but setting it up, not so much.

As stated in a previous post, we have decided to go cable free, so I had to setup the over the air channels.  Much to my surprise, YOU MUST GO TO THE WESTINGHOUSE WEB SITE TO ACTIVATE YOUR TV. Mind you, you ONLY have to do this for the over the air detection. Are you kidding me?  REALLY? Sure enough, I had to select the model and enter the serial number of the set, get a code from the site and then enter it into the television via the remote.  (If you do not have ready access to the internet, they provide a toll free number to call.)  What the hell?

It was almost enough for me to take the set back to the store. Alas, the delayed Daytona 500 was starting and I did not want to miss it, so I continued the setup and watched the race. But, REALLY? Activate the detection feature? Westinghouse, you should be ashamed.  And it isn’t just this particular model either. They had dozens of models listed. DOZENS.  Seriously. Wait…Dozens?

This is Westinghouse. A company that is no longer the great company it used to be.  And they have dozens of models? Huh.  Who knew. 

At any rate, this company now knows that someone in this zip code needed to detect the 17 over the air channels.  While they don’t know who it is (they don’t, right?) the point is they force you to take an unnecessary step just to watch free tv.  It makes me wonder if Comcast, Time Warner or any number of cable outlets are forcing this type of thing.

What should have been a simple, straight forward step turned into something way more frustrating. Oh, and be careful when typing WESTINGHOUSEDIGITAL.COM. I kept misspelling it and kept going to this bizarre parking spot. I don’t think it is nefarious, just odd.  Maybe it was my mood, but this really rubbed me the wrong way. I have NEVER seen any television have to be ACTIVATED by the manufacturer. Ridiculous, plain and simple. Oh, my days of purchasing Westinghouse anything are over.

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