Category Archives: rant

The New Name of the Beast: Unity

at+t marketing whiteboardI just heard a radio commerical for the new AT+T “Unity plan.” Okay, first of all, “Unity plan” is a pretty creepy name. How long do you think the marketing department stared at the word “monopoly” on the whiteboard before coming up with that one? Second of all, “free calling to over 100 million numbers.” 100 million? AT+T just sucked up something like a third of the numbers in the U.S. without even really trying? Does anyone see a problem with this? Let me give you a hint. There’s exactly one computer operating system on the planet that runs on more than 100 million computers. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s called Windows. Most people agree that it’s evil.

But forget all that. I get home and Google “at+t unity” and land straight in the middle of a debate about AT+T and Verizon being in bed with the FBI with regard to warrantless searches! Because really, nothing goes with communications monopoly like cavalier abuse of police powers. Which just goes to prove, no matter how bad you think it is, it’s worse.

Time Warner Cable: Consistency Is Job One

Unfortunately, job number two for Time Warner Cable may be sucking ass. That blog post gave me the most intense sensation of real-life deja vu I’ve ever felt. Not only have I had this exact experience with Time Warner (at least three distinct times: two moves and then the transition to HDTV), but I have heard this story almost word-for-word from virtually every one of my friends and relatives who uses the service. The only commonality I can come up with is that it take anywhere from one to three years to get initial service stabilized at a given address, and then once every one to three years thereafter you will experience some kind of massive failure that starts the cycle over again. Multiple calls to support, multiple visits from technicians, and multiple equipment swap-outs inevitably ensue. Eventually you get back to some level of stability (or is it simply fatigue?).

I can confirm, as this blogger says TWC told him, that the responsiveness, at least, is significantly better on Business Class. You still have the problems, but a technician shows up in hours instead of days, and for the most part you skip tier-one support. In at least one case I was involved with, TWC rewired half a South Austin neighborhood to provision the bandwidth for 20 static IP addresses to someone’s residential garage (it’s Austin, do you even need to ask?). Still, they’re a little too quick with that “if you want better service, upgrade to Business Class” line. When you’re one person working from home it sounds a lot like “screw the average customer.”

It’s a Landing, Big Deal

Today’s ra-ra, go-team, this-is-getting-a-lot-of-coverage-because-it’s-a-nice-safe-story-we-can-all-agree-on item (I hesitate to call it “news”) is the arrival of the first Airbus A380 test aircraft on U.S. soil. But here’s my question: if they had to “upgrade” JFK and LAX to accept these oversized craft, where the hell are you going to divert to when weather shuts down JFK or you run low on fuel waiting in the landing lineup for LAX?

A Sign of the Times

I don’t know if this made it onto or stayed on anyone else’s radar, but there was a five-story skeleton of a planned 10-story Intel building in downtown Austin that was abandoned right around when I moved here, circa 2000, coinciding with the local nadir of the (first?) tech bust. Intel ended up with a much smaller presence in rented space south of the river, and nothing happened at the downtown site for six years.

Well, yesterday, they finally blew it up (by most accounts “they” being the federal government). To make way for… wait for it… a federal courthouse. Not just a federal courthouse (we have two already), but this Orwellian monstrosity. Didn’t we stop building stuff that looks like this in the ’70s? This design reminds me of the misplaced I.M. Pei structures of certain state college systems (SUNY comes to mind), except not as good. I spent more time than I care to recall wandering alienated through these landscapes of abandonment, ducking and cringing beneath the stained concrete and dirty marble facades of post-apocalyptic monoliths. Which is why I find this evocative editorial, overlaid with my knowledge of the area, so chilling: it’s going to be like Logan’s Run meets Red Square (hell, it’s already the Republic Square area–not far to go there). On the plus side, as you stumble out of the Gingerman at 2am, there should be plenty of jackbooted thugs around to help you navigate the barricades and find your car. Assuming there’s any parking left after they extend the security cordon. And by “help” I mean tazer you and beat you with batons.

You see where this is going, right? Tear down the remnants of the tech bubble; extend the massive apparatus of authoritarianism. Get used to it.

First Wiki Novel: Just as Bad as You Imagine

Penguin’s massively collaborative novel experiment–A Million Penguins–seems to be off to a rocky start. It’s a wiki, so it could easily self-improve at any moment, but I wouldn’t count on it. Right now it’s execrable. I mean truly ghastly.

“Big Tony,” a voice said, “There’s a call for you.”

Big Tony carefully put down his cards and looked at the bartender, slightly raising his left eyebrow. “For you? But everyone knows not to call me here?”

“They’re calling your mobile – how would they know where you at?”

“Of course,” said Tony, nodding meaningfully as he took the cell phone out of his pocket. He might be “mean and dumb as a man can come” but he was also a little slow.

“Hello” said the voice on the phone, “Is that Huge Tony?”

“No, this is Big Tony.”

“Sorry – wrong Tony.”

I know, rather than complain I could simply edit it. In fact, just snipping it out like this makes it sound slightly funny–like maybe it’s trying to be a little madcap and ironic. It’s not.

Start editing this? Might as well piss in the ocean on a rainy day.

Read the Fine Print

For some reason, I utterly fail to develop any sympathy for this allegedly screwed-over Lycos customer, regardless of the fact that the story percolated to BoingBoing(*). It seems like what this blogger was asking for (in a passive-aggressive and not particularly polite or artful manner) was to be treated as an exception to the terms of use (which are, as argued, one click off the homepage). The terms of use may suck, but that’s a reason to not use the service in the first place, not an excuse to whine when they enforce them. The final response from the “manager of all of Customer Service” (clearly a Howard Stern fan) is refreshingly honest:

“I’m sorry, no one here has any intentions of helping you with anything.”

Fuckin’ A man! Stick to your guns and don’t sugar coat it.

On another note… Lycos still exists?!? Well there’s your problem right there.