Dell: Real Customer Service

A little less than a year ago I bought a new Dell Vostro laptop. It’s a nice light-weight, yet powerful little laptop that has done me well until now. Actually, to be honest, it’s still doing me well, it’s just the hard drive that’s been giving me problems.

I’ve had intermittent crashing since last year November. So much so that I got fed-up and rebuilt the machine from scratch. Re-installing the OS all my apps and restoring my backed-up data.

Then, about six weeks ago, it started happening again. Fed up with the constant and intermittent crashing (not limited to any particular application) I gave up again – backing up my data but I didn’t do a re-install. Instead, I called Dell.

When I bought the laptop I included an extended warranty (next business day) for a little extra. Now, I know, I don’t normally do the extended warranty thing with appliances as it’s usually over-priced and most of the time not worth it. This time, however, it paid off for itself.

Firstly, Dell call center staff actually are not only helpful but friendly too – something a lot of call centers around the world can learn from. All they needed to look up my details was my laptop service tag number. With that they could tell me what my warranty period was, when it expires and asked me how they could help. I explained that I had been having intermittent crashing and IO read/write failures.

They then asked me if I had any diagnostic error codes – I said I didn’t note down the actual error codes from the blue screens but they all pointed to IO failures. He then asked me if I had the laptop with me and I said no that it was at home. He then proceeded to explain to me that if I power the laptop off and then hold down the function (Fn) key while pressing the power button it would boot up into a built-in Dell Diagnostics mode. Wow, I was impressed, I’d learnt something new about my laptop (apparently this is built-in into all Dell machines).

So when I got home I ran the diagnostics tool (which looks very similar to a BIOS screen) and it let me know that there were indeed errors with the hard drive. I noted the error codes down and continued with the rest of the diagnostics. It even continues into a windows-like interface with nice options where you can either run a quick, full, or specific diagnostic test. It also has a symptom-tree function where you pick from a list of symptoms (like blue-screens, hanging, etc) and it shows you the various tests that can be performed. Let me tell you, it’s exhaustive. I ran all the tests and all of them passed, except for some of the read/write tests on the hard drive.

Obviously, now, the problem actually was the hard-drive. I called them up the next morning, following-up from my previous call and they verified that the drive would need to be replaced. Since this was a Friday and we would be going away for a long weekend I asked if the drive could be delivered to me at my office the following Wednesday (my first day back). They said not a problem, all I had to do was call the business day prior to when I wanted it delivered (before 4pm) and they would ensure next-business day delivery.

Monday morning I gave them a call again to confirm my delivery address and contact number. I was warned however that due to the volcanic ash from the Icelandic volcano that the delivery might be delayed if they did not have enough stock on hand. I understood. Before ending the call the agent asked me if I needed assistance removing the drive, re-installing the new one as well as whether or not I had the operating system to re-install. Oh, they also asked if I needed any data recovered/backed up on the drive once it was delivered to Dell. Is that service, or what? I said that it wasn’t a problem I could remove the drive, re-install the new one and re-install the OS by myself.

When I got home on Tuesday I made sure I had backed up all the files I needed and began shredding various sensitive and personal files before completely uninstalling everything down to just the OS and then removing the drive from the laptop, inserting it into my portable drive enclosure and using my work laptop to format the drive as well as removing the partitions, re-creating a new single partition and formatting it. Yes, I know it’s overkill but I wanted to try and make it as difficult as possible for any data to be recovered from the drive (there shouldn’t be a reason for it).

To my utter amazement, a little less than 20 minutes after I walked into the office at 8:30am on Wednesday morning (today) the courier brought me my new hard drive, sealed (not with a kiss, but with anti-static wrapping in a padded box). I removed my drive from the laptop (I had re-inserted it the night before again after cleaning it) and gave it to the courier, took my new drive from the anti-static enclosure and he left with the faulty drive. I installed the new drive – ran all the diagnostics and all the tests passed – clean as a whistle. I was a happy man – now all I needed was to re-install the OS, my applications and restore my data.

By the way, Windows Easy Transfer (for moving your entire windows profile, application settings, personal files, etc) works like a charm. Less than 12 hours later, I’m fully up and running again.

Dell Customer Service gets an A+ from me – well done!

VOTD: The Axis of Awesome’s 4 Chords

Ever listened to a new band or a new pop song and thought, hmmm, it does have a familiar sound, doesn’t it? Well there’a trio from down under, called The Axis of Awesome, who have the answer.

And you’ll be surprised to hear how simple it is – just four chords. That’s right, according to “Chicken Little” aka Benny you can pretty much hear/use the same four chords in just about any pop song and to prove their point they demonstrate by playing 36 different pop songs using the same four chords. These guys definitely live up to their name. Definitely worth following this new up and coming trio from Australia. You can see what they’re up to by following them on Twitter or having a look at their website.

But first, don’t just take my word for it, have a listen for yourself  – check out the video below. [via Onelargeprawn]

Update – 18 May 2010: Jon from the RCB has put together a much better break down and analysis of why the four chords work so well in his blog post here.

VOTD: Octopus steals video camera

I really miss my scuba-diving adventures while we were holidaying in Mexico so it seems, for now, I’ll live out these experiences through others.

Here’s a video clip of a guy who was filming underwater when an octopus attacked, not him though, his camera, and then swam off with it.

He says he chased it for another 3 minutes or so before enticing the octopus with his spear-gun to give him a chance to wrestle the camera from his grip. All along I’m sure the octopus was just thinking: “Ooo, shiny, my precious!” [via DCP]

Veggie garden update – the secret to peppers

So, it’s been three months now since we first started our veggie garden. Our watermelon plant has taken upon itself to try and escape along the garden, down the driveway and out onto the street – but I have plans for it. The cherry tomato plants have grown so thick and heavy that they’ve fallen over (using wooden dowel supports I put up to help them when they were smaller). They’ll have to stay that way until we’ve taken all the tomatoes we can. The corn are almost finished now, seems they only produced one each.

As you saw last month, we finally had some delicious corn and more peppers. I’ve specifically left a pepper or two from the first batch of fully-grown peppers since I wanted to prove to my mom that the different coloured peppers aren’t different species but the same green peppers that are cultivated for much longer to get their colour.

Well, I don’t know what it’s like overseas, but here in South Africa green peppers are a standard price but yellow, orange and red peppers are on average at least 50% more expensive than green peppers (sometimes even more). It always irked me that they were so much more expensive – just for different coloured (and sweeter) peppers.

But now I’ve seen first hand how much more work goes into these peppers. They need to stay on the plant (like mine) for at least a month, or more, longer than the green peppers. And it seems like it’s turned (almost) completely yellow overnight – not gradually as I had expected them to grow.

I’ve added a photo below (I haven’t picked it off yet) as well as a photo showing off one of our (picked six already with four more growing) egg plant fruits (bringel). We gave four of them to my folks and hopefully get to make some Moussaka this weekend with the other two. Oh, and there’s a handful of our cherry tomatoes as well!

VOTD: Pixels attack the world!

I’ve just spotted this exceptionally well done video of pixels attacking the city of New York. It’s done really well and you should spot quite a few recognizable pixelated things like Tetris, Pacman, Space Invaders and Donkey Kong. [via BoingBoing, NightWall]

More info:
New York invasion by 8-bits creatures !
PIXELS is Patrick Jean’ latest short film, shot on location in New York.
Written, directed by : Patrick Jean
Director of Photograhy : Matias Boucard

Precious little time

I begin this post with a huge lump in my throat (a little more than 36 hours after I got some distressing news my mind has finally began to process it) and although I post this on the 1st of April, let me make one thing clear from the get go – this is in no way an April Fool’s joke.

It seems like just the other day, but 6 months ago my family and I lost my aunt. Just over a week earlier my cousin’s twins were born. I guess the universe has a strange way of keeping the balance. To make space for new arrivals, others must leave this world.

To some, six months might feel like an eternity – to others, it’s barely a drop in the ocean. When my aunt passed away I mentioned how difficult and unfair it must be as a parent, to out-live your children – but when we’ve lived a full life, it seems slightly less unfair. You had a good life, you saw your own children and grand-children grow up, your time came and those that are left behind have to deal with the loss.

But, how do you deal with this as a parent losing a child, of just over six months?

One of my cousin’s twin sons passed away suddenly in his sleep yesterday morning. As a parent (and even before becoming a parent) I’ve known known about SIDS and how today it remains unexplained. But you never, in your wildest dreams, think it could happen to someone you know, let alone yourself.

I cannot begin to imagine what my cousin, her husband and children must be going through right now. How does one process what has happened? How do you explain it? Whom do you blame? Something inexplicably wrong has happened, someone or something is to blame? You want answers, I know for sure I’d be questioning everything and everyone if, God-forbid, something like this had to happen to me. All I know for sure, is that it’s not fair – life just isn’t fair.

Since my cousin and her children live in New Zealand I’ve never seen their children in person, other than photos on Facebook and keeping in touch electronically. Regrettably, I never got to know my little namesake, but we shared an invisible bond of a family name and a blood-line. I know he will be missed by many, but especially so by his parents and siblings.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you dear cousin. May you all somehow find the strength to get through this. I’m not sure I could, you’re all much stronger than I am.