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08/28/2008

Adventures in Communication Technologies

Forgive me. There won’t be any science to speak of in this column but I just had to vent to someone about the problems an old geezer has in trying to adapt to modern communications technologies. And I’m not even talking 3G or even iPods. Last week I ended my column by discussing some of my problems with posting a column under the new format of StocksandNews. I said that if you saw last week’s column on the Web site I deserved three cheers. Why? It would mean that I had mastered not only the new format but also posting with my new cable connection that accompanies my newly acquired cable TV-Internet-phone package. Well, I did post the column but, instead of cheers, I deserved one long Booooo!
 
Why? First, I did not manage to use the cable connection but had to revert back to my old dial-up connection. Second, I again found that I was posting 5 or 6 copies of the column and again had to delete the extras; I still have no idea of why this happens. Third, after posting the (single) column I logged onto the Web site to check that it was in order, only to find that I had inadvertently posted the column as a new Week in Review (WIR) column by our editor Brian Trumbore, not as a Dr. Bortrum column! Fortunately, I spotted this immediately upon logging onto the site and was able to go back and delete the column expeditiously so it was only online for a couple of minutes. I hope not too many people clicked on WIR expecting news on politics, the world scene and financial matters, only to find a short column on trash disposal in the body’s cells!
 
Although as yet unable to master the Internet part of our cable package, I did have a more positive experience with the HDTV that might be helpful to any of you disappointed with the picture quality of your HDTV. It all began last April just before the Masters golf tournament. I had mentioned a problem with our main TV to Brian Trumbore and, being the generous and decisive person he is, he went right out and bought us a Sony HDTV to be delivered just in time to watch the Masters.
 
As an alumnus of the old Bell System and a stockholder in Verizon, and with the appealing TV ads on the benefits of FIOS, I would have considered switching to Verizon. However, with the unexpected imminent delivery of this large TV to our house, I just called our cable company and they installed the necessary HDTV box. I enjoyed the Masters in high definition. However, although the colors were superb and the large screen picture was impressive, the picture somehow seemed “fuzzier” and not as crisp as I expected. I assumed that it could be my eyesight and I might need a new prescription.
 
Fast forward to the Olympics in Beijing. I switched our phone service and computers to the cable package cable deal and the cable guy came to hook things up on Monday of the second week of the Olympics. In the process, he said our cable was corroded and he installed a new cable, braving the bees’ nest in the adjoining phone box up on the pole across the street. He noted that some sort of reading on his meter before switching the cable was 4, but was 15 with the new cable. Well, watching the Olympics that night, I was delighted. The picture was crystal clear and sharp with no trace of the “fuzziness” before the new cable was installed. Beijing was spectacular. So, if you’re a cable customer and the HDTV picture disappoints, you may need a new cable.
 
A few days before the HDTV/cable hookup, our 15-20-year-old AT&T cordless phone was dying and I bought a 4-phone Panasonic cordless setup on sale at Staples.  I was surprised when the cable guy only had to put a modem in the basement to handle all the phones. As a result, we now have 7 phones – the 4 cordless and the speakerphone base plus two hardwired relics from the Bell System. Now when the phone rings it’s a real puzzle where and what phone to answer! But that’s not all. I was in the A&P and noticed one of those cell phones on sale for which you buy prepaid minutes. Judging from observations of individuals everywhere we go, we may be the only ones in the country without a cell phone so I bought the phone and a card for 60 minutes.
 
We had a cell phone some years ago but got so disgusted with dropped calls and poor quality connections that we gave it up. A realtor friend who is wedded to her cell phone theorizes that our problem may have been related to the fact we live in a house built around 1939 with plaster walls etc. She finds that she often has problems with her cell phone when she’s in one of these older homes. At any rate, I paid only $9.99 for the phone and $19.99 for the card. I finally got around to activating the phone this past weekend. 
 
Activation required logging on to a Web site and all went well until I entered the phone’s serial number. The Web site responded by telling me the number was not valid! After repeated entries and the same result, I called the company and, surprisingly, got a real person in fairly short order. The gentleman informed me that my problem was that the phone was not properly scanned at the store! Ok, thought I, I’ll take the plastic container with the bar code back to the store and they’ll scan it. Not a good idea. The customer service lady tells me she can’t scan it because this will result in a charge to her/the store and that I had to bring back the phone so she could call the company herself. 
 
I finished my shopping, planning to return the next day. However, when I got home I realized that I had left one bag of items at the store when I checked out! So, I gathered up the phone stuff and returned to the store. The checkout clerk said my missing items weren’t there so it was back to customer service, where the same gal was still on duty. She called the phone company and was told the same story about not being scanned. She then went back to search the store’s computer records (of course, I had thrown out the receipt!). I was impressed that she actually found the scanning record for the phone. Well, this didn’t impress the phone company guy, who insisted it had to be scanned again. The service gal consulted with the manager of the store, who readily agreed that I should get all my money back, even though my minutes “gift” card was not refundable.
 
The service gal gave me my $29.98 back in cash and I went home. I said this was not my day and mentioned my loss of the missing items. She brightened and brought the bag that a customer had turned in. End of story? Not quite. When I got home, I realized that she had earlier asked for my credit card and I found that I had a receipt for a credit to my account of $29.98. I was $29.98 richer than I was before buying the phone! However, honesty required that I phone the store and authorize a recharge to my account for the amount of the refund. The service gal thanked me heartily for my honesty – the money would have come out of her pocket. OK, we still don’t have a cell phone.
 
And I also have to figure out why, in trying to set up a new e-mail address with the cable company, I’m getting a response that my account number, taken from our cable bill, is invalid! I’m beginning to long for the “good old days” when communications technology consisted of picking up the phone, telling the operator what number you were calling and also telling the other person on the party line to get off the phone! Now to post this column, after deletion of the extra copies, using my old dial-up connection. If you see this column, no cheers, please.
 
Allen F. Bortrum



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-08/28/2008-      
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Dr. Bortrum

08/28/2008

Adventures in Communication Technologies

Forgive me. There won’t be any science to speak of in this column but I just had to vent to someone about the problems an old geezer has in trying to adapt to modern communications technologies. And I’m not even talking 3G or even iPods. Last week I ended my column by discussing some of my problems with posting a column under the new format of StocksandNews. I said that if you saw last week’s column on the Web site I deserved three cheers. Why? It would mean that I had mastered not only the new format but also posting with my new cable connection that accompanies my newly acquired cable TV-Internet-phone package. Well, I did post the column but, instead of cheers, I deserved one long Booooo!
 
Why? First, I did not manage to use the cable connection but had to revert back to my old dial-up connection. Second, I again found that I was posting 5 or 6 copies of the column and again had to delete the extras; I still have no idea of why this happens. Third, after posting the (single) column I logged onto the Web site to check that it was in order, only to find that I had inadvertently posted the column as a new Week in Review (WIR) column by our editor Brian Trumbore, not as a Dr. Bortrum column! Fortunately, I spotted this immediately upon logging onto the site and was able to go back and delete the column expeditiously so it was only online for a couple of minutes. I hope not too many people clicked on WIR expecting news on politics, the world scene and financial matters, only to find a short column on trash disposal in the body’s cells!
 
Although as yet unable to master the Internet part of our cable package, I did have a more positive experience with the HDTV that might be helpful to any of you disappointed with the picture quality of your HDTV. It all began last April just before the Masters golf tournament. I had mentioned a problem with our main TV to Brian Trumbore and, being the generous and decisive person he is, he went right out and bought us a Sony HDTV to be delivered just in time to watch the Masters.
 
As an alumnus of the old Bell System and a stockholder in Verizon, and with the appealing TV ads on the benefits of FIOS, I would have considered switching to Verizon. However, with the unexpected imminent delivery of this large TV to our house, I just called our cable company and they installed the necessary HDTV box. I enjoyed the Masters in high definition. However, although the colors were superb and the large screen picture was impressive, the picture somehow seemed “fuzzier” and not as crisp as I expected. I assumed that it could be my eyesight and I might need a new prescription.
 
Fast forward to the Olympics in Beijing. I switched our phone service and computers to the cable package cable deal and the cable guy came to hook things up on Monday of the second week of the Olympics. In the process, he said our cable was corroded and he installed a new cable, braving the bees’ nest in the adjoining phone box up on the pole across the street. He noted that some sort of reading on his meter before switching the cable was 4, but was 15 with the new cable. Well, watching the Olympics that night, I was delighted. The picture was crystal clear and sharp with no trace of the “fuzziness” before the new cable was installed. Beijing was spectacular. So, if you’re a cable customer and the HDTV picture disappoints, you may need a new cable.
 
A few days before the HDTV/cable hookup, our 15-20-year-old AT&T cordless phone was dying and I bought a 4-phone Panasonic cordless setup on sale at Staples.  I was surprised when the cable guy only had to put a modem in the basement to handle all the phones. As a result, we now have 7 phones – the 4 cordless and the speakerphone base plus two hardwired relics from the Bell System. Now when the phone rings it’s a real puzzle where and what phone to answer! But that’s not all. I was in the A&P and noticed one of those cell phones on sale for which you buy prepaid minutes. Judging from observations of individuals everywhere we go, we may be the only ones in the country without a cell phone so I bought the phone and a card for 60 minutes.
 
We had a cell phone some years ago but got so disgusted with dropped calls and poor quality connections that we gave it up. A realtor friend who is wedded to her cell phone theorizes that our problem may have been related to the fact we live in a house built around 1939 with plaster walls etc. She finds that she often has problems with her cell phone when she’s in one of these older homes. At any rate, I paid only $9.99 for the phone and $19.99 for the card. I finally got around to activating the phone this past weekend. 
 
Activation required logging on to a Web site and all went well until I entered the phone’s serial number. The Web site responded by telling me the number was not valid! After repeated entries and the same result, I called the company and, surprisingly, got a real person in fairly short order. The gentleman informed me that my problem was that the phone was not properly scanned at the store! Ok, thought I, I’ll take the plastic container with the bar code back to the store and they’ll scan it. Not a good idea. The customer service lady tells me she can’t scan it because this will result in a charge to her/the store and that I had to bring back the phone so she could call the company herself. 
 
I finished my shopping, planning to return the next day. However, when I got home I realized that I had left one bag of items at the store when I checked out! So, I gathered up the phone stuff and returned to the store. The checkout clerk said my missing items weren’t there so it was back to customer service, where the same gal was still on duty. She called the phone company and was told the same story about not being scanned. She then went back to search the store’s computer records (of course, I had thrown out the receipt!). I was impressed that she actually found the scanning record for the phone. Well, this didn’t impress the phone company guy, who insisted it had to be scanned again. The service gal consulted with the manager of the store, who readily agreed that I should get all my money back, even though my minutes “gift” card was not refundable.
 
The service gal gave me my $29.98 back in cash and I went home. I said this was not my day and mentioned my loss of the missing items. She brightened and brought the bag that a customer had turned in. End of story? Not quite. When I got home, I realized that she had earlier asked for my credit card and I found that I had a receipt for a credit to my account of $29.98. I was $29.98 richer than I was before buying the phone! However, honesty required that I phone the store and authorize a recharge to my account for the amount of the refund. The service gal thanked me heartily for my honesty – the money would have come out of her pocket. OK, we still don’t have a cell phone.
 
And I also have to figure out why, in trying to set up a new e-mail address with the cable company, I’m getting a response that my account number, taken from our cable bill, is invalid! I’m beginning to long for the “good old days” when communications technology consisted of picking up the phone, telling the operator what number you were calling and also telling the other person on the party line to get off the phone! Now to post this column, after deletion of the extra copies, using my old dial-up connection. If you see this column, no cheers, please.
 
Allen F. Bortrum