Posts Tagged ‘service’

“Disk Utility Can’t Repair This Disk”

Quis backup ipsos backups?“, as the Roman poet Juvenal didn’t say but might have if they had had computers in the first century AD.

Like most geeks I pride myself on being able to maintain the computers I use on a daily basis. Just like real men don’t eat quiche and real programmers don’t use Pascal, real geeks don’t call for professional help or technical support.

But then the day comes when one of your hard drives goes crunk, you go through all the tricks of the trade you know, you exhaust searching for possible solutions on the web and you realise that maybe, just maybe, while it’s not time to eat quiche or starting coding in pascal, it’s probably time to call for some professional help.

Like a lot of people, I’ve amassed a not inconsiderable amount of digital media over the years, in the form of apps, songs, movies and photos. Most of these live on my laptop and are religiously backed up with SuperDuper! and with Time Machine to external drives, with one of these drives holding the overspill. This aforementioned external drive had given solid, reliable service over the years but had started to act … quirkily. Fearing a critical mass of bad sectors I decided now was a good time to backup my backups.

Sad Mac

And then it happened. Crunk. The disk died. So I fired up OS X’s Disk Utility and verified the disk. It had … issues. Time to repair the disk. So it chugged and it whirred and the progress bar progressed with glacial slowness until finally, several hours later, I saw the message I dreaded.

Disk Utility can’t repair this disk. Back up as many of your files as possible, reformat the disk and restore your backed-up files.

Of course, it was probably my fault. Despite the number of bad sectors and other magnetic media glitches that accumulate over time on a disk drive, the drive itself had still been functioning; probably because I’d never actually tried to read from one of those bad patches recently. But in trying to backup the drive, I was pretty much accessing every sector on the drive with the resulting crunk being pretty inevitable.

So what to do? Most of my photos were already hosted on Flickr. A lot, but by no means all, of my music could theoretically be re-ripped from CD. But my backups of my iPhone and iPad were gone and let’s not even begin to talk about the movies. It may only have been under 500 GB’s worth of data, which is a drop in the ocean compared to today’s multiple terabyte drives, but it was a lot of data to me and it represented a lot of time, effort and memories.

Maybe data recovery was possible? A quick online search for “mac data recovery” had my bank balance wincing in shock. This was going to be expensive, if it was possible at all. Most recovery firms charged to look at the drive and then charged to extract the data from the drive, with pricing being based on the number of files, not the capacity of the drive. Then I found Tierra Data Recovery. Fixed pricing, free analysis of whether the data could be recovered, free courier collection and payment only on successful recovery.

It seemed too good to be true. But a quick phone call, explaining the situation and Tom from Tierra, as he will now be known, calmly laid out my options. So the following day a courier collected my drive and took it to Scotland and a couple of days later I got an email from Tierra with the news that all of my data could be recovered for a little over £300.00, and after shipping a new drive to them, all of my data made its way from Scotland back to London.

Dead Drive

Here in the UK we’ve become accustomed to being gouged by companies, to expecting poor or no customer service and to be treated like a cash cow. Which makes the speed and quality of the service provided by Tom and Gill at Tierra all the more unexpected and pleasing. I hope I never need the services of a data recovery company again, but if I ever do, Tom from Tierra will be getting my business again without a second thought. If you find yourself in this unenviable position, you should give Tom a call too.

Photo Credits: ~inky and Sifter on Flickr.
Written and posted from the British Airways Galleries Lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 5 (51.4702, -0.4882)

Will The New Delicious Still Be … Delicious?

Delicious is dead! Long live Delicious. Like a lot of Delicious users, I recently received a mail urging me to authorise the transfer of my Delicious account and bookmarks to the new service once ownership transfers from Yahoo! to AVOS.

The reception to the news of Delicious’s new owners has been … varied. Marshall Kirkpatrick has written a post in favour of the transfer, but Violet Blue is not so sure. If you do a little bit of digging, you’ll see that the new Delicious has the potential to be far more restrictive on what you can, and what you can’t bookmark, especially where potentially offensive content is linked to. Offensive is a horribly vague and subjective term; one which means many different things to many different people.


At the heart of the issue is the difference in wording between the old Delicious terms

The linked websites’ content, business practices and privacy policies are not under the control of Delicious, and Delicious is not responsible for the content of any linked website or any link contained in a linked website. (…) In accessing Delicious or following links to third-party websites you may be exposed to content that you consider offensive or inappropriate. You agree that your only recourse is to stop using Delicious.

… and the new ones

You agree not to do any of the following: post, upload, publish, submit or transmit any Content that: (…) violates, or encourages any conduct that would violate, any applicable law or regulation or would give rise to civil liability; (iii) is fraudulent, false, misleading or deceptive; (iv) is defamatory, obscene, pornographic, vulgar or offensive (…)

If a complaint is made and if the new terms are upheld, you run the risk of having all your bookmarks removed, without recourse and without warning. Admittedly that’s a lot of ifs.

A cursory trawl through my Delicious bookmarks doesn’t seem to have anything obscene or pornographic, but there’s a lot of linked content which is fictitious and could possibly be deemed misleading or deceptive. As the saying goes, you can please some people, some of the time, not all people, all of the time. When you have terms of service which are vague and ambiguous, you can rest assured that someone will exercise their right to be offended. For now, I’ve authorised my old Delicious account to be transferred to the new service, but I’ve also taken a backup, just to be on the safe side.

What’s also unclear is whether the Delicious API and RSS feeds will remain; one of my web sites relies on these to dynamically update the site’s content.

While Delicious lives on, whether I’ll continue to be a user of the service or migrate to my own, self hosted solution, as I’ve already done with my URL shortener, remains to be seen.

Photo Credits: Shaneblog on Flickr.
Written and posted from Theresa Avenue, Campbell, California (37.2654, -121.9643)

“But if you tell people what’s going on they’re going to expect it in the future”

Next time you head out of London’s Waterloo station keep your eyes peeled as you come through the ticket barriers; if you’re lucky you’ll see one of the small display screens that are usually covered by an opaque lid. At first sight these seem to be a mirror of the larger departure boards on the main concourse but these screens tell the drivers which platform they need to be on for their train before the main concourse screens update.

Why is this interesting? Well, tonight the trains in and out of Waterloo were severely disrupted by something going on at Clapham Junction, no one seemed to know what exactly but the general consensus amongst the station staff was that it was probably related to a train.

Train departures were still displayed on the main board with a platform number, but after it became apparent that the service wasn’t going anywhere, each departure cycled through on time, delayed and finally cancelled.

After my train home suffered this fate I trudged to the end of the platform where a member of the SouthWest Trains was looking at one of these driver’s display screens and was actually dispensing useful information. Admittedly the information seemed to be “catch the Tube if you can” but that was still useful.

Mind The Gag

Just before I headed for the nearest entrance to the Tube station and a longer than planned commute home, another SouthWest Trains colleague, let’s call him SWT Two saw what was going on and strolled over; their conversation, while short, shows the affection which SouthWest Trains has for its passengers, sorry, customers.

SWT Two: What are you doing?

SWT One: Telling these passengers what’s going on as best as I can

SWT Two: They’re customers not passengers

SWT One: Well whatever they are they deserve what little information we have

SWT Two: That’s a driver’s board; you shouldn’t be showing customers that

SWT One: Why not? It’s all the information there is at the moment

SWT Two: But if you tell people what’s going on they’re going to expect it in the future. You should tell them to go back to the main concourse and wait for announcements

SWT One: What? Even if there are no announcements and they have to wait for ages?

SWT Two: That’s their problem not mine.

Wonderful; as customers it’s our responsibility to find out what the train company is doing and don’t tell people what’s going on as they’re going to expect it again.

Lovely to know that we’re such a pain in the backside and a burden to the poor overworked train operator.

Photo Credits: Shht! on Flickr.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Avis: They’re Trying Harder

It’s probably due to the amount of time I’ve spent in the States this year but I seem to be more and more incensed by the crap customer service that companies in the UK seem to think that their customers should accept. I may have blogged about it once or twice or, as Guiseppe Sollazzo commented on Twitter recently “your blog today looks like a customers’ rights advocate“. To be fair, it’s not just me; there are other people I know who are equally strident about this, be it directed at the Apple Store or O2. Most of the time, the companies concerned just ignore complaints but sometimes, they try harder and given my recent experience with Avis at Heathrow, trying harder is rather apt.
Just after my experiences with Avis at Heathrow, I turned up at the Avis garage at San Francisco International to pick up a rental car. I’d never had any problems here before but was prepared for the worst. Which failed to materialise as I bypassed the inevitable queues, went to the Preferred board and found my name in lights. Less than three minutes later I was out of the building and heading for CA-380 and CA-280, a much more pleasant way to get to Silicon Valley than the I-101. But I digress.
“On behalf of Avis, I would like to extend my sincere apologies for any inconvenience that this situation caused you.  As a gesture of goodwill, I would like to send you Free Day Coupons to assist on your next rental in the U.S.  Please let me know the best address to use when mailing these.”
So fair play to them … but. All of the rentals I tend to use are when I’m travelling for Yahoo! so Day Coupons, whilst a nice touch, aren’t of that much use to me, so slightly emboldened by success I tried an alternate tack.
“Whilst I really appreciate your offer of Day Coupons, all of my car rental is on company business and so these aren’t of much real use to me; would it be possible to convert these into, say, an upgrade for my next few rentals?”
I knew I was probably pushing it but was even more pleasantly surprised by the reply.
“Yes, I can send you coupons for an upgrade.  Please let me know the best address to send these to.”
So fair play to you Avis; you took a really bad experience and a deeply cynical customer and turned the experience right around. Mind you, I’m not picking up any cars from Heathrow for a while … just to be on the safe side.
Photo credit: X-travalueMeal#2 on Flickr.

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous

O2 in Positive Customer Service Shock?

O2, the UK Telefonica brand and soon-to-be-loosing-the-iPhone-exclusivity-to-just-about-anyone mobile operator, have a reputation which is, to be honest, just a little bit crap. Their coverage in the rural wilds of Central London, especially around Soho and Covent Garden, seems to be scaled for a single user and a web search for “o2 customer service problems” throws up such gems as “O2 customer service consists of PAY UP OR ELSE” and “O2’s customer service has to be the poorest I have ever come across“.

So we’ll leave aside for one moment the fact that I have to pay an additional £20.00 for a measly 10MB of data when abroad via O2’s Data Abroad 10 bolt on and accept that I ordered this to be added to my account so I could use data on my iPhone when in the US for this week’s Open Hack NYC.

The first mailed response from O2 didn’t inspire confidence.

“Hi, Thanks for getting in touch. We’ll look into your query and get back to you as quickly as we can, normally within 24 hours.”

So I waited and less than 24 hours later I got this

“Good Morning Gary. Thanks for emailing us about adding the 10Mb Data Roaming Bolt On to your account.

Gary, you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve added the 10Mb Data Roaming Bolt On to your account effective from your next bill onwards (10 October 2009).  You’ll be charged £17.02 excluding VAT (Value Added Tax) per month for this Bolt On.

If you want to add the above Bolt On on a different date, please reply to this email and we’ll help you further.”

Data roaming on; WIN. Data roaming on from the date of my next bill and after the event in New York; FAIL.

So I asked them, nicely.

“I’m having to travel at very short notice so I really need this up and running from my first day out of the country which is this Wednesday, October 7th. Can the bolt on start date be brought forward to this day?”

That automated reply came back again

“Hi, Thanks for getting in touch. We’ll look into your query and get back to you as quickly as we can, normally within 24 hours.”

I’d expected a cut-and-paste response that they could only start services such as this on the first day of a new monthly bill, which basically means minimal work for them and maximum inconvenience for the customer. Then this morning I got this, which was emphatically not what I was expecting.

“Good Evening Gary. Thanks for emailing us as you want to pre-phone your Bolt On start date. I’ve pre phoned your Bolt On start date to 07 October 2009 as requested by you. Important – When you email us please provide: your date of birth, postcode and mobile number as it helps us answer your query faster”

So fair play to you O2; I’m not entirely sure what pre-phoning is and a bit surprised that you expect me to provide personal data including my date of birth and postal code in every email, but I went into this dialogue with you with zero expectation of success and you pleasantly surprised me. Now if we can just fix that “No Service” in Central London …

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous