My Beef with Comcast

Wow, has it really been 6 months? I need to update more often. I know, I know, I feel like I say that (to myself at least) every time I update, but there really hasn’t been much happening to write about.

It seems to me that everywhere I look, someone is complaining about Comcast or Verizon and their terrible customer service. I know that “the squeaky wheel gets the most …” blah blah blah, but I’m curious what their ratio of satisfied to unsatisfied customers is. Because really, there are alternatives. Not so much for cable or phone, depending on where you are, but with mobile phones at least there’s really not a whole lot of reason to stick with your current provider if you’re unhappy, and yet somehow these companies remain in business – they must be keeping someone happy.

Now, part of the problem seems to be that people call support for stupid reasons. If your cable goes out at 2am, call support but don’t be too mad if it doesn’t get “fixed” for a couple of hours, because chances are they were doing maintenance while most of their area was asleep. It sucks for those of us that are online at 2am because of our schedules, but we’re statistically few. On the other hand, if it goes out every day at 2am, that’s a good reason to call and start complaining.

My interactions have been minimal. In the last year I have been the owner of a Comcast Account, I have called them twice. The first was a year ago, to set up my account and get online with my purchased modem. The second was today, when I called to upgrade my account to add TV service. Both occasions were relatively quick, I was given the information I needed to make an informed decision (combined with research earlier in the day), and so far I’m happy. They were a little pushy for a couple of addon services that I neither can afford nor have desire for, but their goal is to make money. The tech is coming out to get us set up for TV on Friday and I’ll update if that doesn’t go well.

Am I in the minority? Are there really so few of us that have positive interactions with these large, terrible companies? Really, my only major complaint in this situation is that I had to call to make the change. Comcast’s website knows that there is an active account at my address when I enter it in looking for deals, but then it just tells me there are no deals and that it can’t find my address in the system to make changes to the service. That, to me, is the epitome of frustrating.

In closing, Comcast, please fix your website’s backend so that people like myself don’t have to call to make changes to our service. Let the customer service team know that they did well on at least these two occasions. And if you want to reward me for giving you a good review, you can always lower my bill a few dollars a month. You really don’t have to though, for now I’m a satisfied customer and expect to stay happy until we move to a location that forces us to switch provider.

Quotable Monday: Revolution

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Have you ever read the United States Declaration of Independence? It’s an interesting read if you can get through it.

I realize I have clipped a section for my purposes, but I strongly encourage you to read it in it’s entirety for context.

http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

As a quick backstory, for the non-Americans (or those who have forgotten), the United States was born of people who migrated from England (among other parts of Europe) and was initially an English Colony. King George III was being somewhat of a douche towards the colonists. After much agony inflicted by the King, they decided to separate, to declare their independence.

They outline their complaints against the King and his government: refusing to approve laws believed to be for the common good, forcing his government into accepting his will, dissolving the government on multiple occasions for refusing to accept his views, for placing armed troops among them [the colonists] and protecting them from trial for any murders they commit, cutting off trade, imposing taxes without consent, depriving the right to a trial by jury, etc, etc.

The point is, at some point, the common belief of the people becomes that the government has long ceased to meet their needs, and that change needs to happen. When the government has long proven it’s unwillingness to listen to the people, then according to the Declaration of Independence, it is the duty of the people to rise up against the government and replace it with a more suitable form.

I’m not suggesting a violent overthrow of the government as it stands, I’m certainly not suggesting that the current system of government is being nearly as oppressive as King George III was all those years ago, but I think the United States is long overdue for a discussion on the purpose of government, the duty of government, what the people want and expect from the government, and then action to create a government that is of the people, by the people, for the people.

After watching what is going on in the Occupy movements, I see a group of people who are wanting to start the discussion, but none of the right people are listening. It’s time they stood down their security forces and listened to what their constituency are peacefully requesting. After all, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy

Quotable Monday: Conformity

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.” — Albert Einstein

This also references my earlier Quotable Monday entry on blind faith. I always have trouble when I run into people who, when asked questions about things, just speak information they don’t understand.

I ran into this issue on IRC not too long ago, when talking to someone who was making the absolute federal minimum wage of $2.16 (or whatever it is) an hour while driving for a pizza company. When asked about what they made, they referenced Florida as being “under maritime law.” This didn’t make any sense to me, as I assumed that I would have known something along this line a long time ago, and so I went for a talk with my buddy Google.

I confess that in this talk I did learn things – mostly related to the exception to the $7.55/hr federal minimum wage (as it applies to people who normally receive tips in their line of work), but at no point did I find any reference to the State of Florida combined with Maritime Law.

So I challenged the individual, and asked plainly: Is that just what you’ve been told it is? And the answer came back with a resounding “Yes.”

My problem isn’t with people who conform by their own choice, my problem is those who fail to consider the options, or make their decisions without making so much as an attempt to think for themselves. Letting other people think for you is, in my mind, an assault to the freedom of choice that you were given. This also applies to the “non-conformists” who have chosen their path simply because it’s not what other people are doing. Believe it or not, you’ve let other people think for you by rebelling against them.

If you are in the military because you considered your options and it was what you decided to do, that’s awesome. If you are in the military because you were told to, or it was expected of you, and you just accepted it, not so cool. And the same applies to other fields too. It’s totally fine for a feminist to decide to stay home and be a housewife. It doesn’t go against the core principles of feminism which (as I understand them) are about giving women the right to choose. If you’re staying home and being a housewife because you wanted to, go right ahead. If it’s merely because it is the socially accepted thing to do, maybe you should reevaluate what it is you want from life.

I’m not going to apply this to every person in every religion or social setting, I’ll leave that to you to consider.

Quotable Monday: Christianity without Christ

“In answer to your inquiry, I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.” — William Booth

This is something that has bothered me for a long time. I think it is one of the things that leaves me questioning my beliefs in “Common Christianity” and puts me outside my circle of friends a lot.

We like the idea that if we say a prayer and ask forgiveness, our sin doesn’t matter anymore. While in a sense this is true, it’s not that simple. It’s not OK to say “Yes, God, I know I did this bad thing, but I’m sorry and I ask you to forgive me,” as we get ready, walk out the door and do whatever it was all over again. It’s not OK to claim Christianity while ignoring the parts of the bible you don’t like, whether it is to love everyone equally, or to give to the poor, or other more controversial things.

It’s OK to accept anyone into the church, but it’s not OK to allow them to serve in ministry when they have sin they refuse to acknowledge or address. It’s OK to teach about the wonder of heaven, but it has to go hand in hand with the risks of the other option.

Security: We’re Doing It Wrong

Don’t worry, this won’t be a long post.

I have long been of the belief that we are going about password security all wrong, and XKCD have successfully visualized it. A few months ago I saw an excellent post somewhere (of course, now I can’t find it) about the basic methods used to crack passwords and how to derive a secure but memorable password that will defeat most of them for long enough between change cycles.

Basically it boils down to brute force, and dictionary attacks. There are also hybrids, but they are essentially combinations of the two. Social engineering, while valid, doesn’t really apply to this argument.

With a dictionary attack, a hacker or script kiddie will have a long list of words that may be commonly used for passwords that they will run through attempting to gain access. So if you use a word like “banana” or “elephant” as your password, it probably wouldn’t take long to be compromised.

With a brute force attack, a hacker or script kiddie will use a system that tries to guess your password by cycling through every possibility and hopes that he eventually lands the right one.

More common are hybrid systems which take words or phrases and use them as the core of a brute force attack, making the attack more intelligent, if you will.

The problem is that deriving a good secure password (as we’ve been taught is secure, at least) can result in a password that is difficult to remember. Personal anecdote time. A couple of companies I have worked for in the past had password systems in place that required a password at least 8 characters long, and that had upper and lowercase characters as well as at least one number. It also had to be changed every month, I believe, and it wasn’t possible to use any password that had been used in the last 12 months.

Most people will agree this is a good idea. Passwords should be regularly changed for various reasons, but having those kinds of requirements starts to become silly and LEADS to insecurity. I reached the point where I had to use an insecure password system (though I wouldn’t tell anyone what it actually was) just so that remembering it wouldn’t be an issue.

The other issue arises when someone needs 3 or 4 passwords to go about their daily business (I have 4, that I can think of that I use regularly) but there is no interconnection between the two. Even worse, there may be different requirements for technical or security reasons. “No numbers” or “cannot start with a number” are occasionally issues. This ultimately leads to people writing their passwords down, which is just not a good idea. Whether it’s in a file on your computer, a note in your notebook, or even worse a post-it taped to your desk, keyboard or even monitor, chances are good someone will find it and utilize it.

Simple rule: keep it simple, make it long, use some form of obscurity. Ideally find a password that will suit all the systems you use so you can keep it in sync, and find a way to juggle it around in a way you’ll remember every time that window pops up saying “your password will expire in 12 days, would you like to change it now? Yes, No”

Dear McDonalds..

Thank you for putting onions on my burger, when I specifically requested no onions.

I also note how you put a note on the box saying “No Sliv O[nions]” to indicate that there are none in the burger.

Fortunately, I checked, and it is a preference – not an allergy. This does, however, happen fairly regularly.. I fear it happens to people who do have such allergies.

Love,

zEkE.

Photos from Winter Jam

Here are the photos I took at the Winter Jam concert on Friday night. Below are brief descriptions and military times from my phone of when they were taken. I apologize for the quality of the photos, I used the camera in my phone having (intentionally) left my digital in Harrisonburg.

From what I am told, the crowds started arriving at 3pm, doors opened at 6pm and the show started at 7.

16:51 – Eating Pizza at Lil’ Cucci’s Pizzeria in Daleville, VA. Good pizza, but a bad decision.

18:17 – A sign at the Roanoke Civic Center. This wasn’t for our event, looked like a trade show or something inside.

18:19 – We see the crowds outside. At this point the venue was declared full, and the doors were blocked with no more allowed in.

18:48 – Show starts in ~ 12 minutes, and the line has shrunk. From what I heard, they opened the area behind the stage and allowed another 300 people in, but that wasn’t enough to get us through the doors.

18:56 – They haven’t played inside yet, but the Sidewalk prophets came and gave an acoustic performance for those of us stuck outside. Great guys, great music. They all signed the copy of their CD I bought, and the singer recognized me after the show when I went to get his, having missed it earlier.

18:57 – I took a few photos before my phone battery started saying it was low.

20:31 – This is the first photo I took after getting inside, so we got in at about 8:30pm, an hour and a half late.

20:32 – David Crowder Band is finishing up their set.

20:33 – A slightly better shot, David Crowder Band

20:39 – Crowd blinders came up, this is my view for the first few minutes from behind the stage.

20:48 – This was our seated view behind the stage before moving, this guy was talking about orphans and the sponsoring thereof, I believe.

21:16 – KJ-52 performing while the final details are put on the Kutless set.

21:29 – Kutless!

21:57 – Newsboys entrance. Closest is the guitarist, farther away is the keyboardist, both on platforms above the crowd on the floor.

21:58 – My last photo of the night before I ran out of room on my phone, the Newsboys stage.