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Re-Printed From SLCentral
Back From Comdex
It took me two weeks to write this.
Well, it didn't take me two weeks of sitting at a computer to write this. After Comdex Vegas, I was so behind in everything not getting done in my absence that it took two weeks to get caught up to the point where I could sit down and fire off a new Guru's World column.
Even then, and the fact that it's a Sunday, it still doesn't mean that I'm not overly busy. It's 10 PM and I just came back from work. They switched accounting software at my work and for some reason; it failed to operate properly on anybody's Windows 98 machine. They opened up a bunch of new hard drives, swapped out everyone's drive and installed 2000 on everyone's machine. It just so happened that the only PC in the tech room that functioned properly after the install of 2000 was mine. I just popped in the office to download all of the important stuff off of my old drive (MP3s, JPEGs and AVIs. You know; important stuff) and knock out a few e-mails as well as get the ELO Zoom desktop and screensaver installed back on the PC. I wanted to make sure that if I'm the only one up and running in the tech room on Monday morning, that it's business as usual as far as I'm concerned.
It's been a while since I've written any Guru's Worlds about my frustrations with the common customer. The customers haven't changed. They're still trying to squeak there way out of every loophole that will allow them to run an Athlon CPU without a heatsink and get a refund for it when it's dead. They're still arguing with me about their AGP 4X video card being 3.3V and that why they fried their D850 board (AGP 4X cards are 1.5V. 2X cards are 3.3V). I just think I've become more immune to their outlandishness.
Matter of fact, just this evening, I received an email from a guy whose Athlon CPU warranty was refused because every corner of the die had a chip taken out of it. He told me that the refusal to do the RMA for his "dead CPU" was poppycock (his words) because we had been discussing his no POST situation since before September 11 and that it took him a long time after September 11 because of some personal repercussions the events of 9/11/2001 had on his personal life. I merely stated to the gentleman that "the events of 9/11 have effected all of us in many ways, but regardless of time frame or events that develop in the interim, the CPU could have been returned to us 10 months down the road and our ability to do a warranty would still be limited, not due to time frame but, because of the condition of the CPU." Not to sound callous, but I've heard all of the excuses and the fact of the matter is, if you bounce your heatsink on top of your CPU, like a 5 year old playing jacks, and you take a few indentations out of the product while you're at it, I'm not going to warranty it. I was actually somewhat offended that he was trying to use September 11th as an excuse for not being more timely with his RMA. Poppycock!
Two weeks ago, I got to go to Comdex. It was a small Comdex this year, but all of the industry knew this coming into it and adjusted accordingly. The convention center floors would be filled with a plethora of Joe Enduser and Mom and Pop's IT men (and women). All of the serious people knew where to find the other serious people. Upstairs in meeting rooms is where you got the low down on AMD, Intel, NVidia...All the good stuff was up there.
So where did I come in?
AMD decided to pacify the end user crowd with a little Athlon XP loving. AMD had two PC companies, one from the East coast and one from the West, build 40 PCs each and set up internet pavilions where people could go and check email and do a little surfing.
Each company brought a product manager in case there needed to be some schmoozing with some of the other product vendors (we scored some speakers from Kinyo for our pavilion), a PR/Sales guy (we brought Chad. He's the guy who printed up all of the flyers and mouse pads that we gave away. I'm sure a deal was struck up with the owner there), a tech in case something went wrong (that's where I came in) and a manager of sorts to deal with all of the logistics (the owner of the company came with us).
Right off the bat, set up was a nightmare. First, we find out that someone unloading the truck kicked one of the PCs and I was immediately put into action. After this was discovered, we found out that we would have to set up each PC with a static IP. The PCs were set up back at home using DHCP. We were given a block of 40 IP addresses, but by the time we got to the 30th machine, we found that someone else was using our IP addresses so we had to start randomly punching in numbers. This took a while. Add to this the fact that we had bad CAT5 cables (some of the ends looked like they were crimped on wit Vise-Grips) and you can chalk up one stressful Monday morning for the old Jonny Guru.
Essentially, the way things were /supposed/ to go, we were to have these PC set up for people to surf on, give out AMD propaganda, as well as information about our product, and answer questions people might have had about the machines.
It didn't turn out so much that way.
I've been asked why I have an inherit distrust for the customer. Well, when people, on a daily basis, try to return something saying it's not used and it's used or when they break something and they tell me that it was broken when they got it, you tend to be a bit on the paranoid side.
Call me bitter, but Comdex didn't change my impression on human kind.
The first problem was that the computers were more popular than anyone could have imagined. Our pavilion was right where the Central Hall met the North Hall. It was right in front of a Starbucks coffee and at the foot of the stairs leading up to the meeting rooms. On the other side of the stair well was X-Box and Pocket PC 2000. Talk about prime location. Unfortunately, there were no less that three people waiting to use each PC. There were no less than 150 people at the pavilion at each time!
You would think, that if you were at a computer and there were about three or four people breathing down your neck to use the PC after you were done, you'd make things go as quick as possible. It turns out that some people would stand at the PC for OVER AN HOUR! One guy, that I had to ask to leave so others could use the PC, checked seven different e-mail boxes while he was there.
By day two, we had the folks at the Brother pavilion print us up some labels that read, "Please limit use to 20 minutes".
This leads to the second problem. Instead of being "representatives" of AMD and the company that built the PCs, we became police. Our duties included breaking up fights between people waiting to use the computer and those who used them for two long as well as trying to catch hackers and thieves.
That's right. Hackers and thieves.
Hacking was kept to a minimum because we used XP Professional, created a Comdex user account and use Xteq X-Setup to lock the PCs down so much that one could only use IE and run Telnet.
A few of the more clever guys figured out how to load a few INI files into notepad and edit them into oblivion so the Comdex user account was totally trashed. This was easy to fix with spare drives pre-installed with XP and Xteq and only happened twice, so we considered this a learning experience more than an inconvenience. Next time, we rename Word Pad and Note Pad, etc.
There was one guy there that couldn't have had an IQ much greater than that of an eggplant. He opened a Command window and typed "ls". He then typed "rm -r Windows". Now, I don't fault the guy for being a Linux user. I do fault the guy for being so out of touch as to think that Linux commands would work in Windows and that we would leave ourselves open to a simple "deltree" type command in the first place.
He was ejected by one of our finest. No physical contact required. Just a simple, "you're an asshole" and he was out of there.
The thieves were what really took the cake for me. One Microsoft Intellimouse Optical was stolen as well as a bunch of the free T-Shirts, Mouse Pads and pens. It's hard to call it stealing when the product is supposed to be given away for free in the first place, but the way some of the stuff was being lifted was just plain wrong.
First, we had the folks that would blatantly walk back into our "staging" area and stick there hands in the boxes of goodies and grab hands full of stuff. There was a full gamut of people taking part in this activity from young to old. There were even two brothers with their father helping themselves to an entire mug full of AMD pens! This pilfery not only happened to stuff we were giving away, but stuff that had been given to us or had brought with us as well! The guy from Minolta, who helped with putting printers on all of the computers, had his bottled water stolen. I had an FM radio and a key chain light that I had obtained from QPS stolen from me. One of the other guys had his Cooler Master flag stolen. Sick! Sick, I tell you!
The other kind of petty theft that we were subject to really ticked me off because it insulted our intelligence. As people would wait for a PC to use, I would walk by and drop mouse pads and T-Shirts in their goody bags. Of course, I didn't look every single solitary person in the eye, so I know I gave some things to some people twice as I made my rounds around the pavilion. People saw this as me being ignorant and took this as an opportunity to get three or four T-Shirts or mouse pads.
One guy, that had come to Comdex with his wife and daughter (I had seen them together earlier), came up to me and asked me, "Gee...What's that?" I knew I had given him, and his family each, a T-Shirt and a mouse pad. I felt his inquisitiveness was natural since the T-Shirts came vacuum packed as very small squares. I actually had some people think they were packs of napkins. I told him that it was a T-Shirt and gave him one more. Not 10 seconds later, his wife came up to me and said, "Gee...What's that?"
Now, come on.
I politely stated that it was a vacuum packed T-Shirt and that I had already given her, her husband and her daughter at least a couple of them each and that I needed to save the others for other people that did not yet get a T-Shirt. She then walked off. I turned around and looked to the other side of the pavilion where one of my co-workers was standing with a handful of T-Shirts. A few seconds later, I see him throwing vacuum packed T-Shirts in the goody bags of the man, his wife and their daughter. Sigh.
All and all, I didn't get to play X-Box, I didn't get to check out a new PDA for the wife, and the only new product I scored was a Swiftech fan that was given to me because the guy was looking for AMD and missed their meeting upstairs. I got in about an hour and a half of walk through time the entire week I was there.
Next year, I think I'll let one of the other techs go to Comdex Vegas instead of me.
Re-Printed From SLCentral