maanantai 19. heinäkuuta 2010

Samsung Support

I'm going to have to vent off a bit, but I'll start from the beginning. In my blog entry about the Samsung BD-C6500 blu-ray player and its apps I wrote:

"The total number of games and applications combined is 17. You should be able to download more but I cannot see any applications in the store that haven't been installed already. Could be a regional issue, maybe there are more applications available in the US than here in Finland -- I don't know."

At that point you probably thougth to yourself: "Oh, that Internet@TV thingie seems rather lame." I cannot blame you, and I actually also started wondering what is the matter here exactly? So, I sent a polite rant to the Finnish Samsung support. I'll translate and shorten it:

I bought a blu-ray player about a month ago. It has since turned out that the Internet@TV feature doesn't quite live up to the marketing hype. There are 17 apps and cell-phone level toy games. The Facebook app still in late June says it will be ready "in August" and the YouTube application is somewhat dysfunctional. The App Store does not have a single application that has not been installed already.

The Samsung web page is vaguely misleading. "The unique Internet@TV technique opens more possibilities than you can imagine. It is better, better equipped and easier to use than before. You can sort, add and remove content using the Samsung Apps application library." The English version of the page, however, lists a few apps. I'd love to use the Flickr application but even that one cannot be found.

The Finnish Internet@TV help page contains a broken link to Yahoo Help.

I also just found an article that says that Samsung has entirely moved away from using Yahoo Widgets which, to my understanding, are used to create the applications in my blu-ray player as well. It cannot be possible that a product this new is sold using a feature that works this badly, while the marketing paints a completely different picture.

So, not too bad? Well, here's their response:

Thank you for contacting the Samsung customer support. All internet@tv apps are made by third party manufacturers so Samsung has no support or "control" over the application finishing dates or their count. In the C-series allprograms are published in the Samsung Apps service, so as you mentioned, Yahoo does not have anything to do with the Widgets anymore. The widgetsofthe B-series come through yahoo but no new applications are developed that way.

What? I have tried my best to preserve the brokenness of their language. Well, naturally I then tried using the "If you are not satisfied with the answer we provided, please click here" link at the bottom of their message. I typed my message and hit "send" at which point I was greeted with a happy error message that sent my message into the heaven of dead interweb things. Crap. But I had to get a better answer, so I loaded the online feedback form again (as a completely new issue, without the "reply" feature) and sent another, shorter message:

I have understood that the Internet@TV applications are not controlled by Samsung. Where could I ask the schedule for the Facebook application, improvements for the YouTube application and availability of the Flickr application? Are the manufacturers of the applications listed out somewhere?

Now, with the first sentence I show that I have read their message. However, I feel they could've done more for me in the first place, so the rest is actually just for that. The message is very simple, you shouldn't have a problem understanding what I want. Their response:

Thank you for contacting the Samsung customer support. Unfortunately we do not have a list of contact information. One way is to try in the TV, at the applications in question, pressing the red key of the remote, to see if the information comes up. Finding information from the internet is a little difficult for us as the sites in question have been blocked from us at work so we cannot reach them for getting any information. 

Whaa-aaa-aat?! Samsung has installed some fancy firewalls into the desktops of their customer support people to prevent them from doing their work?! I cannot believe this, these guys are totally useless!

But as Samsung does not have any information on their own services, I figured I'd ask Flickr if they knew anything about the Flickr application I was missing. At least I could tell Samsung later I had tried. So I sent them a polite message with the disclaimer that I think this is Samsung's problem and I'm only asking them because Samsung is being most unhelpful. After exchanging a couple of messages to really make sure what I want they escalated my case over to a "senior representative in an effort to obtain the best answer". Cool, now I was being treated like a human being! However, Flickr's answer was expected:

I am very sorry for the trouble. We have no direct information on Samsung's system or interface, if you are still having trouble with their App list, please contact Samsung directly.

Cannot blame them... I'm still a happy Flickr user, however unhappy Samsung user I'm turning.

So... If the Finnish Samsung staff cannot help me, surely their US counterparts would have much better resources at their disposal? I figured I'd try the 24/7 Live Support Chat they've got. Here's a screenshot of the discussion that followed -- please click to enlarge:

In case you did not just click to enlarge the chat I'll recap it. Almost before I can start explaining my problem, they ask whether I bought the device from the US at all and explain that they do not have the training for non-US models. I tried asking if my player is not sold in US but never got a straight answer. I was only told that the range of applications available "depends upon the Internet Service and also the local Samsung providers". Providers? What providers? Providers of catering services, dental services or escort services? I'm pretty sure the people at my internet service provider support will just politely laugh at me if I go to them complaining that my blu-ray player has lousy applications. The support person also pasted me the link a couple of times and then actually gave me a new phone number, one that cannot be found from Samsung Finland web site, also. I quit the conversation as I realized that it wouldn't take me anywhere if I just read some rather generic template answers.

So... At this point it had been more than a couple of weeks since I contacted the Samsung support for the first time. I decided to send them yet another, well defined, simple question:

Which party decides what applications are accepted into the Samsung App Store? Could I please have the contact information for this party?

Their response:

Thank you for contacting the Samsung customer support. Differentprogram manufacturers make individually deals with Samsung Electronics. We at the support do not have the contact information for that party.

Now, WHAT THE F***? Translate the above and you get: "WE DO NOT HAVE OUR OWN INTERNAL CORPORATE NUMBERS AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO GET THEM FOR YOU. ALSO I WON'T ASK MY SUPERIORS." Usually, when a customer approaches the customer supports and asks if they could help him, the support says "Please hold while we jump through hoops to find the information you need!" That's what they are paid for. I'm sure they just sent me that message and happily clicked "problem solved, case closed". Or they will click on that button in a couple of days as the form behind the "If you are not satisfied with the answer we provided, please click here" link is still broken. (As is, by the way, the link to the Yahoo Help I mentioned before.) I wouldn't want to tell them how to do their job, but I just can't belive this s***. They are basically saying that they have got a service of which NO ONE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR. What are you supposed to do with people like this??!

tiistai 13. heinäkuuta 2010

Ubuntu Netbook Edition

It all started when I wanted to know what www-address does my new blu-ray player contact to at start up. That should've been easy enough: just install Wireshark and listen to the traffic in the air. After all, it's my WLAN so I'm free to tap it and can even turn the encryption off temporarily. Unfortunately it turns out that virtually no Windows Wi-Fi card driver supports the so-called promiscuous mode which means listening to traffic not addressed to the listening host. Luckily almost all Linux drivers do support it.

So, I figured I'd install some live distribution of Linux into a memory card, boot the computer from that, install Wireshark and get the job done. Fair enough, that was rather easy. I followed the instructions at the Ubuntu Netbook Edition download page, edited the BIOS settings so that booting from an USB device is allowed and so that something called the "quick boot" is disabled. Then I only had to figure out that to actually boot from an USB device (or the card reader) you'd have to hit ESC when the BIOS was starting up.

Now, the Ubuntu started fine, "apt-get install wireshark" worked perfectly and I managed to capture all sorts of traffic caused by the blu-ray player. Job well done, end of story, let's go home? Not quite. As we say in Finland, appetite comes with eating. I had had a small bite of Linux and now I wanted more. I figured I'd start with the screen resolution: it was set to 1024x768, which meant it was badly distorted because the native resolution of the screen is 1366x768. So I looked for some instructions for installing new drivers for the video chip, Intel GMA500, and found this one.

After doing the "sudo add-apt-repository" and "sudo apt-get" commands I restarted the computer, booted to Ubuntu again -- and was greeted with a white screen and an error message. Obviously the drivers didn't work that well. The Ubuntu crash reporting application refused to send an error report as there was a few hundred megabytes of outdated packages installed. So I tried updating everything using the Synaptic package manager, but the system brought it to my attention that there wasn't enough space for these updates in the memory card where I had installed Ubuntu.

At this point I should've stopped, booted back to Windows and erased Ubuntu from the memory card, but instead I got a better idea: I'd install Ubuntu to a free partition on the hard disk. After all, what could possibly go wrong? 

Well, a lot of things. For one, the Ubuntu Netbook Edition installer apparently overwrote the master boot record of the hard drive, rendering Windows unusable -- trying to boot to Windows would only bring up an error message and a recommendation to re-install the entire system. Right. Luckily ASUS had added a hidden 10 GB partition into the hard drive with an image of a working system. Also, it's just a netbook so I didn't have much stuff in it that I couldn't reinstall back later. A few photos maybe, but I wouldn't miss those.

So, the system restore can be launched at the boot up time and I did that. Surprisingly, it did absolutely nothing, besides probably erasing all my data. Ubuntu cannot read the mangled Windows partition either, otherwise I would've rescued all my data beforehand, of course. OK, so, now I had no Windows but an Ubuntu with a terrible resolution. Surely the video chip drivers would work once I updated all the outdated packages? Nope. I was greeted with the same white screen, and this time I didn't even get an error message. I could use it by launching a terminal and other programs from that but it isn't that much fun.

So now I've got a crippled netbook with a Linux system running from a memory card and no Windows and none of the data I previously had on my Windows installation. Luckily the Ubuntu on the memory card works fine, except for the bad resolution... Moral of the story? Don't install Ubuntu Netbook Edition on your Asus EeePC 1101HA if you plan to keep your Windows too. Also don't go messing around with the video chip drivers. Just use Ubuntu from a memory card or an USB disk if you must, but don't go beyond that.