Searching the Haight for Signs of Life

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Darnnews Scoops the Julie Stimmel Story

Check out this post on The Darn News which features a picture of the comely Julie Stimmel. Way to go blogsphere crushing the MSM!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Buy Weed Online

Here is yet another to add to the collection of things you can get on eBay, according to Google Ads. Buy weed online. Click to enlarge.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dell Bloatware

Someone representing Dell posted a long comment in response to my blog about Dell Bloatware. Here is my threaded response.


If you have not already received them, I can easily send you the reinstallation CDs (OS, drivers and Dell applications) for your system. I would just need to get the service tag or order number for your computer (to make sure I send the correct disks) and the address you want them shipped to. I can be reached by email at (please add 'ATTN: Larry' to the subject to ensure it gets to me).

->Larry, let's kick this off with a couple questions:
->1. How many people were involved in writing your comment?
->2. Do you work for an advertising or public relations agency? Which one?
->3. Did you make an effort to contact Shawna or Josephine as listed in my article?
-> Please try and answer honestly. I worked for an ad/PR agency once upon a time, and Grey Advertisng (wink) offered me a job once.

The reason some Dell systems shipped without those CDs is that some customers requested that as an option, and after looking at it a decision was made to give it a try as it would potentially save a lot of money.

->Come, come Larry. The reason you ship your systems as you do is because your bloatware is advertising bought and paid for by software vendors. This statement is at odds with, or at least suspicious, in light of your admission below that "My understanding is that companies pay the computer makers money to include this "extra" software, which is why it is so pervasive."

Just recently that decision was looked at again, with the data from the last two years. It was decided that not shipping the CDs with those computers caused to [SIC] many problems for our customers. As of October 2006 the option when ordering a Dell changed to include the CDs (the default), or leave them off the system order for a $10 savings (for those that don't want/need them).

->Are you saying that well-publicized rants about Dell bloatware had nothing to do with Dell using an ad agency to fight the problem, with the decision to include the CD, with the option to get bloatware-free CDs on demand, or with your post here today? A simple yes or no will suffice.

Would you say that your software providers are pretty happy about this $10 incentive to not order a CD that would annihilate their software? Again, yes or no please.

The disks you are asking for are the Dell Windows Reinstallation CD (basically an OEM version of the standard Windows install disk), the Dell Drivers & Utilities CD, and the Dell Applications CD (for reinstalling Dell factory installed applications that don't have their own reinstallation disks). The OS and Drivers CDs are all that are needed to get the computer back up and running (although I highly recommend checking the Dell support site,, for the latest drivers for your system).

->I really don't NEED any of that, to be clear, but Dell is a behemoth predator with no scruples. Linux is availble for free but pushed out of contention by the PC makers, notably Dell, because of lucrative deals with Microsoft, hence stifling innovation and inflating prices. Dell was doing the same thing processor-wise with Intel over AMD, but changed recently due to legal danger. I can only hope the law will soon force you to provide other operating systems, or that Michael Dell will show some remorse for transforming his college dorm room business (which was so inspiring to someone like me) into a pawn for Microsoft and a fountain of wealth for a few lucky individuals.

To address your specific "Truth[s] about Dell":

1) For the most part, the people I have worked with here at Dell have been above average (some well above) for tech support/customer care reps. The overall competency of my coworkers was actually a pleasant surprise, compared to some previous companies I have worked at, when I started working here.

->You should work on this paragraph. You don't seem sincere at all.

2) Dell's bureaucracy isn't dumb, its just very large and effected[SIC] by inertia. Policies are created to handle specific situations, but the computer industry can change rapidly, sometimes much faster than a large organization like Dell. I know from personal experience that when a problem with a policy is identified, steps are taken to correct things as quickly as possible. Sometimes that can be quite rapid, other times it can take a while.

->Excuses, excuses. I think Dell isn't properly aligned around a good fundamental mission, and so all of its policies aren't working together and are made in an inconsistent way. Dell used to be about cheap and plentiful. Now, with all the support hassles and the commoditization of computers, and Dell's poor infrastructure, you have little to offer the market.

If you buy a Dell, you end up paying as much as you would anywhere else, you have to deal with tons of marketing gimmicks, and you end up calling India. That's always been my experience with Dell.

3) Dell hardware is as reliable as any other computer hardware. This is because we use industry standard parts for all of our systems.

->Woah there! First rule of PR: Don't comment on things you don't know anything about. One of the major things with computer defects is the assembly process once you buy these "industry standard" parts. One thing, and there are others, that correlates highly is how many times you touch the parts. Please provide some meaningful, compartive statistics before trying any of your hand-waving at me. Just because you use the same parts (something to brag about?) doesn't mean your computers are just as good.

The reason it appears to be a large number of failures is because of the even larger number of systems sold.


My understanding is that about 2% of systems have actual hardware problems (anything from cracked plastics that don't effect performance to entire systems needing to be replaced).

->Who's systems? Your's? Their's? Everyone's? Is there any statistical difference between whose systems fail more? Not that you'd provide I'm sure.

I believe Dell sells at least 40 to 50 million of each model of system during its product lifetime (a few months to a couple of years depending on the model). This adds up to a few million computers needing repair, even though that is less than 2% of the actual number of systems shipped.

->Stop trying to distract me and everyone else. The blogosphere is more unscripted argument and debate, not talking points, and your focus on this pointless arithmetic unveils a true unwillingnes to look at some numbers.

As for shipping a system without any of the "extra" software, I believe that is being actively looked at as an option. My understanding is that companies pay the computer makers money to include this "extra" software, which is why it is so pervasive. It is basically paid advertising, like full page magazine ads.

->That's the rub! Dell is getting paid to inconvenience me. Now, it is inconveniencing me soooo much, that I am wasting my time railing against you in public, and my time is valuable.

It's pretty easy to see why you are "actively" looking at the option. When I cause Dell enough problems that it is no longer profitable to cram bloatware down my throat, then the bloatware will stop.

If you have any questions about anything I've posted, just let me know. I'll be more than happy to answer them.

Larry, please answer my questions in public, spontaneously, or get someone who has the authority at Dell to answer spontaneously. All I did was write and spell-check, and I would expect the same courtesy from anyone who thinks it's their right to speak in the democratic blogosphere as an individual.

Dell Customer Advocate

Larry, the other thing about your post is how you talk about things like defect rates and bloatware as industry issues. That's fine, and I agree they are, but you don't represent the industry. You represent Dell.

This defective laptop infected with essentially a bundle of spyware/adware is my problem and your problem. What are you going to do about it? Here's the story so far:

0. My Mistake: Bought a Dell.
1. Battery doesn't work.
2. Andrew calls sales rep, transferred to India
3. Andrew on phone with India for an hour, who agrees to send new battery.
4. Andrew complains to India about bloatware, gets cut off during transfer back to America who handles bloatware issues apparently.
5. Andrew emails sales rep who is stalled on answering a week later.
6. Andrew gets new battery a day later.
7. New battery doesn't charge either.
8. Dell PR flack posts to blog before Dell sales rep. can take care of the issue.
9. Andrew now has to order new laptop, then return old broken one, probably stuck with Dell because lord knows you won't give me a refund and let me get an IBM, and will soon have to uninstall the bloatware on the new machine, which will inevitably break.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Fighting Dell Bloatware

UPDATE: Dell responded... see my response here.

This is my story of helping the fight against Dell bloatware, which began because I read about a fellow citizen's fight, and because I had to call Dell about my battery anyway.

Thank goodness my battery didn't explode (it wasn't made in the appropriate 2-year timeframe), but it did recently just stop working. The battery in my new work Dell Inspiron 9400 quit after weeks of usage, so after procrastinating the inevitable call to India through the holidays, I emailed our salesperson Shawna.


Good Morning Shawna,

The battery on the Inspiron 9400 that my company recently purchased for me no longer holds a charge, so I guess it's defective.

How can I get this addressedd(sic)?



Shawna promptly called me back, apologized for me having to deal with tech support, and transferred me to Josephine in India. Josephine worked her IT magic on my computer, had me install some software so she could take control of my machine, and fiddled with settings. She had me remove the battery a couple of times and turn the computer on and off a couple of times. She seemed competent, and the whole thing took about 50 minutes, what with it being Windows, but it got done.

Then, inspired by the story I read about how I could make Dell get rid of its own bloatware, I requested a CD for my computer that just has Windows, and absolutely no other software. Josephine understood after I explained to her "as if I had bought a box of Windows in the store." She consulted with a supervisor, and then she told me that Customer Care could help me, and she would transfer me. Then, click. Lost in the void. I'm praying this was an accident, or Dell is in even more serious trouble than we know.


Dear Shawna,

I spent 50 minutes with customer support after you and I spoke. They are sending me a new battery.

After we went through all the stuff to get that, I had a second request.

I asked that the rep. to have Dell send me a CD with an OS image that doesn't have anything but Windows on it, since I do not want to have any of the other software that y'all bundle such as McAfee and Works and Desktop searching and whatnot. And I don't want to just delete them because that will foul up my registry.

After she understood what I was talking about, she said she would transfer me to Customer Care to handle that request. At that point, I was disconnected.

What shall I do now? I would just like to get a copy of Windows as if I had bought a box of software from the store, and not have all the rest of the stuff.



From Shawna:

I think there is a way I can do that for you. Give me a little time to find out.


Truth about Dell:

1) Dell's ground people are good. Yay Dell people! You guys are fine, human, but fine. Thanks Shawna and Josephine. Really, these folks are working enmeshed in a huge corporate bureaucracy that can't seem to get a realistic view on customer service. It takes forever and the sales people apologize for it, as they should. The people actually made me happy! I think they were better at their jobs than the people at the DMV.

2) Dell's bureaucracy is dumb. You would need good people like Shawna and Josephine just to keep that behemoth of an organization lurching forward. At 50 minutes to have me on the phone with someone in India fixing a problem, it would have been cheaper and less dreadful to have me fill out an online form, then have Dell sends me a new battery, and then they pick up my old battery with UPS. It's just common sense.

3) Dell's computers are junk. But they replace all the junk that breaks if you buy the warranty thing that makes them cost as much as everyone else's computers. So, this would be only a sort of crappy business model, and their customer service people might even push Dell to the top of the market. But they would need reasonable policies, for their good people, to fix their junky computers.

I blame the management.

I'll let you know if I actually get the clean image CD in the mail, and benefit from the changes alluded to in the Dell blog post link off the CRN post above.

You should join the fight too. Make your hardware provider provide you with a clean image, free of bloatware. And if you think that the OS is bloatware too, make sure you protest paying for that too. I'm tired of living in push-economy. I'll tell you if I need your stuff and I'll find you... just use the right keywords in your website.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Pitching Stories

Valleywag takes its normal (somehow pandering) swipes at Michael Arrington in this blog post, but also provides a number of great ideas for ways PR professionals can actually ply their trade with dignity (from a survey of journalists conducted by Media Survey). Really good ideas from reporters on pitching stories!

I'm happy to have this advice as we begin to rev up at work and I start pitching stories and building relationships. Here's two, but Valleywag lists tons of quotes from top reporters on how PR folks should be pitching stories, all valuable.

Greg Sandoval,
Greg says he met PR pro Michael Prichinello while reporting on Prichinello's client, Kozmo. The relationship grew from there. Prichinello called Greg to discuss trends and ideas that had nothing to do with Kozmo, knowing there was no quid pro quo. The result was that "when he would call with something, I would listen. He didn't waste my time. I'll take his call any time."

Ashlee Vance, The Register
Because he writes two or three stories a day, Ashlee wants to be "off the hook, get the quote, file the story, and move along. Waiting for a call becomes another whole process." Ashlee loves it when PR knows the subject so well they can answer all questions about "shipping info, product details, (and) keep me abreast of events."

Here were some ideas I had back in November.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Weird Wind is Blowing in MySpace World

Anybody else in the midst of getting a flood of spam from MySpace faux-hotties? My gmail account is going nuts with alerts.

I wonder how long it will take Tom and his team to get this hacker under control. My prediction for 2007? The end of MySpace as other sites take its place and the whole mess comes crashing down under its own weight.

It's Worse Than You Think - Time to Check Telecomm in a Big Way

Tim Wu's recent article on the recombination of Ma Bell provides a fascinating history of AT&T and explores the future of telecomm. But the article misses a major point when talking about the danger of monopoly and how to handle it - that is the potential for governmental or another party's abuse of the concentration of monopoly power. This a big reason why the "dicing" Tim refers to is also necessary.

I think most of the readers of this blog are familiar with complicity by certain telecomm companies with the US government to spy on Americans. A benefit of having several competing telecomms is that market forces check their actions. In this case, companies like Cingular were able to say that they rejected the advances of the NSA, and consumers were able to choose a spy-free provider.

Even if you disagree that the rejectors of the NSA machinations gain any market advantage from the move (their PR units thought they did), at the very least it's better for citizens that the U.S. government, or any other party, has to make its shady deals with a number of parties. Concentrating so much power leaves the door wide open to malice and greed, and enables unilateral corruption. I for one think we see it in Iraq too, unilateral corruption by the U.S. Too much decision-making power in one group is a bad thing, and I'd like competing interests running the network.

Sure, dicing up the network along regional lines has cartel issues, because with a huge database of shared historical pricing information, it was easy for the regional Bells to collude without any overt contact. Obviously Tim took a couple economics courses like the rest of us, but he clearly forgets the wise words of Lord Acton. Cliched or not, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I'm not so scared of slightly jacked prices or dampened innovation so much as I'm scared of my phone and my government teaming up to send me to 1984. We need checks and balances among the network bureaucracy itself. Demanding they play nice with the ISPs won't be enough - we need opposing forces in different rooms making decisions about the network, or one thing will lead to another as it always does.