Pirates of Silicon Valley movie review

Pirates of Silicon Valley movie review

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

If you care at all about computers or technology or business or the future, this is a movie you MUST watch. The movie goes hand in hand with other amazing technology business movies such as Micromen and The Social Network. This movie shows you how the megacorps we know as Microsoft and Apple started, according to writer and director Martyn Burke. It was also based on the book “Fire in the Valley” written by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine. I’m not saying it’s exactly what happened, but it’s close enough. I used to obsess as a kid wanting to know the exact details of the true history of something but I’m not a time traveler so such details no longer bother me.

It’s easy to watch the movie as they have multiple copies of it on youtube.

The movie shows two camps: Apple with its technology loving engineers and hippie turned businessman turned devil and Microsoft with its college nerds who love to play poker and jocks turned executive geniuses. You get to see Steve Jobs go from this rebel non-conformist into him signing over his soul to the devil to then becoming the devil himself. Gates is just ambitious from the start and his ambition never wanes.

Like all pioneers, nobody at their time took them serious or understood what they were trying to do. They were creating a revolution in technology, in the way we live our lives (especially if you’re a computer person like me). Think about where we would be without the personal computer. Even the things that came after, like cell phones, smart phones, laptops, mp3 players, the internet, social media… none of that would be possible without the work of engineers and businessmen such as these. I’m not saying they were the definite cause for all this but they were major contributors. We must also accredit other people such as all the fine people at Altair, Commodore, Atari, Nintendo, IBM, Sega, Sinclair, Acorn, and more.

Back to the movie… The movie shows both sides eventually doing whatever it needs to get ahead. The movie is not called The Super Nice Nerds of Silicon Valley, it’s The Pirates. Yes, they WILL cut your throat if you are in their way to success. Now, I’m not saying they’re as evil as wall street or the banks that just robbed the world, but they’re no saints!

A recurring theme in the movie is to get people to want what they don’t really need necessarily, which you might not even have yet but you want them to want it, creating demand (and getting the money to get it made).

One of the most important scenes is at the 1977 tech show when Gates tries to talk to Jobs, explaining what they were doing at Microsoft, only to get blown off by him, which in turn starts part of their war against each other.

The best part of the movie is probably when Microsoft sells DOS to IBM. I’ll let this clip speak for itself:

The other best scene of the movie is when Apple gets the GUI from Xerox. I couldn’t find a video of that clip to post here. It is also really interesting when an Apple employee confronts Gates telling him that instead of Apple thinking IBM is big brother that they don’t realize that Microsoft is their true enemy. He points this out to Jobs while he was trying to woo the Apple employees during a conference by showing them the famous 1984 Apple commercial.

Microsoft had the foresight to see that without software the hardware did nothing. Sure, you could have the most incredible monster machine but if nobody can do things with it, who would buy it?

Gates reminds me a lot of myself. He is characterized as being a very good poker player, the kind who will never let you know how good or bad of a hand he has and will make you make the wrong decision. Especially in the beginning, he uses a strategy of making you think that he has many business deals going on, when in reality he had none. Both sides did that actually. He got in trouble with the law, especially speeding (that’s me!), and doing other crazy things (not so much me, well, actually…) such as wrecking his friend’s car. Throughout the movie and in real life, he is a very competent negotiator.

Steve Jobs was just evil to me all throughout the movie. In real life, I still don’t like him, which is funny because I hated everything Microsoft for many years when I was younger, but in reality I didn’t like how he reacted to being informed at the number of record suicides at the Foxconn factories, which make a LOT of Apple products. The transformation this movie shows goes from stoner hippie to egoist pioneer to evil business genius. I just think he’s a real asshole. Through the movie he kept denying that his daughter Lisa was actually his.

Throughout the movie, the characters I enjoyed the most were Steve Wozniak (the Woz) and Steve Ballmer. I felt bad for the Woz because he just wanted to create and then he had to deal with all the drama and bullshit from Jobs, as well as seeing Jobs putting down people and destroying the Lisa. Woz was always trying to do the right thing, like not fuck his friends out of stock or treat employees like subhumans. I felt terrible for him when he quit the company after Jobs had pretty much created a civil war inside Apple (Macintosh vs everything else). Ballmer was just a total trip. He was this crazy jock that would always have the common sense, especially when it came to getting girls, that Bill Gates and Paul Allen did not have.

As a movie critic I give this movie a score of 7 out of 10. As a computer geek I give this movie a 9 out of 10. I think Micromen was a much better movie, about a similar topic. The music selection throughout the movie is excellent and I was really shocked by this as this was a made-for-TV movie. Noah Wyle as Jobs just blew my mind, which you might know as the science teacher from Donnie Darko. John DiMaggio was great as Ballmer, which is a real treat because he is usually known for his voice work in cartoons such as Futurama and also voice work for many video games.

Go watch it.

Official Viva Amiga Teaser Trailer: Version 1

Viva Amiga web still
Viva Amiga web still

Obsolete Gamer has been working with the good folks over at Viva Amiga on their creation and marketing of their upcoming documentary. Earlier this year we published an article with Zack Weddington of the film.

Now you can check out their first teaser trailer.

Zack Weddington – Viva Amiga

Viva Amiga logo
Viva Amiga logo

Viva Amiga

Sometimes it goes beyond classic gaming, when we talk about certain companies, they and the products they release, are considered classics themselves. What makes a company a classic is the multifunctionality they brought to the industry and the Amiga computer did just that. It was more than just a computer for many of its fans. Unfortunately, in today’s world either you had one and know exactly how awesome it was from the hardware to the software to the community or you have no clue.

There are websites and fans by the thousands that still discuss and even use Amiga computers today. Perhaps it can be considered a cult following, but like anything truly a classic there will be those who wish to preserve its memory. In the past there have been attempts to create a video documentary on the Amiga computer and its impact on the industry, but in the end they fell short. Zack Weddington and Viva Amiga plan to change that with their upcoming documentary on the Amiga.

Viva Amiga is currently working on a documentary about the Amiga computer and its impact on the industry, the marketplace and even pop culture. The film will cover all aspects of the system from business to gaming and everywhere in-between. One of the most important points that Zack states he is going for is the human factor. It is the real life stories from people who made and used the system.

A great product supported by a great company and revered by an awesome user base is what creates a complete classic and it is the people that make that happen. On the Amiga Film website you will be able to track the progress of the film and submit your own stories and experiences with the Amiga system. Obsolete Gamer is also collecting information on our forums and will support the film in any way we can because we are after all fans ourselves.

In an effort to bring more awareness of this film to fans of the Amiga system we conducted an interview with Zack Weddington from Viva Amiga on the upcoming documentary.

Zach Weddington – Viva Amiga
Zach Weddington – Viva Amiga

Obsolete Gamer: What made you want to do a documentary on the Amiga computer?

Zack Weddington: I had started going to the Vintage Computer Festival East every year with my good friend Mike Lee, where I got to see all kinds of great old computer systems on display. I saw presentations by people like former Commodore Engineer Chuck Peddle who designed the MOS-6502 processor chip which ran almost every console in the 1980’s. I was a huge Amiga fan back in the day as well so I think all that was kinda rattling around in my brain when I was just driving around in my car one night. That’s when the idea stuck me, and I called my friend Mike right away, who thought it was a great idea. He became one of my partners on the film.

Obsolete Gamer: There are still a ton of not only fans, but users of Amiga computers today. Is the film more for them or mainstream even for those who may not have used or even remember the Amiga?

Zack Weddington: The film is being made “for the fans”, most definitely, but we are also hoping to attract viewers who have an interest in technology and geeky topics in general. We think the film will be interesting to people who have never even heard of the Amiga, because it is the stories of the people involved with the Amiga which really drive the film. It’s also gonna have a hell of a lot of eye candy and awesome animation done by me and my other partner, David Kessler, a fellow video artist.

Obsolete Gamer: What is your own background and experience with Amiga computers?

Zack Weddington: It’s a pretty good story, I think. I was a passionate user of the Amiga. Back when I was about 12 or so, I started seeing computer graphics on television. Things like the Dire Straits video “Money for Nothing” with the blocky characters, Crest toothpaste commercials with those bouncing blue toothpaste blobs. I was really entranced by 3-D CGI. I asked my father how those were made and he told me they were done on a computer. From that moment on, I wanted to learn how to do 3-D computer animation. So I begged my Dad to buy me a computer, and he did. An IBM PS/2. A great machine for the time, but of course, you couldn’t do any serious animation on it with just a16 color pallette and no video output of any kind. So I was disappointed.

Months later I was walking through a bookstore in a mall and saw the Amiga 500 displaying a 3-D raytraced animation by Dr. Gandalf. It was a photorealistic animtation of one of those “infinite motion” desk toys with the silver balls that swing. I was amazed by the reflections and shadows in the animation. Here was a desktop computer that could clearly do the kind of animation I wanted to create, and it was even cheaper than the computer my father had just bought me. I convinced my Dad to let me sell the PS/2 and get an Amiga instead. He thought I was nuts, but of course it was the right decision. I went on to create tons of animations with my Amiga and make a career for myself doing this kind of stuff.

 

Dave Haynie – Viva Amiga
Dave Haynie – Viva Amiga

Obsolete Gamer: Now on your website you state the film is for fans and users of the Amiga and you are looking for ideas and thoughts, how has the reception been so far?

Zack Weddington: The reception has been great. People are very supportive and excited about the whole thing.

Obsolete Gamer: As for user submitted content what kind are you looking for?

I am looking for animations people made, “demo scene” type stuff, music…any kind of media that you might think has merit and think represents what a person could do with the Amiga. Anyone who has content they want to submit should email me at vivaamiga@yahoo.com for now.

Obsolete Gamer: Have people in the industry been receptive to your film?

Zack Weddington: The only people that really know about the film right now are the Amiga

community and former Commodore people. I’m still kind of slowly leaking out details of the film. I’ve got some connections with the G4 network that I plan to take advantage of later on, but the film is still in the early stages of shooting. Lot of work to do before I begin plastering the film everywhere…

Obsolete Gamer: When you speak of focusing on the “human side” what is your vision as far as that?

Zack Weddington: People who designed the Amiga, who worked at Commodore, who wrote for Amiga  magazines….people who really cared about the Amiga and what it made possible,

these are the kind of people that appear in the film and tell their personal stories. It’s the stories of the people who made the thing possible as well as the story of the machine itself.

 

Bil Herd – Viva Amiga
Bil Herd – Viva Amiga

Obsolete Gamer: When do you hope to launch the film?

Zack Weddington: We’re looking at sometime in late 2011 or early 2012. It’s a lot of work.

Obsolete Gamer: What can we as fans of Amiga do to help?

Zack Weddington: At the moment, just stay in the loop and check out the website , blog, and Facebook. I’ll be asking for some favors in the fall.

Obsolete Gamer: As far as gaming, what was your favorite Amiga game?

Zack Weddington: Well, back in the 80’s I was an arcade maniac. I spent probably 8 hours a week in arcades at least, so that’s where my favorite games were located. I was a SEGA fanboy, used to just sit and watch OutRun in “attract mode” just to try and figure out how the amazing graphics were done. Being creative types, me and my friend Josh used to spend hours making our own games with the “Shoot Em Up Construction Kit” on the Amiga. You could design your own sprites and backgrounds for your own vertically scrolling shooter games. It rocked.

In addition to tracking the progress of the film on the Viva Amiga website they also have a FaceBook page where you can leave comments and receive updates. Obsolete Gamer will also be following the films progress as well as bringing you articles and stories on the Amiga. We can always use your input and you can submit questions and comments via our forums.

Texas Instruments Bill Cosby

[youtube id=”5Y9AaIZOfIw” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Texas Instruments Bill Cosby

What could be better than Dr. Bill Cosby talking about Texas Instruments computers? I remember my own TI-99 that was given to me by my uncle. Most of the cartridges were educational including one that yelled “YOUR TURN” after it presented the problem to you.

TI-99 computer

The TI-99 was released in June of 1981 it cost around five hundred bucks and that was without a monitor. The CPU was the TI TMS9900, 3MHz. The display was a Video via an RF modulator 32 characters by 24 lines text and 192 X 256, 16 color graphics. The ROM cartridge was located on the front it and had Audio/Video ports and a joystick input (we used the Atari joystick). The OS was ROM Basic.

[youtube id=”VOEhGhWWPIY” width=”633″ height=”356″]

My favorite game had to be Munchman which was a Pac-Man like game that we fun to play and had some cool sound effects especially when you eat the bad guys.

Justin Melendez: Lanslide PCs

LanSlide Gaming PCs logo

Name: Justin Melendez

Profession: I am one of the co-founders of LanSlide Gaming PCs. I wear a lot of different hats around the company. Primarily, I am responsible for business development, product management and setting our overall direction.

Company: LanSlide Gaming PCs

Favorite Classic Game: Starcraft, without a doubt.

Quote: It’s timeless and perfectly balanced. I still get together every Wednesday night and play with a group of friends. You have to hand it to a game that is still going strong 11 years after its release date.


State of the LAN Party IV

LAN Party sign
LAN Party sign

 

If you missed it you can read part 1 here , part 2 here and part 3 here.

We saw how the LAN party evolved with new technology and how it inspired Alienware and how Alienware helped change the look of many LAN parties. With faster, more portable systems we saw LAN parties rise. With high-speed internet and MMO’s we watched as membership diminished.  Everyone grew older, but we were still gamers, the question was, what games will be played and how will that affect the LAN party.

When the XBOX360 was introduced, Microsoft realized with the success of XBOX Live on the XBOX that pushing forward with online community gaming was the future of console gaming. If there were a few gamers who still did not utilize the online universe of gamers beforehand, once the 360 hit the shelves even they joined in.

The 360 also brought a new type of LAN to gamers, the Console LAN or Local Play Lan was established where people would bring together multiple XBOX systems and connect them in order to multiplay. This allowed gamers to use separate television screens since for many the split screen was not a viable option.

What made XBOX live so successful was the variety it brought to gamers. You could play the hottest games like Halo 3 or classic favorites such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  For better or worse you could chat online with fellow friends and gamers which gave console gamers pretty much all the tools a LAN member would use when gaming at a LAN party.

Software developers also realized the market created by the 360 and the Playstation 3. More computer titles were being ported over to the console. Not only that, but there were much more FPS and RTS games developed for consoles than ever before.

Many in the industry knew that computer gamers also owned a console and wanted the switch from the PC to the console to not be a shock to the system. Both 360 and PS3 were designed with top end processors and video cards. This allowed players to experience games on par and sometimes better than their PC counterparts.

Those looking for a lower cost gaming system turned to consoles to experience high end graphics and gaming without the high end price tag of computer gaming units. With online play complete with patches, demos and downloads, the console gamer had everything they needed.

By the time consoles invaded my LAN party we had reduced in size to just a few friends, but the new presence was noticed. Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero replaced the twitch action games we played before. It saddened me at first. I believed some of us were getting too old for fast paced FPS games. Honestly I thought it was a fad, but numbers don’t lie. Interactive party games are as hot now as FPS games were ten years ago.

I embraced the change. I enjoyed playing those games (even those on the Wii) and I remembered the point of the LAN was to have fun with friends which we did have. The connectivity we have today can bring us closer together if used correctly. Having access to your friends 24/7 through XBOX Live, IM programs, FaceBook and Ventrilo can be a wonderful thing even if it does lessen the need for LAN parties.

In the end those of us who grew up during the gaming revolution will continue to be gamers for a long time to come. The games may change and the way we play them. Friends come and go and places we play will change, but the main goal stays the same, have fun.

The future of the LAN party may be more virtual, larger groups of gamers playing from their home with others across the world. With gadgets such as the iPhone sporting multiplayer capabilities, we may find ourselves having impromptu LAN parties from our phones while waiting for our oil to be changed or at the doctor’s office.

The great thing about technology is it adapts and changes the landscape. More and more people will have access to the tools to allow them to play the games they want and with that will come a community to join and interact with. The LAN party is ever changing, but will never die. As long as there are gamers there will be games and a means to play them.

State of the LAN Party III

LAN Party dark
LAN Party dark

If you missed it you can read part 1 here , part 2 here .

Everyone thought that growing older, getting married and having kids would be the only thing to bring an end to the LAN party. While it was true that as we got older we did not have LAN parties every two weeks, we still had them once a month. What did risk putting ours and many LAN parties to an end was Massively Multiplayer Online Games or MMOs.

By the time the game Everquest had come out our LAN party was in full swing. We had met with many other LAN groups across Florida and made a name for ourselves. I personally found working atAlienware, that the growing attendance to LAN parties translated into more buzz around our products.

One effect was peoples request for a smaller more LAN friendly sized system. People were torn between the massive power and size of our Dragon case and the prospect of having a small portable case to take. Remember, at this time there really wasn’t a gaming laptop and smaller form factor cases were not widely known of or used.

In the midst of larger LAN’s and more attention to networked gaming, a new fully 3D massive multiplayer role playing game was being released to the public. Now Everquest was not the first MMO, but it was the first to do fully interactive three dimensional game play and it brought in gamers who loved Dungeons and Dragons and the other successful MMO at the time, Ultima Online.

Over the next few months hundreds of thousands of people began to play EQ. At first this did not change the attendance of our LAN parties, but it did change much of the conversation within them. Many of us got into EQ and spent much of the LAN talking about our characters. We did continue to play normal LAN games like FPS’s and RTS’s, but somehow we always came back to talking about Everquest.

This was not just an occurrence at my LAN group. All across the U.S. people were talking about how Everquest, or as it was soon to be known as, EverCrack, was taking away gamers from their normal LAN games.

In our LAN group there was actually a divide between those who played EQ and those who did not. The pure gamers, as they called themselves, hated the fact that we talked so much about EQ and one said our LAN party officially died the day we connected a DSL line and played EQ at the LAN.

From my and many other EQ players point of view nothing really changed. We still played other games and interacted. MMO’s were just a new part of the landscape that we enjoyed, but we did find some took to EQ more than others. On the EQ main boards there were daily discussions of people becoming less active in work, school, their social life and LAN parties due to EQ. However, I felt in the end we became even more social because of it.

As high speed internet became easier to come by many LAN goers opted instead to play online. Gaming clans regained much of their strength because of this and LAN parties grew smaller and less frequent. Some of this was also blamed on MMO’s, but also because many companies decision to hold massive yearly LAN parties. It was felt that there was no longer a need to have a LAN party ever month when you could play over the net and then go to the larger sponsored LAN events.

Oddly enough, the EQ players were the ones to stay in touch the most. Since we all played on the same server in the game guild, we would often meet outside of EQ to talk and hang out. We found that many of our non-MMO playing LAN members did not want to attend these social gatherings. Perhaps it was because we talked about EQ, but we were skeptical.

As time went on many EQ and MMO players found themselves going back to LAN parties to get away from MMO’s and to do something different. LAN parties became much more social and private, except for the company sponsored ones.

At Alienware, we knew what our customers wanted and launched several gaming laptops which helped many LAN party members return to their LAN’s now being able to quickly and easily transport their gaming system.

In part 4 of the series I will talk about the evolution of the console and the affect new technology has had on the LAN party and the future of the LAN and its place in computer history.

The Amiga – 1985

Amiga logo
Amiga logo

The Amiga

We all know the Amiga was one of the most awesome computers out there, but man were some of their commercials weird. Take this one for instance for 1985, you would think you are in some weird Sci-Fi or SYFY (yuck) channel cheesy movie of the week.

Amiga Fact #213 – The A500’s codename was the Rock Lobster.

Check out all our videos on our YouTube Channel.

The Commodore 64

Commodore 64 box
Commodore 64 box

The Commodore 64

Who can forget the awesome and sometimes just plain strange commercials of the 80’s and 90’s for computer and console products? Obsolete Gamer is searching the globe to find some of the classics from the Sears version of the Atari 2600 to the Commodore 64.

Commodore 64 Fact #16About 10,000 software titles were made for the C64.

Don’t forget to visit the Obsolete Gamer YouTube page for more videos.

Left Behind: Alienware’s Legacy Problem

Alienware Dell
Alienware Dell

There were rumblings from the fans base when Alienware was purchased by Dell that everything would change and that the cool, elite name of Alienware would be forever lost. That aside many felt that the support that Dell provided to home users was less than stellar and that level of service would become Alienware’s. There were also those who already felt Alienware support was on the decline and felt this would push it over the edge. For the most part these were concerns that would come up no matter who the company was, but in the end it was not new purchasers of Alienware/Dell that felt frustration it was the old ones.

Any transition is difficult and it is expected that there will be growing or in this case merging pains. You must also understand that in the gaming world it is common to hear many more complaints that compliments. The rule is, if you are doing good you don’t hear about it, but if you are doing bad you will clearly know.

At first the change came with little notice, customers began to see Alienware products on the Dell website and the name Alienware was mentioned more and more alongside Dell. As time went on there were more changes like links on the main Alienware page taking you to a Dell website. Again these were small changes that did not bring much change to the common user.

When the new Alienware systems were launched by Dell they came with much fanfare because they were well built machines and a decent price. Even some of the more harsh critics felt that perhaps Alienware would retain its status and even gain from the acquisition by Dell.

Soon after that, personnel began to be laid off from Alienware’s Miami based headquarters. Word spread across the net that changes were coming to the company as Dell took over more roles from the Alienware team. The question for many fans and owners of Alienware computers was what would become of the service team they were use to working with if Alienware HQ was shut down.

Before that question could be answered a new issue came to light with Alienware Australia. Customers began to report they were not receiving service for systems they purchased from Alienware AU. They stated they called the service line and would never reach a person and send e-mails that would not be responded too. Right away the forums fired off posts that this had to do with Dell and that all support would be moved and Alienware AU was the first to go. In the end, it was the Alienware Miami team that reached out to help the AU customers receive support.

It seemed as if there was a fire burning and at the same time firefighters were being laid off by the truckload. As 2010 came, past customers of Alienware began reporting frequently that they were not receiving support for their systems. They reported that when calling the same 800 number they always have for support they were being connected to Dell agents who could not pull up their information.

It was then the pre-Dell Alienware customers discovered their new title, Legacy. A legacy member was someone who purchased a system before the acquisition. Customers said that the way information was stored and accessed was different from the Legacy Alienware customers and new Dell/Alienware customers. What this meant was the Dell agents only knew how to bring up information on post-Alienware customers.

What became confusing was that the same support number was still in use, so customers would sometimes reach an Alienware agent who could assist them, but more often than not connected with a Dell agent who either could not assist them or had to scramble to help them and sometimes transfer them somewhere else.

Unfortunately, the troubles did not stop there. Fans began to post on popular sites such as Notebook forums, Notebook Review and Alienware Niche that the long time support e-mail of support@alienware.com no longer worked. This caused more frustration because service men and women who purchased systems had a harder time contacting Alienware for support.

As for the Alienware, official forums customers stated they no longer received support or feedback from that support line. Many customers said they wrote and posted to the forums, but their posts never showed up. It was believed that the forums were perhaps closed or moved to Dell forums and as one forums member noted there are Alienware subcategories on the Dell forum page, but the Alienware page still has a working link to their forums.

Where does the problem lie? It is unclear. Though there have been complaints about support for the most part when someone did reach Alienware Miami personnel, they reported their issues were solved at least to a satisfactory level. The main disconnect looks to be between the Alienware Miami staff and the Dell parent company.

One thing to note is that those who purchased any of the newer Alienware products made by Dell received a warranty by Dell. Therefore the conclusion anyone can draw is that those under the legacy brand had warranties under the old Alienware banner. Perhaps it is a matter of running out the clock and as those who had old warranties under Alienware legacy fall off the books the problem is swept under the rug.

Now to be fair this issue has not affected everyone under the legacy banner. There have been reports and praise from some legacy customers that they did receive support not only from the Miami HQ, but from Dell agents as well. There are still however those who feel left behind and have resorted to contacting the BBB, writing to online publications and posting on popular forums about their less than satisfactory experience with legacy support.

It is not clear what changes if any will be made. Some legacy customers believe they will be forgotten and once their warranty expires it is over. There as some who have said that support has improved and that calling the 800 number works, but as of this posting, the support e-mail is still discontinued and the Alienware forums seem abandoned.

It is an unfortunate turn for Alienware and for Dell. We can only hope something will be done for the customers who helped turn Alienware into the company Dell wanted to acquire. We also hope this treatment of legacy customers does not further hurt the Dell name which has shown improvement in home customers support and has always had excellent business support. However, you are judged on how you treat all your customers not just the latest ones. We will be watching to see if the legacy customers of Alienware will receive the support they paid for and deserve or if they will be left behind.

State of the LAN Party I

LAN party
LAN party

Originally posted by me on the Direct2Dell Blogs

A good friend of mine asked me what would become of LAN parties with so many people having access to high-speed internet and online games like, World of Warcraft. To answer his question I thought back to when I first arrived in Miami.

I did not know anyone my age, so I asked my mother for a computer; this led to me buying Warcraft for the PC. I did not know much about online gaming so I did an Alta-Vista search and found a site called Dawango.

Dawango, called that because it stood for, “Dialup Wide-Area Network Game Operation” allowed people to dial in and play with other people over their network. The big games at the time were Doom and Duke Nukem 3D.

It was in the Miami channel that I met my first real online friends. Over the next few weeks we played a ton of games together and then one day they told me about a LAN party they were going to start called Red-Eye.

Now I had never taken my PC out of the house and with all the warnings about giving out information to people you meet online the idea of going to some warehouse with my PC to meet people I never had seen in person was just crazy. However, I decided to give it a chance and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The LAN party allowed me to meet great new people and make lifelong friends. In fact, if it was not for the LAN party I would not have become an Alienware employee. It was at that LAN that I learned how important a person’s computer is to them and where I saw my first Alienware. It was a jet black hydraulic case and had everyone there asking about it.

The LAN however, is more than just gaming and competition. I thought of it as a fraternity for gamers. Often you had people who were more seasoned in gaming or had been with the LAN group longer and so they were looked upon as elders.

You earned your place not only by how well you played, but your rig (computer), your knowledge of gaming and computers and your overall personality. When I showed up I had a small computer I purchased from a discount store and knew little about the inner workings of a computer. Less than a year later, I knew how to build my own PC and how to connect and troubleshoot networks without ever stepping into a classroom.

In part 2, I will talk about how personal a person’s computer is to a LAN member and the debate between buying and building your own. Also I will cover the evolution of the LAN and the friendships created within.

The Death of Customer Service: The Better Business Bureau II

Broken PC
Broken PC

Many in the past and some still today look to the better business bureau to guide them to reputable companies and in case of problems help them receive the service they paid for. In the previous post we talked about the eight steps important to being a member of the BBB.

  1. Build Trust
  2. Advertise Honestly
  3. Tell the Truth
  4. Be Transparent
  5. Honor Promises
  6. Be Responsive
  7. Safeguard Privacy
  8. Embody Integrity

Moving to step three, tell the truth, again we run into the same problem we did with, advertise honestly. Keeping this in the realm of computer companies I will offer an example. A customer may ask about a known issue regarding a piece of hardware within a computer not working with an operating system. The company knows full well it is an issue they were caught unaware of and are scrambling to fix. However, they do not want to stop production and will continue to sell the product knowing it has the issues hoping they will find a fix in the near future.

An educated consumer will pick up on the issue and ask about it before purchasing and many times sales agents are instructed not to even acknowledge the issue and instead focus on up-selling the customer to a part that does not have the issue if at all possible. When pushed on the specific issue the agent will state a fix is forthcoming which is on the edge of truth, but he or she will sell it as an absolute. This can convince the purchaser to buy the unit only to be stuck dealing with the issue when it arrives.

If you were to contact the BBB the company will be able to easily state that it informed you of the issue and are working on a fix. Since your PC has a warranty and the company is working on the issue you have little recourse. In fact, if you have a no return after thirty day policy and are not vigilant it can pass during the time you are waiting to have your system fixed and this enters us into step four, be transparent.

Transparency in the computer world is clouded by trade secrets and the fact that so much can go wrong with a computer that many companies rather just replace your system than troubleshoot and fix it. Also, many companies will release a product knowing it has issues from hardware to software to even the build design and not release any of this to the public.

The problem is that it is hard to track down if the company knew of the issues before the system shipped. Just like the issue in the earlier paragraph the key to the BBB, at least for computer companies, is that they are trying to fix the issue and are honoring their warranty, which leads us to step five, honor promises.

As long as a computer company is at least trying to fix an issue with a product they sell the BBB will turn a blind eye. Most computer companies do not want to spend too much time on warranty issues. Most companies consider support a losing department which explains why it is outsourced and more often than not, not well staffed.

Larger companies have even replaced total units because to continue to support the product would be far too costly not only in man hours and parts, but in the press and PR. As issues arise today’s consumer turns to the internet to post about them and as it spreads it can become a PR nightmare even for the giants of the industry.

In these instances companies rather give the customer a new and different unit they believe will work to silence the cries on the internet and hopefully lower the calls in the call center.

For those who don’t receive a new unit many times they are trapped because the company is doing something (even if it is the minimum) to fix the issue and as long as they are there is little a customer can do even in contacting the BBB.

Again during this time your return window may close and in many cases even if it does not you will have to pay a hefty fee if you choose to return your system. This ties in to transparency and honoring promises.

Many times the parts you return will be sold again in one form or another netting a dual profit for the company and since the policy is stated (somewhere on their website) the BBB can do nothing to help you.

Warranties like insurance are looked at by the companies that issue them as rent for a home they hope you never use. When you call in a claim it costs the company money which is why you get the low end of the totem pole first. Unfortunately, the best tool to fight against these companies is not the BBB, but the internet and specifically social media sites.

In the next installment we will cover the final three steps and talk about how the internet and social media can and has brought justice to those who have witnessed the death of customer service.

Click here to read part 1 of this article. Click here to read part 3 of this article.

The Death of Customer Service: The Better Business Bureau

Computer Fraud
Computer Fraud

In the age of online shopping even from our phones many people do not look for companies to be part of the BBB like they use too. Twenty years ago, if you weren’t part of the BBB chances are you would not receive much business. People would call to find out if the company they were going to deal with was part of the BBB and if so what their standing was. It was like a government run Angie’s list with consequences.

Today with thousands of companies online the BBB is not as important as it once was. Though many companies still register with the BBB far less people look into companies through the BBB and much less care if a company is registered with the BBB.

Even companies with the BBB no longer have to adhere to strict policies once laid down by the BBB. Though the BBB still has their 8 important steps to being a member:

– Build Trust
– Advertise Honestly
– Tell the Truth
– Be Transparent
– Honor Promises
– Be Responsive
– Safeguard Privacy
– Embody Integrity

Now these things may sound good, but for many consumers who have a problem and try to seek help from the BBB may find that this list is easy to work around.

Building trust for the most part is already established once a person finds out a company is with the BBB so they figure if anything goes wrong they are safe or safe enough.

Advertise honestly. Here it can get tricky. Let’s talk in the realm of computers. Some companies offer rebates with their systems. Many people have come to realize that rebates are not so much to give the customer back his or her money, but to hope they forget to send their form in so they do not get the discount.

An example would be that a computer has a $500 off coupon which makes it a great deal. What you may or may not read is all the limitations and time restrictions on that rebate. For instance, one trick is to make you send the rebate in within a month of purchase. This means when you are charged. So if you are charged before building and it is a custom system, then it could be almost a month before you receive your system.

Now, in order to retrieve most rebates you have to have your invoice which only comes with the system, so if you receive your system at the 25th day it could be very hard to send it back within the timeframe.

Another trick it to make you request the rebate once your system ships they claim they do this to prevent being scammed, but the scam is on you. Now all this is totally legit, it’s not illegal or against BBB rules, but the idea here is to give you another task that hopefully you will forget.

Many times the rebate form will not arrive in the box and you have you call in and have it mailed to you. If you are ever told this demand they fax it or e-mail it to you, there is no reason they should not be able to.

Even if you send the rebate in on time you may encounter problems with them only applying the rebate to the card you used to purchase the system. In most cases this is normal and standard, except when you split pay across multiple cards. Here the problem comes in when the company delays the process making you wait. It is a known fact that many companies will delay payment when nearing the end of a financial quarter.

There’s much more to break down regarding the BBB and we will be doing so in the next installment. For now, if you have any experiences dealing with computer related or gaming related companies giving you a hard time with rebates please share them.

Click here to read part 2 of this article. Click here to read part 3 of this article.