Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Changes and Dependencies

A couple of days ago somebody sent me a link to an automatic "Siggraph Paper Title Generator" which produced quite convincing scientific-sounding output. The title of this post could easily be mistaken for something programming-related, but it is about something else completely.

I haven't posted since April because the last couple of months were quite crazy. In short, my family just finished relocating through half Canada - from Winnipeg, Manitoba (the city closest to the geometric center of North America) to Vancouver, British Columbia (at the very edge of the continent). This is a quite positive change - no more winter temperatures lower than on the South Pole, no more mosquitos in the summer (considered the "national bird" in Manitoba ;o)) And last but not least, finally some hills, mountains and curves on the roads to make the driver in me happy.

The move itself went ok without any incidents, all our stuff arrived a week later than expected but absolutely preserved (especially the PC and the TV - sigh of relief), and the first thing after ensuring electric power was still on was calling the cable/internet provider to order the Most Important Thing after water and bread. This was on June 28th and I was told that the earliest possible appointment date would be July 11th. TWO WEEKS without Web, Email and Skype? Oh my...

The very next day I replaced my trusty dumb phone with a smart one just to get some form of online access. This gave us at least some email, web services and the ability to chat via text messaging with our parents in Europe, plus the added bonus of GPS turn-by-turn navigation. While this was one of the best purchases considering the situation, it wasn't enough and I finally realized how dependent (read: Addicted!) we have become to the internet.

Two days after arrival I was chatting with a colleague and discovered that another company otherwise known for its wireless services and cute animal commercials had started to provide optical cable in our area. In fact, they even had a brochure sent to the "current occupant" of our apartment, but my selective reading brain totally skipped over the first two letters of the title (which said "TV"!) that also promised phone and internet. So I immediately called the company and asked if we can even get their services, since I knew that some large buildings downtown had preferred partnership with the former cable TV monopolist I already had an appointment with. The answer I received left me nearly speechless. "Looking at our data here, it appears that your building has been pre-wired for out optical cable services, and TV and internet are already pre-paid by the building management for a year!". Oh, and they could come 5 days earlier than the competition (YAY!)

Too good to be true?

The lady on the phone promised to call me half an hour later to confirm my credit check and the appointment for the 6th of July. She never did, so the next day I called again. The person at the other end of the line went through the whole identification process and confirmed the 6th of July appointment. So on the 6th of July I took an hour off from work and went home to be around during the installation... except that nobody showed up. Another phone call later I learned the amazing truth: Computers Hate Me!

I was told that a software bug in the internal system of the company is preventing anyone in the call center from scheduling that appointment (three people so far had attempted to enter it and all got the error which I was told "nobody had seen before"). Being a TD and fighting the good fight with bugs every day, I don't really mind bugs, but I do mind when people don't tell me about them (Funnily enough, the name of the company implies they would "tell us" when something like that happens ;o)). So I was told that the top-dogs of the software team were looking into the problem and would call me as soon as it was fixed. I was even encouraged to call again the next day to check. Of course I did and had my fifth conversation with a fifth person about the whole issue. "Please believe us that we are working on fixing the bug". In all this time, I never received a call back from anyone. Probably because nobody cared personally, or probably because my bill was already paid for a year anyway, so an important stimulus was missing... ;o)

While getting home from work via a slightly different route that day, I realized that the head quarters of the company I was dealing with was literally the NEXT BUILDING to ours! So the next morning I went into the lobby and asked to talk to someone responsible for customer relations. Instead, I got connected with the technical team responsible for that "bug" and was told the bug was fixed and they could finally schedule an appointment. (Until this day I don't know whether this was just good timing or there was never a real bug). Of course, this was on July 9th so the earliest possible opening was for July 16th - over two weeks after my first call...

Being as addicted as I turned out to be, I could not wait 5 more days without internet. So we scheduled the 16th but also left the initial appointment with the other company on the 11th and on that glorious Sunday finally got some cable to scratch that online itch. Four days later we switched to the optical cable with HD, free PVR, 15 Mbps wireless access from all devices and finally felt home... This blog is just a reminder how much our lives have changed in the last decade and how dependent we have become... Now let's hope SkyNet won't take over soon ;o)

Back on topic (this is a Krakatoa/MAXScript blog after all) - the next shocker is that the year of the 20th birthday of 3D Studio will be the first in 11 years with me missing Siggraph. I wish everyone going a great time and while I am sad we won't be able to show you first hand what we have done to Krakatoa 1.6, I promise we will be very active online once it is released. I am spending a lot of time polishing both the documentation and the UI, and a lot of features are still being tweaked for maximum flexibility.

I hope the next blog will be a lot more interesting.