About that Second “S” in SaaS – Awesome Service

pressharbor ”There is an app for that” – say the Apple commercials.  “There is a plugin for that” – was my conclusion, while lookin for the rigth tools to move the Enterprise Irregulars blog to WordPress a few months ago.  Seriously.  The WordPress ecosystem is simply amazing, things that a few years ago required messing with code are now a click away: – modern themes are no longer just pretty layouts, but perform quite a bit of processing, and whatever they don’t have – well, there is a plugin for that.:-)

Such is the power of Open Source and a thriving ecosystem. But all this openness and richness of choice comes with a price: it takes a lot of digging, testing, and even more luck to find the right ones that actually deliver what they claim without messing up your theme and other plugins.  And even if you find the right ones, they all come out with new releases from time to time, and every single update, be it WordPress itself, the theme, the plugins is a hidden trap. Things can stop mysteriously overnight – as they did over @ Enterprise Irregulars a week ago, when I was alerted that our feed was all blank. The EI blog is based on the powerful but rather complex Hybrid News Theme with 21 active plugins which work in concert to aggregate the writing of 40+ authors.  And sometimes one little wheel gets stuck – what happens next is what separates good hosts from poor ones.  Or should I say, separates simple hosts from service providers. Service, as the second S in SaaS. 🙂

Normally the choice is simple: you either use – free, powerful, great platform, with preset choices for themes, widgets..etc – or opt for self-hosting in the Open World – with all the power to install whatever you want, but also out in the wild alone in a complex world.  (Geez, where did I hear that last… ahh, the great  iPhone vs. Android debate, perhaps? 🙂 )   Now, back to hosts: I’ve been blessed with a smaller, but amazingly good host providing extraordinary, personalized service for five years now. Owner and jack-of-all-trades John Keegan helped my with the old (dying) Blogware platform, then through the migration of my personal blog to WordPress, and ever since – so moving EI to Pressharbor was a no-brainer.

So last Sunday (yes, a SUNDAY) I turned to John again… he dug into the problem, and soon found that a rogue plugin attached custom enclosure fields to some posts, with garbled content that Feedburner choked on, wiping out our RSS feed. John then got on Skype and held my hand step by step removing the erroneous fields, until the feed got cleared up.  Sounds easy enough… in hindsight.   It would have taken me hours / days of research and frustration to restore the lost functionality.   It’s not the first time and likely not the last I received support way beyond what can be expected of a regular web hosting company.  Help with security, performance, database tuning should be standard (is it?)  but detailed plugin-level help?  No way.  How about WordPress upgrades?  I don’t even  know what they are.  In fact I got upgraded to WP 3.0 while writing this post. Not amongst the first .. only after thorough testing did  Pressharbor upgrade all of us, centrally.  I’m lucky enough to have the best of both world – the power of Open Source and great, personalized support.  A big, capital S – the second S in Software as a Service.

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)


Dell Sales Support Chat




Unable to Connect to Talisma Server at



Fail to receive through socket – [10054: WSAECONNRESET]

No kidding.. and this is SALES (?), not even tech support.

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


Virtualinvoice: Time To Fight Back

There are  two types of computer users:

  1. The problem-solving techno-geeks who build hardware, hack software and enjoy every challenge, even bugs to dug themselves get deeper an deeper in… most of us have probably  been there, done that, then grew up.
  2. Those who simply want to use their systems for work, fun or whatever they damn please, and hate when they are forced to spend hours investigating problems that should not occur in the first place, and then they should be documented… I suspect that’s the majority of us.  A few hours here, half a day there, always in the worst possible time.  We feel it’s unfair that we are forced to work instead of [insert your favorite lousy company here]. After all, wear not on their payroll.

Enough is enough.  Let’s fight back!  If you’re a freelancer, or are in any profession where you bill your hourly, you know exactly what your rate is. Even if not, chances are you have a realistic estimate of your time’s worth.  Next time you feel you got robbed of a few valuable hours, just bill it!   Chances are, you won’t get paid, but you’ll feel better.   I certainly do, having just billed MicrosoftMozilla and HP. smile_wink

Remember to tag your invoice / blog post.. whatever as virtualinvoice: I will keep tab of the totals, and periodically publish them.

Viva La Revolucion! smile_shades

Update:  It looks like Bob Warfield is should send a Virtual Invoice about now …


HP Shopping Program Disguised as Critical Alert

I don’t know why I haven’t killed HP Total Care Advisor yet, but today I accidentally clicked on it:


Wow.  I’ve seen crapware .. but never before have I seen a vendor with the audacity to place their shopping program under Critical Alerts.  Shame, shame, absolute shame, HP. smile_angry


Tech Support – the HP Way

Reading this gem (hat tip: Ben Casnocha) about the nightmare of trying to get HP support their PC’s reminded me of my own horror story. Actually, not horror – just comedy.

Anyway… yeah, I was weak, fell for the good deal at Costco, and got myself a Vista-loaded junk from HP. There’s one component that shines – literally: the display. 22 inches of shiny black beauty, sharp screen, it tilts and moves around in every imaginable way, even pivots for a vertical view. But there was a little glitch with pivoting: I had to lie down to read the screen. There was no way to get the screen image rotate – something that should happen automatically.

I’ll spare you the first 20 minutes or so of the online chat with HP support, let’ s just jump to where it got really interesting:

Support: You probably have a video card that does not support auto-pivoting.

Me: That’s not possible. I did not build this machine, it’s a standard HP system out-of-the-box.

Support: I don’t understand.

Stop. Take a deep breath. This is just hilarious. Rather than trying to find the answer, the easy way out is to claim a standard configuration HP is selling consists of a mismatched video card and monitor.smile_angry She has absolutely no idea how she is damaging the brand. Oh, well, let’s get a supervisor … wait .. disconnect.

Btw, “disconnecting” appears to be a standard HP solution to support issues: I’m still waiting for this other fellow to “gather all information” to my email over a month ago. Perhaps he’ll figure it out by the time I dump this PC. smile_sad


Customer Support, the HP Way

I briefly wrote about my dismal customer support experience in Everything on this Vista PC is an Afterthought. The one piece I really like in this PC setup is the screen: 22 inches of shiny black beauty, sharp screen, it tilts and moves around in every imaginable way, even pivots for a vertical view.

There’s only one problem: colors are way off without detailed calibration. HP provides an easy-to-use (albeit not too effective) software product, which allows me to save my new defaults in a file. Too bad the configuration file is user-dependent, and I have two User Accounts on this machine. I really don’t want to go through the configuration hassle twice, so I thought I’d copy the file to the other user account… however, I could not locate it in any of the usual suspect directories, not even search by name. That’s what online support is for – so I thought, naively. This is the template response I received to my 3-line request to locate the file:

Hello Zoltan,
Thank you for contacting HP Total Care.
I gather from your email that you have downloaded and installed HP My Display and you would like to know if you can make this software user dependent.

I understand the importance of your query and look forward to provide you with the appropriate information.

Zoltan, the display settings for each user can be saved, providing an
easy way to select display characteristics in a multi-user environment, or to
save multiple defined presets for a single user based on content and ambient
HP My Display enables monitor adjustment and color tuning using the Display
Data Channel (DDCommand Interface C/CI) protocol. All adjustments to the
display are controlled through software to eliminate the need to use the
monitor on-screen display (OSD). HP My Display runs in the background and can
be accessed through the Task tray, Start menu, or by right-clicking in a blank
area of the desktop. The HP My Display utility enables quick, accurate tuning
of the display, with the ability to easily save and use monitor configurations
that are best suited to the user.
HP My Display has two modes of operation: Wizard and OSD mode. The preferred
method of use is Wizard mode, which provides a step-by-step process to
accurately calibrate the monitor. OSD mode enables changes to any single
monitor setting without stepping through a predefined sequence. This method is
less accurate than Wizard mode, but enables easy access to any monitor

For more information you can use the Manual as how to use the software:

I also want to inform you that the downloaded files gets saved to temp folder as default location if the location is not given while downloading the file and the setup file can be located by any user by following the steps given below:

  • Click on Start >Computer.
  • Double click on Local drive (C:)
  • Double click on Program Files.
  • Select HP My Display folder and open the same and you will get the setup file.

If you need further assistance, please reply to this message and we will be happy to assist you further.
You may receive an e-mail survey regarding your e-mail support experience. We would appreciate your feedback.
For information on keeping your HP and Compaq products up and running, please visit our Web site at:

What’s wrong here? I’m looking for a solution, don’t give me this pompous BS on how great your software is, HP, especially when you don’t address the one and only question I had. In fact the first and only non-canned sentence clearly shows you did not even listen (read): you think I want to make configuration user dependent : it already is, I want it user independent! If you read my original inquiry, you should know all this crap on how to install and use the configuration tool is useless, since I have already completed these steps.

OK, cool-off, send HP another email:

Thanks, but this template answer is a complete nonsense. I have succesfully used the software, saved it to a file. The ONLY question I had, and still have is this:
A: Can I save the confguration in a non-user-dependent area, so the same settings apply
B: If not, where is the config file stored, so I can copy it to other user directories.

Same-day response:

Hello Zoltan,
Thank you for contacting HP Total Care.

Zoltan, it is our goal to answer questions presented to us as quickly as
possible. From reading your e-mail I will need to do some additional
research to provide you with a resolution to this issue.

As soon as I have gathered this information I will e-mail you again. I apologize for any inconvenience this delay may cause.
If you need further assistance, please reply to this message and we will be happy to assist you further.
You may receive an e-mail survey regarding your e-mail support experience. We would appreciate your feedback.
For information on keeping your HP and Compaq products up and running, please visit our Web site at:

Locating a file needs additional research. Two days later I’m still waiting. Customer Support, the HP-way. thumbs_down