Automated Telephone Menu Systems

I received mail from Time Warner Cable thanking me for being a business class customer for a year and offered me a free 2 Mbps upgrade. So, I called the toll free number and tried to navigate through the menus to claim my “prize”. After the system hung up on me the first time, I tried again. Next time, I got it to connect me to the Desert Cities office which isn’t where I am. So I called my local office (I memorized the phone number a long time ago) and after miss navigating the first time, I tried again and managed to get a person in sales. I asked for business class sales and he gave me the same phone number I already tried. He them transferred me to a live person who then asked for my zip code and transferred me to my “local” rep. The local rep answered (obviously on a cell phone) and asked if I was transferred to the number or I called it. He said he’d call me back when he gets in the office.

While I really like the service and have only had a few hours of downtime in the last year, talking to a human who has a clue is nearly impossible. We’ll see if I get my upgrade (I’m not sure I will as all residential and home business customers got upgraded from 3 MBps down to 5 MBps down earlier this year. Maybe I can convince them to give me a free upgrade to better upstream bandwidth.)

Email Spam

Email spam, as everyone knows, has gotten completely out of hand. I use a system called DSPAM which works amazingly well. However, today I decided to upgrade to the latest version. The configuration on the program is a royal nightmare. I wanted to remove the hacks I put in place for retraining false positives as they’re hard to maintain each time I upgrade. This turned out to be a loser proposition. After several hours trying to find hints on the net and reconfiguring, I finally gave up and put my hacks back in. (Basically the web CGI for re-training doesn’t seem to work right and puts the mail into a blackhole instead of delivering it.) If anyone knows an easy way to install DSPAM on Linux with sendmail, please let me know. However, I want to invoke it with procmail and not directly from sendmail as I want the ability to have certain filters act on mail before DSPAM gets it; DSPAM wants to classify certain senders as spam even though I know they’re not.)

Update on Sirius radio

After discussing my complaint about Sirius radio with someone else today, I realized that while my complaint is still valid, overcoming it is extremely hard. Sirius is a one way broadcast and there is no way for the receiver to tell the broadcast that it missed some day. However, there still must be a way to handle this without all the dropouts.

Misinformation in TV Shows

My wife and I are fans of CSI (Las Vegas), but the summer has re-runs, so we’ve being using our TiVo to record CSI:NY and CSI:Miami which can no way compare to the original one. Most people don’t watch the shows thinking that everything they say is factually correct which is good, because there is so much stuff in the shows that almost make you laugh. In last night’s episode of CSI:Miami, they were looking at an LED (Light Emitting Diode) and the tech said that they’re used in TVs. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never seen a TV consisting of LEDs. If a TV was made up of LEDs, it would be like a LightBrite which would be kind of funny to watch for a few minutes. Nice try, CSI, but you might want to check your facts.

Apple’s Transition to Intel

In June, Apple announced the move to Intel processors with Steve Jobs saying on stage that the transition would be relatively easy for most developers. While this is true for simple applications and applications that have been cross platform for ages, it is not true for what I develop. I took a simple program, TimeRecord, and had it running natively on Intel in about 10 minutes. Not bad, but the application doesn’t have hooks into any other program, doesn’t connect to websites, doesn’t transfer data, nor take advantage of any cool features.

The main program I work on these days is Missing Sync for Palm OS and one of my tasks is to figure out how to move it to Intel. I came up with a brilliant (if I do say so myself) whitepaper on the transition. Implementing what I wrote, however, is going to be quite difficult as endian issues had never been taken into account and a requirement is that old, CFM conduits are supported. Apple’s current strategy doesn’t permit us to transition to an Intel native binary and support CFM conduits. So, we’re going to have to come up with some ingenious way to tackle this. One way, outlined in the way paper, may not work. So it could be back to the drawing board.

Missing Sync for Palm OS has upwards of 50 separate components that get compiled and will have to be tested on Intel. This will be no easy task. I’m always up for a challenge, but this one gives me a headache.

Sirius Radio

My wife received a Sirius Sportster R from her parents for her birthday. While I’m not a huge fan of paying for radio or having another monthly recurring charge, it’s nice to see her being able to listen to what she wants without flipping the station all the time. I’m a bit disappointed with the technology, however. Whenever we go under a bridge or are near some overshadowing trees, it cuts out for a few seconds. Some probably say that this can be expected; however, I just took possession of a Slim Devices Squeezebox 2 for our home audio system and as I was playing with it, I turned off the server and found that it kept playing for about 2 minutes. So, I think that Sirius should have about a 2 minute delay and buffer 2 minutes of audio on the receiving end. This would allow the slight blips to be handled without skipping a beat. Seems simple enough, but someone who designed or implemented the digital system forgot about this (or thought it would cost too much).