Blog. And sometimes just whinging.

Sort of an update: My Motorola story, good and bad

// April 22nd, 2015 // Comments Off on Sort of an update: My Motorola story, good and bad // Rants, tech

Good story gone bad


So, about that MotoX. It’s a great phone. I really do like it. In fact, I’d say I love it. It’s fast, Lollipop is great and all the little integrations (shake for camera, OLED screen low-power notifications, etc.), all very nice It’s a great phone and I haven’t regretted the switch from Apple yet. Unfortunately, the screen is cracked* on mine and I need to get it fixed. And it was from this that I discovered the dark downside to the Moto X… Motorola support.

Motorola repair support is terrible.

If only I’d read all the “Don’t use Motorola’s Advance Exchange program! You’ll regret it!” warnings on forums, I could have saved myself the headache.

What’s the Motorola Advance Exchange program?
Motorola sends a replacement phone, puts hold on your credit card ($500), you send back broken phone.Replacement phone ships to you within 4 business days of request. You pay for repair cost, keep the replacement phone.

In theory that’s how it works… In practice? Not so much.

My Experience with Advance Exchange for my new MotoX bears no resemblance

4/11 – Submit Advance Exchange request. Motorola promptly puts hold put on card. Ah, look. It’s $500 + $125 + tax instead of the $500 they tell you the hold will be. Oh, well, no big deal.

4/16 – Online status doesn’t show anything shipped yet. Oh, well, no big deal

4/17 – Online status still shows no replacement has shipped. Almost call, but decide to give them more time and I wait until Monday. No big deal… right?

4/20 – Initiate online chat. They say they need to escalate. Someone from repair escalations calls me. Says nothing has happened because they don’t have a phone like mine to send and have to build it. No reason for why they didn’t bother to tell me this. I say it’s been long enough and if I’d  settle for whatever 32GB Moto X they have in stock, even without leather and in any color, would that speed it up. Sure, they say. Agent says they can send me a plain black one and he’ll get right on that. Fine, I say.

4/22 – I check and see that status STILL says no phone shipped even though they implied this was all sorted and on the way.

I email Motorola support:

My Advance Exchange # xxxxxx-xxxxxx still doesn’t show anything shipped. I originally submitted it 4/11 and on 4/20 spoke with someone and was told nothing had happened because they didn’t have a suitable phone in stock. I said at that point I was OK with a stock replacement phone if that would speed things up (I have a white 32GB with leather with a cracked screen, he said they could send a plain black 32GB).

But when I check online it still doesn’t show a replacement shipped. Could you please check on this and make sure it hasn’t gotten stalled again? – Thanks

Motorola replies:


Thanks for reaching out to Motorola. I’ve reviewed your e-mail and I’m ready to help. Upon checking on this incident xxxxxx-xxxxxxx, the phone is not yet shipped because when you called last April 20 and agreed to have a different device because of the stock, the process started again. You will received the device within 5 working days from now as part of the replacement process.

We hope that you find this information useful and we look forward to assisting you in the future.

For information about Motorola products and services, please visit us at

Thank you for contacting Motorola e-mail support.

Best Regards,

Motorola Customer Support

I reply:

Wait, wait. This is ludicrous. I was going to have to wait a business week to get an equivalent replacement, a week that’s now passed, but now I need to wait even longer to get a lesser device ‘faster’?

Please cancel this advance exchange. Given that nothing has happened yet I assume that won’t be a problem. I’ll investigate repair or return options with my carrier. This is ridiculous.

Please let me know that the exchange is canceled. I’m not waiting two business weeks for a downgraded phone. I’ll live with the cracked screen for now.

Thanks. I realize this is not your fault, but being an ex-Apple customer who just made the switch to a Motorola phone, I can see why their service still ranks so much higher. I would have had a replacement in-hand a week ago.

Yes. THE ENTIRE PROCESS @#$&%@# RESET back to square one and now the cheaper, plain black phone will ship WITHIN 5 MORE BUSINESS DAYS.

Why on Earth would I want to wait even longer than I would have for them to go build a damned equivalent phone just to get a cheaper, lesser, plain black replacement phone for my nice white, leather-backed phone? Who could possibly think that’s a bettter solution and one likely to make me happy??? How is ‘you can wait 7-10 business days for the same, or you can wait 11+ business days for a lesser one a viable option?

If I didn’t like this phone so much, I’d pay for the repair and just send the whole goddamned thing back.

Logic, @MotorolaSupport, you’re doing it wrong. Also support. You’re totally doing that wrong.

UPDATE: So someone called me back today (4/23) to hand me off to another person. Then came back to say they couldn’t do anything because their system was broken. Then another person called later and I explained I wanted the return cancelled. They said I could have the black phone within “umm… 48… maybe 72 hours”. I said no. Cancel. He also explained that the original problem was my request had been sent to ‘the wrong warehouse’ where I suppose it would have sat and rotted had I not been nagging them. But, again, no one told me. It just sat in limbo for a week. After being on hold again (the the loud, distorted 15 second violin concerto loop again, holy crap is that crazy-making) for a while the guy said it was canceled. I thanked him and went on with my life.

Super-heavy-duty case should be here tomorrow. I can live with the crack for a while…

UPDATE: Repair cost charged to my card on 4/25… two days after this was supposed to be canceled.

UPDATE 2: It just occurred to me that I’ve engaged 6 or 7 human beings during this whole process. And _not_ the human beings whose job it is to process the exchange. Just imagine that. For a process that begins online driven by the customer, which then presumably goes into an automated binning system where a matching phone is found and marked for dispatch (or, unlike my experience, when no matching device is available the customer is notified of a delay and offered an alternative or timeline) and _then_ a human being gets the work order and processes the outgoing phone. Later another person processes the incoming device. But, no, 6 or 7 people have stumbled over one return before anyone even had a chance to process the initial exchange. What a waste of resources and money because someone can’t work out their returns pipeline in such a way that it’s even marginally reliable.

There’s no excuse for such bumbling, Motorola. You’re a grown up technology company.

UPDATE 3: Hi. It’s May 8th and Motorola still hasn’t refunded the repair fee they charged to my card. I sent a support email which, of course, just came back ‘we need your number so someone can call you’. No. No one needs to take up any more of my damned time, they just need to do their job and fulfill their promises. And you HAVE my number already! *sigh* I’m done with Motorola. No matter how much I like this phone (and I do! I really, really do!), it’s not worth worrying that should I need support I’m going to have to push the ball up hill for them at every turn. Every single time the wheels started to move in the above narrative it was because I’d initiated it. I’M THE CUSTOMER, NOT CUSTOMER SUPPORT!

God I feel like all I do is whine on this blog now, but… for the love of everything good how can a multi-billion dollar 21st century tech company’s tech support seem like it’s being phoned in [literally] from the mid-20th century? I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they’re using pen and paper still…

* – UPDATE: The following is all irrelevant now as I’ve just kept the phone and got a heavy-duty case to protect it. I’m living with the crack (it’s in the upper left an mostly out of the way).

The irony of the cracked screen is that after looking down to find it cracked (I’ve no idea of the cause) one day, a bit later I actually dropped it and dinged the metal on that same corner. So I’m definitely on the hook for the repair cost. There’s no way they could know that I dropped it after the screen cracked and maybe I did hit it on something to crack the screen… Again, I have no idea. I only mention it here as a “ain’t that always the way” story.


Upheavals in my tech life – Part 1: Amazon Echo

// February 7th, 2015 // Comments Off on Upheavals in my tech life – Part 1: Amazon Echo // Echo, musings, Rambling, tech

UPDATE: I still like Echo a lot and it keeps getting better. They’re constantly adding features (including IFTTT and home automation support!) and everything just works. TuneIn had issues one time, but that’s it. I’m extremely happy with it as a household assistant and as a bluetooth audio system.


I’ve made or am making some big changes in some small areas of my life. Mostly around technology. Being a self-described ‘technologist’ that means I have to write about it. Hi.

*** Feel free to skip this list and jump right to #4 if you just wanna know about Echo ***

Chief among these are:

1) I’ve jumped ship from iPhone to Android. My new phone is a 2nd generation Moto X running Android 5 Lollipop. As some of you know, Apple and I have gone from a blissful to a troubled relationship of late. Linux boxen out-number Macs in my house now — I’ve even broken down and built a Windows gaming machine because… Borderlands Pre-Sequel, ’nuff said — and my iTunes music library has gone from being a warm, fuzzy vault where Apple kept everything for me to a technological albatross that I had to pull what felt like a bank heist to liberate everything from so I could access all my music from my new phone. Anybody want to buy a Verizon iPhone 5?

2) Along with ditching iPhone, I’m finally weaning myself off Safari (after all, I’m on OSX less and less). It’s a small thing, yes. But when I get around to writing about that, there’s more to it than just changing browsers. Some of the thoughts rattling around in my heads about this: Safari is closed-door Apple kit, but it doesn’t feel as… invasive… as Google Chrome. And Safari is fast. When it’s not beach-balling. But it’s just time to let it go. So do I invest my life more into Google’s ecosystem [and its attendant information Hoovering juggernaut] by using Chrome? I am using their OS now on my phone. And Chromecast is super handy. Or do I switch fully to Firefox all around, despite my love/hate relationship with it? It’s all I use on my Linux machines, but… dammit it pisses me off some times. Or do I split the difference with Chromium? In the end, the integration of all these with things like Lastpass, Yubikey and sometimes 1Password are big deals to me. And they all behave differently. So it’s not an easy decision.

3) Dish’s Sling TV. I haz it. I also haz Roku and AppleTV. I subscribe to Netflix, Fandor and AcornTV. I’ve been threatening, much like George Lucas saying he’s going to go off and do his ‘experimental movies’ and then never doing so, to cut the cord on my cable TV. So now that I have Sling TV and I know I can still watch Venture Bros and Adventure Time, I’m going to do a simulated cord cut. I’m going to rely on everything but my cable TV for a week (starting Monday) and see how that goes. I’ll tell you right up front that I’m gonna break this rule. I’m still gonna watch Archer on Thursdays on my TiVo. And I may use HBO GO, even though it’s tied to my cable subscription. The latter is OK in my book as HBO has announced that GO a la carte is coming. I gotta watch Game of Thrones, y’all. And can I just say, FX and AMC, please get on Sling TV and this will all get tied up with a neat little bow.

4) I have an Amazon Echo. Yes, I’m one of those people who jumped on it first thing. I know. I know. But that’s the thing I want to talk about, now that I’ve bored you to death with all the above. Unless you skipped straight here. In which case, “Weakling!”

First, let me cut right to the chase. I like it. It’s $99 well-spent and I’m happy with my purchase. I’ve tinkered around with computer assistants in the past and they all were terrible. So when Amazon said I could have a PDA with good voice recognition that could play NPR and tell me how old John Hurt is as I wallowed on the couch, I signed right up.

Is it just a glorified Siri? Yes. Or, more precisely, a glorified Cortana. But that’s all it purports to be, if we’re honest. Their ad, the one with the ‘early Richard Dreyfuss’ asshole dad, shows you it can play music, be a Bluetooth speaker, read Wikipedia, tell you the weather or how tall Mount Everest is. That’s what it does. Oh, and shopping and to-do lists which I’ll get to in a sec. But the point being: It was designed to pretty much be a glorified Siri. Or Cortana.

As a glorified Cortana it works really well.



Yes, I spent four hours the first night dicking around with this thing and it not working. I’d quit and come back. I couldn’t accept defeat. I’d search the ‘Net and try other things. The app just sat and spun. And no, I didn’t call Amazon support because I was not prepared to patiently sit through someone telling me to reboot my router, make sure it’s plugged in, etc. My first damned router was configured with a text file and telnet, FFS. This ain’t my first day at the rodeo.

The way Echo’s setup works is you download an app (Mac, PC< Android or iOS), turn on Echo and it will go into setup mode (the ring rotates orange – there are audio prompts along the way), and you will then connect to it as though it were a wireless access point. If you get stuck here, find that rest button. You then select your WiFi SSID and enter your WiFi password (I believe Echo has two radios, as outlined below). In theory, this is where it connects and finishes setting up, culminating in Echo telling you it’s ready. This is where I was failing. Initially I couldn’t even get to the WiFi setup part.

And the app doesn’t give you access to the Help tab… until you’re done setting up. Duh.

Finally I found someone on Twitter mentioning that there’s a tiny reset button hole on the bottom. Using that to reset Echo and start fresh allowed me to finally get to the WiFi setup and connect Echo to my WAP. Or so I thought. Here it just hung again. Spinning forever. I tried this from my Android phone, an iPhone, a laptop and from an Amazon Kindle FireHD (I bought it on a whim long ago, don’t judge). No go on any of them. And I thought it weird how I still had the same IP address on my laptop when connected to the Echo

A bit more searching led me to a post from someone who had talked with Amazon only to find that Echo uses the same IP range (192.168.11.x) for its internal AP as my router does. And specifically it uses for the Echo. Even changing my router’s LAN IP to something other than 11.1 didn’t help. Presumably this is because with Echo being an AP and simultaneously being a WiFi client, there’s a routing conflict and the Echo probably ends up talking to itself instead of bridging the two networks.

So I set up a laptop to share its ethernet connection over WiFi, ran the setup again selecting this new access point (whose internal DHCP was using 10.0.1.x)… et voila. Echo connected and started working.


Seriously. I do enjoy it now that it’s working. Saying “Alexa, play NPR” and it almost immediately starting a stream of my local NPR stattion (WBUR) is so much quicker and friendlier than doing this from another device (unlock, open app, pair to bluetooth speakers, etc.) And, on top of it all, it sounds really good. It sounds like a decent Bluetooth speaker system. Enough bottom end for most things and with clear highs and mids. Today I woke up, padded off to the bathroom and called out “Alexa, play Kraftwerk Man Machine.” (The Echo is in my living room, close to the kitchen door.) I enjoyed some of my favorite krautrock as I woke up and made some coffee. Not in the bathroom. I made the coffee in the kitchen. Weirdo.

I checked the weather, since more snow is on the way, listened to what it calls a “flash briefing” of news and then decided to listen to NPR all day. Something I enjoy doing on weekends but often don’t because I hate dinking around with the radio and sometimes reception is crap. And streaming it involves too many steps, so I just don’t. I end up in silence or listening to audio books form my phone. But today I listened to Wait Wait and some other fare and was able to say “Alexa, pause” when I needed to go back and take care of the outcome of that coffee and then “Alexa, continue” when I was back in the kitchen working on a Tricorder I was adding leather to. It’s sweet. Everybody needs a leather-covered Tricorder. I’ll sell you one if you want. But I digress.

As I was working, I realized I should get some Armor All to shine up this leather.
“Alexa, add Armor All to my shopping list.”
“I’ve added ‘Armor All’ to your shopping list.”
“Oh. I’m out of tea, as well. Alexa, add tea to my shopping list.”
“I’ve added ‘tea’ to your shopping list.”
Later I decided to go to Target for a few things before the next potential snowcano/icenami (I’m trying to stop using snowpocalypse). So while there I opened the shopping list and bought the things I’d put there earlier.

Note to Amazon: Notice how I did not buy these items on Why? Because the shopping list is separate from all Amazon wish lists. It is not integrated into in any way. The shopping and to-do lists ONLY exist in the Echo app. So it was more convenient for me to, while at a shopping establishment, use the list to buy things while I was there.

And, finally, yes I’ve made Echo cuss and say “boobies” and tell me jokes. I’ve had her ignore me when she thought I was either not being serious or she just couldn’t sort out what I said. And sometimes she just doesn’t get things like “Alexa, what year was the book ‘1984’ published?” Some of that is her, some is Bing, her search engine. And, by the way, Mike J. Nichols, sometimes you’re the general manager at Bing or, occasionally, you’re a “film editor originally from Illinois”. But never The phantom Editor (I decided to use your name as a test as I was listening to Chris Taylor’s book at the time.)

So far I’ve been very pleased with both the accuracy of things she does understand and the speed. In fact, I was playing a Youtube video review of Echo and she would perk up and answer the questions heard in the video at the exact same moment as the Echo in the video. Recognizing speech and performing a near-instantaneous lookup and reply is, let’s be honest here, pretty damned cool.

Am I happy with my $99 Wikipedia reader, music player and NPR indulge-my-laziness player? Yep. Knowing that she’ll do more in future is great, but I’m fairly happy with what [granted, little] she does now.

Oh. FYI – “In Cambridge there’s a winter storm warning in effect until 1 AM Tuesday, February 10th. The current weather is 27 degrees with flurries. Throughout the night you can expect more of the same with a low of 26 degrees.” :)

A Spaceship of the Imagination

// September 19th, 2014 // Comments Off on A Spaceship of the Imagination // Rambling

soti_1 I built this recently for the Atlanta Star Party to auction off for their charity.

It’s an 18″ (plus stand) replica of the Spaceship of the Imagination from the new Cosmos series.

A little more info here on my G+ account and hopefully some build notes and pics later.

Why I left after 12+ years and why that makes me sad

// November 19th, 2013 // Comments Off on Why I left after 12+ years and why that makes me sad // Rambling

UPDATE: I’ve moved most of my former Pair-hosted sites to Media Temple and I’m also managing a client’s hosting there as well. I’m pretty happy with MT overall for managed-hosting needs. Agghosting and its clients is running on its own server over at Linode and I’m super happy with this [unmanaged] machine.

I recently had to abandon ship from my preferred hosting company of some 12+ years, Pair Networks. Seriously. I once loved them and recommended them left and right. The falling apart started, I now recognize, once I moved from my old and no longer offered plan to their new shared hosting. It was fine for a while. I didn’t host everything there — this blog, for instance, isn’t — but a handful of sites for which speed mattered to me (and some I moved when space became an issue, prior to the move to the ‘new’ system) were there.

Now they’re at Media Temple and they’re fast and reliable again. And the price is the same. I just feel sad that Pair let me down. Like an old friend who suddenly snubs you. I was planning to move Ruining It for Everyone there, but the performance failures made that untenable. It’s still at Dreamhost which was meant to be temporary (and is still more reliable and faster than my Pair account had become). I’ll move it to Media Temple soon, too.

But back to my Pair problem… Sorry. This is long and I didn’t originally intend to spew all this, but it’s happening now so just hang in there… Continue Reading

Kickstarter Projects – Sticky Post

// November 15th, 2013 // Comments Off on Kickstarter Projects – Sticky Post // Rambling

Kickstarter projects I’m supporting (and maybe you will too). =)
I’m excited that some of these are local projects (Stompy, Brattle, Hexy and Modkit)


Funded or Ended
Continue Reading

US Comic page sizes in Manga Studio

// July 16th, 2013 // Comments Off on US Comic page sizes in Manga Studio // art, musings

I made some default comic page settings for myself in Manga Studio, so I thought I’d share the settings here so you can make your own.

Caveat: Bear in mind that the page dimensions are equal to the trim size, not the paper size. So, your bleed line is the edge of the [virtual] page. Register Mark = Margin Area and Basic Frame = Live Area. So, again, full bleed means fill the page completely. You could make them to paper dimensions if you wanted, but I didn’t see the point in it as that would make the printable area too large to print on the intended paper size. I hope that makes sense.

The first is the modern US comic page just as if you bought some blue-lined boards (see below for older page size). I triple-checked this using some blue-line (EonProd and BlueLinePro)… and then Manga Studio rounded up (If this really bugs you, convert to millimeters). I’m going to just live with it. The ‘exact’ dimensions in inches are: 10.5 x 15.875, 10 x 15.375, 9×14.875
Continue Reading

A surprise for Liz

// July 7th, 2013 // 1 Comment » // art, Rambling

Several years ago I illustrated a short piece written by my pal Liz Argall. It was a very simple B&W thing with very few words. I think it turned out OK. Well, today I ran across the files and decided to try out some digital brushes on my new tablet. So, here’s a blast from the past and a little surprise for Liz.

(click to enlarge)


So… this happened. For better or worse.

// June 28th, 2013 // Comments Off on So… this happened. For better or worse. // art, Rambling, Uncategorized, weird

Because of this

this now exists. I’m not saying it’s right… just that it exists.

Another new t-shirt – Barge Flaps

// March 9th, 2013 // Comments Off on Another new t-shirt – Barge Flaps // Represent

Barge Flasp t at RedBubble

Your desert pleasure barge ain’t truly pimped until you add some barge flaps. Show how hard you party and your love for space princesses, plus keep the dust from gettin’ all up in your grill while you entertain the peeps and maybe eliminate some pesky do-gooders.

Elegy to a Racist

// December 4th, 2012 // Comments Off on Elegy to a Racist // musings, Rambling, Rants

I started thinking about this around November 6th, 2012. You can make the connection, I think. And then today I read Ashley Miller’s story of how she lost her father… to racism. So I put all the words into some sort of order, and here they are.

Elegy for a Racist

“I ain’t apologizing. That’s just the way I was raised.”

“That’s an excuse, not a justification.”

So you’re a racist in 21st century America. Welcome to the fringes. Oh, no, you didn’t realize did you. You thought you were still mainstream, salt of the Earth, true blue. Perhaps you’ve surrounded yourself with others like yourself and that helps you maintain the illusion. Or, at the very least, you’ve cowed those around you with your bile and wrath, so they won’t challenge you or call you out. But the truth is that the society you live in no longer accepts you as rational, as educated, as ‘normal’. And it doesn’t care to hear your arguments contrariwise. No, sir or ma’am, you are a minority. You are an ‘other’. The society where you fit in has grown and matured. It has left you behind. You and that hateful lump of smoldering rotten coal that simmers in your heart.

You’re unwanted. You are an artifact of an age, time and place that no longer exists. The words you once loved to use as weapons – now so actively listened for that – even muttering one under your breath is a risk you rarely take outside the walls of your home. And you will sit there, festering and growing colder and harder as you begin to feel the isolation of being an outsider. And not so long from now, you will become a fossil — Bigotus Americanus. And people will look upon you with new eyes, eyes not clouded by the hate you’ve kept burning and tried to pass down to your kith and kin. And they will wonder how you lasted as long as you did.

Yes, surely a few of you will survive long into humanity’s twilight. Your kind are always around, lurking. But no longer in the numbers you once enjoyed, comfortable in the rocking chair of self-satisfaction and privilege you once lazed in. You are now, and they will future be, pariahs. They will be secret outcasts who dare not speak their mind lest they be tossed out of humanity’s warmth. Hiding as you and your kind have made others hide.

But you, you original sinner, you will be long gone.

Good riddance.