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21 July 2010 @ 02:40 pm
Normally I try not to complain about computer support because I know every idiot on the planet is continually asking them to do daft stuff and then being ungrateful about it. However I just spent an hour being convinced support were not answering my actual question, but the one they thought I was asking.

I'm almost tempted to think I was dealing with some kind of automated process that simply reacted to keywords, right up until the last message.

(paraphrased somewhat)

My first email to support:

MatLab is telling me the licence is about to expire, do I need to do anything about this?

Support's Reply:

Here are the MatLab installation instructions (Cut and Paste from support web page).

If you need further assistance please supply version number.

My Reply:

I'm using this version installed following your instructions.

Support's Reply:

We no longer sell MatLab, you'll have to download from MathWorks. Please see our web page with instructions (linked).

My Reply:

Does this mean you are not renewing the licence that is about to expire?

Support's Reply:

We maintain a site licence, but individual users must download the software from MathWorks. Please follow these instructions (cut and paste from some other web page).

I uninstall and reinstall MatLab, with some trepidation since I'm suspicious of such activities. I'm still dubious about how this relates to the licence expiry, since all the instructions say to use the same licence key as the one I had originally. However, DRM is not always particularly sensible and it's always possible this is a necessary step. All works smoothly, luckily, otherwise I would probably be weeping and cursing at my machine right now.

My Reply to Support:

I have just uninstalled and reinstalled MatLab following your instructions. It still says the license is about to expire. I repeat, do I need to do anything about this?

Support's Reply:

Please use licence code supplied in installation instructions. (AAARRRgh! What licence code do they think I've been using???).

If you get an expiry warning message, then check back nearer the time.

Grrarh!!! Couldn't they have said "check back nearer the time" before I had to mess about uninstalling and reinstalling software? I mean, how ambiguous was my first message exactly?

By the third email I was getting the local support guy in our building to check out the situation and read over the emails, so that I knew I hadn't missed out some vital piece of information, or failed to understand the responses I was getting. So I don't think I was being that obscure in how I framed my request.

Upside: I do now have a more recent version of MatLab installed, which is probably a good thing on some level.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/12514.html.
bunn: Smaugbunn on July 21st, 2010 03:33 pm (UTC)
The difference between a program reacting to keywords, and a first line support person following a script is becoming disturbingly minimal.

I have definitely dealt with support operators that seemed like they would not pass the Turing test. I assume they turn their humanity off while they are at work. :-(
louisedennislouisedennis on July 21st, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
I had one who could only communicate in obscure UNIX shell script but at least he generally made sense once you translated the message, although I have no idea how anyone without a decade of experience with UNIX managed to understand any of his advice or instructions.

I was torn this time between thinking I'd missed some "well, duh!, install!" aspect of the whole situation or just that the support person saw the word MatLab and went into cut-and-paste mode because I didn't like to assume (s)he was combining stupid with condescending in quite the way my instincts said their were. I think my first instincts were correct and my second message really should have been "there isn't a problem with the installation" which I considered and rejected on the grounds that I wasn't 100% sure about that, and they were support.