I’ve spent my time in the tech support trenches…and someone else’s time as well. Please mark my dues paid in full. I’ve worked from the script-reader doing basic trouble-shooting, up to floor supervisor and level three support. My point? Not everybody who works support at a call center is an idiot, but some certainly are…
Since 2005, I have helped financially-disadvantaged kids get computers in their homes. While it’s become a cliché in the past few years, the “digital divide” most certainly exists. Since our early days of Komputers4Kids, The HeliOS Project and now Reglue, the gap between the tech haves and have-nots remains a problem.
Way more than many of us would think.
With that being established, I want to take a walk down memory lane…to let’s say 2005.
Back then, getting a Linux computer bolted-up to broadband internet was straight forward. Even nine years ago, the biggest challenge to getting Time Warner or eternal-hell-and-damnation Comcast routers online might have been to reboot the router.
Maybe. The majority of the time, not even that.
So imagine my surprise when I wasn’t able to get one of our established Reglue kids online. The oldest boy, Rex, had been using his Reglue computer for four years and it was time for an upgrade. I was working with a brand new Time Warner modem and wireless router, out of the box. I even went back in and made sure I was accessing the modem properly. I was. This task shouldn’t have taken ten minutes and I was now on minute thirty.
With a sigh of resignation. I got myself into the support call queue and waited about ten minutes for my turn. Finally, “Bradley” informed me that he was pleased to help me and would I be good enough to tell him the nature of my problem. Just a tad grumpy from his enthusiasm, I ‘splained what was going on.
And yeah, I almost mouthed the words perfectly with him.
“Let’s turn off the computer and both modem and router, then reboot or power them on in opposite order.”
As I was reaching over the modem to unplug the wireless router, my hand came to rest on the top of the router. I pulled by hand back quickly. It was burning hot.
I told Bradley that I might have found our problem and told him that I would have the family return the router the next day for exchange.
“Sir,” he challenged, “high speed devices are always going to be warm to the touch. We are going to need to ping from the command prompt, but that’s not as scary as it sounds. Which version of Windows or Mac are we using?”
“Bradley,” I answered, “we are using Linux and I’ve already tried ping and other network commands. There is nothing wrong with the network. The frigging router is hot enough to make pancakes.”
I don’t think it took him two seconds to grab the strongest last straw in his playbook.
“Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t support Linux.”
It wasn’t an apology. It wasn’t a lead-in to attempt another way to solve the problem. It was a definitive statement to end our conversation. I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit.
“Bradley, this household has been connected to Time Warner with a Linux computer for over four years. Are you telling me that Time Warner has recently dropped support for Linux? That has to be the case, because a Linux computer has been working beautifully on your system up until now.”
He was stumped. I could imagine him scrolling madly through the help pages in his script, trying to make sense of what was going on. But me being me, I let him off the hook.
“Bradley, connect me to your quality control or equipment management agent. I need to get a ticket number so I can bring in this malfunctioning router.”
With what was obviously a sense of relief, he thanked me for using Time Warner and transferred the call, which promptly disconnected me completely. I took the router backto Round Rock the next day and within an hour I had my kid’s computer up and running.
I do, though, want to sidle up next to a level two or three Time Warner tech and see what the deal is with “we don’t support Linux.” Your server backbone is on Linux…at least in part.
It’s the 21st century. Time Warner might want to start acting like it. But it could always be worse…we could have Comcast as our provider.
Ken Starks is the founder of the Helios Project and Reglue, which for 20 years provided refurbished older computers running Linux to disadvantaged school kids, as well as providing digital help for senior citizens, in the Austin, Texas area. He was a columnist for FOSS Force from 2013-2016, and remains part of our family. Follow him on Twitter: @Reglue