February 17, 2009

Verizon Customer Service EPIC FAIL

Back in October I heard about Verizon's "all in one" plan that includes cell phones, Fios TV, Fios internet and a Fios land line all on the same bill for a discounted rate. Awesome right? I thought so too and that my friends is where my saga begins (cue star wars them song) . . .


Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
As a part of the "all in 1" deal was a land line. I haven't had a land line in almost 5 years since for the most part, I used my cell phone exclusively without too many overages. However, because I was doing more and more consulting work and speaking with customers all over the US I started going over my minutes. I looked at vonage and a few other options but the land line would essentially be free if I got the "all in one" package so it seemed like a no brainer. . .

I got my order setup, got a new lower monthly rates rocking all the movie channels and got a date scheduled for a tech to come out to setup my land line. Before hanging up, the Verizon customer service representative asked me a question that I will never forget "is there anything else I can help you with" (cue empire battle ship) and like a fool I said "my Verizon cable box crapped out on me a couple weeks ago, can I get it replaced." "Not a problem sir, I'll put the request in now", they replied after running a few diagnostic test.

Fast Forward to 3 weeks later and my Verizon tech (who I scheduled 3 weeks prior and even got a confirmation call the night before) was a no show. After waiting 2 more hours, I then decided to call Verizon.

Verizon has no clue what the deal is. They go back and forth, putting me on hold and looking at my account, etc etc, and after about 2 hours finally figured out the problem.

Apparently, when I made a request for the replacement cable box, it locked up my new service order request because service order request take 48 hours to process where as replacement orders happen immediately. Verizon's system does not allow more then 1 order to go through at a time until all previous orders have been fulfilled so they where waiting for me to send back my cable box to complete the order. However, I never received the shipping information because my previous account was technically canceled and was being reprocessed under a new account that could not be completed because of my pending service order.

The Verizon rep then told me that they had an idea and I was put on hold for another 45 mins. The rep got back on the phone and told me everything should be resolved in the next couple days and scheduled a new appointment to get my land line installed. A few days later, a tech showed up and I was the proud new owner of a land line. . .

A few days go by and I have a 10am meeting that was going to run 2 hours so decided to dial in with my land line. But when I turned the phone on I didn't hear a dial tone. Tried a few more times and no dice. It worked a few days ago so thought that it must me something wrong with my phone so later that day went to Best Buy to pick up a new one. Got home and plugged it in to charge.

A couple hours later the phone rang. SCHWEET! The phone works problem solved! Answered it, wrong number, no biggie. Few minutes later phone rang again, another wrong number. Still didn't think much about it, then got like 5 more calls that day all asking for the same person. Still didn't think much about it, after all, I just got this number and I may have gotten someone else's old number. Just to verify I called myself and low and behold someone else answered! Now I'm thinking I probably wrote the number down wrong so I better call Verizon to get the right one. . .

Verizon rep answers, I tell them the situation and they say "no problem just let me look up your number", they punch in my telephone number and pull up someone else's information not mine. "Sir it looks like your number got assigned to someone else. I need to look up your account by address" They punch it in. rep: "Sir did you just move" me:"Nope been here for 3 years" rep:"Sir did anyone else live in your house prior" me:"Nope brand new house". . . Turns out they have someone else's info setup with MY address but with different services. NICE!

3 hours later and everything is resolved . . . again. The only fix is that I get assigned a new number and am told it should be working in the next couple hours. 8 hours go by and I still don't have a dial tone. . .

Call up Verizon. . . again . . . and this time was transferred to a tech. Teir 1, 2 then 3. After an hour of getting bounced around they determined that my phone line is "crossed" and requires a technician to come out . . . again . . . to resolve which will take 3 weeks. Not much I can do, so I agree and wait.

3 weeks later a tech comes up and tells me it shouldn't take more then 20 mins. . . 3 hours later and he's still not sure what the problem is and has been on the phone with someone from HQ to resolve. After jumping through some hoops they finally figure out what it was and someone on on the other end of his phone pushed some magic button and it all worked!

But WAIT! There's more. . .


Episode 2: Attack of the Clones
A month has gone by after my phone line incident and I've all but forgotten about the ordeal when all of a sudden everything is turned off: cell phones, land line, internet and TV. When I logged into the browser I'm prompted with a "There is a problem with you account please call Verizon" but with everything turned off I had to go next door to use my neighbors phone to call them.

I call up Verizon, explain to them the situation 3 times to 3 different reps in 3 different departments because each department shows my account as being in good standing. So I lose another 2 hours of department hoping and repeating myself trying to get this resolved.

I finally get transferred to someone who is able to do some digging and finds that for some reason I have duplicate accounts, 1 active 1 delinquent. I hear a great deal of mumbling and confusion and then am placed on hold for an hour while they figure it out.

The rep assures me that it is a problem with Verizon's system and says my tv will be back on shortly and the internet will be up by Monday. Sweet! I spent 5 hours on the phone with Verizon and the problem won't be resolved until Monday. . . Off to starbucks I go.


Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
Another month goes by and everything seems to be buttery smooth but then my phone rings. . . I get an automated response: "There is a problem with your account please call us back so there is not a disruption in your service". Which is just a nice way of them saying your bill isn't paid and we are going to cut you off if you don't pay us.

I call Verizon back at the number they told me to use and get sent from department to department. . .again. After about 2 hours I finally get to the right department and we proceed with the same conversation / procedures for determining the exact same problem I had a month prior. Confusion and bewilderment ensues on Verizon's side and I'm told everything is resolved once again after another 2 hours.


Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
Another month goes by and everything seems to be buttery smooth but then my phone rings. . . I get an automated response: "There is a problem with your account please call us back so there is not a disruption in your service". Which is just a nice way of them saying your bill isn't paid and we are going to cut you off if you don't pay us.

I call Verizon back at the number they told me to use and get sent from department to department. . .again. After about 2 hours I finally get to the right department and we proceed with the same conversation / procedures for determining the exact same problem I had a month prior. Confusion and bewilderment ensues on Verizon's side and I'm told everything is resolved once again after another 2 hours.


WAIT WAIT WAIT
Erik, you bone head!: you repeated Episode 3. Sadly no. I didn't. Verizon did. . . 3 times now.

Episode 3 has repeated now every month since December with no end in sight. The rep tells me they are really confused, my accounts are in the process of being merged but can't be merged and that I have multiple bills that are consolidated but are all separate and every month my services get shut off for a few hours and I have to spend 2-3 hours on the phone going over the same story again and again every month to have the exact same phone call I get every month.

I've asked to speak to someone higher up and keep getting transferred to the same people who want to help and do mean well but are unable to. It seems like they are powerless over what is happening and there seems to be a total lack of accountability on Verizon's part as they have tried to send me to collections for the duplicate bills and has failed to resolve the issue 4 months in a row.

At this point I'd love to change providers but honestly nothing can really compete with FIOS that I have seen offered in my area. However, I keep wasting time and losing money with Verizon's incompetence.

For those who don't know, I am a consultant and as such bill hourly. For every hour I can't bill because I'm on the phone with Verizon trying to fix a problems they have with my account in their system, is money I'm out of pocket on.

To date, I've spent over 25 hours on the matter and am strongly considering sending them an invoice for the income I've lost.

-erik

Posted by erikbianchi at 11:14 PM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2009

[Flex Tips] Importing MXML into ActionScript and Vice Versa

I get this question a lot from Flash peps first coming into Flex so figured I should make this my first real tip.

At compile time, MXML files actually get converted to ActionScript so the only real difference between ActionScript and MXML is the syntax. Under the hood, it’s all the same.

To import just rock the import statement like you would for any other class:

import package.ClassName;

For example: Say you have an MXML file: com.foo.FooBar.mxml; your import statement would look like:

import com.foo.FooBar;

Similarly, to import a class or another MXML file into an MXML file you would use the xmlns parameter:

<mx:RootNode xmlns:namespace="package">

Using the FooBar example:

<mx:Application
xmlns:mx=http://www.adobe.com/2006/mxml
xmlns:fb="com.foo.*">

From there on out, you can reference your FooBar class or any other file inside the com.foo package (MXML or AS) by typing in the namespace you created in the xmlns parameter

<fb:FooBar>

Something to watch out for (and still bites me in the rear on occasion) is to make sure you import using the wildcard (.*) at the end of package in the MXML file.

More to come!

-erik

Posted by erikbianchi at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2009

[Flex Tips] Flex Tips Introduction

Since I'm the kind of guy who needs structure and a reason to blog I've decided to create a new series of articles on my site akin to my Flash Quirks post: Flex Tips.

Flex Tips will be a place for me to store lessons learned and serve as a jump start to Flash Developers making the transition into Flex as I did but will hopefully help some of you native Flex dudes too.

I've got a number of different topics planned and will be sending out my first batch of tips in the coming days.

Also, for those who missed my original post, I'm back in the Flash / Flex consulting game and taking on new projects. To check out my previous "whats happening post" follow this link: http://www.erikbianchi.com/archives/2009/01/index.html

-erik

Posted by erikbianchi at 06:53 AM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2009

Back in the Consulting Game

Been meaning to post for a while but after almost 3 years of being a partner in my own funded company I’m back in the consulting game and taking on new Flash / Flex / As2 / As3 projects / jobs.

First on my task list (when I’m not working which right now is ALWAYS) I need to get my blog fully working again and slap on a new coat of paint. Then I’m going to start updating more often since I’ve gotten a majority of past projects via my blog and got to connect with some really fun, smart and interesting folks in the community.

As a quick update over the past 3 months I’ve had the honor of getting to work on some really cutting edge and useful business applications such as an AS3 Flash based Massive Multiplayer Role Playing Game, an AS3/ Flex Based Project Management Tool, an AS2 based Children’s Learning Software and an AS3 / Flex based accounting tool just to name a few.

I also may or may not have gotten to work on a SUPER top secret prototype mobile device application that may or may not exist. I'd share more details but had my brain whipped clean as soon as it completed.

Currently, I’m working with the super smart people over at Esria. They got some really amazing dudes over there and they are keeping me pretty busy. However, for project / consulting inquiries feel free to email me directly. At the least I can point you in the right direction and get you in touch with some talented folks. =)

In the meantime I’ve jumped on the twitter bandwagon and update pretty frequently if you’d like to connect on their just look me up.

-erik

Posted by erikbianchi at 10:28 AM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2008

AJAX running on borrowed time

Let’s face it, web applications “RIAs” are the future with the web being the next big development/distribution platform. Right now we have Adobe pushing Flash, Sun with Java and Microsoft has the Windows Presentation Foundation (which encompasses Silverlight). All 3 companies are putting tremendous time, money, energy and effort into evolving their products / platforms and wooing new developers.

But what about AJAX?
First, AJAX doesn’t have a company backing them. No marketing department, no development team, no revenue streams and no dungeon of ravenous lawyers protecting their legal best interest (the lawyer remark is just a joke, please don’t sue me).

Sure there are companies making AJAX tools but they can only go so far if the underlying core language doesn’t change nor do they have much recourse.

Secondly, AJAX applications are primarily made with DHTML and JavaScript. JavaScript being a language that is governed by ECMA an international organizations with various members from Adobe, Google, Mozilla, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc who approves or rejects changes to a language specification. To some, this sounds like a good thing, however, JavaScript has remained virtually unchanged for over a decade now and with ECMA’s recent announcement, about dropping the ECMAScript 4 proposal, JavaScript will continue to remain essentially the same for at least another 5 years.

This is unfortunate news for AJAX developers as web applications are only getting more complex and DHTML/JavaScript was NOT designed to build web applications. What AJAX developers have been able to accomplish so far is only a testament to the creativity and ingenuity of the AJAX development community and whose efforts should be applauded. However, 5 years from now, a 15 year old technology is going to really show its age without any major overhauls or innovations planned. AJAX either needs to evolve as other technologies have or it faces extinction.

Outlook
Companies like Adobe, Java and Microsoft are directly catering to developers and companies alike to encourage them to continue to use their products and appeal to new developers by making their jobs easier, providing more useful tools and more advanced functionality.

Flash, for example, has evolved tremendously over the past 10 years. Originally ActionScript resembled BASIC (tellTarget oh the memories), then moved onto to something that looked a lot like JavaScript with support for prototype objects, functions and sockets, realtime audio/video streaming, then a few years later ActionScript again evolved into AS2 introducing classes, interfaces, sealed components, access modifies, web cam support, etc, now ActionScript 3 has become a full fledged Object Oriented event driven programming language with JIT compilation, run time error checking, a Regular Expression engine and E4Xs support (and I’m only mentioning a small subset of the innovations).

So what does the next 5 years hold for AJAX developers according to ECMA 3.1 (that won’t even be finalized until sometime next year)?

It comprises mostly of minor changes and bug fixes to ECMAScript 3.

In contrast, what does the next few months look like for Flash Developers?

Flash Player 10, hardware acceleration, real-time 3d support, built in inverse kinematics engine, custom filters and effect engine, application-level audio mixing and filtering.

EcmaScript 4 missed opportunity
EcmaSript 4 was designed with web applications in mind, was the natural progression of JavaScript and was the basis of ActionScript 3. It really played a vital role in maturing Flash’s programming language securing the Flash Platform as a viable web application technology for another 5-10 years.. Had EcmaScript 4 be approved, it would have given AJAX developers a real application programming language to use, modernizing JavaScript, while enhancing pure AJAX developers skill set.

So why then would ECMA drop proposal 4 stagnating the language for AT LEAST another 5 years?

What many have speculated, the few in know are eluding to and what the Ecma meeting notes seem to infer is that Microsoft had a lot of influence over this decision but what could be the underlying strategy for doing so?

One less Competitor
Microsoft is really focusing on WPF/Silverlight applications with AJAX being a FREE competing product. If Microsoft spent time on making the browser a web application platform it would be counter intuitive to their efforts on Silverlight. They would essentially be competing against themselves diluting their own RIA market share and as well as splitting their internal resources.

Sun and Adobe aren’t going away anytime soon and both have proven technologies with their individual strengths and weaknesses. Microsoft couldn’t just lock them out of the OS or browser without facing a barrage of legal action so Microsoft has to compete. But then who is ensuring AJAX’s survival? Not Microsoft. Probably not Adobe or Sun either and one less competing technology isn’t going to hurt anyone.

Don’t get me wrong, Adobe had good reasons to back EcmaScript Proposal 4. It was the standard ActionScript 3 was based off of. Had the ECMA committee approved Proposal 4, it would had given Flash and even broader developer audience making it all the more approachable (an observation I highly doubt Microsoft overlooked). So while many at first saw the ECMA announcement as bad news for ActionScript; it really doesn’t prevent Adobe from innovating and evolving ActionScript further. Sadly, the same can’t be said for AJAX.

AJAX’s Achilles Heel
You can argue that AJAX isn’t going away anytime soon, but with ECMA’s recent announcement, could mean AJAX is facing deprecation / extinction as the new era of web application development rapidly approaches.

Besides preventing JavaScript from becoming a true web application language, what, worse case scenario, could Microsoft do to deal what could be the final blow to AJAX? Going after AJAX’s Achilles Heel: XMLHttpRequest.

XMLHttpRequest is the primary form of communication AJAX applications use to transmit real time data. HOWEVER, it is NOT an AJAX/DHTML/JavaScript standard.. NOPE! It is a Microsoft Internet Explorer API and there is nothing stopping the most used internet browser in the world from disabling it in future releases and then using that opportunity to promote their own web application platform.

Even if all that Microsoft was able to accomplish was: preventing JavaScript from maturing into a web application programming language, then that that alone may be enough to seal AJAX’s fate. As time goes on, developers will need to go with more advanced technologies to be able to provide the solutions / features that their clients / customers demand.

Without any company backing AJAX or pushing the underlying technologies forward, AJAX applications are on borrowed time until it dies out from either lack of evolution / progress or gets executed while everyone is looking in another direction.

Something to consider anyways . . .

-erik

Posted by erikbianchi at 06:34 AM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2008

New FREE Multiplayer API for Flash Developers

Wow talk about cool. The dudes over at http://nonoba.com just released a free multi player API for Flash developers!

"The API supports the full range of multiplayer games, from simple turn based games to more complicated real-time games. To show these capabilities, we have released a new, and in our opinion, awesome game called Nonoba Racer. We have also ported some of our old creations to act as examples in the SDK, such as Fridge Magnets, Multiplayer Asteroids and DrawPad.

We want to make all the things that are currently hard for flash game developers dead easy. Our hosted Multiplayer API is the first big step in that direction. We've got more APIs in mind to fix the rest of the stuff that we think is currently too hard."

To sign up: http://nonoba.com/developers/multiplayerapi/signup

For more info: http://nonoba.com/developers/multiplayerapi/overview

Posted by erikbianchi at 09:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2008

[OFF TOPIC] My Daughter is no Joke!

Whoops! Thanks to some peps from Flashmagazine I found out my previous link to my daughter's pictures where going to a joke of the day web site.

Here is her real link:

http://www.flickr.com/giadabianchi

-erik

Posted by erikbianchi at 09:51 PM | Comments (0)