Friday, October 9, 2009


I have been distracted in the past couple of months with the frustrations that using newish technologies elicit. The biggest frustration is having to tell your pathetic Luddite story to one call centre technician after another in Bangalore, or Delhi or Manila; being tossed from one to another, like human remains between tiger sharks. I know I need to calm down, take some long slow breaths, do a downward dog or an ardha chandrasana, but that's not what I do. Never one to take good advice, especially from myself, I get irritated, then angry, then sleepless.

At the beginning of September, I bought Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 for the Mac. I'd watched video podcasts on the amazing effects one can produce with the software and I lusted after it. I found a good price from a place in Sydney. With the student/teacher discount the price was just under $100. (The Mac Shop sold the same item for $196! Unbelievable! How can they justify a 100% markup? )

So elated with the new toy, I sashayed home, loaded the software and, well, not very much really. I played and played and watched many video podcasts, and over a month of playing I worked out how to use some of it. The problem with the software was that the help screens were not helpful. They are factual in a kind of Wikipedia way; they describe what the program can do--they don't tell you how to do it. What I needed was an Ikea kind of manual.

There are a great multitude of people and companies who will happily sell you courses to teach you Photoshop Elements; however, the courses cost more than the software. The free video podcasts on iTunes were very informative, though. The more I learned the curiouser I became. I was able to follow and carry out some of the transformations guided by the beginner podcasts and began creating funny (to me) composite photos starring friends and family.

But there was something curious: the Elements screen I saw on the podcast videos was not exactly the screen I saw on my computer when I opened the program. These podcast people had lots of fascinating little thumbnail icons on the right of their screen under the rubric "Effects": shadows, boxes, colour swatches, patterns--all the fascination of a treasure trove of possibilities. I, on the other hand, was only able to see a rather depressing grey rectangle, and, when I moved my cursor to the area, a black circle with a diagonal line through it, denoting something is illegal.

I found an on-line bulletin board and asked my question: Where are my "effects" and got very timely answers. (Someone was out there to hear me scream.) I searched my hard drive and found a funny little file which I chucked in the trash, following instructions, but I still couldn't see the "effects". I uninstalled and reinstalled the program a couple of times, but still no luck.

There was nothing for it: I would have to go to that place where we all would rather not--I would have to call the service desk in India.

Now, perhaps I am overstating the case, here. There may be people who are unperturbed at the prospect of waiting on the line, being misdirected, waiting on the line again, and repeating their symptoms to two or three or four people, all of whom seem to have learned the lesson about apologising and wishing clients a good day, but generally lack some other vital skills: notably a knowledge of the product and comprehensible pronunciation: specifically, intonation.

However, this time I did finally speak to a helpful technician, Kanal, who stayed with me, talking me through a series of procedures for an hour and, voila, I could now see all the missing bits of my program. Seems I had to log on as an administrator to access the "effects". Why, I have no idea; never encountered a program before that had bits only accessible to administrators. So I logged on as an administrator. The next problem was, I couldn't access my "Pictures" folder with my photos on it, which is saved among the Elements folders, if I logged on as an administrator. So . . . I changed my log-on details so that both the username and the admin name have the same rights and thought myself very clever indeed.

This problem was relatively short-lived; it took just a couple of weeks to solve. However, I am still grappling with another problem involving regular phone calls to India, which has been festering for SIX MONTHS!

In April I was contacted on the land-line by an Indian guy calling himself Nates, who provided me with his Optus (an Australian--actually Singaporean, I believe--Telco) employee number: CP405549. He asked me if I would like a whizz-bang new mobile. I was not interested, actually. Came to mobile phones very late and I was happy with my bottom-of-the-range machine: no camera, no graphics, no access to email or the internet. I just used it to make phone calls to keep in touch with my son or to tell the office if I was stuck in a traffic jam on my way to work. So that bit did not fill me with lust. However, I had been unhappy with my bandwidth allowance and knew people who had a much bigger allowance for less outlay with the same company. So I told Nates that, and he promised me a deal which included more gigabytes of bandwidth (10 as opposed to my 6) and this new mobile set, which would arrive in a couple of days. I would not have to do anything, according to Nates--Optus would do everything: turn on the mobile at a prearranged time and institute the new bandwidth allowance at the beginning of the next calendar month.

Well, at the beginning of May Optus did not supply me with the promised 10 gigabytes of internet access. They supplied me with 7 gigabytes. Even though I did complain on the 1st of May, you have to tell them BEFORE the beginning of the month if you want your allowance changed the next month. Catch 22 is that you don't know what your allowance will be until you access your account on the first day of the new month. So, I had to wait another month for the promised increased bandwidth allowance.

The mobile phone, though, arrived a couple of days after Nates' phone call, as promised. I opened the package and inside was a warning that if you opened it, you could not change your mind and send the phone back in the 10-day cooling-off period. Tricky that, putting those instructions inside the package, instead of outside. OK, though, I played with the machine and waited for Optus to port my mobile number, as they said they would do. A few days later, I was still not able to make calls from the new phone. OK, I thought, doesn't worry me. I'm happy with the old phone. As long as they don't start charging me for phone calls, I'm sweet. I'll just put the phone into a drawer & forget about it. Which I did, until a month ago.

In September I got a letter from Optus giving me a deadline to ring them at a Melbourne phone number and explain why I hadn't got the phone turned on. I rang and explained about Nates and his assurance that I would not have to do anything. I quoted the information inside the telephone package which said the same thing: the number will be automatically ported in a couple of days. Carry the two phones on the agreed porting day.

Andrew in the Melbourne Optus office said they'd have to get me to agree, over the phone, again, to have the number ported from my old Telco, Virgin, to Optus. He said he'd ring me back when that was organised. When he got back to me, he appeared to have forgotten what he'd just said and talked about my sending back the phone. I said I'd opened it, but if he wanted me to do that I would. He said they wouldn't accept it because I'd opened it, but I would have to pay for it now: $300. I said that if they sent me a letter demanding $300 I would close all my accounts with Optus & choose another Telco. He said I was free to do that.

I waited for the letter. It didn't come. What did come was a text message, on my old phone, saying that the number would be ported in the next couple of days. Nothing happened. I got back to Optus. Someone played a tape to which I responded by agreeing again to have my mobile number ported to the new phone. That was about a month ago. Nothing much happened for all that time, except I spoke to Delhi four or five times asking them when the number would be ported. I insisted on speaking to the call centre worker's supervisor, Brian, a couple of times. But the problem with the call centre is that they don't do the work, they just take messages. No-one will give you a direct number to the people who do the work.

The most recent change in my situation is that since Monday this week, my number has been partially turned off from my old phone. As I said earlier, this is now six months after Nates' original phone call. Now, if someone calls that number, they get a message that it has been disconnected. Very useful for staying in contact with my son, work and my friends. I can still, however, make calls using that number from my old mobile set, but not from the new one.




Please watch the dead parrot sketch for a more informed understanding of the way I feel. I am John Cleese trying to get it through the thick head of a mall full of Scandinavian Blue salesmen that their birds are deceased.

Oh, and don't try to call me. My number has been disconnected. I'll call you.

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