I’m Going to Become a Windows Mobile “Hater”

I’ve decided that I”m going to become a Windows Mobile “Hater”. That will probably seem unreasonable and illogical to many, but so be it.

That does not mean I am going to become a Microsoft “Hater”. I won’t become a mobile device “hater". I won’t become a Windows “Hater”. My “hating” is going to be specifically directed at Windows Mobile. That includes Microsoft’s Windows Mobile team, their “partners”, and the telcos, at least in regards to Windows Mobile.

I am going to become overly critical of the platform to the point where I do NOT recommend it. If you’re considering a Windows Mobile device, please, to preserve your sanity, don’t get one. Get a BlackBerry or an iPhone instead, or just get a plain old dumbphone.

I’ve had several Windows Mobile devices over the years. I’m tired of the same annoyances and performance issues that are common to every device I’ve had. Here is my device history:

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University of Phoenix Switches to Gmail

I logged onto my page on the University of Phoenix’s website yesterday to see what the commencement information is for this year. As I was poking around, I decided to log into my webmail account so see if anything has happened since last October. I found two emails regarding the University of Phoenix switching student email accounts to gmail. Wow, new students are blessed. I had to deal with an 8 MB account limit over IMAP. I had such a horrible experience that I thought for a while that IMAP was an older technology.

 

For some reason, most of my traffic on this blog is from people looking for UOP email account settings. Of course, they don’t stick around and leave comments to make me feel better (or worse) about the time I’ve spent putting more than 240 posts on this blog over 3 years. Ya’ll can stop searching now, as gmail’s help can provide all of the information you need.

 

I’m not sure what they’re using for newsgroups, but searches to my blog can trail off. Gmail can help you.

 

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I Just Completed The Biggest Challenge of My Life

This morning I was able to check off one of the longest running tasks on my task list. It was listed in Microsoft Outlook and Pocket Informant as "Complete BSIT from UOP." I actually finished my final class on October 11, but I had been waiting for two credits from the "Here’s To Your Health DANTES" test to register. They finally did, and I filled out my diploma application. I decided that I can now check the task off of my list even though it could be a few weeks before my degree actually comes in the mail. Over the two years that I have been working on my degree, that task has served as an anchor. For a while when I was using My Life Organized heavily, it was the top of a project tree involving several classes and sub-projects for those classes. At other times, I sat alone in my Outlook task list as a reminder of an open project. Now it is finally finished.

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Forget Everything You Learned In School?

For those of you who went to college directly after high school, how many of you graduated and got your first job only to hear the words "Forget everything they taught you in college"? To be honest, hearing that would tick me off immensely. After working very hard for more than two years and racking up somewhere near $25-30k in student loans, I would not be happy to hear that the entire time was mostly a waste and the concepts I just spent time and money learning are only theoretical and won’t do me any good in the "real world".

The University of Phoenix is far from perfect, but one thing I do like about the school is that instructors are required to have a minimum of a Master’s degree and must be leaders in their fields. I spent my entire time in the FlexNet program, in which a student attends the first and last class session at the campus and the weeks in between are conducted online through a newsgroup. I’m currently taking my final class onground at the Buck’s County campus. I’m finding that the on ground program is much more demanding than FlexNet. I don’t mean demanding academically, but more demanding on time. Since I go to class directly from work, I stay at work until time to leave. That means putting in more than a ten hour day at work, then driving to Buck’s County, PA for four hours, then get home around 11 PM when I normally leave the house at 6 AM.

Because instructors must be highly educated and experienced, I’ve had some really good people to learn from. One instructor had risen all the way to Vice President at a telecommunications company. Another instructor was an IT manager in a very large corporation. My current instructor is a microbiologist who has had a highly successful business career.

The material that I’ve learned in my classes is much more than theoretical. I truly have learned material to help me in my current job and to give me perspective on how we conduct business. I was hired into my current job after providing onsite support to engineers for development testing of the very large scale program that I work on. (I purposely leave my employer and industry vague when I have to mention work on this blog.) One of my responsibilities in this position is to represent our customer during a hardware acceptance test. I act as an observer and sign off after analyzing data with my counterpart in another organization. I then produce a report. When I first started in this position, I was trained as an observer on the last shipment of the previous platform. Because this was an established platform, the hardware acceptance test took about 40 minutes to complete and sign off. We had a few "glitches" to adjudicate, but for the most part the test went off without a hitch. After that, the platform changed. The hardware changed, and the program had to change to accommodate the hardware and newer features. The next three acceptance tests I observed took more than five hours to complete. Talk about being late for lunch! Because of my background in developmental testing support, I murmured that the program was bad and needs a lot more work however; officially I did my duties with the sign-off and report.

After beginning the IT program at the University of Phoenix, I learned about concepts such as the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC). To be honest, I had not up to that point differentiated between hardware and software testing. I assumed that the software did not work therefore the entire system had a problem (part of the reason for Microsoft’s reputation smile_teeth) . That was not so. Because the platform changed, the hardware had done its job but the program had not been developed enough yet to be mature. I talked with some members of my organization and learned that indeed, the software being used to certify the hardware was only guaranteed for that test. Because this is such a large program, the hardware is shipped first and the software is installed later.

I now have a new appreciation for the hardware acceptance test that I observe. I got a chance last year to assist the engineers who conducted the development testing, and that was a lot of fun and very interesting. I learned a lot from that experience and now having worked both hardware and software testing I have a new appreciation for how programs like this (large scale programs) go together. I tried to get a position in the development test group, but at the time it fell through. I’m needed in my position, and while development test would have appreciated my help, nobody would provide funding for me to have an extra computer to keep in that office, and I could not get VPN access to the network that they have to use.

I am pleased at least in this regard with the University of Phoenix: I will not be told "forget everything you learned in school."

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IT Needs A Backup

Even though I’m about to get an IT degree, and I have a lot of IT experience and knowledge, and a lot of my friends work in IT, I don’t actually work in a straight IT capacity. I’m more of an engineer working on a testing program. I know enough about IT to be at least a little bit critical of other people’s work when the situation warrants it.

I was talking to some people recently about the IT field. I can’t say that IT in many organizations has a stellar reputation, and in some cases I would say it is deserved. If you’ve ever read (or been) the Bastard Operator From Hell, you might understand what I’m talking about. What I told the people I was talking to that day is that IT is a very strange paradox. IT is a highly service oriented field, but the qualities that might make a person good at IT also tend to make them less personable. Most IT training centers around the technical and so the service aspects are often left out. I do notice that a lot of IT departments don’t provide a lot of user training, and most users aren’t interested in that training. If anything, the goal seems to be to lock the user down so that the helpdesk has to be called to change the wallpaper on a user’s workstation.

What really gets me though is when IT departments seem to go out of the way to appear incompetent and lazy. Last night I had class at the University of Phoenix’s Bucks County campus. UOP does provide wireless Internet access, as they should when the textbooks are all online. Why shouldn’t you be able to get to your textbooks WHILE YOU ARE AT SCHOOL? Last night, I was able to connect to the access point but there was no further connection to the Internet. My instructor was having the same problem. We also noticed that the projector was projecting "Please clean filter" onto the bottom of the lecture Power Point presentation, cutting off some of the text at the bottom. When the school’s employee came in to pick up the attendance sheet, we decided to ask her about these problems. As for the "Please clean filter", she said that IT told her it’s supposed to do that. Seriously, they said that? Talk about lazy. Just clean the damn filter, turn off the warning, or return the projector and get one that works. Doesn’t anybody do research before they purchase equipment?

As for the Internet issue: "Oh, our IT guy is on vacation." So, what? I’m paying $1400 a class, and I should be able to get to the textbooks while I’m actually at the campus, shouldn’t I? They do have another IT guy, but he doesn’t know where the router is. Son of a motherless goat! How stupid and incompetent can this department be? We’re talking about an organization (UOP) that supposedly trains professionals. Don’t they hire any? Of course, if the IT guy who was not on vacation actually knew where the router was, he could probably fix the problem in a few second by resetting the router, which is one of the most common reasons why a wireless access point would allow connections in but not back out.

I know there are a lot of problems in modern companies regarding the IT department. They’re often overworked and under appreciated and at war with their users. I’ve worked support jobs before, and it’s hard when every single phone call starts off with somebody yelling that somehow you did something to cause their problem before you even know what the problem is. It’s very, very hard not to go to war with your users under those circumstances. We have to avoid it though. We have to face the fact that IT is service oriented. We have to provide some training to the users whether they want it or not, and we have to make sure that somebody else knows how to reset the router when we go on vacation.

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What Is Your Opinion of Customer Service in This Country Today?

After two years in the University of Phoneix’s FlexNet program, I am now in my final class. Although I have finished the Interdisciplinary Capstone class for the bachelor’s program, I have a critical thinking class to make up which I am taking right now. I have to take this class on ground, which means each week I have to drive the the University of Phoenix’s Bucks County campus from 6:00 to 10:00 PM each Thursday. For the most part, other than being exhausted and of course having a hard time getting up at 5 AM on Friday after getting in so late, I’m enjoying the class. My instructor has run many businesses and has worked as a business consultant and has a lot of background to share with us in the class.

Last night, he asked us a question pertaining to the subject material of identifying problems. He asked "What do you think of customer service in this country today?" I could have gone on all week. Let’s see what I think of customer service off the top of my head:

  • For one thing, I’m not very happy with customer service at the University of Phoenix. The classes are great, but you’re on your own if you need to speak to an academic or financial counselor. If you call, you had better get a live person on the phone and you had better resolve the issue within a phone call. Nobody will return a message and in my experience, nobody will call you back "after I look into it". I have lost thousands of dollars in GI Bill benefits because they won’t report my attendance correctly to the Veteran’s Administration, and they have reported to Citibank that I have completed my classes and am now in that six month window to start repaying student loans EVEN THOUGH I AM CURRENTLY ENROLLED! You also cannot expect a consistent level of service from each counselor you talk to. I’ve had some jump over backwards to email me information while others tell me to look it up on the website.
  • Last Monday, my iPaq hx4705 Pocket PC died. I found a Cingular 8125 on Ebay for a good price and took the Buy It Now option last Thursday. The Pocket PC arrived at my house less than 24 hours after the shipping notice was sent, but the wrong battery was in the box. I contacted customer service and was told the correct battery would be sent to me. Here I am, five days later, without a battery. How can it take five days to ship a battery from Virginia to New Jersey? I’m not aware of any anthrax threats, there’s no postal strike, and this business seems to ship UPS anyway. UPS shouldn’t take five days for this distance unless you specifically paid them to do it.
  • And of course, if you look at my archive, I can’t get a medical claim processed unless I take my own time to call and call and call and shepherd the claim every step of the way.

I haven’t had a very good time with customer service lately. During the discussion in class, I proposed to my instructor that customer service people should somehow have to be accountable when they make mistakes or overlook certain issues that cause pain or financial problems in a customer’s life. Why nobody at Aetna over a two year period could look far enough into my case to see that the reason the claim was denied in the first place is because that doctor was not recorded as a primary care physician for an 11 day old baby is beyond me. I did not learn this until right before the doctor’s billing office was going to put this on MY credit report and I stayed on the line with the CS representative going through every last line of the database for both of my children to find the cause. I had to do the work for them by standing over their shoulders on the phone.

If you work in customer service, yes, I know the job normally sucks. Maybe it’s the only job you could get. Still, please recognize that you may hold the finances and medical cases of other living people in your hands. So what if the people are jerks? It’s your job. Please, take some pride in your work.

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I’m In The Final Stretch…

Once again, I have slacked off from posting on this blog. I almost seem to be schizophrenic about blogging. One moment I want to be an A-list blogger with a readership of thousands and the next, I just want to make an occasional post when I have time.

I’m in my last few days of the Interdisciplinary Capstone class at the University of Phoenix. I have to take a Critical Thinking class, a CLEP exam, and a DANTES exam, and I will finally have my Bachelor’s Degree. I’m thinking about celebrating by looking for a new job. I’m actually sort of torn about that. I currently work with the best group of people I have ever had the pleasure of working with, but the work itself is less than challenging and exciting. I’m able to manage my own priorities and mostly set my own schedule. I rarely ask for time off anymore; I just take time. As long as my work gets delivered on time and I account for 80 hours in two weeks, I’m left alone. I like it that way however; I have more than  30 years left in the workforce and the time has come to think about the next step in my career. I’ve been monitoring positions on Career Builder lately, and I believe with my degree and experience, I can easily get an engineering position. In my current job, I’m only NOT an engineer in name only if that makes any sense. In other words, if I had been hired into this position with a degree, I would have been classified as an engineer.

I have considered making an offer to any readers or anyone who happens to stop by with general questions about the University of Phoenix. If you have a general question you would like to ask, feel free to email me: emuelle1 at gmail dot com. My specific experience is with the IT program through FlexNet. My next and final class will be onground, and I have not taken any purely online classes. I also have not taken any general ed classes through UOP. If you do have a specific question I will do my best to answer off the top of my head, but I may have to reply "I don’t know". When I was looking for information on UOP to decide whether or not to choose them, I found very little. No bloggers at the time had posted anything about the school, so I would like to do whatever small part I can to help others make a decision about higher education.

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