My last scribblings here were an angry rant entitled “The Murder of JIM-PC”. I’m compelled to pick up where I left off, but in a rational manner, as the subject calls for a more thorough and hopefully thought provoking treatment. However, my challenge to Bill Gates for a duel still stands. I suggest we meet in international waters and settle our differences with a bare-knuckle boxing match to the death. Bill, you won’t make it through the first round with me. How about you have replicas made of the weapons used in Star Trek, when Captain Kirk battled Mr. Spock in a Vulcan mating ritual battle to the death. No, wait. You probably already own them and needn’t reproduce them. That makes it easy. Bare knuckles or weird Vulcan weapons. Same difference to me.
I’m upset because money now has only a fraction of the value it did a short time ago, most people have no concept of what little value it does possess, and having created this public mindset, the political-financial complex no longer has the slightest qualm about raping the consumer in every way they can conceive.
I’ve been considering buying an apartment here in Helsinki. Nothing fancy. Not downtown nor in an expensive neighborhood. Just one bedroom, one bath, fifty to sixty square meters. The places I’ve looked at have either been in neighborhoods that yesterday were considered blue collar, and many thumbed their noses at them as beneath them. Alternately, a great number of apartment buildings are in the process of being built in the suburbs of Helsinki. One is expected to buy pre-construction, based on a floor plan. Either way, the average cost is around 250,000 €. That’s $320,000. That’s insane. A package of rye bread: $3. A package of normal coffee: $7 Need to call customer service lines: about $2.50 a minute. I have to pay people to talk to me so I can discuss products I purchased from them—so they’ve already turned a profit—or about some good or service I require. I pay them to beg them to take my money. My bank, which makes a fortune from interest I pay them, charges me to chat with them about how they’re fucking up my electronic payments.
But this particular story begins on February 17th of this year. Simplistically put for expediency: residents of apartment buildings in Helsinki, for the most part, have no choice in internet service provider. The owners negotiate with providers and you’re stuck with the decision they make. On that date, I was forced to change service providers. Said new provider did not provide until Feb 22nd. I need the internet to make my living. The new provider runs on dinosaur technology via telephone line, requires a special router and Ethernet cable setup. My computer doesn’t even have a goddamned Ethernet port because so few people need them anymore. I received two instruction manuals, one out of date and one for the wrong product. I had to borrow a computer, download manuals and software onto a memory stick, and figure out how to make this piece of shit setup work. It took me three days. I had to change email addresses and inform 2,000 people. I’m still not receiving emails sent to my old account. I would guess un-received emails now number in the hundreds. How much time and money has this forced changeover cost me in time and money? I have no idea.
I own a domain name. It comes with email service. I bought it through Godaddy.com. I decided to run my email through it so I would never have this problem again. Godaddy has no automatic setup software for Microsoft Outlook 2010—now an old product—and it has to be set up manually. In the process of setting it up, I called their support line three times. They gave up and suggested the problem was on Microsoft’s end. I went to Microsoft support and found that thousands of people had the same problem. No fix was available. I thought about it for a couple days, figured out how to resolve the issue, and I was up and running within a few minutes. So I could figure out a fix when neither Godaddy nor Microsoft could? Bizarre. I emailed Godaddy and offered to trade them the fix in return for discounted services. They declined. They prefer to leave scads of customers unsatisfied than provide one with a discount. That’s how much they care about the people who pay their salaries.
Last week, my computer malfunctioned. Microsoft Office, which I use several hours a day, went down. I tried to ininstall/reinstall. It wouldn’t accept the product key, because the computer broke once before, it went back to the factory where they replaced the hard drive and along the way changed all the key codes without informing me. I called Microsoft and asked for a new product key. It was given to me. Great! Except that it was a key for a trial version and, given that I had run Office before, my computer wouldn’t accept it. On my third call, the CSR said he was unauthorized to give me a key, and suggested I call the vendor of purchase. Said vendor apologized, but had no idea why I would be told such a thing, as they had no control over licensing.
I had purchased a three year warranty with my HP Pavilion and dutifully filled out the registration and warranty upon installing it. I thought I would call HP and ask them how to find my product key, which exists somewhere in the computer. But Wait! I had failed to fill out a SECOND form for the extended warranty, which, despite the hefty sum I paid for it, was now null and void. I could purchase personal support for the bargain price of $99 a year. Un-fucking believable.
I made two more calls to Microsoft international support. The first time, I was disconnected. The second time, I was asked if I was in Ireland. “No, I’m in Finland” “What time is it in Finland?” the CSR asked. I said, “It’s 9:30 p.m.” “I’m sorry, we can only help you during business hours.” “OK then,” I said, “it’s 9:30 a.m. in Finland.” I shit you not, this is true. She didn’t skip a beat. “Thank you sir, let me connect you with tech support and they will help you.” They did not help me.
Let’s pause a minute here. Microsoft only offers personal service during business hours. How many people today, with jobs that require constant computer use, only work during business hours? Here in 2012, most of us work long hours, continue working at home. Work weekends. I’m sometimes still working at 3 a.m. I have deadlines. We’ve paid for operating systems, software, warrantees. The software is now usually downloaded. The only cost to Microsoft is R&D. Yet, we can’t have twenty-four hour support? Why? Because they couldn’t give a flying fuck less, that’s why.
Once again, after working my tiny tiny brain very very hard, I figured out how to make Microsoft Office work with a trial product key, when their support staff could not. Hence, I’m able to write this. I have a mental picture of the support staff being a roomful of trained monkeys on roller-skates
Then another funny little thing happened. Facebook started using Timeline, the latest of their vast improvements. My novel, Helsinki White, came out recently and my FB traffic had been heavy: 1000-1250 hits a day. When Timeline kicked in, traffic dropped to less than half that. I wrote it off to the vagaries of fortune. Then I learned my posts were no longer reaching on average of 84% of my FB contacts. Why? I’ll skip all the shit about algorithms. The bottom line is that if you want your posts to reach their intended audience, you must pay, depending on which “plan” you choose, $99-$599 a month.
How is this happening and why? Because there is no respect for us, the consumers. Bill Gates has a net worth of well over $60 billion, Mark Zuckerberg about $3 billion. The acquisition of that much wealth means that they could have offered us quality goods and services at reasonable prices and still become tremendously wealthy. Instead, they chose to rape us. I have a feeling that they not only don’t respect us, but in a sense despise us as their dupes and pawns, serfs in their digital feudal system.
Why do certain events and names keep creeping into my thoughts? French Revolution. Robespierre. I can’t imagine what sparks those little words, like a song stuck in my head. Can you? Bill, I don’t really want to fight you. I want you to treat me and the millions of people who have made you so rich with respect. I want you to divest yourself of $50 billion dollars, use some of it to improve your goods and services, and the brunt of it toward charitable works. Think you can make it through retirement with only $10 billion? Put yourself on a budget. Clip coupons. I bet you can manage it.
James Thompson is an established author in Finland. His novel, Snow Angels, the first in the Inspector Vaara series, was released in the U.S. by Putnam and marked his entrance into the international crime fiction scene. Booklist named it one of the ten best debut crime novels of 2010, and it was nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, and Strand Critics awards. His second Vaara novel, Lucifer’s Tears, released in March, 2011, earned starred reviews from all quarters, and was named one the best novels of the year by Kirkus. The third in the series, Helsinki White, was released on March 15 to critical acclaim.
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