Archive for August, 2007

Google: time to listen up

August 23, 2007

At my workplace, we have a number of Google search appliances. There are a number of issues and errors with Google’s design and marketing of their search appliances, which I will outline below.

Price

These devices are very expensive, and in most cases, they are so expensive (too much so) that we have only one, and thus no redundancy. This is a problem! I don’t remember, and can’t quote exact numbers, but when we first started buying these, it was  near $30k each , and that was for a non redundant server that would crawl 1 (yes, a single) site. I will admit that I believe the prices are cheaper now.

Support

Google’s support model doesn’t include the ability to call Google. All that you can do is go to the website and post a tech support incident and wait for a call-back.  Not being able to get someone on the phone immediately is a problem! This is the enterprise, this is a fortune 300 company, we don’t desire to wait some unknown amount of time for someone to call us back, it simply is not acceptable.

In addition to this, most of the time, all Google wants to do is SSH into the box, which requires 1 of 2 things.

1: An SSH connection from the outside world in.

Since these devices are internal only, they are unavailable to the outside world, and because of PCI Visa compliance, it is an act of God to get a firewall rule put into place to allow something like this, and as much of a problem to have it removed afterwards. When you are under fire and need to get support, having to fill out the necessary paperwork to get a firewall rule in place just isn’t acceptable, it takes too long.

2:  A modem and phone line.

 Modems are a little easier, but it is difficult to keep a modem somewhere, keep a phone line somewhere (but not attached) and then to have to go and manually connect one to to one of many pieces of hardware that could be anywhere in the 100,000 sq/foot datacenter. Well, this just sucks. It is difficult to do.

And lastly, everytime you have an issue that can’t be fixed over the phone (due to the hardware issues I mention below, this is often), then Google has to ship you a new, unconfigured device. That’s right, you are down, and have to wait on one of these devices to be packaged up, shipped, and received. Then you have to go through tons of red tape (thank you PCI compliance) to get the device into the datacenter and get the old one out. Once you have completed all of this mess, you get to start over and reconfigure the device from scratch! And of course, let’s not forget that after that, it has to crawl all of the content again, which can take from several hours to a day. The net/net is that if you have a hardware problem, you have an outage that lasts several days, again, this is not acceptable in the enterprise.

Hardware

When we first started buying these appliances several years ago, they were tiny 1U boxes with zero redundancy built into them. Due to the expensive price, it was cost prohibitive to use redundant appliances. So we are buying these very expensive appliances, and of course, they would fail occasionally. (I will get to what happens in a failure situation in the support section.)

After some time, Google saw the error if its ways, and started using redundant Dell hardware (they don’t tell you this, but aside from being YELLOW (lame), they look just like the other Dell hardware that we have a datacenter full of.  This was indeed a step in the right direction, but not far enough. Since they don’t admit that they are Dell hardware, when something fails, you can’t call Dell yourself or have them call Dell and just schedule the hardware replacement, you have to.. guess what? Get a device shipped to you! See above for how long this process takes.

Additionally, there were certain devices used which have known problems, and we had a 100% failure rate. What this means is that every single device of this type failed. Was Google proactive? Did they ship us a replacement device ahead of time? No! They waited on each one to fail, and we had the several day outage for each one. This is not acceptable in the enterprise.

Conclusion

The problem here is that google isn’t trying to apply it’s model in appropriately. They are making the mistake of banking off their name only, and not following up with the service and support to go along with the amount of money that the devices cost, and the expectation of the large customers that are buying their products. This is a common mistake, and has been the demise of many products and services over time. Google: WAKE UP. Listen to your customers, service and support what you sell, and stop trying to bank off your name only. This will not last.

My recommendation is to avoid purchasing any Google search appliances until they learn to listen to customers and respond appropriately.

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Cobb EMC again

August 20, 2007

It is no secret that I have no lov e for Cobb EMC. This morning I stumbled across an article about them at the AJC. It is very interesting and shows that they are a monopoly who is using customer money to start a private business. Not exactly what one would thing would be OK to do. In addition, they have had the highest rates in Georgia for quite some time.

Note: The AJC website requires you to register… this annoys me greatly, so I use this site for things like that. www.bugmenot.com

should the credit agencies be able to do this? I don’t think so

August 15, 2007

This is a story about the credit agencies and how they have too much power and not enough accountability.

I recently bought a new house, one thing you always here about this is to check your credit before  you start this process. My old house was on the market for a year, so I checked my credit when this process started, but I did not check it again during the year, and that turned out to be a mistake.

So, I had someone who wanted to buy my house pretty quickly, and I found a house I wanted, this should be easy, right? Not so much.. When they pulled my credit, there turned out to be a lein against me for $5500 in change, that seemed rather odd, as my credit is good, and I have always paid everything. After some research, I was able to determine that there is someone else with the same name as me in the same county I was in who had a legitimate lein, who didn’t have the same social security number as me, yet this was on my credit! Additionally, it turns out that with my bank, if you have something like this happen and it is <$5500, you can get something in writing and they just pretend like it isn’t there, but if the amount is > $5500, you must have it removed from your credit before they will issue the mortgage.

So I called the Bartow County Superior court clerk’s office, they were very nice and told me that they didn’t report to any credit agency. I was also able to determine from talking to them that leins are considered public record, so anyone can go in and look at the full text of the lein, additionally, due to privacy concerns in recent years, the SSN is not included in this document. What this means is that if you have the same name as someone else in your county, no one can tell the difference between you two just by looking at the court documents.

After this, I placed a call to the business who had filed the lein. They are an umbrella corporation (DBA, whatever you want to call it) for Fred Hanna and Associates. The first person I talked to there was named Stephanie, and she was not very nice, helpful, or any of the other words that you would put together with “customer service” in a positive manner. After some more calling and discussion, I was able to talk to a guy named Roy Raegan, and he was much  more helpful. After discussing with him, he told me that they were as specific as they could have been with the lein, and this was just what can happen. He provided me a letter to send to the mortgage company and to the credit agencies stating that if my SSN’s last 4 digits weren’t XXXX then I wasn’t their guy.

During this process I found out that the credit agencies actually have people that work for them whose job is to drive in person to the court clerk’s offices in the various counties, and look through public records for new leins to report against people’s credit. That is how this ended up on my credit report.

So, I gave this to my mortgage agency, who sent it off to the credit agencies with a “rapid rescore” (which costs several hundred dollars), and they sent this back stating that this wasn’t sufficient documentation (no more detail than that!) So I called all the above folks again, did some more talking, and eventually came to the conclusion that I was screwed. At that time I made a call to a friend of mine who has a lawyer buddy and went in for a consult. He advised that with my timeline (less than 2 weeks at that point), it may be better just to pay the $55XX and work it out later, after I got over the initial shock, I asked for another idea. He offered to write a more demanding letter than what I had written to begin with, and sent it off to the big 3.

I called the next day and was able to fax the letter in to all 3 credit agencies… Transunion and Experian both had “pending mortgage approval” departments that were easy to find, and easy to work with. They looked at the fax, got my closing date, and said that there shouldn’t be a problem, Equifax, on the other hand, was a bear to deal with. They wouldn’t gurantee that the information was correct, and the time and date that this would come off my credit report. I called repeatedly every few hours in the days leading up to the closing, and they finally did remove it on May 23, I closed on May 24.

So now, my credit is clean, and what is on there is mine. It is a shame that I had to get a lawyer involved to write a nasty letter to get them to do this.

The point of my whole story is right here though.

Whenever someone submits your information to any credit angency, they must include details, such as your social security number . This is a unique identifier that well, identifies you. What happened to me is apparently perfectly legal, the credit agencies themselves actively pursue information which is flawed at a root level, they are unable to determine with any certainty that this information applies to you, yet they still apply this to your credit report. This can and does impact you in a negative way. For me, it cost me a lawyer bill, hours and hours on the phone, faxes, stamps, and hours driving around, talking to people, and researching the laws around this.

Just so this gets caught in search: ripoff, legal, illegal, experian, equifax, transunion

pics posted: trip to Kentucky

August 4, 2007

We went to Lexington, KY for a family trip to see (and for me to meet) some of Sarah’s family.

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pics posted: Matthew being cute

August 4, 2007

Here are some pictures we took of Matthew just generally being himself, which is very cute.

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pics posted: matthew visits the family

August 4, 2007

Here are some pictures Sarah took when her and Matthew went to visit some family.

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pics posted: oil refinery visit

August 1, 2007

I had a visit to an oil refinery and took some pics. The weather was drab, the light sucked, but the visit was pretty near.

pics posted: Peachtree Road Race 2007

August 1, 2007

Sarah and I decided to run the Peachtree Road Race this year (ok, walk..) here are some pics.

pics posted: Fathers day 2007

August 1, 2007

Here are some pics taken during Fathers day 2007. My very first. 🙂

pics posted: Misc pics from April/May 2007 of Matthew

August 1, 2007

Here are some misc pics taken during April/May of 2007 of Matthew.