Pipex: Farce upon Farce

Well, my opinion of Pipex was already very low. Before today I had them pegged as a terrible ISP with almost criminally poor customer service and basically inept technical support.

Today, they offended Forseti, and have managed to sink to a lower level on my opinion scale.

I wont fully repeat the tale of farce which has Pipex firmly in my “Bad Shop” category (in fact, I suspect they have more entries there than any other company), but in a nutshell after a month in which they were too inept to get BT out to fix my line (leaving me with no connection), they have still yet to get the service restored to the levels for which I am paying.

On Friday (four days ago), I spoke to technical support, who claimed to have carried out some tests and would now “escalate” the problem to BT. This is pretty much as far as I can push Pipex, as despite my only contract being with them, they do not have any form of service level agreement with BT – ineptitude, basically. Anyway, I was assured by the minimum wage arts student they have working as “technical support” that BT would respond to the fault within 1 – 6 days and get back to me.

Today, I had an SMS text message which informed me that Pipex Technical Support needed to carry out some more tests and could I ring them while I was sitting at the PC. This is a touch problematical, as I was at work miles from my PC, but never mind. Eventually I got home and had logged on by 1930 hrs to call Pipex as requested.

Now the farce got worse.

Every time I ring Pipex it annoys me. First off, it is an 0845 number so it costs money. Then the first thing they ask you is “if you are a residential customer, please enter your phone number now.” When you enter your phone number, you get presented with a list of options which runs “If you are a residential customer, press 1 now…” Why, in the name Kvasir do they ask you to enter your number first? Why?

When you finally get to press 2 for customer services, you are faced with an interminable wait, listening to some bored out of her head woman telling you “Thank you for holding the line. Your call is valuable to us.” Over and over. Why do companies think this is a good thing? What lunatic believes that the call is important or valuable, when you wait half the life of the universe for them to actually answer. And when they do, finally, answer it just gets worse!

After waiting a full 19 minutes (listening to how valuable my call is), the tech support arts student answered and went through the pointless list of “data protection act required verifications.” Finally, she asked me how she could help.

This left me a little confused, because she had just told me she’d called up my details and open tickets, so surely she should know I am calling in response to the text. Anyway, I explained I’d been asked to call and she went away. For four minutes. Eventually she came back and said that the “Technical Support” people (who was I speaking to?) had asked that I be contacted to confirm I wanted this escalating to BT. Slightly stunned, I said “yes” and she typed away and said, thanks – it will now be passed to BT. When I asked what had happened the last time they had promised it would be passed on to BT, she had no idea. She said it hadn’t been logged and didn’t know who had dealt with it. Now, I have the pleasure of another 1 – 6 day wait. Unless they text me half way through and ask if I want it to be sent to BT again…

This level of incompetence is mind boggling. I am at a loss to describe how frustrating, and how bad, Pipex customer service and technical support is. In August, I was given an identical run-around where over the course of a whole month they pretended to send the fault to BT, but never quite got round to it. It looks like this is going to happen again.

Showing that Loki really does have a monumental sense of humour, Pipex’s home page has a blurb which reads:

Pipex - Terrible Service - False Claims

Sadly, this leaves me speechless. If it really is their “customers that matter,” why am I being singled out for this poor treatment. What have I done wrong, which makes Pipex pick me as the only person they are happy to mess around month after month?

If so many people like them “so much they’d recommend” them, why dont they bloody recommend them. I wouldn’t recommend them to Bin Laden…

Pipex are a terrible ISP. Their technical support is so bad it has become funny. Their service is abysmal (for instance, what happened to NNTP access?). In short, Pipex is bad. Do not use Pipex.

Terrible Pipex Service – Fiasco Continues

Well, I will try to keep this short and I promise to try and find a new topic to complain about, but surfing the internet at snails pace is painful.

I mentioned yesterday the fiasco I was having with Pipex, and their final suggestion was to do some tests for 24 hours then call back. Well, I carried out the tests and called them back. If only it had been that simple.

After a short lifetime listening to a bored “we value your call” (obviously they value it, I am paying to call them….) I got through to an operator who went through the questions required by the data protection act (I assume if it wasn’t for that darned act, they would happily give my details out to every one…) and once more I was asked what the problem was.

I explained, in detail, what had happened and the tech support creature started to ask me the standard questions about “had I checked the filters…” (etc). Fighting the urge to scream, I reminded him that I had already gone through all this and I was just calling with the test data so they could escalate it to BT. Rather than ask what the data was, he asked me “what sort of speeds” I had been getting “over the last few weeks.” I was stunned. So much for the 24 hours worth of tests nonsense. Anyway, I told him that before the “fix,” I’d been getting a consistent 4 (and a bit) mbps downstream and the line reported it was an 8mb connection and since BT fixed the exchange I was now on a line which reported itself as 500kbps. Then it got really comical.

The “technician” asked what sort of download speeds I was getting. I said 350 – 400kbps on average. He then explained to me how 350 – 400kbps was “about 4 meg.” This jaw dropping announcement left me silent for a moment or two while it really sunk in that he thought three hundred and fifty kilobytes per second was “about” four megabytes per second. What abstract definition of about do they use at Pipex? When I, politely, explained that 400kbps was “about” half a mbps he went quiet for at least 30 seconds. The silence became painful after a while and I genuinely wasn’t sure if he was still there.

Eventually, he found his voice again and said he would carry out some tests. After a few (silent) minutes where all I could hear was his frantic typing on a keyboard he confirmed the line was reporting it was a 500kbps and he would escalate it to BT – who would deal with it “in 1 – 6 days.” Wonderful, now I know that this time next week I will call Pipex again, who will say “sorry, BT had a problem, they will investigate in 1-6 days” and so on, ad infinitum.

Fundamentally this shows yesterday’s tech “support” person was lying through his teeth when he asked for the tests to be carried out. Today’s person didn’t care about my results and ran the test himself before sending it on to BT.

It amazes me that Pipex is still getting such rave reviews from people when they, basically, have untrained buffoons running their call centres and spend more money getting a low-life Z-lister like David Hasslehoff to front their campaigns than they spend on providing a service. As far as I am concerned Pipex is the worst ISP I have ever used (it is now even worse than Tiscali who used to be top of my List of Hate, comically Pipex’s fall from grace came when Tiscali bought them…) and I have no idea why every few weeks I get an email telling me how popular they are, how good their service is (for everyone else, obviously) and how I should recommend them to my friends. To be honest, there isn’t anyone I hate enough to recommend Pipex to them.

Please, feel free to spread the word.

[tags]Pipex, Bad Shops, Bad Customer Service, Pipex Sucks, Pipex Bad ISP, Bad ISP, ISP, Internet, Rant, Technology, Network, Tiscali, David Hasslehoff, Internet Service Provider, BT, ADSL, DSL, Modem, Networking, Orders of Magnitude, Bad Mathematics, Bad Networking[/tags]

Pipex – Terrible ISP

Long rant – if you are reading this on Planet Atheism / Planet Humanism (or just aren’t interested) and you don’t want to know about my troubles with a UK based ISP please skip this 🙂 If you know anyone thinking of getting a new ISP, simply tell them to avoid Pipex at all costs.

My problems with Pipex continue unabated. I am in the process of trying to move away from them and get Sky Broadband but I am hitting hurdle after hurdle.

Following on from the fiasco where I had an entire month without internet connection, despite repeated false promises by the customer services staff and the only offer Pipex could make to placate me was to promise me an extra months connection for free – when this free month will be is anyone’s guess, I am still being billed each month – the connection still sucks. Pipex technical support have reached new levels of incompetence and it is getting to the point where I am tempted to simply cancel this phone line and get a new one…

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Vista Networking – Hell on Earth

As I have a perfectly functioning set of computers at home (running XP, Ubuntu, SuSE and PCLinuxOS) who all network quite nicely and share files as you would expect. This meant, I had thought the move to Vista was in the dim and distant future.

However, a few weeks ago my laptop underwent some toddler-inspired “maintenance” and I was forced to buy a new one. All the available laptops came with Vista pre-installed so my choices were limited.

Now, over all the laptop is fantastic – new technology items are always nice to play with. It is fast (an order of magnitude faster than the 3 year old one it replaced!), it is user friendly and, for most tasks, Vista is quite usable.

I say most tasks.

One of the critical things this laptop is required to do is to be able to access the network where the rest of the PCs share files. Without this it is, largely, pointless. Sadly, vista stubbornly refuses to connect to any other computer on the network and refuses to share its own files. The hand-holding interface of vista makes trying to trouble shoot interminably difficult (I have the Windows Vista Home Premium version), and it manages to hide pretty much all the functions underneath many, many layers of “wizard” interfaces. It is, in short, a nightmare.

After a week of trying, I can now get the Vista laptop to “see” the XP machines when it draws the network map (although this involved finding and installing updates on the XP machines) but every time I try to map a network drive or connect to the networked printer, Vista decides it can no longer see any other machines on the network. It is hellish. Without being able to access the shares, the Vista laptop is largely pointless. It may end up getting hit with a sledge hammer simply to relieve frustration.

I am somewhat bemused by the way the new OS from MS is so incompatible with previous ones that you need to add a hotfix to the older machines to let Vista talk to them, but I suspect MS has its reasons.

If you are thinking of “upgrading” your MS Windows XP (or older) machines, then I STRONGLY suggest you upgrade to a better OS like Linux or even (shock, horror) Mac OS X. If you want to go for Linux, then certainly consider PCLinuxOS as it is very easy to use, offers all the benefits of Vista with none of the problems. If you go for Vista then it will cost you money and you will need to learn a new user interface – if you want to do that, go the whole hog and Linux yourself. (Hell, I’d even say go for Solaris and I’ve had many a problem with that in the past)

I really, really hate vista. [tags]Technology, Windows, Vista, XP, Operating Systems, OS, Linux, Mac, PCLinuxOS, Networking, Protocols, Microsoft, MS, Ubuntu, SuSE, Solaris, Rant[/tags]

Linux – Partial Success

Well it seems I have had at least a partial success with the installation of Linux onto this machine. Numerous attempts with openSUSE, Ubuntu and Solaris all failed dismally.

openSUSE 10.2 in both 32 and 64bit versions refused point blank to find the USB device (previously they found it) and certainly wouldn’t give me the facility to configure it. This is doubly strange as I have openSUSE 10.2 running on an older machine in the spare room which uses an identical USB WiFI dongle, and it worked straight out of the box. This really is a shame as over the years, I have come to like SUSE and thought it’s progress was excellent.

Ubuntu 6.10 (32/64bit) and Ubuntu 6.06 (32 bit) also completely failed to work. While it was similar to openSUSE, Ubuntu is a lot more frustrating with it’s problems. The way Ubuntu obsesses about hiding the inner workings and hand-holding pretty much drive me insane. As I see it, the main reason some one will go to Linux is because they want the power and capabilities offered by a great OS. Making all of this hidden and “unintuitive” strikes me as abject lunacy.

Solaris 10.2 (32 bit) bombed. I wasn’t really expecting much from this, my experiences with Solaris on desktops in the past has never been “fun.” This time was no different. It got as far as trying to set up the graphical interface and crashed. A reboot and it was the same all over again.

While the Solaris farce was no surprise, I was a bit disappointed by the first two. This time last year I was happily running multiple linux machines (SUSE and Ubuntu) and would regularly tell people about the benefits of using them (see blog archives for examples). I honestly thought that the way both were heading, there was actually a chance you could get Linux out to the broader audience (ask heather – I kept harassing her to try it, saying how easy it is now, etc.). Give my recent experiences, I think both have taken a step backwards.

No one expects a “niche” OS like Linux to have out of the box support for every hardware device on Earth, but I would expect them to make it easier for people to find the problems. Having lots of on-line resources is useless when your problem is the network connection! I wonder what the goals of the various distros are – in the case of Ubuntu, I can only assume world domination. If the distro makers want to really move away from the small home market share (in the main, people who work in technical jobs), they need to re-think their approach.

This brings me to my last attempt. PCLinuxOS. Worked straight out of the box. I even did it twice to check. Both time this ran perfectly. Given the frustrations, and the cabinet full of install DVD/CD-Roms I have, this was amazing. I am even writing this on Firefox, under PCLinuxOS.

While I am impressed with it’s ability to find and connect to the network first time (with lots more configuration options than either SUSE or Ubuntu), I am not fully convinced I “like” PCLinuxOS yet. Give me some time to play with it, and see what installing new software is like – the main reason I want Linux is to set up an Apache server with PHP5, Perl, Python and Ruby/Rails to assist with web development. If this is not up to the task….

Anyway, let me close with a big well done to PCLinuxOS. It has succeeded where the bigger names failed (Even Mepis dropped the ball).

Linux Hates Me

Seriously. I now believe linux is a collective conciousness which has taken steps to punish me on a constant basis. You can take your weak monotheistic religions which offer some abstract punishment in an afterlife and shove them, the LinuxGod is punishing me on a daily basis. For hours at a time.

Today, on prompting by Michal, I downloaded SimplyMepis 6.5rc3 (64bit version), burned it to CD and tried to install it – hoping that its claimed hardware detection abilities would solve the problem with the USB WiFi dongle. Did it work? Not a chance. Mepis was good enough to not even be able to get a graphical interface working (I use a WinFast PX7600 GS which most other distros get working instantly). For some crazy reason, Mepis demands you log in as username:root password:root on first install (as if that provides any security..) but when I tried this from a console login, all I kept getting was “login incorrect.” After doing this for about 15 mins, I finally gave up. Yes, I am a glutton for the LinuxGod’s punishments.

As I was in a *Nix frame of mind now, I gave openSUSE (still installed) another shot. I wish I hadn’t.

Still no connected network.Once more, I went through the farce of trying to configure the Belkin USB dongle. I manually entered the WEP key numerous times. I deleted the Network card setting and re-entered it numerous times. The end result? Well, the little red “x” says it all…

When I try to view the connection information window, despite it thinking it is working (and it claims the Router wants me to enter the WEP Key…), I get this:

Screenshot - Active Connection Information

Not exactly confidence inspiring, is it? For completeness I gave recompiling the driver another shot. Following the steps as given on the Wiki, with the RT73 source files and on numerous other sites, I still only get as a far as:


which results in this page of nonsense:

Output of make command

As you can see, the LinuxGod truly, truly hates me. I might have to get a copy of OSX and install that instead… Either that or just allow the impending nervous breakdown take its toll… (Will try Solaris 10 next week, just for kicks)

[tags]Linux, SUSE, openSUSE, Mepis, SimplyMepis, Operating System, Technology, Wifi, Networking, Belkin, Open Source, Computers, OS X, Mac, Router, Solaris, Unix[/tags]

Technological Breakdown

Well, it seems I have been thouroughly defeated by both Ubuntu and openSUSE (64bit versions). I pretty much spent all day Friday trying to get an openSUSE install connected via a Belkin WiFi USB dongle – which, incidentally worked instantly with the 10.1 32 bit. This failed to the extent the XServer died and I had to do a complete re-install. It appears openSUSE is not as tolerant for “hot swapping” USB devices as you would hope 🙂

On Saturday I cracked and tried an Ubuntu 6.10 install. I dislike Ubuntu because I feel the hand holding is over the top and personally find it next to impossible to get anything done on it. In the past, however, Unbuntu has been better than SuSE at finding devices and getting them working.

Not this time.

Ubuntu, in the case, was even worse than SuSE because of how difficult it is to get administrative commands working. After four hours, although I hadn’t destroyed the install, I gave up and reinstalled openSUSE.

Today, I have spent another five hours trying to get the WiFi dongle working – all to no avail. SUSE claims it is trying to connect to the router, but there is no activity shown on the dongle (it has an LED which blinks when it is working), so I suspect SUSE is lying. I spent two hours trying various methods of building the drivers – namely:


make all

as suggested at LinuxQuestions.org. I tried the versions that come with the RT73 file. I tried the method shown by GIDForums and even followed the steps at http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/RT73_Wireless. All were good and seemed to make sense…. but none worked. At all. Each time I ran “make” it failed with millions and millions of errors.

Screen shot of old set up In the past, when I have tried to configure WiFi cards in SUSE I have been presented with a screen like this one (on the left – hopefully), but for some reason this is all changed in the 10.2 (at least the 64 bit version). This change is not helping matters. The old layout, while it could be confusing, at least allowed you edit the bits which needed editing. The new version is some what different.

Now, the screens I get look like this:

New WIFI manager - Screen 1New WIFI manager - Screen 1New WIFI manager - Screen 1New WIFI manager - Screen 2 New WIFI manager - Screen 3

Now they appear “better” but they are pretty much useless when it comes to trying to “problem solve” the WiFi issues.

So far, nothing I have tried in three days has worked. When I look at the modules loaded, I have rt2500usb and rt73usb running in openSUSE. I tried to kill either of them with

modprobe -r name

But this did nothing either – openSUSE claimed modprobe didn’t exist (although it would show me the man page for it).

Eventually (i.e. now), I have given up for a while. Most of the solutions I can find require me to be connected to the internet to enable a fix – seems to defeat the purpose but…. Next weekend I plan to go to PCWorld and buy a Cat5 cable long enough to reach from the router to the linux box, hopefully this will allow an internet connection and enable the fixes. Until then, I am staying Windozed. Sadly.

Now, I love linux. I really do. However, until it is possible for people to use it out of the box with common store bought components it really is going to remain a niche product. This is a shame because for basically free you can get a fully functioned PC which runs a powerfull, easy to use and capable office package, web servers, graphics manipulators and much more. To run a similar system using the MS products everyone is so used to would cost thousands. With the advent of crap vista, and the change to “look and feel” you would think this is an excellent time for people to migrate to Linux. Sadly, at least in the case of SuSE and Ubuntu, Linux is not ready for this task. Can you imagine going to a shop and buying a television which required three days of recompiling before it would show a picture?

[tags]Linux, SUSE, Ubuntu, Wifi, Wireless, LAN, Networking, Technology, Computers, Society, Rants, YAST, openSUSE, Belkin[/tags]

Linux Annoyances

Not much online time today, sorry. I am fighting a (losing) battle with my technology.

I have spent most of today trying to set up my main PC as a dual boot Linux/windows box using openSUSE 10.2 (64 bit) and Windows XPSP2.

Sadly, I have been far from successful.

The problems began with Partition Magic. The PC I have came with WinXP installed on its 180gb HDD. As I had around 100gb free space, I thought putting 20 gig aside for Linux would be next to no problems. I ran diskeeper and checkdisk to make sure everything was fine (it was) then I rank Partition Magic to resize the disk – I planned to make a 1gig swap file and about 14 gig for the linux install.

Sadly, each and every time Partition Magic rebooted (claiming it was going to resize the partitions) it came up with “Error 1513 Bad Attribute Position in File Record” and suggested I looked at the help files. I honestly spent over an hour doing this (reboot, choose partition sizes, restart, get error message, check help files, find nothing, reboot, choose partition sizes…. etc). Nothing I could find in the help files was any use.

Eventually I cracked and went to a web search engine (why didn’t I do this the first time!) and found out my Partition Magic 8 needed an upgrade to 8.01 and then a patch applied. Isn’t software great?

This done, everything went fine. The install interface for openSUSE is easy to use and easy to understand. I did spend about an hour choosing which packages I wanted but that was just because I’d become a kid in a sweet shop at that point. In the end I settled for Gnome and about 4gb of software. Linux is fantastic.

The install went smoothly…right up to the point at which it needed to connect to the Internet. It found my Belkin USB WLAN adaptor and identified it perfectly. It even found the SSID of the network. When trying to connect it (as it should) asked for the WEP key, so I entered it. After what felt like a week, it came up asking for the key again, so I entered it again. This happened five times before the computer gave up and I had to restart the network connection.

After two hours of trying different things (converting the key from HEX to ASCII etc), I had pretty much exhausted everything I could think off. I have been back to windows to check the settings (they are fine) and I have tried the USB device on other linux machines (although it was an Ubuntu machine) and it works fine. Nothing I seem to be able to do will make my openSUSE installation connect to the wireless router. I have hit a complete brick wall now and I am fed up of entering 26 hex characters every ten minutes so I have given up and come back to windows (yes, sad, I know).

I will try a brief google search to see if I can find the answer, but to be honest I dont know if I can be bothered any more. There is more to life than spending almost an entire working day trying to make software do what I want it to do. The idea is that computers (etc) make our lives easier and less stressfull. If people are writing such bad code that I have to give up all my spare time to get their software to work, I am not really interested. The same applies to Symantec and their fundamentally broken Partition Magic.

I love linux. I have two linux machines running fine here (one openSUSE 10.1 [32bit] and one Ubuntu). I used to love openSUSE and hate Ubuntu. Times may be changing.

If any one has had similar problems, or knows and answer, please let me know!

[tags]Technology, Linux, Windows, Software, Operating System, Wireless, Networking, Rants, openSUSE, Ubuntu, Belkin, Netgear, Partition Magic, Error Messages, Symantec[/tags]