Customer Service or Customer fail?

Bought a copy of SketchBook Pro from Autodesk a week ago. I’m very happy with the software (and even bough the version on the iPad as well).

I did not realize there was a new version coming out (version 6) to replace the 5.5 version (there was no pre-announcement on the website, it was just released and announced). I see the announcement for version 6 so figure well, since we bought it a week ago we should just be able to upgrade.

Nope.

Have to pay $30 for the upgrade (the software is $60 so 50% for a new version which is okay for a major upgrade I suppose). Talking to the Twitter *customer care* account, they tell me that rather than giving me a free upgrade or key for the new version (which seems like a simple solution) I should return the software for a full refund then purchase the new v6 product instead.

Wait, what?

I just bought the 5.5 version a week ago. Now I have to go through the process to get a refund *then* turn around and buy the 6.0 version.

Looking over the website the minimum steps I’m going to have to do is:

  1. Submit a request for a refund by contacting support through a form (or if I want to call overseas, no thanks)
  2. Wait for a LOD (letter of destruction) to be emailed to me
  3. Follow the instructions in the letter (not really sure what this entails but I assume “delete all copies of the software” or something like that)
  4. Submit the letter back to them (yeah, really)
  5. Wait for someone to validate my submission
  6. Once validated they begin the process of crediting my purchase (which takes about 3-5 days)

At that point once I get my refund I can turn around and buy version 6 of the software. For the *exact* same price as I paid for the previous version.

This is a seriously broken customer service model IMHO. They have a 30 day return policy so why not a 30 day upgrade policy? I guess since they don’t have it and a company as big as Autodesk this isn’t something that is easy to implement, I’m screwed and have to go through the process of all this to get my refund to rebuy the new version of the software. Why can’t they just give me a key for version 6 to plug in and they can work out the logistics of the upgrade?

Am I being picky here or am I justified in expecting that I should be able to get the upgrade for free (without the nonsense of returning and re-buying the software). While I understand they might not have the facilities in place to support this model, it’s pretty common in the software industry. So maybe they should consider supporting it? Or supporting their customers and not making them jump through hoops. The twitter responses from the customer “care” account are all very generic. “Thank you for taking the time to give us feedback… blah blah blah”.

Not a happy customer right now but don’t think I have much choice.

P.S. Need to start the process now because if step 5 isn’t done within the 30 days (not step 1) you’re screwed.

Sigh.

Update: The chap running the @AutodeskCare Twitter account (where it’s manned 24 hours by people) came through and provided the upgrade without all the red tape. I’m glad it’s resolved and happy that they’re looking to improve their process as a result of it so others might not fall into this trap. I’ll post a follow up on this shortly. Good job Autodesk!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Michael Bay is going to do a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remake. Of course the cast isn’t known but here’s the choices that would make it an obvious hit.

Leonardo

Michael Cera because DiCaprio wasn't available

Rapheal

Andy Samberg for comic relief

Michaelangelo

Jesse Eisenberg works for me.

Donnatello

Like you would have a Michael Bay movie without Danny Trejo

Splinter

Bruce Willis, all seeing, all knowing although John Carradine might be a better choice.

April O’Neil

Scarlett Johansson, not Tara Reid

Shredder

Chuck Norris. Why not?

Bebop and Rocksteady

Steven Segal. Does it really matter which one he is?

Jean-Claude Van Damme because he missed out on The Expendables

Other cast members? Let me know and I’ll add them to the list and send it to Mr. Bay’s casting director.

Glamping 2009 – Day 6 – The Long Trip Home

Heading home after vacation is always a chore and a task, and a pleasant relief.

Found DVDs! Days ago we went hunting for V’s DVD collection. We brought it with us to keep her occupied. After all what do you do with a two year old in a car for 12 hours? The set included about a dozen Signing Time DVDs, The Wiggles, a couple of Baby Einstein, and a brand new Winnie the Pooh – Friendship Edition that I bought days ago (as a replacement for her other copy which is worn out now).

Panic sunk in as we thought we lost them. I mean, it’s about $2000 to replace all these DVDs and it’s not something you want to lose (especially after potentially losing my Flip video camera). However as we were travelling home today they magically showed up!

The lost DVDs from the last few days were found courtesy of Mike. I seriously tore that cab apart trying to find them. Then Jenn did. Then her mother. Jenn’s mother who could find virginity at a co-ed dorm couldn’t find the DVD case. All it took was a 16 year old who wasn’t feeling very well to sit in the front seat and say “Are these them?”. Nice.

For dinner it was pizza delivered right to the hotel door. I think the notion of going out for dinner passed in our minds, but passed so quickly that by the time Jenn was paying for the meal, it was just an afterthought. By the way, has anyone noticed how quickly an entire pizza can be consumed by a single 16 year old? I don’t recall being 16 (I think I traded that part of my memory in for a software upgrade) but I swear the only time I could engulf an entire pizza myself was when I was drunk and stupid at the ripe old age of 22. Of course immediately after gobbling down the pasta treat, it came back up (along with the 6 pack I shot gunned).

Kids.

Glamping 2009

Looks like the first photo of this trip doesn’t it? Nope. It was taken about 120 hours later. I guess things never change.

You can view the entire Flickr set for this trip here.

Glamping 2009 – Day 5 – Back in the Saddle Again

V’s fairly traumatic escapade with the dunk in the lake (she’s still repeating “I fall in water” over and over again) didn’t mean we were going to keep her away from the water. After all, we are at a lake so the wet stuff is all around us.

This doesn’t mean we’re evil parents and will toss our 2 year old into the water to test if she weighs the same as a duck. If she didn’t want to go, we weren’t going to force her. However we wanted to try to get her back near the water as soon as possible so she didn’t implant the notion that water == bad and never go near it again. I know of events that can send children over the edge so much that even a bath would be a traumatic event.

Glamping 2009

We had the pleasure of spending a few hours on a pontoon boat heading out to the only island at McLeese Lake, luckily owned by Jenn’s cousin’s grandmother (don’t even ask me to try to translate that relation into something more descriptive). V was a little distant on the boat but not skittish or anything and eventually calmed down and enjoyed the ride (I remember even a few smiles coming out of her on the way back from the island).

The grandmother bought the island for $25 back when you could buy islands (before 1933). A tradition on the island (started years ago) was to put a plaque on a rock in the middle of the island for members of the family who have passed on. The first plaque (it’s believed) is the grandmother who lived from 1883-1963. The latest plaque was placed there a few months ago for Bob who was born in 1915.

Glamping 2009

An fitting allegory for the family members and a tradition that will live on throughout the years, long past it’s inhabitants.

After the trip to the island we spent a good night with the kids at the lake. Mike was having a great time being tossed around in an inner tube on the lake and V just chilled on the shore refilling the lake with rocks.

Glamping 2009

You can view the entire Flickr set for this trip here.

Glamping 2009 – Day 4 – “I fall in water”

5:30 is the time birds start chirping and the sun rises and the night creatures head to bed. It should not be the time young two year old girls wake their parents up after a day of travelling. However in McLeese Lake, B.C. it is. Maybe it was a sign of the times for things to come but who were we to know what was in store today?

“I fall in water”

That’s all she kept saying after we got on shore. And hours. And Days. Later.

V, Jenn and I headed out with Jenn’s father into a canoe for a leisurely row. It started out nice. V sat with me in the middle of the boat; Jenn steered; and Jenn’s father Howard was the power. V enjoyed it as she could see the water pass by, the drift of the canoe was slow and rhythmic. A pair of loons in the middle of the lake sat quietly by as we passed them.

We turned inward and headed back. A powerboat came off from the docks towards us. You know that weird feeling you when you look at something? That feeling like something is about to go terribly, terribly wrong? You know it’s going to happen, but you refuse to act. Maybe you can’t or you just can’t believe it’s going to happen and your body doesn’t react.

We saw them come towards us. Powerboat versus canoe. They were 30 yards out. Then 20. Then 10. It was around that time we realized that a) they were doing about 30-40kph and b) they were about 10 feet away from the boat from the starboard. Yeah, a 30kph motor boat 10 feet away from a canoe. There’s no surprise to the outcome.

Jenn turned the boat as best as she could but we didn’t realize they were not going to slow down or pull away until it was too late. The first wave from their wake hit us and hit hard but it was just a strong rock as we swayed back and forth from it’s power. The second wave. That was the bullet.

I remember being tossed from the boat and over the port side. I was holding Vista and never let go. I did what I could to keep her up, not worrying about myself and not even thinking about the situation. My only concern was to keep her above the water. With my eyes open the entire time, I remember looking at V under the water. It was only for a few seconds (2-3 at the most as I recall) but she looked okay. She wasn’t gulping down gallons of lake water which was a good thing. She was just a little in shock as she didn’t quite know what was happening.

I came up seconds later, holding Vista above my head trying to tread water with my legs. She was crying as it was quite the different environment than being in the boat. Luckily for us, the water in the lake was very warm and pretty clear. A few moments later Jenn surfaced and then her father. I started heading inwards to the shore which was about 30 yards away. Jenn wanted to take V in while I helped her father with the canoe.

We dragged the canoe in. At about 10 yards from the shore it’s about 5 feet deep so another stroke of luck and we can walk in from there. V was okay, still crying and shook up from the incident but seemingly alright. It was another half hour before we got everyone on shore, the boat setup and heading back to the dock, and V in dry clothes and sitting with family at camp. I finally dragged my butt back to the cabin to get some dry clothes.

The casualties? My wallet and all my id. It’s since dried out but there are some receipts lost that I’ll have to figure out how to explain at work to reclaim my expenses. The other loss was my new Flip video camera (along with 2 hours of video of Vista) was toast. Jenn later said it did turn on (after about 24 hours of inactivity). It’s sitting in my pocket right now and I’ll probably give it another few days before I plug it in and try to recover the data.

No way to track the asshats down that did this. They were obviously wreckless. You don’t pass by a canoe that close and that fast. They even saw Vista so knew there was a baby on board. Also they didn’t bother to stop after dumping us. There were no real markings on the boat and we couldn’t find it afterwards. The lake is enclosed so they must have been day trippers so they’re long gone.

Glamping 2009

A few hours later though V was quiet and calmed down somewhat, enough to spend some time in the hammock with her cousin Heather.

She’s good but she kept repeating “I fall in water” the remainder of the day. That bothers me.

You can view the entire Flickr set for this trip here.

Glamping 2009 – Day 3 – Nothing Special

Really. Nothing special happened this day. We sat around and just relaxed. Here are a few pics from the day.

Glamping 2009

I can’t remember if this was sunrise or sunset but the lake looks great either way.

Glamping 2009

Vista finally overcame here apprehension with water and just plopped down into it.

Glamping 2009

Yeah, this is why we go camping every year.

You can view the entire Flickr set for this trip here.

Glamping 2009 – Day 2 – Dead Battery

Waking up after a night of somewhat restful slumber (as much as you can have at a hotel in the middle of nowhere) the first things you shouldn’t hear are “Did you leave the cooler turned on in the truck last night?”.

Yeah. We have a cooler that plugs into the truck and it ran all night long. On the positive side, everything in it was still icy cold. On the negative side we had a truck that didn’t serve much purpose as a vehicle to travel in. A quick call to road side assistance and about 10 minutes later, we had a boost and we were off to the nearest Tim Hortons (luckily just across the parking lot) and on the road.

Glamping 2009

Stranger in a strange land? I find some road signs amusing, where locals will find them the norm. Apparently there’s a badger problem in British Columbia, enough so that they have badger crossings. I think they’re definitely related to the vicious vampiric badgers and not just your regular run of the mill badgers.

The trip today was 5 or so hours with a short puking episode in the local Dairy Queen at Cache Creek (sorry guys, we did clean up). Then up the road and we were there. Finally. The vacation begins. And so does the unpacking.

V got into the spirit of things with some water sports. The kind of sports being tossing rocks into the water and then following them in, just to be sure they’re in the right spot. No worries because hey, she’s a kid and water and kids just go together. Like Nutella and Peanut Butter.

Glamping 2009

You know dinner time with kids? The unpredictable time when you don’t know if they’re going to eat, fight, or just be crazy little people. With Vista its always an adventure. Sometimes she engorges herself with whatever the flavour of the day is, other times she nibbles like a bird (then wakes us up at 3am because she’s hungry).

Camp food is interesting as you can never tell what you’re going to be having. There’s a campfire ban in B.C. (due to dry conditions and existing forest fires in various locations) so no open fires are allowed. Bummer. Having hot dogs roasted over an open fire is a treat. In any case, dinner tonight was hot dogs, hamburgers and corn. And yeah, V apparently *loves* corn. We knew she liked it but she gobbled down half a cob. Then another. Then another. Then another. (see a pattern forming here?). Finally she polished off a full cob. Oh yeah, to finish that off she had another. one.

Glamping 2009

Needless to say, we’re looking forward to the diaper changes tomorrow.

You can view the entire Flickr set for this trip here.

Glamping 2009 – Day 1 – And So It Begins

Every year we head out with the fam to do some camping. Camping? Me? Geek boy extraordinaire? The guy who can’t exist being more than 50 yards from a hotspot? Yeah. That’s me. The first year V was only a few months old so she basically slept most of the way there, most of the time there, and most of the way back (except the screaming that happened as we got closer to Calgary which prompted us to take her into the Children’s Hospital where we go her reflux identified). The next year she was pretty good along the way and back and it was a great trip.

This year things are different. V is 2 years old now and has the attention span of a gnat. In addition to hauling half of our house with us (including laptops, power cords, chargers and I was tempted to bring my XBox 360 with me) we have my 16 year old son Mike with us. The good thing is he’s there to entertain her in the back seat. The bad thing is he’s there to entertain her in the back seat. Try sitting through 15 minutes of high pitched wailing followed by 2 year old laughter behind you while you’re driving and you’ll know what I mean.

Glamping Day 1

So there it is. 11 hours of car pooling with one two year old, one 16 year old, and @PrincessJenn. I’m not sure beating myself upside the head with a hot poker would be any better so I’ll make the best out of the trip. Actually it’s been quite fun so far.

We’re heading a small hole in the wall in backwoods B.C. where electricity is a four letter word. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very pretty but it’s just not the high-speed internet vacation we’ve had in the past. Luckily we’re not going the full trip the first day (only a moron would drive 12 hours with a 2 year old) so we’ve stopped over in Sicamous, B.C. (just past Revelstoke) for the night. Glamping? Oh yeah. We’re in a Best Western with a pool, a hot tub, and free wireless internet. I joked to Jenn that should we have won the Lotto-649 last night (I bought a ticket, we just haven’t checked it yet) that we would be staying at the motel for the week and send her parents a postcard and some money.

The drive was quite nice but with spotty rain along the way. It was as if someone up above was looking down and saying “Hey, that big ass truck hasn’t been rained on for 15 minutes” and then unzipped and let it pour out. We stopped at Field, B.C. (a tiny town but very tranquil nested in the middle of the mountains) which lasted all of about 10 minutes. One minute I was at the pond with V watching the droplets come down, then it was a mad dash for the car to get in before the soaking began (and let me tell you, strapping a 2 year old into a car seat under pressure is a talent I do not have). Of course 10 minutes down the road, it was bright and sunny.

Glamping Day 1

Ahh dinner. The last meal of the day. The time you sit down with your family and chow down as it were. After checking in I go directed to two different places that were “kid friendly”. Apparently “kid friendly” in Sicamous, B.C. means your kids drive Harleys or don’t care about adequate service. The first place the shiny-happy lady directed me to was a place called Moose Muligans. Hey, with a name like that I was almost half expecting to see Mooby Burger or something and a big giant ceramic beast outside the establishment greeting us like a Canadian version of Wally World. As we turned into the driveway my spider sense was tingling. I could see the sign “Liquor Store” right above the arrow pointing to the Moose. And then there it was. Moose Muligans Pub and Grill. Complete with it’s own Liquor Store right on the main floor. I guess when Mommy and Daddy have had enough of the kid, they grab a few for the road. Oy.

Strike one on the kids meal homestead. Tim Hortons (a suggestion from Jenn) was sounding better and better. Even Mike said “Tims makes good sandwiches”. Nope. No siree. My family is going to eat at a good old fashioned sit-down eatery. Departing from the Moose we drove down the road towards choice #2, Eagles Pass. It was looking pretty good and even had “Eatery” in the name and kids out on the patio. Sweet. This *must* be my redemption for the long drive today. A nice home cooked meal from a place that welcomed the little ones. Heading inside is when my little bubble started to shatter. The place was somewhat busy but there were quite a few tables available. A large set in the middle was reserved for some upcoming party so that’s cool, but even with the place devoid of customers we were told we had to wait 10 minutes. The couple that walked in the door mere seconds behind us was told to wait 20 minutes. Hmmm. Something’s not right here.

Finally we got in and ordered. I thought this was going to work. I *hoped* this was going to work. They delivered an appetizer first (steaming hot potatoe skins) but it was at least another 10 minutes (felt more like 20) before the orders came. After dropping our plates on the table there was a “Okay, great, there you go” from the waitress. Missing from the entourage was our daughters kids fish and chips, which frankly should have been delivered first. Pretty much any other place we’ve been to they bring out the kids meal first, which is also usually not boiling hot. Nope, Eagles Pass finest decided to bring out a nice scalding plate of hot fish. It seems in the missing order of fish, they hastily tossed something in the deep fryer and then brought it out without even cooking (if deep frying can be called cooking) long enough. Scalding hot mushy fish is what my daughter ate tonight on our first day of Glamping. Where is Timmy when I need him?

Glamping Day 1

The kicker to the meal (not to mention that we had to ask for refills of our “bottomless” drinks as the waitress basically ignored us for the entire meal) is that when I paid we were told “Oh, you get a free ice cream cone with that kids meal”. Oh really? Another thing they conveniently *missed*, much like the $0 tip I left them. Now V can’t have ice cream but that’s not point (and they didn’t know that until after they told us we should have got the ice cream).

In any case, other than the horrible meal the day was good and the drive was fun. So if you’re in Sicamous, B.C. be sure to avoid Eagles Pass Eatery. Maybe we were “special” but it didn’t seem that many other patrons were enjoying their meal either.

You can follow the flickr set for this trip here.

Personal Blog Reboot Version 8.1

No, this isn't me. Not yet anyways.Meanwhile, back at the farm…

Back again after several. No wait, many. No, that’s not right. Countless. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, here I am with my personal blog after countless re-starts. My technical blog, Fear and Loathing, is humming along swimmingly. Posts come once a week or two as they usually take me a few hours to put together (screen shots, sometimes I even have to write code for them). However this is my space. For me. To vent. To bitch. To complain. To generally get peeved at the world and wonder why are we here and what’s life all about?

Welcome to my personal blog. A place where I can stand up on my vanity soapbox and tell the world what’s wrong with it (or what’s wrong with me, which will be more likely the case). Like everyone, I need a place to vent and blow off steam and I need to keep the Evil Bil side of things living here and somewhat under control, rather than bleeding all over at Fear and Loathing (although Evil Bil does creep into posts over there too). That’s the place to learn crap (or hear me vent for entirely different reasons, mostly related to Microsoft). This is the place where Bil 2.0 hangs his hat.

My partner in crime has rebooted her personal blog as well over at Princess Prose. She’s already been doing a great job with posts and content and I’m already jealous. Of course now it’s not a race to see who has the most content but who ends up with coolest WordPress Plugins.

Me

bilblogI am a geek, not a nerd. Let’s get that straight. I identify a difference between the two. Geeks are the guys who know stupid stuff, have blogs, work in the industry (but usually not too deep into it), and while we do tend to look at normal mundane Life 1.0 things with a twinkle in our automated eye we don’t show up to Star Trek conventions decked out in full authentic Klingon gear.

Nerds are the other guys.

These are the ones that you do see dressed up to the nines at any given convention (and sometimes just dressed up for the hell of it, like because it’s a Sunday). Nerds are the ones that work in think tanks or technical places so secret you need a retinal scan to get into the bathrooms. Nerds are the ones who have never kissed a girl (not counting virtual worlds) and their biggest life long accomplishment is a level 90 Death Mage (is there such a thing?) in World of Warcraft.

I started life in the art space then sometime in the mid 80s moved into technology. That in itself is a journey to be shared another day. I still find ways today to bridge the gaps but my artistic side has dwindled to a dim shadow of what it once was due to lack of care and feeding. Someday I will return to it. In the meantime I consider myself an amateur photographer who just like taking pics (mostly of my daughter Vista) and a guy who writes software. You can check out my pics on my Flickr page which fills up with pictures of V and other stuff as fast as humanly possible.

My day job is with technology and SharePoint (which is the general cause of my angst on my technical blog and the occasional headaches at night). I also come up with at least 1 new project idea every week and furiously create some code then shelve the idea for a long time (sometimes forever). This is my ADD shining through, although I’ve never been diagnosed with it officially, you just know it’s there. Waiting. Watching. Hoping to rear it’s ugly head and create a new folder full of ideas and then just as quickly as it appeared, it moves on. Watch for a projects page to appear here sometimes in the near future with links to all the goings on around the wub-wub-wub that I’ve created and continue to breathe life into. There’s a bunch of them and sometimes I can’t even keep track of them all.

Like I said, I’m a geek not a nerd. And damn proud of it.

Reboot

BSOD anyone?This blog is now the amalgamation of several other blogs and hopefully my last stands on personal blogs. My technical blog has been going on for nearly six years now and personal content here has been migrated from the past ten. Hopefully I’ll stick to this, keep track of the data files, and not create yet-another-unmaintainable-mess of a blog. My original bilsimser.org site has posts (dating back to 1999) which have been moved here; CDX posts, a library for C++ DirectX Game Programming that I wrote a book on back in 2000 on are scattered here (mostly around the release and the book); My Sims (the EA game) posts from when I wrote a whack of tools in the early 2000′s are all here (mostly with broken links and shattered images); and a few other projects thrown in for good measure.

So there’s content here but be warned. Some of it is contextual to when it was written (and where) and there are plenty of broken or missing image links (even though the text will refer to “see image below”). Also most of the imported (all?) is not categorized. I’ll find time over the next few years to try to pull it into categories and hopefully that dismal empty excuse of a tag cloud can take some shape.

BTW, doing a quick scan there’s a lot of weird content. Weird as in “What the Hell was I drinking when I wrote it?”. Like an idea for a zombie FPS game back in 2004. And various rants about social media, SharePoint, Scrum, and other Micrsosoft technologies before they were what they are today.

Look and Feel

This is the bare bones theme for the sight and I’m good with that. I keep trying out different themes (mostly from the very awesome Free WP Themes site).I’m happy with bare bones for now but be warned. I’ll get into a mood and try out themes so objects may change as you’re viewing them. If they do, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

As with everything I do there are evolutions. I try things out, I swish things around, and land on something I like until the next best thing shows up. Jenn did craft me up a custom background for my twitter page to which I’ve received several comments on it. Maybe I’ll hunt her down to get me to build a custom theme, although this one is working for me now.

Going Forward

First Steps

They say a journey starts with the first step. This isn’t my first step and frankly I don’t even know where we’re going or what direction I’m even facing right now. All I know is this is where I am and welcome you to stroll alongside me as we discovery the universe and all it has to offer. Good, bad, and ugly.

Welcome to the desert of the real.

Wrapping up the blog

Hi guys,

Just wanted to say that I’m going to be wrapping up the blogging on this site shortly (but not the site itself). Unfortunately I don’t have enough time to blog on a regular basis so I’m just going to turn the news here into a static page. I do have a list of things that I’m going to get to someday on this site and the software here. Namely:

  • Updates to the current tools with the latest expansion packs
  • Whatever little Sims 2 capabilities I can add in (probably only to SimExplorer, not looking to build any new tools)
  • Add whatever technical specs that are not available on the Sims 1 formats that I can

I don’t have time for any Sims 2 tools, but from what I’ve seen out there, there are plenty of smart guys doing great stuff with this right now. These days my focus is now on doing some work with Microsoft products (and some public speaking at user groups and events across the country) and some new game development. I’ll still plug away at the Sims stuff as I can find time but can’t commit to any schedules or tools these days. In the meantime, enjoy what’s here and keep on Simming!