Building Physical Things

Part of why I love software development is that I get to make things.  Through my efforts, something new has been created.  It’s a pretty awesome feeling.

As much as I love it, there’s something even better about building physical things.  Even something as simple as an Ikea bookcase.

Ikea "Hemnes" bookshelf box
Ikea “Hemnes” bookcase box

You start with a box.  It’s relatively small and clean and self-contained, but it really isn’t anything useful.  And the first thing you do is destroy it.

An unboxed Ikea "Hemnes" bookcase
An unboxed Ikea “Hemnes” bookcase

That neat and tidy box becomes a bunch of parts spread all over the floor.  It’s a mess.  It’s not useful and it’s even worse than the box because it’s in the way.  But the mess is also potential, as each of those parts has a place.

A partially-assembled Ikea "Hemnes" bookcase.
A partially-assembled Ikea “Hemnes” bookcase.

Then you get to work, and things start to come together.  The pile of parts gets smaller and smaller, fitting together with each other.  Your project starts to look recognizable, like, perhaps, a bookcase.

A completed Ikea "Hemnes" bookcase.
A completed Ikea “Hemnes” bookcase.

Then it’s done.  Your pile of parts is gone and in its place is a piece of furniture.

Working in software, there are no parts, really.  No matter how many pieces your project may be in, none of them are physical.  You can’t spread it across the floor and piece it together like a puzzle.  I wouldn’t trade my job, but sometimes it’s nice to solve a problem that’s a little more tangible.

On “Guaranteed Installation Windows” and Comcast

Seemingly everyone has a Comcast horror story.  No one likes the company and people who use their services do so begrudgingly.

Except for me.

Oh, sure, I know they’re ridiculously overpriced but I recognize that they can get away with that.  I don’t expect them to charge less than market value out of the goodness of their hearts.  They’re a business; they want to make as much money as possible.  Aside from the price, though, they’d been pretty good to me.  Seemingly I was the only customer they treated well.

Until last weekend.

I just bought a new house and Saturday was my big moving day.  I spent most of the day lugging around furniture.  Mattresses and a pool table.  The big stuff.  Heavy stuff.  By 4:00 PM, I was behind schedule and tired and ornery but I had a “guaranteed installation window” from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM – set up using Comcast’s “Movers Edge” system – so I adjusted my schedule to make sure things were ready for the technician.

I made sure my TVs and the cable boxes I was bringing from my old apartment were all out and accessible.  My cable modem was plugged in and ready to go.  And I kept moving a little bit but for the most part I waited.

And waited.

And at 6:10 PM, I Tweeted this:

At 6:47 PM I got a phone call from the technician telling me that he would be unable to do the installation that day because he didn’t have any equipment for me.  Two things were wrong here.  First, as I mentioned, I brought my own equipment.  Second, apparently this lack of available equipment was not evident until 45 minutes after my appointment was supposed to happen.

So I told him that I had the equipment already, brought over from my previous residence.  He was first surprised, then told me that I needed new equipment for their X1 platform.  I told him that I already had the X1 equipment.

At this point, he paused for a moment, then asked me if I’d tried hooking any of it up.  I had not, so he told me to give that a shot as service to the house was already showing as active.

So an hour after the technician was supposed to have been there, I found myself doing the install myself.  The TVs worked just fine.  He called back as I was getting the modem set up.  After I had it plugged in, he sent it a signal.  It worked too.  Happily, he pronounced everything complete and asked me to text him the address from which my equipment came, then disconnected.

The next day I got a response from @comcastcares apologizing for the late appointment arrival.  After I explained that it wasn’t a late arrival, it was that he didn’t show at all and I basically did the install myself, they gave me a $20 credit.

Frankly, my time is worth more than that.

Now, the experience isn’t going to get me to switch, and Comcast knows that, which is why they can get away with this.  They’ll continue to take my money (minus a token $20) happily.  They’ll put up with public shaming in the form of this post as long as I pay my monthly bill.

So I don’t expect to change anything.  I’m not trying to change anything.  I’m just putting this out there as one more Comcast horror story.