Dell Support

I don’t want to turn this into another ‘offshoring is bad’ article, but that’s where Dell’s desktop support for home users is located. Offshoring is a fact of life in the IT industry and we had better get used to it as well as find new ways to keep us (U.S. workers) more competitive. Although I must say, the U.S. Government could help us out a tad with a more reflexive trade policy.

Now on to the real problem…

The harddrive in my brother’s Dell Dimension died on saturday and since I am the ‘Techincal Support Team’ for my family and friends, it fell to me to get this thing working again. It is still under warranty so a call to Dell was required.

Call #1:

In an attempt to sneak past the whole ‘flipcard’ troubleshooting session with tech support, I called customer care directly. It was my hope that I could just get a new drive shipped after explaining the problem and what troubleshooting steps I had taken. The problem we had was the ‘click of death’. This drive was raising 9 kinds of hell and clearly had shot craps.

While the gentleman at Dell was polite and helpful, he was definately not going to give me what I wanted, so he transferred me to Tech Support. During call routing I was disconnected, this lead to call number two.

Call #2:

This is where the trouble began. I went through the same explanation with this lady as I had with the gentleman in customer care, but she insisted on going through the flipchart. Two hours later, she informs that she ‘needs’ the error code that the Dell diagnostics utility cd spits out to ‘determine what caused the harddrive to fail’ (which I still highly doubt that we could get any useful information from this). You guessed it, the cd set is still at my brother’s place. While its not far, this call could have ended within 5 minutes if she would have just shipped a replacement. So I finally just hang up and head out to get the cd’s. At this point I figured I could just play ‘tech support roulette’, how could the next representative be any worse?

At this point, I have almost finished running every harddrive test that was on the cd’s. I wasn’t about to call back without the omnipotent ‘error code’. I ended up having 30some different error codes. This had *bad* written all over it.

Call #3:

I’ve gotten the tech phone number memorized, as well as the automated response path. I was well on my way to becoming a finely tuned tech support consumer. My called was misrouted.

That sounds worse than it is. I was routed to the Inspiron Support line, which is located in Idaho. At this point I was discussing the problem with a gentleman, a gentleman who wasn’t required to even talk to me about this. His response was (paraphrasing) ‘This is a simple thing to take care of’. I told him what happened, what I had done to determine the fate of the drive (at this point I hadn’t even mentioned the diagnostics I had run). He mildly stated that (paraphrasing) ‘when they start raising all kinds of heck like that, they’re dead’. He took down the service tag number, got our shipping information and shipped the drive 2nd day priority.

While the first two contacts may have just been ‘doing their job’, the 3rd contact went above and beyond what was required of him. He could have just rerouted my call and sent me on down the line.. but he didn’t. Isn’t this how they should have handled it in the first place? No wonder tech support has such a bad image.

NOTE: There are a couple instances where I had to paraphrase in the above text. I came as close to a direct quote as memory would allow.

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Inspiron 2650 + FreeBSD

Just slapped together a little how-to on getting FreeBSD installed on a Dell Laptop. As always, comments are welcome. This is the first interation of this how-to, so if you see anything wrong, have a suggestion or whatever, please post a comment!

1. Boot FreeBSD CD
a. At Booting [Kernel] in 10 seconds; hit space
b. At OK type boot -c
c. At config> eisa 0
d. At config> quit

2. Install FreeBSD minimal set
a. Install ports collection
b. Install kernel sources

If you need assistance with the install of FreeBSD,

3. During the reboot, you will have to accomplish step 1 again

4. Edit fstab as follows
a. Noauto on proc
b. Noatime on all others
c. Leave the /swap alone

5. Edit /etc/make.conf by uncommenting the following
a. touch /etc/make.conf
b. echo “CLFLAGS= -O -pipe” >> /etc/make.conf
b. echo “NOPROFILE= true” >> /etc/make.conf
c. echo “USA_RESIDENT= YES” >> /etc/make.conf

6. Compile new kernel
a. comment out device eisa
b. add device agp
c. add options VESA
d. add options SC_PIXEL_MODE

7. Add soundcard support
a. echo “snd_ich_load=\x94YES\x94” >> /boot/loader.conf

8. Configure console by adding the following commands to rc.local
a. echo “vidcontrol VESA_800x600” >> /etc/rc.local
If you don’t do this, exiting X will completely blow your console, requiring a reboot.
b. reboot

9. Install the following package
a. pkg_add -r cvsup-without-gui

10. cvsup the ports collection

If you need help with the cvsup process,

11. Install the Xfree 4.2.x from ports (must be installed from ports, we will need to patch this with the nv (nvidia) driver.)
a. Compile XFree 4.2.x (yes, we will recompile the server, but this picks up everything we need)
b. Patch XFree86-4-Server with the nvidia code
i. Get the nv.tar.gz patch (
ii. Cd /usr/ports/x11-servers/XFree86-4-Server
iii. Make clean
iv. Make patch
v. Cd work
vi. Tar -zxvf /path/to /nv.tar.gz
vii. Cd ..
viii. Make all
ix. Make deinstall
x. Make reinstall
c. configure X using the graphical utility from the /stand/sysinstall menu
i. Vert refresh 50 – 100
ii. HorizSync 31.5 – 90

12. Install Gnome2 port
a. I don’t recommend starting gdm from rc.local until you are completely certain that everything is working right
b. I usually just log in as root and do a gdm && exit real quick. (learned that from Super Stibbers)

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