A story about car dealerships

So it’s time for another story time with uncle grelbar. This time, i’m going to deal with.. well, car dealerships. This is a story on how they’ll try to fuck you over, but how you can, at least in my case, walk out as a winner.

My story begins with a standard annual service for my 2003 Nissan Primera station wagon. I bought it from Autokeskus Konala (Finnish Nissan/Dodge/BMW/Mini dealer) a few years ago, and i’ve been servicing it there as well, to maintain a good service record. So far, i’ve gotten excellent service, from the very start of our relationship. But this time was different.

I paid for my service on the 14th of September, got my keys, and went out to get my car from the lot. I was rather surprised that the key (which had been working flawlessly for two years), now suddenly would not open the doors. I went a bit closer, and the same thing: the doors wouldn’t unlock. So, i open the door with the actual physical key (shit, i can’t remember when i’ve last done that with a car!), and got in. Put the key in to the ignition. No start. Not even a peep out of the engine or ignition. No blinking red light in the dash (to indicate car is not running, etc.). Notice the lights are on, and that the battery is dead due to this.

At this point i’m starting to realize that i’ve been fucked over. I’ve just paid several hundred for my service, and my car is dead in the dealership parking lot. Not nice. I walk back in to the place, and ask what the hell is up. The guy, one guy, looks a bit tired, it’s probably the end of his shift. He asks for my license place and checks for what was done with my car. He instantly says “Nope, nothing in here explains a broken key. We don’t really have anyone working here who can help you at this hour (a bit before closing). Maybe the battery is dead?”. So, i mutter some obscure Norwegian curses, and head for the spare-parts section.

I buy a new battery, of the typ 2025, for 1,80€. Pay for the battery. Go out. At this point it starts to rain. Car still does not open with the remote control. I’m getting increasingly pissed off. I call my dad, who comes and helps me with starter-cables (since nobody at the fucking dealership offered their help), and the car starts right up. Key is still dead. I walk back in to notify the service guy that i’d be contacting them about this fuckup later).

Drive home. Try our spare key, which works fine. Call the dealership the following day, telling them that i had some problems with my previous service, and that i needed to talk to someone. Nobody was apparently available, so i left a message, with a request to call me. Three days pass, nobody calls me.

I send email to the head of the service department. Wait 10 days for a reply. Guy says that the coding of my key might have gotten scrambled when the battery was drained by some incompetent fuck who left the lights on. Seemed like a good explanation, except, why would my spare key work? The dead battery in the car somehow remotely broke the other key? Okay. He told me to bring it in on the first of October, to have it looked at.

Bring the car over in the morning of the 1st. Get a call in a few hours by some asshat who tells me “The key is broken”. No fucking shit. Also he tells me, that my spare key, which works fine, “also is working a bit badly”. Horse shit. Okay, next he throws the bomb. “A new key is 111 euro. Would you like to order it?”. I told him that this isn’t the way it goes, and that i’d contact his superiors.

I e-mail the same head of the service department who tells me that “The re-encoding which we promised, did not work, so the key is otherwise broken, and we are not liable.”. I complain, and he graciously offers to take the price down to 75 euro for a new key. I tell him that i won’t pay them a dime, since the key broke in their custody.

At this point, i also e-mail the head of customer relations at Autokeskus Konala, and the head of customer relations for the entire company, with the head of service as CC. A day passes. I get a new e-mail stating that the key would be replaced for no cost.

Lessons learned

So, when things fail, complain, and keep complaining up the ladder until you get what you want. But be sure you are right, and that they are wrong.

A car dealership can’t be like the coat-check, where they take no responsibility for anything left with them. When i bring in a car for service, i expect that it comes back in the same, err.. improved condition from the original. What i do not expect, is that my car is dead in the lot, and that my key has been broken by some asshat. Or that management gives me the fucking dick when i ask to fix what they broke.

Autokeskus Konala was on the Kuningaskuluttaja (“King Consumer”, a program about consumer rights) program, about ripping off some other consumer. I guess the fault in this one lay with Nissan, but in any case, this isn’t something we should just swallow and complement the taste. Consumers are being fucked over everywhere, by unscrupulous businessmen who know that if they push a consumer far enough, they’ll give up, because litigation, in many countries, is too expensive, or not an option.

But what we can do, is talk about it. Write a few blog posts, maybe e-mail your correspondence to a few news outlets. Talk to your friends. Sure, a blogpost, in the big scheme of things, is meaningless, unless you run a huge site. But at least you can raise some awareness. If two people learn something out of this, it’s been a good day.

Just don’t give in to unreasonable demands, and keep your eyes open when people are slapping you around with a wet cock. Too many people can just be intimidated, by an authoritative voice, to doing whatever they want you to.

Pidgin 2.6.1, the woes of video support and the loss of encryption

So i got Pidgin 2.6.1 at the literal order of my good friend Anteuz. It’s not in th official repo’s yet, so you can either add a repo where it can be found (link here), or download the source and compile on your own.

I opted for the repository, because it just felt like the easiest way?

Anyway. 2.6.0 brings video and audio support for gmail users (the XMPP protocol), which is very cool. Windows user have had this for ages, using either the gmail flash client, or then the gtalk client. Other IM clients of course have supported video and audio for ages. I remember using MSN messenger (yeah, the folly of youth..) to do voice chats back when it was a novel and cool idea. You got chicks that way. Okay, i am lying.

So 2.6.1 is the latest version that you can download, i guess 2.6.2 is the latest “testing” version or source version. Anyway. Installation went fine, and it got some of the necessary Gstreamer plugins to enable video and audio. No problems, Help -> About shows that Audio and Video is enabled.

But then, when i tried to initiate a video conversation with Anteuz, it failed. The File menu has the new Media entry, which has the options for audio, video and audio and video. All fine so far, except the options are greyed out. Not my side apparently. Turns out the windows 2.6.1 does not have audio and video support, which sucks major ass. So no testing of that nifty feature, since my dear friend is a rooted windows user (no pun intended?). But he’s a gamer, so i understand.

So what does it take? Well, you both need to be using gmail (xmpp protocol), have 2.6.1 or later installed with video support either precompiled or compiled in. And running linux. Wohoo. Not many of my friends on that fucking list eh.

So another thing we found is that pidgin-encryption 3.0 stopped working. It would’t get the other party’s key when it tried the exchange. The error was something in the order of “cannot find buddy!”, when we looked at the debug window. I’m not a developer so the massive debug output didn’t say too much, but the end result was that key exchange wasn’t happening, ergo no encryption. Blah. Now the NSA can read all of my dirty blabberings.

Firefox plugins plug

We’re gonna look at some of the plugins i like for Firefox today. This is not a long list, i’m not plugin addicted like certain people i know, but there are certain plugins that make living easier.

Ad-Block Plus with Easylist & Viltteri + Element Hiding Helper
This here is a classic. It’s been around for ages. It basically operates on a filterlist (easylist and viltteri are such lists), that filter your web content so you don’t have to see all those pesky ads for shit you would never buy anyway. Easylist is one of the lists that are offered when you’ve installed ad-block, and it seems to work fairly well. For Finland, there is a list called viltteri (a mutation of the word filter), which can be found here. You can submit sites to be indexed by viltteri, or send in a false positive, which is always a good thing, and can’t be said for all lists. (*cough* the sensorship list…)

With Element Hiding Helper, henceforth EHH, you can block *any* item on a webpage. Sometimes these ad-toting motherfuckers become crafty, and put out ads that you can’t easily block using ad-block. With EHH, you can click Ctrl-K, and then select the element, be it a paragraph, a div, whatever, and block that. Some people have found ways around that, using completely dynamic element names, which are kind of hard to block, since they can’t even be wildcarded without fucking up the entire site layout.

Xmarks

This is good for people who have multiple computers that they use on a regular basis. I operate my desktop, my laptop and my work desktop. I want to have my bookmarks, for without them, life is moot. With Xmarks, you can synchronize your bookmarks, either using their server, or even your own server. They offer encryption for the entire transaction, so it should be fairly safe. You can also sync saved passwords, but since i really don’t practice such stuff, i have left that untouched. Synchronization options are: keep local, discard server, keep server discard local and some third option. You can set it to sync manually, or every time you close the browser. Works magic for my needs. Even keeps the layout.

MultiRowBookmarks

Allows you to create a multirow bookmark toolbar, to accomodate a large amount of links. If you’re like me, you don’t like the bookmarks menu, and you want your regulars in the toolbar, which isn’t big enough by default. Before this came out, you had to do a manual edit of some configuration files to achieve it.

Reliby

Reliby allows you to place a button in the toolbar, that when clicked, reloads all your RSS feeds. You don’t have to click each one, and select reload anymore! Great if you keep the browser open for long periods of time, like i do, and follow a lot of feeds.

NoScript

A savior. You can block javascript and other scripting languages so they don’t execute funny stuff on your machine. Hinders a lot of web based exploits.

Stylish

Allows you to add custom CSS styles for specific webpages, and provides a cool framework for managing these. There are tons of cool styles out there, and for sites like.. Say muropaketti that i follow, it’s a real saver. The default forum layout looks like ass, so with a stylish style, i can just transform it in to something much more usable. This is the style i use for muropaketti, thanks to Lifeless.

Any other good suggestions are welcome!

Testing Ubuntu 9.10

I’m in the process of installing Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 2 server on a test machine. I’ll let you know more tomorrow when i get to actually use the system. Installation is not the graphical one, as has been the way for Ubuntu server versions forever. I’m pretty sure you could use the graphical installer, but like.. who needs it?

The system i am installing it on is called mother, and is a 2.4 GHz P4, with 1.5 gigs ram, and 320 HD, Nvidia Vanta graphics card. Just a rig i threw together off of some spare parts i had laying around here.

Nokia E75 Review

This is a short hopefully helpful review to all those who are thinking of getting this much-hyped “mini-communicator” from Nokia. The phone i have has the latest firmware, which was released on June 2nd (thanks Anteuz), and is called 110.48.125.

This was a much anticipated phone, which will, along with the soon-to-be-released N97 replace the current E90 and older series of Communicators. These devices are smaller, slide-out keyboards, and they are generations faster. Memory is greatly increased, as well as the selection of available applications, at least when we compare to the older S80 communicators (9300, 9300i, 9500). S60 is a good platform nowadays, there are loads of apps available, and what with Nokia’s new Ovi store (to compete with the Apple app-store for the iPhone), access and searching is easier than ever.

But down to the nitty-gritty. The phone has an otherways sturdy metal chassis, and weighs in at 139 grams, and is a bit bigger than a standard candybar-format we’re used to. The screen is of high-quality, although i’ve heard a lot of reports that screen is put on too tight or something, and is the number one reason for DOA’s and service-calls. I’ve had no problems so far, and i’ve had it about 2 weeks. The resolution is a common 240×320, and the screen can be flipped to “widescreen”-mode by turning the phone around/pulling out the slide-out keyboard.

This is one of the big caveats of this phone. The slide-spring feels robust, but the slide out part itself (the screen slides out from the rest of the phone, revealing the qwerty), feels very weak and plasticky. You’d expect that with a 469€ phone (verkkokauppa.com price of today), you’d have like.. quality craftmanship. I have no doubt, that with longer use, the spring will become loose, and/or the entire lid will break off as result of some mechanical fatigue. I just don’t trust phones with moving parts.

The software is Symbian S60, version 3.2 FP2 (feature pack). The FP includes the latest version of the flash player for the web browser, and probably the support for the flippable-screen and slide functions.

It has a motion sensor, which allows you to just turn the phone to flip the screen. This can be turned on or off, depending on how you like it. The sensor isn’t perfect, and the software has a few bugs, notably that the screen is left in the wrong position, and you kind of have to tilt it back and forth to get it to wake up. Another feature i haven’t tested with the new firmware is: if you boot the phone lid open, it’ll start in the wrong position by default. I’ll have to try it.

Speed is pretty good for a Symbian phone, which are notoriously slow, overall. The latest firmware (this was the first release since the factory version), improves the speed further, and it’s now at a rather comfortable level, at least if you are used to other, older, symbian phones.

The top numpad, the regular keypad, is really sucky. It’s one of the main reasons not to get the phone. Don’t kid yourself with the qwerty! While it’s good, it doesn’t replace by any means, the regular numpad. You’ll still use it to answer phone calls, and type out numbers and set the keylock on or off. Honestly. If you don’t hit them, spot on, you’ll be clicking like a raving madman just to get the keylock on. I’m not shitting. The buttons are made of hard, slick glossy plastic, that has no feel to it what so ever.

As i mentioned, the qwerty is good, has a good feel, and you have access to the characters easily either through shift or the function button. The only thing i missed was a dedicated å button since i type swedish sometimes. But it’s not a big drawback.

Battery life is standard. I talk a lot, use e-mail, sms and web. I use most features daily, since i need to for work. The battery lasts about two days in this usage, which is average for these phones. I won’t get in to standby, because Nokia always lies, and i’m not able to test it. Battery is a BL-4U.

Connectivity. The phone offers 3.5G (i.e. HSDPA here in europe), WLAN, Bluetooth with the latest profile, and micro-usb connector. It also has a standard 3.5mm plug for headphones and other accessories. MicroSD card, with a 4GB card bundled in Finland at least. Has GPS, FM-radio. The E75 (and other new Symbian phones) now have integrated e-mail with support for Microsoft Exchange, so it integrates fairly effortlessly to your company email system. The only thing which is totally un-intuitive, is syncing anything except email. If you want to sync calendar, tasks or contacts, you have to set that separately (not unlike the regular mail for exchange, which has everything within the one account). Also, you can set the thing in a number of places, and the difference of these has yet to dawn on me. You can either do it inside the E-mail menu-item, or from the applications themselves. For instance, in calendar, there is a setup item called “Associated mailbox”, where you can select your mail account. So what the hell? Which is it? I’m sure the fucking manual has it, but this stuff is supposed to be idiotproof if it’s to hit it big in business environments.

I can say this from experience: users are not smart.

My favorite feature: OTA upgrade of the firmware, and the new UDP feature. UDP, user data preservation, preserves your settings and data as you do the upgrade. No more clumsy backups and worries when updating! OTA allows you to get the firmware patch from nokia’s servers directly to the phone. No more data cables/bluetooth and nokia software update. Makes installing phones here at work a lot faster. The patch i downloaded was only about 6 megs, and didn’t take much longer than 5 minutes to download and install. You can also download, and chose to install later.

Most hated feature: The god damn numpad sucks ass. I might actually consider this without that crappy numpad.

Conclusion Would not buy this or recommend it, because really, a phone this expensive should be a bit better, with more attention to detail. If you get it for free at work, or somehow get used to the numpad, i guess it’s alright. It has just about everything a phone needs today. If you are a gadget-freak like me, you’ll like all the features, but you’ll be ticked off about the minor caveats.