false advertising and hiding the tracks

Usual disclaimer:  IT groups at any university are faced with a tough challenge.  Limited resources, usually not quite enough staff to manage too many enterprise-level type services, and a strong, legitimate desire to do things the right way that gets misread as slow response, lack of concern, and or a number of other negative opinions from constituents.  I don’t like saying this is a “thankless job” because it’s an overused term, but it really can be like that.  I’m sure that the various folks indicated and implicated in this post are doing their best – I know that they are.  And I know that they could probably write posts about me that are similar, too.

Having said that…there have now been 2 instances of what I consider to be false advertising followed by an attempt to hide the tracks leading to those inaccuracies that truly, deeply frustrate me. At the very least, there is a lot of spin going on.  Yes, I know these are strong words.The first has to do with our annual PC Replacement Program.  It’s pretty straightforward.  Our desktop machines are warrantied for 4 years.  Every 4 years, we request trade-ins of the old machines and get new ones (why we have to request them rather than just have them listed out of existing paperwork is a bit confusing, but generally understandable, I must admit).  Before we received our machines in August, when I inquired as to why we were going with the 64-bit version of Windows 7 (some devices do not have 64-bit drivers, so suddenly scanners or printers might not work), I was explicitly told via e-mail that it was because the machines were coming with 4GB of memory (32-bit operating systems can only hand 2.7GB).

Note that the specifications for the new standard desktop computers say 2GB.  Now, I understand why this is the case.  For instance, off the top of my head:

  • not all users need that much memory
  • it’s more expensive to get 4GB rather than 2 (though not by much these days, as 4GB will be fairly future-proof and spreading that over the 4 sockets available in these machines is relatively inexpensive)
  • leaving 2 slots open means that for heavy users we can expand

I have no problem with these reasons unto themselves.  What upsets me is that there was no notice, I received no e-mail (which would have been common courtesy from a peer). and all IT did was just change that number on the web page.  Voila, now only 2GB.  And now we get less computer than what we thought.  Oh, and for the computers that were not under PCR and the school had to buy themselves, we spent more money than we needed to because I wanted to stay consistent with IT and did go for the 4GB.

The other issue has to do with a new “service” for users of smartphones other than Blackberry units.  We have had a Blackberry Enterprise Server on campus for a while now (ever since I got here in 2007, at the least) and the integration of those units and our Groupwise system is great.  Just terrific.

However, a Blackberry is not an iPhone or any other large, touch-screen smart phone.  You can’t really browse dropbox or box.net files with it, PDFs do not format very well, and it’s just a lot easier to browse the web, in my opinion, than with a Blackberry.  It’s a better experience, and it’s more efficient for my own use.

About a month ago IT started offering support for smartphones via Notifylink.  I was literally the first to jump on this, as I wanted to get my Sprint HTC EVO 4G all connected.  It just didn’t work, even though Notify, the company that provided the connector software, had “certified” that specific phone.  The mail app just crashed everytime.

I understand that things sometimes just don’t work.  But in this case, when I called ahead of time to find out the state of this new service, I was told, essentially, that IT had a single test device (a Motorola Droid) working with Notifylink but no end-users.  That means they had tested exactly one device for a campus-wide solution.  Yes, I took my chances anyway, but this is really sub-optimal testing procedure, to say the least.

Now that I served as a guinea pig IT has added the disclaimer that only Motorola Droid devices are supported.  So only Verizon customers that opted for the Droid (and hopefully the Droid X and Droid Pro) can use this service.  Not even Verizon HTC Droid Incredible units, or Samsung units, or…anything else.

Just change a little line on a webpage, and all is forgotten.

Not always.

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