How to lose a customer, the Amazon eero 6e way

Oh, eero, you disappoint me. I’ve been a customer since before you were assimilated into the Amazon. I even upgraded my original system to your “6 Pro” models. And, I’m an eero Secure subscriber, despite the hassles it causes with overly aggressive site blocking and nonsensical “new client” alerts.

When you recently enticed me to upgrade to an eero Pro 6e system, I took the bait and spent $600 (with discount and trade-in) for your latest models. Boy, do I regret it.

The new Pro 6e stations refuse to recognize each other, and they complain about being placed in the same locations as the stations that I’m replacing, I dutifully tried moving them closer to each other. Then, when that failed, even closer. I tried starting fresh instead of using your “replace an eero” option. Nope. Nope. Nope. These pretty white half-cubes are steaming piles of shit.

Fortunately, I was able to reinstall my “old” 6 Pro stations, which immediately worked perfectly in the same locations where the new ones failed. I wasted nearly three hours of my life trying to accomplish something that should take ten minutes. Something that did take ten minutes the last time I upgraded.

I’ve returned the new system, cancelled my eero Secure renewal, and I will eventually find some 6e stations by one of your competitors. Thanks for the memories, but don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.



Resolving the HomeKit can’t find accessory error

I’m adding a new camera system to my automated home. I chose the EufyCam 2C Pro system, partially because it’s made by Anker, but mostly because it supports HomeKit Secure Video.

However, it was a major headache getting the system configured to use HomeKit. The issue is that the process of adding the HomeBase2 as a HomeKit accessory would fail. I tried doing it in HomeKit directly, and I tried doing it through the Eufy Security app. Adding the HomeBase2 would always fail.

Making it even more frustrating, each attempt took several minutes, and seemed to work until the final step. HomeKit found the HomeBase, it asked for its location and camera names, and so on. It wasn’t until the final step when it would eventually timeout with a frustrating “Accessory not found” error. Well, FU HomeKit, you found it just fine five minutes ago when I started this process!

How did I finally resolve it? By (inconveniently) connecting the HomeBase directly to the router. (I previously had it, like everything else in my home, connected to a switch. A professional-grade switch, I might add, not some cheap Amazon Basics crap.) Once I moved the connection, adding the accessory was fast and smooth. Apparently, the HomeBase (or maybe HomeKit) doesn’t like being behind a switch. Word to the wise.


How to lose a customer the CenturyLink way

If a company can’t provide at least minimally competent customer service before delivering the product, take that as a sign that you should bail on the deal. I did.

Here are the highlights of how CenturyLink makes it hard to be their customer:

  1. Require a long lead-time to install residential fiber Internet service. Your competitor, Cox, says they offer next day installation. But screw that, make people wait nearly a week.
  2. During that week of waiting, pester the customer with multiple email and text messages, insisting they need to come to a website for the latest installation updates.
  3. When the customer comes to the website, give them a garbled summary, so they won’t know what time to expect the installer.
  4. centurlink buggy scheduling
  5. On the day of install, have your tech entirely ignore the instructions they were given by the community’s security guard so that the tech will be unable to access the customer’s neighborhood.
  6. Have the tech call the customer, seemingly to obtain the instructions already given, but when the call drops before either party can utter a word, turn around and leave the area. IMPORTANT: When the customer calls you back, don’t answer. And never, ever respond to the voice mail left by the customer.
  7. Mark the installation order as ‘location unavailable,’ and reschedule it for more than 40 days in the future. But do not tell the customer you’ve done so. Let them call dispatch and ask WTF is going on.

Another reason why Dropbox sucks

There are many reasons why Dropbox sucks. (Go ahead, Google it, the results are shameful) But here is the latest from me. About 98% of the time when I boot my computer, this error message appears. Dismissing the error and restarting Dropbox makes it go away, and the status that the app reports is that everything is just fine.

Screen Shot 2022 04 17 at 9 07 11 AM

Here's what's wrong with the error message:
- It does not tell you how to contact support, only that you should.
- The Help button it refers to does not exist.
- The text implies that the user did something wrong.
- The text implies a specific problem that is vague and not actionable. (And incorrect, based on the error log it references)
- The file it references is a Python crash log. (Completely unhelpful to anyone but Dropbox programmers.)

I tweeted Dropbox Support about this error, and they said to reply with a DM and attach the error log. Twitter does not allow text attachments, and the error log exceeds the maximum tweet length. It also exposes information that I consider to be private.

Remind me again why I'm paying for a premium Dropbox account?


The secret to manually updating Volvo XC-60 nav maps

If the Sensus in your Volvo displays a message about updates being available, but then refuses to list any app updates, it’s probably referring to a map update. Don’t bother contacting Volvo OnCall about not seeing any updates, they will just refer you to your dealer. Then, as happened to me, your dealer will tell you that you need a map update. You can have your dealer install it (for a fee), or you can do it yourself. Kudos to Howard Orloff Volvo for pointing this out to me.

Having previously owned a Nissan Murano, I was pleased to learn that Volvo provides free map updates via their website, but not pleased to discover that Volvo’s instructions for installing the updates are poor and incomplete. After several false starts, here’s the information necessary for success, which I discovered by trial and error:

  • The flash drive must be exFAT formatted, or it won’t be recognized by the Sensus nav system. Some Volvo documentation incorrectly states that FAT32 is supported.
  • The Volvo downloader verifies the data on your flash drive, but does not verify that Sensus will recognize the drive. It could easily do so, but it doesn’t.
  • Volvo implies that you might need to buy their flash drive. I used one that I had in a junk drawer.
  • Don’t be confused that the XC-60 owners manual links to a page describing how to update the XC-90. This is just sloppy work by Volvo’s technical writers.
  • The manual says you can only update a map that you’ve previously downloaded over-the-air. This wasn’t true for me, I installed all of North America but had only regional maps already installed.
  • Final tip: Installing took about 40 minutes, followed by a long “Loading…” pause on the Sensus screen. Have patience.

Good luck!


How to Lose a Customer the FedEx Way

I’ve had a FedEx account for at least 20 years. Earlier this week, I logged into the account to ship a package. The first time I noticed that something wasn’t right was when the website wouldn’t display an estimated cost/timetable for my shipment. Instead, it displayed an ugly red error message stating that the service I had chosen was not available at the destination address. (Which made no sense at all, given my choices.)

But, I needed to send the package more than I needed a cost estimate, so I ignored the message and continued. Now another ugly red error message appeared, this one even more cryptic. It generically told me that an error occurred and displayed a link to click for more information. That link, however, led to a missing (404) page.

Ugh! I picked up the phone and called FedEx customer service. After the voice robot gave up on helping me, I was transferred to an agent. That agent gave up too, and transferred me again.

The new agent confirmed that the credit card they have on file is correct and unexpired. Also, that I could log in to the account (obviously), and then finally discovered that my account was suspended due to inactivity.

In other words, FedEx decided to put a hold on my twenty-year-old account because I haven’t shipped a package in the last couple of months. (Hello, business-stopping pandemic? You might have heard about it.)

Somewhere in FedEx HQ, a programmer created an algorithm that decided “Hey, we haven’t seen this customer for a few months, so fuck him.”

The new agent was able to clear the problem, and then I was able to generate the label for my package (after having to start all over, of course).


Livboj is IKEA’s excellent Qi charger

Qi inductive charging of devices is a convenient pain in the ass. Convenient because you don’t need to plug in; a pain in the ass because it’s slow and finicky. It requires too much attention to precisely align your device with the hidden charging coils — and if you’re a fraction of an inch off, no charging occurs.

The IKEA Livboj Wireless Charger e2010 significantly helps with the alignment problem. It’s very rare that my iPhone doesn’t immediately begin charging when I place it in almost any orientation onto the Livboj. I also have a Belkin charging pad, which cost 7x more than the IKEA model, but is very particular about how the device must be positioned.

The only downside to the Livboj is that the bottom has rubber bumpers, which may cause damage to finished wood furniture. I avoid any issues by placing the Livboj on a drink coaster.

To be fair, IKEA keeps the price low by not including a cable or power supply. All you get is the charging pad, but you almost certainly have the necessary pieces sitting in a drawer anyway. Well, except the pad uses a USB-C cable, so maybe you don’t have one of those lying around (yet). In that case, add a Lillhut braided cable for $5, and you’re still far below the price of the Belkin.


Book Review: Make Paper Inventions

This book, written by Kathy Ceceri, gives detailed instructions on making “machines that move, drawings that light up, wearables, and structures you can cut, fold, and roll.” It’s a MAKE and O’Reilly publication, so you know the instructions are top-notch.

photo of book on gordon meyer table

Additionally, the book has just the appropriate amount of educational content about the history and science behind the projects. The book is also chock-full of references to websites and retailers. (It was published in 2015, and there’s a poignant note that references to Radio Shack might soon be obsolete.)

I found the information on building electronic circuits from paper to be the most intriguing, but there is such a wide variety of things to try that I imagine almost anyone will likely find a project that appeals to them. The chapter on making paper was also of interest — somehow Ceceri’s instructions were more encouraging than others that I have read. Also included is a very intriguing machine that generates power using friction and mylar — I can’t wait to try that for myself.

I knew this book was meant for me when it began referencing familiar names and ideas, such as Martin Gardner and Buckminster Fuller. There are instructions for building paper models of their ideas, including a geodesic dome. I also found some new Möbius Strip information that would have been useful back when I used to perform Rick Johnsson’s Moby-Zip routine.

You can get your copy of this fun, easy book, along with many of the specialized materials, at Maker Shed. Or, via the Amazon, of course.


How to make portable backups using Hyper Backup

If you use Hyper Backup to create a local copy of your Synology NAS (which you probably should), you will discover that its default setting creates a proprietary format. In my opinion, this is bad if you want a portable and universal emergency backup of your drive. If you see “HBK” files on your backup drive, you’re heading down a path that will cause you headaches if you ever want to restore your data to something other than a Synology device.

Like most Synology products, the Hyper Backup interface isn’t clear, but it is possible to turn off the proprietary format. When you create the backup set, turn on the option for “single version.” Yes, you’ll lose the ability to restore past versions of a file (ala Time Machine), but you’ll gain a simple and transportable copy of your files. (If you really need versioning, look into turning on the Snapshot Replication service for the directories where it would be beneficial.)