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A Girl, a Boy and his Newsletter, and an ISP
March 19, 2002
By Karen Capel

I am a freelance editor and I live in Champaign, Illinois.

Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, is the home of the main campus of the University of Illinois, from which has sprung a great deal of innovative computer hardware and software technology. Occasionally I have worked on hardware and software documentation--some of it from members of the U of I community, but, I admit, it is not my favorite subject. In fact, it is accurate to say that only by virtue of my work did I allow myself to be dragged "kicking and screaming into the computer age."

In the mid-90s, when most of my work began arriving by diskette or modem, I went searching for my first internet service provider. It seems like so long ago now, I do not even remember the acronym "ISP" being popular yet. Nevertheless, back then, I found myself in the office of a small company in Champaign called "Advancenet."

Advancenet was owned and operated by a friendly, helpful computer whiz named Mohammed. Mohammed, or one of his small staff, sat and patiently explained things like "modem" and "port" and even "Control + X." Wonder of wonders, Mohammed even answered the phone on Saturday when "technical support" was off for the weekend but he was still putting in time in his 80-hour week.

I believe I was customer no. 178. The most I ever had to complain about was the short hours that technical support was available for connecting or online problems. I was a night owl. Where was everybody when I needed them? But, if I called the next day, or put the computer in the car and drove to the office of Advancenet, I was always helped--either by a member of the staff or by Mohammed himself.

In 2000, I was still subscribing to service with Advancenet. They helped me graduate from 486 to Pentium. Also in 2000, I began editing an online political commentary written by a man who lives "next door"--in Indiana. Sag (say "Sadge") complained mightily about his computer--he was used to and missed his old IBM Selectric, and he also complained mightily about his ISP, which operated out of Indianapolis.

I tried to be helpful and I researched ISPs that might cover the service area that Sag lived in. Huzzah--I found that Advancenet was joining forces with a still smaller company called IEI that operated in central Indiana. I do not remember, now, whether I noticed at the time that both companies would be under the umbrella of a larger organization, a corporation. I had no reason to take note--hey, we're talking "email" and "surfing the internet" here . . . items of minutia . . .

As soon as Sag switched his service over to IEI, he had fewer hassles, a more reliable service. I still called Champaign's Advancenet for help, Sag called Indianapolis' IEI for his help. Between the "four of us" we got the political column out.

Within a year, however, Mohammed the entrepreneur had sold Advancenet, either alone or together with IEI, to a larger corporation, and he had moved on. The larger corporation had built its reputation in telephone technology--not computer technology, and it originated in central Illinois, and it was . . . and is . . . named eGIX.

As soon as eGIX sent out their "welcome" letter to all the former Advancenet and IEI customers, Sag noticed his service became terrible. My service only got "worse"--it was still usually fair to pretty good--but Sag's was terrible. He couldn't log on in the morning, sometimes for two or three hours. If he was able to log on, he was disconnected repeatedly--three, six, a dozen times.

Calls from him to eGIX technical support netted him various "techs" with various descriptions of the foundation of the problem--usually that the fault lay in his computer and that the "settings" were wrong. I know this because I usually heard about it in an email--soon after the problem was "fixed," or later on in the day, or . . . two days later or the following week when eGIX and their "innovative technology" might finally deliver the email. Sometimes I didn't hear at all. Sometimes whole swaths of emails went missing. I know this too, because I would ask him editorial questions that were never answered--because either my email was never received by him or his response never delivered to me.

One of the last calls to eGIX technical support that Sag made he made last week--the workweek that ended on Friday, March 8, 2002. The tech support person led him through a series of instructions that failed to correct the problem and then said "well, there's one more thing we can try . . ." and then he hung up the phone on his customer, Sag.

Other things happened--too many, in fact, for another person, not directly involved, to keep track of. I will probably never understand why some things on Sag's computer simply do not work at all--despite that it's now a brand new computer. The only common denominator between the previous computer and the new one, however, is the directions and advice of the "technical support staff" at eGIX.

On March 7th, Sag got a new ISP and finally canceled his "service" with eGIX. I knew he was looking for a new company for service, but I didn't know he had canceled service with eGIX that day. Late Thursday night, I opened my email program and found a strange looking email, which I have copied herein, as the entry appeared in my In Box.

Anyone can tell that the email is timed at 12:35 AM on March 8, 2002, the sender appears to be an entity named "Heehee Haahaa," and the subject line of the email is "Sayonara." The "To:" line (not copied) was filled in with Sag's former email address and my email address. I have copied and pasted the email in its entirety except for the salutation ("Dear . . ."), which I have omitted because it is derogatory. I am the "Netsuke" referred to by the writer of the email. The word "netsuke" is part of my email address.

Sag says that he sent about a half-dozen editions of his newsletter to only one member of the eGIX "team," and that person is one of the executives named and described on the eGIX website. I have no reason to disbelieve Sag--I had communication with this person as well. I am familiar with his "style." I am an editor--it's what I "do."

The reason I have written this long description of events, as they occurred, is because this is no joke. This is serious. And this is more than just a little something about a relationship gone bad and "hurt feelings." Let's forget "human decency" and "common courtesy" for a minute. Sag spent around $1000 on computer repair and then a new computer. He lost business contacts and communications, and he lost contact with friends. He lost a lot of time. I lost a lot of time.

As the final coup, eGIX had disabled Sag's ability to retrieve his own email once it arrived. Another party had to intervene by using his username and password to access his webmail, retrieve the emails, and then forward them to a different account that he was able to access. All this was because Sag was the butt of a "company joke."

Are you laughing? I'm not laughing. This email demonstrates how an internet service provider can encroach on personal freedom of expression and invade privacy and commit theft. It is not only unethical but also illegal to conduct business in this manner.

The writer of this email is certainly "no dummy" (though evidence of his ignorance is plentiful), because the email was sent from an anonymous Hotmail account. The anonymity of Hotmail, however, does not hide the factual admissions in the text--nor does it hide the disingenuous cowardly persona of the writer. The writer of the email has also violated the "terms of use" provided by Hotmail.

I hope that everyone who reads this takes heed and takes the time to investigate and examine every single company, every corporation and every staff member, all executives singly and executive "teams," all service agreements, technical supports and "providers"--all of it, all of them, bought and paid for, understood and seemingly guaranteed by the exchange of your hard-earned monies.

Anyone wishing to communicate with either Sag or me may do so at: SagmeisterVTOL@hotmail.com

Thank you for your time.

Karen Capel
Champaign, IL


(The In Box entry and email follow)

[F] Normal [ ] Heehee Haahaa 12:35 AM 3/8/02 +0000 6
Sayonara

I am most saddened to hear of your departure from your ISP. Of the thousands of account holders, I have to admit, you will certainly be remembered. All the lunch room laughter pondering your next dilemma, the quips we discover in our email boxes after a "BAD" night at the SAGGY house, and the mundane "blah, blah, blah, I am too stupid to operate a toaster, microwave oven, or remote control TV, let alone a high-tech computer." The best thing you could do is to box up your PC and donate it to AMVETS for someone who can actually use it. I understand that this has been coming for some time now and the final straw must have arrived. For so long now, that straw must have been used to pry the pork from your three teeth. But now, you have effectively tossed it down. I can rest assured now that the daily banter and slander will now cease from your account.

Secondly, please remove me from your humorous, but simple-minded, right wing, anti-AMERICAN, I-am-proud-to-be-a-pinko-commie newsletter, "The Sag Something News!" I have never found it to be anything but trash fodder and feeble-minded ravings. I know why you hide with all your email aliases and psuedo-user names. You're too damned ashamed to be pointed out in a crowd and you certainly understand that SPAM is illegal. Most ISP's strictly forbid it, but we have never terminated your service as a result of your breach of the service agreement. I do think it is funny to witness your plight. To be in your shoes and wonder where has my life gone and why have I been reduced to this existence must be of extreme torment to you. Agony enough!

On many occasions, I have been baffled by the gender and identity you pose to be. I do hope that you find greener pastures elsewhere. Try not to step in the same material your newsletter consists of when waltzing across the cow pastures of Internet service. I insist you frame a copy of this email and use it as a tool to remind you of the moment your next Internet issue arises, that you were the DUMBASS!

I am sure this will only prompt you to volley more tirades my way, but now I can simply block, ignore, or delete this account to remove your rantings. I insist that "Netsuke" puts her two cents in as well. I now know what "birds of a feather" means. If each of you makes a living at this cutesy, newsletter thingy, I know I will need to accept your I.O.U., as the two cents will certainly be hard to spare. Speaking of spare...spare me the vomit of how you are some elite, highly trained, formally educated scholar. I happen to know it takes each of you two hours to watch 60 minutes on TV.

As I sit back in my black leather chair, I breathe a deep sigh of relief and exhale all of this bad karma each of you have festered in me for some time now. Will we miss the revenue from your account? No! You soak this out of the technical support team weekly. We will most certainly show huge gains in profitability and server-load efficiency. Matter of factly, I believe we will institute a "So Long To Sag Day" here at technical support and celebrate it annually. I apologize if this isn't the response you were expecting. Polling all your contacts, at your ISP, of your soon demise and they resoundly say, "SAYONARA!"

Signed,

Sag's #1 FAN

"Remember to vote Republican," our kids deserve a future.

(End of email)

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