By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers
A friend of mine — I'll call him Jim — installed the final version of the Windows 98 beta the other day and was trying to work out a few problems with the way it was connecting to the Internet. So he called the tech support folks at his local Internet Service Provider.
"We don't support Windows 98," the tech guy said.
I can almost understand that part. After all, if you found a way to get hold of next year's BMW Super Turbo roadster and drive it into the BMW dealer for service, the folks at the service desk might tell you the same kind of thing. You know, "Never saw this model, bubba. Don't support it."
I can almost understand it. The part I have a problem with goes like this: Suppose BMW sold 80 percent of all the passenger cars in the world, and suppose it was conducting a well publicized beta-test campaign, and suppose it was giving away next year's model to automobile developers so they could get acquainted with it, and — well, you get the point. You'd expect the dealer to have one right there, with mechanics crawling all over it.
But the saga of my friend's adventures with his local ISP gets better.
"Windows 98 won't work with our service," he said.
Kaboom. Just like that. "Won't work." Not "Golly, we'd love to know if it works but we're too busy to get a copy from Microsoft." Or "Hey, of course it works, but we can't give you advice on it because we're too lazy to find out." (A little honesty never hurts, right?)
No, just the old kaboom.
Now my friend Jim knows that I've been running the beta version of Windows 98 and also knows that it connects with the Internet just fine. So he and another old pal twiddled with the settings and got it to work in no time at all.
Another friend was trying to find out why her mail was delayed, so she called one of the tech guys at her local ISP and asked him to look at the server log. His times and her times were different, sometimes by many hours. She wanted to know why.
Anything could be messed up, right?
Wrong. The tech guy looked at the times listed on his side and listened only briefly to her complaint. Then he was the model of modern customer support:
"You calling me a liar, lady?"
Nobody needs to remind Internet Service Providers that the world is changing. Starting next month, Time Warner will sell direct Internet access over very-high-speed cable to subscribers in the greater Syracuse area. Your phone line won't be needed. You'll have a permanent connection.
Traditional ISPs will have to work hard to keep their customers. Some of them have a long way to go.