Needlessly abject

I am not a teenager. I play one on the Internet.



Other Blogs


Best Customer Call of 2007

I think I'm safe to go ahead and write this one, what w/ only one "working day" left in 2007. We'll see...

So, a user (we'll call her "Shelly") calls me indicating that her vertical-market time and billing accounting application is not spell checking data she enters. Further, Shelly states, she spent over an hour on the phone with the application manufacturer's technical support, and they've decided that the registry on her Windows XP Professional-based PC is "corrupt". Other users in the office don't seem to have any problem, but she can enter violently misspelled words and see no squiggly red lines warning her of misspellings.

I choked back my initial urge to comment on the use of the word "corrupt" ("What, has it been taking bribes or something?!?"), since I firmly believe that the words "corrupt" and "registry" coming out of a technical support representative's mouth together are really code for "I don't know what's wrong but I don't want this to be my problem anymore." I also choked back my urge to comment on the obscene yearly "maintenance" fee required by the software manufacturer that, apparently, entitles their Customers to receive slipshod, finger-pointing "support".

I agreed that I'd fire up a VPN connection, hop onto her PC with a remote desktop control application, and "ride along" to see what was happening.

I got connected to Shelly's PC and she demonstrated, in her characteristic ALL CAPS TYPING STYLE, the lack of spell checking. I've always cringed at the ALL CAPS-ness of her typing, but I know that her ways cannot be changed. She's been doing this since her office got time and billing accounting software back in the late 1980s.

"Did tech support have you logon to another PC where the spell checker works fine to see if the problem 'follows' your user settings," I asked. I was betting the spell-check component has both machine and user registry settings, and given that Shelly's office uses roaming profiles, a mal-adjusted user setting should 'follow' her, whereas a machine setting should stay in place.

"Uhh, no", she said. That's a strike against software manufacturer technical support, to me. I suppose they couldn't know that we were or weren't using roaming profiles, but even w/o roaming user profiles, different users on a Windows NT-derived operating system have different user registries.

I think it's reasonable to see if you can isolate an issue to being a "per-machine" or "per-user" issue at level 1. Of course, since they wrote the software to begin with, you'd think they'd already know where their settings were stored. To be honest, though, I'd guess that even their development staff don't have any idea where these supposedly "corrupt" settings are stored. My bet would be that they don't even have a way to talk to the people who wrote the spell checker, seeing as how it's a licensed third-party library.

I convinced Shelly that we should make sure the problem wasn't with her user settings. "But they said my registry is corrupt! My registry! Corrupt!" Oh, the horror. Luckily I've got a pretty good track record of solving problems for Shelly, and she let me proceed as I wanted.

I logged-on with my test user account and we attempted to reproduce the issue. My account received proper spell checking, unlike Shelly's. At least I knew that the underlying code was working fine, and likely this was a user registry issue.

I decided to head into the menus and have a look at the spell check options. Ultimately, I wanted to see where the settings are being saved in the registry. I figured I'd do my usual trick of taking a snapshot of the registry, changing a setting and closing the app, then taking a snapshot again and comparing the snapshots. (Sure, sure-- I could just run RegMon while I use the app, but I can do this faster and w/o downloading software.)

I never even made it to taking my "before" snapshot, though. When I looked at the options dialog, one (unchecked for my account) item jumped right out at me: "Ignore words in ALL CAPS".

"Umm, Shelly-- let's logon as you again and check one setting."

Sure enough, the setting "Ignore words in ALL CAPS" was checked in her settings. I read the setting's name out loud, and she replied: "Well, I set that because I type everything in all capital letters and I wanted it to..." She trailed off, then paused. "Oh," she said, "I understand. Sorry to have bothered you."

"No problem," I said, and disconnected from her PC. Nothing more could be said.

I suppose the only thing that could've made this better would've been if the spell checker had a setting to "Ignore misspelled words" and she'd enabled that.

Valid HTML 4.01 StrictValid CSS!