Posted by: annmucc | March 11, 2009

Tech Support?

Yesterday was a busy day…VERY busy day…but cannot blog on everything in one post…too long and no time…so decided to limit it to this part of my day…


As I may have already indicated, we have been buying some new equipment in my department. This however means that we need to figure out how they are used, and often this job is falling to me (seeing as up to a few weeks ago there were no research assistants, and I was the only resident PhD student). So far I have (sort of) figured out how to use a VOC meter (I had to show my supervisor on Monday…I fluffed some parts, but on the whole I think I have managed to grasp the gist of it).

Another instrument we have bought is a spectrodensitometer (which I need to use to measure colour). In the beginning of my studies my supervisor had asked me to see what we should get, and we finally settled on a Series 500 spectrodensitometer from X-Rite. It was quite easy to figure out how to use it to measure (seeing as everything is in the manual for that), however, the manual was VERY lacking in anything related with downloading data, being limited to telling me  in half a page that there is an I/O serial port and I need to connect this port to the computer via a cable…Gee Thanks! I would have never figured that out! 

But what about all the other details? First off – which application should I use? The CD that came with the instrument that some 4 or 5 different applications you can install, but very limited information about each one of them (which you have to mine for, not easily found!). Over the weeks I started trying them one by one, but none seemed to do the job. Why couldn’t they have put in a page of information about what the different applications do if they want to provide all of them rather than give one single application which does all? And why doesn’t each application have a clear manual about what it does, rather than a brief 1-2 page description (which is more fluff than substance)?

Now, by yesterday I was starting to get really frustrated. I had come to a point where I really had to get this thing to communicate with my computer (rather than me having to manually jot down the data myself – very tedious, time-consuming, and error-prone, seieng as I was getting around 30 values per measurement AND had over 350 measurements to take!

I finally found the application which I was SURE was the right one…but it didn’t work!!! Grrr! What to do? Well…by this time I was getting desperate so tried to call the company. First number I call is the UK office…they give me the number of tech support…I try to call tech support…no answer…back to UK office…ahh they are situated in Belgium or somewhere, so they are now on break (it being midday)…wait an hour for break time to be over…call the number…get someone else….the extension is not 2 as I was told but 3!…call again…FINALLY! I’m through.

Now another saga begins…First off I am asked which version of the programme I am using…I said 5.0.11…Oh no! they said…that’s the old version (mind you, the newer version was issued in 2007! So what that meant was that they sent us an old CD!). Download the new version (at least free) from online…Sure…I do it…still nothing! No data wants to be downloaded…I call again…Ahh – the application does not really support Vista I am now told…try it on XP – grrr – my computer is on Vista, but a colleague has XP…I try it on hers…Nopes! Still nothing.

By now I was getting very frustrated and it was time for a meeting I had (tell you more about that later maybe). Off I went for that. But on returning I had to get this thing working. By now I was VERY determined to get it to work! I phoned again! New person answers this time! This time the guy seemed to know what he is talking about (rather than the previous person who continuously put m on hold to go and ask people). In 2s he told me…I know what your problem is…give me your e-mail address (which I had to spell out, but anyways, that’s fair seeing as my surname is not easy to spell for a non-Maltese it seems), and I’ll send you the information you need.

Less than 5 minutes later, I receive an instruction sheet with the settings I should use…I try it out…It Finally WORKS! (mini human-wave on my own and big grins :D)…AT LAST! But WHY couldn’t they have attached this information to the equipment, or make it available online, or at the very least gave it to me when I first called? Cannot understand that…Now I have printed out the information sheet and placed in the equipment box, for anyone who comes after me to be able to use. 

Persistence at last paid off…to my satisfaction (and the satisfaction of all the people in the office, who had to hear me and the other research assistants discussing the problem all day, and me moaning al through the day yesterday as well as a number of other days). One of the research assistants said I was VERY determined to get the problem solved…and I was! Hopefully today I can start with the preliminary trials AT LAST! (have been saying soon for ages).

Have to be off now to go work 😉



  1. I hate badly written manuals and lousy tech support. They make me wanna throw the machine at them sometimes. Good luck working out how to use the Spectrodensitometer!

  2. Good thing that you prevailed at the end. It’s appalling that they send along a CD from before 2007 to new equipment.

  3. Here is another example of a company that needs an employee to troll the internet for mentions of their company. If I see my name dragged through the mud on the internet, I’ll try to fix the problem. I’ll talk to whoever is doing the complaining to find out if anything will help.

    You very clearly spell out what they should do (include better documentation, some of which they already have but don’t publish) and how they should do it. The company needs to take your criticisms to heart because the next company buying the product (I won’t try to spell spectro… here) will go to Google and read your blog. This might be very influential in their buying decisions.

  4. @ Grace: All of a sudden, since I started using this equipment, I do too…Do you know how many manuals do not have written on them how to switch the equipment off????It’s incredible (and believe me…it is not always intuitive!)

    @ Michael: Glad I did too!

    @ tboehm30: I didn’t mean to drag the company through the mud necessarily, since otherwise so far using the spectrodensitometer is fine. I just hope that someone from the company reads this and rectifies it asap! Also, if someone comes across the same problem, hopefully they find my blog, and if interested they can also ask me for the details they gave me at the end! (Not sure it is legal to publish them here, so prefer not to ;)) Ohh! And thanks for visiting my blog 😉

  5. […] Rantings from Afar A Girl from Little-Fish Malta in Big-Fish London…What am I up to? « Tech Support? […]

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