Man vs. Terminal Services Session

Friend-of-the-blog Jason Guy was an early influence on my decision to switch over to the Apple ecosphere back in 2004. A recent email from him somehow perfectly illustrates the difference in corporations’ business ethics, their notions of efficiency and respect for the customer, and the overall usability of their products. I’ll just let Jason explain:

It’s (thankfully) quite rare that I get involved in administrating a PC at the part-time office, but I can think of no better tribute to Steve Jobs than the labyrinthine ‘dialogue’ to which I was subjected this morning. This is long, but I hope entertaining. As for the details, I had ample opportunity to take meticulous notes while on hold: I exaggerate nothing. Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up. I mean the error messages, alone – who writes this stuff?

Tech Support Email: According to our records, you are running an out-of-date desktop package. You must download the latest update (Vista Backup v1.3) by November 2, 2011. If you do not download the required software update by November 2, 2011, you will no longer be able to connect to the network. To do so, go to Start > Utilities > Software OnDemand > Vista Backup v1.3. [I did so.]

Error Popup: The program you’ve requested to run cannot be run because Configuration Manager is busy running other software. Please close all other windows and try running it at another time. For further assistance call your help desk. [There were no other windows open; repeated attempts to run the software resulted in the same error.]

Help Desk [in India]:ThankyouforcallingmynameisPradeepJiwangaginAlliousingintoitisapleasuretoserveyouhowcanIhelpyoutoday?

Me: Hello, I received an email this morning informing me that I had to install an update by November 2nd or be unable to connect to the network. When I tried to do so, an error message told me I couldn’t because Configuration Manager was busy; as there are no other windows open, it said I should call you.

Pradeep: Andthatisthereasonforyourcall?

Me: … Yes.

Pradeep: Andwhatistheerrormessageyou’vereceived?

Me: Uh … that the program I am trying to run cannot be run because Configuration Manager is busy …

Pradeep: So,you’retryingtoinstallnewsoftware?

Me: Yes.

Pradeep: Holdonaminute,please.

Announcer [the hold music is The QVC Shopping Network]: … that’s right, this is buttersoft, just buttersoft next to your skin! And these Bruce McCowsky bags are amazingly only $35 a month!

Bruce: That’s right, Ann, my bags normally retail for $200-$300, but – this is amazing – I mean, you’re giving them away for $35 a month. Frankly, I’m shocked –

Pradeep:HelloMrGuythankyouforwaitingonline,canyoutellmewhat systemyouarerunning?

Me: Vista. I’d tell you the version number, but I’m stuck in this error dialogue; should I click ‘Okay’ and find out the version?

Preadeep: No, MrGuy,thatisalright,VistaiswhatIneededtoknow,pleaseholdonamoment,isthatokay?MrGuy, isthatokay toaskyoutostayonthelineamomentlonger?

Me: Oh, yes … sure.

Pradeep: ThankyouverymuchforyourpatienceMrGuy,itwillbejustamomentlonger.

Me: Okay.

Pradeep: ThankyouagainMrGuy,justamoment,please.

Bruce: … and check this out, this is our latest in a color we’re calling ‘Indigo Blue’ – it’s not blue, but it’s not quite black – and it’s just so rich, I mean look at that saturation!

Ann: You’re right, and the leather, it’s just … you know, it puddles, it actually puddles.

Bruce: You are so right, Ann, and look at this. You see these here on the bottom, I’ve added pleats to make the bag more feminine –

Pradeep:HelloMrJasonGuy,thankyouforyourwaiting,it’sapleasuretohaveyouontheline,canyoutellmeplease, isitcorrectthatyou’retryingtodownloadsoftwareandcannot?

Me: … yes.


Me: No.But I’ll gladly do that if it might help.I’ll restart.

Pradeep:ThankyouMrGuy,whileit’srestarting,I’lljustberesearchingmyconfirmation. [That’s right – ‘researching my confirmation’. I go to Start > Restart.]

Ann: … Nutmeg, Slate, Seafoam, Ochre, Black, Stone, and Pewter –

Bruce: And we’re calling this one ‘Cabernet’ –

Ann: Oh, I know, it’s hard to keep anything in stock that’s Cabernet! And this one here is Thyme, that’s t-h-y-m-e, like the spice –

Pradeep: HelloMrGuy? Thankyouforwaiting, whatistheerroryouarenowgetting? [My computer had restarted, and I had clicked Start > Utilities > Software OnDemand …, only now where there previously was a list of updates including my much-sought-after Vista Backup v1.3, there was simply a line of text: “There are no updates available during a Terminal Services Session.”]

Me: … Uh.Well, I can’t even attempt to run my requested software, as the list of updates is now blank; it says … “no updates available during a Terminal Services Session.” I’m not familiar with that term. Am I in a Terminal Services Session?

Pradeep: …

Me: So, I don’t know, I can’t get to the error because I can’t run the software that generates the error telling me it can’t run … what’s a Terminal Services Session?

Pradeep: I’msorryMrGuy,youarehavingtroubleinstallingnewsoftware,whatistheerroryouarereceiving?

Me: Well … [I closed the window, clicked Start > Utilities > Software OnDemand, ‘… no updates available …’] Uh, yeah, now the list of things I could run is – uh, absent. It still says …”Terminal Services Session” where there used to be a list.

Pradeep: HoldonMrGuy,doyoumindifIputyouonholdjustonemoretime,we’realmostdone.

Me: No, that’s fi-

Bruce: … and I’m telling you nobody knows fashion better than me, and everything now is about the animal look – I just love hers, look at that, the animal piping!?

Ann: That’s right, Bruce. And I love it, too. You know, when a woman wears all neutral tones, and then there’s that one pop of color –

Pradeep: HelloMrGuy,thankyouforholdingonsopatiently,Ithinksomeoneneedstoactuallybethereatthecomputer, soIamgoingtogenerateaticketnumber,andsendthisdowntothelocalguys,holdonplease,justonemoment.

Bruce: And look at the hardware!

Ann: So, if you want to go with something that’s traditional but trendy, then you go with the black-multi … oh, wait, which one’s gone? Oh, it’s the cabernet, and what’s low now? Ah, the thyme, that’s t-h-y-m-e, as in the herb … that’s now low –

Pradeep: SorryMrGuytoplaceyouintheholdinglineagain, butIhavehereontheline, a Concern Resolve Expert, hello,goaheadplease …

Concern Resolve Expert:HelloMrGuy, Iunderstandyou’rehavingtroubleinstallingnewsoftware?

Me: Yes … I received an email informing me that I had to install an update by November 2nd or be unable to connect to the network. When I tried to, an error message told me I couldn’t because Configuration Manager was busy. Now, when I go to the Software OnDemand menu, I can’t select an update because it says I’m in a Terminal Services Session.

Concern Resolve Expert:ThankyouMrGuy, canyoupleasejustdescribetheerroryou’rereceivingwhenyoutrytoinstallthesoftware.

Me: Sure … uh, let me back up … so my email told me to click Start > Utilities > Software OnDemand > Vista Backup v1.3 … oh, there it is … oh, and now it’s working. ‘Running Software Update: Vista Backup v1.3’ … oh, good. … ‘The vacuum cleaner, when demonstrated for the repairman, will function perfectly’ …

Concern Resolve Expert: I’msorry … ?

Me: No, nothing. We’re all good. Oh, yes … it’s working. Thank you very much. I’m a happy camper.

Concern Resolve Expert: AndsoamI,MrGuy. ThankyouforcallingSupportServices,isthereanythingelseIcandoforyoutoday?

Me: No thank you. Have a great day.

Concern Resolve Expert: You,too,MrGuy. Itisapleasuretoserviceyourcall.

And I hung up. The screen said: “Time Until Complete: 1 hour 50 minutes 0 seconds.” Fifteen minutes later it still said that, but then snapped to attention with a new dialogue box: “Update Complete! You have been updated to Vista Backup v1.3. Your computer will restart automatically.” Upon restart a dialogue box said, “Please wait while your network state is detected,” and a progress bar reported, “Time Until Done: Approximately 15 Minutes.” Thirty seconds later I was staring at my desktop, everything seemingly in order.

Total time top to bottom, just under 45 minutes, during which I typed each chapter, knocked out several other little tasks, and billed each and every moment. Conversely, for the thousands of hours I’ve spent in front of my Mac doing none of the above, thank you Steve Jobs.

Love, /J.

Thank you, indeed.

Notice the absurdity isn’t the fault of Pradeep and his colleagues, even though we frustrated Americans can tend to blame our foreign messengers, as it were. The fault rests in the process into which they have been enveloped, the system, devised by probably well-meaning mortals, that suffers from such a lack of cohesion, that every person, every point in the system, is baffled by it.

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