Beware the ISP-impersonator:
A Public Service Announcement of sorts

(including "The Chimera's Promises")

from/by M. A. Padlipsky

©2005 (just so nobody makes money off reprinting it, but you're certainly permitted, and encouraged, to copy it for fair uses)

You might wonder why one of the oldest of the Old Network Boys would have let himself get in a position where he feels it necessary to be issuing a warning about an ISP impersonator.  You'd probably think I ought to've known better than to pay money to the offspring of an unnatural mating of a phone company and an "Internet portal" in the first place.

Well, you'd be right except for one small technotheological detail.  Y'see, when I finally decided to break down and spring for a DSL line (too long as story as to why, but it hinged on a wise --  albeit younger-than-I -- man's saying to me "I intend to start spending more on myself: I don't like my heirs all that much"), there were only two choices in my neighborhood that weren't outrageously overpriced: Earthlink and "SBC/Yahoo".  And the problem is that I'd accidentally discovered years ago that Earthlink was founded by some flaming ISORMite-fanatic evangelist, but probably my main claim to fame as an Old Network Boy was my series of polemics against the ISO "OSI" paperware (see The Elements of Networking Style, "the world's only known Constructively Snotty computer science book", for example -- and if you feel the need to goog ISORMite, look for the hit with the "=" in the summary).

In other words, if I wanted DSL it'd have to come from The Phone Company and Friend, despite my misgivings about the odd coupling.  On religious grounds, of course: couldn't let any of my nickels fall into young Pie-in-the Sky's collection plate, after all.

Unfortunately, "Globyah", as I've come to call sbcglobal+yahoo, might well be even worse than I'd feared.  So I feel that as a public service announcement, as it were, I should try to make the public aware of the situation.  Think of it as NOBlesse oblige, if that's not too fancy, and/or fanciful.

The details are in three separate journals I've composed, one during the harrowing experience of even getting the DSL line going, the next shortly after that during the initial revulsion at the shortcomings of the alleged ISP side of house, and the final one -- which I've included below in somewhat modified form -- just the other day as a summation of the wasted months trying to get Globyah to keep its promise, made after They admitted Their 800 number "Tech Support" was only for DSL issues (i.e., SBC stuff, not Yahoo stuff), to get me in communication with somebody at Yahoo who actually knew what an RFC was in the first place and was actually in a position to do something about the advice on act cleaning-up the author of 22 of the first 967 RFCs was willing to give Yahoo for free in the second place.

You can find them in the "folder" called "theTPCpapers", just sitting there at , the pathetic excuse for a personal web page equivalent Globyah furnishes its suckers as a goad to get them to sign up for extra-fee "web hosting", or whatever They call it.  The first two are long enough, and perhaps too episodic, for you to rush off and read right away, though, unless you're a pre-existing fan of my known to be rather discursive writing style.  Number 3, however, is the most amusing of the lot, and the most relevant even if not quite the shortest, and I've taken the liberty of including it here in somewhat modified form, so do keep scrolling, unless you're already willing to take my word for it and steer clear of Them just based on this.

If you're interested in lotsnlots of further detail--or are just a technomasochist--give 2, and even 1, a go as well.  Or just take my word for it and stay away from any and all "portals" impersonating service providers ... and if you don't want to blow too much dough on "broadband" in general (nor to enrich the Evil Cable Company Swine or the Preacher of the False Faith in particular) just hang on to whatever dialup you've got until the over-the-phonelines stuff becomes available or the price breaks on the magical through-the-airwaves stuff, presumably "WiMax", I suppose.

(By the way, with apologies for the inconvenience I'm aiming you at the stupid "briefcase" thing rather than my real personal web page for the journals: let Them take the hits if this does catch on, "Slashdot-Effect"wise, not my poor little real ISP,
a local, pro bono, dialup "freenet" system.)

cheers, map

"One (indeed, perhaps the only) indisputable benefit of the 'Net is that you don't have to waste any stamps on, nor be complicitous in the killing of any trees for, letters to editors and/or other invincibly smug corporate behemoths that aren't going to be responded to because they show said institutions up, but need to be sent anyway."
       --first new, official Elements of Networking Style Slogan in yearsandyears 

The Chimera's Promises

Forgive the title, I couldn't resist.  At least I'm not feeling spiteful enough to make you figure it out on your own, though:  A chimera is an imaginary monster composed of incongruous parts, according to the on-line dictionary I use most often.  It's also a pretty good label for the Internet Service Provider impersonator that "SBC/Yahoo!" -- to use Their stupid exclamation point just once -- turns out to be.  (I'll often be calling it Globyah here, since it's the domain name that's most involved in The Chimera's ISP-impersonation, and globyah just sounds right, somehow.)

As to the Promises in question, a little background's in order:  It all started with a grudging decision to spring for DSL and a forced choice (for reasons discussed above) to use Globyah for the purpose even though I had grave a priori reservations about dealing with The Phone Company and a profit-seeking portal.  That led to a passel of stupidities getting the DSL line going, followed by a passel of stupidities trying to get through to somebody, anybody at Globyah who grokked intercomputer networking, after rapidly discovering that Globyah wasn't an Internet Service Provider, it was an ISP-impersonator, not only not offering various customary services (e.g., "personal web pages") but also not properly implementing various of the services it did offer (e.g., logins), and worst of all not offering "Tech Support" via its 800 number on matters pertaining to the Yahoo side of the bizarre creature at all, only dealing with SBC/DSL-side issues to the extent that even "Level 2 Tech Support" people had no idea of what an RFC is.

You can find more excruciating detail than you probably care to in the files called toujoursTPC and impersonating-an-isp, in the theTPCpapers "folder" in the ludicrous "briefcase" thing Globyah gracelessly includes with the price of the basic service, at .  To save you the trouble, though, even before the 30-day point by which one could opt out without a one-year commitment I'd reached the point of rather hoping They'd tell me They didn't want me as a customer before I was stuck with 'Em for a year, which observation ended the second horrors-journal.

Well, basically, what happened next was that having discovered They thought "postmaster" was "abuse" so I couldn't get through to Yahoo's CEO via netmail, as we called it when we were inventing it, to state my grievances electronically as one would expect to be able to do with a real ISP, I decided to write an actual p-letter to one Edward Whitacre, the CEO of SBC, since my "backchannels" to the kids who'd founded Yahoo didn't pan out and I happened to find his p-address fairly straightforwardly (and besides, I'd accidentally discovered that the current CEO of Yahoo is, shudder, from "the movie industry").

Three or four weeks later, I actually got a phonecall from "Sam", a manager-level person at SBC Internet Services (whatever that is), which, after an hour or so of conversation during which I convinced him I might be cranky but I'm not a crank, led to another lengthy chat after he'd looked at the first two journals, which in turn led to a promise to get me in touch with a knowledgable "Tier 2 Tech Support" person in order to eventually establish a channel between me and somebody appropriate there who'd be able to respond to both my complaints about Their technical shortcomings and my suggestions for improvements beyond merely fixing the shortcomings.

(This is all going to be "just the highlights", by the way, and will leave out some steps, not only because they're not all that germane but also because MiddleMiddleAgedMemory serves a fair number of faults these years.  In fairness, though, I shouldn't fail to mention that Sam did offer me noticeably better compensation, in terms of time credits, for the installation messup than ordinary "Customer Service" had, and if I can interpret the deliberately obscure bills aright, that promise seems, repeat seems, to've been kept.)

So that was Step One of The Chimera's Other Promise, that after two months of trying I'd soon wind up with somebody worth talking to about the Chimera's Implicit Promise, that it would be a proper ISP.  (As I specifically said during the conversation with Sam -- and as I'd already said to several "Tech Support" types previously -- all I wanted was somebody who knew what RFCs are ... and who had the sense to realize that dealing with the author of 22 of the first 967 RFCs would be beneficial to both him-or-herself and to his or her employer.)  And things looked pretty promising a week or so later when I had another couple of lengthy chats (the second after he'd had a chance to inspect the documents in the case, as it were), this time with "Dion", who as I recall did have some notion of what RFCs are.  That led to Step Two of the Other Promise, that he'd arrange for his supervisor, "Gilda", to take the next step[s] in establishing the desired channel to deal with the Implicit Promise.

For still unknown reasons, however, Gilda never did get in touch (maybe, like the Earthlink guy, discussed earlier, who got me into the mess in the first place, she's also an ISORMite [i.e., somebody foolish enough to believe in the empty promises of the ISO--or International Organization for Standardization, as they coyly expand the acronym to generate cheap shots at critics who aren't aware of the trick--"Open System Interconnection" mythology, and in the "ISOR
eferenceModel" it's allegedly based on, with quasi-religious zeal; as noted above, if you goog it, look for the summary that has an "=" in it]).  But while I was still fuming about that I got an apparently unrelated call from "Matt", another manager type who was following up on one or another of my earlier attempts to get some "Customer Care", or whatever They call it, and wondering what had happened.

That led to Step Three, still another promise to make things happen the way I wanted 'em to, after another lengthy chat on the phone, followed by a look at the journals, followed by another non-short chat.  Not too long after, at Matt's behest presumably, I received a memorable piece of netmail that began with "
My name is Pablo with Yahoo! Customer Advocacy. I would like to know when I would be available to speak to you regarding the questions/concerns that you have regarding the SBC Yahoo! services. [...]" (read it again more carefully if you don't already see why I called it memorable).  Despite that inauspicious start, I eventually had still another lenghty phonechat, this time with him.  Good thing I enjoy talking approximately as much as I enjoy writing (it's also easier on the paws).  By then I'd realized that They were using alleged Tech Support types as screeners to see if I deserved to be passed along to one of their managers, so I played along and as usual got a promise that good things would happen.

Nothing at all happened for a couple of weeks, so I e-sent a remindernoodge.  That elicited "
I am still in the process of trying to put you in contact with the correct person(s) to discuss the networking points you and I discussed. [paragraph] I will be in touch with you as soon as I am able to put you in contact with the correct group within Yahoo! to discuss these matters. [paragraph]   Thank you for your patience with this." from Pablo.

After three more weeks of inaction, bringing us to "last" Tuesday, which is to say one week before I started writing this, I e-sent a sharpish remindernoodge, featuring "
so tell me, is it that you still can't find anybody willing to discuss things with me, or merely that you can't find anybody worthy to discuss things with me?", and ending with explicitly wondering who the "Denise" he'd CC'd -- along with Sam and Matt, whom I'd CC'd -- was.  (Sure, the "worthy" jab represents putting one foot into the stirrup of the high horse, but I really do believe it was quite mild.)

That led within not too many hours to netmail from "Denise" (whoever she is; as you'll see, I never did find out), containing "
I heard back from our Product Director and would like to schedule a call with you one afternoon this week. Would you be kind enough to send some available days/times so I can facilitate?" which I complied with, even though I still didn't know who she was/what her job title was--nor, of course, what an unspecified Product's Director had to do with the price of bit-moving in California.

Unfortunately, right after I sent off a promise to be within sound of my phone on Thursday and Friday between 2 and 2:30 p.m. (it was Tuesday when I did so but I had a dentist's appointment Wednesday afternoon and mornings don't exist for me), another message from her appeared, which led to my getting the rest of the way up onto a highish horse (though not, I assure you, the highest horse in the stable).

Now, I know almost nobody who reads this is at all likely to know much about me, much less even to have read The Book (a/k/a The Elements of Networking Style, "the world's only known Constructively Snotty computer science book" (which wasn't solely an anti-ISORM polemic, no matter what some people think), to say nothing of TCP-IP Digest in the '80s (where I was arguably at the height of the powers which according to an unimpeachable witness's report led some unnamed ISORMite British computer science professor to call me "that poisonous little man" because I'd made "OSI" look so bad --
though no worse than it actually was, of course -- in The Book, various RFCs, a conference paper or two, and, of course, TCP-IP Digest ... to say nothing of in a number of reports to various government agencies which were paying my then-employer to pay me for my advice that the prickly prof might not even have been aware of).  But do please believe me that They'd had fair warning that the Grand Old Curmudgeon's leash had been getting hard to keep hold of in recent months.

And do please trust me that the response I sent to the message I'm about to show you really was much less pointed than it could easily have been.  No more than Force 2, even if in context I really felt I could have justified Force 4.  So here are her message and my response (complete with my standard ".sig"); decide for yourself whether you think I should have strained harder to keep all the slack out of the leash, but I surely don't think so:

At 04:26 PM 7/5/2005, Denise [xxx] wrote:
>Mr. Padlipsky,
>In the best interest of time and being most productive, can you please
>send me details on the issues you've been experiencing so we can be
>prepared to work through them with you on our call.

>Thank you,

i'll resist the temptation to say no and leave it to you to work out why.

somebody has dropped the ball here.  i've discussed my concerns at length on the phone with pablo, matt, sam, and dion, who hasn't been copied on the latest round of exchanges.  haven't they briefed you?

i've written of my concerns both in netmail, as we called it when we were inventing it, not only to them but also to yahoo's worthless 'help' facility and laughably misimplemented postmaster, and even to one drucilla cessac, whose e-address was in the forbes item on sbc [along with the p-address of ed whitacre, to whom i wrote an actual, old-fashioned p-letter, which led sam to call me in the first place], as well as in a couple of journals i've pointed them all to.  hasn't anybody told you?

why in the world should i be put to the further inconvenience -- even if the state of my wrists, fingers, and shoulders didn't make it physically painful -- to rehash everything for the convenience of someone whose position at yahoo has not even been defined?

for that matter, since the assumption i've clearly stated all the long is that i ought to be in touch with the appropriate person or persons with whom to raise not only the current set of issues but also a number of points yet to be encountered about the shortcomings of sbc/yahoo as an isp, what in the world gives you the idea, implicit in your request, that one call will suffice, whoever the 'we' you refer to on your end will be?

the foregoing questions were emphatically not meant to be rhetorical.  i'll close with one i don't really expect an answer to [not that my hopes are particularly high that any of the others will be answered either] >>>but will perhaps get matt or sam's attention<<< :

at every stage of the game my stated hope has been to find somebody at yahoo who [1] knew what rfc's are, and who [2] would appreciate the value of being in touch with the author of 22 of the first 967 of them. evidently denise [xxx] is not such a person.  will the other party to her call to me be, finally, or is sbc/yahoo still merely putting me through hoops for the sake of putting me through hoops?

hours on the phone.  hours and hours and hours at the keyboard.  now, after all that, 'what was it you wanted to talk about?'  come on.

i'll stop before i give in to the temptation to tell you what my normal consulting rates are....

[on rereading this, perhaps i should have given in to the temptation simply to say no at the outset and let it go at that. still, i see no need to apologize for getting slightly acerbic, given the provocation ... and given how much more acerbic i'm fully capable of having gotten, even if the provocation weren't so egregious.]

cheers, map

[whose shoulder problems caused him to break down some time ago and create a 'signature' file to apologize for the lack of his formerly customary e-volubility -- and who's been employing shiftless typing for a long time now to spare his wristsnfingers, in case you didn't know ... and who's further broken down and done <http://www.[xxx]> , rather grudgingly]

Cheer up, we're in the homestretch now.  When I got no response to that barest brandishing of the whip, not really a lashing at all, by "last" Friday evening, I sent the following (complete with my alternate ".sig") to Sam and Matt, only, since they were the nominal grownups in the case:

Subject: the silence of the reeds

as promised, i was within sound of my phone on thursday and today from 2-2:30 p.m.  it didn't ring.

i do hope that your own silence stems from your embarrassment over the frailness of the reeds sbc's co-brandee in the isp-impersonation game has come up with to address my concerns rather than your sharing in their manifest lack of competence, savoir-faire, and ability to deal with what is, in fact, constructive and rather mild criticism.  [the latter point is, of course, predicated on the assumption that one or both of you managed to glean some idea of who i am--or, at any rate, was--by now....]

or, as i'd hope could go without saying but just to be scrupulous, do i need to start deciding what to write next, and to/for whom?

cheers, map

"One (indeed, perhaps the only) indisputable benefit of the 'Net is that you don't have to waste any stamps on, nor be complicitous in the killing of any trees for, letters to editors and/or other invincibly smug corporate behemoths that aren't going to be responded to because they show said institutions up, but need to be sent anyway."

     --first new, official Elements of Networking Style Slogan in  yearsandyears

As I finish the first draft of this horror-showing, it's just after midnight on "this" Wednesday; I still haven't heard anything through any medium from any of Them [nor had I heard anything by the time I did a final revision of it, a dozen days later].  And as you can see, I did decide against wasting another p-letter to Ed Whitacre as the next thing to write....

Oh, yeah, the Moral.  A good Public Service Announcement should have a Moral, shouldn't it.  Fortunately, it happens that the second sense of "chimera" is "an illusion or fabrication of the mind", so the Moral's almost elegant:

When the Chimera in the case is the putative Internet Service Provider resulting from the unnatural yoking of such rapacious-by-nature entities as The Phone Company and an "Internet Portal", it's no surprise whatsoever that its promises are all chimeras, too, from the implicitly promised services it doesn't provide to the explicitly promised arena in which to air grievances it doesn't provide either.

And the "bottom line" of the announcement in the public's service is, of course,

Beware the Chimera