Books of Note

Practical Common
LispThe best intro to start your journey. Excellent coverage of CLOS.

ANSI Common
LispAnother great starting point with a different focus.

Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence
ProgrammingA superb set of Lisp examples. Not just for the AI crowd.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Tech Support Turing Test 

This might also be subtitled, echoing an old Peter Steiner cartoon, "On tech support chat, nobody knows you're a dog..." (with thanks to Will for his correction; I had originally written Gary Larson).

As I have reported in the past, I'm now doing a bit of consulting. Consequently, I have found myself needing to do all those little office tasks that you just take for granted in a larger office setting: making copies and faxing. It seems like there is a neverending stream of paperwork or some government form that somebody needs a signature on before they can pay you.

The problem has been that I don't have a copier or fax machine. Using Mail Boxes Etc. or Kinko's was getting a bit dull, so I decided to upgrade from my old black and white LaserJet 5P to a cool HP OfficeJet 7210 All-in-One. It's pretty nice. For ~$300, you get a color ink-jet printer, color copier, color scanner, and color fax, all rolled up into one easy-to-use package. It also has built-in Ethernet networking, so it connects to my home network and I can share it between a few PCs.

The problems started (and you knew there were going to be problems, right?) when I went to install the software. HP has created a generally nice installation CD that will plop all the drivers on your hard drive, configure all the printer stuff, and install HP's whole suite of imaging software for printing photos, etc. Now, if my Mom was installing this thing, that would have been fine. The big issue is, with the CD installation, there is no way to avoid installing the several hundred megabytes of HP applications in addition to the driver stuff. I guess they really meant it when they named this thing the "All-in-One" (perhaps it should have been the "All-or-Nothing").

Of course, on the laptop I use for consulting, I'm not planning on doing a lot of photo processing, so saving the several hundred megabytes of disk space was more important. "No problem," thought I. "I'll just configure my laptop to print to this thing using IPP." After 20 minutes of trying that and just having HTTP headers come out of the printer, I decided I needed to check the HP web site. I searched for things like "OfficeJet 7210 IPP". I got back lots on OfficeJets, 7210s, and IPP, but never "7210" and "IPP" on the same page. No instructions, etc.

Out of desperation, I decided I'd try HP's "Chat with an online technician." What started out as a simple tech support question ended up with me wondering whether I was actually chatting with a human or not, sort of an ad hoc Turing test. I have a feeling that the first part of it was definitely driven by a bot. The last half was definitely a real person, but still showed how far HP tech support has sunk.

With so many companies outsourcing and the net being global, this chat seesion could have been handled by a support bull-pen in India (I don't know that it was), perhaps even an independent company that is answering questions about all sorts of other products at the same time.

The full transcript of the chat session follows. Note that this whole thing took more than 30 minutes to get through. You can see a bit of my agitation at points. There would be long pauses where nothing would come back for five minutes or so.

The scary thing here is that HP used to be one of the good companies. My father worked for HP for 20+ years, retiring from his job there. I worked for HP for three summers during college and for two years after I graduated, designing some of the first PA-RISC workstations.

Clive: Hello Dave

Clive: Welcome to HP Total Care for All-in-One products.My name is Clive. How may I assist you today?

Dave Roberts: how can i connect to my officejet 7210 using just ipp

Clive: How are you Dave ?

Clive: Could you elaborate the issue. This shall help me to assist you better.

Dave Roberts: uh, it's a pretty simple question. how do I use ipp to connect to my officejet 7210?

Dave Roberts: btw, i'm fine. thanks for asking.

Dave Roberts: well, truthfully, I did have a bit of a row with my oldest daughter the other day.

Clive: I shall help you in resolving the issue.

Dave Roberts: kids, sheesh. five years old. she's a bit of a handful

Dave Roberts: clive, are you a bot?

Dave Roberts: boy, hp tech support is really pretty bad these days

Dave Roberts: i'm sure that bill and dave are rolling over in their graves after what carly did to this company

Dave Roberts: as a former hp employee, the son of a 20-year hp employee, i'm pretty shocked at how pathetic hp support has become

Dave Roberts: la, de, da, de, da

Clive: Please give me a few minutes so that I can research on the issue and provide you with the relevant information

Dave Roberts: clive, what have you been doing for the last 10 minutes, if not researching the issue?

Clive: Dave, I am sorry for the Delay in response.

Clive: We are experiencing technical difficulties with the interface we are chatting with. I am sorry if you are getting any delayed responses or any uninterrupted disconnection in the middle of the chat. I appreciate your patience.

Clive: May I know the version of the Operating System (Windows 98/Me/XP) that are using?

Dave Roberts: XP

Clive: Dave, please refer the following web link for more information on how to use IPP for the printer.

Dave Roberts: sounds great. hit me...


Clive: Just copy and paste the entire link onto the address bar of your browser and press Enter.

Clive: 2)

Clive: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?

Dave Roberts: yes, this doesn't seem to solve my problem

Dave Roberts: 7210

Dave Roberts: this chat interface sux

Dave Roberts: what url do i use to print using ipp to my 7210?

Clive: Dave, Please give me few minutes. I shall Back with the correct information.

Clive: I understand your concern.

Clive: Thank you for your time and patience.

Dave Roberts: You're welcome, Clive. That's what I'm here for.

Clive: Dave, I am sorry, the HP All-in-One does not support IPP. The IPP supports only with Business Printers like Laser jets.

Dave Roberts: really? That sucks.

Clive: I am very sorry, if I have caused you any inconvenience to you in this chat session.

Dave Roberts: okay, how do i connect to my 7210 over the network without installing all the various hp programs that come one the cd. i just want printer drivers and that's it.

Clive: Its been my pleasure assisting you today.

Dave Roberts: is there an easy to to just install the printer port and drivers without all the other photo imaging goop?

Clive: You can use alternate drivers for this issue.

Dave Roberts: okay, how?

Clive: Now I am providing the steps.

Clive: Step 1. Installing the Alternate drivers:

Dave Roberts: great! hit me...

Clive: 1. Start, Control Panel, and then select Printer and Faxes. 2. Double-click the Add Printer icon. Click Next.

Clive: 3. When prompted, choose Local, and then click Next. 4. In the Manufacturers list, choose HP. 5. In the Printer list, choose the HP Deskjet 990C printer, and then click Next.

Clive: 6. Choose LPT1 as the port, and then click Next. 7. The printer name should be listed as HP Deskjet 990C Printer. 8. Click No when the "Do you want your Windows based programs to use this printer as your default printer?" message appears. Then click Next.

Clive: 9. Click No when the "Would you like to print a test page (recommended)" message appears. Then, click Finish.

Clive: Step 2. Creating a TCP/IP port:

Clive: 1.Start, Control Panel, and then select Printer and Faxes. 2.Click File and then click Server Properties. 3.Select the Ports tab, and then click Add Port.

Clive: 4.Select TCP/IP Port and create a new port. 5.Type the IP address of the Print server and proceed with the onscreen instructions.

Clive: Step 3: Configure the alternate printer drive:

Clive: 1. In the Printers Window, right-click the icon for HP Deskjet 990C printer. 2. Click Properties. 3. Click the Details Tab. In Windows XP, click the Ports tab.

Clive: 4. Click the down-arrow where it says "Print to the Following Port." Select TCP/IP port that was created in step 1. The all-in-one's model number should appear as part of the port destination. 5. Leave the HP Deskjet 990C printer identified as using the following driver, and click Apply.

Clive: 6. Close the Printer Properties window.

Clive: Now you will be able to print using the alternate drivers.

Dave Roberts: okay, so it just uses the 990C drivers and that will work?

Clive: I have provided all the steps, Dave .

Clive: Yes, Dave.

Clive: Thank you for your patience and time.

Clive: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?

BTW, I should point out that the last series of steps actually worked and I was able to get things up and running. It wasn't a total loss, but it took about 3x as long as it should have.


I hate HP software. I've been bitten by it time and again. Never again, is my mantra.

An example:

I had an early injet printer. This was back in the Windows 98 days. I just couldn't get the driver to work with Windows 98. I pounded on the thing a long time and finally gave up, deciding to call their tech support. After a lot of back and forth (all suggestions had already been done, but he made me do them again).

I had happened to notice that HP was selling a driver that had more features. I asked the guy if he would let me try that one, for free, since the free driver didn't work. He said no way. I begged but did not prevail.

So, I bought the $20 driver and it worked fine immediately.

After this I bought one more item from HP, a DVD+R drive. They were the first to come out with them. I should have know I'd have big problems. I had problems with the purchase itself (, software (packet writing software made NT crash) and hardware (just up and died 1 month after warranty expired). I will definitely never buy anything with the HP brand on it ever again.

Not Gary Larson, but Peter Steiner in the New Yorker: See:§ion=cartoons

perhaps we users are now the testing department for future AIs: what better than to provide repetitive questions to common answers?

At least they should answer faster.

HP drivers installation programs may be written by Clive too :)

U guys r so pathetic and lazy that I can't believe. Nobody in India ever needs any support as far as PC is concerned. Who needs support for driver ? Who needs support for any OS issues? Can't believe that you people call urslvs techies. Can't u fools make a simple search in google. I wud make a fun of myslf (or for that matter any indian) if i ever call tech support. just give me 1 good reason why 1 shud ever call tech support (forget whr is he from - may be from jupiter ).

and a $20 driver. I never bought any software in my whole life. and driver, u give me 5 minutes, i will get u ne driver. in tht sence i can becum $20 richer every 5 minutes. i thnk u guys simply r too lazy to do ne thin by urslvs.

I had the exact same chat session. It was worthless. I still can't seem to print to the 7210 from Linux. Right now I'm trying to get the HP all-or-nothing driver to complete installation properly on my iMac G4. I fear that contacting HP support will be a total waster of my time.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I had the same problem with my 7210 and had the same frustration with HP Tech Support. After an hour of their questions, I gave up and connected the printer via UBB to another computer and ran it that way.

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