Thursday, June 23, 2011

Using VLC with TrendNet TV-IP121W

I recently acquired the Trendnet TV-IP121W Security Camera and the SecurView TV-IP422W higher-end model wireless security cameras.   Overall, I experienced a couple of minor headaches while setting them up, particularly setting up the wireless component, but after firmware updates and multiple reboots of both the cameras and my router, everything finally settled in nicely and is operating as good as could be expected.

With both TRENDnet security cameras, you are able to access the live feed directly by accessing their url with Internet Explorer and Active X.  However, you can also access them via Firefox if you have a java applet installed and the VLC plugin for Mozilla.   As nice as the web interface is, I really was looking for a way to minimize the camera video feeds and put them in the corner of one of my monitors while I continued to work, but a web browser is not really supportive of that idea.

So, I downloaded VLC and set to work trying to get my Trendnet Securview cameras to connect to VLC directly.  I found that the TV-IP422W was way easier than expected, because it supports RTSP (real-time streaming protocol).  With the TV-IP422W, simply launch VLC, go to Media-> Open Network Stream -> Click the Network Tab -> and in the URL enter "rtsp://youripnumber:554/mpeg4".  Don't use the quotes, and change out the youripnumber for the actual ip number of the camera or dydns name setting that you are using.  The 554 is the port number, 554 is default, but change it if you are using something else.  Hit Play, and you are done! If you password protected your camera, don't worry, it will prompt you for your username and password.

Now, the hard part.  The TRENDnet TV-IP121 does NOT support RTSP.  The good news is the VLC supports http protocol as well.  The bad news is, trying every combination that I could think of in the url string would not work.  I read the manual, hit different forums, and could not find a single answer as to how to use VLC to watch a video stream from the TrendNet SecurView TV-IP121.   However, I did find people that made some progress with motion capture software and looked into how they did it.  Long story short, I found that you can in fact use VLC to watch the IP121 video stream using http, you just need to use the correct syntax (url).  So, follow the same instructions that I outlined above, but instead of the RTSP string, use this "http://youripnumber/cgi/mjpg/mjpg.cgi" .  Don't use the quotes and remember to change the youripnumber to reflect the ip address of your camera or its name if you are using a dynamic dns service.   You MAY need to also specify the port if you are accessing it from outside your firewall.  The default would be 80.  So your string would look like this: "http://youripnumber:80/cgi/mjpg/mjpg.cgi"


By the way, I believe VLC will also work with the TRENDnet TV-IP110 camera as I think the firmwares are practically identical to the TV-IP121 model.

TrendNet TV-IP110 and VLC
Using HTTP and VLC with TrendNet TV-IP121W
Using VLC to connect via HTTP to TrendNet TV-IP121 Securview camera
How to use VLC to connect to live video feed form TrendNet Tv-ip security web camera
How Can I watch live stream of TrendNet Securview TV-ip121W without a web browser

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dell Customer Care Sucks - Do Not Buy From Dell Outlet!

Wow, the Consumerist picked up my story!  Thanks!
Update Down Below - Just heard from Dell!

Do Not Buy from the Dell Outlet! 

I am going to share with you some of the worst customer "service" I have every experienced as a CORPORATE ACCOUNT holder.

I used to happily recommend to friends/family and businesses to purchase their computer equipment and laptops from the Dell outlet. I would use the same reasoning that Dell uses to sell their products in the Dell outlet - that the warranty is the same as a new piece of equipment.

Well, I just found that out to be untrue. As a matter of fact, I am so unhappy with Dell at this point that our business may in fact stop using them as a vendor at all moving forward.

Here is where it started. Three weeks ago, I ordered a Dell Latitude E6410 from the outlet. It costs around $1,200 - so even as a "refurb" it still was not a cheap machine. I usually only purchase new equipment for my business, but in this instance, Dell recently discountinued the E6410 series to replace with the E6420, and I still need some of the E6410s to keep my staff all using the same equipment. I received the laptop, and after a couple of days went to configure it, along with the other 4 similar E6410 machines I purchased at the same time.

Low and behold, this particular laptop was completely dead on arrival. No big deal, or so I thought.

And just so everyone knows that I am not embelishing, I actually have a call accounting system installed on my phone so was able to log every single call (and the length of each call). This is to the 800-456-3355 phone number as well as the 800-www-dell number.

So Let's Go Through It All:

Wed May 18th - 1 Hour 15 Minutes (Computer troubleshooting)
Tried to troubleshoot battery, powercords, monitor, hard drive, etc to get the laptop to turn on.

Thursday, May 19th - 36 Minutes (Call #1)
Total hold time 32 minutes
Total time speaking with person 4 minutes
I call into Dell "Small and Medium Business" support. After a very long wait, I am greeted by "Mr.Tom" (from India) I am told that their systems are down due to an upgrade and that they cannot help me. Please call back later today. ..... This is just sad, a COMPUTER COMPANY that is doing an upgrade in the middle of the day!

Thursday, May 19th - 52 Minutes (Call #2)
Total hold time 28 minutes round one
Total time speaking with person 14 minutes
Total hold time round 2, 10 minutes
I am told by "Mike" (from India) that the systems are still down, but he will attempt to help me anyhow. He then attempts to find my system's "service tag" - which is a Dell unique identifier for each system" However, he comes back on the phone and says that because my system is so new (it had shipped over a week before), that it still was not in their tech support system. He could see it in his sales system, and validate that I purchased it, but was unable to help me until his system was updated. He then told me that the only immediate course of action would be to contact customer care and ask them to send it back. He then transfers me into another queue. I sit in this queue for another 10 minutes and decide to hang up for the day, since it is now almost 6:30 PM.

Friday, May 20th - 24 Minutes (Call #1)
Total hold time 8 minutes
Total talking time 16 Minutes
I call in again. Don't remember this Indian's name, but I think it was "Rachel" in tech support. I ask immediately to speak with a manager and she tells me that she cannot do that. I go through the process of giving her a service tag, and am again told to call back later as their systems were still down.

Friday, May 20th - 18 Minutes (Call #2)
Total hold time 11 minutes
Total talking time 7 Minutes
I wait till the afternoon and call customer care small and medium business directly. I am greeted by another Indian, don't remember which American sounding name he game himself. I attempt to explain to him the situation, and he literally starts to raise his voice and tells me that I have to call tech support. I explain that I called them and they told me that I had to call customer care. I then ask to speak to a manager. He says "NO". Then he says, he has to follow procedure, I have to talk to tech support. I say again, "I want to speak to a manager immediately". He screams "NO" and hangs up the call.

Friday, May 20th - 13 Minutes (Call #3)
Total hold time 13 minutes
Was on hold the entire time and decided to hang up.

Friday, May 20th - 16 Minutes (Web and Email)
I stumbled around Dell's horribly unorganized support site for a while and finally found an email address to send my issue to. I drafted an email with my issues, and received an auto-receipt telling me they would call me back within 24 - 48 business hours.

Monday, May 23rd - 18 Minutes (Call)
Total Hold Time 7 Minutes
Was on hold, then finally reached a representative. They told me the system was still down. I hung up.

Tuesday, May 24th - 6 Minutes Call
Total Hold Time 4 Minutes
Finally got through to India! Systems are up! - But, they inform me that since I submitted a request for resolution via email that there was nothing they could do, and someone would be in touch for instructions to return the system.

Wed, May 25th - 1 Minute (Email)
I get a phone call prompty at 12:10 PM EDT - while I am at lunch. Good thing I wrote in that email the best times to call, since they just ignored it anyhow. So, they don't leave a message and then call my cell, which I did not answer either - and they left no message again.

Then they send me an email telling me they tried to call, and they tell me to call back to Joy-Anne or "Jat" in customer care.

Wed, May 25th - 3 Minutes (Call #1)
I call "Jat" and leave a message.

Wed, May 25th - 7 Minutes (Call #2 & an Email)
After an hour and a half I call again and send an email. I also send an email to "Karen" who is listed as Jat's manager.

Wed, May 25th - 20 Minutes (Call #3)
Jat finally calls me back. She really doesn't even want to hear the story, she just processes the claim as a return, and never offers me a replacement laptop. She sends me an email with an RMA number in it and explains to me on the phone that I have to follow the instructions she will send and print out a shipping label. I have 10 days to return the laptop and then it can take up to 30 days for them to refund my money. Even though I am not happy about it, I agree to give her my email address.

Wed, May 25th - 2 Minutes (Shipping Label Email)
After the call is complete, I get an label via email from Jat. It does not have much information on it, other than a ship to address with the name "Spore" and the phone number "999-999-9999" and Dell Nashville. as well as an RMA number and my senders address.

Wed, May 25th - 2 Minutes (Issue Resolved Email)
Four minutes, yes FOUR MINUTES after she sent the shipping label, she sent another email asking if I got the shipping label. Additionally, the email said the case was closed and "I am glad to know that you were satisfied with the level of service I provided to you." -funny, I don't remember saying that...

Wed, May 25th - 2 Minutes (I emailed Jat's boss Karen)
As a matter of principle, I emailed Karen and said that I was NOT satisfied with the service and would like to speak to someone about the incident. I never heard anything back..

Tuesday, May 31st - 10 Minutes (Packaging)
I package up the laptop, print off the labels, and write the RMA number on the box. - Oh, I also took a photo of it for good measure.

Tuesday, May 31st - 25 Minutes (Shipping)
I send my assistant to the FedEx store to drop off the box. FedEx looks up the RMA number in the system, and says that Dell has not authorized the payment, and my assistant has to pay $35 with his own credit card.

Tuesday, May 31st - 10 Minutes
I email Jat and Karen and ask about a refund. 1 hour goes by and I have no response from either of them.

Tuesday, May 31st - (1 Hour and 4 Minutes)
I call customer care to get a refund for the FedEx expense. I get through after 5 minutes, and immediately ask for a manager. I have to spend 3 more minutes explaining why. I sit on hold for 5 minutes. I then get "Maria Mercel". Where these Indians come up with their names from, I will never know. I explain to her the whole situation and she frantically types away. She comes back and says that I need to dispute the charges with FedEx. At this point, I had F*$king had it! I told her that I would absolutely not be dealing with FedEx, they needed to resolve the issue immediately.

More pounding on a keyboard and then dead silence for a couple minutes until I ask if she is still there; "our procedure 'Mr. William' is that...bla bla bla" Then she tries to offer me a case number. I refuse another case number and demand that she resolve my issue.

She then says it is my fault because I did not follow instructions. When I tell her I have proof she asks me to email it to her, which I do. After another 15 minutes or so, she is dead silent again. I again have to ask if she is still there. I firmly believe that she was just hoping I would hang up. Anyhow, after asking, she comes back on the line and says that she is refunding my Fedex charges but it could take up to 10 days. She then tries to say the issue is resolved and indicates that I am lucky that they could make an exception since I was the one that made a mistake - THIS IS AFTER I SENT HER PROOF OF DELL's MISTAKE!

I tell her I want to speak to a manager, about the whole incident, not this particular issue. She then puts me "on hold" for five minutes of silence. I finally speak up and say "I am not hanging up". She then comes back on the line immediately and says, "Oh, can you hear me now?" I said, I am still waiting for a transfer. She says, oh yes, this is now "Karen", I am a manager.-- yet I am 99% positive that it is the same woman as before! Either way, I go through the entire process with her again, explain my frustation and point out that I am a very large account spender. Her response was that everyone followed procedure, and I should be happy with that, thank you for being a Dell customer. I explain to her that people did not follow procedure. I point out to her that I was hung up on, and the only thing she kept saying was that she would investigate it. When I asked how she would do that, she said that she had every call in the system, and asked what day I was calling about. When I told her the day(s), she had ZERO record of calls, but kept insisting that she would look into it. I pointed out that on the day I was hung up on, I never even provided my account number, and she said "no problem, we can look up your account number" or something to that affect.
Needless to say, it was clear that she either was not listening to me, or she did not understand me. I ran through my problem one more time and explained my frustration with being accused of not following instructions. Then, she asked me to send the proof again. I asked for her email address and she just said "oh, ah, um, please just send it to Maria's email since you have that alread" - yet another indication that I was not speaking to a manager.

At this point, I asked to speak to another supervisor. She told me that she was the top supervisor. I then asked if she worked for Dell or for the call center company. She answered "Customer Care". I asked again, "Dell or a Call Center Company", and after a long pause, she said a call center. So, I ask to speak with a Dell employee in the U.S. She said that no Dell managers were available.

So, here I am. I have a minimum of 404 Minutes - just shy of 7 hours trying to get my issue resolved adequately. Worse yet, I am still missing a laptop and was not ONCE offered a replacement or asked if I wanted to purchase a new laptop.

Dell, you really screwed up on this one. Not only is my company a decent spender, I make recommendations to Fortune 500 companies on a regular basis on the best way to allocate their I.T. expenditures. You cannot possibly expect me to recommend you to anyone in the future -this mistake may in fact cost you millions.

I will update this blog if/when the refunds get processed, as well as any updates on if anyone ever properly addresses this issue.

By the way, I did attempt to contact Dell via various Twitter accounts; such as "@DellListens" and "DellCares"  But guess what, they don't listen to them either.

  1. Having read about executive email carpet bombs in the past, I decided to give it a shot this morning.  I am not interested in making money, nor gaining publicity.  My main interest was to make Dell aware of a serious problem that they had and that they should be addressing.
  2. picked up my story of woe.  Thank you,..... but now I wish I had been a bit more attentive to punctuation and political correctness!
  3. A representative from Dell just called (2:45 PM, Wed Jun 1st).  She seemed genuinely concerned about the incident and assured me that they would be looking into it.  They also offered 20% off of my next purchase.   She also expressed that the call center is made up of Dell employees, it is not outsourced.  We spent a couple of short minutes discussing the fact that it would be difficult for them to even track the event, but I did provide multiple phone numbers that they could use to attempt to track the inbound and outbound to and from their center, and explained that they had a serious problem in their ability to keep accurate records without immediately capturing service tag or account numbers.  She did express that their was a management committee that would be briefed on the situation and they are always looking for was to improve.
  4. Was it enough for me to forgive and forget.  Absolutely not.  I want to see something actionable come out of this before I can preface every mention of "Dell" to be my clients with "Let me tell you about the last experience I had".   When I say actionable, let me elaborate.... I want to see a new method from Dell to escalate issues into a competent response team, not some call center manager who is only interested in if their employees filled the documented paper procedure.
  5. 5:10PM EDT - Another update.  Another U.S. Based Dell Rep (from their Social Media department) called me up and apologized again, ensuring me they are working to correct the issue to my satisfaction.  They also offered an increased discount.

Understandably, several readers of the consumerist doubt that I really do have any buying recommendation authority, nor do they think I am a corporate buyer, because "someone of his level would not waste his time on the phone".
I already mentioned at the start of this post that I ordered a few refurbs for MY company because Dell had just discontinued the E6410 product line, and I needed just a few more for my business.  Out of practice, no, I would not recommend refurbs to my clients.
Although I do not want to draw attention to my company specifically, I decided to take a few snapshots of the equipment that just arrived last week for my small office alone - just to put to doubt that this one a one time purchase from an irate customer.
Above is about $15,000 worth of switches, accessories and a small r210 server.
 Above are three new PowerEdge R610 Servers, loaded to the gills (About $22,000)
And here is an Equal Logic NAS - Another $35,000

So yes, when you have around $75,000 of new equipment that you just ordered still sitting in the boxes; and you experience something like this, you do get angry, you do take it personal, and you do handle the situation yourself.  Its not about a $1,200 laptop, its about the concern you have with poor customer service when you have issues with a big order!

For Search Engines:
Dell Sucks
Is the Dell Outlet Safe?
Dell Customer Care Problems
Should I Buy from the Dell Outlet?
Dell Support India
Dell tries to resolve issue.
Don't buy Dell