Stefano Rivera (tumbleweed)'s Website, Blog, collected bits of code, cruft and other stuff.

Phone SPAM!

Americans may be used to telemarketing, but thanks to Telkom’s monopolistic pricing, it’s been simply uneconomical to do such things in South Africa. This has started to change… My friends don’t seem to get them, but over the last 2 months, I’ve received at least 6 automated phone calls.

They go something like this: Here’s a rough transcript the one I got at 20h46 today, from + (i.e. withheld caller ID):

  • Machine: Hello, do you need cash in a hurry? You’ve been accepted for platinum credit. To find out more, press 9.
  • Me: Arrgh! 9
  • Rings…
  • Salesman: <with a Xhosa accent> Hello…
  • Me: Hi. What can you tell me about this?
  • Salesman: You’ve been selected for ple-tin-ahm credit.
  • Me: Yes, and? who selected me? What is the company called?
  • Salesman: eh… the company is name is ple-tin-ahm
  • Me: Are you sure - is that the name of the company you work for?
  • Salesman: yes, ah, the company name is ple-tin-ahm
  • Me: yes? and? Why are you calling me, why do you think I want your services?
  • Salesman: The comp-pu-ta picked your number.
  • Me: What computer?
  • Salesman: The computa.
  • Me: Where did it get my number from?
  • Salesman: The computa picked it.

etc… round and round we go…

  • Me: Will you please tell your computer never to call me again?
  • Salesman: No, I can’t do that.
  • Me: Can I speak to your boss please?
  • Salesman: No, he’s out right now.
  • Me: Can I leave a message for him to call me?
  • Salesman: No, he’s out right now.


I started getting the feeling that the poor salesman was rigidly sticking to a script…

Eventually, I got hung up on. And I didn’t manage to find out a single bit of information about these bastards. Maybe I should have pretended to buy…

So I phone Vodacom Customer care 111. And after working my way through the IVR menus (no there isn’t an option for abuse anywhere, you just have to keep hitting 0), I sat on hold for half an hour. After 20 minutes, a callback feature was advertised, if I pressed # they’d call me back. I pressed #, repeatedly, but nothing happened… Maybe the bad reception was interfering with the DTMF tone…

While I was sitting on hold, listening to horrific music emanating from my speaker phone, and browsing the web, I came across the WASPA code of conduct. It seemed interesting.

My reasoning is that the telemarketers must be using cell phone networks, or some other commercial gateway, because they could hide their number. AFAIK you can’t hide your number when calling from a Telkom line. That means that Vodacom could actually do something about this. The code of conduct states:

5. Commercial communications

5.1. Sending of commercial communications

5.1.1. All commercial messages must contain a valid originating number and/or the name or identifier of the message originator.

5.1.2. Any message originator must have a facility to allow the recipient to remove his or herself from the message originator’s database, so as not to receive any further messages from that message originator.

5.1.3. Where feasible, persons receiving commercial messages should be able to remove themselves from the database of a message originator using no more than two words, one of which must be ‘STOP’.

5.1.4. Any mechanism for allowing a recipient to remove him or herself from a database must not cost more than one rand.

5.1.5. Upon request of the recipient, the message originator must, within a reasonable period of time, identify the source from which the recipient’s personal information was obtained.

5.1.6. Commercial communications may not be timed to be delivered between 20:00 and 06:00, unless explicitly agreed to by the recipient, or unless delivery during this period forms part of the up-front description of the service.

Hmm. Quite a few violations…

Letter to Acer

To: Support Manager, Acer Europe, Switzerland

Cc: Support Manager, Acer Africa (Pty) Ltd, Sandton

Incl: Invoice for laptop and 3yr Extended Warranty, Original complaint about wrong model, Support reply, Pricing for new motherboard

RE: Extended Warranty not valid outside country of purchase.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I had an Acer Ferrari 4005WMLi laptop bought for me (it came out of my salary) by GetReel Digital Services, while I was working for them in the UK around August 2005. It was bought through Easy Computers, in the guise of, which is prominently linked from Acer’s website.

I didn’t actually receive the right model from Easy Computers, I got one with 32bit Windows XP, and no paperwork for my extended warranty. I complained about this (complaint attached), but received no reply from Acer, so I dropped it. I hardly ever use Windows, so it wasn’t very important to me, and I had the invoice to prove the warranty.

It’s given me good service for a year, definitely a good buy. It ran Ubuntu Linux pretty well (although the DSDT provided in the BIOS is atrocious —- it thinks that my battery (dis)charges in ~3s, and is full of other errors). I have recommended the same model to several associates and clients.

Around 2 weeks ago, it developed a fault that is causing it to crash constantly, and occasionally fail to boot up, beeping 3 times. I have verified the same crashes in Windows, and they seem temperature dependant. I contacted Acer Support, who postulated that it’s a dead motherboard, I concur. I was never given a support ID that I can quote, only an automated response (attached), the rest of the conversation happened over the phone to Acer South Africa.

However, they also told me that my warranty isn’t valid, because I bought the laptop in a different country, and accused me of illegally grey-importing my laptop while on a holiday in UK. They have quoted me R6 099 for a new motherboard and labour. I assume this repair would take place in Johannesburg, so I would have to pay courier costs to and from there, too. That is insane, for that price, I could take a trip to the UK, where my warranty is valid, and get a repair that wouldn’t void my (rather dubious) warranty.

I work for GetReel in both UK (I’m an EU citizen), and remotely from South Africa, so when I bought the laptop, I specifically enquired if the warranty was international. I was informed that it was, so I bought the 3yr extended version. I’m an IT professional, so I know that hard drives have a propensity to die, laptops aren’t easy or cheap to mend, and so long warranties are a good thing. I spend a lot of time in South Africa, so I wouldn’t have bought the extended warranty if they had told me that it wasn’t valid internationally.

In this day and age, laptop users travel the world, constantly, so I find the idea of a global laptop manufacturer, whose warranties are only valid in one country ludicrous.

Please can you organise for my laptop to repaired, at Acer’s expense, under warranty in South Africa, or for it to be couriered for free to Europe for repair and back.


Stefano Rivera

Acer Laptop woes - part 2

My faithful Ferrari has been chugging along merrily for a year, following me almost everywhere, and keeping up with the latest fashions in Ubuntu Linux (amd64).

Suddenly, while I was busy reading some lecture slides, cramming for an exam earlier this month, it crashed. Odd. Reboot.


Hmm. Badly seated RAM? Try a quick re-seat.


To cut a long overly-geeky story short, it seemed temperature-related. It would run for ~20 mins and then crash. And after that while still warm, it wouldn’t turn on without giving the beeps of death.

Aha! It’s Just as well I bought a 3yr warranty, thinks tumbleweed, otherwise I’d be in a bit of a bind. The laptop is 14months old now - what good thinking! < pats self on back />

Not so fast. Acer informs me that my 3yr warranty isn’t valid in South Africa (as I’d been assured it was when I bought it). They also accused me of grey-importing my laptop. Sure, I spend most of my time in South Africa, but surely I can get my employers to buy me hardware in the country they exist in?

I was quoted over R6000 to get it repaired. For that price I could fly to London, (with the help of youth fares) get an in-warranty-repair and have a quick holiday to boot. Rude letter writing time… (I’ll add the letter as soon as I’ve vetted it for the spammy world of the web)

I faxed it off to the EU HQ, as well as the local office, and waited.

Acer Laptop woes - part 1

While I was working in London in August 2005, I needed a new laptop (to replace my rather old and battered one that I’d found in a cupboard at work). I seriously looked at ThinkPads, but then read an outstanding review for an Acer Ferrari 4k, that was half the price of lower specced ThinkPads.

I was convinced, and bought an Acer Ferrari 4005WLMi laptop from Acer Notebooks (alias Laptops Direct, alias Easy Computers). They convinced me into a 50 quid 3yr warranty that covered accidental damage, which I was assured that it was International. Sounded like a good deal. The laptop was to be delivered post-haste by a courier company better known for it’s parent company’s pest removal abilities. I should have known that I was in for trouble…

I was going to South Africa in a week, so it was essential that the deliver happened fast

Well, a couple of days later, I got a call back. Company policy stated that they couldn’t deliver to my office, because it was in the same building as a car park, and they don’t deliver to car parks. After lots of wangling, and eventually fudging the address enough that it didn’t look like a carpark any more, they agreed to deliver to me. (and added a note to the couriers, explaining the address)

On the eventual day of delivery, a green branded courier van stopped outside my office. I waited…

Another van pulled up behind it.

The driver of the first van took out a large laptop-sized box and gave it to the other driver, and they both sped off in different directions.

I phoned up the courier company, and asked them where my delivery was. After a thorough search, they decided that it had been lost. I was assured that I shouldn’t worry, it was insured (I bet the driver knew that), and I should contact the supplier to send another one. :-) Being a good soul, I tried to report the van driver for thievery, but they couldn’t care. All their staff were beyond reproach.

Needless to say, this second delivery happened after I’d left the country, and I only got my laptop later.

Oh, and it wasn’t the right model, and it didn’t come with the extended warranty that I’d purchased. So I phoned up the supplier who referred me to Acer. I opened a ticket with them. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

Hello world!

OK, hell has frozen over, tumbleweed has a blog. He’s entered the blogosphere for good or for bad, and will attempt to do a decent job of it.

It might not last long, and if I get bored, I promise to pull it down rather than let it languish into unmaintained hell, but hopefully we won’t need to go there…

Now of course, something had to actually exist that I wanted to blog about before this could happen. Hopefully I’ll update the site with all of that stuff soon. Subscribe to my feed now! :-)

Nice themes, etc coming soon…

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