Linux is not a get of jail free card

I’ve been having line problems with my ISP – British Telecom. To cut a long story short we see a 75% speed drop, phone BT, jump through umpteen hoops and they reset the profile at the exchange. The fault is with the line and it’s intermittent.

That doesn’t really bother me. The customer support agent told me to use BT’s speed diagnostic tool. Now aside from why their tool would be better, its not really an option as its a poorly written Java applet that doesn’t seem to work with Firefox or Chromium in Linux. Now I dare say I could get it to work but why spend the energy? When I mentioned it to the agent, he told me BT doesn’t officially support Linux and helpfully suggested I keep a Windows laptop handy.

Are you kidding? Keep a Windows laptop handy? There are reasons why I use Linux, there are reasons people use Macs and Windows too – they chose to. What the hell has that got to do with my ISP? I have no software from them, it’s a wireless access point they provide. Do you know what operating system it runs? Linux.

8 Replies to “Linux is not a get of jail free card”

  1. To quote the BT speedtester itself “The performance tester is supported on Windows 98, XP,Vista,Linux Fedora (RedHat) for the following browsers: Firefox, Opera, Netscape, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Safari. It is important that you have the most up to date versions.”

    It is running in another tab of this Chrome browser right now, on Ubuntu 10.04, though it’s worth pointing out that the speed test server can be a bit flaky at times.

    The BT speed tester does have additional functionality over any old web based speed test, as can be seen from this result :-

    Download speedachieved during the test was – 2006 Kbps
    For your connection, the acceptable range of speeds is 600-7150 Kbps.
    Additional Information:
    Your DSL Connection Rate :7616 Kbps(DOWN-STREAM), 448 Kbps(UP-STREAM)
    IP Profile for your line is – 6500 Kbps

    it also logs the result in a database against your line, and BT can then look at the history of speed tests, so it is worth getting it to work (I had to install some java plugin or other).

  2. It’s perfectly reasonable for them to ask you to use their speedtest. Aside from the functionality mentioned by PhilT your test would be between you and BT and not traverse the general Internet.

    Just like there are reasons you use Linux, there are reasons that Tech Support would want to troubleshoot further with you on a supported operating system.

    1. I didn’t say it wasn’t reasonable, the point was about them telling customers to “keep a Windows laptop handy”.

      When a company provides an Internet connection up to and including a wireless access point then they don’t automatically gain the right to tell me what I can connect to said wireless access point. It’s not even remotely reasonable and moreover if you actually provide the diagnostic software for Linux too (as PhilT mentioned) then you’ve absolutely no cause to tell people what operating system to run it on.

      Assuming the OS to be at fault is an erroneous way to start diagnosing a fault, especially when your own ticket system shows several reported faults with the line profile being reset. When the customer reports speed drops and there is a history of this exchange doing that, then all you’re doing by insisting that the customer follows a script aimed at checking common user connection errors is wasting everybody‚Äôs time.

  3. Its the same thing here in India with our ISP Airtel, when ever i contact Tech support and they ask me to run Diagnostics Tests, they are at a loss at what to say and just tell me that they dont support Linux.
    I Suppose we need more of

    1. I have Airtel as well, Rohan. In my experience, you get the best results by borrowing a friend’s Windows laptop, unsuccessfully following the tech support instructions (ping, change DNS servers, ping again), get a tech to come to your house and replace your modem because that’s what he does, wait for the problem to recur, call the airtel regional supervisor, get him to send out a guy who actually knows what’s going on, have him change something along the line, enjoy.

  4. Hey, all I’m saying is to consider the source …. a Tech capable/allowed only to support Windows & Mac. One possibility is that they are evil idiots who hate you because you use Linux and want you to conform to their standard of what is normal. The other is that they want to help you further. There ARE diagnostics that can be run from the OS that can help pinpoint network issues. It’s not a given they are assuming the OS to be at fault.

    1. The point isn’t about the choice of operating system or if they’re evil – its pointing out the humour in telling customers you don’t support Linux, while using it as the basis for the product you provide.

      Why assume they support Mac? They might not – for the same reason. For many people the access point may be for all manner of devices and not necessarily a Windows laptop!

      I deal with this company regularly and their diagnostic fault finding follows the same process as many companies – a script. That’s fine, except that reading the previous tickets on that account should happen first.

      Bear in mind that they eliminate the obvious stuff, then OS issues, then software issues then line issues. If you stop diagnostics at stage two when the fault is at stage four, the fault is never uncovered and the company reinforces its belief that most problems are at stage two.

      However if you expand stage one to check previous tickets, you see the exchange has a history of problems – it makes sense to start there and saving everyone time!

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