Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to Configure Your Mail Reader When Switching from DSL to AT&T U-Verse

One of these days I'm going to pop a gasket. With me, the odds are higher due to Mitral Valve Prolapse and lack of medical insurance. Those with MVP can just drop dead any old time according to Wikipedia's wisdom. Well, I just hope it's later rather than sooner. If my blog stops having updates, then my readers can put two and two together. Even from beyond the grave, I will ensure that my blog remains a spam-free zone due to my security settings.

The latest irritant to elevate my blood pressure was AT&T technical support. I recently switched from DSL to U-verse. When I tried to check my AT&T email via the popular Thunderbird mail reader, I received an error message that indicated something was wrong with AT&T's mail server. I waited a couple of hours and tried again and got the same error. I called AT&T and spent about half an hour on the phone with a friendly guy who assured me that my new account was provisioning and all would be fine by the morning. Great, I said.

Trouble was, AT&T's guy lied. Through his teeth. Just outright lied. He had no idea what he was talking about. The following morning, I still got an error message, and twelve hours later, ditto. I called AT&T tech support again and got someone who sounded like she had been smoking weed and swigging tequila. She was giggling and talking to other people in the background, and the background noise was very intense, with people talking in Spanish and English, so much so that she did not hear half the things I said. I had to repeat every other sentence. In addition to this, the line went mute, cutting her or me off sporadically. She asked if she could call me back, and I said yes, but that didn't help. The same problem persisted throughout the call. We were talking on my landline, incidentally. The problem was certainly not on my end, because I have talked to other people on the same phone without any issue. My connection was completely wired, not in any way wireless. Her connection had the problem.

Between bouts of silence and background noise, she reminded me that AT&T does not support Thunderbird. Over the years, I have received the same scripted line every single time I call AT&T asking for help configuring my mail reader. AT&T gives short shrift to mail readers. Why do they hate mail readers? Well, let's think about that, shall we? It is in AT&T's interest to herd people through their web portal, isn't it? That way, their customers are exposed to all kinds of advertising.

Whatever. I'm not the type of guy to take "No" for an answer, not when I pay over a hundred dollars a month for the service. My mail reader was working yesterday, and after their guy installed U-verse, it stopped working. I had changed nothing on my end. I knew it was their fault and anyone with intelligence would know that too.

She asked if she could take control of my computer, and I said no, because I run Linux and I'm not sure how to grant that kind of access and don't want to, either, because I'm absolutely certain it would not help. Then she wanted me to reboot my computer, and at that point I went over the edge, because rebooting is something a tech tells people when he doesn't know anything. I started ranting about AT&T's contractual obligations, and then she muted me again. So I hung up. Clearly she knew nothing and was not going to help.

I called back, chose a different option on their phone menu, hoping to contact someone different, and got a tech rep that sounded nicer. She was in a different office, a quiet one. I guessed the water bong hadn't made the rounds at her office. There was no background noise, and she didn't sound like she was high. She wasn't giggling at obscene jokes her co-workers were sending in the office. She actually walked me through Thunderbird's set-up, but everything she told me about the configuration was already set. After all, the mail reader had been working perfectly prior to the switch to U-verse. Although she was nice, her advice was useless.
Here's the bottom line after about two hours of aggravation with AT&T's tech support. No configuration changes need to be made to the Thunderbird mail reader. Nothing needs to be done to the mail reader at all. The only reason the techs suggest that is because they don't know what they are talking about.

Thunderbird is a highly intuitive mail reader developed by Mozilla, the same company that develops Firefox. Thunderbird configures itself automatically. There is no need for the end user to input anything other than email address and password. There is little chance of an incorrect configuration. AT&T technical support does not know what time of day it is. It is aggravating to call up technical support and listen to pushy drunks that don't know anything other than what their script tells them. I have to teach them their job, because they do not know anything about computers. Meanwhile, I can't access my email.

There is only one thing a customer needs to do to fix the mail reader after the switch from DSL to U-verse. Log in via the web browser. Period. Yahoo has a serious bug or else an intentional, selfish annoyance (take your pick). The end user is required to log in via the web browser once in order to use the mail reader, even if he has been using the mail reader for years via DSL.

AT&T and Yahoo don't like mail readers. They wish to discourage their use, because mail readers do not add to their bottom line. They make the mail reader difficult to use because they want to push more of their crap products via the web site. They wasted two hours of my time with this nonsense for no other reason.

The mail reader still reports an error indicating a problem with their internal service when I first load Thunderbird. I have to press OK to accept the message, then click "Check Mail" to check mail again. This is because AT&T does not configure the U-verse mail server properly. I suppose they never will fix it, because they very nearly have a monopoly in my location. They treat their customers like dirt because they can get away with it.

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