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Archive for July, 2011

Dencor Energy Control Systems – Bad Idea Or Worst Idea?

July 16th, 2011

I’m going to deviate slightly from what I normally post about on here, but I guess this is somehow tangentially related to technology. I bought a new house a few months back and it had a Dencor Energy Control System in it. Of course, I had no clue what this system does (and frankly, I’m still not entirely sure), but it wasn’t that big of a deal until recently.

Basically, the system consists of a programmable interface inside the house and a relay disconnect outside of the house. I’ve spoken to two different electricians about the system and they both say they also know nothing about it. The system that I have was installed by the original builders back in the late 70s or so, so we’re talking about pretty old technology here. I’m sure things have progressed since then, but that’s not really the point of this post.

The problem is that I have 3 electrical outlets on different breakers that mysteriously stopped working. This may or may not be related to this Dencor Energy Management System, but since I have no idea how this thing works, it seemed like a good thing to investigate. When I first bought the house, I was kind of curious how the system worked, but when I called the Dencor headquarters, they told me it was going to cost me $20 or $30 to get a copy of the manual. I wasn’t that curious.

So now that I can’t charge my razor or my fancy electronic toothbrushes once these outlets died, I decided to try again and I emailed the president of Dencor Energy Control Systems, Matt Essig, with this email:

I purchased a home back in February and it seems the original builder installed Dencor energy management systems throughout the neighborhood (back in the 70s). We’ve recently had a handful of outlets on various breakers stop working and I can’t figure out any reason why other than possibly this system. I’ve asked all of my neighbors if they know how this thing works and no one knows anything about it.

It says DDS-809 on the outer cover and on the circuit board it lists 809-1002.

I spoke with someone a few months back and they said you would have to charge me $20 or $30 for a manual for this, but that seems a bit extreme just to buy some instructions for a product.

I can find no information about this system online and your website isn’t very informative. If you have a manual for this, can’t you just scan it and post it on your website or at the very least email it to me. Or if that’s too much effort, simple photocopies of the manual pages would be fine and I can stop by and pick it up since I live in south Denver. I’ve attached a picture of the control panel (sorry it’s blurry.. i can get a real picture if needed) and I can provide photos of the relay box in the back of the house if that helps too.

If I can’t figure out how it works, my next step is going to be trying to figure out how to disable the whole system without killing myself by electric shock.

-eric

That seems pretty reasonable to me. But then something strange happened. Here is the email exchange between me and Matt Essig, the president of Dencor Energy Control Systems.

Eric,

The manual and spec sheet are attached.

I know actually charging for products and services when you are a for profit business in a market driven economy seems odd but maybe your approach is the right one; when I’m at the grocery store I’m going to insist they give me everything for free because the prices they charge are excessive.

We stopped producing the 809 decades ago; in 20 years would you support a product you stopped developing and selling, or giving away, today? How about Microsoft? Oracle? Thought so….

Maybe you should disconnect the system and watch your power bills go up (assuming the system is currently programmed properly)…

Matt

Since Matt is a big fan of free market economics, I figured I’d teach him a thing or two. So I responded with this:

Matt,

Thank you for the manual.

I am well aware of how markets work, but it seems you are not. In a market driven economy, customer service is incredibly important. This is increasingly more important now that the masses have such innovations as the Internet in order to share information about how companies treat their customers.

I see that you’re beginning to understand this since you responded to “Sandra’s” 2008 post on ripoffreport.com just a week or two ago on July 5th, 2011. I agree that Sandra was a being a bit unreasonable, but given your response to me, I can see why she might be a tad bit upset with you.

Now there’s a pretty distinct difference between what I’m asking of your company versus what you suggested I should ask at a grocery store. I think a more apt analogy would be me contacting the grocery store to help me out with instructions on how to microwave a pizza I bought. Or even better yet, contacting the *manufacturer* of the pizza… say Red Baron (via the toll free number on the back of the box that says “questions?”) and asking them how to microwave it. Now granted, I’m not going to ask how to microwave a 20 year old pizza, but we’ll discuss that next.

You see, you think I want something for free, but I am not asking you to give me any actual product or service for free unless you consider the instruction manual for your real product yet another product. That’s quite the stretch. But you asked quite an interesting question. Can I, in fact, find support for say…. Windows 3.1? You bet your ass I can. As bad as Microsoft support is, they appear to be doing a better job than your company. It’s unfortunate that you happened to pick the industry I am in for your examples.

Here is Microsoft supporting 20+ year old products:

Oh? I can download an updated vshare.386 binary for Windows 3.1? Yep… right here: http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=16991

Holy crap! Look at this! Windows 3.0 instructions on editing an autoexec.bat and config.sys file? Wow, that brings back some memories of the 80s…. http://support.microsoft.com/kb/85194

Of course, there are plenty more examples, but I think that should be sufficient for now. If you want me to give you some more examples (maybe HP printer manuals from the 80s?) I could certainly dig that up as well if you’d like. But at any rate, that’s not really the issue anymore now, is it? I possibly would have hired someone to come fix and/or upgrade the system, which of course, would benefit you, because as you well know, in a market driven economy if people can make money working on your products, your product’s future value increases in non-real terms (hint: think advertising).

But back to the point: The issue now is that your level of customer service has made my decision quite easy. I will post my email to you as well as your email back (and this one too) in its entirety on my website. I think others would be glad to hear how the president of Dencor responds to requests from users of their products.
I’ve also noticed that you seem to have a bit of litigious streak in you. You can contact “Christian Onsager, at Onsager Staelin & Guyerson” and let them know that you want to file suit against me when I post this information online as well. There’s no need for a John Doe subpoena though, you can have them serve notice directly to me at the following address:

Eric [redacted]
[redacting my actual address here as well]

Remember…. all I asked for was a simple manual. And again, thanks for the manual as well as the incredibly quick response.

Eventually, however, you’ll learn one of the greatest lessons of the market driven economy: Don’t be a dick to your customers.

-eric

Now I assumed that’d be the end of the story. Only an idiot would respond to that email. But Mr. Matt Essig, the president of Dencor Energy Management Systems didn’t want to leave it at that. He said he would sue me if I posted these emails:

Eric,

If you would like to post the emails on your website then go ahead. The email was meant for you, and you only, hence it was addressed to you. I will litigate over this if you choose to do so…just try me.

Matt

Well, not to let him down and of course I haven’t been sued in a long time, here we are. So I responded with this:

Matt,

Seriously? Emails are certainly not confidential. Furthermore, Colorado doesn’t even require two-party consent for recording and publishing of phone calls, let alone other electronic communications. You may want to contact your attorneys before you continue digging yourself into a bigger hole. You would think that for a president of a company, you would be a little better informed about the ramifications of your communications and your business conduct in general. But again, you have my address. Instead, you sound like a petulant toddler trying desperately to undo the damage that you’ve already done. Feel free to have your legal team serve notice of a lawsuit.

I will contact you again when I post the information online with a web address where you can find your emails and my commentary on my dealings with you today.

Kindest Regards,

Eric

P.S. The manuals you sent don’t mention anything about programming the system. I appreciate the documentation you provided, but if you could send the actual programming manual, that’d be incredibly helpful. Thanks again.

Well Mr. Matt Essig of Dencor Energy Management Systems, your move. Best regards and I would appreciate that manual if you could foward over a copy. You have my physical and email address.

Also, I’ve sent him a link to this post. I look forward to hearing from you again Mr. Essig

General

yTransit and GTFS revisited

July 8th, 2011

It’s been a long time since I last looked at GTFS. Since then, I’ve gotten tons of emails and comments on the blog post about my failed little yTransit project. A Google engineer in the Czech Republic working on their transit team even contacted me, but still nothing from actual transit companies.

However, it’s been a little while and I think there may be a glimmer of hope for this project yet. I’m guessing (hoping) that since smartphones have become increasingly popular, more people in the industry are getting a bit more interested in the technology. I called the Summit County, Colorado transit system (Summit Stage Transit) this morning and talked to the dispatcher.

I told him that I was interested in getting their transit schedule into Google Maps and he didn’t just say “uuhhhh… what?” He actually said “I think we’d be very interested in that.” He told me the person I needed to speak with wasn’t in the office at that moment, but he’ll be in later today and that I should leave a voicemail.

Now remember, I had originally contacted Summit Stage Transit way back in 2009 and they weren’t interested and didn’t return my calls. So at least this time around, I actually got a favorable response. That is huge progress!

We’ll see if this goes anywhere, but if they’re able to help me get some requirements built, I might actually be able to make this happen.

So officially, the project is still dead pending resuscitation by John at Summit Stage Transit who is supposed to return my call this afternoon.

Update: I spoke with John and I have a meeting scheduled for the July 20th to discuss their needs and requirements. This thing might happen after all.

Google APIs, GTFS