The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

That's why my hotel bill is so low

I forgot how quiet San Francisco's financial district is on weekend mornings. And I forgot to factor in California's lagging re-opening in general. Of the places Yelp said would be open for a quick breakfast takeaway this morning, two had ended weekend hours, one was permanently closed (or at least hibernating through the pandemic), and one was delightful. Il Canto Cafe, on Sacramento between Battery and Sansomme, whipped up a lovely egg sandwich and (too-large) coffee in just five minutes.

But seriously, the financial district on a foggy Sunday morning gives me the creeps.

In other news, my local El station closed today and won't reopen until 2025. Good thing there's another station only two blocks away.

Electronic Arts' offshore tech support wins this round

When a software company engages with an offshore technical support team, they signal to the world that they have little interest in supporting their users. Offshore teams have no incentive to actually solve problems. In fact, individual tech support reps get punished for independent thought in some organizations. So if you have a support issue that they can't find in the support manual (even if you send them a link to the exact community page that explains the issue and solution), they won't help.

Electronic Arts, the legal successor to Maxis for all things SimCity, has an offshore tech support team that has, I believe, completely given up on solving my problem. That it took as many emails as it did before they finally asked me to do something impossible only adds to the farce.

I got this message this morning:

Thank you for contacting EA Help. My name is Krishna and I would assist you with your Origin issue today.

I would suggest please contact your retailer they will help out this issue.

Krishna, the most likely case is that I am contacting the retailer. My reply:

I actually don’t remember where I bought the software, because I bought it 18 years ago. I thought it was Egghead, but they went bankrupt in 2001. So I probably bought it directly from Maxis. EA bought Maxis in 2015. So, really, I bought it directly from the company you represent.

Once more, with feeling: I have a license for SimCity 4 that I obtained in 2003. The software does not work on any Windows platform after Vista because Maxis made an engineering choice that turned out to be wrong. Flash forward to 2021, and the only way I can use the software today is through Origin. I therefore need to download the software using Origin, and then activate it, which requires a code.

Is it possible to escalate this to someone with the authority to solve this very simple problem?

I believe EA has now burned about 4-5x the value of the activation code avoiding giving me the activation code. As a 25-year veteran of software development, I can say this exactly the outcome I would predict from an offshore tech support operation.

So, I'll probably just give EA $20 for a new license, while continuing to ridicule them on social media.

May I please play this game that I bought in 2003?

Maxis died in 2015 and made Electronic Arts king of SimCity. When I recently found a copy of SimCity 4, one of the only computer games I've ever played long enough to get good at, I thought I might waste an hour or two on a rainy Sunday playing it.

Unfortunately, the CD requires a copy-protection feature in Windows Vista that Windows 7 dropped because researchers discovered a massive security flaw in it. The CD, therefore, will only work on Windows Vista or Windows XP, neither of which I have run since 2007. So I combed through tech support articles Electronic Arts published on the issue (both of them) and found that EA can provide a key to run the product on Origin, its portable game engine.

Here is the conversation I had with EA tech support. I'm including the names provided by the tech reps only because it became an issue that a new person replied to each of my replies.

Sunday 2 May 2021, 13:25 CDT

Subject: Ancient SimCity 4 CD-ROM + new Origin install = need support to activate

Message: Hi! I recently found a SimCity 4 CD that I bought when it came out. There's a known incompatibility with Windows 10, so it won't play anymore. But I found this support article that says you can send me a code for the downloadable version on Origin. What do you need from me to send a code?

Monday 3 May 2021, 01:06 CDT

Hello David Braverman,

Thank you for contacting EA Help. This is Krishna, following up on your case of Origin.

I can see that you are concerned about your SimCity 4 game code.

Please do not worry, I will certainly help you with this issue.

In order to investigate it further, we'll need to verify your account ownership. And to do the same, I've just sent you an email with a 6 digit verification code in it.

Please copy that code here to verify account ownership.

I patiently await your response.

You can also find answers to common questions on our Help Center at http://help.ea.com, or ask our community experts by visiting Answer HQ at http://answers.ea.com.

Thank you once again for contacting EA Help! Stay safe!

Still need help? You can reach us on help.ea.com .

Krishna K.
EA Help

Monday 3 May 2021 19:07 CDT

Here you go: {code}

Tuesday 4 May 2021, 06:14 CDT

Hello David Braverman,
Thank you for contacting EA help. My name is Rahul and I would assist you with your issue today in Origin.

I see you have a CD for SimCity 4 and you are unable to run it on your system and looking for it to be installed in a digital form or on the Origin account.

To help you further, we need game code written over the CD or game manual.

Awaiting your response. Thanks!

Still need help? You can reach us on help.ea.com .

Rahul K.
EA Help

Tuesday 4 May 2021, 08:22 CDT

Hi, Rahul,

The code is: {code}

Thanks!

Wednesday 5 May 2021, 01:51 CDT

Hello David Braverman,
Thank you for contacting EA help. My name is Maria and I would assist you with your issue today in Origin.

I see you have a CD for SimCity 4 and you are unable to run it on your system and looking for it to be installed in a digital form or on the Origin account.

Thank you for sharing the code for the game, however, may I know from where did you purchase the game as the shared code is not for the origin and The SimCity 4.

Awaiting your response. Thanks!

Still need help? You can reach us on help.ea.com .

Maria S.
EA Help

Wednesday 5 May 2021, 08:28 CDT

This is getting silly.

It’s an original CD from 2003, so I probably purchased it from an Egghead Software store in Chicago. In 2003. 18 years ago.

Thursday 6 May 2021, 05:53 CDT

Hello David Braverman,
Hi my name is Abhishek and I'm the advisor that is currently handling your case.

I see that you are facing Invalid code issue in SimCity 4. I realize its indeed disappointing. I'll certainly help you with the best possible information to help you out with this issue.

In order to help you we need to locate your account, please be sure to provide at least one of these:
- Email address linked with you EA account
- PSN ID/XBOX Gamertag
- Your Origin ID
- Code number.

I will leave your case open for 7 days waiting for an answer, after that it will be closed automatically.

Thank you for contacting EA Help today, and please feel free to reach out to us again in case you need further assistance with this issue or any further queries you might have in the future! https://help.ea.com

Still need help? You can reach us on help.ea.com .

Abhishek S.
EA Help

Thursday 6 May 2021, 08:42 CDT

This is becoming a farce.

At 24-hour intervals, I get an email from a different person who appears to have no idea why I reached out to EA support. I provide the information you ask for, and then the next day I get a new email showing a complete disregard for the email I sent the day before.

I expect the next person who emails me to have read the case file and to respond to it in any way that answers the inquiry.

All I want is a code for SimCity 4 because the CD I bought in 2003 won’t work on any computer built after 2009. I’ve provided the serial number of the CD, you have my email address because it’s the one you’ve emailed, and if you can’t find my Origin ID, that’s just sad.

My next step is a detailed blog post, naming names, with a link posted on Twitter.

Your move.

Thursday 6 May 2021, 21:23 CDT

Hello David Braverman,
Thank you for contacting EA Help. My name is Jaikish and I would assist you with your Origin issue today.

Having gone through your email, I came to know that you are having issue while login to your Ancient SimCity 4 account. I know this must be disappointing for you. please don't worry, I will certainly help you with this issue.

Please let me share that we are unable to locate the account with the provided the Code" BY7P-NHL7-M24C-4JQK-9BL6". I would request you please provide the Correct code to locate the account.

Look forward to your reply.

You can also find answers to common questions on our Help Center at "http://help.ea.com" or ask our community experts by visiting Answer HQ at "http://answers.ea.com"

Thank you for contacting EA help .

Still need help? You can reach us on help.ea.com .

Jaikish G.
EA Help

Today, 10:27 CDT

OK, since a new person reads this case file every time I reply, let me start from the top.

I have a CD-ROM that I bought in 2003. The CD-ROM has a license number on the back of the case. This has never been an Origin issue, except that an EA technical support document claimed that I can get an Origin code for Sim City 4 by showing proof that I own a copy of a Sim City 4 CD.

Here, then, is me with the copy of the CD that I own.

I have shown proof that I own a copy of a Sim City 4 CD, and I would like a code to unlock Sim City 4 on Origin, please. Thank you.

And here we are.

You know what? They might win this round. The current version of SimCity, released in 2013, costs $20—a lot less than my bill rate would have been for all these messages. So Krishna, Rahul, Maria, Abhishek, and Jaikish, having mustered the very best example of obstructionism that a company with overseas tech support can muster, may get me to spend the $20 after all.

But I still want my copy of SimCity 4, dammit!

Lunchtime reading

Travel in the US just got slightly easier now that the Department of Homeland Security has extended the deadline to get REAL ID cards to May 2023. Illinois just started making them a year ago, but you have to go to a Secretary of State office in person to get one. Due to Covid-19, the lines at those facilities often stretch to the next facility a few kilometers away.

Reading that made me happier than reading most of the following:

And finally, Ravinia has announced its schedule for this summer, starting on June 4th.

Someone call "Lunch!"

We have gloomy, misty weather today, keeping us mostly inside. Cassie has let me know how bored she is, so in the next few minutes we'll brave the spitting fog and see if anyone else has made it to the dog park.

Meanwhile:

All right, off to the damp dog park.

Found an old game. Now what?

Over the weekend, I stooped down to give Cassie some pats while she slept on her bed in my office, and realized I had a cache of turn-of-the-century computer games on a lower shelf. Among them I found SimCity 4, from 2003.

It turns out that SimCity 4, like many games from that era, relies on a thing called "SecuROM" which turned out to have sufficient security problems of its own that Microsoft decided not to support it in Windows 10. I didn't know this until I started researching why the game just...didn't work. When you find a support article that says "96 people have reported this problem" you at least know you're not alone.

So, following the advice in the support article, I opened a support case with Electronic Arts. We are now on a 24-hour cycle of them asking me to send back auto-generated codes to prove I'm an actual person with an actual copy of the SimCity 4 CD. This, after it took three rounds with their automated systems to set up a support account. The merry-go-round with their automated systems was irritating, but the 24-hour cycle time between emails just makes me laugh. I haven't actually taken the time 

After all that, I may actually play SimCity for the first time in 17 years at some point this month. I can't wait to see how a game designed for Pentium 4 processors and 256 MB of RAM performs on a Xeon 6C with 40 GB available...

Happy birthday, NPR!

The American news and information radio network turns 50 today:

It's been a turbulent time, with a deadly pandemic and a chaotic — sometimes violent — political climate. In the midst of all this, NPR is marking a milestone; on May 3, 2021, the network turns 50 years old.

On the same day, in 1971, we started holding up our microphone to America. Just outside our doors, on the streets of Washington, DC, one of the biggest antiwar protests in American history was taking place. NPR's story is that of a ragtag network — born in the era of the Vietnam War and Watergate — one that came of age during the explosion of the 24/7 news cycle.

They've made their first-ever broadcast available for streaming, too.

In praise of boring

On my horizontal monitor, I'm watching Apollo After Hours 2021, our chorus's annual benefit. Last year we deployed the 7pm video about now. This year we deployed it yesterday.

I've spent the last six years working very hard to spread the gospel of boring software deployments. I'm overjoyed that we had one this year with Apollo After Hours.

My, it's warm

Sunday evening we had 4°C gloominess with gusty winds. Today we've got 28°C sunniness with gusty winds. We've also got a bunch of news stories to glance through while a build completes:

Cassie has plotzed on the sofa, probably from the heat and from spending all day yesterday at doggy day care.

And here's the CDC's latest chart:

Lunchtime reading before heading outside

Today is not only the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, it's also the 84th anniversary of the Nazi bombing of Guernica. Happy days, happy days.

In today's news, however:

I will now get lunch. And since it's 17°C right now (as opposed to yesterday's 5°C), I may eat it outside.