Don’t Be Evil

Google got into trouble when they started covertly mapping people’s wireless networks with their street-view vehicles. Obviously, this raised a number of privacy issues.

Well, Google has an answer for that:

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/greater-choice-for-wireless-access.html

Basically, you can opt out of this “service” by renaming the SSID for your wireless network to include “_nomap” at the end.

Read that again. That’s their solution.

Are they serious? Never mind the fact that the vast majority of people aren’t going to know they need to do this, do they realize that most people aren’t even going to know what that means, let alone how to do it? (I’m guessing that yes, they do realize that. And that’s the point.)

Oh, sure, they have directions for doing this linked from that blog post. This is part of their directions:

  1. Establish a physical connection between your access point and your computer using an ethernet cable.
  2. Establish the default gateway of your connection:
    1. On Windows, type ‘ipconfig’ into the command prompt (accessed from the start menu).
    2. On Mac OS, type ‘ifconfig’ into the command prompt.
    3. On Linux, type ‘ifconfig’ into the command prompt.
  3. Once you have the default gateway (it will look like 192.168.0.1), type it into the address bar of your web browser, this will take you to the control panel for your access point.
  4. You may have to sign in to your access point’s control panel. If so, the appropriate username and password should have been included in the booklet included when you received the access point.

They’re joking right? They really expect the average user to be able to do this? They really expect that the average person is going know what they’re looking at when they run those commands? This is the output of running ifconfig on the computer I’m currently using:

lo0: flags=8049 mtu 16384
inet 127.0.0.1 netmask 0xff000000
inet6 ::1 prefixlen 128
inet6 fe80::1%lo0 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x1
gif0: flags=8010 mtu 1280
stf0: flags=0 mtu 1280
en0: flags=8863 mtu 1500
ether 10:9a:dd:ac:6e:a2
inet6 fe80::129a:ddff:feac:6ea2%en0 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x5
inet 10.251.10.53 netmask 0xffff0000 broadcast 10.251.255.255
media: autoselect
status: active
vboxnet0: flags=8842 mtu 1500
ether 0a:00:27:00:00:00
en1: flags=8863 mtu 1500
ether 00:0e:c6:88:42:a0
inet6 fe80::20e:c6ff:fe88:42a0%en1 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x4
inet 10.251.10.52 netmask 0xffff0000 broadcast 10.251.255.255
media: autoselect (100baseTX )
status: active

They really think the average person is going to understand that!? (Never mind the fact that it doesn’t even tell you the default gateway.)

That this “opt-out” procedure is their answer to people’s privacy concerns is a complete joke. They clearly don’t want people to be able to opt-out, or even know that they need to. This should be an “opt-in” service, plain and simple.

It seems everyday Google does something to make their “Don’t be evil” slogan more and more of a joke.

Hansen Natural Sues Small Brewer

Hansen Natural, maker of Monster Energy Drink, is suing a small Vermont brewer for calling one of his wines beers* “Vermonster”.  You can read about this over at The Consumerist.

I think we should make every effort to turn this into a PR nightmare for Monster.  Blog about, Tweet about it, whatever.  Just make sure people know about it!

*Original reports I read said that Vermonster is a wine, now everything I’m reading says it’s a beer.

Automated Reply Customer Support Emails

I do not understand the logic behind automatic replies for customer support emails.  Of course, these are usually used by companies that don’t list a customer support phone number on their web site, and the only way to contact them is through a form on their site (they also usually don’t even list an email address).

I have never, ever received an automated response that was in anyway useful.  Maybe this is because I’m more advanced than the typical user, and I’ve already tried all the troubleshooting steps that any automated reply would list.  But maybe, just maybe, it’s because automated reply emails are completely useless!!

What’s worse is, not only do they not achieve anything, but they invariably will end up pissing people off.  It’s just a impediment in the way of getting actual help for your problem. I find nothing more annoying than typing in a detailed account of a very specific problem, only to get a response that has nothing to do with the problem described.

So, why in the world would a company subject their customers to this?  Are they really cutting down, in any major way, the number of support tickets they have to actually deal with by doing this?  And, even if they are, is not interfacing directly with your customers really worth it?  Is the number of customers you’re surely going to anger really worth not having to deal with those few who are actually going to be helped by the automated response?

I just don’t get it.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Pie Charts

As you may or may not have heard, Mint.com is being bought by Intuit.  Oh, well.  It was good while it lasted.

I gave up on using Intuit products years ago, but I’ve still had to support their lousy software for clients (until my current job).  I’m not at all looking forward to what they’re going to do to Mint.  Mint was by no means perfect, but it had tons of potential, and was certainly better than anything Intuit had to offer.  Now, they’ll never get a chance to achieve the greatness that the site might have become.

Everything I’ve read online about this news has been complete dissapointment.  It seems no one thinks Intuit will do anything other than completely ruin Mint.  (See Consumerist.com for some fine examples.)

I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I am not optimistic.  As Blueoysterjoe put it (if you follow the previous link):

“What, Intuit will buy Mint and suddenly have great ideas about how to run a personal finance website? No. Intuit will apply its crappy ideas to Mint and turn Mint into crap.”

That pretty much sums up what I’m expecting to happen.  Then, once they turn it to crap, they’ll start charging for it.  No thanks.

So Long, Earthlink!

After years of getting my internet service through Earthlink, I’ve finally given up on them.

Let me preface this by giving you an idea of how long I’ve been an Earthlink customer.  My first real ISP (read: not AOL) was Netcom (this is reflected by my primary email address).  I became a Netcom customer in the early 90’s.  Eventually, Netcom was bought by Mindspring, which was eventually bought out by Earthlink.  I stayed a customer all this time because the packages they offered remained the same as what I had, and initially, Earthlink’s customer support was excellent.  I kept the service through three moves, eventually upgrading to DSL service when it became available.

In recent years Earthlink’s customer support has gone down the drain (it’s been outsourced), and their pricing has not remained competitive.  But, I’ve stayed with them.  I think the main thing, really, is that I didn’t want to switch my primary email address, which I’ve had since before most people even knew what the internet was.  I’ve been able, in the past, to get them to lower my monthly rates when I’d call to see if 6.0 Mbps service was available in my area yet.  Since it hasn’t been (until very recently), I’d complain that for the price I was paying for 3.0 I easily could go elsewhere and get faster service.  The deal I got that way expired months ago, but I still stayed.

I called last week to see if the 6.0 service was available for me yet.  I knew they had recently done DSL maintenance in my area, and sure enough I could finally get 6.0.  I tried to get them to give it to me for the introductory rate, but the CSR refused.  I expected as much, but it was worth a shot.  She did say that she could give me the 6.0 service for $44.95 a month, so I accepted.

Well, yesterday the automatic billing went through, and it was for $54.95 a month!  I logged into my account details, and sure enough, it listed my rate as $54.95.  So, I called and asked to cancel my account.  I knew they would try to keep me if I threatened to cancel, but I had no idea they wouldn’t try all that hard.  (Before I called, I looked up what AT&T was offering so I’d have a little more ammo.)

I explained that I recently upgraded my service to 6.0 and was told I could get it for $44.95 a month, but was being billed at $54.95 a month.  They told me they couldn’t go any lower than that, and didn’t seem to care that I had been lied to.  I told them that I could get the same speed from AT&T for $35 a month, and that wasn’t an introductory rate.  After trying to convince me that the speeds were somehow different, they said they could give me a monthly credit for $4.95, to bring the price down to $50.  So, what they offered was still higher than what I was told it would be in the first place, and $15 higher than the competition.  He said that was the best he could do, and I said “That’s why I called to cancel my service.”

It didn’t end there, he kept trying to convince me that the service was different, and kept touting the $4.95 a month credit.  But, I just kept telling him that that was why I was canceling the service.  He pretty much refused to acknowledge that I wanted to cancel, but wouldn’t offer anything better than the credit to try to keep me.

Finally, I got him to put through the cancellation (he tried to get me to keep my email address for $4 a month, which I laughed at).

Now, I’m not a huge fan of AT&T, but both our cellphone and home phone service have been fine through them.  Moving to a new primary email address will be a pain in the ass, but for $240 a year difference (and that’s not including any deals that AT&T offers for bundled service), it’s worth it.  I will miss the unlimited Usenet access that I was getting through Earthlink, but not that much.  I haven’t been using it much lately, just downloading (legal) live music from time to time, so it’s not that big of a deal.

Bad customer service and non-competitive rates are no way to keep a loyal customers.  Goodbye, Earthlink, and good riddance!

What Were They Thinking?

More marketing “genius” at work here.  The cable channel SciFi has changed its name to SyFy.  I think they may be in direct competition with Pepsi for the worst marketing decision of the year.

You know it’s bad when the president of the network is touting the decision by saying something like this:

“When we tested this new name, the thing that we got back from our 18-to-34 techno-savvy crowd, which is quite a lot of our audience, is actually this is how you’d text it,” Mr. Howe said. “It made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise.”

Okay, you can stop laughing now.

FedEx Still Sucks

I’ve written before about how much I hate FedEx, and, given the choice, will always opt to ship or receive packages via UPS.

Here’s a perfect example:

Last week, I mentioned that I bought a new iMac, and that I ordered a printer with it, since there’s a $100 rebate when you do so.  It looks like the computer and printer shipped from different warehouses.  The computer shipped Monday via FedEx; the printer shipped Tuesday via UPS.  According to the tracking data, the printer (UPS) is on the truck and will be delivered today.  The computer (FedEx) is still sitting at the hub in Reno, NV.  Even though it shipped sooner, I likely won’t get the computer until tomorrow or (even more likely) Monday.

This is my biggest complaint with FedEx.  UPS will deliver your package as quickly as they can.  If you ship “Ground” the package will probably get there within a day or two.  (My experience has been that UPS Ground packages usually arrive the next day.) FedEx, on the other hand, absolutely will not deliver your package until the guaranteed time has passed.  If the “Ground” option is 3-5 (business) days, there’s is no way the package will arrive any sooner than three days.  Most likely it will take the full five days for the package to be delivered.

It’s almost like FedEx goes out of their way to not deliver packages any sooner than promised.  In the above example, the package has been sitting at the hub for two days now.  There’s no reason it can’t move along, they’re just holding on to it.  It’s as if they don’t really care, unless you spring for overnight or 2-day.  I think that they think that taking a long time to deliver Ground packages will push people into paying more for the other services.  Well, they’re wrong.  It just pushes me to use their competitor.

I really wish online stores would disclose who they’re shipping with, or give you a choice.  Like I said, given the choice I would go UPS every time.  If I knew my only option was FedEx, I would likely just order from someplace else.

Another Chicago Icon Looses its Name

This time, it’s the Sears Tower.

I don’t care what they “rename” it, people are always going to call it “The Sears Tower” (Chicagoans will, anyway).  Hell, I still say “Comiskey Park” (and I’m not even a baseball fan).  For that matter, I still say “Rosemont Horizon”.  And, (leaving Chicago here) I don’t know any music fans who refer to it as anything other than “Deer Creek”.

Oh, well.

New Pepsi Logo

I’m sure you’ve seen the new Pepsi logo by now.  If you’re like me, you hate it.  I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but it’s just ugly.  I think it came about in one of two ways:

  1. It’s the result of corporate committee think.
  2. Sometimes designers will come up with one really good design that they really like for a project, but they have to submit more than one idea for consideration.  So, in order to push the suit-wearing “decision makers” towards the correct choice, they’ll submit the one really good design with some really bad designs.  In this case, the “decision makers” chose one of the really bad designs instead of the one the designer wanted them to.

I honestly think #2 is what happened here.

Anyway, this is exactly the same thing that I think whenever I see the new logo:

(From Suckatlife.com.)