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Friday, December 26, 2008


Dear Microsoft Outlook,

Thank you for letting me know that the appointment I am creating conflicts with another appointment in my calendar.  

You did a lot of hard work to figure out that I have another appointment at the same time.  Since you've already done all that work, do you think maybe you could tell me WHICH APPOINTMENT IT CONFLICTS WITH?  I know it's fun to keep things to yourself, but it would really be helpful for me to know.

Conflicted in Virginia

Friday, December 19, 2008

Leave My Freakin' Software Alone

Enough with the software updates already. In these days of everything being connected to the internet, vendors are quick to push updates on us frequently, and it drives me nuts. Here are some of the worst annoyances.

Comcast Cable Box / DVR - Comcast feels the need to update the firmware on my cable box every other month or so. This happens transparently and the only clue I have that it happens is when I press a button on my remote and something completely unexpected happens. Not once have I ever felt like one of these updates improved the service. If anything, it usually makes things worse. Features that I used to be able to access with one button press are now buried three buttons deep. Just stop messing with it already.

Microsoft Windows - This one is too obvious. The amount of updates and reboots is simply ridiculous. I'd rather MS just bundle all the updates into one monthly download than mutliple downloads in a single week. Also, I thought Vista was supposed to be more secure? Why do I need security updates every other day AND suffer through those annoying UAC (User Account Control) pop-ups? One or the other must go.

Firefox - Most Mozillaphiles rave about the ability to use add-ons to customize the browser, but few talk about the ensuing update mania. Even if you only use a handful of add-ons, the browser will nag you every few days to perform some kind of update. Yeah, you can opt-out of automatic updates, and live without them, so I suppose this is only half as annoying as the other examples.

Friday, December 12, 2008

We Told You So

A long time ago, we ranted about Microsoft's licensing practices for XBOX accessories. For those of you playing the game Rock Band using the bundled wired guitar, this is what one blog says about that:

On wired and wireless guitars
It’s no surprise that Microsoft asks for quite a bit of pocket change to use their proprietary wireless technology, and rather than pay the price and have the two next-gen versions sell at different price points, Harmonix decided the best thing they could do for consumers was to decide against wireless Xbox 360 guitars.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Guest Rant: Football

Every so often, I read a rant that speaks to my sentiments. Here is a rant worthy of appearing on R&RoT:

Football Playoffs

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Alumni Associations

It seems like the only contact I get anymore from my High School and Fraternity alumni associations is postcards or e-mail asking me to purchase an alumni directory, or call an 800 number to make important updates to my information in the directory.  And by the way, now that my important information is updated, would I like to pre-order an exclusive copy of the directory?

These directories might be useful if I had a hobby of sending Christmas cards to the old addresses of people I met once at a party in 1989.

To reflect this frustration graphically, I created the following chart and posted it on GraphJam:

Monday, December 01, 2008

Grocery Circulars

Above is a picture of two flyers we received on the same day from the same grocery store (Bloom).

Notice the quite different prices for the same items - steak, apples.  Similar differences are found throughout the flyer.  Some items offer 50% off in one version, 1/2 off in the other.  Other items are $2.99 in one, and 3 for $9 in the other.  And on and on.

Only upon close inspection did we realize that one was for our local store and one was for the store in the next town over.  (Good news, our local one was the one with the cheaper prices).

1. It is annoying to think as a society that we are wasting so much time putting together all of these different flyers for different target audiences

2. I actually went to Giant one time to get something on sale, and got charged a higher amount at the register.  When I complained to the store manager, they showed me the price in the sales flyer.  Only when I got home did I figure out that the ads I had looked at were not for my local store.

This really wilts my bloom.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Were They Drunk When They Came Up With That?

The fact that companies that sell alcohol require you to enter your birthdate before allowing you to enter their website has got to be one of the stupidest things I've ever seen. Is this really required by law? Why on earth do you have to be of legal drinking age to visit a website about alcohol? I'm pretty sure you can't get intoxicated just by visiting a website. Perhaps they also need to check ID's when you go to a store that sells alcohol...because you can SEE alcohol there too. All this policy really does is act like a nuisance barrier to all visitors.

And, to be frank, I know several underage people who actually know how to circumvent this brilliant security measure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bad Software Updaters

I really hate online software updaters that REQUIRE the original installation disc to continue. Do these software developers understand people at all? At home, I have to look through stacks of CD's trying to remember where I put original installer. At work, I have to go find the IT guy who keeps the install discs. In each case, it's a major hassle. MAKE YOUR UPDATER WORK WITHOUT THE ORIGINAL DISC. Sheesh.

Companies that routinely practice this annoyace include...

1) Microsoft (duh)
2) Adobe (as pictured above)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Coffee News

Here's a real picture of an item I saw in a small paper called "Coffee News":

My first thought is that I hope the descendants of Einstein hunt down these Coffee News people and sue them for using his picture.  (Side note: was Einstein reknown for his great memory?)

Second, I am not challenging my friends to remember ads for tanning salons, chiropractors, and dog groomers.

I am afraid to see what challenges they come up with in the next issue.  Perhaps "See How Much Money You Can Sneak Into The Cash Register" or "Test How Many Telemarketers You Can Give Your Phone Number To".

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

XP Icon Annoyance is Wearing Out My Patience

I like to arrange the icons on my desktop in a certain way (typically with application shortcuts on the left and document shortcuts on the right). To keep the icons where I put them, I check "align to grid" and uncheck "autoarrange".

Well, there is this quirk in Windows XP. After months and months of living with it, it's really starting to piss me off. The quirk is that desktop icons move around the desktop after a reboot or relogin (and, in a Sisyphean effort, I move them back). The strangest part is that not all icons move. Just some.

At first I thought it was just me, but I've searched the web and found countless others complaining about the same problem. It seems that nobody has a good solution. There are basically two camps:

Camp #1: These people tell you how to fix the problem you don't have. "Oh, this is easy to fix, just right click your destkop and uncheck "autoarrange". Um, that's not the fracking problem! This answer is sometimes provided even when it is cleary stated in the problem that autoarrange is not checked. Grr.

Camp #2: These people tell you to install a 3rd party application that can save/restore icon positions on the desktop. While, technically, this probably works, I am not going to risk a 3rd party utility of unknown origin just to keep my icons happily aligned.

How about Microsoft just tuck a fix for this into the next patch?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Headlamp Headache

You know those SUV's with annoyingly bright headlamps? I am afraid to admit that I have a vehicle with those. I'm sorry if I have disturbed you. I hope this makes you feel better. One of my headlamps has blown out. The cost to repair: $450! Ouch.

Who is the dumbass engineer that decided these headlamps are a good idea?

That gives me a headlamp headache!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Convenient Adultery

I found this sponsored advertisement on MySpace for Please don't click on the link, I don't endorse this website. It's probably chock full of viruses, etc. as well.

This site is just what you'd imagine it would be. It is a web dating site for bored married people "looking for extramarital fun". I don't know which is sadder, the fact that a company is trying to profit from adultery, or the fact that they can.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Brushing in the Dark

Recently I did the environmentally friendly thing and replaced all my incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. Sure, they cost a lot more, but they last a long time and they'll save money in the long run. The packaging on GE's "Energy Smart" bulbs promises that they will last 5 years and save $59, thus recouping my extra expense and then some.

Well, after only a few months, this is what my bathroom lights look like:

Oh well, as long as the other ones last a while, I think I still come out ahead.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Rave: Predictably Irrational

Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely, is an excellent book to read to learn about "behavioral economics". Many of our rants on this blog deal with similar issues discussed in this book, especially regarding what we have tagged as consumer apathy, marketing and pricing. It turns out that, as consumers, we really do make bad decisions... and businesses KNOW how to MANIPULATE us. Unfortunately, the author suggests that we will make the same mistakes even if we are shown the truth. He uses the example of optical illusions, which still baffle us even when know they are illusions.

I strive to prove the author wrong. I try to make informed and smart purchasing decisions. And this blog will continue to rant about these subjects and point out the illusions as we see them.

One example of how this book helped me to better understand these matters concerns a living room furniture set I purchased a few years ago. I found the process of shopping for furniture to be very frustrating (though ultimately, I only ranted about the delivery service). It was frustrating because, I had no idea what the furniture "should" cost. Why does one sofa cost $1000 more than another? Which will last longer? Which has better quality? Why does the salesperson remind me of a used car salesman?

The book explains that consumers are often very bad at determining what things "should" cost, and are much better at making relative comparisons. I believe the furniture industry makes every attempt to eliminate our ability to make relative comparisons. How? I looked at many sofas at many different stores and I couldn't find the same sofa at two different furniture stores (disregarding chain stores, of course). If you can't find the same model at two different stores, you can't compare costs. And it is practically impossible to identify quality features to compare. In the end I picked the one that felt the most comfortable to sit in. I sure glad it didn't fall apart after 6 months.

Friday, April 18, 2008

High's Chimney Service

There are certain occupations where there are 1 or 2 critical actions that must be avoided at all costs. Here are a few examples:
Never Do This
Night WatchmanFall asleep
Carpet CleanerDamage the carpet
CashierSteal money or Insult Customer
LandscaperKill flowers
Chimney SweepTrack dirt onto carpet

With regard to this last item, we regretfully must report that we had someone from High's Chimney Service in Gaithersburg, MD come to inspect our chimney, and he tracked soot all over the nice carpet in our family room. Shame on you, High's Chimney Service, for not properly training your staff on the most critical item to avoid.

Now it is time to hunt around for a carpet cleaning service. Hopefully they will consult the table above before coming.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Et Tu Amazon?

Sometimes offers such a truly great price that they can't show it to you at first. It's against the law. Or, perhaps they just want to build suspense, like a good Stephen King novel. Frankly, any time a vendor has a price with a slash going through it, I roll my eyes. I know they're trying to pull a fast one on me.

I wonder how much I'm gonna save on the $249.99 list price?

64 cents? What the frak, Amazon? That's a 0.2% discount. It would be better to have NO DISCOUNT than one that reflects so poorly on your business practices.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Skiers Must Be D-umb

We've ranted about pricing schemes in the past and we will continue to do so. Here's one from Blue Knob Ski Resort located in Pennsylvania:

Apparently they must think skiers are not that bright. The adult price is $309.00, no matter how you look at it. It is devious to post a separate "processing fee" unless it doesn't always apply. I'm surprised they bothered to put the cents in, and didn't just make the price $299.99.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Windows Vista Upgrade Adviser

It has been a little over a year since we ranted about the Windows Upgrade AdviserTM (WVUA). I was recently cleaning up a WinXP machine and noticed that I had never uninstalled the WVUA application after not being WOW'ed by the "Windows Experience Index". Now it was time to get rid of the useless adviser app...

The uninstall failed because it couldn't find the original installer file, which I had long since deleted. What to do? I know, I'll go download the WVUA, install it again, and then uninstall it. I quickly find and download the latest WVUA installer on the Microsoft website. As an attempt to install it, I get this error message...

I can't install a new version, because I can't delete an old version, because I deleted the original installer...WHAT?

Why wasn't an uninstaller created during the installation process?

Why can't the new version be installed regardless of the existence of an older version? For that matter, why can't the new installer figure out how to uninstall the older version?

Microsoft, you need to make your downloads more robust before you release them. This is ridiculous.

Does anybody have a copy of the WVUA version 1.0 they can send me?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Practice Pre-Recycling

Many people feel that they do MORE than their fair share of protecting the environment because they recycle like it's a religion. "Wait, don't throw out that empty sugar packet, it can be recycled!"

The bigger problem that we face is all the stupid crap people buy to begin with. If it has no practical use, other than to amuse you for a few microseconds before you discard it, then DON'T BUY IT! And DON'T BUT IT FOR SOMEONE ELSE! If we stop buying this crap, they'll stop making it. Think of all the reduction in wasted units that weren't sold or quickly discarded. Think of all the fuel wasted shipping it to the stores. Think of all the industrial waste produced manufacturing it.

A few examples are listed below. If you have purchased any of these items, you are at least partially responsible for global warming. Because of you, baby seals and polar bears are dying.

Billy Bass Singing Fish

Chia Pet

Dogs Playing Poker

Troll Doll

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Search This!

I am beginning to loathe any search engine that isn't Google. Not just internet search engines, but every type of lame search engine I encounter. Here are some that come to mind recently...

1) Mail search - I despise any mail client that requires you to pick a specific field to search. I want to search my mail EVERYWHERE. For example, if looking for any emails referring to hockey, I don't care if it was in the message, in the title, or even in the email address (From: I just want it all! Only recently are some of the web-based email services (like Gmail) getting it right. Outlook Express is a notorious troglodyte.

2) My county library - I bet all county libraries have the same problem. The online catalog is sluggish at best, and again, you have to declare the field that you want to search (author, title, blah-blah). You should just be able to enter a search term and have it search every field.

3) Scientific/Professional Journals - I have experienced some good examples of professional search engines, which make it even more apparent how bad the bad ones are . The most annoying thing is searching for articles by an author. Good luck if the author's last name is Smith, etc. You will get WAY too many results. Most of the sites I have searched don't provide sufficient ways to use first name/initial, or you have to try EVERY combination (I. Freely, I. P. Freely, Irma P. Freely, ...). The articles should be cross-linked too. If you find one article, you should be able to click on an author's name to see other articles, or click on the reference citations to pull up the other articles. That would be nice.

Edit (2009-04-06): I am using Microsoft Project and I had to find and replace a name every time it appears in the project. I just learned that you can only search ONE FIELD AT A TIME. WTF? There are dozens of fields to potentially search. This is pathetic. I'm using the 2003 version. Does anybody know if they fixed this horrible lame feature in more recent additions?

Friday, February 01, 2008

BOA check deposit is DOA

The recent "upgrade" to ATM check scanning is a bane to my soul.

It takes the ATM up to 12 seconds to scan a check. What do they have in there, an old TRS-80 computer? More than likely, the ATM scans an image of your check, then whips it off half-way across the globe, where an underpaid working class Nepalese minor with 20/100 eyesight reads it and types some random number, that may or may not be the actual check value, into a keypad.

As the machine spits out the check, which you and the ATM both knew it was going to do all along, it displays a nice animated graphic of a hand waving over a wrinkled check, letting you know that the ATM complete blames YOU for the difficulties reading the check. The check may APPEAR to be smooth to you, but clearly you must have caused microscopic wrinkles that are only visible to it's highly sensitive CCD sensor (whatever the hell that is).

That really doesn't check out properly.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pizza Hut Phone Survey

We almost never get calls from Telemarketers - maybe 1 call per month. So we were disappointed to get a call last week from Pizza Hut. It was a survey. We realized after the call that they must have obtained our phone number from the files of the local restaurant, captured when we placed an order. It is unfortunate that they require a phone number to place an order, and then use it against us by giving it to their Telemarketers. This was annoying, but tolerable.

What really takes the cake is a SECOND call we got a few days later. It was Pizza Hut calling to evaluate the Pizza Hut survey! "On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the professionalism of the survey call you received?" I'm not making this up.

I guess it's only a matter of time until we get another call to evaluate the survey evaluation service.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Avoid Creative Software Like the Plague

A while ago I purchased a Creative web cam and had great difficulty installing the software. The most annoying thing about it was the fact that it isn't just one application. As the installer was running I realized that it was actually running several sub-installers and that, in all likelihood, none of these sub-applications were developed by the same software team or tested together. Well, it turns out the software was a complete mess, crashing my computer, slowing everything down, and not providing the kind of web cam interface I had hoped for.

I finally gave up and decided to remove the software. This involved running 5 different uninstall programs since each sub-program was installed separately. And now, when I reboot my computer, I get an error message because some Creative dll file is missing (V0230Pin.dll). I've had no luck tracking down a way to fix this, and Creative's website support is simply awful.

Lest you think I am over-reacting to one bad experience, my girlfriend recently purchased a Creative mp3 player. Sure enough, the software installer CD installed 5 different programs (with matching desktop icons) several of which didn't seem to work at all.

I will never purchase another Creative product again. I recommend that you don't either.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

About The Weather

I went to to get a weather forecast. If you have ever been to one of these websites, you know that it takes about 5 minutes to parse through all of the options, ads, and polls so you can maybe get lucky and find a forecast.

But on this occasion, while hunting for the "Forecast" button, I got snagged by a question in the sidebar about the rules of golf. The question was regarding the penalty for accidentally knocking your ball off the tee. I took my guess and clicked the answer button to see the correct answer.

What I got for an answer was this:

Do you notice anything? It's a poll! Since when are the rules of golf a poll? It doesn't even say what the correct answer is. (The white answer is the one I "voted" for.)

Now I need to go to another site to get a simple weather forecast, and then search for The Rules of Golf website to get the answer to my question.

That really rains on my parade.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Verizon Center

Dear Verizon Center,

I want to thank you for having a parking garage directly underneath the stadium, how convenient! Charging $20 seems a bit much for parking at a Capitals game, but I at least felt confident that I would be getting quality service.

I was a little nervous when the parking attendant made me double park and leave my keys in the car, but he gave me a claim ticket, so I know that they understood my concern and were going to carefully inspect the claim ticket to make sure I was the rightful owner before letting me get back into the car after the game.

Here is the part that puzzles me, WHERE THE FRACK WAS THE PARKING ATTENDANT AFTER THE GAME? There was not a single garage employee anywhere to be found when I entered my car and drove off. It seems like you perfected the "give out the claim ticket" part of the job, but failed on the "watch over the car and safely return to proper owner" part.

Next time, I'm leaving with a nicer car...

Diamond Settlement

This will be a fun rant, because it includes three groups that annoy everyone on a regular basis:

1. Lawyers
2. Diamond Retailers
3. Web Designers

So I saw an ad in the paper regarding a class action settlement involving anyone who purchased a diamond in the last 13 years.

I went to the website to print out the claim form. The site STRONGLY ADVISED me to fill out the claim form online. Ok, great. The only problem is that I got the error message: "Your browser does not accept cookies". I got this message in both Internet Explorer AND Firefox, even though I have cookies properly enabled in both:

In summary, a bunch of lawyers are going to make millions of dollars of fees on this class action settlement regarding unfair diamond sales practices, and they don't care that no one can actually file a claim due to a lack of proper testing by their web designers.

Screw you all - I figured out how to print out the claim form! I will be laughing all the way to the bank, 18 months from now, to cash my settlement check for $3.07.