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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Comcast Customer Disservice

As far as customer service goes, Comcast is one of the worst. Their approach to customer service is fundamentally flawed. If you try to call your local service center, you are redirected to their central customer support, and they don't know ANYTHING about your specific local needs.

I had to contact customer service because my cable box is on the fritz. After several iterations of useless by-the-book troubleshooting ("OK, what I want you to do is turn the box off for 30 seconds and then turn it back on..."), I realized my only real option was to return the box and see if a new one works better. This is where things really break down. The customer service representative was not able to too give me the proper location of my local service center (nor did the "Service Center Locator" on the website work). I was given the location of several service centers, but they were not the correct service center. I asked specifically if I would be able to return my box to any location and was told that I could. I tried to call ahead to the local service center, but as I mentioned before, the phone# for the local service center redirects to the main call center. As it turns out, they would not exchange my equipment at the service center I went to because the equipment was different than what they had there. Grr. I went home and called customer service again to find MY local service center, and they simply couldn't tell me where it was. The service rep eventually used an external website ( to track down my local service center.

It is insane that a company doesn't have a directory of its own service centers.

FIOS here I come!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Adobe Acrobat

After paying $299 for an Adobe Acrobat license, I found out that there is no way to download the software from their website. I have to pay $20 for them to send me a CD installer. Even though on their website they have the product displayed with a download button. The "Standard" download button only downloads the "Pro" version, which won't accept a "Standard" license key!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Zippity Do Da

One of the dumbest email security measures that has become common practice is the attachment rename. This example illustrates a common policy I've seen implemented by many organizations:

"Large files need to be compressed using the utility called WinZip. Due to the large number of infected messages with ZIP attachments, all ZIP attachments will be blocked by our mail server. You need to rename the file extension for all your submissions so the files will get through our mail server. You also need to provide instructions on how to convert your modified file extensions back to their original format in the same message"

This is pure madness. If a file is infected, renaming it won't change that. The bigger issue is email clients that auto-execute attachments or stupid users who execute any attachment they receive. I suspect most people who will run any attachment they receive will also figure out how to rename a file and run it. Oh yeah, evil virus people, perhaps you should start naming your virus keylogger.piz.

Hey, here's another idea, why not have your email server automatically rename the the file extensions instead of blocking the emails? This is much easier than trying to explain to everyone inside and OUTSIDE your organization your forbidden extension list.

Dr. Evil says: Zip It!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Arm and Hammer Baking Soda - Packaging Games

I can see it now. The VP of package design for Arm & Hammer is called into a board meeting.

"Listen, sales are stagnant. People are buying our product once a year and sticking it in their refrigerator. We need you to re-design the package to increase sales by 700%."

[One Month Later]

Notice the 2 changes that add up to the 700% increase. And I love the adorable "Replace Box on" area. Maybe they can just take my credit card number and ship me 2 boxes every 3 months?

[One Year Later]

"Ok, our sales have increased to 8 times what they were a year ago. Great job. Now we need you to re-design the package again to increase sales another 200%"

Monday, September 14, 2009

School Safety

It is a complete outrage that my son needs to butter his bagel with a POPSICLE STICK because he is not allowed to bring a plastic knife to school.

Did I miss the incident where some disgruntled students massacred their fellow classmates with plastic knives? Has there been an uptick in students losing fingers in plastic knife accidents? And do you really care about safety? If my kid gets a splinter from the popsicle stick, I am coming after you, Mr. School Safety Zealot.

I think we need to stab the administrators who came up with this safety policy. As soon as we are able to locate an appropriate implement to do so.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Pro Flowers

I placed an order with Pro Flowers in April 2009. This is the first and only time I ordered anything from them. Of course, I gave them one of my junk e-mail addresses, in case they were planning to sell it to a marketing firm.

Over the next 53 days, I received 25 spam e-mails from Pro Flowers. Since then, I have continued to receive 1-2 spam e-mails per week from them. Are there really people who randomly order flowers after getting an e-mail about a special offer? I think it's pathetic that companies treat their paying customers like this, penalizing them week after week for placing an order by sending spam. Suppose I order 1 product per month from different companies. If they all were to send spam at the rate of Pro Flowers, by the end of the year I will be getting 24 spam e-mails every week.

I am dreading the thought of what horrors await my Inbox the week before Valentines Day.


Update: Below are the names of other companies who send me lots of special e-mail offers because I made a purchase:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Spoiled Rotten

I really hate when TV show finales are spoiled. With DVR and on-demand viewing, I rarely watch shows when they are on live. Don't the reporters realize this? It's really difficult to avoid spoilers unless you live in a cave (lucky you, Osama).

If you want to report on a winner, DON'T put the name in your article title. Try AMERICAN IDOL WINNER CROWNED" instead of "KRIS ALLEN WINS AMERICAN IDOL". All you do by putting it in the title is piss off the people who didn't want to know.

Radio DJ's and TV talk show hosts, don't start off your segment with the name of the winner, instead let the audience know you are about to talk about the show so they can avoid a spoiler if they don't want to hear it. And, DON'T show a spoiler in your advertisement for an upcoming show! "Join us at 10pm when we talk to James Thomas Jr., aka JT, the winner of Survivor Tocantins."

That really spoils my day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Test Your Dannon Yogurt IQ

Look at the yogurt container pictured above. What flavor do you think the yogurt is in this container?

Did you guess Caramel?

Sorry, you clearly didn't recognize that the top of the yogurt container is a place for advertising other flavors of yogurt.

The correct answer is: Raspberry!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Security Rule #1: Do not keep my password!

Most articles on web security talk about all the measures you should take in coming up with clever passwords and changing them frequently. Little is mentioned about how it is important for the website providers to maintain security. In fact, many websites to not properly protect your information.

Rule #1: Don't keep (or display or email) the users' passwords in clear text (unencrypted).

If a website has your password stored in its database, you can kiss it goodbye if it is ever hacked. You also probably use the same password on other sites (let's not be naive), so those sites are at risk too. Additionally, if a website emails your password to you (on first registration or if you forget it), it could easily be viewed or intercepted. And if you are like most people, you probably keep that email (so you don't forget the password) which also puts you at risk your email gets hacked.

The best way to protect yourself is to use a "dummy" password when first registering for a site. After registering, click the "forgot password" link and see if they end up sending you your password by email. If they do, DO NOT GIVE THE SITE A SECURE PASSWORD. Consider not using the site, complaining to the developers, or using a password you don't care if it gets hacked.

In general, sites that are run by large companies or contain sensitive material don't fail to follow rule #1. I've found, however, that quite a few less reputable sites fail this simple security test.

Here are some sites that fail Rule#1 that you may recognize:, Evite, Friendster, Hilton Honors

Friday, July 17, 2009

Install This! Download That!

I really hate when you download an application installer from a web page only to find that it doesn't actually contain the installer, but rather another setup program that then downloads more crap before installing. Try installing Google Earth or most Microsoft apps if you don't know what I mean.

If you put a button on your web page called "Click to Download Installer", the downloaded file should damn well install the application without any further access to the network.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lost Dog Rant/Rave

I recently received a robocall for a lost dog (Mango) in my neighborhood. A company called FindToto will send out robocalls with a description of your pet and your contact info. The website given on the phone is, even though it redirects to I am guessing they use the .org address because it makes them sound more like a non-profit and less like a commercial business.

You can decide how much you love your pet by choosing one of the following calling options:

  • Alert Package A - 500 calls - $95
  • Alert Package B - 1,000 calls - $175
  • Alert Package D - 1,500 calls - $225
  • up to...
  • Alert Package F - 10,000 calls - $875
The website claims the owner was inspired to create the service after their cat, Cutie McPretty, ran away. I'm betting that Cutie intentionally ran under a car to end the misery of having that name.

The worst part is, this service is exempt from the do-not-call registry. Ironically, they are not providing YOU a service when they call you. You are actually the product they are selling. In some sense, this is worse than a telemarketer robocall.

I feel bad for my neighbor who lost the dog, really I do. But robocalls are evil, no matter the cause. Pretty soon, we will all be receiving a few robocalls a day for lost pets, lost trash cans, "hey, can you bring in my mail while I'm on vacation", "do you have a power drill I can borrow", or "please close the shades when walking around naked".

Please, don't use this service. Put up some signs instead. I am offering a new counter-service. For only $5, I will call your neighbor back and tell them off for using robocalls.

Good news, at least, Mango was found.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Scott's WaterSmart Grass Seed

On TV yesterday, I saw this commercial for Scott's new WaterSmart grass seed.  In case you have not seen the commercial, it chronicles the tragedy of 3 homeowners who cannot successfully grow grass because they plant seed and then keep forgetting to water it.

Apparently, society's solution to this problem is to pull some of our top research scientists from the fields of biofuel, ethanol, and bioengineering.  We then re-focus them on developing a grass seed with a special coating so it can grow anywhere, even on the lawns of morons.

Hooray for capitalism!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Radio Shack Employees - The Young and the Restless

I was a few minutes early for lunch, so I stopped in Radio Shack to look for a particular type of headphones.

The young employee greeted me and showed me about 6 models of headphones with varying prices and features.  As I asked him a few questions about the headphones, I couldn't help noticing that he was somehow distracted.  Twice I had to repeat my question.  It was then that I realized that he was watching "Days of Our Lives", which was playing on the large plasma TV.  At one point, he looked annoyed that I asked a question while one of the characters was talking.  This was the final cue that it was time for me to leave Radio Shack.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

eMusic eSucks

Having not learned my lesson from the great Pop Tart debacle of 2006, I decided to sign up for the eMusic "25 Free Downloads" offer.  There's an Amy Winehouse album that I've been waiting 18 months for on Lala, so I figured it's worth a shot.

Here are the parts of the dreadful experience that I can remember:

1. Click to sign up for 25 free downloads

2. Fill out a form with all of my personal information

3. Give them my credit card number, codes, etc.

4. Download the eMusic Download Manager.  I eventually came to discover that this is a 4 MB program that apparently contains nothing more than a single link to open in a browser.  Two things you cannot do in this tool are Download or Manage.

5. Browse for music on eMusic website.  "Amy Winehouse".  

"We’re sorry but in order to keep eMusic download prices at less than half of iTunes and Amazon we currently do not have albums by Amy Winehouse.  However if you like Amy Winehouse, we think you'll be interested in Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings or James Brown:"

6. Ok, browse for something they actually have.  Allison Crowe, fine.

7. Download album

8. The program downloads a 12 KB file called 11006804.emp with no instructions, anywhere.  I am not making this up.  WTF?  

9. Go to website to research what an emp file is, and how to get MP3s.  All of the marketing pages on the eMusic site talk about MP3s.  All of the help pages on the site talk about emp files.  I have no idea how to get MP3s for the songs that I have purchased.

10. Finally found a FAQ that said I should associate my emp files in Windows Explorer with the Download Manager application.  I did this.  It does absolutely nothing.  The Download Manager still refuses to do anything besides offer a link to go to

11.  Cancel service to avoid $11.99 monthly charge which will automatically start after 7 days.

12. Uninstall eMusic

13. Delete 2 eMusic icons from Desktop

14. Delete eMusic toolbar that was added to Firefox without my permission

15. Delete eMusic Download Manager from Windows Shortcut bar

16. Go to Besy Buy and purchase Amy Winehouse CD

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Excalibur Kingmaster Electronic Chess Game

The Excalibur Kingmaster is an electronic chess game.  You can play chess or checkers against the computer.  My kids have been playing with this game, since they are learning how to play chess.

There is something deplorable about the design of this game.  It has 73 skill levels.  Each increase in level makes the game harder to beat, because the computer thinks for a longer period of time as you move up to each higher level.  The problem is that the game is way too difficult on level 1.  My kids are just learning chess, and there is no earthly way they could beat it on level 1.  I am a highly skilled player, and had a reasonably difficult time beating it on level 3.

This is terrible design.  I bet 99% of the players who use this device never go above level 10.  The other 63 levels are a waste.  My kids are frustrated that they can never win.  The developers of this game should have spent more time programming the lower levels, such as 1-20, to be easier to beat.  Even on level 1, the computer thinks for 1-2 seconds for each move.  Why not limit it to 1/2 second or 1/10 of a second?  Also, why not introduce some randomization elements on the lowest levels that allow the computer to occasionally make a weaker move?

Imagine going to the eye doctor, and finding that every line of the eye chart is written in letters too small to see with a telescope.  That is essentially the design of this game.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Evil Thieves of Subway Marketing

I think most people are familiar by now with the Subway "5 Dollar Foot-Long" campaign.  It has that annoying jingle that you will now be humming for the rest of the day (sorry).  The only problem with the offer is that it only applied to 5 or 6 of their less popular subs.

So I was excited to see the new limited-time offer of "5 Dollar ANY Foot-Long".  Here is the logo you see on TV and when you walk in the restaurant:

I went to Subway and ordered the Philly Steak and Cheese sub.  I was ready with my $5.25 when I arrived at the cashier.  It was then that she informed me that I owed exactly $8.49 for my $5 foot-long.  I pointed out the numerous signs in the store that said ANY foot-long sub for $5.  She said that the offer is "any sub except Philly Steak and Cheese".  Funny, I don't remember hearing that stipulation in the cute little jingle.

I'm sure there's some technicality that makes this advertising "legal", because they hid the word "regular" in the ad.  But clearly this marketing campaign is deceptive and morally wrong.  Therefore, to anyone reading this who believes in moral equivalence, I encourage you to take $3 worth of napkins the next time you go to Subway.  You might need them after you look at your receipt and throw up.

Hey Subway, I have a deal for you.  When I get to the cash register, I will give you ANY of the following bills ($10 bill excluded):

Friday, February 20, 2009

Two New Things to Hate about Vonage

Vonage recently increased my monthly VOIP phone service rate by 20%. In today's highly competitive phone service provider market, raising your rate by a ridiculously steep amount without providing any service enhancement whatsoever is not a good idea.

And, sticking with the two-per-post theme, why is it every time you install a new application on your computer, and it spews out spam icons on your desktop, one of them is always for Vonage?

That makes me 20% more outraged than usual.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now, Bastards?

It is reported that mobile phone vendors have agreed to a universal power socket by 2012. All I can say is that it's about fraking time. There is absolutely no good reason to have non-standardized interfaces on such common devices. While they're at it, let's standardize the data port and handset interfaces as well (the article goes on to say this might happen too...someday).

That really gets me charged up.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Corner Roller

We were painting our basement stairs and needed a way to paint the corners that were too high up to reach with a paintbrush.  After breaking a rib using the Turtle Stool (topic for another day), we were seeking a solution that did not require ladders.

We were pleased to find the "Corner Roller" at Home Depot.  It screws into the end of a standard telescoping handle, so it appeared to be just what we needed:

There is only one problem with the Corner Roller - it does not paint corners.  The spongy material is too soft and it never gets all the way in to the corner, no matter what angle you try or how you push it.

Here is  a truly ironic picture of what the edges of our walls look like AFTER painting them with the corner roller:

I would like to invite the purchasers who work in the Home Depot painting division to come over my house and try to paint any corner with this thing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rave: Ask A Ninja

When I was kid, I dreamed of being a ninja. It was a vocational interest that many young boys have had. I practiced stealthiness, trained at throwing stars (shuriken) and read many books on the practical aspects of being an elite assassin. Alas, as an adult I gave up on my childhood dream and settled for a desk job.

My hat is off to the guys at Ask a Ninja. They figured out a way to make a living as a Ninja. The Ask a Ninja videos are some of the funniest clips I've ever seen. Their answer to the question "Why Ninja's, Why Now?" summarizes it all.. "because ninjas are cool."

"I look forward to killing you soon."

Friday, February 06, 2009

Pepsi Heartburn

# of Pepsi "the Cube" packs purchased: ~8

# of Pepsi "the Cube" packs that open properly: none

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Dulles Fuddruckers

While waiting for a flight in Dulles International Airport, I decided to have a quick lunch at Fuddruckers.

1) After ordering my burger, they gave me a pager. I would think that one place you wouldn't want to wait for your meal would be the airport. What an odd place for a Fuddruckers.

2) I noticed that the plastic forks were encased in plastic wrap, apparently to keep them sanitary, but the knives were bare. Both utensils touch your food. What gives?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Here You Go, Have Some Free AIR With That...

I need to buy a new computer, (I'll rant about my old piece of crap computer another day), so I've been shopping around. One thing that really irritates me is how the computer vendors advertise included software as a product FEATURE. Take, for example, this actual clip from a Costco Dell Computer listing...

Additional Software:
  • McAfee SecurityCenter with anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, 30 day trial
  • Adobe® Acrobat® Reader
  • Roxio Creator Basic
Well, you can dowload a free 30 day trial of McAfee SecurityCenter from McAfee directly, so that's not a real feature. Adobe Acrobat Reader is also available free online. In fact, in both cases you are probably better off going straight to the web because the version offered there will be more up-to-date.

Roxio Creator Basic, is by far, the most nefarious of the offerings because it's not something you can get for free (as far as I can tell). It's just a crippled version meant to entice you to purchase the full version of the software.

That's just the stuff they advertise. I know that once I get the computer, I will have to remove a ton of additional bloatware. I do not need an icon to sign up for Vonage, thank you very much.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Page-a-Day Calendar

I just cracked open my 2009 Zen Buddhism Page-a-Day calendar.  I was not surprised to find that they have cheated me out of 17% of my purchase by combining Saturdays and Sundays on to a single page.  To which I say, DAMN YOU TO HELL, ZEN BUDDHIST CALENDAR!!

In case you missed the irony, the calendar is not having the desired calming effect.

This really makes me want to smash something into a million pieces.