Now accepting bitcoins.

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.