Koenji, the world and elsewhere

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Why Base CRM does not suck

With risk of looking like a prick to Customer Service workers everywhere, I feel this incident makes a nice follow-up to this morning’s earlier post. I recently signed up for a free trial of Base CRM’s Professional service plan, which is $45/month. Because they have (what has become a business standard) an “Opt-out” free trial, I determined the cancel-by date and marked down the day before on my calendar. It is something I always do (and something everyone should make standard practice) lest I find myself paying again for a year of e-greetings I don’t really want.

Well, my two week came and went and I didn’t really get to use Base CRM as much as I had wanted to. So when I went to cancel my trial the site recommended I downgrade to the $15/month plan for a two-week trial. I figured Why Not? So I cancelled my $45 subscription a day in advance of its automatic billing date and signed up for two weeks of the $15 plan.

The next day I received an email from Base CRM stating they had billed me $45 for my new Professional Plan. Still in the aggravated midst of getting shafted by Synology I immediately replied with the following email:


I had tried to be as pleasant as possible in my angered state… the whole “catch more bees with honey” thing and all. After pressing SEND, I had a moment of worry as I ran through last month’s sign-up process in my head. Like a murderer going over the crime scene, hoping he didn’t make a mistake. I realized I hadn’t taken a screenshot of my registration page (something I also try to do when signing of for Free Traps Trials). Still, I was ready to go battle. It’s not about the $45. It’s about the principle. I’d do the same for 45¢. I received an email reply from Victor at Base CRM within the day:


I was taken aback, horrified almost. Was I on Hidden Webcam? With slight trepidation I decided to continue my trial. And thank Victor for not going to war.


Victor agreed. It’s not about the $45. He also followed up with a detailed, non-scripted, non-boiler plate reply to explain what had happened.


It is so nice (yet sadly uncommon) to encounter a business nowadays who does not treat their customer like the enemy.

It also helps that Base CRM makes a great product that lives up to its marketing.


Why Synology Sucks

“Why Synology Sucks” is the title of one the threads on Synology’s user forums. I found it surprising the company allowed it to be posted. They had refused and deleted four of my posts, sending me this “Board warning issued” message:

synology sucks

While perhaps I didn’t write the most constructive posts, but I don’t think I was flaming. Here are my flames. And if that guy thinks that this is cursing…

This software is GARBAGE.
It split a DVD of a TV show into a bunch of separate videos. I have tried to edit “season” and “Episode” and connected it to the main show page… all for NOTHING.

I am regretting buying this CRAP.

I just got the Synology NAS yesterday and have had nothing but trouble. The ONLY good experience was one helpful guy in Customer Service in Seattle. Everything else has been a NIGHTMARE. They’re a bloody start-up, no? They should be good. But they SUCK.

Okay. That was pure frustration. But I had just bought their Network Attached Storage (NAS) hardware/software solution that they promote as a simple plug-n-play “personal cloud”. To say that is misleading is an understatement. So you can understand my frustration after trying to set it up for +10 hours.

I OBVIOUSLY want all the extras, interviews, etc. from my DVD of “The Bronx is Burning” under ONE MAIN SHOW HEADING.
This brilliant Video Station software has added each Extra and each Interview as a separate bloody show.

Also frustrated, but ban-worthy?

I want my ANSWERS immediately. I don’t want to wait for some latte-sipping, pock-marked tech support to “approve” my post.
Is there a NON-SYNOLOGY Forum anyone recommends?

Insulting and argumentative, yes. But what “global” company has Customer Service (non-toll-free) from 9am to 4pm Seattle time?

I got a DS112j yesterday. Have spent hours fighting with it. An hour on the phone with Customer Service. Got a few things working. Went to bed. Woke up. Nothing works.

This software is TERRIBLE.

Cannot connect to Video Station.
Cannot connect to Audio Station.
Cannot connect to Media Server.
(And yes, my permissions are set.)
Everything is VERY SLOW.

That is fact, not flame.

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Why people steal music (and other media). Part Two.

Dear Anything you’ve got in your store I can get on The Pirate Bay for free. And it is a whole lot easier and faster than you make it. So please tell me, why should I pay to go through all your bullshit? – Anonymous

I recently joined Audible after years of hearing it promoted on my favorite podcast, Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. I generally prefer to read books than listen to them, but due to recent events (and the offer of a free download) I decided to give audio books a try. Given that I already had an account, registering with Audible was simple enough. However, right off the bat I was weary. Audible required my credit card information AND after my free one-month trial, if I do not cancel my subscription, I am charged for a full month. On a monthly basis. Until I cancel it. I thought these “opt-out” or “negative option billing” systems were no longer employed by reputable companies. I guess Amazon doesn’t include Audible in its reputation portfolio.

Visa, the BBB, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced they have joined forces to alert consumers to online deceptive marketing practices associated with free trials with a negative option feature. – Silver Planet

Here are your rights and responsibilities (in Canada) concerning Negative Option Billing according to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. Negative Option Billing is no less shady than those pop-ups instructing people to “Click Cancel to stay on this page”.

The company also takes every opportunity to remind me that I need to update my credit card information, to the point where it feels like spam.

Undaunted yet cautious, I proceeded – but not before setting a reminder in my phone’s calendar for five days before the cancellation deadline. (NOTE: If a service requires you to set a reminder in your calendar to cancel said service – it’s generally best avoided altogether.) Once my registration was complete it only took me a few minutes to find something I felt I’d enjoy on audio book: “America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t” by Stephen Colbert. Using one of my two free book credits, “purchasing” the audio book was simple enough. But actually “receiving” the item was another thing altogether.

Seems clear enough

After my purchase was completed I went to “My Library” and clicked on the big orange DOWNLOAD button beside my new audio book. A file downloaded to my PC. It was quick and easy enough and I went to the download folder, double-clicked the file and… nothing. I checked the file size and saw it was too small. There must have been an error so I went to the big orange download button again. I got a new file. Same thing. So I went and took a long, hard look at Audible’s ‘My Library” page. There was an option to choose my preferred audio format, but that wasn’t the problem. i looked around the Audible website for an answer. For a good 30 minutes. And found nothing. So I did a web search and found some forums discussing (or mostly complaining about) Audible. Only there did I discover that I required the Audible Download Manager to actually get my audio book. Nowhere on the Audible site was this clear. There was no pop-up informing me to “Get The Audible Download Manager” when I clicked that big orange button. I was surprised that a company owned by Amazon – one of the pioneers of web-based business and key proponents of The Cloud – would require an install. It took 60 minutes for me to finalize that simple purchase – that would have taken 2 minutes on The Pirate Bay. Or on Amazon for that matter.

So after 60 minutes of aggravation and cursing I finally had my first audio book. I was now ready to enjoy it on my computer, phone or Kindle Fire. With my Kindle firmly plugged into my USB slot and recognized in Windows Explorer, I attempted to sync my Kindle with newly-installed Audible software. (The software, I might add, has a look & feel that looks and feels like it hasn’t been updated since the late-90’s.) Surprisingly, yet less so at this point, the software (by Amazon) did not recognize my hardware (also by Amazon). Eschewing the desktop client, I was in fact able to access my audio book via the pre-installed Audible app on my Kindle. No thanks to this useless software I was forced to install though. I assume the purpose of this Audible software program is to enforce their DRM. The audio books download in “filename.aa” (AudibleAudio) file format and are listened to via the Audible player.

Unable to connect my Kindle (the hardware made by the same company that owns the software), I had very low hopes for success in syncing my Samsung Galaxy S-III with my wonderful new Audible software. I was not prepared, however, for the jump back in time I experienced when selecting “Add New Device”. The UI issues aside, the list did not include any Samsung devices. Although, it did offer to sync with any Palm Handheld, SanDisk or RCA digital players I might have in the bottom of a closet somewhere. Perhaps they should change the wording just a titch to “Add Old Device”.

Once again abandoning this ridiculous, archaic desktop client, I downloaded the Audible player in the Android market directly from my phone. It’s a simple app so there’s not much to critique, although, it does not turn off the way I want. Its icon remains in the notification bar. It won’t even close when I KILL IT with a Task Manager, like every other app does. Only when I use Audible’s prescribed “Quit” button, does the app fully close. Now, a lot of people may not have issue with this, saying “Sure, use the Quit button to quit the app. Makes Sense.” And they are right. But this restrictive and specific way to exit the app exemplifies Audible’s linear, close-minded, customer-defocused way of thinking. It’s the “Have It Our Way” philosophy that Steve Jobs demanded at Apple. And Audible doesn’t make any shiny products to attract customers, so it may not be the best strategy for them.

In a world of pay-per-use, view-on-demand and download-easily-but-illegally-for-free options, Audible offers its customers the amazing flexibility to choose from three different memberships: $14.95/month, $22.95/month, or $149.50/year. This is where they diverge slightly from Apple’s totalitarianism. At least you can get an iTunes account for free and pay only for your purchases. Audible wants to charge its customers money regardless if they use it or not. It’s a paid subscription, like the New York Times, except that you can access and read a lot of the New York Times for free, Audible is much more expensive, and Audible doesn’t actually create anything. Paying 15 bucks a month to Audible is like paying a cover charge to enter a book store. And who would do that?

I have four days left in my “free trial” subscription to Audible. I will, without a doubt, cancel it and never buy anything from Audible. Not that I’m a huge audio book (or ebook) fan anyway. I still prefer the look, feel, and smell of paper and card stock. But I do not understand how the execs at Audible think this is how they are going to remain competitive and relevant. For a purely digital business, they’ve surprisingly got a very brick & mortar mentality.

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Cha Cha’s Trending Engine Needs a Bolt

Following a recommended link from a Twittermate, I found myself on Cha Cha today. I have never found the site particularly useful, informative or pleasing to look at, but I was quite surprised by it today. Among its top trending topics in Movies are A Nightmare on Elm Street, Grease, The Little Mermaid, Monsters, Back to the Future and Ghost.

Now, as it is just three days after Halloween I could maybe – maybe – understand Nightmare and Monsters trending, albeit unlikely. I’d rather expect to see more current horror films (Saw XX perhaps?) or more classic films, such as The Shining.  But I would also expect to see these films trending before and during Halloween, not half a week later.

Given Hollywood’s propensity for rehashing ideas and flogging dead horses, my first thought was “Damn, that’s a lot of remakes.” However, I clicked on a few only to discover there are no such remakes, reboots or sequels on the table. There is not a fourth installment of BTTF in the works, no next Nightmare, no bigger budget version of Monsters, and thankfully no revamping of Ghost.

My second thought, and my conclusion, is that there is no way these films are the trending topics in Movies in November 2012. I think Cha Cha needs to check under the hood of their Trending Engine – their Flux Capacitor might be broken.

Trending on November 3, 2012

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Hands-on first impression of Windows 8

I was meandering through Shinjuku’s massive Yodobashi Camera complex yesterday and obviously could not avoid the fifty million posters, signs and other various adverts informing me that Windows 8 is to be released this Friday (October 26, 2012). I have actually been looking forward to it as I am a “Windows Person”. I don’t like Macs and never will. And I’ve never had much interest in Ubuntu or any other OS my techie friends tell me is “kind of like Windows but a billion mega-times better because Linux fucking rules.”

I’ve also had Vista for the past three years, three months and 15 days. And yes, it feels like I’m confiding a disease when I write that. It was the early days of Summer 2009, I was in desperate need for a new laptop, and could not put off the purchase the few months required to wait for Windows 7. To make matters worse, the laptop I ended up buying was an HP Pavilion dv7. I had no idea that “HP” was an acronym for “Hot Plate”, but that’s what I get for not doing enough pre-purchase research. It’s my fault and has nothing to do with HP selling me a piece of shit. So, here I find myself again, three years down the road, looking for a new PC. However, through a lot of time, personal effort and anguish on my part, I’ve managed to keep the Hot Plate running and can wait for the stable retail release of Windows 8 before I buy my next disappointment.

Hearing that Windows 8 is a brand new operating system, built on some kind of Super Kernel for all platforms – desktop, tablet, smartphone, etc. – I must admit I’ve waited with slight-to-mild anticipation for its release. I was therefore pleased to see that Yodobashi had a version installed on the floor model of a touchscreen laptop, even if it was in Japanese. I gave it a touch here and gave it a touch there and then I looked for the button to touch to Go Back. I could not find it but I kept my cool (in spite of being mildly OCD when it comes to UI) and asked a nearby staff how to go back a screen. She then pointed to the button. On the fucking keyboard. Replete with a sticker pointing to it. And I felt all the hope I had for this OS and for Microsoft go out of me like air out of a whoopee cushion. I hope this was just due to the staffer not knowing anything about Win 8. If not, where can I download Ubuntu?

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Why people steal music (and other media). Part One.

I just bought Bob Mould’s new album Silver Age from (US store), my first solely digital music purchase ever. I had listened to it a few times on Grooveshark and knew I liked it so it was a no-brainer. Especially at five bucks. (Which, incidentally, is what an album should cost.) I bought it through my Amazon US account for a few reasons:

Amazon Cloud Player in Google Play

In Amazon, The Cloud has borders

1. I have a Kindle Fire and it only connects to the US store (thanks Amazon!).
2. The US store has a cloud player where I can keep my music and stream it on my devices.
3. Fuck Apple.

After purchase, it was immediately available for me to download or to stream through the Amazon Cloud Player built into the Amazon site. It was also immediately available in the same ways on my Kindle Fire as its music player has a native cloud player. Brilliant. All very simple, friendly and handy. Until I stepped outside the narrow bounds of digital “ownership”.

My Kindle Fire, of course, was purchased in the US as I Am Canadian and living in Japan. As such, all my digital purchases must be made through my American Amazon account. This requires me to consider currency exchange rates which is naturally something I’d prefer to avoid. But so be it, the banks have got to make money somehow (or everyhow). But that is not what annoyed me here. What pissed me off with this purchase was that when I went to listen to it on my Samsung Galaxy S3 (Japan Edition) I discovered the Amazon Cloud Player is not available for this device. Because… I am in Japan and The Cloud is… not really “the cloud” as perpetuated by all these cloud companies. Granted, it is not a huge hurdle for me to listen to my purchase on my Galaxy. I simply need to download the MP3s of the album and transfer them to my phone. But that is not the point.

The Cloud: Your data. Anyplace. Anytime. (Available with internet connection only. Some restrictions apply, including international boundaries, model of phone, model of PC, model of portable media player, model of economics, model of particle physics, country of purchase, country of residence, bandwidth restrictions, whims of the artist, whims of the capitalist, and/or whims of the pirate. Some charges may be incurred depending on service provider, location, time of day, weather, and genre.)

In a time when Newsweek has just announced that it is shedding it’s dry, paper skin and going purely digital next year, the move from hardcopy to softcopy is but a foregone conclusion for most. After all, dead tree media received its unflattering sobriquet for a reason. However, traditional industry thinkers have been scrambling about for the past 15 years wondering how they are going to charge people for their product if it’s not something tangible you could use to squash a bug. And they think Digital Rights Management (DRM) is the answer. It is not. All DRM does is piss off the people who are paying for their product. If The Pirates had to devise a scheme in which they could convince everyone to eschew paying for content and download their free stuff instead, they could not come up with something better than DRM.

Other content companies could learn something from Comedy Central. While watching The Daily Show (legally, online, for free, in Japan) I was inundated with MTV ads featuring American pop duo Karmin. As I am not a huge fan of such pop music I complained about the annoying ads to a friend of mine. She’d never heard of them before. Later, she searched for them online. Then heard their music. And bought their album. In Japan. Because of an ad from America viewed online in Japan by a Canadian who didn’t even like it.

To be continued in Part Two.

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Nike+ gets a minus in math… but an A in customer support

I have been using the shoe company’s Nike+ Android app for about two weeks now to keep track of my physiotherapy progress. It’s basically a pedometer that allows you to record your runs with some added touches such as:

  • how do you feel after this run (with a choice of emoticons)
  • what type of run it was (indoor or road, track, trail or beach)
  • which shoe you wore
  • add a note
  • share this run with Twitter or Facebook

The app has a clean, simple interface, however it tends to crash about 20% of the time when starting a run. It also has some trouble calculating. On Monday I went 5.25km and got awarded a “Farthest Run”. On Tuesday i went 4.3km and got awarded a “Farthest Run” again even though it was nearly a kilometer shorter than Monday. I tweeted this issue to @NikeSupport and they were quick to reply and offer suggestions and even “recalculated (my) account” within 10 minutes of me telling them my username.

There is also a music option built into the app that allows you to to “Shuffle Library” or choose a “Playlist”. I have not yet been able to either create a playlist or load an existing playlist. There is also the option to “Select a PowerSong” which I have done, but I have not been able to figure out how to play it. The music player component of this app needs some definite attention as it is currently failing.

The app also integrates with your online Nike+ account and you are awarded “NikeFuel” for each activity. Exactly what is NikeFuel? According to Nike, it is “the ultimate measure of your athletic life“. I thought it was going to lead to earning points for purchasing Nike gear, but no, it is just a marketing gimmick. And a poor one at that. I’m sure a lot of people think that NikeFuel is similar to AirMiles and feel let down when they find out it more like Apple’s imaginary “Retina Display”. It would have been better for Nike to just leave out the NikeFuel. Nothing worse than making your customers feel scammed when they’re not even being scammed.


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61 Ways to Screw the Customer (by Hewlett-Packard)

This weekend I decided to tackle a problem I’d been having for quite some time. As I have an HP Pavilion laptop (DV7) that problem was obviously one of overheating. It could only run a game for about 30 minutes before its temperature sensor flicked the kill switch. As I don’t do much gaming this was never a major concern (until I found myself bored stiff in a hospital bed). However, recently movies have been burning it up and it can’t play NFL Gamepass with any worthy quality. So it finally became time to deal with the problem.
I’d been avoiding the task because HP hates its customers. That’s the only reason I can think of for them designing their laptops the way they do. I found out post-purchase that the Pavilion laptop is notorious for overheating. And it took me about a year to discover that. The fan is located in the rear corner of the laptop with vents on the back and bottom. These vents are conduits for dust and lint and all the crap in the air that wants to snuggle up in the heat of its CPU. All this unwanted stuff clogs the fan and the heat sink, and rather than having a little latched door at the back of the laptop to allow for easy cleaning, HP requires a near-total disassembly of the laptop in order to perform what should be a simple task. My Pavilion DV7 required the removal of the top casing, the screen, the keyboard, the hard drive, the motherboard and 61 screws to remove a clump of dust.

Some conspiracy lovers say that HP does this to keep the computer shops in business. I don’t think HP is so altruistic to their retail partners. I think it’s much more likely they keep it in family and do it to sell warranties and give their laptops a shorter lifespan.

After three hours of screwing and unscrewing and ensuring I didn’t strip or lose any screws I finally managed to clean my laptop. The core temperature which used to be an astounding 90-101 degrees Celsius is now running at 47-65 degrees Celsius. I can watch HD movies and NFL Gamepass again but the damage is done. It doesn’t run as fast as it did before and the overheating is likely responsible for the all-dead-all-the-time battery. Well, Windows 8 will be out in a month and time to buy something new anyway. I got recommended the HP TouchSmart but it seems to have overheating problems as well. So with HP and Toshiba on my blacklist it looks like it’s time to check out Acer. Regardless, next time around I’ll be sure to hit my fans with compressed air once a week.

The offenders removed: