Lazysupper

Koenji, the world and elsewhere


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Why The Internet Sucks

The Internet is full of invaluable information. It is also full of valuable information. And useless information. And misinformation.

I’m not talking about the Fake News that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue as though it’s some great revelation. (I guess for a lot of people it is.) The news has been full of shit since CNN went 24/7. I’m talking about ratings and reviews.

By now, everybody know that most Amazon reviews are bullshit and bought in bulk, typically from some typing pool in Southeast Asia. With books (mainly ebooks), it’s gotten to the point that reviews and ratings on Amazon are utterly useless. Especially, but not exclusively, in the self-published arena.

Then there are the “product review websites” that claim to be there to help consumers make informed decisions about their purchases. They are nothing more than link farms aimed at getting as many affiliate click-through purchases as possible.

Most of these sites are fairly obvious to spot, especially if they long URL’s peppered with hyphens, something like w*w.the-best-bluetooth-adapters.com. But, of course, the Fake Review Sites have had to up their game. They’ve gotten better at masking the smell of their bullshit.

The mother of all Fake Review Sites, Top Ten Reviews, makes a great effort to look credible. They put “real-looking” content on their sites, but you’ll never find a recommendation to NOT buy something. Every product they review fits the bill for someone. (Unfortunately, a couple years ago the Top Ten Reviews parent company acquired Tom’s Hardware, a once good site.)

To make matters worse, Google, the Internet’s convenience store, puts these Fake Review Sites front and centre like candy in a point-of-purchase display. It gets harder and harder to find genuine, critical reviews when the Internet’s vanguard, skipper and bully is pushing fake ones down our throats.

Yesterday, I did a Google search for “best bluetooth adapter”. The top result, out of almost 8 million, was a website I’d never heard of before. So i clicked to see what they had to say.

It was a very simple blog, but had a clean layout and appeared to have real content. But it didn’t take long to realize the content wasn’t real at all. It could very well not even be original content, given the prevalence of text spinners nowadays. There is even a WordPress plugin that spins someone else’s content into “your own”. This is the State Of The Internet today.

Looking at this website’s selection of best bluetooth adapters, it was #2 that sounded the alarm bells. After a recommendation for Plugable (a “real” company), it then recommends an adapter from Costech. I thought Costech, hmm. I’m not too familiar with them. There’s a reason for that. I left the following comment on the site, but (unsurprisingly) it was not approved.

This article is disingenuous at best, a scam at worst. Costech is NOT a real manufacturer. There is no such thing as a “Costech adapter”. It is simply an online company that buys buckets of USB dongles off some OEM on Alibaba then has “Costech” printed on them. I reckon this entire website is nothing more than page after page of articles pointing to any and all products on Amazon trying to scrounge together revenue through affiliate links.

I’m not looking at the past through rose coloured glasses. There have always been advertisers peddling their products everywhere and every chance they get. At sporting events, at the cinema, on television, on the side of the highway, in magazines, in newspapers, in movies, even at schools. And trying to come across as authentic and genuine is nothing new. Those actors with “not an actor” below their fake names in infomercials have been around for a very long time.

This is just a rant. It’s up to the individual to separate fact from fiction. It’s up to the consumer to identify bullshit. It would just be nice if there wasn’t so much bullshit to wade through.

Hopefully, someone with more technical prowess than myself will create a browser or plugin that blocks out the bullshit. Because Google certainly doesn’t care. Bullshit is their bread and butter.


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Hey Cortana! You kinda suck.

Cortana could be–and should be–so much more. But instead, it–sorry, she–is just another blown opportunity by Microsoft.

She is very limited in what she can do, and a lot of the time she doesn’t even do that right. When I instruct her to open my Line app, she also brings up the Line Uninstall program, as if that’s really something I’d want to do with a voice command.

Cortana_Line

Cortana knows how to flip a switch up but has no idea how to flick it down. While I like being able to say “Hey Cortana, open weather” and she opens my weather app. It would be great if she possessed the minimal intelligence required to close it as well. I’m not an AI engineer or researcher, but I tend to feel that ON/OFF are pretty fundamental basics. Cortana can’t close programs and can’t shutdown the PC. However, she can tell me how to turn off my PC. Thanks Cortana.

Cortana_shutdown

Add to this lack of … almost everything, there is also the fact that numerous times throughout the day she’ll just pop up uninvited and say “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.” Well, at least Cortana–unlike Microsoft– can admit when she drops the ball.


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The Ottawa Citizen Should Vet Their Ads

It’s not unheard of, or even rare, nowadays in this world of clicks and impressions and maximizing the online ad revenue of every single pixel. But that doesn’t make it excusable.

Today in The Ottawa Citizen, smack dab in the middle of an open letter titled “Fear-mongering shows contempt for a politics of mutual respect”, was an ad by Christianity.com justifying the genocide and apartheid currently underway in Palestine. It is promoting the very “wedge politics” and “fear-mongering” that the letter is denouncing.

Mind you, it only showed up when I read the letter on my phone, but was not there when I checked it on my PC.

The letter is not about what is happening in Israel and Palestine, and it is safe assume that it hit upon some keywords that Christianity.com was hoping to attract: fear-mongering, Harper, barbaric practices, etc.

Still, that does not absolve the news outlet of responsibility. Unless it was intentional. Then that, of course, is a different matter altogether.

Here’s a shortened screenshot of the letter:

ottawa citizen israel


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Why Base CRM does not suck

basecrm_logo
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:

baseCRM001a

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:

baseCRM001

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.

baseCRM001c

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.

baseCRM001d

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.


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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.
WTF???

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.
ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE!

That is fact, not flame.


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

Dear Audible.com: 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 Amazon.com 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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Why people steal music (and other media). Part One.

I just bought Bob Mould’s new album Silver Age from Amazon.com (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.