Archive for the ‘Consumerism’ Category

NTFS - an even bigger piece of crap than I thought

September 14th, 2007 No comments

Wow, once again NTFS has ruined my day by invalidating an entire external USB drive's data. The filesystem looks fine, passes all checks, I can copy the data even using Linux but it acts like it is corrupt. So I try some NTFS recovery software and it's showing me all this "EFS" stuff - like this stuff has some Encrypted File System related issue. Sure enough, I picked up an EFS decryption tool (if you know the password) and it shows every file as being encrypted. Did I ever encrypt it? No. I don't even have EFS readily available in my right-click menu. Even if it was encrypted for some odd reason it would have been using one of only a couple passwords I've used on my desktops... and none of them work.

Meanwhile now I am stuck with a perfect directory listing of these thousands of files that are now digital rubbish. The least NTFS could have done was just corrupt itself like usual and let me try to recover pieces of them. Always something new out of Redmond. Sigh.

Categories: Consumerism, Software

AOL suspends Active Virus Shield, gives us McAfee instead

September 2nd, 2007 2 comments

Updating the definitions keeps failing on my Active Virus Shield installation. Why? Quickly Googling it I find out that it's suspended and is being replaced with a special version of McAfee VirusScan. This comes only a couple months after I just removed Norton off all my computers and the people I support (family, friends) since it was becoming more of a resource hog as time went on.

Originally I discovered AVS through CPU Magazine, and in their tests Kaspersky Anti-Virus ranked #2 (IIRC) - which was a bonus - it was free, and it was basically the best. Now if I want a free "supported" copy from AOL, I have to change to McAfee, which is already scaring me with its 25 meg download and extra programs like "SecurityCenter" - at least I was able to unselect the firewall.

Instead of a single program with a smaller footprint, I now have SecurityCenter AND VirusScan running. I highly doubt this will run as clean as AVS did. Currently it is struggling to update the windows even. Feels like Norton all over again... sigh.

Categories: Consumerism, Software

What Virgin Mobile doesn't make clear...

April 4th, 2007 No comments

I bought a prepaid Virgin Mobile phone for $25 at 7-11. I thought okay, it's simple: I buy it, I activate it, it's available to use. Wrong.

What they don't tell you about (well, not clearly) is that you must wait four hours after activating the phone to use any services other than simple voice calls. You're not supposed to text, refill your minutes, etc (at least through the phone)

After talking with customer support rep #1, he told me that the reason I wasn't receiving picture messages was due to the fact that my account only had "bonus money" in it and not actual money I paid. So I used the refill I bought to "top-up" - did that fix it? No.

After talking with customer support rep #2, she informed me of the four hour rule - and that was the reason, NOT the different funds in my account. She also informed me that I am required to have a camera phone to receive picture messages even. So I go and pick up a camera phone. After it fails to let me switch it online, I call up customer support rep #3 who does the phone transfer for me. Okay, so now things should work right? No - he informs me that I need to wait four hours again for this new phone to propogate. Being the techie that I am, I find that nonsense - I tried a little while later, most likely within the four hour period. Did it work? No. But it was time for bed.

Today is almost 20 hours into it now. I tried sending and receiving picture messages. Did it work? No. Customer support rep #4 informs me that if you try any of those "advanced" features during that four hour window, you will kill the phone and it will not let you do that again for the life of the phone - did anyone else mention that? No, they just "advise" against it.

So now it appears I may have two phones that are useless for multimedia messaging, and who knows what else. Why don't they have safeguards built in to the system? How hard would it be to simply reject unauthorized items until it is fully propogated? If nothing else, they could at least inform you the phone will be physically dead.

Oh and another suggestion: fire customer rep #1. Now I've got $30 of wasted credit with them because I was told I had to use that to make things work. Blah.

Categories: Consumerism

Bally's Total Fitness should change their name

January 20th, 2007 1 comment

To what you might ask? Something like "14 Hour Fitness" - I'm not joking.

Tonight I got my ass in gear and decided (around 7PM) that I had enough energy to get to the gym, which is the hardest part. Once I'm there I'll exercise, but that motivation to actually drive somewhere to get sweaty to come back home again is a bitch.

Anyway, I drive up to the gym at 7:24 or so. Closed. On a Saturday? The door says 8PM (which still is a bunch of crap) - but they've decided to pack up shop even earlier tonight. I was able to salvage the little time I had left by going over to the next closest location - I got about 20 minutes worth of exercise before it closed.

Why did I join Bally's? For one, my parents are both members. Other than that, everyone I know is with 24 Hour Fitness. Not to mention that (although the name does lie) a lot of locations are actually 24 hours. Which is a bonus for me, considering my messed up schedule. A friend of mine worked out at 2AM the other night. Could I do that if I wanted to? Nope.

I forgot to mention somehow the contract got signed with a three-year clause in it. Which means I'm stuck paying for this crap for another two years and change. I never signup for anything that long, so I'm curious as to why that got past me (perhaps because other people who are pretty good at catching that looked at it too...) - all I know is that I am quite disappointed with my choice.

Categories: Consumerism

Verizon joins the bandwagon in text messaging fee hikes

January 14th, 2007 No comments

Our cellular networks are growing. The data portions are being upgraded. There is additional capacity out there. So why are text messaging prices being raised by 50%? Three of the big four have raised them now, with T-Mobile being the only company that has not raised the rates yet.

  • Verizon: Just announced, will be $.15 starting March 1, 2007.
  • Cingular/AT&T: $.15 as of January 21, 2007.
  • Sprint: $.15 as of October 1, 2006.
  • T-Mobile: Still $.10. Stay strong guys.

This is crazy to me; if anything, the rates should drop marginally since they have become extremely popular. It will keep people comfortable paying only a fraction less, which in turn will probably spur more messages - ultimately more money for these companies. However, greed will prevail, and I guess smarter people than I have determined this is the best way to make more money. It is an easy way to get people motivated to buy bulk plans, which I assume typically go unused (so they get away with using less capacity for the same price.)

Categories: Consumerism

Say what you want about Best Buy...

January 10th, 2007 No comments

... but they're a big company, and big companies can be useful.

I won't mention the obvious bad points - the stupid salespeople, incompetent techs, people getting arrested for using two-dollar bills...

Instead, I'm going to share my positive story tonight. Best Buy pulled through for me, as I had hoped. Most big companies will price match (especially in the consumer and office electronics markets) and I'm always looking at the weekly ads. Not just to look for a deal, but just to get a general feel for how the prices are rising and falling.

Anyway, this week Fry's had a sale on Seagate 750GB PATA hard drives for $309.99 - not an amazing deal, but I am in need, and I had a gift card to Best Buy, so the timing was right. I took the ad to Best Buy and had them price match that (after the salesperson told me "750GB PATAs don't exist" and I had to correct him...) - on top of that, because at one point or other Best Buy decided to add me to their mailing list, I get monthly coupons for 10-12% off of various things; this one sounded promising. It said only "external hard drives" on it, and I was hoping it wouldn't be an issue. Sure enough, they either did not care or did not know that it wasn't applicable to my item.

Anyway, now I am the proud owner of another 750GB drive, which is good, considering the 400GB in my Linux box is about to die. Total price: $272.79 (original price was $399.99 - a 32% savings.) While most people can't use the coupon since it's mailed to individual people, the Fry's price match is still valid for anyone to use, so if you want a 750GB drive without the drive to the local Fry's, I encourage you to price match it.

Categories: Consumerism, Toys

Rave: Fellowes

January 6th, 2007 No comments

I recently called Fellowes to see what my options were for fixing my nearly broken shredder. There's a one year limited warranty, and a lifetime warranty on the blades. For some reason a few months ago something in my shredder apparently came loose. To use it required shaking it around a lot until the motor got started.

Anyway, I was told that they would not cover anything except the blades - but he said they wouldn't leave me hanging out to dry. For the price of the replacement part ($48) I was able to get a brand new shredder that was supposed to comparable. However, it wound up being even better.

I purchased my old shredder for $189 if I recall; this one retails currently for over $200 still. Not a bad deal. Brand new shredder including shipping for $48. Fellowes will get my business in the future!

Just take a look at how much larger the new one is (on the right) compared to my old one:

new shredder vs. old shredder #1 new shredder vs. old shredder #2 new shredder vs. old shredder #3

Categories: Consumerism