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I Hate Linux

Thursday, June 30, 2005

RIP Windows 2000 Mainstream Support

Today is the day, as foretold by the Product Lifecycle Dates page over at Microsoft that primary support for Windows 2000 ends.

What does this mean for those of us still running 2k? According to an IE Blog entry:

Microsoft will not accept requests for warranty support, design changes, or new features during the Extended support phase.


They will still keep 2K up to date with security patches until this date in 2010, however no further usability or application enhancements will be made to the platform, you know, things like Indigo, Avalon, IE7, all the new good stuff.

Maybe I should take this as a hint to upgrade to Windows XP, after all, Battlefield 2 announces when you attempt to install it that the game has only been tested under Windows XP.

Will I upgrade? Na, maybe when Longhorn comes out

Monday, June 20, 2005

Javier Luna: No longer listed on Google?

Now and then I Google different things to see their standing in Google, this morning, I noticed something quite entertaining on a search for Javier Luna.

His blog is no longer #1 in Google for a search of his name, mine is.

A bit of scrolling and you discover that his blog (guydotnetxmlwebservices on blogspot.com) is no where to be found.

If I didn’t know any better, I'd think that he's been blacklisted by Google.

If true, serves him and his spamming ways right. If not... we will just have to see what the story is.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Midcontinent: We don't like to admit to legal price fixing

Suspecting that my attempts to get DISH were not going to be successful, I was looking around for other alternatives yesterday.

DirecTV is always another satellite option, and for cable my two choices are Midcontinent Communications, and Prairiewave Communications (yes, we actually have something resembling cable competition here in Madison).

As a nationally available service, DirectTV as expected has all prices on their website, making it easy to sit back and examine their offerings and costs.

Prairiewave tells lots about what they offer, but less so on prices, and just gives prices on their packages based on where one lives. Still quite useful, especially considering that if I went with Prairiewave for TV service, I'd also have to switch to them for my cable internet as well (from Midcontinent).

Midcontinent on the other hand, gives no such pricing information on their web page, and a couple of e-mails later I was told:

The reason that we do not list our prices on the website is that we have some very small communities that do not have all of the services as some of the larger communities do. This gives us so many varying prices and services offered that the information would be so extensive (as to cover all of our areas) that it would take an awful large amount of web space and would be very confusing.


I'm glad I wasn't speaking to someone who told me that... otherwise they would have heard me fall over laughing and not stop for a good long time at such an amazing excuse.

I imagine that somewhere, within Midcontinent there exists a server or two, maybe even a cluster or mainframe... that has all of the tidbits of prices, locations and services all within it... and that this... database is somehow accessed by customer service and sales people whenever you call up and say "Hello, I'd like to get cable" and they ask "Sure, where do you live?" There must be some way of filtering such data into a usable way for customers... heck, they must already do that and print listings based on location as they did offer to mail me such a price list.

Why would Midcontinent not want to give their prices out? My guess: They don't want their customers knowing that they are engaged in legal price fixing based on geography. That's right, in most places, it's legal for some companies such as the cable company to give one price in one area and yet another price in another. Perhaps they area afraid of people calling in to see why they can't get price X when they live in Y, but then that's not my problem.

Oh well... me thinks that Midcontinent is out of the running, now it's down to Prariewave and DirectTV... or I could always do what many did back in the college dorm room... have two rooms pitch in for cable in one room... and run a line into the other one... course that's not as easy when you don't have someone next door.

DISH Network Does Not Want Your Business...

...if you buy your hardware off of eBay at least.

Yesterday evening, after getting home from work I pulled out the receiver for the 3rd to last time (more on that later) and call DISH Network and give them one last chance to have me as a customer (I know, it's ever businesses dream).

I told them that from what I was told previously, that there was a 107 dollar balance on this receiver and that it has been in collections for over 6 months and that chances are that they will never receive that debt from the deadbeat... and that I would like to take this hardware that I legally bought, and use it to receive DISH Network service. Pretty fair I thought, they'd get a new customer and a way to overtime recoup their loss from the previous owner of the receiver. Win win, right? WRONG!

I initially spoke with a customer service person named Sam. DISH likes to tell you that they are rated #1 in customer service... maybe it was because I was not yet a customer that Sam treated me so poorly as she took the company line of saying that the only way I could use this receiver is if I accepted the balance on it and paid it off.

I reiterated my offer, that if they wanted to have me as a customer, they would need to allow me to use this receiver without forcing me to pay off a debt that I did not incur. Her response? Continually asking me if I was willing to accept the debt. Of course I wasn't. I finally asked to speak with a supervisor, suspecting that she was not in a position to make any deals. Rather than simply put me on hold and transfer me to one... she'd put me on hold and allegedly ask the super questions and relay them to me.

After a few minutes of her playing proxy, I suggested that she stop wasting all of this time and simply transfer me to a supervisor so I can speak with them and we can stop playing this game... she agreed, but then a new game began.

I was put on hold for a couple of more minutes while she 'tried to find one who was available', she came back a couple of times to see if I was still around... and during one of the last times, she started cutting out a bit while asking "Sir, can you hear me? Sir, are you there?" and so on. Talking on a cell phone, I immediately verified my signal strength (4 full bars) and noticed a slight... clicking sounds in the background anytime she was cutting out.

I'm not known for my paranoia, however here I do suspect that she was pressing a mute button or unplugging the headset to give the illusions of phone problems so that she could try to get rid of me.

My suspicions were strengthened when I mentioned this and told her to "stop playing games with me, I know what you are doing" to which she replied, while giggling "I'm not doing anything".

Not long after these problems, the supervisor Jay came on, and reiterated everything Sam had said. Claiming things like:

Our system does not allow us create a new account when an existing account with a balance is already on a receiver


And

Well if someone had a balance on the receiver, they shouldn't be selling it on eBay.

Gee, ya think? Wish they would have told me ahead of time. He apparently didn't understand why anyone would ever buy or sell DISH equipment on eBay. But then... he wasn't talking about individuals selling it, he thought eBay was selling it and didn't understand that part. I wonder if he's ever been online.

During our conversation, Jay was pretty adamant about what he and Sam had said, and entertainingly getting more and more aggravated by the concept that I thought that I could use the hardware for new service without paying the previous balance. To be fair, I still don't understand why they attach bad debts to the unit, and he couldn't explain that to me very well either, so we were both not understanding of the others side.

I must say this, I am always kinda proud when I have a 'customer service' person or their supervisor start off normal and raise their voice at me throughout the conversation... I fear though that I cannot take full credit for Jays tone of voice as when he first began talking to me he was pretty loud and combative to start with.

Earlier I said that prior to this phone call; I had pulled out the receiver for the third to last time. The 2nd to last time will be in a week or two (when I have some time to do it) and take some pictures of the receiver and put it up on eBay... with a clear warning that the receiver has a balance on it and is unusable unless someone is willing to pay the $107 on it... hell, for that price one might as well just go to Radio Shack and buy a new one. The last time... will be when I put it in a box and mail it off to the new owner... or take it out to the range and put a few dozen 7.62 rounds through it.

So now DISH is out with regards to expansion of my TV choices... and so too is Midcontinent Communications, more on that later though.

Friday, June 17, 2005

DISH Network Woes: Redux

Years ago, AOL became successful in large part because of their making their software ubiquitous, one could not avoid being exposed to it because of the near constant barrage of disks and CD's attached to magazines, newspapers, stuffing our mailboxes and even at checkout likes in stores, making AOL an easy choice for getting online.

In order to get online 'back then', there were 3 things that you needed. A medium (a phone line), an accessor (the pc and modem), and a service provider (AOL). Often a potential online customer would have the first two, and the AOL disk would be the final thing enabling you to 'surf the web', (if they didn't have the necessary hardware, then they weren't much of a potential customer).

AOL was not the only company doing this, many ISP's in the 90's would give out disks containing the needed software to connect to their system as well as use the internet (most notably a web browser).

Pretty good business model: make it as easy as possible (within reason), to draw in new customers who will be likely to remain with you for an extended period of time, paying all the while.

Shame other businesses don't have such ideas, despite how easy they would be for some to implement.

After my earlier issues with DISH, I decided to do some further investigation into what it would take to get it running in my home, so over lunch today, I ran by a Radio Shack here in Sioux Falls and inquired about it.

According to them, I could sign up and use DISH with no contract, get a free lease on the equipment, and pay just 31.99 a month (plus tax and whatever else they decide to tack on), pretty simple I thought.

So I asked, "If I said 'I want DISH today, just like what you described there', am I able to get the necessary equipment here, take it home, install it myself and have it work?"

"No," the salesman replied. "What normally happens is you buy a $50 installation voucher, and then call DISH and have someone come out to install it for you, and then you receive a $50 credit to your bill."

Seeing the shock on my face (I wouldn't think it has to be that complicated), the salesman continued: "We do sell all of the needed hardware, so you could buy it today, set it up yourself, then call them to activate it immediately."

Not liking the idea of spending $100 up front on a receiver, I passed, however this whole thing continues to make me wonder if this is the best way for them to run their business.

By attaching a debt to a receiver instead of just the deadbeat customer, they enable unscrupulous former customers to make a small profit by selling such equipment to unsuspecting potential customers who might be driven off from the company who is denying access to the receiver, all because of a former customer who didn't want to pay their bill.

Who wins in the end? Really only the deadbeat as far as I can tell, but even then it's not by much. It's extremely unlikely that the new owner of the receiver will pay the satellite provider to clear the debt, and it is equally unlikely that the customer is going to want to pay anymore money for anything that says the satellite providers name on it because of how they got burned the last time, regardless of whose fault it was. So the new owner is out a few bucks, and the provider doesn't get a new customer. The whole while the deadbeat remembers the good memories of a couple of months of free (to them) satellite television, and suffers a number of hits on their credit report.

Isn't that kind of like... the state refusing to license and allow a car to be driven on public roads because it's previous owner did bad things with it (drug dealing, hit and run, etc), despite the fact that they have no reason to expect that the new owner will follow in the footsteps of the previous one.

Heck, if this were the norm, Police auctions would be selling ultimately worthless goods that could never be legally used because their former owners may have used them for something illicit.

Even with this said, I still continue to wonder, isn't the ubiquity of the satellite signals one of the advantages of encrypted satellite television? All a potential customer needs to do is have hardware, leased or otherwise. Pretty much the AOL method, but on a much larger scale (in theory, you can avoid AOL disks... good luck dodging those QPSK signals of doom coming down from Echostar, DirecTV and others). With the right hardware (almost any compatible hardware), a user simply calls up the provider and says "I've got some hardware that I bought on eBay that is showing your promo channels off of the satellite, my credit card in one hand, and my social security card in the other... gimme my 60+ channels!!!"

Granted I do not have any numbers to support my theories on this, however I would expect that satellite TV providers make far more on the actual service than they do from leasing/selling hardware, thus it would seem logical to me to accept almost any compatible hardware on their network, even if it was once owned by a deadbeat with an existing balance (provided the new owner is not that that person), just so long as the person owning it is eager to sign up for service and give them their money.

Of course, that's just the way I see it, and I've been wrong once or twice in my life.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Arrested Development: Season 3

In my opinion, one of the greatest television shows ever, is FOX’s Arrested Development.

Recently, I discovered that I am responsible for hooking 3 levels of people on it (I loaned my DVD’s to Bobby, he in turn hooked Phil, who in turn hooked Jung (pay no attention to the names as who these individuals are in this context is unimportant other than that they exist)). This is the deepest I've gone thus far, but many others have been hooked because of me. Right now in fact I am turning on a friend to season 1, I’d be showing her season 2 if it were out on DVD yet... but I fear that that has yet to be released.

Early in the year, the rumor was that S2 of AD was going to be the last... and when it was announced that the season would be cut short, that fate seemed certain... until a couple of weeks before the season finale, the words “Returning This Summer” were found on FOX’s AD page.

Today I discovered from tv.com that Season 3 is slated to begin on August 1st, 2005, and a page from FOX also confirms this by saying: “All-new episodes return this fall”.

All that can be said now is ‘WOOT!’ and ‘I can’t wait!’

4 more days of Ultimate Electronics

Several months ago I was horrified to learn that my local Ultimate Electronics store was going to be closing, "Where else will I buy my high quality electronic toys?" I asked as I was not liking the alternatives of going to Best Buy, or worse, one of the smaller, independent shops (not naming names, but they aren't always the nicest to their customers).

I am happy to learn though, that my guy from Ultimate who has saved me a few bucks here and there isn't going to be going to Best Buy as was expected, instead, he'll be moving to the Minneapolis area to work at one of the Ultimate stores there that isnt closing.

I tend to get back to Minneapolis about twice a year... at least I know now where I will be able to get my electronic crack from my dealer who gives me good deals.

On the plus side... it will be more difficult for my friend Chad to go to Ultimate with me and strongly encourage me to buy things I shouldn't, of course, there is still Best Buy where my TV came from, so maybe it's not all safe.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Best Keyboard Name Ever!

My company just purchased a new logic analyzer and it came with small keyboard... the Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite 2.

You cannot beat that name.

Dish Network Woes

Not being a fan of service contacts (ie preferring the month to month sort) or leasing of hardware, a few months back I bought an Echostar (DISH Network) receiver on eBay as well as a dish, hooking everything up worked fine and I had a good signal, all I needed was the receiver to be authorized to decode content, and to do so I would have to call them up and pay for service, so I did.

After navigating my way through the customer service # last night, and being told that as I had existing hardware, despite my being a new customer, I would have to talk to the reactivation group and may have to pay a $25 reactivation fee. I suppose I can listen to what they say.

In talking with this next person, I was told that there was a balance on the receiver, of $107, and for me to use it, it would need to be paid off.

This is where I was confused, so I asked:

My understanding is that to sign up for DISH Network service, you require both a credit card number, and a social security number... I don't understand though, why you don't just cause bad things to happen to the deadbeats credit, instead of attaching the debt to the receiver.


To which he replied:

Actually, we do that that too, it's kind of a double hit, this account is in collections and seems to have been for some time.


Hitting the persons credit makes sense, which I would have expected alone, but still attaching the debt to the receiver still seemed crazy, so I continued:

Well, that makes some sense... but I am still confused... why continue to attach the debt to receiver? Doesn't that permit the same deadbeats who you are going after to cause even more trouble by selling their old and now worthless receivers to others who may not know until it's too late about the debt? They make money, all the while continuing to screw you over, and then adding someone new to the mix.


He agreed that it was unfair, and repeated the typical grunt line of "I can't explain it, it's just the policy that we have".

Fair enough, time to look into another way of getting a couple more channels in my home so that I will be able to watch Battlestar Galactica when it returns on July 15th.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Getting around XP SP2 protections

Now and then I Google my name and that of my employer as I like to ensure that there is some level of separation between us. No, I love my job and am proud of where I work, I still feel it appropriate to keep such things separate online.

This search revealed an odd looking page that can be found with this Google query. Or, if you prefer, you can copy and paste the address yourself: http://www.pitbull.onsyst.info/staf.html (I am not about to link to such a place).

As you see, it has the title of 'Staf' and the description of:

... springpole dna extraction protocol red nose pitbull dogs galapagos animals fetchfido
pitbull classifieds polymorphism st brendan the navigator pitbull facts ...

Clicking on the link is even more interesting, as you see a flash animation take over the window that ends up looking like:



That's right, it tells you how to allow the install the ActiveX control that it is attempting to install, with no mention of what it is or useful information on who it is from. What make things even more interesting, you get the same thing if you go to the root of the domain at www.pitbull.onsyst.info. From what little the page does say (both visually and source wise, it appears to install something from Wind Updates who describes their application as:

Wind Updates is free ad delivery software which provides targeted advertising offers.


Definitely adware, or perhaps worse as it also appears that upon closing the page in question, it attempts to launch a page located on sexarchive.us. I'm glad that failed as I'd hate to have something like that on my screen when the boss walks by.

Monday, June 13, 2005

USPS Incompetence

There are times when different organizations struggle and fail, and I cannot help but have not one ounce of sympathy for them, given their own actions and policies are often what put them in that situation...currently, I am seeing another one of those cases from the United States Postal Service.

While out of state last week, I received a delivery attempt notice from them, thinking I could simply sign it and have them leave the package... I did so.

Coming home this evening, I found the notice still in my mailbox with the note attached: "must come to P.O"

I cannot speak for anyone else out there, but I tend not to be around my home during the working hours of my local post office (8:30-4:30), nor can I afford to take a day off to stay home just to pick up a package.

I find it rather offensive the expectation that I have to either take off several hours from work to drive back to Madison (~1 hour away from where I work) to pick up a package, or take off most of the day and stay home, waiting forthe mail man to bring it by.

It is no wonder that with inflexible policies like this that the United States Postal Service continues to struggle with the competition provided by other parcel carriers.

Javier Luna, Still a Spammer

When I was in junior high, I had a teacher by the name of Mrs. Marks who had a line, “Affect change wherever you go.” You can of course interpret this many ways, and I try to use one interpretation of it in my life.

While in Minneapolis for a wedding last, I opened up my e-mail on Thursday (6/9/2005) and saw a new e-mail from your friend and mine, Javier Luna, nearly identical to the last one I received from him on (5/26/2005), other than one was from his avalon.geek address while the other was from his indigo.geek address. The major difference I found interesting between the two was his closing with:

PD: If you reply with subject REMOVE then I dont send to you this email again.

Given his posting (which has since been deleted by me) to my past blog entry on him, I suspect he is starting to realize that some (or perhaps many people) don’t want to hear from him and at last he is giving them a way out.

Have I unsubscribed from his list? No, I am curious to see how long he continues this crap, especially with my rise in Google for searches of his name. I am happy to see that because of my previous entry on him, my blog is #10 on Google for a search of Javier Luna, #4 for Javier Luna spam, and #2 for Javier Luna Spammer.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Next Semester Book List

Feel free to ignore this post, it is simply a note of the 4 books I need to buy for the next semester of classes.