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Archive for the ‘Buyer Beware’ Category

[Linux] How Xandros Shot Linux In The Foot

Posted by Lex Fear on April 6, 2009

It was an open goal. M$ decommissioning  XP, Linux being the only capable OS of running on this tight new ultra-portable sub-notebook. Dare we say it… “The year…” had finally arrived?!

So how could it go wrong?

El Reg has just published a new article on the competition between Windows and Linux on the Netbook, and by outward appearances, it looks like Micro$haft is has caught up and overtaken Linux in popularity… but I haven’t seen anyone yet analyse WHY:

Microsoft cries netbook victory against Linux

Rubbing in the salt, LeBlanc added: “Not only are people overwhelmingly buying Windows, but those that try Linux are often returning it,” he said.

Why, you might ask? LeBlanc: “Because users simply expect the Windows experience. When they realize their Linux-based netbook PC doesn’t deliver that same quality of experience, they get frustrated and take it back.”

Aah, the Windows experience, but what is this elusive ‘Windows Experience’ that Linux lacks? Is it the need to purchase an external DVD drive in order to install software? Is it the slow-down and need to defrag every couple of months in order to return to a usable speed? Is it the comfort of knowing you will get no vendor support from M$ and have to rely on techy friends to spend 30 hours ridding your system of that pesky “mywebsearch” trojan that you got from accepting some preloaded-with-malware stupid free game download that you installed last week which is now bringing your system to a halt?

No, let me attempt to define the “Windows Experience”… It’s the comfort of having a logical bottom of screen taskbar, showing the time/date, running programs, background programs and a start/logo to click on which gives you instant access to all your programs.

Sure Windows XP is old, it’s vulnerable to every security risk going, it randomly does things in the background and must be constantly purged of bloat. But the thing about Windows XP is that it feels professional. It feels like a grown up operating system.

Don’t tell me about familiarity, plenty of boomers have managed to get their heads around Firefox, Google, Skype, Blogger, MySpace, Facebook and the rest of Web 2.0 not to mention the myriad of operating systems installed with their mobile phones. Last time I checked Web 2.0 was not bundled with Windows XP. No, it’s not familiarity that’s an issue here, it’s the GUI.

Just contrast this child-friendly looking interface:

To this more grown up one:

If something looks like it’s made for children, adults won’t use it for themselves. I mean, couldn’t Asus/Xandros just package the Easy Mode GUI as an option rather than the default GUI?

It doesn’t matter that the Easy Mode is more intuitive and ‘easy’ for a smaller screen. Mainstream people don’t mind the small text, the small buttons, the little graphical issues that a full blown OS like XP presents when it tries to open a 1100×600 window on a 1024 x 600 screen. They accept that as part of the package, just like they accept they’ve got to run several different internet security solutions in tandem just to be able to surf and write email.

And I know what you’re going to say – “But Xandros can be configured to look just like XP, they even changed the name of the applications…” Well that just turns it into a cheaper imitation of XP, something that will turn mainstream users off faster than a childish GUI.

Average net-heads see installing Windows XP on their netbooks as a kind of technological feat, as though it somehow demonstrates their technical prowess and smarts despite the fact it’s more a demonstration of their fear or stepping outside their comfort zone.

What netbook manufacturers and Linux advocates need to do if they want to keep flogging a free OS on their netbooks- Is to offer a professional, decent looking OS which has the same functionality as Windows, the same comforting feel, yet is not, and is not trying to be, Windows. They need to embrace the alternative OS. Don’t try to make it easy and don’t try to make it like XP. Just make it good.

I got a Samsung NC10 for Christmas from my wonderful wife. It came Windows XP Home ULPC.. do you know how shitty that version is? And yet, for a larger hdd and Intel Atom processor this is the OS of choice over something like Ubuntu or Fedora!

Needless to say I set about formatting the Windows Virus off my nc10 and installing Ubuntu from a pendrive (yeah – did you know some Linux distros have options to create pendrives now?), later moving to Ubuntu Ultimate.. which wipes the floor with both XP and Vista.

Check this out:

My Atom processor handles Ultimate Edition quite well, starts to balk if I enable desktop Sphere, but handles Cylinder no problem.

Sure, there are always going to be people who are stuck in their comfort zone, and die-hard Windows fanboys, but distro makers have to stop trying to emulate the ‘Windows Experience’, and cheating newbies out of the ‘Linux Experience’ like Xandros has with the Eee PC.

It was an open goal for Linux which somehow become an own goal, but the match is not over. They seriously need to rethink and regroup if they want to prevent what is becoming the year of  Windows 7 on the Netbook.

Posted in Buyer Beware, Duh!, Open Source, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

[Scammy] How Defraud eBay Users – Courtesy Of Paypal

Posted by Lex Fear on March 17, 2009

I have been meaning to discuss this one for a while, but it only just popped back into memory recently whilst I was looking through some old emails.

I’m writing this to warn you of the systematic failure of Paypal customer service and how this creates potential for easy, undetected scamming and profiteering opportunities for eBay power-sellers by abusing low-usage eBay users.

Last year I gave up eBay for good. I gave it up after I received 1 negative feedback having achieved in 2 years over 50 positive. The negative feedback was not warranted – it was retaliatory, from an eBay power-seller going by the trader name of notebookspares, offline company name: Rolta Limited, email address: hanspals@hotmail.com. I found a bunch of linked websites too, from googling their phone number: 0208 561 3960 – I wonder how many scams they are running?

I put up this power seller’s details as a warning to other potential buyers – particularly to buyers who do not do hundreds of trades a day and have a large feedback cache. I have copies of all correspondence and other details regarding this transaction, if requested.

Last year I received retaliatory feedback for posting negative feedback after not receiving an item from notebookspares (Rolta Limited). I posted the negative feedback after I’d exhausted all possibilities with Paypal resolutions.

You see, one day early in 2008 I had ordered an item from notebookspares, but on failing to receive it or any communication within 2 weeks I tried eBay’s contact form, then I tried emailing direct and finally a phone call leaving a message – all to no avail.

Since it was now outside of the time limit for escalating no item/no response, I went through eBay to get to Paypals “Item Not Recieved Dispute Resolution Centre”. Despite the power-seller, notebookspares , not being arsed to return my messages or calls, a day later he responded to confirm that the item had been posted and signed as recieved. News to me.

So I took the Proof Of Delivery he provided, plugged it into Royal Mail website and found that it referred to a delivery to a completely different name and address. No other details were provided unfortunately. Sounds like an honest mistake right, either notebookspares had provided the wrong POD, or they posted to a wrong address. Anyone would be able to detect this and make amends – Paypal however didn’t check the POD provided and now wanted to close the dispute.

Therefore, I escalated it, I complained that notebookspares had not bothered with any correspondence and had now provided an incorrect POD. It took 3 weeks for Paypal to respond, in that time, they still had not checked the POD with Royal Mail online, instead informing me that since the power-seller, notebookspares, had provided a POD, the resolution was now closed. I was livid.

Note: The POWER-SELLER had provided POD, so there was NO DISPUTE! It doesn’t matter that the POD was to a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT NAME AND ADDRESS, the POD had been provided, so PAYPAL concluded there was NO DISPUTE.

Despite escalating this again, stating the facts of the matter again (POD was wrong name/address, power-seller notebookspares, had not responded to any hails), 4 weeks later Paypal concluded once again there was NO DISPUTE – they didn’t even bother to gather facts from the interested parties.

I should mention at this point, I did contact Royal Mail, and attempt to find out where the parcel got delivered and obtain a refund this way, but Royal Mail requested more details about the delivery than I had to give. Which left me with the same problem, notebookspares would not respond to messages or requests for information which Royal Mail needed, and Paypal would do sweet FA about it.

The only thing I had left was the power of democracy, which, like real democracy, is weak. I left a negative feedback on notebookspares. 1 negative feedback against 1000’s of positives, which affected his feedback score NIL. Not satisfied with being an asshat, notebookspares immediately left retaliatory feedback that wasn’t even anything to do with the service or item, which of course brought me down to about 95% positive. I complained to eBay directly – but guess what – they couldn’t give a shit.

Finally, receiving no further correspondence or recourse from Paypal, notebookspares or eBay, I refused to settle my eBay fees which were around the £10 mark- which got my account suspended. The item itself was worth £25, so I made a loss of £15. eBay tried to recover the fees by threatening court action, but I dealt with them like I dealt with my gym recently (for another post, another day) and they chickened out.

Since it was such a small amount, I didn’t bother reporting the fraud to the police (apart from reporting it to the press, what else would they do?), but I did write to eBay and threaten to call in the police. I got no reply from eBay so why bother reply to their emails asking for their fees?

So, hopefully you can now see the potential pitfall?

Here’s how the scam works – Paypal practically endorses it by design!

If you are a power seller, like notebookspares (Rolta Limited) was, and you have built up a large number of positive feedbacks, here is your chance to make a bit of extra profit on the side!

Every now and then, take an order from a low-level user (50 feedbacks or less) for a small item (£50 or less), when you have recieved payment through Paypal, deliver the item to another address you use and get you POD from Royal Mail.

When the buyer inevitably complains using Paypals resolutions, provide the POD – it doesn’t matter what NAME, ADDRESS or SIGNATURE is on the POD, as long as a POD exists, Paypal will close the case and you have made yourself a tidy little profit on the side.

When the little buyer leaves negative feedback, you can devastate his score by RETALIATORY FEEDBACK. eBay will do nothing about retaliatory feedback so you are SAFE!

Paypal and eBay will turn a blind eye to this as long as you are generating a big revenue for them, so this is not for the little guy – power sellers only.

Just make sure that you don’t do this too often as it will eventually effect your feedback score, but if you do it once or twice for every 100 buyers you have yourself a nice little racket!

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Posted in Anecdotes, Bad Company, Buyer Beware, Holding Actions, Justice & Mercy, Profiteering, Technology, Untouchables, Wealth Creation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

[Copyleft] Obama And The Copyright Act

Posted by Lex Fear on February 20, 2009

From Wired:

In a few weeks, we’ll likely know the Obama administration’s position on whether it supports hefty monetary awards in file sharing litigation brought by the Recording Industry Association of America.

The Bush administration’s position was clear. It supported the Copyright Act‘s penalties of up to $150,000 per infringed song.

“Congress acted reasonably in crafting the current incarnation by ensuring that it serves both a compensatory and deterrent purpose. Congress established a damages range that provides compensation for copyright owners in a regime in which actual damages are hard to quantify,” the Bush administration wrote in 2007.

Now it’s President Barack Obama’s turn, and we’ll see how tight he is with Hollywood.

One thing I’ve thought about that I don’t see mentioned anywhere by bloggers and media, is a challenge to how the MAFIAA justify their 9-to-1 ratio cost of a single music track.

No, I don’t mean how constitutional or fair it is, I mean challenging it on the basis of lost profits. Surely, after winning* their lawsuit against Jammie Thomas, all lawsuits should have stopped right there. You see they didn’t just sue Jammie Thomas for the tracks that she had downloaded or owned (worth approximately $1 a piece) they sued her for all the other people who otherwise would have bought the shared track too**.

Therefore if the MAFIAA recovered all that lost profit from Jammie Thomas (and someone can’t own one downloaded file twice over), then the score is even and there are no further profit losses i.e. no further lawsuits needed!

Am I just stating the obvious that no-one has thought up yet, or am I missing something?

*I say ‘won’, but it’s been public knowledge for a while now that the original judge has dismissed the original trial as a mistrial and it will be heard again.
**I’m obviously ignoring the fact that ( a ) many filesharers will buy an album anyway and ( b ) many other fileshares would not even buy if it was not available for download – so no profit to be had in the first place.

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Posted in Bad Company, Bollotics, Buyer Beware, Copywrong, Little Hitlers, Morals & Ethics, Predatory Systems, Profiteering, Takeback, Technology, Wealth Creation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

[Your Data] How Often Have They Lost Your Data

Posted by Lex Fear on February 17, 2009

Open Rights Group have a questionnaire which should tell you!

via: Ideal Government

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Posted in Absolute Power, Anti-Terrorists, Bad Company, Buyer Beware, Copywrong, Databases, Financial Terrorism, Free as in Speech, Minitruth, Pharisees, Predatory Systems, Realpolitik, Technology, Uncircumcised Philistines, WhatTheyDontWantU2C | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

[Heroes] Fax Off

Posted by Lex Fear on February 13, 2009

This has to be one of my favourite stories of 2008:

OK. Fine by me. One great advantage of my VOIP provider (Primus, for anyone who cares) is that their base package includes many interesting features, including the possibility to redirect any number to another. Thirty seconds later, I had the fax number redirected to the receptionist’s number.

From: The Consumerist.

See my previous post on Culture Wars – dealing with corporate bullshit.

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Posted in Bad Company, Buyer Beware, Financial Terrorism, Ha-has, Predatory Systems, Takeback | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

[Housing Market] Don’t Get Fooled Again…

Posted by Lex Fear on October 18, 2008

So far I’ve resisted the urge to do an “I told you so…” post when it comes to the property market but I still get the distinct feeling that the general populace still hasn’t ‘got it’ when it comes to booms and busts – despite the fact there is now more information in the public domain than ever before – so much so that we should never be screwed over by an estate agent or indeed any salesman ever again!

I know that the past has always shown a trend of cycles, booms and busts, whatever you want to call them, it’s called the market – some win (those that do their research) some lose (everyone else). What the future holds, I don’t know. If enough people get hold of the information which is free and out there, I know it can change significantly, if enough people would only accept reasonably prices for housing, for example, there would be no booms. Imagine if people simply logged onto HPC or Property Snake, whilst having a gander at Our Property and the land registry prices for a street before bidding on a house… then maybe we could have a real truthful stable economy.. or at least stable housing market. Might even get fairer council taxes too…

For those of you that like a bit of schadenfreude (since no-one can get a mortgage or in their right mind would be buying now) I found a new tool the other day, Property Bee, which works as an extension to Firefox. What Property Bee does is collect data from users browsing a number of different property sites (eg. Rightmove) then inject it into the webpage as you surf to show you changes to the advertised details including prices. It also works for rentals.

What Property Bee does well is expose the dodgy underhand practices, reduction in asking prices and length of time a property has lay stagnant on the market. Property Bee gives power to the buyer and if enough people adopt this tool then it could really make difference for the future.

Check out this advertisement for example. £99,975 shared ownership, £199,950 original price… really? Install Property Bee and check out the history.

The tools are there, for free, when property passes the despair/blow off stage and begins to climb (and we have a few years yet) the there will ben no reasons left to fall for an estate agents claptrap again, ever.

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Posted in Buyer Beware, Financial Terrorism, Housing Market Myths, Profiteering, Property Market, Technology, Wealth Creation, WhatTheyDontWantU2C | Leave a Comment »

[High Noon] Bwankers vs Sheriff of Chicago

Posted by Lex Fear on October 13, 2008

From the Consumerist:

“Chicago’s sheriff has placed a moratorium on evictions for mortgage foreclosures, angering bankers who say he’s breaking the law.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said he understood he was flouting the
law in refusing to have deputies carry out the rising number of
eviction requests, but mortgage holders must be accountable.”

Could this be a good reason to introduce Sheriffs back into the UK, Sheriffs who live in the community they work, have jurisdiction and character?

If only British bobbies and the very few (if any) honest bailiffs would step up to the plate here in the UK… unfortunately here in the UK we suffer from a disease of predatory systems and tick-box culture.

Let me explain.. the powerful (now nationalised) elite design the system, which is predatory and designed to be as inefficient and unhelpful as possible, utilizing holding actions against those they serve. They then train a portion of the monkeys that the predatory system is designed for, to abandon rational thought and follow a strict protocol of rules and tick boxes.

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Posted in Absolute Power, Bad Company, Bank Robbers, Buyer Beware, Copland, Financial Terrorism, Holding Actions, Justice & Mercy, Morals & Ethics, Predatory Systems, Profiteering, Property Market, Realpolitik, Tick-Box Culture, Wealth Creation | Leave a Comment »

[Outrage] I’m Going To Make This Pencil Disappear…

Posted by Lex Fear on August 10, 2008

Yes, I went to see possibly the most awesomist movie this summer during our little camping trip this week… just catching up on my feeds and came across this little item at The Register:

MPs lambast BBFC over Batman
Keith Vaz, IDS get knickers in a Knight knot
By Sarah Bee

MPs Keith Vaz and Iain Duncan Smith have weighed in on the hoohah over the violent content of The Dark Knight and its controversial 12A classification.

The Telegraph finds the Labour and Tory bods united in their condemnation of the film’s violence and disagreement with its certificate, which allows children under 12 to see it if accompanied by parents. Smith, the former Conservative Party leader who saw the film with his (no doubt rather embarrassed) 15-year-old daughter, said he was “astonished” the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) found the somewhat stab-tastic flick suitable viewing for anyone under 15.

Like Keith Vaz and IDS, I also find the film classification given to The Dark Knight too low, and was outraged by the number of children as young as 2 years old at the screening I attended… however, I have very different reasons for my anger.

Most of the kids were bored during the non-action important plot parts, and there were at least 3 chair bangers (flipping the seats with their feet), which really began to piss me off. It’s not just The Dark Knight I experienced this through, a few months ago during Be Kind Rewind – I mean what dumbass parent thinks their little sprog is going to understand 80’s pop culture references?

So I’m pissed and about halfway through the movie I decide to take affirmative action:

“Would you leave the f**king chair alone!”

Yes, I swore, I’m not proud of it, especially in a large room of which half the audience are under 10, but that’s exactly the point! The chair banging ceased, but me and D overheard some disapproving parental whispers “…shouldn’t just swear in front of children…” to which we chuckled. I mean, you bring your 5 year old to watch Heath Ledger play a psychopathic killer slash up good guys left and right and your worried about your little darlings ears being exposed to the F-bomb?! I mean, WT*?

Thankfully my experience of TDK was not ruined, but my feelings about cinema is. Thanks a lot BBFC, just so you know, until you learn to classify movies so that appropriate age groups can enjoy it without the idiot parents and their offspring, I’m going to stick to downloading. I can’t find a better argument for piracy these days than a visit to the cinema!

Oh and go see The Dark Knight, if you liked Batman Begins you will not be disappointed, just choose a time after bedtime… still with the type of parents bringing their kids to TDK, hell they probably let them stay up all night, drink and smoke anyway…

Posted in Buyer Beware, Copywrong, Opinion, Pharisees, Realpolitik, Uncircumcised Philistines | Leave a Comment »

Blessed is Steve Pavlina

Posted by Lex Fear on May 28, 2008

Pavlova - Good for You“I’m now going to give you 10 reasons why getting an education is good, but going to school is one of the worst ways to go about it. Since Media Studies seems to be the most popular course for undergraduates these days, I’ll slant this article towards Media Studies and it’s ubiquitous failings. However, you’ll find that most of these points apply equally well to other educational courses (yes, even Management Science).”

This is how Steve Pavlina’s desultory article, 10 Reasons You Should Never Have Religion, would have started if he had been writing about education. It gets worse from there on. Setting up a field of straw men, Steve proceeds to hack away at his own ideological perception of Christianity whilst nebulously applying it to all religions, even Buddhism.

I’m not even going to attempt a debunk since there is no consistent rhyme or reason, just a bunch of ill-conceived arguments and logical fallacies coated with outright and simple prejudice.

Instead, I found a hilarious and unintended irony near the bottom of his piece. Under point 10, Faith is fear, he quotes and ad-libs the beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor (donate heavily).

Let’s ignore the fact that he didn’t even bother to reference where this quote is from (does he even know?), and also the implicit alternative to this statement, Blessed are the rich.

What caught my attention was the appended line at the bottom of the article in bold, which appears to be appended in some form to all of his articles:

If you find this site helpful, please leave a donation for Steve so you can enjoy the spirit of giving too.

Awesome! So where did Steve inherit this “spirit of giving” anyhow? Seriously, was this an article on religion or was it simply a pitch for people who are religiously minded, or considering religion, to join the religion of Steve Pavlova?

If religion, and specifically Christianity, asks people to donate and join in the spirit of giving then it’s fake and greedy, if Steve Pavlova asks you to donate, then it’s simply because he’s spiritual and truly believes in the spirit of giving!

So blessed are the rich, blessed is Steve Pavlova.

Posted in Buyer Beware, Morals & Ethics, Opinion, Predatory Systems, Profiteering, Wealth Creation | 4 Comments »

[Service] Bye Bye Starbucks, Viva La (Coffee) Republic

Posted by Lex Fear on April 14, 2008

I have to admit, I’m one of those people who usually has a laptop with me whenever I’m visiting the city in the hope that I might be able to grab some time to sip a latte and surf, or just catch up on some work.

A few months ago McDonald’s announced they were doing free wifi, and although I’ve used this service a couple of times, there’s really a fine line between free wifi access, and trying to surf/work with a dozen kids screaming around you. Perhaps they should upscale some of their restaurants and restrict Happy Meals.

Well there is a new contender for my bean addiction and I’ll be making a fast switch to Coffee Republic now that they’re rolling out free wifi access for customers.

“The new service is aimed at providing Coffee Republic’s broad customer base with added-value to the service they receive in the Bars; from business professionals looking for a comfortable ‘mobile office’, to students looking for a leisurely place to download music or work on a project.” – The Retail Bulletin

This is what the laptop jockey patrons of Star Bucks have been wanting them to do for ages and they’ve been beaten to the spot by Coffee Republic.

Posted in Buyer Beware | 5 Comments »