New Blog and New Name

February 9th, 2010

I felt that it was high time to get my own personal blog. I have been blogging for 4 years now and I have always been writing about stuff I thought other people would find to be of interest, but now it’s time for me to make my own blog where I can write about stuff I like.

Vista Nightmare: The “Oww!” Starts Now

March 4th, 2007

Dear Microsoft Corporation,

You’ve really done it this time.

And I am leaving and never speaking to you again.

It’s not that I want to dislike you. I was loyal to you for so long.

I stuck with you through thick and thin. From DOS 5.0 through XP. Through decent functionality and through countless crashes.

But this new operating system is the last straw.

I’ve read through hundreds of online reviews and comments about Vista. I’ve asked IT guys and Microsoft Certified Professionals. I’ve read the PC magazine reviews. I’ve given it a spin on my friends’ laptops.

You’d think at least someone (other than your PR people) would find something to like about a piece of software that took an industry leader five years and a gazillion dollars to develop. But I’ve yet to hear anyone say “Wow!” about it.

There’s a few lukewarm praises like “it looks better than XP if you have a new graphics card.” But most people say it’s a just a naggy, inferior imitation of Mac OS X.

A Windows worshipping gamer acquaintance told me it took literally seven or eight hours of churning to install his Vista Home Premium (sic) upgrade. After staying up all night, he found none of his device drivers worked.

With the tales of the new DRM lockdown, the User Account Control nagging, the virtualization restrictions, and the priced-to-upsell $400 product – your credibility is about as good as OJ Simpson’s.

I just don’t trust what you say anymore.

It’s a shame because there were better times in our 15-year relationship. There was the golden era a few years back (around the dot com bubble) when Windows was the platform. There was an aura of innovation and lots of exciting software new coming out for Windows.

But those days are gone. And your days are numbered, Microsoft.

I had this epiphany when I tried out my friend’s Macintosh with OS X. I realized how much grief you’d put me through: the constant crashes whenever I tried to run more than three applications, the endless required reboots, and the vicious malware attacks that I wasted many precious hours wrangling with. And then having to pay extra for third party security and virus programs – because you couldn’t keep a handle on things.

But as a veteran power user – by grace or by service pack – I always managed to fix it.

Others aren’t so fortunate.

You’ve terrified folks like my poor dad. He is afraid to install new software for any reason. He mumbles things like “Computers – you just can’t trust them.” He’s been conditioned that if he tries to install a new program or download an update – even if he does it correctly – something is likely to go awry for no explicable reason. That’s why he sticks with IE 5 and Office 97, cause he sees upgrading as too risky to gamble with.

You made millions of poor secretaries and office workers cry just for trying to do normal things like printing and saving.

It didn’t have to be like this. Shame on you!

The secret is out, Microsoft. The reputation that you can’t be trusted to deliver reliable software is getting around fast.

Hasta la Vista!

This post was originally written by Brett Borders and it made the Digg home page.

DRM: An Inconvenient Truth

February 27th, 2007


Music recordings used to be something to treasure. Something to own. Something you could pass on to your children. Or if you had good taste, you could sell your one day for a huge profit.

Now music is becoming as worthless, disposable and temporary as a paper plate… thanks to DRM (digital rights management) the limitation scheme that is quietly being embedded into music players, high-definition videos players, ITunes and Windows Vista.

DRM is not actually an anti-piracy copy protection scheme, as record labels and Hollywood studios would have you believe. It is actually a financial squeeze campaign designed to make you pay more for the rights you used to have.

When you buy a CD, it’s yours to keep with no strings attached. You actually get something for your money. You can loan it to a friend, or make a backup copy (how many CDs have you lost or scratched over the past decade?), or mix a track over your home movie.

But with DRM, you don’t own anything for keep and pass on. You basically rent copy-protected music from a corporation. And the corporation can disable or change the licensing rules at any time they see fit.

The Customer is Always Wrong is an excellent article by the Electronic Freedom Foundation that throughly documents the multiple lies of DRM.

They try and get us to swallow DRM with doublespeak Orwellian marketing. They brand it with sweet-sounding euphemisms like Mircosoft’s “Plays for Sure”, and Apple’s “FairPlay” digital restriction schemes.

Well it only “plays for sure” on some devices that have paid off Microsoft. Most ironically, PlaysforSure (sic) doesn’t even work on Microsoft’s own device, the Zune (!!) The Zune has its own incompatible which DRM nightmare lurking inside it. Apple isn’t any better: you have no choice of a device or music player software at all. They try and lock you into iPod/iTunes forever.

This is an iffy business practice, that runs counter to the basic currents of a free market and customer satisfaction. Apple has a huge share of the music player market now, and they could totally own the music market by being trusting and generous. Steve Jobs recently said he would do away with DRM, but he claims the music labels are forcing him to stick with it. Apple seems to have a huge problem with other corporate bedfellows calling their shots, such as with Cingular’s monopoly on the new iPhone.

People would gladly buy more high-quality digital music for a fair price (e.g., half the price of a manufactured CD) – as long as it it is not jinxed and shackled. All the restrictions sour people on buying online music and encourage them pirate.

I love music dearly, and I firmly believe in only taking steps forward with it – higher fidelity, more flexibility, more freedom, more choices. DRM is an insidious, defective by design attempt to make us pay more for the rights we used to have.

So, I won’t buy or support DRM music. However much I’d like to move on into 21st century, I’m stuck right where I was in 1995 until this tech nightmare collapses or sorts itself out. I will keep buying CDs and ripping my own .MP3s until a real lossless, non-DRM digital music alternative comes to light.

Soulmate Calculator Ads: 1-900-RIP-OFFS

January 31st, 2007

The Soulmate Calculator is one of the hot schemes in the hit-n-run world of online advertising. The ads, which promise to help connect with your soulmate, are the wireless equivalent of the 1-900 number: novelty entertainment with an undisclosed bill that arrives a few weeks later. The ads are being uploaded into the social networking spaces of the internet with amazing efficiency. The affiliates of the site (I suspect grey-area PPC kingpin Shoemoney) are uploading hundreds of thousands of pay-per-click keywords to get the coverage they are now attaining.

The scheme converts well because of the one-click signup and billing that goes straight to your cellphone statement (rather than requiring the you to consciously enter a card number, e-mail, or Paypal address). A lot of folks pay their cellphone by automatic bank transfer these days, and they don’t check their statements carefully. It would be easy to milk some people for quite a while before they realize the $39.98 monthly surcharges tacked on.

Well, people should read the fine print before signing up for anything, right? Good advice, but with the Soulmate Calculator you can’t – unless you have a 900 x 1400 or higher resolution monitor. The landing screen is carefully designed so you can’t see what you’re signing up for (or the multiple charges involved) on a standard-sized screen. You’d have to scroll way down to find out – and there is no reason to, because the “next” button is up high.

I say that because of the non-sequiter selling proposition and the heavily camouflaged terms and conditions, the the Soulmate Calculator is a calculating scam. What do you think?

Airline Inflight Advertising: Sweet Deception at 40,000 Feet

January 10th, 2007

 

It was a lovely holiday. I visited family and got to surf in Florida. It was all chill and peaceful – until the flight home on US Airways. The requisite screaming baby and oxygen mask tutorial were followed by several minutes of video commercials in crackling full volume. “Okay, so they need a few extra bucks,” I said to myself. I forgave them and turned up my MP3 player to block it out. Precious seconds elapsed before I got a rap-tap-tap on my shoulder. A pretty, but passive-aggressive lady me to turn off my non-approved portable electronic device until the no smoking light went off (or something like that.)

Finally we took off and I started to get settled in. The stewardess came by and offered me a drink. I plopped down my tray, and was startled by loud yellow space ad for Splenda, a product that US Airways does not offer, on a polyethylene sticker that covered the entire tray. “Stuck in the middle seat, Jane planned a sweet escape” the headline screamed out at me.

I wanted to reach for one of the barf bags, but US Airways wants to put ads on them too!

Something about having to stare at the Splenda ad while nursing my apple juice – and then for another hour while waiting for the attendant to come pick up my cups – left a funny taste in my mouth. I really should have ordered one of those $5 beers.

The piece de resistance was a loud announcement about 4 hours into the flight that woke me. It was a pitch for a special credit card (with a high annual fee) that earned frequent flyer miles on US Airways. After two minutes of dutifully hawking it into the bullhorn, a smiling male flight attendant strolled down the isle with a fistful of brochures. I only saw only one or two takers.

Yeah, just like newspapers, the airline industries are struggling. Yes, other public transportation methods like busses, taxis and subways do feature adverting. But none of them force it in such an invasive way. You can look away from an overhead banner on a bus, or choose not take a taxi with tacky casino ads all over it.

Credit card pitches and commercials played at full-volume, while the audience is strapped into a tiny seat with no option to walk out, are spam. Plain and simple. The brightly colored dining tray ads are literally “in your face.” It’s crudely targeted, old-fashioned advertising with no way to opt-out. I think the backlash will cost them more than a few sign ups or ad checks.

Next time I fly, I’ll try to book an airline other than US Airways in hopes of a more peaceful, dignified experience.

Simon Slade thinks I’m overreacting. What about you? Do you have any experiences or opinions on inflight advertising? Please post your thoughts…

Mortgage and Ringtone Ads Prowl for Cheaper Keywords

November 27th, 2006

 

The cost of competitive pay-per-click keywords (PPC) has risen through the roof. New online advertisers with no clue about prudent pay-per-click bidding strategies are entering the marketplace every hour, and Google is banking more bucks than the Sultan of Burunei off it. In response, seasoned advertisers are trying all kinds of desperate measures to find cheap clicks.

Mortgage leads is one of the spammiest sectors in the online jungle. If you enter your personal info into this landing page , within the hour your phone will start to ring off the hook with high-pressure sales calls. Because one loan can make hundreds of thousands in interest for a lender, the leads sell for a nice price. So do the ads that generate them. “Mortgage loan” goes for around $10.97 – $15.93 per click, according to Google’s Traffic Estimator tool. Mere mortal mortgage marketers must look to cheaper pastures, so they now target irrelevant keywords like “Native American tribes” :

 

(Do they do wigwam, igloo, and tee pee refinancing?)

Another hot sector is ringtones – the beloved technology that spontaneously injects the chords to “We Will Rock You” into classrooms, offices, and worship services across the nation. This smooth landing page signs you up for them fast. But to see the fine print detailing the monthly fees, you’ll have to scroll way down.

Smart marketers like Shoemoney have made BIG money swinging ringtones via pay-per-click campagins involving millions of keywords. It’s gotten so competitive now, that they’re having to look past the cheaper pastures and right into the barn – by serving ads on “equestrian” related searches:

 

 

…just in case your thoroughbred needs a “Camptown Races” ringtone on his new iPhone .

 

True.com Ads Snare 1,000 Victims Per Hour

November 20th, 2006

 

True.com ad scam parody sleazy

True.com’s ads have become a pop-cultural online icon – a symbol of deceptive online advertising.

The mega-budget interactive campaign is heavily plastered across social media networks like Tribe and MySpace and it works quite well: the ads lure in almost 1,000 new member sign ups per hour.

True.com wasn’t always an extortionate scam site.

The company first started off as “True Beginnings,” and was positioned as wholesome, marriage-minded dating service!

That was was slow-going, so they tried the “No Marrieds. No Felons.” safer-dating angle with rigorous background checks. Unfortunately that didn’t sell so well, either.

Now True.com’s founder Herb Vest has hit the jackpot by positioning True.com as a sleazy hook-up site. His patented advertising method consists of scantly clad models and licentious headlines beckoning you to sign up for a “free” trial.

If you fall for the “free” trial offer you have to give over your credit card information. Then they’ve really got you.

Many users report deceptive practices getting fake winks from bogus “date bait” profiles (pictures of models), or messages far away “members” like hot blondes located in Columbia. Some even get hit on by Nigerian scammers posing as hotties!

Folks who try to cancel the service before the “free” trial expires find that it is impossible to do so online: a cancellation feature has deliberately been omitted from the online interface.

Victims report:

It’s time the True® truth be told. The best way to illustrate it is with this actual, unaltered affiliate program ad from the company:

Quixtar MLM Video Parody

November 11th, 2006

Kudos to the creative folks over at Where’s My Jet Pack? for this spoof of the MLM “business.”

This video ad brilliantly exposes the cold truth about Quixtar, an offshoot of Amway, that is the highest earning MLM scam of all time. It seems to be the only one that has lasted more than a decade.

If you have ever been approached by an acquaintence about a “exciting business opportunity” turned out to be hustling overpriced vitamin pills or weight-loss patches for them as your ticket to “financial freedom,” this video is for you.

It explains it all in less than a minute.

Wal-Mart’s Paid Critics Flog Real Critics

November 11th, 2006

Better watch what you say.

Edelman’s newest flog, or fake blog, is a brilliant little hit campaign designed to intimidate us into showing reverence for Wal-Mart.

They want you to believe that commies like me, who think of Wal-Mart as a cultural and economical contagion, have financial incentive to do so.

(It’s not because being in the place for more than five minutes makes our skin crawl.)

Folks who just recently picked up a 9000 FREE Hours of AOL CD with their beloved 72-pack of Sam’s Choice Cola will probably read the flog and believe it.

Wal-Mart’s mercenary hit squad did some very convincing pseudomarketing. The writing is clever, the criticism and doubt-casting is masterful (as one would expect from top PR professionals), and the graphic design is brilliant. The spin doctors’ prescription suggests that Wal-Mart is a benevolent corporate “Robin Hood” that provides jobs, charity, and generous discounts to the working classes. The only problem is that is getting bullied by an malevolent conspiracy of paid critics.

Who exactly are these “paid critics?”

Apparently any politicians who receive donations from local businesses (on the brink of getting shut down by Wal-Mart) are the evil kingpins. They are the top of the massive payola conspiracy of Professional Wal-Mart Critics®.

If criticizing Wal-Mart paid anything close to what a high-end journalist writing a flog on the Wal-Mart corporate PR account must earn – I would love to be a salaried, Professional Wal-Mart Critic®!

It would be the easiest job in the world!
you would never run out of material for inspiration. You could make it a comedy or a tragedy. You could make it like “Hee Haw,” “Clerks,” or a Michael Moore anti-corporate documentary. The wealth of possibilities for critical satire is even richer than Sam Walton.

Sign me up!

And send me my first check for this piece.

“Oh Lynda, You’re So Fine!” – Classmates.com

November 9th, 2006

 

Yep, she sure is!

Lynda, the nerdiest girl in your class who you never talked to, is now a online banner ad cover girl
.

Who would have known?

Lynda tempts our voyeuristic curiosity to see what became of our former classmates. Especially those lurid nerd-to-glamour girl or valedictorian-to-serial killer sort of 180-degree ironies – stuff that could bring us a quick rush of emotional gratification.

Classmates.com was a really good idea when it started back in 1995. The internet was just taking off among the upper-class early adopter segment. The pay-for-access e-mail database model was fairly viable.

But now, with all the competition from free social networking sites, I suspect it’s a million times harder for Classmates to get people to pay for membership. Their business model got eclipsed by new technology. And so did a lot of the old information in their database – like expired Hotmail addresses, or Geocities and Tripod pages from your classmates who logged into once back in ‘98.

I have contacted several of my former classmates, for free, thanks to MySpace. It’s been a brief hoot to connect, compare and see what they’re up to. (Some are in Hollywood, some are on Madison Avenue, and some are in rehab.)

But in many cases, the things we had common over a decade ago have drifted apart. I’m sure if we met in-person it would be a blast, but the online conversations feel a bit distant and forced.

My best memories of the good ol’ days are the analog ones. Like calling up old friends. Or going through the old seventies editions of my high school yearbooks they kept in our school library and looking at the giant afros.

What if I signed up at Classmates.com in order to digitally reconnect with Lynda, the shy nerd girl I never talked to who is now a banner ad model? We’d have so little to talk about, it would hurt to even try.

I think I’ll pass.