Crashplan, no longer

Crashplan,

After three or four years as a customer, I cancelled my subscription to your online backup service yesterday.

A couple of weeks ago, you offered a 50% discount to loyal family plan members who renew, and to single computer customers who upgrade to the family plan. I tweeted and asked if you had any deal to loyal single computer subscribers. Your response to me was to try to get me to upgrade to a family plan. Specifically, you wrote,

You don’t have parents, siblings or cousins with computers? #cheapholidaygifts

That isn’t what I asked, and I also note that including cousins seems to extend the family plan beyond what you allow. Regardless, when I replied that the single computer subscription fit my needs and I wasn’t interested in expanding it, you didn’t think me worth a reply.

In the nearly two weeks between that exchange and the end of the promotion, I saw many tweets referring to a 50%-off subscription rate to existing customers. At least 75% of them made no mention of this deal being limited to the family plan. Perhaps you expanded the offer? I wrote to ask. No reply. This happened three times. Never a reply.

Then late last night I checked again, and your Black Friday sale kicked in. Both plans discounted, but for new customers only.

I get the hint. You want single computer subscribers to upgrade to the family plan, and you want new customers. Raving for two weeks about a 50%-off renewal is great, but if you usually fail to mention that it applies to only a subset of your customers, you’re going out of your way to annoy those to whom is doesn’t apply.

While these other two issues aren’t directly related to my cancelling, they definitely made it easier:

1. Your service is great in that it offers support Windows, OS X, and Linux, but doing this by using a common Java codebase is less than ideal. Backup software using a gigabyte of RAM is ridiculous. I’m glad to have that RAM back!

2. The Twitter campaign you ran over the summer was a disaster. You have 30,000 followers who are interested in Crashplan news and updates, and you saddled them with tweets like this:

Oh, jeez. The Wolf King just showed up. And he’s wearing that I-wanna-get-back-together face. -MadMaxine #FutureWithoutBackup

You build a following, and then rather than offer what they came for, you tweet this kind of thing? I’ve never seen so many complaints, and for good reason. I wrote, asking if you had a feed for only Crashplan news and you told me I was already following it. When I suggested that this ‘campaign’ was ill-conceived, you explained that more like it could be coming.

I wondered how clueless could you be. I’m through wondering. You seem to have trouble understanding how to treat paying customers.

If you offer something, and repeatedly snatch it away, and then ignore me when I ask about it, I get the impression you aren’t terribly interested in my being a paying customer.

Message received, Crashplan.

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Logo © 2014 Code 42 Software, Inc.

Posted in computers, consequences, customer service, me | Leave a comment

The wood chips are in my past

20141108-151807 5D3 4M6C3191.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 17-40mm 1:4L @ 33mm, 1/250, f/8, 400 ISO

Done and done, almost.

About a month ago, I posted with my tree story. I was taking down a tree, and my plan was to cut the three branches that split from the trunk, and then cut the trunk. At the time I posted, I had cut off one of the three branches, just to see if I could do it.

It worked pretty much as I expected so I thought my plan was good. Some time after my post, I again got back up on the ladder with an axe and got busy on one of the remaining two branches. Within about ten minutes, my neighbour appeared in his backyard wondering what I was doing. He couldn’t believe I was using an axe. When I explained that this was all new to me and I wasn’t about to add a chainsaw to the mix, he said he’d be right over.

Less than ten minutes later, he and his son brought two chainsaws, and a half-hour after that, he had cut the two branches and most the tree trunk. In fact, things didn’t go exactly as planned, and each of the two branches fell over the fence, into his yard. It worked out well because he wanted the wood anyway. He diced the trunk into short pieces which I tossed into his yard.

What’s left is what you see in the photo. In the spring, and I’ll dig up the stump and cut out the remainder. And no, I won’t dig it out completely … but just the biggest part, and I’ll bury what remains.

My neighbour is very kind and I’m grateful for his help.

Posted in me | Leave a comment

Business blunders IV

If you’re going to use technology to help your business, make sure you know what you’re doing, and don’t be half-assed about it.

I make it a habit to change my passwords periodically. Not as often as I should, but periodically. I also look at web site accounts with a critical eye and close those that I don’t use any more. Having a bazillion passwords to change encourages me to reduce their number! With this in mind, I went to the Camera Canada web site a few weeks back. For the life of me, I could not find how to change my password so I wrote them and asked. To my astonishment, the general manager replied with this gem:

Thank you for your interest in Camera Canada. I have reset your password to cam6325. If you have any further questions please feel free to call or e-mail.

A weak password, and sent plaintext via e-mail, no less. I replied, again asking if there was a way I could do it myself, and requesting that my account be deleted if there was not. He replied stating that they have no way for customers to change their passwords, and that he had my account deleted. I promptly went and confirmed that my log-in credentials didn’t work.

If your site has no way for a customer to change their own password, I question how secure the site is, and I didn’t want my personal information on it.

On a different front, my credit card expired a while back and I received notices from a few companies who use my card for regular payments, requesting updated information. Alarmforce in particular drew my notice. They sent a letter in which they suggested three ways to deliver my new credit card information to them. I could return the form they provided by postal mail, by fax, or I could send them the information by e-mail.

They should know better. I’ve heard it stated that regular e-mail is roughly analogous to sending a postcard through the mail. It’s not exactly right, but close enough. At a minimum, the folks at my ISP, and the folks at their ISP can easily read the information I send them. And it’s not impossible that somewhere along the line there’s some routing through other servers which only serves to increase the exposure. Alarm force may know about physical security, but their suggesting I send my credit card information via e-mail is terrible advice, and tells me they know nothing about data security. You might say that an alarm company doesn’t deal with data security, but they have my credit card information and I expect them not to let others have it because of their (lack of) data security practices.

If you’re going to use the Internet to help your business, make sure you know what you’re doing. If you don’t have experienced people in-house and aren’t willing to hire, contract it out. It’s cheaper than rebuilding your reputation after a security breach.

Posted in consequences, consumer life, me | Leave a comment

No face, no show!

The Opéra Bastille

The Opéra Bastille

On October 3, patrons were enjoying a performance of La Traviata at the Opéra Bastille in Paris, France. Apparently, everything was going well until the second act. At that point, the performers noticed that a woman in the front row was wearing a full-faced veil. They refused to continue the performance until she removed the veil or left the performance.

I am not a fan of these veils, and I firmly believe that one should not be able to vote, for example, while wearing a veil.

In this case however, the audience is under no obligation to be able to be identified by the performers. If it were such an upsetting experience for the performers, one has to believe that they would have noticed earlier in the performance.

It’s true that France has a ban on the niqab, but this event shows how silly an all-out ban is. Ban it if you like, but be honest about why.

The situation is even worse when you consider that the woman wearing the niqab was not French at all. According to The Telegraph, the woman was “a tourist from a Gulf state.”

Welcome to France!

I still have conflicting opinions about the niqab, but an outright ban is not the way to handle it.

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Photo by Phillip Capper, reproduced via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.

Posted in freedom | Leave a comment

Business blunders III

Dear businesses, don’t make me work to become a customer. Seems obvious, but my experience indicates otherwise.

I’m always on the lookout for a sale on Coca-Cola. A supermarket called Fresh Co. has a flyer out that advertises just such a sale. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? No, not so much.

My mom commented, “Fresh Co.? I don’t know where that place is.” I thought it would be simple enough to find out. Newspaper flyers typically list the store locations and small-print at the bottom of the back page. Flipping to the back page, imagine my surprise when they boast, “87 Fresh Co. stores now open in Ontario,” and then follow with the locations, “See FreshCo.com for store details.” I don’t think so, Fresh Co.

Even worse, I always look for any limitation on quantities. Fresh Co. tells me, “We reserve the right to limit quantities.” That’s it. So I may go and discover they’ll only let me buy three. That’s plenty for some people, but not everyone.

If you’re going to try to get me into your store, and then not even tell me where they are, I’m not going to go hunting for the information. I’ll just go elsewhere. I understand they’re trying to save money by using the same flyer in multiple markets, but when your saving money requires me to do extra work, your ad failed. Enjoy your savings, but I’m not buying anything from you. Happy?

If you think I’m the one missing out, think again. Sobeys has Coke on sale as well, and for the same price.

So is that the end of the story? Not exactly. In wanting to make sure things are as I expect, I had a look at the Sobeys flyer to make sure it does indeed list store locations. But it doesn’t! I do think the point stands however, as the larger incumbent companies are better known. In this case, I already know where the Sobeys is. Still, they risk losing potential customers, but it’s less a risk for Sobeys than for Fresh Co.

It doesn’t end there. In searching their respective websites for the logos I’ve included here, and to properly assign trademarks where they belong, I check the ‘Legal’ links. The legal page on the Fresh Co. site begins, “This Website is owned and provided by Sobeys Inc.”

I’m still not going to Fresh Co. and in fact, I’m even a little bit less likely to go to Sobeys, but I don’t think this will tip the balance. I’ll still buy the Coke, and likely nothing else.

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Fresh Co., Sobeys, and the graphics shown above, are likely trademarks of Sobeys Capital Incorporated. I’m not exactly sure because both web pages state, “The content shown on the Website is protected by copyright, trademark and other laws” but they give no specifics on what terms are trademarks. 

Posted in consequences, consumer life, customer service | Leave a comment

Welcome to Yosemite

Despite knowing better, I went ahead and installed OS X 10.10 Yosemite. Others are glad to rush in and report the problems if I wait a day or two, but I seem to be one of those who rushed in.

During the upgrade I received an ominous error:

There is not enough free space in the Core Storage Logical Volume Group for this operation. Reboot and try again.

Yea, whaaaat? It offered a reboot button, and no other option. So I rebooted. After a moment, the Mac’s log in screen presented itself … but it was the Yosemite log in screen. I had a very bad feeling about this unexpected turn of events, but I logged in and the installation continued onward, seemingly without incident.

I have my main volume encrypted with FileVault2, and perhaps after a reboot, the installer couldn’t access the drive. Still, I would think that they would have tested installation with FileVault2 enabled! Still, I don’t know that was the issue so I’m doing nothing more than guessing.

Regardless, I seem to be okay. The installation finished without obvious problems and I’m running Yosemite.

I have a some random thoughts after just a few hours:

  • I’ve read that the user interface is much flatter with fewer elements to simulate depth. I read correctly. This interface is flat. It’s hardly objectionable, though.
  • The flat dock is a return to old times for many, but I joined the Mac bandwagon with 10.5 Leopard, just as interface elements really started gaining depth.
  • I hate the Finder icon. It looks demented.
  • I love the desktop drive icons.
  • My mid-2011 iMac is a year too old to support Handoff and the other Continuity features. Bluetooth 4.0 with its Bluetooth Low Energy support is required, and any iMac older than mid-2012 doesn’t have it. I will not be taking any phone calls from my Mac.
  • The iCloud Drive and its integration with the iWork apps looks cool so far. Happily, despite Apple’s wanting to differentiate iCloud Drive from Dropbox and other similar services, the files you’ve put into iCloud Drive are on your local disk at /Users/username/Library/Mobile Documents, and therefore backed up with Time Machine.
  • The sidebar in iTunes 12 is largely gone. You can bring up a sidebar by choosing the Playlists option at the top, but the sidebar that appears shows only your music, music videos, and playlists. The one-stop sidebar seems to be history. It wasn’t pretty, but it was entirely functional.
  • If something just looks different and you can’t quite nail it down, it’s probably the typeface. Lucida Grande it out and Helvetica Neue is here to replace it. The change isn’t huge, but it’s noticeable.
  • Safari still doesn’t offer inferior (lowercase) numbers despite being directed to do so with the font-feature-settings option of the @fontface CSS command. Every other browser I’ve tried, both webkit and non-webkit, handle it correctly. If even Internet Explorer can do it, what’s your excuse, Safari?
  • My first Time Machine back up after upgrading to Yosemite and allowing the Mac App Store to update my apps was just over 13GB.

Overall, I like it so far.

Posted in Apple, computers, me | 3 Responses

No one’s at the helm!

Last month, I told you that I wrote my MP asking how I might follow his activities for his riding. I follow him on Twitter and his only tweets are about his Minister of Defence duties. I did get an answer a few days after I wrote that post. This post’s delay is completely my fault.

The Honourable Robert Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The Honourable Robert Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Ontario.

His office replied:

Dear Mr. Pali:

I am writing to acknowledge and thank you for your correspondence to Mr. Nicholson. For information about Mr. Nicholson’s activities as your MP please feel free to visit:

www.robnicholsonmp.ca

Please be assured that your comments will be passed along to Mr. Nicholson as her [sic] very much appreciates hearing from constituents.

Thank you again for writing.

Stewart Graham

Constituency Assistant for the
Hon. Rob Nicholson, M.P.

It’s both exactly what I expected, and entirely unexpected. I have visited robnicholsonmp.ca in pursuit of what my MP has been doing in support of my area of the country, and trust me, the web site to which I was directed doesn’t answer my question. I expected the answer I received because there’s a heading titled “Riding News” on the web site, and it makes sense that I’d find what I was looking for there. The unexpected part is what is under that heading, and this is verbatim:

September 10, 2014
Statement by Minister Nicholson on World Suicide Prevention Day

September 10, 2014
Minister Nicholson commemorates the 75th anniversary of Canada’s engagement in the Second World War

August 09, 2014
Minister Nicholson commemorates National Peacekeeping Day

August 01, 2014
Disclosure Period: August 1, 2014 to August 31, 2014

And that’s it. Each item has a link which gives more detail, but am I to expect that all he’s done this year is issue three statements (because the two commemorations seem to be limited to statements), and disclosed that he spend some $800 on a flight? Even if we’re generous and assume that this is an exhaustive list of his activities only since the first entry in the list, it sure seems like a light workload for ten weeks. I know that this list represents the whole year however, because the web site was updated since I wrote the letter. The items previous to August 1, which have disappeared, were all financial disclosures.

So really, what is this guy doing for me? I knew of absolutely nothing, and I didn’t want to assume that an absence of evidence was evidence of absence, so I asked. Little wonder that the three e-mail messages I sent received no replies … my assumption seems to have been correct. I was directed to a list that can only be generously described as pitiful.

Read @HonRobNicholson however, and it’s all about ISIL, statements on various topics, retweets from his cronies, and check-ins from all the countries in which he’s visiting his foreign counterparts.

He’s clearly far to busy jet-setting about to bother serving the constituents who voted him into office. I am really looking forward to his re-election campaign, when he regales his constituents about all the things he’s done for us since the last election. It won’t take very long.

Weak tea, Mr. Nicholson. Weak tea, indeed.


Photo of Mr. Nicholson from robnicholsonmp.ca

Posted in me, politics, responsibility | Leave a comment

New Copyright Exception for Political Advertising

A news story developing over the last 24 hours had me write my MP again:

From: Rick Pali <rpali@alienshore.com>
To: Rob Nicholson <rob.nicholson.a1@parl.gc.ca>
Subject: Regarding the New Copyright Exception for Political Advertising
Date: October 9, 2014 at 10:32:30 PM EDT

Mr. Nicholson,

I was surprised to hear of the document drawn up by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Shelly Glover, titled New Copyright Exception for Political Advertising.

I recall the spat with the CBC and CTV a few years back about political parties using footage from their news stories without explicit permission. Frankly, I thought it was all worked out and the use of their footage was covered under fair dealing.

In the document, I’m concerned with one item in the Analysis section:

User community may interpret the exception as supporting “political expression,” but will likely call for it to be broadened to include other political players.

I’m concerned because this seems to call out a possible outcome, and the tone implies that the possibility against which a defence must be mounted because it must not be allowed to happen.

I’d put forth that the whole point of this copyright exception is certainly for free expression. If the Conservative party feels that fair dealing isn’t sufficient to allow the free expression to which it is entitled, why isn’t the fair dealing exception being adjusted to allow it? As it stands, the proposed exception will grant politicians a freedom that Canadians in general will not have.

Surely Canadians should enjoy the same freedoms to which the Conservative party feels it is entitled?

Rick.

This whole issue gives me the heebie-jeebies. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, suggests that their use of broadcast news footage should be covered under fair dealing. It doesn’t seem entirely clear cut, so I can understand that the Conservative party doesn’t want to get any egg on its face in the event that the news organizations mount a legal challenge over it. The logical course would be to clarify the issue in the Copyright Act, specifically regarding fair dealing. Instead, they’re crafting an exception limited to politicians or those seeking, but not yet possessing, political office.

My spidey-sense is telling me they’re up to something. It feels like they have something very specific in mind for which they want unambiguous permission, and that they don’t want the rest of us to have the same permission.


Hat tip to Michael Geist for his excellent work, as usual. If you’re not following his blog, you should.

Posted in me, politics | Leave a comment

VW diesel refuel #120

Dates: September 25 to October 9
Odometer: 111738 to 112738
Distance travelled: 1000.7 km
Fuel used: 53.581 litres

Calculated fuel economy:
5.4 l/100 km
43.93 miles/US gallon
52.76 miles/imperial gallon

Some highway driving nicely boosts the economy figure.

Posted in VW fuel economy | 2 Responses

Politicians and their idiotic ways

Remember in January when the Joyce Morocco for MPP campaign kept calling me despite my repeated instruction to not call me? She didn’t have the votes to make the leap from city councillor to MPP so she’s running for a seat on city council again.

Guess who called this evening? I heard the phone ring so later in the evening, I asked my mom if my sister had called. She said it was “that Joyce woman” for city council. Amused, I asked what she said. My mom answered, “Oh, I don’t know … and the woman wouldn’t stop talking so after a few minutes, I just hung up.” I’m still amused.

I also dashed off a quick message:

From: Rick Pali <rpali@alienshore.com>
To: joyce@votejoycemorocco.ca
Subject: Do not call.
Date: October 8, 2014 at 10:16:54 PM EDT

Greetings!

My phone number is (xxx) xxx-xxxx and I’m asking you politely not to call again.

When you ran for MPP, you called and I wrote you requesting that you not call. You called again. Then you called a third time. Seeing that you were unable to listen to my simple and reasonable request, you did not make the list of candidates that were in the running for my vote. If you won’t listen to my request, how can you possibly represent me?

Perhaps this time you can find it within yourself to not call as I’m requesting.

Rick.

I’m hoping she’s turned over a new leaf. I’m also not holding my breath.

These politicians kill me. They’re all about how they’re representing you and they’re there for you … until they want something, then they don’t want to hear what you want.

Posted in consequences, me, politics | Leave a comment