– A giant “don’t bother”

Over the Thanksmericangiving weekend Microsoft was running a “Free XBox 360 Gold” promotion, and along with that, NetFlix was offering 30 days of free streaming service. I figured why not try it out, maybe we’d find some interesting movies or TV series that we’d enjoy?

Signing up was reasonably easy, although I would suggest creating your account on your computer first rather than trying to type out a decent password on an XBox 360. Twice.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the selection. More specifically, the lack of selection. It took me a good 15 minutes of flipping through TV shows and movies to find something I would watch to test out the streaming video quality and functionality. No, not a show to actually sit down and watch, just something to try out to gauge the video quality.

I ended up watching about 5-10 minutes of Mythbusters episodes. You won’t have to worry about spoilers of new TV shows if you’re a bit behind on your PVR watching since the available TV episodes were years old.

Recalling how much money and resources Netflix puts into algorithmically determining user preferences I thought I’d give it a chance, so that evening I spent about 45 minutes on Netflix’s website telling Netflix all about my movie preferences, genres I enjoy (and not), rating movies it offered to help Netflix learn about me. I also installed the iPhone and iPad clients, thinking I might go watch a movie on the iPad. Unfortunately I still couldn’t find anything that interested me. The suggestions weren’t bad, but I’d seen the movies I wanted to see and literally couldn’t find anything that I hadn’t already seen that interested me.

I picked one and sat through about 15 minutes on the iPad. Video and audio quality was good, but the movie didn’t grab me enough to care so I went to bed.

I got Lori set up with Netflix on her iPhone too to check out the selection, she watched a few more shows than I did, but the month trial isn’t even over and neither of us can find anything to watch.

The video quality was good, the interface isn’t horrible, selection of clients was nice. Heck, it even streamed video over 3G, something Apple can’t manage on the iPhone 4 (although other video-calling capable phones have been doing it for years), but what’s the point when there isn’t anything you want to watch?

More annoyingly though, when canceling service is careful to spell out that they terminate your service immediately and you forfeit the remainder of the time you prepaid. Let me type that one again more slowly: Customer pays for service. Customer decides to not renew at the end of the agreed upon prepaid term. Netflix says “great, but don’t tell us until the last possible minute or we won’t bother to give you the service for which you paid.”

Sorry guys, but that’s a dickhead move and it pretty much guarantees I won’t bother trying Netflix again even if they ever get a decent selection of movies / TV shows.

(And yes, I’m aware that it was a trial and I’m not actually out any money. I plan on keeping it that way) – Worst hosting company on the planet?

Is a bad choice for hosting, or the worst choice for hosting?

And yes, this is just my side of the story. If you want to read their side of the story, well… Their website doesn’t seem to mention this little outage yet, nor does their public forums. Weird.

Anyway, here’s what happened: around noon April 12th, one of my VPS servers goes down. I open a ticket, then a few minutes later notice the system status indicates a possible hardware problem and some services are offline. No problem, we all have hardware failures once in a while.

4pm, “we’re currently experiencing major issues… in all locations”

April 13th the system status is updated with a (Resolved) tag, but I’m still down. File an update to my ticket, they’re still having issues and are documenting things in another location. Fair enough, although the “resolved” was a wee bit misleading.

April 14th/15th We’re still down, absolutely no sign of things returning, I move my services elsewhere and request a refund. Technical support says to contact billing.

April 17th I get a new “account activation” message, apparently threw out all of their customer data and started over after being down for 5 days.

Over the next few days I’ve exchanged several emails with their billing department, and apparently this is an acceptable level of service, and they’re standing behind their “we might not actually provide the service we sell, and we don’t offer refunds” clauses in their terms of service.

Seriously? A week of downtime plus 100% data loss, and a refund is too much to ask?

It was also nice that they took the time to yell at me for opening a second ticket formally request cancellation, after I followed their instructions to cancel service. Thanks for that guys.

Luckily, this is why god invented credit card chargebacks, Visa will stand behind a consumer when they purchase something and the seller doesn’t bother to deliver.

Dear Apple: FedEx and UPS are different companies

Since I like ranting, lets talk about my not-too-recent Apple iPhone repair experience.

First off, for anyone who has never been to an Apple Store to get service on a broken Apple product, let me give you a bit of warning: Apple sells so much defective gear that you apparently need an appointment just to return your expensive doorstop to get a replacement pre-doorstop. Who knew?

Anyway, a message to Apple: FedEx and UPS are different companies. No really, they are.

After having flown to another city to go to the Apple Store and having been turned away by said Apple Store, I complained to Apple’s phone based support until they offered to send a replacement phone and was told I just had to put the broken phone in box with the prepaid shipping label for return.

The instructions contained within the box included a toll free number to call to arrange pickup, the number was answered by a friendly UPS rep.

Unfortunately the return shipping label said “FedEx” so UPS wasn’t able to help.

I found a FedEx’s phone number on the tubes, and was told that despite the fact that I already had a FedEx delivery truck coming later this week, I didn’t have the right colour label for pickup service. FedEx then instructed me to take the package to some location near the airport, approximately a $35 cab ride away.

I called Apple, and was again advised to call UPS, after I explained that the return shipping label wasn’t a UPS label, the Apple rep seemed confused and didn’t know how to proceed. I suspect he was really a software program, and had I been able to see the screen, I’d have seen the “sad mac” logo at this point.

I ended up shipping the phone at my cost via Canada Post, $15 for a tracked and insured shipment; this seemed smarter then $70-round-trip cab fare or wasting any more time or effort.