dodgy mechanics – trust your senses!

27 09 2011

about a year ago I need to have the catalytic converter in my car replaced, a not uncommon scenario for a car of its 13+ years age.  they’re expensive buggers, many hundreds of dollars at least, potentially a lot more if you buy (VW) genuine spares.  so i went with the non-genuine.

a new catalytic converter – or at least the one i got – had a very distinctive chemical smell for at least several weeks after it was fitted.

for the last couple of months, i’ve noticed the exhaust getting progressively noisier – that airy hole-in-the-exhaust sound, and in the last couple of weeks a mechanical rattling of something that had presumably come loose.

so last week i booked the car in for a service & also to investigate what was wrong with the exhaust.  at the end of the day the mechanic reported that “the cat had to be replaced, under warranty” (because it was less than a year old, i guess).  beauty, i thought, fixed for nix!

but on the drive home from the shop (and several drives to/from work the rest of the week), it was obvious this supposedly new ‘cat’ was just as airy-noisy as the old one, just without the mechanical rattle.

and there didn’t seem to be the unmistakable smell of the previous replacement cat.

being preoccupied with life, i didn’t think too much about it, and just resigned myself to having them look at it again when it was scheduled to get 4 new tyres this week.

well it would seem i ACTUALLY have a new cat – it’s quiet, AND it smells like a new cat.

i’d previous judged my now-former mechanic to be fairly honest.  their prices have always seemed reasonable (unless spare part prices dictated otherwise).  sometimes they’ve been a bit flaky, but not discernibly dishonest.

this morning when i dropped the car off, the owner/manager was clearly having a heated disagreement with what appeared to be an insurance assessor, assessing a claim seemingly involving an accident in the manager/owner’s now-former business-partner’s car.  he was trying to bulldoze his way past the assessor’s job of working out if the insurer was liable or not, and doing what seemed like a pisspoor job of it – it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

every now and again you get little glimpses into other people’s lives, and sometimes get the impression that their life’s walls are crumbling down before your eyes.


p.s. i AM moving to Sydney!



Dear Dell, You Are Several Kinds Of Idiot

21 07 2011

An email I just sent to Dell:

Dear Dell,

You are several kinds of idiot.

You also appear to think I am an idiot too, which I suppose makes sense given your idiotic disposition.

When I recently asked to buy a caddy for a hard-drive I wished to add to my Dell T410 server, you refused, cowardly hiding behind a  non-technically based “policy” preventing sale of a caddy-only (an item costing around $40), stating they could only be bought with a hard-drive.  So you quoted me one of the more expensive possible SAS hard-drives to accompany my caddy, $590, even though YOU KNEW I didn’t need a HDD and you could have quoted on the cheapest possible SATA HDD.

When I questioned this idiotic requirement, you hide behind “it’s Dell policy”, but are totally unable to explain or justify the policy.  I requested a phone call to discuss this situation, but all I received was another email from a difference faceless name repeating the Dell policy propaganda.  Hiding behind inexplicable policy is the last recourse of a dishonest business model, in this case one based on coercion & exploit of potentially ignorant customers.

I have since sourced a suitable caddy from an eBay seller (brand new, sealed in a box, which suggests Dell caddies CAN be bought without extortion from somewhere), and installed the extra hard-drive (which was originally from another Dell server).

Your idiocy and greed means you now get NOTHING, instead of something, and you should all be ashamed of yourselves for supporting this policy.

Yours sincerely,
On behalf of [REDACTED].

Seeing REDgroup – Part 1 – Dumb & Dumber

8 03 2011

Dumb & Dumber

“Dear Myer, thanks for prompting me to find that expensive moisturiser online for 40% less than you, with free delivery to my door.”

While numerous Australians were worrying if their $15M worth of Angus & Robertson, or Borders gift certificates would be honoured by the chains’ new undertakers, that’s what I tweeted this afternoon, inbetween worrying whether my No.1 client will be (a) able to pay me money owed & (b) be allowed by the new administrators of REDgroup Retail (owners of Borders AU & NZ & Singapore, Angus & Robertson, Whitcoulls (NZ), & my client Calendar Club AU & NZ who are the only profitable business in REDgroup) to continue using my services.

But I’m getting ahead of myself – we’ll come back to REDgroup…

I’m referring to the mindless smoke-screen kicked up last January by Gerry Harvey & his whiny band of helpless billionaire retailers bemoaning that the world is changing and GST-avoiding online offshore retailers are slowly killing them and somehow it’s up to us, or the government, or someone, ANYONE ELSE BUT THEMSELVES, to save them.

I dunno why it’s taken me seven years, but when I noticed my Biotherm Homme moisturiser running low recently it occurred to me that maybe I could find this stuff online for a helluvalot less than Myer charge for it. Sure enough, I let my google do the walking and spent ten minutes getting a rough idea of who’s who in the online cosmetics retail scene, and placed an order for the same thing for 40+% less than Myer.  A week later it was delivered to my door – free (i.e. no additional charge).

No longer must I wade through that excruciating cacophony of smells, and fight off the obsequiously friendly staff who insist on offering me “package deals” of shit I don’t want or asking to sign me up to some loyalty program every freakin time I walk in there that’ll invariably add more crap to my letterbox/inbox, and have to pay above-RRP for this so-called ‘premium shopping experience’.  Now I’m paying at least 15% less than I was for the same product seven years ago.  I’m still loyal to the brand and product – but not the retailer.

And before you get angry at me for buying expensive moisturiser when supposedly “the cheap stuff is just as good”, I beg to differ. ’nuff said.

I routinely buy lots of stuff online: gadgets / tech / software, sneakers / clothes, books / music / tv / movies (almost all digital now, not physical), and sporadic other stuff for myself or gifts.  But it’d never occurred to me to buy such an obvious fit for online retailing – cosmetics – until now (dumb), thanks to Gerry Harvey’s bleating (dumber).

Are you on an Optus Mobile contract & want out?

14 08 2009

*edit* this post refers ONLY to a narrow window of opportunity to cancel your Optus Mobile contract without penalty back in August/September 2009, so it’s likely of no value to you now.

are you fed up with Optus (Mobile) & want out, but locked into a 24month contract with massive early cancellation penalty? well here’s your free chance out!

Optus have added clause 5.2A(personal)/5.3(business) to their SFOA – Standard Form Of Agreement – covering most pre- & post-paid mobile customers.  if, like many, you object to it, they have the obligation to allow you to end the contract without “early termination fees”.

you only pay for outstanding calls, and however many months worth of handset repayments you have left (if any – some people choose to pay up-front, or higher monthly without handset fees). for me that’s 12 or 13 months x ~$7 = $84, which is 10% of the early termination fee that would ALSO apply if YOU (or I) were in breach of contract. but in this case, it’s Optus who are.

the change they made (effective 12 August 09) is to block you from calling certain Optus mobile numbers – numbers that happen to be used by cheap international calling services, which is just plain anticompetitive. but the SFOA change is so vaguely worded it could be applied to ANY ph# they choose in future. even if you’ve never used such a service before, they are negatively materially impacting the terms of their contract with you for the remainder period of your contract, and you are at liberty to cancel it without early-cancellation-penalty.

their obligations under the SFOA give you until Friday 4th September to object and cancel (without penalty) before they consider you to have agreed with the new terms.

if you cancel in this way, you’ll probably have the choice to revert to a month-to-month arrangement (as would happen automatically when a contract runs out) and consider your options, or cancel immediately & go elsewhere (probably needs a 1 month notice anyway?).

if you call and eventually convince them to cancel your contract without penalty, i urge you to call again a few days later, or at least a few days before your next billing period begins, and confirm that your account has in fact been marked for contract cancellation without penalty.  Optus use one of the oldest tricks – they say “yes, sir” on the phone, but do nothing at their keyboard.  when your next bill arrives you realise nothing’s been done, you’re still in contract, but now the deadline for objecting to the new terms has passed.  when i called a 2nd time, the CS rep knew nothing of what i was talking about, i was still in-contract with no indication i was cancelling – i had to explain again, be put on hold, then received a confirmation/reference number.

i was told each time that the early-cancellation penalty will still appear on my bill, but i have to call up to have it credited before paying it.  naturally i expect that CS rep to say “sorry sir, you’ve asked to cancel your contract, the early termination penalty applies” and have to explain it all again.  but hopefully that’ll be the final moment of victory.

after swearing i’d never go back to Telstra for anything (other than this barely-used land-line for ADSL), and i may yet go elsewhere, i never thought a Telstra competitor – Optus – could become so unpalateable that they made Telstra look appealing.  things must be getting tight on the Optus books…

oh no, Netgear sux too…

16 07 2009

i “inherited” a Netgear Rangemax WPN824v3 wireless router recently, and found a use for it. as it’s a pre-802.11n uber-802.11g 104Mbps thingy, so i figured it’d be a good idea to put the latest (2 year old, so presumably stable) firmware into it. and that’s where the fun stopped…

i was trying to upgrade the firmware in this thing on a Mac with Firefox, but got a ‘invalid filename’ error when trying to upload the new firmware.

what a ridiculous fiasco ensued:

– the product support pages have a FAQ note advising to use Firefox2 or IE, and that updated firmware will be posted soon. but, how am I to get this promised-but-as-yet-undelivered firmware into the router with this bug?!?

– so I try the following setups:
Safari4 on Mac = same problem
IE8 on Windows7 = same problem
IE8 on WindowsXP = same problem
IE7 on WinXP = same problem (how is that possible!??)

in disbelief & desperation, I went to the Netgear forums.

– a 1 year old forum post on this topic (now closed – why is it closed? the issue is clearly unresolved) advises to “turn off Java”. without logging in to this forum, the 2 pictures attached to the post didn’t display. so I dutifully disabled Java. same problem.

– i noted the original poster says only IE is supported, all else “at own risk”. nice to see that in the user manual – NOT.

– so i dig up some old forum login credentials – they seem to be half recognised but i’m none the less referred back to a full registration page. so i register – again.

– then i see the 2 pictures, clearly showing both Java AND JavaScript unticked. for the uninitiated, Java & JavaScript are totally separate & unrelated things. i untick them (as unintuitive as this seems, given that the Rangemax config pages appear to require JavaScript). but finally that works.

TWO HOURS LATER a 10 minute job is done.

not wanting to sound like an Apple fanboy, but this kind of chosen mediocrity by a (once respected?) major networking company just drives me nuts.


16 02 2009, a gay ‘dating’ site, recently chose Australians to beta-test their new site upgrade.  oh boy…

if they put up a localised blog with comments, they must want some feedback!  here’s mine… ;)

1) my login-failure solution:
after an unhelpful reply from tech-support (”be patient”) my patience wore out after 3 days unable to login, having tried clearing browser caches, restarting browser, rebooting, trying other PCs, all with no luck. UNTIL i clicked on the ‘English’ language link at the top, then bingo, able to login fine ever since. maybe it was just a coincidence of timing, but one minute no joy, the next i’m in.

2) ‘Private pics unlocked’ notifications incorrect:
i got one today, which said “xxxxxx has unlocked his Private Pix for you.”
but *I* am xxxxxx, it should (of course) say the name of the profile that sent/unlocked :). looks like a simple coding oops.

3) no search by postcode/distance:
the temporary removal of this feature before the site went live was a major tactical blunder – unless you had a REALLY good (undisclosed) reason to NEED to migrate to new servers before it was ready on the new version.

Manhunt is of limited _efficient_ use without this critical feature (i don’t care how many hapless users don’t use search, wasting time online is their choice!), and now with one amorphous mess of hundreds of towns (and several of my local inner city suburbs missing, inc Collingwood, Clifton Hill, North Fitzroy!!!), it’s even worse than the original Manhunt and postcode/distance search is still weeks away :(.

who wants to wade through endless “who’s online” lists containing everyone in the state? or wade through that amorphous mess to list who’s online one suburb/town at a time? i really think you need to somehow get sensible area groups in the list too (not just as a stop-gap until postcode/distance works). yeah i noticed you can now add a bunch of suburbs to a saved-search, which is great, but that only applies to search, not simple ‘who’s online’ lists.

4) the tedious logout/log-back-in shuffle to remain reasonably visible:
basing the ordering of lists according to how recently someone logged in would have to be one of the most brain-dead designs i’ve ever come across in this genre of site. i understand you wanna ‘reward’ those who remain active (rather than those who just login & walk away for a day/week like some on Gaydar!), but this logout/log-back-in BS is not (and never was) the answer – not for us, and not for your systems that have the additional burden of processing several/dozens(?) of logouts/logins per actual user session.

it is in fact a fundamental admission that you haven’t nailed that problem at all if i have to do the work for you on top of actually being an engaged user. that there is still no way for a user to select how a list should be ordered, other than your hard-coded ‘time since last login’ is probably the fundamental problem.

5) search flexibility
even if(when) postcode/distance search is reinstated, i still find the limitations of search feature to be quite frustrating – i can tick various attributes to be “yes, i want them to be into this”, or leave it un-ticked for “i don’t care what they answer here”, but there’s _still_ no way to filter on “i want them to NOT be into XYZ”, which is sometimes where the best filtering happens for some users/purposes (eg.

i understand a single tick-box is nice n compact, and a 3 way choice (probably a drop-down list) on each attribute will take up alot of space, but for your ‘get on, get off (quick)’ mantra to be realised, there needs to be better ways to filter guys out to minimise results lists.

6) web programmers love making stuff in fancy AJAXy/fly-over/hover/translucent/auto-pop-menu/blahblah, and sometimes it works well, but not on the main menu, especially now that your auto-drop-down menus are across the top instead of down the left side – i’m finding they pop-down almost every time i move the mouse to/from the browser tab bar &/or other stuff on the desktop, which is incredibly frustrating, and utterly unnecessary. so what if i have to click the menu to drop it down?!? i’d rather that than have them getting in the way all the time when i had no intention of ‘clicking on’ the menus anyway! it’s web-designer wankery that doesn’t serve the user.

7) “he’s online now” lights
speaking of web-designer wankery, those new indicators to show if someone’s online are far less ‘readable’ with all that orange simulated LED bezel BS surrounding them. someone in the design department’s been drinkin way too much of the coolaid…

Manhunt, overall i like the new layout, and i dont mind ’silly bugs’ cuz they can be fixed, and i really appreciate that there’s this this localised blog to keep us in the loop & make feedback easy (and bypass the scripted robots in tech-support), but as you can probably tell, and as a paying customer, i’m pretty PO’d not only because a major upgrade to the site has left a critical feature missing for unspecified weeks, but much moreso that a major redesign has failed to address glaring limitations in functionality & usability.

i was questioning whether to remain on Manhunt after my current subscription, and unfortunately this ‘upgrade’ hasn’t done much to increase the site’s utility for me.

not only does the upgrade seem to have been rushed, with Australian’s used as beta testers like it or not, but too few improvements beyond a new coat of paint.

sorry to stick the knife in, but this seems like a classic case of an IT upgrade project mis-managed (too influenced by web-designers & not addressing core issues or features) and poorly executed from the user’s perspective.


Tim at Manhunt emailed to thank me for my comprehensive feedback, which may help nail a bug or two (as well as assure me that my thoughts were heard loud & clear ;), and a brief email exchange ensued.  I neglected to mention in my comment on their blog that much of what they’re doing is behind the curtain stuff aimed at achieving better scalability, and to that end, “more power to them”, it’s a complicated and major undertaking for websites of this size & 24/7 operation.  He assured us in further blog comments, and in his emails, that they’re flat out dealing with the cut-over, but that the postcode/distance search is the next cab off the rank, with several other popular issues including some i’ve raised as also high on their agenda &/or being (re)considered.  Perhaps there is hope yet.  One has to give credit for any organisation willing to put thier cock on the block in a public blog/comment forum and engage their customers ‘face to face’ rather than only through the arms-length of tech-support.  Thanks for listening & hearing, Manhunt, I’ll wait patiently for what’s around the corner, and perhaps beyond.

Dodo wins, godammit! :-(

17 12 2008

All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, on a PC that’s had no new software installed on it, no recent reconfiguration, or any observable signs of malware infection, mum & dad’s Dodo dial-up account stopped working last week – authentication issues _after_ a successful initial PPP connection.  And this isn’t the first time this’s happened…

Mum spent 4 hours on the phone to Dodo tech-support, except this time they weren’t able to resolve the problem.  Exhausted and beaten, she caved and said “OK, give me ADSL”. :-(    She’ll soon be on 256/64kbps, 500MB(peak)+500MB(off-peak) for $25/month.

I nearly flipped (as you can imagine from my earlier posts re Dodo!), but a quick run through confirms that Dodo’s $25/month ADSL (without bundled voice services) is about as cheap as entry-level ADSL gets, and that’s about as much as she wanted to pay.

Given Dodo’s ferocious telemarketing campaign to get their dial-up cusomters onto more modern services, people more cynical/paranoid than me might wonder if there really was a technical problem at all…

Touche Dodo, you won this one.

* Update:  i setup a new dial-up connection with somewhere else as a stop-gap until the Dodo ADSL kicks in.  it worked first time, further proving that there was no technical issue at the client end.  i feel myself becoming cynical/paranoid…

* Update2:  when i called up to cancel the dial-up account (i never used it, just mum & dad), the chook could see that i’d had technical problems, and offered to escalate the issue to *level 3* tech-support.  i wonder how many more hours they’d expect mum to spend on the phone trying to sort out their borked system?  (all the while she’d be running up & down stairs dozens of times because there’s no mobile (GSM) reception in their basement where the PC is).  thanks for the offer Dodo, but you’d already won, this particular chook just didn’t know it so had to run the pleading script past me…