Thursday, June 28, 2007

Private Domain Registration: It's a MUST

I recently registered a domain name. It's been a while since I'd done that and boy have times changed. Within 48 hours, I received my first SPAM phone call from APlus.net (caller ID 877-577-0877). Do a google search on this phone number and you'll find myriad people who've been called by APlus.

After doing a little research, I was ready for their next call. I received that call this morning. Here's how I ended the conversation in 48 seconds:

Them: "Hi, is Michael there? This is Andrea from APlus.net, do you currently have a web site up and running yet?"

Me (>) APlus.net (+)

> How did you get this number?
+ When you register a web site your whois information is published.
> Oh, so you're harvesting the whois database for information, then.
+ No, we're not harvesting the whois database.
> OK, so where do you get your information from then?
+ APlus: I don't know, but we're not harvesting the whois database.
> Ah, I see. Well would you please put my name on the "please do not call me ever again list?" Thanks.
+ OK, fine (she hung up on me).

30 seconds later I got four marketing emails from APlus. Here's what was at the bottom of each message:

This e-mail was sent to you because you recently spoke to an Aplus.Net sales representative and requested more information about our services. You are not subscribed to a mailing list and will not receive additional emails unless you request them.

Moral of the story: register your domain name privately. If using GoDaddy.com, this costs a mere 6.95/yr and uses DomainsByProxy. What this means is that DomainsByProxy's information is made public, not yours. For most techies out there this is common knowledge. But for people registering websites for the first time--or for those who it's been a while since the last time--be sure to spend the extra $6.95.

UPDATE 7/30/07: Haven't received any marketing materials from APlus, so it looks like I am in the clear for now.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Southwest Airlines can be expensive

Note to self: when purchasing air travel for someone else, make sure you list them as the passenger, not yourself.

This is the mental note I made this morning after an Internet Special fare, originally $118 round trip from San Diego to Sacramento, ballooned into a Reality Nightmare fare: $284.80 round trip for the same ticket. All because I had to change the name of the passenger at the last minute.

Even though I swear I listed the passenger name correctly--i.e., not myself, but the person I was buying the ticket for--somehow I must not have done so and so I got a phone call at 7:30 alerting me to this fact.

So, I called SWA to change the name but they said they cannot do that without me shelling out more dough--they would have to create a new reservation with whatever rates prevailed at that time. And so, I ended up paying an extra $166 for the tickets.

I guess it could have been worse.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Buy a Mac

Want to track a flight with a cool widget like this one instead of searching for a website then hoping it works with your browser? You're out of luck if you're on Windows. If I wasn't a lowly college student I'd buy me a Mac.

Calling all Yahoo! Widget authors: this is your opportunity to create a truly useful tool.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Safari for Windows is out

In its classic, secretive fashion, Apple has just announced the launch of its Safari web browser for the Windows platform. It works on both Windows XP and Vista. It still shows signs it's in beta form, as the application crashes every now and then when browsing certain web sites.

Can't really say much about it, other than I am pleased to see that much of the Apple user interface has made it into this program, right down to the aqua scrollbar, arrows, and smooth flowing dialogue boxes (try bookmarking this page in Safari, for instance). They even got the glowing buttons right.

However, this is a beta and there are plenty of things to complain about. Since there are thousands of other tech writers out there I'll leave the details to them. I just wanted to write this post in Safari to test how it interacts with different web sites.

It's no replacement to Firefox just yet since it's still in beta, but once it's a finished product for Windows, it'll be a contender. The one thing I really like about firefox is all the plugins. NoScript, FasterFox and the IE Tab plugins are truly useful, as is the crash guard built into Firefox. (If the browser crashes for some reason, you can restore your previous browsing session, for example.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Motorola KRZR K1: A strong swimmer

For years I've been bashing the Motorola brand of cell phones because its user interfaces SUCKED. Fast forward to 2007: they still SUCK, but each subsequent UI does seem to improve.

But this is not the reason I'm writing this post. The reason I am PRAISING Motorola today is not for its software, but for its hardware design.

Over the weekend, I visited Bassi Falls, near Pollock Pines, CA. The base of the falls is formed by gigantic slabs of granite--and when wet, they get slippery. Needless to say, I slipped and fell into a shallow pool and my cell phone got wet. Hoping it wouldn't be too damaged, I set all the pieces of the phone (battery door, battery, sim card, phone) on my shirt to dry.

At the end of the day, I went to put my shirt on. Everything would have been fine, except for the fact that the wind blew part of my shirt over the phone and I have a horrible memory. So as I pick up the shirt, my phone goes tumbling down the rock and into the ice cold 4 1/2 feet deep pool of water.

After 15 minutes of hemming and hawing about how cold it is and how it'll be no good if I pull it out, I finally decide to go in after it, for the good of mother nature--I didn't want to contribute to leeching chemicals into the natural fresh water stream.

After I pulled it out, I dried it out the best I could, popped in the battery for shits and giggles, and turned it on. Yes, it actually turned on. But then, it started freaking out and going into emergency calls and calling 9-1 (fortunately it wasn't able to add in the last 1 to complete the 9-1-1 call). So, I turned it off and let it try out the rest of the day.

Long story short, it took just one day of drying out on my patio on an 82 degree summer day, and the phone is back in action after being submerged for over 15 minutes in an ice cold pool of water 4 1/2 feet below the surface.

...now if Moto could only make its user interface as water-tight as its phones...

Monday, June 4, 2007

FedEx Disaster Resolved

After almost a month working with FedEx, they finally did the right thing: they made a one-time exception and agreed to pay our claim.

I haven't received the check yet, but I was just told today that they'd be sending it out from Pittsburgh, PA on Wednesday of this week.


Lesson learned: Always, always, ALWAYS be 1000% clear that you have both the correct tracking number and the correct declared value. ALWAYS. Keep detailed documentation of phone records, and any photographic evidence.

I'm a patient and forgiving man; FedEx gets one more try. If it fails and the package arrives damaged or with missing contents, it's time to find another carrier. I really want to like FedEx because they are the least expensive and pretty reliable when I used them in another business (overnighting important envelopes), so let's see how round two goes.

For your information, here is the process, as I experienced it, if your package gets damaged:

  1. FedEx accidentally damages package.
  2. Original package is inspected, damaged contents are discarded, "balance" (undamaged items) are re-packaged in a different box with different packing material (in my case, they just threw the glass jars into an oversized box full of lousy peanuts).
  3. Original labels are cut out from original box and pasted on to new box.
  4. Box is shipped.
  5. Recipient receives box, wonders What The Flounder happened to this thing???
  6. Recipient (or sender) files claim with FedEx.
  7. FedEx picks up package from recipient to inspect it, per the claims process.
  8. FedEx inspects, then repackages with yet a different box and different labels, thus obliterating any original labels that might have helped your cause.
  9. FedEx returns package to recipient with no (and I mean absolutely ZERO) packing material inside (such as peanuts, bubble wrap, etc).
  10. Recipient faints dead away at how a package with fragile items, such as glass jars with habanero sauce, could get away from FedEx without SOME KIND of packing material to keep them from breaking.
That about covers it.