Hotmail False Positive #1

I’m not sure what the rate of other  free e-mail service providers are, but Hotmail always has issues recognizing legitimate e-mail addresses.

For instance, here’s one from the epa.gov. How likely is it that someone who manages to have that domain, is going to do something against you?

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It also doesn’t help that the largest e-mail provider in the world isn’t exactly liked by a government e-mail server.

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Seriously, Microsoft? Come on. You can do better than this. I think I’ll start a series of “Hotmail False Positives” to show how ridiculous some of Hotmail’s worries are.

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Gaming stores: The future

The threat of online distribution fully cutting out the need for physical discs looms even more every year. OnLive, Steam, Xbox Live for PC, and more have already started the trend. OS X Lion has its own app store with games, and so will Windows 8. It’s expected the next generations of video game consoles will also at least offer the same route as well. Does this spell the end for gaming stores?

Not quite. Here are some side issues that may delay people internet-only purchases.

  1. Resale value of physical media – If you get bored and tired of a game, you can resell it or swap it with a buddy. Currently, you can’t resell a digital game. You can delete it, but that’s about it. Given there’s no legal way to get back some value from selling a digital game, that’s one reason why gamers may not bother with buying digital only.
  2. Hard copy – If the digital version gets wiped out or something, at least you’ll still have a physical hard copy just in case. Though some companies are clever enough to tie purchases to an account and allow users to re-download what may have once been lost.
  3. Internet speeds – Not everyone has super high bandwidth, and it may either take so long or they’ll hit a data cap faster. Not very ideal.

Those are the chief reasons: resale, reliability, and internet constraints. However, even those may not always hold true as I pointed out that online distribution services are starting to offer back-up in case you lose it, and even resale isn’t too big of an issue if digital versions are substantially cheap enough to warrant a one-time use possibility (through cheaper face value or maybe gaming rentals or gaming subscriptions). Most people are optimistic to expect in the long run, there will be better coverage of high-speed networks and maybe legislation on data caps and all.

So given that, a gaming store may no longer have physical games in the future. So what will game stores do to possibly go out of business? Here are some of my own ideas I’ve thought up of, supposing I ran a game store.

  • Hardware and accessories – This is the place for new and used machines, accessories, peripherals, and maybe even PC components for PC gamers. Online shopping’s caveat is getting your stuff fast without paying extra for shipping. Gaming stores will be ideal for instant receiving if you need it that day, or even in-store pick-up for online orders. You’d think they’d have less incentive for in-store pick-up since you’d probably pay less online, but they’d rather you go through their channel and you might buy something else while you’re there.
  • LAN stations – Gamers like to get together and play on a Local Area Network for the increased reliability and speed it offers. What if the game store offered easy set-up space and capabilities, or even had gaming rigs set-up that you could log-in to? The convenience might attract a good number. It will sacrifice some space though, so maybe reservations would be ideal if they’re super busy for walk-ins.
  • Try-before-you-buy – Spend some time with a game before you purchase it. Nooks with beanbags and flatscreens gives you an opportunity to see if it’s worth buying or not. It could be limited to preselected parts of a game, or maybe the whole game itself, but with limited space, and other customers, these spots have to be vacated at some point. At least extras like this, encourages more customers to come to the shop.
  • Gaming experts and workshops – Employees that are very knowledgeable about their specialty with games can offer tips and tricks, recommendations, some gameplay help, and more. Workshops, free or paid, will go in-depth with these, and may also be free with a purchase.
  • Competitions – Complete live with other gamers in head-to-head matches to see who reigns supreme in the area. Win neat items from the store. Qualify for state and national rankings.
  • Gamer Garage – Pay to access a full-featured garage-area to trick out your hardware. Lots of professional-grade tools for DIY tricks on your stuff. Or if you’re not kind of guy, pay a pro to do it for you. Parts are sold in stores for the DIYers at a reasonable price.
  • Memorabilia, exclusive edition, guest stars etc. – Having all the special edition deluxe items is always too tempting for some people, and a store you know for sure with them is indeed a good bet to go to. Guest stars on specific games, can do autograph signings at stores too.

That’s basically it. With games trending to be internet distribution only, game stores can survive by offering an experience or services that an online retailer just can’t compete with. Sometimes people just like having a cool place to go, and this could be it.

Another possibility worth thinking about is a mega-media store, like HMV or Borders. All the media consumers love to consume in one spot. We’re not talking about the couple of shelves of each genre at Walmart or Best Buy. I mean a real mega-store. Again, the Internet doesn’t have to destroy mortar businesses; businesses can adapt to facilitate the trend on the Internet, and get their stores to offer more value to customers. It can work.

Why consumers should avoid HP computers at all costs

I got 3 stories to share, and probably even more smaller ones too. After speaking with a classmate I study with that he’s going to buy a Mac for his birthday, because he’s tired of crap PCs (like his HP!), I got fed up. That’s why I would love it if everyone could just avoid HP.

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Of course, not everyone that uses HP always necessarily has a problem. But I would like to gander that HP’s reliability in its computers is probably less than its competitors. Meaning, if you compared the rates of faster breakdowns, issues, and other bits, HP has a higher incident rate than the others. I’d also like to gander that most people that switch to Macs (with probably most, not aware at all of other high quality PCs out there), probably came from an HP. In fact, I’d love to do a study around my university campus seeing which PCs they switched from, what was issue #1, 2, and 3 they had most with PCs, and #1, 2, and 3 why they chose Macs. Also satisfaction ratings on a 1-10 scales. Anyway, here are the wonderful stories.

Laura’s Story: She got an HP Pavilion laptop in Fall 2011 in time for her freshman year. One day, she had some issue where the touchpad wouldn’t respond, so she couldn’t operate her computer. She didn’t think to ask her buddy who probably might be able to figure out (though he also had the issue on his own, and took awhile to figure it out too), so she returned it and got a MacBook Pro instead.

The real issue: HP’s ridiculous ‘mouse lock’ mechanism: HP’s Touchpad lets you lock your touchpad, I’m guessing supposedly because you might accidentally brush against it as you’re typing or whatever and it considers it as an intentional mouse click or movement. (Of course, if they had better touchpads that could recognize the differences, like Apple’s or Samsung’s, maybe it wouldn’t be an issue…). What makes it really dumb, is that it’s in the upper left hand corner of the touchpad, where you often maybe double-tap to open something. Of course, you have to double-tap that certain spot, shown as a barely visible dot, to activate it in an area prone to miscellaneous double-taps from time to time. The unaware user who has no idea about the feature activates it and has no idea what happened, with the only visual cues being now an orange-lit dot on the touchpad and a brief animation pop-up on the screen. This feature should cease to exist, be easier to find a way to deactivate, or a better method of introducing this.

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Travis’s story: There’s not really much to say, except he’s just tired of his sluggish HP computer, full of dumb preinstalled software, and bunches of toolbars, and also knows he doesn’t have to worry about malware (or simply viruses) on his Mac since apparently he thinks it’s more secure. Plus no more having to pay for anti-virus.

The real issue: Perception of security is flawed. Like many other consumers, Travis isn’t tech-savvy and isn’t aware that with safer browsing habits, free Microsoft Security Essentials, he should have little to worry about with getting malware on PCs. He should also be aware that OS X is less prone to receiving malware since it’s a smaller market, and not actually as secure in the sense as Windows is. Security through obscurity is dumb.

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My story: I got an HP Pavilion dv6-3033cl in Fall 2011 for my first year of college. The design looked fairly simple at the time (I admit the back-lit logo kinda sold it), the specs sounded good for what you pay for, and I thought it was a great deal. I should point out though I shopped at various electronics places, and HP had too many similar laptops when I wanted to compare which store had the better price. See: HP dv7-4065dx ($800), dm4-1065dx, dv7-4073 ($1129), dv6-3040us ($850), and dv6-3033cl ($800). Look up images on all 4 and tell me they don’t seem so much alike in design and specs. Talk about confusing.

For many months I was happy. Well I did drop it one or two times (once on concrete for sure from my high up bed when I fell asleep), and I did spill half a Diet Coke on the keyboard (though nothing bad happened amazingly after I quickly cleaned it up). As a result of a wee bit of wear from me, one hinge fell off, there’s some yucky hard to blow out gunk under the keys (the chiclet keyboard doesn’t truly have an enclosed case around the key. Gaps are big enough to allow things to fall in…), the fingerprint scanner could be very flaky, and it seems the lid doesn’t fully close shut.

One point, 2 weeks before the speakers broke (down below), the battery wasn’t charging fully. I looked into all kinds of things, and finally resorted to calling HP support. It took hours as usual, but I managed to get a new AC adaptor and it really did the trick. It was free too! Yay.

Then the speakers broke. The headphone jack worked great, but the speakers so I could hear it from the laptop itself just wouldn’t put any auditory sound. My bro-in-law guessed the speakers just broke out. I could replace it myself for minimal cost, but since it was under warranty for one year, why not get HP to do it? First time I called HP Tech Support, an Indian dude answered, and I had to go through 2 hours of doing all this stupid stuff that I had done before I called (like installed the latest sound drivers, toggle around the volume controls, ensure this and that was there, etc.) and as he was using his remote desktop thing, he tried to ‘optimize’ my PC. I didn’t like that. I got nothing. Sorry, can’t help you bro.

2nd time I called was worse! This dude was persistent. Same rigmarole with doing stuff I’m well aware of, then he suggested I do a system recovery. Meaning I’d have to get my computer to the same condition as Day 1. I hadn’t backed-up my data before (Shame on me!) because I didn’t have a back-up storage drive. I told him this, and being the guy he is, suggested I get one from HP at a ‘discount’. 300GB for just around $65. What a deal, right? (Hint: I bought a 3TB drive from Fantom Drives for just $80.) I said, I’d rather buy it at the store, and he kept going on and on, and then I said, “You know, I just texted my brother-in law and he’ll lend me a storage drive instead.” He got quiet, and then ask, “Oh, so are you changing your story now? How come just a few minutes ago, you didn’t have one, but now it seems like you do?” Basically, this ‘salesman’ tech support guy was pushing me to buy an overpriced drive, and accusing me of trying to pull away from such a deal. I soothed him down, but the basic thing is I wanted to send my laptop to HP so they could fix it! Geez. Their tech support is obviously designed to be as of little help as possible, and prevent from having to take in PCs to fix, to lower costs.

So I called the retailer I bought it from, since HP doesn’t like having its own retail/fix-it center. Costco managed to patch me into an actual American who spoke English well and worked at a repair center in the US. He was very cool with HP sending me a package to put my laptop in with a return label and all that. Finally! Why isn’t there tech-support in general this way to begin with? Because HP cares little about consumers, that’s why. Unfortunately, I got a bit spooked when he said they won’t repair things that were done on accident. The last incident where I dropped my laptop had been at least 4 months previously to when the sound issue developed, but telltale signs of a slightly busted vent, a broken off hinge, and recently a bit of siding near the other hinge fell off, might suggest I created the issue on my own fault. Of course I’d expect them to look at the speaker stuff itself, but I had school starting within 2 weeks, and I really would like my laptop, regardless of sound, so I can do work whenever I wanted to.

I cleaned it up a few days ago, the screen, a bit around the keyboard, an OfficeMax air canister (though it foamed liquid sometimes) and the air didn’t get much of the gunk out. Next time I get a new laptop though, hopefully it’s running Windows 9, is maybe an Asus or Samsung, and will work tons better than this POS I had.

I’d like to gander that HP might have helped Apple with getting people to adopt Macs based on poor experiences with HPs. Maybe they’re working in league with each other? Who knows, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Anyone else suffer the same dismal HP experiences?

Why the new Zune Music Pass is terrible for what you get

On, September 29, 2011, the Zune Insider blog gave details on the new Zune Music Pass, which is intended to replace the Zune Pass. For those unfamiliar, here’s the comparison breakdown of changed features between the old and new:

 

Original Zune Pass

Zune Music Pass
Price (monthly) $14.99 $9.99
Price (yearly) $149.99 $99.99
Free song credits 10 0
# of device playable 6 (3 Windows PCs, 3 Zune-compatible devices) 4 (1 PC, + any combo of either Zune, PC, or Windows Phone)
Music videos? No Yes
Countries USA USA, Canada
 
At first look, you’d think the new Zune Music Pass is a great deal, right? Cheaper price, complimentary music videos, and even support for Canadians! But then, you notice that there are no longer any complimentary song credits, a lower allowance of devices you can sync with, and you pretty much get less for what you want.
 
zune pass current
Why are the benefits that carried over not so great to me? I like cheaper, but it’s not cheap without some costs. First, you could say that the true value of the original streaming service was $5.10, if you considered a song to be 99 cents, and you got 10 complimentary songs to keep ($15-(0.99*10)). That’s the best price price for what you could get anywhere on the web! Now the true value is the listed price, $9.99. That’s almost twice for what you got in the past.
 
Plus unlimited music video streaming? In case nobody has heard of it, VEVO or even YouTube itself has most of the music videos you’d care to see. Yes, it’s not directly integrated into Zune for offline viewing, and it may have ads you can’t skip right away, but how often does one even care to see a music video? Music videos are somewhat ads to get you interested to buy the song. They take up battery life and offer no real benefit, unless you stream music through YouTube anyway. I don’t throw parties, but most parties aren’t great if you have people watching music videos on the TV. Music videos cost about $2 on Zune Marketplace, for something that should come complimentary with a song  purchase.
 
As for Canadian support, I’m happy they got something out internationally, but it’s very watered down from the original.
 
The obvious disadvantages aren’t something to be lauded of course. A reduction in devices streamable isn’t quite nice (no official reason, but presumably because of the lower price), though it has no effect on me since I only have a PC and Zune to work with. Like I said before about the song credits, they helped put the true value of the Zune Pass on top of whatever else is on the market. Now Zune Pass is pretty much on the same playing field as the others.
 
To be honest, I don’t listen to music as much as I’d like to. I have a Zune HD but it rarely gets used when I have it on me because carrying headphones is a burden, and I’m usually too busy to even care about listening to music. Plus with my laptop’s built-in speakers being busted, I have to put on headphones every time. Maybe if you love to listen to music, the Zune Pass still is a great option if you have Zune compatible devices, even with lesser value, though a lesser price.
 
However, I really wish the Zune team could have offered both options as a Zune Music Pass Pro/Plus and a regular Zune Music Pass. Or even a month-long notice, rather than 5 days for those of us wanting to subscribe to get current Zune Pass rates and features, before the October 3, 2011 deadline rolls in. Apparently, it seems year-long or even current monthly-long subscribers will still have the option to get the original rates/features.
 
Well, unless the Zune Pass comes back with a value somewhat closer to the original, I see no reason to buy another Pass like I did occasionally before.