Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn: Worst Game Launch?

I’m disappointed in Square Enix.  I participated in Beta 4 to find out if it was a game that I wanted to try out and, to my surprise, I found it entertaining and fun.  There were issues with the Beta 4 and, with it being a beta, I didn’t think a whole lot about them.  I assumed that Square Enix would do what they had to in order to ensure a smooth launch day, or at least as smooth as possible for an MMORPG.  I pre-ordered a copy of the game when Beta 4 ended so that I could get online with ‘Early Access’ on Friday instead of waiting until Tuesday and that’s where the nightmare begins.

I was emailed a ‘serial number’ that I had to enter on their site in order to activate Early Access… I’m unsure why pre-ordering didn’t automatically grant me Early Access – but the site was down/having issues/etc.  I spent days just trying to register my serial number for the game I pre-ordered so that I could play it during the Early Access period.  Worse yet for my friend – he was given a code for the European PS3 when he’s alive and well in California never having even been to Europe.

When I did, finally, get it to accept my code I was happy and simply waited for the Early Access window.  I should have known, based upon the issues even registering my code, that Early Access was going to be a bust.  I was able to log in and play for a couple of hours before Instances ceased to function.  With most MMORPGs this would simply mean that you couldn’t go into dungeons but with Final Fantasy XIV it means that you cannot complete a myriad of quests either as many of them require instanced events that were failing.  This essentially stopped all progress in its tracks – even if you were on, you couldn’t do hardly any quests and no dungeons.

I thought to myself, “They’ll get this sorted out – I’ll just try again later,” and I left the game alone.  Square Enix performed I believe 3 maintenance windows for a total of 9 hours and, after each one, claimed they had resolved the issue which is obvious this was not the case or there would not have been three separate maintenance windows for the same issue.  Eventually Square Enix simply put population caps on the servers to keep from overloading the instance servers – in other words it was all online but you weren’t able to log in or play.  If you did get logged in, more often than not, you got disconnected which meant a few hours of trying to log back in with little to no success.

I’ll be honest – if Square Enix had been straightforward and communicated better as to what the issues were – I wouldn’t be frustrated.  I understand launching an MMORPG is no simple task and that there will be issues.  What I do not understand, however, is poor communication.  Square Enix failed to do proper load testing on their servers and, as a result, have insufficient servers to service their customers properly.  It is my understanding that they brought online their contingency servers during Beta 4 and, even then, the servers were overwhelmed.  Square Enix posted today:

Currently, an extremely high number of players are enjoying the game. Should the number of players continue to increase at the current pace, there is the possibility that our expectations and server capacity will be greatly surpassed. Therefore, in order to maintain a stable gameplay environment, we are implementing login and character creation restrictions.

This makes me wonder if they are simply incompetent and didn’t look at sales figures to estimate how many servers they needed or if they’re just greedy and didn’t want to spend the money to put more servers online.  I suppose, considering they never did proper load testing, that they simply overestimated how many characters each server can handle at a time.  The biggest issue with all of this is the lack of clarity and communication.  I may be the first to say that if Square Enix came out and said, “We grossly overestimated server capacity and, as a result, we are working to bring new servers online as quickly as possible.  This may take up to X days.” I would simply relax and find other things to do with my free time.  The sheer fact that Square Enix’s only statements on the issue are that “too many people are enjoying the game” is depressing.

I’ve boycotted Electronic Arts for many reasons but primarily to their inability to properly launch a game and I will be saddened if that is what it comes to with Square Enix.  I doubt anybody from Square Enix will come across this post but, if they do, my message is simple: “Communicate effectively with your client base concerning any and all issues that affect said client base.  Keeping your clients in the dark will do nothing but cause frustration, irritation, and hate.”

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The “right” to use a hosting service and vindictivity.

Anybody who has looked at having a web site has likely found that there are thousands if not tens of thousands of hosting providers they can choose from.  It’s common knowledge as well that a customer can end the service whenever they wish should they simply no longer need it, outgrow it, or simply find a better deal elsewhere.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some providers that make it difficult at best and impossible at worse to leave and one that comes to mind is 1&1 Hosting (look it up, you will see).

The inverse of a customer leaving a provider is a provider discontinuing the service of a customer.  This can happen for a lot of reasons from terms of service violations (i.e. doing something your provider clearly states you cannot do) to the user’s account using too much resources (i.e. hosting a site that needs a dedicated server on a $5/month shared account) and everything in between.  There are situations where a provider may also feel that they are not the proper fit for the particular customer’s needs, and that is what causes me to write this tonight.

There have been a couple of occurrences over the last 5 years where my company has had a customer whose needs we simply were not able to fulfill adequately or at all.  In one case the user had no concept of what support we offer as a provider and what to expect.  The individual expected us to configure their mail clients on their computers for them, to make modifications to their site for them, and to do a great many tasks that we simply do not perform or provide.  We’re happy to advise as best we can, such as how the customer could configure their mail clients, how to modify their page, or who to get in contact with for support on those issues, but often that’s not enough.

The first instance, once we felt we were not the right provider for the customer’s needs, we informed them of this.  We refunded their money (in full) even though they had used the services and an extensive amount of support and provided them two weeks to find a new provider that they feel would better fit their needs.  We offered to assist them in moving their data to the new provider and to do anything we could to make it as painless as possible.  I think you may be surprised to find out what the response to this was… They were absolutely LIVID.

This customer became extremely aggressive immediately and made threats that they would ruin us all over the internet and write bad reviews, that we could not cancel their account.  Their reaction would be appropriate if we deleted their data, provided them no refund, and then ignored them but that was not the case.  Not only were we taking a complete loss on all time and effort invested into that customer, but we were refunding all funds paid to us and then still trying to help them further to get to a provider that would better fit their needs.  This did happen a couple of years ago, but a similar incident happened again today.

A particular customer, whom I will not name for privacy, on January 29th, 2013 for a regular shared hosting account.  On January 30th they opened a ticket reporting issues sending mail from our server and within 3 minutes of them opening their ticket, we advised them that they needed to turn on SMTP Authentication in their mail client to resolve the issue.  This customer continued to make update after update re-iterating the same issue while apparently ignoring our directions to turn on SMTP Authentication, complete with a link to documentation detailing how to do this in a majority of popular mail clients.  Once the customer finally followed our directions, their issue was resolved – which took 12 responses over two and a half hours.

On February 1st, 2013 the same customer opened a new ticket reporting that their sites were offline and that they could not access the control panel, email, or their web sites.  It turns out that the customer was blocked due to failed log-in attempts to our mail server.  Our servers are configured such that only so many failed log in attempts are permitted before an IP is blocked to prevent dictionary attacks against our users.  We informed the user that they would need to resolve the issue otherwise they would end up blocked again.

We tested our mail servers to ensure they were operating as expected even though our internal and external monitoring picked up nothing and we had no other reports of issues from other customers.  We found that the servers were working as they should, and advised the customer that they would need to straighten out their mail client configurations and that it wasn’t something we could help.  The customer did specifically say, “There are approx. 20 – 40 established email-addresses that are read and or downloaded by 2 iPhones , 1 iPad and 3 computers, by 8 or 9 diff. email clients.”

The customer continued to have failed log in attempts and became blocked again at which point I said to them, “Maybe it’s best if you simply find another provider. I’ll be happy to provide a full refund (less the domain, can’t refund domains) and a full backup of your account as well as time to relocate.”  In response they said, “that’s your answer … did you have a look of what might be wrong with my setup?” and I pasted a log of all of their log in failures and told them that was the issue.

Their next update was extremely aggressive and laden with sarcasm.  They did move to another provider where, apparently, they did not have issues and I was happy to hear this.  At this very moment I did provide them a full refund of their hosting fees.  I told them to have a wonderful evening and closed the ticket believing that now that they are on a new provider, have a refund, and everything is working for them there is nothing more for me to do.

The next update, I suppose, wasn’t extremely shocking.  I do my best not to ‘profile’ customers but after years in this industry working with individuals daily you tend to get an instinct as to how a particular customer will handle a particular situation.  My experience has taught me that the type of customer we are not a good fit for, such as this particular individual, will react aggressively to being asked to find an alternative provider and, unfortunately, I was correct.  Essentially this type of individual will spend their free time doing whatever they can to damage our company or the reputation of our company all because we gave them their money back and asked them to find another provider.

It’s unfortunate that the customers whose needs we cannot meet react so aggressively when we give them their money back and provide them time to find a new provider but, honestly, it’s the lesser of two evils.  This person, whose needs we obviously were not able to adequately meet, would have had a bad experience and, over a period of time, would have likely become very angry with us.  They wouldn’t have been happy, we know it – so why would we further that?  Why hold onto their money for a service that isn’t meeting their needs when they can use that money to buy service from a provider that will meet their needs?

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I thought a provider giving somebody their money back and allowing them time to find a new provider was about the nicest way a provider could let a customer go.

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IVEC – Indianapolis Veterinary Emergency Center – Verbal abuse and terrible treatment.

IVEC - Indianapolis Veterinary Emergency Center

On Christmas Day my two and a half year old Corgi dog “Titan” got into the trash and we were not sure what exactly he had eaten.  He’s gotten into the trash before, however, it has been over a year and a half and he has done very well for a long time about being unsupervised.  He’s good to the point that we can set down a plate of food on the floor and leave the room and he knows not to touch it, so we’re unsure what was so alluring in the trash can that he had to get into it, but he did.

We didn’t think too much of it at the time, as we’ve had dogs get in the trash before and usually they may get a little bit of an upset stomach but that’s about it.  When we woke up this morning we found out that he had gotten sick, which wasn’t unexpected.  We let him outside to go to the bathroom and he walked around like he had to poop but he didn’t; he urinated and then came back inside.  He’s the type of Corgi that he will eat all of his dog food, however much you put in the bowl, so we have to only give him how much he should have at any given time, usually a cup in the morning and a cup in the evening.  This morning he didn’t touch his food at all, when normally he would gobble it down as quickly as he could and he also wasn’t drinking any water.

We let him go back outside again and he got sick and then he finally went poop and when we looked, it was red which had us extremely concerned so we tried contacting our normal veterinary office, which is closed due to the 14+ inches of snow we’ve received since 3 AM last night.  The only veterinary office that was open and within a driving distance was the Indianapolis Veterinary Emergency Center or IVEC.  We called and discussed it with them and they said we should bring him in to have him checked out, so we made the drive out to them. Continue reading

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Camera+ Bug Resolved, Took longer than expected but happy to see it happen!

If you use an iPhone then chances are you’ve used Camera+ by Tap Tap Tap.  Camera+ is an excellent application that provides more information and allows additional features above and beyond what the basic camera application provides.  Burst Mode, Flashlight Mode, Displaying ISO, Aperture, and Shutter time, in-application photo editing and touchup, etc…  The biggest issue and disappointment for me when it comes to the iPhone and it’s built in camera application is low-light performance.

In many situations, with steady light, the iPhone camera works beautifully but in situations where the phone flashes the LED once to get exposure, then once again to actually take the picture I’ve found pictures are often washed and way over-exposed or very under-exposed.  Only about 1 in 20 images I’ve ever taken with the default application in low-light that required the LED flash came out decent.

Camera+ has a feature called ‘Flashlight Mode’ in that the LED light stays on continuously allowing you to use it as a working light to compose and take your shot.  The big keys to this are you can see, for the most part, what the image will look like on the screen with the flash before actually taking the picture and that you can better control exposure and composition due to this.  Being that the default camera application is effectively more convenient I tend to use Camera+ when I need a feature that it provides over the basic application.  That being said, for normal day-to-day pictures such as of my 4 month old son or anything else I come across during the day the default application works fine and is just a quick swipe up from the lock screen.

The issue, for me, with Camera+ for along time has been that if you close the application entirely (i.e. double tap home, press and hold on the icon, press the X to close) with the flashlight mode on, the next time you launch the application it receives no input from the camera.  The LED light would come on, but the camera wouldn’t actually work – you would have to close the application out to the task bar (not fully closing it) and then re-open the application at which point the LED light would flash off once, come back on, and then the camera would work as expected.

I reported this issue via email directly to the developers of Camera+ several months ago and was essentially told that it was a hardware issue with my phone and not an issue with their software.  I volunteered to video record the process that reproduces the issue every time as well as sent detailed step-by-step instructions to the developers directly on reproducing the issue.  After a month or so of going back and forth they continued to blame the issue on a hardware issue on my end, with my phone.

Over the course of a month or so, I asked anybody I came across with an iPhone 5 to try and see if they could replicate the issue.  Thankfully everybody I ran across already had Camera+ and funny enough, every single one of them was able to produce the issue on their phones.  This meant that either all iPhone 5s have ‘hardware issues’ with their camera and flash or Camera+ has a bug in their programming logic.  After trying repeatedly to get the Tap Tap Tap team to listen to me about this bug, I finally posted a review on the program itself in the App Store.  I figure if going directly to the developers wasn’t doing the job, maybe those who handle PR for the company would be more interested in resolving the issue.

This is the review that I wrote:

Subject: Flashlight mode can cause issues

If you close the app with the “flashlight” on, and then open the task bar and close it out entirely and then re-open the app the light will come on but the app receives nothing from the camera and remains black.

I reported this to the developers, gave exact steps to reproduce, and offered to video the issue for them and they were adamant that the issue didn’t exist and that it was a hardware issue with my iPhone 5. I reproduced this issue on no less than 5 distinct iPhone 5s. If it is a hardware issue (it’s not) then it must be a wide spread issue.

I held off giving a negative review, but adamantly refusing to even investigate a bug report and blaming a software logic error on hardware when the issue can be replicated on numerous devices is ridiculous.

When they fix this, I’ll update this review to 5 stars because otherwise the application is excellent. Feel free to test on your device and see if it happens on yours. I assume it will – if it does contact them and let them know so they can fix this.

It hasn’t always been this way, I know this because I’ve used this app for a long time. I mostly use it for low light photography when the on/off/on/off flash of the built in application does a terrible job and, as such, the flashlight behavior is important to me and used a lot.

Yesterday when I checked for application updates I chuckled a bit when I read this particular part of the update notes:

THE HELLA-BUG IS DEAD!!

If you’re one of the unfortunate Camera+ users who’ve been plagued by the bug where you launch Camera+ and you get a black camera preview, then we’ve got some incredible news for you… that bug is now ancient history!

This annoying bug has been in Camera+ for waaay too long, but we weren’t able to reproduce it ourselves so it remained as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and John McAfee.  But thanks to the most magical 1-star review, Camera+ user MikeDVB finally detailed the exact steps to reproduce it.  As soon as our Bug Extermination Department got the word, POOF… it was gone like Keyser Söse…”

I am happy that I was able to help them out as Camera+, in my opinion, is an excellent piece of software and I use it regularly.  The only disappointment I have is that the official support channels that are supposed to be used to report bugs and issues with the software failed to result in this fix.  The review that I left on the software in the public is the reason that this was resolved, even though I had provided step-by-step directions in an email directly to Tap Tap Tap.   The responses to my emails looked like this: “Please reboot your device.”, “You should back up your Lightbox photos, then delete and reinstall Camera+. This sounds like a system corruption. There’s no need to video the behavior.”, “Is your flash working in other apps? We don’t have any problems with flashlight, so it doesn’t make sense that the problem would persist after a system restore unless there’s a hardware problem.”, and “I’ve forwarded this to our development team so they can try to recreate it. I haven’t been able to. We’ve only had two other customers report the issue, which is odd.”

I provided no additional detail in my review than was sent to ‘Mike’ at Tap Tap Tap, so I find it odd that the development team wasn’t able to reproduce the issue months ago when I provided directions via email and official support channels but they could when it was posted in a public review.

You can read the blog post on Tap Tap Tap’s website about this release at http://taptaptap.com/blog/the-hella-bug-is-dead/

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If you ever make Kraft EasyMac, you should not walk away while it cooks in the microwave

Kraft EasyMac Meltdown My wife and myself have enjoyed Kraft’s EasyMac for a while now, popping one in the microwave when we wanted some macaroni and cheese but didn’t feel like going through the trouble of cooking some on the stove.  We’ve probably cooked several hundred of these little containers over the last few years and never have we experienced the issue that we experienced tonight.  I’m not writing this to give Kraft a bad name, but simply to make anybody who enjoys this food aware of this very serious potential issue.

We opened this container, filled it to the line with cool water, and placed it in the microwave for 3 minutes and 30 seconds just as we always have.  I watched the countdown of the microwave for about the first 20 seconds so I know for sure beyond any shadow of doubt that the microwave was set appropriately.  With about 60 seconds left to go on the microwave I walked back into the room to get ready to pull it out and mix in the cheese when I noticed that I could not see the EasyMac container within the microwave.  I opened the microwave door and was essentially ‘hit in the face’ by smoke and was shocked to see this melted container. Continue reading

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Apple Retina MacBook Pro 15″ – Manufacturing Defects, Popping, and Creaking – Resolved October 31, 2012

As of October 31st, 2012 I officially consider this issue resolved positively. Apple replaced the MacBook Pro on the spot after identifying the issue as the adhesive between the battery and the upper case. Do please read the updates at the bottom of this post for full details. Thanks!


I use Apple hardware for almost everything these days for a few reasons including but not limited to: build quality, operating system and features, ease of use, fit and finish, and support.  When you buy a $2,200 laptop from Apple, a $800 iPad, or anything else – you generally expect it to be the utmost of quality and to ‘just work.’  This has been my experience with every Apple product I’ve owned so far until now.

I purchased a base-model Apple Retina MacBook Pro 15″ from the Keystone Apple Store on the north side of Indianapolis on October 6th, 2012.  I was very happy with the machine, that is, until I was sitting in my quiet hotel room during the cPanel Conference in Houston, Texas on October 8th, 2012.  I found that the space bar was making such an unbearably loud ‘screech’ when pressed that there was no way I could possibly continue using the machine.  I called AppleCare and they directed me to take the machine to the Apple Store in the Houston Galleria Mall, which I did.

I walked up to the Genius Bar for my appointment and explained the issue to the technician.  He said that he could not hear it in the store, as Apple stores are almost always loud, and wanted to take it into the back to see if he could hear it, which I said was fine.  After a minute or two in the back the tech re-appeared and agreed that the noise was unbearably loud and he said that he could understand why I was unhappy.  He actually removed the key to see what was wrong, and found that when removed the key was nearly translucent.  He explained that the key was simply a manufacturing defect.  In trying to put the key back on, it even chipped. Continue reading

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WHMCS Version 5.1 Fixes for “Sticky Client Notes”

WHMCS Version 5.1 contains a couple of simple administration template bugs that make using the “Sticky Notes” difficult at best.  I just downloaded a fresh copy of WHMCS 5.1 to make sure that this wasn’t already fixed, and it’s not.  I’m creating this post so that you can apply the fix yourself and make use of the sticky notes if you wish.

As it stands on the “V4” template, which I prefer, any ticket viewed with a sticky note will push all contents of the ticket down below the end of the left side-bar.  If you use the “V4” administration template and have tried sticky notes, you’ve surely seen this yourself.  The second issue with the templates affects the “V4”, “Blend”, and “Original” administration templates.  When viewing a ticket with a “Sticky Note” the edit button does not link to the proper location as it does not contain the client ID. Continue reading

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Guardlex – DMCA Takedown Notifications over hyperlinks to non-infringing content

As I am sure many of you know, stealing another individual or business’ copyrighted intellectual property is theft with damages up to $150,000 per incident.  To fight online piracy of intellectual property the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA for short, was signed into law on October 28, 1998 by President Bill Clinton.  The DMCA outlines methods for reporting copyright infringement such as “DMCA Notifications” as well as what those methods must contain:

  1. 512(c)(3)(i)A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
  2. (ii)Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.
  3. (iii)Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material.
  4. (iv)Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted.
  5. (v)A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
  6. (vi)A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

In simple terms, the notification must contain a statement that the notification is made in good faith, by an authorized agent, that it clearly lists the infringing content and that the information in the notification is accurate, that the individual or company submitting the notification is the copyright owner of the copyright or an authorized agent, the location of the original works that are being infringed upon, and a physical or electronic signature.

A DMCA notification, to be valid, there has to be infringement of a copyright.  When there is not infringement, a DMCA Notification in and of itself is not valid.

We have received two DMCA notifications [so far] from Guardlex.com where the DMCA Notice is centered on a simple hyperlink on the site of a customer of ours.  The link in and of itself is not infringing, the page in which the link is contained is not infringing, and the destination of the link is not infringing.  Guardlex.com apparently feels that they can supersede the First Amendment Right to Free Speech by submitting invalid DMCA Notifications.

This is unfortunately likely to be a growing trend due to Google penalizing sites for overzealous Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO”.  Companies who wish to have their sites listed high in Search Engine Result Pages, or SERPS, hire “SEO Agencies” to improve their search ranking.  There are positive and organic “SEO” methods that can be conducted such as optimizing the layout of a site and usability, creating quality content that others will want to link to, etc and there are negative and inorganic “SEO” methods that should not be condoned.  Negative and inorganic “SEO” generally consists of obtaining backlinks from as many sites as possible, often web directories and blogs, and keyword stuffing among other methods.

The end result is that there are millions of companies out there that have hired “SEO Professionals” to optimize their SERPS without a clue as to what is actually being done, and now that the Google Panda update is live, we are going to see these companies fighting to have all of these negative SEO practices reversed.  Some companies are doing this the legal way by summating cease and desist letters or simply contacting the site administrators and requesting the links to be removed, but the downside is that the site operator has no obligation to comply with a cease and desist or a simple request.  When these companies are being told, “No,” they are then turning to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to have the links removed.

Now the issue comes down to a simple question, “Is a link that does not point to infringing content, infringing?”  I believe the answer to this question to be a plain and simple, “No.”  Unfortunately these DMCA notifications demanding that the allegedly infringing links be removed are not valid as the links themselves are not infringement.  There is no way to demonstrate what work is being infringed upon as no intellectual property is being stolen or infringed upon.  This can be equated to me giving directions and a means of travel to the nearest Wal-Mart as infringing upon Wal-Mart.  Just because I give you the location, and an easy way to get there – does not mean that infringement has happened.

Here is an example, with personal and identifiable information redacted, of an invalid DMCA Notification:

Hello,

My name is Redacted Redacted, I work in the Anti Piracy Department of Redacted (http://www.Redacted.com), we provide anti-piracy and Intellectual Property protection services for Redacted company (http://redacted-site-hosted-elsewhere).

As such I am personally authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the aforementioned company.

It has come to our attention that your website (or website hosted by your company) contains links to the Redacted company website (http://redacted-site-hosted-elsewhere) which results in material financial loses to the company we represent.

This material financial loss is due to search engine penalties resulting from the links originating under your control.

I request you please remove from the following website http://redacted-site-hosted-with-us all links to http://redacted-site-hosted-elsewhere website as soon as possible. Please see the list of website pages in question:
http://redacted-site-hosted-with-us

In order to find those links, please do following:

1) If this is an online website directory. Use directory’s search system to look for http://redacted-site-hosted-elsewhere links.

2) If there are any hidden links in the source code of website. Open the website’s home page and view its source code. Search for http://redacted-site-hosted-elsewhere in the source code. This will reveal any hidden links.

It is our understanding; the links in question have not been authorized for use by our client, its agents, or the law.

Therefore, this letter is an official notification to effect removal of the detected infringement listed above.

I further declare under penalty of perjury that I am authorized to act on behalf of the trademark holder and that the information in this letter is accurate.

Please, remove all links to http://redacted-site-hosted-elsewhere website within the next 48 hours.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are at all unsure how to remove the links. We will be happy to assist you in any way to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

I ask, what is it going to take for this abuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to end?  I also ask, what law is there that states that one site operator must obtain prior authorization from another site operator in order to hyperlink?  Do we really want to live in a world where creating a hyperlink to a good site or useful resource requires an attorney?

Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney, this is not legal advice, this post contains the facts to the best of my knowledge at the time of publication.  Should any information represented as fact be demonstrated to be inaccurate or non-factual I will be happy to make adjustments.  Any information not explicitly presented as a statement of fact is my opinion.

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BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee [rant]

A lot has been changing in my life over the last 12 months, and it has been a while since I have written a post.  I have been staying pretty busy with work and family, the business has been growing and I’m about to hire a new full-time employee.  My family is also growing, as I my wife and I will be having our first son come August.  Having a growing family means that health coverage has become a new priority for me, where I have been without health insurance for the last ten years or so.  While I can’t say that I know anybody who loves insurance companies or their practices, I can certainly say that of all I have worked with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is the worst so far.

I’ll have to give a bit of a preface and I’ll start by saying that my wife has had health insurance through BlueCross BlueShield of Arkansas for a couple of years.  We had no issues with them when it came to doctors visits, prescriptions such as Nexium for my wife’s chronic heartburn, Advair for her asthma, or anything else that she needed medically.  My wife does have terrible acid reflux to the point of her aspirating acid into her lungs resulting in damage and regular asthma flareups.  She has been on Nexium for about two years and over those two years her asthma has gone from putting her in the hospital almost every few months to almost non-existent.  That is, until we changed to BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee…

My wife went to refill her Nexium prescription at CVS and was told that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee was requiring prior authorization for the prescription.  They claim that without a “level 3 esophagus erosion” that Nexium is not necessary and that over the counter Prilosec, which is effectively half the effectiveness and twice the out of pocket price, is all that she needs.  Keep in mind that she already had chronic acid reflux resulting in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD for short, and now she is pregnant which is known to cause acid reflux in those who have never had heartburn in their lives.

Taking this all a step further with my wife being pregnant, having chronic acid reflux, and asthma she now also has gestational diabetes.  Gestational diabetes is essentially, as the doctor explained it to us, where her body cannot quite keep up with the insulin demand of her and the baby and, as such, she is effectively diabetic for the duration of the pregnancy.  The doctor wrote my wife a prescription for a meter, test strips, etc…  When we went to CVS Pharmacy to fill these prescriptions as they are required to monitor her blood sugar to avoid serious complications such as diabetic coma, damage to her and the baby, and a long list of other side effects of diabetes CVS informed us that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is rejecting the prescriptions and that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee requires “prior authorization.”

For whatever reason BlueCross BlueShield in what appears to be every attempt they can make to keep every penny they are paid, seems to require prior authorization for every prescription my wife has been written.  I am beginning to wonder what the point of having insurance is, if they are going to reject all claims while continuing to accept payments for the insurance coverage.  We never faced this issue with BlueCross BlueShield of Arkansas, so it’s obvious the administrators in Tennessee are, at the least, greedier.  If a doctor writes a patient a prescription for a blood sugar meter and test strips, what does the insurance company think?   Do they think that we are making this up so that we can get one over on them when it comes to a $110 prescription of blood glucose test strips?

Why is BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee requiring prior authorization from the doctor for a brand new treatment on a brand new medical issue, especially gestational diabetes?  None of this makes any sense at all to me.  I thought it was in the best interest of the insurance provider to make sure issues such as these are taken care of to avoid other, bigger issues down the road that result from lack of treatment.

At the end of the day, if you are looking for a health insurance company and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is on your list, you may want to look at alternative options.

Disclaimer: All information contained within is factual to the best of my knowledge.  Any information that is not purely factual is my opinion.  In the event that information is presented as factual when in reality it is not, there is no malice intent and I will be happy to make an update or correction when it is brought to my attention.

Update 1 – 06/13/2012 2:30 PM

The blood glucose meter that my wife was provided by her OBGYN was a OneTouch Ultra Mini, however, the insurance company is absolutely refusing to pay for the test strips for this meter.  They have informed us that our only option is to choose a testing strip that they will pay for (read: cheap) and then to go buy a matching meter out of pocket although we already have a perfectly functional blood glucose tester.

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[Updated] – EzeeLogin Customers Beware – License and Pricing Changes without Notification (Admod.com)

Update 02/17/12 at 10:42 PM EST

We’ve worked all of the issues we faced out with Admod/EzeeLogin.  I’m going to leave this post live as a reminder for Admod/EzeeLogin and other companies who read this post to be as open and transparent about their actions that affect customers as possible.  Had Admod/EzeeLogin gotten in touch with us, and their other customers, and explained the change-over and how it does or does not affect them – this entire post could have been avoided.  On another note, had Admod /EzeeLogin responded to our ticket quickly – this post would have been avoided.  If you have any questions, comments, or concerns – feel free to make them known in the comments.

Continue reading if you desire, but our issues that resulted in this post have been fully rectified.


If you’re currently using EzeeLogin and you signed up before the new “EzeeLogin.com” – be aware that when your current license expires there will be no option to renew it at Admod.com leaving you with no gateway.  This is apparently due them moving all of the EzeeLogin functionality / billing / licensing over to their new EzeeLogin.com domain.  While this is not a major issue in and of itself, it does require action by customers using their service prior to the new domain – and they sent no notices out making their existing customers aware of action required on their part.

When you try to log in at EzeeLogin.com using your email address from Admod.com, your address will not be found (i.e. they did not migrate over your license *or* your billing account).  This means when your license does expire – your EzeeLogin Gateway will effectively be rendered useless with no way to renew.  Had Admod/EzeeLogin contacted their existing client base to let them know they needed to sign up for a new billing account at EzeeLogin.com – then this post wouldn’t exist.

Upon searching Admod.com for any public notices of action required by their clients, the only information I could come across was less than detailed and did not indicate that any action was required:

 2011-08-08 07:07:54
New website for Ezeelogin
New website lauched @ www.ezeelogin.com

Taking this all a step further pricing has also increased without notice.  Prior you could get a license to connect to up to 50 servers for $42/quarter where as now $40 will only get you 10 servers on a monthly lease.  Increasing pricing is not a problem – when you let your existing customers aware of the price change.  When you increase prices without prior notice for existing customers it has the side-effect of pissing them off.

In my personal opinion, EzeeLogin/Admod are taking these steps because they’re too comfortable.  Their actions (and lack of notifications) alone have resulted in at least three larger providers I’m aware of saying “Hell, we’ll just develop and market our own product for less then EzeeLogin.”  While Admod/EzeeLogin likely had a monopoly on this niche need due to their product working well, their apparent failure at customer notification and public relations may very well have cost them their top spot in this market.  The providers that I know of that are going to develop their own gateways have the funds and capabilities to push a product out very quickly that not only is superior, but will be priced lower.

We reached out to Adod/EzeeLogin over 2.5 hours ago and have yet to receive a response from representatives of either site.

Admod/Ezee – you’ve made a seriously glaring error by not notifying your (previously) quite loyal customer base of these changes.  We ourselves have been customers since July 1st, 2010.

…. /facepalm

Update 02/15/12 at 10:00 PM EST

We finally did hear back from them, the representative that responded seems to believe that the “login” feature being removed from the old site is an oversight. They stated that we could maintain our old license through the old site although we would not be able to upgrade through the old site. Any changes to the plan would require moving to the new site/pricing (at roughly a 1500% increase).

I’m waiting to hear from a higher member of management to confirm this and to get some additional details as well as waiting to see if the “login” button does come back to the old site.

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