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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iPhone 4 S, and Siri

iPhone 4 SI went to the Keystone Apple Store on the north side of Indianapolis, Indiana today to have them check the battery on my iPhone 4.  I felt as though the battery had been lasting me less and less time throughout the day and knowing that lithium ion batteries degrade over time I figured the battery life was just getting short.  It turns out that the battery was fine ( well within spec, considering it’s age ) and I opted not to pay $79 to have it replaced.

While talking with the technician I was informed that at 6 P.M. they were going to be releasing any pre-ordered iPhone 4 S’ that had not been picked up and that the line was starting by the door.  At this point it was only 5:15 PM so I walked to the outer door to find that I was only second in line.  I chatted with the person in front of me whom was a very nice woman and over the next 30 minutes the line behind me grew quite quickly up to about 45 individuals. Continue reading

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Intellectual Property, Copyright, and “HostYourDream.net” – Site Ripper and Thief

It was just two weeks ago when I brought to light that the provider “Coomme Hosting” was using our design illegally and today I find another provider about to use our design, again, illegally.  While it is flattering that our design is so good that everybody else is deciding to use it without permission, it is very depressing that these “providers” would sink to the level of blatantly stealing a design rather than creating their own or having one created for them.

Here is the ripped version of our site (that is not live, yet, as of this posting), side-by-side with their current site, and the MDDHosting Site.  Click on the links for full-size.

While I sincerely hope that this “provider” chooses not to use our design illegally, if they do – I will do my best to make sure any of their potential clients are aware of their illegal use of our copyrighted intellectual property.

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Intellectual Property, Copyright, and “Coomme Hosting” – Updated August 11, 6:47 PM EDT

At MDDHosting we have worked hard over the years to build our reputation and we always put quality of service and support above appearances.  We eventually, after over 3 years in business, hired a designer to professionally create a new design for us.  The design itself was very expensive and was created by vReplay.com over the course of several months.

Recently an individual associated with the domain “xthosts.com” decided to rip a copy of our design and make it available for public download.  While they haven’t realistically done anything that anybody with basic skills couldn’t do if they spent some time doing it, they did make our copyrighted intellectual property illegally available to others in a fashion which proliferates the illegal use of our design. Continue reading

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Seeing the big picture… Why most hosting providers fail.

ServersIt’s no surprise that there are hundreds, if not thousands of new hosting providers that are started every day as there is simply little to no barrier to entry.  Anybody who has $5 to $15 can sign up for a reseller account and be their very own hosting company within minutes and this has some very unfortunate side-effects for the industry as a whole.

Many think that selling hosting is as simple as taking the disk and transfer allocations, splitting them up into their individual plans, and then sitting back and waiting for the money to come rolling in.  This usually ends up in the person who tried to start said company realizing, after a few months, that they aren’t going to get rich quick like they expected and that hosting really is a lot of work.  What happens to somebody who starts a business to get rich instead of because it’s what they are passionate about do you ask?  The answer is simple: the business folds.

Most new hosting companies are operated by individuals who have little to no business sense or experience and many times they fail to plan or to even see the big picture.  These individuals purchase a $5 to $15 per month plan and then expect to compete with the larger providers purely by cost but they fail to realize that in this industry that the less somebody pays, the more they expect from you and your service.  The individual who jumps from provider to provider looking for the best possible price tends to be the person who causes the most trouble and due to the naivety of these new hosting companies they become overwhelmed by cheap customers.

New hosting companies that manage to stick it out more than a year or two have a small chance of actually becoming profitable if they plan accordingly and make all of the right decisions.  Too many times have I seen a provider that appeared to know what they were doing but in reality they had no technical know-how and relied heavily upon friends and others in the industry to essentially run their business for them.  These hosting companies often will go from design to design mimicking as closely as possible, without directly copying, the providers that they themselves see as successful.  What these hosting companies don’t realize is that it’s not just the site design that makes the provider successful but the whole package.

I’ve said numerous times in the past that any company can try to copy what we do but more often than not they will fail to see the big picture and simply copying one aspect of how we operate our business will not give them the reputation and growth that we’ve worked hard to obtain over the years.  You can copy a design, you can copy an advertisement, you can post in the same forums, but none of this in and of itself will lead to success.

At the end of the day if you have a solid business plan, the time, the money, the desire, and the passion for running your own hosting company then you very well may succeed.  If you’re simply starting a provider in an attempt to make some quick and easy money, I suggest you stop now before you damage our industry any more than it already has been by the countless before you.

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