Gravely Pro-Turn Z 52"

Don’t trust Gravely with your money.

You might have read my post about the issue I had with my Gravely Pro-Turn Z 52″ Mower. In the end they offered to send me a hat as compensation for the matter. I asked for a small bottle of touch-up-paint and to my surprise they sent the paint but not the hat.

Well to be honest I wasn’t entirely happy with my experience so I left an honest review of the machine as well as my experience on their site. Here’s an image of the review:

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Gravely Pro-Turn Z 52"

My venture into Commercial Mowing with a Gravely Mower

Update 06/02/2022: See Part 2 – “Don’t trust Gravely with your money.

I decided recently that I am going to use some of my free time during the day to start a small business mowing and trimming lawns commercially. I decided that if I was going to do this I should most likely pick up a commercial grade mower – something that will stand the test of time and handle the rigorous use that a commercial mowing business would place on a piece of equipment.

After quite a bit of research I decided to go with Gravely as they’re made in the U.S.A. and Gravely is owned by Ariens. I have had an Ariens snow blower for many years that has been solid and reliable. I have, fortunately, never had to reach out to Ariens for support as the machine simply works and hasn’t given me any issues.

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WHMCS – Half Implementing Features since 2007

I’ve been using WHMCS as a billing and support platform for web hosting since 2007, for over 13 years now, and as near as I can tell WHMCS was founded in 2005. There have been issues over the years where there was unexpected behavior or unexpected changes during upgrades but every software vendor is going to roll out a bug here or there. Even companies with the best quality assurance and testing are bound to have something slip by – and I understand this.

While I do not and have not ever expected perfection and I do understand that bugs can happen sometimes feature implementation is just poor at best or processes are not well thought-out and planned. The most recent instance of this that has caused me problems is Premium Domain Support in WHMCS. This feature was added to WHMCS in version 7.1 which was released over 4 years ago.

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The Small Business Administration – The Disaster during The Covid-19 Disaster

U.S. Small Business Administration Logo

I’ll start by saying that the company I own and operate has been in business since late 2007. In nearly 13 years of being in business we have never applied for funding through the SBA or anywhere else as we didn’t need it. Personally I absolutely hate owing money be it to a person or to an organization.

I have heard from other business owners that working with the Small Business Administration, or the SBA for short, isn’t easy and that even if you qualify you’ve got a 50% chance of approval. I do know a few small businesses that have SBA loans for business property.

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AT&T Business Internet [u-Verse] – Slow to replace lightning-damaged equipment

Dead AT&T DSL ModemAt the office where I work unfortunately there are no fiber optic options.  Before we signed the lease we reached out to the local ISP that provides fiber connections for our area and confirmed that they serviced the location we were looking at leasing.  The ISP told us they did service our building and we didn’t find out until after we signed our lease and arranged to set up service that they do not actually service this location.  Sadly enough the only option we have here is AT&T vDSL [AT&T uVerse Business Internet DSL].

We experienced some pretty intense storms today / this evening and experienced several very close lightning strikes.  At least a couple of strikes were within several hundred feet of our office and one of them managed to take out our AT&T uVerse DSL Modem.  Being that AT&T has numerous corporate stores within a short driving distance I really didn’t imagine getting this damaged equipment replaced would be an issue.

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If at first they refuse – harass, harass, harass, and threaten! [Updated 07/11/19]

Brick WallIt has been roughly 10 weeks since “The Professor” sent a Cease and Desist letter to the company I work for concerning content on one of our client’s sites. We refused to bow to this individual’s demands and that was the beginning of the harassment.  At this point I count no less than 20 individual messages in my inbox.  The Professor has called the company I worked for numerous times and asked the same questions and received the same answers.

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Goodbye MediaLayer, Rest in peace Gupreet.

Gupreet VirdiWhile I was not close to the founder of MediaLayer, Gupreet Virdi, I was always very familiar with their name and their services.  For the past 7 years MediaLayer has been competition for my company’s premium offerings and they’ve always done an excellent job of maintaining their reputation.  The owner has always taken care of customers first and made speed and reliability priorities.  It is unfortunate that Gupreet passed away unexpectedly and the industry as a whole will miss him as well as his company.

We have helped dozens of MediaLayer customers transition over to our services and while this has been good for our company it does sadden me to know why these new customers are heading our way.  Growth is good for us obviously but I wish there was more continuity planning at MediaLayer so that their customers did not have to scramble to find new services.

I hope that everybody affected by the closure of MediaLayer is able to transition to a competent and reliable provider quickly and easily.  It is my understanding that the MediaLayer servers should remain online for a week or two.  This will give MediaLayer’s customers some time to transition out but I generally would still advise downloading a backup immediately regardless.

Rest in peace Gupreet.

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PayPal – Billing Agreements and Disputes

PayPalLet me start by saying that my organization has been using PayPal since 2007 and in all of this time we’ve generally been very happy with the service provided.  I have, over the years, seen where others were unhappy with PayPal for various reasons from accounts being locked to withdrawals being prohibited or delayed.  I’ve seen some complaints about PayPal disputes but by and large the dispute process has been good to us the few times we have had to use it.  Most disputes we have faced were resolved directly with the client as my organization has a refund policy and a general stance that we won’t hold onto funds for a service you do not need or want.

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Don’t post it to Twitter if you don’t want it used… [Updated 05/12/15]

FacepalmAt the company where I work an individual that claims to be a Professor has sent us a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter.  In the letter the individual claims that one of our customers is using their their Twitter messages without their permission.  They demand we delete the customer’s data immediately and provide them all of the customer’s contact information.  I’m not sure what the laws say over in the UK where this individual is based but we will obviously not violate our Privacy Policy and reveal client information to a third party just because they demand it.

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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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