Time, change, and goals.

MichaelIt’s been almost a year since I wrote a post and life has a way of keeping you busy.  I’ve gone through a lot of changes both in my personal as well as my professional life.  I would say I’m not the same person I was a year ago and that isn’t a bad thing.  Over the last year I have become far more tolerant and understanding than I have been in the past.  I’ve been learning to be happier with who and where I am and less worried about where I want to be.

Having goals is obviously a good thing and it is helpful to have something driving you forward; something to drive you towards growing and improving.  It is also important that once you achieve a goal that you set a new goal for yourself and that you always focus on moving forward and not being stuck in the past or even the present.
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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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SPAMMERS – I have a question for you…

While I don’t really expect to get any answers – I am a little curious.

I know that the reason spammers send spam is to make money.  I don’t think anybody sends spam for fun although I am sure some people have ‘spammed’ others to annoy them/etc.

With that said we get a lot of spam to “[email protected]”, “[email protected]”, “[email protected]”, etc…  Do you actually see a return on sending spam to these addresses or are you so readily able to send the spam that it really doesn’t matter?

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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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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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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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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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