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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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