Entries Tagged as '! ALERTS !'

Retail Transactions and Privacy

I purchased a couple pairs of shorts the other day (Wednesday before Thanksgiving) and to my surprise the retailer ask me if I’d like them to record my driver’s license number to make any return easier (by swiping the information into the terminal).

WTF?

Last time I checked retailers were not entitled to the information on my driver’s license.

And this was particularly eerie to me because a group of my friends and I had been discussing an issue concerning the collection of personal data on consumers as part of the return process.

Of course, there’s not federal law that limits the amount of information a retail establishment can request (well — unless that transaction has to do with health care, and the HIPAA would require that you be provided with a privacy policy covering how the information could be used — but they can still ask).

To me, the moment the Patriot Act was signed American freedoms and privacy quickly started to spiral down the toilet; and I said it a decade ago and I’m still saying it — the law needs to be repealed.

I personally do not feel that retail stores are entitled to any personal information; that they should be required to honor their return policies as clearly posted; and that in order or collected and store personal information they must obtain a signed release at time of sale, and understand that they and their agents are fully and completely liable for any misuse of that information not explicitly contained in the signed release.

And while I don’t generally jump up and down about federal laws we need — we definitely need uniform consumer protection across this country.

Some states have a patchwork of laws that partially protect consumer privacy; but even in those states business have abused the laws because consumers don’t have a clear, consistent understanding of them — and I’ll point out that with more and more consumer transactions involving interstate commerce, only a federal law would really be able to insure consumer privacy.

Originally posted 2012-11-24 12:00:45.

Seagate Firmware Issues

If you own a Seagate hard drive in the Baracuda 7200.11, or Barracuda ES.2 (SATA only), or Maxtor DiamondMax 22 series you might want to read on…

Seagate has confirmed that a number of issues customers have been seeing in 500GB, 750GB, 1TB, and 1.5TB drives is because of an issue with firmware (it also affects other drives, but apparently is seen most often in the “larger” drives).

There have been a number of write ups on the internet about this problem, and Seagate released firmware SD17 in December 2008 which they believed fixed the problems; and then SD1A in January 2009 which again they believed fixed the problems; but reports indicated that these firmware revisions may actually create one of the very problems Seagate is attempting to address.

The firmware issues can adversely effect the drives performance or it can render the drive totally useless (brick mode).

In an effort to prevent worse PR than Seagate is already suffering for this problem, they have stepped forward to assure everyone that they are working on the issues, that the drives have five year warranties (three for Maxtor), and that they will pay the costs for data recovery service if the drive bricks and cannot be used.

I’ll take this opportunity to remind everyone that Seagate is a California based company; and California has a “lemon law” and fairly strict consumer protection when a vendor advertises products that are supposed to have some feature and fail to deliver on that promise.  It’s unlikely Seagate will allow this problem to spin out of control, the financial liability is simply too high for them (we’re talking about potentially being forced to repurchase almost every drive they’ve sold for the past three years AT THE PRICE THE CONSUMER PAID for it if they don’t fix the problem soon.

You can view more details in the knowledge base article below, and subscribe to updates.  You can also view many rants on these issues by doing a web search.

Originally posted 2009-01-22 01:00:02.

Apple Apps Only???

WTF is it with businesses that have only Apple iOS Apps?  Hello, Open Handset Alliance (Android) devices account for nearly 60% of all smartphones / tablets shipped… iOS accounts for less than 20% (only slightly more than Windows smartphones / tablets)… why on Earth would a business make a decision to provide a service to far less than a quarter their potential customers and ignore over half of them???

Sure, I understand that Apple exists mainly because they’re trendy — but for businesses it’s not about being kewl, it’s about money in the bank.

Maybe what these businesses that choose to ignore me and those who choose Android need to see are people choosing to ignore them…

Originally posted 2013-05-24 16:00:38.

Off Shore Drilling

For years the oil and gas companies have been telling us (the American public) how safe off shore drilling is, and they’ve been trying to convince us that they have contingencies for anything that might happen, and that there’s no substantial risk to our environment.

Well, take a look at the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the relatively tame Gulf of Mexico and the inability of the world’s largest oil company to stop (or even really slow) a huge oil leak and consider who ill prepared the oil companies would be to handle a spill anything like this is the Gulf of Alaska (or any place near the Artic) in the middle of the Winter — or what could happen in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic seaboard during hurricane season.

Yes, I think it’s a travesty that the Federal Government didn’t have any contingency plans for oil spills of this magnitude — but don’t point a finger at the current administration; you’ll find that’s been years and years in the making (and least you forget, we just had an “oil and gas man” in the Whitehouse for eight years), but in the end, it is the industry itself that is ultimately responsible for the impact of their decisions to use such a small amount of their profits to insure the safety of their endeavors — and it is the companies that should be made to pay for the damages they’ve caused.

Damages to the coastal ecosystem of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are increasing hourly as BP does little to stem the disaster — except possibly try and contain the public relations damage.  While BP stock is down 40%, first quarter 2010 saw record profits — and in the end, I suspect BP will find a way to pass all the costs and loses onto consumers and reward their investors.  BP CEO Tony Hayward has already assured investors that the company has “considerable firepower” to cope wit the severe costs… but missing are statements to the world that they’ll commit the “firepower” it’ll take resolve this disaster.

Bottom line, perhaps rather than increasing the leases for off-shore drilling it’s time to pull back all the currently unused leases and start heavily fining the oil and gas industry for any and all violations.

NASA Satellites’ View of Gulf Oil Spill

Originally posted 2010-06-07 02:00:25.

Amazon Prices

Generally I’m very happy with shopping on Amazon (though I tend to avoid merchants in the Amazon Market Place), however…

Last month I was looking at some garden implements, and I found a Corona Clipper Model RK62061; well built, good reviews but Amazon was charging $27.63 for the item (free shipping) and indicating that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price was $29.99.

Well, I went over to Corona Clipper’s web site to check out additional information on the RK62061, and found that they had an online store — so I clicked on the RK62061 (it was a little bit of work to find the exact item, they have a rather extensive catalog)… but when I did, I found that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (and the price that Corona Clipper would charge from their own store) was $16.40.

I was more than a little disturbed that Amazon was indicating that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price was nearly twice what it was in fact being listed for on the manufacturer’s web site (pretty clear who I’m going to believe on this).

I then checked out the shipping rates on Corona Clipper — $5.95; so even after shipping Corona Clipper was nearly 30% less than Amazon.

I pointed out to Amazon that there was an obvious error in their listing — that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price was almost half what they indicated.

They sent back a lame response about a DVD and not having any price match policy (obviously sent by a poorly done automated system)… obviously from a company that has questionable ethics and questionable customer service.

My advice — when Amazon benefits you, but from them — but ALWAYS double check the information they provide…

Obviously the State of Washington has rather different laws regarding fraudulent advertising or perhaps it’s just that Jeffrey Preston Bezos feels his company is above the law.

Originally posted 2010-04-09 02:00:53.

Promise NS4300N NAS (Update)

Looks like Promise has “fixed” the issue with Seagate 1.5TB drives in the NS4300N NAS…

They’ve replaced Compatibility List NS4300N_SR5_Compatibility_List_v1.0-20081031.pdf with NS4300N_SR5_Compatibility_List_v1.0-20081126.pdf on their support web site — the never revisions of the V1.0 Compatibility List omits the Seagate 1.5TB drive (interesting that they choose to call it V1.0 rather than V1.1 and remove the previous V1.0 list from their web page)… but the firmware release notes still contains the statement that they’ve added support for 1.5TB drives (the only 1.5TB drive I know of is the Seagate).

Promise’s actions are a little suspect… maybe it’s time for a trip over to Alameda’s Small Claims Court…  I’ve retained copies of both versions of the compatibility list as well as the firmware release notes.

And for the record, I have still yet to receive any update to my online support inquiry even though I’ve updated it a number of times with “additional” comments and information; and I’ve called Promise as well.

Originally posted 2008-12-04 22:13:22.

Hybrid Vehicles

There’s been a great deal of “buzz” over hybrid vehicles being green… but for a very long time I’ve had some serious questions about just how green they are.

Yes, there’s no question that their carbon emissions are substantially lower than gasoline powered vehicles (but remember, hybrids do use gasoline).

Yes, hybrids are a significant step forward (though the modifications to hybrids that allow them to be recharged and ran totally from electricity certainly makes them far more green; and really shouldn’t cost any more in a production model).

But the reality is green isn’t just about the emission in the every day use of the vehicle — green also has to do with the environmental impact of the production of the batteries and their disposal.

Most hybrids use lead acid, a few newer ones use Lithium Ion / Lithium Polymer… neither of which is exactly eco-friendly (I’d prefer them not to be buried in my back yard, or any where near where my water comes from).

Lead acid batteries have a limit life; how long they last depends on a number of variables, and some of the materials can be recycled and reused – but you need to make sure that your community has setup to deal with those issues before you buy your hybrid.  My reading indicates that only California has implement stringent rules for the warranty and handling of lead acid batteries in hybrid (hopefully more states will follow suit).

Lithium cells appear to be a great solution.  They’re small and dense; but the downside is they have a three year life span from the time they were manufactured.  And Lithium is an extremely dangerous substance to release into the environment.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy a hybrid; they are good choices for many drivers (particularly commuters who can’t use all electric), but consider the impact of the improperly disposed of batteries, and even the properly disposed of batteries resulting from normal wear and tear as well as accidents.

Green isn’t something you should try and see under a microscope — it’s an end-to-end game.

Originally posted 2010-01-17 01:00:52.

AT&T = Pathetic Customer Service

My AT&T U-Verse bill notice came in over the weekend; so this week I launched the web site to take a look at the details.

When I signed up for the service I was “promised” $20 off per-month for signing up for electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

Well, the first month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that my bill was processed _before_ I had signed up for the electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

The second month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that something must have went wrong — that I needed to unsubscribe and then resubscribe; of course their policies clearly stated that if I discontinued either of the requirements I would become ineligible for the statement credit.  I escalated the issue to a supervisor who impressed me as being more incompetent than the front-line people; then I escalated it to the executive complaints office — who assured me it would be resolved.

The third month it didn’t happen; and AT&T really had no excuse.  Again I escalated it to a supervisor, and got the promise that it would be researched and resolved.

This month (the fourth month), I lost it — I was pissed off the minute I called AT&T — and I pointed out to them that they were wasting my time month after month after month — and I was tired of it.  The front-line person was totally incompetent and the supervisor was just as incompetent… and rude.

One thing’s for sure — NO ONE beats AT&T for the most pathetic customer service on Earth.

If you subscribe to AT&T services based on promises of rebates, cash back, credits, special pricing, etc — make sure you keep copies of everything; and be prepared to file a small claims action, because it probably will come to that.

It always comes down to who has pissed you off the least (lately) and who is offering the best deals — but in the end you have to decide between the cable company and the phone company and just live with pathetic customer service.

Originally posted 2010-07-10 02:00:01.

US Health Care Reform

Have you noticed all the advertisements attempting to stop heath care reform in this country?

Mainly the ads seem to be targeted at preventing the reconciliation of the Senate and House plans to include a public option.

If you look into who’s funding these advertisements you probably won’t be surprised that it’s the health care industry looking after their interests (which aren’t your interests unless you’re a major stock holder in one or more of the insurance companies or health care companies in this country).

Patients First is a project of Americans for Prosperity, an organization run by Art Pope (aka “The Knight of the Right”).  Heavily funded by corporate American — heavily funded by the health care industry.

There’s simply nothing grass roots about them — and they do not represent the interests of the average American.  They represent special interests, the extreme right, and the health care industry itself.

Obviously the American health care industry is spending money because they don’t want their lucrative business model changed.

Personally I question any organization’s motives when they attempt to hide where their funding comes from.

Dig deeper, you might not like what you find — and don’t just listen to the rhetoric, learn what’s at stake.

SourceWatch.org

Originally posted 2009-12-28 01:00:59.

Disclosing Personal Information

I find more and more companies attempt to get as much personal information on me as they can.

I also find more and more companies mishandle the personal information that they have collected.

I just got a letter today from a transfer agent one of my previous employers used; apparently they “lost” a data backup set that contained my personal information, of course they assure me that there’s little chance of any of my personal information being misused.  And offer to reimburse me for any expenses I might incur in obtaining a credit report, monitoring my credit, freezing access to my credit history — but I didn’t see in there any offer to compensate me for my time, or any loses that I might incur.

I think I’m just going to write them back, thank them for advising me of this information, and tell them that they may hire someone to manage and monitor misuse of information which they lost (most likely negligently); but that I will not incur any costs of money or time taking actions to protect myself from this incident, but I will hold them liable for any and all actual, consequential and potentially punitive damages should information they mishandled be used in any illegal activity.

My advice to companies that collect personal data is that they purge any at all personal data they have at the earliest possible time that they can legally do so.  Failing to take such action makes companies that maintain personal data liable for an unauthorized disclosure of information; and I would say potentially criminally negligent.

Originally posted 2009-01-18 01:00:44.