Entries Tagged as ''

The Anti-Green – Catalogs [Comment]

Last week I posted The Anti-Green – Catalogs; which was triggered by receiving a catalog from B&H Photo Video, the day that article posted I received the following.


I appreciate the sentiments in your post although I am disappointed to see “Comments are closed.”

B&H regrets your dissatisfaction. At the same time we have many more customers thanking us for sending our useful resource book than otherwise so we have to presume it is not time for us to discontinue print publication. While I understand your sentiment, and agree we need to maintain a sustainable world for our children, I also recognize that other customers of ours have alternate perspectives.

Henry Posner
B&H Photo-Video


While I don’t allow comments on my BLOG posts, I do provide a contact mechanism (which Mr Posner used), and I’m more than happy to provide space for any reasonable rebuttal…

I’m happy that B&H Video Photo has many customers that thank them for their printed catalogs (at least some of those catalogs might actually be received by someone who doesn’t immediately throw them into a recycle bin, or worse) — but I’ll underscore that they send them to EVERYONE that’s ever done business with them rather than allow people to select whether or not they desire the catalogs (or any other mailings).

I’ll stand by what I said in my original post…

My feeling is that companies that do not believe that they actually represent a value to consumers are the companies that are quickest to force a subscription to any type of mailing list.¬† Companies who believe they offer something consumers want understand that consumers will come back and they don’t need to destroy the environment in order to attempt to promote future purchases.

Apparently I’m not the only one who took a moment to comment on getting a catalog they didn’t want here’s a forum thread on the topic “Unsubscribe from B&H’s forest felling catalog“, which happens to includes the post.


henryp
May 05, 2010 at 07:27 PM

First, I apologize to those who received more than one book and to those who opted out but received books anyway. There are a variety of possible reasons why, but suffice it to say we won’t send you what you don’t want if at all possible.

I want to thank the OP for posting the unsub link. Very thoughtful and much appreciated. The unsub link has been tweeted and retweeted repeatedly (more than once by me). I doubt Twitter needs it again. ūüôā

Anyone who got multiple books – please send me the individual alpha-num codes via email (NOT PM) and I’ll forward them to the list maintainer. An example of the code is JC1026#####.

Having read a lot of “why do they bother” stuff here and elsewhere, the answer is because more people want them than don’t and they do get used. People circle stuff with ballpoint pens, highlight stuff with those yellow markers, fold down page corners or tag pages with post-it notes and tear out pages and post them on the refrigerator.

We want to keep our mail list to folks who really do want them and appreciate your help to keep our list clean. Thank you. FWIW, the whole thing’s online here.

Henry Posner
B&H Photo-Video

PS Recycle, don’t discard!


Here is B&H Photo Video’s catalog unsubscribe link — but notice it doesn’t take the catalog number on the label, but rather wants to collect personal information…

Originally posted 2010-05-12 02:00:35.

Fate

I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.
· Buddha

Originally posted 2011-03-22 01:00:01.

Drupal Review

I’ve was waiting for Drupal 7 to do any major work; but with Alpha 2 only barely out (as of writing this) I decided to go ahead and use Drupal 6 and cross my fingers that the upgrade would go reasonably smoothly.

Drupal 7 will be released when Drupal 7 is ready for release.

NOTE:  Drupal does not maintain any backwards compatibility; while they do support upgrading between minor and major revisions it is possible that you may be using a module that does not have [and will not have] a compatible version.

Drupal is an open source software solution; you can read about the history on their web site, as well as get a little better feel for the zen of Drupal development and developers.

Drupal is a Content Management System (CMS); and in all fairness, I would call Drupal more of a Content Management Framework or as Drupal itself call it a Content Management Platform.

Why the distinction?

Well, I think primarily to clearly delineate Drupal’s strengths from CMSs.

Drupal talks about it’s organization in terms of a “stack” (or layers) and “objects”… and glue that binds and manages these to form a web site.

Unlike some of the heavy weight CMS products on the market Drupal allows a user to build a fully custom web site through custom theming and customizing object interaction.¬† And you can see from the list of sites that use Drupal it’s amazing what has been done (and can fairly easily be done) with Drupal.

Now for the fine print.

Drupal isn’t easy to learn, and you’re not going to be building an incredible site with Drupal ten minutes after installing it (though it is very straight forward to install).

First, you need to wrap you head around the Drupal model, and then you have to think about your web site in terms of object relationships in a very database centric model… and it’s very likely you’re going to have to read, play, and learn (a lot).

Why put this much effort into learning a tool to build a web site?

Well, clearly if you’re building a one or two page web site you’re wasting your time.¬† In fact if you’re building hundreds of one or two page web sites there are much more efficient tools to use… but if you’re building a large (complex) web site, that you have a very specific user experience in mind for, and it will be dynamic (meaning content and maybe even appearance will change) then you should be interested in Drupal.

Drupal is very power; Drupal is very complex; Drupal is what Drupal does…

The real power of Drupal is that maintaining a well designed Drupal site is straight forward, making sweeping changes to a well designed Drupal site is straight forward — and all of that is largely irrelevant to the size of the site.

It’s a lot of work to learn Drupal; particularly if you’re only going to build one complex site in your life; but if you’re a consultant, or you’re going to make a career out of building (or re-building) web sites… it’s a tool you will want in your toolbox.

http://drupal.org/

Originally posted 2010-04-05 02:00:12.

Microsoft Live Essentials 2011

Late last week Microsoft pushed out Microsoft Live Essentials 2011 as a “critical” update…

I don’t ever recall a new version of a piece of software being labeled as a critical update; and perhaps there was some security flaw found in the last version of Microsoft Live Essentials that Microsoft felt wasn’t fixable, or perhaps they just wanted to have people downloading an update that probably few will really want.

The only part of Live Essentials that I use is Windows Live Mail; so I can’t really speak to the rest of the pieces — but my first impression was that I’d be moving to a different email program soon, very soon.

Everything has changed, and menus you need to setup the program (it only copies some of your setting from the previous version) are buried deep, and in confusing places.

Additionally this isn’t just an email client any longer; it’s moving closer and closer to what Outlook is rather than what Outlook Express was… and to me that’s a shame.

I really can’t imagine most people have a surplus of screen real estate to comfortably accommodate all the eye candy and glitz that Microsoft has wasted time and energy into putting into Live Mail when they could have fixed some of the bugs (actually a bug that I reported during the beta over two years ago is still in even this version — I guess the kids in Redmond just don’t know how to keep a scrollable window in the same place after a change… and now rather than putting you at the top of the scroll you’re at a random location — so it looks like someone tried to hacked a “fix” in, and didn’t bother testing it… as seems to be all too true of most software these days).

My advice is don’t take the update… just continue using the version you have now until Microsoft forces you to upgrade; and if you don’t need the Hotmail/Live mail interface afforded by the Windows Live Mail program, consider one of the other free alternatives.

Originally posted 2010-10-24 02:00:38.

The Anti-Green – Postal Mail

Receiving postal mail, such as bills, statements, etc and making payments via paper check (either dropped off or mailed in) wastes an incredible amount of natural resources.

Like junk mail and advertisements you receive in the mail, your bills and statements require the use of paper and energy to produce them, energy to distribute them, and energy to properly dispose of and recycle them — plus your paper check payments require the same.

Electronic bills and statements provide you the same information in a form that is far more environmentally friendly.  The production and distribution of that information requires a fraction of the power sending out traditional paper would, and totally saves the paper.

Additionally, paying electronically further reduces the wasted paper and energy.

Most institutions offer statements and bills via electronic delivery at no cost, some even offer incentives such as statement credits or some type of bonus or reward for signing up for electronic statements; and you needed be afraid of electronic statements, you still have every protection that a paper statement would have offered to you.

As for electronic payments, there’s a number of ways in which you can do that…

You could authorize a company to automatically debit your account for the amount you owe.¬† There are there often used methods.¬† First, a company could issue an automatic draft against your checking account — that’s essentially like a paper check, though since Check21 it’s likely it would be transmitted electronically.¬† Second, a company could issue an ACH (Automated Clearing House) transaction against your checking (or savings) account — that’s presented to the bank generally though a purely electronic medium.¬† Third, a company could issue a charge against a major credit card account.

Personally, I’d be cautious about authorizing any institution to directly remove money from my checking (or savings) account; while there aren’t any real long term issues with them taking out too much, you might find that the time required to correct a mistake is quite long (and you don’t have use of the funds in question during the resolution period).¬† With credit cards, however, all the mechanism are in place to insure that if someone makes a mistake — you won’t be out the money (or charged any interest) while the error is being looked into and resolved.

Another (entirely different) way you could pay your bills electronically is by using a bill payment service.¬† Most financial institutions now offer free bill payment services and puts you totally in control.¬† You decide who to pay, when to pay them, and how much to pay them.¬† If the bank makes an error, they’re totally responsible for resolving it — and if they remove funds that you didn’t authorize, or in a way you didn’t authorize then they are responsible for the ramifications.¬† At worst this type of bill payment generates a paper check that’s sent out on your behalf; generally it’s totally electronic.

Another place to look for reductions in postal mail is to discourage companies to send you out anything by mail that can be delivered electronically (remember, in the United States, electronic signatures are legally recognized — faxes and physical signatures are no more binding that an “electronic” signature).¬† So the bottom line, companies that feel the need to interact with you in writing are simply showing you that they care little for the environment and do not wish to invest in the future.¬† My advice, look elsewhere and send them a clear message by terminating your relationships with them.

Finally, many people use postal mail to send pictures, greeting cards, personal letters, etc.¬† Sure, sometimes you’re going to have to — but have you ever considered that most people just throw those away, or put them in a shoe box at the bottom of the closet?¬† Consider sending what you can electronically — if they really want a picture printed, they can do that locally (for probably the same it would have cost you — and less than the postage you paid).

As I’ve said a number of times before… it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference.

Originally posted 2010-05-11 02:00:16.

Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union

Much of this post is comprised of excerpts of a letter sent to Chris Rutledge, President/CEO, and Jearil Crawford SVP Operations of Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union, Pensacola, Florida.

Here’s how I opened…

Over the many years I’ve had dealings with financial institutions, it’s generally been my finding that credit unions offer a much better value to a consumer as well as much better service. And further I’ve found that smaller institutions are generally better focused on customer satisfaction.

I can assure you that in the case of Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union the level of service is much worse than many large faceless banks, the focus on customer satisfaction is non-existent, and while the rates your institution pays for deposit account might be good, they in no way make for a better value to a consumer given the nightmarish customer (dis)service which seem to be deeply ingrained in your institutions culture.

What happened?

Well, Gulf Winds offers a higher interest rate (up to the first $15K) in your checking account if you accept electronics statements, make at least one ACH/direct deposit, and do twelve transactions using their (VISA) debit card.

So I stopped on first of July to make one of those twelve transaction, and had my card declined because it was expired. ¬†Sure enough, the expiration date was clearly embossed 06/12 on the card. ¬†But I decided to stop at one more retailer to make sure it gave me the same message and that there was no grace period (though I knew that the magnetic strip would have the same expiration date encoded on it that was embossed on the card)… and sure enough, a second time I got a card expired message from a point of sale terminal.

When I got home, I sent an online message requesting a replacement card.  The reply I got told me the card I had was still good.  WRONG.  I had to send a second message for the exact same issue.  Clearly the customer (dis)service person was in too much of a hurry dismissing customer issues to really care to look into what the issue might be.

Then I was told that I’d have to drive to the corporate branch during business hours; a drive which would be one hundred miles round trip for me; so I ask if it would be possible to transfer to a closer branch (which they indicated yes, but I never actually ask them to do the transfer).

I drove to the corporate branch; stepped in, no one was at the receptionist desk, so I had to wait… finally a young woman told me that the high interest checking account cards weren’t in yet; then she checked again (at my request), and told me my card was at the branch I¬†inquired¬†about having it transferred to; then I ask to speak to someone who actually might have a clue what was going on… and I was ask to wait.

I waited until I’d been at the branch nearly half an hour then left.

One the way back I got a call from a woman there who told me that my card had been at the corporate branch all this time.  And I (not so politely) told her to throw it in the trash, that I would never step foot in a Gulf Winds branch again.

After another half hour I got a call from a man at the branch I normally do business with offering to bring the card to me (he had no idea of the distance), and I told him that Gulf Winds didn’t deserve my business.

I’ve put all this (and more) in a letter (as I said) to Gulf Winds, but to me (since this isn’t the first time I’ve had issues like this with Gulf Winds; nor did the pathetic customer service on this instance only involve one¬†individual) ¬†this is a cultural issue where Gulf Winds people do not take ownership of issues, and only care about going through the motions and moving customers through a (broken) system.

Even though you might be able to get better rates at Gulf Winds than other local institutions, I highly recommend putting your assets in an institution more deserving of your support.

After all, I wasted more than two hours of my life that I will never get back, and will never be compensated for… as far as I’m concerned there’s nothing at Gulf Winds for me.

Originally posted 2012-07-08 02:00:30.

US Postal Service

I just dropped off some US Postal Service Form PS-1500s at the post office down the street, and have to relay a “funny” (maybe sad is a more appropriate word) episode…

The postal clerk said she’d never seen these forms before and went into the back to get her supervisor (who refused to give me his name).

He told me that the post office didn’t do “that”… and ask me where I got the forms, I told him the USPS web site (the people in line laughed, and that didn’t make him particularly happy).¬† Then he insisted again that the post office didn’t do “that”… and I ask him why the post office would have forms for something they didn’t do (and again I got laughs from the line).

He agreed to take the forms, and I reminded him that throwing them away would be a violation of postal regulations… he told me to get out of his lobby (presumably that would make him the station manager).

I’ve filed complaints with the US Postal Board of Governors before (and I just fired off another), but I always find complaining to my Representative, Senators, and President (all at once – which I’ve done as well) creates enough inquiries that the complaints is actually taken seriously.

I generally expect bad service at the post office, and it’s always amusing that the post office and quote postal regulations left and right when they benefit the post office… but few postal persons know anything about postal regulations that benefit the consumer.

For information on PS-1500 and taking control of your mail box, see my previous post:

Originally posted 2009-01-24 01:00:21.

Summer Solstice 2017

June 21 2017 04:24  GMT

A Pledge of No Privacy

Part of the intent of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (aka the Financial Modernization Act of 1999) and the rules and regulations for federal banking and credit unions was to put into effect requirements on financial institutions1 to safe-guard the personal, confidential, and financial information of their customers2.

On of the main parts of the law was that it required institutions to provide customers with their privacy policy which explained their information sharing and information safeguarding.¬† However, because the law was heavily effected by lobbying, and even reviewed by large financial institutions before being considered by congress there are cases where institutions aren’t really subject to many limitations on what they can do with your information.

You might find it interesting that every large financial institution I have dealt with since the law was passed (ie Chase, Citi, Bank of America, Barclay, etc) have specifically allowed for an “opt-out” of the sharing for personal information for use both inside and outside the company (effectively limiting the information to be used only as require by law and as necessary for the maintenance of your account).

However, you have to be very careful about smaller institutions.

Credit Unions are in general very customer oriented, and most the time “do the right thing” — particularly when it comes to building a solid, long term customer relationship based on trust and respect.¬† However, take a look at the “Privacy Pledge” for Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union3 (formerly Monsanto Employees Credit Union) http://www.gogulfwinds.com/page/privacy — WOW — that’s a really nice pledge to no privacy.¬† In essence what it says is that they’ll use any information they collect on you (both public and non-public) and use it to the full extent allowed by law (I’d guess to profit from) and won’t allow a customer (or consumer) to “opt-out”.

How many ways can you say “non-customer focused”???

The moral of this, don’t assume you’re better off dealing with small “local” financial providers that might seem to have your interests in mind — you might actually end up getting better over all service and respect from a much larger financial provider.

I for one will be re-assessing my financial relationships; and likely terminating a few — and trying to convince congress to stand up to the financial services companies and actually pass a law that protects me.

REFERENCES:

In Brief: The Financial Privacy Requirements of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

NOTES:

1 The Financial Modernization Act of 1999 apply to banks, credit unions, securities firms, and insurance companies as well as a number of other type of companies providing financial services to consumers and is part of a larger framework of federal, state, and local banking laws.

2 The Financial Modernization Act of 1999 privacy requirements apply to customers; which are defined to be consumers (not business) with which the institution has a “long term” relationship (ie holds an account), and does not necessarily cover all consumers who might interact or transact with an institution.

3 You can find the same type of non-privacy policy at a number of smaller financial institutions; Gulf Winds is particularly sad because they refer to it as a “Privacy Pledge” rather than just a “Privacy Policy”.

Originally posted 2010-07-05 02:00:15.

Android – Must Have Apps

So you have an Android device… and you haven’t figured out what all you can do with it… hopefully my short list of “must have” apps will help you.

  • Google Maps with Navigation – free application from Google that provides turn-by-turn directions.¬† Provided your Android device has a GPS receiver, and you either pre-plan your routes while connected to WiFi of have a generous (unlimited) data plan, this is definitely an app that’s hard to live without.
  • Google Voice – must have way to take control of your phone; used with a Google Voice number it’s a good way to give yourself extra features on your phone for free.¬† Also, you’ll want Google Voice Callback if you want to take advantage of any numbers you can specify free from airtime.
  • Google Music – good selection for most people for a streaming music service.¬† It’s totally free, allows up to 20,000 songs, and it works well.
  • Amazon MP3 – this is a good selection for people with a large amount of music who don’t mind paying $20 per year for the ability to store unlimited songs on Amazon.
  • Hacker’s Keyboard – free application that provides a very configurable on-screen keyboard.¬† While I prefer the slide out keyboard on my Droid, on my Xoom I don’t have that option.¬† Hacker’s Keyboard allows you to pick between several layouts, as well as control the height of the keyboard in both landscape and portrait mode.¬† Much better than any other free (or paid) keyboard I’ve found for Android.
  • Opera Mobile – the default (crippled) Chrome browser for Android is horrible, and FireFox for Android isn’t any better.¬† As bizarre as it might seem, Opera Mobile is by far the best browse I’ve found for Android.¬† It’ll operate in a desktop or micro browser mode, and while on a small screen it might not always be easy to view a web site, Opera Mobile will allow you to.¬† Opera Mobile does take a little getting used to — but it’s worth it the price (free).¬† Do not confuse this with Opera Mini, that’s not the version you want.
  • Amazon Appstore for Android – nice addition, and the paid app free every day often has a useful application.
  • Super Tool Box – a free (or paid for the pro version) application that provides a veritable Swiss army knife of functionality.¬† A good application to start with to see how many of your needs it addresses.¬† The pro version was offered as an Amazon paid app for free.
  • ezPDF Reader or ezPDF Reader Lite – very good PDF reader, and it was offered as an Amazon paid app for free.
  • ShopSavvy Barcode Scanner or Barcode Scanner – applications that allows you to scan the UPC code of an item on a store shelf and get competitive pricing locally and online.
  • netTALK Smartphone – free application that allows you to make outbound VoIP calls using WiFi or your data plan.¬† This app will not work with Honeycomb at the moment.¬† Using this app does not require a netTALK VoIP (TALK DUO) account, nor at the moment can you integrate it with a netTALK VoIP account
  • Dropbox – free application with free cloud storage that allows you to backup your configuration (also, Google backups up some of your device’s configuration when using Gingerbread or newer).
  • File Manager or Fiele Manager HD (Honeycomb) – great file manager’s; and I actually prefer the standard File Manager, but this is going to be somewhat a personal preference; both are free.
  • Gas Buddy – good tool for finding lower priced fuel when on the road, my only negative comment on this is that it doesn’t interface with Google Navigation (or any navigation), but does provide a map function.
  • GPS Test – great little tool to make sure your GPS is working properly.
  • Root Checker – simple tool to allow you to check to insure that your device is properly rooted.
  • FreeTethering or Wireless Tether for Root Users or Easy Tether or Easy Tether Lite – these apps provide the ability to tether a computer (laptop) to your device; check on which will work with your devices and check your carrier to see if there are any restrictions on tethering.
  • ClockworkMod Recovery – replacement recovery system for Android devices; this requires a rooted device, and allows the flashing of custom ROMs.¬† There are a number of recovery replacements for Android – ClockworkMod Recovery is one of the best, and free.
  • ClockworkMod ROM Manager – very nice tool to locate, install, and mange customer ROMs.¬† The free version will likely do all you need, but I recommend supporting the developer by purchasing the pro key (that also unlocks a few more capabilities).
  • Titanium Backup – great application for backing up and recovering applications (a must have if you’re going to flash custom ROMs).¬† The free version will likely do all you need, but I recommend supporting the developer by purchasing the pro key (that also unlocks more capabilities, and makes it a little easier for you to do restores and backups).

There are many other applications that you’ll probably find useful; but the above list should get you started.¬† I’ll probably add to this list over time and re-publish it.

I’ll also publish some additional Android resources on eBooks, CAN/ODB II (for your automobile), as well as some rooted device helpful hints.

Originally posted 2011-10-21 02:00:52.