Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Verizon Bundled Services?

(Last updated 9/30/08 - see below)

Warning - rant ahead! Verizon certainly know how to irritate their customers. (Well, this one for sure).

I presume I am not the only person to use Verizon for landline phone service. I got a letter in the mail from them this past week, labeled Important Information, which lists a few of their current residential service plans and then says:

"These packages will be moved from Verizon Northwest's regulated tariff to a Catalog for Bundled Services under minimal regulation. [My emphasis] A tariff is a document containing the rates, terms and conditions of services that the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) regulates. This will not cause any interruption to your existing service"

So, this seems to be a way to increase the monthly fees I pay, side-stepping the regulation of the UTC? A logical question is: How much more will my monthly bill be? The letter conveniently doesn't mention the fees at all... And:
"Your use of Verizon Bundled Services will constitute your agreement to be bound by the charges, terms and conditions set forth in the Catalog".

The letter also says:
"You agree that it is impractical to print in this document the complete Catalog of all the service descriptions, charges, and other terms and conditions [...] and making it available on request are reasonable means of notice and incorporation of those terms".

Let's get one thing straight. I do not agree with any of the above. I'd like to know how much I will be charged under this new scheme *before I am actually locked in*.

The letter mentioned that the full copy of the Catalog for Bundled Services can be found on http://www.verizon.com/tariffs.
I tried... I challenge anyone to find anything useful relating to the new fees on that website! Which if these "effective tariff" documents do you suppose I should read? Or is it one of these "non-tariff" documents?

All of this frustration made me see if the WUTC website had info on these "Bundled Services under minimal regulation". It looks like Verizon petititioned the WUTC in July 2007 and it was approved shortly thereafter. (See the documents here.)

Update: 9/30/08
I called Verizon last week to ask them if my bill would change in any way, and they said it wouldn't. Even if they're correct, this is an epic fail in terms of dealing with their customers and answering the obvious questions that would arise. (The customer service agent I spoke to sounded quite peeved and frustrated that I was asking about this - I guess they are getting a lot of calls? Hint: Provide better info up-front in the mails you send out and you won't get a flood of calls from confused and frustrated folks...)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The evolution of computer demos

One of the guys I work with spent some time in his youth coding Amiga demos in Poland. A friend of his recently found one of his group's old demos on Youtube here. Remember this is with a 14Mhz proc, no 3D acceleration and very little memory and storage.

Nowadays people have machines that are almost 1,000 times faster, not counting their graphics card's GPU. Memory is abundant and portable media can hold loads of information. As an example of how far things have come in the past 15 years, take a look at last year's winner at The Assembly. (Remember, all this is rendered in real-time).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fun iPhone puzzle game and an interesting blog

I've been enjoying the puzzle game Subway Shuffle on my iPhone. It's has a clean, simple design, is easy to play and challenging, plus I love this sort of abstract puzzle. (There's also a Mac trial version but no PC version).

The author, Bob Hearn, was a student at MIT, and it looks like this game was part of his Ph.D. research. (No, I haven't read his dissertation :P)

An unexpected discovery by way of the Subway Shuffle website is Robert Brinkerhoff - a talented artist who has an interesting blog covering art and life as an American in Rome.

Monday, September 22, 2008

testing this Ping.fm thing...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Interesting times in South Africa

So, president Thabo Mbeki has been recalled by the ANC and will step down as president.
I'm guessing that Jacob Zuma is very happy, and will be elected president in the next elections. (In the interim, and acting president will be chosen from parliament). The oppopsition parties are not happy, even though Mbeki was not popular with them.

What's next for the country?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thanking our wedding vendors

I've been meaning to write a quick blurb about the various vendors we used for our wedding in July. They were all fantastic and I'd recommend them if you're planning a wedding in Seattle. (And no, they didn't pay me to say any of this :P)

P1040069Photography:KMB Photography. Karen and her partner took some amazing photos and has a fun, relaxed style that made us feel comfortable.
MAW8297Music:Bamboo Beats. DJ Tecumseh and his wife Joanne were very professional and organized, helped us get our playlist together, and did a lot of work on the day-of to keep things running smoothly. He did a great job of sticking to our list of songs and also mixing in a few of his own to keep the energy up and everyone on the dancefloor.

MAW8294Food: Ravishing Radish. Their food is great - tasty, fresh and beautifully presented. Their passed hors d'oeuvres are some of the best I've ever had, and the everything on the buffet looked like it had just come out of the kitchen. (Quite a feat considering we were in a place with a tiny prep kitchen).
MAW8156Flowers: Fena Flowers did a great job (and Junko at Ravishing Radish did a great job on the buffet table and centerpieces)
MAW8104Drinks: Pete's Wines. If you know what you want to drink at your wedding, this is the place to go. They sourced the beer & wine I wanted at a great price and delivered to the venue.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Popcorn Superhet Receiver

Ever since seeing There Will Be Blood and loving the soundtrack, I've been looking around for more music by Johnny Greenwood (guitar player for Radiohead).

In 2004 he was hired by the BBC as their composer-in-residence, and wrote a piece called Popcorn Superhet Receiver, which won the Radio3 Listeners' Award at the 2006 BBC British Composer Awards. I tried to find a version online that I could listen to, without much luck until today I found this page from WNYC , part of the Wordless Music series. You can listen to any of the three pieces on their own, and I've also embedded the code for Popcorn Superhet Receiver below.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Chrome First Impressions

To follow on from my previous post, I've downloaded and installed Google's Chrome on my Vista 64-bit machine. First impressions:

  • The installer is quick and slick. I never saw a UAC prompt (and I'm not an admin user) - so where the hell did it install the darn thing? (Turns out it is under the user's profile in AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\)
  • It's FAST! Rendering typical "busy" pages (Slashdot, MSN), it blows IE8 Beta 2 out of the water on my machine...
  • The UI is very slick. Chrome features many things that IE8 has (like seperate processes per tab) but they have made some really nice improvements to the UI. For example, the "omnibox" (address bar) is very intuitive.  Dragging tabs works just like you'd think it should (they can be re-ordered,  undocked and re-docked).
  • The smart search feature is cool - I went to Amazon.com once and searched for something, now typing 'a' + [Tab] switched the "omnibox" to a "Search amazon.com for:" box. No more installing a million search providers...
  • Memory use is better than IE8 Beta 2. With MSN and Slashdot open in both browsers, Chrome used a total of 40MB, while IE8 used over 100MB.
So far I like it... The only area that IE8 may have the upper hand is in terms of security. (Chrome doesn't seem to have an Anti-XSS filter). Now to look into their sandboxing technique in more detail :-P

Google Chrome

So, today Google announced their own web browser, Chrome. This small comic book is cute and gives a quick look at the features - most of it sounds like stuff IE8 already does, so their "we're smarter than you" tone is a bit funny.

I think the timing of their anouncement is interesting too, following hot on the heels of the IE8 Beta 2 release last week. I think Microsoft stole a large amount of their thunder...

CNN have an article looking into why Google felt the need for their own browser (instead of working with the existing open-source browsers like Firefox). One reason they give is that IE8's privacy features prevent Google from collecting user-information they need to target advertisements. (I think the latest Firefox has a similar feature).

No doubt Chrome will be less aggressive when it comes to enabling user privacy?