Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another customer support story

Late last year I wrote a post on my terrible technical support experience with Linksys (and Earthlink). I have another story along the same lines to relate, though this one has a happy ending.

I bought an OtterBox Defender for iPhone from Amazon. Actually I should say I ordered it on, because while the order was placed through them, it was actually ordered from a "seller" called TechNGnet. (I'm going to be very cautious about ordering from Amazon "sellers" in the future, even when they have good ratings like TechNGnet does.)

The case arrived in a plain box, wrapped in bubble-wrap, and did not have the protective film that the instruction sheet that came with it said it should. And the touch-screen membrane was scratched. It looked to me like they had sent me a returned item.

So I looked up TechNGnet and sent them an email. Instead of the response I was hoping for ("Oops! Sorry. We'll do what it takes to satisfy you.") I was told to read their return policy, which said I could send it back at my expense and they'd send me a replacement. I replied and complained (since they had sent me damaged goods) and did not receive a reply.

But I'm glad I also wrote to Otterbox. They sent me a replacement at their expense, and I didn't have to worry about sending the first one back. The replacement arrived in proper packaging. But unfortunately it had a small defect: one of the snaps was bent. I felt a little guilty about writing them about it, but they sent me another immediately.

Now that's how a smart company treats its customers. TechNGnet on the other hand got the lowest possible rating from me on Amazon, and these unflattering words for people to find.

I need to write another post in this "series" that details the ridiculously bad technical support I've received from Roxio on Popcorn and Toast. I don't have closure on my problems with them, but it's just such a pathetic example of how bad technical support can be that I can't resist describing it. Stay tuned.

Eventually I intend to write about Spanning Sync also. But I will wait until I get closure on that first. I will say I was quite impressed when Charlie Wood commented on my previous post. (He must have a Google Alert searching for "Spanning Sync". Hi Charlie!) He also sent me an email and has responded promptly and helpfully to my emails. And Spanning Sync (the company) does a great job responding to questions on their Google Group. So I look forward to writing some positive things about them.

Finally, the Apple AirPort Extreme I bought works great. And after some aggravating initial problems with Comcast's Internet service, it's now working reliably too.

You tell 'em Bill!

I enjoyed listening to the "Real Time Overtime from 1/25/08" podcast (which you'll find on iTunes and at on my run today. My favorite lines:
It's about time the people of faith backed off. Because they've gotten away with that for years; just by saying the word "faith", you can't even have a debate about it. But I'm gonna have a debate about it.
They certainly do have the right [to believe what they want to believe], and I have the right to say they're batshit.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ah! Room to stretch

For some time now I've been just about completely out of space on my 17" PowerBook G4's 100 GB (93.04 GB capacity) hard disk. (My PowerBook has become my primary machine both at home and at work.)

Most days after I open iTunes and it downloads new podcasts and episodes of TheA Daily Show, I'm down to less than 2 or even 1 GB of available storage. The largest fraction of my hard drive is taken up my my Music folder (over 42 GB) and almost all of that is from iTunes, so I've been focusing on that. More often than I'd rather, I've been sorting the folders in my iTunes Music folder by size and copying the contents of the largest ones (the largest is usually almost always the Podcasts folder) to an external backup drive and then deleting stuff in iTunes. I can usually free up a gig or two, but that gets eaten up again in a couple days.

It occurred to me recently that my Pictures folder is also quite large, and most of that is taken up by my iPhoto Library. This morning I finally made time to backup the library (which is probably unnecessary since I'm already using Time Machine--but one can never have too many backups) and then create smart albums for all my unrated photos from 2005 and 2006. (Photos from 2004 and previous were kept in separate iPhoto libraries which I keep on several different external drives.) I then exported them to my external drive (for yet one more backup) and deleted them. (The trick to deleting photos from an album in iPhoto is to use Command-Option-Delete, which I learned from a "Mac 911" article I found using Google. And I had to remember that "Delete" means "Backspace" on non-Macintosh keyboards.)

I deleted 1533 photos from 2005, which freed over 4 GB, and 2021 photos from 2006, which freed over 7 GB. I now have over 12 GB available. I can't remember how long it has been since I've had that much free space. I'm going to enjoy not having to worry about almost being out of space. I wonder how long that will last.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Authoxy hits and misses (and Google SDKs and APIs)

I've been playing a little bit with Google Android and with the Google data APIs (aka GData), but the only way I've been able to make time is by coming in extra early to work. (The only other free time I have is in the evenings after the kids are asleep, but I'm a morning person--I'm usually too exhausted in the evenings to do any technical work.) But we of course have a firewall at work.

I've been very happy with Authoxy, which allows me to use applications that don't support proxy authentication.

So I tried to use it with the Android emulator, but with no success. I've posted on the Android Beginners mailing list hoping someone else has figured it out. I did get a helpful response, but I haven't been able to get it working yet.

Initially I didn't have any success with GData either (I'm using Python, naturally). I did a search and found a thread on proxy support with a reference to this Python CookBook recipe. So I tried setting the 'https_proxy' environment variable (to '') but it didn't work. I dug through Google's code and even stepped around in the debugger. I learned a few things (as I always do when reading code) but I just couldn't get it to work. So I set it aside.

When I came back to it, I noticed in (after searching for 'https_proxy' in Spotlight, which is very useful for searching sources on Leopard) that they also look for 'http_proxy'. So I set it too (also to '') and success! (This is certainly not the first time I've very quickly solved a problem when coming back to it after a break. Sometimes it seems like the longer the break the easier it gets.) As I learned from a Google Developer Podcast (which I recommend), one can use the Spreadsheets Data API to read and write entire rows, effectively using a spreadsheet as a flat file database. Pretty slick.

Update: I got the Android emulator working through Authoxy. See my reply on the Android Beginners mailing list. This morning (2008-01-14) Authoxy was batting 500, now it's batting 1000.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

October photos

I uploaded our photos from October to Flickr. You'll find details at

October was Henry's second birthday (we had a couple small parties: one at Skypark and one at his school). Elleda and Gabe enjoyed playing soccer in a league for their first time. And of course, Halloween was a big deal.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

December photos up

I just uploaded our photos from December to Flickr. You'll find details at

We certainly did have a merry xmas. My parents came to visit for five days (that went by very quickly). And most of Claire's family joined us for dinner on xmas day; so we had a full house. The kids had fun playing with their cousin, and there were no complaints about sitting at the kids' table--Claire and I actually got to sit and enjoy our meal.

I neglected to blog about Elleda's first missing tooth. I believe she noticed it was loose in early December and it fell out about a week later. She was quite proud and excited. She cried at bedtime though because she didn't want the tooth fairy to take her tooth. So I suggested that she draw a picture of her tooth (since she loves to draw) and leave a note so the tooth fairy takes that instead. She did a great job drawing a little picture and colored a frame around it. I went out to get a dollar coin and Claire left it under her pillow with a little set of bubble-gum flavored lip balm. She was so excited the next morning that she came downstairs as I was leaving for work (around 5:30!) to show me. The lip balm (Claire's idea) was a big hit--she still caries it everywhere. But she still doesn't really understand money, so I think her golden coin is stashed away with her other treasures. (I don't think it occurred to her to spend it.)