Dear The Planet

Dear “The Planet” – You Suck

The Planet does IT hosting. In my case, a friend and I share a server that we’ve had there for three years.  Unfortunately, I missed several emails from them telling me that my credit card had been rejected due to an expiration date passing.

Normally in a case like this, from a company providing a critical service, I would expect a phone call to clear things up and prevent a service interruption.  No phone call attempt was made.

So yesterday I get a call from my friend and he asks about our server not responding.  I assume the server is locked up and I tell him I’ll jump into the account and request a forced reboot – something that’s been necessary once before (not bad – once in 3 years!).  When I attempted to log in, I was told that my account had been disabled!

At that point, I tried to chat with a support person.  After 20 minutes of huge long delays in trying to get responses (send message, wait 5 minutes, get a “hang on, I’m working on multiple chats”, etc) I have to give up and focus on the meeting that I’m in.  Later that day, I try the chat again.  I’m told that my account was disabled due to non-payment of the bill.  More on that in a minute.  At this point I ask her to help me out with getting it reactivated and she says I have to *call* to speak to someone to give them the cc info as they don’t ask for it via chat.  <sigh>

That evening, I’m finally at home, where I can make the call.  I call and I’m told… “I can’t process it, you need to log into your account to fix it”!  After some back and forth, she activates my login so that I can go in and fix the billing info.  I try.  FIVE TIMES.  Each time it blows up with an error.  She’s still on the phone with me and rather than just taking the cc info, she says I need to submit a trouble ticket about not being able to update by cc info!  I submit the ticket and go to bed.

In the morning I check and I have a response that says in essence “please call, we can’t fix this without having you on the phone”.  I then go ahead and try to update the information and it works! Happy days!  At that point, I update the ticket and ask them to reprocess the charge and get our damn server online.  An hour later, ta-da, we have our server back.

Great, about 18 hours of downtime for a $69 credit card charge.  Yeah, I messed up by not watching my hotmail account like a hawk, so I take the blame for that, no problem.  But I have to ask this – what in the world are they thinking that when the bill isn’t paid THEY CUT OFF ACCESS TO THE BILL PAYMENT SYSTEM SO YOU CANNOT FIX THE PROBLEM?!?!?!  What should have been a 5 minute problem turned into a marathon of frustration.

Think about this just a bit – their solution is to prevent you from logging into the system to fix the problem.  Perhaps your first thought is “well, maybe their systems suck and they can’t just disable the server while allowing you to log into your account?”.  Ah, if only it were so – note that she very quickly and easily gave me access back to the account after I was forced to call them (and only to be told that I had to go into the account online to update it!).

One final insult –  after all this, they charge me a $50 reconnection fee.  Dicks.  I should charge them for my wasted time.

In summary Dear Reader, please consider if you want to do business with a company that treats you like this.  If you have a server you need to be up, and you want to host it somewhere, I cannot recommend The Planet.  Go elsewhere and put these jerks out of business.

No wonder people hate insurance companies…

In one year, health insurance with a $5000 deductible has climbed from $118 up to $207 per month.  No claims, no nothing.

In another instance, on a different policy, they paid the first claim, no problem, then when the procedure had to be repeated, they held up the claim for 3 months, then when I called them, they said that the problem had been resolved and they would pay it in the next two weeks.  What problem?  Nothing they could describe.

A simple 15 minute doctors visit resulted in a charge of $500.  After the insurance company reviewed it, the rate was cut to $150.  Unreal.

I might hate what’s happening in Washington right now, but the insurance companies and doctors are bringing this on themselves.

We’re doomed.

What hath the airlines wrought?

I’m spending entirely too much time shuttling between Atlanta and Chicago for business.  I’m booked on the same flights for each trip, and the patterns have become way to obvious to ignore:

The baggage fees are destroying flying for the customer – on top of all the other overhead that you need to deal with in the course of flying (travel to the airport – 1 hour, TSA crap – unknown, endless waits, flights cancelled at the last minute, fellow passengers wider than their seats, etc).

On my Tuesday flights up to Chicago, I’m on a regional jet.  For a regional jet, it’s a big one, but baggage space in the cabin is at a premium.  The result is that almost everyone who isn’t a Medallion member (for Delta) ends up having to check their roll aboard bag at the side of the airplane.  This means a lot of hassle and bitching as business travelers pull their laptops and valuables out of the luggage, while trying to get onto the plane. 

Two weeks ago about 20 people had to BACK OUT OF THE PLANE during boarding in order to start rolling luggage out of the cabin so it could be checked.  This does not make the traveler happy, and it really irritates that cabin staff, who has to deal with angry and frustrated customers as well as nag people about not putting coats in the overhead bins.

Okay, so that’s on a regional jet, you might figure that it’s different on a larger one.  Well, it’s pretty much just as bad on the flight back from Chicago which is on an MD-80 – a typical 5 across medium range jet.  The exact same problems occur.

Here’s the reality check – before these baggage fees were applied, a lot more people checked their bags, meaning that in the cabin you at least had a decent chance to find a place for your bag.  Now, because of the (originally $15 / $20) $25 to $35 fee, people try to carry on things that they never would have dreamed of before.  To top if off, the bags that are “checked” at the side of the aircraft – no fee!  So the airlines have incentivized people to try to carry on as much as they can in order to save some money.

Be sure to remember that these fees were added to offset the cost of fuel going up – but they never went away as the cost fell.  And the reality is, the cost of fuel is built into the airfare.  It was and is just another money grab.  Under our economic model they’re welcome to it, but as soon as I can fly Southwest, I’m there.

When you pile this on top of the lack of ‘free’ food, and the assumption that you only want a glass of soda rather than a can, they have squeezed the most out of the flying public.  I cannot imagine what charge they will think of next.  Deb suggested charging people by weight…

I should note that when I flew Air France from Atlanta to Paris, the service was great, the food was great, the in-seat entertainment system was great, and there was plenty of room in the Airbus for luggage.  The flight back from Paris on Delta, well, there was plenty of storage space…

Happy travels!

How much honey in honey?

Recently at KFC, I asked for a packet of honey with which to drown my biscuit.

While enjoying my dinner, I saw that there was a list of ingredients on the packet of honey.  “That’s odd” I thought.  When I look on the honey bear container in my pantry, there is no ingredient list, just as there is no ingredient list on my container of sugar – it’s pretty obvious that honey is honey and sugar is sugar.

Unless you’re KFC.  Their honey consists of:

High Fructose Corn Syrup
Sugar
Corn Syrup
Honey
Caramel Color

Really?  We have to get all these corn syrups and such into simple honey?

My favorite Windows 7 feature (so far)

I’ve upgraded several systems to Windows 7, and so far my favorite feature has to be using the keyboard to move and dock windows around very easily.  The keystrokes you need to know:

<windows key> + <left arrow> = dock window to left half of the current monitor
<windows key> + <right arrow> = dock window to right half of the current monitor
<windows key> + <up arrow) = maximize the window
<windows key> + <down arrow> = restore window or minimize it depending on its state

For multi monitor rigs:

<windows key> + <shift> + <left arrow> = move window in its current shape and location to the monitor to the left (it will wrap around)
<windows key> + <shift> + <right arrow> = move window in its current shape and location to the monitor on the right (it will wrap around)

If you want to maximize the height of the selected window, while not changing its width, try:
<windows key> + <shift> + <up arrow>
and naturally <windows key> + <shift> + <down arrow> will shrink the window back down to its previous height, or minimize it.

I know using the keyboard for anything but typing emails and web pages is passé, but give these shortcuts a shot!  You might like ‘em!

A ‘hidden’ upgrade for Virtual PC 2007

I’ve been experiencing random crashes with Virtual PC 2007 with Service Pack 1, and finally I got fed up with them and decided to see if I could find a solution to the problem.

It turns out that there is a hotfix that solves not only that problem, but increases the maximum screen resolution of the virtual machine, so if you have a high resolution monitor and use Alt-Enter to go full screen, it will actually fill up the screen.  Woohoo!  There are a bunch of other fixes in there as well, so read the description in the link below.

Download the hotfix at: http://support.microsoft.com/Default.aspx?id=958162

Happy patching!