I want to send money to Microsoft. I really do!

October 30, 2009 at 7:05 pm (Consumer affairs, English, Linux, Ubuntu)

That does not happen very often, but I want to buy something from Microsoft. In fact, I really, honestly, do. Namely, a Technet subscription that I need to test some Windows/Ubuntu interoperability stuff I am working on these days.

Unfortunately, it seems Microsoft really isn’t interested in my money at all. I guess they have enough already. Otherwise, why would they purposefully break their online order form for non-IE user?

Technet order form is borked

You know what they say: do not attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence. But I mean, really, it has been years since I had to deal with stupid rendering issue on non-IE browsers. Only at Microsoft, I guess :(

Let’s see how well IEs4Linux works …

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Oddities in Amazon Associates Operating Agreement

August 27, 2009 at 3:21 am (Consumer affairs, English)

I am thinking of signing up to be an Amazon Associates. Basically, I would link products (mainly, books) that I talk about in my blog posts to corresponding Amazon offerings. If someone clicks the link and end up buying the product in question from Amazon, I get a small referral fee. I get very little traffic on this blog, and I do not plan on pimping stuff very hard or very often, so I doubt I will ever earn more than a couple dollars with this scheme. Mostly, I want to link to books that are mentioned in my post. I actually think Amazon is a pretty useful resource to look up books, particularly the Look Inside feature and customer’s reviews. In fact, I use Amazon extensively to scout books I then borrow from the library. How subversive! :)

Amazon Associates program require that you create an account, and of course, signing up for that account requires that you agree with their Operating Agreement. While reading the Operating Agreement (yep, I have read it, I must be very bored tonight), I notice this specific clause that jump at me as being completely out of whack:

You also acknowledge that we (and our corporate affiliates, such as Alexa Internet, Inc.) may crawl or otherwise monitor your site for the purpose of ensuring the quality and reliability of Special Links on your site (for example, to detect links that are broken or non-functional, links to products that are out of stock or otherwise unavailable, etc.). Therefore, you agree that we and our corporate affiliates may take such actions and that you will not seek to block or otherwise interfere with such crawling or monitoring (and that we and our corporate affiliates may use technical means to overcome any methods used on your site to block or interfere with such crawling or monitoring).

Wow. I mean, just wow. I am floored. There are such gems in these “agreements”, it never cease to amaze me. If they only wants to ignore robots.txt, they could flatly say so and be done with it, but no, they had to make it as broad as possible. These Evil Faceless Corporations really think they can get away with anything, don’t they? Or am I reading too much into it?

Whatever, I will probably end up joining the program anyway. I am such a sheeple.

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Dear Organic Gardening magazine …

August 2, 2009 at 5:28 pm (Consumer affairs, English, Gardening)

Back in the late 90s, I was a real sucker for “free trial issue” offers from computer magazine. I got tons of them, some good, most not so. I would never end up subscribing to the magazine, and would simply throw the endless “credit notices” into the recycling bin. I must be permanently blacklisted at Ziff Davis.

To be entirely honest, this was a bit abusive on my part. I grew out of the habit, mostly because none of the really good magazines I would have actually been interested to read (Dr. Dobb’s, Linux Journal, etc) had these free trial issue offers in the first place. Plus, content on the web getting increasingly good and varied, what’s the point in wasting paper?

Being an aspiring market gardener, I recently went for a splurge and got a subscription to Growing for Market and HortIdeas Online, both of which being highly recommended and worth every single pennies in my opinion. I vaguely heard about Organic Gardening, which is published by Rodale, a well renowned publisher in organic gardening circles. I went to their web site, and took advantage of their free trial issue, something I had not done in over a decade.

Turns out Organic Gardening wasn’t so hot after all, and not worth the money. I assumed not sending payment would be enough to signify my lack of interest in getting the magazine past the free trial issue. But no, I started receiving a series of bill, about once a month, then reminders, and now credit department notice. Of course, these are bogus and I doubt they will go as far as actually reporting these to an actual credit rating agency. Nonetheless, it is a waste of paper and should stop already. So I sent the following email to their customer service department earlier today:

Hello Organic Gardening,

I have taken advantage of your “Free trial issue” offer online on your web site. Your magazine is very fine indeed, but not my cup of tea. It is too “lifestyle”, and not enough hard core gardening, for my taste.

I have received the free issue and accompanying guide. I have not received any more issue of your magazine, which is perfectly fine. I have, however, received increasingly threatening letter from your “credit department”. Just stop already. I do not wish to receive any more issue, and I am not going to pay you a dime. Normally, I would just ignore notices coming from you, but after having received five or six already, this is getting ridiculous. Spare yourself the expense of mailing these notices, they will get you nowhere and reflect badly on your otherwise fine publication.

Thank you,

Etienne Goyer

I guess that will teach me once and for all: free trial issue are not worth the trouble. There. I definitely deserve it, considering my past karma with printed magazines. Next time, I will get my “free trial issue” from the local library, thank you.

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