Aug 11

Apple’s European ad slogan: Buy iPad because it’s all you can get

“Apple asserted in German court that Samsung’s tablet had imitated the iPad so closely that it infringed on Apple’s intellectual property rights. The court agreed with Apple … block[ing] the sale of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the European Union…” [via Apple blocks sale of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Europe]

This is the kind of bullshit “Intellectual Property Rights” that discourages the hell out of me and innovators in general. No longer does the best product, a melting pot of all the best ideas executed, rise to the top on its own merit. This instance with Samsung has hit mainstream media because it’s one big player against another.

As far as Apple is concerned, I have long since strongly disagreed with their uber proprietary worldview. This news further fuels the fire that this company is, at the core: greedy, secretive, anti-entrepreneurial tech mongers. Epitomizing “If you’re not with us, you are against us.”

For more on the extremely sorry-state of IP & patent rights, I encourage you to hear This American Life’s “WHEN PATENTS ATTACK!” podcast containing some eye-opening investigative journalism that has certainly colored my optimism a shade darker. Or, for the hard and fast version from the same reporters, Planet Money’s “The Patent War“.

The source of the madness ultimately lies with faulty copyright legislation. It’s unlikely to be resolved anytime due to the state of big business which has evolved to coddle and encourage patent-rights beginning most strongly with Microsoft’s infamous rise to (one of) the world’s largest software makers.

You can bet your ass we won’t see any ambitious young startups who may employ early-Microsoft like tactics obtain success. They will be dealt a swift strike from the cease & desist ban hammer. Not to say it is utterly impossible to make it as a startup; hundreds of young companies continue to weather the storm. I’m just saying it’s is a stifling environment these days.

As for the big players, they’ve their “hands” full with the highest cards – armed with an arsenal of patents. But, I digress: there is a bit of positive news in the Apple slaps Samsung injunction. Samsung has its own arsenal of funds and patents. Maybe, together, they’ll tear down the acrid system unintentionally whilst fighting the tablet market-share war.

Unsurprising UpdateApple is also suing Motorola in Europe over the Xoom tablet’s design

Apr 11

An obscure discovery about using the xbox 360 as a windows extender

Gentle FTTA reader, if the title of this post means notta thing to you, you probably did not arrive via a search engine. Hopefully though, you’ll find some enjoyment from my colorful commentary on the journey of one man on a quest to watch Star Trek The Next Generation episode rips on his living room TV.

For the rest of you, anonymous tip seekers scouring the internets for possible solutions to an utterly frustrating and overly generalized error message, this info may help you.

“Connection Failure: The Xbox 360 could not connect to the Windows Media Center PC. Turn your Xbox 360 off then on again, and try to connect again.”

I attempted a plethora of configuration tweaks, tips and “fixes” to the windows firewall and registry, as gleamed from search engines google and bing*. All were no help until I stumbled upon this question “do you by chance have a fingerprint reader on this PC?”

Had I not spent hours learning how exactly Windows Media Center (WMC) “Extends” itself to the xbox 360 I would have completely overlooked the question. But since I now knew the ins and outs, *BOOM*, it became perfectly clear.

In short, the extender is simply a remote desktop connection to the single WMC application. And the stupid fingerprint reader on my Windows 7 ultimate laptop was preventing the login. Wasn’t there any error logs reporting (or hinting at least) this simple authentication failure in the windows event viewer? Nay!!

So finally, the solution: uninstalling the AuthenTec fingerprint software/driver (mine was provided by Lenovo for my X200). I lose the ability for fingerprint logins – at this point, SO what.

WMC via xbox 360!

Many hours were “invested” in troubleshooting this issue which could have easily been avoided given some better error reporting on either the xbox or windows side.

The real kicker is that I pretty much did this to myself; I must be a masochist. There is free software out there, like tversity, that do essentially the same thing for free. FREE. But since I have all this paid Microsoft shtuff (regardless if whether & what I actually paid…) I ought to use it, right!?

Mar 11

The Best Buy Credit Card Scam

First off, the term “scam” should be taken with a grain of salt, hopefully one of many stuck to a margarita glass. Secondly, what HSBC Best Buy has going can definitely be termed a racket.

The Pitch: Open a Best Buy Credit Card and pay no interest 24 months!!

The typically skeptical Consumer thought process: Hmmm, free financing; what’s the catch? OK, so this is actually an HSBC bank credit card, sure… nothing else jumps out as odd in the immediate fine print.

This seems ideal for a large purchase like that washer and dryer we so desperately need. I’ll read the minimum payment from my first statement and put this baby on auto-pay. Score.

The reality:

  • Month 1-6: minimum payment $10
  • Month 7: minimum payment $23; auto-paid $10 minimum payment insignificant; $35 late fee assessed
  • Month 8: minimum payment $36; oh shit, what’s all this now? LATE FEE? WTF!

According to a HSBC representative, “a new law was passed in January and you received a notice in the mail about your minimum payment.” To date, I have yet to find said notice. I did however, find the exact same claim from a blog post in The HSBC Monitor, “there was a new law that passed in January that requires them to charge a higher percentage of the balance” which, interestingly enough was posted in 2006.

Eventually, the representative passed me to a “manager” and the late-fees were waived. All was ok, I was alright even though I had spent hours on the phone talking to human script reading machines. I Had Won. So, I figure OK – boost the auto-pay amount to $30, well above that old minimum and I’ll be good. Then *two* months go by.

Minimum payment: $46. Auto pay shy of $16. Late fee bitch +$35.

Conundrum: call HSBC, waste hour(s) pitching how wrong they are to charge this fee. Or, pay it, stfu and take it.

Moral of the story: Signing up for a free financing offer means to mentally prepare to add that to your monthly checklist. Do not rely on auto pay to “beat the system”. Pay close attention to each and every message sent from the company providing that “free” credit. They Will Try To Screw You out of some money.