Permalink 04:16:01 pm, by Jet-Screamer Email , 669 words   English (US)
Categories:

Why You Should Cancel Your NetFlix Account Now and What Your Options Are

What do a middle-aged Web Developer, a middle-aged French/American Operations Director and a twenty-something gay Program Manager have in common? They're all leaving Netflix as a result of Netflix's drastic price increase. And if I were a stock holder of Netflix I would seriously have my ears tuned in to who and who is not pissed off enough over the price increase to bail on Netflix so easily.

It is clear to me from various people's reactions in our peer/work circles that NetFlix is going to see a lot of customers leaving them for alternate sources of movie rentals.

Cancel or Suspend Netflix?

A positive for Netflix in this whole mess they've created for themselves is their Suspend feature which allows you to, as the word says, suspend your account for up to three months due to vacation or whatever. During such time you will not be charged and of course you have to return all "At Home" DVDs and will not be able to stream. You will however be able to access your account and see what you have rented in the past etc. You can turn off the Suspend at any time during your defined suspension period. If you allow the suspension period to expire your account will become active again. To continue your suspension of their service you will have to extend it before it expires.

Most people we've talked to are choosing this as opposed to cancelling their accounts altogether. For one obvious reason, they're pissed, but not pissed enough to kick NetFlix COMPLETELY to the curb. They're just suspending their accounts in the hopes that NetFlix will see the error of their ways. This way, if NetFlix gets a clue and reverses their moronic business decision, people will still be able to pick up their accounts where they left off.

What Are Alternatives to NetFlix Service?

The second, and MORE IMPORTANT, reason is there are many options out there to provide the same results that NetFlix provided, or even better. The below video from Funny or Die (which makes a great deal of fun out of this "tragic event") offers a clue as to what many former NetFlix users will be turning to:

Others are choosing the popular RedBox service. Can't really argue with $1 buck/night if one of these is on your daily path. But what about us streamers? Yea, that's right! The glorious promise by NetFlix that we would all be able to stream movies WE WANT with the push of a button! Which would almost make up for the jet-packs we were all promised. Well, there's the rub isn't it? NetFlix's streaming content sucks. There is nothing there! And that's actually what they're charging more for. They think their streaming content is worth an additional $6/month. Sorry! It is NOT!

In addition, there has been a steady increase in LONG delays on the availability of physical DVDs. Here is an example of just how poor NetFlix's DVD availability is:

NetFlix Cue
NetFlix Cue

Each of the above Movies in the cue is either not available yet from NetFlix or is a "long wait". Each and every one of them was available at the same moment from Amazon's Instant Video for $3.99 or less. When we saw that comparison our decision on how to handle the NetFlix 60% price increase was done. In addition to Amazon's Instant Video we decided to add HBO to our cable service as they were running a promo price of $10/month. So between those two and a DVR, we're pretty sure we'll be completely cancelling our NetFlix at the end of our Suspend period, unless NetFlix reverses their price increase AND increases the number of available titles both DVD AND streaming.

UPDATED TO ADD: Since this original article, Amazon has now updated their Amazon.com Prime deal which is unlimited two-day shipping for $79/year to include unlimited streaming of their video content.

How about you? What's your reaction to NetFlix's price hike? What are your sources for Movies/TV Series? Leave us a comment below.

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12/27/08


  
Permalink 09:04:17 pm, by Jet-Screamer Email , 694 words   English (US)
Categories: Tech Tips

Tivo Reboot Disk Commands

If your TiVo is performing poorly (pixelates, stalls, is slow to respond) AND is out of warranty, you can try the following Kickstart TiVo disk commands to force the TiVo to perform several disk repair measures.

Or if you're a true adventurer you can explore the book and CD, Hacking TiVo: The Expansion, Enhancement and Development Starter Kit with CD-ROM. One reviewer describes it as "TiVo: You love it or you haven't met it. For those who have it (or are thinking of getting one), this book is out about all the different ways to modify, increase capacity, or even program TiVos. Whether you want to just add a little capacity to your TiVo's drives or turn it into a full-blown home entertainment center hooked into your home LAN, Jeff Keegan has written a massive and all-encompassing book on this rewarding art." Now, onto the Tivo Reboot Disk Commands...

Credit for these TiVo Command steps is given to the original poster, richsadams, from TiVocommunity.com.

Here's a video showing in real time the Tivo Kickstart procedure to give you an idea of what to expect.


Tivo kickstart procedures generally leave Season Passes, Wish Lists, etc. intact, however data and recordings that used any bad sectors may be lost. Use these commands at your own risk.

1. Kickstart 57
2. Kickstart 58
3. Kickstart 52

"Kickstart 57" is TiVo’s built-in diagnostic program similar to Windows “check disk”. It triggers an MFS assert (GSOD), which marks the file system as being damaged. The repair process detects and repairs inode/data problems, and then runs mfscheck to clean up database and directory problems.

Kickstart 57 – TiVo Diagnostics:

1. Go to TiVo Central
2. Select Messages & Setup
3. Select System Reset
4. Select Restart Receiver
5. Press Thumbs Down three times
6. Press Enter
7. While the system is restarting, during the initial screen, press and hold the PAUSE button until only amber light(s) illuminate or in the case of some TiVo HD's, the red, green and amber lights.
8. Release the pause button and immediately type in the numbers 5 and 7 on the remote (you have about 10 seconds to do this step).
9. TiVo will reboot and the GSOD screen will come on saying TiVo has encountered a serious error. It will then run the disk management tool. During this time it will look for and correct configuration problems as well as isolating any bad sectors on the hard drive so they can no longer be used.


10. TiVo will automatically reboot after the diagnostic program has completed. This may take a few minutes to a few hours.

"Kickstart 58" is another of TiVo’s diagnostic programs. It runs fsfix with an additional option that causes it to make multiple passes over the inodes, re-hashing them and clearing collision bits.

Kickstart 58- TiVo Diagnostics:

1. Go to TiVo Central
2. Select Messages & Setup
3. Select System Reset
4. Select Restart Receiver
5. Press Thumbs Down three times
6. Press Enter
7. While the system is restarting, during the initial screen, press and hold the PAUSE button until only the yellow light(s) illuminates.
8. Release the pause button and immediately type in the numbers 5 and 8 on the remote (you have about 10 seconds to do this step).
9. Put the remote down and wait. The system will proceed to the diagnostic program.
10. TiVo will reboot after the diagnostic program has completed. This may take a few minutes to a few hours.

“Kickstart 52” is an "emergency reinstall" of the software. It will reinstall the existing software on the alternate root partition.

Kickstart 52 – Reinstalling TiVo Software:

1. Go to TiVo Central
2. Select Messages & Setup
3. Select System Reset
4. Select Restart Receiver
5. Press Thumbs Down three times
6. Press Enter
7. While the system is restarting, during the initial screen, press and hold the PAUSE button until only the yellow light(s) illuminates.
8. Release the pause button and immediately type in the numbers 5 and 2 on the remote (you have about 10 seconds to do this step).
9. After a time (generally a few minutes) TiVo will automatically reboot.

If you have performed these Kickstart TiVo Disk Commands and still have shoddy performance, it's likely your disk is damaged beyond repair and you will need to replace it. This is not as harrowing as it sounds and can be an opportunity to greatly increase your TiVo's capacity.


  

08/28/08


  
Permalink 09:51:34 pm, by Jet-Screamer Email , 577 words   English (US)
Categories: Tech Tips

Amazon's Mechanical Turk & OLPC

We just recently had the experience of utilizing Amazon's Mechanical Turk for and by another company. For those that are not aware of Amazon's Mechanical Turk (AMT), it's method is to apply a 1000 monkeys with a 1000 typewriters to a project which requires human understanding. Meaning, you can't really write a program to do it but it requires a lot of people to accomplish. Think of reCaptcha, a program which uses captchas to not only avoid bots but also to, by that same human discerning, digitize physically typed book text which computers cannot discern. Just like much scanned text cannot be optically character scanned, and needs a human to decipher, AMT's purpose is to create massive data jobs which only humans can do efficiently. Such as, "How many flowers are in this image?".

It's a GREAT concept! Nothing is cooler than a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters. Reality tends to float to the top. What could be finer!?!

Well, one thing. One rather BIG thing. It is very clear that AMT's business model is based on the Global Economy, however, not the PHYSICAL Global Economy, but rather the Internet Global Economy.

The worrisome thing about the AMT business model is the Second World Nation's citizens, churning away at their home computers after a hard days work, telling someone how many flowers are in their images for a wage of .05 cents per image. Oh Sure, that's likely a fair wage given the transfer rate and the fact that it takes less than a minute to perform the task on a single image BUT...

(and this scared me a bit when I considered the potential)

Consider the One Laptop Per Child project(OLPC), a FINE effort with nothing but the best intent and one which we support whole heartedly. However, consider the combination of these two things we are discussing. Is not the distribution of laptops to second and third world nations COMBINED with the existence of online services like Amazon's Mechanical Turk (AMT) brewing a new techno-sweatshop potential? Think about it, cause I'm a greedy bastard and already have. I'm a greedy business oriented guy waltzing around in my poor country and I start seeing all these 10 year olds with their OLPC laptops and I've been doing work for Mechanical Turk ... hmmmmm ... I can basically pay these poor kids with bread and reap uber profits by creating techno factories where 1000s of 10 year olds with their OLPC laptops determine "how many flowers are in this image".

How do we nip this in the bud? ... I don't know. I'm not sure we can. I think we're looking at a new era of sweatshops. Techno sweatshops, in which what we want for the young children of the world, which is to empower them by exposure to the Internet, results in just another way to subjugate their youth into cheap labor.

We have no answer for this issue, but it has not yet been raised to our knowledge, and it should be. This is one of the downsides to our new innertube World Society and one which we cannot ignore. Most major retailers have departments known as "Social Responsibility". They exist to avoid an embarrassing moment where they are found to be purchasing physical product from a sweatshop in a Third World nation with 12 year old workers. How we will avoid this type of virtual child labor with the likes of AMT and OLPC is beyond me, but must be addressed!


  

08/13/08


  
Permalink 09:58:16 pm, by Jet-Screamer Email , 780 words   English (US)
Categories: Tech Tips

Stolen Web Graphics

Somebody STOLE my website's graphics!

Ok, you've discovered another website displaying graphics from your site which you either created or paid to have created. What can you do?

Your graphics have been stolen in one of two ways:

  1. Your graphics are being displayed on their website by linking to the image on your website
  2. Your graphics were downloaded from your website and loaded onto their server for display

Situation one is the worst. Not only have your images been stolen but YOUR website is actually displaying the image(s) on THEIR website. This not just image theft, it's also what's known as "Bandwidth Theft", meaning your server is expending it's limited monthly bandwidth to display the image on their website. This is HIGHLY unethical and illegal.

You can likely first combat this through your website Hosting Control Panel. Most hosting companies provide their customers with a Control Panel which allows them to set many aspects, one of which is "Hotlink Protection" (on the Plesk Control Panel). By turning this on you prevent any website, other than your own, from displaying graphics from your server. This is the strongest method to ensure other websites do not link to and display graphics from your server on their website.

Excluding this option, given it's appropriate for the graphics's display on your own site such as a website title graphic, add your own domain's http URL in tiny text. No competitor would want to display that.

You can have a lot of fun with image/bandwidth thieves too. Rename the image you use on your website and rename a highly inappropriate image to the one being stolen by the other site and voila! They're now displaying an image they had no intention of.

Situation two, your graphics have been downloaded from your server to theirs and are displayed there.

Your first step here is to simply contact the offending website via email (assuming they have contact info on their website) and state you have seen your graphic(s) on their site without permission and they should cease and desist from displaying your property. Include anything you can to point out it's your graphic, such as screen shots of your website, original artwork (watermark it!), etc. Copy yourself on these emails and make sure you save them for future proof. As an added point you could CC an attorney whether real or not. If you do not get a reply from this and they still display your image(s), give the scoundrels the courtesy of a phone call. In both the email and the phone call, state that if your image(s) are not removed from their site you will contact their web host's abuse department.

How to find the image stealing website owner's contact info and their web host's Abuse dept contact info:
To try and find the domain name registration information for your image thief, start with a WhoIs search on GoDaddy. Enter the domain name and see what you can see. Often, people will use a privacy organization to block their actual data being available here. Nothing you can do about that. Onto finding the abuse dept of their website host.

To find the offending website's hosting company abuse contact info, first find the the IP address of the website by going here and entering the website's name, such as aWebsite.com. This will ping the website and return 4 nearly identical lines of info such as, 64 bytes from 62.223.158.104: icmp_seq=0 ttl=245 time=2.949 ms. You want the 62.223.158.104 bit. Enter this info into the search box on this, Find Out Whois By IP site. This will give you a lot of info but most importantly it will give you an Abuse Dept email address, likely abuse@... AND a phone number.

First email then call the Abuse Department. Contacting the Abuse department of a website's host often results in immediate action. A web hosting company leans towards putting the burden of proof on their customer to avoid dragging themselves into a legal battle. The average reaction is to turn off a customer's website until their customer disproves the accusations against them or ceases the offending behavior.

Your last step before actually having to pay an attorney is to send a registered letter with the same cease and desist language including the same proof from your first email. This is one of those mandatory tasks in situations like this. This Internet Copyright Law web page will give you much information on what you need to do to create a good cease and desist letter. Often, bluffing that the image(s) are copyrighted is adequate for action. After all of this you'll have to contact an attorney.


  

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