I recently ordered a Huawei 3G-to-wifi router thingy from Amazon. It's crap and doesn't work so, after ordering a replacement made by another manufacturer, I had to return the duff one.
Amazon make this really easy. All I had to do was fill in a form on their website, print out an address label with a barcode, stick that on an envelope, and take it to a Collect Plus franchise. There are bazillions of these, even in ruralistan. This is far more convenient than having to take something to a post office which is only open for a couple of hours a day because they want to go out of business.
And best of all, the newsagent I took it to could scan that barcode, and my refund arrived within the few minutes it took me to walk back home.
The mark of a business that knows about customer service is what they do when something goes wrong. When everything goes right it's easy to please your customer, but when it goes wrong, such as when you've sold something that doesn't work, it's much harder. By making returns so very quick, easy, and quibble-free, Amazon have done it. Bravo!
Posted at 18:57
by David Cantrell keywords: amazon
Not a bad tournament this year, the stand-out game being the low-scoring match between Scotland and Ireland, and my man of the tournament was Ireland's Paddy Jackson.
As usual I'll bitch about scrums. Not a single scrum was fed straight, and despite the recent rule changes there were too many resets and infringements leading to free kicks and penalties. The IRB must instruct referees to apply the damned laws: to punish crooked feeds at the scrum. And if they can't come up with a formulation of the laws that will permit putting pressure on before the ball is fed without the possibility of moving the scrum, then they need to change the laws so that when the scrum is set it is without pressure. I'd hate to see scrummaging disappear from the game, as it has in the League game, but I fear for it if the IRB and referees don't get a grip.
Finally, a worrying development is players arguing with officials and trying to tell them what to do. This is supposed to be a gentleman's game, not Association football, and that behaviour Will Not Do. I'd like such dissent to result in a free kick or a penalty (as the laws already provide for), but realise that there are often players from both sides arguing. So I propose five minutes in the sin bin.
Apparently, perl is rubbish because <whine>the tools aren't friendly</whine>.
Well, if that's the case, then python is too:
$ git clone git://github.com/rg3/youtube-dl.git Cloning into youtube-dl... ... $ cd youtube-dl/ $ make Could not find platform independent libraries <prefix> Could not find platform dependent libraries <exec_prefix> Consider setting $PYTHONHOME to <prefix>[:<exec_prefix>] 'import site' failed; use -v for traceback Could not import runpy module pandoc -s -w man README.md -o youtube-dl.1 make: pandoc: Command not found make: *** [youtube-dl.1] Error 127 $ dpkg -l|grep python ii python 2.6.6-3+squeeze7 interactive high-level object-oriented language (default version) ...
Posted at 13:30
by David Cantrell keywords: geeky | rant
I find the hoops they jump through with lifetime mileage assumptions interesting. They assume that electric and petrol/diesel cars have the same lifetime mileage, and then run the sums for different assumptions. Even with that bogus assumption, they struggle to show that electric cars are cleaner than normal ones. They can show that they emit less CO2, but that ain't the same as being clean. You also have to account for, as an example, the polluted run-off from the mines where the rare minerals that go into the batteries come from, and the waste products from processing those minerals into batteries.
I read some research a coupla years ago which took into account that hybrids' batteries (and I presume that this applies to all-electric cars too) give an expected lifetime mileage of only 100,000 miles, whereas yer typical diesel pickup has an expected lifetime mileage of 250,000. While the pickup may have a higher environmental cost over its entire lifetime, the environmental cost *per mile* was lower because manufacturing the hybrid took so much energy, produced so much nasty pollution, and involved the sacrifice of baby elephants and seals with ritual incantations to the Elder Gods.
But it's all a bit suspect, because none of this appears to take into account where they are driven and how they are driven. Not only are different vehicles and powerplants more suitable to different types of driving (eg motorways, low speed country roads, stop/start city traffic, carrying a heavy load, ...), they quite probably attract different kinds of people with different driving styles. You'd generally buy a Prius (for example) because you care passionately about polar bears, but you'd buy a normal car because you care more about making the best use of your time and money.
In summary, if you care about the environment, you should avoid electric cars, avoid hybrid cars (unless you live in a big city and expect to do most of your driving there; hybrid wins in stop/start and slow traffic), buy a small efficient diesel. There are useful data here and here.
I'm a loan shark. Through Kiva, I've been lending money every month for the past few months to people in the third world so that they can invest in their businesses or education. I feel that it's a far better way of being charitable than just giving money. When you give money, it often gets used and then ... it's gone. And even when it does go to something useful in the long term, there's still a lot of waste. When you make a loan to help someone start or expand a business, they have something tangible at the end of it, and will be less reliant on charity and loans in the future. They can employ people too, and build up a reserve themselves to get them through lean times. And finally, when they pay back the loan, that money can go straight into making another loan, helping another person.
Making small loans for well-defined capital projects where the borrower gets something tangible at the end of it is just so much more efficient than giving to charity, and it's very affordable. By putting lenders together into ad-hoc syndicates, very small amounts of money from many lenders come together to make substantial loans.
So far, I've lent to a Palestinian who wanted to buy mics and sound mixing equipment for his radio station; to a Colombian to buy tools and equipment to set up his own metal-working business; to a Kenyan so she could buy seed to expand her farm; and to a Tajikistani student to pay for university fees.
There are, however, lots of people looking for loans on the site who don't meet my criteria, and who won't gain from taking a loan. Take this example. She wants to borrow money to buy stock for her shop, which she will promptly sell, and then be left with a debt to be paid off over 14 months. She might make a very small profit, but once she's sold it all she'll need another loan to buy more stock, and so on, a never-ending cycle of debt and interest payments. No ma'am, not gonna "help" you with that.
This is even worse. He wants a loan to pay off a loan and to buy food. This chap seems to have taken on debts that he couldn't pay off in the first place, so how can we trust him to be able to pay off the loan he's asking for? And borrowing money for food? That's just about the worst thing you can buy on credit, as you will have absolutely nothing to show at the end of it.
I really recommend Kiva - or one of the other microfinance sites. They do good work, and I don't think that any other form of philanthropy comes even close to achieving their benefit to hassle ratio. Just be careful not to invest in dependency.
Electronic books have been around for ages - I was paying for them back in 1999 and classics have been available electronically for at least 40 years, thanks to Project Gutenberg. But it's only recently that they've become a mass market, and this is largely down to Amazon's Kindle. Oh sure, there are lots of other "e-readers", but the Kindle is the market leader.
The last couple of years have, not coincidentally, seen an explosion of independent authors. Now that you don't need to print books, many authors who don't already have publication contracts are cutting out that particular middleman and self-publishing, using Amazon for distribution.
The Kindle and Amazon ecosystem does, of course, have drawbacks. But by getting e-books out into the mainstream, something that normal people read and not just weird geeks, Amazon have enabled other sources of e-books to exist. Remember how cider used to be marginalised until Magners came along with their bloody awful pap and their enormous advertising budget? They made cider mainstream, and created a market for smaller producers of better-quality products. Amazon's mainstreaming of e-books has enabled sites like Smashwords to also take off. Most indie authors who self-publish on the Kindle also use sites like Smashwords to sell to users of non-Kindle devices.
And now, the Kindle has launched in India. India is, as well as being the world's greatest democracy, the largest English-speaking country. I'm confident that the Kindle in India will precipitate a boom in electronic self-publishing there just as it has in the US and UK. And, of course, they'll want to sell world wide and won't have any idiot publishers to stop them. I'm looking forward to it!
Oh dearie me. I was trying to buy some tickets to a show at the Barbican, and got this error from Google Chrome. Translating into words that actually mean something useful instead of their "helpful" message, they're saying that the Barbican's SSL certificate couldn't be validated. Unlike every other browser, they provide no way for those of us who know what the hell this means to work around the problem.
Thankfully, I have another browser - Firefox - available, so I could use that. Lo and behold, Firefox thinks that the certificate is Just Fine, and shows me that it's authenticated by Verisign. Why on earth would Google not accept this cert? Dipshits.
Apparently some classes of creditor are treated differently from others when a football club goes bust, in unique and special footbally ways, and HMRC don't like that. They argued before a judge that "the most fundamental principle of insolvency law is that creditors share equally in a loss". That's odd, because 11 years ago this month when my employer went bust, HMRC were the first creditor to get paid, followed by (if anything was left) other businesses, with employees last. Naturally, I didn't get a penny of the £5000 that I'm owed - that's the month's salary in lieu of notice of the end of my employment, as laid out in my contract, plus two weeks salary not paid for time that I worked, plus a week's paid holiday I was entitled to. It seems that HMRC now think that's terribly unfair. I guess I need to send them an invoice. There were about 20 employees, plus maybe 10 corporate creditors, plus HMRC, so I estimate that I'm entitled to one part in thirty one of the company's assets, up to a maximum of £5000. Of course, HMRC have had my share of that for 11 years, so I need to also charge them interest.
Gotta love the Olympics. Not only is it costing many times more than was originally budgetted, not only are the organisers quite open about taking bribes, not only are they going to screw up public transport with their Zil lanes, and they're happy to close down small businesses and put loads of poor people out of work. They do, of course, bleat about how building the stadiums for their pointless events employs so many people, but it only employs them temporarily, whereas many of the businesses they closed down were well-established and could have been expected to provide employment for the long term.
But now we find out - and are shocked, of course, because we could never have predicted this - that landlords are evicting tenants from housing near games venues so that they can rent them out to rich visitors. The only thing that's surprising about this is that some landlords are doing it illegally at short notice, and that the press have only just noticed. I knew that it would start happening in about January, as tenants would need two or three months notice to quit and then landlords would need some time to spruce up the properties before the scum they'll be renting them to arrive.
Of course, after the Olympics have been and gone, rents will go back down, but not to current levels. Having had their refurbs paid for by Olympic vermin, landlords will be able to set their prices higher than they are now.