Category: Opinion

More Charter Joy

8:30 AM: Just got off the phone with another tech, who asked if we were having problems. No, I just enjoy calling you guys up and not getting anywhere. 

So this tech asks what the problem is – I explain it, again. “So the cable card isn’t the problem?” No, everyone on Charter’s side has said the cable card is most likely the problem. “So I should probably go get a cable card?” Yeah, probably a good idea. Tech says he didn’t even read the report. Suggested he grab a tuning adapter while he’s there too.

11:30 AM: The technician just left, after having spent 2 hours here. I’m not sure he’s the same one I talked to on the phone. However, in short, the problem could have been solved with the person on the phone the first time if they had just updated the Host ID like I suggested. Supposedly the escalation team is going to be contacting me. I am unbelievably unhappy with them at this point. Oh, and our on-demand was turned off at some point, and to turn it back on would force us to move to the new pricing tiers. 

3:00 PM: Spoke with the escalation team. She took notes, offered a credit, which I accepted. Turns out the person who didn’t update the host ID is the same one who turned off On Demand for us. And they can’t turn it back on without putting us on the new pricing… but the new pricing is more channels for less money. Still not particularly happy we went through all this when it could have been resolved in about 10 minutes. Thinking I might need to write a letter to the Department of Telecommunications and Cable. We’ll let that stew for a bit though. 

Dammit Charter (again)

Previously on “Dammit, Charter“.

So this weekend was tax-free in Massachusetts. We’ve never been super happy with the TV in the living room, so we took advantage and upgraded the TV… which meant upgrading the TiVo too in order to get the full 1080P experience. 

Of course, this means I’ll need to make sacrifices to the demons of the cable cards. If you haven’t had the pleasure, the cable card is a painfully sensitive device which allows a receiver (such as a TiVo) to decode cable channels. They are super finicky and as far as I can tell, no one at Charter Communications understands them or can set them up. We’ve had problems in the past, and while a number of Charter reps have hinted that the cable card was liked the cause, they were able to fix it via the network and so, never replaced the card. Paired with the cable card is a tuning adapter, which basically provides a channel list to the TiVo and tells Charter what channel I want to watch. It seems to be just as delicate as the card. The requirement to have both is, I assume, something drawn up by a resident of one of Dante’s circles. 

Anyways. I’m moving the cable card from the old TiVo to the new, which means the host ID is going to change, which means a call to Charter. Historically, this has been a conversation with a very nice person which is completely incapable of supporting the technology Charter is using. I explain to the rep that I just bought a TiVo, moved the cable card, and am missing channels and get a screen that says to call them with the host ID and card ID. She sends a few initialization hits, which do nothing. We reboot. I suggest that perhaps she should verify the host ID because the one in their system won’t match the one on my screen. She can’t do that, so she calls in a supervisor. About 5 minutes on hold go by, she comes back and they send some more initialization hits and another reboot. Still nothing, so I get to schedule a visit for 1-3 the next day as it’s likely to be replacement time for the card or the adapter (or both).

I’m going to avoid the obvious jokes about cable companies and their concept of appointment windows. Suffice it to say, the stereotype exists for a reason and I saw no evidence to change it. 

The tech introduces himself, calls the dispatch. More hits, more reboots. Apparently having the tech call it in is different than what they did last night. He finally decides that it’s probably the card or the adapter. However… he doesn’t have one. I’m not sure why that would be, since that’s what the tech the night before said it probably was. 

So now I have another appointment on Wednesday morning. I fully expect this tech will bring the adapter and card but forget some other vital piece of equipment like pliers or something. 

Dammit, Charter.

I was all kinds of excited to see that HBO Go was being pushed out to Apple TV. Finally, no more monkeying around with Airplay Mirroring from my iPhone. Download the update, open the channel, get the code, figure out the password for authenticating to HBO Go through Charter. Doesn’t work.

Reread the articles. Charter isn’t allowing their customers to use HBO Go on the Apple TV. (And no matter what they say, that’s what it comes down to – someone at Charter chose not to do it.) I’ve had my problems with Charter. Their cable card support is craptacular at best, they barely have any techs who know how to support it and they eliminated their Twitter support which was the only consistent way to get anything done. They teased us with the rollout of TiVo and then cancelled it saying they were working on something better – which as tar as I can tell is a total lie as they don’t talk about it at all anymore. And now they aren’t letting us get HBO Go on Apple TV because they “didn’t get the rights”? 


How did every other cable company that offers HBO Go manage to figure it out except you guys? I’d say I’m shocked but honestly, this is the level of incompetence I’ve come to expect from these idiots. 

The media and this week

It’s been an interesting week. Lots of ways I could go with the events in my favorite city, but one thing stuck out crystal clear.

I was flipping through twitter Monday afternoon when one of my friends posted from mile 24 (crowd, not running) asking if anyone knew where the explosions came from. Sinking feeling in my stomach. I turned to my browser. Didn’t go to the news sites, went to Metafilter first. Tweeted back the summary that made up that post. 

Over the next few hours, I looked at the big media sites – the four Boston stations and Boston.com. None of them were keeping up with the combo of Twitter and Metafilter. CNN was all over the place – the downside of having 24 hours to fill with news is that you need 24 hours of news, so damn near anything gets broadcast, it seems. I understand how CNN got there, but all it makes me think is next time I want coverage on a live story, CNN is last on the list. The Boston stations, while better, still weren’t giving a whole lot of what was going on – I found they averaged about 15 minutes behind.

Say what you like about the role social media played in this week’s events (and places like Reddit could be a whole separate chapter, really), but I think I know where I’m going for breaking big stories from now on. Big Media showed some pretty big cracks in the facade this week. 

Google Voice Transcriptions

Usually Google Voice does an acceptable job transcribing messages. I wouldn’t say it’s great but it gets close enough that I can understand the gist of the message.

This one? Not so much:

Hi, This message is for Neil, this is key. Julia calling just to remind you that. It’s time here in action on the diamond Nicholas, Thank you Bye. If you wanna bring your paperwork will cleaning up the everything for you. We look at that the foam is gone. Mom opera. We hope to see you. Have a good day. Bye

Why UPS and Fedex are kicking the USPS’ ass

We received a notice from our mail carrier last month, on January 18. They “made an attempt to deliver a package.” I question the attempt, since I was home all day due to the weather, and by the time the mail was delivered, I had cleared the walk and driveway – but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and pretend they actually made an effort instead of just driving by with the package in the truck.

The notice gave me two options – I could go down to the local post office and pick it up after the 19th, or request redelivery. Since the post office in question is not open when I can usually get there, and is horribly slow and understaffed, I went online to request redelivery. Their site says “For same day service, online requests must be submitted by 2AM CST Monday – Saturday.” Fine, so I put in my request on the 18th, request redelivery on the 19th, and all should be well, I should get my package on the 19th.

Had that been the case, you wouldn’t be reading this.

I get home on the 19th, check the front steps where I requested the package be left. No package, although UPS left some. I go check the USPS website and find an update has been made to my request. It’s at the local post office and will be redelivered on the 20th.

Obviously, it wasn’t.

I wait a few days, and finally, on the 25th, I can get down to the local post office and pick it up – I figure by now, it’s got to be back there since it’s been a week since the first attempt. I talk to their counter person, who tells me its not there and its not his fault. Odd that this is practically the first thing he says. He says that the people who the USPS contracted out to run their redelivery system have no idea how the post office actually works. “Maybe the package is out on the truck today,” he offers. Turns out that my local post office doesn’t have carriers, so when they receive a redelivery request, they have to send the package back to the main postal center downtown to have it reinserted into the mail stream.

January 31. Still no package nor any further updates, no new slips… nothing. The walk has been clear most days. I decide to call the USPS and find out what’s going on. They have a voice response system. It’s horribly slow – not sure if it’s always that slow, or if it’s just a today thing. I do finally get an actual person after repeating operator over and over. And to their credit, the gentleman I spoke with was very nice. Useless, as they don’t have any information about the package. But at least he was nice. He said they showed it would have gone to a different station – the one downtown. So either they gave me the wrong form or gave him the wrong information. I call the number for the station he gave me. It went to one postal employee’s voicemail. I left a detailed message with the slip number and my phone number. I honestly don’ expect a response.

Finally, February 2. THe package arrives. No call back from the person whose number I called, which is about par for what I would expect.

TL;DR: From the evidence I’ve seen, they made an attempt to deliver on the 18th and then let it sit for over 2 weeks until I finally starting tracking it myself. UPS or FedEx would have been here every day until it got delivered and told me what was going on. I can’t imagine that next time I need to ship something, I’ll consider the Post Office at all.

Google Top Bar

I’m kind of suprised that Google doesn’t customize the links in the top bar of their sites based on what you actually use.

For example, I never click on the “shopping” link. I would bet Google has the data to back me up on this. Why not replace that with one I use daily… like “Reader”?

This seems so obvious that I’m sure there’s a good explanation for it, but I don’t get it.

Another Plan for Facebook

I’ve been thinking some more about Facebook. I spend a fair amount of time on their site but what do I really get out of it, especially that I can’t do elsewhere? I mean, I can post pictures to Flickr, status messages to Twitter, longer pieces here. A lot of what gets posted by my friends there is stuff that appears more important than it probably is.

I think what Facebook does well is connecting people. I’m thinking that if I can tie my other accounts back to Facebook, so that (as an example) when I post pictures to Flickr they automagically alert to Facebook. If I got that all set up, I would get the benefits of simplified sharing without having to actually log in to Facebook… and if I don’t log in to Facebook, I don’t get their cookie and they don’t track me all over creation.

Guess I know what I’ll be doing the next few days.

Why I Don’t Trust Facebook (And What I’ve Done About It)

You may have heard that Facebook is contemplating yet another set of changes to their privacy policy. The part that concerns me most is that they will extend your Facebook login to pre-announce you to other sites when you visit them. So, if you visit Yelp after logging in to Facebook, Yelp can read your Facebook login and recognize you without you having to log in to Yelp. On the face of it, it seems pretty cool – and I can certainly see the utility of it.

But here’s the catch. I never authorized Facebook to give that information. In fact, they’ve been pretty much told not to – between opting out of Beacon and being told not to include my information. I’m reading this as “even though you told us not to share your information, we’re going to anyways with this group of trusted third party sites.” In this case, I imagine “trusted” means “well-paying.” Certainly, I can opt out of this sharing – and I have. But who’s to say that, 6 months from now, Facebook will offer a tier of even more trusted third party sites access to my information? I’d really like it if Facebook would stop trying to figure out ways around their own privacy policy.

I understand that this is how Facebook makes money. I don’t begrudge them that. When it comes down to it, it’s how Google makes their money too. And Google has certainly had their share of privacy fiascoes – Buzz being the latest. The difference is, overall, I trust Google to handle my information. When they screw up, it doesn’t come across as malicious, just bumbling. I don’t get the same vibe from Facebook – see Beacon for the most glaring example.

So, what can we do? Well, the easiest way is to just close out your Facebook account and not use their service. However, I do like the convenience of their service and the fact that most of my friends are on there makes it very convenient. What I’ve done (after updating my privacy settings, of course) was to move Facebook to its own browser. In this case, I used Prism, which comes out of Mozilla and Firefox. Prism is a single site browser – it can be configured to only go to one site, like Facebook. There are other options, of course – the Fluid browser on Mac, for example. I chose Prism because it maintains a separate collection of cookies from the other browsers. Fluid shares cookies with Safari. With the purpose I have in mind, shared cookies defeats the whole point.

Now Facebook lives in its own little world. And all is okay, until the next time they decide to expand their reach.

Yield To Vehicles Turning Right – Why Is This So Hard?


View Larger Map
Okay, this happens pretty frequently so I’m going to bitch about it… why are drivers headed north on Burncoat Street and turning left onto Mountain incapable of understanding that they need to yield the right of way to southbound vehicles turning right onto Mountain?

From the RMV handbook:

When making any left turn, you must first yield the right ­of­ way to any…

  • Oncoming vehicle
  • At least one out of every four times I go through there, the idiot turning left has already decided to go because the car in front of him is going.

    Of course, the whole area is a clusterf*ck anyways. Drivers on Mountain St routinely block the intersection with Burncoat. The folks who decide that they’re going to make two lanes of traffic, coupled with their competition who decides to block two lanes of traffic. The lights that aren’t synchronized, causing the aforementioned backups. The apparent randomness of the left-turn signal from Mountain St onto Rt 12 southbound. The people who think it’s a good idea to make a left from whatever-that-little-street-is-named just west of the bridge over the tracks. (Yes, I see Google calling it West Mountain St. Not buying it.)

    I think the Worcester Police Department could probably balance the city budget quite easily if they stationed an officer around there and wrote tickets for every violation they noted. Might want to bring a few extra ticket books for that.