Down with Monarch Computers

Don’t shop at Monarch Computers. If you have to make a return, you’ll regret it. I wanted a refund, instead I got a run around.

I found monarch computers browsing through Pricewatch for memory for my new macbook. It must have been late because it turns out I accidentally bought desktop RAM instead of laptop RAM. This was June 14. As soon as I opened the box I realized my mistake, so I contacted them and got an RMA number and had the memory on its way back in a day or two. They would only give me store credit, less the 15% gouging fee for restocking, so I waited my time until they processed my return. And waited. Called to ask why I hadn’t got a store credit notification yet even though the package was already there for days. I get told the “returns department” is taking care of it – but seriously how many people could actually be working for this place?

Seven days after the return gets there I finally get an email saying my store credit is ready. I instantly place an order for the correct memory so I can use my store credit. Only it turns out that they don’t apply the credit to the order:

keep in mind that orders processed on the website will be completely billed to your credit card or pay pal account, and in turn, the store credit will be refunded back to your account within 10-15 days of the order being processed.

Or do they? I get two emails that say this instead

Your RMA credit is currently being applied to your order. Any credit available to you will be refunded back to you.

Seems to be some internal confusion about their policies.

The order was placed on 6/30 and finally shipped 7/6 or so (because of the holiday). Add on the 10-15 days and my money is a little over two weeks overdue.

I start calling. They don’t even answer the phone half the time. Last monday (7/30) they told me that the return credit was to be processed that day by the “credit department”. Today (8/7) I call, again, looking for my refund and am told again it was sent to the “credit department” and should have been taken care of. I ask to speak with this mysterious “credit department” and the guy (Mark?) tells me he has no way of providing me that information (wtf?). So I tell Mark that unless I hear from someone by the end of the day I’m going to have to start a chargeback through my credit card – he takes my number but I didn’t hold my breath on hearing from them.

When I got home, I started my first ever chargeback.

Its disappointing really – I usually prefer to deal with smaller companies I find through pricewatch (especially if they’re on the east coast so shipping is faster and cheaper) but this is the first time I’ve had a problem.

Steer clear of monarch computers.

Fenway Frisking

The security at red sox games doesn’t make any sense. Apparently only men are a threat, because they receive a cursory pat down the sides. Women pass right on through. (though I’m sure the discriminating female terrorist would be tripped up for storing her anthrax in her vera bradley, because purses and bags are searched.)

What is the point of such half-ass security? I’m sure the pat down wouldn’t detect a firearm or some other munition in the small of one’s back, and they didn’t even touch anyone’s legs. This is like banning nail clippers on planes (yes I know they aren’t banned anymore). Maybe it makes someone feel better, but it doesn’t make a lick of difference to any actual security.

American Morning on CNN – Wasted Airspace

I was at the gym this morning and noticed a couple of disturbing things on the television. Next to the TV tuned to MTV which seems to play the same 3 videos every morning that I’m on the treadmill, hospital there was one tuned to CNN. I’m starting to wonder if that middle “N” means news anymore.

About 8 this morning, they spent around five minutes talking about McDonalds coffee and doing a blind test test in the studio and with passers by on the street. Is this newsworthy? I guess I now know that people can’t really tell one coffee from another. (If you’re read gladwell, you also know about the effectiveness of blind test tests). I would like to know how much McDonalds was paying for this infomercial segment, and if they aren’t paying, then why CNN is wasting time covering this crap. I’m sure we can find some more topics to talk about, like the anti-free speech crackdown in Kenya. People would probably have been better served by a video of a waving flag.

In the dreaded crawl during this time I notice this (paraphrasing a little because I didn’t have a notebook with me on the treadmill) “Women from 50 countries sign letter to Kofi Annan accusing him of paying lip service to gender equality and doing nothing to promote women’s rights” – Which is completely redundant. That’s what lip service means! You don’t need to add on the “and did nothing” part.

What’s next, defining all the words in the crawl to make sure people understand what’s going on?

What is wrong with the justice system in Florida?

I was going to title this “What is wrong with Florida” but clearly we could discuss the problems with God’s waiting room all day…

First that old geezer is able to drive around for something like three miles with a freshly dead man hanging through his windshield, and get off without criminal charges by claiming he didn’t notice it until a toll booth operator kindly pointed it out to him. Too bad it wasn’t a gas station attendant, cause then the attendant could have said, “want me to check your oil, remove that corpse from your windshield?”

Moving on… Now I read this kid Lionel Tate who at 12 was already a killer (a 6 year old girl) who got off on a sweet second-degree murder charge is back in court over holding up a pizza delivery man. For three pizzas. At gunpoint.

Florida is letting him plea bargain from probation-violation that would see him in prison for life down to 10-30 years. I think this one has already sufficiently proved himself a menace to society. Lets see:

  • Kills 6 year old at 12 (gets off because of his age, probably teaching him a bad lesson)
  • Caught with 8 inch knife in 2004, clear house arrest and probation violation (gets off with only 5 year probation extension
  • Holds up pizza man for PIZZA at gunpoint (get sweetheart plea bargain)

What does one have to do in Florida before they actually write you off? Who’s going to have the misfortune of crossing Lionel’s path in 10-30 years to prove, again, that Florida should have locked him up the first time?

Update: Thinking about it more, how good can Florida pizza even be? Unless it was someone delivering pizza from New Haven or New York, how can it be worth holding someone up over?

“At least it doesn’t bomb out”

Apparently for some people interactions with software fall into a binary universe: one side is graceful, the other is anything else that crashes, burns, or otherwise presents the user with an error message or stack trace.

To use a metaphor that describes the problem we were discussing without actually being in the same subject domain at all – imagine you had a tool that let you arrange furniture in a room. So you pick a room, and then create and arrange furniture. Only some rooms you can’t create furniture in – you can start to create an item, but there aren’t any valid choices for color! So you can’t ever really save the room, and your time has been wasted. Do you think that’s graceful because it didn’t crash? Or would graceful have been not letting you pick that type of room in the first place?

To someone’s suggestion that our current design is not so graceful comes the response, “Its graceful, I mean it doesn’t bomb out”.

Granted, there are always time/cost tradeoffs particularly around edge cases like this one, but this discussion didn’t even delve into that.


News reporters “on location”?

I work next to a big courthouse in Cambridge, and fairly often there are rows of satellite trucks parked there, idling all day long, so that come the 6 o’clock news some talking head can blather on about the latest case of society gawking at truly unimportant crap while standing in front of it. Does standing in front of the courthouse mean their information is more valid, their comments more intelligent?

I’m pretty sure the local news (Is your toilet trying to kill you? Find out at 11!) watching public could be duped by just as satisfied with someone standing in front of a bluescreen, like on the Daily Show.

If supermarket loading docks can post signs prohibiting idling trucks to protect the neighbors, I think its time the courthouse did too.

Massachusetts has anti-idling legislation but it appears to contain an exception for vehicles that require their engines running for situations like this:

(c) vehicles engaged in an operation for which the engine power is necessary for an associate power need other than movement and substitute alternate power means cannot be made available provided that such operation does not cause or contribute to a condition of air pollution.

Maybe there should be some new legislation to incent those that operate vehicles of this type to install and operate auxillary power units instead of their primary engine.

Poor workflow in USAirways self check-in kiosks

I ran into an ugly edge case attempting to use a self check-in kiosk to fly from Boston to Nassau on my UK passport last weekend. It turns out that its not possible – while one can use a self check-in kiosk to fly to the Bahamas on a US passport, or on a UK passport to the UK, it is not possible to use the kiosk to fly to another country using a different country’s passport.

Only the kiosk didn’t tell us that for a while…

After Kristi checked in successfully, we scanned my passport and informed the kiosk I am a UK citizen. At this point, the machine should have told me to see a ticket agent. Only instead, it chose to waste my time and that of the people waiting in line by prompting us to enter my name, passport number etc from a slow on-screen keyboard. Only at the end, after being prompted to enter my emergency contact information did the kiosk tell me to see the ticket agent, who informed me that what I am attempting was actually impossible. Thanks a bunch whoever programmed the kiosk. Great job on designing that interaction.

The kiosk did amuse me by telling me “The FAA requires that you provide emergency contact information” and then asking me do I want to provide contact information. What kind of requirement is that?

Medical Mini Rants

Here’s a couple of medical-related things that have bothered me in the last few days:

###The Flu Shot Cupboard is Bare
Despite last winter’s much lamented Flu Vaccine shortage and all its associated hand wringing about solutions for the future, I cannot find a flu shot this season. I go late in the day to Tuft’s flu shot clinic for students, and they’ve run out. I make an appointment for a flu shot with my real doctor and then a few days later get a call cancelling my appointment because they’re all out. No one seems to know when they’ll get more either. Where is the media outrage? Apparently the only way to get a flu shot this year is to work for a large company that makes machines for business across national borders and go to one of their under populated, over vaccine-supplied clinics.

Or line up early and often as if to buy bread in Moscow in the 1980s. Terrific!

###Having to Show Id to Buy Sudafed
I was at Target on Saturday, and as I was feeling a little under the weather (perhaps its the flu I can’t get vaccinated against) I decide to pick up some Target brand 12-hour Sudafed. Only thing is now you have to take a card with a picture of the item to the pharmacy, where they will not only id you to make sure you’re old enough to buy Sudafed, but also record the information in some database and make one sign some extra slip of paper. Sounds like a feel-good, zero-effectiveness way to win the war on meth-labs in Somerville. Are there even any? Then I guess its working. Did we have a problem to begin with?

If I buy a bunch of sudafed and a keg in the same day, which have equally onerous purchase registration requirements around here, I wonder which would generate a police visit first?

Sure, switch to the new Sudafed PE “eqivalent”- only there doesn’t seem to be a generic equivalent yet, so I’d be paying more to avoid the inconvenience of getting the old stuff.

All of that, and I bet people who run meth labs are still having no problem getting a hold of their Pseudoephedrine.

Mini Rants

Here’s a couple of things that have irked me recently:

###Team sports apparel that supports all the teams at once
What is with the hats (and occasionaly ridiculous pants) with the embroidered logos of every sports team in a given major sports league? Is it so hard to come down on one side of the pressing “which team do you cheer for?” issue? It’s not complicated like universal health care or the death penalty for crying out loud!

While I’m at it, what’s with leaving the holographic stickers and tags on hats while wearing them around town? Is it to show everyone how new your hat is?

###People with an apparent lack of intellectual curiosity
Every day I ride the T to work, and there are far too many people who either sit and stare blankly, or read the crappy free non-paper, the Metro. Is it too hard to bring a book or magazine that you might be reading at home along? Is reading too hard in comparison to watching Survivor or the reality show du jour? I bet in a couple of years, everyone will have video ipods, and they’ll all be entranced by whatever crap they couldn’t get watched in the 7 hours they watched TV the night before.

Too Many Wires!

This is what the side of my iBook looks like most days:

Wires Spewing from iBook

Since I went out and bought a 17″ flat panel (can you ever have enough pixels?), and then a keyboard and mouse, I’m swimming in connections – so now when I do take my iBook down to the library to do homework or on a trip, I’m unplugging all these damn wires. The other day, I thought something along the lines of “my kingdom for a docking station” – and what do you know, even though apple doesn’t provide connectors on their laptops, someone made this hacky passthru thing.

Only snag, its around 200 bucks. Which makes me think, I could just get a mac mini for not all that much more than that, and not have to throw it away next time I upgrade laptops (hopefully a powerbook next time, though I heard they aren’t going to make 12″ powerbooks anymore). Then I’ll have the keeping important files in sync problem, but that’s solvable.

I don’t think I want to buy any more mac hardware until they’re running speedy intel chips though. After seeing some benchmarks about dual core Opterons thrash the dual core intel chips, its too bad Apple didn’t go with AMD. Maybe by then the mac mini will support dual monitors. That would rule!