Posts tagged ‘customer service’


Classic example of tech firms passing the buck

04.05.2021

Just another day dealing with US tech firms then.
   When I signed up to Anchor, there was no mention of Google Podcasts, so I was very surprised to find later that I was syndicated there. Can you remove yourself?
   Anchor: ask Google!
   Google: ask Anchor!


   All that money (Google, not Alphabet, is worth US$320 milliard) and they’re about as useful as David Seymour at a socialist workers’ conference. Actually, about as useful as David Seymour, full stop.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


Facebook whistleblower gets fired; and a workaround for Meizu Music’s inability to find your SD card

19.04.2021

This is a pretty typical story: find fault with Big Tech, try to alert the appropriate people in the firm, get fired.
   Julia Carrie Wong’s excellent article for The Guardian shows a data scientist, Sophie Zhang, find blatant attempts by governments to abuse Facebook’s platform, misleading their own people, in multiple countries. Of course Facebook denies it, but once again it’s backed up by a lot of evidence from Zhang, and we know Facebook lies. Endlessly.
   Facebook claims it has taken down over ‘100 networks of coordinated inauthentic behavior,’ but I repeat again: if a regular Joe like me can find thousands of bots really easily, and report some with Facebook doing next to nothing about them, then 100 networks is an incredibly tiny number in a sea of hundreds of millions of users. Indeed, 100 networks is tiny considering Facebook itself has claimed to have taken down milliards of bots.
   And people like me and Holly Jahangiri, who found a massive number of bots that followed the Russian misinformation techniques, have been identifying these since 2014, if not before.
   Zhang reveals how likes from pages are inflating various posts—forget the bots I’ve been talking about, people have manufactured full pages on the site.
   She uncovered one in Honduras, and then:

The next day, she filed an escalation within Facebook’s task management system to alert the threat intelligence team to a network of fake accounts supporting a political leader in Albania. In August [2019], she discovered and filed escalations for suspicious networks in Azerbaijan, Mexico, Argentina and Italy. Throughout the autumn and winter she added networks in the Philippines, Afghanistan, South Korea, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iraq, Tunisia, Turkey, Taiwan, Paraguay, El Salvador, India, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Ukraine, Poland and Mongolia.

   Facebook was inconsistent with what it did, and its own self-interest interfered with it taking action. In other words, Facebook is harmful to democracy, and not just in the US which has received most of the occidental news coverage. On Azerbaijan, Zhang wrote in a memo:

Although we conclusively tied this network to elements of the government in early February, and have compiled extensive evidence of its violating nature, the effective decision was made not to prioritize it, effectively turning a blind eye.

   She was ultimately fired for her trouble, Facebook saying she wasn’t doing the job she had been hired for.
   So if you are going to work for Big Tech, leave your conscience at the door. That blood on your hands, just ignore it. Red’s such a fetching colour when it’s not on a balance sheet.

Little Tech can be troublesome, too. Last year, Meizu updated its Music app after a few years of letting it languish (a familiar theme with this firm), and it was a real lemon. It wouldn’t pick up anything on my SD card, at the location the old Music app itself saved the files. When I could still access the Meizu (English-language) forum, I managed to post a comment about it. Only today did I realize someone had responded, with the same issue.
   I can read enough Chinese to get the phone to do a search for local music files, and the only things it could pick up are what’s on the phone RAM itself, not the card. There’s no way to point to custom locations such as a card (even though there is a custom search, but it applies to the phone only).


Above: Meizu Music will only find music on the phone’s RAM—in this case sound files that come with the dynamic wallpaper and a couple of meeting recordings I made.

   Eventually I restored the old app through the settings, and all was well. It would occasionally forget the album cover art and I’d have to relink it (who says computers remember things?), but, by and large, Music 8.0.10 did what was expected of it.
   Until this last week. The phone insisted on upgrading to 8.2.12, another half-baked version that could never locate any SD card music.
   Sure I could just move the entire directory of 1,229 songs to the phone, but I wondered why I should.
   Restoring the app would work only for a few hours (during which I would try to relink the album cover art, ultimately to no avail). Blocking the new version the app store did nothing; blocking the entire app from updating did nothing. Blocking network access to the Music app did nothing. Essentially, the phone had a mind of its own. If anyone tells you that computing devices follow human instructions, slap them.


Above: I asked the app store to ignore all updates for Meizu Music. The phone will ignore this and do what it wants, downloading the update and installing it without any human intervention.

   I had a couple of options. The first was to make Migu Music the default—and I had used that for a while before I discovered I could restore the Music app. It’s passable, and it does everything it should, though I missed the cover art.
   The other was to find a way to make Music 8.2.12 work.
   There is one way. Play every one of the 1,229 songs one by one to have Music recognize their existence.
   Using ES File Explorer, you head to the SD card, and click on each song. It asks which app you’d like to open it. Choose Music. Repeat 1,228 times.


Above: I finally got there after doing something 1,229 times. As a non-tech person I know of no way to automate this easily. I can think of a few but developing the script is beyond my knowledge.

   Whoever said computing devices would save you time is having you on. They may have once, but there are so many systems where things are far more complicated in 2021 than they were in 2011.
   You may be asking: doesn’t ES let you select multiple files, even folders? Of course it does, but when you then ask it to play them, it ignores the fact you’ve chosen Music and plays them in its own music player.
   And even after you’ve shown Music that there are files in an SD card directory, it won’t pick up its existence.
   It’s at odds with Meizu’s Video app, which, even after many updates, will find files anywhere on your phone.
   For a music player with the same version (8) it’s vastly different, and, indeed, inferior to what has come before.
   How’s the player? Well, it connects to the car, which is where I use it. But so many features which made it appealing before are gone. Editing a song’s information is gone. Half the album cover art is unlinked (including albums legitimately downloaded through the old Meizu music service), and there’s no way of relinking it. European accented characters are mistaken for the old Big 5 Chinese character set.
   The only plus side is that some songs that I had downloaded years ago with their titles in Big 5, as opposed to Unicode, now display correctly. That accounts for a few songs (fewer than 10) of the 1,229.
   I know Meizu will do nowt, as its customer service continues to plummet. I may still file something on its Chinese BBS (the western one is inaccessible and, from what I can tell, no longer maintained by anyone from their staff), but it’s highly unlikely I’ll be brand-loyal. It’s yet another example of a newer program being far, far worse, by any objective measure, than its predecessor, giving credence to the theory that some software developers are clueless, have no idea how their apps work, have no idea how people use their apps, or are downright incompetent. It’s a shame, as Meizu’s other default and system apps are generally good.
   In the future, I’m sure someone else in China will be happy to sell me a non-Google phone when it’s time to replace this one.

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Posted in China, design, internet, media, politics, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


NewTumbl takes things seriously

05.01.2021

I have to say I’m impressed with NewTumbl as they responded to my Tweets about potential censorship and post moderation.
   I think they will allow me to share a few points.
   First, they took me seriously. The fact they even bothered to look into it is well beyond what Yahoo, Amazon, Facebook and Google would normally do, and I’m talking about Yahoo in 1999. They also answered every point I made, rather than gloss over or ignore some. Out of their thousands or myriads of users, they were actually good enough to deal with me one on one.
   Secondly, they assure me there’s no censorship of the kind I suspected but think a temporary bug could have been behind Mbii’s inability to see my posts. They will delete illegal content, and that is the extent of it.
   Thirdly, if I may be so bold as to say this one, my understanding of the posts’ levels is correct and those moderators who objected to my content are incorrect.
   I won’t reveal more than that as some of the content refers to future actions.
   I’ve said I could put a toe in the water again over at NewTumbl, and, ‘I really appreciate you taking this seriously and certainly it all helps encourage me to return.’
   Being honest and up front really helps.
   The one thing preventing me from heading back in a flash is I’ve become rather used to adding to the gallery here. We’ll see: I felt it was ‘No way, José’ a month ago (although I always maintained a “never say never” position—I mean, it’s not Google Plus) and now it’s more ‘The jury is out.’ At the least I might pop by more regularly to see what’s in my feed.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 5 Comments »


Payoneer frustrates and sends you round in circles

08.10.2020

I can safely say that I wouldn’t choose Payoneer as a payment service. As I told in their forums today as a last resort, after already spending hours (in the plural!) on this.

This has been deeply frustrating and here I am telling the story for the fifth time, since Payoneer stores none of my requests in the support centre.
   Today I received an email saying a payment was coming from a company that I work with. The problem: the bank account on file is out of date.
   There is no way I can make any changes.
   You may think that I can go to the settings on my account and do the edits there, but this particular account is not recorded there. So how can I remove or correct an account that is not even shown on the Payoneer website?
   No matter which option you select from payoneer.custhelp.com, you’ll get an automated response that is completely useless and irrelevant.
   The emails read, ‘If this response does not resolve your issue, visiting our Support Center is the fastest way to find a resolution,’ which is a complete and utter lie, since you cannot file a single support request. After you’ve typed out your story for the umpteenth time, support never receives a thing. You just get another automated email with useless information. When you look under ‘My requests’, you find that Payoneer never recorded what you wrote. This must be the quietest support centre in the world.
   When clicking on the link when the website’s advice is useless, you get a 404 that reads, ‘This site has been disabled for the time being.’
   They keep sending me to pages that I have already seen and can do nothing with. This has been the worst payment website I have ever had to deal with, as they keep sending you round in circles and nothing ever gets resolved. It’s out of sheer desperation I’m on a public forum in the hope someone knows how to do this.

   I’m not kidding about their website. Here are some fun pages it’s led me to in order to resolve my query.


   I’d like our money, please.

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Posted in internet, technology | No Comments »


Google’s knowledge panels: they don’t know how to give access to a verified user

08.09.2020

After my last post, it seemed fair to give Google a chance to respond. I filed some feedback with them, and, surprisingly, I got a reply. But then I was taken around in circles, again, just like in 2009, though the respondents aren’t arseholes like ‘Chuck’ all those years ago.

I clicked to claim this knowledge panel. You send me a verification. In that verification you have ‘Review info’. It’s just a blue box. I can’t click on it or do anything with it. Then when I go to the page to publish on Google Search, you tell me my address doesn’t have permission. I can’t remember how I got there, but you also show me another window saying someone is already managing my company on Google. That can’t be so as I’m the only person logged in via the Search Console and you verified that I was the right person.

   Google’s first response (links removed):

Hello Jack,

Thank you for contacting us.
   You are currently the verified owner of the knowledge panel entity “Lucire”. If you don’t see “Suggest an edit” option at the top of your knowledge panel, please confirm that you’re logged in to a Google account that was used for the verification. Also, check that your Web and App activity is turned on. If you are using a G Suite account, turn on the Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin.
   If this issue still persists, please send us the following so that we can investigate further, examples of these images are attached:

  • A screenshot of your knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner); and
  • A screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page.
  •    Also, we’re hoping to bring more features to you in the future. Unfortunately, Posts on Google is not open to every entity at this time.

    Regards,
    Jay
    Google Search support team

       It would be rude not to comply.

    Hi Jay:

    I really appreciate your reply. In the past, whenever I’ve contacted Google, I get radio silence, so I’m really happy you’re there.
       I signed in as me but there’s no ‘Suggest an edit’. I fail on the first hurdle, actually, as I believe I had turned my web activity off a while ago. Unfortunately, there’s no way for me to turn it back on or to access the first link you gave me.
       I have a Gmail with a school I work with. Even though I’m logged in with [redacted], the verified address, I get prompted to log in with my school address when I hit your first link. I switch accounts, which is the logical thing to do, and log in again. Except the site prompts me to log in with my school address. It’s a never-ending loop.
       Hopefully the attached screenshots will help with troubleshooting or to find out what I’m doing wrong.
       The browser is Opera, which is Chromium-based, and it has no privacy settings or blocked cookies that might prevent me from accessing Google.

    Thank you,

    Kind regards,

    Jack


    Above: This is the knowledge panel screenshot Google keeps asking me for. I’m logged in, with the verified address, and there’s no ‘Suggest an edit’ as they claim. That’s actually why I contacted them—because I’m literate and I’ve already read their instructions, which are either wrong, or I’m encountering something unexpected on their systems.





    Above: What happens when I click on Google’s web and app activity link that their reps send me. It asks me to verify my email but it’s the wrong address (this is the school one). I click ‘Next’ and get to the second screen, where I can choose the address that Google confirmed was the verified address, and the one used for its own search console. Notice the verified address has a green circle with a J inside it, just like in the top image. I then get taken to the third screen, but note that I have not been logged in. I sign in again. And guess what? We’re back to square one.

       This is where it starts to go awry, because despite a really good start from Jay, who confirmed that my regular address was the one that was verified to edit Lucire’s knowledge panel, I next receive this.

    Hello Jack,

    If you got your Google Account through work or school, you might need to contact your administrator to turn on the Web & App Activity additional service for your organization.
       If this issue still persists, please send us the following so that we can investigate further, examples of these images are attached:

  • A screenshot of your knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner); and
  • A screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page.
  •    Also, please confirm that you’re logged in to a Google account that was used for the verification and check that your Web and App activity is turned on. If you are using a G Suite account, turn on the Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin.

    Regards,
    Jay
    Google Search support team

       I fired this off in reply to Jay.

    Hi Jay:

    Thank you. A couple of things here.
       The school account has nothing to do with this. I’m just saying that your server keeps defaulting to the school account and every time I log in with the correct verified account, it logs me straight out again. Every time I switch to the correct account, your system doesn’t like it.
       You already have the screenshots. I already sent the screenshot with the knowledge panel. I have re-attached it. This is logged in with the correct, verified account, the one that’s used for the search console, and the one that was used to claim the knowledge panel.
       As explained, your server will not let me in to get a screenshot of the web and activity page.
       I am logged into the correct account.
       As explained, you will not let me get to the web and activity page in order to get a screenshot.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       Jay wasn’t the only one on my case. Tanvi sent me something even more left-field.

    Hello Jack,

    As informed please, you might need to contact your administrator to turn on the Web & App Activity additional service for your organization.
       Also, please confirm that you’re logged in to a Google account that was used for the verification and check that your Web and App activity is turned on. If you are using a G Suite account, turn on the Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin.
       If this issue still persists, please send us the following so that we can investigate further, as per attached image format:

    • A screenshot of your knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner); and
    • A screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page.

    Regards,
    Tanvi
    Google Search support team

       Notice how they keep asking for the knowledge panel screenshot, and I keep sending it, but no one cares.
       And they keep wanting this web and app activity page, which they won’t let me access. My response to Tanvi:

    Hi Tanvi:

    I am the administrator for my organization. There is no one else.
       I am logged in to the account used for verification.
       As explained, I cannot access the web and app activity page. Every time I do, you log me off.
       I do not know what a G Suite is.
       I re-attach for the third time the knowledge panel.
       I cannot make a screenshot of my web and app activity page because you will not allow me access to it.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       They just need to check their own records to find I am the only person registered to look after Lucire, and if I’m not, then their security holes are pretty damned massive. But doing something logical like that might cut to the chase too quickly, and we know from 2009 that Google likes giving you the run-around. I don’t know who teaches them customer service but I bet it’s the English.
       They keep asking for a web activity page that their own systems won’t let me access.
       I think we can realistically chalk this one up to another failed Google service. I hope they can get it cleared up, as the knowledge panel is Wikipedia-based and, therefore, not accurate. While I don’t use Google, I know the majority of people do. I’ll continue being as nice as I can, as I want to see this fixed, but somehow I don’t think it will be remedied any time soon. The folks on the frontline won’t understand why their systems cannot accept that one person has two separate email addresses and two separate Google accounts, one linked to each. You’d think I was the first person ever to have two email addresses, just like Marty McFly telling his uncle that he has two television sets in 1955.

    PS.: It just gets nuttier. Just because you keep asking the same things doesn’t mean the answers will change.

    Hello Jack,

    Thanks for proving screenshot but please provide screenshots as per attachment only.
       Please confirm that you’re logged in to a Google account that was used for the verification and check that your Web and App activity is turned on.
       To get access to your suggest and edit, please contact your G-Suite Admin. If you are using a G Suite account, turn on the Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin. To know more about G Suite please look into G suite Help Center.

    Regards,
    Tanvi
    Google Search support team

       Here you go, Tanvi. We can keep going around in circles and your firm will look more and more useless.

    Hi Tanvi:

    I have provided screenshots as attachments. I don’t know any other way to send you screenshots.
       Again: I am logged in to the correct Google account and it was the one used for verification.
       Again: I do not know if web and app activity is turned on because you will not let me access it.
       There is no G Suite. I am not using a G Suite. I am the only person authorized to deal with this. I am the admin.
       Please check your records. You will find that there is no one else authorized to deal with this matter. Mine is the only account that deals with the search console and it is the only account verified to edit the knowledge panel.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

    P.PS.: September 10. Where did we get up to? I forget, because the same thing keeps happening. It’s Groundhog Day at Google.
       Right, it’s back to Jay.

    Hello Jack,

    The screenshot that you have provided is not in the correct format, please resend the following screenshot in correct format so that we can investigate further, example of the image is attached:
    A screenshot of your knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner). Please refer to the attached screenshot.

    Regards,
    Jay
    Google Search support team

       Fair enough. Jay included a screenshot of exactly what he wanted. I send this to Jay. (It makes no difference. See below.)

    Hi Jay:

    I wasn’t sure what you meant by correct format but the screenshot helps. Please find that attached.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       SaiKumar is now on the case. He’s got what I sent to Jay.

    Hi Jack,

    Thank you for providing the screenshots.

    Could you now please try the following and let us know if anything has changed? If not, please send screenshots.

  • Incognito mode
  • Mobile device
  • Different web browser
  • A screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner).

    Regards,
    SaiKumar
    Google Search support team

       This seems pretty reasonable.

    Hi SaiKumar:

    I’ve attached what I see in incognito mode. I’ve also attached the same screenshots using a fresh copy of Edge instead of Opera.
       I can’t help you on a mobile device, sorry. It’s not something I’m prepared to use.
       As discussed, Google will not let me access the web and activity page so I cannot supply a screenshot for you. What happens when I click on the link in your email is explained in my email sent on September 7 at 22.51 GMT.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       How many times to I have to tell them that they won’t let me access the web and app activity page? They keep asking, I keep telling them I can’t access it, and they ask again.

    Hello Jack,

    Thank you for sharing screenshot.
       We need your a screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page for our investigation. You are only providing screenshot of knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner).

    Regards,
    Tanvi
    Google Search support team

       At this point, I have my doubts if Google’s staff is even literate.

    Hi Tanvi:

    I don’t know how many times I have to tell you, Jay and Saikumar this, but I cannot give you a screenshot of the web and app activity page because your system will not let me access it. Please see my email from September 7, 22.51 GMT.
       I have already provided you with the correct screenshot from the knowledge panel page but here it is again, from two different browsers.

    Regards,

    Jack

       OK, I shouldn’t have sent Tanvi those SERP screenshots again, but what’s the bet she’ll come back and demand I send her the web and app activity page screen that they won’t let me access?

    P.P.PS.: This feels like the final email for now.

    Hello,

    Thank you for contacting us. We are looking into this. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

    Regards,
    Tanvi
    Google Search support team

    I thanked her and I think we can leave it there for the next few years.

    P.P.P.PS.: I actually got a reply (September 12, 21.56 GMT). Links removed because I can’t be bothered making them active.

    Hi Jack,

    Thank you for patiently waiting while we looked into the query for you.

    We would request you to try to claim the knowledge panel using a different Google account. If you don’t have one, then create a Google account. Once you create a Google Account, use the email address to add it in the account. Please follow these steps in order to add users to your account:

  • Visit https://www.google.com/search/contributions/manage
  • Under “Add people to this account”, click Start now.
  • If you need to switch accounts, use the dropdown menu next to your profile image to select the account you want to manage.
  • Click Add new user.
  • Enter the Google email address of your new user.
  • Choose whether the user gets manager permissions. To grant manager permissions, move the toggle to the right.
  • Click Invite.
  • You can set different permission levels for users:

  • Manager: Can suggest changes to the knowledge panel, and add or remove users.
  • Owner: The primary user on the account, and has the same permissions as managers.
  • Contributor: Can suggest changes to the knowledge panel.
  • You can read more about updating users here.
    Regards,
    Aghrajit
    Google Search support team

    I followed his instructions as they seemed pretty reasonable but, as it’s Google, they’re not really supposed to work.

    Hi Aghrajit:

    Thank you for your detailed instructions. I have followed them, added my other Google account [redacted], and invited myself as a manager.
       I received the Google confirmation and clicked on ‘Get started’.
       However, there is no link to allow me to claim the knowledge panel, just a link to give general feedback, as though I were a regular user. I don’t have any additional privileges.
       Please find the resulting screenshots attached.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       I think they need to face the fact that their knowledge panels don’t work as advertised, a bit like how their blog review process didn’t work as advertised, or how their anti-malware warnings didn’t clear as advertised, or how their Ads Preferences Manager didn’t work as advertised, etc. Remember, this is the company that didn’t even know where the White House was in Google Earth—and it was version five when I discovered this!

    P.P.P.P.PS.: September 13, another Googler, who’s trying to be helpful.

    Hello Jack,

    Thank you for contacting us.

    Please confirm if you are using a G-Suite account. If yes you need to follow the correct steps to turn your Web & App Activity on at an administrator level. Please contact your G suite administrator or system administrator and let him know about it. Please follow the below steps so that Web & App Activity is correctly turned on. Try this with the new email you have added and let us know if you are facing the same issue.

    Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin.

    Regards,
    Abdul
    Google Search support team

       At this point, it was getting ridiculous, even though Abdul was being pretty nice about it all. I replied on the 17th:

    Hi Abdul:

    Thank you. I know my main address [redacted] is not part of any G Suite. I don’t know if [my school email address] is. Is there a way you can tell me if it is?
       I doubt that I would be given more privileges than the address currently has because it’s not meant to be used for non-school purposes, and as a board member of that school, it would be inappropriate for me to ask the admin.
       I only used this address as it’s the one that Google kept insisting I log in to (see screenshots of September 7), as it refused to let me log in on any other account.
       I know your next piece of advice will be to create a new account to see if it could be added to manage my contributions, as Aghrajit suggested, but I’m unwilling to start yet another presence on Google, which has more than enough information on me. Three identities seem like overkill.
       Is there no way to simply allow me to log in with the very address [redacted] you verified? I feel we are getting further and further away from the original purpose of this thread, which was to allow me to edit a knowledge panel using an email address that Google confirmed.

    Kindest regards,

    Jack

       Sivaram replied:

    Hello,

    Thank you for contacting us.

    We are looking into this. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

    Regards,
    Sivaram
    Google Search support team

    I’m not certain if I’ll update this post. I think I’ve made my point: that things at Google can be half-baked. At least this isn’t deceptive in the way the Ads’ Preferences’ Manager was so many years ago.

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Posted in internet, publishing, technology, USA | No Comments »


    Google My Business: first-hand reports suggest it’s a terrible idea

    23.08.2019

    One more Google My Business post for now, since no one has commented on my earlier post.
       As suspected, there are no safeguards for piling:

    We had a 20 year old girl post a lengthy negative review on our Google Business Page because we wouldn’t ship her a replacement product for free. As a result, she proceeded to have 16 other people leave 1 star reviews in rapid fire succession on our page. I’m talking within minutes. We have sent cease and desist orders, we have consulted attorneys, we have contacted Google. The fake reviews are still up. The only way we finally got some control over the situation was to mark the page as “Closed”. If you do that it removes the ability to review. The whole situation and fact that one person can damage your brand so easily, and so quickly with no support from Google for days on end is totally ridiculous.

       If things don’t work, you’ll have to file support requests, but I’ve been there with Google, and that’s a hiding to nothing. It was 10 years ago this year when I discovered just how deceitful and dishonest Google is. Here’s one experience with Google My Business in the cache (the original is long gone; emphasis in original):

    Google My Business a total joke. Worst customer service experience I’ve had in a long time.
    Having issues with Google My Business? You are not alone, not in the slightest. I can tell from all the posts on this forum as well as from personal experience that there is no ‘customer support’, just a bunch of people that answer the phone to tell you that they can’t do anything.
       Our business listing suddenly disappeared and was replaced with the name of one of the employees. So I click on a few help pages and find a support line to which they are supposed to call me. I get the call, it connects, I say hello, then they hang up … What a great start.
       I call again, and finally get somebody I can barely understand who apparently doesn’t know anything about anything, and can’t actually do anything either. I’d kill for a job where I can just tell everyone who calls me that nothing can be done, and then hang up on them. The great part is feedback is only available AFTER the call, so if they hang up on you, you can’t leave any feedback so they can’t get in trouble.
       So I tell this lady my issues, and she says she’ll look into them, then I get hung up on again.
       The next day I get an email with NO SUBJECT, that looks very spammy but lo and behold it’s actually a legit email from Google My Business. The geniuses over there don’t understand what my question is and want me to clarify.
       What do they want me to clarify? They apparently looked at our website, and because one of the employees name is on the website, then the deletion of our listing and replacement with just an employee name and nothing else is justified.
       Get this, in order to fix it, they want me to DELETE our staff page on the website. Make sense to you? Not to me either.
       So I call them again. I get hung up on just after I gave them my email, again. Call back AGAIN and finally talk to another ESL guy who I can at least mostly understand. He goes on to tell me he is also powerless, but if I want I can talk to his supervisor, who ‘can’t do anything either sorry’. Our business listing ‘won’t be on the google’ for ‘several weeks’ because I made the HUGE mistake of trying to correct our suite number to match USPS standard formatting. Oh, and I made the cardinal sin of updating our profile to show that, as a medical clinic, we don’t do deliveries. I’m so sorry Google, I really am. I didn’t know you wanted us to falsely advertise our services and get sued. I’ll never do it again so can you please restore our listing?
       Oh, by the way, I opted to hold for the supervisor and got hung up on again.
       I think we should just give up, Google has made it pretty clear how much of a priority their customers are. For my part I’m pulling the $2k adwords we’re doing every month. Probably a pittance in Google’s eyes but hey, it’s all I can do to protest their pisspoor service.
       Good luck everyone!
       Wow. Just wow.

       I found a lot of similar reviews, and those who promote it in a more positive light appear to be SEO specialists. How convenient.
       I might leave it for now since I’ll never see these My Business boxes, and I just hope that if we do get piled on, they’ll have fixed the bug that prevents us from deleting listings.

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    Posted in business, internet, marketing, USA | No Comments »


    The Singer of desktop PCs

    24.02.2019

    I never planned to spend quite this much on computers in the first two months of the year.
       The laptop was in dire need of an upgrade, so I had budgeted for it. After getting it, I was impressed, but thought that the desktop PC, which dates from 2012 and upgraded with a Crucial 525 Gbyte SSD just over two years ago, was holding its own. The processor might have been slow, but then, I’m a middle-aged man with reflexes slower than that of a 20-year-old, so I hardly noticed. I thought, best-case scenario, I’d look at an upgrade at the end of 2019.
       Last Wednesday, the PC wouldn’t start properly. I was incredibly lucky as I had backed up all pertinent directories the night before, and only lost a bunch of frequently used scans (which can be re-created) and some text files where I wrote down some drafts. In the grand scheme, this was the least amount of data I had ever lost, and I’m very old-school: I still download emails with a client and burn mailbox archives on to DVD.
       The original diagnosis was a faulty SSD, where the operating system lived. The computer kept booting on to the secondary hard drive, which I used prior to the SSD. The hard drive was cloned in 2016 and became a storage drive, but I never deleted the old OS from it. The plan: get a new SSD and clone it again.
       I took the computer to Atech, where I was a regular visitor anyway. I had even discussed the possibility of buying a PC from them. The boss, Kidd Liang, began cloning the hard drive on to a fresh Samsung SSD, which he believed would be more reliable than the Crucial. But after attempting the process twice, he said there were too many bad sectors on the hard drive for the cloning to be successful. Based on the noise, he deduced something else would bite the dust: either the power supply or the graphics’ card. Nevertheless, he plugged the SSD into the PC—and it was at this point the power supply failed.
       I’ve seen multiple faults like this before—I had one machine in the 2000s die with a motherboard failure, then a CPU one, within 24 hours. Kidd said I was incredibly lucky as someone who had done a major back-up, because I then faced the very real prospect of needing a new desktop PC. I was able to continue working on Wednesday night thanks to my laptop, and when it was plugged in to my big monitor, I finally noticed the speed difference of a modern machine versus my old one. And I liked it.
       Therefore, it was with some excitement I collected my desktop PC from Atech on Saturday morning. I didn’t want to go overboard but at the same time needed to do some future-proofing. Kidd calls it the ‘vintage gaming series’, as he reused my old Cooler Master case and DVD-ROM drive, along with the top fan, but everything else was replaced. It’s like one of those Singer Porsches: old on the outside, new on the inside. My existing Windows licence worked on the new machine. Inside was the Samsung along with a new 2 Tbyte hard drive; the 1 Tbyte I had was also installed, even if it has bad sectors. It’ll be the back-up of the back-up.
       Going with a six-core Ryzen 5 2600 isn’t as impressive as the laptop’s i7-8750H, but once the programs are running I don’t notice much difference (middle age again). There’s an Aorus X470 motherboard, 16 Gbyte of RAM, and instead of going with Geforce, I decided to see how a Sapphire Nitro Plus Radeon RX 580 with 8 Gbyte on the video would be like.
       While everything is more stable and faster, I don’t get a sense of a major leap, probably because of the 2016 SSD upgrade. Nevertheless, it’s given me a fresh start for 2019, with some old software (e.g. Gammadyne Mailer) not having made it on to the new machine. More time-consuming was getting the fonts right: Windows 10 now selects a user directory for some of your fonts and these do not appear in the registry (the trick is to change the permissions of the fonts’ folder, and make sure the fonts are installed for all users). And, once again, the reliability index has gone from 10 to 1 because Windows seems to be allergic to either software or usage. There’s still the odd program that needs to be installed, but as the weekend draws to a close, we’re almost there. The coming week’s going to be a busy one and it’s nice facing it with new tech.
       I have to give Atech public praise, too. When I bought this computer’s predecessor at PB, you could still do a deal with the local manager, and you had the sense you weren’t just a number. Drew and Mark really looked after me. PB has deservedly grown because of its keen pricing and marketing, but as it has done so, you now get the feeling that it’s no longer the friendly, small retailer that it once was, with all of the promo coordinated in Auckland. Kidd at Atech on Cuba Street brings me back to that one-on-one feel: you could talk to the boss and do a deal. Matt, who usually served me at Atech since the Wakefield Street days, did the same. You aren’t just a number here, and it was a pleasure to be able to chat through my exact requirements and have a rig built to my specifications and (meagre, post-laptop-buying) budget.

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    Posted in interests, marketing, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 5 Comments »


    Why you shouldn’t build projects on Google Cloud (or, why are we still having these conversations?)

    01.07.2018

    This story on Medium, about Google Cloud, is all too familiar to me (hat tip to Donkey). It mirrors my experiences with Google in 2009 and 2013.
       A company monitoring solar plants and wind turbines had Google pull their account twice. The Googlebot falsely claimed there was suspicious activity, with Google threatening to delete their account in three days. If their CFO, whose credit card was linked to the account, hadn’t replied in time, that would have been millions of dollars down the gurgler.
       The company’s warning: don’t build stuff on Google Cloud. Apparently AWS is safer.
       They were very lucky, because Google’s forums are littered with people whose accounts have also been unilaterally terminated, and they were never recovered. Some have lost income streams. Most went through the “proper channels”.
       My experience in helping a friend recover his blog nearly a decade ago showed just how unreliable these channels were, with a Google forum volunteer going out of his way to be obstructive, because you dared question the big G. Most volunteers actually seem offended you questioned Google, such is their adherence to the cult.
       Mind you, I’m still waiting, three years later, for an explanation about why our Amazon Associates’ account, nearly two decades old, was unilaterally deleted. Amazon claimed six months ago that the matter had been ‘escalated’. Still waiting. Google, too, gets back to you initially, but escalation results in nought.
       When things go wrong, US Big Tech doesn’t work, does it? We’ve actively avoided Google for nearly a decade, and began posting warnings about Facebook around that time, too.
       Thank goodness for companies like Zoho: in the 2010s, Indian tech works better, and people take greater responsibility.

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    Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


    Disloyalty programme, loyalty conduct

    27.01.2018

    P.P.P.PS.: Lumino’s head office has taken this case very, very seriously, and has been following up on Ezidebit and Goody. I’m actually really impressed—enough to add the two words to the title. They get that I’ve never put my cellphone number on an any app in the past, and they, too, know that the timing of the scam calls is suspicious. I’ve had a promise that they’ll follow up.—JY

    I signed up to the Lumino Dental Plan yesterday (Friday). Big mistake. Lesson worth repeating: listen to your gut.
       Some days, the pleasant side of me kicks in and I give people the benefit of the doubt. I read the T&Cs while I was still there but it started getting unreasonable with my standing at the counter while they’re trying to deal with their other patients. ‘Don’t be such a wanker, Jack,’ I thought. ‘So their agreement wasn’t drafted by a professional lawyer. You’ve used Lumino before and the dentist last year was great, and this hygienist was excellent. Let the office manager’s sales’ technique win the day, it’s no big deal.’
       Naturally, she really wanted me to sign and made it quite clear that that was the result she wanted.
       But it was a big deal. I spent an hour last night writing the below to the companies involved. They gave five different emails so I contacted them all.

    Ladies and Gentlemen:
    After due consideration, I do not wish to enter into this Dental Plan, and exercise my right under the Consumer Guarantees Act to cancel it. I have been advised by Lumino the Dentists the Terrace that the cooling-off period for this sale is the standard five (working) days and I will be refunded in full.
       I was asked by the practice this afternoon to email you with my reasons should I cancel. As all the above addresses have been given to me in one communication alone, I am taking the liberty of writing to you all.
       First, I do not feel I had sufficient time to absorb the Ezidebit agreement today (Friday the 26th), especially on a tiny tablet screen, under what I felt was an expectation that I would sign before I departed.
       If I recall correctly, the tablet app links to Lumino’s terms and conditions and these are different to the ones in the DLE brochure introducing the plan. I was not made aware of the DLE’s terms and conditions initially and was led to believe that the only ones were on the tablet.
       As I advised Lumino while at the practice today, I had serious concerns about the Ezidebit agreement’s poor drafting and its reference to non-existent legislation. I was assured that should I sign, I would not suffer any loss because (a) that the cooling-off period for direct sales applied; and (b) that all Lumino customers who have cancelled to date have been refunded in full.
       Among my concerns: I have never heard of the Contracts Privacy Act (neither has my partner, who has legal training), and there is confusion about whether I will be charged administration and transaction fees (Lumino says I won’t, Ezidebit’s T&Cs say I will). I also see there are SMS fees, although I was told at the practice that my cellphone would not be used and was led to believe that its request in the app was a formality. There is no specificity on any of these fees, other than for a failed payment. Generally, the Ezidebit agreement appears to be a copy-and-paste job, its constituent parts drafted by two lawyers who hated each other, and assembled by a third who hated them both.
       Neither party has come forth with information about the handling of my private information.
       Going to Ezidebit’s parent company, Global Payments, didn’t help, since the US firm’s website says there would be information on its cookie usage on its terms of use page—but there isn’t. I never went further.
       Now that I have had a chance to sit down and review the documentation in your email, I have to conclude that with two businesses telling me different things—and the American one not even sure of what it has on its own website, let alone what laws exist in New Zealand—I have no trust in this arrangement.
       The principle might be sound enough but the execution leaves much to be desired.
       I will be happy to meet the full cost of my hygienist’s session today once I am satisfied that the refund has taken place. I respectfully request that I be refunded in full as soon as practicable, including any fees that may or may not have applied. As no privacy policy was given, I must also request that all personal details held by Ezidebit (in New Zealand and Australia, since both companies are named in the agreement) or its parent Global Payments on me, including my name, email, Visa account information and cellphone number, be deleted immediately after the refund is made. I trust that any intermediaries or contractors who got them during today’s transactions will remove them as well.

    Thank you,

    Yours sincerely,

    Jack Yan

       A company called Goody was involved, and sent me the email asking for programme confirmation. I wrote to them separately. I’m not sure what their relationship is since the only T&Cs ever presented to me were for Lumino and Ezidebit. Goody could be an innocent third-party service provider, who also now has my personal information. I’ve asked them to delete it and take me off any programme of theirs, too. I had a peek through their terms and conditions and privacy policy, and both appeared up to snuff.
       Tonight, Lumino sent me a survey form asking me what I thought of their service. Read on if you want to find out what happened earlier today (I’ll italicize it).

    The care was excellent and I do not want that mixed up with the very harsh words I have for the Lumino Dental Plan. You have already been emailed about my choice to end my participation forthwith and to pay full price for my visit once I get confirmation that I have been refunded in full including any unspecified charges. In summary, US-owned Ezidebit whom you have partnered with looks like the dodgiest company around. I do not share my private cellphone number as a matter of practice but felt compelled to do so on your app on the assurance of your staffer that it would actually not be used. I put it into your tablet and within 24 hours I have a scam caller—yours is the only “unknown” company that has this number—not any more, it seems! The American company had no privacy policy and, as I pointed out at the time of signing, cited non-existent legislation in the T&Cs you gave me. You evidently have no idea how seriously I take my privacy and I feel disappointed, distressed and let down by this whole experience. I really should have listened to my gut and walked away at the practice, instead of spending an hour writing last night’s email and even more time to update you on the scam calls I now get. I have heard of loyalty programmes but your Dental Plan is the first time I have come across a disloyalty programme.

       I feel very let down, and it’s been a lesson for me—but also for any business that decides to lend its good reputation to something highly questionable. It pays to do your due diligence, and that includes going through the customer sign-up process yourself to spot what holes there are. It’s become pretty obvious that this didn’t happen.

    PS.: The scam caller on my cell came from +64 4 488-7021. Feel free to look it up for yourselves.—JY

    P.PS.: The Lumino practice sent me an invoice for the hygienist’s session for another $153. No apology at all. Instead, ‘once this account is settled we will process your dental plan cancellation.’ Really?

    Good morning:

    I am deeply disappointed you have chosen to do it this way when I asked for the Plan to be cancelled first, as is my right—and which is something you plainly stated I could do. I don’t even get an apology or explanation for all the shortcomings in the Plan or the inconvenience caused, which is indeed surprising, or some assurance that my personal details were not sold. Given the scam calls on both my cell and land lines since providing you with my number on your app, I am sadly forced to conclude that they were.
       Let me clarify our respective positions under New Zealand law.
       Here’s where I stand:

  • I have a right to cancel this Plan. You’ve said so and I know so. I’ve exercised this right as of Friday night.
  • You do not have a right to make the refund of the Plan conditional on my settling the account.
  • I have an obligation to settle your account independent of the Plan’s cancellation.
  •    Here’s where you stand:

  • You’ve done dental work on me which you should rightly be paid for.
  • You’ve had a written offer from me to settle this account already.
  • You’re in an extremely strong position to make sure I settle the account without making settlement conditional on the Plan’s cancellation.
  • Your doing so violates New Zealand consumer law.
  •    Unlike you, I can make this conditional on your cancelling the Plan, in part because I have no way of finding out whether you’ve taken my $299 or not.
       It appears from your email that you already have.
       Logically you could refund the difference between $299 and the invoice amount, which would be taking some responsibility for this mess.
       I cannot see why I need to be out of pocket for $452 at any time. I am sure you can see how this is grossly unfair.
       This seems like a delaying tactic to make sure the five days go by.
       I now respectfully ask you cancel the Plan immediately and refund the difference, which seems the easiest solution.

    Sincerely,

    Jack

    The matter is now before the support team in Auckland. Hopefully they can sort this without my contacting their CEO (which seems like the next logical step).—JY

    P.P.PS.: The practice manager on the Terrace has received the above and responded far more professionally, asking me to leave it with her and she’ll sort it out. She assures me my details have not been sold—not that I doubted Lumino but I still have very massive doubts about Ezidebit and Global Payments. She’s also offered me 5 per cent off on future treatments out of goodwill, which is a very promising solution. Lumino’s support line in Auckland was also very friendly and logged it into their system.—JY

    P.P.P.PS.: Lumino has remained on the case and tracked down Ezidebit’s privacy policy, which I had never seen till today. And I believe we have our smoking gun. Ezidebit’s claims that they have not heard of this happening before suddenly fall flat. In cl. 3.1:

    When we share your information with third parties whom we partner with to provide our services (for example, providers of software or any other electronic applications which have been integrated with Ezidebit to enable us to process payments for users of that software or application), those third parties may use that personal information to provide marketing communications and targeted advertising to you.

    In cl. 3.2:

    We may disclose your personal information to our related companies or to third parties located outside of New Zealand, including:
    • The United States;
    • Australia;
    • Philippines;
    • The United Kingdom; and
    • Hong Kong.

    That latter clause explains the scam call on Monday, January 29 then, which was on my cell and asked for me by name. The caller had a Philippine accent and claimed she was calling from Hong Kong.—JY

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    Posted in business, marketing, New Zealand, USA | 1 Comment »


    Another program rendered incompatible with Windows 10’s fall Creators update

    26.01.2018

    It’s fast becoming apparent that Windows 10’s fall Creators update is a lemon, just like the original Windows 10.
       As those of you who have followed my posts know, my PC began BSODing multiple times daily, on average. There were brief interludes (it went for three days without a BSOD once, and yesterday it only BSODed once) but these (now) anomalies don’t really diminish my ‘three to six per day’ claim I made earlier by much.
       And it’s all to do with drivers. I won’t repeat earlier posts but the result was that drivers that came with Mozy, McAfee, Malwarebytes and Oracle Virtualbox caused these. In Mozy’s case, it was an old one. Same with McAfee, the remnants of a program that even their removal tool could not take out. Malwarebytes didn’t even show up in the installed programs’ list, and required another program. In Virtualbox’s case, there were both old and new drivers. They all had to be removed, in most cases manually, because removal procedures don’t seem to take them out. This is a failing, I believe.
       But with all these drivers gone, I still had a BSOD this morning. Four before lunch. The culprit this time was a CLVirtualDrive.sys driver that came with Cyberlink Power2Go, which came bundled when I replaced by DVD burner last year.
       And Cyberlink knows something is wrong with this driver. On December 13, two days after I began getting BSODs, it issued a patch for its latest version. Of course, it leaves those of us with older versions in the lurch, and I was surprised to find that the one it had issued for mine (years old) wouldn’t even run because I was on a bundled OEM edition.
       I’m crying foul. If your program is causing BSODs, then I feel it’s your responsibility to help us out. It shouldn’t matter if it’s a trial version, because this is a window into your business. This signals that Cyberlink doesn’t really want to offer a simple download to prevent users from losing hours each day to fixing their computers, even when they’re partly to blame for the problems.
       Let me say this publicly now: if any of our fonts cause system crashes like this, contact me and I will provide you with fresh copies with which you can upgrade your computer.
       I’m removing Power2Go as I write. It’s superfluous anyway: I only use it because it came as part of the bundle. Windows’ default burning works well enough for me.
       But there’s one thing that Cyberlink’s pages have confirmed: the fall Creators update has problems and it seems to me that it is incompatible with many earlier Windows drivers. We can lay a lot of these problems at Microsoft’s feet. Indeed, based on my experience, you could go far as to say that Windows 10 is now incompatible with many Windows programs.
       That’s all well and good if you have a new computer and the latest software, but what of those of us with older ones who will, invariably, have older drivers or upgraded from older systems?
       Are we now reaching an era where computing is divided between the haves and have-nots? It’s not as though decent new computers at the shops have got any cheaper of late.

    Next part: click here.

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    Posted in technology, USA | 2 Comments »