Netflix: Complain and Get an Account Credit

I watch a lot of TV and movies. According to FeedFliks, I watch about 75 titles per week on Netflix, and I probably watch another 5-10 titles on Hulu every week.

Watching so much Netflix has given me the opportunity to experience all the pros and cons of a Netflix membership. Overall I’d say my $7.99 per month is well spent: I get access to thousands of titles and I don’t have to watch commercials. However, there are a few things that drive me crazy.

First, Netflix doesn’t work on Linux. Some may say this is because of platform that Netflix uses to serve its videos, but in reality it is a anti-consumer choice meant to prevent Linux “hackers” from cracking their DRM. If they can get videos playing on:

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. PlayStation 3
  4. Wii
  5. Xbox 360
  6. Apple TV
  7. Google TV
  8. Roku
  9. Seagate FreeAgent Theater
  10. Sony Dash
  11. WD TV
  12. A pile of Blu-ray players
  13. A pile of TVs (with no special attached hardware)
  14. TiVo
  15. iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad

…then they could get it working on desktop Linux without much trouble. They choose not to, and I’d appreciate it if they’d stop pretending it is an insurmountable software limitation.

So instead of running it natively, I have to run Linux, which runs VirtualBox, which runs Windows XP, which plays my Netflix videos. Frustrating.

Second, Netflix frequently crashes. On my desktop (Linux) and laptop (Windows 7), Netflix dies part way through shows all the time. It happens even more frequently when I pause a show. To make it worse, when the page is refreshed to bring it back to life, it often forgets where I was at in my show.

So I complained. It didn’t solve any of the problems, but it felt good to vent to the company and maybe hopefully raise a tiny bit of awareness that Linux people are frustrated at the lack of support, and that I’m annoyed that my videos crash all the time.

A few days later, I got an email apologizing for my troubles watching instantly. The interesting part of the email was a link that provided a 3% statement credit on my next bill. While I appreciate the gesture, I can’t help but thinking to myself: Really? 3%? As I said, I watch a lot of TV, so I suppose it makes sense that my patronage is only worth 25 cents to them, but a credit of 25 cents just seems.. well.. tacky? rude? pointless? a backhanded apology?

Anyways, if you have a problem with Netflix, maybe it is worth 10 minutes of your time to call and complain. Who knows, you might get a 3% credit, too!

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Connecticut

I’ve only been here for a few weeks, but I’ve already come to realize that Connecticut (at least New Haven) is a weird place.

It isn’t just that they have tag sales instead of yard sales, or that recycling is required by law and failure to do so is punishable by death a fine, or the sparsity of their Redboxes, or the number of jerks that think their noisy motorcycles make them the shiznits of New Haven, or their abundance of normal Walmarts and shortage of Super Walmarts.

It might be the driving. People always joke and say that California has the worst drivers, or Virginia has the worst drivers, or <wherever you live> has the worst drivers, but I swear, Connecticut truly has the absolute worst drivers. For example, let us say that you want to make a left turn, so you pull up to a red light in the left lane. Before your car stops moving, someone drives around you on the right, and turns left in front of you. At a red light. This isn’t a fluke event, I’ve seen similar things happen several times in the few weeks I’ve been here. The road signs in general appear to be less than suggestions for what the driver should be doing. Going slower than 65 MPH in a 55 MPH zone will get you honked at, even if you are in the far right lane. It wouldn’t be appropriate to post on my blog the things they do if you drive that slow in the left lane.

But before you think I’m super negative and hate Connecticut, I’d like to mention a few of its perks. It has a wide variety of grocery stories that carry a wide variety of fruits, veggies, and other yummy food, including our beloved Koala cookies that we weren’t able to find in Williamsburg. Everything (including several other states) are within a few hours drive. The Manhattan temple is only a 2 hour train ride away. I got to hear the Blind Boys of Alabama in concert for free on the Green just 2 miles from my apartment. Fireworks are legal, and the big city firework display is visible from my apartment window. Our ward is awesomely weird with a mix of college students and locals, and we go to church in some sort of converted four story building that has neat architecture and fancy molding. Most of the classrooms (even the nursery) have ornate fireplaces. The city has one of those fun R2D2 mailboxes (actual photo). We found an Indian restaurant that we absolutely love. The LDS Institute of Religion has a good amount of people, and has an air hockey table, pool table, foosball, and a decent library.

Anyways, Connecticut is weird, or at least, Connecticut is very different from the other places I’ve lived. But I love it!

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Hulu Ad Failures

I watch a lot of Hulu, and generally I don’t really mind an ad or two. However, I hate untargeted ads. For example, ads for Monostat or birth control pills. I’m a guy. Hulu knows I’m a guy (I checked, its in my Hulu profile). Why in the world are they showing me commercials for these things? Have I watched too many chick flicks or something? Does anyone else have this problem?

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Review: What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson

I’ve had some bad luck with books lately.

First, I finished What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson. Aside from the horrible writing style (oh wo is us! the after life for bad people is soooo horrible you just can’t even imagine. like seriously. its really really awful!), the doctrine it tries to teach is so far from the truth and so detrimental to the development of any good society or individual that it was literally painful to hear.

For example, the doctrine of reincarnation, mixed with karma, is taught in the hopes of making people be good in this life. In reality, I think most people would use karma like their credit cards: charge up a huge debt now (sin) and file bankruptcy later (be born in a new life with no recollection of the previous one).

The next book I tried, Faithless by Karin Slaughter, had some serious adult content issues so had to be given up pretty early.

So I tried again with The God of War by Marisa Silver, and ran into the same issue.

Anyways, I’d greatly appreciate some recommendations if anyone has any!

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Swaptree backs down

I’m a huge fan of BookMooch, an free book trading website. The website lets you put your old books up for trade. If someone requests a book, you send it to them at your own expense and receive a credit to get a book from another user. When you request a book from someone else, they send it to you at their expense. The system works great.

Unfortunately, I ran out of items to “mooch” on BookMooch, so I looked for a similar site and found Swaptree. Swaptree is a little different. Instead of accumulating and spending points, your trade is done real time. For example, maybe you have a copy of Ender’s Game that you want to get rid of, and you really want The DaVinci Code. Bill wants Ender’s Game but only has Where the Red Fern Grows. Susan wants Where the Red Fern Grows and has a copy of The DaVinci Code. Swaptree magically figures out that a trade can occur between these 3 users and sets it up.

Sounds great, huh? It is, until a book gets lost in the mail. Although the USPS is generally pretty awesome at getting mail to its destination, it occasionally loses packages, especially those shipped Media Mail (the cheapest way of sending books). Users of BookMooch recognize this and, unless it becomes habitual for a user, don’t get too upset when their books don’t arrive.

Swaptree, however, sends threatening letters. Back in May I sent a book that didn’t make it to its intended recipient. As mentioned before, that happens occasionally. But instead of chalking it up to bad luck, Swaptree decided to send me an email letting me know that they intended to file an official mail fraud report with the United States Post Office. That’s bad. The USPS is known to stop delivery of your mail in response to mail fraud reports.

Upon reviewing the form they were planning on sending in, I noticed several problems:

  • Swaptree claimed that they were defrauded by one of their members not receiving a book. This is ridiculous as I never agreed to send Swaptree a book, and their terms of service clearly state that they are not involved in the transfer of goods between their users.
  • Swaptree claimed that my beat up copy of Robots of Dawn was somehow worth $20 to the recipient.
  • Mail fraud requires intent to defraud. They have no evidence whatsoever that I ever intended to defraud anyone. I even explicitly posted on their site several times that the book was already sent.
  • The form claimed that they contacted me twice about the missing item when in fact they had only contacted me once (minor, but still a discrepancy).

I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty confident that threatening to file a mail fraud complaint against someone in this manner is blackmail. I sent a reply to Swaptree letting them know that I’m prepared to take any legal actions necessary to protect myself against libel and fraudulent claims against my character. I included the above list (in greater detail) letting them know exactly why I thought they were being ridiculous. And then I waited.

One week later (4 days after the deadline given in their threat), I received a reply:

Dear zulugrid,

Thank you for your prompt response regarding the Item Not Received complaint.

In an effort to better serve our expanding userbase, we have automated many of our processes, and the email you received was a result of one of these processes. We recently sent emails to a set of Swaptree users with outstanding trades, what we refer to as Items Not Received. These emails were sent indiscriminately, regardless whether the user had 1 or 10 Items Not Received. We do clearly understand that items can get lost in the mail, as well as the unfortunate circumstance when a recipient claims they have not received an item when in fact they have.

We have given your trade in question further review and consequently cleared the Item Not Received complaint. We do apologize for any misunderstanding and all apparent threatening language you were made subject to in our automated emails. Please realize that we are simply trying to improve our service, and as small but growing company, we are constantly learning along the way.

Once again, we apologize for the fault on our part and are in no way pursuing or facilitating the pursuit of any fraud reports in your name. We thank you in advance for your patience, diligence, and willingness to work with us as we continue to improve our service.

Best Regards,
The Swaptree Team
If you wish to unsubscribe or modify your email preferences, click on this link: http://www.swaptree.com/WebFrmMyAccountInfo.aspx

ECC1295213610013197635ECC ||zulugrid||

So if you end up getting a threatening letter from Swaptree, my advice is to assert your rights to not be threatened or harassed by “The Swaptree Team” and they will likely back down.

Or just stick with BookMooch.

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Hard Candy, V for Vendetta, Dodgeball, and the US Movie Rating System

Let’s start with the US movie rating system. For those of you unfamiliar, there are a few basic ratings:

  • G – General Audiences. Suited for people of any age. Normally like mellow historical movies or documentaries. And Disney movies (although most Disney movies nowadays are PG or PG-13).
  • PG – Parental Guidance Suggested. Kids should have an adult with them. In practice, this is about the lowest rating a normal movie can get. These are like little kid movies though.
  • PG-13 – Parents Strongly Cautioned. This is your average movie. Might have a bit of violence or language, but not much.
  • R – Restricted. Anyone under 17 has to have an adult with them. Most theatres only enforce this by keeping minors from purchasing tickets. These movies range from a bit of violence and language, to downright awful movies filled with sex and gore.
  • NC-17 – No One 17 And Under Admitted. Porn.

So I don’t like watching movies that are, to me, offensive. This includes movies with gratuitous nudity, language, and gore. I say gore instead of violence because violence is a part of life. If a guy gets shot in a war scene, whatever. If for no reason two main characters decide to have sex, thats kind of dumb. Even if there is a reason, there really isn’t any point in SHOWING them having sex. It doesn’t add to the story line. It’s just there in a pitiful attempt to draw more viewers.

But anyways. My point. So two movies I watched recently: V for Vendetta and Dodgeball.

V for Vendetta: Rated R. Basically the government is horribly oppresive and a crazy masked guy decides to blow stuff up and kill some bad guys in order to fix things. Had a fair amount of violence, but for the most part pretty minor. People getting shot and stuff. Buildings blowing up. Also had a bit of language. I honestly don’t remember very much foul language at all. Perhaps a bit here and there where appropriate, but nothing gratuitous. No nudity. No sex. Overall, a very enjoyable movie.

Dodgeball: Rated PG-13. Basically, the employees of a local gym decide to compete in a dodgeball tournament to win the prize money so they can save their gym. This movie was filled with foul language, sex innuendoes (including blow-up genitals and bisexuals), and violence (although a lot was comical, like a guy throwing wrenches at people). I really didn’t like the movie. Would’ve been funny if they had cut the crap out and just had some clean humour.

So my issue here is why the crap is a movie like V for Vendetta rated R, and a movie like Dodgeball rated PG-13? I don’t have kids, but when I do, I hope the avoid movies like Dodgeball. There isn’t any value in them. Not even much comedy. I’d rather they go see rated R movies like V for Vendetta where at least the movie has a purpose, teaches some morals, and doesn’t have sex interlaced throughout it.

Just another wonderful contribution to society by our beloved MPAA.

Okay quick note: Just finished watching Forest Gump again. Anyone notice that Dorothy Harris, the bus driver, looks the same even after all those years? Dorothy drives the bus for Forest Gump, Sr. and Forest Gump, Jr. Maybe Dorothy #2 is Dorothy Harris, Jr. or something. I don’t know…

So now that I got my bit out about the rating system and how I think it is dumb and shouldn’t govern ones views on movies, but rather the content of the movie should cause a person to decide whether to watch it or not, I’ll talk about Hard Candy.

I found Hard Candy on a newsgroup the other day, and watched it. What an amazing movie! Definitely not for little kids as it covers topics that require a more mature understanding of things, but a great view for the average adult IMHO. The story is this:  Hayley is a precocious 14 year old girl who takes it upon herself to punish Jeff, an older man and a photographer, for pedophilic tendencies. She does this by hooking up with him on the internet and then taking him hostage in his own home. Filmed in only 18 days, this movie shows deep insight into the minds of two disturbed individuals, and accomplishes this without showing any nudity whatsoever. Pretty impressive for a film about a pedophile. This movie does have a fair amount of language. However, this is understandable in the circumstances that the characters are placed in. I don’t mind bad language as much when it is used in realistic situations. It seems like some movies only use language to get an R rating.

But seriously. Watch this movie. It is AMAZING. Honestly one of my favorite movies. Again, not good for kids, but good for anyone who likes a movie with a bit deeper meaning, a few good twists, and a minimum amount of offensive content. Unfortunately, looks like it is out of most theatres and not on DVD yet, so unless you download it, you are out of luck. Sorry.

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