Category: Technology

Etrawler Ltd owner of Car Trawler and Argus Carhire.com could learn a lot from Easycar!

Takedown notice

The letter wants me to remove a comment by a user calling himself Timmythedog on my post about issues I had with car rental company Easycar.

The comment says:

You need to pick and choose – we’ve never had a problem with Easy Car but be aware of Argus Car hire and their supplier National Car Hire. Despite them promising that they ’search the net for the cheapest prices so you don’t have to’ we had an appaling experience with them and National Car Hire at Carcassonne Airport at Christmas 06/07 and they are not recommended!

In summary they downgraded our car without notice from a c class (Focus/Astra) to a Citroen C1 – as four adults with cases and bags we couldn’t fit in the car – it was Dec. 27 and we had no travel alternatives. We had to duplicate trips to get eveyone to our destination with significant inconvenience and cost. We were cautioned by the police for overloading the car on the one occasion that we squeezed everyone in. Our holiday was ruined as we couldn’t really use the car and since then they have refused to refund us the cost of the car (which also had no rear wiper – when we went back to the office to point this out it was closed).

They couldn’t care less, do not man their phones as stated 364 days a year (we couldn’t get them in head office on Dec 27 to see what we could do) and Hertz was cheaper at their own admission. We have tried to speak to Greg Turley – Argus MD but he refuses to return our calls. In conclusion Argus and National overbook, you run the risk of a ruined holiday and neither could care less. Do not use them – they are appalling.

This seems like fair comment to me by someone expressing their opinion after having had a poor customer experience. Etrawler haven’t yet realised, it seems, that people can have negative opinions about your products and services – and worse – they tell others! We can’t have that now, can we?

Etrawler ltd could learn a lot from Easycar – they didn’t issue a takedown notice on my post. Instead their rep Jean Marie came back to my post time and again to tirelessly answer comments by other people who had problems with Easycar’s service. As a consequence my opinion of Easycar (and I suspect many who read Jean Marie’s responses) was completely turned around.

If the Internet has taught us anything it is that companies need to put the consumer in the center of their thinking. Not their brand.

I wonder if I’ll receive a takedown notice for this post now as well.

Worldwide Telescope launches half-baked!

Microsoft launched their much-hyped WorldWide Telescope this morning.

The application has a lot of promise as an educational tool, in that it can make astronomy fun and engaging.

First off, there is no Mac version. Boo! For this reason alone, I should have just walked away. But I didn’t because it promised so much and I quite enjoy astronomy.

I checked out the system requirements (bearing in mind how optimistic Microsoft are on these typically – did you ever try to run XP on 64mb RAM? Ha!).

On the System Requirements page it told me I needed a 2.2GHz Mac to run WorldWide Telescope if I wanted to do so on XP or Vista (recommended) via Bootcamp (no mention of Parallels or VMWare. Given that my Mac is 2.16 GHz, and hasn’t BootCamp setup (I use Parallels), I gave up on that option.

Worldwide Telescope system requirements

I then went about installing it on my Vaio. The installation went ok (although I wasn’t made aware until half-way through that I’d have to install Direct X).

When I launched it on the Viao though, the first obvious problem was that you can’t choose Ireland as an option to set as your location. What a crock! Seriously. The country options go Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy. WTF? People in countries like Yemen, Uzbekistan, Lomé, Togo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, North Korea and Myanmar, for instance have no problem setting their location. But no Ireland option. What did we do to annoy Microsoft Research?

The second issue was even more annoying though. The application wouldn’t run on the Vaio. It crashed the display driver.
WorldWide Telescope Error

This is, unfortunately, typical Microsoft software behaviour. Launch bloated, Windows only, error-prone software with the minimum of QA or testing. Let the unsuspecting public be your free testing department and hopefully get the software right by the third revision.

It is no wonder so many people are afraid of computers when the software released by the world’s largest manufacturer is so prone to crash.

Circuit City needs to stop insulting customers

I’m in Las Vegas for the EnergyCamp conference.

I had a couple of hours today so I decided to check out the local Electronics stores. When I went into the Circuit City store I was approached by a member of staff who informed me that I “needed to leave my rucksack with customer service near the front of the store”!

I resent being told that. I resent the implication that because I have a rucksack, I am a thief. My rucksack contained my laptop and several other items of value to me. If Circuit City don’t trust me with their valuables, why should I trust them with mine?

I said nothing and simply walked out of the store fuming and into the Best Buy which is conveniently placed next door (as you can almost see in the picture below!).

Circuit City and Best Buy in Las Vegas

The staff in Best Buy had absolutely no problem with my having a rucksack. I browsed the store for about 45 minutes, had several interactions with various staff members, all of whom were very helpful, and I left Best Buy having purchased some electronics goodies I have been looking for for sometime. Goodies which I have no doubt Circuit City also stock.

Are Circuit City always so insulting to potential patrons? And if so, how are they still in business?

Friendfeed now on Twhirl

Friendfeed is a very cool site which aggregates all your rss feeds onto one page. This is cool because I contribute to 6 blogs and numerous other sites (Ma.gnolia, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, etc.) often automatically without ever visiting the sites in question! Now I have one place to go to see everything I have published.

Better yet, others can see this page and better again, I can see all my friends updates to their sites on a single page (and leave comments on them!).

This is all very useful but suffers from the same problem that the Twitter page suffers from. You need to constantly refresh to see the latest updates.

To get over this there are several Twitter client applications for the desktop (and for mobiles, Blackberry’s, iPhones/iPods, etc.). The one I use is called Twhirl and it is very cool because as well as auto-refreshing, it gives audio and visual notification of replies and direct messages.

So earlier today when I read Mike Arrington’s post about how Friendfeed is now available through Twhirl I immediately downloaded the latest version of Twhirl (0.7.9) and set it up.

Friendfeed on Twhirl

Even better, through the Twhirl Friendfeed interface you can also comment on and favourite others posts.

I love it. Now I’ll have to watch who I add to my Friendfeed friends list very carefully as this could overwhelm me very quickly!

PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 14): 550 Email blocked by ORDB

My incoming email was unusually quiet yesterday morning. Great, I thought, I’ll get some work done!

However, later in the morning I realised that anyone tryint to send me email was receiving the following error:

PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 14): 550 Email blocked by ORDB – to unblock see http://www.example.com/

A quick chat with a few people, including Ross of Rozmic (providers of EmailCLoud – my upstream anti-spam solution) and some Googling told me that my mailserver was mis-configured.

ORDB were one of a number of free blacklists of email spammers. Mailservers could query incoming email against their blacklist and accept or reject email based on the response. However ORDB shut down in 2006.

My mailserver was setup in 2007 but still had a configuration whereby it checked all incoming mail against ORDB (or tried).

Recently, it seems, the blacklist servers were reconfigured to list every ip address as spammers. This was probably to get mailserver admins to once and for-all remove references to ORDB from their config!

When I realised this was where the problem was I went to my mailserver configuration file (Exim.conf), found the following lines:

# deny using ordb
deny message = Email blocked by ORDB - to unblock see http://www.example.com/
# only for domains that do want to be tested against RBLs
domains = +use_rbl_domains
dnslists = relays.ordb.org

and deleted them.

Sure enough the mail started flowing once more. If you tried to email me in the last couple of days and couldn’t get through, apologies – please do try again.

LCD TV sales surpass CRT for first time in Q4 07

I read a report this morning which said that in the fourth quarter of ’07, sales of LCD TV’s passed CRT for the first time:

LCD TVs captured a 47% share of the global TV market, which reached 60.8 million units in the fourth quarter of the year. CRT TVs held a 46% share while RPTVs and plasma display panel (PDP) TVs are estimated at 7%.

The only thing which surprised me about this report was the fact that 46% of people are still buying CRT’s! With the imminent move to HDTV, why would anyone investing in a TV now buy one that will be hopelessly out of date in a few short years (not to mention the far larger footprint of CRTs)?

Blogger's Dinner in Cork

Damien and Alexia posted about this already but seeing as I have taken over the running of it, I decided to publish a quick post about this dinner too.

We are having a blogger’s dinner in Cork on Sunday March 2nd at 9pm in Rossini’s Restaurant on Prince’s Street.

This is to coincide with the WebCamp/BlogTalk 2008 conference.

If you’d like to join us for dinner that night, sign up on the wiki, send me an email (tom@tomrafteryit.net) or leave a comment here.

Bringing Silicon Valley to Ireland

I received an email the other day from xCell Partners, a consultancy firm one of who’s stated aims is “to help bridge the gap between Silicon Valley and Irish tech start-ups”.

They have put together an event that will be on in February, 27th & 29th, in Dublin and Belfast respectively which is all about Bringing Silicon Valley to Ireland. Chris Gill, the President of the Silicon Valley Association of Start-up Entrepreneurs (SVASE) will be hosting the various panel discussions, as well as other people from the various companies and associations.

According to Gareth Coen:

This is the first event of it’s kind in Ireland and we hope that it’ll help facilitate the growing number of Irish Web start-ups. The full details of the event as well as tickets can be found at www.xCellerate2008.com

There is a special coupon code which gives a 20% discount for readers of this blog (“TOM”). The discount is available for the forst 10 readers who sign up with the code.

In Seville for EBE 07

I arrived in Seville early this morning for the Eventoblog España 07 (EBE) conference.

My old friend Shel Israel is here with with his (much) better half Paula! Shel is presenting at the conference. I’m really looking forward to catching up with them socially as well as professionally.

This next few days will also be very useful for house hunting and networking for when we move here permanently next year.

Posting will be light for the rest of the week I suspect!