MAR 10
2007
I'm pretty upset with Vonage right now.

All I want to do is close my account. Unfortunately, Vonage doesn't allow you to close your account from their web site. They make you call them in order to give one of their silver-tongued customer service representatives a chance to talk you out of your decision. This is annoying in its own right, but they are only open weekdays and only until 6pm Pacific Time. Which, given my schedule, means that they are always closed whenever I try to call them.

Normally in this situation, I find it easier to write a quick letter and mail it. But after spending quite a bit of time on their web site, they seem to be almost purposefully hiding their mailing address from their customers.

At this point, I would recommend staying away from Vonage. Regardless of what you think of their service from a technical or quality perspective, their customer support is terrible. And I'm sure, like me, you don't like being held hostage when you try to cancel your service!

tags: vonage annoyances
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DEC 19
2006
Maybe I'm being unreasonable, but FedEx has been really screwing up lately. Which saddens me greatly as I am a shareholder.

My first major complaint with them is that their delivery software system seems really lacking. Somebody sent me a package recently and didn't include my apartment number. FedEx said they couldn't tell where to deliver it, flagged a "delivery exception", left a voicemail for me, and finally delivered the package 3 days after I called them back and gave them the apartment number.

How come their shipping software didn't automatically flag my street address as one that requires an apartment number when the shipping label was being printed by the sender? And once it was in the system, their software should have been able to check a "delivery address cache" and seen that in the past 5 years, dozens of packges have been delivered to me at my street address, and then used that knowledge to fill in the missing information.

I had a similiar experience a few years back when I sent a package to a P.O. box. I used fedex.com's shipping manager to prepare the label (with barcode). FedEx happily accepted the package, only to tell me 5 days later that there was a "delivery exception", that they don't deliver to P.O. boxes, and that there would be a $5 charge for correcting the address. How come their software didn't simply tell me this when I entered "P.O. Box xxx" on their web site?!

Second major complaint: It seems that they almost always have to come out twice to deliver each package, since I am never here when they try the first time. If you happen to check the tracking web site beforehand, you can see the day that delivery is expected, but it never lists a time. Why can't they give a proactive e-mail/phone call with approximate delivery time range (i.e., early/late morning/afternoon/evening)? This would greatly increase their first-time delivery success rate. Further, I have to imagine that their system already routes trucks along specified delivery routes and thus has to have some approximate estimate of the times.

These seem like two obvious areas that could easily be addressed in software. If FedEx can't roll out simple enhancements like this, I can only deduce that there is some fundamental explanation I'm missing or that their backend software infrastructure is a total mess.

tags: fedex annoyances
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NOV 3
2006
iTunes 7 has become completely unusable.

Everything used to be fine (iTunes 6), but with the latest upgrade, iTunes pegs the processor(s) at 100%, becomes very sluggish, won't respond to mouse or keyboard, etc. If a song is playing, it manages to keep playing the song without skipping, but that's about it.

At first I thought my WinXP system might be to blame: At almost 4 years old, I assumed it was time for the customary blow-away-your-entire-configuration-and-rebuild-from-scratch that Windows systems generally need every few years.

Luckily, having just built up a fresh Vista system, I simply installed iTunes over there. iTunes still performed horribly. A quick Google search indicates that I am not alone in my suffering.

I noticed that performance was really bad when it first imported my media library due to iTunes' gapless playback analysis. But that's all finished now, and iTunes is still messed up.

Based on Zack's recommendation, I'm going to give Media Monkey a try. I've become pretty dependent on iTunes over the last few years, but no matter how great it is, if I can't use it then it's worthless to me!

tags: itunes apple annoyances
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APR 15
2006
How come iTunes doesn't have a keyboard shortcut to select the search box in the upper right hand corner? I just checked the official list of shortcuts, and they have things like "listen to the next album in a list" (Shift-Control-Alt-Right Arrow), but no way to do one of the most simple and common tasks like searching? I'm a keyboard guy. I like to avoid the mouse as much as possible. Unfortunately, with iTunes, I am forced to use the mouse way more than I should have to. I am not impressed for a company like Apple who claims to have a focus on usability (i.e., what if I couldn't use a mouse due to physical accessibility issues). In contrast, one thing that always impresses me with Microsoft products is that they have keyboard accelerators for every single little thing. Every app, every time.
tags: itunes annoyances
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FEB 12
2006
Based on its outstanding reviews from various photography-oriented web sites, I bought the Sony P200 7-megapixel camera last week. And while I'm pretty impressed overall with the camera, I'm annoyed at either Sony, Microsoft, or Dell (not sure who just yet) due to a snag I ran into while hooking up the camera to my computer.

My usual routine with any USB device is to just plug it in straight out of the box and see if it works. Unfortunately, with this camera, Windows couldn't locate "SONYPVU1.SYS" and prompted me for its location. This is usually a sign that you have to run the install CD that came with the device, so I obediently pulled out the Sony install CD, ran it, and waited through the forced reboot.

Plugged in the camera a second time: Same problem. What the heck?! I hit Google and found out that a lot of people have this problem. As near as I can tell, Microsoft ships SONYPVU1.SYS as part of Windows XP standard build, but for some unknown reason, certain OEMs (like Dell) strip it out of their builds. End result: My new Sony camera had zero chance of working out of the box with my Dell PC.

Inexcusably, all three companies involved (sony.com, dell.com, and microsoft.com) have zero information on their support web sites about how to solve this problem. Luckily I am savvy enough to be able to track it down after wasting a bunch of time diagnosing the problem, but what about the average consumer?

Sony, Microsoft, and Dell: Not sure who is to blame, maybe all three of you, but shame on you! This sort of thing should not be happening in 2006.

If you need the file, here it is: sonypvu1.sys

tags: sony microsoft dell annoyances
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SEP 18
2005
One needs to look no further than tv.com for an example of how an aquisition can ruin a great web site.

The original tvtome.com was everything a TV watcher could ask for: Simple, clean web site design, easy to access episode information, user forums, and so on.

Then mp3.com/Gamespot bought them out, changed the web site name to tv.com, threw in a bunch of gratuitous Flash, graphics, and ads, changed the episode numbering system (making it almost completely useless), removed the user forums, made it a lot harder to navigate the site, and in the process of all of these "improvements" also managed to make the web site reponsiveness way slower.

Luckily, I've found a replacement: EpGuides.com. It's not as full featured as TVTome was, but it's got the part that counts right, and I'm a believer.

Here's proof of what I'm talking about: Battlestar Galactica info on tv.com and epguides.com. Let's say you just want the episode information. Which one does that job better?

tags: tv annoyances web_design
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