Mar 132012
 

Maybe you can’t call it an outright fraud but if you search Google for the terms “fraud” and “policeauctions.com”, you’ll find that a lot of people do. (See below.)

The “offer” uses a picture of the late Steve Jobs, which implies some relationship with Apple

The domain name “policeauctions.com” suggests that this company is working with one or more police departments.

They offer “iPad’s” (possessive) instead of “iPads” (plural) for “up to” 90% off. The term “up to” is one of the best known weasel terms in advertising. If something sells for $1000, I can offer you a discount of “up to 90%” but when it comes time to check out, I could give you a discount of $1. “Up to” means “less than” so all discounts will be less than 90%.

Some sites such as this require up-front payments to bid on items. Somebody “wins” and everybody else loses but the company keeps the money

Can any consumer be dumb enough to believe that Ipads are in a “overstock” condition? Or that you’ll really get a 90% discount?

Apparently so.

You might be wondering what Facebook does to prevent these kinds of ads and the answer appears to be “very little”. Ads clearly are not checked before they are posted but Facebook’s Brandon McCormick tells me “These kinds of ads are against our policies. When we find or are made aware of them we remove them. This ad has been removed from the system.”

I understand that the economics of Facebook make it impossible to check the validity of every ad before it’s placed so nothing happens until someone complains and thd ad is taken down. That’s good, but what about the people who clicked the ad while it was live? And what happens to the person who or company that violated Facebook’s terms of service?

Is the domain banned? (The fraudster could just sign up for another domain.) Does Facebook ever take legal action against fraudulent advertisers or pursue remedies that might be mentioned in the terms of service? In other words, you might wonder (as I did) what, if anything, is done to create a certain amount of pain for those who break the rules,

Brandon McCormick: “We have a combination of automated and manual review for ads but as you point out given the volume, we occasionally miss one. Follow-up action depends, but if a business is fraudulent or continues to try to run ads that violate our policies we will remove the company from the system entirely.”

Note that dates on the following posts clearly indicate that policeauctions.com has been in business since at least 2007:

  • DC1 on Scam.com: I bought a 14K white gold ring with 16 diamonds that was supposedly worth an estimated $2000. I won the bid for it at $400. I later went to sell it after a few months, and the most that I could get for it was $25. [Posted in 2007]
  • NESTA2814 on Scam.com: Police auctions.com is a complete joke. Check out my blog. I am on a quest to make sure as many people as possible find out about this unscrupulous “company.” They need to be shut down. [Posted in 2009]
  • No Moron Here on Scam.com: “PoliceAuctions.com is not affiliated with Local, State or Federal Government.” [Posted in 2009]
  • Brinkley511 on ComplaintsBoard.com: “I have placed at least 20 or more bids on items that were supposedly seized from police/government raids and siezures. On every item, I was not the high bidder, but was sent an email with a second chance offer to buy this item at a higher price. Every email says that another one of the itmes had been located and was for sale to me at this higher price. Since when do police/government seizures include multiple jewelry items exactly alike? This is a scam website that peddles items in an auction setting when really they are expecting a certain price for an item, when they don’t get it, they offer you a “second chance” buy. SCAM!” [Posted in 2009]
  • Tami W. on Sitejabber.com: “I bid and won 2 rings from them. One an amethyst, received it with one stone missing. I wore for 3 days to show people and 2 more stones fell out. They said value was over $700, I don’t believe it. I also ordered a Tanzanite ring valued over $800, I wore for a week and lost a stone. Can’t get ahold of them!!! Very dissappointed with this site. My other question is how does this “police” auction site get so many new items to sell????” [Posted in 2011]

Other comments worth reading:

http://reviewnscams.org/Policeauctions.com-Review.php

http://www.legitauctions.com/Policeauctions.com-Review.html
“Basically this is a membership site and you get information for your membership fee each month. The site states that membership is free but once you start peeling back the layers of information you do come to the information that states the free membership is restricted and only offered so that you can get an idea of what is going on at policeauctions.com.”

Jan 312012
 

Monday through Friday I’m up at 5. Weekends I like to sleep in until 6:30 or so. I routinely wake up a minute or two before 5 but still depend on a clock radio to confirm the time for me. Even though the clock radio has 2 alarm settings, I’m reluctant to turn off the 5am setting on Friday because I might forget to turn it back on Sunday evening.

So Saturday and Sunday the alarm wakes me at 5. I could go back to sleep but it also wakes the cats and there is no snooze button on a hungry cat. So I get up and feed them. And check my e-mail. And maybe type a note or two. And work on a couple of projects briefly. Then I go back to bed and end up sleeping until 9 or 10.

When I saw a clock radio that offered one setting for Monday through Friday and a separate setting for Saturday and Sunday, I bought it.

You wouldn’t think that something this simple would make much difference but it does.

Five o’clock now comes and goes on Saturday and Sunday with not a sound from the clock radio. Oh, I still wake up a minute or two before 5 and glance at the clock but nothing wakes the cats. They’re happy to sleep until 6:30 when they weekend alarm sounds and they conclude that it’s breakfast time.

Silly? Absolutely. But it’s one way to keep peace between the humans and the cats (who still lack the ability to read clocks, open bottles, or use the computer’s root password). Someday they’ll figure out the trick, I suppose, but for now it’s working well.

Jan 132012
 

For the past several years I’ve used Norton Internet Security because Symantec’s software engineers finally figured out how to write a protective suite that doesn’t cause the computer to grind to a halt. The license expires in mid January.

Because I know that buying a new license is always a better deal than allowing Symantec to renew the existing license, I purchased Norton Internet Security 2012 (3-computer license) from NewEgg.

Two days after the software arrived, I received an e-mail notice from Symantec that said my Norton Internet Security 2011 license had been renewed and that my American Express card had been charged $60 and change. A small oversight, I assumed and went to the Symantec website where I found a form to fill out.

A week later, I had heard nothing, so I filled out the form again.

Several days later, when I had still heard nothing, I contacted American Express and disputed the charge. American Express is really good when it comes to problems such as this so I’m sure that it will be sorted out within a few weeks but it’s still more than slightly annoying that Symantec won’t even bother to reply to my request for a refund.

Here’s my recommendation: If you buy Norton Internet Security, and it is probably the best consumer-grade protective suite available, make sure that you buy it in a way that doesn’t allow Symantec to obtain your credit card number because if they have it they will just assume you want the upgrade.

This makes me wonder how many people have 2 or 3 (or more) Symantec licenses for a single computer. Is Symantec crooked or just unorganized?

Jan 022012
 

Some occupations require a certain amount of continuing eduction every year. Teachers and medical professionals, for example, need to sign up for CU units annually. If you’re not in one of those professions, you should still keep up to date on activities that are related to your job.

Some people put it this way: If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Over the New Year’s holiday, I spent some time with Lynda.com.

Photographer Ben Long has a new program on composition. This program fits well with his other programs on lenses, black & white photography, exposure, landscape photography, and several programs on the specifics of Nikon and Canon cameras.
The programs with Ben Long are particularly good because he is comfortable in front of a camera and he has an uncommonly natural-appearing ability to teach. In addition, the photography techniques used by Lynda.com to capture these sessions is both creative and instructive. But I’m particularly impressed by the composition program, more than 5 hours worth of instruction with several useful exercises. Details are here.

Also, I’ve been watching an 11-hour program from 2007 by Kevin Skoglund called “PHP with MySQL Essential Training.” The production techniques aren’t as impressive as those used in the photography series by Ben Long but they’re more than adequate for the subject. See this program’s details here.

Over the past several years I’ve become a fan of Lynda.com and I’ve recommended the resource to several people. Take a look and see if the modest cost would work into your monthly budget.

Dec 232011
 

My rule is never to buy antivirus updates because new purchases have lower prices than updates. My Norton Internet Security licenses expire in January. Newegg has a 3-license package ($70 from Norton) for $45, which is a good price. But there’s also a $40 mail-in rebate so NIS 2012 for 3 computers ends up costing less than $2 per computer. Oh, and free shipping, too.

You may be thinking Norton Internet Security? Really? Yes, really. A decade or more ago I abandoned Norton products because they were bloated and slow. They made the computer slow. But in 2010 the replacement product had become equally bloated and slow. After several months of trying various protective applications and not finding anything I really liked, I tried Norton Internet Security as a last resort.

Symantec had been claiming that it had re-engineered all of its applications and I found that to be true and Norton Internet Security had barely any effect on the computer’s operating characteristics.

The deal I found at Newegg may be available elsewhere but if I find a good deal at Newegg, there’s no reason to look further.

Sep 192011
 

Raise prices 30% or more for most of your customers and then apologize for failing to communicate that you’re bifurcating the company. Huh?

By way of apology, the Netflix CEO says that the greatest fear at Netflix has been that the company wouldn’t make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. “Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores–do not become great at new things people want,” Hastings wrote. “So we moved quickly into streaming, but I should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.”

He might have chosen better examples. Many people consider that AOL was never good at anything except making money for a while and that as soon as people figured out that they could obtain better service from a standard Internet service provider, they left AOL en masse. And then there’s Borders, the book store chain that’s in the process of going out of business.

As for the outrageous price hikes … they stay.

Sep 112011
 

I’m trying to use the Windows “disk image” backup process to backup the C drive and get all the files that a standard backup can’t acquire.

Gee, thanks. Could you give me any LESS information? In the old days, we expected error messages such as “Bad” but this is ridiculous. ONE of the backup files could not be created. WHICH ONE?

“The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error (0x8007045D)”

It doesn’t get much better than that!

Microsoft tells me to run CHKDSK /R X: (where /R indicates “repair” and X: is the drive letter.) Because the drive in question is the boot drive, it can’t be dismounted and tested while Windows is running. There’s an option to run CHKDSK at the next boot time. I selected that.

Then I rebooted the computer.

CHKDSK took an hour to run (it’s a large drive) and found exactly 0 (zero, none, nul, nil, null, nada) errors.

The backup still fails with the same error.

Microsoft offers a workaround, but it’s only for situations in which this error occurs at about 99% completion, indicating that the last sector or sectors of the disk are bad. I get the error message before anything is written to the backup drive.

In the event of a catastrophic disk failure, I would probably reinstall Windows and all of the applications. Still, it would be helpful to have a disk image just in case.

Aug 242011
 

Steve Jobs resigned today. It’s a surprise but given his health concerns over the past few years, it’s not so much of a surprise. In his own words:

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

Aug 062011
 

I’m working on a program that will run in September. It’s about the future of publishing but I found myself musing on the intelligence (or stupidity) of the current generation. Here’s what I’ve written. It may change a bit by mid September but the underlying thoughts are, I think, valid.

As much as we old folks like to say that the new generation is hopeless and stupid, we’re wrong. These complaints have been made since the days of the ancients. Plato’s writing quoted Socrates (450 BC) as saying “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Every generation is different because it is required to deal with the world as it is, not as we (or they) might wish it to be. Some condemn schools for failing to teach Roman numerals but what value does a knowledge Roman numerals impart? The ability to determine that “MCMLVII” means a film was created in 1957? I didn’t need to learn Roman rumerals when I learned them, but I did because a teacher told me they would be useful. The teacher was wrong. Today anyone who wonders what “MCMLVII” means can find out in about 5 seconds by using Google. Is this stupid? No! As Albert Einstein said, “Never memorize something that you can look up.”

Today’s school children, on the other hand, are more likely to understand this joke: “There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t.” (For the binary challenged, 10 binary is 2 decimal so the 10 kinds of people are
00000001: Those who understand binary.
00000010: Those who don’t understand binary.)

Today’s young people may not know Roman numerals. They may not speak English the way we might like to hear it spoken. They might not possess what we consider “intelligence”. But they’ve learned how to make their way through the world. They can read what interests them but they may not want to hold a folded New York Times on the D train. They may prefer to read the newspaper on an Ipad or a Kindle.

Jul 072011
 

In addition to being a technology writer, I sometimes consult with clients on marketing and communications. Today I had an experience that I sincerely hope no other firm ever emulates because it would mean that my input is no longer needed.

To be truthful, I wish that every company I’ve ever dealt with as a consumer or an adviser would take this approach.

Here’s the back story: Several months ago, I bought a coffee grinder that I use at the office. This morning I decided to clean it but when I took it apart I discovered that one of the parts had broken.

The manual that came with the grinder provided an e-mail address for support.

Time: About 6:10 am. I wrote:
Good morning,
I purchased one of your Maestro grinders about 6 or 8 months ago. When it was empty today, I decided to disassemble it and clean it. The plastic piece that encircles the ring burr is cracked into two pieces and, from the looks of the surfaces of the breaks, it appears to have been broken for a long time.
What do I need to do to obtain a replacement part?

The company (baratza.com) is in Bellevue, Washington. At 12:15 my time (or 9:15 in Washington), Pierce Jens replied:
Hi Bill,
What is a good mailing address? Your grinder is young enough, I would like to send you the part for free.
Pierce Jens
Baratza Support
3923 120th Ave SE
Bellevue, WA 98006
Ph 425-641-1245

I replied with my mailing address and 6 minutes later (SIX MINUTES LATER!), I received a reply:
En route today. Let me know if you have any further questions or issues.
Pierce Jens
Baratza Support
3923 120th Ave SE
Bellevue, WA 98006
Ph 425-641-1245

The coffee grinder isn’t a high-priced unit. As I recall, I paid about $100 for it. It would have been more cost effective (or apparently so) to just ignore my request or to tell me that a replacement part would cost $25 plus a $15 shipping fee.

But the company clearly stands by its products and is sending the replacement part I need without request for proof of purchase (which I could easily have provided).

It’s a mystery to me why more companies don’t operate this way and the only conclusion I have been able to reach is that most companies are run by short-sighted fools.

Fortunately, Baratza’s owners have empowered its employees to do the right thing.

What a novel concept!