02 December, 2013

UPS, I Think You Need to Rethink Your Agreement

UPS, I think you need to rethink your end-user agreement.

Every now and then, I order something online and it gets shipped via UPS.  (More often, it gets mailed or sent FedEx, but it depends on the vendor...in this case it's Monoprice.)  In other words, I get maybe 4 or 5 delivered packages per year.  So...you have this wonderful-sounding service where you'll send me an email (or an SMS) when the status of my package changes.  That's a WONDERFUL idea!

But let's see...in order to do that, I must register as a user with your Web site.  That's not so unusual.  A lot of sites want visitors to identify themselves, for all kinds of reasons...in this case, the least of which is so that we don't have 5 different people wanting to know what happens for a specific package so they can go steal it from outside my door :-).  But...in order to do that, I'm supposed to agree to your terms...also not unusual in our litigious society, you folks just want to limit the no doubt steady stream of angry hornets who think they've been somehow harmed by you providing a service which pretty much benefits them, but of course something went awry.  It's just the way things happen these days, because "everyone" always wants someone else to blame, someone else to take the hit, because they want their lives to be a utopia.  They'll find a way to link their misfortune to your big, (theoretically) money-soaked corporation.  I get that, I really do.  But...

I decided to follow the link on your registration page, which goes to another page with a PDF of the agreement text, which I downloaded.  Are you serious?  Seventy-nine pages?  I'm supposed to read through 79 pages in order to receive an email telling me about arrival scans, departure scans, destination scans, out for delivery, and delivered?  I get it, this is to turn the polling (refreshing the page over and over) to push notification when the events are actually posted to your system.

I know I don't have a job right now, but do you honestly think, for a few uses per year, I'm going to read through seventy-nine pages to do this?  Sorry, no, I'm not that bored.  I have better things to do.  I think I'll continue to load down your servers by refreshing the package tracking page.  Even if I refresh 200 or so times, it's likely I'll have spent far less time doing that than reading through your agreement.  Isn't there anything you can do to simplify it?  Please?

Direct all comments to Google+, preferably under the post about this blog entry.

English is a difficult enough language to interpret correctly when its rules are followed, let alone when the speaker or writer chooses not to follow those rules.

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30 September, 2013

New York State Strikes with Stupidity (Again), Moreso Than Just That of the ACA

NYS is ludicrous (well, that's not news, but I digress). I just thought I'd look in on what I theoretically could pay for NYS "marketplace" health insurance, at http://www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/PremiumEstimator. What do they have there? They have an Excel workbook. So let's see...they were too lazy (or too pressed for time) to put up some HTML forms and have a server give me some answers. No, instead I'm expected to buy proprietary software (or subscribe to Office 365) to find this information. Let's not forget that any time the State wants to update anything in this workbook, a new workbook must be (re)published, thus leaving potentially thousands if not millions of people with outdated information ("well...what are you talking about? I downloaded the file, and running the file told me this is what companies are there and what the premiums will be"). Heck, the file name itself contains "9-23-13 update". OKOKOKOK...don't say, "but Joe, there's ((Star)|(Open)|(Libre))Office."  I know about the free/libre *Office suites.

When I opened this "wonderous" workbook with LibreOffice, it (rightfully so) complained that the file contained macros, and that they would be disabled, and to run them, I had to go into a specific place in the settings.
Are you going to tell me seriously "normals" are going to understand what's going on, let alone how to run these macros appropriately without compromising the security of their LibreOffice installation? Besides, this advice does not completely describe the things which need to be selected (they missed the name of the button "Macro Security"). I mean, being a computing professional, I know exactly how to handle this and remain safe.

OK, take two: I'll just use Google Docs, and import it into a spreadsheet, like I've done on numerous occasions with other workbooks. "This file could not be imported. Supported formats: .xls, .xlsx, .ods, .csv, .txt, .tsv, .tab."  Ummm....OK, so I fibbed a little, and renamed it from a .xlsm file to a .xls file, and retried.  "The uploaded file is password-protected and could not be imported. Please remove the password and try again."  As I didn't put the password there to begin with, I obviously can't remove it.

As if this workbook monstrosity wasn't bad enough, after going into the macro security and setting the level to "medium" (prompt to run macros, but don't turn them off entirely), I discovered I have to enter in my county.  I'm sorry; what's that?  I thought the whole underpinning of a national health care law (combined with Amendment XIV) was that I should be able to get health insurance just the same as someone in LA, CT, CA, MO, MT, NJ, or any other state for that matter, let alone some subdivision of NY such as a county.  I also thought a major principle behind this law was to break down the state border barriers when it comes to selling health insurance.  Why am I going to NYS?  Why am I not going to some federal entity (HHS?) for this?

As I really don't want to spend any money at all on health insurance at this point, but my nation tells me (theoretically) I must, I selected the "Catastrophic" option, figuring that's lowest on the list and will probably have the cheapest premiums.  This "wonderous" workbook then informs me "This plan is only available if every person in the household is under the age of 30."  Again, ummm....sorry, what?  So just because I was born in 1965, I cannot simply insure myself against catastrophic illnesses and injuries?  Hello!  Amendment XIV?  Or how about 10 CFR Part 1040, Subpart E?  As a 48-year-old, I feel denied and limited as an individual for the opportunity to participate in an insurance program which receives federal tax subsidy as financial assistance.

Let's just put all this NYS silliness aside for a moment.  I'd like to know just how our "salescritter" (BHO) could think he was not lying.  (Well, we know now quite well he was, but we're stuck for another 3.5 years or so.)

I want to know, what is the magic pixie dust which is supposed to fix insurance magically?  After all, this law was "sold" to the American public as reducing premiums substantially, while at the same time adding roughly 30 million more people to the health (insurance) system, not all of them necessarily paying people, insuring "kids" until they're 26 years old, total exclusion of denial based on preexisting conditions, with no mention of tort reforms.  I suppose the slice of the American public who supported this law figured it was just the cruel, heartless, greedy insurance companies which could take the money they were all receiving with the system before law enactment and offer these incredibly enhanced services just because they have been so incredibly "greedy."

Look, don't get me wrong.  There are some areas in health insurance which could be improved which would parallel other laws in the respect that noone should be discriminated against based on what they are.  We have many such laws, such as against discrimination based on color/race, gender, age, and so on...what we are, something about which we can't really do anything.

For example, preexisting conditions is a really tough nut.  I'm talking about Crohn's disease, diabetes, lupus...any number of conditions/diseases which are caused totally or partly by genetic factors; again, it's what those affected are, often nothing to do with what they do or did.  If for example one develops adult onset diabetes, as long as one has had insurance, it's covered.  But some poor schlub who, for whatever reasons, has some sort of lapse in insurance coverage is either denied or must pay sky-high premiums?  It makes no rational sense to me.  I'm also not saying they shouldn't pay something additional, just that they shouldn't be denied, and there should be some sort of limit on the premium differential.  I mean, as many have pointed out, making everything the same is unfortunately not a workable solution, because all someone has to do is not buy any insurance at all and then waltz in after something happens and say, "hey, I need this."  A good analogy people often cite is going to buy homeowners' insurance right after one's house burns.  There needs to be some disincentive against doing that sort of thing, so maybe disallowing denial plus some percent cap on premium differential would suffice.

Tort reform could go a long way towards curbing lavish, arguably unjust malpractice awards.  Malpractice premiums could potentially be reduced substantially, therefore prices charged for medical services, therefore the amount insurance companies have to pay out on claims.

Do we really need 50 different health insurance regulatory jurisdictions?  Just like the NYS Do Not Call registry got subsumed by the national DNC, couldn't some laws be passed which trump individual States' insurance laws so that insurance companies can sell in all states and eliminate the compexities of selling in all 50 States?  This is a noted exception to States' rights, simply because the larger the pool of people served, the more inexpensive the system becomes, by combining the risks over a much wider area.

It's all so much hooey. I hope it somehow gets repealed and completely rewritten.  Moreso, I would like to see a NYS law passed which states open standards must be used for all externally accessible media...meaning no Microsoft anything, no Flash, nothing proprietary.

Direct all comments to Google+, preferably under the post about this blog entry.

English is a difficult enough language to interpret correctly when its rules are followed, let alone when the speaker or writer chooses not to follow those rules.

"Jeopardy!" replies and randomcaps really suck!

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04 September, 2013

Stealing from YouTube Content Providers? Hardly

I just had another thought which goes out to those folks who state that doing whatever I can to block online ads is somehow immoral or indecent:

So, you think it's reprehensible that I have BIND set up on my Linux router so that it answers authoritatively for domains like doubleclick.net and admob.com with ::1 and  You think it's bad that I would even consider using youtubeskip.com.  You really wish I would take down my Squid or Polipo cache which does URI inspection and substitutes a PNG of Tux the Pengin for certain URIs.  You think that I'm somehow burglarizing the people/orgs/sites who put ads on their site (especially YouTube), and that the people who put up that content will basically refuse to produce more content if those ads don't get viewed.  I see.  So...

Are you going to come to my house, go through my recycling bin (the actual one, not any metaphorical, computer desktop one), and extract all the ads which come via the USPS?  Are you going to insist I need to read each one?  After all, companies have paid to produce those ads, to print those ads, and to deliver those ads, not to mention make the products or do the services they're meant to promote and sell.  Sorry, e.g. ValPak, you aren't my bank, you aren't my credit card company, you aren't the Erie County Water Authority, you aren't the NYS DMV, you aren't my insurer, nor are you any of the other mailers I actually care about.  Unfortunately, in this economic time, I really don't have much spare cash to spend on anything I've seen in your previous mailings, so your envelope goes, unopened, into the recycling bin.

Oh, cruel-hearted me; I just did in the physical world what I do in the virtual world every day.  I examined the envelope (URI), made a judgement based on past experience (found the content at that URI or URI prefix of litte value or outright annoying), and discarded (blocked) the unwanted materials.  Oh, and BTW, especially in mobilespace or certain ISPs (notably in Canada), viewing these ads could actually cost me real money because they could make me go over my monthly quota, so no thank you.

I guess this also means I'm not allowed to reject any emails either based on spam filtering.  It's the same paradigm, really.  It's electronic stuff I do not want.

Again...if you are depending on 100% presentation of ads delivered that way, you're doing it wrong.  Use product placement deals, or, like TWiT does, live reads.  Make deals with another content distributor, such as Amazon or Netflix (I don't know...just not necessarily YouTube).

Direct all comments to Google+, preferably under the post about this blog entry.

English is a difficult enough language to interpret correctly when its rules are followed, let alone when the speaker or writer chooses not to follow those rules.

"Jeopardy!" replies and randomcaps really suck!

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