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Sunday, November 28, 1999

PITNEY BLOWS PART II

MAN!!! I am going to think MORE than twice the next time I toy with the idea of signing up to beta test a company's software. You may remember a few Bitch Pages ago (HERE!) I went on about how Pitney Bowes, after promising me $25 in free postage, ended up stealing $100 from me via my check card. Well, to be fair, they finally did give me back my money AND let me keep the $100 of postage, their postage meter software erroneously added, which was just about worth the trouble all told. However, their software is so far from being ready for the public it makes Windows 98 look like a well thought out masterpiece.

First off, it demands a screen name and password EVERY time you open the app. It does have a "remember password" check box, but it doesn't work in the beta version. Then, once you type out your destination and return addresses on the virtual envelope, the app proceeds to simply not print the first five characters of the return address. To get around this problem, I inserted spaces in front of my return address. It printed properly then, although it had a problem with the destination address. After printing I get a warning message that reads something to the effect of: "Destination address invalid."

That's all it says.

Does that mean the zip code is wrong? Or does it mean that the software was somehow able to look up the address in some massive database Pitney Bowes has at their server only to not find it? Or, does it simply mean the application is screwed up in some way? I have no idea.

Now, don't you worry--I understand that as a beta tester I am supposed to report these little bugs and I intend to, but doesn't this seem a bit extreme? Shouldn't most of an application's major bugs be WORKED OUT BY THE TIME AVERAGE FOLKS ARE ASKED TO TRY THE DAMN THING OUT?!?!

To top that all off, Pitney Bowes marketing department keeps getting their phone lists late. When I first signed up for beta testing, I got a phone call a couple days later from them asking me to download their software and try it out. Now, why would I NOT do this right away? Why wait? I'm at their site, why should I come back later to DL the app? In fact, I DID ALREADY download it. So, I ignored the phone message. Then, I got another and then another! Finally, they stopped calling. Or so I thought.

About a month later, I got a call asking me to print out a test envelope and send it into Pitney Blows. This was ANOTHER useless call seeing as the APPLICATION MADE ME DO IT BEFORE I PRINTED OUT MY OWN FIRST ENVELOPE!!! So, once again, I ignored the phone message. Then I got ANOTHER call requesting the same damn thing!! I then called up Pitney Bowes and demanded they NEVER CALL ME AGAIN. Which they agreed to do. It seems they have a no-more-calls list. It's nice to know I'm not the only one putting up with their crap.

DEFENDER OF THE GATES

I'M certainly not a defender of Bill Gates, but I bumped into a couple of people who are, at least slightly. On the way back from my girlfriend's parents' house for Thanksgiving, I was finishing up the book The Plot To Get Bill Gates. A woman I had never met before noticed the title of the book and started talking to me. She explained that she had heard Gates' name come up in conversation quite a bit lately and realized that she knew little or nothing about the guy. She went on to ask if I could tell her what I know about him.

Now, the first thing I did was issue her a disclaimer. I am the LAST person you are going to get a POSITIVELY slanted bio on Bill Gates from. She seemed to understand, so I began. Firstly, Bill Gates is NOT about money--you might think that a man who is worth around $92 billion would be all about getting more money--he isn't. It's all about winning and crushing his opponents. If you are direct competition, he either buys your company or crushes you into oblivion or sometimes both. Like how he dealt with Netscape. Now, Gates has said that he and Microsoft were an innovators. I beg to differ. In last week's Bitch Page (HERE!), I talked about how Gates had appropriated an idea from a competitor. Well, this is a better example. Netscape's co-founder is a guy named Marc Andreesen. When he was in college, he created a browser for the Web. He did so taking advantage of his college's facilities and as a result, they owned the browser he had created. When Andreesen had decided to go into business selling that browser, he couldn't unless he paid his college for the rights. He didn't, he figured it would be easier to simply write himself a new browser. Which he did do. This was the basis for the original Netscape browser. Now, Microsloth comes along and says "Hey! We want in on the internet, but we've got no browser!"

What do they do? THEY buy up the original source code from Andreesen's college and use it for the basis of Microsoft's browser. Innovation? (Or not.) But that wasn't all Gates did--he and his company then went on to give their browser away free! Now, you may think--hey that's only GOOD for the consumer, why should that be wrong?

It's wrong because of this: Microsoft can afford to give away a browser for free--it has LOADS of money from selling operating systems. However, the company that creates the competing software can not afford to give away their browser for free because they don't have some cash cow that will cover their financial butts. Gates deliberately had his company do something that would obviously cripple the competition. What happened? Netscape's sales went way down, forcing them to give away their browser for free as well. The company lost billions of dollars and barely hangs on even today.

Perhaps you're thinking, so what? The average consumer now has a choice--two browsers for free, that's great! Well, it isn't--Netscape almost vanished from the browser landscape--luckily they thought fast and came up with their successful portal (a place on the web to get all your news, web searches, etc, in one place) and they were able to save themselves from the brink. Gates and Microsoft almost succeeded in removing the competition completely and that would have removed a choice from the consumer. NOT good. It's bad enough we only have two browsers to choose from (and a couple more if we want to pay). So basically, Bill Gates is a shark who's only intent is to devour the competition and thusly make more money. He gives away next to NONE of his money to charity and CONTINUES to deliver crappy software to the public with more bugs in it than an ant farm.

So, as I'm explaining the whole thing to this woman on the plane, another passenger interrupts explaining that Bill Gates HAS to give a certain amount (he theorized 5%) of his total income every year to charity. Then, another Defender of The Gates jumped in adding that just recently Gates had established a scholarship. To this I say: FIVE PERCENT??? A SCHOLARSHIP?? CURE CANCER MORON!!! YOU'RE WORTH $92 BILLION!!! That's 92,000 MILLION DOLLARS!!!! HELLO!!! BILL GATES COULD DONATE HALF OF HIS TOTAL WORTH AND STILL BE ONE OF THE RICHEST MEN ON EARTH!!! Don't believe me? Go HERE and see for yourself.

Scholarship, my ass...

HOLY SWORD-WEILDING NAKED MAN!

While this doesn't fall directly under the heading of a bitch, the articles linked below sure do apply to the "WHAT'S THE WORLD COMING TO?" category of bitching. Be sure to come back and post on the Ventilation Page your thoughts of this truly bizarre event!

First read this! (dead link)

Then read this!

Wednesday, November 17, 1999

I HATE RANDY NEWMAN!

Well, really I don't hate Randy Newman. I just hate his damn song I Love LA I mean - does this guy actually know what the rest of the world is like?

If so, LOS ANGELES is his idea of greatness??

I've lived in the over-called "City of Angels" for over five years now. While there are more beautiful people here than in any city I've ever lived in before, that's about the only good thing I can think of. Oh well - the beautiful people AND the coolest movie theaters in the country, but that's really it. Overall, it's one of the most boring places to live.

Sure there are clubs - but they all feel the same after the first few.

Sure there are restaurants, but who can afford to eat out enough to not get bored?

And the weather? DAMN - more like - WHAT weather? I know CONSTANT rain sucks, but then, so does CONSTANT sun. Rain is GOOD - it cleans the smog out of the air and gives us all free car washes. Plus it's DIFFERENT. People talk about how they just LOVE sunny weather - I am so BORED by it. I have to wear sunglasses EVERY damn day out here. I get to where my motorcycle jacket all of three months a year - I LOVE MY MOTORCYCLE JACKET!!

Another good thing about rain is that if there's more rain, Angelino Drivers (morons that they are), would learn how to be better drivers in the rain and therefore there would be less traffic accidents. Also, back east, when the weather was crappy over the winter, I remember how great it was when the first warm day hit. It was great - we'd go out and play Frisbee and where short sleeves - it was great.

You really appreciated nice weather when it was around on the East Coast, but here? I have no reason to rush to the beach when it'll still be there next week. You think LA has some great nightlife? Not past 2am or so. LA practically closes up shop after midnight and only the hottest clubs stay open until two in the morning. If you want to stay out later its time for Denny's or one of the few IHOPs that stays open 24 hours. Aside from that, there is very little in LA to enjoy in a recreational sense.

In the end, it's just a city like any other. You can do the touristy stuff, but after that, zip. I'm bored by LA.

BILL GATES RETURNS AS... THE APPROPRIATOR!

In the book The Plot To Get Bill Gates there is a chapter that delves into a machine called a "Network Computer". Larry Ellison, the guy who ran Oracle for a bunch of years wasn't using that phrase to describe a computer that was networked to other computers in an office, or even in a home. He had an idea that people could buy a machine that would have a minimal amount of software on it - basically just enough to run the modem and some sort of dial up application. Once you got that machine home you would plug your phone line to it and dial up a server that contained all of your actual applications.

You wouldn't buy software, you would simply use the application on that remote server and save your documents on the remote server, thus removing any need to buy a hot machine and save yourself a wad of cash. Sure, there are privacy issues regarding storing your private documents on someone else's server (these issues could easily be addressed with basic encryptions) but the service would allow us, the average folks, to use the best applications for a small amount of money a month in exchange for shelling out big bucks for a crazy fast and expensive desktop machine. Effectively, this would be like a subscription to TV Guide or your local cable company. Internet Service Providers could even include it with their existing services.

Ellison suggested this years ago and tried to make it happen, but it never did happen. Most likely because of his insistence that people buy these new "Network Computers" to use the service - what he should have suggested was a service that could be used with a regular PC or Mac.

Now, I'm not suggesting that this is a good service and that we all should get behind such a thing. All I am saying is that Ellison had this service in mind years ago. What happens on November 8, 1999? Bill Gates unveils his newest service - a service where you can access the latest version of Microsoft Office on a remote server. No software or software upgrades required. Sheesh. That'll teach Larry Ellison and anyone else to open their mouths about a good idea - without making sure they had it finished first. Moron.

ALAS POOR ATARI, I KNEW HIM WELL... AGAIN

Are you my age?

Are you older?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you probably remember the FIRST time video games were big. It was the late seventies and the only thing I wanted for Christmas as an 8 year-old was the newest version of this little machine that my Dad would hook up to the family's TV set. The machine as I recall ran on batteries and allowed me to play one of five games. Pong, two-player Pong, Squash and two-player Squash and something else I don't recall. The graphics were very simple - just small rectangles batting about a small square. The rectangles were controlled by small dials on the machine itself and you could play the five games by adjusting a slider.

Now, mind you, these memories are about 20 years old, so they may not be entirely accurate. One memory I KNOW was accurate is the memory of just how much FUN I had playing those simple little games. Then, when word came around that the company was releasing a new machine I was ecstatic. It was to be called the Atari Video Game System, or, the Atari VCS. It was, as far as I know, the first of it's kind.

It could run an infinite number of games thanks to a cartridge system. One game (sometimes more) per cartridge. Of course, the cartridges at the time ran in excess of thirty dollars. Twenty years later, the games cost a little more and they come on CDs instead of cartridges. Of course the games have changed as well - a slew of tiny aliens moving monotonously back and forth slowly creeping downward while you try to blow them away has turned into an all too realistic, sex pot in a tank top and khakis running around tombs.

Games aren't games anymore - they're insane challenges that actually make you believe that movies like The Matrix are not that unbelievable. This is why I prefer the simpler games of years past. I'd much rather zip a little yellow creature around a maze while trying to gobble up as many little pellets as I can. Thanks to many people around the United States (and even some elsewhere) I can enjoy my favorite kind of games again.

Thanks to the wonderful world of online auctions I am able to get in touch with many people who are willing to sell their ORIGINAL Atari 2600 consoles only to be outbid by people more passionate for their childhood memories than me. SHEESH!

PS Buy your own Atari 2600 at bloatedmonkey.com for $50!
OR check out all of the Atari stuff for auction at Ebay and Amazon!

Sunday, November 7, 1999

HOW MUCH ARE YOU GOING AFTER?

Recently a man in a major American city was trapped in an high-rise elevator for over 40 hours. He then decided to sue the owners of the building. Now, I'm all for compensation for moronic behavior - if I was in the situation, I'd sue, also. But this guy sued for $25 million!!

Isn't that a little insane?

It's not like he missed work or anything - he was trapped in there over a weekend. Again - I can TOTALLY see suing them, but that much seems a bit insane. Why take that much advantage of the situation? Why even TRY to get that much from the company?

Sure, you were severely inconvenienced, but give me a BREAK - you're still in one piece, right? Is the inside of an elevator THAT traumatic? If it had dropped a few floors - I could see it then - but NOTHING bad happened to the guy, physically, and if he can't handle being stuck in a small room for a couple of days he really needs to get a life. But I digress.

It seems like these days people are always out for more. At my dayjob, I book screenings for all kinds of movies - big movies, little movies, medium size movies. And almost EVERYONE I speak with wants a price break. GOD FORBID you should pay what something is WORTH. If we were a union house, we'd have to charge even more. So, DEAL.

It seems like some one is always out to get money from another person. Lately, it seems like it's been ME. Recently, I bought a laptop computer. I thought I had found a very good price - 366mhz, 32mbs RAM, 4gbs hard disk all for $800. A great deal, right? Not quite - the price is actually $1200, but if I agree to sign up for THREE YEARS of Prodigy Internet Service, I get $400 off. So, what do I do? I'm desperate for a laptop. I'm never home enough to do all the writing I like to do and the website was falling behind, so I did it.

Prodigy is an okay service, but I do get busy signals too often as well as corrupt connections. Even though I am very happy with my laptop I wonder why they couldn't have just charged me $800 flat. Then there's my cell phone. For $20 a month I get a phone, 20 minutes of free air and unlimited weekend calls, AND a requirement that I sign on for a year. What if I decide I don't like it? What if I just don't use the phone enough? TOUGH - I am stuck for a year's worth of $20 payments.

Why can't they just be reasonable and let me cancel when and if I want? What's worse is that my credit is so bad they need a $1000 deposit just to allow me to sign up. What's THAT about? I wouldn't run up that much over the span of two years let alone one.

Then we have one of the myriad mini-dish television systems. I heard an ad on the radio recently that said the mini-dish itself was FREE (with qualified programming). This means that I probably have to spend more than my regular cable bill on many channels that I don't even want. The radio then went on to advise me that after getting the system I shouldn't ingest more than 200 channels at a time and that I should program only my favorites.

While the selling technique is cute (but amazingly trite), I can't help but think if there was only a way I could pay for only the channels I watch things would be much easier for me. Of course, you know that if they did offer a pay-per-channel system, they couldn't charge as much over all.

We all seem to be out to get more money from each other than maybe we should. Where does the line fall between greed and intelligence? Is Bill Gates worthy of praise because he is the richest man on the planet? Or should we curse him for charging $80 for an operating system when it costs less than $2 to produce a single CD-ROM? Is it okay to compromise your morals if it means you get to have lots of money? I like to think not, but our society has other ideas.

WHY DO TRAILERS SUCK?

Is it me? Or have movie trailers (or previews) gotten progressively worse over the past ten years.

Sure, there are the trailers that are really awesome (Dark City, Iron Giant, Matrix, to name a few) but for the most part all trailers seem to be cut from the same mold - every single one of them.

If it's a wacky comedy, it's just random wackiness. The trailer people don't even try to explain how the movie is good or what the actual story is, just the basic premise and every joke they can throw at us.

If it's a drama the film is advertising, the trailer will start off light... "Jim Bowden was a normal high school kid..." They show images of him in school, with friends, etc. But then it begins to get dark - suddenly the voice over guy gets serious... "But then he discovered... there was a Nazi living in his quiet little neighborhood." Then we see a rapid succession of shots on the kid as he is doing things, running, hiding, etc, (while we hear a heavy drum beat in the background) until the final shot where the lead kid has some sort of weapon that he hurls at the camera and then we cut to black. The title fades up and then out.

The trailer for the colossal flop 8mm LITERALLY gave me a headache. Sleepy Hollow's trailer made me wonder if epileptics around the world would have fits while watching the trailer. And what's with Danny Elfman's marching band music during all of the action scenes? Is that a sword in the Headless Horseman's hand, or a baton?!?!

It's gone beyond the clicheness of showing the climax of a movie in the trailer - trailers these days show every important plot point and the big ending! Sometimes they show everything out of order, but a mildly educated mind can piece them all together in the right order. I just don't get it - the frustrating thing is - most of America goes to see the movies that these trailers are cut for, so the moron-ad-guys think that they're doing a good job!

I almost didn't see Fight Club because the trailer made it look like a different film entirely and if the trailer to The Sixth Sense had told the truth about it's movie, I probably wouldn't have seen it. Sure, it got me in the theater, but I was really annoyed that I had been lied to. I also hated the movie, too.

Why can't trailers be cut in a way that simply and clearly advertises the movie? Hey - you've heard of that recent flop Body Shots? It's a movie about date rape. Bet you didn't know know THAT from the trailer...

Y2K? YSHOULDICARE?

It's amazing all this Y2K crap that's going on.

Everyone is paranoid about what might happen on or around January 1, 2000.

My girlfriend's sister advised us to avoid any sort of plane travel within two days on either side of the DATE.

I asked her why - it's not like at the crack of midnight the plane we're on will just drop out of the air, right? She suggested that something tiny would go wrong and then thanks to a chain reaction the plane would somehow crash.

As though Fate itself heard her words, I just happened to book my girlfriend and I on a redeye flight from LA to New York that gets into New York on December 31st.

I venture to guess that we'll be fine. In fact that's my point over all for this bitch in particular. (I am referring to this body of writing, not my girlfriend's sister!) I don't think anything is going to happen.

At all.

Y2K will come and go - and at least in America, and most other developed countries, we'll all be fine. Maybe a few computers might flake, but even fewer or no lives will be lost because of the evil Millennium Bug. All this stuff on TV and the newspapers is just some media fad - we don't have anything else to be concerned with, Monica has moved on, Bosnia has moved on, hell - even OJ has moved on for crying out loud!

SO, ENOUGH with this Y2K crap - it's NOTHING.

Oh and as for terrorists pulling anything funny on New Years Eve in Times Square? As if. New York City Mayor Rudy "Big Brother" Juliani, runs the city like a police state. As the natives say - fuggetaboutit. We'll all be fine. SO GET OVER IT!