Using 1&1 for your web hosting? Check your email!

Dodgiest marketing *ever*

I’ve been using 1&1 for quite a few years now and – unlike some, it seems – I’ve had pretty good service and support from them. However, the same cannot be said for their marketing.

There was a sudden push a year or so ago involving a ridiculous amount of cold-calling, trying to sell me upgrades to my account which I didn’t want or need. Despite my geekiness, I’m a fairly simple user of the system. I only run a handful of WordPress instances on a few mySQL databases. So nothing really techie, business-y or anything.

Anyway, I got an email from them yesterday. It regaled me with a bunch of new features that would come into affect at the start of August. All lovely, none of any use.

Oh, and by the way – it mentioned down at the bottom – these extra facilities will raise your monthly fee by around 20%.

And, squirrelled away a sentence later, was the option to “opt out”.

Now, assuming this marketing mail didn’t end up in your spam folder… and assuming you read it right through once you realised it was just telling you about a bunch of new tools you’ll never use… and assuming you got past the additional fees to the last sentence… then you have the chance to not be charged extra each month.

I posted on their facebook page and did get a response, but it’s just not satisfactory.

They argue that most people accept these offers. Well – do they? Or do they just not get the mail / read far enough / care (maybe they’re corporate and it’s not their cash) and just suck up the extra money each month putting the increase in their bill down to inflation?

To put it into another scenario: if I wander around Tesco with a shopping trolley, would I find it acceptable for random members of staff to just drop things in with the rest of my shopping (perhaps subtly when I wasn’t looking) and expect me to remove them if I didn’t want them before I got through the checkout and realised I’d paid more than my budget? No, I wouldn’t. And I don’t see how this is any different.

Also, they kindly informed me that my name hadn’t been put on their “Do Not Call” list to prevent cold-calling. This came as a surprise and I had (twice) been told that it had.

So, despite having a decent service in my experience, their marketing is abysmal. Still better than 3, though, who have a crap service, awful support and horrible sales staff.

Gmail for Android v4.5

English: Gmail logo
English: Gmail logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t post on here very often any more so I’m going to try and replace any lengthy facebook posts with blog posts. Just because.

So, the new Gmail update on Android – WTF? Complete nonsense. They’ve removed the checkboxes next to messages for multiple select in mailbox view, instead replacing them with “sender images” which seem to default to randomly coloured squares with the first letter of the sender’s name in it. Clicking on these is the same as clicking a check-box, but is completely non-intuitive. Would you expect to click on a picture to select an item?

There is an option to remove these images. Great. Only it doesn’t restore the checkbox. Instead you have to long-press to select multiple items individually.

So. Wow.

Taking a perfectly standard and well-recognised interface feature and replacing it with something counter-intuitive and unlike anything else. Google are becoming Microsoft.

P.S. There’s supposed to be an option to either reply or delete from the notification screen as well, which is great as I’m generally a deleter, not an archiver. I’ve set the option (“show delete and archive”) – I just checked it. And yet I’m still getting archive and reply as my options.

P.P.S Got it – just went for “Delete only” and it appears. I guess there’s not enough space on portrait for Archive and Delete as well as Reply at the same time.

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Downloading mp3s from Amazon without their bespoke downloader

English: A download symbol.
Grab those tracks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, it’s possible. The instructions are buried on one help page amongst dozens and you’re limited to downloading one at a time… but you can do it. Personally I’m just loathe to install a piece of software just to download one album every third blue moon, which is as often as I buy music from Amazon. One of the reasons for this is their insistence on making you install crapware just to get at the items you’ve legally purchased.

So, go to Amazon and purchase your album. Click the option to go to the Cloud Player not the one to download.

Locate and select one track to download by ticking its checkbox in the left hand column.

Click on the “Download (1)” button and you’re presented with the usual “Click this huge button to install the crappy download software” popup. Down at the bottom of this box is a little link to “Skip installation”. Click this instead.

You’ll now get your usual download dialogue allowing you to actually gain possession of the media you paid money for.

You can download more than one track at a time if you’re quick enough to uncheck one box, check the next one and click “Download (1)” again. This time you won’t get the annoying popup, instead just being presented with your web browser’s standard download dialogue.

Why Amazon have to make thing so bloody awkward, I don’t know. A simple “click to download ZIP” or similar would do the job. Regardless, I now have my free Nuclear Blast album downloaded so I can pop it on my phone and listen in the car. Happy now.

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BT Home Hub 3.0 – one major annoyance

BT Home Hub 3
BT Home Hub 3

We just “upgraded” to a BT Home Hub 3.0 after having some problems with the old version 2 which kept losing settings (including the password). It looks nice, but don’t believe the press that it’s the “most sought after router on the market” or however they worded the hyperbole. If I was shopping for a router off my own back, this is not one I’d buy.

Don’t get me wrong. Setup is simple, but it’s still rather tied down as far as configuration goes despite the extra features available with the new firmware. A few points to ask include:

Why is there only one Gigabit Ethernet socket and three 100Mb/s ones?

Why do you claim it doesn’t get as hot as the v2 when the one we have would comfortably warm the tortoise’s run?

Why is there still no wireless bridging functionality?

Why is it still branded as a hub when it’s actually a router (OK, it just niggles)?

My main issue at present, though, is down to a series of dropped connections that we traced to a missing microfilter. Not, therefore, a connectivity problem related to the router but to an upshot of it – the redirection of failed connections to a “holding page” on the router which causes a ton of problems and solves none.

If the broadband connection drops and you try to access a web page, the browser redirects to “bthome.home”, an animated graphic of the front of the router which flashes to say that there’s no connection at present. All well and good – but what’s happened to the URL I was trying to get to?

The answer is that it’s now malformed, filled fill of “%” space-fillers, pre-pended by the aforementioned “.home” domain and with a SQL-style query suffix on the end.

In other words, if I was in the middle of some transaction when the connection dropped I’d not be able to get back to my intended target once it came back up. Prior to the v3, I’d simply wait and hit “refresh” a lot. Now hitting refresh just reloads the “your connection is down” page – even once the connection is once again live.

After all the lyrical waxing regarding automatic wireless channel-hopping and smaller footprint, it would have been nice if someone has actually got some users to check the flipping thing before they shipped it. Don’t get me wrong, it works well when the broadband’s ticking over, but when your connection goes down that’s a bad time to be further aggravated by poor software design.

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