Sync or Swim

This post is about how I have manage to avoid paying full price for most of the iPhone apps I have installed.

Sure, there are some which I have paid full price for and they have been worth every cent (Camera+ -currently unavailable- springs immediately to mind, as does eWallet and SprintGPS) but some apps are good value at $1.19, and even better value at $0 (most aren’t even worth $0 but that’s the topic of another post entirely).

The thing is that quite often iPhone app developers will drop their price for a special promotion, or set the price to FREE for a random 24 hours period to create some buzz, sometimes because they have another app coming out soon and want to raise awareness and sometimes just because they’re batshit insane and like living on two minute noodles and expired beer.

Anyway, it’s not rocket surgery but what I do avoid paying developers for their hard work isn’t completely obvious either, so here’s the deal:

The easy way

As the name would suggest FADD offer one paid app for free every day, most of the apps are only free for one day but some persist for several days and the FAAD app keeps track of them for you.

See, I told you it wasn’t rock science. I used to use an app called AppSniper but it became increasingly unstable and unreliable so I removed it and now prefer to use the method below.

The slightly less easy way

  • Sign up for a Google Reader account
  • Use google reader to subscribe to the appshopper.com rss feed at http://appshopper.com/feed/?mode=featured
  • Check the feed on your iphone using the google app or via your browser on the dekstop, as per the image to the right it clearly shows apps which have dropped in price and even notifies you of new ones as they are released.

The other great feature of Appshopper is that when you view the app page in their site it shows you a price history of the app so you can see when the sneaky developer increased the price from FREE to $5.99 then to FREE again within the space of two days. These are the ones you usually know to avoid because they’re permanently free for a reason (not all free apps are shit, but it’s a generalisation I stand by).

You’ll be drowning in free apps before you have time to say “Chris, you’re a certified genius!”

One Caveat: I have noticed a disturbing trend of once paid apps going free but integrating either micro-transactions or iAds in to their normal flow.Tower Madness is one example. This once $2.99 tower defence app has gone free but now seems to offer upgrades to weapons or new maps, for a price. While I understand the developers need to feed their families I much prefer they do so by offering a product which people will actually want to pay for without using dirty tricks.

So there you have it, enjoy your free apps and remember if you like an app you happen to get for free make sure you support the developer in the future, the good ones deserve your money and encouragement  and who knows, maybe one day the signal to noise ratio in the app store will favour the apps worth paying for rather than 698 fart apps.

yes, 698 fart apps

Bloody #Dell

Like most of you, in my far distant past I used to offer to build PC’s for friends and family, I had plenty of spare time and the know-how to help people who otherwise would have to spend stupid amounts of money to have someone else build a PC for them. This was before Dell came along and offered good value for money and an easy to use on-line ordering system and I pretty much exclusively answered “Dell” whenever anyone asked me which computer they should buy (or worse still, asked me to build one for them).

These days it’s just not worth the time and effort to build your own unless you:

1) know what you’re doing

and

2) are a tight ass

(I am both, so still build my own PC’s)

Imagine my shock when after years of recommending but never actually buying a Dell, I decided to follow my own advice and sample their wares. The old Asus laptop Kristie is using for the business is on it’s last legs and it was time to look around for a replacement and taking advantage of the extra tax deduction for small businesses was a little extra incentive to do it soon.

I did a small amount of research and based on good experience with the Dell Studio 15 which we won last year in a competition I ordered a Dell Studio 17, pretty much stock except for increasing the screen res to 1920×1200 and a custom pink casing, using a 15% off coupon and moneybackco (5% rebate from Dell) saved me another $200ish bringing the total to about $1200, comparing this to the specs (which aren’t important for this rant) on equal laptops from other manufacturers and this couldn’t be beaten.

So I pushed the order button and waited 8 business days and I cracked it open plugged it in and turned it on to be greeted with this:

P150709_14.02

P150709_13.37

Lovely I thought, a familiar sight to anyone who’s ever overclocked a video card (no, I didn’t) and my immediate thought was that the shitty on-board GPU was shot. I promptly then went on holidays for nine days and forgot all about the laptop and this problem. One other thing I noticed and didn’t think much of it was that it was missing a webcam and fingerprint scanner (which are supposed to be standard on the Studio laptops), I didn’t give it another thought until talking to a friend she informed me that her Studio 17 which she ordered a day after me (on my advice) had both these items.

When we got back I immediately called Dell to try and get the graphical problem sorted out, and enquire about what the hell happened to my webcam and fingerprint scanner.

To cut a long story not so long, I spent two hours on the phone to Dell on the first day going over standard troubleshooting which I had already performed myself (install new drivers, update BIOS, etc etc) but I tolerated it because I know Dell has to satisfy itself that there is an actual hardware issue, the end result of this was having me re-install Vista on a BRAND NEW FRESHLY INSTALLED laptop. Despite knowing it wouldn’t make a lick of difference I did this, and surprise, it didn’t make a lick of difference.

I was promised a call back from a level 2 tech to escalate the issue.

I waited.

No call back, so I called again, spent another hour and a half with another level 1 script reader in Bangladesh…errr, I mean Melbourne, I also mentioned at that time the missing webcam and scanner and he assured me he would create a case for that issue as well and put me through to Customer Care to talk about that.

I was on hold for 10 minutes then lost the phone connection. I called back and was put on hold and transferred to four different people, each one more clueless than the last until finally I was told all the Customer Care people were busy and they would call me back.

I wait.

Nothing.

I called again and got through to Tech Support, after going through all the same old shit again, with some new shit this time (he actually told me to install the “Studio 17 Wallpaper” as part of the diagnosis process, for an ultimate WTF moment) and an hour and a half more of my time he finally ordered a replacement motherboard to be installed. Presumably this would solve the problem, but wouldn’t help me much with the missing webcam and fingerprint scanner.

So I tried once again to talk to Customer Care and after being on hold for 20+ minute finally spoke to a human who wasn’t completely unhelpful or unsympathetic but said she had to get approval to waive the $200 fee associated with a returning a product (another WTF moment). I smelled a shitfight while I tried to explain that I ordered a laptop with a webcam and fingerprint scanner but didn’t get one, again, promised a call back later today, it’s currently 3:30 and I’m not holding my breath.

So a total of about six hours on the phone and still no solution to a simple problem.

I also twittered randomly while waiting on the phone, here’s a transcript because I know if you’ve read this far you love pain (in reverse date order, oldest last):

  • 1hr 30mins and I may have a solution, maybe, but the promise that they will call me back today doesn’t inspire confidence #dell
  • 1hr 15mins, finally get on to Customer Care and she can’t find the case the tech support guy says he created
  • 52mins #dell
  • @justinitsuj I think I know the script better then they do now.
  • On hold for 10 minutes, he’s gone off to get a coffee and forgotten about me (I was going to say CURRY, but that’s racial profiling), right?
  • @justinitsuj luckily I haven’t got anything of value on there, they already had me install Vista again, clean install, problem still there
  • Install video drives again, install wallpaper (huh?!), re-flash BIOS, here we go…
  • 30 minutes and counting and I’m about where I have been with every other tech support drone, no progress.
  • Back on the phone with #Dell, one of this clowns diagnostic steps is to install the specific studio wallpaper, all I have to say is WTF
  • "Our customer care representatives are all busy at the moment, I will have one call you back by the end of today" – yeah, right.
  • Person number five just hung up on me, I hardly said anything apart from that innocent comment about her mother!
  • Stop putting me through to tech support when my issue is NOT technical, sheesh. #dell
  • Shoot me now.
  • At least their on hold music doesn’t suck too much, if "doesn’t suck" means Kenny G, ugh.
  • Gave up after being on hold to nowhere for 5 minutes, trying again, ho hum.
  • not=now, still on hold with gawd knows who…I think I’ll just ask for a refund and save myself the next 3 hours on the phone
  • Oh great, he put me through to someone else and they are not putting me through to someone else…the journey continues.
  • I think I’ve been hung up on, we were
    getting on so well too! Oh wait, there he is…..aaaand, I’m on hold again……
  • (Zeus is not the -fake- name of the guy on the other end of the phone)
  • On phone to Dell tech support, Zeus help me!

I had always recommended Dell on the basis of the apparent value for money and support. This experience hasn’t been terrible enough to make me stop telling people to buy Dell rather than offer to build them a PC, because I’d rather open that can of works again but I will be less enthusiastic in the future and will provide a caveat that Dell are great if you don’t have any issues or don’t mind talking to a phone operator with more training on how to speak with an American accent than on how to actually deal with a technical issue other than reading from a script.

This may seem like a long whinge over something insignificant but the bottom line is it took way too long to get the technical issue to a point where they would admit an obvious fault (and organise a repair) and I also did not get the item I ordered, the process to sort that out is looking to be just as long if not longer than the technical issue resolution.

We’ll see, will report results.

Oops, double post

My mistake, oh well, here are the pictures I was trying to upload yesterday.

deer_1 deer_4

In other news:

She doesn’t really look like someone who would keep birds, but whatever. For the record “tits” is not an abstract noun, it’s a concrete noun. Examples of abstract nouns are: Bravery, Relaxation, Dedication and Trust, not Tits.

Do No Evil

If this is the most Evil thing which people can manage to find on Google Street View then I’d say the people responsible for vetting the images have been doing a damn good job up until now.

As you follow the street view scene down Five Points Road in Rush, NY, you can see the deer run out in front of the car, get hit and then see it on the side of the road before the car pulls over. And that’s the end of the Street View data for Five Points Road.

This article (also see it for images, wordpress wont let me upload images at the moment for some reason) mentions the Google motto is “Do No Evil” and I’m sure animal rights hippies are all crying in their organic shaved wheatgrass tea but millions of animals are killed every day on the roads. So, I don’t understand the outrage over these images, it’s not like the driver actually swerved to hit the stupid deer. Google removing the images was more likely a mechanism of their privacy policy than any sort of hippie love bullshit.

Of course, no mention of the good which has come from Street View. The fact that the images for that road stopped immediately after the deer was hit means the driver actually stopped to render assistance, not the act of an evil empire, I think.

…not an ice beam, that’s all “Johnny Snow”

Kristie didn’t like it, and I wasn’t all that wrapped in it on the first viewing but I gave it another chance and now I appreciate if for the genuis it is, Dr Horrible’s Sing-along Blog is an inspired piece of television.

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack in the car with Alex and he particularly loves the Freeze Ray and Bad Horse songs, so I’m trying to learn the lyrics so we can actually sing-along, that’s the point, right?

Bad Horse, Bad Horse, Bad Horse, Bad Horse.

He rides across the nation, The Thoroughbred of Sin.
He got the application that you – just – sent – in.
It needs evaluation, so let the games begin.

A heinous crime, a show of force,
A murder would be nice of course!

Bad Horse, Bad Horse, Bad Horse, He’s Bad!

The Evil League of Evil is watching so beware.
The grade that you receive will be your last we swear!

So make the Bad Horse gleeful, or he’ll make you his mare.

You’re saddled up. There’s no recourse. It’s Hi-Ho Silver!

Signed Bad Horse.

Here’s something I already knew

MyGameMug is a modified personality test specifically targetted at gaming achetypes, which kind of gamer are you?

Here are the results of my test.

The Class Clown

Reckless Sociable Fun Veteran (RSFV)

Why is everyone taking games so seriously? They should lighten up — it’s your job to entertain and mix it up. Your philosophies: rules are made to be broken and games are your playground. The more the better – you’re a crowd pleaser and enjoy all the attention to your antics!

You’re an old hand at games – you know exactly what games are the best to showcase your talents. You love being creative, so games that let you cut loose and express yourself are winners. Tight games that restrict your movement, are too competitive, and have too many rules make you suffocated and grasping for air.

Your job in most games is clear: show everyone how to have fun and not take life too seriously. After all, it IS just a game right? Most people love you for your antics, some despise it, but screw them – they just don’t know how to have fun. Class Clowns are highly sought after in guilds or clans, but watch out, add too many and your community will be a joke.

 

Take the test here.

CatchOfTheDay

Real quick, CatchOfTheDay has a special deal on something every day, the prices are usually insanely good (see my future post on the Asus eee PC).

Today’s caught my eye, Risk Star Wars Clone Wars Edition for $9.95? What could go wrong? I ordered one (and also grabbed some of the others as Christmas presents, so check under your tree in December). Today they are also selling a Sudoku board game and Shrek Junior Monopoly, all for $9.95..

Catch Of The Day

(this will only be the Star Wars Risk game on 21 June, others days, who knows).

Also, CatchOfTheDay participates in MoneyBackCo, if you sign up with MoneyBackCo (link) and click through the CatchOfTheDay link on that site you will get 5.5% of your purchase price back, which is nothing to sneeze at. ((NOTE: You must enter the Catch site through the merchant page on MoneyBackCo to get the refund))