Monthly Archives: May 2010

Dishonest Internet commerce practice (ServerPronto.com)

serverpronto-logoThis is a story that has been going on for a long time now, but it has blown to proportions that I thought were no longer tolerable. I hope that by writing this article, other people will be able to benefit from it and avoid the same mistake I made.

About a year ago, I rented a server with ServerPronto.com. The subscription process went pretty good, even though they gave me a server in Panama in the first place (although I asked one in the USA specifically). I wanted to be able to watch some US shows over the Internet, by streaming through that server, so the fact they gave me a panama server was a problem for me. They did move it pretty quickly though, so I must say I was OK with that.

After trying it out for 2 months, I did not manage to make it work correctly. The power of the computer was just not enough to get a normal streaming video going (the Flash videos were way too laggy). I forgot to resign the contract, so I got stuck another 3 monts, which is completely my own fault. Then, however, I sent a support ticket saying I wanted to cancel my account after the 3 months paid were finished. This is where things got nasty.

They told me that in order to cancel my account, I had to fill-in a form, sign it, send it to them by mail (not e-mail, regular post mail) and attach a photocopy of my credit card and my passport !

This had never happened to me before and I surely didn’t trust the company enough to send them a complete copy of my ID and credit card so I told them I did not want to proceed this way. They simply answered that during my sign-up, the conditions of sale (CoS) stipulated exactly these terms and that I agreed with them.

The simple fact that they accept the creation of an account by using my e-mail and credit card and then ask for 10x more to cancel it is purely dishonest business. I live in Geneva, Switzerland and sending a photocopy of my passport to the other side of the world is NOT something I want to be doing, especially when I have no idea what will happen with it.

I called-up my bank and decided to block my credit card and ask for a new one. This happened without any problems and I thought everything was finished from that point on.

That was not counting on the fact they sent a copy of the conditions of sale to my bank, stating that I signed them, agreed to them and that they would be billing my account until I actually went through all the steps as detailed in the CoS.

I am currently talking to my bank to figure out what my next step would be and if all of this is actually legal, but in any case, it has been the worst business I have ever done over the Internet (and I have done a lot).

I would advise anyone against using their service. Many other services exist on the web, are better and honest about their business. I hope that by writing about this, I managed to save some problems to others that might be considering their servers.

Why I am using Ubuntu (10.04)

I have been using Ubuntu Linux for about 3.5 years now. It has been quite a long process and I have had many difficulties on the way, but today I am sure it has been the right decision.

I have switched to Ubuntu « full time » for almost two years now, leaving behind Windows that I have been using since the first day I touched a computer (started with Windows 3.1). In this article I will try to explain what my reasons are for adopting this new operating system and why I think more people should follow.

The open source philosophy

I am a programmer and a general IT fanatic. I like to tweak my computer to make it do exactly what I want it to do and to make it look completely customized. The fact Ubuntu (and linux in general) is open source fits that aim exactly. Everything in the system is designed in a way that gives you full control and if you need to configure something that has not been done before, there are thousands of people ready to help you (the Ubuntu forums are the most active forums I have ever known). This is not a point “mainstream” consumers would notice, but it has made a world of difference to me.

Software at a grasp

I love the “Ubuntu software center”. It’s a program on your PC that helps you easily install any kind of software. You don’t have to browse the Internet to install application X or Y. You simply perform a search on your Ubuntu software center, it will tell you what application is most suited and you can then install it with 1 click. It doesn’t get any easier then that.

Example :

  • I am looking for a PDF editing tool, I search “pdf edit”
  • Ubuntu takes me to a list of applications able to edit PDFs
  • I select the one that I think is best
  • Ubuntu automatically installs the software

Controlling my own computer

I want to know that my computer does exactly what I tell it to do. Ubuntu really puts me in charge of my operating system and if I do not like the way something works, I can simply change it (either by using a patch someone else wrote or by tweaking the software myself).

Speed & hardware requirements

I currently own 3 computers : 1 at home, 1 at the office and 1 laptop I carry around with me 24/7. The laptop and office computer are pretty recent, but the home computer is not (1.8 Ghz single core… the old days :P). The fact that I can run Ubuntu on it without any problem is a big advantage to me. It has kept me from not having to buy another computer in the last 4 years. It still runs fast enough for me to comfortably do whatever I want to do on my Desktop.

System stability

My windows machine used to crash quite a lot. I am not saying it left me standing out cold every day, but it was enough to get annoying. With Ubuntu Linux, I do not have this problem anymore. I cannot say that it never gets stuck, but in 3.5 years time it has happened 3 or 4 times. The system is a lot more stable and does not crash if one of the running programs get stuck.

Learning more about your computer

This only applies to IT lovers, but using linux has shown me a lot more about how a computer works. By having the possibility (not the necessity) to use the command line tools available and trying them little-by-little, I got closer to my actual system and started to understand a lot about what makes my computer run. As an IT lover and programmer, this is something that has played a big role in keeping me on Ubuntu Linux.

No cost

This doesn’t really matter a lot to me, but to some it does. Buying a computer is one thing, but buying the software that comes with it is another. Windows and Office cost a lot of money. Ubuntu is free and being able to save that money always comes in handy.

Green Zone : The illusion of the information age

Internet image

Internet image

A few weeks ago, I went to see the movie « Green Zone ». The film itself is very nice and makes for a good night out, but it touches on some very important topics. The one I want to elaborate here is the illusion of transparency and information in today’s society

As a « tech geek », I grew up with the Internet (first generation). I am used to Google, Wikipedia and, as a programmer, spend most of my day behind a computer and on the Internet. When I need an answer to anything (and I really mean anything), I simply Google it or look it up on Wikipedia (depending on what kind of information I am looking for).

This kind of research has helped and taught me a lot. I have completed my school reports, read book summaries (instead of reading books completely) and even learned how to program (I did not take a single class in programming to date, everything I know comes from the web and some books). The fact I was able to do all this on the Internet created a very strong image in my head : I can do and learn anything on the Internet.

However, after seeing the movie “Green Zone”, I got a wake-up call back to reality. If you think about it, all the essential information today (the critical kind) is as inaccessible as ever. Do we know exactly what happened September 11th ? Do we know what the real reason was for America to invade Irak ? Do we know if company X knew of toxic components in their product Y ? The answers aren’t that simple. Of course everyone has their own fair idea about these questions, but only a few have to privilege of actually knowing what is true.

The problem today is that we have the impression everything is accessible and transparent. Movies like “Green Zone” do a good job of reminding us that we should think a little more and not totally rely on information that is given to us (in this case, the Internet in general).

What do you people think ? Are we coming closer to a “transparent society” or are we practically at the same level as 10 years ago, the only difference being the quantity of information exchanged on a worldwide level ?