Sprint is annoying sometimes.
I was at Wal-Mart to pick up the rat poison I eat each night, and since I was there I figured I would get some new badly needed vacuum cleaner filters.

Of course since everyone has smart phones they don't bother putting out cross reference guides anymore, and the back of the packaging didn't help - I needed to compare by picture because who knows the model of their vacuum off the top of their head? (Mines a Eureka 8803AVZ BTW - I know that NOW)

My phone didn't work in the store. I looked up at the metal roof and started cussing the Faraday cage I was in, despite having a couple of bars. I left without filters because I'm not going to buy the wrong ones then never get around to returning or exchanging them.

In the parking lot I sat in my hoopty to post post a rant akin to this one, got it all typed in - and it refused to post. Yep, it was Sprint after all, not the metal roof.

To top it off the Sprint store I got my old Evo at was right across the freeway, about 1/3 of a mile away. (I couldn't convince Google Maps NOT to route that stupidly)

I've been in other cities lately. Sprint works brilliantly in any major city in Texas that I've been in save parts of the Houston Metro and Galveston. They have some MAJOR hate going on for Galveston. They give Galveston good 3G coverage but they have an old Rockwell 14.4 modem connecting the tower to the web so your phone gets tricked into "opening wide" for a 3G burst - then staying that way because the burst becomes a trickle, sort of like filling up a water park through a huge 3' pipe with a normal garden hose attached at the other end.

Baton Rouge isn't treated much better than Galveston. Instead of simply "covering" Baton Rouge for travelers and half assing it, which is the impression I get traveling through there, they actually have Sprint stores in the city. Buying Sprint service in Baton Rouge is like buying gas for your car on Mackinac Island.

I can't figure out why a Metro area like Houston, which is obviously profitable, only has good coverage in business districts, like downtown, the medical center, near NASA, the Heights warehouse district, but not where people live. I bitched on one of their message boards once, they acknowledged the problems and told me they were true, now shut up about it, that's not what people are on this board for.

Since I seem to be putting my bike related stuff here
bmx, bike, diamondback
not sure if I'll expand to a dedicated site or not - here's a link to my famous "Houston Problem" Slashdot post. I'll need this for reference in the future, it's well buried.

I made that post before I actually started riding to work out here. Yeah, most of what I said is absolutely true, and I have pictures of the "sprawl lane" problem I was talking about, but I must say biking hasn't been all that bad here. Here's an even old one about urban sprawl affecting our waist lines.


My Victory Dance - sort of.
bmx, bike, diamondback
Yesterday I decided to go see this most excellent bike rack that was installed per my pestering. Other than outright saying "We didn't do this because we actually care, we did it to keep you from carrying out your picket threats, also we don't like you showing up on the first page of Google results." there's no better way to say it. Yep. That's it. It's actually my favorite type of rack, really it is, but it's only meant for one or two bikes - which considering this place has no less that four eating establishments in it will quickly be taken by employees once they figure out it's there. In this area the largest segment of the biking community is food and car wash workers of questionable legal residence.

There should be at minimum one more rack six to eight feet of the left of it or 180 degrees opposite of it near the other wall. Where it up to me both of those spots would be filled plus another both eight feet to the right of and 180 degrees opposite of the other non-existent two. Also it's in the least conspicuous part of the establishment, so unless you're like me having received and email specifically telling you it's there you're unlikely to notice it, thieves love inconspicuous. On the other hand it's very conveniently located to the rear door of Bullritos, which is a rather inconvenient way to enter, the place is designed to enter the front door to fill out your bag, but never mind that, they just need to hippies use back door sign.

I am of course a man of my word, so until the bike rack is consistently full every time I show up I'm not going to pester them anymore. It may be that my ranting was a selfish thing done with the delusions of helping a less than prominent class of people in this area. I doubt it, I'm sure it will be put to use if people actually know it's there, considering it's location that's unlikely. Here's my bike happily attached and of course my victory burrito. I'm going to focus on the shopping center with Star Bucks, the Pho' place and the Sammich place next.

I never should have had to pester them, considering not only the obvious stuff I pointed out in the first post, but the $2.5 Million in federal money they took to build the project. Federal projects generally have accessibility and inclusiveness clauses.

FOR THOSE OF YOU NEW TO THIS STORY be sure to check out the tag top level that has the rest of the story, read from bottom story to top story to put it in chronological order.

Victory! (bike racks)
I just got this email today:


A bike rack has been installed in the breeze way of both the retail buildings.

I have not physically looked in the breezeway yet, but when I rode in today I was eyeballing the place to figure out how I was going to shame them into installing racks. This frees them up, now I'm going to chose another target, probably the shopping center with a Starbucks and Sandwich shop a few blocks away that's older construction.

Of course this is a follow-up to this post.

I wonder if showing up on the first page of Google results when you search for "Nassau Bay Town Square" had anything to do with it?

They're still ignoring me of course.
So I stopped by the burrito place today, which is on a bike path in a trendy area right across from the space center. It's bike month, ride your bike to work week, etc... This of course is a bit of a follow up on my previous post.

I decided to take some pictures.

Bet they don't put any bike racks here either.

I chained my bike to a freaking trash can that wasn't bolted down, but at least it made it harder to steal. Notice the two bikes from other customers unchained in the background. I'm obviously not the only person who bikes here.

Looks like there's no place to put racks to me. I mean Coffee Oasis has a bike rack with less than half that sidewalk width....

I could put a small repair shop complete with inventory and a few bikes to sale on this slab. It would be hot and the parts would get rained on, but meh, at least there's burritos near by.

I'm picking on them because they're new construction and they have no excuse. Seriously, the nearby Fuddruckers could use a rack, so could the shopping center with the China Star and NASA Fast Food, not to mention the one with a Star Bucks a little West of that since bikers do tend to pile up there, but they're old construction. Once I get a victory here I'll slowly move on to the others. I'm going to have to get people to join me, and I don't think it will be hard.

Gonna make this public to draw attention to the issue.
SEE UPDATE they fixed it.

On October 19th 2011 I emailed all the contacts at the Griffin Properties website regarding Nassau Bay Town Square. I think I had a very legitimate concern, but not one of the people I emailed responded in the least. I'm going to start being a jerk and hash tagging them to this post elsewhere. Then I may eventually picket or something, because my concern is legitimate, simple to fix, shouldn't be an issue, and above all they ignored me.

I've got a question about your Nassau Bay Town Square property.

Your property is located right across the street from a major
employer, the Johnson Space Center, next to a large apartment complex
which I believe may be owned by your firm as well, and an older
neighborhood of single family homes. On NASA Parkway there is a
designated dedicated bicycle lane.

I want to know why your brand new beautiful upper end property in a
trendy and upwardly mobile area on a bicycle route doesn't have a
single bicycle rack on it, especially when bike use in the area is on
the upswing, due in no small part to NASA actively encouraging it.

I love going to Bullritos for lunch when I'm either on the day or
evening shift at the space center and I often take one of my bikes.
Not only do you not have bicycle racks, all of the light poles on your
property have a very thick and rough concrete base that's about three
feet high. This necessitates my lock going around the pole high off
the ground, not passing through parts of my bike that it should and
scratching the heck out of the frame.

Space is not at a premium at this location, there's a nice big area in
front of the bank, plenty of wide sidewalks, and even a large grassy
area near the corner or near the sidewalk, as well as an area "behind"
the building that would work. Racks are not expensive, I've often
seen purpose made ones for under $100 and it's an opportunity to put
some iron art work on your site if you talk to a college art
department with functional artwork in mind.

Thank you for reading my rant/request, I wish you the best.

I hit reply to all, sent it to the again with this attached:

I've received nothing, no acknowledgement what-so-ever I sent my original email.

I'm going to start getting noisy about this.

That's nothing, but it will expand. Eventually I'm going to start picketing on the road side with signs saying you hate bikers and filthy bikers go elsewhere.

Perhaps if you had the human decency to respond in the slightest I would treat you with decency also.

Honestly, these things don't cost much, it will draw customers, especially if someone puts in a coffee shop, though the burrito joint is almost good enough as is.


If you do decide to respond, but it's with some sort of bullshit safety, liability, whatever cop-out that isn't real but is designed to get rid of me I'll get louder faster, and get more people involved.

Griffin Properties hates cyclist.

I've been inspired to do artwork.
My Romney gallery for your viewing pleasure.

More examination of Ultra Violet - Paramount.
Paramount's implementation of Ultraviolet wasn't way to painful. At first I thought I was actually going to like it, I was able to log into the website, register my movie and overall it was rather painless. Then they pulled out the Silverlight trap. To Microsofts credit they re-directed me to Novell and their moonlight plugin, however the moonlight plugin was too old to work with my version of Linux, I don't know if they're updating it or not.

The workaround through Flixster that I found for Sony titles doesn't work with Paramount, they insist on streaming from their site.

I'm putting it ahead of Sony due to intent but at the bottom of the barrel due to usefulness.

There was a survey on their website and I responded with this:

Silverlight is a very bad choice. It is a proprietary Microsoft product, is full of security holes and is not open source friendly in the least. Replace Silverlight with something better, Java, Flash, an SSH tunnel SOMETHING but asking for web content and handing it to me through Silverlight is like asking for a drink and having someone hand you a soaked dish sponge.

Among the questions in the questionnaire they asked how important the Apple digital copy was to me. I responded not at all. This bothered me since they were so mono-culturally Apple in the question and didn't ask about the other options, such as Universal giving me the Amazon option and I think some of the other guys give Vudu and Netflix options, both useless to me for the time being but at least it's not Apple exclusively like Paramounts mindset.

On the whole Flixster seems to be the best thing going for Ultraviolet in general. It's mostly company neutral, they report on all movies equally. They are absolutely platform neutral, Flixster doesn't care what OS I visit with and they'll stream just about any movie for me the uvvu.com site will and then some. A shining example of making DRM work both for the consumer and the media companies. Following Flixsters model would "fix" both the piracy and availability issues for otherwise honest people while guaranteeing income for the media companies. This is why I foresee Flixster getting sued into crappifying their service eventually. Taking care of the consumer seems to be the thing many media companies hate the most.

The continuing Ultra Violet saga - Warner Brothers.
I've seen more people bash Warner Brothers for their digital copy implementation than any other. I decided to check it out.

Long story short, not quite as nice as Universal, far, far, far better than Sony.

I needed a Flixster account to make it happen, one of the biggest things most people complain about. I already had one so I logged in, redemption was painless.

The movie refused to play.

The support pages mentioned needing the latest Flash player from Adobe, I don't have problems with anything else, but what the heck, I got the latest one directly from Adobe. Interestingly enough instead of giving me a .deb they added a repository by clicking the link. I'm fine with this.

The movie played back looking a bit crappy and blocky, I'm assuming it's that fact I'm streaming to my desktop via two routers through WiFi, I could be wrong, it could be so DRM laden they don't leave enough room for the actual movie - sort of like Hulu does.

I noticed they used their own player. Out of curiosity I clicked on the Smurfs, since UltraViolet movie info is shared through the main site, I'm sure you remember what a fiasco that was. It worked! The fix for watching Sony Ultra Violet movies is to use the Warner Brothers method....

Now that I've posted this I'm sure Sony will go and "correct" their "error" - damned Linux hippies getting in anyways!

Why otherwise honest people chose to pirate.
I wrote the below as my personal comment on a re-share on Goggle Plus. When I was done I thought it was worthy of a more permanent home here.

As a side note let's take a look at things that might cause people to want to pirate and see if the content owners will address a few of these:

1. Obnoxiously long copyright terms. We once had a nice path for creative works to eventually pass into the public domain. Thanks mostly to Hollywood lobbyist getting things such as the Bono "Mickey Mouse Protection Act" passed things that should be in the public domain such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, George Orwell's 1984, and yes, even the 101 Dalmatians Movie should have passed into the public Domain just this year yet none of it has. One of the worst things about this, especially in the case of Disney is a significant portion of Disney's products, especially the better ones, are focuses on Public Domain characters, they wish to take, but not to give back.

2. Insanely stupid DRM restrictions - People like to watch TV, they like to play video games, they like to watch movies, and in the modern day there's more ways than ever to do these things. Initially the content providers fought tooth and nail to keep people on old physical media formats. The people wouldn't have it and turned to pirate tools and piracy itself to consume their media. The content providers relented - sort of - and gave the people what they wanted - sort of. To fight the piracy of TV shows HULU.com (and a few other services) were launched. Now instead of pirating people can watch TV on their computers for free. Well, they still get commercials unlike pirated copies of programs. HULU.com offers a paid version of their service so you can - guess what - watch these programs right after they air on their service - just like pirates would upload the day something airs for free. Of course even if you pay for it there's still commercials, but they make up for it by allowing you to watch it on your TV through various game consoles, Blu-Ray players etc.. - Just like you can do with pirated copies - some shows, not all of them. So we're stopping piracy - a little - by giving people what they want - sort of - not really. That's just the TV end of things, then you have your digital copies of movies that come with lock in, once you put it on an Apple device you're stuck with using Apple devices until the end of time, or you can use Windows to get your copy, in which case you can't switch to Apple. Ever. Or you can get Ultra Violet digital copy, which is very inconsistent one company to the next, such as Sony refusing to let Linux people even log in without stating so while other companies allow it. Should we even get into how some legally bought video games are almost unplayable due to their DRM while pirated versions work great?

3. Walled gardens. I've already addressed some of that above, but it deserves it's own mention. If you buy Apple content, you're stuck with Apple devices, if you buy Sony content you may be able to use this device, their device but not THAT device. Pirated content is by design either compatible with nearly everything or easily converted to be compatible with your device with easy how-to's listed anywhere you want to look.

4. Unavailable content. This one is actually improving, but it's still not there. People like nostalgia, and they want something they had at one point in the past to work with something they have now. Say someone wants to read The Never Ending Story on their ebook reader, but it's never come out in ebook. Or someone wants to play a video game from their youth, but it doesn't work on modern game systems and their old console is broke, or in my case stolen or soaked in hurricane salt water. They would gladly pay for this content were it available, but it's not. This has greatly improved over time. I used to chastise Nintendo in particular over this matter, especially since Sony and Sega had done such a good job of making their old titles available in one way or the other, but Nintendo is now on board with virtual console titles (even from old competitors). It's not perfect, I don't expect that anything I bought for my Wii will transfer to my Wii U or for my DS to work on my 3DS, but I'm not saying they won't accommodate. When George Lucas releases the Star Wars Christmas Special on any form of modern media we'll finally achieve availability.

5. Anti-competitive pricing. I wasn't going to put this one here, I have always thought of the price point to be a cop-out, but one of Steve Job's final acts was to change my mind on this. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail, just read up on it.

Piracy is wrong. I tend not to pirate personally maybe one or two unavailable things here or there, but overall I discourage it. I use pirate utils to format shift content I have legally purchased, which content owners do not approve of, but it's legal and it isn't piracy.

As much as I think the people have a responsibility to consume their content ethically and to be certain to compensate those who put their time and creative efforts into creating this wonderful media that we obviously wish to consume, I also think the content providers need to listen to the people and make an effort to meet their demands for simplicity, functionality, and fairness.

Keep in mind - the high road requires effort. The more DRM you use the more effort the average individual has to exert to take the high road and the more appealing piracy becomes.

One last thing in case a content provider reads this. - I bought a physical copy of the World of Goo in a book store. It was Mac and Windows compatible. I don't use Mac personally, I put the copy on my daughters dual G5. I liked it, (and so does she) I bought another copy online for my Linux machine. I then bought a Wii points card, gave it to my mother and encouraged her towards getting the World of Goo on her Wii. Three copies legally purchased for a game with no DRM (excluding the Wii version) by a single individual due to the excellence of the product and the fairness of the distribution. The Linux copy - arguably the easiest to pirate - was the one I paid the most for.


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