Archive for January 13th, 2008

Netflix to loosen restrictions on internet viewing option

Posted by Ry on Jan 13 2008 | Technology

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Granted, there are some out there who've been dodging the whole "limitation" aspect of Netflix's Watch Instantly feature for a good while, but for the honest, upstanding citizens abiding by the rules, things are (seemingly) about to change for the better. According to a recent report from the AP, Netflix is gearing up to banish the time limits for online streaming on all but its el cheapo $4.99 plan, meaning that subscribers to every other plan will be able to watch online content as much as they'd like. In case you haven't connected the dots quite yet, it's being suggested that the move will be made to fend off the looming competition from Cupertino, and while this would undoubtedly increase costs, it doesn't seem as if the firm plans on hiking rates (at least initially) to compensate. Now that's a change we can live with.

 

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Netflix Online Video Becomes All-You-Eat Tomorrow; Can It Compete With iTunes Video Rentals? [Netflix Unlimited]

Posted by Ry on Jan 13 2008 | Technology

everybody%20part.jpgWe had heard that unlimited online viewing had been granted to select Netflix subscribers last month, and suspected it'd get a full rollout soon. Well, soon is tomorrow—as the AP notes, a day before MacWorld, where Apple is expected to unveil its video rental-killer rendition of iTunes.

The only people who aren't getting cut in to the infinite viewing parade are the cheapos who only rent a pair of DVDs a month for $5. Whether or not turning the stream access into a smorgasbord is enough to fend off the looming iTunes threat is doubtful—Mac-compatibility would be a nice little shot to the balls, though—but it's not like Netflix is totally without a battle plan for the infinite format war. [SF Gate/AP]

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Pottery Barn Saved Christmas With Good Customer Service [Above And Beyond]

Posted by Ry on Jan 13 2008 | Consumer Interest

Lawyers%20Bar%20Hutch%20Thing.jpgPottery Barn rescued Reginald's Christmas gift from the clutches of incompetent delivery people who forgot to hand over all the pieces to his Lawyer's Bar & Hutch. Reginald was fuming, ready to tell Pottery Barn that he would never shop with them again—but then he spoke to Jim.

Reginald writes:

For Christmas, my wife bought me a lawyer bar hutch (Order XXXXXXXXXXXXXX). She also paid extra for delivery and setup.

The delivery company scheduled the delivery for between noon and 2 p.m. on 2007-12-26. I planned my day (including re-scheduling a family event) so that I could wait for the deliverers.

When I arrived home at noon on 2007-12-26, I learned that the deliverers had dropped off the piece 45 minutes earlier (and it was just pure luck that someone happened to be there to open the door for them). Furthermore, the setup was incomplete.

Needless to say, I was fuming. I called the Pottery Barn number that I had. The call service representative was nice, but apparently this particular call center did not handle this type of issue. She gave me a phone number in case I was disconnected, and of course, I was disconnected.

Unsurprisingly, I was livid and at that moment frankly not someone from whom you'd want to get a service call. Fortunately, I reached Jim. He was polite, sympathetic, and seemed generally concerned about my situation. More importantly, though, he solved my problem: He quickly reached the delivery company and had them return to complete the setup later that day.

What Jim did was great service. Then he provided stellar service. He followed up. He called me to make sure the deliverers had properly set up the bar. He also sent a gift card to compensate me for the inconvenience.

Too many companies view call centers as just cost centers and neither empower nor adequately pay their customer service representatives. But that kind of thinking is counterproductive in the long term: Every company makes mistakes, but great companies fix their mistakes and turn potentially disgruntled customers into their ambassadors.

And Pottery Barn, through Jim, showed me that it was a great company. Before this incident, I was ambivalent about Pottery Barn. The millions the company spent on advertising were mostly lost on me. Before speaking with Jim (and after the deliverers' mistake), I despised Pottery Barn. I planned on telling everyone in the world about how Pottery Barn ruined my Christmas. Then Jim intervened. I hate to sound so fawning, but not only did he defuse the situation, he solved it. I now will tell everyone how great Pottery Barn is.

I would like to thank Jim for his help. I also hope Pottery Barn shows Jim its thanks.

Reginald

Great customer service can save more than customers. It can save Christmas, too. Great work, Jim!


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Intempo reveals kinda sexy Daisy portable internet radio

Posted by Ry on Jan 13 2008 | Technology

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Last we heard from Intempo, it was busy grasping for business with a slew of ho hum iPod docks, but it's getting '08 started by offering up a slightly (keyword: slightly) more attractive item. The Daisy internet radio can access "thousands" of online and FM stations, and it can reportedly last for around 20 hours before needing a recharge. You'll also find a pretty basic LCD, but outside of that, we wouldn't expect a whole heap of extras. The Daisy is slated to hit production by next April and will land on store shelves with an admittedly steep £149 ($292) price tag shortly thereafter.

[Via TechDigest]

 

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Rough Nano-Wires Hold the Secret to Efficient Heat to Electricity Conversion [Nanotechnology]

Posted by Ry on Jan 13 2008 | Technology

hotcrotch2.jpgThe latest edition of Nature magazine details a new method scientists have derived for converting heat energy into electricity, using silicon to instigate the conversion. Researchers have more investigations to carry out, but if preliminary findings are indicative of what is to come, appliances that charge using your own body heat may be on the horizon.

Using "rough" silicon wires, produced by a process known as "electroless etching," where silicon nano-wires are synthesized in an aqueous solution, over a thin, semiconductor crystallized base, the scientists have been able to exploit the process of galvanic displacement of silicon. This displacement technique, which uses silver ions, causes the thermoelectric efficiency to be increased on the rough surfaces of the nano-wires.

The breakthrough comes from the boffins at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, who believe they have found a way to increase the conversion efficiency by a factor of 100. Though they are unable to pin the exact physics of why this works, what they can be certain of is that it definitely does work.

The potential uses for such a technology are mind blowing; from power-jackets that recharge gadgets kept in their pockets to vehicles that utilizes your farts for headlight juice, and pretty much everything else in between. It will be a long while before anything like this makes it to the consumer market, but the development is an exciting one. Expect my son to blog about future developments concerning these nano-wires in 2016. [Tom's Hardware]

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Clever Uses for Plastic Lids [Creativity]

Posted by Ry on Jan 13 2008 | Uncategorized

If you own many plastic containers, you've probably found that the lids outlast the containers themselves. If you have an excess of lids lying around your house, why not recycle them? How-to website Curbly inspires you to do so with twelve practical uses. Use the lids to scrape the bottom of pot or pans without causing any damage to the surface. If you're a crafty type, use the lids to hold onto your paint or glitter while you're doing art projects. Put small plastic lids in your shower underneath your shaving cream to prevent the bottom of the can from creating rust rings on the edge of your bathtub. Place lids on the bottom of houseplants to catch leaks (and to prevent your furniture from staining). Before you store your hamburgers in the freezer, use the lids to separate the chunks of meat so that they're easy to break apart before they thaw. What other uses do you have for plastic lids? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Top 12 Uses for Plastic Container Lids [Curbly]


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24th Anniversary Macintosh

Posted by Ry on Jan 13 2008 | Uncategorized

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[Dave] sent in his retro Mac project. Putting new guts into an old mac isn't really unheard of, but I liked his solution to use the original Mac 512k keyboard and mouse. He used an Atmel AT90USB162 to create his own standard USB HID device. The keyboard and mouse appear as a standard USB device, so the mac (or any modern USB PC) can identify use the keyboard and mouse without any additional software.
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Need A 2-Liter Bottle Of Pepsi? Just Apply For A Walmart Credit Card! [Mommy, Where Do Subprime Meltdowns Come From?]

Posted by Ry on Jan 13 2008 | Consumer Interest

http://consumerist.com/assets/resources/2008/01/You%20have%20got%20to%20be%20kidding-thumb.jpeg[January 10, 2008. Albany, New York. Image thanks to Alex!]

This is not funny. This is sad. Very, very sad. They should at least offer Coke.


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Poll: How do you want us to write the Jobsnote? Top to bottom, or vice versa?

Posted by Ry on Jan 13 2008 | Technology


Yep, we know there are a ton of you who want us to liveblog our keynotes in reverse chronological order (i.e. latest updates at the top, earliest updates at the bottom), and not how we normally do it, where you read from top to bottom like everything else. So we're putting it to the vote -- do you want our updates in order, top to bottom, as usual? Or would you prefer them close to the top of the keynote page? (We'll probably go back later and reorder everything for the latecomers, if so.) Let us know, we aim to please.

Oh, and don't forget, Steve's Macworld 2008 keynote goes down here.

View Poll

 

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Dollar Rent A Car Charges $2.00 “Top Off Fee,” Even If You Return With A Full Tank Of Gas [Gouging]

Posted by Ry on Jan 13 2008 | Consumer Interest

It%20Just%20Makes%20No%20Sense%20People.jpgNo longer content gouging customers who return their rentals with less than a full tank of gas, Dollar Rent A Car is now assessing a $2.00 "top off fee" for cars that have already been topped off.

"I couldn't believe it," said Steven Dentali, who was charged the fee in October after renting a car from Dollar Rent A Car in Manchester, N.H. "I said to them, 'You're telling me I'm penalized no matter what? There's no way around me having to pay something?'"

That's precisely what the rental car agreement said. Here's the exact wording he received in his e-mail confirmation:

"Gasoline Policy: Vehicle must be returned with full tank or local refueling charge applies. If car is returned full a $2.00 top off fee will be applied."

When Dentali started asking questions, he said he was told that the fee was being test-marketed by Dollar at select locations in New England.

Dentali demanded a refund and was told he had to talk with a manager, who in turn told him to call Dollar's corporate offices. He did, and said he was promised a refund. But the $2 never arrived.

Dentali received a personalized response and a refund after complaining to the corporate office:
"I am unable to advise you as to whether or not this is a permanent policy or what the purpose is for it, but in an effort to regain your confidence in Dollar Rent A Car, I have requested a refund check in the amount of $2.16 to be forwarded to you from our accounting office. Please allow up to three weeks for processing and mailing."
A corporate spokesman claims the fee is the creation of a local franchise and is not a standard charge for corporate-owned locations.

At least it's cheaper than United's $50 fuel surcharge. Has anyone else seen and fought the top off fee? Send your experiences to tips at consumerist dot com.

Sneaky fee alert: rental car 'top off' [The Red Tape Chronicles]
(Photo: fabbio)


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