The fine art of negotiation or not. :)

Wow. The internet is indeed the great equalizer. Yesterday, I penned a post about shady business practices. In that post, I levelled my ire at AWS Convergence Technologies, makers of the WeatherBug software. I had purchased a subscription to WeatherBug Plus and I almost instantly had buyers’ remorse. To make matters worse, activating the Plus part of the software was taking longer than advertised. The last straw was the deafening silence on AWS’s part in responding to my pleas to look into my activation issues. Then, I decided to obtain a refund and got no word. For the gory details, check the other post out. The purpose of this post is to talk about what I learned from this experience (from the consumer’s standpoint) and highlight what went wrong.

What happened: In the end, I was able to get an amicable resolution to the matter of my refund. This didn’t happen instantly. My first email to AWS was about the activation issues I was having and no response was received. My fraud radar went up and I followed that email up with one requesting a refund. When I received no answer, I instantly began researching online for any history of weird behavior with WeatherBug. To their credit, I didn’t find anyone who had been given the run-around like I felt I was being given. In fact, this should have told me that, maybe, just maybe they were under-staffed or something. However, I have had a few close calls with online purchases and I take my finances rather seriously. After some more email-fu and a couple of calls, I sent a email missive laden with phrases like “good faith effort” and “legal system”. 🙂

Seeing results: When my best effort at sounding serious didn’t raise any responses, I blogged about the problem on Jane Talks Tech!. My intent in blogging about it was to see if I would get anyone online to sympathize with me or even give me a hint as to what the deal with AWS could be. Well, in less than 24 hrs after sending the strongly-worded email and publishing my post about the saga, I was contacted via my blog by a representative from AWS. According to the representative at AWS I spoke with, they were ‘backed up’. I can understand that and I probably over-reacted a little bit in thinking the worst of them. Nevertheless,  you should know that AWS Convergence Technologies does have humans in charge  who care (:)) and they are actively monitoring the intarwebs which is why I believe this case finally got resolved. Ultimately, some lessons for consumers and sellers alike are: Continue reading The fine art of negotiation or not. 🙂

Shady business practices

So, I activated Twitter Tools last week. I don’t remember when I activated the  “Create a Weekly Post from all twitter updates“, but I logged in this morning to find over 20 published posts that had the same twitter digest material. Yeah, not cool. I have obviously since turned off the weekly digest option and waiting for an update to rectify the issue. I love the plugin and since it’s being actively maintained, I’m sure the owner (Alex King) will have an update soon. This brings me to crux of this post: software titles that have little to no customer support and why you should avoid them like the plague. I’m a little upset so forgive my language and hyperbole, if you will.

  1. Bitdefender Internet Security 2009
    :- I had heard good things about the high detection rate of this program and about their awful customer support. I decided (against my gut feeling) to go with the technically superior product which lacked adequate customer support. I temporarily went back to using F-Secure Client Security 7.12 which is free, courtesy of my employers. I’m still having the horrid “F-Secure Dial Up Control for NT has stopped working” problem which chaps my butt to no end, but within a day of using it, I promptly uninstalled it again. Right now, I can’t even reinstall Bitdefender Internet Security 2009 on my computer because it fails with this error: “An error occured during the installation of assembly component {63E949F6-03BC-5C40-A01F-C8B3B9A1E18E}. HRESULT:0x800736FD” Now, what in tarnation am I supposed to do with that? I’ve run their non-functioning uninstall tool and yet, I still can’t install the software I paid for.

    • Caveat: I should say that I installed Microsoft SQL Server 2008 (Developer) on my laptop and I have since learned that SQL Server 2008 is incompatible with certain programs on my PC (notably Adobe Live Designer which comes with Adobe Acrobat Professional 8).
    • It is entirely possible that Bitdefender is incompatible with SQL Server 2008 although I have not yet seen anything on the internet about that.
  2. Weatherbug software:- As of 12/23/2008,the case has been resolved. Read “The Fine Art of Negotiation or Not. 🙂” I’m leaving this post as-is for posterity i.e. just crossing out the harsh parts, but leaving them still visible. Against my better judgement (yet again. *sigh*), I paid for this piece of shit (POS) software which was available for free (with a generous helping of ads).  That was strike 1. The second step into idiocy on my part was using my VISA Debit card to pay for this item. If I had used my credit card, I could have simply documented how they are not making a good faith effort to resolve the situation and initiated a chargeback. Actually, I’m just reading that it IS possible to do a charge back even if I used my VISA Debit card. I hope to high heavens this is true so all hope isn’t lost. Now, I’m at the mercy of Weatherbug Plus (owned by AWS Convergent Technologies) and my options now are to: (i) either get my bank to reverse the transaction, (ii) get someone at AWS to refund my money (iii) start a campaign online & shame them into giving me my money or (iv) use the legal system i.e. small claims court. The worst part is I feel like I’m communicating with a brick wall in trying to get my money back.
    • To cut this sad & long tale short, do NOT do business with AWS Convergence Technologies.
    • weatherbug-issuesYou will NOT be able to get in touch with a live human being or even a computer. Apparently, if you purchase software from AWS Convergence Technologies (makers of Weatherbug, Weatherbug Plus, etc), you are on your own for issues like trying to activate software that you purchased from them or obtain a refund. I have been trying to get in touch with someone/anyone since the 16th of December 2008. To date, I have not received any correspondence from them acknowledging receipt or otherwise. I’ve called them several times and emailed them as you can see. Not. A. Damn. Response. Try calling their corporate or 1-800 number and see if you can talk to someone. Their contact information (Corporate) is reproduced below:
      AWS Convergence Technologies, Inc.
      12410 Milestone Center Drive, Suite 300
      Germantown, Maryland 20876
      Phone: 301-250-4000 or 1 800 544 4429 ext. 4769
    • For the record, I am well within the 30 days of grace during which I can return their software in exchange for a full refund. Here is the relevant URL: and the important section is “What is WeatherBug’s return policy on subscription services?” I’ll answer that: in their terms: WeatherBug subscriptions all have a 30 day risk free policy within the first 30 days of any subscription period.
  3. I’ll keep this post updated with my travails and keep reading. More importantly, learn from my mistakes.
  4. Update: Right now, I’m being told by my bank that it is possible to dispute the charge so I will go ahead and  with that option. Annnnd, they’re telling me because’s it’s not a physical item, they can’t dispute the quality of the product and I’m stuck with the non-existent customer support at AWS Convergence Technologies. *sigh*

Trying to learn C++

So, I couldn’t think of a witty title. My Christmas break is dwelling heavily on my mind. 🙂 I’m looking forward to the break more than I realized. Well, I finally decided that I was going to quit kidding around and learn (or try to) a programming language. Back in my undergraduate years, I took 2 computer science classes (C++ and Java). I excelled at them, but at the time, I was preoccupied with graduating in time & I decided to drop that line of study for my eventual major, Biology. Well, I’ve always been interested in programming and I finally got a copy of Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional through the Microsoft Dreamspark program. I’ve also being doing a lot of ‘research’ online about key tools (books) to have in one’s arsenal. Obviously, I’ve gone without actual program for over 5 yrs. 🙂 I’m definitely a beginner in this field so I’m looking for b00ks geared towards beginners, but filled with sound programming principles & advice. Without further ado, here is a short list of books that are highly regarded for either beginners to programming or furthering one’s previous knowledge of programming.

ISBN Number
Last Released
Accelerated C++ Andrew Koenig and Barbara Moo 020170353X (ISBN-10)
978-0201703535 (ISBN-13)
August 2000
You Can Program in C++ Francis Glassborow 0470014687 (ISBN-10)
978-0470014684 (ISBN-13)
July 2006
The C++ Programming Language Bjarne Stroustrup 0-201-88954-4 (ISBN-10) 978-0201700732 (ISBN 13) February 2000
Effective C++ Scott Meyer 0321334876 (ISBN-10)
978-0321334879 (ISBN-13)
May 2005
Modern C++ Design Andrei Alexandrescu 0201704315 (ISBN-10) 978-0201704310 (ISBN-13) February 2001
C++ Without Fear Brian Overland 0321246950 (ISBN-10)
978-0321246950 (ISBN-13)
September 2004
C++ Primer Plus Stephen Prata 0672326973 (ISBN-10)
978-0672326974 (ISBN-13)
November 2004

I will make an effort to check out the local libraries to use their copies. If not, I’ll have to pony up the high price tag unless some loving soul on the intarwebs feels like lending me their copy. 🙂

Update (October 2009):
I purchased Ivor Horton’s “Beginning Visual C++ 2008” because it was geared specifically towards learning C++ through Visual Studio 2008. That way, there’ll be no issues of the book showing one picture and the program I’m using displaying another picture. Thanks to the little knowledge I’ve picked up from that book, I was able to help my husband, Matt, out with his Introduction to Visual Basic class. 😛