Friday, December 06, 2013

Rant - US FDA and 23AndMe

Today 23AndMe complied with the FDA's directive and stopped offering new consumers access to health-related genetic results. This is stupid.  The only thing that I can think of is that the FDA wants some money to review everything that goes on at 23AndMe. 

As governments and municipalities around the world look for funding sources we will see more and more companies pressured with regulation.  

3 years ago I spat into a vial and had my genome sequenced.  With that information I was able to make informed life decisions about potential and existing medical issues that I would not have previously been made away if.  All data is private and anonymous and I chose to share Medical and or relation information with users of the service.  I was able to find relatives that would have been lost  otherwise.   

23Andme is setting a precedence that I believe is being set as America becomes a nation with socialized health care.  I believe that private providers outside of the FDA's watchful eye will no be able to provide citizens services legally.  It will soon become a black market commodity to know that you have a gene for breast cancer. You will increasingly become dependent on the government and it's designated providers for all things pertaining to health,wealth and life. Scary huh?

I hope and pray that the FDA leaves 23andme and other genetic testing companies alone.  I don't think that people are making rash decisions and are plucking out eyeballs and chopping off limbs because if genetic findings.  Genomics is backed by science and I think that the data is valid. The only ways that oversight can be given is for 23andme or other testing companies will need to open source gene mapping data and allow users with their raw results to say. Gene R67548 potentially higher riskof rheumatoid  arthritis. They would provide some over the top service with additional analysis and user sourced finding.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Rant - @Amazon to start collecting sales tax in Georgia on Sept. 1

@Amazon to start collecting sales tax in Georgia on Sept. 1

So Amazon caved into Georgia and will start collecting sales tax on September 1st, 2013.  Last March, the Georgia Legislature amended Section 48-8-2 of the tax code to require internet retailers to collect Georgia sales tax.  

Rant begins.

In my opinion the law was specifically targeted towards Amazon.  I spent around $2300 last year using Amazon so that would equate to around $184 of tax that the State of Georgia would now college. I can afford to pay that in taxes in stores so it's not going to impact me that much.  Modification of the tax code is going to net the state around $16 million dollars that is going to get wasted in the Department of Transportation or Community Health on foolishness. 

What the state and their Retail Association bulldogs don't realize is that the shopping experience in the state of Georgia is abysmal. I don't think these guys and gals have done any of their own shopping in the last 20 years.  I really detest shopping these days and prefer the convenience of online shopping.

They believe that this is a win but retail sales are going to continue to decline.

Amazon has spent the past 18 years refining is e-commerce, customer service, fulfillment, warehouse and shipping business and it's super easy to shop with them.  Most existing brick and mortar store have failed to do so and are suffering.

Here are some of the main problems facing retail brick and mortar stores: 

1.  Inventory Problems

Retailers are not using technology to their best ability to deal with dwindling store inventory.  I've seen shelves at retail stores to be out of inventory of a product for days, weeks, months. Reporting the problem doesn't seem to get the item in stock.  If the item is a hot item; using the store's inventory availability system online or in-store proves to be a hit or miss experience.  Popular sizes are generally not restocked often.  I know immediately with Amazon if an an item is in stock, how many are left if the stock is low and if out of stock when is the anticipated date the item will be in stock.

2. Poor Customer Service

This is my pet peeve about shopping in retail stores.  Very few retailers foster an environment conducive to shopping. I don't necessarily need to be greeted and hand held but when I need assistance I don't want to have to go to customer service or walk around the store to get someone to help me.   Many store associates are oblivious to what the store sells, ongoing sales, inventory.  They're kinda just there to collect a check.   I bought some jeans for my nephews and asked an associate if the children's jeans were on sale.  It took 15 minutes to get an answer back from him.  During that time I asked another associate at a register while I waited and the answer was no.  Upon checkout I discovered that the jeans were on sale and both associates had no clue at what was going on just mere feet away.

I avoid returning items to stores if at all possible unless the product is defective. Even when it's defective, I usually end up yelling or sighing very heavily while someone tells me something contradictory to store policy as I read it back to them.   Store returns associates and polices in my opinion are designed to frustrate the customer to not return products… ever.

My mom accused me of being a bully for questioning an associate on why was she not pressing the right button after she spent 10 minutes trying to remove an extended warranty on a video game that I clearly and verbally declined. The register output on my side explicitly said what key to press to decline the warranty and the associate hit the key accepting it over 5 times in a row.

The rare times that I use cash it's quite and experience watching the process of getting change.  Heaven forbid giving extra change to get whole dollars or even change back.

3. Long Lines

I blame customer service managers for this.  Usually there are not enough registers open based on the amount of customers in line.  Waiting more than 5 minutes in line to checkout in my opinion is inexcusable in the 21st century.  I've taken pictures and sent them back to corporate offices on chronic long lines and limited open registers.  It was persistent even during holiday shopping time.  Even after the corporate office intervened the chronic long lines register closures returned.  I began shopping elsewhere.

4.  Poor zoning and recovery
Some retailers do this very well. Others don't so well.  Zoning/facing and recovery is something that needs to be done hourly  if not many times an hour and not once a day.  I'm not going to even mention retailers where you can see items that need recovered and shelves that need to be zoned that are not touched for days at a time.

5. Delivery/Shipment
I subscribe to Amazon Prime for free 2 day shipping.  Most of the time I get the item(s) next day because Amazon has such a tightly integrated fulfillment and distribution system.   Delivery times of large items requiring freight delivery can be negotiated with the local freight delivery service.  You're not required to be at home for half day windows requiring you to take off time from work.

If you've ever had to except delivery and have installation from one of the brick and mortar stores you may know that it can be a painful experience.  With one retailer I've had 2 separate items that were damaged in the truck before they even arrived, multiple delivery times that were improperly scheduled, botched installations requiring multiple installation attempts and returns.  I've had to send recording of calls with customer service reps back to corporate offices because something was entered into a system differently that what was verbally communicated back to me.

6. Customer retention/rewards

The stores that I frequent often usually have some sort of customer retention or rewards program.  I'm willing to give up some privacy in shopping if I can get some rewards, discounts or coupons for be a loyal customers.  Stores that have rare coupons, offers and sales soon return the items back to the pre-sale levels that should have been at the discounted levels in the first place.  Shoppers  are savvy now and know the real price that items cost at manufacturer and unwilling now to pay high markups and deal directly with the manufacturer if they can.

7.  Store Terminals

It's the 21st century and having 1) Broken Terminals for extended  2) Terminals that do not have NFC Readers or Paypal payment methods for faster checkouts is inexcusable  

In conclusion, retail stores need to do a much better job with increasing customer service from the parking lot to the register in physical locations and the whole supply chain, inventory systems and online stores to compete with Amazon.

Here's a list of retailers that I have positive retail experiences :

Trader Joe's
Banana Republic

Here's a list of retailers that I have negative retail experiences :

Brandsmart USA
Old Navy
Family Dollar
US Postal Service

Home Depot

Monday, July 08, 2013

Social Donation Experiement

I'm about to embark on a great social experiment with you.  I spent the last 11 hours refolding all the articles of clothing that I own and I discovered in the 10th hour that I have an obscene amount of clothing.  The number is somewhere north of 1 year of shirts and sweaters.

What will happen over the next few weeks.  I'll take pictures of all my shirts, sweaters and jackets to Google Plus and allow you to vote whether I keep it or you bid on it if you want it it.  All proceeds go to Goodwill of North Georgia.   

I will exclude purchases within the past 12 months.  I have ultimate veto rights.  No articles that are green, seersucker or both will be donated.

It solves multiple things.  I get to have an out of cycle yearly Purge.  I thought of that name long before it became a movie.  It will get people to use Google Plus.  Ladies and Gents you should be using google for your email, messaging and social needs anyway.  If you're still using AOL or yahoo as your primary email you should be forced to remove your pinky finger on your non-dominant hand.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Apple Please Bring Back SNMP

Dear Apple,

I purchased the Airport Time Capsule 3TB on 6/11/2013 and it's missing SNMP Logging and statistics.

It was removed from even being configured in the 6.x version of the Airport Utility and only those of us who smartly kept version 5.6 could still configure it.   Now on the 7.7.1 Airport Time Capsule and probably the Airport Extreme have found that it's totally missing from the firmware.

Please bring back SNMP Support.

Thank You!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boxee Cloud DVR Review

I bought the original Boxee Tv back on Nov-1-2012.  As of Apr-9-2013 the Boxee Tv was rebranded as the Boxee Cloud DVR.  I initially held off on my review because it was still Beta.  I'm pretty picky as you can see from my Vizio Co-star review. My initial purchase was because it was supposed to have been able to natively decrypt basic tiered cable on Comcast.  As of the time of this post Clear QAM and using a Ethernet based Digital Tuning Adapter provided by Comcast is the only way to view Cable TV.  Comcast is encrypting the Digital Limited Basic Tier aka everything available over Clear QAM   I'm just counting the days until clear qam is dead and I have to get another hdhomerun with a cable card because my hdhomerun dual is rendered useless. I now will need 6+ tuners since clear qam might die. If you're counting I'm using the 2 tuners on the hdhomerun dual and 3 on the hdhomerun cable card.  I used to have 10 tuners back before Comcast started encrypting basic cable.

You can check out the Gdgt review from a friend of mine.  It's pretty much is what I experienced back in November.

I was plagued with green pixels.  There wasn't a problem with the cable because it was used before and after with my apple tv with no problems.  I eventually tried it on another tv and the hdcp issues stabilized.

Video Below

I used it for the remainder of November and unplugged it in Mid December until there was a software update because it was simply unusable.  I wanted to give it a try and not return the device to Walmart because I was hopeful for the boxee tv.

I didn't even realize that it was even recording shows and only noticed when I went to the Boxee Website and saw on the DVR page that there were 100 recordings. Checking my bandwidth usage during the time averaged between 5 and 20 GB a day in uploads.  I was traveling most of that time so it was highly unlikely that it was me uploading that much data.

I started using it again in late March once the DLNA app was added.  That was the key feature that was missing.  I could care less about the dvr feature because I'm using mythtv for all my recordings.  I use Plex for all my music, movies and tv using plex and some mythtv hackery and a DLNA player to view the media or just the native dlna server within Mythtv. The new updates over 3 months corrected all of the HDCP issues and problems with crashing during channel changes and delayed audio.   I would say that it's a very usable beta.  It's a really simple Internet Streaming device.  I rate it a little higher than my Roku 2 because I can watch live tv  when I need to but it's missing Amazon Video on Demand but makes up with the inclusion of a native Youtube App.

The Broadcom BCM7231 chip inside is very capable and there is no lag seen with app switching and rendering.  It supports RVU and a host of other intefaces to act as an authenticated gateway back to the you Cable Company's headend, so what's the wait Comcast?  On the pics below a 1080i show is playing in the background (audio and video) while the guide, icons and setting are overlaid.  My Apple Tv has lag with scrolling thru the coverflow on movies and music and the youtube app :-)

There are still problems with the not knowing where you are in the app section because the highlighted icon is sometimes not visible and you have to press left left down down to get it to appear.

90% of my tv for the week is recorded and I watch later and skip the commercials.  The other 10% is live and on network tv so it accomplishes exactly what I need from it.

Other than that once the Cable DVR comes to the product and there are more streaming apps like Amazon VOD and Hulu or even Cable Provider VOD Apps,  I'm sure that it will be a strong competitor to the Roku 3, AppleTV and even Google TV.

All the live tv is over Clear QAM.

Boxee Cloud DVR Box

Below is the Boxee Cloud DVR Circa April 15 2013. Say Hello to Domo.

Channel Guide

Dancing With The Stars in 1080i

DVR Recording is not available using Clear QAM


DLNA/USB File Browser App

DLNA File Browser

Resolution Settings

Live TV Settings

Time and Locale


Weak Signal over OTA.   I live in a Fiber Cement Bunker

Remote Front

Remote Back

Scanning Menu

Kelly Clarkson Via DLNA on Palladia