Friday, June 29, 2012

AT&T U-Verse Problems with Billing and Support

I am so frustrated with AT&T.  In the past couple years I must have called customer support at least 30 times.  That is unacceptable if you ask me.  I use AT&T for internet, and while the actual service has been fine, the billing and support is a nightmare.  I swear, the bills they send me are more often wrong then they are right.  The other day I got the most outrageous bill so far.

I had recently switched over from DSL to U-Verse in hopes of saving some money with the yearly promotion.  It's suppose to be $19.95 per month, so it would be nice if the bill showed up and it was actually that price, but no, I get the bill and it is for $284!  Are you kidding me?  Is this some kind of joke?  It's so ridiculous it's not even funny. 

So I log into my account to get an explanation.  First off, they charge you for 2 months right off the bat, even though you have had the service for only 1 month.  Then they charge $100 for the modem.  I knew about this charge, and you are suppose to get a $100 rebate in the form of a visa card, but so far I have not been able to get that.  I log into the rewards section and it does not say that I am qualified for this.  They say I need to have the service for at least a month for this promotion, but I know I'm going to have to fight tooth and nail to actually get it.

Then there is another charge for $149 for installation.  I did the self install which is suppose to be free.  There were some connection problems on the back end so they had to send out workers to fix it.  I told them I did not want to be charged any fees for this. The person on the phone said I would not.  When the guys came out to fix it, I told them again I do not want to do it if it is going to cost money.  They went ahead and fixed the connection and said it was not my fault so I would not be responsible for any charges.  But of course the bill shows up and there is a charge for $149.

I call up customer service to try to get this straightened out.  After talking to the guy, the best they could do was put the $149 charge as pending until a supervisor looks over the case.  This is another problem with AT&T support.  You go through all the prompts to get to the right department, and then once you finally get there, the person can't even do anything to help you.  It's like they have these call centers set up to deal with customers calls, but not actually provide concrete solutions. The only time I actually got through to someone who had the power to make changes was when I called to cancel my service.

I know I'm not the only person having trouble with AT&T.  I can imagine every other customer is either putting up with the same billing discrepancies, or they just look at the bill and say "whatever" and just pay it.  Well I'm not getting ripped off.  AT&T if you promise one thing and one price, honor it, don't just pass it on to someone else to deal with.  That is exactly what it seems like is happening at AT&T.  They are drawing people in with these deals and then not honoring them.  Then you call up to try to get what you were promised and you just get passed around and no one actually fixes the problem.  It's so frustrating.

I almost want to go back to Comcast, but their prices are even higher than AT&T.  At least I didn't have so many problems with Comcast.  We really need more internet providers to compete with these 2, because they are not getting the job done.

The best thing would be a national service that provides wireless internet for a standard affordable fee.  No scams, no 6 month specials, no changes in billing, just a straight forward plan that would provide reliable internet at a reasonable cost.  Is that so much to ask?

UPDATE: 7-9-12
I got the paper bill in the mail today for $284 so I was about to call AT&T but just in case, I checked my balance online.  To my surprise, they actually took off the installation charge for $149.  I didn't think they would follow through, but they did.

Then about the $100 credit I couldn't apply for.  I got another letter in the mail with a url for how to apply for the credit.  It was not easy, but after a few tries, I was able to apply for it.  The only way I got it was because I happened to have AT&T for wireless also.  If I didn't have that, I would not have been able to get the credit.

Then there was still my old DSL bill that they somehow were trying to charge me $43 for.  The full month was supposed to be only $35 to begin with and I transferred over to DSL in the middle so it should have been prorated.  I was told not to pay the bill and wait for a final bill that would be up to date.  Well today I got a letter from them telling me the $43 was over due and if I didn't pay it, they would refer me to a collection agency.  So I get ready to call up customer service like always, but again, before I do, I check my account online just in case.  When i logged in, the balance showed that I owed only $15.  This was about right, maybe a little more that I should owe, but hey with all the billing problems I have had with these guys, $15 to close the account is not bad.

So for now, things are ok with my account.  Lets pray we can go a full year without any more problems.

Mariano's Monopoly Game - Rare Pieces

Mariano's is having a collect and win Monopoly game much like Jewel had had last year. Other regional grocery stores are participating in the same Monopoly game including Pick'nSave, Rainbow, Copps, and Metro Market. While the chances to win a big prize are slim, it's still fun to play these games.

You can collect all the pieces and glue them to your board, but to make it easier, it's best to know which pieces are the rare ones. For each prize there is one game piece that is hard to get. For the big prizes, there are actually 2 game pieces that are hard to get. I did a little research and thanks to Patty over at GreenBayConsumer.com, here is a list of the rare game markers:

A 606
B 603
C 599
D 593
E 588
F 584
G 582
H 577
I. 575
J 570
K 567
L 560
M 557
N 555
P 550, 551
Q 543, 544
R 538, 540
S 532, 534
T 527, 530
U 522, 524
V 518, 519
W 514, 515
X 508, 511
Y 501, 505

The Monopoly game runs through August 29th so there is still a lot of time to shop and collect tickets. For a list of the odds of winning for each prize check out gsngrocers.com.

You can use the comments below to share which pieces you have or which ones you need. Good luck!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Die Antwoord - Artist Profile

"Who are these guys?" and "What did I just watch?" are common question people ask when they first discover the zef rap group Die Antwoord.  At first it's hard to understand what they are because they are so different from what we are accustomed to, at least in the US.  I have listened to their music, watched their videos, and researched their background to provide some insight on this group whose name translates into "The Answer."

Die Antwoord consists of the tough gangsta rap type guy by the name of Ninja, the cute yet hardcore girl named Yolandi, and their mysterious DJ, DJ Hi Tek.  They are from South Africa and have exploded onto the music scene with their shocking videos and unique style of music.  Their lyrics are mostly understood by English speakers, but they also use a lot of words and dialect native to South Africa.

I first heard about them a couple years back when they released the video for the song Enter the Ninja.  I thought it was pretty cool, but didn't really look much into it at the time.  Later they made a video for "I Fink U Freeky" which is a creepy video but none the less entertaining.  Again I dismissed it without much thought.  Finally they caught my attention with their latest video, "Baby's On Fire."  The video features a blond Ninja and Yolandi as brother and sister in their parent's house.  Yolandi keeps trying to sneek boys in the house while Ninja chases them out.  The video is very interesting to watch and the song is good too.

Die Antwoord - Enter the Ninja (Music video)


So who are these guys?  Is it an act?  Is this real?  From what I can tell, the group Die Antwoord is a bit of a performance act, but it is closely based on the real persona's of Ninja and Yolandi.  They have done other music projects in the past which were different than this so they have some range as far as characters go.  The ghetto/rich style of Die Antwoord seems to be a bit of a parody of the stereotypical rap image, yet they put their own spin on it.  They promote the idea of not caring what others think and just doing your own thing.  This is shown by their unconventional look and attitude during interviews and on stage performances.

An interview with Ninja about how they got their first break. 


Is their music the greatest thing ever? Not necessarily, but it is decent and with Die Antwoord, there is so much more to appreciate than just the music.  The image, the video, and the way of life can all be appreciated when you experience their work.  With so many people copying and doing the same stuff over and over in the music industry, it's refreshing to see an act that comes along and really is outside the box and doing their own thing.  This group is driven and they have earned the attention and support of many fans around the world.  I know I will be keeping an eye on them and highly anticipating whatever song or video they put out next.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

ABC's The Glass House Review

A new reality show called The Glass House premiered on ABC last night.  I didn't know what to expect because the previews did not show any real clips, but I heard it would be a reality show where viewers get to decide what happens, so I decided to check it out.  My first impression is that it is a lot like the show Big Brother.  You have a group of random people stuck in a house competing against each other to be the last one standing to win the prize money.  

I like the show big brother, so chances are I will like this show and after the first episode, I am definitely going to continue watching it.  So far there is a lot of drama already, mainly from one guy named Alex.  He is an over-the-top personality who seems desperate to try to get as much camera time as possible by causing problems with everyone in the house.  He has managed to get the whole house against him, but it's up to the viewers to decide on if he will stay or go.

On one hand he is good for entertainment, but on the other hand, he takes it too far to the point of just being downright mean and disrespectful to others just for the sake of it.  I have a feeling he is trying to make a name for himself to catapult himself into stardom.  Unfortunately he is going about it the wrong way.

Besides him, the rest of the cast is a mixed bag.  You have a lot of young pretty people, a couple of older people, and the traditional stereotyped characters you see on many of these reality shows.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out with the viewer participation.  I have not logged into vote on anything yet, but I like the idea of being involved in the show.  Big Brother has started to to a little of this and people seem to like it.

Overall I think this show will be a success.  If Big Brother is a hit, there is no reason this show will not be since it is almost the same thing. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Old Norton Door Closer Adjustment

I had a door that was slamming harder than I would like so I decided to look into how to stop it from closing so fast.  After doing some research, I found that most door closers have a few ways to adjust them including a Swing (How fast the main swing is), and a Latch (how fast it closes at the end).  Some also have a way to adjust the Back Swing.  Basically you turn the screw to the right to slow it down, and turn it to the left to let it close faster.

I saw that my door closer said Norton on the bottom so I knew that was the brand.  I looked it up but couldn't find the exact model, probably because it is old and out of production.  Anyway, on the right side there was one place that looked like you could adjust it.  You can see in the picture, it is the hole to the right of the big X.  I used a small hexagon wrench, about 1/8th inch and turned it clockwise just a little bit to see if it would do anything.  To my surprise, it worked perfectly!  Just the little turn slowed down the latch speed so it closes much more softly. 

So if you have a door that is slamming and it has a door closer, just look for the little wrench holes or screws and turn them a little to the right and it should help slow it down. 

Another tip to lessen the noise is to get a little rubber adhesive stopper/bumper and put it on the door jamb inside where the door closes against it.  This should help prevent the door from hitting directly against the frame.

If this guide was helpful, or you have any questions or tips, leave a comment below.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Problems with Computer Updates

So I'm on the computer and as is common, Windows asks me to perform an update. Being a responsible tech person, I stay on top of these things and oblige the update followed by a restart. Next Adobe pops up and asks for the same favor for its Flash player. Again I accept the request and go through with the Flash update. So far, it's a bit of an annoyance, but not a big deal.

A bit later I'm watching videos on Youtube and I notice I can't adjust the volume using my keyboard buttons. It just freezes. If I click off the window I can adjust it, but somehow the newest Flash update (11.3.300.257) did something to disable my ability to adjust the volume. This was incredibly frustrating as I use audio a lot for video and music. A test of Flash music players online yielded the same error.

So I weigh my options and figure I'll try a system restore and that should undo the latest changes. I go into Windows settings and select the restore point. It goes to restart but before it can load up again, I get an error (LogonUI.exe) saying that an important file (crypt32.dll) is missing. I can't do anything but force quit and restart. Still it won't let me even start up Windows. WTF! At this point I get worried thinking I am going to lose everything. Luckily I do back up my files, but I only had like 95% backed up and even the 5% would be very hard to replace.

Again luckily I had a spare laptop to hook up and browse the internet for solutions. The best fix was to put in the system repair disc which I had made months back. After another restart, I managed to get the cd into the drive and boot from disc. From there I tried the Start Up repair option as that was the problem, but it did not work. Further discouraged, I opted to try undoing the system restore. This went through but at the end said it was unable to make the changes. Crap!

To my relief, even though it said it didn't work, I was able to start up windows and it seemed to be ok. I tested out the flash player volume issue and it was still freezing up. Very annoying, so I figure it must be a problem with the latest Flash player update.

I decide to uninstall the latest update. It uninstalls Flash completely. No big deal. I go to Adobe's site and manage to find an archive of older Flash versions. I get the one before the last and download it. The file is big because it comes with versions for all operating systems. When that was done I found the right version and installed it. I go to test out the volume adjustment and success! It worked!

My overall take on this is that all these components and programs such as Windows, FireFox, Flash, Java... need to stop updating so much. They are all interconnected and dependent on each other but they don't collaborate well when they all keep changing. I know they have to stay current and progress technology, but it seems like more often then not, updates cause problems rather than solutions.

Morals to be learned include: Back up your files now and don't put it off. Also make sure you have repair and recover discs available for your operating system. Then after all that, be cautious of new updates. If it ain't broke don't fix it!

UPDATE 10-0-12
I tried installing the newest version of Flash 11.4... to see if they have fixed the volume freeze issue, but it still doesn't work.  I managed to submit a bug to Adobe about it.  I say managed because just the sign up process to log in, yes you have to log in, was very difficult.  I had to try like 5 different user names and a couple emails before it let me in.  Seriously how many people are actually registered on Adobe?  Anyway, we'll see if they take a look at it and hopefully are able to fix it for a future version.  Otherwise I'm sticking with version 11.2 because it works. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

10 Best Youtube Channels of 2012

Here are the top 10 new Youtube channels you should check out for 2012.  The rules for this list include:
1. The channel must not have been featured previously on any of my 10 Best lists such as here and here.
2. The channel is funny or humorous in nature. 

So here are my favorite new Youtube channels of 2012:

1. Jaime Alyse
I randomly found funny girl Jaime Alyse through Vimeo and that led me to her Youtube channel.  Jaime along with friends Cate Duffy and Ross Brunetti make sketch comedy videos with a variety of funny characters.  I absolutely love them and can watch them over and over.  This channel is still new and relatively unknown at this time which makes it even more special.
Here is one of my favorites where they play 2 old ladies sitting on a bench in a park when one of their grandsons brings his girlfriend to meet them.


2. Jack Vale (JackValeFilms)
Jack Vale is a prankster who is known for his hidden camera videos where he goes around in public with a device he invented called the Pooter which makes fart sounds.  Those videos while juvenile, are pretty funny when you see people's reactions.  Thankfully Jack has started broadening his horizons and has branched out into other funny video ideas.
In this series called Hearing Things, Jack goes around and softly says "sir" or "ma'am" behind people, but then goes about his business like he didn't say anything.  The reactions are great.
    
3. Nathan Barnatt (NathanJBarnatt)
Nathan marches to the beat of his own drummer.  He is a character actor/dancer/stuntman/comedian and all around entertainer.  Many of his dancing videos have gone viral.  He embodies 80's culture and retro video games. 
Here is a music video he made about how he likes Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtles more than his girlfriend.  Note, the whole main sequence was filmed in 1 take!


4.  Moving Mind Studio (MovingMindStudio)
This trio of fellows have been slowly gaining a following with their comedy sketch videos on Youtube.  They have done parodies of popular culture such as superheros as well as original concepts.
In this one, the boss's son who comes to visit has a habit of laughing out loud while his is in the middle of a drink.


5. Jenny Bede (Bedey100)
Jenny Bede is a talented girl from the UK who makes music video parodies.  She has covered popular artists such as Lana Del Ray, Jay Z, and Run DMC.
In this one she covers a Tinie Tempah song and makes it about Pippa Middleton and how she is getting attention from being the sister of Kate. 


6. Robbie Sherrard (RobbieSherrard)
Robbie is a comedian who just started gaining popularity this year.  He makes interview style videos where he addresses a variety of topics in a realistic and thoughtful way while blending humor into the mix.
Here is his most popular one where he talks about 3 types of girlfriends based on how they use the bathroom.


7. Kyle
 A Youtuber simply known as Kyle makes hilarious videos, most famously where he goes to events and interviews people in the most awkward way possible.  He also has a set of characters he plays and even has been known to do stand up comedy from time to time.
In this video he interviews people attending the Xtreme Nitro Circus.


8. Tom Mabe (MabeInAmerica)
Tom Mabe is another guy who makes hidden camera style videos where he creatively sets up funny situations and films what happens.  He also does interviews with people, but of course there is always a catch to them.
In this one, Tom gets a call from some woman's husband who apparently he has been having an affair with.  They get into an argument and he tells the guy to come meet him.  He then gives his description, only it is the description of innocent bystanders who have overheard his conversation. 


9. Ed Bassmaster (EdBassmaster)
Ed Bassmaster is a professional prankster with a handful of funny characters he plays as he goes around in public and talks to people. 
Here is one of his recent videos where he plays a cocky arrogent guy named Ron Johnson as he attends an event called Playlist Live.


10. LAHWF
Andrew Hales burst on the scene this year with his channel where he post pranks and social experiments.  He creates awkward situations with people and secretly films their reactions.  Here is a 2012 highlight video showing some of the funniest moments from his videos this year:


If you enjoyed these videos or have any recommendations for other channels, leave a comment below. 

Also check out the 10 Best Youtube Channels of 2013.

Monday, June 11, 2012

New Shows Review - Hells Kitchen, Love in the Wild, Secret Millionaire, The Choice

The new season of Hell's Kitchen has begun and while I have enjoyed previous seasons, it has just now occurred to me how much bleeping of swear words goes on in every episode.  If you pay attention to it, it seems like almost every line uttered on the show has some part of it bleeped out.  It's almost as if they purposely are using only lines and sound bite where people are cursing.  A little bit of bleeping here and there is ok, especially for Ramsey, but really it is getting out of hand on this show.  I'll be watching this one with less than average enthusiasm this year.

The 2nd season of Love in the Wild is on now.  This one falls into that category of guilty pleasures.  Basically it's a bunch of hot guys and a bunch of hot girls matched up and they compete in challenges.  Each week a coupke gets eliminated until there is only one left at the end.  There is a lot of drama and the setting is exotic and beautiful, so it's fun to watch.  This year Jenny McCarthy is the host which is an upgrade from last year, I don't even remember who it was.  She is as funny and good looking as always.

One of my favorite feel good shows Secret Millionaire is back.  Following the same format, millionaires go undercover and find less fortunate people in need.  At the end they reveal who they are and donate money to the individuals they have met.  I like the show, but I have one gripe about it and that is that sometimes it looks like the producers of the show preselected who they are going to help, yet on the show they make it out to appear as though the millionaires just happen to stumble upon these people and groups in need by accident.  Either way, it still good and always emotional.

One of my favorite ladies Cat Deeley is hosting a new show called The Choice.  It's a blatant copy of the show The Voice, except the celebs pick dates, not singers.  I don't know how they got away with the name and chair spin thing, unless it is from the same producers.  Anyway, I checked out the show and it was pretty bad. D list celebrities deciding if they want to go on a date with random people based on what they say in a few sentences.  I won't be watching, even with Cat.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Reggie Watts - Comedian, Musical Artist, Improvisational Genius

Years ago I remember discovering a guy named Reggie Watts from a music video on College Humor.  The video was funny and I remember going to look him up at the time and there was not much out there at the time, so I kind of forgot about it.  Every now and then a new video would surface of him making an original song with his looping machine which were always great.  Then I saw him in the intro theme to Penelope Princess of Pets which is an excellent web series staring Kristen Schaal.     

Recently I started looking him up again and there are so many new videos of him performing live at shows and conferences.  He has definitely grown in popularity over the past few years and he keeps getting better each year.  After watching a bunch of his videos I can safely say that Reggie Watts is a musical and improvisational comedy genius.  He is the closest to the definition of the word "artist" as you can get with his creativity, boundary stretching, and cross categorical talent.  It is a treat to watch him perform even if it is just through video.  I thought I would share a few of my favorite video finds below.  Enjoy!

Reggie Performs Fuck Shit Stack Live at Just For Laughs


Reggie Live Performance at a Ted Talk 2011


Reggie Acting in an episode of Rumspringa Girls

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Funny Girls - Jaime Alyse and Cate Duffy

I recently discovered a new Youtube channel featuring a couple of very funny and talented girls here.  They make sketch comedy videos and remind be of another duo I found a while back, Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting.  I have watched a handful of their videos so far and already I love them!  They are the kind of videos that can easily go viral, yet surprisingly, no one seems to know about them yet.  In fact, I was their first subscriber.  The channel is fairly new, so maybe that is why, but I'm guessing it is going to get huge as soon as people discover it.  Here are some samples of their work:

We Don't Have Much Time
In this one, they play a couple of old ladies sitting on a bench in the park talking.  One of their grandsons comes to meet them and brings his girl friend who they do not approve of.


Gerry 
In this one, the girls play a couple of homeless substance abusers who seem to be obsessed with someone named Gerry. 


Rumspringa Girls
This is part one of a web series where Cate plays an Amish girl who goes on a Rumspringa trip to New York City and forms a bond with Jaime who plays a native New Yorker. 


This is one of the best new channels I have found this year.  Expect it to be featured on the Best Youtube Channels of 2012 list.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Song Recommendations - June 2012

Daade - Then There's Me
I found this artist years ago on  Myspace and recently this song popped back into my head.  It's pure electronic pop which I like.  The chorus is legendary. He has a few other songs like this, but this one is my favorite.  It looks like he has not been very active with making music lately which is a shame because I could see this getting very popular. 


The Naked and Famous - Young Blood (White Sea remix)
I found this one from the show So You think You Can Dance when one of the auditioning dancers had it for her music.  It has beautiful singing and then powerful synths once the remix comes in.   Apparently "White Sea" is a girl producer/singer who is associated with M83.  Interesting.   


Fiona Apple - Paper Bag
Fiona was a music staple back in the 90's.  This is an older song, but one that must have slipped past my radar when it came out.  The chorus can be very catchy once you hear it a few times.  Been looping and remixing this one in my head a lot.  Enjoy! 


Bluehost Domain Renewal Cost Increase

I went to renew one of my website urls the other day only to find that the price had gone up to $13.99 for a year. It used to be like $10.  I am pretty annoyed by this.  They get you to sign up with them for low prices and then once you are hooked, they boost the prices on you.

I plan on transferring my domains to another company that has more reasonable offers for domain renewals.  Is anyone else bothered by this renewal increase?  Does any one have any advice for transferring a domain from Bluehost to another company?

Update: 2-9-13

I got another reminder from Bluehost to renew a url for $13.99 and this time I decided to do something about it.  I did a little research on domain transfers and found that GoDaddy will transfer and renew your domain name for as little as $7.99.  With fees and privacy enabled whois, I got the domain transferred and renewed for only $8.66 for the year.  That's about $5 less than Bluehost was charging annually. 

Overall the process was not exactly easy, but not too hard either.  You just have to follow the directions and complete the steps to enable the transfer to go through.

If you are fed up with paying these high renewal fees for Bluehost or any other host for that matter, check out GoDaddy or at least do some research and find a reasonable offer out there.

Update: 5-23-14
Ok so the renewal fee for GoDaddy is outrageous.  They want to charge $23 for a 1 year renewal on the domain. No way I am paying that.  I did some research and there are a ton of other domain registrars out there.  It is hard to tell which ones are good and which ones are not.  After doing the research I settled on NameCheap.  They seemed to be very highly recommended from  unbiased reviews so I decided to give them a try.  The transfer with 1 year and privacy settings was about $9.  Not too bad.  We will see how it goes.

Update: 6-1-14
Still working on getting he domain transferred.  GoDaddy denied it because it has privacy protection enabled.  So I had to figure out how to disable that.  It was not easy at all.  You have to go through some 3rd party website which I never even registered on in first place.  So I had to go though a long process of "forgot user name", "forgot passowrd" when I never even had one to begin with.

So then I had to contact Namecheap to cancel it and restart it again. Finally I was able to get the domain name transferred.  Namecheap had a lot of good reviews, but so far I have not been very impressed.  On the outside, the interface looks good, but internally it looks very outdated and is not very user friendly.  I am currently looking for a new free hosting service to replace 000Webhost because my website with them is no longer working.  They sure do not make this stuff easy.