Xbox One – Why I’m returning mine

There is enough information that has already been published about the technical specs of the Xbox One and how it compares to the PS4. Unfortunately, I cannot compare the two, as I don’t own a PS4. Yet.

This is a short article explaining the mega fails of the new Xbox One. These ‘fails’ have been brought about because of Microsoft’s greed, in my opinion.

I’ll start off by saying that I was super, super excited to try my new Xbox One out. Incidentally, a few days before it arrived I read this article, which slammed the Xbox One, and I thought to myself “this guy either is PlayStation 4 loyal or has sour grapes for some reason“.  I own an Xbox 360 and almost every decent game there is; not to mention, the 458 ThrustMaster steering wheel, which cost a lot of money.

My Xbox One arrived yesterday, 4 weeks late, due to supply shortages. I duly unplugged and removed my old Xbox 360 and replaced the empty space (only just) with the newer and larger hardware.

I love cars and driving fast, and really enjoy playing real life driving games too. The Xbox 360 combined with the Thrustmaster steering wheel setup is amazing at simulating and translating driving experiences into a virtual experience. I thought that the Xbox One would be better, greater and even more amazing.

It didn’t work out like that.

I started off by downloading Forza 5, almost salivating with anticipation of testing out the new cars and tracks. I plugged in my steering wheel and thought to myself “this is going to be good“. However, the steering wheel didn’t work. So I checked out the settings, changed USB ports on the Xbox One and…….Nothing.

A quick Google search revealed that Xbox 360 accessories do not work with the new Xbox One.

What the f%*k? I paid a ton for my Xbox 360 steering wheel not so long ago and now I need a new one to play the Xbox One? OMG.
The games from the Xbox 360 don’t work either. I’m only half surprised that the games are incompatible, but a simple steering wheel?

Come on Microsoft, this is ridiculous. We all know it’s for money, not because the accessories are more awesome. In fact, because of your extortionate licensing fees, there is going to be less selection and hardly any competition amongst manufacturers of accessories like steering wheels. So I won’t be surprised if this ends up being a step backwards in terms of usability.

I feel like Microsoft have bent over and shafted their loyal customers really hard, all while saying “We don’t care that you’ve spent tons of money with us in the past, If you want a working steering wheel, buy a new one. At twice the price“.

This is an outrage.

I’m not going to get a chance to mess around with the other features before it’s packed up and returned. All I’ve experienced with the Xbox one, thus far is poo. I’m quitting.

XBOX ONE ISSUES

1. Slowness – the loading times take an age from boot-up AND between races on Forza 5. Literally, it takes AGES to the games to load up, you could make a cup of coffee in between each race and have time to spare.

2. Big & Ugly – I now agree with the article that I’ve linked to earlier in this blog post. The Xbox One is BIG and it’s got vents on the top, so you can’t even put something on top of it, for fear of it overheating. It’s also totally un-sexy and very heavy.
If the Xbox One was a girl you’d met in a bar, she’d be big, fat, stupid, arrogant and she would only drink the most expensive cocktails in the place.
You wouldn’t want to take her home. Unless, you were literally, blind drunk.

3. Old Accessories Not Compatible –  As mentioned, you’ll need a whole new setup with your Xbox One.

4. New Accessories Cost a Fortune – Not only will you need to buy the new extras, but, it’s going cost you a ton of cash.

5. You also need to have a live Internet connection – I’ve read that it pings its servers every 24 hours, no Internetz, no working Xbox One. A bit lame, really.

6. Used games don’t work – Yes, you read that correctly. You cannot sell your games, nor can you rent games. Now you have to buy all your games NEW. Nice play Microsoft.

7. Playing Forza 5 on the new control sucked – I turned off steering and braking assists and it was really awful when compared to driving with a steering wheel and pedals. The trigger for the throttle is dead for the first 20% of the range. Once you’ve passed that first 20% dead spot, the throttle comes on pretty hard, so the throttle is almost on or off.  After all the hype about this “awesome new control”, it was a pretty underwhelming experience.

This not about the money per se. It’s about being ripped off. If the Xbox 360 accessories were incompatible because the newer versions had such awesome technology and features that were not possible or feasible with the Xbox One, then it’d be a pleasure to buy them. However, the only reason they cost twice as much is because Microsoft says so. No extra benefit for twice the cost. Double Awesome. Not.

This whole ‘forced upgrade’ play with all the other BS seems so short sighted, if they lose a ton of customers to the PS4 side, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. I hope they do.

I’ll finish off with this analogy;

Upgrading your Xbox 360 to an Xbox One is like “upgrading” your Land Rover vehicle to a military tank. Sure the tank can do things the Land Rover cannot do, like knock down trees and go over very extreme terrain. The Land Rover is pretty awesome though, it can probably match the tank for 90% of it’s abilities and in some cases, it’s better and faster.

However, the tank costs twice as much, is annoyingly slow when you want speed, all the money you spent on accessories making your Land Rover awesome is lost because you can’t use them on the tank. The tank comes with no options from the factory, so you have to double your spend again JUST TO GET YOUR TANK UP TO THE SAME SPEC AS YOUR LAND ROVER. Furthermore, you can only buy the massively overpriced parts from a few places as anything other than “official parts” are incompatible.

You’d have to be either mad or stupid to stick with the tank, I think the same can be said for the Xbox One.

Bye Bye Xbox One and Microsoft. Hello PS4 and Sony.

 

Amazon Knowingly Allowing Counterfeit Dealers to Trade

I recently had the misfortune of seeing what Amazon really thinks about preserving the integrity of it’s marketplace ecosystem. Amazons bias leans strongly on the customer side, and their ‘no questions ever‘ policy of refunds is comforting. However, what isn’t protected or apparently enforced is the legitimacy of the goods being sold on Amazon. I’m writing this blog post in the hope that someone at Amazon reads it, and some action is taken to get these issues policed, rather than just ignoring them. I’ve highlighted other issues directly to Amazon in the past, and their attitude was equally arrogant. I’ve also recently bought goods that were sold as new, the last being some childrens clothes which were very dirty and saturated with cigarette smoke. Depressing.

To cut a long story short, I’d purchased a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt through Amazon’s marketplace. My interest in the legitimacy of this t-shirt had piqued for a number of reasons; firstly, I’d ordered an XXL, and the shirt that arrived was very small. Searching Google for information on identifying fake Ralph Lauren t-shirts and then comparing the presumed fake to one of my real Ralph Lauren t-shirts, it is clear that the shirt is not genuine.

From what I’ve read, the most telling clue in identifying ‘real’ Ralph Lauren shirts is the stitching on the buttons; legitimate shirts have their buttons attached using thread that is the same colour as the shirt, this shirt is purple but the buttons have been sew on using white cotton. Furthermore, all Ralph Lauren buttons are apparently attached using a ‘cross-stitch’ pattern, and this fake shirt’s buttons are threaded using a simple vertical stitching pattern. A second significant ‘clue’ was that the tags were attached with plastic; not thread, and the identifying tags were not what should be there. I’ve attached pictures of the buttons to prove the legitimacy of my claim

fake Ralph Lauren polo shirt

My dismay, and motivation for writing this article is because I feel that Amazon is acting poorly with their lack of interest or reluctance to get involved with a situation. Counterfeiting is a serious crime, and especially so when people that are buying the illegitimate goods are not aware that they are doing so. and furthermore when they are being charged the full price for what appears to be legitimate goods.

When I was sure that the shirt wasn’t real, I started a live chat session with an Amazon representative to make them aware of the situation. The transcript below will hopefully illustrate why I’m frustrated with Amazon and their malevolent attitude.

You’re now connected to Yvonne from Amazon.co.uk

Me: Hello
Yvonne: Hello my name is Yvonne,I’ll be happy to help.May I have your name please.
Me: Christopher Angus
Yvonne: How may I help you today Christopher?
Me: Can you see the order I am querying ?
Yvonne: Yes,is it for the Ralph Lauren Mens Country Classic Fit Big Pony Polo Top Purple XL ?
Me: Yes, I believe this to be a fake top, I have looked online and all signs indicate it to be a fake.
Yvonne: Have you contacted the seller to query about this item?
Me: No,I wanted to report it to Amazon first. Hello? (there was no answer for a while; so, I prompted a ‘hello’)
Yvonne: Ok,thank you for letting us know Christopher.If you would like I can contact the seller about this item.
Me:This guy needs to be stopped,don’t you think I should send it to Amazon for inspection or you should perhaps ask your manager?
Yvonne:You can leave feedback on the sellers page about the item that you received and anything you feel is relevant to the order.
Me: So what should I do? Contact the seller?
Yvonne: I can contact the seller now for you or you can contact the seller through your account.
Me: ok thanks, please contact the seller.
Yvonne: Is it that you want to return the item or would you like me to say anything in particular to them?
Me: Wow, this is not the result that I was looking for. Counterfeit goods are a serious problem and this is not going to be investigated? Anyway, I want a refund. I will return the item.
Yvonne: Please bear with me a moment while I contact the seller.
Me: OK
Yvonne: I have contacted the seller to inform them that you would like to return the item
Your chat session has been idle for 4 minutes, so our system is automatically closing this chat. Feel free to get in touch with us again if you have any more concerns.Yvonne from Amazon.co.uk has left the conversation.
—-
That was it. Amazon, did nothing but contact seller and tell them I want to return the goods.

30 Days in “Hell” with a Samsung S4: Review

For a while I’ve wanted to do a “30 day challenge”, where you do something completely different for a month. I spent about six months trying to find something to do when eventually fate intervened when 4G Internet became available. This meant I would get a new mobile phone, and this time it would not be one from Apple. With the challenge of finding an interesting task now accomplished, I began my new voyage of discovery by signing up to the mobile operator EE. I’d been waiting months for 4G Internet to come to Oxford and EE threw in a Samsung S4 as part of the deal. Before I continue, I should say that I’ve had an iPhone since they first became available in the UK and I love them. However, after 5 years I began to wonder if other types of food tasted better than these Apples I’d been eating non-stop for 5+ years. The opportunity to break my “Apple diet” had finally arrived.

The first thing on my list was to sell my iPhone 5 so I would be forced to use the S4 and not wimp out and revert back to my old iPhone. Job done, tick.

With the new S4 in my pocket, I walked up to my CTO and “Samsung Fanboy” and proudly told him about my new phone. He burst out laughing, telling me that I’d made a terrible mistake and elaborated by saying I’d “hate the phone” and “it wouldn’t suit my personality”. Confused by what he meant, I smiled politely and pressed on with my challenge regardless. I was determined to prove him wrong.

My first impressions of the phone were not brilliant and I was surprised at the complexity of the device. At times, I felt like a newborn baby trying to figure out how to get milk out of my mother’s proverbial S4s. It took hours of experimenting and learning to figure out how the device worked. On more than one occasion the phone nearly ended up becoming wall splatter during our “getting to know each other phase”. Our first month didn’t get off on the right foot, so I decided to give it another 30 days because I felt like I hadn’t got to grips with the phone properly and really wanted ‘our relationship’ to work. I felt it had potential with all the amazing features like “AirDrop” and the massive screen, which made surfing the Internet a breeze. The huge screen also helped me work more efficiently, not only because I could browse faster and work quicker, but also because the battery only lasted five hours on a good day, so I had to work like Sonic the Hedgehog before the battery cried “enough”!

The battery life became a major hindrance to my productivity and meant that if I was out of the office for the day, my battery would be dead by two or three o’clock that afternoon. I installed a “battery saving” app, which limits the CPU and dims the screen to its lowest setting. While this worked a little, it made the phone stupidly slow and I had to turn it off in the end anyway.

As the weeks rolled by, I discovered that the S4 is just not intuitive. While it’s packed full of ambitious features, the usability of the phone is low and takes a long time to learn how to get the best out of it. It would have been fine if I was a teenager and loved discovering all the hidden features of the phone, but I’m not. I just want something that works. It would’ve been okay if it’d been simpler, I don’t mind learning, but the amount of intuition that is lacking with the phone is quite staggering compared to an Apple device.

The signal on the S4 is not strong either and nor is the Wi-Fi reception; not compared to an iPhone anyway.

As my second month was drawing to a close and I’d decided this wasn’t the phone for me, Apple announced their new iPhone 5s, which I was very excited about. Unfortunately, the time I had to wait for mine to arrive was almost two months from Apple’s announcement. During that time, things went from bad to worse and the Samsung S4 relationship, which I’d had such high hopes for, totally disintegrated.

The turning point for me came one morning when I was reading my Gmail and the phone froze, then rebooted and kept on rebooting every 4 seconds until the battery was red hot and very much dead. After much research, the only fix was to wipe my phone and start again, which meant a loss of data, pictures and everything else that goes with it. I guess I should backup more often, but still, it didn’t ease the undeniable hatred I now had for the phone, which had built up over the last few months.

As soon as I could place my order with Apple; I did, and was like a kid opening the windows on an Advent calendar until the iPhone finally arrived. The excitement was almost unbearable.

While I couldn’t be happier that the Samsung S4 isn’t in my life anymore and we’re finally divorced, I will miss a few of its features; especially the big screen. However, on balance, I will never, ever use another Samsung phone, if I can help it.

I am happy again, I’ve missed you iPhone :)

Leap Motion Controller Review

My Leap Motion Controller arrived today from Amazon which I’d been greatly looking forward to. This is because the ancient computer mouse is, well, ancient and being a techno-gadget-addict I couldn’t wait for the the second coming of computer control. My ‘second coming’ was likely like most Christian peoples ‘second coming’. Disappointing.

My huge excitement quickly turned to frustration with a strong inclination to get violent with this sleek little sliver and black box. Some of the Leap Motion apps work quite well. However, the reason why I purchased the Leap motion controller was to replace the mouse. I had fantasies about stroking, prodding and sculpting the air between me and my desk and ridding myself of my RSI and dreadful sitting position. I thought that when my geek friends came over to visit me, I’d be propelled into geek stardom as they quivered and drooled over my new device which seems like it came from the year 2030.

Sadly, my new device will be with me for just 24 hours as it’s already back in the box and I’ve created a return request from Amazon so I can get my money back. It’s almost worth keeping, hoping I’d get better using it, or waiting until they update their firmware. I’ll return this to Amazon and if this faux-splendid device gets any better, I’ll buy a new one. However, for now, “it’s bye bye Mr Leap. I hope to see you again someday when controlling your pointer isn’t like trying to balance a marble on top of a stick”. Adios Amigo.

The Times Newspaper – Deceptive Subscription Practices

I like The Times newspaper, they offer rich, engaging articles which are informative and a pleasure to read. I like their articles so much that I took out a contract with them, for a year – this included their web versions of their newspaper and their actual newspaper. Monday through Sunday. However, that is not what I’ve got. Instead of getting a newspaper delivered, I receive a book of vouchers through the post for the following month. I then have to drive to my local shop and “buy” a newspaper with a voucher. Really useful.

I phoned the subscriptions line up. Twice. The first time, I was on hold for 45 minutes before I gave up. The second time I reached a woman who told me that I was in a contract and I couldn’t cancel it. I challenged the contract with her and she told me that I could “only have a newspaper delivered if I lived within the boundaries of the M25″. The website doesn’t say anything of the sort and I told her that. She said it was in the “terms and conditions”. It isn’t, and even if it was, it would still be extremely deceptive.

This is just plain dishonest and I’ve captured their website signup process in screenshots below, to illustrate the point.

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 12.11.52

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 12.12.06

Forrester Reports: Unreliable and Untrustworthy

I’ve just finished reading a Forrester Report by Shar VanBoskirk’s titled: “The Forrester Wave™: Bid Management Software Providers, Q4 2012″ and was extremely surprised by its biased and low quality content. It’s not the first time I’ve seen what I would describe as “a low quality report” from Forrester. However, this is the worst perceived “report of authority” I think I’ve ever read, from a publisher of this status. Online publishers with less authority such as Search Engine Land publish articles that supersede the quality of this ‘report’ by a significant margin. Even paid advertorial would exceed the quality of the content within this report.

My first observation is that this “report” appears to be extremely biased towards particular vendors and I’m wondering if Shar VanBoskirk was paid by Kenshoo to ensure they scored well, while making Google look bad. I’m not a Google fan boy by any means, but this “report” seemed to focus on Keshoos’ strengths while not scoring areas where other vendors were the industry leaders although these comparisons were highlighted in the preface of the report?

For example, some of the content, which I interpret as being overly, biased included a spurious “Foresters’ weighting” whereby they compare various key features from the software vendors. One comparison is the ‘cost and pricing structure’ of the various products; however, no score is attributed to the ‘cost and pricing structure of the vendors’. This comparison looks as though it was ignored because the Googles’ product would score full marks in this category as it’s completely free and therefore this “key comparison” has been left unsecured in its entirety.

Other issues include: scoring Google just one point out of a possible five for ‘revenue’ when compared to the other vendors. This is just wrong. Firstly because Googles’ revenue completely dwarfs the other companies in this report; however, if Google scored just a single point because its product is free then it’s evident that the scoring is completely biased towards certain vendors while at the same time, appearing hostile to others.

Other areas within this “report” that were highly questionable included how they have collected this data which was from a absurdly small and in addition very biased pool of respondents, i.e.: the vendors themselves and JUST twelve of their recommended customers! Therefore a survey of which had only seventeen respondents.

In addition to all of this, “report” also scores each vendor on “vision” and the “strength of the management team”. Did Forrester score each company based on what their own surveys or customers reported, or perhaps they scored the companies based on what their direct competitors has said about one other?

The “report” also makes very strong and seemingly biased statements such as “Kenshoo is the only Leader” and “Google is a risky bet” and in addition to all of this, the “report” is littered with grammatical errors and clumsy valueless information. For example: “software solutions exist to help scale paid search programs”. This is just repetition and was used in the opening of the report as a ‘key takeaway’ of the entire report. Seriously.

This “report” states that using Googles’ tools is a risky bet which maybe true; however, I believe the risk is far greater to base any business decision on this Forrester report and from what I’ve read recently, many other Forester reports too.

Abuse Of Amazons TOS – Companies Continuing To Sell Prohibited Items Without Fear Of Reprisal

It is no coincidence that Amazon.co.uk list ‘Stolen Property & Lock Picking Devices’ on their ‘Restricted Products’ page. The free-for-all sale of lock picking devices is certainly more something we associate with the darker side of the Internet and it’s hard to imagine them being used for much more than, well, picking locks.

They go on to provide a detailed list of the prohibited items, here are a few examples of prohibited listings:

  • Products where the serial number has been removed or altered
  • Lock picking or locksmithing devices
  • Autolock bypass keys or jigglers
  • Digital decoders
  • Lock picking cards and lock picking guns
  • Lock picking sets
  • Sensormatic detacher
  • Slim-jims
  • Tension bars
  • Try-out keys
  • Tubular lock picks
  • Devices designed to duplicate a key
  • Code grabbing devices
  • Master keys or skeleton keys

I was surprised then when a search for ‘lock picks’ came up with over 3000 of such items. Lock Picking sets, bump keys, tubular picks, lock-picking guns, Jigglers, try-out keys, even a lock picking set with a free book called ‘E-Z- pickings’.

In fact almost everything on their prohibited list of lock picking devices is available – in huge quantities that seem to be growing daily. For a company that prides itself in being ‘customer-centric’ I wonder how the customers who have suffered at the hands of thieves using such tools might feel about this? And since lock picking tools leave little or no sign of forced entry, insurance companies are frequently refusing to pay up.

eBay also prohibits the sale of lock picking devices, and yet a search on that site yields none. NONE – they have strictly adhered to their own ethically correct prohibition of lock picking devices. I wonder if Amazon.co.uk will bother to do the same, or continue to appear not to care in the slightest about enforcing their own common sense and socially responsible prohibition list?

HDNL Home Delivery Network – Reckless and Lazy

I live in Oxford (Waterways) and use Amazon almost daily for various reasons. Recently I’ve had half dozen deliveries left just inside my block of apartments or outside where anyone walking past could just pickup the box and walk off.

The worst part of this debacle is that I HAVE BEEN around to receive the deliveries on EVERY SINGLE occasion when HDNL have made a delivery.

The delivery driver hasn’t bothered to ring the buzzer so I come down (or has pressed the “trade button” to let himself into the building and then come to my door); he simply abandons the parcel either OUTSIDE THE BUILDING or just on the other side of the door building where forty other people live.

I honestly don’t know how one of my orders hasn’t been stolen; there is a big sign up in my building that says “there have been instances of theft” yet HDNL (Home Delivery Network) just keep dumping them in the lobby so anyone can just walk off with my parcel.

If you want to be assured that your parcels will be delivered safe and securely, I suggest you find another courier company as having your best interests at heart clearly isn’t at the centre of HDNL’s delivery business.

HDNL: Serious management changes urgently required – in my opinion.

Image below illustrates HDNL’s delivery style:

HDNL - Home Delivery Network

HDNL – Home Delivery Network

I’m a LEGO man – Courtesy of Aaron Wall and SEO Book

If I’ve ever seen a clever linkbait, it’s making cartoon characters of egotistical megalomaniacal SEO people that just lurvvee attention. This is especially pertinent when an extremely well respected marketer has put you in his circle of trust and taken the time and money to make something which represents you, even if it is not exactly the best example of altruism ;)

Here is mine and of course I love it too – thanks Aaron :)

Chris Angus Drawing.

Chris Angus graphic by SEOBook.com

User Generated Content that just keeps getting better

Do you remember that Coca-Cola/Mentos video that was such a hit on YouTube several years ago? A couple of nutty performance artists captured themselves making dozens of geysers by plunging Mentos into big bottles of Diet Coke. Something a friend said to me the other night made me remember it. ‘Advertising is a kind of failure,’ he burbled over (maybe?) his sixth pint. Admittedly, he was being argumentative, but it got me thinking. The old idea that you don’t need to advertise if you’ve got an awesome product, or service, therefore leaving it all to your customers, gets a different slant in today’s world where User Generated Content and Social Networks are revolutionising the media ecosystem.
Now, it seems, your customers can make pretty influential decisions about how they choose to shout about your product. In the early days, it was pretty much just review sites, but now that blogs have made publishers of us all, and YouTube has given every artist the chance to perform to the world, consumers can manipulate the way we perceive brands all by themselves, like those inventive performance artists did. At the outset, Coca-Cola were antsy. They felt the video wasn’t in line with their brand personality. Eventually, when they realised how many sales the whole thing was generating, (probably by kids who wanted to pop their own mentos down a bottle and see the spray go) they got behind it.
I’ve come across an interesting site:(http://www.udemy.com/). It sounds like something you might find in a Japanese restaurant, but it’s actually a pretty cool platform, which has expanded the world of education by enabling anyone to teach and learn online. It used to be that if you wanted to learn about something from someone with a serious qualification you needed to pull out some decent A Level results to get you anywhere. Udemy has taken professors out of their institutions, giving anyone access to them and…get this…for free.
My opinion? Well, anyone can write a blog or make a movie and share it with an online community. Sometimes, like those geyser guys, they might find themselves communicating their work with a far bigger audience. But now people can share their knowhow. This is beyond wacky consumer advertising or the whole, ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ parades we get continually on the web. This is about proper knowledge. Whether there are professors out there – or simply people with wisdom they want to pass on – they can set up their own online course so that anyone who wants to can learn. It’s a great form of democratisation. This is user generated content at its finest.