Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What A Bunch Of Stool?



Woman claims Apple Store is unfriendly for not letting her child drag a stool from the genius bar to sit down at the laptop area

* link credit to Daring Fireball

An excerpt:

That was the experience my soon-to-be-six son had at the Annapolis Apple Store Saturday, prompting me to pop on the Internet after the kids were tucked in to see if the way my son was treated is Apple policy or if the employee who afflicted my son was just a -- pun alert -- bad apple. A bad seed. Rotten to the core.


Afflicted? They told her he couldn't do it ... that's it.

The immediate thing that came to my mind is the bumper sticker:

"My son is an honor student at Random Junior High"

I of course love this bumper sticker:

"My son can beat up your honor's student"

They are lucky I wasn't the genius bar employee and had a belt on. What a crock!!!

Another exerpt for your entertainment, that at face value seems nothing short of scandalous:

So, what to do? Being a wonk, my first thought was to check the Public Accommodation Provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I read them, and we may have a case (I did not go to the trouble of looking for relevant case law; if we get to that point, we'll hire an expert attorney). Our son is notably shorter than a typical boy his age. A musculoskeletal disability under Sec.36.104?


This comes from a BLOG on The National Center For Public Policy Research Website. This website (and host organization) seem to be nothing more than an entity that twists, perverts, and exploits laws and case law.

[UPDATE] I found an interesting tidbit on The National Center For Public Policy Research - these people make republicans and conservatives look really bad ...or ... really worse depending on your point of view and political affiliation.

Decisions Decisions ... Bloggers 3 Lawyers 0


It appears that a disturbing trend for business is developing: Sue if you are upset that someone complains. Fortunately, the courts see this for what it is ... trying to stifle free speech and a bully tactic by big business on the little guy consumer or little guy writer.

Have these businesses never read David & Goliath from the Bible?

While I personally do not enjoy the vulgarity of TUCKERMAX.COM ... I certainly believe the guy has the right to write what he wants to.

See the story here:

Tucker Max wrote a scathing article on his website (a blog) about a really bad experience he had with a local publicist and party coordinator Anthony DiMeo. Comments within his forum, which he allowed to stay and even responded to were met with rebuke from DiMeo. DiMeo sued for defamation.

Infamous Tucker Max Wins Free Speech Case In Philadelphia Federal Court

From a comment posted on this article:

This is all being taken far too personally. The law is the law. By definition, a statement cannot be defamatory if it is made satirically - which is precisely what the judge and anyone with two functioning brain cells would conclude by a visit to Max's website. Also, the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech clearly bars prosecution of an individual simply because the RECIPIENT of a statement believed it to be offensive. There is no right not to be offended by speech, and such rights cannot be created by statute without violating the First Amendment (generally).

To paraphrase Justice Holmes, the cure for stupidity is more discussion, and more speech, not censorship. Personally, I think Mr. Max's site resemble's the situation of Henry Miller's book "Tropic of Cancer." It was banned in its day, and read mostly by WWII veterans returning from Europe, but it became the rallying point for a Supreme Court case affirming the proposition that speech cannot be banned merely because it upsets someone. I have no sympathy for people who anonymously generate death wishes - if they had any wit at all, they could do much better. But, Mr. Max does not fall into that category, and above all, his writing has a great deal of merit in its own right. It's always sad to see a unique talent being attacked - fortunately Mr. Max is not deterred. Nor should he be - despite his vulgarity, his viewpoint has a lot to offer.


I'll add that critiques and complaints cannot be prosecuted against either unless specifically meant as a smear campaign. Tucker Max is well within his right to critique any one. The best part of his site is that he is so off the wall that this may be an even bigger win for bloggers than my case or the recent Apple vs Bloggers decision.

Technically this is the fourth major decison for blogger rights in just the last 60 days:

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) determined in late March of this year:

Bloggers would be entitled to the same exemption from the campaign finance law that newspapers and other traditional forms of media receive. A blogger can report news and state political opinion as well as any news reporter.


"There will be no second class citizens among members of the media," The FEC Chairman said

My case determined that bloggers can qualify as "News and News Commentary"

The Apple vs Bloggers case determined that bloggers are publishers of information which deserves to be protected and therefore can be protected by state shield laws, even if that information can be determined "irresponsibly received or gathered"

The Tucker Max Case(above) determined that bloggers and open forums on the internet, no matter how offensive, are protected "free speech" and that ANY decison against such a site would have reprecussions against the whole of media.

Recent followups:

Bloggers 2 Lawyers 0

DIGG THIS STORY

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Way To Get At Least $25 Off The Price Of A MacBook!



Wanna way to get $25 off a MacBook and $50 off of a MacBook Pro?

I don't get any affiliate income from this so know that first of all. A website called MYpoints Rewards is an email program that I have used for 3 years now. They added the Apple Store sometime at the end of 2004 and I have since gotten almost $1200 back from the program.

This isn't some gimmicky "Free iPod Program" and it also isn't a promotion that makes you trade personal information and massive amounts of emails for a few bucks.

Here's how it works.

1) You go to the MYpoints Rewards website

2) You fill in a couple of things you like.

3) MYpoints will then send you emails on a daily basis ... based on what you like. You get bonus points for responding to different email offers.

4) You get 5 points for each email you read and then click-through to the sponsor's site. You are not obligated to buy, just obligated to let the sponsor site FULLY LOAD.

5) MYpoints has a TON of online stores that I use regularly that combine with OTHER offers seamlessly. One good example is Office Depot. Not only can you use your Office Depot Rewards card and regular coupons, but you can get 5 & 10 points per dollar spent. This is probably the most rewarding of the offers. I can buy things that are on sale or have rebates for really low prices, get my Office Depot Advantage Reward, and get MYpoints.

Ongoing Promotion

6) Each time you want to buy something online ... you go to the MYpoints website and click on the appropriate link. MYPoints will mask the site and keep track of what you buy ... in 15-30 days MYPoints credits you with the appropriate points.



If I buy $200 from Office Depot, use a $25 off $200 coupon, get 5% back from my Advantage Rewards (yeilding $9) usually combining that with rebates, and then on top of all of that ... getting 5 points per dollar (yielding 875 my points) + 1500 MYpoints bonus. I end up paying around $65 for $200 worth of merchandise.

MYpoints also affiliates with the Apple Store. The Apple Store yields you 2 points per dollar spent. This is the ONLY way I know of to get a regular discount at the Apple Store. Buying a MacBook for $1500 for instance would get you 3000+ MYpoints points. 3250 bonus points = a $25 gift certificate (which couldn't be simpler to redeem) at just about any merchant or restaurant you can think of.

MYpoints sends you (on average) 3 emails every day ... this is the equivalent to 15 points per day (free)

$25 off something at the Apple Store may not sound like a lot. But ... if you get into a routine and use MYpoints for EVERYTHING you buy on the internet (even eBay is a MYpoints affiliate) then you can rack up points very quickly.

You can also apply for a MYpoints VISA that gives you 2 points per dollar. If you buy using your MYpoints VISA and the Apple Store affiliate, you can earn 4 points per dollar spent at the Apple Store ... basically yielding $50 off your purchase of the average computer.

* MYpoints also applies to Apple's clearance section

One of the things I like about MYpoints is that they don't share your personal information and they don't overburden you with offer emails.

If you need more help understanding how MYpoints works ... post to the comments and I will try to help. You can also visit:

MYPoints Help Pages

Monday, May 29, 2006

Free Solitare Released For The Mac!!

MacSolitareX

The Open Source Community has released a clone of the free solitare game that is available on Windows. Enjoy.

Download MacSolitareX

So ... it's official ... Windows has lost every advantage over the Mac OS.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bloggers 2 Lawyers 0

Macrumors reports:

In rendering his decision Judge James Klienberg said, "we can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news. Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment, which is to identify the best, most important, and most valuable ideas not by any sociological or economic formula, rule of law, or process of government, but through the rough and tumble competition of the memetic marketplace."


As many regular readers may know, I was sued for an article on this website back in January. In April, I had an injunction hearing ... which I won the decision "to keep the article up".

While I'm happy that this decision will help my case immensely ... I do think that my case is different and that the bloggers in this case should have lost. They were reporting illegal trade secret information that was a direct violation of the Uniform Trade Secret Act.

Followups:

Reputation Management Software?

Are Bloggers Journalists?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend ANTertainment



Here's some weekend ANTertainment for you ...

Matt Thomas has an ant stuck in his Apple Cinema Display

Head over to his website to watch a pretty funny video ...an ant crawling down the INSIDE of his screen.

Barring anything I feel newsworthy ... I'm taking advantage of the 3 day weekend. Have a safe & happy:

Memorial Day

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The MacBook Spells The Word H-E-A-T as F-I-L-M



As reported by Engadget:

Anyone who's given a PowerBook, MacBook, or MacBook Pro a good look probably knows how the ventilation system works: two inlets near the front of the computer draw the air in, a big vent grid underneath the screen hinge lets it all out. Ideally. Except Gert Stahl apparently discovered a thin layer of plastic film in his MacBook that prevented airflow, and was causing his machine to overheat; removal promptly caused his fans to shut off and the machine's heat to return to a level more manageable. What's more, apparently there was never any mention made in the manual about the removal of any such film, leading one to believe that this might be unintentional (read: manufacturing error). So, if you've got a MacBook and it's a little toasty, check that gap out for the thin plastic strip ...


This is a relief ... I just ordered a MacBook Black because I presumed the MacBook was more of a MacBook Pro 2.0 release ... corrections were made and there were would be no outstanding problems. When messages of fan whines and overheating surfaced a few days back I started to get worried and made plans to sell my Macbook when it arrived. I'll rethink that now. The film was on my shipment as an FYI.

Will Mac-Pro Have To Give It Up To MacPro?


As reported by MacRumors.com:

Apple previously trademarked the term "Mac Pro" in New Zealand in late 2005. On May 17th 2006, the same name was trademarked through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

This adds further evidence that Apple may be considering changing the name of the PowerMac G5 to "Mac Pro" in the near future. Apple rebranded the PowerBook in January to the MacBook Pro and subsequently dropped the iBook name in favor of MacBook.

Steve Jobs had indicated that they were moving away from the "Power" name when the MacBook Pro was first announced:
"It's a new name [MacBook Pro] because we're kinda done with 'Power' and because we want 'Mac' in the name of our products."


Interesting ... I want to see if Apple is consistent and asks Mac-Pro of California (an independent Apple reseller) to relinquish the name.

According to Apple Naming Policy:

1. Company, Product, or Service Name: You may not use or register, in whole or in part, Apple, iPod, iTunes, Macintosh, iMac, or any other Apple trademark, including Apple-owned graphic symbols, logos, icons, or an alteration thereof, as or as part of a company name, trade name, product name, or service name except as specifically noted in these guidelines.


It will also be interesting to see if they [Apple] try to purchase another site called MACPRO.COM (Makeup Artists Cosmetics).

SERMA Gives Others Goose Bumps On The Derma

A MySpace comment in response to my post on SERMA (Search Engine Reputation Management) yesterday:



SERMA and Silencing the Consumer

I read your blog on SERMA and thank you for posting it. I had a similar experience. My website, the Toonces Project, publicized the State Veterinary Board's findings against a veterinarian who was found guilty of wrongdoing in a case involving my cat. The findings are a matter of public record. For the first month or so my site was coming up on the first page of searches for the vets name, the hospital name, and the term veterinary malpractice. Now it does not come up at all anywhere searching for those terms. It hasn't been removed by Google, because if you search "The Toonces Project" it still comes up, also it still comes up on Yahoo. Also, the search results that come up when you search my name have been reorganized in a way that I'm sure someone else might think is negative. I know the search results are being manipulated.

I'm not sure what consumers who have turend to the internet as a way to share information -- including negative information -- about businessnes are going to do if the internet ends up being owned by business.

This is where it is heading

Can we "OUT SERMA" SERMA? If we feel we are being SERMAd what can we do?

I just applied to be your friend. Read my blog on veterinary malpractice, and visit my now-unsearchable on Google site, the toonces project at www.thetooncesproject.com


I went to the website and found the following:

Dr. Marc Katz, DVM, of The Kindness Animal Hospital in Wheaton, Maryland

Found in Violation of the Veterinary Practice Act by the MD State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners

Veterinary License Suspended (suspension stayed)

Six Months Probation Effective 2/03/2006


Honestly, the best way to beat a SERMA'd site is to do what I have just done. My site is 3 million slots higher than your site ... so ... maybe putting it here will get these terms back into a search.

I posted to the Google Groups board in hopes that Google would respond. It usually takes them 3-4 weeks as I posted about a different but related topic before.

Further, my investigation turns up that this is most likely legal BUT they are most likely using illegal methodology to perform the function of censoring or "pushing". I believe they have a "gateway" page which is specifically forbid by Google.

The other thing you can do is change the wording and rearrange the wording of the website and article as it appears that they target specific layouts.

One former hospital marketing department executive that I showed this (SERMA) to was absoultely stunned. She said it has so many implications for spin control on so many levels. Doctors could suppress malpractice, politicians could suppress "unethical" behaviour ....

My biggest beef in my particular instance is that I had a federal district court rule that my article could stay up on the internet and Bidzirk removed it any way (as best they could) ... which may be a violation of court order.

Wow ... I get an excuse to post this:



This was by FAR one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

iPod Nano "Lead Plaintiff" says, "Am I?"

As reported by ENgadget:

iPod nano "scratch" lawsuit: lead plaintiff never wanted to be involved

In an open letter to the Mac community, Jason Tomczak, the so-called lead-plaintiff in the iPod nano "Scratch" class-action lawsuit, says he never wanted anything to do with the case. The fact that he was named lead-plantiff was a mistake according to Jason, as he never sought out, nor hired the firms of David P. Meyer & Associates or Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro to represent him. Sure, he did respond to their request for information after Jason complained about scratches on his personal blog and within other Mac-related forums. However, Jason claims that the lawyers prepared the paperwork and filed the iPod Nano Class Action suit in California using Jason's name as Lead Plaintiff "without his knowledge or consent," even after Jason requested not to be involved, and without Jason signing an attorney-client agreement. On top of this, the poor kid's name has become synonymous with the class action resulting in threats, hate mail, and other forms of harassment from the more fanatical-types amongst the Mac zealotry. Jason is currently suing the two firms -- a move being met by the type of aggressive and staunch defense you'd expect from a couple of powerful and scheming law firms.


The letter in it's entirety follows (in case deleted or moved):

Open Letter to the Mac Community
The Truth Behind the iPod Nano "Scratch" Class Action Suit


May 22, 2006

Dear Mac Community:
Hello! My name is Jason Tomczak. Many people around the world rightly know me as a mild-mannered techie, photographer, writer, and nature-lover. I am an Apple fan and have been fortunate enough to use Mac computers and other Apple products since about 1985.

On October 19, 2005, my life changed due to the unauthorized conduct of others. From that date forward, countless numbers of people around the world were driven to hate me and slander my name, sometimes using foul and threatening language.

Since October 19, 2005, my name has been infamously tied to the iPod Nano "Scratch" Class Action law suit filed against Apple.


What You Don't Know About The Nano Suit
The truth is that I never sought out nor did I ever hire David P. Meyer & Associates or Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro to represent me in any case, much less the iPod Nano Class Action suit.

The iPod Nano Class Action law suit was initiated by David P. Meyer & Associates Co. LPA of Columbus, Ohio and their representative firm, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP of Seattle, Washington and filed on October 19, 2005.

David P. Meyer & Associates contacted me, soliciting my opinions and comments about the scratching of my iPod Nano after finding Nano-related blog posts I'd written on my own website, on The Unofficial Apple Weblog and on The MacCast. They informed me that they had received an "overwhelming number of complaints" about the Nano and that they wanted my "insight into the problem". Yes, I answered their communication and told them that I had problems with my iPod Nano, however I clearly told them that they should do their own professional and technological study of the iPod Nano.

I emphasized that I did not have any access to any specific data about the materials used in making the iPod Nano. David P. Meyer & Associates used my personal comments and opinions as the basis of the iPod Nano suit. To my knowledge, there was no actual technical study done on the iPod Nano before the Class Action suit was filed.

Additionally, I told David P. Meyer & Associates that I wanted to remain private, and that my wish for privacy, among other considerations, would preclude me from getting involved in the case.


No Documentation
At no time did David P. Meyer & Associates or Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro ever receive any attorney-client agreement form from me. On their own time and based on their own schedules and plans, they prepared the paperwork and filed the iPod Nano Class Action suit in California using my name as Lead Plaintiff, however this was done without my knowledge or consent.


The Filing and The Call
The senior partner of David P. Meyer & Associates and one of his representatives called me during the afternoon of October 21, 2005 to urgently request my signature on an attorney-client agreement - two days after the Class Action suit was filed; two days after they began their action against Apple; two days after the press had begun running the story. They then warned me that my family, friends, clients and I should expect to hear from the media and others interested in the iPod Nano Class Action suit.

During that phone call to me, David P. Meyer and his associate blamed the faulty Nano filing on Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.


Spin Cycle
During that week and the following months, my name was posted in relation to the iPod Nano Class Action suit on websites all over the world, even in foreign publications like Russia's "Pravda" newspaper, the Enquirer, Stuff Magazine, Popular Mechanics, CNN, BusinessWeek, MTV, VH1, etc.

Google results for my name skyrocketed. I began getting hate mail from people upset about the iPod Nano suit. I had to take my website down and remove legitimate references to my name on numerous web services. My fiancee and I were afraid to go outside in our own home town for fear of recognition and reprisal.


Call For Help
Given the gravity of the situation I was facing, I had to hire a law firm to protect myself, clear my name and set the record straight. David P. Meyer & Associates and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, when contacted by my lawyers, did not even offer to correct any of their press releases. Not even an official apology was offered.


Law Firms' Defense Begins
A David P. Meyer & Associates representative contacted my lawyers with a highly suppositional account of what my intentions might have been; that perhaps I had second thoughts or "buyer's remorse" about the suit, etc. They snubbed the fact that David P. Meyer & Associates violated my request for privacy and non-involvement and the fact that neither David P. Meyer & Associates nor Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro ever received a single document or written communication from me agreeing to be any part of the iPod Nano Class Action law suit.

Then David P. Meyer & Associates and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro each hired professional defense law firms to fight against me. These two powerful law firms hired two highly aggressive defense firms to confront me, a sole individual.


Things Get Very Personal
Their malpractice defense law teams scheduled me for deposition in Los Angeles. During the first day of my deposition, which was scheduled for April 20 and April 21, 2006, David P. Meyer & Associates' and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro's lawyers deposed me for about 6 hours. Were the majority of their questions directly related to the Nano issue? No. They wanted to know details about my family, the personal circumstances of why my parents got divorced, what I thought about their divorce; where I went to grammar school, high school, college, what my majors were; names, locations and ages of family members and a number of other personal topics seemingly unrelated to the Nano issue. The bulk of the questions were, in my personal opinion, invasive, inappropriate, off-topic and an attempt to overwhelm me.

Toward the end of the first day, they bluntly refused to continue the deposition as scheduled. Their abrupt cancellation will likely cost me thousands of dollars in added travel and legal expense, time away from my family and clients and added emotional stress of not being able to find closure on this horrible and sometimes terrifying experience.


A SLAPP In The Face
On May 1, 2006, David P. Meyer & Associates and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro defense lawyers filed Motions to Strike the entirety of my case against the two firms despite evidence that I had unwillingly and unknowingly been made Lead Plaintiff in the iPod Nano Class Action suit. In their Motions to Strike my case against them, they also requested of the Court that I be held financially responsible for their attorneys' fees and costs.

The defense teams filed "demurrers" against my filings which state, in short, that David P. Meyer & Associates and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro did, in fact, mistakenly file the iPod Nano Class Action suit with my name, but they claim that they legally had a privilege to mistakenly file documents in my name without culpability or recourse.

They also filed an Anti-SLAPP motion against me and my claims against David P. Meyer & Associates and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro. The filing of an anti-SLAPP motion prevents me, the plaintiff, from amending my complaint against David P. Meyer & Associates and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and delays all discovery. This means that no parties from either firm can be deposed, and possibly incriminating documents cannot be requested of them. Anti-SLAPP motions are like terribly expensive and time-consuming "pause buttons".


Where Do We Go From Here?
I've learned that every day that passes can bring big surprises - though not usually pleasant ones. I am not sure how the iPod Nano Class Action suit will turn out, nor do I know how David P. Meyer & Associates and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro will continue to act with regard to my request for justice and the return of honor to my name. If recent actions are any indicator, I am preparing for an emotional, stressful and expensive ordeal.

Although it is too late to completely clear my name from the iPod Nano Class Action law suit, by writing this Open Letter to the Mac Community, I am hoping to make an attempt to reduce the damage already caused to my good name and to open people's eyes to the fact that I did not approve, endorse, authorize, initiate or promote the lawsuit against Apple. These actions were taken without my authority and against my express wishes by the law firms of David P. Meyer & Associates and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.

I am frightfully aware of the fact that issuing this letter could possibly spur an even more aggressive legal attack against me as they apparently wish to suppress the truth and wish to suppress me. Whatever the outcome, whether I am successful or I am financially crippled by David P. Meyer & Associates' and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro's defense firms, it is my sole intent to communicate the truth of what happened so that I can begin to find some peace of mind after the hate, harassment and embarrassment brought about by the misuse of my name in the iPod Nano suit.

Sincerely,

Jason Tomczak


Very interesting ... now we get a chance to see a behind the scenes view of money grubbing attorneys. I knew there was something fishy about this ... I bet Apple legal is snickering just a tad on this one.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Software That Can Remove Your Exposing Dell For Selling Crappy Computers From Google Search Results



Recently I tried to do a search for a company I had done a story on back in January of this year.

You Gotta Be Berserk To Use An eBay Listing Company


When I typed the search term, Bidzirk into the Google search bar in Safari ... I noticed something incredible. My article, which used to be ranked pretty high (30 days ago) under that search, now shows nothing ... the article isn't even ranked any more. Instead ... it has been replaced with eBay auction results from Bidzirk. And I say "replaced" as in it's obvious there is something afoot that is actually pushing my article out.

One of the things I like about using Blogger BLOGs (which is run by Google) is the almost immediate and long term search results that it provides for my articles.

One page of omitted results turned up a website called CSENTRY.COM a subsidary of CONVERSEON.COM.

On Converseon / CSentry I found the following:

Search Engine Reputation Management (SERMA™)

Converseon’s SERMA is the first service designed specifically to help companies manage and protect their corporate and brand reputation in search engines.

With more than 600 million searches conducted daily, search engines have become a primary information resource to consumers, businesses, investors, media, regulators, employees and other key constituents. How a company is portrayed in search engines can have a powerful impact on its reputation and brand.

SERMA fuses together a unique combination of cutting edge public relations and reputation management approaches with innovative content management strategies and advanced search marketing services to “push” damaging, malicious, erroneous and negative search listings off the “visibility cliff.” It accomplishes this by displacing these listings with other optimized company and third party content.

SERMA also provides a solid foundation for broader search marketing initiatives to increase rankings and traffic.

For reputation and brand-aware corporations, SERMA is a critically important service to help build, protect and manage reputations in a networked environment. For a confidential discussion and analysis.

Notes:

SERMA has been designed to be fully compliant with Google and Inktomi TOS (no cloaking, spamming, doorway pages or similar)

If needed, the SERMA team can provide clients with legal capabilities that are very well-versed on online trademark infringement/protest-compliant site issues. It is important to note; however, that most “protest/complaint sites” fall under fair use.


Did you get that? Apparently Converseon makes software or has a system that essentially censors the internet for companies. Dell appears to be one client of theirs.

WOW! I didn't know that someone other than Google or the content author could legally do that. It seems to me nothing short of censorship and a completely blatant threat to constitutional rights.

What about paid searches? Could someone's competition pay less to this company and have their competitor's results removed? What does this say about the integrity of search engine results if they can be bought in this manner?

Compare this to:

Going to a library with a Sharpie© and marking out items in the Reader's Guide or Card Catalog



I'm amazed that there has been relatively no mention of this in the press ... I couldn't find anything in Google about software that removes Google search engine results.

This has some VERY serious implications for the upcoming midterm elections as this is suppose to be the Year Of The Blogger. Will politicians use software like this to omit search results that speak badly of them, expose them for a criminal act, or lie in their campaign?

Let's discuss this in the comments ... shall we?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Apple Should Sue The Pants Off This Monkey!



As reported by Engadget:

In a viral marketing move that's sure to draw the fire of Apple enthusiasts, SanDisk has posted a website called "iDon't" that encourages people to flee the closed iPod universe (the "iTatorship," they call it) -- and to pick up a SanDisk Sansa e200 while they're at it. ... we must say that the iDon't site features little compelling content other than a few cheesy wallpaper downloads and some links to anti-iPod sites, and mostly comes across as sour grapes.


WWW.IDONT.COM


This is malicious marketing. There are no comparisons and no reporting ... and it is all posted by a competitor and meant solely to demean and defame Apple. Seems like it would be an easy lawsuit.

[UPDATE] A good in depth coverage of this story can be found here at iLounge.

Any Other Retailer In History?


* Photo courtesy TUAW


The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) reports:

"[Google Maps] ... estimated the line [for the opening of new NY City Apple Store] to be .45 miles long.


For retail and marketing number crunchers ... this must be an interesting and rarely seen phenomenon. What other store in THE HISTORY OF RETAIL has lines like this for their grand openings or even for big sales? Are there any comparisons? Other than the lines for The Star Wars films?

Kim Is Dim When It Comes To The Mac: All About Radio Talk Host Kim Komando



I've been meaning to post something on this topic for some time, but this past weekend really merited an awareness to Kim Komando.

From KOMANDO.COM:

Thank you for your interest in finding Kim on the air.

Kim's site is optimized to work with Internet Explorer 6, Netscape 7 and AOL. On the Mac, the site works with Netscape 7 and AOL.

If you use Opera, WebTV (or older versions of Netscape), please use this form.


What technology guru refers to Netscape any more? Sure, it's still a browser, but Firefox has become the "name of choice" for alternate browsers to Safari for the Mac. The site, WWW.KOMANDO.COM seems to have no problems working with Safari. Something close to 75% of all Mac Users use Safari.

Does the Komando website look like a modern, cool website that was designed by a true "tech head" to you? What's the message? Is it: Here's information and help or here's some ads to make me money?

She stated on air this past weekend that Apple confirmed the iPhone. Did they? I didn't see that news.

Commonly, she just regurgitates AP News tech stories headlines with little insight or explanation.

Whenever she mentions quality MP3 players ... she either doesn't mention the iPod, puts the iPod down, or says that the iPod doesn't work with the majority of the online music stores. When she does mention the iPod, she throws a caveat into the sentence ... "but the iTunes Music store is the only music store compatible with iPod." (All in her heavy northern accent overemphasizing every "A" and "i".)

When Apple introduced the latest version of iTunes that had "similar song recommendations" built in ... there was a small controversy about Apple keeping track of your listening habits without permission. This was a major topic discussed on The Kim Komando Show ... a whole half hour was dedicated to discussing it. It made you wonder if Kim Komando's allegiance is for sale from Apple competitors.

The real reason Kim Komando doesn't talk about Apple, doesnt mention iPods, and doesn't mention Safari is because she's been bought. Just look at the graphic above or visit her site. Where's the substance? It's all advertisements. She only recommends who pays her, not necessarily what a good PC tech would tell you or use themselves.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself (if a guy):

"Wow, she's playboy worthy"

Well, the reality is ... this is a recent picture of Kim Komando:



All I can say is if I found Kim Komando on MATCH.COM (an online personals website) ... I would be pretty disappointed if the "pretty picture" was on the profile ... and the "not so pretty picture" showed up for our date. She builds her reputation less on computer knowledge and more on "nerd men" calling in to get a chance to talk to a hot blonde. Maybe this will dispell some of those fantasies.



To be fair to Komando, she's in a pickle when it comes to talking about Macs. I know that TechTV mentioned very little about Apple Computer, but when they did ... there was a backlash that they mentioned it too much.

Why can't there just be a show where the host treats Apple products and Windows based PCs in a 50/50 manner? I realize that Macs do not constitute 50% marketshare, but when a customer calls in with a question ... I can guaranty that there are both kinds of listeners or viewers in the audience ... and both want the answer catered to them.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Davinci Code



Below is my review of the movie The Davinci Code. I already had some thoughts on the subject before going to see it.

1) I honestly think the estimates that the book is the 2nd best selling book (next to the Bible) is both ironic and ficticious. I believe certain books have a peak. What do I mean? I think somewhere around 25 million copies and books start to saturate the market to the point of untrackable readership. At around 25 million ... you have to start getting pirated copies, a tremendous used and resale market etc, etc ... Now, I can believe that 40 million people have read The Davinci Code but I just can't seem to grasp that 40 million copies have been sold of the book. I think this is hype by an extreme left wing that would love nothing more than to claim that a book that discredits the Bible, is the next best seller TO the Bible.

2) The thing that most distresses me about people who I talk to that have read it will tell you, "it's fiction", but will turn right around and say, "it does seem plausible" or my favorite, "it makes you think". It is well written no doubt ...but not even remotely scientific or remotely plausible. It's mix of fact and fiction is a completely new way of telling a story. The book takes from "conspiracy truth" and adds a conspiracy then centers around real locations and real events.

3) It will be interesting to see if there's a Mac somewhere in the movie ;-)

I had not read the book in full so a few of the plot elements were certainly unknown to me.

If I were to give this a star rating ... I'd give it a 6.5 out of 10. If you are easily offended or a Bible scholar ... you will most likely give it lower. I admittedly know the Bible pretty well. I also know biblical history reasonably well. The disservice that this rewriting of history does to Constantine in particular is nothing short of defamation ... if Constantine had descendants alive ... maybe they should consider a lawsuit.

In case you hadn't heard from a friend. The basic premise is that Jesus was married to Mary Magdelene and he consumated just before his crucifiction. Mary had a daughter named Sarah ... and thus a bloodline of Jesus continues to the modern age.

There were quite a number of computers in the film ... interesting that none of them were Apple Computers ... interesting because the "code centers around the word Apple".

I haven't much cared for Ron Howard as a director, he doesn't know how to frame a shot well ... especially quick movement. I don't like jerky cameras.

I don't see this movie doing as well as anticipated because it truly is so offensive and the story is so far out there ... I'm almost positive it won't do as well as Hollywood hoped. I truly see now that this film and this book were agenda based.

I live in South Carolina. As you might expect ... there's always a redneck nearby. As the movie ended, one guy exclaimed:

"I dawn git it!"

Me either.

Let's Just Ban Children From Schools While We're At it



Ya know ... I honestly wouldn't be surprised if children were banned from schools next. Even though this is in Ireland, it's very obvious that this is something that will be considered in the USA next. Note how that, at first, the ban seems somewhat reasonable then the exposition by the principal just moves into the absurd.

As reported by MacMinute:

iPod ban sought by Scottish teacher's union

A story on Scotland's The Herald today reports that one Scottish teacher's union wants iPods banned from schools. "The NASUWT annual conference in Peebles heard that use of gadgets in class created a persistent problem of low-level indiscipline," teachers said yesterday. Scottish president Bill Scott goes even further and says that make-up should also be banned. "No-one needs games or musical gadgets. Rather than spending money on an iPod or a make-up bag for their children, parents would do better to give them a pencil case." Along with iPods, the union wants mobile phones and other electronic devices banned.



Under the Duke University Digital Initiative ... students actually receive iPods as part of their studies at Duke. The iPods are used to record lectures,receive and listen to podcasts from professors, and as data backup and data/project transport.

As far as cellphones ... I have seen a really creative way for kids to use cellphones in classrooms as Bluetooth buzzers and text messaging answers to the teacher in a contest. Phones are collected during tests.

The Apple Strikes Back


As you may know, last week, Creative filed suit against Apple for its use of hierarchical menu systems on the iPod. The patent that Creative was awarded in 2005 basically is just for a hierarchical menu system as it applies to MP3 players. Apple will be able to easily dispute the patent with prior art of its own ... dating back to as far as the Lisa.

http://fixyourthinking.com/2006/05/apple-and-wealth-of-prior-art.html

As reported by MacMinute:

Apple files counter-suit against Creative

Apple has filed a counter-suit against Creative, resulting in Creative's stock dropping 2.6%, reports Financial Times. "Apple alleged Creative infringed four patents for user-interface systems on the digital music players," notes the story. "The suit was filed in response to a similar allegation against Apple by Creative, which is seeking damages and the suspension of sales of the Apple iPod in the US."


Apple currently holds 75% +/- of the US market, compared to Creative's >10%

This will be added to the Apple lawsuit and litigation section:

Your Rights, The Law, And Litigation

The Semantics Of Symantec

Regular Mac News followers are aware of Symantec's quarterly push to sell Mac Virus Software by releasing some bogus press release about the plethora of security holes and viruses that abound for the Mac platform.

Well ... now it seems at least they are being fair and picking on the other guys for a change.

As reported by SlashDot:

Symantec filed a lawsuit against Microsoft over patents on the volume management technology in Vista. They're seeking an injunction to stop Vista from being sold until the suit is completed. Given the recent Supreme Court ruling it should be interesting to see if the injunction is granted, since Symantec does produce software which uses the patent. If it is granted, expect MS to settle to prevent another Vista delay.


My opinion is that litigation like this will only increase the closer Vista gets towards its release date. Vista is going to have much tighter security and network protection ... I would imagine the virus software companies are getting a little worried about their pocket books.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Is The Mainstream Press Even Viable Anymore ... When It Comes To Reporting on Apple or Anything?

In recent litigation against my website I was criticized for not being a journalist, therefore not having the right of "free speech" or "freedom of the press". One argument made in an injunction hearing is that I don't verify my sources [ I DO ] and that I report for sensationalism [ I DON'T ]. The key point here is that these are thought to be "credential ethics" ... when they aren't.

Case in point:

As reported by MacMinute:

BBC interviews wrong person on Apple vs. Apple case

In a somewhat humorous story on WebProNews today, they note that the BBC interviewed the wrong person, on live TV, for comments on the Apple Computer vs. Apple Corp case. The TV network accidentally interviewed an individual who was in their offices applying for a job, who had the same first name as the intended guest. "Sometime towards the end of the interview, which is accessible on the BBC website, the host clues in to the fact that Goma is most certainly not an expert on downloadable music or the Apple vs. Apple spat," notes the story.


I like to report these tidbits just to illustrate how bloggers [ LIKE ME ] report the news ... it seems the mainstream press is just out on the streets randomly bumping into news stories with a pad and paper in hand.

Lest we not forget also the Dan Rather/CBS fiasco where he had to admit on national TV that evidence may have been fabricated and he didn't verify and double check it ... what he left out was ... "I'm Dan Rather, I hate George Bush, I meant to report it, and I'm sorry I got caught."

Followup stories:

This Blog Out reports CNN
Code Of Ethics For Journalism

ZMAX: Save Z Money So You Can Buy Z Mac


In case you haven't noticed ... I don't advertise the typical things that Apple themed Mac News websites advertise. Instead I promote products that I use on a daily basis that have an Apple, Mac, Jack theme or name.

I don't whore these products shamelessly ... I essentially use the affiliate income to pay for research and hosting costs of the articles I post here. I actually use or admire all of the things you see in the sidebar to the right.

Recently, I noticed an engine knocking noise in my car ... I went to Pep Boys and got a ZMAX kit ... fuel and engine "lubricant". I poured them in and the noise stopped. I had used ZMAX before and noticed a measureable increase in my gas mileage - about 4-5 miles per gallon. So, I figured that I would also spend the extra bucks to offset high gas prices.

Well, I had also had an oil change recently from Walmart ... while I was pouring the ZMAX into my engine ... I noticed MY OIL FILTER. I had changed my oil myself the last time I needed it. I took my car back to Walmart Automotive and they informed me I had NO OIL in the engine (I was 4 quarts low) and that the previous technician had drained my oil and put my old filter back on and (cough cough) just forgot to put more oil back into it.

Luckily, I had put the ZMAX in before and again just that day. The Auto Shop supervisor said without that I would have most likely thrown a rod!

Needless to say ... I believe strongly in this product and it truly does give you about 7% to 11% better gas mileage. Which is a good thing ... if you didn't know, most gas stations are mixing higher concentrations of Ethanol into their gas ... Ethanol only delivers about 85% of the mileage and power of normal gasoline. So ... many of us are getting lower gas mileage by default ... ZMAX boosts that back to optimum.




BUY ZMAX FROM AMAZON

CLICK PICTURE ABOVE

Recording Phone Calls: The Work Around


One of the most hit sections on FIXYOURTHINKING is the Recording Phone Calls Laws State By State reference section.

This section details your rights on a state to state basis of recording phone calls. You should ALWAYS consider looking at these laws and USING A RECORDING for any business deal, verbal contract, or complaint resolution that you make by telephone.

Note, although you should clarify with an attorney, you can side step these laws by using AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Instant Messenger, or Skype ... as these INSTANT MESSAGE services are considered data and willfull and consensual conversation and not private voice. Basically, the courts look at it like this ... the person has agreed to an instant message so therefore agreed to have the data stored potentially by their ISP.

* It is VERY important that you clarify any wiretapping, recording, or personal investigation method with an attorney BEFORE you do it

Yesterday, eCamm released:

eCamm Network releases Call Recorder for Skype

eCamm Network today announced the release of Call Recorder for Skype, a new plug-in that allows Mac Skype users to automatically record and save their Skype calls. Call Recorder also allows for users to start and stop recording at any time using simple onscreen controls. "Utilizing Core Audio, and QuickTime's support for the AAC encoding format, Call Recorder can create reasonably small files that provide high quality audio," says Ken Aspeslagh, eCamm Network's multimedia chief. "Calls are saved as QuickTime files with a separate audio track for each side of the conversation. This makes podcast post-production much easier." Call Recorder for Skype is priced at US$14.95.


(Currently they are running a special for $12.95)

You could also perform the same function with a program called Audio Hijack ... the new program from eCamm just simplifies and unifies the process of recording Skype phone calls.

Also take note that eBay recently bought Skype and is offering FREE skypeOUT calls for anyone that has a Skype account for calls in the Domestic 48 US States. This is an awesome deal. This means you can call land line telephones for free.

I use Skype often to locate my cellphone ... just call it from my computer and follow the ring.

You can download Skype for free from WWW.SKYPE.COM

Getting To Know Me ...

Typically, I find myself on the Conservative Republican side of the fence politically, but on some issues I am Middle Of The Road.

For instance:

In cases of abortion ... personally I am against it, but I do believe it should be a relatively unrestricted personal choice.

I think abortions should be limited to within 6 weeks of pregnancy, never granted in the case of gender selection, and never granted under any circumstance as a third abortion to any one individual.

I am also against the average Abortion Clinic Protester ... why? Because of the display of pictures like this:



This is no different than pornography. Would a community be up in arms if pictures of completely naked women were held outside a strip club in protest ... sure.

The definition for pornography is: creative activity (writing or pictures or films etc.) of no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate or shock the senses. (usually in sexual manner)

To an abortion protester ... this is an image they admire because it shocks and they enjoy the reaction it receives because it hits home a point. The truth is, most abortions are done very clinically clean. I'm sure things like this picture portrays happen, but it's not necessary to get a message across.

Definitely this view isn't popular amongst Conservative circles.

As I expand the scope of this website ... I want to try to differ myself from other blogs and tech news sites in that you get to know me better. If you understand the general flow of thoughts in my head and the way I communicate, it may clarify other topics for you. Regular readers will be able to complete thoughts that I may put down that might not be as coherent to the "once in whiles".

Every now and then ... I plan to talk a bit about political issues ... I promise I won't make this into a soap box and certainly no political opinion will be supressed. I ask you to join the debate and participate. I'm always open to topical discussion here.

If you don't normally comment here ... take the time on this article to give me your thoughts on this subject ... be anonymous ... I'd love to hear what you have to say about the most Taboo of all political issues.

Look through the archives on a rainy day ... there's some good stuff here!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

You Can Still Buy It Now



Justices Set Aside Patent Ruling Against eBay

In a significant victory for eBay and the technology industry, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that judges do not have to automatically bar companies from using patents that they have been shown to have violated. This should also ease copyright law for companies that try to make "loose cases" out of trademark and copyright infringement by bastardizing the Lanham Act. More and more companies are using copyright and infringement for the sole purpose or means of litigation ... ie creating logos or litigating with their logos as a means to put competitors and critics under.

From a Forbes magazine recap and analysis:

The Supreme Court limited the power of patent trolls to obtain permanent injunctions against infringers as a matter of course. The court has ruled that the principles of equity apply, meaning that a court considering slapping an injunction on the infringer must consider how much damage is really being done ... which in the case of eBay's Buy It Now feature, isn't much, since the company that owns this so-called patent only has it for the purposes of suing other people. "The high court's decision deals a blow to patent trolls, which are notorious for using the threat of permanent injunction to extort hefty fees in licensing negotiations as well as huge settlements from companies they have accused of infringing."

A Real But Meaningless Response: Real responds to a reader email concerning singling out iPod users



A regular Fix Your Thinking reader sent an email to CEO of REAL Rob Glaser concerning his recent comments that singled out iPod Users as digital music theives. Yesterday, he received a reply from a REAL "associate" and forwarded it for FYT readers perusal:

Date: Tue, 16 May 2006 12:24:37 -0700

[Mr. Correspondent],

Thank you for the email you sent the company expressing your concerns about an article that appeared in "The Guardian" last week. In this article, Rob Glaser was illustrating how the lack of interoperable standards for digital music contributes to the illegitimate use of copyrighted music. I can assure you that Rob was not singling out digital music enthusiasts or device users; rather he was calling on the industry to create standards for portable, copyright protected music that can be played across a variety of devices. In the end, we believe that the industry will best serve consumers when we have brought to market media that can be played across a variety of hardware, just as we have for decades in our homes, in our cars and now on our portable devices.

If you have further questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Thanks.

[A REAL ASSOCIATE]


Let's look at two things ... shall we?

"I can assure you that Rob was not singling out digital music enthusiasts or device users"


Untrue ... Mr. Glaser specifically said iPod users ... he could have easily said MP3 Devices ... it was a conscious decision to mention the iPod; not a matter of generic iPod pop culture reference.

Here is the exact quote from Mr. Glaser where he mentioned the word iPod 3 times in two sentences:

"The average number of songs sold for the iPod is 25, and there are many more songs on iPods than 25. About half the music on iPods is music obtained illegitimately either from an illegal peer-to-peer networks or from ripping friends' CDs, which is illegal."


Continuing with the letter sent to a reader:

" ...we believe that the industry will best serve consumers when we have brought to market media that can be played across a variety of hardware, just as we have for decades in our homes, in our cars and now on our portable devices."


Untrue again ... The iPod may be the most diversely integrated and universally playable audio device in history. It also is the first standard to be implemented into cars within a 3 year time period EVER. Not even the CD player made it into so many car manufacturers this quickly. And for the record ... were there EVER specific audio transmitters like the Griffin iTrip or the DLO Transpod (for use in cars) for the Sony Walkman? Are there any specifically for ANY other MP3 player? (one or two obscure or insignificant players excluded) What about the fact you can use iTunes on both PCs and Macs? I also know personally of at LEAST 35 solutions for home use from Onkyo, Bose, Altec Lansing, Xtrememac, Apple, iHome, Logitech, ZVox, Klipsch ...

I think the iPod qualifies as being "playable across a variety of hardware" and then some.

In just 3-4 years time the iPod connects in 10x more ways than any audio device in history ...



A little quirky side note ... I think it's ironic that the words "customer support" are in a gray area.

Thank you to my regular readers who point things out to me ... you can email me by looking at the info in the sidebar to the right.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Nomination For The Media Bloggers Association



After browsing Google and seeing that a recent lawsuit/injunction that I was involved in seems to be big news amongst the blogging community ... I am trying to get into the The Media Bloggers Association.

This is a body cooperative that stands for education and advocacy of bloggers and blogger rights.

If any of you know a member that can nominate me (I'm working with one potentially) ... please let me know so that I can contact them.

Apple And A Wealth Of Prior Art


* photo of Lisa hierarchical menu system courtesy Pegasus3D.com


Concerning Creative trying to say it invented hierarchical menu systems:

More likely, Apple will demonstrate its wealth of prior art, ranging from the 'column view' available on the Apple Lisa back in 1980, or in Steve Jobs' NeXT OS a few years later -- or in any number of other devices and operating systems since.


~ Chris Stevens ZDNet UK

EZGEAR ... taking the easy route to infringement




I just hate it when companies try to capitalize on their competition this way (by copying a name). It's just about the lamest thing you can do in business.

No story or details needed here ... New EZGear EZTrip on the left - Griffin Technology iTrip© on the right.

Griffin ... sue now and sue big!

The Laptop That Finally Unseats The King



I have waited and waited and waited for Apple to release a laptop that could finally unseat the king of all laptops ... the PowerBook Pismo. I have also longed for another black (and durable) laptop.

Today ... Apple introduced the MacBook (replaces the iBook G4) in white and black. It has an integrated iSight Camera. It's got great performance specs and looks like a teriffic screen. I'm impressed.

The geat thing about this is that Apple has essentially released a 2.0 version of the MacBook Pro. I would be almost certain that Apple took the time to really hone this laptop before it's introduction. This may be the first time that I bite the bullet and get a revison 1 of anything!

I still will miss the amazing expandability and upgradeability of the Pismo (including a PC card slot) but this laptop is nothing short of a successor for sure.

[UPDATE] After physically touching a Macbook Black ... I learned that the RAM and Hard Drive are the easiest to upgrade of any Mac EVER -- taking less than 3 minutes to do either with few screws and no case removal. Did Apple pay attention to my article on Steve Jobs from March?

The Least Creative Thing At Creative? They Don't Support The Mac.



I had actually thought this thought about a month or so ago but yesterday's official lawsuit from Creative and a check of Creative's latest financial results really solidified it for me ...

I believe the main reason Creative's profits are down are due to its lack of support for the Mac platform. Really! Let's take a look at this. Of course there are some diehards that won't buy Creative products because of the feud between Apple and Creative. I personally fall into that crowd. Then there's the people who simply can't use Creative products because they don't have Mac OS drivers. I would possibly buy a Creative Soudblaster Audigy Card for notebooks if Creative made drivers for the Mac OS. I know of at least 5 people, including pop singer Edwin McCain (and his production crew) ... that would love to have a premium sound card for their laptops rather than bulky interface usb and firewire interface boxes.



Creative, it is almost certain, will miss the boat again when it comes time to create an expresscard version of the Audigy. Again, it will most likely not contain Mac Support. And a side note, why isn't Creative on the advance side of technology EVER! They should already have an expresscard version of the Audigy out now ... they would essentially have the market. I don't see how it could be that difficult to create and engineer such a card.



Then there's the matter of webcams ... Creative makes some of the best looking and best quality notebook webcams on the market. Apple, as you know makes the iSight. The iSight is by far the best webcam on the market ... but it's a monster ... making it impractical and too power hungry for the road warrior. Creative is missing a BIG market of Mac Users who would love to have an iChat compatible webcam and don't yet own a laptop with a built in iSight such as the MacBook Pro.


What Creative (and many other companies) don't get is that Apple Computer Users and Buyers actually drive the entire computer industry. Mac users have more disposable income (on average) and Mac users are typically ahead of the curve as far as adding to or enhancing their Macs with innovative (and expensive) peripherals and computer enhancements. Macs are also an integral part of the entertainment industry ... these are the customers and content producing professionals that actually buy high end items like Creative wishes to sell.

Creative might even be wise to concede the iPod to Apple and become one of the more prominent (an innovative) iPod peripheral makers such as Griffin or DLO.

What say you?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Creative: Claims Apple Didn't Create The iPod.



As reported by MacMinute:

Creative files complaints against Apple

May 15 Creative Technology has filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission against Apple for patent issues, reports MarketWatch. "Creative has asked the commission to look at whether Apple is in violation through its importation and sale after importation into the United States of iPods and iPod Nanos that infringe U.S. Patent 6,928,433, which Creative refers to as the 'ZenPatent,'" notes the report. The company also filed a lawsuit against Apple in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that "seeks an injunction and increased damages for Apple's 'willful infringement of the Zen Patent.'"


I've pretty much already covered this here and in other articles and updates. I thought I would post this more as FYI.

I'm not quite sure if this is different or the same suit (in official form) or not as this:

Apple Sued Over iTunes Interface

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Way The Big Guys Do It ...

Ya know ... it REALLY bothers me the way that the "big websites" report news about Apple sometimes. It seems that 99% of the news that contains the words "Apple Legal" in it, instantly has a controversy about how Apple is turning into Big Brother or something.

Take this set of headlines for instance:



* pulled from MacSurfer's Headline News


Thing is ... hardly anyone reported the actual reason Apple sent this cease and desist. The reason they used and the reason they implied are obvious.

The Background:

Apple's legal department issued a cease and desist notice to the webmaster of the Web site Something Awful, insisting that he remove a link to a MacBook Pro service manual posted by a forum member.


The reason Apple sent the cease and decist letter is because they didn't want people taking their MacBook Pros apart while still under warranty and also didn't want a flood of hypochondriacs calling into support or flooding the "Genius Bars" at Apple Stores. This seems to be a relatively isolated problem ... I think Apple needs to address it as quickly as possible.

But what "the public" has to understand about Mac Users (almost as a disclaimer in all news like this) is that they are ten times more likely to complain and ten times more vocal than the average customer. Yet still, even with a more vocal crowd, Apple leads in customer service and low return/defect rate.

Also, the forum member who posted this Apple service manual has broken contract terms with Apple for being an authorized Apple repair specialist - the only ones privy to Apple Service manuals (even though they can be found easily with Google searches)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Apple Should Sue Real For Real Slander

As reported by MacRumors


According to Rob Glaser, CEO of Real Networks, "about half the music on iPods is music obtained illegitimately." Glaser's comments were made in an interview with The Guardian where he goes on to discuss why he feels his company is trailing Apple and what Real's strategy is to improve its standing in the digital downloading market.

Quote by Glaser:
"The average number of songs sold for the iPod is 25, and there are many more songs on iPods than 25. About half the music on iPods is music obtained illegitimately either from an illegal peer-to-peer networks or from ripping friends' CDs, which is illegal."

This is not the first case Glaser has been at odds with Apple or its products. Real drew Apple's fire when they created a technology called "Harmony" in 2004 that allowed Real to sell iPod compatible songs through their music store. Apple later disabled the compatability, and slammed Real for "adopting the tactics and ethics of a hacker."


Apple should seriously consider Glaser to be sued for slander and libel ... he knows that the majority of songs sold from Real's store also go onto Mp3 players that may (or may not) contain files that were not purchased by retail means.

He really should be sued because he is maliciously singling out Apple.


* Real Networks CEO Glaser & Microsoft's Bill Gates


Thing is ... Real Networks ONLY stays afloat because it was subsidized recently by Microsoft. Microsoft GLADLY paid this settlement because of the "knowledge of Glaser's mouth" and the fact they wanted to keep Real afloat as at least SOME competition to Apple's iTunes Music Store.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Made For iPod Licensing Made No Sense



Apple changes Made For iPod Licensing Program


Not really much else to say about this ... I didn't like that Apple charged a percentage of revenue to begin with ... this is a much more palatable program for small developers to deal with.

I do think this program is necessary so Apple can maintain quality and consistency amongst iPod peripherals. Thus far ... Apple's strictness on quality and proper licensing has been part of the success of the iPod and 3rd party iPod accessories. I never saw it as Apple trying to get money wherever they could as many 3rd party iPod peripheral makers seem to think.

Read the above link for a good explanation.

I have seen a few manufacturers put fake or similar logos on their products to make it look like they are part of this program.

Fast & Fun? A Comprehensive Look At eBay Dropoffs

This is a repost for the sake of search engine placement. See this article for explanation:

Bidzirk uses Search Engine Tampering To Censor This Article

See also injunction hearing results and analysis:

http://analysis.threatswatch.org/2006/04/constitutionally-protected-blo/



This is my story as experienced by me personally. I have dealt with a company called BIDZIRK, in my home town. I have also visited several competitors. In doing extensive Google research, I have found that my problems are almost universal ... but that only larger clients really complain. At the end, I will offer a checklist for you to use when choosing a listing company that includes questions you may not have thought of before. Please feel free to share your thoughts about these services and what you think about the article!

See BIDZIRK logo here advertising, "The Fast & Fun Way To Sell On eBay!"

PART ONE: Fast & Fun?


eBay ~ Weird Al Yankovic
Download now from
Ebay (Parody of "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys)


In May of 2005, I decided to obtain the assistance of an eBay listing company to help move a friend's IT inventory consisting of computers, servers, laptop power supplies, laptop docks, mice, etc etc. Since a graphic design firm that I and a colleague serviced for Mac Tech Support over the years helped design the identity of a new listing company called BIDZIRK, we chose them to help us with listing this massive inventory on eBay ... so that we could start anew by January '06.

First, I'll give you a few bullet points about eBay listing companies in general and then tell my specific problems with BIDZIRK:

* These listing companies (where you take items to them, they list them, and send you a check) are not upfront about their fees. (This seems to be a common problem if you do a google search on problems with eBay listing companies)

* It seems reasonably fair to take out 25% to 35%, but by the time you get your check ... you are often splitting your auction 50 / 50. For most items, this is unfair and often less than you would receive from having a yard sale or having a day at the flea market, listing it in the local paper, or taking it to a specialized curious goods dealer (ie, pawn shop, collectibles shop, comics shop, etc)

* These companies often have generic, mediocre listings that do not get top dollar.

* Sometimes, these companies charge outrageous shipping and handling charges for your item, therefore lowering the final bid.

* Listing companies do not pass savings along to the customer - ie ... if they use free picture listing services or list in their store, they charge YOU the same rate as if these pictures were hosted by eBay or listed as a regular listing which saves THEM tons of money! They also do not pass along promotionals at eBay. A few days each month, eBay will have discounted listing days. For example, on December 27th 2005, eBay offered 10¢ listing fees (regular charge 25¢ per item) ... if you are listing hundreds of items ... this quickly adds up. Some days, eBay offers 1¢ listings. On rare occasion they offer flat or no final value listings. Listing companies do not pass these savings along to their customers.

* Listing companies do everything to protect themselves from not making any money. If they’re going to make money no matter what, why should they put any special effort into creatively or effectively listing your product? Talk about customer expectations of how its going to work vs. how its REALLY going to work. Specifically, how customers perceive that because they do this for a living, their auctions should be BETTER than what the average eBay hack puts up.

* They also tend to protect their feedback to your detriment ... meaning they will refund, accept returns without any hassle, and allow eBayers to abuse time schedules for payment for any reason ... without protest or investigation ... just to save their feedback rating ... therefore; delaying your check or causing you to not get your money at all!

* Typically, the length of time is 3 weeks from the date you bring in your item; until the time you get your check. These funds add up in their own Paypal accounts where they receive interest and if properly maintained; get them bonuses. (see story below) I had several checks delayed for 14 weeks!

* As for laborers ... typically teenagers end up running the show for absentee owners. Essentially, the eBay version of McDonald’s.

* Also concerning laborers and owners ... on occasion you will find 40 and 50 somethings trying a mid life crisis career change ... they know nothing about how the eBay system works except what they have read in eBay For Dummies books. Usually they know nothing about pop culture (eBay's biggest market) or about electronics or computers (eBay's 2nd biggest market)

____________________________________________________


If you got here from a Google search, hopefully you're just contemplating using a listing company. By telling you my full story, I hope to give an understanding of what your expectations should be, and what terms you need to place into a contract before doing large scale business with a listing company...

One of my best friends who deals in procurement took an easier, more fitting IT job about 2 years ago; leaving behind an enormous eBay inventory spread out over 6 locations countywide ... some of these locations being very expensive premium warehouses in Greenville, South Carolina, my home town.

I had introduced this friend to eBay shortly after I met him; in 1998. He quickly passed me in feedback, as he was listing close to 500 items a month. This friend used to employ a staff of 5 to help list, pack, and do accounting for listings on eBay. Then, in late 2002, this friend had a bout of depression, let most of the eBay listing staff go and retreated to being a self employed computer repairman and a used computer salesman. He had several procurement sources ... and his local sales could not move the inventory as well as eBay ... things started to pile up in warehouse after warehouse, after warehouse. As the inventory grew, so did his overhead ... this all made him more depressed. His disorganization was affecting me ... I had no where to put some of my inventory, he had no money to front me for my own procurement, and the mess frankly; was overwhelming. Finally, in 2004, I stepped in and started to chip away at his inventory. I tried to carry some inventory to a local flea market ... while other small bits and pieces, here and there, I sold in my own Apple Computer Tech business.

It just wasn't working ...

So, in March of 2005, just as my friend and I were gearing up for a tour of companies to pitch a new product to ... we started to brainstorm. At first, I thought of a Tech Yard Sale. I thought we could rent a large building and get other people that I knew that had large amounts of computer inventory to also sell with us for a fee and maybe integrate local sponsors like high speed cable modem service and IT headhunting services.

I wanted to set some goals:

- Integrate all 6 locations into one large warehouse by summer's end

- Split the money with this friend 50/50 ... meaning: 25% me / 25% my colleague / 50% my friend

- Try to sell at the flea market at least 2 Saturdays a month for 5 months straight

- Organize the inventory for a proper appraisal

- Throw away any inventory that was of absolutely no value ( close to 20% of this inventory were large HP laser printers and broken yellowed monitors)


So ... my colleague (who had recently decided to make an income on his own) and I decided to take a crack at it. We dedicated about 3-8 hours a week to the task ... sometimes ... he, more hours; late at night, separately on his own ... others ... me, more hours; during the day, on my own.

Still, it wasn't working ...

Things were looking better ... but there was just so much inventory ... some pieces were large wide format printers and wide format scanners ... there were also large server cabinets. The large items were blocking more liquid inventory. Then, I thought of something ... what about using an eBay listing company?

I had seen a new store going up in a wealthier section of my home town called Bidzirk. When my cohort mentioned that a graphic design firm that we knew had done the ad campaign for them ... it was nearly solidified that we would use them ... to support our client; we would patronize their client.

Now, let me back up for a moment. If you knew me ... you would know that my suggesting the use of an eBay listing service was not something you would expect to hear from me. After all, most of my friends consider me an eBay guru. I know all the sales tactics to listing, I know how to spot all the scams, and know how to exploit ALL the facets of eBay to my favor (ethically of course). (Mainly through the use of discounts) I also taught eBay, in a continuing education course, at the local technical college.



* my second (and current) eBay member ID page in use since April 1998.
(Modified to protect seller and bidder identities)


____________________________________________________


So, I set up a time to meet with the Bidzirk owner.

I decided to meet him at a Barnes & Noble for a cup of coffee and shoot the breeze about entrepreneurship, what I bring to the table, and what he brings to the table.

Late for our first meeting, he explains his tardiness away by saying traffic was difficult. ( A part that plays an important element later in this story )

We quickly start into what Bidzirk's philosophy is, how and why it was started, and what business we might do together.

From the beginning ... I could tell the owner was a yes man. Of course, I have to be honest ... eBay is; in and of itself a yes man paradise. Many sellers over promise and under deliver.

Although the owner seemed like a yes man ... I had done my home work ... he had owned an ecommerce B2B company called ChannelLinx. Tech savvy? Possibly ...

* ChanneLinx is promoted at the Bidzirk site indirectly and at the bottom of each page as a technology & design assistance partner.

He explained to me how he had just gotten married and was planning his honeymoon in a week's time.

Wait! He was getting married, going on a honeymoon, and starting a (in his own words) "multi-location business that will be national in 5 years time"?

At this initial meeting, we discussed an inventory survey and pickup of some large items to help us get started. I made it clear to the owner of Bidzirk that I had momentarily throttled my own Apple Tech business and that my partner was depending on the income that we saw from Bidzirk. I also made it clear that this income would be split 25/25/50. So, the owner signed off on a contract that was to my understanding 25% cut for Bidzirk 75% for me and my partner which would in turn be divided up 25/25/50.

EXAMPLE: A $100 item would yield us $75 / That $75 then is divided into $37.50 Friend (owner of inventory) / $18.75 for me / $18.75 for my partner


I was honestly expecting for my friend and I to average about $9 an hour for our work. 2 hours work would equal $18.75.

Even though this is simple math ... it's easy to see how this might get complicated as to the way things would be divied up.

I was under the impression (and contractual understanding) that Bidzirk charged 35% flat, once you had reached $500 in sales, your rate went down to 25% flat.

Having sold 1000's of items on eBay myself, I could see how, after eBay and Paypal fees (which average 8.5% of the final winning bid), a business such as this could make a reasonable profit.

____________________________________________________


A couple of notes before I begin Part II:

I was served a letter from an attorney representing Bidzirk.

In this letter, the following was alleged:

1. That I posted Bidzirk's logo without permission and that it is covered under trademark and service mark law. I did post it , but as a reporter I have the right to publish it without permission. I am not profiting from this image, nor am I portraying that I sell items from Bidzirk. I am also not using the Bidzirk logo as my own. The attorney made mention of the Lanham Act but did not cite the specific reason for quoting this law. The Lanham Act specifically excludes my reporting.

Here's the 1st amendment & Lanham Act for the attorney and anyone else who wants to challenge my right to publish:



Directly as stated on The Cornell Law Website:

The Lanham Act defines the statutory and common law boundaries to trademarks and service marks. Trademarks (and service marks) are words or designs used in the advertising of goods and services. Rights to use a trademark are defined by the class(es) for which the trademark is used. Therefore, it is possible for different parties to use the same trademark in different classes. The Lanham Act defines the scope of a trademark, the process by which a federal registration can be obtained from the Patent and Trademark Office for a trademark, and penalties for trademark infringement.

The following shall not be actionable under this section:

(A) Fair use of a famous mark by another person in comparative commercial advertising or promotion to identify the competing goods or services of the owner of the famous mark.

(B) Noncommercial use of a mark.

(C) All forms of news reporting and news commentary.


2. Their attorney says I am lumping all listing companies into one category and associating all of the problems faced with these companies to Bidzirk. According to this attorney this amounts to libel. I have experienced all of the problems with Bidzirk as I have reported ... how does this attorney think I came up with the list of problems?

Libel as defined by Nisus Thesaurus:

... consisting of false and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person


3. Objection was taken to my mention of the owner personally; concerning his honeymoon and his difficulty with traffic ... that made him late to our first meeting. The claim is that these remarks are damaging to the owner's business reputation, the remarks were unprofessional, and mention of his previous business ventures were immaterial and slanted for sensationalism.

I have since updated the 1st installment to include a Greenville Journal link that shows how the owner promoted his business hand in hand (pun intended) with the start up of Bidzirk and his new marriage. It is also pertinent to my situation to convey involvement and how the owner (and other dropoff companies) might be overwhelmed ... and not able to handle business such as we brought to their company. I was promised and reassured several times that this was being handled as fast and as profittable as possible. It is worthy to note that a new marriage deserves dedication ... but that it may have taken away from time to dedicate to our level of customer.

____________________________________________________

PART TWO: Fast Talking & Funny Business

eBay ~ Weird Al Yankovic
Download now from
Ebay (Parody of "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys)


I am reporting accurately on what happened to convey what COULD happen to others. My intent in reporting on this is to prevent recurrence of the same, not to destroy or damage Bidzirk, and certainly not in revenge. I am merely continuing to report as this site has for 2 years on issues that merit attention. This is a consumer advocacy site.

While listing companies may initially view the article as a deterrent to consumers using them, if they will conform to the practices suggested by this report, they will likely increase the amount of business that they do.

Two good analogies apply in this case.

The first is the consumer group such as Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports) that has long reported on car companies and dealers and their various consumer-harming and consumer beneficial practices. One such case, was that of the Suzuki Samurai and its rollover problems. That reporting resulted in the Consumers Union getting involved in a very long and expensive lawsuit, but you know what? Suzuki's newest cars don'’t have this problem anymore and people are purchasing their products as a result. Had they continued the Samurai line as is, they might be out of business by now. Had they responded to the Consumers Union by saying that they would do anything and everything to remedy the problem, they would probably be in even better shape as a company. They only did half of that and are probably only reaping half of the benefit. The Consumer's Union has continued to report as they always have and have made note when Suzuki produced cars that did not demonstrate these same problems. I think it is more than fair to say that the entire automotive industry took note of this and that consumers have become very well protected against what could have been a rollover epidemic. SUVs have certainly soared in popularity despite this reporting, so I think everyone benefited from the CU report. THAT is exactly what I am trying to do here. I'm reporting for the benefit of both the listing companies and the consumers involved.

The second analogy concerns the other practice that Americans have long made use of to sell things that they own: Real Estate. Think of what would happen if realtors started incorporating various fees into their billing aside from the 6% flat fee that represented their commission and that the total cost of selling a home started to approach 20%. People would be in an uproar, not because of the principle, but because of the outrageous amount of money that they would be losing. Most people are willing to shrug off a $25 loss on a $75 piece of collectible something or other and simply not ever use the service again. People will not shrug off a loss of $10,000, however. In both cases, you feel you were misled. One is actionable, the other not.

One other legal issue, concerning this situation, that will be expanded on in Part III, concerns our final meeting with Bidzirk (to collect monies that were 4 months overdue). No longer wishing to negotiate with Bidzirk, and exhausted by delay after delay, I informed the owner I wanted a quick 5 minute meeting ... complaint/check/shake hands. I informed him of this several times. I also informed him that we were ready to throw in the towel with them and just wanted to part ways, but felt like we had enough grounds for breach of contract lawsuit on grounds of contract to sell, delayed payments without interest, underperformance from advertised "top dollar auctions", and for nondisclosure of full fee structure.

At this meeting, the owner brought in an accountant that was a recent hire and they proceeded to lay out paper after paper after paper. (Appearing to be laying out ways they were NOT going to compensate us fairly) I took exception to this ... reminded the owner of the 5 minute meeting request ... he became angered ... I got upset (not to mention embarassed) and he handed over a check after I used the term "robbery" and conveying that we felt robbed after receiving in some instances $2-$3 for laptop cases that sold for $17-$25 ... and that we regularly sold these in our store for $16.00 each and regularly sold damaged cases at the local flea market for $5, $7, and $10.

So ... the owner hands me a check and tells me to read the back of it ... (Handwritten) "Cashing or Deposit of this check constitutes settlement between both parties"

So, Bidzirk came into this meeting already on the defensive.

My attorney states the following:

"Presenting a check with a handwritten notice (on the check) can not in any way make the check less liquid than immediate cash ... said check; given to anyone without an attorney present, or without previous typewritten notarized notice from an attorney is not binding. Further, it could be prosecuted as a post dated check. Checks are meant to be as liquid as cash and under banking law to have no restrictions unless monies provided are a loan, or the other party states agreement BY WRITTEN NOTICE and signature on a separate notarized agreement"


I am using this article and heavily promoting it for listing companies to take notice. Hopefully, Bidzirk will change it's policies and learn from this experience as well.

I am not discouraging anyone from using listing companies ... I am encouraging them with my story to understand expectations ... but more importantly know what to expect... and to get a fair and unilaterally agreeable contract.

I want to put all subjects of my editorials on notice (in this case Bidzirk) ... threatening legal action over my right to publish truthful information is the wrong choice ... it exposes you to even more critique (elsewhere) and only serves to strengthen my point of view. My attorney is my most avid reader ... he warns me if anything I say crosses the line ... but in reality ... he has yet to warn me ... because I always tell the truth and have facts, letters, links, witnesses, and recorded phone calls to back everything up.

Before any business threatens an individual over exposure of their business or their name; they should be aware of The 1st Ammendment, The Lanham Act, and Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

______________________________________________


PART THREE: Unfast & Unfun

eBay ~ Weird Al Yankovic
Download now from
Ebay (Parody of "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys)


I hope that yesterday's installment gave you insight into many issues ... not just about eBay listing companies. It's time now to back up a bit and finish the factual, detailed (and journaled) account of the rest of my experience. In this segment, I will lay the story part to rest. The final segment, tomorrow, will provide you with a checklist for using a listing company and negotiation tips for large contracts with such companies.

Bidzirk's logo looks like this, advertising that their service is Fast & Fun:



This logo exudes fun and pop culture!

My partner in this plan to use Bidzirk has maintained from the time of our first problems that I was unchracteristically enthusiastic and leaniant considering all the problems we were having.

I loved the idea and I loved their logo and their nice looking stores. I wanted this to work. I was willing it to work really hard.

I'm going to repost the last segment of the story where I left off ... it is critical to understand.

At this initial meeting, we discussed an inventory survey and pickup of some large items to help us get started. I made it clear to the owner of Bidzirk that I had momentarily throttled my own Apple Tech business and that my partner was depending on the income that we saw from Bidzirk. I also made it clear that this income would be split 25/25/50. So, the owner signed off on a contract that was to my understanding 25% cut for Bidzirk 75% for me and my partner which would in turn be divided up 25/25/50.

EXAMPLE: A $100 item would yield us $75 / That $75 then is divided into $37.50 Friend (owner of inventory) / $18.75 for me / $18.75 for my partner


I was honestly expecting for my friend and I to average about $9 an hour for our work. 2 hours work would equal $18.75.

Even though this is simple math ... it's easy to see how this might get complicated as to the way things would be divied up.

I was under the impression (and contractual understanding) that Bidzirk charged 35% flat, once you had reached $500 in sales, your rate went down to 25% flat.

Having sold 1000's of items on eBay myself, I could see how, after eBay and Paypal fees (which average 8.5% of the final winning bid), a business such as this could make a reasonable profit.

_________________________________________________________


At the first pickup of inventory, the owner very kindly offered to bring a couple of SUVs, a trailer, and some manpower.

We opened up ONE of the two warehouses we had at the storage facility that we had the owner and his posse come to.

The owner introduced us to two of his employees ... young, hardworking, and intelligent men (around high school age).

The owner then introduced us to his wife and informed us that she would be writing down the inventory with two values:

What I expect to get from each item & estimated original value


I informed her that my colleague was also writing down the inventory on his PDA.

As these items were being loaded onto the trucks, I pointed out that some components should be removed and sold separately. In particular, I pointed out that the server cabinets had 20 outlet surge protection strips bolted to the inside, that fetch up to $70 seperately on eBay. I also informed the owner that I had recently gotten around $150 for server cabinets similar to the ones they were taking on this trip.


* these particular cabinets are like the premium cabinets we gave them. I had recently sold a set similar for $600. Bidzirk donated these (no sale) with the surge strips intact!

Further, for our consignment, they loaded IBM Netfinity Servers. I informed the owner that these fetched between $350 and $500 whole, but that they may want to test some of the auctions with parts ... these; being servers have easy to access and easy to remove parts.



The owner asked several times if we were writing everything down as it was placed on the trailer and the trucks.

In the course of about an hour we filled up three SUVs, a truck, and a trailer.

Estimated eBay value of this first trip: about $3000 - $4000.

This trip made a dent ... my colleague and I sighed with relief.

We set up a second trip.

On the second visit, graciously again, the owner obtained a moving truck with a large hauling area.

Things went pretty much the same. However, this time ... one of his employees was writing down the inventory.

One of them piped up and said, "Do these things actually sell? These have like Pentium II Processors in them" (referring to the IBM Netfinity Servers)

I said, "They go for around $400 each on eBay ... they originally sold for upwards of $15,000 and as high as $25,000 as configured."

I told him these were in use just months ago and were released in 1999, 2000, and 2001. I also told him most of them were maxxed out as far as hard drives and memory.

The owner made a quick quip that they would be constrained for space between the two stores that they were operating, but assured us ... it could be done!

This second trip had an estimated eBay value (by me; a 9 year eBay veteran who had actually recently sold some of these items) of $4000 - $6,000

A third pickup was scheduled soon after as we informed the owner we had a timeframe of a complete empty of THIS particular storage facility by the end of June (2005) ... which was only a few days away.

At the previous meeting, I had suggested Bidzirk buy a long cab van and have it wrapped with their awesome logo.

At the third meeting, the owner wheels up in a shiny new long cab van ... speaking of how good an idea it was and how it would really help him serve big customers such as ourselves.

This meeting pretty much emptied this warehouse as much as possible. Estimated value of this trip/consignment: $1500 - $2500.

Due to some conflicts of my own, we were in the warehouse a few extra days ... but since I knew the manager really well, he let us have the extra days free.

All of this was the fast and fun part ... it happened according to my plan and to my colleague's disbelief. He thought my goal was unattainable ... but since he believed in me so much ... he was willing to give it a try.

A number of weeks passed ... a few small mediocre $$ amount checks had trickled in, most for items that were sold 4, 5, and 6 weeks prior.

We had told Bidzirk a rule on eBay they were unaware of: The compete against yourself rule ... if you list too many of the same item at the same time, your average ending bid will be lower, because people will just bid in your other auctions rather than bidding up other auctions.

I monitored the auctions closely. Things were being listed slowly, not at all, or with really overdone descriptions that focused too much on technical detail and pictoral content and not enough value to the buyer and what the bidder could actually do with the items.

Whole Netfinity servers were going for $150 or less (or not at all)

We set up a meeting ... my colleague let me do most of the talking ... I am the eBay guru. However, he and I have a synergy to be able to convey any point, come up with amazing ideas, consult about anything, and solve any problem that exists ... we are working on the meaning of life right now. (laugh ... that was a joke!)

I am the technical and critical, he is the kind hearted seasoned professional who you just ... well ... like.

Not overstepping our boundaries we made suggestions (almost like a thinktank) for the owner to implement into his stores and the listings ... hopefully to boost sales.

First and foremost ... we suggested using us to come in and consult (for free) on how to make the descriptions better to achieve not only higher winning bids ... but to intice bidder wars. We mentioned that if this consulting worked out ... maybe at future locations we could partner and have a quarterly seminar on the tactics for eBay listing. After all, my cohort was an excellent salesman who had worked with HP for several years. And ... I had actaully taught eBay at the local technical college as a continuing education / adult education class.

One suggestion my colleague had was to produce T-Shirts with the cool Bidzirk logo on them and give them to high volume customers (wink wink) as incentives. Possibly even to sell these items up front in the store to customers that walked in. It was like free advertising ... my clients often ask me about the companies I support.

Another suggestion we made was ... make eBay more local. Have a window display with a rotating base ... like a Macy's New York streetside display. At the bottom of the rotating base ... have a monitor that showed the real time bidding and what the item was at or what it ended for ... it would sit there until payment was received and the item was shipped.

Part of the press release for Bidzirk to my community was:

"Shopping locally strengthens our community"


Not only would this idea bring in potential bidders who could pick the item up rather than risk shipping, but it would bring potential sellers into Bidzirk ... because they could say ... I have something like that I could sell

The owner thanked us for making the suggestions and said he would implement what he thought best.

More time passed ... fewer checks came in ... but this time, I had a payment issue . . . the auctionwagon system that I had access to was indicating we had been paid almost double what we actually had ... another meeting was scheduled.

This meeting was essentially a rehash of the last ...

The owner met us at one of his dropoff stores and presented us each with T-Shirts, golf shirts, and hats. They were very high quality and eventhough nothing special, it gave me warm fuzzies.

At this meeting ... we brought up the importance of pictures ... one was watermarking pictures that were posted ... I had noticed that some people were selling identical laptop bags with the pictures Bidzirk was taking. I also stressed that too many sterile pictures only serves to overdue and undersell ... not to mention take extra time.

We suggested that Bidzirk try FreeCycle for items that did not sell and the seller did not want. Freecycle is a newsgroup where people can post items they do not want and people will come pick them up ... free. We thought this was an excellent suggestion ... freecyclers are almost always bargain hunters and resellers themselves. Most freecyclers, get items for the sole purpose of lising on eBay. What if Freecyclers came in for a pick up and thought, "Wow, instead of giving my stuff away, I might could make a little money from it" ?

We also discovered that a glitch in the accounting system prevented payment if the item had not shipped ... even if it had been paid for. ( For instances of local pickup )

We were made aware that someone had paid almost 40 days prior for a large portion of inventory, but had been slack about picking the items up. We pleaded with Bidzirk to take action and tell the buyer the items would be resold in 15 days if no pick up was made. The owner agreed.

Another couple of weeks went by ... same frustrations.

My cohort and I started to list duplicate items we had given to Bidzirk ourselves. (He and I were both active on eBay already)

One day in August of 2005, I was at my cohort's office when I get a phone call from the owner of Bidzirk (recorded):

" ... I have to be honest, my temper has the best of me right now. I'm quite furious. You're selling laptop bags, using our picture and a slightly modified description. I thought we had an agreement to sell these bags for you. These were ours to sell. You had an agreement."


Remember how I described to the owner that people compete against you with your own pictures and descriptions?

We had an agreement ... the bags Bidzirk was selling were selling slow, we were getting 70/30 splits (Bidzirk's favor) and we had a mass inventory of these bags.

After talking through it ... we came to a resolution.

I felt (or in actuality was made to feel) I had done something wrong. My colleague had been upset for some time before this because we were not getting our fair share of funds from this arrangement. The owner of the inventory was starting to wonder if I had just taken some of the money. Now, the owner of Bidzirk was accusing me of intellectual property theft.

Without my partner knowing and against my own best judgement ... I asked the owner to come to another warehouse ... get more bags and more Netfinity Servers. At this time he also took several hundred video adapters and a few HP Netsevers. (Estimated value $1200 - $1500)

In late August, we met with the owner again ... this time to finally resolve our payment discrepancy ... at this meeting we discovered for the first time that we were actually being charged 35% + an average of 12% for fees (eBay listing fees and Paypal fees)

We addressed this with the owner and he apologized for the miscommunication ... as a concession (which I wasn't too pleased about) ... he lowered our percent to 30% + eBay and Paypal fees.

We accepted (my partner unwillingly, but continuing to trust my judgement)

In early September, I carried a few boxes of high end digital video and image editting software in a personal lot to Bidzirk. Estimated value (as I had already sold one of most every item I took to them) $5000 - $7500.

To the other Bidzirk location I also took some personal affects:

An SUV tiremount bike rack, an on the card Star Wars figure, and a boxed lot of Vintage Apple Computer Manuals, software, and a disk drive, and PowerBook RAM.

These items I was going to use as an experiment. With the exception of the bike rack, I had just sold these items in exact same condition on eBay myself.

The bike rack and PowerBook RAM actually got what I expected. In fact, the PowerBook 1400 RAM got a slight premium by about $5 above the average auction ... but admittedly this was new, sealed in an Apple Service part box. Also, memory sells itself. No credit to Bidzirk on that one ... just an accurate title would have sold the auction at a premium.

This is the kicker ... my share was $21.12! (From $38.32)

As for the Star Wars figure which was still sealed in it's original package ...

Out of the package (and complete with accessories) it was averaging $25 - $35. On the card, the auctions ranged from $60 - $73. Bidzirk got $33.50 ... my cut was $18.01



Take into account that I was now at a 30% rate + 9% eBay and Paypal fees. The RAM was a 45% cut for Bidzirk. The Star Wars figure was a 47% cut for Bidzirk.

As for the Vintage Apple Computer manual lot - no winning bidder. This exact duplicate auction had gotten me $60 just two weeks prior. This auction was in fact; donated. Suspiciously, I might add. As Bidzirk does business with another person locally that sells Apple Computer items through them. This is the only item on our invoice spreadsheet that says DONATED ... all other non selling items say FREECYCLED or RETURNED.

Several phone conversations and personal meetings with the two of us ... and eventually just me alone... continued throughout September, and October.

Slow checks ... low amounts and no checks at all; continued.

In early November of 2005 I had scheduled a meeting in a brief face to face with the owner. The day before the meeting ... I get a phone call.

Paraphrased ... "Rus, we're waiting on ya, did you forget?"

No, I had specifically typed it in my phone for the following day and knew I would be at a client.

Maybe, I'm just being picky about this point and about our first meeting where he was late ... but these two instances just illustrate my points about involvement and dedication to our level of customer.

In this meeting we went over a mountain of paperwork ... I was introduced to two new hires ... and I was told I would have a check for the discrepancies (they had found) in 10 days. One of the new hires gave me his personal number. 10 days passed. I emailed. Reply came the next day saying accounting was still working on it, but that nothing would done until after Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, my colleague and I had drawn up a new contract. I wanted to present this to the owner and have him sign it. I had called him in early November ... to remind him of a meeting we needed to schedule. He called me in Late November, apologizing for being late about being late to call me back! (Did you get that?)

My colleague and I scheduled a final meeting.

I spoke with the owner twice on the phone before this meeting saying I wanted this to be a quick 5 minute meeting and that I was not willing to go over any other figures.

(At this point we had completely thrown out the deal of a new contract)

At this meeting, the owner brought in an accountant that was a recent hire (mentioned before) and they proceeded to lay out paper after paper after paper. (Appearing to be laying out ways they were NOT going to compensate us fairly) I took exception to this ... reminded the owner of the 5 minute meeting request ... he became angered ... I got upset (not to mention embarassed) and he handed over a check after I used the term "robbery" and conveying that we felt robbed after receiving in some instances $2-$3 for laptop cases that sold for $17-$25 ... and that we regularly sold these in our store for $16.00 each and regularly sold damaged cases at the local flea market for $5, $7, and $10.

I won't even go into the issue of other items that I have since found out were FREECYCLED, unsold, or sold for far lower than average eBay auctions ... I feel embrassed that this has happened to me and my business partners.

____________________________________________


PART FOUR: Let's Get Out Of Here Fast & This Wasn't Any Fun

eBay ~ Weird Al Yankovic
Download now from
Ebay (Parody of "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys)


I could elaborate more, but honestly I'm trying to put this behind me. I will end with a few more details concerning my problems with an eBay dropoff ...

* One thing I was not able to incorporate into the story well ... easy auction monitoring. At first, I received an email every couple of days telling me an item had been listed, then, a few days later, that the item had sold. After 60 days, I no longer received these emails. I had to monitor the auctions manually (which was time consuming). This is when things started going very wrong.

* In total, the owner came to my warehouses 7 times ... these warehouses were within 2 miles of one location and 5 miles of another. I dropped off on 5 separate occasions $7000 - $9000 (eBay value) of additional inventory.

* The owner constantly asked for more inventory and we constantly asked him to take it ... but in the end ... our excuse for underperformance was . . . "being overwhelmed" ... something we had not really heard until the end. This made no sense to us ... Bidzirk has 10+ employees. If I dedicated my entire week to eBay ... I could list 100 items+ a week, and ship them. (I did just that in the year 2000)

* Our auctions had accounted for nearly 1/8 of the total positive feedback for both locations of Bidzirk ... with no negatives that I am aware of.

* By my best estimate ... we accounted for nearly 1/8 of all revenue Bidzirk received for the first 4 months of our contract.

* The ACTUAL APPRAISED value of the items we consigned, by a paid professional was $40,000 ... for all items given to Bidzirk.

* The estimated eBay value by me ( by doing research of completed listings and listing items myself ) was $25,000- $28,000.

* Bidzirk received approximately $7500 for all the inventory they consigned. They were given approximately 2700 items ... they sold approximately 300 items ... and returned approximately 1400 items. Take into account, that for 6 months work ... After I divided this up amongst my partners ... I received 1/4 of approximately $7500!! When I was expecting to receive 1/4 of $25,000 - $28,000!!!

* The discrepancy in items sold and returned vs given to consign is an issue of breaking items down and accounting for items that were sold in lots too large, items that were donated, freecycled, or are missing or unaccounted for, at this time. It also consists of approximately 900 unsold video adapters that average $5-$7 each on eBay. These adapters were not even attempted for sale by Bidzirk.

* It is important to note that just about all eBay sellers (even if they charge actual shipping) usually make about 10% of the auction end price back through shipping.

As an eBay veteran, I have learned different methods of shipping items that yield me reasonable money - that is in addition to the end price.

Most eBay listers get volume discounts from shipping companies and obtain special pricing on packaging materials.

In general, eBay sellers do not pass these savings to the buyer.

I charge within 10% of USPS Priority Mail Rate.

I ship larger packages by DHL - which on average is 30% lower than USPS Priority (with the discounts I use)

I ship smaller packages by USPS First Class rate which is 5% - 25% lower than USPS Priority in most cases.

I ship almost all software media rate which is 50% lower than USPS Priority.

I do not charge for boxes, packaging material, and I do not charge a handling fee. I get my packaging materials for free and I recycle materials.

I will give you an instance of how an eBay listing company makes money that they do not divide up with the consigner ...

If I sell an iLife '05 software package on eBay I charge $4.50 for shipping. This consists of $3.85 USPS Priority and 65 cents insurance.

I will ship this software for $2.27 or less by Media Rate. As a seller, this gives me a 49% profit on the shipping. In most cases, the package arrives at the destination in the same time frame or one day later than USPS Priority.

Now, compare this to your average listing company:

They set minimum shipping charges ... on average something such as iLife '05 would cost $4.95 - $9.95 to ship from them.

It's important to understand this small tidbit of information.

If a listing company (such as Bidzirk) is charging you 44% (35% + 9% eBay/Paypal) fees (as Bidzirk does) then they make an average of 10% back on shipping of YOUR ITEM ... does any reader find this fair?

I will give credit to Bidzirk, in that, they were fair with the prices they charge for shipping. But the analogy above still applies.

Next ... my colleague and I were volume customers. A significant portion of the items Bidzirk sold, were items that could be relisted over and over again.

The first item is the bulk of the work ... research, typing description, database entry, figuring out shipping details.

The next 100 items are simply two mouse clicks ... that's it!

Should we be charged the same on the 100th item (44% +) as we were on the first item (44%+) ?

This is where I drew an analogy of robbery with the owner in our final meeting. We gave them several hundred AS NEW Dell Laptop bags ... on average these sell for between $17 and $25. On average we got approximately $3 each for them as our cut. (Due to improper listing, relisting fees, bulk lot sales, etc)

It has taken me weeks of work (time that I did not have) to make sense of this accounting nightmare ... something I had conciously tried to avoid by using a dropoff in the first place ...

THE END ...

Here is a helpful checklist to use if you decide to use an eBay Dropoff:



Dodged answers to any of these questions should be looked at with skepticism. Some are tough questions for a business owner to answer honestly.


Credentials:

What did you do previously that qualifies you to list online auctions?

How long have you been in business as a dropoff?

Have you ever collected anything? (Collectors, hobbyists, enthusiasts are auction mentality and understand the value and salesmanship of the auction format)

What is your definition of the term "pop culture"?

Fees:

Your minimum & maximum percentage from an auction will be? (all fees included)

What has been your highest percent been thus far taken from a consigner's auction? Was that person happy with the split?

Have you ever had any problems with the way you divided up monies?

Can you show me a check or an actual breakdown of what you paid your last 3 customers?

If I sell a $100 item ... I want to know the least and most money I can expect to receive ...

Will you consider a flat rate? Meaning (inclusive of all fees) a certain percent ... 25% 30% 33%?

Do you pass eBay special listing savings on to me (the consigner)? (eBay sometimes has specials such as 1 cent buy it now fee or 1 cent listing fee day)

Payments:

From the day I bring an item in, what is the exact day I can expect my money ... say I bring something in today?

What incentive do I get ... if you cannot meet this date?

Do you have any fees for checks? Do you offer discounts for check pickup?

Do you accept credit cards directly?

Auctions:

What will be done with my item if it doesn't sell?

If you donate items, do you take a tax writeoff for your business or can you obtain a receipt for me?

Do you know about Freecycle?

Can you send a link to my auctions via email?

Are you aware of "the compete against yourself rule" - if too many of the same item is listed or ebay is saturated with an item ...my items may not get a premium

Shipping:

What do you charge for shipping?

Do you make any money from shipping?

Do you think shipping prices affect bid totals?

Do you insure your items?

* Footnotes: AuctionBytes.COM forum about eBay Dropoff Model Being Flawed