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Husqvarna: an experience in support hell April 30, 2016

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null.
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This is the story of a horrible support experience. It shows how choices made by a company can impact their customers and cast a very bad image on an otherwise good company with good products. This story shows what happens when a company think they are done with their customers once the sale happened. That’s a mistake. Selling should be the first milestone in a long journey…

Last summer, I decided to buy a lawn mowing robot. I had already bought other types of robots in the past, but they never quite did the job. But based on reviews, the lawn-mowing-type might be ready for prime-time. I don’t have a big garden at all, but during the week I work, on Saturday I have plenty of “catch-up” activities from the week and on Sunday … you are not allowed to mow in Switzerland… So my grass would grow, grow, making it clear that the next mowing session would be a true fight in the trenches, so… one more good reason to postpone even further… Anyway, after a careful review and selection process I went for the Husqvarna Automower 308, part of their their entry-level offering.

I did the setup and had it to work for the rest of the Summer 2015. It was a total success: no need to mow the lawn anymore, perfect cut, silent, etc. the ideal type of robot.

At the end of the Summer, I cleaned it, making sure not to use high-pressure water, but instead using a sponge and some (non running) water, being careful at not damaging it, following the advices of the user guide. Then I stored it in a dry place for the Winter.

Spring 2016, time comes to wake up my robot: I set it up again and… my robot shows signs of mad-cow disease: it starts moving and one of the wheel starts, stops, starts, stops, until the robot fully stops and beeps with a message: problem with the right wheel engine. Damned! How can a robot get damaged while sleeping in a basement?!? Especially after following the requirements set in the user guide!

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 13.43.00.png

Anyway, not only do goods in Switzerland automatically get a 2 years warranty by default, but I also bought a premium warranty service. I wasn’t quite sure what the premium warranty was for, candidly, but knowing I had bought the device from an online shop and this being an expensive buy, I thought it would probably not hurt to have a safety net.

So I contact the “premium” support company, Setronics, ship them the robot and wait for a reply (they’re supposed to give me feedback in the next 24h). No word, this worries me. So I contact them and here is the simple message I’m getting:

Nous avons recu une devis de Mower World.

Cette dégat ce une influence extérieure.La garantie est refusé.

Translating from (Swiss German) French to English:

We received a quote from Mower World

This damage has an external cause. The Warranty is refused.

And attached to the email, a detailed quote from a company called “Mower World“, with a repair cost of … Fr. 1’103.-, for a machine I bought (new) a few months ago for Fr. 1’490.-!

Let me dissect the situation for you:

  • The online shop, Galaxus.ch in that case, doesn’t handle support directly, the support goes to the company who sold me the “Premium” warranty, Sertronics.
  • Sertronics does NOT handle the repair themselves (at least for Husqvarna), they work with one of Husqvarna’s certified repair center, an independent company, in that case Mower World – it is NOT possible to send your device to Husqvarna, you must work with those independent certified shops.
  • Mower World decree that i) this is my fault and ii) I must replace ALL of the engines and ALL of the electronics, for a total worth 80% of a new model
  • The new equivalent model that replaces my 308 (the 308 is not being sold anymore, but the 105 is a carbon copy) is now sold by Galaxus.ch for … Fr. 1’107.-, the exact price of the repair 🙂

What goes through my brain at this point is that:

  • I know I properly handled my machine and cleaned it following the requirements of the user guide, so this machine should be repaired under warranty.
  • If some water indeed went into the machine, then it means something went wrong despite following Husqvarna’s advice

Furthermore, the quote from Mower World makes no sense to me. As an engineer, it just doesn’t compile. My robot is able to start, its onboard computer is fine (as I can interact with it), and I know that at least one of the engines is totally fine. So replacing ALL engines and the onboard computer just doesn’t pass the sniff test. I have a strong feeling: Mower World are either malicious or incompetent (being both requires distinct talent).

So I tell Sertronics that I’m really pissed, that Mower World’s quote makes no sense. Sertronics feels a bit uneasy about the situation. They understand they are sitting in-between two parties and are powerless. They offer me to send me back my machine as-is and wire me back the full amount I originally paid for the premium warranty. I accept and, a few days after, receive back my robot, still half-disassembled by the “repair” shop.

Since you can buy parts online, I decided I might as well repair the robot myself. So I fully disassemble it and, once at its core, observe that:

  • There is no obvious trace of water in it
  • All 3 engines seem absolutely fine, no corrosion whatsoever.
  • I spot some corrosion marks on the main board, corrosion which in all likelihood short-circuits the “legs” of at least one component: the one that connects to … the right wheel!

Those engines receive power (forward, backward), but also include sensors to indicate how much resistance they encounter. My 15-seconds theory is that if there is indeed a short-circuit between those pins on the board, as soon as the IC sends the signal to power the wheel, the same signal is received as an indication that resistance is found, hence it blocks the engine. Self feedback-loop, hence the mad-cow disease behavioor. The scenario intuitively makes a lot of sense to me.

So I reach out to a friend of mine, superstar engineer in electronics, and ask for his advice. He spots the corrosion and offers to do a proper cleaning job (thinner and an old toothbrush, followed by an inspection with a stereo microscope).

This morning, I put back the board in the robot, assembled the whole thing and… it works. None of the 3 engines were damaged and the IC board wasn’t out of order.

Where does that leave me? Several observations:

  • The quote from Mower World was clearly very wrong. While I can understand they are not engineers, hence wouldn’t play with thinner and a microscope, fine, but they should have at most replaced the electronic board. I have absolutely no idea how they reached the logical conclusion that all 3 engines had to be replaced. They did what I’d consider an extremely unprofessional job, this is insulting to customers. I’d never ever work with a company like that.
  • Since there was no trace of water in the robot, but there were traces of corrosion on the board, water must have made its way somehow, but NOT in any significant quantity. At this point, my assumption is that they made it (item 22, page 4, here) through a “hole”, probably built to evacuate heat, that sits just next to the board. But that’s just an assumption.
  • I find it shocking that a 3rd party company with no obvious tech skills get to decide whether the warranty applies or not in Husqvarna’s name, that’s putting a lot of faith in a partner network…
  • It has not been clear to me what was the advantage to taking a “premium” service contract with Sertronics, since, at least in that case, their sole purpose has been to forward my box to another provider and forward e-mails between two parties. Despite this lack of usefulness, I thank them for having offered to at least wire back the money for the premium warranty, probably realising they were playing no role whatsoever in that transaction.

But truth be told, the lack of competence of a small local repair shop doesn’t bother me too much, we are all used to this. My biggest problem is this one: what is Husqvarna’s role in all of this? They are totally absent from this picture! They’ve decided to delegate their support issues to 3rd party repair shops, and get rid of any relationship with customers. What message does that send? Instead, they “certify” repair centers and probably hope for those to do a decent job. But are they regularly verifying the quality and ethic of those shops? Are they asking for feedback on recurring issues impacting their devices? Or are they completely blind to what happens in the field and just sell spare parts at a high margin? In my case, I know for a fact that I’ve properly followed all advices from their user guide. So there must be a weakness in their sealing. But what can I do about it? I’m forced dealing with 3rd parties that have a clear incentive NOT to make those machines more robust: they make a living out of damaged goods.

In my opinion, this awful customer experience boils down to one simple thing: Husqvarna explicitly chose to not interact with customers, not be in touch with the field, but instead delegate what should otherwise be their product feedback-loop to 3rd parties whose business interest is at odd with Husqvarna’s and customers’ interests.

I’ll be forwarding this blog entry to Husqvarna and update this post with their feedback. If any…

Onward,

Sacha

P.S.: For the complete story, once I heard they wouldn’t fix it under warranty and since I didn’t know how much time it would take me to fix the robot, I bought a new one (105) and installed it. Galaxus.ch was nice and offered a discount on the newly bought device. Now that I have fixed it, I’m going to make good use of it and offered it.

 

RHT FY10: great results – yet… March 25, 2010

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, Finance.
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RHT just posted its FY10 results and they are very good and this, despite a weak US+EU economy and weak USD currency during that period.

Yet, some analysts have been negative about it and, consequently, after-hours trading was down -3.x%.

The best comment is probably from Katherine Egbert (Jefferies & Co), who wrote “They gave a conservative forecast. Given that the economy is in recovery and IT spending is improving, the question is why,”. You are wondering why?!? Where did you see that the economy is in recovery? Homes sales have hit their record low, unemployment rate has hit its record high, IT spending for SMB is low and will only marginally increase in 2010, etc.

The economy is doing fine, the economy is doing fine, the economy is doing fine… It seems Mr. Coué still has quite a few adepts.

Quickies… Roubini, SAP and Java, anatomy. November 16, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, English.
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Is the economy really doing better? We keep getting “positive” information from official sources, but Roubini isn’t that convinced it seems:

Think the worst is over? Wrong. Conditions in the U.S. labor markets are awful and worsening. While the official unemployment rate is already 10.2% and another 200,000 jobs were lost in October, when you include discouraged workers and partially employed workers the figure is a whopping 17.5%.

While losing 200,000 jobs per month is better than the 700,000 jobs lost in January, current job losses still average more than the per month rate of 150,000 during the last recession.

Also, remember: The last recession ended in November 2001, but job losses continued for more than a year and half until June of 2003; ditto for the 1990-91 recession.

Ouch, not good, but much more in line with my intuitive perception of the market situation.

On a more positive note, a blog post by Vishal Sikka from SAP (as discussed on TSS) asking ORCL to put Java in a proper foundation à la Eclipse. Most commentators focus on the MySQL part of the SUN/MySQL deal, but the Java aspect is much more important: Java is a much bigger ecosystem than MySQL is and will ever be, impacting about half of the new applications developed in the world. Consequently, I am very happy to see SAP step up and make a public promise on its Java investment in case ORCL behaves. My only criticism to SAP? JCP EC members are not supposed to publicly disclose information discussed during the EC meeting – which Vishal Sikka did in his blog – not classy.

Last but not least, a Russian artist shows his “deep” understanding of women’s anatomy. Very impressive.

Weight and cultural differences September 4, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, English.
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This week I was in Chicago in order to attend the common JBoss World/Red Hat Summit event and it was a great opportunity to meet with many friends and colleagues I hadn’t seen for a long time.

During those reunions, I realized that the most frequent comment I’d get related to … my weight. “Everybody” would tell me that I looked great and that I had lost weight! Hey, that’s good to hear! Well, until I realized that they were all either European or American and that I met with an ex-Chinese colleague who told me: “Oh, you look good, didn’t you take on some weight?”…

Truth be told, since I left RHT, I have the exact same weight 😉

Boycotting Tamoil August 28, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, Cars, English, Regional.
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In case you haven’t followed Kadhafi’s latest story, it is uterly shocking. Having our Swiss president officially apologies over Kadhafi son’s arrest is hard to swallow. Let’s call it an example of “realpolitik”.

Consequently, I decided to boycott the Tamoil oil station network, owned by the Kadhafi family. My action will obviously have no material impact but it is a matter of principle, pour la forme.

Mac OS X Snow Leopard “shipping” today… August 28, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, English, IT.
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Apple has had an impressive ride in the last 8 years and is now the obvious leader in distributing all possible digital entertainment bits: from songs to movies, from iPhone applications to online courses, Apple is leading the pace.

Except… except if you want to buy their latest OS cut: Snow Leopard. I find it amazing that in 2009 Apple is not selling an electronic version of Mac OS X (on their iTunes Store for example). In that area, MSFT is clearly one step ahead of Apple since you can not only buy downloadable version of their OSes, but also of their office suite.

The absence of an electronic version of Mac OS X just doesn’t compute. Any idea why they don’t have one?

Google Maps under attack?!? August 18, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, IT.
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Despites their huge R&D staff, and outside of their search/ads engine, I always thought that very little (usable) innovation came out of Google’s R&D centers: most of the tools you’re using on a daily basis are the refinement of external acquisitions (ok, ok, they’ve build an AJAX mail and calendar interface as well… which I hope didn’t require thousands of engineers). Anyway, Google Maps is one of those external acquisitions that I like very much.

One of the problems I have with Google Maps though is how (un-)recent street information and satellite pictures are. For example, while relatively recent, the block of three building where I live isn’t mentioned on the map, and show as a bucolic field on the satellite view. But I can insure you the place where I live does indeed exist and that Switzerland isn’t lacking any satellite activity. So I am always looking for a better alternative. MSFT’s Bing Maps has even worse maps, same for the franco-french Géoportail which is probably fine for France but not for anywhere else (including Switzerland). At a time when we want everything to be “on-demand” with the best possible accuracy, isn’t it strange that we keep using out-dated information (sometimes as long as 4 years old) for geo-located activities?!? It seems that because Google Maps UI and API are good, we don’t care relying on outdated information.

Consequently, when I saw the flurry of news related to Indian-government service providing a serious competitor to Google Maps, ni une, ni deux, I jumped on my mouse to be one of the first to use Bhuvan, the revolution in action!

One of Bhuvan advertised features is that it is well suited for people with a low-bandwidth Internet access – which still represents a large proportion of Internet users. Well, actually, I quickly realized you were supposed to read this differently and that a better phrasing was: “no need to have a fast Internet connection, Bhuvan’s web site is so slow that you won’t need it”. Anyway, after a few nervous clicks, I still couldn’t see any high quality map. AJAX-on-demand-junkie that I am, I didn’t realize that in order to use Bhuvan, I had to:

  • download a Windows-only/IE-only plugin (I got lucky and was able to download it at 8kb/s)
  • register on the web site and share my name, phone number, e-mail, location, etc.

OK, so it is fine to have a low-bandwidth Internet connection, but you’d better have a recent Windows installed and no fear of sharing your personal information with the Indian government. Anyway, those are just details compared to the grand revolution I was about to take part in. So I switched to my Windows laptop, installed the plugin and gave away my personal information.

Once done, I zoomed onto Switzerland and … And, nothing. What was only mentioned in some articles, and certainly not in their title, is that Bhuvan aims at becoming a Google Maps competitor but … “only” for India (which, I agree, do represent a big chunk of the planet). OK, my bad, I should always read the fine prints. Since I am a “citoyen du monde“, I decided to put myself in the shoes of an Indian citizen and zoom in some random places in India. Result? Not good. At all. At first, I thought more detailed maps were being slowly streamed to my machine, but no, all available information was already there, in my “browser” (i.e. more precisely a .Net widget running inside IE, developped by … a US company).

So, is Bhuvan a serious competitor to Google Maps? If you are a Windows and IE user, do not mind installing third-party binaries and sharing personal information with the Indian Government, care only about Indian maps and do not care about detailed maps: yes, it is a serious contender. Otherwise, it is not.

I know, I look like I am not being fair picking up exclusively on Bhuvan’s defficiencies. Truth is that I love the idea that a government-funded entity shows value by making the result of some of its investments accessible to its citizens. This happens too rarely. But what I didn’t like was the big media buzz they initiated, painting themselves at the “Google Maps killer”. My advice: stay humble and if you are to make such strong statements, you’d better be ready. If not, what was initially a great initiative will just make you look bad. In the good spirit of Open Source, maybe they should have done a simple press release, grown their community, fixed their bugs and technical defficiencies and, in a few years time, let the “community” state that their prefer Bhuvan to Google Maps, that would be a real win. Next time maybe…

Onward,

Sacha

J’ai lu pour vous: “Chroniques de la main courante” August 16, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, Français.
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Comme indiqué précédemment, j’ai donc lu pour vous “Chroniques de la main courante“ de Serge Reynaud.

Cet ouvrage est composé d’une multitude (plusieurs dizaines) d’histoires, présentées comme autant de chapitres, les plus courtes tiennent sur une page, les plus longues sur cinq ou six. Et, étonnamment, c’est là l’un des attraits de ce livre: ce livre se promène partout, et se consomme par petites bouchées. Livre idéal du parent en vacances (qui n’est donc pas réellement en vacances) et qui peut donc se lire une petite histoire sans crainte de devoir re-contextualiser les 18 pages précédentes (“Mais qui était John déjà?… Le mari ou l’amant de Marie… ah oui, son père.”).

Si vous avez visité et apprécié le site web de Serge Reynaud, vous ne serez aucunement dépaysé: les histoires du livre sont exactement du même acabit. D’ailleurs, un certain nombre des histoires présentent dans le livre sont en réalité une sélection des meilleurs histoires disponibles sur le site web (une méthode efficace pour rentabiliser quelque peu son travail).

Évidemment, si vous lisez exclusivement de la “Grande Littérature”, ce livre n’est pas pour vous, car là n’est tout simplement pas sa vocation. Néanmoins, j’ai été surpris par la qualité d’écriture d’un certain nombre d’histoires: on est loin du rapport de police et plus proche du roman. Dès lors, ce qui m’a  étonné a été la grande différence de qualité d’écriture entre certaines histoires. Ainsi, d’une histoire à l’autre, on peut passer d’un français simple, presque tutoyé, à un très bel écrit avec une description des “personnages” et des sentiments fort bien étayée. Dès lors, je ne sais pas si Serge Reynaud a écrit toutes les histoires ou si il a joué le rôle d’agrégateur des histoires de plusieurs auteurs (lui inclu, bien évidemment). Si c’est le cas, une précision serait utile car elle permettrait de mieux comprendre les différences stylistiques et de de niveau rencontrées.

Conclusion: si vous êtes encore en vacances, n’hésitez pas et commandez ce livre rafraîchissant et sans arrogance aucune.

(Dirty little secret: si vous aimez lire aux toilettes, hésitez encore moins: la taille des chapitres font de ce livre un candidat idéal pour vos WC.)

Onward,

Sacha

Des polices de caractères… July 27, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, Français.
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Au détour de blogs que je parcours de temps à autre, je suis tombé il y a quelques mois sur celui d’un policier qui inventorie les histoires de ses collègues, celles “qui en valent la peine” du moins. Petites histoires sans prétention souvent pleines d’humour, de vérité et parfois de désespérante réalité.

Bref, “Police – Histoires” est un blog dont je vous recommande la lecture. Et venant de ma part, un être fort critique à toute notion d”autorité, c’est la preuve que ce blog est rempli d’humanité.

Tiré de ces histoires, un livre vient d’être publié, “Chroniques de la main courante“. Je l’ai commandé et vous en donnerai des nouvelles une fois sa lecture achevée.

Onward,

Sacha

Up and Down (and up) July 19, 2009

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Last Thursday, weather was great, about 30°C (86°F), I was covered with sunscreen and swimming in the nearby lake.

This Saturday, I wake up wondering weather I could go swimming again. Bad idea: it was 3°C (37°F) and … snowing.

things are much better now...

Things are much better this morning and snow has melted (specialists are still debating whether recovery will be in V shape, W shape or U shape).

Onward,

sacha

Lingua Franca July 19, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null.
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1.2b people speak Mandarin, 422m speak Arabic, 366m speak Hindi, 322 speak Spanish.

onward!

Anyway, this summer, I decided to learn a new language and took my first Rumantsch class, the fourth official Swiss language, spoken by an impressive 61,815 persons last time the government checked in 2000 (count me in now, that’s 61,816).

To be totally accurate, the so called Rumantsch language (or Rhéto-Romanche), is split in … five quite different idioms. The one I’m learning is called Surmiran, spoken by about 2,200 persons. My résumé will really be  unique now.

Onward,

Sacha

P.S.: Before you call on my sanity, you might want to know that my wife speaks Rumantsch very fluently (it is her mother’s mother tongue) and that we spend quite a decent amount of time every year in the part of the Alps where this language is spoken. I’d call that “social integration” 🙂

So, what’s up JBoss? June 8, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, IT, JBoss.
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For the last 8 years, JavaOne has been an important time in the year. A lot of product activity would focus on this deadline. Except for this year actually: I realized JavaOne was over just 48h ago…Well, I had a good excuse as I was extensively working on a new framework. No worries, I am not working on a new ORM or web presentation layer, but helping a friend on some “real stuff”:

So, I did a quick check of the recent JBoss announcement and discovered the “JBoss Open Choice” tagline, which included several announcements.

The most important ones were about the split of the good old JBoss AS in three distinct cuts:

  • Full EE profile (with IIOP, full JTS support, etc.)
  • Web profile (similar to the future EE6 profile but applied to EE5)
  • Simple Web server – this is really Apache httpd and Tomcat and a bunch of mod_xxx Apache modules but available for multiple OS – not only RHEL

Engineering wise, they are mostly cuts at the same codebase (which is great QE – and patch- wise – less cost) but from a business standpoint, it offers more flexibility to the user. You can see this as the first axis of a two-axis grid.

Then, on the second axis, Red Hat now supports a bunch of frameworks typically used in enterprise applications such as Struts and Spring.

As a result of these two axis, these frameworks are available à la carte on all of the runtime cuts. I like this a lot.

As a reaction to this announcement, Rod Johnson from SpringSource posted a lengthy reply explaining how RHT was reacting to SpringSource’s leadership… A few notes are in order:

  • JBoss has had a flexible architecture allowing all kind of setup (from a simple embedded micro-kernel) to a full fledge certified EE5 application server since 2001 – so the “tc” architecture if anything is just 7 years late (tc was released last year)
  • The various AS cuts are here to make customer work easier and provide various price tag – SS didn’t invent the notion of a “small server”, actually they can only be a “small server” since they lack the other pieces required to be anything else.
  • “SpringSource leadership blablabla”… Yes, congratulations on the Open Source Spring framework, it now catches on the popularity of Struts, so RHT should definitively try to make money on it – still I fail to see how this translates in any particular SS’s leadership? Is that a revenue/booking metric? number of tc-server customers? Spring != SpringSource.
  • Tomcat and its suburbs is what it is today thanks to the work of the Tomcat community, including the amazing work done in the last 6 years by people like Rémy Maucherat, Jean-Frédéric Clere and Mladen Turk – all RHT employees. It seems that SS is fast to hijack laurels.

Truth is that I just don’t think the market needs a new runtime – especially if it doesn’t add any meaningful feature:


"tc Server" Job Trends graph

“tc Server” Job Trends “tc Server” jobs

So, is this a “reactive move”? Yeah, possibly, even though I would more accurately call it an “opportunistic move”. I am glad RHT is agile enough to lead in so many ways but yet, jump on side opportunities when they make sense. Not doing so would be a puerile and misplaced sense of pride: 4 or 5 years ago, if BEA had properly reacted to the JBoss threat, I am not sure JBoss would have become what it is today.

Onward,

Sacha

Ping… April 26, 2009

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I’ve been away from the office for 4 weeks now and I am still alive – probably my European genes.

I started jogging, organizing my apartment, hunting down the contractors so that they finish their job, etc. Bottom line: I am busy.

In the meantime, on the IT market, things haven’t been quiet either. To that end, I’d like to thank Larry for two things: i) changing the IT landscape in RHT’s favor (and probably, as  a side effect, initiating a M&A domino effect – but that’s another story) and ii) having waited my departure from RHT to do so, that was very kind.

Also, I’ve initiated a few things in the past weeks and will provide updates through this blog in the comming weeks.

Should I fire my banker? March 9, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, Finance.
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He looks too much like he knows what he is speaking about… that ain’t a good sign…

DVD collection: be my Google! February 16, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, IT.
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I am spending some time these days (actually week-ends…) trying to understand what’s the best way to move from a horrible collection of DVD to a sequence of 1 and 0, stored on a hard drive, which I can then play from various location (read: what’s the best way to watch movies  in the 21st century).

(Just for the record, this is all about PAID DVDs, paid content (I’ve those ugly DVD boxes filling my place) – so all of this IS legal.)

I am trying to find a solution which:

  • keeps content in an “open” format (i.e. not a proprietary or encrypted format)
  • keeps maximum quality (i.e. I want the initial copy to be a “master” which I can later format-convert if needed)
  • reduce the IQ required to process new DVDs
  • provides a nice GUI once you actually want to consume those bits

Easier said than done. I’ve actually done my homework quite well, but I still have some doubts or things I haven’t been able to figure out.

So I figure out I would share those with you in case you have experiences you can share as well. Once my solution will be ready, I’ll obviously report it here in great details – I’ve already had several requests from people wondering about the same thing.

Questions:

  • There are plenty of well organized CD databases that exist so that you can get the list of the songs, picture of the CD, etc. when you rip those. Such as what iTunes is doing. Question: does the same thing exist for DVDs? BTW, I am asking for a TRUE solution based on a UID, not some ugly tool using web-scrapping algorithm to match the DVD name to some name-related movieon Amazon.com.
  • Are you aware of any decent ripping software (Windows or Linux) which will automatically open-the-dvd-tray/get the real movie name (see above)/rip the DVD in a folder named according to the movie name/eject the DVD; and this for multiple drives in the same system? If not, I’ll have to code it, fine, but I hate NYH syndromes.
  • Have you tried the TVIX HD M-6500A device? If yes, what are your thoughts on it?
  • What ripping format is best for a “master”: ISO or direct copy of the DVD structure in a folder (content of TS_VIDEO)? I know there are no quality differences, I am just wondering which one might be preferred for other reasons (size, easier to consumme by devices, etc.)
  • Thoughts on the NetGear ReadyNAS NV+? or on the ReadyNAS Pro?

<rant>

Oh, and remember one thing, I live in Europe (Switzerland), which means that unlike in the USA, there are no decent ways to buy your movie content directly in electronic format from a 3rd party. While some ISP or telco do provide some kind of offering – it never reaches anything close to a decent specialized shop.

It seems the movie industry still doesn’t really understand what “ease-of-consumption” means. They missed the market-flip from Audio-CD to online-mp3-shops and instead prefered to complain during years that their content was being hacked on peer-to-peer network (also known as “listening to the radio” IMHO) instead of keeping the leadership by doing it themselves. Will the same drama happen for Video content? What is sure is that they are clearly not answering the needs of a growing portion of their market. How come I have to spend so much engineering time to design such a simple solution? Instead, what I am trying to achieve should be the de facto way of obtaining content.

</rant>

Thanks for your help, comments are open!

Onward,

sacha

I’ve tested for you: Do sport cars attract women? December 16, 2008

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, Cars.
20 comments

porsche911turboI can be considered as a reasonable car-lover (actually, I can be considered “reasonable” for anything – I am Swiss). So a few months back, I decided to satisfy an old dream and buy a Porsche 911 Turbo (a used one – I am “reasonable”). It was the perfect model, the perfect color, the perfect price and, more than anything, the perfect age: at 33, you cannot be accused of going through your mid-life crisis. Bottom line: the perfect Swiss-situation, flying under the radar.

As soon as I got my car (it was sometimes this summer), most of my friends asked me “So, does it work with women? I mean… you know…” Great question, and yes, I know what you mean.

For complete disclosure, I am the perfectly happy husband of a wonderful wife who i) thinks cars are cans with wheels, ii) vote on the left of the left and iii) elegantly hides her face with her hair when there is no choice but to use my capitalistic car to go some place. Hence, if my wife had to be the first women to go through my test, it would have been a total failure.

Now, after a few months of somehow scientific testing, I am ready to report two essential findings:

  • Sport cars do NOT attract women;
  • Sport cars DO attract 8 years old boys.

And this is not based on mixed-results: sport cars (Porsche at least) had no impact whatsoever on women (so inexistant that I don’t even need to define what “impact” means – nada, zero). On the other hand, 8 years old boys are totally CRAZY about them. They know everything about them and could easily trade “2 months without watching TV” against “a bumpy ride”. A friend of mine even had his son organize a ride with one of his buddies the day they had a school-organized event at a theater. Obviously, I was asked to stop the car “just in front of the theather” so they could be well visible 🙂

My wife must be right, I am like an 8 years old sometimes…

Onward,

Sacha

P.S.: for sake of completeness, I must add that my daughter Eva – she is two years old – loves my car and the noise it makes. She could even recognize the Porsche logo on a piece of paper and associate it with “la voiture de papa” when she was 18 months.  Based on that, I’ll try to determine when females starts totally ignoring sport cars.

Official Protest: Time to wake-up pmarca December 12, 2008

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null.
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It has been 4 months now that Marc Andressen announced a “quick blog break update” which leads us to a 7-months period with no real content.

I used to be an avid reader of his blog and in those disturbed time, I am sure his blog would have been very infotaining to read.

Onward Marc, Onward!

Sacha

Meme(me) October 1, 2008

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null.
4 comments

From Shaun:
1. Take a picture of yourself right now.
2. Don’t change your clothes, don’t fix your hair…just take a picture.
3. Post that picture with NO editing.
4. Post these instructions with your picture.

NE – E-Administration is there! Well, not quite everywhere… June 28, 2008

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, Regional.
2 comments

In Neuchâtel, pretty much all public parking slots are now time limited (in order to incent people to go down town using public transportations and probably also because cars are increasingly considered as evil in this 21st century). However, if you do live down town and have a car, you can pay a yearly fee and obtain a certificate that permit parking in the street where you live with no time limit. Fine.

Recently, I thought about obtaining such a “parking certificate” from the local authority. So I went there and the dialog went pretty much like that:

  • Hello, I’d like to get a parking certificate.
  • OK, no problem. I will need a copy of your certificate of establishment [1] and a copy of your car certificate.
  • OK, but, I know the ID number of my car and I know my name, so why do you need copies of documents you have in the computer next to you?
  • Well, but I need to build up a folder with all of that information and send it for approval
  • Sure, but if I give you my name and car ID, you can check all of that information, put it in an e-mail and we are done in 5 minutes
  • What?!? You want me to do this work for you?
  • Huh… yes…
  • But, I am telling you I need paper copies that I can forward somewhere else?
  • OK, whatever…

This very 19th’ish century discussion took place in 2008, in a canton who was the first one to provide online e-voting (and a bunch of online administration services). Better, all information that person needed is already online: the identity check has been on the police intranet for more than a decade (hey, that is their job after all!) and the car ID validation is publicly available on the Internet. Bottom line, in 2008 some still think that stapling together fakable paper copies of official documents proves more efficient and secure than an online verification against live data.

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” [2]

Onward,

Sacha

[1] Document proving that you are living where you say you are living.

[2] General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army as quoted by Tom Peters in Reimagine, DK 2003.

Flight of the Conchords November 27, 2007

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null.
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Not sure if you know the band “Flight of the Concords”, they are very good and very funny.

You can find many of their filmed performances on Google Video, here is a good one:

  • But do you remember what you said to me?
  • Not word for word actually, Jenny, but I remember there were some verbs…

And if you are a true romantic, this one is for you: