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Comment Happened to us too (Score 3, Interesting) 133

A US startup called "Bytemark" started trading in the UK (my hosting company has been around since 2002). Like an idiot I asked them to please change their name because it could cause some confusion. Until then I'd not considered trademark issues, and we finally filed for a trademark of our own. Of course they filed 2 weeks before us, after I'd sent my polite request. So 2 years and about £20,000 later (only finished just last month) we defeated their objection to our trademark at a hearing, and the trademark office gave us full rights over the name. If it hadn't gone that way we could have been harassed into changing our 10-year old brand name, especially if we'd gone into any new areas of business.

My takeaway from that is that if I start another business I'll take on registration of the UK, EU & possibly US trademark as a given before launching. But when you're just starting out, it is (at best) thousands of pounds that could really be put to better use.

Comment Amazon's competitors still leaving an open goal (Score 1) 258

So here are two experiences that made me think "screw this, I wish I'd shopped at Amazon". This may just be a UK-specfic experience, but...

1) Samsung Series 9 laptop from PC World, bought from their store in April, came with Windows 8 drivers (I think) that just never worked. Mouse pointer jerking around, it blue-screened within 5 minutes on one boot out of every two. I updated its drivers through Windows, through the Samsung driver update utility ... just hopeless. I tried to use it for about a month, trying to avoid reboots, but eventually gave up and took it back to the shop. Their nice assistant agreed it looked screwed, took it back, and after two phone calls their support people said that because I hadn't made a restore disc, they couldn't / wouldn't do anything with it, and it must have been my negligence that broke it. I am taking them to court for the £900 purchase price to get a refund, after I'd bought a different model ... at Amazon.

2) Bought a £150 model helicopter for a member of staff as a leaving present from Maplin (big electronics component & gadget store), to be delivered to his house. They make a picking error and deliver a completely different, much cheaper product. I call them and say, hey, you've made a mistake would you mind delivering the correct item. No. I must go over to the recipient's house, pick the item up, drive it to the store before they will acknowledge their mistake and get me what I ordered. They generously offer a freepost address for me to send the item back, but I must be sure to go to the post office and get a certificate of dispatch! [if you've never been to England this generally involves driving into town, queuing, finding it closed for lunch etc.]

I know from for 1) Amazon would take the item back without question, and I'd be confident enough ordering a replacement on the same day, giving me what I want sooner. And for 2) again, I know they would send the right item out without question and tell me to keep the mistake, it's nor worth the restocking fees.

So whenever I hear "Amazon driving retailers out of business" what I really hear is "Amazon showing how it's done by treating customers as honest & impatient, competitors continue to fuck it up". Amazon aren't even the cheapest, or even the easiest web site to find what you want, but I do know that they care about customers getting what they want quickly, and often that's why I'll pay a bit more.

Is this unfair to ALL OTHER retailers? Am I forgetting some intangible Amazon magic here?

Comment In the UK, debt collection is pretty easy (Score 3, Informative) 341

Step 1, send an invoice with clear payment terms.

Step 2, send one polite reminder maybe 7 days after the due date.

Step 3, send a Letter Before Action, with a further 7 day deadline (use a firm like thomashiggins.com to turn the legal wheels very cheaply)

Step 4, file a claim in the small claims court (again, thomashiggins.com are very good for this). It may take weeks but you can add interest and all the costs you've incurred.

The few times I've done this (as a consumer) the company has coughed up at some point just before or just after the court papers have gone in. For a truly hopelessly disorganised company this is the only escalation method that works.

The furthest it ever got was with Enterprise car rentals - I had a bailiff threaten to tow one of their vehicles before they would write a cheque.

This is all advice for uncontested debts - obviously if the company has a problem with the debt they may choose to represent themselves and argue the point, but if they were going to do that, they'd probably have engaged you first!

Comment Openstack is developed to smell like AWS (Score 1) 42

The "everyone should run our open (tm) software" plea. I'm not falling for it. No customer is demanding "cloud portability" because customers don't want to change ISP, ever. I just don't think portability of whole VM networks will ever be feasible on a technical level. Even if you could shuffle IPv4 addresses and masses of data around the whole internet between providers without down time, there's no incentive for ISPs to cooperate, or willingly turn themselves into a cheaper sub-brand of Rackspace. It would instantly put them at a competitive disadvantage. Your entire business model controlled by a competitor? You can go to Parallels for that; their software works out of the box, it will gladly migrate ISPs for you, and the per-customer fees are reasonable!

The customers who have sussed cloud portability already have it through tools like puppet, rigid version control, or a tightly-specced development environment supported by lots of ISPs (PHP, Java, .net - ish). The customers that don't have a portable setup won't magically get it through an "open" hosting API, they will be lashed to their current provider as they always have been.

Comment Re:Angry Birds (Score 1) 368

However, the basic gameplay mechanics are just so-so. It's just a physics simulation. The real problem is that there is such a massive luck factor involved. For example, when someone beats a difficult "level", what is the chance that they can actually reproduce their success in the exact same way? Pretty much impossible.

I think this just is the definition of a game you suck at ;-) And I think the reason it's successful isn't that it's luck based at all - sure you experiment, you learn, but eventually you succeed at clearing a level, and a skilled played _can_ repeat their performance. It's not unpredictable, but you do need skill. I bet 1980s-you would have liked it. It's like a streamlined Lemmings. It's definitely a classic, and apart from the reliance on touch screen, not a modern game design at all.

If you want to grumble about an evil modern game design, look at Jetpack fucking Joyride. It's skill-based, but makes the absolute minimum actual game in favour of a zillion metagames designed to bore you into "buying" progress. THAT is Satan's gaming, designed to be addictive, shallow and will take a few dollars off you as it goes. I'm sure there are worse examples.

Comment Re:What is the ARM bringing? (Score 1) 230

Yeah sorry I spotted the disparity too late. It's an ASUS 1025CE which has a spec of 1GB RAM and 320GB HDD, for £320. It's upgradeable to 4GB RAM, but because they forgot to cut a whole in the underneath, you have to take the bastard thing apart. The SSD was an Intel 80GB I had spare which I think goes for about £70-80 these days.

Linux i386 installs fine, but the "Cedar View" Intel graphics drivers are still hard to find packaged. The rest of the hardware worked with Ubuntu 12.04 just fine though.

Comment Re:Hey Microsoft, you know what we want? (Score 1) 351

My blog agrees with you :) I wrote the same thing in response to the Sony PS4 rumours which were just as dire - why aren't they keeping everyone trucking with a simple upgrade of the same machines - lots of RAM, the next generation of whatever graphics chip they bought the first time round. Users get a Xbox360+ or PS3.5, and a set of games with an "enhanced mode" for newer consoles. Developers get to breathe, use the same tools as they're just finished learning, and can put out higher quality titles for less effort. I don't see the down side, or what anyone Sony/MS can gain by throwing it all away again.

Comment If you want a baseline (Score 4, Informative) 225

Call up Cogent Communications. Ask them where the nearest carrier-neutral data centre is where they could give you a 100Mb transit connection and some simple IPv4 service (some small amount of PA space and a gateway), and how much it would cost you to use it all. That's roughly 25TB traffic, and about the smallest sensible amount of "wholesale" bandwidth you can purchase. Cogent are going to be quite cheap, and you'll be able to use the whole pipe. I'd imagine it'd be in the order of $500-1000 per month, so around 2-4c per gigabyte?

Then call that data centre and ask how for much they could co-locate a cheap 2U box (or if they have a customer who would rent you a small amount of rack space). Ask how much a cable run to Cogent would be.

Add it all up, and that's about as cheap as you can get it, at least starting from scratch. Even if you don't do this yet, you'll know how much other hosting companies are marking up what they sell. For comparison call Level3 for some "quality" bandwidth (you might need to ask for a reseller if you "only" want 100Mb). Or see how you feel about the costs of a second connection, BGP, ARIN membership and all that madness. You'll soon be your own ISP :-)

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