Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Segway Failure

I saw a youngman riding his Segway today. He must thought he was really cool for riding his human transporter, while we had to use our own legs to walk.

For those who are not familiar with Segway, it was ranked the Worst tech of Q2 2006 by CNET. It was after Apple's co-founder Steve Wozniak tried to popularize a new sport of combining the dorkiness of riding a Segway with the snobbery of a polo match called "Segway Polo".

A few minutes later, the Segway stopped and almost threw the youngman off from it. He tried to restart the thing, but it would not work, as if it was telling the youngman "use your own legs, you lazy pretentious douchebag".

The youngman had to push his Segway to where ever he was going:

segway failure 1

segway failure 2

segway failure 3

Moments like this, I am so glad I had my Canon with me.

The segways should be as costly as cheap airline tickets so that people start appreciating their legs. Naturally one needs a spirit airline or the northwest airline to get across america, and the indian airlines to get as far as south east asia, but surely our legs should be more than enough to take us a few blocks away.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

CamelBak's Broken Zipper

About four years ago, I bought a CamelBak Blowfish hydration pack from REI. Recently the zipper teeth on the outer pocket have worn out so that it would not close completely. I have read the warranty information posted CamelBak’s website, the reservoir itself has lifetime warranty, and the pack only has two years.

Since there is nothing else wrong with the pack, except the zipper, I called CamelBak (800-767-8725) and left a message stating that I understand my pack has expired from it’s warranty, but I would like to know if they could refer me to somewhere to get the zipper repaired.

A week went by; I did not get any response from CamelBak.

Last Thursday, I brought the pack to REI and hoping they would know somewhere I can get it repaired. Rebecca, the cashier at the counter, gave me phone numbers to CamelBak and a place in Seattle specializes in outdoor equipment repairs.

I thanked her and walked to the merchandise section to call CamelBak and the place in Seattle. While I was on my mobile phone, Jeff (the store manager) walked by and asking if I needed some help. I once again explained to him about my CamelBak’s zipper.

This is the part that I was very impressed with Jeff and REI:
Without any hesitation, he grabbed a new CamelBak Blowfish from the display rack, told me that he would credit me the pack’s original price of $59.99 and all I need to do is pay the $10 price difference for the newer model.

A brand new CamelBak Blowfish for only $10?! I could not believe it! For only $10, he has saved me the hassle of either dealing with CamelBak or having to wait between 4 to 6 weeks for my repair.

After my recent dealing with Creative Labs, I feel REI indeed deserved an honorable mention here for their superb customer service, and I am very glad I have purchased my product from them.

Monday, July 17, 2006

What is your English name?

Several years ago, there was an American classmate of mine used initials of his first and middle names as his name. One day he asked if I could give him an equivalent name in Chinese. Unfortunately, his initials were:

B. T.

Which phonetically sounded very close the Chinese phrase for “snot”.

This social and cultural brouhaha is not simply one-sided. I have always thought my name “Tian” would be easy enough for Westerners to pronounce. “T” as in “t-shirt” and add on “ian”, which there is already an English name called “Ian”. Yet, I have been referred as “Tee-yang”, “Ty-ang”, or “Ty-an”. One of my own advisors for almost three years has been calling me somewhere between “teen” to “tin”.

Of course, my personal favorite: “Tina”.

videos: YouTube, Revver, or 24.1 MB Quicktime

Consequentially, many Westerners cannot pronounce Chinese names, thus Chinese people are slowly to adapt both Chinese and English names. My good friend Jeremy Goldkorn of Danwei.org (and Danwei.tv) along with Sophie have decided to explore the interesting phenomenon about how the Chinese choose their English names.

By the way, Sophie’s Chinese equivalent "Su Fei" is culturally connected with a brand of feminine hygiene products.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

My Creative MuVo C100 Story

Update: July 25, 2006 - Two weeks after I initially wrote about my experience with Creative's technical service department, I got my new Creative MuVo C100 replacement today from them.

creative muvo c100

July 13, 2006 - This morning I got a call from Chris Brown, Team Leader of Creative Technical Support. He said that he was instructed by his director to personally take care of my issue after my email to Creative's Public Relations Department was passed down.

During our conversation, Chris was very courteous and professional. He has apologized on behalf of Creative and its technical support department for providing me with incorrect information regarding their policy.

A few minutes later, I was issued a RMA number, waived the $25 non-refundable fee, free shipping label, and Creative will replace my MuVo C100 free of charge.

July 12, 2006 - I would like to thank everyone for your suggestions and support.

I have emailed my experience with Creative Customer/Technical Support to Phil O'Shaughnessy (Senior Director of Corporate Communications), Lara B. Vacante (Senior Public Relations Manager), and Katie Meyer (Public Relations Specialist).

I was not able to find contact information for George Thorn (Director of Worldwide Developer Relations) and Steve Lamberti (Associate Director of Services).

Hopefully I will hear something back from them.

Original Posting: July 12, 2006

In November 2004, I have purchased a Creative MuVo C100 mp3 player. There were several reasons I decide to purchase a mp3 player by Creative instead of its competitors. Mainly it were its design and functionality.


MuVo C100 has 256 MB of built-in memory storage as well as an expansion slot for SD cards. It used standard AAA sized battery, its display was large, buttons were easy to operate, and it also had FM radio receiver.


It was a great mp3 player.

Recently in mid June of this year, my MuVo’s display stopped function properly. The blue colored background light is on and the player still played music, but there is no text to show song titles, play list, and time. It was like an Apple iPod Shuffle but was cheaper with extra functions.


I contacted Creative via its website about getting my player repaired. After filling in detailed information about myself and the mp3 player, I received my first reply from Doug (15589) of Creative Americas Customer/Technical Support on June 30th stating that it was a firmware issue. Doug suggested me to download the latest firmware from Creative’s website and give it a try.

I emailed Creative Technical Support back indicating Doug’s updating the firmware suggestion did not work.

Kelvin, another Creative tech support person, replied to my email saying since my product has “exceeded its 3 month labor warranty period” and a “non-refundable $25.00 diagnostics and handling fee would be required”, plus any cost of repair over the $25, I will have to pay as well.

“Why not,” I thought to myself. $25 sounded reasonable enough; after all, my MuVo C100 is over one year old.

In order to receive a RMA, Return Merchandise Authorization, I had to once again provide all the information about myself and my mp3 player which I have already done when I contacted them at the first place.

A few days later, Jason (tech support person #3 from Creative) emailed me back denying my RMA request based on “the product is EOSL, End of Service Life”. He also suggested purchasing a “30-minute Creative Tutor session for $12.99”, where I will be talking to a tech support person on the phone, go through all the procedure of “diagnostics” and eventually conclude “yep, the display on your mp3 player is not working, you will need to send it in”.

According to Creative’s Frequent Asked Question page about EOSL:

A product will reach its end of service life at a minimum of 3 years from its initial shipping date. Products are deemed EOSL when we are no longer able to provide hardware or software support. This may be due to a lack of available replacement inventory or parts and also advancements in technology and operating systems.

I find Jason’s claim hypocritical since the same player is still available for sale on Creative’s website and no where near the “minimum of 3 years”.

When I pointed this out to Jason, he did not reply back, instead it was Tim and he insisted that I should purchase the $12.99 Creative Tutor session. Within two weeks, multiple tech support persons from Creative have provided me with complete different responses.

Feeling frustrated, I replied back to Creative and this time I have also copied my feedback to “Creative Experience”, asking why is it so difficult for me to receive a RMA for my repair? And, if I was to be hassled around, at least the tech support people can do is too keep all their stories straight.

As of right now, my Creative MuVo C100 is still broken. There are no more responses from Creative’s technical support, probably I may have been black-listed as a "trouble customer" by them.

With 80% of mp3 player market share is currently controlled by Apple’s iPod and multiple companies are making portable mp3 players, one would think Creative would do a better job of keeping its current customers happy, perhaps they would purchase more products by Creative.

Although my experience with Creative technical support could be an isolated incident, it still lingers over my mind. Hopefully this story about my experience with Creative will be picked up by Boingboing, Digg, or any other media organizations, and then Creative would eventually learn a thing or two about customer service.

Related Customer Support Stories: Cancelling AOL, Comcast fires Technician, Thomas Hawk battles PriceRitePhoto, Class action lawsuit against Apple about iPod's battery, Dell's run around

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Iraqi Donkey Love

videos: windows media 7 MB, mirror1, mirror2

Martin forwarded this video clip titled "Making of an Insurgent" from YouTube to me.

In Nov. 13, 2004, via infrared and night vision equipment, U. S. troops in Iraq observed a male Iraqi having sex with what appears to be a female donkey.

Since the original video was boring, I have decided to "jazz it up" with the soundtrack "Bad Touch", also known as "Discovery Channel", by The Bloodhound Gang.

Monday, July 10, 2006

HOWTO: Copy a Movie DVD

Let us assume you have a large archive of movie DVDs, which you have purchased legitimately, and you would like to keep duplicate copies of them. If you just place the discs in a DVD writer directly and trying to create duplicates that way, you probably will not succeed due to the encryption mechanisms embedded into the discs. Most of the so-called “one click DVD copying” softwares I have tested do not work, or the quality of finished disc is simply terrible.

First, you will need to remove the encryption mechanism known as CSS (Content Scramble System).

dvd decrypter

There are many DVD decryption softwares available on the internet, and most reliable ones are DVD Decrypter and DVDFab Decrypter. What the decryption software does is to remove copy protection from all the files within the DVD, typically about 4.5 GB, and save them onto the computer’s hard drive.

In most movie DVDs, there are only two directories in them. One is “AUDIO_TS”, which is usually empty. The other is “VIDEO_TS” which has many files with extensions including .IFO, .BUP, and .VOB. The .IFO files are DVD information files, which stores information about chapters, subtitles, and audio tracks. BUP files are just backups of IFO files. VOB (DVD Video Object) contains the actual video and audio contents.

nero burning rom dvdvideo1_dvd

Once the encryption is removed, you are now able to use any DVD writing software (i.e. Nero) to copy these decrypted files onto a recordable DVD disc. By keeping all the files in the VIDEO_TS directory, the duplicate would play just like the original DVD including those annoying FBI and MPAA warnings.

Related: Frequently Awkward Questions for RIAA and MPAA, RipIt4Me, AnyDVD, CloneDVD, DVD Shrink

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Shop At Home #1001-2461

video: windows media 2.39 MB

This salesman from Shop At Home tries to sell a Kodak Easyshare Z730 with a printer for $379.95.

During the demostration, he could not tell the difference between a horse and a butterfly. His producer had to correct him on the air after he showed viewers the butterfly's "bushy tail, big teeth, and the hoves".

This camera is only $169.95 on Amazon.com.

Related: QVC's Porno Dell

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Randy Jackson Pimping Oreo Cookies

I am amazed at the marketing geniuses (or should that be “genii”) came up with the latest Oreo cookies commercial. Of all people, they have picked Randy Jackson to be the face associated with Oreo cookies. I may have read too much into the commercial than its 30 seconds worth, but associating Oreo cookie with a Black person may not be the best idea.


With the millions of dollars wasted by market researchers, they could have easily done a search in Urban Dictionary or Wikipedia to see the taboo associated with Oreo cookies and Blacks.

In American slang, “Oreo” is a pejorative term used to describe a black person tries to be accepted as White majority by neglecting his roots. It is often used by lower-class blacks against professional and educated blacks, often those who work for whites or who work in industries that they feel exploit African-Americans.

I can’t wait for the day when Lisa Ling starts to sell bananas.

Monday, July 3, 2006

CNN's Nancy Grace as a Fortune Teller

Nancy Grace as a fortune teller

I saw this fortune teller woman at Balboa Park on last Sunday Afternoon.

The odd thing to me were not the freakish hat, nor the fake feather wings she is wearing, but her exordinary resemblence to CNN's news anchor Nancy Grace.

Similar to when you masterbate and God is killing off innocent kittens, don't forget that every time a child has gone missing or gets abducted, an angel breaks its wing.

Nancy Grace as a fortune teller

Hello Moto

Hello Moto

I was at San Diego's Museum of Man last weekend for their exhibit about body art.

I thought Eddie Castro's tattoo was interesting, especially the yellow circular piece of two red conjoined "V". I am sure it symbolizes something significant to him, but to me it looked like Motorola's logo.

I wonder if Eddie is tired of the "Hello Moto" jokes...