and Xacti Group SCAM ALERT

Today I added on the list of companies I will never do business with again.  Last week I attempted to purchase a Haynes service manual for Amy’s car.  Amazon directed me to the reseller  This is a site run by the Xacti corporation out of Boca Raton Florida.  It is a front for the phishing scam site  Whenever you buy from you are invisibly agreeing to a “trial membership” for  If you don’t cancel this intentionally obscured trial within 7 days they hit your card with a $29.95 fee.  You will never see it coming.

This scam put forth by the immoral and ethically corrupt Xacti corporation is well documented in any Google search for SmartSavingsCenter.  The Editor of even has a site informing “how to get your money back into your bank account” if you are a victim of Xacti’s deception.  He makes it sound like it could be difficult for your bank to agree to the refund.  In fact when I called Bank of America this morning the scam is so well known that they didn’t resist one bit.  Other Xacti websites that are a front for the scam are and Rushmore Towing and Locksmiths.  There are probably others.

If you’re a victim of the Xacti corporations immoral internet trade practices you can contact them directly using the information at the bottom of this post.  Personally I wouldn’t bother as I understand they won’t cancel the “subscription” over the phone.

Instead try to locate the welcome email sent by these fraudsters when they initiated their malicious activity against you (mine was in the spam filter), retrieve the password for your account, go to and cancel the account.  There is even a selection in the “Reason for Canceling” that says “I believe SmartSavingsCenter is a fraudulent service”.  Pick this one.  Then call your bank, dispute their fraudulent charges and place a fraud alert on your account against this company.  The Attorney General of Florida should move to shut these crooks down ASAP.  Here’s where the dishonest cowards hide…

999 West Yamato Road
Suite 100
Boca Raton, FL 33431-4478
Telephone: 561-989-7400
Fax: 561-989-7401


Since posting this article I received a letter from the Florida Attorney Generals office informing me, as one of many complainants, that they are beginning an investigation of the company.  Hopefully they’ll be shut down soon and anyone who requires additional reimbursement from their fraud will get some money back.  If you’ve been affected by this scam file your complaint on-line with the Florida Attorney General.  Here is a link.

Bad Customer Service Practices

I am establishing the guidelines for what I will consider good customer service in 2009. This is my oath: If I come in contact with any company using the practices described here I will work to discontinue all business relationships that will result in a monetary gain for the company engaging in reduced or bad customer service.

  1. Automated phone attendants.  Time Warner – gone.  Sirius – gone.  Any other company want me to answer to a damned computer that poorly impersonates a humans job?  Don’t bother employing the computer, just cancel my account.  I’ve heard plenty of people say “I don’t mind automated attendants, I just don’t like it when they can’t understand me”.  Well, it’s sad to know the human intellect in some people has reduced them to a bowl of brain lard willing to answer to a computer.  Do they realize how stupid they sound answering these automated questions in front of other people?   This God forsaken technology was adopted by companies for no other reason than replacing humans to answer the phones.  It’s sold as “better customer service”.  It’s bullshit and I call it.  End automated service attendants and put customer service reps back to work on the phones.
  2. The inability to pay on-line or limited web presence.  I can pay my water bill on the Internet.  If the municipal governments can do it so can any finance or service company. While searching for a car recently I was offered financing options.  I was amazed how many companies don’t offer electronic invoicing or on-line bill payment.  As far as I’m concerned they are not worth conducting business with if they can’t accept payments on-line when I want to make one in 2009.  Which is actually different than number three:
  3. Any company that requires scheduled electronic drafting of a checking account for bill payment.  I’m about to change my life insurance next week because of this.  The only way ING will accept payments on the policy is through scheduled electronic drafts.  I’m not letting any company take money out on a schedule when they want.  No one’s ever taking money out of my checking account at any time until I authorize it each and every time, not once for a particular date of the month, recurring.  The utility companies try to push people into scheduled drafts as often as they can.  Even if you are a millionaire and you’re letting any company do this your a fool.  If I need to explain why you are a bigger fool.
  4. Any service or product exceeding the cost stated in a quote, written or verbal.  Hidden fees, and other “Misc.” charges can go to hell.  I’m not putting up with it anymore.  It’s a good thing I don’t have a phone bill because cramming is part of their game.  You never know what you’re going to pay until the bill comes.  It’s time companies learned to invoice their customers and make revenue without feeling like they have to add small change to the bill using cryptic charges and ridiculous fees.  Send me one crammed bill during 2009 and I’ll send you a notice of account termination.  Mine will be easy to read.
  5. Any company that refuses to refund or credit an account for a bad product or service(s).  This is the ultimate heeeellll naaawwww.  If you sell me crap, you take it back and give the money back.  If I pay someone to do a job or provide a service it will be done as expected or it will be refunded.  It’s surprising how many stories are emerging about companies that will not refund money when they have provided bad products or services.  The Snake-oil Salesmen think they can win.  The “buyer beware” mentality that has formulated under the Bush Administration and the best congress money can buy which does not hold companies accountable for their actions has nurtured this prolific, vile attitude in companies.  I will learn the art of the lawsuit if this occurs to me this year.

Perhaps they are in charge thanks to the calls for Corporate America and Capitalism at any and all cost.  The cost has been reliable products and quality services.  It’s been replaced by rampant dishonesty creating consumer distrust and a struggling consumer market.  I know full well that great big companies worth billions, some facing bankruptcy, could care less about my one little account.  I’m still canceling it if the service sucks.

Sirius Asshats

I’m on the phone canceling all of my service with Sirius satellite radio. My decision lies ENTIRELY with Sirius’s poor customer service. Not to mention the fact that they are trying to complicate and delay the return of $106 to me.

On January 2nd I ordered two Stratus 4 radios from them. One was to replace my aging original Sportster and one was to add a radio to the account for my Dad as a Christmas present. January 7th came and went with no radios and the hold on my account had been removed for the $106.72. So I called and canceled the order. Sirius confirms the cancellation is in their notes on the account.

I went to Best Buy and bought two Stratus 5 radios for a total of $143. Forward to January 13th. Today I look at my bank account and what do you know there’s a new hold for $106.72 from Sirius. Apparently they didn’t cancel the order. And as far as I can tell they’ve run my card again for a new hold.

So I made the dreaded call to sort it out. First you’ve got to verbally navigate through the highly annoying automated attendant. Any company that resorts to automated attendants for first line customer service stands a high chance of losing my business under the best of conditions.  As a life rule I don’t talk to computers.  Cus at them a lot but never talk.
Once I finally got a human on the phone she said “yes, I see where you canceled on the 7th. Let me let you talk to ‘Ecom’ about the billing and why the charges haven’t come off your account.”

So the guy from “Ecom” gets on the phone.  He said the order “couldn’t have been canceled”. I told him the previous customer service rep told me that it was. He replied, with attitude, “that person doesn’t work in Ecom and could not have canceled the order”.

So did the radios ship? “I can’t tell you at this time”. What about the charges for the radio, how do I get those back?  His response “there’s nothing I can do about it at this time sir”.

So here I was trying to buy additional radios and add service to my account so Sirius could have more revenue. Instead they screw up the order, the cancellation, charged me for the canceled order and can’t even tell me if the radios shipped. Send me to cancellations.

Now customer retention is on the case right? Problem is that if Sirius screws up bad, like they have, customer retention can’t do a damn thing despite their efforts. She tried contacting corporate customer relations and a lot more but couldn’t get an answer on what’s going on or what to do. So “cancel my service” I said.  “That’s why I was transferred to ‘cancellations’ in the first place.”

She responded, “Well, can I give you three months for free for the inconvenience?” And I asked “Can you tell me when I can expect my money back? Or how many more times you guys will keep putting holds on my card without shipping any product?” She could not.

Then she put me on hold again. She came back to inform me that “I’ve escalated your issue to my manager who will have someone from corporate customer relations contact you within 5 to 7 days.” 5 to 7 days??? “Are you for real?” Of course she was.

So I had no alternative, “Cancel the service.”  The battle presses on.

Bad customer service will cost revenue. This, along with other management reasons, is why Sirius closed at $0.13 a share today. They’re scheduled to be delisted from Nasdaq on April 20, 2009.

Do you think a government economic stimulus package will create jobs for Americans?

I don’t think so.  Of course some action by the government is better than nothing but let’s allow common sense and business logic to prevail.  First, let’s think about state infrastructure projects and construction jobs.  The very second that money is allocated to infrastructure projects (which will take months or years of debate before allocation) the state and municipal governments will put those jobs out to bid.  The awards processes will be partisan and corrupted through social networks and politics.  A few rich guys will make some other rich guys richer.

But somewhere along the line a rich guy has got to get the job done.  That’s when he’ll hire some cheap labor.  Real cheap.  Like non English speaking, work visa, Hispanic cheap.  The Mexicans have not stopped crossing the border looking for work and now they’ll work for even less.  So the labor money will go in large sums to Mexico, Puerto Rico and other Hispanic origins.  I’ve personally known white and black males who’ve tried to work on mostly Hispanic construction crews and it is reported to be intolerable.  It is also a closed club where the American stands out as the only non Spanish speaking guy on the crew.  Prepare to see more real cheap lobor on job sites everywhere as the true American middle class suffers and politicians proclaim they’ve created jobs.

I also question the common sense behind other areas of economic “stimulus” that have been discussed like renewable energy technology.  How many people do you know with education or experience in crystalline silicone solar technology that’s looking for a job?  Didn’t think so.  What about Vanadium Bromide battery manufacturing?  Me neither.  So how is government investment in renewable energy technology going to create jobs among a populous without training in such technologies?  This problem reaches from the raw materials handling to the actual manufacturing of things like solar cells.  The people I know who are out of work are not in a position to quickly re-train to work in this new, complex industry.  There has to be education first.

To date I have not heard any actual solutions discussed that could really turn this country and this economy around in the short or long term.  I think we need mandates for increases in teacher pay.  If we want the best people instructing our kids and preparing them to compete in a future economy we have to entice the best among us to take the instructional jobs through financial incentive.  We have to invest in workforce training.  If we actually want to convert our economy back into one that manufactures high end technologies being discussed we’ve got to have a workforce that knows more than how to put a door on a car and paint it.  And if the cost of goods rise slightly to facilitate stateside manufacturing that is a sacrifice we should be prepared to live with, through increased salaries.

I also feel we need to give companies incentives to hire Americans inside the US for all jobs, not just the construction and services sector. Otherwise companies will always look for the cheapest labor first and that seems to come readily available from outside our borders.  I’m not calling it a legal or illegal immigration issue.  I’m stating that we need to make hiring US citizens the better financial option to businesses as opposed to the hiring of foreigners on work Visas.  Until this key issue is resolved the American middle class will continue in a downward economic spiral.

Finally, a responsible position from a bank.

In a time when bank executives would rather eat their own children than give one penny of shareholder profit to help consumers and the economy at large, one bank has stepped forward to support legislation that is way overdue. Citibank has agreed to support changes in bankruptcy laws so that primary residences can be protected in bankruptcy court by judges who can write the mortgages into debt repayment plans.

It’s absurd that someone can file for bankruptcy and protect their motorcycle, vacation home or boat but can’t save their primary residence. This has long been a hold out of the mortgage lenders for no other reason than sheer greed. Why should they take a risk? Loans are suppose to be all profit and no risk for them right? And when the gamble doesn’t pay off we’ve seen what happens. They cry to the Fed like whimpering little children who aren’t getting their way. And big daddy Fed is more than happy to quiet them with $700 billion dollars. Thinking about it makes my stomach worse than it already was fighting this Crohns flare up. I will continue to close all my entries about financial institutions with the same ‘ol quote from Dr. Willis Martin of Rocky Mount who said to me “Son, the bank is not your friend”.

Roland Burris is a damned thug in a suit.

burris.jpgRoland “Don’t Lynch Me” Burris is an over-zealous prosecutor who worked diligently to put an innocent man in prison despite the objections of his prosecuting staff.  The man Burris maliciously prosecuted was acquitted 10 years later after DNA was used as exculpatory evidence.  He’s a black Mike Nifong only worse.  The entire country should be appalled this damned thug is going to be seated as a US Senator upon his appointment by a corrupt Governor.

If I were a Senator I wouldn’t even look at this piece of crap in the halls of the Capital.  You, Roland Burris are a disgrace to honorable men everywhere.


2003 Toyota MatrixI conducted an experiment this morning.  I drove to work 5 Mph slower to see how much gas I would save.  I was impressed by the difference.   I didn’t have a real accurate way to measure the actual gas mileage.  I had to go by the gas gauge itself.  It usually takes me almost a 1/4 of a tank one way in Amy’s Hyundai Santa Fe.  It gets about 20 MPG on average.  This is thanks to the AWD option which is great in the rain but hell on gas.  This morning I did the trip on 1/8th of a tank.  It was half, or almost half the gas, I would normally burn at 75 mph.

2004 Mazda 3This got me thinking some more about the idea of hypermiling.  Now the guys who go out and buy a Nascar ice vest so they never have to turn on the AC are ridorkculous.   Everyone was talking about their gas mileage when we hit $4 a gallon.  Now it’s back under $2 and no one cares.  I have the cheapest gas in Wake county 4 miles from my house at $1.38 as of this AM.  With a commute of 42 miles one way, I still care.  I spend no less than $48 a week on gas even at $1.40 or less.   I reached a high of $130 a week at the price peak in the ol’ F150.  Never again.  My goal is a preemptive strike against possible rising gas prices.  I’ve resolved to monitor my gas mileage while trying not to become obsessive about it.

Mazda Protege 5.jpgI will start by making sure I buy the right car.  This has become a challenge lately since I’m trying to avoid financing with a bank and all the used econo cars got sucked up during the $4 a gallon era.  I tried to buy a 2004 Civic.   It was salt corroded beyond hope.   I’ll still look for one but I’m starting to set my eyes on some others, specifically the Mazda Protege5, the Toyota Matrix, and Mazda3.  All three are gas sippers and are suppose to hold up under heavy mileage.  I need to make my decision and a purchase by no later than January 15th.  I have to travel down to Manning, SC that weekend and can’t leave Amy without a car.

End the Fed

“In 1910 Rockefeller and Morgan banking representatives, along with government officials, boarded a luxurious railcar owned by Nelson Aldrich, Senator from Rhode Island, who became quite wealthy representing the interests of the moneyed class. They were journeying from New Jersey to Jekyll Island, Georgia for a secret conference at which “the Federal Reserve was conceived; the birth of a banking cartel to protect its members from competition; the strategy of how to convince Congress and the public that this cartel was an agency of the United States government.”– The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin

Then they went on to fund the establishment of central banks in Japan and Germany following World War II.  John F. Kennedy was wise to their game and worked diligently to end the Federal Reserve up until the convenient timing of his controversial assassination.   I’m no conspiracy theorist but you’ve got to admit that for all the vague ballistics evidence that pointed to Oswald a motive for his actions have never been made clear.

Everyone fears the Federal Reserve.  Legislators, the judicial system and local and international governments alike bow to their whims without scrutiny into the depths of their intent.  Why do we still have the Fed?  Because they said so.  Why does it take an act of Congress (and almost and act of God) to regulate the actions private banks take with lending terms, creative finances and disclosure of their activities with investor deposits?  Because they said so.

America is a society producing little or nothing trying to trade paper to substantiate our liquidity.  As real estate prices drops the few liquid assets we still have become of less and less value.  The Fed and the markets are trying to reinvent liquidity through investment.  Problem is there’s nothing at home to invest in.  So banks need revenue.  Where are they going to get it?  By gouging their customers, meaning the consumer credit base, as much as possible in the coming years.

You are a slave to maintaining you bank account and credit card balances.  Who among us thinks that consumer credit does not hold sway over daily life?  FICO score anyone?  The banks have come to require your allegiance for everything from renting an apartment to getting a job.  Of course, your FICO score won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on once everyone is down and out, unable to pay.  The so called deadbeats are increasing exponentially.

How do we combat it?  Simple.  Pay off credit cards and cut them up.  This is the same way, the only way, there is to beat drug dealers.  Destroy the demand for the product.  This is the only way out of our recession which will be a established period of deflation by the beginning of 2010.

KVM Battle Part II – Raritan vs. Avocent

I’ve had so many email requests regarding the outcome of the KVM testing at the American Kennel Club (see: Part 1) that I decided to post a follow-up to detail the conclusion of the testing and selection.

To cut to the chase in the end we went with Avocent and here’s why: We needed to support remote power cycling to 3-phase 208V power distribution units.  Raritan did not have a 3-phase 208V PDU that could be controlled to the individual outlet level through their web based “Command Center” interface.  Once again the “Command Center” is actually a 1U server appliance that must be purchased seperately for the environment.  Avocents DSVie3 is a licensed and installed service based component.  We spun up a 2003 server on ESX to host it.

Avocent Cyclades PDU’s were originally Server Technology PDU’s (and were OEM’ed that way by Avocent before the application of the Cyclades brand) and therefore Avocents DSView3 was immediately compaitble with the Server Tech serial interfaces which can be daisy chained three PDU’s deep.  We daisy chained two Server Tech 208V PDU’s per rack to the Avocent serial switches and tied per outler outlet interfaces to the Avocent IP switch ports specific to each server.   This gave us the ability to remotely power cycle A or B power to any server remotely.

In Raritan’s defense their Command Center does support individual PDU outlet to server association.  It also supports power cycling to individual outlets.  What they do not support well is 208V PDU’s which is quickly becoming the standard of data centers everywhere.  My guess is they will have this fixed soon.

Raritans Command Center also did not support as many types of authentication to the Command Center gateway.  AD and LDAP are supported if that’s all you want.  We were impressed that Avocent DSView3 supported RSA Secure ID token based authentication which we were already running for VPN access.  There is a bit more licensing involved with Avocent than Raritan and it can get frustrating to configure and activate on-line.  If you’re someone without the 208V power requirements and hate the act of on-line licensing you may find Raritan is in line with your requirements except for one thing….

The mouse latency.  This is where you will hear most complaints about IP KVM remote consoles.  Both manufacturers supported ALOM ports for SUN, and IP serial interfaces where required.  Where Raritan really fell short in out opinion was the cursor control during remote sessions through the Command Center gateway.  It was better to go to each switch individually where the latency controls made the cursor usable but not exciting.  With DSView3 we did not have such a horrifying experience.  There was latency but it was tolerable and fairly adjustable.  Raritans Command Center fell short on performance as far as we were concerned.  Now take in to account that we were working under the “cost be damned” project control doctrine.    If cost is a factor you’ll find yourself taking a much harder look at Raritan.  Neither of these units would serve well as a day-to-day remote administration tool.  MS Remote Desktop, Citrix sessions and PuTTY will not be replaced any time soon by any IP KVM on the market today.

My 2008 Forecast in Review

Last year, on January 2, 2008 I posted my 318th entry titled “1st Annual Forecast – My Predictions for 2008”. Now I’m going to look back at it and see how close I was.

“Financial: A major US recession is coming due to the massive credit bubble bursting, an inability of the central banks to continue using credit to create a false sense of prosperity, and continued stagflation. Look for expanded government backed plans like the sub-prime mortgage rate freeze to combat the falling value of the dollar.”

While there was never a sub-prime mortgage rate freeze passed as legislation the rest of this prediction was, well, right on the money.

“Health: Health care costs will continue to rise during a long period of stagflation as health corporations attempt to increase profits or reduce profit loss for their shareholders.”

I guess that was pretty open ended. I don’t know that costs rose exponentially but I’m pretty certain they didn’t go down.

Politics: My prediction is that the race will be tight. It will be a race between those who support Holy Wars against Muslims and legislating morality verses those who know that if we keep this up “Fascism will come to America wrapped in a flag carrying a cross”. – Sinclair Lewis”

Well it was close (up until the end at least) and after 8 years logic and common sense prevailed over failed fundamentalist ideology. Finally.

“Music: Look for me at any nearby shows performed by KT Tunstall or The National.”

Neither one of these acts came anywhere close to Raleigh. So sad.

“Technology: Microsoft will continue to take a beating for creating Vista and if the new 2008 Server is released it will not be embraced at any influential rate…

Look for more touch screen cell phones to flood the market in response to the iPhone rage…

Flat panel LCD and plasma TV’s will fall below $750 for a quality 42″ 1080p model…

Playstation 3’s will fall to a steady $299 this year and Wii’s will be more widely available as Nintendo increases production…

IBM Network Services Division contractors should be wary of the coming acquisition by AT&T. This could mean more layoffs in Research Triangle Park…”

These weren’t exactly predictions made on the level of Nostradamus but I nailed every freakin’ one of them… Boo-ya! Makes me a little more comfortable going into 2009 since I am suppose to be technology literate by trade.