Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nokia launches Nokia Music Store in Singapore, I am not impressed.

I was at the media event earlier where Nokia launched their Nokia Music Store in Singapore, their new online music store.

The presentation was kinda lame, they had this girl covered in gold paint going on about the evolution of music devices from gramaphones to cassettes to CDs to ...yawn, it was just really boring.

Then that was followed by this guy with wires coming out of him, and he was supposed to symbolize a typical online music store giving MP3s with poor bitrates, 10 seconds previews, limited catalogue etc. That was followed by a conversation between two music lovers who are speaking about the perfect music store accessible by phones, desktops or web.

I don't know, I found the whole thing very unexciting and long-winded, and the fact that their GM had to refer to a 2 or 3 page handout on a stand during his speech just doesn't inspire confidence in the product, if you are that excited about your own product do you really need a handout? (Points on a cuecard I can still understand)

Anyway enough about the event, decided to check out the music store for myself. Launched my Firefox browser, entered the url ( http://music.nokia.com.sg ) and immediately faced my first hurdle:

Nokia Music Store on Firefox

Are you freaking kidding me? I can't even think of any major site now that doesn't support Firefox. Minus points right off the bat. And if you are on a Mac you are out of luck as well. You gotta love technology that alienates specific users right from the start.

So I fired up my rarely used IE 7 and decided try and buy some music. The press kit came with a gift voucher card that gives you 10 free song downloads, so I entered the url on the card (http://music.nokia.com.sg/gift) and I got this:

Gift Page

Strike 2! URL doesn't work. You would think something like that would be fixed before an official launch. Tried a few times and gave up and then decided to try the "Redeem PIN" link on the main page and fortunately that worked, 20 dollars was credited to my account. (It's 2 dollars per song, 16 dollars for an album.)

There is a top singles column on the main page, so I clicked on Rihanna's Don't Stop the Music.

rihanna nokia music store

K I thought the recommendations at the bottom were nice, although not sure about their accuracy. But I just wanted to buy the track so I clicked on the down arrow. That brings up a tick button that I click to confirm the purchase, I click that and am brought back to ......the home page!

Yes, I am unceremoniously dumped back to the home page with no warning or error message whatsoever. I repeated the entire process a few more times but still had the same end result. That's enough fun for today.

Other minus points from the press release is that the songs are in DRM-enabled WMA, which means you can't transfer them to an iPod. They are also limited to 128kbps or 192 kbps bit rate.

Contrast that to Amazon's MP3 store that offers DRM-free MP3s that you can play on anything and copy to anywhere, and come in 256kbps. Oh and they are cheaper as well, 99 US Cents a song and around 9.99 US dollars an album.

So my verdict is this store is going to fail big time. But this is beta, so maybe they might work out some of the chinks in the near future, but it seems to me like this was rushed out to launch way before it was ready.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Advice when buying goods from unknown brands.

I have this rule when it comes to buy products by unknown brands. Basically I just look at the packaging and manual first. If there are spelling mistakes in either then I don't buy it.

The rational is simple. If a company can't even afford to do a spell check (or hire someone overseas with a half decent command of English to do it) on their documentation or packaging before they sell the product then that's basically a huge ass sign of how much time they invest in Quality Control. This rule has saved me quite a bit of cash over the years, but then a couple of weeks ago I went against it.

I was at Sembawang Music Centre at Parkway Parade 3 weeks ago and I saw this movie Rashamon by Akira Kurosawa, a Japanese director of whom I been a huge fan of ever since I saw his movies on Arts Central like 5 years ago. It was selling for only 10 dollars so I was gonna get it but then the guy told me I could get a box set with 17 of the movies for 50 bucks which seems to make a lot of business sense so I gladly said yes.

However, one look at the packaging and I started to have my doubts. The text in the packaging was riddled with really bad grammar and spelling mistakes ("Occidental called who Akira Kurosawa's was mikado.."). But in the end I decided that they wasn't much they could do wrong with mastering a DVD, so I bought it.

Cut to yesterday. I bought Pringle's chips and a bottle of Diet Coke during lunch time and popped in the first DVD in my player to watch. It was Rashomon, one of his earlier and most acclaimed movies, and I was looking forward to it. 30 minutes into the movie, the screen froze. Forwarding/playing it on my PC didn't help, basically the remaining 6 chapters were inaccessible. You can imagine my frustration.

Anyway I just called the store where I bought the DVD from and he was kind enough to immediately offer to replace it for me even though I didn't have a receipt. He told me that his store ran out of the box sets but he will contact me as soon as he gets another one from another outlet. Pretty cool service for once.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Do not order anything from Reader's Digest Asia ever!

This is getting ridiculous.

The very nice people at Reader's Digest sent me a package last December that I did not even order, and now they are sending me repeated and threatening reminder letters trying to get me to settle the bill.

Basically I ordered this introductory volume for 10 dollars way back in October and December, it was a collection of stories. Then in December I get a package with what appears to be the rest of the volumes, together with a bill for 56 dollars.

I sent them repeated emails but did not receive ANY response, so I called them and the guy who answered informed me that he will put a notification on the transaction from the system so that I will not receive any more letters. I told him to get someone to come to my place and pick it up, but he said that they can't do that. Apparently hiring a courier is unheard of to those people. But he assured me that I will not get any more letters regarding payment. He suggested that I return it myself, but I find it ludicrous to waste my time and money to return something I did not even order.

So I thought that was that but then the next month another reminder bill was sent, this time threatening to transfer this case to their Bill Department if I don't pay up. I called them up again and the same thing happened, this time the guy (someone called Raymond) said he will remove the transaction and assured me I will not be sent any more reminders.

Today I just received their latest letter warning me that my case has been transferred to be handled by the Bill Collections Manager due to my "breach of the agreement with Reader's Digest" and a lot more legal mumbo jumbo.

I am sick and tired of this. Gonna call them on Monday again and make them send me a letter or an email saying that I will NOT receive any more bill reminder letters. Let's see how it goes.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Streetdirectory.com is down and possibly out

This sucks balls. They got shut down for copyright infringement. I been using it to plan my routes to places like Geylang, Changi Village and Orchard Towers for the last couple of years, and now I'm screwed. Anyone knows of any other alternatives?

Hopefully they can come to some sort of agreement with LTA.

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Now playing: Tricky - Strugglin'

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Pillowman

I watched the Pillowman over the weekend and left the theatre with one question is my mind - Is it wrong for a guy to be turned on during the whipping scene?

Tech: Digsby - Probably the best IM I ever used.

Simple idea. So simple you would think someone would have thought of it way before.

Digsby is an IM that allows you to do the following:

1. Check, read and manage (e.g. delete, archive, mark as read, mark as spam) your webmail accounts.
2. See the latest Facebook status updates from your friends and also change your status without going to the facebook website. Also connects to other social networks like Twitter and MySpace, but I am not a big user of those two.
3. Connects to MSN, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ and Gtalk accounts.

Frankly , the first feature totally blew me away. For someone with 4 different email accounts, I always end up with loads of unread mails from my Hotmail and Yahoo! accounts. Now I can just check it from my IM and mark as read or delete if I don't wanna read it. Otherwise I can just click the link marked open which brings me to the web page where I can read the entire mail, without prompting me to log in. Really amazing.

Oh and you get automatically notified of your friends' status updates on Facebook or when someone sends you a message/post on your wall etc. And when someone messages you on MSN for example, you get a tiny chat window on the lower left side of the screen that allows you to respond immediately without having to click on the chat window like you do with MSN Messenger. The tiny window disappears after like 3 seconds so you can ignore it if you are busy. Pretty ingenious, you have to try it yourself to know what I am talking about!

I am totally hooked, only thing I can ask for the "I am listening to" feature enabled for Mediamonkey, currently it only supports Winamp and iTunes. Anyway do give it a chance and check it out. Just click the title link to go to their site.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Breaking news: Mas Selamat caught!!!

Yes, details are sketchy so far and I haven't read anything on the local websites as of yet but apparently he was arrested at this flat in Woodlands a couple of hours ago. Check out this youtube video that someone posted of him being escorted to a police van.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yu_moia-oVI

Youtube's April's Fool Joke

Click on any of the featured videos on youtube's front page.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/

Pretty funny.