Google Wallet Card: Circular logic is circular

Posted by & filed under Misc, Technology.

There are new rumors that soon Google Wallet will have a new credit card for those cases where you can’t “tap and pay”. Well, not really a “credit” card, it’s more like a debit “interface” card — similar to debit Paypal card. Which means you’re supposed to keep a balance there too.

I’m not sure if it’s such a good idea. I mean, it’s not going to harm anything, but it doesn’t make any sense either. For most users, Google Wallet is a way to pay for Android apps (via Play) and for some purchases from small merchants. For those cases new card doesn’t make sense. If you’re trying to pay in a physical store you may as well pull out the real card, especially as it’s not clear if any standard consumer protections will work for purchase by Google Wallet Proxy. Now, they could offer some discounts (say, coupons, automatically applied when you pay by this new card), then it could, theoretically, be useful.

Another oddity is that they have just eliminated “virtual” cards that you could get in the Wallet app. And now switching into physical ones? Odd.

And last worry — Google’s support is awful. It’s nonexistent unless you’re big and important enough to have an individual representative. Would you like to have your questions answered within a few business day after you sent them via email? When the balance is tied up and your card doesn’t work? Yeah, I didn’t think so…

The best case scenario would be cheap person-to-person payments. Now that could be the real deal. Eliminate PayPal’s fees, allow withdrawal of balance without additional fees, and that could be a good product (so far only American Express does something similar with their pre-paid cards — you can reload it without fees, and no other fees are charged to the prepaid card). It won’t eliminate support worry, but for some people it could be “acceptable risk”.

Hopefully these rumors will be confirmed/denied soon.

Did Verizon sneak up and bit EE? Extremely Expensive!

Posted by & filed under Technology.

When I was visiting London last Summer, I was quite surprised with prices for prepaid and even some post-paid cell phone plans (or, as they’re called “Pay and Go” and “Pay Monthly”). 15 pounds buys you either a gig and a half of data on O2 (as prepaid, with some minutes and texts) or unlimited data with some minutes (on Three). So, I figured when T-Mobile and Orange UK have merged into EE company (Everything Everywhere), their new LTE price plans would be pretty much on the level with competition.

But it looks like Verizon sneaked up and bit them in their butt or something, cause freshly announced plans are as bad as Verizon’s in USA. It’s not only that you have to sign 24 month contract, their minimum plans are 500Mb with free BT WiFi. That’s what, less than 10 minutes of full-speed data download. What’s the point of having “super-fast” LTE, if your data cap vanishes so quickly? And that, with unlimited minutes and texts cost *36 pounds*.
Un-freaking-believable.
You want a contract? Go with O2: 26 pounds for a gig of data + unlimited voice/text. Heck, EE’s SIM-only plans will “start” from 21 pounds. With O2 you’ve got a deal… Plus some options also allow you to use O2 WiFi hotspots (and some roaming). And with Three you’ve got completely unlimited internet for less.

EE is named that for being Extremely Expensive, not Everything Everywhere. I hope customers will see it for what it’s worth — not much in terms of being a deal.

Review: Dredd 3D 4.5 stars (how awesome is that)

Posted by & filed under Reviews.

Dredd 3D

I was skeptical and didn’t expect much from the remake of the Judge Dredd. If you saw the Stallone’s version you probably remember it as not-quite-that-great but passable sci-fi action. Aside from doing visual facelift and a more symmetrical smirk from Karl Urban there’s not much that could be done to remake that comic book based flick. Except this isn’t a remake, but a second take on putting original Dredd comic books on the large screen. And the movie turned out to be pretty cool.

Sure, some might complain about this not being a high-grade drama, but those kind of people don’t go to pure action movies. They probably also complain about the Expendables (both 1 and 2) and Kill Bill too. Dredd 3D is more like Kill Bill but with less katanas and more shooting, more explosions, more action.

“Standard” sci-fi things from the first movie (giant robot, flying cars) didn’t make it here. Grueling and dark semi-futuristic, but more plausible things such as even more crime, new super-drugs and urban warfare within one large building certainly did. Dredd did get a rookie-sidekick that can read minds (somewhat unreliably, but I would write it off to the heat of the moment) and a trusty multi-purpose weapon. The nature of the drug (that it slows down time) gave an excuse to include many slow motion moments, which, although being close to the “bullet time” is not as annoying and is made prettier. Bodies and bullets fly everywhere.

The outcome is pretty much predictable, but the ride itself is quite fun. Bonus points for awesome soundtrack, full of electronica.

Bayonetta 2: Wii U only, with a side of marketing BS storm

Posted by & filed under Technology.

Wii U, the new Nintendo console, is finally getting announced, and a few games with it too. Bayonetta 2 being one of such announcements. Except, there’s a bit of a firestorm over the whole thing, due to the fact that Bayonetta 2 will now be Wii U exclusive. Both Nintendo and Bayonetta fans are not amused.

Aside from some mega-vocal idiotic fan minority that curses Platinum Games and promises violence, regular fans are also upset, though keeping their emotions in check. I am upset too, as I loved the original Bayonetta — it’s fun, sufficiently violent, and has plenty of laughs in it too.

I am mostly upset over Marketing BS that Platinum Games spits out:

Bayonetta is a brand that we want to see become stronger, reaching the hands of more and more gamers, so we have continued to consult with SEGA, the previous game’s publisher, on how we can make sure this takes place. Our answer was a new partnership with Nintendo.

Sorry, but if you really want to reach hands of more gamers, then you publish your game on all platforms. It’s not that Wii U offers something extremely new and different (aside from tablet controller, which is generally useless for dynamic action game that Bayonetta is), it’s simply catching up to the current PS3/Xbox 360 platforms (heck, it’s still behind in some capabilities). So, you just hope that this new platform will do well enough and you will ride a wave of success, being one of few new games amid the bunch of ports of older titles.

That’s ok. Just say so. Or say “Nintendo agreed to finance our game development so it will be Wii U exclusive”. Which would also be fine. But babbling about expanding game reach while contracting availability? Sorry, but that upsets me.

Can you imagine screams of Nintendo fans if next Mario game would suddenly became Playstation 4 exclusive? Exactly. First Bayonetta started out as being on multiple platforms, so “be thankful that second one comes out at all” essentially means “you have to buy Wii U or you’re not fan enough”, and for many it’s not an option. Mostly because Nintendo has been building Wii platform as a family/casual gaming (with a large tidal wave of marketing tie-in crap-games), so it would be like buying a $360 game. I’m not going to play anything else that is Wii U exclusive, and getting yet another box for just one game doesn’t make much sense. Hence, I won’t play Bayonetta 2.

I guess one possible option is to rent both Wii U and Bayonetta 2 in one package. As long as that can be reasonably priced. But odds of that happening are also small.

So my only hope is that Platinum Game survives a drop in title sales (face it, Wii U won’t be able to catch up to PS3 and XBox 360 sales numbers in many many months) and then re-publishes Bayonetta 2 later for other platforms. Or just bring Bayonetta 3 to Playstation 4, Xbox 3 and Wii U. I can hope, right? :)

p.s. I probably should curb my enthusiasm for a chance of Bayonetta 3. As second installment will be linked to the brand new hardware platform, odds of selling more than 2 million copies (1.05 mil PS3 + 0.83 mil Xbox 360) are low. Which means the next round of negotiations with SEGA will be from a worse position :(

American Apparel: never ever give them email. Ever.

Posted by & filed under Technology.

So… a while ago I was stupid enough to order something from American Apparel online and used my real email — it was for a friend of mine, and ordering process was easy and experience was pleasant like a nice and sunny day. Fantastic.
Except afterwards I got an email with marketing blah. Oh well, I’ll just unsubscribe then. Click on Unsubscribe, yes, I do want to unsubscribe. Confirmation in my email box, reading “one last goodbye”. Ha-ha-ha, I was so naive.

And then a week later I got another email.
Um… didn’t I unsubscribe? And got that Last Goodbye? Fine, I’ll do it again. Unsubscribe link clicked, everything is done, confirmation with second “last goodbye” received. Well, this time it’s for real, right? Wroooong! Ten days later — new email. “Get up to 70% off top designers today!”

WTF? At this stage their online systems are already behaving like an obsessive girlfriend that you just can’t break up with. It got me very angry. So, I blasted an email to a few addresses from their web site. Michelle reassured me that everything was removed manually and she let their team know about that glich (well I thought it was a glitch, right? I was naive) and I won’t hear a peep from them again.

That was in February of this year. Guess what happened today? That’s right. It’s been a whole half a year and their systems decided that I was bored and certainly need to get Yet Another Advertising Email from them.

This time the email included this perfect little gem:

You’re receiving this email because you purchased something from the American Apparel Online Store, but didn’t subscribe with us. Subscribe to our mailing list to receive exclusive offers, invites to sales and updates on our latest styles!

What! The! F*ck?!
You didn’t subscribe with them and that’s the reason they are sending you an email? You can’t win. If you subscribe, you get the email (duh, cause you’ve subscribed) and if you don’t subscribe you get one anyway. Except this time there’s not even a pretend “unsubscribe” link, because I haven’t subscribed, ha-ha-ha.

I guess I have to block everything that has their domain from ever reaching my mailbox ever again. Did I say “ever”? Aren’t companies supposed to follow CAN-SPAM act? American Apparel certainly doesn’t seem to give a hoot.

If you absolutely have to buy something from them, do it offline. Or use throw-away email address, because you’re not getting off of their mailing list ever again.