Internet Forum Trolls – it’s my problem apparently!

I luckily don’t deal with too many trolls… but when you do its makes your blood boil, especially so when the forum admins condone the utterly reprehensible behaviour.

The background was that I’d bought a new Logitech Harmony Ultimate (which gives you a Harmony Ultimate Hub and a Harmony Touch universal remote). About 3 weeks after I bought it it failed with the LED on the HUB flashing red and the unit was unresponsive until is was restarted. I thought this was a glitch so restarted the Hub & Remote and it fixed itself.

The problem was only fixed for a little while until it returned.

When the Hub & Remote failed again I decided to see if this was a problem for only myself or was a wider problem. I went to the Logitech support forums and noted that I wasn’t the only person with the problem. Indeed I think I was post number 6 with atleast 4 people saying they were having similar problems.

Given this it seemed to be a known problem (and as of now we have ~30 people with similar issues) I decided to post to the forum with a “me too” in hope of help.

Things went slow for a while. It appears that even though these are the Logitech support forums they don’t seen to actively monitor the forums… what a FAIL!!!! I resorted to a Twitter poke and a post to our local Whirlpool forums to get some action.

After the Twitter prod we got some focus on the issue from Logitech and also from some Logitech support forum troll called “rhachey“. Rhachey seems to be one of those people who think that their worth in life if dictated by the number of posts (on topic or not) that they write on the internet regardless of whether those posts are useful or on topic.

What made me fume more was that the idiot posted pretty much saying “I haven’t bothered to read what you wrote BUT what is your problem?”. Mind you this was on page 3 of the forum so there were no more than 20 posts describing various people’s problems but the troll couldn’t be bothered reading the onerous number of posts describing the problems but, apparently loving the sound of his own voice, they had to respond to the thread with posts that added ZERO value.

I admit that in my response I “went the troll” and that got pulled up by the admins. Here is the exchange!

Them with the title “Keep it Courteous”

Your post was removed because it violated the “Keep it courteous” section of the User Guidelines.

Everyone wants to have a positive experience while on the Forums – please make sure that you are not detracting from any other user’s experience. In particular, please refrain from posting anything unlawful, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, indecent, lewd, harassing, threatening, harmful, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, abusive, inflammatory or otherwise objectionable or injurious to third parties. Your opinions are always welcome, but personal attacks and harassment in the Forum, including through the Forums private messaging system, are not acceptable.

Thanks for your help in keeping the community a friendly, productive environment for all members.

OK, maybe I over stepped the mark so I responded to the admin

OK, I’ll keep it courteous… but that other guy is just a troll!

Apparently not

rhachey is not a troll and has helped hundreds of people on these forums.

OK, so this troll (and I still think they’re a troll) has over 15,000 posts on a support forums as a NON PAID participant and has helped, in the admin’s words, “hundreds” of people… that’s still the best part of 14,000 posts that have not “helped” people. I interpreted the trolls post as non helpful in my particular case in my response to the admin.

Well, in this case he is NOT helping, and he has admitted he didn’t bother to read the thread before responding and his posts are adding ZERO value to the discussion. That’s a troll in anyones book.

For everyone’s sake please tell him to stay out of this thread as it doesn’t concern him.

Well, here’s where the Logitech forum admins lose the plot… apparently it’s MY problem for posting the problem! WTF!!!

You came to this site looking for help, I suggest you accept what help is given and be respectful about it. As rhachey stated, too often people hijack a thread and to read through a complete thread everytime to see if it actually has something to do with that thread can consume a lot of time.

I think the Logitech forums admins finally got it when I responded as they’ve not got back to me yet

Yes, I came looking for help, not posts of ZERO value and admissions of people who respond haven’t even bothered to read the short (3 pages) of posts for the problem before they reply with a useless non response.

¬†Oh well, it looks like the other guy is a protected species and is seems post quantity rather than post quality is what counts… ok, I’ll play by your rules.

Why do multinational, multi Billion dollar companies, allow trolls on their support forums to hijack legitimate support requests and why do these same companies allow their forum admins to become beholden to forum trolls who’s only rasion d’etre is to to increase their forums post counts?

NEWSFLASH morons – no one cares how many posts you’ve had on a random internet forum! Get out of your mother’s basement. Met some people. Do some stuff. Travel. It’s very sad that your existence is defined by the fact that you’ve written over 15,000 posts in a support forum for company that doesn’t even pay you!

Logitech – pull your forums admins into line and tell them to keep the forums trolls (and post number sluts) under control. Your products are decent but you need to stop your forum admins and random internet fuckups hurting your own brand!

And fix the problems with your¬†Logitech Harmony Ultimate (Harmony Ultimate Hub and a Harmony Touch universal remote) as you’ve got alot off pissed of customers!

Giving Foxtel the flick

I’d been a Foxtel satellite customer (as I live in an apartment building) for thirteen and a half years and I’ve seen the cost of my subscription go up ~50% over that time with no noticeable increase in the quality of the programming. A couple of month ago I got the yearly “regrettably we’ll need to increase your monthly fee” e-mail which would have seen me paying ~$70/month for a service I watched for less than 20 hours a month. I decided to call time on my subscription and search for an alternative.

I had a quick look at a local IPTV service called fetchtv that is resold through a number of ISPs but that just seemed like a cut down Foxtel service that was still going to cost me ~$35/month for only a handful of channels. The value just wasn’t there.

In the past I’d looked at Internet streaming services such as Netflix & Hulu. You can view some of the Netflix and Hulu content in Australia but a majority of the content is “Geo Blocked” meaning that you need to be in the US to stream the movies and TV shows. Hmm, that seemed like a problem, but a quick Google search provided a simple and elegant solution.

There are a number of services you can subscribe to that fool the US-only streaming services into thinking your Australian internet connection is actually a US internet connection. If you google “Smart DNS” you’ll find services like Unotelly, Unblock-us, getflix, overplay and a plethora of others. Some services concentrate on getting you access to just Netflix & Hulu, while others try to open up as many streaming services as possible (and not just US services, but UK, Nordic, NZ etc as well). Most services allow you some sort of trial period so you can try them all and choose whichever one you think is best for you.

To use the SmartDNS you need to change the DNS servers your desktop/laptop/tablet uses by either changing the DNS setting on each device or you can change the DNS settings on your Internet router so they apply to all your devices. I made the change on my router.

To test your SmartDNS is working by trying to watch some of the free content on Hulu or Netflix. If you can watch half a dozen different shows then your SmartDNS is working.

Having free stuff to stream is good, but if you want access to most of the Netflix and Hulu content you’ll need a subscription to each of the services. This then throws up the next roadblock – to subscribe to these services you need a US address and a US credit card.

Getting a US address is simple. Open up Google Maps in your browser, choose your favourite US city and zoom in until you find a house you’d like to virtually move into. Write down the address, including the Zip code for future reference.

Getting a US credit card is just as simple. Again, Google is your friend, just search for “Virtual US credit card”. I ended up using a service called Entropay which allows you to load money from your Australian credit card into your shiny new virtual US credit card.

Once you’ve got your virtual US credit card and address you can sign up to your streaming service. Hulu gives you a 2 week trial and Netfix a month so you can try them before committing to parting with your cash. After the trails both Netflix and Hulu are each $7.99/month.

If you’ve done all of the above you should now able to stream your favourite TV shows and movies to your desktop/laptop/tablet.

But how do you get these movies and TV shows onto your telly? If you Google “movies streaming appliance” two appliances will pop up near the top of the results list that fit the bill. The first is the Apple TV and the second is a family of appliances from Roku. They both do pretty much the same thing so I went for the unit that had been more recently updated which were the Roku units.

There were 2 Roku units I was looking at: the Roku 2 and the Roku 3. The Roku 3 is the faster, better speced unit but it only has HDMI outputs and since my trusty Pioneer A/V receiver doesn’t support HDMI I went for the $10 cheaper Roku 2.

Buying a Roku for delivery to Australia may be an issue as well. You’ll need to buy from a seller who will ship internationally or use a freight forwarder like comGateway. I found a brand new still in sealed box Roku 2 on eBay for a reasonable Buy-It-Now price from a seller who was happy to post to Australia and a week later I had my Roku 2 in my hands.

One thing to note is that the Roku 2 came with a US 110V-only power supply so I had to purchase another power brick from Jaycar that cost me $30.

Setting up the Roku was easy. You’ll need to create an account on the Roku website that you connect your Roku player to. I plugged the Roku into my A/V receiver, powered it up and a couple of minutes later the Roku was up and running. Firstly you’ll need to connect it to your home Wifi and then it downloads the latest software updates and reboots.

Roku has this notion of “Channels” that are synonymous with applications on an iPad or Android tablet. You will see the Netflix and Hulu apps are preinstalled and all you need to do is connect them to you Netflix and Hulu accounts you previously created. Once the accounts are linked to your Roku you can watch your movies and TV shows on your TV.

Streaming video does use your internet download quota so you’ll need to be on a decent plan with your ISP. Streaming will use somewhere between 0.5 to 1 GB/hour so I upgraded my Internode plan from 200GB/month to 400GB/month for an extra $10/month.

So, let’s do the sums to see if I’m financially infront.

What would Foxtel cost me over 2 years?

Foxtel over the next 2 years would have cost me:

2014 $72*12=$840

2015 (assuming $2 increase per month) $74*12=$888

Making a total 2 year cost of $1728.

What’s my new setup going to cost me?

Once off costs: Roku $120, Australian Power supply $30 for a total of $150.

Monthly costs: Hulu $8, Netflix $8, SmartDNS $4, increased Internet download quota $10/mo = $30/mo, so total for 2014 is $360 and if we assume 10% escalation for 2015 the cost will be $396.

That adds upto is a total 2 year cost of $906.

Doing the sums will show you that I’ve saved $822 over two years… not a bad little saving!

So what are you waiting for? Get rid of your absurdly expensive, poor quality programming Foxtel and start streaming!

Logitech Harmony One universal remote

Now this is one sexy product. Once you’ve played with the remote and worked out how to program it it becomes clear why these remotes was awarded Best of Innovations: Home Theater Accessories at CES 2008.

Logitech Harmony One Remote

Its about the same size as standard TV and DVD remote but has a color touch sensitive LCD screen that displays the options that you’ve programmed into the unit.

The remote is billed by Logitech as being able to replace the majority of remote controls that you’d use to control your home entertainment equipment. Over 225,000 devices from 5000 manufacturers are currently supported in the Logitech database. If, by slim chance, your device isn’t currently supported then you can teach your Harmony device the IR code and these codes are then sent to Logitech so the next person to use the same device can use your uploaded IR codes rather than have to go through the learning scenario.

The remote is programmed though a software application installed on your Windows machine. This application communicates with the database of IR commands that Logitech hosts on the Internet. This software also communicates with your remote via USB to program your configuration into your remote.The configuration for you remote is also hosted on the Logitech servers.

Once you have identified your devices, e.g. TV, A/V receivers, DVD players/recorders etc, you then identify the “Activities” that these devices need to perform. An activity is essentially a script that your remote executes to get your A/V equipment into the correct state to view a DVD, listen to a CD or watch telly. You have full control over these activities.

For example, say you want to want Foxtel pay TV. The script could be

  1. turn on your TV
  2. turn on your A/V receiver
  3. turn on your Foxtel set top box
  4. all other devices like DVD or CD players don’t need to be powered on
  5. the TV needs to be set to its AV1 input
  6. the A/V receiver need to be switched to its TV/SAT input

Your harmony one remote will send the IR commands to each of your devices in turn to get them into the correct state.

As can be seen here, you can replace 4 or 5 remote controls with one Harmony remote control… a very good space saving on your living room table.

Each activity has “Favorite Channels” attached to it. Think of it as a context menu for your activity.

For example, if I am watching Foxtel I can assign buttons on the LCD screen that allow me to jump straight to my favorite channels. You can also save icons to these buttons so you can quicky identify the button to press to get you to the channel you want to watch. You can find icons to use on your remote here or you can use your own.

The provided software allows you to tweak how the Harmony remote interacts with your devices. You have control of the

  • the device inputs
  • power settings
  • remote control delays (power on delay, inter key delay and inter device delay)
  • IR commands for the various buttons

All round this is a very well thought out device. It has a bit of a learning curve but once you get it straight in your head how it works and how it needs to control your A/V devices its pretty simple to program and extremely simple to use.

Logitech is on a winner here.