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Numskull Award

The Numskull Award is a web award which is given to companies, employees of said companies, or individuals who in some form have expressed some form of doublespeak, hypocrisy, or blaitant lying. For the most part it's my own private battle against corporate stupidity and dishonesty. Winning one is in fact not that easy, it requires an exerted effort of the traits listed above. There are, however, a few shortcuts...

Note: This is web only award that is given without notification to the recipiant. If you've in fact won, and are reading this, feel free to use any of the award images here in relation to your win. Just be sure to link the image back to here (http://www.torgo.org/numskull/) if used in web form, or have the URL clearly printed below the image if used in print form.


I've not had a lot of experience with Power On's products, I'm simply angry about their handling of one apparently small problem with one of their existing products.

Some time ago a company called Proteron Software (I believe) created a product called GoMac. The product simulated a Windows task bar at the bottom of a Macintosh screen. I began trying this product out shortly after its first release. When it came out I had some ideas on how to improve it, so as I many times do, I e-mailed a list of idea improvements for the product. I was amused to find after its next release, half the ideas I had sent in were in fact put into effect. Even more amusing, after its next release the second half of my suggestions, all the suggestions I had made were put into effect. Continuing after that more changes were put in, improving it further, so early on I really liked what Proteron was doing with it.

After some time Power On Software acquired the product, my feelings were indifferent when this occurred. I downloaded the new version they released to see how I liked it, and though there weren't any noticeable changes I thought it would continue to be a good product.

I'm always particular about what I put on my computer. If I like something, I more or less feel I need it, if I don't, I won't use it, period. I was continuing to try out GoMac and was quite satisfied with what it allowed me to do. A little time passed and things came together so I had and iMac and iBook. I needed to be able to share files between them, and so I went with what I felt was the best solution, AirPort networking cards.

Around this time is when the problem started becoming apparent. The AirPort software comes with a Control Strip Module (CSM) to control it. Oddly enough when I added the control strip for it to my GoMac bar, the module displayed fine, but I couldn't click on it. Anybody familiar with CSMs knows other than the visual display which can often give a lot of information, most of them require you to click on them. Doing so brings up a menu. The AirPort strip indicates the signal level visually, and lets you control network configurations when clicking on it. My problem was, since it wouldn't let me click on it, or more accurately since it wouldn't brig up the controls menu when I did click on it, I couldn't satisfactory use the module, which makes it more difficult to control some functionality of the AirPort network.

I decided to e-mail Power On's support, feeling if I could get passed this hurtle, the product would be a permanent part of my OS configuration (at least until OSX). I e-mailed them and they sent me a fairly personalized looking response first telling me that it does in fact work, and that the problem has to be something with my system. Being a "Power User" for some time, I knew the full extent of trouble shooting for this type of problem. I did so on both systems (the iMac and iBook) with no success. I tired re-installing, and even did some things beyond their suggestions to try and get it to work.

I responded to their e-mail saying the problem I was continuing to have. The e-mail was then got bounced back to me by an automated system stating I needed to "format my response differently before it would be read." I went ahead & did it as the e-mail explained. Much to my anger I then received an identical copy of the original response they sent me. Not only did I find out I was originally sent a basic form message, but after having to go though so much to format my response properly, they didn't even read it. This is an extremely terrible handling of customers problems, and directly points out their concerns for customers are very trivial.

Feeling very angry I went ahead & sent them another letter, stating what had happen and specifically leaving out any description of my problem, simply to avoid being sent the same form message again. I received a response asking me to explain my problem, thinking this time they would listen.

By this time I had found another group of CSMs which exhibited the same behavior. I e-mailed the new info, thinking my findings would give them a good ability to identify the cause of the problem, and be able to work on a fix.

After several weeks, hearing nothing I've assumed my findings are being ignored.

My only idea as to why they would do this would be that they feel fixing this bug probably won't directly increase revenue, and there fore there's no reason for them to spend any time or effort to fix it. This simply shows their concerns are not for fixing a known problem for existing problems, but rather focusing on new products which will increase their revenue. The biggest problem with this perspective is that it gives plenty of room to alienate customers, and therefore decrease revenues by decreasing the number of customers that will be willing to rely on their products after time.

So, to you Power On Software, I present the Numbskull award, for ignoring customers problems.


One of the first problems I came across while using HOST4U.COM was an awkward configureation which prevented the use of the javascript command: document.lastModified(). I use(d) this command to show how long its been since I've updated my page. It makes it much simpler than inserting the date by hand. However, when I attempted to use this command in my pages on their server, it always returned a date in January 1970. I've obvously updated my page more recently than that. I e-mailed them about it and they told me to contact the writer of the script and ask them. I seriously doubt that SUN Microsystems would be able to tell me why this standard javascript command doesn't work on HOST4U.COM's server. In hind site I know its because they had their pages configured to be "parcible" by default, but its something they should have known.

The second problem I ran into was when I tried to set up my CGI scripts for use with the server (such as my guestbook). Oddly enough all their stantdard unix binary applications (such as the date command, and perl, ect...) were located in somewhat unusual locations. Most servers keep these things in standard locations, but HOST4U.COM for some reason decided this wasn't the best way to do things. This all and all isn't that big of a deal, however when I e-mailed them to ask them how they did set it up, since it wasn't in a standard configuration, they for one reason or another didn't reply at all. Perhaps they didn't even know?

After I finally got my CGI scripts configured right (after searching on my own to find everything), I still had problems. This was awkward considering after I configured them, I would test them and they would work fine. Often the next day they would return an error 405 which means there was a configuration problem with the script, and by default it stated to contact the webmaster (which was me, of coarse) to have it fixed. However, this was completely incorrect because the script in fact would have worked perfectly the day before. I would e-mail HOST4U.COM and usualy by the next day the problem would be fixed. The problem was that this occurred several times.

The next problem I had was with non-standard methods to execute CGI scripts in a page. There is a fairly standard way of getting CGI scripts to be executed in pages and to properly display information (in the particular case I'm refering to, I was trying to find a method to display random quotes in the foot of each of my pages). However, when I tried to use this semi-standard method my pages would display an error message in place of the quote. I e-mailed them and tried to ask them about it, but at this time they once again igored the e-mail...

I re-visited this attempt at a later date. I ended up finding a some-what non-standard method to get it to work, however it would only work in pages in my "root" direcory, which greatly limited the number of pages I could use it on. So I e-mailed them again asking how to set the CGI up to work. I ended up getting a reply saying "we do not give HTML support." This didn't make any sence because it had nothing to do with my HTML but rather the way server side includes (on their server) were setup & configured. This isn't something which just anyone can simply just "guess" in cases where its non-standard as their server was. It was practically impossible for me to figure out since they woudln't tell me how to do it, and they didn't have any documentation anywhere as to how to configure CGI's to work specifficaly with their particular server setup.

The last problem I ran across was the most annoying, for which HOST4U.COM denied it was their fault. There were times randomly I noticed my page when loaded would give the CGI script error as I listed above 405, a script misconfiguration . The problem here was that it would give the error when trying to load ANY portion of my domain, even pages with NO scripts what-so-ever. This problem would start on its own, without me doing anything, then stop a day or a couple days after, once again without me doing anything to fix it. The first time it occured it did late on a friday, and so I e-mailed shortly after I noticed the problem. Monday I got a reply stating: "There are currenly no problems with our server, you most likely configured a script incorrectly." The problem with this was, as I said above, it did this in all pages I had, including any pages with NO scripts at all. Further more the problem would start without me having made any modifications to my pages, after the pages had been up for some time with no problem. Ironically enough though when I would check my page after receiving their response, the page would mysteriously be working fine. The problem occured a few more times, some of the times I only found out about it through other people telling me they had visited my page and found it down. It would start and stop with no intervention from me. Over time I again had this whole situation repeat itself, the page going down & back up with no intervention from me. It was pretty much obvous the problem was at their end, and they directly denied it because that may entitle me and other customers for a partial refund for down time.

It basically boiled down to a point where I felt it was in my best interest to cancel my account with them and find a new hosting service. I tired not to take any of the long list of problems I had personally. I sent an e-mail to HOST4U.COM asking what I needed to do in order to cancel my account. I ended up getting a reply from billing saying: "You cannot cancel your account this way, your account has not been cancled, please view our polocies on this." This was an awkward reply considering I was trying to find out how to cancel my account, not using the e-mail to cancel the account itself. But at any rate I did what the e-mail said and checked polocies. It took me a while to find the right paragraph, but I did and it stated I had to do it via fax or mail. So I e-mailed billing again asking two things: What specific information did I need to send, and what address should I send it to. I was still trying to handle the matter professionally at this point. I ended up receiving a reply which consisted solely of the statement "our address is located on http://www.host4u.com." Which again was an interesting reply considering I asked two questions, and barely got the answer to one. This to me showed a strong lack of professionalism twards customers. If they were a responcible orgainization, they would have assisted in me processing my cancelation. Instead they felt they had to turn it into some sort of immature mud slinging competition.

An interesting side note: I've turned off the link to HOST4U.COM's web site, because clicking on it today redirects you to a porn site. I'm assuming based on this, the organization as it was no longer exsists.

So to you HOST4U.COM I present the Numskull award, for ignoring customers and being unprofessional.


Several years ago for Christmas I received a subscription to RAIN as a present, my first ISP. Since the first day I started using them I had problems, I couldn't log into my account. Something had gone wrong when they set up my account, a problem with the password. I ended up having to call and speak with them before I could even use my account.

After that was fixed I constantly had problems with the service. Over 70% of the time, when I tried logging in to the POP number local to me, I couldn't connect. I ended up with over $80 in long distance fees the in just the first month, since they constantly had problems with the local POP number.

After two months of this problem I finally was able to connect somewhat regularly to their local number. Even so the overall quality of connection and transfer rates were terrible.

As time went on I began developing a web page, something I enjoyed doing and did somewhat well. My page at that time was doing fairly well for a beginner. At any rate, I finally created my first Mortal Kombat page which became very popular overnight. A couple days after finally being submitted to search engines where more people could find it, I found my entire page was disabled. When I called RAIN they told me that there were problems with my page, that it was written incorrectly. I was rather annoyed because even at that time I knew enough about pages to know my HTML scripting was fine. They told me I would have to make changes to my page before they would enabled it again. I went ahead and made the "necessary changes" just to get my page back up, and ended up completely removing the Mortal Kombat section of my page (the most popular portion). The next day my page was back on line, so my assumption was everything had been corrected to their liking.

About a week had passed and I found that I could no longer log in to my account at all, it had been disabled. When I called I was told that my account had been deactivated due to my web page, I was told I hadn't fixed the problem. My immediate response was one of extreme anger, because of the fact I had done what they asked me, and further more they "approved" of my corrections to allow my page to be put back up in the first place.

It was my belief that at this point in time they obviously had no idea what the "problem" was, and further more couldn't give me a reasonable explanation to what the problem was. I spoke with a member of their customer support and she repeatedly told me that I was writing my "web page wrong". I explained to her my code was almost identical to countless other pages on the web at the time, she responded by saying that that was "impossible" and that "no other internet provider could allow my page as written to be up because its written incorrectly and causes problems with the system". She repeatedly told me that I "didn't know how to write a web page" (talk about insulting). Then I finally said to her that I would move to another ISP, certain that I wouldn't have problems elsewhere. Her response again was that "no other ISP could allow [my] web page to exist as it was currently written because it would cause to many problems with their systems."

A week later I switched to west.net put my page up in its original format, and never had a problem again. Since then my experience in web design has increased greatly, I've even done consulting work helping others with their web pages. Interestingly enough the core of that original "offending" page still exists on my site today, along with the rest of my site currently at my own domain. I've never once been told there were any problems with any portion of my page, and I'm certain there in fact never was.

At any rate after changing ISP's, due to the fact I had several months left on the original payment for my account, I applied for a refund. Under the circumstances (mainly that they lied to me about supposed problems with my page, the fact that their quality of service was worse than even a free ISP would be today, and put me in a situation where I really had no choice but to cancel my account and go with another company) I felt I qualified for a little more of a refund than simply the remaining months of service I had.

At any rate I ended up calling them on a monthly basis for several months, and ended up getting nothing but the run around. Not surprising every time I attempted to request to speak with a supervisor I was ALWAYS told one wasn't present, and that the only way I would hear from one is for them to leave a message and have one call me back. I in turn never got a call back, and to this day they still without question owe me over $120 based solely on the six months I had left of service, not to mention every thing else I experienced.

An interesting side note: Every time I've spoken with a RAIN customer, and asked how they felt about their quality of service, I've been told its terrible. I've honestly been told this several times by several different people.

So to you RAIN Network, I present the Numskull award, for an outstanding bad quality of service!



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