12.05.11

Do Not Do Business With Globe7

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:57 pm by blog

Globe7 are a VOIP company, purporting to offer cheap calls. As I have a fairly limited selection of international destinations which i regularly call, I was shopping around for the cheapest rates to these destinations around May 2008 and stumbled across Globe7.

Although they seem to primarily want you to use a proprietary application to access their service, they also claimed to offer a standard SIP service as well. And coupled with their advertised rates to the destinations I wanted to call being among the cheapest around, I signed up and purchased $25 of calling credit and Globe7 were more than willing to take my money.

Now here is where the problems started. Instead of processing the payment as a standard purchase of goods or services, it was processed as a “cash advance” and therefore incurred additional fees from the card issuer. Although it is common for cash advanced to attract fees, Globe7 made no mention that they would be charging in this way prior to the purchase.

When it came to actually trying to use the service, further problems occurred. Since i have a number of voip services, both for inbound and outbound calls I run a small Asterisk PBX at home. With this setup i get voicemail services, email alerts, automatic call forwarding to my mobile if i’m not at home, as well as the convenience of just dialing from my handset and having Asterisk route the call through the cheapest available provider, or falling back if that provider is unavailable.

Having been provided a username and password for the Globe7 SIP service, i was unable to get Asterisk to work with the service, always receiving an error message claiming that my account number was not valid. After much experimentation i found out that changing my user agent made it register successfully. So despite claiming support for the SIP standard, Globe7 explicitly block access to any client identifying itself as Asterisk, and yet nowhere on their website did they state that Asterisk was explicitly blocked and even the error message tries to claim the account is invalid rather than stating the true cause of the error – namely that Asterisk is explicitly being blocked.

My anger already boiling somewhat at this point, but having overcome the explicit blocking of Asterisk both by spoofing my user agent and by using a completely different SIP handset i decided to make some test calls to see if the service was actually any good. I decided to place a test call to my own mobile but Globe7 seemed to have major trouble routing this call. Most calls failed to complete, several appeared to ring out but never actually made it to my mobile and at least one was actually answered by someone else. I have no idea how this could happen, or what chaos is taking place internal to Globe7′s phone system. Test calls to other numbers were similarly ineffective, several calls resulted in hearing only silence not even a ringing tone or any other form of audible feedback and yet looking at my account status on the Globe7 website I had actually been charged for this. Only one call, to another mobile phone on another network ever succeeded, and even then it did not succeed in every attempt.

Anyway, the combination of all the above was far too much, i attempted to contact Globe7 and demand a full refund. I detailed my findings, to them via the following email:

Hi,

I have been most dissatisfied with the service I have received since

purchasing credit for this account.

Firstly i was charged $29.38, for what is supposedly a $25 voucher.

Second, I was unable to connect using an Asterisk PBX system, receiving a

false notification stating that “this account number is not valid”. Upon

connecting my Cisco 7960 directly to the service, using the same account

details this error was not received, and changing the user-agent string

reported by Asterisk this error was similarly not heard. Therefore it is

clearly detecting the Asterisk user-agent string, and rejecting calls for

some aparrent reason.

Third, when i was finally unable to initiate calls, i was unable to call

Myanmar, hearing only silence, not even a ringing tone, and being charged

1 minute worth of call time to listen to this silence wondering what is

actually happening.

Fourth, when i called my own mobile number which is connected to O2, most

attempts failed, one attempt was answered by a total stranger, none of

the attempts actually made my mobile ring, which was right beside me the

whole time. Your web based CDR log shows the correct number, but the fact

that the only time the call went through a total stranger answered

suggests it didn’t actually dial the number that was supplied at all.

Calling another mobile on the Orange network did work.

Obviously this is all far from acceptable, and I therefore request a full

refund of the $29.38 spent on this service.

So 2 working days later received a rather weak reply:

Dear Customer,

We would like to inform that,  for European and UK customers, 17.5% VAT will

be charged additionally on each purchase of extra talk time.

Kindly note that Globe7 does not support Asterisk.

We will be glad to assist you with any further query.

Best Regards,

Well great, they inform me *after making a purchase* that they will charge VAT on that purchase… Doesn’t the law require that they disclose any such charges up front? And this is also the first time they make any mention of not supporting Asterisk, and yet there is a big difference between “does not support” and “explicitly blocks without informing customers as such”. On their website, they claim to support SIP, and Asterisk supports SIP. They make no attempt to list which SIP devices are supported, nor do they publish any list of devices which are explicitly not supported. Add to that the fact that Asterisk with a modified user agent seems to work just as well (or as badly, given the poor quality of their service) as the other SIP devices i tested their service with.

Their response made no mention of my demand for a refund, no mention of my complaint about calls not being routed correctly and failed to answer my question about why Asterisk was being explicitly banned by user agent string. So i sent a reply to their email:

The site claims support for SIP devices, which Asterisk is… Instead, the
service explicitly disconnects anything with Asterisk in the user-agent
string. It doesn’t say that only certain SIP devices are supported, and
that other devices will be explicitly blocked. SIP is supposed to be a
standard!
Also the notice given when rejecting an asterisk connection suggests that
the username is invalid, it does not state that connections from asterisk
are rejected. If I had been informed up front that asterisk connections
were explicitly denied I would not have purchased any service.

You have also not addressed the other complaints…
Calls were charged without connecting…
Calls to my mobile number for testing purposes never succeeded even in
making the handset ring, and one of the calls clearly went through to a
completely different number as someone else answered it, even tho the call
log shows the correct number (my mobile)..

I was also unable to call Myanmar, which was the sole reason for buying
this service, cals never connected but were charged regardless…

Finally, and this has only just come to my attention and was thus not
mentioned in the original complaint, the charge to my credit card was put
through as a “cash advance” rather than a purchase, and thus incurred a
cash advance charge and began being charged interest immediately. This was
_NOT_ disclosed up front and is clearly unacceptable.

Your reply was also incredibly slow.

My request for a full refund still stands, and i hope this can be dealt
with speedily, or I will be forced to dispute the charge with my card
issuer and contact Ofcom.

This message got no response whatsoever, and I was forced to carry out my threat to dispute the charge, claim a refund via the card issuer and report the matter to Ofcom.

Out of curiosity, i decided to test if my account created in 2008 was still functional now in the last month of 2011, I went to the Globe7 website and was told that there was a new billing interface for SIP accounts. This new interface was not present when I signed up in 2008, so i followed the link and got an SSL certificate error:

SSL Certificate Error

Amusingly, despite the fact that this new interface had supposedly been added since 2008, it used an SSL certificate which expired in 2006? Incompetence knows no bounds…

So in short, avoid Glove7 like the plague… They may claim to offer cheap calls, yet once you factor in the VAT (which other companies disclose up front), the cash advance charge, the hassle and the fact that the majority of calls don’t complete and yet still get charged the service suddenly appears to be exceptionally poor value for money.

11.05.10

GUI vs CLI

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:13 pm by blog

A GUI (graphical user interface) is like public transport…

Anyone can use it, and it will take you to the most common of destinations during normal hours with the minimum of fuss and hassle. On the other hand, you might be forced to take a slow inefficient route, might have to travel at specific times, might have to wait around for the next train/bus and some places just aren’t reachable using public transport at all.

A CLI (Command Line Interface) is like a car…

A car will take you anywhere you want to go and at any time, but you have to know how to drive and you have to navigate the route yourself.

01.14.09

Announcing Sales Divert

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:47 pm by blog

Sick of marketing calls and companies which demand your phone number for the sole purpose of calling you up to sell you stuff you don’t want?

So give them the following US number: 1-254-243-1704

This number goes through to an automated system that plays samples of Borat saying various random things… He starts off saying hello, and then says he’s pleased to meet you, followed by a few other quotes. In my limited tests, unwanted callers usually tend to speak to Borat for a while, as they think the person saying hello and asking who he’s speaking to is a real person and not a recorded message.

For legal reasons I think I will have to add a recorded message at the start saying that the call is being recorded, then I will be able to record the calls and post them here…

01.13.09

Domain name suggestions

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:37 pm by blog

I am looking to register a new domain name for the free disposable mail site – currently http://commodore.in.

Basically what this site does, is allow anyone to read email for any address at the supported domains anonymously… The site currently has 4 domains for mail receiving:

  • dharmatel.net
  • commodore.in
  • slave-auctions.net
  • deadchildren.org
  • You can receive for any address at these domains, and read it anonymously for free. This is extremely useful for sites that force you to sign up with a valid email address for whatever purpose, such as posting a comment or downloading something. If you use your real email address, these sites could send you mail continuously or worse, let spammers get hold of your address either by selling it to them or suffering a security breach allowing them to get it. If you use the free disposable mail service, then that’s where the spam will go to and you don’t have to worry about it.
    The site also has a nice AJAX-ish interface, based on Roundcube webmail.

    Because some of these domains may come and go, i need a permanent domain for the service… Something simple, easy to remember and to the point, something like tempmail.com, but that is already taken…

    All suggestions welcome, post suggestions as comments below!

    10.11.08

    Free Throwaway Disposable Email

    Posted in Uncategorized at 2:56 pm by blog

    We now have disposable email accounts on several new domains….

    www.slave-auctions.net
    www.deadchildren.org
    www.dharmatel.net
    www.commodore.in

    Use once email accounts, so you can sign up for things online without being bombarded by spam!

    10.10.08

    Free Disposable Use-Once Email From spamdecoy.net

    Posted in Uncategorized at 2:20 pm by blog

    It’s now possible to get a free disposable and anonymous email account from http://www.spamdecoy.net . This site will let you receive email for any address @spamdecoy.net or several other domains, and is incredibly useful when you need a temporary throw-away email account… Think of all those websites that require you to enter an email address in order to sign up, and signing up results in floods of spam… If you use commodore.in then you need never worry about spam going to your real email account.

    Note that this site has now been moved to http://www.spamdecoy.net

    08.20.07

    Skype Outage? The Dangers Of Proprietary Protocols

    Posted in Uncategorized at 4:39 pm by blog

    Aparrently the Skype service went down this week, and stayed down for 2 days leaving users unable to use it…
    Now Skype uses it’s own proprietary protocol, it’s not based on any kind of standard like SIP or H.323, so you have to use the Skype client and connect it to the Skype service.
    But when the service is not available, your screwed, and if you want to communicate with people you have to use something else.
    If you had used a standard protocol such as SIP, then you can easily have a backup provider which your client can switch to automatically. You may not even notice that your primary service provider went down at all.
    Similarly, because they can be replaced so easily, standards compliant service providers have to compete for your custom. There are hundreds of SIP providers out there, your free to shop around for the best value provider rather than being stuck with a single supplier.

    So if you use a standard protocol you get choice, the choice of where to get your service from, and the choice to use another service if one fails you (eg: an outage) and even to use multiple services at once, automatically switching to another if the primary fails.
    If you use proprietary protocols like Skype, you are at the mercy of a single provider. You have to pay whatever prices they decide to charge, and simply put up with whatever outages they have.

    07.09.07

    eBay screwing sellers to promote paypal

    Posted in Uncategorized at 9:53 am by blog

    Today i had a listing cancelled on ebay, for:

    “Circumvention of eBay Fees (=LS &12362 JM119848267)”

    However, your listing was in breach of eBay’s Circumvention of eBay Fees policy and has been removed from eBay. All fees related to this listing have been credited to
    your account. We also notified members who placed bids on the item that the listing has
    been canceled.

    We would like to take this opportunity to let you know what part of your listing is not permitted.

    Your listing(s) contains the following information:

    Payment by paypal will incur a 5 additional charge to cover fees

    You may not manipulate eBay’s system in order to avoid paying certain eBay fees. This includes practices such as adding previously unspecified fees after the end of the
    auction, or charging excessive postage and packaging in order to recoup your listing and Final Value Fees. Fee avoidance provides a poor buying experience and gives you
    an unfair advantage over other eBay sellers.

    Payment surcharges are a form of fee circumvention. eBay prohibits surcharging by sellers. Surcharging occurs when sellers pass the charges they incur for using eBay or
    third party services such as payment services onto buyers.

    eBay has adopted this surcharging policy to ensure that all buyers receive clear and accurate pricing information when trading on eBay.co.uk. This surcharge policy
    applies only to items listed on eBay.co.uk.

    For more information on Circumvention of eBay Fees copy this link into a new browser window:

    http://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/policies/listing-surcharges.html

    What this basically boils down to is. I as a seller cannot make the buyer pay to cover the charges imposed by paypal… Thus, if a buyer pays for the item with cash, a cheque or some other method I receive all the money. If they pay using paypal, I lose a percentage of it. I don’t consider this at all unreasonable, if a buyer wants to use a method of payment that will cost more, they should foot the bill, not the seller. Ebay are doing this because making buyers pay the paypal charges discourages people from using it, so they screw the sellers instead.
    Also let’s not forget that paypal take a cut from the money intended for shipping costs, so sellers have no choice but to inflate shipping costs to cover it.

    So as a consequence, i will stop using paypal.

    07.04.07

    Keziefoods are cheeky bastards, followup

    Posted in Uncategorized at 10:06 am by blog

    A followup to my earlier posting on http://www.ev4.org/wordpress/2007/03/03/keziefoodscouk-are-cheeky-bastards/ regarding the way their registration page uses javascript to fake you signing up for their newsletter, even when you explicitely unchecked the “subscribe to newsletter” box.

    As i stated in my earlier post, i wrote them an email complaining about this horrendous behaviour. A few days later, i got a reply:


    From: "Wendy Biggins" (wendy@kezie.com)
    To:(MY ADDRESS)
    Subject: RE: March Offer

    Can you deal with this one!!!!!!

    -----Original Message-----
    From: MY_ADDRESS [mailto:MY_ADDRESS]=20
    Sent: 03 March 2007 10:04
    To: wendy@kezie.com
    Subject: Re: March Offer

    How dare you send me this unsolicited mail.
    Your registration form uses javascript to recheck the "subscribe to
    newsletter" tickbox, even if it's explicitely been left unchecked.
    I was planning to make a purchase from your company, and i went through
    the registration form while intentionally leaving the newsletter option
    unticked as i don't like to receive floods of junk mail. When i clicked
    submit, the newsletter box got automatically ticked by javascript within
    the page. This is an illegal and incredibly insulting act, and caused me
    to immediately stop placing an order and go elsewhere.
    I want my details removed from your system IMMEDIATELY, or else i will
    be
    forced to report you for sending of unsolicited commercial email.
    I also suggest that you modify the ridiculous policy of tricking people
    into subscribing to your newsletter, as this highly offensive and
    underhanded act will certainly cost you more customers than just me.

    This looks like a pretty stupid screwup… It’s obvious she tried to forward this to one of her colleagues, but fucked up and hit reply instead of forward…
    I did reply, to let her know of the mistake but have since not received anything back. How very rude of them.

    07.01.07

    Anti-piracy measures just hurt legitimate users

    Posted in Uncategorized at 3:08 pm by blog

    I doubt i’m alone in being frustrated with the ridiculous anti-piracy measures these days…
    The requirement to have the original CD/DVD in the drive to play a game for instance. I have several games installed on my HD, and the idea of installing games in the first place, was to improve load times and AVOID THE HASSLE OF HAVING TO LOAD ORIGINAL MEDIA AND/OR DAMAGE IT.
    I work away a lot, and carry a laptop with me at all times. I don’t want to carry a stack of CDs on the off chance i might want to play them. I dont want to keep transferring the media between my stack at home, and my laptop bag.
    People with pirate copies are much better off, they dont have to worry about losing media, they dont have to worry about bringing it along with them. It is actually advantageous to the game player to download a pirate copy. This is in stark contrast to the old anti-piracy advertising associated with analogue video/audio, where pirated copies were noticeably inferior to the originals. The advent of digital media levelled the ground, but rather than do something to compensate for that, companies have gone the other way and taken steps to make the originals actually inferior to the pirate copies.

    Having to enter license codes or serial numbers is equally irritating, most people simply aren’t organised enough to keep track of all these small scraps of paper with serial numbers on them, and most people don’t want that much paper laying about. And losing that small piece of paper results in them being completely unable to use software they may have paid a large amount of money for.

    Also the old code wheels, and requirements to enter a word/letter from the manual. This was common years ago, on the amiga for instance, and was incredibly irritating. Some even required you to re-enter codes at random points throughout the game, and would punish you if you entered them wrong.

    So, i won’t buy games where i have to keep the DVD in the drive to play, and i won’t buy software where i need to enter a code to use it. Why should legitimate customers be at a disadvantage relative to pirates? If this is the thanks we get for buying software, then i think i’l side with the pirates as they don’t shaft their own customers.

    « Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »