Monthly Archives: June 2016

Comcast Refuses to Recall A Known Defective Model of Routers

I work as for a small business that provides IT support to local small businesses and residential customers. This week, I was given what seems like a simple task- set up a wireless printer/scanner. It should have been very simple- download the print driver from HP’s website, install it, change default printers for their programs to the new printer, and verify that it works by printing a test page/scanning a test page. The entire process should have taken less than 30 minutes.

However, things became very complicated. One of the systems couldn’t see the printer after installing the driver, and I had to manually type in the printer’s IP address to get it to work. Downloads on this computer would randomly time out, and the user reported that it was “slow”.  The computer did have other issues that I managed to fix, so at the time, I still felt it was possible that the Windows installation was corrupted(this turned out not to be the case after further testing).

After I restarted a different computer to resolve another issue, scanning/printing functionality suddenly stopped working. At this point, I began to think that something was up with their wireless network. After bringing the “slow” laptop over to our shop, it began functioning perfectly. Internet tasks that took several minutes at their house finished within seconds at our shop.

At this point, I was relatively certain that their router was defective. We told them to visit their local Comcast branch office, and trade in their router/modem(it’s an all in one device) for a new one.

Today, they told me their story of when they visited Comcast. “They said that as soon as they pulled up my account, they knew the issue.” They told him that his model of router/modem has given them nothing but trouble, and that it frequently results in problems. They then provided them with a new one.

Upon them setting up the router, and us setting up the wireless printer with the new network, the rest of the problems were magically solved. There were no connectivity issues, speeds were fast, and the computers had no trouble finding the printers.

The issue I have here is that Comcast is doing absolutely nothing to fix this issue unless customers explicitly complain to them. Seeing as they have records of which models are being leased out to customers, they should be able to write a script that provides them with a schedule for phasing out this model, and replacing them with newer, non-defective models.

This choice by Comcast is ultimately a business decision. Replacing the router of every customer that happens to use that model would prove to be very expensive. It isn’t just the cost of providing the new part- they would also have to provide customer support to millions of customers to help them figure out how to set the new one up. Looking at their quarterly reports, Comcast certainly can afford to do this, although it probably isn’t worth it in terms of improving profitability.

The result of them refusing to recall the defective model is that they can shift the blame and expenses onto other companies. Our customer believed at first that we had sold them a defective computer. To a non-tech savvy consumer, this is the easiest conclusion to reach:

  • Their  computer(connected wirelessly) was very slow when using the internet, whereas their other computer(which happened to be connected directly via ethernet) was perfectly fine.
  • Their router “worked” in that they could access the internet, so it couldn’t be Comcast.

I ended up wasting well over 2 hours troubleshooting problems that stem from Comcast’s failure to provide good customer service. These were hours that had to be billed to the customer, and it wasn’t cheap. Comcast walked away without any charges(other than finally replacing the router) while we spent our time figuring out that they are the source of the problem.

I’m not saying Comcast is making the wrong decision by not recalling this brand of models/routers. From a business standpoint, they save a massive amount of money by only replacing them when customers complain. The vast majority of consumers would never realize that it was Comcast’s fault unless their internet stopped working altogether- so they end up frustrated, but they aren’t frustrated at Comcast, so it doesn’t hurt their bottom line.

However, I believe that from an ethical standpoint, they are doing the wrong thing. They’re providing poor service and refusing to take action to fix preventable problems, due to the simple fact that most consumers would not realize that Comcast is at fault.

Intel is Looking to Fight $1.2 Billion EU Antitrust Fine Once Again

Intel is making yet another attempt to overturn the 1.08 Billion Euro($1.2 Billion USD) fine they received over an anti-trust case regarding attempts to monopolize CPU sales to computer manufacturers. Intel claims that the “2009 EU fine was unfair, wrong, and formalistic”.  Two years ago, the EU General Court rejected their appeal, and now Intel is once again attempting to overturn it at EU’s top court. A date for a ruling has not yet been set. According to Daniel Beard, a lawyer for Intel, “the key issue in the investigation was loyalty rebates to lower retail prices”, which he recently told the European Court of Justice. He felt that The European Commission did not recognize “all relevant circumstances”, in order to analyze if the rebates actually shut out rivals.

History of the Case

In June 2005,  AMD sued Intel over a series of anti-competitive sales practices used to push AMD out of the market. The case stemmed from situations within other countries. The United States lawsuit is separate from the EU case.

Among these practices included providing computer manufacturers with rebates if 95% of the chips they purchased for personal computers were from Intel, paying retail stores to only stock x86 parts, and paying computer makers to delay launches of AMD hardware.

Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and NEC are just some of the manufacturers known to have been manipulated by this sales practice.

According to Extremetech, the deals varied by company. Some companies were given exceptions to the rules, such as only requiring 95% of business class processors to be from Intel, rather than 95% of all processors. At least one company was not allowed to sell any AMD notebook chips at all. The carefully designed deals enabled Intel to seize control of the CPU market, with their market share of desktop sales doubling over the course of less than a year.

 

Source: http://www.extremetech.com/computing/184323-intel-stuck-with-1-45-billion-fine-in-europe-for-unfair-and-damaging-practices-against-amd

Source: http://www.extremetech.com/computing/184323-intel-stuck-with-1-45-billion-fine-in-europe-for-unfair-and-damaging-practices-against-amd

This MCP table shows how Intel increased their incentives after AMD launched their dual core Athlon 64 CPUs, which were a serious threat to Intel.

The deals were carefully designed to get companies to accept them, while being as beneficial to Intel as possible, at the expense of AMD. Intel recognized the needs of certain companies to provide CPUs from other companies for certain markets for reasons such as compatibility, so instead of requiring 100%, a 95% limit would enable Intel to accomplish the same goal without seeming as demanding. By creating unique deals with different companies in response to the needs of companies, Intel managed to improve sales using every method other than simply lowering their prices to a more competitive amount.

In a time where AMD competed very well in regards to price/performance, this deal effectively destroyed the ability of companies that sell computers to offer a diverse range of products, forcing them to stick with Intel almost exclusively to receive the best deals via rebates. By not meeting the 95% criteria, they would not receive rebates from Intel, and therefore would lose a competitive edge against computer makers that do maintain that level of exclusivity.

As a result of the EU case, Intel was fined 1.08 Billion Euros($1.2 Billion).

In addition to the $1.2 Billion fine from the European Competition Commission, Intel agreed to pay AMD $1.25 billion to settle the case, on the basis that AMD drops all pending litigation. Intel also agreed to “abide by a set of business practice provisions”. Intel agreed to discontinue any of the following practices:

 

Offering inducements to customers in exchange for their agreement to buy all of their microprocessor needs from Intel, whether on a geographic, a market segment, a product segment, or distribution channel basis.
Offering inducements to customers in exchange for their agreement to limit or delay their purchase of microprocessors from AMD, whether on a geographic, a market segment or any other basis;

Offering inducements to customers in exchange for their agreement to limit their promotion, production or distribution of products containing AMD microprocessors;
Offering inducements to customers in exchange for their agreement to abstain from or delay their participation in AMD product launches, announcements, advertising or other promotional activities;
Offering inducements to retailers or distributors to limit or delay their purchase or distribution of computer systems or platforms containing AMD microprocessors; and
Withholding any benefit or threatening retaliation against anyone for their refusal to enter into a prohibited arrangement such as those set forth above.

Sources:

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/2488/000119312509236705/d8k.htm

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-21/intel-fights-record-1-2-billion-antitrust-fine-at-top-eu-court

http://www.zdnet.com/article/intel-loses-fight-against-eur1bn-eu-antitrust-fine/

Intel stuck with $1.45 billion fine in Europe for unfair and damaging practices against AMD

A Look at Tera’s Upcoming Content

“Aces Wild” Update- July 2016

Tera’s North American publisher has created a page with details regarding Tera’s upcoming July update. The page will be updated every Tuesday with more information regarding the upcoming patch. Gameforge, Tera’s European publisher, has released an article regarding what their patch 45 update will contain. The NA and EU builds tend to be very similar, with the main differences being the way that the companies choose to monetize the game. Through reading the patch announcement from Gameforge, we can determine what the update will contain:

  •  Manglemire, a 5 player, 4 star difficulty dungeon that drops materials used to craft the current best weapons/armor in the game(Imperator).
  • Two new solo dungeons, with multiple options for difficulty and type.
  • Dreadspire, the 20+ floor 5 player dungeon has returned for a 3rd time! Dreadspire is generally the hardest dungeon in the game, and offers massive rewards for those talented enough to complete it.
  • Kumasylum, a mini-game where you gamble over two NPC monsters fighting, is being reworked.
  • A cosmetics wardrobe that allows you to store costumes in a separate bank

 

Distant Update Sneak Peek

Gameforge has revealed some of the content that the developers are currently working on:

  • GVG is being reworked. The current alliance and crusade system is being removed in favor of a new guild war system. The system involves guilds building and defending an outpost from other guilds, in order to take control over Velika.
  • The guild system as a whole is being expanded to offer more content and rewards. Examples include guild skills, guild tasks, alliances, and more.
  • An epic 30 player raid is being made. The monster is said to be “10 times larger than a regular BAM”
  • Two new dungeons,  Lilith’s Castle and Rakelith’s Ruins.
  • No plans to increase the level cap

Speculation and Opinions

While some of these new features sound really cool in theory, I worry that Tera’s poor optimization will ruin some of these features. Tera’s development team has stated that they are choosing to work on “content over optimization”. Anyone that played Tera during the alliance system’s launch would know that any form of large-scale PVP is a lagfest even on the most powerful computer. This creates concerns regarding the implementation of guild warfare, as PVP will essentially become a slideshow in the case of large guilds battling it out. The 30 player raid is also concerning, as even 10 player raids tend to result in fps values dropping below 20 on high end computers.

I also wonder what Gameforge means by “Guild tasks”. If it’s boring guild quests that involve killing mobs or repeating the same dungeons, I’m not looking forward to it. Hopefully, guild tasks will bring something new to the table and offer new exciting group activities. Guild Wars 2 offers the gold standard for what guild tasks could be, providing unique challenges and activities for guilds to tackle, and rewarding both the player and the guild for it.

With the buffs to Starfall gear last patch, as well as this new dungeon dropping materials for the same gear as existing dungeons, it’s quite possible that BHS may finally be taking action to reduce the severity of power creep within gear. Seeing that Tera’s last update was only a month ago, it seems very early to introduce new gear, so this decision is probably for the best.

The cosmetic wardrobe is an absolutely crucial feature that Tera has needed for a while. Guild Wars 2 has always been praised for its wardrobe system, and Blade and Soul has frequently been criticized for not opening it up to non paying members. By providing a separate storage for cosmetic items, the appeal of cash shop items increases significantly. Many people joke about Tera endgame being about “collecting costumes”. The amount of storage needed to keep costumes has always turned me away from buying costumes, but this change would certainly change my opinion on that.

Sources:

http://tera.enmasse.com/game-guide/aces-wild

http://en.tera.gameforge.com/news/detail/future-changes-on-tera-06-2016

http://en.tera.gameforge.com/news/detail/patch-45-announcement-content-overview