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Delta Is Being Accused of Sneakily Tricking People Into Booking Much Worse Seats Than They Think
September 3, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

When I book flights, I try to be patient.

Perhaps like many people, I go to Kayak or Google Flights, and hope to find everything that’s available. 

Then, I might wait a few days to see if prices go up or down, depending on the urgency of my booking.

It’s like playing with your cat, really. Most of the time, Tibkins is quicker. Just occasionally, though, you get him. 

The accusation was that Delta Air Lines made ordinary Economy Class flights appear as if they were Premium Economy when booked via Google Flights.

Or, as the Points-Saving God puts it: “Delta displays economy prices for Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy, and at no point during booking does it actually specifically tell you you’ve got the wrong deal.”

In essence, if you go through the Google Flights search process, wanting to book, say, return flights from London to LAX, you get what seems like a wonderful deal.

If you book via Delta’s site rather than its partner Virgin Atlantic’s, that is.

The price difference is more than $ 1,000. Which is clearly the very definition of a steal.

Because you like saving money and feelings clever, you click on that deal and still believe you’re booking Premium Economy.

It’s just that, if you look closely, it has a novel and delightful name: Economy Delight.

This is actually Virgin’s fancy name for something that’s slightly better than so-called Economy Classic, but is still very much Economy Class and not the wider seats and more pleasant experience of Premium Economy.

Which Virgin calls, oddly, Premium Economy.

For all you know, however, Economy Delight is what Delta calls Premium Economy.

There are so many names these days.

And nowhere, said God Save The Points, is it clear that it isn’t. After all, why are you being shown this option when you searched for Premium Economy fares?

I asked Delta for its view.

An airline spokeswoman told me: 

Delta recognizes the limitations of some current shopping experience on third-party sites may not be ideal. That’s why we are leading industry collaboration to ensure customers have access to all of Delta’s products, no matter where they shop.

Ah, so it’s Google Flights’ fault?

Delta seems to think so. Its spokeswoman continued: 

It’s time for third-party displays, including Google Flights, to invest in the technology necessary to display the various products available so customers can view all their options clearly, just as Delta has done for customers on delta.com. 

An airline mocking Google’s technology? That resembles entertainment.

So I asked the Silicon Valley company for its reaction and will update, should I hear.

I remained perplexed. If Virgin Atlantic’s fares are accurately depicted, why aren’t Delta’s?

I was so moved by all this that I tried the search for myself.

I got very similar results to God Save The Points. 

Not exactly close.

I clicked through to Delta’s site and there it was, the Economy Delight designation.

Only if I scrolled down would I see that an upgrade to Premium Economy would cost an additional $ 257.75 each way.

This all feels a touch unhealthy. 

Delta says it’s the champion of the people, but airlines aren’t always so keen to play with third-party sites, where many people go to make comparisons.

Risibly, the airlines’ lobbying group claims this is all intended to increase, please wait for it, transparency.

It might even, say the comparison sites’ lobbyists, threaten the ability of fare comparison sites to operate.

Worse, the airlines seem to believe that third-party sites should deliver all the detailed information that airlines have, yet those same airlines refuse, in some cases, to give those sites that very information.

Which all should make emptors do a lot of caveating.

And we thought technology is going to make things easier. 

Easier for corporations, perhaps.

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The Airline Whose Planes Are Said to Break Down In Mid-Air More Often Than Anyone's Is About To Have a Big PR Problem
April 15, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

They say you should get out ahead of a bad story.

Present your version before the story hits, so that people can have good feelings about you before aspersions are cast.

I wonder, therefore, what Allegiant Air might do this weekend.

I wrote about this airline a couple of years ago, after it had been accused of having planes that break down four times more often than those of other airlines.

In mid-air, that is.

Of the airline’s 86 planes, it was said that 42 of them had broken down in mid-air the previous year.

The airline fought back and claimed that the accusations were “incendiary.” Indeed, its stock went up 24 percent soon after the original Tampa Bay Times article was published.

Now, though, Allegiant might have a bigger PR problem. 

On Sunday, it’ll be featured in a 60 Minutes segment, one that CBS teases will be twice the usual length.

Here’s the teaser.

Just those 48 seconds suggest that Allegiant should brace for something of calm, considered skewering.

I asked the budget airline what it thought of the upcoming exposé. A spokeswoman told me Allegiant would wait until the segment airs before offering a rebuttal.

One of the main issues with Allegiant’s record of breakdowns is that it flies old planes. Very old planes, some 22 years of age.

Recently, though, it has begun to replace these planes with Airbuses. Indeed, last May was the first time that Allegiant enjoyed the experience of fitting out a new(ish) plane.

The question, then, is how much Sunday’s 60 Minutes piece will reflect the whole current scenario.

The problem for the airline’s PR department, though, is that Allegiant will surely come out looking not so good on one of the most respected news programs in America, one that’s watched by 12 million people.

It’s inevitable, then, that it will instantly be associated with the sort of bad reputation that plagued United Airlines over the last year. 

Worse, perhaps, is the idea that instead of a brutal lack of customer sensitivity — as in the United case — Allegiant might be tarred with the notion that it’s simply an unsafe airline.

On Friday, the airline’s stock began to drop. What might happen to it on Monday?

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Hong Kong fund says Toshiba chip unit worth more than $30 billion
April 6, 2018 6:01 am|Comments (0)

TOKYO (Reuters) – A Hong Kong-based activist investment fund opposed to Toshiba Corp’s (6502.T) sale of its chip unit to a Bain Capital-led group said the deal should be renegotiated at a valuation of 3.3 trillion yen to 4.4 trillion yen ($ 30 billion-$ 41 billion).

FILE PHOTO – The logo of Toshiba Corp. is seen at the company’s facility in Kawasaki, Japan February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

Argyle Street Management said on Friday that the current deal, which values the unit at 2 trillion yen, was agreed upon when Toshiba was desperate for cash. Toshiba is no longer insolvent, and was free to terminate the deal without incurring any penalty because the sale had not closed by a March 31 deadline, it said.

Toshiba should aim to list the unit if the Bain group will not agree to a higher price, it added.

Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Writing by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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Bitcoin gets back above $10,000 on Bitstamp, a more than two-week high
February 15, 2018 6:10 pm|Comments (0)

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bitcoin rose above $ 10,000 on Thursday for the first time in more than two weeks, as investors bought back the digital currency after having fallen 70 percent from its all-time peak hit around mid-December.

On the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp, bitcoin rose as high as $ 10,095.82 and was last at $ 10,060.26, up 6 percent on the day.

Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

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iPhone Battery Scandal: Apple Had Way Better Options Than Slowing Down Your Phone
December 22, 2017 12:55 am|Comments (0)

On Wednesday, Apple confirmed what many customers have long suspected: The company has been slowing the performance of older iPhones. Apple says it started the practice a year ago, to compensate for battery degradation, rather than push people to upgrade their smartphones faster. But even giving that benefit of the doubt, there are plenty of better ways Apple could have accomplished the same goal without betraying customer trust.

Earlier this week, John Poole, a developer at Geekbench, published a blog post indicating that a change in iOS is slowing down performance on older devices. According to Apple, factors like low charge, cold climates, and natural battery degradation can all affect the performance of its mobile devices, and the company confirmed that this policy was implemented last year to counteract these effects.

As much sense as that explanation may make, Apple could have made plenty of choices that would have benefited consumers instead of penalizing them. These same choices could have also saved the company from the public shaming it suffered this week.

Fresh Juice

In a statement to WIRED, Apple confirmed Poole’s findings, saying it was purposely slowing down older iPhones to compensate for the effects of age on their batteries. “Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components,” the company says.

While many have speculated that the company has been doing this for years, Apple says the feature was implemented last year for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone SE. Now, with iOS 11.2, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are getting the same treatment, and the company intends to bring other devices into the fold down the road.

Rather than secretly hamstring the iPhone’s CPU, though, Apple could have simply educated users about the limitations of lithium-ion batteries, says Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, a company that sells repair kits and posts repair guides for consumer electronics. While Apple does say in the iPhone user manual that batteries degrade over time and should be replaced, you’d have to dig through a few links outside of the manual to learn that by 500 charge cycles, your phone’s battery will hold a charge of about 80 percent.

Another tactic Apple could employ is selling battery replacement kits to consumers, letting them pop a fresh battery into their aging iPhone. It would be an easily understandable solution to an easily understandable problem, rather than software manipulation that feeds into a long-running, planned obsolescence conspiracy theory. But Apple has actively fought against laws that would require it to provide a way for users to repair their devices. According to a report from HuffPost, Apple argues that allowing consumers to replace the battery could make the iPhone more vulnerable to hacks, and that letting people peek inside would make the iPhone easier to counterfeit.

“Apple won’t sell batteries to consumers, people should be furious about that,” Wiens says. “Your battery is a maintenance item, and everyone should expect to replace their battery fairly frequently.”

Apple does cover one battery replacement under its one-year warranty program, but only for “defective batteries,” a term that isn’t clearly defined on the company’s site. If your phone is out of warranty and you don’t have an AppleCare+ plan, the company offers a battery replacement for $ 79 plus a $ 6.95 shipping charge. The problem, Wiens says, is that Apple doesn’t advertise this policy to consumers, leaving iPhone users to believe that the only solution is to buy a costly iPhone.

Choices Choices

Direct battery fixes certainly would have made the most sense. But even allowing that a software tweak was the only way Apple could have proceeded—untrue, but just for argument’s sake—it had a much better option than making its software solution covert.

Rather than quietly push out an update that crimped older iPhones, it should have made that throttling opt-in. As it stands, there’s no way to avoid having your phone slowed down once the battery reaches its limits. By giving users the choice, and giving them the information necessary to make their own decision, Apple could avoid the frustrations many have expressed over the policy.

While making the throttling opt-in could cause performance issues for users who opt-out, it would give users a sense of control over the situation and avoid making them feel like they’re being tricked into buying a new phone. As it stands, Apple’s move comes off as deceptive.

Instead of leaving users confused about why their phones are suddenly slowing to a crawl, Apple could take user education a step further by providing a battery health monitor in the Settings app. That way, an iPhone owner could figure out if the battery is the issue, or if something else is going on.

Lay Down the Law

The damage, unfortunately, is already done. But it’s also unlikely that Apple will behave differently going forward. At the very least, the company almost certainly won’t shift gears and start selling battery replacement kits to consumers. For starters, the iPhone’s casing uses proprietary Pentalobe screws, which make it hard for average users to get inside to swap the battery.

Apple has also lobbied against right-to-repair legislation, which would allow third-party repair shops and typical consumers to more easily fix their broken phones. Proposed right-to-repair laws typically require companies to publish their repair manuals, as well as make the necessary repair tools available for purchase rather than requiring a specialist to make these repairs.

Wiens says that, ideally, right-to-repair legislation would pass and ensure consumers have the ability to fix their devices on their own terms without having to deal with warranties or acquire difficult-to-find tools.

Apple’s throttling is misleading, and it’s far from the best way the company could have handled the situation. Still, lithium-ion batteries are riddled with problems users should be aware of. The company isn’t likely to change its stance on the matter, but if you’ve noticed your iPhone getting slower over the last year, at least you know it wasn’t all in your head—and that a battery fix might bring your iPhone back up to speed.

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Microsoft Earnings Stronger Than Expected in Second Quarter
January 27, 2017 4:20 am|Comments (0)

Cloud computing services continue to be a major contributor to Microsoft’s booming revenue growth as the company reports its earnings for the …
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Some Insect Repellents Are Much More Effective At Fighting Zika-Carrying Mosquitoes Than Others
November 7, 2016 3:50 pm|Comments (0)

What is the best repellent to avoid being bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus? This question was originally answered on Quora by Tirumalai Kamala.


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Japanese ad giant admits to overcharging more than 100 clients
October 9, 2016 11:35 pm|Comments (0)

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Tokyo-based advertising giant Dentsu has acknowledged that it overcharged more than 100 clients after it conducted a month-long investigation into its own financial records.

The probe turned up at total of 633 business transactions that warranted suspicion — worth about $ 2.3 million overall. 

In some cases, its agency properties charged fees for ads that were never placed. There were also instances in which a campaign’s performance was exaggerated in order to hike up the price.

It’s not clear which of Dentsu’s clients were affected, but the holding company said in a statement that it had contacted and apologized to each of them. It also vowed to refund the sum in full. Read more…

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Google’s smart speaker will be cheaper than the Amazon Echo, report says
September 30, 2016 1:20 am|Comments (0)

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Amazon might be getting a little worried.

Pricing details for Google’s upcoming smart speaker, the Amazon Echo-like Google Home, may have just been leaked and they suggest that Google’s speaker will be a lot cheaper than Amazon’s.

The speaker will sell for $ 129 when it goes on sale later this year, according to a report in Android Police. Google Home, which the company first introduced at its I/O developer conference in May, is a speaker that also has Google Assistant built in. (You can preview the assistant in the company’s new messaging app, Allo.) It can also control smart home devices, complete searches and help you manage tasks like managing your grocery list. Read more…

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More than 840,000 Cisco devices are vulnerable to NSA-related exploit
September 21, 2016 6:50 pm|Comments (0)

More than 840,000 Cisco networking devices from around the world are exposed to a vulnerability that’s similar to one exploited by a hacking group believed to be linked to the U.S. National Security Agency.

The vulnerability was announced by Cisco last week and it affects the IOS, IOS XE, and IOS XR software that powers many of its networking devices. The flaw allows hackers to remotely extract the contents of a device’s memory, which can lead to the exposure of sensitive information.

The vulnerability stems from how the OS processes IKEv1 (Internet Key Exchange version 1) requests. This key exchange protocol is used for VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) and other features that are popular in enterprise environments.

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