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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Steam support doesn't work, an example.

Steam, in case you aren't familiar with it, is a content delivery network for games.  It's actually quite a great service.  You buy a game and then you can log into steam from any computer, download the game, and play it.  It's as convenient as things get in the gaming world.  I really do love it.  I can buy games for my family and friends and send them as gifts immediately or on my own schedule.  I can buy games for myself and download them right then and start playing. They have great sales.  In short, I love it.


Steam support is beyond useless.  It is infuriating.  It is as bad, or worse, than attempting to explain a problem to someone who doesn't speak your language.  Steam support is broken.

I did have a time when I swore I'd never buy another game through steam.  It was because of their support.  My son came to work with me one day and I decided to let him use the new computer we got at work to play some steam games on.  The client, the thing that you use to run all of the games, would not install on the computer.  I went to their web page and started the support request procedure.  I explained that I was unable to install the client on the computer.  Their response was that I needed to provide them with a picture of me holding the game box with the game key clearly visible.  Again, if you aren't familiar with the steam product, there is no game box or key for the client.  The client is free and it allows you to not only play the games you've purchased but to purchase more games.  In the end the issue was never resolved and I swore to never buy another game from steam again.  I caved and went back to steam after a couple of years.  The convenience of the service was too much for me to pass up.

History aside, let's fast forward to this past Friday.  I decided to purchase some games for my two sons.  I wanted them to have some of the games from my own youth so I purchased two copies each of Sonic the Hedgehog and a collection of games called The Sega Collection.  I purchased each game individually and used their service to send them directly through steam.  (Steam has a feature that allows chat as well as notifications of updates and gifts that have been sent to you.)  Since the kids live in the same household as I do I told them to check their steam client for anything new.  They checked and saw no gift notification.  I waited.  I figured the steam servers were busy or something so no big deal.  I did get the emails from steam indicating that the purchases were charged to my credit card and each email indicated which game was purchased and who was to get it.

Saturday comes and they still don't see the gifts.  I took care of it and ran into several problems along the way.  I did finally get all of the games installed and running but since this had been an especially bad transaction I decided to let steam know of the issues I had with the service and inquire about how I could make the game purchases easier on all of us in the future.  I created a support ticket.

1 Message by you on Sat, 24th Sep 2011 6:49 am
Yesterday I purchased 4 games from the steam store, all gifts. It was two copies of Sonic the hedgehog and two copies of the Sega collector's edition. All were sent to my sons as gifts. First of all, neither of my sons received a steam notification that they had a game waiting even though they were sent directly through steam. Finally I went to their manage gifts and found them in each of their accounts. I also found that both copies of sonic were sent to {redacted - youngest son}'s account, my youngest son, when in the email it says there is one there for each of them, not both for the same account.
* Thank you for your recent gift purchase on Steam. Your gift has been sent to {redacted - oldest son}. Confirmation Number {redacted}
* Thank you for your recent gift purchase on Steam. Your gift has been sent to {redacted - youngest son). Confirmation Number {redacted}
I had to resend the one intended for {redacted - oldest son} after the fact. Why this happened is beyond me and if this had been for somebody outside of my household that might have already redeemed it, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to fix this.

The other issue with this gift purchase is that with the install of all 4 games I received the following message for each install:

"Gift activation failure

Invalid Gift

the gift you have attempted to redeem is no longer valid. This gift may have already been used by someone else, it may have expired, or it may have been revoked by the sender."

All of the games I have purchased have now been installed and tested and everything works. My question is: why did nothing go right with these purchases and installs and is there anything I can do for the next time to make gift purchasing any more efficient?

also, when I tried to attach an image of the error it told me "There were the following errors. Please make the necessary changes and resubmit.

The attachment is not a valid file type.


You might want to think about putting what file types are valid so I might know before trying to attach/upload it.

    steamInvalidGift.JPG - View Image (File Size : 174.2 KB)

Now it seems to me I laid out the problems that I had very clearly and explained everything to the best of my ability.  I didn't, as is my usual nature, get hot-headed about it.  They replied.

2 Message by Support Tech {redacted - support personnel's name} on Sun, 25th Sep 2011 1:13 pm
Hello John,

Thank you for contacting Steam Support.

Please follow the link below for information:

Title: Steam Purchase Gifts and Guest Passes

If you have any further questions, please let us know.

The article they linked to is their general FAQ page on how steam gifts work. I had already inspected this article before submitting the support request but it clearly doesn't mention how one could buy a game and have the confirmation email say it went to one person and yet when I found the games in their steam client, one of the boys had both copies of the Sonic the Hedgehog.  They didn't address any of the issues I had.  Thusly I replied.

3 Message by you on Sun, 25th Sep 2011 1:20 pm
Is this my response? Are you kidding?

I bought games for one person and it was delivered to another person and you send me a boilerplate link?

Every single install said the gift was invalid and you sent me a boilerplate link?

I read that link before I submitted this ticket. I did not expect what I got - absolutely no response to the questions I have posed.

I spent a good deal of time attempting to explain what had happened and I even provided confirmation numbers and a screenshot. Is there a reason I wasn't offered anything more than a standard link that answers exactly zero of my questions?

I don't expect a reply any time soon. If I recall correctly it took nearly a month before I finally gave up on my only other Steam Support Ticket, mentioned previously. It is my firm opinion that steam support is broken beyond repair. Perhaps it is because they get a large amount of bogus requests and they aren't happy with their job. The mean streak in me thinks they hire people not smart enough to make change, let alone read a question and formulate an answer. Perhaps the "Support Techs" are on some sort of commission wherein the faster they respond to their queue the more they get paid, a la a factory's incentive program. I don't know. But it doesn't work. If you do a google search for "steam support" you might see that the support page is the first result. The second result is, for me, the steam forums. The third link is one entitled "Steam Support Sucks — Elliott C. Back."  This particular blog post is from 2006.  How does a link from 2006 stay so high in the google rankings?  Truth.  Validity of content.  Even steam's own forums are filled with thread such as "Steam support sucks" because it is true.

I know, I should speak with my dollars and not spend money there.  Perhaps that's where it will end up.  I'd be sick if I calcuated how many dollars I've given steam.  There's no question it is in the thousands of dollars.  I know they don't get all of that money.  Publishers get some, developers get some, who knows who else gets a cut.  All this in mind, they are still taking money from people to be the company that delivers the games.  They provide a service.  When this service does not work as intended or delivers the games to the wrong people, they should have support that works.  Clearly this is not the case.  The teeming masses have tried to make this public in an effort to get them to up the quality of their support service.  They clearly have not improved.  Perhaps what is needed is a class action lawsuit.  Perhaps what we need is a lawyer who needs to make a name from himself/herself and wants to champion a cause worth fighting for.  There's more money in class action lawsuits for the lawyers than there is for the individual so why not, says I.  Would it even work?  Can sub-par service be punished?  I don't know.  I am not a lawyer and never hope to be.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

How to measure 1/3 cup when you don't have a 1/3 cup measuring device

So you need to measure 1/3 of a cup of something and your run of the mill set of measuring cups doesn't have one. What do you do?

This isn't rocket science but a handy tip that I thought I'd share with you oh loyal readers who demand I get off my doofus and share with the world.

First of all be aware that the stackable type of measuring cups are meant for measuring solids and the ones that are or look like they should be made of glass, well those are intended for measuring liquids. I use them interchangeably but you may be measuring something more precise where the differences would matter. For my purposes they do not matter. The more butter I put in the better people like it.

Anyway back to the program. How do you get 1/3 cup when all you have is a 1 cup, 2/3 cup, 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup measuring cups? Like this:

Pour whatever it is you are measuring into the 1 cup container. I know, I know you only need 1/3 of a cup. We won't waste it, I promise. And you won't have to eat it without cooking it or whatever it is you are doing. Put the stuff in the 1 cup container and fill it up as though you were going to use 1 cup. Now, put your 2/3 cup measuring device over the bowl you are mixing in, or whatever container you are using. Now pour the 1 cup of said solid into the 2/3 cup said solid allowing the excess to fall into the mixing bowl.

You now have 2/3 of a cup in a measuring container ready to be put back into its original container and 1/3 of a cup of your measured solid in your mixing bowl.

See that, cooking can be fun.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009 ... who would you think would own that? is owned by verizon. Funny story. Well maybe not funny so much as infuriating.

But first, the link, because I'm not big media making you wait for "After the Jump"! the link to investigate it yourself.

There was a story on Slashdot (news for nerds or something like that) about how an update to internet explorer was doing some sort of NXDOMAIN hijack. (It doesn't matter what that means unless you want to google it) so I tested it out. Turns out I was hijacked by my new isp, verizon.

I guess it does matter what it means if you got this far. What it is all about is "what happens when you type a domain name that doesn't exist?" Typically your browser says something like "I can't find the domain at" This particular form of hijacking intercepts the NXDOMAIN request and feeds you search results that are, more than likely, paid search results. So the offending party is making money on your bad spelling. Regardless, that's what it means.

After some searching I found I could opt out of verizon's DNS hijacking by changing the dns entry on every computer in my house. So I thought I'd call and voice my displeasure at this nonsensical way to do things. This should be done at the modem/router level so I can do it once and not have to worry about changing every device in my household. Anyway, the point being, I was on the phone with the automated system for some minutes while they determined that I wanted to speak english, talk about internet, not configure mail settings, etc, and I wanted an example domain to give them in the event that they did not know what NXDOMAIN was. What better example than Well a million better examples but I was aggravated. Turns out that particular domain is in fact taken, not much to my surprise.

My surprise was that they own it. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised though. They are out to protect their brand name. That's a big part of a corporation. Keep the name brand worth as much as possible. What would Coke do, I wonder, if a batch they made caused many people to become sick. Would they try to cover it up if the FDA wasn't involved? Probably. It would damage the name.

Maybe I'm just getting angry at the kids on my lawn in my old age but it seems to me that corporations should allow free speech instead of just buying it out. Even wal mart doesn't outright buy out the mom and pop stores, they just keep the prices low enough that mom and pop don't get any business so they have to close down.

The times they are a'changing people. The customer is no longer always right. Especially if their misspellings can lead to paid ads and search results and "domains that might say bad things about us" can lead to somewhere we already own.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The pros of Prose

The witch, which never won one thing, save for a rose, would chop wood.
She never saw a saw or did see the sea but she rose the rose.
Since she had won just one she didn't make any rows.
But with her hose and her hoes she crafted some rows such that if she won one more, which witch which was called a moor, she have room for one more rose.

Oftentime on the rose there would to be a bee.
The bee told a fanciful tale but never stung her with his tail. He'd say,
Oh witch, which would chop wood, there is something more too see. Believe my tale and follow my tail and I will take your eye to see the sea.
Not knowing where or what to wear she asked the bee
If I am to be, to follow the bee, and I can see the sea, should I bring the rose which I rose? Will it know, or will it no?
To be a bee is crafty indeed for it could travel the four miles atop the rose which this witch had rose. And off they set, this unlikely set, the witch, the bee, the rose.

The witch walked carrying the rose and the bee kept his head pointed to see the sea. She believed his tale and so followed his tail and for four miles en route she would rest on the root of many a fallen tree. They saw ores made of lead on the route she was led and the hair of a hare and even once the bow of a beau.

At long last they arrived and it was here they would hear the merry thoughts of Mary, the witch which would chop wood, the witch which rose the rose.

To be a bee! To see the sea! This site in my sight, the sea which I see! The whale does wail, his skin all blue, from his top he blew, the whole of the hole, seen by I with my eye! Buy this shore I am sure I am no more a moor than the sun is a son or the scythe is a sigh!


and I guess the point is: never disparage someone learning English as a second language. It can be quite tricky.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Counterwhistling, or the general propensity of people to derail the thought train

Counterwhistling, or the general propensity of people to derail the thought train

First, the main proof of my argument. Put one's self in a social situation with many people in a mostly quiet area. A public park works well. Begin whistling something when nobody else is whistling or creating any music. Someone will begin whistling something contrary. Even if you are whistling a universally known song the counterwhistler will whistle something completely contrary to what you whistle. It works. Like every time. It is real. But why?

Why do people counterwhistle? Why do they derail a train that is already in motion, or attempt to? I do not believe it is a conscious act. I do believe some people counterwhistle more than others. Some people have shown me to be counterwhistlers at any given moment. Others seem to never engage in the act. What causes this? Is there a motivation within them to go against something other people have started and if so is it something they learned or is it something they were born with? My 8 year old son is a counterwhistler. I don't believe I taught him to be one but perhaps I did and I don't yet see it. I once worked with a guy that was the perennial counterwhistler. At any given note of whistling he would begin whistling his own tune. Does this also happen in nature? For example, when birds sing, is it a counterwhistle?

This does not have to be simply a whistling act to create the same effect. Having been a musician most of my life I see it in band situations as well. Nearly invariably when one person is tuning their instrument another is playing something that interferes with the tuning. If one member is showing another member a "lick" or otherwise teaching something, another member is actively playing something contrary. This, in effect, is counterwhistling. Another area I can attest to counterwhistling is while someone is engaged in thought. There are times I will personally be caught in a state of personal discourse with a subject matter. If someone is aware I am engaged in such an act and they are unable to contribute to the subject matter at hand they will begin to counterwhistle (or attempt to derail the thought train) by introducing completely unrelated subject matter to the thinker.

It seems to me that the more adverse a person is, the more they are likely to be argumentative for little or no reason, the more they are a counterwhistler. Is there a term for this, is it a known thing? I'm not a psychologist. I'm not a sociologist. I'm just a guy who wonders about such things. Why do we think and act the way we do? I sure don't know.