March 31st, 2007

The woes of online shopping (now I know why I pirate things instead of buying them)

This is a rant about the Internet (also infoes about the games I've been playing). My apologies for those of you who want to hear more about tropical sunsets and muay tai and puppies. Stay tuned!

Okey, sho, we're on a little island in Thailand, and can't exactly run out to the EB to buy whatever new PC game just game out. Or music CD, or book for that matter, because the newest western stuff on Koh Phangan is 2-3 years out of date. But we've got a decent net connection and a credit card, so why not buy these things online? Because of bullshit is why. I've tried to buy, maybe, a dozen things in the last six months. I've been fully successful: zero times. This kind of track record can be no coincidence; the Internet is obviously trying to tell me something. Some of the highlights:

  1. Space Rangers 2. This game is awesome! I did manage to buy it online from Direct2Drive.com, but the 1.2gb download took three days and I had to restart from a second location after they killed the first link. It was so glacially slow that I got fed up and torrented a lighter (no movies) version to play while I waited. I tried to buy a second copy (only $20!) for Colin a week later but their system wouldn't let me because I'd paid for it once already. Turns out I could use the install code repeatedly so.. okay.


  2. Stephen King Dark Tower ebook. I bought this from eReader.com, and cannot believe how many steps their registration/purchase process took. Nearly half an hour of clicking for a friggin text file. Except, of course, they didn't have anything as simple as .txt or .html for download. Only proprietary reader formats, and nothing that would play on the DS browser (my ebook reader of choice). So I torrented a text version; started the download when I started the purchase process and had the file on my hdd ten minutes in. I feel better about paying for it... but I don't think the message is getting across to online stores: stealing is way easier than buying from you.


  3. Kana ~ Little Sister from JAST USA / J-List. An H dating sim with a supposedly beautiful story, rich characters and incest to boot. By now I'd started to get sick of having to supply a "billing address" for all these online purchases. I've been giving out my parents' address for important things, but I wasn't going to saddle them with Japanese porn junkmail. I figured I'd put my Thai address down rather than make something up. Why not? I think it's kind of cool when digital purchases have no boundaries.

    So, I'm buying the game for direct download. They wait until after they've got my credit card to tell me it will take 24 hours (more on weekends) for them to process the order and email me the download link. Well damn, it's a Friday. I wait until Tuesday to send them a "hello - sup guys?". I hear back that "because of the number of chargebacks we've received from Thailand, we are unable to process the order via credit card", and I should pay by money order or mail usd cash instead. But - but - I could have lied and said I lived anywhere! And I could have torrented the damn game if I didn't want to pay for it (guess what I'm doing now). I was also surprised to hear Thailand singled out as a land of liars and credit card theives. I struggled to find a word for their behavior... racist? Nationalist?


  4. Silverfall demo. I know this game is probably going to suck, but I had such a hankering for an epic, high-fantasy RPG. After mooning about MMORPGs and our laggy satellite connection I decided to download the Silverfal demo. Well holy jeez; the first two sites wouldn't work with my download manager, and the third one was going to take a week. I found a torrent for the demo that was easily five times as fast... until the game came out the next day, then all the seeds disappeared in favour of the full version. The full, 7gb version. I've been torrenting it for over a week now (65%!), probably more out of determination than desire to play it.


  5. Superstar (an indie game). This buggy but beautiful shareware game was only released online, but the developers (Daisy Chain) have recently disappeared so you can't buy it at all, anywhere. It's a princessmaker-esque sim game. If you're insterested, ask me about the demo.


  6. Simisle from Home of the Underdogs. An old Maxis game I never played, now abandonware. Made me want to play Tropico instead, which in retrospect must have been heavily inspired by Simisle. So HOTU has some crazy setup to prevent offsite linking or downloding two files at once, and as a side effect this fucks up download managers. To make Getright work, I had to fiddle around with advanced settings to get it to spoof the referring page. Without Getright, the chances of Firefox successfully downloading a 60mb file here are about 1 in... 1000. Why can't Firefox resume after a lost connection???


  7. Paypal donation to etymonline.com. Etymology, online - yeah! I tried to "sponsor a word" which is their cute way of accepting donations. But either Paypal has changed their policies, or their ass-backwards, rat-maze of a GUI defeated me once again. WTF is wrong with Paypal - do they hate the end user that much? I went to donate money the usual way, and was told I couldn't do that until my account was verified, which was done by giving Paypal access to my chequing account. They've been happy with my credit card for years; why the sudden change? The "verification" process took three days and involved me checking my bank records to see how many cents they'd temporarily deposited. I sent a bitter rundown of my experience to their customer service. I never got a reply, but did get a survey regarding the quality of their customer service response. All zeroes for you dingbats!

    But seriously, Paypal provides an invaluable service to the web; it'd be nice if more online stores used it. I just wish Paypal woulds stop sitting on its monopoly and start improving things for us users instead of making them worse.


  8. Enya album - Amarantine. Hey: I like Enya! Or I did at some point in the past, and was feeling nostalgic so I looked her up. Now surely someone can help me with this: where can I buy an MP3 (or similar non-bullshit format) version of her new album online? I found two places: one had a scheme where you have to fill your account in minimum chunks of $20. The other rejected my credit card (they gave no reason) after a tedious registration and checkout process. Both places only wanted $1.09 usd for the whole album, but I thought iTunes was charging that much per song, so were these sites even legit?


  9. Dino Island (the game; not to be confused with the stupid dancing dinosaur screensaver). I'm on a creature sim kick; can't wait for Spore. This one's a cartoony looking 2002 simpark/evolution game. The CD version is going for $6 on amazon, but nobody has it for direct download. Can't even find a torrent for it; not that that's surprising. Ah well, when we're back in Canada I'll probably grab it and two other games in some ten dollar London Drugs gamepack.

I guess my best experience has been with Direct2Drive. I'm looking through their catalogue of games now, anticipating that I'll want to play something in about a week, so I should start the download process now. At least they work with GetRight and don't make me install their own malware-infused download manager like some other places. Their selection is small, but I may keep using them when we get back to Canada. I'm sick to death of EB and DVDs and game boxes. Unless it comes with a cloth worldmap or tech chart poster or something, what's the point?

The point is, when you walk into a Wallmart to buy a game they don't demand your name, email, dob, address, daytime phone, preferred password (at least one capitol letter and one number, please), pet's name, and then make you wait ten minutes and check your email to verify that they can send you spam later (did you remember to uncheck that box?), then you have to go back and find the game again, then give them your credit card number, type, expiry, three digit code, verified by visa password, bank name, bank's phone number (wtf?), hit okay half a dozen times between minute-long https delays, wait another ten minutes to receive the download link and install code, then spend three days downloading the 1gb file on your 256kbps connection.

The industry still has a ways to go.

[edit]: OH MY GOD go read Weasel's comments re: EA's "EA Link" online game delivery. If that is the future standard of online commerce, I'm just going back to playing Minesweeper, Solitaire, or whatever else came preinstalled on my machine.

This crab is wondering what we've been up to


Crabby
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.
As you can see from the last post, I've been spending a lot of time trying to download games. Still working on Beebleworld, but slower now. Looking to get it up online when we get back in BC, so I've still got another three months. In addition to playing games, we've been spending a lot of time online just drinking up the infoes. Lots of wikipedia, boingboing and friends' blogs (yes I'm reading them!). I can't believe how much time I have now to just read and think here. ^__^

Due to shortages, they've started cutting off the water except for a few hours in the morning and evening. We keep the bathtub full so we can wash and flush the toilet and so on. The wind is finally dying down for the year, but Colin got a few more "bonus" days of kiteboarding this week. He's lighter than the average guy down there, which means he can get out in less wind, while they sit on the beach and drink beer and glower in jealousy. They're a good bunch of guys though; and we've got invitations to visit them in their corners of the world someday.

We've discovered the most amazing coffee shop just up the beach: Starbugs. They have vegan food, western-style baked goods and - omg - a loose leaf tea menu! The lady who runs it is so nice and gives us sample treats and fusses about steeping times and picking the right tea for the time of day. She keeps a beautiful garden (technically her backyard) with covered sitting areas, where we sip our tea and espresso and nibble on muffins and listen to the rain all afternoon. It's been stormy again after two months of blue skies, which we both agree is refreshing and reminds us of BC.

The local stray dog Momma (aka "Exuberance") went into heat last week. Male dogs have gravitated to the area and fight over her day and night. One morning she came down to the ocean and brought a pack of seven dogs with her. Such drama! Brave (aka "Maurice") and Ivy are all upset about it, but a tummy rub usually fixes everything. They're growing into healthy, happy young dogs here on the beach, so I guess things are working out for them after all.

Colin's folks are coming to visit us in just a few days (yay!!!), then in two weeks we're off to Japan. Neither of us wants to leave Koh Phangan and all its tranquility, but at least the timing is right what with running out of water, wind and tide. Now we just have to figure out how to live on a beach like this for the rest of our lives.

More of the same

Colin seys:

I tried to convince Sarah to write the book merchants an email explaining why they are losing business: if it is easier to steal your goods than it is to give you money for them you are doing something wrong!

Don't count on people's inflated sense of morals to make them go through tedious and unnecesary steps to get what is ultimately a crippled version of what they want.

You know why theft is easier than purchasing? Because theives care more about user experience than companies do. Companies, who have money, could work to make your experience a pleasent one but don't. Instead the theives do it for free. Bit torrent is just an open-source solution to a problem the retailers refuse to solve.

In the end mabey this is just such a mess because amazon owns a patent on 'one click' purchases.

The Fucking world is broken and only the pirates are trying to fix it. Everyone else is trying to make it worse.