the customer ain’t king

This is a rant directed towards NBA League Pass.

A few weeks ago I complained about ridiculous blackout restrictions that prevented me from watching the Rockets here in Austin, just about 200 miles away. Since people had been complaining for ages without the NBA or anyone who could do anything giving a shit, I decided to stifle my voice and instead purchase a pricey NBA League Pass package. I bought the cheapest one available–that allows me to watch games that are not blacked out by regional restrictions for any 7 teams. It came out to something like $90 for regular season, which isn’t all that bad since that’s equivalent approximately a month and a half of cable for me (which I’ll be downgrading as soon as I can, since the only reason I bought this, more expensive, package is because it has the regional Fox Sports channels, which I found out later they blackout for NBA).

My experience with League Pass has been decent. I’ve been annoyed at the fact that they use a proprietary Flash player which means that I cannot do anything to change the ratio (they output 4:3 whereas my TV is a widescreen 16:9), the scores that take up about half the screen and the fact that they don’t show actual half-time shows. These issues I can understand because (a) they wouldn’t want to provide free advertising to the half-time show sponsors and (b) the entire system was designed by UI dimwits.

What I cannot accept, though, is the fact that sometimes games will just not show. And the reason is that whoever is behind their intricate UI setting up the streams has messed up what channel outputs what game. I had this occur sometime a few weeks back when the Rockets were playing a no-name team. That didn’t matter so much. Tonight, we’re playing the Cavs and were playing them pretty well. Of course, League Pass decided to output the Hornets-Timberwolves game. It went down to the last second–but I don’t give a crap about either of those teams. I was hopeful that the problem would be fixed after the Hornets game was finished and the pivotal fourth quarter began in the Rockets game, but now I have a blank screen staring at me that says “NBA League Pass Broadband Channel 1”. Googling a few forums, I found that the Rockets game is actually playing on the Spurs-Kings channel (who knows what channel that game is being played on?). Of course, the awesome part about this is since Austin is in the Spurs’ hometown sphere of influence, its blacked out on my League Pass. So my options for watching the game are basically down to one: watch an illegal stream from some site (justin.tv, ustream.tv, myp2p.eu pop into mind immediately).

Argh.

But wait, there’s more! The last time, in my frustration, I sent the folks at League Pass an angry email. I got a response about a week later saying sorry because of technical difficulties. Today their chat line happened to be open so I logged in to that. After waiting for about half an hour and posing my query, the representative, “Rebecca” told me that it was a technical issue that they had been notified of and that they couldn’t do anything. I guess their chat line is open for far more pressing issues such as “OMG I can’t install Flash”, which can be solved by using the great Google.

Thank god myp2p pointed me to a Chinese stream. Too bad I can’t understand the commentary…

iTunes kills the iPhone Experience

This Black Friday I made the jump to purchasing an iPhone. AT&T had a pretty awesome deal going on which allowed me to snag a refurbished version of the 3G-S 16GB for a mere $49+$18 upgrade fees+some taxes. Total price was around $70, the condition being a 2-year contract, which I’m not too worried about since I’ll probably be staying with AT&T anyways. I was already paying for a BB data plan, which is equal to the iPhone one, so no extra charges there.

The phone itself is beautiful. Of course, having used the iPod Touch for nearly a year now, I knew what I was getting myself into. I was able to activate after a few issues and copied over all my apps from my iPod Touch using iTunes. So far so good. Next, I found a tutorial on the web that essentially used iTunes to create ringtones. Splendid, right? So I created a couple. Then, I thought, “Oh, I might as well get all my music into my iTunes.” This was possible now finally that I have my Windows 7 Homegroup set up properly. So I went ahead and added the music folder to iTunes and went and did my P90X workout and showered.

Once I came back, I was ready to crank out some ringtones manually. Not. iTunes was busy “Determining Gapless Playback Information”. A feature that I really don’t care for. And one that is programmed badly enough that it ends up using all of iTunes’ resources, rendering the program unusable. Now, iTunes wasn’t a fantastic program to begin with, being slow and clunky, so imagine how the end user experience is when your mouse events are delayed by 5-10 seconds. Ridiculous. Luckily, there was an “X” right next to the message, and I clicked it and decided to hunt around in the Preferences for a way to disable it.

Midway through my search of the first Preferences tab, I noticed my mouse events slowed down again. “What?” I thought to myself. After about half a minute more I was out of the preferences dialog and to my disgust I found that iTunes had decided once again to “Determine Gapless Playback Information”. Annoyed, I clicked “X” again and sure enough, about 5 seconds later, it was back! Not only that, but it started from the first track every time! Looking around on the internet for a few fixes, I found a couple that should have worked but didn’t. I realized that now that I have bought my first “real” Apple product, I will have to enter that realm where I sacrifice a few of my rights as the owner of a device to do what Apple wants me to do. In this case, this means that I will have to let it run for the 30-60 minutes it must take to set up this feature which I don’t care about, anyway, and come back to do my ringtone-making tomorrow.

And they complain Windows 7 takes a minute to boot up…