Bad News from Flickr

I used to pay for extra space to use the photo archives on A few years back they offered unlimited space for free. I loved that. Who wouldn’t?

Now Flickr is changing the rules and charging $49/year for accounts with more than 1,000 images or videos. I just don’t want to pay for something I have been getting for free for years. Who would?

Yahoo owns Flickr and I figure they make enough money, though that’s not based on my evaluation of their ledgers. We’ve got till January to move or delete images and I think that’s what I’ll do.

Microsoft, Shutterfly, Google and Facebook all have free photo archive space. I’m sure there are other services that also do. It’s just that it will take a lot of time to move these files. I have many on my computer or on an external hard drive. It’s a chore to get all these files organized though.

Ah, technology. You get us used to a service and then when we’ve made you integral to our lives, you pull the rug out from under us.

N.B. Microsoft charges now.

Customer Service

Certainly, the activity I dread most when I return to the US is dealing with customer service. I expect piled up junk mail and sometimes that requires a customer service call. This time though my calls have all been tied to technology problems.

I forgot my newish desktop computer’s password and the number of my failed attempts to log in locked up my account and required a call to Apple. I figured it would take 15 minutes tops to resolve the issue. Boy, was I off. It took almost 2 hours. I wasn’t on hold for long as I used the service where you give them your phone number and someone calls you right back.

All the time was spent answering questions, many that had nothing to do with my problem. Before I knew it, for some reason the clerk was warning me that I’d have to delete my hard drive. Because I forgot my password? I resisted that and eventually got a senior representative who helped without doing anything to my hard drive.

Then we’ve got a problem with our printer, which is less than 3 years old. I tried several solutions posted online and on YouTube. I was pretty proud that I learned how to remove, flush and replace the printer head. I really thought that process, which took hours, would fix it, but alas, no. I called Canon and the operator guided me through a couple other fixes, which didn’t work. She then said Canon would give us a 15% loyalty discount on another printer, but I’m loathe to buy another Canon since this one didn’t last very long. I don’t like planned obsolesce and believe a printer should last 5 years. I realize now I’m a dreamer.

I hate spending so many hours on customer service problems. In Asia, service has been always so punctual and effective. I wish I could say the same about the US.

Can anyone recommend an inkjet printer which they consider reliable?

Problem with WordPress


For a week I’ve been having problems with WordPress. On Sunday I reached my limit for stored images so I upgraded from 3GB to 6GB. Afterwards there was no change in my storage space. I figured I should wait a day or two. On Tuesday and Wednesday there was no change.

I tweeted @WordPress and was first told that the website was up. I knew that.

After my second tweet I was asked for an image of the message. Then I was told to clear my cache. I did and now the problem it is is that my new message says that I’ve used 100% of 6GB’s which would be impossible since zero new images were uploaded.

Now I’ve posted my problem to the support page of WordPress. Funny that there isn’t a menu button prominently presented for help.

Fingers crossed that this problem, which has gone on too long, is resolved.

Apple Problem

I bought a Mac mini to take to China hoping that a new computer that’s powerful would get me better internet speed. It wasn’t any better. Seems the problem isn’t the computer, it’s the system.

So I’ve brought the Mac Mini home to set up here. I would like using a desktop with its bigger monitor as an alternative to my laptop. I found a refurbished screen on Best Buy for just $56 so I was uplifted with that purchase.

But after setting up the monitor, I ran into trouble. I have a Bluetooth keyboard that I need to set up. However, I set up the computer to require a user enter their password. Here’s the problem. I need to connect the Bluetooth keyboard to the computer to enter a password. I can’t enter this password since the keyboard isn’t linked yet.

So I’ve tried to contact Apple either to have them call me for service or to set up an appointment. I can’t do any of this without knowing the computer’s serial number. The serial number isn’t on the computer. It’s found by viewing the “About” screen, which I can’t get to since the keyboard doesn’t work.

It’s so frustrating. I guess I’m going to go to an Apple store, explain the problem and request help to make an appointment through them. It’s so aggravating. I realize they design their system with just the usual problems in mind. No one on staff probably foresaw my problem.

I’d hoped I could call this in and get help.

Highway Robbery by Kohl’s

I recently got a dubious looking email allegedly from Kohl’s, the retailer. I emailed them via their website to see if it was a phishing email and soon got a reply that it was legitimate, despite putting my name in ALL CAPS.

So I called as directed and found out I’d forgotten to pay a small bill, less than $14. Before I could speak to a person I had to wait a long while and then got a recording that repeated my balance and asked the same questions six, count ’em six times.

Okay, that’s American “customer service” in the voice mail age. I wanted to pay over the phone, as I have $14. I was blown away that I’d also be charged $10 to do this. Jeez. That put me in an ugly mood and made me loath to ever shop at Kohl’s again. It’s not like they’re the only place that sells clothing in my area. The clerk on the phone was nice enough, but the company’s policies are awful. And since I’m not in America, I’m not used to waiting so long for anything.

In China there are hordes of people at various places, but I’ve gotten good at avoiding lines. And in a lot of places lines aren’t so bad. There aren’t any for restaurants or movie theaters. To get in line for a train is ugly, but we manage. I’ve never had to wait for more than one person ahead of me at a post office here. Think how amazing that is since there are one billion more people here than in the U.S.

Another Side of China

Indian visa

Image via Wikipedia

When I taught in Jinan, I had an F visa, one for visiting professionals. Since we weren’t employed by the Chinese university and we only were hired for a few months at a time this made sense. In Guangzhou, we can’t do this. The teacher last year, who has the same contractual relationships and does the same work for the same length of time, had an F visa and the police came here and took her to the station forcing her to get a Z visa.

I can’t help but wonder if that was a shake down.

So we have Z visa’s and get a first hand experience of China at its most bureaucratic. Three weeks ago we got health checks and that process took several hours and was ugly due to the transportation problems we had. Then a representative from the school picked up our completed health forms. We now still needed the blessings of the Foreign Expert office and a Residence Permit office.

October 1st is a big holiday and this year I don’t work from Sept. 30th till Oct. 8th. It’s our only chance to travel farther afield. Yet we need our passports to do so. To check in at a Chinese hotel, you need a passport. Some of my colleagues hoped to travel overseas so they definitely need theirs.

We were originally going to go to these offices on Friday. Yet since the teachers who arrived before us and started this process earlier still don’t have their passports back, I was losing hope. A Chinese friend and all round angel stepped in and emailed our principal in Chinese explaining the problem. If I wait for the people around us, who’s job it is to support us, I might wait till December as I’m waiting for them to do a host of academic tasks. The motto of our staff seems to be “That can wait.”

Anyway, after my email to Mr. Chen was sent, the plans quickly changed. My colleague and I were told at 11am that our afternoon classes would be moved to the evening so we could go to Guangzhou to process our paperwork. Amazing.

First we went to the office of Foreign Expert Permits. They also offer a range of services, such as “One Stop Service for Returning Chinese Overseas Students.” I wonder what that’s about.

We were the first and only in line after the lunch break. It was basically in and out.

Then the van took us to the Foreign Residence Permit Office, where things came to a screeching halt. First you have to buy special passport photos. (For some reason the one’s they told be to purchase in the US are never good enough.) I will say the photographer was so pleasant. He works carefully and was actually polite, a rarity in Guangzhou.

While Chris and I got our photos, Billy, our liaison, got a number for us. I naively thought we were cooking with gas.

When we were called, a young, stern woman with white gloves accepted our paper work and went through it. Though this was an office that only served foreigners, she only seemed to speak Chinese. She abruptly said something to Billy and thrust the now disorderly papers back at him. An exchange ensued and it was a time when I really wished I understood Chinese. She was rejecting the papers because there was a new policy enacted Sept. 9th. Mind you we started the process 10 days prior. Billy was upset. It seemed we’d have to give up and I think all we needed was a letter from the school. Yet the school had filled out and signed some of these forms. Obviously, they wanted us to teach.

We urged Billy to call Mr. Chen. In the past, his influence has worked. Well, he was out of the office. Emboldened, Billy went to another counter and somehow we got the desired ticket that let us go upstairs for an “interview.”

We had a card that let us pass through this gateway and Chris and I went up stairs to wait, and wait, for what we thought would be an immigration interview. We were 206 and were eager for our turn. When we arrived the numbers went from 194 towards 206. We were full of anticipation, yet concerned because some numbers would be skipped. It seemed to jump from 197 to 201. God knows why.

Of course, we were skipped, but eventually it was our turn. The clerk looked at our forms and stamped them. There were no questions, so I wouldn’t call it an interview. Like the first woman this guy was quite officious. He finished with the papers and told us to pick up our passports October 8th. We asked if there was a way we could rush the process, and he told us to talk to the boss.

We went with our papers and lots of hope to “The Boss.” A few people were ahead of us. The gruff guard told us to sit down. He knew only how to say “hello” so he pulled Chris’ arm to get us to move. We told him in English, since we don’t know Cantonese, that Clerk No. 5 told us to wait here with the other people.

Eventually the boss spoke with us. Our choices were keep your passports and travel or submit them and start this whole process again. Defeated, we went back to Clerk No. 5 and submitted our papers. Billy offered that Mr. Chen will see if he can speed things up. I’m hoping he has that pull.