Cutting the cord

Filed under: Information,Recommendations

Android Set Top BoxIf you’re considering cutting the cord, there are a ton of choices. It makes it hard to sort it all out.

This is a very good TV Streaming Primer

I use the Medium TV Watcher plan, with PlayOn.tv and a Roku 3

SEO and SEO Scams

My customer forwarded me this today. He was worried that his website was missing out on tons of traffic. I get millions of this crap, so it’s probably easier for me to spot as spam (I added the stop sign)


From: Cool sounding (English) name@gmail.com

Subject: Can I give some honest feedback on your website?

Wanted to touch base: We’ve spoken a while back about your website. I happen to be on it again and wanted to point out a few areas of concern (SEO, Visibility, etc). For what it’s worth, I see a few specific things impacting your site’s profitability that can be improved with a slightly refreshed strategy.

Just to remind: I work with several consultants who I have personally hand-picked: Each of them are more than glad to share CASE STUDIES of their work with you.Would you be open for a brief discussion? At the very least, you’ll gain new insights through an extensive Web Needs Analysis (Doesn’t cost a thing).

All I would need to know is whether you would be open to speaking briefly with my consultants to get started.(P.S.: If you’re no longer interested in getting periodic updates, let me know and I promise I won’t follow up again. Thanks for your time.)

Cool sounding (English) name

Well, where do I start?
Things to be suspicious of:

  • It’s a Gmail account, could be anyone.
    awww, he’s being honest…
  • We’ve spoken?
    Doesn’t know your name.
  • Know anything about your site?
  • He has no website?
  • Only email contact address
    Could be anywhere in the world.

My advice, even if it was a *real* email
Ask them exactly they are going to do for you.

  • There is no secret sauce, if they won’t tell you, run away
  • If they claim great links from quality sites, that means they’re spamming the blogs.
    Quality sites are generally not giving links to someone they don’t even know.
  • Social Media
    Just a buzzword. Same thing, what work are they going to do?
    Are you willing to let them be the face of your business?

This is just a start. Any more ideas?

MS Awareness Week

nmsspax1It’s MS Awareness Week
Look for The ‘Burgh to be lit Orange!
Especially the first night Mar 3rd
Some of the Biggest and Coolest buildings in town

Be sure to put on a little Orange Mar 3-9
and let everyone know why

Here’s an easy way to help…
Attend a really cool event at Hartwood

Review: I Like my Roku3

roku-3I recently bought a Roku 3 to replace an old VuNow box that I’ve had for many years. I’m probably one of the first cord cutters (6 years in Feb) and I’m always looking for new ways to stream to my TVs.

The Roku was much easier to use than my old box. I especially like the headphone jack in the remote, what a wonderful idea. It’s a pretty simple setup, but you do have to sign up for a Roku account where you can download your *channels*. There were many to choose from and while I didn’t pay for any, there were plenty of free channels available. Some of the *Free* channels are only free to download, you have to pay for content, so be careful of that. You have to give Roku your credit card when you sign up and they will charge that for content. There is a setting where you will be asked for your password before any charges can be applied and I would highly recommend turning that on.

For ease of use and quality of the streams I definitely give it 5 stars. Scrolling through your channels is fast and pretty easy. I did find a lot of duplicate content on the free channels, but adding or deleting channels right from the box is a snap.

It definitely loads content much faster than my old box,  but to properly judge a box like this you have to look at what content is provided and available. While there’s a lot on the Roku network, it’s missing some biggies. Things like regular Hulu, YouTube, playing different formats on local media storage and others (ESPN3 is worthless on Roku without a cable subscription). That’s where PlayOn.tv comes to the rescue. I’ve had PlayOn for many years, too and I do have a lifetime subscription ($59.99 a real deal). It allows me to watch most all the things Roku is missing and it was easy to add to Roku. It’s a private Roku chanel and a little extra work, but certainly not hard to install.

I’m still giving Roku 3 four stars out of five, but it would be lower without the availability of PlayOn media server on it.

With all that being said I bought a second one for my living room.


The Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh won’t let in the Marines

eagleflagPretty extreme headline, right? Note: I changed it because I realized it was actually too extreme, I was being sarcastic and it didn’t come off that way.

I’m sure it’s not that bad, but that sure is the image that the Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh is portraying.

It’s just another example of how businesses don’t understand social media. Allow me to explain.

My friend Summer Tissue runs a non profit called Military Connections. It’s a wonderful organization that sends care packages to deployed troops. I believe she’s getting close to 3 Million packages, but that’s another story.

Last weekend she was taking some of her visiting troops around Pittsburgh and… Well I’ll let her tell it.

I just wanted to let people know that Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh does not appreciate Military Veterans in the same manner that I do. While the 2/4 was in Pittsburgh we tried to take a group of Marines to this restaurant and they were refused service. I asked the bouncer why the men were not allowed to go in and he replied “He can refuse to let anyone in that he wants.” Nice attitude……The guys were not intoxicated, they weren’t acting up, I have no idea why they were not allowed in. I even explained that they were all Marines visiting from other states and the bouncer did not care. I always enjoyed hanging out here and thought it was a great spot in PGH for visitors. I will never step foot near it again.

She wrote this story on the Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh’s facebook page and they promptly deleted it. I found out about it when I read it on Summer’s facebook page. I went to Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh’s page asked them why they would do this.  At least I got a reply – Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh wrote: “I’ve spoken with management and no one has any record of any incidents like this happening.”

I’ve known Summer a long time and I know she doesn’t lie and especially not about something like this. I posted that for a reply and they deleted my entire post and barred me from their page. Oh good, that’ll make everything better.

I believe that the Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh will be in for quite the shock when they discover the Streisand Effect. My friend Summer’s facebook post has almost 40 shares in a short time and I’ll bet it will skyrocket. I helped her out by putting her story on Yelp and in no time it will probably be a million other places (like here) where the Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh has no control over what’s said. I’m sure most of it won’t be very nice.

Wouldn’t it have been much simpler to have left Summer’s original post up and said:

  • “We are very sorry this happened to you”
  • “How can we make it up to you?”
  • “What do you think we can do to make sure this never happens again?”

I’ve said a million times, if you are going to use social media, you can’t hide from it or silence it.

Update 8-7-2013 – 1:30pm

Got a call from Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh today and they told me that they had reviewed the video and that they were stopped from entering by a Police officer because they had an open container.

Summer replied “they pulled the wrong group on surveillance. We all were wearing Pirate Gear. They are going through the tapes again and trying to find out why the bouncer did not let the guys in.”

I’m still wondering why it took this long to get to this point. Why couldn’t they have just talked to Summer in the first place and worked this out?

They also threatened to sue me if I don’t take this post down, proving to me that they haven’t actually read it. I might remove their name if this gets worked out amicably. If they sue the publicity will go through the roof and they know it (or at lest they should). I wrote the truth and that’s not slander.

Update 8-7-2013 – 2:45pm

I thought that Hofbrauhaus had called me earlier, but I Googled the phone number and it belongs to someone named Matt Plapp from the Cincinatti area. Someone who I’m guessing doesn’t have the authority to sue me (although he may). He must have something to do with Hofbrauhaus social media because that’s the business he’s in. Shame on you Matt, you should know better.

Update 8-7-2013 – 3:41pm

Just spoke with Summer and they are now claiming she wasn’t there at all Saturday.
The hole keeps getting deeper. My advice STOP SHOVELING!

Ron Finley: Guerrilla Gardener

Filed under: Information,Recommendations

Ron Finley is a Guerrilla Gardener in South Central LA. He plants and shares vegetable gardens along sidewalks and empty lots. He believes that planting your own food is like printing your own money. What a wonderful idea.

I love to garden and this has inspired me to plant more food.

Review of the OBi100, Good Stuff

OBi100I wrote a while back that I was looking for a replacement for my T-Mobile @Home service. Even though I was very happy with it, I was moving my cell phone service to Republic Wireless (which I highly recommend) so I needed to get a new home phone service or drop it all together.

I tried MagicJack and the quality was so bad that it didn’t last a day.

Next in line was NetTalk. That seem to work well, so I ported my number smoothly, only to find out that the service didn’t really work as well as I first thought. Incoming calls were pretty poor voice quality and outgoing calls were unusable. Then, when I upgraded my router, the box just started to disconnect from the network for no reason and had to be restarted almost daily

It’s been almost a year and I was just going to let my service expire and my old home number just go away. I decided to give it one more try.  I searched Ebay and discovered the OBi100. I ordered one for $40 and was glad I ordered early because I wanted to try it before porting my number again. It got a little lost in shipping, but arrived 9 or 10 days late.

This box uses Google Voice to make calls, but can be used with many different VOIP service providers, so even though I choose Google Voice because it’s great and FREE, if they ever change or go away I have other options.

I plugged it in and only had limited service. It didn’t really work. I immediately thought “Oh Crap, not again”, but then realized I had plugged it in to my network switch. I moved some network wires around, plugged it directly into my router and it worked perfectly. I changed a few settings at Google Voice and this time did extensive testing. It couldn’t have worked better.

My next challenge was to port my home phone number to Google Voice was a bit more complicated. Google Voice is a wonderful service, if you haven’t tried it I would say absolutely do. There is a one time $20 charge to port your phone number, but otherwise it’s completely free. My problem was that Google doesn’t port landlines, only mobile numbers.

My solution? I went to my local Target store, bought a prepaid flip phone on sale for $5 and a card for $10 worth of minutes. I went to their website and ported my phone number into that, waited about a week for that to happen. Once my number ported, I activated my phone and used my $10 minutes card to make and receive a few calls to be sure everything with the port was hunky dory and it was. At this point Google voice gladly accepted my phone number, so it cost me $35 to port instead of $20, but still quite the bargain in my book.

I know Google Voice has been incorporated into their Hangouts app in my phone and maybe their service may change in the future, but I’m not locked in by the OBi100. So if the service does change in the future I can always switch providers, but for now I’m lovin’ it. Google Voice has some wonderful features. I can ring any or all of my phones with it or I can have it send me an email or text when I get a voicemail, with the message transcribed and many other features.

I’m going to highly recommend the OBi100 for quality, service and value.

Custom WordPress login and registration page

WP logoMy client wanted to have extra forms on their user registration page on their WordPress site so they could capture more information about the visitors who signed up for their website.

In the past I had used a plugin called Register Plus Redux, but unfortunately it’s not supported any more. Because of the popularity of WordPress there’s usually a similar plugin available. That was true and easily found with a quick search called Cimy User Extra Fields.

The next problem that I had was that my client was not happy at all with the look of the standard WordPress registration form. It’s pretty easy to change the look of the standard registration page, but there are many people who want it to have the same look and feel as the rest of their pages and posts. A custom registration page for WordPress, not an unreasonable request.

Unfortunately this was no easy chore, but after many hours of searching I came across a plugin called Theme My Login. What a find! It is simple to install and worked great. It’s very simple and can be used in it’s default format, but is also highly customizable.

I can see where I’m going to use this for many clients.

How McDonalds ripped me off for Christmas

Filed under: Information,Recommendations

My wife bought me a $25 gift card from McDonalds for Christmas.
When I tried to use it the day after Christmas for a coffee they told me it had a $0 balance.
When I looked it up online, it activated on Dec 20th with $5 & was used up on the 23rd (My wife bought the card on the 24th)

I called their corporate office and the woman there just kept apologizing over and over and saying that since we didn’t keep the receipt there was nothing she could do. I probably was meaner then I should have been to the woman, but I asked her several times to stop apologizing, it was just making me mad, but she kept on and on. When I asked for a supervisor she told me that it was the corporate headquarters and there was no one above her (like they would let a supervisor answer the phone first). I was so mad I hung up and called back a couple of days later after I calmed down and found the credit card receipt. They promised they would speak to the store owner and get right back to me. Still haven’t heard anything.

Couldn’t they contact the store and see if the register was over $25 that day? or something? anything? How else could I have spent exactly $25 that day? Was there an Arch card issued at that time? I called the local store, twice and was told that the Arch Cards were handled by corporate, but at least she told me that she would try and check into it. I haven’t heard back from them either. We do have a credit card statement and we’ll see if they can help, but all I wanted was for McDonalds to look into it and get back to me.

This has been very disappointing and I’m sure my lack of business won’t mean much to McDonalds going forward, but comon, get your act together. This is 2013, you guys are tracking everything and negative social media can be a monster.

I did hear something from them today when I used the #McDStories hashtag on Twitter. Something that’s been called a huge marketing fail, but it may do some good for me, along with this post (or maybe not).

Update 1-18 – Spoke to Kim Musgrave with customer satisfaction. She apologized for taking so long to get to the bottom of this and said a new card is on the way. They saw where someone had tried to reload the card three times and it failed. I’m glad it seems to be settled, was just an error and not something nefarious, but I agree with Kim that this took way too long

Update 2-1 – Arch cards arrived along with a couple of extra freebees. Thanks to Kim, but still a long and very annoying process. I may give away the cards, not sure yet if I’m going back.

Holiday gifts for shut-ins with MS

Filed under: Information,Recommendations

My wife Nancy is on the board of the National MS Society WPa chapter. She is also someone who lives with this disease.

As the holiday season approaches, the local MS chapter is kicking-off their Annual Holiday Gift Program!

Each year the NMSS coordinates this program to provide gifts to people living with MS who reside in long term care facilities.
Knowing that nursing homes and personal care homes can sometimes be lonely places, they strive to put smiles on the faces of these individuals and let them know that the National MS Society is thinking of them.

If you would like to help or just know more, please visit the site

Thanks for listening and Happy Holidays to all.

Jim Lillicotch

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