Amazon FPS

I recently had to implement a payment facility using Amazon FPS for a client. These are my views on this payment facilitator.

In a nutshell

Not for the feint hearted, this payment solution is difficult to grasp, and for the first 2-3 days, you will need to really hang in there, until you find your feet. Once you have managed to figure out the basics and start trusting the API calls, the whole package is more attractive to reuse.

What’s good.

1. Once everything is setup, its reliable.

2. Once you have figured it all out, everything makes sense, well almost.

3. It does provide a way to facilitate payments on behalf of others.

What’s bad.

1. The documentation consists of about 260 pages, and its not easy to get your head around the concepts.

2. The login pages always require you to login, if you are developing and testing for the caller and recipient, then you are going to be in for a lot of logging in.

3. Its frustrating for Microsoft developers, a lot of the documentation code samples are for Java and Ruby (who knows) developers, but members of the community have released .net versions.

What’s missing

I must say from the start and all the way through the process, I got the impression that the documentation was way, way to complex, and really needs a rewrite.

Besides this Amazon need to release some nuggets (short concept videos) to show developers how to get up to speed quickly and easily.

Otherwise… I would give the whole Amazon FPS experience a 4 out of 5, how about you?

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Marketing the Microsoft way : A pattern emerges

Firstly let me state that I do not hate Microsoft, nor am I anti Microsoft. I am a Microsoft Developer who earns a living from developing around Microsoft related technologies. I have loads of respect for all the developers at Microsoft who have been involved in the production of modern wonders like the C# language or for example Visual Studio 2005. Having said this I despise the way Microsoft market their products, this has nothing to do with the great efforts of all the honest people who work at Microsoft, however a lot of Microsoft dealings are blatantly dishonest,  as I am sure Apple will gladly back this statement, having just had their OSX operating system pirated by Microsoft and renamed Vista.

Over the years I have noticed the following predictable patterns Microsoft use to market their products, all of which are designed to make you and I spend more and more money on Microsoft products. Its kind of sad that we trust and respect this company called Microsoft who are proving themselves to be a greedy lot out to maximize profits from the masses.

These are the Marketing Patterns:

Releasing unnecessary version upgrades

Microsoft love doing this, and there is NO doubt that they are in the business of releasing unnecessary upgrades for their existing product line, so that you and I will be forced into a Mr Jones Corner. They use this basic marketing ploy to trick the good people of the world, because people are already conditioned to the concept that newer = better, and everyone likes to have the newest software and the best software installed. The reverse is also true, and being up to date is key to being current in this industry. IT experts are expected to be modern and not old fashioned. Companies using Microsoft technologies, communicate via email, as the general mass upgrades even the people who are wise enough to only upgrade out of necessity are eventually forced to upgrade their programs to maintain file level compatibility with the rest of the upgrade sheep.

A perfect example of this is the Microsoft Office Product. I am sure that most folks will agree, the Office 2000 product is still by today’s standards a perfectly fine product and the versions that have since emerged : XP, 2003 and 2007 somehow all tend to do the exact same thing. With the exception of 2007 which actually looks a little prettier on your screen. Its worth mentioning here that the new docx, xlsx , pptx formats are not readable by previous versions of the Office Product.

The point is that Microsoft market each release as a revolutionary way to manage your office, and each release without fail, turns out to do the exact same job as the release before. The new and advanced features are hardly ever used by the small, medium and large sized business users out there.

Naming products by date or terms that will expire.

For example Windows 2000, Office 2007, Microsoft Windows Server 2008. Have you noticed that the free technologies are versioned for example .net version 3.5 or Windows Live Writer 1.0. This is not always a clear cut truth, sometimes the rule is ignored as per Windows XP and Windows Vista. Perhaps newer products will see Microsoft steering clear of this cheap trick.

What about the Windows Millennium scam. How long did that release last – just for the turn of the Millennium right? Please ask yourself why that was, do you believe it was because the release quality of Millennium was not quite up to scratch? Perhaps at the time you thought that version would be the last to ever be released by Microsoft, and they would instead start fixing Windows like they should have years ago? Don’t you think that possibly Microsoft could have decided to release an incomplete beta to the public, accepting that the people inclined to purchase Millennium would once again be inclined to purchase XP pretty soon, and in upcoming months.

Withholding upgrades for future releases.

This is not just a theory, based on the above 2 points, and what we know about Microsoft, and also by researching the upgrade new feature lists for known Microsoft products, Microsoft could well be in the practice of holding onto already developed enhancements for future releases.

A quick example: Lets say that 2 great product enhancements are discovered, developed, tried and tested. Microsoft will break up the enhancements into 2 separate version upgrades, charging a fee to consumers for each upgrade. Please do some research into product features of Microsoft products, and you will find cases of this infringement on our rights to maximize their profits.

The deciding factor is competition, in markets where the competition factor is low or non existent, it would make business sense for Microsoft to apply this tactic, however where competition to Microsoft is perceived, naturally Microsoft cannot afford to hang onto important upgrades, and try earnestly to win the race to get these enhancements to the marketplace.

Signing us up for free testing programs.

At first glance Customer Experience Programs and Make Windows Better Programs appear to actually benefit us (the paying consumer), however a closer inspection of this methodology reveals Microsoft’s sinister motives behind such programs.  These are nothing more than brain schemes aimed at maximizing the base profits of Microsoft and Microsoft actually do away with whole testing departments thanks to our participation in these programs.

Don’t you think Microsoft, one of the wealthiest companies on the globe should put an end to getting us the PAYING CONSUMER to test their products, and instead create more jobs globally,  by employing more testers. and ACTUALLY properly testing their products.

The very fact that these programs exist show that Microsoft do not fully test their products.

They prey on the fact that we(the consumers) are so frustrated with our Microsoft Experiences that we will do ANYTHING to assist poor old Microsoft to make the whole experience better. Do you actually believe that the feedback you provide will somehow assist in the hastening of the development of computer operating systems, and by providing your participation you will actually see operating systems get to a point where they are released bug free and 100% working? I somehow doubt this very much, this sort of participation really shows how brain washed we are already. We not only pay huge fees for an incomplete product but we will gladly pay Microsoft to take on the role of a tester, AND PAY THEM FOR THIS HONOR. We will gladly help to fix the bugs so that the next version of windows or the product will contain no more bugs. But at the next release junction we are once again provided with a fresh wave of bugs, and once again are drafted into the testing role.

Let me remind you EVERY Microsoft Product is full of bugs at time of release.

Little do we know we are only enabling Microsoft to do away with the real test programs, Microsoft like a lot of companies are ignoring the test quality control phase, which results in a lot of frustration for the people who are using the software (and paying for it). Microsoft think they are really smart to have outfoxed us on this one (We pay Microsoft to test for them).

Releasing incomplete products (unpolished), and publishing lies on how great the product is.

Windows Vista says it all. 95% of Vista users feel they have been ripped off by Microsoft, having purchased a product that at first was hardly useable. A product that was so incomplete at the time of release, service pack development began the day after the release.

Another important fact behind Windows Vista is the “Wow Factor” Marketing. And the real user experience is quite far from “Wow staggering”, actually the whole Vista Experience feels like what would happen if you integrated Power point slides into the XP UI. The experience is also slower than XP. So how can this be good for computing in general? Please visit www.YouTube.com and tell me how many positive Windows Vista videos you can find.

These are just a few patterns I have noticed, if you notice anymore, please post some comments, thanks.

Microsoft Silverlight and XAML a novelty rather than a serious business tool

I decided to download, install and review Microsoft’s new Silverlight package, including Microsoft Expression.

I really hope Microsoft are not seriously expecting us to actually use these technologies and tools in a production environment. Its way too experimental.

I really like all the marketing regarding Silverlight. All the lovely art work, and the futuristic designs etc, people like You and I, working on glass touch screen vertical monitors. Sorry folks, its my sad duty to inform you the actual product offered by Microsoft is really nothing quite like what the clever and misleading marketing is presenting.

If the marketing gives you the idea that you can pick up a copy of Microsoft Expression and easily develop stunning rich user interfaces, you are going to be as disappointed if you try this.

I am starting to get used to the idea that Microsoft lately are the masters of deception. They are employing the same marketing methods that made the masses rush out and purchase Windows Vista (only to be disappointed) to now fool people into thinking that Silverlight is the next biggest and greatest thing in the presentation layer world.

Those of us who are involved in the web development and design industry know exactly what Macromedia Flash is, and how long its been around, and how complex the application is. Everyone I know or have ever known have great respect for Macromedia Flash, Flash however difficult it is, actually can be used to create stunning complex user interfaces.

Silverlight is not Microsoft Flash. Silverlight is some sort of delivery mechanism for the new presentation format XAML, however XAML is so full of bugs its a wonder its even referred to as a product. XAML is no doubt the most frustrating technology I have ever encountered in the industry. Even simple tasks like adding a button to a page can seem a near impossible task. Microsoft have also not packaged XAML into an easily reusable form. In my opinion its a disaster right now, and Microsoft need to act quickly to get us developers to be able to understand and use the technology effectively.

In my opinion Microsoft should slow down on their ever new and feeble .net releases. Most companies are highly skeptical of implementing new Microsoft technologies in a production environment, and typically choose (and wisely so) to let the technology mellow for a year or 2. This is because EVERYTHING Microsoft has ever developed ALWAYS arrives fill of bugs. The main problem developers and companies alike are now facing is that while they are waiting for version 3 of the .net framework to mellow, Microsoft have rushed out and delivered a now new version 3.5. Naturally with all the bugs and issues of, I will say it again, ANYTHING Microsoft related.

So what is a poor and humble developer supposed to do, rush out and learn every technology Microsoft introduce, or wait for it technologies to mellow? Personally my advice to you regarding XAML is to wait for it to mellow, and it is going to need serious time. As for the great promise of Windows Vista and those new super lovely rich user experiences that will become the standard. I think this is all great theory, until developers with no design skills are provided with tools that seriously assist in this area. XAML is not that great hope.

Cheating Google Adsense

Hi, this is a little bit of advice to those of you thinking of cheating Google’s Adsense program.

Firstly: Its a very bad idea, so don’t think you will really get away with it. The only way to work with Adsense is to do it correctly and without cheating.

Secondly: The cheating is also commonly referred to as stealing, and IS breaking the law. So think about this for a while, Google have started prosecuting click fraud offenders.

What is Adsense?

Google provide ads in the form of links. These ads can be hosted on your site or blog, as per the ads on the right of this blog. If someone clicks an ad it earns the person hosting the ads a small commission fee.

Google have a terms and condition policy, if you try and break this policy you will get caught and your account will be suspended. The best idea is not to cheat the Adsense program.

Please leave comments…

Going Legit… is frustrating at times…

So… let me paint the picture for you… I’m not some elite computer hacker… but I did start off life living in South Africa… and this is where I aquired my first computer… which was before the days of the PC… we are talking ZX-Spectrum days… back then breaking copyright laws (at the age of 9)… was well… not really a crime… it was considered that you were smart, if you could do such a thing, infact it was so hard to get games in South Africa… (on cassette tapes) that any game was welcomed… legit games were really over priced too.

Anyways things progressed, and along came the internet, and I remember walking passed shops and seeing computer packages selling for the price of what some people might earn in a month. One example of this would be Adobe Photoshop, back in the days of version 5.5. I remember walking past shops and thinking only idiots would be dumb enough to fork out on such expensive software where anyone with an internet connection could download the activations for free…

Then the time came in my life for the moral revolution (called growing up) where you realise that piracy is actually a crime, and the ability to aquire any software free is not really a skill to be proud of, rather a skill that could end up taking you down to hell, in the event of dying and finding out that there is really a God who exists and does not condone such talents. This is sort of where I am now… trying hard to rid my PC of the illegal stuff, and in the interests of greater good, use free / cheap software…

Now you might think because I am not pirating software anymore… that I am out buying it… this is not the case…. seriously I don’t buy software… I cannot afford it, and even if I could, I would rather spend the money on clothes, or normal things… rather than buying software…. the exception to this is the odd game worth a purchase… I can count on 2 hands the games I have actually bought in my life.

Anyways…. this leads me to the reason behind the posting in the first place… please read this dialog between Adobe Support and I… and tell me… do you see the problem, these companies are complaining about Piracy… But I tell you when you sit with paid versions of their products, you actually feel cheated by them, here is one day to day issue, I am sure you will agree, almost makes you want to pirate…

read on… no wait… first get coffee…

SERVER:Customer is waiting for Response..
VICTOR:Hello Michael, thank you for contacting Adobe Customer Service. My name is Victor. In order to keep you updated, our expertise in chat support lies in the following areas: ” Login/Password related queries. ”
Simple How to Questions. ” Maintenance of accounts. Even if your question does not fall under these three categories, I will definitely help you find the correct support option. How may I assist you today?
MICHAEL: Hi I have a problem with a purchased adobe program
MICHAEL: I am getting an invalid serial key error message
VICTOR:Since how long are you experiencing the issue?
MICHAEL:Well…. here is the thing… I purchased a Sony Vaio… VGN-AR41S… then I needed to do a clean install…
MICHAEL:so I performed a factory default re-install… this also installs the setup programs for the applications that come with the vaio package.
MICHAEL:for example… Photoshop Elements and also Adobe Premiere Elements
MICHAEL:However… Now it seems that I cannot use the same serial number…
MICHAEL: I am trying to use this serial number… [sensored]
MICHAEL:Unfortunately… it says… that the serial number is invalid
VICTOR:Thank you for providing the information.
VICTOR:Michael, I understand that you are receiving message as Serial Number is invalid. Is that correct?
MICHAEL:Yes
VICTOR:Thank you.
MICHAEL: during a setupVICTOR:Before we proceed further, I would like to inform you that I would e-mail the chat transcript to you at MJLEPPAN@HOTMAIL.COM after the chat session is complete or in case we get disconnected.
MICHAEL: I am using the supplied username and serial that I should be VICTOR:This may also help you retrieve the required information with reference to this case in future. MICHAEL:thats fine VICTOR:The Serial Number ([sensored]) is not correct. Could you please verify the Serial Number?
MICHAEL:Product is Adobe Photoshop Elements…. install command = CommandLine0=msiexec /i “Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0 (en_us).msi” USERNAME=”Sony Customer” ENCSERIALNUMBER=[sensored] REBOOT=ReallySuppress /qn MICHAEL:this is basically an extract taken from setup.ini
VICTOR:
VICTOR:
MICHAEL:Sorry please repeat that?
VICTOR:May I have the Order Number of Adobe Photoshop Elements?
MICHAEL:I was not given any order number VICTOR:Do you have the CD for Adobe Photoshop Elements?
MICHAEL:No
MICHAEL:Its all part of the software package that comes with my Vaio VICTOR:I will try to help you.
MICHAEL: Ok
VICTOR:It would have been a pleasure to assist you with this issue.
MICHAEL:I can provide you with my serial number for my laptop VICTOR:I would request you to contact our Customer Service department by phone for further assistance with this regard, as they are best equipped to handle such issues.
MICHAEL:Phone? VICTOR:Please contact our Customer Service Department by calling (800) 833-6687, option 1, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific time, seven days a week.
MICHAEL:Ok – can I request you to get your customer service dept to phone me MICHAEL:[my censored number]
VICTOR:It would have been a pleasure to do that for you.
VICTOR:However, I am unable to do so as I do not have the required tools and resources. MICHAEL:Ok
MICHAEL:here is the thing…
MICHAEL:I am already inconvienienced by this…
VICTOR:I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused to you in this regard.
MICHAEL:Are you now expecting me to take further responsibilities for a technical issue caused by Adobe?
MICHAEL:Basically… why should I be further inconvienienced with the cost of a lengthy international phone call waiting for an operator
MICHAEL:no…
MICHAEL:Please sort this out…
MICHAEL:I would like a service agent to phone me as soon as possible VICTOR:Are you located in US?
MICHAEL:and assist me
MICHAEL:No
VICTOR:VICTOR:VICTOR:May I know where are you located?
MICHAEL:Czech Republic?
MICHAEL:[my censored number]
VICTOR:If you need support, please locate the nearest support organization for your region or country by going to the following URL: http://www.adobe.com/support/intlsupport.html
MICHAEL:Thats it… if you can’t help me in this regard… I will simply crack the software using an illegal serial I can download on the internet… is that what adobe is about to encourage?
MICHAEL:Basically you are saying to me – I should help YOU (adobe) solve a problem (ADOBE) has created…
MICHAEL:and I am saying… ok fine – I will find a serial that works… even an illegal one…
MICHAEL:Do I have your consent as an adobe representitive? VICTOR:I understand your concerns regarding this issue.
VICTOR:Please refer the above Web page and contact the support as per your region.
VICTOR:Now that I have provided you with the Web page for International support, is there anything else I can assist you with today?
VICTOR:I am awaiting your response.
VICTOR:We have not received a response from you in a while. Do you still need assistance? VICTOR:
Michael, since it has been a while since your last communication, I am assuming your issue is resolved. Please contact Adobe customer service if you need additional assistance on this issue. Thank you for contacting Adobe Systems. This chat session has ended. *** More Additional Info ***

Whew – reading this gets me started all over again… grrr