Netflix pricing disparity

I’m a little confused as to the unit pricing for Netflix. Their “unlimited” plans are as follows:

  • 1 at a time = $8.99/mo = $8.9900 each
  • 2 at a time = $13.99/mo = $6.9950 each
  • 3 at a time = $16.99/mo = $5.6633 each
  • 4 at a time = $23.99/mo = $5.9975 each
  • 5 at a time = $29.99/mo = $5.9980 each
  • 6 at a time = $35.99/mo = $5.9983 each
  • 7 at a time = $41.99/mo = $5.9985 each
  • 8 at a time = $47.99/mo = $5.9987 each

Clearly the best deal is the 3-at-a-time plan, but why give the customer a slightly worse deal for each level they go up? Currently, upgrading to the 4-at-a-time plan has quite a premium, $7, for the additional movie. Each additional movie after that is a negligible but still annoying bump in price. The 6-at-a-time plan is the worst deal, since you can get two 3-at-a-time plans for $2.01 less per month.

Citibank misunderstands mobile, sucks

So we’re sitting at our gate in the terminal in LAX, and Citibank has purchased some likely very expensive advertising space above our heads, for “CITI MOBILESM“. Purportedly, this would be a version of Citibank’s website optimized for the mobile browser. The ad has the url citi.com/citimobile which, one would assume, given the mobile target audience (and, my first thought was “ugh, that’s an unnecessarily long URL to type on a mobile”), and the big picture of a phone, should be visited on your phone.

How wrong I am. I tried it on my phone, and I got a very large Citibank-standard page (which would likely only render at all on Symbian S60 or iPhone) telling me that I am using an unsupported browser, and helpfully recommends IE, Firefox, Netscape, Safari, and AOL. Awesome experience so far, Citibank!

I try it on my laptop, and the reason for that page becomes clear. citi.com/citimobile is not supposed to be used from your phone… apparently you’re supposed to go there on a PC and sign up to receive the application as an SMS containing a link to download the application. How annoying. Whatever, let’s give it a go.

After going through a fairly simple signup process (none of which actually would have required a PC browser), I am sent an SMS message and I download and install the Java application.

The application itself is quite simple, and in fact I suspect based on its behaviour that it doesn’t have any intelligence of its own… it seems to download its menus and such on first run. So, basically, a poorly designed browser.

When you run the application, you’re given a few menu choices:

  • Account Info — Get your account balances, recent activity, etc.
  • Payments — Schedule bill payments.
  • Transfers — Make transfers between your accounts.
  • Citi Locations — Find Citibank branch and ATM locations.
  • Service — Customer service and account management stuff.

Choosing any of these options except for “Citi Locations” will ask you to log in. The first time you use it, the login process is a bit different… it asks for your phone number using a menu which took me a few minutes to figure out, since it completely deviated both from my phone’s interface, and any interface I’ve ever seen. For future logins, it uses the same kludgy interface to ask for your “telephone access code” aka password.

After pressing the middle key (usually “select”-ish) on my phone a few times, and expecting the usual “numeric entry” screen to come up, I finally figured out that you actually have to type on this screen, while the entry you’re typing into is highlighted. On my phone, that means I have to hold down the function key to type numbers.

Folks, phones have interface standards and especially Java has standard interfaces for a reason—so that your users won’t be confused, and your application will look and feel like all of the other applications on their phone.

To make matters worse, both the Account Info “recent activity” and Citi Locations search are next to useless. The recent activity gives you basically no information, not even the name of the vendor/company, very similar to the information that an ATM will give you as a printed receipt of activity.

Overall, a pretty disappointing experience with Citi Mobile!

Help convince Dell to leverage LSI to Open Source MegaCli

I’ve just submitted “Leverage LSI to Open Source MegaCli” to the Dell IdeaStorm website:

Dell makes some awesome and affordable hardware. Many new Dell machines have the PERC 5/i SAS RAID controller, which is a rebranded LSI MegaRAID SAS.

LSI makes some nice RAID cards. Dell likes LSI. Dell made a deal with LSI to provide the chips for their fancy new PERC 5/i cards.

We buy machines with these cards in them. We need to monitor our RAIDs, rebuild them, and do all manner of other maintenance tasks. We do not expect LSI to provide perfect tools. LSI is a hardware vendor, and it’s understandable that they provide terrible *software*. What is NOT understandable, though, is why LSI’s terrible tools are closed source.

What is further incomprehensible is why Dell is willing to accept this situation on behalf of their enterprise customers. Has anyone from Dell even tried to use the tools LSI provides, and Dell recommends, to manage a RAID array on Linux?

MegaCli is the worst command-line utility I have ever seen, bar none. But, we don’t expect LSI to make it better, we expect LSI to OPEN SOURCE it. That way we software professionals can spend our own time to make them better. We need better tools. We are willing to work for free. Give us the source, or give us good documentation, but give us something.

We’re willing to provide infinite amounts of value to both Dell and LSI. Dell has enough clout with LSI to make this happen. Please make it happen.

Signed,

Jeremy Cole
Open Source Database Guy

Please go there and “promote” this if you care about Dell and RAID!

Breakdown in MySQL Enterprise process

In the past few days, MySQL Community 5.0.41 was released. While reading through the changelog, I noticed the following entry:

The patches for Bug #19370 and Bug #21789 were reverted.

Upon looking at Bug #21789, I noted that it was originally committed in MySQL Enterprise 5.0.32, released December 20th, 2006. The next community release which would have contained the patch is MySQL Community 5.0.33, released January 9th, 2007. This means that not only was the patch not vetted by the community, but there was a full 20 days between the enterprise release with the patch, and the next community release which contained it. According to MySQL’s release process, it could have been a full 5 months, given the right timing…

The patches were rolled back in MySQL Enterprise 5.0.40, released April 17th, 2007. Yes, the patch was committed without much vetting, and then had to be rolled back, 118 days later, in the “enterprise” version of MySQL. Why?

Back when MySQL first polled me about the community/enterprise split, I told them that this would happen. The reason it happened, of course, is that MySQL willingly shut down its only avenue for vetting these sorts of patches. They made a similar split to RedHat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) vs. Fedora Core Linux, but for some reason broke the process at the same time: they produce releases of community much less often than enterprise. That means that nobody in the community is testing the features that they stick in enterprise. They just get pushed out with no public vetting.

The way that RHEL and Fedora work is that all the shiny new stuff is pushed into Fedora first. After it has been deemed that the Fedora process, plus plenty of internal vetting, has been successful, those patches or new versions are merged into RHEL either for the next patchset, or the next full release. This, of course, means that Fedora is always ahead of RHEL. That’s exactly the idea. RedHat is betting that enterprise users (whatever that really means, these days) want a stable slowly-moving release that is “guaranteed” to work, and easy to keep up with.

On the flip side, Fedora is great for users who want the latest and greatest all the time—primarily desktop users and developers—people who are willing to work through the quirks and contribute a bit back in the way of feedback. People that like to run yum update a couple times a week. What do they get in return? A (usually) good product that is completely free.

Why did MySQL reverse the process and make it (in my opinion) useless? I suspect their sales team thinks it would look bad if the community users “get more” than the enterprise ones. But, take a look at the MySQL releases themselves, discounting any other “features”—which are debatable—that you receive with MySQL Enterprise. Why would I pay to get a release with the same unvetted, broken, may-be-rolled-back patches as everyone else gets? Why would I suggest that our customers pay?

I love you, Akismet

Blogging used to be fun.

Then it started to suck. Spam sucked. Life sucked.

Now life is good. Spam is no more. Matt told me to use Akismet; I was skeptical. I am no longer skeptical. I love you, Akismet.

Akismet has caught 501,725 spam for you since you first installed it.

Yup. Since January 15.