To be honest, I don't even know if those free web hosts are even still around, so I've snipped my lengthy rants about each and combined them into this one warning: avoid sites that supposedly host your web pages for free. With both GeoCities and NetColony, I spent a good deal of time putting together some very nice web sites, only to have them mysteriously disappear with no explanation given and all attempts to contact the site administrators going unanswered. To this day, I still don't know the reason those two stopped hosting my pages, and I never did recover the web pages and files I had hosted there. The moral of the story is - you get what you pay for. And always back-up everything on you local machine.
Yes, I realize the irony of hosting a page on a Comcast server about how crappy Comcast is...
I've had Comcast cable TV for years, mostly because I'm a big fan of the Flyers hockey team, and Comcast basically has a monopoly on Flyers broadcasts (at least the high-definition ones). So I'm stuck with Comcast's cable. When they started advertising their "Triple Play" deal, where you could get cable TV, internet service and VOIP phone service all from Comcast for $99 a month, it seemed like a pretty good deal. Then they sweetened the pot by throwing in a free Nintendo DS. We had been planning on getting our daughter one for Christmas anyway, so we gave Comcast a call.
The first disappointment - we weren't eligible for the $99 deal (or the DS) because that offer was only open to brand new customers. Since we already had Comcast cable, we couldn't get the $99 price. So much for customer loyalty - Comcast will do anything to get you in the door, but once you're in they couldn't care less about you. As long as you keep paying their ever-escalating fees.
OK, so we couldn't get the triple play for $99. We asked the friendly sales representative on the phone how much it would cost us, and he quoted a price around $133. I asked if that was a one-year, introductory price like the $99 deal was, and he said "No, that's your regular rate".
I hung up the phone and consulted with my wife (who runs most of the household finances), and we figured out that even at $133 a month, we'd still be saving a little money over our current cable, phone and internet bills. So I called Comcast back, and once again asked if the $133 price was the standard cost of the triple play, or if we'd be expected to pay more after a year. "Oh, that's the standard price" the sales guy assured me. We figured we might as well go for it, so we signed up.
Things didn't go smoothly at first - the initial guy who came and installed our internet and phone equipment didn't do it right, and for the first month or so we kept having phone outages and poor download speeds on the internet. We also discovered that we had been "bumped up" into a more expensive cable TV package without having been asked. But another installer came out and fixed the connections so everything worked, and we found some of the new channels in the TV package worth keeping, so all seemed well for the next 11 months.
Then our 13th bill showed up with the price of the triple play listed as $169. I immediately called Comcast and talked to a representative and asked why our bill had suddenly jumped by $36. He said our one-year introductory period had run out, and we now had to pay "full price". I told him that we had been assured when we signed up that $133 was the "full" price and not an introductory deal. He told me, basically, "too bad".
So I sent a nasty letter to Comcast's customer service address. A few days later I got an email from a woman who was high-up in the customer service department, apologizing for the price hike, and saying that she had pulled some strings so that we would continue to get the $133 rate for another year. But after that, the price will definitely go up.
So I figured I'd stick with the triple play for another year and then see what other options are out there. Then, less than a month later, Comcast sent out an email to all internet customers announcing that they are capping the amount of data you can upload and/or download in a single month. The cap is pretty high (over 200 gigabytes, if I'm remembering right), so that was only a minor annoyance. But then came the final straw...
I'm a frequent reader of USENET newsgroups. They've been around seemingly forever, and to my way of thinking, they're part of the bedrock of the internet. If a company claims to be an internet service provider, then they should host their own news server. It's part of the freakin' internet, so they should be providing it. But one by one, the greedy ISPs have been dropping newsgroup access. It probably saves them a few bucks, not having to support something that only a small percentage of their users access. But dammit, I'm paying over $40 a month for internet, I should be getting the WHOLE internet. Not just the parts that it is convenient for Comcast to host.
But, sure enough, Comcast has announced that they're going to stop supporting newsgroups as of the end of October, 2008. How did they announce this? Another email to all internet users? A letter in the mail? No, they announced it with a tiny, confusing message hidden deep on their web site. I never would have found out about it until my newsgroup access suddenly stopped working, if I hadn't stumbled across a thread on the Flyers newsgroup where another Comcast customer was complaining about it.
So, even though I'm already paying Comcast a hefty fee for an internet connection, they feel I should have to pay even more to get newsgroup access from a third party provider. Greedy, greedy SOBs.
Well, that's it. That's the last straw. I plan to write them another letter to let them know how disgusted I am with their service, not that I expect that to do any good. And as soon as possible, I'm going to switch my internet and phone service to other providers. I'm tired of Comcast's attempts to keep charging me more and more for fewer and fewer services.
As soon as I got my Acer Aspire home, the trouble started. The built-in microphone on the monitor didn't work. After spending an hour or so on the phone with an Acer representative convincing them it really was broken and not just assembled wrong, they arranged to replace it. This meant about a month-long wait for the new monitor to arrive, and having to pack up the original monitor and drive it to UPS to return it. Inconvenient, but at least they took care of the problem.
I encountered the next problem when I tried to install a DOS-based game that required a sound card. The PC's default set-up didn't enable the sound card in DOS, so I had to play with the settings and in the process managed to kill the soundcard in both DOS and Windows. I made a call to Acer's tech-support line and got help - one of the things they had me try was changing the sound card from one slot to another. I specifically asked if taking the cover off the PC would void the warranty and was told that it wouldn't. The problem was eventually fixed, but it took a few hours.
The next problem I encountered was that the hard drive kept "locking up". I think this was due to overheating (you can't place the PC's "body" near a wall or the monitor), but I figured since I had specifically been told that removing the casing would not void the warranty, I might as well take a look inside.
Due to the poor design of the Acer Aspire, the only way to remove the outer casing is to pull really, really hard on a cheap plastic handle on the front of the PC. There are no screws you can remove to make the process easier or anything, just this fragile little handle. Of course, the handle snapped.
Here's where my major problem with Acer comes in - I called tech support again, and was told that there was nothing they could do about it. Even though the computer was still well within its original warrenty period, the broken handle was not covered because, get this, I wasn't on the phone with Acer when it broke. I then went and read the fine print on the warranty, which states:
Coverage under this agreement will not include: ... Repair...to the covered equipment required for reasons of accident...by anyone other than an Acer Authorized Service Provider.
In other words, unless Acer breaks it themselves, they're not required to fix it. Or to be blunt about it, their Warranty is pretty much useless, and I'm now stuck with a PC that can't be opened without a crowbar.
Anyway, there's apparently no help for me - I've called Acer a couple times and sent them email to let them know how unhappy I am with the situation, and their response so far has pretty much been "tough luck". But hopefully this web page will prevent other computer buyers from being burned like I was.
Oh, and just recently the cheap plastic wrist guard for the keyboard snapped and fell off. Quality computer, hunh?
Update, August 2000: Over the last couple months, the monitor (the replacment they sent me for the one with the broken microphone) had been blinking off, as if it was losing the signal from the computer (the power was still on, but the green power light on the monitor would turn red every time this happened). At first it would only go out for a couple seconds and then come back on. But the problem kept getting worse, with the outages getting longer and longer. Finally at the beginning of this month, the thing blinked off and refused to come back on. The monitor was only around three years old, and now it's a useless piece of junk.
Update, November 2000: The last original peripheral just died - the keyboard. For a couple days it would suddenly not want to type certain letters, then the whole Q-P row died. Had to replace it with a new keyboard. Once again, don't buy from Acer, their products are pieces of junk that quickly fall apart.
Also, just a couple weeks ago, I got the following email:
Just read you page on your experiences with Acer service techs. Sounds very familiar. I can not get the Sound Recorder to work on my system, and they want $35 to attempt (no guarantee) to fix the problem they caused.
And here's another email I got on Aug 26th, 2001 from a guy named Sam Palermo:
I am an Engineer in the Chicago area. A girl I know who does not have a lot of money had trouble with her 1280 Aspire model so I agreed to take a look at it. I build computers (AMD) for a hobby and have done about 30 or so far. Yes, her unit was full of fuzz and was indicating a lack of any maintenance for the life of the computer-from 8/97. The interesting thing was that the heat sink on here K6-2 233 got hot and was not able to do the job. To add to your findings, I believe that the Acer company clearly uses substandard and clearly too small a fan to accomplish the job. I, of course, will put a good one on the processor. The biggest problem is that even though I downloaded and made the 4 floppies the Acer suggest on their web site, the sound still does not work and they make no mention of the IDE buss master driver that Windows 98 SE does not like. Up until now I have thought Compaq has made the worst computer but I may have been wrong. I think Acer is beating Compaq on making a junk product.
I have emailed Acer and shall continue to do so until Kim tells me to build her a good computer. I am glad you are posting this on the web maybe it will do some good. You are welcome to use any part of this on your page!
On Dec 16th, 2001, I got an email from Yap Chun Hui. His English was a little rusty, but basically he told me that his Acer CD-ROM drive died just after the warranty period expired. Also, a sound card driver he downloaded from Acer's web site didn't work. He had to ship his PC back to Acer, and they charged him $85 just to tell him that they couldn't fix it.
Whatever you do folks, don't buy an Acer...