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Adventures in splurging for a “nice” vacuum cleaner – The Shark that melted

Our Shark NV803 Duoclean -- I call him "Melty"

If I were to describe my history with vacuum cleaners, it would be "struggle". We have no long-haired pets (unless you count children) and we don't have a ton of carpets. If I'm being honest, we don't use the vacuum near as often as we probably should. What I mean to say is that we're not really putting these things through their paces or performing stress tests so there's no reason it should be such a struggle.

Still, you get what you pay for and all the ~100 vacuum cleaners and used models and Goodwill castoffs were a pain. They jam up easily and have varying levels of poor performance that my wife and I were sick of. We did our research and found what seemed to be a good model that came highly recommended, had tons of great ratings, and a good set of features. At the least, I hoped that spending more than double the price of our most expensive vacuum to date would be a win.

TL;DR – Nope!

The bits that look like dirt buildup are actually deformed plastic
Is that a gill?
Nah, just the roller belt popping out to say hello

Look, I'm sure they're great most of the time. The reviews sure seem to suggest so after all… but in the end having a vacuum cleaner eat itself in less than a year is a tad bit concerning. None of the cheap-o ones I've ever owned had problems with melting themselves, but I suppose I should give the Shark points for style: it started by melting the internal plastics of the roller and THEN it melted its way right out of the side casing (that belt is still in great shape though, so props for that!).

Let's be fair: stuff is defective sometimes and there's no point in getting bent out of shape if you get a lemon… assuming they actually take care responsibility for it.

7-year warranty!

The one I bought: a Shark NV803 DuoClean
(See online!)

I'm new to Shark and didn't know what to expect, but the "7 year warranty – OMG!" was reassuring. I went through the trouble of registering (I normally wouldn't, but it was required) and called the phone number (that's suspicious… why couldn't I do this online?) and the very polite lady took my information and quoted me $89 to send a replacement part.

Wait, what?

Long-story short, the warranty only applies to the motor apparently – self consuming rollers is not their problem.

There were several things on the table at this point: going to my credit card for the auto-extended warranty, send a complaint letter to Shark directly, see if it's too late to do a credit card chargeback, etc. Instead, I contacted Amazon support to see what options they provided and it paid off! They offered a full refund and gave me a shipping label to send the unit back.

To be clear, Amazon didn't have to do this and I would never suggest you can expect the same, but credit to them for handling the situation. The bottom line and the point that I'm trying to make is that you might want to think twice about Shark vacuums. Maybe I got a lemon or maybe they're not made as nicely as people claim, but one thing that's for sure, their warranty isn't going to help you if something goes wrong (unless it's the very specific part of the vacuum they actually cover I suppose).

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Amazon Launches Online Music Store with No DRM

(Image is used under the Pixabay license)

I'm not thrilled about Amazon since they are one of the worst privacy offenders on the web, but they are now offering music downloads without any DRM.

Though shopping with Amazon is like dancing with a hungry wolf, for now they may be one of the best places to get music content. Certainly if you had a choice between iTunes and Amazon for the same music, Amazon would be the better choice.

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Top 10 Worst Consumer Privacy Infringers

Companies just can't seem to mind their own business
(Image is in the Public Domain)

This is a damn funny article explaining who is the worst of the worst and why:

America Online

America Online's privacy intrusion efforts are so aggressive and offensive, that the only explanation seems to be that AOL thought its clientele was so naïve they would never catch on to the company's privacy invasions.
and…

Amazon.com

Amazon.com is currently among the world leaders in distributing information about its users to advertisers, and if they continue this practice the recent advancements in data mining by Amazon threaten to make shopping online with any form of anonymity a thing of the past.
and (not surprisingly)…

Microsoft

Perhaps the most insidious method of privacy invasion Microsoft employs is the “Windows Live ID ? (formerly Microsoft .NET Passport). The Windows Live ID collects data from the majority of Microsoft networks including MSN, Hotmail, and Xbox Live, and stores them in a central database.

Most of the others were data-brokering companies like ChoicePoint and Acxiom which have already been in the news for the way they treat consumer information. Some that I didn't expect, but am not surprised about are Yahoo and Google.

Thanks to the EFF newsletter for the link! Tags: , , , , , ,

Instructor Asked By University to Not Explain Tor to Students

Tech isn't good or bad.
(Image is in the Public Domain)

I found this news on Slashdot today. Basically, a university professor used a powerful free tool that lets him browse the Internet completely anonymously (Tor). Because the utility bypasses university security, they came to him and demanded he stop using it.

From his own description of the event, I found this especially nice, condensed description of why someone would want to use Tor:

Tor can also be useful in e-commerce. For example, Amazon.com knows more about my shopping habits and tastes than my wife does. I appreciate Amazon's ability to make recommendations based on my previous purchases. But in 2000, Amazon admitted experimenting with so-called dynamic pricing, charging different people different prices for the same MP3 player; the prices were presumably based on estimates of what each user would be willing to pay, considering prior purchases. Online merchants could all do that, thanks to traffic analysis. They know who I am when I log on — unless I delete their cookies or use Tor.
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