a bad dream

I fired up my RSS reader last night after a long day at the office, and for the first time in memory the feed numbers in the “Mac” category outnumbered all other categories — to be expected, I guess, on the day of Steve Jobs’ keynote at Macworld, and the related new product announcements. I proceeded to do a quick screenshot of my RSS numbers to post as an icon in a blog entry. I then fired up MarsEdit to write a blog entry and upload the photo. BUT I was unable to upload the photo … a server error.

This was now my second server error in as many days, with the first one still not resolved. So I hopped over to my webhost’s site to check my support ticket and also check their blog to find out why I got a strange billing email earlier that day. What I discovered was a story about a typo that resulted in over $7.5 million of customer overcharges!

You can read it here (and see the fun Homer Simpson graphic as well), but in a nutshell: someone in the billing department attempting to reconcile some missed billings from 2007 typed in December 31, 2008 (instead of 2007) as a cutoff date. The billing system then ran billings as if it were already 12/31/08. Which means, it appears, that a big chunk of their customers were billed for account renewals that were not yet up for renewal.

To be fair, the company — Dreamhost — has been totally transparent in their explanations of what happened and what they are doing to fix it. And generally I have found them to be a great webhosting company. As for me, I’ll just see both the erroneous charge and a refund on my next credit card statement, and no worries. But as some of the 1270 (and counting) commenters on their status site have pointed out, it’s not so worry-free for those who were billed via an automatic transfer and didn’t have the funds to cover it (I was billed >$600).

I proceeded to amend my earlier support ticket regarding my server problems, adding the new server error and some related info I found in a WordPress forum. The issues were cleared up in less than 24 hours. It’s good to see the outrage/aftermath of the huge billing snafu has not sidetracked the reliable support team.

As for Macworld, I was a little underwhelmed. The new Macbook Razr Air is a strikingly beautiful design, but it also is hobbled in many ways. It’s a premium price for a browsing/casual/travel laptop. I personally couldn’t see using it as a primary workstation. I think people are going to find the standard hard drives are slower than they will expect, which can make a big difference in some applications. And the solid state hard drive (base price + $1000), which should offer blazing performance and near-instantaneous bootup, is still way too high in a dollars-to-gigabtye ratio to tempt me to open my wallet.

I think the updates to the Apple TV will be the more significant news for Apple in the long run. I watch so few Netflix movies anymore that it might be more cost-effective to drop Netflix and just rent-as-you-go via iTunes. It’s certainly more flexible than Netflix, but selection will be the big question. The new Time Capsule backup drive is probably Apple’s best product name in years and is a perfect companion for Time Machine backups. And finally … every Mac blog and pundit on the planet was predicting a big upgrade to the operating system: Leopard 10.5.2. That announcement was notably absent, as has been any reporting on why this widely-anticipated update was a no-show.