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Buying a new car – how hard can it be? Part II

[Previously on the blog – me and the wife wanted to buy a new car and ordered an Audi A5 for 492.000:- and was told it would be delivered end of March]

And so we waited. And waited.

Eventually in mid February we got an e-mail from the insurance company telling us it was time to insure our Audi. ??.. so we called up the dealer in Järva, got put on hold and eventually told by the manager that “I’m gonna have to call you back”. And so he did. And yeah, the car had arrived and we were free to pick it up next week. At this point I’m wondering “how long has it been there and when were you going to tell us!?” but I was just too excited and grateful that it was already here to question that. After our dealing with Toyota I thought it’d be best if we gave them the week and come in on Friday afternoon. This gave them over 8 days to get the car ready. And then he assigned the delivery to another salesman which I thought was weird but as it turns out the salesman, Daniel, that I liked so much and ordered the car from was no longer working there for reasons noone wanted to get into. When I woke up on Tuesday, 3 days before the delivery, it was snowing. And I remembered we hadn’t ordered the winter tyres so it would be illegal for us to drive our new car home from the dealer without it! So I called them up and asked what they usually do in this situation when customers have ordered cars without winter tyres and it’s snowing. And he had no clue. His first response was just hoping it would get warmer and thaw so it wouldn’t be a problem. I couldn’t tell if it was a joke or serious but it was absolutely unprofessional! So I had to ask him if he could fix winter tyres for us which he ofcourse was willing to try to do but couldn’t make a promise he’d get them in time. Seriously, he had 3 days to find new wintertyres for a new car in Stockholm, how hard can that be, pick up the phone to Euromasters and have them send over a set with DHL!? Well, he couldn’t just call anyone to get any kind of tyres, he had to order Audi originals regardless if we wanted it or not! Then we didn’t hear anything from him and we were just left assuming it was sorted when we went in to pick up the car on Friday afternoon. And much to our delight and surprise he had sorted it. On the car was now brand new Audi original winter tyres! “Great, so can we get the car now” … “well not really because you still haven’t paid us the 130.000 that was due”. Huh? Well, as it turns out we were supposed to send in the money to them so they had it before we could pick up the car and noone had told us about this. He said it was the “other guy” that had missed informing us of that. Personally I think it should be on a check list when preparing to deliver a car to make sure the car is legal to drive on the day of delivery and that the payment was settled, but apparently this guy didn’t think that was on them, those were my problems to solve!

So I ended up using Swish, a Swedish “send money instantly to another phone number” system that is quite a common way to send money here – just not supposed to be used for transactions of this size!! Fortunately my bank allowed the transaction, otherwise I don’t know what they’d do but I was furious enough to leave there and then and have another look at the Cupra – just ask Toyota. So now that that was sorted we got a big, long debriefing on insurance options. After that he unveiled our new car. And it was glorious!! I knew the car was so hitech that we were in for long education of what everything did.. but nope, he wasn’t into that, “I could spend an hour talking about everything but you pretty much want to get on the road huh?”.. well that didn’t stop him from talking insurances for a very long time but ok so let’s get on the road.. nope, we had to take a detour to their servicecenter to pay for the tyres. Fortunately the guy there was an absolute professional and got that over with quickly in the kind of “getting it done!” method I love. After that we got an ok to go out on the road, finally!

To be continued tomorrow…

Read Part I here.

Read Part III here.

Buying a new car – how hard can it be? Part I

Me and the wife were in the market to buy a car. And my wife has expensive taste. And we had the cash to spend. Sounds like a dream for any car dealer, right? But you know after our dealings with Toyota last year that I didn’t think very highly of car dealers… and that was about to get even lower!

My wife have always wanted to buy a Mustang. But purchasing a new Mustang in Stockholm proved pretty impossible as the only dealer we were in contact with didn’t have any available for us to try as other customers had crashed them both and we didn’t want to order one blindly. Besides I got the feeling he wasn’t too eager to sell one to us anyway. So we checked out a secondhand dealer that had a great Mustang waiting to be bought. After sitting in it we both kinda realised this isn’t the kind of car you use driving back and forth to school or to Ikea. So that idea was put on hold.

The next idea was a Tesla. But in Sweden the start at about 750.000 SEK which is shitload of money but when you start adding on stuff it goes up to 7 digits quite fast. So no, not yet.

Then we went for a sport version of the car we have today, a Seat Leon Cupra. The only dealer we had even remotely close to us turned out to be amateurs! They only had one for customers to try out. And the owner was using it as his private car. And we had to book an appointment to testdrive it! Well we did but it turns out the boss’s wife or daughter had taken the car for high street shopping that afternoon and got stuck in traffic. Who knew there might be traffic jams when going from Stockholm city to Barkarby at 5pm!? And when we test drove it we found their candy stash, we found her wallet and some left over shopping. As I said, amateur hour. Unfortunately the car was an absolut beast and we were tempted to buy one had it not been for the dealer.

So then we raised the bar! As we’ve been happy with both our Volkswagens and our Seat we decided to test the upgrade in the family and go for an Audi! Now I wanted to use Möller Bil again since we were so pleased with how the Seat turned out and how professional they’ve been but no Möller retailer close to us sells Audi. So we went to the Audi retailer in Järva. First thing that happened was they didn’t respond to my e-mail requests. Usually not a big thing but car dealers are supposed to be more eager than this, but oh well. So we went to their showroom and were told that we weren’t welcomed because we were in the business section! Should have gone home right there and then to be honest because the only reason we were in the business area was poor signage from their end! But we didn’t go home, we went up a floor to the consumer section and met a really friendly and nice salesguy, Daniel. He tried to understand what we wanted and our criterias – the wife wanted a bit of luxury but I wanted to pay the least amount for it! We went there looking at an A4 but when the wife saw their latest A5 Sportback she was totally sold! And when I saw their virtual cockpit, so was I. We tested sitting in an A5 to get the feel for the interior, noting that there was indeed 3 seatbelts in the back (more why that was important later!) and then we testdrove an A4 with identical engine to get the feel for the cars power. We were both very, very pleased. So we sat down to go through the list of options for the car to try to come up with a good car that fit our needs and what that would cost us. He went through every option (or so we thought!) with us and based on what he knew of our needs made recommendations. Since every manufacturer has their own terms/language, options and editions it’s a real jungle to sort it out but he did a good job of explaining it. I really liked this guy! So he came up with a car for 492.000 SEK, almost half a million. Naturually we needed to have a talk about it but after two days we made the decision to go for it. We went back and talked with him again to place the order. No fuzz at all, we agreed we’d put down 130.000 which we’d get from selling our current car when we got the new car. It would take “about 5 months” to get the car. A bit long but it would be worth waiting for. Now, did we want winter tyres on this or not? That was an extra 20.000 SEK. I knew I could get tyres for about half that price, and 5 months from end of October would be and of March so no really need for it, so no thanks. And the order was placed and we were happy with it all.

And then we waited. And waited…

Read Part II here.

Read Part III here.

Remove User Mailbox Permissions

SCENARIO
A user has alot of mailbox permissions to other mailboxes that needs to be revoked.

PROBLEM
The problem is that the GUI, even in an on-prem interface, forces you to remove the permissions on the destination so you have to go to every mailbox he/she has access to, remove the permission and then go to the next. This is very time consuming, one wish you could open the user and remove the permissions to other mailboxes that way, but it doesn’t work like that unfortunately.

SOLUTION
This little script solves this problem. It goes through all mailboxes in your mailenvironment and checks all the boxes that the [USER] has access to and prompts to remove them one by one. I still feel a prompt is necessary because sometimes you get the request to “remove everything except these”, so by prompting we can chose which ones to remove. Alot faster than going to every mailbox in the list! For better performance, I suggest you specify a “-servername EXCHANGESERVER” in the “get-mailbox” command, otherwise it’ll go through the entire Exchange org.

$user = "[USER]"
$permissions = Get-Mailbox -resultsize unlimited | Get-MailboxPermission -User $user
foreach($permission in $permissions)
{
$identity = $permission.identity
$accessright = $permission.accessrights
write-host "Removing permission for $user on $identity"
remove-mailboxpermission -Identity $identity -User $user -Accessrights $accessright
}
Download PS1 from Dropbox

Download PS1 from Dropbox

Change Something On Users From File

SCENARIO
You’re the administrator of an Office 365 tenant and/or on-prem Exchange and Active Directory and you need to make bulk changes to a group of people and you have a list with UPNs ready to use.

PROBLEM
There really is no problem but it may be very repetetive tasks.

SOLUTION
This script will read the file “C:\temp\list_of_upns.txt“, which is just a list of UPN’s, and iterate through them making the change you want. Since I make alot of the same changes to different users depending on what I need. I simply un-comment by removing the “#” for whatever I need to script to change on the user. And remember to put the “#” back in to comment if you want it to do something else or you may end up doing unwanted things on the objects (like converting a bunch of on-prem mailboxes to Room mailboxes, true story!)

# Written by : Kristoffer Strom ([email protected])
# Date: 2017-02-20
#
#Starting the loop
ForEach ($user in $(Get-Content C:\temp\list_of_upns.txt ))
{
write-host $user
#Set-Mailbox $user -Type shared
#$userdn = get-aduser  -Filter{UserPrincipalName -eq $user} -properties DistinguishedName
#$DN = Get-ADUser -Filter { UserPrincipalName -Eq $user }
#set-aduser $DN -Replace @{extensionAttribute1 = "REPLACEMENTTEXT"}
#set-aduser $DN -clear extensionAttribute1, extensionAttribute1, AdminDisplayname, AdminDescription
#remove-adgroupmember -Identity "ADGROUP" -Member $DN
#Set-MsolUserLicense -UserPrincipalName $user -RemoveLicenses "XXXXXXXXXX:ENTERPRISEPACK"
#Set-MsolUserLicense -UserPrincipalName $user -RemoveLicenses "XXXXXXXXXX:POWER_BI_STANDARD"
}
Download PS1 from Dropbox

Download PS1 from Dropbox

Get User Serviceplans

SCENARIO
You’re the administrator of Office 365 and you want to programmatically extract information about what serviceplans (features) a specific user has access to and which he or she doesn’t have access to.

PROBLEM
Microsoft’s way of storing the information regarding licenses and features/plans isn’t quite logical sometimes for unitiated people so this might sound like a very complicated thing to do with Powershell and you’re left to do it through the portal instead.

SOLUTION
This little snippet of code will help you. You can add exporting features to it if you want, or input a user.txt file, but this is the stuff that displays the information. But if you want to get a complete dump of all information for all users, you should use this script instead which does that magic alot better.

#
# Written by : Kristoffer Strom ([email protected])
# Date: 2017-02-20
#
# Here we define what user we're querying:
$upn = "[INSERT UPN HERE]"
# Here we set the index to 0
$i = 0
# Run the query to get user info
$user = get-msoluser -userprincipalname $upn
# Store the license array
$features = $user.licenses
# Just an empty row
write-host ""
# Running the loop to show info on all licenses
while($i -lt $features.count)
{
    $AccountSkuId = $features[$i].AccountSkuId
    Write-host -NoNewline -ForegroundColor Cyan "Features for $AccountSkuId"
    $features[$i].servicestatus | ft
    $i++
}
Download PS1 from Dropbox

Download PS1 from Dropbox

UPDATE: Apparently the new Powershell moduled for MSOL handled this differently so the output became quite different. Rather than type out one plan at a time it bunched them together so there was no way of seeing which feature belonged to which plan. So I re-wrote this with a “while” loop and “format table” command to force it to seperate the output. (seriously, remove the “ | ft” part and see what that does to this snippet!)

Get AD User By UPN

SCENARIO
You’re managing Office 365 and want to do Powershell quieries against the on-premise Active Directory

PROBLEM
The problem is that Office 365 cmdlets like “get-msoluser” always gives you the users userprincipalname (UPN) because that is all that Office 365 cares about. But when you want to query the local on-premise Active Directory with “get-aduser” it doesn’t recognise the UPN when searching for users.

SOLUTION
The solution is adding it as a filter like this, where $MSOLUPN is the UPN you get from “get-msoluser“:

Get-ADUser -Filter { UserPrincipalName -Eq $MSOLUPN }

Again, this is pretty basic stuff, but still something you need to know and use all the time.

Set UsageLocation Where Empty

SCENARIO
You’re the administrator of a large tenant with several different e-mail domains for people in different countries. Manually setting a UsageLocation, which is required for license activation, for them all individually is unrealistic.

PROBLEM
The problem here is we need some way of filtering out who is actually where. The perfect solution is ofcourse to have the AD property (“msExchUsageLocation”) since Azure AD Connect syncs it out of the box. But not everyone has that luxury, especially if it’s a domain you’re not even in charge of. And the get-msoluser cmdlet with -domain filter will not only catch the ones that have the domain as their primary e-mail, but also the ones that have it as secondary so as a filter it won’t work.

SOLUTION
In comes this little bit of code! It loads all users, filters out everyone that has a license and everyone that doesn’t have a UPN matching the domain (in this example “test.se” and for the rest sets the UsageLocation to whatever you want, in this example “SE“. This way, we only get the ones that don’t have a license yet and only the ones with this specific domain as their primary e-mail (which should match UPN). So if your company’s name is “test” and everyone has a “test.com” address as a secondary, but the Swedish employees have “test.se” as their primary you can easily set their usagelocations like this. And then just change it around for the rest of the company.

#
# Written by : Kristoffer Strom ([email protected])
# Date: 2017-02-10
#
# Credit to Reditor bearxor (https://www.reddit.com/user/bearxor)
#
# We check all users for users with no UsageLocation set and matches a e-mail domain (test.se) and sets the UsageLocation SE (=Sweden)
Get-MsolUser -All | where{$_.UsageLocation -eq $null -and $_.userprincipalname -like "*@test.se"} | foreach{set-msoluser -UserPrincipalName $_.UserPrincipalName -UsageLocation "SE"}
Download PS1 from Dropbox

Download PS1 from Dropbox

Add Users To Group Based On Attribute

SCENARIO
You have a bunch of users with some property in common in your on-prem AD and you want to add them all to an AD group.

PROBLEM
Normally to add a bunch of users to an AD group you’d simple use “dynamic groups” and set the filter up and never bother with it again. This however becomes a problem when dealing with Azure AD since that doesn’t support dynamic groups (since it can’t look up all properties in your AD).

SOLUTION
The solution is below. You specify the name of the AD group (“NAME_OF_AD_GROUP” in example below) you want to add users, you change what attribute (“extensionattribute1“) you want it to filter on and what the attribute has to be (“WHATEVER“) and the script iterates through every users and adds them to the AD group. This can be setup as a secheduled task to get the same effect as a dynamic group but would work for Azure AD as well.

#
# Written by : Kristoffer Strom ([email protected])
# Date: 2017-02-09
#
# We start by defining what AD group we want to add the users to
$nameofgroup = "NAME_OF_AD_GROUP"
# Then we get a list of users based on an attribute, in this case "Extensionattribute1" equals "WHATEVER"
$listofusers = Get-ADUser -filter {extensionattribute1 -eq "WHATEVER"}
# Now we iterate through every user
foreach($individualuser in $listofusers)
  {
  # We declare this variable for write-host purposes only.
  $UserPN = $individualuser.UserPrincipalName
  # And we can write out the operation while we're at it
  Write-Host "Adding $UserPN to group $nameofgroup."
  # And add them to the group
  Add-ADGroupMember $nameofgroup $individualuser.DistinguishedName
  }
Download PS1 from Dropbox

Download PS1 from Dropbox

Sherlock, Arrival and Girl on the Train

I really like the BBC show “Sherlock”, you know the one with Benedict. Somehow I had completely missed the 4th “season” that came out in January! I type “season” in quotes since it’s just 3 episodes! I don’t know why I had no clue but by the time I found out it was available on Amazon so ordered it right away. So far only seen the first episode – really like it! They still have that special cinematography going on that I love! I can’t really decide if I want them to make more episodes or keep it to 3-4 every second year since that makes it kind of “special” when new episodes do come out? The other Sherlock show, “Elementary” with Jonny Lee Miller, is pretty damn good too but they make 25 episodes per year so they don’t feel so special!

Also saw “The Arrival” the other day. I missed it when it was on the big screen so had to make do with my TV at home. I expected a really good sci-fi movie about first contact with another species. Instead I got a really good sci-fi movie about .. well I can’t really tell you that but it’s a funny idea and a good twist! I really do love it when sci-fi movies are able to make the sci-fi take the backseat and the human heart & spirit in focus like this! Really well done! Can really recommend this one!

Also saw “The Girl on the Train”. That movie was sooooo very slow that it was hard to stay awake at times and it wasn’t that “different” than any other movie where guys are assholes. But the one great thing about this was Emily Blunt that was absolutely fantastic! Haven’t really seen her in anything that made me go “wow” before but in this role it was definitely “wow!”. So if you want to see good acting, see it. If not, don’t.

Bulk Converting Domains To Federated

SCENARIO
You’re the administrator of an Exchange environment with lots of domains registered over the years for whatever reasons, as an example different business units with different e-mail domains. You’ve added them all to the Azure AD and verified them but now you need to tie them to the AD Federation Service (ADFS).

PROBLEM
Problem is it takes alot of time to first sort out all domains that are verified and then federating them, a very tedious task.

SOLUTION
Solution is you export all your domains into a CSV file (just listing all the domainnames is fine), the run this script and it will import the CSV file and for every entry it will check to make sure if it’s verified and if so, federate it with the ADFS. Remember to run this on the ADFS server and the Powershell needs to be launched as administrator!

#
# Written by : Kristoffer Strom ([email protected])
# Date: 2017-02-08
#
# Let's begin by importing the file. Change the filename "CSV_FILENAME.csv" to whatever you see fit.
$domains = Import-Csv CSV_FILENAME.csv
# And now we iterate through every entry
foreach ($domain in $domains)
{
  # Getting the status of the domain
  $domainstatus = get-msoldomain -DomainName $domain.DomainName
  # If it's already federated we just say that and move onto the next one
  if($domainstatus.Authentication -eq "Federated") { write-host -Foregroundcolor Yellow "$domain is already federated." }
    # If it's verified we federated it
    ElseIf($domainstatus.Status -eq "Verified") { Convert-MsolDomainToFederated -DomainName $domain.DomainName -SupportMultipleDomain:$true; write-host -Foregroundcolor Green "$domain.DomainName changed to federated" }
    # Or if it's not Verified or doesn't exist we write this error
    ElseIf($domainstatus.Status -ne "Verified") { write-host -Foregroundcolor Red "$domain is not verified or does not exist in tenant." }
}
# End of iteration

OPTIONAL
You could replace the import of the CSV file to read out all the UPN suffixes from your domain. If you’ve done your job for a proper O365 migration you’ve made sure all the UPN’s match their e-mails then all e-mail domains should exist as a UPN suffix. If you want to do that, replace the line “$domains = Import-Csv CSV_FILENAME.csv” with this:

$ADForest = Get-ADForest
$domains = $ADForest.UPNSuffixes

Another option is to do a get-msoldomain and filter on “Verified” domains only. But beware, this will tie all verified domains to your ADFS, be sure you really want that! If you do, replace the “$domains=” statement with this:

$domains = Get-MsolDomain -Status Verified

This script can easily be converted into one that does the initial adding of the domains, but since every domain added gets a vertification code backs doing that in bulk is less than ideal.

Download PS1 from Dropbox

Download PS1 from Dropbox

Powershell to Exchange Online

SCENARIO
You’re used to having your Exchange server in your own environment and Powershelling to it and run all these scripts you’ve collected over the years.

PROBLEM
Now that the mailboxes are in a database you have no control of on a server somewhere at Microsoft how are you supposed to run those Exchange Powershells?

SOLUTION
This is the MS way of executing Powershell against Exchange Online using Powershell commands you’d usually use on an on-premise Exchange environment. This is very basic stuff, but if you’re just getting started with Office 365, this is essential to manage users in Exchange Online!

$UserCredential = Get-Credential
$Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri https://outlook.office365.com/powershell-liveid/ -Credential $UserCredential -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection
Import-PSSession $Session

Basically what this does is connects you to Exchange Online and starts a remote Powershell session on Microsoft’s server. This unfortunately means that you are limited to the automation limits, which means sometimes when you do really, really heavy stuff you’ll run into throttling errors from “Microsoft.Online.Administration.Automation.MicrosoftOnlineException”. Usually that’s just an error saying you need to code better with more filters!

IT Nerdiness

I’m going to start another blog. I’ve been thinking about it for quite some time but never really got around to doing it. I’m gonna start a boring IT nerdy blog with my own “experiences from the field” from work!
If you didn’t know I’m an IT pro working with SharePoint both in house but also in the cloud, as wel as alot of other “Office 365” things for an enterprise with some 25k users. And one thing that us IT pros do well is share information. I wouldn’t be able to solve half of the issues I’m faced with all the time if it wasn’t for other IT pros out there sharing their experiences and their tricks. And one of the things I think I can contribute with the most is Powershell script.

Nothing too advanced though, just basic powershell tips that other people in my line of work might find usefull so they don’t have to write them their selves. I’m sure some of these scripts can be approved upon, so please let me know if you have suggestions!

Enjoy!

The Trump Update

If you followed this blog during Bush Junior’s presidency you may remember I was quite hard with my Bush bashing back then. So when this whole Trump fiasco got started I thought about writing stuff. But I thought it’s being covered enough by mainstream media, even in Sweden, so I really don’t need to do it. But after the weekend I think I just have.

What I think is the most annoying thing that as an independant observer from over here everything he does and says is so predictable and easy to see through! For example his fued with the media is him starting campaigning for re-election by trying to make people question the media and the reporting of this presidency! So even if he fuck’s up and don’t manage to do anything he wants to do and sends to country backwards, the people that are supposed to report it aren’t credible if he get’s his way and he’ll be able to fool the voters again! If the people are so gullible than he’s already re-elected! I just don’t get how people can be so gullible to buy into the horseshit he’s selling in the first place!

I mean, there is a guy that grabs women by the pussy, a man with no insight or respect for international politics, who has billions to profit from a presidency, a guy who wants all the power but zero accountability and zero transparency, a guy who thinks everyone should have a gun or even two because that would make everyone safer, a guy who thinks global warming is a hoax because of one chilly day in NY, a guy with hundreds of failed projects in his past (steak anyone?), a clear racist and homophobe.. I mean, I just don’t know where to stop! Any one of these would have failed anyone else running but not him. And unfortunately it’s the exact same thing in Sweden with our “Sweden Democrats” who have one .. “incident” after another that would have been disasterous for any other party. But because they are “outsiders” and “not apart of the establishment” they get away with.

What tha f*ck is wrong with you people? I’m getting upset even thinking about the state of the world in 4 years…

Goodbye 2016 – welcome 2017!

As you may have guessed it’s been a lot happening in my little piece of Earth. But beyond that it’s been a pretty shitty year! That’s no excuse for not posting anything here for months though. But there hasn’t been that much great or interesting things to post about.

But now 2016 is coming to a close and it can’t come soon enough! With Brexit, Trump and the year that musical icons died it’s hard to look at 2016 and think “yeah, that was a great year”. Sure some good things happened, especially on these 1000 square meters of Earth that we own, but I’m not that ego that I think that just because we’ve had it good that makes for a good year! Because for the world as a whole 2016 was a stinker. And I’m hoping 2017 will be better but unfortunately I think it’ll be 4 years that will stink for the world thanks to Trump but maybe, just maybe, it won’t be that bad. One can hope, right 🙂

But tonight we’re celebrating New Years with friends and will try not to care too much about the bad things and just focus on the fact that we’re all still here, pretty healthy (although I’m just recovering from another man-flu) and have jobs, roof over our heads and food on the table 🙂

Happy new years! 🙂

Admitting When I’m Wrong

I’m one of those people who welcome being corrected when I’m wrong. Unfortunately I’m also offended when people try to correct me when I’m right, it’s not a good quality to have.

The most recent thing I’ve been wrong about is Pokemon Go. When it came here to Sweden in July I thought it was a fad, I didn’t take it seriously and I even made fun of people playing it, which I now regret. I still stick by that it’s dangerous though because if you get too much into it even when walking you can hurt yourself or even other people!

Because now my entire family is playing it! My son wanted a go at it and we couldn’t really stop him by saying it’s childish since… well, he’s 6! But after getting him started we realised we needed to learn it and so we started. And now, two weeks later we’re hooked and I like it. Not the game itself, it’s so rudimentary, it’s classic “get people hooked and then make them pay up for the next fix” and not even one little bit creative. But I like the effect it has on us as a family. We go out Pokemon hunting, sometimes just to the nearest city center, sometimes we go to some place that just has plenty of Pokestops. We spent four hours in “Rålambshovsparken” last Friday hunting Pokemons and Pokestops (and looked like complete idiots while doing it!). And we walk – alot! I shit you not if I say we must’ve walked 150 kilometers (that’s be about 94 miles) since we started two weeks ago. And as an added bonus when doing all that walking, except the calorie burn rate, is that we see places and stuff we never knew existed! As an example, we have a school that I pass twice every day to and from work but I’ve ever only seen the front of it. Now I know what the rest of the outside looks like since they placed a “pokemon gym” on the other side of it!

Star Citizen. Again.

So after a few rounds with customer service at Cloud Imperium Games I got the LA County “Department of Consumer and Business Affairs” involved and that’s when my refund request was finally accepted. So I got all my money for all digital purchases and pledges refunded and my accounts closed and within a week the money was safely in my bank account. End of story (until the game comes out, if ever) I thought.

Well it wasn’t. Because the response to my request from their legal counsel was… in lack of better words – horseshit!

The reasons I stated for requesting a refund was
– They changed their terms of service to free them of all accountability to actually deliver anything. That’s an indisputable fact. I was totally fine with my initial Kickstarter pledge going down the drain but that was a small portion of all the money I’ve pledged to the project so far. Chris, the man in charge, stated years ago that they were solid financially and would still be able to deliver a game if funding stopped. It didn’t yet they haven’t.
– The game is nowhere near being complete. The content that has been delivered so far is barely 10% of everything promised and it’s all buggy as hell as it’s still in alpha. That is also a fact. If you forecast based on that it’s gonna take them several years to deliver the rest and then do the polish to go from alpha to a launch-able game.
– They themselves set “estimated dates” for when features are launched and they are constantly missing them. That is also fact.
– They set November 2014 + a 18 months delay (that’d be May 2016) for launch or they would show their financials and explain “wtf happened!?”. It’s now August 2016 and they haven’t launched any part of the game nor taken any accountability for the failure. Those are also facts.

Those were my 4 main reasons. I never mentioned anything of all the other rumors (like their Austin office being shut down) or issues one may have with the project (like the fact that Chris the CEO is married to the marketing director/actor Sandi) that involves anything that isn’t fact or tangible.

So what did the legal counsel say? “Customer’s allegations […] are completely unfounded and based on internet gossip. Oh and he made the allegations to the wrong corporate entity!”. That is just so insulting! Everything I’ve said are facts that can easily be checked by anyone! If they didn’t think it was good enough reasons to give a refund that would have been one thing, but to say that I’m lying and quoting gossip, what the hell is that about!? That pisses me off so much that my initial thought was “crash and burn you assholes!”. But this is so much bigger than that, it’s a million people strong community, a game that is based on some of the most amazing games I’ve played, the most successful crowdfunding campaign ever, the biggest “up yours!” to major game publishers ever and so much of that good stuff that I can’t be so egotistic and want it to fail just because they insult me. But it really pissed me off and I wonder where the line for “slander” is! And also I hate whenever a company makes that stupid remark about “it’s the wrong company” – I ALWAYS go to the people that I actually paid. It doesn’t matter if it’s a game or whatever, I make the claim to the company that charged me!

“Star Citizen”… Never Ending Story

You know I’m a nostalgic, retro kind of person right? And I’m a gamer. So I fondly remember the days of “Wing Commander” I & II, the space fighting but most of all the story and the interaction with the crew. And I very fondly remember “Wing Commander III” with Mark Hamill and Tom Wilson and the rest of the cast. And I very very very fondly remember playing “Wing Commander IV” for days, weeks even months. I really wanted to see every possible way that could go, the “evil ending” and everything in between. I absolutely loved it – not for the space combat but for the story. The dialogue is cheesy and the plot quite simple by today’s standards but still, for a computer game it was awesome!!

So in 2012 when I heard that Chris Roberts is coming back with a “spiritual successor to Wing Commander” I got excited. It couldn’t be called “Wing Commander” since EA owned the rights to it so it was called “Star Citizen”. Or “Squadron 42”.. at first it was a mess what was what but that’s to be expected when a small group of people get together to try to do something great. But this time Chris didn’t want a big publisher telling him what to do. He didn’t want a publisher that demanded the game be released at this date, finished or not. He didn’t want a publisher to tell him to make the game so it can be ported to consoles. He wanted to do the game his way, released when it was ready and for PC only. So they started a crowdfunding campaign that got so much attention their initial web server couldn’t handle it and they had to take to Kickstarter for crowdfunding. I happy bought into it at “Colonel” level which then was $125. That’s quite a lot for a computer game I agree but I thought it was worth it considering how much joy his previous titles had given me. I’d gladly paid that for “Wing Commander IV” any day!
Back then they set the “estimated release” at November 2014 but I’m actually pretty sure that’s because Kickstarter forced them to set an “estimated delivery” date and the max they could set was “2 years from now”. So I actually never expected them to deliver that. As a matter of fact, their “Terms of Service” agreement was even altered in 2013 to give them a 12 (then 18) month delay window.

After the initial crowdfunding campaign they kept promising more and more stuff. Not only had the game gone from being the “spiritual successor of Wing Commander” (a single player game), it was blowing up to be a full MMORPG. And I was fine with that. At first. I was so fine that when they showed off the Retaliator bomber I loved it and dished out $225 for one. And the idea of being information smuggler sounded cool so I dished out money for that too. But then as they continued to get millions of dollars every month I kinda saw it getting out of hand. I fully realise I know very little of what it actually takes to deliver a game and I know it takes a lot of time to make a game. A delay can easily be a year. But when they were promising new features, new ships without actually releasing much I kinda saw the problems of this ever being released. If they take two-three months to get a ship to “flight ready” and they keep coming up with 7-8 new ships every year, how are they ever to get done? If they add new feature to the scope before releasing the basic ones promised during Kickstarter like trading, how are they ever gonna get done? This picture to the right pretty much sums up what I felt all throughout 2015. And during July of 2015 Derek Smart happened. He’s a game maker who has tried to pull off these grand space games for years and never really made it. Which means he knows some of the pitfalls of even trying. He started criticising the “Star Citizen” project – very vocally, bullyuishly, annoyingly, contrived, “deliberately wanting to turn everything into a bad thing” way. And he got very personal against Chris Roberts, his wife and his lawyer (that all co-founded the studio) in a way that was really uncool. But he always stopped right at the border of lying or making shit up. Yes, he twisted everything into a negative thing. And I was right there to point out the actual facts. But the problem of trying to argue with him was the fact that “CIG” (the studio making the game) never managed to prove him wrong. They never managed to shut him up by stepping up to the plate and deliver. Instead, they made his case stronger by coming up with more irrelevant features (plants anyone?), more subscriber flare, more ship-concept sales, more of everything except actual game content. An all this while constantly missing “estimated” release dates that they themselves estimated and set.

Then they went ahead and wrote a new Terms of Service that we have to accept. Which is fine, Blizzard does it all the time. But I actually read those things, it’s a result of working with lawyers for 8 years – I actually read before I sign. And in this Terms of Service they had removed any accountability what so ever, every chance of demanding a refund. It was basically a carté blanche for them to sail away with the $117+ million they had gotten from backers and as long as the company CIG was still “active” and stating the game was still being worked on (without ever actually delivering anything) then we had no rights at all as consumers. I really wasn’t OK with that. So I refused to accept the terms of service. That had the side effect of me not being able to login to the so called “game”.

And what they call “the game” (as it was the last time I checked) consist of
1) running around my hangar looking at the static non functioning ships that have gone from concept to “hangar ready”.
2) Fly around in a very gorgeous but limited space environment fighting against enemy ships without ever feeling like “I’m so into this battle”, it’s rather plain but a totally acceptable test bed for flight mechanics.
3) Run around one planetary landing zone. Think of Orgimmar in World of Warcraft. But about half the size if that. And never being able to go out the gates.
star_citizen_bug4) Run around a station, call the ships I “own” that are “flight ready”, getting on board, flying around trying to repair comm relays, exploring a small little station for clues about corporate evilness
.. and that’s it. And it’s all full of game breaking bugs as you can expect from alpha. But compared to what was promised even in Kickstarter, before they even had $20 million, this simply won’t do. There is no exploration, there is no trading, the space combat is mediocre at best, there are no systems to travel between (so no jump points with that mechanic), there is just this. And that’s at “estimated delivery + 18 months”. And there is nothing to indicate that is about to change, that there is a magic key that once implemented will unlock all the missing features and mechanics.

At the end of last year they came up with a trailer for the single player game “Squadron 42” that promised released in 2016. It was freaking amazing! The “admiral” speech was precisely the classic cliche dialogue I know from “Wing Commander IV” and the visuals, oh man… but there is nothing to make me believe that it will actually happen. The space combat right now is way to limited to be close to what has been promised. The cutscenes may be breathtaking but it all needs a space combat simulation to build on, or I might as well see “Wing Commander The Movie“.

I really do hope I’m wrong and that they do actually release “Squadron 42” this year, or maybe even next year. I really do wish that they actually release the game they’ve promised. But right now I don’t see anything that suggests they will.

So where does that leave me? Since I haven’t accepted the TOS I can’t login to the “game” that I’ve spent well over $600 on (not counting merchandise). I was fine waiting until 2020 to see the game develop into what was promised, I really was. But when I’m banned from the game for simply not accepting the most consumer-hostile terms of service I’ve ever been presented with, that becomes impossible. And since there is very little to support the idea that the game will be done anytime soon I find my only recourse is to demand a refund. Although I fully accept that backing a Kickstarter project can go either way and is a bit of a gamble, when they were successfully funded and kept bringing in millions it goes from a gamble to being a downright fraud. My first attempt was denied. But I’m not giving up. Even though I’m fortunate enough to be able to write these $600 off as a dream that didn’t happen, it doesn’t mean I have to accept it without a fight.

And this is not on Derek Smart – this is on CIG failing to deliver. Piling up the “to-do” list of ships and features to get into the game, wanting to release a perfect and fully featured product, delays and now not taking any responsibility for it in their TOS. And I’m not putting the project in jeopardy by requesting a refund. This is a $117+ million project, my ~$600 of that should be less than a fart in space. Think of this as a customer cancelling a preorder because the game changed too much since I made the preorder – which is exactly what I did with The Division & the new Deus Ex when those publishers changed things. Because no one can honestly say that what CIG are pushing today is what they tried to sell during Kickstarter!

To be continued – unfortunately.

Mallorca baby!!

2016-05-24 (14)So I work for the oldest (and biggest) tour operator in Sweden and I’ve never sat foot on Mallorca. Well I wasn’t having that anymore. After trying to find someone to travel with this year we eventually concluded that maybe it was a good idea to go at it alone. To avoid that daily problem of organizing lunch at work – if you’re 3-4 people it works but once yo get to 6-7 it won’t.

We’d done Turkey and Greece already so Mallorca was the one classic still to-do. We found a hotel that was recently built (Viva Zafiro), had good rooms and so we booked it. The wife really wanted the best room with a terrace and private spa and the bells and whistles so ofcourse she got that. After all, I get a discount. As usual we booked an early summer vacation for May because when june-july-august comes Sweden isn’t a bad place to be really.

We started off early with Helenas mother picking us up and driving us to the airport at 5:30am!! I managed to screw up the boarding cards so we didn’t have as much time in Arlanda as we wanted to. So get on the flight and there’s no need for introduction with my colleagues on the plane as I’ve flown with this crew before – twice! Get to Mallorca, manage to find our transfer buss to Alcudia and away we go. We get to the hotel and as usual when a bussload of people comes there’s a queue. But this place is so classy they served us drinks while we waited! 2016-05-25 (4)After that it was off to check the pools and check out the rest of Alcudia!

Our daily routine became pretty much sleep, breakfast, pools, lunch, go around Alcudia, dinner, 9 o’clock show at the hotel and then sleep. And everything was just great!! We didn’t try as many restaurants as we had hoped but that was because we had all inclusive at the hotel which included free alá carte, so there was really no need to go out for fancy food. We did try some local restaurants and the best one by far was Bodega des Port down in the Alcudia harbor! I’ve never seen such a family friendly restaurant and staff at local restaurants before! And the food was awesome too. We also paid a visit to the Sunwing hotel in Alcudia, pretty much because I’m curious of what it looks like.

2016-05-30 (30)The only real “touristy” thing we did was a bus ride out the Porto Cristo and to see the Hams caves where we got some awesome photos from. Also a short stop at Majorica who have been making pearls since 1890 and Helena had to do some shopping. Then when it was time to go home it was ofcourse the day when they had extra security meassures & checks at the airport so we spent most of the time waiting in line at the airport and just a few minutes to browse the tax free.

All in all it was a great week, Sam had an amazing time! And we’d definitely go there again but maybe to Palma next time!

Globalization & The Brexit

So that happened – UK voted for leaving the EU. I, as a swede, shouldn’t bother too much, right? Well I do. A helluvalot!!

It’s not only because half of my family and a few friends are Brits or are currently living & working in the UK, although that’s a very good reason to care. It’s not only because I’m working for a company owned by Brits. No, it’s not that small, narrow minded, shortsighted or personal.

It’s a freaking issue of mankinds survival! Bare with me here!

The fact that we are overspending the resources on this planet isn’t even in question (“Earth Overshoot Day“). That we are poisoning it and overpopulating it like bunnies, those are all facts. So we need to grow as civilized & evolved creatures and let go of the archaic notion of nations, of mankind’s made-up stuff like borders and currency. To realise that when an earthquake hits it doesn’t stop because it crosses a border. When the ocean’s rise it’s not going to stop because this country signed a treaty! When a flood hits it’s not going to care about your economic growth!

We need to grow beyond thinking of “my country” & “my people” (I cringe everytime I hear the words “my people” in The 100 which Clarke says ALOT!). Every leader in the world is protecting their country and their people which noone can blame them for – but is it productive in the long run? I know it sounds like a “Star Trek” sci-fi fantasy but I wish the entire Earth was just one big country, with one currency and one interest – to save the planet, stop hunger, cure diseases and most of all reach for the stars! Because if we stop hunger and cure diseases we will need another planet pretty soon. And none of that is going to happen if people are only interested in looking after their country, their little piece on this Earth. And after the second world war when EU was created it was a good step towards globalization. This was a huge step back and I can only hope it stops with UK because if the EU falls apart there’s no telling how it’ll end up for mankind!

Pictures from Mallorca

Just a quick update to say we’ve now sorted through and uploaded the pictures from our trip to Alcudia (Mallorca). Will post a full update about the trip later.

Enjoy! As usual, the password is the short Swedish name of my employeer with capital first letter.