g+ cover photos just got bigger

I know, this blog is turning from “things I learned” to “things I want to complain about”, but just look at this:

Don't like it? Move out!

Cover photos on google+ just got bigger. Great! What for? I don’t know yet. What looks really bad though is the new round shape of the profile photo (or in this case, the logo) and there’s no option to say “not now” there.

Sudden changes like these are a good reminder that you’re not really in control of your g+ or facebook pages, YouTube channels, Amazon listings, etc. You’re just a guest and if the owner suddenly thinks that your face appear in a circle, well, you better get used to it.

Edit: The new size seems to be 925 x 522 pixels.

Update March 16, 2013: Here’s a great example of what to do with the new giant header (don’t click if you’re on a slow or expensive connection).

Update November 15, 2013: Big cover photos are soooo March 2013! Now they’re smaller again:
G+ cover photos version 2 to version 3

Not too bad. However, if you never made your cover photo bigger in the first place it looks rather stupid now:

G+ cover photos version 1 to version 3

For a while, I thought g+ could be a viable alternative for small business owners who can’t afford their own website (which according to recent and now deleted Craigslist rant, should cost at least US$1500, no matter how simple it is). However, with so many seemingly unnecessary design changes I’m not sure this is still something I’d recommend.

Bye bye, Moneybookers (Skrill)

I had such high hopes for you, thought you might grow up to challenge PayPal. I soon realized that you were special. Your special SMS verification lead to a number of complaints from customers who claimed they’d never received your message. Those special “ISO” country codes you used in your merchant gateway forced me to write a function with the sole purpose of converting actual ISO 3166 codes to your system. There’s also the special way you treat refunds by keeping the original transaction fees.

Then came Christmas 2004 and it seemed like everyone suddenly wanted a digital scale. Our business took off, but you were skeptical and refused a large number of transactions. Our customers sent us angry emails asking why their credit card worked everywhere else but not with us. I apologized and asked them to use PayPal instead. Almost all transactions went through just fine and none turned out to be fraudulent.

After this disappointing experience I quickly signed up with Worldpay but still kept you around as a payment option for customers who already had a Moneybookers account. Very few did. This year, only one customer used your service.

Eventually, you decided you had to change. You gave yourself a new name (Skrill). You informed me about a new inactivity fee for merchant accounts and started charging a monthly gateway usage fee. Your new name suddenly made sense: Like a whale filtering krill out of the ocean, you wanted to become incredibly fat by feeding on millions of users.

Thankfully, you made it easy to close my account. Best of luck in your future endeavours.

eFax reviews and alternatives

eFax reviews make “Hotel California” look good

Before signing up with eFax, do yourself a favor and read the reviews on websites like epions.com, yelp.com or viewpoints.com.

From my own experience I can confirm that it is difficult to cancel your account with eFax. You also have to be careful if they offer you a more reasonable rate: In my case this rate reverted back to the original rate after 4 months. The customer service representative admitted that “he didn’t know about this” and offered to reactivate the cheaper rate for another four months. At this point I asked him to cancel my account instead, which he pretended to do after asking for my PIN. Unfortunately, eFax kept charging me and when I complained by email, I was told that my account had never been cancelled and that I had to call them again (which I just did). This time I had a witness listening to the conversation and wrote down the name of the person I talked to (she essentially refused to give me her last name, claiming there was only one person with her first name working there). If they still keep billing me I’ll simply ask my bank to do a chargeback.

I’d also like to point out that eFax sends you every received fax by email (as an attachment, in addition to letting you download it through the message center). While this is certainly convenient, it may be a serious security risk if a fax contains sensitive data. Unencrypted emails are about as secure as a postcard. Some people prefer to send a fax precisely because they do not want to send an (unencrypted) email. Having eFax transform faxes into an emails is not a good practice.

eFax alternatives

There are a lot of companies offering similar (or even better) services for fax sending and receiving. I eventually signed up with PamFax not only because they were cheaper, but mostly because they make it very easy to cancel your account. They also never send the actual fax by email, you only get a notification and then download the fax over a secure connection (SSL)  Your fax is now sent as an attachment, though you can change this under Account>Notifications1. PamFax allows you to integrate your account with Skype, Facebook, Salesforce, Box.net, Dropbox and Google Docs (to varying extents) and their modern website makes eFax look really dated.

Finding reviews for Pamfax was a bit difficult. There are a few confusing reviews in the Skype apps shop. As the service is run by a German company, you can also find some user reviews in German on heise.de (currently 8 reviews with an average of 4 stars out of 6).

Personally, I’m very satisfied with PamFax so far.

Another online fax service I found was PopFax. If you know any other eFax alternatives, please leave a comment.

Here’s another option: If you own a Fritz!Box, that might be all you need to receive and send faxes. However, I found that the integrated Fritz!Box fax was clearly less reliable than an actual fax machine.

Update October 2nd, 2012: HelloFax.com is one more alternative I just found (didn’t try it out though, still very satisfied with PamFax).

Update January 16th, 2013: Simple-Fax.de is yet another service (apparently only available in German). 1I’ve also updated the description for PamFax above.