This site showcases the (mostly) digital work of Andrew DiFiore from both Virtual Arts Studios and answerYES Interactive as well as random thoughts and experimental projects too volatile to be contained anywhere else.

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    Auto-Renewal Sleight of Hand

    Perhaps it is a sign of the economy but lately services that I had canceled months — even years — ago are mysteriously showing up on my credit card statements.

    It started with Plimus (reseller partner of BugDigger) trying to charge my PayPal account under a credit card that had expired (fortunately) even though I had properly canceled my subscription (I have the confirmation email to prove it).

    The one that really annoyed me was Symantec charging my American Express $70.69 for an annual renewal of their Anti-Virus software. Software I haven’t used in two years and is no where to be found on my computers! Symantec tries to brush this off as a courtesy service they provide for my own protection but it seems to me if the software is so smart to auto-renew, it should be smart enough to know that it is not actually installed (paradox duly noted). This is simply a transparent ploy to filch from “sleeping” consumers or — if you do catch them — up-sell their latest version of Norton 360. I used to consider Symantec a reputable company, these tactics should be beneath them.

    Ever since credit card companies shortened their grace periods to cheat consumers out of millions in late fees, I’ve become extremely vigilant of charges on my credit card statements. Given the rise of identity theft, this is a good practice but don’t just check for fraudulent charges, keep tabs on those auto-renewals too. Print out your cancellation email or make a note for the following month on your calendar so you remember to double-check your next statement.

    BTW if you have fallen victim of the Norton annual renewal charge, call the toll-free number on your statement or 877-294-5265 and insist they refund the charge as well as deactivate their auto-renewal for good.

    The Golden Age of TV Commercial Music

    Nowadays is seems that the best way for new music to reach the masses is to be featured in a TV commercial. Especially a commercial as well-crafted as Heineken’s The Entrance featuring The Asteroids Galaxy Tour (yes, the entire band is actually in the commercial). The song is called The Golden Age from the band’s debut album Fruit. The cute blonde in the slinky black dress is lead singer Mette Lindberg. The creative agency is Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam which hired Frederik Bon to direct the commercial as well as 13 short films that elaborate on the different characters (e.g. Big In Wonderland). Originally, these shorts were only available on Heineken’s Facebook page where you had to Like each one to view them.

    Not since Apple’s Get a Mac campaign (featuring John Hodgman as PC and Justin Long as Mac) have I paused to watch a TV commercial (though the original T-Mobile 4G commercial comes to mind but that was more for Carly Foulkes than it being a clever knock-off of Apple’s).

    I have not seen the sales numbers yet but it is clear that the Open Your World campaign has successfully reinvigorated the beer label while at the same time help make a little-known Danish pop band an international sensation.

    Cool Tool of the Month: iPad Peek

    This month’s Cool Tool goes to iPad Peek. Though not a true iPad emulator and therefore not that meaningful for developers, it is still a nice tool for designers to see how their work may appear inside the iPad viewing area. Clicking the iPad border will rotate it between portrait and landscape.

    iPad Peek uses jQuery and CSS3 so be sure you’re running a relatively new browser. Don’t get too excited if you see your Adobe Flash movies playing, the iPad still does not support Flash.

    iPad Peek was created by software engineer Pavol Rusnak (@pavolrusnak) who has made the source code available for download on GitHub.

    In the past I’ve recommended the poor man’s online reputation manager was to use Google Alerts with Social Mention. Google today expanded Alerts with a new feature to your Dashboard called Me on the Web (located right under the Account info). This works much like Alerts where you can be notified about “mentions” on a weekly, daily, or real-time but the really nice touch is that you now have an easier way to remove unwanted information about yourself from Google Search. Learn more reading this post by Google’s Product Manager Andreas Tuerk.

    Another Google Doodle Tribute

    This time the tribute is in celebration of Les Paul’s 96th birthday. By now you are at least aware that Google regularly changes it’s logo into a doodle that denotes some occasion like a holiday, birthday, or anniversary. Many are obvious choices but some celebrate pop culture icons like last year’s Pac-Man, which was actually a playable mini-game. Google’s Les Paul logo doodle (which is barely recognizable as a logo at all) is clearly an attempt to out do the Pac-Man doodle and I would say they have achieved that. The logo is not only playable but recordable, spawning a host of musical “prodigies” to capture their creations on YouTube.

    According to Google designer Alexander Chen, the doodle was made with a combination of JavaScript, HTML5 Canvas (to draw the guitar strings), CSS, Flash (for sound) and tools like the Google Font API, and App Engine.

    In case you were curious, Google has collected all their logo doodles in one place for your convenience.