WWE 2K18, PC/Steam, Useless For Online Play With Friends

WWE 2K18, PC

Many, many years ago, when I still lived in the UK, I used to play WWE Smackdown Vs Raw with a friend on the PlayStation 2 in the mid-noughties, and it was amazing mindless fun. Recently, I saw WWE 2K18 on sale on Steam, so I went ahead and purchased the game, my friend did the same in the hope of rekindling the fun of mid-2000’s WWE games over the Internet as we now live on separate continents.

Both my friend and I were sorely disappointed by our purchase. Playing online, with me hosting on a 150/15Mbit connection was a joke, we were getting 10-15fps while in online mode, however, we both got 60fps+ while in single player mode, so it’s not a hardware limitation causing the performance issue.

Also, there seems to be no way to use Skype and play the game because game voice chat cannot be disabled in game. My friend and I both went into Steam and turned the volume for microphone and receive volumes to minimum in Settings -> Voice configuration. It gets weirder, keep reading…

My friend’s voice was coming through my monitor speakers, which are not used, voice communications is set to output through my Logitech wireless headset and game sounds from my external speaker system.

I did briefly try to play offline but really couldn’t get into it because I was unable to reconfigure the controls when using the Xbox controller driver. I was using a PS3 controller, using a driver that made Windows believe that it was an Xbox controller. It’s not a driver issue as I have no issue reconfiguring the controls in other Steam games such as Dirt Rally. Not everyone likes the same control method, adding the ability to redefine controls seems like something that should be standardized across all games.

And, of course, me being the person I am, instead of just accepting that the game is broken, I minimized the game, while I did some online research, looking for a workaround to these issues, which there were none. But because the game was still active, I amassed three hours of ‘play’ time. Which means that I am stuck with this terrible game as Steam will not grant refunds for games with a play time of over two hours.

I explained why I was requesting a refund; as I consider the game to be defective, but the person reviewing my refund request ignored my words and denied the refund based on time played. My advice is, watch your ‘play’ time, which includes minimized time and menu time, and make your decision on the game quickly to get your money refunded, especially in this time of games being released incomplete.

I literally cannot even give this POS game to someone who might appreciate it, I have uninstalled the game and my only option is to permanently delete the game from my account, which means I literally paid $36 for nothing. One silver lining is that my friend managed to get a refund as he had ‘played’ only 1.75 hours, I would have felt kinda guilty as I requested that he buy the game to play together online.

Looking at the mostly negative recent reviews on Steam, and mixed overall rating, 54% negative. clearly, I am not the only one massively dissatisfied with WWE 2K18. Every year we see one of these WWE games released, clearly as a cash cow, because they know that the ‘WWE Universe’ will buy it regardless of the minimal changes from the previous incarnation. And it seems every year, the game gets a little bit worse.

Newegg Shows It’s True Colors In Connecticut Sales Tax Furore

Newegg, Not Sales Tax Free

Pre-2014, I used to buy my tech from Newegg quite frequently, but stopped buying from the company in 2014, no-idea why, I just started shopping at Amazon and never looked back. And, I am so happy that I did, given the current anger at Newegg in regard to handing over customer details of people living in Connecticut, now Newegg shoppers from CT are being hit by a sales tax bill for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

To be clear, if you buy out of state and don’t pay sales tax, you need to declare the value of items you did not pay sales tax in your tax filings and pay any owed taxes. That said, I would guess the majority of people either think that tax is included or assumed that because it was bought out of state, it’s sales tax free. I fall into the former category, I come from a country where sales tax is always included in the price.

Newegg could have easily fixed this, by charging sales tax on all items sold on their website in future, but they refused to do that, instead giving the state of Connecticut details of all sales to CT residents from the tax years 2014 – 2016. This was based upon a letter from the state of CT, not a subpoena or legal document, selling their Connecticut customers down the river, this is why customers are so pissed.

Now, the precedent has been set, you can bet your bottom dollar that other states will follow suit, including the state of Kansas, where I currently reside. Thankfully, I stopped buying from Newegg prior to 2014, so I should not be affected by this, unless, of course, Kansas requests details of sales from before the 2014 tax year, I don’t know if there is a statute of limitation on back sales tax?

It would be so simple to fix this; we need a federal regulation that mandates that companies selling to US customers have to charge sales tax at the rate of the state or city of the delivery address. It will raise the overall price at the time of sale, obviously, but that’s better than spending, say $2,500 ex sales tax, and paying back sales tax of $187.50 years later, this would be an example of Kansas, which has a 7.5% tax.

I hope that Newegg customers decide to shop elsewhere as the company has sent a clear message that they don’t care about their customers, giving away your private information without any legal requirement instead of either fighting the information request or simply charge sales tax going forward.

Wrecked II: The Useless Wichita Police Chronicles!

Ford Fusion Accident Damage 2/21/2018

A little over 2 months ago, I wrote about the negative experience we had with the Wichita Police Department after a wreck my wife was involved in. This morning at roughly 7:40am, my wife, this time driving my car, got involved in another wreck, unlike, last time I don’t believe the car is safe to drive.

While driving my son to school on E 27th St N, a red Buick Regal came sliding out from N Estelle St, which is a side street terminating in a T-intersection, directly in front as my wife as she was approaching the side road. Icy conditions meant my wife, son and car were heading directly to the scene of the accident.

The driver of the Buick called 911 and was told that they would not dispatch an officer to the scene as it was a non-injury accident. Instead we were directed to the Wichita Police website to file a report online. I go to the website, only to find that I can only submit a report if the damage is less than $1,000.

I can see the damage will be closer to $3,000 in my estimation, so I called the Wichita North Police Patrol. They tell me the same thing, before insisting that I visit the North patrol station, I tell them that is not possible as I don’t consider the car safe to drive and I did not want to get a citation for having an unsafe vehicle on the road, so the woman at North patrol refers me back to 911 to dispatch an officer.

So, I call 911, the dispatcher tells me to call my local patrol station, I explain to the dispatcher, several times that I have already done this. So, the dispatcher then gets the North patrol on a conference call, the person at the North patrol explains that I could not report the accident over the phone or online due to the value of the damage. The dispatcher then finally puts out a call for an officer to attend the scene.

Meanwhile, I get my car back to my home, as the wreck happened 500 feet down the road. This is how I knew the car wasn’t safe to drive. I then get a call from an officer, who point blank tells me that he was not going to attend, what would now be my home, as both cars had been moved from the accident location. At this time, I am fuming as clearly 911 and Wichita police have no clue of each other’s policies.

I had already wasted several hours with the chocolate teapots at Wichita Police and 911 dispatch. I, now move onto calling the Buick driver’s insurance company, as our perception is that it was his fault, and on the scene, he verbally accepted liability. So, I’m thinking it will be nice and simple, but of course, that is not the case, his insurance company, American Family are claiming that my wife should have yielded.

Unfortunately, Kansas law is vague on right of way at intersections, it states “When two vehicles enter an intersection from different roadways at approximately the same time the driver on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.“, so they might have a case for claiming we are liable. This rule is clearly designed for a four-way intersection, not a T-intersection, I will go to court to argue this if needed.

I talked to Progressive and their adjuster believes that we had the right of way as we had the thru road and the Buick driver’s road was terminating. To expedite the repair, I am going to claim on my insurance, so my car is not sitting idle for weeks on end while insurance companies argue back and forth. If we can prove the Buick driver is liable, Progressive will get reimbursed and I will get my $500 deductible back.

I had my car towed to Rusty Eck Ford at midday, thankfully, I have AAA, so the tow was free, for an estimate on the damage, and my insurance, Progressive have preliminarily agreed to pay for the repair, if the damage does not exceed the value of the car, minus the $500 deductible that I will have to pay.

And the final insult from Wichita Police, when my wife finally managed to get to the Wichita North patrol station, after picking up and dropping off my kids, the community station was f**king closed.

To say, that I am not happy is an understatement, I have calmed down a lot since this morning. But this is costing us money as my wife had to leave work 3 1/2 hours early as we were down to one car and someone had to pick up the kids from school. You want to know the irony of this situation, tomorrow, because of the weather, school has been canceled, I wish it was canceled today instead.

The morale of the story, instead of trying to avoid a collision, keep your foot in and make sure it’s an injury accident as Wichita police will not attend the scene unless someone is injured, GREAT MESSAGE WICHITA POLICE! Just like our legislature, the Wichita police are as do nothing as state and national politicians, unless it’s shooting an unarmed man on his doorstep in response to a fake ‘swatting’ call.

UPDATE [Feb, 22 2018, 18:45]: I just got a call from Progressive and the news is that the repair cost will be $6,100, they have to replace the majority of the front end of my car. Just as well the airbags didn’t deploy, that would have been game over. I will have to pay $500 for the deductible, which hopefully I will get back once the other driver is deemed to be at fault, my insurance company, Progressive will be fighting corner, and theirs, as they’d obviously like to get American Family Insurance to reimburse them.

UPDATE [Mar, 5 2018, 10:27]: I received my car back from Rusty Eck Ford Collision Center today and it’s back to being good as new, they did an excellent job of putting my car back together again. There was one issue, the passenger side marker bulb had burnt out, so I dropped by Rusty Eck on my way home and they had the issue resolved in five minutes, great service, quality work and approachable friendly people, I would definitely recommend using Rusty Eck Collision Center if you need some body work done.

Florida School Shooting! The 18th School Shooting Of 2018!

Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting

This Thursday morning I find myself saddened and angry that 17 people have lost their lives and 14 more injured by flying bullets, in what is, the 18th school shooting of 2018, that’s a shooting every 2 1/2 days, why are we just accepting this as normal in America? I, for one, refuse to accept this is normal.

We can predict what our elected officials in Washington DC will say, first of all, they will offer their thoughts and prayers, to which, I say, your thoughts and prayers mean nothing when you have the power to enact change in gun regulation and implement better mental health services at a federal level. We know that Republicans will point the finger at mental illness while ignoring the issue of assault rifles.

We keep on hearing about President Trump’s agenda to build a wall on the Mexican border to “keep us safe” from those dangerous immigrants, yet our government cannot guarantee our children’s safety in their local neighborhood school. The shooter was a white American, who had published multiple posts on social media and even a YouTube video saying he wanted to be a professional school shooter.

The issue here is not the shooter, I don’t want to glorify him in any way, I will not name him or link to any of his social media or videos. The issue is military style assault rifles being legal, did you know, in Florida, a person cannot buy a handgun until the age of 21, but it is perfectly legal for an 18 year old to go into a licensed gun dealer and purchase an AR-15 assault rifle and multiple ammunition clips.

Limited capacity handguns or single action rifles I can see as being necessary for hunting or personal protection, but there is zero logical reason for military style assault rifles to be sold to the general public. What possible reason is there for someone to own a rifle with a 30 bullet clip, which can be easily switched out for another to rapidly fire another 30 bullets. This is made worse, by the legal existence of bump stocks, that effectively turns a semi automatic rifle, such as the AR-15 into a fully automatic one.

I firmly believe that the United States government is complicit in every death that occurs due to firearms in the US. The Republicans and some Democrats in congress have refused to even debate and take a vote on commonsense gun regulation. They talk about mental health support, but do very little to actually help people with mental health problems, hell, Donald Trump repealed former president Barack Obama’s laws to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illness, Washington is in the pocket of the NRA.

Don’t believe me? check out, you can see how much the National Rifle Association has spent in direct campaign contributions to congresspeople and senators and lobbying congress.

I originate from a country where guns have been banned for decades, due to a single school shooting. I understand that is not viable in the United States, the second amendment is so ingrained into the US consciousness, the people would revolt if a total ban was implemented. But, we need commonsense gun regulation, which is supported by the majority of Americans. Banning assault rifles like the AR-15 would be a start, keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them is paramount.

Do I believe that anything good will come out of this tragedy? No, there will be a lot of lip service in the coming days, then over the course of the next few weeks, the media will stop talking about it and people forget and nothing will be done until the next major school shooting. It’s the same bullshit that happens time and time again, it happened after Columbine, it happened after Sandy Hook, no action is ever taken, as I said, Republicans in congress have refused to debate and vote on commonsense gun regulation.

Finally, there’s been outrage on social media; I heard everything from if you followed God’s ‘family values’ law, this situation would not happen, WRONG, same sex marriage did not cause this. And the other old chestnut, if there was a good guy with a gun, s/he could have stopped this situation, yes, in rare cases, someone trained in firearms may have taken out the shooter before entering the school, but someone untrained could cause more deaths, despite the NRA propaganda, more guns is never the answer.

Update [Feb, 17 2018, 14:33]: The right wing media outlet, Washington Post, published an article titled “No, there haven’t been 18 school shootings in 2018. That number is flat wrong.“, which suggests that only five of the 18 ‘school shootings’ were actual school shootings. I’m not going to get into the technicalities of what is, or what isn’t a school shooting, bottom line, five is too many, one is too many. We should expect our children to be safe at school, we should not fear when we drop our kids off at school, it might be the last time we see them alive. The USA is the only country where this is a thought.

In addition, the pro-gun, pro-life lobby has tried to minimize the 17 lives lost by claiming that Planned Parenthood kills one baby every 90 seconds. Regardless of your belief on what constitutes life, these are despicable people trying to deflect attention away from this tragedy, which will have far reaching consequences for those involved. The community of Parkland, FL will be forever traumatized by this.

Review: Bescor MP-360 Motorized Pan & Tilt Head

Bescor MP-360 Video Motorized Pan Head

I have been on the lookout for an affordable motorized rotating head for my real estate video work. Previously, I had bought a TurnsPro V1-B, which is excellent and feature rich, but it’s payload capability is not enough to hold a full frame DSLR camera and lens, or even a 1.6x crop sensor camera like the 80D, which I owned at the time of purchasing the TurnsPro V1-B, you can read my views on the V1-B here.

Since buying the TurnsPro, I have bought the full frame Canon EOS 6D mkII and EF 16-35 F/4L, which is heavier than the EOS 80D and EF-S 10-22mm USM, being a full frame camera, so I definitely needed a more robust motorized rotating head. And, I took a punt on the Bescor MP-360, which is a modified version of the MP-101, the difference being that the 360 rotates 360° while the 101 stops at 340°.

Let’s get the bi-product of the modification out of the way, the degrees switch no longer does anything, so when auto rotate mode is activated, it will continuously rotate until you stop it, or the batteries run flat. If you need to auto stop the rotation after 45, 90 or 340°, buy the original Bescor MP-101 instead.

The MP-360 is powered by four AA batteries, which seem to have a more than sufficient life in the unit, I have used it on three real estate shoots, 70 to 100 90° pans, and I’m still using the original set of Amazon AA batteries. Rotation speed is between 40 and 90 seconds for a full 360° using the included wired remote, an automatic 360° rotation is the same as the faster remotely controlled speed of 40 seconds.

In addition to rotation, the MP-360 can tilt +/-15°, which for my use case is redundant, but might be useful for leveling out shots for stills. Using the remote, it is possible to pan and tilt at the same time.

When recording video during rotation, I would definitely recommend using 60fps, if your camera allows. I tested using 30fps and 60fps, using 30fps, the rotation seemed a little jittery, and very noticeable when using the 40-second rotation. While using 60fps, it is buttery smooth, even when using the faster rotation speed. Using the slower 90-second rotation, the jitter is lessened, but still noticeable using 30fps.

Your camera connects to a fixed plate via a 1/4in screw mount and to a tripod via a 1/4in screw hole. The unit can also be powered by 6 volt DC adapter, which is not included, I would think a generic multi-voltage adapter would work just fine, obviously making sure it is set to 6v DC power before plugging in.

Finally, we come to the reason I could not use the TurnsPro V1-B, the payload carrying ability and the MP-360 works brilliantly in that regard, it can hold a camera and lens weighing in at up to six (6) pounds, which should cover a large range of cameras and lenses, with the exception of larger mega-zoon lenses.

Review: Canon EOS 6D Mark II +16-35mm F/4L Lens

Canon EOS 6d Mk II + EF 16-35mm F/4L

After a lot of deliberation about upgrading from my Canon EOS 80D and 10-22mm USM lens to a full frame camera, I decided on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, but that didn’t work out well for real estate due to the lack of pop-out articulating screen, however, we still have the 5D, which we use for portrait work. So I dropped another $2,000 on a Canon EOS 6D Mark II as I had bought the 16-35mm F/4L lens for $1,000.

With that explanation out of the way, in use, the 6D Mark II feels like a larger, full frame version of the 80D, a plus point for me as it’s very familiar, allowing me to start shooting without the learning curve. For a review of the Canon EOS 80D, which also applies to the 6D Mark II, being a full frame 80D, click here.

The largest difference over the 80D is the higher ISO performance, I can now shoot at 800 ISO for interior shots, giving me very clean, noise-free photos, whereas the 80D, anything beyond 400 ISO shows significant signs of noise, especially in the shadow areas. With the 80D, I had to shoot on a tripod, however, with the 6D Mark II, I can boost the ISO to 800 or even 1600, coupled with the image stabilization of the EF 16-35mm F/4L, I can shoot handheld if I choose, although I still shoot on a tripod.

In all honesty, both the 80D and 6Dm2 work just fine in real estate as I shoot five bracketed shots on a tripod and merge into HDR in post processing. That said, I do prefer the higher ISO performance on the full frame 6Dm2, at ISO 800, I can see zero grain or noise, even in the shadows, so I won’t be going back to the 80D, except in an emergency situation, where I can’t shoot with the 6Dm2 for some reason.

A downside of having a full frame sensor is that it creates more Bokeh wide open at F/4 with the EF 16-25mm F/4L, I could shoot at F/3.5 with the EF-S 10-22mm on the 1.6x crop sensor 80D and everything would be in focus. With the 6D2 and 16-35mm F/4L, at 16mm, F/4, items closer to the lens are a little out of focus, which I don’t like, forcing me to stop down to F8 to make the foreground bokeh go away.

I decided to go with the EF 16-35mm F/4L (Mark I) and save money because the EF F/2.8L Mark III is double the price at $2,000. And I knew that I would not be shooting at F/2.8 in real estate as the photos need to be 100% in focus, if F/4 creates some out of focus areas, the F/2.8 would only make that worse.

At the time of writing, the EOS 6D Mark II is selling for $1,900 and the EOS 80D is selling for $1,100, plus $1,000 for the EF 16-35mm F/4L and $600 for the EF-S 10-22mm USM. That’s a difference of $1,200, which, if you are a professional, making money from your kit, is not a lot of money, I would finance the extra $1,200 or finance the whole cost to get better results, the full frame sensor makes shooting simpler.

Net Neutrality: A Response From Kansas Senator, Jerry Moran!

Fight For Net Neutrality

Back on December 14, 2017, Ajit Pai’s FCC voted 3 – 2 to roll back the Open Internet Order, allowing cable companies and telcos to ‘self-regulate’ themselves. I believe, like many people in the United States, that this is a disastrous idea for the health of the Internet. The Open Internet Order was implemented because the likes of Verizon and Comcast were discriminating against and promoting certain types of traffic, the biggest of which was Comcast slowing Netflix traffic until Netflix paid for a ‘fast-lane’ to people’s homes.

I filled out a web form on after the repeal of the Open Internet Order, which sent an Email message to US Senator for the state of Kansas, Sen. Jerry Moran, and this is his response to me.

Dear Mr. Lewis:

Kansas communities, schools, and families depend on internet access for news, commerce, communication and information. I appreciate knowing your thoughts about the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2015 “Open Internet Order,” also known as the network neutrality order.

As a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which oversees FCC functions, I am particularly interested in ensuring a fair regulatory environment for all internet actors. I believe the federal government must ensure a fair and open internet that is not blocked or slowed, and I agree that individual websites or online services should not be discriminated against.

However, I did not agree with the FCC’s 2015 “Open Internet Order,” which abruptly decided, on a partisan vote, to apply outdated, utility-style regulations to the internet. This inappropriate regulatory framework was intended for monopolistic telephone companies in the 1930s, and it has already proven to deter investment in rural broadband deployment.

On December 14, 2017, the FCC voted to reverse the 2015 “Open Internet Order,” restoring the “light touch” regulation of the Federal Trade Commission from previous decades while improving transparency requirements for providers. Now, Congress must pass long-term, bipartisan legislation governing the internet in a transparent and consistent manner; rather than subject to change from one administration to the next. This is an issue of great importance that requires a thoughtful, transparent debate which results in a fair and open internet.

I am grateful for the opportunity Kansans have given me to serve them in the United States Senate. Please let me know if I can be of service to you or your family in the future.

Very truly yours,
Jerry Moran

I take exception to the clear bullshit statement in the third paragraph. In America, cable companies are allowed to carve up the country, where they do not directly compete in many areas of the country, sponsored by state congresses and city government, I would call that a monopoly, wouldn’t you? So, the utility style ‘Open Internet Order’ is the perfect regulation for these companies. We need internet as much as we need electricity or telephone in the modern age, people without internet will be severely hindered.

The idea that a Republican would want to create bi-partisan legislation to protect Internet users is absolutely laughable. And, we cannot rely on the Democrats to have a backbone, they will cave in, because, just like the Republicans, they are being ‘bribed’ by the same big business interests. We, the people need to keep fighting, vote out these congresspeople and senators who are beholden to big business interests and vote in progressives who want to fight for the interests of every day Americans.

Embarrassed And Ashamed!

Paramount, Live, NYE 2018, The Cotillion

I’m all for accountability and this time, I have to hold myself accountable for my actions, even though I don’t remember said actions. Last night, on New Year’s Eve, the wife and I went out to The Cotillion to see The Astronauts and Paramount, two 80s cover bands. And at the end of the night, I was abusive towards the band, yelling “you suck” and “you f**ked up”, they did screw up with the countdown to New Year, they completely missed it by almost two minutes, but they didn’t deserve that verbal barrage.

I sincerely apologize to Paramount and The Cotillion for my actions, there is no excuse for me acting like a dick, and I feel like the worst person in the world right now. Regardless of what they did or didn’t do, this behavior is not acceptable in any way, shape or form. I have zero recollection of the events of those minutes, I remember standing up and feeling disoriented, the next thing I remember is being in the car.

I didn’t find out about my despicable actions until my wife told me what I did this afternoon. I was already feeling pretty terrible, throwing up, which makes me think there is more going on than simply being hungover, I rarely vomit from alcohol overindulgence, not that I felt I was drunk, I still feel terrible now almost 24 hours later. I feel physically and mentally sick, hearing about my actions from last night.

From this point, I’m not making excuses, I am just trying to piece together what happened, I was certainly not drunk, minutes before all this went down, I felt fine, I had a bit of a buzz going on, and I was happy.

I was drinking regular Coors, which I have never had before, and over the course of five hours, I drank 6 Coors and a single Wichita Brewing Company IPA. Not enough to get me drunk, the previous week, I drank six Newcastle Brown Ales and two Strongbow ciders, albeit, at home, which was of a much stronger alcohol value than what I drank at The Cotillion without any issues, in fact, it only gave me a slight buzz. This makes me wonder whether it was an ingredient in the Coors that I had a reaction to.

Another possibility is; because I was not drinking light beers, the sugar level is much higher; and with me being diabetic and not having taken my meds that day, that could have had an effect on me. My outburst and blackout came so suddenly, I felt fine, then I lose 10 minutes of my life. I was previously a very heavy drinker and have been in some sorry states, but I have never blacked out like this, and that scares me.

I am ashamed and dismayed by my actions, I have had anger management issues in the past, but I have worked hard to correct this. If this is the effect that alcohol now has on me, I’d rather just stay away from alcohol altogether. Again, I apologize to The Cotillion, Paramount and anyone I offended by my actions.

Tires Plus, More Like Tires Minus, Terrible Service!

Tires Plus, East Wichita, What A Massive Fail

Out of the last seven days, my car has spent three days in the shop at Tires Plus, N Rock Rd, Wichita, KS. What’s the big deal you might ask? it’s not unusual for a car to spend three days in a repair shop, and normally I would say, no it’s not. But, in this case, they tried to fix the issue cheap and dirty style, while not presenting me with a complete fix option, this led to a reoccurrence of the issue, only worse.

Let’s start from the beginning, Christmas morning, I woke to find that my front passenger side tire was flat, I tried to put some air in the tire using my emergency 12v compressor, which failed to inflate the tire even slightly. We took our second car to visit family on Christmas day, and I put the spare ‘donut’ on the car the next day, before leaving for my appointment with Tires Plus on the 26th of December.

I went to my Tires Plus appointment as planned with a view to having the oil changed, getting the puncture fixed and having them look at the issue of my Handbrake not fully releasing. While the car was sat in the parking lot, the handbrake completely locked up both rear wheels, according to the Tires Plus representative, which I accepted as fact as this happened to me about this time last year.

After about 3 hours, I was told that the car was ready and the handbrake was working fine. I pay the $110.75 for the service, walked to my car, got in, starting the engine, noting that the handbrake was in the release position and drove off. Upon arriving at my mother-in-law’s, I pull the handbrake as her drive is on an incline, at first it doesn’t move, I think that it’s just a little tight after adjustment and I pull a little harder and I hear a loud PING, the handbrake lever goes slack, once again locking the rear wheels.

I called Tires Plus and they basically said, it was my responsibility to get the car back to their shop. Luckily I have a premium AAA membership, so the tow didn’t cost me anything, however, if I didn’t have AAA, that would have cost me hundreds of dollars to have the car towed. As you can imagine, I was not in the best of moods, somehow I kept my cool while handing my car key to them for the second time in five hours.

Fast forward about 21 hours, I get a call from Tires Plus just before 5pm, only to be told that they hadn’t had time to look at my car, asking if they can keep my car for another day. Obviously, I was not happy with this situation, but what can I do? I can’t drive the car, my only other option would be to call AAA and have it towed to another shop, so I begrudgingly agreed to let them keep the car for another day.

Day 3, I got a call saying that my right rear brake caliper was damaged causing the problem. Previously, the left rear brake was dragging, so I thought it was odd that the right rear caliper was the issue. I’m not a mechanic, so I took their word for it and had them fix the issue at a cost of $340.68. So, again, I pick up the car, handing over more hard-earned cash. I tested the handbrake was working in their parking lot and it was; however, this evening, I cannot move the handbrake lever, and I don’t want to force it!

When I picked up the car on Thursday evening, their rep admitted that initially, they tried to fix it ‘cheap and dirty’ and that didn’t fix it. Their rep said ‘most Kansans don’t use their handbrake’, recommending that I not use my handbrake. Continuing he said ‘if I continue to use the handbrake, the other rear caliper would fail as it’s the same age as the one that failed’. Knowing this, why did they not recommend that both calipers be replaced at the same time? I would have been happy to pay to maintain a safe car.

I had been a loyal customer for five years, spending around about $3,500 for tires and oil changes. That has now come to an end, I feel like my family’s safety has been compromised by Tire Plus’ actions.

I just went out and tested it again, 3 hours later and it seems to be working again, although I only engaged the handbrake one click for fear of locking up the wheels again. Frankly, I don’t feel like the handbrake, AKA emergency brake is reliable, I want to know that it will work 100% of the time, just in case an emergency braking situation arises as I use this car to transport precious cargo, i.e. my family.

I will never tell anyone to not use a service or shop at a specific store, but I will express and explain my displeasure when I receive poor service, I believe that we, as consumers should spread our experiences, especially, bad experiences to warn others of potential issues with services and shops.

Update [Jan, 2 2018, 12:10]: I just noticed that Tires Plus didn’t replace my windscreen wipers as requested and charged. Not only did they fail as described above, they also straight up robbed me of the $23 it cost to replace my wipers. I’m definitely done with this company, absolutely disgraceful.

Update [Mar, 6 2018, 16:41]: There’s more incompetence to report from Tires Plus, I have just got my car back from the body shop after a collision two weeks ago and I asked them to have a look at why my ambient interior lighting was not working and they said that someone had removed the center console panel next to the hand brake and pulled out the connector which linked the cup holder to the foot well illumination, this would tally with the time I noticed the ambient lighting stopped working.

Ignore Me, I Went Camera Mad, Despite What I Wrote!

Canon EOS 5D4 & EOS 6D2

Just a couple of weeks back, I wrote that I won’t be investing in a full frame camera in the immediate future. You can probably guess what happened by the title of this article, yup, that’s right, I spent big on full frame gear, $8,500 worth, including the 5D4 and the 6D2, three lenses, lighting and backdrops.

First, while in Best Buy, I impulse bought the Canon EOS 5D mkIV, 16-35mm f/4L, 24-105mm F/4L and 85mm F/1.8 USM prime lenses. the 5D4 came with a BG-E20 battery grip, which after testing it, I decided that it is something I won’t use, it makes the whole camera too bulky and heavy in my opinion, I’d rather carry a spare battery, and pop it in when the first one runs out, the 5D4 is already a chunky camera.

A few days later, I took the 5D4 and 16-35mm out to a real estate shoot, quickly realizing that it was not the best camera for real estate. Nothing to do with image quality, the quality of the photos were amazing, however, it’s not the most practical for getting into the corner of rooms to maximize the ultra-wide angle of the lens, I am unable to see the display or look into the viewfinder, so that’s a huge issue for me.

This is how I ended up buying the Canon EOS 6D mkII, which does have the articulating screen that I have grown to love in the Rebel T3i and EOS 80D. As I had spent $1,000 on the EF 16-35mm F/4L, I wanted to make use of it, and although it will work on my 80D, it won’t really be ultra wide angle anymore with the 1.6 crop factor. It’ll be more like 25mm, which is not anywhere near wide enough for real estate.

I used the 6D2 yesterday for a real estate shoot, and I like it’s smaller form factor, the articulating screen and the ability to shoot at ISO 800 with virtually no digital noise in the photo. ISO 800 on the 80D produced far too much noise for my liking, which means I had to shoot at ISO 400 maximum with a much slower shutter speed, which in all honesty is not a problem as I shoot HDR on a tripod with a 2-sec delay.

In addition to the cameras and lenses, we also invested in lighting and backdrops for portrait shoots. We bought two Neewer 660 bi-color LED panels, Neewer green screen backdrop kit, plus additional blue, black and white muslin backdrops and a further Neewer 700w softbox set for a softer lighting effect.

Most of these purchases are for my wife’s attempt at launching a photography career, I only need the EOS 6D mkII and EF 16-35mm F/4L for real estate. The plan is to do some free shoots for friends and family to build up a portfolio for her website when I get around to creating it. Right now, there is nothing to put on the website as she has only done two shoots and one of those I wouldn’t use for a portfolio website.

I am being supportive of my wife’s efforts, she has a lot to learn, but I’m confident she will get there quickly with practice. My wife isn’t very confident of her abilities, she had done a photography course back in the film days, and she was under the impression that those skills didn’t apply in digital photography. I explained that the exposure triangle has not changed since the dawn of photography. Although, I believe she has not retained that information from 20 years ago, so it’s like starting over.

If we can make our money back in 2018, I would call that a successful year, although it’s not essential to make the money back, it’s extra cash we had available, so it’s not do or die, but it would be nice to see maybe, a small profit at the end of 2018. Final note, who would have thought that my wife would be the one using the better camera? but, the better camera for real estate, is the 6D2, so it makes perfect sense.