We Are Always Tweaking

Original Publish Date: 12-November-2015
Last Revision: 12-November-2015

When we get questions on our older columns, we often answer them directly and update the articles to reflect new information. For example, when we originally published our three part series on Finding and Photographing the Milky Way we had no clue they would be our most read articles. Over time we added more charts, and tables, including a table listing when the best time is to spot the Milky Way – alas, not October through February.

The Milky Way Series

Pointy Land
The articles in the Milky Way series are:

Meteors and Meteor Showers

Celestial Slasher [C_224-9234]

We have also made periodic updates to our articles on photographing meteors and meteor showers.  We point this out because the best shower of the year is the Geminids and that shower occurs December 12-14.  Start planning right now!

To help you out, we have begun adding “Original Publish Dates” and “Last Revised” dates to our articles.  Of course most of the principles we have written about are timeless.

Adobe Customer Dis-service

Recently, a customer reported a problem installing Advanced Stacker PLUS.  The customer indicated that there was no “Place” in the menu so the ASP did not work with their Photoshop. The Place option is used by the action almost exclusively for adding a watermark, and we have observed the issue with some Mac installations and have a published workaround.

We thought perhaps the absence in this case was due to the new CC 2015 release, which by default REMOVES content when upgrading – specifically all ACTIONS will need to be reinstalled unless the customer does NOT follow the default upgrade process. While looking into the customer problem, I, Steven, decided that I did not need to keep paying the $50/month for the full suite on Creative Cloud when in fact I only use Photoshop and Lightroom.  So…Angry

I went to my account on the Adobe site to downgrade my license.  Not possible. The options are to Cancel or to UPGRADE to an even more expensive plan.  So I clicked “Cancel” which took me to a FAQ where I had to search for Cancel again.  Then I selected “Cancel product” and typed “I’m disappointed, I wanted to DOWNGRADE to the Photography license, but can’t find the option on my account page. I am not using the full suite, so I want to switch to the Photography Package“. After 3 minutes Ankan came on to the chat and typed “Welcome to customer service”. Ten seconds later “Hi Steven”, how can I help you”.

You can probably guess where this is going… downhill, fast. Wait, downhill very slowly.  40 days prior my “Full CC” had automatically renewed for another year, and now Adobe insisted that I was on the hook for an early termination fee should I change plans. And there is still no way to indicate you “DO NOT WANT AN AUTORENEWAL”.  How very convenient for Adobe!

After 50 more minutes of very slow responses from Ankan I had been offered “2 free months”, and the CC suite for $29.99.  I kept reminding him my goal was very simple: downgrade to Photography license: NOT to create a new contract, not be on the hook for another year, and not to pay a fee for an auto-renewal I didn’t see or authorize (my email had been broken).  I finally had enough and told them I was canceling.  Whether I sign up for a Photography CC license again will require a week of thinking about the horrible customer service, and a clear indication that Adobe had STOPPED charging my credit card.  I’m still thinking about whether I want to continue. Indeed… if I did not need to continue to support and develop Advanced Stacker PLUS, I would retreat to my PS CS5/CS6 perpetually licensed products.

My experience with Adobe left me with some clear takeaways for you, our reader:

  1. Chat or call Adobe and tell them you want to cancel (even if you are not planning to!)
  2. Explain your reason for wanting to cancel, is you do NOT want to auto renew for another year and there is no option to disable autorenewal (or that you want to downgrade to another package and there is no option for that).
  3. Stick to your guns until they offer you a better plan.
  4. Remind them that under their “auto renewal, can’t get out” scenario, if you do not take action on exactly the right date, you’ll end up on the hook for $240 in “early termination fees” – or worse.
  5. Also remind them that having to contact customer service to cancel is wasteful of your valuable time.  You can certainly cite my 55 minute ordeal if you like.
  6. Warn them that additional charges will be disputed with your card carrier.

About Advanced Stacker PLUS and CC 2015

The customer was incorrect. The Place option is present in CC 2015.  We are checking further, but we are not finding any issues… HOWEVER you may have to REINSTALL the Advanced Stacker PLUS for the reason we gave earlier… Adobe doesn’t migrate when upgrading – at least not by default and not everything you would expect.

We did notice a problem installing on our Mac (running Yosemite) which has CS5, CS6, CC, CC2014 and CC2015. The problem occurred when installing CC – it said it could not synchronize color. Whatever that means. Seemed fine after reinstall – though we doubt many of you have so many versions of Photoshop installed on your computer.

The Transcript (aka The Shady Underbelly of Adobe)

Below is the unedited transcript of my chat session with Ankan.  I wonder if it is Adobe’s plan to wear down every customer who tries to cancel their plan with 50 minutes of drivel.  And I didn’t start with the intention of cancelling! Make note of the time delays.  That was perhaps the most frustrating part.  Do notice that I had to twice request to Cancel my plan – and that it took 40 minutes for “customer service” to supply the requested service.


Your case number: 0215924254
Creative Cloud change
Membership, account, payment change
Cancel your membership change
Hi, we are currently helping other customers in line ahead of you. We’ll be with you as soon as possible.

While you wait, you can try our community forums where experts are online 24/7.

12:02:11 PM Ankan: Hello! Welcome to Adobe Customer Service.
12:02:21 PM Ankan: Hi Steven .
12:03:03 PM ME: Do I need to retype my request?
12:03:40 PM ME: Hello?
12:03:45 PM Ankan: No.
12:03:48 PM ME: Are you there?
12:03:53 PM Ankan: Yes.
12:03:59 PM Ankan: I am sorry for the delay.
12:04:13 PM Ankan: I have received your request.
12:05:12 PM ME: Can I assume that you’re switching my plan now?
12:05:51 PM Ankan: I see that you have Creative Cloud membership (one-year) registered with your account.
12:07:33 PM Ankan: I am sorry, we don’t have option to downgrade the current plan to Photoshop. However, I will help you with the link to purchase the subscription and once you place the order, I will cancel the current subscription for you.
12:08:33 PM ME: Wait, are you implying that I will be on the hook for another year by purchasing the Photography plan?
12:09:42 PM ME: Ankan?
12:10:24 PM ME: Hello?
12:10:34 PM Ankan: Yes.
12:10:40 PM Ankan: I am checking your account.
12:11:06 PM Ankan: Once you purchase the subscription, it will be valid for one year.
12:11:15 PM ME: Yes, what? Are you answering my question that I will be on the hook, or are you indicating that you’re partially paying attention?
12:11:35 PM ME: So is there a PENALTY for terminating in less than a year?
12:12:06 PM Ankan: If you cancel the subscription in the mid of the year, there will be an early termination fee.
12:13:00 PM ME: I see. So your policy is to stick the long term customer with ANOTHER penalty.
12:13:44 PM Ankan: It is an annual subscription which offers lower monthly payments and requires a one-year cycle. This plan is ideal for someone with an ongoing need to use Adobe’s Creative software.
12:14:49 PM ME: Nice try. But I have a plan, I’ve fullfilled the contract. And you’re telling me I have to have a NEW plan with a NEW contract. That’s evil. Plain and simple. I suppose you’re going to also tell me that if I UPGRADE my plan, the same hook applies.
12:16:26 PM Ankan: Steven, we don’t have option to change the plan to Photoshop from the current subscription.
12:17:09 PM ME: Oddly, you have options to UPGRADE plans, though.
12:17:33 PM ME: This is another reminder to me of the unpleasant experiences I’ve had with Adobe. So I will just cancel my plan.
12:18:54 PM Ankan: I can understand why you would feel that way.
12:19:28 PM ME: Doubtful. So is my plan cancelled yet? Or do I need to call my credit card company and report fraud?
12:20:02 PM Ankan: I have checked and see there would be an early termination fees if you cancel the subscription now because you are under one year annual commitment.
12:20:32 PM Ankan: I see that subscription was renewed on May 16, 2015 .
12:20:44 PM Ankan: I like to inform you that, all Adobe subscription renew automatically, if you don’t cancel the subscription in 12th month you will be moved to next year cycle.
12:21:16 PM ME: Great, then I will use the 30 day opt out. And you’ll extend me 10 grace days.
12:21:56 PM ME: Or I’ll call and my credit card company and dispute the charges.
12:22:29 PM ME: Since I never received ANY notification that annual plan was going to renew.
12:22:43 PM Ankan: We have sent the notification email regarding the second year commitment for the subscription as we send a notification email for every renewal of the subscription.
12:24:15 PM ME: Just searched my mailbox. Last email from adobe was 11/5/2014.
12:25:33 PM Ankan: I am sorry if you missed out the email. The email will be sent at the 11th month that is one month before the renewal.
12:25:47 PM Ankan: Steven, if you are willing to continue the membership till the end of the commitment, I can help you with two month’s free service so instead of paying for 10 months more , you will pay for the 8 months and cancel the subscription between May 16, 2016 and May 16, 2016 without fee.
12:26:09 PM ME: By the way it says “One year payment” which is incorrect since it’s actually a MONTH’s worth of payment.
12:26:57 PM Ankan: Steven, Creative cloud month to month subscription will cost you $74.99 per month and you can cancel it anytime.
12:27:09 PM ME: I am willing to cancel my account with no penalty. My second choice is to dispute the charge with my card carrier. Your choice.
12:27:29 PM Ankan: Just to confirm, may I know the reason for the subscription cancellation?
12:28:50 PM ME: Isn’t it obvious? I tried to change to a Photography plan, you told me I cannot without a NEW contract. Then you told me I’m under an annual plan that I didn’t authorize. (Apparently had to opt out last month but never saw a notification).
12:29:46 PM ME: You left me with no choice except to dispute charges.
12:30:33 PM ME: Oh, and this has taken exactly 30 minutes longer than it should have. So you’ve also wasted that much of our time.
12:30:55 PM Ankan: Steven , please allow me a minute . let me check what best can be done regarding the issue.
12:31:10 PM ME: Why didn’t you do that 25 minutes ago?
12:31:41 PM Ankan: I am really sorry to see that you are not happy with the Adobe policy.
12:31:49 PM Ankan: Can you allow me a moment while I walk to my supervisor and check for the exception to cancel the subscription with no fee ?
12:33:43 PM Ankan: Just to confirm, would you be willing to continue with complete Creative cloud membership for next year, if I offer you at $29.99 per month?
12:34:45 PM Ankan: Also, avoid the early termination fee.
12:34:46 PM ME: Really? So I go through this again a year from now? Why didn’t you just try to do what I asked to begin with? Switch me to a Photography plan without extending the contract!
12:38:35 PM ME: FYI: Adobe pulled similar crap over a year ago. I actually HAD a photography plan because adobe said only those who had PS 5/6 would qualify, and the plan would end in December. Guess what. They then opened it up to EVERYONE no qualifications.
12:39:36 PM Ankan: Steven , there is no option to downgrade the plan to Photography plan. However, once you purchase the subscription, it will be for one year contract. Even, if there was a option with me , again the commitment would be for one year only.
12:41:23 PM ME: So let me get this straight… I get smacked for an early termination fee of a plan I didn’t willfully extend. Then get ANOTHER annual contract under a different account? In what world does THAT make sense except to racqueteers and criminals?
12:43:39 PM ME: While I can sign up entirely online, apparently I have to waste 40 minutes to CANCEL a plan I didn’t ask to extend. Another ZERO for Adobe.
12:44:06 PM Ankan: Steven , In that case, I will make an one time exception for you to cancel the subscription without fee.
12:46:04 PM ME: So YOU do have the power to make an exception. How about we do it this way. You make the exception cancel the plan with no penalty and TRUST me to sign up for a Photography plan (which I stated 45 minutes ago was my intention!)
12:47:42 PM Ankan: Thank you for your patience.
12:47:44 PM Ankan: I have successfully cancelled the subscription for the Creative Cloud membership (one-year) . However you will have the access to the subscription till: Jul 16, 2015.
12:47:59 PM ME: And there is NO penalty?
12:48:02 PM Ankan: I will provide you the link to purchase the Photography plan.
12:48:20 PM Ankan: Yes, I will waived off the early termination fee.
12:49:17 PM Ankan: Please click here to purchase
12:51:06 PM ME: Ok. I am going to sit on this for a few days to decide if it is worth trusting Adobe any further, because frankly I have had zero positive experiences with Adobe.
12:51:41 PM Ankan: I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that may have caused to you.
12:52:36 PM ME: It’s not just you, of course, it’s a whole company that seems to care more about $ than customer service.
12:53:04 PM ME: By the way, is it STILL the case that 1 year contracts AUTOMATICALLY renew and the only way to cancel is to go through this nonsense?
12:54:32 PM Ankan: Steven,you can cancel the subscription in the first month and at the last month before the renewal of the commitment.
12:54:32 PM Ankan: Once again we apologize for any disappointment caused and hope to serve you in future.
12:54:46 PM Ankan: Is there anything else I can help you with?
12:55:28 PM ME: But not via the web. Can only cancel by “contacting customer disservice”… sigh.
12:56:06 PM Ankan: I am happy to inform you that you can stop the renewal of the subscription from your Adobe account after the last renewal of the contract.
12:56:15 PM ME: Thank you for canceling the contract. I suppose I’d be much more grateful if it didn’t take nearly an hour.
12:56:44 PM Ankan: I am sorry for taking much of your time.
12:56:56 PM ME: Good bye.
12:57:02 PM Ankan: It’s my pleasure assisting you today.
12:57:06 PM Ankan: Have a nice day!
12:57:06 PM Ankan: Thank you for contacting Adobe. We are available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Goodbye!


What Ever Happened To You?

We apologize for our long absence.  As we noted in the previous column our other paying jobs and life have gotten the best of us lately.  To add insult to injury, we have been struggling with email deliverability.

We noticed that the amount of support email dropped off while our spam increased.  What we did not discover until last week was that email to us was bouncing – most of it, anyway.  We are still trying to wrestle that one down, so in the interim, please use the following email address to contact us if you have an unresolved issue.

On a positive note, if you follow Steven on Facebook, you may have noticed that he set a New Years resolution to lose 35 pounds in the year. So far he’s lost 26 pounds, far out stripping his two month goal of being 10 pounds slimmer. His plan is pretty simple, track and limit calories (using an App on his phone) to 1550 per day.  It’s been working well. Now if only he could figure out how to finish income taxes, get email fixed, and a dozen other tasks he would be in great shape.

Eclipse Alert

There is a Total Lunar eclipse coming the morning of April 4th.  Maximum is from 4:57 to 5:02 AM in California. That means it may be possible to get the moon in the shot near the horizon, but it will be at an altitude of 15 degrees. Getting the large moon effect at totality will be easier than the last eclipse, but still a bit of a challenge.  See the previous column for some tips.

The Vicissitudes of Life, Photography and Weather

If vicissitude is a long word, do not worry. It means:

a change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant.

Here in California we are finally getting much-needed rain.  The drought has been more severe than when we moved here 25+ years ago. Showers and clouds are quite welcome in these parts, provided they do not block out the next great celestial event.

The next great shower is the Geminids on the night of December 13th into the morning of December 14th.  Fortunately that is a weekend, unfortunately the moon is in its last quarter so it will rise near midnight just as the shower generally becomes more intense.

Meteor in Pointy Land

How to Watch a Meteor Shower

There are many guides on what to do to SEE a meteor shower, but we can boil it down for you:

  1. Dress very warmly. A thermos of hot beverages is strongly recommended.
  2. Get in as dark a sky as possible away from sources of light pollution, streetlights, etc. Do not use a flashlight. Let your eyes dark adapt so they can see their best.
  3. Get a comfortable fully reclining chair and look STRAIGHT up.  You’ll see more meteors if you can see the entire sky. While the meteors will appear to come from the constellation Gemini they can appear anywhere in the sky.
  4. Bring a friend along and share the wonders of the heavenly fireworks with them. Besides, officially you didn’t see a meteor unless two people saw it or you got a photograph :-)

The constellation Gemini – from which all the meteors of the shower appear to radiate rises at about 7:30 PM local time in the North East.  At that time, the Andromeda Galaxy will be almost straight above you for most people in mid-northern latitudes. By midnight, Gemini will be overhead. We recommend a Planisphere or an app if you want to identify the constellations, but to enjoy the shower you need nothing but your eyes.

Photographing a Meteor Shower

In prior articles have covered how to find a dark location and how to plan for and photograph a meteor shower.  And we even have a thorough article that explains why you probably DID NOT photograph a meteor.  We even have led expeditions to capture meteor showers in a dark location.  Unfortunately this year we have faced other vicissitudes.

You can safely skip the rest of this article if you wish…

Showers in Life

We could not deliver the content you requested used too many times

Download link error – hopefully resolved now.

We have weathered several storms ourselves recently, and like you find ourselves wondering where all the time went.  Most recently we were reminded how difficult it can be to maintain a website and sell digital goods. An increasing number of customers complained that the digital goods they ordered could not be downloaded.  We discovered that Google was the problem! We had been using goo.gl to create short links instead of long, sometimes multi-line links for downloading content, but Google insists – for your safety – to check the contents of each of those links.  It would have been fine had this happened once or twice, but we noticed that Google US, Google Czechoslovakia, Google Japan, and Google Brazil (and others) all separately scanned the links, sometimes multiple times.  And then your virus scanner may also have downloaded and inspected the content before it would let YOU have it…  It was a lot of wasted bandwidth and irritation. We rejiggered our software to resolve the issue. Bottom line if you recently purchased content and got a “Too Many Download Attempts” message, we think it should now work if you try again. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Also, as you may know, running a website is not for the faint of heart. For example, we are seeing another increase in attacks from Chinese Comment Spam robots as well as attackers in the countries of Georgia and Germany.

On a personal matter, Steven – the primary contributor to this website – was the sole survivor of an entire team that was laid off at his day job. Steven was fettered with sole responsibility for a vast armada of servers and networks – which all fell on their knees when a 30 second power interruption wreaked havoc. He also found that there were problems with his own home network which he has been building to be able to conduct webinars again (and to thwart robocallers) … His home network is still not reliable enough, unfortunately!

Meanwhile, we are still working hard on our 2015 schedule of events.  Please bear with us. Our next article will be about pin-point stars in landscape astrophotography.

~ Steven