Watchdog: March 2008

Watchdog: March 2008

Rob, after much gumshoeing,’s disappearance is still a mystery, but the Dog has discovered that the company has left perhaps a few hundred customers in the lurch.

On New Year’s Eve, one of the owners of KillerPings, Chuck Lowney, showed up at the company’s Chicago co-location provider, and began disconnecting its servers.

An employee stopped Lowney and police were called to the office as well. About 15 servers were left in place as collateral., according to, is behind on its bills to the tune of about $26,000.

According to Steve Phallen, owner of Art of War Central, his company had agreed to take on some of customers after the company had a hardware failure. Phallen said he had also been in talks to buy KillerPings
and was prepared to cut a check when the company simply shut down and all of its customer data was lost.

“We would have liked to have added it to our business,” Phallen told the Dog. “We don’t know what happened, but the whole thing just sort of fell apart over there.” Phallen says he doesn’t understand why the owners of didn’t just sell the company to him. Phallen went on to say that the 80 or 100 customers still being hosted on Art of War Central hardware will be contacted and offered a chance to sign up with his company.

The possible sale of also came as a surprise to former employee Tom Smith, who told the Dog that he had no idea the company was in trouble. Smith, who also runs the game support site, said that if’s owners knew they were going to shut down the company, why not let the employees and its customers know in advance so they could back up their files first?

Smith said many people lost gigabytes of custom maps, websites, and customized server scripts when folded. Even worse, some customers are unable to move their domains away from

“I’m really pissed off at the way they treated their customers,” said Smith, who also said he believes the company was still processing new orders in December as things were falling apart. Smith went on to say that as far as he knew, the business was going well, and he estimated the company had close to 1,000 clients at one point. He said the owners had invested in custom applications and had just finished doing a redesign of the site. Support had been top notch and the pings were truly killer. Smith said did have a setback when Electronic Arts did not select it as one of the companies to host ranked Battlefield 2142 servers. The company also didn’t make the cut to host ranked servers for Enemy Territory: Quake Wars either.

Smith hasn’t had any contact with the owners of the company since the meltdown and said the handful of other employees were also kept in the dark about a possible sale to Art of War Central. Smith said there was chatter that a falling out occurred between the owners, but no one really knows.

What do the owners have to say? Nothing. The Dog’s phone calls and emails to Lowney and co-owner Alec Kopman were not returned.

Rob, the Dog believes you are sadly out of options. Customers who paid with credit cards, however, may be able to get refunds through their credit card companies.

Reading the Fine Print

I want to warn people about Norton AntiVirus retail packs with a “three user license.” I went to install my third license last night on my mom’s PC, and it had only 43 days remaining! I contacted Symantec support only to be told that all three licenses start on the day you install the first one! How big a scam is this? According to Symantec, this policy is spelled out in the EULA. Too bad I can’t find it on the box. Long story short, I’ve got a three-user license that is totally worthless. I thought I was being a smart consumer. Shame on you, Symantec!

—Greg Garrett

The Dog spoke with Symantec officials who said that while they feel your pain, the company does actually spell out its policy quite clearly on the box. Printed on the box for a three-PC license of Norton AntiVirus 2008 is this statement: “1 YEAR PROTECTION—With this service you receive the right to use this product on one PC or on the specified number of PCs during the service period, which begins upon initial installation.”

The writing is small, but even the Dog has a problem faulting Symantec since the front of the box directs the consumer to the top of the box for more information. Just under where it says “1 year protection for up to 3 PCs per household” it also says: “See top for details.”


Got a bone to pick with a vendor? Been spiked by a fly-by-night operation? Sic the Dog on them by writing The Dog promises to answer as many letters as possible, but only has four paws to work with.





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