Amazon

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Another year is gone and another year is starting. Can you look back over the last year and conclude that you spent your time in a worthwhile manner? If you can’t, now is the time to plan your new year. I will be so bold as to offer suggestions:


TELL the people you love that you love them. You think they know but make sure they know.


Take the time to explain something to a child. The key here is take the time, we are all busy but childhood is short. Don’t miss it.


Do something that may help someone else. Do it without looking for a reward of any type. Just do it!


Make family your top priority! If we all take care of our own, then they won’t be dependent on the charity of others which may not exist.


Practice tolerance, whether you recognize your own prejudices or not, be tolerant of others. Instead of emulating the demagogues who rant and rave on TV and radio, have pity on them for their narrow point of view.


Have enough sense to know that advice unasked for will probably be ignored.


I suspect that will be the result of this post, but one can always hope for a better new year.


Have a wonderful, happy and blessed New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Droid Envy


As mentioned in a previous post, I would love to have a Droid but can’t quite justify going with the $30/month charge for connection. I have to admit that I am impressed with what I have seen. I sat in my grandson’s Christmas pageant and saw the little dot on the map to show where I was. BTW this was before it started, I am geeky but I wouldn’t be phone playing while my grandson was singing. Anyway, I am weakening. I really liked the real time map feature and the screen is very bright and legible. I have avoided looking at available aps since I don’t want to increase my envy depression. The ability to scan bar codes while in a store and compare brick and mortar prices would drive me stark raving mad as a retailer but as a consumer, wow! What a nice feature. Only 18% of the cell phone population currently has a smart phone. What an open market for the vendors. I am going to try and hold off to see what the Google Phone will do. It is reputed to out do their own predictions as well as burying the iPhone. Fun things are happening in the cell phone arena. Link

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Scrooged?


I’m detecting a pattern in some of my posts. A certain disgruntlement seems to permeate my normally cheerful demeanor. It may be the holiday season and it may be age. I do my best to say what I mean, do what I say I will do and to honor my word. I tried to do that the entire time I owned my businesses. Sometimes it appears that is not the case nor the interest of many current businesses. When I discover that is the case, I try and write about it so that someone else doesn’t repeat my mistakes. I admit, sometimes I would like to see people make the same mistakes as I do so I won’t feel like the only village idiot. I try not to be that person.

I still feel most people are decent human beings. I have noted that the customer service people in the recent “rants” were pleasant and courteous and powerless. I don’t feel everyone is out to get me(thank you Frank Burns of Mash). I don’t think the nation of Italy is morally bankrupt due to the ludicrous conviction, with out evidence, of Amanda Knox. I will have to admit that it is easier to write when I have a full head of steam and it should be obvious that some of the things I have written about lately have definitely steamed me. BTW, writing about stuff really is a good catharsis.

Regardless of the frequent sour tenor of some of my posts, life is good, so are most people and I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (or whatever holiday you celebrate this season) Oh, and thanks for reading my blog!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Optical Storage Predictions

I don’t know if referring to someone else’s blog is still blogging or just being a traffic cop. I read an interesting article on the impending demise of optical storage. It is on zdnet and by Robin Harris. His article pointed out that hard drive storage capacity is growing and is still considerably faster than optical storage as well as cheaper. He cites the historic precedents of punch cards, tape, small capacity floppy drives and escalating changes. He ends by asking hard drive manufactures to come up with archive quality hard drives.


I enjoyed the article and agreed with much of what he said. I do heartily agree that there is a need for archive quality hard drives. Until a hard drive exists of that quality, I will continue archiving on optical disks, both CD and DVD. I haven’t moved into blu-ray and don’t anticipate doing so. By the time I finish burning the major stack of optical media I have, there will be some better alternative.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Verizon Cellular Phone Upgrade, Cumbersome At Best



I have Verizon for my cellular carrier. I was going to upgrade my phone to the new LG enV Touch. I have the LG Dare which I really like but I liked the idea that I could load documents into the enV and read them. Thusly I would be able to stick a couple of books into my phone for those long Drs office waits, traffic jams etc. where you wish you had a book.

I went into the Verizon site to upgrade, added in the stuff I wanted and got to the review portion of the order. It showed a $9.99 per month data package. I didn’t want a data package. If I was going with a data package, I would go with the new Droid. So I hit edit and tried to take the data package off. After many frustrating minutes, I called customer service. It turns out that you can’t get that phone unless you get the data package. It is interesting that the only time you clearly see that requirement is when you are ready to finalize the upgrade. If you aren’t careful and don’t thoroughly read the upgrade sheet, you are going to automatically be billed an additional $9.99 per month for a 25MB data package you don’t want. I have to wonder how much money Verizon is raking in from unsuspecting souls who don’t have a clue they have a data package. As it turns out, the third customer service rep I spoke to pointed out where it mentioned the data package. It was there, it just wasn’t clear.

I encountered more interesting upgrade frustration when speaking to the 5th rep while activating my wife’s new phone. It turns out when you purchase ringtones through the phone you can’t move them to your new phone. If you purchase the ringtones through the online media center then you can load them into your new phone when you upgrade. This is the third time I purchased the same ringtones. In the course of conversation with #5, I mentioned my frustration with upgrading my phone and being forced to get a 25MB data package for $9.99. He said, “Order the phone, get the 25MB data package and then call customer service and upgrade my plan to unlimited data.” By upgrading my plan and paying $10.00 per month more I could get unlimited data instead of 25MB. A one cent upgrade that he was the only rep to mention. I still am not happy about the “required” data package but $10.00 per month for unlimited access vs. $9.99 for 25MB is a no brainer. I actually called a 6th customer service rep to verify the one cent upgrade because I couldn’t believe no one else had mentioned it. She verified #5’s statement.

Interestingly Verizon claims that the “Smart” phones manufacturers require the data package and thus they have to add it. I looked over my alternative phone choices and then called customer service again to ask if they needed data packages. I would have to drop back to a phone with less features than the one I am using to avoid paying $10 per month for a data package I don’t want. So I am not “upgrading” to a lesser phone. I will continue to use my LG Dare and hopefully a new “not so smart” phone will debut with a 5 megapixel camera. That feature with unlimited data access would push me over the upgrade edge.

As an aside, the customer service reps I spoke to were all astoundingly polite, in spite of my ever escalating grumpiness. Too bad they have no control of the upgrade policies.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Toys-R-Us Elusive Lego Bargains

Toys-R-Us was advertising Lego bargains. Buy one at regular price and get the second one at 50% off. Anyone who has purchased Lego knows that they seldom are on sale. I was pumped to nail down my Christmas shopping in one fell swoop. Ha!

Even when the item said it was in stock, it was lying. You added the item to the cart and a message would come up stating that the below number was how many they really had and there was no number shown below.

After trying all the combinations of items that I could conceivably guess might be acceptable as gifts for my grandchildren I realized that there was no inventory of Lego. I called and got a delightful young lass who told me the web site often wasn’t up to date on inventory. She checked a few of the items I had hoped to purchase and confirmed they were not in stock. I asked if there was any possibility they would be back in stock prior to Christmas. She had no idea but I should keep coming back to the website and try to buy them. I asked if the sale would be continued, she had no idea but I should come back to the web site and check.

An inescapable conclusion could be that you can offer anything on sale and it won’t cost you a dime if you don’t really have any product. I would hesitate to ever suggest a firm as reputable as Toys-R-not me might be indulging in deceptive business practices. All I know is that didn’t have a single Lego set that I wanted and that was way more than 10.

I discovered that Fosters, a local toy store that didn’t use to carry Lego but now does had several of the sets that I was searching to buy. When I called, the clerk told me to make sure I printed out the coupon from their web site to get 15% off my purchase. So I was able to support a local business, find some Lego that I wanted and even got a discount. It was a happy ending to a frustrating beginning. Moral? Just because a big chain says they have something doesn’t mean they do and the time you spend to get one of their nebulous bargains could be better spent with the kids or grandkids you are buying for in the first place.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday Printing

I sit here listening to Christmas music and printing out photos for my Christmas tree photo ornaments. I enjoy using the photo ornaments for stuffing stuffers. Of course I enjoy giving the grandkids ones of me in Santa hats or other silly poses. Sure it is cheesy, but the kids laugh and give me a hard time and we all enjoy it.

Yesterday my granddaughter and I found a great Disney site that allowed her to dress Cinderella and then print out the finished product. We also had to print out new princess photos for her “house” decorations. Being the ever doting grandparent, I use photo paper and quality setting. Needless to say, those full 8.5x11” printouts go through ink like there is no tomorrow. I use dramatically more ink on the days I baby sit and the holiday season seems to just suck the life right out of the ink cartridges.

If you go through as much ink as I do and you are in the UK, you may want to consider checking out Cartridge Save. They have printer cartridges for practically every printer you can imagine. They don’t restrict your choices to strictly factory inkjet or laser cartridges but also offer compatible cartridges which can save some serious money. If you are blowing through your ink as fast as I am, check out Cartridge Save. Have fun printing out your Christmas and other holiday projects.   
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Staples Drops The Calendar Ball



Christmas comes once a year at least the last time I checked. I have gotten my annual calendar printed at Staples for years. Last year I used their on-line creator and it worked well. This year on December 4th I tried to use their on-line service and it was dismal. It wouldn’t upload my photos so I tried to call customer support. That was a waste to time and finally I hung up on the elevator music and looked for other vendors.

I ended up at VistaPrint. I find their site annoying due to the constant badgering to add more to your cart. However their calendar creating software worked smoothly and all 13 of my images uploaded in substantially less time than I had been able to get on photo up on the Staples site. I have not seen the end product but I have ordered from VistaPrint in the past and the products have been acceptable.

So if you plan on doing a calendar as a gift, I recommend looking at VistaPrint. I received no remunerations whatsoever for this recommendation.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Amanda Knox Outrage

My last post posed hypothetically that anti-Americanism may have played a part in Amanda Knox’s ludicrous conviction. After doing a web search, it appears that I am not the only one that questions the basis of the conviction. It appears that this young woman is being a scapegoat to the rabid anti-American feelings in a very conservative Italian community. The more I read, the more I am outraged. Here is a link to a site that summarizes the case. Don’t just read this article look at others and make up your mind. If you are as outraged as I am, email or call your congressman and senator, perhaps official pressure may help.

I have found a website that claims to be the Amanda Knox defense fund. I have emailed the Associated Press and asked if their reporter, Gene Johnson who has done many stories on the Amanda Knox case, can verify if the website is legitimate. If it is legitimate, I am going to donate, that family is taking an emotional and financial beating.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Italian Justice, An Oxymoron?


If you don’t know who Amanda Knox is, you are probably living in a cave. I am sure I don’t know enough to rant about the jury’s verdict but I do have to question how it was reached. If the news reports are accurate, there was no, repeat NO forensic evidence to show that Miss Knox was ever in the room where the murder took place. Somehow that seems to indicate reasonable doubt. Of course reasonable doubt is part of the judicial process in the good old US of A. It doesn’t appear that is the case for the Italian judicial process. One hesitates to suggest that the seeming mindless pursuit of a guilty plea regardless of evidence may be indicative of the European dislike of Americans in general. It would truly be a tragic miscarriage of justice if a young woman is sentenced to 26 years in prison primarily due to her nationality.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Software Compatibility For The Rest of US


I’m a novice author. I am self published because at my age I don’t want to grow old and die waiting on a publisher to “discover” me. If my books sell then I did something write (I know, cute!). Since my first book is selling I am going to rashly suggest I am an author. One of the things I have discovered is that the on-demand printers who cater to the self publishing world still have the mind set of corporate publishing. LightningSource who I suspect I will use at some point seems to be a reasonably priced, full service print house. Now I am getting to the part about software compatibility. LightningSource will only accept my books if they are formatted under specific software. Oddly enough I have older versions of the software but they only support more recent versions. I am supposed to fork out $500.00 for the latest version of Adobe or Quark so I can submit my manuscript to LightningSource. Now I am not beating up on LightningSource, as I said, I plan on using them sometime because after a lot of research they seem like one of the better alternatives, at least for the self publisher. What is annoying is that they want the self publisher market but they want the self publisher to be using full publishing house software. Backward compatibility in software isn’t all that difficult but then I do look at the issue from my 25 years in the computer business.

I guess this ties in with my post on the adoption of Windows 7 and why in the world would I want to do that. A new version of the software should be able to read the old version’s files. Why would you make your software incompatible with it’s previous version. In this case, I suspect that it is a corporate policy thing by some MBA who has never written a book, booted up his own computer or bootstrapped his own finances to follow his dream. I am sure it cost less in people time to only use specific versions of software. God forbid, someone should have to know something beyond the tip of their nose. So to you corporate entities that want the small business or the self publisher or anyone who doesn’t have a bucket of money to throw at new software, LISTEN UP, you’ll get more business if you pay attention to all us ornery little guys.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Google Patents

In spite of spending hours on end at the keyboard I still periodically find a site or search engine that I am unaware of. Google Patents is a search engine especially for patents. If you are bored at the office or anywhere else you can search for patents. You can see if someone you know has a patent. You can also discover some of the strange things that are patented. The baby diaper that announces the child is wet by changes in conductivity of a charge running though the diaper and sets off an alarm. I am sure that the people who make Huggies are going to jump right on that.

Just one more way that the Internet is enhancing our lives.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


May you have a wonderful, fun filled, happy day!

I Have Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance Policies

Those two words are supposed to illustrate a firm conviction against propagation of societal ills. Zero tolerance on weapons in school. Zero tolerance against sexual harassment ad nauseam. What have those two noble sounding words led to in our society and our schools?


Those two words have led to two more powerful words, Astounding Intolerance!

A six year old who is threatened with 45 days of reform school for his cub scout eating utensils is the height of absurdity. A kindergartener who kisses another kindergartener is expelled for sexual harassment. It would be hysterical for its ludicrousness if it wasn’t so sad. Political correctness has run amuck and our children and grandchildren are paying the price. If one looks at the salaries we are paying our teachers and educational administrators, one would think we could depend on them to make rational decisions in regards to flexibility and zero tolerance. Except zero tolerance means no flexibility and consequently a thoughtful, situationally appropriate decision is precluded.

We must utilize rational decision making regarding childish infractions and abolish the rash, all situations are the same zero tolerance policies.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Self Publishing with CreateSpace


Read on, there really are some money saving tips and some are even technical in the following post.  

I am a self published author. I have self published for a variety of reasons. My primary reason is time. I have no interest in spending my days trying to find an agent, who will then try and find a publisher. I have been told this can take years. Although I have a resilient ego, I have no interest in facing a wealth of rejection. Again, I have been told by published authors and read author interviews that document myriad rejections. Some successful manuscripts were rejected for years before finding a publisher who saw the value of the work. I’m a retired guy who always wanted to write something and have it published. If what I wrote actually appealed to anyone and it sold, then all for the better. Since that is currently occurring I have created a self fulfilling prophecy regarding how brilliant I am for seeing that self publishing would work for me.LOL

Now I have established that self publishing is working for me and perhaps it will work for you. Here are some caveats. There are a ton of companies out there willing to take your money and produce your book. No doubt some of them are very good. After much research I ended up with Amazon’s CreateSpace. It is the least expensive solution from a reputable company that I could find. You may recall I am retired. Note I did not say independently wealthy retired, I just said retired. Fixed incomes lead to fiscal conservatism. I stoutly state that fiscal conservatism is not the same as cheap. Fiscally conservative means a willing to spend money but in a wise manner. CreateSpace meets my fiscally conservative demands.

I have been happy with the cost of CreateSpace, the quality and promptness of their work and their services. I discovered some pitfalls in the area of ISBN numbers. CreateSpace assigns an ISBN to your book for free. That is a distinct savings immediately since Bowker charges over $100.00 for a single ISBN and if you purchase from one of the authorized resellers you will pay at least $55.00. Take note, the ISBN from CreateSpace is a legitimate ISBN and is not a unique Amazon/CreateSpace ISBN. I, erroneously, thought that the ISBN that CreateSpace was not registered in Books In Print (the bookstores bible). This was after speaking with a CreateSpace employee who either didn’t know that or I wasn’t smart enough to specifically ask that question. I wanted one of my books to specifically be able to be found by any bookstore and not just through Amazon. I purchased an ISBN through Aardvark, a legitimate reseller of ISBN numbers. However Aardvark is then listed as the publisher and CreateSpace will NOT allow you to use that ISBN on books they publish. I now own an ISBN that I really didn’t need and am out the $55.00 it cost me due to my not asking enough questions and perhaps CreateSpace not addressing the ISBN issue with through clarity. Take note anyone from Amazon/CreateSpace that may read this is that you should clarify the value and use of the ISBN number and save someone else from wasting their money on buying a un-needed ISBN.

What’s my point? CreateSpace is a great place to get your work published for a minimal amount of money. I have discovered that that getting a good layout and setting up a book is substantially more laborious than I realized. My 28 page childhood stress books were relatively easy compared to my first 100 page Hardy Belch book. I did purchase a new desktop publishing package that I am learning by using. Serif PagePlus 11 works very well. The week after I bought it I got an email telling me I could upgrade to their new version for a minimal charge of, I think, $75.00. Since I haven’t even scratched the programs capability surface yet I declined. I do advise if you plan on writing more than a few pages you should consider a desktop publishing software package. Serif PagePlus 11 can be found for $20.00 if you look around.

Bottom line, if you have always wanted to get in print, then you should do so and do it now! It can be laborious, it will be time consuming, it does not have to be expensive and it is enormously satisfying.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Windows 7 On The Cheap

I am in no way, shape or form recommending you jump right into Windows 7 regardless of the Microsoft commercials. My 25 years of microcomputer experience has clearly demonstrated that you never want to be the initial installed base of a new operating system. Frankly Windows ME was discontinued before I ever installed it. I don’t think we sold one copy of it and were thankful that we didn’t.

However if you are bound and determined to be on the sharp point of implementation, you really don’t have to pay full retail. I found a great article on ZDnet.com that details multiple, legitimate ways to move to Windows 7. Rather than repeating the article, here is the LINK.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Every year, 20 million babies are born too soon, too small and very sick ― half a million of them in the United States. November 17 is when we fight.

Do you know a baby that was born too soon, too small, unable to suck, unable to breathe on his own? Premature birth is a health crisis that jeopardizes the lives and health of nearly half-million babies each year. It is the #1 killer of newborns and can lead to lifelong disabilities. Worse: the number has increased 31 percent since 1981. It can happen without warning and for no known reason. Until we have more answers, anyone’s baby, could be born too soon.

Medical advances give even the tiniest babies a chance of survival, yet for many babies premature birth is still a life or death condition. It’s the #1 cause of death during the first month of life. And babies who survive face serious health challenges and risk lifelong disabilities.

The rate of premature birth has never been higher. In half the cases, we simply don’t understand what went wrong. We need to fight for answers. And, ultimately, preventions.

November 17 is dedicated to raising awareness of the crisis of premature birth.

Our children are our future, Donate to the March of Dimes.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why Sm Biz and Home Users are NOT Excited about Windows 7

\what are you thinking\

One of the ZDnet bloggers posed a question as to why so many people are still using “obsolete” Windows software. This may be another case of standing in the trees and not seeing the forest. Most of the people in the computer industry make rash assumptions as to the level of expertise and fervor the average user has. The bulk of the studies or surveys are done by contacting corporate users. This makes sense, you can get a great number of responses easily but you are dipping your toe into a limited pool. Seldom is there any attempt to find out what the small business or home user wants, let alone needs.

I’m retired, I just want my computers to run. Admittedly after spending 25 years in the industry I have a little more expertise than the average user. I also have a network. I have no interest in upgrading the OS of my machines. In 25 years I have seen nothing but incremental increases in ease of use or reliability in operating systems. I have seen MS automatic updates trash one of my systems to the point where I suspect I will just use if for spare parts rather than trying to recover the OS from whatever quadrant of space the automatic update sent it. I have seen MS automatic updates isolate my computers from each other so I have to reinstall networking.

So if I, who theoretically have a little more expertise than the average user, why in any sane world, would I want to dive in the cesspool of upgrading my OS. I have one notebook with Vista as long as I don’t expect a great deal from it, it is fine. My XP systems are tweaked, they run what I want and for the most part, unless the friendly folks at MS send out another automatic update, the are stable.
This is why real people, not corporate users who generally get no choice, have no interest in upgrades. They want their computer to work like their toaster or blender, do the job, do it reliably and don’t screw me up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ratings Of Anti-Virus & Anti-Malware Software

My experiences with the paid anti-virus community have not been positive. I have had issues with Norton and McAfee conflicting with software I normally run. I currently use Avast Anti-Virus and both Ad-Aware and Spy-Bot Search and Destroy. I suspect they are not top notch but by using them all, I have had pretty good protection. My innate cynicism kicks in when ever I read glowing reviews about different software packages. ZDnet.com has a good article rating the behavior of different anti-virus and malware solutions. Don’t be deluded into thinking that the ones marked free are really free. You will find them to be either trial versions or a version that tells you, “yes I have found much nasty stuff and if you will slip $50.00 in small unmarked bills underneath the un-welcome mat, I will then remove them for you”.

Here is a LINK to go to the chart that rates the software, look at it with a jaundice eye and read the accompanying text. I didn’t find the chart all that useful but again, I am rather cynical about who rates what and how much did they get for doing it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

iPhone Extortion


I read an article on Zdnet the other day on how a Dutch teenager sent out an unknown number of messages to iPhones explaining that they were hackable and for a small fee paid to his paypal account he would explain how to block people from doing what he was doing. He exploited a known security vulnerability and claimed he, himself, would do no harm but if he could hack their phone so could others. Regardless of his intent, his hacking resulted in a tsunami of outrage. He then apologized, posted a fix of the vulnerability and then my guess is he headed for the hills. The article did not detail what happened, if anything, to him. Once again truth is so much stranger than fiction.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Internet Safety



I know another “be careful on the Internet” article. The Internet is somewhat like Las Vegas, it has beauty, glitz, shiny lights, fabulous shows and as long as you stay on the main drag in the well known places you are safe. If you wander off onto side streets, just like in any major city, you may find things you really didn’t want to see.

You can caution older kids and revoke Internet privileges if they ignore your cautions. Pre-school and primary grade children are an entirely different situation. Older kids may wander into nefarious activity intentionally; the younger ones generally get into questionable areas quite unintentionally.

This isn’t a new problem, an article in the NY Times six years ago pointed out that kids searching for something like Disney and misspelling it, ended up in places they shouldn’t have been. I point this out because these very young children seem quite adept on the computer. There are a wealth of sites that have mentally challenging games and activities for the pre-school/primary school age child. It is easy to assume they will stay on the site you initially log on to for them and then go wash the car or stick your nose in a book. These younger children need active oversight when on the computer. If for no other reason that when you come back you may find that your wall paper is gone, your home page on your browser is now adware and the child is looking curiously at unclothed people.

Watching my grandchildren on the computer I’ve noticed that an errant mouse click can provide a wealth of options. I watched a three year old inadvertently leave the Disney video he was watching and end up in my spam filter. No harm, no foul but he was in the parameter screen and if I hadn’t been actively watching I suspect that my spam filter would be less than reliable. The 5.5 year old changed the wallpaper on the computer while I watched. That was not her intent but that is what occurred.

So PLEASE, don’t just park your younger children in front of the computer and expect them to be safe. Actively watch what they are doing. The Internet has terrific resources for your child but YOU need to be actively involved, particularly with the pre-school and primary age kids.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wi-Fi Direct Is Coming!

Bluetooth is being called out by Wi-Fi direct. This is a new specification that announced by the Wi-FiAlliance (the industry group that promotes Wi-Fi) that will allow wireless devices to connect to each other without needing a router. They claim it will work out to about 300 feet and have data rates compatible with current Wi-Fi technology. This could put a serious hurt to Bluetooth if widely adopted. The new peer-to-peer spec is expected to be published soon and the industry group plans on certifying devices in the coming year. It should be an interesting face off. If you want more detailed information, the article I read was on Cnet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CounterSpy® Award Winning Antispyware Software

Periodically I get a request to write a review on a product and in return get some financial consideration. Being retired, if I can in good conscience write something without impugning by personal ethics, I am happy to accept. I did receive a fee for writing the following blog and that did not impact whatsoever my writing. For those of you that know me, that is easily accepted, for those of you who don’t, in some circles I am considered opinionated. I can’t imagine why?

Sunbelt’s CounterSpy has some very nice characteristics. First, you should MOST DEFINATELY be using some product to protect you from spyware and malware. Since most of us resent anything that hogs our computer resources, you want to use a program that demands the least resources and yet provided maximum protection. Take a look at the charts at Sunbelt’s site and look at resource allocation; I think you may find some eye opening information. At $20.00, this program is a very good value. I know I spent way, way more than $20.00 worth of time getting a piece of malware off of my daughter’s computer that her free antispyware software let through. Check it out and ponder, what is your time worth and will this product save you some time and aggravation?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Interesting Site with a Fun IPhone Ap

I just ran across an interesting site that evaluates On-Line Universities. It only evaluates accredited schools which, of course, is the only kind you want. The fake diploma game is too easy to expose with the ease of data search brought about by the Internet. Anyway there was an interesting post titled

75 Apps to Turn Your iPhone into the Ultimate Personal Library.  

Of course having a boat load of books on my PDA, I am predisposed to the exciting concept of e-books.  I still prefer holding a book in my hand but there is something to be said for holding 75 books in the palm of my hand.   Click on the title if you want to read the blog.  Think of the bucks you can save downloading free books.  I found it interesting and if the IPhone ever becomes a good phone as well as an excellent PDA, I may get one.   


BTW the bat graphic is apropos of Halloween not the iPhone.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

First Sale Just saw

First Sale Just saw my first copy of "Daddy Goes On A Trip" was sold on Amazon. WhooHoo! This is so much fun!

Nerds by Michael Buckley

Nerds by Michael Buckley posted today at http://htxt.it/GZXY An amusing book on nerds by a self professed nerd, targeting middle school kids.

Backup Applies to Phones Too



If you have followed this blog, you are aware that I periodically write a rant about not backing up. Backup of computers is the normal topic. Recently after reading about the Sidekick debacle, it occurred to me that people need to backup their phones too. We all have myriad phone numbers and addresses in our phone. Many of us have photos that are important to us. The more sophisticated phones and users have data, contacts, emails and more on their phones. As the Sidekick sideshow demonstrates, this is just a disaster waiting to happen.

With the astounding drop in prices in the flash memory arena there is no excuse for not upgrading your phone memory card and storing your data on the card as opposed to the internal memory. Then it is a relatively simple procedure to periodically pull the card, pop it into your flash drive and save the info to your laptop. (which is, of course, backed up to your desktop, which has at least one external drive, and network connections to your other computers all of whom back up each other.)

Sounds paranoid but ….if you haven’t lost data at some point in time due to not having had it backed up, you probably aren’t using a computer of any kind and face it, our phones are now computers. I am an obsessive grandparent, I would be crushed to lose the photos on my phone which is why they are all backed up.

Don’t be one of the unwashed, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth users who don’t back up. Do it now, while you are thinking about it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

FireFox Alert


Not long ago Microsoft introduced a plugin to FireFox without asking permission thusly most users of FireFox have this plugin without their knowledge or consent.
As the ZDNet article said, ” Well, the code in that add-on has a serious code execution vulnerability that exposes Firefox users to the “browse and you’re owned” attacks that are typically used in drive-by malware downloads.”

Due to the normal vulnerability lapses that Microsoft builds into their software I have accepted the need to do automatic updates when they send out the patches for the problem they created in the first place. I admit to a burning rage whenever they do an automatic update that isolates each computer on my network and I have to reconnect everything. I admit to the same rage when one of their updates negatively impacts another vendors software that I use regularly.

I found ie8 so astoundingly slow that I finally moved to FireFox just to be able to surf the net without ie8’s plodding behavior. Imagine my surprise on reading the ZDnet article and discovering that Microsoft has secreted a plugin on my FireFox that increases my vulnerability to malware. I guess surprise isn’t accurate, perhaps resigned to BigBrother hosing me again is more appropriate. Now that I have vented my spleen I can move to the fix for the Microsoft intrusion into the security of my FireFox.

Again from ZDnet, “Now, Microsoft’s security folks are actually recommending that Firefox users uninstall the buggy add-on:
For Firefox users with .NET Framework 3.5 installed, you may use “Tools”-> “Add-ons” -> “Plugins”, select “Windows Presentation Foundation”, and click “Disable”.

I followed these instructions and disabled the Microsoft plugin. Once again, Microsoft has stepped into my home, crapped on my floor and leaves it to me to clean up the mess.

Friday, October 16, 2009

On days like this a

On days like this a good book, a comfortable chair and a warm afghan seems so appropriate. That is a knitted type afghan as opposed to a newsworthy combatant.

Cheap Laptop For the Brave

Cheap Laptop For the Brave
Get the details on Compaq's new cheap laptop with Windows 7
Are you brave enough to go the Windows 7 route? 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Daddy Goes On A Trip

"Daddy Goes On A Trip" passed final edit. My 2nd book will be available for sale at Amazon, next week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mobile Plate Hunter-900


Although this sounds like something you might see in a Road Runner cartoon, it is a pretty cool tool. This isn’t a money saving tech tip or a philosophic musing, just a Wow, that is a cool device.

The Mobile Plate Hunter-900 is license plate recognition software combined with a camera to enable cops to catch creeps. It has three cameras that record license plates and vehicle images. It can do up to 3,600 per minute and supposedly is not impacted by day, night or inclement weather. Not faulting the human eye or brain but I sincerely doubt most people could process that level of information in a timely manner. The captured images are automatically processed through the data base to determine if any of the plate numbers have been stolen or involved in a crime. It can even tell the officer the type of crime so they can be prepared for the type of perpetrator they will be pulling over.

It isn’t cheap but for about $20,000 you have a tool that greatly enhances the ability of law enforcement to nail the miscreants. It sounds like a very cool tool.

Particulars from their web site:
Real time technology of the MPH-900 greatly increases the odds of resolving issues and in severe situations, can be the difference between life and death. Our advanced License Plate Reader system:
• Captures up to 3,600 license plate reads per minute, day or night, accurately recognizing plates from all 50 states, Canada, Mexico and many Arabic characters
• Processes parked and moving vehicles across up to 4 lanes of traffic, day or night, in any weather
• Transit speed up to 75 mph can be easily managed by our License Plate Reader system. It exceeds the normal speed of vehicles through the pathway (due to pathway infrastructure limitations)
• Allows officers to update “Hot Lists” manually at any time and also query them for new tags that may match a recently captured vehicle
• Alerts officers within milliseconds if a vehicle is suspect
• Works at patrol and highway speeds - oncoming differential speeds in excess of 120MPH and passing speeds in excess of 75MPH, plus; The ALPR translates the license plate data into a digital image, checks versus an onboard hot list, and returns an alarm back to the operator in milliseconds for appropriate interdiction
• Hot Lists can be updated manually or wirelessly
• Officers can search LPR system for previous reads at any time in reaction to notification of a suspect vehicle

Friday, October 9, 2009

Flash Memory Deals Good Until October 11, 2009



This is not a paid blog and I have no relationship to SuperMedia besides being a customer. I have received no compensation whatsoever for this posting. That being said, I thought the prices on flash memory on this flyer were so good they deserved to be posted. I have purchased from SuperMediaStore.com for several years and have never been disappointed with their prices or product. I am not endorsing these products but the pricing appears to be very good.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Notebook Theft Alarm Using Your Flash Drive

I got this email recently and checked out the website. It sounds interesting. I am not recommending it since I haven’t tried it. I am passing it along since it sounds pretty good but as always buyer beware and do your research. It doesn’t seem like a scam so I am posting it.

Hi, I am submitting a money saving tech tip for your blog readers.
-----------------
A New Life To Old Flash Drives
Don't throw your old USB flash drive away. Instead, you can use an old flash drive as a laptop alarm to prevent your laptop from being stolen. Here is how.
1. Install free software on your laptop. www.lalarm.com/LaptopAlarm. (free for personal use)
2. Fasten a neck strap to your old USB flash drive.
3. Fasten the other end of the strap to a table.
4. Plug in the USB flash drive into a USB port of a laptop.
5. Lock the laptop by pressing the Windows logo key and L key together.
When a thief removes the laptop from the table, the USB flash drive will be disconnected from the laptop and then a loud siren sound will be emitted. (See photos: www.lalarm.com/arm2) In addition to sounding an alarm, the software sends an alert to your mobile phone. This tip is also useful if you worry about identity theft. The free software destroys data in case of laptop theft.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Get Published

This falls under the philosophic musing heading. There are many claims that self publishing is becoming more popular. I think many people who feel a need for self expression have finally found a reasonably inexpensive way of doing it. The traditional publishing scenario where an author submits books to a publisher and spends years being rejected continues but now there is an alternative. Previously in most cases if you didn’t have an agent, you couldn’t get a publisher to even look at your manuscript with self publishing it is more dependent on your tenacity to get it published.

Self publishing can be done for nothing on Amazon. Their publisher CreateSpace will allow you to put your book into published format and sell it on Amazon. If you want a proof to insure what you did online is what you really wanted to do, it costs $10.00. When you are satisfied, it goes up on Amazon and you are published. Now some people believe that until someone buys your work you really aren’t an author. I think perhaps a better definition might be you aren’t an author until someone actually reads your book. Regardless of how you define authorship getting your book printed really is the first step. Now you have to market your book.

Marketing a book submitted to a publisher is generally the publisher’s problem not the authors. For the self publisher, marketing can be daunting. If you hope to sell to someone besides your relatives you will need to make a commitment to as much or often more time than it took to get the book written in the first place. Perhaps when I am successful in marketing mine I will be better able to blog on the process.  There are other blogs that can help in the process.

Bottom line is if you have something to say and want to get it in print their no excuses anymore. You can do it and do it without spending a fortune. If you have a few bucks and want more help, Lulu and iUniverse are two of the publishing services I have found that seem well reviewed. I have no personal experience with them so do your own due diligence. Be aware that there are many online outfits that will suck your bank account dry while promising to make you a best selling author. Do your research; I am sure that there are other inexpensive methods of getting publishing that I haven’t found yet. Remember no excuses, if you want to do it you can.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

RAM Buyer Beware



Once more I am reminded of the complicated aspects of the personal computer.   Due to the RAM hungry demands of the ever popular MS automatic updates my wife's and my own computer have been slowing down.  I knew I needed pc2100 ddr RAM so I went shopping.   What was interesting was that I found that density is also important in RAM choice.  It appears that high density RAM is considerably less expensive than low density RAM  The only defining difference I could find was that low density RAM is 64X8 and high density is either 128x8 or 128x4.   What was frustrating was that neither motherboard manual said a darn thing about density on RAM but several articles I found said that high density RAM was only suitable for specific motherboards.  I did note that a couple of guys on eBay noted that their RAM was high or low and cautioned that many sellers didn't mention that and no returns for incompatibility.  

After mixing and matching between three machines I was able to get all three up to 2gb but it wasn't easy.  For those of you who don't have access to RAM without first buying it, Good Luck!   Things aren't getting any easier but I did notice that newer RAM was substantially cheaper than the older pc2100 memory.  So maybe you should upgrade sooner than later.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nintendo DSi

My grandson and I took a trip recently. His DS and DSi accompanied us. If you are under 20 you can stop reading now because you know all of this. The DSi is the latest system from Nintendo and is a computer in so many ways. Of course you can game on it. The thing I find just astounding is the ease that it connects to wireless networks or other DS systems. At one point he and 5 of his cousins were all playing Mario Kart. An ad hoc network set up by 11 year olds. Listening to all the screaming, yelling and laughter, I had to wonder why so many out of touch parents are opposed to the idea of kids playing video games with each other. How is that less acceptable than sitting around and playing a board game? Certainly you need exercise and like anything else, excess is not a good thing. Too many people ignore the fact that it allows kids to communicate and play while simultaneously introducing them to the intricacies of networking.

In addition to the ability to easily network locally, the DSi connects to the Internet with astounding ease. You have the ability to go online and play games with people all around the world.

The DSi has a camera so the budding photog can take digital pictures with his DSi. Then the photos can be tweaked, toyed with, totally messed up and you can share them with your friends. This feature led to a great deal of hilarity and outrage as various cousins had their noses enlarged, the eyes blown up or their teeth colored.

You can play with sound as well. The DSi has the ability to record and play your own sounds. In addition you can hook up your headphones and listen to tunes you load through the micro SD card slot.

The touch screen and dual screens provide an additional resource. This thing is so cool, I am tempted to get one myself. At $169.00 at Amazon it is good value for the money, an amazing toy and an equally astounding learning/teaching tool. There is a wealth of software cartridges for it and you have many, many choices that do NOT involve first person shooter type games.

The Nintendo DSi is well worth checking out.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Paid Blogging, Ethical?


I occasionally write a paid blog. It may be on something as strange as maternity clothes or police type shoes. You write a blog, put in a link and get paid for your trouble. Some really popular blogs with big followings can reap some serious money doing this. I am not in that category but wish I was. I have never written a paid blog that I didn’t believe what I was writing.

For example the maternity clothes post sent those who clicked the link to a site that offered some very stylish and reasonably priced maternity clothes. I despair sometimes at how depressed the pregnant woman sometimes gets in regards to self image. My motivation for blogging was that everybody is happier if the expectant mother is happy. The impending Mom, the husband and anyone else in the family is happier if Mom is happy. Clothes can help the self image and if you have never been pregnant or married to someone pregnant or loved someone who is pregnant, you need to understand; sometimes they need help to feel good about themselves. Thus I felt good about writing a paid post that pointed them in the right direction of very stylish, reasonably priced maternity clothes.

The police type shoes site is one my nephew has purchased shoes from and absolutely loves the site and the shoes. So I had no problem getting paid for a blog post that pointed people to that site.

Since I don’t have a blog that generates enough traffic to be offered big dollars for a paid post I haven’t faced an ethical dilemma yet. I hope that if I ever do I can stick to my guns about only writing about things I believe are good.

Paid blogging is getting a lot of negative newsprint lately in regards to the Mommy bloggers accepting large ticket items and writing positive reviews have gotten a lot of press. I have reviewed products on this blog. I have never gotten free product for writing a positive review. No one has sent me cool electronics and said keep them if you write a positive review. Now if any manufacturer reading this wants to send me some cool, expensive gear to keep, I will be happy to review it. However you will get an honest post on what I think about your product, not necessarily what you want me to say.

Here are links to places to investigate if you want to do paid blogging.
PayPerPost
Sponsored Reviews
Blog Distributor
Associated Content

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Five Through The Ages




The responsibility for this post rests securely on the head of 70steen of FuelMyBlog membership. She posted photos of herself over the last few decades.





Her photos were much more interesting than mine but I found the concept entertaining. Therefore peruse at your own risk 5 decades of yours truly and how one can “progress” through life.

The Photos

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Free Bluetooth Headset


Ok, Free is always suspicious. I have a bluetooth headset so I don't need one. I got this from Buy.com and I have had good experiences there. Check it out, I am not recommending it, I am not getting paid to mention it, I just thought it might be of interest to someone who needs/wants a bluetooth headset.

Here is the Link.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Defining Customer Service

I have written many times over the past couple of years about declining customer service. I read this week on ZDNet.com an article about the “crapware” that pretends it is helpware and is stealing your data, corrupting your system and robbing you blind. (See my blog on spyware) Comments on the article ranged widely but the one that caught my attention was a self proclaimed “IT Expert” working in computer support who thinks that the people he supports are stupid and deserve to have their computers trashed by spyware. Sadly this abysmal attitude seems to be rampant in customer support. Once again I am going to mention Diamond Case Designs, Inc. - 655 N. Shepard St. - Anaheim, CA 92806 - (800) 616-5354 - www.diamondcase.com . They epitomize what customer service should be. Their recent newsletter had this customer spotlight that I think defines what customer service needs to be. BTW I do not get any financial considerations of any type from Diamond Case and this is not a paid blog.


Diamond Case Designs Customer Spotlight:
Accomplished Au
thor Ian Randall Wilson


You may wonder how two seemingly innocent looking cats could affect the design of a custom entertainment center. Well let's just say to call these cats curious is an understatement. Please read on to find out how Diamond Case Designs, Inc. worked hand in hand with author Ian Randall Wilson to design the perfect furniture solution to fit his unique space, organize his electronics, and ensure curiosity did not kill the cat. (Link to full article)

Acronis True Image 11 Rocks


I’m sure the people at Acronis would rather I was writing about their latest release version 12 instead of version 11. However an indisputable source, my brother, told me that version 12 was fraught with peril. Since I dealt with enough peril when my BounceBack clone feature didn’t work, I decided to avoid more frustration and peril and go with version 11. In an earlier blog I expressed my dismay over BounceBack’s drive cloning feature. Drive cloning is making an exact duplicate of your hard drive including all hidden files and most importantly the OS. This feature is invaluable if and when or maybe just when your hard drive decides to head south, winter or not. BounceBack was doing a commendable job on daily backup and made file restoration quite easy. However on a limping hard drive BounceBack’s clone feature refused to work.
I turned to me geek brother who is still working and who used to be my top tech and asked what he would recommend. He strongly recommended Acronis version 11. Of course that is discontinued but you can find it out in the wilds of the Internet. I found my version on a “buy it now” ebay deal for a most affordable $22.95 including shipping.

The best news is that it worked right out of the box. It stated early on that you had a choice of cloning with no changes to the source drive, a clone with deletion of the source drive and a clone with an aggressive deletion of the source drive. I avoid deletion whenever possible, even on a terminally ill hard drive there is an occasional miraculous recovery where you can strain off more of your data. It was unclear in the documentation but I was led to believe I had to remove the source drive and replace it with the cloned drive upon completion of the cloning process. This was not in my plans. Since above said geek brother is on vacation and although I could call him I try to avoid that since some of his more prickly clients insist on calling him on even trivial problems even while he is vacationing.

I could not find an answer on the Acronis website. I registered the software, which you must do to get support. I registered the software about 8 times and the web site still insisted that I needed to register my software. My initial love for Acronis was losing the luster on the bloom as I became more frustrated. Finally I sneaked into chat pretending to be a potential buyer instead of a “not really registered but tried really hard to” owner. Lucky for me I got a guy who assured me I do not have to remove the source drive when done but reminded me that I didn’t want to leave both source and destination drives installed in the same unit as this could lead to a schizophrenic computer.

I was able to get the dead hard drive on one of my units up long enough to clone it and low and behold when I put in the clone drive it worked just peachy! Then I cloned my main system which has a 300gb C drive that on occasion doesn’t want to boot and has been scaring the bejabbers out of me contemplating the enormous number of software packages I would have to reinstall if said hinky drive went south.

Bottom line is that Acronis 11 works as advertised, I bow down to my geek brother’s expertise and to the folks at Acronis that actually produced a piece of software that does what it claims to do, kudos. This is not a paid blog.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Unreasonable Anger, Unreasonable Fear


What has provoked the hysteria over health care reform? Are the insurance giants who are reaping windfall profits bankrolling provocateurs? Is it the drug companies who may find their insane profits diminished? One has to suspect that there is some financial ax being ground that is trying to derail any progress on health care reform. I am amazed at the astounding ignorance of some of the enflamed opponents suggesting there will be death squads promoting the demise of senior citizens. Shouted admonishments of “keep the government’s hands off of my Medicare”, belie the fact that it is the government who is running Medicare. We need health care reform; I’m on a fixed income and under 65 years old. My health insurance premiums are roughly the same as my mortgage and I am lucky. I’m lucky because so far I have been able to pay both. I know too many people who aren’t so lucky. These people are not dead beats, welfare cheats or illegal immigrants; they are just regular people trying to make ends meet.

I am enough of a cynic to suspect that deep pockets of vested interests are financing the roadblocks to health care reform. Listen up people, this is the first time in decades where there may be enough congressional votes to get some health care reform. Call, write or email your representative and give them your feelings on what should or shouldn’t be in the health care reform bill. Don’t let health care reform be “Swift Boated” by the special interest groups.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fear Mongers Abound!


The President of the United States wants to address the children of the nation. The President of the United States who was ELECTED to his office wants to address school children. GASP—Radical, immoral, obviously a brainwashing plot SCREAMS rabid, foaming at the mouth of radical CONSERVATIVES.

Years ago when I supported Barry Goldwater I was proud of being a conservative. Today, conservative seems to be synonymous with nut-job. Republican Presidents have sent out addresses to the nation’s children and the kids survived. Of course perhaps there was some subliminal message that generated the current crop of nut-jobs, I mean radical Conservatives. The news has shown text of parents complaining they don’t want their children exposed to the words of their ELECTED President. Perhaps if they shared intelligent dialogue with their children they wouldn’t be so fearful of their kids hearing someone else speak.

Take note world, President Obama is NOT the devil incarnate. I don’t agree with everything he says or does but I respect the office of the President of the United States. I didn’t agree with everything President G. W. Bush said but he wasn’t the devil incarnate either. Get a life folks, radicalizing the people you disagree with demeans both you and your point of view. Intelligent dialogue used to be a hallmark of democracy; it is time to return to some semblance of intelligent, respectful discourse. Fanatics, whatever their stripe, never, ever are good for our wonderful nation.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Taking Woodstock—Don’t Waste Your Time


I don’t normally review movies but this one demands a disappointed one. Taking advantage of the Woodstock anniversary, this movie sucked a lot of aging boomers into thinking they could get back their groove. The predominant color of hair (providing they had some) in the theatre was white, not platinum but just old white. Lot of reminiscing prior to the movie coming up, regarding who was doing what the summer of ’69. I can't come up with a good reason for the title. Story was ok, disjointed, couldn't decide if it was a coming out, coming out of the closet, coming of age or what. Woodstock was a backdrop as opposed to a theme. Music was non-existent. Acid trip was prolonged so long I thought perhaps I was on one. Confusing movie, could have been excellent if it stayed on focus, expanded the reaction of the locals to the influx of "hippies" and had some iconic music. Even as background, period music would have helped, overall the movie was very disappointing.
REAL Woodstock Video on YouTube

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hoof and Mouse

The old hoof and mouth disease is alive and well. I had a recent paid post that was critical of the advertiser and PayPerPost the facilitator. I took umbrage to the fact that, in my estimation, I had dotted all my i’s and crossed all my T’s and still had the post rejected twice. Being blithely ignorant of the process I leaped to the cynical conclusion that the advertiser was simply avoiding making payment. I did a rant post about the soulless capitalists that were ripping off the humble and oh, so deserving blogger. Keep in mind this was for a $5.00 paid post. That is $5.00 total, not per click, view or anything else. Now $5.00 is not a make or break deal for me, even in this economy. I was taking umbrage on being ripped off. (or so I thought)

Please note, I do periodically do paid blogs and never have done one that I would not have written the same material even if there was no payment.

I got a very nice, much more rational comment on my rant post from Carri at PayPerPost. She pointed out that the advertiser does not shoot down the posts, it is a staffer at PayPerPost who is the buzz killer. She also pointed out that they don’t get paid unless I get paid which means they make every effort to help the blogger make a post that fits the advertisers’ requirements. Since I took down the post rather than make a 3rd revision Carri could not evaluate it herself. I stoutly state (no fat joke intended) that I met every requirement the advertiser required and the post was still rejected twice. I even went to the trouble of verifying the accuracy of the link through multiple browsers just in case good old ie8 was screwing things up. I still feel that the PayPerPost staffers erroneously rejected the post but since I am not willing to prolong an unpleasant experience particularly since it was a $5.00 unpleasant experience, I can’t really blame them too much.

Bottom line, much like sending emails when you are angry or overwrought, you shouldn’t post a blog when you are fuming either. In my weak defense, I was not aware that PayPerPost wasn’t paid unless I am paid. Also you can put in a trouble ticket to PayPerPost to try and get questions answered and if it was for $20 maybe I would have pursued that but for $5 it just wasn’t worth the trouble. To PayPerPost, your staffers should provide greater clarity as to why posts are rejected. This would help in correcting what ever the problem might be. I would tell Carri this but there was no way of returning an email to her.

In closing, even if I would write it for free, I am never going to waste my time on a $5.00 paid blog again. Although it has given me material for two posts so it wasn’t a total waste of my time.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Free Software, Maybe, Maybe Not So Free

There is an interesting thing about some of the free software being offered at Cnet and Zdnet. It’s not so free anymore. You don’t have to pay a fee but even at these “reputable” sites you may not be getting a fee but you are getting the shaft. ZDNet’s Download Digest and cnet both recommend Glary Registry Repair 3.1.0.800. I read the description and thought it was worth testing. I downloaded it smoothly from ZDNet, I tried downloading it from cnet and it dragged and dragged and I finally stopped the download. Don’t know what was wrong with cnet. I went to install it and it brings up the ubiquitous license screen. If you aren’t careful and if you don’t read the screen carefully, you not only get Glary installed, you get the Ask toolbar, Ask is set as your default search screen and other crap is loaded as well. I canceled installation and deleted the software from my system. Free or Freeware is not an appropriate term if they are going to be reaping financial benefits by sneaking adware (whether Ask likes that or not, if they are sneaking their code onto your machine it is adware, crapware or whatever despicable terminology you want to use.) on to your system.

With the registry cleaning thought in my mind I went into my downloaded utilities and opened Wise Registry Cleaner 3.20 and installed it. It gave me the opportunity to upgrade and I selected upgrade. Low and behold, they had the same sneaky, snarky screen as Glary. You can’t download the upgrade without agreeing to the license terms and if you get the license terms you get all the Ask crap. Obviously I declined the upgrade. I ran Wise Registry Cleaner 3.20 and it worked just fine without any upgrades.

I may be jumping to conclusions but is there an insidious little trend here? Advertise it as Free or Freeware but than insinuate your crapware onto the systems of those unwary enough to gloss over the license screen. Someone at Ask has determined this is a way to get market share, ethics be damned, let’s get market share. Even Google doesn’t prevent your from doing a download if you UN-Check the box that wants to make it’s toolbar, search engine and toilet flusher the default for your system. Ask.com is demonstrating that they can get more unethical than the next guy by sneaking their software onto systems. It may even be a good search engine but I will never know because I DEPLORE their Machiavellian marketing strategy. However it can’t be too good because if it was truly a good search engine people would want to use it and not be suckered into using it. I use the Google search engine, not because I was suckered into inadvertently setting it as my default but because I CHOSE it as my default. Perhaps ASK ought to improve their search engine and maybe they wouldn’t have to sneak it on to people’s systems.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

George Orwell, Digital Rights Management And Bad Touching



Back in July, Amazon made news by reaching out and touching their Kindles. It was a bad touch. Amazon claims they inadvertently sold a e-copy of George Orwell’s “1984” from a vendor who was not legitimately allowed to sell it. Rather than pony up the money to the appropriate vendor or publicizing an “oops”, Amazon reached out and deleted the book off of the Kindles. Oddly enough the irony of an Orwellian response to a problem didn’t seem to compute to the folks at Amazon. If they had shipped a hard copy book to all of the same buyers of “1984” and performed a physical storm trooper assault on peoples homes to get the book and burn it, there would be bodies everywhere. The key here is hard copy vs. e-copy. Digital Rights Management means you really never own something you are only borrowing it for a stated time period. Incidentally Amazon saw that they made an incredibly stupid (Obama’s descriptive word on Cambridge Cops, not mine.) mistake and promised it won’t happen again. If I was as handy producing code as I am blogging, I would be busting my butt to write a software package that would block anyone from coming into my Kindle and deleting anything I had purchased. I wouldn’t believe Amazon either unless I received in writing an amendment to my Kindle service agreement clearly stating they will keep their Orwellian mitts off of it.

The issue here isn’t really Amazon and the Kindle. It is Digital Rights Management and do you really own your e-copy. Until I see a clear cut defining of a customer’s unassailable right of ownership to his e-copy, I won’t be buying e-books.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

U S Airways Adds Wifi to 14% Of Their Fleet

I find it interesting that US Air is touting their addition of WiFi as something to brag about. They haven’t flatly stated they are going to charge for use of the WiFi. Come on, these are the people who are charging for luggage, adding on fuel surcharges well after the price of oil has dropped, who charges for water and if you were on fire, would probably charge you for the use of a fire extinguisher. (Note, I know fire isn’t funny but this is an expression of sarcasm in the midst of a lament over a sad loss of customer service.)

U S Air may find that their formerly loyal passengers can not be dissuaded from trying to find a friendly sky by adding WiFi. Perhaps adding some concern for passengers, treating them with dignity, adding a modicum of customer support and stop acting like a monopoly could get some of us to return to U S Air. I doubt it, they are trapped in the downward spiral of diminishing services with rising prices that most of the other airlines are exhibiting with the notable exception of Southwest. I am taking 5 trips in the near future and the only one I am going to subject my self to flying is to California. The rest of the trips I am driving. I would have flown those trips in the past. I hate to drive but I despise paying out substantial money for flights and then be treated like an annoyance. Perhaps sometime in the future an airline will treat passengers like valued customers and I will want to fly again.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Navigon GPS Systems Are A Good Deal


I still haven’t broken down and purchased a GPS. I have researched and studied them a great deal. I like the ones that say the street name. Instead of saying turn left in 200 yards, they say turn left on Jersey Drive in 200 yards. I feel more comfortable having the street confirmed. I also like the feature that tells you what lane to be in when making turns or taking exits. Think about the number of times you have been in a strange place and discover the 18 wheeler beside you blocked the sign that said exit on the left and now you have 5 lanes to cross to get you your exit and suddenly it is too late and you are in New Jersey and you really didn’t want to got to New Jersey and there is a toll to get back to Pennsylvania and why is it free to leave PA and go to Jersey but if you want to get back to PA from Jersey they charge you? (Yes it is run on but it most aptly describes the feeling of a moment)

Traffic alerts are a cool feature too. I dread driving around Washington, D.C. Seems like whatever route I take there is some type of tie up. How cool would it be to have your GPS say, tie up 10 miles ahead take the next left and you will save 4 hours of you valuable time. Whoo!, would that be nice.

Navigon is the only GPS I have seen that give you lifetime traffic alerts on affordable units. My idea of affordable is under $200.00. The GPS folks in general all charge you for map updates. Garmin seems to have the best deal with a lifetime map update purchase for less than $100.00. It appears that Navigon has abandon the GPS hardware and is now focusing on their GPS iPhone ap. This may be why their prices are so reasonable compared to the other vendors. This means it may be a good time to buy a Navigon unit, if you are worried about the viability of the purchase, buy an extended warranty from someone like Warrentech. You can get all of the features I mentioned for under $100.00 on a refurb Navigon. Maybe I will finally stop researching and buy one.
 Money Saving Tech Tips