Amazon

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.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Time Travelers Surround Us


I spend a lot of time in front of one of my computers. I feel the time is spent wisely and frugally. There are those in my life who have suggested that obsessive is a more apt description of the time I put in on the computer. I do have a life beyond my desk. I am a doting grandparent. Doting as to love to hang out with them as opposed to doting, I can barely walk. I on occasion frequent the links and pare my insufferable ego down to a bare minimum. My Ryobi 18Volt tool case is my friend and I have been known to use the tools in it with a minimum amount of personal injury. I even once parked my fanny in an inflatable boat in the pool and read for an hour.

Here is my supposition, for all of the time I spend in front of the computer I do have a life beyond it. Either there are many people who have absolutely no life beyond the computer what so ever or….they are time travelers. Think about how often you see some people post on whatever site you frequent. They post 10 times a day and you see them posting on other sites as well. How is that possible? Well, it’s easy if you come back to the present, spend 24 hours here posting drivel (well not always drivel, sometimes pabulum) then return to your present 5 minutes after you left. It is the only way it can be done. Even obsessives have to eat, sleep, take care of unsavory bodily functions and maybe even earn a living. How else can they spend so much time on the computer if they aren’t time travelers? Please note, if my posts cease abruptly they have seen this post and have come back to snatch me before I let the cat out of the….

Friday, August 14, 2009

Health Care Reform, Myth vs. Fact

The following is from AARP. Being an old guy, I am a member in good standing of AARP. I don’t always agree with everything the organization supports but I have never caught them lying to me. Sadly I can’t say that about either political party. Health care reform has become a political issue which denigrates its imperative necessity. “Swift Boating” has become a popular tool to discredit anything the demagogues disagree with. The louder and harder you lie, the more people fall prey to your lies. Oddly enough the “big lie” was a popular tool of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi) and that party name is being used as a club against those who support health care reform. This issue has become emotional and has attracted the emotionally unstable to become vocally bombastic.

Getting away from the emotional rhetoric, I pay a bunch of money each month for very basic insurance. It is expensive but necessary. Key here is that I can afford it. Way too many people can not afford it. The current proposal for health care reform is not perfect but it is a necessary step in the right direction. The hate monger fanatics of either political party can’t stand the idea that something as important as health care reform is being proposed by the current administration. We need health care reform and we need it NOW, regardless of political affiliation look past the rhetoric, the fear mongering and the flat out lies and see what the facts are.

Myth: Health care reform is socialized medicine.
Fact: Health care reform will preserve the employer-based health care system.
Fact: For people buying coverage for themselves, there would be a range of private health plans to choose from, as well as the so-called “public plan” that would give American consumers another choice .
Myth: Health care reform means rationed care.
Fact: None of the health reform proposals being considered would stand between individuals and their doctors or prevent any American from choosing the best possible care.
Fact: Health care reform will help ensure doctors are paid fairly so they will continue to treat Medicare patients.
Myth: Health care reform will hurt Medicare.
Fact: None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.
Fact: Health reform will lower prescription drug costs for people in the Medicare Part D coverage gap or “doughnut hole” so they can better afford the drugs they need.
Myth: Health care reform is too expensive – we can’t afford it.
Fact: The President and Congress have committed to producing legislation that will be paid for so it won’t saddle our children and grandchildren with debt.
Fact: If we do nothing to fix health care, families with Medicare or employer-based coverage will likely see their premiums nearly double again in the next seven years.
Myth: Health reform means the government can make life-and-death decisions for you.
Fact: Health care reform will NOT give the government the power to make life-and death decisions for anyone regardless of their age. Those decisions will be made by individuals, their doctor and their family.
For more information, visit HealthActionNow.org

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Spyware, Alive, Thriving and Still Crapware


Windows Security Suite is another piece of crapware floating out there. My daughter's laptop was infected with that insidious piece of trash. It is put out by one of those sleazy companies that infect your system and then want you to buy their software to clean off the infection they gave you. Somehow it got by Ad-Aware and AVG. I updated her Ad-Aware and it still didn't get it. I ran CCCleaner and that didn't get it. Finally I downloaded SpyBot-Search and Destroy. That nailed the sneaky little creep. Of course some other sleazeball will come up with a new one. Luckily there is some justice, a local sleaze merchant was busted and indicted for exactly this scam. Infect the system and then sell the cleaning tool. It was nice to know that he went to jail. Here is hoping that more of these computer vandals are hoisted on their own petards. I always liked that little turn of phrase, it seems so painful. Bottom line Spybot-Search and Destroy worked. I guess it is time for me to do another donation to them, it is a free program, supported by donations and I have never seen it pulling any fraudulent crap. Good luck in surfing the ever more frequently polluted internet.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Internet Explorer 8 Drives Users To FireFox

First of all what were the wizards at MS thinking when they brought out ie8. Ok, I am not about to go into all of the issues that are making me wish I had never moved from IE7 to IE8, there are plenty of other blogs writing about that. I am just going to express surprise that once more Microsoft has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. MS has a captive market, a huge number of users and they continue to do their best to drive them away. One hand is bringing out new stuff like Bing while the other is driving away droves of existing clients by pushing out buggy revisions. I will hazard an unscientific guess that I have seen at least twice as many “not responding” messages with ie8 and I saw with ie7. The cute feature of “your session has expired unexpectedly would you like to reopen” will continue to reopen to whatever problem shut it down in the first place. Plus it is slow, very slow to use. Don’t get me started on the “this script yada yada” messages that pop up so frequently. Firefox may not be the end all be all to everyone but it does seem to do fine with every single site that seems to play not so nicely with ie8. So what has your experience been with ie8, is it just me?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My Other Blog Got An Award


My Other Blog Got An Award
Sounds reminiscent of the bumper sticker, my other car doesn’t blow oil. I write a book blog too. After 25 years in the computer business I still love tech but I have been reading books longer than that, a lot longer. Now I am writing books and amazingly my first book, “I Like To Whine” is selling. One day soon, the royalties may amount to enough to go out to dinner. I try and keep this venue tech oriented with the occasional philosophic murmur. So drop by Pick of the Literate and check out my alter ego and see the Kreativ Blogger Award I have won.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Customer Service Should Not Be Optional

I just read a ZDNet Blog about Jason Perlow’s experience with HP tech support and his deceased laptop. Click on ZDNet link if you want the details. After reading the blog I read many of the 189 comments. (Oh, if I could get that kind of response.) It was interesting that some folks thought Perlow was unreasonable. Some thought he was bigoted regarding outsourced tech support when he expressed concern about understanding the use of English as a second language. Our zealotry for political correctness knows no bounds when a guy verbalizes concerns about understanding technical issues when handicapped by an inability to translate through a dialect. I don’t care where the technical support may be outsourced; a REQUIREMENT should be a clear speaking and understanding of whatever language the customer is using. That’s not bigotry or rocket science it is plain common sense.

After 25 years in the computer business, I was hardly surprised when HP stiff armed Perlow on his laptop. When one of our clients had a warranty issue, they brought it to us and we fought with the manufacturer. In many cases our expertise was disregarded and our clients treated shabbily. In the case of Perlow, after HP gave him their ridiculous price for replacing his screen, we would have ordered the part and replaced the screen at a reasonable price. Why?, because we sold the unit and felt ethically responsible to support our client. Big business ethics is an oxymoron. A small business better show ethical responsible or they won’t be around for 25 years. There were times where our clients were absolutely, positively being shafted by a major manufacturer. Most of the time when we did our best to help them we kept the client and the big name lost them.

It is hardly surprising that as consumers we are robustly cynical. The vendors have programmed us to expect the shaft. When price becomes the only issue, quality is bound to suffer. Vendors spend millions to attract new customers and appear to be blind to the fact that a quality improvement, a caring customer support department and a sense of concern for the client would produce customer retention, which is far more productive and profitable than the constant seining for new business.
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