Jun 22 2012

Meandering Microsoft Dissing and a Public Service Message

Perhaps with a touch of maundering.

You see, trying for a few days to make sense of Microsoft instructions on how to do something induces maundering. And drinking.

All I wanted to do was download Windows 7, 64 bit and install it on hardware far exceeding the minimum standards. Now don’t go thinking I got to that point by any reasonable or common sense method. If I’d been able to get the same computer to connect to the internet running Windows XP, I’d have gone no further. What I didn’t have laying around were XP service packs that are probably available somewhere on the internet, but why go to that much trouble when it probably was time to upgrade to the latest and greatest anyway. (I’m a late adopter… sometimes.)

So, I’m using an old laptop also running XP. It hadn’t been booted in well over a year, so there were numerous automatic updates immediately downloaded (156 of them, if I remember correctly). OK… I can do some housework while waiting for all that. After all, it’s been a while since I’ve been offline when there was also electricity in the house.

Housework. Bah. I’d rather read about it, than actually do it. I suddenly remember I’ve got another laptop here and a netbook too. And my phone. And a Kindle. Alas, out of the 8 power supplies I eventually found, none of them fit the other laptop. I settle on the netbook because it’s got a bigger screen than the phone. Except… it refuses to connect to my wireless. At that point, I’m irritated enough to actually do the dishes and clean the stove.

I still have no idea what, if anything, is wrong with my wireless router. My phone connects to it with no problem. But when the old laptop was through updating, it wouldn’t connect either. AHA, the phone! I call and reactivate the hotspot on it. That call to Verizon is very informative. I’d heard they were changing their plans and data was going to be limited, but hadn’t looked into the specifics. Being the pessimistic sort, I figured it was going to cost more for less and I’d worry about that when I had to. Well… it’s going to be cheaper and the hotspot isn’t going to cost me extra. (After June 28.)

While browsing for information and trying to decide whether I wanted the Home version or the Pro version of Windows 7, the router starts working again for the laptop (it was set to prefer that connection). I even use live chat to talk with a Microsoft representative during which the specs of both the computer I’ll be downloading the file to and the one I’ll be installing it on are discussed. I decide on Pro and 64 bit. So, I go to download it. No problem… so far.

Next step: copy those downloaded files to either a DVD, a flash drive, an SD card, or a portable hard drive. DVD is my first choice since the only flash drives and SD cards I have were old and had probably been abused and I was reluctant to go digging through all those power supplies to find the one for the portable hard drive. I get an error message when trying to copy the executable — something about it was probably downloaded to a read only folder. Back to Microsoft and live chat. That Microsoft representative told me that it was because the drivers for my DVD software were out of date and I should use a flash drive.

Ugh… do I want to go surfing for updated drivers? No. So, I decide that a new flash drive is reasonable and I decide to go buy one the next day. During this trip I also buy wine and a bottle of scotch, which turned out to be the best decision I made that day. I download the files directly to the new flash drive, but when I try to open them on the computer I want to install Win 7 on, I get the same message about “read only” folders.

I’m going to leave out a few chapters here, on how I tried to use the Microsoft Store’s download manager instead of the browser, and how I had the same results trying to copy the ISO file and the storm and power outage… but I’m sure you can figure out now why the scotch and wine were such good ideas.

Now this message lead me to believe I could change a folder’s attribute to not be “read only”. Silly me — actually, I should have known… perhaps remembered it from way back in time when I used to be paid for helping people solve computer problems — that this pretty much impossible and that it’s a feature, not a bug. When you ‘uncheck’ that ‘read only’ box, it applies only to the files in that folder, not the folder. I tried changing the folder attributes as instructed (by Microsoft) here. Didn’t work.

At this point, live chat at the Microsoft Store is offline, and I’ve unloaded all my problems on my daughter who is a kind person and listened sympathetically. She’s also helpful and sent me a link to this page at the Microsoft store which explains that Windows XP users will need to upgrade and download some additional software to be able to successfully download a usable file. I wonder why the live chat people didn’t tell me those things.

The first software that needs to be downloaded and installed on an XP computer is supposedly .net 2.0. Remember that I’d just installed all the Microsoft updates on the XP laptop? It seems that .net 2.0 is “incompatible” with the version now on my laptop which was .net 3.? I think. Does Microsoft never update these pages? Does Microsoft think I’m going to uninstall a newer version of their software to install an older version so that I can download and use the latest version? And possibly screw up the one relatively full-featured computer I have working?

Hell no.

I poured three fingers of scotch and started reminiscing and… shopping. After a few moments of fond memories of Commodore 64s and the wonders of 1200 baud modems, I revisited my initial choice of PC over Apple some 20+ years ago and decided it no longer mattered since Microsoft Windows adopted the icon over text which was my initial objection. I still prefer text. It’s explanatory (unless written by Microsoft). Icons aren’t.

Theoretically, I could afford a Mac. In reality, I have more important things on which to spend the few discretionary funds available to me. Plus, I have all this PC hardware littering the house as well as one working laptop even if laptop keyboards cause me physical pain. A USB keyboard could solve that problem. It would be downright silly to spend $1000 or more to get a Mac. Even spending half that much for a new PC wouldn’t solve the problem of having a computer (with possible better hardware) that works just fine except it needs a new operating system.

Now I know that it’s a cliche that it’s men who won’t ask for help or directions, but I realized many years ago that it’s quite normal for females to also carry the genes responsible for that sort of behavior. I bit the bullet, poured two more fingers of scotch, and searched for local computer repair services. If you live around here, I recommend Paul DePringe. His rates are so reasonable, they are unreasonable. For example, for $10 he picked up my computer, delivered it back to me the next day with my software installed, and did all the bending and reaching behind the desk to hook it up. In addition, he took four hard drives and transferred all the data to the newly functional computer.

Oh yeah — that Public Service Message: No matter what Microsoft representatives tell you, no matter what Microsoft writes on their support pages, DO NOT EVEN ATTEMPT TO USE AN XP COMPUTER TO DOWNLOAD WINDOWS 7.


Oct 18 2011

Upset With Comcast. Again.

Tag: pet peevesDonna B. @ 3:22 pm

You know, I wouldn’t nearly as upset with Comcast customer service if they did not treat customers as if we are idiots.


Feb 04 2010

Vaccine-Autism Study Retracted

Tag: pet peeves,Science, Medicine, etc.Donna B. @ 5:26 am

The Lancet has retracted Andrew Wakefield’s study that linked autism to the MMR vaccine. Not only subsequent research been unable to replicate Wakefield’s findings, but now the General Medical Council of the UK has said that Wakefield’s conduct during the study was “unethical, contrary to the clinical interests of some of the children included in the research“.

This is good news, but in the general atmosphere of woo-acceptance, I’m afraid it’s too late. By about 12 years.

There is no evidence that vaccines cause autism in otherwise healthy children. None. Zero.

Orac, author of Respectful Insolence, has been faithfully battling autism and anti-vaccine quackery and other forms of unscientific, frankly silly, woo for several years now.

Tonight I battled woo on a personal level. I love my husband, but he’s so susceptible to believing “medical” advice… EXCEPT what his doctors tell him.  

If I stop eating tomatoes and potatoes, my arthritis won’t go away. If my husband starts taking alpha lipoic acid, his type II diabetes won’t be cured. Homeopathic remedies and the people who sell them are worthless.

If it were just my husband, I wouldn’t worry much. But it’s not. It’s seemingly everywhere I turn recently. And so much of the misinformation calls itself science, that one really has to be careful not to be misled.

arrggghh… I know this post doesn’t entirely make sense, but I’m not entirely free to explain all the run-ins I’ve had over the past several months with fads of woo.


Jan 04 2010

At My Convenience

Tag: pet peeves,stupidityDonna B. @ 9:17 pm

In what I hope is not a harbinger of the year to come, I spent a bit of time in customer service hell this afternoon. After 20 minutes or so of pressing 1 for the option I wanted and another 20 minutes or so of annoying music and commercials, I finally got to a real person.

He was nice and gave me the minimal amount of information available to him and said he’d transfer me to someone who could help me. He warned me that I’d probably get voice mail and to be sure an leave a message.

That in itself was disheartening, as it meant I’d be a slave to my phone waiting for a return call. But it was the way the promise to return my call was phrased that set me off.

The man stated he would return my call at his earliest convenience. That’s rather stating the obvious since I was the one leaving him a message, but it is an incredibly arrogant way to do it.

We all know that when we leave a message for someone to call us, they will call whenever they feel like it, and it’s rather nice to actually say ”please call me back when it is convenient for you.” 

But it’s not really not nice to tell someone upfront that you’ll call them back whenever it’s convenient for you. Really, can’t you just say “as soon as possible” even if you know it will be whenever you feel like it?

And he didn’t call back today. So, I’ll be taking phone to the bathroom with me tomorrow too, because I don’t want to inconvenience him by not being able to answer when it’s inconvenient for me.


Dec 12 2009

Saturday Surfing

*Buying cheap cheese is worse than buying no cheese at all. When you have no cheese, you don’t waste time, energy, and other ingredients trying to make it edible.

*I hate the scrolling twitter widget. I hate anything on a website that moves unless I tell it to.

*History’s First Redneck Mummy (lower left panel)

*I love my battery backup, because I hate power outages.

*Am I the only person who cannot manage to order a Pizza Hut pizza online? I’m beginning to think they want to be able to say they offer online ordering, but are actively discouraging anyone from ever using it.

* New study reveals most children are unrepentant sociopaths (via Retriever). And then they grow up and design scrolling, flashing widgets for websites or tests for “security” that can’t be passed. For a more scientific view, see The Science of Success.

*Speaking of pizza — a quick perusal of our buying habits over the past year says that this family orders pizza on average of once a month, and that approximately 25% of these orders coincide with having company. Yeah, I am just that lazy.

*Is it the least we can do? Buy Local, Act Evil. Just a thought here… but, if I buy the best that I can for the least amount of money, is that not also ecologically sound? (Note: I’m not saying I do this — see cheap cheese.)

*Tundra. Just go, click, and scroll. That’s what I plan on doing for the next hour or so.


Dec 02 2009

High Pressure Sales Tactics

Tag: pet peeves,stupidityDonna B. @ 9:02 pm

Williams-Sonoma crossed the line from presenting their wares to high pressure sales last week. I’ve been getting their emails since one purchase from the site two years ago, and occasionally, if I’m bored, I’ll go to the site and browse.

Since I’m still looking for Christmas gifts for a few people, browsing is a great way to get ideas and I love it that Amazon and other online sites are so convenient for this.

After my last visit to the Williams Sonoma site, I got an email thanking me for “expressing interest” in a particular item. This struck me exactly the same way a pushy and overbearing salesperson would in person. Why, I’m not sure. It was a visceral reaction.

A visceral reaction that prompted me to opt out of further emails. Of course I know my visit was tracked — I’m not that naive. I don’t take all that many steps to hide who I am on the web, but this struck me as smarmy and intrusive.

I have an account at Amazon and it tracks what I look at and what I buy. It offers “you may interested” ideas which are often hilarious as only an artificially intelligent agent can be. I bought the Prime shipping option. I shop there a lot and I should be known and welcomed. I also have an associate account there, though I haven’t set it up on the sidebar of this blog yet. (I will eventually, mostly because I like recommending books.)

This has made me question why I am not bothered by similar tracking of my actions from Amazon. The best I can come up with is that it while Amazon personalizes, it doesn’t make it personal. It doesn’t feel intrusive, where Williams Sonoma’s action certainly did.

Amazon, no doubt, has much more information about me than Williams Sonoma ever had.  

Another company using intrusive and high pressure tactics I’ve had to tell not to contact me again is Omaha Steaks. While it was two purchases and I was quite happy with the way they handled my special shipping requests — the ongoing relationship has not been a happy one.

It’s likely I would have ordered from them again sometime in the future if they hadn’t bugged me with monthly phone calls from representatives trained not to take no for an answer. The fact they are calling my cell phone and the attempts to lengthen the call got way too annoying.

No doubt these high pressure and smarmy tactics work on a number of people, but not on me. They piss me off.


Oct 24 2009

I Hate Leaf Blowers

Tag: pet peeves,whiningDonna B. @ 2:19 pm

Not all leaf blowers, just my neighbor’s. I hate the way she uses it and when she uses, but I especially hate how often and how long she uses it.

She rakes her yard with it 2 or 3 times a week. After she’s got several little rows of leaves and pine straw accumulated in two hours of blowing, her husband mows over them with their mulching bagging mower. In fact, he mows over them and the entire lawn three or four times.

I’ve seen her chase him, blowing one leaf for him to mulch.

This is only going to get worse now that fall is here. There will be new leaves and pine straw for them to chase and mulch every day. For hours. I’d hate the lawnmower too if it weren’t so much quieter than the leaf blower.

Anyway, so much for my plans to sit outside on this beautifully cool Saturday afternoon and read. Thank goodness our house has been “sound-proofed”.

UPDATE: On this wonderful Sunday afternoon, I thought I’d try reading outside again. My neighbor across the street fired up his leaf blower to clean off his driveway (a legitimate use, IMHO) and dadgummit he was joined by husband deciding to blow the leaves away from our house (another legitimate use.)

I sat outside for a few minutes waiting for the third leaf blower to join them so I could listen in three-part unharmony.

Oh well… maybe tomorrow. OOPS. It is supposed to rain tomorrow.


Jan 13 2009

ThinkHost: Pretends To Provide Webhosting, Pretends To Be Green

My LittleSister can’t get to her website dependably. Neither can I. Bet you can’t either. Nobody could yesterday. The really huge problem for LittleSister is that she can’t even get into backend to point the domain name somewhere else and just move the site.

Thing is, the tech support at ThinkHost is just horrible. Back in October, she opened a support ticket about a specific issue. It was something she’d always been able to do with other hosting providers with a few clicks – additional FTP functionality. That’s so easy on the three providers I’ve used that even I can do it.

Like a good customer, she went to their Knowledge Base for information. She found they suggest using a virtualFTP thingie (whatever that is) and that ThinkHost would set it up for a fee and it would then triple her monthly hosting fee.

The funny part is that they finally answered her original question after 15 days of telling her they couldn’t. This was after a message from tech support telling her how to cancel her account if she wasn’t happy with their service.

Now, I’ve got to let you know that I would never have signed up with this hosting service in the first place. And yeah, LittleSister knows that. She’s OK with me bursting into laughter within seconds of viewing the homepage.

What made me laugh? The logo tag: powered by wind and sun. Of course that explained LittleSister’s problem! She lives in Scotland and probably hasn’t seen the sun in several days. Yes, this is nonsense, but it’s just the way my mind works. Then again, ThinkHost is based in Portland OR and I’m wondering how much sun they’ve had recently too.

The site says “we provide world class hosting powered by renewable energy. let’s change the world together — join us today.” That is misleading because it is, of course, impossible. What they are doing (and is discussed on their site, so they’re not trying to hide it) is buying renewable energy tags, which sound a lot like carbon credits which have always struck me as similar to complex financial instruments, ie., useless and worthless paper.

Not that there’s not money to be made on carbon credits — my father owns timberland and has been approached with offers to buy his carbon credits. His scam-o-meter alerted him to the fact they don’t really make sense and he didn’t sell because he didn’t want to be involved with scammers on any side of the scam.

To LittleSister, this green thing sounded good. She is a good-hearted person and wants to do things in a way that is best for the ecology. And she’s a progressive and we agree on very little politically. But durnit, she’s my sister and she was scammed and that really irritates me.

I have little doubt that the collective at ThinkHost thinks they are doing good and no doubt at all they are trying. If they want to succeed, they are first going to have to refine that little thing about “world class” hosting. It doesn’t mean leaving your customers in the dark to save electricity.

What I do not believe for one minute is that the “green” and “progressive” angles are not marketing tools. When someone signs up for hosting with ThinkHost, they are buying conscience relief; psychological carbon credits. They are paying higher (in my opinion, at least) prices for the hosting because the company is in political agreement with them, plants a tree for each customer and gives progressive non-profits discounted hosting.

OK, that’s a bit snarky, but geez… I can’t help it! (sorry LittleSister). But you agree that non-profits are not helped by poor service and technical support. I know you do.

It occurs to me that these greenies may be simply capitalists/opportunists with a niche product designed to empty the pockets of greenies and progressives. Except they picked on my sister. Nobody should pick on my sister, ya know?

I’m through. For now. If you are in the market for web hosting, please overlook ThinkHost. How green can a site be if their service increases one’s desire to throw things which will then have to be replaced?


Dec 05 2008

I’m Grumpy

Tag: pet peeves,whiningDonna B. @ 2:30 am

I think I will just blog randomly about pet peeves or other crap that comes to mind. I have a head cold and a headache, too.

Want your website to look unprofessional and render it useless? Don’t date any of your articles! It’s so easy.

Want to sound really intelligent? Misuse “begs the question” when speaking or writing. I’m amazed at the number of supposedly educated people who use this when they mean “raises” the question.

Also, write “make due” when you need to use “make do” as it shows how well you’re making do with what you have. This is especially effective when criticizing someone else for not being as righteously frugally environmentally concerned as you are.

By all means, when someone who has a lot more money than you have decides to spend it on something you disapprove of, let the world know how much good they could have done if only they were as thoughtful as you would have been with that much money. Then, in the next paragraph write about how ”the left” and the government shouldn’t be taking people’s money away from them to spend on what “they” think it should be spent on.

to be continued… I’m sure.


Nov 09 2008

Don’t Hijack My Mouse

Tag: computers & internet,pet peeves,stupidityDonna B. @ 2:48 pm

Morons who put up websites that hijack your mouse and turn it into a silly moving flag or jumble of letters or anything else but what you’ve already selected for yourself are on my shitlist today.

Unfortunately, it seems some amateur genealogists have decided this is the way to make their family history pages flashier. What is does is make me automatically distrust everything I find on their site — even if it is well-documented.

I call them amateurs because anyone professional about anything would never dare do such a cutesy, moronic, imbecilic, and annoying thing.

Thank you. I feel better now.


Jul 19 2008

And Now I Hate Domino’s Pizza

Tag: pet peeves,stupidityDonna B. @ 6:57 pm

Here’s the relevant part of the email confirmation of the pizza order:

 Order #: 14065
Date: 7/19/2008 6:30PM

Thank you for placing your order at Dominos.com! If you have any questions
about your order, please call the store directly at 318-688-3030.

For security purposes, we call back all new customers to verify your order prior to delivery.
If you do not answer your phone or provide an inaccurate phone number, your pizza will not be delivered.

See that phrase “…call back all new customers…” up there. Believe me, we’re not new customers. Domino’s has delivered pizza to this residence at least four times in the last month.

See that time? 6:30 pm. It’s now 7:44 pm and no pizza here yet, even after two phone calls, the last one with a lying, incompetent, excuse-making, blame the customer manager.

The first call resulted in us being told no order had been placed. The second call got a somewhat better informed person who said the computer showed the order had been completed, and was puzzled by why we hadn’t got it. So she turned the call over to the manager.

He then informed me that both his employees had to be wrong because he was the only person there allowed to pull up orders by order number.  Huh? Why have an order number then? He then told me that driver, following company policy as all his drivers always do, called and no one answered so he brought the pizza back to the store.

Oh, wait… the first time he said the driver knocked on our door and then called, which is not what he said their security policy was – which is to verify all orders by phone.  Well, it’s a nice evening here and my son and husband were both outside and nobody pulled up in our driveway and knocked on our door.

Now, I have one confession to make – the phone number on the account is wrong. It’s been disconnected. That’s how “old” our account is.

He said he’d get the pizza out as soon as a driver returned to the store. I asked him that since the pizza would be cold would he consider knocking down the price. He said he was not allowed to do that. At that point I considered just cancelling the order and letting them try to hawk this pizza off on the next poor dope that ordered one like it. Then he’d have two unhappy customers!

I can’t imagine a manager unable to make price adjustments. I guess he’s too busy pulling up the orders by order number for his staff to do anything else.

But son is hungry and wants pizza.

Yeah! 7:52 pm and pizza is finally here! But I still hate Domino’s.


Jul 17 2008

I Hate Comcast

Tag: computers & internet,pet peevesDonna B. @ 7:33 pm

For the last hour (maybe more) I’ve not been able to connect to my website or to GoDaddy.com, my hosting service.

Of course, the first thing I did was contact GoDaddy. They told me Comcast was having “difficulty” connecting to their servers. Frankly, I was thinking… “um yeah, right.”

However, I have no trouble connecting to my website or GoDaddy through my at&t aircard. So, I conclude that GoDaddy is right and… who knows what Comcast says other than there’s nothing wrong with my modem. Like I didn’t know that I could connect to almost every other website I visit.

Why do I not know what Comcast says? Because I’ve been on HOLD with their crappy music and self-serving announcements for over an hour now, counting the two times they’ve hung up me and twice I’ve hung on their hold music. I’d love to hear what they say, but I’ve run out of patience!

I hate Comcast