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User Journal

Journal Journal: How to build website traffic? 1

I'm wondering how to build traffic to a specialty website. I'm not looking for the site to be slashdotted or farked, I'd just like to get the word out in a cheap and non-spammy way.

Does anyone here have any good suggestions?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Something wrong here

Wrong here and in many other forums, too. A topic comes up and quickly a few people cover all the angles - but then there's a herd of others who feel that they SHOULD BE HEARD who post all kinds of unsupportable positions. Then they all argue about it for a few pages.

We need more light and less heat here, folks. If you don't have something that adds more to the discussion than your need to be recognized, let it be.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Microsoft Won't Learn From History - Doomed To Repeat Mistakes

As I was reading through the latest "you must upgrade from XP NOW!" story - I was reminded of a time in the past when a similar situation came along. Windows was still trying to become useful; most folks used DOS applications and IBM wanted us to upgrade to their wonderful new OS/2 operating system. "It's a better DOS than DOS and it's a better Windows than Windows" they shouted - and it'd run OS/2 applications too. They bought advertisements just about everywhere and wondered why their sales were never more than pitiful.


What really happened is that their potential customers said "I've already got DOS and Windows and I don't have any OS/2 applications. Why should I spend money to buy a product that offers no functional advantage over what I already own?" And so the sales of OS/2 were a tiny fraction of what IBM thought they would be. OS/2 was a pretty nice piece of software and was a quantum leap over DOS and the Windows of that time - but real people don't buy buzzwords, they buy things that provide value to them and this is where IBM failed to deliver.


Microsoft didn't do too well with Vista; if it wasn't for the preinstalls on new machines they could have counted the copies they sold on their fingers and toes. Was this because Vista had issues with speed, memory use, compatibility? That's the common wisdom and now they've polished that turd and call it Windows 7 - which somehow people seem to think is wonderful. That's odd, because underneath the fancy revision to the latest desktop metaphor beats the sleazy heart of Vista. Windows 7 is to Vista what XP SP2 is to XP. Sales other than preinstalls are up - but those preinstalls are down because of the economic uncertainties. And how about those new features? Does that window "snap" thing excite anyone? It doesn't do anything for me (please don't resize my windows) and considering the amount of advertising featuring that one new feature it makes me wonder just exactly what new functionality one might gain from upgrading to the latest and greatest.


So what could I do if this computer was running Windows 7 that I can not do right now running XP? There's no valid answer to that question; XP is running all of my applications just fine so 7 offers nothing to me except the opportunity to purchase more new software that does the same things but only works under 7. No thanks; I know Microsoft loves my money but I don't want to spend it unless I get some real benefit.


There's another important thing that I have to consider: how about all the peripherals connected to my system? Do the manufacturers of those products have Windows 7 drivers available? Are those manufacturers still in business? Do they care? Well, no. So the "upgrade" to Windows 7 would reduce the functionality of my system and I'd have to spend even more money on new peripherals that would work with it. So we're back to that same old thing; I've already got all this functionality so why should I pay more just to have the same thing or less? The answer to that question didn't do OS/2 any good and it's not going to do Windows 7 any better. It's a bad deal and I'll offer a hearty "no thanks".


Those who say that Microsoft is going to stop supporting XP - I think that the use of the words "Microsoft" and "support" in the same sentence are a bit humorous.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ebay and the jumping of sharks

Ebay has system problems, blames customers for problems and leaves PayPal support to correct them.


I've been a Ebay buyer and seller for years. I never really encountered any problems other than the occasional bad transaction - and those were always resolved quickly and easily. That was until today: I'd listed some things on Ebay a week ago and the auctions ended last night. One thing that caught my attention: auctions of this type were always successful in the past but this time only two of six auctions got a bid - and they only got one bid. Oh well; that's the breaks. But then there's an auction payment and I notice that things don't look right. There's a link on the auction page that says "claim your payment now" but when I click it I'm taken to a PayPal page that wants me to create a new account. There's also a link that says "View PayPal Transaction" but when I click that one it tells me the transaction ID is invalid. That's weird; I sent an email about it to PayPal support and called it a night.


Then today I get a message from one of the buyers wanting to know about his tracking number. I check my PayPal account and there's no payments received and let him know that I'll send it out as soon as I receive his payment. He writes back that he paid me 5 seconds after the auction ended. Hmm; something isn't right here. I never received a reply to the email I sent PayPal so I spend some time clicking on the various links that should tell me when / what / how. Then I notice in one of the URLs that the email address being passed to PayPal is wrong; it's an old email address of mine which hasn't been active for two years. I notified Ebay and PayPal when I changed ISPs back then and I've had over 100 Ebay transactions since then with no problem.


It looks like it's time to contact Ebay. After poking around on their site for a bit I find that they have support options for all kinds of problems involving buyers or sellers - but there's no way to report a problem with Ebay itself online. After messing around a bit more I find a phone number for Ebay support and give them a call. After sitting on "your call is important to us" hold for about 10 minutes a customer service representative comes online. Female, sounded Asian - I kept trying to tell her that I knew what was wrong but she wouldn't stop talking long enough to pay attention. After finally reaching agreement on what was wrong her suggestion for resolving it was to have my buyers cancel their payments then create new payments going to my correct email address. This seems not to be a good idea to me - I've already got one angry buyer and why is this my problem, anyway? Ebay screwed up, took the money from my buyers and gave me nothing - but they can't tell me where the money is or accept any responsibility at all for what is purely their problem. After spending more time trying to talk to someone who is unwilling to listen I asked to speak with her supervisor. That caught her attention and when I repeated my request to speak with her supervisor she transferred my call.


But she didn't transfer my call to her supervisor - she transferred my call to another customer service representative at PayPal. That turned out to be the correct thing to do, actually. That person (another female, probably Asian) was very helpful; after I explained what the problem was she verified my identity and led me through a simple procedure that captured the funds from that non-existent account and moved them to my real account. Problem solved! That's the way customer service is supposed to work; identify the problem and solve it. Wonderful!


One of the things that that Ebay support person told me was that she'd fixed the incorrect email address and that this would not be a problem any more. So when I get back to relisting the items that didn't sell I pay attention to some details and find that they've helpfully filled in the wrong email address for me. I can fix it manually - but that eBay support person clearly lied to me more than once and didn't do anything to help. What does it say about Ebay customer support when it takes PayPal support to fix their problems for them? What's become apparent to me is that Ebay has changed their policies and procedures little by little until they've driven off much of their business - and makes up for it with their low budget user-hostile excuse for customer service. They can fill my email with all kinds of notices and offers but when it comes to paying me they can't find my correct email address? That didn't stop them from billing me for insertion and final value fees.


I won't mention the name of that Ebay "support" person - if anyone at Ebay cares, it should be no problem to look at this message and figure out who I am and what I'm talking about. And I'm going to remember that this is the corporation that Meg Whitman built and if this is the way she runs a business - I really don't think she'd be good for California and shouldn't be elected.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Charter cable sucks

So I was working on a big project that ran on into the wee hours; I was getting close to the end of a seemingly never-ending grind and *poof* my internet connection died. After doing all the obvious things to pin the problem down I decided that it wasn't my problem: Charter's internet service was down. My cable modem couldn't sync up and that was that.

I really needed to get the project done and there wasn't any way to pause and pick it back up tomorrow - just a few more lines and it'd be done. So I called Charter Cable's "customer service" line. Hey, it's a bit after midnight so their lines shouldn't be too busy, right? Yeah, 45 F-ing minutes on hold while the smooth voiced announcer talked up all of their offerings and worked extra hard on selling me phone service. I don't know who programs their "on hold marketing" but trying to sell VOIP service to people who are calling because their internet service is down probably isn't a good idea. I pressed the phone tree buttons to get to technical support and eventually (45 minutes later) a nice woman came on the line. The only thing she would accept from me was that my internet service was down - she didn't want to know anything about any troubleshooting I might have done and decided (surprise) that the problem was on my end. After she had me describe the lights on the front of the cable modem (yeah, it's not syncing up) she decided that this was a problem that they needed to roll a truck for. Apparently, technical knowledge isn't a prerequisite for customer service people at Charter.

This isn't getting my project any closer to completed, and talking to the "customer service" person was about as satisfying as talking to a brick. After listening to a description about how a splitter can fail and cause this exact problem and how often this occurs and how this is undoubtedly my problem (sigh) - I gave up; send your service truck and heaven help the poor guy that knocks on the door. So what happens next? First the cable modem syncs up but the connection isn't usable - can't access their DNS servers. Then ten or fifteen minutes later the DNS servers come up and the connection is working again. Wow, that splitter must have fixed itself (yeah, right).

So when (if) the Charter tech shows up I'll send him on his way; don't need him. But hey, let's back off a bit here and see if we can see what Charter is doing. Apparently (my guess) they're working on their systems but don't bother to let their customers or their customer support people know about it. Then they put unskilled people on the technical support lines and restrict them to a script. That script called for a tech to be sent to my home but he's not needed. It appears that by saving money on the tech support end they've wasted even more on sending a truck with a tech to fix something that isn't broken and they've aggravated a customer.. At least I'm not getting my phone service from Charter - imagine having some sort of emergency and reaching for the phone and - nothing. What's wrong and when will it be fixed? Who knows - but at least you won't have to deal with Charter's "tech support" because your phone doesn't work.

User Journal

Journal Journal: iPad - How it works for me.

I've had my iPad for a couple of weeks now and I'm very pleased with it. I won't go into feature lists; that's been done too many times already. And I'm not complaining about it missing ports and stuff - it's not a general purpose computer and I didn't buy it to use like one. So why did I buy one?


It's going to be my portable personal library; 64 Gigs of storage holds a lot. The first thing to go into that 64 GB was my music library; about 400 CDs worth. That's over 5,000 tunes. Next, I tried using it as an ebook reader. It does this very, very well - the screen is clear and sharp and the automatic backlight control makes it readable without eye strain almost anywhere; outdoors on sunny days is a bit difficult due to reflections. Considering the size of the average ebook, I could load 10,000 or more books and still have room for more.


I hadn't unpacked my library (real books) since I last moved and now that I've seen what this little wonder can do, those books and the shelves that used to hold them are headed for recycle land. No more dusty books for me. Some have complained about some things - like wi-fi problems and the difficulty in holding it up to read from; that 1.5 pounds starts to get difficult very quickly - mostly because the iPad isn't shaped to provide a good grip. After getting the case for the iPad this problem is solved for me; now I can hold it like a book and extended reading sessions are no problem. The only thing about the wi-fi I find awkward is the way the iPad shuts the wi-fi radio down after a while when you're not using it (to save power). When the wi-fi is restarted, there's a little delay before the connection is usable - so if I drop out of reading a book and launch a app that needs network access I'll sometimes get an error. Not a big deal; dismiss the error and try again and it'll work. The wi-fi range is surprisingly good, especially for something like this where it's in a metal case.


For me, having all of my "media" available in one place and ready to enjoy any time was worth the price and then some.


Journal Journal: A prediction of the near future

So I just posted a reply that was factually accurate, but critical of Microsoft. I've been here before, and I'm expecting some folks to down-mod that reply almost immediately.

There's Microsoft loving people here and they have been instructed to downplay any critical comments on this site. That's not what this site is all about and maybe some day this kind of back-door astroturfing will end. But not today; it's business as usual here on Slashdot and also at Microsoft.

So I'll be watching for the negative moderations and the nasty replies - they'll be there, they always are.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Windows Vista - my experience so far 1

So after my HP laptop failed and HP refused to repair it (even though it's under warranty) - I went out and bought a new laptop to replace that piece of ****. I bought a nice Sony laptop and it's great; runs MUCH cooler than that HP did. Stylish, functional - everything I wanted except for one little detail - it came with Vista SP1 installed.

So I decided to give Vista a fair trial - it couldn't be as bad as people were making it look, could it? Well, it does seem to be stable; I haven't had it lock up or do some typical Windows failure yet. But - aw geez, this is like the death of a thousand cuts.

User access control - what a joke. Run FOOBAR.EXE and get a popup warning you about it. So far so good - but where's the option to say that this program is known to be OK? They overlooked this little detail so every time you run that program you'll get the warning again (and again, and again). That's just plain stupid; has MS ever heard of a whitelist? One that isn't controlled by them?

OK, so let's say that FireFox and BitTorrent are installed. Download a file and it ends up where? Not where you expected - and not even in the same place from program to program. Was that USER\DOWNLOADS or was it USER\DOCUMENTS\DOWNLOADS? Or is it in some other unexpected location? The idea of virtualizing the download directories was good from a security standpoint - but it's a nightmare from the user's standpoint. I've got one recurring question - where did the damned file go?

Drivers are a constant problem. I've got expensive peripherals that don't work due to lack of drivers - and the vendors of those items don't feel the need to issue updated drivers. MS could have seen this coming and given us an option to use older drivers in a "compatibility" mode but no. Even new devices - right now I'm trying to pair a new Blackberry with this laptop using Bluetooth. 15 dialog boxes later I finally got the message from Vista that there was a "problem" with the device and that new (and unavailable) drivers were needed.

OK, so let me move on to the big issue here: in what ways is Vista superior to XP? If you count the "Aero" interface as a plus then that makes one. In every other way it offers nothing more - and often even less - than XP did.

Consider MIDI music for an example. I've got an external MIDI interface and a MIDI sound module - it should be possible to send all the MIDI sounds through that device, right? XP had no problem doing this; use the MIDI Mapper application to send the sound wherever you wanted. What Vista offers for MIDI reproduction is it's built-in software based Roland GS synthesizer. That's it - you CAN'T select any other MIDI device unless you manually edit the registry. Even if I could there's no Vista driver for the MIDI interface. Aw cmon, it's a USB peripheral; why on earth should this be a problem?

I could go on and on - there are so many annoyances and misfeatures that it's amazing to me that Microsoft sold it. It wasn't released as much as it escaped. If you're thinking of upgrading from a previous Windows version to Vista, don't do it! You'll be sorry; it's less functional and more annoying even though it's wearing a colorful clown suit.

Sheesh; this new laptop came with a trial of Office 2007. WTF were they thinking? Make people hunt for obscure options like "load" and "save"? It's even worse than Vista - rather than user-indifferent Office is user-hostile.

I don't think that Linux is quite ready for the desktop yet. But I'm sure that Vista is NOT suitable for the desktop. Avoid it!

User Journal

Journal Journal: So I called HP about this laptop

After much messing around they hung up on me. Then they called back and hung up on me again. HP support must be staffed by ankle biters...
User Journal

Journal Journal: Darn, screwed again

I was having some issues with my laptop - a couple of programs were causing issues. So I started de-installing the troublesome programs. I found one that wouldn't deinstall (Intervideo - shame on you) and was rooting the traces of that program out of the registry when the screen scrambled and the laptop locked up.

Started up the laptop the next morning and everything was fine for a few minutes then the screen scrambled again and it was dead. Spent some time tracking the problem and found that it was a bad motherboard. Too bad; the laptop had a one year warranty and it was 18 months old. Considering that I'd had 5 previous hardware failures on this laptop I decided to write it off and get a new one.

This new Sony laptop is very nice. One of the first things I did when I got it online was to visit Slashdot. I discovered a story about bad Nvidia chips and understood why that damned HP laptop died.

I've extracted the hard drive from the dead HP and recovered the files that I needed. I hear that HP has extended the warranty on the affected laptops; I've also heard that HP tends to lose laptops that get sent in for repair. I'm not sure what to do next.

One option is to take that HP laptop out back and beat on it with a hammer until I get my money's worth out of it. The other is to send it back to HP and let them fix or lose it. I'm not sure yet; I know that I don't want to mess with that piece of crap any longer. But do I want to inflict it on someone else? Maybe the hammer treatment is the best option.

One thing is for sure - no more HP equipment. None. That laptop, that scanner, that all-in-one - enough. I used to trust HP but now fully understand that they're simply selling crap that only lasts until the warranty is up. Never again, HP - no matter what you say or do you've lost this customer forever.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Love that iPod Touch

I was very happy with this purchase - then the January Update came along and now it's even better. I'm still learning about the things this device will do (in addition to playing music).

I spent more than the price of this iPod for a Sony Clie PDA and the iPod does everything the Clie did and much, much more. It's not often that I purchase something that's more than I expected but this little gadget is just plain amazing.

Sure, $400 is a lot of money - but this little thing is worth every penny and more to me. For once, I'm glad to be an early adopter.

User Journal

Journal Journal: iPod Touch acquired using intelligence

After chasing around Apple stores and various electronics retailers it was becoming clear that this item was not in stock and wouldn't be for two weeks or more.

At this point the wise shopper visits Apple's web site and checks their handy list of retailers; this is only somewhat hidden and only takes a few minutes to find. Also, check Epinions and look at the price comparison list - Apple stuff is price controlled so there's no deals, but you can get an idea of who is selling it this way.

Among the usual suspects on the list I found Target. Not the kind of place I'd think of for finding the latest high-tech gadget - and I suspect that not many others have considered this source. So I checked their website, looked up the product and tried their "find it in a store" function. Wow - it indicated that the three closest Target stores all had it in stock! But hold on a moment - computerized inventory systems are notorious for showing stock when there is none so this might not work out either.

Drove over to the closest Target and looked on their "MP3 Player" aisle. One side has dusty Zunes, the other side has iPod displays from a generation or two back. But in the locked glass cabinet under the display they had a LOT of iPod Touch boxes; both 8 and 16 GB units.

After the 30 or 45 minutes it took to find a Target employee who could actually open the cabinet I was on my way home with my new toy. How do I like it so far? Wow. None of the screen issues that have been discussed, works perfectly. I'm still blown away by the UI in this thing; sure, that "cover flow" effect is nice - but these "covers" are doing their thing above a reflective black surface and you can see their reflections in the surface. The graphics and the way they're animated (and the reflections) show that some obsessive people worked very hard on getting this "right". You won't see this technology in a Zune any time in the foreseeable future.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Microsoft at work on Slashdot? 1

Something that I've been noticing here on Slashdot is that if you post a reply that's critical of Microsoft it's almost certain to be moderated "Troll" - in a matter of minutes.

Other moderators come along later and mod the message up so the moderation system is working as intended. But it's starting to become obvious that someone has their thumb on the scales.

Of course, I can't see who moderated so there's no way to prove this one way or the other. Checking those IP addresses on those moderations would be informative though...

Media (Apple)

Journal Journal: iPod Touch - why market it if there's none to sell?

The old iPod Nano I've got is reaching the end of it's useful life; battery life is way down and it'd cost more to have it replaced than the old iPod is worth.

After looking over the options, the iPod Touch seems to be the one for me. They've been shipping them for a couple of weeks now - but I can't find one for sale in any of the local Apple stores.

What's up with that? It's not as though Apple has never released a new iPod design; by now they should have a good idea how many to have on hand before offering them for sale. And there's no indication that this particular model is selling like hotcakes.

After the nice Apple person at their San Jose store let me know they were sold out and I was leaving it seemed to me that Apple had just paid this person to send me away without buying anything. They could have saved some money on advertising if they're not really selling anything.

Will I go back in a couple of weeks (or whenever) to complete the transaction or will I change my mind before then. Sweet as the Touch is, it's a lot of money and I may not be so eager to own one tomorrow.

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