Cat vs. Toilet Paper

My main question has to be “What would Sheryl Crow have to say about this?”.

This is worth a great laugh though. The tenacity of that cat is laudable. I just wouldn’t want to live in that house with a case of “Montezuma’s revenge”!

Posted under Amusing

This post was written by Marc
on October 28, 2007 at 12:42 am

Overzealous Marketing is a Turn Off

PICT3615.JPGPictured at left is a picture of the SIX (count ’em – six!) solicitations to purchase Christmas greeting cards from AOPA’s Air Safety Foundation that I’ve received in the past couple of months. I like the ASF and, in fact, did purchase some (darned expensive!) cards last year from them. They do good work to promote education and safety for general aviation pilots. But their marketing group has run amuck! One solicitation is sufficient to remind me or at least entice me to purchase their wares. That’s all I need. Two – maybe one last month and another this month – I would find somewhat wasteful and in bad form. But this is just silly. They are ALL addressed to the same name and address (AOPA only has the single identification for me) so it’s not like an accidental duplication has occurred. While I was considering ordering the cards again (this week is when I order such things) I’m feeling peevish and may spitefully go elsewhere for my holiday cards.

On top of this I find it insulting that last month I began receiving reminders for my annual membership which will be due at the end of FEBRUARY 2008 (that’s 5 months advance soliciting if you’re counting).

Lest I single out only AOPA, last year NRA started pestering me for my next renewal – get this – one month after I had just renewed.

I no longer subscribe to any physical magazines beyond those included in my various association memberships, but my wife does. And the common practice there is to no longer include expiry information on the address label and to start pestering you well in advance of the actual renewal time while providing you with absolutely no reference as to the actual expiry date. I find this practice distasteful and this was a strong motivator when it came time for me to consider whether or not to renew my own subscriptions. Michelle definitely likes the tangible reality of a physical magazine and so insists on continuing to receive these relics. This is the ONLY reason that I continue to patronize them.

I presume that these aggressive marketing tactics (FUD) work, but I prefer to be a client to be wooed rather than an adversary to be conquered in my relationship with organizations.

Send me ONE notice ONE month before my membership / subscription is about to expire. Give me all the information I need on that reminder – The date of expiry of the current membership or subscription and the date I should renew by in order to prevent a gap in service. Send me ONE reminder after my membership or subscription has lapsed in case something was lost in the mail or in my filing system. After that please go away. You will only incite my ire by sending me solicitation after solicitation. I’ve made up my mind and your pestering will not change it.

Also, don’t screw me over on the price – my loyalty should not be an excuse for you to take advantage of me. One of Mich’s magazine subscriptions (Oh hell, it’s “Yoga Journal”) offered me a renewal rate of only $19 for 8 issues (one year). However heading over to their web site and signing up anew nets me 10 issues plus 2 “gifts” (pdfs that I’d picked up the last time I renewed) for $16. How am I supposed to trust them after that? It’s only a couple of bucks but nobody likes to be taken. I think these industries need to learn what “Starbucks” and many others are learning. It’s all about the customer experience. Your customer needs to feels like they’re being taken care of (and at $5 for a cup of coffee that better be *some* experience). It is no longer merely about the product, rather the experience surrounding its acquisition is now on par with value of the item itself.

Posted under Opinions, Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on October 25, 2007 at 11:32 pm

Programs continue to run even after I close them in Vista

RecallSomething I’m finding quite interesting with Vista Home Premium is the propensity for some programs to continue running even after I close them.

For instance, if I’m playing any kind of media in Windows Media Player (audio or visual) and just click the little “X” at the top of the application, the window closes but I still continue to hear the audio track until I either re-open WMP or go to the task manager and kill it.

The same goes for Azureus. I had it open a couple of days ago to check something and closed it. Today I happened to be reviewing libraries on my Roku Sound Bridge  and see that Azureus is still serving up content if I wish to use it.

Checking  Windows task bar I can see no trace of Azureus, but open up the task manager and, sure enough, there it is. I do need to look into this…

For smiles ‘n’ giggles I just closed iTunes and can see from the task manager that it closes just fine. I re-opened it and started playing a song and then closed it while the song was in progress and it closed just fine.

So I’m not sure what the thread is here.

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on October 25, 2007 at 9:16 am

co-incidence or Kwality?

RecallA friend pinged me a couple of days ago with this question:

“Oct 7th you said you were getting a new PC with “vista”
Oct 9th the last post to your blog.

Co-Incidence? I think not….

So how is the new machine?
How is Vista?”

You know who you are 🙂

His question is well posed. My new computer has Windows Vista Home Premium installed on it. Although it’s been out for a while now, there are loads of interesting quirks with it.

Let me say that I really like a LOT of the new paradigms. The search is actually GOOD! I like the fact that I can hit the Windows key and just start typing a search for a program that I want to run, a contact name or a filename and they rapidly appear in the start menu. The Aero theme is pretty slick too. I’m VERY glad that I didn’t bother to try to retrofit an existing machine with Vista. Take my advice, unless you absolutely *love* tinkering with your box, just wait until you get a new one before indulging in Vista.

It took exactly 3 days before I went in and disabled UAC (directions here). As a friend at work stated “UAC is great if you don’t know anything about computers but it really gets in your way if you’re comfortable with them”. He’s right. UAC is that annoying feature that *will* prevent malware from taking over your machine. But if you normally like digging into the guts of your machine you will find it annoying very quickly. i.e. Open your hosts file with notepad, make edits then try to save, ooops! you should have opened notepad in administrator mode. Too bad so sad.

One problem that I faced was in using the task scheduler. It looks like there is a bug in the Vista Home Premium edition only that causes it to try to run under the system account even when you specify an account and password that you want it to run under. This might not be so bad except that it fails anyway. From my research this has been a problem for nearly a year now with no fix in sight (SP1 I await you). So my nightly backup has changed from running at a preordained early morning time via “Scheduled Tasks” to runnning “Daily” via “Syncback SE’s” own scheduler. This, of course then becomes dependent on when I restart my machine as to when backups are taken.

Also, Vista comes with a “Photos” screen saver, which seems to be the nicest one I can find for displaying both still and moving image files. But it consistently crashes (caught by Vista before it can do any damage. But I’d prefer my screensaver not to fail regularly. I’ll update this entry with window’s cute name for this (**update** “Data Execution Prevention”) but the actual Application event log shows as

“Faulting application PhotoScreensaver.scr, version 6.0.6000.16510, time stamp 0x467b2825, faulting module xvidcore.dll_unloaded, version 0.0.0.0, time stamp 0x41c6a36e, exception code 0xc0000005, fault offset 0x0d16f684, process id 0x1e48, application start time 0x01c8163284872183.”

More to come…

**Another update October 26, 2007 ** keyword: photos screen saver was closed

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on October 24, 2007 at 8:27 am

Product Recalls – Why not use what’s already in place?

RecallI was listening to Clark Howard recently and he was citing some staggering statistics regarding product recalls and the terribly low response rates. One of the items, some toy purchased through Target, had sold about 200,000 units yet the response rate for recalls was only 700 HUNDRED (!) returns.

This is pretty dismal, especially in circumstances where safety and health are at issue. Most people don’t spend their free time scouring product web sites or looking for product mentions on the evening news, assuming they even watch the news… or are in the room for the one, tiny mention of a recall that might come on… assuming that the station that was on even carried such stories… etc, etc.

I was then thinking about how our credit card providers feel perfectly comfortable sharing our personal information with “interested third parties”. I would suggest that the VAST majority of folks purchase items these days with either credit / debit cards or checks (nothing I can do for those cash purchases). The retail outlets that have been informed about product recalls are pulling merchandise off of their shelves. They also keep computerized inventories of their products. They further have access to when items where purchased as well as what credit card or (now with those instant checks) what checking account number was used in the purchase of those goods.

What we now need is a system (it should be a very simple system) whereby the retailers automagically notify the financial institutions regarding the recalls. All of the pieces are there. Now the consumer, rather than (more likely in addition to) the inane notices on their credit or banking statements, they can also have notifications of any relevant recalls.

This is even easier for online users as they usually must provide an email address or they have some kind of financial-institution-associated mailbox that can notify them the next time they log onto their account.

Admittedly there is plenty of opportunity for mischief. As you know I don’t have the greatest trust in our financial institutions to not abuse such a ripe potential “cross marketing” vehicle. But perhaps we can find a way to minimize their abuse and this can help to get the word out.

Posted under Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on October 9, 2007 at 8:33 pm

New Computer on Order

I just went ahead and ordered a new Dell Inspiron 530 computer.

Here are the specs, looking forward to seeing it in action!  I managed to dig up a $350 off coupon online. That, along with free shipping made the price pretty good IMHO.

1 223-2222 Inspiron 530,Intel Core2 Duo processor E6550 (2.33GHz 1333FSB) w/Dual Core Technology and 4MB cache $1029.00
1 311-7240 4GB DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz $0.00
1 310-8025 Dell USB Keyboard $0.00
1 310-7966 Dell Optical USB Mouse $0.00
1 320-3000 Video ready option w/o monitor $0.00
1 320-5747 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT- DDR3 $0.00
1 341-4811 500GB Serial ATA II Hard Drive(7200RPM) $0.00
1 341-5517 Dell 19-in-1 Media Card Reader $0.00
1 420-6540 Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium Edition, English $0.00
1 420-5769 Internet Search and Portal $0.00
1 420-5924 Icon Consolidation Application $0.00
1 463-2282 Dell Owners Manual installed on your system,click on icon after system set-up to access $0.00
1 420-6436 Vista, PC-Restore, Dim/Insp $0.00
1 420-6995 DELL SUPPORT 3.4,DIM/INSP $0.00
1 313-5582 Dell Resource DVD with Application Backup $0.00
1 420-7244 Dell Support Center 1.0 $0.00
1 310-1966 Mouse included with Keyboard purchase $0.00
1 430-0412 Integrated NIC card $0.00
1 313-4593 56K PCI Data Fax Modem $0.00
1 420-7468 ADOBE ACROBAT READER 8.1 DIM/INSP $0.00
1 313-5270 16X DVD+/-RW Drive $0.00
1 420-6464 Roxio Creator Basic $0.00
1 313-2758 Integrated Audio $0.00
1 313-2198 No Speaker Requested $0.00
1 412-0940 Security 30-day trial $0.00
1 412-0148 No Internet Service Provider Requested $0.00
1 412-1397 No Productivity Software requested $0.00
1 950-3337 1 Year Limited Warranty $0.00
1 987-3137 Dell Hardware Warranty PlusOnsite Service, Initial Year $0.00
1 982-4310 Type 3- Third Party At Home Service, 24×7 Technical Support, Initial Year $0.00
1 987-6238 No Warranty, Year 2 and 3 $0.00
1 960-3249 Banctec Service Agreement $.00
1 983-3680 Warranty Support,Initial Year $0.00
1 466-7687 Thank you for choosing Dell $.00
1 464-9572 No Preinstalled Software $.00
1 310-8626 You have chosen a Windows Vista Premium System $.00
1 420-7091 DataSafe Online Dim/Ins/XPS $.00
1 420-7092 DataSafe Online Dim/Ins/XPS 1YR-FREE $.00
1 987-4817 Insp Datasafe 3GB,1YR(Incl in price),DHS $0.00
1 988-0099 To activate your online backupaccount, go to Start, Programs, DataSafe Online $.00

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on October 7, 2007 at 11:23 pm