When Innovation Falls Short

I recently bought a laptop and included a carrying case with my order. There would be two shipments, first the case and a week later, the laptop. I was given shipping dates for both.

The case arrived a day before it was promised, which impressed me. I like to say, “Under promise and over deliver.” They did that.

Two hours after the package arrived, I received an automated phone call from the shipper, telling me I would receive a delivery tomorrow and would need to be present to sign for it.

Their message came a day too late.

A week later the laptop was delivered. The day after it arrived, I received the same message from the shipper.

This time the phone call came two days late.

I applaud their intent, but laugh at their execution. I can appreciate there might be glitches in perfecting a new process, but those need to be resolved before rolling it out to customers.

This is one more reason why I don’t like receiving deliveries from this shipper.

Long Live Xmarks

A few months ago, I lamented that Xmarks would be shutting down.  Xmarks is a free Web service that synchronizes web browser favorites and info between multiple computers and multiple browsers.  For a person who bounces between computers and uses four browsers,* Xmarks is a handy tool, greatly saving me time and easing frustration.

The problem for Xmarks was not a lack of users, but a lack of revenue.  Unable to monetize their service or to find a buyer, they announced they would shut down in early 2011.

I am now pleased to announce that Xmarks will not be shutting down.  This week I received an email from them that a last minute buyer has rescued them.  A company is called LastPass.  They are a “leading password and data manager” — whatever that means.

What I do know is that this news is like an early Christmas present.  Thank you LastPass!


* For browsers, I primarily use Firefox.  IE is there for when Microsoft forces me to use it.  I also occasionally use Chrome and Safari to check to see how well my Websites display with them.

The Best Laid Plans

Having decided to forgo Windows Vista on my desktop computers (which are my primary work computers), I’ve been holding out for Windows 7.  Towards that end, I had a plan.  It considered idea timing, low hardware costs, and software availability; the plan was to:

  1. Buy a new computer during the holiday sales (addressing the cost issue), order with the new Windows 7 (the availability issue), and work on installing all my applications and moving data over to it the later part of December, which is normally a slower time for me at work (ideal timing).
  2. Once everything was working satisfactorily, I would reformat the hard drive on the old computer (which had been have some flaky, but relatively minor problems — such as the 21 second delay and not being able to run Internet Explorer 7) and reload all the programs on it.  It would then become my backup computer.
  3. Then, the hard drive on my old backup computer would be similarly reformatted and used to replace the home desktop.
  4. The old home computer then would become available for re-use, re-cycling, or donation.

That was the plan, but my computer had different ideas.

Windows 7

I don’t know about you, but I’ve started receiving promotions to pre-buy Windows 7.

Although I’m not anticipating on upgrading any of my existing computers to it, I am planning to buy a new computer with Windows 7 once the general release occurs.

After panning Vista (repeatedly), I eventually relented and upgraded my “Vista ready” laptop to it.  (See, “A Foolish Mistake.”)  It was a disaster.  Many things did not work and even the Microsoft tech support could not fix everything.  Their solution was to reformat the hard drive and do a clean install.

After months of procrastinating, that is precisely what I did.  Amazingly, the reformatting (once I ascertained how to do it) went very smoothly.  The clean install took much less time and had far fewer issues than I encountered with the upgrade from XP to Vista.

At this point, I don’t hate Vista nearly as much.  Even so, I by far prefer XP.

However, even jumping to Windows 7 and bypassing Vista, I still need to make the migration to Office 2007, a transition that I dread.

The Highs and Lows of QuickBooks

When I am pleased with a company or product, I like to trumpet my delight.  When I am displeased, I prefer to not name names.  However, what should I do when a product that I really like, really disappoints me?  (As too often occurs with Microsoft.)

This is also the case with QuickBooks.  I use it to run my business; I depend on it to run my business.  Although I wish to avoid expressing “love” for inanimate things, it’s challenging to keep from saying that I love QuickBooks — except for when it is time to upgrade.

Over the years, I’ve bought new versions four or five times.  Sometimes the install goes smoothly, while other times it does not.  Three upgrades, I installed the new software, but the application generated an error message.  I called support, but since I didn’t have a support agreement, they declined to help me (less I paid them more money than what the new software cost).  I submitted that since it was an install failure, they should help me anyway.  They disagreed; they prevailed.  After a couple hours of online searching, I was found a solution, which got me back up and running.

Since that time, I’ve stopped buying the annual upgrades.  The risk is too great.  However, last month OfficeMax gave me a deal for the new version that was too good to pass up.  The install proceeded without incident.  I called Intuit for the final authorization code.  When I entered it, I got an error message.  Things went downhill quickly, with the customer service rep ultimately declaring that the install failed and I would need to contact support.  The price of that call would be two and a half times what I paid for the software.  With raised voice, I expressed my extreme displeasure and then hung up.

Upon cooling down, I rebooted my computer and entered the code again.  This time the “install problem” did not manifest and the program worked.  I would have been really peeved had I paid tech support’s exorbitant fee only to have them tell me to reboot.

Although, I will happily continue using QuickBooks, I strongly advise against upgrading it if at all possible.

An Ironic Conflict from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer

Earlier this week, I confessed to feelings of computer rage in dealing with three mystifying technical issues.  The second of three issues first surfaced when trying to do a Microsoft update from their Website.  I am an enthusiastic fan of the browser Firefox, only keeping Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) around for those times when Microsoft forces me to use it.  This was one of those times — and to my shock and dismay, IE did not work on Microsoft’s own Website; how ironic.

Confoundedly, IE would work on other Websites, just not Microsoft’s, while Firefox would display the Microsoft page in question, whereas IE couldn’t — but since Microsoft blocks update attempts from other browsers, all I could do was longingly gaze at the update link.

Although irritated, I didn’t think too much of it, until I discovered that FrontPage (another Microsoft program) wasn’t working either.  Now, things were serious.  Speculating that there was a connection between the two issues, I decided to focus on the IE problem, contacting my computer support folks in India.

I had been running IE 7 and tried the beta version of IE 8 without success.  My technical guru took me back to IE 6, thereby solving both problems.

He seemed nonchalant by it all, explaining that IE 6 was designed to work with Windows XP, whereas IE 7 was not.  How curious.

Now I can do Microsoft updates and use FrontPage, albeit with IE 6 residing on my computer as an apparent requirement.

Only now Windows wants me to update IE, but I’m not falling for it.  I’d rather have an old, unsafe version that works, then the new one that doesn’t.

Microsoft Live OneCare and Error Message 2100

In past blogs I first pondered about Microsoft Live OneCare, then reviewed it, next grumbled about error Message 2100, and most recently resolved the problem of not being able to subscribe to it.

Doing a Google search for Live OneCare Message 2100 produced 7,940 matches.  Of the results I checked, the problem was presented, but no one advanced a verified solution.

Well, for the sake of global computer sanity, I will share my solution!

First, The Problem: Microsoft Live OneCare ran fine in the trial mode, but when I tried to subscribe, I received an error Message 2100.  I could not find an answer online nor was anyone who I communicated with at Microsoft aware of what “Message 2100” meant or how to fix it.

What Didn’t Work: Uninstalling and reinstalling Microsoft Live OneCare, signing up for a second account, trying to subscribe on a second computer, and all combinations thereof.

The Solution: Instead of downloading the software and subscribing online, I bought the software on CD from a local store and installed it from the CD.  Since I already paid for it, I didn’t need to subscribe online, hence bypassing the problem.

Now I have Microsoft Live OneCare happily chugging away on three computers, (hopefully) protecting me from all manner of Internet evil.

Computer Rage

We’ve all heard of road rage — and I suspect have on occasion had that split second impulse to ram our car into an offending driver.  (Please tell me that I’m not the only one.)  Fortunately, common sense and civility prevail and actual vehicular assault is rare, being caused by limited number of drivers who should not be behind the wheel.

I think that road rage has a corresponding technology affliction called computer rage.  It’s when our computers cause us so much infuriating irritation that we want to hurt them; last Monday I had it bad.  All three work computers had issues, which were stubbornly hard to resolve.  Fortunately, it was a slow week for me, as I needed to devote most of my pre-Thanksgiving work hours towards their resolution.

At this point, one of the three problems is fully resolved, the most debilitating one has been resolved to a functional level, and for the third, there is an easy — if not irritating — work around.

Later this week, I will blog about these three issues more: The Microsoft Live OneCare “Message 2100” is resolved and I want to document my solution for the good of the industry; the Microsoft Internet Explorer issue was so ironic that I can’t pass up talking about it, while the Microsoft Vista problem will be a continuation of my ongoing rant about Vista — albeit with a more conciliatory tone.

It’s interesting to realize that all three of my computer rage issues have commonality with Microsoft.

[Maybe I need to go back to Apple — my first computer was an Apple IIe, while my second one was a Mac.]

Take My Money, Please!

Last summer I mused about Windows Live OneCare, a Microsoft solution that is an all-in-one service package that includes anti-virus, antispyware, firewall, performance tune-ups, and database backup and restore.  After ranting about Microsoft charging a fee to protect users from the inherent weaknesses in their own software, I confessed that I would likely give OneCare a whirl.

A few months later, I downloaded a trial version, which I could use free for three months.  After that time, I would need to pay an annual subscription fee to continue using it.  I also posted my review of Windows Live OneCare.

Over the past three months, my affection and appreciation of OneCare had steadily increased.  It made protecting my computer and contents an easy and painless task.  In short order, I gave it little thought except to periodically peak to make sure it was still doing its thing.

As the free 3-month trial period wound down, I was happily ready to plunk down my $49.95 annual fee and continue basking in computer nirvana.

I was a bit dismayed, however, when the screen in which to enter my credit card number lacked the conventional indications that I was on a secure sight.  Undeterred, I moved forward.  After submitting my information, my bliss was cut short when I was presented with an error: “Message 2100.”  (A Google search revealed a great deal of angst for this dilemma, but no solution.)

The link on the error message was of no help.  I tried again with the same results.  I then tried my other computer (which was also running the trial version), with no success.  Then I removed and reinstalled the software, setup a new ID, and got the same error.  I just want subscribe and for Microsoft to take my money, please!

However, I’m beginning to wonder, if Microsoft can’t even make the “subscribe” function work, can I really trust them to protect my computer?

A Foolish Mistake

I did something foolish this past weekend: I upgraded my laptop’s operating software from Windows XP to Windows Vista.

Some 8 hours and $50 later, I couldn’t even boot up in safe mode.  Today, after several more hours of being online with India, I think everything is finally working.  Still, I have a nagging suspicion that Vista install problems will continue to dog me as long as I own this laptop.

Regular readers of this blog are likely recalling me extolling XP, praising the news of “XP eXtended,” saying “Long Live Windows XP,” and even proclaiming “not now” after Microsoft’s successful Mojave experiment.  Indeed most readers were sympathetic and in agreement with my caution.  It was only a minority who urged me forward.

So, why did I do it?  I’d like to say it was a momentary lack of judgment or temporary insanity, but in reality it was a logical and strategic move.

First, if I waited for Windows 7 to come out in two years (or more), the learning curve from XP to Seven would have been even steeper.  Upgrading now spreads the agony out, making it less unbearable.

Second, it is time to upgrade my desktop and foolish not to buy it with Vista.  With tight magazine production schedules there is little room for error, so even losing a day to a not-yet-optimized Vista configuration would be disastrous.  Since my laptop is not critical to running my business, it is sensible to first learn Vista on it at a non-hurried pace.

Now that Vista is correctly installed and working, it doesn’t seem that bad, although it will take more tweaking to stop the incessant windows that forever prompt me to “allow” this or that innocuous task to continue.  Also, even with extra RAM, it takes much longer to boot and is certainly not as nimble as XP, but I think I’ll survive — it’s the price of progress.