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Friday, March 30, 2007

Dear Microsoft Access

Dear Microsoft Access,

I just selected this database and clicked to open it. So can you please stop asking me again whether I want to open it? I have already thought about it, and I'm sure I want to open the file.

I know that sometimes files may not be safe to open. Thank you for the reminder. And thank you for reminding me every time I open this file. So can you please just open it now?


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New Fangled Copiers Suck Ass

Advances in photocopier technology are one example of technology run amuk. I tremble with fear and intimidation any time I need to make a copy. You need a PhD from M.I.T. to operate the damn things. Not to mention that most office copiers also function as a networked printer/fax/breadmaker.

Sometimes I try to copy something only to find it won't make my copy because there is some print job error clogging up the queue. That's just great, because some idiot is trying to print to 24"x36" paper, which doesn't exist, I can't photocopy my important memo. And instead of just printing my little memo, I have to press all kinds of buttons because the copier can't imagine that I just wanted to print my 3"x5" note on a standard 8.5"x11" paper. No, I don't want zoom! I don't look forward to the day they add speech technology. "Are you SURE you don't want me to enlarge that? It's gonna look small at actual size. And you'll have WAY too much white space."

I have a solution. Apple needs to come out with the iCopier. It would just have one button on it, "Copy". Oh wait, that sounds just like the copiers we used to have many years ago that worked just fine.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Apple iTunes Annihilates Windows Computers

The last time Apple QuickTime alerted me, on my Windows 2k computer, that a new update was available for download, I noticed something new. There was an (automatically selected) option to also download and install Apple iTunes. I didn’t know much about iTunes, and I don’t condone software bundling with updates, but I figured it would be innocuous enough to try it out.

I was dead wrong. What happened next was worse than any blue screen of death. It was total annihilation.

After the installation was complete, I had to trudge through that all-to-common compulsory Windows restart. After the computer shut down, it never started up again. You would think that Windows “Safe Boot” or “Boot to Last Known Good Configuration” would be able to start up even after a bad installation. You would be wrong. You would think that the Windows emergency recovery disc would save the day. You would still be wrong. In fact, the only resolution I (and many others) had found was to reinstall Windows and start over.

I did an extensive search for solutions before resorting to a full re-install. Reinstalling Windows 2000 is a major headache (a rant for another day). The most disturbing thing I found is that Apple has been cognizant of the problem for a very long time (at least since 2005) and has done nothing about it. The problem is caused by a conflict with a commonly installed Win2k CD writing software application. Apple, and Steve Jobs, should be ashamed for not resolving the problem. Or in the very least, should modify the iTunes installer to abort if the conflicting software is detected on the computer. It is irresponsible to allow a bug to remain that completely and irrecoverably (to any common user) crashes a computer, even if it only affects a portion of users.

For anyone who is experiencing this same problem, I ultimately found a way to avoid the reboot (see comments).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What Does It Cost For An $8 Treasure Hunt?

I was thinking about going to this treasure hunt that I saw advertised in the local paper.

But I decided to boycott this event on principle. The cost is not $8! The cost is $13. I don't care how you distribute the fees after I give them to you. Just give me one number to tell me what the actual cost is.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Flexible Savings Accounts

If you get health benefits through your employer, you may be familiar with a horrific thing called Flexible Savings Accounts.

The first thing you realize about Flexible Savings Accounts is that they are not at all flexible, they do not represent savings, and they are not accounts. It gets worse from there.

The idea of the FSA is that you should not pay taxes on earnings that you earmark toward out-of-pocket expenses for medical care. But since you cannot be trusted, the government decided that you have to GUESS at the beginning of the year how much you will spend. If you guess wrong, you lose the money. So sorry.

The following are the simple steps you need to perform to save money with a Flexible Spending Account:

1. Take a wild guess how much your family will spend out of pocket on medical care next year. Warning: Do not guess wrong or you will lose any extra money that you guessed over the actual amount.

2. Let you employer hold some of your paycheck aside, so you can possibly be reimbursed later.

3. Fax receipts and claim forms with all of the details of your medical expenses to a claims administrator. Warning: You must include all of the necessary information, or they will not give you back your own money (that they took in step 2 above). This includes date, provider, services provided, member name, amount, etc. Just imagine filling out a dozen rebate applications, and you will start to get the idea.

4. Wait and hope that your expenses are approved so they can give you back your money.

5. Any amount that you overestimated in step 1 above is donated to your employer at the end of the year. Any amount that you underestimated, tough luck because you can not change your election during the year.

6. Repeat the process, starting back at step 1 for next year.

Example: Suppose you set aside $200 in your FSA, you are in a 25% tax bracket, and by some miracle you guessed right and provided the paperwork to get all of your money reimbursed. Congratulations - you just saved a total of $50 on your taxes! (Try not to think about the fact that for all that time you spent you could have just gone out and mowed 10 lawns for $20 each.)

Monday, March 12, 2007


Don't waste your time with a website called Peerflix.

Previously, I raved about Lala - a site where you can send and receive used CDs. Peerflix is the same concept, but for movie DVDs instead of music CDs. The only difference between the two is that Lala is awesome, and Peerflix stinks.

The biggest problem - Peerflix decided to have users mail DVDs in paper mailers. This means that (a) you have to fumble around with printing out mailers and wrapping DVDs with origami and scotch tape, and (b) your DVDs will be delivered cracked and un-usable. My very first DVD, after waiting 2 months, arrived cracked. The idiot who sent it to me didn't even use the correct mailer. He made his own mailer that was marked postage due, barely legible, etc.

Other problems - The Peerflix website is annoying. When you have a DVD that someone wants, it sends you an e-mail. If you don't immediately respond that you are sending the item, it follows up with a "you lost your chance" e-mail and labels your DVD as "not interested". And the DVDs are not all of equal value. There is a cryptic system that assigns dollar values to your DVDs. Also, did I mention that the DVDs arrive cracked and unusable?

In case you are wondering what I need to do to get a credit for my cracked/unusable CD, I checked on the website. It took me a few minutes, but I finally located a page with instructions for "filing a claim". I need to print out one of those origami mailers, and send them the cracked DVD so they can examine it to determiine if I qualify for a credit !

That really herniates my disc.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Wind Blows

The other day, I came home from work to find an empty space where there had previously been two garbage cans that I put out in the morning. It seems that my garbage cans blew away due to high gusts of wind in the afternoon.

Unless you are planning to fly a kite, wind sucks. I hate wind. Tornadoes...hurricanes...wind burn...wind chill! It might be 75F, but it feels like fracking -20F with the wind chill.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Best Buy Sucks #3

According to the Hartford Courant, Best Buy has confirmed that they have an intranet site that can only be accessed by employees that looks almost identical to the internet site. Apparently, employees of Best Buy have used this intranet site to deny customers discounts that were advertised on the company's internet site. Could Best Buy be intentionally misleading customers by advertising one price on the internet, but then having sales people pull-up the identical looking intranet site inside the store with a different price? I certainly hope not, but it's hard to imagine that in a tech-savvy store like Best Buy, the salesperson couldn't have just checked the price displayed advertised on the web.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Enclosed Is Your Taxcut Software

It's tax preparation season, so it would be easy for me to rant about the crappy features in my tax software. But my dignity is above all of that, so I am ranting about the crappy marketing strategy of my tax software.

For the last 8 years or so, I have purchased H&R Block Taxcut software (formerly Kiplinger Taxcut). This year I was pleased when they sent me the following package, including the CD, at no charge:

As you can see, the package clearly says "Premium Federal + State", "Everything you need", "Full version", and "Enclosed is everything you need to complete your federal and state return". Let me repeat that last part again - "Enclosed is everything you need to complete your federal and state return". Right at the top of the package.

Why do I think they would give me the software for free? Am I some sort of idiot? Good question. I don't know. I thought maybe (1) they charge for filing the return electronically, (2) they give you the basic version and try to upsell you an upgraded version, or (3) they try to charge you for certain features, such as tax advisor or deduction pro.

Now, just in case the marketing people at Taxcut are a bunch of SLEAZY DIRTBAGS who LIE and COMMIT FRAUD I decided to load the software in February to make sure I indeed had "everything I need to complete my federal and state return". Sure enough, I loaded the CD and it took me to their website where I could buy the software for $19.99. So the package that they sent me contained precisely nothing but a pointer to their website (you have to download updates to all of the files after you purchase the software anyway). So I went to ebay and bought the software for $0.01 plus $3 shipping.

The people I feel sorry for are the poor souls who load the CD on April 14. They are stuck paying $20 (plus whatever it costs for State), with little alternative.

That really taxes my patience.