Saturday, January 31, 2015

Breathalyzer App

Breathometer Breeze is an app that will tell you your blood alcohol level after you breathe into a plastic device. It costs a $100. But it can save you not only by telling you if it's safe for you to drive, but also, how long it will be before you sober up and will call you a cab or Uber or find you a designated driver.

Link to Breathometer Breeze

Nimbus Note

Nimbus Note provides the same kind of storing notes, audio messages, movies, and more, and having them sync across all your devices. See the January 29 posting for Evernote which is similar. I have no clue which is better, but I do know that having one or the other is a must.

Link to Download Nimbus Note

Friday, January 30, 2015

Check, Please! Arizona

PBS just started airing its 5th season of Check, Please! Arizona. It features conversation and reviews of three restaurants each show, one restaurant nominated by each guest. You can become a guest on the show by filling out a short form on the website. The website also lists all the restaurants that have been featured on the show and you can see the reviews there.

Link to Check, Please! Arizona Website

Major Update to Autoruns

Autoruns is a fabulous free utility which shows everything running on your computer and in categories. As a result, you can see immediately and thereby control, for example, what programs are loading on start-up and what programs are in the task scheduler. This major update to Autoruns, an autostart execution point (ASEP) manager, now has integration with Virustotal.com to show the status of entries with respect to scans by over four dozen antimalware engines. It also includes a revamped scanning architecture that supports dynamic filters, including a free-form text filter, a greatly improved compare feature that highlights not just new items but deleted ones as well, and file saving and loading that preserves all the information of a scan.

Download Link

Do Not Trust Level One Tech Support

Let's say your Brother MFC-7225N prints fine but no longer scans from your computer, although it will scan from the machine's button and then from the computer. After researching the issue on The Google exhausting all the sensible suggestions, you call Brother support. The Level One tech is very nice but you have a sense she does not understand the issue. Your unease is heightened when she suggests a registry fix which she warns could mess up your Windows OS beyond fixing and which will also disable the flat-bed scanner, which she then backtracks on when you tell her there is no flat-bed feature on this model. After uttering an "oops," and putting you on hold, she announces it's a Windows flaw and you have to contact Microsoft to fix the .wai file in Windows. You ask to speak to a supervisor, to which she says, "I've checked everything with the supervisor and he will tell you the same thing." You politely say you still want a second opinion from a supervisor, and she puts you through. Once you explain the actual symptomology of the problem, the supervisor agrees that it's not a Windows issue but rather something wrong with the MFC install. Sure enough, in three minutes the problem is resolved when the supervisor walks you through an uninstall/re-install (a problem that you realize was the result of a mistake you made when you had tried an uninstall/re-install). You might also find the supervisor is very appreciative of the feedback you give him on the Level One tech's handling of the matter, realizing as you tell him that you are doing so as a favor to Brother so that it can do the further training she needs to actually be of help to customers.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Shared Picasa App

Once you download and install the (free) Shared Picasa App, it will load a list of ALL your contacts who have shareable Picasa albums. You then can download any of them, including your own.

Microsoft Office for Mobile Devices

Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are now available for Android and iOS devices. And you can have them all in one app--Microsoft Office Mobile.

Evernote as a Briefcase

Evernote is one of the most useful tools for computers, tablets, and phones. You can store any information on it as well as any document, and it will automatically sync that information or document across your computer, tablet, and phone. And because it will show up on your phone, it's like having a briefcase of all your important stuff with you at all times. So, you can use it to store and reference on your phone or your partner's or child's medications and allergies. Also, you can use it to store and show anyone on your phone your license or passport. Also, if you are of the habit of hiding things like jewelry or keys to your kitchen toolbox storage bin, and too often forget where you hid such, you can keep a note of your hiding place on Evernote. In sum, you just might find that you will consider Evernote the most important application/app you have, and you will pinch yourself knowing that it's free.

Dealing With a Lost iPhone (Yours or One You Find)

[From cNet]

Suppose you're strolling through the park one day (say, in the merry, merry month of May) when you spot a phone lying in the grass. Upon closer inspection, it's an iPhone -- and, like all phones should be, it's locked.
Now what? You're a good Samaritan, but how can you reunite the precious with its owner?
Simple: ask Siri. When you invoke Apple's gal Friday and say, "Who does this phone belong to?", you'll see the owner's contact information. This might help you reach out and notify the person before he/she activates Lost Mode and possibly remote-wipes the phone so there's no contact info left.
Now for the flip side: if you're the owner of an iPhone that goes missing, just what information is going to be revealed to someone who uses this tip?
The answer: the full contents of whatever contact you've designated as "me." That might include more information than you'd want a stranger to see, even one just looking to do a good deed.
The solution, then, is to create a new "Lost Phone" contact, put in only your emergency-contact info, then let your iPhone know that that's you. Or, rather, "me." (But, you know, you.) 
There are other ways to help get your lost phone back, of course, like adding emergency-contact info to your lock screen. And that would probably save someone from bothering with the Siri option.

Escalating at Amazon

Let's say you have a problem with an Amazon order (e.g., a monitor you bought entitles you to a $20 manufacturer's mail-in rebate, but the rebate instructions are impossible to understand). You phone Amazon for advice and direction, and the rep is not helpful, conceding that the rebate instructions are unclear. You have a frustrating conversation with that rep and ask to speak to a supervisor. You have another frustrating conversation where you are told: (i) there is nothing Amazon can do about the matter because it is strictly a manufacturer issue, and he refuses to acknowledge your point that Amazon could easily require the manufacturer to correct the issue as a condition of having its products available on the Amazon website; and (ii) Amazon will not issue you a $20 credit because that would be against Amazon policy. You now have been pushed near the edge by the stupidity of this rep. So, you ask to speak to a higher-up. At that third level of escalation, you will get acknowledgment that Amazon has quite a bit of clout with the manufacturer and there is no policy of Amazon that would prohibit its issuing you a $20 credit to maintain your goodwill. Then, all you need to do is ask for that credit, and it shall be yours.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Monitors

If you haven't bought a new computer monitor in a while, and have a 21" or smaller one, consider doing so. You can now get 24" high def monitors with HDMI connections for $140 (and have them delivered free with Amazon Prime in two days).  The colors are stunning and the larger screen size is worth it.

Link to Asus 24" Monitor From Amazon

Some Really Helpful Chrome Extensions

Chrome has become the browser that is used by more people than any other browser. Although not without its flaws, and some of its update changes are downright infuriating, it's speed and convenience are unparalleled. Just as apps make phones and tablets, extensions make a browser. Here are few really cool Chrome extensions (available in the Play Store):

Banana Tag: This extension is great for job seekers or PR professionals who need to know when their emails have been received. When you send an email via BananaTag using the “track and send” button, an email alert is sent to you as soon as the recipient has opened the email. The extension also offers analytic tools to track opened links within an email, to view how many times an email has been viewed, and whether the viewer is a repeat or unique viewer. One issue with BananaTag is that if you track and send an email to multiple people, it doesn’t track specifically which recipients have opened the email because only one tracking code is used per email. BananaTag tracks up to five emails for free per day. For $5 a month you can have up to 100 emails tracked per day.


Rapportive: This is an extremely useful tool for those in sales, business development, public relations or other fields in which there is constant outreach to new people. When you enter an email address into Gmail, Rapportive draws from the email recipient’s LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts to display a sidebar of information including a photo, work history, recent tweets and any past email correspondence between you and the email recipient.


Boomerang: This allows you to schedule emails to be sent at a later time or date -- even when you’re on vacation -- and also allows users to save template responses or other email messages for quicker response when dealing with a large number of clients or customers. Other perks of the extension are the ability to track the status of emails and even schedule reminders, all within Gmail.


Panic Button: For multi-taskers who are juggling dozens of tabs during the workday, PanicButton is a great app to have when you need to quickly hide all of your tabs. With one single click, a user can hide all open tabs, and with another click, restore all tabs.



Email This Page: Clicking on the extension icon opens up a compose page in Gmail (or whatever your default mail service is), includes an automated subject line with the name of the site you’re sending from, and a direct link to the page you want to send.

Whether to Buy a New TV for the Superbowl

The WSJ (Jan. 28 at D1) has an excellent article on 4K and other big-screen televisions. A few of the key points are as follows: (i) if you think you need a big room for a big-screen 4K television, think again ... their picture actually looks the best from close up; (ii) Vizio has the best prices but had serious flaws which have now been fixed, so, while the Vizio picture and features are not as good as other brands, it's now has a very good picture at amazingly low prices; (iii) Samsung 65" 4K televisions are under $2,200 (delivered free from Costco or BestBuy); and (iv) if you wait until later this year, you will see dramatic improvements in the "smart" features of the TVs coming online.

Link to WSJ Article

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Installing Window Updates That Failed to Install

Unless you set Windows updates to update automatically, you will get a notice that there are Important Windows updates ready to download and install. You will get a notice also when you  first boot up a new computer or you re-install Windows. Usually, the updates will install just fine, but sometimes you will get a "failed to install" notice for a particular update, e.g., "failed to install IE 10." You can try again ... and again ... and again ... and again with no luck. Then, you can research for hours reading up on possible solutions, one of which might be that the update needs to have other updates installed before it will update, and gives you a list of 5 such updates and how to manually install them. This might frighten you a bit. But, before doing anything, go back to the Windows Update page but this time, instead of looking at the Important updates list, look at the Optional updates list. Shzam, you just might find those missing updates. Install them, restart your computer, and then you can install that Important date lickety split with no problem.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Effective Way to Make Campaign Contributions

Assume you support Candidate 1 of Party A. Supporting that candidate with a contribution surely is a big help. At the same time, you might be an even bigger help by supporting a particular candidate of Party B. For example, assume there are multiple candidates vying for the nomination of Party B. If you can figure out which candidate might win that nomination and would be the least likely to defeat your Party A candidate, then giving to that Party B candidate could be extremely helpful in getting Candidate 1 of Party A elected.

Microsoft Support

Say you turned on your computer last Saturday morning and Quicken wouldn't open. Do not bother spending 4 hours on the phone with Quicken Saturday and another 3 hours on the phone Sunday. Everything they know you can find on The Google and much they don't  know. Also, do not spend 4 hours on the phone Saturday with Microsoft Level 1 support. Again, everything they know you can find on The Google and much they don't know. But, do try to get the issue escalated as quickly as possible with Microsoft, because the escalation people do seem to know what they're doing, and they can take you through the very painful and and difficult long, long, long process of re-installing Windows without removing your programs or settings--which is not something to try on one's own. And, what's really great, apparently, Microsoft no longer charges for its telephone support. Microsoft uses a system like Amazon where you fill out your contact info and request a call and you will get one in a few minutes at most,

Link to Request Microsoft Support

Friday, January 23, 2015

Counter-Intuitive Thought

You're driving down the street and need to re-fill your gas tank. You approach an intersection where there are two gas stations on respective corners, either of which is as easy to access as the other and both have pumps available. One shows a per-gallon-price for regular unleaded of $1.95 and the other of $1.72. You immediately jump at the $.23 per-gallon savings. But that might not be the optimal choice. Specifically, if everyone made the same choice, it is likely the higher-priced station would go out of business. And as soon as it did, its prices likely would rise above what they would have been if there had been a competitor across the street. In essence, then, it often can be better (i.e., a profit-maximizing and economically-advantageous decision) to pay a higher price where doing so keeps competition in place. Of course, your best approach might be to convince everyone you know to frequent the higher-priced station while you frequent the other one.


Chrome and New Tab

In the last couple of days, there was a new update to Chrome, namely, V39. The auto-update might have contained a corrupted file, which is easy to correct by simply uninstalling and re-installing Chrome. Unfortunately, you will lose your Modern New Tab extension which likely was one of your favorite extensions, and it has been removed from the Play store and trying to get it back by installing the CRX file won't work. Obviously, rather than curse the darkness, you will want to light a candle, but be warned that finding a suitable substitute is not easy. In that context, be assured that trying the following will do nothing for you except give you a splitting headache: Awesome New Tab Page, New Tab Redirect, New Tab Redirect Plus, Ultimate New Tab, Start, Infinity New Tab, HQ New Tab, and some others. But after trying to light all those duds, there is one shining candle on the hill that actually turns out to be better and easier to use than Modern New Tab. It's called X New Tab Page (Extension) and it's FABULOUS! So, as bleak as yesterday was, the sun is back out.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tips on Buying Airfare Tickets

[From the Wall Street Journal]

Three Tricks That Work:

1. Buy One Ticket at a Time: If you're buying 2 or more seats for a trip, there might be a lower price seat available but you will not get it. The airline will charge you the higher price for all seats. But, there is a lower price seat or seats available, and you buy your seats one at a time, you will get the lower price for the seat(s) available. The more people you have traveling, the bigger the savings can be.

2. Check Code Share Partner Prices: The cost for a seat between the two same cities on the same flight on the same day might be priced differently if booked on American versus booked on US Air even though they are in effect the same airline. So, check the prices on both sites before booking.

3. Buy Two Separate Tickets When Connecting: If you're flight requires a connection and plane change, you might get a substantially discounted price on one leg if a discount airline (such as Southwest) flies one of the legs.

Three Tricks to Avoid:

1. "Hidden City" Tickets: It can be cheaper to buy a ticket on a connected flight to the final destination than to the connecting destination, and so buying such a ticket and getting off at the connecting destination can be a money saver. Do NOT do this. The airlines forbid and have several retaliatory tools they can use, including confiscating your frequent flier miles.

2. Back-to-Back Ticketing: If you don't know what this is, don't worry about it. If you do, don't do it unless you do it with different airlines.

3. Fuel Dump Ticketing: If you don't know what this is, don't worry about it. If you do, don't do it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Smartphone Data Hogs

[From cnet]

Unless you have unlimited data usage for your smartphone, here are the 5 biggest data hogs that you might take into account to avoid exceeding your data limit (which can be very expensive if you do):

1. YouTube uploads

Depending on settings and various other factors, each minute of HD video you shot can be as large as 200MB. So if you upload just five 1-minute videos per month, that would eat a full gigabyte of your data allotment. Wait till there's Wi-Fi!

2. Video chats

Though the rate of consumption varies depending on the app you use and resolution of your chat, a Skype or FaceTime phone call can cost you up to 3MB per minute.

3. Online gaming

Turn-based games like Words With Friends aren't heavy data-users. However, real-time action games like Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 5: Blackout are a different story, with some estimates pegging their data use at 1MB per minute of play.

4. Music streaming

If a music service streams at a 320Kbps bit rate, that's 2.4MB of dataper minute, or a whopping 115MB per hour. Even if you tune in only a couple times per week, it's easy to rack up big data numbers. Fortunately, a lot of mobile apps let you downshift to a lower bit rate, a very advisable move if you must listen on the go. Pandora, it's worth noting, never streams at more than 64Kbps on mobile devices, even if you're a Pandora One subscriber. One other option: if your music service allows it (and most do nowadays), download your tunes (via Wi-Fi, of course) for offline listening.

5. Video streaming

As bad as music streaming is, video trumps it by an order of magnitude. Awesome though it may be to binge on episodes of "Black Mirror" or trending YouTube vids when you're on the treadmill at the gym, streaming can swallow as much as 50MB per minute.


Imagus

Imagus is a free Extension available for Chrome and Firefox. It lets you easily (indeed, you don't even need to click) enlarge any image on a webpage. And it lets you easily do a whole lot more, with many options for how the image enlargement works and what to do with each image. For instance, you can ask it to pre-load the larger version of all images on a page, add the links to larger versions to your browser history, and decide where the large version is shown in relation to your cursor. There's also a large list of keyboard shortcuts to save photos, their captions, or even rotate images as you're viewing them.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Google Voice Work-Around

If you don't have and use Google Voice, you don't know what you're missing. If you do have Google Voice, you might have noticed recently that hitting the "2" option does not get you to a long-distance line. Fret not. Just install the Google Voice Extension. Then, when you click on the GV Extension button, you will see not only the option to send texts, but the option to place a call and have that call originate either from any of your Google Voice-enabled phones (i.e., your landline or your cellphone).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Google Translate App

While not yet perfect, the Google Translate App has been upgraded substantially and is must-app for traveling to foreign lands. First, there is voice translation. You say something in English and it translates out loud into whatever language you want. And if you happen to be talking to someone who does not speak English, it will translate out loud back to you what that person says. Second, there is the visual translator. Just point your device at any sign or other writing you want translated and it shall be done. Google Translate is available in the Play Store for Androids and in the iTune Store for Apples.

Getting the Most Out of Apple iOS 8.1

[From the New York Times]
EVERY new mobile operating system needs a little time to settle in. But now that Apple’s iOS 8 has been out about four months — long enough to fix some bugs in iOS 8.1 — it is time to get used to its new features (which will  the features Android users have been enjoying for years).

CreditMinh Uong/The New York Times
KNOW YOUR BATTERY The new version of iOS finally lets you know exactly what is using up your battery life, instead of giving you mystery percentages. In the Settings menu, under General and then Usage, you will see an option called Battery Usage. Tap that and you will see a list of apps and exactly how much battery power they have used that day and over the last seven days.
The amount largely depends on you; I text all the time, and that is obvious from the usage patterns. Messages accounted for 21 percent of my battery drain over the last seven days. But if you find any surprising apps, just double-tap on the home button to see all running apps and swipe up to close the offender (or offenders).
TALK TO SIRI HANDS-FREE Holding down the home button to reach Apple’s built-in voice assistant, Siri, is so last version. In the Siri menu under general settings, there’s an option to turn on “Hey Siri.” Then, instead of holding down the home button, you can just say “Hey Siri” and ask your question, set your reminder or start a text message or phone call.
The feature works only when the phone is plugged in — a pretty big miss, considering that Google introduced a similar feature for Android phones in 2013, and it works whether or not the phone is plugged in (it’s activated by saying “O.K. Google.”)
But if you keep your phone plugged in while you’re driving, as many of us do (battery life still not being what it should be), the hands-free Siri service is a useful feature if you’re lost or need to start a call. And it can be helpful if the phone is plugged in across the room and you need to ask for the weather, for example.
IDENTIFY THAT SONG Siri now integrates with the music-recognition service Shazam. It can listen to music playing around you and tell you what the song is — great when a good song plays during a commercial or TV show, or in the car. To find out what the song is, ask Siri, “What’s playing?” The phone will listen for a bit and then, in most cases, say and display the name of the song and artist, including a link to buy it from iTunes.
SCAN CREDIT CARDS IN SAFARI This is a fairly useful tool for mobile users, but I wish it went a bit further. If you are shopping on a website in the Safari browser on either a phone or an iPad and you don’t have an account on the site, you will inevitably have to enter your credit card number.
Just above the keyboard, you will see an option to Scan Credit Card. Then, hold your credit card up to the device’s camera and it will read the credit card number and expiration date and enter it for you on the site. The camera doesn’t take a picture of your card; it just scans it and transfers the numbers.
It can’t read the security code — or it couldn’t whenever I tried it — and you will still have to enter your billing information. But it does reduce typing mistakes, and it worked reliably every time I tried it.
USE A DIFFERENT KEYBOARD For the most part with Apple, you get what you get; there is little to customize or personalize. But with iOS 8, Apple gave users the ability to download and use alternate keyboards.
The built-in keyboard is quite good — although the space bar is a little small, and we have all had our issues with auto-correct. There are two good options on iOS that have been available on Android for years.
Swype ($1 on the App Store) is a clever keyboard technology in which you drag your finger across the keyboard and it recognizes patterns and makes words. Some people find it faster than typing, and it has many devotees.
SwiftKey (free) is another strong option. It quickly learns from your typing habits for better predictive typing. (It also lets you swipe to type, like Swype.)
SwiftKey includes themes for changing the look of the keyboard, although they are limited to black and white and, at least when I tried it, a pretty tacky holiday theme.
Replacing the keyboard is a commitment, and I found Swype a little unstable. Most people will prefer the new multitude of apps that add colors and other personal touches to the built-in keyboard. Apps like Color Keyboard Themes and Custom Keyboard for iOS 8, both free, add colors, typefaces, styles and even sound effects.
Continue reading the main storyVideo
PLAY VIDEO|1:54

App Smart | Must-Haves for iOS 8

App Smart | Must-Haves for iOS 8

Kit Eaton explores three apps that show off what iOS 8, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, can do on new iPhones.
 Video by Dallas Jensen and Kit Eaton on Publish DateSeptember 24, 2014. 
TAKE BETTER PHOTOS The Camera app in iOS 8, whether you have a new iPhone 6 or not, adds some simple and some advanced features. For example, you can now control the light exposure before you take a photo. With the camera open, tap the screen to focus and a small sun icon will appear next to the focus box. Drag it up or down to let more or less light into the picture.
IOS 8 also adds the ability to create time-lapse videos, which is an amusing extra. Open the camera and swipe all the way to the right until you get to time-lapse. Click the Record button and hold the phone steady as long as you want the video to last.
Note that you will want to hold the phone really steady. One pro tip is to set the phone somewhere stable and plug in your Apple earbuds. You can use the volume button on the headphones (or on the side of the phone) to start the video, and then you won’t shake it when you tap Record.
There is also a self-timer built into the camera app. A small timer icon appears at the top of the screen when the camera is open. Tap it and you can set the countdown to three or 10 seconds, and get your group shots or selfies just right.
Obviously, iOS 8.1 is a powerful operating system with a lot of useful features built in. Finding how to make the most of them, though, isn’t always easy — and can take a little poking around.

Another Good Screenshot Program

Although I prefer Dowce [see 1/10/15 post], GreenShot has some features not available on Dowce. Once installed, just hit the PrtSc key to select the region of the screen you want to capture, after which a handy menu (shown below) appears.  You can instantly have your screenshot saved to the clipboard, Word, web sites like Imgur, and much more too. You can also choose other options (as shown below), such as capturing the whole screen rather than just a portion, and you can even capture full scrolling web pages that are longer than a single screen. Greenshot is a free 1.5 MB download and is malware-free according to VirusTotal and Web of Trust.  Note that the download page of the site uses a pop-up window to display the download links.  So if you can't download the program, try disabling your pop-up blocker if you have one.



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Disabling the New User Profile in Chrome

Google has recently added a menu to the upper right corner of Chrome that provides for management of profiles. It displays an avatar or picture and your profile name. If you are the only user of the browser, you might consider removing it. Here is how:
  1. Enter “chrome://flags” (without quotes) into the Chrome address bar.
  2. You will get a warning so be careful what you click on.
  3. Scroll down until you find the entry “Enable new profile management system”. (It’s pretty far down.)
  4. In the drop-down menu, select “Disabled”. The graphic below shows an example of the entry.
  5. Click the button “Relaunch Now” that appears at the bottom of the screen.
Chrome profile managent setting
Chrome will restart and the new avatar menu will be gone. If you want the profile management back, go to step 4 above and choose “Default” in the drop-down menu.

Battery Pack Backups

Those with the wisdom to have opted for a Samsung Galaxy cellphone (and other Android cellphones) where the battery can be easily removed and replaced, never have to worry about their battery's draining. They simply need to carry with them a charged extra battery. But the geniuses who brought us the iPhone, and most tablet makers including makers of Android tablets, do not allow the user to remove and replace the battery. While our research lab has not finished its extensive testing to the point where we are comfortable recommending a particular brand and model, iPhone and tablet users (and it would not hurt Android users as well) to buy an external battery backup charger. They are available everywhere and online and are small, light, easy to carry, and inexpensive, and will get your drained battery up and running in no time.

PS: Our development team is working to bring to market a cellphone/tablet battery that will last a week or more. If this comes to fruition, it's roll over Messrs. Buffett and Gates as we sit in our counting house counting out our billions while listening to our favorite hits, such as: Link to One of Our Favorite Hits

Tesla Model E

While not everyone wants an electric plug-in car, everyone agrees that the Tesla Model S is absolutely stunning. Yet, even those who might like an electric plug-in car have hesitated to buy the Tesla Model S possibly because of its $70,000 price tag. Soon, that will be no excuse. The Tesla Model E will make its debut shortly and be priced at just $30,000, allowing the purchase of two Teslas for less than what one has cost up until now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Whole Foods--Camelback Phoenix--Resource for Resolving Problems

A customer walks into Whole Foods in Phoenix (Camelback store) at 9:08 am to buy diced chicken cubes to make a Penne a la Dave dinner--which is something he has done many Fridays at 9:10 am to serve with pizza that night. The tray is empty so he asks the woman stocking trays whether there is any diced chicken, and she says, "Obviously, not," and then when asked when there might be some, she says, "No way to know." The customer then goes to the sandwich counter responsible for diced chicken, and asks when there might be diced chicken ready, to which the response is, "No way to know. We never have it ready before 11 am." The customer then goes to the customer-relations counter. not to ask for any special treatment nor for any chicken, but just to report that the sandwich department is giving out wrong information. When the customer-services rep cuts him off in his third sentence, he asks "May I please finish explaining the issue." She gestures, and he finishes explaining the issue in about two more sentences. She then just stares at him, and in response to his asking if she has any response, she says, "I do but I'm not telling you because you would not let me speak when I wanted to." He then asked if she had a manager, and her manager at that moment happened to walk up. She dissembled to him saying the customer had told her to "shut up," which he absolutely had not done, and that's why she was refusing to answer him. The manager shooed her away (and later was seen talking to her in a stern fashion off in a corner). But, more important, here's what then happened: Even though the customer explained he was not expecting diced chicken to be available 24/7 and was not asking for any special treatment and was not asking for diced chicken, and he simply wanted to report the poor and inaccurate customer service he had received, the manager went back to the sandwich department and returned in under a minute with diced chicken. But even more important, underscoring the benefit of always wearing the appropriate sports' team hat, the customer (who grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from Penn in 1968) and the manager (who grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from Penn in 1993) bonded--and exchanged email and telephone contact information.So, from now on, as long as you are in the right and behave appropriately anyone with any issue with that store, should ask for Mike Hardy.

PS: If you do have an issue and Mike helps resolve it for you, feel free to send him a note such as the following:

Dear Michael …

I’m the person who was in the store this morning with the “diced chicken” issue. I just want to take a moment to say how appreciative and impressed I was with how deftly and professionally you handled the situation. Obviously, you came into the situation when I was, to say the least, frustrated and perturbed. And that is what  made your handling of the situation so impressive. I trust and hope that Whole Foods understands what a valuable resource it has in your representing it with customers and in how expertly you in fact handle customers, and that Whole Foods is the true beneficiary of having employed you.

With much appreciation ….

[name]

PS: Please feel free to share this note with your manager or, if you’d prefer, I would be delighted to do a separate one to him or her.


Get Flux

Flux is one of those programs which, unless you stop to think about it, you probably won't even remember that you installed.  And that's precisely how it's supposed to be.  It sits there, silently in the background, helping to protect your eyesight.  
Once you've installed Flux, which is free, and told it where you're based, it automatically dims your screen background at sunset and increases it again at sunrise.  So whenever you use your computer, you're staring at a background light level which is comfortable for the current conditions and won't overly strain your eyes.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cleaning Up Emails Before Forwarding

Sometimes, particularly in responses, you will see email text where each line has a ">" or other such formatting things appear. It is easy to strip them out before forwarding or responding to the email. Here are three small, free programs for doing so:

Link to Email Stripper  (simplest of all--and the one I use)

Link to Stripmail (has more features)

Link to Clippy (has even more features)

HP Repair

If you have an out-of-warranty HP notebook, do not accept any offer by or pay anything to HP to have it repaired. HP will promise you that it will be returned within 5-7 days in the same state it existed when you first bought it and that you can track the repair status. None of that likely will turn out true. Rather: the online repair tracking system will never pick up the order, nor will the telephone tracking system; every one of the more than 15 reps you talk to will tell you something different, and everything every one of them says will turn out to be wrong; they will always apologize for the inconvenience and mess ups, but never offer to do anything to compensate for the inconvenience and mess ups [note: contrition without recompense is hollow, which HP does not get even when explained to them]; three escalations will do you no good; filing a formal grievance will do you know good; the return could take 30 days or more; it will not be returned in the promised status because the last rep to deal with the computer likely played with it and infused it with bloatware and malware; and, when you try to tell HP it might have a systemic problem, its management response will be: "You got your computer back and it works and we're not going to charge you anything, and you've cleaned up the bloatware and malware, so all is fine."*

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     * It is meet to note that the repaired notebook came back with a more powerful Intel i-5 processor instead of an Intel i-3 processor that was in the original computer. As a result, the repaired computer works better and faster than did the original one.

UberPrints

If you're looking to order just one custom t-shirt, or a large number of custom t-shirts, the absolute best online place is UberPrints. After using several others over the years, it is clear that UberPrints has them all beat by miles. UberPrints has a terrific selection of shirts, you can design your own, their prices are as good or better than anywhere, they are more flexible in their policies than any other site, they process the order and ship the shirt(s) far faster than any other site, and their customer service (by phone or email) is unmatched for quality, speed, and clarity of response.

Link to UberPrints

PaperRater

Without the need to download anything, PaperRater offers a free document scanning service. Just copy and paste any document into the PaperRater website, and in just a few seconds, you will get a report on spelling errors, grammar and usage errors, editing suggestions, and whether any parts have been plagiarized. You don't need to be a professional senior editor to love this resource.

Link to PaperRater

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Seeing All the Drivers on Your Computer

Why you might want to see or might want never to see a listing of the drivers on your computers, and basic information about each, is beyond this posting. But if you do, Installed Drivers List takes seconds to download and install and will instantly show you such a listing. It is free and stands alone so it takes up no computer resources. You likely can see why many think it is cool.

Link to Download

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Simplest and Easiest and Fastest and Smallest Free Screenshot Program

Trust me on this one. Whatever screenshot program or extension or plugin or technique you're using. Forgettabout it. Dowce (which rhymes with "house") beats them all. Besides making the taking of the screenshot a breeze, with one click you can save it to your computer, to your clipboard, and send it.

Link to Dowse Download

Advanced Philososphy

If you went to an elite college, you likely studied this in one of your advanced philosophy courses. But if not, or if the years have dulled your memory of some key philosophic concepts, here is one of the most important to come out of the Age of Enlightenment:


Tax Filing Software and Service

Unless you are very smart and have a good sense of the tax code as it stands, or have a very simple tax return, you most likely are way better off (time-wise and cost-wise) using an accountant. But if you insist on doing your own taxes, here is a good overview of the best tax filing software and services: Link to Article

Friday, January 9, 2015

Genius Scan

Genius Scan, a free app (although ad supported) available for Android and iOS, lets scan documents allows you to scan, enhance, build up a PDF document, email the scanned documents and save to your library. It has many advantages over any camera app for these functions, including: auto-detect the document; correct the perspective; crop out irrelevancies; enhance the image; create mutli-page PDFs; and email multiple scans at one time.  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Speaking of Goofy Airline Fares

The airline industry might or might not know what they're doing in devising opaque pricing schemes that no one seems to be able to figure out. The only constant seems to be that no two people on any given flight have paid the same flight for his or her ticket. There is one "quirk" where the consumer can out-fox the airlines: Round-trip tickets.

As it turns out, for reasons that make no sense, tickets for traveling East to West between two cities often cost less than tickets for traveling West to East between the two same cities. These differentials are somewhat muted on domestic flights but can be enormous (up to 40%) on flights between the United States and Europe. So, if you can begin your return trip flight in Europe rather than the United States, you can save substantial sums. For the one-time traveler, this might not be an option, but for anyone who makes several such trips, it's a no-brainer. And for the one-time traveler with limited frequent flier miles, those miles just might "buy more" if used on the West-to-East leg while less cash is needed to pay for the East to West leg.

Uberization Is Here and It's a Good Thing

While being fiercely fought by the entrenched businesses (e.g., the hotel and cab industries)  that depend on limiting supply that allows them to keep prices high and amenities low, the likes of Airbnb and Uber look to be here to stay and flourishing. Airbnb is all over the world, even in remote places, and lets one find short-term and long-term lodging that hotels cannot come close to competing with on any front (prices, square footage, amenities). Likewise, Uber is not just in big cities. It's even in Phoenix. And it beats cab service by a mile. With the Uber app on your phone, you can arrange for immediate pickup in the vehicle of your choice and know the price (including tip) before you agree. No more waiting for that cab that cannot find your house to get you to the airport on time. Flyte, which lets small plane owners make very low cost seats available to defray their costs, is facing some FAA head-winds, but the FAA's taking the wrong side of history and the wrong side in the economy is destined to fail. It is not too bold to say that what internet shopping did to the brick-and-mortar model just might be small peanuts to what Uberization will do to entrenched industries that depend on "regulation" to protect their flanks. This should produce untold benefits for consumers, and enormous wealth for those able to uberize particular industries.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy New Year

We had expected to be up and running on January 2. Unfortunately, this being flu season and the flu vaccine having turned out to be not as effective as hoped, we  have decided to close down both our publishing and research centers to allow our infected staff and workers a full recovery and to prevent any infection of our staff and workers who have not been infected.