Computer Searching

I’ve been using Google Desktop for a while now, and I do have to say that it is crap.

I am uninstalling it, and here is why:

I do a search with Google Desktop for “912″ on my own computer. 912 is the area code for basically all of Coastal Georgia.

Google Desktop returns one result from “My Chat Logs.”

Now, I navigate to “My Chat Logs” using Explorer, hit “Search,” and put “912″ in the “A word or phrase in the file” form.

Windows Explorer returns 38 files that include 912.

So long Google Desktop. You suck.

Anyone have any recommendations on a good Windows search replacement? Or am I going to have to go back to a dos prompt and a search like “dir *whatever*.txt /s”?

Browsers

Can anyone out there recommend a new browser that is not Opera, IE, or FireFox based that is customizable and works as it is designed?

FireFox’s built-in updater is garbage. It has never worked for me. Every time FireFox needs an update, I have to completely uninstall it, download all my extensions, reinstall the browser, restore my extensions, and restore my bookmarks. Even then, some of my extensions just don’t work (user agent switcher, view in IE, etc).

FireFox has horrible support for Flash. It took me six or eight attempts at uninstalling and reinstalling Flash last night just to get it to work, and even then, it is very slow.

FireFox is crap, it really is. It is the “Apple” of browsers. Mozilla has all these fan boys convinced that they are the best thing in the world, but when it comes down to it, it is just a nice spec sheet with poor implementation (from a user perspective).

It seems to be a cobbled together browser made by people who are fine allowing their users to get frustrated when built-in features do not work. It doesn’t even come close to having a shot at taking down IE until they make it so that non-geeks can use it without having any problems.

Hey Mozilla Foundation– you suck, and your products suck too. Take a lesson from Skype, and make your product’s slogan “It Just Works.” If it doesn’t “just work,” then I’m not going to use it. I’m sick of spending my days trying to figure out why my browser won’t load a page, or why the upgrade ate my settings, or why my browser is taking up 100MB of RAM. I’m sick of having to CtrlAltDel and kill the FireFox.exe process because it just decided to disappear, bless its heart.

So, any suggestions?

Email Clients

Ok, so I’m looking for a new email client.

I used to use Outlook Express a long time ago, but got sick of it. It had no spam controls, and I don’t really like running a standalone spam blocker that never seems to work anyway.

I’ve been using Thunderbird for quite some time now, and it was satisfactory for a while. Now, though, it just annoys me, and has too many issues for me to keep using it.

For example, the “Get Mail” button has never worked. It works for some people, but not for others. Whatever the problem is, they need to fix it. The “Get Mail” button is kind of part of their core functionality, is it not?

The RSS reader in Thunderbird is a piece of crap. It doesn’t seem to check my feeds at the interval I have specified. And, if it does check them, it is likely to pull entries from MONTHS ago as new, and put them in my inbox. For example, there is a deal site I go to that updates Monday through Friday. Today is Sunday. How the hell does Thunderbird think that they had 60+ new deals when they haven’t updated in two days?

The “new email messages” counter SUCKS. It has never been accurate. I am constantly told that I have an arbitrary number of new email, even though I don’t have any. What is the deal with this? It is not that difficult to write a piece of software that counts the number of messages marked as new, and reports them. This is a MAJOR inconvenience.

The Junk Mail controls are JUNK. Why is it that I cannot specify a particular word that will always trigger as Junk? Why is it that I STILL receive email containing nothing but Russian writing to my inbox? I should be able to block ALL email that contains non-English characters.

So, my question for you: Can anyone recommend an email client with a built-in RSS reader, built-in junk mail controls that include blacklists, whitelists, and character set filtering, and most importantly, accurate new-mail counts?

Ebay

I dislike Ebay.

It seems to me like it is full of idiots who have no problem paying higher than retail for an item of questionable origin, and then paying exorbitant shipping fees to get that questionable item shipped to them.

There are very few occasions when I will use Ebay. I have bought 4 items through them:

- Telephone. I collect rotary telephones (the 50s-60s-70s-80s Bell system models). I bought a nice chocolate brown rotary made in 1981 for around $25 delivered. Good deal.

- Web templates. Some guy was selling what he claimed were nice web templates– several gigs of them– for a few dollars. I bought them, and ultimately was disappointed.

- Microphones/Microphone stands/Microphone cables/Pop filters. I bought two sets of brand new microphones with pop filters, stands, and cables for about $90 each plus reasonable shipping. That was a great deal.

- Toner refills. I just received three toner refills today for my Samsung ML-1740 laser printer. They seem fine to me, although I haven’t used them yet.

I am considering selling bags of historic Savannah dirt on Ebay. I’ll charge somewhere around $5 per half cup bag, along with somewhere between $5 and– oh– $100 shipping. I’ll write my product description something like this:

“For sale: Historic Savannah Dirt. Founded in 1733, Savannah is Georgia’s First City. Now is your opportunity to own a piece of history– Historic Savannah Dirt. For a low price of $5 per bag, we will ship four ounces of Historic Savannah Dirt to your door. Dealers welcome.”

I’ll then expound about how I’ve seen people sell grilled cheese sandwiches, used chewing gum, and advertising space on their own body, and explain that if people are stupid enough to buy those items, there are certainly enough mental midgets out there on Ebay to purchase dirt from my front yard for $5/ half cup.

You want to know something that I hate about Ebay? The feedback system. It is LAME. I am the perfect buyer. I pay for my items immediately, and always provide positive feedback. But, of the four items I have bought, I have only had two people leave feedback for me. That means that my feedback rating is stuck at two, even though I have demonstrated my purchasing capabilities on four separate occasions. I would propose this for Ebay: If one party in a transaction leaves feedback for another, and that other party fails to offer feedback in kind, the party that does not leave feedback should automatically receive TWO negative feedback– one for failing to leave feedback, and one for being an idiot.

There. I’m done. And now I feel better.

…for now.

The USPS Sucks

Yeah, they suck BAD. My mailman is a jerk, too.

I’ve filed yet another complaint. So, aside from the complaint I just filed, my complaints include theft of property (believe it or not, he stole my beatup and battered US flag that was rusted into the mount– I complained, and the next day it was back, rolled up neatly, on the side of my house), harrassing my pets (knocking on the glass to make my cat run from the door– we saw it from the kitchen), and improper delivery procedures (received first and last notice on Jan 16th to pickup Christmas gift containing food items sent on Dec 5). He makes us go to the post office for every single priority mail package we get– no matter how small.

I’m sick of these jerks. I’m about ready to remove my mailbox from my door and put in a forwarding to my post office box.

Check out what these pricks did to my 8×10 prints:

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

New Computer Stuff on the Way

I sure seems that I order a lot of computer stuff, doesn’t it? Here are my most recent purchases.

My video card is starting to go. If I let the PC sit until it goes into suspend mode, I have about a one in five chance of the screen being corrupted when it resumes. I assume that it is because of the heat building up on the card, but I can’t be sure. It’s a Sapphire Radeon 9200 (don’t laugh), and is only about 18 months old. But, I do run my computers hard, so it is time for a replacement.

I was torn on video cards. I wanted something with 8 pixel pipelines, I knew that. I checked out the Radeon 9600XT, x700, and 9800 PRO. The 9600XT only had four pipelines, so it was out. The x700 looked good, but it seemed that it doesn’t perform very well– not as well as the 9800 PRO. The 9800 PRO was just too much money. I check out nVidia’s offerings– 6200, 6600, 6800, FX5800-5900-5950. The 6200 was a weak, four pipeline card. Not good enough. The 6600 looked good– and the GT version looked even better– but they were out of my price range. Same goes for the 6800– too much money. The FX series is very hard to find, and also doesn’t seem to perform as well as the 6000 series.

So, I hit Ebay. I found a lot of 9800 PROs for sale, but they were mostly used, or sold for beyond my budget. I bid on a lot of them, but never won.

Then, I found this little gem in ChiefValue’s refurbished section:

HIS Hightech ICE98-2H-ZAM Radeon 9800PRO 128MB DDR AGP 4X/8X Video Card – OEM (Refurb) – $84.99 delivered

Yup, that’s right– it’s a Radeon 9800PRO for $85. Check out the picture:

Image

This thing looks awesome! Let’s hope it works, and works well.

So, now I had some other things to get.

Jaime’s PC is now running an Athlon XP 2600 that is being cooled by a Zalman CNPS5100-Cu. It’s a nice little cooler, made of pure copper, and was very inexpensive ($13 from SVC.com). The only problem is that it is loud. Sure, I can set it to silent mode (20dB), but in order to keep her CPU cool, I need it on full speed (36dB). It’s just too loud when you consider we have three PCs in this room.

So, I ordered her one of each of these:

Image

Image

For those of you who have not seen the Nexus DF1209SL-3 Fan, I highly recommend you check it out. It doesn’t push a heck of a lot of air, but it is by far the quietest PC fan that is available today. – Rotation speed: 1500 RPM – Airflow: 27 CFM – Acoustic noise: 19.2 dB(A)

Next up was Jaime’s Northbridge cooler. She’s got a Soyo motherboard, and they use this tiny, high-RPM fan to cool the northbridge. The fan is obviously a ball-bearing fan, as I can hear them starting to go. The last thing I want is a fried motherboard caused by the failure of a $2 fan, so I will replace it with a Zalman ZM-NB32J North Bridge Heatsink. They’re only $4.25 each, so I actually ordered two– on for her system, one for mine:

Image

Next up is her video card. It’s also a Radeon 9200, but hers has a fan on it. It is the loudest, most annoying fan I think I have ever heard. It has a high pitch whine, and the wire connected to the fan has an annoying rattle to it. It has to go. The replacement is an Evercool VC-RHA Universal & Noiseless Heatpipe VGA Cooler:

Image

It’s only $16, compared to $25+ for most products in its price range, and the reviews were pretty positive. It has no fans and no moving parts, so that should definitely put an end to that annoying fan.

The last item I got from SVC is really more of a splurge than anything else. SVC.com has some excellent prices, and this deal did me in. I bought five sets of Coolermaster CRC-U01 Copper RAM Chip Coolers. Why five sets? Because they were cheap. SVC has them for $.99 a set– compared to $6-$12 a set on Froogle! I just couldn’t pass it up. I’ll use them for Jaime’s RAM (mine came with blue heat spreaders installed), the RAM on our Utility PC (used to handle some audio and encode for AD Radio), and some on whatever card or motherboard RAM or microprocessors without heatsinks:

Image

I also picked up some toner refills for my Samsung ML-1740 laser printer (that I bought brand new for $40!). The cartridges have the drum built right into them, but they only contain enough ink for 6,000 prints. That means that the “refurbishing” process consists of unscrewing the “refill” screw, screwing on a funnel, and pouring in the toner. I picked up three refills for about $5.50 each, compared to $80/cartridge!

All in all I spent $85 at ChiefValue on the video card, about $54 at SVC.com, and about $17 on toner and I think I got over $300 in value.

I’ll post some mini-reviews of each item once I get them!

Mike

Walmart 1 Hour Photo Fiasco

Jaime and I took a ten-day vacation, and our neighbor was kind enough to watch our cats while we were gone. We wanted to get him a nice gift from Chicago, but the day we spent downtown was crummy and miserable, and I was sick, so we ended up not getting him anything.

So, we decided we would take one of our nice photos from Illinois, get it blown up to an 8×10, frame it in a nice matted 11×14 frame, and give it to him as a gift.

What a nightmare it has been.

I ordered the photos from Walmart’s 1 Hour Photo on Thursday. It’s under $3 per 8×10, and the prints have always been pretty nice (this is where you should infer that I am a repeat customer who is familiar with the quality of their prints). The pictures were ready Thursday night, so I took the 15-minute ride out to Walmart to get them.

I had already paid for them when I ordered (much easier than paying at the store), so the pickup was smooth and easy.

I got home, pulled out my framing supplies, and eagerly slid the photos out of the envelope. I love doing that. You get to see all the details and colors that you just can’t seem to see on a computer monitor or a small 4×6 print. My excitement soon turned to disappointment.

There was a line, about an inch from the long edge of each picture where it appeared that the roller from the paper feeding mechanism removed the image. It left a big white line on one of the images. The other image (an 8×10 for Jaime and me) had the same problem, although much smaller. Still, I expect my prints to be perfect. There should be no added lines or banding or color errors or anything even remotely close to that. They should look like the picture I took, with a little room for color variation due to my uncalibrated monitor.

I didn’t have a chance to address the situation until today. I called Walmart corporate and asked what to do. Instead of saying, “We’ll get a new order printed up and sent out to you right away,” they recommended that I reorder the prints for in store pickup, and not pay for the prints until I got there. That way, I could bring the bad prints and exchange them for the good prints and not have to spend any extra on my two little images. It sounded like a plan to me, although I would’ve been much happier if they offered to ship them to me.

Again I order the prints, and again I get in my car and make the 15-minute ride to Walmart to pick them up.

I arrive at the photo section and explain what happened to the employee (I believe he was the photo manager.). He agreed that the prints were no good, and checked for the new prints I had ordered. Even though it had been an hour and twenty minutes, they were not ready. He said he would do them right away, and they would be ready in five minutes, which they were.

He called my name over the loudspeaker to let me know they were done, and I headed back there. He apologized for the original error, and told me that the new prints had the same problem. He said there must be something wrong with the machine, and would get a technician to fix it. He gave me the newer, less damaged prints in my original envelope, put a sticker on them, and told me to go to customer service for a refund.

Ok, I’ve driven here twice, have no photos to show for it, and now I have to go stand in the customer service line. This is not looking good.

I was number seven in line, and we were all waiting for the same register. Customer service employees were coming and going, restocking items or seemingly just looking busy. Finally, a few more registers opened up. Over twenty minutes after I got in line, and over 45 minutes after my prints were to be done, I was finally talking to a customer service representative about my six dollars and change.

I explained the situation. She started to process the return. Here’s where things get interesting.

See, they don’t like returns without a receipt. It says it really big right there on their sign. But, when you do online photo ordering and you pay for them online, you are NEVER given a receipt. Ever. You get your photos in an envelope marked “PAID” with a barcode across it. That is it. No receipt. Nothing. Just the pictures in an envelope.

I explained that I had no receipt. She tried scanning the barcode. Nothing. She tried again. Nothing. She tried again. I recognized that it was not looking good. Not only did this representative have little idea how the photo center worked, but she also had little idea about how barcode scanners work (as if the database said, “Oh wait– I DO have a row to return for that ID. Sorry about that…). She calls the store manager.

The store manager is one of those people who listen to what you say (or at least appear to), but never provide any sort of feedback of any kind. No head nod, no “hmmm”– no sign whatsoever that you have spoken and he has comprehended.

The customer service rep explains that I am “not happy with the prints” to the manager, at which point I have to butt in and explain that the 1 Hour Photo manager was not happy with them– I hadn’t even seen them. I have to go ahead and retell my whole story to this manager who seems to be staring right through me. I point out the receipt, the sticker the manager put on the envelope– everything. Still, very little recognition that I was even speaking.

He finally puts in a manual override and gets the cashier started on processing the return.

She then asks me for my ID. I ask her why. She says it is because I don’t have a receipt. I tell her I do. She says I don’t. I kindly remind her that I placed and picked up two orders without so much as signing my name, and that I wasn’t showing her my ID. If they can take my money without an ID, they can give it back without an ID. She says she can’t process the return at all.

I go flag the manager down (he was moving slowly– go figure) and explain to him that I had a receipt and, according to their policy, I don’t need to show my ID. I told him I had driven out twice for TWO pictures, have received ZERO pictures, and have spent over THREE HOURS on ONE HOUR PHOTO.

He finished the return, asked for my signature, I refused (again on the principle that I never signed to pay or pickup the order, and that they had my credit card number stored in their computer system anyway), and he gave me my money.

He grabbed the prints that the photo manager said I could keep (why bother– they’re useless to me). I asked him to destroy the photos. He said he couldn’t, and that since he gave me a refund, they were his photos now.

That is not the best thing to say.

They were not his photos. It was his paper, and his ink, but the photos– oh, they were all mine. I own the rights to the image, and I’m not going to let them float around Walmart. I tell him that he has to destroy them, and he says he has to take them back to photo for the return. I explain that the guy in photo said I could keep them, and I have chosen to destroy them.

He wouldn’t budge, so I said, “OK, let’s go back to photo. I’ll have the manager destroy them.”

On our way back to photo, I gave him a little lesson on how his company’s 1 Hour Photo works when placing online orders. I explained how I would never have a paper receipt because I am never offered one from the time I order until the time I pickup the photos. I also gave him a brief lesson on image copyright, explaining how the images were mine and the paper and ink were Walmart’s. I told him that ripping them up or putting a big black X over them is the appropriate thing to do with MY images.

We got back to photo, and the manager was at lunch. The store manager talked to the lady who was working the counter, and then ripped up the photos.

FINALLY.

My images are destroyed. I’ve wasted 4 hours and two gallons of gas, all for two photos totaling $6.04 that I still do not have.

I leave the store and head home. When I get there, I call Walmart’s Online support and explain my situation. The person on the phone noted my problems, and sent them along to the store. He recommended that I call the store customer service.

I call the store customer service, and explain the idiocy of their policy and the fact that I have spend 4 hours and more than the cost of the photos on 1 Hour Photo, and the representative notes it to pass along to the store.

Fine, I’m done. They don’t offer a credit. They don’t offer to get my prints done at their regional printer and then have them overnighted for free, seeing as I have exceeded the theoretical limit for 1 Hour Photo four times over and all. They only offer an apology, which is good enough for me to consider the issue closed with the stipulation that I will never do business with their 1 Hour Photo online service again.

Then, about 2 hours later I get a call. It’s the 1 Hour Photo manager trying to figure out what happened. I explain the whole return fiasco. He agreed that I would never get a paper receipt and that it should have been taken care of. Apparently the district manager or store manager was contacted and they spoke with the employees who dropped the ball.

I explained to the 1 Hour Photo manager that I thought he did a fine job. Printers break, I know that. The problem was with the return procedure and lack of knowledge for the customer service representatives. He offered to give me a discount on my next run of Walmart 1 Hour Photo prints, which I politely declined.

After all, my photos will be ready at Walgreens in about 15 minutes, and at a 14% discount.

Mike

I’m still alive

I don’t want anyone to think I’ve disappeared.

Jaime and I had a nice vacation in Chicago (blog post/pictures to come), and I’m just now seeming to get back to my normal complaining self.

More to come soon!