Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Google Hatchet is falling on the Chrome web browser

Over the years I have encouraged countless numbers of computer users to switch from the notoriously insecure Internet Explorer web browser to a much more secure Google Chrome web browser instead.

Unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of using ANY Google produced product is Google's notorious habit of randomly and arbitrarily discontinuing products with little or no apparent concern for the users that have come to depend on those products.

Recently millions of users of the Google Chrome browser have been getting notices that the notorious Google Hatchet is about to fall on their Chrome web browser. Users of the old Windows XP, Windows Vista, and users of 32bit Linux operating systems are due to lose all security updates for their Chrome web browser effective March 2016.

Conspiracy aficionados are claiming this is due to a behind the scenes 'deal' between Google and Microsoft to force owners of these older computers to purchase new computers running a new version of Windows. In reality, anyone with any real experience using Google developed products and services knows that this is just a recent example of Google being Google.

So.... The big questions is, if you are one of the millions of computer users that are seeing this message, what should you do?

1) If you are still using Windows XP then STOP. Upgrade if you can, to at least Windows 7/8, assuming that you just HAVE to keep using Windows. Upgrading to Vista is pointless at this stage of the game, since support for Vista is due to end in early 2017.

2) If you are still using Windows Vista, it's time to get your upgrade ducks in a row as well. Again, if you simply MUST keep using Windows, you should check into whether or not your computer can be upgraded to Windows 7/8.

3) If you are using a 32 bit LINUX system, thne it's time to look into a 64bit upgrade if your machine can handle one. If not, then for now, your best solution is to stop using Chrome, and switch to Firefox instead. Be aware that the chances of Firefox also following Google's lead on dropping support for these systems in the future is probably very high.

4) Win XP/Vista users also have the option of switching to Firefox as well, with the understanding that this may be a stopgap solution if Firefox follows Google's lead in support for these systems.

5) Needless to say, my suggestion for everyone is to upgrade to a 64bit LINUX operating system. If your computer can't handle this, then by all means, it's time to start shopping for a new computer.

You can see the details of the announcement of Google's intent to take their notorious hatchet to Chrome by visiting this webpage:

And if you do decide that switching to Firefox is the best solution for your situation, the simplest way that I know to accomplish that is to download it directly from Mozilla here:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Don't you HATE it when LINUX users are 'dissed by Corporate America?

As a new CPAP user, I quickly discovered that the SleepMapper software for my Philips Respironics® CPAP machine is only supported for Windows or Mac computers, with Linux users being once again, left out in the cold by corporate America. Like I have done in the past, with so many other companies that offer little or no support for those of us that use LINUX computers, I contacted Philips about the lack of support for LINUX users, and asked if it was Philips official policy that only people who owned Windows or Mac computers should be users of their products. You can see their answer to my inquiry below.

And as much as I hate to be to one to have to point this out to the fine folks at Philips, the way this answer translates back to me as someone that does not use a Windows or Mac computer is that, even though I am a Philips customer, I do not matter enough to them, being a big profitable corporation, to care about providing service to me, and others like me. And it is sad that Philips, like so many other companies, has decided to take this approach, when the effort it would take to support LINUX, considering how closely it resembles the BSD-based Mac OS, is truly minimal.

But I decided to take this rejection of my concerns as a Philips consumer as a challenge. In my original inquiry, I had suggested to their support personnel that it would not be all that difficult to modify the Windows version of the SleepMapper SD card import program so that it would work under LINUX when run in a virtual WIndows machine with the popular Virtualbox software. Since Philips would not attempt to make those types of modifications to their software, I set out to discover if there was indeed a way to get their software to work in Virtualbox.

I am happy to report that I did, indeed discover a solution, and have given a detailed explanation of that solution on this blog entry. Not only did I get the SleepMapper SD card import program to work, those same steps allow the much more comprehensive Windows version of the open source Sleepyhead CPAP software to work in a virtual Windows machine with Virtualbox and LINUX as well. To be honest, the open source Sleepyhead CPAP software gives a much more detailed analysis of the data from the Philips Respironics® CPAP machine than the Philips supplied SleepMapper software.

In closing, if you are a LINUX user who is also a user of a Philips Respironics® CPAP machine, and have been informed by Philips that they offer zero support unless you are using their software on a genuine Windows or Mac computer, hopefully a Google search has lead you to this blog entry, and you now are on your way to finding a solution, that you can indeed use not only the SleepMapper software on your LINUX machine, but also the more comprehensive Windows Sleepyhead software as well.

And Philips is more than welcome to refer any LINUX users to this blog entry, with my compliments. It's not that Philips couldn't have had one of their computer people work out this solution, it's that they simply didn't think it was important enough to bother with.
Fortunately for any Philips Respironics® users who only have access to a LINUX computer, I disagree, and offer this solution for one and all to use.

David Jarrett © 4/08/2015
All logos, trade names, trade marks, and photos of the same belong to their respective owners.
The use of such material in this article falls under the Fair Use provisions of intellectual property laws.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Target Product Protection Plan Saves the Day!

If you have read my post from January 2013 regarding all of the difficulties that I experienced with Element Electronics TVs, here is a follow up post to how the end of that story all worked out.

Back in January of 2013, frustrated with the poor quality of the two 26 inch Element TVs I had purchased, I finally decided to spend a little more and opted for a 32 inch Westinghouse EW32S5KW from Target. I also purchased the 3 year Target Product Protection Plan for the TV at the same time.  Unlike the previous Element TVs, the Westinghouse worked great, and for all intents and purposes, the drama of the bedroom TV was over.

Fast forward 618 days, or roughly 8 months, 9 days past the expiration of the original manufacturer's warranty. Turning on the TV resulted in what was obviously some sort of on board diagnostic display, no response to the remote or to the buttons on the case. Searching the net resulted in a few reset ideas, none of which helped in the least. So I dug out the paperwork on the Target Product Protection Plan, and placed a call. Target, as well as many other retailers, use Asurion to service their product protection plans. The technician that I spoke to had me try a completely different reset procedure. Unfortunately, it had no more effect than anything else that I had tried. The technician determined that the TV would have to be sent in for repairs. He explained that they would send out a shipping box, and a prepaid shipping label for the return, which I would receive in a few days. Throughout the entire call the technician was helpful and pleasant, and explained everything quite clearly. I would describe the quality of the service call and the technician's assistance as outstanding.

As promised, in a few days the return shipping box arrived. All I had to supply was the packing tape to seal the carton once the TV was inside. UPS picked up the box two days later, and I waited to hear what would happen next.  Four days later I received an email telling me that the TV had made it to the repair center, and was being diagnosed by a technician. Later that same day I received a second email telling me that the repair will require replacement parts, which have been ordered. Once again, I begin to wait to see what happens next. Four days later, I received an email telling me that the needed replacement parts are not available, and that I will be reimbursed for the original purchase price, which will be provided on a Target gift card. I am told that I can expect the card to arrive in 10-14 days. Six days later I received a UPS 2 day envelope with the gift card inside.

Fortunately for me, the prices on 32 inch TVs have come down a bit since January 2013, and apparently September is a great time to buy a TV, since retailers are trying to entice buyers not to wait for those door busting Black Friday deals. The day after the gift card arrived, I visited Target online, and begin to hunt for a replacement. After checking specifications, reviewer's ratings, and availability for in store pick up near me, I selected a Magnavox 32ME303V. Needless to say, I also added the Target Product Protection Plan to the purchase!

A few hours later, the email arrived telling me the TV was ready for pickup, and a few hours after that, I was unboxing the new replacement. It took about 3 weeks, but there is now a brand new fully working TV in the bedroom, and it has an additional extended warranty as well. From one viewpoint, the previous TV cost me less than $45 for 20 months of use, which is the price of the protection plan plus the original sales tax amount. What really worked out nice was that since prices have come down. the refunded amount was enough to pay for the replacement TV, the sales tax, and a new protection plan. To say that I am completely happy with Target's Product Protection Plan would be an understatement from any perspective!

For years I have read that the experts tell us that retailer product protection plans are a waste of money, but I say that this is simply not true at all. Particularly with electronics, which are almost exclusively manufactured overseas with little or no quality control or service/parts infrastructure. Like it or not, we live in a disposable society. When it breaks, we throw it out, and buy a new one. Long gone are the days when the purchase of a new family TV meant you could expect 10, 15, or even 20 years of  enjoyment. But then again, look how things have changed. Back in 1967, a 23 inch color TV cost the average household the equivalent of 3-4 weeks pay, almost 1/12 of their annual income. Nearly 50 years later, as Black Friday 2014 approaches, a 46 inch LCD TV can be purchased for roughly the same price, which is equivalent to about a half week's pay for the average household, or less than 1/100th of their annual income. There's no wonder nothing is built to last when things are built so cheaply! 

As my experiences with the Element TV products taught me, with some electronics you can consider yourself fortunate if it even works for 30 days, and exceptionally lucky if it works for more than the manufacturer's warranty period. Nowadays buying an extended warranty on offshore produced electronics should be automatic, something you would never NOT consider!

Hats off to Target, the folks at Asurion, and the speed and efficiency of the entire transaction. From breakdown to replacement in 21 days displays that their commitment to customer satisfaction is not just marketing jargon!

(For those that are interested, here is the actual timeline for these events)
Jan 11, 2013 - 32 inch Westinghouse TV and extended warranty purchased at Target
Sept 20th, 2014 - 618 days old, TV quits working, call made to customer service
Sept 24, 2014 - Return Shipping Box/Prepaid Shipping Label Received
Sept 26, 2014 - TV picked up by UPS
Sept 30, 2014 - TV arrives at repair center, diagnosed, replacement parts ordered.
Oct 4, 2014 - Notified that parts are not available, a refund will be sent in 10-14 days.
Oct 10, 2014 - Refund for original purchase price, via Target Gift Card, received
Oct 11, 2014 - New replacement ordered online, picked up locally, set up and working

All logos, trade names, trade marks, and photos of the same belong to their respective owners. The use of such material in this article falls under the Fair Use provisions of intellectual property laws.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

When is a pound not a pound? Another rant against modern marketing tactics!

In the beginning, marketing was about coming up with new and creative ways to introduce and sell products. Unfortunately, nowadays marketing is more about misdirection and tricking the consumer into believing they are buying something other than what they are really paying for. 

Take this product from Kraft Foods/Oscar Mayer for example-

Over 20% of the label at the top boldly proclaims the customer is purchasing a ONE POUNDER package. In reality, the fine print points out that 32% of the package contents are 'other ingredients', i.e. NOT ham. So the consumer is NOT buying ONE POUND of ham, they are actually buying slightly less than 11 OUNCES. 

Sorry Kraft Foods/Oscar Mayer, but this type of labeling crosses the line from marketing into outright DECEPTIVE ADVERTISING.

All logos, trade names, trade marks, and photos of the same belong to their respective owners. The use of such material in this article falls under the Fair Use provisions of intellectual property laws.