Thursday, January 31, 2008


My computer recently developed a physical problem. Being bounced around in a truck will do that to a person - apparently computers, too :-). So, because I'm never home long enough to get it fixed somewhere, and I can't live without it for the time it takes to send it in, I bought a new one. I won't have to do that again because now I'll get the broken one fixed, and if/when I need to fix the new one I'll use that in the meantime.

Anyway, a couple of the programs I rely heavily on - Outlook and PlanPlus for Outlook, are not migrating well to the new computer. They work just fine on either one, but are being extremely stubborn about accepting my data. Last night I thought I had it working, so I rebooted and opened it again, just to check. Opening my 'Master Task List' took a very long time (around 10 minutes - I have hundreds of tasks I intend to get to someday)... and once it was done loading each task it proceeded to delete each task. Calmly and methodically, as I watched in horror.

It's been two full days of System Restore, resetting to factory settings, thinking things are working and downloading new email, then finding out it's not working so I have data all over the place, with no full copy anywhere, old system or new. It's some of the most frustrating work I've ever done, and when I finally get it all to work, I'll have the satisfaction of knowing that I am in the same position I was in a couple weeks ago before my old computer broke, minus about two weeks wages. Nice.

But through this all has been a bright shining spot: Siber Systems RoboForm. I've re-installed it many times in the last few days, every time it has found its data if it's anywhere on the system, and if it wasn't on the system it has been easy to import. This program not only remembers all of my passwords, and information for filling out web forms, but will enter the password information into a login page with one click. It won't enter that information into a phishing site, and it keeps all of that data encrypted, only opening it with a master password of your choice.

I just re-installed it again, and even though I bought the program years ago for about $10, I go to the site's web site and enter my name and email address and they remember me... and happily activate my new installation without any hassles, complaints, or demands for more money. And this is not the old, clunky version I originally bought, this is their newest, sleekest, coolest version. Again, they did this for *no* extra money.

The program that I can't get to work yet, PlanPLus, charged me $50 for the priveledge of upgrading to a release with fewer features, because the one I purchased won't run on my new Vista OS. (more on Vista later, early returns are surprisingly good).

So even though I'm not yet calling up Siber Systems and trying to get them to take a little more money, I just wanted my friend(s) to know that there is one software company that knows how to take care of its customers. If you need any of the software they offer, go buy it now.

- Trevor.
Perrysburg, OH

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Death Threats

I find it worth noting that in my life, I have not had one credible death threat.

- Trevor.
Resaca, GA

Monday, January 14, 2008

Strange Things I've Seen While Driving, Part I

I used to have a job that got me to Chicago about five nights a week. One night after loading I was stopped at a red light on the service road, about to get back on the Dan Ryan and head to Holland, MI. I happened to glance down at the lane next to me, and I noticed something strange. It appeared that the second car in line was actually touching the car in front.

I looked closer.

Yep, they were definitely touching. Very odd.

The light turned green, and the cars took off - much faster than my truck could take off, of course. When the first car was a safe distance in front of me, its turn signal came on, and it changed lanes to the right, just like a good driver will when there's no reason to be in the left lane.

The car that had been touching the lead car pulled up even with him, veered left suddenly, then veered back right very suddenly, and SLAMMED into the other car. They both spun a little and came to a halt, nearly, but not completely, blocking the road.

I wasn't up to speed yet, so I stayed slow to see if I was going to have to stop or if I could make it past... when the door opened on the car that did the crashing.

A woman got out, went to the other car, opened the door, dragged a guy out of the driver's seat, and started beating the hell out of him.

True story.

- Trevor.
Denver, CO


PayPal is a lot of things, most of them good. But one thing they do is not so good. I won't go into specific details about what happened that made me want to write about this, as it involves people who are not me.

When you go to PayPal to pay an invoice, or an eBay auction checkout, or to "Send Money," you get a page that lists everything you need to know about the transaction, and has a "payment method" drop down box near the bottom. It will default to your primary bank account, because PayPal makes more money if you pay with your bank account than if you pay with a credit card. That's not a problem, it's easy to choose another method if you wish. There's even a link to add a credit card if the one you wish to use is not already on file with PayPal. So far so good.

The problem is after you go to the page to add the new credit card, type in all of the information about it, and follow the menus to end up back at this page, it still defaults to your bank account, even though it's obvious to all involved that you meant for the credit card to be used. I'm not sure about all browsers and screen set-ups, but on some at least, you don't even see the drop down box to choose your new credit card as method of payment unless you scroll down, and there is a "Pay Now" button at the top, so it's very easy to think you've done everything right to charge this transaction to your credit card, but you haven't.

I'm sure for most transactions of $20 or so, once you've accidentally used your bank account instead of the card you wanted to use you just open up your checkbook and note the transaction, no big deal, and PayPal makes a few extra pennies. But what if you were talking about a larger transaction, like, just to pull a number out of thin air, $2000? What would you do then? Would you simply edit the transaction on the confirmation page before it's final? I bet you would, assuming you received a confirmation page, which you didn't. You received a page that said Transaction Complete. This could be a problem if you needed that $2000 to pay bills that week. It could be a larger problem if you don't have $2000 in that account. It could be an even larger probem if you do have $2000 in that account, and have just mailed a bunch of checks that are now all going to bounce because PayPal takes the money first.

This is still not a problem, because you can just call PayPal and tell them that since their system is designed to make you make this mistake, could they please fix it? Interestingly, they answer very politely, but in the negative. Further pleading and pressure, even threats to close this stupid PayPal account and never use them again, are greeted with further polite replies. All negative.

If there were a confirmation page, making it clear to the customer exactly what transaction they were going to perform before clicking the "Pay Now" button, politely declining to help would still be a terrible way to handle this situation. Since there isn't a confirmation page, it's an almost unforgivable way to handle this situation. Since they DO offer a confirmation page if you successfully choose to use your credit card, a page on which they offer you three or four bullet points to pitch the idea of using your bank account instead, it makes this handling of the situation seem almost criminal. Almost like they did it on purpose.

I'm completely certain that is not the case, because if I were certain, and I said so here, I can see how they might want to do something about it. And we've seen their tactics already, so I don't want to do anything to incur their wrath.

I'm certain that this was a design oversight, and that they will have it fixed as soon as they can get around to it.

- Trevor.
Denver, CO