Friday, December 23, 2011

I Do Not Sell Any Hardware

All too often I receive emails from customers with a stement similar to the following:
 "I just purchased an XYZ computer from you....".
To keep the record straight I have to correct such a statement because it gives the incorrect impression that I sold the computer which is not the case.

I advised you to buy this computer and you bought it in your own name and with your credit card from ..... (fill in your store name).

Because your computer was according to your own words not working at all or possibly virus infected or too slow we physically may have used my computer for the purchasing process.

I have to insist on this clarification for reasons buried deeply in the tax codes of the United States and of the State of Wisconsin and the implications it would have for me if I would actually sell any hardware.

I do not sell computers or any (other) hardware.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

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Email Client vs. Web Interface

If you use a regular email client program (I recommend and support Mozilla Thunderbird only) it helps to be aware of a few simple things about email.

Email client programs download the mails to the computer they run on and you maintain the emails and your filing system yourself. Once the emails are on your computer they should be gone from your ISP's server; IMHO this is an important security and privacy aspect.

I usually talk to my customers about the differences between an email client and an Internet based Web Interface and some of the consequences. "Normally" you should maintain your emails on your home computer, IMHO at least.The "Web Interface" is a complex web page that shows you the emails that are on the ISP's server in a web browser like Mozilla Firefox.

If you leave the emails on the ISP's server and access them only through a Web Interface you have no control whatsoever about who and what the ISP allows to scan and analyze your emails. Okay, I do not trust big companies' privacy promises, not at all; in the past there have been way too many bad surprises. 
If you travel often and want to see what new emails have arrived (and if the email client on the home computer is inactive) you typically go through a Web Interface, that is an Internet based way of accessing the emails that have not yet been downloaded to the computer at home. The three most common large Internet Service Providers in our area and the  URL to access their Web Interfaces are:
If at home you use a client program like Thunderbird you can only send and receive emails when your computer connects to the Internet through your ISP. When you are connecting through other services like at a friend's house or at a public hot spot you have to use a Web Interface through your web browser.

Many people do not want to deal with the "complexity" I described above. For these people I recommend an account with Google Mail at Gmail can be set up to automatically load emails from almost any ISP.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Worst Crapware Offenders - IMHO

If you are a customer of mine and if I have set-up your computer then you have an age old article about the gunk software on new PCs available; this article was first published in summer 2006. So far this old article was my only third party justification for offering my Set-Up job; finally here is more third party justification.

I really try hard not to rely on other people's writings for my blog posts. But sometimes I happen across something that comes right from my own heart. This is the case with Ed Bott's article on the ZDNet blog The Ed Bott Report. His articles  On consumer PCs, crapware is still a performance-sapping nuisance and  12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC tell the sad truth.  

Let's face it, there are many more than 12 ways how PC manufacturers mess up perfectly good computers! But alone the fact that someone of Ed Bott's stature and influence begins to write about this issue is not only new but almost sensational.

Another recent example of writing about the current "crapware" epidemic is in Michael Kassner's article Five Tips For Getting Rid Of Crapware on the TechRepublic web site. As interesting as this article is I do have to comment on his five tips because they are NOT AT ALL suitable for the non-technical home user. The author recommends in this sequence:
  1. Buy a computer free of crapware
    Well said but too late when you unpack the new machine, you have it already.
  2. Autoruns from Sysinternals
    IMHO a typical "tip" from a journalist lacking technical detail. Autoruns is an excellent utility in the hands of a knowledgeable technician to eliminate unwanted start-up programs but it is NOT a tool to remove, that is uninstall unwanted programs at all!
  3. CCleaner
    An excellent tool, I use it almost daily. BUT you still need to know what to make of the long list of installed programs you are presented with. Not a tool for the average non-technical home user at all!
  4. PC De-Crapifier
    This program costs money! It presents you with a list of third party (that is non Microsoft) programs and you have to make the decision if you want to remove it or not. Not a tool for the average non-technical home user at all!
  5. Win-Patrol
    Certainly a good program but just a tiny bit of googling gives the same and often even more information. And still the final yes/no decision is with the poor non-technical home user who generally just does not have the know-how needed to make these choices correctly.
Yes, we do have a problem with all the crappy software that comes pre-installed on brand new, brand name computers.

A significant part of what I do every week is cleaning crapware from new computers as part of my Set-Up Job. From the experience with this I venture to give my own, very individual and clearly opinionated version of a list of the IMHO worst crapware offenders; the worst being right up front.
  1. Samsung
  2. Sony
  3. Toshiba
  4. HP / Compaq
  5. Asus
  6. Dell
  7. Lenovo
  8. Acer / Gateway / eMachines
As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

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About Libre Office

When I help any customer order a new computer I always have this or a shorter version of this conversation with them:
If the customer owns a paid retail versions of MS Office then this gets installed and the conversation is over.If they do not own MS Office Then I will explain to them that on the new computer will be a trial version of Microsoft Office installed.
That usually means MS Word, MS Excel and MS PowerPoint are available. This trial version will fully work only for 30 or 60 days depending on the computer manufacturer and the MS Office version.

After this initial one or two month(s) the customer will have to buy a license to obtain a product key; with that  product key they can activate MS Office for full functionality. This license costs an additional $100 to $150.-

There is an alternative office suite named Libre Office available (formerly called Open Office). This software suite does about 95% of what MS Office does and it is free, free as in no money ever. It is widely used in Europe and many third world countries.

Do you want me to leave MS Office on the machine or do you want me to install Libre Office (formerly Open Office) instead?
More than nine out of ten of my customers decide to go with Libre Office. 

If I do the set up of Libre Office correctly it will open, read and write MS Word, MS Excel and MS PowerPoint files. Generally I do not install the Libre Office drawing and database modules which are of no interest to my typical home users.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

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