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One of the stores I use to buy hard disks, memory and so on, is But, they are my *second* choice for one major reason.

Look at a partial listing of some Apple memory they sell. The price is not important, but the little colored bullets are.


Upon first glance, I see a green bullet and a red bullet and I think “they’re using the stoplight metaphor! Green must mean ‘in stock’ and red must mean ‘out of stock.'”

But, you’d be wrong. The first time I went to their site, I found what I wanted, it had a green bullet, I ordered it and drove to the store.

“We don’t have that in stock. It’s on order.”

“But, I saw it had a green bullet! How could it be out of stock?”

“Green means we can get it in 24-48 hours.”


“Green with a checkmark means it’s in stock.”

You’ve got to be kidding me. But, sure enough, this is how they do their site:


UI and UX matter. If you are going to use an existing metaphor, you *cannot* deviate from it. If you’re going to use a new metaphor, it has to be provide something materially better than the old one, or else you will just confuse or infuriate customers.

As a result, I only shop here when their competitor doesn’t have what I need in stock.



Moving Abroad? Sell your printer.

I’m fuming. I can’t believe this has happened and the company reps are either too stupid to know or don’t have the balls to ‘fess up.

A client of mine gave me a Canon PIXMA MX-347 printer they no longer used because they had upgraded. I tested it out, seemed fine but the ink was low. No matter.

Last month, a friend said they needed a printer. “I have one I can sell you.” So, I did my checks. Went online to find replacement cartridges. Determined that the currently installed 810/811 XL were no longer produced, but the 510/511 were the ones *for this printer*.


Went to the store, bought the two cartridges, installed them, and… “Check ink U140”

Back to Google. Researched, read, posted, asked, tried every “trick” to reset the printer, cleaned the heads, blah, blah, blah.

Contacted Canon Support Forums, Canon Facebook page, email, etc.

Today’s response: “That’s a model for the Asian market. We here in Switzerland don’t know anything about it.”

Give me a break. The box says it’s compatible with the MX340 series, which clearly the MX347 is part of. I replied to them “certainly the fact that it’s from Asia has no bearing on the ink, right?” Because that would just be anti-consumer.

More Googling. Yup, the printer companies region code their cartridges. Of course, you only find this out after you’ve bought the new cartridges, opened the box, installed them and… oh, now you can’t return them. Brilliant.

So, if you’re moving. Be sure to sell your printer first. Because otherwise, once the ink runs out in the new country (or if they dry up during the move), you’ll be stuck with an ugly paper weight.

HP, Canon, Xerox, Lexmark, Epson – this is a really shitty thing you’re doing. It’s not for the consumer. There is no protection. There is no “better for the customer.” It’s you deliberately being assholes so that we, the customers, are forced to buy/sell your products.

I know that many people in this world don’t move around that much, or not that far. But, there are a fair few who do. And you have deliberately designed your business to prey on them.

You are terrible.


iPhone 6 pre-order with Swisscom: follow-up

In my previous post about ordering the new iPhone 6 with Swisscom, I expressed my disappointment with the ordering process: how ill-prepared Swisscom was for the surge of orders, despite having a history of record sales, etc.

I did complete my order the next morning, but I asked the question: where am I on the ordered list of clients who will receive their phones? Did those 7 hours cost me 2-3 weeks or were they inconsequential?

I received an email from Swisscom later that day with details about my order, including a link to track the status of my order. Naturally, I clicked the link immediately to see what it said. For the first few days, it just said “Your phone will be delivered to the address you provided” and not much else.

A few days later, I saw “Expected delivery date: 03 October 2014” Whoo-hoo! That’s awesome. I can wait that long. Oh, happy days!

On 01 October 2014, I clicked again (I had checked several times in between, as well), to see if the phone had been sent so that it could arrive on the expected day. And I saw, “Delivery date: unknown”

WTF? It is simply unprofessional to say one date and then take it back. It’s not that hard to see how many were ordered, how many units you received from Apple and do the calculation. If you can’t do it, then don’t put an expected delivery date!!! This is the most unprofessional, frustrating pre-order system I’ve seen and I’m none to happy about it.

Today, I’ll go to a Swisscom store directly and see how easy it is to get an iPhone 6. I know others have theirs, so I’m curious why I don’t have one and why I have no idea when I will have one. Will it be days? Weeks? Months?

Why did I spend over two hours on Swisscom’s faulty, poorly designed pre-order page that wasn’t able to handle the traffic that they should have anticipated 6 months in advance? What is the point of pre-ordering if that doesn’t gain me anything in terms of receiving my unit faster than going to a store?

My Unpleasant Experience Ordering the iPhone 6 at Swisscom Last Night

When the iPhone 6 was announced, I was excited, especially because my faithful iPhone 4S is becoming more and more  flakey. It’s time, so I was ready for the announcement, even more so when I saw the specs and so on. So, I was ready to upgrade.

I’m with Swisscom, so I went to their site and filled in the form to be informed when the Pre-Order would happen. I also made sure that my account was up-to-date, invoice-wise. Yup, all good.

Yesterday, 18 September 2014 at 16.17, I got the email that the Pre-Order would start “on Friday 19 September at 12.01 midnight” and there was a link “Click here to Pre-Order.” Naturally, I clicked immediately and saw this screen:

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 00.02.14

Sweet! I’ve got the landing page, and so at 23:59, I’ll load that page and start refreshing. Which I did. On two computers.

But, for the next 30-40 minutes, constant refreshes got me nowhere. That page never changed. Eventually I started tweeting and reading others tweets, and clearly people were also stuck on that page and couldn’t order. I don’t know if they had the same screen as I did, but there were lots of complaints by excited, but tired people. But some responses from Swisscom indicated that the pages for ordering were actually online, but they were experiencing some technical difficulties.

Being the geek that I am, I started trying other options….searching for “iPhone 6” from the Swisscom main page, going through their “Mobile > All Phones” menu option (but it still listed only 5c and 5s), logging in and trying to “Extend your subscription” and so on. For over an hour, I got nowhere. And many others had similar problems.

All the while, we got tweets from @Swisscom_Care and @Swisscom_de saying that the servers were experiencing unforeseen high demand. WHAT!? Unforeseen?! They’ve been selling iPhones since 2008! New iPhone releases have set records for pre-orders almost every single time. So, how can they say with a straight face that they weren’t ready for the demand. I think that, more than anything, is what upset me last night. I can understand technical problems. I cannot understand, and cannot accept, the largest ISP in Switzerland – with years of experience selling (or allowing pre-orders for) iPhones on release day – not having the capacity to meet the demand for pre-orders. Inexcusable, because it was foreseeable.

I actually changed the language of the pages I was on to see if different languages had different numbers of connections, thereby affecting speed. It felt like it helped, but it might have just been luck.

I finally got to a page to select the Color (space grey, gold, silver), Model (iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus) and the Capacity (16, 64 or 128 GB), but it was immediately covered by a “please wait” message. I got into that mode I used back in high school to call radio stations to win tickets. Dial, listen, hang up, redial, etc. Refresh, see result, Refresh…..

Finally, I accidentally clicked on the Capacity drop down and it worked. Even though the “please wait” message was still there. OK. I rolled with it.

Next page asked me if I wanted to extend my subscription, start a new one, transfer a number from another provider, etc. Except, I wasn’t able to extend my subscription. Told me I’d have to call. I clicked on my Account and saw that they hadn’t marked my last invoice as paid. I checked my bank, yup, it was paid two days ago. Grrrr! I called – 30 minutes of waiting before I accidentally hung up and didn’t bother to call back.

I selected some available option and made it through to the next page: Do you want insurance for a year? Nope. Next page. Hang. It just sat there. For about 15-20 minutes. So I stopped it and started again.

I started and got stuck, and started and got further and got stuck for at least another hour or so. On the bright side, somewhere along the way, the system did allow me to select the “extend your subscription” option, but I never could pre-order the phone. I crawled into bed around 02:30, cursing such a terrible experience.

I woke up in the morning to meet my son before school. As I rubbed my eyes, I loaded the page, and again 2-3 times, I was stuck in the same place. But, then…..!

Selected the phone. Check. Selected the contract. Check. No insurance. Check. Checkout. Check! Your order has been accepted!!!! CHECK CHECK CHECK CHECK!!!!

“This product is not in stock.” Ugh. Yes, I know that everyone received that, but don’t the people at Swisscom know there’s a better way to say it? “Deliveries will begin on 26 September 2014. Orders will be filled in the order they were received.” And so on.

I’m happy I’m getting a new iPhone, but no thanks to Swisscom. A company that big needs to be better prepared and all the Customer Service Reps in the world saying “Sorry, we’re experience unforeseen high demand” won’t change that.

PC Vendors and Windows Gripes: Part 01

This is the first in what will surely be a an ongoing series. Yes, I am a big Apple fan. I have been using their products since 1986. While I have some issues with some of their products and software, the list in no way compares to my list of grievances on the PC/Windows side of things. In many cases, the reason I find it necessary to comment is because at least one other manufacturer does it better/right/smarter, etc.

So, here goes:

1. Incomplete or Useless Information provided

I’m sitting here looking at a client’s HP/Compaq laptop and I’d like to know the size of the hard disk – which failed the internal Hard Disk Diagnostic – so I can tell the client prices for a replacement. I need the size so that I can make sure the replacement is at least as big as the failing one.

I’ve looked in the BIOS information, the 2-3 various Diagnostics screens, and the “System Information” screen available at startup. That information is simply not to be found. I do know the Model Name, the Product Number, Serial Number, Warranty Start Date, Product Configuration ID, BIOS Version, Total Memory, Processor Type and Speed and even the Battery Serial Number (really?!) but nothing at all about the hard disk. Useless!!! The only options are to either actually start Windows and find out there, or to open the system and look at the disk. Incredible!

Many PC and BIOS manufacturers do provide this information, so it’s quite frustrating when one model doesn’t. And I can’t understand why they would omit something so basic, especially since it’s one of the things in a computer which can be replaced so easily.

2. There are no Standard Keys during boot up

Every time I look at a client’s computer, I want to first look at the BIOS. So, what hot key do I use? Delete? Escape? F2? F9? F10? F11? F12? Something with Alt? That IBM/Lenovo blue button? Something else? On many computers, it used to be that during the first few seconds of startup, the various hot keys would be listed, but these days it’s not shown by default.

It would be so nice if all manufacturers could just agree to use the Escape key to interrupt the normal boot sequence and provide an on-screen, textual menu of options (BIOS Setup, System Diagnostics, Boot Device Menu, Create Recovery Disks, etc.). Even better would be that each of those options would have a standard F-key default so those who knew could go straight to the desired menu option without needing the Escape key first.

3. Windows Drive Letters

The fact that Windows continues to use letters to access drives/disks continues to astound me. I don’t care about backwards compatibility with 1985. It used to be that accessing anything beyond F: was not possible without modifying the CONFIG.SYS file (remember that?!), but that self-made problem has apparently been rectified.

But, what about A: and B:? What, you don’t have two floppy drives in your system? Why not? Your BIOS certainly gives you the option to have floppy drives. Wow. So, that’s two wasted drive letters.

Now, I don’t know anyone who will actually use the remaining 24 letters for disk volumes, but that artificial barrier is only there because our alphabet has 26 letters. What if we spoke Rotokas? We’d only have 12 letters, i.e. disk volumes, available.

But, here’s a real world scenario which illustrates the idiocy of this letter-based naming scheme: I had a client call me saying he didn’t think his automatic backup system was working. I had a look and saw that the Backup Job was defined to synchronize files from a directory on C: to a directory on his 1.0 TB external disk E:. It had worked before, but no longer.

So I looked at E:. It was an 8 GB USB key. Oops. Order matters. And that’s just stupid.

It seems that at some point, the client had disconnected the external disk and before reconnecting, he had connected a USB key, which means it was now E: and the external disk was F: So, the backup system failed, because the external drive was no longer E: as previous defined/assumed.

That’s it for now. But, I’m sure I’ll be back with more.

Microsoft will *never* call you.

Amazon will never call you. Facebook will never call you. Apple will never call you. Samsung will never call you. Google all never call you.

Simply put, no company that makes products related to your computer will ever call you.

The other day, I got a slightly panicked call from someone. She had received a call from “Microsoft” (see their laughable site) about security issues with her computer. They were very professional, very kind, had very good manners. And with that, they were able to lead my client through several steps, including a step to download TeamViewer which is used to remotely control a computer.

Once this software was installed, the “Microsoft” rep browsed the computer. Looked at emails. Tried to see Facebook connections, but client doesn’t use Facebook, so nothing there.

I don’t know what else was done, but when I checked the computer, there were no viruses, no malware, no hidden software, history had been erased. Teamviewer had been removed. etc. It appeared clean. In and out.

But, it’s impossible to say it enough:

No computer company will ever call you. Never. Ever.

iOS Complaint: Add to Existing Contact


Chances are, when you add someone to your Contact List, you don’t have all their contact details. Besides their (first) name, you may only have a phone number or only an email address. But, while texting or emailing that person, you might get more contact details over time.

Well, this is what happens to me, at least. A client calls me, I speak to them and then when the conversation is over, I save the new number to my Contacts. At this point, I usually only know a first name and the phone number.

Later, I’ll get a text message with their email address. Great! Let’s just add that to an existing contact. Let’s see, how do I do that?

1. Hold down the email address link until the pop-up menu appears and select “Add to Contacts”.

2. Now I have two options: “Create New Contact” – nope, not that one – and “Add to Existing Contact.” I click that.

3. Now, find an existing contact…..WHAT!?!

But, but, but….. I want to add it to *this* existing contact, not some *other* existing contact. I mean, in my experience, over 90% of the time, I get contact details directly from the contact, not via a third-person.

This behavior has been present on the iPhone as long as I can remember, but I wish it weren’t so.

Am I missing something?

Online services need to figure out the ‘Family’ concept

Recently, I’ve had several clients contact me asking to help them setup and configure multiple iPads, iPhones, iPod Touches and computers, both Apple and Windows. In each case, children were part of the equation.

“This iPad belongs to Johnny. This one is for Mary. They also each have their own iPhone.” That sort of thing.

The question is about sharing certain things but not other things. The children’s devices should be able to use apps, listen to music, watch movies that were purchased with the parent’s iTunes account, but they shouldn’t have access to the parent’s calendars, contacts,  emails, etc. “Everything” should synchronize, but you know, not everything. Often, the client can’t really specify what they want, much less figure out how to do it.

So, the answer is to set up iCloud accounts for the children. That shouldn’t be a problem, but it is. Because you can’t create an iCloud account if you are under 13. Oh, wait, you can’t do it without lying about your age.

Apple, Facebook, Google, etc. should have a way for a parent to create an account and then manage their family’s accounts, too. Mom and Dad have Apple IDs and iCloud accounts and want to create accounts for their kids? Great, let’s just open the “Accounts” page, click on “Add child,” fill in the correct information and done! iCloud configured.

Sadly, most online services don’t seem to see the need or have an answer. I’ve seen lots of articles about “How to setup iCloud for my family” and each one of them just skims over the “Create an account for each child.” They don’t address the “lie about your kids’ age” issue.

It’s possible that when the articles were written, that requirement didn’t exist. I’m pretty certain that when iCloud was released, I created an account for my under-13 son using his correct birthday without any problems. But, now when I look at his account, it indicates a problem with the birthdate. If I change it to his actual birthday, it says “invalid.” So I cancel and leave it as it is.

Please, Apple and others, add this to your To-Do list. Fast!

What to do if your install disks don’t work

I had a client call me the other day. He had purchased a new desktop and was trying to install Microsoft Office onto it using his original Microsoft media. But, for some reason, it kept getting stuck on one particular file.

He tried cleaning the DVD. He tried copying the files to the computer. Nothing worked. So, he called me, asking “What can I do?”

Here’s what I do. I download a copy of the software from the many torrent sites around.

Yes, many people use torrents to illegally download music, movies and software, but this doesn’t fall into the illegal category. The client has a legal Product Key and a copy of the software; it’s just scratched or damaged in some way and can’t be used to install.

The software that can be found all over the internet for download is not illegal. It’s a backup, if you will. Downloaded software becomes illegal if you use a stolen Product Key or something is done to get around the product key requirement. But, if you use your legal and purchased Product Key, everything is fine.

Problem Solved. Case Closed.

HP Printers are great. HP Computers are not.

HP makes great printers. They seem to be on the cutting edge of features. Their products are easy to install, easy to use. The software for Mac or Windows computers seems to be really designed for each computer specifically, rather than a poor conversion of one to the other. All in all, after all these years, I still consider HP my go-to printer choice and recommend it to my clients, who often say “Yes, I’ve been happy with HP printers for years.”

But, there’s a dark side to HP.

HP computers suck. On so many different levels. Since I spend a lot of my professional life inside the computer, my complaints focus mostly on more technical aspects. To wit:

  1. In one week, I had two clients contact me about their HP Pavilion Slimline model. In both cases, the power supply was dead. That by itself is already a bit suspect, but in one case, it was user error: the computer was purchased in Mexico (110 V) and connected here in Switzerland (220 V). Poof! Dead power supply. That’s my first beef. Yes, they have little switches on the back of the power supply to choose 110 V or 220 V, but what regular computer user knows about this? I’ve been in this business for over 30 years and guess how I found out about it? Yup, I did the same thing. But, auto-switching power supplies do exist. All laptop adapters that I’ve seen work on the range 100 – 240 V and many desktops, as well. I hope that HP has changed that practice recently. I really, really hope they have.
  2. OK, so I have two HP Slimline’s with dead power supplies. No problem. Pop the box open, remove the power supply, off to the computer accessories store and I’ll be done by the end of the day, right? Wrong. In order to remove the power supply, I had to remove: the faceplate, the optical drive, the Pocket Media drive bay, and the hard disk. Basically, I took apart the entire computer. This is unheard of, even in small footprint models that I’ve seen before. Even to upgrade the RAM, you have to remove the optical drive. Sheesh! It makes me *really* appreciate Apple engineering.
  3. Now that I’ve been able to remove the power supply, getting a new one should be a no-brainer. But, it wasn’t. It’s not a standard size. I had to call HP and order one. <sigh> But, guess what?! You can’t order parts from HP. They don’t do that. Even if you have the HP part number, you can’t order a replacement part. You have to go through third party sources.
  4. I’ve had to contact HP support on many, many occasions. In several different countries. And, to put it bluntly, it was awful. Each and every time. Wait, I’m sure that’s not true. I’m sure there were occasions that it wasn’t stab-me-in-the-eye painful, but such occurrences are washed away in the flood of awful experiences. I have saved away some of the support chat transcripts. Horrifying reading. They won’t help you if you’ve contacted the *wrong* country’s support line. If you’re now in Switzerland but bought it in US, guess what? You have to order the parts you nee from the US, but guess what, part 2? They can’t ship it internationally. FFS, guys, don’t you know this is a global economy? People travel! They work in different countries! Can you really be so clueless?
  5. HP laptops. My son bought an HP laptop several years ago. He had it replaced twice within the first year because of overheating. And I’ve had numerous HP laptops come to me that were overheating due to very poor ventilation. In some cases, the vents were a little clogged with dust and cleaning it out was enough to help things out. But, again, I had to take the computer almost completely apart in order to remove/clean the fans and vents. And this went on – goes on? – for years. You’d think that if they were listening – which they clearly aren’t – to their forums, customer feedback, etc. they would at least make the fans easier to access and clean. But, they didn’t. I daresay, they don’t.

Now, if these gripes were similar for other computer manufacturers, I’d have nothing to write about. But, they really seem to something particular to HP. Other manufacturers have auto-switching power supplies. Not HP. Other computers are easy to disassemble and replace parts. Not (always) with HP. Other manufactures use standard parts. Not (always) with HP. Getting replacement parts directly from the manufacturer is usually no problem. Not so with HP.

And regarding the overheating of HP laptops. It was so systemic, every forum had people crying foul about their laptops, but there was no word from HP about what to do, about a recall, about a repair program, nothing. In fact, if you searched the HP website, there was no mention of any problems with the laptops. Sony had a problem once about overheating or power supplies or batteries, or something. They didn’t have to do anything, but they did. If you went to the product page of an affected product, even if you were just looking for information or drivers or anything *not* related to the issue they knew about, there was a big, obvious “READ ME” section at the top of the page telling the reader about a free exchange for the defective part, even if already out of warranty. SONY went out of their way to tell people there was a problem with certain models and what the customer could do about it. HP seems to hide from similar problems. They don’t acknowledge the problem. When it becomes too obvious, they offer no support, no centralized help page, and they certainly don’t offer free replacements or service. Especially not out of warranty.

Which brings me to the reason for writing this post. I just read a truly horrifying article on the Economic Times on the India Times about how HP is going to merge their Printer and PC divisions. Noooooo! Not only that, but according to the article, “the printing division chief [would] step down …and current PC chief  [would] head up the combined unit.” Arrrrrgh! The best division in the company is going to be merged with … well, *not* the best division in the company and the new combined division will be run by the guy who ran the *not* best division?

Meg Whitman – you’ve got the cart in front of the horse.