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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.

Windows 8 Upgrade – Discussion and suggestions

Microsoft recently released their latest version of the Windows operating system, Windows 8. This follows Windows 7 (2009), Windows Vista (2006) and Windows XP (2001).

Windows 8 screen

And once again, they are *forcing* users of older versions to perform clean installs – which means they must back up all their data, erase the hard disk completely, install the OS, re-install the applications (can you find all your installation CDs and/or downloaded installation programs?) and then finally restore their data. This is time consuming, to say the least, not to mention not for the faint of heart. And it requires having space somewhere to back up all of your data.

This policy is incomprehensible, but is not a new one. When Vista was released, several pieces of the operating system’s file and directory structure changed, but Microsoft provided an upgrade path. You could upgrade Vista on top of XP and it would move or rename files/folders as appropriate. (C:\Documents and Settings became C:\Users, the hidden directory Local Settings became Application Data, etc.). When Windows 7 was released (Windows 7 has the same basic structure as Windows Vista), they provided an upgrade path from Vista to 7, but not for users with Windows XP. I assumed it was because Microsoft couldn’t (read: wouldn’t) provide the conversion process for the different directory structures. But, having just learned that they did just that for XP -> Vista, tells me that it was a conscience, deliberate decision. To me, this is irresponsible. First, if they could do it from XP to Vista, they can also do it for XP -> 7. Second, since Windows 7 is more-or-less Windows Vista 2.0, the process they had provided when Vista was released would likely have worked without (much) change, so it’s not like they would have had to create the procedure from scratch.

But, they are doing it again with Windows 8 upgrades. If you have Windows 7, no problem. Vista or XP? Nope, sorry. Start again. Carve out an afternoon or a full weekend (you don’t really need email/web/internet during the weekend do you?) to do the full process. Sheesh.

To be fair, anyone doing a major upgrade should automatically do full backups of their data, just in case. But, backing up in a Windows environment is really awful. You have to do it more-or-less manually, plus if you end up needing to restore the data, because something happened during the install, well, that’s not easy, either. You’ll get your data back, but….Skype history? Yahoo Messenger chats? Firefox settings? To say nothing of Picasa. You might be able to get some/all of those back, but it’s not easy or well-documented. Kind of a “cover your eyes and aim for the bull’s-eye” deal.

But, some people throw caution to the wind and just say “Upgrade” and live with the consequences. They should be allowed to do that. Motorcycle with no helmet? My choice. Drive a car without a seatbelt? My choice. Upgrade my OS without backing up first? My choice. For each of those and more, that behavior is not recommended, but it’s the user’s choice. And since performing a clean install of Windows is so labor-intensive, time-consuming and, most importantly, imperfect, I can understand why people might want to go that route. Who wants to spend time re-downloading and installing their applications, trying to restore all the users’ settings and documents and stitching it all together manually? Blecch!

Just to draw a comparison, the situation is not at all like this with Apple computers. Apple has released nine major versions of their Mac OS X in the same time that Window has released four. In all that time, you can upgrade from any version to any version and keep your user accounts intact. Naturally, backing up is always recommended, but it’s not an obstacle to upgrading. Installed applications are still installed and work, provided they are still supported. Mail still works. Skype history is not lost. And so on. But, even *if* the user decides to erase and re-install a fresh copy, the Time Machine backups fully restore every document, every setting, every configured email account, every dotted “i” and crossed “t” for every user. (The only thing it doesn’t restore are passwords, but this is a deliberate security feature. Imagine someone steals your Time Machine backup volume. They restore your data to a different computer. If the email – and other – passwords were also restored, then they could send emails, download new emails, etc.) So, in the end, your system is exactly the way it was before doing a clean install.

I say this not to say how great Apple is or how awful Microsoft is, but rather to point out that this kind of concern for customers investment and time is a choice, a decision made by the company’s executives. I personally find that Microsoft’s policy/decision regarding upgrades is awful.

Suggestion: if you are going to upgrade to Windows 8 and are forced to do the whole backup and clean install, consider this instead. Look at the size of your hard disk and also how much space is still available. If you’re disk is less than 250 GB, consider just replacing it with a 1000 GB (1 TB) disk. Then, you don’t have to bother with a distinct back-up step, because the data is on the old disk, untouched. Install Windows, create the same user accounts, and then restore your data from the original disk. The added benefit here is that if something goes wrong anytime, you can simply swap disks and have a working computer until you have a moment to figure out the other problem with your Windows 8 disk.

Toshiba Satellite M50-187 Reinstall: How could such a simple procedure be so difficult?

As you may have gathered, I repair computers for a living, among other things.

In this pursuit, with Windows computers, I frequently end up re-installing Windows fresh, meaning I back up the user’s data, erase the hard disk, install Windows, drivers and applications. Then I restore the user’s data. It’s a pretty standard thing and I’ve gotten quite adept at it.

For the most part, manufacturers are quite helpful by having all the drivers for a particular model easily locatable and downloadable. My Google search history is littered with searches like “lenovo thinkpad driver download” “dell inspiron 1540 driver download” and so on.

Naturally, yesterday after re-installing Windows XP on this Toshiba, I googled “toshiba satellite m50-187 driver download” and that’s when my troubles began. I’ve tried so many things at this point, that it’s hard to recall the exact steps, but i’ll try.

Toshiba Switzerland Driver Download pageI did get to the product page for the correct laptop, but only several hours later did I see the link to “Driver Downloads” over to the right in a neutral color. Meanwhile, I did see the horizontal menu option that said “Support & Downloads,” so I hovered over that and saw “Driver Downloads” and I got the following page.

Since this is a laptop, when I saw “Notebook” I selected it and then chose Product Family (“Satellite”), then Product Series (“M Series”), but then the only option was “Satellite M840” and I have the M50. Argh! (I found out much later that instead of picking “Notebook” I should have chosen “Archive” presumably because I’m supposed to know the life cycle of Toshiba’s products and realize that it’s no longer a notebook, but it’s now an archived product. <sigh>)

I clicked on the Support & Downloads option above and with three levels of filtering (“Satellite”, “Satellite M50”, “Satellite M50-187”) had the page I needed with the list of drivers. Yay!

No wireless driver!I downloaded them all and installed them one after the other, as I do all the time. Except…. There is no wireless card driver. There is a Wireless LAN Client Manager, but it’s hard to manage a device that’s not installed and working. I did try downloading this and installing it, but actually it made things worse: Windows User Fast Switching was disabled, it couldn’t be uninstalled, etc.

So, I dug into my bag of tricks and visited I plugged in the Vendor and Device ID found in Device Manager, and found it was the Intel Pro/Wireless 2200bg device. I went to the Intel Driver Update Utility Wireless page, asked to have my device auto-identified and guess what? It couldn’t. No information whatsoever.

So, I tried to download it manually. I tried downloading from the Intel site, from other Toshiba sites, from Eventually, I did manage to download the driver I needed. Or I thought I needed. And when I installed it, things looked good. The yellow question mark in the Device Manager disappeared, but I still couldn’t use it. Disabled. Failed. Grrrrr.

Finally, I confirmed that I had uninstalled all the drivers that I had previously tried and uninstalled this last driver as well. I rebooted, installed, saw the good indications that things were going right and rebooted. Wonderfully, it worked.

No thanks to Toshiba. No thanks to Intel.

But, come on, I do this for a living and had such a headache, can you imagine someone trying to do it themselves?!?



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.

Lacie Drives, Designed by Porsche – Who Cares?!

I picked up an external hard drive from a client today. It’s one of these Lacie drives, designed by F. A. Porsche and honestly, why does that matter?

Internally, it’s a Seagate disk like so many others. Externally, there are no screws. That looks good, but it has no real purpose and furthermore means that it will likely get scratched or something if ever it needs to be opened. Like today.

And then, internally, it’s so tightly packed together that removing the disk for diagnostics was too much trouble. I kept thinking I was going to bend/break something. Luckily, I didn’t.

Finally, I see that the internal disk is an old IDE drive, not a newer SATA drive. That means that they slapped a fancy box on older technology in order to get rid of old stock.

Putting a Porsche chassis on a VW Bug might have been cool, but it doesn’t make it go 0–60 in nothing flat.

HP Pavilion Slimline: Designed by Rube Goldberg?

A few days ago, a client called me because the power supply in their computer was dead. I picked up the computer and confirmed that the computer still worked and all I’d need to do is replace the power supply.

Easier said than done.

In order to remove the power supply, I had to remove: the HP Pocket Media Drive Bay, the hard disk, the front panel, the optical disk, the cage that holds them both, the media reader, the graphics card and …….. the motherboard. Well, I could have left the motherboard and removed the CPU and fan, but I didn’t want to deal with the heat paste later on.

Let me summarize that.

In order to replace *just* the power supply, I had to take apart the whole computer.

Whoever came up with that design: you must be stupid, stupid, stupid.