A Random Pattern

Archive for the 'random' Category

Windows Freeware – better than payware!

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

I happened to stumble upon this list of 10 unknown Windows freeware apps. Usually when I find these I already know about half of them, and don’t need the other half. Sometimes I find something moderately useful…this list though, was different (for me at least).

The apps on the list are good for those with more than one computer, or with the need to share large files or computer knowledge with other people. For once, the descriptions aren’t about the author, but about what each app actually does and why you might want to use it.

Oh, if only more top 10 lists were like this! Even better, all the applications are completely free, and the ones I’ve used are very light-weight (don’t take up much of your computer’s limited resources). The CamStudio software is particularly fascinating to me, since I can use that both professionally and personally.

But enough from me, go see for yourself if there’s anything you can use.

It’s a Microsoft world – for these kids, at least

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Microsoft designs a High School – the jokes practically write themselves. Or would, if it weren’t kid’s lives we’re talking about here.

Seriously, though, I’m glad to see some innovation happen in schools, as the U.S. education system seems to be pretty weak right now.

My “official” seal of approval

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

Click on the image to make your own seal.

Official Unofficial Seal of Approval

Yes, I was tempted to pick the Seal (animal) to put in the center of my Seal (badge). But I was strong, and resisted. :)

I called Ticketmaster – and lived to regret it! (RANT WARNING)

Saturday, September 9th, 2006

Gahh! I just payed $93 and some sense (pun intended) to be abused, neglected, tormented, and ripped off!

Let’s go back over this, in the hopes that by telling my story here I won’t have nightmares or dreams of retribution for weeks to come.  I’ll start at the very beginning of my epic tale of woe, poor website construction, and vapid, money-sucking value-less middlemen…ehem…

We know we wanted to go see Audio A, as the band is doing its final tour.  We heard the advertisements on the radio, and after a few weeks decided to get tickets (even though Audio A isn’t the main act) because this is one of our all-time favorite groups.  So the easiest thing, we think, would be to go to the radio station’s website as they recommend, and find the details from there (104.7, The Fish is the station).   Unfortunately, this is the first of the poor web designs that I run into.  It took me awhile, but by being determined I do find a link to the concert of interest.

This leads me to iticket.com, where my frustrations really escalated.  You see, there’s a nice description of the concert – where, who, when – but that’s it.  It looks like a site that sells tickets, but there doesn’t seem to be any indication of how to buy tickets!  I click in vain, only to get bounced around to various sites that are all HAPPY to tell me what I already know about the concert, but NOTHING ELSE.  I even create an account and login to iTicket, thinking maybe then they’ll let me spend my money on the ticket, or at least give me a little more information.  Nope.  (I later discover, by diligent browsing, that some concerts do have tickets available online – just not, apparently, this version).
I do find a number on the Arena website for calling in to order a ticket, though it also has a link to ticketmaster, which leads me back to the same fruitless cycle as before.  Finally, I come to the conclusion that I’m not sure why I can’t do it online, but it must be easier to order by phone.  This is when I really get frustrated.

I’ve already seen reference to 2 classes of seats at the Arena, regular and “artist circle”.  What those areas consist of, and where I might find out more about them, though, takes a skilled internet surfer (me) quite a while to guess at.  I’m still not entirely sure.

Back to the phone-call:  First I yell at an automated system for about 2 minutes, before the automated system gives up at trying to find the concert I want.  Whoever is in charge of that system at Ticketmaster needs to dump it in the trash and start over – it didn’t even try very hard, and couldn’t understand a thing!  At least it finally passed me to a real person.

This person was able to book my tickets, but the experience was still horribly unacceptable.  First of all, she obviously was a trained telemarketer – and her first concern wasn’t helping me, it was ripping as much money out of my wallet as possible, then sucking any other value out of the remainder of my life.  Not that I think she was any happier about her script than I was, but that doesn’t make it any better.  The first thing she does is sell me the most expense tickets they have – fine, I can understand offering those first, but I had to drag any information about what other tickets they might have out of her.  Of course she knows nothing about the seats she’s giving me, and gives me the seats I’ll get and pricing breakdown so fast that I don’t catch any of it.  I can understand not knowing anything about the seats, but there was no chance for me to even verify information, ask a question, anything.  Ok, fine, Ticketmaster is trying to minimize the time each wallet – excuse me, I mean customer – takes to rip off, but at least pretend like you care!

Now gets to the meat of my problem with Ticketmaster:  She proceeds to offer me several confusingly worded possibilities to hang myself with.  For example, they’d like to spam me, call me, sell my information… you get the point.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that they didn’t just do all this without even asking, as many unethical companies do (*cough* AOL *cough*).  Still, had I not paid close attention, even asking the representative to repeat some of the questions, I would have certainly answered ‘wrong’ (though this would have suited Ticketmaster just fine).

In fact, they spent more time trying to sell me other stuff, or get permission to sell my information, than they did on the $93 I was spending.  And to top it off, they wanted an additional $2.50 to email me the tickets, when they print and snail-mail them for free!  Wha?!!

Alright, I’m not talented enough to fully convey my rage and anger at the companies involved in this service fiasco.  I certainly don’t want to waste any more of your time.  Let me sum it up as this:  If, in the future, I can at all avoid using Ticketmaster, you can be sure I will (even if this means an extra hour drive to the ticketbooth).  If I can’t avoid it, I may well just not go to the event.  The Arena at Gwinnett Center still has a chance to redeem itself, but my hopes are not high.

It seems we’re facing an epidemic of poor service and poor quality these days.  Make sure your company is not part of the trend.  Customers will practically throw money at you, if you can give them the opposite experience.

New Picture(s) and weekend re-cap

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

Quick recap of our Labor Day weekend:

  • Garage-sale Saturday morning, mildly successful if you ask me or a complete bomb if you ask Sara (but she did most of the prep work for it).
  • Sunday, church was great, started a “Lost” series (yes, as in the TV show).
  • Also Sunday, got the new dishwasher installed, and the garbage disposal working.  Yay!
  • Monday – don’t remember much about Monday, but did clean up the garage some.  I think I probably wasted the rest of the day, that’d be my guess.  Oh yeah, I think I got addicted to an obscure web-comic and read through it’s entire 6-year history….

Oh, if you’re wondering where the pictures are, go to my other other website, where I put them up just because it’s so easy.

Why is it so easy?  It would be easiest to just show you, but let’s just say that I spent only 5 minutes putting the picture and post up, as well as fixing the homepage and main blog page.  All I did was select, type, drag the picture in where I wanted it, and clicked [Publish].  That’s it.  Finito.  You really should go to an Apple store and check out iWeb and iLife if you want a super-easy, no-web-knowledge-required, don’t-waste-my-time-I’m-not-a-geek way to share pictures and videos with family.  On the other hand, if you want any flexibility or control AT ALL, perhaps it’s better to look into your other options.  ;)  Just kidding, it’s not quite that bad.

Mower Musings: The Short Edition

Sunday, September 3rd, 2006

blades of grass can stop the most powerful motor – if they just stick together.

Utah and back in a day

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

Well, that was an interesting week.  I don’t know about you, but I am SOOOO GLAD the three-day weekend is finally here.  Sorry non-U.S. readers, but then again you get a ton more holidays than us anyways.

Wednesday was an interesting change of plans, and Thursday I went to Utah, fixed a system, and came back.  Let’s just say it was a long day.  :)  Thankfully it was a very successful trip.

Between Wed and Friday I probably spent upwards of 12 hours on the phone for business – that’s in addition to the flights to Utah and back (4 hours each) and several hours at a customer’s site.  So if I talked to you, and was a little short, sorry about that.

Now the question is “What to do with 3 days?!”  I’ve got a lot of things that need done around the house, and several things I’d like to work on with my website, not to mention a family that definitely needs some attention.  Plus it seems like it’s been awhile since I’ve had this much time to do stuff besides work.  ;)

Anyways, pictures coming soon.  Have a good holiday weekend, or if you’re working Monday, well, I won’t be.  ;)

Things got busy – Be Back Soon

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Work has gotten realllly busy.  I’ll be back blogging this weekend.  Posting may be a little light until then, but rest assured some interesting content is coming up.

Upcoming posts:

  • Ubuntu: How-Tos, WordPress and XAMPP setup, and screencast software reviews
  • Puzzles: final n.nfshost.com hints, then on to new puzzles.
  • WordPress: neat plug-ins, more Rubric theme, how to get help when you need it
  • Personal: Pictures, kitchen update, maybe some video
  • Other: who knows?

Come back this weekend for great stuff!  ;)

Why difficult customers are good

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Seth reminds us why we get paid. This guy has quickly become one of my favorite bloggers in my RSS feed, even though the rest of my regular feeds are mostly very tech-heavy. Today he reminds us that the thorn in our side is the reason we get paid to do the job – puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

If you don’t think you deal with customers, remember that whoever you have to deliver results to is your customer. They may be internal (the manufacturing group, the sales group, the employees if you’re in HR), or they may be external, but either way they’re your customer. If you’ve got a difficult customer, well, that’s why you get paid the big bucks. ;)

VOIP, not just IM, moving towards open standards?

Monday, August 28th, 2006

Google and Skype – interoperability a possibility?

Unfortunately, I share the concern of others that the wording is “explore”. I had hopes for a more aggressive position, but it’s too early in the relationship and the companies involved don’t want to ‘over-promise, under-deliver’.

Still, this means good things for all of us. For example, some of the IT folks in my company are quite hostile to Skype. I’m with them on this, as I don’t like all the resources it eats up, or other problems it causes. It’s not just my company that has a problem with this either.

On the other hand, I’m a big fan of Google Talk, and would like to see it used more. One really great way for it to grow is for it to inter-communicate with other IM clients / networks. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but think of it this way: I would like to use Google Talk instead of Gaim, Skype, etc. Unfortunately all my contacts are already on those other networks, so I either try to force them all to change (yeah right), run several clients (hello slow computer), or don’t get to use Google Talk because I don’t have friends on the network. If I could talk to the other networks through Google Talk, suddenly I can decide which client I prefer, and other people can choose something different that meets their needs, and we can still talk!

The other thing to note is that this announcement goes beyond the XMPP support Google already brought with GTalk’s introduction. Not only do they have a commitment to an open standard for IM (text chat), and not only are they helping define an open standard for voice / other interaction (Jingle), but now here’s another step towards real interoperability BETWEEN VOIP CLIENTS, WITHOUT THE ‘OLD’ PHONE NETWORK INVOLVED AT ALL.

Imagine a world where IM or VOIP is just like email or the telephone. It doesn’t matter if your friend uses Cingular or Verizon, you can still call her from your AT & T phone. It doesn’t matter if your business partner has an @comcast.com email, or an @mylastname.com email.

Speaking of which, along with my own domain, I have a new IM name: step@ransomedhome.com.  It’s mine, I own it, I can take it with me as long as I own my domain name.  So if you want to email or IM me, you can use the same contact information.  :)  See how great having an open IM network would be?!