Friday, April 22, 2011

Eyes Over Africa

This is a great video about a fascinating book by Michael Poliza, called "Eyes over Africa". It's a large coffee-table style book with hundreds of double-page photos of incredible beauty in various parts of the continent I was born and live in.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Beware of PDF Suite 2011 ripoff

My friend Dennis liked the free trial of PDF Suite 2011 Standard, and when he got an email from them offering the $59.95 product for "only" $19.95 he decided to buy it. They deducted $52.80 from his credit card instead. So much for the $40 savings.
So now he is reversing the transaction and they get nothing, except a bad reputation. Their "get-pdfsuite.com" web site adds in other stuff to the $19.95 order, and unless you read all the greyed-out text carefully you find yourself buying a whole load of junk you didn't want.
I have suggested using Nitro PDF instead. At least they don't try to steal money from their customers. Their full product costs $99.99 which is still a lot cheaper than the $345 Acrobat X Standard product from Adobe.
Update: There is also SodaPDF and several others listed by Wikipedia

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Problem with HelloPeter

HelloPeter.com is a web site dedicated to consumer complaints, but it is by no means perfect. I have had successes and failures with the "Companies who Respond", and have noticed some major weaknesses in the system. I think that part of the problem is that Peter needs to "think out of the box" and realise that some of his customers are gaming the system and frustrating his users.
There is also the question of forcing companies to pay for the right to respond. Many critics have said this is tantamount to blackmail, and in some respects I agree. Firsly, there is a R375 fee to register. Then you pay for each complaint received, on some kind of scale that is not published, although the first 4 complaints/compliments per year are free. Thereafter you have to pay for the right to respond.
The problem is that in many cases the response is unhelpful or downright misleading. "We are investigating and will get back to you" is insulting to the person who lodged the complaint, especially when they never get back to you. HelloPeter provides no facility to report this kind of activity. And don't try to complain on HelloPeter about HelloPeter: it's a farce and if you do it too often or in public they block your account.
Another way for a supplier to game the system is to answer the wrong question. Many times I have complained about unsolicited calls or SMS messages, and demanded to know: "Where did you get my number?" In most cases the reply is "We have removed your name from our database". I'm sorry, but that isn't an answer to the question! It says to me: "We refuse to divulge this information because by doing so we would be admitting to breaking the law." Alternatively, "We are too stupid or arrogant to answer the question so we'll say what we think you want to hear instead." Again, you can't report this, although you can try lodging the complaint again. This can become an endless loop.
Peter needs to allow the customer to engage in a public dialogue with the supplier, perhaps allowing several replies from both sides, and allowing each party to rate (in public) the relevance and helpfulness of the other's reply. Also, Peter needs to allow the party being complained about the right of reply. Delay the registration fee until after the first 4 responses, to give your potential customers a chance to see how well (or badly) the system works. Peter, are you listening to your customers? Hello? Peter?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Time to get rid of Flash and Java

I have always regarded Flash, Acrobat, QuickTime and Java as "necessary evils" on my laptop, since I do a lot of browsing. But they are a pain to keep up to date, especially since they are full of security flaws.
But recently I realised that I only ever use Flash from within Google Chrome, and I'm not using Sun Java for anything now that LogMeIn doesn't require it any more. So I decided to remove both Flash and Java from my "Installed Programs" list, and rely entirely on the version of Flash that comes with Chrome. So far so good, since Chrome updates it automatically.
I wish I could do the same with Quicktime, but I still use iTunes from time to time. I have, however, disabled the RealPlayer add-ins on Chrome, Firefox and IE. That's more legacy software out of the way.
Another thing I noticed was that Google Chrome loads quickly but takes a long time to show all the thumbnails in its "New Tab" screen. So I changed it to show the "about:version" screen on startup instead. It's even quicker than before. And I have installed the NotScript extension to protect me from unwanted scripts, and AdBlock Plus to hide the ads. This had made my browser even better.
Hopefully Google will abandon their "flat" logo they are currently playing with in Chrome 12, because it looks terrible at small sizes, but we'll see. Both logos are shown here.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

India Celebrates Cricket World Cup Final Victory

Clearly there are forward-thinking Cricket administrators in the Indian subcontinent: they organised the Cricket World Cup to be hosted in three countries: India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. That's pretty amazing, and not easy to pull off.
India were rewarded by a team that came together at the right moment and won the matches that counted, unlike the Proteas who seemed to fall apart. My friend Vishal sent me this clip on how the fans celebrated the semifinal win against Pakistan. No doubt the celebrations at winning the final will be just as spirited and enthusiastic. Now they are calling the country "Windia". Major newspapers and websites changed their backgrounds and logos to blue, the colour of the team's jersey, to celebrate the team's success.

Warning: The NSA and 4 million other sick weirdos with "security clearance" have intercepted this page and know that you are reading it.