Saturday, April 24, 2010
I call Acer and tell them it is a hardware issue, related to the last screen replacement, but as expected, they are not sure. They want to make sure it is not a software issue. So, they request the ever popular "restore to factory settings" routine....wiping all apps and data. OK, I restore the factory settings and guess what, it still does the same thing. Whatever the mechanism Acer uses (either a mechanical switch in the hinge, or possibly a magnetic switch integrated into the screen bezel), it is obvious to me that the unit is defective...
Well, Acer support cannot authorize the expedited shipping/repair that I am requesting, so I have to call back during the business hours. Without the expedite shipping/repair, I'd be without the laptop for about three weeks. I simply cannot accept that, not after going thru the experience twice already, twice in 45 day period...
To be continued...(unfortunately)
Monday, March 29, 2010
I open the unit are are greeted with a disappointment - this time in form of "this copy of Windows is not genuine" or something like that...I was so shocked, I did not even have the presence of mind to take a screen-shot.
However, the good news is that after rebooting 4-5 times, the message's yet to come back, which tells me that it was just a fluke I saw it the first time. Mind you, I am running a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate received directly from Microsoft.
The screen looks good (besides the ton of fingerprints which I should send Acer thank you not for), no flickering dots, or bright/dark areas...
Fingers crossed something else does not crap out....
Monday, March 15, 2010
I spent few weekends installing all the tools I normally use, tweaking everything just so. Since all was running smooth (no crashes or any other mysterious errors), I put it in production as my business laptop, although I held onto my old one for a month or so. Finally, I sold my old unit on Craigslist as it was just gathering dust...
Week later, my screen started flickering occasionally, and when the laptop's lid was moved, some LED back-lights would be on some would not. I called Costco Concierge service since I could not get hold of Acer. They tried to tell me it was a driver, but since the external monitor was fine, and it only happened when lid was moved, the logic finally prevailed and they agreed to repair the screen.
Mind you, if Costco still had these for sale, I would have imaged the hard drive, exchanged the laptop, and restored the image, not losing any data or more importantly, many $$$ of software that I had already installed and activated. But since these were no longer available in stores, I had few options, unless I was willing to start from scratch.
So, on 2/16/10 I sent the unit in to Acer's Texas repair facility. I was irked that I had to pay for shipping on a unit that was only about 90 days old. Other than the email that the unit was received, there was no status updates from Acer. I had to call Costco to find out what was happening.
Finally, the unit was returned to me on 3/4/10. Longer than I wanted to be without the laptop, but it was all behind me now...Excited, I opened the package, laptop appeared well packed, but as soon as I lifted the lid, a small plastic clip wedged between the keyboard and the screen was staring at me...I looked but could not find where it belonged. I had hoped that it was maybe in the plastic bag the unit was shipped in, but the chances of the clip jumping and wedging itself between the screen and the keyboard were low....
The note from Acer said they replaced the screen and updated the BIOS. With fingers crossed, I fired up the unit, and there were no bright/dark LED spots, nor any strange flickering. Okay, maybe it was all over. I took the unit home for the weekend, but did not use it much as we had a busy weekend with kid's sports and all. I did manage to call Acer and Costco and tell them about the mysterious piece, just in case it turned out to be some sort of a crucial piece, such as a key retainer clip or similar.
I guess it was not meant to be...As soon as I started using it on Monday, I noticed these strange white/blue/green dots on the rightmost two inches of the screen. As soon as I moved the mouse cursor, they would blink and appear to move, sort of like army of ants walking around. The image is surreal, as it depends on the background. For example, on black or white background, the dots are not visible, but as my Windowns 7 is set to change the desktop picture every 30 minutes, the dots seem to get situated on the outline of items, where two different colors share a border.
When I called Acer, first they kept saying "I understand you have the same problem", and I kept correcting them that it was NOT the same problem, but a different one, although it involved the same component (the screen). They seemed to think I was making things up...I offered to send the photos or the video (video 1 and video 2) of the "dancing dots" as I've started calling them...Finally, they agreed to have it sent in, but this time they at least paid for the shipping.
Now, the unit has been shipped back to Texas on 3/8/10. I've not yet received any calls or updates from them, and I am nervous because the Acer rep kept stressing that if Acer deemed the unit was malfunctioning due to owner's misuse, they would only ship it back after I paid them...Mind you this laptop is in a neoprene sleeve when not in use, and it does not have as much as a fingerprint smudge on it (well, other than the scuff made by the extra piece wedged in the laptop, courtesy of Acer).
I will post the update once I receive the unit back (or not). In either case, based on my non-scientific, small-sample, the conclusion is clear: do not buy new Acer laptops. I say new because, my family currently has three other Acer units I purchased refurbished, that have been perfect in every way. However, both two of my brand new units had defect, and the same was true for a customer's laptop I set up last year.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
What a mistake...At first the laptop seemed great. But after two days it started...First a got few BOSDs, then the CD/DVD drive would not open until I rebooted, then I find out that Acer has in its wisdom disabled the Intel Virtualization technology, which the system's CPU was fully capable off (this is required to run XP Mode in Windows 7).
I really wanted to like this unit, and I assured myself I could get passed the few design flaws (flat keys, lack of CAPS lock light, and the single trackpad button design). After all, screen is a beauty, battery lasts 8 hours, its plenty fast for basic tasks...what more can a geek ask for?
So, I search online for fixes...no luck. I turn to Acer support (email only, phone support costs $$$). I describe the issue about the CD drive not ejecting without a reboot, I get a nice email saying to reboot the system if the CD will not eject, or to use a paper clip to open the tray. BSOD issue not answered.... Case closed. At last case closed according to Acer.
Second trouble ticket, the one regarding the virtualization is sent. Acer replies that their tech support is not trained on the issue, but that the paid support might be. Case closed.
Lucky for me, I got the unit at Staples, and I am able to return it without any restocking fee. Just as a funny sidenote, as I was restoring the factory image to the unit, and thinking to myself how sad I will be to see it go, it crashed and got another BSOD 0x9087.
My family currently owns three Acer laptops (not counting the 4810T), but I suspect it will be very difficult to tempt me to purchase another Acer unit. Furthermore, I have recommended the Acer products to my customers, something I will no longer be able to do.
Now, I am on a quest to find a replacement...ASUS UL30A is looking pretty good right now....
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Anyway, here is a quick breakdown of different types of backup, with a brief description of associated advantages/disadvantages.
1. Simple Data Backup - in the simplest form, this backup creates a copy of data (like My Documents folder) elsewhere, and can be done to CDs, DVDs, external drives, USB Thumb drives, etc. It is quick and easy, and offers decent protection for data (if done regularly, such as daily or weekly). If left to be done manually, it is often skipped, so it is best to automate this task. Many different types of tools can be used, many oft free (such as Replicator). If your hard drive crashes, you need to install Windows and associated updates, install all your applications, and then restore your data. Unless backup data is stored off-site, your backup could be susceptible to electrical surges, or could be damaged by fire, along with your primary PC.
2. Image-Based Backup - this type of backup, in addition to protecting data (My Documents folder), also protects your applications and Windows. It is similar to System Restore built in Windows, but much more comprehensive. Backups can be done weekly or monthly. For example, if your hard drive crashes, or are hit by a virus/malware, your can simply restore the last image (without re-installing Windows and your applications), and can have fully operational system in about one hour. The software required for image-based backup such as Acronis TrueImage or Norton Ghost, typically costs $40-80. Unlike simple data backup, this backup takes longer since it backs up the complete system. Unless backup data is stored off-site, your backup could be susceptible to electrical surges, or could be damaged by fire, along with your primary PC.
3. Online Backup - this backup, is very similar to the Simple Data Backup, but instead of being stored on an external hard drive that sits next to your PC, the data is stored in an encrypted form in a secure data center run by a the backup service provider. Basically, any time a data file is changed, the backup software uploads it to the data center. This requires a broadband connection, and the initial backup can take days or even weeks, depending on the amount of data you have. Subsequent backups are quick and done in the background. The biggest benefit of online backup is the fact that data is secure no matter what happens to your PC (fire, electrical surge, theft, or a virus). The potential downside is that the restore process would take more time (limited by your internet connection bandwidth). The online service I found to be easiest to use and most cost effective is available at: http://www.mozy.com/?ref=3f9a896b&kbid=38923&m=5, and I just received a 10% coupon code (type in APRIL at checkout) that knocks the two years of unlimited backups down to $93.
Personally, I use all three backup types to provide the best overall protection. Specifically, I use:
1. Karen's Replicator backing up daily to and external hard drive.
2. Acronis TrueImage backing up weekly to and external hard drive.
3. MozyHome unlimited backup, backing up continuously to Mozy data center.
Monday, December 22, 2008
A common theme is that folks are vaguely aware of the need for a backup procedure, but very few have actually taken time to do something about it (or hired me to take care of it for them).
Often, people are willing to pay three times the cost of backup solution setup, just to get their data back. The most surprising is the fact, that those are the same people that often tell me "I don't have anything important on this PC" when I suggest a full system backup.
OK, here is the basic three-pronged solution I recommend frequently, although it is usually tailored for each customer, considering amount of data changed daily, schedules, speed of the internet connection, etc. Depending on the amount of data, all three of the below listed backups can be set up in about one - two hours. Request a detailed quote here.
1. Image-Based Backup. Image-based backup is the cornerstone of all personal computers. This type of backup provides unique capability to restore not only data, but also operating system and all of those expensive applications. This works best with an external hard drive or a network share. Frequency of full image backup can vary but, once per week, to once per month works for most cases. Applications such as TrueImage or Ghost can be used. Restoring a PC can be done in one-two hours, versus 5-8 hours it would take to reinstall Windows, Office, Security applications, and restoring data.
2. Daily Data Backup. Daily data backup says it all. Take all your data, such as My Documents, Desktop, etc. and copy (automatically using scripts or software such as Replicator or SyncToy) it nightly to another folder, preferably on another hard drive, or a network share. This takes care of the gap created by infrequent image-based backup. This way, one can restore their two-week old image, and then restore last night's data backup.
3. Off-Site Data Backup. This is the portion of the backup plan that takes care of safeguarding the most critical data in case of fire, or electrical surge, both of which could destroy the PC and the backup drives. Frequently, this is the part that folks don't do, but with automatic tools such as MozyHome that backup unlimited amount of data for less than $5/month, it is too risky not to have an off-site backup system.
With a computer protected with the above-described techniques, it is easy to sleep well, knowing that your data is safe, no matter what happens....
Comments, suggestions, better ways to backup? Let me know...
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Anyway, these next two sites are perfect if you don't want to spend a lot of time searching for stuff, or money to buy music.
Slacker.com - music for the lazy. Type in a music style or an artist, and Slacker returns a stream based on the input - free, and ad-free. Local (San Diego) company too...They will be soon releasing a portable player.
Pandora.com - I've discovered Pandora after Slacker, and have been listening to for few weeks now. Same type of idea - enter artist or music style, and receive a free stream.
The next two sites are for those that already have a large iTunes collection, and need a place to park it for online streaming (and backup too):
MP3Tunes - Another great company started by Michael Robertson of MP3.com. Provides unlimited space and streaming.
Anywhere.fm - Same idea as MP3Tunes, but it mimics the iTunes interface.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
LogMeIn.com - allows for a remote access to your computer. The reason I prefer it over Windows Remote Desktop Connection is that LogMeIn provides dual monitor support.
CrossLoop.com - allows remote access in order to troubleshoot clients/friends PC using a proprietary shell based on VNC.
AjaxWindows.com - ajaxWindows is a virtual operating system that lets you store, edit and share your files using only a browser.
DesktopTwo.com - a free web-based desktop or webtop that mimics the look, feel and functionality of a local computer, all contained within one browser window and fully accessible from any Internet-connected device.
Senduit.com - free file sharing (up to 100MB).
MediaFire.com - same as above.
ZamZar.com - Free online file conversion.
MediaMax.com - Free online storage (up to 25GB) and online backup utility.
Mozy.com - Free online backup.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Thursday, December 22, 2005
OK, obviously the best way to clean up spyware is to not get spyware type applications on your machine in the first place. Clearly, that is not the answer for everyone, but if you are in the position to protect yourself at the beginning, there is absolutely no reason not to do it. For example, my friend (who asked about this very issue today is purchasing a new laptop this week, and will have a chance for a clean and safe start). I know when you get the new machine, all you want to do is check it out and play…but you really need to take an hour and take care of the safety issues first. I’ve set up hundreds of PCs, and I install virus protection, firewall, and anti-spyware tools before any other applications.
As far as the tools to fight spyware, I exclusively use free applications. I am sure there are great commercial releases out there, but I can’t comment on their effectiveness. Unlike firewall and antivirus, not all spyware apps offer real time protection, which means you use them say weekly to clean your PC of unwanted bugs. This is changing slowly, however. The two newer tools that offer the real-protection are Microsoft AntiSpyware (beta) and SpyDefense (beta).
The other great tools that remove spyware, but do not offer real-time protection are: SpyBot Search & Destroy, AdAware SE Personal. There is a simple way to automate these to run automatically by adding them as “Windows Scheduled Tasks”. For example, by adding the following arguments to your SpyBot shortcut, you can get it to run, update, minimize, clean, and exit without any intervention.
“C:\Program Files\Spybot - Search & Destroy\SpybotSD.exe" /taskbarhide /minimized /autoupdate /autocheck /autofix /autoclose /autoimmunize
Finally, a great little application that does a good job at immunizing system is SpywareBlaster. This little gem does not offer spyware cleaning capabilities, but does a great job of immunizing your system against spyware.
Above we discussed some tools that can help prevent spyware as well as others that remove it. In addition, some spyware is so tough that it needs a specially designed script to remove it. Such scripts are available on the web. Most importantly, don’t click on everything that blinks and flashes. I hope this is helpful, and make it harder for those lowlife peddlers of spyware and junkmail.
Next time I will cover AntiVirus products, and after that I’ll also discuss firewalls.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Don't get me wrong, it can be very rewarding, as there are people that I educated, and worked on their machines, they listened, and are very happy with the results. Some even buy me a lunch or dinner, which is a nice gesture. Obviously, financially speaking a $10 lunch is very low pay indeed for day's worth of work, but that is not why I do it. I simply enjoy fixing PC, and helping friends.
I think I need to start charging in order to be taken seriously. It seems that when something is free to you, it is automatically perceived as worth nothing. In turn, as it costs you nothing to get the freebie service done again, so why worry about things?
The other pet peeve of mine is when people ask for advice on what computer/camera/printer whatever to purchase. As any good analyst would do, I first determine what the intended use is for the new PC. Based on that, I recommend a solution. Most commonly this turns out to be the entry level PC, and I go as far as to tell them to get the cheapest thing there is (within the minimum specifications) as I don't really see any difference from vendor to vendor. The support from big guys (Dell, Compaq, Gateway generally sucks), and all the hardware comes from same suppliers, so differentiators are simply not there as far as I am concerned. After spending several hours working on this and researching the best deals out there for the PC that would work for them, down to configuring the PC for them and sending them a link to simply click BUY button, they often walk in one of the superstores (BestBuy, CircuitCity, Staples, or whatever) and buy the overpowered, overpriced machine with the extended warranty, that a pimply-faced high-school clerk making $7.25/hr recommended because they have a special on the particular package that day.
Well, I've rambled long enough...but you get the picture. This is basically thankless position that I routinely put myself into. Still, I can't help myself, I am hooked on technology.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
So, we schedule new appointment for the following day. 10AM, 11AM, Noon. No call from the tech. I call them. Same story: "the tech tried to contact you but could not". What do you mean "could not"?? And what constitutes "trying"? Picking up the receiver? Or actually dialing the number? I get on the phone with Dell and escalate the call. Appointment is set for the following day, "tech will call you before 10AM to schedule an exact time". No call. We are in the middle of moving to a new patch panel, and replacing switches, when the service tech showed up.
He made few changes to the settings, and said that the printer is too sensitive to lost packets. Update firmware. We'll see if that fixes it.
Basically, I understand that things don't always work as intended. There are glitches, etc. But, the way I have been treated by Dell on this issue is simply unacceptable. Funny thing is that Dell sent me survey asking me to rate my satisfaction with the warranty service (this was two after the tech has not showed up for the scheduled appointment.) Funny stuff…
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Second call was answered by another tech who sounded very authoritative, and who was willing to try some troubleshooting. After few tests he determined it was a bad network card, and he scheduled a tech to come to our office and replace it. Few days later, we had a new NIC and all was well – for about two days, when the printer disappeared from our network.
On the third call, I got a person who sounded as if this was her first call. I was patient, and told her that swapping a network cable (again) will really not solve the problem even though her script called for this step. I described the problem in detail, and after putting me on hold, she concluded that we needed to replace another part (control unit). Fine, let’s do it. Unfortunately, the part is on backorder and not available for another two or more weeks. I politely reminded her that I had “Next Business Day On-Site Service”, and that I would accept service in two or even three days, but not two or three weeks.
So, I am waiting for response, she is quiet, time goes by. I imagined that she was checking alternate sources for the part, or consulting with a more senior tech. No, she was just sitting there and waiting. Silence. Minutes go by…Silence….I finally ask: “So, what are we going to do here?”. “We can come and repair it in two to three weeks, sir”. WHAT???
No, I don’t think so. I ask for her to send me a new printer if she can’t get the part. She says “I can’t do that, sir”. I was really becoming upset, mostly because of her inability to recognize situation where she needed to make a decision to get the situation resolved. I asked for a supervisor, with a plan to threaten him/her for breach of contract. She came back minute later, and told me that I should be receiving a new unit in few days.
Don’t get me wrong, I am often on the receiving end of tech support calls for my company, so I can recognize the difficulty of solving problems without experiencing the symptoms first hand, dealing with frantic callers, and clueless users. Should one be required to fight for a service purchased? Beyond the issue of the failed printer, this last service call to Dell leaves me disappointed with their tech support. Remember, this is just one call out of thousands Dell receives every hour, but this is the one I’ll remember.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
I am not sure how traditional classifieds can stay in business, because they certainly can't compete on price (free). The problem must be that people just aren’t aware of CraigsList.com existence. Especially cool feature is the FREE section. I just picked up a free loft bed for my son. I got him a new mattress and he is already enjoying his new room.
Interesting thing is that beyond just getting a nice free loft bed, we also got to catch-up with some friends that we lost touch with in the last few years. I saw a posting for a bed that seemed perfect, so I sent an email to the person asking if they could email me a photo. I like to do that so I don't waste my time, and don't bug the person selling/giving away item. Well, about an hour later, during dinner, phone rang and it was Amy, my wife's friend/colleague from work. She saw my email requesting a photo, and called us up since she recognized my name (that is a nice thing about having a unusual name). We finished dinner and drove to her house to pick up the bed frame and to visit...
Google this, Gmail that. Google is everywhere (at least in the tech world).
I say I love Google even after being forced to write this blog for the second time because Blogger.com, another Google site, went down in the middle of my publishing session, and about 500 words were lost. But what do I have to complain about? 99% of the time I receive great service, sleek blog tools, and all that for absolutely zero deneros.
Back to Google, and its innovative tools. Just after my last fiasco during the upload of the latest blog, I wrote the previous paragraph, and immediately after that the site came back up, and what is the first link that I see after logging into blogger.com? How to recover lost uploads…Worked like a charm. However only day after I started getting an “Internal Server Error” when I try to access Blogger.com. Weird stuff. It now appears to work in FireFox but not IE6. Usually we hear exactly the opposite: “Works with IE6 only”. Hey, I use both browsers, so I don’t really care.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
There is something to be said for a company that consistently makes $$$, is the best in their field, and is always coming up with new products. Are all of these new tools great? No, the desktop search, for example, could stand some improvement like support for more files, and ability to sort. But overall, you have to admit - they do great things. I certainly hope they don't become like Yahoo! with all those huge ads on every single page.
Anyway, back to Gmail. Everyone knows about it by now, I am sure. I just wanted to share my opinion, and point out the most useful things that come with a Gmail account. Obviously, 2GB mailbox is nothing to sneeze at. But the ability to POP you account is the best. You get the best of both worlds: webmail while traveling and email via your favorite mail app for regular use. Search capability is nice, but to be expected from Google.
Marketing guys at Google combined the buzz created by the limitation of accounts being by invitation only, as well as using that time to test the beta service, and increase service base gradually. Pure genius. Well, I remember I got my invititation by giving up some hard earned cash to purchase it on the eBay. The days of limited number of invites per user are long gone, and even I have 50 left...So, if you are in a need of Gmail invite drop me a line via comment feature on this blog, and I will send you invite promptly. I promise you, it will change your email habits...
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
We had to create some new forms for our employees to fill out. Our graphics guy designed them in Corel, transferred them to PDF, and authored fields and textboxes to be filled out. Worked great. Then someone noticed that tabbing order was not very logical. By hitting TAB, you go to next available fill-in filed. We are used to moving from left to right, then back to the left on the next line, similar to the letter z pattern. Even though he created the first row, and copied it to create second, and so on, only the first two rows worked properly. Where is the logic here?
Our graphics guy came to me for help in figuring out how to correct the field tabbing order. It certainly seemed like a simple problem. The printed manual was joke. We tried built in help. It was of no help. Searched online. No go. Finally, I just started clicking around and trying different things, until we got it to work. It is really sad that we have to rely on trial and error to solve issues like this. One would think that company like Adobe would be able to design a help system so that a person that does not know the exact search term would still be able to find the answer.
I know from personal experience that writing help files or technical instructions, can present great challenges as new user might not be familiar with lingo, acronyms, etc. Again, if this was some freeware software published by a guy in his spare time, I'd understand, but shouldn't large software publishers (especially ones charging $500 for a software title) held to a higher standard? Don't get me wrong, my point here is not to pick on Adobe, as they are hardly alone...
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself: My name is Zrinko and I am a technoholic. I am sure that Webster Dictionary would not approve the word choice, but technocolic is a good term to describe me. I really like all things computer, as well as other gadgets that may be associated with computers in any way.
I plan on posting regularly, mostly my thoughts on new computer equipment, news, software, as well as other random ideas.