Don’t Do It

This may just be common sense to me but look at this package. I took this picture today at a local grocery store. To me this has all sorts of warning signs on it. First, it’s pre-spiced. It doesn’t just have a little tarragon sprinkled on it but a BBQ rub.  Usually they use a Cajun rub because it’s a better mask of smell. Think about it…why would they spice the chicken for you? Is it that hard for you to do yourself? They do it because this chicken is bad. It’s got a good stink to it and they are trying to hide if from the consumer.

Bad Chicken

You can’t see it but down in the lower right is the sell by date. It was yesterday. Butchers don’t want to ever EVER throw away meat. Instead they try to move it fast. They spice it up. They put it on special. When I see “Butchers Special” I hear “Salmonella Special”. Some butchers even change the sell by date.

NEVER BUY CHICKEN ON SPECIAL UNLESS THE SELL BY DATE IS FIVE DAYS AWAY! Even then be careful. No you probably won’t die. You may not even get sick but it’s just not worth it.

Butchers get serious pressure from grocery store management. They have to be profitable and they can’t afford to throw away product.

I imagine to most people this is obvious but to some young twenty something on a budget….it may be a life saver.

You have to forgive… don’t have to trust

We have been commanded by God to forgive. We have not been commanded to forget. To forget would be unwise. How can you learn from your mistakes or the mistakes of others if you forget? We need to remember and make judgments based on what we have observed. The product of these judgments is who we will trust and who we will not trust. We are not commanded to trust. Trust must be earned.

Detroit lost our trust in the 70’s and 80’s when they sold us the Aries K, pacer, pinto, gremlin, fairmont, reliant etc. To make it worse, while they were pushing these piles of junk they were lobbying the government to increase tariffs on the quality Japanese cars. These tariffs made us poorer as a nation. Detroit squandered valuable resources such as time, money, labor and raw resources. It made our nation poorer because it increased the inflation rate.

In addition to decreasing our standard of living by raising costs and decreasing quality, they made it an issue of patriotism. They pushing the public to “Buy American”. Television commercials, bumper stickers and the slogan, “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.” Give me a break.

I just finished watching “Flash of Genius”, the story about Robert Kearns who invented the intermittent windshield wiper. It’s no surprise that Ford raked him over the coals. Their management team was busy raking the whole country over the coals.

Twenty years later and we’ve got cash for clunkers and government bailouts.

Don’t forget; learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. Stop trusting and stop buying American.

So you purchased a new computer…

When you purchase a new computer do the following:

1. Find the Microsoft Windows Media (DVD) that came with the machine. This DVD is your lifeline. Unless you buy a new copy of Windows, this is the only copy of Windows that you can install on your machine. Everyone carelessly loses these DVD’s. I guess they think they will never need them again. Unfortunately, operating systems become cluttered and need to be reinstalled.

The other day I was working on a friend’s machine that had the same copy of Windows on it for six years. It hadn’t even been patched. It was slow, sluggish and spitting our errors like crazy. I was amazed that it still worked.

Don’t think that if you lose the DVD you can just borrow one from a neighbor to reinstall. It won’t work even if you have your original Windows License Key. The DVD is built to match the make and model of the machine. You need the original DVD and the original license key.

The DVD may not be labeled “Microsoft Windows XYZ”. It might say, “Recovery CD”. If you are not sure, call the retailer.

I was able to get replacement media from Dell. I got lucky.

2. Write down the Windows License key. It can be in various locations. They used to print it on the DVD. Sometimes it’s on a sticker on the media envelope. Check the bottom of the computer for the sticker with the code. It’s conveniently put on the machine where it receives the maximum amount of wear. Write it down now before it gets rubbed off.

3. Next label the DVD with the make and model of the machine. Half the homes in America have multiple computers. It can be tough to find the right DVD. Dozens of times I’ve asked people for their DVD’s so I can repair their machines. It’s always a joy sorting through the DVD’s looking for the right one.

4. The next step is optional. It involves separating the operating system from your data. The process is more technical and many people can’t do it themselves. I’m not going to go through the details but just talk about it generally.

It has been a best practice for decades to separate your SYS (system) volume from your data volumes. Your Windows partition or partition is inherently vulnerable. Running your computer is like cooking a meal—it can be messy. You don’t fillet, chop or whisk in the living room and you shouldn’t store your data with your operating system.

There are dozens of things that can crash your computer. When the computer goes down, files can be corrupted. You want to separate your data from your system files. Doing so reduces the chance of data loss and makes backup and recovery much easier. Microsoft is keeping users in the dark ages by putting the “user” directory on the same partition as the operating system. Millions of people have lost their valuable data because of this.

I recommend you create two partitions. The first partition should be around 40GB in size. That is usually enough for the OS and all the applications you will install. The second partition can use up the rest of the available. This is where you will store your data (music, personal files, photos, etc.). Windows allows you to redirect your “Users” directory to another location. This will be your “D” drive or whatever drive letter you chose. The goal is to have one partition for the system to use and another for your data.

Some machines have additional partitions already created for automatic recovery. I wouldn’t destroy those volumes. Just leave them alone.

There are tools available allow you to repartition the drives without hurting the working boot partition. I’m hoping that Windows 7 will allow you to do it natively.

5. Finally, create a backup plan. Your machine will crash. It will absolutely crash. There is no doubt about it. Don’t risk losing your photos, financial data, music etc.

I recommend two things: an external hard drive and an online backup service. Get an external hard drive and use it to backup your machine once a week. Second, purchase an online backup service for continuous offsite storage. There are many providers to choose from: Mozy, Carbonite, iDrive or Sugarsync. These services are available for MAC’s and PC’s. Some of these services have a free offering for people with less than 2GB of data. Online backup costs around $5 a month and is well worth it. The great thing about an online backup service is that if your house burns down you still have all your data.

If you follow these steps you will make MY life much easier.

Qwest makes my blood boil

This is officially a hate blog. A hate blog about Qwest.

About five months ago my father’s Internet stopped working. I tried to get it working but was unsuccessful. I called Qwest and they recommended a new modem. We purchased one and waited like 10 days for it to arrive. During this time, my father had to go to the library to read his email each day.

After the modem arrived we still couldn’t get it running. Finally Qwest ran some diagnostics and said the problem was on their side and that it couldn’t be repaired. Well, as you can imagine we decided to cancel and go to Comcast.

First, the charged him a $200 exit fee. They also didn’t cancel the service when we transferred. They continued to charge us for several months.

Because I dealt with Qwest the year before and had a horrible time switching, I decided to handle it for my Dad. I called many times and received assurances each time that the service was shut off. Each time they gave me adjustment numbers stating that the charges were removed.

I took down the names of each representative each time I called. Of course it was just the first names because they won’t give their last names, email addresses or extensions. They don’t give incident numbers but what good would they be since the “adjustment” numbers turned out to be bogus.

I’ve talked to managers in three different departments. I’ve done the chat support. I’ve got pages of notes from these calls. Now, after many months of dealing with this, they are sending my father to collections and they say we owe hundreds of dollars. My Dad can’t sleep at night because he’s scared they are going to trash his credit rating. I frankly don’t know what to do now. Qwest is so insulated that you can’t get penetrate the system.

Can  you imagine how frustrating it is after all this time to have them tell me they have no record of my calls, the modem being returned or that the problem was on their side? A month ago I decided to just pay them off but sure enough we got another bill immediately followed by being sent to collections.

I could go on and on about getting cut off after waiting on hold MANY TIMES. Or about the billing department opening at 8am but the phone not allowing you in until 8:15.

I’ve looked all over the Internet but haven’t been able to find an office to visit. We’ve sent an email to the consumer affairs reporter at the local news station but I’m not overly optimistic. I don’t know what we will do.

I did happen to find one local office. As you can see, there is no door knob. Clearly they are not looking for walk-in’s.

My recommendation is that no one should ever use Qwest again. 

Original Extra Crispy!

Everyone likes KFC chicken. The flavor of the original recipe is awesome. However, I occasionally get the extra crispy because I love the texture. Why can’t they do a hybrid and combine the two?

James Taylor–Mr. Full of Himself

I like a few of Mr. Taylor’s songs–all of which were recorded 30 years ago. Right now he is peddling his latest album on television. It is his album and it’s infomercial that sparked this blog. It is an incredible example of self indulgence. The music is awful and the whole advertisement is a joke.

U2, my favorite band, had a time when they felt like messing around in the studio. After the creating a pile of songs, they wanted to release it to the public. They thought somebody might want to hear what they created.

They were concerned about it. It wasn’t classic U2. They wanted to release it but didn’t want it to scar their reputation so they did two things: they labeled it experimental and released it under a different name. That was wise. It bombed hard.

Larry, the pragmatic member of the band said, “There’s a thin line between interesting music and self-indulgence. We crossed it on the Passengers record.”

James Taylor also felt like messing around in the studio. The difference is that he invited in video cameras to record the event and had every intention of making it a commercial success. After he created the complete joke of a record he made an infomercial to sell it. The infomercial is on TV all the time.

I can’t believe the ego on this guy. It’s interesting that he was married to Carly Simon. Her song, “You’re so Vain” certainly fits.

For years I have made a habit of ordering a free credit report each year. In order to get the free report they make you sign up for a paid account. They give you 30 days free afterwhich they start charging your credit card. I always cancel five minutes after I get the report so that I don’t forget.

Today I was reviewing my credit card bill and found this obscure charge. I did some checking and found I had missed this charge for the last 10 months. I called the number and guess who it was?

I told them I had cancelled the account immediately but my protests went nowhere. I told them I hadn’t received a phone call, letter or email this whole year. (yes I checked my spam filter) Saying that they didn’t care was an understatement.

It was my fault for not scanning my credit charges more thoroughly but that doesn’t excuse theft. I’m disputing it with my credit card provider but I don’t expect much to come of it.

An interesting note is that I recently signed up for credit monitoring from the same company. Our mortgage lender lost our personal information and offered to provide two years of free credit monitoring. I asked Experian (the owners of both companies) why they let me open two monitoring accounts with the same SSN. They said they were two different systems.

I’m convinced that the three credit bureaus are all crooked. 

Did I mention that the support person hung up on me after waiting 15 minutes to talk to her manager? I need to get in the habit of ALWAYS asking their name at the beginning of the call. I need to get in the habit of doing a lot of things.

Protecting Children from Internet Smut

I’ve been using Blue Coat’s K9 Web Protection for years. It is free filter and takes just a minute to install. I also run it on my work laptop to protect me from accidental exposures to bad sites. It allows you to set degrees of protection and has a password to override its filter. You can view a history of visted websites and allows you to put time limits as to when your family members can use the internet. If you think you don’t need it…’re wrong.

 If you don’t have it, go get it at

Beware of Circuit City and other Computer Dealers

I have plenty of experience working on computers. As a result, I gladly assist friends and relatives when they need help. One of my biggest frustrations is dealing with the lousy installations that come from manufacturers. They put on tons of software (garbage) that nobody uses. I don’t have the statistics but these apps significantly slowdown the machines. Most people won’t notice the loss of resources. The machines run fine when they first get them. After you install all your personal applications, wallpapers and backgrounds and then run the larger applications that are memory intensive, you already expect the machine to run slower. You never get the opportunity to run the applications in a pristine state so you don’t realize how nicely the machine can run. The biggest annoyance that the user may notice is on startup. The amount of time it takes to load the OS can double because of these garbage apps.

These garbage apps have several negatives. The consumption of valuable resources is significant but there is another side consequence. Because the vendors have contracts to load this junk, they purposely don’t provide you with the operating system media (CD’s). Instead, they want you to use the recovery disks if you have a problem. The recovery disks preserve all the garbage applications. They also offer few options for reconfiguration. Believe it or not, everyone doesn’t want to install the OS (i.e. Windows) the way the manufacturer does.

It is downright criminal to sell someone a copy of Microsoft Windows and not provide them the CD’s to install at a later date. Frankly, the situation is good for everyone but the consumer. Microsoft doesn’t have to worry about a CD that may get pirated and the manufacturer’s costs are less because they don’t have to provide the CD’s.

Some may think that uninstalling the applications is good enough. Consider this; I worked with a software product once that made over 3,000 changes to the Windows registry. The uninstall program for that product removed about 300 of those registry entries. As bad as that is, you can expect less from the garbage apps being installed by default.

When you purchase a computer, make sure you get the CD’s for all the applications you purchased. If they won’t give them to you; tell them take a hike. I called Circuit City about this issue and their recommendation was to buy a new copy of Windows. That’s right. Spend another $250 just to get the CD’s.

Like I say, it’s downright criminal.

Mountian West Conference Television Coverage

This is certainly an aggravating situation. All the blame goes to the Conference management. They sold the rights away without regard for the fans. They didn’t perform proper due diligence.

I don’t blame Comcast for their position. They are not in business to perform a public service. How they maximize their profits is their decision.

I currently subscribe to Comcast. I have the cheapest possible package. It’s basically the local channels with a few others. No frills. I don’t get ESPN, CNN, TBS or many of the other typical cable stations. I also don’t get “The Mountain”. I’m just not someone who wants to pay $30 a month for television. I am a season ticket holder for BYU football and would love to be able to see more games on television. I’m frustrated that Comcast owns the rights yet doesn’t give The Mountain to all its customers.

Here is a possible business solution to this dilemma. Comcast should consider providing The Mountain channel to their basic plan customers such as myself. This would provide a low cost alternative to dish fans who don’t get the games. For most people spending $50-$70 per month on television is the norm. Many people will consider an additional $13.50 a reasonable price to get these games. It’s cheaper than buying a single a ticket to the game. It’s also not difficult to have both Comcast and Dish in the same home. Comcast would need to work something out on the installation. Perhaps wave the installation or significantly lower it during the month of August.

This plan would allow everyone in the West to get the Mountain West conference games at a reasonable price. Comcast is incented because they increase their revenue and some customers will ultimately switch over from Dish. They may also get an upsell to high speed Internet or phone. This type of promotion may cause Dish to finally settle with Comcast to get the games. After all, they don’t want tons of customers purchasing Comcast for fear they will completely switch over their services. 

I realize some local areas have additional complications but I think this concept has possibilities.