Sunday, October 16, 2011

I Hate Shiny Laptop Screens

The Worst, and the Best, and the Worst Again

Three parts to this story: Dell's mirrored laptop screens, Photodon's antireflective film, Photodon's extraordinary customer service, and my complete inability to apply the film even with a second chance.

I made the first mistake: I bought a Dell Inspiron laptop, which is huge and weighs a ton, instead of buying a svelte 'netbook' and saving myself a lot of arm-pulling grief.

I don't know what I was thinking.

Compounding the weight problem, the Dell has a perfectly shiny, mirror-like screen that perfectly reflects all light sources above or behind you -- making the laptop almost useless anywhere but in a dimmed room. Why on earth would they do that? Amazon likes to tease Apple for its mirrored iPad, while its Kindle has a matte finish, so you can read it anywhere, even n broad daylight sitting poolside. Can't do that with an iPad - or with a Dell laptop.

I don't know what they were thinking.

Solution: Anti-Reflective Film from Photodon

I finally searched for an anti-reflective film I could apply, and came to Photodon, LLC, a Traverse City, Michigan maker of such films, as well as monitor hoods and screen-care products. The films aren't expensive -- $20 or less, depending on the size of your screen, plus shipping. They are sized to fit your specific laptop model, so you don't have to cut anything to size, thank goodness or this blog post would include a section on bleeding.

The package comes in a stiff, flat mailing package, with a cleaning cloth, instructions, a link to online video demos of how to apply the film, and the film itself, which is impressively thick and stiff and durable-seeming, not like cellophane.

You're supposed to clean the laptop screen thoroughly, pull away the protective plastic, and carefully lay the film from one edge of the laptop screen and gradually down until it's all on. The only problem is the bubbles -- you know, the bubbles that persist in showing up whenever you try to lay down a film like this -- if you'veever tried to put antiglare film on a car window, you know what I mean. A credit card can act as a squeegee to help this process, but it's hard anyway. Tiny bubbles appear wherever the film encounters a speck of dust -- then you have to pull is back, dab the spot with scotch tape to lift off the mote, then attempt again to lay it down across the screen.

And again and again and again. And pull dust motes off until it becomes obvious that you live in the dustiest house in America. No matter how many times I cleaned the screen, no matter how careful I tried to be, I could not get the film to lay down cleanly.

And of course the demo video shows someone performing the operation as if it's nothing at all.

Me, I ended up with enough bubbles to qualify for a 7-Up advertisement.

Trying to Help

After an hour of this, I gave up in frustration. I emailed the company, telling them I was a failure at applying their product and had given up. I asked them to send me another one, and bill me.

They suggest I try cleaning the film in soapy water and reapplying.

So I did that. I did it a couple of times. I got more bubbles than ever.

The frustration was compounded by seeing that in places where the film was clear, it did exactly the reflection-dimming job I was looking for! If only I could get the doggoned thing on, I'd be in laptop heaven!


So I threw the damned thing in the trash, and sent a depressed woe-is-me note to Photodon customer support.

Whereupon Photodon sent me a replacement film. Free.

Just like that.

Without me even asking.

I would never think to ask for that -- not free -- it's my own imcompetence with physical objects, not their film. But no, they just sent a replacement.

I've never seen customer support like that. If they are handing out medals and plaudits for customer-support saintliness -- please send Photodon to the front of the line -- they deserve it.

Just Shoot Me -- Again

I got the replacement package and put it next to my desk for several weeks, afraid to open it and try again. Finally, this evening, I screwed up my courage and tackled it again. I will be going to a trade show tomorrow, and the idea of the glaring lights coming up from my laptop screen forced my hand.

Unhappily, I again completely failed to lay down the film on the laptop screen without a dozen bubbles appearing. Nothing I did could make them go away, no re-laying-down, no sticky-tape attacks on miniscule bits of lint, no caution, no clean hands.Nothing.

In the right kind of world, Photodon's extra-extra efforts to make a customer happy would have a happy ending. I don't live in that kind of world, darn it. So I have Lessons Learned, and ttired of learning lessons I am.

I see two lessons in this, I think. Plus a bonus lesson, but that one applies only to me.

1. Dell and all other laptop makers should produce matte-finish laptop screens. Period. If there is some techical reasons why they can't be made in that size -- they should as a matter of course buy film from Photodon and apply it before sending it to the customers.

2. Photodon has the greatest customer support in the world. I take my hat off to them, and so should you.

3. I cannot apply antiglare film to a laptop screen, period. Perhaps I should stick with virtual tasks; meat-space work only frustrates.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Open Letter to the Gilroy Garlic Festival--Offer SAMPLES, not FULL MEALS!

date Sun, Jul 24, 2011 at 2:12 PM
subject You should have samples too, not just full meals

We're coming to the Garlic Festival this year again, after a long absence.

I see on your FAQ, however, that food at the booths is "for full meals, not samples."

This is a really bad idea, and a huge lost opportunity -- I can't believe after 30 years you still haven't figure this out.

Last time we went, it was basically "100 choices, pick ONE" because you can only eat one, maybe two full meals. So I miss out on sampling many wonderful garlicky concoctions.

This is nuts. It;s like having a wine festival that only lets you buy full bottles of wine -- no sampling. How does that make sense?

If you let booths offer (and charge for) samples, everyone would try as many different great things as possible -- and you and the booths would make more money than ever. We visitors would be happier.

Wine and beer fests have learned this lesson a hundred years ago. Please, SOMEBODY at the Garlic Festival management, learn this simple lessons some year soon!

(And yes, I figure there is some kind of idiotic roadblocks as the likely explanation, like some government regulation. You should campaign for modification of such rules -- every garlic lover in the state would support you.)

Yours truly, but disappointedly,

Mac McCarthy
Castro Valley CA

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How I hate Nokia!

I got this AT&T Nokia dumb phone - a 6350, not a smart phone because I don't want to pay the data rates each month since I work at home and simply don't need to check email or go online from my phone enough to justify the extra cost.

So I got this because I need only to synch with my Outlook Calendar and Contacts.

Aside from having the worst user interface on Earth -- something like 14 steps to mail a photo from the phone to an email address -one by one, of course -- the synch software frmo Nokia is the worst. The worst.

It worked - for a while. Then it would sometimes not synch completely, especially the Calendar. It would say there is not enough memory on the phone. Believe me when I say this is untrue; no point in belaboring it, but it is simply not true. I've done everything there is to do to make it work right. So sometimes it works - then goes for months not synching the calendar.

They released a completely new synch suite called Nokia Ovi Suite (the previous version is Nokia PC Suite). The new software did not work either - except, unlike its predecessor, it simply ever worked right, ever.

Tech support at Nokia is, like its UI, the worst on earth. The problem I am having, it turns out, is a problem *everyone* is having. And has been having for several years. No one has ever received a single bit of feedback or support from Nokia for this problem. None. For two years. Ever. Still.

I have come to hate Nokia with the passion usually reserved for Microsoft -- or for the lying, cheating bastards at Buffalo. I look forward with glee to its final destruction at the hands of its equal in badness, Microsoft. I will dance on its grave.

Now all I have to do is trudge down to the AT&T store to find another cheap simple phone that's not a Nokia but that might - might - actually synch with Outlook's Calendar and Contacts.

I am doomed, aren't I?

(No urgings to try another carrier; this isn't a carrier problem, and I am apparently unique in not having had problems with AT&T over the years - tho of course I have not often had smart phones to test the limits of their system. One hateful enemy at a time, please.)

I will not waste my time trying to find reviews of cheap phones; cell-phone reviews are as close to useless as it is possible to get, in my experience.

Sorry; just venting....


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"The Good Old Days" -- How About A Little Perspective, Though?

Buddy of mine sends one of those Nostalgia pieces that circulate around the Web -- You know, "Do you remember when.... Gas was 25 cents a gallon and they cleaned your windshield? Laundry detergent had prizes inside? A '57 Chevy was the car everybody wanted? Nobody ever locked their doors? The slower pace? Less stress, fewer dangers?

Well, yes -- there were great things about The Old Days -- in this case, the 1950s... But a little perspective is sometimes called for.

Heck, most of this stuff was gone by the time we were 12.

And the rest of it by the time we were 18.

Yes, gasoline was 25 cents a gallon -- and our dads earned a lot less than $10,000 a year, and that only by working lots of overtime.... And even though you could buy more with a dollar then -- people were, simply put, much less prosperous back then.

TV was in black and white, was 12 or 15 inches wide, and came with only three or four channels.

And we didn't worry about fattening ice cream and soda pop and beef dinners and lots of butter on our bread. Because we didn't know that 50 years later we'd be paying the price for our ignorance.

And kids actually got polio, and the Russkies were threatening to A-bomb us to the ice age, and cars had no safety features to speak of, and you couldn 't just look something up on Google and get an answer in a few minutes, and you had to write letters by hand on paper and put a stamp on an envelope and mail it -- so you never really bothered. And if you wanted a quick cup of coffee you had to get out the percolator - remember those? - set it up and brew a quart of the stuff. And there weren't any microwaves to zap-heat up some leftovers, and fridges were iceboxes, and the bottles of milk brought by the nice milkman at 5am would freeze in a January morning; and air travel was so amazingly expensive that we didn't even know anybody who had ever flown in a plane, or been overseas, unless they were a GI. So if your parents wanted to go to Europe on vacation they had to take a boat, which took a week each way. And the only way to get to California, or Florida, was by car, over several days. Which was wonderful in memory, but not so wonderful if you were stuck with that method always.

Yeah, the good old days had a lot of charming things; some of those charming things are charming because we've forgotten about or were too young to be aware of the less charming parts that made them possible.

In a dream world - the one nostalgia like this puts us in - we'd have the best of both -- the charm of the old days, with the comfort, low prices, airbags, and 500 channels of today.

And Google.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Business: Everybody buying everybody else is a good sign-- I think!

AOL just bought a publication site called The Huffington Post. For $300 million.

Several other big companies have paid hefty prices for several other smaller or newer companies.

All in the past month or so....

A burst of deals, especially ones at high prices consolidating industries, occurs on the way to a market recovery.

When the recession hits hard, businesses hunker down: They cut costs, find efficiencies, and if the are profitable, they conserve cash rather than expand, waiting for future opportunities.

Meanwhile, the government slashes interest rates in hopes of stimulating business. The idea is to make it cheaper for businesses to borrow money to expand or launch new initiatives. But generally, they don't -- instead, they refinance any debt to lower their costs, again.

But on the side, businesses also realize that zero interest rates also means that the pile of cash they're sitting on isn't generating returns. So one fine day they wake up and decide to put it to better use by buying competitors, new markets, or hot startups. Especially irresistable are companies that could use a cash infusion, and so are for sale cheap. Or cheaper than they'll be when the economy recovers later.

So they start buying companies. And boom -- this generates the economic stimulus the government was looking for but not finding.

And....we're back!

I only hope it's true this time too.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Arguments about whether God exists -- sorry, which God is that?

In the NYT today, an argument by a believer against Dawkins, the well-known atheist, over whether, in principle, God exists.  See

Wow, what a lot of malarky.

I am, however, charmed at how many people vigorously disagree with him in the comments. It is good that we have such skepticism.

When people argue about whether a God exists, the automatic assumption seems to be the Judeo-Christian God or a variant thereupon. But every so-called argument in favor of this notion is equally true (or nonsensical) about Greek gods, Hindu gods, Roman gods, and the numerous long-gone gods of many cultures past in history. Why do we not argue over whether *Zeus* exists? What specifics about the above arguments would distinguish between a Zeus and a Christian God, or Mazda, or Shiva?

Nothing. The 'best' you can do is argue to a standstill that there *might* conceivably be a supernatural entity out there somewhere, though the only evidence we have of the nature of it is in the assertions of the religious, the "experience of God" of contemporary times -- but not of past times, of course -- none of which makes today's concepts of Gods and religious experiences different from, let alone more plausible than, the concepts of the past.

We are *all* atheists - about *somebody's* god. Few believe in Zeus anymore - why not?  It's not a question of whether you believe in God, which cannot be resolved -- but why, once you've decided to believe in a god, you choose this or that particular one? (And then, depending on which particular god you choose, arm yourself so you can oppressive your neighboring unbeliever.) You don't believe in all nonsense -- so why do you choose this particular nonsense?

What a waste of time and intellectual effort!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

When I wrote trivia for a living....

I look it up and get:

This can be chalked up as another urban myth. It is possible to make such and ideogram but it has no meaning in Chinese, certainly not trouble.

The link includes this note:
 It is sometimes said that the Chinese character for "trouble" shows two women under one roof. Such a character is possible, and would look like this , but there actually is no such Chinese character, though I understand that the myth lives on the internet.

While a Chinese culture site has this:

Chinese Pinyin: ma2 fan2

The two characters under the 'roof' of the first part look like the symbol for Rice, to me, and stands for tingling sensation such as pins and needles. It's also the first symbol in the two-symbol word Mahjong, the game.

Though an old English rhyme on this theme has it:

Two wymen in one howse,
Two cattes and one mowce,
Two dogges and one bone,
Maye never accorde in one.

I also found lots of trivia sites echoing the 'two women' claim.

What a fun way to waste time instead of getting started on my work for today!

I once worked in LA for a producer who was creating a couple of TV commercial series, for one of which I was the copy writer. This was back in the days of the "Bicentennial Minutes" if you remember them: These were trivia tidbits about American history in the year of the bicentennial, 1976; the one-minute commercial had thirty seconds during which a 'personality' announcer would tell you some interesting factual tidbit, and the next 28 seconds would be sold to local advertisers as sponsors, concluding with "And this has been a Bicentennial Minute!"

Well, this was around 1979 and this guy created two similar series, one called "It's A Fact!" and another, makeup advice tips, was "Tips from Toni!" I created the bits by finding trivia books, pulling out the more interesting bits, then researching to see if they were actually true. The majority were sourceless and unsourceable -- and apparently made up. A few were checkable, and often wrong or misinterpreted; many, such as the ones about odd laws around the US, were often mysterious only because unexplained.

This left a handful of interesting ones, some of which were even more interesting when you looked them up. Such as: An ostrich is capable of kicking a man off a horse (they're tall enough, and their legs amazingly strong). In the desert of Southwest Africa, diamond miners in the early 1900s would sometimes kill ostriches for their diamonds--turns out the gizzards of mature birds could have a handful of diamonds in them, because birds swallow stones from the ground so that their gizzards can use them to help grind up food The stones disintegrate over time, so they eat more -- but diamonds don't grind down and so remain behind.

I figured out, based on my reading speed, that the scripts had to be 110 words long. I wrote 120 of them over the course of a month or so. Then we went to a studio where the 'talent,' an over-the-hill announcer, read the bits--only to find that at his reading speed, the scripts had to be 96 words long.

So I had to go back and in a few days trim each of 120 scripts by exactly 14 words.

I learned a lot about editing for length....

Anyway, to circle back to my point, whereever I left it -- most trivia is untrue, in my research-based experience -- untrue, made up, misinterpreted, missing key elements or context that would make them less amazing, or otherwise unreliable. How very much I appreciate!