Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

Large crowd at Bethesda Apple Store for launch of iPad 2

March 11, 2011

The line stretched across six stores and restaurants as people waited for the iPad 2. Photo by Mike Frandsen.

At first I thought the long line on Bethesda Avenue at Bethesda Row was for Georgetown Cupcake.  At least the line turned out to be for something more useful, though I can’t imagine wasting time in line instead of waiting a few days.

The line that numbered a few hundred people stood outside the Apple Store in Bethesda for the launch of the iPad 2.  I will say this about the iPad – it has a lot of good, cheap applications for kids and adults with disabilities.

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People wait in line for the iPad 2 at the Apple Store in Bethesda.


Getting responses to email: I give up

August 24, 2010

I’ve decided to retire my “Statement to responding to email” ( from my email signature.  Since I put it up there it hasn’t increased the percentage of people who respond to emails that require a response.  Luckily most people respond when a question is asked or an important email is sent.  As for the rest, I guess I’ll just have to guess whether a non-response means the person was just busy and overlooked responding, or whether I am supposed to read between the lines and figure out that when people don’t respond it means they disagree with the email or something.  Also see

Responding to email

May 14, 2010

It’s pretty rude when people fail to respond to emails that have specific questions or suggestions.  I wrote about it a year ago.

I recently got email responses from Dr. Francis Collins, Director of NIH and the most accomplished geneticist in the country (well, his assistant responded, but close enough).  I also got responses from another researcher who is the most famous in his field, Caps and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, and Washington Post columnist Mike Wise.  They weren’t always the responses I wanted but it’s still professional to respond.

These people are pretty busy but I respect them for responding to email.

Customer Service: A Lost Art

July 10, 2009

Customer service from various places has been terrible lately.  Maybe it’s the economy.  Anyway, the representatives are just ruthless.  Here’s a random sampling of experiences.

DirecTV.  My DVR wasn’t working right so they said they could send a technician out.  They didn’t tell me until after they had fixed it that it would cost $49.99.  Also, the technician charged me $15 for an extra 1-foot cable, which is all he did, and he wouldn’t take a credit card, so I had to give him a $20 bill, and he didn’t have change so he wanted to just leave but I made him go and get change.  Then I called DirecTV and got transferred to about five different people and I told them they should have told me beforehand that there would be a charge.  Finally, after talking to about six people the first five of whom disagreed with me, they agreed that they should have informed me of the charge beforehand.  But what happens to people who aren’t persistent and don’t stay on the phone for a half hour?  In the past I’ve also had to repeat the same things over and over to them as if they never take notes on calls.  Also, when I first started, their reps were in the habit of promising things just to sign you up and then a different rep would deny that this ever happened.  Grade:  F

Comcast.  They insisted I had not returned a cable box and that I owed $50.  After many, many hours on the phone with them, they finally agreed that it was a mistake.  But after that, I still got bills for it.  Plus, even though the charge was eventually reversed, my phone bill was an extra $50 because of all the time I spent on the phone with them.   One other note – I’ve talked with two different people who don’t have TV set up because they had so many problems with Comcast.  Grade:  F

Carbonite.  I had a specific issue for which I wanted specific help, but after emailing them about 15 times and saying, “please don’t just cut and paste instructions for me,” they continued to just cut and paste standard instructions for me.  Also, at one point they asked me to send them specific files.  I did and they never responded.  Then they said they’d call me back and they never did.  Finally I asked again and they did call back to resolve it.  Grade:  D

Linksys.  They reset the settings on my router for a one-time charge and insisted that I wouldn’t need anything else for two years.  It didn’t help and the wireless access was actually slower so I asked if I could get a refund or have it credited toward a new router or a 6-month plan but they said no.  They said they’d call me back but never did.  I emailed them but they didn’t respond.  Usually they are pretty good on chat, though.  Grade:  D

Verizon.  When I was first getting my internet access set up, I remember the representative being unbelievably verbose and speaking in long, drawn out ways, almost as if she was reading a telemarketing script instead of just being concise and getting to the point.  A couple of other times they’ve been ok.  Grade:  C

Apple.  Generally, they’ve been pretty helpful.  Grade:  B

Best Buy Geek Squad.  I had a lot of problems with my PC and they weren’t helpful to say the least.  One of many examples:  I brought my laptop in because the touchpad, the left click button, whatever you call it, was always slightly depressed so that wherever the cursor, or the little hand, whatever you call it, was pointing on the web, it would occasionally just click on it without me touching it.  Example.  I’m writing an email and it’s halfway done.  The cursor is pointing over the “send” button but I’m not touching the computer at all.  The computer sends the email.  Best Buy insisted that there was nothing wrong with it because they supposedly couldn’t duplicate the problem even though this clicking when I wasn’t touching the pc happened about five times an hour every day for half a year.  You can see the left button is physically lower down by about a millimeter than it should be.  Grade:  F

Sirius Satellite Radio.  Keeping in mind that this would be easier than internet access or computers, generally, they’ve been good. Grade:  B

Southwest. I typed in my voucher code when I made a flight and it didn’t work.  I hope this isn’t a way for them to save money. But when I callled, they fixed the problem.  I guess there isn’t too much that can go wrong with airlines compared with technical companies, but if I list the bad ones I should also list the good ones.  Grade:  B

A Seller Tool.  They usually say, “just follow the instructions on the website.”  They aim to save time this way but they actually increase time spent because people have to keep calling back.  If they would just walk people through it a little bit, it would save time for everyone.  Grade:  D

A.C. Moore in Rockville, MD. This may not fit here, but I wanted to include it because I had a good experience there.  I bought 8 frames – of course they didn’t come with the brackets on the back.  I had to buy those separately, and they had those tiny nails that are impossible to use.  The guy at the counter agreed to do it right then and there for free.  I would have expected to have to wait and/or pay.  Grade:  A

Post Office, Bethesda, MD. I love the post office in Bethesda on Wisconsin Avenue.  It’s open 24 hours and they have one of those self-serve machines that you can use to send packages and other mail.  There is also one at the branch on Arlington Road but they close early.  The staff at both places are great.  Grade:  A

Complaints about Mac and Microsoft

June 2, 2009

Some complaints about Macintosh and Microsoft:  


  • Takes too long to start up, even though it’s faster than a PC.  
  • Won’t shut down unless you keep it open for about five seconds after clicking “shut down.”
  • Has no delete button.  Or rather, the delete button is a backspace button, and in order to delete text to the right, you have to use both hands to press two separate buttons.
  • Safari is slow.
  • The only main advantages I see are that Macs are mostly not susceptible to viruses and system crashes but that’s like saying, “It’s not terrible,” rather than “It’s great.”  The photo program doesn’t seem that great although the movie making program is pretty good.  


  • Obviously, Windows PC’s have tons of problems and customer service is terrible, but that’s not news.
  • Word:  I cannot believe that the current version isn’t backwards compatible.  It is so inefficient to send attachments that some people can’t read.  Of course they do that so more people will buy the newest version, but it’s so useless.  If I have to save documents in the earlier version so everyone can read them, what is the point of having the newest version?  
  • Excel:  It is unbelievably user unfriendly.  I’m good with numbers, graphs, etc. but there are some things that I just can’t figure out no matter how hard I try.  I go through every menu item and it’s not there until I realize you have to right click to get to certain areas.  It is just not simple and intuitive. 

Windows vs. Apple

December 4, 2008

Well, this one isn’t too original, and when I state in my intro paragraph about my blog that some of my entries may be frightfully boring, here’s an example.  Anyway, I’m finally switching from Windows to Mac computers.  A few years ago I had a Windows PC crash with all my data on it.  Apparently this is fairly common.  When I went to find out how much it would cost to recover my data, the answer was $1200.  And that’s with no guarantee that they’d get any of it back.  Then I got a new computer from Worst Buy in Rockville, Maryland.  It needed two hard drives replaced and the DVD drive replaced, it had problems four separate times, and I didn’t have it from August through the beginning of November except for the few times I had it back from the Geek Squad. 


At least I had another Windows pc, a laptop.  Of course, this one got so hot that I burned myself.  Also, the left click button on the mouse sometimes clicks on whatever it’s on without me touching it.  That’s right, if the cursor is over the “send” button on an email message for example, it might send it even if I don’t touch the mouse.  And, the cursor jumps from one place to another so sometimes I can’t write more than two words without losing my spot.  Sometimes it doesn’t shut down right either.  Anyway, I haven’t had a chance to take the laptop in for repair.  Because I need a computer!  Usually a car repair can be done in a day but a computer takes a month??? 


Back to the desktop PC – the customer service representatives acted as if the computer being in the shop for the better part of three months was no big deal, and they were rude along the whole way.  I’ve never even used a Mac, but it can’t be any worse than Windows.