Category Archives: Tech

The “I.D. Ten T.” Error

” I.D. Ten T.” This is one of my favorite tech jokes. The premise is that two helpdesk people conversing on the phone, one is remote, the other is with the end user.

“Yep, it’s an I.D. Ten T. error” the tech with the end user will tell the second. Written out, the error code becomes – “I D 10 T” (or if you still don’t see it – ‘IDIOT’).

You all know a tech support person. They may not work as a tech support person, but in your life, they are the person you call when your computer (assuming a PC here) isn’t doing what it should – or at least what you think it should be doing. I play that role with many people I know. There are many evenings spent discussing computers problems or stops after work, or on the weekends to look at, install, uninstall, tweak, backup, restore, repair, reply, burn, download, delete, diagnose, quarantine and, sometimes, confirm a piece of hardware will be moving on to the next electronic recycling program…

“End Users”, the people using the software, are constantly ridiculed within the tech industry. Working in the tech industry, I am amazed on the lack of understanding of Windows by both technical and non-technical people.

So – to avoid an “I-D-10-T” Error, here are my suggestions:

  1. Don’t say NOTHING works unless its true. “Nothing works” means you have a power issue – first step is make sure things are plugged in. If you can’t get into windows then something must work for you to know that.
  2. Errors are important, tell your techsupport person if you have received one. Machines aren’t great communicators but when they do its usually pretty important so its important to let them know there is an error BUT…
  3. Don’t read the entire error message – unless asked to do so, a brief summary is usually sufficient. But some people insist on reading all 15 lines of the error message (Exception: this did mess me up with Phil when he found some spyware  on mom’s computer and the installed malware was a print driver that was called “Absolutely Bogus Printer Driver“)
  4. If you think you may have clicked on something you shouldn’t have, admit me. We don’t care if you were at a porn site – we’ve all been to one or two of those sites – it could save us both hours of wasted time.
  5. Advice: DON’T click on anything you’re not sure who its from. Really! All the techies say it and that’s because its true. IF you click on something you shouldn’t and you’re faced a decision (“Would you like to install?”) DO NOT click on a button – ANY button – instead use the red ‘X’ in the upper right corner. Despite what the buttons are labeled, both button mean ‘Yes, install your malware and mess up my computer’.
  6. BitTorrents (Peer-to-Peer, or P2P) are easy ways to get free stuff (mp3’s, movies, etc.) but they are not to be trusted. I know Limewire is a favorite among kids for music but be sure your spyware and virus are current and up to day. Its like paying for your drinks with raw steak in a tiger’s cage. And you wonder why the kids get mauled? A kid once told me that Limewire does not affect laptops. “Now I know why tigers eat their young!”
  7. Spyware and Viruses are two different things. ‘Current’ and ‘updated’ are two different things. You could, and should, have two different spyware protection programs. I recommend Spybot and Ad-Aware as free programs. Keep them ‘current’ – meaning you have the latest versions of the program. Also, keep them up to date – meaning they have the latest listing of malware programs to protect you from.
  8. For virus protection programs, most (and I think all) ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) provide free virus protection programs. No one wants you to get a virus. If fact, it means more work for all of us. We have Comcast for our ISP. They currently offer a free version of Norton. AT&T/Yahoo offer a free version of McAfee. You will need to log into you accounts to get them. If you need different program, I recommend Avast! (fyi – do not use the CNET download button, its an ad!). Same rules – keep your program current – meaning the latest version of the software and keep your program up to date – meaning the latest version of virus definition patterns. First thing I will do you make your stuff is current and up to date.
  9. Backup your data! Yea, more stupid advice that no one listens to but believe me it will happen to you. I once lost a new data drive 6 months after I bought it. My brother lost his external drive when it fell off his desk. I use Syncback. However, this program is not free – its $30 and you can put it on up to 5 pc’s (that’s $6 a PC). Do it and some day you may thank me.
  10. Finally, if I do work on your computer, don’t call me up and complain about my work. I don’t charge for working on computers (though I have taken beer for work I’ve done). It worked when I left. If you do pay for support, keep in mind they will make sure it works. Sometimes that shortest distance is a complete reinstall (see #9). And if I leave a note in your startup folder that pops up everytime you start your computer – that just means I like you.

Apple TV – This Won’t Work Either

No, this isn’t more Mac bashing (but that can be fun!). This week, Apple announced at Macworld their plans for Apple TV. So many companies have tried to make downloading movies work but it never does. Now, I will say if anyone outside ‘the system’ can, Apple can – but movies are very different from music. And that’s my point…

Face it, music is for young people. I can count on one hand the number of people that continue to go through music like I do – except for kids. What Apple did right with the iPod is the delivery system. In a minute more then downloading the song, anyone can be listening to their new favorite song. Without iTunes, iPods are just another MP3 player. The magic is in the delivery. This is why Microsoft latest Windows Media Player 11 (WMP11) is so good, they knew they had to improve it in order to compete with their new Zune player (despite my grumblings on both Microsoft and Mac’s, I’ve dumped iTunes and gone to WMP11. If you haven’t seen it, check it out!).

Now movies are different. They are much more an event. You don’t just see something about a movie and sit down and watch it. It’s a 90 minute investment of time. Most people don’t like starting a movie and picking it up later. I know my family, we decide that afternoon or even the day before if we can have a movie night. Even if its just Desi and I, we ask ourselves if we want to stay up that late. And this is for movies we own!

So will people buy hardware to watch movies. Sure, they did, its called a dvd player. But what about the convenience? You would have really watch a lot of movies and be horrible at your own time management to justify buying hardware so you can watch movies whenever you want. If you do watch a lot of movies and can improve your time management, I would recommend NetFlix. I can’t say that from personal experience, I don’t watch enough movies. But the people that do use it love it.

Hats off to Apple on their iPod, they changed how people get music. I think Apple’s best bet would be to sell their technology to the cable and dish companies and go for the Apple branding. That will keep them in the game for television shows. I can find a half hour a lot easier then an hour and a half – THAT I might download.

Music & Technology, Part 5

OK, there aren’t 4 other parts to this story but just an update to what’s been going on with Music. In our last episode, our arch enemies (Record Companies, RIAA, etc.) were suing college kids and grandmothers, digitally locking up their stolen goods (remember, the artist is the ones creating what you want!) to the point of using hacking tools to keep you from digitizing your CD’s (Sony story). Our hero’s (artists) continued to be gathered liked sheep at an ever quickening rate to compete against each other in – winners to be praised, the loser to disappear and be forgotten.

iTunes continues to reign over the digital music market, good for them. I’m not a Mac or Apple fan but I do respect them. Did you know the next largest digital music provider is eMusic? The main differences are eMusic works with smaller record distributors – so lessor known artists; BUT all their mp3’s are Digital Rights Management (DRM) free. And now iTunes is beginning to offer DRM-free digital songs (Here’s a brief iTunes lesson – iTunes uses the .acc format to protect their songs. This means not only can you not send them to your friends to play, they will only play on up to 5 pc’s. iPods (and Nano’s, Shuffles, etc) will also play .mp3’s. But they will not play .wma’s – which is Microsoft’s format).

So what has happened lately? First, Amazon is entered the digital music fray. It is predicted they will quickly become #3 in digital music and potentially #2. While this doesn’t really change anything for us (the consumer) it verifies the potential money involved with digital music.

But this may – Radiohead announced their new album ‘In Rainbows’ will be available directly from the artist. How much? what ever you want. OK, that’s not 100% correct – there is a transaction fee of 45 pence (92 cents) but that is deducted from how much you pay (no you can’t pay less then 92 cents and make money). You can also preorder their ‘DiscBox‘ for £40 (or $82). Their downloaded album is sold an average of $6 each. People DO pay for their music.

Similarly but even more amazing is a ‘no-name’ making it. Enter Jonathan Coulton featured in Wired.com article about giving music away. Jonathan is a ‘Pop Geek’ that is building a fanbase with the use of Slide Song. His song ‘Code Monkey’ was the theme song for G4’s cable show and he has an original song in the latest release of the gaming classic Half Life ‘Orange Box’. He has become professional musician all without the help of the radio or the record companies.

The industry continues to evolve and stagnate still. CD’s were down 15% from last year but digital download versions were up 55%. Studies have shown that sharing music doesn’t kill CD sales. Yet the industry still doesn’t quite get it. But in a recent Wired article, Universal Music redid it’s contract with iTunes to help introduce competition and release iTunes stranglehold on digital downloads by cutting a deal with Zune (Microsoft’s answer to the iPod). But they want an ‘all you can eat’ model so you can download as many Universal songs as you want – and Microsoft is eager enough to cover your costs to overthrow iTunes. But that still means DRM files and that still won’t work, especial when everyone is now beginning to offer DRM-free songs. What doesn’t Universal get?

I’m still like a kid in a candy store. There is just so much great music out there but most people can’t find it – heck, I can’t find it! Music ain’t dead (but it is in another way but that’s a different article). Technology has made music easy, fun and more consumable then ever. Enjoy it and as I always say, ‘If you like it, Buy it!”