« Previous Day | Main | Next Day »

7 January, 2003

Phyllis Schlafly on Copyright Extremists

Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative's conservative, speaks out on U.S. copyright laws: Copyright Extremists Should Not Control Information Flow. And her opinions are dead on!

(via Microsoft Watch)

Posted on 7 January, 2003

Intuit Tries Product Activation

As I write this, Intuit's Turbo Tax Deluxe 2002 has an Amazon Sales Rank of 2 -- yet it has a user rating of only 1.5 stars (out of five). Why is that? Because they've decided to see if they can match Microsoft's corporate arrogance.

This $40 software is now protected with a crappy product activation scheme, so it can be used only on one computer. And, apparently, it's not even possible to uninstall it and the re-install it on a second computer. 

Take a look at the user reviews at Amazon. Loyal customers who purchase this product year after year are pissed off, and they are letting their views be known. Besides losing many repeat customers, Intuit has generated some very bad PR. Get a clue, Intuit. When people are working on their income taxes, an unnecessary software-related problem is the last thing they want to deal with.

According to this CNET article,

Complaints center on potential problems in getting TurboTax to run after changing PC or PC components. They also focus on concerns that years from now taxpayers who need to retrieve information from previous years won't be able to get older versions of TurboTax to run. Lee Boszak, a retiree from Inverness, Fla., said he's used TurboTax for more than 10 years but switched to TaxCut this year because he objects in principle to product activation. "If I upgrade to a new PC or replace my hard drive, I can't install or reinstall without calling Intuit," he said via e-mail. "I have purchased TurboTax for many years, since it came on floppies--this activation is a slap in the face to a loyal customer."

Get used to it folks. This sort of thing is the wave of the future. And it will get much, much worse before these companies realize that they are digging their own graves.

Posted on 7 January, 2003

100 Best Companies to Work For

The annual Forbes list of the 100 best companies to work for is available. Here are the top 20:

  1. Edward Jones
  2. Container Store
  3. Alston And Bird
  4. Xilinx
  5. Adobe Systems
  6. American Cast Iron Pipe
  7. TDIndustries
  8. J.M. Smucker
  9. Synovus Financial Corp.
  10. Wegmans Food Markets
  11. Plante And Moran
  12. Pella
  13. CDW Computer Centers
  14. JM Family Enterprises
  15. Baptist Health Care
  16. Vision Service Plan
  17. Republic Bancorp
  18. Qualcomm
  19. SAS Institute
  20. Microsoft

Posted on 7 January, 2003

$20 From the Music Industry?

A few months ago, the five largest music companies and three of the USA's largest music retailers were found guilty of price-fixing. To avoid a lengthy legal case, they agreed to pay $67.4 million to customers, and distribute $75.7 million in CDs to public and non-profit groups.

Anyone who purchased pre-recorded music between 1995-2000 is eligible to receive up to $20. You can sign up here.

According to Wired, very few people have signed up during the month the offer has been available. Well duh! First of all, there is no guarantee that you'll receive anything.

If more than about 8.8 million people apply, in which case the per-person share would drop below $5, the customer part of the settlement will be canceled. Sending out such small checks is just too expensive. Instead, the money will go to public entities and nonprofit organizations in each state to promote music programs. The settlement already calls for those organizations to receive 5.5 million CDs valued at $75.7 million.

Secondly, why even bother? I probably purchased about 200 albums during that timeframe. A $20 rebate is a slap in the face by the guilty party. I'd prefer to have my whopping $20 share go to a worthwhile organization.

And finally, to sign up for the rebate you must provide lots of personal information at a web site that does not have a written privacy policy. I really don't care to have my name, email address, and demographic data sold to the highest bidder.

Posted on 7 January, 2003

Food Defect Action Levels

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has compiled a list of allowable "natural or unavoidable" defects in foods. It describes, for various food items, the levels of various substances that present no health hazard for humans.

For example:

  • Frozen brussels sprouts can have an average of 30 or more aphids and/or thrips per 100 grams. 
  • Ground cinnamon is OK if it has fewer than 400 insect fragments and fewer than 11 or more rodent hairs per 50 grams.
  • What about cornmeal? Avoid it if it has more than one rodent excreta fragment per 50 grams. 
  • Stay away from that cranberry sauce if the average mold count exceeds 15%.
  • Avoid potato chips if they 6% or more pieces by weight contain rot.

Posted on 7 January, 2003

The Top-10 Jingles and Slogans of the Century

According to Advertising Age, the top-10 jingles of the century are:

  1. You deserve a break today (McDonalds)
  2. Be all that you can be (U.S. Army).
  3. Pepsi Cola Hits the Spot (Pepsi Cola).
  4. M'm, M'm good (Campbell's).
  5. See the USA in your Chevrolet (GM).
  6. I wish I was an Oscar Meyer Wiener (Oscar Meyer).
  7. Double your pleasure, double your fun (Wrigley's Doublemint gum).
  8. Winston tastes good like a cigarette should (Winston).
  9. It's the Real Thing (Coca Cola).
  10. Brylcreem-- A little dab'll do ya

* * *

And the top-10 advertising slogans of the century are:

  1. Diamonds are forever (DeBeers)
  2. Just do it (Nike)
  3. The pause that refreshes (Coca-Cola)
  4. Tastes great, less filling (Miller Lite)
  5. We try harder (Avis)
  6. Good to the last drop (Maxwell House)
  7. Breakfast of champions (Wheaties)
  8. Does she ... or doesn't she? (Clairol)
  9. When it rains it pours (Morton Salt)
  10. Where's the beef? (Wendy's)

Posted on 7 January, 2003

Writing Computer Books

A good portion of my annual income is in the form of book royalties. Currently, about 25 or so of my 38 books are still in print. By and large, I enjoy writing these books -- but, apparently, that's not the case for all authors.

Both of these writers make some valid points. For example, the author has very little control over the final product, the deadlines are often ridiculous, and (at least for non-established writers) the compensation is not very good.

So why did I just sign three more Excel book contracts that will keep me busy for the next nine months? Am I crazy? Nope. Truth is, I really had no choice in the matter. If I refuse to revise an existing book, the book is assigned to a new author. My future royalties would be greatly diminished and eventually come to a halt. So it's basically a "revise it or lose it" type of deal.

But I'm not complaining. As an established author, I'm able to get a much better deal financially, and I'm finding that the editors tend to leave my words intact. The thought of cranking out an average of ten pages per day for nine months is a bit frightening. But it will get done, and the world will have access to three new Excel 2004 books -- which don't suck.

Posted on 7 January, 2003

Unreliable Facts

The Unreliable Facts site is based on this premise that everything you read on the internet is true. And you can even submit your own facts.

Posted on 7 January, 2003

The Sneaker Builder

This Shockwave app lets you design a pair of sneakers.

Posted on 7 January, 2003

The SSN Numbering Scheme

The U.S. Social Security Number is comprised of three parts: an area number, a group number, and a serial number. The Social Security Administration explains what these numbers mean.

Posted on 7 January, 2003