Entries Tagged 'consumer' ↓


When I was actively engaged in my engineering profession we used to speculate, ‘How many ducks does it take to make a roll of ducktape’. Or, ‘How do you make a dapterduck?’.

Of course these were all Bushism bumpkin distortions of the very usefull DUCTTAPE.

Imagine my surprise to find that some fool company actually produces a product they call DUCKTAPE. You can buy it at Wallmart for about $4.00 a roll but it is only good for taping ducks.

Ducktape is super thin, does not stick to everything equally well, and is probably made in China from hazardous waste with child labor.

Real DUCTTAPE is much thicker, fiber reinforced, and sticks to everything. You won’t find it at Wallmart. You have to go to a bonified hardware store. We found our ducttape at Sam’s. I bet Bill’s or George’s, or Herkomer’s has it too. Or you might try Cosco or Lowes. Home depot might have it too but there you risk the chance of having to hire someone who insists on showing you how to use it.

UPS or USPS which is the better shipping solution

Companies in the business of shipping do not produce anything. They merely provide a service. At best they safely deliver a customer’s goods to a destination on time and at reasonable cost. At worst the lose or otherwise damage the shipment. Fortunately loses are rare.

Since there is no product that can be evaluated, comparisons between carriers rely on convenience, price, risk, credibility, reputation and other service related factors.

If you use UPS at a UPS Store you will be charged nearly twice what UPS would charge at their distribution hub. This was true when these stores were known as Mailboxes Etc. The situation did not change when the Mailboxes franchise went under and became ‘The UPS Store’.

Since the UPS hub is a 30 mile round trip drive for me, saving ten to twenty dollars on shipping may not be significant when you consider the convenience of the neighborhood UPS Store. However, the local post office is just as convenient. USPS priority mail costs less than UPS ground at the UPS hub and gets to the destination in half the time.

The post office requires a from and to address on the package and a disclosure of contents.

UPS requires from, to, telephone numbers and more. They enter all this into their database and print out a label with most of this information available to anyone reading the label. If you do this at the distribution hub, you will be required to enter this information on their computer yourself.

I already have a job. I did not come to work for UPS. I also don’t need to have unnecessary personal information stored on their unsecured computers. If the information on the shipping label I provided is not sufficient, maybe I need to ship elsewhere. It is never a good business policy to annoy the customer.

Both claim to have tracking. That is you can obtain information regarding the last checkpoint cleared by your package.

USPS tracking tells you the package has been shipped.

UPS tracking reports multiple locations as the package progresses but a recent experience has me doubting the validity of the information presented.

Recently I had a package shipped via UPS ground from California. It tracked all the way to Dallas and then was delayed three days due to bad weather. There was no bad weather in Dallas and I suspect there was no package in Dallas either.

Additionally UPS offers services that I consider unnecessary and dangerous. Recently they have offered a ‘redirection’ service. If your package is in transit you can change its delivery destination. I consider this a valuable tool enabling theft at all levels.

So which is better? I have used both. Both have worked without incident but USPS beats UPS on price, delivery speed, security risk and credibility.

I tried FEDEX a year ago. I placed a 40 lb. box of electronics on their counter and was asked how fast I wanted it delivered.

When a customer approaches a service provider, the customer gets to ask the questions. The most obvious first question is ‘how much is this going to cost me’.

I did not like their attitude and have not been back since.


Desperate times call for desperate measures. Spammers are in desperate times. It appears no one wants to buy their stuff. Now most intelligent people would recognize that fact and try to find other stuff to sell. Stuff that people might want to buy. Spammers don’t understand that and believe that by making people mad folks will buy stuff they don’t need or want.

Does that sound like the reasoning of a sane person? It does not sound sane to me. I would rather not deal with insane people even if they don’t make me mad or are selling stuff I need.

It is hard to shake a bad reputation. Once you step in it the smell lingers on even after you wash up.


I hate doing plumbing work but I hate to have a running toilet even more. It wastes water and makes noise.

I always blamed poor quality fill valves and recently discovered that the fill valves are not causing the problem. They are merely functioning as they should to keep the water level in the tank at a flushing level. The real culprit is the flapper valve.

Flapper valves are made of rubber and chemicals in the water designed to kill germs also kill the rubber in the flapper valves. Over time, the rubber in the flapper valves becomes hard, brittle and no longer is able to keep water from flowing past it.

A recent toilet problem was solved by replacing the flapper.

Buying tools on-line

Don’t do it. I have bought tools on-line twice now. Never again! My last purchase was through Amazon. I ordered some side cutting pliers. By the time they figured in tax and shipping the cost was over $10. The pliers were cheaply made and would not cut. They were side squeezers, not cutters. A complete waste of time, money and patience. I would have been better off flushing a 10 dollar bill down the toilet.

For a consolation prize I bought a good pair of side cutting pliers at Harbor Freight for $2.50. Brick and mortar stores give you a chance to see and try out products before you buy and you don’t have worry about how much the ‘free’ shipping is going to inflate the price of the merchandise.

usb memory cards and sticks

I was comparing usb memory sticks to memory cards to see which was a better buy. Turns out that the memory stick is still the better buy. A 16gig memory stick sells for about $13 with free shipping usinf amazon prime.

The memory cards are about the same price or slightly higher but they need a card reader/writer to be used like a memory stick. Make sure you get a card reader/writer. There is an attractive deal out there offering a memory card and reader. The reader that is offerd does not write.

Buyer beware.

PCBSD ver 9

I am sure this is really neat software capable of wonderous things but its installer is not capable of using a server to obtain an IP adress. I figure if it is not smart enough to do that, it is probably too dumb to do other things I want it to do without supervision.

So, its back to Debian 6 and we will wait for PCBSD ver 10

The Case for Netflix

Back in the good old days cable was a luxury. The luxury of lots of channels to choose from and not so many commercial interruptions. It came at a price. Over time that price began to escalate along with commercial interruptions. You could improve the viewing experience by subscribing to one of the premium channels. This cost extra. Usually about an additional ten dollars a month.

Premium channels were better but after you discovered they had a limited number of movies that they showed over and over and over all month long, you began to wonder if the ten dollars was a waste of money.

If you did not want to wait until the next months line-up, you could always go rent a movie at Blockbuster.

Cable business must have been good because it did not take long before there was competition from Direct-TV and Dish Network. This was good because it put a lid on cost to the consumer.

The programming was the same regardless of which of the three services you chose so there was no penalty for chosing the most cost effective.

Today we have Standard cable (Time Warner), Dish Network, Direct TV, ATT Uverse, and Fios.
Both ATT and Fios are fibre optic services that also provide high speed internet access. ATT seems to be the most reasonably priced. TimeWarner also provides internet access but at a higher unjustifiable cost.

Programming content has not improved with time. If anything it has become worse. The number and frequency of ‘paid programs’ has increased. So called paid programs are infomercials trying to sell stuff no one wants to buy. They are an insult to the viewer who is paying for programs that he expects to be entertaining.

I have also noticed that the little logos in the lower right hand corner of the screen appear to be growing in size. I really do not need a logo to remind me which station I am tuned to but I don’t begrudge the broadcasters the desire to identify themselves on the screen. I do take offense when they add notices of upcomming attractions for which I have no interest.

Then there are the popups. These are more than just annoying. It is like being spammed in real time while you are trying to enjoy a program of interest.

It is becomming more and more difficult to find programs of interest.

Before we got cable we were viewing local off air channels. Out of ten channels we had trouble finding new and interesting programming. I remember telling my wife that with cable we would just have hundreds of channels to surf and most likely would still not find new and interesting programming. The only difference would be the increased cost. I was right.

One more annoyance is the weekly required tests that Uverse seems to think are important enough to do during prime time. There is no requirement on my part to endure these nasty noisy tests.

In summary, I just do not believe in paying for a ‘service’ that insists on annoying the vewer. Sure I can turn it off but then I am still paying and now for something I am not using.

Netflix to the rescue. We first started subscribing to Netflix when they first started up. Back then it cost fifteen dollars a month ,as I recall, and it was a ‘by mail only’ service. They mailed you a DVD, you watched it and returned it in the prepaid envelope. Then they would mail out another DVD, the next selection on your want list. No late fees, no driving to a store, no waiting in line, no hassles. Not as convenient as tuning in HBO but you were not being charged for viewing the same four movies over and over and over for a month at a time.

I don’t remember when Netflix started streaming movies over the internet, but doing so turned them into a serious media service. Now you could get movies without having to wait for the mail. They still mail out DVDs, but if you have a high speed internet connection and a computer you have access to more movies than premium channels could provide in a lifetime. Netflix did all this and also dropped the subscription fee from fifteen dollars a month to ten dollars a month. I would much rather pay ten dollars for access to all the movies in the world, on demand, than pay ten dollars for a ‘premium’ service that lets me watch four movies of their choice over and over and over again.

With Netflix there are no:
1. commercials
2. annoying logos
3. disruptive testing
4. high costs
5. unreasonable charges for HD
6. popups
7. late fees
8. trips to a store
9. no equipment rental fees
10. no specal installation

All those cable anoyances suddenly dissappear as well as the high cost and scams designed to seperate you from your money.

Netflix delivers where cable dissappoints. Netflix provides interesting programs all the time. Instead of surfing channels we now surf the Netflix website.

Turns out you don’t even have to have a computer to enjoy Netflix.

Last December our old DVD player finally quit working. We found a Samsung BD-P1590 Blu-ray Disc Player on sale for under $150. Not only was this the first Blu-ray player priced under $300 that I have seen, it also has an ethernet connection allowing it to recieve Netflix and Pandora programming. Goodby set-top boxes, hello Samsung!

Yeah but what about sports and news! I am not a sports fan. I would rather watch a good movie than a game. Off the air programming is still available. Get a conversion box if you don’t have an HD TV. Or, if you have a decent computer set up, get a USB HDTV dongle. Some of these cost less than a converterbox (under $50). Check your video card. Some have a TV out connection that would let you watch the programs on your standard TV.

Thermaltake TR2 430w power supply

Some time ago my son-in-law experienced a major failure in his external hard drive storage system. He pulled the whole thing and replaced it with a new system. He boxed up the old system and let me have it. One of the external hard drive cases was a Thermaltake. I was impressed with that Thermaltake product and wondered why I had not heard of it before.

I have several desk top computers. Some of them are Dells. The other two are generic clones. All of them have had power supply problems. One Dell and both of the ATX cones have had their power supplies replaced. Unfortunately I chose to replace them with the same cheap trash that caused the failures in the first place. So when one of the ATX clones had another power supply failure I decided to upgrade to a decent power supply.

I found a Thermaltake ATX power supply priced at $33.50. It was new and the shipping was another $7.

The Thermaltake looks like it will do the job. It is about twice the weight of any of the cheap supplies, sports two temperature controlled fans and has all the multitude of cables individually laced with neatly installed cable harnessing.

Any new systems I decide to build will have a Thermaltake power supply.

No more cheap supplies. No more cases with built-in power supplies. No more bare bones kits where quality is sacrificed for price. No more Dells.

Actually, now that I have discovered Apple notebooks there will probably not be anymore cludgey clones.


I recently ordered a Brother MFC 8120 laser printer from the Geeks. This printer is refurbished. I guess that means it stopped working under warranty the first time it was sold. The price was right, only $55. It costs me that much for a new 52 ink cartridge for the inkjet!

Of course I also had to pay $35 to get it delivered. I also found a couple of cheap flash lights an a 1gig memory stick for one of my older computers. The final order came to $102.

The brother printer also works as a copier, scanner, and fax. The starter toner cartridge gets 4,000 pages, its drum has a 20,000 page life. New high capacity toner cartridges are priced at around $40 and get 6,500 pages.

Unfortunately, one of the few reviews gives this printer an 8 month life. That review did not say how many pages the printer had printed but seemed to imply that they had gone through several toner cartridges.

The way I see this is that the brother printer is going to save me more than $500 in ink jet ink for an investment of around $100.

At a price of $54 for the printer it would almost be worth buying a new one when the toner runs out. The only thing preventing me doing that is the $35 shipping charge. That is pretty close to the price of a toner cartridge.

I think the Geeks are basically good but you would never guess that from some of the scams their third party buddies pull.

After the order was entered I was informed it qualified for free shipping. I checked with all the common carriers some time ago and they assured me they did not work for free. Turns out you can get free shipping if you sign up for some useless service that tries to rob you.

I also got a spam e-mail from some moron wanting me to send them $10 for a service warranty on the refurbished printer.

The Geeks would do well to distance themselves from these scammers. It makes them look bad.