Category: Software

WordPress Themes

I hate this theme.  Mostly.  There are a few things about it I like but overall, meh.  But what can I do?  I hate the default themes as well.  Well how about the WordPress Themes Directory that you can click on from inside the WordPress console?  It has 954 themes as of this writing.  That should help right?  Uh… no.  Have you looked at that page?  They have taken usability to a whole new low.

954 themes and no easy way to get to them.  Unless you want one of the ten featured themes on the page or want to hunt through the miscellaneous popular themes on the side, there is no way to find the others.  OH SURE, there’s that big search bar at the top but um… what exactly am I searching for?  Here’s a hint: try typing “A theme I would like” into that search field and see what it comes back with.  Is that a silly example? Yes it is, but what should I search for?  I’m sure there are keywords or tags or something but maybe it could give me some hints.

I like WordPress.  I really do.  It’s a thousand times better than the cybrblog system I cobbled together many years ago on this same domain.  I really like how they keep expanding the features too.  But one complaint I have about the standard installation is those default themes.  WordPress has offered those same two Default and Classic themes forever.  Fine.  But could they at least update them to work with the new versions of WordPress and the new features?  No, the built-in themes don’t have to have the best features and prettiest presentations but couldn’t they at the very least show off what WordPress can do natively?

For example, a few revisions ago WordPress added in-line or nested comments.  Great!  However presenting those in that fashion is controlled by the theme you are using.  I still haven’t seen a theme that integrates that feature although to be honest I haven’t tried many themes.  Because they are unreasonably difficult to browse.  Oh wait, there’s no browse feature on the WordPress Themes Directory either!  Not much of a directory if you can’t browse it.  Seriously though, the default theme should accomodate every new feature built in to WordPress.  Throw us a bone here.

Windows 7 Pre-Order Offer

Windows 7 will be released on October 22, 2009. For early adopters, Microsoft is offering a special pre-order offer: Pre-order a Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade for $49 or a Windows 7 Professional Upgrade for $99. That’s roughly half off the retail prices that will be charged when the OS hits the shelves.  This offer applies to anyone currently running a genuine (legal) version of Windows XP or Vista of any type for the prices listed.  This means that you do not have to have Windows XP Professional or Windows Vista Business to upgrade to Windows 7 Professional.  Any upgrade path is supported.If you are interested in this offer, take a look at the Windows 7 Pre-Order Offer page and follow the instructions.  There is a list of retailers at the bottom of the page that are participating in this promotion.  Personally, I would recommend purchasing from amazon.com or newegg.com as they are online only stores and do not charge sales tax.  Every little bit helps.

Please make sure you read the FAQ and also note that there is a three copy limit for each version.  I doubt that will be a problem for most of us.  This offer expires on July 11th, 2009 or when supplies run out.

Valve & Steam support is useless

About a week ago I posted that I was having trouble with Valve and Steam support in fixing a region coding problem with their software called The Orange Box that I purchased in Hong Kong.

According to Valve Corporation’s first line support, all packaging is clearly labeled that the software is region restricted to the region it was purchased in.  I would never buy software for the PC that was labeled like that and because of that I read the box and asked questions about EVERY piece of software I purchased while I lived there.  I still have the retail box that I purchased which says nothing, anywhere, not even in the fine print about having ANY region or territory restrictions.

Since my last post, I have made full color scans of both the retail box and the quick reference card from inside the box that has the CD Key.  I sent them these so that they could see for themselves that there is nothing on there about region or territory restrictions.  I asked them to please escalate the issue to management if they still could not help me.
Here’s the response I got:

A staff member has replied to your question:

Hello Vincent,
We cannot accept pdf files for image verification.

You must submit your photos as a jpg, or gif.

That said, in restricted territories all official packaging for our games contains wording indicating if the game has any restrictions.

We will not be able to lift the restriction, nor provide you with a replacement CD Key for this issue.

So much for attempting to be helpful.

So today I have again, politely asked them to escalate this to their management or give me the contact information of their management so I can talk to them directly.  I paid roughly $45 USD for this game and I don’t feel that I should be punished because some of their packaging is not labeled as they THINK it is.

I don’t really want to spend hours creating accounts on forums and creating posts about how horrible Valve Corporation and Steam software is but if they can’t even be bothered to replace a simple CD Key that has no monetary value (since I already bought the game) then I don’t see a whole lot of choice.  It won’t be the first time I’ve made a formal complaint to the Better Business Bureau either.

Just telling me to buy their software a second time is not a good enough response.  It’s ridiculous and callous and is the face of everything that is wrong with modern tech support and business today.

There’s no reason to think that you will have a similar problem with a company until it happens to you.  What will you do when that day comes?  Roll over and accept being screwed over or try to put up a fight?  Help me get the word out.  I can’t be the only person having this problem and if their tech support is this useless in this case I’m betting there are a lot of screwed over former Valve users out there.
Link back to this post if you want to help out.  Every bit of exposure helps.

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Software news

Recently the following software news has been filtering through the web: MicroFocus aquires Borland.

And…?

Yeah, me too. Who cares? I didn’t even know either company was still around. I had assumed they had both withered away with the likes of Interplay and Origin Systems. So I guess the real news headline should have been: OMG Borland and MicroFocus still exist!?!

Which of course all of this is as newsworthy as this post. I’m just saying.

Tech Tips: Clues for the Clueless

Are you a computer user?  If so, today’s post is aimed squarely at that bullseye on your forehead.  Tech people already know the list below by heart, but the common user seems to be oblivious to the following 10 tips on how to get better tech support.  This list was put together by me based on my own experiences in tech support of corporate clients.  If you re-use this, please link back to this site.

Here’s my Top Ten list of things to consider when you need tech support:

  1. If you want our help, please get up from the chair and let us get access to the PC.  This is an immediate clue as to the intelligence level of a given user if they ask for help but don’t think to get up and let us work.  If you really want to piss us off when we ask to see your PC, just swivel the keyboard around and stay seated that way we have to balance on one foot to keep from touching the unholiness that is your presence which is dumb enough to think that this actually helps.  We don’t want to catch whatever you have.
  2. Hovering over our shoulders while we work is not only irritating but often times distracting.  Unless we specifically need your input or are trying to show you how to do something… give us space.  We don’t need you to constantly take the mouse out of our hands to show us things that are completely irrelevant to the problem at hand.  Also, unless we are really close friends, we don’t need to hear all about your family and where you went on vacation while we are trying to fix your PC.  Hearing about your fantasy vacation to an elite resort on a private island could cause something unexpected.  Like your hard drive being mysteriously formatted.  I’m just saying….
  3. Sitting in a chair across the desk from where we are working and continually whining about your deadline or lost data or missed appointment will not speed things up.  Crying will also not help.  It kinda freaks us out.  Just because you need your PC to be working right now does not alter the fact that it’s not working.
  4. Please don’t call us for help with a problem and give us no information to go on.  This is especially annoying when you tell us that your PC is down when in fact, you just have Internet Explorer set to Work Offline and nothing more.  Better yet, call me in the middle of the night and tell me that the network is down because you can’t get your e-mail from home.  There are about 8,326,287,491 possible causes of this problem and only one of those is the network being completely down.  OMG.
  5. If you are getting error messages on your PC, please please please take a screen-shot of that message or at least write it down.  Don’t be that user that just automatically clicks OK on every pop-up no matter what it was and then wonder why nothing is working.  Those error messages are sometimes clues as to the problems you are having.  They are important.  At least read them.
  6. If you’re going to drop your PC off on our desks, leave something that will give us a clue as to what we are looking at.  I’ve found unlabeled notebook PCs sitting on my desk or chair before with no note, no name, no contact number, no indication of a problem… nothing.  Then at the end of the day So-and-So will call asking if their PC is fixed.  The answer is always going to be NO.  At least leave a Post-It note with your name or number so we know who to call to find out why we have an orphan in our office.  Even a snapshot of you with your dog would be more desirable than nothing if you can’t be bothered to write even your own name.
  7. If you know that you will be getting a new PC setup at your desk take a minute or two to clean up around the hardware that will be replaced.  If you aren’t sure what will be replaced, then just clean it all up.  That includes removing all the Post-It notes, toys, pictures, shwag, stickers, make-up, food, mobile phone adapters, USB aquariums, etc. that are obviously going to be in the way of us helping you change your equipment.  Or if that’s too much trouble, then don’t complain when you find all your precious “stuff” swept off to the edge of your desk in a ball of clutter that would make the King of the Cosmos weep with pride.
  8. If your PC is having a problem and we ask you if you installed anything on the PC – don’t lie.  We are not that stupid.  You’re only making yourself look bad when you lie about things like that.  More than likely we, or someone on our team, built that PC you are now using.  So when we look at the problem computer and see that Yahoo Instant Messenger, Ask Toolbar, 1001 Smileys, Free Animal ScreenSaver, Bejeweled, Nokia Mobile Connect, etc. are installed on your PC we not only know that you lied but you have given us proof.  Everything installed on a PC can potentially change how the whole system works.  We don’t just ask this for fun.  If you lie it’s not going to change the reality of what you did.  Just be honest.  We may think you are ignorant for not knowing better but at least you can look us in the eye with some sense of dignity.
  9. If you don’t like an answer you’ve received to your PC questions, then by all means ask for explanations or clarifications.  Not all tech people are as open and friendly as I am.  Many techs have the social skills of a badger suffering from crack withdrawals.  Sometimes you may need more info.  But whatever you do, DO NOT get angry with us if we have worked on your problems and given you an honest answer that you just don’t like.  The best way to ensure that you will never receive quality tech support again is to yell and scream at the servicing technician because there is no way for them to recover your files off a crashed hard drive or a failed USB thumb drive.  Threatening our jobs because you don’t think we’ve done our jobs right, even though we’ve told you that what you are asking for is impossible, will also not get you very far.  Even if you succeeded in getting that particular tech fired, you will quickly run out of IT people when they all give you the same answer.  Attend some anger management classes but do not take out your problems on the tech.
  10. You don’t need us to do or see every single thing that happens on your PC.  If you got a message in Internet Explorer that said it will be showing you both secure and unsecure items, yeah OK, no problem.  That’s normal.  If your screen flickered once and never again… probably a fluke or you kicked the power cord under your desk.  And if you get an error or warning message on your PC that comes complete with an explanation of the problem you are having and instructions on how to fix that problem then by all means please try it out.  Not only does it save time and gives you a certain sense of pride that you were able to fix your own computer problem but it also keeps you from wasting our time.  Many programs do offer fixes for the problems that can arise.  Most developers also make these message “dummy-proof” so even the most computer illiterate person can understand and follow the instructions.  We are not here to hold your hand every time the computer beeps.  It’s not scary.  It will be OK.

There you go.  That ended up being a lot longer than I had thought it would be.  I think the next Tech Tips will cover the opposite angle and focus on the techs themselves.  Users are always to blame but we have to share some of the burden sometimes.  Sometimes.

WordPress Themes