Monday, August 18, 2014

Walmart -- Great prices, crappy customer experience

I just got home from Walmart with a decent laptop. Read my adventure play-by-play for a laugh.

  1. Left at 7 a.m. for the Walmart store in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. I sometimes hit Walmart for good deals on mid-range laptops. Usually the one I buy is one of their high ends. They don't seem to go beyond $600.
  2. Arrived at 7:30. For some reason, parts of the store were closed off with plastic fences and, curiously, signs saying "closed off for your safety." The electronics department was fenced from one end of the store almost to the other. I found a way around and discovered it is not closed.
  3. I perused the laptops and found a pretty good deal. It was an Acer Aspire 15.6" E1-572-6497 Laptop PC with Intel Core i5-4200U Processor. The sales associate answered a few questions, then I set out to research this E1 laptop on my phone. He didn't tell me the laptops on display had internet access. I only found out because I thought to try. 
  4. Once my mind was made up, I went looking for the sales associate, who was nowhere to be found, so I found a different one who spoke Spanish.  She pointed to the laptops so I tried agian to explain I need a person, not a laptop. Then she went off looking fo rhim.
  5. Ten minutes later, he showed up, looked through the locked cages for a few minutes, then said he needed to go get the key.
  6. Ten minutes later, he came back with the key. It took another 25 minutes to check all the cages and determine that he didn't have any. Then he left to check in the back.
  7. Ten minutes later, I asked him to call the Garfield store. 
  8. After another ten minutes, the Garfield store never got as far as putting a sales associate on. We were still talking to the main desk, where they were "checking to see if we can sell a laptop on Sunday" (they have blue laws.) The Saddle Brook guy knew they could because his store has the blue laws, too, but they insisted on checking, too, and then never came back. 
  9. He hung up from Garfield and I asked him to call the Suffern store, which was completely in the opposite direction from my home. The Saddle Brook guy kept asking me to repeat the model number, so I finally swiped his pen and wrote it down for him.
  10. The Suffern store told him "Yes we have a couple of them." 
  11. When he then tried to ask them to set one aside, he got disconnected. 
  12. I left him with my phone number, and asked him to call them back while I was headed over to Suffern. 
  13. I drove a half hour to Suffern, where I found a sales associate. He told me he new nothing of the phone call.
  14. Then he started looking. I found a second associate so that one could look in the locked cages out on the floor, and the other one could look in the back. This took about 25 minutes.
  15. They both told me they don't have the model.  
  16. I found a manager, and asked why someone on the phone an hour earlier told me they had a few in stock, and now his two associates were saying there were none. He had no answer, but one of the sales associates had an answer -- "because that was probably the night guy."
  17. One of the associates produced a similar model, An Acer Aspire 15.6" E5-571-563B Laptop PC with Intel Core i5-4210U Processor for the same price.
  18. I asked him to show me which device on display had an internet connection so I could look up the specs of this similar model. He said none of them.
  19. So I started trying to do lookup on my phone while the associate stood there. After 15 minutes of weak network and dropped connection, the sales associate casually mentioned that you can only get a connection outside the building.
  20. So I asked if there was a pc somewhere in the store where I could look up the specs, and he directed me to the front desk.
  21. So I asked for the manager again, and got a different one, and requested the specs. He explained that wasn't necessary because the two items are "cross-referenced" and therefore identical. I said, "That's great. Show me the specs." It was obvious from the processor number alone that it is not an identical laptop.
  22. He said, "Sure, we'll just open up the box for you." I said, "great." Then he said, "Oh wait a minute. We can't do that. If the box is open we can't sell it to you." Then he went silent.
  23. So I asked again for the specs. By now, it was getting hard to contain my frustration. This time, he asked the sales associate to take me over to a desk, just yards away, that is set up specifically to look up information on the web. On our way over, I heard the manager repeat that the two items are the same, so I turned around and said that I will believe him after I see the specs.
  24. Now, standing at this little kiosk, he looked up the E5, and pointed to the very basic specs on the screen. I had to talk the associate through getting a printout of the E5, and then had to talk him through getting a comparative printout of the E1. While waiting for the printouts, he explained that the E5 is likely better.  I pointed out that the manager said they were the same, and asked the associate who was right. He had nothing to say.
  25. Then I sat down on a bench to compare the specs side by side. I saw that the E5 is indeed better -- in most ways. The drawback is that it is a half pound heavier. I decided to buy this one.
  26. I went back to the second manager and suggested that they should not tell customers something that isn't true--that his claim they were the same laptop was entirely false. He got defensive, and tried to explain to me that it's the fault of that little hand-held device they use for lookup which only said they were cross-referenced. He clearly failed to see the problem and offered no promise of improvemnt.
  27. I also explained to the manager that I had asked the sales associate for a place to look up the specs, and he had offered none, and that if I hadn't insisted and asked for the manager, I would not have been able to buy the merchandise. For this he offered future improvement.
  28. Then, for my troubles, I asked for a gift card. He acted shocked, and said I got my laptop.
  29. Then the sales associate and I went to the register in the electronics department to ring up the purchase, and the computer wasn't working.
  30. So we had to go to the photo department to ring it up.
  31. I arrived home at noon. Five hours for an hour and a half event, including the driving. But hey, it was only 500 bucks.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Chase United Airlines stops customers from limiting sharing

I got one of those paper notices in the mail stating that I can limit how Chase United Airlines can share my information. It points me to the website. But when I clicked on the appropriate link in the site, I got this message:

Please Contact Us Offline
We can't complete your request at this time. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. To update your privacy preferences, you can:

  • call us toll-free at
  • write us at P.O.Box 260185, Baton Rouge, LA 70826-0185

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Remove Start Savin

I'm not recommending this method. I'm just blogging about it. Try this at your own risk.

I couldn't get rid of the "Start Savin" malware extension that I found in Internet Explorer on my Windows 7 machine.

I tried several different recommendations before trying my own method. Therefore, I may have already done a partial removal job. Here is how I got rid of the rest:

  1. Searched the hard drive for all occurrences of the name, and found three folders. One was in appdata, another in program files, and a third in an innocuous looking folder inside "My documents"
  2. Deleted the three folders
  3. Kicked off "ccleaner"--> tools --> startup --> internet explorer tab
  4. Deleted the two instances of Start Savin in the "internet explorer" tab
  5. Also looked in the ccleaner tab called "scheduled tasks" (don't remember if I found an occurrence or not but would have deleted if I did)
  6. Run a full registry cleanup in ccleaner
  7. Reboot and do a thorough check and some antimalwarescans just to be sure it's gone

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Autistic Children of America is not a legitimate charity

The Better Business Bureau gives a passing grade to legitimate charities only. For those they doubt, they try to be as clear as possible that nothing about them sounds legitimate.

I looked up Autistic Children of America, and found out it goes by four other names.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation
Autistic Children of America
Autism Awareness Program
Autism Disorder Foundation

Here is the writeup:  Better Business Bureau

I researched them because my aging mother had been giving to them until I put a stop to it. They send real-looking print mailings.

Update as of 1/28/2018: They now appear to have a website under one of the names I listed, and you can find that website through the Better Business Bureau link above.

However, the BBB still has nothing good to say. The presence of a website can, in this case, imbue false confidence.
Autistic Children of AmericaASDFAutism Awareness ProgramAutism Disorder Foundation - See more at:
Autistic Children of AmericaASDFAutism Awareness ProgramAutism Disorder Foundation - See more at:
Autistic Children of AmericaASDFAutism Awareness ProgramAutism Disorder Foundation - See more at:
Autistic Children of AmericaASDFAutism Awareness ProgramAutism Disorder Foundation - See more at:
Autistic Children of AmericaASDFAutism Awareness ProgramAutism Disorder Foundation - See more at:
Autistic Children of AmericaASDFAutism Awareness ProgramAutism Disorder Foundation - See more at:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Windows 7 doesn't map my network drive -- It shows a Red X

I run a very old Windows program on my Windows 7 computers called "Argentum backup." On some of my computers but not others, Argentum backup can't find my NAS device until I go into Windows Explorer and click on the NAS device first. Once I click, the big red X goes away, and the NAS device is now available to Argentum Backup.

With some research, I discovered that Windows Home Premium has some reported problems mapping a network drive. In my case, that might not even be the explanation, Rather, it could even be that I have some quick startup setting that is delaying or pausing the utility that maps the network drive during boot. However, I also find that once in a while when I reboot, the X isn't there. Too may factors to consider.

And so, because my main problem is the automated Argentum Backup program finding the network drive, I found a speedy workaround for now. I went back into Argentum backup settings on the computers where it fails, and instead of pointing my backup target to the mapped drive, I point it to the share folder on the network drive. It seems I had already done that on some of my computers but not others, which explains the inconsistency across computers.

Oh joy.



Friday, July 11, 2014

What do a shredder and a 3D printer have in common?

What do a shredder and a 3D printer have in common? Maybe less than I hoped, but the project's not over yet.

My library got a 3D printer. Daughter Marcy and I worked with their IT guy, Charles, on the challenging task of taking thirty photos of an object I brought from home, then rendering a 3D image to feed into the printer.
I wanted to replicate something plastic that's actually useful, and that's how I came to select the kid lock override device that goes into my shredder to make it operational.  
Marcy turned the object on a chair, while Charles took the pictures.
We got as far as uploading the pics to but the app turned the photos into something quite different from the original object. So there's more to learn.

I left Charles with the kid-lock thingy, and he has the photos of course.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How to prepare a fire baton

Print Friendly and PDF

Note that you need to start the soaking process at least an hour and a half before showtime.


  1. Choose a fuel station far from the performance area. Must be clear of fallen leaves, pine straw, brown (winter) grass, brush or other flammable material. Know that dead leaves still in trees can also ignite above you. Check your performance area carefully. Equip your fuel station with a fire blanket and an extinguisher. The extinguisher is only for a bucket fire -- not for a person on fire.
  2. Choose your performance area in the same way as your fuel station.
  3. Fill a glass pickle size jar or a coffee can with a combination of standard tiki torch oil and White Gas (Coleman camping fuel) -- just high enough to cover the wick.
  4. Place one end of the fire baton completely into the oil. Leave it there for 45 minutes.
  5. Shake out the excess fluid and let drip, or spin off the excess fuel into sandwich bags
  6. Place the soaked wick on a large piece of aluminum foil
  7. Fold top half of foil over the soaked end of baton, then fold one side of foil in, the roll foil around to seal the wick.
  8. Turn the baton upside down and repeat the process with the other wick
  9. If you need to travel with it, put it in a big plastic bag, with the foil still on the ends 
  10. Shake out any excess fuel and light the ends with a lighter
  11. Put on your show
  12. Have a "Spotter" ready with the wet towel or small wool blanket to wrap around each wick to extinguish the flame. They can either lay the towel on the ground first, or wrap it around the wick at arm level.

  1. Wet towel to put out the wicks
  2. Aluminum foil
  3. Tiki torch oil mixed with White Gas (Coleman camping fuel)
  4. Lighter
  5. Glass jar or aluminum coffee jar 
  6. Small wool blanket or moistened 100% cotton, bath-sized, towel
  7. Sandwich bags and twist ties
  8. Wear tight clothing that is 100 percent cotton. Viscose is also a safe fabric. Avoid any synthetic fabric made from petroleum that could melt when exposed to heat. A small amount of spandex is okay.
  9. Wet hair with plain water, wrap in a bun.