Why I will never buy another computer from Dell

I may buy another Dell computer, but not from Dell.

I go way back with Dell. I can’t count the number of Dell systems I’ve had over the years. I know there are three Dell desktops in the house, two Dell laptops and 2 Dell tablets. When I was working, we had all Dell equipment, and we were a Dell reseller. They have been good systems.

The story starts in 2008: a waiter at a hotel restaurant in Atlanta skimmed my credit card, and ordered expensive consumer electronic items from about everyone you could imagine, including Dell, Apple, Tiger Direct, etc. – computers, flat screen TV’s—you name it. My credit card company called me up in a couple of hours to see if the activity was fraudulent. I said it was, and I never heard anything more about it.

Fast forward past several Dell systems to this past February. I bought a desktop system from Dell, a high-end home system. I tried to order it online, but I kept getting contradictory pricing information (one page showed the system, and the next page in the checkout was $100 more with no indication of what the $100 was—it was tax, but they never itemized the tax on the check-out pages), so I ended up in online chat with a Dell representative and he persuaded me with a 10% back gift card to finance the system, 6-months no interest. I gave him all the financial information. Time passed and I received a free tablet computer that was part of the promotion on the system, but I never got the Dell order confirmation email. So I went on the Dell site, logged in and found that there was no order listed for me. I found that the system and ship date were listed under my warranty information, but no order. Continue reading

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Fading memories

My wife and I returned from a trip to Argentina and Chile last month, and already the memories of that memorable trip are starting to fade. What was that bird called? Which town were we in? Today I remember you Arlene, Bob, Lydia, Kit, Jane, Mark, Brian, Carol, Paula, Stephen, Mike and Dianne, and I remember our leader Graciela, of course. If you asked me for a similar list from last year’s trip, I would draw a blank, and will probably be unable to make this trip list 6 months from now.

That’s one reason I take photos. I’ve found limited use for my photos to show others. I put a few on Facebook, and people like them. But the real value of the photos is for my benefit, as they help me relive the experience.

I thought that by writing about the trips, perhaps I might preserve even more. That leads to this article and the image below taken in a remote desert location between Calama and San Pedro Chile.

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Each of those red vertical poles represents a person killed by a cruel dictatorship for no good reason and dumped in the desert, as part of what was called the “Caravan of Death.” This and other images from Argentina and Chile teach me what human beings can do when they are afraid: the seek safety in powerful leadership and in order and in a less-threatening version of the truth. It teaches me what humans do when they get too much power.

I saw stunning landscapes; rivers, lakes and waterfalls; wonderful animals and trees; and fascinating people. But the one thing I hope I never forget is the image above.

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Blog expands to travel topic

When this blog started, I wasn’t much of a traveler except for business. Now that I’ve retired, my wife and I travel a fair amount. “Travel” as a topic has been added to this blog and I intend to write some articles about the places I visit from my own perspective. These won’t be destination reviews—those I put on TripAdvisor.com, but more about how travel changed me.

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Surface Pro 3 backup

I didn’t have a backup of my Surface Pro 3, so when it because unusable, my only option was to do a Refresh, which uninstalled all my applications, and trashed all my settings, product registrations, 100 Windows Update installations, email setup and on and on. It took about a day to put the system back together after that, and I was not able to re-install one application at all. I’m still finding things that don’t work right.

Oh, if I only had a backup. Why didn’t I have a backup? They say an image is worth a thousand words, so here is the image:

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There is no backup except the File History “Back up now”, which only backs up user files, not the operating system or applications.

The reason I’m writing this article is to say that there really is a backup in Windows 8.1—you just can’t find it so easily. Surprisingly, the real backup is under File History, the other File History. Go to the system search and enter “File History” and select the one that has a picture of a folder next to it. This takes you to the desktop. In small type in the extreme lower left of the File History window, there is a “System Image Backup” link that lets you really back up your computer.

To restore, restart your computer while holding down the F8 key (yes, you need a keyboard). Then use the Advanced Repair Options.

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Switching browsers

I’ve been a Firefox user for a long time, too long to remember (and before that Netscape Navigator 2.0 and before that Mosaic). I preferred Firefox to Internet Explorer because it implemented cool features, like multiple page tabs and private browsing. Internet Explorer and other browsers followed to implement these features, and for my purposes they are now functionally equivalent.

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As for general layout and appearance, I prefer Firefox, but I have had a number of instances of Firefox locking up lately, and there are some other problems with it not accurately positioning to in-page links, such as a comment on a blog. A big problem is printing a web page to a PDF using the Adobe Acrobat 9.5 driver—some text comes out gibberish. I was looking for an improvement.

Here’s how it happened. My other blog had a huge 2-day spike in readership last week and when I examined the source, it was a link from reddit.com. I looked at the browser distribution in Google Analytics and was surprised to see that the younger-aged folks visiting through Reddit use Google Chrome 61% of the time (and hardly any of them use Internet Explorer).

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General usage worldwide web statistics show Google Chrome running around 40% of the time, with Firefox and Internet Explorer at around 20%.

It was time to reconsider my browser choice. I’ve had Chrome installed for ages but used it only on rare instances, mostly for testing. I took the plunge and imported all my Firefox passwords and bookmarks into Chrome (pretty painless once I removed the master password in Firefox) and I set it to be the default browser.

Everything is working well so far. The two problems I had with Firefox aren’t a problem with Chrome. I like the language translation feature built into Chrome, and I like its ability to synchronize bookmarks and passwords across devices (Firefox has this too, but it only works with passwords when you don’t have a master password). I’ve uninstalled Firefox from my tablets entirely.

Internet Explorer in its current incarnation is a very good browser in my opinion, and for technical reasons, it will remain the default on my Windows tablets for now. It is also the only one of the three that has a tablet-centric mode of operation that I know about. There are also some web sites that only work properly with Internet Explorer.

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