Microsoft and HP are failing me

Our family room PC died this morning. Needed a new one in a hurry — this is a mission critical PC at home. I usually build my own or order from a boutique oem but no time, so out to the closest stores — compusa, office depot, best buy, finally fry’s. The first 3 didn’t have any small form factor quiet PCs. Fry’s had an HP 7410 — small form factor, quiet, $529, Windows XP MCE. Seemed like a fine deal.

The ensuing 4 hours getting it running were painful. And it all comes down to the economics of the business that Microsoft has created and that the big PC OEMs promulgate. At these price points, the OEMs aren’t making enough money to make it worth their while, so they spend an extraordinary amount of effort trying to get you to part with more money post-purchase, and they work hard to collect bounties from various service and software providers.

As a result, you have to wade thru literally hours of crap to get the pc in a reasonable state. Of course there is all the normal Microsoft registration and activation upfront. Then you have to wade thru the HP screens pitching you on an extended warranty offer. Then you have to wade thru HP screens pitching you on internet access offers even though you are already on the internet, dammit. Then you have to register with HP and give them permission to update your computer and spam you with various alerts and notifications (which are probably designed to extract more money from you).

Then you get to activate the Symantec suite that is on the box, which expires in 60 days. I’ll get another chance to give HP and Symantec money in 2 months.

Once you are thru all this chattering you get to your Windows desktop finally. Where you find a trial version of Microsoft Money. Of Quicken. Of Microsoft Office. Of Rhapsody and all its attendant software. AOL. AOL Music. AOL Latino. Ebay (is this software or just a link to ebay? I’m not clicking). MSN. MSN Encarta. Easy Internet Signup (didn’t I already deal with this?). HP Extended Service Plans (Ditto). HP Photosmart. Netscape. Snapfish. A jillion trial games, powered by Wildtangent — I imagine you have to pay to get full versions, but again I’m not clicking.

This is all splattered all over the desktop, the quickstart bar, and some of it on the icon bar — why does symantec need two notification icons? Oh and the java runtime is installed and immediately updates itself, and offers to install the google desktop and toolbar for you.

Of course your home page for IE is set to Netscape, oh joy.

You have to wade thru and delete most of this crap, and of course there is nothing preinstalled that I really need — like the huge set of Windows Updates I have to immediately download — 32 of them. Or the drivers for my existing mouse and keyboard — microsoft brand. Another half hour or more of futzing around to get all this right.

Basically the pc business model as promulgated by ms and big name oems is corrupt. To make ends meet, the oems resort to all this crap that is the moral equivalent of spam — I didn’t ask for it, it isn’t explained at purchase time, I never gave anyone permission to slam it all over my system.

I’d rather pay a honest price up front for a system that respects me and is truly personal. No wonder apple is resurgent.

Dream Trip to Chile

Haven’t had much opportunity to travel in the last year but hopefully will get the chance to do so. In the meantime there are some trips I am dying to take and I might as well collect all the links so I can quickly organize when I get the chance.

I’ve been dying to go to Chile for many years now. The natural beauty really calls to me. The highlight of my trip will be an Earth River expedition in Patagonia. This pretty much pins the trip to the Chilean summer months — December thru March.

Certainly I’ll want to spend time before or after the river in and around Santiago — some online guides:

* NYtimes
* ContactChile
* CIA factbook on Chile
* Consular Information Sheet from the state department
* Fodor’s, World Travel Guide, TripAdvisor

And then probably will want to get out of Santiago and see one other part of the country…not sure where…maybe should stay in Lake District a while at end of rafting trip tho maybe I’d be all watered out at that point? Or maybe Valparaiso and Vina del Mar in central Chile — here is one guy’s idea of an itinerary. Easter Island would be a fascinating choice too but that just doesn’t feel to me like really getting to know Chile. Maybe the wine district — stay at Termas Jahuel.

Recent software/services of note

  • Jon Udell discusses web-based presentation software. S5 continues to intrigue me, if someone ran a hosted S5-like service I think i’d dump powerpoint
  • Mobile Seatguru now available. cool.
  • World of Warcraft the new golf? I kind of doubt it.
  • Jungledisk — using amazon’s s3 as a backup service. way cool.
  • WinSCP — the best FTP client? I’ve been happy with filezilla but..
  • URGE launches — so far it seems reasonable…going to sign up this weekend for a subscription

The year you graduate matters

From Marginal Revolution, this NYT article on how hard it is to climb the career ladder if you start low, and how starting positions vary by graduation year.

What would I do with this info if I was a college student? Obviously work hard to find a great entry position. But also consider the strategy of moving graduation date out a year or going to grad school if the job market is weak — this has always been a choice, here is some data to back it up.

How to Interview

A great book reco from rich — the perfect prep book. Critical advice on preparing for an interview. Excerpting rich:

  • Before the interview, read the website.
  • Know the three reasons why you are the only and perfect person for the job.
  • Know the three reasons why this is the perfect company and job for you.

Great stuff. Wish I’d read this years ago.

Living Forever

Eric recommend “Fantastic Voyage : Live Long Enough to Live Forever”:amazon by Kurweil and Grossman. Interesting read. The high level recos make a lot of sense and are not particularly new — eliminate sugars and processed carbs from the diet, exercise, etc. And these guys give good science behind these recos.

The crazy stuff is the extreme supplement plan — one of the authors takes 250 oral supplements daily and also has direct transfusions weekly. I am unconvinced of the science behind this — I am not convinced that flooding the body with a bunch of chemical constituents of intermediate reactions is a good thing, nor that we understand the impact on the entire sustem. But still interesting and a worthy read.

Hardware I Need To Get

* With Skype’s recent announce of free outbound calling, I should try one of the cordless handsets available
* A Washington-based PC Mfr focused on silent PCs — endpcnoise
* Rich is getting me excited about getting a higher end digital camera — shopping for the nikon d200, d200 vs 5d, canon lenses. I’ve been taking a lot of sports photos and am feeling the need for better zoom, faster shutter response.
* The ion usb turntable — cool. Though I only have 20 LPs left…
* GPS tracker. Not sure why I want this.

Web sites of interest

While I’ve been a blogging slacker, a whole bunch of sites and services have arrived that I need to play more with: Pageflakes (build your own startpage)…Amazon S3 (fee-based storage)…Edgeio (tagged listings aggregation)…Vizrea (photos…congrats guys)…Hard to Find 800 NumbersTeleflip (sms via email)…Kayak (flight comparison)…Firebox (gadget retail)…Textbook Revolution (courseware on the web)… (attention data exchange)…Library Thing (book tagging)

Photo utils

Rich reminded me of dxo and pointed me towards noise ninja and neatimage. Dxo is cool tho I don’t know that I really appreciate the coolness of it. NoiseNinja does more for me because I have really noticed the noise in some of my pictures. They all seem to work great.

Halloween Props

Thanks to methodzofmadness forums where most of these ideas are traded.