Friday, September 29, 2017

Seeing Red with Blue Sky

I ordered two (2) "USB IR Infrared Remote Extender Emitter Receiver Repeater Adapter TV Top Box" via Walmart.com from a third-party vendor named "Blue Sky." The item (cables) is supposed to enable the user to operate their remote control device without being in line-of-sight to the TV cable box, so that you can "hide" the cable box behind the TV or in a cabinet, etc. My problem - - which I had hoped this device would solve - - is that both cable boxes (in different rooms for different TVs) are off to the side of the TVs, making it difficult to properly aim the remote control (i.e., we can't place the boxes line-of-sight).

I am a computer programmer and handyman, with more than enough experience with electronics. Furthermore, I had researched the two different cable boxes on the mfr's websites for instructions on how to mount the emitters. Despite all that, neither of the two cables worked. I tried every contortion of cable and attachment to the boxes I could think of to no avail. That was bad enough, but, okay, not everything works as advertised and/or on every device.

I attempted to return it per the vendor's 30-day return policy, but Walmart.com said they wouldn't accept it at my local store (if they offer it for sale, third-party or not, they should accept all such returns; not everyone who orders online realizes they are, sometimes, not dealing with the given website; this is also true of Amazon.com, Target.com, HomeDepot.com, et al., as well). So, I contacted Blue Sky (aka, Sunny Sky) via the Walmart "relay" system, which appears when you click "Contact " for the specific item in your online account order list.

I gave  extraordinary details in my initial and subsequent e-mails via the "relay" system (I could have used my own e-mail, but Walmart's relay page said not to do so), requesting return instructions and a subsequent refund. Blue Sky's rep responded at 2:30am ET (according to the e-mail send-time) with exceedingly poor (and seemingly phony) English, asking for even more detail! I copy-pasted my more-than-adequate original details, and stated that I repacked the cables, ready to return them for a full refund, but that still wasn't good enough for them. They reiterated their request for me to give more details in their SECOND e-mail. In their THIRD e-mail (rec'd TWO days later)
in response to my second e-mail, they requested that I try to re-connect the devices AND FOR ME TO VIDEOTAPE MY EFFORT, THE CONNECTIONS, AND THE USAGE!!!

Incredulous, I, politely, refused
(even if I wanted to do it, what in the world makes them think that everyone has a smartphone or other video equipment?).  Equally politely, I re-reiterated my request for return instructions and a refund. Their FOURTH e-mail (rcv'd the next day) INSISTED that I videotape my efforts!!!

That was the straw that broke the virtual camel's back! I complained via  Walmart.com's chat, which, although it took about 15 minutes all told, resolved the problem to my satisfaction (I won't go into details, because not every such problem may be resolved the same way).

Blue Sky's toll-free number isn't listed anywhere on the web (I wish I had checked that before making my purchase), which is very unusual (I did not call them, because I did not want them to have my phone number). They do not seem to have any online presence, which makes me believe that they are dealing out of their own home. As of this posting, Walmart.com still shows the item online, but, you cannot order it (presumably, at least, until they contact Blue Sky for an explanation), nor can I post a zero-rating review for Blue Sky.

DO NOT TRUST BLUE SKY OR WHATEVER NAME BY WHICH THEY REFER TO THEMSELVES. Given just their atrocious and outlandish customer service I truly believe they are scammers (why they even bother with customer service is beyond me!).



P.S. I decided that it isn't worth the effort to try any different company's similar device. I'll just have to do with my TV cable box setup the way it is.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Too Chicken to be Original

I truly loathe the latest rash of KFC commercials, which show a disrespectable and ever-changing actor portraying the "Colonel" giving inane sales pitches. But, tonight, I saw a new one that is truly loathesome: The "Colonel" says something to the effect that they will not make/serve/eat chicken because it is easy, but because it is hard. Sound familiar? On the 100th anniversary of JFK's birth no less. I haven't been in KFC in years, because they are WAY too expensive and give WAY too little, and, like Burger King, seem incapable of running intelligent and/or likeable commercials. They say that commercials have to be targeted to the teen/twenty-something crowd. It says something about the retailers that they think that (or any) target group believes that creepy mascots/characters and inexcusably bad patter is attractive to that target group. Perhaps, it also says something about that target group.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

ALT-Enter Failure in Excel

I was having trouble using the ALT-ENTER key combination to enter line breaks into MS Word and Excel. It used to work, then, one day, it just stopped working!

After checking the web, and eliminating the various issues they described (e.g., word wrap on, macros off, foreign keyboard setting, date/time not set correctly, etc., none of which applied to me), I started in "Safe Mode" (or what passes for such in Win 10), and had no problems!

I then went back into regular Windows, and tried a controlled test bringing up one program at a time. The only one that caused the problem was Facebook Gameroom (fortunately, it was just the second app I ran, so I didn't bother running any others). I clicked the 'X' to close it, but ALT-ENTER would still not work. I then discovered that it was still running in background, so I "exited" it from the taskbar's up-arrow widget (i.e., where some "hidden" apps, such as the anti-virus program, are running (see photo, below)), tried ALT-ENTER in Excel, and it worked just fine! I repeated the test, and it did exactly the same thing!

So, for whatever reason, Gameroom is preventing the ALT key from working in Excel, Word, and, possibly, other apps, as well. I sent them a bug report; they're pretty good about fixing things like this, so, hopefully, an updated version of Gameroom will be coming our way, soon! And, no, I didn't make the connection between the failure and installing Gameroom, because I didn't do one right after the other; I don't recall when it first happened, but, it might have occurred after a Gameroom update, not the initial installation.

Of course, there may be other apps/programs that may cause such problems, so, you may need to do some controlled testing of your own. Start with the most common thing that you run (e.g., web browser), then the next (e.g., text editor), etc., making sure to test ALT-Enter (or whatever) in your affected software (in my case, Excel and Word)  before you run the app being tested, while it's running (do nothing else with that test app), and after immediately closing the test app. If it works before and after, but not while, the test app is running, then you found your culprit! I was able to keep Excel up and running through the entire test; the failure was immediate, but, in some cases, you may need to restart your affected app after bringing up and knocking down each test app, to be certain that it's "clear" of any negative affects.

Click the "up" arrow (shown above my overlapping red line),
then right-click Gameroom (circled),
then click 'Exit'

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Starblechs

Maybe I just expected too much.

I got an e-mail from Starbucks saying that they added
a free drink of my choice, any size, to my Starbucks card
(they had sent one to me, free, unsolicited).
 
I have been there only once, years ago,
to meet my then-future boss for an interview.
Naturally, I didn't eat or drink anything,
but, Starbucks gave me their whatever-it-is card,
which I kept, for some reason.

On a recent, Saturday, morning, I went to Starbucks,
and, they checked my card.
Sure enough, any drink I wanted was on the house
(spare me the jokes about getting on the roof!). ;)

I ordered a large, plain, hot chocolate;
$3.50 value (as if I'd ever pay that much!).

Even though nobody else was in the shop,
the cashier politely pointed me to the end of the "bar,"
where I was able to watch another guy make my drink,
which took nearly 3 minutes using the espresso machine,
and doing some magic with ingredients and lord knows what!

I was in no hurry, so, I didn't mind the wait.

Here's what I *did* mind:
As he withdrew the paper cup from the machine,
he wiped the extension tube (sort of like a straw
going into the cup; I have no clue as to its purpose)
from the top, down, with a wet cotton towel,
which had been sitting on a grate at the base of the machine
for who-knows-how-long,
and which he then plopped down, unceremoniously,
between the tube and the overrun bowl.

I sneered, inwardly, wondering
how many other times he had done that
without rinsing the towel.

He handed me the cup.

I smiled,
walked outside,
and dumped it into the trash can.

Maybe I just expected too much
(or did I say that, already?).

And, yes, I e-mailed Starbucks to complain about it.
Less than a day, later, I received the response.
I fully expected a "well-that's-the-way-we-do-things-
and-nobody-has-ever-complainted-or-got-sick-from-it" missive,
but, much to my surprise, the author was aghast
at the blatant disregard for consumer safety and cleanliness.
NONE of their stores is supposed to do such an unsanitary thing,
and they will check into it,
and, if necessary, give that store a re-training on proper procedure.
Meanwhile, they wanted to send me coupons
for all kinds of freebies.
I stated that I had no intention of going
into another Starbucks, ever again,
but, she was persistent, and I relented.
I never heard from her, again,
but, asked my social media friends
to check into my story by taking photos
at their local Starbucks.
My social media friends are all over the USA.
I rec'd ten photos from ten different Starbucks,
ALL from different States,
and ALL of which had the same sopping wet white rag
sitting at the base of the same machine!
And all, but two, witnessed the same "cleaning" procedure!
(due to long lines, the other two couldn't get at an angle
where they could see it being done,
but, given the motion of the server,
they thought it was the same as I had seen).
Oddly, not one of my friends was grossed-out by this;
none of them have stopped visiting Starbucks,
and none have qualms about drinking
from potentially bacteria-ridden rags.
That's them. Not me.

Blech.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

My Car Runneth Me Over

My 2013 Toyota Camry got hit by two different vehicles on two different days (not my fault!), one on each side of the bumper cover, but both were, relatively, aesthetic in nature, except that each had caused the bumper cover (what people think of as the bumper) to pop out a little bit from the respective side of the the car.

When I examined it more closely, I was stunned at how cheaply the bumper cover is connected to the car! The slightest contact can break the edges/rims of the holes (in the old days, we called them "ears"), where the chintzy plastic screws - - similar to light-duty, plastic, hollow wall, anchors - - go through, so, that, basically, you either have to mend it with Bondo or similar fiberglass repair kit, and/or use a washer and a good wood screw to keep it tight. Even after re-installing the bumper cover with heavy-duty, metal, wood screws or bolts, the bumper still pops out from under the headlight lens at the slightest touch, because of unbelievably thin "tabs" that are completely worthless, like a dovetail joint that barely protrudes from the edge; I can't even get them into the grill, and, even if they did, there'd be NOTHING to hold them, securely! My only recourse is to drill additional holes through someplace that can't be seen on the inner/back of the bumper, and attach it via screws, or chain, or rope, or airplane tape, etc; I'm not even sure that it CAN be done!!!

My '99 Crown Victoria was in similar accidents (not my fault!), and both had far worse damage: one cracked and pushed back the header panel, such that I have to use a screwdriver to open the hood! But, at no time was the bumper at risk of breaking off from the car, even when new, while driving, which can happen with the Toyota, quite easily, if you happen to hit a nasty pothole. Why? Because the Vic was built with plenty of intelligent design and parts. Kick the tires of a new car? Uh-uh. See if you can pull the bumper or grill out with your bare hands (try it! I did it at a couple of non-Toyota dealerships, and they were stunned! They yelled at me like crazy, but, I, quite calmly, said, "Why don't you call the cops, and I'll call the NHTSA!" After venting for a few more moments, I was asked to leave. No cops).

BTW, Honda and other imports are just as flimsy. I'm not saying that it's just foreign cars that have this issue, but, of all the cars I've seen on the road with this problem, it's always the foreign ones. It's a travesty that the US gov't allows such on the roads (if someone screams, "IT'S FOR SAFETY REASONS!" (read: "We did it to save money at the occupants' expense and safety!"), I'd like to know what possible safety one can get from a bumper cover that flies under the car, potentially, piercing the tires and ripping out the exhaust system, or, possibly, flying up and over the hood, and, in either case, potentially, flying into oncoming traffic or vehicles behind it). On the other hand, I'll bet it keeps autobody shops rolling in dough (a friend's similar repair cost over $750; I told her, before she went, that I could fix it in a few hours for about $10; she didn't listen to me; she now wishes she did).

Here's an exploded diagram showing how the bumper of the 2013 Toyota Camry is connected, mostly from the top, and all with small, chintzy, plastic, screws. What do the first three letters of Toyota spell?