NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, February 2006
The Deals Column
by Bob (the Cheapskate)Click, The Dealsguy
Greater Orlando Computer Users Group
bobclick@mindspring.com
(click to email author)


Want some trivia?
We worked a trade show called Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference [http://www.iitsec.org] which is mostly a military show. Attendees include many high ranking military officers and even congressmen. There were some army vehicles including a training tank on display in the show. I saw a booth with all kinds of concave and warped type mirrors in it, but didnít hear their uses. This was a place to see cutting edge technology, but I donít have enough room here for the most interesting booths and there is probably limited interest in my trade show experiences. Primarily, the widest technology covered was simulation machines of all kinds all over the show floor. Unfortunately, I was unable to find time to try any of them. You name it, there was a simulator.

A reporter for the Orlando Sentinel wrote about talking to the CEO of a simulation company (VirTra Systems) with offices in Denver and Phoenix who mentioned that he intended to move his operation to Central Florida in sixty days. [http://www.virtrasystems.com] He stated ďyouíve got to be here if youíre in the simulation industry.Ē Here is the trivia; the reporter said that central Florida is home to more than 140 simulation companies and they employ, directly or indirectly, over 17,000 people. Who would have thought that since this is assumed to be only an amusement park paradise. Another reporter for the Money section wrote about the competition for skilled employees all over central Florida by companies based here.

I knew there were lots of companies oriented toward all kinds of electronics engineering here including a dozen laser light companies, many companies that provide engineering and manufacturing for the computer industry and many other high tech industries, but not about the simulation industry.

Itís All About The Squeaky Wheel
I was in line at Staples early Friday morning after Thanksgiving for some specials, but too far back to get all but one, a 512 meg USB Flash Drive for $19.95 before a ten dollar mail-in rebate. That night, I plugged it into the hub I always use and it gave me an error, but after a couple of minutes, it worked OK. However, soon another message told me there was not enough power from the hub and to plug it into the computer directly. I did that and still got an error message, but it worked after a couple minutes and I could write to it. I have several USB flash drives and have never had that problem using that hub so I wanted to return it to Staples for an exchange. The manager told me he would not exchange it at that price and that I would have to take the problem up with PNY who made it. When I insisted it was not right since that was the only one I had the problem with, he said I would have to pay the difference between the sale price and the posted price if I wanted another one, so I gave up.

When I got home, I called PNY whose tech support took an indifferent attitude about it and said there was nothing wrong with it if it would eventually work. However, he did finally admit that some might work better than others, not that there would be anything wrong. I then called Staples Corporate office, and was transferred to the Presidentís office of customer relations who was sorry to hear what had happened at the Staples store, and apologized saying ďthat is not the way we do businessĒ and kept me on the line while calling the store. When he returned, he said the manager was ďapologeticĒ and assured me they would exchange my unit for a new one, which that manager had stated they did not have when I was in the store earlier for an exchange.

Returning to the Staples store for the exchange, nobody seemed to know about it, but after my insistence, a lady went looking for the one they would hold for me. When she finally returned several minutes later, she did indeed have one and the exchange was short and sweet, but cool (ďhereĒ). The squeaky wheel syndrome worked. The new flash drive worked just fine, even in the hub, as I thought it would. I have since read that it is not recommended to use Flash drives in a hub, but I have used as many as two at one time in my hub, even with the power for it unplugged, with no problem because it is much easier than plugging them into the computer.

Time To Do Your Taxes
Remember that you can find out where the AARP volunteers are working on income taxes and get yours done there absolutely free, except under certain circumstances. It is admirable that those folks work for free on your behalf when they are actually mostly professional people who are taking time off from their normal job to help us. On the other hand, you can go to [http://www.taxact.com] and download Second Story Softwareís free version of Tax Act for doing your own tax return. It will pester you to upgrade to the paid version while you are inputting data, but it will still do yours free and will now also do the e-file for you free. Personally, I use the Deluxe version because I like the price at $12.95, and it includes other very helpful features, one of which saves time on data input if you used it last year (important to me).

Judy Taylour from APCUG notified most member user groups that Second Story Software will offer user group members a discount for purchasing Tax Act products. I canít include the procedure here because they donít want it posted on the Web, but I believe the Deluxe version would be just $9.95. Simply contact your groupís APCUG rep for the procedure for downloading Tax Act to the discounted shopping cart. Double check the prices including the Ultimate Bundle, depending on whether you need the state version or not.

Build Your Own Web Site For Free!
A friend, who said he had not tried it himself, but that it was well recommended, referred this Web Site freebie for me to try. I have not downloaded it yet, but hope to check it out one of these days. I was a bit skeptical when I was told that one professional Webmaster chose it over the high end product he was already using, but whatís to lose when itís free? Check out [http://www.nvu.com/] and see if it is anything you might like. They have versions for Windows, Mac and Linux, making it pretty versatile. They say they are supported by Linspire and encourage you to support Linspire products.

Worth a Look
This URL has been sent to me more than once in the last few months, but I didnít feel it fit the criteria of my DealsGuy column. However, since I had room this month, I thought I would include it because of the referrals. [http://www.infopackets.com/windows+newsletter.htm] Youíll find all kind of things there and even a deal every so often, Iím told. I saw one last time I looked although not this time, but I didnít spend a lot of time there. There are all kinds of articles about many things so I hope you get something out of it. Editors might be able to use some of the reviews posted there.

That's it for this month. Meet me here again next month if your editor permits. Be sure to check the announcement pages on my Web site. This column is written to make user group members aware of special offers or freebies I have found or arranged, and my comments should not be interpreted to encourage, or discourage, the purchase of any products, no matter how enthused I might sound. Bob (The Cheapskate) Click [bobclick@mindspring.com]. Visit my Web site at [http://www.dealsguy.com].

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