Sunday, September 20, 2009

TechTracker Goes Oblique PART II

TechTracker PART II

Aaron Smith came to the rescue and sorted out my purchase problems at It was most kind of him to personally give me a call with the good news. That was within a couple days of my posting Part I of this blog entry. He is one of the creators of VersionTracker and MacFixIt.

The lowdown:

MacFixIt is now, indeed, totally free for all. My brain is at fault for believing VersionTracker was following with the same. VersionTracker Pro continues on for those who enjoy its dedicated VersionTracker Pro application and all the perks of the VT site. I of course happily paid up to continue my subscription.

What went wrong:

Billing went out to previous VersionTracker Pro and MacFixIt Pro bundle subscribers, charging them for another year of both. Not only was this wrong, but the theoretical price charged for the update was also wrong. TechTracker caught the problem a bit late, but refunded the cost of MacFixIt Pro to everyone last week. Thank you.

What remains wrong:

1) CNET tech support. Please note that TechTracker has its own support staff whom I very much appreciate. When I can through to them, they have always come through for me. What is terrible is the CNET support staff. In the past I have had them insult me, treat me like a dimwit newbie, spew incorrect information at me, and act like utter idiots. I very much hope this changes. But the fact that they 100% ignored my requests for correct information regarding all the blunders at the VersionTracker site does not bode well for them. I find this very sad. I hope CNET sort this out rapidly and permanently. I like their parent company CBS and have consistently supported their work, much as I have supported TechTracker. CNET, however, have a lousy reputation these days at most of the boards I visit.

(If you've followed my Mac-Security blog you know how much I did not enjoy CNET's recently posted anti-Mac security FUD article. I ripped it to shreds through a series of four articles).

2) MacFixIt Pro is STILL listed on the TechTracker purchase page. $24.95. No such thing guys!

3) The Bundle of VersionTracker Pro and MacFixIt Pro is STILL listed on the TechTracker purchase page. $59.95. Again: No such thing guys!

Here is where I found #2 and #3 still listed at the TechTracker site:

Aaron Smith provided me with a toll phone number to reach him. I'll be calling him this coming week to see if he can have #2 and #3 corrected.

I'm too nice a guy to ask for compensation for putting up with and sorting out this mess for TechTracker.

In the film industry, smart directors have an assistant called the 'Continuity Girl'. The reason a girl is typically used is because women tend to have a better eye for inconsistencies between camera shots. The most famous Continuity Girl was Alma Reville, who worked with Alfred Hitchcock. She eventually became his wife. Personally, I do not want to become anyone's wife, but apparently I am playing the role of Continuity Girl for TechTracker. **sigh**

I'll post Part III when the TechTracker purchase page is sorted out.

What is NOT 64-Bit in Snow Leopard?

Mac OS X Snow Leopard is first the entirely 64-bit OS for Mac. That is to say, the operating system itself has nothing whatsoever that is 32-bit.

But Mac OS X has been able to run 64-bit code for many years with
all the benefits, depending upon the hardware on which it is run. This started the day the G5 PowerMac was released in June of 2003. This is very useful information to have at the ready the next time an Apple-hater questions when Mac OS X went 64-bit. Also point out to haters that all consumer level PCs are sold, by default, with 32-bit Windows installed, NOT 64-bit Windows. However, ALL Macs are sold 64-bit, period. There are no 32-bit Macs.

All Mac hardware went 64-bit in September 2006 when the Mac Mini Core Solo was discontinued. Be sure to ask any hater when IBM derived PC hardware went entirely 64-bit. You'll drive them insane. The answer: NEVER. At this moment in time there is no foreseeable date will all PCs will be 64-bit.

So what ships with Mac OS X Snow Leopard that is still 32-bit? Not much. I went through every application and here is what I found:

QuickTime 7.x, if you custom install it. QuickTime X is 64-bit.
iTunes. This includes updating to iTunes 9.0.
DVD Player 5.2.
X11 2.3.4.
Podcast Capture 2.0.
Grapher 2.1.

The end. Let me know if you find other stragglers.

There are a couple easy GUI ways you can tell what mode is being used:

a) Do a Get Info on an app and see if there is a check box for 'Open in 32-bit mode'. If there is, the app is 64-bit by default.

b) Run the app and check it in Activity Monitor. Look in the 'Kind' column. If the Kind says only 'Intel' then it is running as 32-Bit. Otherwise it would say 'Intel (64 bit).

One very kewl thing about Mac OS X is that the kernel runs 32-bit processes NATIVELY. However, 64-bit Windows has to run 32-bit processes in
emulation. That means they run more slowly than they do in 32-bit Windows. Emulation speeds suck compared to native speed. Your haters won't like that either.

Then of course finish your 'mine is bigger than yours' contest by pointing out that Macs are capable of running both 32-Bit and 64-bit
Windows natively at faster speeds than PCs. (Google it for yourself to verify). Then suggest, in a friendly manner, that they defect from the PC and Get A Mac. Statistics consistently prove that they will be happier when they switch to their 64-bit Mac.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

TechTracker Goes Oblique Part I

TechTracker Part I

I'm a big fan of TechTracker. I've enjoyed talking with one of its creators and back everything he has accomplished. It is a GREAT organization. Or it was until CNET bought it. Since that time it has been what I can only call a mess. And the mess is getting bigger this month. Real big.

TechTracker created and I have been a paid member of both for yonks. Their services are great and matched by no one. But last year they started revamping their system and their servers. The ongoing transition has been very difficult to endure. Let me give you an example: The VersionTracker database has tags for applications that are compatible with Snow Leopard 10.6. Except the tags aren't showing up in the user interface, and their support staff don't know why. WTF?!

Then last week a sequence of events started that must be one of the strangest stories going on over the Internet. This will twist your mind:

1) A couple months back TechTracker announced that there services would become free for all. Nice! They offered a refund to all members, prorated, for the amount of time left on their accounts. I got 10¢!

2) Then at the stroke of midnight, September 7th, I had my VersionTracker Pro account cut off. Dead. Gone. I was an ordinary citizen again. Huh?! Did I miss something? So I wrote TechTracker about it early that morning. I wrote twice. I never heard back from them! All I got were auto-bot notes with an incident numbers. I got two of those auto responses for each of my support requests. Very weird, like their bot was stuttering.

3) Then about three hours later I got a message that both my VersionTracker Pro and MacFixIt Pro accounts had been renewed, and I had been automatically charged $64.74. HUH?! So both Pro services were still available?! WHAT?! I checked around their confusing website:
  • The cost for the bundle of VersionTracker Pro and MacFixIt Pro really is still listed there at their site, despite their claims to be making them free. What planet am I on?!
  • There is a bundle listed for both services together. The cost is $59.95, not $64.74. So I was charged more because why?
  • Verification of the continued existence of VersionTracker Pro was found on a separate page on the site and in their VersionTracker Pro software. So, I was misinformed? But I wanted verbal, human verification as well.
Happily, the charge announcement email I received has an 877- number where I can call for support. Except no one is there, ever. I have called about 10 times, using every possible phone prompt variation, always during their pacific time business hours. The only option is to leave a message. And you know what that's usually worth! But today I gave up and left a message. I also sent yet-another email request for support early today. I did not even receive an auto-bot response. Spooky.

What could be going on? Someone
murdered their support staff? Possible. More likely they all went on vacation for the week and turned off the auto-bot on the way out the door. Other possibility: My ripping to shreds last week of their diabolically stooopid anti-Mac security FUD article about Mac OS X security inspired them to treat me poorly. Revenge for speaking truth to dopiness? Oh CNET. Living down to my lowest expectations? I hope not.

What to do, what to do. I'm going to give it another week before I cancel my subscriptions over a the TechTracker sites. Its a
cliff hanger! I'll let you know what response I receive from TechTracker, if any. If I kill off my TechTracker accounts I'll let you know and cry on your shoulder. I love those guys. This trouble is making me sad. :-(

Snow Leopard 10.6.1 Update - Where? Click Me

I made the title for this article link to where you can get the downloadable version of the 10.6.1 updates, both client and server. Somehow Apple has not gotten around to adding these updates to the regular downloads page. Very strange. So you have to go here instead:

You'll also find there the new Security Update 2009-005 for Tiger and Leopard. For now I am going to skip reviewing the security fixes as I am gearing up for a big
boring article summarizing the past month and a half of security patch trends, similar to what I did last month.

I finally got my claws on the client version of Snow Leopard. Tomorrow I expect to test out the Server version.


No iPod Touch with camera on 9-9-09?! I'm betting it is a marketing manoeuvre, one that will push forward in time my purchasing the iPod Touch.

I've noticed a lot of updates to software I thought was dead, all to make them Snow Leopard compatible. Kewlness.

What's up with TechTracker? I'm in total confusion as to what CNET have done to them. I'm getting the idea that even TechTracker is confused. I think I'll write an article about it! Coming up!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I'm surprised that Leo Laporte, of This Week In Tech fame, declares himself a Snow Leopard 'HATER'. Listening to the TWIT podcast discussing Snow Leopard's release made my ears bleed. Not because of fanboi-ism. It was because Mr. Laporte's slam treatment was based on nonsense. What few facts he knew about Snow Leopard he actually avoided discussing.


  • Mr. Laporte got QuickTimeX all wrong. At one point I heard someone in the gang say they thought Apple was going to still offer a 'Pro' version of QuickTimeX. <--NO.
  • Mr. Laporte went into troll mode about Grand Central with no explanation of what it was or why he didn't like it. <--HUH?
  • Mr. Laporte said Snow Leopard was a marketing move by Apple to counter 7ista. But his explanation was again in troll mode. He said nothing at all that backed up his claim. Instead he did the usual troll move of saying Snow Leopard is a 'service pack', meaning that it was a lame patch job reminiscent of Microsoft. <--NO.
Want more examples? I can bore you with them in the comments if requested.

I quit TWIT. It's been a long time coming. Dvorak is of course a useless toad, possibly the most deliberately dishonest and worthless 'prominent' technical writer in the business. So I ignore his wheezes. But to have Leo Laporte behave as an ignorant troll in public. Not acceptable. Me = sad, but that's enough for me.

Earlier in the year I stopped my Pogue worship. He got the hoax known as 'HD' Radio very wrong in his article and video on the subject. We did a back and forth by email that disturbed me. So I'm on sabbatical from his work for an extended period of time if only to allow myself to forgive him for recommending
BAD TECHNOLOGY to his readers. <--See, I'm still upset. But Pogue got it right with Snow Leopard in his review. I'd take Mr. Pogue over our pair of HATE MEDIA trolls twins any time.

Shame on you Mr. Laporte. Dvorak's dullard dopiness has corrupted your synapses. So long and thanks for all the happy techy memories.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The 'How To Install Snow Leopard' Debate

Apple have taken a new approach for installing Snow Leopard. Sometimes it is backfiring, which is disconcerting. I don't have my claws on Snow Leopard yet. It's in the mail. But here is my POV so far, as I posted at MacDailyNews:

From every reviewer's point of view, the new approach Apple is taking is to lead users to install ON TOP OF their current OS installation. For ordinary users, there isn't a clear method for making a clean installation via the DVD.

There are a couple problems with this approach:

A) What if the current OS installation is corrupt, or that volume is damaged? It most likely means problems after the new OS installation.

B) What if Apple's list of NOT-compatible applications and extensions is incorrect? Well, it IS incorrect! The result has been that some good applications are sequestered by the installer and some bad applications are left in place. The worst examples are bad .KEXT files left in the system that are causing the Sit-And-Spin problem for some users after the installation has rebooted.

How is Apple supposed to solve both these problems?

A) Test and repair both installation volume. The repairs provided by fsck/Disk Utility are NOT adequate for this task.

B) Apple has to have tested EVERY application and .KEXT file that runs in Leopard. (Apple are not supporting installation over Tiger, although it has been found to usually work). Good luck with that one. There is no registry at Apple for applications. Apple literally has no way of knowing all the software available for Mac. It's not going to happen.

Therefore, this new approach is going to have problems now and in the future.

Meanwhile, I can verify that a CLEAN INSTALL is the very very best way to go in all cases. It has solved major problems for me many times. Sorry Apple. Nice idea! But not practical or supportable.

If you have the time and stamina, I suggest a CLEAN INSTALL of Snow Leopard. Performing an install over Leopard (or Tiger) and running into a problem is rare. No need to blow the problem out of proportion. But the problems are happening.

Therefore, of course I am going to suggest the #1 Rule Of Computing: MAKE A BACKUP of your ENTIRE boot drive before performing ANY installation of Snow Leopard. Carbon Copy Cloner is free to use these days. Get to it! You will not regret it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Safari 4.0.3 Intel Tiger Installer Bug

Intro: If you didn't read the comment I added to my last article about 10.5.8, please do. The script problem I described is isolated to only the Intel Combo updater for 10.5.8. So far I have found no reports of problems using the normal Software Update updater for Intel Macs.

Today's problem:

This one has also been verified. It is apparently restricted to the Intel version of the Safari 4.0.3 updater for Tiger.


After installing Safari 4.0.3, you run it and find Safari locks up while loading a web page. The lockup consists of going into permanent sit-and-spin mode via the twirling lollipop of doom.


Restart your Mac AGAIN. Problem gone. QED.

This is the second time in a week Apple have distributed an update with a faulty script. I think someone over there needs a vacation.

I'll discuss the security content of the update over at Mac-Security.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mac OS X 10.5.8 Intel Combo Updater Script Bug

The Mac OS X 10.5.8 Intel Combo update installer is buggy and is causing an unusual problem. My suggestion is to wait until the problem have been sorted out.

If you want the rundown on what's going on, check out, who are keeping track of it all.

Personally, this is the first time I have had any major trouble with an Apple update. I got hit by the damaged permissions bug in the installer. That fact that I was updating Mac OS X 10.5.8 Server did not make the problem any more pretty. The first symptom I had was being unable to run certain applications. Example: MacTracker throws up a warning box that my administrator account does not having sufficient permissions for a variety of directories. I don't suggest trying to fix these permissions problems as apparently they go into the ACL level, and unless you are an expert, (I'm not), I'd move along to one of the currently suggested fixes:

The current best suggestion for performing the installation of Intel 10.5.8 via the Combo update installer is below. Please don't fall over when you read it. I know. No normal user will tolerate this:

1) Repair the volume.
2) Repair the volume's permissions. Ignore the never-fixed permissions you see over and over and over. That was a bug from the 10.5.7 installer. (o_0)
3) Download the Combo installer from Apple's site.
4) Boot the volume into Safe Mode.
5) Install using the Combo 10.5.8 installer.
6) Let the Mac go through its 2x restarts.
7) Do NOT NOT NOT then repair permissions.
8) Reboot into Safe Mode again.
9) REINSTALL the Combo 10.5.8 installer AGAIN. (Yes, again.)
10) Let the Mac go through the 2x restarts, again.
11) NOW repair your permissions.

At that point you 'should' be OK. But don't take my word for it.

Simply put: Part of the installation process involves permission changes involving a database on the Mac. Part of the script for the installation is wrong and does not finish the process correctly. You have to perform the installation a second time for the script to use the permissions database correctly. If you only install once, then repair your permissions, you're actually damaging the permissions, giving them wrong settings. The second installation will solve the problem, as long as you have NOT repaired your permissions yet.

Happy me lives on the bleeding edge and did not know about this mess. I followed the usual rules, which messed over my server update. I then compounded the problem by trying to compensate for it by DIY permissions repair. Despite the fact that I set everything so it 'looks' good in the GUI, down deep in the ACL settings I made scrambled eggs. I am now going to have to reinstall the OS from scratch. Thankfully I am used to such stuff. But your Aunt Mabel is going to scream bloody murder if she has to perform this dancing act. Hopefully Apple will update the installer script ASAP.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Predict! Windows 7, Apple and the Enterprise

I was dismayed to read the article "Windows 7 Release May Put the Brakes on Apple Enterprise Growth" over at eWeek today. Apple doom FUD has been scarce over the last couple years. Much of this happiness has to do with Apple's record growth during the current period of recession. Therefore, reading this article intrigued me.

Background on the subject:

"The Enterprise" is a computer niche that is entrenched in using Windows, certainly on the client side. When I was at Kodak, we also used UNIX as the server backbone. Macintosh computers have historically been used only for specialized purposes, or employees have insisted upon bringing in their own. I've been one of the latter. Typically, such employees end up providing their own technical support. Despite the superior usability and simpler technical support requirements, enterprise IT staff in general avoid having anything to do with Macs. There are exceptions. We had some very Mac friendly staff at Kodak. I know Princeton University does as well. These days integration of Macs into the enterprise is a requirement at educational institutions. But it is Windows that typically runs the show, even if it is not used as the backbone.

The continued growth of market share of Macs in the enterprise has been of concern to many IT staff. Gradually the lack of enterprise software suites for Mac has become irrelevant thanks to web page interfaces for client users. There are also the usual people devoted, for one reason or another, to championing Windows in the Enterprise. I personally can't comprehend this point of view and I work with both operating systems. Then again, I despise the CLI and many adore it. Diversity rules, as ever. Each type of computer has its fans and its specialized purposes in any environment.

Below are the comments I posted after reading the article at eWeek:
Setting aside the olde tyme Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt routine in the article, here are some actual factors involved in Apple's enterprise growth:

Mac OS X Server: The big factor for me has been the maturity of Mac OS X 10.5 Server. It has had a fumbling, bumbling time as bugs have been solved. However, my impression at this point is that Mac OS X 10.6 Server will be the best server OS Apple has ever offered, which is saying a lot. I'm looking forward to it. 10.6 Server will hit the market before Win 7 client, a year before Win 7 Server. Since we're predicting into the nebulous here, I predict a Home Run!

Software: The biggest factor, as Mr. Reisinger pointed out, is business software. There has been very little migration of major biz SW suites to Mac OS X. If Apple can continue growth in the niche, we can hope that changes.

IT intransigence: The myth goes that it takes more time to support Windows AND Mac operating systems. False. The myth goes that Mac OS X is difficult to learn after working so hard to comprehend Windows. False. Instead there is the laziness factor. True. However, Mac OS X has a learning curve, even for experienced Windows users. Apple typically provide better, more efficient and powerful methods for getting things done. But without a guiding hand to point them out, some people give up using the line "I can't do stuff on a Mac that I used to do on Windows!" False. The problem is the transition. And if you have intransigent IT staff unwilling and unable to help, it can appear easier to fall back on what you know. Thankfully, new Mac users who stick with it typically end up never wanting to go Windows again if they can help it.

Vista Service Pack '7': The hoping and praying that Windows 7 is somehow something new and different compared to Vista is nonsense. Not one review I have read regarding the beta has agreed with that premise. Therefore, I see no point in any argument that Windows 7 is going to save Microsoft or knock Apple any which way. Windows 7 has a few very lovely, imaginative and powerful new features which should make Microsoft proud. But these features have been put on top of what is a desperately needed patch job for Vista. The usability of Vista will increase as well the speed. But it's still Vista at the core.

64-bit: Apple provide a 64-bit operating system that causes no compromises. Everything 32-bit still works natively. Sadly, 64-bit Windows 7 maintains the same old driver incompatibility problems and only runs 32-bit operations in emulation, if at all.

Apple's Disinterest: Years back Apple got burned in the enterprise niche, mainly due to the lack of software, and gave up bothering. Very slowly Apple has noticed that enterprise demand is rising. But they have not yet provided a full dedicated team of experts to support the niche. This can be annoying. It will be interesting to watch what Apple do as their market share continues to rise.

Microsoft Marketing: It's as if all the marketing mavens working with Microsoft got up and left the room. What's left is incompetent and dishonest. That Microsoft want to put their new stores next to Apple stores is suicidal. But there are many who believe marketing plays a much smaller role in the enterprise niche and that Microsoft's dominance, as well as development and support concentration, is enough to sustain their continued presence. I personally expect that is the case. But there is always the employee voice speaking up to management. This voice is responsible for a lot of Apple's enterprise growth, and I suspect the pressure to drop Windows will continue.
My prediction for the future is that the benefits of having a diversity of hardware, software and operating systems will become ever more evident. This will require easy interfacing between every type of computer. Apple have made slow but steady strides in this respect. However, Apple still receive deserved criticism for some of their not-ready-for-prime-time solutions. This is one reason I anticipate the improvements in Mac OS X Server 10.6 Snow Leopard. I believe Windows 7 will be a nicer operating system than Vista. But what puts me in suspense is Snow Leopard Server. Apple have taken the time to get it right this time. Will it be terrific?! It's time for me to start fishing around for rumors and underground reports, always a fun endeavor for research hounds.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Double Agent ;-)

Warning! Personal blether ahead, versus the usual tech-only stuff.

Background: I started using IBM PCs in 1988 and have kept up with the technology every since. I started using Apple Macs in 1991, ditched my PC and now have four Macs resident in my house. I run Windows on my MacBook using Parallels Desktop.

My Clock Is Melting: The last few months for me have been fascinating locally regarding computer user groups. I spent over a decade in Rochester, NY, USA in their local Mac user group called Apple C.I.D.E.R. They're one of the oldest Apple UGs in the country. They're brilliant. What I learned there was astounding, from mickey level on up to professional techy geek level. Meanwhile, their PC UG was a bit wanting. Then circa 2001 I move one city over to Syracuse, NY, USA. Oddly, their CNYPCUG is brilliant and their Mac UG is a bit wanting. I think the MUG is on the ascension again, but I basically lost interest.

Meanwhile, I like CNYPCUG and they like me, we got together and had a baby! Well, actually they asked me to run for election to their Board of Directors and I said yes. That was March. I got elected in April. I gave the meeting presentation for May, which was based on my Internet shopping article. I gave the meeting presentation for June, which was about Internet security. In July I took over the spot of shareware presenter at each month's meeting.

I find this situation very surreal. How do I explain this in my resumé?! It's also a fascinating exercise in restraint, me being a vehement and long term soldier in the Computer Warz, fighting for sane computing. IOW I don't like Microsoft, to put it mildly. I am also a black belt at eviscerating anti-Apple trolls. Therefore, at CNYPCUG I have to mellow and focus on the huge range of techno topics both Mac and PC users share. And I like it! I'm all overflowing with a rush of gushing praise for my friends at CNYPCUG. Thank you for not lynching me, yet.

Yes, here is the occasional Apple bashing within the group. But what makes things even more surreal is when members of CNYPCUG go on a jag against Microsoft!! Whut teh? There I am, armed to the teeth with ammo, but instead I just relax and take it all in. It's a wonderful mode I've discovered where I let myself help folks where I can help them, and let the rest be what it's going to be, with or without me. Isn't there a song about that? "Let It Be, Let It Be! Le...."

This situation reminds me a lot of my friends at a local church whom I very much enjoy and value. It's great to be with nice people, but I cringe when they start quoting the latest vehement HATE MEDIA political propaganda. Sorry, no Christianity to be heard. Lies and ignorance a plenty. But what can I do? Troll trampling doesn't work in such situations. No one is amused, certainly not me. I simply state my opinion when requested and "Let It Be, Let...."

So does this mean I've been tamed? Will I pace forever inside a cage? Will I STFU out in the wide world? I'm a positive anarchist! Of course not. I'm a catalyst, a change agent, a PITA to the mediocre status quo, resplendent in the virtue of honesty, ever questioning 'THE TRUTH' from every source, especially me. It is the bit of diversity I contribute to the world of human thought. I value obnoxiousness in the spirit of fun and enlightenment. Being the fool is everyone's fate. I expect it and use it for positive change. It could happen! ;-D

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Comparison Shopping On The Net

Recently I was shopping on the net for an ink cartridge. I realized that my travels through the various shopping comparison sites would make a useful article, so here we go.

The shopping comparison sites were chosen both at random and by suggestion from friends. Their quality covers the spectrum from useless to very good. I found none of them to be perfect, resulting in my deciding to use the top two for future shopping. But I also found that the quality of each site changes with time. Also, some sites are better than others depending upon what one is interested in buying.

The example object of interest I use for this article is the Epson T043120 High Capacity Black Ink Cartridge for the model C84 printer. The cartridge sells for $34.19 plus tax, with free shipping, from the store. This is the cost I used in my comparisons. My goal is to find a cheaper price from a reputable company. It is important to note that there are third party 'equivalent' cartridges one can purchase, which for my purposes I absolutely wanted to avoid.

My list of shopping comparison websites, in no special order:

1a) MacBuy @ (which uses PriceGrabber as its back end).

1b) There is a equivalent called PCW Shop & Compare.







My criteria for judging each site:

A) Number of product suppliers polled for results.
B) Number of price comparisons provided.
C) Whether a TAX and SHIPPING calculator is provided.
D) Accuracy of results.
E) Whether a designation of product quality/source is provided.
F) Whether a price history graph is provided.
G) The number of user product ratings provided.
H) The number of seller ratings provided.
I) Whether result lists are sortable.
J) Whether the site has a Scam Factor. For example, does it appear web shops are paying for results?
K) User-friendliness of the site interface.
L) Whether further bells and whistles are provided.

To simplify my results, when I like the results provided, a site receives a *DING* rating. When I don't like the result, a site receives a *FAIL* rating. Mixed quality sites received no rating. All the links below are search results for "T043120", the model of my object of interest.

MacBuy @

The Good: A lot of polled product providers: 41. An excellent number of comparison results. Simple tax and shipping calculator they call "BottomLinePrice". Excellent designation of OEM type versus all other product types. Excellent number of user ratings: 18. I like the ratings form they provide as well. Excellent number of seller ratings, often in the thousands. The list is sortable by Price, Seller Rating, BottomLinePrice. No scam factor evident. Featured sellers are clearly marked. Very user-friendly. Excellent product descriptions provided. Easy access to user reviews. An "Availability" listing at the seller. *DING*

The Bad: MIXED accuracy. The previous week's listing of Amazon's price was dead wrong, too low by nearly $4.00. Meanwhile, this week's listing of Tiger's price is accurate. No price history provided.

PCW Shop & Compare @

The Good & The Bad: Very similar to but with a compacted interface. Oddly missing is the "Availability" listing. It's also less intuitive which link to hit to access the seller's page. Therefore, I'd rather use the interface.

The Good: Free shipping listed. Third party products clearly marked.

The Bad: Very few sellers listed. No shipping and tax calculator. No sorting. No price history provided. No product ratings. Low number of seller ratings with no responses from the seller. Wrong pricing provided for ABCink. $28.85 shipped was listed. Actual price was $30.85 shipped. Major scam factor: Only subscribing sellers are listed, literally making this site worthless. *FAIL*

The Good:
Correct pricing at Adorama of $35.26 shipped. "Free Shipping!" listings provided.

The Bad: Amazon is listed, but no pricing is provided. Poor and wrong product descriptions. This can result in incorrect purchases. For example, an imitation cartridge was incorrectly listed as "Description: Genuine EPSON DURABrite ink cartridges are long lasting, water resistant and excellent for double-sided printing." *FAIL*

Comment: The failure of this site is odd considering that the superior MacWorld site uses it as a source of data. Stick to the version.

The Good: Lots of seller reviews (65). Long list of price comparisons (76). Accurate. Sortable by store, store rating and price. No scam factor evident. Shipping and tax calculator.

The Bad: Confusing interface. Minimal product description. Unfortunately few product reviews (2). No price history.

The Good: Hurray! An excellent price history graph! Free shipping listed. In stock listed. All list items are sortable. Long list of comparisons. In stock listing. A shipping and tax calculator called "TruePrice". Accurate. No scam factor evident. Excellent user interface. *DING*

The Bad: Inaccurate product description. The listed number of pages the cartridge can print is wrong, taken from the smaller version of the cartridge. Inconsistent listing of OEM versus third party versions of the product. Apparently it relies on the seller to provide the description and many don't bother. Very few user product ratings (3). But this varies between products. Many products have a lot of ratings. The shipping and tax calculator is not perfect. I found inaccuracies. No direct Amazon listing, even when it was the best buy.

The Good: Shipping and tax calculator.

The Bad: MASSIVE disappointment. Poor product descriptions. No price history. No list sorting. Mediocre number of comparisons (29). Confusing mess of products listed that did NOT fit my criteria. Includes eBay listings. Is that good or bad?! For me it's bad. Scam factor evident in the avoidance of many obvious sellers, such as direct Amazon. No product reviews!!! Not all sellers are reviewed. Terrible interface. *FAIL*

The Good: Shipping and tax calculator. List sorting by total price, store, store rating. Adequate product description. Good designation of OEM versus third party versions. Long list of comparisons. No scam factor, with 'featured stores' clearly designated.

The Bad: Minimal number of product reviews (2). Not accurate. SuperMediaStore had the product for $1.00 cheaper than the listing. The Tiger Direct listing was accurate.


My favorites were:
MacBuy @

Between the three of them you get a good picture of the product and sellers. 

None of the sites are optimum. All have faults. Therefore, it is wise to use at least a couple of the better sites for results.

These sites require the cooperation of the users for product and seller reviews. Ideally they should include the cooperation of the sellers as well for follow up on user complaints. Getting this to happen is a great accomplishment.

The usability of the interface helps a great deal. Some features, such as those at Bizrate, can be missed if you don't go searching around.

Accuracy is key. Inaccurate price listings are an instant FAIL.

If a site his minimal reviews of sellers and product, what is the point of the site? Sorting out bad product and sellers from the good is essential.

Equally, if a site doesn't provide an adequate product description, what is the point of the site? In my example, buying the wrong ink cartridge can damage your printer to the point where you might as well trash it and get a new one.

Tossing in useful perks is frosting on the cake. I like price histories a great deal.

The sites that most disappointed me were:


Keep in mind that the results from comparison shopping sites change weekly, if not daily, to reflect changes at seller sites. Therefore, be prepared to jump on a good deal ASAP.

Also be sure you use a reliable seller for your purchase. Some places like Amazon are just about always reliable. Some places like Tiger Direct can mess up your order or cause you hassles. Some places I won't name have niffy-kewl banners on their site showing 'approval' from various 'consumer agencies'. But if you read the customer reviews at the comparison sites you'll discover the place is actually a rat hole! So as ever, buyer beware.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Retrospect 8 For Mac At Last Released After Epic Negligence

It's official! Retrospect 8 for Mac has been released.

What's the big deal?

Retrospect was long thought to be on the road to total abandonment by ECM, the company that bought Dantz. It languished at version 6 for Mac, which was strictly PPC native, for nearly a decade. Despite it remaining one of the most powerful backup programs available, it was essentially forgotten for Mac because of its stagnation.

Retrospect 8 has to be the very last of the 'Must Have' programs for Mac to run natively on Intel CPUs. It has also had a face lift. (Version 7 was only ever made available to Windows users). Personally, I'm glad to have it back, so to speak. But it's going to have to reestablish its reputation in the Mac market.

Below is the announcement I received tonight from EMC Insignia/Dantz.

Share and Enjoy!


Dear Retrospect User,

Retrospect 8.0 for Macintosh has been released and is available for immediate upgrade from the website.

The total list of new features and changes are too long for a simple email, but you can read all of the details from the following locations:

Upgrading to Retrospect 8.0

Retrospect 8 Product Details

What's New and Getting Started Guide found at:

Retrospect 8.0 Read Me:

Changes from 6.1 to 8.0

Retrospect 8.0 Training Videos

Thank you for using Retrospect for Macintosh
RDU_Announcement mailing list
Retrospect Support:
Retrospect KB:
Retrospect Downloads:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Clarification: The birthday of the term '7ista'

So when was the term 'Windows 7ista' first used? April 18, 2008.

Why did I invent the term? I wanted a new category in my Documents folder for storing news about Windows 7. Knowing that 7 is mainly a patch job on Vista, I tossed the two OS names together for the sake of satire. Or was it sarcasm? Anyway, once I saw it I realized how it made sense in more ways that one. I also enjoy making up new words, which has a long standing tradition in the English language. My brother Graeme, a master at word invention, inspired me in the process when I was a teeny.

Flattery: Checking Google I've been happy to see the term has caught on, or more likely has been invented via parallel cognition. There's even a 7ista logo out on the net created by Harry Sachz. Thank you Harry! Enjoy:


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Windows 7ista: Another SIX Versions

Some corporations never learn. Here we go again:,2817,2340338,00.asp

1) Windows 7 Home Basic - (To be sold only to 'emerging markets', aka the poor)
2) Windows 7 Starter - (As opposed to ?)
3) Windows 7 Home Premium
4) Windows 7 Professional
5) Windows 7 Enterprise
6) Windows 7 Ultimate

"... according to Microsoft, the new versions try to strike a balance between complexity and what customers will actually require.

"When you have a customer base of more than one billion, two options can't satisfy all of their varied needs," according to Microsoft. "For that reason, we will continue to offer a few targeted SKUs for customers with specialized needs: For price-sensitive customers with small notebook PCs, some OEMs will offer Windows 7 Starter. For customers in emerging markets, we will make Windows 7 Home Basic available. Businesses have two recommended choices: Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise. Windows 7 Professional is recommended for small businesses and Windows 7 Enterprise is recommended for mid- and large-sized businesses that have a Software Assurance Agreement with Microsoft."

...Blah blah blah...

Meanwhile: Apple offers one version of Mac OS X.

And yes, the Windows delay in adopting 64-bit computing continues:

"Except for Windows 7 Starter, each version will be available in either a 32-bit or 64-bit version."

Macs and Mac OS X have been 64-bit enabled for several years.

Microsoft still have nothing to say regarding costs of the six versions, nor do they predict any release date.

The article at the link noted above has 31 screen captures from Windows 7ista beta 1.