April 18, 2007

PC Buyers Have to Put Up with a Lot of Crap(lets)

Filed under: Business Moves,Consumer Outrage,Corporate Outrage — Tom @ 6:18 am

Walt Mossberg, as he test drove his new Sony VAIO, got, uh, hacked off (HT Techdirt) at PC makers in general:

….. I’m talking about two main problems. One is the plethora of teaser software and advertisements for products that must be cleared and uninstalled to make way for your own stuff. The second is the confusing welter of security programs you have to master and update, even on a virgin machine.

I’m also referring to how slowly a new Windows Vista machine starts and restarts, even if you haven’t yet loaded or launched any of your own software.

I am not singling out Sony here. I would have had a similar experience if I had chosen, say, a Hewlett-Packard laptop. Most major PC makers feature the security programs and trial software and offers I encountered on my new Sony. They are not part of Vista itself.

The problem is a lack of respect for the consumer. The manufacturers don’t act as if the computer belongs to you. They act as if it is a billboard for restricted trial versions of software and ads for Web sites and services that they can sell to third-party companies who want you to buy these products.

I’m distinguishing these programs, sometimes called “craplets,” from the full-featured, built-in Sony software meant to enhance the computer, or from entire, useful programs Microsoft builds into Windows, such as music and photo organizers.

On my new Sony, there were two dozen trial programs and free offers. The desktop alone contained four icons representing come-ons for various America Online services, and two for Microsoft. The start menu and program menu had more items that I neither chose nor wanted. Napster, a music service I don’t use, was lodged at the lower right of the screen.

The worst was a desktop icon called “Watch Hit Movies Now!” This turned out to be four full-length films from Sony’s movie studios, which the company had preloaded onto my computer at the cost of more than four gigabytes of precious hard-disk space. But they aren’t a gift. If you want to play them, you have to pay Sony.

Then there was the security-software mess……

I also was shocked at how long this machine took to restart and to do a cold start after being completely shut down. Restarting took over three minutes, and a cold start took more than two minutes. That suggests the computer is loading a bunch of stuff I neither know about nor want. By contrast, a brand new Apple MacBook laptop, under the same test conditions, restarted in 34 seconds and did a cold start in 29 seconds.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Mossberg didn’t note that newer Intel-based machines, in combination with Vista, enable a very deep sleep mode that, as I understand it, is withing striking distance of being a reboot, and that a PC can awaken from very deep sleep in just a few seconds. That “should” mean less frequent need to shut down or restart the machine.

But Mossberg’s point about craplets and trial-software overkill is a good one — so good that Microsoft openly worried when Vista was launched that craplets would hold back new system sales or cause system malfunctions.

It would appear that the best solution would for consumers to insist on getting craplet-free machines, but it seems that it will will take thousands of walk-aways before anyone would do something about it.

Can’t Make This Up: Brit Journos Boycott Israeli Goods While Comrade May Be Dead at the Hands of Palestinians

Two stories that wouldn’t seem to be able to exist in the same universe, indeed do.

Story 1:

NUJ votes to boycott Israeli goods

Friday April 13, 2007

The (British) National Union of Journalists has voted at its annual meeting for a boycott of Israeli goods as part of a protest against last year’s war in Lebanon.

Story 2:

We killed BBC reporter’, Palestinian group says
Palestinian Jihad and Tawheed Brigades say Alan Johnston has been executed, blame British, Palestinian governments

The statement was signed by the Palestinian Jihad and Tawheed Brigades, an organization named after an Iraqi al-Qaeda group.

There are conflicting reports as to the truth of the claim; BBC has been told that Johnston is still alive by someone supposedly in a position to know.

So now Brit and other journalists are showing solidarity by holding rallies, writing poignant commentaries, and the like.

But it’s Israeli goods which must be boycotted.

The journalists do have one valid point: If you’re going to have a boycott, Israel is the area’s only possible target. Indeed, it would be very impractical to boycott Israel’s enemies in Lebanon. That’s because for a boycott to have impact, the targeted entity actually has to be producing something.

More ‘Stagnant Wages’ Myth-Busting, Courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Real Earnings News Release yesterday:

Average weekly earnings rose by 4.4 percent, seasonally adjusted, from March 2006 to March 2007. After deflation by the CPI-W, average weekly earnings increased by 1.6 percent.

And here’s one for Paul “the rich are getting it all” Krugman of the New York Times — Note who is being surveyed when these numbers are determined:

Earnings series from the monthly establishment series are estimated arithmetic averages (means) of the hourly and weekly earnings of all production or nonsupervisory jobs in the private nonfarm sector of the economy.

It’s Joe and Josephine Sixpack whose earnings have “really” increased in the past year.

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UPDATE: More confirmation from BLS today:

USUAL WEEKLY EARNINGS OF WAGE AND SALARY WORKERS: FIRST QUARTER 2007

Median weekly earnings of the nationÂ’s 105.9 million full-time wage and salary workers were $693 in the first quarter of 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. This was 3.7 percent higher than a year earlier, compared with a gain of 2.4 percent in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) over the same period.

These BLS releases won’t stop the Formerly Mainstream Media from claiming that wages are stagnant. They will just make those claims even less true than they have been for some time now.

Cross-posted at Newsbusters.org.

Economy-Killing Idea of the Day

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:03 am

From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

One of Ohio’s major unions is pursuing a proposal to require companies to grant mandatory sick days. But some employers are warning that the plan could lead to curtailed benefits such as vacations for some workers.

The proposal from the Service Employees International Union District 1199 would require Ohio companies with at least 25 employees to grant at least seven sick days a year.

….. Currently, no state requires employers to give workers sick days.

….. However, similar proposals are pending in six states.

Read the whole thing. The strained morale and productivity argument is especially comical.

If the legislature doesn’t pass this nonsense, the union says that it will try to put the issue on the November ballot.

What isn’t funny is that if Ohio decides to become a pioneer in granting sick days, you will see:

  • New companies that plan to grow beyond 25 employees not locating here.
  • Companies deciding not to grow beyond 25 employees by outsourcing work (often to other companies who don’t want to grow beyond 25 employees).
  • Growing companies already here that haven’t hit the 25-employee mark deciding to expand elsewhere.
  • The clincher — Bigger companies, even those who wouldn’t have otherwise considered it, deciding to move, or at a minimum deciding that any future expansions will not take place in Ohio. Lots of Cincinnati-area companies would suddenly find Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana a lot more attractive. Heck, even with the Wolverine State’s troubles, Toledo companies might even start looking fondly upon Michigan.

I can’t think of a better idea for keeping Ohio’s economy in the doldrums than mandating a costly employee “benefit” every other state in the USA doesn’t have.

I wonder where Ted is on this idea?

Prof Gives Life, Saves Students at Virginia Tech

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

A hero for the ages (HTs to Instapundit and Claremont.org):

As Jews worldwide honored on Monday the memory of those who were murdered in the Holocaust, a 76-year-old survivor sacrificed his life to save his students in Monday’s shooting at Virginia Tech College that left 33 dead and over two dozen wounded.

Professor Liviu Librescu, 76, threw himself in front of the shooter when the man attempted to enter his classroom. The Israeli mechanics and engineering lecturer was shot to death, “but all the students lived – because of him,” Virginia Tech student Asael Arad – also an Israeli – told Army Radio.

This story carries the following quote from Librescu’s son:

My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee,” Joe Librescu said in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. “Students started opening windows and jumping out.”

Joe Librescu told CNN that one of the e-mails was from the last student left in the room. The student said he looked back and saw his teacher struggling to hold the door, and “he was torn between jumping out the window and coming and helping my dad.”

“He chose, and possibly made the right decision, to jump out the window,” the son said.

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UPDATE: ABC News reports that two students, Zach Petkewicz and Derek O’Dell, performed similar heroics and were successful in keeping the gunman out of the classrooms they were defending, and, thankfully, lived through the horror.