What’s up? :)

Well, well. It’s been a long while, dontcha say? What have I been up to? Other than working, I’ve been playing with my two babies (Matt and my laptop). πŸ˜€

  1. I finally bit the bullet and activated Bitlocker Hard Drive Encryption on my HP dv9700t laptop. It is not as bad as I feared and I’m actually surprised at how smooth it has been. The process of encrypting my disk took place overnight and I was ready to roll the next morning. I haven’t noticed any performance issues. If anything has been wonky, it’s the encryption file system that I’d been using to protect some of my files. What Bitlocker does is whole disk encryption and this pretty much renders your computer’s actual disk useless to someone who wants to know what’s on the disk, but doesn’t have the key. I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps needing my USB key before my computer can boot up is not such a bad idea and probably more secure. One of the scenarios that has played out in my head is if for some reason, my laptop gets snagged by a less than trustworthy TSA agent, they can’t do squat with the laptop.
  2. The other thing that I finally got around to doing was testing out the ReadyBoost feature of Windows Vista. I purchased a SanDisk 2GB Extreme III SD Memory Card (SDSDX3-002G, Bulk Package) and I can say that since I already have 4GBs of memory, I don’t think my computer’s any faster. To my jaundiced eye, methinks the card I got is bogging my computer down. Hmmph. Anyhow, I got the card for less than $14 so I’m keeping it for good luck. lol.
  3. My cheapo mini-mouse finally died on me and I didn’t waste any time in getting a ‘real’ mouse from Logitech. It’s a good old-fashioned USB mouse because I’m done trusting newfangled items like bluetooth mice(?), etc. Remember my experience with the Logitech bluetooth mouse?
  4. I’m having a hard time with Nvidia’s apparently buggy drivers for my 64 bit Vista laptop with the Nvidia GeForce 8600M GS graphics chip. How hard can it be to produce something that won’t cause my computer heartburn? The drivers on their website won’t work for me and HP’s website doesn’t have any information on this issue. One more bluescreen because of my Nvidia GeForce 8600M GS graphics card and I will be calling HP technical support for an upgrade. Trust me, I’ve become an expert at knowing my rights when it comes to these things. Right now, I’m just waiting for HP’s premium headset to break again on me and they had better be ready to put up with me.

That’s pretty much about it. I’m looking forward to having a great week and I wish you all the same!

Windows Vista Ultimate on my dv9700t = Sweetness. :P

*dun dun dun dun* lol. She’s here!!! Yes, I am really typing this at 5am in the morning. You see, I didn’t entirely want to do this (wake up this early), but my allergy/unknown ailment/itching kicked into high gear. Voila! I was sleepless at home. I figured I might as well wake up and do some “work”. lol. I have to say that there was quite a bit of crap installed. By crap, I mean stuff like Norton and the trial Office Suites. I have no need for either of those items because I am getting educational/enterprise versions of these tools (not for free, by the way). Just saying because I have a reputation around here and my pirate-y name is Bootleg Jane. I have J’s hubby to thank for that. lol. Overall, I love my laptop. I’ve got a decent Windows Experience Index score of 4.6 5.0. The crossed-out WEI base score was the out-of-box WEI score I received for my dv9700t laptop which is unsurprisingly one of the top sellers on HP’s website. I have since installed a bunch of upgrades and largely (I thought) possibly brought down my score. Well, it climbed up without me doing anything to it except uninstall the crapware that came with it. Here are the brief scores: Note, you will have
dv9700t windows experience scoreto click on it to see the full thing. I didn’t want this to eat up the whole post. I definitely see myself getting comfortable with this computer and upgrading some components in the future. A few words of disappointment:

  1. I was disappointed that my BIOS was not TPM-enabled. One of the reasons I sprung for Vista Ultimate was for the feature called Bitlocker Drive Encryption. Now, Bitlocker can still run, but there’s the perfectionist in me that wants everything to be just right. I can still use the Bitlocker whole disk drive encryption feature. It just involves an extra step i.e. it needs to store the encryption key in a USB drive. I’ve got USB drives out the wazoo so once I’ve backed up my laptop, I’m going to roll up my sleeves and dive into the depths of the murky waters of Vista. *cue evil laugh*
  2. Next, the fingerprint reader sucks. Like royally sucks. At this point, I’m just using it as a piece of decoration. It has refused to read my fingerprint and I’m going to have content myself with signing in regularly like everyone else.
  3. I’m still torn up as to whether or not I did a good thing in not getting the TV tuner. I’m not sweating it though. It’s not a deal breaker. I just need to get me some hi-def content to view to console myself. lol.

I am in love with this piece of art. The only part I’m dissatisfied with is the fingerprint reader. I’ve tried to get finger-printed, but it keeps telling me that I’m too fast/slow, etc. I’m getting a little irked that I added an extra $25 for this feature. In any case, thanks to the timing of my purchase of the Cables To Go 28270 USB 2.0 Mobile Office Retractable Cable Kit, I was able to use the teeny-tiny mouse it came with to get around and get connected. Believe it or not, the experience of setting my laptop up was not as painful as dealing with my desktop PC. I will say that the desktop PC being refurbished probably had something to do with it. That being said, all was not honey and oats in my home. πŸ™‚ For the weirdest reason, the updates kept failing to install until I resorted to installing 2 or 3 at a time. All should be well now because I stayed up rather late doing the installations. I’m also anxiously awaiting my big bluetooth mouse from Logitech and ethernet cord (via Amazon) so I’m keeping my eyes peeled. Until then, I’ve got to go grab lunch. Ciao

Accessories for my Preciousssss, err laptop and more about ETFs. :)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the future. πŸ™‚ I kid. This is the mouse that I shall grow to love when my laptop gets here. One thing I don’t really like about HP’s laptops is that the too-slick touchpad. My hands gets rather sweaty so I will need an external mouse. My choices were simply between any Microsoft or Logitech offerings (trusted brands). From there, I narrowed my search to ease of use. If you recall, my HP dv9700t customized notebook will come with bluetooth so I decided to get the Logitech V470 Bluetooth Cordless Laser Mouse. It was a bit pricey, but I am looking toward the future with the purchase of high quality components that will come with solid warranty support. I’ve been toying with getting a dedicated laptop bag, but I will hold off on that and create a makeshift laptop bag from the items we have at home. Yesterday’s post on cell phone contracts led me to check out what AT&T’s wireless service agreement says about early termination fees. Here is the relevant bit excerpted from the “Service Agreement” in the paragraph titled Changes to Terms and Rates:

“[…] You understand and agree that State and Federal Universal Service fees and other governmentally imposed fees, whether or not assessed directly upon you, may be increased based upon the government’s or our calculations. If we increase the price of any of the services to which you subscribe, beyond the limits set forth in your rate plan brochure, or if we materially decrease the geographical area in which your airtime rate applies (other than a temporary decrease for repairs or maintenance), we will disclose the change at least one billing cycle in advance (either through a notice with your bill, a text message to your device, or otherwise), and you may terminate this agreement without paying an early termination fee or returning or paying for any promotional items, provided your notice of termination is delivered to us within thirty (30) days after the first bill reflecting the change. […].”

It’s a bit confusing, but from what I understand from the entire contract, the following conditions have to be met in order to cancel your contract without paying an early termination fee or ETF:

  1. If you signed up today, you have a 30-day grace period in which to cancel your service. Obviously, the majority of people are past that 30-day window.
  2. If there is a price change in services you subscribe to. However, they put a caveat there which is “beyond the limits set forth in your rate plan“. Now, I have the lowest rate plan ($39.99 a month) and I have no idea what the limits to which they can raise the prices to. I intend on calling a customer service representative to get this cleared. Anyway, I currently use the pay-per-use text messaging service and have the internet/MMS on my phone turned off. My current text messaging fees are 20 cents for each incoming and outgoing text message. The way I’m reading this contract, my plan says the fee per text message (incoming and outgoing) is $0.20. If they raise that fee, I have legal standing to demand to be released from my contract. The other caveat to demanding your release is that you have a limited window of opportunity in which you can do this.
  3. According to the contract, you have 30 days from the first bill that reflects this price increase so you have to diligently check your bill in order not to miss this window. From reading tips online about how to cancel your cell phone service, the key things to remember are: staying calm, having the relevant sections highlighted, having your paperwork i.e. bills in front of you and remembering to escalate your call if the CSR is being a twerp.
  4. Nevertheless, there are extenuating circumstances that the determined individual could press in order to get released e.g. moving (if you can prove that your coverage will suffer) and see this CNN blog about other viable excuses e.g. active military duty and such.
  5. Another confusing part about this whole business is the part about “returning or paying for any promotional items“. Does this mean I would have to return my Treo which I got at a discount because I signed up for the 2-year plan? I suspect so. Nevertheless, if you get to that point in your negotiations, my advice to you would be to simply save your contacts to your computer if you have a cool phone like mine (lol) and agree to return your discounted phone. Since you will be potentially signing up with a different phone company, you will be getting a discount on your new phone so don’t be too worried. If you have installed a lot of paid applications on your phone like I have, make sure you have your installation files saved somewhere. If you are lucky, you will get your exact same phone with your new carrier. If not, your files will be useless.
  6. Finally, part of this depends on the customer service representative’s disposition. You see, some people have had their cancellations take place in less than 10 minutes. Some like Ely Rosenstock had it extended over days. Some get stymied and some end up getting discounts or refunds in order to stay with the plan which is not a bad idea anyway. What am I saying? Be nice and hope the CSR is nice too. lol. I mean, I can definitely testify to the power of being nice to reps. If you have less than 6 months left or if you could live with their service for awhile, stick with them and when your time is up, your service agreement will “automatically renew on a month-to-month basis” until you leave or AT&T kicks you out. πŸ™‚

Speaking of being nice to customer service representatives, I learned the hard way how not to be behave. πŸ™‚ I screwed up on an order and I called the hotline. My first mistake was being a bit combative and trying to “bully” the representative into giving me a discount by concocting a story about how it was the company’s fault. Well, she clearly pointed out to me that the fault was mine and she remained steadfast in her refusal to grant me any discount. Well, I ended the call and had a cooling-down session with myself. I slept on the issue and the next day, early in the morning, I called the hotline again. I got a different CSR and I was genuinely apologetic about my mistake. We talked about options and I suggested the option which was most pleasing to me and she agreed with me. She agreed to give me the discount and I was amazed at the difference in response. For the record, this happened with my laptop order. I forgot to add the TV tuner option and now I will be getting it at a discount. I will have to return the laptop back to them so they can put it in, but I won’t be paying the full price for it. So it does pay to be a nice person. I get ashamed of myself sometimes because I read articles on the web that talk about how the customer is always right. Well, some customers are idiots/bullies/inane/smart and I happened to fall into one of those categories (hint: not smart) when I first called the hotline. So, with that expose on cell phone contracts and calling representatives, I’ll be signing out!