Archive for January 2010

Contracting Jobs

January 24, 2010

When contracting a job of a home improvement nature (or any other nature for that matter) make sure you are dealing with the actual company that is to do the job. Preferably with the actual person who will have primary responsibility for the job.

The best way to screw up a project is to get involved with person or persons who sub-contract. Persons like most home improvement centers.

Home improvement centers should be the absolute last resort or not even considered at all. You will end up with phoney quotes as they try to second guess what the real jobber will charge. You might get inferior work. Contestable responsibility. Even be faced with having to have the job done over by qualified professionals. Even with all those risks, you may still not get the best price.

One such vendor advertises whole house carpet installation for $100 regardless of square footage. Does that seem too good to be true? It seems that way to me. Carpet installation for most customers requires the removal of the old carpet, removal of the old pad, replacement of the tack strips. All this before any new carpet is cut. Figuring an average house of appoximately 2000 square feet and about 80 precent of that carpeted this is a two day job for two installers unless they work a 12 hour day. That means these installers would have to work for less than minimum wage.

How much skill can you buy for minimum wage? That $100 non conditional installation plan is a disaster looking for a place to happen.

Now ask yourself, how many other good deals seeking disaster status do these fools have?

Do you really want to find out?

I don’t.

You are not always better off going the more professional route but in most cases that is the way to go. Don’t get sucked in by teaser rates.

A very good example is the purchase of a new washing machine two years ago. The first attempt was though a home improvement center appliance department. It was a new Maytag. The delivery was on time and prompt after the purchase and the price was reasonable (around $300). There was no installation. They just delivered it to the laundry room and were going to leave. I insisted it be hooked up if even temporarily so that I could see it run. Once it was full of water and working it began to rock and roll and move across the floor. I had them take it back. They promised to return the next day with a machine that worked properly.

The next day the rock and roll incident was repeated. In fact, I was not sure the it was not the exact same machine. Not interested in becoming a washing machine test center, I sent it back and got a refund. I am still not sure if it was a vendor problem or a Maytag problem. The only thing I was SURE of was that it was not going to become MY problem.

I took the refund to a local appliance store. This was a dedicated appliance store. Appliances were not a sideline with them. Appliances were their only business. This time we bought a Whirlpool for $360 including tax, delivery, and installation.

The man who came to install the new Whirlpool was super efficient, knew exactly what he was doing, and gave us some tips as to use. Nothing at all like the two delivery men from the home improvement center. More importantly, the new washer did not rock and roll and is still going strong.

You pays your money and takes your chances. That is how most people operate. You should try to take no chances and only pay after the job has been completed successfully.

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Home Depot

January 24, 2010

On my last trip to handy homers yesterday I was amazed at all the friendly people offering help. Aint it wonderful?

Not really. A lady approached me offering to help with my tile selection claiming that she was a tile ‘expert’. I told her if she really wanted to help, learn how to run a cash register so I don’t have to do the checkout myself.

I may have offended her as she walked off muttering about her ‘expert’ status. Expert? I don’t expect to find too many experts working for minimum wage at Home Depot! Heck, some of them don’t even speak good english.

When I go to a ‘serve yourself’ home improvement center I go with the goal of serving myself. I want to buy my ‘stuff’ with a minimum investment in time and money. If I need help finding something, I will ask.

In fact, that did happen. I was looking for a sink spray attachment. I asked an employee in the plumbing department where I could find such. He furlled his brow and said, ‘Let me think’. It was pretty obvious he was not big on thinking so I told him, ‘Never mind, don’t hurt yoursel
f, I will find it myself’.

I take offense at being greeted at the door by people waving flyers trying to propagandise me. I did not come to read flyers. I usually throw them away when they mail them to me. Why would they think I would take time to read them on site?

I also take offense at being offered help unless I ask for it. Then, when I do ask for it, I am offended by blank stares as some moron tries to remember what his job is.

I guess I am just easily offended.

Just one more offence. I do not like the self checkout. I do not work at Home Depot and I do not want to be treated as though I do.

I know, I know, they claim they do that to cut costs. The only thing I care about is what it costs me and I don’t see the prices going down. The only thing self checkout does is increase the time I have to spend in the store.

So, to all you Home Depot workers, quit trying to be something you are not. Go back to doing the things you were doing several years ago. Your customers will be happier and you will have less reason to be offended or offensive.

Negative Political ads

January 21, 2010

When politicians come up for re-election empty handed, with no significant positive accomplishments, they resort to amplifying the negative accomplishments of their opponents.

Currently we have the two major candidates both running negative ads.

I believe this is an admission on their part that they have no good news. Just bad news about each other.

I believe it is time to let someone with a better outlook have a crack at the governorship.

Geeks

January 19, 2010

I recently ordered a Brother MFC 8120 laser printer from the Geeks. This printer is refurbished. I guess that means it stopped working under warranty the first time it was sold. The price was right, only $55. It costs me that much for a new 52 ink cartridge for the inkjet!

Of course I also had to pay $35 to get it delivered. I also found a couple of cheap flash lights an a 1gig memory stick for one of my older computers. The final order came to $102.

The brother printer also works as a copier, scanner, and fax. The starter toner cartridge gets 4,000 pages, its drum has a 20,000 page life. New high capacity toner cartridges are priced at around $40 and get 6,500 pages.

Unfortunately, one of the few reviews gives this printer an 8 month life. That review did not say how many pages the printer had printed but seemed to imply that they had gone through several toner cartridges.

The way I see this is that the brother printer is going to save me more than $500 in ink jet ink for an investment of around $100.

At a price of $54 for the printer it would almost be worth buying a new one when the toner runs out. The only thing preventing me doing that is the $35 shipping charge. That is pretty close to the price of a toner cartridge.

I think the Geeks are basically good but you would never guess that from some of the scams their third party buddies pull.

After the order was entered I was informed it qualified for free shipping. I checked with all the common carriers some time ago and they assured me they did not work for free. Turns out you can get free shipping if you sign up for some useless service that tries to rob you.

I also got a spam e-mail from some moron wanting me to send them $10 for a service warranty on the refurbished printer.

The Geeks would do well to distance themselves from these scammers. It makes them look bad.

Ad-Aware and AVG

January 19, 2010

Both of these programs used to be useful but recently they have become less useful and make the user a target for scammers.

We were recently hit with a virus. First time in over 30 years.

Unfortunately we could no longer use the infected computer and I became involved in getting rid of the virus.

It was a simple matter of running Malwarebytes Anti-Malware scanner, the free version.

Malwarebytes is a very nice, professional bit of software that also has a ‘pay to play’ commercial version. It is reminiscent of the way Ad-Aware and AVG used to work when they were first introduced.

After the virus was removed and added security was installed, I revisited AVG and Ad-Aware to see what they had to offer. The first indication that all was not well occurred when both these vendors offered their premium versions for free. Free as long as you signed up for some really worthless services that no one needs. So it really was not free. Just a waste of time.

Still, I downloaded the free versions and tried them. I got rid of AVG because I did not want to suffer the overhead of having their stuff rifling through my files. Besides, after the ‘free’ scam they tried, I did not trust them anymore.

I also got rid of Ad-Aware because of their incessant nag screens. This program is supposed to eliminate unwanted advertising, not add advertising of their own.

Too bad. Both of these vendors have been removed from my approved list. Replaced with Malwarebytes.

Computer acting up

January 15, 2010

I use one small system running XP to support the magic jack telephone. This afternoon its speaker was making a funny sound. I rebooted the computer to see if that would solve the problem. That was when things really went wrong. The built-in computer speaker began to squawk.

Turns out the a microphone cord was pushed under the area where the keyboard rests in hiding. The cord was holding one of the keyboard keys down making the computer complain.

The cord was moved and the computer is now working just fine. No more anoying noise.

SWR

January 15, 2010

After very carefully tuning both the vertically polarized four element moxon and the horizontally polarized seven element broadband beam, I installed them onto the stub mast and mounted them on the main mast through the thrust bearing and into the rotator.

The mast was cranked back up to full height and the antennas were tested. I was more than a little dissapointed in that they both showed fairly high swr.

I learned a long time ago that when things don’t work out like expected its time to relax and sleep on it.

A couple of days after the initial test I took another look at the setup in the shack. I had built an antenna switching system so that I could use one run of RG8 for either the vertical or the horizontal antenna. I was only intending to use one or the other at any given time so a switching system seemed ideal.

As I investigated the hookup I found that the SWR meter was in the antenna side of the switching system. This meant that the power running the switching system was being run through the SWR meter. I relocated the SWR meter to be in line in the section running from the 2 meter rig to the antenna switch. The SWR on both antennas is now as should be.