Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ink Jet Printer Cartridge Rip-Off? Brother 3820CN won't print without removing cartridge that still has ink

I was going to write something nice about Brother recently because I continue to find their 3820CN to be an eminently useful machine. It makes good copies and does printing, scanning, and faxing over my home network. It has a very reliable paper feed which is unusual at this price point. Furthermore, Brother recently repaired my 3820CN free of charge even though it was, strictly speaking, out of warranty. However, something happened today that needs to be addressed.

The control panel told me the Cyan cartridge was empty (the printer has cartridges for Black, Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow). I took the Cyan cartridge out and found it was not empty. I put it back in but could not get the machine to accept that there was still ink to be used up. This means I paid for ink that was not used. Furthermore, when any one of the four cartridges is empty the 3820CN will not print. It won't even print in black, as far as I can tell, if a color cartridge is reported to be empty. This means faxing is impaired because the fax confirmation will not print (even though it is a black and white document).

Now, I am not accusing Brother of anything, not yet. I am prepared to think this was an isolated incident, not a devious corporate plot to sell more ink. I have used Brother printers since 1982 (yep, way back in the good ole daisy wheel days). I will hold off any sort of judgment until I get a response to the letter I am sending them. But I am blogging what happened in case anyone else has had the same problem. Please let me know.

Meanwhile I am sending the 'not empty' cartridge to Brother to ask for a refund. And I will update this post with some pictures as soon as I can.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

No More Ham, Eggs, & SPAM: Blog categories revised

Okay, so I admit that I didn't get the point of categories when Blogger first introduced labels. So there I was, merrily labeling my posts with all manner of terms. For example, a post about email security had the following labels: AOL, ham eggs and spam, Microsoft, spam, TurnTide, Yahoo.

Now I have realized the error of my ways and have revised the labels to create meaningful categories. After all, if you want to find any of my posts that deal with ham or USB or AOL you can always use the Search function. I don't plan to have separate categories for those subjects.

For a start, the blog is Cobb on Technology, so there is no need for a technology label. Technology is assumed to be the subject of every post (however tenuous the link might be). There is a need for a general category that includes housekeeping posts like this one that you are reading right now.

And a humor category will denote posts that are [supposed to be] amusing or at least light-hearted. Different kinds of security are given their own category, but most of my security posts are done at A category that is likely to cover a lot of posts right here is "Gotchas."

Gotchas include all manner of quirks, snafus, annoyances, like the fact that there is no Backspace key on Macs and no grayed out File Save command in Microsoft Office apps to let you know something has been saved, or the fact that PS/2-to-USB adapters rarely work and Control-Tab doesn't work the way it should in Microsoft Word. Of course, some posts will have more than one label, like this one, which is mainly 'general' but also now contains some 'gotchas.'

So, I hope this reformed approach to labeling will be useful and make the blog more accessible.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

PS on DST: Vista is pre-fixed, Mac OS X 10.4.6 also

After my posting a few days ago on the changes to Daylight Saving Time in the US that will be happening this year, it occurred to me that I might have raised more questions than I answered. In fact--surprise, surprise--I still don't have ALL the answers. But here a few more that might be helpful.

Q. How long until the change?
A. 47 days (March 11 is the first time the new DST rules go into effect, but there is another date of importance, October 28, 2007, which is when you might have expected DST to end, but in fact it will end November 4).

Q. What about Windows Vista?
A. Vista is aware of the new rules. You have to remember that, back in the summer of 2005--when a change to DST rules was mandated--Microsoft was talking "second half of 2006" as ship date for Vista. And the perpetual optimism in Redmond probably led coders to think a large percentage of PCs would be running Vista in time for the change.

Q. What about Mac OS X?
A. The version 10.4.6 update set the clock straight, so to speak, for Mac users. BTW, that update was released in March of 2006, considerably in advance of the Microsoft patch for XP.

Q. What about my iPod? Palm? Treo?
A. I am still looking into how these devices, which all have date and alarm functions, will handle the DST rule change.

Q. What's that weird clock at the top of the post?
A. It's a clock made out of computer parts. The face is a hard drive platter and it's reflecting my hands holding the camera as I took the picture (with a Sony DSC-T1). As the song goes: "It's always 5 o'clock somewhere."

USB in the SUV? JVC car stereo lets you plug in MP3s via USB as well as iPod

When I first saw this idea I knew I had to check it out: a car stereo with a USB port on the face plate. In other words, you can put tunes on a USB thumb drive and play them in the car. In fact, I liked the idea so much I now have a JVC KD-G720 installed in my Jeep, as shown here.

Oddly enough, JVC seems to have dropped this particular model. When I went to get a link to listing at Circuit City (which is where I got mine) the search came up empty. Over at Crutchfield the model is listed as "no longer available." There are some links here that might work. Note how happy the reviewers sound--so it is not just me. I gave the unit a good write-up on epinions and also put in aq good word for Circuit City which had the unit installed in under an hour, for under $240 including the iPod connection in the glove box.

Obviously an iPod playing through the car stereo can be a life-saver on road trips and a lot of units are now offering this, either via a simply AUX connection, or through an intelligent link, like this unit, where you can select songs and functions, like shuffle, through the faceplate controls. But it was the USB port that really caught my eye. By using a USB adapter I can quickly take the SD card of tunes out of my Treo 650 and plug them into my car radio (there is a one gig limit ,but that is still a decent chunk of music). I can do the same thing with Sony Memory Sticks--drag a bunch of songs from iTunes on my Vaio laptop to a stick and stick it in the car.

Why would I do that instead of use my iPod? Just seems easier sometimes. Several mixes that I really like are already set up on SD cards for my Treo. Besides, I have my iPod docked in my home streo a lot of the time and it is a lot heavier than a USB key...and oh heck, maybe I'm just lazy.

Anyway, if you do like the idea of using a USB drive for tunes, this is the unit to play them. If you set up six different folders on the USB device the JVC KD-G720 will treat them as different CDs (the same holds true with MP3 CDs, which this unit also plays). You get song title info displayed and a number of shuffle options (within folder, across folders).

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What Comes Next? Try Brussin's blog

There's a new tech-oriented blog on the block and I'm betting it will become a "must-read" for anyone serious about Web 2.0, Business 2.0, and the whole intersection of technology and business. The blog is called "What Comes Next" and the blogger is David Brussin.

While David Brussin might not be a household name in high tech households, I would add the caveat "yet." I've been in the high tech field for over 25 years and have yet to encounter a sharper mind than Brussin's. It was no coincidence that he was named to the 2004 list of the world's 100 Top Young Innovators by Technology Review, MIT's Magazine of Innovation. Brussin has that rare combination of a. technical brilliance (he was building serious commercial networks before he graduated from high school) and b. business acumen (he had co-founded two successful hi-tech startups before he was thirty, and both were snapped up by public companies).

Then there is c. he is very articulate. So, not only does Brussin come up with valuable and sometimes highly complex insights, he can put them into full sentences that are easily understood. Now, you sometimes meet people who have a or b or c. Occasionally you meet people with two of the three, but rarely do you encounter someone who has all three AND a sense of humor AND above average scores in tact and diplomacy.

So check out Brussin's blog. I hope you find it as interesting as I do.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Of all the Dumb Things: Patching XP for daylight saving change

For once there is an XP patch that has nothing to do with Microsoft programming errors! Thanks to the meddling of America's congress-critters, your Windows XP machine needs to be patched in the next 50 days or it will not properly reflect the change to Daylight Saving Time.

The XP patch is here but I suggest you read this Microsoft KnowledgeBase page first. It covers things that could go wrong and other Microsoft code.

When does Daylight Saving Time begin in 2007? March 11. Whaaauh? March? Yes, thanks to a law passed in August of 2005 as part of President Bush's mammoth energy bill, DST comes three weeks early in all states (except Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Arizona (with the exception of the Navajo Nation, which observes DST even in Arizona, due to its large size across three states) [deep breath]).

With all the embedded OSes out there and just about everything we use running on code these days, a lot of it date-sensitive, the probability of a miniature Y2K event in 2007 is definitely not zero.

And guess what? Congress has the right to change DST back to the way it was if they don't like these new dates. Personally, just personally, I have never liked DST and think it is more trouble than it is worth. This would seem to prove my point. About the only change worth making to the dates that have existed unchanged for the last 20 years in America would have been to bring us in line with the Europeans (see the table here). But noooo, Bush had to be different-er.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I'm Loving IT: Humor for geeks

Recently I was writing a column about computers and romance for the February--as in Valentine's Day--issue of a regional 'lifestyle' magazine (how I get talked into these things I don't know). Anyway, it brought to mind one of my favorite Dilbert cartoons. That same cartoon also came to mind when I was writing my previous post about 'loving technology.' But then I discovered something sad, a lot of young people had never seen the cartoon. And then I figured out why: it first appeared in 1995! Heck, some CTOs weren't even teenagers then. So, here it is:

And as an added bonus, here is a link that leads to just about every Dilbert strip ever, arranged in superbly simple one-click reading order. You can waste spend literally hours reading these.

In some ways the early- to mid-nineties were the golden age of Dilbert and I encourage you to stock up on some of the collections from that period (Shave the Whales is a good place to start). Here's a list to get you started. Enjoy! And remember, if the boss catches you reading Dilbert, you are doing anti-competitive lifestyle market research by thinking outside the box and running a straw man up the flagpole to see which way the wind blows in order to optimize the mission statement going forward, thus getting all hands onboard with the primary goal setting agenda-ism.

Monday, January 15, 2007

PS/2 to USB Adapters Don't

Just bought a couple of small converter plugs that allow you to plug a PS/2 keyboard into a USB socket. But guess what? They don't work. I have scoured the net to find out why and the basic answer seems to be that PS/2 to USB adapters are a kludge and very unpredictable (people use them for mice as well as keyboards, apparently with very mixed results).

Boo hiss I say. I wanted to use my lovely old IBM PS/2 keyboard on my laptop to reduce the wrist strain from all this blogging, but noooo. Looks like it ain't gonna happen. Now I have to go through the whole send-it-back process. What a pain. If things are known not to work reliably they should say on the package: May not work with all PS/2 devices. I would have given these things a miss and carried on my search for a good USB keyboard.