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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Microsoft's Lack of Customer Service

     Microsoft's customer service is worse than a used car dealership. I recently inherited a fairly new laptop from a relative, but there was an issue with Windows 10 on startup, so I took it to the local Best Buy and had a technician look at it. He advised me that he was unable to fix it because he couldn't get past Microsoft's security and that I should contact them direct, but the phone number he gave me turned out not to be Microsoft, but the laptop's manufacturer. No problem, I thought; I will just Google Microsoft for a phone number, and thus began a journey into Hades.
     One of the first places that popped up was not a Microsoft site at all, but a site designed to look like it was and they advertised they specialized in “Microsoft problems.”   Of course, this is not a Microsoft problem, but you have to be careful.
     Unable to locate a phone number for technical service, I called the number listed for Microsoft's corporate office in a nearby large city. The guy answering the phone could barely speak English and after I explained my problem and asked for a phone number I could call for technical assistance, he began asking for personal information which I refused to give, explaining all I wanted is a phone number. He got snotty and I hung up. 
     The next step was to call a Microsoft store. Again, the person answering the phone could barely speak English and could not understand my problem...hung up on him, too. 
     A third call to a different number connected me with another person for whom English was a second language and he was totally unable to comprehend the nature of the issue with the laptop. When I kept telling the guy that he was trying to address an issue that was not part of the problem, he got belligerent and kept interrupting me, prompting another hang up on my part. 
     A fourth call resulted in someone who spoke fairly decent English and listened politely and asked a few questions before having me try a couple of fixes which didn't work. At that point he told me he did not know how to fix the problem and his advice was to “take it some place and have Windows 10 reinstalled.” For a fee, of course. 
     When I first got my new laptop it was very frustrating being repeatedly nagged with upgrade prompts to get the free Windows 10 which had just come out and I had to fix my laptop so that it would not automatically upgrade. Apparently, at some point Microsoft finally ended the “Get Windows 10” nag. 
     In Microsoft’s 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report, 44 per cent of the 5,000 respondents across Brazil, Germany, Japan, the UK and the United States said they had customer service issues with Microsoft. 
     Almost one-third complained about not being able to talk to a live person. Twenty-eight percent complained that representatives were unable to resolve issues because they didn't know how. Three-fourths of the respondents used a search engine to try and find the answer to their customer service question and one-fourth complained about the difficulty and/or inability to find information they were searching for online. Having to repeat or provide personal information to the agent was also a problem for many. 
     I would add that speaking to someone outside the United States who can barely speak English and who is poorly trained in customer service are problems.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

How Butterflies Fly

     How can a butterfly, weighing no more than a feather, fly into the wind and how can they control where they are going given their jerky, erratic flight paths? 
     First of all, no matter if it's a butterfly or a bird, if wind speed exceeds maximum flight speed, then it can't fly. Different species of butterflies fly at different speeds and the range is about 3 miles per hour to a lightning fast 23 miles per hour. Most small butterflies must therefore avoid high winds. 
     Butterflies have big wings and slow wing beats (about 10 per second) compared with about 200 in honey bees and, believe it or not, their wings are more than twice as effective as a bird’s. 
     Recent research indicates they control their jerky, erratic flight by keeping their body perpendicular to the ground and time that with a rotation of their body that is timed with each flap of their wings. A good example of what happens when a butterfly flaps it wings can be visualized by imagining running a spoon through coffee with creamer added. Swirls appear around a low pressure center. Their wings swirl the air above their wings making a low pressure vortex. Thus the vortex sucks the butterfly upward and allows the wings to snap back into position with less resistance. Once the upstroke has been completed, butterflies then preform a quick change of angle, just enough to add even more lift. It's this excessive lift combined with the angle of their body that causes the jerky motion associated with their fight. 
     They have huge wings for their bodies, wings that are way bigger than many other insects of the same weight and their wings are so massive they can fly even with half their wing cut off. Because the wings are so big, it is easy for them to maneuver. Their wings are similar to a ship's rudder; the bigger a ship's rudder, the faster it can turn. 
     Butterflies use their wings to make those erratic fluttering pattern which is unique to butterflies. These erratic movements have a purpose; it makes their movements hard for predators to predict. 
     Monarch butterflies can navigate their way for a distance of some 3000 miles each fall from Canada to Mexico and back in the spring. How do they do it? 
     Birds are known for their long-range migration but not insects, Also, a bird's migration route is a round-trip which they may make many times in their lifetime, but for the Monarch, it is a trip they make only once. 
     A team of scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School explored their brains and eye tissues and discovered that it is the ultraviolet band of light that is crucial to their orientation and gived them their sense of direction. The input from UV light detection in the eye and a biological clock in their brain guides them to their destination at the appointed time.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Icescream Screen Recorder

     The following screen recorder is even better and easier to use the than the one that was recommended in a previous post. It's called Icecream Screen Recorder
     It is a free tool that enables you to capture any area of your screen either as a screenshot or a video file. The intuitive and easy-to-use software offers a complete suite of tools and options for professional screen capture with audio. With their screen recording software you can record webinars, games and Skype videos in HD, and much more in a quick and hassle-free way. 
     There is also a Pro version available for $29.95. Besides its simplicity, it records any audio extremely well. Highly recommended!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Tracking Ships At Sea

      In addition to tracking aircraft, it is also possible to track ships at sea at Vessel Finder. Founded as a vessel tracking service provider in 2011, VesselFinder Ltd. displays real-time data on the positions and movements of over 100,000 vessels every day, utilizing a large network of receivers all over the world. 

To name a few key features: 
* Updated positions of over 100,000 vessels every day 
* Port calls and master data Detailed voyage history of each vessel 
* Photo Gallery with over 100,000 ship and port photos 
* Mobile applications for Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows phone 
* Latest news in the world maritime industry 
* Historical AIS Data services including customized vessel movements reports, video simulation of ship movements, traffic density analyses and more 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Aircraft Radar and Aviation Weather on Your Computer

     The website FlightAware, with locations in Houston, Texas and Singapore, is the world's largest flight tracking data company and provides over 10,000 aircraft operators and service companies as well as over 12,000,000 passengers with global flight tracking solutions. FlightAware gets data from air traffic control systems in over 55 countries. FlightAware provides live flight data, airport delays, fuel prices, airline operational tools, weather maps, flight planning, flight routes, oceanic tracks, and navigation charts, as well as aviation news and photos. 
     These are fun sites to visit if, for example, you want information about that plane flying overhead. Just go to the site, zoom in on your location, and click on the plane's icon. You will get information on the company, the call sign, the plane's origin and destination, altitude and air speed. Another good site is Plane Finder.
     Aviation Weather is a US government site located near the Kansas City International Airport that allows you to access just about anything you want to know about weather conditions pertaining to aviation. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Caffeine Withdrawal

     The FDA reports that more than 80 percent of American adults drink coffee daily. Regular ingestion of caffeine alters your brain’s chemical makeup, leading to fatigue, headaches and nausea if you quit. 
     It all happens within 24 hours. It's not bad at first, but you begin to feel mentally foggy and lack alertness. Then fatigue sets in even if you haven’t done anything strenuous and you you begin to get irritable. 
     Caffeine is chemically addictive and now the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has included caffeine withdrawal as a mental disorder for the first time.
     Soon after you consume caffeine it’s absorbed through the small intestine and because it's water and fat soluble it penetrates the brain. Structurally, caffeine closely resembles a molecule that’s naturally present in our brain, so much so that caffeine actually fits into our brain cells’ receptors for adenosine.  Adenosine produced over time locks into these receptors and produces a feeling of tiredness, but caffeine blocks off the adenosine. The result is that caffeine produces a sense of alertness and energy for a few hours. Also, a natural stimulant, dopamine, works more effectively when the receptors are blocked. In addition, surplus adenosine causes the adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline. 
     Technically, caffeine isn’t a stimulant, but a substance that stimulates the body's natural stimulants. Caffeine's effects last for anywhere from four to six hours, depending on the person’s age, size and other factors. 
     People who ingest caffeine on a regular basis experience changes in the brain’s chemistry and physical characteristics over time. For one, the brain cells grow more adenosine receptors in an attempt to maintain neutralize the constant doses of caffeine. This explains why coffee drinkers build up a tolerance and it takes more caffeine to achieve the desired effect. 
     It also explains why suddenly giving up caffeine entirely triggers withdrawal effects. Your brain is used to functioning with an artificially inflated number of adenosine receptors that depend on regular doses of caffeine. Without it the altered brain chemistry causes all sorts of physical symptoms. To get off caffeine you to suffer through about 7-12 days of symptoms without ingesting any caffeine. During that period, your brain decreases the number of adenosine receptors and they will return to normal. Further reading...What Caffeine Actually Does To Your Brain

Monday, April 3, 2017

Nose Adjusters

     Some people have a great deal of anxiety about their noses and it's especially true these days because famous bodies are used to sell just about everything. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 15.6 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2014. 
     The shape of the nose is imbued with assumptions about one’s character and as a result, methods of improving its appearance have been employed for over two thousand years! One of the first recorded “nose jobs” was performed in India in the sixth century B.C. when a flap of skin from the patient’s cheek was used to make a new nose. However, it wasn’t until a syphilis epidemic in Europe in the late 16th century that cosmetic nasal surgery became popular. One of the symptoms of advanced syphilis is that people's noses fall off. One of the most popular procedures involved taking skin from the patient’s arm and grafting it to their face in an effort to make a new nose.
    Physiognomy, which experienced a revival in the 19th century, claimed that the shape of the nose could tell you about a person’s moral character: a straight nose signified refinement, while a hawk nose signified a cunning moral character. 
     By late 19th century plastic surgery began to gain popularity in America and people whose noses, or other features, didn't conform to the ideals of beauty could find a doctor, or facial artiste, if you will, who would sculpt their face. Procedures included making eyes, lips, and noses look better. 
     But, for those born with a nose that they didn't like, back in the 1920s you could purchase the Anita Nose Adjuster which promised to reshape one’s nose without surgery. This gadget was advertised that with it you could adjust your ill-shaped nose into a perfect specimen, all in the privacy of your home in just a few weeks. 
    The contraption eliminated the need for costly and painful surgery; it worked painlessly while you slept. Ads warned against inferior imitations and advised that you should use the Anita because it was the original and only one that was recommended by physicians for broken and misshapen noses. 
     The Anita was self-adjustable and didn't have any screws or metal parts, but was made of porous material that was firm, but comfortable. They offered a free book which also included a form to fill out for your size. When the form was returned, you would be sent your nose adjuster and you didn't have to pay for it until it arrived. The idea was simple. The thing reshaped both flesh and cartilage while you slept or were working. I assume that meant while you worked around the house; it's hard to imagine showing up at the office wearing the thing! 
the Bihana
     Now, you might think that people back in those days were naive and nobody would fall for such a thing today, but you would be wrong! 
     For $38 you can buy the Bihana Nose Adjuster Clip. Wear it while you sleep and it claims to slim and decrease the width of a nose.  But wait!  That's not all!   It repairs upward-facing nostril holes. 
     It doesn't take any batteries and it's comfortable. Simply clip it on to you nose and it puts pressure on the skin around the bone in your nose which over time will reshape it. 
     These things seem quite popular with teenagers in Japan...just Google nose adjusters!