Computer Consumer Tips, Links and PC Stuff.

If you have experiences to share please let me know via my form link. Thanks.

Never ever listen to the advice you get at Best Buy, Circuit City or any other chain store.
Their employees were bagging groceries the week before. They know nothing about computers
except maybe their experiences downloading porn or playing games. They'll tell you everything the
store sells is great and that you should buy it. But they don't know squat. Every time I am
in a computer store I overhear some dumbf%$k kid feeding a total line of bullsh*t to some prospective
buyer. Totally disgusts me.

Useful Guides & Links

* Note: I do not endorse products that may be advertised on some of these links. Please research any product carefully before downloading or buying.

Current features... Wall Of Shame   AOL or AOHell?   Browsers   Computer Buyers Scam   Computer Tips   Domain Names for your Website   Mail Client settings   Virus Alerts   Personal Computers   PC Perfromance   Printers   Internet Browsers   Free Email?   FORM


Dumb Anti-Spam Software

Many anti-spam software packages use blocking lists (or blacklists) to block incoming or outgoing email. The blacklists are updated regularly and distributed in the same fashion as anti-virus updates. The spammers aren't that stupid and rarely use their real domain in the junk they send. Instead, they use someone else's domain in spoofed From and Reply-to fields. The anti-spam software is about as dumb as a rock and blindly uses the spoofed email IDs as a means to build their blacklists. Since the anti-spam software companies pride themselves more on the amount rather than the quality of the blacklists they build, their blacklists usually block more legitimate email than spam. When a company finds itself on one of these bogus blacklists, the anti-spam software companies usually are unresponsive and unwilling to remove the legitimate domains from their ever-growing lists.

Thus, most anti-spam software programs are just deterents to internet usage and all the companies that sell this stuff care about is their profits.

Epson Gets Caught

More confirmation that Epson sells junk and bilks its customer. But being a corporation they couldn't be arrested for their crimes. Fortunately, there is the class-action-lawsuit. If you bought Epson junk between 1999 and 2006 you are eligible for at least $45.

As I have noted before from my own and others experiences, the software that came with Epson printers was intentionally designed to tell you that even full ink cartridges were empty. In 1999 you could still bypass the warning and keep printing. But after the beta test, Epson maliciously disabled the printer completely. Your only option was to keep buying expensive ink cartridges and hope you had finally bought some that weren't "empty" when you bought them.

After the first round my Epson went into the trash and I swore never to buy Epson again. It seemed awfully odd that after printing a few black and white pages that even the color tanks were empty. My Epson was only 10 months old at the time. Many of friends were burned after two or three months. After printing just a few pages or photos their printers died citing the ink was empty.

Lexmark has been doing the same thing so this isn't a new scam. And those Dell printers? They are just OEM'd Lexmarks. In my opinion, Canon or Brother is the better way to go.

To get your share go to the LA County Superior Court Epson Settlement website.

Proof of Junk Concepts

In September of 2004 I walked into my local Best Buy. I was not surprised by what I found. There were several rows of tables selling electronic garbage as "pre-opened packages". This is all junk that people bought and returned. And it fully confirmed my reviews below. There was a row of cordless phones. All except for one that was GE (I bought one of those once and threw it away in 3 months). The rest were Panasonic. The other row was computer printers. About 75% were Epson with the remaining ones being from HP and Lexmark. Apparently, even the manufacturers don't want them back. And since Best Buy's practice is to fight you tooth and nail on returns these items probably represent some pretty angry customers. Read on below.

Using credit cards for online or phone orders?

Many credit card issuers are now offerring "one-time" or "single-use" card numbers. How does it work? Simply call your card company and request a "one-time" card number. Then go online or make your phone transaction. Once used, the number is expired and cannot be used again by anyone who may steal your information. This will also prevent companies that attempt to bill you for services or items they have hidden in the fine print of their customer agreements.

Looking for an Internet Service Provider?

Whatever you do, DO NOT install AOL. Need reasons? Enter "AOL problems" in your favorite search engine. Millions of hits. Enter "AOL customer support" or "AOL customer support phone numbers" in your favorite search engine. Thousands of hits with funny pictures, jokes and stories of the bad service. Not a single hit to an actual AOL support site. Enter "AOL screen names password" and you will get thousands of hits for public domain tips and programs hackers can use to steal AOL screen names and passwords. Still no support info. Go to the AOL homepage at or any other AOL/TW website. Good luck trying to find a phone number.
More problems have been reported by AOL users than for all other ISPs combined. The problems include:

  • Invasive alteration of computer set up by the AOL software.
  • Incompatibility problems that literally disable all other ISP and network connections.
  • Difficulty unsubscribing from the service
  • Inconsistent, non-existant or just plain bad customer support
  • Restrictions and censorship on sites visited
  • Non-standard browser requires alternate use of MS Internet Explorer to display websites properly
  • Numerous bugs, problems and lock-ups when installed on Windows XP
  • Email stored on their servers giving the owner less control
  • Email client is not IMAP compatible. You can't use any other email client.
  • Frequent disconnects and busy signals
  • Try to send out an email to everyone in your address book? If you have more than 40 friends, AOL suspends your account because you are a "SPAMMER".
  • With AOL, you are going to hell in a handbasket. They also log and report everything your family does to the Homeland Insecurty folks. You just might be an insurgent.

AOL is still wondering why they are losing 260,000 customers every month.

Have a website? Be careful of who you register your domain name through.

Have a website? Want a website? A separate part of hosting is domain name registration. One of my hosting customers originally registered her domain name with After some renewal confusion revoked and disabled the domain. Next asked them to pay between $200-$2000 to get their domain name (their licensed business branding and trademark) back. Under current regulation, registrars can only hold a domain name hostage for 30 days. But held it well beyond that and refused to release it unless their price was met. Finally, after filing a complaint with Internic, they released it and my customer was able to re-acquire it through another registrar. This after being unavailable for more than 3 months.

Visit the U.S. Dept. of Commerce website for further information.
Be aware and and be informed.

Buying a Computer?

In the news lately it has been revealed that the big 3, AOL, MSN and Earthlink have embarked once again on one of the biggest scams yet to pull in customers for high priced interent services. It seems that many customers who bought new PCs (with their credit cards) from Best Buy, Circuit City and other popular outlets suddenly found themselves paying for internet services they didn't know they had. Deals cut by the Big 3 with the resellers were like attachments to bills passed by Congress. Hidden agreements have been surfacing a lot lately. Unbeknownst to many, paying for that new PC with a credit card was equivalent to handing over your billing information and an agreement to someone else. The Big 3 have made it such a difficult process to cancel out and get a refund that many customers just give up and try the services (which are a joke).
If you are buying a new PC, your best bet is to write a check. Congress refuses to decide if blatant fraud is a crime if committed by billionaire run companies. So you better protect yourself. Millions of people who have bought PCs with their credit cards have had this happen to them. Litigation and law suits have surfaced but you know as well as I that the Supreme Court dismisses such cases in favor of the rich. It was hidden in the fine print making it legal.

What Personal Computer should I NOT Buy?

HP's new Notice: this computer comes preinstalled with programs which are designed to collect and report information about you, and which may make your computer run slower and crash more often. Welcome to Spyware!

Hewlett Packard (HP) has another brilliant idea.
Several years ago HP came up with a great idea to save a dollar on every PC they sold. They quit providing a RESTORE CD. Something which has been standard equipment with PCs for years. It works like this. Since a hard-drive can be formatted to look like multiple drives (partitioned), they decided to give you your restore disk on a separate partition on the hard-drive. This is convenient for some restore operations but for most real-world scenarios, it is a disaster in the making.

What if your your hard-drive fails?
You've lost the ability to buy a new disk and re-install a legal version of the operating system you purchased with your PC.

What if you get a computer virus?
Many viruses are smart enough to look for other partitions on your hard-drive to install their devastating code. So, if you get hit by a virus, you can't rebuild the components necessary to eradicate the virus. Any attempt to do so just re-installs the virus.

What about the anti-virus software?
Anti-virus software by default does not check the restore partition.

If do end up having to restore (like many did after the Blaster worm hit) you must try to call HP, wait on hold, and then plead with some non-technical person in India for a real restore disk(CD). They will send you the restore disks via mail providing your warranty is still in effect.

Another poor desktop feature. In all CD units, the eject button can also be used to retract the CD. Great idea as there is less chance of damaging it. Yet most HP desktops have a door system that opens in such a way that the eject/retract button can only be used to eject. Very bad design.

CEO Carly Fiorina gave herself a $6 million executive bonus last year, acquired Compaq, and destroyed product support by send8ing it to India. Your best bet is to ditch any notion of buying anything Compaq or HP in the future. This company is another company where service after the sale falls short. And if you bought one with a mail-in rebate, good luck getting it.

If you are shopping for a PC, be absolutely certain sure it comes with RESTORE CDs.


I wasn't very happy with my Gateway. The disk drive made so much noise that people on the phone could hear it. It was horribly annoying to listen to.

The CD/RW drive died after about 20 uses. The installed Adaptec CD burning software left CDs unreadable. I had to install a new CD/RW drive, de-install the Adaptec software and install a different CD burner software suite to fix the problems. And once I fixed it, it worked like a charm. But it wasn't fun and Gateway should have tested both the hardware and software components before dumping it on the their customers. They got their money and the junk lasted long enough for the warranties to expire.

Next, faulty system set-ups and configurations resulted in shutdown problems and system hangs. One shutdown problem discovered was related to their installation of Norton anti-virus (they even admitted this and provided a fix.)
I downloaded the fix and it did fix the shutdown problem. But I had to back it out because it disabled some of the hardware. Their fix took care of a problem but created more problems that were even worse.

Some have had power supplies go out. But in many Gateways, only the higher priced Gateway power supply can be used. Less expensive off-the-shelf power supplies will not fit. Some have had the same problem with memory.

Perhaps the packaging looks like a Holstein... because they are milking the consumer.


Some models came with non-standard power cables. So if you wanted to add another disk drive you had to buy one from Dell ($$$) as non-Dell drives couldn't be plugged in.


Cheap power supplies that blow the motherboard and cheap motherboards that blow the power supply. Double whammy.
Plan on buying a new copy of Windows too. Cheaper to buy a wole new PC. Consumer Affairs report See EndofWin for all the fun I had.

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Virus Alerts - What to do first.

There are as many hoaxes as actual viruses. Always check with Symantec or McAfee before doing ANYTHING. Chances are that following the procedures outlined in the warning will actually damage your system or render certain functions inoperable. See my top 10 PC tips for more.

Symantec - -
MacAfee - -

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PC performance Tip

In some cases it may be better to leave USB devices that are not often used unplugged. When the system detects these during startup, it may load additional drivers and software that use up memory and system resources. Scanners may turn on and off while performing an unnecessary check cycle each time the PC is started.

For a plethora of PC tips and other fun stuff visit the Jeff Levy on Computers website.

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Free E-mail

MSN, Yahoo and others offer free email. The downsides are the size limitations and the security. The mailboxs are sometimes hacked into so don't use these services for anything you consider highly confidential. Some of the hackers are so brazen they will reply to messages in mailboxes they have hacked. And you also get free ads and spam. Nyuk Nyuk.

Outlook, Eudora etc

No matter what you use for your mail client, here are a few tips.
  • Disable automatic execution of scripts, programs, Active X etc. You don't want to launch that next virus just by opening an email or having it automatically opened in your preview pane.
  • Disable the Preview Pane. You want to see what it is before it is opened.

Printers - Epson and others go down the tubes.

June 2004 - Latest figures are in. HP lost another 5 % of the printer market. Lexmark lost half of its 32% down to 15%. Epson is down to 10%. Meanwhile, Dell, which just entered the printer market about a year ago is already up to 20% of market. That can only mean one thing, a lot of people are sick and tired of the junk that HP, Lexmark and Epson have dumped on consumers.

Here's a new twist from HP which applies to newer HP printers. The ink cartidges have a serial number imbedded with them. The HP printer drivers record this. Then after four months, the HP printer drivers disable your printer. You must buy new cartridges even though your current ones still have plenty of ink. As soon as any cartridge expires, it disables the printer. Even if you go to print a document that only requires black ink which you just replaced.
Epson is doing the same thing. It's all a scam to force consumers into buying their overly priced ink cartridges on a regular schedule.
In the last two years, everyone I know, including myself, who has bought an HP or an Epson, has not had the printer itself outlast more than two cartidge refills. Don't know anyone who bought a Lexmark. Their products and their tiny little inks are already way overpriced. Search for product reviews on the net for more info.


The software that comes with your Epson printer has built-in functions which gather information about you, from your computer, and sends it via the internet to Epson's data gathering website.

For many years I've bought and used Epson printers. They seemed to last forever. The quality was outstanding. My last Epson lasted about 9 months. Print cartridges are also less and less interchangeable. The latest model I had (C82) also had a short production lifespan so I couldn't replace it. This after spending $80 to replace the ink packs. Does this mean that the printer itself is only worth about $20 since it cost about $100 with ink packs?
The printer software was goofy also. Sometimes it wouldn't do a print check indicating it was out of ink. Meanwhile the ink-o-meter indicated it had plenty of ink. Then there were the annoying printer-halting pop-up ads to visit the Epson online store. I'm trying to print, not visit the website of a company that is interupting my work.
Needless to say, that printer went out in the trash. Not worth the hassle. I replaced it with a Canon i860. I like the fact that I can completely close it up to help keep dust out. The print quality is better also.

As a followup-up, I have recently ran into numerous other Epson printer owners (recent purchasers of different models) who have experienced the same problems I encountered or worse within the first month ot two. Epson has definitely decided to hose it's customers with bad products that just keep getting worse.

But wait. That is not all. After tightening up my Kerio Personal Firewall and running Spybot, I discovered that Epson had installed Spyware on my machine, collecting personal information from my computer, and then attempting to transmit that info to Epson websites.

Needless to say, this makes me pretty mad. Lexmark also seems to be moving down the path of selling junk printers and then making you pay through the nose for in refills. What is the Epson/Lexmark soak-you-for-ink scam? It works likes this. Their software records the serial numbers of the ink cartridges when you replace them. Then your faulty printer fails. The recovery steps tell to to reseat the ink cartriges as part of the problem determination process. So you do. Their software then recognizes this as a "new" ink cartridge install. But wait. The "new" cartridge has the same number as the old. So the diags automatically tell you that your problem is "Empty Ink Cartidges" and tells you to go out and spend another $80 for new cartidges. So you do. But then you find out that even with "new" and "full" ink cartidges, your printer is dead. In your frustration, you go out and buy a whole new printer. They just soaked you for "MORE" for a product that doesn't work. They are hedging their bets that bad customer service, dealing with unconcerned retail chains and your need to have a product that works are going to wear you down and suck up more of your money. The process works for them. You buy what you can't use and then buy more of it.

Internet Browsers

For years I lambasted all the wannabe browsers. Netscape was a piece of garbage. They dragged the whole Mozilla development community into their quagmire of trying to re-write established standards and used lawyers to fight MSIE. AOL bought Netscape and drove it into it toilet just like their internet services. AOL failed and has given up. But the Mozilla team hasn't and the result is FireFox. It is EXCELLENT! The latest release has really made me change my mind. It performs 99% of the browsing you can do with MSIE flawlessly. The more I use FireFox, the more impressed I am. I recommend that everyone use it all the time and only resort to IE if your idiot bank or FEMA requires it.
Your browsing experience will be a lot faster and safer.

Please note that I run Linux. All this stuff works better for Linux users than Windows users. If you run this stuff on a Windows machine, the flaws in Windows may mess it up.

  • Pro: Faster than MSIE. People with DSL even claim their browsing experience has gotten faster.
  • Pro: Good cookie and pop-up management facilities
  • Pro: Page Refresh works every time
  • Pro: Browser ONLY - No additional overhead.
  • Pro: Very active online forums if you need help
  • Pro: Imports your IE bookmarks and settings upon installation.
  • Pro: Downloads sync up well offering faster transfer rates than IE.
  • Pro: The window tab feature is great
  • Pro: Is improving with age.
  • Con: Imported bookmarks are re-ordered - may have to re-order them like you want. This is kind of goofy but manageable.
  • Con: Some plug-ins (sounds etc) fail or have to be installed manually
  • Con: JavaScripts more error prone and fail for technical reasons (but getting better)
  • Pro: The best at IETF and W3C compliance
  • Con: Phones home to report your usage on startup (on Windows). You can disable via your firewall.
  • Con: Right-click/save-as operations may not perform as intended. You have to learn the new behavior.
  • Con: Use of style sheets in webpages may not apply to intended target(s). But this is getting better.
  • Pro: Anchor names and anchor references handled more intuitively like in IE. It's about time.
  • Con: You may get some Java errors. This is getting rarer. I am finding that most of these are due to a website trying to comply with a particular level of Microsoft IE rather than standards. In other words, web content is failing just as much with IE as it does with Firefox.
  • Pro: I use it with my Linux based OS. Works just great.
  • Con: Based on Mozilla but was never up to par. The developers tried to 'Microsoft' it by creating their own non-IETF and non-W3C standards. AOL took it over and made it even worse.
  • May break other browsers when you de-install it.
MS Internet Explorer
  • Con: Doesn't run on Linux. (I can't use it.) It's nothing but a security nightmare anyway.
  • Con: Page refresh breaks and quits working.
  • Con: More security holes than a sponge.
  • Pro: Has provided a lot of jobs for the technical people many hire to fix their computers.
Konqueror Internet Suite on Linux
  • Pro: Mozilla based.
  • Pro: More safe and secure than IE.
  • Pro: The Open Source community is dedicated to achieving IETF and W3C standards
  • Pro: Low profile of the Open Source software is less prone to viruses, hackers and worms.
Mozilla or FireFox on Linux
  • Pro: More safe and secure.
  • Pro: The Open Source community is dedicated to achieving IETF and W3C standards
  • Pro: Low profile of the Open Source software is less prone to viruses, hackers and worms.
  • Pro: The same versions for Windows and Apple, do not pose the pose the same security threats.
  • Con: Not as much publicity but it is gaining ground.
  • Pro: More secure than IE no matter which browser you use.
  • Con: High platform prices.
  • Con: A lot of complaints about customer support.
The Mozilla folks have many forums at .

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WHAT A WASTE! This site claims that it will connect you with your old classmates. It might. But most of the names are people who looked at it and haven't ever came back. The site navigation is terrible. Some things do not seem to work right. They aren't very interested in customer feedback. They DO want your money however.
I joined for a year. Most people I wrote to never even logged on during the 90 day mail retention period. If you try to send someone your email address they either strip it out or reject the communication altogether. You can't delete your listing once created so anyone who comes for the next 20 years will think you are an active member. The credit card and billing sections are the only ones that work most of the time.

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