Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Why I'm not happy with the Weather Network latest website redesign

Weather Network 7-day forecast

The default page for each city is the 7-day forecast, shown to the right. (Click to embiggen. The long and narrow shape is the result of Firefox's awesome screenshot function, which allows you to take a screenshot of the full page, rather than just what appears on screen.)

At the top of the page are the current conditions.  That part's good - that's exactly the information I'm looking for.

However, the next thing I'm looking for is the short-range forecast, which isn't there.  There are two small boxes below the current conditions giving a brief summary of the next two 12-hour periods (labelled "Tonight" and "Tuesday" in this screenshot), but that isn't sufficient information. At a minimum, I'm also looking for humidex/windchill (labelled as "Feels like" in these screenshots) and probability of precipitation (labelled "POP" in these screenshots), but they don't have that information on the default page for the short-range forecast. They just have those stingy, inadequate summary boxes with way too wordy a description and way too little quantitative information.

I do want to see the long-range forecast on the main page as well, and it's right there in a format that makes me happy, just below the row of news videos.  But without a proper short-range forecast, there's a gap in the information provided.

Weather Network 36-hour forecast
The short-range forecast can be found on the 36-hour page, shown to the left.  (Click to embiggen).  And all the information I'm looking for is right there, in a format that makes me happy, in the table just below the row of news videos.

However, the current conditions at the top are incomplete. They  have the sky condition with the temperature and humidex, but that's it. No wind speed, humidity, air quality, UV, etc.

This is a problem, because now I have to have two tabs open to get all the information I want, especially when I have weather-sensitive outdoor plans, or in shoulder seasons where I have to make multiple decisions throughout the day about heating/air conditioning, windows open/closed, blinds open/closed to keep my home comfortable.

For example, I'm currently trying to find a good time to wash my windows.  To do this, I need to know the current temperature, humidex, wind, humidity and sunset time, all of which are in the current conditions on the main 7-day page, but not all of which are on the 36-hour page.  I also need the temperature, POP, and wind for the next couple of days, all of which are on the 36-hour page but not the main 7-day page.  So what was a simple at-a-glance task with the Weather Network's old design now requires two tabs.

The best thing the Weather Network could do to fix this is remove the two small boxes ("Tonight" and "Tuesday" in the 7-day screenshot) from the 7-day page, and remove the row of news videos. Then they should put the 36-hour chart from the 36-hour page in their place.  This would give us the same at-a-glance skimmability we had on the old website.

If it really is important to separate 7-day and 36-day, the second most useful thing the Weather Network could do is put full current conditions on the 36-day page. This would provide a single-page at-a-glance of the information that updates most frequently throughout the day, and whose updates are most immediately relevant.  (In other words, if the overnight forecast changes, that becomes relevant to me far earlier than if the forecast four days from now changes.)

If they really, really, really can't do either of those things, one very simple thing they definitely can do is put humidex/windchill information in those two inadequate short-term boxes on the 7-day page ("Tonight" and "Tuesday" in the screenshot.)  They have the information, it appears in every other place in the forecast that mentions temperature, and there's room in the boxes.  I have no clue why they chose to omit it in that one very specific location, but that would be easily remedied.

And if they want a bold, innovative option, they could let users customize their own homepage, with the forecasts and data of their choice.  This would have the additional benefit (from the Weather Network's point of view) of incentivizing users to create accounts and stay logged in.  They've been trying for ages to convince me to create an account and I haven't seen the need to, but I'd do it in an instant if that were the price of admission for all the at-a-glance information I want on one page.  The technology exists - iGoogle did it in 2005!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Disappointed with Fresh's latest menu update

I've finally had a chance to try every new item on Fresh's menu, and I'm not impressed. All of the new items are less yummy than the items they removed. The only new item that makes me go "Yay!" is the essential greens, but that's an appetizer-sized dish at an entree-sized price. Meanwhile, several of my favourites are gone. (holiday wrap! mega life salad! jerusalem bowl!)

Also, there are now fewer wellness choices on Ritual (which is significant because that's the only nutritional indicators we have), and the only new item that's a wellness choice is the dragon broccoli, which is too spicy for my refluxy self.

Fresh has been a favourite since they moved to my neighbourhood, so it's disappointing that this latest update made it meet my needs less well than before.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The final score in the laptop battery management match-up

I bought my laptop in December 2010, and started indiscriminately plugging it in whenever possible, without regard for any battery management strategy. The battery stopped working in April 2013, for a total of 2 years and 4 months.

Then I started putting the laptop in airplane mode whenever it was plugged in, and completely draining and recharging the battery on the rare occasions when I needed to work from battery. The laptop lived until November 2017, for a total of 4 years and 7 months.

Shortly before the laptop died, the battery status said something to the effect that my battery wasn't working at top performance and it was time to get a new one, although I could keep using this one for as long as it lasted. (I don't have the exact message.) It didn't display this message before the previous battery suddenly stopped working. (I noticed there was a problem because the battery light was suddenly blinking orange.) I currently don't know whether the battery had anything to do with why the laptop stopped working.

Therefore, based on my one-person study, airplane mode is better for laptop batteries (at least the kinds of batteries computers used in 2010) than leaving it plugged in indiscriminately.

Note that this is the exact opposite of what all Dell online support said, but consistent with what every in-person tech said.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

City Shoe Repair in Eglinton station has moved to 2200 Yonge St., 2nd floor

Looking for the awesome shoe repair place that, until very recently, was in Eglinton station?

They've moved to the 2nd floor of the Canada Square building at 2200 Yonge St.

If you're standing in front of their old location, go up the stairs to the southwest corner of Yonge and Eglinton, then up the next set of stairs (or the escalator) into Canada Square.

Then keep walking south through the building (parallel to Yonge, away from Eglinton). Go past the little stairs that go down to the lobby, past the elevators, and keep going. It's, on the left side (closest to Yonge St.) about three storefronts past the point where you start thinking "Did I miss it?" You can see the big red boot through the store windows. If you reach TPH The Printing House, you've gone too far.

The nice people at City Shoe Repair have saved my ass and my shoes multiple times, including when my shoes literally fell apart while I was walking down the street and when my boot wouldn't unzip leaving me stuck inside it.  So hopefully I can use my googleability to help people find them now that their new location has less foot traffic.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

King Charles III (and some thoughts on cultural references)

I recently saw the movie King Charles III. The premise is that, after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles ascends to the throne and causes a constitutional crisis by refusing to sign a bill into law.

The plot I could take or leave, but what made this movie particularly interesting is that it's written in a Shakespearean style, using blank verse, iambic pentameter, asides to the audience, etc. So watching it was akin to being one of Shakespeare's contemporaries watching a Shakespearean history play.  In fact, as I was watching it, I kept finding myself noticing references that would need to be footnoted if this were taught in schools centuries in the future.  But for me, they were just common knowledge with a soupçon of tabloid gossip.

It might be interesting to show this movie to students learning Shakespeare, just to give them that experience.  Anyone who can name or extrapolate from context the names of most of the people in this photo already has the necessary cultural references.


When I studied Shakespeare in school, the plays came in these books with extensive footnotes explaining the wordplay or cultural references that weren't part of our vernacular. The teachers said that in Shakespeare's time, everyone understood these references, with tone, delivery and connotations suggesting that if Kids Today would just be more diligent, we'd understand it too just like in the Good Old Days.

But as I watched King Charles III, I realized that those were just their modern cultural references at the time - contemporary slang, basic current events, current social media use patterns, the sort of celebrity gossip you pick up from seeing tabloid covers while waiting in line at the grocery store, etc.

Similarly, when we did an extensive unit on Greek and Roman mythology in Grade 8, the teacher said that people used to know all these references, again with tone and delivery suggesting that our lack of knowledge of these references that are apparently so crucial and vital and baseline to our culture made us somehow subpar.

But the 90s Jane Austen movies, and some subsequent reading on the concept of neo-classicism, made me realize that this whole Greco-Roman thing was basically a trend too. It was that era's equivalent of Simpsons references and/or dank memes. The flowery, wordy reference-laden Romantic-era writing style was that era's equivalent of today's dense, reference-laden hip-hop lyrics. And people were familiar with them simply because they had consumed the era's popular culture, just like how people who have seen the Marvel Thor movies starring Chris Hemsworth might pick up a thing or two about Norse mythology.

I think if our teachers had presented these aspects of the curriculum as a glimpse into the popular culture of the olden days, we would have found it much more approachable and much more interesting.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Things that are harder to clean than their counterparts

1. Glasses from Pearle Vision. There's a Pearle Vision right in my neighbourhood and they had frames I actually like for a price that's actually lower than my insurance limit (!!!) so I thought I had it made, but it turns out I have to clean the lenses more often than my previous lenses from LensCrafters. And yes, I did ask for the kind of anti-glare lenses that stay cleaner.  And they do stay cleaner than the kind of anti-glare lenses that don't stay cleaner. But nevertheless, I'm still cleaning them more than my LensCrafters lenses.

2.Glass cooktops. The stove on my new apartment has a glass cooktop, unlike every other stove I've used in my life, all of which had electric coil burners. (I have never at any point had a choice in the matter.) And it turns out the glass is impossible to keep clean. Every spill or drip creates a disaster, and while I've been able to get rid of 97% of the mess with a combination of purpose-built products and internet tips, I can never remove every trace of evidence. And even if there are no spills or drips and you just wipe it down, there are streaks left like cleaning a window.  The first time I cleaned it, it wasn't particularly dirty, but wiping it left streaks that made it look worse.  I don't recommend it to anyone, and can't fathom why my builder thought it would be a good idea.  (On top of the cleaning problems, the burners also either heat more slowly or produce less heat - haven't figured out which yet - so I have to relearn all my cooking patterns.)

3. Caesarstone counters. My new apartment has caesarstone counters, whereas the old one had granite. (Again, I didn't have a choice in the matter in either apartment.)  Everyone along the way and the entire internet told me that caesarstone is way easier to keep clean than granite, but I've found the opposite.  With granite, I spray it with a cleaner, wipe it down, and I'm done.  With caesarstone, wiping it leaves streaks so I have to sort of polish it with microfibre cloths (like cleaning glasses) after I've actually wiped the dirt off.  On top of that, the slightest mess is readily visible. If a bit of water drips on the counter and I don't clean it up right away, there's going to be a visible mark on the counter until I do clean it.  At one point early on I must have put a hot pot on the counter (I don't consciously remember doing this, but it's the only explanation) and it left behind a circle that can't be cleaned off.  This got me a scolding from my mother for not using those things people put under hot pots, but I've never had to do so before. Everywhere I've lived, I simply put pots wherever they landed naturally and they didn't hurt everything. But this caesarstone is such a hothouse orchid that one mindlessly placed pot in my first week living here caused permanent damage.

I know I'm the only person on the recorded internet saying this, but based on my first hand experiences I do not recommend caesarstone counters. Granite is far easier to care for, as is what ever that plastic-like stuff they used in the 70s is called. Caesarstone has no discernable benefit.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Things They Almost Invented: pre-sliced frozen pizza

I previously came up with the idea of pre-sliced frozen pizza. You can't cut a frozen pizza, but a whole frozen pizza is more than one person should eat in one sitting. And pizza loses a significant amount of yumminess when you reheat it. (And single-serving mini pizzas have too much crust for the amount of toppings/too little toppings for the amount of crust.)

Today I found something that can fulfill the same function: Dr. Oetker Ristorante Ultra Thin Crust pizza.

It isn't pre-sliced, but the crust is so thin I could easily snap it in two with my bare hands! It's not as precise as cutting it in half, but it's certainly a workable way to not have to heat up the whole thing.

If you're in the market for frozen thin-crust pizza but don't want to eat the whole thing or reheat the rest later, I recommend giving it a try.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Things They Should Invent: website comparing hotel beds

I recently stayed in Marriott hotel, and I found the bed uncomfortable. The mattress was too firm for my liking, the pillows were not firm enough, and the covers weren't heavy enough (in terms of weight, not necessarily warmth - I feel more secure sleeping under a large, weighty duvet).

Because of this, I'd prefer to avoid staying at a Marriott in the future. However, I have no idea what hotels might have beds that are more to my liking.

There are some people in the world who travel extensively and stay in all kinds of different hotels.  Perhaps some of them have found the Marriott beds similarly uncomfortable, but have also discovered a hotel whose beds are more comfortable.  Or, conversely, perhaps some of them found the Marriott beds to their liking after experiencing another hotel where they thought the mattress was not firm enough and the pillows were too firm, so I could extrapolate from that to choose the hotel whose bed they disliked.

With a critical mass of bed reviews, travellers could enter their preferred bed criteria and find the hotel that best meets them, which would certainly make everyone's travel experience more pleasant!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Warning: there's a good chance you might have to face backwards on a VIA Rail train

I recently travelled outside the GTA for the first time in years, so I decided to indulge myself by taking the train. Trains are my favourite mode of transportation for many reasons, not least of which is that, unlike cars, buses and planes, I don't get motion sick on rails.  I can read to my heart's content on a train, whereas on a road or in the air I spend the entire trip fighting off nausea.

However, on the first leg of my journey, I was surprised to discover that my seat - and many others in the train car - faced backwards.

Riding backwards makes me nauseous even on rails.  I don't think I could have even made it to the next station without vomiting. Fortunately, a staff member promptly and cheerfully switched me to a forward-facing seat.  Unfortunately, I got the last forward-facing seat, so the poor lady behind me was struggling with her own motion-sickness for the rest of the journey.

I asked if my seat on my return journey would be facing forward, and no one on the train or in the station could tell me because they don't know until the train is actually pulled up to the platform what kind of configuration it has.

Fortunately I was facing forward on the way home, but if I hadn't been I would have had to literally get off the train, eat the cost of cancelling my ticket last minute, and find another way home.  If I were to fly, at least I'd only be fighting off nausea for one hour instead of four!

VIA Rail does not yet have the ability to specify a forward-facing seat when you book, but they've assured me on Twitter that they intend to implement this functionality by the end of 2017.

I hope they do, so whenever I next have to travel I can again enjoy a nausea-free trip.  But until then, beware if, like me, you absolutely have to face forwards.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I do not recommend Calvin Klein Ultimate Sexy Sheer Thigh Highs

I recently tried a pair of Calvin Klein Ultimate Sexy Sheer Thigh High stockings, and I don't recommend them.

One stocking stayed up fine, but the other simply couldn't stand up to walking. In the time it took me to walk to the elevator and across the lobby, it had fallen down below my kneecap, and when I tried to pull it back up it immediately got a huge run.

Unlike other thigh-highs I've worn previously, these had a sort of sticky adhesive in the top in addition to the elastic to help it stay up. This adhesive was uncomfortable on my skin, and didn't even make the stockings stay up for long enough for me to get out of the building.

I don't have enough recent hosiery experience to recommend a better thigh-high, but if you're in the market for thigh-highs, try something else.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Rimmel Scandaleyes Precision Micro Eyeliner is none of the above

My default eyeliner is Rimmel Glam'Eyes liquid liner, which I appreciate in particular for its very thin brush, which allows a fine and precise line even with the dark liquid black I prefer.  My only qualm is that it isn't waterproof, and therefore needs to be touched up throughout the day.

On my last shopping trip, I noticed a new Rimmel product: ScandalEyes Precision Micro Eyeliner.  The packaging touted its fine tip and waterproof formula, so I thought this was just what I need!

Unfortunately, it doesn't do the job at all.

When I attempted to line my eyes using the tip of the pen, only a sporadic, sheer grey line came out. In frustration I scribbed with it on the back of my hand like it was a dead sharpie, and a darker line came out if I pressed down hard and used the side of the pen.  But that line wasn't narrow, and required pressing too hard to duplicate on my eyelids.  And even then, it wasn't consistently as dark as the liquid liner.

So, in short, this alleged precision micro eyeliner is not capable of providing a "precision" or "micro" line when used on the eyes.

The only part of its name that is accurate is the "scandal" part: it's a scandal that Rimmel would make a new product that's so inferior in every way to their old product. 

Dear Rimme: all you have to do is put a waterproof liquid liner in the same packaging with the same brush as the Glam'Eyes liquid.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Excellent customer service from Rexall (but, unfortunately, subpar umbrellas)

I grabbed a black umbrella at Rexall because they were calling for rain the day we scattered my grandmother's ashes, and I thought my usual coloured umbrellas would be inappropriate for a cemetery. But when I went to open it at the cemetery, it refused to open and the handle just came off in my hand. Multiple people all tried to open it, and no one succeeded. Fortunately I was able to borrow an umbrella, or I would have gotten wet!

I took it back to Rexall (fortunately I still had the receipt and the label with the barcode, although the label was torn.)  The cashier tried to open it, had the same problem, and then promptly and cheerfully gave me a full refund, all while expressing concern that she hoped I hadn't gotten too wet.

Unfortunately, I've had problems with every umbrella I've ever bought from Rexall. They used to have these cheerful yellow ones that I adored, but they'd always break within just a couple of months - and not even from blowing inside out, just from opening and closing and being in my purse.  I've never once been satisfied with the quality and longevity of an umbrella I bought there.

However, I am very satisfied with their customer service, so I will send more of my non-umbrella business their way.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Best Customer Service Ever from Soak

I've been using Soak to wash my bras ever since I was introduced to the product by the bra-fitting geniuses at Secrets From Your Sister. It's super convenient for someone like me who lives in a small apartment with no access to a laundry tub because, as the name suggests, you just have to soak your delicates - no rinsing!  I've also discovered it's useful for knits (which is very helpful given my love of cashmere), and for spot-cleaning things that can't easily be rinsed (put the tiniest dab possible of Soak on a damp cloth, and scrub well).  The internet has also suggested that it could be used for stuffed animals, although I haven't tried this myself yet.

Unfortunately, the Secrets From Your Sister location in my neighbourhood closed, and then Très Jolie also closed, so there was nowhere to buy it in my neighbourhood any more!

(Retailers in the Yonge-Eglinton area: there's a business opportunity for you here.)

Then I discovered that you can buy directly from the Soak website! Awesome!  Since they had free shipping on orders over $75, I ordered several bottles, figuring I'll certainly use it all eventually.

But when my order arrived, I discovered that many of the bottles weren't what I ordered!  Soak comes in a number of different scents, and most of them were in a completely different scent.

I retraced my steps, and discovered that there was a fluke on their website (my best guess is a copy-paste error in some code) that caused the wrong scent to be listed in one of the items on the page of the scent I was shopping for.

I figured I didn't want to deal with an exchange since it would be expensive to ship back (being liquid) and I could live with the incorrect scent.  But I decided to email the Soak people to let them know of the website problem anyway - some future customer might be more upset or inconvenienced about receiving the incorrect scent.

To my utter astonishment and delight, they promptly sent me replacements in the correct scent, and told me I can just pass the incorrect bottles on to someone else rather than having to pay for returning them!  The replacement bottles arrived by FedEx first thing in the morning on the next business day, and, even though they were already sending me free product at non-negligible cost the box even contained a few little free sample packets!

This is literally the best customer service I have ever received in my life! Thank you Soak!

Therefore, I am strongly recommending Soak to everyone who's in the market for a hand-washing and/or rinse-free laundry detergent.  Not just because it's a useful, convenient and effective product (which it is), and not just because it's a local, made-in-Canada product (which it is), but also because they're an awesome company and deserve to win.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

My second Dell depot repair experience

The good: Dell appears to have fixed my computer by implementing the solution I suggested

The bad: It took two months after I suggested the solution, two separate depot repairs totalling 13 days computerless despite the fact that the problem occurred under an on-site service warranty, and an assortment of additional stressers.

The details:

The problem was that, following an in-warranty replacement of a failed hard drive, my BIOS sporadically failed to recognize the presence of operating system on the hard drive.  This was a particularly stubborn problem, and had persisted through all possible troubleshooting and one previous attempt at depot repair.

I felt like they were grasping at straws when the best idea they could come up with was another attempt at depot repair and I was very reluctant to send my computer away and have to spend some time computerless, but the telephone technician told me it would be expedited since it's the second attempt (5-7 business days, rather than the standard 5-10).  Since my first attempt at depot repair had only taken 4 days all in, I reluctantly agreed to give them one last chance.

I received the shipping box on a Monday, which was the day before my grandmother died, and when I learned of her death I decided to postpone sending out my computer for a week.  Being computerless is very stressful to me, and I didn't want the additional stress when I was freshly bereaved.

So the next Monday, I dropped my computer off at the closest Purolator shipping office (a local print shop).  I decided to drop it off rather than having a courier pick it up so I could use my computer for part of the day on Monday and prepare it for shipping at my leisure rather than having to have the whole thing ready by 9 in the morning because I don't know what day the courier will come.

Unfortunately, there was a snowstorm on Monday, so the Purolator truck didn't show up at the store to pick up my package!

After a frantic Tuesday morning spent trying to figure out why my computer wasn't in the Purolator system, it was ultimately picked up on Tuesday evening, and arrived at the Dell depot on Wednesday morning.  I figured no big deal, last time around it arrived at Dell on Tuesday and was back in my hands on Thursday, so I'll probably still get it back this week.

The Dell tracker showed that they received my unit at 8:30 and began diagnosis at 2:30.  Okay, a bit more of a delay than last time, but still reasonable.  I was heartened to see the expected return day showing Thursday.

But on Thursday at 10 am, the status changed to "Customer Hold", which meant it was on hold until they got some information from me.  I waited and waited, willing the phone to ring, obsessively checking my email, but no one contacted me. 

As you might have noticed if you follow me on Twitter, this stressed me out. What was the problem?  Why did they need to contact me?  And if they so needed to contact me, why hadn't they done so yet?  Had they lost my computer?  Was it going to take months to fix?  What could possibly be going on?

I spent much of the day stressing and crying and catastrophizing, and when I hadn't heard back by the end of the depot's business hours I started emailing and tweeting at anyone I thought might have information.  I finally got a snippet of information from @DellCares: apparently, the depot hadn't been able to reproduce the problem.  But that just raised more questions.  Why did they need to contact me?  And why hadn't they? If you need information from the customer about how to reproduce the problem before you proceed further, what is gained by not contacting the customer?  It seems like in this case you'd either ship it straight back with "could not reproduce" to keep your numbers up, or you'd contact the customer right away so you could move forward.  Both @DellCares and one of the techs I'd been emailing with said they'd have the depot get back to me the next day, so I eventually managed to soothe myself to sleep.

On Thursday at 10 am, I still hadn't heard from anyone.  So I checked the tracker again, and it said the hold had been lifted at 9 am.  But no one had contacted me!  What was going on here?  From where I'm sitting, it looks very much like they wasted a day (thereby doubling my number of computerless days because of the weekend) for no particular reason! 

At 11, the tracker said they'd begun repair.  I was glad to see progress, but how could they be repairing if they couldn't reproduce the error?  I hoped this was just an interim step towards shipping my computer back to me.

Meanwhile, the email tech told me that the hold delay was due to the depot having to find out whether I have a complete or limited warranty.  How does that take a whole day?  And why did the tracker say "customer hold" when that wasn't information that they'd find out from me?  And what kind of strange crazy problem did I have that required them to double check the warranty?

On Friday, the tracker still said the computer was under repair and the next update would be Monday.  So I bolstered myself for the stress of a computerless weekend, exacerbated by all these questions about the mystery hold.

On Monday, I eagerly refreshed the tracker over and over, but it hadn't been updated despite the fact that it said Monday was the next update day.  Had the repair failed?  What if they couldn't figure it out and insisted on holding onto my computer for weeks and weeks?  Partway through the day I received an email the email tech, but all he had to say was that the computer was still in repair.  It seemed like the email was either automatically generated or he was blindly transcribing the tracker status into email without regard for utility.

Then, towards the end of the day on Monday, the tracker said the repair was complete and they were shipping my computer back to me!  I was half delighted and half nervous, uncertain if the problem would actually be fixed or not, and, because of the various horror stories I'd read online, partly dreading that my computer might come back in worse condition.  I'd already decided that if this repair hadn't fixed it I wouldn't accept a third depot repair because it was just too stressful for me, so I was also partly dreading having to be assertive to get my computer fixed without Dell marking me as a problem customer.

I received my computer on Tuesday.  I was so worried that something might have gone wrong that I videoed the unboxing and the first few boot-ups, just in case I needed evidence of any damage or evidence of the problem reoccurring.

The first mystery was on the slip that came with the computer, telling me what work had been done. Under "The unit was received with the following cosmetic issues which is not covered by Dell's HW Warranty", everything was checked (Scratches/Marks on top cover/Case, Scratches/Marks on LCD Screen/Bezel, and Scratches/Marks on Palmrest).  There were no scratches or marks when I sent it out!  I inspected it closely, and discovered...there were no scratches or marks on it when I received it back either!  Did the depot check all those off as a matter of course so they wouldn't be obligated to repair any damage they did???  Yet another source of distrust!

Dreading the prospect of having a damaged computer in hand that Dell would refuse to prepare, I booted up, still taking video.  On the first boot-up, it said "Setup is preparing your computer for first use", just like it did after my last depot repair.  Figuring that meant they hadn't tested it like I asked, I created an account, finished the installation of Windows, and decided to boot up a couple more times to see if the problem reoccurred.

On the first boot-up after the installation of Windows was completed, I saw that there were in fact two Windows accounts: my own, and one named "Dell".  Maybe this meant they had tested it!  I did two more boot-ups from complete shutdown, and the problem didn't reoccur. 

I looked at the device manager, and saw that the hard drive they'd installed wasn't Western Digital this time! The device manager said my hard drive was a "ST1000LM024-HN-M101MBB", which, according to google, is a Samsung hard drive - just like I originally had and I requested after the first round of hardware troubleshooting failed back in December!

That appears to have solved the problem (so far at least, knock wood).  Since I got the computer back, I've had 8 boot-ups from a power-off state and 3 boot-ups from a hibernate state, and it has worked every single time.  I sincerely hope this means it's fixed!

A squandered opportunity

This whole saga has been a squandered opportunity for Dell to delight me and win back my unquestioning loyalty.  As I mentioned in my post about how Dell needs to empower its employees, the telephone tech was not empowered to dispatch a Samsung hard drive as I requested, even after we'd eliminated every other variable.   

 If he had been empowered to do so, the whole problem would have been solved with the second on-site service call.  I would have been delighted with Dell for, once again, saving my ass in the dying days of my warranty, and would have blindly gone with Dell for my next computer purchase, buying the best gaming laptop they'd be willing to sell me with all the warranties and upgrades available.

Since the problem would have been solved before xmas, I would have told everyone at xmas (empty-nester baby boomers and millennial young professionals, most of whom have more disposable income now than they ever have before) all about how Dell saved my ass.  But, since the problem was still ongoing at xmas, I instead was telling them about how Dell was stressing me out by wanting to send my computer to a depot even though the problem occurred under an on-site warranty.

Since I wouldn't have had any reason to google up other people's Dell depot experiences, I wouldn't have seen other people's horror stories and therefore wouldn't have been stressing out nearly as much.  I wouldn't have been saturating my Twitter feed with worries about Dell.  I wouldn't have been blogging extensively about everything I found stressful about Dell.  I would simply have written one blog post praising their warranty service, and gotten on with life.

But, because the Dell telephone technician was not empowered to take my suggestion of using the original brand of hard drive, and because the first round of depot repair either couldn't or didn't this suggestion, my loyalty was not won over and all the word of mouth and social media I produced about Dell over the past two months was full of stress and worry.

They should be able to do better, and it's rather their loss that they didn't.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My Dell depot repair experience

The good: the whole process took less than 4 business days, despite my having been told that it takes 7-10 business days.

The bad: it didn't fix the problem

Update: It took a second, more stressful depot repair to fix the problems by applying the solution I thought of in the first place.


This repair was the next step in the process of repairing the very mysterious process of BIOS intermittently not recognizing the operating system on the hard drive. When I sent the computer out, I included a note (one page, typed, with informative subheadings for easy scanability) detailing the history of the issue and what we'd tried already, describing my recent observation that the computer was more likely to boot up on a second try if I turned it off and on quickly so it was still "warm" (like an old car that needs to be warmed up), and mentioning my theory that a different brand of hard drive, ideally Samsung, should be tried.

Purolator picked up the computer from me on Monday afternoon. It arrived at the depot first thing on Tuesday. According to the online tracker, it was in "diagnosis" status for an hour, then was moved to "repair" status.  On Wednesday afternoon, it was shipped back out via Purolator, and on Thursday morning it arrived back at my door.

The depot report stated that they'd replaced the hard drive (with another Western Digital) and the processor. I booted it up, and found that Windows was in Setup mode from an initial installation, which is how you normally receive a computer from Dell.  I completed the setup, then decided to reboot it from a "cold" shut down state three times before I restored my data, just to make sure the problem had been solved.  On the third try, it once again failed to detect the operating system.  (In subsequent boot ups from a power off state over the next few days, it took two tries, four tries, and one try to boot up successfully.)

I emailed my tech to let him know about this and got an out of office message, so I decided to restore my system image so I could at least have my computer back for the moment.  On Friday, my tech emailed me back saying he'd look into what the next step would be.  I haven't heard back from him yet (which is fine - I asked him prior to sending it out what happens if the depot can't fix it, and he said he's sure there's some measure to take but that he has no experience with this, so he probably has to escalate it.)

So, long story short, I'm pleased with the turnaround time, but displeased with the fact that they couldn't fix it.

I suspect that their inability to fix it is yet another sign of Dell employee disempowerment.  The replacement hard drive I received was Western Digital despite the fact that my notes to the depot tech said that this was the variable that has yet to be eliminated. I suspect that this is because Dell employees are not empowered to provide another brand of hard drive.  (Although the ungenerous interpretation would be that it's because they ignored or disregarded my notes.) The fix they applied wasn't properly tested (again, despite my notes) because they didn't finalize the installation of Windows and therefore couldn't possibly have tested it with multiple start-ups from a power-down state.  I suspect that this is because they're required to deliver computers to clients with Windows in set-up mode rather than finalized. (Although the ungenerous interpretation would be that they couldn't be bothered to take the time to finalize and test properly.) So, because of this disempowerment, the computer was returned to me without the problem corrected, completely unbeknownst to the technicians.


I don't know what happens next. I emailed the tech in charge of my case, he said he has to look into what's to be done next, and he hasn't gotten back to me yet.

This doesn't actually bother me at the moment, because I genuinely don't know what I want from them.  Well, that's not completely true - what I want is a single, simple fix, ideally that I can implement myself, that will correct this problem and leave my computer functioning perfectly and meeting my needs at least for the next year.  But I don't know what I want from them that's within the realm of possibility.

My best guess is still that the problem is with Western Digital drives and that a Samsung drive should be tried, but the Dell website no longer sells non-SSD Samsung drives (and introducing SSD at this point would be the opposite of controlling for variables).  They did sell non-SSD Samsung drives in December, but they seem to be gone now.  So I can't reasonably expect them to provide parts that they don't have.

I'm worried that they'll ask me to send it to the depot again so they can try other things, which I really don't want to do.  I feel like I've already been cooperative enough by allowing it to be sent to the depot once for a problem that occurred under an on-site service warranty, and like I've already been inconvenienced enough being without my computer for 4 days for something that didn't even fix the problem. I don't know what my response would be if  they told me that's what the next step is.

It does occur to me that the next step might be to replace the computer, and I don't know how I feel about that either. Apart from the boot-up problem, my computer still works beautifully, and I've heard that replacement systems are refurbished and therefore sometimes not always particularly good quality, so I'm afraid that I might end up with something worse.  My computer was very customized and upgraded, and even at the age of 4 years it still surpasses current entry-level systems. I don't know if they'd even have comparable refurbished systems available, and comparable new ones from Dell retail for close to a thousand.I'm also afraid that if they did replace, they'd want me to send my old computer back before sending me a new one, which would leave me computerless again, for something that may or may not end up being comparable.

So at the moment I'm quite content to wait patiently for their response, avoid shutting down my computer as much as possible, and enjoy my regular everyday life with my regular everyday computer.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rimmel Lash Accelerator Endless

My favourite mascara is Rimmel Lash Accelerator.  I needed a new tube recently, and when I looked in the store I was surprised to discover that, in addition to regular Rimmel Lash Accelerator, there was also a new mascara called Rimmel Lash Accelerator Endless.  Based on the information on the packaging, I couldn't tell the difference between the two. However, the Endless was on sale at a significant discount, so I decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately, it's not as good as the regular Rimmel Lash Accelerator.  It's about on par with that pink and green Maybelline mascara - perfectly serviceable, but not exceptional. 

If Rimmel Lash Accelerator works well for you and the pink and green Maybelline doesn't, I recommend sticking with the regular Rimmel Lash Accelerator and not going for the Endless.  (Although I have no idea if this approach would work in the reverse.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jockey underwear seems to fit differently depending on where it was made

I recently bought two packages of Jockey Elance French Cut panties, which is the closest I've been able to find to my late lamented old version of the Victoria's Secret cotton panties.

I threw them all in the wash before I wore them, then yesterday I took a pair out of the dryer, put them on, and was surprised to notice that the fit was different from the ones I already owned, so I originally planned for today's blog post to be about how Jockey had changed the fit of these panties and the pros and cons of this change.

Then, this morning, I took another of the new pairs out of the dryer, and was shocked to discover that it fit like the ones I already owned! 

I looked more carefully at the label, and I discovered that one was made in Costa Rica and one was made in Honduras.  Here are the differences, at least as they apply to my body:

- Made in Honduras is roomier than Made in Costa Rica
- Made in Costa Rica has tighter elastics than Made in Honduras
-  As a result, Made in Honduras seems to be less prone to panty lines than Made in Costa Rica.
- And, despite the less-tight elastics, Made in Honduras seems to stay in place better.  Neither version is a wedgie machine, but the combination of the fuller coverage and the different elastics seems to leave all the elastics right where I put them without any drift whatsoever.
- However, the roominess of Made in Honduras includes a higher rise, which makes it look frumpier if you're standing around in just your underwear. It kind of emphasizes that your stomach isn't perfectly flat and makes your bum look a bit saggy, similar to how high-waisted short shorts look particularly frumpy on some people compared to shorts with unremarkable waistlines and hemlines.
- The fabric of Made in Honduras is stretchier.
- However, the fabric of Made in Honduras also appears to my amateur eye to be flimsier.  I wouldn't be surprised if Made in Honduras develops holes long before Made in Costa Rica.

Overall, I prefer Made in Honduras as a functional and comfortable garment under clothes, and Made in Costa Rica when I care about what I look like when I'm sitting around in my underwear.

My next mission is to see if I can find Jockey Elance hiphuggers or bikini panties that were made in Honduras.  When I tried on these styles originally I found them unflatteringly low (I didn't notice where they were made when I tried them on), but if they were in fact the Costa Rica version and there's also a Honduras version floating around out there that's similarly roomier, a Honduras version of the hiphuggers or bikini might be just what I was looking for!

Update:  I have also found some Made in Bangladesh hiphuggers.  The rise is good and the shape is more flattering - what I expected the Made in Honduras hiphuggers might be - but the elastic is a bit tighter (not as tight as Made in Costa Rica though) so it's not free of panty lines.  Currently, the Made in Bangladesh hiphuggers are the best ones I have overall, but I'm glad I have the Made in Honduras French cut for days when I need a smoother look. I'm even more convinced now that Made in Honduras hiphuggers would be the holy grail.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Things They Should Invent: follow-up online reviews, with automatic reminder emails

Just over a year ago, I bought a paper shredder. (Brand name Rosewill, from Newegg.)  Just days after the one-year warranty expired, the shredder's motor died, in a rather terrifying puff of smoke and sparks.

When I was buying the shredder, there were online reviews from people who had problems, with follow-up comments from the manufacturer saying to contact them and they'd replace it under warranty, and there were reviews from people saying "I don't know what you're talking about, I didn't have problems."

But I wonder how many people had problems after the warranty period expired, but never thought to write a review because who goes back to the site you bought it from a year later to write a review?

Online review sites, including retailers, should fix this by standardizing the idea of follow-up reviews.  You write a review after you get the product, and then after a certain period of time you get an automatic email asking you to write a follow-up review.

The period of time for a follow-up review would depend on the product.  A week or two would be plenty for something like nail polish, but maybe six weeks would be good for moisturizers and stuff that are supposed to produce longer-term results.  I think 110% of the warranty period would be very informative for electronics.

This would be far more useful than one-time reviews of newly-purchased products, and would significantly increase traffic to the websites.  (At a minimum, you'll double the number of visits by people writing reviews, so you can show them recommended products etc.)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Bad instructions (and dishwasher detergent)

I recently received a sample of dishwasher detergent, and I noticed a problem with the instructions.  A scan of the packaging is below (click to embiggen).  Can you spot the problem?

The answer: step 2 of the instructions is the run the dishwasher.  Step 3 is to check to make sure the items are dishwasher safe.

Shouldn't you check to make sure the items are dishwasher safe before you run the dishwasher??


I don't recommend the actual product either. The little detergent pack got stuck in my detergent dispenser and didn't dispense at all, meaning my dishes were still dirty after the cycle ended.  I had to pry it out with a spoon, which punctured the detergent pack and made detergent powder explode everywhere.  So I decided to run the dishwasher again, thinking maybe the detergent exploded everywhere would at least clean the dishes (and, if not, running the machine was easier than cleaning up the stray detergent), but it still didn't clean the dishes.  That's two cycles of water and electricity for nothing!  I eventually had to put my usual liquid detergent in to get the dishes clean.

I've tried a number of different powder packs (they seem to be a popular item to give out free samples of) and I always have similar problems. Powder just can't compete with liquid, and I don't know why they're going through all this trouble to keep trying!

Monday, May 05, 2014

Summer's Best (a.k.a. where to get Cortland apples in Toronto right now)

Summer's Best is a small store selling produce, flowers, and an assortment of other foodstuffs.

I feel moved to blog about them because they not only have Cortland apples (yes, now!), but these apples are decent-sized and smell like apples (yes, now!)

(Apples often lose their smell in the off-season, probably as a result of however they store them, so when fall rolls around and the first apples of the new fall harvest appear in the farmer's market the first thing I notice is that the apples smell like apples again.)

Neither Metro nor Loblaws nor any of the other small produce stores I've passed by have Cortlands, but Summer's Best does.

So if you're in the Yonge Eglinton neighbourhood and looking for Ontario produce that's still available and yummy even though it isn't in season, try Summer's Best.  It's at 2563 Yonge St., just north of Sherwood.

Update:  As of May 8, they seem to be out of Cortlands :(  I still recommend the store though.