Drawbacks of Digital Downloads

One of the drawbacks of digital downloads is that it is harder to repair a song when there is an error in the MP3. I just purchased a few albums from Amazon last night, and one song has what sounds like a skip 1:45 into the song. If I had recorded it from CD or LP, I could just rerip/rerecord the album. With a digital download, I have to contact Amazon, get a refund, and then either take my chance replacing the song from a competing service (such as CDBaby or iTunes), or order the physical CD (which means I end up spending more money).

As an aside, the iPod is up to 25191 songs.


Online Statements

Today I received another exhortation from a financial institution with which I am associated to switch to online statements. They make the following claims regarding their online statements:

“With Financial Instituion Online Statements, you don’t have to worry about missing a payment — we’ll send you an email letting you know your statement is ready. Paperless statements are:

Easier — keep your statements organized at your fingertips with 24/7 access

Greener — save paper by printing only what you need

More secure — reduce your risk of mail fraud

Online Statements make it easy to manage your account. Switch to free online-only statements today.”

I’ve always been hesitant to go to online-only statements. Perhaps it is because I still send paper checks, and I match the statement to the check. I do this because I find it easier: I print out all my checks from Quicken, and take a small amount of time to pay them, filing the paper receipts as a record. Online bill paying, I think, is simply easier for the bank. Unless they have a specialized interface for Quicken, you need to coordinate with each providers website, as well as your bank website… plus they typically charge you a fee for online bill paying. So I’ll stick with paper checks, thank you very much.

But online statements… I can’t see them emailing you the statement itself, for there’s too much of a security risk there, unless they send you encrypted PDF (or you have coordinated signed encrypted email – ha!). So they will just send you a note indicating the statement is ready, so you need to take time to go to their website, print it (to get the portion to mail in). The “free” aspect is thus a red herring–it is perhaps no charge, but it certainly isn’t free. It just transfers the time cost and the paper cost to your end. As for keeping the statements organized–I’ve never found financial institution websites so well laid out that they are easier to use than a good paper filing system, especially for things multiple years old. Are they giving enhanced search capabilities? Can I go to their web site and ask (via a query): I want to see all my charges to a florest made three years ago that were around $40? As for the risk of mail fraud, I’m not sure whether this is FUD. True, mail does go missing (I’ve had some theatre mail appear to be undelivered), but it is more likely the fault of the mail carrier than intentional fraud. But I’ve also had email go missing silently.

So what is the real advantage here? What am I missing? I know there are folks out there that love electronic statements and bill paying? Why?


Use It Just Like Cash

Today, I travelled out to Baltimore for another week of workshops. Along the way, I saw how cash is no longer the legal tender it once was. The day started with a Flyaway bus to LAX. The Flyaway used to be a nice cheap roundtrip, but it has gone up to $14! Youch! Further, they no longer accept cash or use tickets — your charge slip is your receipt. Although this isn’t a problem for me, I could see it being a problem for those without credit/debit cards (such as young adults). I saw something similar on the airplane: United now only accepts credit cards for on-board food and alcoholic beverage purchases (and their prices have gone up: $6-7 for the boxes, $9 for the meals). Again, not a problem for me, but it could be a problem for some.

But what gets me most of all is the non-acceptance of cash. The ability to do things anonymously in our society is rapidly disappearing. Cash is going away, being replaced by a plastic society (which makes more and more money for the credit card companies, who get a small slice of every transaction).

Do others find this disturbing?


Media Mail

I occasionally sell old books via the Amazon Marketplace. Shipping is normally media mail (although I do use first class for single CDs). Media mail has always been a pain, because you need to take it to the counter.

I just learned you can print and pay for media mail postage at Paypal using their “PayPal MultiOrder Shipping” (note that their application doesn’t recognize SeaMonkey as being Mozilla, but you can still get it to work, and requires enabling popups). Should make life a lot easier.


Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is? Does Anyone Really Care?

Today’s Daily News has an article about the death of watches. Specifically, the article talks about how watches are being replaced by “more modern” devices such as the clock on your cellphone, the clock in the the task bar of your computer, the clock in an iPod, etc. I remember this discussion before when digital watches first came out (large clunky things, with red numbers). There was all this fear that children would soon be unable to read an analogue clock face. But I digress…. In any case, according to the article, watches have moved to the realm of fashion accessory.

Me? I don’t wear a wristwatch… I carry a pocket watch. Perhaps this affectation started because of my hobby of working with trains, but I’ve grown to like it. Yes, my cell phone has a clock, but I’ve gotten in the habit of reaching down, grabbing the chain and pulling out the watch. In fact, I’m looking for a good Jeweler in the San Fernando Valley to help me sell some of my dad’s rings (which I never wear) in exchange for a really-nice (perhaps estate or heirloom) hopefully wind-up pocket watch that I can engrave in his memory.

So, when you need to find out what time it is, where do you turn?


Are You Addicted to Email?

Then perhaps you need this 12-step program. The steps are:

  1. Admit that e-mail is managing you. Let go of your need to check e-mail every ten minutes.
  2. Commit to keeping your inbox empty.
  3. Create files where you can put inbox material that needs to be acted on.
  4. Make broad headings for your filing system so that you have to spend less time looking for filed material.
  5. Deal immediately with any e-mail that can be handled in two minutes or less but create a file for mails that will take longer.
  6. Set a target date to empty your in box. Don’t spend more than an hour at a time doing it.
  7. Turn off automatic send/receive.
  8. Establish regular times to review your e-mail.
  9. Involve others in conquering your addiction.
  10. Reduce the amount of e-mail you receive.
  11. Save time by using only one subject per e-mail; delete extra comments from forwarded e-mail, and make the subject line detailed.
  12. Celebrate taking a new approach to e-mail.

So where’s the 12-step program for LiveJournal?


File! Close! No!

Slashdot is reporting an interesting vulnerability of Windows Vista–something I’ve actually worried about since I heard about voice recognition in programs. Evidently, Vista has an “ooh cool” called “Vista Speech Control”. This feature lets you dictate text, start applications, and control your computer with your voice, and is available in all Vista versions.

Evidently, it can be triggered by whatever it hears. Think about that for a minute.

It can be triggered by what it hears. Suppose a web-site you visit plays a malicious sound file. You got it. MS’s workaround? Either ‘A user can turn off their computer speakers and/or microphone’; or, ‘If a user does run an audio file that attempts to execute commands on their system, they should close the Windows Media Player, turn off speech recognition, and restart their computer.’

Back when speech recognition I always had images of folks running down the hall yelling “File, Close, No”. I never thought it would come true.

I think I’ll stay with XP a while longer…. but then again, we all know the world is coming to an end on March 22 11… and the fixes are none-too-pretty.