The AnswersThatWork Blog

Friday, 27th July 2007

“The Ultimate Troubleshooter” Summer Promo

In celebration of the completion of our move to new faster servers and a faster communications infrastructure, I’ve set up a 3-day promotion on  The Ultimate Troubleshooter  —  Check it out.
—— MM2

Friday, 27th July 2007

Space cocktails

Yesterday's news about possible incidents of alcohol abuse amongst astronauts was interesting on a number of different levels.

I'll leave NASA to explain to us all today the luminous efficiency of their "bottle-to-throttle" grand strategy, but, as an aside, I've always thought :  "How does it feel for the astronauts who stay in the Space Station for 6 to 9 months not being able to eat any fresh food, drinking no alcohol, no real cornflakes in the morning (or the Russian equivalent favourite morning dish) ?".

Okay, Okay — I know this thought is really not original and that millions of other people have thought the same thing, probably way before I did.  Point taken.  But what about this :  I guarantee you that, as I write this, there are scientists at NASA and the Russian Space Programme who are studying the effects of alcohol consumption on the body, on reactions, and on alertness, in a weightless space environment.  They're not telling us, but I guarantee you they're researching it right now !

Now, why would they be doing that ??
—— (TUT) SpaceMan

Thursday, 26th July 2007

Growing up !

Today, and tomorrow, is time to grow up. For us, that is !

We’ve been creaking at the seams for sometime.  TUT (The Ultimate Troubleshooter) is flying way past the Moon, into the next galaxy;  more and more users are using our Libraries of Answers;  even more are using the Boot Disks section (this one baffles me, so many users out there needing boot disks and boot CDs — Gee!);  and we’re going to beef up our free Task List pages (small subset of the massive database included in TUT) with a mega search facility next week.

So, today, we’re joining the ..... grown-ups !  Super servers, ultra fast connections, dual this, dual that, you know, all the good yummy technical stuff, and by the end of tomorrow we should hopefully be on spanking mega fast new servers and communications systems.

I love this stuff almost, just almost, as much as anything to do with the Space Shuttle.

Got to Go. Hasta Luego.
—— (TUT) SpaceMan

Wednesday, 11th July 2007

QuickBooks does not print in a Terminal Server or Remote Desktop session

Today, one straight from one of my tech colleagues here.

You’ve carefully set up a Windows 2003 Terminal Server at a client, and it has QuickBooks 2005 or 2006 for one or more of the end-users.  Some users connect, use QuickBooks, and have no problem printing from QuickBooks.  That doesn’t surprise you because you made damn well sure that all the remote users’ home printers were also installed on the Terminal Server (you can simply install them and then remove the icon from the Printers Control Panel — the driver still remains installed).

One day a new user joins the company, and is set up to be able to work remotely from home. She also uses QuickBooks, but in her case she just cannot print.  Hmmm.  You decide to test the problem and so Remote Desktop into a Terminal Services session and find that you can print from QuickBooks.  But she cannot !  Yes, she can see her local home printer;  Yes, she can print from virtually any other application, like Word and Excel, back onto her local home printer, but, come what may, QuickBooks will simply not print to her local home printer.

Solution ?  Well, the likelihood is that she has Vista, but we do not know for sure just yet that Vista is the cause (unlikely, in our opinion).  In our case, however, she was the first user to connect to the Terminal Server from a Vista PC — all others had XP.

So, that solution ?  After nearly an hour of trying various ingenious workarounds to no avail whatsoever, we renamed her printer so that the name was no longer than 8 characters !!! Guess what.........

Dear oh Dear !  Or, should I say, Intuit oh Intuit !
—— (TUT) SpaceMan

Saturday, 7th July 2007

A new type of eBay fraud

Watch out for this one.  It happened to one of my colleagues here at AnswersThatWork, and it’s not fun.  It’s the new eBay con trick.

Here is how it goes :  she put a 14-month old colour laser printer on eBay.  $200 all told.  Some guy won the printer.  He paid through PayPal, she shipped it, he received it.  So far so good.

Then, two or three weeks later the guy writes a private email (i.e. he does not go through the eBay messaging facility — this ensures that eBay have no trace of the email exchange) saying the printer worked fine but that he was quite disappointed that he had to change the toner cartridges after 3 weeks only !  She replies, quite correctly, that it was a used printer, that there had been no mention of the cartridges in the item description, and certainly no warranty of how long the toner cartridges might last.  For all she knew, he might have printed 10,000 full colour leaflets during those 3 weeks.  Again, so far so good.

Unfortunately, that was not the end of it.  Craftily, knowing full well that if he tried to complain through eBay he would be ruled against faster than a speeding bullet, the buyer then put a complaint through PayPal.  This is the fraudulent part, the new eBay fraud :  anyone who has used PayPal for a long time knows that PayPal almost always rules against the seller, in favour of the buyer.  I cannot remember PayPal ever ruling in favour of the seller, I do not know anyone who can tell such a story, and I have never come across a story on the Net where PayPal ruled in favour of the seller.  It just does not seem to happen.

So what happens next :  you’ve guessed it — PayPal withdraws the money from her account, and the whole mega wheels of the PayPal refund system start their inevitable motion towards a refund to the buyer.  And to cap it all, she then received an email from the buyer saying that he is willing to settle with her for $60, knowing full well that she most probably would not want to go through the hassle of paying for the collection of the printer and putting it back onto eBay.

So why is it an eBay fraud ?  Well, eBay owns PayPal and has therefore no excuse for not integrating their systems with PayPal’s systems more tightly as regards refund claims.

Put simply, it should not be possible for anyone to claim a refund via PayPal when the item being disputed is an eBay auction item – the claimant should be turned down immediately and told to put his/her refund claim through the eBay dispute resolution procedures.  Period.

So, beware of this new eBay scam.

The scam will always start with a complaint made through a private email rather than through the eBay Message Board.  The lesson from today’s story is that as soon as you get a complaint via private email, go to your eBay Message Board, copy and paste the email you received into a  Message to Buyer  box, and reply through eBay.  This ensures that, further down the line, eBay will have a copy of all messages exchanged between you and the buyer.  That alone is in most cases a very successful deterrent and prevents most such con artists from carrying on.  Even if the buyer continues with the scam and starts a PayPal refund claim, again copy and paste everything you receive either from the buyer or from PayPal into your eBay Message Board and ask the buyer why he/she is going through PayPal rather than through eBay.

Lastly, report the fraud to eBay.  Reporting frauds to eBay is a long process but the more people that do it, the more inevitable it is that eBay will have to close this loophole.
—— (TUT) SpaceMan

Sunday, 1st July 2007

To update drivers or not to update drivers

We had an interesting query recently from a TUT user asking us if we could include in TUT, The Ultimate Troubleshooter, a facility she had seen on another website where a program would scan your PC and tell you which drivers were good, bad (!!), or outdated, and where, for a fee, you could then download the latest drivers to correct “the problems”.

The lady in question did not actually have ANY problem with her PC, but, hey, if a well-known website is telling you that you have bad drivers (!!) you’re quite entitled to think there might be a problem in waiting, I’d say !

Well, not really.  Here is what our answer was — self-explanatory :

Dear Ms K.,

This is not a feature we would ever want to implement.  Our vast experience tells us that unless the user has a definite need to upgrade a driver (for example, updating the graphics card driver (video card driver) for a gamer, or the motherboard chipset drivers to cope with an incompatibility with a new Western Digital hard drive, etc.), then  "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Updating drivers purely for the sake of updating drivers can sometimes have catastrophic consequences, and, in our view, any company offering the service you describe cannot possibly be maintaining and supporting thousands of PCs in the  REAL WORLD  as we do here.  A recent example :  one of our clients here in town decided in his own wisdom that he should update the printer driver for one of the printers on their fileserver, purely on the basis that there was a newer driver available and if it was newer it  "HAD TO BE BETTER".  Half an hour later he called us because none of the 16 users on their network could open Word — it would crash, freeze, and the computer had to be rebooted.  He of course conveniently forgot to mention he had "upgraded" one of the printer drivers not thinking it had anything to do with the problems.  Eventually we worked it out and I am sure you can complete the end of the story...

That's our position on this.  We have a Drivers section,, for visitors to our website, and ourselves, to update drivers when it is necessary (as per some of our TUT recommendations sometimes), but that is as far as we will go.

So, next time you think it would be fun to update your drivers just because there are some newer ones out there which might have some funky new features, you’ve been warned :  they might be funkier than you can cope with !
—— (TUT) SpaceMan

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