Wednesday, September 21, 2005

computers: Microsoft fights its own Firewall

I'm trying to get a PC to make sounds. Start > Control Panel > Sounds and Audio Devices > Voice > Test Hardware takes you through some little test. But first it conflicts with the Windows XP SP2 firewall blocking access to the Internet, and then the Microphone Test brings up

Name: Run a DLL as an App
Publisher: Microsoft Corporation

WTF does this mean?! I don't want to run DLL's as Apps, and what does this have to do with the Internet?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

web: awful experiences with health insurance forms

I went to Kaiser, Blue Cross CA and Blue Shield CA to get quotes.

Clicking "Apply Now" and "Get an Instant Quote" both give
  A system error has occurred. If you want to resume this application, please click the Home button below and then sign on as a returning visitor.

Blue Cross:
This has a Plan Selection Wizard questionnaire asking me about what features I prefer. Good idea, but it asks me to choose between things like "$500 max generic" and "35% coverage" for Prescription benefit. Huh? When I click the help icon the pop-up help explains what a "Prescription benefit" is, but not these health insurance terms. So I indicated slight preferences at random, and then got a list of 40 different plans with arcane names. When I clicked the "Help with this" button I got another form to fill out that ended with "Thank you for your submission. You will be contacted soon."

Also, all the pages are at a site named https://express.rwsol.com. I went to Blue Cross. It doesn't make me feel confident when they farm out my secure details to another site I've never heard of. Use a proxy guys!

Blue Shield:
When I get to "Enter Your Information" in Create New Quote and click the Next button, nothing happens. Firefox's Tools > JavaScript Console shows the page is doing
  var oForm = document.forms('frmMain');
but it should be using square brackets, not making a function call! Their fast and friendly phone support said "Yes, it doesn't work with Safari Netscape, it's a known problem." I left the JavaScript Console open for the rest of my session and got literally hundreds of errors and warnings from their site.

In a multi-step form like this the browser history is crucial. The title must change with each step of the process so you can return to the right step. Kaiser's says "ATLAS - Apply Online" at every step. Blue Cross's says "Blue Cross of California" at every step.

These companies all seized the opportunity to save a ton of money signing up new members by moving the process online, and so far they all dropped the ball.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

computers: miss my Mac much

I gave up my Titanium PowerBook G4 from work. Anyone who says they love their computer either has low standards or needs to get a life, but damn I miss it. I'm moving my life over to a Windows XP AMD and it's painful.

What I miss is not the Mac UI or productivity suite, it's the networking utilities and UNIX toolchest.

I wanted to just transfer all my files over (/Users/spage/Documents -> C:\Documents and Settings\S Page\My Documents\ ) using rsync, one of the greatest open source tools ever. No rsync comes with Windows. So I turned on Windows file sharing on the Mac, mounted the drive, and copied files over in Windows explorer. But somehow every copied file got a creation date of today. There are no command line options with the mouse.

So I had a .zip backup of some key files with the right timestamps, and I want to unzip them with options and remove the Mac-specific .FBC* and .DS_Store files. More UNIX tools. I broke down and installed the Cygwin toolset, but just running the commands in a Windows console is horrible, so I installed the recommended rxvt, but that didn't work without some fiddling. Compared with opening Mac Terminal and everything just working, Windows is awful! On the other hand I can run Google desktop apps on Windows.

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