2008年12月号 大切なインターネットの匿名性,でもリスクも忘れないで!

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CompUSA, what happened to you?

I wondered for a while if this new Intel PC would arrive. I followed its progress on the United Parcel Service website and made sure I was home on the day of delivery, but was surprised and disappointed when the site listed a "delivery exception" because of a bad address. I went back to the CompUSA site and examined my order and confirmed that the shipping address was correct. But, suspicious, I continued poking around and found, buried a couple of levels deeper, a "receipt" page which had a wrong shipping address. How could that be? Why would CompUSA's database schema handle two different shipping addresses? I called UPS and explained the situation and their customer service representative told me that they would change my address and have it delivered the next day. The person seemed competent and I hung up feeling some confidence that they would clear up the problem. About a half an hour later I decided to find out if they would deliver to another address. You see, the whole problem began when I first placed my order. CompUSA called me and explained that they needed to ship to the billing address of my credit card rather than my shipping address (which, because I work during the day, is a professional shipping and receiving company). Okay, I confirmed my street address and then made arrangements to be home that day to receive the package. Unfortunately, CompUSA mis-transcribed the address during that call, leading to the initial misdelivery. So, to avoid further problems, I called UPS back and asked if I could arrange to have it shipped to my receiving company but UPS informed me that not only did they have no record of my earlier address correction but also that only CompUSA could change the delivery address! Wonderful. And of course CompUSA's customer "service" department was closed at that time. I have no doubt that they would sell something to me then, but no one was there who could or would help an existing customer.

So I called CompUSA at 6 A.M. the next morning and the man I spoke to told me that they would not change the delivery address because it would cost them extra money! Furthermore, he said that they would cancel the order and I would have to re-order! I don't need to describe how frustrating that felt. The person said that there was nothing he or I could do and so we ended the call, leaving me stunned. After I had calmed down I called them back to complain about their refusal to correct their shipping error, and after about 45 minutes on the phone I had ordered another machine. It $30 less and but with a slightly slower processor and slightly smaller drive and slightly slower video card. And free overnight shipping. Very dissatisfying. I checked the UPS site again and the package's status had been changed to "THE SHIPPER HAS REQUESTED A DELIVERY INTERCEPT FOR THIS PACKAGE / RETURN TO SENDER PENDING." Late in the afternoon, I again checked but saw something equally surprising: "SAN FRANCISCO, CA, US 09/19/2008 11:46 A.M. DELIVERY." My first call to UPS to correct my address must have somehow entered their system, and lucky for me my wife was home to sign for it. Bizarre.

It was a comedy of errors from the start, and mostly my fault for deciding to buy from a second-rate company. CompUSA used to be a reputable brand but the company shut down most of its stores and sold its website to a company called Tiger Direct, the same company that tried to sue Apple for calling its OS "Tiger" in 2005. To be fair, the second person I spoke to there was much more professional than the first and assured me that they do not refuse to correct a shipping address because of the extra cost. She claimed it was a restriction that UPS places on them. Actually, I suspect that isn't quite true either. As I understand it, there are different types of contracts a company can have with UPS and I believe that to be able to change shipping addresses requires a more expensive one. The bottom line is to simply be careful from whom you buy, double-check or triple-check that the information they have is accurate, and pray that you have no problems. Once I confirmed that my original order had arrived, I canceled my second order immediately online, and then called them twice to confirm its cancellation. They refunded my payment for that about five days later, about the same time they emailed me an RMA for the machine I had (which I ignored).

Ah, Vista

So, I have been using Vista for a while now, and it is almost like XP but with a somewhat less convenient UI. I don't care much about Aero. I hardly notice the fancier UI because I spend most of my time in FireFox or a text editor. Windows Explorer is more awkward than in XP, and I sometimes hit peculiar problems. For example, I moved the old 500GB drive from my XP machine inside the new machine but although Vista's disk utility saw it and the OS assigned it a letter, it did not appear in My Computer. I tried all kinds of things to make an icon appear there, and I could right-click it in the disk utility and "explore" its contents. But it would not appear in any save or open dialog boxes or in regular explorer windows. I eventually fixed it by giving it a different drive letter and suddenly it appeared where I expected it. Strange. I also get error screens like "This folder cannot be shared" with absolutely no indication of why not (I solved that by explicitly specifying access permissions in the sharing utility and activating the share there rather than using the Share... menu option in Explorer). Also, small size typefaces look somewhat poor, but that could be because I've not selected or installed any LCD-optimized typefaces or because of my generic monitor driver. Still, LCD screens are so common that I would expect Vista to automatically adjust itself accordingly. Otherwise, Vista is pretty much like XP to me, or even 2000 for that matter. I don't notice the "improvements" and chalk up the foolishness to the usual mix of either sloppy design or legacy coding. Sometimes things have changed for the worse, though. For some reason, probably to lock down access to media, Vista doesn't let you monitor a microphone input through your regular output (headphones, speakers, etc). You can easily do it in XP; it is a single checkbox. In Vista, you need to run an application to explicitly access that input. I use VLC, and simply use the "Open Capture Device" command to listen to the mic. Rather silly, but okay, if that's Microsoft's idea of progress then I can work around it. I do avoid using Microsoft's stuff as much as possible. OpenOffice, VLC, Firefox, and EditPad, and so on all seem to work fine.

As for the hardware, it too seems okay. It would be ironic, not to say disappointing, if it were to fail now or have been DOA, but so far I have been lucky. Is it screaming fast? No. But I can hardly expect it to be because so little software is written to take advantage of multiple processors. What I can say is that it does not feel sluggish, in large part because of its 4GB of RAM. Vista is indeed a RAM-pig--Task Manager tells me that I have only 41MB free. Having lots of memory makes a huge difference, and the same is true for MacOS X. The more RAM, the better, and this machine has 4GB and can take four more, so I have some room to grow. I'm a little worried about video upgrades because it doesn't have a second PCI-E x16 slot, but that's okay. Warcraft runs fine, and Mass Effect, Bioshock, and Fallout 3 will no doubt also run just fine. Fallout 3 is coming out soon and I'm really looking forward to it (the Xbox 360 version is already on pirate sites and requires a modded console to run). It sounds like Knights of the Old Republic 3 will also have been announced by the time this issue hits the newsstands, which I'm sure will be terrific. This is really the only reason for me to have a Windows PC, to enjoy some of the excellent story-driven and graphically intensive games now available.

Satellite TV

Cable television is quite widespread in the US, but my service has become very expensive. For $120 per month, I have a rather general selection of channels. I have access to a large number but few I want to watch. So I recently switched to DirecTV, a satellite system which costs half as much and provides me two DVRs rather than just one, more channels, and more high definition channels. And finally I can see a good looking HD picture on my 22-inch Hyvision monitor, in 720p. 1080i looks very poor, just as it did with cable, with tearing ripples in the image. 720p looks excellent. Next on my wish list is an HD TV for the living room which, if the rumors are true, could have an Apple label on it, perhaps even with a Blu-Ray player in it, too. I think it makes sense for Apple to jump into the HD TV market. Yes, it is crowded, but Apple could distinguish itself with superior design, ergonomics, and functionality. HDTV + Apple TV = another example of digital convergence.

Joke of the Month

I will leave you with a quote from the Mexican edition of PC Magazine (,2704,2331363,00.asp) of a very funny comment from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer about why he thinks Apple started their stores: "Apple started doing stores because nobody wanted to sell their PCs. Okay?"