When help isn’t

A couple of products promise help and deliver but little.

AARP has touted its new RealPad, a low-cost Android tablet that promises 24/7 Real Help. They have phone service, videos, and an email support line. Sounds good.
A lot of people ask my opinion about various gadgets, so I thought I’d buy one to test and review. Before purchasing, however, I had a question. The tablet comes with the KitKat version of Android. Google is releasing a later version, named Lollipop, with new designs and capabilities. I wondered if the RealPad could be upgraded. (Yes, I know how to load alternate ROMs and could install most any version of Android; I wanted to know if the typical user would receive the new version.)
So, I sent an email to their support service at support@aarprealpad.org.

Windows has a program called Problem Step Recorder.  You can use it to record your activities on your Windows system either as a tutorial for others or to help tech support reproduce the problem you’ve encountered.
To start the program, search for PSR either from the Start menu (Windows 7) or the mega-global search (Windows key+Q in Windows 8).

Apple TV 404

Somewhere in a box of stuff in our storage room lies a sleek Apple TV remote control. Nice. simple, and hard to find.

Apple provides an app that lets you control your Apple TV from your iOS device. It works reasonably well, except after a software upgrade. When the device restarts, it wants to confirm its network connection and device name.


You cannot, however, use the iOS app  to do this. Even though Air Play mirroring works, the app can’t find the Apple TV device.



Staples. It’s (not) easy.

Staples has an app. All God’s children have an app.
The Staples app purports to let us do things, except the things that seem obvious.
Each time I buy something at Staples, I can’t find my card, the loyalty card that enables coupons and discounts. .I provide them with my phone number. They look up the card and apply the credit, if anything, to my purchase.
This last time, I thought I’d be clever. The app lets me store my Staples reward card. I did so.
When I went to check out at the store, I hold up the app, displaying the barcode and number.

The clerk looks at my phone and then enters my number by hand because their scanner cannot pick up the barcode stored on their app.
One less reason to use their app on the way to one less reason to shop at Staples.

At the Mall with Apple and Microsoft

We’ve seen this before, but it seems worse now. On a winter’s Saturday, a trip to the Natick Mall showed two very different retail experiences.

The Apple Store is lively with people of all ages. The further into the store you go, the more customers will you see, excitedly playing with, learning about, and buying stuff.

The Microsoft Store employees outnumber the customers. The liveliest place is not in the store, but out front, where a two-year-old girl is dancing to the big XBox video.

It’s no wonder that Apple, with but a sliver of the desktop computing market share, is worth twice what Microsoft is worth.

Attention to detail may not be their Forte

Forte.net is a payment-processing service that handles web, mobile, and other types of online payments.
Their website has a nice stock photograph of a diverse group of people, each with their own blurb about why Forte is cool.  Each person has an imagemap associated with his or her picture. Move your mouse over a person’s image and a speech balloon pops up. It’s a clever bit of Javascript.
As with any service, you want to pay attention to the fine print. In this case, Michelle might quarrel with her designation as a guy.