Archive for the ‘Potpourri’ Category

Windows 7 Security and Mapped or Network Drives

Monday, January 11th, 2010

I’ve been running Windows 7 for a couple of months now, and while I am quite happy with this version of Windows (in contrast to Vista, which I found to be agony). However, I have had one repeated annoyance – namely not having applications recognize my mapped network drives. For most folks that might not be an issue, but I have “My Documents” mapped to one of my network drives as well, and many applications just assume they should use My Documents as a repository for their files. But I have solved the problem, finally.

The issue is that the default “protect the user from his own stupidity” settings for Windows 7 result in default network drive mappings being done in a non-Administrator mode. What that means is that any application being run as an administrator, such as pretty much any installation program, will not see those drive mappings and then spit back a cryptic error when it tries to access the My Documents area mapped to the network drive (which the application can’t see).

The solution is pretty simple – you need to run CMD.EXE as an administrator and manually map the network volumes. For example, if you map your N: to the network volume \\server\shared, you would do the following to map it in administrative mode:

1) Click the Windows “Start” button.

2) In the “Search” box, type “CMD”

3) Either hit Ctrl+Shift+Enter or right click on the CMD option and select the “Run as Administrator” option.

4) After agreeing to run CMD as an Administrator and let it make changes to your system, type the following line at the command prompt (modifying the drive letter and server volume appropriate to your needs):

net use n: \\server\shared

You should get a confirmation that this worked. Now, for the rest of your current OS use cycle (until you reboot), programs run in Administrator mode will see your mapped network drive too.

If you want that to be default behavior, put the list of “net use” commands in a DOS .BAT file, and then create a desktop shortcut pointing to the .BAT file. Then do the following:

1) Right-click on the icon for the .BAT file on your desktop.

2) Click “Properties”

3) Select the “Shortcut” tab

4) Click on the “Advanced” button on the lower part of the dialog box.

5) Put an “x” in the box which says “Run as Administrator”.

6) Click “OK”

Unfortunately, putting this .BAT file in your Start Up folder will not execute the commands, so you will manually need to run the file at start-up every time. If anyone has a better solution, please advise.

However, assuming you run this .BAT after booting Windows 7, you should not have any more problems with Administrator-level programs not recognizing your network drive mappings. Of course, if Microsoft had set network drive mappings to be Administrator-level by default, this workaround would not be necessary.

Facebook Is a Sad Reminder of Age

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

I’m not really wild about social networks like MySpace and Facebook. Just about the only communications I have ever received via MySpace have been “friend” invites to see naked women on webcams – not that I’m averse to that, but there’s always some catch, like them wanting money for the viewing. And my nephew is on MySpace too – he’s just about the only real person I know on MySpace and that I’m friends with.

Facebook has been far better in terms of real friend invites – people I actually know from elsewhere have accounts there and occasionally even invite me to be their friend. How about that?

However, this morning, in processing another friend request (this one from my sister-in-law), I happened to click through to a link to find other people with whom I graduated from college back in, gulp…., 1985. There are a fair number of them on Facebook. And most of them have supplied photos with their profiles.

Imagine my surprise and disappointment as I’m scrolling through the list of 1985 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduates to find that most of them look old. Some are balding, some have white hair, others look a fair bit older than “distinguished”, and a couple downright geriatric. Granted, we all graduated 23 years ago, but still… we’re all only in our mid-40s, right?

I know I have more gray and white hair than blonde these days, but I am still young at heart, but these profile photos brought back the harsh reality that people age, often more rapidly than expected. That reminder is not the best way to start a day.

A Little Early – Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

While on our travels in Fiji recently, a small creative streak overtook us, and we (the Bonaire-based Richters) decided to assemble an image for Christmas time and our annual greeting to friends, family, and associates alike. See below.

The above image is composed using the bark of a coconut tree, flower blossoms (including that of a Plumeria/Frangipani on top), and shells of small cowries found while wandering the beach, as well as a cork we found). The result is our Tropical Christmas Tree.

With that, we’d like to wish you all (early) a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Jake, Linda, Krystyana, and Bas Richter

Emoticons Come to Life With Wink Toys

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

My wife and I attended the Miami Beach Gift Show last month to see if we could find some new wares to offer on our on-line store. While the theme of the show was mostly tropical goods (we found a number of new flamingo products), we also came across The Wink Toy Company, which has taking the emoticons we all know and love in our e-mails and embodied them in plush form (photo below).


Emoticons are the cutesy little things many of us put into our e-mails, text messages, and even on web pages, typically composed of a combination of punctuation marks viewed sideways. For example, a smile can be represented as a colon-dash-parenthesis, i.e. : – )

Change the parenthesis to the letter “O” and you have a look of surprise, or a “U” to have your emoticon sticking its virtual tongue out, or replace the colon with a semi-colon for a wink.

The list of variants is nearly endless. And some software programs, such as AOL Instant Messenger, will even convert those text emoticons into graphical ones (especially useful for those who need things more clearly represented to understand them).

Emoticons have been around for about as long as there’s been e-mail, and that’s decades.

But now, Keith Jaehnert has given emoticons physical substance in the form of his Wink Toys. These come in two sizes (regular and “Bittywinks” – the latter are what’s stuck to the cactus in my yard in the photo accompanying this post), and five colors (baby blue, green, red, yellow, and light pink) and designs (wink, shock, grin, smile, and tongue). The 3-inch Bittywinks retail for $4.50 and the regular 5-inch Wink Toys for $8.99.

Keith told us his inspiration in creating the Wink Toy line of plushes stems from Ty (the makers of Beanie Babies) and frequent exposure to emoticons. One day it came to him he could combine the two. He is planning on following some of the Beanie Baby strategy with his Wink Toys, retiring certain combinations of colors and designs after a while, and then introducing news ones. He even has hopes for a cartoon series to be based on his Wink Toys (somehow I can’t get the image of the Pac-Man Saturday Morning Cartoon show out of my mind here).

Wink Toy launch in July of 2006, and Keith tells us things are already going strong with sales in his home state of New Jersey. Certainly, making emoticons tangible is a fun idea, and the Wink Toys are well made and soft (both key features for plushes). I hope he does well with it.

Keith did drop me a post-show e-mail incidentally, with an offer of a 25% discount for anyone buying off his web site – the special coupon code is “mia206” and good through Sept. 30, 2006.

On Aging Gracefully

Monday, August 21st, 2006

I celebrated my 42nd birthday yesterday by not working (and yes, I usually do work on Sundays, so this was unusual). Instead, I sat on my couch and played video games with my children for most of the day (Tomb Raider on the Xbox 360 with me at the controls and my kids helping me figure out how to get past the variety of interesting puzzles).

I don’t feel particularly old, and in fact I feel more alert and alive in some ways than I did (or think I did) a decade ago. Sure, my eyesight is slowly deteriorating from the 20/15 vision I used to have, and my hair is grayer (or whiter) than it used to be, but those changes are minor. It’s what’s inside that determines youth, or at least so I think.

And my wife today sent me a quote attributed to General Douglas MacArthur which I think beautifully underscores that:

Youth is not a time of life–it is a state of mind.

Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years;

people grow old by deserting their ideals.

Years may wrinkle your skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles your soul.

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubts;

as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear;

as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

In the central place of your heart there is a recording chamber;

so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, and courage

–so long are you young.

When the wires are all down and your heart is covered with the snow

of pessimism and the ice of cynicism,

then–and only then–are you grown old.

Douglas MacArthur

I don’t know if MacArthur penned those words, but they certainly are poignant. I’ve already asked my wife to smack me around to shock me back to common sense and reality should I ever lose my enthusiasm for life and learning. I, for one, would prefer not to have a wrinkled soul.

A Classic Example of Poor Customer Service Policies

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

I’ll be posting a few more E3-related items here in the next week, but at present I am on a short vacation in Ft. Lauderdale with my family. The purpose of this vacation is a bit of rest and relaxation, eating, spa-ing, and binging on new and recently released movies. On Bonaire we have only a one screen movie theater and movies shown there are typically 2-4 months old. And the seats are horribly uncomfortable.

So, we look forward to our U.S. trips, where we generally squeeze in as many movies as possible in the comfort of plush reclining stadium seating. It’s not a cheap activity these days, but if you’re a movie-a-holic, it’s well worth it. We’ve only been in Ft. Lauderdale 28 hours, but have already seen three titles: Over The Hedge (6.0 out of 10.0), The Da Vinci Code (6.0 out of 10.0), and M:I3 (7.5 out 10.0) – and all at the Sunrise Cinemas Stadium 15 at Las Olas Riverfront.

And that brings me to the topic of this blog. Each of these visits, for a family of four – two adults, two children – runs $30 for movie tickets (less for a matinee) and then a bunch more for even simple munchies and refreshments.

When we went this evening to catch the 8pm showing of Mission Impossible 3 (MI3) at the Sunrise Cinemas, I asked, as I had the last two times, for two adult and two child tickets. The cashier/ticket seller, a young man named Martin, rang it up. I had already handed him $40 at this point, and was surprised to get only $8 in change, knowing from last night’s movie that I should have gotten $10 back. Turns out he made a mistake and charged me for two student tickets instead of two children’s tickets, and that’s why I got charged $2 more. $2 isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I also don’t think I should have to pay for something I didn’t ask for.

When I asked Martin for the additional $2 back, he politely explained that he had issued me student tickets, and those were a $1 more each. I politely explained in return that I had asked for childrens’ tickets and those were a $1 less. He then informed me that as I had paid and the tickets were issued, he could not correct the matter without there being a shortfall in the cash register attributed to him. As it was at this point a matter of principle, I insisted on getting my $2 back, at which point he gave me a small piece of paper with all sorts of information I would need to fill out (like my name, home address, phone number, etc.) – all to get back money which was the result of a mistake HE made in the first place.

As the movie was about to start I told him to just forget and that I would simply blog the incident. And here we are.

There are two customer service issues here that should be addressed:

1) The Sunrise Cinemas appear to have polices in place which burden the customer in the event of a staff error. That’s a major inconvenience to the customer, who only wants to pay for his or her tickets, maybe buy some refreshments, and then watch their movie.

2) The staff of the Sunrise Cinemas is either not empowered to resolve customer service matters, or not capable of coming up with solutions that would keep the customer happy. Either one is something that could be easily resolved.

These two items are classical flaw in customer service in most any business, and the businesses that have overcome them tend to stand out among their peers. The businesses that succumb to these customer service flaws lose customers.

In my case, we still have at least another three or four movies to catch before we fly home on Sunday. That’s at least another $90-120 in ticket sales alone that I will gladly give to some other movie theater in the Ft. Lauderdale area, even if I have to drive a bit further from my hotel, because I will not give any more business to the Sunrise Cinemas Stadium 15.

The lesson to be learned here is that a couple dollar mistake that is not quickly and easily corrected can cost a business a whole lot more in lost revenues and reputation.