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I’m writing this post in the brand-new-ish Microsoft Word 2008. But just barely.

The good news is Microsoft really kicked some ass with Office 2008, and made it better (mostly), sleeker, and “Mac”-ier. And most of the reviews out there say essentially that.

The only problem is that Word (the only program of the bunch I use every day) doesn’t work with Mac’s “Spaces” (a feature I use every minute).

It’s so bad it essentially renders Word 2008 unusable.

When you switch Spaces, you “take” a part of Word with you into the other Spaces; be it the main window, the formatting palette, or the menu bar. And when you click on any of these, you get zoomed back to another space, with another piece. And try-as-you-might, you can’t seem to get them back together again.

Like Humpty-Dumpty.

This is too bad, because almost everything else about Office 2008 is hat’s-off to M$oft. And 6th sense about these things tells me that the ball is in their court on this one.

Achem?

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Instead of calling Apple Computer’s Technical support number:

1-800-275-2273

I mistakenly dialed:

1-800-278-2273

…and, apparently, there are “Hot and Horny Singles” just waiting to take my call. At first I thought it was a new Apple marketing campaign. But, fortunately (or, unfortunately?) that was not the case.

LOL.

e

A month ago, after way too much research, I finally plunked for the Dell 2408WFP SuperSharp (and super sexy) LCD monitor. But since it’s one of these newfangled “wide gamut” monitors, I realized I couldn’t get by with the ‘ol Apple “sysprefs” calibrations I’ve been doing for years. And since I need to “soft proof” ads and photos for a living… I realized I needed a real calibration tool.

So, after a lot more research I settled on the X-Rite “Eye-One Display 2”. Aka “the best mid-range calibrator with the worst name.” And, well, I bought it.

http://www.xrite.com/product_overview.aspx?ID=788

$299 retail. And here’s the skinny.

When you first open the box, out comes the main unit, which is dangle “tool” that looks like a computer mouse. How it works is you hang that over your screen, and the software sends information to the screen. The donglemouse thing then reads that information, and sends feedback about the monitor back to the software. And viola! A perfect calibration.

Sounds great, right? Well. Not so fast.

Aside from the danglemouse, a weight for the cord (to help secure it) and a plastic “rest/ambient light detector” there is almost ZERO documentation.

No manual. No bullet points. No nothing.

The only bit of information you get is a “Quick Start” Guide, which is just a folded piece of paper that opens to about 10 panels. 4 of which are filled with legal mumbo. And each of the remaining panels supposedly giving you a “step” (in 10 languages at the same time, no less). Overall it’s very, very basic. Weirdly basic, actually. And not very helpful.

So then you go to plug in the dongle mouse, and there’s a warning on it: “INSTALL SOFTWARE BEFORE PLUGGING IN DONGLEMOUSE!”

Wait. It didn’t say anything about that in the comprehensive quickstart guide!

So I put the CD in my computer, and I noticed right away there are some very “OS9”-looking icons in the menu, which is never a good sign. But I soldiered on.

The CD contained a bunch of folders; way, way too many folders for any install disk. And among them I noticed there were some “tutorials”, so I tucked my pride behind my ear and opened the first tutorial. And, well, it was okay. Aside from the announcer pronouncing random words badly, and loudly, the whole calibration process seemed simple enough. The important thing being it gave me more information than the quickstart guide.

After the tutorial was finished I was still left with a jumble of files and folders on the CD. And not knowing which I should click, or what to install, I first tried dragging the icon called “EyeOne” onto the desktop, simply because it was the only “professional-looking” icon of the bunch. But when I double-clicked it, it showed an antiquated-looking menu screen with “Match” “Share” and “Diagnostics” buttons on it. And when I clicked each of them, it didn’t do anything.

So, I opened the folder on the CD called “installers”, and found the same names as on the zombie program, plus one folder entitled “Pantone”. So I painstakingly installed each of these from this folder. Each one seeming to use a different installer program. Seriously, really?

Of course I had NO idea what each of these do. Or did. What the hell is “Match”? Is that where I match my monitor to something else? Is “Share” a utility that allows me to give and receive calibrations, somehow? And what is “Diagnostics”? How is it different from “Match”? Of course, I know what “Pantone” is, but is it really a necessary install? Again, there was ZERO information on what these things are, and I really, really hate installing unnecessary software, especially bloatware onto my computer. But I felt I had no choice here. I wanted this thing to work. I NEEDed it to work, and work well. So I installed everything… and to this day I have no idea what I installed. Or changed. Or, more importantly, if I screwed anything up on my system.

Okay. So everything was installed, I think (?), and I clicked on “Diagnostics” first, because my gut told me that that was the main calibration program.

My gut was wrong.

Apparently “diagnostics” is a program that is supposed to tell me if my monitor “is okay”. Whatever that means (again, zero documentation).

I clicked “start” and immediately it chastised me for not having my mouse dongle plugged in. So I quickly plugged it in, and it asked me to put it on a “neutral surface”. I remembered the ancient-looking tutorial told me something about a “black” surface, so I put it on the little bit of the box that was black. I have no idea if that was the right thing, or not. Oh well. Pressing on.

And… well… it froze.

Somewhere between checking the output of something, and the black level of something else, it completely locked up my system.

So after a generous 10 minutes of le beachball du spinno, I had to force-quit.

I relaunched, and again, right in the middle of measuring the “black” swatch, it froze.

I restarted. Tried again. And it froze. Again.

Oh well. Maybe I didn’t need that part of the program? I mean, on the whole, based on the price tag, that’s a $98 program right there that doesn’t work. So, thanks for that.

Moving on.

At this point I looked into my Applications folder, where everything is usually placed, and, as I guessed, there it was… an “Eye-One” folder. And in there was a program called “Calibration”. Aha! I opened it up, and it looked just like the program they used the old-school tutorial movie.

I let out a sigh of relief, and quickly wiped the breath fog off my new monitor.

I should point out here that I *still* don’t know what that other program was, or what the “Match” “Share” and “Diagnostics” buttons on it did. Well, we know that it didn’t work. But I digress…

Turns out the main calibration program is called “Eye-One Match” (aha! …wha?), and it gives you a simple window that offers “easy” and “advanced” settings, and there are, surprisingly, instructions on the top right of the window that you can access by clicking the little buttons. It tells you what you’re supposed to be doing, and even clarifies some terminology in case you need it. A novel concept.

I did an “easy” calibration first, and it took almost no time at all. However, the end result was a bit too dark, and I realized that, for my monitor at least, there were still some pretty heavy brightness/contrast settings to mutz with, and even some RGB sliders that pack quite a wallup. So I decided to dive right into “advanced” mode.

To my surprise, even that went swimmingly. In a nutshell, all you have to do is let the donglemouse do it’s measurements and give you the results, then you tweak your monitor’s settings, and then let donglemouse do a re-measurement. And repeat.

This worked very well for “manual” RGB, which I ducked to 75% for all of them initially, so I’d have room to move.

And, well, I ended up with a damn gorgeous calibration! It was significantly “deeper” in saturation than my previous, “by eye” calibration. But, unfortunately, the “contrast” portion of the calibration didn’t work at all. It kept telling me that it was 100% spot-on, even though I would wildy swing the contrast values back and forth. Obviously it was broken, which sucks. But I like to set the contrast where I like it to “look” anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal to me. But the fact that it simply didn’t work is pretty crappy. Also, there was no “brightness” adjustment phase, even thought the tutorial, and the program itself, promised there would be one. Again, not the end of the world because I just set the brightness (like contrast) on my monitor to levels I like, which I did this time and then had the Eye-One concentrate on the RGBs.

Well, there you go. A damn convoluted review of a necessary, but poorly executed calibration device. Did I get the calibration I needed? Yes. But the rub here is that X-Rite just didn’t do their powerful little “donglemouse that could” justice. The documentation is spotty at best, completely confusing, and otherwise non-existant. And, perhaps more importantly, the software is woefully out of date and seriously flawed. It’s almost as if the same guys who built the hardware also designed the software and wrote instructions. Which we all know is never a good idea.

Honestly I feel like I’ve gotten about $50 worth of my $200+ spent on the Eye-One Display-2. And that sucks, because I really, really wanted to like thing.

THE RESULTS:

YAY:
It does what it says it does. It gives you a decent calibration quickly (ala “easy” mode), or a great calibration semi-quickly (via “advanced” mode). Not a lot of parts to keep track of. Solid build.

BOO:
Uninspired presentation. Absolutely horrible documentation. Embarassingly out-of-date, confused, and crippled software.

GESTALT:
Not worth the money. But these problems could be easily fixed by manufacturer, and then it would be well-worth it.

The Lacie Boycott

In August of ’07 I bought one of these:

linky

First of all, this drive is NOT 2 Terabytes. No sir ree. LaCie is misleading, at the very least, in their marketing. This is actually four 500 Gigabyte drive, shoved in one case, and laid out in a RAID array. Which means your data is written in little, tiny pieces on all 4 drives. So, if one of the 4 drives fails, you’re screwed. Or, as in my case, if the “controller” part of the RAID fails, and can only read 1 of the drives, you’re equally screwed.

I already had a couple of 250 Gig drives, and I got this one just to back up my DVDs and Music (the bigger stuff). And immediately I noticed some “rattling” noise, almost like something wasn’t attached properly inside. So I reported it to LaCie and they sent me a return box. I shipped it in, and they backed up my data (but only after begging them), they put it on a new drive, and sent it back to me.

Good, right? Well, not so fast.

Almost immediately after I got it out of the box, and plugged it in, it started spinning REALLY FAST. So, I emailed their tech support again. And they said “unplug it for 30 minutes”.

So, I did, but the symptoms persisted. I emailed them back… but nothing. I emailed them back again… still nothing.

Then, the drive started “dropping” from my system window. Just like that, it would “unmount”, randomly. So I emailed tech support again, and they told me to use a different power supply.

But then they emailed back and said “wait… DON’T USE A DIFFERENT POWER SUPPLY!”… which was very confusing. Because I was getting different emails from different tech support guys telling me to do, or don’t do, different things.

Then it just plum died. Well, not totally. I could bring it up in “disk utility”, but it only read 1 drive, just ¼ of the RAID array. Meaning something wasn’t “connecting” the drives together.

I emailed them about that… but heard nothing back. So I called.I talked to a very un-inspiring guy who told me that it “looked bleak”, but offered to send me a new power supply, because in his experience the power supplies were “frying the RAID controllers”. Wait. WHAT?!?!?

So he sent me a new power supply that did absolutely nothing.I called back, and that’s when they told me to call a “data recovery” place, and gave me a couple of numbers to call…

$10,000.00.

Seriously.

$10,000.00!

And LaCie WON’T HELP AT ALL.

The don’t have even an “ad hock” data recovery function. Not even an enclosure they can put these 4 drives in and re-connect the RAID. They ONLY fix the drives (which makes absolutely no sense), and they ever-so-smugly reminded me that “in the fine print” it stated clearly, yet small-ly, that they don’t do “data recovery”. Ironic, isn’t it?

Never mind that this is a “hardware failure” in that the CONTROLLER that connects the drives together was FRIED BY THEIR POWER SUPPLY. I asked them very nicely, based on my extended, and storied back-and-forth with customer service, if they would “help” defray the cost.

They said, in effect, hell no.

Now, you may ask “why don’t you just let those movies and music go?” Well… because… and this is a funny story… right before the drive failed I got Mac OSX Leopard. And I wanted to use the new Time Machine backup scheme, instead of my (achem) LaCie SilverKeeper backup-to-backup scheme. So I moved my backup to another drive, and that backup to this 2TB drive (which again, LaCie ASSURED me was still fine)… and that very day, as if on cue, it gasped it’s final breath.

Here’s the kicker: it just so happens that at that exact point in time the ONLY thing that wasn’t backed up… was my entire professional portfolio. Seriously.

Look. I’m a backup fanatic. I have always had a backup of my backups (though previously only on FWdisks, not DVDs). But the one, seriously ONE time I flew by the seat of my pants (so to speak) for ONE DAY I got burned, and burned bad by LaCie, their faulty products, and their awful customer service. On a drive that was acting a bit wonky, but a drive that they assured me was a-ok.

The funny thing was I had read many, many, many BAD reviews of LaCie products before I bought this one (just do a quick Google search, or even check out the ones on the Amazon site link). I had read all the computer magazines reviews, and saw that almost ALL other drives consistently had better ratings than LaCie. But, unfortunately, I was suckered in by price, and a misleading description of the drive.

And false hope.

Well, now I’ve got to send in my drive to LaCie’s “partner” data recovery service (sound fishy?) and spend an ungodly amount of money to recover data from a drive that failed from 10000% hardware malfunctions. As in: LaCie’s faulty power supply fried LaCie’s RAID controller. As in LaCie’s fault*.

So learn from my mistake. Back up your back ups of your back ups. On DVDs as well. And if you’re going to buy a large external drive, find out if it’s a RAID. If it is, think again about buying it.And more importantly, avoid LaCie like the plague they are. In fact, tell everyone you know to avoid LaCie. Buy any other brand… well, except Maxtor. They’re the only brand with *almost* as many bad reviews as LaCie. Almost.

A call to arms. Boycott LaCie.

e

*Lawyers: a class action suit against LaCie would net you about a zillion dollars. But all I want is my data recovery expenses reimbursed.