Thursday, 29 December 2016

Corel back in the Sin Bin

You'd think I'd know better after my career in computing and IT infrastructure stretching back to the 1970s. Back in the 1990s I burnt my IT Manager fingers by installing Wordperfect as a standard word processing software for our company. It left scars. But no, I recently gave into temptation and purchased a Corel Software product for my new PC. I've been left disappointed, wishing I'd spent the money on better products.

My trusty 10 year old PC cannot provide enough memory to sensibly run the modern bloatware software need to run safely in today's Internet environment. I've been finding I've had to stop background programs to ensure others could run. So I've paid a specialist to build me a workstation with far greater memory capacity and processing power, using Windows 10/64 Bit.  I've gone from a a maximum of 6 GB to a current 32 GB and the potential to install at least double that amount. As part of the upgrade I've purchased new copies of software applications as I want to keep the old box available in the background. I'm pretty scrupulous about using only legally licensed software.

On the old box I have an old copy of CorelDraw Graphics Suite X4 which provides CorelDraw and PhotoPaint. It is perfectly adequate for office graphics, some photo handling/editing. On the new box I decided to purchase a full copy of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X8 and loaded the 64 Bit version to be able to take advantage of the larger memory on the PC. 

Then I decided to transfer my computer peripherals from the old machine to the new PC. Most were just plug and play, starting to work as soon as I plugged them in. Amongst those there is a Panasonic  KV-S1025C document scanner. It is a professional quality device which is fast, reliable and rarely jams. I took the precaution of downloading and installing the latest 64 bit drivers from the manufacturers Panasonic site. The scanner now works fine with all of my new software except the CorelDraw X8 software. It will start the scanning process but as the scanned document is loading from the scanner the CorelDraw software collapses. The Corel X4 software worked on my old PC including the scanner, but I'd had to downgrade to the 32 Bit version of Corel some years back.

After doing some research on the Internet I discovered I'd have to use the same work-around for the new Corel software. Corel have known about this problem for years but haven't put the investment in to fixing their software to work reliably on both 32 Bit and 64 Bit scanner interface software. Anyway I decided to persevere and made contact with Corel support. I mentioned in my query I'd updated the driver software to the latest 64 bit version. Their response was I should visit a third party website who provide alternate scanner driver software for $80. 

When I protested I'd already installed the latest Panasonic drivers the Corel Support team asked me to perform an audit scan of my PC configuration, they helpfully provided a link to a freeware software product (winaudit).  Unfortunately the URL link is reported as a malicious link by Google Chrome browser. I don't fancy loading malware on to my new PC so I replied to Corel asking if they had an alternate scanning tool to allow them to investigate the problem in their software,

Nope, apparently they can only use winaudit. So I guess that is the end of their support efforts! I already have problems with Corel about UK price gouging but this failure to provide a reliable scanner interface for graphics software in a 64 Bit environment is the last straw. I'm off to Adobe and the Corel product can languish unused on my PC. I just wish I'd read this wikipedia entry before making the decision to purchase a new copy of Corel.

Edit: The Corel Helpdesk saga continues

The Corel people are now trying to clear this from their stats:...

27th Dec: The first request by Corel that I download and run malicious freeware software
28th Dec: I respond that I don't like loading malware on my PC. Do they have an alternative?
29th Dec: Corel respond it is the only tool they can use.
2nd Jan (00:35) Corel ask me if the issue is resolved
2nd Jan (06:55) I reply no it isn't resolved, as I don't run malicious software
2nd Jan (07:33) Corel sends me a blank email; subsequently I discover it is a repeated request to download and use the malicious freeware.
4th Jan (02:58) Corel sends me another blank email. Subsequently I discover it is a Corel reminder to say they are waiting for information.
4th Jan (19:24) I log into their help desk system and record a message repeating that the scanner works fine with other software, but not the Corel software and no I don't want to load malware on my PC. I asked the Helpdesk to escalate the matter if they don't know how to fix it.
5th Jan (07:51) The Corel Support Tech now tries repeating the earlier advice of using third party Vuescan software ($80) to solve the problem of Corel software not properly interfacing with my Panasonic Scanner. 
5th Jan (13:21) Pointing out they were now going in circles, I rejected spending on third party software to possibly fix the Corel problem. I repeated the request for them to escalate my query.
6th Jan (07:30) The Corel Support tech, comes back saying the VueScan software download is free. I respond with a link showing the prices charged for the third party software. It's fairly obvious this poor chap has no solution in his arsenal and is hoping I'll give up rather than him having to escalate the issue to his management. I've noted on the response if he doesn't escalate the matter I will, which I think is fair warning.


Friday, 16 December 2016

Hotel Blacklist

The Hilton chain of hotels is on my blacklist. 

In my line of business I get to travel a lot on technology project work. It will mean that I get to stay in international city centre hotels for spells of up to three weeks at a time. I don't particularly like staying in hotels, but regard it as a necessary evil. I generally sign up to the hotel loyalty scheme to accumulate points, but infrequently use those points until I'm going on a holiday with my wife. I'd prefer if the hotels just had lower rack rates for regular customers.

The Hilton Hhonors Scheme decided to confiscate my points with them because I'd not used their scheme for a couple of years.  So much for loyalty!  They continue to send me automated emails about all of the "opportunities" I'm missing with their hotel products. This theft needs punishment.

I now boycott their Hilton chain and subsidiary hotels. I'll stay somewhere else when in a city.  I even have an automatic blacklist on their domain name so all their email and web sites are blocked and treat as Spam in our offices

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Royal Mail deliveries

I've just lost a day of my life waiting for a parcel from Amazon. The parcel was sent as "Special Delivery Guaranteed" and was due today - 30th November. As it is a parcel which has to be signed for I waited in all day. Amazon and the Royal Mail have fancy mail tracking web sites which are about as useful as chocolate teapots.   They just said "It's out for delivery", no specific time for delivery just - it's out for delivery.  By 18:30 I emailed Amazon to find out what has happened to the parcel. Ignoring the management speak the message from Amazon was "Tough, wait until it's delivered."  Shortly afterwards the status on the website was updated to show "Parcel returned to depot." So currently I have no idea when this parcel will be delivered.

The Royal Mail should update it's website to add some new status messages:

  • It's gone out, but is unlikely to arrive on time
  • We can't be bothered to deliver it today, maybe next week
  • We have delivered it to a post office for your collection, take a 4x4 SUV to reach it
  • Collect it from the sorting office between 0530 and 0630 in two days time
  • The driver was late back from the pub, maybe deliver tomorrow
This nonsense will continue until the Government dictates that any failure to deliver a "timed delivery" will be compensated at the rate of 8 hours of the Minimum National Wage unless 12 hour notice of failure is provided in advance.

As for Amazon? I'll not do any Christmas shopping via them.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Trouble with WmiPrvSE.exe?

For months now we've noticed a Microsoft process called WmiPrvSE.exe continually running on our PC (Win7 Professional). There was no apparent reason for this but it was consuming a steady 5% of CPU resources on a 4 core cpu. We did a lot of online research but could come up with no reason. 

However, almost by accident, we discovered that if we stop CCleaner running in the background then the problem with WmiPrvSE goes away. I guess there must be some kind of permissioning conflict.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

A major flaw in Corel's Wordperfect Office X8

Corel are sending me emails enjoining my company to use their latest office software. Wordperfect Office X8 Standard.  Unfortunately they still haven't fixed the major flaw in their product. They could do so at the stroke of a pen. I've previously identified the flaw to them, but they've chosen to ignore this flaw.

Their product is priced in the UK at 164% of the USA price. This is unacceptable to me. It is naked and blatant price gouging.

I must remember to tweak my email filters to stop the Corel email.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Reward for $2.6 Billion loss?

Executive pay is seriously out of kilter when a CEO stands to make lottery jackpot money ($55 Million) on top of an existing massive salary for presiding over $2.6 Billion loss of annual sales income. She should be fired with no compensation along with the people who supported her original employment.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

UK and the EU

I was chatting with a 17 year old lad who helps me on jobs occasionally. We were talking about the EU Referendum which is due to take place in June. He said we should vote to stay in because it is safer.  He couldn't understand why I'd be anti-European and want to leave. I remember life in the UK pre-EU membership, in fact I voted in 1975 in support of the UK  joining the Common Market. I've worked in many European countries and have worked for European companies. I'm not anti-Europe.

I was able to to explain my support of an exit vote quite simply. I asked him: "Do you want to be governed by people you have elected? Or, do you want to be governed by people, unelected in this country and who have no direct interest in our welfare?"  

Thursday, 24 March 2016

I'd vote for the political party who ...

I'd vote for the political party who promised to (and achieved it) sort out delivery companies. In this day and age it should be perfectly possible for them to predict within the hour when a parcel is delivered to our premises!

In the event of a failure to deliver on time we should be able to claim damages and not limited to some measly portion of the delivery fee. The claim should compensate us for lost productive time, frustration and consequential loss. For example if we are forced to wait in all day because the courier doesn't deliver on time we should be able to claim a day's fees at our normal charge rate. A few bills for a few hundred pounds for a failed delivery would soon see the couriers fixing their systems.

There should be get-outs for the courier company in the event of genuine third party problems blocked roads, emergencies etc provided they can demonstrate they've made contact to advise the delivered address of the delay and made suitable alternative arrangements.

Delivery slots of longer than one hour should be banned unless there is prior agreement of the consignee at the delivery address.

Today I'm waiting for DPD. My supplier has booked a one hour delivery slot for some urgently needed spare parts, but I've received no notification from DPD as when they plan to deliver. As part of the service, they are supposed to tell you in advance of when delivery will take place, or at least a one hour timeslot. When I try to enquire on the DPD website as to the delivery time, all I get is the dubious information that the parcel is at their depot, but no estimated delivery time. I've found, after some searching, the phone number of the DPD Help Desk when I phone that it just repeats the same ineffectual information "the parcel is at the depot" and I cannot get through to speak to a human being. All I can do is wait ....!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Bandsaw problems - investigations

We mentioned in an earlier post that we had encountered problems with a new Charnwood B350 bandsaw we'd purchased for our company. The inspection door hinge on the saw was rusted and seized up. After an hour's usage the drive belt snapped rendering the machine non functional.

We spoke with the vendor (Charnwood) this morning. They were annoyed on our behalf that we'd suffered problems with the new £600 purchase. Their attitude was "what would you like us to do to fix the problems". Returning the machine is not our preferred option as the faults are relatively minor and moving it up from the basement would entail a lot of work. To help resolve this I said we'd try cleaning the rust from the hinge and applying lubrication to the repaired hinge and then get back to them with the outcome of the work. They have offered to replace the door if necessary. They are also sending a new drive belt to replace the broken one. 

We've already purchased the tools necessary to re-install the drive belt. It is a fairly quick job and one we could expect to have to do periodically during the life of the machine It is a minor inconvenience for us to replace the belt rather than wait for a maintenance engineer or to send the 80 Kg machine back to the shop.

This afternoon we cleaned up the rusted hinge with 400 grit grade emery paper, applied light machine oil and remounted the door on the bandsaw machine. The machine would not start, the metal door had become distorted and wouldn't operate the safety interlock switch. After 30 minutes tinkering  we were able to fix the problem, but we'll be asking for a new door as the distortion arising from the rusted hinge could have long term effects.

While testing the power switching we noticed the machine was running with an odd scraping noise from the area of the drive shaft. We noticed the "key" for the drive shaft was loose and scraping against the back of the main saw pulley wheel when the motor turned. Normally the access door would be closed so you wouldn't be able to see the problem, but we'd overridden the safety switch and had the door open.  We resolved to investigate more carefully and dismantled the lower half of the saw. 

We found that the hidden grub screw at the back of the drive pulley was loose. It had not been tightened during the manufacturing assembly process. Consequently the "key" which locks the pulley wheel to the shaft had not been secured. The pulley wheel was able to freely drift along the drive shaft. It is no surprise the drive belt had become damaged and snapped.

We'll be having further discussions with the vendor tomorrow!! They need to have some serious discussions with the manufacturer. There are some serious issues with quality control.

Edit: Charnwood are sending a replacement door by courier, which is a story in itself.

Edit: 25th March 2016 The faults have now been fixed. While they should not have been present on a new machine, Charnwood has responded in a helpful and professional manner. We'd recommend them. 

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Bandsaw problems

We mentioned in an earlier post we had purchased and installed a new bandsaw purchased from Charnwood. We  went for their B350 model. Their ordering process is straightforward and delivery of the 100 Kg  pallet containing the box went relatively smoothly, though as with many delivery companies their courier (Palletways) was unable to specify a time of delivery so we had to have someone wait at the office all day to receive the delivery.

Manoeuvring the beast down to our basement  via twisting 2010 year old narrow stone stairs was challenging but we did it without injury to person or machine. We had to assemble the base, but other than that the machine was pretty much ready to go.

Unfortunately we have had problems. One of the inspection doors won't open because the hinge is rusted. These doors are vital to the operation of the machine. Without the doors you cannot check or change the blades. On first use the drive belt was slipping so we had to tighten it to get the saw to work. 

Rusted door hinge on a brand new Charnwood B350 Bandsaw


This morning two days after purchasing the machine the drive belt broke while we were running a test on a 1 inch (25 cm) thickness of softwood. The machine is specified to handle up to 8 inches thickness of wood, so a drive belt snapping on a new machine does not bode well. It points to poor manufacturing/inspection control. The drive band (PJ595) itself is quite weedy, it is rubber reinforced with fabric and is about 1 cm wide in a rectangular cross section about 2 or 3 mm deep. It is produced by an obscure Chinese manufacturer (Shanghai Wutong Belt PJ600).

Have we bought a "Friday Afternoon" machine? We've sent a report to Charnwood, so we'll see how well they react. Needless to say, the timing of these problems is not convenient. We'll maybe produce a review once Charnwood have had the opportunity to resolve these problems

Monday, 14 March 2016

The cost of poor customer service.

We've decided to buy  machinery for our company to assist in creating models for proposals to prospective and existing clients.  We'd narrowed the choice down to two suppliers and allocated budget for the purchase.  We needed to check the stock level for the desired item at the local branch of our usual supplier. We phoned the branch and hung on waiting five minutes for an answer without success.  Clearly they don't want the business and subsequent follow-on spares purchases.

We placed the order shortly after with their competitor. The Derby branch of Machine Mart screwed up and lost hundreds of pounds worth of business as a consequence. The moral is if you are in the business of sales and the phone is ringing, answer the damn phone. If you don't answer in a timely fashion you can lose a lot of business.

Modern phone systems offer a whole range of features such as call roll-over which might have kept our custom.

Edit: 18/05/2016
We now have a new 14 inch band saw delivered and operational. It was supplied by Charnwood in Leicestershire. It is their own label brand and appears to be well constructed. They'll be getting future machinery orders, so for Machine Mart the damage is long term. Charnwood answer the phone promptly. We'll be using this machine to develop prototype trading room furniture. It is primarily aimed at wood cutting, but it can also be used for plastics.

Friday, 4 March 2016

BREXIT The UK and the EU

Let me say up front, I'm in favour of an open Europe with no trade barriers. I voted in favour in the referendum (1975, here's the Harold Wilson Leaflet) to stay in the EU. I've worked in both EU and non-EU countries. I've been employed by non-UK EU companies and my business has traded with EU and non-EU companies. I like working with European colleagues.  It was a great advantage when the Euro was introduced and spread to most EU countries. It was great not having to hold supplies of currency for each country I visited to do business.

However I believe the time has come for the UK public to vote to leave the EU and become independent of its governance.  The EU has grown from what we originally agreed to join from a Common Market to a beast which demands a federal Europe with all countries beholden to a central government which is not accountable to it's subjects. 

The EU is unable to control it's own spending and introduces additional legislation without properly evaluating the cost impact of legislation. The EU is out of control. They do nothing to protect our industrial base, they do not protect our financial industry.

David Cameron gave the EU an opportunity to reform. At the start of 2016 he came away from rushed negotiations with a few crumbs of success, but nothing like the changes discussed in the Conservative Party election manifesto. The European Ministers do not take him seriously and were not prepared to countenance change. They don't mind taking our money and spending it on the EU Commission and other EU countries, but they are not prepared to take our views seriously. David Cameron knows this and is trying to hide the failed negotiations in a campaign of misinformation. He's using dirty tricks to hide the truth.

Mr Cameron would be more convincing if he had a plan in place for what would happen when the UK public vote for Brexit. 

I grew up in a UK independent of the EU. We managed just fine. It belies all the lies, misrepresentation, omissions and bullying of the David Cameron campaign which has been dubbed Project Fear. They claim we'd be worse off, security would be worse, we'd lose employment etc, etc. It is all Bull Shit.