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One of my favorite Firefox add-ons is FireFTP. I use it all the time because it’s very convenient to FTP from my browser rather than firing up a separate application. That and FireFTP just works really well for me.
I went to transfer some files last evening and as soon as the transfer started, Firefox crashed. This isn’t something that happens on a regular basis, but I figured it was a glitch and restarted Firefox. Started FireFTP, connected to the web site, initiated the transfer and…another shower of sparks and the dreaded “Firefox has crashed” dialog.
Everything had worked fine last week, so I started taking inventory of what had changed since then. After a bit of thought, I realized I had installed an application called Surfboard Technologies Tracking Application on my system as part of a survey I was taking.
Step 1: get rid of the Tracking Application! I like my system setup the way it is and won’t go back to using a separate FTP application in order to accomodate badly behaved software. So, I brought up Control Panel, clicked on Programs and Features (yes, this system runs Vista
Some 30 minutes later, the dialog was still there saying “Please wait while Windows configures Surfboard…blah, blah, blah”. The hard drive activity light was showing a lot of activity, so I started to wonder what the uninstall process was actually doing. I clicked the Cancel button. The dialog sat there pretty much as before.
I decided to find the process and kill it, so I ran SysInternals’ very handy Process Explorer and searched for “Surfboard” among the running processes. I found a number of entries which told me that the actual executable name is PanelApp.exe. I also got the process ID so with that I went back to Task Manager and found the ID matched up with msiexec.exe. I killed the process and the dialog went away.
The Surfboard app was still showing in Programs and Features, so I knew it hadn’t completed the uninstall process. To keep it from starting up again, I found the directory where PanelApp.exe lived (c:\users\name\AppData\Local\ of all places!) and renamed it to PanelApp.old. I also started up msconfig, found PanelApp in the list of startup programs and disabled it there. I then rebooted the machine.
Now that the Surfboard Tracking Application wasn’t running any more, I tried Firefox again and it crashed again when FireFTP started a file transfer. Firefox immediately crashed. I ran Process Explorer again to see if there was something running that I’d missed. Sure enough, I found that Surfboard had added an add-on to Firefox called PanelApp BHO. I clicked the add-on and was given the option to Disable, but the Uninstall button was greyed out. I clicked Disable, restarted Firefox and tried FireFTP again.
This time I was able to get a clean file transfer so the problem obviously was the PanelApp BHO add-on. So, with that out of the way, I tried the uninstall again from the Control Panel.
I started the uninstall and let it run while I did some other things. Finally, I went to bed and left the system running. The dialog was still there in the morning “configuring…”! I went into Task Manager, killed the process and noticed that the dialog flashed a message of some kind just before it closed.
I checked Programs and Features and the Surfboard entry is gone, so the uninstall process at least got that far. The add-on still shows up in the Firefox add-on list, but I’ll get rid of that, too.
Needless to say, I’m not a big fan of Surfboard Technologies right about now. Just a word of warning if you’re presented with the opportunity to install it on your machine. My advice is don’t!
You may have heard by now that the Microsofties have installed a Firefox add-on along with the .Net 3.5 update distributed some time ago. I was not aware of it until I checked this weekend and found that all my machines have the Microsoft .Net Framework Assistant 1.0 listed in the Add-ons in Firefox.
I’m not quite as bent out of shape about it as others are, but it is annoying that Microsoft took it upon themselves to add something to Firefox that I didn’t request. Even more obnoxious is that the Uninstall button is grayed out and not usable. Worst of all, installing this add-on opens up Firefox and my PC to security vulnerabilities of the .Net framework! See the latest edition of Windows Secrets newsletter for more details on that little bonus.
I keep wondering when Microsoft is going to learn. If you go ahead and do something without giving the user the option, it simply pisses people off. If you give them the option to install and the option to uninstall, many people will be okay with it. The whole key is to allow users to retain control of their PCs, or at least the illusion of control.
I’m not going to add to the general ranting about the arrogance of Microsoft. That’s already well documented. The good news is that there is an update to the .Net update that enables the Uninstall button and allows the Microsoft .Net Framework Assistant to be uninstalled. You can download the fix from Microsoft’s web site.
If you’re a Firefox user, my recommendation is to check your Add-on list to determine whether the Microsoft .Net Framework Assistant is installed. If it is and the Uninstall button works, uninstall it. If the Uninstall button is greyed out, download the update and run it, then Uninstall the add-on.
I completely understand the concept of making lemonade when life hands you lemons. More power to those who are creative enough to do that rather than sitting around whining about their problems. I saw an interesting example of that today that illustrates a couple of different types of creativity.
I got an email from a marketer to whose list I subscribe. This guy is pretty well known and I assume pretty successful. The email basically said he’d done something really dumb and he wanted to share the experience for the benefit of his readers.
He provided a link to a PDF which contained the tale of how he’d fallen for a fairly cleverly designed phishing email despite his sophistication and experience on the Internet. His bank caught the situation and returned his money and all turned out okay aside from this guy feeling like the complete idiot that he’d made of himself.
The final paragraph says basically “Hey, I’m telling you this out of the goodness of my heart despite being terminally embarassed. There are no links in this document, nothing being sold, and feel free to pass it around to everyone you think might benefit.”
What a guy, right? We can all relate to doing something dumb and wanting to help others avoid the same fate. So, I’m thinking here’s a guy who’s generating some good will by admitting his human foibles and warning others so they’ll be more careful than he was.
Then I read the PS. Seems he’s got himself fixed up with a way to handle this problem if it ever occurs again, and oh, by the way, I might just want to read about it and see if it’s something I can use, too. I just click this link right here.
The link is pretty obviously an affiliate link, albeit cloaked. Being the curious sort that I am, I copy the URL into my browser and go visit. Imagine my surprise! My altruistic friend just happens to be a business associate (read affiliate) of the outfit which will provide identity theft protection should I be interested in same.
So, now we’ve gone from “no links here and nothing for sale” to “I just happen to have a solution to the problem I’m trying to convince you that you have.” Sort of like those “free” CDs that you only have to pay shipping for (which means they’re NOT FREE) and oh-by-the-way you’ll be charged $29.95 a month for the whiz-bang monthly membership that goes with it unless you happen to remember to cancel it, assuming you can correctly guess the current population of New York City plus or minus 5 people, or whatever other arcane cancellation criteria they’ve devised.
Now, let’s get something clear here. I am in no way against affiliate marketing. I do it myself and it’s a perfectly legitimate way to run a business.
What’s not legitimate is telling my reader that there are no links when there clearly is one, and that there’s nothing for sale when the opposite is true. Let’s call it what it is: lying.
Call it a fib, call it an evasion of the truth, call it whatever you want, it’s still a lie. The thing that I don’t understand is: why lie when it’s so obvious that you’re lying?
Personally, I make a point not to lie if for no other reason than my memory’s not that good any more! I’ve known people who were expert liars. They would have been totally embarrassed to have made it that easy to catch them in a lie. I mean, if you’re going to make lying part of your profession, at least do it on a professional level!
Seriously, do these guys even know they’re lying? Obviously, they don’t care, at least not enough to even make the effort to lie well.
I don’t know about you, but when I encounter something like this, it immediately blows that marketer’s credibility right out of the water. It’s just as likely that his little phishing story is made-up BS than not. And, if that story’s made up, what about the rest of what he’s telling/selling me?
Trust is a very difficult thing to build. It’s way easier to lose. This guy has lost my trust, and for what? A few bucks in commissions? Well, he won’t be making even those few bucks off of me, nor will he be making anything else from me again. Sleep well, dude.
Some of you may recall that almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post in this blog on that very subject. I thought viral inviters were a bad idea at that time and I still do.
I know people aren’t going to stop using viral inviters. I’m just hoping that they’ll at least give it a moment’s thought before giving up the user IDs and passwords to their email and other accounts. It’s already way too easy for the bad guys. We just need to exercise a bit of common sense before doing something with such a potentially large downside.
I’d like to know your thoughts on this subject. Please leave a comment.
The latest paid version of the Windows Secrets newsletter contains an article by editor Gizmo Richards touting the superiority of Windows Vista over Windows XP. Sorry, gang, but I couldn’t resist. Below is the email I just sent to the Windows Secrets crew:
So, after reading the latest column under Gizmo’s byline regarding the alleged superiority of Vista over XP, I’ve gotta ask: who is that guy and what’s he done with Gizmo?
I’ve owned a Vista laptop for almost a year and been through the initial version as well as SP1. While I will admit there are a few things about the Vista interface that are actually improvements, in general, I’ll take XP over Vista any time. The big reason: it actually works! Things do what they’re supposed to do, even if they don’t look quite as cool.
Vista’s Wi-Fi management is terrible. XP’s Wi-Fi management is simple and straightforward. Vista wants to connect to whatever network it can find despite being told innumerable times to remove offending networks from its list. Sometimes it actually connects to my own network on the occasions when the random-order generator puts it at the head of the list. In these days when virtually every Internet user has a Wi-Fi network broadcasting all over the neighborhood, the list of networks Vista finds gets pretty long and there’s no way I can find to tell it to ignore all but mine and any others I’ve approved. At least XP only connects automatically to those networks to which I’ve specifically connected in the past AND in the order I specified.
Vista’s Windows Explorer apparently has a random view generator, as well. When I create a new directory, it’s a real adventure to see which view configuration it will decide is appropriate. The defaults have the file name…period. No date/time stamp, no size, no file type, all the things XP users take for granted. I carefully set the directory view the way I want it, go into the Tools | Folder Options menu and tell it to set that view for All Folders and the little folder gnomes inside must bust a gut laughing. The next time I go into a directory it’s decided to Group things!
What genius decided that it’s necessary to group my file listings by 0-9, A-H, etc? Alphabetical order is sufficient, thankyouverymuch.
Exploring in Vista is more exciting than ever because I can attempt to access certain directories and be told that I don’t have access to them. Excuse me? This is my machine and I’m the administrator thereof. By definition I have access to whatever I want access to!
Before you ask, of course I’ve turned off UAC, another stroke of genius by the Microsofties. Apparently, there were numerous meetings of the design team to find ways to make Vista as annoying as possible for users who have a clue. If I want a machine that insulates itself from me, I’ll buy a Mac.
I could go on, but suffice to say that I beg to differ with Gizmo on this one. The only reason I haven’t downgraded my laptop to XP Pro is a lack of the required time to do so. The real improvements in Vista are so few and so far outweighed by its stupidities as to be meaningless.
All the above notwithstanding, thanks for Windows Secrets and the work you guys do.
Has anyone else noticed that the definition of the word “free” seems to be undergoing some reshaping lately? I got an email today proudly presenting me “free” software. The software sounded interesting, so being the geek that I am I went to check it out.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that the software is a “free 15-day trial” of an application. Once the 15 days are up, of course, they’re going to make me a heck of a deal to buy the full version. Wow, how lucky can a geek get?!?
At least this one is a single payment after the 15 days are up. I recently received a “free” marketing book from a big-time marketer who shall remain nameless. The “free” book only cost me $7.95 for shipping and handling. What “free” means in this case is that the marketer only made a couple bucks’ profit on each book.
That wasn’t what I found annoying. That particular ploy has been going on for years. “I’ll send you this valuable CD/book/whatever FREE! You just pay a nominal fee to cover shipping and handling!” Okay, we all know that game and we go along with it because, hey, $7.95 for an actual printed book isn’t such a bad deal and we’ll overlook the “free” thing.
I got the book and saw the “BONUS! Money-making software included free!” alert on the cover. “Cool, free software!” thought I. So, I looked in the back of the book to see what the free software was and where to download it.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that the “free software” is actually a 30-day trial of an online service run by said big time marketer that features all kinds of marketing advice and wisdom. That’s apparently the money-making part of the equation. I pay to access all this great content and the marketer makes money.
“So, what happens after the 30 days are up?” I hear you asking.
Good question. If I decide to continue accessing the service, it’s a mere $39.95 per month! And I didn’t think it could get any better than the “free” book!
For the record, I’ve actually used this service during its beta stage and there is software involved. There’s a little application that you download to your machine that puts a streaming bar across the top of your screen. You click on things you see that look interesting and it opens your web browser and takes you to the site where you can access the article or whatever.
Is it worth $39.95 per month? Not to me, but others apparently think so.
My issue is not with the service. However, I find it disingenuous at best to trumpet something as “free” when it’s going to end up costing me 40 bucks a month. Call it what it is: a “free 30-day trial.” Don’t tell me it’s “free software” when it’s clearly not.
Marketers have a bad enough reputation as it is. We don’t need further fuel for that fire. I have no problem with enthusiasm for a product, but let’s not be reinventing the language to suit our own agendas.
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One of my mantras is that people who design things should be required to use them for at least 6 months. Every time I encounter a web site, application or any other user interface that defies all logic, I have to wonder if the person(s) who designed it ever actually tried to use it for the purpose for which it was intended. In most cases, I’m betting the answer is no.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of poor user interface design and very few that can be considered good user interface design. User interface design is an art and a science, just like programming. Really good user interfaces provide a pleasurable user experience and brilliant user interface design is so intuitive that the user can just pick up the device, or run the application, or visit the website and get around in it as though they’d been using it all their lives.
Obviously, that’s the ideal and it’s very rarely achieved. For one thing, different people prefer different things in a design, and for another, it’s extremely difficult to provide a truly seamless experience for the majority of users. There is almost always something that requires the user to get used to the way the interface works, but of course, the goal is to have as few of those as possible.
So, now that we’ve established what the ideal is, we’ll be looking at various examples of bad user interfaces from time to time. It happens to be one of my pet peeves and as a result I seem to encounter them on a regular basis. Sure, maybe I’m too picky, but I’ve gotten to where my time is too valuable to be spent trying to figure out what the designer was thinking when they implemented the particular interface that’s driving me up the wall.
Here’s one I encountered recently. I have a frequent flyer account with a major airline that has accumulated some 22,000 miles. I haven’t flown for going on two years now, so the account has been sitting there idle. The airline has decreed that if the account sits idle too long, they’re going to deactivate it and I lose my miles.
Okay, I have no beef with that. They gave me a deadline and said I had to either have some activity in the account or pay them $25 by that date or my account would be closed. The email that I got on this subject gave me several alternative ways of contacting them to pay my $25 one of which was a link to their web site. I like doing things online so I clicked that link.
After digging up my user ID and password out of the archives, I managed to get logged into the account and tried to navigate to the link given. I got an error 404 – page not found. I spent a bit of time surfing around their site looking for anything that looked promising, but found nothing. So, I went to the “Contact Us” page and sent them an email asking the whereabouts of the page referenced in their email.
A day or so later, I got a response that said, in essence, “Oh, that page doesn’t actually exist. You can call the 1-800 number to pay your $25 and keep your account active.” Gosh, thanks, guys. If I’d have wanted to call, I’d have done so in the first place and avoided this whole problem. I have to assume that the designer of this particular campaign did just that: assumed that everyone would call and only tested that scenario: “Hey, it worked when I tried it.”
So, I called the 1-800 number and got a very nice lady on the line who didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. She put me on hold for several minutes while she went to find out what was up with this $25 deal. Upon her return, she announced that I could accomplish the same goal by going to their web store and buying something there. Purchasing anything via the web store adds miles to my account which constitutes activity which would keep my account open until the next deadline.
Peachy. The only problem with that was: A) that wasn’t specified as an option in the deadline email (they only referred to “activity in the account”), and B) I’d be paying about double what I’d pay from most any other outlet for the same item if I bought it through their web store.
I told the nice lady that I really didn’t want to shop in the online store and that I was perfectly happy to pay the $25 and resolve this issue for another year or two. Back on hold I go while she checks into how to actually put this into the computer. Some time later she’s back and we spend another 10 minutes or so navigating the computer system until she finally gets the info entered and my card charged and a confirmation number spewed forth.
Apparently, the concept of someone actually wanting to pay them $25 to keep their miles active was so far from the process designer’s mind that they hadn’t bothered to actually test the process to see if it worked. Somebody managed to get it into the requirements, very possibly as an afterthought, and the implementers blew it off as so unlikely as to not need any real testing. They threw the link into the email to meet the requirement and left it at that.
The lesson here is obvious: if you’re going to provide a path down which a user can go, make sure it actually goes where the user wants to go. This applies to programming, web site design and any other discipline where a user has to interact with your product. Making your product easy to use should be a top priority right along with making it work correctly. Given the choice of two products, one of which is easy to figure out and use, if the other is a beast, consumers who are aware of both products will choose the easy one every time.
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If you’ve been involved with Internet marketing for any length of time, you’ve gotten at least one email that starts out with a glaring error, like:
There are any number of variations on this fundamental error, but the point is we’ve all seen them. I don’t know about you, but my first impression when I see something like that is: “Whoever sent this email is clueless!”
I may be dating myself, but I remember when it was a big deal to find a spelling or grammatical error in a book or newspaper. It was pretty much unheard of. Nowadays, you see them all the time. Either people use the wrong word (spelled correctly, mind you) in the context of the sentence, or commit some egregious grammatical error that won’t get caught by the computer’s spellcheck software. It’s become pretty well accepted that “stuff happens” and as long as the reader gets the meaning of the sentence, it apparently doesn’t matter much any more whether it’s correct or not.
Cultural shifts notwithstanding, such errors are the result of people trying to get too much done in too little time. With writing, no big deal, but with marketing, it’s a very big deal.
Why do people buy from you? Or a better question: why do they buy again and again from you? It’s about trust. People will buy from someone once if they feel it’s worth a shot, but they won’t buy again unless their first impression is borne out and they have a good experience.
Getting that first sale is important because without that first sale, you’re not going to get a second. If I get offers from several different marketers, if it’s a product that I think I can use which marketer am I most likely to buy from? Assuming the price is the same, I’m going to go with the one that I trust the most. If it’s somebody I’ve bought from previously, they’ve got an advantage, but let’s assume this is a new product and I’m hearing from several marketers I’ve never bought from before.
How do I determine which one gets my business? By going with my impression of whether they can deliver the product with a minimum of hassle. If the sales letter or email is loaded with typos and grammatical errors, I’m going to move on to the next one. Why? Because I figure if someone doesn’t take the time to create a professional-looking sales piece, they’re not going to care much if I have a problem downloading their product, or using it after I’ve bought it.
Looking professional is important! If I get an email from email@example.com and another from firstname.lastname@example.org, which one am I most likely to buy from? It should be pretty obvious. Here’s a little by-the-way tip for you to make an email address look even more professional: John@JohnTheGeek.com not only stands out better, but looks like I made the effort to make it look good.
Yes, “stuff happens”, but you can prevent most of the “stuff” from making you look like an amateur. I use AWeber for my autoresponder and they have a little link that reads “Test” on every broadcast and followup message I create. The first thing I do after I save a message is click the Test link and send myself a copy of it. You’d be surprised how many little glitches you can catch that way.
You’ll know right away if you mistyped the code to insert the recipient’s first name, for example. If you don’t use the Insert Code function to be safe, chances are pretty good you’re going to get it wrong a certain percentage of the time. Your test email will show you that immediately.
Another thing to test is any links you insert into the message, like those affiliate links that are making you the big bucks. If the potential customer clicks on a link and gets a 404 Error page, they’re moving on to the next marketer’s offer. Click the links in the email! It takes a couple of minutes to test the obvious stuff like that and can save you hundreds or thousands in lost commissions.
Never assume your email is correct as it stands. Having to send out a correction because you fat-fingered a URL just makes you look careless and sloppy. I’ve had to do it twice myself and it’s no fun, not to mention damaging to your reputation. Do what you have to do to test it until you’re *sure* it’s right.
I once saw a sign in a machine shop that read:
“Why is there never enough time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over?”
The fact is that there *isn’t* time to do it over, but you end up having to spend that time anyway. It’s just bad business to save a couple of minutes only to cost yourself time and/or money later on. We all have a tendency to run out of day before we run out of things we “have” to do. Don’t compound the problem by having to do things over if you can prevent it.
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I wasn’t planning on taking a look at Optin Accelerator because I’m not currently in a buying mode. I’m focusing my energies on a couple of specific tasks that I want to accomplish, so I’m not involved with the current frenzy of affiliates pushing this latest be-all-end-all marketing tool.
Well, I got an email from Mike Filsaime which had to do with his Viral Friend Generator software (which I use) and how Optin Accelerator is not only better, but will soon have a plugin that lets the two applications work together. So, I figured I’d go watch the video and see what OA is all about.
OA is a pretty cool idea on the surface of it. Basically, you install it on your web site, point your prospects to it and they are expected to dump their entire contact list into your database. Still a nice idea (for you) because people tend to have lots of contacts and you get maybe a couple hundred potential contacts instead of 3 or 5 or whatever you’ve set up your Tell-A-Friend page to ask for.
So, what’s wrong with this picture? First of all, this idea isn’t new, it’s been around at least 6 months in the form of another very similar application called UltraRefer. Obviously, this dude has done a much better job of public relations/marketing than the UltraRefer folks. More power to him and too bad for them.
I have a lot more problem with the basic concept of somebody coming to my web site and giving up their entire contact list to plug my site. Why? Because they have to give me their email user ID and password so my site, via Optin Accelerator, can go download all their contacts! Are you kidding me? People are really that naive and/or stupid?
Maybe I’m just getting to be a cranky old computer geek, but it just amazes me that somebody would give up their ID and password to a site the owner of which they don’t know from Adam. Not only that, they’re going to spam their entire contact base with news of my site/product? Even the most naive can’t believe that everybody on their contact list will be as excited about it as they are. At least with Viral Friend Generator, and similar applications, the user has to actually decide whether the people she’s referring will give a rat’s keister about what she’s referring.
It’s one thing when a site like MySpace is doing it, although there’s certainly the potential for abuse there, too, but when anybody can pay $97, grab a copy of OA, put it up on a web page, tweak the page a tad to save off the ID and password, not to mention all those email addresses, and use them for whatever purpose they wish, it’s enough to give even a modestly paranoid computer pro like myself heart palpitations. This is exactly the kind of thing amateurs do in their blithe ignorance of black hat thinking. Just because it doesn’t occur to the authors of these applications that it might be used for less than honorable purposes doesn’t mean someone else won’t think of it.
I hope the authors and promoters of OA make a ton of money. They’re going to need it to defend the lawsuits that are sure to occur when someone does take their product and use it with malice.
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