Friday, September 24, 2010

Shane Brennan, Shut the $&@(! Up, Please

As a longtime fan of NCIS, I naturally started watching NCIS:  Los Angeles.  I have to admit, though, I'm seriously considering knocking it off the list.  You see, this show has become increasingly nothing more than running chases, car chases, and a whole lot of talking.  I wish the writers—or at least producer/creator Shane Brennan—would just shut up and get rid of all the talking and try, instead, to develop some good characters.  NCIS:  LA is just a poor cousin to NCIS.  Perhaps this is due to casting?  Certainly the characters of NCIS are simply better, more complex, more individual.

Or perhaps NCIS: LA is just suffering from focusing too much on Chris O'Donnell and LL and not enough on the rest of the team.  Either way, it's just not floating my boat.

Oh, and while I'm griping, why LA?  Why not a real navy town, like San Diego or Norfolk?  I live in San Diego and I laugh my ass off when I hear they are going to drive down to investigate something at Camp Pendleton and then seem to be back by lunch.  Folks, with traffic, that's an all-day trip and you are stuck going twenty-five mph for a lot of it.  So it's a joke that anyone would go from LA to Pendelton (which I'm sure has a large NCIS or Military Police office and would not need the LA office to help) and back as fast as these guys seem to do it.  Heck, it's a joke that they seem to drive around LA and not run into traffic that brings them to a slow crawl every show.

There are bigger and better navy towns and there are character actors with far more appeal than just about anyone appearing on NCIS:  LA.  They already killed off one guy, how about a car bomb takes out the rest and we "reboot?"

Z

QuickBooks Direct Deposit for Vendors...Sucks!

Ah, Intuit, the place where programmers dream up ideas and they get implemented without ever asking actual businesspeople how they do business.

Some months ago, I got an email asking me to participate in a beta test for Direct Deposit for Vendors, a service I had actually once emailed Intuit about and asked they implement in QuickBooks.  Because of this email, I was contacted to become a beta tester.  I declined, because I didn't want the headache of trying to fix Intuit's problems for them.  I get enough experience doing that just from working with the release copy!

And today I found a gigantic failure on the part of QuickBooks Direct Deposit for Vendors:  Apparently you can only assign one checking account for Direct Deposit use.  So if you are an attorney and you have multiple checking accounts, say for trusts and estates, etc., and you want to use Direct Deposit with each of those accounts, you cannot.  If you are a literary agent and have separate accounts for clients funds and operating funds, you cannot run your payroll through your operating account and use Direct Deposit and also pay your clients out of your client account using Direct Deposit.  You'll have to transfer funds from the client account to your operating account and do the DD from there.  Of course, if you are a member of the Association of Authors' Representatives, you will have just violated the Canon of Ethics by co-mingling client funds with your agency's funds.  Suddenly I'm very glad I only rolled out this option to a select few clients and not the entire client list.

Many corporations maintain separate accounts for payroll use and vendor payment use, so it is simply stunning and even downright stupid that Intuit has overlooked the need to be able to process Direct Deposit payments from multiple accounts from within QuickBooks.  Do they really think businesses have just one checking account?  Do they ever interview actual business people and ask them how they work?  Have they ever actually hired anyone from outside the company who has worked in small business and who genuinely understands the needs of the small business community?  I have my doubts.

One ray of sunshine in this entire mess is that while I was ranting on the line with the payroll service representative in Manila (yes, the one in the Philippines), the call was interrupted by another person who informed me that she was the Director of Customer Service.  As luck would have it, she just happened to be visiting the call center in Manila and monitoring my call.  Crazy timing, huh?  She was very nice, admitted her technological knowledge was not up to the task and offered to transfer me to someone who could help, while she stayed on the line.

But in another example of the issues with putting customer service and technical support offshore, the supervisor who got on the line proceeded to go through a check list and reassured me she could solve my issue.  Then she asked to put me on hold.  The next voice was the Director of Customer Service, asking if she could call the Product Manager in Mountainview and explore my issue, because it appeared that what I wanted couldn't be done.  And she agreed it should be done, that the service should be available through two accounts.  Which was wonderful to hear, but it would have been nicer to hear how I could do it today.  She offered me her direct line and email address and to find out when the feature would be available.  All of this is great and an example of what good customer service should be, but it's not quite a substitute for having a program that works.

I used to joke with people that "there's nothing you want to do in Microsoft Word that someone hasn't wanted to do before and figured out so that the program can do it."  Yet, since 1994, when I ended up on the phone with the Director of Technical Support for QuickBooks and was told, "Sir, that there is what we call in the software business an 'undocumented feature," I have been finding things that QuickBooks should do and does not or that QuickBooks should do well but does poorly.  And I just don't understand it.  It's a huge company with billions of dollars.

Perhaps if Intuit were less interested in selling services, like several different levels of payroll, overpriced blank checks and deposit slips, and in launching multiple services that compete with themselves, like merchant services and Intuit Payment Solutions, it could focus on the core program and making that better.  Perhaps it if cut the prices on the blank checks and deposit slips and made merchant services price competitive with PayPal or Amazon Payments, it would find those segments of their business growing.

Ironically, I feel like I pay more attention to these issues than Inuit does, which makes me think this is a company whose senior management truly cannot see the forest for the trees.

Z

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Mid-Month Submission Update

I've been working harder to catch up on the reading, especially the partials, since my wife is about to give birth pretty much any time now.  Yes, we are expecting a new baby.  Technically, the due date isn't until mid-ish October, but we all know how these things go.

As of today, 9/17, I've got all of the queries answered one way or another.  Of course, that's only a true statement until the next eQuery™ shows up.  And I've only got eleven sample chapters and/or proposals to read.  The oldest has a cover letter dated August 23rd, so I'm actually only three weeks behind.  A new record!

Alas, I have a TRUCKLOAD of full manuscripts to read, one of which was shipped to me in four separate manuscript boxes (my intern, Catilin, was thrilled to inform me that she would NOT have time to read that one before her internship end date).  So, there's plenty of reading to do, but I am working hard to clear the decks before I take leave for the new baby's arrival.

A note to those considering submitting an eQuery.  If you get an error message saying the form was not published, do NOT email me via the FAQ form asking me if I got the query.  Just resend the query.  Ninety-nine percent of authors are working off a query they carefully crafted in a word-processing program (at least, I really HOPE they are and if not, they should be) and then just cut-and-pasted into the form.  So, while this error is inconvenient (and it only happens rarely), you do need to fill out the form again.

Also, should I request that you submit a sample chapter or proposal, please do be sure to include a DATED cover letter.  It helps us keep track of your material.

Thanks!

Z

Friday, September 10, 2010

HP LaserJet 1012 installed on Window 7

Thanks for nothing, HP!  You advertise how great Windows 7 is, but you don't actually offer printer drivers for one of your most popular printers under Windows 7:  the LaserJet 1012.  For those of you looking to make it work, here's what I did:


Go to Start and Devices and Printers and Add a Printer.

Search for your printer and when you go to install it, say Have Disk.  Point it to the files you downloaded and use the Vista drivers.

Now, since I have a Netgear ReadyNAS Duo and my printer is hooked up to that, my install is a bit different than some.  For a long discussion and different options, look here:  http://h30434.www3.hp.com/t5/Windows-7-Beta-and-test/Windows-7-x64-RC-Build-7100-and-HP-Laserjet-1012-Driver-not/td-p/83178.  Especially interesting was this post, which doesn't work for me, since my printer is not installed locally, but perhaps it will work for you:

Delete your existing HP 1010/1012/1015 in "Devices and Printers" (also on any shared network computers)
Go to Device Manager
Click on IEEE1284.4 Devices
Right Click on DOTS4 USB Printing Support - go to properties
Click Update Driver
Click Browse for driver software on your computer
Click Let me pick from a list of devices on my computer
Click USB Printing Support
Click Close Windows

Go back to Devices and Printers
Click Add Printer
For the local port choose USB001 (Virtual port for USB)
For the Driver, point to the Vista Host Base Driver folder
It does not matter if you choose 1010 1012 or 1015 as it is the same driver

Now, my ReadyNAS supports  Bonjour, which is an Apple product.  I found that installing Bonjour Print Services for Windows helped speed things up and actually seems to have solved a major problem I was having printing emails from Outlook 2007.  You can download it here:  http://support.apple.com/kb/DL999.

I would love to know if they solved this problem printing emails from Outlook in the 2010 version.  It's super-annoying.  Sometimes an email will print, often it will not.  And given the number of hits on the web about this problem, I doubt it's my printer set-up (plus that same set-up works with Word just fine, as well as QuickBooks).  So if you are having problems printing emails in Outlook 2007, try installing Bonjour Print Services for Windows.  Just remember that after you do that, you have to change your printer selection.  For example, I now have two versions of the HP LaserJet 1012 in my printers list.  One is the regular one and one is controlled by Bonjour.

Adios!

Z

Installing Adobe CS3 on Windows 7


A few weeks ago, I got a new computer with Windows 7.  As usual, I started loading in all of my programs.  Which, of course, is when all of the problems started.  Windows 7, like Vista, has User Account Control, a little gatekeeper designed to keep programs from making changes to your system without your permission.  And like many gatekeepers, it's too eager, especially when it comes to older programs that aren't designed specifically to work with it.

Perfect example:  Adobe Creative Suite 3 or CS3.  Now, both the Adobe website and Windows website say that CS3 is compatible with Windows 7, but if you call Adobe tech support or chat with them and tell them you are having troubles installing Adobe CS3 on Windows 7, the first thing you will be told is that CS3 is not compatible with Windows 7.  Hmm.  Makes me wish I were an attorney.  I'm sure there's a class-action lawsuit in both of those companies claiming compatibility and then Adobe tech support telling people it's not.  But let's get beyond that and get to the part where I tell you what I did to get Adobe CS3 installed on Windows 7.

  1. Deactivate CS3 on your old computer.  You need not uninstall it yet, but you do have to go through deactivation in order to be able to install and activate it on a new computer.
  2. I started with a virgin hard drive with the factory image from HP.  No other software installed and I actually uninstalled the pre-installed Norton security software.  At the minimum, turn off your security software.
  3. Turn off User Account Control or UAC.
  4. Check your machine for anything Adobe-related and uninstall it, including Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash.  They are likely newer versions than what is on your CS3 DVD and confuse the installation, it seems.
  5. Download and run the Adobe License Repair Tool found at http://www.adobe.com/support/contact/licensing.html.
  6. Download and run the Adobe Licensing Service Patch found here:  http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=3750.
  7. Fix the FLEXnet Licensing Service
    1. Choose Start > Control Panel.
    2. Double-click Administrative Tools.
    3. Double-click Services.
    4. Double-click the FLEXnet Licensing Service to open the Properties dialog box.
    5. Click the Startup Type menu, and then select Automatic[Adobe's site says to change to Manual, but I think that's under different circumstances.  I went with Automatic and it worked.]
    6. Click Apply.
    7. In the Services Status section, click Start to start the service.
    8. Click Apply, and then click OK.
  8. Go here http://kb2.adobe.com/cps/401/kb401731.html and follow the instructions on how to get the Adobe.dll file and put it on your desktop.  You will need to rename the file and removed the "_64".
  9. Copy the entire contents of the install DVD to the desktop of your computer.
  10. Right-click the folder and explore it.  You want the "setup" file in the Adobe folder.  Right-click that and "Run as Administrator".
  11. Watch for it to ask where to get the .dll file and point it to your desktop.
  12. Once the install succeeds, launch Photoshop and activate your product.

Now, if this doesn't work, go down to your community college and sign up for the cheapest class you can find and still get some kind of ID or proof of registration.  Then go to http://www.academicsuperstore.com/ and buy the full, educational version of CS5 for about 1/3 the cost of the full retail version and install that.  You will required to prove you are a student but since you just signed up at your community college, you can!

Also, if it doesn't work, I recommend you do a system restore back to your factory hard drive image, to make sure you have removed any corruption that may have been introduced by the various patches and faulty install.

Good luck!

Z

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QuickBooks 2010: Get the Full Download

Recently my QuickBooks 2010 installation went south on me. Perhaps it had to do with issues I've had with Adobe, but I can't say for sure. All I know is that I would get errors when I tried to reconcile accounts and those errors came at the end, when the program was trying to preview a reconciliation report.

But my program was up-to-date and after the cluster-you-know-what of trying to reinstall from the CD and update from there, I decided instead to just go to http://support.quickbooks.intuit.com/support/productupdates.aspx and download the entire, most-recent version of the program. What a difference!

First uninstall QuickBooks. Yes, this is a pain, but you have to do it or you will end up with two different installations.

Next, be sure to download it to your desktop and right-click and "Run as an Administrator" if you are in Vista or Windows 7. Heck, maybe in XP too if that's an option.  Of course, you need your serial number and product number to make this work, so if you are just looking for a free copy, you'll have to look elsewhere.

I've found the program seems faster since doing this reinstall of the latest version and so I have to recommend that to you.

Z

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The August Monthly Round-up


As the last days of summer come to an end, so does my internship here at The Zack Company.  So, for my last time, I bring you the stats for this month:

In August we:
  • Received 56 queries and declined 52
  • Received 13 sample chapters and declined 15
  • Received 1 proposals and declined 3
  • Received 6 manuscripts and declined 2
We have on hand to read:
  • 13 sample chapters
  • 4 proposals
  • 9 full manuscripts
We are waiting on material for:
  • 13 sample chapters
  • 1 proposals
  • 3 full manuscripts
It has been a pleasure spending my days at The Zack Company this summer, and a large part of that has been reading queries, sample chapters, and manuscripts from all of you!  Though at times I grew weary of reading proposals for yet another vampire novel, I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of your search for an agent.

Best of luck with all current and future projects,
Caitlin

Friday, September 03, 2010

Quicken does not make sounds

I got a new computer recently that has Windows 7 64-bit operating system.  Now, I could rant and rave about what a joke this is, since all Windows 7 really is is Vista dressed up in a new dress.  But you can put a dress on a pig and it's still a pig and Windows 7 is really just Vista.

But this is not the point of this post.  As a longtime Quicken user, I got curious when I installed Quicken 2010 for Home & Business and noticed that there were no sounds.  Okay, I admit it, I find that little register sound reassuring.  Like I'm making money or something.  Cha-Ching!  And there were no sounds.

So I started doing some research and I found all kinds of posts in various places about this, all wondering why Quicken doesn't make sounds and mostly under Windows 7 64-bit.  One fix, from the Quicken website, suggested a selected start using msconfig and other arcane DOS steps.  Gimme a break!  What is this?  1994?  I think not.

So I did what I always do when I hit a wall with an Intuit product.  I called the Intuit Office of the President and expressed my frustration, dissatisfaction, and general desire to napalm the company headquarters.

After three or four missed phone calls back (Quicken tech support can only call out; you can't call them back), I finally connected to a nice guy named Matt, who sent me to the article I've linked to above and will link to again here:  http://quicken.intuit.com/support/articles/getting-started/setting-up-quicken/7904.html.  Supposedly this will get your Quicken sounds back.  However, it didn't work for me.  So Matt asked me to send him the log files and then got all gushy about how "nice" my install log file was.  Seriously, I could almost hear the guy drooling.

Anyhow, maybe this will fix the problem for some of you.  I hope it does.  And if it does not, I suggest you call the Intuit Office of the President and express your dissatisfaction.

There is a lesson here, of course.  I guess more of us should have switched to Microsoft Money and then there would be more competition out there for Quicken!

Z