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How to be a Microsoft Beta Tester

Today I got an invitation from Microsoft to be a Beta Tester

bq. You are cordially invited to join the MSN?? Beta Program. We use beta programs to help define features for future products and services. This is your chance to make a difference! Participation lets you share your ideas and plays a key role in the development process. And together, we will build a better MSN!

I was all for it till I read the fine print.

bq. During sign-up and installation of the beta software you will get prompted for credit card information. The MSN beta software will be free during the program and you will not see any charges on your credit card until the beta has expired.

This way Microsoft is getting Beta Testers to pay for all the work they should be doing. What a terrific business model.

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Looking for a PDA

When the first Palm Pilot came out, I was one of its enthusiastic users. But then over a period of time, I stopped using it. But recently I dusted the old Palm III and found that none of the new applications run on it (low memory). So I have been looking for a new PDA. After lot of research, I have finally settled on the “Sony CLIE SJ-35”:http://www.sonystyle.com/is-bin/INTERSHOP.enfinity/eCS/Store/en/-/USD/SY_DisplayProductInformation-Start;sid=PYBlXoWoZ5llebpit6hvVcqmaYYLz0U-gkE=?CategoryName=hp_BasicMP3Audio&ProductSKU=PEGTJ35%2fUKIT1&Dept=hp

I have always found Sony CLIE to be much better looking than Palm devices. This one has an MP3 player also built in. Does anyone use an iPaq ? What’s your experience with it ?

Comments { 9 }

Economy is improving

The American job market is “improving”:http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1110/p17s01-coop.html

bq. In October, the economy added 126,000 new jobs, the Labor Department reported Friday. September’s increase in private-sector payroll jobs was revised up to 125,000.

The article does not break down into how many jobs were created in the Technology field. But from personal experience I can tell that it is definitely improving. Many people I know are leaving their jobs and finding new ones. And that’s about 15 people in the past few months. The hourly rates for contract programmers are increasing. There are more permanent job postings as opposed to only contract jobs a few months back. Even the salaries for permanent jobs are increasing.

The golden era of the 1999 boom may not come back. But I will be happy if I could change a job with some effort.

Comments { 4 }

Tax Software Woes

During the last Tax season, Turbo Tax decided to treat all their consumers as criminals. They built in many obstacles into their software that prevented even people who bought the software from using it. The software had to be activated to be used on a single machine. This meant that if you used your Home PC to prepare taxes, you could not take a print out on the office computer. And to prevent users from misusing the system, Intuit also installed third party monitoring software on the PCs.

Due to this “Walt Mossberg”:http://ptech.wsj.com/archive/ptech-20030130.html of Wall Street Journal had said that time

bq. So, this year I emphatically recommend H&R Block’s TaxCut over Intuit’s TurboTax. They both do the job of preparing any straightforward tax return. But Intuit has decided to treat all its TurboTax customers like potential criminals, and to limit the ways that even honest people can use the product. Why subject yourself to that?

I followed his advice and bought TaxCut and found that it does not accept my wife’s ITIN. It allows only people with Social Security Numbers to file taxes. But as per IRS, people who do not have SSN can use their ITIN. It would not even go to the next screen.

But now Intuit is “apologizing”:http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=/nm/tech_intuit_dc for past behavior.

bq. “I want to personally apologize for any frustration you may have experienced due to the restrictions that came with our use of anti-piracy technology,” Tom Allanson, general manager of TurboTax, said Thursday in an open letter to customers. The letter was published in advertisements in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, as well as on the company’s turbotax.com Web site.

Now the activation technology has been removed and the software can be used on multiple PCs.

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To an audio tape free world

If you have lot of audio tapes and want to convert them to digital format, here is a solution that I am trying now.

First I got “Microsoft Plus Digital Media Edition”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000085AHH/jksobservat-20. This comes with an “analog recorder”:http://www.microsoft.com/windows/plus/dme/Music.asp#analog (The software costs $19.95 now, but if you “keep looking”:http://varnam.nationalinterest.in/archives/000205.html there may be a deal in which you get it for free)

I connected my walkman to the sound card of the desktop and the software did its part. The audio track was filtered for pops and hisses. The end product was clear digital audio, in WMA format. There is no way you can dump in any other format.

The process is very slow. You have to play the casette first, then it takes about that much time to write the digital file after applying all the filters. But it is worth it. Soon my house will be audio tape free.

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