Archive for May, 2008

Of Waving and/or Drowning

It’s that time of year again – the end of the American school year is always hectic, and as if you hadn’t figured it out, blogging’s taking a far backseat to my growing personal and professional obligations.  I’m still around on Twitter periodically (as periodically as Twitter will let me, anyway).

Hope to get back to this sooner rather than later.

A Change of Pace at Apace of Change

I’ve said before that I really try to maintain focus on education, technology and psychology here, as I really don’t want this to become another e/n blog, but every so often something happens outside of this sphere that warrants mention.

Consumerist was one of the first blogs I started reading, and I’ve since developed a strong interest in consumer advocacy. What I’ve always admired about Consumerist is that they not only expose the failings of corporate and retail America, but they also recognize those companies who get it right. This is a story all about how my life got flip turned upside down a company who got it right.

I ordered a CanoScan LiDE 25 scanner from last weekend; it shipped on 4/28 and arrived two days later. For two nights, I tried to get this thing to work with my computer, but no dice. I downloaded the latest drivers, updated all the software, shut off my antivirus, made sure the scanner was “unlocked”; no joy. When I finally called Canon Tech Support late that Thursday night, the representative (whose name I didn’t get; sorry!) was patient, knowledgeable, and when it looked like this wasn’t going to be resolvable, gave me all the information I needed to return the scanner to Canon. He told me that if I faxed his office my original proof-of-purchase and the RMA, they’d get me out a refurbished model ASAP.

I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of receiving a refurb, but I wasn’t up to fighting City Hall on this issue, so we went ahead. I faxed the information to Canon on Friday afternoon, 5/2, and sure enough, my new (to me) scanner was waiting for me this (Monday) morning! Additionally, the model they sent me was a few models up from the one I originally purchased, and after a few initial test scans, seems to be in perfect working condition (we’ll see how it handles the photos I want to digitize this weekend). The process for returning the defective unit is pretty easy, too.

At any rate, thanks, Canon, for a positive customer service experience. Unlike many of your competitors, you guys have gotten it right.

Party Like It’s 1989 – Turn Your Computer into a Fax Machine!

Although this probably sounds about as appealing to most of us as turning our cars into horse-drawn carriages, the reality of business communication today is that the fax is alive and well. Until the rest of the business world catches up with email, scanned documents, digital signatures, and the like, you’ll likely find yourself faxing forms to a health insurance provider, government agency, or some similar organization at least a few times this year. I refuse to purchase a machine that I would use so infrequently, but getting to Staples to send faxes is inconvenient for me (and not cheap, either). A little digging around on the web has turned up the tools necessary to meet most people’s basic faxing needs (for free, of course).

File-hosting site just added a “fax this” option – you can send any DOC or PDF file you store there directly to a fax machine (sorry, no ODF support yet). It’s similar to the service that FaxZero provides, but’s restrictions are much more lax: 20 page per fax limit w/no stated daily limit on faxes sent, as opposed to FaxZero’s 3 page fax max, twice per day (with an ad on the cover page, too). There is a process by which you can receive incoming faxes to your account, too, but the process is a little more involved (but still free).

Whenever I have to email important documents (e.g., my resume), I always prefer to send a PDF (no real justification; it just feels right). CutePDF offers a free utility that installs itself as a printer option. Just hit “print” from your document, spreadsheet, web page, etc., and select “CutePDF” from the dropdown printer menu. Your document will “print” to a PDF file that you can now send to to be faxed (of course, if you were using OpenOffice you could just hit “Print to PDF” and not even need CutePDF in the first place).

My recent purchase of a scanner (finally, I know), along with these free utilities, has significantly reduced, if not eliminated, the odds of me having to send another costly fax from my local Staples’ dodgy fax machine ever again. It’s the small victories in life that make it worth living.

Next time, we’ll explore jailbreaking your iPhone to use as a corded rotary landline.