If you read last month's column you know the tragic story
about my PNY Technologies (http://www.pny.com/)
QuickChip 233MHz 3D processor's fan failing. I left you with
the promise of an update on my efforts to get a replacement processor
under the free replacement lifetime warranty. It took 3 phone
calls and 4 days of waiting to get a Return Authorization Number
but once I returned the failed unit PNY's response was quick.
I had my new processor via UPS 10 days after mailing the failed
unit via Priority Mail. PNY Technologies will not cross ship
so the failed unit must be in their hands first before shipping
a replacement. They say their turnaround time is two days.
I'm glad I had kept my old 100MHz processor as I had something
to keep me up and running, although at a somewhat slow speed.
I remember reading articles saying Win98 has much more overhead
than Win95 and that for processor speeds of less than 200MHz
Win98 actually ran slower than Win95. I can attest to that. It
seemed my 100MHz chip was dragging along and I was constantly
waiting for windows to open. With the new QuickChip 233MHz processor
Win98 runs fine. So bottom line is don't be in a hurry to upgrade
to Win98 unless you have the enough horsepower.
Looking back, things could have gone smoother if I had listened
to the salesman at the CompUSA (http://www.compusa.com/)
store. When I bought the QuickChip in July he offered me a lifetime
over-the-counter replacement for $10. I said "why do I need
that when the QuickChip comes with a lifetime free replacement
warranty". He said "it would save me the hassle of
waiting for a replacement chip should mine fail". Analyzing
the situation (as my engineering mind likes to do) I thought
to myself, $10 is 10% of the cost of the QuickChip before the
rebate and over 14% of it's cost after the rebate. What could
go wrong? The only moving part is in the fan. And so I declined
the salesman's offer. Well hindsight is always 20/20. So far
it has cost me $5 to send the failed unit back plus the hassle
of waiting a total of 14 days to obtain the replacement. If the
replacement never fails I'll be $5 ahead.
Then there is the matter of my $30 rebate. Again it took several
phone calls over 15 days before I got an answer that my rebate
check was in the final stages of processing and I should have
it in two weeks. Fifteen days later my rebate check finally arrived
dated 34 days earlier. Where had this check been for the past
month? The mail can't be that slow. It took just over four months
from mailing in the rebate form until payment was received.
Have you ever wondered how much money companies are making
on the money you and thousands of others have paid up front,
the so called "float", by stretching out payment of
the rebate for several months? Rebates sound great until you
start wondering if you will ever get them. Do these companies
ever consider how they may be alienating us consumers with such
long delays in payment of the rebate? The latest tactic I have
noticed is the rebate form saying something like "allow
6-8 weeks from the offer close". Well if the offer is good
for 3 months and you buy the item near the start of the offer
period, you could be waiting 5 months for your rebate.
With all the stress of my computer going down I figured it
was time I got me a computer buddy. They say people that have
pets live longer so why not get a "virtual" pet that
I don't have to clean up after, that talks to me, and that I
can shut off whenever I like. I'm talking about "Peedy",
a talking parrot that now lives on my computer. This character
flies on to my desktop each morning to greet me by name, tell
me jokes, enlighten me with his knowledge of amazing facts, remind
me of appointments, sing a song, eat crackers, etc. Peedy interacts
with me and will take me surfing on the Internet or read me a
web page among other things. Are you interested in a pet parrot
of your own? The price is certainly right. It's free! The program
is called BonziBUDDY and is available at http://www.bonzi.com/BonziBUDDY/BonziBUDDYFREE.asp.
One of the key requirements
is you must have Internet Explorer 4.02 or better installed on
your computer. To quote from the Bonzi.com Software Home Page
BonziBUDDY is "your interactive friend and traveling companion
on the Internet! He walks, talks, sings, browses and searches
the Internet with you. He learns your likes and interests and
automatically finds web sites you have not yet discovered! The
more you use him, the smarter he becomes!"
So you say how do they make money if they are giving this program
away? The answer is with add-on modules. For $9.95 each you can
add 250 more "Amazing Facts" or 250 more "Jokes".
For $19.95 the "E-mail Reader" add-on module is available.
And for $14.95 you can add the "Talking" add-on module
which allows you to speak (through your microphone) via voice
commands to your pet and he will understand you. Overall it's
a unique marketing concept as you get to try enough of the program
via the free portion that Bonzi is betting you will want the
I have found the calendar part of the free program quite useful.
With its scheduler it is very easy to add, edit, or delete appointments
or tasks in 30 min increments for any day of any month. The calendar
covers the years 100 through 9999. No planned obsolescence here
and great for trivia. For example, I discovered I was born on
a Thursday. (Bet that fact made your day.) You also have the
option to have the bird remind you of that appointment or task
at a selected time and date of your choosing.
So is there a downside to this program? Well at times this
parrot's jabbering can get to be a bit much. When I'm working
on something off the Internet Peedy keeps asking me, every so
often, about making our "daily trip to the Internet".
Also at times he will want to take me to the Bonzi site to purchase
one of the add-on modules. It is a minor annoyance as I always
have the option of "Less Interaction" or to exit the
Now you may be asking what is actually behind this talking
parrot? The answer is Microsoft Agent. Those of you that read
this column regularly may remember my Feb/March 1999 Web Master
Wanderings column (http://www.scpcug.com/wmwand02.html)
reviewed a program called "MagicSpell". At that time
MagicSpell was an add-on program for only ICQ (http://www.icq.com/),
the very popular Instant Messaging program. Merlin the wizard
would greet you by name, give you a quote of the day, tell jokes,
read your messages, etc. Now MagicSpell Version 1.0, Build
022 is available at both the original 2B System site (http://www.2bsys.com/MagicSpell/)
and at Streambox.com. It is still shareware (free to try for
2 weeks and $10 to register) but now known as "Streambox
MagicSpell". You can read more about MagicSpell and Streambox
The latest version of MagicSpell supports the Instant Messenger
programs from ICQ, AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft Network.
Both Merlin and Peedy are Microsoft Agent characters. Find
out more about Microsoft Agent 2.0 at http://msdn.microsoft.com/msagent/default.asp.
Both BonziBUDDY and MagicSpell with their respective characters
of Peedy and Merlin use the Lernout & Hauspie TruVoice Text-To-Speech
Engine but each character's voice actually sounds different.
Computers are amazing devices. It has always fascinated me
as to how they manage to keep straight all the installed programs.
Of course when they don't you have crashes. But when they do,
sometimes you get a bonus you had not counted on. I discovered
that the "Virtual Voices Control Properties" dialog
box for my IBM Simply Speaking Gold Voice Recognition program's
Text-To-Speech module allows me to switch from the voices supplied
by IBM to the Lernout & Hauspie voices. This has proved to
be quite useful. The IBM Text-To-Speech module allows me to pause
and resume the reading of text which is a real convenience when
proof reading the text for my PC Journal articles. The MagicSpell
and BonziBuddy programs do not allow pausing while reading text.
You can stop the reading but once you do you cannot pick up (resume)
from where you left off. I also prefer the Lernout & Hauspie
voices. Now I can have the best of both worlds.
I leave you now with a picture of me with my buddy. I acquired
all that blond hair via my daughter's Cosmopolitan Virtual
Makeover program (http://www.virtualmakeover.com/cosmo/home_text.html).
Peedy thinks it can double for a bird's nest. And of course he
is always trying to upstage me by showing that he's number 1.
Note: Web Master Wanderings
articles contain links to external web sites. Web addresses are
constantly changing. There is no guarantee that the information
links provided in this article will remain unbroken or up-to-date
beyond the date that this article is originally published.