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05/29/14

Permalink 05:31:54 pm, by Paul ROBINSON, 437 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [A]

Register 3 doesn't like nickels

Last night, I rolled my wheelchair on the computer table and I think I broke it because it is damaged and won't hold up much, so I need to replace the table. So, Earlier today I went to the Family Dollar store on Rhode Island Avenue in Washington, D.C. because I had bought a computer table from them. But they don't sell them any more, so I went down to the Home Depot at the shopping center adjacent to the Rhode Island Metrorail station.

They don't have them either, so I'll have to go on-line and buy a replacement desk.

Well, anyway, I decided that for some reason I wanted a pastrami on rye. So I'd go over to the Giant Food on the other side of the shopping center across from Home Depot. So I go over to the deli section and discover they have pastrami, but it's $13.00 a pound. That's a little too expensive, so I ask where they have package meats, and they have 7 ounce packages for about $3.25 or so, which is about $7.50 a pound. Which is a bit more reasonable.

So anyway I went to the register with two of these packages of pastrami and a loaf of rye bread, about $8.50, so I decide to use one of the self-service registers. The first four registers are self-service. I'm at register 3, and I ring up the items, but, in Washington, DC, the store is required to charge for bags, so I need to find the selection for the 5c for the plastic bag. (I wasn't planning to pick up anything at the grocery when I left or I'd have brought a bag with me.)

So with help from a clerk I find it, then I ring up everything, and I decide to use my food stamp card since I haven't used it in a while; as a disabled man I get a whopping $15 a month (it used to be $16 but the extra federal contribution was cut). Since I haven't used it in a while I have about $45 in my account. So the whole thing gets covered, except for the 5c bag fee.

So I check my pouch and I have a lot of change, I find a nickel and insert it in the coin slot, but it rolls back out. I try again, and it fails again. The clerk informs me that register 3 doesn't accept nickels. Dimes and quarters are okay, but not nickels. So I put a quarter in, that finishes it and the register returns 20c in change.

I guess register 3 doesn't like the taste of nickels, so it won't eat them.

04/11/14

Permalink 04:01:47 am, by Paul ROBINSON, 256 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [A]

A pet pig with a birth defect, two three-legged dogs, and two of their names

A TV show had a segment about a veterinarian who has a pet pig, who has a birth defect. Its rear legs are fused so it can't stand up, it more-or-less waddles where it goes. Its original owner wanted to have it euthanized, but the vet, touched by the pig, said if the customer would surrender the pig to him, he'd see to it the pig had a good home. So he did, and the veterinarian took the pig home with him.

This segment followed one about a dog that had been fitted for an artificial leg. Now, some people might say that it's kind of ridiculous to spend the money on a prosthetic for a dog, but it's interesting to note that work on prosthetics for animals has often transferred into developments in human prosthetics. But, some people say that it's silly because a dog can get by on three legs. Which is true, I used to know a guy named Gary whose family owned a dog with three legs. The dog's name was "Tripod." I kid you not.

But when a dog has all 4 legs, it can do so much more with kids and the family, including actually run instead of hobbling that some people will have it done.

But what touched me the most - and why I decided to write about it - was the name of the pig I mentioned earlier in this note, which I thought was really cute.

The pig's name was "Chris P. Bacon."

Say that out loud some time.

04/10/14

Permalink 06:17:40 pm, by Paul ROBINSON, 342 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [A]

Avoid Commerce Payment Systems for merchant credit card processing

After issuing me a terminal, accepting transactions to the tune of about $1500.00 in charges, requesting a fax and additional information from Wells Fargo to confirm my company has a bank account there, plus charging me a little over $30 in fees, the underwriting department at Commerce Payment Systems informs me that they can't accept my merchant account. They had me on 100% reserve so they still have the money charged to the credit cards.

So I say, fine, just backout all the transactions and I'll rebill all the cards through a different method. (Paypal, probably). Well, I'm told I can do that, using the return function on the swipe terminal. Well, when I tried that last night - after I called to check and was told this was set up ok - I'm informed by the machine that it's an invalid terminal; so I call in to the customer service number and the person on the phone informs me nobody is there in tech support, call back after 9 this morning.

So I call them up and a tech support person emails me a CSV of the redacted credit card numbers and redacted expiration dates, and I track down all of them except two, one I ran a bunch of test transactions in the 3 or 4c range just to make sure the system worked; I'll forget those. I also can't track down one for just under $6, I'll eat that if they can't credit it.

So as soon as they backout all the transactions and refund the fees charged to my corporate checking account I'll return their terminal to them. If they had a problem they should not have issued me a terminal until they were ready and able to process transactions.

Paypal may be twice as expensive at 3.5% and 30c as opposed to 1.4% + 10c and a $4.95 monthly fee, but I never had this kind of crap to deal with when I used them.

So I'm telling people to avoid Commerce Payment Systems as an acquirer for merchant credit card services. Avoid them like the plague they are.

04/03/14

Permalink 09:33:05 am, by Paul ROBINSON, 1290 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [A]

I just got my computer reassembled

I do Spring Cleaning about this time every year where I go through the junk in my room and dump the stuff I probably should have thrown away before I even got it. Things like boxes, and junk mail, papers like old bank statements. old bills and receipts, and credit union statements, mail I was going to check and never did, papers I do not need, that sort of thing. Well, the landlord helped and in his case, it means moving everything in a hurry and leaving a disaster area and a lot of things disconnected and moved. But things are a lot more organized, I have more room in my room thanks to the new storage racks, and the plastic tubs to put stuff in came yesterday, I can stack stuff vertically.

Looking at the tubs I have, some being 4 gallon and some 12 gallon, I realized I'd been making a mistake. The heavier the items, the smaller the container they should be packed in, so that blank paper and books should be in small containers, but very light things should be in large ones. My objective should be to get containers down to 20 pounds or less so I can lift and move them.

It's stupid to pack books and other heavy things in large containers so that it weighs 60, 70 or more pounds, because I can't lift it. This explains why sometimes I'm not getting stuff accessible, because I can't move the tubs to find things (and they're not properly indexed to tell me what is where) because when a tub weighs that much I can't move it without someplace to slide it because I can't lift it if it's too high and can't stack it if necessary. 20 pounds is not difficult to move with one hand, even given my disabilities.

The landlord came by and removed a combination dresser and storage area that I was only really using for some clothes and office supplies with the TV on top of it, that in theory I could put in a slide shelf under my bed or leave the closet door open and move the clothes in there. TV moves to an end table at the foot of my bed. This opens up at least 30 square feet of space in my room, because I can move my desk over to the space and move the storage rack where my desk was. This makes my room a lot bigger, which technically now it is.

My desk became a collection zone for everything and is a rats nest of wiring. New policy: no more crap loading of the desk. just what has to be there. So I disconnect everything and only put the stuff I need on the desk. That consists of the Uninterruptible Power Supply ("UPS") (550 VA, about the size of a couple of paperback books), my monitor (17" LCD flatscreen), my mouse (wheel with 3 buttons) and keyboard (with multimedia buttons and volume dial), my KVM (capacity to connect 4 computers to one VGA monitor and USB mouse and USB keyboard), my desk lamp (1600 lumens, 23-watt Compact Fluorescent, equivalent to a 100 watt incandescent bulb) and my desk telephone (wireless portable using VOIP from Magic Jack, I just renewed my contract, another 5 years of unlimited calls to USA and Canada for $99.95 or the equivalent of less than $2 a month), plus occasionally a cell phone, my credit card swipe reader, and a tape dispenser.

I came to the realization, I'm not a hoarder - I will throw stuff away when I discover I don't need it or it's unnecessary or superfluous - I'm just disorganized and a procrastinator, I get letters and such, and instead of handling the letter and either scanning, filing or trashing the contents I set it aside and eventually stuff piles up. But now I have the boxes and shelving that I can organize, put stuff away and label the bins, totes and boxes with what's in them, so when I need 8½" x 11" 28 pound paper (as opposed to 20 pound) I can pull that out. (When you are writing a nice letter, a thicker bond paper like 24# or 28#, (and I have both) adds a touch of class.) Paper stays clean and stuff isn't wasted.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

So, anyway, I get the computer reassembled on the new clean desk (literally clean; I cleared the desk off completely and wiped it down with sanitary wetwipes as well as wipe the dust off the face of the monitor. The desk probably hasn't been cleared since I moved in 4½ years ago. So the system unit moves from the table next to the desk to under the table, the laser printer stays on the printer table mounted underneath the desk, the KVM connects the mouse, keyboard and monitor to the computer, the computer plugs into the UPS on a Y-pigtail along with the monitor so they both together only use one plug on the 'battery' side of the UPS (leaving 3 battery-backed up sockets available), while an extension cord plugs into one of the sockets on the surge suppressor side of the UPS, desk phone charger, power supply for a 10-socket USB hub (A nice big one with lots of sockets and its own power supply makes a big help when you have a USB-powered speakers, an external hard drive, a desktop laser printer and one or more USB-powered cell phones that can be plugged into it for power) and credit card terminal plug into that. A second of the four surge suppressor sockets takes the desk phone, and the third takes another cell phone charger (all different models, some USB and some not; I don't always have all the USB interconnectors to charge them from my computer but I usually have the plug-in charger.

I plug the power cord into the back of the monitor, plug the other cord into the computer, plug the hub and the KVM video connector and the usb connector from the KVM for the mouse and keyboard into the computer, plug the $9 Tenda wireless USB wifi adapter into the computer, plug the Magic Jack device into the computer so my desk phone will work, which uses all of the 4 available USB slots on the back, turn the monitor on, press the button on the KVM to select this computer, then press the on button for the computer.

Then watch as it bursts into flame and burns the house down.

Nothing, just a standard start up as the monitor light turns from yellow to green and the ACER logo on the bootstrap appears, Windows 7 starts up, the startup sound plays and the computer comes back on, just as it has for the past two years, all it knows is it's been turned off for three days, same as it was when I went to my sister's place for Thanksgiving and again on Christmas. Clock is correct, date is right, and I'm back up and running to check my mail and discover I have 400 messages, most being stuff from various mailing lists I monitor for interesting things, that most can be trashed unread.

Life is back to normal again, but a little neater, more room and a lot less clutter. Time to go buy more stuff and fill the room up with additional crap! Err, I mean useful things and office supplies.

Except I can't figure out what I did with the remote control for the TV; right now all I can do until I find where I left it is watch MSNBC. It has to turn up eventually, the room is only 10x20, it can't have gone far, but when you have both around and 'up' storage there are a lot of places where stuff can hide.

10/08/13

Permalink 11:11:08 pm, by Paul ROBINSON, 915 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [A]

Liability insurance is cheaper than I thought

The State of Arizona uses its own bid portal to post requests for bids for stuff it wants to buy. One of the things the Department of Corporations has put out is a request for a replacement web portal for its system for accepting customer registrations of corporations and LLCs plus related services like filing of documents related to their establishment or change in status, which is to a large degree a manual, paper-driven process.

The state essentially wants a way to handle the whole enchilada through a web portal, allowing registrants to enter data on-line, supply credit card or deposit information, allow people to get a certificate of good standing, copies of filed documents, etc., all as self-service.

This is something the State of Colorado has had since at least 2007; the system Colorado runs is actually better than the two big states for incorporating, Nevada and Delaware have. You can set up a corporation in Colorado with three things; a web browser, a street address in Colorado and a major credit or debit card with $75. Fill out the form, supply the address where the corporation's registered agent is located, give your card number and in ten minutes, boom! you have a corporation or LLC chartered. Plus, Colorado allows something I've not seen with any other state. A corporation or LLC can be its own registered agent.

Well, anyway, apparently without knowing about Colorado's system, the State of Arizona wants to do something similar to what Colorado already has. And what's interesting is that Arizona will need something to handle the fact that while corporations and LLCs are chartered with the Department, fictitious names and state trademark and state servicemark registrations are made with the Secretary of State. (Colorado's Secretary of State does all three: trademarks/servicemarks, fictitious names and corporation/LLC charters.) So the Department is going to require that the provider of their solution be able to interface with the system run by the Arizona Secretary of State to query their databases to check new corporations against existing trademark or tradename registrations, as well as train Department employees in use of the new system, so it can't simply be a software shipment, it's going to require customization and training, which means a vendor will have to be onsite there.

This means in addition to having contractor employees be protected by Worker's Compensation, the vendor also has to carry liability insurance. The State of Arizona requires a policy with $1,000,000 in the usual protections, but also requires $2,000,000 general liability. From some place else I stumbled upon Hiscox, a business insurer that specifically handles liability for small business, especially technology companies like software developers. They cover things like claims of copyright infringement, patent infringement, damage to customer property, damages due to misconduct by employees and contractors, etc.

Well, Hiscox's website can only provide a quote for insurance up to $1,000,000. I have to call their 800 number to get a quote for $2,000,000. Presuming I can get it.

Sometimes you can only buy so much. When I drove, the mandatory minimum insurance coverage was $15,000/$25,000/$50,000 but I bought the maximum Geico would sell me, which was $300,000/$300,000/$300,000, because the difference in premium was $20 each 6 months. Some people have such bad driving or accident records they either can't get more than state minimum or have to go to high risk to get coverage at all.

So the rate the woman on the phone at Hiscox quotes me for a complete business policy with $1,000,000 in coverage with $2,000,000 in general liability is $750 a year. To cover a contract potentially worth probably $100,000 that isn't bad at all, and if I had to get it I could buy it on a monthly basis. It's a little too big a contract for me to handle as a single-person software company, but at least I know if I find one that's within my capacity the liability insurance isn't as bad as I feared it might be. I was afraid it was going to be more like $2,000 or $3,000. If I could get it that high, that is.

When Texaco bought Getty Oil, Pennzoil had an agreement to buy the company and sued Texaco for tortuous interference in talking Getty into breaking its agreement to be sold to them. A jury in the case of Pennzoil v. Texaco found in favor of Pennzoil and issued what was then, the largest judgment in a liability case: ten billion dollars. Well, Texaco wanted to appeal. Bad comes to worse, Texaco is a huge company, if it lost it could pay, but to appeal, Texaco must file a bond issued by an insurance company for twice the amount of the judgment.

Only problem was that Texaco couldn't find anyone to write the bond. Or any consortium like Lloyds of London. In fact, if Texaco had stripped the complete and total worldwide capacity of the entire insurance industry it still could not get a bond for US$20,000,000,000. Using a precedent involving the NAACP, Texaco was able to go back to the court and post a bond consisting of a billion dollars of its own stock as collateral for the appeal, since it was physically impossible for it to obtain a bond of the size of the original requirement at all.

So I wanted to make sure, it's possible with the small size of my company I couldn't find a commercial insurer willing to write a $2,000,000 bond. But it was simply if I can afford it, and it's not as expensive as I thought it would be.

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Welcome to My blog! This is where I store my thoughts so that I can come back to them at some point in the future. This allows me a place like a journal to keep what I'm thinking about. But anyone else is welcome to visit; I make this place public so that other people can hear what I'm thinking.

This is where I make comments on any subject I find of interest. My political comments are in the Politics section, and technical items are in the Computers section. Note, if you want to make a comment, e-mail it to me at paul@paul-robinson.us. I am sorry that I had to disable comments, but after I had deleted the 300th worthless piece of spam comment on this blog and receiving exactly zero valid comments, I decided to stop allowing spammers to excrement all over me and my blog. If you have *anything* at all to say, send it to me in e-mail; if it is even the slightest bit relevant - even if I don't agree with it, I will post it. (As soon as I find a way to stop spammers from posting junk I'll allow direct comments.) Note that if you are a visitor and post a comment, it defaults to "draft" meaning I have to approve it before it is visible, so if you're posting spam, don't bother, nobody will see it.

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