Category Archives: Recent Activity

Business Lease for PC Equipment Bundles Interesting Charges

More or less on a whim, I decided to try out the business lease option when purchasing a recent desktop/portable system through the Fujitsu online store last month. From this disclosure, you may guess that the remarks that follow pertain to my recently-acquired Fujitsu Stylistic Q704 Tablet PC, for whose purchase I cut my deal with a company named the Marlin Business Bank, a firm that apparently specializes in such deals. Today, I just got my first invoice in the 24-month installment plan that will pay off the machine, and for one extra dollar, make it all mine. I also set up my online account, and made an electronic payment from my checking account to the leaseholder, Marlin.


Is it too cynical of me too find something “fishy” about the institution’s name?

Surprise, Surprise: Hidden Charges Surface
When I purchased the unit, I was told that my monthly payments would be something on the order of $135 a month to pay off the PC. Imagine my surprise, when I discovered the following items in that first invoice:

  • a $95 “documentation fee”
  • a charge for $27.06 that appeared in the late payment charges column of my invoice, but which was explained to me on a phone call to Marlin based on the very reasonable question of “How can I be late when this is my very first payment, and it’s not due until early March?” as an “added charge” for which no pre-printed column was available on their invoice form. The very nice phone support person was never able to adequately explain exactly what that charge was for, but made it very clear that it must be paid! I decided to let that slide this month, but if it’s a recurring item, I will most assuredly raise a ruckus about this. I won’t know until next month’s invoice appears in my mailbox.
  • a monthly, recurring charge for insurance of $18.02 (which translates into $216.24 per year) on a total purchase of around $2,800 represents approximately 7.72 percent of that price to protect Marlin’s investment in my office equipment. I already pay $440 a year for up to $40,000 of computing gear on my homeowner’s policy and resent being forced to pay about half that amount for less than 10% of the same coverage (twice).

It’s Just Like Momma Warned Me: “Things Aren’t Always What They Seem”
I can’t say I’m devastated to now understand fully that what I thought would involve about $135 a month looks like it will be more like $150-something. When financing anything, it’s always the little things that sneak in after the deal is done that bump up the monthly charges. But dang! You’d think that credit disclosure laws would force such companies to spell out explicitly and directly what the monthly charges will be, and also to list out all the one-time charges as well. The bottom line is that what I thought would cost me $3K instead of $2.8K is going to be more like $3.5K (or more) by the time the lease is paid off.

Fortunately, I learned that the lease carries no pre-payment penalties, so I can get out of the monthly “extras” (but not the interest over the life of the lease) by paying it off early. I’m going to check the state of our various accounts and then discuss this with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who I’m sure will agree with me that paying this note off early is our best way out of a sticky situation. Live and learn, my friends — and please, check those lease terms carefully, and ask in advance about one-time and add-on charges!



Interesting USB Access Issue on Fujitsu Q704 Worked Around

I’m still breaking in — or rather, getting to know in depth — my latest Windows 8.1 tablet. Somewhat annoyingly, the Fujitsu Q704 stops “seeing” a USB flash drive (UFD for short)  plugged into the keyboard dock once the machine has been idle for half an hour or longer. Continue reading Interesting USB Access Issue on Fujitsu Q704 Worked Around


Interesting Adventures with New Fujitsu Q704 Tablet/Convertible

Having secured permission from the Chancellor of the Exchequer (aka, “The Boss” — namely, my wife Dina) I recently purchased a new Fujitsu Windows tablet convertible, model Stylistic Q704 Hybrid Tablet PC with the keyboard dock/extra battery option. The price came in at over $2K, which is kinda painful for a 12.5″ tablet, but when the Boss said I could go for it, go for it I did. Now I’m learning to live with it. Here’s a snazzy publicity still:

fujitsu-q704jpg Continue reading Interesting Adventures with New Fujitsu Q704 Tablet/Convertible


Grrrrrr: I HATE Tagalong Software

In the past two weeks, I’ve set up half a dozen PCs, mostly in the wake of clean installing or upgrading them to Windows 8.1. Along the way, I’ve encountered numerous software elements that seek to get users to install additional software programs so they can get access to sometimes essential plug-ins, programs, and other stuff.

To be more specific, I’ve encountered the Ask toobar and search replacement items along with adding Java to those machines, as well as the AVG toolbar and search tab insertion into most Web browsers (which means Chrome, IE, and Firefox on my production PC, and also includes Safari and Opera on other machines as well) for Adobe Flash player (here’s a whole list of vendors who include the AVG Toolbar as part of their product installs).


Booting the Secure Search tab in Chrome proved to be quite an effort.

I got stuck in a particularly nasty uninstall problem with AVG Secure Search and Chrome, in fact. I used Revo Uninstaller to get rid of the installed elements, and then had to go into the Web browsers to root AVG Secure Search out of their defaults and settings, one at a time. My issue with Chrome persisted until I realized that the “On Startup” item in Settings provides the ability to add multiple tabs when the program starts up. That was where the remaining invocation of AVG Secure Search remained untouched and unstopped, until I figured out I had to manually delete that entry from that part of the browser configuration.

I understand that companies often partner up when offering free and popular or widely-used software to the public, and permit third parties with money to spend on purchasing installs who feel like they have something to gain by paying to come along for that ride. But what I don’t understand is why some of those third parties feel like they have to resist user attempts to avoid such maneuvers, sometimes to the point of making such installs feel more like drive-by malware than like legitimate commercial software.

I have long regarded AVG as among the best of the free malware protection makers, and their consistently high ratings from Virus Bulletin, PC Magazine, and so forth indicate that their malware suite is decent software. I am dismayed that they would use their knowledge of how software hides from users against the very users they so ardently seek to protect.

I feel the same way about any tagalong items that don’t clearly advertise their presence and provide clear, obvious, and usable opt-out mechanisms so users don’t end up installing software on their machines that they don’t really want. I don’t exactly love the idea of having to watch installers closely at all times on vigilant lookout for opt-out messages when they appear, either, but it definitely beats having to take the extra software as a consequence of the software you want, and then having to uninstall and clean up after the unwanted stuff manually after the initial install is ended.



Whoa! Strange (and I mean StR@NgE) contortions required to resolve Window device issue

Here’s a list of instructions that I had to follow on my Lenovo X200 Tablet, to remove an issue with the WAN miniport (#2 and #3) drivers on that machine, whose failure to load up and register properly also rendered Bluetooth inoperable on that machine when running Windows 8 (or 8.1, as you might expect; this material is fully documented in KB article 2871372):


Who came up with this mysterious fix, and how they did figure this out? Wowie-zowie!

  1. Open Device Manager.
  2. Right-click the WAN miniport (Network monitor) device, and then click Update Driver Software.
  3. Click Browse my computer for driver software.
  4. Click Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer.
  5. Clear the Show compatible hardware check box.
  6. In the column on the left side, select Microsoft, and in the column on the right side, select Microsoft KM-TEST Loopback Adapter.
  7. In the Update Driver Warning dialog box, click Yes to continue installing this driver.
  8. After the driver is installed, right-click the device, and then click Uninstall.
  9. After the device is uninstalled, right-click the computer name in Device Manager, and then click Scan for hardware changes.
  10. On the View menu, click Show hidden devices.

The WAN Miniport (Network monitor) device should now be started and no longer have a yellow exclamation mark next to it.

For reasons that go way beyond my ken but that I find egregiously irritating, this bit of mumbo-jumbo actually worked! To me, it seems almost like turning widdershins thrice, hopping on one foot, while making an incantation, to try to make something happen. Arthur C. Clarke said that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and I’m damned if I can really tell what’s up here, other than the bizarre reality that installing and then uninstalling a nugatory driver actually results in proper recognition of the underlying hardware, and automatic installation of the correct driver when the next hardware rescan occurs.

There is just a glimmer of a suggestion of what’s really going on here in the “Resolution” section of the related KB article. It says that MS Update 2822241 must be “integrated with” (which I believe means slipstreamed into) the installation image (WIM file, probably) used during setup of Windows 8 for target hardware to avoid these contortions. That tells me that the update rollup in that particular update file somehow fixes the issues discussed in 2871372, even though it’s not specifically called out in the “Issues that this update fixes” in its supporting documentation.

What galls me about this fix (which I’m very grateful to have found, and am now able to use Bluetooth devices on the X220 Tablet) is that it’s so very arcane and non-intuitive. I’m able to address most driver issues in Windows on my own, with a bit of elbow grease, and lots of odd and interesting techniques for extracting driver files from installers for software that won’t run on my systems. I’m OK with that, and have learned how to cope. But installing a loopback driver, and then removing it, to provoke a proper hardware scan for device recognition? The mind reels…