Mortgage nightmare

September 10th, 2015

This is a rant that is not about computers, but is about a trying experience my wife and I are going through.

Buying a new house? Don’t use William Lyon Mortgage.

About 4 months ago we signed a contract to buy a new house. The builder offered us a discount if we used their preferred lender, so of course we accepted. Big mistake.

Throughout this process this lender has assured us that everything was on track for us to close on time. This in spite of the fact that they don’t seem to be able to keep anything straight. They have repeatedly asked for the same documents, and they have been unable to keep various facts straight, asking for non-existent information. They have also asked for documents that are none of their business, like my mother’s bank statement because she gave us a one-time gift – she isn’t helping us buy the house.

This last week has been the worst. Just over a week ago we got a list of “final sign off conditions”, including as usual items that don’t exist or don’t apply. We provided either the items requested or explanations of why they didn’t apply. This “final” list has been followed by more and more requests and duplicates. One request was for a new copy of a document that had been in their possession for about a month and a half and that they had just discovered was unusable; because we had not expected to be asked for a copy of it, our copy is in storage and thus inaccessible, yet we were asked multiple times – after explaining that we cannot access it – for various parts of it.

Today was the culmination of the mis-management of our attempt to get a home loan. Again we were assured that, with one more piece of documentation, we would be able to close today. Again, this request was followed by more, always with the assurance that we were on track. Until this afternoon. The requests kept coming, and we were told that we should not count on closing today. Nevertheless, we went to the bank to get a check for the closing, hoping that they would get it together and we could squeak the closing in by the end of the day. We were finally told that no, there was no chance of closing today, and they are now demanding a piece of documentation that will probably take at least a couple of weeks to get.

So we are left high and dry. We have no house, since we sold our old house in preparation for buying the new one. We had several deliveries scheduled for tomorrow, which we could not cancel in time; so I will be wasting time waiting for the deliveries to arrive so that I can tell the delivery crews that we cannot accept our stuff yet (who knows how much extra expense we will incur because of that). We don’t know when, or if, this company will live up to their promises and provide us with the funding they have assured us would be no problem.

I know that this is a long rant, but it is all true, and right my level of frustration and anger is about as high as it has ever been. I was planning on today being a very happy day, and instead it has turned into a nightmare. I doubt that this will do any good, but I just needed to get it off of my chest.

No spam!

August 30th, 2015

If you are not trying to abuse my site, you don’t need to read any further; this message is not for you.

To a few of you out there:

This blog is NOT a venue for you to promote your business, try to spread malware, or otherwise abuse my system. I pay for this site, not you. Any business promotion will be mine, you can pay for your own site. I approve EVERY post and comment before it is allowed to be shown, so you are wasting your time and mine. When I am reviewing posts and comments I am very aggressive in declaring something to be spam. If it isn’t in English, I can’t read it, so it is spam and will not be allowed. If you don’t have something relevant to say, don’t bother trying to post on my site. Go somewhere else. So far less than one percent of the attempted posts have made it past my screening process. I am taking the time to screen the comments not to prevent people from expressing their opinion (I will not block a post for that reason), but to protect my readers from malicious content and links. In fact, if you disagree with me please enter a comment. Who knows, you might even change my mind.

 

For those who have posted something other than spam, Thank you! If you would like to start a new post (rather than just a comment on one of mine) then leave me a request in a comment and a sample of what you would like to post. I will review it and, if it is acceptable to me, I will allow you to post.

To those of you who have posted spam, Get lost!

I was the (intended) victim of a computer scam

June 5th, 2015

You may have heard about the scam artists who call and claim to be getting error messages from your computer. Well, I just got one of those calls. Boy did he get a wrong number!!

He claimed that his company does support for all versions of Windows, and that I am the registered user. He wouldn’t tell me what I am supposed to be registered for, and I had never heard of the company name he gave me (no surprise there!). I just kept asking for details, and for him to speak slowly so that I could understand him through his accent. He skirted the questions, and never would tell me what product I was the “registered user” of. I could hear him getting frustrated, and finally he just hung up.

I guess I could have had more fun and strung him along more. Maybe next time I’ll try to really confuse whoever calls by getting on a Linux (instead of Windows) machine!

Please: If you get a call out of the blue claiming that some company is getting error messages from your computer, be very suspicious. Your ISP (Internet Service Provider, e.g. the cable or phone company) might call you if your computer is affecting their network. Microsoft and IBM never will. What these people want to do is 1) Get your credit card information and charge you a lot of money (and they won’t do anything that will help you); and 2) Install a “back door” to allow them continued access to your computer, or other malware (Malicious Software).

Something else that I expect would put them off is to ask them for a call-back number; I doubt that any of these callers will give you one, it would make them too easy to track down.

Going from Windows 8 to Windows 7

August 1st, 2013

If you have looked in the store at new computers recently, you are undoubtedly aware that they all come with Windows 8. While Windows 8 seems to be popular with younger users, it seems to be very unpopular with those of us who are older. So the question that I get is “What are my options?”

One option is to purchase your computer directly from a manufacturer or a computer store that builds custom computers. In this way you may have the opportunity to purchase a computer with Windows 7 installed instead of Windows 8. However, this can be daunting to many people, since most people are not sure what they should order.

Another option is Microsoft’s “downgrade” option. If the version of Windows 8 that is preinstalled on your computer is at least the professional version (not a home version), then you can use the Windows 8 license with Windows 7. If the computer comes with Windows 8 home preinstalled, then you do not have any downgrade rights, and you will need to purchase a new Windows 7 license in order to convert the computer from Windows 8 to Windows 7. This is likely to cost from $100-$200 if you have a professional do the install for you.

Downgrading a Windows 8 computer to Windows 7 presents several challenges. The first challenge is getting a copy of Windows 7 to install on the computer. If you are downgrading the home version of Windows 8, and have purchased a copy of Windows 7 on disk, the problem is solved. However, if you are using the downgrade rights for Windows 8 professional, you cannot go to the store and get a disk with Windows 7 without paying the full cost of the desk, which defeats the purpose of downgrading using your existing license. For this scenario, you need to find somebody who has a generic version of Windows 7, not a recovery disk from a Windows 7 computer.

The next challenge that I have run into is rather technical. Hard drives are partitioned into one or more logical drives, such as the C: drive that we are all used to. In addition, the hard drive installed in your computer normally includes what is known as a recovery partition, that contains everything needed to restore the computer to factory new condition. This recovery partition may or may not be hidden, so you may not see it in the list of drives on your computer. Microsoft has made some changes to their requirements for computer manufacturers with Windows 8. In my experience so far with new Windows 8 computers, there are three main effects of these changes. First, the way that the hard drive is partitioned is incompatible with previous versions of Windows; as a result, in order to downgrade it is necessary to erase the entire hard drive, including the recovery partition. Second, the way that the computer now boots does not allow for booting from a CD or DVD without changing some system settings,  presenting a problem for both system recovery and installing an operating system other than Windows 8. Third, because you can no longer boot off of a CD or DVD, you must use a USB drive to create your recovery media; anything already on this drive will be erased, and a suitable drive is more expensive than blank DVDs would be.

So what does all of this mean for me? While it is certainly possible to replace Windows 8 on a new computer with Windows 7, it is not as easy a process as it has been with previous versions of Windows. Before undertaking this project, you must first decide whether you might want at sometime in the future to restore the computer to Windows 8. If that is a possibility, then you need to get a USB drive to create your recovery media. Next, if you are downgrading from Windows 8 professional, you must be certain that you have the software key for the installed copy of Windows 8 to be used to activate Windows 7. Finally, you must change the basic computer settings to allow the computer to boot off of the Windows 7 disk. The exact method for doing this varies from computer model to model, so it is impossible for me to tell you in this article how to accomplish this.

The prospect of undertaking this project is frightening for many people. Unless you are very comfortable with modifying basic settings on your computer, I highly recommend that you have a professional undertake this project for you. In an effort to not get to technical in this article, I have skipped over some other aspects that could cause problems. While many of you could certainly deal with these potential problems, is that something that you really want to do yourself?

Windows 8 Consumer Preview

March 13th, 2012

Microsoft has released the first consumer version of Windows 8, and I have been testing it. Based on what I have seen so far, and assuming that Microsoft doesn’t make some significant changes, I recommend that most people with older computers start planning on buying a new PC with Windows 7 before Microsoft cuts off access and requires new PCs to have Windows 8. Most reviews that I have read in the trade publications are also pointing out the problems with Windows 8 as it stands now (March 2012).

There are some improvements in the new version. For instance, the time from turning on the PC to being able to log in is much shorter than with previous versions. This is somewhat misleading, however; Windows is still loading programs in the background, so you may not actually be able to start working much sooner than in earlier versions of Windows. And, as usual, the new Windows is reported to be more secure than  previous versions.

However, Microsoft has decided that the user interface (called “Metro”) should be the same on desktop/laptop computers as on phones/tablets. While I have not seen an actual Windows phone with the latest version, I have seen pictures that make me believe that the result of Microsoft’s decision is a system that doesn’t really work well on either type of device. In the pictures I have seen it appears that you only get about a half dozen app icons on the screen at a time. On the desktop, you get the same type of large icons (called “tiles”), resulting in only a few icons being visible at a time.

While the tiles can be moved around, and some of them can be either small or large (twice as wide as a small one), I still find the arrangement of tiles to be cumbersome. They are arranged in columns that are two small or one large icon wide. When you add more tiles than will fit in one column (five rows in my experience), the excess tiles are moved to the next column. When you install a regular Windows program, instead of getting a group on the Start button menu, ALL of the icons for that program are added to the end of the tiles on the Metro desktop – including any links to web pages and uninstall links. You can then move the tiles to where you want them if you so choose, or remove the ones you don’t want – one at a time.

You can get to a desktop like you are used to from previous versions of Windows. However, you will immediately notice that something is missing: the Start button. It’s not hidden, it simply is not available. There is no way to get the same functionality. For those of us with more than a few programs, the inability to create a concise menu will be a problem.

If you have a large screen, the Metro interface eliminates its advantages. Programs designed for Metro always run in full screen mode. Forget about putting two or more application windows side by side. Not only that, but the ones I have seen so far seem to use very large fonts, so even on a large screen you can’t see very much at a time. I only have one monitor, so I don’t know how Windows 8 will work with multiple monitors.

I wonder if Microsoft isn’t going to shoot itself in the foot with this. They don’t seem to be making inroads with phones or tablets, and the Metro interface and lack of the Start button in Windows 8 might very well push users to alternate platforms like Linux or Mac computers.

If you want to try Windows 8, I suggest that you install virtual machine software like VMWare or VirtualBox to run Windows 8 without  risking your computer. This version is a beta (still in testing) version, so problems are likely to occur. You don’t want to risk your system with a test version of the operating system.

I would like to hear your feelings on this, whether you agree or disagree. Please post your comments on this entry, or post your own entry.

Welcome

January 26th, 2012

Somehow, my previous blog got lost, so I have to start over. I hadn’t done much with the blog, though, so there wasn’t much to loose.

SOPA and PIPA laws before Congress

January 26th, 2012

Media and software companies have been trying to get laws passed that would cripple the Internet and infringe even more on our freedom of speech. A concerted effort by concerned citizens has gotten one of the bills postponed for now, but the threat is still out there. If passed, any web site could be blocked (censored) in the U.S. because a company claims that it promotes online piracy (or engages in any other copyright violation), or even if it links to a site that they claim promotes piracy. Think of the effect on you if your web site was taken down because a company claimed you somehow violated their copyright, without even having to go to court or provide any evidence! Don’t think it could happen? Many sites, such as YouTube, have already been required to take down content solely on the word of a media company – no day in court or any other controls – even when it has later been determined that there was no infringement.

To bolster their claims of why they “need” these bills, industry spokespeople have been making claims of great losses, but these claims have not been backed up by ANY credible research or information. Here is an article on InfoWorld that describes some of these inflated claims: Scam: SOPA advocates’ claims about piracy costs.

These same companies are trying to eliminate “fair use”, which has always existed in copyright law. Fair use is the principal that allows you to copy music that you have purchased onto your own devices for your own use (but not to distribute it to other people). It allows you to quote part of an article or book for something that you write. It allows you to write a parody of another work. But under laws already passed, as well as laws that media companies are trying to get passed, those rights that we still have would go away. For instance, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) it is alreadyillegal for you to circumvent copy protection measures, even for uses that would already be legal. In effect, this allows the publishers to write their own laws – if they want something to be illegal, they just distribute it in digital form with copy protection. They can make something illegal that Congress has refused to make illegal.

They are also constantly trying to get the scope of copyright extended. Copyright now prevents actions that used to be legal, and the media companies are not satisfied yet. For instance, Associated Press recently claimed that anybody who copies more than five words from one of their articles has to purchase a license from them, which not only costs the person quoting the article, but their license terms define what you cannot say in what you write. Think about it – many headlines are more than five words. They are trying to define what is fair use, rather than allowing the courts to decide. If they get their way, nobody would be able to write anything without permission from numerous sources, because everything would already be copyrighted. Try to find a phrase that isn’t in some work already published; I bet you can’t come up with one. I hope the politicians think of this the next time a vote comes up for a law extending copyright, or they will have to get permission from these companies in order to make any speeches!