Archive for February, 2011

Getting Back The Missing Arrow In Windows Vista Start Menu

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Regular users of Windows Vista would be used to the following Start menu:

START-ArrowPresent_200w

Standard Windows Vista Start Menu (includes white arrow at bottom right)

By hovering the mouse over the small white arrow on the bottom right, the following menu listing Shut Down, Restart, and other options is exposed.

START-Shutdown

A couple of weeks ago, I suddenly found a slightly different Start menu on my PC.

START-ArrowMissing_200w

My Non-Standard Windows Vista Start Menu (white arrow missing!)

As you can see, the white arrow is missing, thereby rendering the Shut Down menu invisible.

Initially, I used to switch to the Classic Start menu whenever I wanted to shut down my computer. I later discovered that I could invoke the Shut Down menu by holding the mouse slightly to the right of the Lock icon.

I quickly realized that this was a very inconvenient method. For whenever I was trying to shut down the PC before leaving home for my office or my office for a meeting outside, if I clicked the mouse even slightly to the left of where I should have, the computer would lock up. This meant the loss of a few crucial minutes – at exactly the point when I’m often rushing against time to make it to the destination in time – as the computer locked up and I’d have to supply the password to unlock it, wait for Windows to resume, then try all over again by placing the mouse gingerly at the right place.

Although this wasn’t one of those show stoppers that I had to resolve on high priority, the very opposite nature of the problem – of keeping the show on even when I needed it to stop, and stop immediately! – was no less sufferable. Therefore, I was determined to find a resolution and headed to Google.

Surprisingly, no amount of Google Search helped me here. All the troubleshooting tips I could locate on the Internet pertained to tweaking the registry settings of Windows to make the Classic Start menu make way for the standard Vista Start menu, whereas my problem was a non-standard Vista Start menu!

Then, a couple of days ago, I’d the proverbial eureka moment: As I sat forlornly staring at the Start menu, it struck me that the Hibernate and Lock icons on the bottom of the Start menu were slightly larger than usual. In a rare fit of inspiration, I realized that the problem might have something to do with the display size of my PC. When I checked, I found that – for whatever reason (malware?) – the font size was different from its default value of 96 DPI.

From there to resolution of the problem involved the following short steps:

Windows Desktop > Right Click > Display Settings > Adjust font size (DPI) > Default scale (96 DPI) > Restart Computer

Finally, after a couple of irksome weeks, my Start menu has been restored to its standard Vista style, and I can see the white arrow again. Let me celebrate by taking a break and shutting down my computer – now that it’s so easy to do so!

But, before I go, let me leave readers with this thought: Are there any image-based search engines – unlike Google Search, which works on keywords – that would match images across different websites? If so, won’t they considerably speed up troubleshooting of problems like these that involve pictures and are somewhat difficult to describe completely with words? (As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and all that). Turns out that there are a couple that could do a better job than Google, but that’s a blog post for another day.

Facebook & Unintended Consequences

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Being a social network revolving around an individual’s personal life, Facebook’s allure to consumer goods companies and B2C brands has been obvious.

But, when it came to B2B, I never “got” Facebook.

Like Stanley Bing in The big yawn, Facebook’s emphasis on friend has always made me wonder, ‘what do we mean by the word “friend”?’ when you’re dealing with businesses. Standard friend-centered arguments in favor of doing Facebook didn’t seem too relevant in the business-to-business world where customers and other business partners are not exactly friends in the conventional sense of the term. In any case, the extra efforts of creating a Facebook page and keeping it updated regularly didn’t seem worthwhile considering the amount of time already spent on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Fast forward to around two months ago when I heard from more than one trusted and authoritative source that Facebook delivers unintended consequences – mostly favorable – even in technology and other B2B settings.

Curious to explore this facet, I recently dove deep into Facebook.

And I must say that I’m pleased with the initial results.

fb01_250wWithin a week of blundering about inside my Facebook Wall – I must admit that I’m still not proficient in it – I happened to find out that my alma mater SIES College in Bombay recently celebrated a reunion of its alumni. Since I’ve been out of touch with virtually everyone from my batch of First Year Junior College at SIES, I’d have never known about this event but for Facebook.

Besides providing an excellent opportunity for networking with ex-batchmates, the reunion was also a great occasion to catch up with old friends after 26 years. And, since I was anyway in Bombay that week to attend the IIT Bombay Class of 85 Silver Jubilee Reunion, attending the SIES reunion didn’t even demand any additional travel.

If only I’d logged on to Facebook a week or two earlier, I’d have enjoyed the ‘unintended consequence’ of learning about this event and could have benefited by attending it.

In Favor Of Paper Statements

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

I consider myself to be an above-average user of e-commerce, online stock trading and Internet Banking. However, when it comes to statements, I’ve a very strong preference for paper – to the extent that I recently threatened to cancel a credit card issued by a bank if they continued to delay mailing paper statements under the pretext that they were sending me e-statements on time.

Resistance to change is admittedly one reason why I might prefer paper statements. However, I’d like to deflect some of the blame to the current state of e-statement technology and the regulatory environment.

  1. With identity theft on the rise, banks and others keep advising us to check our statements carefully and spot any false transactions. Doing this is very easy with a highlighter and a paper statement. How do I do this with an e-statement that typically comes in the form of a non-editable PDF file?
  2. It’s a pain to remember some account credentials – ex: last four digits of the account #, date of birth in a specified format, etc. – that are required to open e-statements. In terms of convenience, opening an envelope and reading a paper statement trumps e-statements any day.
  3. During its recent process of reviewing my company’s application for a business account, PayPal asked us to submit paper statements to establish proof of my company’s address. It specifically said, “online statements cannot be accepted”.  If a pure play web-based company like PayPal insists on paper statements – no doubt owing to regulatory reasons – you can imagine the situation with brick-and-mortar companies. Besides, almost everyone asks for proof documents not older than 3-6 months. Therefore, a “green” workaround like paper statement for one month followed by e-statements for the reminder of the year, simply won’t work.

    paypal02_300w

    PayPal says no to online statements!

Against this backdrop, I’m not surprised to learn from a recent FORRESTER report titled “Paperless Plight: Growing Resistance Outpaces Adoption Among US Bank Account Holders” that the percentage of US bank account holders who have given up paper statements averages just 24%. Furthermore, as high as “37% of account holders who receive a paper statement today say they will never abandon paper in favor of online statements” (italics mine).

Unless there’s a drastic change in e-statement technology and in the regulatory environment, banks can count me among the 37%.

Loyalty Or Disloyalty Programs?

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Despite several new malls and stores opening up in the last seven years that I’ve been living in Pune, India, I’ve been a loyal shopper at one of India’s pioneering retailer. Good ambience, adequate assortment of products, reasonable prices, and, above all, a loyalty card that gives me reward points every time I shop there – these are the main reasons why I’ve been  fulfilling almost 100% of my needs around clothing and electronics from this retailer for the past decade or so.

In between, since I was living abroad, I hadn’t visited this retailer for close to two years. But the first time I wanted to buy some clothes upon my return to India, I remembered this retailer and visited one of their stores. After picking up a couple of shirts and trousers, I reached the checkout counter and presented my credit card along with the loyalty card. Lo and behold, I was told that my loyalty card had expired due to non-usage for two years, and that I had to re-apply for another card. My immediate reaction was, when banks and others could offer the facility of reactivating dormant accounts, why couldn’t this retailer do the same with their loyalty card? With the kind of choice that I now have, shouldn’t they be glad that I thought of them first – and not any of the other stores – when I wanted to buy something that they sold? Did this retailer expect me to visit their store when I was abroad just to keep my loyalty card active?

No prizes for guessing what I did: I dropped the goods at the counter and just walked out of the store. And, thanks to this retailer’s foolish behavior, I got a chance to check out some of the other malls and stores that have cropped up on the scene during the decade that I was loyal to this retailer. Since I liked what I saw at these new places, I’m unlikely to ever return to this retailer in future.

I can’t miss the irony of how a loyalty program, when poorly managed, can breed disloyalty.

UPDATE: Since writing this post, I’ve come across some retailers in the US leveraging mobile phones in novel ways to make enrolment to loyalty programs extremely frictionless. In one case, after making the payment for your purchase, you let the billing clerk know your mobile phone number. You receive a text message within seconds with an offer that you can redeem on your next visit. No form to fill. No nothing. The retailer has enrolled you to their loyalty program using your mobile number as the unique identifier. As simple as that!