Adobe Acrobat Reader

I tried to install Adobe Acrobat Reader on my Sun Ultra 1 running Solaris 2.5.1. Adobe's web page says that it is supported. However, their install script says it isn't. I am unimpressed. It does work fine on my PC running Windows 95 as well as Windows NT. Guess I won't be looking at any PDF's at work Adobe. Do the math...

I know that Adobe does the font thing, and their fonts look really groovy when printed. But they generally display virtually unreadable fonts on the CRT. I have a 19 inch monitor at work that I am running at 1280*1024 pixels. Even when I blow up some output so each character is really big, it looks like crap. Gives me a headache to read. And there is no way to change the fonts to something readable. You would think a clever system independent thing like Acrobat would be clever enough to have the option to use readable fonts as well as the exact, but unreadable fonts. Give me a plain text file any day.

I installed Adobe Acrobat Reader version 8.1 on a pc running windows xp. It turns out that you have to have administrator rights in order to run it. I verified this by running it from an account without administrator rights, and it failed. Next, I enabled administrator rights on that account, and it worked. This is very sloppy work Adobe. This was unacceptable 10 years ago, and now with Vista, it is a sure way to loose market share.

Amazon Cloud Player

I found a bug with the Amazon Cloud Player. It may have security issues, so I will not describe it in detail. I reported the bug to Amazon October 18th. The same day I got a reply, saying they needed more information, and to please call them. This was good because they responded quickly, but this was bad because I included everything needed ro reproduce the problem in my original email. So I called the. I was told that their reply was an automatic reply, and they had nobody that could deal with technical issues (I was a bit disappointed that they didn't read my email, but at least they would escalate the issue correctly). They said they would contact me when the tech people has questions for me. I thought I was a good person, and the problem would soon be fixed. A few weeks later I checked to see if the problem had been fixed, and the executable had not been updated. I contacted Amazon again. I got a reply:

"The issue you are describing requires that we speak to you over the phone/chat so we can have some real-time trouble shooting to know the root cause of the issue and help you resolve the issue to your satisfaction. I realize that at this point of time asking you to contact us again would be disappointing, however, we would really like to assist you better. Your patience and understanding is highly appreciated in this matter. Cloud Player specialists can be reached by phone or chat 24 hours a day, seven days a week using the following link:"

I replied that I had already tried that, and their phone support people couldn't deal with tech issues. I got another reply:

"I've set a reminder to e-mail you back right after I received the response from our technical Department regarding our conversation today. I appreciate your patience while I continue to work on this matter."

I replied: "It has been about 20 days since I reported this bug. I have heard nothing from amazon. I am very disappointed in your support."

They replied: "In addition to our large selection, one of the benefits we try very hard to offer our customers is convenience. I'm very sorry for the inconvenience you experienced in this case. To research further in the issue we need to forward the details to our technical team, and we required some information (technical details) from you. As an email will not do justice and will just take too long. So, it may be easier for you to contact us via chat or through phone, so we can get the required information from you and forward the details to our technical team right away."


I got a reply: "I'm sorry for any trouble you had due to the Cloud Player for Desktop Application <redacted> and being unable to get adequate support. I have checked your previous correspondence with us and see that the technical team was never contacted. I have contacted the technical team with your issue so that they can try to find a resolution. The Ticket number for your issue is <redacted>. Please note that you may not be able to access this ticket directly. I also assure you that I will personally follow up with your issue and as soon as I receive any update from the technical team I will inform you of the same...."

So the bug I reported over 20 days ago has been ignored. They told me to call them, and I did, but it was an automated reply and the phone support people couldn't help me. They lied to me on the phone when they said they would send it to their technical staff. They lied to me by email when they said "I've set a reminder to e-ail you back right after I received the response from our technical Department regarding our conversation today." Now they said they really sent the bug report to the tech department. I sure hope they really did this time. I remember a few months ago when a google security researcher sent in a security bug to Microsoft and never got a reply. I found it shocking. Now I see that it isn't only Microsoft. The process for reporting bugs to Amazon is broken. Their support is broken. Perhaps after 3 weeks they will really see my bug report. I wonder how long it will take them to fix it?

Well, I looked to see if they had updated the program today and the did. The problem version was 341 and now 381 is available. Just for fun, I downloaded and installed it. It worked. It is good that they fix bugs with their software. However, they said they would contact me, and they never did. Of course, they didn't thank me for reporting the bug either...

Foxit Reader for Windows

Fortunately, there is Foxit Reader for Windows It is also free, reads pdf and it works without administrator rights. Also it uses much less memory, both on the hard drive, and when running, so it starts much faster than Adobe Acrobat Reader. Hightly Recommeneded.

AudioCatalyst 2.1

This program can do DAE (digital audio extraction) from a cd rom drive and an audio cd, and do mp3 encoding. It does support variable bit rate encoding (which I like). It is available from AudioCatalyst

AudioGrabber 1.62

This program can do DAE (digital audio extraction) from a cd rom drive and an audio cd, and do mp3 and other lossy encoding. It does not support variable bit rate encoding (which I like). It interfaces with CDDB which names the tracks on the CD. On my system (a dual processor Windows NT 4.0 server) if you go to settings and select CD-ROM access method, and specify the "Call drive via" as being Win NT/2000 calls (rather than the default ASPI manager, it wedges my machine everytime, requiring a reboot.

I consider this to be a fatal flaw.

It is available from Audiograbber


This program does DAE (digital audio extraction). It either checksums the DAE output or does the DAE twice, and checks the two copies for differences. I have used it with very good success. There are two versions, and 02 has a nicer graphical display, but wedges my machine regularly, which requires a reboot. 01 also works well, except it doesn't wedge my machine. It is freeware (as far as I can tell) and is available from CD DAE homepage

EAC (exact audio copy)

This program does DAE (digital audio extraction). It is designed to work with imperfect CD's. I have used it with very good success. It can be very slow, but works when nothing else will. It is cardware (free) and available from Exact Audio Copy

H&R Block TaxCut

There are two main PC based tax software programs, TurboTax and TaxCut. A few years ago TurboTax decided on an onerous user regristration system that was requied in order to use the software. That was the last year I used TurboTax. TaxCut is a program with generally similar functionality. I used it last year. I installed the 2005 version, and tried to run the program from a non-administrator account. I run all of my software from a non-administrator account for improved security. One of the first things that happens when you run the program is it asks to check for updates. When you do so, you get a pop-up window, saying "Couldn't create cfg file". When you click on, the program dumps with the message "TaxCut has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience. ... Please tell Microsoft about this problem." I tried to call TaxCut and was on hold for more than hour.

I tried their 'chat' program, but everyone was busy. I decided to send them email explaining the problem. I got back a reply in a few hours. It said:

Subject: Re: After Hours Request (KMM2010276I6774L0KM)
Thank you for contacting H&R Block TaxCut® Technical Support.When using Taxcut we suggest that you give yourself administrator privilages so you personal information can be accessed. Since the program only runs it allows you to secure your personal information from other users. Im sorry to inform you that there is nothing i can do about this and your information will be used for development purposes next year. Thank your for your concern.

I replied:

Get a clue. Software should not have to be run as administrator.
I will include your clueless message at
And my request was not after hours, but rather when your phone was busy
friday morning around 9am pacific time.

They don't seem to understand that not everyone is administrator. They don't understand that a program should not crash unless it has detected an inconsistent state. If for some doubtful reason it really needs to be run as administrator, it should say something like "This program was written by clods, and as a result needs to be run as Administrator. Since you are not Administrator, we need to exit now, sorry." At least that explains why there is a problem. Unfortunately this stupidity is far too common with commercial programs designed to run on Microsoft operating systems.

Intervideo WinDVD Creator

After having no luck with Sonic MyDVD I decided to try WinDVD creator (version 1.1). I tried to run it, and got the usual error message, "WinDVD Creator has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience." What that means is you have to be Administrator to run the program. Get a clue Intervideo, everyone is not Administrator. If your program is so stupid as to require it, print an error message, don't just blow up. Well when it is run as Administrator it actually will create a dvd. I am unimpressed with software that has to be run as Administrator for no good reason.

Pinnacle Studio 9

A friend told me this DVD authoring tool really worked. I installed it, and watched it try to fill up my hard drive. It tried to install about 200mbytes of samples, but by removing them, I was able to get down to a 'slim' 454 mbytes. There are many operating systems that are smaller than this...

When I tried to run it, things went well at first. When it came to render the movie, the program just kept on doing disk reads forever. Just like Sonic MyDVD and WinDVD you have to be Administrator. At least WinDVD craps out right away. Hey Pinnacle! Why do you have to be Administrator? And if you aren't, can you say 'Error Message?' So as Administrator, I ran the program. It took several hours, but it just worked. Pinnacle needs to learn what Multithreading means, but so does the vast majority of software vendors.

If you don't care about using lots of disk space for the install, lots more disk space (like 12gb) during movie making, and you don't care if it takes a long time, I recommend Pinnacle Studio 9.

Prime Com Interactive, QuickSite

This software is supposed to quickly put up a web site. I don't know how it works for that, but I do know about the company. I purchased the software from CompUSA, as it had a $15 rebate. I sent in the rebate, as I have sent in many, many other rebates. I did not get anything back.

Since I make copies of everything I send in, I called them up on their toll-free number, which referred me to a toll number. I called that number, and left a message for the president of the company Howard Levinthol. I never received a reply, nor my money.

I contacted CompUSA, as I had before for Mouse Systems, and HiVal, and after sending in my copies, CompUSA paid me. I know most software needs support, and I would never, ever buy or use anything from Prime Com Interactive. They clearly have demonstrated bad faith.

Roxio Photosuite 5

Roxio was part of Adaptec, but was spun out from Adaptec. I had used a variety of Adaptec SCSI hardware and SCSI software, and I found it was ok at first. Then it went downhill. See ez_scsi below for details.

Then Adaptec branched out, and wrote or bought a wide variety of cd recording software. There were some problems. See take_two for details. There were also numerous problems reported with different versions of direct-cd and ez-cd-creator.

Then Roxio bought Photosuite from MGI. I did have a few problems with my old copy of MGI Photosuite, so I decided to buy a newer copy. I bought version 5, which was labeled "Roxio Photosuite 5". It worked ok at first, other than a few problems.

But other than that, it worked on. Then it broke. For my black and white scans, on my expensive Epson scanner, it inserted a bunch of black lines across the scan. I was sure the scanner was broken, as it worked on my cheapo Memorex scanner. I called Epson, and their great tech support debugged the problem. The scanner worked fine with Microsoft paint (using the native Microsoft driver). It worked fine with photoshop (using the Epson driver). Only with Photosuite did it have a problem. Epson explained that Photosuite was not a supported utility, and that I should contact Roxio. I did that.

At first, I got the standard "read the FAQ" reply.
Then I got the standard "uninstall and reinstall the software" reply.
Then I got the "uninstall all Roxio software, and use this special utility to remove all things Roxio from the registry and then reinstall the software" reply.
Then I finally got a message saying they knew about this problem, and to install a new dll. They kindly pointed me to the dll.

The problem was that this dll was a dead link. I sent them an email, and they said they would send me the file. They never did. They claimed they did several times, but I never got it. I have waited over 6 weeks ago, and they continue to jerk me around. Finally I decided to write this, and I am including all of their email here to show just how poor their so-called support is. See Roxio for all the email. Needless to say, in my opinion, Roxio software and support really sucks and I recommend never buying nor using it under any circumstances.

Just for laughs, I got the latest software, Roxio Easy Media Creator 7. I just installed the PhotoSuite part of the software. Not only did it not work (just like version 5), but installed it took 778 mbytes. Even the Windows XP installation CD is smaller than this. Bloatware and still buggy.

Sonic MyDVD

Well, I decided I wanted to 'author' a DVD. I had a copy of MyDVD and decided to give it a try. The first thing I noticed was that when I ran it, it hung. I deduced that it has to be run as Administrator. It would be nice if popped up a message like 'You need to be administrator to use this program', but I guess that is too tricky for Sonic. Now Nero has figured out that everyone isn't Administrator, and they have a tool you can run to allow all users to run Nero. Seems Sonic isn't that smart.

So I log in as administrator, and fire it up. The user interface is very confusing, but after a while, I think I have everything set up. MyDVD starts creating files, and it fills my C drive. Rather than using the drive with the most free disk space, they just default to C. I set the temp directory to a drive with more space. Sonic runs for about an hour, makes a file about 3 gb, and then does nothing. So I decided to contact tech support. I submit a bug report. About a week later, I get an email saying:

Your SonicOnline Support Incident has been updated!

Please log onto SonicOnline at , click on your Incident and add any additional questions and comments to the "Customer Note" field.

Well, I log in, and there has been no change to my incident. It lists the Progress Status as Awaiting Customer Response. I thought they had updated my bug report, but no. I add a commend saying "what is going on?".

So I decide to call them up. They have a hard time locating my bug report, despite me supplying the incident id. Eventually they locate it. They have a hard time understanding what I wrote. They decided to try to find out what is going on. First they have me run 'msconfig'. Of course, it doesn't run as non-Administrator, so they tell me to log in as Administrator. They look at the startup programs. They don't see anything wrong. I start disabling them, and mention that I have Nero installed. I started using Nero after having lots of trouble with EZ CD Creator and Direct CD from Adaptec/Roxio. I never switched back, as Nero just works. Sonic tells me that I have to uninstall Nero. They say there is a 'driver conflict' with Nero and Sonic. I tell them that I am not going to do that as Nero works reliably. The Sonic install program didn't say there was a problem (even though Nero was installed). When I ran MyDVD as Administrator, it didn't report any problems.

It turns out that Sonic bought Roxio. Roxio had the worst tech support I had ever experienced. Roxio also had the worst software I have ever used. Seems that Sonic is learning from Roxio. Sonic tech support seems clueless as best, and their software seems incapable of producing an error report.

Lessons learned:

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