The Nextbook 10.1 From Wal-Mart

Let me start out by saying it is against my religion to purchase anything from Wal-mart. The client of a client wanted us to test our the software we were developing on a Nextbook Flexx. We already had a rash of hardware, desktops with Linux, Android devices, tablets, etc. so my client backed off on buying even more. Since I was coming home that weekend I offered to swing by China enslavement Inc. and pick one up on my way back.

If you have even one tiny problem return Nextbook

Ignore everything you see in the packaging about contacting technical support instead of returning. If you have even the tiniest bit of trouble with one of these units immediately take it back for refund/exchange. I went down the technical support route and let me tell you, they would have to improve by biblical proportions just to attain the level of useless. It is my firm opinion their one and only purpose is to tie you up waiting for email responses until 15 or whatever day in-store exchange policy has expired. After filing a ticket it takes roughly a week before you see a response. That response will simply be a stupid question which has nothing to do with your issue. Once you reply you are back on the waiting list.

Since my unit was trashed and a coworker who is a Microsoft certified whatever that is obligated to go around to help with developer training events and consumer education needed to test with Windows 10 I told him to go ahead and install it. He didn’t have the non-Microsoft drivers for the unit, but it functioned enough for what he wanted to test.

After repeated attempts to go through the support denial service asking for either a link to an ISO to re-flash the device to 8.1 or a link to the Windows 10 drivers I was finally told they could be of no help. Gee! Imagine that. Keep in mind the roughly one week turn between request an useless response for every request. Part of me thinks the support center must be in North Korea or some other impoverished country where the building only gets electricity one day per week. I mean for no more help than they were they could have set up an auto-responder to provide useless responses to every inbound support request.

Here’s How You Fix Windows 10 on Nextbook

What infuriates me most about this situation is that they obviously didn’t even have Internet access or know how to use a search engine. So, assuming you got Windows 10 installed on your device and the screen rotation along with a bunch of other things aren’t working, here is how you fix it.

Your first Web search should lead you to this link. You want to notice the link on the page to pull down this file.

Once you have that file unzip it into a directory then navigate to system settings->device manager. Do not just apply a driver for the devices shown in error, apply them all. Yes, it is slow and boring and many of the drivers won’t update because you already have the current one from Microsoft, but apply them all. When you get done reboot and turn orientation lock off. You will see the screen will come up flipped in laptop mode. Do not fear. Feel free to lock and fix rotation if it helps you keep your sanity.

You now want to navigate to this link. On it you will find many comments and instructions. You will also find this file.

You will need to install 7Zip on your computer to unzip the contents. Do not install or unzip anything other than the screen orientation stuff. The rest of it errors out and simply doesn’t work correctly, at least it didn’t for me. Run the executable to install the screen driver, then reboot. Do not skip the reboot step. After rebooting navigate to your downloads folder and double click on the registry fix file. This last step will clear your orientation problems.

That’s it. I found these answers with one Web search. Counting the time to apply each and every device driver I spent under an hour. Technical support couldn’t be bothered to obtain this information.

Related posts:

Debian on Nextbook Flexx

Linux on Nextbook Flexx

Will the Last One to Leave eBay Please Turn Out the Lights?

I have bought a lot of stuff on eBay over the years. I even bought a Jeep on there and had it shipped from New Hampshire. The site used to be known as “America’s Garage Sale” but lately it has devolved into “just another shopping mall.” Heck, I’ve even bid on keyboards I thought were being sold by individuals only to find out they were from Newegg.com.

My New Years resolution was to finally clean out the “spare parts” which have accumulated in my office over the past 20 or so years in IT. My goal was to have at least one entire bookshelf (preferably two) completely empty by the end of March. Complicating this goal is the fact I have been working remotely 6 days per week on a contract so I only have a few hours on the weekend to take photos and list the items. I wasn’t trying to make money with this stuff. I put the initial bid at what I believed the postage would be and offered free shipping. If someone could use it that would save me a trip to the electronics recycling drop off.

As luck would have it, I now need to travel to my client site for a week. I had gotten notices in the past about things I was bidding on when the seller went on vacation, so I thought I would try it. After half an hour I finally had to endure a call to customer service. The only way you can notify bidders you are out of town is to open a store. That is why eBay has become just another shopping mall, eBay is forcing it in that direction.

I made a few phone calls to people I know. Nobody uses eBay anymore. Even though Craigslist has the public image of “the place where serial killers shop for prey” they have all moved there, and just for the shopping mall reason. Personally, I never used Craigslist because I viewed it as a place populated by people too cheap to pay for shipping, but now I understand.

Both eBay and Amazon are on the wrong side of a sea change occurring in the public mindset.

Ethics: Think globally, buy locally.

It has been in the works for a long time, but is finally snowballing. It started rather simply with some “buy American” Web sites. Then we had ABC News doing a “Made in America” series which was echoed in other shows to various degrees. The Republicans spurred it along by offering up Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate. (Someone I personally believe has directly or indirectly off-shored more American jobs than Obammacare ever could.) Even American Express has been on this band wagon for years with their Small Business Saturday initiative.

We should have all read the writing on the wall when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act institutionalized this with a “Buy American” provision. Many didn’t. An MBA has to actually _have_ ethics to purchase things which are best for the country instead of their numbers for this quarter. Every person in America has not only heard about government entities being broke, they have been personally impacted by it. The blame spreads far and wide. Every person who buys on-line avoiding sales tax is “off-shoring” local retail jobs though they want to believe they are “just saving money.” Every Wall Street darling corporation has been burying profits in tax havens off-shore to avoid taxes. You have all heard about the “Double Irish” tax scam, but it seems that story about certain large corporations being allowed to create entities which have no country of origin keeps getting quieted. If you cannot do the math, “No Country of Origin” means there is no country able to tax their profits. 99-percenters, feel free to howl. When you are done howling though, find out who voted for those bills which became law and vote them out of office!

How many of you have noticed the 13 or so year agenda currently embarked on to change the mindset of America? The one which _will_ stop them from buying on-line just to avoid taxes and _will_ stop them from buying a cheap foreign knock-off at Wal-Mart. You heard all of the news reports, you just didn’t look down the road.

When I was a child on a family farm we knew where our beef came from because we raise most of it ourselves. Eggs came from “people up the road” unless the hens hadn’t laid, then they had to come from town but the little store in town bought them from a big chicken farm not that far away. In short, we either raised it, knew the person who raised it, or knew the farm it came from if it didn’t come in a can or jar. Someone told me the bulk of the food (dairy, meats, fruits and vegetables) produced in the Midwest were consumed within 60 miles of their place of growth. In my personal world it was true so I never questioned it. Whether true or not it was believable to many because that is the way they lived.

I point out the “barefoot in the snow” tail because this is now being institutionalized by state, local, and federal governments. The mindset is good for America and it will grow with each graduating class of school kids. This “fast buck at the expense of all” mindset which became prevalent in the 90s (think “Greed is Good”) has made a train wreck of the global economy, not just ours. It is slowly and surely being snuffed out starting with the school lunch program. Not only are school lunch programs begin directed to purchase locally grown food, some of those schools are actually passing along the knowledge about where food comes from. After years of knowing where the food you eat comes from, the leap back to “it came from somewhere” because difficult.

Before you dismiss this as a rant take a look around at the growing number of eateries serving customers who want free-range, organic and/or locally grown. People who live in Washington and Oregon have made BurgerVille  rather popular. Perhaps you don’t live in those states, but you probably don’t live too far from a Chipotle which has made a stand with the battle cry “food with integrity.” Even if you have lived under a rock this past decade you still had to buy groceries at some point and you _had_ to notice the ever increasing size of the organic/free-range section of your favorite store.

This is a mindset which starts with your food and continues to the rest of your life. People who eat like this start taking notice of where their clothes are made. They ask where their car is made. (The automotive magazines have been making this information available for years now.) Eventually it comes back around to the quality of local schools, fire, police, etc. Eventually it those stats people have heard about the percentage of a dollar spent locally staying in their community, like the ones from American Independent Business Alliance come home to roost.

So, as soon as these final auctions end, I will be closing my eBay account, and my PayPal account. I will finally have to figure out how to create an account on craigslist because that is now is “America’s Garage Sale” and it’s “local.

McDonalds Problem is Not the Menu

There has been a lot of chatter about the financial situation at McDonalds (MCD) lately.  All kind of chatter about revamping the menu, loss of market share, allowing more local store independence, etc.  All of it is wrong.  All of it is focused on the typical MBA thought process of “How can we change nothing and start making money again?”  This process never works.  It is based on the luck of some temporary downturn which will magically fix itself so the MBA can take credit.

Here is the truth, warts and all.  A large section of the American, and dare I say world, population has become “socially aware.”  This “do unto others and make a buck” philosophy based on the even more fraudulent philosophy called “Rational Self Interest” has poisoned the well.  The victims have decided ethics really do matter.  Some companies have caught on, such as Starbucks (SBUX).  While nay sayers dump on the botched announcement calling their program a “scholarship” and hinting they were financially contributing.  So what?  I hate coffee and don’t like Starbucks, but, they did something amazing.  They cut a deal so that any one of their employees from the lowest paid on up could get a 4 (four) year degree and graduate with roughly $2,000 in student loan debt.  I had more than that my first tri-mester in college back in the 80s.  Hats off.  Big applause.  Ethics matter.

In the case of McDonalds, they are viewed as evil, much like Wal-mart (WMT), Amazon.com (AMNZ) and even Google (GOOG).  Oh, Wal-mart should be no surprise.  There has been a documentary about them for years.    Given the news reports about conditions in warehouses for Amazon.com I can’t believe it will be long before there is a documentary about senior citizens keeling over in the heat.  There has already been news stories.

2015 is shaping up to be the year the mighty Google falls from grace.  The skeletons started falling out of the closet a while back with a tale about a Google exec, a prostitute, and heroin.  The much hoopla-ed glasses have fizzled.   Let’s not forget the Supreme Court’s ruling against Aereo saying you cannot take copyrighted material which is available for “free” in one form and “change its form as a service to the public” without express permission of the copyright holder.  This means that long drawn out copyright infringement case of biblical proportions where Google scanned books from a library and made them available on-line to sell advertising around them without permission from the copyright holder is really going to bite them now.  The documentary covering Google’s ills will have to be turned into a miniseries if it intends to cover everything.  Ethics matter.  Perhaps Google executives can use DuckDuckGo to search and find out what ethics are?

Of course, we cannot forget all of the stories in the news about major corporations creating business units without a country of origin to avoid taxes or the more widely circulated “double Irish” stories.  These stories are going to get more traction from international markets in 2015.  I expect the Republican party will attempt to re-introduce massive tax loopholes for their corporate owners in 2015, but the rest of the world is hot on the trail so the major corporations will find no shelters in 2015.  Ethics matter.  Maybe you can buy a candidate which has them?  Oh wait, if they sold their soul to a corporation that means they no longer have any . . .

This all brings us back to McDonalds.  Few things are more Norman Rockwell type Americana than the small town burger joint of the 1950s.  It was a local business which gave a few kids jobs and provided a safe place for kids and families to hang out.  The owners were pillars of the community.  Despite what the dieticians say, it was wholesome and good in the minds of those who eat animal products.  Today McDonalds is a multi-national corporation.  In the minds of an ethics conscious culture it is a corporation built on the backs of McJobs which pay McWages.  I believe McDonalds even got some note in “Food, Inc.

What happened to McDonalds has nothing to do with the menu or a healthier eating America.  Other burger joints have increasing sales.  People like to eat what they like to eat.  That will not change.  If we all ate healthy we would never know happiness, at least that is what we believe, especially since we are never happy when forced to eat healthy.  What happened to McDonalds is that a large section of consumers now believe the company has perverted Norman Rockwell Americana.  To them, that is unforgivable.

“Rational Self Interest” is not a legitimate philosophy, business or otherwise.  In general it is a philosophy followed by prison inmates, at least followed before they ended up in prison.

Despite what the press claims, for the people unemployed or holding down McJobs, there is no recovery.  The economy is still tanked and their outlook is not improving.  The upper 1% is getting richer, but the other 99% are getting poorer.  America is all about the come from nothing and build a success story.  In the minds of the general public McDonalds has gotten associated with “take those who come from nothing and keep them there.”  This “living wage” issue isn’t going away and won’t in a globally tanked economy.  It can’t.  The global economy cannot actually turn around until people earn a living wage.  No matter what Wall Street or the Republican party tells you, this is the simple truth.  The middle class on down are the ones who actually pay the taxes which get the country out of debt.  They cannot be taxed on income they don’t have.  Just about everyone in the world, except a handful of leaders in the Republican party, has figured this out.

Short term the only “fix” for McDonalds is a totally free four (4) year degree from a real college.  Not just 100% on-line, but physical classroom time too.  Americans understand “paying your dues.”  An awful lot of Americans join the military just to go to college.  If McDonalds becomes the puts 100% of its McJob employees through college for free, it can be loved again.

Know this.  Some fast food chain will do it.  Paying $12 for a drive through meal is tough to justify.  Paying $12 for a drive through meal which helps put kids through college, perhaps even your kids, is not.

Watching the Sun Set on Amazon.com

There are financial blogs which pay people to make pretty pretty graphs without providing any real information, and then there are blog posts which have actual information.  You can either have pretty pretty graphs with no information or you have to read.

Years ago I said Amazon.com was entering its final stages and now others are finally agreeing with me.  Take a good look at Sears.  You remember Sears don’t you.  The company which invented the mail order catalog business or at least was the first to take it to a massive scale.  A company which continued to bring in pathetic excuses for management whizing their money away on things like The Sears Tower and Prodigy.  You know, the company which then went bankrupt at the catalog portion of their business while others thrived with mail order.

Sears is today where Amazon.com will be in less than five years.  Yes, it took Sears decades to devolve into a ghostly image of what it once was, but Amazon’s demise will happen at Internet speed.  It has not choice, it is only Internet.  Finally other analysts are starting to say the same thing.

That article does lack a bit of IT knowledge, but it has the major points correct.  It’s not that brick & mortar retailers finally got their software correct, though.  It has a lot more to do with the fact physical retailers can purchase complete and customizable eCommerce software packages from tiny companies like IBM and Oracle.  Then they just have to turn on those feature consumers want such as “free ship to store” so they can do the one thing Amazon.com can’t do on a bet.  Get the add-on sales due to impulse/convenience purchasing consumers do while at the store to pick up their order.  Oh come on, you’ve all done it.  You go into one place to pick something up then remember you need/want something else which this store happens to carry, OR you are at the counter with your item and see the check-out counter display.

Contrary to popular belief, Amazon.com isn’t Barnes & Noble’s problem.  Lack of foot traffic is Barnes & Noble’s problem.  Web wise bn.com has a pretty good presence.  The real problem is the lack of foot traffic in the stores.  Culturally, not that many people “spend the day at a book store” anymore.  I have said this many times and will say it again.  Barnes & Noble needs to get into the DVD by mail rental business allowing in-store exchanges just like Block Buster did.  Block Buster could not make it work for many reasons, the two biggest were management and one-trick-pony.  Barnes & Noble doesn’t need that portion of the business to be directly profitable.  It just needs to sell the people other things when they come into the store to exchange a movie on a rainy weekend.  After a couple of months/years, it will become habit for the customers to “think of going to Barnes & Noble.”  That thought doesn’t happen much any more.

I’m old enough to remember when AOL and Prodigy were busy mailing more floppies in a given year that their were people on the planet.  Heck floppy sales plummeted at the consumer level because people kept finding ways of removing the protection and formatting those floppy disks.  Not everyone who got the disks own a computer so they would bring them in for their co-workers.  Sigh, then AOL started sending CDs out and the magnetic media recycling frenzy ended.

How many of you know that at one point in time you could actually buy a house via the Sears catalog.  I remember hearing those stories as a kid.  You could actually order a house and every thing to assemble it (sans the tools) would show up at the shipping address.  Yes, some assembly was required and yes, they came with assembly instructions.  If memory serves me correctly it wasn’t just a pile of boards and singles but was a bit less than the trailer/modular homes you see today.  It was some level of prefab in between.

I don’t tell you the “order a house” story to prove just how close I am to the great check-out counter of life, but to educate you whipersnappers about just how large and pervasive Sears was at the time.  _Everybody_ knew Sears.  Most bought at least some things there.  Only people with computers and/or dumb phones know about Amazon.com or at least purchase from there.  Yes Virginia, there is still a large segment of American consumers who have neither a computer at home nor a dumb phone.  Some cannot afford them, but, most of that segment simply don’t want them.  As much as I hate Wal-mart I have to admit, even they have figured this out.  How do I know that?  Take a really good look at all of the ads they run for basic cell phones with big buttons and no texting/Internet capability.  That segment of consumers watches television but does not shop on-line nor do they stream movies.

One final note about Barnes & Noble here.  In order to get that most cherished of market segments to do the DVD rental by mail with in-store exchanges, they need to have terminals either in the rental area or in the coffee area where customers can browse the main movie selection and update their list.  Come on, you will sell them coffee and something to munch on while they are doing it.  They might even see someone reading a book and purchase one on their way out.

No people, Amazon.com has hit the rocking chair of their existence.  Unlike Sears, they won’t have lengthy “golden years.”  Not that many people have “golden years” which are golden.  We tend to look back at life in our 20s-30s as that time.

Why Are Investors Shocked About Wal-Mart?

Over the past few weeks I’ve been hearing reports about the flat-lining of Wal-Mart. I have heard chatter on NPR and listened to the financial commentary on public television. It boggles my mind when the talking heads dance around the elephant in the room. Let’s point out the elephant now shall we?

People who don’t have to don’t shop at Wal-Mart.

It’s the dirty little retail secret known around the world. You have to be living under a rock to have neither heard nor seen a documentary named “Wal Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.” If you haven’t seen it you can visit youtube.com, or walmartmovie.com, or any of the other easily accessible places to find it. Hmmm, I wonder if they sell it in the Wal-Mart DVD department? We are in a country with a massive push towards a $15/hour minimum wage. When the skeletons in your corporate closet range from the movie to the off-clock court cases to use of illegal immigrants you don’t curry the favor of people earning enough to shop at retailers who don’t have these headlines in their past.

Time for the other shoe to drop. Actually 2 shoes. Expiration of unemployment benefits and cuts to food stamps. Adding insult to injury for Wal-Mart, many of the people falling into those two federal programs have a job, or had a job, or have a close relative/friend that has/had a job at Wal-mart so once they get a job with a living wage they are going to shop elsewhere.

Wall Street just hasn’t figured it out yet.

This is the tail end of The Great Recession. It is a long slow climb out of the hole Wall Street put us in. Those who do climb out have had to face ugly realities. When they get well enough off to have a choice they aren’t going to choose Wal-Mart.

I was lucky when I went to High School. Some of the teachers I had were children during the Great Depression. When we got to that part of American History they were able to provide the kind of stories and insight which gets “edited out” of the history books. The day-to-day living/survival stories. Yes they remained frugal. I recall one packing his lunch in the same brown paper sack, basically until it fell apart. I mention this now to point out how survival traits learned during childhood carry through the rest of your life. There were stores/companies they favored and others they wouldn’t do business with or allow their children to do business with. Never said why, just said never to do business with them.

Children of The Great Recession who experienced or are still experiencing hard times will carry forward similar traits. If you are a member of a political party currently being paid to fight the $15 minimum wage or recorded as voting against it, be warned. In roughly a decade these children and their parents/grandparents will make up nearly 80% of the voting public. This learned behavior will not be something forgotten like last month’s new cell phone. Neither you nor your party will be electable during the following 40 years after this generation’s rise to the voting ranks.

Take a good look at Kmart. At one time it was a staple of the blue collar world. I can remember my parents driving a half hour one way just to shop at Kmart. Others drove farther. Along came a movie called “Rain Man” with the catch phrase “Kmart sucks!” and suddenly Kmart wasn’t cool anymore.

It is my personal opinion we are at the cusp of Wal-Marts relentless downward spiral. There is only one thing they could do to stop it but the company has neither the ethical threshold or moral fiber to do it. What, you ask? Now, before there is any significant vote or federal bill, make the minimum wage paid to the least of their workers $15/hour.

We are at a second threshold. Most of you don’t know it. Some big box stores are already paying north of $12/hour. The first one to raise starting wage to $15/hr and launch an ad campaign about it wins. Those who can shop there will. As the economy improves there will be more who can shop there and do.