Why I’m For Red Light Cameras

I didn’t used to be for red light cameras. I thought they increased rear-end collisions and that it was taking us to a police state where we were being watched by camera to increase revenues for police departments and so forth. Then, one day I was sitting at the corner of Murrieta Hot Springs and I-215 after getting off the freeway. I was waiting to turn right and my light turned green. No fewer than six cars PER LANE kept going through the light, long after their light turned RED and past the buffer period between when their light goes red and mine goes green.

Without the police presence, people think they can just cheat the system and go through as long as no other cars were coming. Unfortunately, we can’t always see everything that is going on. What if there was a car just getting off the freeway that saw the green light and went through at full speed? There is a high chance that one of the other cars thinking they could cheat the system would have t-boned the car with the green light and caused a major accident, possibly even causing death. To me each of these dozen plus people should have been cited to encourage them to follow the rules in the future!

Red light cameras are a cheaper and more efficient way to police critical traffic laws. Our police presence can be better used elsewhere instead of monitoring for a clear violation. There is no disputing when someone runs the red light, they have no need to face their accuser and there is video evidence in the event that there was some kind of equipment failure.

While red light cameras may cause more people to be cautious of running red lights and therefore increase rear end collisions, these are not nearly as bad a broadside collisions that are more likely to cause the loss of life. Regardless, we all should be stopping for red lights and not trying to rush to the next light. There is a reason your light is red and it is commonly because someone else’s is green.

According to an article in today’s UT Californian red light violations have dropped from 3,150 per month to 85 after the installation of the red light camera at MHS and Whitewood.

The article also quoted Diana Serafin:

“It’s not going to stop a drunk driver; it’s not going to stop a texting driver, it’s not going to stop someone reaching over to get something,” she said. “They are going to do it anyway.”

While I agree with her statement, each of these violators clearly needs to be caught as they are breaking the law, in many cases in more than one way. They need to learn the consequence of their actions. Red light cameras do not take away someone’s agency, it just causes them to understand the consequences of their actions. Regardless of an accident occurring, they should still be held liable.

Blackout could cost ratepayers

“Blackout could cost utilities” says the headline from The Californian, 9/15/11, D1. The articles talks about how likely it will be that SDG&E or another agency will be fined for the blackout that caused San Diego to be without power for about twelve hours.

Here’s my question: Where are the funds for this fine going to come from? Are they going to end up coming from the ratepayers themselves? If so, we’d in essence be fining ourselves instead of putting the money to good use improving the infrastructure.

I realize there are probably insurance accounts for this and other sources, but ultimately don’t these companies get their money from their customers. So, when they have to replenish these account, or their insurance premiums go up, who pays?

What is the point of the state or federal government fining those who suffered through the blackout? As one who lives in Riverside County, this didn’t so much impact me other than giving me more work that night and the next morning making sure things were working as well as possible.

Automatic Updates Service Missing

After removing XP Security Center 2012 fake anti-virus from a computer, I found that automatic updates was no longer running. Upon trying to get them to run, I found the service didn’t even exist!

Well, it turns out if you have a copy of your Windows disc, it is a fairly easy fix.

Run this:

%windir%\System32\rundll32.exe setupapi,InstallHinfSection DefaultInstall 132 %windir%\inf\au.inf

And it will likely ask you for your operating system CD. You may be able to give it a local path, but in my case I had to point it to the network installation source.

Thanks to Microsoft for putting together a good KB on restoring automatic updates service.

Quickbooks Multi-User & Windows Firewall

User called me and told me the other day that even though their multi user was setup properly in QuickBooks, they couldn’t actually have the file open on two computers at once. Everything looked fine in QuickBooks, only one computer was hosting multi-user (in this environment it was decided for it to be hosted from a desktop and not the server), etc.

I was very surprised to find a great tool from Intuit to help solve networking problems. It properly identified the configuration needed for the firewall and fixed it. Just run the Network Troubleshooter installed with QuickBooks and see if it solves your problems first.

Migrating Roaming Profiles to Windows 7

I recently performed an upgrade for a customer from Windows XP to Windows 7 with all new desktops. For non-admin users we kept getting an error that a permission was denied on the roaming profile login.

I couldn’t find a quick solution the problem, but it seemed fairly easy. What I ended up doing was creating user.v2 folders in our profiles share and giving the user’s full control over their new folder.

It turns out, if I had just given users permissions to the profile share as a whole, the system would have created these folders upon login automatically. Just make sure at some point that the users aren’t getting permissions to other users folders if that is important to your organization.

Applications Ask What Program to Open With

After removing a fake anti-virus the other day, I had a user that couldn’t open any programs. When the user went to open the programs, they were asked what program they’d like to open the program with. It was quite interesting, but I learned a few things in the process.

First, if you need to launch a command line from within windows (and can’t do run cmd), hold down ctrl while clicking start program in the task manager. This will bring up a dos prompt.

Doug Knox has a great list of files to help you fix file association errors like this one. I found I had to make the user with the problem an administrator on the computer before I could successfully import the registry keys, but after doing so they were back in business in no time.

Outlook Won’t Open – Extend.dat

Getting an error trying to Open Outlook that references extend.dat?

Simply navigate to the folder that is holding this file and remove it. Outlook will recreate it on the next launch.

Of course, it is safer to rename/move/archive/etc., but if you are confident you don’t need the file or already have a backup, simply remove it.

ACT & Outlook Problems

ACT plugin not seeming to work in Outlook these days?

If resetting the mail settings isn’t working, your best bet is probably to uninstall and reinstall ACT. It seems to be happier to be installed after Outlook, not before it.

Microsoft .Net Framework Error

Are you seeing the following error shortly after Windows login when running QuickBooks?

Microsoft .NET Framework

Unhandled exception has occured in your application. If you click Continue, the application will ignore this error and attempt to continue. If you click Quit, the application will close immediately.

Object reference not set to an instance of an object.

Details begin with: See the end of this message for details on invoking just-in-time (JIT) debugging instead of this dialog box.
************** Exception Text **************System.NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.   at QBWebConnector.RegistryManager.anyAppScheduled()   at QBWebConnector.ScheduleManager.Scheduler_Tick(Object sender, EventArgs e)   at QBWebConnector.EventManager.OnClockTicked(Object sender)   at QBWebConnector.QBWebConnector.Clock_Ticked(Object sender, EventArgs args)   at System.Windows.Forms.Timer.OnTick(EventArgs e)   at System.Windows.Forms.Timer.TimerNativeWindow.WndProc(Message& m)   at System.Windows.Forms.NativeWindow.Callback(IntPtr hWnd, Int32 msg, IntPtr wparam, IntPtr lparam)

Easy thing to fix. Run regedit and remove this folder: [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Intuit\QBWebConnector]

The folder will be recreated upon relaunching the program. Of course, backing up the registry and all that stuff applies. If you don’t know what regedit is, you should probably call someone to help you.

QBWebConnector Log Problem

If you are getting this error on login:

QBWebConnector – Information
QBWC1085: There was a problem with the log file.
QuickBooks Web Connector will continue without a log file.

You need to grant permission to your users to be able to write to the folder where the log is stored. Typically this is:

C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Intuit\QBWebConnector\log

But it could vary from system to system. You probably want to give all users full control over the Intuit folder, but you may find it best to give them control over the entire App Data folder. This is typically where the Users get their rights that are inherited for the rest of the folders and normally it is only set to Read & Execute. I’ve just been granting full control.

Anyone see a reason to do something else?

ACT System.UnauthorizedAccessException

I must love all the errors I’ve been seeing with ACT lately. It seems that everytime I turn around there is a new one.

A user had been telling me about this error she was getting everytime she went to do a lookup in ACT. I kept trying and couldn’t reproduce it, but apparently it only happened when she did a search from the lookup menu as opposed to the bar on the left side of the screen.

The error she was getting is quite long (see the attached pic).

System.UnauthorizedAccessException: Access to the path …. is denied.
at System.IO….

I found that if I just deleted everything from C:\Documents and Settings\<User>\Local Settings\Application Data\IsloatedStorage, it would make the problem disappear. I’m not sure if anything is lost that isn’t recreated by doing this, but it seemed to work.

This user wasn’t having problems accessing the same database on a terminal server, so it had to be something localized to her computer. Delete at your own risk!

How to Temporarily Disable Microsoft Security Essentials

In usual fashion Microsoft can never make it easy for anything for the user to do.

I got a question the other day from a user who needs to disable Microsoft Security Essentials in order to verify her AccountEdge file. Unfortunately, like many others Microsoft doesn’t provide a way to disable it for a few minutes while running the task.

Fortunately, the steps are fairly easy – but you must remember to turn it back on when done!

  • Open the MSE window (by double clicking on the icon in the taskbar or similar).
  • Go to settings.
  • Click Real-time protection in the left navigation pane.
  • Then uncheck turn on real-time protection.
  • Save changes (assuming you have administrative rights).

Do what you need to do and remember to check the turn on real-time protection once you are done.

Ricoh Printing Preferences Don’t Save

We’ve run into some interesting issues with Ricoh printers in Windows 7. First off, it seems like they install just fine when you first set them up through the Windows 7 add a printer wizard. Unfortunately, the driver that Windows downloads doesn’t seem to work. So, they need to be installed again for some reason. I found that you don’t actually have to do a full install again, but simply install a new driver.

Today, I had a user report that their saved preferences (like black and white and use a special user code to track printing) weren’t saved any longer. I did a quick search online and didn’t see anything with my search term, so I tried a few things. Logging in as an admin didn’t change anything, so it was definitely something with the printer and not the user.

I then tried changing the driver back to the original one that was installed. (Windows originally installed a pcl 5e driver and the new one I installed was PCL 6, so it is easy to tell them apart.) The old driver wouldn’t actually pass the user code or something to the printer, so it wouldn’t work.

Here’s where it got interesting. I changed it back to the PCL 6 driver (the second one installed), then tried changing settings and they seem to stick.

Is anyone else having this problem? Am I missing an important step that is required for Ricoh printers now with Windows 7?

This seems to be sticking across logins, so hopefully it will stay for a while (like for ever) again now.

Adobe Flash without Download Manager (offline)

After much frustration with Adobe’s download manager recently (and always) I went searching the other day for a way to install without needing to use their manager. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this method no only eliminates that junk and hassle, but is immensely faster!

Thanks to a post on ghacks.net, here are two links for the rest of you:

  • Adobe Flash Player Internet Explorer download [link]
  • Adobe Flash Player Other Browsers download [link]

 

Verizon FIOS Unethical Billing Practices Letter

November 6, 2010

Verizon California
PO Box 920041
Dallas, TX 75392-0041

Dear Verizon Representative, et al.:

I have tried to resolve this matter numerous times via phone without success. I have spoken with a handful of people who have not been able to adequately resolve the issue. I have even involved your social media team and they simply stopped communicating with me once they fully understood the problem at hand.

In July, we cancelled our services with Verizon due to a recent price increase. We were sent packaging to return our set top boxes. Upon receiving the packaging, I was quite confused to learn that you were expecting five devices back when we only had two HD DVR’s in the home. I inquired with Verizon.com customer support on 7/22 and Angela verified that I needed to return the two HD DVR’s that I was aware of as well as my router. I was a bit perturbed that we were being asked to return the router, which we had purchased from your company as a requirement of our service, even if it was provided at no cost. In other Verizon accounts I’ve represented, we were required to purchase the router regardless of wanting to use it or not. It seems highly inappropriate to ask for it to be returned. Nevertheless, I packaged up our two HD DVR’s and returned them along with the router.

Our statement as of 8/7/10 showed that we had a credit to be refunded of $140.43, and we assumed that all had been taken care of. However, the statement dated 9/7/10 then showed we were being charged $389.03 for unreturned equipment as well as a $10.60 deferred charge from 2/1/10-2/6/10. When I inquired on the phone about these charges on 9/23, Supervisor Maria told me that the $10.60 was credited back in February on our bill and would only be billed upon termination. She said our February bill was $8 less than the other months. I checked and it clearly was not. Deferred charge or not, she clearly lied to me about the credit. It also seems highly unethical to charge customers only upon termination for an arbitrary amount for an unknown service provided seven months earlier.

When asked about the unreturned equipment, I explained that I had returned the two HD DVR’s and the router as per the Verizon.com instructions on 7/22/10. After much time on the phone, it was determined that apparently I was also to return two digital converters that had also been provided to me at no charge at least one year prior. These devices did not show up on my bill as rental items and the confirmation I received from Angela in the Verizon eCenter clearly did not show that I needed to return the items.

Upon further examination of the letter that arrived with the return packaging, it clearly says: “Please DO NOT Return any Free Promotional Items you received.” Now, I am quite confused why I am being charged $350 for not returning items that I was clearly told I did not need to return.

Further, it seems like Verizon is providing equipment to customers and then fraudulently charging them for that same equipment later. I have asked if the equipment could be transferred to our new Verizon account, but the only thing I have been told is that I must return it or pay the bill, neither of which seems fair or ethical to me.

I would like to see these charges voided and the refund due to me of $140.43 provided in a timely fashion. If Verizon still feels that the equipment needs to be returned, I would like to have a copy of the agreement that I signed stating that I would return the equipment provided to me. I have previously been told this document does not exist, which seems to only further support my standing.

If this matter is not resolved promptly, I will alert the credit reporting agencies of my dispute as well as file official complaints with the FCC and CPUC. I will then contact my attorney regarding the legality of your charges and your unethical billing practices.

Sincerely,

Scott Chester

CC: City of Murrieta
Verizon FIOS TV Complaints
Community ID CA1656
24601 Jefferson Ave
Murrieta, CA 92562