Cloudacademy New Musical Intro – FOR EVERY BLOODY LESSON!

Warning, this is TL;DR material

(UPDATE: Oct 28, 2018 it seems that one of two things occurred: a) cloudacademy removed that annoying musical intro for every lesson, for everyone or b) they turned it off for my account only…?? not sure which but I am a much happier camper, especially having to also deal with Verizon FiOS issues I had to finally write about and publish {we should not be getting pixelation & drop outs over fiber, especially for 980 Mbps line speeds}.)

Well, I have seen and heard some pretty annoying and distasteful things in the past, especially on the telly where you get this “annoying”, “unwanted”, “so-called musical intros” – the kind of thing that makes people change channels as fast as possible or leave the room.

Which then puts the individual into a negative state of mind so as to:

a) stop watching / listening

b) stop recommending something to friends and loved ones

Well, much as it pains me to say so, Cloudacademy.com has gone into that category. Originally, I was going to do this blog in all red but did not want to have any readers suffer…

Not sure why Cloudacademy.com thought these cute, wonderful, musical interludes were going to be a winner for them as a marketing ploy/brand. It’s not. Even if it is “only about 5-7 seconds” – it is unwanted.

When I heard it for the first time, after they went live recently – I about jumped out of my chair. And my laptop volume was not turned up loud – that music simply OPENED. UP. LOUD. as a FRIGGIN’ DEFAULT!!!! So now, whenever I start a lesson, I have to make sure that the FRACKING (replace the letters RA with U [have to be politically correct you see]) volume is turned off. FOR EVERY LESSON!!!!  Yes, I am teed off, can you tell…? This is, for me, primarily in the AWS courses but the musical intro is in other platforms as well as I checked a few (Google, Azure, etc.).

WE. DO. NOT. NEED. THAT. INTRO. MUSIC. ON. EVERY. BLASTED. LESSON!!!!

And, you cannot pause it to turn the volume down.

AND, you cannot skip it, aaaarrrrggghhhhh…….

 

Okay, I’m back – I had to calm down for a bit.  Yep, that is how aggravating it is…  NO MUSICAL INTROS, return to that state.

In the meantime, it seems I am just going to have to step away from this site and simply use competitor sites until cloudacademy returns to silent lesson intros…  That is all we want, some quality content, decent instructors, content that is thorough AND timely that we can focus on – WITHOUT this cute new musical intro in EVERY. BLASTED. LESSON!!!!

If not, I’ll just stop using them and recommend to my networks and acquaintances to go elsewhere. Easy.

Not quite sure how many other users out there like that musical intro – cloudacademy should do a poll to find out about it…

 

Note: This all originated Sunday / Mon (Oct 22nd) when I wrote to their tech support with the following:

In attempting to go over some course material, nothing plays in firefox!!!! That ‘NEW’ very annoying cloudacademy lead in on EVERY. SINGLE. COURSE. plays for sure but then we get a rectangle at the top left corner of a dark video screen and then nothing.
I have logged off and on the course.
I have gone to other courses on the site – same problem.
I have gone to other sites and their material works….
On cloudacademy, we get that white outlined rectangle in the upper left corner of a dark screen, then the title page of whatever course we are looking at and that is where it stops. The title has a gray tint to it but no controls to do anything….

One of their tech support responded & stated he could not replicate it. So I did more digging (being a very long time IT person myself) – I figured, hmmm, it might be firefox since it works well in chrome & IE (the annoying music still played as well).

But today, I saw that firefox has a new update, ver 63 – so, again – I figured I’d update that browser.

It did resolve the non-playing, grayness and lack of video controls but it is still acting up. It is not firefox or my laptop (alienware, i7-7820 / 16 GB DDR4 RAM / 8 GB GDDR5 video  Win 10 pro and an SSD).  As you hover over a course to play, that desired lesson starts blanking out and then fluctuating (you have to either refresh the page or kill the tab). This only occurs with firefox – so some setting was tweaked at cloudacademy that pertains to firefox but not to other browsers. Nope, not going back to cloudacademy with my findings, I can do without the aggravation.

This is now a moot point for me, I likely won’t be on the site until they get rid of that musical intro for every lesson…

 

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Troubleshoot Microphone Errors in Rosetta Stone – Brown University

Troubleshoot Microphone Errors in Rosetta Stone by Stephanie Obodda 2018-07-04

— Brown University

Hmmmm, I was attempting to aid students/folks who have problems getting their head sets with microphones to work properly by adding a compliment for Stephanie & the CIS IT Support team posting Stephanie’s article and including what kind of head set I use for Rosetta Stone.  But it may take a day or two (or a few…) before it is visible, if it appears at all – there are 0 comments on the site.

The article is @: https://ithelp.brown.edu/kb/articles/troubleshoot-microphone-errors-in-rosetta-stone

The school (or author) provides a list of head sets:

 List of recommended headsets: Altec Lansing AHS302i, Andrea Electronics NC‐7100, Califone 3066‐USB, Logitech USB 350, Logitech USB 250, Logitech ClearChat Pro USB, Logitech H330, Logitech Premium Notebook Headset, Logitech ClearChat Comfort USB, Microsoft LifeChat LX‐3000, Plantronics DSP‐400, Plantronics DSP‐500, Plantronics Audio 500, Plantronics Audio 470, Plantronics Audio 645, Plantronics Audio 655, VXI Talk Pro USB‐100, VXI Talk Pro USB‐200

Note: Rosetta Stone also provides more information about their Recommended Headset Microphones and Vendors

 (I had to write another comment on the site “if” it gets posted to inform them that the link of “Recommended Headset Microphones and Vendors” they provide to students is an old, dead link that no one verified…)

My additional info is that VTIN HC head sets with microphone also work successfully – it is a head set with a 3.5 mm jack that plugs into:

a) a connector with a USB connection on it for PC use or

b) smart phones / tablets via the 3.5mm jack without that connector piece

The VTIN HC head set, even though it is not one of the ‘recommended head sets’ above, works for me for Russian and Chinese language refreshers on my PC.

Macy’s – Poor Customer Service Staff – Parking

Very disappointed.
Last weekend, we (customers) were told to take our store receipt to the 2nd floor validation machine to show proof of shopping at Macy’s in order to get a parking validation.
I was at one register (Macy’s @ Pentagon City, VA) when a Macy store cashier was telling her customer at the other register to do that process.
So, politely interrupting, I repeated it back. And she said yes.
Well, my wife and I and two other pairs of couples also showed up after being told the same thing. It did not work.
I called for assistance and the woman (mall parking assistance) said to take the receipt and parking receipt to the parking garage attendant to get it validated.
Well…. the parking garage attendant said we actually have to have the Macy store cashier “stamp” the parking receipt in order to get validation.
While at that attendants’ gate, I looked over at the next attendants’ gate and saw one of the same couples at the 2nd floor validation machine having the VERY SAME discussion with their garage gate attendant.
It appears WE ALL ENDED UP PAYING FOR OUR PARKING VALIDATION!!! Because we did not want to cause more mass confusion by backing up at the gate area to go back inside the store to have the Macy’s store cashiers PHYSICALLY STAMP the garage parking tickets.
What a very disappointing experience it turned out to be the others and myself. Not a good image.

Microsoft Banning Speech & Pix in Multiple Microsoft Products You Buy (rent)

Well!  I was somewhat surprised to learn over the past couple of days that micr$soft (yep, I used a lower case ‘m’) is going to start banning speech (“offensive language” & pix) in their products.  Hmmm, it may not strictly hobble free speech but come on…!

Following are only two articles I took a look at.  Remember folks, go out and do your own research {and not at sites that delve into conspiracy plots} AND then do your own deep thinking, analysis of what you turn up.

Microsoft to ban ‘offensive language’ from Skype, Xbox, Office and other services

Microsoft will ban ‘offensive language’ and ‘inappropriate content’ from Skype, Xbox, Office and other services on May 1, claiming it has the right to go through your private data to ‘investigate.’

https://www.csoonline.com/article/3264658/privacy/microsoft-to-ban-offensive-language-from-skype-xbox-office-and-other-services.html

&

What the @#$%&!? Microsoft bans nudity, swearing in Skype, emails, Office 365 docs @ https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/03/28/microsoft_services_agreement_bars_offensive_language/

While I also use, ahhh, colorful language at time, I don’t use it as a frequent, ummm, addition to my soliloquies (talking from a soapbox) or conversational speech. But when the urge strikes me, I might include a somewhat salty comment to the sentences I use. I am not going to write or (should I ever need to) talk to my computing devices and have a censorship algorithm constantly ticking in the back of brain:

  • “Oh no, don’t use that word in your fu_ _ing, errr, freaking paper!”  or
  • “Wait, Wait! Don’t say that rather dastardly, distasteful phrase to the old lady sitting in her living room in her church outfit as she uses Skype!”   

 What is going on here? Is micr$soft starting to go beyond its social charter of trying to police the speech, written or spoken, across the globe for all the individuals who use any of the microsoft products…? Have we hit that breakpoint where we’re starting to be controlled by ‘big brother’?

It looks like two consenting adults, taking selfies (of a certain flavor and certain body parts) and attaching them to hotmail, ahhh, outlook live, could be banned from using micr$soft for the foreseeable future. Is this the start of a dystopian future where corporations, not government mind you, start forcing you to comply to using civil, puritanical, 1950’s speech patterns? Wait a second, someone at micr$soft might actually believe we are living in Mayberry (remember Andy Griffith, of course you do, right?) and requires the rest of us to use that kind of language gosh darn it!

Some of us cannot believe that we are at this point of when we get angry, umm, annoyed and curse out loud because someone cut us off in freeway traffic and the person who cut you off, did so with 2 inches of clearance. Of course, even the lil’ ole man in his suspender outfit with white socks in sandals is going to curse loud and large (if he doesn’t have a heart attack).

Is this going to stand? Are corporations going to legally be allowed to dictate what kind of language we use in software products and communication devices? Are couples not going to be able to take porno…., dang, adult video and share it online with other like minded adults?

And as in that CSO article, offensive language is vague depending on who you are talking to. Take the U.S. Marines (yes, I am a former Marine), are corporations going to ban the language they use in communication over software/communication products? That will be rather interesting as Marines have been using salty language since the mid 1770s (born in 1775).

In case you do not read the CSO article, here is another snippet from it: another portion states that Microsoft “may also block delivery of a communication (like email, file sharing or instant message) to or from the Services in an effort to enforce these Terms or we may remove or refuse to publish Your Content for any reason.”

 Now, you tell us, are you willing to risk any important communication you use not being delivered because you used some salty language (or attached a salacious pix to it for the other consenting party) in it…?

It may stem from: FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) combined with SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex-Trafficking Act) but we do not yet know at this point exactly why.  So, go and read up on FOSTA/SESTA as well.

 

 

 

TurboTax – Time to Ditch It….? Useless…? Painful…?

Mar 31st update:

Well, as of today, still nothing from any kind of support from TurboTax about a simple issue of deleting a state form and starting a new state form.  

It is NOT to ‘remove’ a form or its data – quite a few people keep pitching the ‘remove data’ as a solution instead of deleting a form OR they “think” everyone is using the Online version when many of us are using the CD or downloaded version.  It seems ALL of the solutions refer to TurboTax Online only…

HR Block may become my new best friend for now… So, yes, low cost software = very, very little support from the company producing the software. Now I have to do the process I did not want to do – a) uninstall the software b) delete all Windows registry items referencing TurboTax c) reinstalling the software d) plugging back in the data… Such is life.

 

Hmmm, it might be time to ditch TurboTax for HRBlock and give them a shot.

We made a mistake in using the ‘included’ free state selection – erroneously got into that free state that comes with the deluxe version to see what it presents. We bought the CD version and not the Online version. NOTE: There is no clear or easy way to delete the incorrect state and get back to the proper state.

In trying to get help from folks, which is like being in a vicious cycle, on the ‘support‘ / ‘community‘ site, (link below) they seem to keep passing out this particular link as if EVERYONE is using that online version, even when the person with the question (including me) clearly stated they have the CD/download (Windows or Mac) version and basic or deluxe version of it.

https://ttlc.intuit.com/questions/1900608-how-do-i-delete-my-state-return-in-turbotax-online?jump_to=answer_3301384

When you get to that link, this is the content:

How do I delete my state return in TurboTax Online?

There’s an additional per state charge in TurboTax Online, including Free Edition, since the Absolute Zero promotion has ended.

You can delete your state return in TurboTax Online as long as you haven’t paid or registered yet:

You may notice how it indicates turbotax online, right… (the red is my highlighting)  It seems to be the ‘go to’ answer to solve everyone’s problem. Basically, when you need support, you’re somewhat on your own. For example, when you plug in your question to search for answers, you get several if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky and did not plug in the proper key search terms, the site wants you to go back and edit it and try again.

You cannot email anyone and you’re at the mercy of getting someone who knows the correct answer to assist you.

So, keep remembering that for the price you pay for that software, you may not get the support you need in comparison to other software. And over the years, I’ve tried to get support before, once, and it was painful. I will have to uninstall the software and delete all Windows registry entries concerning turbotax (if you do this, you had best know what you’re deleting).

Now, after using this software for some years, it looks like it is time to give the competition a go or go back to working with humans…

At the moment, I’m now ranking turbo tax in the lower digits of success…

Bogus reviews on Amazon – Be Aware, Be Very Aware of what you want to buy…

Just a reminder to all to beware of the bogus 5 star reviews, especially from individuals who are not “Verified Purchasers”.

I did not purchase the item I was looking at – 2 sellers on Amazon, it was a cassette to mp3 player, by WeaKoo and a “Protable USB Tape-to-MP3 Converter” via WiKoonot my typo – but it did get my curiosity up to dig a little more.

Lately, I’ve become very leery about multiple items on amazon, the WeaKoo had 415 reviews and 97% positive at 5 stars. WiKoo had 86 reviews at 5 stars. — It is possible some products do receive all 5 stars – but…

This is not something you see everyday.
So, I looked at some of the reviewer’s profiles. None of whom were verified purchasers but they all averaged around 5 – 15 reviews.  A large majority of them had no reviews made available to the community.  Whereas, if you go look at other items from other vendors, different categories and take a look at the “Verified Purchasers”, you can see that their reviews are almost all available. You will want to read the reviews from “Verified Purchasers.”

On the reviewers for WeaKoo and WiKoo, I found a few of them purchased, excuse me, ‘reviewed’ identical items, in nearly the exact same time frames. I mean, what are the odds that multiple guys in a couple of weeks time span (& one of them twice in three days) give 5 stars for VereBeauty Long Dual Magnetic False Eyelashes or HTC 10 Glass Screen Protectors. (No, there is nothing wrong with guys buying false eyelashes.)
My point here, be careful on some of these reviews, they may be fake (think fake news…), misleading ‘us’ to want to buy the product, such as the cassette to MP3 Converter.

My hope is that Amazon staff reviewers occasionally check out some of these ‘stellar’ 5-star reviews for bogus reviewers… Does Amazon even have a team that checks out some of these ‘reviews’ to pull them out and stop wasting our time in looking at what is supposedly a ‘hot’ item.

But, what I did do is, I stopped searching on the cassette to mp3 converters on Amazon, mostly all Chinese vendors (i.e. look up PiDiEN or Antoble or some of the others in a search engine) selling the same models with different skins/vendor names.

I wound up buying one through the Hammacher Schlemmer site… and hoping they did not buy a cheap chinese version (at least Hammacher Schlemmer also has a guarantee)

U.S. Naval Ship Collisions & Hearing Loss at U.S. Embassies in Cuba – Coincidences…?

Hmmm, a quick take on our U.S. Navy ships involved in collisions with fatalities as well as auditory damage (hearing loss) of U.S. and Canadian Embassy personnel from some kind of sonic sources.

We need more brain power on this because there may be something here.  Maybe.

Are both of these spheres of damage, covert intentional attacks, with intelligence and/or military aspects, on U.S. personnel and property? SpecOps…. Because if either of the following are occuring:

  • manipulating a naval ship’s computer systems or
  • aiming some kind of sonic weapon at someone from another country – well, these approaches are a definite attack.

Are all the naval collisions in that region, in this year, all coincidental due to “incompetence” and “poor leadership”?  I’m finding that rather difficult to swallow.  Who in the world aboard any ship is not able to spot large tankers at a distance and not be able to avoid contact in time…?

Are these growing instances of U.S. and Canadian embassy personnel losing their hearing stemming from some kind of natural phenomena that no one has seen or heard of (no pun) prior to now?  I also find this very hard to believe.

Are the sources possible Russian or Chinese covert agents?

Agents from Russia in order to cause destabilizing effects on U.S. personnel? To get back at the U.S. because of the:

  • U.S. and U.N. sanctions placed on Russia? 
  • U.S. Special Counsel’s investigation into Russian activities related to the current individual in the White House?

Are the sources from China to cause destabilization of U.S. forces in the South China Sea and to grow Chinese naval influence in that hemisphere?

More to follow as I chew on this more to produce somewhat more analytical thoughts.

 

The bit about the coincidence of naval ship incidents, I gleaned that from Medium where Omaid F. has posited that possibly the Chinese are testing their capabilities.  Because of my background, it also struck a nerve as a high possibility.  It seems highly plausible that the Chinese OR Russians could be doing just that.

(Omaid’s article on Medium: https://medium.com/@omaidfaizyar/did-china-hack-the-seventh-fleet-483f3f03d51b points to another article: https://rntfnd.org/2016/09/26/china-jamming-us-forces-gps/)