Monday, August 22, 2011

BlogHer Book Club: A Good Hard Look

I am happy to share that my second BlogHer Book Club Review for A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano has been posted on BlogHer today! Here is a little preview of what I thought about the book:

A Good Hard Look is a story about expectations and the people we encounter, as well as the experiences we have, which help to shape our lives. The narrative explores how change, loss, pain, time, hope and grace can lead to breakthroughs and transformation both personally and in our relationships with loved ones, especially those we find it hard to love. It also touches on how we put the pieces of our lives back together when we have experienced a great loss or tragedy -- when we feel we have been broken.

Please click here to read my full review on BlogHer and feel free to share what you think over there in the comment section. Thank you! 

Note: This is a cross post with my main blog Four of a Kind, as I know that some of you who follow this review blog, may not also follow me over there and I thought you might be interested in reading what I thought about this book.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer Block Party Winners!

A drum roll please.... It's the moment we've been waiting for! The winners of the Summer Block Party!

First, the technical stuff. All the valid entries from all the participating blogs were put into a spreadsheet that assigned a unique number to each one. There were a total of 156 valid entries. Then was used to find the winners.

Special thanks to Jen at Here We Go Again for orchestrating this and many other parts of our Summer Block Party!

And the winners are:

Winner of a year's subscription to AboutOne: Valerie Stayton @ My-2-Cents, who said "I am a Google RSS feed subscriber, Valerie Stayton, my_2_cents at hotmail dot com"

Winner of a year's subscription to AboutOne: Kim, who said " And because I really, really want to win a b-day onesie: Bonus Entry No. 2: Your birthday is June 2. Melissa is also part of the trio. I generally remember because mine is the 3rd :)"

Winner of a year's subscription to AboutOne: Lisa, who said "I like being able to track medical information on AboutOne."

Winner of a year's subscription to AboutOne: StacyT, who said "I have signed up for my free trial."

Winner of a year's subscription to AboutOne: Cassie, who said "You prefer to read!"

Winner of the Amazon Gift Card: Maria D., who said "I signed up for the Free trial!"

Winner of the Blog Bling Button: JJ, who said "I'm cooool and subscribe to your blog with Google Reader"

Winner of the Cookies: Seussgirl, who said "Hmm..favorite summer song...right now, I'm loving "Knee Deep" by the Zac Brown Band. I also love "Redneck Yaught Club". Apparently, I go country when it gets hot. :)"

Winner of the Birthday Shirt: Tasha, who said "I follow you through my Blogger feed."

Winner of the Necklace: Geek by Marriage, who said "Following as GeekByMarriage "

Congratulations, winners! If you won a prize, please get in touch with Jen by using the contact form on her blog and she will either get you your prize or get you in touch with the person who will get you your prize. If we don't hear from you this week, we have a list of alternates who will get your prize!

Thanks to all who participated in this (my first) giveaway here on One of a Kind Reviews! Thank you also to my fellow bloggers who co-hosted with me and especially to AboutOne for giving us this opportunity. If you haven't already checked out AboutOne, I highly recommend that you do. If you haven't already, you can read more in my review about why I have been so impressed with AboutOne, since I started using their web service this summer!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

iYogi Tech Support: Feelin' the Good Karma

When I woke up on Sunday morning I had no idea that it would turn into one of the worst days of my Information Technology (IT) life in recent memory... It started with realizing that our avast! Internet Security software on our desktop computer was not functioning properly and was followed soon after by the discovery that while we were at church (of all places) that my personal email account had been hacked into, for the first time ever! Apparently whoever, or whatever automated program, managed to do this was sending suggestive and inappropriate emails to everyone from our pastor at the Catholic parish we regularly attend in our neighborhood to my most of my husband's aunts, uncles and cousins! I knew that of my friends and family would know better than to think that I wanted to help them improve certain body parts or areas of their personal lives. It is definitely one of those times and moments in life where you don't know whether to laugh or cry!

There is more to that part of this story and you can read the rest of the background in this post on my main blog, Four of a Kind. Go ahead and click over if you like and then come back here to read this post or you can check it out later if you are interested.

It was past 8:00 p.m. Sunday night when I finally got around to being able to spend the time and effort to do something about all these problems. I had briefly spoken with a tech support person in India around noon, before leaving for a family gathering (as I shared about in my blog entry on Four of a Kind), who let me know that he or someone else would be able to take remote access of my computer(s), with permission, and that he was confident that they could help me to solve the problems that I was having with our internet security software and then some. Knowing that helped me to keep from overly obsessing about what was going wrong on the home front and I was able to still enjoy a fun day out at the race track and dinner with my family before coming home to attack our IT issues with the experts at iYogi Tech Support!

I didn't set out to work with iYogi to solve our problems on our desktop and eventually our laptop computer as well. I just called the customer support phone number listed on the avast! Internet Security website. However, from the first moments I spoke with a tech support person there, I was charmed. I am completely serious! I couldn't have been more frustrated or annoyed when I placed that phone call on our way out the door that day after lunch and somehow (could it really be that good karma?!) my brief conversation with the tech support representative was enough to calm my nerves and give me hope that at the end of the day (or in this case, in the wee hours of the morning) all of the problems we were having with our computers would be resolved!

Before I continue, here a little information about iYogi from their website:

They define Good Karma this way:

Karma (Sanskrit) karman- "act, action, performance" is the concept of "action" or "deed" in Indian religions understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect. The effects of all deeds are viewed as actively shaping past, present, and future experiences.

I discovered on their Facebook page, that they were founded in May 2005. Here is a bit more info about iYogi that I found on Facebook:

About: The first Global Consumer Tech Support services brand from India.

General Information: iYogi Provides Computer technical support in United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

Mission: Helping millions of people around the world by relieving the frustration and stress caused by technical issues, utilizing the extensive source of talent with high technical know-how available in India.

Products: iYogi's support ranges from business to consumer PCs, digital photography to entertainment, inkjet to LaserJet printers, Internet browsers, MP3 players and lots more.

Now back to my personal experience with iYogi...

So when I called iYogi Sunday evening at about 8:00 p.m., the tech support person I was connected with asked for my Account ID. The tech support person I had spoken with earlier had encouraged me to spent a few extra minutes with him on the phone so that we would set up my account to make it easier to "pick up where we left off" when I was available to later. He even offered to call me back or have someone else do so at whatever time was convenient for me. Talk about great customer service! I declined his offer, only because I wasn't sure what time would work best, since my family had plans for the majority of the remainder of the day.

After the iYogi tech support person got my Account ID, he was able to aquatint himself with the issues that I was having. He then asked for my permission to take remote access of our desktop computer (and ultimately and simultaneously my laptop to). The tech support person was quickly able to access the situation and problems I was having. He explained that they were more complicated than just fixing the issues with avast! Internet Security that we were experiencing. Had they been only related to our paid version of avast! he would have been able to take care of it for free. However, he was upfront about and I fully understood that if he was to help me address the other problems, that there would be a fee.

As the tech support person began to diagnose all the issues contributing to our desktop computer malfunctioning, I started to feel embarrassed, not because of anything he said, but because I realized how lax I had gotten about "taking good care" of our computers. He would ask me if I had "noticed" something was wrong in a many instances and I would own up to being very aware of the problems, but as long as I could resolve things enough to make our computers do what we wanted to do in any given moment, I often would ignore many of error messages we were getting. The man I was speaking with was very kind and understanding and didn't try to make me feel bad for having let things go this long without trying harder to fix them or get help to do so.

My husband Bob told me recently that he and some of his coworkers (they work in accounting) like to joke there is a point when you have learned enough about something (in my case that would be computers) that you have the knowledge to be "dangerous." And by dangerous they don't mean doing bad things on purpose, but rather, as I seem to have done in this instance, mess things up when I had only the best intentions of trying to make things (our computers) work and function better.

So anyway, the iYogi tech support guy explained that he and his colleagues would be able to help me, but that we would have to pay for their assistance. For awhile now Bob has been offering to pay for someone to try to help us with some of the computer issues we were dealing with, but since I consider myself an above average IT consumer, I believe that I could fix our problems all by myself, if only I had a little more time to focus on them. Ha, ha...  The tech support person explained the various subscription plans that they offer and I went over them with Bob. We both quickly agreed that $169.99 a year per computer (with discounts for additional computers) was more than reasonable to both fix the problems we were having on Sunday and to be available 24/7 in the year to come to help us with anything that might arise with the software on our computers (though they can help with much beyond that, this was the plan we agreed to sign up and pay for).

From there on out it was relatively smooth sailing. The tech support guy did suggest that fixing everything would take about 45 - 60 minutes, when in reality it was closer to 4 hours, but that time was well worth it to me to get all of this taken care of! One of iYogi's big things is being able to "optimize" computer systems so that they are able to run faster. One of their new ad campaigns is called "kill slow!"  They were very successful in "killing slow" on both of our computers Sunday night (we decided to sign up for $139.99 a year, they give a $30 discount for each additional computer), as well as fixing the problems we were having with our avast! Internet Security program on our desktop.

Once we were ready to roll with the major work to be done, the initial tech support person, who I was speaking with over the phone, transferred my case to another tech support person (who deals with computers that use Windows operating systems). From that point on I dealt directly with that person through a messaging system on both computers that was part of the process of his working on our computers remotely. They did request that I stay in front of both computers as much as possible, to allow them to communicate with and demonstrate some things as needed. It was a long four hours, but I was very impressed watching the tech support in action and even more pleased with the outcome!

As an aside, I also asked them if the could help "network" our desktop (which runs on Windows 7) and our laptop (which uses the Windows XP operating system) to allow file sharing. I know if they were both on Windows 7 it would be a piece of cake, but they aren't and won't be for awhile (I already looked into upgrading our laptop, but decided against it for a variety of reasons). They were also able to help me with that   which was an added bonus!  There are some other "projects" I have in mind for them to help me with in the future, but by after 1:00 a.m. on Sunday night/Monday morning, I realized that those could wait and that I needed to get some sleep.

So granted with all the expenses related to our recent move and settling into our new home we were not looking to invest over $300 in to our computers, we believe doing so was a smart choice. Now for the next year of our lives (or longer if we choose to extend, they do offer multi-year plans at a discount, but we weren't ready for that yet, especially financially) we will have our very own IT tech support available anytime of the day or night we might need their assistance. Which after all this sounds very good to me! As much as I like learning about IT stuff, I appreciate that the tech support staff at iYogi will "have my back" from now on and I am no longer in this alone.

Thank you for reading my review of iYogi! Though I would love to say that I got a discount or some other freebie for sharing my thoughts and experience here, iYogi has in no way asked or compensated me for this review. I just thought some of you out there might appreciate hearing about my experience and if and when you are in a similar situation in the future, you can consider whether or not contacting iYogi might be right for you. Until then, as all of the iYogi tech support staff say when they end a phone conversation with you, Good Karma.

Special thanks to all who participated in my first giveaway here on One of a Kind Reviews with AboutOne and some of my blogging friends! The winners will be announced soon and I will let you know which, if any of you who entered, have won anything.