Welcome to Curious Business
Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
Friday, April 18, 2014
End of the Line for XP
Security warnings grew increasingly shrill as Windows XP rode into the sunset. Wasting $100 to upgrade my five-year-old Dell Vostro to Windows 7 would have been dumb. I knew that this was coming and a new computer was in the plan for 2014 all along -- just not yet. Then Microsoft upped the stakes by disabling Security Essentials – they’re still updating virus definitions, but they rendered the program unreliable by turning the detection permanently red. I reinstalled Avast to get around that (and quickly remembered why I had uninstalled it in the first place; what a whiny program!).
Last week’s Heartbleed scare pushed me from anxiety to action. With two major vulnerabilities I had to replace my Vostro, and quickly.
“Quickly” took most of a week as I shopped the Dell Outlet, Newegg, Best Buy, Staples, Tigerdirect, Lenovo, and a smattering of smaller vendors for sweet deals on Dell, Lenovo, or HP laptops. It quickly became apparent that I was not going to get very much new computer within my budget, so I focused on refurbished and scratch-and-dent machines. The options narrowed drastically when I limited results to Win7 machines with at least 6 gig of RAM for under $800.
The finalists were a new Inspiron from Staples for $550, a refurbished Latitude for $429, and a refurb Precision for $599 (both from Newegg). The Latitude was the best deal and the Precision was the best machine. After a couple days of hand-wringing I reluctantly decided not to take a chance on a refurb with a 90-day warranty from a third-party seller – I lack the technical chops to solve potential problems myself...the potential for problems was too high...and my confidence in the limited warranty was too limited.
The full-year warranty from Dell persuaded me, without enthusiasm, to buy the boring Inspiron. It has twice as much RAM as my Vostro, so I can at least expect slightly faster performance. The display and keyboard are nicer, too. Redeeming my Staples rewards covered the sales tax and brought the delivered cost to $552. American Express will rebate 5% of that, and I’ll earn another 5% in further Staples rewards.
Of course, I still can’t afford it. Without an unexpected sales surge I’m going to have to pay some credit card interest for a few months.
Windows XP still powers hundreds of millions of computers worldwide. It's still a fine operating system that works simply and reliably. Win7 is a good OS, too, but frankly I always liked XP's interface better. If tens of millions of those XP users go through the same hassle that I just did, the PC industry should register a noticeable bump in sales this spring.
That Precision was a really nice computer, btw. Maybe in a few years I’ll be able to replace this Inspiron with something that I actually want.
As long as I was making hard decisions, I discontinued Bottled Up Jewelry. Despite being beautiful and eco-friendly it didn’t fit in with Curio City’s overall emphasis on practical, clever things. The jeweler dropshipped quickly and accurately, but sales never amounted to more than a nuisance. I was able to delete 110 product pages, four categories, and more than 400 images. I hated to flush away all that work, but having it cleaned out feels good now that it’s done.
Will I ever bring in another jewelry line? Maybe, if I happen upon something unique and clever, not too expensive, and drop-shippable.
As I should have foreseen, business completely hit the wall the minute I put the computer on my Amex card. As of Friday afternoon this is shaping up as the worst week ever, with just four sales totaling $78. I don't know why. The coincidence with switching to PayPal is suspicious, but that should be invisible to customers. I don't see any technical flaws of any kind. AdWords could use a refresh and Google is screwing with Product Listing Ads again, but that doesn't explain the sudden dramatic collapse. A formidable new competitor wouldn't kill everything across the board. Maybe it's got something to do with Easter. Sometimes dry spells just happen. Eventually they end as mysteriously as they began (although this one has already lasted much longer than expected and shows no sign of fading). Whatever the cause, this week is going to drag April into the dumpster.
Labels: Reasons to hate technology