Friday, December 17, 2010

Liquid Gold or Daylight Robbery?

Having worked for HP for almost 15 years, I would always purchase HP cartridges for my printer, rather than having them re-filled. “Why are you doing that? You can save so much” my friends would say. However, I still felt a certain loyalty to my old company. I knew that it costs a lot of R&D to develop ink, and I also knew that even though $8,000 a gallon
does seem a little excessive, it pays for the R&D and means that we can buy printers for $100 as opposed to $400. Plus I know that you could have problems with warranty and print quality. I feel so foolish now, but I actually felt a little bit proud when I saw the ‘Genuine Printer Cartridge” installed on my printer screen.

Imagine my surprise then when I got an email from HP announcing “Notice of Proposed Settlement of HP InkJet Litigation”. What could this be about? According to the email, the first claim was that:
“certain HP inkjet printers used "low on ink" messaging technology to indicate that replacement of a cartridge is needed when the cartridge is not empty”
Big deal, everyone knows that you don’t replace a perfectly good cartridge while it’s still working, you just make sure you’ve got a spare for when it does run out. But there was more. The second claim regarded printers not working if the expiration date on the cartridge had expired (I didn’t even know that they had one), but the third claim was most worrying:
“certain HP color inkjet printers used color ink in addition to black ink when printing black text and images without disclosing this to consumers and without providing consumers with the option of disabling this feature”
Surely this couldn’t be right? The company that I knew and once loved would never do something like that? But then I got thinking. I’d just bought an HP6500 OfficeJet and both the black AND color cartridges were now almost empty, yet I’d only really ever printed black text as my daughter is home schooled and needs to print out a lot of her assignments. So I decided to test it for myself. I replaced the black cartridge with a new HP920XL for $28 and left the color cartridges almost empty. Sure enough, when I went to print, all the text came out red. This didn’t make any sense, so I called HP technical support.

“That’s because we put down a layer of color ink underneath the black ink and there’s not enough color ink left.”

“But I didn’t want you to put down color ink first. Why would I pay $30 for a color ink cartridge, and then waste it by printing over the top of it?” I asked.

“It makes the black more vibrant sir.”

“It wouldn’t be so that you force me to buy twice as much ink would it?”

“No sir.” Of course not. What a suspicious mind I have.

“You didn’t ask me - my printing is for my daughter’s school work, believe me, it doesn’t need to be vibrant”.
So we went on to see how we could disable this “feature”. Buried in amongst the print options and cunningly hidden under Paper Type/Quality is an option to print with the black cartridge only. But you need a masters in computer science to find it. First you have to select Color and then set it to Greyscale. You would think that would be enough, but no, you then need to select Color Options before you see the Black Print Cartridge Only option. After selecting this option, bingo, I could print in black.

However, after a couple of pages of printing, it started to print in red again. This couldn’t be right. So I hunted down my new favorite best setting, only to find that my printer had CHANGED the print setting back to the old “use as much ink as possible” setting and further more, GREYED OUT the Black Cartridge Only setting. It was like my printer was now really mad at me for finding it’s hidden setting and was going to punish me,

Another call to the HP support line and they all innocently claimed it must be something wrong with my Mac, or that I should try re-installing the driver (which I’ve done but that makes no difference). Do you know what fixed the problem? Replacing the color cartridges. As soon as I did that, it started printing fine - if you call over-printing my expensive color ink with black.

Now I don’t believe in coincidences. What are the odds of a software “bug” that just happens to reset your printing options to use both black AND color ink without giving you any indication, thereby doubling the amount of ink you use, and doubling the cost? I calculate that over the last 10 years, this deception will have cost me over $2,000. Now let’s think about that for a second. According to IDC, HP Inket printers have 66% market share. Since about 52% of US households own a computer, each of which has a printer, and around 79 million households, that would put the total amount of theft at $54 billion. Let’s say I’m a heavy user, and not everyone has inkjet printers, even half that figure is $25 billion which I would rate that con as the biggest theft in human history.

I still can’t believe that HP is doing this. The Bill and Dave (HP founders) that I had read about would be turning in their graves. What ever happened to honesty, integrity and honor? When did the interests of share holders override the legal rights and moral expectation of a company’s customers? Even though my company is tiny in comparison, our customer's trust us and loyalty is our number one concern. Many times we will routinely refund part of our shipping charges if the actual cost of the shipping is less than what they were initially charged on our website.

So what of the class action suit and the settlement? Finally, there shall be justice right? HP has agreed to settle and allocated the huge sum of $5 million to cover the costs. If you file a claim, then you’ll receive a staggering $5 e-credit. To be fair, it might be $6 in some circumstances. If I was one of the lawyers, I’d receive $2.9 million. This is a messed up country.

Has HP learned? Will it discontinue these practices? Of course not. Think tens of billions versus $5 million. Slam dunk. It will disclose in the printer manuals and on it’s website the use of under-printing and how to disable it, or minimize it’s use. But let’s face it, who reads the manual?

About the Author
Philip May is President of TechnoRV, an online retailer specializing in technology products for the RV industry.







Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Great feedback from Ida (Spruce Grove, AB)

"This company sells superior products and on top of that they are actually concerned about the customer. When the company saw how much the shipping costs were they emailed me prior to shipping to see if I would prefer the cheaper snail!!!"

Monday, November 22, 2010

Huge Gift Wrap Order

Just packed a huge FREE gift wrapping order this afternoon for the holidays (or should I say, Tracey actually did - if you saw my gift wrapping you'd pay me NOT to do it!).

Have you got yours yet?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why I don't recommend the Eye-Fi Memory Card

For those of you who don't know, the Eye-Fi combines an SD memory card with a WiFi radio. The idea is that it will automatically transfer photos from your camera to your computer using your WiFi network. Sounds good right, especially for us RV'ers who are always taking photos? Also, it claims to offer geo-tagging support which will add the location of where the photo was taken to the photo itself so that you can search by location in programs such as Picasa or iPhotos.

So why aren't we selling them? Well, the concept is good, but after spending a couple of weeks testing one, I found it had a number of drawbacks, especially for RV'ers:-

  • It requires a local WiFi network, so you need a router in your rig.
  • It's quite hard to set up, especially if you're not familiar with WiFi
  • You need to lchange your camera's auto-power-off feature since the camera needs to be turned on all the time it is copying photos. That can take quite some time (see below) which means that my camera battery was always almost flat.
  • The geo-tag feature while sounding nice, isn't what it appears. I thought it used GPS which would have meant that it would work anywhere. In fact, it uses a map of known WiFi hotspots to try to deduce where it is. No Wifi hotspot, no geo-tag.
  • The most significant drawback is the fact that in order to automatically copy your photos to your computer, it must first copy them to the EyeFi server! This means that if you have a slow internet connection it can take a long time, or if you have a datacard, your paying for the megabytes to be transferred both up and down.
In the end I decided it was much easier just to open my camera and put the card into the computer. Not as high-tech, but faster, more reliable and a lot cheaper!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gabbing with the Geeks

At the recent Escapade show in Goshen, Tracey, Ally, Josh and myself were interviewed by our friends Chris and Jim Guld of the Geeks on Tour for their excellent video series called 'Gabbing with the Geeks'. They focus on computer education for travelers and offer exceptional booklets and tutorials on a wide range of topics, including Picasa, Computer Essentials, Blogging, Google Earth to name but a few.

Have a look at the video and see a tour of some of the hottest products from our booth!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How to Add Captions to Photos

"We have several pictures in folders on our computer. I would like to transfer them to a DVD; however, captions do not transfer with the pictures. We have put captions on all of our pictures to identify them. Any Suggestions????

PS I love the back up drive we purchased at the RV Rally and love your article about the kindle."
Microsoft Galley is good for quickly looking at your photos on your computer, but I wouldn't recommend it for organizing and tagging your photos. Not only is it limited in it's features (as you've found), but it's not portable across platforms (e.g. if you got a Mac).

To solve your problem, I'd recommend Picasa from Google. For a start, it's free. Second, it has a lot of great functionality that will make your life a lot easier and save you a lot of time (including the ability to export photos with captions onto a DVD). To get it, Google Picasa and download it.

If you'd like more information on how to use Picasa, I'd highly recommend the Geeks on Tour Picasa guide and video tutorial. In it, Chris Guld explains all the basic functions of Picasa, AND shows you how to use it with a video how-to guide. Here's a link to it on my website.

I hope that helps!

Monday, October 11, 2010

How to tether your Blackberry to your laptop

I got this question from Penny and thought I would share it:
"I have a Verizon Blackberry Bold 3G Smartphone. I would like to know if I will be able to connect my lap top computer to my phone internet instead of paying for a modum via cable company for when I travel."
Penny, first of all, you will need to contact Verizon and tell them that you want to tether your laptop to your phone. They will (unfortunately) charge you $15 extra for that feature, but it's a lot cheaper than buying an aircard. They should provide you with a user name and password which you will need later.

Once you have the feature enabled, you will need to connect your phone to your laptop. There are two ways of doing this. First is to connect using the USB cable that came with your phone (if you don't have one, they are available quick readily, or let us know). The other option is to use Bluetooth which is a wireless connection between your computer and your phone. To use this feature you need a Bluetooth equipped laptop or at least a Bluetooth adapter. If you haven't use this option before, you will need to do what's called 'pairing' which connects your laptop and phone together. Let me know if you need more information on how to do this. The advantage of connecting by Bluetooth is that it is wireless, the downside is configuring it and sometimes you can lose the pairing and need to repeat the process. My advice is to start with the USB cable and see how you get on. You can always then move to Bluetooth later.

Now your ready to configure your laptop and phone. The easiest way is to use the Internet Protocol (IP) Modem Connection Manager that is included with BlackBerry® Desktop Manager 5.0.1 - it is designed to configure the BlackBerry smartphone as a tethered modem. If you don't have that software and need to configure things manually, here's a link to an excellent article that gives you step by step instructions, depending upon your operating system. Remember that since Verizon is a CDMA network, omit Task 2, and in Task 3, use the option to type #777 in the Dial-Up Phone number field.

Where is Picasa putting my photos?

Here's a question that I got from Roger which is a common question from Picasa users:
"Help - I do not know what has happened to my pictures. I used to stick in my SD card from my camera, to the computer and dowload them to My Pictures and now it seems to that every time I put the card into the computer and it puts them into the Pisca file intstead of my pictures and I have to transfer them to my pictures. Any idea what has happened?"
Roger, the first thing to remember is that you cannot 'put your pictures into Picasa'. Think of Picasa as a tool to allow you to see and manage the photos on your computer. If you have Picasa installed, when you load an SD card or your camera, Windows detects that event and then depending on it is configured, will load the right program to transfer the files. To find out how Windows 7 is configured, open the 'Control Panel', go into 'Hardware and Sound' and then select Autoplay (the second item down). Here you will see all the actions the computer will take when something is connected or a CD or DVD is inserted into the drive. If you haven't connected your camera or card before, nothing will be listed here. It is here that you can tell the computer to launch Picasa when it detects a camera or a card.

Next we need to check how Picasa is configured. To find out how Picasa is configured, load it and then go into "Tools" and then "Options". Look for the 'General' tab on the top of the window. At the bottom you will see a section called 'Save imported pictures in:'. This is the default folder where Picasa will save the photos to (for example, 'My Pictures'). When loading, it will give you the option of creating a new folder in 'My Pictures' to help keep your photos organized (for example 'My Pictures / Grand Canyon').

Hope that helps!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to Reset Locket to Factory Settings

Sometimes during the installation process, something can go wrong and you are unable to login to your new Locket. The most likely cause is that you inadvertently used a different password during the installation process to the one you are trying to login in with.

If for what ever reason, you need to reset Locket to its factory settings, here's what you need to do (remember that THIS WILL DELETE ALL THE DATA ON YOUR LOCKET. ONLY USE THIS OPTION IF IT IS A NEW LOCKET OR ADVISED TO DO SO BY EITHER LOCKET OR TECHNORV SUPPORT.

  1. First, download the Locket program files from the TechnoRV website
  2. Save the file to your desktop or documents folder (this is a large - 200 MB - file so be patient and ensure that you have a good internet connection, preferably not on an air-card)
  3. Insert your Locket drive into the computer
  4. Open My Computer, and open the drive with the Locket icon
  5. Navigate to the downloaded file ( and double click it to open the compressed folder
  6. Select all the files (Ctrl-a) and drag them over to the folder containing the Locket drive. The system will ask you if you want to overwrite the files, answer yes (again, remember that this WILL DELETE ALL YOUR LOCKET DATA AND SET LOCKET BACK TO ITS FACTORY SETTINGS).
  7. Once you have copied over the files, double click on 'install.exe' to re-install Locket.
If this doesn't work or you are unsure of the process, feel free to call me (Phil) at 866-324-7915 or email me at for help.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Escaping the Cubicle to the Great Outdoors

Here's your chance to learn the inside scoop on the May family and TechnoRV. Our adventures over the last 4 years were recently featured in an article (Escaping the Cubicle to the Great Outdoors) on

Take a look and if you like it, feel free to pass the link on. A big thank you to Tanushree at for her help with the article. Which reminds me, I need to get back and finish the final edits on my book!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why won't my Road Mouse Work?

Don't worry, it's probably something simple. First of all, let's check the batteries.

Hold the mouse upside down with the front of the car facing upwards. The batteries should be inserted with the left battery positive (the end with the bump) facing down, and the right battery's positive facing up. As soon as you put them in, the red optical sensor light should illuminate. If your mouse is misbehaving, you should also try new batteries as when they are getting low the light still works but it becomes 'jumpy' and hard to use.

If that doesn't fix the problem, let's make sure that you've synchronized the mouse to the transceiver. Put the transceiver (the short black stick) into a free USB port on your computer.When you do so the green light on the end should illuminate. Next, press the button on the transceiver and the green light should blink slowly. Then, press the button on underside of the mouse, normaly located above and to the right of the red light. As you do so, the green light on the transceiver should flash quickly for several seconds, and then return to a steady illumination. Then test your mouse. If its working correctly, when you move the mouse, the green light on the transceiver should flash very quickly.

If none of those fix the problem, try the mouse on another computer. We've had a number of mice sent back that work fine. Sometimes the Windows drivers can get corrupted and need to be reinstalled causing a device like the mouse to appear to not work.

If all that fails, its possible that the mouse is faulty. Contact TechnoRV support ( with a description of what you have tried and if it's still in warranty (1 year), we'll get you a replacement.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How to Use Locket to Track Expenses

I got this question from one of our Locket users (Lana in St. Louis). She wanted to know how to use Locket to track her expenses.

Good question Lana. The Expense Tracker is actually a summary screen of the transactions that have been entered from within the Asset screen. So for example, let's say that you have a bank account called Wells Fargo in the Assets screen. If you go into that screen, you can enter individual transaction for that bank account, be they deposits or withdrawals. The Expense Tracker screen will then list and summarize those transactions, for Wells Fargo, and any other accounts that you have set up.

To use Locket to track cash expenses, simply go into the Assets screen, select Other Fixed Assets for example, and then create a category called Expenses (for example). Go into that category and there you can enter the transactions which will show up on the Expense Tracker.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Technology from CES 2010

Although it seems like a long time ago, this is the first chance I've had to sit down and write a little about what we saw at CES 2010 (the annual consumer electronics show). I posted some of my photos on the TechnoRV Facebook Fan page, but here's a couple of highlights for you.

This is by far and away the coolest 'toy' I've ever seen. If anyone has the impulse to get me an early Christmas present, this is it. It looks and behaves a lot like the 'hunter-killer' drones in Terminator 3. It's a quadracopter (helicopter with 4 blades) that uses your iPhone as a control platform, providing a visual view of what the AR 'sees' through a WiFi link and your iPhones screen.... Watch the video, it's awesome.

Samsung Ultra-thin TV
Just got yourself the latest in plamsa TV's? Well, I'm afraid you're already out of date. Samsung's new 50" plasma screen is less than 0.4" thick. Check out the video.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Naan Bread

Naan is a leavened, oven-baked flatbread that is popular in many Asian countries (and the UK!). This is THE bread that you should make to go with the butter chicken. It's amazing and you'll never want rice again! I've tried all sorts of different naan recipes and keep coming back to the one that I got with our Panasonic Break Maker about twenty years ago! You don't need to make it in a bread maker, in fact, it's easier and quicker if you don't.

Fast acting dried yeast - 1 tsp
Strong white flour - 1 lb
Sugar - 1 tsp (I use honey or maple syrup because it's healthier)
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Olive oil - 2 tbsp
Plain yogurt - 4 tbsp
Warm water - about 1 cup

  1. Add all the dry ingredients to the bowl of a food processor using the blade attachment.
  2. Turn on and slowly add the water until the ingredients clump together into a ball and start being 'dragged around'. If your ingredients are still dry and more like flour than dough add more warm water until they clump together, but do it slowly as it's easy to add too much. If you do and the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.
  3. Continue to run the processor for a minute or so to kneed the dough until it is soft, springy and dry, not sticky to the touch.
  4. Grease a glass bowl and place the dough into it. I normally swirl the dough around in the olive oil'd bowl as it makes the dough easier to roll out later.
  5. Cover and let the dough rise for about an hour. If your kitchen is cold, put your oven on it's lowest setting, then turn it off and use that as a warming drawer.

Cooking the Naan
  1. Turn the oven back onto a low setting to keep your cooked naans warm
  2. Divide the naan into half, then half, then half (i.e. eight ok?) balls.
  3. On a clean, floured surface, roll out each naan into a long oval shape about 1/4 inch thick or less. You can't make then too thin, only too thick!
  4. If you have a skillet or large cast iron frying pan, heat it to about as hot as you can, drop in some oil and then the naan. Once the naan lifts and forms air pockets, swap to the other side (be careful of the air pockets - they are superheated steam and REALLY burn if they get you). It will take about 2-4 mins with a hot skillet. If you don't have a skillet, use a very hot, well oiled grill (I use Trader Joe's Olive Oil spray on the grill - it works a treat).
  5. Keep the naan warm in the oven while you prepare the remainder.
  6. Serve in a dish or bread bowl. I use a clean tea towel on the bottom and fold it over the naan to keep them warm on the table.
  7. Enjoy, my mouth is already watering!

Butter Chicken with Home Made Naan

Being British, you may not realize it, but our staple food isn't fish and chips, it's actually curry. And the best curry, bar none, is butter chicken (or chicken tikka masala as we call it in England). Butter chicken (or murgh makhani) is an Indian dish from Punjab, popular in countries all over the world. Although both Tracey and I have often cooked Indian food, we wanted to take it to the next level and see how we could make really authentic Indian food.

To that end, we attended a cookery class by Chura Prakash (Fremont, CA). She showed us how to make the most AMAZING butter chicken, and this is her recipe below. It consists of two parts, first you have to make and cook the chicken tandoori, then you make the butter chicken sauce. It's a little fiddly, but it makes a LOT and it freezes very well. You can even make more of the chicken tandoori and save it to have cold with salad or on top of pizza (try it, it's awesome). The tandoori masala and garam masala are available from most Indian grocery stores.

Tandoori Chicken
Chicken - 2 lb
Plain yogurt - 1 1/2 cup
Garlic - 8 cloves
Tandoori Masala - 7 tbsp
Garam Masala - 3/4 tsp
Lemon juice - 2 tbsp

  1. Wash the chicken and cut into small pieces. Make suts on the chicken with a knife.
  2. Mix the yogurt, tandoori masala, garam masala, lemon juice and finely grated or crushed garlic. Marinate the chicken in it for up to 6 hours.
  3. Grill on a well oiled grill for 5 - 10 mins (or you can bake it in the oven)
  4. Cover and let cool or proceed with the butter chicken sauce

Butter Chicken

Cooked tandoori chicken - 2 lbs
Butter - 2 tps
Tomato sauce - 4 x 8 oz cans
Garlic - 6 cloves
Ginger - 1 x 1" piece
Green chili's - 2
Cloves - 6
Black peppercorns - 12
Green cardamom - 4
Black cardamom - 2
Cinnamon - 2
Bay leaf - 2
Cumin seeds - 1/4 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam masala - 3/4 tsp
Sugar (use stivia or xylatol for a healthier alternative) - 3 tsp
Roasted dry funugreek leaves - 4 tbsp
Whipping cream - 3/4 cup
Milk - 1 1/2 cups

  1. Heat the butter in a pan. Add all the dry whole masala (spices) and let them crackle. Add the finely grated ginger, garlic and finely chopped green chili. Saute for a few minutes, add the tomato sauce and cook for 10-12 minutes.
  2. Add the red chili powder, salt, sugar and garam masala.
  3. Add the cream, milk and dry fenugreek.
  4. Cook for a few more minutes
  5. Add the cooked tandoori chicken pieces and cook for 5 mins. Serve with hot naan bread.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Top 10 iPhone Apps for Traveling

Got an iPhone? If so, you can probably relate to this scenario. You meet someone else with an iPhone. What's the first thing that you do? Swap apps of course. Well, here's your chance to share apps with your fellow RV'ers.

Here's how it works. I'll start the ball rolling with some cool ones that I've collected along the way. If you have some to share, just use the comments section at the bottom of this entry and I'll update the blog as they come in. We're looking for the Top 10 best and most useful apps. You never know, we may even run to a prize for the No.1 app! As with most competitions, the judges decision is final (i.e. mine) and no whining if you don't win!

So here goes (in order):

1. FaceBook (free)
Got a spare moment in the laundromat? Sat around listening to someone boring in the evening and need a distraction? Waiting for the RV to get serviced? This is THE app for keeping in touch with family and friends. You can even upload your iPhone photos and if you're lucky enough to have the new 3G (like me), you can upload video with VideoUp. Love it.

2. Yelp (free)
Awesome app for finding great local restaurants in a new location, complete with local review, and a link to Maps to help you find it.

3. Pandora (free)
If you've got a 3G connection, then you've got an almost unlimited music selection to play. It's like having a free juke box with an unlimited music. Simply select your favorite artist and let Pandora pick music from that artist and others that you might like. Plug your iPhone into your sound system and you're away! You can even bookmark new artists and songs that you like to play later or purchase from iTunes.

4. GPS Drive
Forget the $99 TomTom app, this baby (courtesy of Lamar) costs $2.99 and is almost as good. Check it out.

5. Showtimes (free)
Shows you the latest movies playing at local movie theatres close to you, complete with video trailers

6. GPS Tracker (free)
Enables you to upload your GPS location to your website or FaceBook. Ideal for letting everyone know where you are.

7. USPS Mobile (free)
Need to find the local post office. Look no further than this free app from your friendly post service (or not so friendly if you're in Quartzsite).

8. Dishpointer AR
Superimposes your satelitte location (you tell it what sat you are on) over a live feed from the camera so that you can determine the direction for your sat. Pretty cool, if not geeky.

New TechnoRV Shipping Options Save you Money

We've just added some new shipping options to! While sticking to our policy of never earning a cent from shipping, we now offer USPS First Class Mail as a low cost shipping option. This is especially useful for lighter and smaller opbjects such as extra batteries, flash drives or LED caps. If the weight of your object is less than 13 ozs (the limit for First Class Mail), our website will make this option available. One of our best sellers, the Road Mice Optical Mice will ship for around $4 vs the $5.99 priority rate saving you a couple of dollars. In today's climate, every penny helps!

If perhaps you've left that special birthday gift until the last minute, our Express Mail option may be right for you. It's not cheap, but if we ship it, we guarantee to deliver your gift the next day or your money back.

Finally, remember that we will never charge you more than $5.99 for Priority Shipping, even for our larger products like the Belkin laptop workstation or Swift Hitch. It's all part of our commitment to bring you the best in class products at the best prices with world class service.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Avoiding Serious & Costly Towing Accidents

This seminar reviews problems that can be encountered when towing a vehicle behind your motorhome and how to avoid them using the latest technology. It also includes a review of a pre-travel checklist and a detailed discussion about new systems that can be combined to actively monitor your towed vehicle while on the road. Since not all towing problems are avoidable, early identification of an issue with your towed vehicle can help minimize the severity of the problem and significantly reduce the cost of repair! Audience participation is encouraged during the question and answer session. For a copy of the slides, click here or on the photo.