Tag Archives: Efax

Still Sneaky After All These Years

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I still retain the capacity to get bummed out by the intrusiveness of software from companies you’d think would be trying to make us happy these days, not make us madder.

My friend Scotty, the Winpatrol watchdog, has been doing a great job of keeping an eye on these things. The culprits either try to change file associations or add a program to the boot sequence, without telling us. Some recent examples:

Windows Live Mail, without me doing anything at all, suddenly tried to wrest control of my emails by grabbing the extension EML from Thunderbird:

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This was unconnected to anything I was doing, or had asked. I didn’t even know I still had Live Mail installed. Shocking. Imagine if I hadn’t been asking Scotty to keep guard? Or that I didn’t have much of a clue what I was doing? (OK, don’t answer that one.)

(Just out of interest, launching Outlook Express will do the same thing:)

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Still, I suppose the Microsoft defence is that everyone else is doing it. I installed WordPerfect Office the other day and found that, without asking, it tried to take over handling DOC files without asking first. Luckily, Scotty woofed a warning:

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No wonder users are baffled about what is going on with their computer and end up heading off to the Apple Store for some TLC. Software companies have got to stop doing this kind of thing. (And no, I’m not saying that Apple are any better at this. It’s just they reduce the choices so people feel their computers behave more predictably. This, after all, is what people yearn for.)

Likewise with starting programs. Once again it’s about predictability: If software starts loading without the user being asked first, then a) the computer is going to slow down and b) the user will have a bunch of new icons and activities to figure out. A couple of examples:

Windows Live forces its Family Safety Client to boot without asking:

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as does eFax, the online faxing service:

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These companies need to stop this. They need to stop it now. Consumer confidence is low, but so is user confidence. I am inundated with letters from readers of the columns who talk about their bafflement and sense of alienation from their computer. (Meanwhile, I read love stories from those who switch to Macs.) The point is this: Not that people believe Macs are better computers—although they may well be—but they are simpler to use, more predictable, more understandable, more, well, user-friendly.

What’s user-friendly about changing the settings on someone’s computer without asking them? Would a company try that with someone’s car, fridge, or dishwasher?

Fax Over Internet: Still Around

This is a bit old, but I hadn’t noticed, so perhaps some of Loose Wire’s Asia-based readers hadn’t either: j2Global Communications, provider of the eFax Internet fax service, have this year started offering local toll-free numbers in Asia — well at least in Manila and Singapore. It says it’s planning to add numbers in Malaysia soon.

This means you offer customers, bosses, spouses, friends, colleagues or whoever local numbers in those countries to cut down on fax and voicemail costs. The press release says the company has a regional footprint now encompassing Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines and Singapore, although I can’t see anything on their sign-up page that suggests offering Hong Kong yet. (Australia offers three cities, New Zealand one and Japan two. J2 says they’re continuing to pursue our vision of providing customers with local fax and/or voicemail numbers in as many cities as possible around the world.

The service costs $15 a month, with a $15 set-up fee. Incoming faxes are free, outgoing cost 10 cents a page, wherever they go. There is a free version available, where you can recieve faxes only: The only numbers available for that service, I believe, are in the U.S. I have not been overly impressed with the eFax service in the past, but it’s good to see local Asian numbers appearing in a service like this.

The End Of Free Faxing?

What’s up with eFax, also known as j2, the (supposedly) free Internet fax people?

I received an email from j2 Global Communications today that said

Dear Jeremy,

Your account has been suspended and your eFax number 1-973-215-1210 is no longer accepting faxes.

If you wish to keep your eFax account, you may upgrade and reactivate your account immediately by using the following link.

If you do not reactivate your account by 12/16/2004, it will be closed and your eFax number will be reassigned to another user.

If you have recently upgraded your account, thank you, and please disregard this notice.

Sincerely, The eFax Free Team

Um. Now, I may have missed something along the line. eFax send out ‘third party ads’ to support the service so I tend to let all the junk emails they send me go into a spam bin [see note below on altered text]. So I may have missed a crucial email. But I can’t see anything in this email that explains why they’ve canceled my free account and why I suddenly have to upgrade ($13 ‘one time setup fee’ [sic] and $13 a month for the number).

Now of course I’m not a suspicious individual, so I’m assuming this has absolutely nothing to do with the almost simultaneous announcements of “the immediate availability of its eFax® service in three additional languages” (Spanish, German and French, in addition to existing services in English and Dutch) and today’s press release that “j2 Global Communications, Inc. (Nasdaq: JCOM), the provider of outsourced, value-added messaging and communications services, today announced the availability of eFaxSecure, a new service for its eFax Corporate(R) customers”.

I’m not supposing for a second that these announcements, which make no mention of any free services the company offers, or the apparent suspension of some of those services, are intended to cover up scrapping any such services (were any scrapping to have taken place). Nor would I dream of taking a closer look at whether a NASDAQ-listed company is supposed to alert investors to the suspension of discontinuation of services (were any discontinuation to have taken place) as much as the addition of new ones.

Still, if it is the end of free Internet faxing, it’s a shame. I never really used it that much these days, but it was nice to put on namecards. Perhaps with the rapid spread of VoIP services, these kind of things were anachronism anyway. I might see what their PR folk have to say about all this in any case, just to see whether I’ve got the wrong end of the stick.

Update: PaperPort vs PaperMaster

 There’s been quite a bit of discussion here about PaperMaster and Paperport, two scanning and filing programs that in the past have been very useful tools. But now I’m not so sure. Both have glitches that I find worrying.
 
 
I’ve reviewed PaperPort, which I think is a good program, but I was alarmed to suddenly find some files disappearing, in the transition from editing to saving. Has anyone else had this experience? The problem with Papermaster, which I haven’t reviewed yet, has a way of saving files into the Acrobat format, but not to view them in the program. Neither is there any way that I can figure out to convert the PDF file to the eFax file that Papermaster now uses to view and save documents. What’s the point of that, I wonder? Thoughts anyone?

Software: PaperMaster Pro – worth the wait?

 It’s been nearly five years some folk have been waiting, but it looks like PaperMaster, a great program for scanning and organizing your paperwork, is back.
 
PaperMaster is back
PaperMaster — the last full version was 98, to give you some idea how long this software’s been hibernating — was pretty good. It look liked a filing cabinet, and let you scan and store more or less anything you could squeeze through your scanner. The company was sold to j2, which is basically an Internet faxing service and which were very, very quiet about the software until last year, when in response to public interest (well me, and a couple of other people) they released PaperMaster2002, an upgrade for existing licensed users of PaperMaster98 “who have migrated or are planning to migrate to the Microsoft® Windows 2000, XP, or ME operating system”.
 
That version wasn’t cheap — $150 — and didn’t do much apart from resolve a few of the features of PaperMaster98 that wouldn’t work under XP (unless you happened to stumble across some tweaks that fans had posted to websites). Earlier this year, when I complained about the cost of what was basically a minor upgrade, j2 told me “the PaperMaster upgrade was completed primarily for a few select users who were figuratively beating down j2 Global’s door to get the new product. The cost of the upgrade was a result of j2 Global investing significant resources to complete an upgrade designed for limited distribution. Based on customer response, j2 Global’s PaperMaster users seem to be fine with the price”. Not what I heard, but there you go.
 
Anyway, Pro is here. Nearly. You can pre-order and get 15% off the retail price of $199 (once again, not cheap). Still, it sounds as if it has some serious features
  •    Create PDFs from any office application or scan
  •    Organize fast and easy
  •    Find anything in seconds
  •    Get powerful OCR – Never re-type any document
  •    Fax easier via the Internet with built-in eFax®
All of which sound useful. I’ll review it once I’ve got hold of a copy. Earlier release date was set for today, so that could be soon. If you’re in a hurry, see my recent review of PaperPort, which does much the same thing.