Thursday, October 4, 2007

Microsoft's Vista a headache for many

By Matthew Lysiak | Special to amNewYork
October 3, 2007

It's groundbreaking, innovative, the wave of the future -- and a pain for merchants.

The highly touted new Windows Vista software may turn out to be everyone's operating system heading into the next decade, but at present it has amounted to one big headache for computer dealers.

That's because the software that promised to make life easier, has instead been plagued with speed and compatibility issues that have techies longing for the days of the older Windows XP. The problem also presents a unique dilemma for computer merchants who now find themselves faced with the unexpected burden of dealing with an angry tech-mob that had become accustomed to its user-friendly predecessor.

But now the cyber-backlash has many merchants changing course.

Pre-Vista, it was standard that all new computers were sold with the latest software, but the new operating system's unpopularity now has tech-merchants consulting first with their customers.

"The problem with Vista means that now when we sell a new computer we must always ask if they want the older XP version or Vista," said Bill Hastings, who runs Advance Computers, which is at 342 W. 71st St.

"Everyone always chooses the old XP version." Even more telling is that Dell, the computer giant, has recently altered its Web site to reflect the trend against Vista, with a prominent advertisement that lets consumers know they can still choose the old software.

Like the internet explosion itself, the uproar seemingly happened over night.

In early May, Microsoft distributed 40 million copies of Vista, which costs $100 to $500 depending on the version, but it didn't take long for some to begin suffering from a case of buyer's remorse.

The quick changing face of the competitive technology market presents a somewhat more sophisticated set of challenges to tech retailers than to more conventional merchants. That's because their survival is intrinsically tied to their ability to stay ahead of the curve, which usually means pushing their customers into newer and newer technologies, but in some cases staying ahead means taking a step back.

"They hyped this product and rushed it before it was ready to come out and as a result it isn't as complete as they promised," said Lucian Warren, a computer tech at Computer Bookworks at 78 Reade St.

"Give it a few months and after they work the kinks everyone will be using it for years to come."

Fall festivals fill the Ridge

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

For one week every fall, residents of Bay Ridge set aside their differences to do what they do best — party.

This year was no different. With three unique festivals in seven days, the party felt like it never ended. But taken together the celebrations remind us all of why life at the end of the R continues to be Brooklyn’s best-kept secret.

The secret can be boiled down to two things that in this case go hand in hand: diversity and food.

This year’s grub-fest kicked off last weekend with The Holy Cross Greek Cultural Festival, a three-day event which began on Friday, Sept. 21, and showcased our community’s prominent Greek presence.

Locals who wondered down to Ridge Boulevard found traffic closed from 86th to 84th streets for the most-famous (and perhaps only) loukoumades-eating contest in Brooklyn, not to mention live Greek music, rides, and plenty of ouzo (which is an anise-flavored liqueur best known for inebriating generations of uninitiated backpacker tourists).

But this party wasn’t just for toga-lovers

Last Saturday’s Ragamuffin Parade featured a scene that was equal parts Sesame Street and David Lynch, as an army of three-foot tall King Kongs, Dora the Explorers, Batmans (Batmen?), and Little Mermaids dutifully marched down the street together in the 41st annual installment.

The sight was beautiful as it was macabre, with children (some soaked in fake monster blood) taking over Third Avenue (“Children of the Corn,” anyone?) as adults stood in the background, only coming out to occasionally steer their costumed tykes away from the overpriced balloon merchants.

If that wasn’t enough fun, the next day’s Third Avenue festival featured plenty of food, not to mention a minor street-side political convention.

All the local pols had similar pitches, offering small bribes like tote bags and stickers in exchange for e-mail addresses — but the most original may have been the Brooklyn Democrats for Change, which offered Bazooka Joe chewing gum (the ones with the comics) to those brave enough to fork over contact info.

But the festivals were about more than really great food, creative costumes, and sketchy-looking rides: these 10 days were a kaleidoscope of shapes, colors, and smells that strike at one of humanity’s few remaining common denominators, resonating right at an instinctual core within all of us (besides hunger) — the need for whimsical celebrations.

The concept of celebrating our existence, for the sake of existing, isn’t something that is too common in this day of age, and it is an overall feeling that is carried throughout Bay Ridge most of the year — a communal vibe, if you will.

In a town where outsiders paint us as fractured along political and cultural lines, the festivals showcased our harmonious diversity, where everyone sets aside his differences in the name of funnel cakes and falafels.

That should be a big part of the reason Bay Ridge is a community that finds itself worthy of celebrating, again, and again, and again.

But just don’t tell anyone.

It’s our secret.

Matthew Lysiak is a writer who lives in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Sink
Funny little footnote to last week’s story about Councilman Domenic Recchia’s challenge to five-term Rep. Vito Fossella: The Congressman’s campaign staff quickly pounced on Recchia’s out-of-district address, but The Sink couldn’t help but notice that the phone number for the Committee to Re-Elect Vito Fossella has a 703 area code — that’s Virginia, folks. …

Overheard on Sunday at Salty Dog, the firefighter bar on Third Avenue between 75th and 76th streets: “I will never watch another Mets game so long as I live,” one dejected fan screamed at the big screen as the Marlins put up seven in the top of the first. “Or at least I won’t until next year.” …

Poly Prep completed a $4.5-million upgrade of its track and athletic fields. The new field is now covered with something called Mondoturf Ecofill, a rubber substitute that retains about 20 degrees less heat than black rubber, supposedly lowering athletes’ fatigue. …

The tornado-ravaged Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church, which is at Fourth Avenue near 67th Street, will be holding a concert/fundraiser in the sanctuary on Sunday, Oct. 21 at 4 pm. The event will feature songs and duets by Elizabeth Inghram and Douglas Jabara and the suggested donation is $30, but everyone is welcome. Rev. David Aja-Sigmon has been busy praying overtime, especially since he is a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan and now those loveable losers are in the playoffs.

Asian-Americans fail to find FEMA funds

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Uncle Sam keeps knocking — but they aren’t answering.

Eight weeks after a freak storm struck, Bay Ridge’s tornado-ravaged Asian-American community still won’t apply for Uncle Sam’s handouts.

As of Monday, $400,000 in aid has flowed into Brooklyn — but that amount would be higher if some residents better understood the system, according to the Federal Emergency Management Administration spokeswoman Sandra Martin.

“Bay Ridge is such a diverse neighborhood,” said Martin. “A lot of residents in the Asian-American community may not have gotten the message or don’t understand that we offer language assistance.”

If the message was lost among Asian-Americans, a lot of others got it.

Just under 600 Brooklyn residents had already had their application approved with FEMA and 245 residents had visited the agency’s 59th Street field office. The grant amount that has already been approved is at $419,699.

Grants provided by the federal government do not need to be paid back.

But Martin said that Brooklyn would be get even more green if the community could mobilize Bay Ridge’s diverse and shy citizenry.

After the Aug. 8 storm, FEMA sent inspectors to the hardest-hit areas — a concentric circle around 67th Street between Fourth and Seventh avenues that is home to many Asian-American residents. Though hundreds of cars and roofs were destroyed, eight weeks later many have still not applied. Last week, The Brooklyn Paper knocked on doors and got a similar response as the feds.

“I am sorry, I don’t speak English,” said one woman on Bay Ridge Avenue in perfect English. “I can’t help you because you wouldn’t be able to understand me.”

Other homeowners either didn’t answer or gave similar non-responses.

But it isn’t a language barrier that got their tongues, but fear of the authorities, at least according to one neighbor.

“They speak perfect English, but they are not going to talk to anyone,” said one neighbor, who requested anonymity, who lives across the street from the damaged homes on 69th Street. “A lot of those homes are illegally converted and have 10 or 15 different people living there.”

But residents should not let their immigration status get in the way of applying for aid, said Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Barbara Lynch. “If an illegal immigrant who applies for assistance has a young child who was born here, then that child is eligible for help,” said Lynch.

Register by Oct. 30. at FEMA’s Bay Ridge center (552 59th Street, at Sixth Avenue) or by calling (800) 621-FEMA.

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