Can’t even trust “Made in Germany”?

Some companies don’t seem to hesitate when it comes down to maximizing profits. Consumers’ health doesn’t matter. You have to be vigilant, continuously expect to be taken advantage of, even with – or especially with – something as innocent looking as gummy bears.

Some of you may know that I am a huge fan of Haribo gummy bears. While I still lived in Munich, I used to go through a pound of those per week. Then we moved to Fort Wayne, and my initial joy about finding “Haribo Gold Bears” in local grocery stores was immediately stifled when I realized they tasted very different. Reading the ingredients list on the package, I noticed that these Haribo gummys sold in the USA contain artificial colors you shouldn’t eat. Things like yellow #5, red #40, or blue #1, are nothing I would want to consume daily.

made in Germany for sale in Germany
original German gummy bears

So I started to search for sources online. When I learned that Haribo produces gummy bears for the US market in Turkey, where regulations aren’t as strict, and consumers aren’t as “picky”. I thought that simply checking for “made in Germany” would be the safe way to go, if I wanted to keep eating Haribo’s gummy bears. I started ordering my beloved “Goldbären” on eBay and Amazon, paying about $15 for a pound of gummy bears, directly imported from Germany – no artificial colors involved.

made in Germany for sale in USA
Haribo gummy bears made in Germany, for the USA

Today, however, I found out that simply looking for “made in Germany” is not sufficient anymore! A colleague brought a bag of Haribo gummy bears into the office to share, claiming that they were the “real thing”, made in Germany. The label did really say “made in Germany” for Haribo USA. But the ingredients where the same as that stuff they make in Turkey. Apparently, if you produce candy for the USA, you can now get away with using harmful chemicals, even if production happens in Germany.

From now on I’ll be extra careful when buying Haribo. Not just “made in Germany”, it has to be imported from Germany, sold in Germany, and without artificial ingredients.

Microsoft – neither “micro”, nor “soft”?

I’ve used Microsoft’s products professionally and personally since 1995, you could say I am a loyal customer. In the early days I would have claimed to even be a fan.

Over the years, though, the company has changed so much, that I feel the compelling urge to shake my head at their “business practices”. The sense of pioneer spirit and world community of software developers is completely gone. It has been replaced by corporate greed.

Sometimes, however, little old me feels the sweet smile of victory creeping up onto my face when I accomplish something that big, bad Microsoft didn’t want me to.

I recently purchased an Asus Transformer Mini, which looks like a Surface Pro clone, but costs about a third – that alone is a small victory. It comes with Windows 10, which I am still not a fan of for various reasons. I was sort of OK with my purchase, until I realized that I can’t have MS Movie Maker on it?? installed Movie Maker on Windows 10 machine in July 2017They discontinued, and tried to eradicate, that entire package of Life Essentials software tools some time in January 2017.

That’s when my hunter’s instinct kicked in! With a little help from Google, my best friend professionally and personally since 1998, I found an old offline installer for MS Life Essential 2012, in German – because you need the version that matches your operating system’s language – and got my Movie Maker installed on this new notebook.

Helping, without helping too much

Helping people is a good thing, right? We are being taught early in life that you answer “yes, of course” when somebody, anybody, asks for your help nicely. As we get older, wiser, more experienced, it seems only natural that we will be asked for help more often. It can be flattering to find your advice highly sought after. Research shows, however, that both parties in this situation – the helper, and the one being helped – may suffer negative consequences of too much help. I recently experienced this, again, and had to remind myself to say “no”, at least sometimes.

It started as an innocent message from a stranger in a public forum – just a quick question about a little detail of my life that I had shared. I replied, being the well-behaved, educated person I have been taught to be. Big mistake! Could I please answer some more in-depth questions, preferrably via email? Sure – why not, one email doesn’t cost me that much time. It didn’t stop at one email, though. The messages became longer, repeating questions that I had already answered. Would I please attach sample documents to explain what I meant? Oh, and I sent you a “friend request” on Facebook, because I really like you – we have never met in person, mind you.

So, after several months, I find myself researching information on the internet, collecting documentation about my findings, answering highly technical questions with longer and longer emails and messages. It’s starting to feel like a job – except I’m not being paid, or otherwise rewarded. I realized, that I had inadvertently created a dependency. This random stranger stopped doing their own research, learning for themselves. Instead they relied on the newly found “two-legged dictionary” that I had become for them.

No – this stops here! I realize that my experience and detailed knowledge could help others in a similar situation, and I am willing to share – but not to the point where it becomes a job. Sometimes you have to be selfish and put yourself before anyone else. Ignore what society is urging you to do.

 

Hey, Microsoft, stop pestering me, please!

I’ve been using Microsoft’s operating system(s) on various computers since version 3.11 of Windows. Each new version brought some improvements, some new features, some limitations, and some new bugs. I learned to live with all things Windows – after all, this is just an operating system.

I fully understand that Microsoft’s developers are really proud of their work, and that they truly believe that Windows (in any version) is the world’s best operating system, and that everybody should love it. What I don’t understand, though, is why they keep pushing their latest flavor of Windows – number 10 – so aggressively. Or, maybe, I probably do understand – it must be to Microsoft’s benefit somehow, or else they wouldn’t do it.

I personally own an antique PC tower still fully functional with Windows 98, a laptop running Windows XP, a netbook on Windows 7 Professional 32-bit, a desktop PC operated by Windows 7 Home 64-bit, and a Surface Pro with Windows 8.1 on it. All these machines are mine. I bought them. I run licensed copies of Windows on them. I keep all these machines updated, well maintained, running smoothly, free of malware.

So, please, Microsoft, get off of me! I really don’t want to install Windows 10 on any of my devices. If I wanted Windows 10 on anything, I would know where to go and get it. I wouldn’t even mind paying for it. You can really stop bugging me now, because it gets old after a while. You might have realized by now, that I found out what to watch for and how to make sure your nagware doesn’t accidentally make it onto my hard-drives, hiding behind a long list of “important” updates with inconspicuous KB……..-numbers.

By the way, I may eventually buy another PC, laptop, or tablet – and if it came with Windows 10 installed, I wouldn’t mind. That would be when I want it, though, not when you want it.Windows-10.jpg

Make or Buy?

As a software developer I’ve had to make that decision many times – is it better to simply make what you need, or should you look to buy existing solutions? I personally like the feeling of power that I get from being self-sufficient, so I tend to lean towards “make your own”. From the business perspective, though, I agree that re-inventing the wheel is a waste of resources.

If you decide that buying is in your best financial interest, your search for solutions may not render the desired results – which is when you should be prepared to make what solves your problem, and take pride in your own creativity.

That’s why I invented the
                                       ExxoPok cell phone holster with belt clip, made in USA

I tried to find a pouch for my new “big” smart-phone that would meet all my requirements:

  • is made out of genuine leather
  • has a belt-clip
  • doesn’t come off when I bend over
  • doesn’t bruise my thigh when I sit down
  • won’t make me look fat
  • fits my Nexus 5X with a shock-proof case on it
  • comes in whatever colour I want
  • isn’t made in China

After hours of futile search in stores and online I had to resort to my own inventive talent. A local leather craft store came in handy with materials, tools, and great advice. IMG_20151102_113714.jpg

It took some prototyping, improving my design pattern and manufacturing technique, trying different variations, until the final product was ready to go public. I’ve made five of those by now, two for myself and three for family.

You can order yours here:
Get Your ExxoPok