Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Dell Downloads not working

I've had plenty of trouble getting My Dell Downloads to work properly. The problem I seem to have is that the pages loop back on each other, most of the time either taking me in circles, or just refreshing the current page. It's stupid, really.

The site claims that only Internet Explorer is supported. Indeed, it uses an ActiveX component to scan your computer, so IE is obviously the only option. But I've tried it on two different computers with Windows 7 and IE 9, and also on an XP system with IE 8. All of them behave the same, it doesn't work.

I must have got it working at some point because when I log in I can see my own laptop listed, which I purchased last June. But I do remember that it was a headache, I just didn't remember how, or what I did to get it working. I forgot, and like most things that I forget how to fix the first half dozen times, I eventually get my wits about me and blog post it so I can save myself from future headaches, and hopefully other people can benefit too.

Just got the wife a new laptop, a real cheapie, but it'll do for now. My first order of business is usually to reinstall the OS to get it running lean and clean. Before I do that, I like to download all the drivers from, but not all the pre-installed software is available through the support site. The stuff that Dell wants to keep a little better protected is behind a wall, the monstrosity that is My Dell Downloads.

Ok, it's not all that bad. It's got a fairly clean interface, and looks easy enough to navigate, if it only worked as advertised. Part of my problem was not knowing what to expect it to do. The other part is that it's just poorly executed. When I can finally get it working, it's just alright with me, oh yeah.

Let me first get to how I got it working. I tried several things, including adding sites to the Trusted security zone, compatibility mode, and turning off the pop-up blocker. I couldn't get the ActiveX to install, and could rarely even get it to prompt me that it wanted to install. The magic finally happened once I added two sites to my Trusted security zone (IE > Internet Options > Security tab), and dropped the zone to the Low security setting:
In the past, I've used Dell's website to track Dell computers for my job and my side work clients, through the 'My Systems' list (mainly to track warranty status), but in My Dell Downloads you can only add a computer from the computer you're adding. And I'm not currently seeing a way to remove computers once they've been added. For these two reasons, I'd suggest only adding computers you own, or that you are sure will never need to be transferred to someone else's account. I've not tried adding the same computer to multiple Dell accounts, so I can't tell you if that will work. Considering the access it gives to "protected" software, I doubt it will.
(Note: Dell's 'My Systems', as I think it was called, is apparently obsolete, replaced by 'My Products and Services'. Luckily, the first time I accessed it, today while looking for 'My Systems', it "found" and offered to import the old records into the new system. Gee, thanks Dell. Not sure why this wasn't automatic.)
I suppose that once you've successfully installed the ActiveX and added your computer to My Dell downloads, you should bump the Trusted sites zone back up to the default, Medium security level. You can leave the sites in the Trusted list. I plan to edit this post with screenshots of the process once I can gather them properly. I'd love to see replies letting me know about how you make out, if my instructions have helped you, if I have missed anything, or if you found another solution. Let me know!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Firefox ain't what it used to be!

I've been a raving fan and user of Firefox since it was still called Firebird. I do use IE and Chrome periodically, but thought nothing would ever shake the hold that Firefox has on me. I no longer hold this belief.

The reason is Mozilla's somewhat newly adopted rapid release cycle (version 10 just hit my system). It's causing my can't-live-without plugins to stop working, like every other week! Mozilla is putting a burden on plug-in developers, which I believe is unacceptable. I have never been closer to dumping Firefox. If this nonsense doesn't change, I'll have to go quietly into the night. For now, however, I thought I owed at least the courtesy of making my frustration known.

I went to the Mozilla site to submit my feedback, but lo and behold, their feedback form doesn't seem to accept more than a sentence and a half. My modest paragraph wouldn't take, and I found no readily accessible alternative to presenting my frustration to Mozilla directly. Hence, I'm back here, posting to the public (a.k.a. me, myself and I).

My current plug-in of concern is Tab Utilities. A damn-fine plug-in if I do say so myself. I refuse to browse without it. I know a little bit about the structure of Firefox plug-ins, perhaps only enough to be dangerous, which leads me to believe that it's much more likely a simple version number issue, and not an actual compatibility issue. I could go in and modify the plug-in manually to make it work with version 10, but I'm sick of doing this!

I usually turn off auto-updates in Firefox settings, but I use so many darn computers, I don't always remember to do it on all of them. I recently got a new work computer, and forgot to turn off auto-updates, so now Firefox is gimped for me at work. So lame.

I also have a potential problem in which I cannot log into our company website. I'm still troubleshooting that, and don't know for sure if it's related to the latest Firefox release, but it's sure looking like it so far, especially since I have so few working plug-ins left. I'll see if I can't post an update if I figure that out one way or the other.

Mozilla, hear my plea! Stop the madness!