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Of IE7 bugs and paperless billing

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on February 2, 2007
(Issue 2505, The New Workforce)

Over the past 20 years of being online, I've slowly found myself accomplishing more and more tasks online that I formerly did in the "real world."

Regular readers of this column have seen me go from being suspicious of online commerce (early online transactions often lacked basic security measures to protect credit card account numbers and other personal information) to being an avid shopper, from fiercely protecting all financial information to having a PayPal account, regularly purchasing from, and even paying my utility and credit card bills online. (And let's not get started on my ordering pizza or movie tickets online.)

Last week marked another first: I notified the phone company that they can stop mailing me a monthly bill, and e-mail me one instead.

It's the so-called "paperless billing" - and represents the first concrete example of how computers might finally lead to the mythical "paperless office."

Truth is, since the PC invaded corporate America, the amount of office paper used each year in this country has skyrocketed. The ease of use and low cost of computer printers has meant that over the past 30 years, businesses have printed more and more documents. Whereas previously anything a business wanted to send out to customers had to be typed and then copied, computers and printers make it easy to quickly and cheaply replicate documents – both for internal use and for mailing out.

While I'm a somewhat forgetful type (and no, my beloved ComputorEdge editors may not change the word "somewhat" to something stronger ...) and am thus a bit nervous about not having a printed bill in front of me to remind to pay the phone bill, the e-bill only makes sense.

Offering online choice on consoles, too

The free Opera browser was one of the last browsers to support the now-orphaned OS/2 – and one of the first to port itself over to Linux. It's also well-known for having offered versions for handheld devices and cell phones.

Now, it's available for the Nintendo Wii gaming console. While the Wii comes with a built-in browser, the fact that you can use the Opera browser as well is a welcome bit of competition in the budding non-computer online market.

Not having a Wii, I can't vouch for how well Opera works on it. But given Opera's track record of excellence and the fact that it's a free download, Wii owners have nothing to lose in trying it.

IE7, revisited

After a few months of using Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7 – and we've written earlier here about its strengths and weaknesses in terms of features – one thing I've noticed is that it's a lot less stable than both IE6 and other browsers.

Java in particular seems to give IE7 fits. I've noticed that when IE7 crashes (a couple times each evening) it seems to be on a page running Java. It's no secret that Microsoft has never looked fondly at Java, which is published by Microsoft competitor Sun Microsystems, and has encouraged Web developers to use Microsoft's ASP instead. So the lack of integration with Java is a bound to raise suspicions.

What's most frustrating is that IE7 doesn't even crash cleanly – supposedly one of the hallmarks software is supposed to have to get Microsoft's Windows-compatible designation. Instead, IE7 hangs when it crashes. And some diagnostic program called Dr. Watson then launches, and it, too hangs. After awhile, you look in the Windows Task Manager and you've got four or five instances of Dr. Watson running.

This is all in Windows XP Home Edition SP2, with the latest patches and upgrades, and the latest version of IE7.

It ought to run a bit more smoothly.

Not perfect, either

Not that the competition is all that perfect. Netscape 8.1 for Windows, oddly enough, doesn't recognize the new log-in menu on's new free Web mail. Now fully integrated with Netscape corporate owner AOL's free Webmail, the company's own browser doesn't recognize the company Web site for what it is. Which means you can't use Netscape's handy dandy auto log-in feature on Netscape's own site! Sigh ...