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The Wall Street Journal Print Version Review of Crossloop Sept 25 2008


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The Print version of The Wall Street Journal's review of CrossLoop.

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The Wall Street Journal Print Version Review of Crossloop Sept 25 2008

  1. 1. CYANMAGENTAYELLOWBLACK CMY K Composite Composite P2JW269031-4-D00100-1--------XA **** AZ,CX,EE,MW,NE,NY,SC,SW,WE 5914134 09/25/2008 P2JW269031-4-D00100-1--------XA P2JW269031-4-D00100-1--------XA T rying to help a less-knowledgeable friend or family member solve computer problems can be very frustrating—espe- cially if you can’t sit with him or her in front of the PC. It can be slow and awkward merely ex- plaining the steps you’d like the other person to perform to diagnose and solve the problem. The best approach is to control the distant computer remotely—with the owner’s consent— during the problem-solving session. That way, you can directly manipulate the machine while explaining what you’re doing over the phone. There are a variety of services and software that allow such remote control. Tools for doing so are even preinstalled in obscure corners of the Windows and Macintosh operating systems. But many are too complicated for average users— even those with enough knowl- edge to help solve common prob- lems. Others cost money, or re- quire you to establish an ac- count with a service, or are aimed mainly at folks seeking unattended access to their own remote computers. This week, I tested a remote- control product designed specifi- cally for collaborative help ses- sions solicited by the person seeking help. It is free, simple and can be used without setting up an account. And it also has an added dimension: If you have a problem and lack a tech-savvy friend or relative who can help, the company that makes the software maintains a directory of thousands of geeks who can help you, usually for a fee. The product is called CrossLoop and can be downloaded at It currently works only with Windows computers, but the company plans to release a Macintosh version in a few months. To use CrossLoop, both you and the person you are helping must download and install the free program, a quick and simple process. When you run the program, you are invited to create a free account, which allows you to track your ses- sions and rate people who help you. But there’s a clearly marked Skip button that permits you to use the program with all of its features even without an account. The software has a very clear, simple inter- face. It consists of two large tabbed sections: a grey one labeled Share for the person whose ma- chine is to be operated remotely, and a green one labeled Access for the remote operator, called the “helper” by the company. For security reasons, CrossLoop doesn’t allow its users to gain control of unattended machines. The process must begin with a per- son at the remote machine clicking the Share tab. That click generates an access code that is different for each remote session. The person seeking help then gives that code, usually over the phone, to the helper. The helper then clicks on the Access tab on his or her PC, and types in the code. The person on the other end must con- firm that he or she wants to go ahead. Only then is the connection opened. Once this process is complete, the helper sees a large window replicating the desktop of the remotely controlled machine, and can con- trol that PC using his or her own mouse and key- board. The helper can even transfer files to the remote machine. On the other end, the person being helped can be passive or can share control of the com- puter. At any time, the person being helped can disconnect the session or limit the helper to just viewing the screen rather than control- ling it. The company says that it keeps no record of any of the sessions and that its software en- crypts all communication between the two com- puters involved. I tested CrossLoop in two scenarios. In one, I used it to help my friend Alan configure his new copy of Microsoft Office to save files in the older Office formats. The remote-control ses- sion worked fine, although Alan’s Internet con- nection was so slow that there were long delays in seeing changes occur on his screen. In the second scenario, I hired one of Cross- Loop’s listed consultants for $25 to clean up a Sony laptop I own that was running sluggishly. He spent over an hour deleting needless pro- grams and removing others that were unneces- sarily set to launch automatically. He carefully consulted me by phone to make sure he wasn’t cutting anything I needed or wanted. Again, I considered the session a success. The only problem I saw in my tests was that when helping someone with a Vista machine, you may have to temporarily disable a security- warning feature called User Account Control, which pops up frequently and cuts off the con- nection. CrossLoop eventually hopes to make money by charging the paid consultants in its network a fee. But it doesn’t guarantee that they are ef- fective or honest, and merely relies on the rat- ings of others who have used them. It is theoret- ically possible for such a person to steal your data or plant malware on your computer. Still, if you are helping a friend or relative with a PC problem, or are willing to trust a well- rated stranger to give you help, CrossLoop is a simple, effective way to do the job. Find all of Walt Mossberg’s columns and videos online, free, at the All Things Digital Web site, Email him at By Sarah Nassauer And Andrea Petersen W ith packed planes, new baggage charges and sky-high hotel rates, travel is pretty miserable these days. But there is still one place where you can sometimes get something for nothing: hotel loyalty programs. Unlike airline frequent-flier programs, which have been cutting rewards and reserving many benefits for only their most loyal customers, hotel loyalty programs are actually adding perks and in many cases offering them just for signing up. “If there is a trend among hotel reward pro- grams, it’s actually been in the direction of adding valueinsteadofstrippingawayvalue,”saysTimWin- ship, editor-at-large for Many hotel programs highlight the long-term benefits of membership. The extras—which range from points for free stays and airlines tickets, to room upgrades and free coffee—get sweeter as youmoveup totheelitetiersof amembership pro- gram by staying more nights. We decided to find out what perks you get right off the bat, when you first sign up for a hotel loyalty program. We tested the entry-level tier of four programs to see if filling out the online form is worth the time, even for those who don’t travel enough to earn theupscale perksof elite status. Not allmajor hotel chains offer something beyond earning points to entry-level members. We tested only ho- tel programs that promised to give guests some- thing special for signing up. All but one of the pro- grams didn’t require a membership fee. In more than one case, we found many of the entry-level perks were standard for every guest. AttheOmniBerkshire PlaceinNewYork, anup- Please turn to the next page By Mary Pilon T he idea of saving for retirement always terrifiedZackTeibloom.Withthestockmar- ket’s big drop this year, it seems even more daunting. “I don’t even have one K, let alone 401 Ks,” says the 23-year-old Mr. Teibloom, a recent col- lege grad who works as an editor for a small maga- zine in Chicago. “I’m worried that if I put money away, it won’t even be safe the way the markets are going.” The saving and investing habits of young workers have long been dismal. Only 49% of eligi- ble workers in their 20s participate in 401(k) plans offered through their employers, accord- ing to a 2007 study from Hewitt Associates Inc., a Lincolnshire, Ill., consulting firm. And less than 20% of this group is saving anything at all for retirement. Declining stock prices actually favor young investors, be- cause it means the shares they buy have more room to grow in the decades before they hit retirement. But anecdotal evi- dence suggests the rocky stock market is scaring off many young people. “There’s a lot of fear right now,” says Pamela Hess, direc- tor of retirement re- search at Hewitt. “A lot of employees aren’t contributing.” Recent changes may make it easier for some younger employees to begin building a nest egg. Two years ago, Congress altered the law to make it easier for employers to automatically enroll workers in retirement-savings plans. Em- ployers can deduct money from workers’ pay- checks and invest it in a number of conservative investments, such as so-called balanced mutual funds, which hold both stocks and bonds. Employers often set the contribution rate at 3% of workers’ salaries, and some auto-enroll workers at a higher rate to ensure they get the full company match—the amount an employer con- tributes into an employee’s account beyond their salary. Some employers also automatically in- crease workers’ contributions each year. Employ- ees have the option of opting out of automatic re- tirement-savings plans, but few do. Often, the time frame for dropping out of automatic enroll- ment is limited to as little as 10 days. The law is having an impact. Fidelity Invest- ments,whichrunsretirementplansfor16,700com- panies, says that as of June, 2,343 plans had auto- Please turn to page D3 Showing in Milan: The Frugal Look ON STYLE D8 Do You Save or Buy More at Costco? CHEAPSKATE D3 By Daniel Michaels And Stefania Bianchi T he mammoth Airbus A380 may notquiteliveuptoitsmaker’smar- keting hype as “the eighth wonder of the world.” But the first three airlines to fly the world’s largest passenger plane are pulling out all the stops to help travelers for- get they’re packed inside with almost 500 other people. Singapore Airlines, Dubai’s Emirates Airlines and Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd. are using their new A380s to push the envelope on cushiness, entertain- ment and design. The best goodies are, as to be expected, in first class. Singapore Air’s “Sky Suites” are so big they include both a seat and a bed, appointed with sheets and dishware de- signed by French fashion house Givenchy. Emirates has two “shower spas” with heated floors, where first-class fliers can book 25-minute sessions, including a five- minute shower. Qantas’s first-class seat spreads into a bed that is half the width of a queen-size mattress. There are also new offerings in coach class, where all three carriers are providing electric socketsinalmosteveryseatand,forafee,Inter- Please turn to page D4 Loyalty Plans At Hotels— For Beginners B attling a health insurer when it re- fuses to cover certain treatments can be aggravating and time-consuming. But if you choose to join the growing number of people who are appealing coverage deni- als, there are several strategies that can bol- ster your case. Some health-coverage problems—such as when your doctor enters a wrong code on a claim form—can be resolved with a phone call. But other issues can be more difficult, because they center on complex medical questions like whether a certain cancer treatment is appro- priate for you. Faced with such a situation, you may need to enlist help from your doctor, and even do some sci- entific research of your own. As a last resort, most states will consider appeals that havebeendeniedbyprivatein- surers. Insurance companies gen- erally don’t disclose how many appeals they receive. But state regula- tors keep data on the frequency of cases filed withthem,andthetrendisup—12%growthbe- tween 2004 and 2006, according to a survey byAmerica’s Health InsurancePlans,anindus- try group, which says such appeals repre- sented less than one out of every 10,000 in- sured people. That’s a small share of the total, though, since most appeals never get to the state bodies. New York’s regulator, the state Insurance Department, is one of the few agencies that also keeps track of how many people in its state file appeals with health insurers. In 2007, the number was 33,355, up 18% since 2004. Why the increase in appeals? Patient ad- vocates and state officials say the weak economy and ever-rising health-care costs put pressure on insurers to squeeze ex- penses by denying claims, and leave con- sumers watching their spending more closely. But the insurance-industry group says the growth is likely fueled by insurers’ efforts to educate consumers about their rights. Several companies say they are working to make the process easier, but many aspects are mandated by state regula- tors. In any case, appealing an insurer’s deci- sion is often complex and tricky, and the deck can seem stacked against you. It is of- ten hard for consumers to know what is cov- ered and what isn’t in an insurance plan. In- deed, insurers have been winning a majority of the cases reviewed by state regulators in recent years, with victories for insurers at 59% in 2006. Herearesomeways youmaybeabletobet- Please turn to page D6 Pushing BackWhen Insurers Deny Coverage for Treatment Spas in the Sky: Inside the Big Jets THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. Opportunities are rife for young investors in a beaten-down market. Some tips: n Contribute enough to your company’s 401(k) plan to capture the full matching contribution. n If you’re not eligible for a 401(k), start a Roth or traditional individual retirement account. n Don’t be too conservative. Younger investors have time on their side and can recover from short sputters in the market. By Anna Wilde Mathews Having a game plan when fighting a health insurer’s denial of coverage can better your odds of a successful appeal. n First, find out what led to the insurer’s decision, and keep a careful paper trail. n Be prepared to prove that your treatment qualifies for coverage under your plan. n Even if your insurer rejects your appeal, most states will consider appeals as a last resort. PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY s Copyright 2008 Dow Jones & Company, All Rights Reserved Study supports broader use of clot-busting drug for stroke patients — HEALTH D6 Thousands of stock trades canceled due to electronic glitches — PERSONAL FINANCE D3 Market Turmoil Frightens Off Young Investors Participation in 401(k) Plans Is Dismal, as Is Savings Rate; ‘I Don’t Know Where to Start’ By Walter S. Mossberg Singapore Airlines touts its ‘Sky Suites’ for first-class passengers on the superjumbo A380. Self Protection In Depth: STYLE 7 HOME Getting Started An Airbus A380 flown by Emirates Airlines comes with two ‘shower spas.’ AgenceFrance-Presse/GettyImagesEmiratesAirlines HEALTHY CONSUMER With CrossLoop, Users Can Get Help From Techie Friend Landov * * * * Thursday, September 25, 2008 D1