Discounts vs. rebates, cursors and other tech truths

Ask Mr. Modem

Q. Why do online companies offer rebates instead of just selling a product at a lower price? It seems like there are always strings attached such as receiving a rebate check that can only be used to purchase other company products.

A. Companies have various reasons for offering rebates, but in general, there are three primary reasons: First, the time between the purchase and the rebate can be several months, a period in which your money is in the company’s possession, undoubtedly earning interest or working in other ways to its advantage. This may seem insignificant, but to a company that sells hundreds of thousands (or millions) of widgets, it can be substantial.

Second, what better way for a company to obtain your personal data for subsequent contact or to sell to others than by offering you money (in the form of a rebate) for your information?

Third, companies know that most people are busy or lazy (or both) and won’t go to the trouble of cutting out a bar code or providing the requisite paperwork to obtain a rebate. In this way, the company gets to attract purchasers by advertising a low price, and in most instances selling an item for a higher price because the purchaser never applies for the rebate. What a deal!

Q. Would it be beneficial to purchase a copy of Windows 7 and set it aside for a future installation? Now that Windows 8 is out, I’m worried that Windows 7 won’t be available a year or two from now. I would appreciate your thinking on this matter, Mr. M.

A. While there are no guarantees when it comes to operating systems, it’s been my experience that previous versions of Windows tend to be available for years after they are no longer the current operating system. For example, Windows Vista replaced Windows XP in January 2007, more than six years ago, yet if you search, you will find a number of retailers who still have it available. If history does indeed repeat itself, Windows 7 is going to be available for many years to come.

Q. I know this is a weird question, but what is the proper name for the little mouse pointer?

A. Weird questions are always welcome here in Mr. Modemville! The object that moves on the screen when you move the mouse is often called a cursor, although some annoying purists might argue that technically only the blinking line that comprises a DOS prompt can be properly called a cursor. For most users, myself included, the terms “pointer” and “cursor” can be used interchangeably.

A cursor can take several forms. For example, it may change into a small hand when hovering over a link, or it may become an animated cursor, in the form of a rotating hour glass, when Windows is in the process of loading a page or program. (My cousin Leo became an animated cursor once when he got hit in the head by a golf ball. No damage to the ball, fortunately.)

Mr. Modem’s DME (Don’t Miss ’Em) sites of the month


This color-matching game is deceptively easy at first, then becomes progressively difficult. (Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a game that started out difficult and became progressively easier?) Your job is to mouse over the color wheel to find a matching color for what is displayed. There is one small catch: Your cursor is tied not to just one point on the color wheel, but to two points and then four points as the game progresses. To play, click the color wheel, then use your mouse to match the color on the outside rim of the circle to the color displayed in the center of the circle. Each round becomes more difficult as you have more points or colors around the circle to match. When you reach a color that matches, click to select it. You will then receive a color-matching score. Highest score, or the first person to get a splitting headache, wins.


This is a free service that can test your firewall by doing a simple probe and/or a port scan. The site also tracks general hacking on the Internet so that you can learn about potentially vulnerable areas of your system.


Here you will find free tools for tasks you might want to perform on an uploaded image, such as resizing, converting, splitting or cropping. To use it, upload an image by clicking the Browse button, locate your file on your computer and click Upload Image. Once uploaded, you can edit it on one of three tabs. By default your image will appear on the Convert and Resize tab where you can resize the image by changing the values in the width and height fields, or you can convert it by selecting the desired file type from the drop-down menu. Other tools allow you to split an image and crop it.

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