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usps.com: how to waste half an hour

I've been working on getting a particularly annoying set of letters out the door. I decided tonight's the night, and printed out the final draft of the letter, five times. I signed the letters, wrote post-it notes to each of the individual recipients, put them in big envelopes, then said, hmm, postage... How about I try usps.com? They advertise like mad that I can do anything online that I can do at the post office, and all I want to do is smack some stamps on there; this should be easy.
The only way to purchase postage for immediate use on usps.com is via a java applet. 7:20 I try it on my mac, in firefox. Nope, I need the java plugin. Firefox makes it easy for me to get the plugin from mozilla.org, although the "auto-find plugin" tool didn't work.
7:25 I try again on my mac. This time the applet loads, shows two buttons "Purchase & Print" and "Cancel." The whole applet is around 640x480, with only the top 30 pixels occupied with these buttons. The rest is blank. I'm dubious, but I hit "Purchase & Print," then I wait.
7:30 I give up on waiting. Nothing's happening, and my firefox seems to have crashed. Okay, on to the PC. I try again in Firefox. Whoops, I still need the java plugin.
7:35 The java plugin is installed, and I try the applet again, still in firefox. This time it shows me a sample label, and a progress bar claiming it's processing the credit card payment, then that it's printing. Except that it's not printing.
7:40I decide to do this in the most typical way possible, the configuration that USPS had to have been thinking of when they wrote this application: IE 5.0, Windows XP, HP DeskJet over USB. Again, I get as far as the progress bar, then nothing happens... I open the java console and it has reassuring comments such as "---sending credit card # to server---" and "---retrieving addresses from server---" -- come on, guys, you're supposed to take the debugging println's out before you ship. Duh. Then IE dies and has to be killed.
7:45 Wait, they have a link for "if your browser doesn't support java," which opens a new window. I go through the shopping cart again in this special, new, non-java window... then when I hit the "Check Out" button, it launches... the very same Java applet!
7:50 I give up. I'm going to drive to CVS and buy a bunch of stamps.

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