Amazon

Monday, November 30, 2009

Google Patents

In spite of spending hours on end at the keyboard I still periodically find a site or search engine that I am unaware of. Google Patents is a search engine especially for patents. If you are bored at the office or anywhere else you can search for patents. You can see if someone you know has a patent. You can also discover some of the strange things that are patented. The baby diaper that announces the child is wet by changes in conductivity of a charge running though the diaper and sets off an alarm. I am sure that the people who make Huggies are going to jump right on that.

Just one more way that the Internet is enhancing our lives.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


May you have a wonderful, fun filled, happy day!

I Have Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance Policies

Those two words are supposed to illustrate a firm conviction against propagation of societal ills. Zero tolerance on weapons in school. Zero tolerance against sexual harassment ad nauseam. What have those two noble sounding words led to in our society and our schools?


Those two words have led to two more powerful words, Astounding Intolerance!

A six year old who is threatened with 45 days of reform school for his cub scout eating utensils is the height of absurdity. A kindergartener who kisses another kindergartener is expelled for sexual harassment. It would be hysterical for its ludicrousness if it wasn’t so sad. Political correctness has run amuck and our children and grandchildren are paying the price. If one looks at the salaries we are paying our teachers and educational administrators, one would think we could depend on them to make rational decisions in regards to flexibility and zero tolerance. Except zero tolerance means no flexibility and consequently a thoughtful, situationally appropriate decision is precluded.

We must utilize rational decision making regarding childish infractions and abolish the rash, all situations are the same zero tolerance policies.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Self Publishing with CreateSpace


Read on, there really are some money saving tips and some are even technical in the following post.  

I am a self published author. I have self published for a variety of reasons. My primary reason is time. I have no interest in spending my days trying to find an agent, who will then try and find a publisher. I have been told this can take years. Although I have a resilient ego, I have no interest in facing a wealth of rejection. Again, I have been told by published authors and read author interviews that document myriad rejections. Some successful manuscripts were rejected for years before finding a publisher who saw the value of the work. I’m a retired guy who always wanted to write something and have it published. If what I wrote actually appealed to anyone and it sold, then all for the better. Since that is currently occurring I have created a self fulfilling prophecy regarding how brilliant I am for seeing that self publishing would work for me.LOL

Now I have established that self publishing is working for me and perhaps it will work for you. Here are some caveats. There are a ton of companies out there willing to take your money and produce your book. No doubt some of them are very good. After much research I ended up with Amazon’s CreateSpace. It is the least expensive solution from a reputable company that I could find. You may recall I am retired. Note I did not say independently wealthy retired, I just said retired. Fixed incomes lead to fiscal conservatism. I stoutly state that fiscal conservatism is not the same as cheap. Fiscally conservative means a willing to spend money but in a wise manner. CreateSpace meets my fiscally conservative demands.

I have been happy with the cost of CreateSpace, the quality and promptness of their work and their services. I discovered some pitfalls in the area of ISBN numbers. CreateSpace assigns an ISBN to your book for free. That is a distinct savings immediately since Bowker charges over $100.00 for a single ISBN and if you purchase from one of the authorized resellers you will pay at least $55.00. Take note, the ISBN from CreateSpace is a legitimate ISBN and is not a unique Amazon/CreateSpace ISBN. I, erroneously, thought that the ISBN that CreateSpace was not registered in Books In Print (the bookstores bible). This was after speaking with a CreateSpace employee who either didn’t know that or I wasn’t smart enough to specifically ask that question. I wanted one of my books to specifically be able to be found by any bookstore and not just through Amazon. I purchased an ISBN through Aardvark, a legitimate reseller of ISBN numbers. However Aardvark is then listed as the publisher and CreateSpace will NOT allow you to use that ISBN on books they publish. I now own an ISBN that I really didn’t need and am out the $55.00 it cost me due to my not asking enough questions and perhaps CreateSpace not addressing the ISBN issue with through clarity. Take note anyone from Amazon/CreateSpace that may read this is that you should clarify the value and use of the ISBN number and save someone else from wasting their money on buying a un-needed ISBN.

What’s my point? CreateSpace is a great place to get your work published for a minimal amount of money. I have discovered that that getting a good layout and setting up a book is substantially more laborious than I realized. My 28 page childhood stress books were relatively easy compared to my first 100 page Hardy Belch book. I did purchase a new desktop publishing package that I am learning by using. Serif PagePlus 11 works very well. The week after I bought it I got an email telling me I could upgrade to their new version for a minimal charge of, I think, $75.00. Since I haven’t even scratched the programs capability surface yet I declined. I do advise if you plan on writing more than a few pages you should consider a desktop publishing software package. Serif PagePlus 11 can be found for $20.00 if you look around.

Bottom line, if you have always wanted to get in print, then you should do so and do it now! It can be laborious, it will be time consuming, it does not have to be expensive and it is enormously satisfying.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Windows 7 On The Cheap

I am in no way, shape or form recommending you jump right into Windows 7 regardless of the Microsoft commercials. My 25 years of microcomputer experience has clearly demonstrated that you never want to be the initial installed base of a new operating system. Frankly Windows ME was discontinued before I ever installed it. I don’t think we sold one copy of it and were thankful that we didn’t.

However if you are bound and determined to be on the sharp point of implementation, you really don’t have to pay full retail. I found a great article on ZDnet.com that details multiple, legitimate ways to move to Windows 7. Rather than repeating the article, here is the LINK.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Every year, 20 million babies are born too soon, too small and very sick ― half a million of them in the United States. November 17 is when we fight.

Do you know a baby that was born too soon, too small, unable to suck, unable to breathe on his own? Premature birth is a health crisis that jeopardizes the lives and health of nearly half-million babies each year. It is the #1 killer of newborns and can lead to lifelong disabilities. Worse: the number has increased 31 percent since 1981. It can happen without warning and for no known reason. Until we have more answers, anyone’s baby, could be born too soon.

Medical advances give even the tiniest babies a chance of survival, yet for many babies premature birth is still a life or death condition. It’s the #1 cause of death during the first month of life. And babies who survive face serious health challenges and risk lifelong disabilities.

The rate of premature birth has never been higher. In half the cases, we simply don’t understand what went wrong. We need to fight for answers. And, ultimately, preventions.

November 17 is dedicated to raising awareness of the crisis of premature birth.

Our children are our future, Donate to the March of Dimes.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why Sm Biz and Home Users are NOT Excited about Windows 7

\what are you thinking\

One of the ZDnet bloggers posed a question as to why so many people are still using “obsolete” Windows software. This may be another case of standing in the trees and not seeing the forest. Most of the people in the computer industry make rash assumptions as to the level of expertise and fervor the average user has. The bulk of the studies or surveys are done by contacting corporate users. This makes sense, you can get a great number of responses easily but you are dipping your toe into a limited pool. Seldom is there any attempt to find out what the small business or home user wants, let alone needs.

I’m retired, I just want my computers to run. Admittedly after spending 25 years in the industry I have a little more expertise than the average user. I also have a network. I have no interest in upgrading the OS of my machines. In 25 years I have seen nothing but incremental increases in ease of use or reliability in operating systems. I have seen MS automatic updates trash one of my systems to the point where I suspect I will just use if for spare parts rather than trying to recover the OS from whatever quadrant of space the automatic update sent it. I have seen MS automatic updates isolate my computers from each other so I have to reinstall networking.

So if I, who theoretically have a little more expertise than the average user, why in any sane world, would I want to dive in the cesspool of upgrading my OS. I have one notebook with Vista as long as I don’t expect a great deal from it, it is fine. My XP systems are tweaked, they run what I want and for the most part, unless the friendly folks at MS send out another automatic update, the are stable.
This is why real people, not corporate users who generally get no choice, have no interest in upgrades. They want their computer to work like their toaster or blender, do the job, do it reliably and don’t screw me up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ratings Of Anti-Virus & Anti-Malware Software

My experiences with the paid anti-virus community have not been positive. I have had issues with Norton and McAfee conflicting with software I normally run. I currently use Avast Anti-Virus and both Ad-Aware and Spy-Bot Search and Destroy. I suspect they are not top notch but by using them all, I have had pretty good protection. My innate cynicism kicks in when ever I read glowing reviews about different software packages. ZDnet.com has a good article rating the behavior of different anti-virus and malware solutions. Don’t be deluded into thinking that the ones marked free are really free. You will find them to be either trial versions or a version that tells you, “yes I have found much nasty stuff and if you will slip $50.00 in small unmarked bills underneath the un-welcome mat, I will then remove them for you”.

Here is a LINK to go to the chart that rates the software, look at it with a jaundice eye and read the accompanying text. I didn’t find the chart all that useful but again, I am rather cynical about who rates what and how much did they get for doing it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

iPhone Extortion


I read an article on Zdnet the other day on how a Dutch teenager sent out an unknown number of messages to iPhones explaining that they were hackable and for a small fee paid to his paypal account he would explain how to block people from doing what he was doing. He exploited a known security vulnerability and claimed he, himself, would do no harm but if he could hack their phone so could others. Regardless of his intent, his hacking resulted in a tsunami of outrage. He then apologized, posted a fix of the vulnerability and then my guess is he headed for the hills. The article did not detail what happened, if anything, to him. Once again truth is so much stranger than fiction.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Internet Safety



I know another “be careful on the Internet” article. The Internet is somewhat like Las Vegas, it has beauty, glitz, shiny lights, fabulous shows and as long as you stay on the main drag in the well known places you are safe. If you wander off onto side streets, just like in any major city, you may find things you really didn’t want to see.

You can caution older kids and revoke Internet privileges if they ignore your cautions. Pre-school and primary grade children are an entirely different situation. Older kids may wander into nefarious activity intentionally; the younger ones generally get into questionable areas quite unintentionally.

This isn’t a new problem, an article in the NY Times six years ago pointed out that kids searching for something like Disney and misspelling it, ended up in places they shouldn’t have been. I point this out because these very young children seem quite adept on the computer. There are a wealth of sites that have mentally challenging games and activities for the pre-school/primary school age child. It is easy to assume they will stay on the site you initially log on to for them and then go wash the car or stick your nose in a book. These younger children need active oversight when on the computer. If for no other reason that when you come back you may find that your wall paper is gone, your home page on your browser is now adware and the child is looking curiously at unclothed people.

Watching my grandchildren on the computer I’ve noticed that an errant mouse click can provide a wealth of options. I watched a three year old inadvertently leave the Disney video he was watching and end up in my spam filter. No harm, no foul but he was in the parameter screen and if I hadn’t been actively watching I suspect that my spam filter would be less than reliable. The 5.5 year old changed the wallpaper on the computer while I watched. That was not her intent but that is what occurred.

So PLEASE, don’t just park your younger children in front of the computer and expect them to be safe. Actively watch what they are doing. The Internet has terrific resources for your child but YOU need to be actively involved, particularly with the pre-school and primary age kids.
 Money Saving Tech Tips