Sunday, December 04, 2005

Computer Ease praise

This is my absolute favorite testimonial for Computer Ease so far:

"If I had not been reading your book an hour ago, I'd be breathing into a paper bag by now! I just had a huge, terrible problem when my computer screen started dancing, and I stayed calm !"

Thank you,
MOC, 12/04/05

Computer Ease is available for holiday purchases at my site, or an major online retailers: BookSense independent retailers, Books-A-Million, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell's.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Computer Ease is a state of mind...

My book, Computer Ease is now available at online retailers, including

Barnes &

and many more.

It's available in print or as an ebook, for an instant reference document that's always at hand, right in your Adobe reader program.

If you need a dose of clarity and want to understand why computers do what they do, you'll enjoy Computer Ease.

I had a great time writing it. For an interesting article on the self-publishing process see this link to the Miami Herald today:

Cheers, my friends,


Saturday, October 15, 2005

See, this is why I never trust Microsoft

ZDNet( is among the many web sites posting a warning today that another Microsoft 'fix' is actually causing more problems than usual:

Microsoft patch meant to fix critical security flaws in Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 is causing trouble for some users, the company said Friday.

The patch was released Tuesday to fix four Windows flaws, including one that experts predict will be exploited by a worm in the coming days. The flaw, tagged "critical" by Microsoft, lies in a Windows component for transaction processing called the Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator, or MSDTC.

Installing the patch can cause serious problems, Microsoft said in an advisory posted to its Web site Friday. The patch could lock users out of their PC, prevent the Windows Firewall from starting, block certain applications from running or installing, and empty the network connections folder, among other things, the software maker said.

The trouble appears to occur only when default permission settings on a Windows directory have been changed, according to Microsoft. The software maker has received "limited reports" of problems from customers but is still investigating the issue, a representative said.

Even if users experience PC trouble after installing the patch, they will still be protected against any attack exploiting the Windows flaw, a Microsoft representative said. The patch was delivered with Microsoft security bulletin MS05-051.

To resolve any problems caused by the MS05-051 patch, users should restore the default permissions for the Windows folder and the COM+ catalog. A guide is available on the Microsoft Web site, and steps start with changing the permissions on the "registration" folder in the Windows directory.

If you need help, giv eme a call. As you know, I continue to recommend clients don't go overboard on applying the Microsoft Service Pack or downloading patches. If you use good anti-virus and anti-spyware software, plus a hardware or software filewall, and if you use Netscape instead of Internet Explorer, you're safe.

Friday, September 30, 2005

In my morning's mail...

This is a perfect example of a typical phishing scam. It's an attempt to get you to reveal your credit card information. As you read it, there is NO doubt that it is not legitimate. You won't fall victim if you read carefully enough. These scams are often most obvious by their poor use of English and grammar. Read on...

We recently noticed one or more attempts to use your Amazon account for a foreign IP address, to sell a lot of goods from, and we have reasons to believe that your Amazon account was hijacked by a third party without your notification.

If you recently use your Amazon account while traveling to a foreign country, the unusual use attempts may have been made by you.

However if you are the rightful owner of the Amazon account, click on the link below and submit as we are truing to verify your credit card information.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

MIT's $100 crank-operated laptop

For a long time, MIT has been developing a low-price laptop computer for use by children in primary and secondary education around the world, particularly in developing countries. The laptops should start appearing in volume in late 2006.

The 500MHz laptop will run a "skinny version" of the open-source Linux operating system. It will have a two-mode screen, so it can be viewed in color and then by pushing a button or activating software switch to a black-and-white display, which can be viewed in bright sunlight at four times normal resolution, according to Negroponte. He estimates the display will cost around $35.

The laptop can be powered either with an AC adapter or via a wind-up crank, which is stored in the housing of the laptop where the hinge is located. The laptops will have a 10 to 1 crank rate, so that a child will crank the handle for one minute to get 10 minutes of power and use. When closed, the hinge forms a handle and the AC cord can function as a carrying strap, according to Negroponte. The laptops will be ruggedized and probably made of rubber, he said. They will have four USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports, be Wi-Fi- and cell phone enabled and come with 1G byte of memory.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Accomplish ten things in ten minutes

Ten things you can do in ten minutes

1. Clean another thousand temp files.

2. Back up your email address book. Click File/export or
Tools/export and save as a .txt file.

3. Catch the Sudoku puzzle craze at

4. Empty the Recycle Bin.

5. Say goodbye to the thousands of e-mails in your Sent folder.

6. Buy a USB thumb drive for quick, portable backups.

7. Divorce yourself from Google. Try for clustered,
organized results.

8. Update your web site.

9. Click on your anti-virus program to make sure it's updated
and protecting you..

10. And, yes, backup your data, again.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Favorite new word: Typosquatting

This from the Associated Press today:
Back to Print Edition - Chicago Tribune Saturday Business

GOOGLE INC.: Firm awarded rights in `typosquatting'

SAN FRANCISCO -- An Internet arbitrator has awarded Google Inc. the rights to several Web site addresses that relied on typographical errors to exploit the online search engine's popularity so computer viruses and other malicious software could be unleashed on unsuspecting visitors.

The National Arbitration Forum, a legal alternate to litigating in court, sided with a Google complaint alleging that Sergey Gridasov of St. Petersburg, Russia, had engaged in "typosquatting" by operating Web sites named, and

Former Stanford University graduate students incorporated the search engine in September 1998 and Google registered its domain name a year later. Gridasov registered his Web sites in December 2000 and January 2001, Google said.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Summer Phishing Safety

Don't relax this summer when it comes to keeping your data safe online. Media reports of unauthorized access to sensitive personal data are taking a toll on consumers' confidence in online commerce, according to research and analysis firm Gartner Inc.

A Gartner survey of 5,000 U.S. adults showed that phishing attacks grew at double-digit rates last year in the United States.

Consumers reported receiving more than 50 phishing e-mails in the past year, an increase of 28 percent over the prior year. when an estimated 57 million U.S. adults reported that they definitely, or think, they received a phishing attack email. In both surveys, 5,000 participants were selected to match demographic characteristics of the U.S. online population.

2.4 million online consumers report losing money directly because of the phishing attacks. Of these, approximately 1.2 million consumers lost $929 million during the year preceding the survey. Survey participants indicated most of the money stolen was repaid by banks and credit cards.

Gartner analysts said most online consumers do not open e-mail from companies or individuals they do not know from prior experience. Three of every four online shoppers said they are more cautious about where they buy goods online, and one of three report buying fewer items than they otherwise would because of security concerns.

While companies are rapidly increasing security, this level of online theft is unprecedented. If businesses can't keep data safe, their efforts to lower cost by pushing consumers to online transactions will be thwarted.

More than 80 percent of online consumers said their concerns about online attacks have affected their trust in e-mail from companies or individuals they don't know personally. Of these consumers, more than 85 percent delete suspect e-mail without opening it.

Phishing attacks are not slowing down. More than 40 percent of the adults who received phishing attack e-mails received them in the two weeks preceding the survey; another 23 percent of respondents said they received these e-mails two weeks before that - so more than 63 percent of consumers who received one of these e-mails did so in the month prior to the survey.

Concerned consumers are logging in less frequently, and becoming reluctant to pay bills online.

Stay safe online --- Don't click a link in an email directing you to a web site, use a browser with certificate verification, log out promptly when finished, and keep a record in the computer of your online transactions. Use a firewall, and good protection software that can detect phishing, rerouted links, and third-party redirecting of links.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Phishing Scams

How can it be that no one can catch the hackers who create bogus e-mails, causing you to leak your life secrets and credit card accounts? In every article I read, the bottom line is usually "There is no way to catch the crooks, because the messages are sent in bulk, usually from masked or bogus e-mail addresses."

Phooey! as one of my favorite clients would say.

Now Zone Alarm and Trend Micro, two reputable software firms, have at least some protection to offer. As always, don't click on links in e-mails you don't trust, and never give your personal information to anyone via e-mail, even if it seems to be from your own e-mail provider.

Check out Zone Labs' ZoneAlarm Security Suite, and
Trend Micro's PC-cillin Internet Security

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Tech Partnership for Small Business free seminar

Microsoft has joined with the U.S. Dept. of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency and is hosting free tech seminars around the country, primarily for minority and women-owned businesses.

The next Chicago-area event is June 14, 2005 at 7 p.m. at the Westin River North.
I'll be out of town that day but I hope some of you will be able to go I've attended Microsoft-sponsored events in the past, and always find them generous in sharing information.

Sign up at
or read more at their site:

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

E-Mail newsletters as marketing tool

I gave a talk this morning at The Glenview Chamber of Commerce. Our topic was effective searching beyond Google, and the value of e-mail newsletters as a marketing tool.

Like with any good business communication, the first rule is always: Have something to say.

Beyond that, anything goes. Sign up for my free newsletter by hitting the big blue Subscribe button at my web site You can always unsubscribe if you don't want to see it again.

What you'll find, though, is an example of a quick, consise efficient way to keep your name in front of clients and prospects, and the opportunity to share your knowledge. It takes only a few minutes once you choose the e-mail newsletter program you want to use. Most are free too. What better way to build business while you're on Summer vacation.


Helen Gallagher

Friday, April 29, 2005

A note about RSS

RSS - Really Simple Syndication

I love my daily newspaper, web sources for news, and mountains of magazines, but there's too much information to keep up with. We have to filter through "everything" to get to just the news and information we want. So, along comes RSS - "Really Simple Syndication," as a method to distribute filtered news feed. Here's a primer on RSS and what it can do for your news-gathering and your needs as a writer:

Imagine a whole new style of news. One where the web prowls all the news sites and brings you just the areas that you're interested in.

With RSS feed, you can go to one web site and find fresh content from all the sites it scans for you. You determine the areas you want to monitor, such as health care, Social Security legislation, the population of Borneo, and you can be sure you won't miss any news on those topics.

Where does the news come from? Most web sites and blogs now have RSS feed. quotes a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey in November," five percent of Internet users use RSS. And you can count on that number to grow, as more sites add feeds."

If you're just starting out, try RSS with a web-based reader, the top reader today is, where you can sign up for free.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

E-mail worse than marijuana?

Feeling goofy?

CNN reports today that a British survey found people distracted by phone calls, email and text messaging suffer a greater loss of IQ that a person smoking marijuana.

In 80 clinical trials, Dr. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King's College London University, monitored the IQ of workers throughout the day.

He found the IQ of those who tried to juggle messages and work fell by 10 points -- the equivalent to missing a whole night's sleep and more than double the 4-point fall seen after smoking marijuana.

"This is a very real and widespread phenomenon," Wilson said. "We have found that this obsession with looking at messages, if unchecked, will damage a worker's performance by reducing their mental sharpness.

" Wilson said the IQ drop was even more significant in the men who took part in the tests.

"The research suggests that we are in danger of being caught up in a 24-hour 'always on' society," said David Smith of Hewlett Packard.

"This is more worrying when you consider the potential impairment on performance and concentration for workers, and the consequent impact on businesses."

Read the full story at:

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Spring Electronic Recycling 5/21/05

The next SWANC electronic recycling event:

Saturday, May 21, 2005
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Winnetka Public Works building
1390 Willow Road

Bring old computers, printers, monitors, other electronics.
Remember to erase all data from computers before donating or recycling!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Is it the pillows or the wireless connection?

Most of us choose a hotel based on convenience, distance, price, and of course, great pillows or those Heavenly Beds of the Westin chain. But there's a new criteria: Do they charge for wi-fi?

If you're like me you think wi-fi should be free in places where we are already paying to use their services. They don't charge extra for lights or air conditioning, which is always excessive in hotels. Why not make us even happier and more productive with wi-fi.

Here's a list of hotels that do offer free wi-fi:


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Are you productive, or just busy?

Recent studies have compared the productivity of the average American to those relaxed, sophisticated Europeans who really know how to live. The research always shows the same thing: We just rush, rush, rush through everything we do, not taking time to enjoy anything.

When it comes to interacting with computers, many people feel they are wasting vast amounts of time at the computer with nothing to show for it. So who do you think conducted the newest productivity study? Microsoft, of course!

While the study was done with over 38,000 people in 200 countries, addressing worker productivity, I can't help but see parallels to our work with the computer.

Does this sound familiar? The Microsoft study found the top time-wasters were:

  • Unclear objectives
  • Lack of team communication
  • Ineffective meetings

For many, that is exactly what happens when you face your computer.

  • Unclear objectives = What am I trying to do?
  • Lack of communication = Why won't the computer let me?
  • Ineffective meetings = This was a big waste of time!

A client recently said "I'm thinking of all the things I'd rather be doing than sitting here fighting the computer." Well, "gather your wits about you," as my mother used to say, and make your computer time the best part of your day.

Start with a goal in mind, not mindlessly wandering the web until your eyes are tired. Believe that you can achieve something by knowing where to click and use the Help files, and stay focussed on the task until it's done. Then take a stretch break before you tackle the next task.

The spin from the Microsoft survey is that worker's claim their productivity is directly related to their computers: 55 percent worldwide, 61 percent in the U.S. That makes me happy because it proves my point that focussed time at the computer, when you know what you want to accomplish will result in satisfaction, getting the job done quicker, and leaving you with more time to enjoy the rest of life.

You can gain the computer skills needed to accomplish your goals, and the energy you put into learning will result in quicker projects, better tracking of your data, and the confidence to know you have mastered technology.

Microsoft's Johnny One Note - or Etch-A-Sketch?

Since the launch of Office 2003, Microsoft has had a clever product called OneNote. Using a notebook metaphor it is a program to grab all your notes and stuff them in one place, just like in a real binder.

If you collect random bits of information such as book reviews, recipes, computer tips, expense account fragments, and brilliant ideas, OneNote lets you organize your information into categories. It imports data in just about any format, you can type notes anywhere on the page, capture images, and even write on the screen if you have a tablet PC

It can be a wonderful tool for students with calendars, outlining, and with paper-intensive work for attorneys and researchers.

Learn more at

You can download an 80 MB free trial from Microsoft or buy the product at retail for around $85.

Once all your notes are all in one place, it's up to you to make something wonderful happen. In most testing I've observed with clients, OneNote becomes a jumble of junk. It's easy to find but still just a pile of notes, especially for the organizationally challenged among us.

I have tested OneNote and if you've used Lotus Notes you already know how it works. It's actually too much forced structure and too much clutter for me. I still prefer Jot+ Notes, a simple searchable free-form program you can download from KingStairs at It is a real work horse without getting in the way like clumsy Microsoft products.

Remember, there are thousands of good software providers. Microsoft isn't the only player. So support companies that provide affordable, bug-free, creative solutions.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Microsoft's SP-2 - now or later?

Well, do we have a choice?

Many of us have been disabling the update of Windows Service Pack 2 but as of April 12th, Microsoft announced it will be "delivering" the update whether we want it or not. Our eight month "grace period" is ending.

"UPDATE: Time is running out! Please note that the mechanism to temporarily disable delivery of Windows XP SP2 is only available for a period of 240 days (8 months) from August 16, 2004. At the end of this period (after April 12, 2005), Windows XP SP2 will be delivered to all Windows XP and Windows XP Service Pack 1 systems.

Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) contains major security improvements designed to provide better protection against hackers, viruses, and worms. Windows XP SP2 also improves the manageability of the security features in Windows XP and provides more and better information to help users make decisions that may potentially affect their security and privacy. Because of these significant improvements, Microsoft views Windows XP SP2 as an essential security update and is therefore distributing it as a “critical update” via Windows Update (WU) and the Automatic Updates (AU) delivery mechanism in Windows. Microsoft strongly urges customers with Windows XP and Windows XP Service Pack 1-based systems to update to Windows XP SP2 as soon as possible."

Or.... they'll do it for you!

As before, our advice remains:

1. Don't use the Microsoft products that make you vulnerable to security breaches: Internet Explorer, Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Media Player.

2. Order the free CD from Microsoft to load the update when you want, so you can undo the process in one 'system restore' instead of piecemeal when it downloads and applies the updates.

3. Keep backups, of course, and be ready to do a system restore if it unravels any of your work.

We are not responsible for any problems resulting from the installation of the Service Pack, or avoidance of the installation. Each user needs to make their own decisions, and you can read much more about this at

Friday, February 18, 2005

Flat-Panel Monitors a Pain in the Neck?

Prices continue to drop for those sleek, space saving flat-panel monitors, but don't get skimp on features when you're shopping. It's exciting to see a 15 or 17 inch LCD monitor under $200 but be sure the height and size are appropriate for you. Only the higher priced models have an adjustable slider to control the height. If you can't try it out by sitting at a desk with the monitor you're buying, make sure you get one you can tilt or adjust.

The top of a monitor should usually be about even with your eyebrows, so your head, neck and shoulders aren't strained. CNet has done the work for you, with an exhaustive review of the best flat-panel screens, fully adjustable no matter what your preference.

Learn more at

Anything's better than balancing that new monitor on phone books!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

And the Oscar Goes to Netscape for Best Browser

Because of yesterday's New York Times article, there's a lot of talk about web browsers, and more to choose from than the default Internet Explorer that Microsoft ships pre-loaded on every PC.

Read the full article if you wish, at but note this:

All the recent articles about browsers are missing the obvious choice: Netscape. Both Foxfire and Mozilla are built by the same people who first developed Netscape at the University of Illinois almost twenty years ago.

Netscape is free, available by download or CD at and has MORE features han all the competing browsers:

  • Increased security
  • Junk mail filter
  • Pop-up stoppers
  • Search the web by clicking any word on a web site
  • Tabbed browsing
  • Save all tabbed pages as a group of bookmarks

and because the mail is integrated, you don't have to use a separate program like Outlook Express for e-mail.

So why all the talk about paying $30 for a browser with tabs? Beats me. I've got 86 percent of my clients happily using Netscape and nobody misses out on a single feature of IE.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Top 25 Innovations

CNN lists the top 25 innovations of the past 25 years as:
1. The Internet
2. Cell phone
3. Personal computers
4. Fiber optics
5. E-mail
6. Commercialized GPS
7. Portable computers
8. Memory storage discs
9. Consumer level digital camera
10. Radio frequency ID tags
11. MEMS
12. DNA fingerprinting
13. Air bags
14. ATM
15. Advanced batteries
16. Hybrid car
17. OLEDs
18. Display panels
19. HDTV
20. Space shuttle
21. Nanotechnology
22. Flash memory
23. Voice mail
24. Modern hearing aids
25. Short Range, High Frequency Radio

You can read the full article at

Saturday, January 22, 2005

New Virus Disguised as CNN News

Remember when a virus was the worst thing that could happen to your computer? Today we are battling spyware, data miners, and malacious programs that hijack your browser and track your online activity. But viruses are getting more sneaky too, and more harmful.

The new virus reported today, is called Crowt-A. It pulls headlines, subject lines and other content from Once opened, the virus can then scan the user's address book and try to email itself to those users.

The virus' subject line and attachment share the same name, researchers say, but change continually to match headlines from's home page.

The virus can also plant spyware on your computer. In addition to emailing itself to other users, it installs a "backdoor Trojan function that cansend data such as keystrokes to a remote user -- a practice sometimes used by hackers to obtain sensitive information such as passwords.

Use reputable anti-virus software and be sure it's working. My #1 recommendation is ETrust from Computer Associates at If you have an active subscription to Norton or McAfee, keep updating the virus definition files and make sure it is protecting your e-mail.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Wow! There's a Patron Saint just for us

Isadore of Seville, known as Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages, is also the patron saint of computer users.

Born c.560 at Cartagena, Spain, he lived centuries before technology, but was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIV in 1722, and became the leading candidate for patron of computer users and the Internet in 1999. Initially a poor student, Isadore gave the problem over to God and became one of the most learned men of his time.

It's good to know St. Isadore is watching over us.
If you're looking for a patron saint, here's where I stumbled across the site that boasts over 4,000 saints.

Of course, I wasn't actually looking for a patron saint.I found it while looking for something else. Isn't that often the path to information these days?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

How to Read a Web Site

It's fun to watch someone read the newspaper. Some methodically turn pages from start to finish, section to section. Others grab the business section, sports, or crossword puzzle, then wander to editorials, local news and get lost in the wanderlust detail of the weather page. Me, I start and stop several times during the day, always interrupted, but can pick up right where I left off when I get a few more minutes to read.

Yet, web sites, containing much the same mix of loosely organized information, seem to leave people transfixed. I'm a frequent observer of people's navigation behavior and have noticed what I call the 30-second stare.

First the eye looks around the page for something, anything, appealing. Behind the eye, the brain is saying "Why am I here? What am I supposed to look at? If I click something, how will I get
back here?"

Then, the glazed look begins and the mouse is thinking: "I don't know what to do next."

Then, the click, often taking the person away from that page, forever.

You put a lot of time into the look of your web site, but like the newspaper, which produces new material every single day, you need something of value on every page, and have to give people a way to navigate where they want to go, not just where your logical mind feels they should navigate. And, always give them a way out, but invite them back. It's disappointing to follow a site for several pages and then not be able to get back to an interesting page.

So start the New Year off with some quality reading -- of your own web site. Make sure it measures up to your standards, and is also pleasing to your clients. Check the traffic your site receives through your web host, and pay special attention to which pages receive the most hits, and what pages cause people to exit the site.