Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Out With the Old?

Let's make a clean sweep at the end of the year by talking about defragmenting your hard disk.
It's not as simple as it used to be, due to today's large hard disk sizes, but is still essential to keep file fragments from getting scattered.

As files are written to a hard disk over time, their fragments get saved in non-contiguous spaces. You'll know it because when you go to open files, you hear the hard drive working to pull the fragments from each space on the disk. If it takes longer and longer to open frequent files, you'll know they are being stored in non-contiguous space.

Think of it like looking through your office for random pieces of paper that all belong in one folder. You waste time hunting for the scraps and putting them back together in the right order. Long term, there is a risk of being unable to grab all the pieces, which is how files become corrupted.

The larger the file, the longer it takes to find all the remnants. So if you routinely work with very large files, defrag is an important tool.

When drive heads have to work harder, seeking fragments across a large space, chances of a drive crash increase. This problem is compounded by today's super large drives.

What to do?
Go to Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools and you'll find Disk Defragmenter. When you open it, click Analyze or Details and look at the map - even if it says only 0% or 4% fragmented, run the program anyway.

It's best to run Defrag overnight, because you can't use the computer while it is reorganizing files. If you're impatient you can use a utility like Diskeeper to maintain the disk over time, or look into the new Defrag utility Microsoft is launching with Vista.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

"I only have eyes for ... all your data," says Google

A Chicago Tribune article today addresses privacy concerns with using some online software, specificallly Google Desktop. Too many web users think of such offerings as a free service or cool tool, but the profit motive of billion dollar companies should send a warning message.... they're in it for the money.

When Google offers their Desktop tool, allowing you to store and track searches, including searching files on your own computer, you are allowing Google to read, store and track your data for years, until 2038 in the example cited in this excellent article by the Tribune's David Greising and John McCormick.

"Google's Desktop program, a virtual file management system, scans all of the users data - text files, tax returns, electronic wills and such. It indexes and stores the data on enormous server "farms" all around the world.
Desktop even automatically stores copies of deleted files. "

Lest you think it is not within their right to do so, the article points out a fact I repeat over and over to clients: Read the privacy statement, even the legalese. By agreeing to such terms, you're signing away your privacy rights.

The irony in the Google cool factor is that you can search your desktop on your own, using Windows Explorer or third-party products like EnFish that don't report the data back to the vendor.

You pay a price for "free" services.

Any questions, email

Friday, December 22, 2006

Can you un-backup your data?

Most of us have learned (the hard way) to back up our critcial computer data regularly. Whether you choose floppy, zip, CD, USB or another method, make sure you can recover files from a backup too.

If you use a program that creates a backup set, you won’t be able to recover just the one file you need. You’ll have to revert back all the files in the set. And, you'll have to use the same program you used to create the backup. That could spell trouble.

If you have old, old backups that you need, you should modernize the backup media over time. For example, if your great American novel is backed up on a 5-1/4 inch floppy disk, it’s not likely you’ll be able to find a computer with that drive size. The same is becoming true with 3-1/2 inch floppy drives. Most new computers now ship without a floppy drive. They've become obsolete, in favor of more portable USB thumb drives.

CDs can become unreliable - as though the data fades right off. The coating on CD’s does not last forever. For long-term storage they should be kept upright in cases, away from light sources, heat and humidity.

Popular and inexpensive USB thumb drives have at least a ten year data retention ablity. And we hope USB ports will be around that long. This year they are the #1 stocking stuffer for tech fans of all ages.

Even file formats can be a problem. Files created in very, very old versions of Quicken, Word, and obsolute programs will not easily convert to new programs - so if your computer records go back more than ten years, keep upgrading them to new software and new backup devices over time.

So, as you make a year-end backup, make a note in 2007 to review your backup media and make sure you aren't backing up your data to an unreachable void.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Multi-tasking: Enough already !

I wrote previously about the London study indicating multitasking had the same effect on the brain as marijuana. And, not in a good way.

Another study explains that drained, confused feeling we all experience... can't focus, lose details, fatigue easily - it's not iron-poor blood, it's technology, if not used well.

A study by FirStep Inc., Pennsylvania business strategists, says U.S. office workers get interrupted on the job as often as eleven times an hour. Cost to businesses? It's a staggering $588 billion/year.

Read more:

  • Add in the distracting lure of checking e-mails, surfing the Internet and chatting by computer, and workers interrupt themselves nearly as much as they are interrupted by others, experts say.
  • "With instant messaging on your desktop and alerts and e-mail notifications, you set yourself up for it," said John Putzier, founder of FirStep Inc. business strategists in Prospect, Pennsylvania.
  • A typical manager is interrupted six times an hour, one recent study showed, while another found the average cubicle worker is interrupted more than 70 times a day.
  • Other research has found office workers getting interrupted every 11 minutes, even as another study said nearly half of workplace interruptions are self-imposed.
  • A study by Basex found office distractions take up 2.1 hours of the average day - 28 percent - with workers taking an average of five minutes to recover from each interruption and return to their original tasks.
  • Still another study found a group of workers interrupted by e-mail and telephones scored lower on an IQ test than a test group that had smoked marijuana."
Feeling worse now?
A large part of the problem, and the problem with email in general is that we have no way to separate the critical from the comical. At first the sense of busy-ness and jumping from task to task might feel good. You're getting a lot done, staying on top of what matters, but there is something terribly seductive about being plugged in. Soon it turns into overload and as you keep pushing buttons, switching gears and jumping among topics, you don't realize your effectiveness drops rapidly.

Don't embrace the over-connected nature of technology if it is wearing you down. Control the intrusions, and enjoy greater satisfaction. Imagine: Start a task and finish it without switching to five or six other non-urgent interruptions.

Like any good habit, it takes practice. Give yourself two weeks over the holidays to break the cycle of always-on, and stop responding to every interruption. Let me know how it works for you, and remember you can ask questions anytime on Computer Clarity's forum at .

But remember... Just because it's up 24 x 7, you don't have to be.

Happy Holidays,

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Computer requirements to run Vista and sample pricing is running daily updates on Vista now that corporate users are testing it.

The recommended minimum specifications are:
* A 1GHz processor.
* 1GB of RAM.
* A 40GB hard drive with 15GB free space.
* A graphics card that supports DirectX 9 with a WDDM driver.
* 128MB dedicated memory for the graphics card.

Note that if your graphics card is not supported then you will not be able to run the new Aero interface (including some animations and the Glass look) and some included software, such as the DVD creator, will refuse to launch. If you are questioning whether or not your graphics card is supported check with the manufacturer's website...most have lists of supported cards. Note, however, that for the most part integrated grapics are not good enough.

To find out if you meet the requirements to use the various features and display the advanced graphics of Windows Vista, it is highly recommended that you click here to download and run the Vista Upgrade Advisor first. (Requires Windows XP.) You can also click here for a similar online test from ATI.


Official Vista Pricing:

Full Retail:
* XP Home w/ SP2: $199
* Vista Home Basic: $199
* Vista Home Premium: $239
* Vista Business: $299
* XP Pro. w/ SP2: $299
* Vista Ultimate: $399

* XP Home w/ SP2: $99
* Vista Home Basic: $99
* Vista Home Premium: $159
* XP Pro. w/ SP2: $199
* Vista Business: $199
* Vista Ultimate: $259

Those who already own a license to a copy of Vista can purchase additional licenses by purchasing the associated License Pack, which costs an average of $20 less than the above listings.

Also for comparison, equivalences are:
Windows Vista Home Basic = Windows XP Home
Windows Vista Home Premium = Windows XP Media Center Edition
Windows Vista Business = Windows XP Professional
Windows Vista Ultimate = No matching SKU

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Waiting for Vista

While you're delaying the purchase of a new computer so you can wait for one running Vista instead of Windows XP, keep these thoughts in mind, courtesty of Computer Clarity:

1. Timing: The retail version of computers loaded with Vista will be in 2007.

2. Vendors are now offering computers that are "Vista ready" meaning the processor and memory are up to Vista standards, and some are offering a free upgrade to Vista when it comes out. Why? Because they fear everyone will stop buying computers until Vista launches, and PC makers will have the weakest holiday season in years.

3. Price: New computers loaded with Vista will be very expensive, especially compared to today's great bargains in the $400 range for both desktops and laptops.

Example: The Vista operating system is priced at $399 for the Business version, $239 for Home Premium, and $199 for Home Basic (all subject to change).

So if you wait to buy a new computer, it looks like you'll be seeing prices over $1,000.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Blogs reach readers

The highly respected Pew Internet and American Life Project shares some fresh stats on blogs today:

Only about 8% of internet users blog, but that's about 12 million American adults.
39% of American adults, 57 million, read blogs.
54% of bloggers have never published anywhere else.
82% of U.S. bloggers think they will still be at it a year from now.

Am I the only one who thinks it's really funny that they conducted the research poll by phone? I know, I know, they wanted a random sample of Americans, not just committed bloggers.

More analysis on this research will be presented at Midwest Writer's Association Nov. 30, 2006 meeting at the Wilmette, IL library. More info is available at

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The World Is a Kitchen

Being a contributor to The World Is a Kitchen is a delicious experience. Among my promotional events, the IWPA Book Fair at the Chicago Cultural Center was a real highlight. My essay about cooking with Turkish women in their homes captivates would-be travelers and hungry foodies.

This book is a super holiday gift for travelers, cooks and foodies.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Technology - what's your definition?

I read this morning that the 16th century painter Velasquez was noted for pioneering unique systems. The article, in fact, refers to them as "techniques and technology."

Curious, I delved further to see what technology would have been available to him, while painting kings in the courtyards of Spain's castles.

The answer: long-bristled and long-handled brushes.

Serves as a good reminder that your "technology" doesn't always have to be the next new gizmo, just whatever works for you. How you interact with technology means more than the gigahertz, as long as you know how to handle the paintbrush!


Monday, September 25, 2006

Fall events & readings

Speaking at The Midwest Literary Festival in Aurora earlier this month was terrific. My talk on "Be a Better Writer with Technology," went over well, and has resulted in a lot of inquiries from the eager writers in attendance.

Upcoming events include:

January 24, 2007 Midwest Writers Assn, Wilmette Public Library (Blogs) PUBLIC IS WELCOME $5.00

February 24, 2007 Beverly Branch Public Library, 2121 W. 95th Street, Chicago "Computer Ease" speaking and book sales

March 8, 2007 Off-Campus Writers' Workshop, Winnetka IL (Self-Publishing)

April 2007 Writer's Fest, Wheeling, IL Public Library > "Computer Ease" speaking and book sales

June 2007 Gotta Write Festival, Schaumburg

Recent Events:
October 5, 2006
Glenview Chamber of Commerce Business Expo - free to the public

October 13, 2006
Chicago Writers Assn. author readings & signings at The Book Cellar, 4736-8 N. Lincoln, Chicago

October 21, 2006
Chicago Cultural Center, IWPA Book Fair - free to the public

November 7, 2006 Glenview Chamber Tech Talk

November 8, 2006 American Assn. University Women / technology panel

November 10, 2006 The Book Stall at Chestnut Court

November 30, 2006 Midwest Writer's /members only

At these events, I'll be sharing publishing strategies, and offering Computer Ease as well as the new book The World Is a Kitchen, from Lonely Planet's Travelers' Tales series.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Is Google a Dinosaur?

Most of my readers know I always root for the underdog, so it's no surprise I've never been a big cheerleader for Google. Too big, built on the fly, and most importantly, delivers search results based on popularity.

The Chicago Tribune is doing a terrific series this week "Gunning for Google" which thoroughly explains Golliath and its multi-billion dollar success. Even Google's co-founder Larry Page is quoted in the Tribune as saying "You're important if other people think you're important."

I don't think that's a good basis for news, research or educating ourselves on important topics. Google is too big, stumbles on itself, and is caught in a tailspin of popularity making it less meaningful. As I always say in my own business, "You can't be all things to all people."

Give other search tools a chance

I like because it clusters search results down the left column. So if you search for "medical research" instead of 222 million results and many ads at Google, Clusty shows you the top 177 results out of 33 million. The left column then takes those 177 best results and clusters them by category, so you can explore exactly what you want: Clinical, Universities, Journal articles, etc...

I have always liked - have you seen it lately? Instead of a big blank page like Google, Yahoo has a test version (beta) of a home page providing instant local traffic and weather in a sort of web balloon that appears when you move your mouse over the buttons. You can customize the page for local TV listings, movie theater schedules, and see all news categories in addition to a powerful search engine, all on one page.

Sign up for my free e-newsletter if you want to keep informed with a monthly dose of "clarity."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Blogging in Bed??

As computers follow TV into the bedroom, The Chicago Tribune reports on a "Menage a Treo." Wish I'd thought of that title .... The article, by Katie Hafner, New York Times News Service points to an interesting trend.

The proliferation of electronic gadgets, overstacked schedules and tired people has created a marriage between people and their gadget addiction. I'm not sure its a good idea to bring those pesty little multi-taskers to bed with us.

lackberry and Treo gadgets are 'smart phones' allowing you to read endless news headlines, check email, cry over your calendar. Not a precursor to a good night's sleep. Even they need to be turned off eventually, and to recharge, just like us.

Yet, the article found that in the blue glow of the screen, many people unwind at night by updating their blog, answering e-stacks of email, planning birthday parties, and engaging with the computer as a giant to-do list. We all appreciate the portability of a laptop, or the lighter notebook computers, instead of being chained to a desktop, where you work at the altar of messy electronics. With a notebook, you work where you're comfortable and when you can relax and think without distractions.

And there is an intimacy using a notebook computer if you're quietly engaged with it, but not if the time becomes a struggle. Weary, restless eyes clicking on web pages, to-do lists, and work, would lead us to a new form of e-somnia.

So, retreat to your room to relax, watch a DVD, listen to music or audio book, but be careful.... the bedroom is our last bastion of solitude, isn't it?


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Announcing "The World is a Kitchen"

I’m pleased to share this great news…

The World Is a Kitchen
Cooking Your Way Through Culture
is now available

Published by Lonely Planet Travelers’ Tales series

My contribution, Flavor by the Spoonful, tells of my joyful adventures cooking with Turkish women in their homes.

The thirty stories that make up this book, plus recipes, will satisfy your yen for travel, adventure and great foods from the world’s kitchens.

The World Is a Kitchen reveals the diverse traditions of other countries through cuisine, utilizing both stories and recipes. Chefs, travel writers, and dedicated foodies share their unique experiences, transporting readers into kitchens around the world.

Editors: Michele Anna Jordan and Susan Brady

$16.95 Trade Paperback, ISBN 1-932361-40-5

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Cafe Whisperer...

What's your cafe personality? From the shy girl who can't make eye contact with anyone to the jerk who runs a business from the loud cell phone in his pocket, step into a cafe and you'll see culture, counter-culture and everything between.

My favorite is Sweet Dreams Cafe, in Glenview, IL, where I live. If it was walking distance it would be even better. Perhaps its best to keep the temptation at a distance, just a short drive away.

Sweet Dreams has quiet, energetic music, deep red walls, soft curtains framing the ancient trees on the Historical Society grounds next door. How can you not relax? It's got plush red sofas and chairs, tables, books, candles, flowers.

Oh.. and the pastries! Sweet Dreams is owned by Mary Sopcic, a Croatian baker with extraordinary skill in the tiny world of temptation. She offers French and Croatian pastries, from fruit tarts to old-fashioned strudle, fruit breads, cakes and scones, all organic.

Have a pastry. Stay a long time and relax, and when you get hungry again, salads and sandwiches, including ample vegetarian choices await. The courteous staff won't rush your order out like fast food, but they won't rush you out either.

The customers read, talk (mostly quietly if the are on the cell phone), work, think. It's such a lovely atmosphere, you feel like you need only a whisper to talk with your friend.

You can too ---

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Reaching a global web audience

If your web site reaches global audiences, make sure it reflects an awareness of their needs.

Does your site measure up to global web etiquette?
Here’s what to include to ensure overseas clients know you want to work with them.

1. A welcome message in multiple languages

2. Don’t use graphics, especially for a navigation button, that don’t translate well.

3. Use web development tools that work worldwide. While Adobe’s portable document format (.pdf) is a widely adopted standard, other web tools such as Java and Flash may not be, especially in countries with less advanced Internet connections.

4. Be courteous when listing events and prices on your site with an international format for date/time, and prices shown in multiple currencies.

5. Check your website statistics (hits) to see where visitors are coming from.

Non-English speaking Internet users now outnumber those who speak English. If you have, or want to attract, a particular international audience, consider using flags on your home page to denote pages written in English, French, Italian, or other languages. When a user clicks on a country flag, they’re taken to a translated page of your site.

For help with translating a block of text, try AltaVista’s BabelFish technology at

Friday, July 14, 2006

Baffled by Tech Terms?

A recent Harris Interactive poll, commissioned by Microsoft, shows that 77 percent of women and 45 percent of men say they are not knowledgeable about tech buzzwords.

If you don't know an MP3 from a USB, don't feel bad. In the study, more than 70 percent said they never heard of RSS (Really Simple Syndication, which is a way to stream news feed to a site), 32 percent could not explain what VOIP is (Voice over internet protocol - using the Internet for telephone calls), and 46 percent are clueless about Internet tagging, a technique to show search results by popularity of terms in a site.

If you're stuck on a tech term, and curious to learn what terms mean, here are four ideas:
1. Go to and look it up
2. Use for terms like RSS or VOIP
3. To learn what the buzzwords really do, try, the collaborative, online encyclopedia.
4. Visit my Q & A forum, and I'll respond quickly.

And remember, even if tech is a mystery to you, you're an expert at something. A store clerk knows more than I do about merchandising, I'll never be as smart as a nurse, and most Mom's are rocket scientists compared to the rest of us.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Google offers free videos

Google seems to be taking over the world these days -- offering valuable services and features for free. They've just released a free database of videos, which you can view and enjoy online:

The service includes full-length movies, documentaries, sports, cartoons, and talk shows, including Charlie Rose.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

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 take time for 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.

For an interesting view of how the eye responds to web pages, follow this link to an example of Marketing's Eyetracking Study. It uses "heatmaps" to illustrate how people look, scroll and click on web pages. Then, take another look at your site and see how you measure up.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

My least favorite computer expression

My least favorite computer expression is:
“The computer won’t let me!”

Since a computer can’t actually exert any control, it really means:
“I don’t know how.”

Keep your perspective when a computer problem creeps up on you, and you'll have a better chance of solving it. Look up the problem on the web, if you can get online, or look in the Help files of any program. And, call Tech support. That's what they're there for. Of course, be sure to read "Before You Call Tech Support," in Computer Ease first.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

The secret to being found on the web

With over 5,000 new web sites created each week, it's not easy to be found by our target audiences. How can you separate yourself and rise above the crowd.

Make it easy to be found by search engines. The sites that do best are:

In good health: They have no missing images, broken links, or outdated pages.
Smooth road: People can easily navigate and explore the site.
Newsworthy: Frequent updates with meaningful and well-organized content.
Lots of links: Search engines love links - that's the origin of the "web." Your site should have both affiliate links and reciprocal links. Read Computer Ease for more search engine tips.

And - content is still king. Compelling information worthy of the reader's time makes your web site grow in popularity.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Why Windows is so slow to boot

Have you ever wondered what your computer is doing when it takes sooooo long for Windows to boot? While you're staring at the Windows logo, the system is reporting back to Microsoft, ostensibly so it can check to see what's running on your computer. Now that people have found out this is happening every day, Microsoft is suddenly making changes.

Here's a report from InfoSelect:

Microsoft has changed a major feature found in its Windows Genuine
Advantage (WGA) software, after receiving an onslaught of complaints from
end users. The criticism is in regard to the program's daily check-ins with
the company's servers; now, the tool will dial home in 14-day intervals
instead of after every system boot.

... Click to read the rest of the article (and other InfoSelect recent articles)


Disable unwanted programs in Windows XP

If you haven't read "Computer Ease" yet, here's a reminder about disabling unwanted programs that hog your memory.

They appear when you load new programs, or run something like Quicken or Real Audio. When you close the program they often position themselves to reside in memory, to load faster the next time you need them. To free up, memory clear them out of the StartUp tab of MSConfig:

Click Start / Run and type msconfig

Click the StartupTab and uncheck any you don't need running. By unchecking you're not actually removing them from the computer, just preventing them from waiting around.

Reboot after exiting from MSConfig and the changes will take effect. You will see a message when you reboot stating someone has changed your system configuration. That someone is you - so just clear the message and you're on your way -- with more memory than you had earlier.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Staying productive away from the office

We’re great at tuning out distractions when working at home, but a hotel room or internet café is often not conducive to conducting business. If you tote your laptop along and can’t get a free wireless connection in your hotel, stay organized to make the most of your time as a café-squatter.

While working on the plane or in the hotel, keep a running list of web sites you need to review, emails you want to send once you’re online, and reply quickly to all the new mail you get, so people will know you’re in touch while out of the office.

Use your Outlook or Act calendar to create one giant “to-do” item of all these things so you don’t waste time wandering through files looking for names, numbers and bits of information.

Because you have greater security risks on any public connection, especially wireless, limit your time online to the essentials, and don’t use it checking bank account balances or for buying airline tickets or any credit card transactions.

While traveling on business this week, I’m witnessing the frustration and lost productivity by business people trying to use a Marriott hotel business center. Because Marriott doesn’t offer free wi-fi, dozens of people every hour are wasting time waiting for one of two computers, or plugging their laptops into a potentially unsafe network to read mail, then switching to web mail to send replies. And I’m telling you from experience you can waste 20 minutes and a cappuccino just trying to get onto an available connection, even at a café with free wi-fi.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Printer's Row Book Fair

Well, 80,000 people can't be wrong! The Printer's Row Book Fair really is a great event. Book vendors lined the streets, south of downtown Chicago, this weekend, in the historic Printer's Row district, while terrific author events, workshops and interviews took place within Chicago's great architecture.

Thanks to the Illinois Women's Press Assn. for allowing member/authors to sell our books. And thanks to everyone who bought Computer Ease. It wa a great crowd. I asked a Chicago policeman if we were a tough crowd to manage. "Yea, if we catch someone reading too many words, we'll book 'em."

Helen Gallagher

Thursday, May 11, 2006

SIG's - An Untapped Resource

Newsgroups, once called SIGs (special interest groups), get lost in the clutter of the web and email but they are an important resource and handy reference when you're digging in to a specific topic.

Like what, you ask? Well, clutter, for example, and public speaking, publishing and writing, coping with loss, diseases, childcare woes, PT Cruiser lovers, Desperate Housewives fans, and thousands of other special interest.

To test-drive a newsgroup or SIG and see if it suits you, browse the list of groups at:

And remember, the web is global, so there are foreign language groups, ethnic cooking, science, religion, technology. all ready to share insights with you.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Web usage grows around the world

We know habits die hard, but they are so easy to create, especially the bad ones.
I notice the majority of my clients and colleagues use the same web sites over and over, and can go MONTHS without exploring a new site. So, I often remind people that it is the "world wide web," not only local or U.S. based content.

I occasionally find interesting news in European columns online and web sites, and when I share them, people say: "Gosh, how did you find that." Well, the world is big and the web puts it all within our reach. As I say in Computer Ease - go exploring.

So where are the greatest number of Internet users? Here are the statistics from World Opinion News:

694,260,000 Worldwide total, users age 15+, as of March 2006
152,046,000 United States
74,727 ,000 China
52,100,000 Japan
31,813 ,000 Germany
30,190 ,000 United Kingdom
24,645 ,000 South Korea
23,884 ,000 France
18,996 ,000 Canada
16,834 ,000 Italy
16,713 ,000 India

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Glenview Chamber Tech Talk

We had an interesting presentation at the Glenview Chamber this morning. I posted a draft of the Tech Talk, but due to a connection problem, it didn't post. So here's a more thorough update.

We discussed the importance of gaining visibility & credibility -- two important no-cost ways to grow business. Our session included:

1. Appropriate use of email for sending BCC (blind carbon copy) email messages to clients and prospects.

2. Publishing a free blog, here at, or or It's like getting a web site for free since you control the content and invite your clients & prospects to read updated articles you post. Be sure you always have something of value to say, be concise, and make your goals clear. If you use Google Adsense, you can also gain advertising revenue if people click on ads posted on your site.

3. I want you, my readers, to be comfortable sending email, and try your hand at a blog. But if you business is ready to move beyond that, use email as a marketing tool by sending email newsletters. Your subscribers have to opt-in so you are not allowed to send spam, they will expect and appreciate the newsletter because they actively subscribed, and they can print or forward it on to others.

To see some back issues of my Clarity Connection newsletter, click this link on my site:

To try an email newsletter for your business, visit or and take a test drive. All you have to lose is postage costs !

If you have questions, email me at

Helen Gallagher

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Senior's succeed online

Look at the results of a survey and you'll see we have a lot of seniors who put the rest of us to shame. I know 30-year olds who can't open an email attachment, but look what these sparkling seniors can do. They are the original "can do" generation!

Greatest computer interest:
71% said email
39% said emailing photos

Cool uses:
36% said managing photos
32% said creating photo albums

Other uses:
Health information
Safe and efficient with internet transactions
Talking with friends on the internet
State, local, and federal government info on web sites
Financial management
Greeting cards
Genealogy research

I know from my own clients at Computer Clarity that seniors are participating in all of these tasks and more. Bravo !!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Keeping children safe online is rightly critized for its unsupervised e-playground, letting children express themselves, thinking only their friends are seeing the profiles and photos. Children don't always understand how very public the web is, and how easily predators can find children to contact.

Yet, many parents realize there is danger in simpler online experiences, such as Instant Maessaging (IM). And, kids love being able to talk to their friends through IM and online chat, at AOL, ICQ, Yahoo etc.

Kids also use codes and abbreviations so you can't always tell what they are typing:

CUL8R (see you later)
POS (parent over shoulder)
MML (meet me later) and
SLAP (sounds like a plan) are just a few.

My personal favorite acronym is BFOO (blinding flash of the obvious), but what goes on with kids and computers isn't always obvious to us. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if your children have a consuming interest in IM and other online chat services.

Block messages from unknown users - so only your own friends can access the pop-up IM chat window in your computer. Otherwise you are opening the door to strangers, and inviting viruses, popups and malicious spyware.

Make sure their online profile is minimal. They should not reveal age, sex, pet names, or the name of their school - just chat about topics like books, TV, celebrities and homework.

Above all, talk to your children, and make sure you know whether their online conversations are appropriate, just as you would if they were talking with friends in the back seat of the car when you're driving them to school.

More online resources for online safety for families:

  • GetNetWise
  • recommends a kid-friendly search engine such as KidGrid is a Yahoo-like search engine with categorized links, all of which have been designated safe. Kaboose provides fun stuff for kids and parents alike, from online games to party planning. You can also steer the family to - a search engine pre-screened by librarians for appropriate content.

Feel free to share this article by highlighting to cut & paste and email to friends.
But, respect copyright by including this too:

Reprinted with permission
All contents copyright, Helen Gallagher, March 14, 2006
author: Computer Ease, ISBN 1589398157

Friday, March 03, 2006

Work from anywhere

A new product from offers remote access to your files. It works like Gotomypc ($19.95/month) but is free.

You can access and share files, download them to revise, but mostly see your office computer when you're away.

I'll be testing it out over the next week and let you know if it's a winner.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ultimate laptop launch on March 9, 2006 ?

Microsoft has a product ready to launch any day now that promises to shake up my world -- a tiny laptop with full functionality. Here's what I learned so far:

It is expected to be a tablet mobile PC , running Windows XP, with built-in wireless, weighing about one pound and sporting a battery that lasts all day.

There will be different models & versions, priced under $1,000 and Microsoft is expected to roll it out at the CeBit trade show in Germany next week.

Stay tuned for more news,


Sunday, February 12, 2006

How to "watch" your money

Your computer can help you track your investments, monitor spending and control paperwork too. How?

1. Get online reports from banks and brokers. Cut & paste the information from web screens into Excel for further analysis.

2. Download bank and brokerage statments directly into Microsoft Money, Quicken, or QuickBooks.

3. Build an online portfolio at your broker or at to track your investment progress month-to-month. Request they stop the monthly cycle of paper statements, and just switch to receiving them every six months. I don't know if all brokers do this, but Edward Jones is one who does.

4. Start your web browsing sessions with a home page customized to show your stock and mutual funds value. You can do this from just about any home page: Fidelity, Google, Morningstar, SBC, Yahoo, and more.

So, don't just file those paper statements away--- put the information in the computer, receive live web updates, and know where your money is and how it's growing.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Technology changes fast !!

What's old is new. And guess what's considered 'old' already -- the IPod. Yep, it's true.

Top among the best ten gadgets at, No. 1 is Creative Zen Vision's IPod-ish dynamo. It's got MP3, portable video on a 2.5 inch screen, a voice recorder, FM tuner and recorder.

Also on the list, Sony PSO Playstation seems to be ahead of Microsoft Xbox 360 - possibly due to Sony's supply/demand edge.
But Microsoft's product has reputation of overheating and crashing, so Sony rules.

Sony wins again with the Sony Ericsson w800i. It's a cell phone with MP3, FM tuner, good sound quality, speakerphone and camera.

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