Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year ~ 2009

Greetings. With over 6,000 visitors to this blog, I want to wish everyone a very Happy New Year and a quick recovery from a difficult 2008. If, like me, you have a desire to hunker down with a good book this winter, or spend a little more time with friends & family, and less time on the computer, well, that's alright by me. The time we sink into technology is irretrievable, so if the quality isn't there, take a break and enjoy other pursuits.

As T.S. Eliot said:
Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

So, here's to good times in 2009 with friends, family, great books and movies to enrich our spirit.

Wherever you are, please remember to support your local economy. The merchants and stores support you with tax dollars, employ your neighbors, and invest in your community. Show your appreciation by supporting their business.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Online privacy? Nah...

When browsing the web, especially if you use Google, Microsoft Internet Explorer, or Yahoo, you're leaving more than cookie crumbs behind.

In a Wired.com blog on 12/18/08, writer David Kravets explored Yahoo's recent announcement that they would keep user date for only 3 months, instead of 13 months. Google keeps users search data for 9 months and Microsoft for 18 months.

As a computer consultant, I've always explained that the data collected when we use the web and search engines was aggregated, so maybe they can dig through the data and know how many people in your zip code shop online for a Chevy. But now, with advanced technology and plenty of money, these firms are mining for data to a degree beyond what we ever imagined. They now put everything together in a profile for, in the case of this graphic, a 37-year-old male web user.

Because all of our web usage can be traced back to an internet protocol (IP) address, I don't doubt that its possible to trace such a specific profile back to a unique user. If the data is out there, I don't believe privacy rights are enough to keep our usage patterns private.

Kravets' report provides a link to a Yahoo paper entitled "Squeeze Every Drop of Meaning from Data," http://research.yahoo.com/node/89, and a presentation made by Yahoo about the ability to gather massive amounts of data, all for the purpose of helping gain ad revenue from advertisers delighted to have such precise profiles of their target audience.

Source article http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/12/data-mining-una.html

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Favorite Free Software

I rarely convince anyone that my favorite tech tools are right for them, but here are three tools I most appreciate. Spice up your computer with one or two.

1. Clusty.com - the search engine that gives better results because it clusters results and sorts by category, so you don't have to.

2. IrfanView - a free utility to re-size and edit photos. Here's the download.com page where you can get it.

3. Dictionary.com - I woke up this morning determined to finally figure out how to pronounce the spice called "turmeric." After hearing Rachael Ray say "tumor-ick," I decided to visit my favorite dictionary where I could hear the word pronounced aloud.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Early winter warning: Fight procrastination

Here are my five best procrastination busters.... as originally appeared in Work Home You magazine. I hope these suggestions help keep you on track this winter.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lost? Get free directions & information

Google now offers free 411 information service on the web and on cell phones.

On your phone, dial 1-800-goog411. You don't need a computer, an Internet connection, or even the keypad on your phone or mobile device. GOOG-411 is voice-activated, so you can access it from any phone (mobile or land line), in any location, at any time. For free. (*)

Dial (1-800) GOOG-411. Say where. Say what you're looking for. GOOG-411 will connect you with the business you choose. For now, there's no charge to connect your call.

See the quick video demo here: http://www.google.com/goog411/

Monday, November 10, 2008

Next version of Windows: Maybe it's one you'll really want...

With the dismal consumer acceptance of Microsoft's Vista operating system, those of us holding on to Windows XP so we can be productive, will soon have a new system to covet.

If you're itching to upgrade, the early reviews of the next version of Windows, currenty called Windows 7, is on display at trade shows around the world, and seems to combine to fresh new look of Vista + Macs with the functionality we need and appreciate in Windows XP. Launch dates are scheduled for early 2009.

Read more here at cnet.com.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Digital writing on Bamboo tablet....

Now that I have your attention, yes, it's true. There is a new digital pen tablet device that converts your ideas, drawings and signature to your computer.

The Bamboo lets you write emals, ideas, lists, and notes, working from anywhere. Learn more at Bamboo.

Oh, and the best news may be the $79 price tag! And it works on Windows XP, Vista and Macs.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Windows, Windows....

Good news! Microsoft told CNET this week that they will yield to pressure and keep Windows XP available - while they rapidly plan a roll-out of Windows 7 to replace Vista, the product no one wants.

Although the largest PC makers can't sell XP anymore (except for ultra-low-cost machines), they can sell Vista Ultimate and Vista Business machines with XP discs in the box, or even Vista machines that are "factory downgraded" to Windows XP.

That option was supposed to go away early next year, as Microsoft was going to stop supplying Windows XP media after January 31. However, the company now says it will offer the discs through July 31, giving the option a six-month extension. (Update: PC makers will also be able to sell the factory downgraded machines online as well.)

Source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13860_3-10057617-56.html?tag=nl.e433

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When software gets too clever

We're all amazed that humans can write software code to make a computer do clever things, such as displaying a rotating carousel of photos*, or tracking time to remind us to go somewhere. But the new technology is being applied to so many gadgets today, such as smart phones, I just have to wonder... Shouldn't we be re-channeling all this amazing talent into something more beneficial to society? We could run 'green' buildings, stop melting polar ice-caps, get food to hungry people, but instead...

Google is launching a cell phone. Just what the world needs! Of course, Google's billionaires are just doing it to compete with the Apple iPhone which made Apple billionaires richer.

As TMobile is ready to roll out Google's phone, called G1, and people line up to buy it, Google founder Sergey Brin was asked about the new phone. He's been creating prototypes that do cool [useless] things. Don't believe me? Get this, a quote from Knowledge World magazine:

"His latest application allowed a Googler to throw an Android phone up in the air and it would measure the amount of time until he caught it."

This is why I'm dismayed by the misdirected talent of those with the most money and power to do something useful for society.

What do you think? Comments?
* Curious about the carousel of photos? See releaseyourwriting.blogspot.com and look at the book covers on the right side.

Monday, September 22, 2008

NetFlix, RedBox and now Amazon does video rental

If unopened movies from NetFlix, or the RedBox movie drop-off in your neighborhood is too inconvenient, Amazon has launched a good video rental program - with instant download and nothing to return !!

It includes TV shows at $1.99/episode and full-length movies typically priced at $2.99 or $3.99. Click the link, choose your film, and pick "watch now."

Amazon Video On Demand

It requires Adobe Flash or a similar video viewer.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Digital Nosiness

Did you ever stop to think about how much information is collected about us as we go through our daily lives?

Or go through tollbooths - medical tests - buy movie tickets online - use a preferred card at the grocery store, not to mention displaying our brand of toothpaste as we trudge through airport security.

And then there are cameras on street corners, monitors in every store, and search engines cataloging everything we seek online.

There's an amazing new book called The Numerati by Stephen Baker that explores this concept of "digital nosiness."

The book is described as "an urgent look at how a global math elite is predicting and altering our behavior - at work, at the mall, and in bed. Steve Baker's The Numerati shows how a powerful new endeavor, the mathematical modeling of humanity, stands to transform everyone's daily life."

The Numerati in the title refers to mathematicians and statisticians who are using this data to create a model of human nature as its never been done before. We live in a different world today.

The Numerati is available locally through The Book Stall at Chestnut Court, and other online retailers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Are you Linked In?

For those of us who shy away from social networking sites such as FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter and the rest, there is still one useful option. Consider using LinkedIn if you want a place to list a public profile, viewed by other people with your professional interests. It's like old-fashioned networking for business folks, without the "Hello My Name is...." badge.

You know a lot of smart people, and they know many other smart people. LinkedIn is away to see who they know, and ask for an introduction or get recommended as a respected contact.

The exponential growth of those connections is what makes LinkedIn worth a few minutes of your time. For example, I have a modest 23 connections out there, but that gives me a link to the 615,600+ professionals who are all someway/somehow linked to someone I know.

That's wide exposure to people who may want my consulting services, hire me as a speaker, or who may want to purchase Release Your Writing or Computer Ease. Take a look at LinkedIn.com if you want to expand your reach.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Chrome: Google's new web browser

Tired of Internet Explorer? I've frequently urged clients to move to SeaMonkey or Firefox, both from Mozilla.org, the creators of Netscape. Any of these browser are less crash-prone than Internet Explorer, and less susceptible to attacks from hackers.

If you haven't yet moved to the amazing Firefox version 3, you might jump to the head of the class and get the free download of Google's new browser, named Chrome. It is still a 'beta' product, meaning not ready for prime-time, and as one person suggested: "Chrome may need some polish." but you have nothing to lose by trying it.

Advantages include
1. smart typing so when you type www.nyt the address for www.nytimes.com fills in, if it is a site you've visited before.
2. My favorite feature is a start-up screen with thumbnails of the sites you visit the most. Now that's useful. Sort of like seeing your bookmarks and favorites asn actual screenshots.
3. Home page also includes links to recently visited pages.

Google likes to capture user information, so read the privacy notice if you want to turn off some of their data collection.

download here if you're ready for something new.

ADDENDUM: Well, it's been about a week and I can't say I'm impressed with Google. Maybe the Beta was released too soon. It lacks many of the features in other browsers, such as smart-typing, easy access to Bookmarks, a visible menu bar, etc. Download Firefox 3 from mozilla.org if you're looking for something better. / HG 9-11-08

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Can Jerry Seinfeld save Vista?

We all know Jerry used a Mac on the old Seinfeld show, but Microsoft is desperate to sway reluctant converts to Vista, so they'll pay him $10 million dollars for an ad campaign.

Or they could put that money into fixing Vista's flaws with performance, security, and ease of use. Wouldn't that make more sense?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Get your news at only the real CNN web site, not mail links

With so many of us watching the Olympics, keeping up with world news, and getting ready for the big DNC convention in Denver next week, the web's resources are a natural way to get a quick news fix.

Last week I noticed I was getting emails from CNN with news stories. Since I'd never signed up, I deleted them, but want to share this warning with you. As I suspected, the non-CNN look-alike emails actually lead to trouble. Here's the recap, thanks to the Wilmette Chamber of Commerce tech person:

As I rebuild a 5th computer in so many days, I thought it would be worth
sending a message to everyone about a very nasty virus that is out right
now. It is called Antivirus 2008 or 2009 and is downloaded from an email
that looks like it is from CNN. If you open the mail and click a link to
one of the stories, it will ask you to install a flash update and when you
click OK the virus is loaded on to your machine. It disables your current
virus protection and constantly warns you that you have hundreds of viruses
on your machine. It keeps prompting you to buy the full version.

Read more:

Friday, August 15, 2008

Whoa! Is that a scanner in your keyboard?

Here's rare news of a new product worthy of your attention. In a world of cluttered desks, KeyScan, a developer of hardware and software scanning solutions, unveils the only computer keyboard with built-in full-page color scanner.

It converts a scan to a searachable pdf, even multi-page pdf files, or Word, just to name two options, and the document is ready to email or save. What's amazing to me is that you don't have to touch anything or issue any commands: Just insert the photo or document into the keyboard slot and watch it work.

The KS810 keyboard-scanner carries an suggested retail price of $159 and comes bundled with KeyScan’s exclusive NoTouch-AutoScan software.

The KeyScan KS810 integrated keyboard and sheet-feed scanner occupies the same footprint as a standard keyboard. It quickly and easily scans black-and-white and color documents from business cards up to 8½"x30". It takes about five seconds to scan a full-page, 300dpi, grayscale document.

You can watch a brief demo on YouTube here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Can you still find a Windows XP computer?

I've learned that HP and other computer makers might be pre-loading the old Windows XP on the Vista machines they are selling. Why? Well, people don't want Vista, and Microsoft told vendors they had to stop selling XP after June 30th. HP can't sell computers people don't want.... so, technically, they're not selling it, just hiding it within the system.

The researchers at InfoPackets report:
"Microsoft has told HP they won't be able to do that after January 2009, but HP is already discussing how to push that deadline back with Microsoft. Feedback from HP customers reveals that they hadn't had the time to do full compatibility testing of all their business applications with Vista and the high time and monetary costs of rebuilding system images wasn't worth it, especially in this economy.

HP isn't the only one bursting Microsoft's bubble. Microsoft Watch recently reported on the dismal pronouncement on the state of Vista adoption among top businesses. The really bad news for Microsoft is the number of business PCs running Windows XP increased from 2007 to 2008 -- three times the increase in the percentage of PCs running Windows Vista. The majority of businesses waiting for Vista migrated to XP instead.

One recent survey shows that by the end of 2008, the majority of businesses will have 9 percent of the PCs running Vista, increasing to 28 percent in 2010. Microsoft needs to realize that Windows Vista is a lame duck and their recently unveiled $300 million ad campaign crafted to instill confidence in the flailing operating system probably won't achieve the desired results.

Granted Windows Vista isn't going to cause a computer to explode, but hardware requirements, compatibility, and the User Account Control do absolutely nothing to help its reputation. Negative perceptions holding Vista adoption back have only gotten worse."

So even tho all the computers we see in stores are Vista, if you call the firm, you may find out how to run XP instead of Vista on your new purchase if you plan to buy in the remaining months of 2008.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Are your mousing days over?

BBC photo: The world's first computer mouse:

At least 40 percent of my clients use a traditional old handheld mouse with their computer. Even though its far less efficient than having a pinting device on the keyboard, such as a touchpad, so you don't have to reach for the wired mouse. Others moved to a wireless version, losing the cord, but sometimes losing the mouse too, right into the trash can, and changing batteries every few months.

For all those who say they can't use a touchpad, or don't want to learn a different mouse, you're about to be tested. Many new devices control the computer much like a pen in hand - you point, click, or swipe your hand in front of the screen. Other new devices work through voice commands, such as: File, Open, budget... The typical touchpad, on most laptops, is similar, but you learn to gently swipe with just a slight motion to move across the screen.

Now comes news from the BBC today that the 40-year old mouse is on the way to the glue factory. No one would ever guess that new computer games would create such a craze that people now jump around the house and use, not a mouse, but a pointing device, to engage in computer games, exercise, and sports.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Did you read about Readius?

How cool is this? A 7/06/08 New York Times article cites the upcoming competitor for Amazon's ebook reader. It's the "size of a standard cellphone. Flip it open, though, and a screen tucked within the housing opens to a 5-inch diagonal display. The screen looks just like a liquid crystal display, but can bend so flexibly that it can wrap around a finger."

For the full story, read the Times article or learn more from the Readius' maker Philips Polymer Vision.
If you haven't purchased a Kindle yet, even at the new lower price of $359, you might want to hold on to your money and see what other bright ideas come along.

Cross-posted on Release Your Writing blog

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Can you take a "Tech-No" vacation?

Budget Travel has an article featuring vacation destinations where you can really unplug. Could you do it?

Could you go to The Running-R Ranch in Texas, where there is no internet access, and no cell phone towers?

Would you pay $150+/night at the Sheraton Chicago if they confiscate your Blackberry? Trade up to a paper walking map of Chicago and sign up for their 48-hour Blackberry Detox Challenge.

The Canadian Spa Eastman, an hour from Montreal advertises unplugging as part of their philosophy. Cell phones? Leave 'em at home.

The Tassajara Zen M0untain Center in Carmel Valley has only one public phone, no cell phone reception, and no Internet connection. In fact, don't plan on bringing any gadgets that require charging: Only a few of the cabins have the electricity you'll need to stay in touch. Even more discouraging for tech addicts, the center charges $10 an hour to recharge devices. So how will you fill up all the time you'll be saving by not answering emails? Take a relaxing soak in the bathhouse with water from a local hot spring, or sign up for a retreat covering such subjects as yoga, gardening, and cooking. Failing that, you can just hang out and do nothing: The Tassajara Zen Mountain Center is a functioning monastery for serious students of Buddhism, with free meditation instruction at 4 P.M. daily, but you're free to do as you please.

If you go -- send me a postcard!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is Google a Brain Drain?

Jump on over to my writing blog for a report on The Atlantic's views on Google. Is it taking the nation by storm, or draining our ability to concentrate? Read the full article and let me know what you think.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Mini-mini laptops

Thanks to my ever-sharp friend, RBW, for sending along the June 5, 2008 New York Times article by Eric A. Taub covering the mini-mini laptop computers available now. If you really need a light-weight computer that's wi-fi ready, a second computer for your beach house or for school-aged children, consider these new options.

Seem expensive? Nah, some of these are less than the Nintendo Wii game, and most are half the cost of a new BBQ grill.

They include:

Everex CloudBook 7" screen, price: $499, weight: 2 lb.

HP 2133 Mini-Note 8.9" screen, price: $499-789, weight: 2.6 lb.

Asus Eee PC 900 8.9" screen, price: $299 499, weight 2.2 lb.

Fujitsu LifeBook U810 5.6" screen, price: $999-1399, weight: 1.5 lb.

This summer, Acer will issue a 2.2 lb. "Aspire One," and we can expect more companies to launch mini-computers including Dell and Apple. Where innovation goes, so go the giants

Sign in at NYTimes.com to read the full article:


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Since nobody loves Vista, windows ver. 7 will be out soon, and you can touch it!

This from the good people at InfoPackets.com

At this week's All Things Digital conference, Bill Gates and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled plans for the new Windows 7, to be released next year. The program will not be a major departure from the previous operating system Vista, but will include some important improvements, as well as some innovative developments.

As many techies and clients will agree, Vista has been the source of some controversy and may be one of Microsoft's bigger botch-ups. Ballmer has emphasized that Windows 7 will improve upon some of Vista's failings, like decreasing the "overzealous security controls" and creating graphics that don't take up so much memory. However, there will be no new core program written for the new system. (Source: msn.com)

Newer features include a touch-screen interface. The technology will allow users to open and close windows, manipulate photos, and even play the piano in an attempt to change the way customers interact with their computers. The hope, according to Gates, is to eventually do away with the mouse all together. (Source: vnunet.com)

Microsoft's new program has some analysts begging the question, 'is multi-touch computing really worth it?' Personally, I would find it annoying and inefficient to use my finger to drag and click. Using a mouse or keyboard is far more effective. I'm sure photographers doing detailed retouching in Adobe probably feel similarly.

Others argue that all these extra novelties take up more space than they are worth -- techie software toys are really only worth the hard drive or RAM space if you are using them daily. The only discernible improvements upon Vista that have been mentioned so far are:

  • Fixes in the security features that make them less intrusive
  • Improvements to the overall aesthetic that make it less of a memory hog.

For all that, you could just stick with XP. And that's what many Microsoft customers seem to have done anyway.

Monday, May 26, 2008

How tech-smart are you? Ten point quiz

For almost a year, I've been disappointed by the lack of oomph in technology, slow progress toward a new generation of tools that would wow us, and something to enhance personal productivity. Instead, things in the tech world are pretty standard, nothing revolutionary.

Here is a quiz for you, as listed in a Chicago Tribune article today, about common terms now used in technology. Do you know at least five of them? Post a comment below to brag about your score.

1. Embed - use code to insert a clip on your web site
2. Web 2.0 - the second generation web sites, interactive like YouTube, Wikipedia, etc. I know you know this one, so give yourself a point.
3. Meme - an ancient word from Greek, now used to refer to a unit of information that spreads quickly through the internet.
4. Flash memory - you got that one right, didn't you? Score another point.
5. Digital SLR - ooooh - your camera!
6. AirCard: lets you get wifi through your cell phone on your laptop.
7. Web widget: a small program on a web page, such as weather, scrolling slide show, polls.
8. Lolcat: Even I didn't know this one. It's a meme with funny captions on cat pictures. Want to see one? Click if you love cats. ICanHasCheezburger.com.
9. Plug-in: Ha - another one you know - a program added on to enhance web browser, like Java or Adobe
10. SMS: Again, something already on your cell phone. SMS is short message service, and that what started text messages.

1 to 4: Congratulations, you're average.
5 to 8: Smarter than the typical consumer.
9 or 10: You're a well-read, highly savvy, tech-expert. Bravo.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Don't fall for email from IRS.gov

There is a very convincing scam arriving in email boxes throughout the country. It's a phishing scam and requires a victim to click a link and submit information to receive a large IRS stimulus payment. You know better than to fall for that don't you? Even with the convincing email address of irs.gov and the official IRS logo - it's still a phishing scam. The real IRS requests:

"If you receive an unsolicited e-mail communication claiming to be from the IRS, please forward the original message to: phishing@irs.gov using the instructions provided below. You may not receive an individual response to your e-mail because of the volume of reports we receive each day.
  • The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail. In addition, the IRS does not request detailed personal information through e-mail or ask taxpayers for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.
  • Do not open any attachments to questionable e-mails, which may contain malicious code that will infect your computer. Please be advised that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers via e-mails."

Monday, May 12, 2008

IRS Stimulus: Here's when you'll get your check

Now that gas prices are creeping up to $4.00, here's how to see when the IRS will send your check. Note the direct deposits are happening now, but paper checks are taking longer:

Here's the link:

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Yahoo vs. Google - I always choose the underdog...

If you're a Google geek, you may have noticed they now include notice of potential security risks with some search results.

Yahoo is doing the same, and often has better search results because Google's are like an over-congested highway.

One of the things Google does is highlight those sites that might be a dangerous security breech for your computer.
In Google, a risky link takes you to a warning page saying "This site may be harmful to your computer."

But Yahoo automatically removes those threats from the search results. It lets through those that may have a link to downloads which may be spyware tricks. You'll stay safer in Yahoo if you look for the red warning triangle before opening such sites through a web search.

The other nice thing Yahoo has figured out, is how to let you know if a searched site has a nasty habit of using people's email address for spam. Now that's letting technology do something wonderful for us.

I feel safer already. Let me know if you Yahoo !!

Thursday, May 01, 2008


The above photo is the Library of Congress building dome. If you haven't seen it in person, you're missing a classic American experience! (loc.gov)

James Billington, Librarian of Congress, recently stated that young Americans' electronic communications may be damaging "the basic unit of human thought - the sentence."

The full report, released on April 24, 2008 by Pew Internet & American Life Project is available here, in an 83 page PDF http://pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Writing_Report_FINAL3.pdf.

In full sentences(!), the report covers the influence of instant messages and text messaging on teens but also looks at the quantity and quality of writing generated by teens.

The Pew report shows that most teens surveyed do not believe their messaging and emails are considered "writing," perhaps proving the point that most of what they write, and therefore, read, is not of merit.

While most teens write something every day, the average writing assignment is only one paragraph.

At least teen blogs are more prolific writers, with the Pew report citing that 47 percent of teen bloggers write for personal reasons several times a week..

Thursday, April 24, 2008

This Saturday: Electronics Recycling event

Dog bites man: Vista breaks computer

If you're still fighting with Vista, and haven't switched back to the future with Windows XP, beware of the updates Microsoft is issuing for Vista. Besides fixing what's broken, it seems they are now breaking things that used to work - like your keyboard !!

This from the good folks at infopackets.com today:

"It's bad enough when consumers opt for your last operating system over the new one. Worse still when an update to that new and not-so-hot OS (operating system) is bricking (breaking) USB devices.

Microsoft recently admitted to the media that reports that a Windows Vista security update is disrupting USB devices are indeed accurate. Released last week, the Windows Defender update was intended to patch a critical hole in its spyware blocking program. While that may have been successful, Vista owners haven't been so pleased to find their mice and keyboards no longer function.

In a statement, Microsoft admitted, "we are aware of concerns that a recent Microsoft update may be causing problems with USB devices. We are investigating the matter, and at this time, do not have any information to share."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


If you have Microsoft Office 2007, you may have noticed they finally abandoned Times New Roman as the default font. The new default is a fresh-faced design called Calibri -- I know it sounds like a new Chevy model, but it's a nice looking font, much easier to read on screens than the old sad face of Times New Roman.

Calibri is a sans serif with soft rounded corners. It has a warm, friendly personality that isn't found in fonts like Arial and Helvetica. It is also the one typeface in the collection that is appropriate for use both in text sizes and larger headline sizes.

If you're fascinated by fonts, read more at Poynter Online "The Next Big Thing in Online Type"

Friday, April 04, 2008

Say Goodbye to Vista?

Looks like Microsoft is making a grand sweeping gesture toward a new version of Windows for next year. Here'a report from MSN.com.

By Michael Christie
updated 1:26 p.m. CT, Fri., April. 4, 2008

MIAMI - Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates said on Friday he expected the new version of Windows operating software, code-named Windows 7, to be released "sometime in the next year or so."

The software giant has been aiming to issue more regular updates of the operating system software that powers the majority of the world's personal computers. Nevertheless, Gates' comments suggested that a successor to the Vista program might be released sooner than was generally expected.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Getting Things Done takes on Multi-tasking

For fans of David Allen's book "Getting Things Done," he recently shared this news about two Belgian researchers, Francis Heylighen and Clément Vidal, who recently published a significant report on the scientific and psychological bases for the effectiveness of the GTD method:

Productivity Principle no. 81

A single focus is infinitely more productive than a split one.


Much like decreasing the diameter of a pipe will increase the strength of the water flowing out of it, the ability to think and do is optimized when focus is concentrated. Trying to focus on two things at once will diminish the results by much more than half. "Multitasking" only works when all but one of the "tasks" is on automatic, such as driving home and wondering when you got there who actually drove! Rapid refocusing (which is what really happens in knowledge-work environments – from email to phone to interruptions, etc.) does not hinder productivity, as long as there is a clean break from one task to the next, and you are not retracing steps. Work is diminished when the focus is split, or when refocusing requires having to repeat the reframing of context and content for the next task (as in rereading sentences you've already read to find your place again).

So, keep that in mind when you jump from task to task.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Electronics Recycling Event in Northbrook

The Electronic Equipment and Durable Medical Equipment Recycling Drive is April 19, 2008, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Location: Maple School, 2370 Shermer Road, Northbrook.

Acceptable items: durable medical equipment and electronics, such as computers, monitors, printers, cell phones, fax machines, keyboards, mice, software and printer/power cords.

All items will be refurbished and distributed to children with disabilities throughout Illinois

For more info: Call 847-400-8900 or United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Chicago at 708-444-8460, ext. 231.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Email Overload: top three survival strategies

Coping with email overload is tough, between the worry of missing something important, and the fatigue that comes from scanning the same messages over and over. Try these tips to conquer the bulging Inbox:

1. Think of email like regular paper mail: reply / file / or toss, the same day it arrives.

2. Adopt the Lifehacker.com strategy: Use three folders below the Inbox:

  1. Follow-up (or Current)
  2. Archive
  3. Hold

3. File more. Instead of rereading messages and thinking "I should do something about this. I'll get back to it later." try filing the message in an appropriate folder. Either make a folder below your Inbox, or save the message in a project folder. Just click File / Save As and drill over to the project. Then your email correspondence is filed in the same place as documents, budgets, and spreadsheets.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Work, Home, You article

When you're searching for interesting reading online, click your way to this online mag: WHY Magazine.

In the March/April issue, I've got an article in the Tech Talk column on effective searching, beyond Google.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Vista's new feature: endless rebooting ??

If you're a Microsoft Vista user, you might want to hold off on their upgrade to Service Pack 1, intended to fix known problems. In preparation for the upgrade, InfoPackets writer John Lister advises: "The problem came with an automatic update sent out on 12 February. It included two files which helped get computers ready for Service Pack 1. Unfortunately, some users found the installation process froze up and, if they rebooted their machines, went into a loop of constant reboots."

Microsoft quickly withdrew the update and promises a fix before the upgrade is released next month. Oh, and they are announcing a new list of other programs that will no longer work once the upgrade is installed. They include security programs such as Trend Micro Internet Security 2008 and the digital reader feature for the New York Times. Read the full report at InfoPackets, a source I trust. You can receive their free weekly newsletters too, if you want to stay informed.

If you haven't already done so, please sign the petition to keep Windows XP alive. We should not be subjected to the painful learning curve of Microsoft's Vista attempts to gain profits on a new, non-functioning, operating system.
Sign the petition to keep Windows XP at InfoWorld magazine.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

New Ebook explains Web 2.0 social networking

The Mysterious World of Web 2.0 is now available in an exclusive ebook format. Download, read this colorful 43 page book with Adobe Acrobat Reader, and get a grip on the newest wave of the internet: Web 2.0. Written in slide-show format, the ebook makes it easy to understand what Web 2.0 is, and why you should care, especially if you have school-age children.

Priced at just $9.95 for instant download, with special pricing for qualified academic faculty members.
Download the ebook from Lulu at http://www.lulu.com/content/2045895 or click here for more details.

Registered purchasers will receive updates as this fast-paced social networking world evolves.

Helen Gallagher

Friday, February 15, 2008

Seaching ... for a good cause !

Have you heard of Good Search? It is powered by Yahoo search that donates money to a charity or non-profit you designate, every time you use it.

Its a new easy way to raise money for your favorite cause. Just start using GoodSearch.com as your search engine and online shopping directory. Every time you search the Internet or make an online purchase at one of their partner merchants, GoodSearch makes a donation to your favorite nonprofit or school and it's powered by Yahoo! so you get great search results!Here in Glenview, Wesley Child Care Center is one of the designated beneficiaries. Why not be an angel, and send a few cents each time you search, to benefit local children?

According to GoodSearch FAQ, if 100 people search on behalf of a designated non-profit, and do just two searches a year, the donation would be $73o/year.

We're searching anyway -- why not do something good.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Google refines spin on local news

While Google's web crawlers always scan thousands of sources throughout the world, they are now parsing the stories, not just by city or zip code. "We're not simply looking at the byline or the source, but instead we analyze every word in every story to understand what location the news is about and where the source is located," says a Google news release this morning.

So, give it a try next time you're searching a local news story. Be an informed consumer and check your usual sources such as Yahoo news, CNN, WGN or the Chicago newspapers, but then do the same search at Google and see if you get different results. Visit Google News and scroll down to the put your zip code in the Local News box.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Snow Day

We in Chicago are having a snow day today. With a foot of snow falling, events are canceled, libraries and even shopping malls are closed, to get people home safely.

So - what to do on a snow day? Backups !
That's right, use the time to make a good backup of your data files, and maybe even take a few minutes to clean out your email Inbox.

Start fresh tomorrow, after a night of hearing snowplows roar !!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Internet snaps between two continents

Between the hot air of the primary election season and the tricks Mother Nature has been playing on us, maybe you missed the small news story this week. There would have been a lot of NOISE, LAWSUITS and WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME! if it occurred here in America.

Undersea cables snapped in the Mediterranean Sea between North Africa and Asia, part of a chain of cables carrying internet traffic through much of Europe and the Middle East.

If it takes a week to repair an above-ground water main break in Chicago, imagine trying to find and fix a link under the ocean, where 99 percent of internet traffic is connected. India? They lost 50 percent of their internet capacity. Egypt? They are limping along at 60 percent. Those are the areas widely affected, both for casual internet usage as well as financial markets and communication channels. In fact many U.S. east coast companies and many multi-national firms such as IBM and Intel feel the effects of the outage.

Yes, it could also happen here. And I think we would be hearing a whole lot more complaining if it did. No matter how sophisticated the internet gets, or how wireless we think our world is becoming, there is still a telephone-like system of cables carrying a signal and connecting computers.

With all the weather and politics in the news, I didn't want you to miss the reality that it could also happen here, and we have to know that we can go back to older systems in a crisis, obtain data we need, and have the resources to get by during difficult times.

* Photo taken from BBC News

Monday, January 21, 2008

A petition to save Windows XP

InfoWorld magazine has launched a petition to force Microsoft to keep Windows XP alive. Even in tests of XP vs. Vista, conducted after Vista's service pack fixes, XP with service pack 3 ranks three times as fast as Vista with service pack 1.

Please take a few seconds to sign the petition. InfoWorld will not send your contact information to Microsoft, but the campaign hopes to force Microsoft to continue supporting Windows XP past June 2008. If they don't, users will be forced to move to Vista on any new computer, and we will have to maintain XP computers as long as possible, to forestall a technology ice age.