1. My computer has gotten slower or has pop-ups or both. What should
In short you need to clean it up. A good place to start is to
install update, scan and immunize with
anti-Spy ware and anti mall ware programs.
We have found that the combination of
Search & Destroy
updates) and CCleaner
and are effective Safe, FREE and keep computers fast. We've had great
results cleaning up hundreds of computers which were so overloaded with spy-ware, ad-ware, and even mall ware that they
were frozen up or working slowly. Once we installed, updated, inoculated,
scanned and cleaned with those and a major brand antivirus the systems were
fast but better protected and more stable. Viruses can also slow down or
crash your computer and lose your data. These are not traditional
Antivirus programs and normally should be loaded in addition to your
Everybody should be running a current Anti-Virus Program.
Most people get into trouble thinking that they have Antivirus when in
reality it is expired, not fully installed, not-current, or not scanning.
That is like having oil in your trunk but none in your engine. To
work properly your antivirus needs to be updated,
and scanning regularly. While we routinely install 2-4 anti-spy-ware
programs simultaneously, you must be careful NOT to install two antivirus
programs. They will fight and make you computer really really slow or
the free versions that I recommend can sort of expire. They may only
work for 6 months to 2 years before the ISP changes vendors or a new updated free version must be installed. So open your
protection programs regularly and poke around through the screens and menu
options. Look for Green lights or checkmarks etc. that shows that they
are fully functioning. Check that three dates: when was the last
update? When was the last full scan? When does the subscription
of these security and protection programs work by magic and none are
infallible. You still must do all the steps. Make sure you have
installed, updated, inoculated, scanned, cleaned/repaired, and scheduled
each program. Also not the expiration date and put it on your
calendar! The "paid for" programs also have the downside that when they
expire you loose your most relevant protections. Most of the infected
computers we repair had expired antivirus programs.
Good Free Antivirus Programs:
We have had the best overall experience with free programs like
Avast Antivirus Free
AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition.
They are free for home use, so they do not need paid
subscriptions to keep working.
My favorite has become
because it is so highly effective and
runs very runs lean and
fast. the downside is just that it gives you a daily pop up asking you to upgrade to the paid
All three are
effective, do not "expire" but be alert because you will need to
re-installed when new versions come out. Generally you can just
install the new version over the old version.
installing PC protection programs many people start but never finish the
Be sure to 1. download, 2. install, 3. update several
times until you see a message that indicates all available updates have been
installed as of a recent date. Then 4. inoculate, 5. scan, 6.
repair or fix all and 7. check to see that your are running auto
updates and scheduled regular weekly scans. If you forget steps you are not
protected. Repeat these 7 steps for each anti- virus and each Anti-SpyWare
program. Also beware that over 1/2 of all viruses we remove happen in the
1st month after your antivirus expires. Get a program that does not expire
and keep it up to date. These are important regular computer
maintenance tasks that many people can do themselves. Just take you r time
and read the screen during the process. However others prefer to ask
computer tech support people like us to do for them.
with big brand name antivirus programs:
We feel your pain when you get frustrated with the big players in the
Antivirus space. Here are some examples.
There are many good free programs and many good low cost
programs. High cost programs are generally rated below the free and
low cost antivirus programs by popular consumer testing groups and by
Endorfan as well.
Often people buy a
paid version of McAfee or Norton while also paying for a better version that is
available for free from their ISP.
(see paragraph below)
The "free" antivirus programs that
come with a new computer are generally not free for long. They expire in
30-365 days and then ask for $75 to update.
For novice users
McAfee Symantec and Norton Firewall
programs are a real pain. Traditionally Norton Antivirus
and McAfee has been an effective program but is firewall can block your
outgoing internet connections as well as LAN file and printer sharing.
Over the last few years
we have had an increase of calls were these products screwed up the printer,
prevented file and print sharing, killed QuickBooks clients, permanently
blocked remote desktop, or even blocked the internet connection. So we
no longer can recommend these for the SOHO users who normally are reading
this web page.
To make matters
McAfee and Norton have
a dozen versions and change the interface as soon as you learn it. So on the
average you should budget to double or triple for tech support for using these
AT&T do provide free
Anti-virus programs in your monthly subscription. However, they cannot make up their minds and keep switching between McAfee and Norton with
little notice. Just paying your ISP bill however, does not install their
protection programs. If you have installed one of these ISP
provided programs there are other mistakes that lead to computer infections.
switched anti-virus programs supported so many times that you may suddenly
get a pile of viruses when your antivirus is no longer supported. AT&T
also can change email protocols and make your outlook or outlook express
fail with little warning.
To get free antivirus software from your ISP follow these
steps. Login to your ISP's website, go to
their help sections, find the downloads and install them. If you must
an antivirus program there is rarely a need to spend over $30.
should be warned that there are many bogus SpyWare removers,
tool bars, pop up blockers and "watch dog" programs that claim they offer
protection or help you speed your computer in some way. Unfortunately,
while they look official most of them are harmful, especially the ones that
are advertise in Pop-Ups. Rampant confusion over what protection software is
safe and what is dangerous is why I took the time to write this page. If
your wiz bang tech doc program is not actually from McAfee, Norton, Computer
Associates, Symantec, Microsoft or a source we listed we would recommend
staying away or reading reviews from
magazine before your install. A couple more safe ones are:
Spamfighter Email filter Free
Others you may have installed in the past may be taking up
processor speed even after they have expired. You can often uninstall
software unnecessary programs yourself through: Start, Control Panel,
Add and Remove Programs. For further ideas on this same subject I like this
My Computer is Slow!"
virus warning pop ups
are running your computer and suddenly you get a message that say you have
viruses and need to send somebody money to scan your computer and repair it.
Well they are partly correct. It is time to
scan (but not with their product) or shut down your computer. As an
IT tech consultant I have run into a hundreds of machines with this
combination of a virus and scam since
2007. The virus you have is the one asking for money. The virus
has many flavors, is very nasty and getting worse and more creative.
They must be well funded by people naive enough to send them money. If you have been getting these
pop-ups you should immediately install update and scan with
believe that updating your antivirus and immunizing with an updated
Spybot Search and Destroy
help you avoid this virus. More info about using these are posted on my
tips are listed in #1 above.
1b: Back Up your data and pictures etc:
word of warning! All hard drives wear out with little warning in 0 to 10,000 hours of use.
Meanwhile, viruses lightning, flood or fire can take your data at any time. So plan for a hard drive failure
and back up to another computer or a Thumb drive AKA Jump drive or
USB Flash Drive
is about $8. A
DVD is about 50 cents. If data is valuable to you then you should plan
to back up at least one per 5-20 hours you spend on your computer.
External USB/Firewire hard
drives cost about $99 for 1TB. But plan for them to also fail in
2,000-10,000 hours under power. To protect your data keep them powered
off when not in use or buy one that "Auto powers off" when not in use.
If you have multiple computers in your workplace consider a real File Server
$1k-$10K or at least
Network Attached Storage for
$150-2500. What is the value for your data? If it is replaceable
at all what is the cost of replacement? Back it up or loose it
forever!! Need an inexpensive back-up software? I have had good luck
SuperCool ZIP Backup.
For your most critical business data I would consider a web back up option
With a service like that your whole office can burn down and you still have
what ever is backed up. I believe in belt and suspenders on back ups
so I believe in a local automated back up plus an off line back up. this way
no single incident can separate you from your data. Even with double
back up systems you need to check from time to time to insure that the
backups are successful and also include your important data. Picasa or
Google+ have great options for managing your photos and videos while
providing cheep back up and sharing. EVERNOTE
great cloud file storrage options for people who work on multiple devices
like SmartPhone, tablets, iPads or computers.
1c. I think I have a virus.
What should I do? Ok so you still
got infected? Update and scan with your anti-virus
or install anti-virus and anti-SpyWare using the links above.
If that is not enough then use
Trend Micro's Virus Encyclopedia
to look up a fix for your particular virus. You can often start with a free
Trend Micro HouseCall Finally check your own
Audit My PC's Firewall Test Scan or 1056 ports with
(Just ignore the failure message about port 113 being closed not stealth).
Still failing? it is probably time to call me live
Otherwise you risk loosing your data or putting your fist through a wall.
Speaking about frustration. Please do not chastise you family members
because they got you a virus. It is easier to prevent viruses with
routine maintenance practices than to super screen every email or website
you go to. Plus a problem like this can lurk for quite a while before
it becomes obvious. It is generally much easier to get rid of a virus
than to figure out "who done it"!
3. Does my computer
need an upgrade?
If you are running
windows 95 or win 98 then your money will go further with a $200
replacement (see "Best Computers" below). If you are
running XP then I would like to see a minimum of 512-1GB of RAM for
most users. To upgrade you need is compatibility information. I
use automated memory configurators from
Crucial or manual configuration by model and local pricing from
Tiger Direct. Can't find your computer
to scan or search for compatible memory upgrade configurations
etc. Scan you computer for processor Upgrades with
Power Leap Scanner or Manually
Manual Search (may be limited to their products) In general these
may be better tools for identification than tools for shopping.
But you can shop for lower prices on
Google product search or
eBay after you identify the specific part you need.
4. What is the best Computers for me to buy?
We are not hardware suppliers but do often guide purchasing
decisions based on our experience with the costs of maintenance. If
you are buying a new home computer we recommend you wait WAIT. Yes,
WAIT as long as you can before you buy. Prices go down quickly a few
months after the latest thing is released.
Don't forget the cost of setting up a new
computer!. Maybe you can save your old one for under $200 and/or upgrade it
for $100. It will take you (or somebody) dozens of hours to tweak out your
computer install the software and updates, move your data, configure your
email and phone sync and make your printer work etc. Plan on about $200
plus software and hardware to configure any new computer purchase for your
use. By delaying until you really need a new computer you buy less often
and you will save lots of time and money each time you delay. Another
version of the same concept is to not buy the latest, newest fastest untried
technology. Let somebody else work the bugs out of new software. If an OS,
motherboard, or any new technology does not have service patches or updates
then you may be trying a product before it has the benefits of real world
testing. This is why I recommend used Dell Optiplex Desktops just off lease
over new desktops. Long term, your computing expenses will be lowest with this
strategy. A word of warning though. Hard drives wear out in 2000 to 10,000
hours of use. See section 1b above and back up your DATA!!!!
New Computer purchases:
Rather than focus your budget on speed and performance your 1st dollars
should go towards choosing manufactures who support their systems and their
top of the line professional line of hardware is built to last. Long term
your operational costs will be more dependent on a manufactures service,
support parts quality and your downtime or lost data than speed. Of course
top manufacturer offer top speed computers too. So it just is a matter of
prioritizing your budget and considering your long term costs of
ownership. Compare a manufacturers and retailers in your area based on
their support services, warrantees and wait turnaround time for service
before you choose your computer. New computers can be pretty cheap if you
are not buying the fastest available. Laptop computers are only about as
good as your service warrantee. We always buy at least 3 years of
hardware warrantee on a new laptop. Software warrantees vary widely in
value. There are many good computers out there but the difference is mostly
in service. We have had the best luck with
www.Dell.com customer service. They are not perfect
but they also have very competitive pricing on new computers. Do I order a
laptop or a desktop? Desktops generally cost less long term to maintain but
are barely portable. It is probably best to have one of each. A tough
desktop for everyday linked on your network to a laptop for portable uses.
Also consider if an iTouch or a netbook might be a portable solution for
As far as long term expenses you may consider investing in a
NEW laptop rather than used because laptops can wear out. A
warrantee can be more valuable on a laptop than on a desktop because only
authorized dealers can get some of the laptop parts like screens and hinges.
New laptops also start at about $350 bucks. A good place to start your search is
Laptop buying guide
to decide what you want.
4c. As far as used laptops they cost
somewhat less than new and many come with valuable legal copies of software
like MS office etc but on the down side used equipment will need some
additional expenses and not last as long. For example laptops batteries
generally work poorly or hardly at all after a year of use so many used
laptops come with bad batteries. Most batteries can be replaced for
$60-100. Try a Google product search on your potential laptop model. Also
they may come with just 256-512 mb RAM. Check out the cost of an upgrade
for your model with
Tiger Direct’s Memory configurator or
I recommend at least a 1GB of RAM for XP or 2GB for Vista.
4d. Laptop OS:
There are lots of good choices for PC laptops these days even in the
$250-500 range. Operating system is not even a real issue. XP is
still great, VISTA improved with service pack 2 and Windows 7 has been better
than I expected.
Apple MacBooks are not a bad choice but surprisingly scored worst
on repair frequency in consumer’s report survey 2008. Toshiba came out
much more reliable. I know our family
runs through iPod replacement and repairs 3-4 times a year. The MAC OS10 is
sound but the hardware takes a beating at least as bad as everybody else's
if not worse. Beware of MAC upgrade costs at the apple store. They may
over charge for a larger screen in a MAC Book Pro or even a memory upgrade.
It appears that their strategy is to get you excited about the MacBook for
$1000 but pretty soon you spent $3000 ouch! Remember new PC laptops run
$350-2000 for similar bells and whistles. I do love Mac's commercials. There
is some real truth but the Spin is masterful! The best part is the
good old fashioned American competition the Mac commercials sparked. MAC has forced Microsoft to
clean up their act a lot. All cards on the table:
my family of 5 has 2 old PC laptops, 1 newer Toshiba 64 bit laptop, 5-6 Dell Optiplex Desktops, 2 iPods, 2
iTouch, 4 misc. MP3 players, 1 MacBook, 3 printers and 3 GPS. But get the
cost. We have recently invested $3200 in 5 apple units ($640 average cost) and
could replace the lot of 15 non apple devices for $2250. That is just an
average of $150 in each in pc product. Guess which devices I worry
most about repair and replacement costs. My opinion? Macs have come down in
price to where they are still 2-3x the cost of a similar PC product. Are
they worth it? if you believe in market pressures than I would say it is a
wash. So stick with what ever you know. On the other had you spend more a year
on your cell phone than on your computer so do not think about this decision
too hard. Your time and data is the valuable asset here so just let me
remind you again to BACK up your data and software configurations!!! See
number 1b above!
4e. I found a used laptop at another local source. Is this used laptop at a
fair price? A good place to rough price value research is this link to
eBay’s Buy it Now Laptops. Plug in your make & model number and RAM etc.
Create your own apples to apples replacement cost estimate.
4f. Used Desktop Computers
I am a big fan of Dell
Optiplex computers just off lease. Optiplex
are built to last and not built to compete on store price alone.
So when you consider cost per hour of use, it can be much more efficient to
buy a refurbished Dell Optiplex computer. A used Optiplex box is
inexpensive, fast and reliable for $100-$400 with XP Pro depending on
options not including, monitor ($5-300 depending on size and resolutions).
Software, and configuration is also extra on a new our used computer.
If you buy wisely your savings can be so significant that you can keep a
spare in waiting. Some of my friends have 2-0r 3 spares on shelves
just in case. So a used Optiplex can be the most economical way to own
a computer. In keeping with this strategy, Endorfan generally
has a loaner if you ever get in a pinch. Optiplex can be bought easily
just off lease. The Gx280's
hardware cost $90- $250 delivered. I run a souped up Optiplex Gx280 SMT 3.6 GHz HT
3 GB RAM and XP for
my video editing. These computers all
work nicely for most any home or business uses, including: email, word
processing, photo editing, photo slideshows, graphic design, and with a few
additions the SMT or SDT desktops even work for editing DV videos, playing
educational kids games, or even the home entertainment system. I hooked a
$70 Optiplex gx150 computer to my 50" HD monitor and can watch all my media
collection across my home LAN.
If you are a high end gamer addict then get a new
Alienware.com gamer or build your own machine. Gamer's parents
need to know that the most important piece is the latest fastest
Nvidia video adapter which gamer addicts may upgrade 2-3 times a
year. This page is not much of a resource for gamer addicts as gaming is all
about high scores not low costs.
An alternate place to find Refurbished Dell Products is eBay if you are more
skilled you will find better prices
Searching eBay for Dell Optiplex
HT . Feel free to order it on you own but when yours comes in
you will save allot of expense and aggravation if you let us set it up,
tweak it out, and burn a restore image before somebody screws
up your software with viruses etc. The Optiplex line comes in a a Standard Mid Tower (SMT)
Small Destop (SDT) or Small
Form Factor (SFF) case. While the SMT or SDT can costs slightly more up
front it is easier to find parts and upgrades at lower prices. The SFF is
great if you have limited space or know you will not upgrade internal PCI
cards, PCI-e Video cards or optical drives. The low profile cards required for
the SFF upgrades can be harder to find and or more expensive.
4g. Monitors and TV's,
blue ray players and media storage are
rapidly converging. If you are getting a new monitor we have found
excellent values at CompUSA
Retail, Costco, or
etc. However if cost is important you should know that any used monitor
manufactured in the last 10 years will be compatible. Be sure to test it
and make sure the colors are not too dark and double check the label on the
back for the manufacture date. You can usually pay <$10 for an old basic
monitor. However, if the spirit moves you, buy a nice new wide thin 24"
for under $200. (Be advised that buying a monitor online costs you over
$30-60 in shipping so it is often prudent to find a local deal. It if
you get a tuner in your monitor and have 1920 x 1080
pixels or more this allows your monitor
to double as a full HDTV. I am partial to Samsung and LG.
5. Where can I get fair
buys on GADGETS and Technology?
I often start with
CNet Reviews or
ZDNet Reviews because they get us great
comparative research info and helps us find good pricing and reliable Tech
info. We often start with
Google Product Search for product info and as a
baseline for pricing values. We rarely buy new stuff on eBay anymore
because we often find better values and customer service through
CNet or directly in favorite retailers like
www.costco.com (great warrantees) on
NewEgg (computer parts) Fat
Cellphoneshop.net has great
prices but ships slowly and has hit and miss quality. I have also posted a
whole section below on
Digital photography and Camcorders (if you scroll way down).
6. How Can I save money
Of course the most
appropriate software depends on your individual needs; but low prices are
always good. We like the site
Google Product Search as we find great pricing and
access to OEM software here We generally save about 30-60% here if
they have what we need. If you have a student in the family you are probably
also eligible for huge Educational discounts on Software. Great Prices
Ebay Software but 1st read
BEWARE of USED Ebay SOFTWARE...
7. Free software;
is it safe?
Some times, yes but most free software are not safe. For example we recommend
Search & Destroy
to almost everyone.
Meanwhile, free software scares us in general. Be
careful loading free software even from reputable sources like Yahoo, and
AOL (AIM). These free products can include optional software that will
slow your computer or worse. A good source for software reviews
and software is Download.com
a.k.a. cNet Software Reviews We
like to read the reviews of software to find out the possible pros and cons
here before we install it. For example here are reviews of a file
Read about Limewire. Other safer sources for free software we recommend
include this webpage (duh) and
www.SnapFiles.com Beware of trustworthy software names from
untrustworthy sources especially pop-up warnings and email. On the
other hand become familiar with manually updating with
Microsoft Windows Updates and updates from your actual antivirus program
still dangerous programs mimic these updates look and feel in their pop up
8. I have broadband.
How do I protect myself form Hackers?
I always recommend a
Router firewall to keep your LAN and computers secure. If it is
wireless you should make sure you turn on WPA security. If you do not
have a hardware firewall is is essential that you turn on Software firewalls
like the one built into MS XP SP2. Broadband leaves your
computer on line 24 hours a day as a target for all hackers. Hackers can
scan thousands of internet addresses for all computers that fit certain criteria that
are able to be hacked. Sometimes the hacker will use your computer to
hide behind and hack other computers. Other times a hacker will just
give you a virus or something destructive. We recommend that broadband
users protect there computers with a good antivirus like
Virus Scan or
Internet Security and that you protect your
computer network with a hardware
Firewall Router. This kind of device is
cheep and effectively hides your computer from the hackers using
NAT. As a general rule keep your MS XP Service Pack 2 Software
Firewall turned on). Check this in: My Computer, My Network
Places, View Network connections, Change Firewall settings
For security as
well as eliminating other common computer errors you should run your
Windows Updates Just open Internet explorer,
click on tools and select Windows Update. Run your updates
often. Many of them are very important and they are free.
Broadband users should set the computer to download the updates
automatically and Alert you to before you install them. This will keep you
up-to-date without much hassle. If you have never run your updates
before there are dozens of updates you need. As a matter of habit, we
would install all updates and all security updates from Microsoft. One
small warning though. Microsoft began pushing Internet Explorer 7 in
late 2006. I love it personally however if you are running older
software like QuickBooks 2004 it will interfere with the intuit updates.
The good news you can easily rectify the problem by uninstalling ie7.
9. Email and online
9a. How do I
avoid spam and email hoax
Spam has many causes. Most email addresses are
actually harvested from all those chain letters and bleeding heart stories
that tell you to pass the letter on to 10+ friends. The reason these
little gems get written so well is so that they can harvest all your
addresses and send you spam. They prey on emotions so they focus on topics
in safety, religion, politics, love, friendship, health, charity, national
security, terrorism etc. so you feel compelled to forward them. If you
forward these little gems to me you risk getting
When you get a chain
letter your find incredible it is probably not credible. Look it up
at: www.snopes.com , CIAC
Hoax Busters or
Legends from About.com
if you have too much spam
you could change your email address but that is not your only option.
If the spammer or company is somewhat reputable but you just accidentally signed
up for their spam Click the links that say "remove or unsubscribe." However my
favorite tool for dealing with Spam is upgrading to
Outlook 2003, 2007 or 2010 (also included in
MS Office pro versions etc) or gmail for your email client.
The spam filters are amazing. Go Daddy Web hosting and
others have good email filters available on their WebMail solutions. I
have read good things about
Spamfighter Email filter Free
also protect you from other scams like phishing.
9b. What is "phishing"? Phishing schemes are attempts to steal sensitive personal information – such
as passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc. – through
the distribution of fraudulent email messages.
these phishing schemes have a standard MO. A phishing scheme typically
consists of an email message that appears to originate from a trusted
source, but in fact is an attempt to obtain and exploit sensitive user
information, such as login credentials for the targeted user's online bank
account. Often, the message asks you to "update" account information
(including credit card and checking account information, social security
numbers, addresses, and telephone numbers). Most phishing scams instruct you
to do so via a form in the body of the email. Sometimes, you will be
prompted to click a link that appears to lead to an authorized Web site that
belongs to a legitimate, trusted company. As more and more
communication and transactions are taking place online, phishing schemes and
other attempts to steal sensitive personal information have become
increasingly prevalent and innovative. Phishing attacks against online
consumers have become so widespread that an estimated 57 million Americans
have received fraudulent email messages and 1.98 million may have fallen
victim to the subsequent scams, resulting in approximately $1.2 billion in
direct costs to U.S. banks and credit card issuers. (According to a study by
research firm, Gartner, Inc). MS
7 and grater have a
highly rated fishing filter. For
Mozilla Firefox you want at least version 3.0
If you are running an older version of a browser it is time to update it to
a version with a newer phishing filtered version. Also please help
fight back against fraud. Forward the suspected phishing email to:
9c. Protect yourself from
These eBay topics are basic security that everyone should know:
Stopping online viruses,
Deterring identity theft,
Stopping spoof email & Web sites
9d. Should I use the
email address from my
Internet Service provider (ISP)?
No use Gmail for home email and your own
domain for business email. ISP email addresses are
provided to keep you with their service even when they become no longer
competitive. Lots of you are still
afraid to dump AOL or your ISP because you do not
want to change your email address. For online web mail I like
GMail from Google
because of the free and full featured functionality and compatibility with
MS outlook and other pop or IMAP email clients.
I am not a big fans of free hotmail,
msn or yahoo
because they seam to lead people to spam, pop-ups and other software issues
discussed on this page. They also like to charge for things like using
a more functional pop3 email
clients like outlook express. Further they are constantly promoting or
tricking you into upgrades or unnecessary service fees. One of the best features of a pop3 email client is
your ability to use Outlook, Windows Mail (vista), Apple mail or Outlook Express.
Outlook allows you
to keep a calendar and address book synced with your cell phone, maintain
,and save your email in folders on your local PC for offline access and back
up to CD etc. If you depend on Email for your work you should not risk
using AOL, hotmail or AT&T Yahoo.
you use any WebMail interface spammers can hack into your account without
using your computer. They just need to find you email address somewhere and
then guess or hack your password. Once in they
can see your address book and send anything they want. If you use any
popular webmail interface like yahoo or AOL and email a spam email went out
to your contacts then the best solution is a new complex password. (Complex
combines letters, numbers, other characters and capitol letters. For
example "pa$$w0Rd" is more complex than "password". However, it
should also be noted that
can be used on any email address and it is next to impossible
to protect yourself having you email spoofed.
9e. How do I
buy my own Email domain?
You can probably own
www.yourdomain.com with 1 email address with 1 GB
storage for about
$10 a year or $60 a year including web-hosting and email forwarding.
We often use
www.godaddy.com as a Web Hosting Provider.
You do not need to maintain a website to own an email address like
email@example.com In fact we have unlimited
free email aliases so if you want we can set up an email account for you for
we can work it out in trade. We
would auto forward this email to your current ISP email address. If
you use outlook or outlook express nobody has to know your ISP or how often
you change it. Then later when you change ISPs we just change the
berthaSmith@naperthrill.org email still gets to you
at your new ISP.
9e. How do I email or text
my kids? People under 30 are not as tied to email as those 30-70
are. They say: "Email is for old people." Over the next 20 years email may even may be replaced all
together. Younger people IM, text, and post on
FaceBook or MySpace
all day long. Yet my typical 16 year old son only checks his email 3-10 times a
year for his summer job schedules only. The good news
is that the new websites and programs have built in "email" programs so you can just find
their AIM or
MySpace login and email
firstname.lastname@example.org etc. If you want to
send a text message to a cell phone but do not know the email address you
can do that from IM programs like
Outlook 2007 can now send SMS messages to any phone with
Outlook Mobile Service
10. Websites and
For inexpensive simple
www.GoDaddy.com It is also a good free place to
research available domain names. Examples of GoDaddy hosted sites include:
Tech support for a site is generally much less effort than creating all the
interesting content on a ongoing basis. Creating art for a site theme
is generally a one time deal and photography is a separate issue. Content or function drives the design when
creating a site. So for your 1st steps lets keep it simple.
Start writing a letter to a potential visitor introducing your subject,
company whatever the site is about. Answer the question: Why is this interesting? but
also be sure to answer the other W's of Who What, When and Where. Most
of you are comfortable writing a letter on your subject so start from your area
of comfort. If you subject is at all complex then make a list of 10
questions visitors may have and the answers you may want to learn.
Finally review that and turn it into a motivation statement. In other
words, what is the compelling reason (s) that visitors would chose to come
to your site and what surprise of valuable information will keep them there or keep the
coming back? Why do your best customers come to you? Send any
thank you letters or endorsements that you have received along to whom ever
is helping with your content. If you have a person who can write a
good endorsement letter about you that could be part or all of the focus
your content. It is certainly much more credible than a guy you paid
to write nice things about you. If your topic has multiple people who might
have their own view point then consider creating a blog as part of your
quick look at the websites and blogs for a common point of reference
Examples of blogs are:
which are both tied to a domain home page like
Even more interesting than a blog is a social network site where your
members are your content. See
Which lets you build your own social network site like FaceBook. It is
If your website was part
of internal group communications then
running a campaign I would also want to allow people to register for email
membership in your email or newsletter group.
is free and has the functions you might want to use to manage internal
campaign communications to “the group”. It also allows you to manage who
can post or even join with or without you or the group leadership's
approval. For a sample of how a login could work see
For a fee starting at $19/mo you can build nice HTML customer contact emails
and a list with
www.constantcontact.com some like this but I am not a huge fan.
group shares schedules, files or photos consider
It includes a free online outlook group
calendar that syncs with others outlook calendars and contacts. This may
be perfect for anybody involved in multiple groups but also has private
personal appointments, Outlook and a cell phone. Airset allows for
free solutions for file sharing, blogging, shared contacts, photo and video
albums, shared lists, play lists, calendar text page reminders and is
11. Video-Conferencing and
11a. Teleconferencing. Some companies still pay
hundreds a month for secure ISDN lines and equipment for
video-conferencing. Meanwhile, the savvy video conference for free (or
cheep). Laptops have built in webcams or you can add one to any
computer for $10-100 depending on features. Millions world wide use
for free to teleconference. It is always free and normally higher quality
than the old expensive services. However, I prefer a new product
has a free version of
VisiMeet for conferencing up to 4 users. It also allows you
to share files and desktops. (So I can use it to show you how to do
something on your computer rather than talk you through it). Also, it
has encrypted security and group leaders at companies can upgrade for reasonable costs
to host larger video conference meetings with 4-100 users or more.
has all the advantages of skype but much more,
connects to other services like POTS phones, IP cameras and even www.FreeConferenceCall.com
I have to ask: If you have a cell phone do you really need a
home phone? When you are home why not just use your cell or
IOCOM from your computer or even a
11b. Entertainment does not have to be this expensive. Many
pay $200 a month to Comcast etc and then still go out to Movies. One
way to save money on entertainment content is to use free stuff. Over
the Air (OTA) HD broadcasts are free. With a
TV Tuner Card or PVR from Hauppauge
you can even save these and watch them later, pause, skip commercials,
rewind etc. Sony Blue Ray Players stream video from all all over the
world and all over your local network to your TV. You just browse
thousands of categorized options with the remote.
Windows 7' media player
and your xBox also offer entertainment options for free.
Services like Netflicks offer unlimited online entertainment packages
starting at $15 a month. So why am I paying $180 for premium cable TV
again? That is $2100 a year. The same $2K goes a long way
when it comes to internet subscriptions services and building my own
Computer DVR/media server.
This year I have a goal to boost my internet bandwidth and eliminate the
rest of my cable bill. Sure, I will invest part of
the savings in my own media server hardware but the payoff should be fast.
Want to cut the cord all together on cable and DSL? I did
try Clear Network WiMax
it is really fast an reasonable but they have no signal at my house. I
am sure there are people who have gone
to Clear and told Comcast good bye!
12. Telephone savings with VoIP
Phone Power - VoIP Phone Service
12a. VoIP the Good:
Starting in about 2007 one of your biggest
opportunities to save money is on your telephone services with Voice Over
Internet Protocol or VoIP. VoIP piggy
backs your phone service on the bandwidth of your high speed internet service. There are many options reviewed at
Our home phone bill used to be $80/month but we had lots of features.
Yet there are voice over internet protocol (VOIP) providers that offer
unlimited long distance and local calling for $10 a month. Others talk
with skype or
for free. We have been
(unlimited local and long distance package) for 2 years and renewed on a special for
$138.80 a whole year. Without the promo it would have been $250 a year. Not
a bad deal when you factor in all their extra services bundled in the
package. Service and quality has been
quite good for me. A friend of mine had a worse experience as he
received a different phone adapter than I did. I have the Linksys
SPA-2102 which handles QoS (quality of service) issues.
12b. VoIP the Bad: A
couple years ago I had a poor experience with Sagevon VoIP customer service.
They advertised lots of features I wanted for just $18 a month. I paid
for a year of service and I thought I was home free. This is when I
learned how bad customer service can be. Customer service can be the
down side of the VOIP industry.
story about Sagevone aka Sage Communications and choose your VoIP
carefully, take a free trial or references and recommendations when
possible. Definitely there is little correlation between price and
quality or service. Just because you pay more does not mean you get
12c. VoIP the Ugly:
I have also not yet found
prices or good features from our local ISP's or Vonage who heavily advertise
and gained early market share with their VoIP Solutions. I have found
that many of these great marketers charge well over $30+ a month for one
line and can
afford lots of marketing money. I have also have found that many
services bundle hardware in with their monthly bill or charge a set up
charge to cover hardware. Unfortunately the hardware is often not
easily used for a competitor's VoIP Service. So VoIP is can be great but
shop carefully. Marketers often charge much higher than $15 a month or
their advertised prices and use strategies of hardware rental, fine print or
expired promotions to raise your rent! Even the best providers will
change your prices so be careful especially at renewal time. JoiPhone wanted to charge me
$426.51 to automatically "renew" at an
inflated price. I ended up paying them $138.80 instead.
12d. VoIP related topic:
Voice Quality QoS:
Most consumers report better sound quality with VoIP in general.
However others have Quality of Service (QoS) issues resulting in
dropped calls or lack of service especially when their computer takes the
band width for popping an email account etc. We were initially
impressed with the sound quality and freedom of the
business phone systems. However, others experienced that the ISP and
the installation and networking hardware makes a huge difference in (QoS) When reading reviews of the VoIP system consider
that Tech Support is a huge variable in that industry. There are
routers and configurations that will solve many QoS problems. Give the
tech support people at your VoIP provider a call BEFORE you buy! If
they ignore you and you are still having trouble give us a call at
815-377-2380 or send me an
12e. VoIP related topic: VoIP
Hardware: You will need some
hardware to make VoIP work. You could choose an one of these 4
1. Just a microphone and speakers or a headset attached to
the sound card of your computer. Costs $3-40
unless you have them.
2. A Webcam with mic (costs
$15-90) for ree video calling.
3. You can buy a
eBay (Costs $20-80)
4. I bought
VoIP gateway which
connects all my existing old analog phones in the house to my network's router. (costs
5. Wait until
somebody wises up and retails an "all-in-one Cable modem/router/ VoIP
gateway." This should offer the best QoS and the best
automatic recovery from internet and power outages. Unfortunately I
have had to install 3 separate devices to do the jobs.
13. Voicemail and Fax
Time and Money Savers
For enhancing your phone
service you might consider getting a free unified
communication phone number from Google Voice
You can not beat the price and may use it to add
Cadillac services to your existing bargain phone services. Google
Voice includes: call forwarding, follow me, voice to text, customizable
greetings and even program who reaches you and who does not. It is one
local phone number that rings different other existing lines
based on who's calling who's calling. Use it to create a business
line, screen unknown callers, hear why someone is calling before taking the
call, record calls on the fly and access recordings online or Block Callers.
Receive voicemail notifications via email or SMS. Personalize your voicemail
greetings by caller or group. Choose ring back tones for your callers CallSwitch enables you to switch phones, say from your home to your cell in
the middle of a call. Mobile Access Visual voicemail for your mobile
phone. Finally a "Web Call Button"lets people call you from a
web page without showing your number. Go ahead. Click and see how it
For eliminating your fax
or voicemail only lines we use
Maxemail has an awesome $24/year
"Lite Plan" version for fax and voicemail (hidden on their web page amongst
more expensive options). The Lite Plan gives you an 815 phone number that
converts voice or fax and connects through up to 25 email addresses your
email and text messaging. MAXEMAIL allows you to eliminate your fax line
and get instant notifications of your faxes and voicemails. If you use
a fax through web or email service you may consider installing any old cheep
scanner for sourcing your fax from
paper. However, if the document you want to fax is on your computer you do
not need a scanner to send it. To saver printing and ink some people
just forward their existing fax line to their MAXEMAIL number other
people just realize that fax is a slowly dying technology.
15. Photo and Streaming Video Sharing
15a. Photo Sharing: Picasa by
Picasa is great because it is fast simple to learn and functional. It is not
perfect but a good place for a beginner to start and maybe even stay long
term. At http://picasa.google.com/
You get 1 GB free storage per email address and you
can choose the resolution and or compression to be applied for photo
For a great 38 min tutorial
Basics Webinar or to create a web album:
Create Picasa Web Album
Back up Digital Photos to Web Albums for Free!
Great videos that
show how to use Picasa. The 1st one is great but a little long
38 min - Nov 24, 2009 - Uploaded by
Picasa? Want to learn
how to edit and organize your photos? The
Picasa team, along
with Chris Guld from Geeks on
Picasa 2: Video Tutorial Part 1 -
The second one is shorter but not as involved.
My Picasa account:
15b. Photo Sharing other:
is great for printing photos at about $0.15 per 4x6 at your
local Walgreens. I have a
account for sending photos to anybody’s local Walgreens but use
www.costcophotocenter.com for my own printing. I like the
feature called “Group Room” that allows several people with
different passwords to upload to the same place.
http://prairiesaints.snapfish.com. If you get another user to join
with your invite you get another 20 prints free (so please use my link
above). There is no space limit so you do not have to compress or reduce
photos before you upload them. As I said it is great for printing photos but
if you want to share the photo files they charge $0.50 per photo! So if you
want to download then browse 200 original photos files Ouch!
services are more cost effective for file sharing. I have had good results
Photo Gallery Web Sites like
FotoPic.net which has more
functions but is therefore more complicated. At
1st 250 MB per email address is free. For a few bucks you can increase
space. See example galleries:
There are other reputable “free” photo gallery websites including:
Finally don't forget that a blog author can probably upload a few photos for
free on your blog. Sometimes less is more when you have a couple of really
small budget I see impressive things done with a
".Mac web gallery" Just $100 bucks a year includes 10 GB of storage,
advanced web hosting functions like automatic web back ups and a lot of cool
features. A great example is: Saints
football photos by Alex Metzen
Also several people can share an account (with your permission) so that
brings the cost down.
also offers lower cost options and free trials.
15c. Free Video Streaming
YouTube is very popular but
has it's limits in size, length, quality, format and even content. On the other had one
of the most surprising values is the
free streaming video
services offered through
OurMedia.org to post free streaming videos
. They allow you to post your creation of any size forever
for no cost. Also they convert your video to multiple streaming
formats for free. They are perfect for adding video to your blog or
website for almost no cost. They have features for photos and
copyright free music too but I have not used that feature. If you
have interest in editing video they are a must join.
Vimeo.com is another rising star in video streaming. This sample
is a good reason why.
wingsuit base jumping on Vimeo.
15d. Software to manage edit or
slideshow your Photos.
Some such software probably came with your camera and some came with your
CD/DVD burner or computer. For burning Music photo slideshows to DVD I
PhotoDex Pro Show with
Nero Vision Express in second place but some friends use Roxio.
For photo editing we like ArcSoft PhotoStudio 5.5 because it comes free with
most Canon optical products and it has a simple one page under help that
tells you how to use all the tools.
Or you can also use one or more of the following:
Digital Camera's are a specialty category that change constantly and require
research. We like
www.dcresource.com because they offer independent in-depth
expert hands on reviews and sample media on most popular digital
cameras. Our second source is
C-net Camcorder Reviews If you are looking at a low cost and
small webcam for YouTube consider a new the Sony flip. Looks interesting but cheep
and low res. On the expensive side,
if you want a high end Hi Def 1080p camcorder. Look for a CMOS
or 3ccd optical sensor and HDMI connection if you want the best. These
match a high end HDTV nicely so they will be the next standard for color and
clarity. They cost the $900-$7,000 but are better than the $100,000 TV cams from 15 years ago.
For a low cost but high quality option price any highly rated Mini DV
camcorder. It will be easy to edit with its standard ieee 1394 firewire connection.
I have a 5 year old cannon and works OK. This older canon camcorder has
still features like a 1 mega pixel burst mode that help you capture the
right frame and delete the bad ones that missed the perfect split second.
(kid with eyes open and a smile or kid with ball on the end of the bat).
Those fleeting moments make the photos way better. I do not like the
DVD camcorders for editing. Face it nobody takes 30 videos that are
interesting right out of the box. They are hard to connect to a computer, are lower
recorders and over priced. Consider a HDD camcorder instead if you
have a $3-500 budget.
Finally on the older camcorders that are used most have 4:3
aspect ratio while today’s TV’s are all 16:9 This is also important to
consider as memories will out live the older 4:3 format.
18. Example of creating and sharing an
Internet Calendar for a sports team etc. iCal ics or shared Google
calendar. Outlook, iPhone, Android etc.
IN the past I tried options like
www.airset.com with varied results. On the upside Airset has many
features, options and great security. On the down side for basic
volunteer users those options and that security make s system that is too
complex for most volunteer organizations.
For volunteer and sports
team communications I am very satisfied with the combination of:
a. a WordPress or open access team blog.
b. a Google group for managing email communications.
c. a shared Google calendar for sharing updates between members and their
d. a photographer with a picasa account for sharing photos and videos.
See #15 above
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