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News Article: Being Smart About Web Mail October 9, 2008

Posted by Mike in Learning, News, Online Service, Passwords, PC ABCs, Technology.
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Read Michael Horowitz’s article, originally posted on CNET News, for some good common sense practices to help secure your web mail account on Yahoo, GMAIL, Hotmail and others.

Being Smart About Web Mail

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Election 2008: Find Senate Voting Records Online October 2, 2008

Posted by Mike in Learning, News, Online Service, Worth a Look.
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Here’s a link to McCain’s Senate voting record.

Here’s a link to Obama’s Senate voting record.

Forget the hype.

Forget the spin.

Ignore the commercials, the editorials and the talking heads.

Watch the debates, but compare what is said with their past voting history.

Take a few minutes to review the Senate voting records of our 2 presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama.

The Washington Post has compiled this information on ALL members of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives:

The links have additional information on the 2 men, but the voting records should provide a good indication where the candidate’s stand on a variety issues.

The Internet has put the facts at your fingertips. Reading them is up to you.

Remember to vote in November!


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Family Fantasy Sports – A Game for All September 6, 2008

Posted by Mike in children, family, Freebies, Fun, Learning, Online Service, Sports, Technology, Worth a Look.
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The NFL Football season begins tomorrow. Millions of men and women will devote hours of time each week playing fantasy football at the expense of family time.

Well, why not include them in the fun?

Fantasy football can easily be enjoyed by families, much like board games or card games.

Don’t overlook its educational possibilities either. Math skills are key to keeping score, so young children can play with an adult and practice their addition, subtraction and multiplication while spending time with Mom and Dad.

Well, now there’s a free fantasy sports site for family fun. Check out http://www.familyfantasysports.com and enjoy the best of both worlds on Sundays this Fall: Family time and football!

Enroll in Automobile University with an Audio book Service July 17, 2008

Posted by Mike in Freebies, iPod, Learning, Online Service, Technology, Worth a Look, Worth the Money.
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The phrase “Automobile University” will be familiar to anyone who’s read a Zig Ziglar book or heard him speak. It essentially refers to the idea that personal productivity and development can be increased by using commute timecap and gown.jpg for self-improvement and learning. Audio books and podcasts are excellent options for individuals looking to improve their productivity during their daily commute.

Of course, buying audio books isn’t cheap (podcasts are though), but you can take advantage of several online rental services. The various rental plans vary by price and many offer rentals without any late fees or due dates or shipping fees.

The web site eHow offers an article about what you need to do to listen to podcasts.

You can find a variety of inexpensive rental plans and prices from the sites listed below. Some even offer an audio download option , if you’d rather play one on an iPod or other handheld device.

Audio book Rental Services:

  1. Audible.com (celebrating its 10 year anniversary)
  2. SimplyAudiobooks.com offers CD rentals and MP3 downloads.
  3. Booksfree.com offers rentals for audiobooks and good, old fashioned paperbacks.
  4. Audiotogo.com offers a free trial of their service.

Of course, you can rent a good fiction novel to listen to in the car too. With thousands of choices, you’re bound to find a book to make your commute more educational, or at the very least, more enjoyable.

TIP: For many, money is tight these days. If that’s true for you, you may want to visit your local library to see if they carry any audio books. After all, the LIBRARY IS FREE and their selection may surprise you.

Test Driving the Blog Editor in the Flock Browser July 13, 2008

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Freebies, Learning, Online Service, Reviews, Software, Technology.
3 comments

The ultra-cool new web browser, Flock, incorporates a blog editor for speedy posting.  I thought I’d try this out with this post.

Here’s how I used the blog editor in Flock:

  1. I surfed the web with Flock for an article to blog about.
  2.  Once I found one, I went to the VIEW menu, the sidebars sub-menu and then clicked on the “Web Clipboard”.
  3. With the web clipboard now a visible column on the left, I dragged/dropped a link and an image onto the sidebar.
  4. Next, I went to the TOOLS menu and chose the “Blog Editor” tool and a new window opened.
  5. On the blog editor window, I again went to the VIEW menu and chose sidebar and clicked on “web clipboard”.
  6. In the blog editor, I see the link and the image that I previously saved to the clipboard in step 3.
  7. I drag n’ drop the saved link and image into the body of the blog editor to use in the post.

All in all,  that’s an easy way to post to your blog from your web browser.  The blog editor is fairly basic, not a lot of whistles and bells, but it’ll help you post quickly.  Here are some of the features included in the blog editor:

  • Choose Font, Size, Bold/Italic/Underline, color
  • Bullets or numbers for creating lists
  • Indent buttons
  • Button to create link
  • Button to insert images (if you haven’t used the web clipboard)

Before Flock can send the post to your blog, you’ll need to configure your blog account into the Flock blog editor. It can be configured for a blog hosted on a free service like WordPress.com or a self-hosted blog. This is done from the TOOLS menu in the Blog Editor.

When you’re ready to publish your post, you can choose to create the entry as a new post or to replace an existing one.  You can also assign categories.


SAMPLE LINK:

http://www.engadget.com/ 2008/ 07/ 12/ kodak-intros-the-c913-m1073-is-and-m1063-chea…

SAMPLE IMAGE:

Kodak Cameras

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Be an Informed Voter with this List of Web Sites February 2, 2008

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Humor, Learning, News, Politics, Videos.
1 comment so far

With the 2008 Presidential primaries campaign in full swing and the Super Tuesday primary elections a few days away, many Americans are still deciding who to vote for this year. John McCain, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul and other presidential hopefuls are zig zagging across the country to shake hands, kiss babies and stump for votes.

Remember to vote in the primaries and in the election next November. If you don’t participate, you shouldn’t complain about the results.

Here are some web sites to help you be an informed voter on the candidates and the issues for this 2008 campaign.

Candidates official web sites:

  1. Mike Huckabee
  2. John McCain
  3. Ron Paul
  4. Mitt Romney
  5. Hillary Clinton
  6. Barack Obama

Informational:

  1. Project Vote Smart
  2. News Coverage 2008 Candidates
  3. Democratic Party Web Site
  4. Republican Party Web Site
  5. Rock the Vote
  6. Who’s Donating Money? 2008 Campaign Contributions

Worth a Look:

  1. QUIZ #1: Take a Quiz on the Issues to See Which Candidate You Should Vote For
  2. QUIZ #2: Another Quiz to See Who You Should Vote For
  3. QUIZ #3: The Glassbooth Quiz

Opinion (Humor, Blogs and Videos):

  1. Vote Different YouTube Video: Hillary as Big Brother
  2. YouTube Video: Actors Impersonate Obama and Hillary
  3. MyMcCainBlog
  4. Elect Romney Blog
  5. Vote Hillary
  6. Blog Obama ’08
  7. Huckabee for President Blog
  8. Colbertocrat – Craig Colbert’s Political Humor

Find Answers to Your Computer Questions on YouTube January 8, 2008

Posted by Mike in Hardware, Learning, Technology, Training, Videos.
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It’s easy to overlook the usefulness of YouTube amid the abundance of entertaining video clips posted by its users.

YouTube’s vast collection of how-to videos can help you with your computer repair questions.

For example, this video clip shows you how to replace a mother board in a Dell Optiplex small form factor PC.


Most folks start with Google or Yahoo to find their answers. YouTube’s videos don’t often find their way onto the search results.


Be sure to search the site itself if you don’t find what you need from one of the search engines.

Tips on Setting up a Holiday Budget November 22, 2007

Posted by Mike in Finance, Freebies, Holidays, Learning, Money, Online Service, Organize, Software, Technology.
2 comments

Holiday Candles

How does holiday budgeting find its way onto a blog about technology? Well, it just so happens that technology can help you setup a budget and stick to it. Not to mention, there are web sites and blogs out there with good advice on personal finance.

While November and December is the time for family, turkey, thankfulness, holiday lights and gift giving, January tends to be the time for credit card bills and financial shock and awe.

Hopefully, setting a holiday budget can help you get the best of both worlds: Happiness in November and December without the shock and awe of credit card bills.

With Thanksgiving upon us and Black Friday Ads enticing us to shop and save tomorrow, I’ve located a few tools and advice web sites for you to use.

Do you have any tips or tools that you can share regarding a budget? If you do, please share them.

Happy Holidays!

Going Green: Eco-Friendly Tips for the Holidays November 2, 2007

Posted by Mike in Fun, Learning, News.
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Americans throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s!”

Quote from article,”Green Your Holiday”, by Jaclyn Hope and Amy Gotliffe

The “Green Your Holiday” article was written by Jaclyn and Amy for ROAR Magazine; a quarterly publication for members of the Oakland Zoo. I found the article interesting and informative, so I wanted to create a post to share some of their suggestions.

This post will essentially paraphrase their article published in ROAR for Winter 2007, Issue 30.

Tips to Keep the Holiday Green:

  1. Keep cut trees out of the landfill! Visit Earth 911 for ideas and info.

  2. Buy LED Lights – they are 80% more efficient than regular lights.

  3. Put holiday lights on a timer.

  4. Consider gifts that won’t end up in a landfill, like tickets or a gift certificate for a massage.

  5. Re-use greeting cards as colorful gift tags.

  6. Travel Light by carpooling with friends or family.

Web Sites for Green Gift Ideas:

  1. NorthStarToys

  2. Worldwidechild

  3. Realgoods

  4. Globalexchange

  5. Greenshopping

  6. Ecomall

  7. Laptops.org

Think local, fair trade, organic, sustainable, handmade and creative!

Read Qiyas II’s Blog on Top 100 Software Tools for Learning October 23, 2007

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Learning, Software, Technology.
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I’m finding some good blog posts today. I’d recommend reading Qiyas II’s entry about the Top 100 software tools for learning and productivity. It’s always interesting to see what tools and services are being created to help us learn in new ways.

Here’s a link to his blog.

I’m planning on testing out some of these tools. Who knows, I may find the topic for a future post myself!

What if Google & Yahoo Didn’t Exist? Fun Alternative Search Engines to Try October 19, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Fun, Learning, music, Technology.
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Have you ever imagined, for just a moment, that Google and Yahoo didn’t exist? Blasphemy? Hardly, but it is an interesting thought.

I decided to step outside of my comfortable search engine routine to see what existed outside the Yahooniverse and the Land of Google.

My quest quickly led me to Charles Knight’s archived article from February 2007 on the Top 100 Alternative Search Engines.

Naturally, with a title like that, Charles has done most of the work for me. I simply cherry picked from his list a few of the alternative search engines that sounded interesting and tested them out for myself.

Here’s a list of 7 alternative search engines that I enjoyed:

LivePlasma.com – niche search engine for entertainment information on bands, movies, actors and directors Displays the info on a visually appealing map.

See a sample.


The goal is to help you find info on an artist and also show you other bands, artists,
movies or actors with similar qualities that you may enjoy.
You can email your info maps to friends.

Pipl.com – a dedicated People search!

Google-esque in its simple look, Pipl asks you to type in a person’s name and location to find info about them. I searched for my friend’s name and it showed the address of each of his last two residences, his LinkedIn profile and a court case record from 1999 from the Superior Court of California for a speeding ticket! D’oh.

This engine may be a little too good.

Askvox.com – Would you like a talking avatar to read you answers?
Then this is the site for you! In addition to displaying search results, it will also try to locate an exact answer to your question. If it can find an answer, the avatar will read it to you.It’s more for fun than anything else, but it’s a fresh take on searching.

For Example:
I typed in a quote from the Tim Burton Batman movie, in which the Joker asks, “Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?”
Well, Askvox.com had an answer for me which I found amusing. It doesn’t always have an answer though….but it doesn’t hurt to ask the question.

MsDewey.comWould you like an attractive woman (not an avatar) with attitude to talk to you while you search?
This is quite possibly the most original search engine going right now.

Just try it.

You’ll be in for a treat.

IceRocket.com – a search engine dedicated to blogs!

Searchbot.net – create your own robot to help you search for answers!
It’s fun to build a robot, but I’m not sure if I’ll continue to use it once that novelty wears off.

With my quest complete, I’ll now return to reality and tell you about a nifty new search from Yahoo. This search engine of theirs allows you use a horizontal slider bar to re-prioritize search results based on either commercial (i.e. shopping) or research (i.e. info). I thought it was an innovative and effective enhancement to the search results page.

Try it for yourself! It’s called Mindset.

All in all, I had fun using these alternative search engines and will likely use several again in the future.

Do you have a favorite search engine?

Record and Share Your Screen Activity with Jing October 2, 2007

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Business, Freebies, Learning, Online Service, Reviews, Software, Technology, Training, Worth the Money.
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You need to try Jing software by Techsmith. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and am very pleased with its ease of use.

What does it do, you ask?

Here’s a quick definition, courtesy of the JingProject.com web site:

The concept of Jing is the always-ready program that instantly captures and shares images and video from your computer to anywhere.

Why do I like it?

  1. Easy to use.
  2. Great for sharing.
  3. Great for troubleshooting computer problems.
  4. Great for demonstrations and training.
  5. Great for blogs.
  6. Easy to share recordings with others.
  7. Free (for now). Hopefully, inexpensive when out of beta.

# 6 deserves additional explanation. Techsmith has integrated JING with its Screencast.com file hosting service. When you complete a recording, you can click a SHARE button and the recording is immediately uploaded to your account on the screencast.com web site. From there, you can share the recording as a URL.

I believe the Screencast.com web site is fee-based, but Techsmith offers a free account for those using JING in beta. I am not expecting the free Screencast.com account to last forever, but it is impressive to be able to quickly upload my recordings to their site and share them.

What don’t I like?

The one down side for me is the 5 minute time limit on your recording. Users cannot record longer than 5 minutes.

The program does a good job of tracking your time left with a clock during the recording process, so you shouldn’t be surprised when the recording stops. It would still be helpful to have the option to record a bit longer though.

Please keep in mind that this software is simplified screen recording. It also can capture screenshots in better quality than your “Print Screen” button. It is designed for the masses to capture and share these recordings. It doesn’t allow you to edit your recording after the fact. That said, if you don’t like your recording, then your only option is to delete it and re-record.

How to Use Jing

How many times have you written up instructions about a computer process for a family member, a friend or a colleague?  If you’re like me, the answer is a lot.  

With JING, you can now show someone how to do it. 

Best of all, you can record the steps quickly and send the person a link to view them.  It may not be a polished, presentation ready demonstration, but it is intended for an individual not a group.  Jing gets the job done quickly and that’s what counts.

Competing Products

Adobe Captivate 3 and Camtasia Studio 4. In basic terms, both of these products offer screen recording/capture. However, these two programs have much better editing tools and options for formatting and presenting these recordings. They also have a much higher price tag.

Final Thoughts

Try it. You’ll like it (sort of like green eggs and ham). Ideally, I think this type of technology should be included in future operating systems. The ability to quickly record my PC activity and share it with others is a great way to educate and train users on new products and features via email, blog or instant message.  It is also a great way for a person to show tech support exactly what steps they took to get an error.

The 5 minute time limit is a little short. However, realistically, most people have short attention spans and a 5 minute video may be enough to get your point across.

As an example, I used JING in an earlier blog post to demonstrate how to mail merge.

For details, FAQs and to download the software, please visit JING Project.

Grab the Popcorn and Watch My 5 Minute Video: How to Mail Merge in Microsoft Word September 18, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Learning, Software, Technology, Training, Videos.
4 comments

I’ve created an online video demonstration (with audio) to walk you through the steps of doing a mail merge to create mailing labels. I used MS Word 2003.

My video demo assumes that you have your data in an MS Excel spreadsheet.

No worries. The video is only 5 minutes long. You can sit through that, right?

In my opinion, mail merge has way too many steps. I can’t improve the process but hopefully this video will help you learn it because it is a useful function!

Learn How to Mail Merge Video

I’d appreciate your feedback on this demo. I’m using a new software program called Jing by Techsmith. I think it’s great for training (I’ll right a review on it soon) but would like your opinion too!

How to Backup your Data Online for Free: Shall we Mozy? August 7, 2007

Posted by Mike in Data Backup, Learning, Online Service, PC ABCs, Software, Technology, Training, Worth the Money.
2 comments

Mozy Logo

Backing up your data is critical and using an online service to securely backup your information accomplishes two important objectives:

  1. First and foremost, you have a backup copy of your data!
  2. Second of all, your backup data is stored “off site” or away from your computer.

Point # 2 is often overlooked.  Folks backup their data to CDs, DVDs or external hard drives and then store those backup files in the same place as their computer.  Even worse, some store it in the same bag as their laptop! 

What happens when your bag is stolen? Bye-bye laptop and bye-bye data backup! 

What happens when your home is damaged by fire, flood or ________ (insert your natural disaster here)?   Bye bye computer and bye bye data backup! 

Ok, so disasters aren’t an every day occurrence.  What if you spill some soda on your external hard drive? Or drop it?  Or misplace it? Or your toddler wants to see if it will float in the bath tub?

Have you ever scratched a CD? Yep, me too.

In order to avoid this type of headache, online backup services are ideal.  I just tested out Mozy.com and found it very user-friendly.  They offer 2GB of free (and secure) storage, which will be either:

  • Woefully inadequate for users with large quantities of data     OR    
  • Just right for backing up a few important files, pictures, etc.

 Here’s what I like about mozy.com’s service:

  • Free 2 GB of storage (no trials or tricks, just good ole’ free!)
  • User friendly software identifies and categorizes files to backup and lists the size of the files (very helpful for novice users who often wonder what to backup)
  • Advanced features for those more comfortable with PCs and configuring backups.
  • Option to schedule backups to run on a regular basis. (In other words, set it and forget it)
  • Larger storage options available for a monthly (not annual) fee.
  • “Slider” setting in the software allows you to control how much bandwidth is used during the backup process.

 Here’s what I don’t like:

  • Slow upload speeds.

 However, this isn’t Mozy’s fault.  It’s a reality for most home users on DSL or cable Internet, except for that lucky 75 year old woman in SwedenUpload speeds are always slower than download speeds.  Regardless of the culprit, transferring large amounts of your data securely onto Mozy’s servers takes longer than transferring them onto an external hard drive or burning them to CD. 

That’s just a limitation of any kind of online backup service. 

I’d suggest you consider giving Mozy a try.  If you like it, you can decide whether to upgrade to a larger account (if you need it).

If Mozy isn’t to your liking, there are other online backup services to explore: 

Carbonite

Xdrive

Kela

Whatever you do, you need to backup your important data.  It will save you a lot of stress and worry when your hard drive crashes or your laptop wanders off. Backing up your important files limits a catastrophe to a mere inconvenience. 

Trust me.

This is experience talking here.    :  )

How to Blog: Resources to Help a Person or a Business Start a Blog August 3, 2007

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Business, Creative, Learning, PC ABCs, Real Estate, Technology.
4 comments

Blog KeyboardThere are many resources on the web to help a person or a business start a blog
and my goal with this post is to list many of them to educate and inform new bloggers.

First of all, why blog? That’s a personal question, but a blog can be your own voice on the Internet to discuss a topic you are passionate about. Passion is a key ingredient, because you have to enjoy a subject in order to write about it on a regular basis.

I’m assuming that you’ve already decided to blog if you’re reading this. Here’s what you need to do:

GETTING STARTED:

  1. Learn how to blog by seeing how others are doing it. Use Google’s
    Blogsearch
    to locate other people blogging on topics similar to yours. For example, You’ll get lots of ideas on
    different writing styles and templates that exist for blog sites.
  2. Sign up for a free account with a blogging web site. (Yes a blog
    is a web site just like a square is a rectangle.) Here are some popular
    ones: WordPress, Google’s Blogger, Typepad.
  3. Educate yourself on blog vocabulary. How? By visiting the blogossaryor wikipediaof course!

READ THESE BLOGS!

The folks who wrote these blogs have provided all of us with a wealth
of information on blogging. You’d be wise to read every last word.

  1. RSS Pieces Besides the catchy name that makes me hungry, this site is a great place to learn how to blog effectively. It’s target audience is the real estate community, but the advice is good for any blogger.
  2. Lorelle on WordPress. Straight talk on blogging plus a collection of additional links to articles related to blogging.

Blogging for Business

A blog can be a great way for a small business owner to improve the web presence of their local business. People go to Google to search for florists, pizza places, restaurants, doctors, bookstores, etc. When we search, we type in a city or zip code along with keywords like “bookstore”. Wouldn’t it make sense for the local bookstore to be on
the first search results page? A blog can help a business get recognized more prominently on search results pages, but it takes time and effort and won’t happen overnight.

Business Owners Read These Blogs:

1. 20 Ways to Increase Your Blog Traffic

2.Blogging for Business Owners

A company called Blogging Systems offers to create a web site for small businesses, non-profit organizations, churches and other groups that may want to establish a blogging site for their community. Again, I’ll recommend a blog post written at RSS Pieces titled “Ultimate Guide to a Real Estate Blog Site” because the advice given can really apply to any blog site. Blogging is still a new and ever-evolving form of communication.

I am by no means an expert, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned (and found) so far to help others get started. If you have another resource or a suggestion, please let me know.


Now that you’ve learned your blogging ABC’s, you can start blogging today!

How to use RSS to Make your Life Easier July 19, 2007

Posted by Mike in Fun, Learning, Online Service, PC ABCs, RSS, Technology, Training.
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RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary.

Why do I need RSS? This is an excellent question.

Someone else has provided an excellent answer. Best of all, it’s in a fun little video clip.

I can’t explain it any better.

I’m just going to give you the link to watch this short, yet very entertaining video clip about RSS and how it makes your life easier.  Enjoy.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=209879&dest=-1]

Need How to advice? Take a look at ExpertVillage.com July 16, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Fun, Learning, Online Service, Technology, Training, Videos.
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ExpertVillage.com logo  

As I mentioned in my “About me” section on this blog,  I like to find useful sites, services and software to help make my life easier.

 I recently purchased a gas grill and needed some grilling advice.  I needed an expert since my grill skill is still developing.  I needed ExpertVillage.

ExpertVillage.com provides FREE how to videos on a variety of topics including cooking, fitness, music, beauty, automotive, parenting, sports and bartending. Their videos are also found on YouTube, so you can find them easily on either web site.

Some of the videos have brief commercials at the beginning, but it’s a small price to pay for quality advice.

Need to know How to Clean a Gas Grill ? Expertvillage has the answer.

Need advice on ceiling fans? Then, you need George A. Finn III : How To Install A Ceiling Fan.

Throwing a party? Need to learn how to mix drinks? Check this out: Hurricane: Bartending Guide for Rum Drinks.

Need to know How to Deliver a Baby in the Backseat of a Taxi Cab? Yup, Expertvillage comes through again!

The point is that the web has plenty of resources to help you with lots of projects and problems.  Many times, a quick Google search will do the trick.  However, it’s good to know where to find a village full of experts when you need to learn the right way to do it.