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CPR – Cell Phone Repair Service in the Bay Area September 11, 2008

Posted by Mike in Business, Hardware, Technology, Worth a Look, Worth the Money.
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Mobile phones are more indispensable than ever. And, more expensive than ever if you’ve got a smart one that can do everything but cook dinner for you.

At any rate, the folks at CPR in San Jose, CA can help you fix that phone when you drop it or damage it. If you don’t live in the San Francisco Bay Area, then you’re still able to get a phone repaired by shipping them the damaged phone.

One of my colleagues took a few phones there and said the prices are reasonable and the service is good. Cell Phone Repair will also provide you with free estimates so that you’ll know how much money it will cost before deciding to fix it.

One of the postcards I’ve received from them states the following:

  1. Authorized repair center for Motorola, Samsung, LG, Kyocera, Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Sanyo.
  2. Most repairs done on the spot.
  3. Repairs include: Liquid damage, cracked LCD, dropped phone, shattered, no sound.
  4. iPod repair also available.

Keep this option in mind if you’d rather pay a little to get a phone fixed instead of paying a lot to get it replaced.


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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.

Get Fit! Technology That Moves You June 28, 2008

Posted by Mike in Blogging, exercise, family, geocaching, Hardware, health, iPod, Reviews, Software, Technology, Worth the Money.
7 comments

What other technology products out there are designed to help you exercise or enjoy the outdoors?

The excitement surrounding the release of the Nintendo Wii Fit got me thinking about this question.

I spent a little time browsing Amazon.com and came up with a few technology gadgets — with many positive user reviews — that will help you get off your couch and get outside (or at least break a sweat inside):

Wii Fit

Exercise without leaving the comfy confines of your own living room. With Nintendo’s addictively fun Wii game system, this new software package will get you exercising in four key areas: Strength Training, Aerobics, Yoga and Balance Games. The games and activities are designed to appeal to all ages, so Mom and Dad can enjoy it just as much as the kids.

Price: $171 on Amazon.com

Apple Nike + iPod Sport Kit for iPod nano 1G, 2G, 3G

This is actually an add-on package for an iPod Nano. You’ll need to buy the Nano iPod separately.

“Consisting of a wireless sensor and receiver, the Nike + iPod Sport Kit works exclusively with your Nike+ shoes and iPod nano to give you real-time feedback during workouts.” – Amazon product description.

Price: $29.00 on Amazon.com

Garmin eTrex H Handheld GPS with High Sensitivity GPS

This one intrigues me. GPS devices like this one have led to an explosion in popularity of a game called geocaching. In a nutshell, geocaching is a game of high tech treasure hunting. Players hide “caches” in various places, like parks or camp sites or even urban locations. The map coordinates of the cache are then posted online and other players can go and search for it using a handheld GPS.

For a full description of geocaching, please visit The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site

Geocaching sounds like a great family activity. I fully intend to play when my sons get a little older. When the time comes, I’ll take my friend Chris up on his offer to join him on a treasure hunt one day.

While there are a great many varieties of handheld GPS devices, this one is under $100 and should fit the budget of most families.

Price: $93.16 on Amazon.com

Omron HJ-112 Digital Premium Pedometer

Amazon Product Description:

“The HJ-112 accurately measures your steps, as well as aerobic steps and minutes. You can also use it to measure calorie consumption during your workout, as well as the distance you’ve traveled.”

Price: $19.82 on Amazon.com

So, now you can have your “tech” and exercise too. I’ll see you outdoors. Don’t worry about that big ball of light in the sky. That’s called the sun. It’s a good thing. Have fun!

Technology Provides Parenting Peace of Mind June 27, 2008

Posted by Mike in Blogging, children, family, parenting, Reviews, Technology, Worth the Money.
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Electronic Child Guard Child Safety Alarm

How many of you have worried about your child wandering away from you in a store, park or public place? OK, all parents may put their hands down. There’s nothing more heart pounding than losing sight of your son or daughter in a store for a few moments.

How much would you pay for a little peace of mind and your child’s safety? For less than $30, this little device can provide just that.

The “Child Guard” is a wireless transmitter/receiver. The transmitter (looks like a toy) on the child sends signals to the receiver in the parent’s purse or pocket, etc. If the child starts to wander, the receiver starts beeping to alert Mom or Dad.

If you’re traveling, visiting theme parks this summer or just going to the shopping mall across town, the “Child Guard” is an item you can put to good use to help prevent lost children or, heaven forbid, a kidnapping.

The image from Amazon.com shows a pink transmitter, but I’m sure they offer them in different colors to appeal to the boys out there too.

Jott for Blackberry: Reply to Emails with your Voice! June 1, 2008

Posted by Mike in Blackberry, Freebies, Online Service, Software, Technology, Worth the Money.
2 comments

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Jott’s new service, Jott for Blackberry, will make that device even more user-friendly than it is right now. Now you can respond to any email using your voice, instead of the keyboard and give your tired fingers a break.

When installed on your Blackberry, the Jott software will transcribe your message and send it off in an email, with your fingers never touching the keypad.

The software is free while in beta and will likely be any Blackberry user’s favorite new app. It will definitely be worth the money when it comes out of beta.

I’m glad to see Jott is finding new and useful ways to integrate its technology into products. I’ve blogged about their service before, and you’re welcome to read my earlier post by clicking here.

What’s your favorite Blackberry app?

Tech Gift Ideas under $100 for Father’s Day May 24, 2008

Posted by Mike in Fun, Photos, Reviews, Technology, Worth the Money.
2 comments

Do you need a Father’s Day gift idea for a techie Dad? Look no further!

Here are a few gift ideas that I’ve found online that are fun, useful and under $100.

Hubman USB Port.jpg
Pictured Above: Hubman……Digital Photo Key Chain……IronKey Thumb Drive……Han Solo Thumb Drive.

Hubman:

  • Listed price: $29.00
  • 4 USB 2.0 ports
  • Smiley face

Digital Photo Key Chain:

  • Listed price: $50.00
  • Holds 60 photos
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • 2 hour battery viewing time

IronKey Thumb Drive:

  • Listed price: $78 (1 GB size)
  • Military grade encryption, encased in metal.
  • “10 incorrect password attempts, and the encryption chip self-destructs, making the contents of the flash drive totally unreadable.”
  • Windows XP and Vista only

Han Solo Thumb Drive:

  • Listed price: $49.95 (1 GB size)
  • Other Star Wars Characters available, but c’mon, you know Han Solo is Dad’s favorite.

I’m sure any of these gifts will bring a smile to Dad’s face. If not, you can always consider an iPod.


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Iomega’s eGo – An External Hard Drive in Disguise November 22, 2007

Posted by Mike in Data Backup, Hardware, Technology, Worth the Money.
2 comments

iomega-ego.jpg

Hard drive or flask? I think this USB external hard drive has an identity crisis! Maybe I’m imagining it, but the Iomega eGo looks like a flask to me; especially if you pick the black or silver color.

If that’s not enough to make you smile, the name itself is funny. eGo? Or should I type ego?

If they’re targeting self-centered, narcissistic customers then they’ve named the device well. This reminds me of Chevy’s decision to sell the Chevy Nova in Spain without renaming it. After all, translated into Spanish, “nova” means “no go.” Of course, the eGo name doesn’t damage the product’s reputation, but I think Iomega’s marketing team have taken the “e” naming scheme (ebook, ecard, etc) a bit too far.

Jokes aside, it looks to me like Iomega’s external hard drive offers plenty of storage space and comes in a variety of snazzy colors. It can probably be considered a good option for data backups, just like the Western Digital Passport or Seagate FreeAgent Go external hard drives.

WildCharger: A Wireless Charging Pad for Your Mobile Devices November 21, 2007

Posted by Mike in Hardware, iPod, Technology, Worth the Money.
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wildcharger.jpg

No cord needed to charge your mobile phone? I haven’t seen anything quite like it, but yes, that’s the idea. By purchasing and attaching a compatible adapter onto your mobile phone, you can then simply place the phone onto the charging pad without connecting a cord.

You need two things to make it work: one a WildCharge adapter for your mobile device (mp3 player, iPod, mobile phone, PDA, etc) and the charging pad itself.

Here’s a link to their web site explaining how it works.

After looking at their web site, WildCharge, the manufacturer, has already made a charging adapter that snaps onto the back of the Motorola RAZR mobile phone.

They are working on an iPod Nano charging adapter as well as a Blackberry charging adapter, but neither can be purchased in their online store at this time.

It’s a novel idea, but may be limited by their ability to design and manufacture customized charging adapters for each type of device. Consumers may not want to purchase multiple charging adapters for their multitude of mobile devices either.

They’ve already received some good publicity and rewards for innovation, which you can read about in their Press Room.

Recover Data with File Scavenger Software November 13, 2007

Posted by Mike in Software, Technology, Worth the Money.
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“The world isn’t run by weapons anymore. Or energy. Or money.

It’s run by little ones and zeroes. Little bits of data. It’s all just electrons.”

– Sneakers (movie), 1992

And when you accidentally delete some of those little bits of data from your PC, what can you do to recover it?

If you empty your recycle bin, your data files are typically still recoverable….with a little software help.

File Scavenger 3.0 is a data recovery software tool that can help you recover files that have been accidentally deleted or that are no longer accessible due to hard drive damage, corruption or reformatting. Their web site claims that it can recover data from floppy disks, zip disks, usb memory drives and RAIDs.

If you’ve lost some data that is important to you, then the $49.00 for a personal version of this software is a small price to pay to recover it.

At the very least, bookmark their site for a rainy day. You’ll thank yourself later.

Kids and Computers: Worried about Online Safety? Consider ‘KidSafe’ November 11, 2007

Posted by Mike in Hardware, Online Service, Technology, Worth the Money.
2 comments

KidSafe_Home.png

Are you worried about your kid’s unsupervised access on a computer in your home?

I know that I will be one day. At the moment, my two year olds are only savvy enough to open the CD-Rom tray and power off my PC (with a grin, of course).

In many homes, kids are the “tech” experts which makes controlling their PC access all the more difficult.

Here’s an easy question: How do you stop your teenager from driving your car?

Answer: Take away the keys.

While window shopping on ThinkGeek today, I saw an ad for a USB computer “key.”

No key, no computer. It’s literally that simple.

You have a key for your car, why not your computer?

If the USB key is in your pocket, you’ll know that your kids aren’t on your computer.

Here’s the web site for more information on the product: KidSafe.

Additional info:

Facts about online safety

Watch a quick video, get some quick facts

Here’s some links to the product in the news:

News article 1

News article 2

News article 3


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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.

BoardFirst.com’s Service Will Get You an “A” Boarding Pass on Southwest Airlines September 5, 2007

Posted by Mike in Online Service, Worth the Money.
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Southwest Airlines Logo

Got $5? 

If you do, then you can use it to pay BoardFirst.com to secure an “A” boarding pass on Southwest Airlines.  If they cannot secure an “A” boarding pass for you, there is no charge.

 That’s right.  For the price of 1 venti-double-raspberry mocha at Starbucks, you’ll eliminate the need to arrive extra early to secure that “A” boarding pass at the airport. Waiting is for people with too much time on their hands.

 With the holiday season coming up,  travellers flying Southwest Airlines should take advantage of this inexpensive service.  After all, passengers holding boarding pass “A” are highly unlikely to end up sitting in the middle seat on a 4 hour flight to Denver.

Here’s some additional info:

  1. BoardFirst.com is not owned or operated by Southwest Airlines.
  2. Boarding passes secured by BoardFirst.com can be printed from your computer or from an airport kiosk.
  3. BoardFirst.com only works with Southwest Airlines flights.
  4. The deadline for placing your order is 5pm Pacific Time two days before your departure date.

 You can find FAQ answers on their site.

When it comes to air travel, $5 is a small price to pay for a little piece of mind and the knowledge that you won’t be wedged in a middle seat for hours on end.

Constant Contact: An Email Marketing Campaign Service for Your Business August 28, 2007

Posted by Mike in Business, Online Service, Technology, Worth the Money.
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Constant Contact logo

Customer relationships are the life blood of any business.  Businesses need to keep in touch with clients (existing or potential) to help develop and sustain these relationships. 

If you’re looking for a way to set up a marketing campaign with your clients via email, I’d suggest that you take a look at ConstantContact.com.   Better yet, you can try them for free for 60 days without providing any credit card information.

Here are some of the benefits that I see in their service:

  1. Free 60 day trial…..try before you buy!
  2. Professional HTML email newsletter templates save you time.
  3. Reporting feature allows you to track who looked at your email and when.
  4. Email Campaign Wizard will help you get started.
  5. Import Data from a Text (txt), CSV or Excel (XLS) file.
  6. Live Product Demos, Online Tutorials, Free Technical Support.

 If you have additional questions, you can look at their FAQ page or their detailed description of email marketing features.
With a 60 day free trial and monthly plans starting at $15it certainly looks like an affordable option for small business owners.

Western Digital Passport: An Excellent Option for Backing Up Your Data to an External Hard Drive August 17, 2007

Posted by Mike in Data Backup, Hardware, Reviews, Technology, Worth the Money.
223 comments

Western Digital Passport External Drive

I currently use a 120GB Western Digital Passport external drive to backup my data. It’s sleek, small and looks like a James Bond gadget.

I’ve used a Seagate FreeAgent external drive as well and I like the WD Passport device better.

Best Features of the WD Passport:

User-friendly software bundled on the drive, WD Sync by Dmailer, is great (much better than Seagate’s software, in my opinion).

  1. It allows me to setup multiple computer profiles so I can sync data from different PCs onto one device.
  2. I can password protect each profile.
  3. I can use a Windows Explorer-esque interface to select the files and folders I want to back up.
  4. I can review the files that I’ve backed up.
  5. The software can backup IE or FireFox Favorites.
  6. Emails and Contacts in Outlook or Outlook Express with a few clicks.
  7. Email SETTINGS can also be backed up with a click or two.
  8. Functions like “synchronize” and “copy to PC” are easily found on the main screen.

Worst Features

Based on the comments posted to this blog entry, I’d have to say the worst feature is a lack of user guides or online “how to” tutorials for customers.

Additional Limitations of the WD Sync software:

  1. The software only SYNCS data. If you backup a folder from your hard drive to the Passport device, this doesn’t mean that you can then delete that folder from your hard drive. Why? The next time you sync the WD Sync software will remove that folder from the Passport device. It considers your hard drive the “master copy” of the data. Any changes that are made to the master copy will be applied to the data on the Passport device when the next time you sync. If you want to avoid this situation, don’t use the WD Sync software that comes with the device. Instead, use the Passport device as a very large flash drive. You can manually copy/paste files to the external drive without using the WD Sync software.
  2. Given the issue in #1, I would suggest not using the “automatic synchronization” option in the WD Sync software. This features starts the sync process the moment after you enter in your profile password. Why not? Let’s say that you have a hard drive failure. Luckily, your data is synced to your Passport drive, right? Well, I’m concerned that if you get a new hard drive and connect the Passport device, the WD Sync software will notice that the new hard drive doesn’t have any of the files and folders from the last sync. When it runs automatic synchronization, you may then lose the backup copy of your data! I haven’t tested this theory out (don’t want to risk it), but it seems plausible. Instead, I’d uncheck the automatic synchronization option found on the OPTIONS menu.
  3. I wish the WD Sync software was smart enough to automatically include any new sub-folders in the sync process. For example, I have a folder called “My Digital Photos”. Inside that folder, I have many sub-folders. Each time I transfer photos from my digital camera, a new sub-folder is created. Despite having the parent folder (My Digital Photos) checked as a folder to sync, the WD Sync software will not sync the new folders because those folders did not exist during the last synchronization. Instead, I must use the WD Sync software to locate those new folders and place a checkmark next to them. This will include them in the sync process.

The WD Passport comes in a variety of storage sizes, like 60GB, 80GB, 120GB, 250GB etc. I would recommend it to anyone looking to use an external USB hard drive because the user-friendly software really makes a big difference to me.

MusicRescue – Transfer Music from Your iPod to a new PC August 9, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, iPod, music, Software, Technology, Worth the Money.
1 comment so far

iPodsiPods

If your computer dies and takes your music with it, you still have your iPod, right? However, iTunes only lets you transfer tracks bought from the iTunes Store back to your new/fixed computer. What about those tracks ripped from CD, or lovingly recorded from your vinyl collection? Enter Music Rescue – the answer to your nightmare.

Quote from the MusicRescue web site

Col. Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I’m entitled.
Col. Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth.
Col. Jessep: You can’t handle the truth.

 

Here’s the truth:

If you’re assuming that your iPod doubles as a backup device for your music, you’ll be in for an unhappy surprise if your PC does crash. As stated above, music that you’ve put on your iPod that does not originate from the iTunes store cannot be transferred back to a PC with the standard iTunes/iPod software.

For example, you take your favorite Dave Matthews Band CD, Busted Stuff, and copy those songs from the CD to your iTunes software and then to your iPod. These songs didn’t come from the iTunes store so they won’t transfer from your iPod back to your iTunes software in the event of a hard drive meltdown or laptop theft.

Don’t believe me? There are folks on Yahoo Answers looking for a solution to this very problem.

I assume Apple designed it this way to limit the possibility of music piracy (Arrgh, matey!) and ease the concerns of the music industry. I think it’s a bit late for that, but it is what it is.

MusicRescue is a nicely designed piece of software to help you solve this problem. You install onto your iPod and it then allows you to transfer all of your music from your iPod to any PC. MusicRescue calls this their iPod License.

There is also a different type of registration (called the Computer License) that allows you to install MusicRescue onto a PC and then transfer it to as many different iPods as you like. This may be a solution for a family of iPodders who share one PC or one music collection.

The MusicRescue software has both a free and a paid version. The features in both versions are the same. However, the free version “politely” reminds you that you should pay for the software while you’re copying music.

I haven’t tried the free version, so I don’t know if the “polite” reminder pauses the copying process and requires your presence to click OK. I suspect that it does, which means that you may find yourself glued to your PC clicking an OK button for however long it takes to transfer the music.

Keep this product in mind in case you find yourself in this type of situation. It works well on a Windows PC or a Mac.

You may download the software from MusicRescue web site by clicking here..

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.    :  )

VFlyer.com: Create and Distribute Flyers Online for Free August 1, 2007

Posted by Mike in Business, Free Kittens, Freebies, Online Service, Technology, Worth the Money.
2 comments

A colleague of mine at work sent around an email the other day.  She found 6 adorable kittens under her house and wanted to find homes for them.  Her husband is very allergic, so keeping any of them wasn’t an option. Her last resort is to turn them into an animal shelter, but she doesn’t want to do so for fear they’ll be euthanized.

I offered to help her by creating an online flyer using vflyer.com.  Their service is great and the flyers are easy to use.  You begin by selecting the purpose of your flyer.  In other words, are you selling your house or your car? Advertising a job opening? Offering your computer services for hire? Classes? Tryouts for a sports team?

They didn’t quite have a flyer for “Free Cats”, but I just took their template for Pet for Sale and set the price to $0.00.  That seemed to do the trick.

 With the flyer created, you can choose to:

  1. Print the flyer
  2. Email the flyer
  3. Publish the flyer to the online marketplace of edgeio, Oodle, Vast, Trulia, Google Base, Craigslist, etc.
  4. Send the flyer to mobile devices, like phones.
  5. Embed the flyer into a widget and post it to a blog.

 Vflyer offers various pricing plans as well as a free account. Not all of the features are available to free account users. 

All in all, it is a very user-friendly and effective service. I’d suggest you give it a try the next time you’re trying to sell your car, your computer or searching for homes for a few cuddly kittens.

YouSendIt.com – How To Send Large File Attachments July 25, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Humor, International Lawyer, Online Service, Technology, Worth the Money.
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YouSendIt.com

It is bound to happen to you sooner or later.  You’ve got an attachment that is too large to email.  Your email service may limit the size of an attachment you can send or perhaps the recipient of your email has a service that limits their attachment size.  Or, you’ve got no size limit but the sheer size of the attachment brings your email service to a grinding halt as it tries to send the attachment.

Sooner or later, you’ve got to ask yourself if there’s an easier way. 

It happened to my friend James.  James is a globe trotting lawyer with a zest for life and a sense of humor.  This latter character trait led him to an open mic night at a comedy club in Asia.  Now, he thinks he’s funny.  He says he has proof. He has a video. 

He wanted to post it to YouTube but the video is 70 MB in size and he isn’t sure how to compress it.  Emailing it was not an option. Burning it to a CD and sending it via the postal service is so 2001.  We’re in Web 2.0 nowadays, so James found yousendit.com.

YouSendit.com allows you to securely upload large files and then email a link to a person to download the file.  They have a FREE version (gotta love it) and they also have subscription accounts with more oomph, should you need it.

YouSendit.com has been selected as one of the Top 100 private companies for 2007 by AlwaysOn. They were also recently awarded a place on the Webware 100 list, so they’re a highly regarded company.

Their service is easy to sign up for and use. The free account is great for personal use. Small business owners looking for an inexpensive file sharing solution may want to subscribe to one of their business accounts. By doing so, you can securely share files and not have to worry about purchasing computer hardware and hiring a technician to maintain the hardware.

As always, visit the company’s blog for the latest news.

As for my friend James….is he funny? I’ll let you know as soon as I download his video.

Blinksale – Easy Online Invoicing for any Business July 17, 2007

Posted by Mike in Business, Freebies, Online Service, Technology, Worth the Money.
2 comments

Do you need a professional looking invoice for your business? Look no further than Blinksale.  I logged into the site today and took advantage of their free account to create a Sample Invoice.  It took me about 15 minutes. 

If you only need to issue the occassional invoice,  the free account allows you to create and send up to 3 invoices per month.  If you’re doing more business than that, you should consider upgrading to a pay account. The prices are reasonable, ranging from $12 per month to send up to 50 invoices to $49 a month to send up to 1500 invoices.  Click here to read more about pricing. 

A nice feature is the ability to view open, closed and past due invoices via your Blinksale account.  You can email or print invoices.  With a pay account, you can also generate the invoice as a PDF.

All in all, it seems like a good service for the small business person who is looking for an inexpensive yet professional invoicing service.

Checkout the Blinksale blog for more information too.

Get Organized with “Tidy Start Menu” Software July 9, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Organize, Software, Technology, Worth the Money.
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Do you get tired of looking through the long list of installed programs on your start menu?

I know I do. So did Dennis Nazarenko and he decided to do something about it. He created a software program called “Tidy Start Menu.” The program allows a user to quickly and easily arrange the list of installed software programs on a computer into categories.

He offers two versions. One is free and the other is an “extended” version that currently costs $19.99. Either version can be downloaded from his web site, www.tidystartmenu.com.

Click here to download the free version.

Click here to register and download the pay version.

I downloaded the free version to test it out. The version I installed is v3.3 and I used it on a Windows XP Professional Operating System.

I found it very intuitive and easy to use, especially if you choose to operate the software in “Simple Mode”. It is not a misnomer.

In the free version, you are not able to create your own category names. You must use the ones that come in the program.

These categories are:
Office, Utilities, Games, Entertainment, Internet, Programming, Graphics, Security and Other.

If you aren’t satisfied with these options, then the pay version is a better choice for you.

I do suggest taking a moment to use the Backup feature in the software. You can store a backup of your original start menu and revert back to it in case you don’t like the results when you use Tidy Start Menu.

The program organized my programs menu with ease. However, a word of caution: It also organizes the programs menu for ALL other profiles on my computer. I happen to use both a work and personal profile on my computer, so the changes I applied using Tidy Start Menu on my work profile carried over to my personal one.

For me, this is not a problem. However, it may be if you share a computer with a family member, colleague or roommate who logs in with their own profile and doesn’t appreciate your attempts at organizing the cluttered programs menu.

I also found it interesting that the Tidy Start Menu program only appears on the Program Files Menu of the profile that you used to install it. I installed it using my work profile. The program doesn’t display on the programs menu for my home profile, so I couldn’t use it easily from my home profile.

Often, software programs offer the installer a choice to make the program available to ‘everyone’ or to ‘just me’.  This program didn’t.  I uninstalled and re-installed it just to make sure I didn’t miss the option.  It isn’t there.

All in all, those are small issues and the program works well as advertised. I recommend it as an option to someone looking to get their computer organized.

Moo.com – Creative Cards for Business or Fun July 3, 2007

Posted by Mike in Business, Creative, Fun, Online Service, Technology, Worth the Money.
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Moo MiniCards

Looking for a way to jazz up your business cards? Want to make a memorable “save the date” card for your wedding? Look no further than moo.com.

Their web service allows you to make cards by uploading your own photos or choosing from a large selection of stock photos like nature scenes, puppy dogs, flowers, buildings, city scenes, etc. The cards are quite unique, especially if you’re using your own photos.

The MiniCard size is distinctive too….it’s only half the size of a standard business card. I’d equate it to the size of a stick of gum. Sadly, I don’t have a stick of gum to conduct an official measurement, but it’s in the ballpark. The site lists the miniCard size as 20mm x 70mm. Living in the last non-metric measuring country on our blue marble of a planet, those numbers don’t mean much to me.

One side of the card is the photo……..the other side is your contact info or message. You can order a pack of 100 cards (cost $19.99 + shipping) and select multiple photos for your cards. That’s what I did when I bought some. Variety is more fun anyway, right?

If the MiniCard is too Mini for you, then you may want to look at their NoteCard size instead.

Some people are getting very creative with the cards. Click here for a fun example listed on Moo’s site.

If you’re starting a business and want to be remembered, planning an event or just want to get a bit creative, try Moo.com. I think they’d be great for musicians, actors and artists too. Oh, and read their blog for more Moo.

Kodak Gallery – Mobile Photo Scanning June 29, 2007

Posted by Mike in Online Service, Organize, Photos, Technology, Worth the Money.
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As a regular user of the Kodak Gallery (formerly Ofoto), I get periodic emails about their products and services. A recent email about a mobile Scan Van caught my attention.

Here’s the scoop: Kodak will send a high tech van to a shopping mall, school or other location. They’ll ask customers to schedule appointments with them. Their staff will then scan and upload 200 photos for $24.99 into a customer’s free account at the online Kodak Gallery.

Scanning by professionals with professional equipment for $24.99?

That’s quite a deal, especially for those who either aren’t comfortable using a computer scanner or don’t have the time to do it. A person could convert several photo albums worth of pictures into digital copies quickly and inexpensively.

With the pictures digitized, you can view them online, share them with friends and family and have an online backup of precious photos. It looks like a good idea from Kodak: Taking the hassle out of picture scanning and giving people all the benefits of digital photos.

Of course, the only downside I see at the moment is a BIG one:

At the time of this posting, the Kodak “Scan Van” is only scheduled for events in Atlanta and North Florida. Ouch. I’m not about to hop on a plane to take advantage of their service, but I’ll keep an eye out for any future events in Northern California.

The Kodak Scan Van!