Tuesday, March 30, 2004

My Breakfast is Lunch and My Lunch is Dinner 

For years my husband has been after me to eat breakfast. As a staid and stolid member of the “Breakfast Cereal Rules” club it annoys the heck out of him that I refuse to eat the stuff. But with the possible exception of Lucky Charms (which even I admit is magically delicious) I really hate it. For me, cereal is too soggy, too sweet, or too boring. Plus it has the unpleasant effect of making my morning cappuccino taste not as sweet and delicious.

As for eggs, they take too long (both in the preparation and in the cleanup), and they are not exactly good for you unless you are on the Atkins bandwagon. (And since Atkins is currently six feet under, I don’t think that’s such a good advertisement for eggs.) French toast is too complicated for the morning (there's the whole cinnamon vs. nutmeg controversy to consider) and pancakes are too starchy. Eggos end up in my freezer for so long that they turn white around the edges and then I’m afraid to eat them. Toast is just boring. And I am never in the mood for fruit in the morning unless I am on a cruise ship headed for the buffet.

The only time I will usually eat breakfast is if it’s brought to me in bed along with the newspaper. (Or if my mother is visiting and makes me egg-in-the-hole-in-the-bread.)

So I end up breaking my daily fast with lunch, which is usually leftover from dinner the night before…another habit that drives my husband crazy. He has this “thing” about eating dinner foods for lunch. Apparently it wasn’t done in his family. But he doesn’t like leftovers, so if I don’t eat leftover dinners for lunch, when the heck will that food be eaten? I am doing it a favor!

Maybe I will have scrambled eggs for dinner tonight. That would fit right in with my modus operandi.
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Monday, March 29, 2004

Word of Web 

I’ve owned ComputerEase since 1989. With the exception of one bartered-for ad in the old Desktop Publisher Newsletter (early 90’s), a listing in the Philadelphia Women’s Yellow Pages (late-80’s and currently) and an online listing in the Philadelphia Business Journal online (just recently), I’ve never advertised. Most of my business opportunities have come my way via word-of-mouth.

In addition to saving the cost of advertising, word-of-mouth comes accompanied by the built in appeal of a personal recommendation and assumed credibility. If you need a particular service and a friend or colleague gives you the name and number of a contractor they’ve used or know personally, you are more likely to enter into that new relationship with a bit more trust that you would if it were a un-vouched-for stranger.

Lately I’ve been looking into a few web sites that attempt to emulate this word-of-mouth networking. Business networking sites allow members to post a business profiles and/or skills list, and then personally invite business contacts to do the same -- thereby creating an online networking circle. By joining (usually free for basic memberships) you are allowed certain privileges, such as searching for employees or jobs or investigating companies that you have a pending deal with.

The first site I checked into (and joined) was LinkIn.com. This site let me post a profile and list my skills. Potential employers who are linked to the site through colleagues can search for freelancers and find me, or I can search for contract work. I liked this site because it had a very professional look to it, and it seemed well-organized. Check it out and let me know what you think. (And if you are a business professional who wants to join my circle, let me know!)

Here are some other similar sites to check out:

Ryze is a business site where members get their own home page and can exchange messages with other members. They can also join (or create) topic-specific networks. The guy who created this was the founding investor in Napster: Adrian Scott. I am not sure if that’s a plus or a minus given the controversy Napster started!

Spoke Software claims to help you network faster and more effectively. Spoke lets you do job and hiring searches, get insider information about companies and personal introductions to hiring managers in the “right” departments. This seems like a great site for people who depend on networking to sustain their careers (like salespeople). I didn’t sign up – but that doesn’t mean it’s not right for you.

ZeroDegrees had an story posted about the concept: “As an experiment in 1967, Stanley Milgram, a Harvard psychologist, sent 300 letters to randomly selected Omaha residents, asking them to forward a letter to a designated "target" person using only their personal networks. It turned out the average number of steps from the Omaha to the Boston-based target was six, giving birth to the expression, "six degrees of separation." ZeroDegrees (ZDI) claims to automate Milgram's process. ZDI attempts to replicate the social process we use when we ask colleagues with an introduction. If no one knows the person directly, they ask others on our behalf. If all parties along the way agree, an introduction is made and discreet contact information shared. The site deos this by using proprietary technology that utilizes your Outlook address book. I didn’t sign up for this one because I don’t use Outlook, but if I did, I probably would have tried it.

It’s Not What You Know (my vote for best name of a business networking site) allows you to visually see how you know others. They claim this is important because it lets you see who your contacts know and what mutual connections you have. Knowing these connections can help you obtain your next job, find that key client, start a business relationship, and more. I liked this site and may sign up when I have time to read all of the “rules.”

I plan on exploring these sites a bit more and may join a few of them. If you sign up – send me an invite so I can be part of your “circle!”
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Saturday, March 27, 2004

Why I Hate Computers 

I have a love/hate relationship with computers. I love them when they work and I hate them when they don't.

On Friday night my husband and I went on a “date” to the local computer store where we bought the necessary equipment to finally get him off dial-up and onto my fast DSL connection. This purchase wasn't planned -- we were there just to buy a cable, actually. But there happened to be a really knowledgeable Macintosh computer dude at the store for a change (he worked for Apple and not the store, which explains it) and once he painted the pretty picture of how it could all work, we decided to go for it.

After two hours, two beers, and one additional trip back to the computer store (why wouldn’t they include a cable with the Airport hub?), the entire network was operational! I celebrated with a Cosmopolitan and pajamas. My husband celebrated by setting up his iPod to download songs from the iTunes store.

Thus is the nature of dating in your forties.

However, all week there was something in my background processor troubling me. (My background processor is the part of my brain where I cogitate on things I don't really want to deal with head-on, like social security, perimenopause, and strange moles.) Upstairs, my husband's Mac was working fine. In my office my Mac was working fine, and so was my PC. But I couldn't get my portable PC to connect to the internet. (And yes, I know it sounds ridiculous but sometimes I actually NEED to have three computers on the Internet at once. I don't know how I ever managed to do business with only one computer back in the "old days," otherwise known as the 90’s.)

Sometime during the early part of this week I surmised that I must have a bad port in my hub because I could get the portable to connect if I used a different port. (A hub is the hardware thingie that lets me share my DSL with all of these computers; a port is the plug where the Ethernet cable gets stuck into.) So I ordered a new hub online. The new hub arrived yesterday and last night – one week exactly after we got the entire network working – I managed to totally annihilate my network.

I hate computers.

My husband was at work, so I decided to swap out my old hub with my new one. (That was my first mistake – I should have waited for him to do this with me since he would have actually forced me to read the instructions.) I thought it would be simple…just plug it in and move the cables from the old to the new, right?


At first, everything seemed to work OK downstairs, but I couldn’t get his computer functioning on the network. After trying a dozen different combinations of various settings, and wearing out my knees climbing the two flights of stairs, I decided to give up for the night.

All night long I tossed and turned to multi-colored cable-ridden nightmares where I inevitably ended up being electrocuted while standing naked on a cold and windy beach.

Even my subconscious mind hates computers.

This morning, bolstered by a very strong cup of cappuccino, I decided to give it another whirl. I’d been smart enough to draw a picture of what my network looked like before I made the change to the new hub, so I figured that I would just put everything back the way it was and everything would be fine. Then I would just return that new hub and release my mind from this self-induced torture.

And that’s when things got worse.

Not only could I not get my husband’s computer to access the Internet, but both of my office computers decided to shun the Internet as well.

Have I mentioned that I hate computers?

Nothing I did worked. I tried starting from scratch, unplugging stuff, turning stuff off and on, restarting various computers, changing settings, resetting settings, faking settings, having more cappuccino, and finally, in desperation, I called Apple and got Tiffany from Canada.

Tiffany was relaxed and knowledgeable. Just what my caffeine-rattled nerves needed.

Ninety minutes later it was determined that the Ethernet card in my Macintosh had picked that very week to go bad. Suspicious, but having been involved with computers long enough to know that anything is possible, I conceded that this was possible. Luckily, Tiffany had a workaround for me. Without getting into the technical details (if you want to know, just e-mail me), we got everything working again.

I love computers.
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Friday, March 26, 2004

Of Hijacked Browsers and Dangerous Registry Edits 

So I found this very cool screensaver online and decided to download it.

I should know better, dontcha think? I mean I am, after all, "in the business."

A day later when my browser came down with a serious case of the "weirds," -- a new toolbar appearing that I hadn't installed, a side panel that wasn't there before, an inclination to go to the Incredifind site at every possible chance -- I knew I'd caught something. Sigh.

I ran PestPatrol and it found 211 cases of Adware and Spyware on my computer, none of which were invited there by me, I might add. I was shocked, although not awed.

Adware is a separate program that is installed to a shareware or freeware program (in this case it must have some attached to that very cool screensaver I just had to have). Adware generates advertising even when the user is not running the program that it came with. The so-called justification for adware is that it helps recover programming development cost and helps to hold down the cost for the user.

Adware has been criticized for occasionally including code that tracks a user's personal information and passes it on to third parties, without the user's authorization or knowledge. This practice has been dubbed spyware and has prompted an outcry from computer security and privacy advocates, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Noted privacy software expert Steve Gibson of Gibson Research explains: "Spyware is any software (that) employs a user's Internet connection in the background (the so-called 'backchannel') without their knowledge or explicit permission. Silent background use of an Internet 'backchannel' connection must be preceded by a complete and truthful disclosure of proposed backchannel usage, followed by the receipt of explicit, informed consent for such use. Any software communicating across the Internet absent of these elements is guilty of information theft and is properly and rightfully termed: Spyware."

While the PestPatrol program had identified 211 instances of Adware or Spyware on computer, for some reason it could not delete all of them for me, so I had to hand-edit the Windows Registry, which as any sane computer user knows, is a very dangerous thing to do. One false move in the Registry and you could send your computer into a tailspin that only the PC Doctor can fix. This took hours and almost pre-empted a trip to Costco, about which I would have been truly pissed.

Eventually, I got rid of every single item that PestPatrol had identified. The support dude at my ISP suggested that I also try Lavasoft's Ad-Aware, so I downloaded the latest free version of that and ran it. Much to my surprise Ad-Aware found an additional 25 items that shouldn't have been there. After letting Ad-Aware get rid of those items for me I restarted the computer and ran Norton, which found 25 registry errors. YIKES! Luckily, Norton fixed all of them for me automatically, so I got to go to Costco after all.

The next time I hear the siren call of a fancy schmancy screensaver I will steer my boat in another direction.
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Thursday, March 18, 2004

Virtual Champagne 

I am sharing a glass of virtual champagne with all of you who took the time in the last few days to review my new ComputerEase website design while it was being tested at geekygurl.com. I incorporated many of your comments within the site's design, organization, and text, and I know it's a better site because of YOU! So cheers!

The site is now LIVE at its proper URL: http://www.karinrex.com.

That said, a website is a living, breathing thing, and it is not intended to be static...so there is always room for improvement. So if any of you get any other great ideas -- send 'em in!

My next mountain to attack is to get my geekyGURL.com site up and running and then moving this blog to that site. But first, I really gotta get back to my "real" job!
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Sunday, March 14, 2004

Construction Site 

A lot of you have asked me why I haven't been blogging lately, so I figured I better post my reason. I have been working on a complete redesign of my web pages and that has been taking up all of my time.

I got "shamed" into this because a potential client mentioned that he'd been exploring my web pages and instead of being glad I was embarrassed because it's been so long since I've done anything with my site and I have never really liked the design. It's not that the information is bad, it's just so boring looking and I think somebody in my business should have a better web site. (Shoemaker's children and alla that.)

So go take a look at it now (so you know what it used to look like), and I will post a blog when I am finished so you can see the new look:

Karin Rex & ComputerEase
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