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      “@Shawn - Money can apparently buy a LOT of happiness - and it seems to come in the form of pills and smoke-able items. *sigh* (yeah, sure you didn'”
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      “Justin - ah, so you keep separate accounts - how much bleeds over though? Do you think people pay attention to DuckDuckBlue? Or just to JustinRyan? Do”
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      “I guess my point is... if an employer is going to delve that deeply into someone's stuff as to look back through their wife's silly twitter account, d”

Archive for August, 2007

PostHeaderIcon Works-ing for Free?

Yep. In an effort to appease the many, many people who think Microsoft needs to make productivity software more affordable, Works 9.0 will be available on new systems soon, for free.

As long as you don’t mind ads in the corner. Or a software package that hooks itself up to the web to update the ad content. Is it just me or do most of us spend money on software every year to STOP programs on our computer that access the Internet and download ads to our systems?

For the retail price of $40 you can get a key to make this ad-supported Works ad-free. Or download the trial version of Office 2007 (for free – but only for a limited time).

Frankly, I’ve always thought of Works as substandard software – just enough functionality to tick a girl off and not enough to allow you to really get any work done. For my money-or lack thereof-I’ll take OpenOffice any day!

PostHeaderIcon Surface Computing

I know a lot of people have seen this, but it has recently come into the news once again. What is it? Microsofts latest “super gadget” the Surface Computer.

Surface computing is straight out of science fiction. Remember in the movie “Deja Vu” they had that nifty screen that covered an entire wall? They could walk up to it and interact with it, even multiple people at a time? Well, that is part of the theory behind the surface computer.

Additionally, the surface computer is able to connect to specially designed devices that rest on top of it. What to move pictures from your laptop to your PDA? No problem: draw a circle around the them with your finger, and drag them on over!

Here are a couple of interesting articles that go more indept into the features and benefits Microsoft is promising in their first Surface Computer:

http://www.microsoft.com/surface/

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2007/may07/05-29MSSurfacePR.mspx

PostHeaderIcon Happy Birthday UPS!

UPS Turns 100 today.

For more info on the company’s origins (a nifty story, incidentally, and kind of inspiring to small business owners) and history, check it out here.

Yahoo! news also did a story on the UPS anniversary earlier this month, but the reliability of their news links leaves a bit to be desired. If it’s still up, you can find the story here.

Here’s to you, UPS!

Receptionists and admins all over the world thank you for making the driver’s uniform a pair of shorts! 😉

PostHeaderIcon Technology & the Future of Business

This is a fantastic article from Entrepreneur.com. The focus is on the impact of technology on small business.

It makes a number of excellent points about mobility, accessibility, and networking. Since I will be on the road this weekend the mobility aspect is priceless to me. I love being up to able to pick up and go and still get my work done.

What better way to take advantage of new tech advances than to hire a VA? All the benefits of an employee, none of the overhead. What’s not to love?

PostHeaderIcon A pretty cool thing…

There was a recent discussion on a listserv I am on talking about how much personal information we should share with clients, each other, the general public, etc. I try to keep things professional, yes, but I like to think people realize I’m a human too, just not someone that moves numbers around all day *laugh*. I’m also pretty open with my life. If anyone wants to find something out about me, it’s not that hard 😉

Having said that… at the risk of over-sharing, I wanted to share kind of a cool thing that is happening in my life right now. We owned a home several years ago, but it was a money pit and we eventually sold it to get out of it and vowed to never buy a house again. Plus I don’t like fixing stuff when it breaks – I just pick up the phone and call someone. I still do that actually.

Anyway, so we are living in a 4 bedroom home that I just love (see that picture over there? Look at all those bookcases! They are full now of course – about 600 lovely books) and my son absolutely loves his school and we have the best neighbors in the world and we have this amazing backyard. It seemed so silly to move so we had every intention of staying here forever… until the landlord told us he was going to sell it. Talk about panic!

So… we are buying this house. I wasn’t all that thrilled about it to be honest at first given the nightmare that was our first home. But then I realized. Oh my goodness. We are able to BUY A HOUSE. Our income in our business is such that we can afford and the bank approves of us having a mortgage. I realize this is not a big deal for some people, but you know… I think it’s pretty cool. What a measure of success for me. Oh, I still have a lot of places I want to take OffAssist, but this is for sure a major milestone. Tom and I run this business together. It IS our income and we are good at what we do. It feels pretty darn good to know that we are actually making a living doing what we love and doing it ourselves.

Have a great weekend everyone… and thanks for letting me babble 🙂

PostHeaderIcon The Paperclip Saga Continues…

If you read The Paperclip Rebellion, you are probably wondering what exactly DID happen to Penelope. Well, to answer your question, I’m going to share the email that went out to my friend.

====

Dear X,

We apologize for the delay in getting back to you on the status of Penelope. In her “delicate condition” we just could not bear the thought of her going through the hazards of the US Postal Service. You see, shortly after she arrived here, she had a liaison with one of our domestic paperclips name Louie. Louie has been a great help to us through the years, and it took us completely by surprise when Louie suddenly disappeared. It was at this time that Penelope came to us in tears and informed us that she was expecting.

Yes, Penelope was pregnant!

Since this happened while Penelope was in our care, we take full responsibility. We have taken the burden of her medical bills, and those of the child, upon ourselves. We would not even imagine asking you for any sort of compensation. The joy of having Penelope, and now little Claude, in our house has been recompense enough.

To add even more happiness to the tale: Louie has come home! He and Penelope have been through counseling together and have decided to make a go at being a real family. Louie is currently working on Candy’s desk. He recently got a promotion and is in charge of holding our contract to purchase our house together. Penelope is so proud, and little Claude is the spitting image of his Daddy!

So, as you can see, we just cannot see our way to break this new family up. Penelope has applied for citizenship in our household. We hope that you will not hold this against her, as she seemed very happy with your household but has found the love of her life in ours.

Penelope, Louie, and Little Claude send their best!

PS: Wow..you might want to start thinking about putting in place some immigration restrictions. Penelope has been preaching the glories of your household to many of the other paper clips on Candy’s desk. Looks like we might want to go into the paper clip tourist trade!

PSS: I’m enclosing a picture of Penelope with her new daughter for you.

PostHeaderIcon Not-Seeing Spots – Color Laser Tracking

Did you know that your color laser printer may be telling tales?

Apparently many of them print tiny yellow microdots, invisible to the naked eye but that show up under blue LED light in a dark room, on your documents. It is supposedly security encoding, but no one knows what information is encoded in the dots, other than the device serial number.

According to what little has been said by printer manufacturers and the government (both in the US and the EU), the dot identifiers are intended to be a counterfeiting deterrent and a way to help the government locate and prosecute counterfeiters.

The big problem I see with this is that no one will talk about it. No one will come out and say “this is the mark – this is the information encoded in it”. There is too much unknown from the consumer end. It also deprives people of their anonymity.

Technically, anonymity is not a guaranteed right, but it sure as heck encourages free speech–how many of you read (or write!) an anonymous blog? One where the writer can unload about life or work in a way that will protect them from reprisal. That is the glory of anonymity and THAT is what this printer watermarking takes from people.

Seriously. People have been faking money for as long as nations have been making money, color printers aren’t really the problem Big Bro!

There are a few really good articles out there on this, so I’m just going to give you a list, starting with the first one I read:

Seeing yellow over color printer tracking devices
at LinuxJournal.com

Seeing Yellow – official web home of the campaign to stamp out printer tracking

Government Uses Color Laser Printer Technology to Track Documents at PC World’s site – one of the first articles to report printer device tracking

PostHeaderIcon Mac vs. PC

I just finished answering an e-mail from a client asking which was better: Mac or PC. The whole of that conversation will be in my next techtip. However, there was one topic that I did not touch upon, and thought I would cover it now.

Virus Protection

So the Mac people would have you believe that Apple computers are immune from viral attacks. This is just not true. The truth of the matter is that 99.9% of virus’ are targeted at Windows operating systems. Seriously, if you were going to spend the time to write software, at which market would you target you product?

Windows: 90%
Linux: 6.5%
Apple: 3.5%

Yes, I think I would go for the Windows computers as well. As have most major software and hardware manufacturers.

So yes, Windows is more susceptible to viral attacks. However, if Apple and Linux get their wishes, soon they will be facing many of the same difficulties facing Windows. Of course, we all know that hackers adapt faster than large corporations.

Which do you think with get to the Mac first: the virus’, or the software to prevent them?

PostHeaderIcon Preparing for the Great Unknown

Success and stability are fragile things, like Jenga. All it takes is removing one of the many bricks in the tower to bring it all crashing down.

That one brick can be something different for each person, family, or business. The most common unforeseen disaster people face is job loss. Also high on the list is sudden and/or severe physical or mental illness. The death of a loved one, a parent in failing health who suddenly needs full-time care. A major storm that damages your home or business.

All of these things can bring your carefully built financial tower down if you don’t have some sort of plan in place. Think of it as emergency management.

The most stressful thing about many of these situations is the financial burden it causes. Accountingweb had a really great excerpt last month from Gail Perry’s Quicken All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies about emergency funds. It gives brief info on how much you should have in your fund, where to find it, some rough guidelines for when to use it and when not to.

Here are a couple of other good articles on emergency funds:

Building an Emergency Fund at Bankrate.com

The $0 Emergency Fund at MSNMoney.com offers a different take

PostHeaderIcon Need to Know? Call VANetworking!

Tawnya Sutherland, of VANetwortking.com, wants everyone to know about VAs.

VAs have been in the media a lot lately, with features on ABC, the Today show, and Tawnya’s recent interview with a Philadelphia radio station.

To make it easier for practicing VAs and the media to connect, Tawnya has created a web-based survey asking VAs a variety of questions that may be helpful to media contacts. What is your primary niche? Specialty? Location? How long in business? etc.

Read Tawnya’s press release here.

If you are a VA and would like to take part in the survey (I did it a week or so ago), it will be open until September 15, 2007. VAs who participate will be credited in the final survey results with a link to their website. You can find the survey HERE.