With Pessach around the corner, many people are busy scrubbing their homes to rid them of all signs of chametz. In honor of this season of cleaning, here are 6 (mostly) free tips on housekeeping for your computer that anyone can do to keep it optimized and in good health:
- Antivirus program â€“ make sure you have a good antivirus program installed on your computer, and that is constantly being updated. Two good antivirus programs are Norton Antivirus and McAfee, and they cost about $40-$50 for a one year license. These programs are constantly monitoring your computer’s activity in the background, and scan documents and email attachments for potential threats. Once a week, manually update your antivirus program and run a complete scan of all of your computer.
- Disk and registry cleanup â€“ as you install, uninstall and run your programs, a lot of garbage files are created that take up space and slow down your computer’s performance. I use a free program called CCleaner to clean up my computer. CCleaner analyzes your hard drive for files that can be safely deleted, such as temporary files and cookies. For example, I just ran it and deleted 360 MB of extra stuff. Then it scanned the computer for issues, and identified registry files that needed to be fixed.
- Update your Windows and Office software â€“ To update your Windows, go to http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/. It checks your computer to see what updates you need, and installs them for free (as long as you have authentic Windows software).
- Protect your computer against spyware â€“ As you surf the web, chances are little files and programs are being deposited on your computer without your permission. It is recommended that you run at least two different anti-spyware programs, since they tend to catch different things. I use Windows Defender and AVG Anti-Spyware, both of which are free. Update your anti-spyware programs and run a full system scan at least once a week.
- Disk defragmentation â€“ In Windows go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. Analyze your hard drive, and then defragment. Defragmenting your disk organizes your file system and helps Windows read files faster. Don’t do anything on your computer while it is defragmenting your hard drive. Do this about once a month.
- Backup backup backup! Wouldn’t it suck if that paper you were working on for days was lost forever? Backup as frequently as you don’t want to lose new information. You can burn your information onto a CD or DVD, portable hard drive, or use any of the online services. Just make sure to do it.
A happy computer means a happy computer user!
Happy Pessach and enjoy the matza!
For a while I’ve wanted to start a category dedicated to book reviews, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. But now I’ve been motivated by an incentive: Chris Garrett, the author of Killer Flagship Content (I can’t link to it because you can only read it if you subscribe to his blog), is a top-tier blogger who has offered a link back to the site of anyone who reviews his book, plus an early preview of his next ebook. So I can win three times here: I finally get going on the book reviews, I get a link to my blog from a big-time guy (which is worth gold in the blogging world, for those of you who aren’t familiar with blog currency), and I get to preview another book, which is pretty exciting for a book lover like me.
Killer Flagship Content brings an interesting premise, which can be applied to more than just blogging: the value of flagship content, or flagship anything. The idea is that if you create something that brings great value to others, people will always return to your site/blog/store/school. Garrett doesn’t expand the idea that far in this ebook, and only concentrates on the value of flagship content on the Internet.
According to Garrett, flagship content is “so compelling it draws visitors like a magnet,” and is “about long term value.” He goes through the reasons why someone would want to create such valuable content, how to go about doing it, and how to create content that people perceive as valuable. He’s talking about creating a report, white paper, or ebook (ahem) that gives value to readers.
[With this ebook, Chris is doing the old reflexive thing which is like looking at your reflection in a mirror in a mirror: the book itself is a great example of killer flagship content. It's as if you don't even have to read it, you can just look at it and get the message.]
The ebook is an interesting read, since I’ve never before come across a text that totally focuses on the idea of creating specific pieces of valuable content. It also emphasizes that we are living in an era where information holds great value, and those who can provide valuable content will be those that succeed.
There are two things that bothered me about this book:
- It needs MAJOR editing! I know my threshold is probably lower than that of others since my profession revolves around English content, but it’s hard to read through this book when you keep getting jolted by misspelled words, missing punctuation, and grammatical errors. This is a good piece of work, and I think Chris should give it the respect it deserves and polish it up. Interestingly, his blog entries are basically error-free. So why did he ignore the book? (Seth Godin’s ebooks almost never have writing errors. And he could probably make mistakes and people would still read his stuff.)
- Why does everyone have to call everything “Killer“? There are so many Killer guides, and Killerest tips and tricks, and I can never get used to that word. It’s just so dramatic. It’s too self-assured. I guess it works, but it just screams “I’ve read the statistics and I know that if I use the word Killer, then everyone will read my manifesto on “10 Killer Steps to Better Underwater Basket Weaving.”
So Chris, here’s your review. Good job. Just start dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s, kay?
Like many people, I use more than one computer for my work. Some people use their computer in their home plus an office computer, and some like myself, have a desktop and a laptop. My laptop allows me to be mobile and work wherever I like and take my material to meetings with clients, but laptops have their drawbacks. First of all, their processing strength is almost always weaker than that of a desktop. Users of heavy graphic programs may be limited by their laptops. In addition, you can’t beat a 17 inch screen for readability and usability, and a real keyboard for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome â€“ two things laptops generally lack.
To ensure that the information on my computers was synchronized, I was constantly transferring my files back and forth between them over our wireless network. This was a time-consuming and annoying process, so now I just leave the files on my laptop and access them via the network from my desktop. This worked fine but I remained with one very annoying problem â€“ Outlook. My Outlook is critical to my work flow, but transferring the information back and forth between two computers is painful. To make matters worse, I use Outlook with Business Contact Manager, an excellent free tool which uses its own separate database file, making it even more difficult to synchronize Outlook data between computers. Aaargh.
LogMeIn to the rescue! LogMeIn has a free version that is simple to use, and allows you to access any computer via the web. All you need is any web browser and an Internet connection, and you can use your remote computer as if you were sitting in front of it.
To sign up:
- Go to LogMeIn and click on Create an account at the top of the screen.
- Create your account. Make sure to select LogMeIn Free as your service of choice. Of course, you can choose to use one of their paid services which include additional features if you find them useful. To see a comparison of the different LogMeIn products, click here.
- Once that is completed, you will be directed to download the LogMeIn software on to your computer. You only need to do this for PCs that you will want to access remotely. For example, if you have a desktop and laptop and you know you will want to access your desktop remotely via your laptop, only download the software to your desktop. If you have more than one computer that you want to access remotely, you can download the software to them too and choose which ones to access in each session.
To access your remote computer:
- Go to LogMeIn and log in to your account.
- Click on the computer that you want to access, and enter your computer access code that you defined during setup. A browser with three options appears.
- Click on Go in the Remote Control section.
Your remote desktop now appears in the browser window. You can work there as if you were sitting in front of that computer.
Good, Bad or Ugly
LogMeIn is good. It does what it’s supposed to do, and does it well. In general, I find that there is very little delay when I am accessing a remote PC, meaning that if I click on a file, it opens almost as quickly as if I was sitting in front of the computer. It is easy to install and easy to use.
No bad. The service works well, and doesn’t make any excuses due to its being free.
Ugly? Nope. The interface is simple and clean, and you can easily toggle your view of your remote PC from full screen to actual size.
One of the challenges of running your small business is the number of tasks for which you are responsible. Your tasks range from the exciting to the mundane, the very short-term to the very long-term, and are related to clients, service providers, and even your family.
While we all want our businesses to grow, this growth brings with it many more tasks and increases the difficulty of managing them. I recently found myself spending too much time trying to figure out what to do next, rather than actually doing. I felt like things were slipping out of control, and I needed to find a simple, effective and free way of managing my responsibilities.
I tested out a number of task-management tools, including Rainlendar, HipCal, and even wikis such as stikipad. All of these systems were lacking a major functionality that I needed â€“ the ability to filter my tasks according to urgency, category or client. These systems would present all of my tasks together, sometimes with some form of categorization, but never enough.
And then I found Zoho Planner. Zoho Planner is a free (yay!) hosted system that allows you to create multiple pages on which you can enter your to-do’s, appointments, notes, and attachments. You can tag pages with certain keywords (like the del.icio.us and Technorati tagging systems), and Zoho Planner encourages collaboration with the page sharing feature, which allows you to invite people to view your pages. This is useful if you are working on a project with other people, and you need to manage a project task list together.
I created pages for each of my clients that had projects in progress, and added to do’s to each page.
You can define due dates if you want, and request a reminder when that due date is approaching. Now here’s where Zoho Planner rocks: once you’ve added all your to do’s, you can view all of them together under “All my to do’s.”
There you can see all your to do’s, both open and completed, and you can choose to view them according to their urgency: Overdue, Today, Today + Overdue, Tomorrow, Next 7 Days, All Open.
My personal favorite is Today + Overdue, so that I can see what I really need to do now!
Good, Bad or Ugly
Zoho Planner is good. It’s helped me get my business in order, and I refer to it throughout the day. It makes me happy when I can check-off a task, and I feel like things are under control.
I recently discovered the one bad thing about not only Zoho Planner, but all online services. One day I really needed to see my tasks, and Zoho Planner was having server problems, as was another online service I use. I felt pretty helpless, and realized that online services have their pluses, such as access from any computer with a browser, but have a major minus since everything depends on the Internet.
Ugly â€“ not at all. Zoho’s planners designed a user-friendly, attractive interface that adds to the pleasure of using it.
Part of the Web 2.0 movement is the increasing ease of creating a web presence. Thanks to Blogs, Wikis, and other similar platforms, pretty much anyone can post content on the web.
Weebly is a free service that allows users to create a pretty decent looking site quickly and easily. The site can either be hosted with Weebly under a weebly subdomain (i.e. example.weebly.com), or you can download your completed site as a zip, giving you greater flexibility in terms of appearance and hosting.
Once you have registered with Weebly and chosen your subdomain, you can get to work. First, choose a theme for your site. This will determine the overall look and feel of your site. Weebly provides a range of attractive designs for your use. Some of the themes are customizable to a certain extent, and you may be able to upload your own header image to use in place of the image in the Weebly theme.
You can create as many pages for your site as you like, and Weebly provides ready-made components for you to add to your site. You can add titles, paragraphs, two columns of text, pictures, photos, videos, feeds and more.
See my example Weebly site to see a Weebly site in action.
Weebly Example Site
To sum up – Good, Bad, or Ugly?
Weebly is Good. It is a great tool for quickly and easily creating an online presence. Weebly provides a large amount of flexibility, and the downloadable zip file means that with some basic web design skills, you can customize even further and host your site on your own domain name.
But there is also some Bad. Weebly doesn’t seem to do so well with Hebrew. While their blog claims that Weebly supports international characters including Hebrew, my quick attempt at adding Hebrew resulted in a lot of gibberish characters appearing on the site. Maybe someone else will have better luck on that front.