1. Welcome & What's been happening
2. Ask the Doc...
3. Software Review
4. Web Sites of Interest
5. Y2K Watch
6. Book Review of the Month
1. WELCOME & WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING
I was just about to send this month's newsletter out, when... it started to rain. So what, eh? Well around here that is BIG news. We haven't seen any decent rain for what seems like years now. Our dam has been bone dry for over a year, and our garden and yard are looking like a desert, a dry one at that too (is there any other kind?). So, down comes the rain and I stop typing to listen to it. I even consider going up into the house and waking the rest of the family just so they can hear it - it is that rare these days! Or so it seems.
"Send her down Huey", I could be heard to cry out ;-) he must have heard me. It gets heavier, MUCH heavier. I could no longer hear the computers or the radio in the background.
I COULD hear the drip, drip, drip, splash though. Funny, that I could hear that I thought. Then I felt the drip, drip, drip, splash. Uggh! Having not had to worry about rain for so long I started to remember things like the guttering not having been cleaned since last year. Water was running down the west wall of the office - Yikes! It was heading towards the power-boards, the new computer, the laser printer... Arrrgghhh! I grabbed a towel and some clothes and threw them over the equipment. Pulling the desk away from the wall at the same time. Thank goodness for castors!
What to do, what to do... No time to think. So, I stripped off my top, grabbed the torch (flashlight for some ;-) and headed out into the downpour in my t-shirt. No, I don't know why I thought stripping to my t-shirt was a good idea, either ;-) [Prolly, less for the lazy sod to dry afterwards - Ed.]
A few minutes later I was on the roof trying not to fall off, cleaning out the gutters around the office. At last the water was flowing along the guttering again, and not over it and down the wall. Should be right now I thought as I climbed down the ladder. I stepped off the ladder onto the grass. Well, what should have been the grass. It was now a foot deep puddle. The downpipe had given way under the sudden pressure and instead of directing the flow into the stormwater drain was spewing it out all over the place. Shhh&^!%t!
I grab a nearby rubbish bin to catch the water so I can stop it from going there. Oops, should have checked which bin I grabbed. It was the doggie droppings bin. Now I had that going every where to contend with as well <sigh>.
In desperation I ripped the downpipe off the wall of the house. Bent it a tad and whacked it back on to where the water was gushing out and redirected the flow onto the garden bed. Where it will no doubt overflow on the neighbour's driveway - oops, the lesser of 27 evils in this instance I figured. By this time, as you might have imagined, I'm as wet as a shag! Can hardly see what I'm doing, AND after putting the ladder away realise I've left the torch on the roof. Bugger! Get the ladder out again, climb up and get the torch. Put the ladder away again. Then... the rain eases... then a minute later it is but a drizzle <grrrrr>.
If this is someone's idea of a joke, I ain't laughing... well, Ok, I did have a bit of a giggle about it ;-) In less than 20 minutes we've had more rain than we've had all year. I wonder if any of it has made it into the dam, or has the parched earth just swallowed it all up?
Note to self... make sure ALL guttering is cleaned out in the morning. Oh, and better get that downpipe, er, straightened out again soon too :-). Oh, and no, I haven't checked the rest of the house yet - I'm not game to!
We now return you to normal viewing...
As promised last month - we have two winners of FREE software! Our new subscriber of the month was Drew Fraser, who receives a copy of the award winning Information Manager - ClipMagic just for joining up. Details here
From our existing subscribers Mark White has won the copy of the Windows Registry backup tool - WinRescue (95 or 98). Details here
I must say gang, that the response from you existing subscribers last month was a tad "weak". We only had 27 people interested in winning a FREE copy of this great Registry backup tool :-( Let's see if the chance to win a copy of Repligator this month evokes a better response, eh?!
Now I'm sure every one likes to get something for nothing - really, there are no strings attached. All you have to do is send us an email with the word "FREEBIE" in the subject and you're in the running!
This month the new subscriber giveaway prize is a copy of the Touch Typing Tutor - TypingMaster.
Whilst the existing subscriber giveaway prize is a copy of the mind blowingly simple Graphics manipulation package Repligator, used by professionals and beginners alike! Details here:
Finally, don't forget the FREE TypingMaster Games! Great fun for the whole office or family... see who can get their name on the Top 10 hall of fame lists :-).Details here:
As always, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions please feel free to drop us a line.
2. ASK THE DOC.
When someone asks me (because of my supposed computing knowledge) if there is someway they can get around replacing their 386/486/Pentium computer so that it will be Y2K compliant as far as handling dates is concerned - I've always said: No, not really. It's a BIOS thing (well that part of it is). UNTIL TODAY! that is.
Reader KenC sent me a fax this afternoon from "The Age", March 16th, 1999 (I must have missed that one!). Titled: Fix it with an Aussie dongle. The concept of this solution is quite simple, requires little expense (in comparison to replacing your computer anyway), and sounds like it just might work! Here's how...
It works via a "dongle". A dongle is a small plug like device that connects to either the PC's parallel (printer) or serial (modem/mouse) port, it automatically detects which port type you've plugged it into. It is easy to use - The software is a standard Windows¨application, with the same look and feel as other Windows¨applications. When you have the dongle connected and the software driver is running Y2KTimeFix takes over the functions of the computer clock and ensures that any other program requesting information about a date is given "correct" information.
The Company, Y2kTimeFix, claims it is "A simple, 100% guaranteed solution". Underwritten by Lloyds of London. Recommended price of $199.
Their web site actually has a very good explanation of how the BIOS may be a problem in older computers when Jan 1st ticks over, and it includes a History of the Real Time Clock in the PC too. I have NOT tried this product personally, but, it sure sounds like it could get people with non-compliant computers out of a hole quickly and relatively cheaper than the alternatives of a complete hardware upgrade _IF_ they are happy with existing equipment.
Each Edition we select one of the requests to research and report back to everyone what we recommend. So save yourself some legwork (fingerwork?) and solve some computing ills at the same time - Ask the Doc soon.
3. SOFTWARE REVIEW
NeoPlanet - Designer Software!
It is quite amazing to see the "look and feel" of some of the new programs that are starting to come out now. NeoPlanet is one of those programs. The first time you see it - you just go "WOW!".
NeoPlanet has been designed from the ground up to be a look good, feel kind of program. It is THE Designer Web Browser. NeoPlanet puts the fun back into browsing and makes Net navigation faster and more intuitive. Putting diverse interface skins at your fingertips, and with customizable, sharable, "content channels," NeoPlanet places personalization front and center on your Internet - at least that is what they say...
With NeoPlanet skins, you'll never see the square windows of other applications the same way again! The "skins" are collections of graphics and sounds for Neoplanet that will revitalize your web experience. From a futuristic world to the high seas to the darkest caverns to a wooded forest, NeoPlanet skins create an environment in which you can remain for as short or long a while as you like. They can be easily changed with a few clicks of your mouse button, and take little space on your computer
Use the NeoPlanet channels to familiarise yourself with the Internet, or make your own if you already know your way around. The diversity that was once limited to web sites is now embedded in the very tool you use to view them.
NeoPlanet requires Windows 95, 98 or NT running Internet Explorer 3.02+ (it uses the Internet Explorer rendering engine to do the actual web page display, a version for Netscape Navigator users is said to be "in the works"). It works best with Win95/98 and IE4.0+. It doesn't yet support all the new IE5 features such as auto-complete etc, but they are working on a new version at the moment.
The download is a small, by today's standards, 1.3MB. Not only that but the software is smart enough to check what version you are using as soon as you go to the NeoPlanet web site and if you are out of date it will update it, then and there on the spot for you. Great stuff! You never need worry about whether you are running the latest version, it will be pushed out to you when you call Neoplanet's "home".
If you are sick and tired of the rather boring, staid square buttons, windows, and headings of traditional Windows - then hop on over to the NeoPlanet site and have a look at a new way of viewing web.
I give it an 7.
4. WEB SITES OF INTEREST
There's a picture on your CPU!
Ever wonder what's lurking within the dark corners, nooks and crannies of your computer? Is some gremlin responsible for all those crashes---you know, the ones that happen when you are trying to save that critical document you've been working on so diligently for the past three hours? We wondered too, so we took a look to see what we could find. And guess what? When we put the computer chips under the microscope we found some very interesting creatures hiding there.
Need a Recipe in a Hurry? Try here:
Interesting concept the non-copyrighting of recipes!
Stronger Encryption for those of us outside the US?
Court Dumps Code Export Ban: Government can't restrict encryption software export. Maybe, just maybe after having to put up with what seems a silly draconian law that is easily side stepped anyway, the US government might be about to be backed into a corner whereby the rest of the world will be able to get better sercurity on important e-commerce transactions etc.
Mind you, they US secret service agencies are busy arguing that restrictions should not be lifted as it makes it harder for them to spy and unravel crime. They seem to be missing the point that criminals won't worry about such "regulations" and will happily use encryptions engines from other countries that do NOT have these restrictions. My personal opinion on this is that they are just sacrificing our security on the web by forcing us to have to use weaker levels of encryption outside the USA.
According to the information on this page there should be a more up to date version called Babel97C, but so far I haven't found it. Still this is a VERY exhaustive list. http://www.telecomm.uh.edu/links/babel96b.html
This is a collection of 10 great images of cows in 640 x 480 JPG that makes bovine wallpaper for your desktop. Included is an image of a Cow Car and a Mad Cow. Instructions are included to help you set up your wallpaper.
Great for using with WallMasterPro
Shareware Discussion Newsgroups
Don't forget the new Newsgroups setup especially for YOU! These are moderated groups (moderated by a fellow Australian, Scott Kane) so are free from flames, spam and other forms of abuse. For on topic, helpful and prompt help and advice on any matters to do with shareware software you really should consider having a read of the new moderated newsgroups at:
5. Y2K WATCH
The Seedy side of Y2K
US Congress Restrains Y2K Suits
Year 2000 Readiness and Responsibility Act, which requires a 90-day waiting period after a Y2K glitch is discovered before a lawsuit can be filed. http://www.pcworld.com/cgi-bin/pcwtoday?ID=10952
The Year 2000 Computer Problem: What Every Woman Needs to Know and How to Keep Herself and Her Family Safe http://www.y2kwomen.com/
[ Note: I'm not promoting any ideas or stereo-types that this site may present -I'm just the messenger :-) ]
MichaelB wrote to point out this site for your consideration re: Community Awareness and Y2K.
6. BOOK REVIEW
Direct from DELL
Strategies that Revolutionised an Industry
Michael Dell with Catherine Fredman
Harper Collins, Hardback
The computer business is full of success stories. Not many have been as dramatic as the rise of Dell Computer. In Direct from Dell, founder and CEO Michael Dell tells how he started his company from a dorm room at the University of Texas with less than $1,000 and built it into an industry. He takes us through the highs and lows of that growth including having to seemingly swim against the opinions of those around him (inlcuding his parents). It shows how they turned failures into positive learning experiences and are always looking for ways to be more efficient in what they do whilst keeping foremost in their mind customer satisfaction.
What makes Dell Computer unique is not what it sells, but rather how it sells it. Dell was first in the industry to pioneer the direct-selling model. The first to go online with that method (see foot note and recent web info about their growth since the book was released alone!). A method that its competitors such as Compaq are only now starting to try and embrace. By cutting out the middle-man and creating a direct link between manufacturer and customer, Dell was able to provide customers with computers that cost less and were more targeted at what the customer needed, when they needed it.
The Australian Reseller News even ran an article this past week on how some of the bigger systems integrators are now starting to recommend going with Dell to their clients. This is in fact typically cutting out part of their margins - but, they are now finding it is easier to sell a solution with the knowledge that the Dell organisation is behind the hardware than the "boxes" they've sold in the past. This gives them the opportunity to concentrate on servicing the customers in other more profitable ways. This is _exactly_ the kind of thing this book tells us is going to continue to happen more and more into the future. I'm not sure it is a good thing to build such gigantic corportations, but, it sure as heck is better to know about them than to remain ignorant!
The first part of the book traces the history and growth of Dell Computer. The second part focuses on Michael Dell's management approach, from developing customer focus to creating alliances with suppliers. It explains both the and how's and the why's of what they do in a very straight forward way. From determining what segments of their business are performing, to how they continually split their markets into smaller, more targeted units - and how that results in compounded growth of more than 50% year upon year.
Micahel Dell is NOT just blowing his own trumpet in this book. He details where they/he made mistakes, why they do things the way they do and how that helps them maintain their growth. He points out that he sees his job primarily as a customer liason officer - spending up to 40% of his time interacting with customers. Asking them questions, and most importantly... Listening to their responses. That all goes into the feedback mechanism to help understand how Dell can help their customers become more efficient in their own industry.
Well written and an easy read.
I give it a 7.5, More details here
How Dell Sells on the Web
Direct seller hits $100 million online sales each week--what's the secret? http://www.pcworld.com/cgi-bin/pcwtoday?ID=10937