CELLULAR Phone Service
(not up to date)

EMAIL BEHAVIOUR for effective communication


Accessing COMPUSERVE E-MAIL - old

Coping with COMPUSERVE CLASSIC (and WebMail) - old



& DVDs

SCANNERS for home & small office.
How many sales are lost in the long term because potential new customers hear their friend's horror stories?
(Persons interested in sofware quality and user interface design should read these notes.)

Review of the Planon "pen" scanner

PDA: A Worthwhile Tool for You? or specific tips for Palm especially 5xx series and TX model

E-MAIL & Small-Computer SECURITY

E-Mail Etiquette
Advice on formatting mass mailings contains this gem: "Your friends will stop being your friends about the second time they have to download your 200K missive over a dialup link."
I am amazed at how many people include graphics in e-mails, making them difficult to read when security features block the graphics. KISS!

Dishonourable mention to Motorola. I get e-mail from them because I registered with their web site to download software updates for my phone. But the download link on their web page is incorrectly coded and I cannot contact them to alert them. So I tried to unsubscribe from the emails but that function on their system doesn't work either. Why would I buy another Motorola phone?

Simplicity helps Communicate
I like websites produced by Ten13 and by Integrate Design.

Can you go back?
In 2010 and 2011 there were several examples of large companies and government organizations having serious problems after installing upgraded computer software.
I noticed that Google was able to quickly revert to the previous version, in at least one instance.
A problem is corruption of databases. You should be somehow testing the upgrade with a facsimile of your actual database, and a variety of user terminals. That's costly of course. (And do make sure you have very strong separation between test and real databases - a bank in Canada trapped themselves with that somehow.) How do you foster quality in software development? Keith has ideas.

Be patient with PDF
Recent versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer may appear to load .PDF files as blank pages, especially on a slow computer.
Wait a minute, as it takes time to uncompress a PDF file for display - MSIE's status bar may not include that step.

Speaking of PDF, I recommend CutePDFWriter as a much quicker low cost generator of PDF files, though you have to understand getting and installing Ghostscript to go with it. They also license CurePDFPro to edit or merge PDF files, but it is of mixed value for much editing because it lacks a feature that Adobe's bloated expensive software has, is awkward in other aspects, and is disabled by some user software. (Try running as User Administrator.)

Help with strange characters in unusable URLs

Challenges using USB ports and external memory devices.

Voice Recorders
Solid state memory has facilitated small recorders with long duration - except battery life does not match. A Panasonic unit quoted at 45 hours gives me less than a third of that on quality alkaline batteries. I have not found a unit that will function when plugged into a USB charger (they all go into file transfer mode) but the Olympus DS series do have an optional AC adapter.
There is however a question of the wisdom of backing up your information periodically rather than risking losing hundreds of hours of it. A good idea after a day of meetings, then put fresh batteries at the start of the next day. (By the way, some models will deplete the battery over time, as they use a bit of power to keep the clock running even when the display turns off.)
(Another use consideration is file type. Some VRs use a proprietary file format, perhaps convertible to a common format like .wav using their software that may not run on your new computer. Newer models are more likely to use common formats like .mp3. The optimum is VR memory that simply looks like a USB memory stick to your computer.)

The battery life limit to usability is an example of needing to check key factors in your use of the product and "avoid being blinded by specmanship".
Another is cellular phones. With all the neat interfaces and fancy features, JOB 1 is connectivity. Phone vary widely in ability to use weak signal, some newer ones are worse than older ones. Checking actual performance where you need to use the phone most, or might need emergency help worst, is a Very Good Idea.

Upgrading your computer operating sytems
In upgrading, you may have to budget for new peripherals - the case with Windows Vista and OS X Lion, for example. (Windows 7 has better/more compatibility modes that may help.)
For example, after only two years Panasonic stopped supporting my nice little voice recorder! Not the first time Panasonic has disappointed me by not supporting its otherwise good product.
And HP are not supporting older scanners - while newer ones have much better resolution, older ones with ADF work fine for archiving papers. (But Vuescan from Ed Hamrick supports Vista and Windows 7, so may be able to run older scanners from it, it works better than HP software for most tasks.)
Otherwise you have an excuse to buy a new computer and keep the old one in the corner not connected to any network, thus not a security risk real-time, running Windows XP to keep using unique peripherals and application software that you don't use every day. Do be careful with security for removable media, and watch out for the blind bean counters. ;-)
The OS maker should have advice on compatibility on their web site, I know Microsoft does for many third-party products, very useful but not perfect - graphics compatibility is a sore point.

Then there's the matter of backups. It's one thing for a home user to lose their email and photos, another for a business of several dentists to not be able to make appointments for several hours because their computer is not working (or lose their appointment records). Backup hardware and real-time data backup are Very Good Ideas, as is choosing a software supplier who produces quality and is reponsive to your problem.

(And do test your backups - tricky, but failure rate is high for various reasons. Unfortunately there is quite a bit of learning and carefull trying needed to figure out your best choice, learn the software, and test your backups without over-writing current data and o/s. If you have IT specialists, that is Job 2 for them. One approach is to have an almost identical spare computer and hard drive. (Another advantage of that is you can quickly move your active drive to it if your in-use computer fails.)
BTW, get your backups off-site, ideally in a different geographic region so when the earthquake/flood/forest fire/hurricane/tornado comes your business will survive.

True Image and other Acronis products have much potential for backups, though user interface is poor, their logging of activations defective, and their technical support variable. Most can either backup files and directories you specify, or make an image of an entire hard drive (which will be sure to include data that software programmers put in non-obvious places). Some can make a .zip file instead of their proprietary format. Some will clean your computer of usage history. Beware that the combination of Acronis software, Windows XP Pro, computer hardware, and USB stick version can be flakey - for example a Dell computer and Duracell stick do not work together. True Image does not work with removable media formatted to NTFS, and doesn't fully work with removable media formatted to exFAT, which is used with USB sticks over 32GB. (That limits use of TI's great feature of making a bootable image on a USB stick. You have to get a small USB stick to boot the Acronis loader, that can access the HDD image on the larger stick.) And the attitude of Acronis' support to the defect of not properly identifying size of data on a USB stick is not acceptable.

Microsoft Windows has some features for backup and migration to a new computer, my tests in the past have discouraged me including because they could not handle most removable media. But eventually they improve, Windows 7 can make an image of your hard drive in addition to backing up data, but cannot do so using a USB stick as True Image can.

And there's the good old manual method, especially to minimize space - manually copying files and folders (keep a list of where you find data squirreled away by software designers), using PKWare products to create a password-protected .zip file, and recording them to DVD or copying them to an external HDD.

I recommend avoiding Lenovo's Rescue and Recovery software bundled with Thinkpad computers, it has serious defects that could wipe out your data.

When that happens, there are recovery services that will cost from a few hundred dollars upward past a few thousand, depending on the problem (e.g. deletion vs reformatted vs hard drive failure). Ontrak and Deep Spar were two services, there are many others. For low budgets there are products such as:
- 360 Undelete (which I've tested on small USB memory sticks, it hung on an HDD)
- ReclaiMe (which I've tested on a hard disk drive) - not perfect, but I was impressed for the price of the license.
As well, there are utilities to deal with CDs and DVDs, including reading the full contents of a multi-session CD, ISOBuster is one product.
Such products usually have general advice on their web sites, step 1 of which is always to immediately stop using the drive.

As for data security when you no longer need your drive, memory stick, or cellular phone etc. there are software and services to remove data or destroy the device. Some Acronis products have removal features, and Western Digital provide a low-level format utility for their hard drives. (Typical software needs to make several erasing passes. Simple deletion by the o/s does not actually delete data, just renames files so they aren't seen by normal software.) Some BC government surplus stores can shred the device. Incineration has traditionally been the method of choice for secret data (the fire has to get the old steel HDD platters to at least above the Curie Point to lose magnetism, preferably beyond melting point).


Be patient with Canada Post?
(They have explained the apparent descrepancy in envelope height limit for normal postage rate within Canada and to the US, though a trap remains.)

The show went on.... (MacIntosh, Networking, Presentations Technology)
(While his web site gets sorted out you won't be able to see his Mt. Everest/toe story of dedication helping a presenter)

For an Internet web site Search Engine I have liked Google. It uses popularity as a criteria, which usually works better for general searches but not for finding an organization's own web site. Google is simple with a clean screen.
However, because of Google's questionable IP and privacy policies I now first use DuckDuckGo


CURRENT TIME in USA (adjust zone for your location; usable for most of Canada if you know your time zone, but definitely not Newfoundland (they are different - proudly so :-).
Note the amount of daylight vs darkness in northern Canada in the summer and winter.
or this more versatile one for GMT/UTC and many cities around the world (for Newfoundland choose St. John's, not to be confused with St.John NB which is in a regular time zone).

Trying to compare thickness of paper for a printing use, such as letters versus business cards, can get chancey due to different terminology, rating systems, and size of sheet assumed for a particular weight rating.

Here is a good overview. And an explanation of the term "card stock".
(Which is variously called cover stock, card weight, paste board, and probably more).

Multi-tasking is less efficient? (One thing at a time saves time...., William Hathaway, Seattle Times, August 7, 2001 Good news is that I found a current link.)
Many studies show multi-tasking is largely a myth. Thinking about it logically, it seems obvious that you need to focus on certain tasks to have the complete picture in your mind and get details right. Whereas multi-tasking should work on lesser tasks, and to fill in time - make a short phone call or get coffee while waiting for your computer to finish a task, for example. (But be careful when wearing that crisp white shirt for an important meeting. :-)
Lack of focus leads to lack of awareness, including missing subtle clues and subconscious inklings that something is wrong. Whether that is a car going through a stop sign into your path, or an anomally in the specification you are writing, the result is what you don't want.
Multi-tasking seems to be raised by micro-managers looking for efficiency. If you have employees who aren't trying to produce thus aren't using their time well, you have a leadership problem. OTOH, if an employee has been rushing around getting something done, or just had an intense discussion with another department that disagrees with yours, she probably should rest a moment.

Changing links: Articles formerly on or may now be on The Seattle Times sometimes requires registration to read its excellent archives.

© Keith Sketchley Page version 2015.11.02

Please advise Keith if any links don't work or have become inappropriate - the Internet changes.)

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