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What's in a domain name?

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By Dana Greenlee, co-Host WebTalkGuys Radio

Monday, October 6, 2003; 11:00pm EST

When building a business and a brand on the Web, your chosen domain name is everything.

Website domain names - the Internet address the helps Web surfers find your site - are the backbone on which we all locate things on the Web and thus are the communications glue that makes the web work as well as it does. For any new or existing business, selecting a domain name can be the most challenging and frustrating process that a business can undertake.

This process can often times cause an existing business to change it?s name to fit a domain name. It simply is getting harder to find a good name that has not been registered.

This is where Mike Mann fits in. Mann is the president of BuyDomains. com. He owns 250,000 of the finest domain brands in the world. He took a few moments to explain his unique perspective on domain names as another form of real estate - or in this case virtual real estate - and how many good high value domain names are still available for a price.

Q: How long has BuyDomains. com been around on the Web?

Mann: We?ve been around about five years now.

Q: Tell us about the core services you offer on your site.

Mann: We mainly offer premium domain names for sale. Secondarily, we do domain registration services with a variety of free value added services that come with each registration.

Q: It seems BuyDomains. com is focused on treating domains as another form of real estate.

Mann: Domains are real estate on the Web. There is a certain amount of space on the Web which is determined ultimately by the number of eyeballs. There are X billion people per day on the Web and you can carve up those eyeballs as they hit different Websites. The better domain names in the world receive more traffic, therefore they are better pieces of real estate. Location, location, location!

Q: How do you assign value to those names?

Mann: We do pretty complex metrics evaluations. We try to break down the domain to a multitude of characteristics. We have software that does a big piece of the evaluation. We also have three of the world?s best domain appraisers that come up with the ultimate price. They are the best because they?ve sold dramatically more domains than anyone else in the world.

Q: What is the best profile of a domain name?

Mann: A. com is definitely the best domain. Any domain that you change to a. net would instantly be worth roughly a quarter of what the. com is worth. A. org is meant more for a charity, but the. org?s in general would be worth substantially less. We find that. biz is okay. We don?t like. tv at all unless you have a TV show and only a few hundred people in the world would have a use for that. They would prefer to have ?buydomainsTV. com? rather than ?buydomains. tv.?

Q: It used to be the goal to get a domain name with as few words as possible. A five-letter domain name would be excellent. How important now is the length of the domain name?

Mann: The shorter domain the better. Historically, people were trying to save space and would truncate their domain names.

For instance, ?buydmns. com? would save space, but in reality it was bad for my brand.

It is necessary to have your entire brand names spelled out, regardless of the length. We recommend that if you are serious about your brand, you get every possible combination of your domain name and point them all to the same site.

That is called a forwarding service. In our case, we don?t charge any extra for that.

Q: Do you have a favorite domain name that you own and is available for sale?

Mann: I have Made. com. Another one of my favorites is Tasty. com. We also have Broadcasting. net.

Q: What kind of dollar amount are we talking about for these domain names?

Mann: Those particular ones are in the tens of thousands since the are the very best ones, but most are between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars.

Q: What you think about VeriSign?s recent changes in going after the unassigned domain names and trying to hijack those for ad revenue?

Mann: It is unbelievable how they believe they have the right to steal every single Internet address in the world.

VeriSign stole every single possible combination of letters that anybody could accidentally type as a Web address. That?s because the government handed them a monopoly years and years ago and they?ve been abusing it over and over and over.

The government does not hold them to account. It is the biggest joke that I have ever seen and there are lots of people suing them.

This has blindsided everybody and it is extremely unfair trade. Many of us have documented all their illegal abuses over the years, delivered them to the Department of Commerce, delivered them to the FTC, delivered them to the Department of Justice, delivered them to all the senators and congressmen, delivered them to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) who were supposed to regulate them, but nobody has ever done a thing to them.

It?s just the insiders club of stealing the Internet.

About Source of Article Dana Greenlee is producer and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show.  WebTalkGuys, a Seattle-based talk show featuring technology news and interviews. It is broadcast on WebTalkGuys Radio, Sonic Box, via Pocket PC at Mazingo Networks and the telephone via the Mobile Broadcast Network.  It's on the radio in Seattle at KLAY 1180 AM.  Past show and interviews are also webcast via the Internet at http://www. webtalkguys. com/. Greenlee is also a member of the The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.

 

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Disgruntled Customers into Advocates

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By Stephen Munday

Wednesday, March 02, 2005; 2:00pm EST

 

How to Transforming Disgruntled Customers into Your Biggest Advocates

 

?I am writing to complain about the widget I bought from your site the other day.?

 

Sell anything and eventually you will be on the receiving end of a sentence like this. So how do you turn a disgruntled customer not just into a satisfied one, but ? even better - into a powerful advocate for your business?

 

1. Don?t get angry, don?t act hurt

 

Reactions are initially emotional. Particularly if you are in a small company or you are the owner of the business, you may take a complaint as criticism ? a personal attack.

 

What do humans do when attacked? We want to fight back and justify ourselves. We become angry and act hurt. But this is the last thing you want to do when interacting with your customers ? however difficult they may be sometimes.

 

So prepare yourself in advance: Read this article and you will know how to turn these situations around, so make a decision right now to receive any negative customer feedback in a positive way. As my mother would say: ?Engage brain!?

 

2. Save the sale

 

Got your feelings under control? Good. Now you are ready to secure your primary objective ? saving the sale.

 

A Jury of Her Peers Remember: this is a person who has already bought from you. The vast majority of visitors to your site don?t even do that, so just the fact that this person has already made a purchase makes them an instant VIP and their business worth fighting for.

 

How do you it?

 

1. Prioritize ? Remember this sale is a bird in the hand. Yes, enquiries from potential customers are important, but remember you already have this person?s money in the bank. Not potential money ? cold hard cash! So first prioritize the disgruntled customer with a speedy response.

 

2. Be respectful ? Remember not to get riled. A polite, calm attitude will go a long way to taking the heat out of the rhetoric.

 

3. Be informative ? Reply thoroughly to every point that has been made and add any other information you think could be useful. Misunderstanding or a lack of knowledge rather than a problem with the product itself is often the real issue. Part of being informative is also going out of your way to remind the customer about his or her right to return or replace the product under your (generous) full satisfaction guarantee. Being up front and positive about this will go a long way to diffuse any concern the customer may have about having to wrestle the money out of your hands at some point in the future.

 

Apply the above methods and the chances of securing the sale will increase tremendously.

 

But remember that even if you do lose the sale, your positive approach may well have saved the customer: Part company on good terms and you retain the potential for future sales and have at least neutralized a lot of negative word-of-mouth publicity.

 

3. Sell more!

 

Now this might sound crazy, but a disgruntled customer is actually a sales opportunity in disguise. Just think about it for a moment: Perhaps they are unhappy because they did not get what they wanted from their initial purchase.

 

Of course, one way they might choose to solve this problem is by returning the goods. Your job is to show them there is an alternative that will be a win-win situation for both parties. Here are two ways you can do this:

 

1. Offer a higher-spec / revised spec product.

2. Offer an additional product.

 

Just remember not to ?sell? but to ?help?: Show the customer a solution that will meet their needs. Offer a discount and make it as painless as possible for the customer to part with more money. At the same time, always be sure to leave the door open for them to back out from the existing sale so that they don?t feel pressured. Follow this simple strategy and they will thank you for helping them out while you pocket the extra profit.

 

4. Glean Knowledge

 

Let?s face it, this particular sale may still sink beneath the waves before you can rescue it. But all is not lost! Anything you learn from this experience can pay you back many times over in increased future revenue.

 

What do the experiences this customer had tell you about:

 

- The product itself?

- Your service?

- The information on your site?

- Navigation on your site?

- External factors ? such as difficulties with your payment provider?

 

Be sure to bear in mind the following points to get the most out of these questions:

 

- Don?t assume your customer is just an idiot: If he / she has made a mistake, it is fairly likely that other people have done and are doing the same thing.

 

- Don?t take everything the customer says at face value: For example, it may appear that the issue is the product itself, but closer inspection could reveal that your site failed to give them enough information prior to purchasing, leading to this later disappointment.

 

Once you have discerned the problem - solve it! It is costing you sales right now.

 

5. Disgruntled customer turned advocate

 

If you have successfully followed the process outlined above, not only have you saved the sale, but maybe you have even added to it and the valuable insights you have collected and acted on are boosting your revenue right now.

 

Perhaps you are thinking that it can?t get much better than this. But there is still the ultimate payback ? the icing on the cake: Turning an unhappy customer into an advocate for your business.

 

Your positive attitude will often not only secure the sale, but also win over the customer themselves. In my experience this is exemplified by the fact that a surprisingly large proportion of the testimonials I use originated in a negative customer experience.

 

But far from wanting their money back, these customers are now encouraging others to part with theirs through their testimonials. Make this your goal when dealing with a disgruntled customer and all the heartache along the way will be well worth it in the end.

About the Author

Stephen Munday lives in Japan where he works for Internet Support (http://www. support. ne. jp/). His latest project is http://www. japanese-name-translation. com, where you can have your name translated into Japanese kanji or buy a unique calligraphy scroll as a gift. This article is ? Stephen Munday, 2005.

 

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In the Trenches: Making a Pricing Change the Right Way

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This week, we-re beginning one of the most difficult things that a small business can do: putting a pricing change into place. There are few things that can have such a big impact on the customer as a shift in rates, and that-s why it can-t be taken lightly.

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4 Tips for Evaluating Suppliers for Sustainability

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How and where you source products and services speaks volumes about your commitment to sustainability. Your choices can either reaffirm or undermine your efforts — and affect how customers perceive your small business. Taking time to assess your suppliers’ practices (to make sure they measure up to your standards) will help to ensure that any investments you’ve made to green your own operation truly pay off.

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Nine Simple eBay Selling Hints

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By Terry Gibbs

Thursday, March 31, 2005; 1:30pm EST

Some of these eBay hints will save you money, others will result in higher prices. Either way, these will help you run more profitable eBay auctions.

Write a simple description and do not clutter your auction with unneeded items like animated Gifs, and colored backgrounds. Remember, you are selling not entertaining.

Charge a flat rate for shipping, and mention the shipping costs prominently within your auction description.

Write a title that accurately describes your item. Use manufacturers name and model number within the title if applicable.

Write a detailed description that allows prospective bidders to make a decision about purchasing the item. A basic tip is the description can never be too long as long as it is describing the item.

Include large clear photographs. Invest in some lights and a quality camera. Your investment will pay for itself in higher eBay selling prices within only a few auctions.

Host your own pictures. By hosting your own pictures, you will save money, and, more importantly, be able to use as many pictures as you need to adequately show eBay bidders your item. This is the simplest thing to do, and yet 70 percent of eBay sellers ignore this simple tip.

Optimize your images for the web. Many sellers use the highest resolution settings on their cameras and generate huge files that download very slowly. Computer monitors only show 72DPI, any extra detail is just a waste of the bidder's time.

List your item in the most appropriate category. Many buyer's only search eBay by looking at listings within categories. If you are not in the right eBay category you will not be seen by lots of potential bidders and you item may end up selling for less than it's worth.

Systemize your eBay selling. Using a system to sell on eBay will lower the amount of time spent selling each item, and insure you don't forget any important activities.

The Auction Revolution explains all of these hints in greater detail. Find out more at: http://www. auction-revolution. com/.

About the Author

Terry Gibbs is a collector/dealer of old toys and trains, and teaches others how to buy and sell antiques and collectibles. Gibbs is the author of two best selling eBay books "The Auction Revolution," and "The Complete Guide To eBay Consignment Sales." He has also written numerous other books about buying and selling antiques and collectibles. Learn more at his website: http://www. news. iwantcollectibles. com/.

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Infacta Group Mail Pro 3.4. Comprehensive group mailer and subscriber management

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By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Tuesday, October 7, 2003; 3:00pm EST

It is well known that a good opt-in newsletter can greatly increase user return visits to your web site. It acts as a reminder to your users that you are still around and have exciting content and or services to offer them. Within all the content of your newsletter, including site updates and improvements gives your users a reason to come back!

One particular tool that makes the job of running a well maintained email list effortless is Group Mail Pro by Infacta. For the small price of $99.95US it packs a large suite of features that give you complete control over your email list using a Windows 9x, NT, 2000 workstation or server. The application has a message editor and history tracker, group manager and plug-in manager as the main components.

As a webmaster, simply create a form that sends the results to an email address, or simply provide an email address for users to subscribe or unsubscribe to your newsletter. Group Mail Pro does the rest. Simply run the "Subscriber" plug-in and it will weed out the users wanting to join your newsletter or be removed and service your email list accordingly. You can organize your users into different groups, and you can have an unlimited number of users in each group! You can even let the "Inspector" plug-in verify the email addresses you receive. Want to send out a newsletter to your subscriber base? No problem! Write it up in the built in message editor in any format from plain text to HTML. After you are done, a simple press of the button will have you firing off emails at a rate of speed that will dazzle you each and every time. Upon completion, Group Mail gives you a detailed report as to the success of your newsletter distribution.

The software is incredibly easy to install, and installation of the plug-ins (which are free and regularly improved by the developer) takes a matter of seconds each. Configuring is a simple matter of either configuring your SMTP server information, or if you prefer not to (as some Internet Service Providers do not allow newsletter emailing) a new Direct email feature allows you to bypass the need for an SMTP server!

Overall, it has a clean interface that is logically laid out and quick to navigate. Has an abundance of functions to help maintain your email list and create bulk or personalized newsletters. Requires little resources or system specifications to run effectively. Utilizes a blazingly fast engine for email list maintenance and newsletter sending. Best of all, it is how you can get all of these features at such a low price point - making it a feasible option for web site operators big and small. A Group Mail Plus version is available for a somewhat higher $149.95US price, but includes a multi-threaded high speed SMTP engine, background queuing and other additional features. Group Mail Free, is downloadable at no cost but is limited to only 100 emails, more or less to evaluate the product. Regardless of the version you get, the Group Mail family of products is highly recommended!

About The Author

Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.

info@viscaconsulting. com

http://www. viscaconsulting. com/

 

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Seven Ways to Get Your App Noticed in the Apple iTunes App Store

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The gold rush to sell iPhone, iPod, and iPad apps is on, and you want a share of the mine. Unfortunately, gone are the days of submitting your latest and greatest app to Apple-s App Store and simply hoping for the best. With over 350,000 iPhone apps and 65,000 iPad apps available (and growing) at the App Store, how do you ensure yours stands out? Here are seven ways to improve your chances of striking gold with your app.

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Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000. 2-megapixel auto-focus wide field of view webcam with echo canceling microphone

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By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Wednesday, November 26, 2008; 4:30pm EST

The latest webcam from Logitech, the QuickCam Pro 9000 represents the latest flagship model of the QuickCam series. The QuickCam series has been a solid option in the somewhat heavily populated webcam market, covering the complete spectrum from budget to high end. The Pro 9000 features a sleek, contemporary design in predominantly black color scheme and glossy finished front. Left side features a rounded casing that houses the camera, the middle, a logo which has an appealing red circle that illuminates when the camera is in use, and on the right of the case is the microphone which is covered by a wire mesh. This version does away with the long included camera privacy cover, which in this day and age is simply no longer needed.

Installation process is as simple as running included install software, a couple mouse clicks and inserting the webcam’s included USB 2.0 cable into your computer when requested. You’re literally up and running with live webcam action in your favourite popular instant messenger client in a couple minutes. We did however experience some quite serious conflicts between the webcam and the on-board NIC in our test computer (Intel Quad core with latest generation nForce motherboard), resulting in a loss of network connectivity when the webcam used any of the USB ports. We were able to resolve this by using the secondary NIC port, but if that were not an option this would be a definite deal breaker as Logitech technical support was unable to resolve the issue. We imagine for most people this will not be an issue, but it does exist.

Attaching the webcam to a typical LCD monitor requires you to lay the webcam across the depth of the monitor; the front of the webcam rests over the front edge of the monitor, and the back of the webcam swings downward, applying pressure to the back of the monitor to hold the webcam in place. We congratulate Logitech in making a significantly sturdier and more reliable method of attaching the camera to a typical LCD monitor. We would have preferred that the actual device didn’t hang over the front of the monitor bezel so low on our 24” test monitor, as it is slightly distracting when using the upper portion of the screen. In all fairness, after a day or so of usage you really don’t notice the webcam, but this may vary by individual.

Once up and working, the quality of the new optics is apparent immediately, with a very obvious distinction between its image clarity versus previous generation webcams such as the QuickCam Fusion. The Carl Zeiss glass lens in concert with the 2-megapixel camera sensor provided a sharp and well defined image, leaps beyond what the single megapixel and sub-megapixel webcam offerings. Our overall impression of the video quality was that that the Pro 9000 had sharp image quality, rich colors for the most part, and a good wide field of view that helped to include more in the picture. The auto-focus feature, certainly assisted in creating a clear picture most of the time, particularly in those cases where macro focus was desired. The auto-focusing isn’t instant, but the second or two response time should be more than adequate for most situations. Unfortunately, auto-focusing did at times become confused, leaving you with a completely fuzzy image (particularly in darker room settings) that was hard to reset, sometimes requiring you to hold your hand in front of the camera to give it something easy to focus on. Auto-focus can be easily disabled if desired, and manual software based focusing is available.

It captures HD video which is a very generous 960x720 resolution – and it’s very obvious when you switch to this resolution, what a great amount of video real estate it is. Other, lower resolutions modes are available to suit your needs. While the quality of the video capturing is commendable, swift movements such as quick head or hand gestures cause blurring. For simple instant messaging communications, this will not be a problem, however it may be more of an issue when attempting to film blog casts or similar such video material. The software included with the webcam includes an abundance of video characteristics settings which you can optimize for your specific location. RightLight2 technology is supposed to enhance the image quality; however our testing found it artificially increased the exposure and brightness that caused an overall negative effect on the balance of the image lighting and contrast. With this feature off the video was much more balanced and consistent. Still images can also be captured if so desired at the 2-megapixel resolution or 8-megapixels using the software’s processing.

Sound quality was impressive. Sound samples created with the internal microphone were clear, had good dynamic range and effectively cancelled out simple background noises such as computer fans and other such constant noises. Even sitting at a fair distance from the microphone, it offered very solid audio capturing that could be used not only for instant messaging, but for other uses as well such as simple podcasting or other such activities.

So what are our overall thoughts on the QuickCam Pro 9000? It’s a fantastic webcam. The combination of latest generation webcam technologies really do come together to offer excellent video and audio quality. While some of the technologies employed such as the auto-focus and RightLight2 aren’t perfect, they aren’t mandatory, and perhaps in certain circumstances they may work better than tested due to such a wide variety of environments that webcams are subjected to in terms of lighting, room size and so on. We love the build quality, features, and the overall caring nature the device was conceived and would certainly recommend it to both people looking for their first webcam, or others with older models looking for a boost in performance.

The Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 includes a generous 2-year limited warranty. Recommendations include Windows XP, Pentium 4 with 2.4 GHz or higher, 256 MB memory, 200 MB of hard drive space, USB 2.0 port, 16-bit video card, Windows compatible sound card. Windows Vista compatibility requires higher specifications. The product has a recommended retail price of $119.99 CAD and is available on the Logitech online store and all major electronics retailers nationwide.

About The Author

Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.

 

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7 Sustainable Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

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“Our goal is a new American ethic that sets new standards for progress, emphasizing human dignity and well-being rather than an endless parade of technology that produces more gadgets, more waste, more pollution. Are we able to meet the challenge? Yes. We have the technology and the resources. Are we willing? That is the unanswered question.”
—Gaylord Nelson at the founding of Earth Day, April 22, 1970

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8 Ways to Protect Your Customers- Information

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There-s good reason the global cyber security market is forecast to climb to $80 billion by 2017. Within the last month, there have been at least three high-profile victims (Epsilon, TripAdvisor, and the Texas Comptroller-s Office) of a sensitive data breach. Whether it-s a stolen laptop, server breach, or improper paper document disposal, what-s the biggest lesson we-ve learned from these incidents? Don-t let your brand be tarnished by a preventable hack.

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Microsoft Visio Professional 2002. All-in-one professional diagram application

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By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Tuesday, October 7, 2003; 3:00pm EST

Visio Professional fills the need for an all-in-one professional diagram application with its ability to do just about any diagram a business could need. Flowcharting, organization charts, floor plans, network infrastructures, and just about any other type of diagram can be made quickly and easily. Using its familiar Microsoft style interface and simple to use drag and drop pre-made icons, arrows, shapes and lines - just about anyone can produce professional looking diagrams.

There are so many situations these days, where a visualization of what you are proposing to a client speaks volumes. For example you are submitting a proposal to rebuild a web presence for a client and need to show them how it will be structured. With Visio Professional, within a short period of time you can build a very compelling chart that outlines how all of the web pages would be interlinked and how the site flowed. All you need to do is drag and drop the appropriate shapes from its "Conceptual Web Site" library of shapes, adjust their sizing if needed, drag lines between the shapes to create the web structure and you have a diagram! Then you can do finishing touches like adding text labels to the shapes, increasing or decreasing line sizes, modifying text or line colors - everything is customizable!

We were impressed by the number of shapes, icons and lines available in each of the many category based libraries. All of which are scalable to the size you desire and snap onto the diagram's "grid" for easy alignment. And since its object based, its very easy to move, remove, group and layout objects on the diagram. We were disappointed however, that the connecting lines and arrows between objects sometimes were prone to not straightening out properly unless "played around" with.

There were also a handful of "cool" and useful features that popped up here and there in the program. Web site mapping allows automated creation of web site diagrams, just tell it a web address and Visio will do all the work! Create standard or 3D driving direction maps using common items like roads, building, cards, trees and gas stations.

Installation of the program was pleasantly a non-event, taking a surprisingly short period of time and required very little interaction from the user. Minimum requirements for running Visio Professional are a Pentium 200MHz with anywhere from 40MB to 176MB of memory depending on the Windows operating system its running on and 170MB free hard drive space. We found the program on our text box (Pentium III 800MHz, 512MB memory and 20GB free space, running Windows XP) to be fast during diagram creation. But very sluggish when starting new diagrams or loading existing diagram files, with even simple diagrams taking quite some time to load.

Overall, we liked Visio Professional's ability to rapidly translate your ideas into concise diagrams to show anyone from fellow co-workers, to potential clients. It is a great addition to the Microsoft Office family of products, and its feature set and performance for the most part warranted the $499US price tag. A slightly less feature rich "Standard" version of the program is available, and retails for a more wallet friendly $199US. Upgrade and competitive product pricing is also available for both versions.

About The Author

Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.

info@viscaconsulting. com

http://www. viscaconsulting. com/

 

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What Happens If the Federal Government Shuts Down?

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As the prospect of a Federal Government shutdown looms large over the United States, millions of Americans, federal workers, business owners, and countless observers around the globe are curious about what will result from a temporary government shutdown.

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What To Do if You Need a Tax Deadline Extension

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You’re just days away from the IRS’ filing deadline, but you’re still sorting through a mountain of paperwork, dealing with a difficult new client’s demands, and you’ve got a sick kid. Best-case scenario, you’ll have your tax returns all set for inspection by the end of summer. Are you screwed?

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Dell Inspiron 1150. Entry level Windows XP based notebook for small businesses

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By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Wednesday June 30, 2004; 1:00pm EST

Today it is easy for a small business owner or employee to justify buying a notebook. Being restricted to the desktop simply doesn't meet the dynamic needs of a small business operator. From doing presentations on the road, to tapping out documents during travel, to the simplicity of having the same machine at both home and work - notebooks are a must. Luckily for small businesses on a lean budget, the price to get yourself mobile has plummeted over the past year. Not only can you get a notebook for around the $1000 mark, but it's also well equipped and will generally do everything a typical business user would want - and competently. The selection of brands and models now available at this price point, is nothing short of amazing. Although most of them offer somewhat similar core specifications, the hard part is deciding which notebooks offer the best blend of overall quality, reliability, refinement and manufacturer customer service.

One notebook that stands out in this market segment is the new Dell Inspiron 1150 notebook. With a base price of a staggeringly low $899USD, and a wide range of options, it can scale to pretty much any budget and hardware / software combination you could possibly need.

Upon first inspection of the Dell Inspiron 1150, it utilizes a familiar form factor for its casing, with a typical footprint for its class. It is generally an attractive notebook, light grey in color, featuring a brushed metal and white Dell emblem on the top of the casing, and a simple, logical layout of the working area when open. Operating the notebook's sliding lock and lifting of the screen feels sturdy and well constructed with very little flexing. The hinges for the screen are well suited for the application and have a positive feeling in their level of resistance and ability to set exact viewing positions for the screen. Overall it could be classified as well constructed, particularly for its price point.

Once powered up, load times are fast with its pre-loaded Microsoft Windows XP Home or Professional edition. Everything worked pretty much immediately out of the box required no configuring or installing, only the usual software license activations and registrations. Best of all is that it is cleanly installed, and not overrun with a plethora of garbage "lite and trial" software and services offers. Overall it was impressive (and a relief) to just start working with a notebook right away, rather than spending hours unconfiguring a workstation that was poorly installed at the factory. The 1150 offers a range of productivity software options ranging from the Corel WordPerfect Office 11 Suite all the way up to the Microsoft Office 2003 Professional Edition. Other installed software titles include Real Player; Sonic RecordNow! CD burning software; Paint Shop Pro 8 (evaluation version) image editor and a range of Dell utilities such as a picture viewer, DVD player, wireless LAN tools, and software specific to the notebook. The Inspiron 1150 includes a collection of software install disks, manuals, quick start guide and AC adaptor. Many other accessories and peripherals can be purchased for the 1150 during or after the time of sale.

The notebook is literally silent in normal operation, which is a joy to work with. Even under "strenuous" conditions there is only an occasional whirring of a small fan from the rear of the case to flush out the hot air and then it resumes back to "is it even on?" level of silence. Ahhh, blissful silence! The keyboard generally offers sufficient feedback, with the keys themselves being a bit on the "lite and plasticy" side. Keys were well laid out, taking only a short period of time to get accustomed to. The accuracy of the touch pad unfortunately left much to be desired - often "jumping" the cursor and responding incorrectly to what we wanted to do. The two buttons accompanying the touch pad performed great, with solid feedback from a quality click mechanism. Status lights along the front of the case for power, drive access and battery charging are clear and up to the task. The num lock, alpha lock and scroll lock lights were adequate, if not a bit small for day time use. General use of the keyboard / touch pad area was comfortable for extended use. The case accommodates a CD/DVD drive, single PCMCIA slot and headphone / microphone jacks on its left side. A swappable battery compartment and 56k v.92 fax / modem jack on its right side. The back includes the integrated 10/100 Ethernet jack, VGA port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, power point and fan vent. Two speakers are integrated into the front of the case. All ports and jacks are well labeled with icons and easy to use. Due to the lack of keyboard, mouse, serial and parallel ports it would have been nice to have 4 USB ports instead of 2, however a USB hub easily handles this short coming.

Under the hood, the Inspiron 1150 can be equipped with either a 2.40 or 2.60 Intel Celeron processor, or a 2.66 or 2.80 Intel Pentium processor. For the reasonable amount asked extra, we would highly recommend the Pentium option over the Celeron. The base memory included is 256MB of shared DDR SDRAM, and is upgradeable to 1GB. Due to the fact that the memory is shared between the system and the graphics card, if you can muster up another $100 it is advisable to get it bumped up to 512MB of memory. All Inspiron 1150's come standard with an Intel Extreme integrated graphics chip set. The hard drive ranges from 20 to 60GB in capacity utilizing an Ultra ATA interface, most will only need between 30 and 40GB for general business usage. The included battery is a 65Whr, and an optional 96Whr version is available for extended power use. The CD drive can be anything from an 8x DVD-ROM to a full 8x CD and (DVD+RW/+R) DVD burner with double layer write capability. An optional (and highly recommended) Dell 1350 wireless card (802.11b/g compatible) is available. The base XGA screen size is 14.1" and an optional 15" screen is available.

Our test Inspiron 1150 was configured with an Intel Pentium 2.66 processor, 256MB memory, 15" screen, 40GB drive and wireless card. We found general operation of the workstation to be more than sufficient for general business use. Initial application load times were not stunning by any means, but were certainly more than acceptable, especially in light of the notebook's price point. Once applications were running, they responded swiftly and without any problems. There were no signs of lag or delay at any time during regular application use. The sound quality from the integrated speakers was as expected, tinny and severely lacking in any level of fidelity or musical reproduction range, but are acceptable for the typical "ding and dong" alert sounds of business applications. The video card produced graphics that are in-line with business requirements for such things as power point presentations, but is not geared towards entertainment related graphics such as first person 3D gaming.

The screen is well suited to the size of the case, crisp and colorful. Its horizontal viewing range is excellent, however its vertical viewing angle is limited often causing either the bottom or top of the screen to appear darker unless you are in a median "sweet spot". After angling the display you can generally find a comfortable viewing position that allows the full screen to be sufficiently legible and easy to work with for prolonged periods of time. We were impressed by the refresh rate of the responsive TFT active-matrix screen, great for full screen DVD movie viewing. We did not experience any glare related problems with the screen, which performed well in a range of lighting conditions. The CD / DVD drive worked quietly and efficiently, but was a tad bit awkward to add and remove discs due to a slight overhang of the case above the disc tray. The wireless card worked flawlessly and offered exceptional ease of use and great wireless internet performance that was consistent - even with access points that were not located within the general vicinity of the notebook.

The notebook comes standard with a 1 year on-site limited warranty, expandable up to 3 years with optional CompleteCare which acts like insurance for your notebook in the event of accidental damage. When purchasing the notebook, shipping rates range between $49USD for 3-5 days to $89USD for next business day. Shipping with Dell has in our experience been outstanding, and live tracking of your delivery is available on their web site.

Overall, the Dell Inspiron 1150 proved to be a "power it up and you have everything you need" experience. Its clean design, components featuring quality usually reserved for notebooks in a higher price points and mind boggling prices set it apart from the herd. Even more enticing is the continual stream of free or reduced price shipping offers; discounted pricing; free components; free upgrades and increased warranty period (and much of the time a combination of those items) that bring the price down and the value up even further for what is already an excellent deal. The numerous positive aspects of this notebook far outweigh the small handful of items we wanted improved - allowing us to enthusiastically recommend the Dell Inspiron 1150 notebook to small business users on a budget.

PROS - Well constructed, durable case; crisp and responsive screen; whisper silent operation; comfortable keyboard; swift performance in business applications; super wireless performance and ease of use; great pre-loaded hard drive image; well equipped at an outstanding price.

CONS - Limited vertical viewing range for screen; more USB2.0 ports would be nice; tinny speakers; lackluster integrated touch pad precision.

About The Author

Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.

info@viscaconsulting. com

http://www. viscaconsulting. com/

 

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