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Throw a Party to Build Business Buzz

. Posted in small Business tips

You don’t have to party like it’s 1999 — after all, most of those dot-com startups crashed and burned — but hosting a gala can boost business on various fronts. The festivities may raise awareness of your company, attract new customers, reward loyal fans, and build partnerships.

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How to Identify Your Most Influential Customers

. Posted in small Business tips

You try to be good to all of your customers, but you may want to reserve extra-special treatment for those who talk about your business online. A -peer influence analysis- by Forrester Research found that 13.4 percent of adults online generate 80 percent of the posts that influence others, which may include blogs, tweets, and Facebook status updates.

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Adobe Dreamweaver CS5. WYSIWYG web page design and development tool

. Posted in small Business tips

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Thursday, September 23 2010; 6:15pm EST

The latest iteration of the famous Dreamweaver web design and development tool, CS5 continues its well balanced tradition of function and style. From the polished and thoughtful design of the installation process, to the day-to-day use of the application itself, you will be treated to an environment that helps you work better.

Installation is a painless affair, and gets you up and running quickly. Upon launching Dreamweaver CS5 (load times are quite respectable), if you have been using CS3 through CS4, you will be in familiar territory. Newcomers will notice a clean, contemporary and for the most part intuitive new workspace to call home. A typical tool bar spans the screen width along the top, properties panel along base and various customizable docks along the right represent the main stage you work in. The tool bar menus are generally well laid out and structured logically; similarly the properties panel is uncluttered and intuitive; but the docks along the right can at times feel cluttered and busy, depending on how they are configured, and particularly to beginners.

The split WYSIWYG view by default is vertical between the code and design, which seems to be awkward for properly viewing typical wide format designs, even on large format widescreen monitors. Luckily this can easily be switched to a horizontal orientation so that there is more width to view code and page design. A brilliant feature of Dreamweaver is how it automatically loads and displays below the page tabs all of the associated files that the parent document depends on, such as stylesheets, script files and include files – which makes it incredibly convenient for quickly accessing pages that influence the one you are currently working on.

Getting right into building pages, both the code view and design view are overall a pleasure to work with. Code view does a commendable job of assisting coders with tag, variable and attribute suggestions, auto closing tags, even helping with scripting language tags such as PHP, all of which is intelligently color-coded for easier viewing. The compliant code outputted is generally excellent, with only minor manual optimizations required. A set of code cleanup and compliance tools also helps to validate code for both accessibility and standards compliance, with a combination of suggested remedies and items it can automatically correct. Other tools such as the Find / Replace are fairly intelligent and quite flexible for day to day mass replace tasks that tend to pop up on occasion with web design assignments better use of wildcarding within search phrases would be a welcome addition however.

The pre-made starting points help build a basic framework for pages based on layout and language preferences, which is great, doing away with the undesirable and frankly amateur looking pre-made HTML and graphics templates of other web design tool choices on the market.

So what's new and improved in CS5 over CS4? Possibly most importantly is support for HTML5. Anyone involved in web design will be seriously considering using HTML5 over the upcoming months, if not already dabbling on implementing HTML5 in projects they are already working on. On the subject of up-and-coming, CSS3 support will also be crucial for new projects, and Dreamweaver CS5 supports it. Next up, BrowserLab… Finally, you no longer have to subscribe to online services in order to test for cross-browser compatibility. BrowserLab lets you render your web pages in a variety of target browsers, versions and operating systems; perform side-by-side and even onion-skin comparisons, tre-cool!

If you purchase Dreamweaver CS5 as part of a larger Adobe Creative Suite bundle, you will also have terrific media handling that will allow effortless dropping of PhotoShop, Flash and other media files right into Dreamweaver pages. The connectivity between the applications has continually evolved to further streamline getting creative materials into the code and working faster.

So is it a perfect world in Dreamweaver CS5 land? It's close, but there are some gotchas. We have routinely found that CS5 tends to get pretty lethargic handling large numbers of open files. Navigating between files with the scrollable tabs along the top of the application becomes slow; editing slows and the overall application becomes bogged down using our quad-core test box. We're talking a couple dozen or more files open, which may not be an often occurrence, but it happens. A quick peek at your Task Manager with this many files open will show Dreamweaver thrashing your resources. This was somewhat of a minor issue in CS4 but has become more pronounced in CS5.

We have long wanted automated spell checking on page content, but still requires manual menu selection of spell checking, and the integrated spell checker is minimal at best. Finally, editing objects such as tables visually can be a finicky and tedious at times, requiring patience. While we would like to see the resource hungriness addressed, these are really minor gripes when you look at the overall stellar polish and feature extravaganza that this software shows off.

The learning curve is comfortable with Dreamweaver CS5, newbies may take a bit of time adapting, but no more or less than other WYSISYG editors. And once you have become proficient in the Dreamweaver environment it is a pleasure to work in.

Conclusion

Dreamweaver never seems to disappoint, we continually are impressed that the application stays true to its roots of being the stylish and highly functional design environment. We usually compare competing applications on the market, but frankly, this is it. Yes, there are many other options from the likes of Microsoft Expression, to armfuls of smaller offerings. But this is well beyond the reach of the competition; it just hits the spot. Should users of CS4 upgrade? The environments are identical, but technically, as HTML5 and CSS3 become of more importance the nessesity to upgrade will continue to increase, it may be a sound investment purely on that basis, and there are a handful of other benefits in CS5 that sweeten the deal such as BrowserLabs.

The $399USD license, and $199USD upgrade prices will be tough to swallow by many, but really you're dealing with best of breed, and something that would probably be better purchased as part of a Creative Suite bundle such as the Web Premium Suite to lower the per application cost and to take advantage of the seamless interactive nature of the bundled software. While being more of an upfront investment, you can essentially run your entire web design business with this single bundle.

Dreamweaver CS5 is available immediately at major retailers internationally and online. System requirements are a modest Windows XP with service packs or Mac OS X v10.5.7 and up; Pentium 4, AMD Athlon 6 or multicore Intel processor; 512MB memory; up to 1.8GB drive space, and 1280x800 video resolution. These are really entry-gate specifications, we would highly recommend at least 2GB to 4GB memory, quad core processor and more screen real estate than the minimum to really get the most out of the software, if at all possible, none of which requires a major investment, but makes a considerable difference to the day to day usage of such a critical tool to your business.

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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Symantec pcAnywhere 10.5. Remote pc and server connectivity application

. Posted in small Business tips

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

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

Administrators of physically offsite web servers rely heavily on tools to allow reliable and fast remote connectivity for such things as daily server maintenance, configuring and file transferring. Symantec over the years has catered to this important need with its pcAnywhere remote connectivity product. Version 10.5 is no exception to a long standing history of successful versions, and provides all the contemporary features an administrator could possibly need.

Establishing contact with a remote server, or being a host server is simple, using the clean layout of the application interface. A single window with remote servers represented by icons allows for fast operation. Being a host is as simple as allowing pcAnywhere to run as an NT Server service in the background, or ran manually. Configuration and preference settings are extensive yet easy to manage. An optimization wizard lets you get the most out of your connection for better responsiveness.

Once connected with a server, you are able to take complete control over the system as if you were standing directly in front of the physical box, whether you have a low or broadband connection. Features such as ColorScale and host optimization allow for responsive and accurate remote screen replication even under somewhat poor connections. Security has also been addressed and your connection can be encrypted at various levels and protocols. Account authentication can be internal pcAnywhere security and or NT security.

It was actually quite incredible to see such a fast screen refresh rate, with the mouse cursor accurately matching your remote movements. Pull down menus, tables and other such data populated quickly with little lag time. Sending and receiving text and graphics between the two machines using the clipboard transfer came in handy numerous times. And even most drawn or photo graphics displayed well with exception to some Java dependent programs we tested which came out slightly distorted in colour reproduction. Our only other complaint is that over a number of months testing, there were extremely rare cases where the host server would not respond to our requests for connection and the service was needed to be restarted.

In addition to being able to take control of the remote screen, file transferring is another important component of this application. Similarly to Windows File Manager, dragging and dropping files for transfer to and from the host is simple. Routine file transfers can be automated via use of batch processing and directories can be synchronized by a single button click. SpeedSend technology ensures speedy transfers of files by selectively transferring only data which has changed. The technology in the real world proved to swiftly move file transfers along and was a preferred method over old style FTP utilities.

The software is designed for Windows 9x, Me, NT, 2000, XP and installation generally requires little resources. A Windows NT or 9x installation requires a Pentium processor, 32MB memory, 30MB drive space. While Windows 2000 is slightly more with a 133MHz Pentium processor and 64MB memory. Server performance was not impacted by the host component sitting in memory, resources consumed are minimal, and security features make it little to no threat in a security point of view. It is available at most bricks and mortar, online computer stores and the Symantec web site. It retails for $179.95US, and upgrading from a previous version is full price with incentives such as rebates.

Overall we really felt we could depend on pcAnywhere 10.5 to keep in touch with our servers. As an administrator, it posed no threat to servers in terms of resource usage, security or stability. As a user, it represented a fast, responsive and versatile tool to do all those daily things needing to be done.

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 Types of Small Businesses Are Most Profitable

. Posted in small Business tips

We often hear statistics and reports about the percentage of -small businesses- that succeed or fail. Unfortunately, -small business- is a vague term that covers a lot of territory. Technically, everything from local pizza shops to accounting firms to gas stations to chiropractors offices qualify as small businesses. So it-s fair to ask: what are the best types of small businesses to start? Which are most profitable? And why do some always seem to be more lucrative than others?

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4 Reasons to Call Instead of Email

. Posted in small Business tips

Email provides an excellent means of multitasking and exchanging information quickly, but it isn’t always the most effective way to conduct business. Here are four reasons to pick up the phone instead of sending email.

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Microsoft FrontPage 2003. Web page design and editing, site management application

. Posted in small Business tips

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Wednesday, January 28, 2004; 9:50pm EST

FrontPage has long been a comfortable place for both novices and seasoned web designers to create their web sites. It has always been superb at handling "site" creation rather then just "page" creation. It has had a history of versions that attempt to refine the product in an evolutionary way with small improvements in functionality and stability. Generally the changes between versions were not breath taking and some of the programs quirks and bugs were at times difficult to work with. But in general it was still an application that really made the web design process easy, and got the job done. During the past few years however, competition came and eventually surpassed FrontPage with more features, stability and quality of code.

FrontPage 2003 somewhat breaks this tradition and gives us a version we can finally say is a strong application that is in line with competition and the expectations of high end web designers and programmers.

We have always appreciated how FrontPage has catered to novice users with its themes, components and "ready to use" features, while also giving programming and advanced features to its more seasoned user base. However it certainly built a reputation of catering more and more to the beginner segment as it focused more and more on features to simplify building sites for people with little or no knowledge of web design. FrontPage 2003 continues to offer even more for the novices, but also adds a much needed bag of assorted goodies and more stable operation, that experts will love.

Installation was truly a no-brainer, like most applications these days. Starting the application is almost instantaneous on a decently configured workstation. When starting a new web page or web site project it gives you a number of predefined projects that help you get started faster. Typically, however, we found just using the "web with a blank home page" the way to go. But we could imagine where some of the other templates could come in handy in certain circumstances.

Once you have a blank page and you're ready to start designing, the interface is clean, intuitive and offers a large design area to work in. The drop down menus intelligently place tool options, and toolbar buttons are clear and easy to figure out. Text handling is clean and easy to use, however we would have liked to see better handling of backup fonts and having a predefined list of the most used font sets that saves between uses of the application. Example, "Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" rather then it only displaying all of the single fonts on your workstation. This is since there are a very limited number of fonts you can really safely work with in the first place on web pages.

Open documents are represented by tabs along the top of the workspace, and sandwiched between the workplace and document tabs is the Quick Tag Selector. This is a great feature that displays the tags which your page is composed of and allows you to individually select particular page elements with ease and modify or remove them. The workspace is configurable to be in one of four modes  "Design" (web page only view), "Split" (web page and code view), "Code" (code only view) and "Preview" (view fully rendered web page). This was truly a welcome and long overdue addition to FrontPage 2003. FrontPage 2003 also includes statistical data along the bottom status bar for such things as estimated page loading times based on the data transfer rate you set and resolution of the work area.

We have always like the visual approach FrontPage has used for its table building feature. However it has long been plagued by horrific accuracy problems and inaccurate rendering once in a browser. FrontPage 2003 eliminates these problems by making it literally pixel perfect, now it truly is easy to get table and cell sizes exactly how you want them - and they stay that way when in a browser. The only thing we would have liked to see would be to see dimension sizes displayed on the table when you are moving borders so that you can get exact pixel numbers to work with.

Something we have long wanted in not just FrontPage but in all applications is a more advanced Find and Replace function. FrontPage 2003 has an incredible update to a long ignored function that will make programming changes infinitely easier. It allows entire blocks of code to be searched and replaced rather then a single line - it also allows you to define your search specifically to HTML tags even further improving your ability to do a successful replace across multiple documents. Such a small change, but such a potentially big impact to improve site wide changes for large web sites. We were also impressed with the fact that they finally made it more easy to update META tag information by placing the "keywords" and "description" tag fields right up front in the Page Properties option, instead of having to create the tags yourself.

FrontPage continues to include its selection of "Components", a collection of pre-made functions that FrontPage does instead of you having to code them. The downside is that they require something called FrontPage 2002 "Extensions" that must reside on the server the site will be published to. They have had a long history of being "temperamental" at best and have a reputation of unreliability and a need to be regularly reinstalled and maintained. The positive side of these components is that they really do help make tasks like doing page includes, feedback forms, counters and even database interactions incredibly easier then if you had to code them yourself. Microsoft stopped offering the server side of the extensions in the 2002 revision - but still offers the components in FrontPage 2003 that are compatible with 2002. This is a sad development, the components were a great idea and should have been improved in their functionality and reliability instead of being axed. The database component was an incredible time saver and webmasters with absolutely no database experience could easily build a web page that interfaced with a database - very valuable. Components in 2003 are literally identical to 2002, and still contain bugs. Our use of the "Include Page" component, for example, caused application errors which required a restart of the application to overcome on a few occasions.

The method in which you publish your web projects to the web server has also been improved to include more options and a more organized interface to manage your transferring of files between the server and your workstation.

A number of features targeted for beginners have been improved, including the use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) instead of HTML in the customizable themes; the ability to add pre-made interactive buttons to your site; and "behaviors" which eliminate the need to write code in order for a web page to perform certain tasks. Advanced users will be happy with the XML support; uses Microsoft SharePoint; HTML code "optimization" which attempts to clean up unnecessary code and tidy its presentation; and accessibility compliance checking.

The programming environment has been enhanced with the use of Intellisense and a number of other features to make programming easier. FrontPage 2003 as a result, will complete commands as you type, offer a list of available parameters for the command, perform auto word wrap, display line numbers, perform automatic indentation, and more. This level of programming assistance works when you are programming in HTML, XSL, Visual Basic, VBScript, JavaScript, JScript or ASP. NET languages. Something we truly despised about previous versions of FrontPage was its poor handling of inline code which it would tend to change, remove or add to at its own discretion causing at times quite damaging effects to web applications that were difficult to repair. This is even after specifying in its options that you do not want it to reformat existing code. FrontPage 2003, during our initial testing, appears to have corrected this issue and leaves code the way you intended it to be. This is truly a relief and worth the upgrade alone.

Documentation included with the retail box is non-existent with exception to a rather vague mini-booklet that is basically a "lite" version of the reference book they encourage you to purchase. In-program help pulls its content from the Microsoft web site so prepare to have a connection to the Internet available when asking FrontPage 2003 for help. Answers to our queries generally resolved our issues, but at times the answers were unclear or were difficult to follow.

Overall, the pros far outweigh the cons in this release of FrontPage. We recommend users of any previous version to upgrade as there are numerous improvements in almost all aspects of the program. Users new to web design or who are considering changing from their existing web design tools are recommended to download an evaluation copy and try FrontPage 2003. FrontPage has always had a less steep learning curve than its primary competitor, Macromedia Dreamweaver, and now it is comparable in features as well. It is also considerably less costly than Dreamweaver MX 2004 which retails for a hefty $399USD.

System requirements are a Pentium III 233MHz processor (we recommend a Pentium 4); 128MB of memory; up to 380MB of drive space; SVGA graphics card and display; Windows 2000, XP or above operating system. FrontPage 2003 has a recommended retail price of $199USD for the full version and $109USD for the upgrade. It is available immediately, and was launched October 21, 2003.

PROS - Great workspace improvements such as tabbed documents, tag selector and split screen mode; programming assistance such as Intellisense; no longer damages in-line code; great Find and Replace feature; improved accuracy of table and cell designing; improved application stability; HTML optimization; accessibility checking; better web publishing and file transfer mechanism; reasonable purchase and upgrade pricing.

CONS - No improvement to the temperamental "Components" and discontinuation of the server extensions instead of improving them; text handling could be better; in-program help was at times difficult to follow.

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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5 Year-End Questions to Evaluate Your Business

. Posted in small Business tips

As the year draws to a close, it’s natural to start thinking about how to grow your business in 2012. But before you make any plans, take stock of your financial situation, says Leanne Hoagland-Smith, author of Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits and a Chicago-area business consultant and coach. “You need to look at the numbers to make sure you’re moving forward and not just treading water — or worse, drowning.” She recommends asking (and answering) the following five questions to evaluate how your business is doing as 2012 arrives.

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In the Trenches: Recovering From a Crash

. Posted in small Business tips

Last week, we suffered through a fairly long system outage at the hands of our web host, Bluehost, and it was not fun. It certainly reminded us how vulnerable the world is to a technology failure, though it also showed that we can live without these tools for short periods of time if needed.

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Managing Your Business’ Special Waste Sustainably

. Posted in small Business tips

Different industries generate different types of trash, and special waste (used tires, construction debris, oils and grease, toxic chemicals, etc.) creates disposal challenges for some small businesses. Many municipalities collect paper and cardboard, plastic, and glass for recycling, but how does your company manage more complex or hazardous waste?

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5 Resources for Getting Started with Content Marketing

. Posted in small Business tips

As the marketing industry evolves, leading-edge professionals are shifting their strategies from traditional advertising to content marketing. With content marketing, you create compelling information that your customers seek, so they’ll come to think of you as a trusted expert. Once you’ve demonstrated that you can ease customers’ pain points by providing useful content, you can sell them solutions, help them take action, or inspire them to join your cause.

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How to Start a Hyperlocal News Website

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Print newspapers may be in a downward spiral, but hyperlocal websites seem to be heating up. Online independent community news sites — West Seattle Blog, The Batavian, and Baristanet, to name a few — have built substantial readerships and profitable relationships with advertisers in some very small geographic regions.

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How to Hire the Best Holiday Help

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It’s that time of year again — the time when retailers hire extra help to handle the onslaught of holiday shoppers. According to Hay Group, a global management-consulting firm, two-thirds of business owners plan to hire the same number of seasonal workers as they did last year. (In 2010, some 500,000 jobs were created.) So, how do you make sure that every dollar you spend on additional employees will bring a solid return on investment?

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Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Premium. Complete suite of web related graphics and publishing tools

. Posted in small Business tips

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Tuesday September 4, 2007; 8:30pm EST

When Adobe initially launched the Creative Suite product line, the concept of having all your critical web tools in a single application suite sounded great and was long overdue. Now that Adobe has launched their third and latest installment named CS3, it has gone from a great idea to a necessity for any serious web designer. With the application suite concept taking off and competitors such as Microsoft offering their own application suite, the question is how does the latest CS3 version stack up? Let?s find out?

Adobe Creative Suite 3 comes in a whole new variety of versions catering to the particular needs of different design specialists. The comprehensive range of suite versions essentially add or remove products depending on requirements from the ?Design Standard? edition that gives you the essentials to the ?Master Collection? which includes everything except the kitchen sink (or maybe there is a kitchen sink, there is so much packed in there it?s quite possible!), and everything in-between. The edition we will divert our attention to for the sake of this review is the ?Web Premium? edition which focuses on the needs of advanced web designers and developers wanting to develop rich and dynamic multimedia sites.

The Web Premium edition has an excellent line up of Adobe applications including PhotoShop CS3 Extended, Illustrator CS3, Acrobat 8 Professional, Dreamweaver CS3, Fireworks CS3, Contribute CS3, Bridge CS3 and Version Cue CS3. Additionally the package includes a limited range of fonts and stock photography to get you started. Once you rip open the attractively styled packaging, getting the program from the discs to your computer is a quick and painless process. With minimal effort you will have the entire suite installed and ready to roll in minutes. Product activation is required and is performed the first time any of the included applications are launched. Activation takes seconds and caused no issues or problems whatsoever.

When installed you have a seamless environment containing just about every tool imaginable to take your web ideas from prototype to live on the web ? essentially handling all aspects of the development life cycle. Each application has undergone a number of enhancements since the CS2 version, and appears to have gone through even further seamless integration between each program and the third party applications they connect with. All of the applications share a clean, easy to use interface that is the predictable combination of drop downs menus, tool bars and docks - everything you typically need is relatively accessible with little effort. The interfaces are low on clutter giving you ample work space, but always the ability to customize docks to show exactly what you want. While these applications offer plenty of work space, like most new generation applications and suites a widescreen display goes a long way to making your work a whole lot easier.

The PhotoShop CS3 Extended image editing tool, takes the standard PhotoShop concept and drops in additional tools suitable for not only image work but 3D objects as well. New to CS3 is nondestructive editing, which retains the original image data of objects you edit. This is great for when you filter, scale and rotate objects and later on need to change the object again. With many editing tools, once you have edited an object, a lot of the image data has been lost making further modifications a nightmare later down the road. Design professionals know you're only as good as your selection tools, and PhotoShop has added it's new Quick Selection tool. Simply draw around the perimeter of the area to select and Quick Selection will attempt to automatically cut right to the edge of the object within the area you chose. It works quite well when cutting objects from images with limited backgrounds or simple gradients, requiring only minor cleanup afterwards. Trying to extract objects from complicated background was a different story, and the tool often became confused when even vaguely similar colored objects were present and required extensive clean up or retracing in areas. The previewing system allows you to further refine the selected area with a host of variables, but in many cases cleanup was still needed afterwards. Despite all of this, since selecting can be tedious and time consuming, Quick Selection does ultimately help to cut down the work involved quite considerably - leaving you only correctional type work to do.

Getting back to the 'Extended' functionality of this version of PhotoShop, you can now load and manipulate 3D models in a wide variety of formats (3DS, OBJ, U3D, KMZ and more) directly inside of PhotoShop and incorporate them into your images. Not only can you do things like rotate the objects, but you can actually edit their texture bitmaps. Finally, your ability to share what you do in PhotoShop has also been improved - allowing you to now easily drop images directly into Dreamweaver projects and import into Flash or After Effects. One thing I had noticed with both PhotoShop and Illustrator is how cleanly it renders text and shapes such as circles or rectangles that are on an angle - the anti-aliasing is excellent, making anything you do crisp and highly legible.

Illustrator CS3, the vector illustration design application, enjoys a number of tweaks this time around. Better integration with Flash means you can drop your Illustrator files directly into Flash - which makes perfect sense being that they are both vector programs. This could certainly reduce development times for Flash animation work - as the Illustrator interface is more inductive for detailed vector design. Designing specifically for web or mobile applications has become easier with HTML, GIF and JPEG exporting built-in, and an ability to preview mobile pages using the included Adobe Device Central software. Other new features include document profiles for web and mobile devices; live color for web and interactive allowing you to create multiple color version of a design while prototyping; and a crop area tool for selecting specific areas as web designs or mobile device screen dimensions.

Flash CS3 Professional is the vector animation and enhanced multimedia application used for producing the incredibly popular Flash multimedia format. While little has changed interface wise, this version has a treat many have been waiting for... The ability to import PhotoShop and Illustrator files while keeping the layers and structure in tact, and even being able to edit them within Flash. You can also now convert animations into ActionScript for easier editing and reuse later on. ActionScript 3 with a new debugging system increases scripting efficiency all-round. And new drawing capabilities let you in design time change shape properties on the stage with a variety of tools inspired by Illustrator. Finally Flash CS3 has enhanced QuickTime format exporting options to allow nested movie clips and runtime effects. While each iteration of Flash works to improve its functionality and ease of use, there should be more to lessen the learning curve for beginner users of the software, such as a more visually based method of ActionScript coding.

Dreamweaver CS3 is the web site production tool of the suite, and is definitely a stand out winner. It is an absolute pleasure to design pages with Dreamweaver. Whether you?re producing web pages in design, code view or a combination of both as most do, it has handfuls of features and attention to detail niceties that make your job infinitely easier. Any web designer knows that time crunches come with the job, and it ends up being the small detail types of features that make or break a timeline commitment. The interface has a fantastic combination of a traditional drop down menu, tab based Insert menus, docks for things such as CSS styles, and a great work area.

When in 'Code View' the color of the source code is fully context sensitive making it easy to program with; it suggests tags and variables as you type to quicken coding; and can instantly highlight invalid code or validate the entire HTML with a single button click. You can rest assured your code will work for everyone with complete browser compatibility checking, and accessibility compliance checking built-in. Dreamweaver natively supports all the major scripting standards such as XHTML, CSS, XML, JavaScript, Ajax, PHP, ASP and JSP so you are not limited to specific formats when working on the variety of client requirements you encounter on a day to day basis. The coding is clean, rarely requires more than minimal clean up afterwards for optimization and is fully standards compliant. We simply didn't see some of the ridiculous coding decisions we have seen on other HTML editors, the code makes perfect sense and is a perfect blended use of CSS and traditional non-depreciated HTML tag use. It is also a pleasure to work with CSS font and layout styles in Dreamweaver, which isn't always the case with other HTML editors, even new generation versions.

The 'Design View' is fantastic and definitely the best we've encountered. Effortless creation of tables with pixel perfect precision assisted by highly intuitive sizing tools that give you exact measurements with immediate pixel width feedback. Thank you Adobe! When Dreamweaver detects server-side include tags, it automatically attempts to emulate as if the page were running on the server and displays the includes on page during design, fantastic! When selecting or creating an object, there are tons of variables associated with them that are easily editable in the properties dock. And the 'Split View' accurately remembers your split point on the screen for future sessions. I cannot stress enough what a joy it is to work with Dreamweaver CS3.

Acrobat 8 Professional and the PDF format have enjoyed wild success over the past several years at least. The newest version of Acrobat, the program used to compile and view PDF files has benefited from a faster rendering engine and better integration. Gone are the cumbersome Office plug-ins that we found less than stable in the prior version, replaced by Print output from your favorite applications. While rendering times for converting documents such as Microsoft Word are still not stellar, they have certainly improved. It is strange that Microsoft's Office 2007 export option for PDF is in fact faster than Adobe's but that margin has lessened in the latest version. Render quality, while again has improved, still shows imperfections, particularly when handling document tables where some bordered cells are adjacent to borderless cells (typically found in invoices and other table based documents).

Fireworks, Contribute, Bridge, Version Cue have also all enjoyed improvements. Most notably Fireworks CS3 now has multipage support for having multiple pages within a document that share layers; Contribute now has extensive authoring permissions for controlling content updating at a granular level as well as support for publishing directly from Microsoft Office applications.

Are there any downsides to the CS3 Web Premium suite? Applications could stand to use a bit more pep at load time. While some like Dreamweaver and Flash have improved load times, PhotoShop and Illustrator were less than enthusiastic in loading. Also, many of the variables fields such as where you enter zoom, widths, heights, and other numbers require manual entry with the keyboard - editable drop down menus with commonly used values (example, zoom measurements of 25%, 50%, 100%, 200%, 300%) would expedite modifying these numbers. As you can see, this is a pretty minor list of problems... we really didn't encounter any other notable turn-offs or problems with the suite.

Overall I was excited to see that most of our issues with CS3?s predecessor were resolved, and that what we have now is a clean cut, incredibly feature filled all-in-one solution that allows any webmaster with $1,500 to have a complete design studio on their workstation. If in the market should you consider Adobe Creative Suite 3 or arguably it's main competitor Microsoft Expression Studio? The simple fact of the matter is that Adobe has the market cornered when it comes to standards? Flash and PDF are the industry standards we all work with daily. Whether Microsoft?s competing formats such as Silverlight or XPS will ever enjoy similar saturation or even become competitive is debatable at this point. The install rate and use of these new formats will ultimately dictate the outcome. If you have CS2 is it worth the upgrade? It depends on your usage of the suite... in many instances it would most likely be worth the somewhat affordable upgrade costs. Just the improved ability to share between the core applications would make it worth it for many designers. It's all a matter of determining whether the new features will deliver productivity gains that justify the cost - for hardcore designers, probably yes.

Creative Suite 3 Web Premium is available for both Windows and Mac platforms. Windows system requirements include all Windows Vista editions excluding basic or Windows XP SP2; Pentium 4, Centrino, Xeon or Core Due processor; 1GB memory; 5GB of drive space; modern video card and monitor specifications. Mac requirements include OS X 10.4.8; JRE 1.5 for Version Cue; Power PC G4 or G5 or multi-core Intel processor; 1GB memory and modern video equipment. Retail pricing comes in at $1,599.00 USD for the full version and $499.00 USD for an upgrade (prices may vary store to store). Creative Suite 3 Web Premium is available immediately from all major computer and electronics providers. The product can be purchased as a shrink wrap product at retail stores or as a 3.2GB downloadable file from Adobe.

PROS - Dreamweaver is a dream to work with... slick interface and attention to detail, clean and intelligently produced code, standards compliance, CSS to the max, browser compatibility checking, great include handling during design time. The seamless integration of applications and the ability to share between programs. Reasonable price when considering the amount of pro tools you get. More reliable PDF exporting from third party applications. Quick Selection tool in PhotoShop reduces selection times.

CONS - Some slow application load times; limited fonts included compared to some competitors;  applications may have challenging learning curve for beginners; no drop downs for commonly used settings where variables are entered; slow and sometimes inaccurate rendering of PDF documents.

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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4 Great Graduate Programs for Entrepreneurs

. Posted in small Business tips

You don’t need an MBA — or even a B. A. — to start a successful company, as billionaire CEOs like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have proved. Nonetheless, enrolling in the right graduate program can give you a leg up. The best programs for prospective business owners not only offer valuable learning experiences, but also can put you in touch with successful businesspeople (who might become your mentors or even provide funding for your fledgling startup).

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Canon PowerShot A20 Digital Camera. Point and click budget class, compact flash digital photography

. Posted in small Business tips

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Tuesday, November 6, 2003; 3:00pm EST

Digital cameras have now become a standard option when deciding what camera to purchase. Leaps in technology have made these cameras relatively inexpensive; they allow you to selectively keep the pictures you want; have increased convenience for computer users; (depending on the model) excellent image quality; and saves you from costly trips to the local camera store for photo finishing.

Canon has been a major player in the consumer digital camera market literally since its conception a number of years ago. With a complete range of cameras from basic beginner point and shoot to highly sophisticated professional cameras. Right in the middle of their product line is the new PowerShot A20. A digital camera offering advanced features, ease of use and a price verging on "cheap", making it suitable for just about anyone.

Underneath the clean ergonomic design is 2.1 mega pixels of image quality. Which is ample for most uses. With the more advanced 3.2 mega pixel cameras, unless you can afford a massive CompactFlash card (memory card to hold the pictures in) then you are very limited to the number of shots you can take. Something this camera excels in for its price range is the 3x optical zoom (actual lens zooming) and 2.5 digital zoom (image pixel enlarging). A somewhat small but very clear and fast refreshing 1.5" TFT screen lets you take shots viewing a screen (alternatively you can use the viewfinder), view past shots and do menu functions.

The camera includes built-in flash, with no expandability for external flash. Powering this device is convenient, as you can use either 4 standard AA batteries or rechargeable Ni-MH batteries. It was a seriously unpleasant surprise when the camera did not include rechargeable batteries and charger, only regular disposable alkaline batteries. However the ability to use commonly found AA batteries that are standard around the world is good when you are somewhere you cannot charge your Ni-MH batteries due to power grid differences. Note that the Ni-MH last significantly longer than regular AA batteries and are highly recommended if you are going to be taking a lot of pictures.

Included is a 8MB CompactFlash to store you're pictures, meaning at its maximum "super fine" quality setting of 1280x960 you can take only 7 pictures, and on its low "normal" quality 640x480 mode, a more acceptable 87 pictures can be stored. We would have liked to see at least a 16MB card included. Access to the CompactFlash slot, the video out, digital out and batteries is easy and fitted with good quality parts. Another sad omission was any case to put the camera in.

The camera works in two modes, automatic and manual. Automatic lets you take the pictures and the camera figure out how best to take them, adjusting things such as exposure settings and focus. While the manual mode puts the control over settings to the user. Using the on-screen menus, buttons and mode jog was easy, intuitive and quick to achieve desired results. Presets such as macro mode, night time, action shot and more let you specify to the camera what type of shot you are going to take for optimum picture quality. Start up time when turning on the camera was good. Taking pictures is as simple as slightly pressing the trigger; the camera will adjust lighting, focus and other settings and signal when ready; and pressing the trigger all the way down takes the picture. The camera is highly responsive, quick picture to picture time and allows for burst modes of 2.5 pictures per second. A panoramic mode allows you to "stitch" pictures vertically together to create the effect of a large panoramic picture.

Reviewing the pictures you have taken is easy. Single picture mode to see them full screen or picture wall mode gives an overview of the pictures on the CompactFlash. A "zoom mode" allows you to zoom in on pictures to see more detail. Once you get the image over to your computer using either the USB cable provided or buying a media card reader (so that you can connect the CompactFlash card with your computer) the included software gives you complete control over the process.

Image quality varies in our tests. Under bright light conditions such as daytime shots, outdoors shots and the like are excellent, vivid image quality and colour make the pictures look stunning. However, we have noticed some indoor shots and darker environment shots to be fuzzy and inaccurate dark colours. Moving the camera just slightly during indoor shots can cause excessive blurring of the picture. This is not something, however, exclusively characteristic of this camera, as other cameras do have similar blurring issues, especially lower price models.

Overall, the $599CAD price puts it somewhere in the middle of the pack of cameras available on the market today. We were happy with the features such as 7.5x zoom, 2.1 mega pixels, vivid screen and excellent outdoor picture quality. We were not impressed with how little is included with the camera, such as the lack of rechargeable batteries, case and the low capacity 8MB CompactFlash card. We were also not happy with the quality of some indoors pictures taken. When you look at the total package though, it is a reasonable price for the amount of technology you get, rather than the accessories you get. In the end, the PowerShot A20 does deserve to go on your short list of camera purchase options.

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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In the Trenches: Slowing Down

. Posted in small Business tips

I find myself in a very strange place. Ever since I was laid off from my last -real- job (or shall we say, job working for -the man-) back in 2008, I-ve spent my time building up my business, adding to my workload, and trying to get back to what I earned before. Now, for the first time, I-m in the opposite position. I need to start cutting back, or at least allocating my time better.

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Pet Smart: 4 Startup Ideas for Dog Lovers

. Posted in small Business tips

You love your own canine companion, so recently you started thinking about running a dog-related business. It’s a potentially lucrative niche: More than 46 million U. S. households include at least one dog, and people’s spending on their Fido, Fifi, or Fluffy has increased over the past several years. In fact, Americans spent more than $48 million on pet-related sales last year, the American Pet Products Association reports. That’s a big target market. Here are four small-business ideas to consider taking for a walk around the block.

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CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12. Complete graphics editing and designing application suite

. Posted in small Business tips

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Friday, March 5, 2004; 4:00pm EST

Corel's latest release of their CorelDRAW Graphics Suite product further refines the major improvements that were found in the previous Version 11 release. Version 11 was critical in improvement to the interface, feature set and overall application stability. CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 takes this sound foundation and adds a number of convenience and design time saving features.

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 is distributed on four CD's, which contain the install files, a vast font library counted in the hundreds, clip art, sample photos, and 120 minutes of training video. Installation is a breeze, and future updates are performed through the inclusion of a scheduled updater within the application. CorelDRAW Graphics Suite is now specifically optimized to take advantage of Windows XP.

The single install takes care of installing the complete suite of applications and tools including CorelDRAW 12, Corel Photo-Paint 12, RAVE 3 and a number of small tools such as an image tracer, image capturer, fonts manager and printing duplexer.

CorelDRAW is an artistic design and publishing tool used for everything from designing letterheads to marketing materials; RAVE is a vector based illustration and animation tool that exports to the popular Macromedia Flash format used the world over; and finally Photo-Paint is a complete image editing tool used for photo editing and web graphics design. Needless to say, this suite really packs a lot into a relatively inexpensive price when you consider all of your business and personal graphics needs will be taken care with a single package. Price wise it competes favorably to its direct competitors that offer less bang for the buck.

This review will primarily focus on the Photo-Paint application as a majority of our readers will most likely want this suite for its web design capabilities.

Loading Photo-Paint is generally as quick as previous versions, if not marginally slower on first time runs than subsequent runs during that same use of the computer. Its interface design is virtually identical to the previous Version 11 interface. For users new to Photo-Paint, standard drop down menus and tool icons line the top of the interface, editing tools are to the left, palette and dockers to the right of the screen and program status lining the bottom. The beauty of the product is its incredibly flexible interface that allows you to change each and every element of how it is arranged. Version 12 extends this with XML-based workspace support. As every career designer knows, having an environment exactly how you want it is critical - Corel delivers this right down to the pixel.

New to its lengthy list of tools and features for Version 12 is a touch up brush that makes quick work of cleaning up defects in images at the level of restoration you choose. The decision to make this a dedicated tool is commendable, and makes sense for users regularly cleaning up images and photographs after they are taken.

Importing and exporting of file formats have also been improved in this version. You can now load and save in literally every possible format you could imagine. You are now able to export to Microsoft Office format in addition to the typical formats such as JPG, GIF, JPG2000, PNG, BMP, TIF and PDF. Import and export Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop; open AutoCAD files; open and work with QuickTime movie files; the list goes on and on. This is great for multiplatform graphics houses that need to interchange graphics files of varying formats regularly. Digital camera users in particular will appreciate the ability to maintain and view EXIF data stored in their image files.

When saving your work to a compressed format, your control over compression, transparency and other factors is very well executed. A side-by-side original and "zoomable" preview gives you live feedback on image quality resulting from the selected compression ratio, and any selected transparency colour. Unicode support is also new, increasing portability of your completed work, and allowing multiple languages on your workstation.

The image adjustment tools and effects really are a joy to work with, giving instant feedback on the changes being made to the image. Slider controls, manual number entry and other means are effectively used to make it very easy to make precise changes to your image. A bulk of the effects and adjustment tools available are highly flexible and can be customized to exactly the way you want them to behave. Palette management has remained the same as prior versions, and offers excellent control over your colour usage. Text support is typically a pleasure to use and allows direct typing onto the image. Text rendering appears to be slightly cleaner in this version. Wanting better text-path support in this version is our only gripe about the text handling.

Image slicing, which was introduced in the previous version, is a timesaving way of dividing images into segments and saving those segments individually for use in web pages. We found the implementation of the actual slicing tool in CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 to be well implemented. However, we would have liked to have more control over the saving process, by selecting our own exact compression ratios and other criteria - rather than selecting from a list of preset configurations. The red-eye removal tool works sufficiently providing care is taken to avoid surrounding areas of the eye.

As with previous versions of the software, although vastly improved, it still has a small number of bugs that crop up on occasion, specifically around specific image adjustment and text features. Keeping in mind however, that these bugs rarely occur and only under very particular circumstances. Users of versions 10 and below will find the stability of Version 12 to be a quantum leap better.

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 is now exclusively for the Windows platform, and no longer offers Mac support. The recommended hardware requirements include Windows 2000 or XP operating system; Pentium II 200MHz processor or greater (we would recommend a base Pentium 4 to be truly productive, as with any high-end graphics tools); 256MB memory (again, 512MB or 1GB would be recommended for regular users; 250MB drive space and 1024x768 screen resolution. We were pleasantly surprised to discover all this added functionality comes at a cheaper price - in the order of $270.00CND less than the previous version. The recommended retail price for the full license is $399USD / $529CND; upgrade license is $179USD / $249CND.

We recommend users of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 10 and older versions to consider upgrading, while users of version 11 may find it difficult to justify the upgrade cost unless specific features are of importance to them. We have always recommended users of competing graphics packages to evaluate Corel as an upgrade, this version is certainly no exception. Users deciding on their first graphics package are very much recommended to place Corel at the top of their short list. Overall CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 offers a pleasant collection of enhancements to an already excellent graphics suite.

PROS - Clean, highly customizable workspace; dedicated touch-up brush; highly competitive low price; excellent image adjustment and effects tools with instant feedback; incredible file format handling.

CONS - Still a small number of bugs; better text-path handling would have been nice.

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 Is A DBA

. Posted in small Business tips

Understanding what is a DBA (Doing Business As) is one of the more confusing steps for new business owners.

Though if it’s explained right, it’s easy to understand and even easier to get. Read more…

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Adobe Dreamweaver CS4. WYSIWYG web page design and development tool

. Posted in small Business tips

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Wednesday, December 24 2007; 3:30pm EST

Dreamweaver has long been a leader in the HTML design tool space, so when a new major version comes out, there is much anticipation. So now that Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 has been released, let us see whether it lives up to the anticipation.

Dreamweaver CS4 can either be purchased as a standalone product, or as part of an Adobe Creative Suite 4 package. These packages are an excellent way to get a complete studio worth of well integrated web, print, photography, graphics, animation, video and sound production tools in a single box. The tools included are dependant on which package you select, as each package focuses on broad fields of interest and professions.

From disc in drive, to up and running is an effortless process taking only a couple mouse clicks to get everything installed and running as per most Adobe products. Dreamweaver loads into a stylish, attractive new interface that certainly gives it a distinctive taste all its own. Gone is the usually ever present Windows application bar, relplaced with a clean menu bar that optimizes screen utilization. The working space is divided into a primary design window which can be split to show live code; a sidebar with common HTML objects; a panel along the base for defining object properties; and a tabbed panel along the very base of the the work area that automatically rises to show results of Find / Replace operations, compatibility tests and other such information. Everything can be customized, reorganized, docked or removed. The layout works well and keeps clutter to a minimum, which is truly welcome when you see some of the daughnting interfaces of similar tools out there. On top of that, it allows you to skin the environment to fit your specific focus, on-the-fly. For example if you're predominently going to do coding, then simply select that layout from a drop down and presto - the program reconfigures the layout for optimal coding. Brilliant.

So it has a slick new look, but what about under the hood? There are a ton of new time saving and productive new features that once you try you wont be able to live without. First up is the ability to have a live browser accurate rendering of your pages as you design them; infinitey helpful to designers needing immediate feedback as to exactly how they're pages are shaping up as they produce them. A real time saver that reduces or eliminiates the need to constantly preview pages repetitively in browser windows. The fact that Dreamweaver intelligently loads include files automatically while in design mode is also fantastic.

The related files feature automatically gives you access to all includes that are called from a parent page. For example, if you load an HTML page and it's dependancies are a Javascript file, CSS file and an assortment of includes such as a header, footer and menu bar, Dreamweaver will automatically load these as sub pages and allow you to edit them. High five to Adobe for this one. The only complaint on this otherwise excellently executed feature is that if you change any of these dependancy pages you cannot save the changes unless you either open it as a full page tab or do a Save All. While day to day loading and saving of files is without problems, the loading of large libraries of files simultaneously can unfortunately lead to application instabilities. This is even apparent in our quad core, 4GB memory test box. While we are talking dozens of complex files at at a time, we would have preferred to not worry about the potental for application crashes in such circumstances.

The code navigator lets you see the hierarchy of tags that a particular object or element in your design is composed of. It is a good way to visually step through all of the tags that make up a particular part of your design; great for debugging funky output. As with CS3, we comend CS4 for its easy approach to changing object properties. While tools like Microsoft Expression Web require opening windows to set attributes, a bulk of attributes in Dreamweaver are in plain view at all times, within the lower panel of the page. And adding objects to pages is equally easy, drag and drop objects from the sidebar; which is broken down into major categories of objects in a simple to use drop down. Making adjustments to tables in design mode can sometimes be an arguous process because the adjustment handles can be a bit finiky, but otherwise the table tools are informative and flexible. Another design mode issue is when content within a table is modified, for example content is taken out, you must take your mouse out of the table in order for it to update its new dimensions on the screen. This can sometimes be annoying, but by no means a major issue at all. In general all of the typical day-to-day objects like form fields and image insertions are incredibly easy to perform and modify.

On top of that, cutting code directly in source mode is often expedited through the use of its intelligent coding assist which predicts closing tags, helps list attributes and properties for insertion into tags, and not in an annoying overzealous way. A definite negative though, is the lack of on-the-fly spell checking within the design view. You must initiate it from a toolbar menu item - this certainly needs to be contemporized with real time spell checking, something we were expecting to see in CS4.

PhotoShop users will love the ability to take your PhotoShop source files and drop them directly into Dreamweaver for editing and integration. No more opening PhotoShop just to make quick adjustments. Also, for those of you that are more creatively inclined rather than coding experts; CS4 offers easy ways to create dynamic content driven pages without the need to learn complex programming or knowing how to use XML data structues. This is great, as often if a client needs simple data loading into pages and the designer doesn't have sufficient programming skills, it would need to be sent to a coder. Now that same designer can take on those simple tasks themselves.

At the end of the day however, it all comes down to how good the code is that it produces... and we're happy to report its clean and reliable. Very little post design cleanup work is required, with the code often perfectly optimized straight from the tool. It is such a relief to know you don't have to go sifting through code looking for redundant or out of place tags, or worry about compatibility or rendering problems. Almost every time it’s a home run with Dreamweaver. Notepad users, its time to abandon your antiquated ways and get with the times... this latest generation WYSIWYG editor is smart and an unbelievable time saver.

In all, we're glowing with praise for the latest installment of Dreamweaver. It offers a comfortable, reliable and timesaving environment that the competitors simply cannot touch. We were fond of Dreamweaver CS3, CS4 took that successful formula, further refined the interface and added 'gotta have' features. This results in a definite winner that web designers will be sure to enjoy using. Should CS3 owners upgrade? Some of the new timesaving features may pay for themselves pretty quickly, so it should definitely be considered. In terms of competition, a product like Microsoft Expression Web (which would be the primary competitor) simply doesn't have the usability, reliability, features and ultimately the quality of code produced to compare.

Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 is both Windows and Mac OS compatible. Windows requires 1GHz or faster processor, Windows XP SP2 or Vista Home Premium, Business, Ultimate or Enterprise with SP1, 512MB memory, 1GB drive space, 1280x800 display and DVD-ROM drive. Mac OS requires PowerPC G5 multi-core Intel processor, Mac OS X v10.4.11 - 10.5.4, 512MB memory, 1.8GB drive space, 1280x800 display resolution, DVD drive. Recommended retail pricing is $399 or $199 for the upgrade. It is available immediately at all major electronics retailers and at the Adobe online store.

PROS - Intuitive interface layout, menus and property windows; related files and automatic include file display real time savers; clean code output requiring only mininal post cleanup; live browser view; skinable interface depending on your focus a great addition; overall good quality and attention to detail.

CONS - Occasional difficulty in handling large numbers of open files; lack of on-the-fly spell checking; sometimes finiky table adjustment handles; having to take the cursor out of tables for them to readjust.

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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6 Strategies for Surviving the Downturn

. Posted in small Business tips

Time and again, business experts point to economic slowdown as the best time to shore up your resources, re-engineer your business model, and dare to be innovative. Yet many small enterprises are waiting to see how things will turn out before making any changes. By the time they decide to do so, it may be too late. So why wait?

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SF Station Makes Bold Leap from Commercial to Public Radio

. Posted in small Business tips

Bill Lueth has been on and around radio stations for 24 years. After starting his career as an announcer in Nebraska in 1987, he moved to California in 1989 to serve as a morning-show announcer for classical station KKHI. In 1993, Lueth moved into program management, and now he’s president of classical KDFC at 90.3 and 89.9 FM, a National Public Radio station in San Francisco.

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What Is An LLC

. Posted in small Business tips

Are you wondering what does LLC mean? If you’re going into business for yourself, it will pay to learn more about this type of business entity. What are the advantages and drawbacks?

When a business reaches a certain point, some may wonder if it is wise to change from a sole proprietorship to an LLC. Of course, there are a huge number of benefits to forming an LLC vs. maintaining a sole proprietorship or launching an S Corporation.

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In the Trenches: Handling Sensitive Customer Data

. Posted in small Business tips

I just got back from a week on the road, and as usual, it was exhausting. Being in a bunch of different places is one thing, but then having to run a business on top of it really drains me. I need to get others to be able to take my place, but there-s one thing standing in the way: the money.

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How To Pick The Right Business Entity

. Posted in small Business tips

Whether or not incorporating a business is the right decision for your startup is an important question to answer before getting too far down the entrepreneurial road.

Some new small business owners grumble at the thought of trying to figure out all of the different business entity types, what they mean, how much they cost, and how complicated they are to run and manage over time.

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HP G42-224CA Notebook. 14" Widescreen AMD Athlon Processor Based HP Notebook Review

. Posted in small Business tips

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Thursday, September 23 2010; 6:15pm EST

The G42 is HP's 14" widescreen notebook entry into a truly saturated mid-level notebook segment.

Construction is clean and overall solidly built... hinges are well built, very little flex in the chassis and materials are generally of good quality, particularly for the price point. The outer shell and inner surface area is a textured silver plastic that feels good and a pleasant change from the barrage of smudge and scratch magnet polished finishes flooding the market in recent years. Consumers are burnt out and tired of constantly babying high maintenance finishes, so the HP scores well with this durable solution. The "single piece" of the work area is clean, exposing only a keyboard, power button and track pad button. Ports along the sides of the unit are well laid out and are adequate for most users. Overall quite a contemporary design that would fit in well at the local hot spot enabled espresso bar.

Specifications read well, 4GB DDR3 memory, 500GB 7200rpm drive, 802.11n wireless, LED back-lit screen, ATI 4250 graphics, webcam, DVD burner, HDMI out, all-in-one media card reader, Windows 7, last and least a pretty stock-standard run of the mill dual core Athlon II 2.1GHz processor found on pretty much every low to mid end notebook. Overall though, pretty damn good for a notebook at this price point.

Performance is good; by no means a miracle of modern technology, but it will certainly get you through all the mainstream office applications and typical productivity programs. Just don't expect ultra frame rates on the latest first person shooter. The vast majority of the time it keeps up with you, only on rare occasions does it experience a sluggish geriatric moment. The most likely bottleneck candidate would be the Athlon processor, the rest of the specifications are a pleasantly surprising combination of decent performing parts that are absent in many of the G42's competition, such as the 7200rpm drive and 4GB of DDR3 memory. The system also runs incredibly cool and quiet, no whirring fans and blisteringly hot case here. The overall unit weight was very comfortable as well, its weight is ideal for long haul travel and being dragged through airports, hats off to HP in this department.

The keyboard is attractively laid out both in a visual and ergonomic perspective. HP did a decent job of cramming all necessary buttons into the 14" form factor without any problematic compromises. Key response is a little shaky (if not even chintzy) but gives sufficient feedback and tactile feel to be comfortable for long term usage. The trackpad on the other hand is not such a winner. The textured design lowers tracking accuracy as your fingers run across the ridges of the design; and the single piece button for both left and right click is frankly a disappointment. Often you will perform a "select and scroll" and it will often simply stop selecting half way through. The trackpad features "gesture recognition" for scrolling and zooming functions, however its default disabled status will give you an indicator of what to expect. It's erratic, lacking in configurable settings and a severe disappointment for anyone that has used real gesture implementations like an iPod Touch. The trackpad attempts to retain the "single piece" aesthetics by concealing itself giving a very clean appearance to the work area. This really is its downfall.

The screen offers decent image quality, provided you're dead on in front of the screen. The poor viewing angle (in all fairness, an issue that is endemic with almost all notebooks at this price point, and even above) results in substandard image quality even only slightly out of the "sweet spot" causing contrast to flatten and colour rendering to degrade rapidly. This puts watching movies in all but the most specific circumstances, awful to sit through, as being off center causes the movie to have an "X-Ray" look. The brightness is sufficient, but you will most likely have brightness on full most of the time. We would like to see more 14" and 15" notebooks come with higher screen resolution options such as the offerings from the Dell Studio line; as applications requiring docks and multiple menu bars quickly consume a lot of the 1366x768 real estate in a typical notebook screen.

The stereo speakers mounted within a black strip just above the keyboard were woefully underpowered (again, as with most notebooks in this segment). Tinny, unrefined and lacking in fidelity, to put it politely. We often had them close to full volume during media playback, luckily they are low in distortion.

On the subject of disappointments, the installed software is a train-wreck assortment of "pay per play" games that would make even your grandmother frown; tons of trial-ware, toolbars, add-ons; and most insidious of all, a collection of HP produced software that masterfully gets in the way; weighs your system down; pesters you with endless reminders that put you through a labyrinth to disable; and ultimately offers little actual benefit. You know from the moment you power it up for the first time the barrage of privacy related questions and things "HP recommends" to enable are signs of trouble ahead. Even right out of the box, take a quick peek at the Task Manager and gasp at the sheer number of system processes running (over 70, wowsers!), you will be taken aback by how much resources are being used to do pretty much nothing. HP really does live up to its reputation of bloatware on this one.

Unfortunately the only real remedy is a fresh Windows 7 installation which is time consuming and difficult for those that just wanted it to work out of the box. Not only that, you are not actually provided a Windows 7 install disc, only a system restoration image on the hard drive that brings you right back to square one. And trying to uninstall the countless applications pre-loaded with the system resulted in an unstable system that exhibited erratic behaviour and constant problems.

Conclusion

If you fit the parameters of a user that installs their own Windows 7 clean image and uses an external mouse, you're in luck. The G42 is almost a perfect mid-level performer for the price. Otherwise you really need to consider some of the primary drawbacks of the machine and weigh them against the likely downfalls of other notebook contenders at the same price point. The gripes sound overblown, but try putting up with a finicky trackpad for a few hours while writing up a critical business proposal and all of a sudden it's not overblown, its real anger.

At this price, it's all about compromises, the notebook you really want is $1,400, but you have half that budget and these are the types of idiocies you will most likely contend with regardless of which model you choose. Overall the performance and build quality were the highlights, it really has a decent package under the hood; while the negatives are a lacklustre screen and speakers, awful trackpad and repulsive collection of pre-installed software. The G42 typically retails for $599.95 CAD, is immediately available from electronics retailers across the nation and comes with a standard 1 year warranty.

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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4 Government Programs That Help Small Businesses Hire Employees

. Posted in small Business tips

The U. S. government aims to stimulate the economy — and chip away at the 9 percent unemployment rate — by offering tax cuts and other incentives to businesses that help create jobs. If you-re looking to add staff but don-t have the revenue stream to do so, the feds (and, in some cases, selected states) may be willing to assist you in hiring and training personnel. Here are four programs that help small businesses bring on new employees.

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Altec Lansing ACS45.2 PowerCube. Stereo 2.1 computer multimedia sound system

. Posted in small Business tips

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting

Tuesday, November 6, 2003; 3:00pm EST

Having a thumping sound system attached to your computer is much more important than back in the day of the bleeping internal PC speaker. Now much of your home entertainment is driven by your computer. Music from MP3's, the powerful sound track of games, DVD movie watching and sound production and editing tools on your computer all need a quality component audio system being part of your system.

There are numerous manufacturers of speakers designed for desktop computers. However many of them produce speakers which are, less than stellar in sound quality. Our voyage through the maze of available speakers that offered both great sound and price ended when we discovered the Altec Lansing ACS45.2 PowerCube. The three-piece sat / sub package consists of 2 3" driver 6-watt satellites, and 1 6.5" long throw 20 watt subwoofer in a compact enclosure and necessary wiring. Installation is quick and fool proof with its color coded wiring, volume and power control is through two buttons located on the Right satellite and is equipped with an LED indicating power. Bass level adjustments can be made using a dial located at the back of the subwoofer.

We were impressed by the build quality of the speakers. The subwoofer had a decent weight and quality feel to it with attention to detail, the satellites are compact and attractive in design for prominent placement on a desktop. We were not impressed however, with the fact that you need to press both up and down volume buttons at the same time to turn the speakers on or off. Why they did not just include a separate power button is baffling.

Once the unit is on and we start the music - is when the system really starts to shine. Whether its voices, instruments, gaming sound effects, the speakers produce them all with equal realism and quality. The openness, sound stage and energy of the music is great. It handles low volume levels with detail and smoothness, high volume levels with almost no distortion and a strong presence. The subwoofer manages to easily fill a large room with surprisingly deep bass. The treble comes out crisp, open and much less muffled than many of the competing products. Mids and bass are forceful, and even managed to get some of the picture frames in the room rattling against the walls. There is however, at very high volumes, a slight lack of driver control in the subwoofer resulting in loose and undefined bass (expected in a system of this price and of a subwoofer cone this size).

The great thing is, you get the sound quality expected out of a home stereo system in a small component system, all inexpensively priced at around $65US retail. You can get these speakers at just about any computer retailer that sells multimedia peripherals, and we highly recommend you do exactly that!

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/