Robert’s Ramblings

Robert Alonso’s Thoughts on Technology and More…

Archive for the ‘Service’ Category

December-9-09

Have You Heard Any Good Tiger Woods Jokes?

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Service

The scandal surrounding Tiger Woods is unfortunate. His name, however, is an easy target for jokes. Some are more tasteless than others. My favorite is that he is changing his name to Cheetah Woods.  Since this is a mostly a technology blog, you are probably wondering why Tiger is relevant here. Strictly speaking, he isn’t, but getting news about him is.

I was recently asked by a friend what would be the best way to get notified of news stories surrounding Tiger Woods. Since I have been taking advantage of Google News Alerts for over a year, I knew that the easiest way to track any item of interest is to set a Google Alert on it. I have alerts on “health care reform,” my customer’s company names, my name, my wife’s name and many other topics and people of interest. Google dutifully sends me a daily e-mail with a recap of all the web, news and blog mentions of each subject. I told my friend about the alerts and you could immediately see that he grasped how useful Google Alerts could be for business.

If you want to set an alert on news about Tiger Woods go here. You can also use the page to set alerts on any other topic that might interest you.

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October-22-09

Happy Birthday Windows 7

Posted by Robert Alonso under Service, Software

Microsoft’s Windows 7 was released today and the consensus is that it is a great new operating system for PCs. It is fast, elegant, stable and even visually appealing. Windows 7 has plenty of features, but features are not its claim to fame. Microsoft is stressing the fact that it is a streamlined piece of software that works well. After its Vista debacle and the bad publicity that it garnered for the company, I am very heartened by this new release and can recommend it unequivocally.

Unlike its predecessor, Windows 7 works well with almost all hardware and even has functionality built in that will enable you to see a picture or drawing of new hardware that you connect to it. Next time you buy a printer or digital camera and plug it in via a USB port, you may be surprised when you see a picture of the device on your screen confirming that it is recognized and working.

I am very fond of the BitLocker technology that is included with the Windows 7 Ultimate Edition. With it, you can encrypt and password protect your computer’s hard drive. This protects your data in case your machine is stolen or lost. It is particularly useful for laptop and netbook owners since these are often stolen from hotel rooms. The BitLocker To Go technology makes it possible to also encrypt removable hard drives and USB thumb drives.

The Libraries feature allows you to group related folders together under a category like documents, music or video. This simplifies the task of backing up groups of documents or creating music playlist from music that is stored in multiple locations. You can use the new Windows Backup utility to create those backups and even schedule complete backups of your PC. I love this new backup tool because it will also create a system repair disk for you that you can use to restore your machine after a catastrophe.

It is important to note, that some older versions of software do not work with Windows 7. Two that I know won’t work are Norton Ghost and the various versions of Microsoft Fingerprint Reader software. Symantec is working on an upgrade for Norton Ghost that will be compatible and Microsoft is offering rebates to owners of the Microsoft Fingerprint devices and software.

Perhaps the only real issue I have with the new release is that it comes in too many versions. Microsoft is selling a Starter, Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise version. It is also selling versions that are for 32 bit and 64 bit computers. It is confusing as to which version is good for office, home and notebook use. It is also unclear whether a machine can handle the 64 bit version. It is so confusing that Microsoft has put up a web page that compares the versions.

Alonso Consulting can help you decide if upgrading is the right move for you. If you decide to upgrade your existing machines, we can guide you through the planning process, back up your existing data and then upgrade you to the correct version. Users of Windows XP do not have a direct upgrade path with Windows 7, so all data and applications have to be backed up and reinstalled.

If you prefer to buy new machines, we can provide you with a great deal* on Dell computers preloaded with Windows 7 Professional. Once we install the new machine and port your data over, we’ll erase your old PC’s hard drive, remove it and give you a $100 credit for it that you can use towards additional support from us. We will also provide you with a pass-along gift certificate worth $250. It is our way of saying thank you.

Call us at (973) 575-1414 to start upgrading to this excellent new version of Windows.

Thanks,

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

 

* Here’s the deal:

clip_image001You get a Dell PC with Windows 7 Professional worth $765. You also receive up to two hours of service to install your old applications and data. We will remove your old PC and give you a $100 credit for future support plus a pass-along gift certificate worth $250 so you can share our services with a business associate. The total value is $1,365. If you decide to upgrade and pay on our web site by October 27th, you will receive the PC, our service, a $100 credit, and the gift certificate which is a total value of $1,365 for only $899 per PC. Here are the specs on the PC:

 

Processor

Intel® Core™ 2 Duo E7500 (2.93GHz, 3M, L2Cache, 1066FSB)

Operating system

Genuine Windows ® 7 Professional 32 bit

Monitor

18.5 inch E1910H Flat Panel Monitor

Memory

3GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHZ – 1x2GB 1x1GB

Optical drive

Single Drive: 16X DVD-ROM Drive

Hard drive

250GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache™

Video card

Integrated Video, Intel® GMA X4500HD

Security software

Norton Internet Security™ 2009 30 Day Trial

Sound

Integrated 5.1 Channel Audio

Keyboard & mouse

USB Keyboard and USB Optical Mouse

Adobe software

Adobe Acrobat Reader

Resource DVD

Resource CD and DVD

Setup guide

System Quick Reference Guide

Network interface

Integrated PCIE 10/100/1000

Warranty & service

1 Year Manufacturer’s Basic Limited Warranty and 1 Year NBD On-Site Service

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September-30-09

Microsoft Security Essentials

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Service, Software

The bane of all PC users existence is malware, virus, trojan and spyware infections. It can make the PC unusable, send out hundreds of unsolicited SPAM messages to your friends and colleagues and/or consume a day or more of time to remove it. The lost productivity and tech support costs can be significant. Fortunately, there are commercial and free applications that do an adequate job of protecting against malware. Kaspersky, Trend Micro, Norton, McAfee and AVG are all good solutions.

Microsoft has finally decided that they should offer protection—something I believe should have been part of the operating system since the fist malware was ever detected years ago. The new offering is free and is called, “Microsoft Security Essentials.” You can download a free copy with updates from here.

I recommend that every reader of this blog install one of the anti-malware products mentioned here. If you don’t, one day you will discover that your machine is infected and that you have very little recourse but to call tech support. If you have tried the free support from companies like Dell, then you know that their solution is to do a system restore from the manufacturer’s CDs. You will lose your data if you do this. Paid support like the one my company, Alonso Consulting, offers will result in the removal of the virus and the saving of your data, but it will not be free. It is, therefore, in your best interest to install one of these tools now. What are you waiting for?

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

Products mentioned:

Kaspersky Lab eStore

Trend Micro Internet Security 2010

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September-25-09

iPhone MMS Now Live

Posted by Robert Alonso under Service, Software

If you own an iPhone, there is good news from AT&T today. You can connect your phone to iTunes and an update will be downloaded that enables multimedia messaging from the phone. It enables the sending and receiving of photo and video messages to other phones. The functionality even works across networks which means that you can send to Verizon Wireless users and to other wireless carriers. The update takes about two seconds to download and install automatically. That being said, why are you still reading this, get on with it…

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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September-15-09

Google Fast Flip

Posted by Robert Alonso under Opinions, Service

Google just introduced a new way of reading news on the Internet. It provides news content from a few major print publishers that have agreed to participate and a few web site publishers. Its claim to fame is that it allows you to “flip” from one news article to another one by clicking on left or right buttons on the web page or pressing the left and right on the keyboard. The “flip” is more like a slide, but I’m sure most of us will overlook that fact. The site is still part of their lab effort, but you can access it here.

Google Fast Flip Google Fast Flip includes, among many others, The New York Times, Esquire, US, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, and The Atlantic in its index. You can search for a topic or just peruse what Google displays for you. If an article grabs your attention, you can click on it to view it in its entirety on the publisher’s web site. This is a more visual way of looking at the news and improves on Google News—something that I have been happily using for over a year. Most of the magazines, publications and web sites that are included are liberal so this may not be a good choice for conservative-leaning readers. The image to the left shows a sample of what you will see on the site. (Please click on it to see a bigger version.)

Google Fast Flip View ScreenWhen you click on one of the displayed news items, you are presented with the flip interface and Google ads. These are  now being displayed to the right of the articles that you are reading. Google has agreed to share ad revenues with the publishers that have partnered with them. This is a big difference between Google News and Google Fast Flip. The Google News product does not share (and perhaps does not generate either) any revenues with publishers. I suspect that Google Fast Flip will be more popular with content creators and publishers. The image to the right shows what you will see when you click on an article. Note that other articles are displayed on the left in a scrollable region. I recommend you give this web site a try. Let me know if you like it.

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August-11-09

Bing is Cool!

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Opinions, Service, Software

Who would have imagined someone calling a Microsoft search engine, “Cool?” In the last couple of years, the answer would have been no one. The various incarnations of Microsoft’s efforts have been lame, slow and completely bereft of any savvy marketing. That has changed completely with Bing.com. Microsoft finally has a service that works well, is intelligently laid out and can make your search more meaningful and educational.

If you go to Bing.com, the first thing you notice is that the search engine is the anti-Google. It has a beautiful home page with images that change with each visit. These background images load quickly, are not obstructive and can help you learn facts. For example, in a recent Bing visit, I was presented with an image of the Bastei bridge in Saxon Switzerland. By moving my cursor over a small square in the image, I was told that the bridge was constructed of sandstone in 1851. I was also given an option to learn more. Clicking on the link, brought up search results for the bridge and included a Wikipedia entry as the top result. This distracted me from my main search, “Robert Alonso,” (just kidding) but I can assure you that it was far more instructive. It gave me the feeling I would get scanning through microfiche of old newspapers and discovering something new that I did not know before.

Bing Home Page

You perform your search just like you would on Google. For example, the image below shows the results for a search for “Democrats fishy activities program.” If you look at the image, you will also notice that under the “Bing” logo and orange colored band on the left, there is a “SEARCH HISTORY” listing. I have removed mine for this image, but that comes in handy if you need to go back to a previous search. You also have the option of turning that feature off completely.

Search results for Democrats fishy activities program

Perhaps the most interesting feature is that you can move your mouse over any of the results and see a popup blurb of the content to be found on the site. This is very helpful for finding out if a result is what you are looking for without having to click through to the site. The third image below shows the popup blurb feature in action. To get it to appear, I placed the mouse over the second result and waited a few seconds. In some of these blurbs, you are also shown other links and prominent items that are found on the page. This gives you a very clear idea on whether to proceed or not.

Blurb from Democrats SUCK!

These neat features aside, what really matters is finding what you are looking for. Bing compares very well with Google on relevance of results. In many tests that I have run, it actually does better. You can test this for yourself using this site: bing-vs-google.com. The site will give you a split view of the results from both engines side by side. This allows you to be the judge yourself.

Another feature that you are sure to like is that the left panel of the Bing results will show you meaningful links. The next image shows the results for a search on “Elisha Cuthbert,” an actress from the television drama “24” and from various films including, “The Gil Next Door.” You will notice that the results are very good and feature several images and the most likely sources of information including Wikipedia and IMDB. The left hand panel shows links to, “Images, Biography, Wallpaper, Posters, Fan Club, Interview and Videos.” These are the most typical results that people searching for her might want.

Elisha Cuthbert search results and images

The next image shows what a search for “Bill Gates” delivers.

Bill Gates search results and images

You will notice that the left hand panel is different and offers, “Images, Biography, Quotes, Books, Blog and Interview.” It is this kind of subject knowledge that makes Bing far superior and cooler. If you try entering a product name, like “Nikon D90” you are presented with a chart summarizing the camera, images and meaningful result listings. The left hand panel will give you relevant links that include the manual. This is very cool. There are many other features related to image and video searches, but I will recommend that you try them for yourself and let me know what you think in my comments section.

(I must also include a shameless plug. If you are needing help with search engine optimization (SEO), please contact Alonso Consulting. We will create a comprehensive plan for making your site appear higher in search results.)

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July-3-09

Awesome iPhone News App

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Service, Software

“Fluent News” is a free iPhone application that works with all three versions of the iPhone OS. It is a news aggregator that gathers news from various reputable sources and presents it in an easy-to-use application. It is one of the fastest news applications that I have used for the iPhone. I have read New York Times, BBC and CNN articles on it complete with the full text and pictures and it is a joy to use.

It continually updates from the various news sources and stores news for offline reading. You can also share a good story with your friends by sending a link via email or posting a link to Facebook or Twitter directly from the application. You can download it for free from the Apple App Store. It is developed by Fluent Mobile.

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June-26-09

Windows 7 Upgrade at Half Price

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Service, Software

Earlier today I wrote about my problems with the free upgrade to Internet Explorer 8. It is with a bit of caution that I am now writing about the Windows 7 upgrade process. Probably the only reason that I felt compelled to write about it is that beginning June 26, 2009 (today) you can preorder Windows 7 for half price through major on-line retailers. Two editions of the upgrade, Windows 7 Home Premium and Professional, are available. This discounted offer is available through July 11, 2009. Judging from the technical and marketing disaster that Vista has been, this may be a worthwhile upgrade. I doubt that even Microsoft can afford to screw up their cash cow twice.

If you want to order it from Amazon click below:

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June-13-09

Digital TV Transition

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Hardware, Opinions, Service

It is the end of an era; analog television broadcasts are now a thing of the past. As of this last Friday, the TV networks stopped broadcasting on the analog frequencies and are now only broadcasting in digital high definition on a different frequency. This has rendered millions of television sets useless. The deadline for this switch was delayed from February of this year to June 12th. It is now time to upgrade to a better set, pay for cable services (which will still support your television set through the cable input connector) or purchase a conversion box.

For the many who were probably caught unprepared for this, the FCC has established a hotline staffed by 4,000 operators to help you, You can call: 1-888-CALL-FCC. Alternatively, you can visit this government website: http://www.dtv.gov/

Does anyone remember analog cell phones, Betamax, VHS, LP record players, tape players, or heaven forbid, 8-Track players? If you do, you probably own a Sony Walkman tape player and need to upgrade to an iPod Touch. Get with it.

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May-22-09

On-Line Dating

Posted by Robert Alonso under Service

We live in a technologically advanced era. Everything that we used to do in the analog world is being replaced by a digital version. Now, we can even date digitally. The latest issue of Scientific American Mind magazine has an article on how significant the on-line dating scene has become and how often people lie about their age, weight and appearance on these sites.

According to the article, most sites have millions of profiles, but very few paying customers. They have concluded that sites that offer questionnaires that supposedly match people are no better than others that allow users to post profiles and wait for emails from prospective partners. They also determined that there are certain age groups that lie more often about their age. They used statistical analysis for this conclusion. The most disturbing finding is that many inquiries go unanswered because non‑paying customers cannot answer emails without becoming paying customers. This leads to a lot of frustration and misunderstanding.

Not wanting to be left out of this trend, my company has put up a new and free dating site. It is called, “Faces to Remember.” This site will facilitate human relationships much like personal ads did in newspapers and magazines in the past. The site will make its income through ads and will not charge for any of its current services.

Try it out and let me know what you think. You can reach me at the email address, Robert (at symbol) facestoremember.com or Alonso.com

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