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One of the most nerve racking support sessions I have to perform in my job is when I need to deal with the disk or file system on a computer because it holds all the vital data.  I get that nervous, queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when someone calls about a crashed computer and tells me they have NO RECENT BACKUP.  (For the life of me I can’t figure out why people don’t keep backups?).

In the past, I’d try to recover the data from the crashed hard drive by physically removing it from the problem PC and using it as a second drive in a working system.  If any of you have ever tried this you’d know that it can be a bit time consuming to make these hardware changes and then you may find out that the data is not even recognizable.

All my IT friends are always looking for “gadgets” that they can keep in their tool kits that will make their job easier.  It’s not that we’re lazy, it’s because you can save your clients money when you bill by the hour and you can also do more jobs in less time so you can make more money.  It becomes a Win-Win when you have good “gadgets”!

One of my favorite “gadgets” when working with a crashed hard drive is a USB Drive Adapter.  If you’ve never seen one of these before, the picture is a Coolmax IDE to SATA Multifunction Converter (photo copyright Coolmax) and sells for under $25.00.  I bought mine at TigerDirect.com but this model is available on many other websites.

Coolmax IDE-SATA to USB Adapter

Coolmax IDE-SATA to USB Adapter

These devices allow you to connect 2.5-inch, 3.5-inch, and 5.25-inch IDE or SATA drives to a computer through the USB port. Not only does it provide easy connections for troubleshooting problematic hard drives but you can use it to transfer data when upgrading or to backup your data by touching a single button!

For the price, these gadgets are a must for the tech’s tool kit. If you’re a home user or small business owner that doesn’t do frequent backups of your valuable data, these devices are something you should purchase for simple “one Button” backups.

There are many different models & vendors that make these so a quick web search for “USB to IDE Adapter” will give you enough websites to choose from for your purchase. Some models support both PC & MAC as well as Operating Systems back as far as Windows 98. Just check the specs before you make your purchase to be sure it’ll work with your Operating System.

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This is not only my opinion but it seems to be the theme behind the YouTube posting by Ben Walker. It’s a little tune he wrote to mock everyone’s favorite 140 character micro messaging service.  What I found particularly funny was his trip down memory lane when the Internet first became popular and how messaging of all kinds has become a vital function in our lives. 

Social networking is all the rage and according to the Internet guru’s, you’re only someone if you have a presence on one of the sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn to name a few.  Frankly, I have a Twitter account but don’t take the time to maximize its effectiveness because I don’t “tweet” every day.  When I can get a break from answering messages in my 5 different email accounts, I vow to find out the secrets to effective marketing by tweeting micro messages. 

So for now, I guess I’m some one because I have a Twitter account but a real nobody because I don’t use it enough……..quite the dilemma isn’t it?

I hope you enjoy the tune incorporating his tongue in cheek humor as much as I did!

My Creative Juices are M.I.A.

This week has been extremely stressful for me because my Masterclass assignment takes me into a very uncomfortable place called the “creative zone”.  You see, I’m a logical thinker and that leaves me a tad short on the creativity gene.  Trying to be creative scares me as much as walking along the side of a busy road while blindfolded and knowing one wrong move could get me killed by a semi.

Monday afternoon and evening, I dug into week 8’s videos and tried to narrow down my niche from week 7’s list. Can you believe that anything I was good at or passionate about yielded only items with a gravity of 1-2 in the Marketplace?  Not a big seller there is it? What was worse is after moving on to my back up topics the Marketplace searches yielded NOTHING!  I couldn’t believe it….was my computer broken or do I just lead a very boring life?

After sleeping on this problem, I started fresh on Tuesday morning by looking into some different phrases and found something in ClickBank that was showing gravities of 30 and higher.  So I start doing my research and then had to leave for my current job.  By the end of the day, I wasn’t happy with the niche so I decided to start all over again. (Yes, I’m a woman but don’t normally change my mind so many times.)  That night I went to bed worrying about this again and not sleeping very well because tomorrow was mid week and I needed to “kick it up a notch” if I was going to be ready for next week’s assignment.

At 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning, I decided this fear thing is stupid and with my first cup of coffee in hand, I settled on my niche for my product. Will my niche choice for the information product be a huge hit……probably not but at least I made a choice and if I fail the first time, I’m sure I will learn enough in this process to do it better the next time.
 
By Thursday morning, the knots in my shoulder were only pea size and this morning, I finally woke up feeling back to normal again.  All it took was the patience to make that leap of faith and I felt like a new person.  Isn’t that always the case? 

So for all of you who struggle with the fear of failing to achieve your goal, I will pass along this famous quote:

“Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.”
Brian Adams

Are You Going Green?

It almost sounds like I should have posted this yesterday in honor of St. Patrick’s Day but that’s not the “green” I’m referring to.  I’m asking about “Going Green” to prevent toxic waste from hitting our landfills and to be more environmentally-responsible.

One of the questions I get asked by clients many times a year is “how can I properly discard my old computer equipment?”  The answer is not to put it curb side with the trash or disassemble it and scatter it piece by piece in different trash bins.  That is definitely NOT the answer. You’d be shocked if I told you how many times I’ve heard that disposal story.

PC’s are very toxic by design. The hardware is comprised of mercury, nickel-cadmium, arsenic, cobalt, zinc, copper as well as aluminum.  How’s that for a list of heavy metals that could poison the human body?  More toxic materials are used to clean printed circuit boards mounted inside the case.  A standard monitor can contain up to 10 pounds of lead and other heavy metals. Can you imagine what is currently in our landfills?  It makes me sick to think about it!

I don’t offer recycling as a service to my clients but I freely offer these few simple tips to help them Go Green. 

  1. Depending on the age of the computer, there are many charitable organizations that will accept them for recycling to needy individuals or sell them in their thrift shops.  Check your local Salvation Army, Good Will and different religious charities. You might be able to improve someone else’s life with your old equipment.
  2. If you have a toddler or pre-schooler, save the old PC just for their educational software.  Many of the educational software programs still run in DOS so you don’t need a powerful computer.  You can buy these programs for a few dollars at yard sales or on eBay.  And think about this, if the child smashes the keyboard, who cares because it was ready for the trash pile, right?
  3. Just last month (Feb of 2009), the Best Buy stores in all 50 US States started an electronics recycling program.  There is no cost associated with the recycling service except for CRT & LCD displays or laptops/notebooks. Recycling those pieces of equipment will cost $10.00, but Best Buy will offset that fee by giving customers a $10 Best Buy gift card.  If you live in the US, you can read all about the program here.  There is a FAQ section about the process and what they will not recycle so be sure to review that before taking the trip to your local Best Buy.

I don’t consider myself a tree hugger but I’d like to be able to dink a fresh glass of water without worrying about contamination so I hope you found these tips useful.  GO GREEN!

I Have Spring Fever

What do you think about when you know spring is right around the corner?  Is it gardening, mowing the lawn, being able to walk outside without the need for 3 layers of insulation?  I’m sure for the majority of people who live in the northeast section of the United States, spring means NO MORE SNOW but for me, spring means it’s time to go golfing again.

I love the challenge of the game because it’s me against the course and it gives me an incredible amount of personal satisfaction when I can par or birdie a hole.  I would definitely like to do that on a more consistent frequency but being a weekend warrior of golf, I don’t consider a bogie unacceptable.  Double and triple bogies……well, I won’t go there because my hand shakes from frustration when I need to record one of those on my scorecard!!  If you’re a golfer, you’ll understand what I mean.

One of my goals for this golf season is to improve my putting so I can par or birdie more holes.  I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Drive for Show and Putt for Dough.” It’s not just a cute golf phrase because truer words were never spoken. Statistics indicate that over 40% of the practice shots professional golfers take are putts and if you’ve ever watched the senior’s tour, you’d see that they compensate for their power loss off the tee with a top notch putting stroke.

So here’s a short video on putting tips that I’d like to share with all those weekend warriors striving to lower their handicap!

Baby Boomer Widget

Today is Sunday and that’s the day I normally kick back and relax while listening to music, reading a book or doing research on the web.  This morning while drinking my first cup of coffee, I decided to dust off my “vinyl” and give it a spin. 

How many of you are baby boomers that still hold onto their 45’s and play them to take you back to a less complicated time in your life?  I for one find it very relaxing.

While spinning the 45’s, I’ve been doing some research on the Internet and found a blog widget just for Baby Boomers.  It’s free and you can get this along with many other widgets free at the widgetbox website.

What  is a widget?  It’s nothing more than a term used for a sidebar accessory.  Widgets/Wordpress plug-ins provides customized design, content and gadgets without needing to know any programming language. 

You can insert this widget in one of your sidebars by adding it as a “text widget” . If you’re a widget novice like I am, there’s a ton of information on wordpress about using & creating widgets to make your blog unique.   This widget is currently installed on this blog if you’d like to see it in action!

A Tornado Hit My House!

Not really but that’s what I thought after seeing what my unattended 4 month old puppy could do to my home!  How could something this cute be as bad as a tornado? 

I AM REALLY CUTE!

I AM REALLY CUTE!

I have been on a spring clean up mission and luckily located a company that could provide a quick pick up service. They were willing to remove my dead 1970’s avocado green refrigerator along with ten old computers, monitors, scanners and 20 boxes of miscellaneous computer parts for $100.00 flat.  That’s a real bargain considering that it would cost me double that price to make sure these items were disposed of in a “green manner”.  I also got the added bonus of them doing all the heavy lifting!

When the husband & wife team of J&J Hauling arrived in my driveway, I quickly put the puppy in his crate with 2 favorite toys and treats so he wouldn’t get into trouble while I was monitoring the job. (That’s a very smart move, right?)  To be a bit more accurate, I really don’t have to put him anywhere.  When he sees me filling his favorite puppy Kong with kibble and peanut butter, he immediately goes into his crate and waits for me to deliver the goods.

During the junk hauling, I was chatting with them and somehow we got on the discussion about the puppy.  Both of them were animal lovers so they asked to see him.  I agreed and brought him to the basement for the meet and greet. After all, they weren’t being paid by the hour so what did I care if they blew a few extra minutes on the job?

Puppy play time was over, the junk was all loaded and it was time for me to pay up.  I took the puppy upstairs, grabbed money from my wallet and quickly ran down to the garage to pay them.  It was at this point that I went completely brain dead and forgot the #1 rule of NEVER LEAVE A PUPPY UNATTENDED.

The quick payment turned into a 15 minute discussion about my current renovations and when I went back upstairs, I almost fainted!  Pillows, bed sheets & blankets from 2 bedrooms were strewn about in the hallway, the throw rug from the bathroom was in the kitchen, a hand made afghan was pulled apart, the shower curtain was pulled from 3 of the hooks, my morning newspaper was shredded in the living room, a trash can was dumped and the puppy was streaking up and down the hallway having the best time he ever had in his short life.

So the moral of the story is keep your wits about you when living with a puppy because even when they’re cute they can become a destructive “tornado”!

Can You Really Replace Yourself?

Small business owners are often reluctant to give up control of their day-to-day tasks for fear that the jobs won’t be completed with the same accuracy or speed that they would provide. I have personally operated under that time consuming philosophy for many years.  Yes I expanded my business but constantly working left little time for a personal life.

 

I recently joined a membership site called “ReplaceMyself”. The main focus of this site is to help you find “qualified” individuals from the Philippines to off load many of your time consuming tasks or utilize them in areas where you lack the technical expertise to complete a project for about $400.00 per month. My personal reasons for joining revolved around SEO and PHP programming needs I had to ramp up my efforts on a new income stream. I tried to hire someone from Guru.com and the project quote was $3000.00 for a 2 month project…. (YIKES!)  Needless to say, I was not willing to spend that kind of money on my new business venture.

 

The membership cost is $97.00 per month. I’m sure that some of you would believe that to be a lot of money but when I calculated the time it would take me to learn all the tricks of the process, I realized that it would cost me more than twice as much to do this on my own.  What tricks you ask?  In the first month I got tips on:

  • Where to find the worker’s
  • How to pay them and negotiate a monthly salary
  • Example contracts to seal the deal
  • Tax concerns for your business
  • Jump starting your project with “pre-screened “workers – (which I jumped on!)

Each month you receive a new training module designed to share with your worker on key topics for Internet Marketing such as:

  • SEO
  • Keyword search
  • Video marketing
  • Article marketing
  • Using the power of Squidoo

There are also many bonuses provided with your monthly membership. One of the biggest perks to me is the free Project Planning component called MyProjectPlan. This free tool provides a mechanism to communicate/manage and provide training modules to your workers instead of using email. If you’ve every looked at the cost of web based Project Planning modules, you’d see that this component can save you about $ 100 – $200 per month for multiple users.

 

If you are a “DO-IT-YOURSELF” kind of individual then this membership is not for you but if you are looking for inexpensive ways to free up time, then this is well worth the cost.   I’ve reduced the overhead of my first worker even more by sharing with one of my business associates and together we will be looking at hiring a second worker in the next month.

 

So did I replace myself?  Not totally, I still am working on the creative side of the new business venture but spending about 2 hours a day to expand my revenue streams!

Work Hard or Hardly Work?

In today’s email, I received a newsletter that included this quote – “The world is full of willing people; some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.”  — Robert Frost

 

After reading this I concluded that I fell into the first category. Throughout our lives we are taught that the harder you work, the more successful you’ll become.  From age 16 to my current age of XX (you’ll just have to guess) I did exactly that.  I always had a part-time job while in school, followed by a career after graduation and finally started my own small business.  Believe me I worked hard to accomplish all of this. 

 

I’m inclined to agree that with age comes wisdom because I’m now in the category of letting the rest of them work.  No, I didn’t become lazy. I’m still willing to work but I simply realized I don’t have to be spending 20 hours a day working on my business when I can hire someone else to complete small time consuming projects and still be profitable.

 

Out sourcing and sub-contracting is not new news to larger businesses but small businesses like mine can’t always afford to sacrifice profits for the luxury of finding spare time. By sub-contracting part-time work to college students with flexible schedules, I freed up about 10 hours per week while still holding on to 85% of my profit. Now that’s something a small business owner can live with.  Finding quality tech savvy college students was as easy as posting a flyer on student center bulletin boards at 3 local colleges.  This one change to my business model allowed me to pursue other income streams like making money on the Internet.

 

This same business model can be applied to Internet Sales & Marketing.  There are many websites like elance.com, guru.com or agentsofvalue.com where you can hire independent contractors to launch a successful Internet business. You can find web designers, SEO guru’s, keyword experts and the like but the problem I’ve found when using these sites is that their project quotes are usually too high for my modest budget.

 

So how do I get my Internet Marketing business model that doesn’t require more of my time and tons of money?   It’s an innovative website which teaches you how to achieve a 17 hour work week while increasing your income through outsourcing.  I am NOT exaggerating but if you don’t believe that claim, check it out for yourself HERE or come back to read my next post where I’ll explain the concept in more detail.

What’s Your Favorite Music?

I don’t know many people in this world that don’t have a favorite musical artist or a particular style of music because music is good for the soul isn’t it? I know it soothes the savage beast but that’s a topic for another day! Personally I like everything from Classical to Oldies and find it relaxing to listen to music while I’m working on the computer.

What’s your favorite?  Something that helps you fondly reminisce about your youth or maybe it’s a new artist that you’ve seen spring to fame from American Idol.  Whatever your preference, you could be listening to it on Pandora right now just as I’m listening to the Doobie Brothers – “Listen To The Music” while writing this post.  (I am not kidding, that was the current song.)

Pandora Radio is a very unique Internet radio station that that helps you find new music based on your old and current favorites.  They also provide service for your Windows Mobile Smartphone or iPhone so you can use Pandora in the car, on a jog, at the grocery store or whenever you feel like listening to great music.

Pandora Radio was born out of The Music Genome Project®founded by Tim Westergren.  In early 2000, Tim along with a group of musicians embarked on the task of analyzing music at its most basic level.  They identified hundreds of musical attributes (genes) like rhythm, melody, instrumentation, lyrics, etc.  Over the years they’ve listened to tens of thousands different artists categorizing the music attributes to help you find new music based on you individual preferences.

You need to register for the service to access the free ad based subscription.  There is also a paid subscription that will eliminate the advertisements.   After you’re registered, just plug in a song title or an artist’s name and it will find other songs with a similar genetic structure to add to your personal station.

Give it a try and let me know how you like this innovative approach to finding new music.