Search The Web

Today's Headlines

Thursday, December 30, 2010

One Last Update Before The End Of The Year

It has been a while since I posted a general update on my blog. I have been busy with work, chores, etc., and life in general, so I have been lax in posting updates on things. Now that it is almost the end of the year, I think I should provide one last update before I start celebrating being off from work until the beginning of next year!

My H&R Block tax course ended the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The final test was not too difficult, and I passed the whole course with a score of about 95%. I then attended an interview at the H&R Block office to be a tax preparer for the next year. This was back on November 22nd. I was told to expect a decision within 10 days, but I have heard nothing back so far. At least I have not been officially rejected so far! But I am not hoping to hear back from them at this point, so my candidacy will be in limbo forever, I guess. Good thing I did not hold my breath for the outcome!

The interview was with 3 different managers. Each of them talked to me for about 10 minutes, and asked me a standard set of questions about how I would handle client relationships, conflicts, and other likely work situations. It is what my company calls a structured interview. The whole thing was quite inane, and at least now I know that my company is not the only one stupid enough to use such an interview technique! I have been on the administering end of many of these interviews at my company, and I have always come away completely unimpressed with what the interview tells about the potential candidate.

At work, my project has lurched from one crisis to another and is now running a couple of months behind. At least, this time, my manager is completely sure it is our IT department that is at fault for the delays. First they gave us a new development server that did not have any development tools on it (no IDE, no debugger, no compiler, not even Emacs!). We had to escalate it all the way to their manager and director before they agreed to provide any of this to us. Their official explanation, believe it or not, was that providing development tools such as the ones we were asking for on a development server was against company policy! How my company continues to operate is quite a surprise me too!!

The next problem was that IT set the project up with a data repository that is made available to us through a product made by TIBCO called Business Events (BE). It turns out that BE is difficult to deal with inside the normal tools we use to develop Java code. So, it required endless running back and forth before IT agreed to pay for a TIBCO consultant to solve the problem for us. All this resulted in a long delay to the project timeline, and the IT manager was adamant that she not be charged with the delay because "the ability to develop and debug code on the development infrastructure" was not in the original requirements submitted to her team! And people wonder why I feel like pulling my hair out and running away to a Tibetan monastery!!

And after all these problems were solved, we found that their code was full of bugs that prevented us from running and testing our code. Every time we spot a bug that stops us from proceeding further, we send them email, and they say they are busy with other projects and will fix this bug in a couple of weeks. So, we sit around twiddling our thumbs until they fix that bug. Then the cycle repeats itself with another bug in their code.

Nobody would believe me when I told them that the timelines for this project were too ambitious given that it was a completely new business area, with new IT infrastructure and tools, data sources that we knew very little about, etc. Now, they have grudgingly accepted my view that this project is going to be more about learnings for the future than about showcasing a successful project that was completed on time and under budget. For projects like this, project planning is highly over-rated, and in fact, is, in my opinion, completely useless.

At least, I had a couple of weeks of vacation to burn up before the end of the year, so I took blocks of days off before Christmas and New Year. That way, at least, I did not have to sit at work uselessly waiting for pieces of the project to be completed in a painfully slow process. Given that I want to get as far away from this project as is humanly possible, my vacation came in pretty handy! Maybe I will take my next year's vacation in January so that I can keep away from this project for some more time!!

As far as my blogging was concerned, I continued to post a reasonably steady stream of posts of various kinds to my blog. In addition to reviews of various products I bought on Black Friday, I also posted a couple of articles with tips on doing various things in Microsoft Access. I have more ideas working their way through my mind, so I should be posting stuff to my blog at a slow but steady state through the next year also.

Since my last update with this information, when the country count for my blog stood at 152, visitors from 9 new countries seem to have visited my blog. They are from Guadeloupe, Antigua and Barbuda, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cuba, Lichtenstein, Myanmar, Tajikistan, Somalia, Senegal and Benin. There are actually 10 countries in that list, if you paid attention! It turns out that Flagcounter made a change in the way they count countries, and eliminated "Unknown - EU" from the list of countries. So, even though I had new visitors from 10 new countries, I lost "Unknown - EU" from the 152 I had before, leaving me at 161 rather than 162.

The weather has been dreadful, as it usually is this time of the year in the midwest. It has already snowed so heavily where I am that I have had to get the snow shovel out and shovel my driveway of snow twice already. Usually, I don't have to shovel snow until January, but this year appears to be wetter so far. I have lived here for almost 17 years without the need for a snow thrower so far. I have considered it good exercise to just go out and shovel snow when needed with my bare hands. But the process takes a long time, and sometimes, I may need to clear the snow quickly even though I will lose out on the exercise of shoveling the snow. So, I might relent and buy myself a snowblower at some point. Let us just say research is ongoing in this direction.

That is pretty much all the important happenings in my life for this update. I hope you had a wonderful 2010, and I wish you all a very happy, prosperous and even more wonderful 2011!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

To Infinity - And Beyond!

No, I am not talking about becoming Buzz Lightyear and flying across the universe in a space ship. I am talking about a fun way to buy stylish, name-brand shoes and boots such as Miz Mooz and Old Gringo. You can get a vast selection of such famous-name brands in the shoe business by shopping online at stores like Infinity Shoes. Infinity shoes has been selling high-quality shoes to a fashion-conscious clientele for almost 20 years.

Jildor is another online shoe outlet that caters to people who know what a mess it is to go to a real shoe store and walk up and down the aisles trying on different shoes. If you know what you want, it easier to just look for it in an online shoe store and have it shipped to you. Jildor's website is also well-organized allowing you to shop by designer. They have a large selection to choose from such as Amalfi, Saucony and Tony Burch.

Yet another choice for the online shoe shopper is the Shoe Inn. Shoe Inn, in addition to having great prices on a huge selection of shoes, also has a VIP club that allows you to participate in a monthly drawing for a $200 gift certificate to the Shoe Inn. In addition to boots, Shoe Inn also sells accessories like handbags, belts, etc.

As you can see, shopping for shoes has evolved along with most of the rest of the retail industry. The best prices and selections are online, and regular shoe stores can not expand enough to carry the selection of brands, styles and sizes that an online retailer can offer. If you are a savvy shopper, it pays to explore the online possibilities first. To Infinity - And Beyond!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Retargeting Advertising Provides You The Most Bang For Your Advertising Bucks

As the internet, and consumer behavior on the internet evolve, the old methods of advertising (which mostly involved putting your ads in front of a large audience and hoping for a response, the scatter-shot approach) do not provide a good return on your investment. There is statistical evidence mounting that the best people to target with your ad dollars is people who have already visited your website before, and are somewhat familiar with the products and services you offer. Targeting this audience is called retargeting advertising, and it can make your advertising dollars go a lot farther than traditional scatter-shot advertising.

Retargeting companies specialize in running retargeting advertising campaigns. One of the best known of these with a proven track record of delivering high returns on your advertising dollars with innovative retargeting technology is Recrue Media. Recrue Media's unique pixel technology enables advertisers to segment their audience based on the pages they have visited, and then retarget them with different advertisements based on their perceived interests.

Recrue Media's long list of famous-name clients include household names like Jaguar, British Airways, Holland America Cruiselines, etc. The mathematics behind retargeting are quite complicated, and require heavy duty statistical methods to analyze and understand. Recrue Media has shown itself capable of planning, implementation, execution and post-campaign analysis to help your company understand the impact of retargeting advertising, and its advantages over regular advertising.

The customer testimonials on the Recrue Media are the proof in the pudding of retargeting advertising. Companies have seen tremendous spikes in visitor and conversion metrics because of the targeted nature of the ad campaign, and the lower costs associated with retargeting make the increased sales that much more dramatic. If you have been wondering how to fine-tune your internet advertising to increase your return on investment by orders of magnitude, maybe it is time for you to contact Recrue Media and learn more about what retargeting can do for you!

Give Viewers A Unique Perspective By Using Aerial Photography

The right angle and perspective sometimes makes all the difference in photography and cinematography. Professionals are paid a lot of money to visualize and select these aspects of photography. But ground-based photography and video shoots have some inherent limitations that can not be overcome even by the most creative photographers.

Aerial photography by SkyCamUSA can provide viewers with a unique and breathtaking perspective that is not available to ground-based photographers. SkyCamUSA has manned as well as remote-controlled unmanned helicopters fitted out with the latest in camera and video equipment. These flying machines can provide unique points of view for whatever you are trying to highlight, whether it be city landscapes, highways, parks and golf courses or houses, mansions, college campuses, etc.

Aerial videography can be performed by SkyCamUSA using several high-tech cameras such as the Sony EX1. In addition to digital video cameras and still cameras, some regular film-based 16mm and 35mm cameras are also being modified to be used in SkyCamUSA's helicopters. Examples of SkyCamUSA's spectacular aerial photography, including a golf course aerial video tour and college/university aerial video tours featuring Baylor University are available for your viewing pleasure in the gallery page of their website.

As you can see from these videos, aerial photography can put your photographic equipment where no human can normally go. This enables you to capture angles and points of view that no human can normally capture. These unique perspectives can highlight aspects of your subject that people on the ground may not even be able to see normally. This can be a unique tool for people like real estate professionals who can use this kind of photography to highlight features of houses (skylights, for instance) that are difficult to see and appreciate from the ground.

What you can do with aerial photography is limited only by your imagination. Let your imagination run wild, and you will be pleasantly surprised by what you can accomplish. Contact SkyCamUSA and talk to them about your needs. With years of experience in this field, they will make sure they come up with a photo shoot that will knock your socks off!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quick Review Of ASUS Eee PC 1005HA-EU2X 10.1 Inch Netbook

I bought two of these ASUS Eee PC netbooks on Black Friday for my kids. They cost me $200 each, and are available right now for closer to $300 from Amazon.com and other retailers. It is a slightly older model, and there are newer Eee PC's that have supplanted it in the marketplace. But this older model has an advantage over the newer models, as I will explain in this review.

The package is small and light, and comes with nice pictures of the netbook instead of being generic brown cardboard. It also comes with a carrying handle. Once you open up the package, you find the netbook, a two-piece power cord, the laptop battery, a small user manual and a DVD. The DVD contains a system image that you can restore onto the hard drive to reset the netbook to factory shipped state, and a few utilities and other odds and ends. I have not played around with the DVD, so I am not sure what "utilities" these are.

The specifications of the computer are:
  • Intel Atom N270 processor running at 1.6 GHz (the CPU is capable of hyperthreading, so it is roughly equivalent to having two CPU's in the box. In my personal experience, this CPU is much more powerful and more useful than Intel Celeron processors which are single-threaded, and tend to get choked when you try to multi-task with one program that requires a lot of computing power)
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 160 GB hard drive
  • 1024x600 10.1 inch WSVGA LED-backlit matte screen
  • 0.3 MP webcam and built-in microphone
  • Built-in 802.11 b/g/n wi-fi
  • 3 USB ports, 1 network (LAN) port, 1 VGA port, microphone and headphone jacks
  • No optical drive
  • 1.1 kg weight (less than 2.5 lbs), including the battery, without the power cord
  • 3-cell battery that the user manual claims to provide a 4-hour power supply to the computer
  • Windows XP Home SP3 operating system
That last item is what I consider a big advantage of this computer over the new models that come with Windows 7 Starter rather than Windows XP Home. Why is it an advantage? Because Windows XP is less computationally demanding than even the starter edition of Windows 7. So, more of the CPU power of the computer is available to you, the user, rather than being used up by the operating system just to keep the computer running. Moreover, Windows XP Home provides a lot more control over the user experience than the Starter version of Windows 7 which has most of the operating system's customization features stripped out to try and make it a viable operating system for netbooks (for instance, you can't even change the default desktop background of Windows 7 Starter without third party software).

Setting up the computer was a breeze. You slip the battery into the back of the computer and latch it in place first. Then you hook up the power cord, and switch the computer on. The computer connected to the internet without any issues once it booted up, and I was able to download and install anti-virus and windows updates without any problem.

The computer came loaded with a small amount of junkware (including Microsoft Works), but I got rid of them without any problems. The hard drive is partitioned into one large user partition and a small recovery partition. You can use this recovery partition to reset the computer back to factory shipped state if the hard disk is intact when you want to do it. The DVD shipped with the computer would be needed if the necessity to reset the computer to factory shipped state arises because of a hard disk failure that makes this recovery partition inaccessible or useless.

The user manual is only a few pages long, and explains the basic features of the computer, including the location of all the ports. It also explains in detail how to use the recovery partition on the hard drive if you need to. The computer can boot off an external USB optical drive, and the user manual explains how to use the included DVD in such a drive to reset the computer if necessary.

Gone are the days when computers shipped with manuals that were a couple of hundred pages long. This manual mostly lets the user figure out other details of the computer by trial and error rather than explaining all the features in detail. But it is part of the fun of starting to use a new computer, right?!

The computer itself is quite attractive. It is shiny black on the outside (unfortunately, that was the only color choice that was available in the store when I bought it. My kids would have preferred the blue color), with the front being very thin, and the back being about an inch thick when closed. The case size is big enough to accommodate a complete keyboard which is supposed to be about 95% of full-size. I had some minor trouble adjusting to the change in size initially, but got used to it quite easily. My kids like it much better than full-size keyboards.

The screen is very bright and colorful. It is supposed to be matte, but it still shows fingerprints and other smudges readily, so both the screen and the outside case of the computer attract smudges. Avoid touching the screen with your hands if at all possible. In addition to the default 1024x600 resolution, you can set the computer to 1024x768 resolution in two modes: scroll mode, where the desktop scrolls up and down as you move your mouse pointer to the edges of the visible screen, or compressed mode, where 768 vertical pixels are compressed into the actual 600 pixels available on the screen, making everything look short and squat.

Most of the time, the computer is used in 1024x600 resolution, but some computer games require a minimum resolution of 1024x768. The two 1024x768 modes come in handy at that time to make sure such games can be played on this computer. Quite clever, really.

This laptop does not have any latches to hold the screen down on the keyboard when it is closed. The hinge design provides the necessary force to keep the laptop closed unless you pry the top open with some force.

The power cord plugs into the left side of the laptop, which is also home to one USB port and the VGA port. The right side of the laptop contains 2 USB ports, the LAN port and the microphone and headphone jacks. The right side also has a slot for memory cards. The computer can read SD, SDHC and MMC cards.

The webcam and the built-in microphone sit on top of the screen. The built-in headphones reside above the keyboard. They are quite decent for a computer of this size. The left side of the computer also contains the cooling vents which put out warm air when the CPU gets hot. Usually, I found that the fan either does not run or runs very slowly and silently. Only when the CPU is stressed quite a bit does the fan run hard. Overall, the computer runs quite cool, thanks to the power-efficient CPU used.

The touchpad is not demarcated from the rest of the arm-rest area, but it is distinguishable by the presence of the mouse buttons. The touchpad itself has a different tactile feel than the completely smooth area surrounding it. It is multi-touch capable, so you can scroll by using two fingers, zoom in and out using multi-finger gestures, etc.

The front end of the laptop has a row of small LED's that tell you whether the computer is on or off or in standby mode, whether the wi-fi is on or not, whether the hard disk is being accessed, etc. These LED's are visible whether the computer is open or closed, so you can tell the state of the computer at a glance even if the lid is closed.

The computer does not have any dedicated switches to control any of the functions like volume control, screen brightness, wi-fi on/off etc. Everything is controlled by Fn key combinations. The key presses do show up on screen, confirming that the specified action was completed successfully.

The battery is supposed to keep the computer powered on for 4 hours, but in my tests, it lasts only about three to three and a half hours. Throughout this time, the wireless connection and hard disk were on though, so I am sure when laptop makers test their batteries, they turn off everything except the CPU to come up with their inflated assessments of how long the batteries last. I can live with three hours, and I just wish battery life assessments were more realistic.

I will conclude this review with a brief list of pros and cons.

Pros:
  • Small size, light weight
  • Excellent screen
  • Almost full-sized keyboard that adults can type on with no problems
  • Responsive touchpad with multi-touch gestures that make it easy to accomplish simple things like scrolling, zooming in and out, etc.
  • Large hard drive with built-in recovery partition
  • DVD with system image for use in emergencies
  • Good instructions on the basics such as system recovery
  • Built-in webcam and microphone for video chats
  • Built-in card-reader slot for SD, SDHC and MMC cards
  • Abundant USB slots on both sides of the computer
  • Windows XP Home operating system
  • Hyperthreading CPU that seemed to be capable of handling most tasks like homework, internet surfing, watching videos and listening to music quite well
  • 1024x768 mode to make the computer compatible with games and other programs that were not designed with netbooks in mind
Cons:
  • Smudge-prone case and screen
  • Small user manual that does not even explain things like how to use the multi-touch touchpad
  • No built-in optical drive
  • No USB ports in the back. In fact, having the power cord connection and VGA port in the sides can cause problems with wires stretching across the computer too.
  • No hardware buttons for multimedia functions or volume controls
So, in summary, I like this computer a lot. It is well worth the money I spent on it, and my kids love it to death. It seems strong enough to withstand at least a few years of use, even at the hands of a kid, and seems to be quite capable at what it does. It is tiny and light, making it easy to travel with. The battery life is long enough for most domestic flights in the US (assuming you charge up the battery life while waiting at the gate). I would recommend the computer whole-heartedly to anyone looking for a cheap netbook, either for kids or as a second computer to be used in situations requiring high mobility. A solid four and a half or five stars out of five!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Finance Globe Is Your One-Stop Website For Credit Card Information

The holidays are financially stressful times for many of us. There is so much shopping to do, so many gifts to buy for so many people. You want to be able to enjoy the holidays with friends and family, but if your finances are out of control because of high credit card debt and/or interest rates, that can ruin your enjoyment.

Now, there is a website you can use to cut down on the financial tension in your life. Finance Globe is a comprehensive website that provides consumers with loads of information about consumer finance, particularly credit cards. Let us face it, most of us do not have the time or inclination to keep track of the huge number of credit cards out there and their changing terms. Now, Finance Globe makes sure you don't have to!

Finance Globe enables you to find the best credit cards for your financial situation without having to visit the websites of multiple credit card companies one by one. You can know all about their interest rates, special balance transfer offers and rates, cash back and other reward rates, annual fees, etc., in one convenient location. If you want to apply for a credit card, the site can also give you information about approval rates, and includes a list of cards that offer instant approval!

The Finance Globe website also has a section devoted to credit card reviews. In this section, real credit card holders provide their views and opinions about their credit cards. You can join in the conversation by posting your own opinions about rates, rewards, customer service, policies and procedures and anything else about your credit card that you want to talk about!

If you have a strong financial relationship with a particular credit card issuer and want to find out more about credit cards offered by that issuer, you can go to pages on Finance Globe devoted to specific credit card issuers. There are separate pages listing the myriad Citi credit cards or Chase credit cards, for instance.

You have your hands full doing research on the perfect gift for everyone on your list. You don't want to add research on credit cards to your already full plate. So, leave the research to Finance Globe. Find your ideal credit card without stressing about it. You will have more financial freedom these holidays, and less financial worries in the months to come!

Trust Namada For Your International Telecommunication Needs

If you have an international business with offices outside the US, but want to attract a US clientele, you probably know how important it is to have a toll-free number that US clients can call. Even though it is the age of the internet and email, most people still prefer to conduct important business over the phone. They want to hear a human voice at the other end of the line, interact with that human and conduct business with a person rather than with a computer running an internet website.

Namada is an international telecommunications company that makes it easy for international businesses to get tollfreeforwarding, a service in which your clients call an American toll-free number, and the call is automatically forwarded to any phone in the world. So, even though your call center may be located anywhere in the world, your clients and potential clients don't have to go through the trouble of calling an international phone number to do business with you.

Toll free forwarding is just one of the many telecommunications services provided by Namada. You can also use their international call forwarding services to make sure your phone number moves with you, wherever you may be in the world at any time. And their rates are among the lowest you will find anywhere.

And you don't have to worry about the quality of the service given its cost. Namada has several high-profile clients, and their testimonials on the Namada website convey the high level of satisfaction they experience with Namada's service. Several international companies use Namada's services to provide convenient ways for their clients to get in touch and stay in touch with them. The quality and reliability of this communication channel is very important to these clients. That they have chosen Namada for such a vital service is proof of Namada's high quality.

If your internationally located business would like to expand in the US, trust your telecommunication needs to the experts in the field. Namada has been in the business since 1991, and have developed a complete portfolio of services that you can use to satisfy all your needs. Whatever your needs or problems, there is sure to be a solution in Namada's portfolio!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Find Cheap Wholesale Suppliers Of Goods You Can Sell At Retail For Profit

Have you ever thought of opening a retail store, either online or in a real store? It is one of simplest and easiest ways of making money by following the age-old advice of buying low and selling high. You don't have to invent a new product or think of a unique service to take advantage of this opportunity. But you do have to locate a good wholesale supplier of the products you want to sell at retail so that you can make a profit on each sale.

Ezgoo is a directory with resources for sellers of products. The site allows you to locate cheap, reliable wholesale suppliers of all kinds of products. The directory is a godsend for retailers and would-be retailers who want to get in touch with suppliers of wholesale products. In addition to wholesalers, the site also allows you to locate sellers of wholesale lots at auction sites like Ebay.

The site is easy to navigate, allowing you to find wholesalers by category, such as jewelry, computer products, perfumes, watches, etc. Moreover, there are separate links for locating wholesalers who produce their wholesale products in China. There are also invaluable resources for auction sellers and buyers.

Ezgoo also allows you to list your own business in their directories if you are a wholesale manufacturer or supplier, rather than a retailer. All submissions to this directory are reviewed manually to make sure the addition is of a quality and relevant company so that the directories are not littered with low quality listings. This is what makes Ezgoo even more valuable for retailers and other sellers. So, if you are looking to start your own retail business, find relevant, reliable suppliers to partner with through Ezgoo!

Does Having Your Own Independent Website Make Sense For A Blogger?

In the past few days I have been reading opinions from various people debating whether it makes sense for bloggers to invest in their own domain name and independent hosting solution. The argument is that such a setup shows the world that the blogger is serious about their content. Serious enough to spend their own money to put their content on the web rather than relying on the largesse of companies like Google or Wordpress to do so.

The argument against doing so is that most blogs do not make any money for the blogger. Advertising is not very lucrative for low-volume blogs, and too much advertising distracts from the content on the blog. So, in most cases, the blogger is showing his/her commitment to the blog by producing and publishing content on it with no meaningful remuneration anyway. Does it make sense to then go overboard and spend money to make a statement about the blog?

I had not looked into hosting my blog on an independent hosting provider before. I have always assumed that if my blog had interesting content, people would find it, and not have a negative opinion about the blog just because it is hosted for free on Google's servers. In any case, I decided to do some research.

First, I created a poll for my website that asks visitors whether they think it makes sense for bloggers to have their own domains and independent hosts rather than using free blogging solutions. I have no idea what the results of that poll will be. If the poll shows that most visitors do not care one way or another, then I can breathe a sigh of relief and continue on as before.

But what if a large majority of visitors feel that an independent host and domain name make sense? In preparation for that eventuality, I have started doing research on the best web hosting providers and solutions out there. As they say, I have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst! You can help shape this debate meaningfully by casting your vote in the poll in the left sidebar of this blog. Please take the time to vote and let me (and other bloggers) know what you think!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Don't Let The Holidays Derail Your Weight Loss Goals

Being fit and maintaining your weight in the correct range for your height are important to your overall health. The holidays tend to be a difficult time to focus your attention on these as your time is spent finding the ideal gifts for everyone on your shopping list, planning holiday parties, making travel plans, etc.

ShopBestDiets.com is an online store that specializes in weight-loss products. In addition to selling weight-loss supplements, ShopBestDiets also provides consumers with reviews about weight loss products, weight loss tips, information about weight loss, and motivation to lose weight.

Weight loss pills are a popular way for many people to try and lose weight or keep the extra pounds off. ShopBestDiets.com has reviews of popular weight loss pills to help you choose the best weight loss pills for your needs. Many weight loss supplements and pills have varying degrees of side effects, so it is important to know about all your options.

In addition to knowing about your options, it is also useful to have experts weigh in on the pros and cons of each of the choices. This is where ShopBestDiets.com's panel of weight loss experts gives it a leg up over other weight loss websites. Most weight loss websites take advantage of their customers' ignorance to sell them substandard products that may have deleterious or injurious effects on their health. ShopBestDiets.com tries to educate its customers so that they can make the best decisions for their weight loss needs themselves.

You come into the world with one body. It is the only body you will ever have in this world. It behooves each and every one of us to take care of this one and only body that we have been bestowed with so that it provides long years of reliable service. If you have neglected your health in the past, it is not too late. Take a look at your weight and fitness levels, and take the first step towards better health by considering options to lose weight, be more active, eat a healthier diet, and exercise more.

Firstrade Makes Investments Affordable, Whether You Are A Beginner Or A Seasoned Pro

With the economy beginning to show signs of coming out of a recession, and the stock market showing signs of making meaningful advances in the coming months, putting your money in investments like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. may be quite rewarding going forward.

Whether you are new to investing or you know your way around like an expert, you know that low costs are the key to making the most of your investment dollars. Firstrade is a low-cost online broker who makes it easy for you keep more of your profits instead of paying them to your broker in the form of commissions.

Firstrade not only enables you to invest with low commissions, they also give you a wide choice of investment options to choose from. In addition to stock trading, you can put your money to work by investing in options, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, bonds, certificates of deposit, etc. They also offer free dividend reinvestment plans so that the dividends from your investments are put to work at no cost to you.

Firstrade also gives you multiple options for accessing your account and making trades. In addition to online trading, you can also get to your account through a site devoted to mobile devices like smartphones. This portal enables you to do mobile trading without having to be near a computer whenever inspiration strikes you!

Firstrade makes it easy to save for retirement also. You can open IRA accounts with Firstrade that are completely free, and carry no hidden fees, inactivity fees or any other kind of fees. This enables you to put money away for retirement without having to worry about losing any part of it to unnecessary costs.

Saving and investing money is the quickest way to get rich while staying on the right side of the law. If you have been dreaming about hitting it rich, but have done nothing concrete about accumulating wealth, now is the time to act. A penny saved is a penny earned. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Take that first step with Firstrade, and make sure your dreams turn to reality.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Not All Online Tutoring Services Are The Same

With the advent of cheap communications through the internet and VOIP phone solutions like Skype, tutoring over the internet has become practical. A number of companies have jumped into this space to take advantage of this opportunity. But, when it comes to choosing one of them for use by you or your children, it pays to do a lot of research.

Tutorvista is one company that has been in this space for a long time, and has garnered a lot of independent assessments and reviews. Consumersearch, in its reviews for Tutorvista calls it "Best online tutoring". The site then goes on to list the pros and cons of Tutorvista, and provides a detailed analysis of Tutorvista in its Tutorvista review.

Ed Tech Review is another independent review site aimed at teachers and other educators. In its reviews for Tutorvista, the site calls Tutorvista a "very powerful online tutoring environment". The review goes on to recommend the system to all parents. The reviewer cites Tutorvista's high quality and affordability as primary reasons for this endorsement.

Wikipedia also has reviews of Tutorvista as part of its article on the online tutoring service. The history of Tutorvista as detailed in this article makes for interesting reading. It also gives the reader an idea about the breadth and scope of Tutorvista's activities in the online tutoring world. Wikipedia's Tutorvista review also touches upon the challenges the organization faced during its early days.

There is also a site devoted exclusively to comments about Tutorvista from consumers who have used the service, and want to express their opinions about it. That is site is Tutorvista Review. The comments on this site are arranged by date and subject matter of the tutoring. The layout is similar to that of a blog (it is in fact a Wordpress blog), with navigation links in the sidebars to guide visitors to the comments that they are looking for.

Independent reviews and online discussions are useful tools when it comes to doing research on buying products or services online. Online tutoring services can be expensive, and represent a significant investment in your or your children's future. As such, it makes sense to use these review sites to base your judgment of which tutoring service to use rather than blindly choosing one by the roll of a die.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Short Review Of Toshiba Satellite L655-S5107 Laptop

My mother's old desktop was dying a slow and painful death, so it was decided that she would replace it with a laptop. No more bundles of wires running all over her desk, and in fact, perhaps, no desk to hold the computer at all. After much research, I settled on the Toshiba Satellite L655-S5107 laptop.

The laptop was ordered from Amazon.com and delivered within a few days. It cost $529 when I ordered it, but the price has since gone up to close to $600. I got to open up the package and set the computer up before repacking it and sending it off to my mother. I did not want her to be befuddled by the process of setting the computer up for the first time, hence this arrangement. The review is short because I got to play with the laptop for only a couple of days before it got shipped off again.

The package it came in was quite sturdy and held the laptop securely without any damage. But the power cord was not tucked in securely, so when I tilted the package from side to side, I could hear the power cord move around inside. I was a little concerned about what could have come loose and be rattling around inside the box, but was relieved when I opened the box and found it was just the power cord.

Apart from the laptop itself, the package contains a quick setup card, a 2-piece power cord, lots of promotional material from Toshiba, and a very slim user manual that was sealed in shrink-wrap. Most laptops nowadays seem to come with practically no instructions whatsoever, so the size of the manuals did not surprise me overly. I still remember 3 years back my Dell laptop came with 3 thick manuals that explained every aspect of the working of the laptop. Laptop manufacturers nowadays seem to want the user to figure everything out by trial and error, playing around with the laptop! There is no recovery media of any sort included either.

The laptop is a reasonably powerful 15.6" model. It has a dual core Intel Core i3-370M Processor, running at 2.40 GHz. Since each core of this processor is capable of hyperthreading, the computer effectively has 4 CPU's to spread its computing burden over. The computer also has 4 GB of RAM, 500 GB of hard disk space, and comes preloaded with Windows 7 Home Premium.

The 15.6" screen has a native resolution of 1366 x 768. Laptop screens are becoming flatter and flatter, and this is the latest stop in that process. My 3-year old 15.6" laptop has a 1280 x 800 screen. Eventually, 15.6" screens will be about 3 inches high and 15 inches long! But the shorter, wider screen means that there is enough space to accommodate a full-size keyboard on the machine that includes a numeric keypad on the right. The screen is glossy and gorgeous. It is LED-backlit, so it is bright and vibrant with great contrast.

The outside finish is called a fusion finish, and is black with small grey squares or rectangles in it. It is hard to describe, but the surface is very smooth. Two problems with this: be careful when you carry it around closed. If your fingers slip on the smooth surface, you are looking at a laptop bouncing around on the floor or crushing your foot! Secondly, keeping the surface of this laptop smudge and fingerprint-free is a full-time job. Better to not even try.

The laptop comes with a built-in 1.3MP webcam in addition to the usual stuff like 802.11 b/g/n wi-fi, a fully capable DVD/RW drive that can read and write anything short of blu-ray discs, 3 USB ports, and one e-SATA port that also doubles as a USB port. The battery is rated at 48 Wh (6 cells), and Toshiba claims a battery life of 5 hours and 31 minutes. But at the settings I tested it at (screen at full brightness, wi-fi on, etc.), it lasted only about 3 hours.

The built-in speakers are so-so for laptops. Laptop speakers have been on a downhill slide for the last several years, so I am not surprised by the weak, tinny speakers on this laptop. There are earphone and microphone plugs on the left hand side of the laptop, close to the front edge, so hooking up headphones to listen to stuff from the laptop should be straight-forward. The computer also has a built-in array microphone on either side of the webcam (that is built into the top frame of the screen, which is the usual position for webcams on laptops).

The hard disk does not have a recovery partition built-in. All of the 500 GB (actually the operating system reports about 453 GB for the reasons outlined here) is in one giant partition, fully accessible and useable by the end-user of the laptop. There are instructions on creating a recovery disk when you start using the laptop, but I did not have time to do so before the laptop got shipped out again. Oh well, if it crashes, I am sure Toshiba will be happy to ship out a recovery disk for some outrageous price!

Setup was quite easy with Windows 7 guiding me through the steps. The first time I turned the laptop on, the wi-fi did not come on for some reason. After fiddling with the settings for some time with no success, I rebooted the computer, and the wi-fi came on with no problems. I have not had any problems after that with the wi-fi, but I still do not know why it did not turn on the first time. The laptop is quick and responsive, and programs ran snappily and crisply.

There was a little bit of junkware on the computer when I set it up initially, but not as much as I expected. Toshiba has a bunch of utilities of questionable value pre-loaded on the laptop, but most are not intrusive, and do not nag about anything. The laptop already has Adobe Reader installed, ready to deal with PDF files. I cleaned out the rest of the junkware (such as Norton Internet Security suite) quickly and easily.

The rest of the laptop was pretty much standard as far as laptops go nowadays. Do not look for any hardware buttons to control things like speaker volumes, media playback, etc. Everything is controlled by function keys and software. The front of the laptop has a series of LED's that indicate things like whether it is on or off or in standby mode, whether the wi-fi is turned on, whether the hard disk is being accessed, the charge state of the battery, etc. These LED's are arranged so that they can be seen whether the laptop is closed or not. The laptop has no latches: the hinges are designed so that the laptop closes snugly after you close it beyond a certain point.

There is no clear demarcation of the touchpad from the rest of the case. You can tell where it is by the presence of the mouse buttons below it. I prefer some tactile boundary for the touchpad so that I can keep my eye on the screen while moving fingers on it without having to shift my eyes back and forth, but I was not overly put off by the design. There is a middle mouse button above the touchpad that provides a scroll-lock like functionality. The touchpad is multi-touch capable, so you can zoom in on images and webpages by using movements with multiple fingers at the same time. You can also scroll up and down without the presence of any specific scroll area on the touchpad, simply by moving up and down the touchpad with more than one finger.

So, overall, I liked the laptop quite a bit. Fast processor, lots of memory and hard disk space. Beautiful screen, wi-fi, lots of USB ports, built-in webcam and microphone, etc. Extras like the eSATA port. Quite a small amount of junk and bloatware on the hard disk as shipped, and what is there is easy to get rid of. The build seems solid, and if the computer is handled with care, I don't see any reason why it can't last for several years.

There were a few minor annoyances though. The main things I did not like about the computer, to summarize are:
  • Fingerprint-magnet finish
  • Weak speakers
  • The power cord plugs into the left side of the laptop rather than at the back. This means that the wires run all around the laptop if the power supply is not on the correct side of the laptop
  • No USB ports in the back of the laptop. Again a minor annoyance that could have you stringing wires all around the laptop to reach a useable port. But there are USB ports on either side of the laptop, so this is mitigated to a large extent
  • No recovery media or detailed user manual
  • No hardware control buttons for speaker volume, media playback, etc.
I would say it is well worth the price paid for it. Probably worth at least 4 stars out of 5.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

You Don't Have To Pay Sky-High Prices Just To Get Access To The Internet

Internet access has become almost as basic as food, water, clothing and shelter. Not having access to the internet is to be cut off from the fastest and most up-to-date source of news that is happening in your neighborhood, the country and around the world. It is also becoming an important source of entertainment and opportunities to socialize with people around the world. And you can't shop at some of the biggest retailers in the world, like Amazon.com, if you don't have internet access.

What if you want to get on the internet, but can not afford the high rates charged by your local phone company or cable provider? That is where Copper.net comes into the picture. They are an affordable and reliable provider of internet service, serving most of the US and Canada. They have a variety of internet access services to suit everyone's need for speed as well as affordability.

At the low end of their offerings is their cheap dial-up service. Starting at less than $10 per month, it is one of the most inexpensive ways to get on the information superhighway. Dial-up internet was the norm a few years back. At that time, most computers also came up with dial-up modems built-in as part of the standard set of equipment included in computers.

But nowadays, dial-up is inconvenient for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, most new computers do not have built-in dial-up modems. So, you have to buy a dial-up modem separately to get your computer hooked up to dial-up internet service. Moreover, it is slow and ties up your phone line, preventing you from receiving or making regular phone calls unless you have a second phone line dedicated to web-surfing.

So, Copper.net also has several plans for accessing the internet via DSL service. Copper.net's DSL service starts at as little as $19.95/month, and includes 5 free email addresses. Their plans can satisfy your need for speed with download speeds as high as 6 Mbps. They also provide satellite-based internet access through their partnership with Hughesnet Satellite service.

Getting started with Copper.net is very easy. You can call them over the phone toll-free, or you can head on over to their site if you already have internet access and are looking to switch. They have a convenient online form into which you can enter your address and phone number to see what plans are available for you to choose from. You can then sign up for your choice of service online, and start enjoying their service right away.

Don't let high costs strand you off the information superhighway. Get Copper.net's affordable internet access, and find your way to a world of adventure, entertainment, news, sports, shopping, and whatever else catches your fancy! You don't have to wonder what you are missing out on anymore. With Copper.net internet access, you won't miss out on anything happening on the internet.

Choose An Award-Winning Hosting Provider For Your Needs

If you own a website, and rely on it for your income, then you know the importance of having the website up and running 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. That means that the site has to be hosted with a reliable provider that can guarantee that your site will be up come what may. And the hosting provider should be able to handle any amount of traffic your site may attract because traffic is money in the web-selling business.

It makes sense, therefore, to rely on a hosting provider who has been evaluated independently, and awarded several awards and accolades based on their commitment to quality, reliability, customer focus and value. Ultra Web Hosting is such a provider who is committed to supporting their clients with the best value around while providing quality that is second to none.

Ultra Web Hosting provides your website with several advantages. Superior hardware and internet connectivity provide faster load times for your website. Your site is backed up remotely as part of every hosting plan for no additional fee. Your site is hosted on servers that are located in secure facilities with redundant power power supplies and on-site technicians who monitor your website continuously.

Ultra Web Hosting has several hosting plans that will suit every budget. Hosting plans start at as little as $2.95/month, and include unlimited hosting space, unlimited websites, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited email accounts and unlimited MySQL databases. As if that weren't enough, you also get free domain registration, and Ultra Web Hosting's 110% low price guarantee. And if you are still wondering if it is a good idea to sign up with them, they also have a 45-day money back guarantee for your peace of mind.

In addition to all these goodies and good reasons to sign up with Ultra Web Hosting, they also offer two free site-builders with every hosting plan. These builders are ideal for creating your website with easy to use pieces that you can pick and choose interactively. You don't have to know any HTML coding at all! And you get to choose from over 300 professional templates. Whatever the target of your website is, you are sure to find a template and color scheme that suits you ideally!

So, what are you waiting for? Ultra Web Hosting is the best provider out there, whatever your hosting needs are. You don't have to take my word for it. Take the word of independent evaluators who have awarded Ultra Web Hosting their long list of accolades and testimonials over the years!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Get A High Quality Ecco Mailbox For Long-Lasting Value

High quality mailboxes can sometimes be hard to find. The ones you find in home improvement stores are usually small, and may not have all the features you need in a mailbox. They may not be capable of being locked, or they may not be fully weather-proof, for instance. Moreover, they are usually not built to last, made from cheap materials that will need replacement every few years.

Ecco is the manufacturer of high quality Ecco mailboxes. And now, you can get their full line of mailboxes through EccoMailbox.com. The prices on this website are guaranteed cheaper than what you can get elsewhere, and EccoMailbox.com does not charge any shipping or handling on any order placed through the website.

In addition to their satisfaction guarantee, every Ecco Mailbox you buy at this website comes with an unconditional 30-day return period. EccoMailbox.com does not charge any restocking fees on any mailboxes returned during this return period, so you can go ahead and buy any Ecco mailbox with full confidence. And all of Ecco's mailboxes are USPS approved.

All Ecco mailboxes are made of metal, not plastic or resin, and come in a variety of colors and sizes. They also come in multiple styles and placement possibilities. For instance, the Ecco E4 mailbox and Ecco E7 mailbox are modern wall mount mailboxes. If you are looking for a different style of Ecco wall mount mailbox, you can try out their Ecco E6 mailbox for a Victorian look. And if you are looking for a tower-style mailbox with a Victorian look, you can choose the Ecco E8 mailbox.

Whichever Ecco mailbox you choose, you can be sure you are getting a mailbox that is constructed to look good and last a long time. EccoMailbox.com's peace of mind guarantee means that you have nothing to lose by trying out an Ecco mailbox. You pay no shipping charges, and in the off-chance that you don't like it, you can return it for a full refund. But, once you get one of these, the thought of returning it probably won't enter your mind: you will only wonder how you managed for so long without it!

Visitors Country Map

Free counters!

Content From TheFreeDictionary.com

In the News

Article of the Day

This Day in History

Today's Birthday

Quote of the Day

Word of the Day

Match Up
Match each word in the left column with its synonym on the right. When finished, click Answer to see the results. Good luck!

 

Hangman

Spelling Bee
difficulty level:
score: -
please wait...
 
spell the word:

Search The Web