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andreas.com FAQ: Newsletter

Here’s many of the earlier newsletters.

November 2002 Newsletter at andreas.com

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a project for the NWU. We held a seminar on self-publishing this spring and many of the top experts in self-publishing came and spoke. Over the summer, we converted the tapes into a set of four CDs, including a book.

The CDs are duplicated and assembled for us in Chicago. They also do the warehousing and shipping for us. We’ve automated the payment/order/shipping.

You may notice that we also have an ISBN number for our CDs. In a few weeks, it’ll be available at Amazon, Borders, and so on. Anyone in the USA can order it at their local bookstore.

Stephanie Cota and I developed this project. We built the website and the product. Over the next few months, I’ll write more FAQs about how we did this.

September 2002

Well, this newsletter has lots of links. I wrote several new FAQs, plus I finished editing several FAQs. This month, we cover the Mozilla browser (no popup ads, no banner ads,) SSIs, Contractor’s Contracts, PDA backlights, cheap long distance, Visio clones, info on finding jobs, cheaper student loans, PNG, HTML email, and several more FAQs.

Mozilla: Another Browser

I often use the Mozilla browser instead of Microsoft IE because it has three great features:

  1. Mozilla lets you turn off images that do not originate from the URL. That is, it won’t download and display banner ads (or any ads.) This reduces clutter tremendously, and it speeds up your browser (because it won’t download banner ads.)
  2. Mozilla lets you turn off pop-up ads. No more X.10 spy cameras or travel spam. This also speeds up your browsing, because the machine won’t be downloading all sorts of nonsense.
  3. Mozilla has “tabbed browsing.” Instead of opening new browsers, you can open each item into a new window within the same browser, and all windows can be accessed by clicking on the tabs at the top of the window. A bit difficult to explain, but it works great. Very fast to go from tab to tab.Mozilla works. Okay, it’s not perfect. Some pages don’t render properly, it “has issues” with some CSS, etc. Whenever I notice that a page doesn’t work well and I want to see it, then I open up IE and look at it. But for 99% of pages, it works fine.

Mozilla is free. Visit mozilla.org. There are versions for Windows, Linux, and Macintosh.

After you’ve downloaded and installed Mozilla:

  • To remove banner ads, rightclick on any banner ad and select “Do no download from this server.” You’ll be able to view websites without banners. The pages will open faster and it’s less cluttered.
  • To prevent popup ads, click Edit | Preferences | Advanced | Scripts and Windows. Uncheck the first item “Open unrequested windows.”

A Collection of Contractor’s Documents

If you’re working as an independent contractor (IC) in computering, you might want an IC’s contract, sign-off sheets, timesheets, and other documents. I put together a collection of my documents and made them available. andreas.com/faq-contractordocs.html

FAQ on SSI

SSI (Server Side Includes) are a great way to build websites. It lets you store blocks of code as separate files, which you can then import into any page. This lets you write-once, use many. It also means that it’s easy to update sections, because you only have to edit a single file. andreas.com/faq-ssi.html

And Yet More FAQs about Computer Stuff

Here’s a bunch of FAQs.

PDA: How to Turn On the PDA’s Light

Jill asks: How do I light up my Handspring? Palm and Handspring PDAs have a useful internal light. You can use your PDA in the dark. Many Palm and Handspring users have never known about this, because it’s not clearly explained in the manual. To turn it on, step into a dark closet and just hold down the ON button for four seconds. Voila!

Visio Clone

Here’s a tip from Bonnie in Oakland.) Visio is a great program for creating flowcharts, storyboards for websites, and so on. But it’s expensive! Here’s an alternative to Visio. Only $69, and there’s free trial download. smartdraw.com

Looking for Work?

Consolidate Your Student Loans

(Stephanie at www.stephaniecota.com sent in the following.) Student loans are at an all-time low. At the moment, rates are 4.06%. If you haven’t consolidated your loans, your loan has a variable rate. Once a year, your rate will change. Consolidation allows you to lock in the interest rate on your loan for the life of the loan. Call 800-448-3533 (or visit www.smartloan.com) and find out the rate. They will mail you a package to fill out for loan consolidation. You can also go online and do it but I found it a bit difficult to do this in terms of providing the information they wanted and getting it to go through. For example, Stephanie locked in at 4.125% (4.06% plus 1/8th %) with 15 years for repayment.

Gif vs PNG for Graphics

Many people are still using GIF format for graphics on the web. You can switch to PNG format. The executive summary? Stop using GIF. Use PNG. much better results. See http://www.andreas.com/faq-gif-png.html

HTML Email

Sarah in New York asks: How do I make HTML emails? An HTML email is an email that looks like a webpage. If you have a website and you want to use the same look-and-feel, you can use HTML email. Let’s assume that you’re using Microsoft Outlook Express on Windows.

  1. Open a new, blank email.
  2. Select the menu item Format and then click on Rich Text.
  3. 3) The email now becomes an HTML email. You can add images to it, use fonts and colors, and so on.
  4. 4) Select View | Source Edit. This allows you to edit the email’s HTML tags. At the bottom of the email, there are three tabs: Edit, Source, and Preview. Click on Edit and you’ll see the email as HTML code. If you like, you can create your newsletter in your favorite HTML editor and then copy and paste the HTML code into the Source view.
  5. 5) Finally, click the Preview tab to see what it will look like.

Note: For whatever reason, this can’t be done in Outlook on Macs.

Tip: Always test this by sending the email to a few friends before you send it out to everyone.

Location of email Files in Outlook

Yuri asks: Where can I find my Outlook email files so I can back them up:

The files in Windows 98-2000 are hidden in C:WINDOWSLocal SettingsApplication DataMicrosoftOutlook. I haven’t found them yet in XP.

Cheap Long Distance

Gretchen found a really low long-distance plan. In a nutshell: you prepay for time, then take 6 months to use it, or it expires. 2.9 cents a minute any day, any time. You dial an access code (which you can program into speed dial.) You can dial from anyone’s phone, so it is like having a phone card – put in your PIN and the minutes are deducted from your prepaid account. Calling Europe and other continents is pretty cheap, too! onesuite.com

News and Stuff

Judith in Marin asks if there are good sites for news. Here are a few of my favorites.

July 2002

A bit of a long email this time. We’ll look at astrology, call waiting for your computer, and spam wars.

Last night, I finished the redesign and relaunch of Susan Levitt’s astrology site. There were several reasons for a redesign: Susan was voted “Best Astrologer of San Francisco” by SF Weekly, a city newspaper. Her new book The Complete Tarot Kit, a major event for its publisher, is coming out in a few weeks. And, well, it’s been more than a year since the last redesign, and that was looking so Y2K.

The goal was to build a site that Susan can update herself. She’s a tarot guru, not a web guru, so no ultra-technical tools. I used CSS to create a consistent look. I used SSI to reduce the complexity of the HTML. Instead of large blocks of code, Susan only sees a few lines of code. The rest is her text content, which she can edit and update with Adobe GoLive on her Mac laptop. (For example, the navigation bar at the side is done with SSI, not Java or JavaScript. It’s just text, not code.)

Susan Levitt lives entirely from her astrology and tarot services. The website is her shopfront. It uses Paypal for online credit card processing (shopping cart and an SSL secure connection,) so clients can select a service and pay by credit card. Susan has written a number of successful books and the orders are handled by Amazon.com.

One of the goals was to promote her books, both current and upcoming. At the bottom of each page, there’s a cover photo, with a link, for the books. Each book has its own webpage. The Complete Tarot Kit’s page has elaborate illustrations to emphasize the value of the book.

The website is neat because it demonstrates that appropriate technology and good content can work together to build a useful website. And San Francisco and Silicon Valley can also get along. I’d like to hear your comments. Visit her site at susanlevitt.com and let me know what you think.

Susan’s site shows that small business websites are feasible. I manage a number of small business websites. My brother’s clogs shop in Palm Springs (clogwild.com) continues to grow, with the large majority of his orders through the website. Stephanie Cota, a web designer, also builds and maintains small business sites, such as the www.hairclippy.com site. She just finished added a shopping cart and online credit card processing to www.infohi.com, a book publisher.

Call Waiting for Your Computer

The new 56K modems have added the v.92 protocol. If you have call waiting for your telephone service (call waiting: if you’re talking and someone else calls, you can switch to the second call,) then v.92 lets your computer switch to the other call. You won’t lose calls while you’re online. So if you’re online and someone calls, the phone will ring and you can answer the call. When you hang up, the computer reconnects to the Internet and you continue websurfing. v.92 modems are about $50.

SpamWars

I’ve had great success with using Mailwasher. It has cut my spam by 90% or more. The worst spam (the porno stuff and most of the scams) is gone. Mailwasher works by bouncing the spam back to the sender; they think the email is not valid and they delete it from their list. Fetch mailwasher (it’s free) at www.mailwasher.net . If you like it, send him a donation to feed his cat. Regrettably, Mailwasher is only for Windows at the moment. If you’re using Macs, send Nick an email and ask him to make a Mac version. Write to Nick at feedback@mailwasher.net

SpamWars II

There’s a new spam killer from Cloudmark. However, it works ONLY on Outlook Office on Windows 2000 or XP (it doesn’t work with Outlook Express email program.) They promise to have a version for Outlook Express. Check it out (free download) at www.cloudmark.com You can also sign up to be notified when the Outlook Express version is ready. Again, if you’re using a Mac, send them an email and ask for a Mac version. Write to them at info@cloudmark.com

So… which one? Mailwasher, by Nick and his cat, or Cloudmark, by a bunch of VCs? We’ve seen that every major dotcom will promise not to hand out your email address, but when they get low on money, guess what?, they sell your email address. Cloudmark will have a conflict of interest: if it works, they kill advertising, but their investors are also investing in the general industry, which lives on advertising. So… when AOL/TimeWarner/ArcherDanielsMidland/Enron wants to spam their 65 million users, I wonder how much they will pay to Cloudmark for permission to bypass their spam killer.

Bob West put together an overview of how these companies share your email address. See cluelessmailers.org He also has a map that lays out the connections between these companies. See http://www.cluelessmailers.org/spamdemic/index.html and http://www.cluelessmailers.org/spamdemic/mapfullsizegiflow.html

Web Bugs

You’re wondering, so how can a company get my email address if I’ve never given it to them? Why is Lexus suddenly sending me spam, addressed to me, and I’ve never visited Lexus.com? Because dotcoms use “web bugs.” By placing an invisible link in a web site, any visitor to that website will also be unknowingly linked to another website. Any information at the first website will be sent to the second website. This includes your email address, your name, and whatever else you may have told the first company. This also includes all of your recent web activities, such as which websites you’ve visited. Visit www.yahoo.com and watch the status bar at the bottom of your browser. You’ll see lots of really long URLs flash by. Every one of those companies is getting a copy of your information. Every one of them will bombard you with spam.

Fun for Your Mouse

Shake your mouse really hard to make him let go, at www.koor.org/stuff/fun/movies/swf/go.swf

May 2002

This month’s stuff: how to stop a computer virus, how to block spam, how to win with Priceline, and how to create an online store.

Spam Stuff

Unwanted advertising email (called spam) has exploded in the last few months, as large websites have gotten desperate to make money. Yahoo turned off the blocks for some 100 million accounts.

There’s a way to block spam from your computer. I wrote a guide on how to install filters. See andreas.com/faq-spamfilter.htmll

Priceline

If you use Priceline to buy airline tickets or hotel reservations, there’s a website that can help you figure out how to make winning bids. Visit biddingfortravel.com

Easy Computer Stuff

Mary asks if there’s a way to backup emails. If you’re using Microsoft Outlook, here’s how. Open your Outlook, so you see your emails. Open your file manager (or click Start, click Run, type Explorer, and press Enter.) You file manager shows you the files on your hard disk. Navigate to a folder where you want to put the emails. For example, if you’re looking for work, you probably have a folder named Job Search. Now select the emails that you want to save (such as the ones that contain job offers) and drag-and-drop them into the Job Search folder. See? The emails are saved as files. You can save them, copy them, open them, move them, and make backups. Mary definitely owes me some chocolate cake for this tip.

The Next Newsletter…

Every month or so, or when I get around to it, I send out a newsletter with FAQs, tips, info, stories, poems, and whatever to some 3,000 subscribers. If you want to join, add your email below. You’re welcomed to write, ask questions, and send poems. — yrs, andreas