Category Archives: Lifestyle

Google Chrome Redefines the Browser

This morning I had a couple emails in my inbox with reference to Google’s new open source Chrome browser. I deleted the first few, and just after I had deleted the last one, something made me CTRL+Z undelete it. I figured if Google had just come out with a new browser I might as well find out about it. 

Anyways, in the post was a link to the e-comic book that Google created to spread the word. I read it through, not realizing it would be quite so long, but found it very informative. I didn’t really know much about browser architecture, and I can’t say I’ve ever really cared very much, but nonetheless, it broke things down quite simply to a level I think most people would grasp, even though these are complicated, technical processes. 

Anyways, the upshot of all this is that Google basically started with a blank sheet, and redesigned a new browser. The took the things that break from Mozilla and IE, and re-thought them. It is multi-threaded, and has a virtual machine and sorry, I see eyeballs glazing over already. 

Takeaway: It’s not supposed to crash. And if it does, only one tab will crash, which you can close. It is far better with memory. It is more secure. It is more user-friendly. I can take a tab and turn it into a window, or vice versa, simply by dragging and dropping it. It has an incognito mode, where no cookies or history are saved from that tab’s actions. New tabs default to a useful page giving you your most commonly selected options, leading to a truly personalized browser. 

Currently Chrome is only available for Windows Vista, however there are plans to release it for Mac and Linux as well. You can get it at google.com/chrome. 

Very interesting that Chrome is coming out close to IE8. I haven’t downloaded IE8 yet, though I will soon. My gut tells me Chrome is going to kick some IE8 down the hallway though. 

What are your thoughts? Have you installed Chrome? Not going to? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

 

Stuck in a Work Rut? Outsource it!

I’ve written about outsourcing before, but this afternoon the value of it sunk home a little bit further.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a terrbiel procrastinator if the thing I need to do isn’t exactly high up there on the list of things I enjoy doing. So, as a result, I’ve had a few things on my to do list nearly all summer long, and I’d just been pushing them off. Last week I finally sat my butt down and came up with my “If I don’t get anything else done at all this month EXCEPT these things” To Do List.

I deliberately kept it reasonably short, but each item was high value, high priority. With about 7 working days left in the month, this list has really focused my efforts.

One of the items on the list was to create a promo video of sorts for my webstore, and distribute it to a pile of social media sites using Traffic Geyser. In the back of my mind I knew that once I had finished the video, I would have to spend a good three hours setting up user accounts at the 49 sites Traffic Geyser supports.You can buy complete account profiles from Traffic Geyser for $100, but I needed a specific user name, relevant to my site.

Sitting there yesterday afternoon, it all of a sudden occurred to me that this three hour task I was dreading could easily be outsourced. I opened a Word doc and started writing out the requirements for the task. Less than 10 minutes later I had posted the project on Scriptlance, and less than 45 minutes from the initial idea, I had awarded the project to a fellow in India, to have it completed by the next morning, for $15 USD.

All of a sudden part of my to do list had been outsourced for far less than the value of my time, and I was free to focus on the video creation. With a clear mind I quickly and efficiently finished everything by the end of the night. This morning I woke up with a completed video, and an email containing all my account information to 49 social media sites. An hour on Traffic Geyser and now my video is all over the net.

Fast forward to this afternoon. I’ve been thinking of redesigning a website I’ve got that is about 4 years old. It is kind of ugly to look at right now, and doesn’t really do much for me. For quite a while I’ve wanted to take the time to re-design it, update it, probably put it on a wordpress platform for ease of editing and SEO purposes, and in general just give it a much needed lift.

Well I was sitting in my chair thinkng about this again when outsourcing light bulb triggered again. So I popped out my Word doc again, to start sketching out what the project would look like, requirements etc.

As soon as I had the requirements drafted out, I knew there was absolutely no reason I couldn’t post this on Scriptlance. So 10 minutes later, it was up there, and now I’m sitting here waiting for the bids to roll in. I actually broke it into two projects, one for site design, and the other for article writing.

The Moral of the Story

If you’re wondering how you’re going to complete a given project, why not stop right now, take out a pad of paper, or open a Word doc, whatever works best for you, and start defining the project in words, on paper. I find the very act of picking up a pencil helps concentrate my thoughts.

You might be surprised how much that step alone helps.

Now for the next step. What exactly is your project? Is it small, or large? If large, can it be broken down into logical sections? Go ahead and do that.

Now you’ve basically got everything you need to either attack this thing yourself, or simply outsource it. I prefer the latter.

Take your document, go to your outsource site of choice (depends on what you’re doing) and post it.

Especially for small tasks, you’d be surprised what you can get done for $15 or $20.

Let me know how it goes!

My New Laptop From 1998, Running Vista

I feel like I just got a new computer, and it’s from 1998.

Seriously, I’m super happy about this. Why? Let me tell you a story…

I’ve been involved with computers for a long time… most of the ones that I’ve owned I’ve built myself; I worked in a computer shop and did tech support for a year or two, I’ve been the “go to” guy all my friends or co-workers called with their computer problems. In general, computers have never stressed me out. Frustrated me at times, confounded occasionally, but never stressed out.

Until I bought my Dell XPS 1530. Or more specifically (I don’t really want to drag Dell into this), since my XPS 1530 came with Microsoft Windows Vista Premium. 50 Million lines of code! At first, life was grand. I was enjoying my fast new 1530 with all the eye candy Vista could throw at it. Yeah, the gently flowing waterfall behind the desktop icons was very cool. I showed some of my friends who’d never seen Vista before and they thought it was cool too!

Then one day, shortly after the 2 week honeymoon was over, I got my first BSOD. For the uninitiated, that stands for the Blue Screen of Death (or Doom, if you prefer) that was so famous with earlier versions of Windows. I hadn’t really had much contact with a BSOD since Windows 98, as XP seemed to have cleaned up the act a little bit. So the first one took me by surprise. And then it became a trend… for a while, it happened several times a day. Sometimes the whole laptop would just freeze, and this horrible dah-dah-dah-dah-dah sound would takeover the music I’d been enjoying seconds before.

This would continue until I could stand it no longer, and in a scene reminiscent of Will Smith, in “I Am Legend” looking away, with tears in the corner of his eye, while he strangled his virus infected dog – his only friend left in the entire world full of man eating zombies – I hold down the power button of the Dell until the screen blinks off, and the little blue lights at the front of the 1530 fade into blackness.

When I power up again, the laptop asks me if I want to start Windows normally, or go into safe mode. I always pick normally, because what can I really do about this anyways? It always continues to work, just a bit slower each time. I’d gotten to the point where it took a solid 10 minutes to boot up, load all the programs, reset my dual screen preferences (why, WHY can’t it remember the settings!??) and actually be ready for work.

Sometimes in the middle of something important, the laptop would go into slowdown mode. You know when the labor unions aren’t actually striking, but they want to send the employer a strong message? They all walk very slowly, pick things up slowly, talk to ALL their friends as they walk down the hallway, and slowly settle into their chairs. All day long. Not a lot gets accomplished, but they’re on the job!

Vista likes to do that to my XPS 1530. A normally snappy little machine. Anyways, I’ve had the laptop now for about 6 months. Initially, I had great patience for my brand new 1530. I understood that I had overloaded it with all kinds of software which takes up all kinds of memory. Life is hard for a computer, you know? Still, I took precautions. I msconfig’ed out absolutely every program that tried to start itself when Vista booted. I tried a registry fixer. I even tried a squeeze ball.

Unfortunately, nothing changed. Over time, the simmering frustration started festering into something more… actual stress! I’d heard about this, from other people, but never experienced it myself! I was actually getting stressed out because of my computer! They say that most people have short attention spans, even when concentrating, and that interspersed fairly frequently in their thoughts is some sort of sexual fantasy. Well I was getting frequent fantasies of buying a Mac.

The squeeze ball wore out. I felt like smacking my computer. With one of those FUBAR hammers. The strangulations of the power button became more emphatic. I felt like flinging the computer out my office window – even if it would mean destroying the glass!

Things were spiraling out of control – I’d never been in such distress over a computer before. I knew something had to change, so finally, last night, I took one last troll through the services section of msconfig. (Start > Run > type ‘msconfig’ > Services). Although I’d previously disabled many of these services, and nearly everything except the bare minimum on the startup tab, nothing had changed.

This time something different caught my eye. Themes. Windows Media Center _____. No longer caring, I disabled anything and everything that looked non-essential. I shutdown the 1530 and went to bed.

This morning when I fired up the laptop, things looked different. I thought for a second I’d taken a ride with Marty McFly in a Dolorian and gone back 10 years! Vista looked grey, and blocky. Everything was straight lines and solid colors. It looked very 1998. And then I started using it. In wonderment, I watched my six homepages (yes, I know… there’s a good reason though) in IE7 open in just a flash. Strange feelings of giddiness began to stir in my belly. Oh wait, I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet.

Anxious to try something else, I opened Microsoft Outlook. Bang! It was up, just like that. Excel. Presto! Adobe Photoshop? Mere seconds!! Photoshop used to take at least a minute to load! I thought, hey, I can live with graphics and eye candy from 1998 as long as I’m getting 2008 performance out of this beast! I’m now convinced it was the Vista themes service causing my pain!

This was exciting. Life changing, in fact. So what did I do? I hopped on my blog to write about it of course.

If this helps you in some way in your own war with Vista, or if you enjoyed it, please Digg it or bookmark it, or comment below!

Samsung Instinct M800 Review

I’ve had a really old and really crappy cell phone for just under three years now. Actually, that phone is less than 2 years old as I remember trading in the one before it on warranty to upgrade to the slightly less crappy thing I used until yesterday. Argh – that thing caused grief, shutting down on me, dropping calls, not even getting reception. Until yesterday. Yesterday, I got a Samsung Instinct, the M800. Here are my first impressions.

Size – The phone is physically longer and wider than my previous beast, though slimmer. This was the only thing I didn’t really like about it when I was looking at it in the store. If you compare it to many of the other phones on the market, it really is larger. However, it isn’t that heavy, and I figured I could get used to it. The screen is after all one of the largest around. That has to be worth something.

Screen – The whole point of this phone is the screen, and in my opinion, the Instinct really delivers. The screen is vibrant and clear, and very responsive. I’ve actually been very impressed by the responsiveness of Samsung’s touch screen. The Instinct uses haptic feedback, which means that the phone moves just slightly when you select a key, so it feels like you’ve pressed a button. It actually really helps the experience, and others I’ve let use the phone have been surprised at this feature.

Ease of Use – With a name like “Instinct” this phone had better be easy to use. Turns out, I’ve found it remarkably intuitive to navigate around in. Within minutes I had figured out the basic navigation structure, and so far I haven’t had to look at the manual once, yet I’ve been able to figure out everything I wanted to. It should be noted that I’m not exactly an experienced cell phone user. When in typing mode, you can use the onscreen keyboard in a number of ways. My favorite is to hold the phone sideways and use it in QWERTY format. Typing with my thumbs I can actually punch things out in pretty short order. I’ve found it very accurate; spelling mistakes are the exception and not the rule.

To give you an idea, I just timed myself for one minute and typed away blathering about nothing. Anyways, I was able to type 27 words with two spelling mistakes in that one minute. There is a built in spell checker as well. Words come up in red and underlined if they are deemed to be spelling mistakes. After a period, the keyboard automatically capitalizes, then reverts again, which is a nice feature.

I would say that on average menu use, 19 out of 20 screen touches are accurate, which is pretty good. I’ll probably get more used to the phone as well, as time goes on. There was only one instance, when I was entering all my contacts, when the “Done” button seemed sticky a few times in a row, and I had to hit it a few times to register. Probably an anomaly.

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Dialing – Dialing with the Samsung Instinct is a real pleasure. As minor a feature as this is on a complicated little machine, it is after all the heart of every phone. The keypad comes up very large and very clear, and I can dial on that thing so fast it astounds me. It is easier to use than my home phone, or many office phones I have used. The keypad is exceptionally responsive and with such large numbers you can just fly along on it. I’ve shown several other people how well this works and they were all very impressed. Compared with the majority of phones out these days, this is simply one of the largest keypads you’re going to find. This feature alone would make this phone ideal for the “older” audience, people whose eyesight sometimes troubles them. The keypad is so large you won’t need reading glasses to see it at all.

Contacts – Scrolling through the contacts page is pretty easy. You can flick your finger and the list will scroll through and keep momentum after you stop. So you can give it one flick and watch it go through a good portion of your contacts. The info available is pretty standard, name, phone numbers, email addresses, URL, notes, address. I’d like to see more grouping options available. Of course you get to choose if the number is a mobile or home, etc, but I’d like to see additional groupings, like friends, family, work, business, food etc. I’d like to turn on the phone and immediately bring up my favorite restaurants in one list to see whether I wanted to get sushi or pizza, or something else.

Call Clarity – I actually haven’t spent much time talking on the Instinct so I can’t really speak to the clarity of it, but what I’ve experienced so far is fairly average I guess.

Reception – As I mentioned previously, my old phone was no firecracker, so any upgrade in the reception department is enough to please me. I routinely dropped calls in most rooms in my house, so the first thing I did with this one was get on the phone and walk through the house. It didn’t drop the call, so I figured I got an upgrade. That said, I couldn’t tell you how it relates to the rest of the market.

Browsing – The web browser is pretty good. It took me a minute to figure out how to enter in the address you want, and how to change my homepage, but like I mentioned earlier, the Instinct is fairly intuitive, and I was able to figure it out with minimal effort. Compared to most mobile phones, I think the Instinct’s biggest advantage is its huge screen size. You can view pages in either mobile mode, or as they appear normally. I haven’t tried mobile mode yet as so far I’ve been able to get around in normal okay. Pages load fairly quickly. Clicking on links requires a bit of precision fingerwork, as often on the page you’ll see many links right beside each other. For this a stylus (or something else – yesterday at my friend’s place I used the plastic end of a shoelace because I didn’t have a pencil around) would be handy. There is a stylus included in the kit, but there is no way to store it in the phone, which is a little disappointing. Still, if you’re careful you can get by pretty well. Alternatively, you can quickly magnify the screen as well, which would make clicking a lot easier. Scrolling also works fairly well. I like touching the screen and just sliding it around; however the only downside here is you have to be careful you don’t click on a link inadvertently.

Games – I’ve been a sucker for Bejewelled for a few years, so the first thing I downloaded was that game. It looks great on the Instinct’s screen, and it plays quite well too. To make gameplay easier though you really want to have something to use as a stylus.

Facebook – Yes, the Instinct has a fun little Facebook button, so you can login to your account with one click. It works pretty good, and I can see how this could really ramp up the addiction factor.

YouTube – The M800 also has a YouTube button, bringing you right to YouTube.com. Navigation is pretty quick. It takes a few seconds for the videos to load, and they’re not often incredible quality, but you can make them use nearly all of the screen, which is cool. Sound quality is also pretty good.

Media Player – My experience with the media player so far has been somewhat limited, but from what I’ve seen it’s nothing to write home about. It gets the job done, but isn’t mind-shatteringly innovative or anything.

Data Features – The ability to get news headlines, local weather, movie listings etc is nice, but I`m sure it is common to many phones on the market today. Like I said, I`m no expert.

GPS Navigation – I should at least mention that the Samsung Instinct has GPS Navigation, though I`m at this point unwilling to pay the $8 a month to enable it. I`ve got a handheld GPS which works well enough. The cool thing though is that you can enable it for one day, if you want to.

Conclusions – Overall I`m very pleased with the phone so far. Ease of use, clarity of the screen, and responsiveness of the touch interface are all way up there on my happy list. The only negative comments I have at this point are that the power button is the same as the lock button, so a few times when going to lock the phone I`ve inadvertently powered it off, which is a nuisance. The other thing is from what I can tell the built in calendar and scheduling feature could be more robust. I`ll have to keep my eyes peeled though, perhaps I can download a third party app that will help boost this capability.

As a final word, I would probably say that if you`re considering it, just take the plunge. You`ll be happy you did.

If you enjoyed this post, please Digg it, or bookmark it!

Baby Steps into Outsourcing

Back when I originally read the 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss I thought outsourcing was the coolest thing. Pay someone to do those things that you don’t really want to do – especially when you can get them done cheap! Well, that was months ago, and I never really did much with it, or really got a handle on how it could help me in my business.

I should mention that I keep a spreadsheet that tracks my affiliate activities, and I’ve updated it every day for the last few years. I’ve always wanted a program that would basically do that for me. So I thought, why not outsource the creation of such a thing, at least to see how much it would cost?

If you’ve followed this blog at all you’ll know I’ve dabbled in Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. That was my first experience with outsourcing, and it went fairly well. It was also extremely cheap. So I thought I would take a step up, and try out another site, Scriptlance.com. Last week I posted this project on Scriptlance, to see what the cost would be. I’m currently a member of an online service which does something similar to what I wanted, and I’m paying $100 a month there. So I figured if I could get it done for a few hundred bucks, I’d be ahead, right? Well I ended up selecting a bid for $325. The guy has lots of great reviews, and many people have even paid him bonuses, so I figured he would be a good choice to build my software.

Anyways, we’re just now getting into the process of starting this, so I’ll keep you updated as we go along. However, the whole concept of outsourcing has seriously made a come back into my brain. Now I’m thinking of all kinds of things that I can outsource.

Link building, for instance. My web store needs some serious, dedicated link building and SEO work to attain a top position, and I’m no longer certain I want to be the one doing it. As I’ve written in previous posts, I want to learn how to do SEO, but that doesn’t mean I want to do it! I mean, link building is seriously boring work! Try it for a few hours and tell me otherwise!

So I came across this other site, called AgentsOfValue.com, and I’m considering now whether or not to hire a person through them. The idea goes beyond project based outsourcing; you’re actually hiring a full time employee! In the flimsy business development timeline I had in my head, I had never really considered hiring a full time employee, especially not so early in the game. I had an idea that hiring an employee would likely mean having someone working for me, possibly out of the basement in my house. It seemed like it represented a huge step in the evolution of my business… one that would likely take a few years to achieve.

And yet here I am, seriously considering taking on a full time employee, from the Philippines. I can get a full time (yes, we’re talking 40 hours a week) link builder for about $675 a month. Do the math. That is $5.63 an hour, for skilled labour. And for them, that’s higher than average pay, locally.

I sat back for a few minutes, thinking to myself: “Can I realistically keep such a person occupied on a full time basis?” ie – is it worth it?

So we get to the core of the question – what is YOUR time worth? In other words, presumably this work you’re thinking of outsourcing is worth doing, right? Well, how long would it take you to do it?

In my case, I probably can’t do the work a whole lot faster than someone else can, who is skilled and trained in link building and other SEO work. So you’re basically looking a the bulk of my time being used on this. And that is only for one web store, and I’ve got several other projects that I really want to start spending time on! So how much is my time worth? Well I won’t tell you what I’m making right now 😉 but let’s just use $20/hr as a nice round number. I think you can see where this is going…

If my time is worth $20 an hour, and their time is worth $5.63 an hour, then the choice is easy; pay them to do the work. This frees me up to start other projects and hopefully generate some new income streams.

You see, the whole question is about opportunity cost. Yes, I CAN do the work. But if I do, then I can’t do anything else while I’m doing it. What is the cost of that lost opportunity? Now, I’ll quit freely admit that I’m somewhat lazy and don’t exactly work like a mule at my business, but there again is a lifestyle choice that I value. I don’t want to be overworked, in fact I don’t even want to be working 40 hours a week, necessarily! So if I can outsource that work, why not?

As I’ve been writing this, more ideas have popped into my head. I might go so far as to outsource the entire creation of a new webstore, then the SEO after that. The part that I really don’t like – researching dropshippers… why not outsource the research? Pay someone by the hour to sit there and find every possible option, compile a list and essentially do the dirty work for me?

Product creation, customer support, graphic design, web design, writing, link building, programming; the list goes on and on as to what you can successfully outsource these days. The question is, are you ready for it? Can you make efficient use of someone else’s time?

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. As my time is freed up, I will start new projects, which I have no doubt will create new tasks to throw at my personal link builder / SEO expert. I’m starting to think that it will be a leap of faith, but I can see it turning out to be an incredible step in my business development.

I’ll keep you posted =).