Newsletter #3

In This Issue
Main Feature: Data Backup
The Google: Google Docs
Client Spotlight:
DR. David Kruger: MentorPath.com
Recommended Site: Techdirt.com
FreeWare: FileZilla & YouSendIt.com
Web Tech Revealed:
What is Flash Anyway?

Welcome the third installment of the JFDS Newsletter. If you get tired of it, just let me know and I will remove your email address from this list.

Before we get to far and I loose your interest, it is worth a few moments to take a look on the horizon about what Microsoft is up to. The two rather major projects that they have been working on are here (mostly). Internet Explorer 7 is available now and will probably be part of your next Windows Update. This is a long over due update to a woefully bad browser. Microsoft has made it more secure and added ‘tabbed browsing‘, but as a recent survey of reviews shows, it is still behind Firefox.

Windows Vista is Microsoft’s next version of windows, set to replace Windows XP. This too is long over due and has been gutted of its more promising features. Never the less, if you have not heard of it, you will begin to hear about it soon as it is scheduled to be rolled out to corporate users this month and consumers on January 30, 2007. There is a new ‘rendering engine’ (that is the part that controls how things look on screen) that looks nice, but is a power hog and will not run on many current computer systems. If you don’t have a high powered computer, it might be wise not to upgrade just yet. And if you are looking to get a new computer next year, Vista will be your new operating system (unless you go to Apple) so make sure the computer is powerful enough to run Vista.

This is quite a big month for computer technology. Not only is there a new operating system from Microsoft, but the PlayStation 3 (a wildly expensive gaming system that I do not think will fair well against the Xbox 360 over the long haul) and the Nintendo Wii (a much cheaper gaming system) are also being released this month.

This month, in addition to the regular columns, I have added a new section: Client Spotlight where one of my client’s business and web site will be spotlighted (hence the name).

Every month the Crucible Design Newsletter will endeavor to enlighten you on issues relevant to your web site, the Internet, and related issues. The goal of this newsletter is to offer new tools, or new ways to use tools, to increases your effectiveness in the way you use the Internet and the computer.

Data Backup: Carbonite.com

CarboniteI hope that none of my clients have ever had a major computer meltdown that resulted in data loss, and I hope that none ever do. But, computer failure is a real threat to your business and your personal life, how many family photos do you have on your computer? There are a dizzing array of products on the market to backup your data. Most come in the form of CDs/DVDs or external hard drives and are hard to use, time consuming, and expensive. And the biggest problem is that, most likely, the backed up data is sitting a few feat from the primary data! That is, the backup hard drive is only a foot or two from the computer it is backing up. Sure, that guards against a spontaneous computer malfunction (unless it involves an exploding battery), but what about fire, flood, act of God, annoyed cat, bored dog, or one of any number cataclysmic event?

OK, enough with the hypotheticals and scaremongering. Here is your solution: Carbonite.com. Carbonite is a service that automatically backs up your files onto the Internet as you work. The backed up data is far from your office and it’s cornucopia of potential catastrophes. It is simple to setup, once you create an account and download there application, you need only choose those files and file folders that you want backed up and then let it run. The first backup may take some time depending on the size of the files you are backing up and the speed of your Internet connection. After that, Carbonite monitors the selected files and uploads them when you edit them, automatically. As Ron Popeil would say, “Set it, and forget it.” Two other features of this service make it a no brainer; A) it is cheap at $50 a year, and B) there is no limit to the amount of data you can backup. got 120 GigaBytes of data, do it.

I have been using this for a few months, and it has been working well, but I have not had to use the “Restore” mechanism yet, so I can not comment on effectiveness of that. But the described process is straight forward, login to your account and hit the “Restore” button to begin the process. This can also be done as a simple way to migrate you data to a new computer. This is the simplest and cheapest backup solution I have seen.

Sorry, the Mac version is not yet available unless, like me, you are running XP on your Mac.

The Google

Google DocsLast month I introduced you to Open Office, a complete and free office suite comparable to Microsoft Office. It is a great application (or suite of applications) and came in handy once again a few weeks ago when I was putting together a presentation for the Texas Furniture Makers Show in Kerrville, Texas. I used ‘Impress’ their Powerpoint clone and was very pleased.

But it is not a Google product so why am I continuing to gush about it here in Google’s space? Because it leads into two free Google products: Google Docs & Google Spreadsheets. As their names imply, the first is a word processor and the second a spreadsheet program. They are both rather basic so don’t look to do too much advanced editing with either. Don’t get me wrong, they both do what they do well and meet my needs amply. But they are no match for Open Office.

So, what then, makes them special. They are applications that run over the Internet. Think of Hotmail and Outlook, both are email applications, but the first works in a browser only when you are online, the second runs on your computer and can be used anytime (though you can not send and receive email while off line).

The benefit of an online application is that you can work on it anywhere from any Internet connected computer. That means that you don’t have to bother with bringing you computer with you on your next trip, just use the computer in the hotel, Internet cafe, or the one at your parent’s/child’s house. Another advantage is that documents created with these online applications can be very easily shared with others. If you are developing an article with someone on the other side of the planet, you can easily collaborate on one document without emailing it back and forth.

I am writing this newsletter in Google Docs right now. I use it for the newsletter so I can get to it anytime from anywhere and add a new idea.

I have long struggled with how best to keep track of my hours (so I can bill you and afford that fancy bicycle in the window). In the past, I tried every method from paper to digital, with one unifying consequence, I would loose track of it. Google Spreadsheet offers me one central location to store my hours and it has worked for me like a charm. No mater which computer I amusing, I can easily track the hours I slave away to improve your sites.

These two applications are also very friendly in that you can upload Microsoft Office and Open Office documents into it with no problem. Also, and very importantly, you can export from Google Docs & Spreadsheets into common Microsoft Office and Open Office file types and download it to your computer. Oh, it also exports to PDF for no charge, yet another handy little feature.

Client Spotlight

MentorPath.com
Dr. Krueger mentors professionals and executives on the art and science of success strategies: ‘Mind over Matters.’

In his own words:

“Success involves creating a new story inside and outside: an evolving internal model combined with new experiences. I help my clients write the next chapters in their life and business stories. As executives and self employed business people develop their success skills, they come to know themselves and others better. They apply human dynamics to strategic growth and personal fulfillment.”

“Are you doing what you are passionate about? Have you fully developed your talents? And do those two go together?”

David’s sight offered new challenges in integrating payment systems coupled with delivering digital downloads. He offers both audio (MP3) and book (PDF) downloads. By using the combined power of PayPal and E-Junkie (to be covered in a later issue) his site can now receive payment and deliver products automatically.

David’s site also offered the opportunity to work with a graphic designer, Walid Khalil, who created a clean and expressive logo/masthead.

David was also kind enough to share his thoughts on my performance:

“As a product and web designer, James Fryer is the best. His business savvy and “No problem” approach makes him a unique collaborator. He has also empowered my clients to achieve extraordinary success.”
-David Krueger

Recommended Site

Techdirt.com focuses mainly on tech related news, but from a much smarter angle then most. The writers have a much better grip on legal issues surrounding technology and they have a dangerously sharp wit. A very smart blog.

FreeWare

FileZillaFileZilla is an FTP (File Transfer Protocal) program. It is simple, works flawlessly, and is free. FTP is used to transfer files over the Internet, the most common usage is to upload files to a web server. As an example, once I have finished the files that I create for your web site, I then use FilleZilla to connect to your web server (web host) and use it to transfer the files from my computer to your web site.

YouSendIt.com is not a program per say, but it is related to Filezilla in that it lets you transfer files over the Internet, but it does it more easily with email. Log on to YouSendIt.com, upload your file (using your browser), specify an email recipient, done. The recipient gets an email with a link to the file that they can then download. Sending large files as email attachments is bad because email is not designed to do that and the file can be corrupted, it can jam up your recipient’s inbox, and your email service probably has limits to the file size you can send. YouSendIt.com alleviates these problems. With the free service you can send files up to 100 MegaBytes.

Web Tech Revealed

What is Flash anyway?

Flash is a web technology for creating animated and interactive content for publishing on the Internet. It is powerful and flexible. It can be used to create simple animated text to fully interactive games. It is often used to add visual interest to a web site through animation and is a good tool for telling a story visually. Flash files can be integrated into a web page or a whole web site can be created in Flash. Here is a site that is an interesting use of Flash: http://www.leoburnett.ca.

Not everyone is a fan though, Jakob Nielsen, says, “Flash tends to degrade websites for three reasons: it encourages design abuse, it breaks with the Web’s fundamental interaction principles, and it distracts attention from the site’s core value.” Granted, this is from an article from six years ago, but, as he mentions, many of the problems remain. I am also generally not a fan of Flash. It is a little too vulnerable, can not be indexed by search engines, and can not be made to be accessible to the disabled.

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