The Acronym (March 2006 Edition)

March 20, 2006

Dear Clients and Friends,

I hope you are enjoying this current (and hopefully permanent) thaw from the snowy winter we have experienced. By the numbers, we’ve gotten a lot of snow. It just hasn’t felt as bad to me as past winters. Maybe I’m a bit older and wiser now. I don’t let bad weather ruin my day anymore. I used to be very inclined to drive in all sorts of weather, but these days I find work to do at home if I know that road conditions are bad. I have always told my wife and my friends – that I am an excellent driver in bad weather.

Growing up in New England and learning to drive in the fall/winter of 1996 earned me my “racing stripes.” I don’t think I’ve lost any of that reaction time or ability to maneuver, but I’m more willing to tell someone who needs a ride – Let’s go out tomorrow!

I’ve really grown in my role as a father over the past year. People told me that this would be very challenging, while others said to run for the hills and never look back. I’ve never backed down from a challenge and feel that the positives of being a father have outweighed some minor bumps in the road that we’ve passed. This has been a very special experience for me. It is a role that I enjoy and look forward to each day. It is an opportunity to shape the life of a young person and give her a future that begins free of baggage. Being a father is a chance to give my daughter a chance to see the stars and live HER dreams. This is not a time to exploit youth, to steal their dreams, and cut them down repeatedly. Nana and I are giving Saras a life absent of fear and full of love. It warms my heart to be able to give my child these two undeniable rights – that all children deserve.

Enjoy the change in seasons and do not hesitate to contact me with any of your
technology issues.

Sincerely,
Kevin
“Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay
It’s Independence Day.” – Martina McBride

Parents BEWARE: MYSPACE.COM
by Kevin

Many times I get asked while doing a job, how can I keep my children safe on the Internet? How do I know what websites they are visiting? Who are all of these people on their buddy list? The rising popularity of the website MySpace.com has turned a relatively benign issue into a cancer.

In the past month, nearly every major newspaper in the country has run a story about this infamous website. Many of the stories focused on events that happened right here in Connecticut.

To give a brief background, MySpace was started in 2003 as a forum for younger people to connect and share information. I’m sure you’ve heard of the term – blog – before. A blog is a page on the Internet that people create (on their own or in conjunction with a service) that is an open, uncensored forum for them to say WHATEVER. Blogs have had some very legitimate uses. Many celebrities use blogs to share about their lives or their feelings on hot button topics. Many media outlets use blogs to display late breaking news that can’t readily be published into a formal story or to offer an “expanded editorial page.” Blogs play a role in politics and gained a lot of attention in the 2004 election cycle.

Although its content is rarely newsworthy or even educational, MySpace.com is, in essence, a blog. It is by far the most successful in this category and one of the most popular websites on the Internet. With traffic approaching 60 million visits a month, a recent survey listed it as the 5th most visited English language website in the world.

However, problems have arisen because there is no screening of people who create an account on MySpace and little attention paid to the content, even if it is criminal or it reflects imminent danger. America’s youth have flocked to MySpace indroves. They can register for free and typically say whatever they want about themselves, their friends, and their lifestyles. There is no privacy. These kids want to tell and show all. Furthermore they think their parents don’t know how to access their MySpace page. Most members have their page set to invitation only. Basically it is another world, outside of home and school life – that we are completely shut out from – unless we take action. You might think this is really an innocent endeavor, even after I’ve given you this introduction. Hold on to your seat. We’re just getting started.

Some youths who register with MySpace.com may have very decent intentions. However, based on a private investigation that I undertook between early December and the end of January this year, I found that MySpace is primarily a forum for children to isolate themselves from the world and glorify the vulgar in their lives. This blog site is not a playground for children who live in the North End of Hartford. It is a 21st century “romper room” for the children of suburbia complete with rotten apples and fools’ gold necessary for them to destroy their innocence. Many children use their last names, give their birth dates, and tell what schools they’ve gone to. Some of them discuss their parents’ occupations – even if they don’t realize that mom and dad are in a sensitive line of work. Members of MySpace regularly discuss “experiences” they’ve had with their girlfriend or boyfriend. MySpace bloggers give intimate details about their use of illegal substances as well. A picture tells a thousand words, doesn’t it? The most revealing part of MySpace is the photo section of each blog. If someone is trying to meet someone else through their web page, it seems very impersonal if they don’t share a photo of themselves. Unfortunately, moms and dads – your children aren’t posting their class picture or holiday snapshot. Many youth post pictures of themselves in very suggestive poses. They are very eager to show themselves in their undergarments or without clothing. They are very proud to display pictures of themselves smoking and drinking as well. “Wait! Aren’t there magazines at the bookstore with this type of content sold in a black wrapper? Yes, Mrs. Jones – they’re in the adult section and the people pushing this product are supposed to check for identification if they are under 18.” So my question is: where is the protective wrapper around MySpace.com?

I’ve always been someone who is against censorship, but wants to protect youth. MySpace will never be shut down by some government agency and their staff does not currently have the manpower to screen every single profile already in existence. One thing I think they should do is charge for their services. They should make the monthly subscription price around $10, something that is not too expensive, but is significant and will make a teenager think twice before they burn what little money they have. Furthermore, a fee for service approach would allow the parents to be involved. Most Internet based companies do not take cash or checks. It’s plastic only. If the child wanted to subscribe the parent would need to type in their card number. Another option for payment could entail the selling of prepaid MySpace cards, similar to how prepaid iTunes cards are sold. The “put your money where your mouth is” approach would help to create legitimacy for this troubled, although very successful entity. People who want to use MySpace to promote illicit behavior or molest children would think twice before registering because there would be a traceable record of their identity.

If you are concerned about your child’s safety online – I would be happy to work on a manageable solution for you at our next appointment. If you have a child between 11 and 16 and think they haven’t at least visited MySpace – THINK AGAIN!! They probably have their own page. Considering that (Fox) News Corporation paid $580 million for MySpace in 2005, they should look to make it profitable if they were so serious about it in the first place. The .COM money tree days are over. Shareholders of News Corp. should demand more, and not allow their profits to be offset by an emerging product that has the potential to be another passing fad if it is not changed for the better.

AOL Leaps Into The Future (Sort Of)
by Kevin

A handful of you still subscribe to AOL as an Internet service provider. I want to make you aware of some changes that they are implementing because they will affect the decisions you make about your service. Once upon a time, not too long ago when dial up Internet ruled the earth, AOL had the most subscribers in the business. They had some services that were VERY innovative. They provided features and tools that no one else did. At one time or another, most of us were customers of America Online. I was too. But as broadband or high speed Internet became widely available about 5 years ago – nearly everyone jumped ship. We couldn’t stand the junk mail and viruses we were getting in our AOL inbox. Back then the justification for switching was a stretch – but the logic made sense. AOL was $23.90 / month for dial up. Cable Internet and DSL were somewhere in the $40 range, initially. I helped facilitate and provide support after many of your broadband installations. I used to say something like this: “For $20 more, surfing the web can be as fast as changing the channels on your TV. You won’t have to wait for anything.” I’ve never met one person who has changed back to dial up, even though there were numerous outages early on because the broadband provider’s network could not handle the number of users. Those problems are a thing of the past. As the price of broadband Internet decreased and the gap between dial up and broadband went down to $10, $5, and last year practically nothing, most people who were waiting on the sidelines jumped into the game.

However, some of you may still subscribe to AOL for your kids as separate or add on service. AOL tried to become a broadband service provider a few years back through its merger with Time Warner, the nation’s second largest cable provider but it never proved to be fruitful. They sold their service for nearly $55 per month and it was eventually discontinued. I never hated AOL entirely. I just hated the fact they tried to do it all and they had rotten customer service. Their pricing structure was so 20th century and the ability to keep a connection was faulty at times. However, I must give credit where credit is due. They have led the pack among Internet service providers at addressing Internet security and junk mail issues. As always, they continue to provide some of the best original content on the Internet. They provided valuable free tools, such as McAfee before anyone else did. Furthermore, they have greatly improved their customer service. I remember when I had to call for a client in the past year or two they answered promptly.

AOL recently announced that it is raising the price of its stand alone dial up service by $2 to $25.90 per month. This should shock many of you as being outrageous. I agree. However there is a part B to this price policy change. AOL has partnered itself with major local phone companies that provide about 90% of the DSL service in this country to offer co-branded broadband Internet service starting at $25.90 per month. This concept is not something new to us. A large number of you subscribe to AT&T (formerly SBC) Yahoo DSL. In New York and Massachusetts, many Verizon (home phone) customers subscribe to their DSL service which is “powered by” MSN. In these arrangements, the phone company provides the connection to the network while their content provider such as Yahoo or MSN, provides you with premium services such as email and other features that you would normally have to pay for. In theory part of your monthly subscription goes to the phone company and a portion goes to the content provider. AOL has decided to focus on providing content in the long term and entice their dial up customers to make the switch to broadband.

Providing content has always been their strongest attribute. Their recent partnership with Google cements their intention on pulling out of the dial up business for good. For those of you subscribe to the AOL BYOA (bring your own access plans), meaning you already have Internet service but use AOL as an add on – pricing will remain at $14.95 per month for now.
(This article does not represent an endorsement of AOL by my company or me personally.)

ANNOUNCEMENTS
If you have not made the jump to broadband Internet: I am happy to install your service for a flat rate of $75. This comprehensive service is a bargain compared to what other providers charge and I am able to sell you a modem that you can own outright as opposed to renting or buying one from the phone or cable company, if you so choose. I have experience configuring AT&T (SBC), Comcast, and Cox service. I would be happy to set you up with other broadband providers if those choices are available.

Do you have enough memory for your computer? The most current version of Windows XP and Mac OS X require at least 512 MB of RAM. Given the number of programs we like to run at once, and the amount of multimedia dependent features – sufficient memory will make a difference. If the performance of your computer reminds you of that rusty Ford Pinto you drove when you were 16, call me for a consultation today! I can discuss with you the options of upgrading or buying a new computer. Through my numerous vendor connections I am able to provide you with computer peripherals, accessories, new systems, and perform professional installations as well. This is the true definition of a VALUE ADDED RESELLER.

Wireless home networking. Do you have multiple computers in your house and want everyone to have Internet access at the same time without wires running everywhere? Yeah, that’s the point of having broadband! Now everyone in the family can be happy. No one has to share and no one will notice any lags in performance, unless Johnny, June, and Jimmy are all trying to download the full version of King Kong on their individual computers at the same time. I’ve acquired a wealth of experience doing these installations over the past 4 years and I am more than willing to offer my services to you. I am able to furnish you with a high quality wireless router and adapters for your computers should you need them. Please let me know. I am willing to offer wireless networking as a package with broadband installation if you so choose.

Digital TV (DTV). Are you confused about the new digital TV law that was recently signed and will become effective in February 2009? Did you know that your current TV would not work in the future unless you make some minor changes? Would you like to know about digital cable or hear about other television choices? Need help shopping for a new digital TV? Contact me today! I would be happy to provide my knowledge and consulting services to get you ready for the DTV era.