The Acronym (December 2006 Edition)

November 25, 2006

Dear Clients, Family, and Friends,
Like the Christmas Waltz so eloquently says, “It’s that time of year when the world falls in love.”  It is a time for family and friends, celebrating and remembering our purpose in life, and setting goals for the future.   Gift giving is one of the many  pastimes of this special season, so now I’ll provide some shopping advice for Christmas (politically correct cough) or “the holiday event.”

1. If you are buying a computer that is meant to run Windows as its primary OS, look for a system that will include the new Windows Vista operating system or at least a coupon for a free upgrade to Vista if it isn’t pre-installed.  If I am not there to provide my professional guidance in selecting the right system for you, be sure to choose one with an Intel Core (preferably Core Duo) processor or AMD equivalent, 1.0 to 1.5 GB of RAM, 120 GB hard drive (60 to 80 GB minimum for a laptop).  Any “sales representative” or “account executive” who tells you otherwise probably worked for Sonny Bloch or some other snake  oil salesman in a previous career.  Would I steer you down a windy road??  Don’t buy a dinosaur when you can run with a leopard.

2.  Come to think of it…if a leopard is what you want, buy a Macintosh.  Sometime during 2007, Apple will be releasing its latest operating system – OS X 10.5, code named “Leopard.”    OS X 10.4 “Tiger” is already better than Vista can ever be, therefore I eagerly await the arrival of this new cat.  Apple has completed its transition to all Intel processors months ahead of schedule and now you can truly compare Macs to the likes of Dell, HP, and IBM on a level playing field because they are based on the same processor architecture.  When you compare an “Apple” from Cupertino, CA vs. the offerings from the competition, you’re basically comparing a beautiful kosher, organic apple  against a cheap red delicious with that nasty wax coating that you would find at the bruised fruit warehouse.   Seriously!  Evaluate price, features, and system security readiness whenever you make a computer purchase.   Considering that all Mac models can now run Windows for that one piece of software from work that was holding you back before, there is no time like the present to march on to greener pastures.   If you or your children are thrilled with your iPods, don’t you think Apple would meet the same high standards with their computers?  If you are sick of schmooze pricing, put a beautiful Mac Mini, iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook, or MacBook Pro under the tree this year.  I promise you that the packaging is so nice you really don’t even need to wrap it.

3.  Nothing fits in a stocking quite like an iPod.   Apple has updated its unparalleled line of portable music players once again.  Apple’s bargain iPod, the Shuffle has been reduced in form factor to the size of half a cigarette lighter.   It is only $79, but has no screen.  The screen-less feature is a major turn off for me, but if you are a kid on a budget or love the prospect of a random music listening adventure — Shuffle away.   My daughter loves her iPod Shuffle and it works just as well today as when we bought it in February 2005.   The Nano is Apple’s mid-priced offering in the iPod family.  Improvements over the 1st generation Nano include: a brighter color screen, a 24 hour battery life and a scratch resistant screen.   Note:  the reason the Nano is so thin is because it uses a flash based hard drive, similar to the memory card for your digital camera.  Prices range from $149 to $249.   Last, but not least, consider the (video) iPod.  Battery life has been improved to 20 hours since it was first released in 2005.  The screen is brighter and the larger capacity model has an 80 GB hard drive that can hold up to 20,000 songs. Wow!!  Pricing is $249 for the 30 GB model and $349 for the 80 GB model.

Even on short notice, I am available to set-up all of your tech gifts and train your loved ones to use them.  Don’t hesitate to contact me.  I eagerly await your phone call or email.

May God bless you abundantly in 2007,
Kevin
Serving your needs since 1997.


Keeping Everyone Safe Online

by Kevin

I often get asked by clients how they can keep their loved ones safe from the dangers of the Internet.  Parents want solutions, period.  With new websites, software applications, and terminology to defend against — it seems like a loosing battle.  Don’t give up!!  Read on and you’ll understand that moms and dads still have the upper hand.

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may provide you with free parental control software in addition to complimentary virus protection and firewall offered.   This software may be similar to a commercially available package such as McAfee or Symantec (Norton) or is custom designed by the ISP.  Typically, this type of parental control software will allow you to restrict websites based on age level and restrict Internet access at certain times of day.  You may be able to view a “log” or report of the websites visited, but detailed information beyond a simple website address is not provided.   It is my opinion that these mass marketed solutions are very generic and don’t offer all of the personalized control that parents want.   They are, however, a good start.

The key to ensuring Internet safety and general computer safety is to establish an operating system login account for all of the members of your family.  In Windows XP this can be done by going to Control Panel and clicking User Accounts.  In Mac OS X, you must go to System Preferences and Accounts.  Make a separate profile for each member of your family.   It also helps to make an additional account and call it “Guest” in the event you have visitors who can’t live without computer access.  In Windows XP, you can simply “enable the guest account” without having to create a separate login.   Take ownership of the situation and responsibility for your computer(s).   Unless you have an older child whom you can really trust or another adult in the house, set all secondary login accounts to Limited (Windows XP) or Standard (Mac OS X).   Once you have these designations established, parental control and other software, along with important system settings cannot be removed by those who do not have administrator privileges.   Finally, VERY IMPORTANT, password protect your login account.  It’s great that you’ve taken charge and claimed your throne as “Computer Administrator” but it doesn’t mean anything if thirteen year old Tommy can usurp that power form you because your login is not secure.

As part of AOL’s transition to free, advertisement based services, they now offer their innovative Parental Control program without charge.  I have not used it in several years, but I will assume that it is still an effective application.  Upon taking a brief look at the current incarnation of this software, I see that AOL still includes its most appealing feature:  Emailed reports to a parent or person of accountability that detail Internet activity.  Having a log file stored locally on a the computer is great, but it is not that helpful if your computer crashes or your hacker-in-training child finds a way to delete it.  With their parental control program, AOL saves a copy of the Internet usage records on their servers.  One of the potential hassles in implementing this solution is that all household members have to create a (free) AOL.com email address.   If your child already has a Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, or Gmail (Google) account, adding one more to the mix may just fan the flames, but I think the benefits outweigh the negatives.  Your child will not be able to use the Internet without logging into their AOL.com email account first.  That gives me the impression that this approach to web safety is less likely to be circumvented.   Chances are that your child already has an AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) account.  If they do, it is very easy to enable the free email feature associated with their instant messenger account.  AOL’s parental control software does require downloading software, but it is not that difficult to set up.   The parent or administrator in the household will need to create a free AOL.com address for themselves as well.   If you already have a primary email account with another service, you should be able to easily forward these emails to that account with ease.   One very positive element to this software is that you do not have to install the legacy AOL software.  What a relief!!   That bulky, crash prone program was the cause of many migraines for all of us even before we were greeted by annoying voices shouting “Welcome” and “You’ve Got Mail.”  As much as I like this offering, I can only give it half of my endorsement stamp because AOL burned us so many times before.   In conclusion, taking the hour needed to implement this approach doesn’t seem like a waste of time to me as long as all members of your are home to set up their AOL.com email accounts at that time.

If you’re feeling betrayed, having been led to the celestial AOL well before and been forced to drink bleach, you’re not alone.  A lot of you out there are probably willing to spend $50 or $100 for parental control software if it works as promised, is very user friendly, and is actively supported by the company who created it.  AOL is not going to help you if you have questions about their program and your ISP will tell you that they do not provide tech support for 3rd party software” when you ask for help with the security and parental control utilities you’ve downloaded from them.  E-mail only support or no support is probably OK for anti-virus and firewall software, but when it comes to protecting loved ones you should not have to compromise — EVER!!

At this time I will present to you The Acronym’s choice for Best Parental Control Software of 2006.  The product I give my “seal of approval” to is a parental control / family filter called SafeEyes.  I am giving you my review of this software based on real life experience with this program and personal conversations with employees of Safe  Browse, Inc. (the company that created SafeEyes.)  I not only recommend this program, but I also use it in my home.

First things first, a big upside to this software is the fact that it runs on Macintosh as well as Windows XP.  To this day, there aren’t ANY other robust parental control / filtering programs like SafeEyes for Macs.   Several comparable solutions exist for the Windows platform, but since they all cost about $50 per year and SafeEyes rates so well in comparative reviews —–> they’ve got my vote.  I am slightly disappointed that all features don’t work on Mac OS X, but crucial elements such as individual user logins and comprehensive website filtering based on 35 categories function on all cylinders.  Per website filtering (block or unblock) is also enabled on the Macintosh version.

Most of the parents I provide my services to run Windows households unfortunately, but on a positive note SafeEyes 2006 really shines like a star for these folks.  In addition to the features I mentioned above that are universal, SafeEyes can work the following wonders in a Windows environment:
-Provide detailed Internet usage logs.
-Record details of instant messaging chats (Quick! Call Jerry Springer now!)
-Enable control of individual programs on the computer.  (ie. you can enable AIM, but block Yahoo Messenger or enable Internet Explorer, but block the AOL browser.)

Furthermore, the $49.95 yearly subscription covers 3 of your household computers.  Windows and Macintosh can be mixed to reach the 3 computer limit.   The 35 categories of websites that comprise the essence of the filtering capabilities can each be set to allow, block, or alert.  I really appreciate the alert setting and you will too.   Lets say you set the “nudity” category to alert instead of block just to test your loved one as to whether they would really go to one of those websites on their own.   You could choose to be notified by E-Mail, phone, or text message if an alert was triggered.   Isn’t that great??  Options like this really put you back in the driver’s seat in the endless parent – child war.  Optionally, you can set a particular category to block and alert, meaning you can be notified even if your son or daughter is trying to break the rules.  There is nothing like punishing thoughts along with actions to fuel your “Mao complex.”

The 35 categories of filtered websites do not represent a stale rubric of Internet danger.  Sites monitored are constantly reviewed and updated by Safe Browse, Inc.   I don’t give endorsements easily.  I have to believe in the product wholeheartedly.  In addition to my written words of praise for this product, I have also entered into a business relationship with Safe Browse, Inc. to offer SafeEyes to my customers.   If you feel comfortable installing this product on  your own, please click on the SafeEyes link on my corporate website.

America is a better place when you support your local businessman.   If you would like a “Kevin assisted installation” I will offer a flat rate service for $40 if I come to your residence (even if it takes a little more than an hour) or $30 by phone if you are really pressed for time.  As I mentioned before the software costs $49.95 annually and that cost is payable by credit or debit card (to Safe Browse, Inc.) at any point within the 15 day trial period.  Phone orders, mail orders, or faxed orders are also acceptable, but less efficient.

Children are not the only ones that have troublesome experiences online.  Adults are very susceptible to Internet based addictions and a harmful world of fantasy.  Marriages and relationships have been destroyed as a result of unsafe web usage.  This newsletter is intended for a general audience, so if you would like a personal consultation and additional guidance on these issues, I am here for you.  I possess a certain blend of compassion and drive for success that will help resolve complex situations.  Don’t ever be embarrassed to discuss anything with me.   Even though I am a Reagan era baby, I’ve probably seen and heard it all!


Peter Luger’s:  A Steakhouse Beyond Compare

by Kevin

I recently had the opportunity to go on a business lunch outing with Mr. Bear and some clients from a local car dealership.  Great steak was our primary objective and knowing that the Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn and Great Neck, NY has been rated #1 in metro NYC area for 22 years, that destination was our target. I had the pleasure of going to Luger’s twice before and Mr. Bear was a seasoned veteran with 12 of their porterhouses under his belt.

A point if information for you all:  many restaurants may list the beef on their menu as “Prime Sirloin” or another “Prime” designation.  9 times out of 10 it is just a gimmick.  Only 2% of all beef inspected in this country is certified as USDA Prime.   You’d be lucky to find meat that is even USDA Choice or USDA Select in a local grocery store or restaurant.  Prime Rib is a universally recognized term, but be sure to ask if its really “Prime” or if they are just wasting your time.

Mr. Bear and “Snaggle” opted for the (USDA Prime) Small Steak for One.  Don’t let the word small fool you.  This huge porterhouse cut came with steak fries and cost $30.95.  Their potatoes lyonnaise are only available during dinner.  Top gun salesman “Boomer,” General Manager “Wallyworld,” and I  opted for the $15.95 prime rib (notice the lowercase) lunch special and choice of 2 vegetables.   We applied the Peter Luger steak sauce liberally on everything from rolls, to steak, to side dishes.  Look for this secret sauce in your local grocery store or at PeterLuger.com.  Dessert seemed like a burden when it was offered,  but the healthy option of fresh strawberries baptized in their thick schlaag (German whipped cream (which isn’t so healthy) was the perfect ending.

The Merritt Parkway to Throgs Neck Bridge route to couldn’t have been easier.  The trip from Middletown, CT to Peter Luger’s Great Neck location took only 90 minutes.  Even Snaggle, our  human GPS navigator, was quite impressed.

Words to the wise:   Always make reservations before you go to Peter Luger’s, even for lunch.  Furthermore, bring cash with you!!   The only credit card accepted is the Peter Luger Charge Card.  You must be thinking — no Visa or AMEX — is this 1920?   At Peter Luger’s it is.  Get over it.  You’ll live.  You can contact the restaurant before your visit and apply for the house account if you desire.  You still get 4 months to pay the bill.

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THE ACRONYM
Published periodically since 1999
http://www.theacronym.com


Look for our next issue: February 2007.

The Acronym is distributed to readers throughout Connecticut and the USA on a bi-monthly basis. It is available on the Internet and includes exclusive updates in that format.  Our reader demographic primarily consists of well-educated, professional, affluent, and computer literate individuals ranging in ages from 25 to 85.  If you would be interested in advertising in a future edition of The Acronym please contact us by e-mail.  You are welcome to pay for a voluntary subscription at an annual rate of $10.

THE BEST ADVERTISEMENT
…has always been the supportive word of mouth campaign you have put into motion for me.  I am very appreciative for your referrals and continued support.  It’s so easy to walk into a big box store and ask the _____ Patrol or the _________ Squad to install your new product.  However, their rates are much higher or subsidized by some promotion that is beyond my control.  I am also able to sell the computer and electronics accessories that you need.  I can even furnish name-brand desktops and laptops with advance notice and payment.  Make 2007 your year to say NO to the nerdy technology consultant schmooze!

Websites Kevin Has Shopped At Recently
1. http://www.kingsizedirect.com (men’s clothing)
2.  http://www.vistaprint.com (business cards)
3.  http://www.walmart.com (online photo center)
4.  http://www.bmgmusic.com (the old music club is alive, legitimate, and well)
5.  http://www.realmacsoftware.com (creator of Rapid Weaver web design software)