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The Acronym, April 2008 edition is now online. Enjoy!
A Lifestyle and Technology Journal – Since 1999
Vol. 9, Issue 4
5 Agosto, 2007
(I was thinking of writing this entire issue of The Acronym in Spanish, but I realized that my foreign language skills are not what they used to be. Therefore, I will just cut to the chase and give you another fantastic edition of this publication. Enjoy!)
Since the release of June’s issue of The Acronym, I’ve had the honor of setting up a new computer with Windows Vista for a customer. If you recall, I described a nightmare upgrade Vista installation in the April newsletter. However, this was a software upgrade only, not an upgrade to a brand new machine. In late June, I got to tackle Vista right out of the box and fortunately, it was much smoother than the upgrade debacle from a few months earlier.
I couldn’t convince the client to purchase a computer from Apple, despite putting my best reasoning forward, so we sought out to find a “high-quality” Windows based model. We could have gone with Dell, but since my client’s old PC died a very sudden death, buying locally became a top priority.
Due to some miserable reports from customers in the past year, Best Buy was immediately crossed off of our shopping list. I was still thinking quality, as hard as it might be with Windows based computers, so I focused on the IBM or Sony brands. We traveled to Staples, located in West Hartford, CT after I found out that they had an IBM (now branded as ‘Lenovo’) Thinkpad Z61, 15.4 inch wide screen laptop on sale for $350 off. Upon seeing this model in the store, we realized that it really was a desktop replacement and not just a limited-use portable computer. At the full retail cost of $1150, I still feel this machine was priced reasonably, but the sale price made it a ‘no-brainer’ for my customer. She purchased several accessories along with the laptop such as a leather carrying case, a 4 port USB hub, USB flash disk, and an external mouse. Contrary to my preference, the customer felt it necessary to buy Microsoft Office 2007, Standard Edition at a cost of $400. I do not recommend Microsoft Office for Windows or Macintosh and instead place my faith in OpenOffice for Windows and NeoOffice, its sister product for the Mac. I’ve covered this issue before, but it’s worth saying again. OpenOffice is FREE, runs locally on your computer just like the expensive office, and provides perfect equivalents to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Isn’t that special?
My client was able to receive 20% off all accessories including the Micrsoft Office 2007 package, dropping its cost to $320. This was a nice gesture from Staples, but it was still $319 and change more than I would have paid for it. We marched on. My customer purchased the $250, 3 year parts and labor extended warranty. It offered carry in service at all Staples stores. I fully supported this decision, because it can be difficult and costly to repair laptop defects. For comparison, Apple charges $249 and $349 for its consumer laptop and pro laptop extended warranties, respectively. All together, the butcher’s bill came to $1500 roughly. My client and I both agreed that we scored a consumer victory on that day due to the sale and promotional offers.
After several hours of hands on use during the installation appointment and a few follow up visits, I have some observations on Vista that I’d like to share with you.
1) Vista uses a lot of RAM (memory)!!! Wow. It takes much longer than Windows XP to boot up to your desktop. It also takes a long time to open the Control Panel and the items within. Microsoft Office applications also take their sweet time to launch. I thought my customer’s Thinkpad laptop was well equipped with 1 GB of RAM. Honest recommendation: For those of you purchasing a new computer with Vista (any version other than Vista Home Basic) 1 GB should be considered a bare minimum for memory. You really need 2 GB and even more if you are running advanced applications. RAM is relatively inexpensive these days, so outfitting your new system with 2 or 3 GB of RAM will add only a couple hundred dollars to the overall cost.
2) Some familiar applications have different names. Outlook Express is now called Windows Mail. Hmmm… I wonder if Microsoft stole that idea from Apple and their Apple Mail client. The Outlook Express address book, is still accessible within the all new Windows Mail but it is now featured as a separate application called Windows Address Book. What a coincidence? Apple’s built in contact manager is called Address Book also. There is also a brand new application called Windows Calendar. Wow, I can’t believe it! This is another Mac OS X rip-off. Apple’s latest operating system OS X 10.4 (code named: Tiger) released two years ago, sports a nifty built in scheduling app called iCal. I won’t take credit for this but some technology critics and pundits have already called Windows Vista, “Windows Tiger”. One thing is for sure, there are a lot of striking similarities between the two. Apple will be releasing their next OS, 10.5 in October. I can’t wait, especially since this Vista was the best the folks in Redmond could muster up at this time!!
3) If you are one who likes to adjust your computer’s settings a lot by going to the Control Panel, you’ll notice that a lot of the options have different names than they did in Windows XP, ME, 98, and 95. Vista may seem confusing, but I don’t think it’s terrible. If you are buying a new Windows based machine (please don’t) you probably will not be able to obtain one that has an operating system (OS) other than Vista installed. Vista is here to stay and you’ll just have to live with it. Buy yourself a good book. Don’t buy yourself one of those yellow covered books advertised for “dumb people.” I think you know which series I am talking about. Please ask me if you don’t. Clients have told me that the authors of these books are pretty “dumb” and they just can’t follow along. However, I have gotten some positive comments on books published by O’Reilly Press. Their “Windows Vista, The Missing Manual” is written by David Pogue. He is a terrific author and has penned many Mac books as well. If you just have to use Vista, you should pick up this particular guide for $34.95 or less.
4) Don’t be confused by the numerous Vista versions. Microsoft made this so complicated that it is maddening…. really! XP users are familiar with the “Home” and “Professional” versions. Pretty self explanatory, although some residential users have purchased XP Pro in the past if they were networking multiple machines. With Vista you can have fun picking from….
Home Basic – Nothing more than XP with a little “window” dressing.
Home Premium – a.k.a “Vista Normal”
Ultimate – Must be better if you pay more, right?
Business – Just for us corporate types….
Chances are if you see a sub $700 computer , it will be have Home Basic installed. If you are upgrading simply to upgrade, you may be selling yourself short because you will probably like your old XP machine better, especially if it still runs as smoothly as your restored ’79 Corvette. If you need a really cheap PC because that’s all you can afford, you may want to consider a used machine with XP or a used Mac. I’ve gone that route in the past, at times, and would do it again. The multiple versions marketing strategy was designed to maximize profits for Microsoft, but it may have a negative effect if customers show little interest in a particular edition. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, went on a humorous rant at June’s World Wide Developer Conference. Different slides flashed on the screen talking about the new Mac OS, 10.5, which will be released in October. It went something like this. “Business vers
ion $129, Home version $129, Ultimate version $129, and Basic
version $129.” He was trying to illustrate that there is one class of the new Mac OS for everyone. Keep in mind that the $129 price tag is the price of the retail boxed version of Mac OS X – software only. Retail boxed versions of Windows Vista range in price from $99 to over $300. Honestly, if you have a computer running XP – please don’t consider a “software only” upgrade to Vista at this time. I don’t see how that can advance your computing journey. Microsoft already said they would support XP until 2014. Upgrading your existing computer to the Vista OS will likely give you a bigger headache and bigger bill than you bargained for. If you’re buying a new computer because of hardware failures, that’s a different story. Let’s talk.
That’s all I can think of right now. As of press time, Dell is the only major manufacturer I know of that offers you an XP or Vista option for your operating system. So if you are thinking NEW, thinking Windoze, and fretting about your OS, buy an XP based system from your friends in the Lonestar State (Dell). They’ve actually rebounded quite nicely since Michael Dell re-assumed control of the company earlier this year. Dell’s turnaround almost gives me that feel-good, warm in your belly sensation that a bowl of hot Quaker oatmeal provides, but not quite. Apple is the only brand of computer that has made me laugh, cry, hate, and even love over the years.
Wishing you a perfect ending to the summer of ’07,
A Lifestyle and Technology Journal / Since 1999
The Acronym is distributed to readers throughout Connecticut and the world on a bi-monthly basis. The blog edition, TheAcronym.com, also includes exclusive online updates. Our reader demographic includes: retirees, students, corporate professionals, small business owners, an others — encompassing the entire spectrum of computer literacy. If you would be interested in advertising in a future edition of The Acronym please contact us by e-mail. Print edition readers are entitled to a free, text-based ad for their business or service.
Words of Hope
I’ve gotten so many wonderful responses over the past 8 months since I’ve shared my “faith journey” with you all and built upon that with the launch of TEXT MISSION – my ministry. I’ve been told that I inspire and I give hope. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.
About 2 months ago, a customer (now a former customer) tried to steal this all away from me. This individual does not have an innate evil nature, but has fallen so far from where they could be. This person has chosen to serve the material world and implied that I could serve a deity that judges you based on what you accumulate and willingness to bend whatever way the wind blows. I was being asked to “sell my soul,” stop operating as a Christian businessman, follow this glorious path that could lead to a house on the right side of town, a second home in the big city, and multiple streams of income.
I’ll be honest with you friends….. I was tempted. The offer presented in its shiny wrapper, really had me thinking. Was all I had done really worth it? Could I sell my soul and step onto a higher plateau? This ex-customer really got under my skin. I received this proposal during the middle of the week and I had intended to get baptized on Sunday. Even that seemed in doubt. After I realized that I had nearly been conned and broke my laptop in sheer madness — I prayed and I asked God to set this middle aged woman back on the path that would lead to righteousness and fulfillment — the one true path. I prayed that this veiled claw that she had dug into me would fall and shatter. By Grace and by a power greater than my own, I stood my ground and was baptized on June 11, 2007.
Since that time, I have been showered with blessings that I did not deserve and feel a renewed call to SERVE you and yours with all of my heart.
Since I stood my ground on that June day, I…
1) Added a significant business client to my customer base.
2) Created a home school initiative for my daughter, Saras, that introduces and instills upon her — vital academic skill sets — something that the Jim Crow (a.k.a. West Hartford) School System has failed to do in 2.5 years. Separate but equal was not right in 1957………where are the freedom fighters today?? Apathy……..kills dreams!!
3) Was fortunate enough to find a mint condition, gently used PowerMac G4 computer at a price that was better than I deserved. I have not be so thrilled with a computer since I bought my first laptop in 1998. Looking back, that old laptop was just dead weight, chaining me to a past that I surrendered and wanted no part of.
4) Attended “SoulFest,” the Northeast’s largest Christian music festival with my family in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. What a blast!! The spiritual fuel it provided me with is going to keep me running for a long time. Oh… so that explains the later than usual press date for this installment of The Acronym . Yeah, I think so.
Summing things up, I am now fully aware that this world is full of ugliness and ungrateful beings. It doesn’t mean that anyone, no matter what they’ve done, is beyond hope. People are going to reject and oppose what I stand for and Whom I stand for — repeatedly. I will not let them steal my soul.
“What good will it be if a man gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” – Matthew 16:26
by E.J. Gaberstein
(C.F.A. – Certified Football Aficionado)
I would still take the Colts to win the division this year. Peyton Manning, the league’s best quarterback, returns healthy to defend their Super Bowl trophy.
I predict the Baltimore Ravens will repeat their performance of 2006 and win the North division. Despite offensive issues, they still have one of the best defenses in the NFL.
I think the Patriots are the 2nd best team in the entire AFC. I give Randy Moss a slim chance to revive his career in New England — if he stays focused on the right kind of grass. It would be a miracle if the Dolphins win 8 games.
The San Diego Chargers, powered by All-Pro running back LaDainian Tomlinson. should have no problem repeating as the division champion. The Oakland Raiders, my favorite team, are poised for another sorry season. They only won 2 games in 2006 and I don’t expect much improvement. There are division I-AA college teams that could beat Oakland.
The New Orleans Saints will march on to a second straight division title. The Saints have the best all – purpose running back in football in Reggie Bush. He can run, catch, and score. Due to uncertainties with their sinking star quarterback, Michael Vick, the Atlanta Falcons are destined for failure. The Falcons season could be a repeat of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2006 season, which was mired in distraction because of Ben Roethisberger’s motorcycle accident. Look for the Falcons to be “dogging it” all season….. pardon the expression.
The Chicago Bears will have no problem capturing the 2007 NFC North title. Brian Urlacker, the heart and soul of their defense, is the best linebacker in football. Rex Grossman is ‘iffy’ at quarterback, but their strong defensive should be make up for that weakness.
As long as Donovan McNabb stays healthy, I feel confident in the Philadelphia Eagles chances to win the NFC East. Considering Tikki Barber’s retirement and that Eli Manning is just a shadow of his brother Peyton, the NY Giants will struggle to win a Wild Card spot in the playoffs.
This division is one of the weakest in football. Regardless of the
NFC West’s mediocrity, the Seattle Seahawks should be able to best their lame competition if their key players remain hea
lthy. This division is the hardest for me to predict because it has the potential for being so lukewarm.
I predict Super Bowl XLII in Arizona will be a face-off between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. If this scenario pans out, I would not bet against Indianapolis. They have what it takes to win a 2nd straight Vince Lombardi Trophy.
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Really Honest Reviews
Let’s talk movies…… I rarely go to the theater anymore and if I did it would probably be an independent (a.k.a. “art house” cinema …. no, not the Art Cinema on Franklin Ave. in Hartford). However, I do watch a lot of small budget, cinematic wonders on IFC – the Independent Film Channel.
Thirteen (2003) – Starring Holly Hunter, Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed. If you have a teenager at home, (12 and up) watch this movie with them!! Trust me on this one. It will give your child an opportunity to step outside themselves and see how messed up (for the most part) youth culture is today. The scenarios portrayed in the film are incredibly realistic and I have certainly witnessed elements of the storyline in my own life. Remember, I was a teenager only 8 years ago. The film is rated R and it definitely deserves that rating. Verbal vulgarities are spewed throughout the film, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that your kids use terms like “shucks, darn, and that stinks” when they choose to express emotion. There are sexual scenes in the movie and while inappropriate behavior is depicted, they are not presented pornographically. There is one nude scene, when 40+ year old Holly Hunter walks out of the shower after having a nervous breakdown. It was not meant to be provocative, but it really expresses the sadness that Mel (Holly Hunter) feels at the time and that she is beginning to lose a grip on parenting her 13 year old daughter Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood).
One of the most amazing aspects of this movie is that it was written by Nikki Reed (who also played the villain, Evie Zamora, in the film), who was just a mere 15 years old when the film was released. Yes, Hollywood touches were added to her and by production time there was a co-writer. To think that such a lurid tale could come from the mind of a young teen, based on some of her life experiences, is surreal. Apparently, Reed wrote the original script in 6 days. Wow!
Some of the most chilling and deeply personal scenes of “Thirteen” depicted the main character, Tracy, cutting herself on the arms to relieve her depression. There were only a few instances of this but I had to look away every time this part came up. (I’ve watched the movie twice before writing this review.) A friend of mine from my high school days used to do this and I saw the scars. Two things in particular related to teenage behavior break my heart: cutting and eating disorders. For those of you who are not in the know on the destructive behavior of cutting, let me clue you in. It is not the same as someone cutting their wrists, a suicidal act, though it could eventually lead to that. Cutters cut because the sensation they feel when they cut their arms or legs with a sharp object, gives them a euphoric rush that relieves their moods. Cutting can have serious consequences including, becoming addictive, leading to serious injury / death, causing irreparable wounds. Be aware of your children and their friends who wear long pants / and or shirts during all seasons (other than for religious reasons). It could be a sign of a cutter.
**Final Analysis: 11 out of 10 stars. A must rent or buy DVD. You can order it online from CD Universe (based in Wallingford, CT) for only $9.75. A link is posted at http://delicious.com/kevinbct/0807
I am giving a this film a bonus star for a terrific camera work, especially at the end of the film.**
Donnie Brasco (1997) – Starring Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, and Ann Heche.
Picture it, the late 70’s and a war is going on within one of New York’s mafia crime families. This movie portrays the real life drama that unfolded inside the Bonanno family, which culminated with the revelation that Donnie Brasco (Depp) was really undercover FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone. Brasco sets up a very credible ruse, introducing himself as “Don the Jeweler” to his would be mafia cohorts. He was able to infiltrate this highly secretive bunch by showing an eagerness to participate in “official business” even though he was not a “made man.” Such ambition earned him the trust of long time wise guy Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggierio (Pacino) and capo “Sonny Black” Napolitano (played by Michael Madsen), the leader of the Bonano family’s Brooklyn squad. Through the prodding of his FBI superiors, Brasco even arranged for the boys from Brooklyn to oversee the establishment of an illegal Florida based nightclub operation, known as “Kings Court.” The scam was broken up by rival mafia factions who tipped off local police, but Sonny Black was forever endeared to Donnie Brasco for his Florida idea because it was extremely unique. All of Black’s previous schemes reflected little ingenuity and were very predictable: breaking open parking meters, drug sales, theft, extortion, etc. and could not fulfill his monthly obligation to top Bonanno boss, time Phillip “Rusty” Rastelli – $50,000.
I am not a big Johnny Depp fan, for several reasons that I won’t get into. However, “Donnie Brasco” truly captures the sense of “a conflicted inner-self” that Special Agent Pistone felt as his investigation wound to a close and his mafia brothers would be exposed as the ones who had befriended a “rat.” Near the end of the movie a scene takes place in which Sonny Black and Lefty both deny that Donnie was the rat. They think this is an FBI conspiracy. Sonny Black Napolitano and Lefty Ruggerio didn’t hold a grudge against Donnie, knowing that a mafia leader’s run does not last forever, and were actually glad to have known him.
**Final Analysis: 9 out of 10 stars. This movie was near perfect, but I’m taking a point off because it is not the “must see” film that I believe “Thirteen” is, especially if you have a family. There is lots of foul language and senseless violence, but the film is an accurate portrayal of mafia life. I don’t think that it is necessary for a young teen to see this movie, rated R, because I think they probably couldn’t even relate to it. Adults, age 40 and up, will likely find it fascinating, and even more so if you grew up in an immigrant neighborhood or are Italian – American. The movie was based on the 1987 book, “Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia,” by Joseph Pistone. You may want to read it before or after the movie. Director Mike Newell succeeded in his effort to portray the mafia life as it really was — rough, often unspectacular, and filled with few joyful moments. A link to purchase a DVD of Donnie Brasco can be found at http://delicious.com/kevinbct/0807
A Technology and Lifestyle Newsletter.
Published Periodically Since 1999
June 2007 Edition (Volume: 9 Issue: 3)
June 1, 2007
I want to dedicate this issue to the young and the “young at heart.” Throughout the 10 years that I have provided computer consulting services in central Connecticut, some of my most memorable experiences have come when working with “active adults” (age 55+) and teenagers.
I won’t ever forget the smiles I’ve helped create on grandparents’ faces who found a new dimension in retirement living by learning how to use a personal computer. A PC in the home of a “golden citizen”, provides a meaningful diversion after a round of golf, a chance to communicate (affordably) with a distant friend on a regular basis, a means to continue learning – the life process that should never cease, and most importantly a chance to catalog shop without buying gas, getting stuck in traffic or listening to annoying salespeople.
A lot of my experiences with teenagers do not belong in my corporate wall of fame or digital scrapbook. The scrap heap or the recycle bin is a more fitting spot for these scenarios. My mind travels back to a cold winter night when America Online was still regarded with the same pleasantries as Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Two very loving parents called me because their desktop PC had slowed down to a snail’s pace. “Kevin I just don’t understand it,” they said. “Can you check and see why our Internet browser is so slow?”
Well…..I did and they were SHOCKED at the reason why!!
Here is an important lesson for all who don’t know this already. Your computers save files on your hard drive when you browse the Internet. This data contains website graphics, passwords, and other common information about you. These files can have their upside , but they do save a record of nearly every click you make. In the Internet Explorer browser, you have to manually erase “temporary Internet files” and “cookies” when you clear them out. I’ve talked at length about the advantages of the Firefox browser in the past, but one of its strengths is that it can delete the crumbs you leave behind automatically.
Back to memory lane and the slow PC…..
I’m going to try to say this diplomatically… When I looked through the temporary Internet files that 12 year old Johnny had been browsing, we found evidence of multiple websites focused on the theme of “leather goods” and the games that adults, who aren’t horse trainers or cowboys, play with them. I had to pick Mommy’s jaw up off the floor and re-attach it after she saw this debauchery. I deleted all the files, and did my best to child-proof the computer. Keeping kids safe online was not as easy 6 or 7 years ago. Johnny hemmed and hawed, because he thought these restrictions were a punishment. That was just the beginning. Later on, when Daddy caught wind of what happened, Johnny learned the true meaning of “raw hide.”
In this edition of “The Acronym,” I will share websites, applications, computer models, and gadgets that I believe can be very useful to the elders among us.
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Update: I kept a promise that I made to you in the April edition of “The Acronym.” Shortly before the Easter holiday, I donated the proceeds from one client visit to the Town That Cares fund here in West Hartford, CT to be used for our food pantry.
Public Service Announcement:
Even though summer is almost here, there are still many families in our communities that go without adequate food. Students are home for the summer and not receiving the benefit of subsidized lunch programs that feed them during the school year. Help a needy family directly, if you know of one. If not, your town probably runs or is affiliated with a food pantry that you can contribute to. Additionally, larger organizations such as America’s Second Harvest, The Salvation Army, and Operation Blessing also do a wonderful job of aiding those whose only want is a hot meal. Furthermore, I know these 3 charities are good stewards of the funds that are entrusted to them. I challenge you to make an effort to help the hungry in the coming weeks.
Published periodically since 1999
Next issue: August 2007
The Acronym is distributed to readers throughout Connecticut and the world on a bi-monthly basis. The Internet version
(http://theacronym.com) includes exclusive online updates. Our reader demographic includes: retirees, students, corporate professionals, small business owners, an others — encompassing the entire spectrum of the computer literacy scale. 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 $12.
Digital Treasure Chest: Resources and Innovations for the Young at Heart
Your old ‘63 Corvair Monza convertible has rolled up to the curb. That rear engine is running and I’m driving. Hop in, buckle your seat belt, and enjoy the ride…… We’re going to cruise down Interstate 2007 – Information Superhighway.
** Did you just retire?? Can’t bear to wait in line to apply for Social Security benefits. No problem. If you have a computer, you can cut to the front of the line. All the information you need can be found on http://www.ssa.gov
You can submit all of your paperwork electronically in a very simple, straight forward set up. If they require any documents from you, they will provide you with the appropriate address.
**Are you already enjoying your retirement, but want to monitor your Social Security account online. Visit http://www.ssa.gov/onlineservices/
If you don’t already have one, click ‘Get a password’ and a temporary password will be sent to you in the mail (not e-mail) in about 2 weeks. From there you will be able to go back to this website, and create a permanent one.
**Interested in basic banking and financial information? Want to know the best CD rates and loan rates? Check out http://www.bankrate.com. It is an invaluable resource, in my opinion.
** You probably have a need to type simple letters from time to time, but don’t like the hassle of opening up a complex application like Word. No problem. Create a free account with Google Documents & Spreadsheets. http://docs.google.com
It’s easy to do, and you’ll be able to start typing a document in a matter of minutes. Google has plenty of storage space!! Your files will be saved online inside your Google Docs account.
**Have you never really gotten into using e-mail? Are complex e-mail programs frustrating? Your best bet would be to create a free web-mail account from a reliable provider. You will be able to compose your email right inside your web browser. My top picks for you are 1) Gmail – http://www.gmail.com , 2) Yahoo Mail – http://mail.yahoo.com, and 3) AOL – http://webmail.aol.com
**Do you want to create a simple website for yourself so you can interact with your friends and family in one convenient location — the Internet. I would never point my customers toward that waste dump known as MySpace. Stay away from the riffraff and establish your web presence on Facebook.com, a much classier alternative to DisGrace (aka MySpace). If super squeaky clean is what you are looking for, try Xianz.com – Christian Social Fellowshipping site.
**Is a new car in your plans for you this year? Would you like to read about cars so that you can compare models and sort fact from fiction before you step into the dealership? Edmunds.com is for you. I am not a “car person” or a mechanical person, but this website is one of my favorites. You can research new vehicles and used models back to 1990. Comprehensive model reviews are available along with Edmunds trademark valuation system, known as TMV (True Market Value). Don’t get stuck paying MSRP or taking a petty discount. See what buyers are truly paying for that model in your area.