How to Save on Telecom, PCs, Internet, Airline and Investing
by Harry Newton
The most popular section in any magazine I've published was a section called "Dollar Saving Tips." Every month I'd write tips that saved money or time, or both. Most were based on my personal experiences. Sometimes readers would send me their best tips and I'd check them out. One day, Matt Kelsey, the publisher of this dictionary, said "Let's put your best tips into the dictionary. Perhaps we'll sell more dictionaries? His logic: If people can save many times the cost of this dictionary, they'll feel they got the definitions for free." Heck, why not, I thought? Anyway, that's the entire rationale for including these Dollar Savings Tips in this edition. Please do not underestimate how much work has gone into compiling this collection. It's years of work.
MOST PHONE BILLS ARE WRONG ” I
Over 80% of telecommunications bills contain errors, usually in the favor of the telecom service provider, local or long distance. Telecommunications rates and service contracts are complex and different deals are struck with different customers. This maximizes the likelihood of errors. Different computer systems often exist within the same telecom company, and records of customer billing often conflict with the actual services in place. In short, your corporate phone bills are wrong and not in your favor.
MOST PHONE BILLS ARE WRONG ” II
In addition to incorrect rates on your telecom bills, you may also be billed for services such as outside lines that do not exist. You may have ordered a line that was never delivered, but billing was started and continues. Or you may continue to be billed for lines that you had in place, but then disconnected. If you can find these mistakes and document how far back they go, you can obtain a refund (plus interest). Different rules apply to the refund process and may be dictated by State Public Utilities Commissions or the FCC. While you can probably get back some of the money yourself, professional telecommunications bill auditors are likely to get back more. While you'll have to pay them a percentage of the refund, you are still likely to end up with more dollars in your pocket.
MOST PHONE BILLS ARE WRONG ” III
Audit all of your telecommunications at least once a year to be sure that billing is correct. You may consider using a professional telecommunications bill auditor . Auditors have the benefit of looking at many bills and contracts, so they know where to look for the errors. The best telecommunications bill auditors I know are at DIgby 4 Group , Inc., 212-883- 1191, www.digby4.com.
GET INTEREST ON YOUR REFUND
If you're successful getting a refund from your local telephone company, be sure you get all the interest you're entitled to. Interest rates vary from state to state and can go as high as 18% per year (in New York.) Not all states pay interest (such as New Jersey). State regulations also vary in terms of how far back in time the refund will cover.
DEBIT PHONE CARDS ARE NICE
For cheap long distance and international calling, phone cards are often the best. Not only are they cheap on a per minute basis, but you get to skip all of the add-on taxes that show up on your regular monthly phone bill. The only tax you pay is the sales tax when you purchase the card. Some places like Walmart and Costco sell cheap cards. On the Internet, you'll find them at www.CallingCards.com and www.NobelCom.com.
DO YOUR PRICE HOMEWORK
Some telecommunications contracts provide specific rates for every type of telephone call (intra-state, interstate, etc.). Other contracts reference published tariffs or service guides and say that the rates will be discounted a certain percentage from the published rates (which are never provided as part of the contract.) Always get specific rates quoted for every type of type of call you will make written into your contract. These rates are always negotiable. Put together your requirements (number of minutes usage for each type of call) and get quotes from three separate service providers. You may get lower rates from a lesser known company, but check references to be sure the service is good.
HOW TO STOP PROGRAMS FROM STARTING UP IN WINDOWS
Run msconfig.com. That program will show you which programs loaded at startup. You can selectively turn off programs. If you're running Windows 2000, you can find a program called msconfig.com on www.pcmag.com.
THE INTERNET HAS THE BEST PRICES
Before you buy anything, check www.eBay.com, www.PriceGrabber.com, www.PriceWatch.com and, of course, http://Froogle.Google. There's always a cheaper price, somewhere.
DON'T UPGRADE TO A NEW OPERATING SYSTEM
Don't upgrade your existing computer to a new operating system. Start from scratch. Reformat. Install from scratch. Before you do any of this, make sure you have originals of all the software you'll need and all the drivers you'll need for all the hardware in your PC, and most important, copies of all your data ” at least two copies.
NEVER GIVE OUT YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER
Never give your social security number to anyone . Never. Ever. Your social security number is the key to your identity, which can then be stolen. My son's was. It was painful and time-consuming to fix the mess.
LOOK FOR YOUR TV's SCHEDULE
YOUR MOTHER IS PRECIOUS
Never post your recent family history on the web or in an unprotected PC system. Many systems use your mother's maiden name . Many people post their family history on genealogy websites . Most of these are public data or open to anyone willing to join the service.
SERIOUS PERSONAL PROTECTION TIP
Anything that has your name, address, or any kind of account information on it ” be it a bill, or even a magazine subscription ” shred it with a good heavy duty cross-cut shredder before disposing of it. Additionally ” for those with fireplaces, this makes very good kindling to further completely dispose of it. Also ” every new kitchen trash bag you put into the kitchen trash can, toss into the bottom whatever shreddings you have and it will absorb any liquids you will throw away, reducing any leaks the trash bag develops during use. This has the added advantage of further obscuring any information on the clippings a dumpster diver might try to piece together on you or your family.
BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH
BSOD. An affectionate name for the screen displayed when Microsoft Windows encounters an error so serious that the operating system cannot continue to run. Windows may also display information about the failure and may perform a memory dump and an automatic system restart. The Macintosh equivalent is a blank screen with a text box containing a graphic of a bomb with a lit fuse.
There are two typical causes of a BSOD ” a bad driver or bad memory. You get a new driver from the software company whose driver was bad. You get new memory from your memory company. The problem is figuring out which driver and which memory. Using a program call Alexander SPK from www.Alexander.com may help. Memory is a different problem. You may never figure out which memory is bad. You got to do it by trial and error. Intermittent BSODs without being traced to a specific program are likely memory problems. Don't bother trying to figure out which band of memory is bad. You never will. (I've been there, done that.) Get them all replaced , asap.
Never call international from a cell phone. Never call international from a phone that may or may not have a "plan." Item: "Harry, last summer I made an 18-minute call to Hong Kong on my home landline phone via MCI. The bill? $85. MCI said that was the going rate since I did not have (or know about) their international calling plan. I don't usually make international calls. Their solution? Sign up for the plan, make the call(s), and then cancel." The cheapest way of calling international is typically pre-paid calling cards. But rates are in flux. It pays to ask before you call.
DON'T SPRAY LAPTOP SCREENS
Never spray anything directly onto a laptop screen. Never use Windex. We use a spray called "Invisible Glass", sprayed onto a no-abrasive cloth. You can also use eyeglass cleaner. Never spray it onto the screen as it can drip down and short out the display. Displays are the most expensive part of any laptop. This tip from Steve Schone of Micro Solutions, the best Toshiba laptop dealer and service organization. www.micsol.com
WHEN MOVING, ALWAYS MOVE
When moving, move all of your subscriptions and catalogs with you and then cancel the ones you don't want. Old accounts and account cancellation notices often contain information someone could take illegal advantage of.
WHEN GETTING YOUR CAR SERVICED
When getting your car serviced, remove all remote control devices and telephone devices before releasing the car. The easiest way to penetrate someone's home security is to clone the security code of a garage door remote. A thief can usually buy one at any home store in the area.
TIPS ON TRAVELING WITH A LAPTOP
Know your local dial-in phone numbers .
Only use hotels with WiFi.
Check your POP3s and your SMTPs, to make sure they work outside of your present broadband service.
Take RJ45 and RJ11 extension cords.
Take a small triple adapter for AC power.
Take your cell phone charger and laptop power supplies .
Take a spare battery.
Take a plane/car power adapter. Make sure the thing puts out sufficient power to drive your laptop.
HOW TO LENGTHEN YOUR LAPTOP'S BATTERY LIFE
Turn down the LCD brightness. It's the biggest consumer of power.
Buy a laptop with a Pentium M (Mobile) chip ” also loosely called Centrino.
Use built-in power management
Turn off wireless and wired Ethernet when not in use.
Set screen blanking to 1 or 2 minutes.
Add RAM to maximum. Saves on disk access.
Close unused programs.
Fully drain the internal batteries at least once a month.
Remove unused PC Cards.
Remove second hard drives .
Removed unused notebook- powered USB devices.
Don't watch DVDs, and don't play graphics-heavy games on battery.
WHEN REMOVING SOFTWARE FROM YOUR PC
After you've removed software from your PC, make sure you re-start your computer before installing any new software.
CLOSE DOWN CREDIT CARDS
A friend has a habit of, every few years, closing down all his credit card accounts and starting over. This creates a security gap for you and causes a clean break that is easily tracked. There is no earthly way to stop fraud in its tracks more effectively than occasionally dumping all your cards and starting over clean. This is very much like "cold booting" your credit security. This is also a great way to weed out services and subscriptions you no longer use that might still have your credit card number on file.
SHAREWARE AND FREEWARE DO MAKE SENSE
There are hundreds of awesome and free software applications out there that save dollars. Try www.download.com, www.pcmag.com and www.nonags.com.
BUY IN THE QUARTER'S LAST WEEK
The cheapest time to buy anything is the last week of each quarter. Companies are desperate to close any deal they can to make that quarter look good to Wall Street.
PRICELINE IS GREAT FOR HOTELS
Priceline.com is cheapest for hotels, but you can't name the precise hotel you want to stay at. You choose a hotel by location and by stars (a dubious measure at best). And you have to take what they give you. But you usually get a hotel at a great price. Just make sure you're 100% certain you're going. Cancellation is a pain. And penalties are high.
WHEN CONNECTING TO A NETWORK
When connecting your laptop to the Internet, you'll connect with DHCP (most common) OR with specific IP addresses, specific subnets (mostly 255.255.255.0) and a specific default gateway (mostly 10.1.1.1).
YOU CAN BARGAIN WITH BRAIN SURGEONS
I used to believe you didn't bargain with "brain surgeons." I didn't believe in bargaining with dentists, lawyers , doctors , accountants and consultants . My theory was they'd do a much worse job for me. I was wrong. Brain surgeons are professionals. They'll do the best job they can for you ” so long as you organize their lower fees up front. These days, most professionals will cut their fees. Or better yet, negotiate a flat fee for your particular job. The idea is to get them off per- hour billing. With that sort of billing, they have no incentive to finish your job.
FIBER OPTIC CABLING PROBLEMS
Most fiber optic cabling problems can be traced to faulty or contaminated connectors.
You must dental floss after every meal. If you don't, food becomes impacted between your teeth, and then pushed further and further in each time you eat. It's not pleasant and can cause serious gum problems.
CRITICAL UPDATES FROM MICROSOFT ARE ALWAYS BOGUS
Emails purporting to be from Microsoft and advising that the accompanying software patch be installed are 100% bogus and most likely the attached "patch" contains a nasty virus which will infect your computer. Avoid opening email attachments you don't expect or are not 100% comfortable with.
VIRUS ALERTS ARE OFTEN BOGUS
Ciritical updates are often bogus. Be wary of email virus alerts. Some emails urge you to check your hard drive for a particular 'dangerous' file, which you're told to delete. Don't take an email's word for it. Often these are hoax emails. You'll be removing a vital and benign system file. Check out Symantec's Anti Virus hoax section yourself. http://securityresponse. symantec .com/avcenter/hoax.html. And of course, update your anti-virus soft- ware's virus definitions regularly, at least monthly.
BEWARE THE NIGERIAN SCAM
"We have a temporary crisis in our family. Our money is tied up. Please send money to enable us to get it out. When we free the money up, we'll send you your money back plus 50%." Or words to that effect. Be careful. The whole plea is a gigantic scam. It usually comes with a Nigerian or other African address. It's called a 419 Scam.
CHAP STICK IS GREAT FOR CUTS
Chap Stick medicated is best for cuts. Also excellent : New Skin. The best cream for dry hands is No-Crack Super Hand Cream made by Dumont Company, Lacrosse, Wisconsin. I cannot live without this cream in Winter.
HOW TO BUY A DVD BURNER
DVD burners and DVD recordable media come in various varieties. For a full explanation of the pitfalls, check out the definition of DVD.
CREDIT CARD SCAM
I received the following note from a friend. I checked with Visa. This story could happen to you. Visa Security tells it doesn't ask for numbers on stuff that should already be (and undoubtedly) already is in its files.
"My husband was called on Wednesday from "VISA" and I was called on Thursday from "MasterCard". It worked like this: Person calling says, this is <name> and I'm calling from the Security and Fraud department at VISA. My Badge number is 12460. Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I'm calling to verify. This would be on your VISA card issued by <namebank>. Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a marketing company based in Arizona?
When you say "No". The caller continues with, "then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?" You say "yes". Caller continues..."I will be starting a fraud investigation.
If you have any questions, you should call the 800 number listed on your card 1-800- VISA and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control "#". Then gives you a 6 digit number. "Do you need me to read it again?" Caller then "needs to verify you are in possession of your card. Turn card over. There are 7 numbers; first 4 are your card number, the next 3 are the security numbers that verify you are in possession of the card. These are the numbers you use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card. Read me the three numbers".
Then says "That is correct. I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions? Don't hesitate to call back if you do."
You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you your credit card number. But after we were called on Wednesday, we called back within 20 minutes to ask a question. Are we glad we did! The REAL VISA security department told us it was a scam and in the last 15 minutes a new purchase of $497.99 WAS put on our card. Long story made short, We made a real fraud report and closed the VISA card and they are reissuing us a new number. What the scam wants is the 3-digit PIN number. By the time you get your statement, you think the credit is coming, and then it's harder to actually file a fraud report. The real VISA officials reinforced that they will never ask for anything on the card that they already know. What makes this more remarkable is that on Thursday, I got a call from "Jason Richardson of MasterCard" with a word-for-word repeat of the VISA scam. This time I didn't let him finish. I hung up. We filed a police report, as instructed by VISA. The police said they are taking several of these reports daily, and to tell friends , relatives and coworkers."
RUN MULTIPLE MONITORS ON YOUR LAPTOP OR PC
My laptop is now running three screens. I can drag windows from one screen to another. I can keep a screen to watch incoming emails. I have a screen to watch my stock portfolio. And I have a screen for doing my work, like writing this dictionary. Windows XP on a laptop lets you run two screens ” the internal monitor and an external monitor. A product called VTBook from Village Tronic allows you to run a third monitor. For more information see www.VTBook.com and www.realtimesoft.com/multimon.
HOW TO MAKE CELL PHONE CALLS IN EUROPE
There are many ways of making and receiving cell phone calls in Europe or Asia ” if you're from the United States. The cheapest is to rent a phone or a SIM card for a phone (more about that in a moment) in the country you'll be staying in at a low price. There are so many different charges for cell phone calls that it's impossible to give generic advice, except:
Always ask the price. You can easily see a five for one difference. The cheapest call can be one-fifth the most expensive. The BIG price difference is what it costs to call across borders, especially back to the U.S.
Pre-paid calling tends to be much cheaper. In other words, paying for a bundle of minutes before you use them tends to be much cheaper than paying for the minutes AFTER you've used them.
Paying for them in the country you'll be using them tends to be cheaper than buying the minutes in the United States or in another country.
If you have a GSM phone that works on overseas frequencies (typically called a dual or triple mode phone), take it with you on trip. Sometimes, it's cheaper to simply buy or rent a prepaid SIM card overseas. Example: my friend wrote me "I use Sprint and they were going to charge me $6.00 a minute to call back to the U.S. Just by chance the phone did not work, so I went into a local cell phone store in Prague and they took out the Sprint "smart chip" (i.e. the SIM card) from the phone and inserted their own. And for about $40 prepaid I got to make the calls to the U.S. at 35 cents a minute (and no charge at all for incoming calls - Sprint was going to charge $1.50 a minute for incoming). They also gave me a telephone number to use while I was there (actually gave me a choice of numbers!)"
Important to know: Cell phones in Europe and most of the world outside the U.S. typically work on GSM. Basic to all GSM phones is a SIM card ” a small metal card that slides into a cell phone and tells it who you are and to whom the calls are to be billed. You can place your SIM card into any GSM phone and it will work as yours. You can also place another SIM into your phone and if it's working on the right frequencies, it will make and receive calls. Do not be confused , however. There are several carriers in the United States who bill themselves as "GSM." They are, but some work on frequencies different to overseas. So their "GSM" phones won't work overseas.
DON'T EVER DIAL AREA CODE 809, 284 AND 876
Don't respond to Emails, phone calls, or web pages which tell you to call an "809" Phone Number. Below is a scam that can cost you $2400. It's difficult to avoid unless you are aware of it. Here's how it works:
You will receive a message on your answering machine or your pager, which asks you to call a number beginning with area code 809. The reason you're asked to call varies. It can be to receive information about a family member who has been ill, to tell you someone has been arrested, died, to let you know you have won a wonderful prize, etc. In each case, you are told to call the 809 number right away. Since there are so many new area codes these days, people unknowingly return these calls.
If you call from the US, you may be charged $2425 per-minute. You'll probably get a long recorded message. They will try to keep you on the phone as long as possible to increase the charges. Unfortunately, when you get your phone bill, you'll often be charged more than $24,100.00.
Here's why it works: The 809 area code is located in the British Virgin Islands (The Bahamas). The 809 area code can be used as a "pay-per-call" number, similar to 900 numbers in the US. Since 809 is not in the US, it is not covered by U.S. regulations of 900 numbers, which require that you be notified and warned of charges and rates involved when you call a pay-per-call" number. There is also no requirement that the company provide a time period during which you may terminate the call without being charged. Further, whereas many U.S. homes that have 900 number blocking to avoid these kinds of charges, do not work in preventing calls to the 809 area code.
We recommend that no matter how you get the message, if you are asked to call a number with an 809 area code that you don't recognize just disregard the message. Be wary of email or calls asking you to call an 809 area code number. It's important to prevent becoming a victim of this scam, since trying to fight the charges afterwards can become a real nightmare. That's because you did actually make the call. If you complain, both your local phone company and your long distance carrier will not want to get involved and will most likely tell you that they are simply providing the billing for the foreign company. You'll end up dealing with a foreign company that argues they have done nothing wrong.
HOW TO AVOID IDENTITY THEFT
Don't give your social security number to anyone. The Federal Reserve has a publication detailing identity theft and how to avoid it. It is available online, at the Bank's public web site www.bos.frb.org/consumer/identity/index.htm.
BEST OUTLOOK TIP ” I
Microsoft's popular Outlook software crams all your information ” emails, contacts, calendar, tasks and journal ” into one file, typically called mailbox.pst or outlook.pst. Find the latest *.pst file on your PC and make sure you regularly back it up to another machine or another drive. You cannot afford to lose your Outlook mailbox.pst file. Believe me.
BEST OUTLOOK TIP ” II
If your Outlook locks loading, or starts very slowly, find the file scanpst.exe on your hard disk. It's Microsoft's Inbox Repair Tool. Run it on your .pst file. This works with all Windows variations ” just takes a while. When it says it's found minor errors and asks do you want to fix them? say Yes. Any errors can mess up your Outlook.
BEST OUTLOOK TIP ” III
You must regularly reduce the size of your Outlook .pst file. Delete or save all the attachments still in your inbox. Empty all your deleted files. Archive all your sent items. Then compact your pst file. Right click on Outlook Today. Go to Properties, Advanced, then Compact Now. That should substantially reduce the size of your .pst file.
BEST OUTLOOK TIP ” IV
To automatically get rid of spam or porn emails, use Outlook's Rules Wizard. Create a rule that consigns all "spam" and porn mail into your delete folder. You can also get Outlook to make emails from special people to stand out ” your boss, your spouse ” special colors. I use red for my wife, my children and my accountant .
BEST OUTLOOK TIP ” V
It makes sense to use Microsoft Word as your email editor. You get instant spellchecking and you can add a return address to each email you send out. To add your own personalized return address, close Outlook. Open Word. Tools/Options/E-mail options/E-mail signature.
HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR LAPTOP'S BATTERIES
At least once a month, disconnect the computer from a power source and operate it on battery power until the battery pack fully discharges. A main battery can be recharged many times. Gradually, over time, it loses its ability to hold a charge. If you will not be using the system for more than a month, remove the battery pack. Disconnect the AC adaptor when the battery is fully charged. Overcharging makes the battery hot and shortens life.
DON'T OPT OUT
The " opt-out " option at the bottom of many spam messages often results in you getting more spam. It all depends on which spammer you're dealing with. Some honor the "unsub- scribe" request, but most don't. Tech glitches are also a factor. A 2002 study by the Federal Trade Commission found that two- thirds of all "unsubscribe" links fail.
THE UNIVERSAL FIX-IT ” REBOOTING.
It works with computers, phone systems, cable TV boxes, satellite TV boxes. Your new car. Anything that has a microprocessor chip in it. Simply unplug the device. Count to ten. Pray a little. Plug it back in. Turn it on. Bingo, it usually now works.
HARRY'S TWOFOLD BACKUP STRATEGY
I keep all my working files in c:\AllHarry. I back up all changed files in c:\AllHarry to a second hard drive once a day. I use software called filesync to copy only changed files. www.fileware.co.uk/.
I make a clone of my main hard drive every week. I use software called EZ-Gig Transfer Utility. www.apricorn.com.
NEVER LEAN ON YOUR LAPTOP
The weakest point of any notebook computer is the top side of your machine, i.e. the screen. Don't lean on it. Don't put anything on top of it. Don't drop anything on it. Replacing your laptop's screen may cost more than your laptop originally cost you and usually a busted screen isn't covered by warranty. Or the warranty expired the day before you broke the screen.
SAVING MONEY ON FOOD
To save money on your food bill, look down. Less costly items are often on bottom shelves , whereas more expensive ones are placed at eye level.
BUYING ON-LINE? NEED COUPONS ?
Buying on line? Need coupons, try www.naughtycodes.com, www.currentcodes.com and www.edealfinder.com.
Suffering occasional heartburn while sleeping? Try sleeping on your other side.
INTERMITTENT PC PROBLEMS?
Intermittent PC problems? First, check what you did most recently. Did you just install some new memory? Is the memory seated correctly? Never do two things to your PC at once. If you do, you'll never figure out which action caused the mess.
INVIOLATE EMAIL RULE
Never ever write anyone a rude or angry email. Emails are compliments, are flattery, are humorous and are tear-jerking. If angry, calm down first, then call the person, or better, go visit them. Face to face always works better. Rude emails simply aggravate the problem. Moreover, emails can be subpoenaed in law suits . And employers now feel comfortable snooping into their employees ' emails.
WASH YOUR HANDS OFTEN
Cruise passengers have been advised that they can reduce the risk of infection by washing their hands frequently and keeping their hands out of their mouths to avoid ingesting viruses they may have picked up from touching doorknobs and railings.
All batteries need to be drained and recharged occasionally. Nickel cadmium (NiCad) need the most discharging. But others do, too.
THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LAPTOPS
The design, layout and feel of their keyboard is the biggest difference between laptops. The second biggest difference between laptops is the quality of manufacture. Some are simply made better than others.
HOSPITALS ARE DANGEROUS PLACES
Hospitals are dangerous places. If you ever have to go to one, NEVER go without someone who will personally supervise everything about your presence there, the whole time you're there. A skeptical spouse works better.
BEST POWERPOINT TIP
When someone interrupts your PowerPoint presentation, press the letter B key (or the period key) to put up a blank black slide. Now your audience can now focus on you, instead of being distracted by your dumb slide.
BEST MICROSOFT WORD TIP
Microsoft Word is buggy . It locks frequently. Save often. If it crashes, close it. Open it again before rebooting. You may recover your document. Done for the day? Don't close every document you have open. Press Shift as you open the File menu. You'll discover that the Save command now says Save All.
GOING AWAY THIS SEASON?
Unplug your DVDs, VCRs, TVs, cordlesss phones, etc. Switching off these devices doesn't necessarily stop their power drain while they're plugged in. It just places them on standby, ready to spring to life when you touch the remote. The amount of electricity these devices devour while napping is staggering. Alan Meier of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found that VCRs and DVD players draw 93% of their total power usage while inactive. Answering machines and cordless phones are worse ” 98%. The Federal Government does not require manufacturers to label standby power usage on appliances, but the laboratory has created a web site listing devices that draw less than one watt (i.e. very little) of standby power ” click here. In 2001, President Bush issues an executive order mandating that federal agencies buy only low-standby appliances.
INTERNATIONAL CALLBACK WORKS
You can save 70% plus if you use international callback when calling the U.S. from overseas. One source: Premiere WorldLink 1-888-729-0107
BEST WEB TIP ” 1
www.Google.com is the best search engine. Better yet, install the Google toolbar. Go to http://toolbar.google.com/install.
BEST WEB TIP ” 2
Always hit your browser's Refresh button when you alight on a site. A remarkable number of sites are cached by someone somewhere. Which means they often feed you yesterday 's news. Get today's site by refreshing.
BUY YOURSELF A SHREDDER
Buy yourself a Crosscut shredder and shred all your personal documents. A crosscut shredder makes shreds that are harder to tape together.
THREE OR FOUR DIGIT EXTENSIONS?
If you use 3-digit extension numbers in your company and are putting in an automated attendant, think how long before you outgrow it and need a four digit scheme. If you think you'll ever outgrow 3-digits (and you will), change now. Save the confusion later.
REPLACE HANDSET CORDS
Change console handset cords every three months ” whether they need it or not. If your phone crackles, change its handset cord.
10 WAYS TO KEEP YOUR CAR OUT OF THE SHOP
Stacey L. Bradford published these tips on SmartMoney.com on March 26, 2003. Here are excerpts of his article:
Start It Up Properly. "Most of the wear on an engine happens when you start the car... Make sure extra accessories, such as headlights or climate control, aren't on when you turn the ignition... An even more destructive habit: revving the engine. Believe it or not, this won't help warm up the car. In fact, revving can do serious damage to the engine and significantly shorten its life.
Come to a Complete Stop. Ever pull out of a parking spot and pop your car into drive while it's still coasting backward? If the answer is yes, you can kiss your transmission goodbye . By shifting into drive while the car is still in reverse, you're asking the transmission to do the work of the brakes ” and that will wear down your gears.... A transmission driven properly should last more than 100,000 miles, one owned by an aggressive or impatient driver will give out long before that.
Don't Run the Needle Down to Empty. Sediment collects at the bottom of the fuel tank over time. You never want to do anything to unleash that dirt into your fuel system. You can stir up sediment by driving with less than a quarter of a tank of gas.
Turn Gently. Cutting the steering wheel too far to the right or left ” something nearly everyone is guilty of while parallel parking ” can also do damage. By turning the wheel to the point where it can move no further, you're putting 50 times more wear and tear on your steering pump than normal.
Check Your Tires... Too little or too much pressure can cause all sorts of problems. If you drive with too little air, your tires will get quite hot; excessive heat will wear out the tread much faster than normal driving. If you drive with too much air, less rubber will hit the road than necessary. Next thing you know, the outside portion of your tire will be doing all the work and wearing out faster than the inside.
Don't Ride the Clutch... Some of us use the clutch to avoid rolling backwards while on a hill... Better use the emergency brake. Another clutch- preserving tip: Pop the car into neutral and take your foot off the clutch while sitting in traffic.
Listen to Your Car. Every little sound your car makes is a cry for help. Ignore it, and a small problem could turn into a huge one. The most common sound people ignore is squeaky brakes. Steering systems need attention, too. Once you hear the whine of the steering wheel, you need to have it checked.
Heed Those Warning Lights. Don't ignore the warning lights on your dashboard... By waiting even a few days, you can turn a simple problem into a disaster. In some cases, you need to stop your car immediately and get it towed. Here are two such situations. The first is when you see your engine is overheated. "If the temperature gauge crosses into the red zone, it is as dangerous to your car as a heart attack or stroke is to the human body. The second is you'll also ruin your engine if you drive after the loss of oil pressure. The engine oil light will pop up if this happens. Oil is the lifeblood of your engine. Drive without it, and you'll cause catastrophic damage.
Drive More. Many people don't realize it, but not driving your car can be as damaging as driving it too hard. The worst thing you can do with a machine is not to use it.
Neglect Will Cost You. The single most important thing you can do for your car is take it in for regular maintenance. Most important: the oil change. Regular oil changes every 3,000 or 4,000 miles can double the life of your car. But you also need to have filters changed, belts checked (and sometimes replaced) and all fluids inspected.
THIRTEEN TIPS FOR BETTER IVR SCRIPTS
Place strict limits on the number of levels, and the number of choices at each level. In most cases, four levels with four choices each is an appropriate limit.
At each level, tell callers how many choices they have, before telling them what the choices are. "You now have three choices. For sales, press ." That encourages callers to listen to the entire menu before making a selection, and reduces misdirected calls.
Place the most frequently selected choices at the beginning of each menu.
Instead of "Press one for customer service," say "For customer service, press one." With the first version, some callers will press one before the sentence is completed.
Have your menus recorded professionally. Use one voice throughout the system, for all menus and announcements.
Allow frequent callers to override spoken menus and jump directly to their frequent choices.
If the caller doesn't make a selection within a preset time (10 or 15 seconds) repeat the choices.
Provide an easy way to (a) reach a real person or (b) return to the main menu or (c) back up one level.
Use consistent commands. If one prompt requires the caller to "press the pound key" after entering data, then every data-entry prompt should do so. Similarly, always use the same keys for backing up or reaching a human.
Use consistent vocabulary. Always describe similar actions and options using the same words and phrases.
Keep promotional messages short, and don't inflict them on callers without warning. (It's one thing to hear an ad after you "press 1 for more information." It's quite another to hear one you didn't ask for and can't bypass.)
If a caller makes an invalid entry, say so politely and repeat the choices. If the same invalid entry is repeated, provide additional information and guidance.
Always let the caller dial zero and reach a real human being. Source: Telemanagement, March 2003 www.Angustel.CA
DON'T STORE THINGS IN BLACK GARBAGE BAGS
Several of our young people stored their laundry in large black plastic garbage bags. The bags were thrown out by over-zealous cleaners. One bachelor, in need of extensive dry cleaning, brought his entire wardrobe of clothes into our office. It was thrown out that night. He now owned only the clothes he wore, and they were dirty.
KEEP GOOGLE NEWS GOING
Neat new service: http://news.google.com/
LEARN HOW TO SAY NO
NO is the hardest word in the English language. NO is also the kindest word in the English language. Saying NO often does the person you're saying it to a big favor. It may save them doing something foolish. It may even put them out of their misery. I'm learning to say "NO" more politely than I have in the past. The key to saying NO is not to explain why ” unless you're really pushed. Most people don't want to hear the reason because it implies a criticism of them.
HTML OPTIMIZATION TIPS
Files that are too large move slowly across the Net and create data bottlenecks. Here are some ways to "optimize" your web content and make downloading your site much faster.
Fewer Colors in Images. If an image is simple and has few colors like a button or plain text, try to convert it to use less colors. Use 16 colors (4 bit) if you can, and 256 (8 bit) for everything else. Avoid 16 bit and higher because this will dramatically increase image size. Reduce the size of your images. Then convert them GIF.
Use height and width Tags in IMG Tags. Always use height and width tags in all of the IMG tags. Web browsers try to lay out the entire webpage first and then insert the images whenever they get downloaded.
Code HTML Files by Hand. If at all possible, if you have the experience, code your HTML files by hand using a text editor. Don't rely entirely on a WYSIWYG editor, such as Macromedia's Dreamweaver. Coding by hand will give you greater control over your files and will keep them small and fast, just what visitors want. Some editors, e.g. Dreamweaver, put redundant duplicated new commands at the beginning of each paragraph, bloating your code for no reason.
www.PriceGrabber.com may be the best site for online shopping yet. It lets you search dozens of online stores for the items you want and pay the lowest price possible. It's brilliant .
BEWARE OF FAKE CASHIERS CHECKS
Scott Fripp, telecom dealer (email@example.com), writes : "To all telecom dealers: "Some of you may be aware that this September my company was robbed of over $40,000 worth of Norstar telephone equipment by a criminal posing as an employee of a company in the greater LA area. The company was fictitious, and the ship to address was to an apartment complex. We used FedEx as the shipping carrier and sent out the equipment via COD Secured Funds. The FedEx driver accepted a poorly drafted fraudulent "Cashier's Check" as the payment (incidentally, FedEx denies any responsibility for training their drivers to distinguish a real bank check from a fake one, and they claim they are not liable in any way for damages resulting from their services).
"If you go to Dunn & Bradstreet, you can look up a company by name, for free www.dnb.com.
"If you do not see this man's company there, or if the address does not match, then you have probably talked to a dangerous criminal who has already stolen more than $150,000 worth of merchandise from myself and others that we know of."
FAX MACHINES NEED PROGRAMMING
Check the programming on your fax machine for correct day, date time, and your fax number. Fax machines send back their fax number to the sending fax ” but only the number programmed into their memory ” not the actual phone number they're attached to. It can seriously confuse senders if they think they're sending to the wrong machine.
COOL YOUR PILLS
All drugs lose their potency with age. Such ageing doubles its speed for every 10 degree increase in temperature, or halves its speed for every ten degree drop in temperature. Best advice: Put all your pharmaceuticals in the refrigerator. You'll extend their potency and their life.
HOW TO REMEMBER NAMES
A person's name is their favorite word. Repeat it many times when you're talking to them. "Catherine, it's nice to meet you. Is that Catherine with a 'C' or Katherine with a "K?" Try also "It's been nice meeting you, Catherine." Write something on her card that will bring back an image of her.
TROUBLESHOOTING MEMORY PROBLEMS
When you have a problem with memory, the cause is usually one of three things:
Improper Configuration: You have the wrong part for your computer or did not follow the configuration rules.
Improper Installation: The memory may not be seated correctly, a socket is bad, or the socket may need cleaning.
Defective Hardware: The memory module itself is defective. The fact that many intermittent computer problems manifest themselves as memory problems makes troubleshooting difficult. For example, a problem with the motherboard or software may produce a memory error message.
The following basic steps apply to almost all situations:
Make sure you have the right memory part for your computer.
Confirm that you configured the memory correctly. Many computers require module installation in banks of equal-capacity modules. Some computers require the highest capacity module to be in the lowest labeled bank. Other computers require that all sockets be filled; still others require single-banked memory. These are only a few examples of special configuration requirements. Re-install the module. Push the module firmly into the socket. In most cases you hear a click when the module is in position. To make sure you have a module all the way in the socket, compare the height of the module to the height of other modules in neighboring sockets.
Swap modules. Remove the new memory and see whether the problem disappears. Remove the old memory, reinstall the new, and see whether the problem persists. Try the memory in different sockets. Swapping reveals whether the problem is a particular memory module or socket, or whether two types of memory aren't compatible.
Clean the socket and pins on the memory module. Use a soft cloth to wipe the pins on the module. Use a PC vacuum or compressed air to blow dust off the socket. Do NOT use solvent, which may corrode the metal or prevent the leads from making full contact. Flux Off is a cleaner used specifically for contacts. You can purchase it at electronics or computer equipment stores.
Update the BIOS. Computer manufacturers update BIOS information frequently and post revisions on their Web sites. Make sure you have the most recent BIOS for your computer. This applies especially when you have recently installed new software or you are significantly upgrading memory.
When in doubt, send all your memory modules back to their manufacturer and ask for a complete replacement.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR PCs LAST LONGER
Buy quality voltage regulators/surge suppressors and connect them.
Turn them off at night.
Unplug computers during thunderstorms.
Keep the computer case intact. When you install a new internal component, make sure to save the spacer you just removed so you can cover the slot again. When engineers design computer cases, they also design the airflow in the system. Removing a spacer will disrupt that carefully designed airflow and cause the heat inside the case to rise, damaging sensitive computer parts .
Check internal fans for dust and clean them.
Keep the power-supply fan clean and areas around it clean.
Keep the keyboard free of debris.
Clean the keys on the keyboard.
Clean monitors. Clean the monitor screen with a nonabrasive glass cleaning solution. Be sure to spray the solution onto the rag and not directly onto the monitor to prevent any liquid from getting inside the high-voltage monitor.
Keep mice clean. To keep the mouse and mouse-ball clean, you need a can of compressed air and some alcohol wipes. Once a month, remove the mouse ball from the mouse and clean it with the alcohol wipes. Then use the compressed air to remove any dirt and debris that may have found its way into the mouse. Better yet, buy an optical mouse.
Clean the inside of computers.
Keep CDs clean to prevent the drive from getting dirty. Work from the inside of the disk to the outside using circular motions .
Change drives once a year whether they're still working or not. They're electromechanical. They wear out.
DRINK LOTS OF WATER ON PLANES
Don't drink alcohol on planes. Drink water. Lots of it.
HAVE YOU CHECKED YOUR PC FOR SPYWARE?
Spyware serves up adware, pop-up ads, steals commissions, etc. It worms its way onto your hard disk. Get rid of it by running Ad-Aware. Get that software from www.lavasoftusa.com.
HOW TO INSTALL A NETWORK PRINTER
The key to installing a network printer is to first install a LOCAL port ” which seems stupid. It means you install a "local" printer on a TCP/IP network port, then install the print- er's software. Steps include:
Add a LOCAL printer.
Create a new port.
Standard TCP/IP port. Insert port ID, e.g. 10.1.1.XXX
Have disk. Point to CD.
Unless you're installing an Hewlett Packard printer, when you might need to install a JetDirect Port. You still need to start by adding a local printer, even though you're trying to install a network printer. HP's installation routines don't make sense. Their tech support is non-existent.
Phone calls are more effective than letters in collecting amounts due. During a collection call: Avoid small talk. Don't apologize for bothering the debtor or asking for your money. Don't ask for reasons why the bill hasn't been paid. Make a closing statement indicating what will happen if the bill isn't paid.
Last thing Friday night, fill all your fax machines with paper. Be a shame to miss all the nice orders that might flow in over the weekend.
DON'T OPEN EMAIL ATTACHMENTS
Don't open email attachments. Call the person sending the attachment and ask if it's OK. Never open attachments with extensions .vbe and .exe and double extensions, such as .jpg.exe.
Don't ever open an email that says "Hi!. How are you? I send you this file in order to have your advice. See you later. Thanks." This email contains a virus.
Follow Newton's rule: The more friendly and intriguing the email is in its subject line or its first few lines, the most likely it is to be spam, porn, junk or contain a virus.
If you're really worried, install Microsoft's many security patches for Outlook and install Outlook 2003. It deletes all .exe, .vbe and .bat files before it delivers your email. The only way for friends to send these files to you now is to zip them or change their extension.
SAVE ON SHOULDER SURFING FRAUD
Shoulder surfing happens when the guy behind you in the payphone line copies your credit card number as you dial it and then steals it. One solution: Be wary. Another: Dial your credit number and then keep dialing extra digits. The system doesn't care how many extra numbers you dial. Just don't press the # key. The extra numbers may confuse the thieves .
FAX MACHINES ARE QUIRKY
When fax machines break (i.e. run out of supplies or memory) they will not busy your phone line. This means if the broken fax machine is the first in your hunt group, nothing else will get through. This is not a manufacturer design fault. The FCC will simply not allow fax machines to busy out phone lines. Thus, you must check fax supplies ” especially paper ” at least twice a day. You don't want your fax machines to be empty.
TIVO AND REPLAY
The two best gadgets for watching TV are digital video recorders made by TiVo and Replay. They let you record your favorite programs whenever they come on and on whichever channel they appear. Among the multitude of advantages: zapping through commercials (automatic with Replay); ease of programming; knowledge of when your favorite programs are playing (they dial into TiVo and Replay Central and pick up the database of your programs). I couldn't live without my TiVo. www.TiVo.com and www.Replay.com.
There are a thousand ways of saving on your car insurance. To save time, find a broker you can trust. I trust Mardee Mieske at MetzWood Harder Insurance on 800-635-7170 and 518-392-5161 in Chatham, NY. Mardee is magnificent .
NEW SOFTWARE RELEASES
It doesn't make sense to be the first user on the block to use a new release of software. All software comes with bugs . Best to wait until the first service pack or service release comes out. New versions of software typically end in zero, e.g. 4.00. An upgrade (also called a fix) is 4.01.
AMERICAN EXPRESS PLATINUM
American Express platinum credit card will give you a two business class tickets for the price of one on many airlines. It's a great deal ” if you have to travel business class.
HOLD BACK AT LEAST 5%
If you hire a contractor (any contractor), hold back at least 10% of the monies you owe him for at least three months to make sure you're completely happy and your Punch List has been completed satisfactorily.
Firing someone? Cut their access off immediately to your company's computer network. Change all passwords immediately. Physically remove the person's PC. They may willfully harm their computer and the company's network if they still have access. It happened to us. Walk your ex-employee out of the building immediately on firing them.
THE BEST QUALITY COAXIAL CABLE
Wire your home with only the best quality quad- shielded coaxial cable you can get. Ask for RG6U or better. Install at least three sets of coaxial cable to every outlet in every room so that you can use one for cable TV, one for your cable modem, and one spare one to slot in when one of the other two degrades over time (as it will).
HOW TO AVOID INTERNAL THEFT
This tip from Chuck Whitlock, Scambusters. www.ChuckWhitlock.com
An ex-employee might get into your payroll files and arrange for checks to be cut twice a month to nonexistent employees. Or he might issue payments to a phantom supplier for hard-to-confirm services, such as consulting or cleaning, that were never provided. Your firm is less of a target if certain safeguards are in place:
When someone leaves , immediately discontinue computer passwords.
Institute cross-training procedures. Require each employee to make a procedure manual for his/her job. Everyone in your company should make at least one colleague familiar with his accounts and files. This makes it less likely that any employee will think he can get away with something.
Check the books carefully when someone in payroll or accounting declines to take a vacation. Embezzlers may be hesitant to have someone else look at their books.
Put firewalls around your computer system. Use codes with both numerals and letters to protect against cyber-criminals outside your firm. Do not let employees use names or birth dates as codes.
No security system is foolproof, but you can make it harder for high-tech criminals. The right computer security program depends on your system and the sensitivity of your data. I use a program from McAfee Software. www. mcafee .com.
Create written procedures for purchasing, expense reimbursement and payroll functions. These should include supervision by more than one employee.
WIRELESS LANS WORK (SORT OF)
Wireless LANs are not a panacea. A wired LAN will always work better. 802.11b wireless WiFi LANs work well within a confined area ” perhaps 100 feet in a place with few walls; perhaps 50 feet in a place with many walls and ceilings. There are two keys to getting your laptop on a wireless LAN. First you should set up another profile, in addition to the one you already have. Second, you should know the new LAN's name. You typically don't need an IP address. The wireless LAN should assign you one. The best part of wireless LANs: so many are around that you can now get easily onto the Internet in coffee shops , board- rooms, airline clubs, etc. Just pick a different profile. Be careful: few wireless LANs use encryption. So be careful what you send. See next tips.
UNLEASH YOUR HOME WIFI NET
Larry Armstrong gave me "a few tweaks" on how to boost WiFi performance. "Does your wireless home network need more oomph? Maybe you hoped the signal would extend beyond your living room so you could check your e-mail or surf the Web from a chair on the patio or your office over the garage. The dirty little secret of wireless networks is that they work best when all of the antennas are within line of sight of the base station. But many homes have concrete block or plaster-and-metal-lath walls that can obstruct the signal. And because WiFi shares the airwaves with other appliances in your home, such as cordless phones and microwave ovens, interference can cause the signal to fade. The result? You're probably going to have places where you get a slow or unreliable connection, or where you get no connection at all. Some tips to minimize those dead spots are to move your base station out into the open and 10 feet away from other wireless devices. If that doesn't work, change the channel, just like you would for your cordless phone. If you're still having problems, Linksys, the leading maker of networking gear, sells a wireless signal booster that attaches to the top of its most popular wireless models. The booster actually works, though it's not a universal panacea. It's a marginal improvement.
GUARDING YOUR WIRELESS NETWORK AT HOME
Q: How secure are home networks?
A: Most have such a minimal level of security they're practically Swiss cheese. Q: What should you do when you get your new router home? A: The very first thing is change the default password: Every hacker on the Web knows it. Also, turn off the remote administration feature so that changes can be made only from your computer. If it's a wireless router, turn on the encryption program.
Q: How serious is the threat?
A: Pretty darn serious. Your Quicken files and other intimate details are stored on your computer. When you shop on the Internet, your address and credit-card number are also kept in files. That information can be used to steal your identity. Even if no one is interested in stealing your stuff, your computer can be used to distribute illegal software, pornography, or attack other computers.
Q: How often does this happen to home users?
A: We don't have any hard data on individual attacks, but we have lots of data on attacks on businesses. In 1988, there were only six reported attacks. In 2003, there have been more than 82,000. Unfortunately, the consumer is often clueless, especially when it comes to computer viruses.
Q: How can I prevent an attack?
A: Install a firewall. Hardware firewalls are better than software firewalls. But software firewalls are better than no firewalls.
INSTALLING NEW HARDWARE AND NEW SOFTWARE ” 1
You're installing a new scanner, a new digital camera, a new printer on your PC running Windows. Sometimes you hook up the device first and then install the software. Sometimes you install the software first, then hook up the device. Before you do anything, check the instructions. When in doubt, install the software first and then install the equipment.
INSTALLING NEW HARDWARE AND NEW SOFTWARE ” 2
Never install the software that comes in the package. Go the maker's web site and download the latest drivers and latest software.
HOW TO HOOK A DIGITAL CAMERA TO YOUR PC
Digital cameras come with cables to transfer their information to PCs. Those cables get lost. Much easier is to slide the memory card out of the camera and slide it into your laptop. All you need is a pc card adapter that slides into one of your laptop's PCMCIA slots. You can leave the empty card in your laptop. That way you won't lose the adapter.
WHEN IT RAINS, THE CABLE TV GOES OUT
The biggest problem with the coaxial cable that serves your home TVs and cable modem is that rain seeps into the cable and, over time, your picture starts to looks increasingly "snowy." Finally it craps out altogether. The only solution is to replace the cable and its connectors. Always remember to tighten the connectors using a spanner. The newer connectors contain a rubber o-ring which allegedly keeps the water out. Ask for it. Also the newest cable contains four metallic shields ” very important to cut down on ghosting when you're laying cable to houses in clear line of sight to local TV transmitters. The easiest way to check your cable for water is to cut the connector off and tap the cable on a surface. If water appears, you have a problem.
CHOOSING YOUR PASSWORD
Insist users of your network choose unique passwords ” ones that they don't use for their personal email or their bank account, etc. Explain that the use of identical passwords makes them vulnerable.
UNSOLICITED CREDIT CARDS
Return all unsolicited credit cards. Don't just throw them out. Return them. We hear, from InfoWorld Magazine, if a Chase card, after six months, "is not activated but the customer doesn't complain about not getting the card, Chase activates it." This means that someone could now be using your credit card!
HOW TO GET THROUGH A CALL CENTER
Some call centers will answer callers faster who don't push the buttons, as in "dial 1 for English...". There's a "logic" to this. It's all about keeping waiting callers busy. If you keep call busy pushing buttons, they will not objecting to waiting. Better, don't push buttons . You'll often get faster service.
BEST CABLE MODEM SERVICE
The best cable modem service is achieved by attaching your cable modem directly to the cable coming in the street from your cable modem company and using a separate cable for your video. Make sure that neither of those cables contain splitters and cables serving other subscribers. If you have no choice to only use cable, make sure the first splitter is the one between your cable modem and your set top video box. And make sure your splitter is connected correctly. One side of the splitter is designed to connect to the cable modem. The other side is designed to connect to the video set top box. If you plug into the wrong connectors, your cable modem service won't work well.
HOW NOT TO HAVE PROBLEMS WITH YOUR CD PLAYERS
To prevent accidental damage to your CD player, don't use any of the following CDs:
Discs with stick-on labels.
Excessively thick discs.
Small or irregularly shaped (triangle, rectangle, arrow, etc.) discs.
Any discs that are scratched or dirty.
Discs that are bent, chipped or warper.
Discs fitted with adaptors or protectors.
DON'T MAKE INTERNATIONAL CALLS ON YOUR MOBILE
Don't use your cell phone to make international calls. They can be very, very expensive. Calling from your landline can easily be one-tenth the per minute price of calling from your cell phone.
POWER FAILURE TRANSFER IS CHEAP DISASTER RECOVERY
Many PBXs have power failure transfer. This means if your PBX crashes, you still have some single line telephones to make and receive calls. In most companies, no one knows if power transfer failure works or where the single line phones are. Be good to check now. Ditto for checking obvious things: Is there gasoline in your emergency generator? Is there water in your wet call emergency batteries, etc.?
DON'T LOCATE UNDER BATHROOMS
Never, ever put your phone or computer room below a bathroom. A friend's PBX got rained on the other night. The toilet upstairs overflowed. It wasn't pleasant. No one wanted to do the cleanup.
CLOSE THE TOILET SEAT
Before you flush, please close the toilet seat. Thus, you will prevent some of the nasties making it into the air.
BEST AIRLINE TIP ” 1. CHECK OAG FIRST
Virtually all Internet travel sites are not comprehensive, i.e. they don't include all your choices. Best bet: www.OAGflights.com first, though you have to be a subscriber. That gives you all the available flights ” including many (but not all) from adjacent airports or going to adjacent airports. An "adjacent" airport to Los Angeles is Long Beach. JetBlue serves Long Beach, but it's not listed at the big Internet sites, like Expedia and Orbitz. Some sites now have a generic airport, like NYC for all the airports in the New York area. Flying into Newark can often be much cheaper than flying into another one, such as La Guardia or Kennedy. Check.
BEST AIRLINE TIP ” 2. THEN CHECK YOUR CHOICES
Once you know your choices, you can then bargain shop via Orbitz.com, Expedia.com, CheapTickets.com, Travelocity.com, even Priceline.com, your local travel agent and the airline directly on the phone. Never discount the idea of calling the airline directly and asking for a "cheaper" fare. Don't use Priceline if you're traveling on business for a very short trip.
BEST AIRLINE TIP ” 3. CHECK DISCOUNT AIRLINES
Discount airlines have the best deals. They include Midwest Express, Sun Country, JetBlue, ATA and Southwest. Be careful, their fares are often not listed on the major Internet travel sites. Fortunately, all have their own excellent ticket booking Internet sites. www.Ata.com, www.JetBlue.com, www.Southwest.com, www.MidwestExpress.com and www.SunCountry.com. And they all have "Internet specials," which means they discount their fares even more.
BEST AIRLINE TIP ” 4. BACK-TO-BACK FARES ARE GREAT
You can get almost four back-to-back New York-Ottawa airfares for the price of one weekday roundtrip fare. In virtually all cases, two back-to-back tickets are far less than the price of one weekday roundtrip ticket. Some airline routes are "monopoly" routes and exceptionally expensive. New York to Ottawa, Canada is an example. $932 for up one night, back the next. But it drops to $162 if you buy in advance and stay over Saturday night. The obvious solution: Buy two roundtrip tickets and throw one half of each away. They're called "back-to-back" tickets. If you're worried about getting caught (you won't), buy each ticket on a different airline. Here's how it works. Buy one cheap roundtrip/over Saturday night ticket starting in New York. Buy one starting in Ottawa two days later. Use the first half of the ticket to go and the first half of the other ticket to return. Throw the second halves of both tickets away ” or, even better, use them for a "free" trip a couple of weeks later. Sometimes the airlines will "catch" you. But, be aware, it's not illegal.
BEST AIRLINE TIP ” 5. HIDDEN CITY TICKETS
Going from New York to Dallas? Buy a ticket to Austin through Dallas. Going to Chicago? Buy a ticket to Minneapolis through Chicago. Going to Atlanta? Buy a ticket to Miama through Atlanta. Going to London? Buy a ticket to Paris through London. Hidden city tickets work best with promotions, e.g. Florida is on "sale" during the summer when no one wants to go to Florida. Hidden city tickets are "illegal" in economy, i.e. you could be denied boarding on the way back (but rarely will be). Hidden city tickets work 100% legally in first class and business class. That's assuming you want to travel first or business. You cannot be denied boarding in first or business class.
BEST AIRLINE TIP ” 6. GETTING ON SOLD OUT FLIGHTS
Want to get on a sold-out flight? Call at the stroke of midnight. That's when most ticket reservations with a "hold" on them expire, potentially freeing up seats.
BEST AIRLINE TIP ” 7. FRAGILE WORKS
Mark your baggage "fragile." Most airlines load fragile baggage last, potentially saving you the damage wrought by dumping heavy bags on top of yours.
Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal tested a device called TeleZapper which stops telemarketing calls dialed by computers and sends back a signal telling the dialing computer your phone is kaput (thus getting you off the list). He raved about the $50 device device, made by Privacy Technologies.
YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER IS PRECIOUS
There are all sorts of sneaky ways via email and the phone that people use to get your social security number ” saying they need "to check on your account," "make sure you're getting your refund," etc. Don't give anyone your social security number.
USED TELECOM EQUIPMENT MAKES SENSE
Because of slow development times, buying used corporate phone systems makes big sense. Reasons: dollar savings, more responsive dealers (they're smaller), the inventory is in stock and sometimes you can wangle longer warranties than from the original maker. Tips on buying used:
Is it the latest model? If not, does it matter?
Am I buying from a reputable dealer. Check.
Is it in stock? Can it be shipped today? Some secondary dealers advertise stuff they don't have, then go and try to buy it from someone else.
Ask for "advance replacement." If the thing (e.g. a card) you get sent doesn't work when you get it, your supplier should be prepared to overnight you another one before they get your broken one back. But you'd better demonstrate some intelligence about checking the card you got. Secondary dealers tell me that most of the "bad" cards they get back really aren't bad. They're just installed wrongly.
Does your supplier understand the technical aspects of your phone system so they can match appropriate revision and software levels.
What about software? Do you get it or do you have to buy it from the manufacturer? Manufacturers often use their software "upgrades" as a bargaining chip to keep their customers away from the secondary market.
Does your supplier offer technical assistance over the phone? When you get your stuff and it doesn't work, will they "talk you through" until you finally get it working?
Do they refurbish? To what level? Some secondary dealers clean their stuff and do nothing else. Some clean it, test it and add small but important things, like new designation strips , instruction manuals, etc.
TAP YOUR PHONE'S HANDSET
If you hear static, tap your phone's handset. This won't work on an electronic handset. But it will work on a carbon mike. You'll recognize carbon ones because the handset is round. Carbon handsets are older but they often work better.
BEST PC TIP ” 1. ALWAYS SAVE ALL THE TIME
No Windows software nor any computer operating system is 100% stable (i.e. won't lock up), despite what the ads say. Always save your work every few minutes. And ALWAYS save your work before you Alt-Tab to another application or start another application. Any version of Windows software can blow up any time, without logic.
BEST PC TIP ” 2. HOW TO SAVE YOUR LOCKED-UP APPLICATIONS
If Windows (any version) locks up, hit Ctrl/Alt/Delete and close down open applications one by one. As you do, you may be able to save your work. Windows typically locks up because it runs out of memory. Watch for Microsoft Word. I find it buggy, though the newest version, Word 2003 is much more stable.
BEST PC TIP ” 3. KEEP AN OLD MACHINE
Before you install new software on your primary PC ” the one you rely on every day ” install the software on some other junk (i.e. old) PC. You may not like the new software or it won't work. Installing it on your good machine will only clutter your machine with junk. Most "uninstall" programs don't uninstall everything. They leave clutter. Sometimes they even swap good software with bad software and mess your machine up long- term . And sometimes you can't uninstall them at all.
BEST PC TIP ” 3. UNINSTALL YOUR OLD SOFTWARE
Before you install a new version (not an upgrade) of software running under Windows, uninstall the old version completely. Use the uninstaller that comes with the software first. If there isn't one, use Windows' own uninstaller ” Control Panel/Add or Remove Programs. Don't follow this rule on upgrades. Then you must leave the existing software. After uninstalling the software, reboot your machine.
BEST PC TIP ” 4. THE BEST ADD-IN FOR YOUR MICROSOFT OFFICE
The most useful add-in software for Microsoft Office is WOPR PlaceBar Customizer available at www.wopr.com/office2000/placebar.htm. I use it every day. It's no longer needed in Office XP or in Office 2003, which I recommend upgrading to.
BEST PC TIP ” 5. THE BEST SPEED ENHANCER
Extra memory is the best and cheapest way to speed up your PC. Put the most memory in you can. When I doubled the RAM on my laptop running Windows 2000 Professional, it felt like I'd bought a brand-new machine. The memory cost $100. A new machine would have cost $3,000.
BEST PC TIP ” 6. CHECK. CHECK. CHECK
I asked that my laptop be delivered with 512 Megs of RAM. It was. Except that my laptop came with two 256 Meg memory slots. One wasn't working. The memory, however, was fine. I didn't check that the memory was actually working for several months. I was lucky I discovered the problem in time. To fix the second slot, and thus to move me from 256 Megs to 512 Megs required a new motherboard ” an expensive fix. Except I caught the problem while the warranty was OK. Had I not checked I probably would have been $1,500 out of pocket for a new motherboard.
BEST LAPTOP CONFIGURATION TIPS
Things you need to consider when you're buying a new laptop:
Physical screen size and screen pixels. Screen size affects portability. The bigger the more cumbersome. Pixels affect viewability. Easiest to read is a 1024 x 768 screen, But laptop screens also come in 1400 x 1050. Such screens are useful for graphics programs, but they make reading often difficult (small type and all that). You can't have both. You can't change your internal LCD screen resolution. You can, however, change screen resolutions on an attached external glass (not an LCD) monitor.
Weight. Light weight means flimsy and lack of bits and pieces. For example, some lightweight machines don't come with CD drives.
Erector set ability. Can you swap a CD drive out for a second battery or a second hard disk? I personally find that being able to put a second drive inside a laptop is great for backing my work up ” especially when I'm on the road. Toshiba Tecras come with a "Select Bay" ” you can slide in an extra battery or an extra hard disk, etc.
BEST LAPTOP TIP ” 1. GET THE LONGEST LIFE
To get the longest life out of your laptop's battery, turn your screen's brightness down to its lowest level. Your screen is the biggest consumer of power on your laptop.
BEST LAPTOP TIP ” 2. CLONE YOUR HARD DISK
Before you leave home for a trip, clone your laptop's entire hard disk on an identical hard disk, which you leave at home. If your laptop is stolen, you'll have a backup. Best software for cloning is called EZ-Gig Transfer Utility, from www.Apricorn.com.
BEST LAPTOP TIP ” 3. DON'T USE HIBERNATION
Never put your laptop into a power saving mode called "Hibernation." Such mode puts information directly onto your hard disk. When you next start, your laptop searches for that file. If it doesn't find it because the file is corrupted, it's all over. You cannot cold boot your machine. It will always look for that file. You may have to send your laptop's hard disk off to the hard disk recovery factory. On the other hand a mode called "standby" is OK. If you lose it, you can always reboot.
BEST INTERNET BROWSING TIP
Browsing the Internet is fastest when you have BOTH a high speed connection to the Internet (T-1, Cable Modem or DSL) and a fast PC. You need the line to get the information fast to you. And you need a fast PC to quickly decode the incoming bit stream into pretty pages you can read. The fast PC makes a huge difference. Do not underestimate its importance. Do not get a broadband connection without a fast PC.
CREDIT CARDS GO ONLINE
You can find how much you have owe on your credit cards at any time by checking them on the web. Register with your credit card issuers . For example, if you have a Visa from Citibank, go to www.citicards.com. Good news: Citibank downloads its information to Quicken ” as do most large on-line stock trading systems.
BEST CELLULAR TIP ” 1. BUY CELL PHONES CHEAP
Independent retail cell phone dealers will always give you a better deal than dealing directly with the service provider, e.g. AT&T or Sprint.
BEST CELLULAR TIP ” 2. FINDING THE BEST COVERAGE
Verizon has "the best national coverage." But it may not have the best coverage in your area. AT&T Wireless has the second best coverage. Check.
BEST CELLULAR TIP ” 3. DON'T CHANGE YOUR CELL PHONE SERVICE PLAN
Be wary of changing your cell phone service plan. Every time you do, you may have "signed" up for another year of service. They don't tell you this. Ask. If you do extend your service contract, ask for a new, better, smaller cell phone. They'll usually give you one for free.
HOW TO BUY LONG DISTANCE AND INTERNATIONAL SERVICES
You must be on a plan.
The small carriers often have better deals than the bigger carriers.
Most carriers will match another carrier's cheaper plan.
Most carriers will bargain ” especially if you offer all your incoming or outgoing traffic, sufficient volume and agree to sign a one or two year contract.
All long distance carriers will charge much less if you can figure a way of delivering your traffic directly to them, bypassing the local monopoly phone company. That way is usually a leased T-1 or T-3 line.
You must check your bills every month. You'll probably be billed for calls you didn't make and lines you didn't have.
It's good idea to negotiate a service level agreement between you and your carrier.
Don't ever buy long distance from your local phone company. If you have a dispute with your local phone company about your long distance bill, they most likely won't solve your long distance problems, but they will threaten to cut off your local phone lines if you don't pay your long distance bill.
The cheapest long distance is usually with a VoIP phone, such as one from Vonage. Remember: Your ignorance is their victory. Your squeaky wheel is their nightmare.
MY FAVORITE FIREWALL
MY favorite firewall is the Watchguard SOHO Firebox. It protects all the PCs at our house which sit behind our cable modem.
CHECK YOUR FIREWALL
Check out www.grc.com. Wait a minute for the page to load. Select "Shields Up" and "Probe My Ports." It's a great way to check the security of your firewall. I just tested my home network and it passed with flying colors. It is protected by a Watchguard SOHO Firebox.
BLOCK CALLS TO 900, 976, 970 etc.
Block calls to "Dial-it" services and area codes where you don't do business. Most businesses routinely block to the area code ” 900. Be careful with the 212 area code which has expensive exchanges ” 394, 540, 550, 970 and 976.
PHONE SYSTEM PROTECTION
You need to protect your phone lines from the possibility of AC coming up them and blowing out all or part of your phone system. It happened to us. Someone touched 240 volts to two of our incoming 800 lines. That blew one of our PBX's trunk cards. It cost us $500 to repair the damage. We could have protected ourselves with $40 worth of surge protection inserted into our 66 block.
Lightning strikes can blow most phone systems. But high voltage spikes don't crash phone systems; they just cause them to act funny . They may knock calls off the air. They may ring extensions when there's no one calling. They may send screwy error messages to the console. Make sure your system is backed by AC surge arrestors.
If in doubt, reboot your phone system. Rebooting for your phone system just as it works for your PC.
ASK WHAT THE FEES ARE
Never buy mutual fund from a stockbroker. Buy directly from the fund. Always negotiate the price. Mutual funds charge huge fees ” some upfront, some ongoing and some at the end. Mutual funds kick back ongoing fees to stockbrokers. Basically, most mutual funds don't perform well. My advice: buy your own stocks.
GET MANY EMAIL ADDRESSES
Get many email addresses. Use one for signing to services you're dubious about. Use one to buy things online. Only use your best one for emailing your business acquaintances and family. Getting rid of spam and porn will thus be incredibly easy. Just progressively kill your email addresses. Good idea: Use a second, older PC to receive emails from your "junk" email addresses.
SECOND CREDIT CARDS MAKE HUGE SENSE
Get a second credit card. Use this second credit card for subscribing to services that are difficult to cancel. It's easier to pay off the card and close it down than closing down some services, e.g. AOL.
CHECK YOUR CONSULTANT'S HONESTY
Telecom consultants can be great for checking bills and doing jobs you don't want to. But many are crooks. They may get paid under the table by the vendors whose equipment and services they recommend. There are some ways to check you won't get ripped off:
Ask your consultant which company won his last 10 recommendations. Not any ten, his last ten recommendations. If one vendor keeps popping up, be careful. You may have a "consultant" who's on the take from the vendor. Typical take is 10%.
Ask the three leading telephone equipment vendors in your community if they will bid on a proposal your proposed telephone consultant specifies. If any of the three says he won't, ask why and be very careful.
Don't let your consultant get all the proposals that come in for your phone system without you seeing them also.
Make sure the potential vendors know it's your company they are selling the equipment to. Not the consultant.
Before accepting your consultant's recommendation, check out the approximate cost of a telephone system of the size and complexity you're thinking about. You should know roughly what your system is going to cost you. That way you can see if your consultant's recommended bid is way out of line.
Check out your consultants' qualifications with his last five clients. Call the clients and ask them very specific questions, such as equipment recommended, cost of services, services contracted for, and services performed, etc. Don't ask them one dumb question, like "Were you happy with the consultant?"
Bid out your consulting firm's services as exhaustively as they will bid out a phone system for you.
KEEP YOUR PHONE SYSTEMS COOL
Phone systems, like computers, work better and longer when they're cool. Sadly, most companies hide them away in cramped closets and unventilated rooms.
CABLES ARE ALWAYS BAD
If in doubt, assume the cable is bad, the connections are corroded, you're connected to the wrong plug or you're using the wrong drivers. Electronics, chips and PC cards rarely are bad.
CHECK ALL YOUR LINES ” MORNING AND NIGHT
Check each of your phone lines first thing every day. Check them by dialing in on each line. Check that lines which are meant to hunt, do. Check that no lines in your hunt group are broken and are preventing calls from jumping to the next line. Can your callers get through? Check them again once you put your PBX on night answer. Can you get through with Night Answer?
PREDICTIVE DIALERS ARE RECOMMENDED
Predictive dialers are useful and easy to cost justify. A predictive dialer automatically dials phone numbers fed it by a computer. It paces calls according to agent workload (thus "predictive"). If the number dialed is not answered or gets a busy, the predictive dialer redials that number or another. The idea is to spare agents the agony of dialing and the frustrations of ring-no answer, busy tones, wrong numbers, answering machines, intercept messages, fax machines, etc. The idea is to get as many calls connected as possible and keep the agents busy talking to customers (or whatever) instead of dialing.
HOW TO HIRE A SALESPERSON
Advertise for the person. Ask your respondents to call into your voice mail and leave a two minute explanation of why they want the job. It's easy it is to ferret out suitable candidates.
DON'T LEAVE YOUR BATTERIES CHARGING
Don't leave your nicad batteries charging forever. You'll overcharge them and burn them out.
HOTEL PHONE TIP ” 1. DON'T LET IT RING
If you must dial out of a hotel using "Dial 9," never let the phone ring and ring. Here's a sign we found in one honest hotel, but it applies to many hotel phones: "Charges on all calls begin to accrue after six rings. If you're not connected within six rings, hang up and redial to avoid charges."
HOTEL PHONE TIP ” 2. KEEP USING THE #
If dialing through a hotel to AT&T, MCI or another carrier, use the # button to make multiple calls while you're on the same call. That way you'll save multiple dollar local calls.
EMAIL AS A MARKETING TOOL ” 1. INCOMING EMAILS
Print your customer service email address on all your stationery, business cards, sales literature, etc. Make sure someone is designated to answer incoming emails within the hour, 24 hours a day seven days a week.
EMAIL AS A MARKETING TOOL ” 2. OUTGOING EMAILS
Your customers want to receive emails from you IF they contain offers of interest to them. But only if they contain offers of interest to them.
EMAIL AS A MARKETING TOOL ” 3. BLIND COPIES
Be careful when sending blind copies on your e-Mail. If the person who is blind- copied decides to click "Reply All" and responds, the other recipients of the e-mail will receive the response and may easily deduce that there was a "blind copy-ee" on the e-mail. This could be embarrassing!
BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR PORTABLE DEVICES
2,900 laptops, 1,300 PDAs and over 62,000 mobile phones were left in London's licensed taxi cabs in the six months to August, 2001. That's the only survey I have, but it's pretty indicative of the problem.
FAXING ON PAPER IS DUMB. CALLWAVE IS GREAT.
Receiving faxes on paper is dumb. More than 56% of faxes are junked. The paper and toner waste is huge. Moreover, you can't receive a fax if you're not near your fax machine. Get yourself a free fax number from www.Callwave.com or www.efax.com, which will encode your faxes and instantly send them as an email to wherever you are in the world. I prefer Callwave. Their faxes are easier to read.
PLUGGING INTO OTHERS' WIRED LANs
You want to connect your laptop to someone else's LAN. Right click Network Neighborhood. Scroll down to TC/IP settings. Click once on it. That highlights it. Then click Properties. The easiest way to connect is to highlight "Obtain an IP address automatically." If that doesn't work, you'll need five sets of numbers: an IP Address, a Subnet Mask, a Gateway address and two DNS addresses. You'll get these five numbers from the LAN boss. The Subnet Mask will look like this: 255.255.255.0. All the others will look like this 22.214.171.124. Don't settle for getting fewer than five numbers. You'll likely need them all.
PLUGGING THROUGH A PROXY SERVER
Some LANs connect their users to the Internet through a Proxy Server. One reason for doing this is to control (i.e. limit) access to their Internet. If your company connects through a Proxy Server, you'll need the proxy server's address ” it will look like this 10.10.0.26 ” and you'll need a port number, like 80. You add a proxy server through settings for Internet Explorer: Tools. Internet Options. Connections. LAN Settings. Click on Use a Proxy Server. Then add in the numbers you get from the local LAN boss.
INSTALL PLENTY OF OUTLETS
You can never install sufficient power, phone (RJ-11), data (RJ-45) and coaxial TV outlets in your offices and your home. It's a lot cheaper to fill the walls with cable when the walls are open than after you've closed them, spackled them, painted them and decorated them.
HOW TO WIRE YOUR HOUSE FOR TELECOM
You need a wiring closet ” somewhere clean, dry, ventilated and accessible. It should be large enough to take a small phone system, a cable box or satellite box and a punchdown block (for incoming phone lines and for lines to be distributed around the house).
You need at least two wiring outlets in each room ” they're the same size as the electrical box. You buy modules for data, voice and video. The Siemon company has good stuff. I recommend them. www.homecabling.com.
You need three sets of wiring to every room, including the kitchen:
Category three cabling for phone calls. At least three pairs. Two should be punched down. One is for spare. I recommend using four pairs wired T568A allowing cables to be split outside of the outlet if need be. Also allows up to four phone lines to be wired on the same jack.
Category six cabling for Ethernet data. Should be at least four pairs. Two pairs should be punched down. Two pairs should be kept for spares . (TIA/EIA 570A Standard recommends Category 5e cabling, and also that all 4 pairs be terminated allowing 10Base-T to 100Base-T to operate over cable)
Three wires of 75 OHM standard coaxial cable. One wire is for DirectTV, local CATV or distribution from a central video server. One wire is for a cable modem. One wire is spare.
All wiring should be home run from the wiring closet to the various rooms. We do NOT want loop wiring. This wiring does not need to be punched down entirely. It needs to be run into the walls - before they are closed. It is much too expensive to run cabling after walls are closed. When in doubt, run more and better cabling. When running cables that are not terminated make sure to leave enough slack for future re-location within the same room.
There are safety devices which sit on your phone or computer room floor. If they sense water, they will squeal for hours. Highly recommended. One maker, Dorlen Products. 414- 282-4840. www.Dorlen.com.
YOUR EMAIL ON THE INTERNET
When buying anything on the Internet, make sure you uncheck the boxes that say "Please notify me of updates and specials." That way you keep off their spam list.
CHECK FOR BAD TRUNKS
Always run a trunk summary report from your call data recorder (CDR) at the end of each week. You will be able to spot any outgoing trunk malfunctions (no traffic). One bad trunk could mess up an entire hunt group and thoroughly degrade your incoming trunks, thus messing up your service to your poor customers.
LOCK YOUR SWITCHROOM
Elementary security will stop most casual thieves. Lock your switchroom. Put different locks on your PBX's cabinets . The original installers still have keys. The factory-installed keys are the same on all the cabinets they ship. Change your programming passwords from Admin.
NEGOTIATE YELLOW PAGE ADVERTISING
Don't hesitate to negotiate price on your yellow pages advertising. It's not tariffed. No one oversees the pricing. The price is flexible. When you sign up for a yellow pages ad, find out if you are paying a special promotional price which will jump in the second year. If you are, you may not want to make a big investment in artwork which may not be used if you decide to reduce the size of your ad next year. Remember, more and more people are now going on-line to search the yellow pages, so these people may never see your ad. On the other hand, there are some neat deals with the on-line yellow page providers. Sadly, there are many of them. Check out Google, which now provides a much better alternative to yellow page listing.;
WANT THE PHONE NUMBER YOU'RE CALLING FROM?
Call your cell phone. Or dial 958 in New York. Dial 114 in some parts of California. There's a similar number in most cities. Wait a few seconds for the switch to tell you your calling number. Call 700-555-4141 to find out the name of the carrier your phone is equal accessed to.
STOP BROKER CALLS
To get off junk phone call lists, write a letter "Requesting DMI and directory exclusion" as per general instruction 5G-12 to
Dun & Bradstreet Corporate Headquarters One Diamond Hill Road Murray Hill, NJ 07974-1218
FAKE TELEX, FAX AND BUSINESS DIRECTORIES
One big scam in the phone business is sending companies an invoice for an appearance in a fax, telex or businesses directory that is never published. The "bill" often comes from Europe, often from Switzerland.
DIRECTORY ASSISTANCE HAS BECOME OUTRAGEOUS
Public Utilities Commissions now allow most local telephone companies to offer both local and long distance Directory Assistance by dialing 411. In California, when you dial 411 and ask for a local number - Pac Bell charges 46. When you dial 411 and ask for a long distance number - PacBell charges $1.10. Charges vary by state, but can be up to $1.95 for local or long distance numbers.
Check your Long Distance Telephone Bills. When you dial XXX-555-1212 and ask for a long distance number - your long distance carrier charges you up to $1.99. MCI just announced a rate increase to $2.49!
All state rates are different and IXC rates vary widely, so the only way to know what you are spending is to look carefully at both your local phone bill and your long distance bill! Look carefully, the charges are not easy to find.
USE OLD PHONE WIRE?
Sometimes you move into a new space and find old phone wiring. "Don't worry," says the landlord, "you can save money by re-using all that wonderful wire that's already in the walls." Don't believe him. Go for new wiring.
PLAN FOR NETWORK FAILURE NOW
Make sure you have some plan for network failure. Each of the major long distance companies ” AT&T, MCI and Sprint ” will suffer major network failures. Never exclusively use one carrier. But be careful. Even though you're using multiple vendors, you may find they're all riding on the same cables they have leased from the same local vendor, namely your local phone company. Better: see if you can negotiate service from multiple central offices and have the wires come into your building from different directions.
HOW TO GET A HOTEL ROOM
When a convention tries to tie up all the hotels in the town and charge too much per room, call Ready Reservations ” 1-800-999-9144. Hotels have more room rates than airlines have prices. These days talk to the reservation clerk at the hotel, ask for cheap prices. Ask for rates for AARP, AAA, airlines, AT&T, etc.
BELONG TO AAA
Belong to AAA (Triple A). You get 10% discounts on Amtrak and as much as 30% on hotels. One reader writes "AAA gets you all kinds of discounts you never think of. I now routinely ask anywhere I go traveling. I've got discounts at museums, cinemas, even Disney, although you now have to go to the AAA office in Kissimee to buy discounted tickets to Disney. My wife feels embarrassed when we travel because after I ask for the price, the next thing I ask for is what is the AAA discounted price?. You'll be surprised on the answer."
RADIO OVER THE INTERNET IS GREAT
Find it and dozens of Internet radio stations on http://windowsmedia.com/radiotuner/MyRadio.asp.
SEARCH BY AUTHOR. IT'S EASIEST
Looking for an article on the web site of the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, etc.? It's often more reliable to search by author. I always search by author first.
GET BETTER DEAL ON A CAR
The Internet is a great place to check out the best place to buy your next car. Start with www.AutoBuyTel.com. My son saved over 10% on his latest car.
INSTALL SCANMAIL ON YOUR CORPORATE EMAIL
Your corporate email needs virus protection. A great program is ScanMail for Microsoft Exchange. ScanMail checks mail for viruses and disposes of them before they can wreak havoc. www.AntiVirus.com.
A GREAT TELECOM EQUIPMENT CATALOG
Want an inline adapter that connects one handset cord to another? Want a secret butt-set? What about sharing phone lines between phones and modems? Mike Sandman runs a unique direct mail operation that specializes in hard to find tools, test equipment, telephone repair parts and the training needed to use these products. Highly recommended. Mike Sandman. www.Sandman.com. 630-980-7710.
STAY HEALTHY. HERE'S THE BEST INFO ON THE WEB
You are your own best doctor. Well, not really. But knowledge is comforting and a great supplement to visiting a doctor. For example, you get to ask the right questions. The best health sites on the web are www.HealthScout.com, www.InteliHealth.com; www.MedicineNet.com, www.MerckHomeEdition.com, www.WedMd.com and http://Consumer.pdr.net.
HOW TO TRUMP BACK PAIN
The principle to keep in mind is that movement trumps back pain. Stretching and exercising will do more to keep your back pain-free than all the painkillers in the pharmacy.
CHECK. CHECK. CHECK.
IBM had THINK as its corporate motto. I have CHECK. It means to check everything. It means to check that your pharmacist gave you the right pills. It means to check that all your phone lines work. It means checking that you're not being overcharged on your phone bills. It means checking the accuracy of each of my definitions. It means checking that I'm going to the right airport. It means checking everything in your daily life.
LOOKING FOR PHONE NUMBERS?
Looking for phone numbers of people or companies? The Web has many sites that will give numbers. Some will also let you do reverse lookups ” you type the phone number; it tells you who owns it. The sites vary in quality. There is no "best one." Check several. Good web sites are www.AnyWho.com, www.TheUltimates.com, www.BigYellow.com, www.SuperPages.com, www.WhoWhere.com, www.SuperPages.com, www.WhitePages.com and www.freeality.com.
WHO OWNS A WEB SITE?
To find out who owns a web site, go to www.netsol.com/cgi-bin/whois/whois. It's also a fine way to find out contact information on a company which doesn't list anything on its web site. It will give you an address, a phone number and an email address.
HOW TO FIND DRIVERS FOR OLD HARDWARE
Go to the manufacturer's site.
Go to the site of the manufacturer which bought your manufacturer.
Go to www.Gnutella.com.
eBAY CAN SAVE MONEY
eBay now carries a remarkable amount of telephone systems, networking and computing equipment. Best eBay bidding tip: Wait five minutes before the end of the auction to put in your bid. Watch for sellers who don't have a record, who are selling product at ridiculous prices and worse, who are based overseas. Best trick: Ask them to send the product by Fedex Collect. Have a bank check ready.
RECORD A PHONE CONVERSATION
Can you record a telephone conversation? Yes...but it is common courtesy to let the person on the other end of the line know you'll be recording. You may have heard you need to sound a beep-tone every 15 seconds or so. That is not necessary. Verbal notification at the beginning of the taped conversation should be adequate. Local regulations vary, so you should check with your local public service commission.
PBX DIGITAL EXTENSIONS CAN HARM
Digital PBX extensions work on much higher electrical voltage than normal analog lines. These high-voltage lines may damage your laptop's modem. Is the phone line is digital? Check underneath the phone. If it "complies with part 68, FCC Rules" and has a Ringer Equivalence Number (REN), the phone is analog.
YOU MUST INSTALL TELEMANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
Telemanagement software is a no-brainer for any corporation. The full suite of software includes call accounting, cost allocation, bill reconciliation, traffic analysis, network optimization, inventory management, cable and wire management, work order management, trouble ticket management and directory management.
Telemanagement software works with any PBX, or with multiple PBXs in a multi-site enterprise. It can save a ton of money, since it helps you manage network assets that cost a ton of money. Call accounting and cost allocation are the applications on which most companies focus first because they yield immediate hard-dollar savings. Call accounting lets you run reports, either scheduled or on demand, that identify toll fraud and toll abuse...and stop it. Cost allocation lets you identify which individuals, work groups, divisions or other cost centers are costing you the most.
If those costs are out of line, you now have the information to bring them back under control. You can charge those costs against departmental budgets . You can bill clients for the costs you incur working on their project. ” Ray Horak.
BEST STOCK MARKET ADVICE ” 1
Never buy anything without placing a 15% stop loss order. When your stock rises (some do), lift your stop loss order. With stop loss orders, you lock in your gains and you limit your losses and bring some discipline to your investing.
BEST STOCK MARKET ADVICE ” 2
Bad news always follows bad news. Or said another way, the first bad news is not the last bad news. I call this my Cockroach Theory. Once you find one cockroach, you know you'll find more ” though it may take days.
BEST STOCK MARKET ADVICE ” 3
Management, management, management should be the investors' main slogan, just as location, location and location is the real estate industry's slogan .
BEST STOCK MARKET ADVICE ” 4
Wall Street's advice stinks. With rare exceptions, Wall Street's analysts, strategists and money managers (etc.) are salespeople, not analysts. Their job is to sell the stocks they recommend.
BEST STOCK MARKET ADVICE ” 5
Todd Kingsley is my broker with Smith Barney in Washington, D.C. (202-857-5459) who always wanted to be a financial journalist . His best tips:
Every day your portfolio is cash. If you wouldn't buy a specific company at today's price (assuming tax issues) than you should not own it. Every day you own a stock it's as if you bought it that day! You must ask yourself "Would I buy this company today with fresh money?"
When the reason you bought a company (i.e. good earnings, takeover speculation, good momentum) ceases to exist, get out. Do not hang around on a prayer.
Better to be wrong and OUT than wrong and IN."
If you stick to 15% stop losses you will NEVER average down. Or conversely, never catch a falling knife . Don't keep buying companies till they become penny stocks.
Look at the charts . they don't lie!
When an investment sounds too good to be true, it is.
Diversify. Diversify. Diversify.
Don't ever buy on margin.
YOUR HARD DISK SHOULD BE THROWN OUT
Hard disks should be thrown out once a year. Hard disks are mechanical devices that wear out. Before yours wears out completely, clone it and then throw it out, or keep it as a remote backup.
SOME INVOICES ARE NOT INVOICES
Many organizations send "invoices" that aren't invoices. They're solicitations. But they look like invoices. They usually come from newsletter publishers or phone directory or telex publishers. Often they come from overseas. Be careful. Don't pay them.
PUT YOUR WALLET ON YOUR PHOTOCOPIER
Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine and copy both sides of each license, credit cards, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel, in case your wallet is lost or worse, stolen.
If your wallet gets stolen, cancel your credit cards immediately. The key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen, This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).
But here's what is perhaps most important: Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and social security number. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves' purchases.
The numbers are:
+ Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
+ Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
+ Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
+ Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271
GET AN 800 FAX NUMBER FOR INCOMING ORDERS
Many companies take orders via fax. It's easy to get connect your fax machine to an 800 line or two. That way you'll give your customers a greater incentive to reach you.
THE SQUEAKY WHEEL WORKS BEST
When things go awry, the squeaky wheel gets the most attention.
DON'T EVER GIVE YOUR REAL EMAIL ADDRESS OUT
Get yourself at least two email addresses ” your real one and others for giving out on the web and elsewhere. Answer your real email address on your real PC. Answer your other email addresses on another spare PC. This way you automatically prioritize your emails ” just glancing at the unimportant messages.
TRAVELING FOR A TIME?
Spending a week or two in a nice resort? Call the local phone company up early and see if they have "guest dial-up Internet service." It won't be as fast as at your office. But it will probably work on a local number and consist of unlimited usage. When I wrote this I was in Hilton Head, North Carolina. The local phone company is providing me a guest Internet account for $15 a week ” unlimited Internet access and accessible via a local phone line where all local calls are free. If you're staying a week or longer, it may even be cheaper to install your own phone line. I did this once in a hotel. It proved much cheaper and more convenient than using the hotel's system. I even installed my own portable answering machine.
CHECK CHECK CHECK
I ordered Internet service at the vacation resort. It didn't work when I got there. The password and userID were all in upper case. CHECK. I didn't ask if my money manager charged 1% for managing cash on which I was earning 1.75%. He did. CHECK. I bought 512 megs of RAM for new laptop. Half of it never worked. The motherboard was broken. CHECK.
WHAT'S THE TIME NOW?
What's the time in your location? www.TheTimeNow.com
This one is self-serving. Make sure your people are informed. Buy each one of them a copy of this book. Buy each one of them a copy of Ray Horak's "Communications Systems & Networks." Send them to one of Ray Horak's telecommunications seminars . Better, bring Horak in-house.
UPDATE ON DOLLAR SAVINGS TIPS
For an update on and for more of these tips, please visit my investing web site, www.TechnologyInvestor.com.