The Gebesse Blog

Thoughts from the world of technology and business

Gebesse Newsletter – June 2014

The reason that there have been no Weekly Buzz emails for a few weeks is that I have been busy working on three books. The first is a rerelease of a book I wrote for Choice Books (part of the Australian Consumers Association), published in 1997 (and rumoured to be the best selling non-fiction book in Australia that year). It was called How To Connect To The Internet, and was a guide to the Internet for people who wanted to know what this new thing was all about and how useful it could be to them. (It was written in late 1996, three years after the invention of the World Wide Web and seven years after the first Internet connection between Australia and the rest of the world.) Obviously a lot of it is out of date, but it is still a useful historical record of what things were like when something we now take for granted was a novelty. Some of it is still relevant today, because some things never change. You can see more here.

The second book is a collection of articles I’ve written for various publications and talks I’ve given over the last few years. The first volume covers the period 1999 to 2003 and will be launched at a conference in Brisbane on July 19. It will be sold through Amazon as a Kindle ebook and also available as PDF file. It doesn’t have much to do with IT or business (although there are some IT related chapters), but not everything should be work-related.

The third book will be released later in the year and draws on my experience in IT management, consulting, and contracting over a few decades. Rather than telling people how to be good managers it contains many examples of bad or thoughtless management that I’ve observed, been affected by, or had to endure over my working life. It’s a handbook of what not to do, although many of the companies where the things happened were successful despite the failings of some quite senior executives. I spent a couple of years at graduate management school where lecturers talked about how to do things right. This book is about doing things wrong.

After many years I have stopped accepting credit cards, and all credit card payments will now be processed through PayPal. I had been considering this for some time, but the trigger was when I was about to move house and realised that the only reason I had a fixed telephone line was so that I could plug in the credit card terminal. By cancelling the merchant facility I save about $80 each month in bank fees and phone costs. Other advantages are that I can create and email invoices directly from my phone or tablet, and I no longer need to see any client’s credit card details. Apart from the inconvenience of having to manually enter the card number and security code into the terminal I was always uncomfortable with the privacy and security implications of transmitting and possessing credit card details. The information is encrypted while being transmitted but it had to eventually end up in a human-readable form on a computer and be stored with accounting records. It’s information I neither need nor want, and I am glad I don’t have to deal with it any more. PayPal charge a slightly higher commission than banks on credit cars transactions, but the extra cost is justified by increased efficiency and security.

At present the process is fully automated for credit card purchases from the Gebesse shop where the sale has a fixed price (search engine optimisation, training courses, and annual support plans) but still requires a manual step for purchases where the total price needs calculating (various combinations and quantities of Act!). Hopefully the entire process can be automated in the near future.

From the blog
Apart from an announcement about the rerelease of the Internet book there has only been one new article on the Gebesse blog since last month. It is relevant to the piece above because it mentions how a bank would not provide me with the credit card merchant facilities that I required and charged me money not to give them to me. It’s “Banks! How we love to hate them. And why.”. There is also a revision of a piece from last year, “My mobile office”, which needed updating because what I carry has been changed. (See item below.)

The latest technology
I used to have two portable computers which recently became an example of Murphy’s Law by dying at almost the same time. One developed an intermittent stopping problem and the other received a catastrophic drenching with beer when a clumsy person came near it just before I was about to give a presentation in a hotel dining room. (It worked for the PowerPoint show, but never recovered after it dried out.) In both cases the cost of repair exceed the cost of replacing the machine. Both were replaced by a single laptop. As an indication of progress in computers, the new machine weighs 100 grams more than the little netbook but is at least twice as fast and has four times the disk capacity; its speed is comparable to the old laptop, it weighs well under half the weight, and again has much more disk space. The price of the new machine was a little less than I paid for the netbook and one sixth of the price of the laptop five years ago (and I got a good deal on that because it was the last one in stock and I bought it wholesale). I’m fully mobile again.

Speeding up your computer
I see a lot of computers where users have files stored on their desktops, usually things like PDF files, Excel spreadsheets, and Word documents. While it’s handy to have all the things you use regularly available at the click of a mouse there are at least three problems in doing this.

  1. The desktop screen becomes a disorganised mess, so any time you save by having the files there can be lost by having to search for the links
  2. If you are on a network these files will not be being backed up, and even if you backup your local machine you might not be taking a copy of files in the Desktop folder.
  3. Everything on the desktop is held in RAM at all times, making the machine slower to boot and reducing the RAM available for running programs.

Here’s what you should do:

  1. Create a logical collection of folders in a location where they will be picked up in your regular backup. You might have folders for regular reports, price lists, and so on.
  2. Move the files from your desktop folder to the relevant places.
  3. Create shortcuts to these folders and put the shortcuts on your desktop.

The aim is to have nothing but shortcuts on the desktop screen.

Another thing worth considering is the size of the image file used for your screen wallpaper. Its dimensions should not exceed the screen resolution. As an example, I am currently using an image from the Astronomy Picture of the Day site. By resizing and cropping it to 1920 x 1080 pixels I reduced the size by about three quarters.

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