Communication Expressway Ezine

Judy Vorfeld's Communication Expressway Issue 3

 February 2002 - Issue 3



  INTRO


* THE JANUARY WINNER of Janet Attard's "The Home Office and Small Business Answer Book" is subscriber Bonnie White, Greenbrier, TN, USA. Congratulations, Bonnie! Want a chance to win the book? Go to www.ossweb.com/freebook.html

Take a look in the "Free Stuff" area below. We're giving away more goodies in addition to the book.

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  SURVEY RESULTS


RESULTS FROM THE JANUARY SURVEY reveal that receiving a baffling e-mail message (what is a kist?) has people going in different directions. Twenty-five percent would head for the dictionary, 16.7% would contact a colleague for the definition, 33.3% would respond, asking for a definition, 16.7% would respond and say, "When do you need it?" and 8.3 would check with a librarian.

IN THE NEXT SURVEY I ask which e-mail program you use, and how effective it is in filling your e-mail business needs. Let's open up discussion on the ways we can tighten up our business by the use of e-mail. Go here to express your opinion (kept confidential!): www.ossweb.com/survey3.html

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  INTERVIEW


CHOOSING A WEB HOST: PART 3
WHY MOST HOSTS PREFER TRANQUIL SITES
Interview with Will Bontrager

Q. Some people want sites based on "x" megs of space and "x" gigs of traffic. What's the difference?

A. Space refers to how much total space your files take up on the server. Traffic (in this case) refers to the total bytes that was sent to browsers. (Usually, the bytes of traffic are identical to the size of the file sent to browsers multiplied by the number of times the file was sent.) Sometimes traffic is expressed as "# per day" and sometimes as "# per month." If measured, it must be measured within a specific time period.

A gigabyte is just a tad over a thousand megabytes, I think. So if all the files of your site, HTML and images and every other file that makes up your public site, is 10 mg total and if every file is sent to browsers 1000 times in one day, then you have had 10 gigs of traffic during that day.

In practice, some files are sent to browsers more often than others. Large image, sound, or multi-media files can take up a lot of space on the server. Those same files, if they're sent to browsers very often, add to a lot of your traffic. But if they're rarely sent to browsers, they take up server space but don't significantly affect your traffic.

There is a third item that hosting companies watch: CPU usage. CPU is the computer's processing unit, the processor from Motorola or Intel or other manufacture inside every computer. CPU usage is a measurement of the amount of time the processing unit is used.

This is a critical measurement for hosting companies because installing bigger hard drives or getting more telephone lines will not provide more CPU. There's only so much of it available in each server, and no more, like there are only 24 hours in a day.

If your site happens to be on a slow server, it could be your internet connection or heavy internet traffic. But more likely it is a shortage of CPU on the server itself. This happens when a hosting company puts too many internet sites on the same server or when one/several sites on the server require a lot of CPU.

HTML web pages and images require very little CPU, so little that it's often not measured. However, sending content to browsers that requires running a program on the server can, depending on the program, be CPU intensive. These include RealAudio, ASP, PHP, and other technologies.

I am a CGI professional, so I'll use CGI programs as examples.

If the CGI program is written with Perl, a Perl compiler/interpreter must be launched every time the Perl script is launched. The compiler /interpreter is necessary in order to translate and run the plain text script. (An exception would be if your hosting company provided and you used mod_perl, a system that allows the compiler/interpreter and your script to remain in memory even while they're not being used.)

The compiler/interpreter might take a second to launch. This shouldn't be significant unless you run thousands of Perl scripts every day.

With Perl, the scripts are the wild variables. Some, probably most, do their job and quit within a second or two, or even a fraction of a second. Again, this can become significant if your script runs thousands of times a day.

Some scripts run for many minutes at a time. These use a lot of CPU. An example is a list server that is doing a mailing. (Note: some hosting companies configure their servers so scripts running longer than a set amount of time are automatically killed -- made to quit and kicked out of memory.)

If you're only moderately successful and your site doesn't require a lot of CPU intensive content delivery, then this is not something you should have to take into consideration. However, if you become wildly successful, then watch out.

We have had two clients, each with a different hosting company, experience high success and being forced off their servers. In one case, the client was given 24 hours to move either to a dedicated server leased from the hosting company or to a different hosting company altogether. This was a "survival" site (with some focus on the upcoming year 2000); it didn't have many individual CGI scripts but did have a lot of traffic so the scripts got much use. The other client's site was a URL redirection site, had lots of CGI, and experienced sudden success. This site received a week's notice, but otherwise the same options as the first.

You see, with several hundred relatively tranquil sites on one server, when yours suddenly becomes successful and uses most of the available CPU, then 199 customers are mad at the hosting company. So the hosting company has to get rid of you in order to please the others.

You'll almost always find some reference to CPU usage or server resources in hosting companies' terms of service or other documents they say you are bound to, even hosting companies who boast unlimited traffic and gazillions of megabytes of disk space. Sometimes it's hidden away, but it's almost always there somewhere.

Hosting companies rarely admit it, but they like tranquil sites. That's where their money is. Your money, however, probably depends on an active site.

So be aware that when you become successful, your hosting company will probably require you to do something to accommodate your higher CPU requirements.

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  THE OFFICE CORNER


1. LOOKING FOR A SPECIFIC FONT? Try these sites:
www.creativepro.com/fontsearch/results
www.fontpool.com

2. PROBLEMS WITH WINDOWS? Try Annoyances.org
Collection of information assembled for and by actual users of Microsoft Windows. www.annoyances.org

3. U.S. BLUE PAGES gives you access to a federally funded directory with links to a host of government agencies and federal services. www.usbluepages.gov

4. SYMBOLS.com: Enormous online encyclopedia of graphic symbols. Contains more than 2,500 Western signs, arranged into 54 groups according to their graphic characteristics. In 1,600 articles their histories, uses, and meanings are thoroughly discussed. Full of scientific symbols. A site to bookmark. www.symbols.com

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  FREE STUFF


FREE BOOK! Subscribers are eligible to sign up to win a free copy of "The Home Office and Small Business Answer Book: Solutions to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running Home Offices and Small Businesses" by Janet Attard. Sign up once a month at www.ossweb.com/freebook.html - Winners announced here!

FREE BUSINESS CARD CASE MADE OF CIRCUIT BOARD Reena Kazmann, owner of Eco-Artware Earth Friendly Designs, will contribute a card holder manufactured by "Motherboard." This attractive, unique case will be given to the February runner-up for the Free Book Drawing.
http://www.eco-artware.com/

FREE DICTIONARY! Webgrammar offers all site visitors the chance to win a free Webster's dictionary, monthly. Sign up! www.webgrammar.com/contest.html

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  GRAMMAR QUESTION OF THE MONTH


Q. When--in sentences--do I use commas to set off the year?

A. AP Stylebook says that if you're using just a month and a year, don't use a comma to separate the year (January 1972 was a cold month). When a phrase has the month, day, and year, set off the year with commas (February 14, 1987, was the target date.).

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 TECH TIPS BY CLAUDIA SLATE - EMERGENCY INTERNET
 ACCESS


Q. What do I do if my Internet Service Provider service temporarily goes down? By this, I mean over two-four hours.

A. I live in a rural area where the choices for Internet connection are currently none. The local telco provides the only service available without a long distance call. Satellite, when it becomes reliable, will be our only hope for an increase in speed.

One evening last year I completed a chat with a virtual associate in Singapore. We were collaborating on a project, and I promised to zip and forward some files to her so she could work on them overnight. I zipped, attached the file to an e-mail message, and hit "send." Nothing happened. I went to the configuration screen for the LAN modem I use and hit the manual dial. It dialed and dialed. No connect.

I called the ISP's tech support line. Seemed a cable had been cut. They didn't know when it would be back up, but it would be hours. I called an associate in New York, who emailed the poor soul in Singapore and told her the files wouldn't be coming, at least not that night.

I was lucky. It was not a rush job. But it made me realize that I needed a backup. So I went a hunting. Just as I decided my options were NetZero and NetZero, I read about a new company in one of my newsletters. SlingShot.com - perfect solution for my needs.

So what is Slingshot? It's prepaid Internet access on a CD you can buy at many retail stores. No credit cards, no membership, no monthly bills, and no personal information required. It costs about $10 for 600 minutes of local access or 120 minutes if you use one of the toll-free numbers. Slingshot works pretty much like the pre-paid long distance phone cards. You buy one and then use the minutes as you need them. You can buy "recharge cards" at the same retail outlets that sell SlingShot or buy them online at the Slingshot site, (www.slingshot.com).

Generally when I travel, I stay with people who have Internet access, and I'm able to borrow their ISP info to get to my email at no additional charge. And most of the time, if I'm at a motel or on my own in another town or city, my phone card and an LD call will get me to my own ISP and the Internet as cheaply or cheaper than Slingshot can.

Still, I feel more comfortable both at home and on the road with that little program loaded in my desktop and laptop. When you business is mostly done in cyberspace, you have to have a vehicle to get you onto that highway. And like data backups, a little redundancy is seldom a bad thing.

One more short note. When I went into a Staples store to purchase my first SlingShot CD, the salesman was clueless. However, I talked him into asking a supervisor, and they found the CDs locked up in a back room. I have not been in a Staples since then so they may have signs or a display now. But if they don't, be sure you ask.

Claudia Slate
Dakota Technics
clslate@dakotatechnics.com
www.dakotatechnics.com

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  TECH CORNER


1. FIGHTING DESIGNER'S BLOCK? Visit CoolHomePages.com Design Academy, where you'll find tutorials for Web color, kerning, and The 10 (or so) Commandments of Web Design.
www.coolhomepages.com

2. HOW CACHING WORKS Caching greatly increases the speed of data retrieval from a computer's memory. Find out why a little cache goes a really long way!
www.howstuffworks.com/cache.htm

3. PROBLEMS WITH INSTALLATIONS IN WINDOWS? Try Karen's Troubleshooting Tips. Karen Kenworthy has written for Windows Magazine and Winmag.com for almost a decade. Try her free Power Tools newsletter. It offers tips, advice and insights into the world of computing.
www.karenware.com/powertools/trouble.html

4. BRAIN JAR Experiments in Web Programming by Mike Hall. Features technical articles, tutorials and examples of programming for the web. It's not intended as a "cut and paste" site but a learning resource.
www.brainjar.com

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  WRITING CORNER


1. WANT YOUR WORDS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE? WordBiz, by Debbie Weil, is chock full of ideas. She also publishes a dandy twice-monthly e-zine with practical writing tips. www.wordbiz.com

2. BUSINESS WRITER'S FREE LIBRARY
www.mapnp.org/library/commskls/cmm_writ.htm

3. FAGAN FINDER Research site by high school student Michael Fagan. www.FaganFinder.com

4. FUNDAMENTALS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION Rice Writing Lab has two powerful sections: Writing in School Vs. Writing at Work and Steps In Designing Effective Business Documents www.ruf.rice.edu/~riceowl/301S1A1.html

5. SECRETS FOR KEEPING YOUR VISITORS LONGER If you create newsletters, e-zines, or work on Web sites, these articles by John Counsel are a MUST! www.profitclinic.com/viscom.html

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  TRIVIA


1. CLASSBRAIN STATE REPORTS History and statistics; books, symbols & emblems, state maps, and official state sites. Resources include the Library of Congress and cover all 50 states. Great for kids' homework, but also good for business people. Templates of state flags, flowers, map, bird, etc. http://classbrain.com/cb_sr/cb_srhm.htm

2. SEARCH SYSTEMS Over 6115 Free Searchable Public Record Databases. http://www.pac-info.com * Recommended by Laurie Millane, Millane Virtual Assistants

3. EASTER EGG Want to win a $25 gift certificate to Amazon.com? This isn't a recommendation for another site: it's a test to see who's digging in and reading THIS e-zine. Send an e-mail to easteregg@ossweb.com. I'll reward a reader at random, just for reading Communication Expressway!

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  WORD OF THE MONTH: RISK


My friend and colleague, Lucia Fort, of www.artontiles.com recently had an experience in risking. She calls it the "Shark Attack":

One of our clients loved to relax by scuba diving and taking pictures of sharks. He decided to incorporate his hobby into his everyday life. He contacted us and said he wanted a fireplace with hand-painted tiles that had a shark theme.

He sent us pictures he had taken while scuba diving. The incredible photos of these beautiful, mesmerizing creatures inspired us to design the tiles for his fireplace.

When we get requests for kitchen, bath or fireplace projects from our clients, we're usually asked to do conventional designs such as fruits, flowers or simple borders. Although this project was a bit unconventional, I've learned that the more challenging the project, the greater the rewards.

Here was someone with a passionate hobby who incorporated it into a project that touched his everyday life. Anyone else with a hobby can do the same. Are you afraid to do something a little unconventional? Sometimes we need to take risks to end up with something unexpectedly better. He and I both took risks, and are pleased with the results.

Find shark artwork at: www.artontiles.com/email_1_02.html and www.artontiles.com/sharks.html

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  RECOMMENDATIONS


NEWBIE CLUB: Good site and e-zine for people new to the Internet. http://newbieclub.com

WILLMASTER POSSIBILITIES E-ZINE
You've been reading articles by Will Bontrager. Did you know that he publishes one of the best e-zines on the Internet? What's in it for you? He says it best: "The intermittent software discounts offered only to subscribers of WillMaster Possibilities, the several handy script generators in the Subscribers Only area, and the ezine content itself, offer plenty of reasons..." It's weekly, and text only. Subscribe: subscribe-possibilities@willmaster.com

ARCHIVES FOR ALL COMMUNICATION EXPRESSWAY ISSUES
http://www.ossweb.com/ezine-archive-index.html

Questions, comments, recommendations?
Contact Judy Vorfeld at www.ossweb.com.contact.html

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