Get Off The Upgrade Train!

It is extremely costly to live on the cutting edge of technology. If you are an “early adopter”, chances are you paid top dollar for the latest device or software. The latest Android smart phones or iPhone, while not terribly expensive up front, around $200, they will cost you thousands of dollars over the next two years in data charges. Tablets, laptops, video game systems all have similar economic models associated with them. Cheap console, expensive games. Sleek laptop, non-upgradeable video card and limited memory. Likewise with software, companies that produce software are constantly creating new features and versions to get you to upgrade to the latest and greatest. And often they produce incompatibilities with older versions of software to almost guarantee an upgrade fee.

My solution for most of you reading this is to “Get off the upgrade train!” What I suggest for most individuals is treating their computer or device like a time capsule. Unless you’re working with others and sharing files back and forth, the software that you’re using right now is probably just fine. New software brings along with it higher memory, processor and space requirements that the older computer you are currently using may not be able to handle. That new OS, while cooler looking with its whiz bang widgets and it’s shiny plasticized icons, will almost certainly make your three-year old computer seem slow and antiquated. In the future there may be software that you need to run as part of your business or that will just plain make your life much easier. By all means get that software, but run it on new hardware and upgrade the whole experience.

I have an example of this from my own life. As I write this I am using a Pentium 4, 1.8Ghz system with 1GB of memory, running Windows 2000. *Gasp!* What can’t I do on this system that I can do on a newer system? Nothing. The system and the software go together, both forged in the early 21st century. I also have Office 2000 on this system. *Gasp!* It has worked perfectly well for every project that I’ve had in the last 11 years. And truthfully the features that I use today are not much different from when I started using it. How many feature do you/I actually need? I’m guessing not that many. Most people only us a small subset of their software’s capabilities anyway.

There is a time and place for upgrading though. Just today we upgraded a couple of seats to Office 2007. That’s right, a five-year old version of the Microsoft Office product. Why? First, it was what the client was using and second it was dirt cheap. How about $69.99 for Office 2007 Standard? Good deal. Not the latest and greatest. And this comes to my second point.

When you do think about upgrading your software, look for the bargains. The equivalent latest version, Microsoft Office Home and Business 2010, is currently $219.99 on Amazon. for the full disk based version. That’s a savings of $150 by buying one version behind the latest. Upgraded software and functionality without breaking the bank. Remember though, without an external catalyst, we wouldn’t be upgrading at all.  I give my 13 year-old son the same advice when he is looking at the latest first person shooter to run on his laptop.  Usually the requirements for the game are greater than what he has.  Those titles are often a third, fourth or fifth release of the game.  Well, guess what? There are multiple older version of those games, that he hasn’t played either, that are plenty playable on his system.  And, they are in the dollar bin at Fry’s.

There will be a day, in the future, that you will need to upgrade your computer.  It’s inevitable.  You could upgrade your current computer to run the next operating system or that new game, but there will come a day that you can’t do that anymore.  The technology will have changed and you can’t upgrade.  If you “Get off the upgrade train”, the money that you saved by not chasing the tail of technology will, in all likelihood , get you a long way toward buying that new piece of tech when it is time.

Saying Goodbye to The Podcast Studio

It’s time to say goodbye to The Podcast Studio.

The Podcast Studio was the place that I started blogging about podcasting. I would write-up reviews of gear that you might use in the production of your podcast, highlight podcasts that I found particularly interesting and post some podcasting news once in a while. Over the last year I attempted to create a podcast network of shows using The Podcast Studio as the all-encompassing site. The shows have been fun, but the desire to put them under one large umbrella entity has waned.  And recently, last night actually, I received an email from my web hosting company, Webfaction, that the site is causing problems on the shared server that it lives on. It’s understandable, but that is the last straw. The Podcast Studio will cease to exist.

I’m currently migrating some of that content over to this website, particularly the Podcast Seminar series of posts as well as the Virtual Podcast Seminar eBook. Most of the podcast audio content is found on other sites now, so there’s no reason to keep it around.

In a matter of hours or days the domain name will forward back to this site.

Goodbye Podcast Studio!

Why Your Home Theater is Better Than a Movie Theater

A great presentation on why choosing to stay home and watch a movie on your big screen is a superior experience. I would add in the ability to pause for bathroom breaks.

Why Movie Theaters Suck


How to Block Cellphone Spam

I’ve been getting quite a bit of text message spam lately. Strange messages show up on my cell phone telling me how to get my horoscope or how to make $100/day by being an undercover shopper. How do you stop it?

You could do what the messages say and reply “STOP” or “NO” to the message. This goes against the common knowledge that you shouldn’t reply to email spam. The idea being that you’ve just told them that the email address that they have is indeed a good address. This seems only logical for text spam as well. And, while email spam doesn’t cost you anything, except time, the text message does cost you money out-of-pocket.

A quick search on the Internets found the article below by David Pogue of the New York Times. Here’s what he found out for AT&T, my carrier:

AT&T: Log in at Under Preferences, you’ll see the text-blocking and alias options. Here’s also where you can block messages from specific e-mail addresses or Web sites.

Funny that when I called AT&T that they didn’t give me this information.  They said there was nothing that I could do to stop the messages.  The article is from three years ago, but for AT&T the instruction were still correct.  We’ll see if the messages stop, but at least I’ve been proactive about stopping it.

How to Block Cellphone Spam –

Google Apps for Free

If you’re a small business and are using the email service that comes with your Internet connection, you’re doing it wrong.  Heaven forbid you’re using AOL or Yahoo as your email provider.  At a bare minimum you should have a personalized email address with your company’s domain name.  For example, I have the domain name  When I give out my email address, it has my username, russ, along with my domain name.  It’s much easier to remember than some obscure username at some local ISP’s domain name.

If you’re thinking, “But Russ, those types of service cost money that I don’t have.” I’m totally with you and have the answer.  The solution is Google Apps.  Google Apps provides the following services for companies with 10 users or less, FREE of charge.

Here’s what you get:

  • Gmail
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Docs (Collaborative spreadsheets and word processing and more)
  • Google Reader (News aggregator)
  • Google Sites (Simple web pages)
  • Blogger (Weblogs)
  • More!

If at any time in the future you grow beyond 10 users that you’d like to provide email, etc. for then you an upgrade to the “Business” edition at $50/user/year for a 1 year commitment or $5/user/month with no commitment.  Still a good deal and there are more group features that are available with the upgraded service that a company with that many employees can take advantage of.

All the versions have the option of integrating third-party apps like MailChimp, an email marketing and newsletter service, and Freshbooks, invoicing made easy, into Google Apps.  Great part about the third-party apps is that most have a free version also so you can try them out before making a commitment to the full service.

Google Apps helps groups build communities – Google Apps.

Netflix: It’s an Error

Yesterday I posted about Netflix limiting it’s streaming customers to one streaming show at a time. Apparently though, it was an error rather than a crackdown as previously thought.

While I had suspicions that this was some mix up (I hadn’t had the problem at my home) the fact remains that it didn’t surprise me. I now assume that the Netflix service is going to get worse and worse until it’s no better than the Charter Cable that I cancelled so long ago. Netflix may still have the best service of its kind, but it now has an image problem. It’s the service that raises prices on its customers and limits their viewing options.

It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens with the Starz contract negotiations going forward.

Netflix: We’re not cracking down on simultaneous streams — Online Video News.

Backing the Wrong Horse

If you’ve been a backer of Netflix, you’ve probably backed the wrong horse. One year ago they looked invincible. I was happily getting one DVD at a time, streaming on my two Roku units and loving life. Flash forward to today and I’ve cancelled the DVD service because of the price hike and now I will be limited to one streaming show at time. You heard that right. If the linked article is correct, and I haven’t done my due diligence in this regard, then it’s the beginning of the end.

Netflix was a service that was truly a good deal. I bought into the streaming service early even when there was little to watch. It got better and better and now apparently they think that they’re untouchable. No one has created a credible alternative at this point. I’ve read that a streaming service will be created and marketed under the Blockbuster brand, but haven’t seen the details yet. I’ve taken a look at the other alternatives and they all leave a lot to be desired. So, what does Netflix do? Bilk the consumer out of more and more money. Shame on you Netflix!

I’ve yet to see this one stream limit manifest itself at my home, but the day it does we’re going to have some seriously sad children. While there is no alternative to the Netflix streaming service right, I’m not going to stand by and be given less and less for the same price I’ve been paying. Seriously, this completely stinks of our local cable company taking away my channels at the same time raising my rate. That was the whole reason I cut the cord in the first place.

Netflix Cracks Down on Sharing: One Stream Per Customer Unless You Pay More | Stop the Cap!.

Why’s my browser so slow?

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, Why is my browser so slow?, then this post may shed some light on that. More often than not, when I come across a slow website, the problem ends up being Adobe Flash content. The site is either using Flash to deliver all or a portion of their content. It could be a video, advertisement, drop down lists, really any type of control on the page may be a Flash control. The by-product of that bit of Flash is a really slow website.

Flash is such a problem for computer performance that Apple completely left off support on their mobile products, iPhones and iPod Touches and the iPad and all those products are the better for it.  What’s left is a fast web full of quick loading pages.  In fact, many of competing products, like those running Android, enable flash and have had numerous performance and stability problems because of it.

If you’d like to get rid of looking at Flash, and you should, check out these solutions for the major browsers: Adware

Dwight Silverman, tech journalist for the Houston Chronicle, has a great column on the latest practices of the Cnet website Apparently they are now offering up a custom downloader that takes the place of the program that you were looking to download. The custom downloader will then offer you change your search engine in your browser, change your homepage and install a toolbar. It will also presumably download the program that you wanted, but the damage will have been done.

To make a few extra bucks Cnet has sold out its users to the highest bidder. In the case that I’m seeing on the linked article, Microsoft properties Bing and MSN are the winners. You, on the other hand, are the loser particularly if you download this adware from Cnet.

Cnet used to be a reputable source for information. When I look for reviews on a tech product that I am thinking about purchasing or recommending to someone, Cnet has been a place that I could trust. Likewise, was a place that I cold send a client or family member to download a freeware or shareware program with great confidence. That’s not the case anymore and I’ll have to evaluate Cnet reviews through a finer filter.

Look for an article soon on safe places to download software that won’t sell you out. offers crapware with that program you wanted | TechBlog | a blog.

Top 25 Free & Freemium Web Apps for Students

School is starting soon or has started already for many colleges and universities. There are so many great resources nowadays for the student that are either free or next to free to assist them in their studies. Whether it’s getting organized, working with fellow students or a free word processor, there’s never been a better time to be a student and not spend a dime on “other” expenses.

Below is a great link with 25 Free or Freemium (free initial service, pay for more features) web application that college students may find useful.

Top 25 Free & Freemium Web Apps for College Students.

While all these services are worthwhile to try out, a couple of these services stand out as ones not to miss.

They are:

  • Dropbox – File synchronizing between computers
  • Google Docs – Online word processor, and spreadsheets with collaborative features
  • Remember The Milk – Manage tasks/to-do lists so nothing gets forgotten
  • Evernote – Save those notes and ideas for later using your computer or mobile device.