Run or Shut Down?

I just read my Kim Komando newsletter and had to pass this great tip on immediately.

This is the answer to all those who wonder if they should shut their PC down at night or just let it run. I'm one of those who leave mine on 24/7 because sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and work so I don't want to wait for the boot up.

Which Is Better?

You can throw the quandary of hibernation and standby into the mix, but they just add confusion. Actually, I know that it's better to shut it down completely because shutdown and power up refreshes the hard drive and tweaks out those little running errors that sometime pop up.

KK tells about Boot Snooze which offers the benefit of the power save modes (faster start up) but also the refreshing benefits of complete shutdown.

Boot Snooze is a 1-button solution, but it only works if you don't have passwords set for user accounts. Read about it on the website. It's free, and their tagline will make you smile.

Takeaway Truth

Investigate any app that promises to help you use time more effectively — especially if it's free.

Messy Christmas

One of my favorite wits, Andy Rooney, said: "One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly."

At my home, as we open presents, we stockpile the paper, wadding it into missiles the size of softballs. When the last present is open, someone uses a paper missile to nail another, and the war is on. We toss those paper wads at each other until we're all laughing and exhausted. When someone begs for mercy, the war fades and the paper balls go in the recycle container.

Takeaway Truth

I hope you all had similar moments of happy insanity and joy this Christmas.

Magic of Christmas

"Christmas: that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance, a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved." ~Augusta E. Rundel

Takeaway Truth

Merry Christmas, dear Readers.

3 Security Habits To Make

T'was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring except for the low-lifes who make your computer life miserable.

Here are 3 Security Habits you need to adopt that will help protect you.

Avoid Piggybacking

Piggybacking is the practice of inserting a different software app in the download of a desired software that someone may download.

One example of this is the Yahoo Toolbar that piggybacks on dozens of software apps. This software is innocuous and can help you if you want to use it. I don't. I like the toolbars I'm currently using just fine.

The problem is that there are other software apps that piggyback that range from annoying to damaging. Many of these apps don't show on the initial install screen so you don't have a chance to stop the install. Even worse is when these apps are deliberately hidden.

Lately, some perfectly good freeware has become the victim of spammers who infect it with spyware so be very careful when downloading freeware.

The answer? Always choose Custom Install so you can pick and choose what gets downloaded.

Zango Lives

Avoid any window that pops up and offers you free access to live TV shows with the Zango toolbar. Zango supposedly pays for your access to premium content by showing you contextual advertising based on your browsing habits. If you choose, comparison shopping offers will then be shown to you in a sidebar by ShopperReports, another toolbar.

If you're an adult, you know nothing is free. If you keep up with Net news, you know that Zango was an adware company that declared bankruptcy last January. Blinkx, an A/V search engine purchased their assets.

Fortunately, both Zango and ShopperReports toolbars can be uninstalled using "Add or Remove Programs" in your Control Panel.

However, when confronted with the window asking if you want to install, and you click Cancel, another window pops up asking if you're sure you want to cancel the Zango install. Here's the tricky part. You have to click OK if you want to cancel (you click cancel if you want to continue. Read carefully before you click.

Scan iPod

If you decide to save some money and purchase a refurbished iPod, even from a reputable seller, be careful.

Plug a USB cable into the device and to your computer and run a virus scan on the iPod. There's been anecdotal evidence about used or refurbished iPods having worms or viruses on them. That's because iPods and other devices like them store files. They can get infected too without the owner or retailer knowing they are.

Takeaway Truth

Ben Franklin said: "In the beginning man makes the habits; in the end, the habits make the man." When it comes to computers, I'll paraphrase: "In the beginning the computer user makes the habits; in the end, the habits either destroy or maintain the computer."

Holiday Safe Shopping

Though this is the last week of holiday shopping, it's not too late to remind you of a security guideline you always need to follow. I caught myself recently about to violate this standard online safety rule.

Online Shopping Security

By now, everyone knows that before you enter credit card information at a website, you should always make sure a website begins with HTTPS://, not just the standard HTTP://.

But, we get in a hurry. Time is short. We're trying to complete an online purchase before we dash out the door to make in person retail purchase at the crowded mall so we don't take the seconds necessary to check the URL in the address bar.

Always, always check this.

Takeaway Truth

Though it takes a few seconds, the time you spend could mean the difference between security and a very bad post-Christmas season for you and your credit card.

Perfect Gifts

Oren Arnold wrote: "Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect."

Takeaway Truth

Be the person that you feel is the real you. Maybe others don't see this person. Maybe that self hides inside your existing persona. Set that better person free.

Holiday Gifts: Help Others

Today's gift suggestion is one that will benefit the recipient as well as you, the giver. Give to help those in dire need.

I urge you to do something unusual this Christmas: adopt a group that you will support until next Christmas. I did that this year and adopted Heifer International, an organization that has helped feed millions. They've done this with a program designed to foster self-reliance in people who struggle to subsist.

Last Christmas, I decided that most of the people in our family have more than enough toys, knickknacks, dining out cards, gadgets, and the like. We're all lucky because we, and our extended family, can purchase virtually anything we want.

I've visited several countries in southeast Asia and in neighboring Mexico so I know how so many on this planet struggle for clean water, food, and a roof over their heads.

After research, I decided that I would donate to Heifer International in the name of the family member who had a birthday or anniversary. With the kids, we'd send a small present also but donate the bulk of the money we would have spent in order to help someone who really needs a helping hand. To date, we've bought flocks of chicks in the kids' names and donated to help a family buy a milk cow.

Heifer International

This group takes your donation and helps families "who for generations knew only poverty" to build new homes and start businesses. Kids who never went to school because they had to work in the fields, now learn to read. This is all possible because of their 65 years of experience in the area of helping people create a sustainable source of food and income.

Whatever you've got to give, you can direct those funds to a specific area like a flock of chicks for $20.00 or a goat for $120.00. If you can't give $120.00, then you can donate a "share" of a goat, only $10.00. By combining everyone's giving, Heifer is able to make a difference in the world.

Charity Watch

I recommend Heifer. I chose this group because I think people need the very basics to sustain life -- food, water, and shelter. I chose them after checking them out with the American Institute of Philanthropy, AIP, which operates the watchdog website Charity Watch.

In fact, I'd recommend that you never give a dime to a group without first checking them out with Charity Watch. They rate charities from A+ to F so if you want to make sure your money goes where a group tells you it goes, visit Charity Watch before donating.

My Support Requirements

Ability to donate in the name of someone else.

Ability to donate online with a card sent to the recipient.

Majority of the donated money to go for the programs, not staff salaries and bonuses.

No excessive funds held in reserve rather than used to help people.

No secrets -- full disclosure of basic financial information.

Spend little on fund raising.

Visit Charity Watch

When you check the Charity Watch website, you can read all their requirements. Of more than 500 charities rated, only a small percentage qualify for their Top-Rated listing which is B+ to A+. Heifer, with an A-, is Top-Rated.

By contrast, the American Cancer Society, which gets the bulk of donations to cancer groups analyzed by AIP, receives only a C+ rating because 97% of their overhead is paid for by contributions and only 60% of donation money goes to the stated goal of the charity.

If you're like me, you work hard for your money. You want to give, but you want to make sure your money goes for the intended purpose, not to pay for some power lunch and not to pay to create a blizzard of other requests from them every time the moon changes. Be smart about giving so you make each dollar count.

Takeaway Truth

Give with an open heart and your holiday gift will enrich your soul and help someone who may often go to bed hungry. It's easy, and it will change a life.

(Also published on Joan Slings Words, my other blog.)

Search Deep with Pipl

You probably use Google and one or two other search engines on a daily basic, but do you know about Pipl?

Welcome to the Deep Web

When you use the more popular search engines, they give you the most frequent and common results, but, sometimes, often in fact, there's other information out there, but it doesn't pop up unless you dig deeper. That's what Pipl is about. They dig deeper.

Privacy Issues

I must confess I'm conflicted about the continuing invasion of privacy afforded by the Internet. Of course, sometimes it helps to be able to check out a young man who seemed to take an unhealthy interest in my daughter. Yes, I'm paranoid, but like a cop who dealt with child rape once told me, there's no such thing as too paranoid. Scary world.

Reasons To Search

There are other reasons you might want to use Pipl. Maybe you're looking for a relative with whom you've lost touch. Or a former business contact. The deep web, sometimes called the invisible web, refers to a vast repository of underlying content, such as documents in online databases. The usual web crawlers can't reach them. Deep web content is estimated at 500 times that of the surface web, but it's mostly untapped due to the limitations of traditional search engines.

Pipl searches and finds online store profiles, member directories, publications and lots more. Results can be obscure, but they could be what you need.

Takeaway Truth

Online research can be even more fascinating than you thought.

3 Resources for Free Art

On my other blog, Joan Slings Words, I'm publishing a serial Exclusively eBooks on Wednesdays. Next week I'll be doing a segment on the art files required to publish online.

I'm learning by teaching and doing. Why? Because many of you are publishing eBooks or thinking about doing that. Like me when I first started researching this, you might be confused by all the contradictory information so I'm trying to clear up the confusion.

If you're interested in eBook publishing, then you've discovered that you need a book cover with panache. Some of you try to do it yourself when it comes to cover art. For most, that's a terrible idea unless you're an experienced graphic artist.

3 Resources for Free Art

However, if you're set on trying it yourself, here are some resources that you can use. Be absolutely certain that the image you are using is actually in public domain because by using it, you bear the full burden of liability.

1. The Library of Congress Image Collection, search public domain images.

2. American Memory Project by the Library of Congress.

3. Search string for popular browsers: Public Domain Images.

Note: If you decide you'd like a real artist to do your cover, you might want to read Need A Book Cover? for a reliable and experienced source.

Takeaway Truth

Just because a book is digital that doesn't mean a dazzling cover is unnecessary. You still want a visual representation of the book to spark a reader's interest and imagination — that's what a great cover does.

3 Writing Contests

Heads up! These 3 writing contests have deadlines in January. Take a holiday break and get an entry ready now.

By the way, the links take you to a page that lists all the writing contests offered by these 3 institutions.

AWP Award Series

Deadline: January 1-February 28, 2011.

Categories: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, hosted by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs.

O. Henry Award for Magazine Journalism

Deadline: January 9, 2011.

Qualifications: writers born in Texas, living in Texas for more than 2 years, or have work associated with Texas, hosted by Texas Institute of Letters.

Prize: $1,000 prize is offered for best written work of journalism published during the previous year in a magazine or weekly newspaper.
The Ohio State University Prize in Short Fiction

Deadline: January postmark.

Categories: 150-300 pages of fiction comprised of short stories and/or novellas (novellas must not exceed 125 pages in length).

Prize: $1,500 and publication.

You can find more contests listed at so if you want contest listings and market listings, subscribe today.

Takeaway Truth

Get a jump on the New Year by readying a contest entry today.

Cross-Genre Fiction

Dean Koontz published his first novel Star Quest in 1968, but he wasn't a novice at writing. He'd published countless short stories before Star Quest.

In the next several years, he wrote dozens of novels under many different names. Many of these novels mixed elements of different genres. In the mid-1970's, his genre-blending really took off. I'm not sure, but I think every book after The Key to Midnight, originally appearing under the name Leigh Nichols, was a cross-genre novel.

He made other writers want to write these kinds of books. I don't know if Constance O'Day-Flannery was influenced by him, but in 1986, her time-travel romance Timeless Passion was published and became the first of many of her best-selling time-travels.

Timeswept Lovers (1987), Time-Kept Promises (1988), and Time-Kissed Destiny (1990) quickly followed. Then in 1991, Diana Gabaldon's Outlander was published. It went on to win the Romance Writers of America award for Best Romance in 1991.

Disturbance In The Force

About that time, there was a disturbance in the force. At least that's one way of looking at the search for different, if not greener, pastures by the many best-selling romance novelists who had cut their teeth on series romance. They had their skills down pat and they wanted to stretch, to grow. Or perhaps they were just tired of straight romance novels.

In any event, they wanted to write something different. Blended, cross-genre novels started appearing. First were other time travel novels and a few science fiction romances that just didn't launch successfully. Then dark suspense, really light horror in actuality, emerged.

Publishing houses put a few of these early paranormal novels into their list, and they hit a nerve among readers who either loved them or hated them. Then they subsided Publishers said they just weren't a big enough part of the market, but readers screamed for more.

When Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted on TV, followed by Angel, and by Roswell on a different network, the hungry paranormal audience exulted, but an interesting thing occurred. Mainstream audiences found these stories highly addictive too. Thus began the explosion of paranormal. The audience, eager for different stories, expanded.

Of course Nora Roberts, as J. D. Robb, had great success with her futuristic detective novels replete with sex so publishers, and the young editors who did the grunt work at the houses, started looking for more novels like the TV shows and like the early paranormals.

Chicken Or The Egg

Pinning down the exploding popularity of cross-genre fiction from late 1990's is kind of like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. Did the TV shows promote like Buffy, Angel, and Roswell produce the demand or were writers like Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, Constance O'Day Flannery, and Nora Roberts producing these books that whetted the public's appetite for more?

Jayne Krentz, Catherine Coulter, Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, and Karen Robards, to name a few, blend suspense, sex, and romance. Janet Evanovich, Nancy Martin, and others blend mystery, romance, sex, and humor. Nora Roberts blends science fiction, sex, and mystery. The list is endless.

Once, publishers didn't know how to sell cross-genre novels. They claimed that blending genres made it too hard to shelve the books in stores. Should it go in mystery or romance? Horror or suspense? Funny how the readers didn't have a problem finding these books.

Takeaway Truth

A good book will find its audience.

Holiday Gifts: Journals

I think it must be time for some more gift suggestions for writers. Why? Because I'm online shopping today to find a few more unique items so I figure you probably are too.

First, a note about the gift sources I site. In most cases, you'll get the best deal if you use the link I supply. This is especially true of any Cafe Press website.

For instance, the ceramic writer's ornament I blogged about earlier is half the price if you shop directly at The Write Way, my little cyber boutique, rather than going through a doorway site. Write Way products are listed on many other sites, but when you click through from a doorway site, the price you see is much higher than if you buy directly from my site.

At the end of today's post, I'll show you a picture of the journal I sell at The Write Way so stay tuned!

Why Journals

I like to give journals even to non-writers because, as motivational author and speaker Tony Robbins said: "A life worth living is a life worth recording."

Expensive journals are great stand-alone gifts, and inexpensive journals are great stocking stuffers. Here are some places where I like to shop.

Shakespeare's Den has many journals ranging in price from about 6 bucks to nearly $200. The journals are themed so you can find something that will appeal to wine lovers, artists, musicians, and, of course, writers.

Vickery has small to large journals, starting at a low price and going up. Some of their zen-style covers are beautiful.

Fine Keepsakes has a variety of journals including refillable ones. Prices range from low to high.

Renaissance-Art has a beautiful selection of leather-covered journals, and they also offer themed journals. Their products are hand-tooled and made in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Prices range from moderate to pricey.
The Write Way has tee shirts, bags, mugs, and journals. These journals come with lined, blank, task journal, or dot grid design.

I placed a quotation from Katherine Mansfield, one of my favorite authors, on the cover design.

These journals are 5" x 8" so they're easy to slip into your handbag. I always carry one.

Takeaway Truth

Journals can be a dumping ground for thoughts better left unspoken as well as a launch pad for imagination. Sometimes, they can save your sanity. To quote an anonymous sage: "I fall back on this journal just as some other poor devil takes to drink."

Christmas Won't Wait

Christmas just won't wait even though I've groused that I just don't have time to decorate, shop, party, and emit good cheer.

What's a girl to do when there are yards -- and trees -- to decorate, stockings to hang, cookies to bake?

Why a girl just dives in headfirst and ignores, or procrastinates, on other aspects of her life, and that's why I haven't blogged in several days.

Tomorrow I plan to be be back and Sling Words about holiday goodies. Later in the week, look for an article on Cross-Genre Fiction.

Takeaway Truth

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. See you tomorrow.

Recover Stolen Phone or Laptop

Phones and laptops are expensive. Do what you can to secure yours or to recover your equipment if the worst happens.

The other day I told you how you could use an old flash drive as a laptop alarm to alert you if someone tried to steal your laptop.

When I read an past issue of a Kim Komando newsletter, I knew the software she mentioned would make a great sequel to my laptop alarm post. The software allows you to track a stolen laptop.

Prey Project is a free program that works to track your laptop or your cell phone. Since most of the popular cell phones are pricey, this is a good tool to have.

Visit the website and read How It Works. Basically, when a thief turns on the phone or laptop, the Prey software attempts to broadcast the location. Even if it's not connected to the Internet, Prey will look for the nearest open hotspot.

There are many other features too like activate the Webcam to get a pic of the thief.

Takeaway Truth

Free software that works. What could be better?

Flash Drive For Laptop Security

If you're like me, you've got a bunch of old flash drives in your desk's pencil drawer. I read about how you can re-purpose an old flash drive and make it a laptop alarm.

How To Secure Laptop With Flash Drive

1. Visit Read their info. Below the Download button, the next paragraph reads:

"Prevent laptop theft. Laptop theft is common and a constant threat to laptop security. LAlarm emits a loud siren sound when a thief tries to steal a laptop. For example, you connect a laptop to a power outlet or fasten a laptop to a table by using a USB flash drive strap. An alarm will be triggered when the laptop is disconnected from the power outlet or removed from the table. LAlarm also warns the owner if the laptop is left unattended in an unsafe place for a period of time."

2. In that paragraph, you'll see a link that takes you to the page where using a flash drive is explained.

3. After you read the info, you can install the free software on your laptop.

4. Then secure a neck strap to your USB flash drive and fasten the other end of the strap to a table or other solid piece.

5. Plug in the flash drive to a USB port on your laptop and lock it by pressing the Windows logo key and the L key together.

6. If someone removes the laptop, the flash drive will be pulled out and a loud siren will sound. At the same time the alarm sounds, the software will send an alert to your mobile phone.

Another option you can program with this free software is to have the data on the laptop self-destruct if it's stolen. There's a video on the website that demos this. Just make sure you really want this to happen though.

Takeaway Truth

Security with laptops is a concern because so many are lost or stolen. Make use of the excellent online free tools available to you.