E-Mail Clients

Some of you may find this useful. This is my experience with email clients.

I was never a big fan of clients. I preferred to use the web-mail version, as there was less to get in the way, no configuration, no special software, just a web browser.

Most of my customers, however, prefer to use a client. Outlook is by far the most popular that I support. Of course Outlook is also quite expensive. Thunderbird is the undisputed king of the free clients, so I decided to give it a try. I immediately found it extremely useful to have my personal and business mail in one place. If you have only one email account, I would still recommend using the web version.

I quickly ran into trouble with Thunderbird though. The program is a memory hog, and it’s quite slow. Sure it provides just about everything Outlook has, and many features Outlook does not. It can be used in a corporate environment just as Outlook. But all those features come at the expense of performance. My primary laptop is a small, under-powered, Netbook running Windows 8.1. With a little care, this runs very well, but Thunderbird brought it to it’s knees. I’m also a big user of Google Apps. I use these for my business, and use their calendar to schedule all my appointments. I also share the calendar with my wife so she can see where I am, add appointments for me, and schedule personal appointments where I need to be available. Thunderbird supports the Google Calendar, but it’s nothing more than a new tab with the calendar web page. At first I liked that, but every time I would start Thunderbird and open the calendar, I would have to sign in again. That was a pain.

I was offered a deal from Microsoft for Office 2013 running on up to five computers, with up to five users in the same household, for $10 a month. Libre Office is great, and it’s free, with a solid 99% compatibility with current Office formats. But it’s not completely 100% compatible with formatting such as indented text. Office 2013 gives me the same Office standard used pretty much everywhere. (I should note, however, than many corporations are switching to Libre Office because it saves so much money.)

Now that I have the latest Office, that includes the latest version of Outlook. The first problem I found was after fully configuring Outlook on one computer did not mean installing on another saved my settings. Each computer I use had to be manually configured. Microsoft also has a web version, but that too needs to be separately configured. Next, I found that Outlook does not support Google Apps. There are many applications to “sync” Google Apps with Outlook, but they don’t always work as expected. One app would simply copy items from Google to Outlook. Changes made in Outlook would not sync back to Google. I found Google makes their own sync app, but it’s only available for paid Google Apps users. I am a paid user, so no problem there. Next, I discovered recently added contacts to Google were not immediately synced to Outlook. I have software that captures business cards and syncs the cards with Google. Another app scans email and offers to add the contacts to Google. However, when I attempted to send an email to someone, I found that their information had not yet been imported to Outlook. I tried to re-sync, exit Outlook, and sync again, but my newest contacts were still not available!

I continued searching for other sync apps and came across eM Client. Well, this is not any type of sync app at all, but rather another client similar to Thunderbird or Outlook. My first thought was, “that’s not what I’m looking for!” Not so fast… It turns out eM Client was actually EXACTLY what I needed! The client is small, fast and clean. The interface is uncluttered. It fully, AND PROPERLY, integrates all Google Apps. It does everything I need, and not too much more. It will connect to an Exchange server in a corporate environment, but does not support LDAP for Single Sign-On Active Directory support. This is not a feature I need anyway. This means even on my little Netbook the app is very fast.

eM Client is not exactly free. The free version is for home use only, and supports a maximum of two accounts. For most users, that’s sufficient. The Pro version supports unlimited accounts and is licensed for business use. The cost for the Pro version is $49.95 for one computer with a lifetime license. Discounts are applied for multiple computers. Example: Three computers are $26.95 each totaling $79.95. That does not include upgrades to newer versions though. A lifetime license is available for $30 more per PC, or $129.90 for 3 computers. That’s still much less expensive than Outlook. You get most of the features of Outlook, plus many features not included in Outlook, like Google integration. The software will automatically import from Outlook. It’s small, fast, and stable. eM Client is my new favorite email client.

Next, I decided to see what others were saying, so I searched for reviews. Most everyone agrees with me that this is better than Thunderbird and/or Outlook. One site picked Thunderbird as the favorite, but nearly every comment to the site disagreed. The one comment that agreed did not indicate that he/she ever tried eM Client, but rather was just a fan of Thunderbird. That’s fine. If you like it, and it works for you, that’s great. There’s no doubt Thunderbird has a huge following. They’ve been around for years, it’s developed by Mozilla, and is a solid program. My experience, as with many others, is that it has developed too much feature creep over the years, and is simply too slow.

I should also note that the developers of eM Client have no idea I am writing this review. I am not expecting any form of compensation for this. I am merely stating my experiences so that my readers who have experienced the same troubles I’ve had now have a great alternative.

Check it out for yourself at http://emclient.com

 

Magazine Article Interview

I received a set of interview questions for an upcoming magazine article, so I thought I’d share them here:

Questions About the Industry

 

How did you get started with your business? What made you decide to be a part of your industry?

 

I started working on computers as a hobby in 1980. I had a Radio Shack Color Computer. I attended R.E.T.S Electronics school on weekends while I was still in High School where I was studying electronic engineering. I worked my way through High School repairing Radios and Televisions. I also became a licensed Amateur Radio operator, and repaired HAM radios. I used my electronics knowledge to extensively modify my little Co-Co to do things Radio Shack never imagined! I had 64K of memory when it only supported 16K. I had dual external floppy drives, when it only supported a cassette deck. I tapped into the video out to create a composite video connection to a real monochrome monitor when Radio Shack connected to a TV. I was running a parallel printer through the serial port, and a real modem through the  parallel port. I was able to tie all this together and run the second most popular BBS in the state or Maryland.

In 1990 I was able to turn my hobby into a career at American Express, supporting all the desktops in their Establishment Services division. Then when they decided to migrate from mainframe to a server based architecture, they sent me to school to learn Novell. Later they decided to install Windows based servers and sent me to school again to earn my M.C.S.E.

I spent the last 20 years supporting thousands of Enterprise Servers for some of the biggest names in the world. But I really love the desktop and end user support. As my career advanced, I found myself working solely in the background with no recognition. I also found myself being out-tasked to various contracting agencies as corporations decided to out-task their IT support. The last time I got laid off, I made the decision to incorporate my old radio and television repair company into Computer Repair. Even that has morphed a little over the past year to focus on residential support, my true passion.

 

Which aspect of your industry interests you most?

 

I covered my passion for helping people in the last question. Computers are still my hobby, and I am extremely fortunate to be able to make them my career. I am interested in many aspects from both a hardware and software standpoint. I have become an expert at Virus Removal, in addition to my extensive Windows training and knowledge. I have a unique ability to tune Windows and really speed up most any computer. This helps me save people money as their old computers will continue to serve their needs without spending a fortune on new equipment.

 

What are you doing to keep up with the constant changes in your industry?

 

READ. I read computer magazines. I read advertising catalogs. I search the web for topics of interest. And in my downtime, I still “play” with my computers. I test new software, I read reviews, and I’m not afraid to break things. It is through constant break and repair that I learn how things work, what works, and what doesn’t.

 

What future do you envision for the industry you belong in?

 

People will always have computers, and they depend on them more and more. The hardware may change, but the basics remain pretty much the same. I see the industry moving more toward tablets and cellphones, but hopefully not completely within the next 10 years. As long as there is still an interest in keeping the old dinosaur desktops and laptops running, I will be here to help.

 

If there are changes you can do with your industry, what would it be and why?

 

I hope to help people realize that desktops and laptops still perform better for web surfing, and creating content. I also believe that for most of this, you do not need a lot of power. In the future, this will certainly change, and I will need to adapt. I know that in today’s economy people do not have the money to spend on the latest and greatest gadgets, and those that do still go back to their trusty computers for the tasks in which they excel. I hope to help keep the Personal Computer alive and well for years to come.

 

Any notable experiences/success stories that reinforced your interest in the industry?

 

As a child I was always interested in electronics. I had electronic project kits, where I could build literally hundreds of projects with the included diagrams. I found that I could combine the kits, and create my own projects. This sparked my interest in electronic engineering, and eventually computers. I’ve been doing this stuff for more than FORTY years, and I still love it.

 

Questions About Business

 

What sets your business apart from others?

 

First of all, I have more experience, training, and certifications than most anyone. As I said, I’ve been doing this literally my whole life. I am not looking to get rich doing this. Sure, I could charge a fortune for my services, but how is that really helping people? Deep down, I’m much more of a people person than most people in this industry. I am a Christian, and I believe that I have been granted this gift not for myself, but to help my community.

I also don’t believe you must subscribe to monthly service. Sure everyone, including myself, will tell you there are tasks that must be run regularly to keep your computer working properly. If you think about it, it’s a computer. It can schedule and run tasks on it’s own. That’s what computers do! I schedule these tasks, so you don’t need to pay me, or anyone else, every month for service. I’m confident that when you see how well everything works when I’m done, you will call me if/when you ever do have another problem. I’m sure that you will gladly refer me to your friends and neighbors. It is my hope, that I will continue to expand on this new business enough to keep this company running for years to come.

 

What is the purpose of your business?

 

In the broadest term, computer repair. But I do so much more, for so much less, because I believe it’s the right thing to do.

 

What can clients expect from you in the coming months? The following year?

 

I continue to learn new tricks every day. I have an interest in VOIP, and can use my experience there to help people save money. I continue to add new services, and will continue to adopt new technologies. As customers find new problems with both old, and new, technologies, I will continue to find solutions.

 

What aspects of your business do you want to improve? Why?

 

I am still, and likely always will be, building my business. I need to continue to attract new customers. I need to continue to stay abreast of changes in the industry. I need to continue to expand my knowledge and experience. If I fail in any one of these, my business will fail.

 

Who or what inspires your business?

 

I guess myself more than anything, or anyone, else. It is my hobby and my passion.

 

What is the most important aspect of your business?

 

The most important aspect of my business is helping people. Everyone has a computer, and everyone has problems. No one wants to spend money where they don’t need to. The majority of my customers are unemployed, retired, or living on a fixed income. I understand that. I sympathize with them. I’ve been there myself, more than once! I’m just glad I can help.

 

Describe your company in one word.

 

There are so many “one words” to describe Irwin Electronics. Trustworthy, helpful, ingenuity, and competitive all come to mind. Take your pick.

 

Questions About Products/Services

 

What is your latest product/service? Kindly explain and elaborate.

 

Our newest product is our Dell D630 refurbished laptops. Members of my family needed new laptops for work and school, but they did not have a lot of money to spend. They asked me for help, and this is what I found. When I received the first one, I discovered the refurbishing companies idea of refurbish was simply a new battery, power supply, and clean install of Windows 7. That’s a great start, but many things didn’t work. I could not scroll with the touchpad because the drivers were not installed. I could not see the volume level on the screen because the Dell Quickset application was not installed. The BIOS was out of date. There was no productivity software installed, not to mention anti-virus, flash player, and pdf viewer, etc. Also the laptops were a little light on RAM. Memory is cheap, and it is the most cost effective upgrade you can make. When I was done with it, my family absolutely LOVED it. They requested another for another family member, and yet another after that. A friend of mine said, “you could sell these things.” So here they are!

 

How did you choose the products/services you offer?

 

Need vs. Skills vs. Interest. Is there a need for tablet repair? Sure, but I don’t have the skills. I have an interest, and the knowledge, but I struggle with the tiny connectors. My hands are not as steady as they used to be. Carpet cleaning is in high demand too. I have the basic skills, but not the interest.

 

What product/service you are currently developing/plan to offer soon?

 

We’ve had really good luck with our VOIP solution for our phone system. The need is there, and I’m certainly interested, and excited, about it. The hardware can be purchased for $50, but the setup is cumbersome at best. Once everything is configured, your phone service can be completely free with a few exceptions. What to charge for the service and what are people willing to pay remains to be determined.

I also have a solution to the biggest complaint with Windows 8, the lack of the Start button on the desktop, and the need to go through the Metro interface to get to the classic desktop. I expect this service to really take off as more people migrate.

 

What makes your products special?

 

The service is what makes our products special. In fact, we sell our products at cost!

 

How does your product/service impact your clients?

 

We never sell anything our customers don’t need, and why would we if we sell at cost? We get terrific prices on the products we do sell, and this helps our customers save money. Our service is to identify and correct the problems our customers are experiencing with their computers.

 

How does your product/service make a difference in the world?

 

We exceed the needs of our customers. We include additional services at no charge to help protect them from the dangers lurking on the Internet. I’m not sure if this makes a difference in the world, but it sure makes a difference to my customers!

 

What value do you deliver to your clients through your products/services?

 

First, we shop the competition, and keep our prices competitive. Let’s look at Virus Removal for more detail. Most companies offer a tiered approach to virus removal. The starting service is usually $100 and offers no guarantee. They will attempt to clean the virus, but if Windows is damaged you’re out of luck. You can get your computer back as is, or pay an additional $250 for a re-image. Or you can opt for the $250 charge first which is guaranteed because they will reformat the hard drive and reload Windows from scratch. I understand Staples will do this for $50, but all they do is load Windows, or restore to factory defaults. They do not backup/restore your data.

I work a little differently. The initial charge is the same $100. If that works, great. If Windows is damaged, I will make every attempt to repair it. If I am unable to do so, I will contact the customer and let them know before proceeding to the second level. That is $240, but I do not add the $100 for the first attempt. With the increased charge, I make a backup of the entire hard drive as is, and will restore all the customer’s documents, pictures, and music upon completion.

Also, regardless of the total cost involved, I will ensure that all Windows Updates have been applied. I will verify their anti-virus software is functioning, and that they have a quality product. If they do not, I include anti-virus software at no additional charge. I also include a Windows Tune-up which stops the unnecessary services, hides the computer on the network, and disables the administrative shares. This further increases the security, and stability, of Windows while also speeding up the computer. I include all necessary software to fully utilize the computer, such as Adobe Flash Player, a PDF viewer, and an Office Suite or Microsoft Office.

I also make a compressed image of the drive when all the work is done, and store that to a hidden partition so the computer can easily be recovered to it’s fully tuned state at any time in the future. As you can see, I keep my prices competitive with the independent repair shops, but add a lot of additional services at no extra charge.

Why “I” Do What I Do, by David Irwin

I have been working on computers for over 30 years as a hobby, and professionally. My ability to tune personal computers is what landed me a job in the Information Technologies department at American Express, where I worked for 12 years. As my career progressed, I moved away from the end user/desktop support into servers. My last job was supporting about three thousand servers for a local bank. It was myself and one other guy working all night from 6 PM to 6 AM. We worked very hard, it was extremely busy at times, and very high pressure. For all this work, there was absolutely no positive recognition. Management believed that you were expected to “do your job, and do it well.” When someone went above and beyond, there was no “great job”. That was simply as expected. When the users came to work in the morning, they simply expected everything to be up and running, as they should. They really had no idea how much work we were performing all night to make sure that was the case. When I worked on desktops, I was everyone’s best friend. I was automatically invited to every potluck. Everyone knew me and loved me. I’ve been told I’m unlike any other IT guy they ever knew. Some people called me Professor, because of my advanced computer training and knowledge. Others have said I’m more personable and friendly than any other IT guy. I really miss that. I love helping people. I guess I’m much more of a people person than I realized. I enjoy giving personal service to my customers. Every customer becomes a friend. I’m not going to get rich doing this job, and that’s not my goal. I believe in outstanding customer service with very low prices. I believe in giving my customers options based on expert recommendations. I guarantee that I can make virtually any Windows-based computer run better than it did the day you bought it. The cost to do that varies; based on the problem of course, and is not always advisable. There are many times I have to turn work down because the cost to repair would not be justifiable. I hate to do that! I have had customers tell me they appreciate my honesty. In most cases however, I will do everything possible to keep the cost to you as low as I can. I personally guarantee you will be extremely happy with my work. I DO take it personally! If there is ever something you’re not happy with, please tell me so I can make it right. I started this company on the principles of honest, reliable, expert service at reasonable prices. That’s my passion and my promise!

Data Destruction Part 2:

The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) has since revised the DoD 5220.22M guidelines with NIST 800-88. The new standard basically states that a single pass overwrite is just as effective as 3 passes. We at Irwin Electronics agree with this to a point, but still prefer a 4 pass overwrite. We want to expand upon some myths, and truths, you should be aware of when selecting a company to ensure your data is safe when discarding, selling, or donating your used equipment. For all practical purposes, yes, a single pass overwrite does ensure that your data cannot be recovered via software alone. In our previous issue, we gave the scenario of the skier going down the slope as it applies to the head floating above the platters of the hard drive. The process of recovering extraneous data requires physically dismantling the drive an examining the platters with highly specialized equipment. This is a very expensive, time consuming, and inaccurate technology. To date, this process has never been used, or proven successful, in the private sector. For that reason alone the single pass method holds true. Our belief is that it’s worth a little extra time to perform the additional passes for the additional security offered since it requires only computer time. A technician does not need to monitor each pass, or restart the process following each pass. The software does that automatically. The NIST guidelines also suggest that the overwrites be human verified on a minimum sample of at least 20%. The tool we use verifies the data on each sector as it’s written, and includes the results on the report generated. We have tested our tool, and confirmed it does exactly as it states. We also verify this on every drive we wipe. The NIST guidelines state that the technician must be qualified in the field of data recovery. Our founder, Mr. Irwin, is considered by many to be a pioneer in the field of data forensics. He was personally trained by Michael Anderson, who is the true founder of this technology. Mr. Irwin was also personally trained by Shawn McCreight, the author of the now standard EnCase software. He personally had a hand in making EnCase what it is today. He has years of experience as a Data Forensics expert, and is even trained as an Expert Witness in a court of law. There is no doubt that our founder is fully trained, qualified, and certified to perform these tests.

We’ve all heard the news reports of sensitive data being recovered from discarded computers. It is important to note that in each of these cases there is no evidence that the drives in question had undergone any attempt to remove the data. No recovery tools were used in the process of recovering this data. In each case, the drives were simply connected and powered. All data, including the operating system, was intact. You can rest assured that this will not happen to you if we are responsible for destroying your data. We go above and beyond for all our customers. It’s almost unheard of to find a company with this level of expertise that caters to residential users and small businesses.

5 Reasons why you should NEVER fix a computer for free:

I don’t usually re post articles here, but I came across this on Experts Exchange, and couldn’t resist. I did include the author and a link to the original article.

  • DrDamnit
  • http://www.experts-exchange.com/ITPro/Consulting/A_2111-WARNING-5-Reasons-why-you-should-NEVER-fix-a-computer-for-free.html
  • Posted on2009-12-16 at 00:21:44

It is in our nature to love the puzzle. We are obsessed. The lot of us. We love puzzles. We love the challenge. We thrive on finding the answer. We hate disarray. It bothers us deep in our soul.

We love the accolades. We love to be seen as the digital white knight who fixed the server, the computer, the email, and anything else that life depends on.

We love it so much, we sometimes make horrible decisions. Sometimes, we work “FOR FREE.”

We’ve all done it. A friend, a neighbor, a relative, a good client, a bad client, a pretty girl… Whoever it was, and for whatever reason, we all threw them a technological bone and fixed something for free. In rare instances, it can be a rewarding experience. Perhaps your buddy gave you a beer. Maybe someone said thank you. Maybe there was a smile on their face, and that was rewarding enough.

More likely, however, that five minute task you thought you were signing up for turned into 40 minutes, then an hour, then a commitment. Wow. You didn’t see that coming.

There are 5 reasons you should ALWAYS hand out a bill.

1

You Break it You Bought it.
When you sit down to fix a problem that presented as a simple one you are creating a contract. Not a legal contract, but a social one. The computer owner is trusting their computer with you. It’s their baby, and you’re the doctor. So you sit down, and begin to fix a problem.

In the process, something else breaks. You fixed one thing, but something else goes awry. What’s the best part? Neither you nor the user notice it is broken until a day later when they call you to blame you for breaking something else.

“I thought you were going to fix it.” They complain.

This is the primary reason you charge money to fix something. You break it, you bought it. The user / owner will expect you to warranty your service even though THEY received all the value of your time, and you received nothing in exchange.

 

2

People don’t respect things that are free.
I learned that quote from a man who runs a non-profit organization. Image that. A man who solicits donations for a living candidly told me “people don’t respect things that are free.” You know what? He’s right.

Free advice. Free upgrade. Free entry. None are valued. Free advice is seldom wanted. Free upgrade was something you were going to get anyway. Free entry? The band playing tonight must not be any good.

People associate the value of service with the amount of money that is exchanged for it. How else do you think that lawyer can get away with charging $400 an hour? People naturally make the assumption that if it costs an arm and a leg, then it must be worth it.

So, if customers and friends will assume that the most expensive car is the best one, what will they assume of the free car? Do you want the heart surgeon who charges $500,000 per surgery or the one who works for beer to operate on your mother?

 

3

They will expect it forever.
In law, the concept of a precedent is vitally important. Judges and lawyers look to previous cases to decide what the interpretation of the law was because if a case was settled one way before, chances are, it will be settled that way again.

Gamblers playing craps look at the past behavior of the dice to, mistakenly, assume that the good luck will continue.

Users will figure if you fixed it once for free, you’ll do it forever for free. There is no reason why they should respect the thousands of hours you have spent learning and researching the art of computer science. There is no reason that they should respect the certifications you hold. There is no reason that they should honor your abilities by paying your fees. Why? Because you did it for free. Once!

When they come back and you try to get fees, they will meet you with resistance in the form of guilt. “I thought we were friends” they cry. “You didn’t charge me anything last time.” They argue.

Setup the expectation that they are going to pay (or barter) from the onset. Demand the respect that you deserve. Make sure they understand you are a professional. After all, that is the difference between a professional and an amateur. Professionals get compensated for their skills.

 

4

The demands will only grow with time.
Give them an inch, and they will take you through three operating system upgrades, two virus infections, and a crashed hard drive. Once you’ve set the precedent and created the expectation that you are their knight in shining armor, they will begin to call you for everything. They will suck up your time and resources. They will not be grateful. They will involve you in 30 minute hypothetical conversations then disagree with your expertise.

 

5

It Weakens Your Backbone
Working for free is not only unprofitable, it weakens your constitution as a professional consultant. For many consultants, asking for money is difficult. They email out a silent invoice after the fact and hope they get paid. This practice can lead to unbalanced books, debt, and a going out of business sign. The simple fact is: if you don’t ask for your money, you’re not going to get paid. No one just hands out checks.

Setting up the expectation, especially when you fix a computer for the first time for a client, is vitally important in establishing boundaries that ensure you are paid in a timely fashion. Working for free, throwing out freebies, “comp”-ing your time hurts your ability to ask for the sale. It hurts your credibility because the client will assume that if you’re not charging them for a given task, you didn’t know what you were doing or you made mistakes.

It may give you butterflies, but ask for the money. Do it openly and notoriously. Your clients will take it as a sign of confidence.