Software Firm Faces Scrutiny

Parents who install a leading brand of software to monitor their kids’ online activities may be unwittingly allowing the company to read their children’s chat messages, and sell the marketing data gathered.

Software sold under the Sentry and FamilySafe brands can read private chats conducted through Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other services, and send back data on what kids are saying about such things as movies, music or video games.

The information is then offered to businesses seeking ways to tailor their marketing messages to kids. “This scares me more than anything I have seen using monitoring technology,” said Parry Aftab, a child-safety advocate. “You don’t put children’s personal information at risk.”

The company that sells the software insists it is not putting kids’ information at risk, since the program does not record children’s names or addresses. But the software knows how old the kids are because parents customize its features to be more or less permissive, depending on age.
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Outlook Sending Multiple Copies of Email

MS OutlookI received a message recently from a client that one of their friends was sending the same email message over and over again. After a bit of investigation it turned out exactly as I thought – the friend is using Microsoft Outlook. Over the years I have seen many instances of Microsoft Outlook repeatedly sending out multiple copies of the same email. There are a number of different things that can cause this, but luckily they are all fairly easy to fix.

1) The most common cause of this problem is that there are too many items in the “Sent” folder. It sounds odd, but Microsoft Outlook can only handle a limited number of items in the Sent folder. If the program reaches its limit it cannot move files from the Outbox to Sent. When that happens it will continually resend any email that remains in the Outbox folder. The fix is simple: every once in a while you need to go in and clean out those old sent emails. If you really need to have a record of the emails you sent two years ago, archive them off to an external file so you still have them, but get them out of Sent. While you are at it, also remember to empty the trash.

2) If somehow there are multiple copies of Outlook running. Do you see more than one copy of Outlook in your task manager? If so, try closing all of them and then only opening one. Or, just restart your machine. If you are consistently having the multiple send problem though, this is unlikely to be the cause.

3) If the send/receive interval is very short, like one minute, and you are sending a very large file that takes over that interval to send then Outlook may start sending the email a second time. In this case the fix is to increase the send / receive interval. Note that this is usually only encountered when sending extremely large attachments like photos.

4) Rarely, but it can happen, the installed anti-virus software will scan outgoing messages and corrupt the queue thereby causing multiple copies to be sent. The solution here is to tell the anti-virus software not to scan outgoing messages. This can happen to all email programs, such as Outlook Express, so watch for it.

I hope this helps if you are having the Outlook multiple sending receiving email problem. If it does, or even if it doesn’t, I would love to hear from you with your experience.

Windows 7 Released to Manufacturing

Just thought I would pass along this note I just got from Microsoft:

It’s almost here! We’re very happy to tell you that we’ve hit the last big milestone on the way to Windows 7: release to manufacturing. We’re packaging up copies and manufacturers are putting it on new PCs. On October 22, you’ll be able to get the final shipping product. Your feedback has helped us make Windows 7 more reliable, compatible, and manageable-and we’d like to thank you for that.

Microsoft Warns Of a Serious IE Security Hole

Internet ExplorerAs you are probably aware, Microsoft releases security updates on the second Tuesday of each month. However, this week there is a dangerous security hole in Internet Explorer that they’ve haven’t patched yet. This vulnerability is so severe that users are advised to immediately apply a workaround fix.

This particular flaw lets attackers infect the victim’s computers (running Windows XP or Windows Server 2003) after they’ve clicked on a video link in Internet Explorer. The vulnerability allows attacker to run arbitrary code under the same user rights of the local user. The worst part of it is the fact that this is not some theoretical hole; Microsoft clearly states that they’re already aware of malicious hackers exploiting this vulnerability.

If you’re running Internet Explorer under Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, you should go apply the emergency fix, which can be found at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/972890#FixItForMe, right away. The real patch will likely come in seven days, with Microsoft’s regular security update bundle.

Note that this flaw does not exist on Windows Vista or Windows 7. Additionally, this does not apply to users of the Firefox browser on Windows XP. If you haven’t yet tried out Firefox as an alternative to Internet Explorer, you really should.

Avoiding False Economies

Everyone wants to save money – that is a given. Beware falling victim to false economy however. You do not want to save money in one area of your business only to have that savings cost you more in another. The classic example of this is driving across town to save a few cents on gas. Yes, you saved seventy-five cents on the gas you bought, but you used a dollar’s worth of gas to do so. What you have is a net loss.

false economySometimes in business the cause and effect of expenditures are not as direct as buying gas, but they are still there. For instance, many small businesses are tempted to use the least expensive phone service available. The problem is that an undependable phone connection can cause you frustration, lost customers, and give your business a poor reputation. All it takes is one or two clients turning away from you because you are hard to get hold of or the connection is always scratchy to more than offset that savings you gained by using a cheap service.

Another example is the purchase of equipment such as computers, faxes, or printers. Too often the price of the machine is the overriding factor in what is bought. What is left out many times is the needs assessment. If you invest in a new computer without looking at the requirements to run your software, the environment that it will be running in, the number of users it will have, the expected life-span and so on, you will end up either having to buy additional equipment or you will find your operations hampered. If processes take too long to complete, can’t be done, or must be out-sourced, this can result in lost customers, employee frustration, and direct additional expenses.

Finally, and an often neglected area, is training. When you or someone on your staff is not up-to-speed on the software you are using, tasks take longer, errors are introduced, and poor job satisfaction follows which can result in turn-over and poor customer service. Sure training costs money, but I have seen many an example where simply taking a one day class would give a person skills that enable them to shave hours per week off their work. Those hours can be spent doing additional work, building strong customer relationships, or even just enjoying life! Here, a class that cost perhaps two-hundred dollars can pay for itself in time and productivity within a few months. In more than one case I have seen days cut off monthly procedures and outsourced functions brought easily back in-house.

The key to all of these is to think beyond the immediate outlay of cash to what that purchase is really providing to your business. Every expenditure you make is an investment for your business. If using a cheaper alternative costs you even one sale, is it worth it? In some cases the answer may be yes. But in other cases, when you really look at how much it costs you to drive across town for that gas, the more expensive option may be the one that provides the greatest return.