Cloud Computing

I am not an advocate of Cloud Computing. Period!

Call me old school, but I think it is nuts for a company to put their entire business in someone else’s control and location.
Hacking is one great reason not to do it and vulnerability is another.

It was announced that Cloudflare has a security bug that has now affected users on well over 1000 websites including the company I use to host my website and blog. Makes me want to vomit.

Internet security and viability is a joke right now. Your company data is not safe.

If a Cloud company goes out of business, so do you!

One other factor is the pathetic state of the power grid. With your information in-house, you are only affected if your part of the grid goes down. If your information is across the country on some cloud server, you have no way to retrieve your data.

Cloud Computing is a nightmare.  Change your passwords NOW! Rethink your use of the clouds!

The Internet can be Cool!

I have been on the Internet since the first week it went public. I had the 7th web site that went live. The potential of the technology fascinated me and I wanted to get in on the ground floor.

Over the years, I have designed about twenty different websites for things I was doing and well over 250 sites for customers. I do simple designs that are great for most businesses, especially those who don’t need e-commerce. Along the way, I have had several sites that garnered interest, but none more than one I called “The Cemetery Shop.”  The original intent of the site was to provide a place for people to ask questions about funerals and burials, without having to consult a funeral director.

The site dribbled on for several months and I helped some folks. But it wasn’t a lot of activity. Then one day the Clinton’s let their dog run loose and it got hit by a truck. I wrote an obituary for Buddy and the site popped hundreds of hits over night. Around the same time, the first Iraq mess started and the zoo got bombed and the lion got killed. I wrote an obituary for the Lion and that popped thousands of hits to my site. I sat back in pure wonderment and said, “I wonder what would happen if I did an obituary for a famous person?”

Within a few days, Milton Berle died, so I wrote a full blown obituary and added a picture. The site went nuts! Thank you Uncle Milty! So when the next celebrity died, I added that person and thousands of additional hits. I ran the site from 2000 to 2003 and when I closed it, I had over 4.5 Million Unique visitors a year, the site had been written up in several newspapers and magazines, and some of my obituaries had been read at the celebrity funeral service. I also got to know some celebrities and both George Carlin and Rodney Dangerfield were contributors to other sections on the site.

Social Media has far eclipsed the impact my site may have had. Celebrities either Facebook or Twitter and that gives their fans at least an impression of access. I tweeted to lots of people while on Twitter, some of them from the old days at The Cemetery Shop. It was cool to catch up a little and keep track. I stopped Tweeting when I started this blog, so hopefully a new audience will be garnered. I found out just a few days ago, that a son of my friend in London is an actor there. His name is Christopher Keddie and he has  some credits in the U.K. and I think he could do well here in America too. Directors and Producers, take a look!

Celebrities aren’t the only people you can meet on the net, I have corresponded with writers, politicians, athletes, and even some of the top scientists and tech minds in the world. I know people on all continents and dozens of countries,

How Cool !

Trace Your Family Online

Genealogy is the research and study of your ancestry and heredity. Where are your family origins, what is their history, where did they live,what religions did they practice, what culture did they participate in, What names got handed down are all factors that make up Genealogy Research.

I have officially been researching my family since 1974, though I started asking questions a few years before that. I was trying to find out just the basics. My dad’s mother sent me some information on that side of my family and I could get little or no information out of my mother’s father. he gave me a few names and locations but not anything much to go on. There was no such thing as the Internet and Google, so I pretty much just collected the information and put it in a file.

In July of 1974, my mother’s father passed away and I inherited a box of old letters, receipts and papers. A lot of it was of no big interest, but there were some letters from people back in Pennsylvania. Between my Aunt Edythe and myself we started writing these people. She had more time available, so she became the champion of digging for information. One distant cousin in particular was of interest, because she lived near the old family property. Edythe wrote her three times and got no response, so she told me, your turn. I wrote the cousin once and got no response, I wrote again and got no response. The third time, I got out a piece of art paper and put it in my wide carriage IBM Selectric typewriter and wrote everything I knew about the family, including some of the more delicate issues. Four days later, I got a phone call. I learned my first lesson in Genealogy, persistence pays off.

For several years, it was letters and phone calls to find out anything. On top of that hundreds of hours in libraries, historical societies, embassies, archives, cemeteries, court houses and funeral homes. All in the quest for knowledge. Then came the age of the computer and dot matrix printers. I can remember my thrill when I had finally entered all of the 220 names I had in the Genealogy software and printed it out.It stretched clear across the floor of a 20 foot room. What an accomplishment! Hurrah!

I kept going and going and every time I added 1000 names I kept saying to myself, “This would be a good number to stop at. Then came the Internet and the ease of talking to people all over the globe, and the insanity of dealing with bad data. “Grandma told me this so it Must be True!” Your Grandma like mine was a wonderful old lady with the memory of a flea. I have corrected most of the dates she sent me and some of the names. It’s all a flow of data that can get modified 100 times. Now some 40 years later, I just hit 25,600 individuals and still going strong. I am verifying information via some death certificates and it has added several people to my database., mostly still born infants.

Over the years I have done research for others, published one family book, written dozens of articles and taught classes. I turned a hobby into an income of sorts over the years. If you would like to start your search and don’t know how, I am available for consultation at a fee. Contact me at Doug’s Country for more information.

Black Friday

I’m sitting here quietly at my favorite WIFI Spot, watching the throngs of travelers and shoppers come in to get lunch or a hot drink. Most of them have that depressed, horrid tired look on their faces, from buying into the Thanksgiving Holiday Circus and the day after ritual called “Black Friday.”

Retailers depend on “Black Friday” and the subsequent build up to Christmas, for a huge portion of their annual revenues. Grab those dollars while they can, when they know people are trained to look for bargains and fight the throngs of people. Some actually enjoy the ritual, but many dread having the experience. Every year, retailers move up their open hours and many of them start on Thanksgiving evening now. Its gotten so ridiculous that some retailers are trying to convince customers to “Boycott Black Friday” and just stay home with their families. I’m not so sure it’s a good tactic, but it hasn’t seemed to have hurt the few retailers who are participating.

“Black Friday” has even affected the Internet. Many of these retailers have online e-commerce sites now and they have extended their “Black Friday” deals and specials online. Some have even started before Thanksgiving offering specials. Online sales increase every year because people herd to the prices and not the whole experience of fighting the retail crowds.

Sounds great doesn’t it? Save the gas, the time and the energy. Stay Home! Just Click Away!

Red Alert! If you stay home, that store has half the business it used to. So it doesn’t need all those extra employees it used to hire.Not only does that affect a lot of college kids who need work during break, thanks to the crummy economy, it now affects a lot of older adults who were counting on being hired as extra help for the Holidays. While the various corporations get hurt a bit at store level, it kills your local economy because those sales aren’t recorded and your state and local governments don’t get those sales tax revenues. If a store under performs enough, that company will close it and then all the jobs disappear.

When a majority of people used to live on farms, the good ol’ Sears and Roebuck Catalog worked just fine to get them the items their small country stores could not handle on a regular basis. But, people don’t live rural any more; they have packed themselves in and around cities and created the economy to sustain their lives. Now with the Internet and Online Shopping that economy is being threatened. It all has a trickle down effect, especially on the lower income brackets who depend on those type of jobs.

So, the next time you get the urge to Shop Online and save yourself all the “hassle”, think twice before you put a knife in the back of your local economy. Don’t help the corporations strangle your town.

Music and the Internet

After Pornography and this year’s election cycle, I can’t think of a topic that generates more controversy than music on the Internet. While I am not a composer, my older brother is so I learned the in’s and out’s of Copyright a long time ago. When I started writing, I found out generally the same rules applied to my writing creations. Barring fair use provisions, with proper citation, you should ask me permission before copying any of my writing for use somewhere else.

Let’s get back to music. Tradition held for a while that some of the major music download sites existed under the vague gray area veil of “Fair Use”. While that lasted for a while, the major organizations that protect artists finally got irritated enough to let lawsuits fly. They managed to take down a couple of large file sharing sites, but at the same time they managed to tick off a lot of music fans.

I’m old enough to remember when Radio Stations and record shops were the only two real sources of music unless you went to a concert. So, if you wanted a free copy of anything, you had to copy someone else’s record or tape or try to make a recording off the radio. Luckily, I had a radio with a built in cassette recorder, so a simple push of the record button and I was in business. I not only recorded music, I recorded some of the old radio shows being broadcasted and many of the “Larry King” interviews when he had his late night show on the “Mutual Broadcasting System.”

Fast forward to the Internet. When designing web sites, I often get requests to add music to sites. I have to explain, to legally do this requires more hoops than it is worth to jump through, unless they have produced their own original music production and not just done a “cover” of someone else’s copyrighted work. While this breaks some of the enthusiasm, it saves both the client and I a truck load of hassle.

Now all this being said, if you really want to include music in your site, you can do it illegally, or you can check YOUTUBE and see if something is there in Video/Music and either link to it or EMBED it in your site. Understand! This is illegal too, but if you want to take the risk, then you can give it a shot. One technical problem you will encounter with this is of YOUTUBE Zaps that particular video; you end up with a dead link or a lousy looking dead embed box on your site.

Keep something else in mind, if you place music directly on your site in a sound file, that adds a huge load to the file size. Video is even worse. So, if you do want to add these things to your site, host them somewhere else and link to them or embed them. That way the bandwidth load goes against the other site and not yours. If you read my article about YouTube you will see where I linked to several files. I could have also embedded any of them in the blog.

Do You YouTube?

How’s that for a title that will drive the Grammar Hounds nuts?

For many years, I did not YouTube. While I have the talent to produce videos, I simply did not have the equipment to do a video worth placing on YouTube. I know there are special software programs for using on YouTube and I owned a couple of them. The other problem I had was that the built in microphone on my Dell Laptop wasn’t working. I finally got the inclination to record a video, so I did a search on why the microphone was dead. It turned out that Dell’s Chinese Engineers, placed a small piece of foam to protect the microphone and that piece of foam dislodges and covers it. Ten minutes and a pair of tweezers and that piece of foam is dead and gone and the microphone works beautifully.

Next was deciding what to put on YouTube. Since I am a photographer, that was my first logical choice. I decided to make a slideshow. I have recently traveled all over the country and decided to make a slideshow of some of the things I saw during that trip. YouTube has a Slideshow generator so I decided to use it to make my show. The Interface is clunky, it requires a super fast Internet connection to work correctly and you have to dig all over Google to find out exactly how large the photos should be. There virtually no information concerning what is a good length for this video or what topics to try. The forums I found were useless and I ended up winging it. The results of that first Slideshow can be seen here. https://youtu.be/94RUhNnwhX8  While it won’t win an Academy Award, it represents the trip pretty well.

One issue I ran into was matching the music to the slides. Since I knew I wanted to Monetize the video, I was limited to Copyright Free music, either that offered by YouTube or music offered by other publishers. For all three of my videos, I ended up using the lame offerings available on YouTube. Let’s speak about Monetization for a moment. Since YouTube is now owned by Google, you have the ability to put AdSense Ads on your production. I did this without any issues. When I tried to ads to my second and third videos, I was informed in the setup process that my content wasn’t viable for ads. Then I got an email from Google wanting to know why I had not set up the videos for Monetization. One side of Google needs to talk to the other. All three videos are now set up on AdSense. For those of you not familiar with monetization, all it means is that if you allow ads to show on your production and a person clicks on that ad, you make some money. For people who’s videos get millions of hits, this can be a gold mine of revenue.

My next video was more topical. I took a series of pictures from various gardens around the country. The slide show was longer and has not been as popular. I experimented with several tunes before I settled on the final music. If you like plants and flowers, you’ll enjoy sitting through this slideshow. You can view it here. https://youtu.be/CLrcXgyiMfs

My third slideshow was again different than the first two. It is titled “A Day at The Fair” and takes you around a fair in the Midwest. Here again, I tried several pieces of music before I settled on the final result. If you would like to view that video it is available here. https://youtu.be/BUZbij6alG0 .

I will be doing some other things on YouTube. It’s a nice change of pace from my daily routine. If you would like to Subscribe to my YouTube Channel please follow this link.  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ-XyIcR2Mn1B_K3jknktvA

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

This may be true in a lot of places, but it is not necessarily true on the Internet. You have heard the term SEO? That stands for Search Engine Optimization. While search engines do catalogue and retain pictures effectively now, the primary search is still text. After finding something, you may search pictures too, but not primarily.

So, what does this mean? It means you have to have a Wordsmith who knows the rules of the engines and also knows how to write text that will bring customers to you during these searches. Key words bring the search to your site. What are you selling? Sit down and write out a list of words that define your product. Then write those words into a text description in a readable form.

Be careful not to duplicate too much, because the search engines tag that as “stuffing.” Many years ago, a group of designers came up with a tactic of putting a lot of words at the bottom of the page in the same color as the site background. You could tell the sites who had done this by the huge blank spot at the bottom of the page. You won’t see that much any more. It looks bad and most search engines will penalize a site that does it now.

If you do include pictures or graphics, remember to put a text description in the Alt section of the picture. This not only gives non-graphic users a description, it enhances your SEO.

Don’t understand any of this, hire a Professional to write the content for your site.

Most Businesses Do Need A Professional Website!

I have been selling and designing websites for over 27 years now. I had one of the first websites on the Internet when it went public. I encouraged as many people as possible to do the same thing. Now, a website is a given for any business that wants to attract customers online.

Yes, it can be expensive to hire a professional, especially if you want a high end website with lots of bells and whistles or a website with a shopping cart. Those sites take specialty software or programming and those coders don’t come cheap.

What I have seen that I think is deplorable, are web designers or companies trying to charge small businesses thousands of dollars for a website in the most simple form. They give all of us a bad name and cause potential customers to do one of two things. They either don’t do a website at all or they go running to one of the freebie “build your own sites” and then everyone loses. The designers lose any revenue they might have gained and the customer loses because they create a website that looks horrible. It takes talent to design a site properly, even with those templates.

There are thousands of people who claim to be web designers on the planet. Everyone has an uncle, cousin or friend who brags, “I’ll design you a site, don’t pay those prices.”  If I was going to pass a law, it would be against well intentioned amateurs taking business away from professionals. Why? They may be ok at design, but rarely are they up to speed on proper SEO, Google and other Search engine parameters and also maintaining the site and being available if something breaks. They also probably do not have marketing experience to show you how to integrate your site into your overall marketing plan. Heck, many web designers don’t know how to do all this. They build your site and run as fast as they can.

I have decades of consulting, marketing and web design experience. Yes, I can build you a site and walk away, but normally I try to develop a deeper experience than that. That way you can call on me for more than just slapping a few pages on the net.  My basic site charge ranges from $595 and up if you want full ownership of your site. For those who are more concerned about cost, I charge $100 and then $20 a month. You don’t own  the site for three years. You quit paying the $20 and your site disappears. This works well for startups who aren’t sure what is going to happen with their business!

Contact me at: Doug’s Country for more information about my web design and other services.

Paypal: Could be so much Better!

I have a Paypal Account, in fact it is about the fourth account I have had over the years for various needs. Currently I have one of their Premier accounts. I wanted their Debit Card, but I don’t want all the features of a full Business Account. The Premier Account serves a purpose that is not defined very well. For self employed individuals like me it provides perks that are useful, just not well defined.

For instance, they have Buy Now Buttons with the Business account and you can also use them with the Premier account. They don’t really want you to use them. They aren’t readily available on the Premier Menu system and when you do create them in a Premier Account, they blast your email all over the net instead of the encrypted code available in the Business Account Buttons.

The same sort of thing happens with their PaypalMe Code. Instead of being able to provide any form of Alias or Branding, it blasts your REAL NAME and if you include it, a Picture. Plus they restrict your PaypalMe Code. I signed up with a 100 on the end of my code to keep their system happy and several people have responded negatively. You said 9.95, I’m not sending you 100 dollars. I have to tell them the 100 is part of my identity and not what they will be charged. There’s no reasons for that identity code to be showing to the public except pathetic Paypal Execution. PaypalMe needs it’s own BUTTON.

I have asked support three times if there is any way for a person to add cash to their own account besides linking a Checking Account or a Credit Card.  There is, but it is not publicized on the regular Paypal Account pages. It’s called the Paypal MyCash Card and is only available at limited retailers. You buy the card for $3.95 and then you fill it with cash at the business. It’s like many of the gift cards available, with one major exception; every time you refill it, you get screwed for another $3.95. Paypal claims this is a third part fee charged by the company that handles their card processing. Well I’m here to tell you Paypal, that fee is outrageous on an ongoing basis. Next time I will use a Money Order.

Paypal could have twice the user base they have currently if they would just start creating products that are User Oriented and quit screwing their customers at every turn.

Last but certainly not least, get rid of that horrible automated support system and those foreign voices answering emails. It took me three days and five emails to get a relatively simple question answered. Paypal must pay them by the email.

Perhaps the feds need to take a serious look at Paypal and finally do something to stop these consumer abusing practices. Hey President Elect Trump!  Add this one to your list!

Making Money on the Internet

Like many people, I wanted to find out exactly what are the current ways to make money on the Internet being touted by many of the other bloggers. Here are the results of my search.

Surveys – Surveys are a great way to waste a horrific amount of time and make little money. You will see all sorts of ads proclaiming huge amounts like $30 to $50 per survey. It’s all hype. The best I found after trying many companies was $1.50. That company was selective on their participants and you could not cash out until you earned $25.00. For the average person, hell would freeze over before you saw any of your cash.

Writing – While there are some decent ways to get writing gigs on the net, for most people you will be trapped by companies who offer from .01 to .05 cents a word. You can only write on specific topics and if you don’t get rejected you might actually end up making a few bucks for your article. Problem is like the Surveys, you have to wait for a cash payout at anywhere from $25,00 to $50,00 and I have seen multiple complaints where writers finally made it to the payout, only to be banned from the site and their money disappearing in the wind.

Selling Photography – I tried this with one of the major companies. I wasn’t too thrilled about having to give them a copy of my Driver License, but I choked back my dread of Identity Theft and sent them the license. I then uploaded 12 files to see what would happen. 6 of the photos were rejected for being blurry at full size. 2 were rejected as having “no commercial appeal”, 1 was rejected because they claimed I had done post production editing on it, which was not true and 3 were accepted. It was a lot of effort for success on three photos. I deleted everything I could and then I wrote them and told them to close my account.

Doing Tasks – Do a quick task for someone and make $5! Or a whole lot less on some of the more heavily promoted sites. If you are lucky, you’ll make a nickel, a dime, maybe a whole quarter! Then you run into the same issue as everything above, the payout level. How many 5 cent tasks does it take to reach $20.00. Even if the payout level is less than that you are competing against 1000 other people and all of these sites use activity grading. You do more tasks and you get a better chance at the tasks against the new people who have just signed up.

Freelancing – Yes, you can go find freelance jobs on the net, but most of the better sites charge everyone for joining now. Then once in their system you run into the same issues as you found trying to do tasks. 1000 people all trying to get the same contracts. Unless you have a really specialized skill, get ready to spend hours bidding on jobs. Some sites even charge you to place those bids. So you can end up with a lot of cash outlay for very few results.

Reseller/Affiliate – Of all the things I have found, reselling has some viability, if the product is good and you get a really good commission selling it. You still deal with Payout issues, but those tend not to be as painful as some of the other options. to do this properly, you need a website or a blog. Then you sign up for whatever plan. Don’t have a website or a blog, I can build you one for a fee.

All of these methods to make money have one additional component. You can make additional money signing others up. that’s the only reason you see so many websites promoting working online. If you sign up through them, they make something off of your signup. It’s not because they want to see your bank account rise.