Thursday, December 14, 2017

How I manage my email accounts

Back in the days when I was engaged in recruiting for an Australian Government agency, I recall how many really stupid email addresses I received from job applicants. 

You know, the email addresses like "bigcock8", "friendlypuss", "maddy82", "tattooedkid", and a host of others totally unsuited for use in the workforce. Even less suited to a job application.

Irrespective of their email prefixes, I had to take a serious look at each application and eventually sift out the few people likely to make a worthwhile contribution to the Australian Public Service. So, I did. But I always had a laugh at some of the email addresses and wondered whether the person who had chosen them really knew how childish they were.

Like the separation of church and state, business and pleasure, I always separate my business, individual, family and private email. I have three email addresses. They are a:

1. general purpose email address that doesn't identify me by name
2. business address that identifies me by name with my domain as the suffix
3. a joint address with my wife that identifies both of us by first name

The business address runs through my domain. Both of the other addresses are Gmail addresses.

Address one is the one I use for most daily activities that are personal ie, newsletter subscriptions, general enquiries and for many profiles.

The third address, the joint address with my wife, we use for all official purposes eg, taxation, private medical fund, insurance, car registration, banking and anything else that involves our joint personal business. I've set up that address so that, when it is used by someone, both my wife and I receive a copy of the email in our disposable Gmail accounts. For me, that is account one. My wife has a similar account.

This ensures that we are both aware of what is happening with our business relationships and also helps us avoid missing the due date for bills; either one of us will be on the ball enough to pay it.

By using our joint name address, people with whom we deal know they are addressing us both. It looks more professional than say an address like, "cactus56" that could be used for informal activities.

Your Turn!

Do you have a communication plan or methodology you follow for your email contact with others or haven't you thought about it? Tell us in the comments.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Before You Buy Your Laptop

Buying a new laptop can be a nightmare. Often, people who are not laptop savvy are confused with the range of brands, different hard disk (HDD) and random access memory (RAM) capacities, and other features including those of the deal being offered.

What you want to do with your laptop (or smart phone) will have some bearing on the capacity of the device you buy. But first, let’s discuss what some of the terms mean. Skim these if you already know what they are.

CPU - Central Processing Unit. This is a chip-set that does most of the work to operate your laptop. Most laptops have a little blue sticker indicating that your laptop has “Intel inside” and there is a variety eg, “Celeron, i5, i7’ etc. More about these later
RAM - Random Access Memory. RAM is memory that is used to hold data while it is being processed eg, while downloading or uploading photos.
VRAM - Is RAM associated with your output monitor. It provides a buffer between your laptop and monitor. Also called Dynamic RAM (DRAM).
HDD - Hard Disk Drive. A storage device upon which you can store data eg, a photo or document.
SSD - Solid-State Drive. SSDs are taking over from HDDs because they have no moving parts and are much faster. (Also eMMC - Embedded Multi-Media Controller)

Now that you are familiar with these terms, when you visit a retail store and see displayed descriptions of various brand and models’ capacities, you’ll know what they refer to. Having this understanding will help you buy what you need and not more or less.

Package Deals  
Laptop sales people are good at promoting package deals. Many of the deals are excellent, but there is also need for caution. Why? Because you may pay more for each item “packaged” than you would pay for separate items and think it’s a bargain because a sales rep tells you so.

Say for example the deal includes a laptop, a power surge protection plug, an antivirus program, other software, and some sort of help line offer. You may be charged say $30 (all amounts in AUD) for a power surge protection plug that you can buy for $10. The help line package could be $300.

You need to ask what the package includes and how the price is determined. If you don’t think you will use the $300 help line or already have a power surge protecting power board, perhaps the package isn’t what you need.

If you already subscribe to an anti-virus/firewall protection program, transfer it to your new laptop. Most allow use on four or six separate devices. Go for the separate items you do need. Remember they want to sell you a laptop - you have the negotiating advantage.

Deciding What Specifications You Need
If you are playing games online, you’ll probably want a lot of RAM, a high speed CPU and VRAM. Gaming uses a lot of resources. Ask your supplier for a laptop specified sufficiently for gaming. It will usually be more expensive than other laptops.

Most people use their laptops for email, photo collection and editing, music, offline games, surfing the internet, and perhaps managing their affairs with banking, superannuation, insurance and so on. If that’s you, you don’t need a specified-to-the-max laptop.

Looking at one major retailer’s site today, the cheapest laptop they have is a Lenovo for $396. It’s light (for travellers) and has minimum specifications including minimal storage (64 GB). It would suffice for email and surfing, but 64 GB of storage is insufficient and it would probably lead to frustration. You get what you pay for.

Their Gaming Laptop is $2297 and is highly specified.

In the middle range is a $797 Lenovo with 8GB RAM, an Intel 1.3 processor and 128 GB of SSD. It has a 15.6” screen (measured diagonally) and comes with Windows 10. It would be suitable for most applications, even some level of gaming. If you download huge volumes of high resolution photographs you’d probably need to transfer them later to a removable hard disk drive otherwise the 128 GB of SSD would disappear fast.

If you are buying a laptop, don’t walk into a store and get the first one you see. Before you go, think about what you want your new laptop to do. Write down your minimum requirements and then go shopping.

Don’t think that higher cost is always better quality. Choose a price range with which you are comfortable and then compare several models and brands. Don’t pay for additional stuff you don’t want or need. Make sure you know what warranty period applies and if you intend to use DVDs with it, make sure it is equipped with a DVD reader as many laptops now are not.

Good luck with your shopping.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Plan Your Retirement Early or Miss Out

Retirement provides time to travel to exciting places
Some people fritter away their lives and five years before retirement think about what they need do to prepare. By then, it's probably too late.

Truth is, it's better to make some plans for retirement not long after you begin work. Yes, I know, you are 18 or 23 or so and the last thing on your mind is retirement. Maybe that's a tad early as you're probably earning a small salary, struggling to make car and rent payments, and spending more than you earn. So, why not start as soon as you have some spare money? Hopefully that will be when you are in your late 20s or mid-late 30s.

The point is, one day you will have to stop work, either because you are too unfit to work or you will have decided you've had enough and simply retire from the work force. I retired after 51 years at work.

In Australia (I can't speak for others), we have a pension scheme that is accessable after 65 years of age and up, depending on your birth year. However, your aim should be NOT to get the government pension because it really isn't enough to live on comfortably.

You should aim to be self-funding if possible. Do this by putting as much as you can into your compulsory superannuation fund, buying your own house and paying off the mortgage, and if possible, purchase one or more commercial or private properties to rent.

Even $10 per week into your superannuation fund will multiply over the years into something worthwhile.

Attend the numerous free superannuation seminars that are offered from time to time so you get a grasp of what superannuation is all about. The more you learn, the better you will be able to prepare.

Before you know it, if you are fortunate not to be culled earlier, you will arrive at retirement. When you retire, your salary will stop and you will need to live on the money you have saved in superannuation, bank accounts, or elsewhere. Obviously, the more you have, the better your retirement years will be.

Look forward to travelling, socialising with fellow older people, your children and grand children if you have them and, instead of working every day of the week and perhaps the weekend too, do what you want to do. You will be free. Free of the need to work and depend on someone else supporting you.

It's a great feeling. even greater if you are sufficiently well funded to enjoy yourself.

I hope this post gets you thinking about your retirement and why you should be at least aware of including it in your plans as you passage through life.