Tag Archives: Mac

The Mac Clone: Pointless in 2008

In case, you’ve missed, a company called Psystar is selling a Mac clone for $399 & up. As the Guardian noted, they are either operating out of mom & dad’s garage or in a new office.

For $399, they are offering you a Mac Mini (specs) encased in a large (but nice looking) PC case.

For some reason, this seems to excite people as if what we really want in life is a cheap knockoff of something, REALLY? This is really a goal in life? Don’t sell me the real thing, I’d rather pay slightly less money for a thing like the real thing?

A clone made sense when not just Macs but all personal computers sold in the $2,000+ range. Of course, at that price point, I’m willing to compromise a little here and there for a computer in the $999 range.

But for a savings of $200 versus a Mini? What is really the point?

They like to talk expandability as if that’s some great thing worth the savings of $2,000 versus a MacPro desktop. (Um, never mind the MacPro has a quad core and thing isn’t even a duo core).

Sure, in the days of serial ports and wonky SCSI on the Mac side, anything you could install internally pretty much meant it would be easier for the OS to find and for it to work.

But now with firewire and USB, I can daisy-chain 128 firewire devices and nearly as many USB drives with powered hubs. Sure, they don’t don’t look as attractive but how many drives can you fit into most cases anyway, 4? I can buy 4 1TB drives that stacked on top of each other take up about as much desktop space as 4 inside a desktop case.

Expandability inside the case is not that important anymore – with USB & firewire, EVERYTHING is expandable in less than 5 minutes and no chance to cut your hand open trying to fit a HDD onto a tray inside a computer.

If anything, it’s better because if an external drive is really going down, I can unmount it and plug in a new drive without even restarting.

And If you are the 5% of users who will actually replace their graphics card, are you really going to buy a underpowered $399 Mac clone just to spend $2,000 on a graphics card?

Even as recent as 10 years ago, the margins on the PC side were that you could save substantially by building your own but now if your time is money, there’s no real savings. You have to be the type that enjoys tinkering because if a component breaks, you think it’s bad trying to get Dell to admit the power supply went down now, good luck getting a power supply you bought and installed replaced yourself from some company in Muncie? And yes, you can save a little here and there but the quality of the components? How many no-name fans are built for about 6 months before they start making noise slightly louder than a F-22 flyby?

And sure, you can save $200 by not buying a Mini … but what is iLife worth to you?

Or what is it worth to you that Apple has 200 stores around the globe open and ready to take responsibility and answer any question for your Mini (or any other Mac you buy?)

The time is passed for clone makers. The $200 dollar difference is too miniscule (never mind that the website sort of implies that they don’t guarantee any other OS other than 10.5 will run on this – and never mind the legal issues or that this business seems to have started last week). Even if you started selling these at a retailer where customers could return it such as Wal-Mart, $200 savings is just not enough of a difference – now if this clone were selling for $99 or $149, then you might have a business as saving $450-$500 dollars, that’s actually substantial enough to make a difference.

But right now – pointless.

(and yea, Apple will sue – if Apple doesn’t, customers will walk into Apple stores trying to get tech support or more likely, warranty support – your OS is bundled with it?! Apple could care less if you wanted to sell an open source $399 computer but bundling Apple OS as if they had a license to bundle or sell it – implying to customers there is a relationship? That won’t fly).

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MacBook Air: Not For You So Don’t Panic

Quick, name the perfect product for everyone?

Air, the other one? The thing we breathe? Yea, how is that air in Houston in August or in Beijing?

Um, not so perfect.

Water? Who here only drinks tap? Don’t we like it flavored, carbonated, with taurine, mint or almost anyone other than tap?

So, not water … but apparently if it’s announced from Apple, it must be 100% perfect for everyone at all times.

Yea, not too high of a benchmark so that anything that falls slightly short of that is a “failure” or “disaster.”

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The MacBook Air is what it is. It’s a lightweight fairly speedy laptop with emphasis on lightweight.

Is it for everyone? No.

It’s for road warriors and those who are tired of carrying a heavy laptop around. For those that have NEVER traveled for an extended period with a laptop – you just don’t know. Holding it in a store for a minute is NOT the same thing. At the store holding it for a minute, you can’t justify spending a few hundred dollars extra but try running down a mile-long airport terminal or carrying a bag full of printed collateral and then ask yourself if 2 lbs, 4 lbs, etc. extra is worth the difference? Until you’re at that point you simply don’t know or don’t need an Air or any other ultraportable.

All you see is what’s “missing” but when you’re schelping a 5 lb or 7 lb laptop from room to room and then around a giant Pentagon like building – that’s when you wonder – how much weight are those extra CAMERA memory slots or how many peripherals do I need to plug into this thing at once? This is NOT a desktop machine for everyone. Is Apple not manufacturing any of their other lines or computers? No. You want full power and have the room? Buy the desktop Mac Pro. You want an all-in-one? Buy an iMac. You want portability on a budget and are willing to trade a little speed and screen size? Buy a MacBook. Need the most features, speed and screen size? Buy a MacBook Pro. You choose what you want – everything in this world including Macs are a compromise in some way because there’s no perfect for everyone 100% of the time but for those who want thin, light, good enough speed, a nice screen, OSX, and a full keyboard?

The MacBook Air has a lot of nice touches …

The Apple Air has built in WiFi and the new Remote which lets you mount a CD or DVD on a nearby machine – what more do you need?

Want security or recovery utilities – a 16 GB USB stick weighs a few ounces or would you rather carry around a bulky optical drive internally or externally?

Still without WiFi at home or at the office? How about a $8 connector from Ethernet to USB that weighs a few ounces.

Can’t live without extra USB ports? Unpowered or Powered.

At home, you can add the Apple Time Capsule so you can print, share a hard drive and of course access the internet via WiFi:

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As for the “non-removable” battery, AppleInsider points out it’s a three minute job but more importantly, in a few weeks, I’m sure there will be a USB long life external battery which is even BETTER that it’s external. First, you’re going to have to carry a spare battery anyway whether it’s internal or external, they both weigh about the same – and with an external battery, you can charge it without having to insert it into your larop OR carry around its own charger AND even better, when your internal battery goes low, you can simply plug in the external battery (presumably through the USB) and best of all, without having to shut down and remove the other battery.

So for those worried to no end about a battery that is not removeable is simply over worrying the solution. Of course, the perfect solution would be a battery that would run for 19 hours but until we get to that point, saving a few lbs is much more important than whether the additional 1 lb battery I have to carry anyway is external or internal.

The MacBook Air is clearly NOT for everyone but finally a full sized laptop in screen, speed & keyboard but one that weighs much like a sub notebook. The thin-ness is an extra bonus. Just ask the ‘road warriors’ what’s at the top of their wish list? The MacBook Air delivers 98% of what’s most important – bulk, screen size, processor speed, battery life and keyboard size.

Along with the built-in WiFi and a USB stick, the remaining 2% is easily manageable.

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The Apple CGI I’m a Mac Santa Holiday Ad

In case you missed it – cute, funny, nicely done!

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(click on screen shot – Apple.com)

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How to Fix Your Mac DVD & Other DVD Players for $7

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While not exactly the most exciting bit of technology, before you rip out a wonky DVD player from your Mac (or throw your AV DVD player away), spend $7 to run this cleaning DVD with brushes over the laser eye – in many cases, the ONLY reason your DVD player is working spotty and wonky is the household dust on the lens is diffusing the laser.

While the link here is to Amazon, you can buy it at most places like Target, WM or your electronic stores … from what I’ve seen, most places charge around $7-$8 and paying more isn’t really going to get you much better …

For those who’ve never used one, it’s the simplest cleaner device. Put it in, press PLAY. Nothing to spray, nothing to wipe. Press PLAY a second time to just to be sure. Eject. Done.

The Memorex one also has a speaker tester, nothing sophisticated but you get a speaker testing portion – highs, lows, seperation, left, right, etc … so give it a shot, it can’t hurt and after you run it twice and you still have problems, THEN you should consider replacing the DVD-R … Good luck!

(You can also run it for your AV DVD player as well as your car deck).

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Apple iPhone Forced to Unlock in Europe – Crying to the Bank …

While Apple is being forced to unlock the iPhone in Europe, it is tragic … because Apple is going to pay so much more in taxes from the HUGE profit they will be making … yea, that’s quite a tragedy.

The deal will be much like T-Mobile’s just-announced revised deal in Germany. Get the iPhone for $590 (in USD) if you sign a 2-year contract (monthly rates are like the US – about $50 to $100 (converted to USD)). If you want to buy an unlocked phone, it’s @$1,500 (USD).

So the consequences for Apple will be either make $500 + $20 a month from T-Mobile for each iPhone customer … or make some $1,300 in one fell swoop now.

Oh, what a tragedy for Apple.

While $1,500 is a lot for a phone, people have a choice but the bottom line is it doesn’t hurt Apple’s bottom line.

Consumers can get the full experience with T-Mobile or get slightly less with another carrier but don’t have to worry about a contract. It’s a win-win for Apple.

That’s why Apple is on a roll. They win by winning and they win by “losing.”

They will not only INCREASE sales but make more money upfront as a “consequence” of the ruling.

So, yes, the tax department will have to work a little harder and Apple will probably have to come up with more upgrades to deter people from buying a US phone (where the dollar is much cheaper), unlocking it and using it in Europe but all the bricking fears will silence most buyers – most that want an unlocked phone would rather pay $1,500 for an official phone they can take into an Apple store versus saving some money upfront but maybe worrying that every 2 months, there will be some major upgrade and their phone might die … you can bet adding the ablity to run 3rd party apps next year wll be a major upgrade and brick many unlocked older phones.

Again, win by winning and win by “losing.”

That’s how you plan ahead and run a business – where your worst consequence is you make more money and have more tax hassles …

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iPhone “Free” Custom Ringtones Are Back – How To Make Your Own

UPGRADE SOME COMPONENTS FIRST

You will need to make sure your iPhone is updated to 1.1.2 and iTunes 7.5 & maybe even Quicktime 7.3. Of course, your iPhone upgrade is best handled by clicking on UPDATE after you dock your iPhone and turn on iTunes 7.5. This is a pretty big upgrade including a firmware upgrade so it will take 10-15 minutes in total – maybe sure you can do it un-interrupted.

READY

Yes, you can still pay $.99 for a ringtone from Apple which is the least amount of work required and sounds the best – but it’s very limited – maybe one of every 20 tracks is available to scrub as a ringtone, you also can’t merge different parts of a song together and of course, personally, if I buy a song, I should be able to mash, squeeze it and manipulate to my hearts content as long as I’m not selling it … but anyway, custom ringtones are back and here are some basic guidelines to converting your tracks to .m4r ringtones.

STEP 1

You will need some software that can open music tracks and let you edit portions. It’s would also be nice if that software offered you features to manipulate the sound – in particular, useful features available to you include:

Raising/Lowering Volume
Fade In & Fade Out
Boosting Bass

Note, the update of 1.1.2 seems to have raised the volume again (yes!) so you don’t need to increase as much as previously, in fact, I actually had to turn the ringer down slightly.

Fade In & Out is SO much classier than it just jumping in to the track and jumping out.

Boosting the Bass – most AIFF to mp3 to AAC to .m4r conversion seems to strip out the bass so it can sound kind of tinny – try to boost the bass a bit but not too much.

Also keep in mind, it has to be below :30 seconds.

WHAT TO USE?

If you are extremely lazy, the track sounds okay and you don’t care about FADE IN or OUT, you can even use iTunes. Insert your CD. Click on the track, Select GET INFO and shorten the in & out points to what you want and select CONVERT TO AAC. You now have a :30 track. Go down to instructions beoow on conversion to .m4r and you are set to go.

You can kludge iMovie also to get a FADE IN & FADE OUT but much more work is involved. If you only intend to create one ringtone, it is a way to go.

Or QT Pro will also allow editing but again, not very precise and a last resort.

REAL EDITING SOFTWARE

SOUND STUDIO

If you got SOUND STUDIO with your Mac purchase as I did you are set (currently, it’s $79.99), select IMPORT WITH QUICKTIME to open any MP3 file, highlight the areas you want and paste into a new file – you can even clip, edit and smooth out your edits – just keep it around :30 seconds and use the Fade in and Fade Out – then EXPORT with QUICKTIME to create an AIFF file. Then drag into iTUNES and convert to AAC.

GARAGEBAND

I don’t use GarageBand much but it’s free if you don’t have SOUND STUDIO. Create NEW Podcast. Open your ITUNES LIBRARY – search for song, drag TRACK to JINGLES – edit and manipulate away. Export PODCAST TO DISK – it will already be an AAC file.

Note, podcast export files are low fidelity but then it is a ringtone so you can decide.

FISSION

Rogue Amoeba also offers FISSION if you don’t have SOUND STUDIO. It’s around $32 and offers additional MP3 features other than just editing. Can’t go wrong with a solid app like Fission.

OTHERS

There are probably 50 other editors ranging from freeware to studio quality music editors if you have other software you prefer – just make sure the volume is okay, add fade in and outs and boost the bass a bit.

STEP 2

Once you have your tracks as AAC files – the easiest is to use the FREE Make iPhone Ringtone courtesy of Rogue Amoeba.

Download the MAKEIPHONERINGTONE app. That is the direct link to the app – Rogue’s blog notes are here.

Launch MakeiPhoneRingtone – drag your AAC file onto the front panel, it will auto convert, launch and place the file into the newly created RINGTONE line in your iTUNES LIBRARY.

Then sync and you are ready to go.

So, good luck – as long as you can convert the file to AAC, MAKE IPHONE RINGTONES will take care of the rest.

So if time is money, then you have the easy way but if you don’t mind a few minutes of work to save $.99, there are lots of ways to go.

Thanks to Engadget, we have the legal go-ahead.

ALSO

Remember you can assign different tracks to different people in your contacts … just make sure your boss & your significant other gets an appropriate track …

For those who need a primer on using Apple’s iTunes ringtone maker feature, read our previous post.

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Guide to Installing Mac Leopard OSX 10.5 On Day One

For PC users, they don’t understand or even believe that on the Mac, you can randomly just upgrade your Mac and that for 99% of people, they can come back after 30-minutes when all is installed and ready, hit RESTART and while it might take a few ticks longer to reboot the first time, they are set to go.

I have upgraded an old iMac from 10.1 to 10.4 with nary a problem and again, PC users will flat out not believe me when I tell it runs faster and more stable … of course, I witnessed a virus app upgrade killing a PC hard drive so I understand the pain on the other side … Perhaps this analogy will be useful for you:

PC OS Upgrade much like a KIDNEY TRANSPLANT.

Hopefully, it won’t die on the operating table.
Hopefully it won’t rejected the transplant and die
Hopefully it won’t a staph infection and die.

It’s risky and if you can use the dialysis machine to get a few more months or years, so be it … it’s the last resort and/or for the very brave to get the transplant.

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Mac OS Upgrade – much like buying a new SHIRT.

The labels tell you exactly what you will get.
You might have to wait 30-minutes after washing it before you can wear it.
There might a tag you forgot to remove – causing you a minute discomfort.

With that said – however – there’s the 1% chance you could encounter major problems so you have to ask yourself if you absolutely need to do it on day one?

If you’re buying a new Mac, no point in buying it beforehand, might as well wait and get it with OSX 10.5 Leopard on the 26th – can you wait 3 days :-)

If you need your Mac for work and/or to make a living … why risk it unless your job is testing out OSes? There’s no real harm in waiting a few days or weeks until the small hiccups are worked out – in fact, the odds are pretty good there will be an updater or more importantly, small things may or may not work – printer drivers are not always in sync with major OS upgrades so while it might print “standard” stuff okay, if you need to print ColorSync colors on special thick art paper, it might not understand all the right settings … or system utilities that designers might need like font managers so while the odds are good all will be fine – why take a nap on railroad tracks?

But if you absolutely need or want to install Leopard on Day One – take this advice.

1) BACKUP your hard drive!*
2) SHUT DOWN.
3) Unplug/umount all your USB and Firewire external devices from you Mac.
4) Repair Permissions via APPLE DISC UTILITY**
5) Run OSX 10.5 installer.
6) Restart.
7) If everything appears to boot okay. SHUTDOWN. Plug everything back in.
8) RESTART.

For 99% of you, start testing out the new OSX and start blogging.

* If all is well, after a couple days, you can erase it and use it as your new TIME MACHINE backup drive.
** Some people say it’s un-necessary but it doesn’t really hurt anything – might as well do it.

TIME MACHINE is the new addition to OSX that will create a VISUAL backup of each and EVERY folder so you can visually “go back in time.” What’s also nice is that you can use several Macs on one hard drive. More details at Apple.

Here is the page to read more about the main new features.

Here is the guided tour video from Apple.

Amazon is offering a $20 pre-order discount (so hurry?). The 5-install (family) pack is also discounted.

Or PowerMax will include a free-shirt and a plush stuffed leopard.

One other difference – if you buy the Leopard package from the Amazon or PowerMax links above, you are buying the FULL version that can be installed on any Mac machine. The $9.95 upgrade disc (for recent Mac buyers) gives you a disc that will upgrade that specific type of machine so for instance, if you upgrade your Mac Pro laptop, you cannot use that disc to upgrade your iMac – make sense?

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Pixelmator: The NOT READY FOR PRIMETIME Review

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The Pixelmator creators have gotten a lot of press in their attempt to knock a few pegs from the Adobe Photoshop Regime and yes, the app looks fine and has lots of cool looking Apple Quartz effects and transparencies but while they may have spent hundreds of hours writing code and prettifying Pixelmator, they either should not have turned over the final 5 yards to a lawyer or maybe they should have taken a few marketing classes.

If the age-old doctor’s motto is to do no harm (probably sounds much cooler in anicent Greek), then the motto of doing business in the internet age is NOT to annoy customers because they ALWAYS have alternatives especially FREE ones.

Pixelmator is seriously flawed because they stamp a WATERMARK across your freakin’ files unless you pay up.

Now, this is fine if your app has ZERO competition or poor competition like VUESCAN (great 3rd party scanning software, slaps hundreds of the word VUESCAN across your scans unless you pay and ultimately, you do pay because it’s hundreds of times better than the Win ’98 like scanning software you normally get bundled with your scanner).

Isn’t the point of Pixemator to get you to switch from Photoshop?

How can you really tell if the app is any good if you CANNOT TELL if your final files are any good – because there is a freakin’ PIXELMATOR logo across your graphic?

We tested out five FREE online Photoshop-ish editors online and they are no better or worse than Pixelmator for casual users – so why switch when they offer MORE & UN-WATERMARKED features?

What’s the point of getting people to download your app, load it, launch it – only to say – imgine what your file would look like without our logo splayed across it? Gee thanks, I can skip 5 steps and just go one of 20 other free alternatives?

iPhoto offers casual editing features – so to compete against that, you try and make your app more annoying? (not to mention most photo sites & communities all offer the most-used 20 features inline – albeit mostly wonky and weird but it’s free and it’s there without any additional software to download and launch).

This should be a lesson to all new software writers/companies – if you want to convince someone to switch from free to your $60 app, how about letting them use it unfettered?

5 Days? 15 Days? 30 Days – then shut ‘er off but shouldn’t you trusted your own app to win converts? Will there be cheap a** b-tards who will just use it because it’s free? Well, what have you got to lose? You already have LEGAL free competitors online …

Even Adobe lets you use their apps “unfettered” for a 30-day trial* – you actually want to make Adobe seem more customer friendly? That’s the benchmark you are shooting for?

*They do like to send you pop-ups along the way and the apps do like to call home (on a Mac, just go to the WEB folder in LIBRARY>Adobe … and toss to avoid that).

Because while $60 isn’t much, it’s still a commitment that only committed users & designers might consider as an alternative to the $500+ Photoshop … again, how can they tell it’s any good if you slap a big blotch in the middle of a file … why not just put a big turd in the middle of every file that gets bigger every minute you haven’t paid for Pixelmator?

Right now, Pixelmator is essentially worthless so don’t bother – along with the fact that scaled JPEG’s don’t show you a file size (for you to decide if you want quality or size), the watermark logo in the middle of every file means they don’t really understand designers. They set out to replicate Photoshop for 10% of the cost – a worthwhile goal but they got lawyered up or confused about why someone might want to use an app or switch … maybe they will understand by the next version or not.

There’s no link because it’s pointless to look at your graphic files with their logo in it so don’t bother just yet. In the meanwhile, we have free online apps, other more customer friendly shareware apps, iPhoto, online communities and the one you know – Photoshop.

In fact, your time is much better spent reading about the history of Photoshop.

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Cool Business Card Designs

It is not always easy to find a cool business card design. Most are fairly pedestrian but on occasion you may obtain one that makes you say, “Cool!”.

Here is a link to a site that has captured many examples of very cool business card designs. Here are a few to whet your appetite:

feather biz card

Scratch and read variety.

furniture biz card

Hand made furniture deserves something special don’t you think?

dental biz card

First impressions and all? (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Follow the link for many more (thanks to the folks over at Creativebits.org.)

Our launching a business post also covers Business Card Designs.

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How to Get Your Business Online: Step 1, Buy a Mac

Whether you choose a $599 Mini or an 8-core desktop Mac with a 30″ screen, you will get off on the right footing with the only computer that can run at least 2 OSes including OSX & Vista and comes bundled with a useful amount of software – and not bloatware or trialware – not to mention the spyware/malware thing. There’s nothing wrong with PC’s if you have a support staff in place but if you’d rather get down to the business of business, just buy a Mac.

This guide is not intended for advanced users who can code their webpages using a PSP – you clearly know what you are doing but for many other people, it’s a great gray unknown so this is intended for people who want to start a sideline business, sell things on the internet, to start a professional services business or they simply want a webstore front for their brick & mortar location.

And if you are a business, you have to have an online presence. End of discussion. Anything less makes you unprofessional. I’m not saying you have to have some huge massive website but you need a presence that’s simply, dignified and professional even if all you really offer are directions and a contact link – you have to do that much.

A NAME – WHAT’S IN A NAME

Before getting online, you need a name for your company. Now, if you’re a local service business, you don’t want to get carried away. Depending on what business you’re in, you want something appropriate – there are no obvious checklists but some common sense here … Little Debbie’s works attached to Snack Cakes but perhaps not so much next to Security Services … ultimately though, it’s your call. You have to decide whether you want something evocative or something straightforward … whether you want to go big or local … in most professional services, your name in the title is a nice touch as it implies there is a responsible party and you are willing to put your name on the line … and your town, city or state can be limiting or not … “Joe’s of Hill Street” can be great so everyone knows EXACTLY where you but might not make as much sense if you expand and open a 2nd storefront in another town … on the other hand, no one really cares that Southwest Airlines doesn’t just fly in the Southwest. If you’re starting a professional services or consulting business, you want a name you can say out loud easily enough – not something like “Asconatems Incorporated” that you can barely pronounced and spell yourself – let alone ask someone else to.

Need some guidelines? Here are some great blogs/sites to read online – The Name Inspector Blog and his ten tips, Igor and their 91-page PDF Guide, and Wordlab and their forum with naming help.

Give up? How about a Random Name Generator? Okay, most of them sound like they are better for a screenwriter to use but hey, it’s free. Or if you’re a Web 2.0 company? Forget an expensive consultants, linguistic whiteboards and focus groups … just click here. They will also send you to check its availability with the bottom button. read the warning below.

Here’s a free site where you can enter some words to get something back – small site, not always online but it’s free … Or more highfalutin’ like the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names?

Professionals get it all wrong sometimes … some more awful names.

Of course, depending on the size of the enterprise you’re planning to build – you might need to check the US Government Trademark Office. Or a trademark screening company such as NameProtect. Other legal forms to get you started from LegalZoom. Or MyNewCompany.com for incorporating, etc.

Or Wikipedia’s history of Company Names to get some inspiration.

GOT A NAME – CHECK ONLINE AVAILABILITY …

As mentioned, the free web name generator site can send you to Dotster to check if the domain name is available or at AjaxWhois or a couple dozen other places including the official WHOIS search from InterNIC. (If you are http://www.PismoChase.com, then PismoChase is your domain name). The official FAQ from InterNIC regarding domain names is here.

Also note if you decide to go with a website host, they will usually offer you a chance to buy your domain name then – covered in greater detail below.

Okay, here’s the tricky part – there have been stories of people checking up on domain names – deciding not to “buy it” then & there and coming back a few days later to find that site they used to check on the name has grabbed it – now, it’s difficult to say whether it’s true or not but if you’ve spent days/weeks pondering a name to honor your grandmother and your ancestors and some idiotic webhost steals it, you are pretty much out of luck. Here’s a unhappy example.

SO PROCEED WITH CAUTION IN DETERMINING IF THE NAME IS AVAILABLE.

You are safe on INTERnic since it’s the “official site,” but then again, who knows – just think it as being at a flea market. If you put something back down, it might be gone or or it might be $50 more the next time you come back around.

SO PROCEED WITH CAUTION IN DETERMINING IF THE NAME IS AVAILABLE.

If the exact phrase you want is not available, check if adding a hyphen or a dot will work for you like del.icio.us.com or pismo-chase.com … though you want to check the site of delicious.com or pismoschase.com to make sure potential customers might mistake you for the other. Note, del.icio.us.com owns both to avoid any problems and it’s more of a cute marketing touch but really, it’s best if you’re serious about a long term presence on the web to choose a non hyphenated name and of course, it’s tough. As noted from last year by Dennis Forbes, “Of the 17,576 possible three-letter sequences, again every single one is already taken.”

Of course, you can string several words together but make sure you write out the words so you don’t end up like The Therapist Finder … aka http://www.therapistfinder.com … um, see the problem? Here are some of the most infamous ones on the internet.

Price – you can pay as little as $2 a year to $100 to get a domain name – what’s the difference? Not much or really, nothing at all – so pay accordingly. You probably shouldn’t pay more than $10-$20 dollars and less if you buy a multi-year package.

Also note, you will need an address & phone to register. This address is listed publicly so this is a good opportunity to get a mailing address and phone so you don’t get spammed.

You will also be asked to choose a “suffix” for your domain name – avoid anything other than .com – unless you are a mobile business or travel, avoid anything but .com … .biz is okay if it’s some pun on your company name like BizBuzz.Biz or something “wacky” if that’s what you’re going for but if you’re a CPA or most everyone, stick with .com. It’s the professional choice. Wikipedia has a listing of your choices.

OKAY, READY TO GET ON THE WEB …

This is a DIY (Do It Yourself) guide for someone who isn’t ready to hire a designer or isn’t generating enough income yet to go that extra step and is willing to take some steps themselves to build a webpage.

There are ultimately a lot of questions you’ll need to answer along the way but let’s presume you know nothing about web hosting or the inner workings of a website – if you can answer if you want PHP or ASP – then you don’t need this guide. This is a basic GET ONLINE guide.

FIRST QUESTION

Do you want you a quasi presence or a full presence. Let’s say your business is called PismoChase. Do you want your url to be http://www.yahoo.com/~pismoschase or do you want to be http://www.pismochase.com. If you don’t mind being after the slash, it’s way less work and the difference between driving around your hometown and flying to Morocco.

TOOLS

Do you know how to create a home page, link pages to that, enter text, place photos and then upload? If you answer no – then skip down to IWEB.

If you feel comfortable enough, you can download the free SEA MONKEY from Mozilla/Firefox. The main difference is it contains a mostly WYSIWYG HTML editor and there is also a Linux & Win version.

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Select NEW COMPOSER page and you get a blank page – the icons are pretty self explanatory for text boxes, links, etc, etc … you do need to keep track of all your graphics and links. Is it great? No but for free, it does the job … and yes, there are probably close to a dozen WYSIWYG editors for the Mac and in my opinion, none are really worth it (no, I’m not counting DREAMWEAVER but unless you are up to a 90-hour task of getting up to speed on a powerful app, I would not recommend it just yet). Yes, I’ve tested all them out and except for iWeb which I’ll cover later, they are all just odd enough that I would not recommend them to a newbie. Why spend $20 to $80 dollars when SeaMonkey is free? You can look around the internet for web templates to test out.

The main tricky part is keeping track of your elements on your page other than TEXT (like Photos/Videos, etc …). You need to understand how to create a folder in your WEBPAGE project and keeping them together so you can upload them together and your webpages knows where to look for them. Understanding the concept of “URL is Relative to Page Location” is the KEY to getting all your photos/videos, etc … onto the site. It’s a checkmark feature and if you gasp it, you can continue down this path.

The good part is you get a blank page to do whatever you want – the bad part is you get a blank page so you have to decide if your design skills are up to the task … if not …

IWEB

It’s free with your Mac purchase and it is flat out the easiest WYSIWYG web editor … the problem with a editor like SEA MONKEY is if you don’t really know much, where do you begin because unlike doing a “normal” page like Word, you type some text and you drag in a photo (or import one) – then hit print and save and you are done. The main problem comes with the uploading of webpages – understanding that you have to create folders with your graphic elements and naming and linking them so your webpages can find that photo or video. That is the beauty of IWEB, it is smart enough to create the file and folder structure so when you are done, all you have to do is copy the entire folder to where-ever and YOU ARE DONE.

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A newcomer to Mac HTML WYSIWYG is RapidWeaver which emulates iWeb in many ways and in fact actually offers many more templates than iWeb and has a lot of 3rd party templates you can download but they vary in quality consistency and while Rapidweaver is pretty close to iWeb, it has a few weird rough patches and it’s just not as smooth of an experience. If you have been designing web pages longer but not a pro designer, you might be able to hurdle over Rapidweaver’s weird patches but for most newcomers, iWeb is the smoothest.

The downside is that iWEB only offers a few templates but on the other hand, they are gorgeous, professional and normally might cost you hundreds to buy as a template elsewhere. Here are some samples.

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And it could not be easier to use – you literally drag whatever you want onto the page and iWeb keeps track and makes a copy in a new folder-file structure for you. Same with videos, move things around – add text, add effects, etc … now an advanced designer is going to feel constrained but for a newbie, it’s perfect – because HTML is wide open, it’s a little scary to have no limits, iWeb doesn’t let you wander off the page, as it were. Create a new page, iWeb automatically creates a link from your home page and as you name that page, iWeb changes the name for you on the home page – smart. The only real limitation is that there are not enough templates. There are some other 3rd parties selling iWeb templates but not nearly enough – but for a newbie, the pages are gorgeous and classy and should be enough. You can also create a blank page and “do what you want.” Of course, since it’s from Apple, it is tied into iTunes, iPhoto and iMovie so adding files is as easy as clicking.

Once you are done, and you have two output choices: .MAC or a 3rd party. If you select 3rd party, it will place everything into ONE folder for you to upload to your webhost.

NEXT CHOICE … THE WEBHOST

EASIEST – .MAC

For those who don’t mind your url being http://www.mac.com/~pismochase, then select .Mac and you don’t have to worry about figuring what to upload where. A lot of people don’t really understand .Mac and think it’s overpriced for just getting an email address but .Mac is much more and in this case, it’s flat out the easiest way to get a site online in combo with iWeb. You can buy .Mac at Amazon for $79, a savings of $20. Once you have finished your design, just click UPLOAD to .MAC and there you are.

NEXT EASIEST – LEAST PROFESSIONAL – “FREE”

There are literally hundreds of places that will “host” (place and display on the internet) your pages & site. You can search here for a listing at freewebspace.net for “free” web hosts. Why “free” and not just free because like most free, there are some strings attached. The biggest hazard is that they will generally place ads to your page and of course, not only do you not make anything from them, they are of varying quality and might reflect poorly on your business. So unless you are selling something that is essential immune to any sort of ad in poor taste next to your content, you should proceed with caution. But in the search for a free webhost, you can narrow it down to sites that will not place ads within your page or you can choose something like Yahoo’s GeoCities – while they will place ads on your site, at least you know it won’t X-rated or too strange.

The other major consideration is that they could disappear over-night and just take your site with them so if you’re a gas station, that is probably not going to kill you if you’re offline for a couple days but another business?

Of course, your internet service provider (dialup, DSL & broadband) almost always will offer you webspace so that’s another “free” venue – free in the sense that it’s part of your package.

Also note, for .Mac or GeoCities or your ISP, you will also end up with an email address like pismochase@mac.com or pismochase@yahoo.com BUT the advantage is that you don’t have to be a web & email administrator – explained next.

Alternatively, you can buy/get your domain name at the same place you sign up for a web host (remember you only need to pay for a domain name when it’s http://www.pismochase.com and not http://www.mac.com/~pismochase). They will usually make the process pretty easy – asking you if you have a domain and/or if you want to buy one – they will tell you the proce – try not to overpay.

MOST WORK – MOST PROFESSIONAL – PAID HOST

There are probably a million webhosting companies and maybe that’s undercounting them. Just type in WEB HOST and see for yourself. For basic users, most companies are essentially the same – don’t pay for too many years, sometimes their lifespan is like health clubs … and unless you’re hosting videos, the bandwidth numbers don’t mean much … for instance, this is a fairly standard offering from a reputable company, HostRocket. The General Account Features are pretty standard and you can compare to another company and make your decision. You can find a hometown company who might be closer or a larger one would have 24/7 support like HostRocket. Or if you’re on a Mac, you can search for Mac Web Host … Pricing is about $30-$99 a year for the base package but you can weigh if it feels right.

A few things to keep in mind, you will have to understand how to upload your webpages – most likely via FTP and you will have to be an email administrator. Most will include a “control panel” that’s pretty straightforward in adding or deleting users, uploading your webpages, making changes, etc … but be prepared to do a little thinking and trying to guess what they mean – they’ll all have varying degrees of jargon-speak but you control everything and as you learn, you can add features to your website.

Most will offer a “storefront” template if your goal is selling but it will take some work to get it right – especially when it involves credit cards, etc … if you plan on selling, an easy way to go is with Yahoo’s web hosting service & ecommerce setup. They are not the cheapest choice but a safe and easy choice.

If you just want a professional email address with your domain name in the email address, both Google & Yahoo offer that service (as do many web hosting companies).

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Now, you’re ready to print your business cards – Mac Do It Yourself or some great examples of what to do, or these examples … or make a heavy impression with metal. More examples here. Just remember to try and not make it so phallic. Or take a look at the free template maker from BusinessCardLand.

BLOG

An option for certain businesess is a “blog” which short for a weblog and while a “writer’s journal” in one sense, but it can really be anything you want. Many small companies have blogs, even large corporations but it’s easier for a smaller companies since they don’t have so many restrictions either via legal or through inherent competitive & departmental secrecy. Not every company needs a blog – frankly, who has the time and run a business at the same time – that is a major consideraion but it can be helpful for professional services – by giving yourself a platform to showcase your knowledge and to provide information, you earn trust … but of course, the hard part is keeping it interesting AND useful … After having used Blogger, I have to say WordPress is definitely the way to go. It’s great to test it out to see if you like it and/or have the time.

Of course, unless you are an expert, it’s best not to mess too much with the template so you are limited in some aspects to the look and feel – but it’s a nice way to get started and build out after you’re comfortable.

Just one last recommendation – even if you’re not quite ready to leap aboard and run a full fledged website yourself, you should at least buy the domain name if you’re certain that’s the name you want. You don’t want to be running PismoChase at .Mac for 4 months before wanteing to switch, only to find out someone else has grabbed PismoChase.com.

PART II: Running a Business Online – COMING SOON!

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