Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

The other day I had what I call a "Tech Wake Up Call".

Out of the blue (literally) an error screen popped up in the course of booting, followed by a Windows XP "apology message." This, needless to say, was not helpful in charting my course.

Let it be clearly understood that one of my uppermost concerns is optimal system performance.  Diligent system management does not just set the expectation of dependability and instantaneous response; it reinforces a sense of being justified in that expectation. (Yeah, I know.) 

So, after going through several reboots and getting no closer to a login screen, (in fact the result became "no input signal for <monitor>, going to power-save mode" and monitor shutdown) I figured it was time to get out the XP installation CD.

Booting from the CD got a monitor display...of a number of files that appeared to be loading, and finally a "C" prompt. Well, it was an improvement. Not exactly Windows, but at least a door.

Using a spare laptop to get online I found:

  • a lot of entries about this on the net (some real interesting hits on "signs video card is failing")
  • more than a few symptoms that might lead you to think otherwise, but all associated with the video card
  • the ever-present comment: "[the video card] is just bad so get a new one" 

That last is the chiller because this video card is now obsolete (although as of 10/2010 I found 3 sources on eBay, certainly for this). 

At the (literal) end of the day my problem was solved, so far, although I have no evidence that running CHKDSK /R and the recovery CD procedures deserve the credit other than a sudden normal reboot from the BIOS. (No log message saying "Baby, I'm back!") 

As I retraced all my activity, from the massive security patches applied to the system earlier in the week, until that fateful "apology", I can only conclude that something I did while cleaning the system upset the delicate balance. (Make sure compressed air is used while system is off! Doesn't matter how many fans are going... It's not. A good. Idea!)

However, the underlying inescapable reality is that after five faithful years of service I have to replace my system (the ultimate upgrade?). Or at least consider it. 

Well, you may be thinking, that is painfully obvious.

But I've read that it's common for businesses to [very] reluctantly part with what they are familiar with. This has been most evident in the migration from Windows XP to Windows 7.

I have never held the opinion that any software at any point in business operations should be the only alternative for carrying that business. I've even had the experience of supporting legacy software that was indispensable yet could not be re-created... (Thanks very much, got the T-shirt).  😉

Yet, I am a little surprised to find I have developed an affinity with this machine. We've been through a lot together and it has been essential
in my growth. It is the first machine that I've used truly beyond the boundaries of my employment. I went back to school with it. I've explored everything from Hubble telescope photographs to more mundane fare.

It is also the first machine with the purpose of trying to build something that is mine.

The days of this being my primary PC are coming to a close and I have to say on the whole, I've been fortunate and thankful for this high quality assembly by PC's For Everyone.

One thing I will be on the lookout for is hardware monitoring software, any as trustworthy and as comprehensive as I can find. I've also taken a few other steps that will provide more options should I encounter this situation again.

Another take-away I've gained is it might help to get a spare video card with next purchase of a PC or within a year or two. That might "save the horse for want of a horseshoe nail." In any case it's a sound strategy to have a 3 to 5 year plan for replacing a computer system or enabling an overhaul that will yield the same results.

In a future entry I'll share some of my considerations in this area.

When Partnerships Go Bad

Years may go by and it can go unnoticed until it arrives: a rift develops between you and someone who partnered with you to build a business. But the assets of the business have been jointly managed. One of those critical assets is customer contact information.

If the owner of that data is clear, then the next question is how it will be
preserved/maintained, and continue to be accessed. If you lose it, the best case scenario is you have to start from scratch (which may be more daunting than it appears).

Having a backup is good insurance, yet it is only as good as the one most recent and if the contact info is sufficient. If you backup daily and can actually re-contact those listed, then you virtually have no worries. If not...let the suspense begin.

With a direct response website you improve your odds tremendously.

Direct response means building a list of contact name and email (at a minimum), and maintaining contact on a scheduled basis. No scrambling to protect your base.

It makes good sense to have an auto-responder when obtaining email to enable double opt-in and ensure compliance with the anti-SPAM laws. All this means is that you register with a service that will manage email and send a follow-up message that asks for confirmation when someone initially subscribes.

It also sends messages (maintaining contact) on schedule.

Auto-responder services take the work out of creating ways to make sure your subscriber is not some kind of bot, ways to present your opt-in widget, and assure a high deliverable rate for bona fide email addresses (working with all major Internet Service Providers) as no ordinary email responder can.

Once you have that list and how to unsubscribe clearly communicated, you get a stable and coherent database that can be transported and organized so much easier. For example, You could send an announcement to everyone on your list with a single click. Compare that to having to contact every single sender in your inbox. You don't miss anyone, you don't have to double-check if you've already notified someone, and you can spend more time growing your business.

The cost of having an auto-responder can be under 2.00/day (and several will allow you the first x number of subscribers for free, but be aware of the  terms).  If you have a larger concern you might use "contact management" or "email enterprise solutions" or customer relationship management (CRM) software. The investment is worth many times what you pay.

So this all brings us back to the point: carrying on a business when the
partnership dissolves, means having options. An auto-responder as part of a direct response website gives you options. One of the best auto-responders for small businesses is Aweber. Very easy to set up with plenty of help docs and videos. See my affiliate link

May all partnerships past or present stay on good terms.

[I have an affiliate relationship and/or another material connection to the
providers of goods and services mentioned in this message and may be
compensated when you purchase from a provider. However, all affiliate sources have been verified to the best of my ability/experience as I value my reputation.]

Thoughts On Selling

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to "salesmanship".  I am examining different perspectives of it including popular culture influences.

For example, I didn't consider interviewing for a job as "selling"; I simply described and related my background and experience. Based on that I hoped it would be enough to convince the interviewer to hire me.

Perhaps selling was not in my consciousness due to a predefined idea of it. As a kid I saw (mainly in comedies and cartoons) the salesman as selling something door-to-door with the implication there was questionable need, like brushes, a "cure all" tonic, "hair restorer"; or used cars, and being rejected. They were characterized as fast/smooth talkers, not to be trusted.

Yet they were also portrayed having an indefatigable cheerfulness, (that, oddly enough, was satirized in itself).

As I got a little older I became aware of another approach: the "soft sell", which in my opinion became more pronounced in the post-Civil Rights/Woodstock period. There was more advertising that echoed attitudes of the times to a greater degree and used a more spontaneous way to relate to the audience. As an example I'm thinking of the Alka-Seltzer commercial parody of a commercial ("Mama mia! That's some spicy meatball!" Check the original from late 1960's early 1970's on Youtube).

Conventional advertising carried right alongside, including the famous "infomercial."

I once tried concession stand selling in malls, where I called out to people to try a product (for free! That didn't just happen with the rise of the internet) and demonstrated it on the spot. Most were nice even when declining the offer, some were outright hostile. It is a free country, after all.

Later I encountered an opportunity to sell term life insurance plans and advise prospects to "invest the rest". (The investment was in the Magellan Fund which experienced phenomenal growth in the 1990's.) One of the methods was cold-calling (telephoning people directly from a listing or phone book without getting to know them beforehand), a harsh introduction to that technique.

These type of experiences either thicken one's hide or encourage looking for something else.

Yet, in a job that was not in public retail, when I explained a proposal or negotiated, or even as small a thing as training 1:1, I was in fact selling.

If you ever promised to be good for Santa to bring you presents, guess what?

So there's definitely a benign side.

While writing this over the course of several months (I didn't forget this topic as I had promised in an earlier post in the blog) I had the opportunity to hear Eben Pagan, a renowned internet marketer who recently launched a new coaching program.

Part of his philosophy is you can't convince anyone of anything. You can only give them the right information so that they can convince themselves.

It's about solving a problem/fulfilling their desire, not selling your expertise and yourself.

A quote from "Ebook Creation Made Easy" that resonates with me: "Nobody likes over-the-top selling or advertising. In fact no one likes sneaky, subtle advertising either."

Now, I'm hearing about the role social gaming has in delivering marketing messages "unobtrusively and without annoying messages." Is this a trend? Does this fall into the "subtle" category?

I've encountered a lot of contrasting viewpoints on effective marketing, and if there is one clear conclusion emerging it's that one size does not fit all, but there's no substitution for integrity. And some will not consider integrity synonymous with edginess. Then again, some are OK with that.

There's obviously a lot to be said on this topic. Many people have written books with sufficient poundage/kilobytes (and perhaps weight) concerning this, and I will be a lifelong student.