Replacing Hard Disks in an Apple iMac

Jade replaced the hard disks on his Apple iMac last week and it was a non-issue replacing them with SSD drives. Here is his account of what took place:

“I ve had it. Opening up my IMac to replace the hard drive. Hope it works..installing ssd cause the original hard drive failed. Such a pain.”

“Dissecting the iMac.”

“Putting it back together. Cool that the screen is connected to the led via magnets.”

Photo credit Jade Amin

Why Do My Google Blogger Sites Rank Lower Than ISP-hosted Sites in Alexa.com?

I asked the following on a guest post by Chuck Rylant on ProBlogger.net, expecting to get some concrete answers to low Alexa.com ranking for my other websites. Just like Chuck, I personally think it’s because of the SEO tools available on self-installed WordPress websites that may not be available on Google’s Blogger. I am re-posting it here because I didn’t get the answer I was looking for and am hoping someone can help me out.

Here is the comment I made below, also linked here Guest Post by Chuck Rylant

—————
11/4/2011 at 1:26 am

I am also not a professional blogger and average around 2-3 posts a month on my computer blog http://www.aminsolutions.com and post more frequently on my personal weblog http://www.chromiloamin.com. I also use Alexa to see my progress but am currently stuck at 5 million on Alexa for the computer blog and 23 million for the personal weblog. It’s been at 23 million for a long time and won’t budge. I thought post frequency would improve my ranking. Is it because I use Google’s Blogger for the personal weblog while I use WordPress for the computer blog? I am thinking of porting my weblog to WordPress. Did you determine if this played any role at all in your research and roadmap? I am also trying to promote an e-book http://www.aminsolutions.com/book and am using these blogs for my platform.

—————

Do you know if there is a difference in the way Google Blogger websites rank in Alexa.com compared to ISP hosted websites?

Dang, We May Have Lost Another Staple Client?

This is a followup to a previous post in the summer of 2011, about how important customer service is to the health of a business relationship.

Just recently, our most loyal client since 2004 has just announced that they would like to postpone or hold-off on monthly managed IT services in the “short-term” while server upgrades are performed by their other IT provider back east. They are also looking at options for an offsite server, possibly outsource their email infrastructure and sign up for SaaS provider. They are starting to use a lot of mobile devices to do a lot of their work, including Blackberries and Android tablets so their datacentre is changing.

It’s unfortunate that we will not be involved in transitioning their infrastructure. I hope the GM calls after the dust settles so that we can continue with our business relationship. My single most important advice to others is to frequently and continuously revise your customer service strategy.

Notes on Freelance Camp 2011 – How to Write a Book (Session #3)

This is a continuation from my previous post What Clients and Consultants Really Think? (Session#2). The third session that I attended is on writing and publishing a book.

/How to Write a Book, by Kathrin Lake.
This was a very interesting session for me because I aspire to one day publish my very own paperback. Kathrin says that for her, it usually takes her 2-3 months to write a book. She says that it is about trust, in that readers wants to get to know you. She also says that successful writers have memorable stories to tell. They are about life stories and must have a message. Everyone knows how to write but Kathrin says you must intimately know the process that you use to do that. If you don’t already, then you have to figure out your own process for writing. Her suggestion for finding your writing process is to:
1) write blogs;
2) get the bulk of your book done;
3) read, educate yourself.

Editing
If you are starting out, you probably should send out an electronic copy of your book to family and friends. Kathrin pushes for a quick push to get the majority of your book done and multiple edits from multiple editors. If you can afford it, professional editors are obviously the way to go.

Publishing
Kathrin says that the publishing world is in complete chaos right now because there are so many formats, i.e. ebooks, kindle, and ipad. Since it is so easy to publish, there is also a lot of competition. She says there are 5 ways to publish:
1) Traditional publishing;
2) Self-publishing, print-on-demand;
3) Sponsored publishing, paid expert advice;
4) Kindle, this is the cheapest;
5) Blogging.
Item number 2 appeals to me.

Marketing
Sharing excerpts of your book is a great marketing tactic. Selling by chapter or chunks is also a very good way to tease readers into reading your entire book. You have to have a ‘platform’, i.e. what is your form of exposure for your book? Put together book trailers and videos, and get endorsements from your Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) that you send out.

So get started. If you already run a blog like this one, convert your blog into an ebook. One of the myths is that you have to write chronologically, but that’s just not true. You can write it any way you like. Someone asked why readers would buy an ebook when they could just go online to read the blog. The answer is that some people like their reading materials all neatly packaged and in print. I know I do.

I enjoyed this session and I may sign up for more of Kathrin Lake’s classes at Douglas College. These were my notes from a weeks back so I hope I covered everything. There are still other sessions that I attended at Freelance Camp but I’ll save them for next time.

Notes on Freelance Camp 2011 – What Clients and Consultants Really Think? (Session#2)

This is a continuation from my previous post Contracts for People Who Hate Contracts (Session#1). The second session that I attended is about Clients/Consultants and what they really think.

/What Do Client and Consultants Really Think? by Corwin Hiebert and Mark Shiah
In the presentation, Mark was the client and Corwin was the consultant. They re-enacted many things that we all go through when in a client-consultant relationship from introduction to project finish.

Some of the things I learned from the consultant side of things:

– Help client make better decision.
– Be the expert by diagnosing and analyzing the problem.
– Know your role.
– Caring for the client or the project.
– Don’t let clients chase you down.
– If you have multiple clients, make sure you manage and prioritize your time.
– Use online collaborative tools like “Smartsheet”.
– Make client feel that they are the priority. I got burned by this previously and I have more details if interested.
– Give your honest advice to the client, and fully believe the project will work.
– When it comes to money, nickel-and-diming is awkward for the next engagement. It’s better to send all your invoices ahead of time to the stakeholder.
– And finally, provide value-base project work instead of billing hourly. Corwin recommended this book “Value-based Consulting”, I believe the one written by Fiona Czerniawska.

From the client side of things, the only thing that we as the consultants ask for, is that you do not carboncopy (CC) everyone in emails. Deal directly with the project manager who will distribute all correspondence to the project group.

For question-and-answers period, a question asked was: What is the difference between Contractors vs Consultants?
– Contractors are “yes” people. They will do what you tell them to do.
– Consultants will bring expert advice and give you options. They will talk themselves out of a job at times if they don’t believe a project will work.

This all I have for this session. The third session I went to is titled “How to Write a Book” by Katrin Lake. Stay tuned for the exciting details.

Short-lived Canpages Writing Gig

I provide writing/blogging services for Helium Content Source (http://www.heliumcontentsource.com) and the latest assignment was to write short 300-500 word articles for Canpages, advertised as Canada’s fastest growing local search company.

Helium uses a great dashboard for article submissions, edits, and approvals. Canpages uses WordPress for the blogging platform and when articles are approved at Helium, a second set of edits and approvals happen at Canpages. I was able to get 4 articles published at Canpages before the assignment came to an end for me.

Here are the published articles, and they are tailored to Vancouver -centric stories in lifestyle, entertainment, and restaurants linked below.

http://blog.canpages.ca/blog/?author=72

If the link becomes stale, here is a graphic

I am always looking for more writing/blogging opportunities so if my writing style appeals to your needs, please contact me at info at aminsolutions dot com.

Notes on Freelance Camp 2011- Contracts For People Who Hate Contracts (Session#1)

Notes on Freelance Camp 2011

This past weekend I was at the Freelance Camp held by TheNetworkHub at New Westminster http://thenetworkhub.ca/freelancecamp. There was a lot of energy at that “unconference” and I left feeling very motivated. I didn’t know that “unconference” meant no set agenda for the day until one was created by participants themselves. Speakers would line up and have a maximum of 30 seconds to pitch their session. If the session gets voted on, it will become one of the sessions offered that day.

Some of the sessions I attended include:

(Session#1) Contracts;
(Session#2) What Clients/Consultants Really Think?;
(Session#3) How to Write a Book;
(Session#4) Rules of Engagement; and
(Session#5) 6 Time Management Tips.

I will have separate posts for each of these to ensure it is legible and easier to digest.

/Contracts – by Danielle Lemon and Martin Ertl
This one was popular and one I immediately signed up for. Danielle and Martin talked about many reasons for having contracts.

-Contracts are great planning tools.
-It shows professionalism.
-It provides a statement of work listing what is in-scope and out-of-scope, deliverables, backout clause.
-Clearly shows milestones for payment, and terms of those payments.
-It shows the approach you will take for the project.
-Clearly specify which law applies when conflicts arise, e.g. write that the law of British Columbia applies.

They also covered most of the questions I had including:

Is an email contract acceptable? Yes. It’s better than a verbal contract. You should start the work initially with the expectation that a full contract is on its way. Also, make sure they reply to the email confirming receipt or agreeing to the content.

As the Consultant, what do I do with subcontractor contracts? Who wins?
They complement each other. The contracts will tend to be one-sided so make sure you read through the other contract and make changes as you see fit.

What do I do with clients that aren’t on retainer and have no written contracts signed?
If there was no provision to make amendments to terms and agreements, you will have to renegotiate the contract. It means you will have to treat existing clients as though they were new.

How much do I charge web clients?
A third of the total as a downpayment. You want to make sure you get paid in case the relationship deteriorates.

How should one make changes to existing contracts?
If you made provisions for regular reviews, update your Terms and Conditions on paper or on your website and direct your client to those changes. However, you need to have a clause that allows you to make changes to the contract.

How do I deal with verbal agreements, over the phone or in person, regarding a new project?
Followup immediately with an email detailing the meeting minutes and ask for confirmation emails to ensure all parties are on the same page.

This is all I have for the first session. Stay tuned for the second session that I attended, i.e. What Do Client and Consultants Really Think?

Dell Photo Printer 720 driver will not work in a terminal services session

Last week, I had a very hard time getting a Dell Photo Printer 720 to work for a customer who had to VPN to the office from their home. The intention is to be able print to this printer at her home, while connected via remote desktop to her office computer.

Her home computer runs Windows XP Home Edition and the office computer runs Vista Ulimate 32bit. The printer does not has Vista drivers installed by default so I followed instructions that I posted here in order to install the equivalent Dell drivers for a Vista OS http://aminsolutions.com/?p=228. Doing this didn’t work and I consistently kept getting prompted to accept a Dell agreement everytime the remote desktop/terminal services session is initiated.

The next thing I tried was to use a different printer driver. I followed this article that I posted previously to setup a custom INF file on the Vista computer http://aminsolutions.com/?p=48. Doing this allowed me to emulate other printer drivers that might work with the Dell Photo Printer 720. I tried HP Laserjet 5, HP Laserjet 4, HP Laserjet II, and HP Bubblejet Inkjet 3000. I didn’t get any prompts to accept Dell agreements but none of these emulated printer drivers worked. Sending test print jobs would send a signal to the printer and appears to start to print but it doesn’t.

I spent 4 nights working on this with the customer, for an hour each night. We used Adobeconnect http://aminsolutions.com/remote to make it easy me and her to get a resolution to this. However, at this point, I was convinced the issue is with the printer driver. I recommended we purchase a replacement printer. An HP 3050A All-in-one printer was purchased and that worked with no issues.

Lesson learned: Do not shy away from suggesting a different printer to get printing to work. Printers are cheap and time spent troubleshooting an alternative solution is just not cost effective for the customer.

Guest Bloggers Needed

We are looking for guest bloggers to contribute 100-300 word articles to this website. It has to cover topics that are associated to AMIN Solutions’ line of business, i.e. how-to and lessons-learned type of articles, covering technology-related topics like systems administration and support, printing, desktops, virtualization, purchasing, small business administration, web programming and development, database administration, contracts, computer tutoring, etc.

This is an invitation and is therefore not compensated. One perk is that you get to put in two backlinks to your own sites in your posts. Please send me an email at info [at] aminsolutions.com with a suggested topic for your guest post.