All posts by spidey

What Promo? What a Shame! (1)

Have you ever wondered whether all those promotional contests with fabulous prizes are real? Well, the good news is that Yes, they are real. Or at least those that I have participated and won. But the stories I want to tell are not about the prizes I won, but rather they are Management tales for marketing folks to take note and learn.

The first story may be something that you have also experienced. Here you are at the checkout counter of a large Hypermarket paying for your items and the total bill comes to $29.80.The cashier without so much as a greeting or a thank you, just silently take your money and give you the change and gets on with serving the next customer. What’s wrong with this picture? OK, she’s a miser with greetings, so what? Well, you collect your items and exit the checkout counter….and that’s when you notice a poster promoting an in-store sales campaign. Buy $30.00 worth of goods and you will get a small freebie token as well as be eligible to take part in a simple contest with a $10,0000 prize. Your heart drops…you have just paid $29.80 and you are not qualified for the freebie nor for the contest. You confront the cashier and ask her why didn’t she tell you about the promo…she could have easily persuaded you to pick up an additional item (sweets, batteries, etc) so that your total bill could exceed $30.00. The cashier looks at you unapologetically and cannot understand what the fuss is all about.

So the questions to the Hypermarket Management are:

1. Why are the front-line staff not trained to help make the sales promo a better success instead of making customers feel short-changed and annoyed? After all, most customers will gladly top-up their purchases to make the minimum amount required for the freebie and contest.

2. Why isn’t the sales promo clearly displayed within the Store rather than merely outside the Store? As a Management learning experience, the above story could well be enacted in any otther sales setting and not just in a Hypermarket. So don’t laugh, it could happen in your sales organisation too! Has this happened to you before? As a Customer or as a Marketeer? Tell us about it.

More stories to follow…

“Old” HP Photosmart 7260

Elsewhere you may have read that I bought a Canon printer after years of using HP printers.

Well, I found some un-used ink cartridges for my old HP Photosmart 7620, so I dusted the printer off and used it to print hardcopies of manuals and eGuides to finish off the ink.

This was fine for a few days (even though the paper-loading was a pain) and managed to print some decent copies of useful eGuides. Then the printer ran into a snag. No matter how I tried, the fault light would not go off. I deleted the driver and mounted the CD (yes, I sill have it) to re-install. What do you know? The CD gave an error message that my OS is not recognised (Vista). It’s supposed to be for up to XP only, that’s how old the printer is. OK, go to HP website to download the driver, and happily the support message says that the driver for Photosmart 7200 series is built-in the Vista OS. Connected the printer to my USB again, and indeed, Windows Vista recognises the printer and installed the driver. I must have done this before years ago, otherwise how did the printer work with my Vista PC in the first place? 

However, it still will not work.  On a hunch, I changed the black ink cartridge….and it worked! I guess it’s my fault for not knowing that the red alert light indicates empty ink cartridge. 

Oh well, I’ll mothball the printer again when the ink is finished.

 

 

 

 

Is there a Good Manager or a Bad Manager?

The terms “Good Manager” and “Bad Manager” are oxymorons.

A Manager manages; if he/she cannot manage, how is he/she then a Manager?

There is only either a Manager or an Idiot.

A Manager recognizes improved performances (cheers the Team) and areas for improvements (coaches the Team).
An Idiot only focusses on weaknesses and belabors them to completely demoralize the Team,


So You Want To Be A Webmaster?

So You Want To Be A Webmaster? Let me tell you a story.

Back in 1996-97, very few people, where I live, had any inkling of the new-fangled thing called Internet (say, World Wide What?). I was a young hot-shot Manager then, in-charge of an Engineering company marketing high-tech T&M and Analytical instruments. A question popped-up from Top Management: “Any worthwhile new business we can go into?” We belonged to a multi-billion conglomerate, so the new business must be large enough to be worthy of consideration. A light-bulb (incandescent bulb; no blue LED at that time, hence no white LED light. Go figure…) lit up in my head and I thought, “Why not a wafer fab to make ASIC?” (that’s Application Specific Integrated Circuit for those of you too young to know), since that industry was in its infancy and I foresaw a growing demand for customised chips in low-volume, high-value goods.

How did that outrageous thought germinate in my fertile mind? Well, my ex-Prof was the head of this Government research body and I knew that he was planning a wafer fab for research purpose. I figured that it would be a good idea if we collaborated to build an even bigger wafer fab where the R&D could be the back-end, while a commercial production floor could be the front-end. My ex-Prof was keen and now the critical part: how to put together a business proposition/plan for Top Management’s approval? What the heck do I know about wafer fab? Geez! It was a classic case of youthful enthusiasm moving faster than the mind can shout a cautionary “Wait!”

Now my ex-Prof is keen, my immediate boss is keen, and I’m dead. Picture a young manager slumped over his desk with his head in his hands. In comes a hot-shot techie. He was my brightest techie who threw me a lifeline….a complete dossier of the whole process in a Wafer Fab, complete with actual photos of the equipment. My gawd! I knew from my University Engineering days that this sort of report would require really really extensive research to gather all the required information from various texts and journals (if available) in the Library. I gawked at the report, gawked at my techie and managed to croak my question, “Where….how…?” He nonchalently waved, “Oh, from the MIT Lab”. Say, where? The MARA (our local institution) Institute of Technology? I asked incredulously. “Nay, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They have a working setup of a model wafer fab,” he replied matter-of-factly. So how did you get the information? Is it legal? “Sure! From the Internet!”, he smirked. Duh….Inter-what? “Come, let me show you…in the lab,” he offered. In the lab, he switched on his PC and then activated a noisy box, which he called Modem, and then launched what he called Mosaic (the forerunner of Netscape and the present Firefox). On the screen, it looked like I was really flying through space.. “It’s Cyberspace,” he grinned. After a few clicks of his keyboard, we found ourselves as guests touring MIT’s famed engineering lab. That day in 1997, I saw the future.

I was hooked, really hooked, on the Internet. My techie helped me sign up for an Internet account with the only service provider in town, which happened to be the R&D body controlled by my ex-Prof. My handle was ” trekker ” (I hate the term Trekkie; I’m a closet Star Trek fan, you see), and there was no looking back. I spent my free time and wee hours in the morning exploring the World Wide Web and all that it offered. To me, who loves books and libraries, it was like the Great Library In The Sky is now accessible by me. Then it was only logical that I wanted my own website. I read and read all the books that I could get and articles on the ‘Net..but there was always a stumbling block that took too long to clear by myself. That’s when I realised that an instructor/mentor/support group could help me up the learning curve much more effectively and in a shorter period (not to mention with less hair-pulling frustration). I signed up for my first online course with ZD (Ziff-Davis) University. It was fun! The students were all like-minded people from all walks of life…all with a burning desire to make his/her own mark in Cyberspace with a self-designed website. Oh, we all became HTML-savvy, eventually, and all websites were coded from scratch. Today, if you click on www.zdu.com you will find that the domain is for sale. The ZD University is no more. So sad!

So the first lesson is…. join an online class; it will save you a lot of grieve and time. A great one which is extremely user-friendly is Open Source Training, which offers Joomla, Drupal and WordPress Training , the top 3 content management systems (CMS) engines to drive your website. There’s no reason to be a hard-core HTML warrior anymore. Open Source Training offers training classes in video (very good instructors, I might say!) backed by a great Forum for you to post any question. The moderators and administrators are really friendly and helpful, so there’s no need to fear asking anything you’re not clear about. You need that quick help to get past the road-block or it’ll just make you all frustrated. I know. And there’re tons of resources at the website too. Wait…..you need to know at least a bit more than a smatterng of HTML, CSS, PHP, SQL and Linux. You can find training classes in HTML, CSS and PHP in Open Source Training too.

Oops! Take a step back. You need a domain name first. I have tried quite a few different registrars and I was always on the lookout for the cheapest deal. Until one day, my low-cost registrar went bust and had to be rescued by GoDaddy . For sure, GoDaddy is not the cheapest registrar in town, but bitter experience has taught me that RELIABILITY is the most important criteria when you choose your domain name registrar, and for me GoDaddy is my preferred choice. 

While we are at your domain name, we might as well discuss your e-mail address now. You get your e-mail addresses from various sources. Your internet access service provider would have given you an e-mail address. Never use that for your Internet related work, as you definitely do not want your primary e-mail to be cluttered by spam and what-not. Keep that as your special e-mail address for registering important services which will not get displayed or passed on to others. Go register with Google, Microsoft or Yahoo! for free multi-gigs of e-mail storage space. Then forward your domain name e-mail ( eg. yourname@yourdomainname.com ) to your G-M-Y e-mail account, for ease of access and management. Don’t forget to apply the ” catch-all ” option to your domain name e-mail address (since you will most likely be qualified for only 1 email account per domain name). Now you will receive ALL mail addressed to your domain name. This is a must-have option and GoDaddy gives you that catch-all for free. Why are we dwelling on e-mail when we are discussing webmaster skills? Because you need an admin e-mail address as the webmaster of your site. And before you get e-mail savvy…. you can count on your e-mail account to be messed up by spam of all kinds.

 And finally you need a place to host your website; your home in Cyberspace. As before, I’ve tried a few hosting service providers, and yes, I was searching for that elusive, “Best Deal in Town”. I’ve learnt that reliability and responsiveness are even more important. You simply cannot afford downtime. And you’ll definitely have questions and need help….you don’t want to wait forever, just to get tech support to reply to you. I have using  Acenet Hosting for over 10 years and they have never let me down. Acenet Hosting offers 5 GB of space at a reasonable price and the cPanel offers Fantastico and Softaculous for easy no-brainer installations of great apps on your website. Acenet Hosting may not be the cheapest in town, but they are certainly the most reliable and responsive in my opinion.

Other skills you will need to learn include FTP, SSH (if your hosting service provider allows you) and some graphics knowledge.

Update:

So now you have your own website and hopefully with lots of useful and interesting contents.

You need not be shy about monetizing your website by having advertisements in strategic places on the various pages.

One way is to be an affiliate to promote someone else’s products/services. You could search for companies that offer affiliates program for their products/services but an easier way is to join an organisation like ShareASale which aggregates hundreds of companies which offer affiliate marketing. You can join ShareASale for free, and start promoting products online right away.  

 

More to come….

 

Half-Truths Syndrome

My 30+ years experience as a Manager has taught me not to act hastily on a complaint or info from just one person.

Very often if you don’t get the full picture by listening to the party, you’ll get pie in your face.
People don’t want to be caught telling an outright blatant lie.
So very often they tell half- truths, consciously or unconsciously, designed to lead you to conclusions that validate or justify their actions, behavior or feelings.


Half-truths equate to half- picture; not a complete picture.
If you cannot get the other side of the story, then you must probe carefully through asking the right questions to pry a more complete story out from the person.

Buying a new Printer?

I just bought a new Printer last night.

I have been using 2 HP printers all this time but I found them to be not so user-friendly. Moreover, each time I updated the driver and/or its associated programs, some other programs on my PC will act funny. It’s that sensitive and finicky. So when both of them finally broke down, I  went shopping for a new printer. I used the HP printers at home, but my experience with the Canon printer at my Office was a pleasant one….easy to use and no fuss at all. So I pretty much knew what I wanted.

At the Canon outlet, I was debating between the MG510 which boasts economical volume prints (not to mention it’s cheap) and the MG3170 which has AirPrint/WiFi print capability. However, one very crucial feature surfaced: both the 510 and the 3170 both use the tri-colour (3-in-1) ink cartridge + 1 black cartridge. Now this is critical but it’s so obvious that I hesitated writing about this. However, if this can help a newbie to avoid a mistake, why not? Here’s the point: if you have ever printed lots of colour images, you will quickly learn that the Cyan, Magenta and Yellow (need not mention Black) do not finish at the same rate. So if you have a 3-in-1 C-M-Y ink cartridge, chances are your heart will bleed (as well as your purse/wallet) when you have to throw away the cartridge when 1 colour has finished even if the other 2 are still quite full. In the long run, you will spend more money on the replacement 3-in-1 ink compared to replacing individual ink colour cartridges. I ended up buying the MG5370 instead, which uses separate individual C, M, Y and Black cartridges. By the way the 5370 uses 2 different black cartridges, a pigment and a dye. Plus, the 5370 has AirPrint/WiFi capability.

One more thing….how often do you need to send a fax from your printer? If you don’t need the fax capability, then you save up to about 50% of your printer price by deciding on the non-fax version. But if you need to Fax occasionally, then look out for my future article on this topic.

For comparison: MG510 (approx. USD90.00), MG3170 (approx. USD100), MG5370 (approx. USD130.00). The cheapest Canon printer with fax function starts from about USD190.00 up.

Disclaimer: I am not associated with Canon in any way other than as a normal customer.

 

 

 

 

 

Updating Firmware For Samsung Galaxy S3 ( and a bit on iPhone 5 )

So you have the gee whiz smartphone GT-I9300 aka Galaxy S3 from Samsung. Have you tried to update the firmware recently? Read on to see if you have a similar infuriating experience. 

First you need to install the Samsung Kies application on your PC. Then you can choose to update your S3 via Wi-Fi or via USB. So far, that’s routine and straight-forward enough. 

Then comes the frustrating part. As the new update is being downloaded, you suddenly get an error message that says the connection is broken. It also suggests removing the phone and running a diagnostic for Kies to check the USB connection.

After doing that and re-trying and still getting the same error message, I observed that the download was actually 100% except for the error message and the installation did not proceed. I couldn’t see how to proceed in the S3, so I rebooted the phone.

Lo and behold! Upon re-starting, the S3 displayed a message to say that the update has been downloaded to the phone. But to install it, I have to accept a revised set of Terms and Conditions from Samsung. After that the installation of the new firmware proceeded without a hitch. But why did the Kies application display an error message instead of giving information on how to proceed with the installation? Ah well….

Footnote: I am personally an iPhone 5 believer and user. But my better half prefers the Samsung S3 and the above describes my experience when she tasked me to update her S3 firmware. Having said that, I am now about to say something that will surely get me a lot of flak from Apple iPhone aficionados. Here goes: I am able to compare (my) iPhone 5 with (wife’s) S3 close-up and begrudgingly I have to admit that the S3 camera and audio pack more wallop than the iPhone 5. No scientific nor lab tests here…just my eyes and ears. So don’t shoot the messenger!

 

 

Useful Tip 130216 – Snipping Tool (Updated)

SNIPPING TOOL

There is a free utility app, Snipping Tool, bundled by Microsoft in their Windows Accessories folder. This is such an unbelievably useful tool which you must check out if you have not used it yet.

What does it do? It allows you to capture anything you see on the PC screen as an image. So what makes it different from Print Screen (PrtSc)? Print Screen takes a “snapshot” of your whole screen but Snipping Tool allows you to position and re-size the capture space anyway on the screen.

You can imagine how useful this is; the ability to pick and choose exactly what you what to capture off the screen. Go ahead and try it and let us have your comments.

Where to get it?

For W Vista, go to All Programs (the round Windows icon at the bottom right) , Accessories, Snipping Tool. Create a shortcut to your desktop…you’ll be glad you did.

(The Snipping tool is not available in Windows Vista Home Basic Edition. It comes with Vista Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, or Ultimate Editions.)

For W7, read this article.

For W8, read this article.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

How To Print Your Photos With Photoshop

Surely this must be so basic that it doesn’t warrant talking about? 

Let’s see. Have you ever tried printing your photo with Photoshop but no matter what you do, the image size just will not quite fit your photo paper? For example, you check and re-check your image size setting and your canvas size setting to see that you have set that right to match your glossy premium paper 4″ x 6″ (100mm x 150mm). Still the output is not quite right and after a few futile attempts, you have blown 6 pieces of expensive paper. Sounds familiar? If yes, read on; if not, go and chill out elsewhere.

OK, so if you’re still here,  you know what I’m talking about. So, let’s get out of the rut first. Let me give you the short of it quickly, then we can spend some time on the long part to refine the technique.

Here it is: Assuming you are re-sizing the image, make sure that you do NOT select Resample Image (when you re-size the image size setting) but DO select Constraint Proportions. When you are ready to print, make sure you do NOT select Scale to Fit Media (when you open the Print command page) but DO select Scale 100%. There you have it, maybe that’s just the silly hurdle which can be cleared easily now.

Now that we can get the image to fit the paper size all the time, here’s a tip to improve on the technique.

By way of example, take a typical photo from a digital camera (DSLR, compact or smartphone) W4752 x H3168 pixels, 66″ x 44″ image size (and canvas size) at 72 pixels/inch. You can use the Photoshop image size setting to re-size to 6″ x 4″ and then print. But it will be better if you crop the large image first to a smaller size still keeping to the 6″ x 4″ proportions (eg. 33 x 22, 12 x 8 etc..). When you have cropped sufficiently (say 18″ x 12″ for example) to include the image area of interest, then finally use the software’s image size setting to get to 6″ x 4″ for printing. 

Footnote: You will see the that the initial resolution is 72 pixels/inch (depending on your PC resolution) when you first opened your image. That’s the displayed resolution on your PC screen. However, for photo-quality prints, you should see the final print resolution will be something like 400-700 pixels/inch when you re-sized your photo as described above, provided you started with a high-enough resolution photo to begin with. 

Happy printing!

 

Google Analytics and Multiple Websites

If you’re like me, with a number of different websites and you wish to monitor your websites’ statistics from a single Google Analytics account, you may be utterly confounded as to how to add the multiple websites to the single analytics account.

After many hours of utter frustration and searching for an answer, I have found the way. You won’t understand what the problem is until you are faced with the same situation. And if you are here now, reading this, because your search for an answer has somehow led you here, follow my suggested procedure below to end your frustration:

1.  If you have a Google Analytics account, chances are you will also have many other Google products and services. I suggest you login through this common gateway, accounts.google.com . Yes, I know…it looks like the Gmail login page but it is different. Login here and you will immediately get access to all your Google products and services.

2. OK, stop admiring your own picture, and click on “Products” on the left menu.

3. Now click on the Analytics icon and you will be in the Analytics Account Home page. Now click “Admin” in the top menu bar, and you should see the Account Administration page. There should be a Tab for ” + New Account ” and that’s where you can add your additional websites.  This is straightforward enough.

4. The crazy thing comes when you are elsewhere in the Analytics pages, then you will realise that clicking on the Admin no longer gives you the ” + New Account “ option. If you find yourself lost at this stage, click ” All Accounts ” in the top menu bar, then click “Accounts List”.

Now when you click on Admin, you will get back the ” + New Account “ tab.

That’s it. I hope this helps someone out there who may be as frustrated as I was a few hours ago.