Archive of Newsletters

July 2004 Newsletter at

It's been a busy June. Several speaking events and lots of work on web projects. The SEO book is out and we've been shipping those. I'll be on a panel discussion on search engines in late July in Berkeley and another one in September. Here's a few items for the July newsletter.

100,000 Radio Stations

If you have DSL (or any fast Internet connection), you can listen to thousands of radio stations. Most of these are free. Try Select your favorite genre and then click on a station. Use to find some 10,000 radio stations. There's also

Hibernation for Your Windows XP Computer

Instead of turning off your computer, you can use Hibernate mode. This lets you shut down the computer with all of the open programs. When you restart, the computer remembers what was open, and it restores back to the way you left it, including documents you left open. Very cool. To use Hibernate, click Start and then click Turn Off Computer. When the Turn Off box appears, press the h key. To restart, just press the Power On button.

The SEO Book

Our SEO book is shipping now. SEO is how you tweak a website so it will rank higher on Google. We're even getting book orders from France and the UK. Here's early feedback from readers:
- "(The book is) very easy to follow, puts the information in easy how-to format and it MAKES SENSE, which is more than I can say for other SEO things I've read. I highly recommend it. I "get" the ranking now and the paid placement. -- Kristen K.
- "The book is proving to be of immediate use and refreshingly unintimidating, even welcoming. I can't tell you what a relief that is!" -- Ruth K.
We've released a free 14-page whitepaper on SEO. It has complete details on how to tweak your website so it will rank higher on the search engines.
- Free SEO Whitepaper: SEO white paper
- More about the book:

June 2004 Newsletter at

Two short items for this month's newsletter.

  1. I'm back from Europe. I wrote a bit about the trip, but that grew into a bit of a long email, so I put it at the website. Lots of details about Paris, Vienna, Denmark, and Amsterdam, plus stuff about new products, new business ideas, and so on. I also added a few photos. The letter is at travel-europe.html
  2. I finished the new book on SEO. It'll be published on June 24th. SEO is Search Engine Optimization, which means "how to tweak your website so you get to the top of search engines." This is totally hot because ecommerce has taken off (it's three times as big now at during the top of the dotcom boom) and Google is about to IPO for a lousy $50 billion. What kind of book is this? It's a kiss-and-tell. Well, okay, no kiss, but lots of tell :-) All my secret insider tips and tricks are here. How to muck around with Google, how to use AdWords, and so on. More details at
  3. Oh, by the way, yesterday, we did an interview with the largest Chinese newspaper in North America, so if you go out this morning (World Journal, June 10th) and read the Chinese newspapers, there's a pix of Stephanie and me in there. You can also see it at our website

May 2004 Newsletter at

It's finally Spring again in Palo Alto. The cat shows up every once in a while. She is mostly in the neighbor's overgrown jungle backyard, hunting for mice. The April newsletter turned into a May newsletter: This month: Paris, web marketing stuff, e-newsletter tools, hibernation, books, spyware, routers, and so on.

2004 Europe Tour

Stephanie Cota and I will be speaking in Vienna in mid-May on issues that affect writers in America. As national co-chairs of the NWU, the union for writers, we will talk about media consolidation, the loss of contract rights, and so on. Of course, we will also be in Paris, Berlin, and several other cities for a mix of visiting and business. I'll put up some photos at the website. What about the cat? She stays home. I'm travelling ultra-light: literally just a small knapsack. Passport, toothbrush, and an extra pair of socks.

See Paris from Your Desk...

While preparing for the trip, I found that the French Yellow Pages let you look up an address, click on a street, and you can see a photo of the buildings on the street. Go to , click Paris, click in the map, and zoom down to the street level. Try the little navigation tool below the photo: you can look around in all directions. Very cool. There's also other cities in France.

Web Marketing

In late June, I'll be speaking at a workshop on web marketing. How to get your website to the top of search engines, how to integrate the website with customer management tools (CRM), how to automate the database, and so on.

Newsletter Manager Tools

In the last few months, we've been testing and installing tools to manage e-newsletters. The best solution is a $35 program from This is an ASP program, so you need to host a website on ASP (not Unix). We installed the professional version, which gives us unlimited newsletters, so we're setting those up for our clients. This includes a complete HTML editor, so we can send out HTML-based newsletters. Users can subscribe/unsubscribe and manage their accounts. If you're managing websites, you can set up an ASP website, install the tool, and use it for your other UNIX-based websites.

Upcoming Book

A few weeks ago, I wrote a book on search engines and Google. It explains the technology and theory behind Google, and how to take advantage of that. Google is the hot topic these days. The book was immediately accepted by a publisher, a few major people wrote blurbs for it, and the book will come out at the end of June. It'll be available at Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Nobles, and so on.

Spyware on your computer?

You thought computer virus were a problem? There's spyware now. Spyware are programs that are installed on your computer without your permission. You don't realize these programs are running in the background. Spyware clogs your computer's memory, slows down your connection, steals passwords or credit card numbers, changes your computer's settings, or (worse of all) turns your computer into a spam broadcaster that sends tens of thousands of spam to other users. There are anti-spyware programs detect and remove spyware from your computer. The one I use is AdAware, which is free to install, scan, and use. The first time I ran this, it found 52 spyware programs. Select the Home version. When you install it, click Settings and set it to start up and scan automatically.

Firewalls and Routers

If you have DSL, your computer's connection to the Internet is open all the time. This gives hackers plenty of time to enter your computer. DSL and Windows offer software versions of firewalls, but these are not enough. The best solution is to use a router. This hides your computer from the Internet. Routers are cheap and easy to install. The LinkSys router is only $49 and it installs itself. Just connect this between the wall and the DSL modem.

How Fast Is Your DSL?

A free website tool lets you check your DSL speed. Go to and select both image+text and then select one of the free hosts (such as Canada).

Asides from all that... busy these days with web development projects. We're building a website that will be a cluster of sites with copies of the websites in five langauges, so there'll be some 20 websites all together. I gotta brush up on my Japanese.

February 2004 Newsletter at

All kinds of Junk Mail

I was curious about the types of junk email, so in late November, I turned off my spam filters for 24 hours and collected all that came to my email account. I then sorted these out by category, to see what there was. The results are interesting. One type (yes, it starts with a V) accounts for 52% of all spam. 249 ads for that in one day. But there were many other categories.

Defogging the Car Windows

It's become popular to turn on both the air conditioner and the heater in cars. This clears the fog off the windows very fast. Some people wonder if it's okay to use both of these at once. Click-N-Clack, the two guys from NPR Radio, say it works and it's safe for the car's air conditioner.

Popup Ads

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought an action against a company that was selling software to stop popup ads. The company was also bombarding people with popup ads, in order to get them to buy the software to stop the popup ads. Apparently the FTC has no sense of humor.

Asides from spamming people, the company also sold their popup-sending software to other people, allowing them to engage in the same conduct. They promised buyers that they could send popups to 135,000 Internet addresses per hour, along with a database of more than two billion email addresses. Anyway, the FTC gives the following tip on how to disable the Windows "feature" that allows this sort of spam.

Disabling Windows Messenger Service

Pop up spammers are exploiting a feature of the Microsoft Windows operating systems known as Messenger Service. Windows Messenger Service doesn't have anything to do with instant messaging. It is designed to provide users on a local- or wide-area computer network with messages from the network administrator. If your home computer is connected only to the Internet, you may not have any practical uses for Windows Messenger Service. If your computer is on a business or home network, your network should be protected by a firewall.

To turn off Messenger Service:

  1. Click Start, click Settings, and then click Control Panel.
  2. Double-click Administrative Tools.
  3. Double-click Services.
  4. In the list, double-click Messenger.
  5. In Startup type, select Disabled.
  6. Click Stop.
  7. Click OK.
  8. More at

Pass this on to your friends and other lists.

Search Engine Optimization

Here's a new word for you: SEO. That's "Search Engine Optimization", and that means "how to get your website to be listed higher in Google". Or, "how to get more visitors to your website."

The web, and practically everything that happens on it, is measured by logarithms (log powers, which are number scales that grow in increments of 10x the previous number.) For example, Google assigns a Page Rank (the significance of a website) to every page. This is a number, such as PageRank Five. But a five isn't just one number larger than a four. It's ten times greater than a four. And 100 times greater than three. And one thousand times greater than a three.

This means that every increment that improves a website's ranking doesn't just improve it a bit. It improves the site by ten times. That's one of the reasons why any particular market niche is dominated by only a few websites. Their competitors must expend a great deal of effort to jump a bit higher.

There's quite a few SEO books on the market. I've read most of them and they're not very useful. I don't think it's possible to write a book for a general audience because there are too many technical issues that have to be covered: you have to modify the website, learn how the search engines work, and so on. If you're not technically-minded, then hire someone who knows about SEO.

If you want to use Google Adwords, the best one that I've found so far is Rodney Rumford's ebook on Google Adwords at ($40). Don't mind his chaotic writing style. He's very bright at marketing and he tells you more than most books.

Technical Marketing

Web technology allows a new way to do marketing. With websites, one can measure the response down to each individual click. No more guessing or estimates. This "technical marketing" is a combination of standard marketing and web technologies. Technical marketing companies are offering performance-based services, such as a percentage of sales. Traditional marketing can't do this because they can't measure results.

If you've not discovered it yet, see If marketing strategies and techniques can be quantified and measured, then why not carry out experiments? If there are three possible strategies, then carefully design all three, try them out, measure the results, and see what really works or doesn't work. That's what Marketing Experiments does. (I'm not affiliated with that site in any way. I read about it in a web newsletter from another webdev person, tried it, and subscribed. I found it very useful.)

CRM Tools

Stephanie and I just did a project for a client. They had a corporate website which was done in India for only $1,000. It looks great but... it didn't work! The Indians never installed the database. Clients came to the website, filled out the form, and the information just evaporated. For more than a year, she got no leads from the website.

So we fixed that by rewriting the website and connecting it to a CRM tool (Customer Relation Management, or software that allows you to manage the customer leads for sales, customer relations, and so on.) (In this case, the CRM tool was, at

For example, the customer fills out a form, the form is fed to the CRM database, which then sends a thank-you note by email to the customer, a notification email to the sales manager that there is a new customer, and adds the customer to the database, where additional rules can be set up to contact the customer regularly, say, at 30 days and 60 days with followup offers. Totally automated.

The CRM tool is based on XML and an Oracle database, so one can put literally any kind of input into it and use the CRM to contact customers by any criteria: city, income, interests, and so on. For example, if the CEO is going to speak in Chicago, they can invite potential customers in Chicago to a hotel reception.

This places an ecommerce website into a general marketing strategy: use SEO to bring customers to the website, they fill out a form at the website, and the forms are processed by the CRM tool so that the sales team can contact the customers. One can also add ecommerce transaction processing, so customers can pay with credit cards.

Cheap Houses in California

A friend told me she just wrote a book entitled "How to find a California home for under $150,000". I laughed because I thought she was kidding. Then she pulled the book out of her purse.

She found 15 small towns in California where you can buy a house for under $150K. Okay, they're small towns, but it's still in California. The book has lots of history about each town, and what is going on there. More at

Your Personal Google

Here's how to add a Google search box to your website. Copy and paste into an HTML page. Users can use this to search via Google from your website.

<!-- Search Google START -->
<form method="get" action="">
<input type="text" name="q" size="31" maxlength="255" value="">
<input type="submit" name="sa" value="Search">
<!-- Search Google END -->

Here is the result:

Ho, hum, you say. So it searches the web. Now try this one.

<!-- Search with Google START -->
<form method="get" action="">
<input type="text" name="q" size="31" maxlength="255" value="">
<input type="hidden" name="as_sitesearch" value="">
<input type="submit" name="sa" value="Search">
<!-- Search Google END -->

Here is the result:

The hidden variable (line 3) will limit the search within only one URL, which is specified in the value tag. So... in this example, the user can use Google to search within You can use this to create a search tool for your website.

December 2003 Newsletter at

A few weeks ago, I went to Long Beach (a city at the south end of Los Angeles.) The Queen Mary is parked there as a floating hotel. In the afternoon, we went to the Long Beach Aquarium ( There were lots of kids, and they used their cellphone cameras to take pixs of Nemo, Dory, and Bruce.

The aquarium features, of all things, a Shark Petting Pool. Yes, you can pet the sharks. It's an outdoor pool, perhaps two feet deep, with more than 150 sharks. Just reach in and pet the sharks. Now, you're wondering, really? There are some 300 species of sharks, and only a few are bad boys. The rest are docile as hamsters. There were mostly Zebra sharks, which are very pretty, with white spots on gray, and they cuddle in groups, like a bunch of cats.

The Shark Petting Pool was completely crowded by kids, as they sat on the ledge and petted the sharks. I started chatting with the woman who was supervising the pool. We watched the kids pushing and shoving so they could reach in and pet the sharks. After a while, I asked her "so how often does a kid fall in?" She said, "oh, about once every three months". So what happens then? She rolled her eyes and said "all hell breaks loose".

Yet More Cheap Phone Rates

A number of people emailed me about which offers long distance at 2.5 cents/minute within the USA. International rates are also very low. It's a pre-paid calling card. You buy blocks of minutes via a credit card. Stephanie was the first to email me about this, so if you type her code (scota3) into the promotion box, she gets extra minutes.

November 2003 Newsletter at

The other day, I was cleaning my hot tub. I had taken off the insulator top. The phone rang, so I went in and forgot all about the hot tub. The next night, I went out to use the hot tub and hopped in. Ever seen the porpoises at Sea World, how they leap out of the water? Anyway, now I know why there aren't any cold tubs.

What's Your Page Ranking?

You know how Amazon will show a book's ranking ("This book is ranked #203,604!")? Amazon uses Google to create a new search engine. You search for something, and it shows you "People who looked at this website also bought these books..." Amazon's search engine also shows the ranking of the website. You can find out that your site is the 436,100th (or whatever) most popular site on the web. Try it at

Getting Rid of Spam

A few days ago, a new spam-blocking tool was released. Spamfighter (for Microsoft Outlook Express and Outlook Office on Windows 98, ME, 2000, and XP) catches spam and throws it into a folder. If you're tired of spam, this gets rid of it for you.

If a piece of spam gets through, you select it and then click Block. This moves the spam into the spam folder and adds your vote to the spam blacklist. You can add your addressbook's list of email addresses to a whitelist, so your friends won't be blocked.

Spamfighter works in the same way as peer-to-peer tools (such as Napster and other music-swapping services). Some 300,000 people in 114 countries are using Spamfighter. Every time a bit of spam gets through, people block it, that information is added to the blacklist, and the spam is blocked for the other users.

I installed it a few days ago. The success rate is 98%. It's still in beta mode and some parts haven't been installed yet (for example, the ability to import your address book into the white list). A new version will be available in a few weeks.

Spamfighter is written by a Danish team and it has the Danish sense of humor. It's currently free. Visit their website at and download it (4 MB) at (Only for Windows.)

Cheap Internet Access is only $100/year (about $9/month.)

Cheap Long Distance Calls

The hunt continues for cheap long distance phone service. A subscriber told me about 1010297. 39 cents to connect and 3 cents per minute to North America, W. Europe, and Scandinavia.

Better Cell Phone Service

To compare cellphone plans and rates, use

Self-install Phone Jacks

The telephone company charges $120 to install new phonejacks. But there's a new product that lets you install extra jacks in any room without doing any wiring. These cost $70 and you just plug them in. Lisa tried these and it works. Just plug and talk!

October 2003 Newsletter at

Free Conference Calling

There are services that offer free conference calling. Each caller pays her own long distance to connect, but all the callers can speak with each other. You can add up to 250 people on one call. You can use this for business. You can also use this for friends or family calls and get the whole clan together. If everyone is within the same city, or you're using cellphones with free long distance, you can use this for all sorts of telephone meetings.

Free Fax to email

If you have a business and you want allow your customers to send orders to you by fax, there are several services that allow free fax-to-email. The customer sends a fax and the service converts the fax into an email. You get the fax as an email. It shows up in your email and you click on it to view it. You can also print it out. These services are free. People can send a fax to these numbers from anywhere in the world. You don't need a fax machine. Just ordinary email. Here are two: (this uses a Seattle telephone number) (a Nevada telephone number.) I use CallWave and it works.

The best digital cameras (and the best in most other computer stuff):

After 15 years of a Nikon 35mm camera, I switched to a digital camera. These are much better than film cameras: you can take thousands of photos and not pay a penny more in developing the film. A friend prints her digital pixs onto film paper and the results are identical to film development. If you're looking at digital cameras, here's rankings.

For all sorts of other computer devices, see PC World Top Ratings PC World Reviews

DSL or Cable?

It's like the post office vs. FedEx: you get slow and cheap or fast and expensive. Wired DSL or Cable?

Why Are Cellphones So Lousy?

The California PUC (Public Utilities Commission) recommended a fine of $12 million against Cingular Wireless, a California cellphone company. If you use Cingular, the conversation drops every five or ten minutes. That's because Cingular's marketing dept signed up too many customers. They doubled the traffic without spending any money on the network.

  • Scotty! I need warp factor six!
  • But Captain, I kinna do that! The engines are gonna blow!

Angry customers cancelled their cellphone service and Cingular charged them a $500 courtesy fee for cancellation! The PUC ordered Cingular to refund those fees.

Here's one of the engineer's emails, just before the di-lithium crystals exploded. "In some areas weekend traffic is already a problem. This promotion will cause a need of additional equipment. We are so far behind now in funding, that trying to estimate the amount and cost of this is not a good use of time."

More About Face Creams

A few months ago, I wrote about a face cream that removes wrinkles and rejuvenates the skin. It really works. The cream is TNS Recovery Complex and a reader sent in a link to a $20 coupon.

Lower Your Long Distance Bill To Zero

I was looking through my telephone bills and noticed that I was paying only 16 cents for a single long distance call last month but there were $5.72 for long distance service. That's right: nearly $6 in service fees for one phone call.

I use my cellphone for all calls these days (it includes free nationwide long distance calling. It even includes free conference calling). So I called Qwest and they switched me to another plan: no monthly service fee, and if there are no calls, they won't even bill. I asked her if I could just cancel long distance altogether. She said yes, but the local telephone company will charge a substantial "courtesy fee" for shutting off long distance. She said that many people were getting rid of their home phones altogether and just using cellphones.

Anyway, if you use your cellphone for long distance, you can probably shut off the monthly long distance service fees. If your long distance carrier won't allow this, switch to Qwest and get the no-monthly-fee plan.

The Columbia Space Shuttle

Back in early February, the space shuttle Columbia came in for a landing. It passed over California, so at 7 am, I was outside to see it go overhead. But Palo Alto was cloudy that day.

I came in and a few minutes, the radio news reported that the space shuttle had been lost during re-entry. All the seven astronauts died.

An accident review board was created and they released their report a few weeks ago. Yesterday, I read the CAIB report. Here are a few notes and a summary of the report.

The day after takeoff, NASA engineers were reviewing the various videos of the takeoff. They noticed that a piece of foam hit the shuttle's wing. This started a discussion among the engineers as to whether the foam had caused damage. They calculated that the foam was traveling at about 500 miles per hour when it struck the wing.

However, NASA management had a tight schedule for a number of missions. There was no time for delays. In previous takeoffs, pieces of foam had hit the shuttles and nothing had happened, so management, who weren't engineers, concluded there was no need to look into this.

NASA engineers, using personal contacts, asked the US military to use their spy satellites to look at the shuttle's wing. There were three separate attempts to ask for spy photos and each time, NASA management found out about these requests and ordered the military NOT to look at the shuttle. Managers warned the engineers to follow procedures.

If the NASA engineers had gotten the images, they would have seen the hole, the astronauts could have stayed in the space station, another shuttle could be sent up, and they could return on the second shuttle.

At page 140 in the report, there is a description of these actions and decisions, with a list of three requests for images at p. 166 and a list of eight missed opportunities at p. 167, with a summary at p. 170. At p. 177, the CAIB looks into NASA's organizational decision-making process.

The piece of foam stuck the wing, creating a hole in the wing's leading edge. During re-entry, superheated air entered through the hole, melted the wing's aluminum internal structure, and the wing collapsed and fell off the shuttle as it was moving at 12,000 miles per hour.

NASA managers, with their demand to stick to the schedule, their refusal to listen to the engineers, and using threats of reprimands against engineers who spoke up, caused the loss of the shuttle and the deaths of the astronauts.

In the early 80s, the shuttle Challenger took off in cold weather. The Challenger accident review showed that engineers warned NASA before launch that the O-rings might fail and they asked for a launch delay. NASA overrode the engineers and went ahead with the launch. Challenger exploded and all seven astronauts were killed (summary at p. 199-200.)

Here is the CAIB's official summary: "…NASA's management system is unsafe to manage the shuttle system…" Wow.

In contrast, the US Navy has a safety structure that actively seeks minority or dissenting opinions from engineers. If officers start on a process and there are no dissenting opinions, the officers are obligated to find one. At NASA, the opposite is done: management suppresses dissent and does not seek it out.

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB at 248-page report is at CAIB Report (PDF, 10 MB file)

The Insert Key

The Insert key on your Windows keyboard is useless. Because it was next to the Delete key, I often pressed it accidentally. Finally, I fixed that. Use a butter knife and you can pry it off. I put a bit of tape over the slot and attached the Insert key again. Now, it's basically frozen.

If I should ever decide again that I want to use it, I can pry it off again and remove the tape.

Another key to freeze is the NumLock key (upper left of the numeric keypad.) If you accidentally press it, you can't type numbers. You can do the same tape trick to the NumLock key.

Yet Another Microsoft Patch

In the last few days, Microsoft has sent out more security advisories. They've discovered security issues and they've released patches.

But in a way, this makes the problem worse. I read a few weeks ago that, ironically, the security advisories lead to more virus. When Microsoft publishes a security advisory, millions of users download the patches and they are protected. But the virus makers study these advisories anyway and then create virus to take advantage of the error, because millions of other Microsoft users don't download the patches.

Anyway, go to Microsoft and update your patches. In your browser, select Tools | Windows Update and follow the steps.

August 2003

The Blog FAQ

Blogs are going to be big. In the next few months, AOL, Microsoft, and others will unleash blog tools to tens of millions of users, and you'll hear no end of articles about blogs. So... if you want to be the first to know what is a blog, how to set one up, and (better yet), how to make money with blogs, then read at the blog FAQ.

Stop Spam...

Spammers use Google to search for email addresses. If you have a website and your email address is on your website, the spammers will find it. Here's a free tool to encode your email address to avoid spam: For example, turns into: an(long string of numbers)s. Just copy the code from that tool into your website. To visitors, it will appear as a regular email address.

Baby Names...

Ever noticed there seems to be lots of 20-somethings who are named Stephanie, Ashley, and Tiffany? Those names were very popular in the 80s. A fellow at the Social Security office created a website where you can see the ranking of names for any year:

Tips for XP...

All sorts of tips for dealing with Win XP at

Student Discounts on Software...

Student discounts are also available at certain online software stores, such as Creation Engine at, which also has a store in Mountain View (SV.)

June 2003

Getting Rid of Poison Oak

On Earth Day, I went out to help clean the creeks in Palo Alto. Around here, we have lots of poison oak, and I got a bit of it on me. (For non-Americans: poison oak and poison ivy are plants that give you severe rash if you touch them.) But it's fairly easy to deal with poison oak now: just use Technu. It's a cream. Rub it on, let it sit for a few minutes, and it destroys the chemical in poison oak. You can get Technu at any drugstore.

Add SSI to Your Website

SSI is a great tool for websites. Here's a clear guide to adding SSI to your website. FAQ SSI

The Art of Hokusai

I added more pixs and text to my Hokusai page. Read about Japan's most fascinating artist: Hokusai

Six Degrees of Connection

There's been an explosion of research in network theory. Until recently, it was impossible to quantify networks because realworld networks were huge. If it only takes six steps to connect to anyone on the world, that's a network of five billion people... But with computers, the web, and Google, suddenly one can map out the links in massive networks, leading to a number of major discoveries. 20% of the workers do all the work. Who is more likely to give you a tip for a job?, your best friend or someone at a cocktail party? Why is it so hard to stop al Qaeda? See FAQ-Barabasi

Want to be an andreas?

If you want to be an Andreas... is for sale. If you are interested, contact Andreas Berg in Sweden at

She Looks 20 years Younger...

I was having lunch with a friend a few months ago and at one point, I asked her what she had done to her face. She looked literally decades younger. It's a new type of face cream that rejuvenates skin cells. Wrinkles, age spots, and so on disappear and your face looks younger. The cream is "Skin Medica TNS Recovery Complex" by Skin Medica. It's $140 for a small tube at your dermatologist, but use Google and you can find it for $95 or so.

Food in the City...

This spring, I built a website for Patricia Unterman, who runs the Hayes Street Grill in San Francisco. She also runs Vicolo, the best pizza in SF. But that's not enough for her, she also just published a great guide to restaurants in SF. I keep a copy in my car so I can always find a place for dinner. Sign up for her free newsletter. See Hayes Street Grill

Mere Coincidence...

Ever notice how all CDs in all stores magically have the same price? The music industry recently settled a class action lawsuit for price fixing. If you bought a CD between 1995 and 2000, you can get up to $20 from the settlement. Just answer three simple questions (no reciepts are needed) and enter your address.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs...

Looking for work? I rebuilt Patti Wilson's website. It has over 1,000 links to job and career resources, plus free newsletters and an online list with job leads. See

The Next Big Thing...

Look around, no, look down! There's a new fad coming. Clogs are totally in. I was in NYC last week and saw that clogs are a craze in NYC. They've evolved from the wooden soles into all sorts of sandals and so on. My brother's online clog store in Palm Springs is number one at Google in every brand of clogs and he's getting major newspaper and magazine articles about his store. See

Coupons for Airport Parking

For those of you who still have permission from Ashcroft to travel, there's

April 2003

No more telemarketers!

You can block your telephone from telemarketing. State of California's State Attorney General has set up a website where you can register for the national do-not-call list, to be managed by the FTC. Register at the Do-Not-Call-List

Hold that pill! Pill expiration dates:

You probably have a bunch of pharmaceuticals left over in your medicine cabinet. Some of these probably expired years ago. Don't throw them out. They're probably still good.

Pills are usually effective long after the expiration date. Several years ago, the US Army conducted research into pharmaceutical expiration dates and concluded this was mostly a sales trick by medical pharmaceutical companies to sell more pills.

If stored in cool, dry, dark locations (such as a hallway closet,) pills are generally good for five-ten years after expiration. (Medicine cabinets are usually too humid, due to the shower.)

For more, see:

Refill Your Inkjet or Bubblejet Printers

Learn how to refill your inkjet printer and save money.

Vase of Fish

A few months ago, I figured out how to make an outdoor vase filled with live fish. The fish live outdoors all winter long.

Labor Markets in Silicon Valley

A review of Chris Benner's book about the nature and structure of the labor market in SV. If you work (or you're looking for work) in Silicon Valley, see Chris Benner's book

February 2003


Google has a new shopping service. Find products and use the price filter to find the lowest offer. For example, visit and search for "Sony ICD-BP150 Digital Recorder" and then set the filter "1-$120" and you'll get three stores under that price. If you manage a site that offers products for sale, you can add your product to froogle. Use the following links to learn how to add your site to Froogle (it's free.) Add store , Merchants, and More merchants.

Job Training

OICW in Menlo Park, California offers low-cost (and free) training in digital publishing software such as Illustrator, Quark, PhotoShop, Flash, and Dreamweaver. If you meet the low-income or unemployed qualifications, the training may be free and will include job development services and a job search workshop. Instruction is on a one-to-one basis in a self-paced curriculum.

More Jobs

You can search for jobs by type, city, industry, or company.

Make a list of files

Gretchen writes: Here's a creative and visual way to make a list of files in a folder. This is for the folks who never learned DOS, or people who appreciate a clever workaround.

  1. Click on the Winzip icon to open
  2. Click NEW to create a New ARCHIVE
  3. In the CREATE window, navigate to the drive and location where you want the archive. TIP: If you are doing this ONLY for the purpose of making a list, put the ARCHIVE in the same FOLDER on your hard drive that contains the files you want to list.
  4. Name the ARCHIVE in the file name window.
  5. In the ADD window, navigate to the folder containing the files you want to list
  6. Highlight the files you want to include using SHIFT CLICK or CTRL CLICK
  7. Click ADD
  8. After the ARCHIVE is created, the files will show in the next WinZip window
  9. Click FILE | PRINT
  10. If you created the ARCHIVE only to make a list, close WinZip and navigate to the folder where you created the ARCHIVE and delete it. If you put it in the same folder, it's easy to find.

Configuring Explorer file browser.

Lynn asks: How can I configure the MS Explorer file browser to always open in a particular drive?

  1. Start Explorer (Start - Programs - Windows NT Explorer, or Win key + E)
  2. Move to %SystemRoot%/profiles/(your username)/Start Menu/Programs, e.g. d:/winnt/profiles/savillj/Start Menu/Programs
  3. Right click on Windows Explorer and select Properties.
  4. The target will be %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe.
  5. Change to %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /e, (drive letter):\
  6. For example, to start in E drive: %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /e, e:\
  7. You can also specify a directory: %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /e, e:\winnt\system32
  8. Click OK and exit Explorer

XP Outlook Express Email

Amy asks: Where are the files for Outlook Express XP? I want to make a backup of my email.
This is buried in C:\Documents and Settings\(yourname)\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\(long string of numbers)\Microsoft\Outlook Express. This is a very long path. Open your MS Explorer file browser, start at the C: drive, and follow the path of folders. At the folder named (yourname), use your name (for example, Amy.)

What's that font?

Upload a scanned image of any font to What the font? and it will tell you the name of the font.

What's that airplane?

San Jose Airport lets you watch the airplanes on their radar. Watch them take off, land, and fly around. You can zoom out to see the whole Bay Area. Click on any airplane and see details about it: airline, elevation, origin, destination, etc. When an airplane goes over your house, you can see which airline it is. If you're going to pick up someone at the airport, you can track their arrival. Zoom out to 90 miles and see when it lands. See San Jose and Los Angeles. Visit to find other cities.

November 2002 Newsletter at

Over the past few months, I've been working on a project for the NWU. We held a seminar on self-publishing this spring and many of the top experts in self-publishing came and spoke. Over the summer, we converted the tapes into a set of four CDs, including a book.

The CDs are duplicated and assembled for us in Chicago. They also do the warehousing and shipping for us. We've automated the payment/order/shipping.

You may notice that we also have an ISBN number for our CDs. In a few weeks, it'll be available at Amazon, Borders, and so on. Anyone in the USA can order it at their local bookstore.

Stephanie Cota and I developed this project. We built the website and the product. Over the next few months, I'll write more FAQs about how we did this.

September 2002

Well, this newsletter has lots of links. I wrote several new FAQs, plus I finished editing several FAQs. This month, we cover the Mozilla browser (no popup ads, no banner ads,) SSIs, Contractor's Contracts, PDA backlights, cheap long distance, Visio clones, info on finding jobs, cheaper student loans, PNG, HTML email, and several more FAQs.

Mozilla: Another Browser

I often use the Mozilla browser instead of Microsoft IE because it has three great features:

  1. Mozilla lets you turn off images that do not originate from the URL. That is, it won't download and display banner ads (or any ads.) This reduces clutter tremendously, and it speeds up your browser (because it won't download banner ads.)
  2. Mozilla lets you turn off pop-up ads. No more X.10 spy cameras or travel spam. This also speeds up your browsing, because the machine won't be downloading all sorts of nonsense.
  3. Mozilla has "tabbed browsing." Instead of opening new browsers, you can open each item into a new window within the same browser, and all windows can be accessed by clicking on the tabs at the top of the window. A bit difficult to explain, but it works great. Very fast to go from tab to tab. Mozilla works. Okay, it's not perfect. Some pages don't render properly, it "has issues" with some CSS, etc. Whenever I notice that a page doesn't work well and I want to see it, then I open up IE and look at it. But for 99% of pages, it works fine.

Mozilla is free. Visit There are versions for Windows, Linux, and Macintosh.

After you've downloaded and installed Mozilla:

  • To remove banner ads, rightclick on any banner ad and select "Do no download from this server." You'll be able to view websites without banners. The pages will open faster and it's less cluttered.
  • To prevent popup ads, click Edit | Preferences | Advanced | Scripts and Windows. Uncheck the first item "Open unrequested windows."

A Collection of Contractor's Documents

If you're working as an independent contractor (IC) in computering, you might want an IC's contract, sign-off sheets, timesheets, and other documents. I put together a collection of my documents and made them available.


SSI (Server Side Includes) are a great way to build websites. It lets you store blocks of code as separate files, which you can then import into any page. This lets you write-once, use many. It also means that it's easy to update sections, because you only have to edit a single file.

And Yet More FAQs about Computer Stuff

PDA: How to Turn On the PDA's Light

Jill asks: How do I light up my Handspring? Palm and Handspring PDAs have a useful internal light. You can use your PDA in the dark. Many Palm and Handspring users have never known about this, because it's not clearly explained in the manual. To turn it on, step into a dark closet and just hold down the ON button for four seconds. Voila!

Visio Clone

Here's a tip from Bonnie in Oakland.) Visio is a great program for creating flowcharts, storyboards for websites, and so on. But it's expensive! Here's an alternative to Visio. Only $69, and there's free trial download.

Looking for Work?

Consolidate Your Student Loans

(Stephanie at sent in the following.) Student loans are at an all-time low. At the moment, rates are 4.06%. If you haven't consolidated your loans, your loan has a variable rate. Once a year, your rate will change. Consolidation allows you to lock in the interest rate on your loan for the life of the loan. Call 800-448-3533 (or visit and find out the rate. They will mail you a package to fill out for loan consolidation. You can also go online and do it but I found it a bit difficult to do this in terms of providing the information they wanted and getting it to go through. For example, Stephanie locked in at 4.125% (4.06% plus 1/8th %) with 15 years for repayment.

Gif vs PNG for Graphics

Many people are still using GIF format for graphics on the web. You can switch to PNG format. The executive summary? Stop using GIF. Use PNG. much better results. See

HTML Email

Sarah in New York asks: How do I make HTML emails? An HTML email is an email that looks like a webpage. If you have a website and you want to use the same look-and-feel, you can use HTML email. Let's assume that you're using Microsoft Outlook Express on Windows.

  1. Open a new, blank email.
  2. Select the menu item Format and then click on Rich Text.
  3. 3) The email now becomes an HTML email. You can add images to it, use fonts and colors, and so on.
  4. 4) Select View | Source Edit. This allows you to edit the email's HTML tags. At the bottom of the email, there are three tabs: Edit, Source, and Preview. Click on Edit and you'll see the email as HTML code. If you like, you can create your newsletter in your favorite HTML editor and then copy and paste the HTML code into the Source view.
  5. 5) Finally, click the Preview tab to see what it will look like.

Note: For whatever reason, this can't be done in Outlook on Macs.

Tip: Always test this by sending the email to a few friends before you send it out to everyone.

Location of email Files in Outlook

Yuri asks: Where can I find my Outlook email files so I can back them up:

The files in Windows 98-2000 are hidden in C:\WINDOWS\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook. I haven't found them yet in XP.

Cheap Long Distance

Gretchen found a really low long-distance plan. In a nutshell: you prepay for time, then take 6 months to use it, or it expires. 2.9 cents a minute any day, any time. You dial an access code (which you can program into speed dial.) You can dial from anyone's phone, so it is like having a phone card - put in your PIN and the minutes are deducted from your prepaid account. Calling Europe and other continents is pretty cheap, too!

News and Stuff

Judith in Marin asks if there are good sites for news. Here are a few of my favorites.

July 2002

A bit of a long email this time. We'll look at astrology, call waiting for your computer, and spam wars.

Last night, I finished the redesign and relaunch of Susan Levitt's astrology site. There were several reasons for a redesign: Susan was voted "Best Astrologer of San Francisco" by SF Weekly, a city newspaper. Her new book The Complete Tarot Kit, a major event for its publisher, is coming out in a few weeks. And, well, it's been more than a year since the last redesign, and that was looking so Y2K.

The goal was to build a site that Susan can update herself. She's a tarot guru, not a web guru, so no ultra-technical tools. I used CSS to create a consistent look. I used SSI to reduce the complexity of the HTML. Instead of large blocks of code, Susan only sees a few lines of code. The rest is her text content, which she can edit and update with Adobe GoLive on her Mac laptop. (For example, the navigation bar at the side is done with SSI, not Java or JavaScript. It's just text, not code.)

Susan Levitt lives entirely from her astrology and tarot services. The website is her shopfront. It uses Paypal for online credit card processing (shopping cart and an SSL secure connection,) so clients can select a service and pay by credit card. Susan has written a number of successful books and the orders are handled by

One of the goals was to promote her books, both current and upcoming. At the bottom of each page, there's a cover photo, with a link, for the books. Each book has its own webpage. The Complete Tarot Kit's page has elaborate illustrations to emphasize the value of the book.

The website is neat because it demonstrates that appropriate technology and good content can work together to build a useful website. And San Francisco and Silicon Valley can also get along. I'd like to hear your comments. Visit her site at and let me know what you think.

Susan's site shows that small business websites are feasible. I manage a number of small business websites. My brother's clogs shop in Palm Springs ( continues to grow, with the large majority of his orders through the website. Stephanie Cota, a web designer, also builds and maintains small business sites, such as the site. She just finished added a shopping cart and online credit card processing to, a book publisher.

Call Waiting for Your Computer

The new 56K modems have added the v.92 protocol. If you have call waiting for your telephone service (call waiting: if you're talking and someone else calls, you can switch to the second call,) then v.92 lets your computer switch to the other call. You won't lose calls while you're online. So if you're online and someone calls, the phone will ring and you can answer the call. When you hang up, the computer reconnects to the Internet and you continue websurfing. v.92 modems are about $50.


I've had great success with using Mailwasher. It has cut my spam by 90% or more. The worst spam (the porno stuff and most of the scams) is gone. Mailwasher works by bouncing the spam back to the sender; they think the email is not valid and they delete it from their list. Fetch mailwasher (it's free) at . If you like it, send him a donation to feed his cat. Regrettably, Mailwasher is only for Windows at the moment. If you're using Macs, send Nick an email and ask him to make a Mac version. Write to Nick at

SpamWars II

There's a new spam killer from Cloudmark. However, it works ONLY on Outlook Office on Windows 2000 or XP (it doesn't work with Outlook Express email program.) They promise to have a version for Outlook Express. Check it out (free download) at You can also sign up to be notified when the Outlook Express version is ready. Again, if you're using a Mac, send them an email and ask for a Mac version. Write to them at

So... which one? Mailwasher, by Nick and his cat, or Cloudmark, by a bunch of VCs? We've seen that every major dotcom will promise not to hand out your email address, but when they get low on money, guess what?, they sell your email address. Cloudmark will have a conflict of interest: if it works, they kill advertising, but their investors are also investing in the general industry, which lives on advertising. So... when AOL/TimeWarner/ArcherDanielsMidland/Enron wants to spam their 65 million users, I wonder how much they will pay to Cloudmark for permission to bypass their spam killer.

Bob West put together an overview of how these companies share your email address. See He also has a map that lays out the connections between these companies. See and

Web Bugs

You're wondering, so how can a company get my email address if I've never given it to them? Why is Lexus suddenly sending me spam, addressed to me, and I've never visited Because dotcoms use "web bugs." By placing an invisible link in a web site, any visitor to that website will also be unknowingly linked to another website. Any information at the first website will be sent to the second website. This includes your email address, your name, and whatever else you may have told the first company. This also includes all of your recent web activities, such as which websites you've visited. Visit and watch the status bar at the bottom of your browser. You'll see lots of really long URLs flash by. Every one of those companies is getting a copy of your information. Every one of them will bombard you with spam.

Fun for Your Mouse

Shake your mouse really hard to make him let go, at

May 2002

This month's stuff: how to stop a computer virus, how to block spam, how to win with Priceline, and how to create an online store.

Spam Stuff

Unwanted advertising email (called spam) has exploded in the last few months, as large websites have gotten desperate to make money. Yahoo turned off the blocks for some 100 million accounts.


If you use Priceline to buy airline tickets or hotel reservations, there's a website that can help you figure out how to make winning bids. Visit

Easy Computer Stuff

Mary asks if there's a way to backup emails. If you're using Microsoft Outlook, here's how. Open your Outlook, so you see your emails. Open your file manager (or click Start, click Run, type Explorer, and press Enter.) You file manager shows you the files on your hard disk. Navigate to a folder where you want to put the emails. For example, if you're looking for work, you probably have a folder named Job Search. Now select the emails that you want to save (such as the ones that contain job offers) and drag-and-drop them into the Job Search folder. See? The emails are saved as files. You can save them, copy them, open them, move them, and make backups. Mary definitely owes me some chocolate cake for this tip.

December 2001

It's winter, and it's time for Mayan Hot Chocolate. If you saw the movie Chocolat, well, you can make the hot cocoa. Last year I experimented for a while and wrote the recipe. faq-hotcocoa.html

Web Stuff

Here's a bunch of new FAQs about web stuff.

You can revisit the web from 1996, or any date. Use

If you're looking for inspiration or examples of creative websites, there's and

A month ago, I discovered a minor bug in Internet Explorer. I send a bug report to Microsoft and since I discovered it, I named it the Bush Bug.

Job Stuff

The real key to finding a job is to develop your social networks. Ah, so how to find a network? See faq-networks.html

I added more material to the jobs pages, and then broke them up into smaller pages.

A client isn't paying your invoices? Get the Small Claims Court FAQ at

If you're not getting any interviews, maybe take a paid vacation. You can teach English in China. The salaries vary from $400/month to $4,000/month, but you don't need much money, since you can live on about a dollar per day, and housing is included. They also pay your roundtrip airplane ticket. People who've done this tell me that Chinese are crazy about foreigners. Just go to google or yahoo and search for .

Check out for leads to more jobs.


What else is going on in Palo Alto? The dotcom crash is devastating in Silicon Valley (SV.) Well, this was pretty much a one-dog town, since everything was based on just one industry, computering. But now the dog got sick and died. A recent SV joke: What's the latest status symbol in SV? A job.

I've been reading Manuel Castells' Network Society, who points out that every new cycle of technology happens twice as fast as the previous cycle. Each new cycle builds on the infrastructure of the previous cycle. It took 60-70 years for radio to become widespread; television reached market saturation in only 30 years. The desktop computer boom in the early 80s took about 15 years. The web boom took only five years. So the next technology cycle could start extremely fast and grow much bigger than the web boom in only two years? Not a safe thought.

October 2001

It's the start of the holiday season: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. So grab some pie and sit back; this will be a long FAQ. Lots of stuff here.

As I wrote in early September, I was working at a dotcom startup, but it ran into "money issues" and most of us were laid off. I started my job hunt and found a new job four weeks later, at a "stealth startup." That means the company is working on a secret project and we can't tell anyone about it. We even have a fake cover story to tell our mom ("Mom, we're working on storage systems technologies.") Too bad it's not a juicy secret. Just more technology. It's a great job, only nine blocks from home, so I ride my bicycle to work. A number of people asked me about the job market and how I found a job, so at the end of this email, I added my group email about the job market.

One of the things I can say about my job is that I'm developing XSL. Part of this includes CSS, and in passing, I learned how to make web layout that doesn't use tables. It's an interesting idea.

Free Weather Reports

A neat webservice is which offers free emails with local weather information for your neighborhood. It's more accurate than the US Weather Service. They also include weather alerts. Thanks to Kimberly, who told me about this.


If you own your home, Allen Greenspan keeps cutting interest rates, and it's the best time to refinance in more than thirty years. But the best mortgage for you would mean a low fee for a mortgage broker, so your interests are in conflict with their interests. A professor of economics has a web site at about mortgages, refinancing, and so on. He also lists some forty mortgage brokers who disclose their fixed fees upfront, and thus offer the best deal in your advantage.

More Hard Disk Space

Stephen in Holland asks "I'm running out of room on my laptop. What can I do to get more space?"

  1. Delete whatever you're not using. Move old or unused files to diskettes and store them in your closet. Diskettes and Zip disks have a reliable life of about two years. If you can, copy them onto CDs. This last somewhat longer. Handle recordable CDs gently and store them in CD cases (I've found that the gold backing will flake off from a recorded CD and data will be lost.) The most reliable storage is hard disks (these are enclosed metal plates) and will last probably your lifetime, so if you have an extra computer with lots of space, you can use it for storage.
  2. Delete unused software as well. Go to Menu | Settings | Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs. Scroll through the list. As they say, "If in doubt, throw it out." Delete old games, demos, unused software, etc.
  3. Go through your email and delete old emails. Delete any attachments (they really take up space.) Clear out your Deleted email folder.
  4. Get rid of temp files, browser images, empty the wastebasket, and so on. Every time you look at a web page, all of the images are stored in a folder. This includes thousands of buttons and icons. Use Start | Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Disk Cleanup.
  5. Compress the drive. Open the file manager (Windows Explorer. Go to Start menu | Run and then type Explorer and press Enter.) In the left column, select your drive icon (click once) and then rightclick the drive icon. This brings up a popup menu. At the bottom, select Properties. This opens a new window. At the bottom, click "Compress drive to save space" (or similar.) This uses FAT32, which compresses your files. You'll be able to use your files in the same way after they've been compressed. This will free up about 30% or more. I've used this for three years and it works well.
  6. Finally, use Defrag. This speeds up your hard disk by consolidating your files and removing empty spaces. Start | Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Defrag. If you're doing this for the first time, it can take several hours (or all night...) Just let it run. Afterwards, do this monthly.

If you do all of this on your desktop computer and you still need more space, you can add a new hard disk. You can get 40 Gigabytes for about $100. Your local computer dudette can install this in a few minutes.

More Cute Windows Tricks

Here's a cute trick that improves Explorer (the file manager.) Normally, when you start it, it opens in C drive and you then have to click several times to get to your favorite folder. You can set it so that it'll open in a particular folder or drive.

First, put a copy of Explorer on your desktop. The program usually lives in your C:\Windows\ folder. Find it there, rightclick it, select Create Shortcut, and drag the shortcut onto your desktop. Rightclick the shortcut icon. In the text box for TARGET, there will be something such as C:\WINDOWS\EXPLORER.EXE (this points to the original file.) Add the following to the end of the line: /n,/e,D:\ so that the whole line reads C:\WINDOWS\EXPLORER.EXE /n,/e,D:\ where D:\ is the target where you want Explorer to open. If you want Explorer to open in your C: drive in your My Documents folder, then the line should be C:\WINDOWS\EXPLORER.EXE /n,/e,C:\my documents If you want it open in D: drive in your Work folder (or whatever,) then C:\WINDOWS\EXPLORER.EXE /n,/e,D:\work Just edit the last item to suit your workstyle. If you mess up, just delete the shortcut, blame Microsoft, and start over.

That's all for October. It's a really beautiful Indian Summer in Palo Alto. I've had dinner outside on the deck for the last few nights.

Eurydice, my cat, finally caught her first mouse, and for the next five days, she caught a mouse every day. She also caught a huge lizard, but I got him away from her and released him into the woodpile, where he lives now. Whenever I'm chopping wood for the fireplace, I see him.

I also got a fish vase for the front porch. Go to Home Depot and buy the largest flower pot they have (30 inches, for $50 or so) plus some swimming pool sealer. Paint the inside of the vase with two coats of sealer, let it dry for about a week, and fill it up with water, water plants, a few snails, and feeder goldfish (15 for a dollar) or mosquito fish (20 for a dollar, at any pet store.) Feed them fish food every few days. They'll live outside year-around. Totally cool.

My Report on Job Hunting

Elena asked: "I was just wondering what you thought about the current job market, since you've had some experience in looking. Thanks!"

(Several people asked the same question, so here's the long reply. --andreas)

I was laid off in a round of downsizing in mid-August. I found a new job in mid-September. Here's an overview of what the job market is like and how I looked for a job.

The job market is very bad. Here's a comparison of the situation: At the four largest job boards (,,, and, there are currently about 60 openings for tech writers. Normally, there are several hundred openings. The 60 openings are for very senior writers, lead tech writers, and tech pubs managers. They all require 5-7 years or more of experience, plus solid technical skills (such as APIs, JavaScript, Java, C++, etc.) There is practically nothing for mid-level or junior writers.

After being laid off, I spent a week preparing for a job hunt and then three weeks doing a job hunt. I was hired about 30 days after I was laid off. In contrast, I never went more than a week without work for the last seven years. I know many tech writers who have not had an interview in six months.

I followed several strategies: job boards and personal contacts.

  • I sent my resume plus a personal cover letter to some ten recruiters whom I've known for many years.
  • I sent my resume and a generic cover letter to some 330 Silicon Valley recruiting agencies.
  • I registered at,,, and I added my resume to these sites, I did job searches, and I signed up for automated email notification of openings. I used the NWU's job hotline ( for jobs in technical writing.
  • I sent an email to all of my friends, work acquaintances, and email lists, to say that I was available and my resume was on the web.

Every Monday, I revisited the job sites (,,,, and the NWU job hotline) and updated my information. A recruiter told me that resumes are ranked by most recent first, so if you update your resume every week, you will be at the top of the list.

Every morning, I replied to the automated emails of job openings.

The majority of jobs are never listed. They are available through informal social networks. So I took the opportunity to have lunch or coffee with different people nearly every day.

Finding the Job...

After two weeks, I began to get interviews. These came from different sources:

  • One company found my resume on
  • I found another company at
  • A recruiter whom I know found an opening for me
  • I had coffee with a friend, and she remembered an opening. The fourth one led to the job, since the manager and I had a common friend whom we both trusted.

During interviews, I asked directors about the job market. They said they got hundreds and hundreds of resumes. However, 90% of these were worthless resumes because people were broadcasting wildly for any kind of job.

I also learned from both recruiters and companies that companies are avoiding recruiters. Since so many recruiting agencies have fired their recruiters, companies have hired those recruiters as internal recruiters and they do their own job search. This saves the company the $20-30,000 recruiting fee per position. So you should approach companies directly and not rely exclusively on recruiters. is a very popular place for companies to find workers directly.

(Another tip: has local versions: Craigslist for SF, for the Peninsula, and for the South Bay. Check the one that is closest to you.)


I strongly recommend Corcodillo's book. This has to be read several times and you must practise interviewing. I've spent hours (in some cases, an entire day til midnight) preparing friends for interviews. I took extensive notes, worked through the book, and prepared a five-page script with notes and bullet points to use in interviews.

Researching the Company

You've heard the theory, but you must learn how to research companies. You don't want to get aboard a sinking ship. If you don't know how to do the following, find someone who does and have them teach you how to do this. Use Yahoo Finance and look up the company's ticker symbol. Look at the 1-year and 2-year charts of the stock price to get an idea of how the company is doing. See News to read recent articles about the company. Use Profile to read about the company's mission statement and their financial situation. There is more detailed descriptions in those as well, such as their competitors, their market cap, info about the directors, and so on. Use Insider to see whether the directors are dumping their stock. Use all of this until you are comfortable with the information and understand what it means. You should also look at the company's competitors and see how they are doing.


The job market is extremely bad. On the bright side, it can't get much worse. In mid-September, during the worst week in the US economy since the Great Depression, with New York City in flames, NASDAQ in freefall to to 1400, and the stock market closed for three days, I did interviews at four different companies and get hired.

Based on historical trends, recessions only last twelve months, and we've been in recession for at least six months. So the recovery should begin by late Spring 2002. You only have to survive until then.

September 2001

More new FAQs (FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions...) at

This month: Food, jobs, housing, and mouse tricks.

The web funeral for the web was quite fun. We buried the sock puppet in a Webvan box in my backyard in Palo Alto. The Mercury News newspaper, AdWeek,, and Media Times wrote about it; 15,000 people per hour were visiting the website to see the Web's obituary. It's at Web Obit.

I added a long list of recipes to the front page of my site. It was on the site before, but buried under several links. Try the Goat Cheese Torta; it's great for parties.

So... still have a job? Silicon Valley these days is more like Death Valley. The next company to be voted off the island will be Excite. On Monday, one of their investors realized their mistake and they wanted their $50 million investment back by Friday. In cash. Excite thought about this for a few days and finally said "you can't make us and we're not going to."

If you've been laid off (or you work for Excite, which means you'll soon be laid off,) I added a long list of pro-worker attorneys and an article by Joyce Slaton on your legal rights in a layoff.

The dotcom where I was working was doing well. On Monday we were very busy and on Friday, quite a few people were let go. The company ran into funding "issues." Oh, well. So I've been laid off too. It turned out to be quite a relief, after months of anticipation. I cleaned up my resumem, signed up at various job boards, and had lunch with a number of recruiters. For those who have lots of skills and experience, there are a few jobs. For the rest, well... Mercury is in retrograde, so explore other avenues. It's my first real vacation in many years. I fixed the garage door, got the dishwasher finally installed (yes, I had it for two years, but I never got around to installing it,) planted many more WebVan tulips (see Web Obit for the story,) and am enjoying the summer. I've also finally had time to catch up on old emails, a number of which went back to 1998...

Anyway, I've freshened up my job resources page . Over the next few weeks, I'd add more things as I explore the job market.

The collapse of the valley also means lots of available apartments. There are hundreds of listings on Craig's List every day. Apartment complexes have begun dropping their rents by as much as $500 to keep people from leaving.

It's a great time to go shopping. Companies are dumping their inventory to raise cash. Handspring Visors (deluxe model, in various translucent colors) are only $99 at Fry's. Eye modules (the digital camera for the Visor) is only $30 at various office supply stores. A few days ago, I bought a 1200x1200 color inkjet printer for $39.

But the web's not over. The mega sites, such as Yahoo and AOL, will survive, along with the micro business sites. Small business sites can keep their costs low and make a profit. My brother's clogs site in Palm Springs continues to grow; he is the largest distributor now for Bastad Swedish clogs.

Late-night Restaurants in Silicon Valley: a number of people sent me reports on various restaurants (Andreas, that place has the BIGGEST roaches I've ever seen...",) so I removed a few and added many more. There are twice as many restaurants now, plus Morgan Hill, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and so on. Taquerias at 3 am! Late Night Restaurants.

Finally, here's a great tip. If you have Windows and a wheel mouse (the kind that lets you scroll by spinning the little wheel between the two buttons,) then try this: Open up the browser, look at a web page, hold down the Control key (Ctrl,) and spin the wheel. Yes, it zooms the page in and out. Once you try this, you'll be hooked.

July 2001

Have you heard of the "invisible web"? Or... how big is the web? About twice as large as the Library of Congress. And how big is the invisible web? 750 times larger than the Library of Congress. It holds 550 billion files. And yes, you can use it. A few days ago, interviewed me about this, so I wrote up the material.

Finally, for something fun, I'm holding a funeral this Saturday. The Web is dead. So let's bury it! See The Death of the Web.

  • Web, age 5, of Silicon Valley. Born August 9th, 1995, Mountain View, California and died penniless in an empty dotcom loft, abandoned by his former friends. Cause of death: lack of VC funding. Private burial and funeral service 3.00 pm. Saturday, July 28th, 2001. Burial in a Palo Alto backyard. Make donations to a web-centric non-profit, such as That's all for July! Enjoy your summer,

June 2001

So far, it's been a cool summer in Palo Alto. The days are barely warm, and it's chilly at night.

What is it with Hawaii? Suddenly, everyone is wearing Hawaiian shirts and there's Hawaiian theme parties. Just down the street here in Palo Alto, Trader Vic's opened their first new restaurant in 25 years.

Whatever. I've been busy with my computer. I took my old machine, removed a number of parts from it, and built a new machine, with 1.7 GHz and 500 MB of RAM. It's plenty fast for a while. It also has Windows XP. XP is cute, but best of all, you can turn off most of the XP stuff and get the classic Windows interface. The old machine will rise again; it's being turned into a LINUX machine with a server. Soon, it may be delivering your webpages.

Computer Stuff

Oh, while I was upgrading, I found out where Windows stores the email. It's hidden deep inside a bunch of folders. Your email is saved as a bunch of files. You can drag and copy these files into a folder or onto a Zip disk, so you can backup your email. The email files are at windows/application data/microsoft/outlook express/mail/ and the files have the dbx extension. When you upgrade, just copy these files onto the new machine, open Outlook, and use Import. It'll bring the email right into your new email program.

Job Stuff

It's pretty dismal in Silicon Valley. Palo Alto has 48% office space vacancy. There's office complexes that are entirely empty. VC funding continues to slide down. Oh, well.

The startup where I'm working just got more funding. Our CEO spent several months talking to VCs. He said that a large VC company had 4,000 business proposals this year, and they are going to fund only eight.

Other Stuff

There's a page that lets you make PDFs for free.

Great Stuff

Finally, there's a way to get rid of a lot of spam. A fellow in New Zealand wrote a program that returns spam to its sender by bouncing it. To the spam sender, it appears as if your email account doesn't exist. If the spam sender's computer will delete your email address from their computer. Bingo. No more spam from them.

Spam is unsolicited email. The junk emails that offer porn, Nigerian money scams, get-rich-quick schemes, and so on. I was getting 100-200 spam per day. With Mailwasher, it's down to 25 per day.

MailWasher is an email previewer. You can see what emails you have before you download them. It identifies spam and viruses and let you bounce the email back to the spam sender. After you've previewed your emails, it downloads your emails into your email program.

It's easy to install and set up. A dialog box will ask you for your pop and smtp info. For example: Laura at Microsoft's email info is... user =, pop =, and smtp = (These are examples.) Substitute your name and ISP and try that. If it doesn't work, check your ISP's help pages and search for "smtp."

Fetch MailWasher at (1.5 MB download) It's free to use. If you like, you can send him a small donation ($3-20) to help him with his cat's catfood.

Send this email to your friends and lists. Tell everyone about MailWasher. The more we use this, the less spam there will be. Kill spam!

May 2001

I've added a few more FAQs. (FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions...)

Adobe Acrobat PDF

Wanna use Adobe Acrobat to make PDFs? Do you know what PDFs are? I once wrote the complete guide to Adobe Acrobat (no, it's not Adobe Aerobic Reader.)

Add Low-cost Credit Card Transactions to Your Web Site

If you have a website and want to do credit card transactions, there's a really easy way to do this. With, you can add secure server ecommerce to your website and accept credit card payments: no setup fees, no monthly fees, and only 30 cents per transaction. More at Paypal for your website.

HTML Cheat Sheet

When I'm writing HTML, I often refer to my HTML cheat sheet. One of you asked me for this, so it's at Andreas' HTML Cheat Sheet.

Douglas Rushkoff

A discussion of Douglas Rushkoff's book on Coercion.

More Poems

And a few more poems. Thanks to the fellow who told me about William Stafford's poems. Copy, distribute, whatever.

Not much else. It's a beautiful mild summer in Palo Alto. That means no rolling blackouts. And I have a new cat, named Eurydice. Some sort of Greek demi-goddess.

April 2001

It's April already? It's time for new FAQs at!

Secrets of the Search Engine Gods...

I promised back in January to write about search engines. You forgot that I promised? Good. Because it took me until now to get around to doing this. In March, I was part of a web technology panel presentation in Silicon Valley. I presented a paper on SEO. What's SEO? When somebody says SEO, you're probably paying $5,000. SEO (search engine optimization) is how you get listed at the top in a search engine. If you get your company at the top of a search engine listing, you get practically all of the sales for that category.

Clogwild: Nr. 1 at Yahoo

My brother has a clog store in Palm Springs. Palm Springs has 93 golf courses, a bunch of movie stars, and it's summer every day. I run a bunch of web sites, so I built a web site ( for his store. His site is now the most popular web site for clogs at Yahoo. In only six months, he's one of the top sellers for clogs in the USA. I also manage another web site for a therapist in San Francisco. She got her own category at Yahoo and she is booked out with clients for several months in advance. How did I do that? Oh, so maybe now you're interested in my paper on SEO? Go back and read about search engines.

Bay Radio

Okay, so most of you live outside of California. Heck, many of you live all over the world. Here's a list: Austria, Australia, Belize, Canada, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Egypt, Denmark, Germany, Korea, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, PT, Rumania, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. There's even a few of you at the CIA, the US Navy, and the State Department. Maybe the Mars Rover is in here somewhere. Howdy to all of you. Anyway. Here's a list of radio stations in the Bay Area. So maybe this won't help you very much. But the next time you're in Silicon Valley and you're stuck in traffic, well, now you know what radio to listen to.

Back to Engineering?

The New Yorker's financial pages has an interesting comment a few weeks ago. The Internet and computers in general were once only for engineers. In the 80s and early 90s, Silicon Valley companies were run by engineers for engineers. Marketing meant that you stamped the specs on a brown carton box and sent it out.

At the beginning of the web boom , marketing took over the web. Most dotcoms were basically MBA marketing projects: throw enough money at a project until it turned into a brand and a customer base. They spent perhaps $500 billion of VC money to prove their point. And the result... well, 80% will close and the remainder barely survive. The New Yorker concludes it's back to engineering. Companies run by engineers are still getting funding.

So we learned something. Okay, we paid $500 billion to learn it, so we better learn it right: Marketing doesn't sell a product. The product sells the product.

Job Fairs

Looking for a job? Or maybe soon you'll be looking for a job? So what goes on at a job fair? What are companies looking for? Are they really hiring? Yep, I was the one of the people to whom you handed your resume. I'm a manager at a top Silicon Valley company. Actually, people often yelped, threw their resume at me, and ran away.

Mayan Hot Cocoa from Chocolat...

And in closing, as promised, something really useful. Did you see the movie Chocolat? Wanna know how to make hot cocoa that's so aromatic it's like rich perfume? It took a bit of experimenting, and I came up with the recipe for Mayan Hot Cocoa

Let me know what you think of these newsletters, the web site, the FAQs, and so on. Are there things I should write about? Secrets of Silicon Valley that you want to know? Drop me a note.

Happy Bunny Day, -- andreas

March 2001

Okay, so it's been a few months since my last newsletter. I'm at yet another Palo Alto startup and we've been busy. The company is only nine blocks from home, so after it stopped raining this winter, I've started again to bicycle to work.

This month's stuff: job searching, CSS, how to back up email, how to publish your book, wireless PDAs, craigslist, making wine, and a few more things.

Job Stuff

Working in Silicon Valley is somewhat like working on the starship Enterprise: it seems that every race and species can get a job, even Ferengi. Everyone here believe that skills matter, not your race, age, or sex. Well... not quite. In the rest of the world, the more experience, the higher the income. But in SV, salaries tend to fall with experience. Race is possibly the most important issue. Just as Star Trek's Ferengi tend to cluster together, the races here also cluster together. Members help other members of the same race, and regrettably, they continue with their prejudices from their native country against other races. For example, Japanese men earn much more than Southeast Asian men or women.

Web Stuff

To develop sites that can support various browsers, you can create a CSS sheet for each browser and use a JavaScript browser detect that redirects the browser to the appropriate CSS page.

The web craze is over and the web is beginning to shrink. Up to this winter, there were some 30 million domain names. Since December, millions of names have expired. People are not paying the renewal fees on their registrations. See for a list of expired domain names.

Easy Computer Stuff

Mary asks if there's a way to backup emails. If you're using Microsoft Outlook, here's how. Open your Outlook, so you see your emails. Open your file manager (or click Start, click Run, type Explorer, and press Enter.) You file manager shows you the files on your hard disk. Navigate to a folder where you want to put the emails. For example, if you're looking for work, you probably have a folder named Job Search. Now select the emails that you want to save (such as the ones that contain job offers) and drag-and-drop them into the Job Search folder. See? The emails are saved as files. You can save them, copy them, open them, move them, and make backups. Mary definitely owes me some chocolate cake for this tip.

Wanna Publish Your Book?

With computers and the web, you can write and publish books yourself. In May, we're going to hold a seminar in Oakland on how to self-publish. We've invited major speakers and panelists for the event. I'm the coordinator for the seminar. Stephanie Cota and I built the website. Writer as Publisher: Independent Publishing Seminar, by the National Writers Union (NWU.) An all-day seminar, Saturday, May 18, 2002 at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center in downtown Oakland. Get published!

More Stuff

Craig's List is one of the best secrets on the web. Craig Newmark is a Java developer in San Francisco who created a website for sharing info and events; it has grown into the main community site for events, jobs, housing, and other services in many different cities. With the dotcom crash, companies are avoiding recruiters and they've turned to announcing jobs on Craig's List. (By the way, I worked with Craig four years ago at a dotcom. A few months ago, I bought a great sofa for only $200 through Craig's List.) There's the main site at, and there are local versions for the Peninsula, South Bay, and other cities, incl. LA, NYC, and so on. Pass this on to friends, other lists, and so on. Bay Area, Peninsula, South Bay and see the sites for NYC, LA, and other cities.

Wireless Stuff

I bought a VisorPhone for my Handspring Visor PDA. I can use my PDA as a cell phone. I used it for a month or two. It can send and receive email. Oh, great, now I can get spam wherever I go. After I tried a few emails, I gave that up. The VisorPhone can browse the web. You first have to sign up for wireless access (the scoundrels at the phone company charges an extra $5 for this.) I spent easily five hours with tech support, both at the ISP, Handspring, and the telephone company, trying to get this to work. One of the engineers at the phone company said to me "Is anyone really using this?" We never got it to work. The device is well-designed, but the result just isn't that useful. It's easier to use the PDA in one hand and make a call on a separate device. Combining the two is too much like a Swiss Army knife. I doubt I use even 20% of my cell phone's features. Wireless PDAs sound good, but it's not here yet. Maybe in a few years, I'll try again.

Anyone want to buy my VisorPhone? (It requires a PCS cell phone and a Handspring Visor.) I paid $100 at Handspring for it. In perfect condition. Send me an email.

Speaking of wireless spam, I got my first spam on my regular cell phone a few weeks ago. Someone sent me six text messages, all promising Get Rich Quick, if I only called back to a telephone in Nigeria.


What else is going on in Palo Alto? After the crash, there's lots of available apartments. In six months, rents dropped from $1,700 to around $950 for a 1-bedroom apartment. Practically every apartment complex has For-Rent signs and there's all sorts of move-in offers. But all the cats who had their paws burnt aren't coming back so soon. Many of my friends have moved away to other cities or they've taken up other professions.

For the last six months of 2001, I got about 10% "no longer works at this company" automatic replies every month. All of those people were losing their jobs. In the last three months, however, I've seen a big increase in subscriptions, and amusingly, many of these are now at yahoo or hotmail accounts. They've learned not to rely on company email services.

The latest Silicon Valley joke? There's good news and bad news about your stock portfolio. The good news: your stock is doing great! The bad news: Arthur Andersen is the accountant.

But things really are picking up again. Last week, a house for sale in Palo Alto had 30 offers.

In the next few months, I'll add more FAQs on JavaScript. I've written a bunch of JavaScripts for various projects, so I'll clean them up, document them, and put them on the site.

This past winter, I've also been making wine. A friend bought a wine-making kit and we've made several batches. It's very easy; just buy some grape juice, throw in some yeast, let it sit on top of the fridge for a few weeks, and pour. It's quite drinkable. It comes to less than fifty cents per bottle. You can find wine-making supply stores in most cities, and they'll sell you the whole kit. If you like wine, maybe look into this.

As for me, I'm working at the startup (we're creating software that manages massive storage systems,) working on the self-publishing seminar website, and a few other projects. I've also been working on my house. This winter, the pipes broke and I to replace the plumbing. It also turned out the oak trees in the front yard had gotten their roots into the drain pipes. So I hired a few Mexican fellows and we dug those up and replaced them. If you have trees in your yard, you can buy root killer at any hardware supply store. Pour it into the toilet and it removes any roots in your drain pipes. (Hey, it's either root killer in the pipes or a chain saw.)

January 2001

Once you get your Palm Pilot or Handspring PDA, you can fetch thousands of free books (actually, over 40,000...) You can also create books and texts that others can read on their PDAs. This is very easy to do. Full details and lots of links.

And yes, you can cruise the web on your PDA. Fetch a free browser for your PDA and start reading the New York Times, Salon, and other newspapers and magazines for free on your PDA. Plus, you can visit my PDA website design site and learn how to make web sites for PDAs.