Automotive and Technology

In 2004 the terms VoIP, internet phone service and IP phone were foreign to almost everyone except technology professionals and geeky computer types. Now most people I talk with are at least very familiar with these terms, as the internet phone service market is now starting to take off. Contrary to what many people believe, VoIP is not a new technology. It was introduced to the public in 1995, by a company called Vocaltec. By using internet phone software, registered users could make phone calls via their computer using a dialup internet connection. I made my first internet phone call in 2000 using my computer, a headset, a dialup internet connection and a free account with Net2Phone. The sound quality was terrible, but it was an absolutely fascinating experience to be making a long long distance call over my computer. Now in 2005, ten years after the first commercial use of VoIP, the technology is finally ready for prime time!

Significant improvements have been made with VoIP in the past five years, and communications companies have started investing heavily in the technology. The quality and reliability of service has improved so much within the past year or so that VoIP is now capable and reliable enough for everyday residential and business use. In fact, so much attention is now being given to the continued improvement of VoIP technology that it's well on it's way to becoming the PREFERRED method of communication by home users and businesses alike.

There were around 1.5 million internet phone users in the USA in 2004, and around 2.1 million today according to Telecommunications Industry News. According to various statistics I've seen, the number of VoIP users in the United States is projected to be around 17 to 18 million between 2008 and 2010. This in an increase of over 1000% within the next 3 to 5 years! Experts also estimate that by 2007, 75% of long distance calls worldwide will be made via the internet. The US is currently not the largest user of VoIP technology – there are about 7 million users in Japan out of approximately 12 million worldwide today. The internet phone industry is booming, and will continue to grow over the next decade. It seems that everyone including EBay wants in on the exploding VoIP market now, as evidenced by their purchase of VoIP provider Skype in September 2005.

More people are showing interest in obtaining the Internet Phone Service because they are starting to hear more about it. This is due in part to more "converted users" raving about the amount of money they are saving and the great features they get for free (I love my VoIP service so much I wrote a website about it!). A greater awareness has also come from increased advertising efforts by major cable and communications companies. Many cable television and phone service companies (like Verizon) have been pouring money into VoIP technology in order to capture some of this new market share.

In an effort to hold on to their customers, many regular PSTN (public switched telephone network) phone companies are now offering "unlimited long distance calling" for a flat monthly fee of around $ 39 per month. Current subscribers are starting to cancel their traditional phone service as they are convinced that VoIP is a better option. Not only is VoIP cheaper (under $ 25 a month for unlimited calling), but most Internet Phone providers throw in all of the optional features for free. Phone companies charge extra for services like voicemail, caller id and call waiting. I think phone companies have missed the boat when it comes to competing with VoIP, but that's a topic for another article ……

With all of the telephone service options now available, it is becoming difficult for consumers to choose the right provider for their needs:

Should you subscribe with a true VoIP service provider (like Vonage, Packet8, SunRocket, Voip.net, etc …), or should you choose the phone service that your cable company provides? If you compare VoIP provider rates with those of the cable company, "pure" VoIP providers are clearly the winner. Cable companies do provide free installation, but VoIP is really very simple to install. Many cable companies offer discount through "package deals", but it's always smart to compare total cost and included features with VoIP providers before making a decision.

Should you switch to VoIP and get rid of your landline phone, or keep what you've got and pay for unlimited long distance calling? If you do not use the internet, keep your landline phone and forget about VoIP for now. To get the most bang for your buck out of VoIP service, you need to have cable internet service. This eliminates the need for a phone line and "dial tone" that you have to pay the phone company for. To use VoIP in the most cost effective way, calls should go through your cable broadband connection – this eliminates the need for standard phone service. VoIP does not work well over dial up internet; You really need broadband in order to get the best audio quality.

Depending on your long distance calling habits, VoIP internet phone service can save you between 20% – 80% per year vs. Traditional PSTN phone service. The technology is mature now and the quality of service is great (and getting better all the time). It's hard to beat unlimited local and long distance calling for less than $ 25 per month, plus you get free voicemail, caller id, call waiting, call return, and all the other features you're used to paying extra for.

VoIP is definitely here to stay, and cost savings is only one of the many benefits it offers. Internet phones will change the way the world communicates. It's now possible to live in another country and have a US phone number, you can have several "virtual" phone numbers in different states or travel the world and bring your home phone with you. It's an exciting time in the world of communications – are you ready to switch to VoIP?

(C) Copyright 2005, Debbie Jacobsen. All rights reserved.

Music spearheads the ringtones industry. You can download free ringtone to cellular phone from websites. You can download free ringtone to cellular phone or you could make use of the Ring Tone Text Transfer Language (RTTTL), a common language on the net to describe ringtones in a prescribed and acceptable format.

Alternately, you could have gone to the webpage where you could download free ringtones to your cellular phone. Your cell phone has to be compatible for the download feature. On the ringtone page, you could select the make of your phone and the model number and series, and you could download free ringtone to cellular phone. Monophonic and Polyphonic ringtones are most sought after in ringtones.

You could also hear the ringtone on the website before choosing the one which you would love to download. Quite a few phones have the 'composer' feature. You could go to 'Compose' and follow the RTTTL codes from the webpage and compose your own free ringtone. In a Nokia phone, they could appear this way-4e1, 4e2 etc. Customize your mobile phone with a funky free ringtone!

There are several websites that offer you to download free ringtone to cellular phone. A list of a few of those is as follows: –

Ringophone.com

It offers a huge selection of ringtones and graphics for your cellphone. Change that boring ringtone with one of the many trendy and almost free ringtones from their collection. Ringophone.com sends the ringtone to your cellphone in just seconds. No matter where you live on the planet. Their network covers more than 150 countries worldwide! Simply choose your favorite style from the style list, or use search to find quickly your favorite song. Go ahead, download free ringtone to cellular phone, and make your cellphone sound like never before!

BestTones.com

This website offers a multitude of free ringtones for your cellular phone. You can download free ringtone to cellular phone using this website. It provides monophonic and polyphonic ringtones. The website also provides instructions for entering ringtones to your cellular phone, be it Alcatel, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Siemens or Sony. The ringtones are based on your favorite movies, songs, Tv series, games etc. The website is updated with new ring tones each month. This website offers you a varied list, to download free ringtone to cellular phone.

Tonez2Fonez.net

This website offers a range of options to download free ringtone to cellular phone. It has a variety of ringtones including monophonic, polyphonic, realsounds, polyphonic 40 tones and voice tones.

Ringtonesgalore.co.uk

Here you will find all the latest monophonic / polyphonic ringtones of new hits as well more real tones and real sound ringtones. They also still have lots of ringtones in the good old composer, keypress and RTTTL formats for Nokia. You have a lot of options while you download free ringtone to cellular phone. This website has ringtone categories like rock & pop, movies, TV themes, popular, RealSound ringtones, UK chart tones, and enhanced ringtones. You could either download free ringtone to cellular phone, or compose your own ringtone using the RTTTL codes.

On the above websites, you can find scads of ringtones. You can download free ringtone to cellular phone from these websites. If you do not get the desired ringtone from the above list of websites, you can search the internet for other websites that may have the desired ringtone.

When you first buy a computer, even after the first few programs are installed it remains blazingly fast! However after a few years of use your computer operation will slow down – imagine a partial blockage in a hosepipe that can not be seen. It's such a gradual process that you hardly notice, but the more you use that hosepipe the more blocked it will get. This analogy could have taken further and you might consider the hosepipe's connection to water which is not clean an added cause for blockage (= pirate programs? / Viruses / adware etc) or leaving the hosepipe outside for ages and not being hurt up (= no Maintenance / housekeeping), but as I do not do analogies …

So here are the top 8 ways to counteract everything that slows down a computer for FREE! Applicable to Windows XP or windows Vista, ignore this if you do not know what it means.

Defragment Your Hard Drive (s)

If you do not do this your hard disk (s) becomes fragmented by general use and when you new programs are installed. When you install a program the file is generally placed on one part of the computer but after a while bits and pieces of data are spread across the hard disk. By using Windows 'Disk Defragmenter' the software moves all the bits of data into roughly one place. You can get to the file by clicking:

Start
All Programs
Accessories
Disk Defragmenter
Once the program has fully loaded click on the top drive and work your way down.

Disk Cleanup

Disk cleanup steps 'housekeeping'. When you load most programs, often bits of data that may have been used while the program was running are left behind. Those programs do not generally bother deleting those, which can slow the computer down. You can easily and safely delete those bits of data by clicking:

Start
All Programs
Accessories
Disk Cleanup
If it comes up with a list of boxes make sure all are ticked.

Uninstall Unused Software

Uninstalling unused software speeds up the computer by freeing up space on the hard drive, cutting down on all the 'data sludge' that it has to wade through for normal use. To do this click the following:

Start
Control Panel
Add or Remove Programs
Scroll thru the list and find the programs that you wish to remove
Click 'Add / Remove' or 'Remove'
If it requests you to confirm removal click 'Yes' or 'Confirm'

Run Windows Update

Windows update is a service update offered by Windows (surprise surprise). The updates
Are generally security related but they can also include patches for added
Stability. To run the update simply click:

Windows Update
And then complete the following
Windows XP
Start
Control Panel
Automatic Updates
Check the circle next to 'Automatic (recommended)'
Windows Vista
Start
Control Panel
On the left is 'Change Settings'
Check 'Automatic (recommended)'

Disable Indexing Services

Windows Indexing Services is a service that categorizes all the files and folders on your hard drives. The problem with this is that it also slows down the computer considerably. To disable it click the following:

My Computer
Right Click 'Local Disk (C :)'
Click Properties
Uncheck 'Allow Indexing Service'

Stop Unwanted Start-up Programs

When you start the computer and other programs automatically start that you do not need want at that time. Another problem is that it also slows the computer down. To remove the programs from start up (this does not remove the programs permanently) click:
XP – C: Documents and Settings All Users Start Menu Programs Startup
Vista – C: ProgramData Microsoft Windows Start Menu Programs Startup

(Note – this directory is hidden by default) Delete the programs you do not want in loading when the computer starts up.

Extra Ram

RAM stands for Random Access Memory and your RAM helps to process all the information that goes through the computer. Broadly speaking the more RAM you have, the faster your computer. Unfortunately it does cost but prices are reliably cheap.
I use a website called 'Crucial' and they have a nifty little tool to help you sort things out.

Crucial – Homepage
Crucial System Scanner
Error-Checking
Error Checking can help diagnose and even correct a wide range of hard drive errors. It helps stability, speed and may even fix a few errors. To do it click:
Open 'My Computer'
Right click on one of the Hard Drives (usually C 🙂
Click 'Properties'
Click the 'Tools' Tab
Click 'Check Now'
Click both the boxes
Click Start
Restart the computer if asked.

Notes:

You may want to bookmark this page for future reference, Firefox: press Ctrl-d to bookmark or 'Bookmark this page' in 'Bookmarks'. Internet Explorer: Press Ctrl-D or 'Add to Favorites' in 'Favorites'. Before we continue it is highly recommended that you back up your computer.
I can not be held responsible for any problems that may be incurred while carrying out these recommended actions, however I may offer remote diagnostic assistance to help fix any existing computer problems.

I recommend you do this twice in a row and then repeat once a month. Hopefully after that your computer should be blazingly fast. If not, or if you want more speed try the links below. Also I do not recommend that you use any software apart from the software that comes with Windows.

Considering that the great Studio Traffic had been running for nearly two years when I made my debut, I was a latecomer to the get paid to auto surf scene. When I first started to take notice of the get paid to auto surf sites, I looked at the possibilities, did a double-take, looked again and surprised where the catch might be. Surely, I thought, there must be a catch, or can it really be that simple? I'll spare you the suspense and tell your right from the start that the answer was yes, it really is as simple as it appears. Before you go rushing off to spend money with auto surf for cash programs, let me just stress that it is simple but that is not the same as saying that that every get paid to auto surf site is safe. Crossing the road is pretty simple but, if you fail to look out for approaching traffic, it certainly is not safe. Jumping out of a plane is simple but, if you do not get a parachute and a course of instructions, it's far from safe. So do not try auto surfing for cash at home until you have read the rest of this.

Of course, at the start, I did not know the answer and I toddled off into the realms of get paid to auto surf, taking baby step investments and breathing sighs of relief every day when the get paid to auto surf sites appeared and I Knew my tiny investments were still safe. Considering the idiotic resignation with which I embroidered the dreadful money doubler phenomenon, it may seem strange that I was so wary when it came to the auto surf for cash experience. Maybe I learned my lesson from the amount of money I wasted on the money doublers. (By the way, if you happen to know my husband, there is absolutely no need for you to mention to him anything about me and money doubler programs.) Really, no need at all.)

Do not get the wrong impression through me mentioning money doublers and get paid to auto surf programs in the same article. The auto surf for cash sites are in no way related to the money doublers or run by the same people. The one thing the two types of program have in common is that they are very easy to do but, whereas money doublers were pure scams, get paid to auto surf sites are real online businesses where you can make money at home. The webmasters and webmistresses who own get paid to auto surf sites are, in the main, honest hard-working people, who want to have a thriving business which will bring them an ongoing income for the future. I'm not saying all auto surf for cash sites are run by saints, the owners are just ordinary people who want to make a living on the Internet, and the industry (like any other) has its share of rogues and thieves who will take Your money and run, plus a few inept webmasters who just have no idea how to run a business and lose everyone's money.

So, you might ask, how do I take sensible precautions against getting stung? The answer, like most things is simple! Investigation is the answer. If you like the look of a get paid to auto surf site, join as a free member and check out the forum (if there is one). Surf to test the quality of surfing and do not invest if the surfbar is unpredictable. Email the owner to ask about the site. If you get no reply, drop the site there and then: any website owner who takes a pride in his business will respond to a member's inquiry. If you get a terse reply, pointing out that the answer to your dumb question is in the site faq's, this is still good: an abrupt reply probably means the owner is busy or has gotten sick of answering the same stupid questions. The point is that he is human and bothered to respond. Do not even think of giving your money to someone who ignores you from day one.

Do an Internet search for forums concerned with making money online, make money at home, auto surfing, get paid to programs, etc. Read what the members are saying about the sites you are thinking of joining as this is usually a good indicator of whether the site is growing or declining. Do not, however, totally rely on the opinion of forum members because the posts often tend to be a bit hysterical and they are, of course, the voicing of personal opinions and not a handing down of the wisdom of gurus.

Check out get paid to auto surf review sites. I do not mean the one page free websites that have been built simply to advertise one person's choice of programs and build a downline. Look for serious reviews which are regularly updated, these are more likely to be written by dedicated surfers. There are some very good ones around now: I came across one just this week, where you can sign up for a course of get paid to auto surf lessons and a weekly newsletter. This sort of service takes real energy and commitment. If you read a few of these get paid to auto surf review sites, you will get a feeling for which of them belong to dedicated surfers and which are the work of sloppy amateurs who half the time do not even notice when their recommended programs have Closed down.

Another thing you can do to make life as an auto surfer for cash safer is to tread the path which has already been smoothed out, tiptoe in the footsteps of the people who are already making money from auto surfing. If it is working for them, copy what they do and listen to their advice. The foremost piece of advice any decent auto surfer for cash will give you is "do not ever use cash you could not afford to lose", the second most valuable piece of advice is probably "spread your investments". If you are prepared to be patient, you can build up a decent income from small investments spread over multiple get paid to auto surf programs. This way you can enjoy the get paid to auto surf experience and make some money without living in fear of your life savings being transported out to sea on the virtual surf.

Copyright 2005 Elaine Currie

The first impression of any mobile phone is the looks that it carries. The mobile phone world has undergone a major change in a past few years. At present, mobile phones are not only a tool to communicate but have much more added to make it a complete package of features and applications. These gadgets have to be aesthetically alluring and beautiful for the customer to pick it from a cluster of mobile phones. Every phone needs to have a special feature to convince and appeal the consumers to buy it. Of course, the brand name also plays a major role. The brand has to be credible and trusted by the customers to choose it. In this world of tough competition, every mobile manufacturing company has to be technologically advanced and updated with new features. The mobile phones have become status symbol for the people. The personality of the user is defined by the handset they is using.

Motorola is a Canada based company with its branches all over the world. It has been leading in the field of telecommunications industry for many years now. The company has a very successful history to look back to and the products by this company are still winning great appreciations. They have a collection of lavish, classy, sophisticated and well-designed phones. The company is trusted because of its outstanding quality and excellent service. Motorola has all kinds of phones to suit all needs, from very basic phones to extraordinary ones; it is a master of all. The diverse collection has phone to suit every lifestyle. The handsets produced by Motorola are technologically advanced taking care of the quality of the phone and good battery backup. The latest phones by this company have massive storage capacities and amazing sound quality. The company makes sure that the user enjoys the experience of using a mobile phone.

This article is a discussion and full analyses on the Motorola U9. This is a new alluring phone by Motorola with a lustrous body. The phone is popularly associated with style and elegance. This extremely attractive and appealing phone has all the necessary features one can ask for. It has a well built and long lasting body. The phone comes in royal black and red colour which gives a rich look to the user’s personality. This eye catching phone has a tough body which comes in a clamshell model. It is a multimedia focused phone with 2G functionalities.

The Motorola U9 has an incredibly wide TFT display screen of 2 inches with 256K colours and a resolution of 240 x 320 pixels. It has touch sensitive music keys and a digital display on the flap. This device supports both Polyphonic as well as MP3 ring tones. The dimensions of the phone are 90 x 48.6 x 16.4 mm. The weight of the phone is like the weight of a feather. It weighs only 87.5 grams.

This gadget has an internal memory of 25 MB which is sufficient to store a lot of data like music, images, documents, and more. The memory can also be increased if required with the help of a microSD (TransFlash) memory card create the desired space. This mobile device also has the basic connectivity options like GPRS, EDGE, Bluetooth and USB. This feature helps in sharing and sending files from one phone to the other. The phone also helps the user to transfer files from the computer to the phone and vice versa.

The Motorola U9 also has an outstanding 2 Mega Pixels camera to capture tremendous pictures. This mobile phone uses Standard battery, Li-Ion to give an amazing battery backup. It delivers continuous talk time of 7 hours and upto 350 hours of standby.

Creating marketing and promotions that work are a great challenge for car wash owners and operators. The fundamental problem that many car washes run into is that they will never generate the level of customer loyalty that they are hoping for unless they meet the basic needs of their customers first. If a wash owner can identify consumer behavior, he or she will be in a better position to target products and services at them. Buyer behavior is focused upon the needs of individuals, groups, and organizations.

It is important to understand the relevance of human needs to buyer behavior because marketing is about satisfying needs. Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs is taught in psychology classes around the world and the theory outlines the very basic human needs that must be provided in order to truly experience higher emotions such as achievement, respect, and self-esteem. At the lowest tier of this hierarchy are the basic needs such as food, air, water, heat, and the basic necessities of survival need to be satisfied. You cannot move up to higher levels of the hierarchy unless your basic needs are met.

Consumers also have a very specific set of needs that must be addressed. To understand consumer buyer behavior is to understand how the person interacts with your marketing message.

Consider that every consumer is going to be influenced by their culture and word of mouth, attitude towards washing, their ability to learn by instruction (customer education), and their perceptions of the wash facility. There are a number of NEEDS that must first be met before a consumer can move to making a purchasing decision, location choice, brand choice, and any other choices they will inevitably make.

Customer Needs

At the very basic level a car wash operator must appeal to the basic needs of their customer before they can consider focusing on establishing customer loyalty.

The decision making process for a customer of a car wash will be to first determine which car wash facilities they will use followed by comparing the available choices against a number of other criterion.

Basic Need 1: Quality

This is where it comes down to truth in advertising. You need to provide the very basics for a customer to properly wash their vehicle. If you cannot clean the car with soap and water your failing as a business that specializes in vehicle care. It should be no surprise to a wash owner that people will stop using your wash if it does not get their car clean. The second aspect of quality is when a customer has access to problem-free equipment. If wash equipment is damage or in disrepair this will impact whether a customer will use your facility.

Basic Need 2: Appearance

Most wash customers rate cleanliness as one of the most important factors of a car wash. Locations with dirty walls, peeling instruction signs and faded decals will see a noticeable drop in customer retention.

Basic Need 3: Safety

Customers that visit car wash facilities next consider their safety when using a wash facility. Locations with poor lighting and excessive loitering will drive customers away and keep them from coming back if they did not feel safe when using the wash facility.

Basic Need 4: Value

In order to create a loyal customer a car wash owner needs to create value in the service that they provide. Value is going to be perceived differently by every customer and as a wash owner you need to evaluate your demographics to find out what will be the most important to them.

Examples of Value Propositions:

Environmentally Friendly – A car wash that focuses on environmental stewardship, water conservation, energy conservation, sustainable chemicals, and promotes this will create value for a wide demographic.

Charity Support – Car wash owners have the opportunity to get involved in their local community by supporting local charities and organizations. Car wash operations have a huge opportunity to be known as the community-based wash business in town.

Car Wash Club – By taking advantage of a loyalty card system car wash operators can give customers a reason to ‘buy-in’ to their loyalty program through incentives and promotions. Consumers have been trained by big-box retail to be a card-carrying customer and operations that take advantage of loyalty card programs are highly competitive in their local markets.

Rain Guarantees – Many full service and express wash operations offer a rain guarantee which gives a consumer piece of mind and security in their wash purchase.

Unlimited Wash Programs – Programs that allow for unlimited washes in exchange for a monthly payment or an annual subscription have been found to be highly successful in certain markets.

Low Price Guarantee – There has been a huge explosion in the number of low-cost express washes opening up around the country. This model will not work for every owner or even every market, but the growing trend is worth watching. Some markets are having record-breaking profits and others struggle to make ends meet with such low margins.

Superior Customer Service – Having great services has long been one of the big selling points for going to a full service carwash. Whenever you have employees on site you have a wonderful opportunity to provide great customer service.

Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty is something that is earned by a business by satisfying your customers needs as a consumer. If you can meet the basic needs, establish value in your services, and remain consistent in the delivery of your service your customers will remain regular customers.

What does success look like?

In order to appeal to the widest number of customers your focus should be to focus on getting back to basics. Once you can be the clean, safe, quality carwash that offers simple value statements to your customers you can then focus on additional value added promotions to bring customers back.

The difference between a successfully promoted business and a business that fails to promote successfully is that in the long run you are remembered by your customers for what you’ve done for them. Far too many car wash businesses think that by slashing prices and giving huge discounts will win over new customers. Discounting only goes so far when you are trying to bring in new customers because discounting is temporary and long-term price cuts hurt your bottom line. As long as you are meeting your customers basic needs a successful promotion will engage your customers and community in ways that will endear themselves to you and your business. A successfully promoted car wash business will not be known as “the cheap wash” in their community. The successful wash in town will be known as “the charity wash”, “the fundraiser wash”, “the wash that drives the funny car in the local parade”, “the fast wash”, “the convenient wash”, or we can hope at the very least the wash is known as, “the wash that gets my car clean”. These are the value statements that we should strive for within our local communities and with the customers we do business with.

An auto insurance trade group, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, has named a hybrid vehicle as a top safety pick. The Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid vehicle with a small gasoline engine, achieved the honor along with the all-electric Nissan Leaf. The Insurance Institute offered the judgment after the group's first US crash tests of plug-in and pure electric cars. Anyone wondering if hybrid vehicles are going to be safe can rest easy.

The Volt earned its top rating of "good" for front, side, rear and rollover crash protection. The Institute also noted that both the Volt and the Leaf have standard electric stability control which the group considers a critical safety feature. Makers of hybrid vehicles are clearly using the same standards of safety in the production of these new types of cars as in the more common internal combustion engine vehicles.

Critics have long argued that hybrid vehicles could not be made economically and that safety would be compromised in the rush to "go green," but the recent crash tests show that this is not the case. These hybrid vehicles are as safe or safer than any car produced today.

Both the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt are small cars which initially would seem to indicate a lack of safety. Both, though, have battery packs adding significant weight to the vehicles making them safer than other cars in their class. This, too, was demonstrated by the Institute's crash tests.

Additionally, the tests provided that using technology to boost fuel economy, such as the electric batteries in both these vehicles, is preferred to simply downsizing and lightening the weight of cars to save fuel. Hybrid vehicles are actually safer than standard cars of the same size while remarkably fuel-efficient at the same time.

These hybrid vehicles are perfect for highway driving. Should a crash occur, these cars will protect the drivers better than the vast majority of standard cars.

In fact, these electric cars are far safer than the low-speed vehicles, such as the GEM e2 or the Wheego Whip, which were judged dangerous after crash tests last year. These are golf-cart-like vehicles which are becoming increasingly popular, but are not required to meet the national safety standards of passenger vehicles.

The image of the electric and hybrid car was damaged in the mind of the consumer by these small carts which were never meant for highway driving. Neverheless, industry observers think that the new tests will propel the Leaf and the Volt forward in the minds of eco-minded consumers who have been waiting for a chance to purchase a reasonably green, fuel-efficient and safe car for at least five years. The time has finally arrived. Both the Leaf and the Volt are extremely safe, fuel-efficient and will not harm the environment. Auto makers have finally turned the corner on producing desirable hybrid vehicles.

When people are thinking about making an expensive buying decision, especially with something as new and unusual as the smart car, they often want to know the pros and cons of the various options they are considering. This article will examine the pros and cons of a smart car.

There is no doubt that the smart fortwo car has its passionate supporters. Before it arrived in the United States in 2007, it had already enjoyed wild success in Europe over several years. But with its small size, there are also a number of concerns.

Pros of a Smart Car

There are many benefits to be considered; don’t let its small size fool you!

  • Environmentally-friendly. Not only is this small car fuel-efficient, averaging around 40 mpg, but it has several other environmentally-friendly features as well. The smart fortwo car uses innovative energy-efficient and recyclable materials in its construction. In fact, 95% of the vehicle is recyclable and the dash material is made from recycled synthetics.
  • Easy to park and drive. The smart car has a very small footprint. At less than 9 feet long, it’s nearly 3 feet shorter than the already diminutive Mini Cooper. Of course, a big reason for that is that it’s only a 2-seater. But the short size means this car is super easy to park, especially in tight spots or short spots where other cars wouldn’t fit. It’s also got a great turning radius that makes it very maneuverable.
  • Appearance. No one can argue that the smart fortwo car is not unique in its design and appearance. See one, and you will never forget it, whether you like it or not! Many people’s first impression is that it is just so darn cute. When Mercedes Benz brought the smart fortwo car to the United States, they updated its image to be more cutting edge, with more chrome, a bit longer hood section and updated headlights and dashboard area. You can also change out the plastic body panels to give it a whole new color, or purchase a car wrap with some kind of unique print or design on it.
  • Safety design. Most people’s first reaction when they see this tiny car is something along the lines of, “How could such a small car be safe on the road” However, what make the smart car so unique is Mercedes Benz attention to safety. From the innovative tridion safety cell, a sort of safety cage, to its 4 airbags and advanced braking system, the smart car is built for safety. Crash tests have consistently proved Mercedes’ safety claims. Anecdotal evidence, as published on the safeandsmart.com website, also supports those claims.
  • Surprisingly roomy inside. Another surprising benefit of the smart car is its interior roominess. There is plenty of leg room for both driver and passenger. Head room is great too, with men as tall as 6’6″ fitting in the driver’s seat comfortably. The cargo area is also quite roomy for a small car. We fit a 50-pound black lab and 2 other dogs in our hatch when we go hiking. And we’ve toted home as many as 8 grocery bags and a case of soda when we go food shopping.
  • Perfect commuter car. The smart fortwo car was originally designed as a “city car” for crowded European city-dwellers, and that is its greatest value in the United States, as well. It makes a great commuter car, with its roominess, solid gas mileage and zippy performance on the roads, not to mention ease of parking.

Cons of a Smart Car

Of course, no car is perfect for everyone, and this one is no exception. It does have a few features that could be improved, as well as some aspects that just make it the wrong choice for certain people.

  • Size vs. other cars on the highway. Despite its considerable safety features, there is no question that the smart car is much smaller than just about every other vehicle on the highway. So, there is a good chance that if you are involved in an accident with a big SUV or truck, you might come out the loser. However, there are accounts of smart cars faring better than other larger vehicles in an accident. One advantage of its small footprint is that it might be able to avoid collisions that a larger vehicle could not.
  • No cruise control. As mentioned above, the smart car was designed as a commuter, in-town type of car. Perhaps that’s why, despite a number of other high-end features, it lacks a cruise control option. If you do plan to travel in it or your commute involves highway driving, chances are you are going to miss having cruise control.
  • Unusual transmission. Smart cars have what is termed an “automated manual transmission.” What that means is that you have an option between going completely automatic or using a modified manual transmission. Most people find that keeping it in automatic means slightly sluggish gear shifting. That is easily remedied, however, by switching to the automated manual mode. This is a clutch-less manual transmission, meaning you are in charge of using the stick shift or paddle shifters on the steering wheel to switch gears, but you don’t have to coordinate with a clutch. The manual mode is super easy to use, even if you’ve never driven a stick shift before, and provides for a much zippier gear-shifting experience.
  • Limited passenger seating and cargo space. Smart cars only have 2 seats – the driver’s seat and one passenger seat. So they’re not meant to be family cars. And while the cargo hatch area is surprisingly roomy, it is still less than 8 cubic feet. So you won’t be hauling any lumber or large pieces of furniture in it.
  • Gas mileage could be higher. For such a small car, you might expect the gas mileage to be much higher. However, the smart car was rated the most fuel-efficient gas-powered car in the United States by the EPA in 2010. And even at 40 MPG, it is considerably more fuel-efficient than most light trucks and SUVs on the road today.
  • Requires premium fuel. The smart car requires premium fuel, which can be pricey, because of its small engine size. Smaller engines tend to perform better with a higher grade of fuel. You might consider its gas mileage to be the trade-off for the pricier gas.

In weighing the pros of a smart car against the cons, I find the pros win. For what it’s designed to be — a commuter vehicle for 1 or 2 people — the smart car is a great value with many added benefits. Could it be better? Sure, as with most products, there is definitely room for improvement. But, if you want a forward-thinking, unique and fuel-efficient small car, then I would definitely encourage you to consider the smart fortwo car.

Adobe Flash Player: a greater risk to privacy and security than you may realize

Do you know that if you have Adobe's Flash Players plugin installed on your web browser that your internet activity and history is potentially being tracked and used without your knowledge or permission? Just managing your web browser's tracking cookie through your web browser does not prevent your internet browsing activity, and its history, from being tracked. Additionally, just keeping your computer current and fully patched with all of Microsoft's critical updates keeps your computer safe from hackers, think again. Even using an antivirus program, with the current current virus definitions current does not always prevent your computer and privacy from being at risk.

Recently I came across a news article that made my eye. It was a New York Times technology piece with the title " Code that tracks users' browsing prompts laws" (Vega, 2010). This article reports about the increasing number of consumers taking legal action against companies that track their web activity without the consumer's knowledge or permission. Adobe's Flash Player is the main conduit for capturing this tracking data. This is not the first time that Adobe's Flash player has created legal privacy issues. In 2008, Windows Secrets Newsletter published an article on Adobe's Flash cookie privacy issues. Recently they published another article called " Eliminate Flash-spawned" zombie "cookies" following up on the same issue (Leonhard, 2010). Adobe has done little to resolve this issue. These law suits are directed at Adobe and other companies that collect and sell information about your web browsing activity without your knowledge or permission. Another ominous contention is that some companies are surreptitiously using Flash cookies to glean information from your browser, even though you have your web browser set to reject tracking cookies.

How does this happen

Adobe's Flash Player browser plugin uses and stores Flash cookies on your computer, separate from your better known browser HTML cookies . Both types of cookies are used to store browsing and site preferences, along with your browsing history and tracking information. Flash cookies , like your web browser cookies, are small bits of data saved by the websites you visit. These websites use these cookies to store website settings and info (like your name, preferences, Flash game scores, etc.), to track website behavior, and to target you for specific advertisements. They can also create what is known as persistent identification element to uniquely identify you and track what websites you have visited.

Flash cookies are not managed through your web browser's cookie settings. This same Flash cookies storage area can also be used to store a copy of your browser's cookies, allowing Adobe's Flash to recreate cookies that have previously been deleted from your browser, ie spawned 'zombie' cookies.

What to do to protect yourself

Adobe does not make it easy for users to manage Flash cookies. By default, when Flash Player is installed, it automatically allows third parties to store and access your computer. To change these settings you need to access Flash's Global Setting Manager. The easiest, most straight forward way to get started is to open your web browser and copy the Adobe URL listed in my references (Ezinearticles does not allow me to place the link here). Or do a Google search on: "adobe flash player setting manager." The macromedia.com link should be the first and second items found.

This will take you to the Global Setting panel for Adobe's Flash Player (see Adobe Flash Player Global Setting Manager below). The image embedded on the web page is the actual management console, not a picture. The current version of this panel has eight panels or tabs. Each tab covers a different aspect of privacy and security. You may want to add this to your browser's Favorites for future reference.

Adobe Flash Player Global Settings Manager Global Privacy Settings

The first tab on the Global Setting Manager is for your computer's camera and microphone settings. You have the option of setting this as "Always deny …" or "Always ask …" The "Always ask …" option forces the Flash Player to ask for your permission before allowing a third-party to access your Computer's camera and microphone. "Always deny …" does just that, it always denies permission to access your camera and microphone. You will not receive any notification that a third-party tried to access either your camera of microphone with this option.

Your current settings are not displayed. Clicking on "Always deny …" or "Always ask …" overrides any previous global setting made for this. This setting is for sites you have not already visited. I recommend that you select the "Always ask" option. This will allow you the option of using an interactive flash site, requiring the use of your camera and microphone. You will be prompted to confirm your selection.

You will always be prompted for your permission at any website requesting access to your camera and microphone.

Global Flash Cookie Storage Settings

The second tab of the Global Setting Manager controls how much disk space you will allow for new web sites (third-parties) to store information, Flash cookies, on your computer. By condemning all, you may prevent some websites from functioning correctly.

This panel determines the amount of disk space you will automatically allow third-parties to use for websites you have not already visited. Some websites may not function correctly if you do not allow some disk space storage. This is the total amount for every website. If a website needs or wants more you will receive a prompt to allow or disallow this additional space (see below). Your installed Flash Player must be version 8, or newer, to have the option of allowing or disallowing third-party flash content. If your flash version is older than version 9, you will not have the option to allow / disallow storage and sharing of common Flash components.

The suggested settings that work for me are shown above. The Allow third-party Flash, and Store common Flash, are needed by a lot of sites to allow them to function correctly.

Global Security Settings

The third tab is the Global Security Settings panel. This panel controls how Shockwave Flash (SWF) and Flash Video (FLV) are handled. The problem with these types of files is that they can contain applets or computer scripts that can be used to collect and share information about you without your knowledge or permission. Both SWF and FLV files can be embedded on web pages. These files can and do exchange audio, video, and data using Macromedia's Real Time Messaging Protocol. It is possible for SWF or FLV content stored locally on your computer to communicate with the Internet without your knowledge of permission.

I recommend setting this to "Always ask." If a website needs to store Flash cookies on your computer, you will be prompted for permission. By being prompted, you will be aware of the website's tracking activity.

Global Flash Update Notification Setting

The fourth tab is the Global Notification Settings panel. This is where you set how often flash checks for updates. I recommend enabling this feature and having Flash check for updates at least every seven days. I strongly recommended that Flash updates be installed as soon as possible for security reasons. By keeping your Flash Player updated, you make the malicious code writers' job just a little harder. The security vulnerabilities for Flash Player plugins are very well-known.

After installing any Flash updates you should validate that your privacy and security settings have not changed. With previous Flash updates, the settings within the Flash manager have reverted back to default, ie wide-open, settings.

Protected Content / License Settings

The fifth tab is the Protected Content Playback Settings panel. When you purchase or rent Flash "protected" content, license files are downloaded to your computer. Sometimes these files become corrupt. By resetting these files, new licenses can be downloaded. This option should only be used when protected Flash content is not playing correctly, and a technician has advised you to reset the licenses files. This will reset ALL license files stored on your computer; You are not able to select individual files.

If you click on the "Reset License Files" button you will be prompted to confirm or cancel your selection.

Website Privacy Settings

The sixth tab is the Website Privacy Settings panel. This is the list of websites you have granted permission to store data on your computer. This panel is where you can "Always ask," "Always allow," or "Always deny" access you your computer's camera and microphone.

The recommended setting is "Always ask" or "Always deny." You can edit these by highlighting the website and change the permission or delete the website. You can also remove all the websites from this list by selecting "Delete all sites." The settings on this panel override the default setting from the Global Privacy Settings panel for these particular websites.

If you choose to delete a website from this list you are prompted for confirmation.

Note: The list of websites displayed in this and the following panels are stored on your computer and displayed to allow you to view and change your local settings. Adobe claims that it has no access to this list, or to any of the information that the websites may have stored on your computer.

Website Storage Settings

The seventh tab is the Website Storage Settings panel. This lists all the websites that you have visited that use Flash content, and how much storage they are using on your computer. You can change the amount of storage you allow, delete individual websites, or all the websites. This panel overrides the Global Storage panel settings.

On a Windows 7 computer, the storage location for these files is: C: Usersuser_nameApplication DataMacromedia Flash Player in a folder called #SharedObjects or a subfolder of: macromedia.comsupportflashplayersys.

Note: Deleting the website using the Flash Global Settings Manager only removes the website's storage content; It does not remove the folder created for the website. An empty folder will remain on your computer.

By selecting a website and using the "Delete website" button, you can delete that website from the list of visited websites. This also removes all data that the website has stored from this storage area.

Peer-Assisted Networking Settings

The last tab is the Peer-Assisted Networking Settings panel. This is where you allow or disallow users who are playing the same content to share your bandwidth. If you are not on a broadband internet connection, you never want to use this option. When in use, this option increases network traffic on your internet connection and to your computer.

It is recommended that you disable this option. This will not prevent Flash from working.

Other Notes and Considerations

The current versions of Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox version 3.6 share the same Flash settings. Changing or updating Flash through this console makes the changes for both. To verify this, validate the Flash Management console from within each web browser you use.

After installing any Flash updates you should validate that your privacy and security settings have not changed. With previous Flash updates, the settings within the Flash manager have reverted back to default, ie wide-open, settings.

On a Windows 7 computer, you can manually manage Flash cookies by navigating to: C: Usersuser_nameApplication DataMacromedia Flash Player in a subfolder located at # SharedObjectsnonsensical-filename and macromedia.comsupportflashplayersys. Deleting the website using the Flash Global Settings Manager only removes the website's storage content; It does not remove the folder created for the website. An empty folder will remain on your computer in the C: Usersuser_nameApplication DataMacromedia Flash Playermacromedia.comsupportflashplayersys folder. The Application Data folder is a hidden systems folder. You will have to have hidden directories visible using the "Show hidden files, folders, and drives" option under the Fold Folder View option. You may also need systems permission to actually view and navigate these directories on a Windows 7 computer.

Instead of doing this manually, you can also use a free utility like Flash Cookie Cleaner 1.0, produced by ConsumerSoft (www.customer.com). This product will clean up and eliminate unwanted and unneeded Flash cookies in both the #SharedObjects and macromedia.com subfolders. This is a much simpler and more efficient way to clean up Flash cookies. You can download this free program from: http://www.flashcookiecleaner.com/ . This utility is free of spyware, adware, viruses, and other malicious programs. Download and save this file to your desktop and run it from there. This is a stand-along program that does not install itself on your computer.

References

Adobe – Flash Player: Help. (Nd). Adobe. Http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager02.html

ConsumerSoft – Freeware Products. (Nd). ConsumerSoft.

Leonhard, W. (2010, August 5.). Eliminate Flash-spawned "zombie" cookies. Windows Secrets.

Vega, T. (2010, September 20.) Code that tracks users' browsing prompts lawsuits. The New York Times.

To request a pdf of the article with screenshot shot please visit the Friend Consulting web site and send an email from there with the Title: Adobe Insecurity.

If you’re reading this then you are no doubt looking for the owner or source of a specific number. There could be a number of reasons why you need to do this, but what’s more important is that you get results. Here’s how you can do this simply using Google.

The first step is to take the number that you have and enter it into the Google search field. This is the same search field that you would use to look up any term in order to find results for web pages.

After you click search you may find what you were looking for, but if not, try entering the number in “quotations” because this can improve results. If you still don’t find the number that you are looking for, you can try using (parenthesis) because this can sometimes also improve results.

If even at this point you are not seeing the results that you were expecting, you have two more options. You can either crowd the numbers together (5555555555), or insert hyphens in between (555 – 555 – 5555).

If after all of this you cannot locate the number that you want, there are two reasons for this. If the number is unlisted or is a cell phone number then it will not show up in a simple search engine results page.

If this is the case then you will need to use an actual reverse phone number search service. These are generally very cheap, fast, and easy to use, and will often times give you more information than you originally expected.

There are lots of services like this that people use every day, but you must understand that they are not all the same. Make sure that if you decide to go this route, that you do your research to find the best reverse number lookup.