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Doing Your Taxes for Free | Tax Exemptions

Is that time of the year again. And remember, if you have a home based business Uncle Sam wants to help you, your tax exemptions can make for a hefty return, which can greatly help your business. This site will help.   www.HomeBusinessTaxSavings.com The tax tips newsletter is free.

And I found this article by Jack Dunning on computoredge, which helps you find free ways to do your taxes.

Excerpt :

“If your taxes are relatively simple, there is no reason why you should pay to calculate your federal taxes. The tax-preparation software companies understand this. The money is not in the federal returns. There is too much competition offering free tax preparation to make much money off the easiest of federal returns. It’s the complicated federal returns, plus state return preparation and state tax eFilings that are the target for increased company earnings.”

Read More: Doing Your Taxes for Free

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Buying Computers | What We Should Know

I am in the market for a new computer (Notebook or Netbook) and the last issue of computoredge is hot. I will give you the link here for a few specific educational articles; there are more.

Picking Computer Hardware by Pete Choppin
How much computing power do you need?
Whatever your specific task, the computer you buy should be suited for that task, requiring an understanding of the basic hardware components and what functions they perform.

Picking Operating Systems by Pete Choppin
Making a decision on your computer’s basic configuration.
Your choice of operating system determines to a great extent the applications you can run. What are the pros and cons of today’s common operating systems?

Marketing Mythologies about Macs and PCs by Barry Fass-Holmes
Cupertino and Redmond have it all wrong.
Cupertino’s and Redmond’s competing advertisements are simply wrong because the dualistic view of computers (and their users) is wrong. Rather, Macs are PCs.

EdgeWord: How Much Computer Memory? by Jack Dunning
A Minimum-Memory Recommendation
You don’t know what you will be doing with your computer in the future, so you should always get the optimal amount of memory for almost any possible use.
Plus, an original Jim Whiting Cartoon

And a dangerous email spam to be aware of:

Spam of the Week: Your Photo Is on the Web by ComputorEdge Staff
The latest in annoying and dangerous e-mail currently making the rounds.
When someone tells you there is a picture of you posted on the Web, who doesn’t want to look? Of course, when it comes from a stranger, we should be suspicious.

For all these and more follow the link below:

http://webserver.computoredge.com/online.mvc?article=toc&issue=2748&zone=SD&src=1

Or do a search at www.computoredge.com

Webcams | Computoredge | Dawn Clement

I recently came upon an article in computoredge magazine by Dawn Clement about the usefulness of webcams; it also has a lot of interesting links. The only thing that I was missing in the article was the “how to”. I was wondering how do you go about installing the webcam when I came across another article by Jack Dunning explaining just that. So I am including the first article and a link to the second just in case you are wondering about webcams yourself.

Webcams: More Useful than You Think
“From video calls to visiting outer space, have fun with Webcams.”
by Dawn Clement

A Webcam is a video-capture device connected to a computer. Originally, small cameras that attached to a computer via a cable, they have become increasingly popular. These little cameras are so ubiquitous that most modern laptops come with built-in Webcams. You may already have a Webcam and not know it! Why would you want a Webcam, you might ask? Well, they’re actually kind of fun. You can make video calls to faraway friends, play games in a whole new way, visit places you would never otherwise get to see, and create art.

There is a certain cool factor to using Webcams for video telephony. In the late 19th century, Alexander Graham Bell predicted that “the day would come when the man at the telephone would be able to see the distant person to whom he was speaking.” That prediction came true less than 100 years later. The first video telephones hit the market in the 1960s, and there are still video telephones available today. They are, however, a niche market due to their high cost. Webcams offer an inexpensive (nearly free) alternative to traditional video telephones.

Any computer with Internet access and a Webcam can be used to make video calls. All you need to do is install some software. Most messenger programs (i.e., Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, Skype, etc.) have built in support for video calling. Video calls (actually chat sessions) are easy and fun, but there are other things you can do with your Webcam.

Use your Webcam to catalog your books, CDs and DVDs. Between my husband, myself, and our three kids, we have thousands of books, hundreds of CDs, and bookshelves full of DVDs. It gets hard to keep track of everything, and we occasionally purchase an item only to realize after the fact that it’s a duplicate. There is an easy way for us (and you) to organize everything in a convenient manner. Webcams can be used to scan barcodes and create databases of books (or CDs or DVDs), which can then be used to make informed purchases. Of course, you will also need some software. Check out MediaMan and Delicious Monster.

Did you know that you can use your Webcam to play motion-controlled games online? Motion-controlled games are not new (think Wii), but the idea of using a Webcam as the control mechanism is. Who knew that simple flash games could be transformed into technological wonders? You can find free games at My Live Cam and Motion Games.

Create art with your Webcam. Performance artists the world over have adopted the Webcam as another medium to play with. For example, Noah Kalina has been taking a picture of himself with his Webcam every day since 2000. You can view all of the pictures as a slide show and see how he’s changed over the years by checking out his Web site. James Kuhn is a face painter who filmed his creations in action and posted them online. Japanese rock band Sour has created an incredible music video from Webcam clips of their fans enjoying their music. It’s definitely worth checking out. These artists’ work is truly inspiring! You can create your own art pieces with special-effects software from sites such as waves.tv and cameroid.com, or even participate in a group project at www.flickaday.com.

You can also use your Webcam for video surveillance. All you need is your computer, your Webcam and some software, such as DeskShare or Softpedia. You never know when this will come in handy. Last year in New York, when Kait Duplaga’s laptop was stolen, she used the built-in Webcam to take a picture of the thief, who was subsequently apprehended.

If you’re camera shy or don’t have a Webcam of your own, you can always watch somebody else’s. There are literally millions of Webcams out there, and some of them are actually pointed at something interesting. See active volcanoes. Watch penguins play at the Monterey Bay Aquarium or catch cute cheetahs cavorting at the National Zoo.

Visit outer space from the comfort of your own home. There are several good Webcams in space—there’s more than one on the International Space Station, there’s one on the Tate Satellite (with some great shots of the Earth) and the European Space Agency even has one on Mars.

More than likely, you’ll find certain Webcam feeds online that you want to watch regularly. To make it easy on yourself, why not consider installing a Webcam aggregator to organize your favorite feeds? Free software is available online at sites such as Ksourcerer.


Dawn Clement is a freelance writer, domestic engineer, and mother of three with a Masters of Arts in Philosophy and over nine years experience in technical support. You can find her at www.computoredge.com
And this is the link to the “how to” article by Jack Dunning: http://webserver.computoredge.com/online.mvc?article=cover&issue=2737&zone=SD&src=1 You can also do  search on their site.
“A champion is someone who gets up, even when he can’t.”  — Jack Dempsey

Be Techno-Savvy | Computoredge | Jack Dunning

I am sharing this article that I found informative. Enjoy!

How To Appear Techno-Savvy at a Party
“Feel more comfortable talking to geeks.”
by Jack Dunning

While I’m sure that most ComputorEdge readers are familiar with the language of the Web and computers, it’s something worthwhile to review. Maybe you have friends who want to feel a little more comfortable with the jargon that is commonly being tossed around by people in the biz. There is nothing worse than listening in on a conversation between technical people (or people pretending to be technical) with nothing more to offer than a blank stare.

What follows is a helpful guide to some of the more used (or overused) terms and concepts currently making the rounds. Some of them are virtually meaningless, while others have not yet come into their own. In any case, an understanding of the words and how they are used will make you more comfortable talking to almost any geek. Or, if you want to appear pretentious (and particularly geeky), you can throw these terms around in front of your non-technical friends, although they are likely to stop inviting you over.

On a more positive note, understanding what these words actually mean will help to separate honest opinion from commercial blather. It’s useful to be able to see through the nonsensical verbiage that extrudes from our television sets.

I invite anyone to add to this partial glossary of current terms. Merely insert your comment by clicking the comment link at the top or bottom of this article.

3G and 4G in Cell Phones

All of the cell phone companies tout their 3G service. One of the reasons 3G is such a powerful term is because the “G” is easily confused with gigabyte (or gigabit). Currently the best in everything in computers and the Internet comes in gigabytes (or gigabits). That includes computer memory, hard drive capacity, and the one-gigabit network speed. G is great—and the more G the better. Therefore, when we see 3G, we think power and speed.

However, the G in 3G stands for third generation. It is slightly better than the second generation (2G) (which I’m not sure ever existed), but not as good as 4G, which is coming—maybe. The obvious next steps will be 5G and 6G, but by that time, computers will be onto T for terabytes (or terabits).

Everyone has 3G. Only Sprint has 4G—I think in Baltimore. 4G will be a faster digital cellular network than 3G—once it gets here. However, it takes tremendous capital investments to build an acceptable 4G network. Therefore, when someone asks you why you don’t have an iPhone, you can say, “I’m waiting for a comprehensive 4G network. I can’t deal with the slow speeds on 3G.”

Chrome Is Anything Google

Remember the old days when the chrome on your car wasn’t made out of plastic? Me either. Now that no one else needs the term “chrome,” Google has claimed it for itself. If the discussion turns to the Internet, the mere mention of Chrome will solicit knowing nods. Of course, it’s helpful to know what Chrome is.

Chrome is two things, both of them from Google (and free). The first is its Chrome Web browser. Competing with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Opera, at first it appears that Chrome is a redundant entry into an already crowded browser market. This is not the case.

Google doesn’t need to compete with Internet Explorer because Microsoft is doing a pretty good job of killing IE off itself. Google gives a ton of money to Firefox, which doesn’t make sense if it wants Chrome to be the new Web browser. Google isn’t building a new browser, but actually building a Web operating system. The Chrome browser is designed to be the platform that will run Web applications. Once this is understood, it becomes obvious why Google also named its new Linux-based computer operating system Chrome. For Google, everything that will be running applications, whether on the Web or on a computer, is Chrome.

To show you’re with it, when someone mentions Google’s Chrome, you can knowingly ask, “The browser or operating system?”

Note: Google also has a free cell phone operating system called Android. If someone ask you if you’re going to get an Android cell phone, you can say, “No, I’m waiting for a nationwide 4G network.”
Also, look for Google Wave (coming soon to conversations everywhere) to vie for the latest position as a combination social network, instant messenger and e-mail program. “I’ll send you a Wave!”

OLED—the Television of the Future

Forget plasma and LCD. Anyone talking about buying one of those is talking old technology (although they are pretty much the only thing you can buy right now). Forget the fact that the only OLED television you can buy today costs about $2,000 and only has an 11-inch screen. If you’re still watching a tube or rear-projection television and don’t want to spring for a new high-definition model, then you can use the coming OLED technology as your excuse for not buying right now.

OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. OLED screens are brighter, use less energy, look good from any angle, and ultimately (three to five years) should be cheaper to produce than the current LCD and plasma displays. The downside includes the difficulties in making big displays and the relatively short screen lifetime. These problems will be worked out. (For more information on OLED, see the July 10 Edgeword.)

OLED screens are produced with a process similar to that of inkjet printing. They can be made extremely thin and draw very little power compared to other technologies. That makes the technology suitable for everything from cell phones to T-shirts.

The truth is that if you want a high-definition television screen today, you will be buying the current technology. It will be a few years before OLED will take over, but in the meantime, it makes for good conversation.

Web 1.0, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, and the Cloud

There is something terminally boring about naming generations of Internet development as if each is a new version of a computer application. Apparently, everything up until Facebook and MySpace was Web 1.0. (Who knew?) Web 2.0 was next—and, I guess, a financial disappointment. Web 3.0 is either on the way or already here. It doesn’t really matter because nobody, except for the techno geeks who want to get their names in Wikipedia, can remember any of the definitions. If you hear anyone using one of these Web X.0 terms, quietly retreat while mumbling something about cloud computing, or the “cloud.”

The “cloud” is the latest analogy for the Internet. It refers to using applications and storing your files at a remote location somewhere in the cloud—the Internet. If you want to sound informed, whenever you hear “cloud computing,” mention Google Apps, Windows Live, or any form of remote backup. The cloud has had legs (good visualization) as a marketing term, because it is easier for us to understand clouds than Web 4.0. All we need to do is look up into the sky. Up next, fog computing and all of its implications.

Bing

Bing is easy to remember. It’s short, to the point, and named after a type of cherry. Microsoft has put out plenty of commercials, so we know that Bing has something to do with making decisions. However, I should point out that Bing is actually just another Web search engine. I couldn’t find any decision making. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough. I can’t decide.

If my mother-in-law, God rest her soul, ever heard anyone mention Bing, she usually said, “Ah, good ol’ Bing.” Then she would break out into song.

Watch for the Leopard

If you overhear people talking about Leopard (or lately Snow Leopard), they are talking about Macintosh computers that come from Apple. Leopard refers to the Apple operating system. To drop your two cents into an Apple conversation, memorize the statement, “The Mac OS is run by FreeBSD (pronounced free-bee-ess-dee), which is very similar to Linux, only different.” Be sure to display a disapproving look if anyone mentions Microsoft—or Windows.

Windows XP Good, Windows Vista Bad, Windows 7 Good Again

With different Windows versions, you need to maintain a proper approval level, rather than understand the differences. Soon Windows 7 will be released, which in a couple of years will relegate most of the other versions to oblivion, as is the case with Windows 98. If anyone mentions XP, nod approvingly. If Vista comes up, show sympathy. If it’s Windows 7, give a thumbs up.

The problem with Windows 7 is the name. It’s perfectly respectable to abbreviate it verbally, as in XP, Vista, or “seven.” However, when writing, proper decorum requires us to use the full Windows 7 name, rather than just 7. The digit 7 by itself on the Web or a printed page just looks wrong.

If you master these concepts and the associated terminology, you will be comfortable mingling with the digerati anywhere. If you hear a term that’s not familiar, there is no shame in saying, “Excuse me. I’m not familiar with that expression.” They probably just made it up.


Jack is the publisher of ComputorEdge Magazine. He’s been with the magazine since first issue on May 16, 1983. Back then, it was called The Byte Buyer. His Web site is . He can be reached at www.computoredge.com ceeditor@computoredge.com
“Those who do not know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.”– Golda Meir

Financial System | Mess | Wired Magazine

Jack Dunning, the publisher of Computor Edge, just wrote an excellent compendium (the original articles were   published in Wired Magazine) about the reasons our financial system is in shambles. Something else we have to consider, however, is the selfish greed and the lack of integrity, which caused the causes. We have to consider that a lack of morality can, and will, wreak havoc in our financial system and in our society as a whole.

The Compendium:

“There is an excellent article in Wired Magazine that goes a long way toward explaining how the financial system became the mess we see today. It seems that there is a formula that was devised for calculating risk for the complex securities being manufactured by financial institutions. It simplified the risk decision-making process. It was used almost everywhere to evaluate complicated packages. The formula was fatally flawed.

The problem is that the risk involved in these complex mixes of financial instruments have too many dependencies on seemingly unrelated events to properly evaluate them. The fact is that the vast majority of people, including the “financial analyst,” didn’t have the math skills to evaluate the paper they were trading. The formula was used as the panacea. While the times were good, it seemed that the financial markets could do no wrong—and the formula seemed to work. But once there was a kink (bad mortgages), the house of cards collapsed. The formula is now useless, and there is nothing to replace it—yet.

Most of the problem paper in the financial markets does not have a value of zero, but banks are reluctant to buy or sell them precisely because they don’t know how much they are worth. The buyers don’t want to pay too much, while the sellers fear getting too little. Part of the complication is the fact that even individual mortgages have been divided between numerous packages. If you tried to track down who actually owns the mortgage on your house (not the bank who collects the payments), you could find that pieces of your mortgage are in hundreds, if not thousands, of different securities.

People are screaming for more government oversight, but there is no evidence that hiring more civil servants will help resolve anything. It’s been admitted at the SEC that once they get information, they often don’t know what to do with it. Nor is the problem the lack of information. It’s been argued that there is so much information available through regular mandated disclosure that the useless boiler plate overwhelms the buried, more vital figures. The government has mandated transparency through disclosure, yet the mountains of disclosed data overwhelm analysis. Who is capable of sifting through it all?

A companion article in the same issue of Wired argues that the only real requirement for fixing the financial mess is full disclosure of all the data, not to the government, but to the public. Once the data gets into the hands of geeks and nerds everywhere, the process of turning it into useful information begins. No oversight body will ever have the wherewithal, or talent, to provide information that will actually protect the public from the stupidity of financial institutions. There will always be ways for financial managers to beat the government regulations and march down a lucrative, yet dangerous, road.

Last week’s column by Dawn Clement about the massive networks of home computers chugging away in kitchens all over the world working to solve complex problems may demonstrate a model for future financial analysis. If the government tries to do it, it won’t get done—although they will spend billions while not doing it. Plus, the task may be too daunting and expensive a proposition for private enterprise. A distributed system of home computers each doing its piece of a financial analysis problem could provide more computing power than the biggest supercomputer, while offering up true transparency to those who really need it—the people. All that is required is for the data to be made available to everyone. Someone will start doing something with it. Then the oversight of our financial and securities markets will truly come from the people.

Jack is the publisher of ComputorEdge Magazine. He’s been with the magazine since first issue on May 16, 1983. Back then, it was called The Byte Buyer. His Web site is . He can be reached at www.computoredge.com or ceeditor@computoredge.com

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