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Photo Credit: freeimages.com/Arjun Kartha
A New Beginning

A New Beginning

This last week, we took our eldest daughter off to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. This marks a significant milestone for both her and us as parents. She has total control of her choices with little required input from her parents. She will need to make the right choices at the right times. We will have more complex finances to manage among a myriad of family dynamic realities of a physically separated household. She may no longer be living under our roof, but our hearts, support, and thoughts will always be with her.

Going out to college with her, we saw so many eager young faces that were followed by parents who had a mix of joy and concern across their faces. It was amazing to see and experience. The whole process of getting her set up and meeting her dorm mates was entertaining and exciting. She is lucky to have such good people in her dorm room. I know this will be a tremendous experience for her.

ERAU is so well-organized, and they made all aspects smooth and trouble-free. ERAU welcomed our family and helped in numerous ways. Leaving the campus, my wife and I commented about how great it would have been for us to attend this school when we were her age. I guess we have become the parents who get to live a little vicariously through their children…well at least in this aspect.

We have to let go a little and watch as she continues to grow into the wonderful person that she is and will become over the next few years. We will never be far away when needed, but struggle allows growth. It pertains to the both of us. As parents, we have to struggle to let go, and she has to struggle to develop her independence, will and character.

Life is interesting; life is challenging; life is beautiful.

Hold on to you hats boys and girls, the ride is not over yet

Hold on to you hats boys and girls, the ride is not over yet

The bailout finally passed last week, but has a several week lead-in time before the money starts flowing. The DOW is below 10,000 and still falling.  All is not well with the financial system.

I heard a clip from Jim Cramer who stated that if you need the money that is in market during the next five years, it is time to get it out with all due haste. This is some sage advice.

I regret not taking action sixty days ago when I wrote myself a note to move all assets into bond funds and out of the markets. But I failed to do so for fear of missing a rebound. What did my fear/greed cost me? An additional 30% of my holdings are now wiped out. The market has me stressed, and I am just a tiny little investor with a small portfolio, actually must smaller now.

I have not given up on the markets, just moved into something safe until this blows over. I will watch the markets and each night I will look for the best opportunities.  All I can do is start trudging my way back to break-even, then focus on the future.

Consultants, Freelancers and Small Businesses take note of this post: Awesome Web Resources

Consultants, Freelancers and Small Businesses take note of this post: Awesome Web Resources

I was reading my morning news and saw the below post on Lifehacker. I dropped by the FreelanceSwitch blog and I was impressed with the resources they listed to help the independently minded worker.  I wish I had found these when I was an independent consultant!

“Considering a switch to the freelance side of the work force? The FreelanceSwitch blog has a great roundup of legal resources for freelancers, including standard and specialized contracts, links to find legal help and representation, and books to check out.”

Be sure to check out FreelanceSwitch blog’s post “101 Ideas to Get More Freelance Work and Generate New Client Leads“. This post has some great tips on the all import area of generating new work.

Need software for your home office, or have school age children, and want to do it on the cheap?

Need software for your home office, or have school age children, and want to do it on the cheap?

If you are running a small business, have school age children, or are searching for similar tools that you use at the office, but want to avoid the cost, then I have a few suggestions.

I get asked this question all of the time. People want to know how they can use familiar office applications at home, but want to avoid paying for it, or their employer will not fork over the software license. I do not recommend stealing it (software piracy) under any circumstances, as the nice folks that write software deserve their payday.

The answer: Use Open Source or Freeware software and straightforward bargain hunting.

Productivity

OpenOffice.org
A replacement to Microsoft Office that will work with most Microsoft Office files.  The file conversions are not always 100% accurate in the formatting, but I have yet to experience anything but minor formatting issues.  OpenOffice is working on a new release, currently in beta, that looks to further increase compatibility with Microsoft Office and will add additional new features. If you need a full integrated productivity suite then this is an excellent choice.
Cost: Free

Google Docs
I have written several posts on Google Apps and have a post dedicated to Google Docs.  The post is linked here. Google Docs is an excellent choice for new home offices and personal use. For high school and college students, Open Office would be a better choice as it has additional features and supports more complex formatting.
Cost: Free for individuals and small groups.

StarOffice
A cousin of Open Office.  I have never used this application but I have read that it is commercialized version of Open Office and includes some phone support.
Cost: $69.95

Internet

Firefox
A powerful feature packed browser powered by Mozilla. This browser is gaining market share and is a great alternative to Internet Explorer.
Cost: Free

Internet Explorer
Default browser for every Microsoft XP and Vista installation. This browser has the lion share of the market.
Cost: Free

Chorme
This is Google’s new beta web browser. I have used this browser for three days and it is an acceptable browser that has promise. It is still beta so you can expect some glitches and a lack of add-on features. You will find more features and add-ons for Firefox, but Chrome is still worth a look.
Cost: Free

E-mail

Their are several major providers of free e-mail services. I prefer Google’s service but I have not heard of any real issues from any of the most popular providers.

Gmail

Yahoo

Hotmail

Antivirus

Avast! Antivirus Protection
This is my preferred personal antivirus product. I have been using this personally for the last few years. I have had great success with the product and have had no stability problems.
Cost: Free for personal home use; Professional edition is $39.95

AVG
This is a popular antivirus and I know many people who love this product. I have not heard of any stability issues with this product and from what my friends tell me, it does its job very well.
Cost: Free (basic version); Complete version $54.95

Trend Micro HouseCall
This is an after-the-fact web based virus scanner. This will not prevent a virus from getting on your computer but it can remove it once it is on your system. If I am working on a computer with a virus, I scan it once with the installed antivirus and then scan it with HouseCall to be 100% sure that it is clean.
Cost: Free

Media Players

This space has many (actually to many to list) free applications that are very good. Most developers have more feature packed versions for sale that are below $50, in addition to, their free versions. I use the free versions as I am not a media nut.

Audio
Media Jukebox
WinAmp

Multimedia
Video Lan – VLC Media Player
Windows Media Player
QuickTime

A few other applications and services that are very useful

Google Reader and iGoogle (Free)
Quicken for all your personal finance management ($49.99)
Exalead Desktop Search (Free)
PDF995 for printing a document to a PDF file (Free with ads or $9.95 to register and remove the ads)

Have a program that should be on the list? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!