Friday, December 21, 2001

George Mindling Column 12-21-2001

Expect an Active Hurricane Season Next Year

The holiday season is upon us. In fact, in two weeks the only things left will be taking down the decorations and, for many shoppers, piles of unpaid bills.

It will take until April just to take down all the lights from my neighbor's wonderful 22,000-light display. Florida Power & Light should send him a thank-you note. There will be joy of course, about the gifts and presents that outlast their batteries. and the wonderful memories of families reunited for the holidays. Flying will be cheaper, albeit more time consuming than last year, and driving will cost considerably less than our last Christmas visit to Atlanta to spend the holidays with our daughter and her husband.

The snowbirds are already showing up, most of them are unaffected by the airfares as the majority of them drive. I will be able to attest to the snowbird phenomenon shorty as I annually share the road with the southbound convoys of campers and trailers on Interstate 75 during the week between Christmas and New Year's.

It is one reason I like to travel at night during this time of year. Snowbirds are not by nature nocturnal creatures. Another reason for the annual winter resident migration is the end of the hurricane season on Nov. 30. We have been given a rhetorical "all clear" to coincide with our wonderful winter weather. Incidentally, we also have our first reality check. Just one week after the close of the 2001 season we already have the forecast for the 2002 hurricane season.

The annual tropical storm forecast has been released by Dr. William Gray and his staff at Colorado State University (http://typhoon.atrnos.colostate.edu/forecasts/2002/fcst2002/). The 2002 season is predicted to be busier than the previous six years, with the Southeast, including the Florida peninsula, rated at a 58% chance of being struck by a Category 3,4, or 5 storm. The average for the last century is 31 percent.

The forecast for 2002 includes 13 named storms, eight of which will be hurricanes. Four of those storms are predicted to be intense. Thomas Milligan and Jennifer Dimas, Colorado State University media representatives, (970) 491-6432, are available to answer various questions about the forecast.
I only report the numbers, I don't create them.

A recent forum on on disaster preparedness held in Port Charlotte failed to attract more than a few attendees. Of course, listening to officials preach doom and gloom immediately before a season of cheer and goodwill was not an example of astute marketing, especially when charging a $2 donation
for the New York relief fund when everyone has read about the new York Red Cross Relief fund no longer accepting donations.

It probably didn't help by holding the forum three days after the close of the hurricane season, either. The perpetually worried residents who believe they are now safe for six more months would much rather go shopping.

Speaking of shopping, no reason to rush, I still have four more days.

George Mindling © 2001

Sunday, December 16, 2001

George Mindling Column 2-16-2001


Read Any Good EULAs?


Imagine my surprise when I found out I had given an Internet, dot-com company the right to read and transmit data from my hard drive to their database every time I logged on to the Internet!

I was really upset my "firewall" program had failed to protect my PC when I first discovered data from my PC being transmitted to an unknown collector of my persona] data. I thought I was safe from this invasion of privacy. After all, I had installed not only the latest anti-virus program, but the latest Internet Firewall Program as well.

In addition, I subscribe to an update service which regularly installs the latest changes to both programs. How then. did this company gain access to read and collect data from my hard drive? Simple! I gave it to them.

I did it when I failed to read the EULA, or End Users License Agreement, that is included in practically every software program you'll ever install on a personal computer. Oh, you don't read the fine print on the software "I agree" page during software installation? Neither did I. After giving the usually standard EULA page a cursory glance, I usually click on the agree button to get the installation process rolling. The EULA usually states the same basic rights of ownership and non-copying provisions that arc similar to all programs.

Surprise! Surprise! Read all of them from now on, things are changing in the software world. As most people know, you don't buy software, you lease it. You do not own the programs you buy, you simply have the right to use them. If you did own the software. you could alter a program or rename it and sell it as a product of your own. You specifically agree not to do that when you click on the "agree button," or in some cases, when you open the container the software was shipped in. You don't own the right to a song on an audio tape or a CD; likewise, you don't own the programs on the diskettes or CD, either.

The problem is hidden deep in the many pages of fine print most people skip when installing software. My agreement to allow the authors of the software program 1 bought to have access to my data was in a paragraph buried deep in the EULA that I assumed was harmless. I tried to print it out, but only small pieces of text can he printed at any given time. making it difficult to print out for a legal review.

Basically, the paragraph I agreed to said they could compile information they wanted and forward it at their discretion. This had nothing to do with the now famous cookies that practically every Web site posts on everyone's hard drives. The software routines that collected my data had nothing to do with the program I had installed, even though the program was related to Internet and Web page usage. I immediately uninstalled the program, but they had left a hook requiring me to reload my browser. and eventually reload Windows 98 before I was clear of the unwanted program.

I'm not sure how they avoided my firewall program, but I'm sure from now on I'll read the fine print!


George Mindling © 2001

Friday, November 16, 2001

George Mindling Column 11-16-2001


The Best and the Worst


When World War III started on Sept. 11, communications technology was put to the supreme test in New York City. While we struggle to understand the barbaric attack on innocent civilians by a primitive, medieval tribal society, we have found again that ingenuity and resolve rises against incredible obstacles.

The loss of the World Trade towers was a devastating blow in ways not always visible to the television cameras. The loss of Con Ed's power grid and the loss of most of the areas telephone exchanges brought communications in the area to an absolute standstill. One of the technologies ironically being tested in the area at the time of the sneak attack, was FSO, or Free-Space Optics. a trade marl of Lightpointe Inc. (http://www.lightpointe.com).

Fiber optics have been used for many years to replace traditional copper transmission media. By inputting controlled, disciplined light, usually by laser, into a fiberglass "pipe," fiber optics has elevated communications to new levels of speed and efficiency.

Ironically, the technology being tested in New York was a laser transmission and reception system without the fiber-optic cable. The system uses "line of sight," which means the transmitting and receiving stations must physically be able to see each other. Lightpointe was being tested by a BLEC (Building Local Exchange Carrier), Rockefeller Group Telecom Services. The FSO system replaced two high speed T-l trunks Without the need to run cables or access any part of a physical network.

The equipment was installed using switches and PBXs available from unaffected customers outside the
boundaries of the affected area. Lightpointe claims the equipment can normally be set-up in a few hours as there is no spectrum licensing required. FSO is considered an optical medium. not a wireless one.

There are several planning issues about environmentally protecting the "light beam." Physical obstructions, such as a bird flying between the two transceivers, would cause a momentary but not unrecoverable loss of carrier and data. Rain or snow, however. have little or no effect on the system . According to Lightpointe, the only natural impediment to the flow of data is fog. as it disperses the light through the suspended water droplets.

Whether or not FSO is adapted by industry for standard use remains to be seen. The fact that it was adapted to solve a crises in communication proves that ingenuity and quick thinking is alive and well in this country. The FSO story is but one of many about replacing damaged telephone or data systems in the area around the World Trade center. While many systems are back in business in the surrounding area with backup or temporary facilities, repairing all of the power grids and networks is a monumental task that cannot be completed until the final bit of debris is removed.

When history looks back at us in a thousand years, will they see another Rome, defeated by the Barbarians, or will they see that the United States and the rest of the unified Free World triumphed over evil? It will take far more than technology to win; but it certainly showcases the ability to rise above adversity and terror, and the ability to think on our feet.

George Mindling © 2001

Friday, October 19, 2001

George Mindling Column 10-19-2001


Business Disaster Planning


Not everything has changed since Sept. 11, when terrorists struck a devastating blow against the United States by attacking innocent civilians going about the business of leading their daily lives. The "business of business" continues, although for some enterprises with much less enthusiasm than before the attacks. What had been a hard, often lean piece of a business operating budget has suddenly become a major part of the operating expenses for many firms: planning for disaster.

Those of us in the disaster preparedness business have been involved with many new customers who had never considered the loss of their income due to someone simply opening a letter in their mail room. Unfortunately, the role of disaster preparedness for business has stepped far beyond hurricanes and floods. The loss of a business due to the yellow police tape is now a glaring reminder that the terrorists are striking at the very business core of our way of life.

While many newcomers to the business world consider the requirement for disaster planning "morbid," they soon find that not being able to see the overall operating picture of a cost center or profit center in the whole corporate plan will lead to obstacles that will prevent recovering the business to a level of profitability.

A simple business impact analysis, the first step in any recovery plan. will determine what the loss of any given component of a business means to the survivability of the business as a whole. Personnel plans are as important as relocation of facilities or recovering the computer room. A business recovery plan now considers the Information Technology and Systems functions as an integral part of the overall business recovery plan, not just the only or most important component of the plan. The corporate disaster recovery perception has now grown to accomplish all facets of a business, from inventory replenishment to contacting family members of employees as part of their integrated relocation plan.

At least one firm even has added planning for emergency care for employees' pets. Not being able to relocate a valuable team member because no one could take care of a cat seems like a trivial problem, but it has already happened.

Most major corporations have a "hot site" under contract for their computer services. A "hot site" has computer mainframes and server farms ready to run the customers software as soon as the customer arrives at the hot site with backup programs and data. Now they are actively searching for emergency facilities just for their office people, whether administration, sales or service.

Pretend on Monday morning you can't get in your office or building. Pretend the police or the FBI tell you no one is going inside your business for weeks. Make all of your employees stand in the parking lot for an hour, then tell them not come back to work.

It won't take long to get the idea it could happen to any of us. .

George Mindling © 2001


Friday, September 21, 2001

George Mindling Column 9-21-2001


Hurricane Season Is Half Over


The hurricane season is half over and we've just had our first tropical storm! If you didn't do any preparations for the possibility of getting blown away, congratulations! You are half-way home without lifting a finger!

If, on the other hand, we get really nailed before the sea s on is over, well, too bad. Maybe you can recover from the damage and maybe you can't. A complete lack of planning generally results in a bankrupt business. Tropical Storm Gabrielle was a wake up call for all businesses in Charlotte County.

There are many areas of assistance for small businesses here in the Charlotte County. Even the Chamber of Commerce has a free CD to enlighten the small business owner about disaster preparedness. Preparing for your business is different than preparing for your home or boat. In your home, making the house habitable again is the prime concern.

Without power, if there is no glass to repair your broken windows, no power for the air conditioning, and no screens for the windows, the Florida heat and bugs will make life pretty miserable.
Cooking on a camp stove becomes routine and ice becomes more important than you could ever believe. Your refrigerator will stink. Tap water becomes undrinkable. The word visquine becomes part of your vocabulary. Staying dry with temporary roofing and sleeping without nature's intruders becomes a way of life. Your business, however, faces a far different set of problems.

The loss of cash flow from a disaster will undoubtedly impact your business, perhaps causing bankruptcy. A loss of power for several days may be just an inconvenience, nothing more than dead batteries in your cell phone and two or three days of lost revenue.

Flooding may keep customers away for several days, if it doesn't ruin your inventory. Most businesses can suffer several days loss without having to close the doors permanently. However, putting a new roof on your building or getting a new Certificate of Occupancy may take six months to a year. maybe longer .

Many buildings, shopping centers, and malls in South Florida were severely damaged and unusable (or more than a year after Andrew. Many businesses did not reopen. Even the smallest firm should have some form of Business Continuity Plan. It doesn't have to be a multi-volume set of binders, just a plan to get the company back on its feet. Identifying the risks to a company and developing a plan to repair, replace or substitute those items are the premise of any plan.

One of the prime items to have is same form of Business Continuity Insurance. It is a must-have item if you plan to maintain a company income and maintain payroll. Your responsibilities to your employees are more than making sure they have ID badges so they can return to work in a controlled or damaged area.

Remember, they are concerned about their families and houses just as you are. The loss of cash flow for them can be disastrous. But hey, the hurricane season is half over and football season is here. Let's drop the tailgate and get serious!

George Mindling © 2001

Friday, August 17, 2001

George Mindling Column 8-17-2001


Address Your Method of Advertising


Networking is one of the most substantial methods of marketing for individual consultants and many small businesses in the services area of business. Niche or specialty services are usually offered by individual consultants or small businesses as an alternative to the services of larger firms.

Specialty advertising or, specifically, targeted advertising, such as specialty magazines, become the prime method of attracting new customers. Web positioning for Internet search engines offers "top slot" response to specific online queries or searches, but often the Web is far too global in scope.

Repeat customers, and their references, make up a good portion, if not the bulk, of the work. Word of mouth becomes as important as any other form of marketing. Advertising to the public may become a moot point if the market for a given service is so minimal as to not offset the cost of the advertising. But with lack of exposure, one of the gremlins of being a small business may attach itself to your logo .

One of the major problems with being self-employed often occurs without any sign of trouble. It comes in gradually, unnoticed until something happens and one day you realize your customers don't know the scope of services you really offer.

If you start your business by advertising certain services or products, then find over time you are no longer doing those things as a core business. you need to reevaluate your business plan. Most certainly your advertising will need to be addressed. If the profit from the change in your services is greater, then modify your plan to gradually move your advertising to the new area where you can maximize your profits.

If, however, you find you are becoming tied to non-profitable or less profitable services just as a by-product of being in business. start cutting out the time- wasting services.

You need to understand your customers probably may get confused if the "snap-back" is drastic. If services you offered are suddenly removed or reduced, your customers may feel abandoned, even hostile. The weaning period doesn't have to be as drawn out. as long as the time span that caused the problem. But if it happens immediately, be prepared for customer confusion and complaints. If you sell mouse traps that generate most of your profit. don't get caught spending your time trying to teach people about how to catch mice unless there is more profit from the teaching.

If you are teaching about catching mice for free, you will soon have standing room only with people who may just buy their mouse traps somewhere else. Should you have "value-add?", to use an old, overworked cliche? Yes, but not at the expense of losing sight of your business.

If you spend all your time teaching for free, instead of selling at a profit. you will soon be out of business. Even if you have a warehouse full of mousetraps.


George Mindling © 2001

Friday, July 20, 2001

George Mindling Column 7-20-2001

Attack of the Internet Robots


One of the most highly sought after PCs on the Internet today is yours. Especially if it is connected by way of digital subscriber link or cable modem! If your PC is constantly connected to the Internet, then the dark side of the Web wants you! It's painless, you won't feel a thing. Oh, they don't want your data (some do, but not the ones I'm talking about here), they want your machine to add to their "attack" group.

Your machine will be a robot, used to deliver bogus messages against selected targets to knock Web sites completely off the air. The attacks are called denial of service attacks and they are becoming a worse problem than ever.

Few home-bred attackers use anything other than Microsoft Windows which, up until this coming October when Windows XP hits the shelves, won't allow "spoofing," or hiding the Internet address of the sender. The new XP may turn the Net into a horror story of anonymous attacks. But even now, your PC may be a culprit in the terrorist war against established Web sites. In a recent attack on Steve Gibson's company Web site GRC.com, no less than 474 separate PCs launched a "distributed" denial of service attack, knocking GRC.com off the air several times in the week or so that followed.

The culprit was a 13-year-old who had scavenged the attack robot software and decided to attack Gibson's company's Web site. For complete details of the attack and how it was fended off, check out http://grc.com/dos/grcdos/htm

How does it work? A small "attack" program, usually very small and cleverly named to avoid detection. is e-mailed as a Trojan, or virus-type program, to several different mailing lists. The Trojan loads itself and “calls home” the next time you access the Internet.

If you are constantly on, the response is immediate. The newly installed attack robot gives the new PC address (yours) to the "robot controller" who sent the program in the first place. The Trojan attaches itself to your mailing list, so you pass the nasty little program along to all your e-mail friends. They, too. will become attack robots. Once they have called home, they wait for further instructions. When the "robot controller" sends the right code, your machine will constantly transmit bogus messages designed to create errors against the newly selected target, along with hundreds of others, and the target will succumb to overload. Your machine won't tell you what it is doing. You will not be able to do your regular Internet thing, but it looks like you are only having problems with your connection.

Most firewall programs have been updated to look for the "attack robot" program format, but one well known firewall did not detect the most recent program. Check with your firewall provider for updates and install them as soon as possible. Make sure you have all the patches to Microsoft Explorer. even the newer versions.

Check Gibson's Web site for details on how to determine if a robot already resides on you PC and his review of firewall programs. If you don't use a virus program or firewall against the bad guys, you just might become one of them.

George Mindling © 2001

Friday, June 15, 2001

George Mindling Column 6-15-2001


Internet Web Page Design Class


Karen Smith's Web page design class at Charlotte High School is unique in Florida. It is one of only two such classes in the entire state.

I had the privilege of addressing one of her classes while participating in the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce school program not long before the end of the school year. It was a learning experience for me. After the initial ice breaking first few minutes, I realized not much has changed since I went to school in Miami many years ago. With the exception of the PCs in the room the room could have been Southwest High in 1959. The students were the same, just dressed differently. They still have the same looks and attitudes as we had. Some were attentive, some dozed off. Some asked questions, some couldn't be bothered with looking up.  The interest picked up when discussing the future of the Internet and making money in Web design or related fields. Everyone listened when we talked about money. There are many resources available, both online or through traditional print media, to look at today's salaries.

Still, $10 an hour sounds like a fortune to a 17-year-old who can't see the $14,000 to $20,000 annual salary that may turn out to be. When talking about corporate IT (Information Technologies) staff salaries available in Atlanta, Tampa or Miami, even in Charlotte County, the eyes seemed to glaze ever so slightly.

Yet most of the students seemed to accept the current technologies as a basis for planning their futures. Those technologies will evolve drastically in the four or five years it now takes to get a bachelor's degree. Dial-up access to the Internet through Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will decrease as access through live “constantly on” broadband or Digital Link Subscriber (DSL) will become the defacto method of connecting to the Internet. Perhaps even wireless methods will dominate. Whatever it is, it won't he what we use today.

The current dip in Palm and other Personal Digital Assistants has the wireless people scurrying to recapture market momentum from last year. The one thing that is certain is change. Planning for the future must be based on goals, not today's hardware or programming.

If attaining those goals requires learning today's hardware and programming languages, those languages must be considered a building block to future skill sets, not the end of the educational stream. Future programming in the consumer, perhaps even the corporate arena, will be probably done "robot" software that simply writes the code you specify. Who writes the "robot" software? Somewhere there will be well-trained people who will make it all happen. They will make more than $10 an hour. Some of them just may come from Karen Smith's Web design class.

Those students bound for college already know their education is the key to their future earning power.  A few of the students seemed to expect money to fall out of the trees.

Maybe they don't teach keypunches anymore, but some things just don't change.

George Mindling © 2001

Friday, May 18, 2001

George Mindling Column 5-18-2001


The True Price of Mulch


As Charlotte County's economy slowly but steadily grows to match. its surrounding neighbors, the old shops and stores slowly fall by the wayside. The new large superstores, from grocery markets to electronics and television retailers to drugstores and pharmacies, offer prices and savings most consumers cannot afford to ignore.

The exchange, unfortunately, is in service. Practically every business is affected by the large superstores, even our old favorites. Two of the landmark nurseries have closed in Charlotte County in .the last month or so. They aren't alone in the business community, but how the existing nurseries will survive will be an example of small business ingenuity.
Service is the key, of course. If you can't get what you need at a superstore, then it's back to the neighborhood store for the personal attention and knowledge you won't find at a store that pays its under-trained, and often rotated, employees only $6 an hour.

A recent trip to one of the local superstore garden centers in Venice found most of the plants wilted from lack of water. Not just a few, but all the plants in the entire center, There was one young man, working alone, obviously without enthusiasm or concern for any of the customers.

When asked about the poor conditions of the plants, he shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't normally work in this department. The regular person hadn't come in that day. Usually, the plants are in better condition, but it was obvious that one person hadn't done that much damage to the inventory in only one day of neglect. The price of mulch at this center, however, was almost $1 a bag cheaper than at my local I nursery.

This is a consumer's quandary: It doesn't take someone who loves plants to sell mulch, but personal service and knowledge about plants is often only available at the local nurseries. The retail portion of most local nurseries is running absolutely lean, or even at a loss. By offering planning and landscape services, in-depth knowledge of the plants and trees, and bulk materials, several of the nurseries arc skirting the impact of the superstores.

Knowing exactly which insecticide can or cannot be used on which plant, how much water and what kind of fertilizer is required for a plant keeps customers coming back. Contracting out as landscapers, or as suppliers to commercial landscapers, has also softened the impact of a market that is changing as new superstores open to pull away the shopper looking for $10 worth of plants.

By doing everything from ponds and waterfalls. to planting large trees, the nurseries fight the battle that every mom-and-pop shop fights when faced by the competition of unmatchable pricing. The small shops simply can't buy their inventories in the volumes to compete with the big stores, so they must compete on quality instead. The consumer must know the value of the local shops for them to succeed. It has to be worth more than a-dollar-a-bag savings for mulch .

George Mindling © 2001

Friday, April 20, 2001

George Mindling Column 4-20-2001


Caveat Emptor


While waiting for my car to be brought around to the customer pick-up area not too long ago, I couldn't help hut hear an angry young customer venting her rage on the auto dealer service manager.

"You told me yesterday that my car would be ready!" she screamed. “There it sits, and I can't have it? I wish you would tell why! I'm late for work," she wailed.

The service manager tried to explain to her that for some reason, the company she had purchased her extended warranty from had not sent the payment, even though the previous evening they had approved the work by fax. The dealers hands were tied. They could not release the car without the promised payment.

Apparently, this particular extended warranty company was notorious for not paying the dealer for work accomplished. regardless of what the policy owner thought. The young woman was livid, and soon her mother arrived to pay the bill with her charge card. The mother was not happy either, and did her best to make life miserable for the people at the dealership. The manager told her she would be reimbursed as soon as the warranty company paid for the extended warranty work.

The young woman picked up her car and left in a huff. I went over to the service manager to find out . what happened, as customer service is always a sore point with me.

"We offered her a car to use while we waited on the warranty company to pay, but that wasn't what she wanted," explained the manager. I asked why the insurance company hadn't paid.

“Don't use the word 'insurance' company," said the manager. The companies that sell after market extended warranties most certainly want to avoid being called insurance companies! If they were insurance companies, they would have to operate under the state laws governing insurance."
That in itself was an eye opener. I asked, "Why doesn't the company pay for the work? Wasn't it covered by the extended warranty?"

"Oh, yes! The extended warranty supposedly covered the work, they just don't like to pay!" was the answer. Apparently, there are several extended auto warranty firms with bad names and reputations as far as responsive payment for repairing or replacing parts that fail while under the extended warranty.
The consumer pays extra for these extended warranties, and only a few are offered by the automobile manufacturers themselves. If the warranty company doesn't pay the bill. the car owner is stuck paying out of his or her own pocket. I asked the service manager if the extended warranty that refused to pay was offered by that dealership.

"No, we offer a program, but it is a company extended warranty. The one the young lady had is one she bought after she bought the car," answered the manager. "We get these all the time and we explain to the customer about how the payment for service works."

Check with you dealership before buying an extended warranty that isn't from the dealer. You may be saving yourself grief later. Like when you're late for work.

George Mindling © 2001

Friday, March 16, 2001

George Mindling Column 3-16-2001


Now the Scary Part


Perhaps the most famous legend in IBM was about a programmer at the White Plains headquarters who supposedly included a subroutine in the master payroll program that searched for his employee number.  If the subroutine found his ID number active, everything proceeded normally. If, because of termination or layoff, his employee number failed to appear, the main program was then instructed to erase all payroll files, including all back-ups!

While that may have been one of the great corporate legends, we are now at that level with your PC! Welcome to the world of spyware!

No, a spyware program isn't going to erase your paycheck, but it will check to see if you try to remove the spyware program from your computer. If you remove the spy ware, It may shut down the real program it came with. Even worse, it may shut down your Windows operating system altogether.

Steve Gibson, of Gibson Research, first defined the term "spyware" last year in an article that declared war on the unwanted programs. According to Gibson, "Spy ware is any software which employs a user's Internet connection in the background (the so-called 'back channel') without their knowledge or explicit permission,"

Some of the spyware programs are based on advertising systems, such as GoZilla, which will not run without the advertising system installed. According to Lavasoft, specialists at removing spyware (http://www.lavasoft.de), some Web3000 installations actually replace the Wsock32.dll without the user's permission. If you “kill” the spyware, your system will not function properly because the corrupted dll (dynamic link library) file is also removed. Most of these programs can be removed safely, but not all.

In my case, I had to do a full re-install of Windows 98. The software company that included the data collection program on my PC has declared it IS not "spyware,” as I agreed to its conditions in the End User License Agreement I accepted when I installed the base program. I can not use its name in connection with the term "spyware" as it claims I had full knowledge of the data collection program.

Just read your EULAs carefully! Check the Web site at Lavasoft for spyware removal details, and the free program, Ad-Aware, to detect the spyware in the first place. Also check out TechSanity at www.techsanityiz.com for an in-depth look at spyware detection and elimination programs.

Gibson also has a "leak test" at his site at: http://www.grc.com. According to Richard Schneider, a reader who was familiar with Gibson's work, Gibson is in the process of rewriting his "opt-out" spyware detection program, and currently recommends using Ad-Aware from Lavasoft. Several peripheral suppliers have been caught adding spyware to their support programs. Check carefully when installing that new CD burner or that new hard drive. The information they send to the Internet when you log on may be more than you care to share. What information is collected and sent depends on the program, but you can be sure if they wanted you to know, they'd tell you .

George Mindling © 2001

Friday, January 19, 2001

George Mindling Column 1-19-2001

Bullet Proof


The beginning of the Christmas season used to mark the end of the hurricane season, but no more! This past Christmas season actually started in late August when some stores started taking out their garden departments to put in the seasonal stands and displays. Christmas decorations were being put up in some stores while everyone still had the Weather Channel number memorized.

No matter though, the hurricane season is finally over to the relief of a few, but probably unnoticed by most. Again, we sidestepped any hurricanes or major tropical storms. That could be a problem in itself. No one cares much about the next hurricane season. After all, nothing happened this year! We must be bulletproof. The county and state disaster and emergency agencies will again restock their supplies and train new people before the beginning of next year's hurricane season. Practice sessions will again sharpen the skills of the veterans to prepare for the worst. Getting the word out to the public becomes another matter,

Next year they will have a harder time preparing the community for the arrival of a major storm, just because we again didn't live up to the worst case scenario this year. The television stations and the newspapers will again do their best to present the available hurricane preparations and planning seminars everyone should attend.

It will be difficult to convince those who have never have never been hit by a devastating storm, especially those who have lived here long enough to be considered "Floridians," that this is serious business. The newcomers to Florida will attend the preparation seminars, but if we again are blessed with another peaceful season, they probably won't prepare as completely the next year after as they will the first year. They too, will then be considered "veterans," and will be able to proudly proclaim "the bark is worse than the bite."

The biggest disbelievers are the ones who have been here a long time without suffering a serious storm. That just makes it harder to I suffer when it does strike. The residents of Dade County thought, "No big deal," when Andrew barreled in.

I grew up in Miami; we had a scuffle with Donna in 1960 and Beth in 1965, and if those were hurricanes. then most everyone thought Andrew would be a piece of cake. Of course, the west coast of Florida saw a different storm in Donna than we did. but even here, those memories have long since faded away. Even now, Andrew is fast becoming a memory that doesn't seem real to those who lost everything. Now is the time to have hurricane shutters and hurricane bracing done to your home and business.

Many area companies are discounting prices in the off season. Check with the Chamber of Commerce at 639-2222 for reputable companies and organizations. The pricing is great and the availability of products is there. Don't wait until the next hurricane season. Dade County went 27 years without a major storm of any kind, from 1965 to 1992. We too, were bulletproof.

George Mindling © 2001