Thursday, December 19, 2013

Important Things to Consider When Choosing a Web Developer or Hosting Company

I've recently heard the term "refugee client" used to describe website clients that come to me from another provider, typically after a bad experience.  That got me thinking about what I would advise any small business owner when they are considering vendors to create them a new website, update an existing site, or host their site content.

When it comes to hiring a website developer, there are several issues to consider.

First, of all, as the owner of the business, you need to be SURE that you will OWN your website.  By that I mean, you need to be sure that you (or your company) own both the domain name and the contents of the site itself (all of the images, text, links, etc.).  I have had clients lose all of the content of their entire site because their former vendor "held it hostage" due to a billing or support dispute.  It is a very sad (and expensive) situation when a client has to start from scratch and have a totally new site created, all because they didn't know that their contract with their vendor did not give them ownership of their own website (or the domain name where it resides).

Secondly, be sure that you are clear on the pricing, timing and duration of the contract to develop a new site or update an existing site.  Is the pricing based on an hourly rate, and if so, does it have a cap at a maximum amount?  You wouldn't want to get an unexpected bill at the end of the project because the vendor couldn't create the site as easily as they thought.  You also wouldn't want to be waiting for months to get your site live on the internet.

Third, you as the business owner need to be involved in the project to develop or update a website for your business.  You'll need to collaborate with your vendor to find a design that appeals to you and is appropriate to your business.  You'll likely need to provide logos, photos or other images for your site.  You also may need to provide some or all of the textual content of the site.  Your vendor may be able to write some of it, but you'll need to review all of it at the very least.  You can't give total control to a vendor who does not know your business or you may not get the results you want.  The more that you are involved, the better your site will reflect and promote your business.  You'll also need to plan for periodic maintenance of the site, in order to keep it current, so make sure that you have a person at your company who is prepared to take this role.  Even if the vendor is going to make the changes, they'll need someone to tell them what to update on a regular basis, and also to provide new prices, photos, etc. as appropriate.

When you are looking for a hosting vendor, there several additional important things that a business owner needs to know.  Your hosting provider is essentially renting you "space" where the content of your site will reside so that it can be seen by internet users (like a rented storage unit).  Your site's domain name is linked to the specific location of the vendor's server where it resides.   This link is recorded with a company that keeps the record of your ownership, or registration, of the domain name (such as GoDaddy).  That company is called a domain registrar.  You will typically renew your ownership of the name on a periodic basis, typically annually.

In order to change from one hosting provider to another, there are two steps - you (or your website vendor) have to change the link where the domain name points to be the new location, and then you (or your website vendor must) move the contents of the site.  If both of these things are not done, your site will still be accessed by internet users on the old location, and it may be turned off by the old vendor if you stop paying the bill.  You could actually be paying for two different vendors without realizing it, or be paying the new vendor while your site still resides with the old vendor (or resides with both vendors).  Any of these scenarios can lead to losing your site and/or duplicate charges.

You need to either have a vendor who gives you the login credentials to your domain registrar, or have a strong enough trust in your vendor to know that they will take care of it for you.  It helps if you insist that the contact information for the domain name includes you (or your company) as the administrative contact and the vendor as the technical contact.  Then the domain name registrar company can contact you if needed (and not just your vendor).  You should always "own" your domain name, not your vendor.  If your contract with your vendor includes them renewing your domain name for you, make sure that it also says that you "own" the name itself.  Then if you leave that vendor, you hopefully could at least sue them to get your name back if needed.

Please feel free to contact Tepato Systems if you find yourself in any of these unfortunate scenarios.  I can try to help you to rescue your domain name and your website, even if you don't need my services for other website work.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Holiday Shopping and Technology

Holiday shopping can be fun and hectic at the same time.  I'm trying to do more online this year and I'm having pretty good luck with it.

We are big Amazon users, so I've been able to find decent prices on quite a few items on there (and our Prime membership gives free shipping, to sweeten the deal).  For movies I haven't found great pricing, but I've had good luck with books (especially odd ones that are not available in regular bookstores).

This year we've gotten some great deals on electronics, including a 50" LG TV for a steal from Walmart, as well as a great price on a basic BlueRay player (also from Walmart).  Their website now allows store pickup, which gives me the best of both worlds - the convenience of shopping online without the wait and cost of shipping.  A few online retailers are doing that now and I like it.

Email coupons are also huge this year, so I'm trying to keep them in a separate folder in my email in order to find them easily on my phone.  The tricky part for me is to remember that I have the coupons at all.  Without a piece of paper in my wallet, they are easy to forget.

For clothing I don't know if I'll ever really do much shopping online, since I prefer to see colors and feel fabrics in person.  Unless it's a retailer whose products/fabrics/sizing are very familiar, I'm hesitant to buy much online.

Every year we create holiday cards online using my usual photo printing service (  I try to watch for a good sale in November on their cards, order them early and get them done.  Of course I have all of my addresses on my computer and I use a mail merge to create labels, so it's a pretty quick process to prep them for mailing.  We send out about 100 cards, so anything that I can do to make it simple and quick is a very good thing.

Happy holidays and a prosperous new year to all!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Email Transition - Update

I've learned a couple of things as I'm slowly transitioning my email from Comcast to Gmail:

Email newsletters sometimes have a link at the bottom to change your subscription to use a different email address.  Sometimes they just have an unsubscribe link.

When changing an email address with a provider, even one who has a "change subscription" link in their newsletter, it doesn't always stop emails to the old address.  Sometimes I've had to change the subscription to use the new address, then unsubscribe the old address when I get the next email twice.

Some websites use an email address as your login ID, so those are easy to find and change using the list I printed from my password manager.  However, most websites still use your email address as part of your profile or contact information, even if it's not your login ID.  I've found that I have to change pretty much every account, even if I don't use the email as the login ID, because somewhere in that profile they've got my old email.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Using Gmail to Download Other Email Accounts

I used Outlook for all of my email for years, and I'd gotten tired of some of its quirks and limitations in the more recent versions (I currently have 2010).  It was useful to have all of my email loaded into a single user interface, so I wanted to find an alternative that would still give me that option.

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, a friend recommended Google's apps and email interface, so I've now converted to using Google for all of my email rather than Outlook.  I've been able to set up Gmail so that it downloads my email from multiple sources (Comcast, my Tepato website, etc.), so I am able to have a "one stop shopping" set up which I prefer.  To see how to use Gmail to pick up your other email accounts, see these instructions:

You can define a default email and have it always used as the "reply to" email.  Or you can choose to have it automatically just reply from the same address where the message was sent (if they send it to your Gmail, it will use your Gmail as the reply address, or if they send it to your Comcast, it will use that one as the reply address).  Gmail gives you 15 GB of storage space for free, and I've found that I'm using a pretty small portion of it.  More space can be purchased but so far I'm more than fine with the free 15 GB.

The spam blocker in Gmail seems to really work great.  Not only do the suspected spam messages get automatically put into a separate folder (so they aren't loading my inbox), but I seem to get a LOT less of them.  I've literally gone from getting multiple dozens in a day, down to less than 1 dozen most days.  I'm loving that aspect.  The spam messages are automatically deleted after 30 days in my spam folder.  I typically do check that folder at least daily, just to confirm that nothing legitimate ended up there by mistake, just to satisfy my paranoia.

I've recently helped a customer of mine to get set up to use Gmail to fetch his website email, and I'm curious to see if he experiences the same great result for spam.   He gets hundreds every day and I'm hoping he will see an improvement like I have.  I'll post an update on this soon, once he's had Gmail working for a few weeks.

Transitioning Email Accounts

I've recently decided to transition all of my personal email from one service to another (Comcast to Gmail).  It's been a slow process to change all of my email newsletters, notices, etc. over to my Gmail account, but I'm slowly getting there.

I have the luxury of taking my time with it, since I'm still able to access my Comcast email and have not closed that account.  I've found that my Roboform password manager software was a good place to start with a list of accounts that used my old Comcast email.  I'm slowly converting those all to use my Gmail account instead.  

I'm also monitoring my Comcast email as it arrives, and either unsubscribing or changing each one over to Gmail.  I've found that certain providers will let me update my email address, but they don't seem to automatically remove the old email from their list, so I've gotten a few duplicates.  If I get a duplicate, I just unsubscribe on the one sent to my old Comcast email so that takes care of it.

As I finish this process, I'll post any other things that I discover.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Adventures with Google Forms

I've recently been introduced to some of the apps that are available with Google and so far I like them.  They're pretty easy to learn and they have some nice features.

To get started, you'll need a Google account.  Once you're logged into your account, you'll have menu options across the top left.  The option you'll use to get into forms is the one called "Drive" (located right next to Gmail).  It essentially gives you an area to store documents, forms, etc. that can be shared (all stored on Google).  There's also the option to download a program which allows you to sync files from your computer to your Google drive.

The Drive function gives you the ability to create a variety of documents, spreadsheets, presentations and forms.  All of them are stored at Google but can be synced to your local PC.  All of them can also be shared with anyone you want, with or without giving them the ability to edit them.

For my first attempt, I'm going to use Google forms to replace a form on a web page for a client.  The current web form is an application to request a scholarship to a camp for kids each summer.  The form allows a prospective camper to fill in their personal details, and then when they click the submit button it sends an email to me with a delimited file.  I copy and paste that delimited data into a spreadsheet, save it and email it to the client so that they can review and approve the applicants.

With the new Google form that I'm creating, the applicant will click on a link to go to the Google form.  They'll fill in all of their details as normal.  Then when they're done, it is automatically saved into a Google spreadsheet.  I can share the link to that spreadsheet with anyone who needs to see it.  I can give them the ability to edit it, or just to view it.  I won't have to receive the application record via email anymore, and I won't have to copy/paste it into a spreadsheet or email it anywhere.  They'll be able to look at the responses spreadsheet any time to see the latest applicants.

See the link below for an example of a simple Google form that could be used to track RSVPs to a party, as well as what dish that person will bring for a potluck meal.  Feel free to click around on the form and make entries if you'd like to test it.  Then click on the link to see the responses and you'll see the spreadsheet where they are stored.

Sample Form

To see the responses spreadsheet, use this link (view only):

To see instructions on how to get started with Google forms, use this link:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'm a Google Convert - Mail and Calendar

As a long time Outlook user, I always liked to keep my calendar on both my work and personal laptops. Lately, I've had to use Google calendar sync to copy items from one calendar to the other.  It was a strange set up and it seemed to be more complicated that it should need to be.

I've also been a long time user of SpamArrest to block most of the dozens of spam messages that I get every day.  I was happy with the SpamArrest service, however I'd heard good things about the Google spam blocking ability, and thought I'd try it.  Since I was paying about $50 per year for SpamArrest, it saves me a little money.  It's also nice to not have that extra email address embedded in everything any more - a lot of people had started sending me everything at both my main email address (Comcast) and SpamArrest, which made me get duplicates.

Outlook served me well but I was ready for a change.  I'd had enough of the confusion of having an extra email (, and the cost, so I decided to try Gmail for mail and calendar.

So this summer I made the big change - I dropped SpamArrest and started using Gmail's email program rather than Outlook.  I no longer have to sync my google calendar into Outlook to keep my two laptops in sync.  I'm finding that I get very little spam anymore, and Google is really good at catching them.

The nice thing is that Gmail is able to pick up ALL of my email addresses - from Comcast and my website both.  So I can use it just like I used Outlook, to read all of my email in one place.  I'm getting used to the user interface and I like the flags for "important" and "starred" to help me stay organized.

My son is actually going to learn how to use some of the Google apps in school this semester, so I'm curious to see how those look, as well.  I really haven't used much other than mail and calendar (and instant message with Google Talk).

Stay tuned as I learn other Google programs or other useful things to make my digital life smoother.

My Favorite Freebies


Need a PDF writer that can create a PDF from just about any program (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.)?  Try and download their PDF print driver.  It works just like a normal printer on your printers list - select it and you'll need to choose a location to save the PDF file it will create.  It also has a professional version for $50.

Most PCs have a built in PDF reader now, but just in case, you can download a free one from Adobe.

File Backup
SyncToy is a free tool that can be downloaded from Microsoft.  It's easy to set up and it helps you to do a quick backup.  You select the files/folders you want to backup, and it compares the versions and only copies the ones that have changed.  It won't save your whole system if your PC crashes (that requires keeping an image of your whole setup), but it will save your data if you use it regularly.

Performance Improvement Utilities
CCleaner is as PC optimization tool will clean your registry, remove old drivers, etc. to improve performance.  It has a free version and a professional version for $25.

File Sharing
Dropbox is a free file sharing site that is web based.  You get a minimal amount of free space to start, and are given additional space as you add friends, take tutorials and other actions on the site.  You can share a link with anyone who needs your file, or you can give them access to a shared folder to exchange files.

Google Talk works just like most other instant message programs.  I like it because I use Google mail and calendar so it's integrated nicely.

Not Free, But Worth It

Password Manager
To save passwords for your most frequent website use, try Roboform.  It has a free version for limited use, or you can buy a subscription for $10 per year for the web-based version.

Screen Captures
To capture screen shots of your PC, use SnagIt.  You have the option to capture just a region of the full screen, or the whole scrolling window, among others.  You can also do some editing on it within SnagIt before you use it elsewhere.  It can also capture video and it's only $50.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Back to school time...

Next Tuesday my two sons go back to school.  I am very ready but I'm not sure that they are.  I've purchased their supplies but neither of them are excited.

We met my 6th grader's teachers last night and I found out some interesting things about our school district:

They are embracing the "BYOD" (bring your own device) attitude in the middle schools and high schools.

They're just starting this concept so they're still making adjustments to the rules, etc. as they learn about the potential pitfalls of kids bringing iPods, iPhones, tablets and other electronics to school.  They say they want to encourage kids to use them as a learning tool when it is possible and appropriate.  Personally I won't be allowing my son to take his iPod to school.  He'll want to play games on it and is likely to lose it or get it stolen.

Another interesting thing - for my son's class on "21st Century Skills", they'll be piloting the use of Google netbooks.

They are small laptops with almost no software preloaded, so the support for them should be fairly minimal.  The kids will learn how to use web based tools for socializing, creating presentations and other things.  They're going to applications like Google docs and others.  It will be interesting to see how my son adapts to applications that he's never used.  His computer time at home is usually limited and he mostly only plays games.  For him to actually have to use a computer to do project work will be interesting.

I'll post another entry in a few months on this topic regarding how it's going with the technology that my son is learning.  Maybe he can teach me how to use some of these tools, since I've never heard of the ones his teacher was talking about.  I'm intrigued...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Accuracy of Website Information - for Government Agency Transactions

Have you recently looked at a website to get information and then later found out that it was inaccurate?  Personally, I think any company or government agency who posts information to their website needs to be responsible for its accuracy and timeliness.

If I'm depending on a website to get a list of requirements for some transaction, especially with a government agency, then an inaccurate list of details could potentially cause me great inconvenience, multiple trips, etc. and of course anger/frustration.  Any government agency, such as the secretary of state or DMV, is typically hard to reach over the phone.  A a website is a perfect place for them to provide details such as requirements for their services in a place that I can find it, then use it to prepare for any transaction which must be handled in person.

Please don't make me come back because I don't have some document that you require that was not listed on your website!  And please don't put so many restrictions on the types of transactions that can be handled completely online.  It is better for BOTH of us when I don't have to come to your office and wait in line with the huddled masses.  Save my tax dollars that are spent on those clerks who move so slowly, and make as much information and as many transactions as possible available online instead!!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Haiku Deck for iPad

Recently I downloaded a free presentation building app for my iPad.  It's called Haiku Deck and it allows me to build presentation slides just like Powerpoint.  I haven't figured out all of its features yet but what I've seen so far, I like.

It has a lot of free images that can be used as lovely backgrounds.  It allows for bulleted lists on my slides. It's quick to use and the slideshow can be shared via a link, on Facebook, email, etc. (or viewed on the iPad).

For more information, go to:

Here's a link to a basic presentation that I created, as an example:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Technology Travel Tips for Summer Road Trips

Last week we were away on our annual road trip with our two boys, ages 8 and 11.  We went to Washington DC and saw a lot of great, interesting and historical things.  The drive to and from DC was long but tolerable from our home in Michigan.

As a kid who grew up in the 70s and 80s, the experience of our annual car trip made me reflect.  What the heck did our parents do to keep us occupied when we went on vacation as kids?  We always drove (at least until I was much older), and yet we didn't kill each other.  How did we not get lost constantly without a GPS?

I can remember quite a few car trips with my parents and sister, without any technology to pass the time. We didn't have laptops, iPads, iPods, DVD players or anything else to pass the time.  I think I read, since I'm lucky enough that I don't get carsick, but I don't remember.  One of my sons can't do much or he does feel sick, so he has to be careful.  He can watch a movie on the built in DVD player in the car, but he can't read or play on his iPod.  Poor kid.

For the four of us, we had so much technology along with us that just the number of chargers was ridiculous.  We had three digital cameras, two iPads, 1 iPod, 1 3DS gaming device and 2 iPhones with us.  Plus the car has a built in DVD player and GPS.  Plus my husband brought along his work laptop just in case he needed to work a little.  All of this for a 10 day trip!

It does help that most of our devices are Apple products, so at least the chargers are interchangeable (except my iPad which has the new Lightning style plug).

If you're thinking of a long car trip with kids, I highly recommend a movie player for the car.  Even if it's not built in, it really is a lifesaver.  IPads or other tablets can be an easy substitute for a built in, since they're light and easy to use.  Our kids are never quieter than when they're watching a movie (unless they are unconscious).

Digital cameras are a must so that you can capture pics while you're away, although I think the fact that my husband, my son and I each have one now is a bit ridiculous.  The good thing is that I can browse through all of our photos and only use the best ones when I scrapbook.  I've had good luck with one or both of them capturing something that I missed in the past.

If you don't have to work while away, it's great to leave your laptop at home.  Some things can be done on just a tablet - I've used my iPad with Logmein remote control software to support an emergency request from a customer while away from my laptop.  It's slow and awkward without a mouse and keyboard, but it allows me to satisfy a request that would otherwise have to wait a week or more.

One last thing - headphones!  If your kids have music or game devices, or are watching movies, decent headphones are a must.  I personally can't stand to hear all of the noises from most of those video games, they drive me crazy.  Also since my kids tend to watch the SAME movie over and over, I can't take the audio track of  most movies either.  If your kids don't like to wear earbuds, you can get over-the-ear headphones for about the same price.  My boys hate earbuds since I don't think they're ever the right size for kids.  We've had better luck with the over-the-ear style, although they are bulkier to pack.

Good luck and drive safely!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Passwords and Spammers

Have you ever received an email that appears to be from your own email address?  This is a classic case of a spammer using your email name as the "from" on a fake email.

One way to help eliminate this practice is to use a strong password on your email account, and to change it periodically.  Also, try to avoid the temptation to use the same password for all of your online accounts.  If you use "mom123" as your password on everything, just imagine how easy it will be for a spammer to get into all of your online accounts once they've hacked into one of them.  Don't make it easier on them!

If you start to get these fake emails from yourself, change your password immediately on that account.

If you get hacked in Facebook, the first step is to change your password on that account.  Usually it's a good idea to change your password on your email account at the same time.

If, like me, you have dozens of online accounts and can't possibly remember all of your passwords, try using a password manager package, such as RoboForm.  It will remember your password for each site that you use, and gives you a button to take you to the site, enter your password and click enter, all in one step.  It also has a built in random password generator, so you can easily create stronger passwords.

They have a version for your desktop/laptop, and they also have a version that installs on a flash drive.  It's very inexpensive and easy to use.

Check out RoboForm here:

There are other tools of this type available, but this is the one that I personally use and I recommend it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Garage Sale Season

Spring and summer always seem to bring certain traditions - road construction, fireworks and garage sales come to mind.

Over this past weekend, I had a garage sale at my own home.  We had a lot of different things, but mainly we had toys that the kids have outgrown and a few miscellaneous household items.  I tried to get rid of a few electronics and in some cases I was successful.  My son's old Game Boy Advance sold, as well as his Jeep riding toy (one of the battery powered ones).  The Jeep alone was a big thing, so I'm glad to get it out of our garage.  I was surprised that more of the toys didn't sell, since they'd be perfect for grandparents who like to have a few things around for the little ones, as well as parents on a budget.

The leftover items will be donated, mostly to our church, for their "white elephant" sale later this summer.  It's always a little sad to see things go, but I feel better knowing that someone else can get use out of them.  If we're not using an item, I don't see the point in storing it forever.  Unfortunately, none of the local charities will take my old artificial Christmas tree so I guess I'll drag it out to the curb one of these days and hope for the best. Sometimes the "garbage pickers" can take things like that, since the local garbage collectors are unlikely to accept it.

All of this spring cleaning and organizing leads me to thoughts about the files on my computer, too.  It's time to do a quick review of my files and get rid of the really old stuff that I no longer need.  Now is also a good time to confirm that my automatic backups are working as they should, and take an extra, more user-friendly copy of my data on my external hard drive, just in case.  When my hard drive failed last year, I found that my formal backup copy was useful but it was best used for a full system restore.  If I need a bunch of files from a certain folder, it's easier to keep a copy of those separately.

Since my father has recently passed away, I also need to start going through his electronic files to help my mother determine what she does and does not need to keep.  He had several computers, external hard drives and a multitude of CDs and flash drives.  She has no idea what to do with most of those types of accessories, and may not even have software to read some of the files, so that will be my job over the next several months.  As I review and learn about those files, I'll share what I've learned about the best process.

Do your spouse and family a favor - try to keep your electronic files in some organized fashion, and make sure they know your passwords.  It's hard to even figure out how/what he saved without looking at every piece of paper and every digital file.  The sheer volume of his records make that a daunting task.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Miscellaneous Electronics Graveyard

Like a lot of Americans, I have a lot of electronics in my household.  My husband and I both work in the IT field, so we're probably worse than some people in that regard.  We have a lot of computers, printers and other accessories that we use for our business and personal needs.

Have you ever found that you have a pile of electrical cords and other miscellaneous pieces of electronics, all jumbled together, and you don't know what it all is?  If you find yourself losing track of what each cord actually is used for, it helps a lot to label them (we have a Brother label printer).  If you remember to label each cord that comes with a new gadget, you'll never forget where it belongs.

You'll want to be fairly specific, for future reference on those labels.  Putting a label on a camera charging cord that just says "camera charger" is not going to help you if you have 5 of them.  Using the brand or model name on that label will really help in that case - "Panasonic A123 camera charger" for example.

Labeling each cord is also helpful when you have a power strip under your desk with 10 things plugged into it and need to unplug just one - how do you know which one?  If you put your label near the plug end, you'll be able to tell which one is your printer vs. laptop vs. monitor, etc. and it will be no big deal.  Of course if you have to get down on the floor and crawl under your desk just to get to the plugs, I can't help with that...

Periodically, I try to purge out the excess and either sell or donate what we no longer use.  It's nice if I can include the cords and instructions with it.  Labeling makes that possible.

I'd like to avoid having what I call an "electronics graveyard" in my household.  You know, that pile of pieces that are not complete and can't be matched up with the rest of their components?  Personally, if I end up with a pile like that, my first instinct is to pitch it all.  I mean, really, if I don't know what goes to what, or don't even remember its original function, what is the point of keeping it around?  At that point it's just meaningless clutter and I certainly don't need to fill up my house with that stuff!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Digital Copies of DVDs You Buy - Are They Worth It?

Do you buy a lot of movies on DVD or Blu Ray?  Do you ever buy the bundle that also includes a "digital copy"?

I've bought a few of these in the recent past and I've finally started to load them to my iTunes account.  A couple things are worth noting:

  • If you buy the bundle with a "digital copy", you are paying extra for it, so USE IT!  If you won't use it, buy the bundle without that option, since it will be cheaper.
  • If you use iTunes, it's pretty easy to get these digital copies loaded.  Some of them require you to insert the DVD into your PC to get the digital copy, and some use a website.  Either way, iTunes can handle it.  
  • Don't throw away the paper with your code on it!! Without the code, you can't redeem your digital copy and you've wasted your money.
  • Pay attention to any expiration dates on your redemption code - sometimes they have a limited time frame on them.  Miss that deadline, and you've again wasted your money.
  • There is a difference between a digital copy and the new "ultraviolet" copy.  You have to create an account with UltraViolet or Flixster in order to redeem any movies that use it.  I haven't tried this yet but it's supposed to give you access to your movie when you're anywhere (assuming you either have Wifi access or a data plan on the device).

Of course a bunch of movies will use up a lot of your PC's hard drive, so hopefully you have an external drive that you can use to back them up if needed.  Also, you most likely won't want to keep all of them on your device (iPad, iPod, etc.) all of them time, since they'll fill the memory on your device as well.  Keeping them in iTunes gives you the ability to sync them onto your device when needed (such as before a long car trip or plane ride).

Personally, I'll be watching Hunger Games on a flight to Orlando next week...

Monday, April 1, 2013

Email Accounts - Legislation Needs to Change

Were you aware that if a family member dies, you will not be allowed to get into their email account unless you happen to know the password?  According to Yahoo, the law states that the email account belongs only to the registered user and they can't give access to anyone else, even with a copy of a death certificate.

This law does not make sense to me.  If a close family member uses email a lot, and then dies without telling anyone their password, their family is left in a bad situation.  There could be legitimate email waiting in their account that the family can't address, nor can they contact those senders to advise them of the recipient's passing.

It is my opinion that if the family can produce a copy of  a death certificate, then they should be given a chance to reset the password and clean out the account for themselves.  Most email providers will close the account when notified of a death, but without some type of cleanup and/or notification to any legitimate senders, there is a big gap here.  The family could lose valuable information and/or relationships without access.

For now, please remember to share your email password (and any other important information) with someone that you trust to carry out your wishes if you die.  Otherwise your family could be left with no recourse but to close your account, even if it means losing all of its contents.  Make this part of your estate planning and your family will be better prepared to deal with closing your "online life".

Using iPad as an E-Reader & Video Player

At Christmas I became the proud owner of a new iPad.  I'm really enjoying it and use it for a lot of different purposes.  My top two are for reading and for watching movies/videos.

I wasn't sure that I would like using an e-reader instead of a paper book, but I've come to appreciate the advantages.  I don't have to store paper books, which is a huge plus for me, since my bookcases are overflowing.  I can take my iPad anywhere that I'd take a book and it's no heavier than a hard cover book.  I can mark my page with an electronic bookmark instead of scrounging in the bottom of my purse for a receipt or some scrap of paper to use.  I can shop for new books anytime, and I can search by author, title, etc. in the store to quickly find what I want.

One disadvantage that I see with e-readers is that it isn't any cheaper to buy an e-book than a paper one.  I mean, really, shouldn't I get a discount since they don't have the expense of the paper, ink and printing?  Why should I pay $9.99 online to get an electronic copy of a book when I can often get the same book on paper for less than that?  This is annoying to me.

For now, I'm trying to stock up on iTunes gift cards whenever I see them offered at a discount off face value (frequently at 10 - 15 % off at local stores).  I'm also having pretty good luck with the bargain section of iBooks.  I've found a lot of new authors that I'm enjoying without having to pay $10 or more for a new book.

We are members of Netflix, so I'm also really enjoying being able to watch all of the episodes of TV shows, in order, whenever I want.  If a certain show or movie is not available using the streaming on Netflix, I can normally find it on iTunes for a price.  I also have quite a few movies on DVD which I purchased in a bundle that included a digital copy, so I'm slowly getting those loaded to my PC so that I can put them on my iPad if I want.  This is perfect for kids movies for a long car trip or plane ride.

Now if I could just find an adapter to plug my iPad into the DVD player in the car, that would be the best of both worlds...

Keep Folders & Files in Sync

If you have multiple PCs in your household, there may be some files that you'd like to be able to view/update on both machines.  In order to keep your files in sync, there are many tools available.

I personally use a couple of different tools.  I use SyncToy from Microsoft to keep my files synced between a flash drive and my hard drive.  It's free and easy to use, very similar to Windows Explorer.  You choose the "from" location and the "to" location and it compares the files and updates what is needed.  It has several different options if you want to copy files only one way, both ways, including deletes or not.

I use DropBox to share files with clients or with family members.  I've also found that DropBox is an easy way to get my photos off of my iPhone or iPad and copy them onto my PC without having to email each file to myself.  It is also easy to use and offers some space for free.  If you invite others to join a shared folder with you, or perform certain other functions, you can earn additional free space.

Here is an article from PC World on this topic which has some other suggestions.

For more information on SyncToy and DropBox, see these links: (SyncToy)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Excel - Using Referential Cells

Type in values on one worksheet and use them on another worksheet without retyping them.  This is what referential cells do for you in Microsoft Excel.  It's almost like having a database within a spreadsheet.

This tutorial uses a fictional silent auction as the basis for the spreadsheet.

Start by setting up a "Master" worksheet where you'll do data entry.  Columns should be: item #, item description, value, donated by, cost, winning bid amount, winner name.

Enter data in a few rows.

Now create a new worksheet called "Results" with these columns: item #, item description, bid amount, winner name.

In the first row of data, click on column A cell (A2) and hit the = (equal sign) key.  Then click on the "Master" worksheet and select the A2 cell on it.  This will now link the two cells, so any value typed into cell A2 on the "Master" worksheet will also display on the "Results" worksheet.  You can now highlight A2 and do a copy paste across the rest of the cells in the row (ctrl+c = copy, ctrl+v = paste).  Excel will automatically increment the cell letter/number to match the appropriate cells for the rest of the row.

Can you now see the data from row 2 on your "Master" worksheet displayed on row 2 of your "Results" worksheet?  If not, view the contents of each cell and fix if needed.  For example, cell A2 should have a value that looks like:

You can also use this feature to create a bidding sheet for each item which can be printed and placed by the item.  Follow the same process - set up your desired field labels, then click in each cell in the first row of data, type the = key and then select the cell to reference on the Master worksheet.  The easiest way to create multiple bid sheets is to create one with all of the formatting and fields set up first, then link to the cells on the Master, then copy the worksheet.  You will have to go to each worksheet to update the referential cells to the appropriate row of data (1st sheet is row 2, 2nd sheet is row 3, etc.) in the Master.

If you'd like to see an example in excel, please see this link:

Payments Processing for Low Volume - PayPal Buttons

If your small business or non-profit group wants to be able to sell products/services online, but you'll have a very low volume, a full blown e-commerce solution may be too much.  A full e-commerce site can be complex, expensive to maintain, and requires special skills of your webmaster or service provider.

Tepato has several non-profit clients who sell event tickets to one or two events a year on their websites.  The total ticket sales for each event are a few hundred, with about 10 - 25% of the ticket sales being done online.  Since they have such a low volume (both in sales and in frequency), they use PayPal buttons to satisfy their needs.

Most people who shop online are familiar with PayPal and its usefulness in paying for your online purchases.  It also has a merchant function which allows you to create buttons for use on a website.  The buttons can be for a variety of functions, including "donate", "buy it now" or "add to cart" functionality, and can be customized with your specific item names and pricing.  After creating the buttons, your webmaster can copy/paste the code needed to place the buttons right into your website.

PayPal will provide all of the security, data collection and processing on their website, so your organization's website has very minimal impact.  You don't have to pay for security certificates or complicated sales processing pages to be created.  PayPal will process all payments for a fee, similar to any credit card processor.  You can withdraw funds from your account to another bank account electronically at any time.

PayPal allows buyers to submit an instant payment using a bank account or credit cards, whichever they prefer.  Your buyers don't even have to create a PayPal account if they don't wish to do so.

Two small conditions apply when using PayPal:
  1. If you are a non-profit group, you may need to provide proof to PayPal (such as a copy of your 501c3 form) to use some of its functions.
  2. If your company or non-profit sells anything gun-related, PayPal will not allow it.  You can sell any other items that are not guns or gun-related but they have a restriction on weapons (including raffles which have guns as prizes).
If your company or non-profit organization has a need to do payment processing on a small scale, I recommend PayPal buttons for their ease of use and competitive processing rates.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

DropBox - Free File Sharing

Recently one of my clients suggested that we begin using DropBox when he needed to send me large files for his website.  I checked it out and it is a very nice free service.

DropBox starts out new users with a minimum amount of space (2 GB).  If you do certain things, such as set up shared folders or inviting other users to join, you will be given additional free space.  You can earn up to 16 GB of additional space this way.  You can also upgrade to a paid subscription at a monthly cost.

It is very easy to set up and use, and works similarly to Windows Explorer.  In fact, once you have DropBox installed on your PC, you can see your DropBox folder in Windows Explorer just like all of your other hard drives or other storage locations.  It also will give you an icon on your Quick Launch bar to either open your drop box folder or go to their website.

Other useful features:
  • Automatically copy all of the photos off of your mobile devices such as an iPhone 
  • Create a link to any file or folder in your DropBox, so that you can share that link with anyone who needs it
  • Create a shared folder for use by a specific person or people

See this link for more information:

If you are a Tepato Systems client and would like to begin using DropBox to send us your data files, please contact us at

Outlook Calendar - Conditional Format for Color Categories

Personally, I like to have each type of meeting on my Outlook calendar display as a different color.  I often am handling multiple projects, so I'll assign each project a color and use it to easily see what projects I might be meeting on any given day.

When I converted from 2007 to 2010, I lost my settings for this feature.  Today I finally searched and found instructions to re-do my conditional formatting settings in Outlook Calendar.  This is similar to using color categories on emails, however it is created and maintained using the "conditional format" setting.

See this article for detailed instructions:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Email Marketing

Your customers need to hear from you.  They need to know what you have going on - sales, new products or services, special events, etc. for your business.  They also need to see that you are an expert in your field, so you need to share with them when you learn something new or hear about something that might be of interest to them.

There are a lot of email marketing tools available, but I recommend Constant Contact.  It's priced very reasonably (based on the number of email contacts you want to reach).  It has a very easy to learn user interface.  You can import your list of emails from a spreadsheet file easily.  You can link to articles or content on any website (your own or others).  You can include articles, images, coupons or other tidbits that your customers need or want.

Keeping your business name in front of your customers is smart.  As they say, "out of sight, out of mind".

To find out more about Constant Contact, use this link:

Microsoft Retiring Hotmail

In August of last year, Microsoft announced that they are retiring support for their Hotmail email service.  They are replacing it with

I have several friends and colleagues who still use Hotmail, and they've asked me about what they need to do about this.

Here is an article that explains what to do to start using instead of Hotmail.  The good news is that you can continue to use your @hotmail address.

Technology Gifts for Xmas

This year the main gifts in my family were all technology related.  I have a 10 year old son who got a new iPod Touch, a 7 year old son who got a new 3DS XL handheld game system and I got an iPad.

Doing the setup of all of these gadgets can be time consuming and frustrating.  Here are a few things that I learned during the experience.

  1. There are some good parental controls on both the iPod Touch and the 3DS.  You can use them to limit the types of things that your kids can download onto their device.  For example, I can limit my 10 year old so that he can't download movies that are rated R or NC-17, and he can't download music or Podcasts with explicit content.
  2. Just like gift cards for iTunes and the App Store, there are gift cards available for the 3DS.  You can load the gift card value onto the device so that the device owner can purchase games and other items from the Nintendo eShop.  If you don't live in the United States, the e-store may not be available to you.  I discovered this because my son's 3DS was still set to the default region location, which was the first in the alphabetical list, so it was Anguilla.
  3. Since I already had an iPhone, I was happy that I could use the cloud to get a copy of all my apps on both my phone and my iPad.  The bad news is that for the apps I have already loaded on my iPhone, they don't show up automatically on my iPad.  Anything new that I add from now on will show up on both devices.  Fortunately it seems that the apps that are not free will give you a copy on both devices at no additional charge (so far).
  4. Setting up a second device on my iTunes on my laptop was actually fairly easy.  My son's iPod Touch uses an email address of mine that I didn't use, so his Apple ID is different than mine.  That prevents him from having my apps, etc. and the reverse.  I can set iTunes to only download the music that he likes from my laptop, not all of my music (much of which he doesn't want).
  5. I still need to try importing a digital copy of one of our movies, to see how it works in iTunes.
  6. I am enjoying my new iPad, especially since I'm trying to use it as an e-reader.  I own far too many paper copy books.  I'm going to start reading the e-versions so that I don't have to buy any more bookcases.  There are a surprising number of free or cheap (1,2,3 dollars) books and other reading materials available in the iBooks store for my iPad  I need to also check to see if my local library will let me borrow books electronically.

Overall, this experience has not been too painful, which is a relief.  Stay tuned for more...