Mac or Linux users, this post is not for you. However, if you are one of the approximately 75% of computer users worldwide who use Windows XP, it is likely that at some point in your computing life your machine will be compromised somehow by a virus, spyware, or some other nuisance that you didn’t ask for. Chances are you will wake up one day, turn your machine on, and it won’t boot, or something very strange may appear to have taken over your computer.

It is quite likely that at some point your computer will become so “gunked up” that it will be inoperable. You may or may not have done something knowingly risky (like installed pirated software, or gone to some questionable website), but short of abandoning Windows, all of us would be smart to be ready for the inevitable.

This post is NOT about my favorite security tools, or anti virus software, or spyware cleaners. It’s also not about backing up your files or best practices for safe computing. Rather it’s about a set of tools that are free that can be used to bring your machine back from the dead: Ultimate Boot CD for Windows.

Plain old CD-Rs are a read-only media. Why that’s important is that, even if you hard drive is wholly infected with awful stuff, you can boot from a protected environment and have access to tools that can help you recover. Since the early day of Windows 95 it has been possible to boot your computer from CDs. Microsoft was kind enough to leave a hook in Windows XP for developers to create CDs that are 100% capable of running the entire OS.

Several smart and resourceful folks have banded together to create and maintain the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows. This is the internet at its best, as the instructions and tools required for making your own version of this CD are free and readily accessible from the website, http://www.ubcd4win.com/.

Once you create the CD, you will be able to boot a sick computer using it, so you can get online, as well as get to your precious files, so you can copy them onto a CD or an external drive. It will also allow you to choose and run a long list of useful tools (many of which are free, others in trial form) that will allow you to clean up spyware, viruses, run diagnostics, and recover from serious disasters of all kinds.

For copyright reasons, UBCD4WIN is not available commercially, or as a complete download. Rather you will have to download their special utility software from their website. Using this wizard based application, along with a copy of Windows XP Service Pack 2 CD (doesn’t have to be registered), and a CD burner, you will be able to create your own copy of the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows. Periodically, you can update your disk image using their utility and create a new CD with the latest tools.

I have a copy of a recent burn of the Ultimate CD for Windows in my computer bag at all time — and have been glad to have it.

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Jul
16
Posted on July 16, 2007
Filed Under (Advice) by jennifer

The short answer is “yes.”

For the longer answer, read my latest article for Ecommerce-Guide.com, where I spoke with head of research for MarketingSherpa as well as executives from Etsy.com, “Your place to buy & sell all things handmade,” Ice.com, an online jeweler, and LooseEnds.net, a virtual web and graphics design company, about their onsite blogs.

While there is little downside to adding a blog to your site, how much upside there is depends on a number of factors, according the experts.

“The best blogs are the ones that sound the most genuine,” says Stefan Tornquist, the research director at MarketingSherpa. “And the person writing the blog has to be passionate about what they’re writing about,” adds Pinny Gniwisch, the VP of marketing at Ice.com. Tornquist also advocates having a blog with an educational component, particularly if you are a niche site or are selling a complex product or service. Other stand out blogs, he said, focus on what makes that company’s brand, products or services unique.

Allowing visitors to comment on blog entries is universally considered a good thing, too, but you should definitely have someone monitor all comments and approve them before posting them on your blog.

Another important success issue, one that is often overlooked, according to Tornquist, is maintaining your blog. “We know that after 90 days the majority of blogs go fallow,” he said. The problem: people get all fired up about creating a blog, then once they get all their initial ideas out there and other things become more important, they blog less and less or not at all. [How many of you, like me, were nodding their heads in agreement as you read that last bit? Fess up now. I know I hung my head when Tornquist quoted that little statistic to me.]

To prevent this, Tornquist says offers the following four options:

  1. Appoint someone internally to be in charge of the blog — and make sure that person has enough time to properly maintain it (i.e., make blogging a top responsibility not just one of 100);
  2. Hire someone to be in charge of the blog (which is what Ice.com did with its official blog);
  3. Ask someone who is a regular commenter on your blog, who has clearly shown he or she is passionate about your business, to maintain the site as a volunteer (though, cautions Tornquist, that can be risky); and
  4. Make your blog more like a social network, like American Apparel’s Daily Update, where pretty much anyone can post or respond, or like Sun’s blogs, where pretty much any employee can post (though in both cases it’s probably a good idea to find someone to serve as a moderator or watchdog, to make sure the content is appropriate).

If your onsite blog “is going to be successful,” says Tornquist, “there needs to be a good reason for it to exist. You need to constantly update it. And you need to make a vigorous effort to keep the thing interesting enough to compel people to return regularly. Often we see blogs devolve from featuring unique writing to simply collecting links to relevant content from around the Net. There’s a place for that, but it’s already being done at a high level for most niches, so it’s going to be tough for a blog like that to attract attention or keep it.”

Do you have an onsite blog that’s helped you to drive more traffic to your site, get more attention and/or increased sales? Or have any tips for site owners considering adding a blog? Let me know by sending me a comment.

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