Ideas and Advice from 'the Black Hole'

I'm the person you hate to sit next to on an airplane. I admit it. I'm a "ripper." I take all of the magazines I haven't read yet, schlep them onto the plane with me, and then start ripping out pages of things that inspire me, things that I'd like to remember or things that I can pass on that I think other people would like to know.

After dating for about three years, my boyfriend turned to me one day and asked just exactly what happened to all of these magazine pages. I told him that I file them of course. He smirked and replied, "I've never seen those files. I bet those pages end up in a black hole somewhere."

Well, today, I'm going to dig into my black hole and share a handful of tips and ideas that kitchen and bath dealers can use to make their computer time safer, more efficient and more productive.

Googling Error Messages
Have you ever been baffled by an error message that suddenly pops up onto the screen? Of course, they only pop up at inopportune timesa special division of Murphy's Law just for computers.

My secret weapon for decoding these problems is the search engine "Google." Cut and paste or copy down the error exactly as it comes up and put it into the search engine. It's very important to put quotes at the beginning and end of what you are entering. Otherwise, you'll google a mishmash of stuff that will confuse you even more.

Anyway, in nine out of 10 cases, you should get back an explanation for the message you weren't able to previously decode (even though you were using your best secret decoder ring.) It's a great way to figure out what exactly that error is caused by, and that leads you down the path to fix it.

Keeping the Coffers Safe
Banking and buying online can save kitchen and bath firms s a great deal of time. And, with our schedules seemingly more packed than ever before, saving time is a pretty appealing option. Invariably, we'll have to learn how to do it sooner or later, so why not now? If the thought of it still frightens you, take heart; there are a couple of things that you can do to keep your business or personal finances safe.

My first hint, and one that seems rather obvious but I'm going to throw it out there nonetheless, is to never, ever respond to an e-mail asking for your social security number, confirmation of a password or any other information that is proprietary. Some of the "bad guys" will cut and paste the logo of, let's say, VISA, into their e-mail to you. By doing this, they can make their e-mails look pretty official. But never give out any information unless you are contacting the bank or credit card company yourself. Your best bet is to not even respond to the e-mail.

When making purchases online, also avoid using a debit credit card. While credit card companies are pretty good about covering you when your credit card numbers have been stolen, many debit cards aren't covered in the same way.

If you are currently using a debit card for online purchases, contact the issuer. Get in writing from them what is and is not covered in the event of theft.

Remember, just because you secure this information today may not mean it will hold true tomorrow. Find out how they notify customers of any changes the company might make so that you can be on the lookout for extreme changes that might put your money and your credit rating in harm's way.

Spim Spam
"Spimming" is probably a new word for you. Think spam, as in the junk e-mail. Spim is just another form of spam. Spim, Spam. Cute, huh? (Who comes up with these words, anyway?)
While spam occurs in e-mail, spim occurs in IMs, or instant messages. IM is when you set your computer to let others know when you're online so they can chat with you in real time. When you type something in and then the other person responds right back, just as in a phone conversation, you are IMing or chatting in real time.

Spimming is when someone sends you an IM, and in that IM they direct you to check out their Web site. When you click on the link in the IM to get to the Web site, they download a virus onto your computer. You've just been spimmed. The sad thing is that you thought the IM was coming from a friend or co-worker. In truth, however, their IM list had been commandeered by spimmers. So that friendly IM was not friendly at all.

My advice to you is to stay away from clicking on Web links via IMs. If you are curious, write down the Web address you want to visit, and then type it directly into the Internet yourself.

Dead Ahead
After I've finished ripping out all of those magazine pages on the plane, I like to work on my computer to help pass the time. And, while I may not have any top secret information that I'm working on, it always seems like the person next to me has finished ripping apart their magazine pages, too, and has nothing better to do than read what I'm working on.

It may not be an airplane where you seek a little privacy; maybe you are dealing with the same thing in the office. Well, there's good news for all of us. There is now a special screen to prevent this. You put it right over your computer screen. It allows you to see your computer if you are staring at it dead on, but prevents people from seeing it from an angled view.

Camera Phones
Camera phones are hated by some, embraced by others. Just a thought why not provide them to your installers or others who are out on the job sites? They are a great way to quickly get a photo of a damaged cabinet to the factory or send back a photo example of what is otherwise a tough thing to explain? After all, time is money.

Now that we've googled, spimmed, spammed, battened down the coffers, kept the nosey people in the next seat over from checking out our computer screen and sent back a photo for posterity, I'm off to the black hole to do some filing.

Karla Krengel is a third generation kitchen and bath industry entrepreneur. She recently started Krengel Media, a publicity firm bridging the gap between kitchen designers and the media. Krengel is also recognized as the "face" of Kitchens.com, which creates Web sites for the kitchen and bath industry as well as provides design and product information. She currently sits on NKBA's sub-committee for Technology and the Professional Development committee.

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