Horse Sense #82
 

In this issue of Horse Sense:
  •  Tips
  •  Finding Money for Your Pet Projects (2)
 
Tips:
 
If you use multiple machines or browsers, you can synchronize bookmarks and/or passwords using software and services from <http://www.xmarks.com>.  As of now the product is in beta, so it is free.  Of course, you can always just back up your bookmarks to an HTML page....

 
To monitor whether your website is working for free, use <http://basicstate.com>.  It will run numerous tests to see if it is reachable, send you e mails if it isn't with the reason why it isn't, and track uptime and performance.

 
You can find out a lot of information about the programs you use in Windows Vista.  Open Control Panel and pick Programs and Features.  If you right click on one of the column headings like Size and then choose More you will have the opportunity to show a lot more information about each program.  Information like manufacturer telephone numbers and support links are available as is when you last used the software.  If you haven't used it in a long while, you should probably uninstall it to free up space, increase available resources, and increase reliability.

 
Did you close a tab in Firefox you didn't mean to?  Hit ctrl-shift-T and it will reappear.  If it wasn't the most recent tab, you can view the last ten you closed in History, Recently Closed Tabs.  If you need more than ten because you open more tabs than that at a time browse about:config and change the browser.sessionstore.max_tabs_undo to whatever number you would like.

 
Check for broken links on a web site at <http://validator.w3.org/checklink>.

 
If you want to add a new search engine (like YouTube or MySpace search pages) to the drop down list of search sites in Firefox, Chrome, or another Mozilla derived browser visit <http://mycroft.mozdev.org/>. Paste the link of the search page into the blank.  If you type in something generic, like maps.google.com, it will give you choices and reviews of those choices.


 
Finding Money for Your Pet Projects (2)
 
Here are some ideas on how to find money for your pet projects and how to spend that money wisely.  Some may be obvious to you.  Others may seem to repeat a point I've already made, but that is only natural since we are talking about improving on the same basic processes.  Looking at the problem from a different direction sometimes triggers a revelation.  Be on the lookout for our next Horse Sense which will cover still more ways for you to get a Return on Grief (TM).  Of course, if you have any ideas or comments you would like to share with us, we are listening!

 
Already covered in Horse Sense 81 <http://www.ih-online.com/hs81.html>:
(1)  Reexamine what you are doing.
(2)  Say no.
(3)  Use consultants.
(4)  Get a better warranty.
(5)  Do less.
(6)  Get someone else to do it who values your business.
(7)  Think small.
(8)  Be prepared.
(9)  Maintain what you have in good order.
(10)  If you can't hire staff, consider outsourcing functions.

 
(11)  Consider different methods of paying for what you need.  Remember, what you need isn't hardware or software; it is the end product that these tools can help you produce.   Think about financing (paying over time), leasing, and paying for the service or result you need rather than the product (bundled security services with a security product, outsourced desktop or server support, or pay per click printing, for example).  You could also consider "share in savings" contracting where a contractor does everything and you pay them based on what you save (a type of pay for performance contract).  Consider cost shifting.  See if you can get someone else to pay for it.  For example, if you can save money on electricity costs by implementing new products or software, can that money be added into your budget?  This is the interior version of a share in savings contract.  We know of a federal government contractor who rehabilitates buildings on its own dime and then makes its money on the back end via energy savings.  The government pays nothing for the building rehab and realizes energy savings over the long run while the contractor also makes money!
 
(12)  Use free stuff.  For example, while OpenOffice.org doesn't have some of the features and integration capabilities of Microsoft Office 2007, it looks, feels, and acts very much like Microsoft Office 2003. We've talked about many excellent and free utilities you can use in previous Horse Sense articles.
 
(13)  Consider bulk buying, even if it costs you more now.  The overall savings can be great, like 3 years worth of service while only paying for 2.  Buying extra licenses to allow for growth could lower your price per license significantly.  It will also save you the cost and hassle of a new procurement as well as having to track those licenses separately.  Remember that buying anything requires effort.  The less of it you have to do, the better your Return on Grief will be.
 
(14)  Buy for the long term.  It is a huge temptation to look at the minimum requirements now.  Don't succumb to it.  Instead, look at the maximum or worst case requirements.  Paying for a few "extras" now could help you avoid big expenses later.  Do you wonder how much drive space you need?  Buy more capacity.  Pay the small price difference for the larger drive.  If you ever need the space, it will be there.  It is a cheap form of insurance when you think about the costs of an unexpected or emergency upgrade.  I've never had anyone complain about having too much of a good thing.
 
(15)  Start at the right end of the problem.  Often, I'm asked to quote hardware for someone.  But, that is where you should end, not start.  To get the "best" answer, you should define your problem and how it needs to be solved.  Then pick software to help you do that.  Then pick hardware to run the software.  Look not only at that specific problem, but others you might expect to see.  Obviously, buying something and not solving your immediate, ancillary, and expected problems is expensive.
 
Building a strong infrastructure is always a good idea.  For example, gigabit networking might not help you to surf the web or do simple word processing, but it doesn't hurt either, and will make your backups much faster.  Disk defragmentation will make your machine run faster, last longer, and act more reliably.  For other good ideas, see "The Best Technologies You Still Aren't Using" <http://www.ih-online.com/hs80.html>.
 
(16)  Use dates wisely.  For organizations that run on a budget year, the transition gives a lot of flexibility in how you might pay for something.   It is possible to pay for something next fiscal year, but get it this year.  Also possible is paying in installments, some this year, some next.  For anything that is a recurring expense, try to move the contract renewals 6 months or so off of the fiscal end of year. Dealing with the end of an old budget and beginning of a new one is difficult enough without adding the pressure of negotiating maintenance contracts.  There can be little time for review and questions.  So, move those decisions away from your fiscal end of year to give yourself more time to deal with them effectively.
 
(17)  Keep a wish list.  A wish list is valuable in case there is some budget money left at the end of the year that must be spent.  He with a bucket available can catch funds that rain down.  Aside from being able to catch orphaned dollars, you can use it when talking to others.  They may have a similar wish list and want to combine their efforts with yours.  They may wish to fund your wish so they can also get one of their wishes fulfilled.  Especially valuable and worth filling are small wishes that contribute to morale and add excitement and camaraderie, like Toys for Techs (see <http://www.ih-online.com/hs76.html>).
 
(18)  Cut recurring costs like maintenance and support agreements and telephony costs.  Sometimes an old contract is costing a ton.  Over the last 10 years, we've changed service providers and increased our connection speeds 50 times while cutting our monthly costs in half!  Any recurring cost is a continual drag on the organization.  Think of it this way.  If you make $1 on each $10 widget you sell, for every $1 you save in recurring costs, you make the same as selling a widget a month without any effort!
 
(19)  Cut your licensing by using only what you need.  Make sure your licensing is correct.  Buying too many licenses can cost a ton of money and has zero value to you.  Do you have processes, procedures, and software for managing your software licensing?  This may seem to negate the benefits of buying extra licensing that I mention in point (13), but it is a balance folks.  Besides, you don't want to be under licensed. The legal term for that is copyright infringement and the penalties are astronomical.
 
(20)  Go green or turn it off.  You would be amazed at how much power is consumed by equipment that isn't doing anything.  So, use the off switch, power down software, replace power hungry equipment with power sipping equipment, and use smart power provisioning devices and software.
 
Investing in green technologies can pay off handsomely.  Use this savings calculator <http://www.energystar.gov/ia/products/power_mgt/LowCarbonITSavingsCalc.xls> to see how much you might save by using green technologies.  Lower energy bills can help justify the purchase of new equipment.  Consider a LaserJet 4 printer and a Xerox Phaser Color 6360 printer that are left on all year in their lowest power modes.  No one even prints to them. At 10 cents/kWh, you will pay at least $29 more a year for the LaserJet 4 just for the power usage.  This doesn't even factor in air conditioning savings and other costs.  And, you have a new, much more capable printer!  Your greatest savings will come from equipment that is on all of the time.  This includes printers, switches, routers, and servers, but can also include desktops and even speakers (which take far more power than you might think).  There are further, less obvious savings to be had.  For example, if you have maxed out your electrical system, using power saving technologies will avoid expensive and disruptive visits by the electrician.

©2009 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse tstirk@ih-online.com