Email Marketing - Use A Service

I occasionally get requests from clients for assistance with sending out email marketing to their existing clients. My advice in these situations is always the same: Use A Service.

Every client that I’ve dealt with that’s interested in this kind of marketing starts out planning to do it using their regular email account, but there are good reasons not to do so. The reasons for using a service break down into three key areas: creation of your content, distribution of your content, and management of your address list. Keep reading for some notes on those.

Continue reading Email Marketing – Use A Service

Monochrome Laser Printer TCO/Cost - Preliminary Results

I’m regularly asked by customers “Which laser printer should we get?” or “What’s the cheapest good laser printer?” Here’s an initial stab at answering those questions. I’ve been pulling together some numbers on the costs to purchase & run assorted monochrome laser printers. While there’s still work to be done on tracking down some items like maintenance kit part numbers and prices, none of the outstanding information is likely to lower the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a printer.

The preliminary numbers have surprised me quite a bit.

  • Brother – a company I’ve always looked at as being a good choice for a home printer – is hands-down the winner on a pure cost standpoint over almost the entire range of print volumes.
  • Hewlett-Packard/HP, which I knew would command a price premium, is never even within 15% of the best TCO, with toner costs in its low- to mid-range LaserJet printers more than twice most other manufacturers.
  • Lexmark, another brand that I expected to be somewhat pricey, was within 15% of the best TCO only with one low-end printer under very light loads typical of household use.
  • Dell, while the numbers are incomplete, looks like a very solid value for higher-volume printing or over the long term (300,000+ pages)

Read More for print volume numbers and some specific printers.

Continue reading Monochrome Laser Printer TCO/Cost – Preliminary Results

Calculating Printer Costs and TCO

I’m currently working up an article on the total cost of ownership (TCO) for printers and choosing printers for your office, but while I work on the details (including researching costs for a variety of printers) here’s some information on the calculations involved. This is important for small to midsize offices because the variation in cost between different printer manufacturers and between low-end, midrange and high-end printers can add up to thousands of dollars a year in consumables.

Currently I’m only focusing on monochrome/black & white laser printers. The same calculations can be applied to color and multifunction/all-in-one printers as far as printing is concerned, but they don’t take into account the potential added value of the additional features (and volume of color printing will vary by office). I’m also not factoring in the cost of paper, since it’s effectively a constant – it’s unlikely that paper cost will vary based on which printer is chosen.

Continue reading Calculating Printer Costs and TCO

Slow Startup with Multiple 'Starting' Services After Malware

I had an interesting problem with a server (Windows 2003 Standard) at a small business (6 users total) the other day – a very long startup time. The server in question is a standalone domain controller/DC as well as a database/application server and file/print server. Terminal Services is installed & configured, but rarely used – mostly for access from outside the office. Database and domain services/authentication were available fairly quickly, as were console logins (via UltraVNC/uVNC) – probably 15-20 minutes to that stage, but more than an hour before terminal services/remote desktop was available.

Digging around on the console attempting to track down the source of the problems, I found multiple services listed as “Starting” – all of them malware-based, with the actual infection cleaned out. My suspicion is that these non-startable services were causing the startup of other services to be delayed, though in this case I’m not really planning on setting up a test system to verify that.

In the rest of this post I’ll give a bit more detail on the scenario, what I found, what was needed to clean it out, and a few more notes on what I suspect was happening.

Continue reading Slow Startup with Multiple ‘Starting’ Services After Malware

Information Design and Graphics

While unrelated to most of the content of this site, I’d like to call your attention to David McCandless’ blog Information Is Beautiful (about graphics and data visualization) and in particular to a very nice piece on What Makes Good Information Design? – in particular the key dimensions of Interestingness, Integrity, Function and Form. Obvious in some ways, but still worth considering. Read the comments as well – there’s some worthwhile discussion in there.

He also has a few items related to medical statistics, one of which I’ve passed along to customers: How Safe is the HPV vaccine? (admittedly a controversial subject, as reflected in the comments).

(Fix) 'Another Installation is Already In Progress' installing Office 2007 over Office 2000

Ran into an interesting problem this evening – I was helping someone who was having problems with installing Office 2007 on an XP system with Office 2000 (I believe Professional) installed. The problem was that when the actual installation process started, it would hang up because another installation was running.

The standard fix for that is restarting the system to let the in-progress installation do the processing that it needs a system restart for, but in this case that wasn’t the issue.

Continue reading (Fix) “Another Installation is Already In Progress’ installing Office 2007 over Office 2000′

Avoid VBScript for Web Apps

Earlier this week I spent some time troubleshooting a browser-based application that a client is using. The problem cropped up on a PC with a clean install of Windows XP SP3 after assorted system corruption that wasn’t worth the time to repair.

Continue reading Avoid VBScript for Web Apps

When DNS and ping Fail but nslookup Works (fix, Windows)

Spent some time recently with a Windows XP laptop that would see networks fine (although IP address acquisition via DHCP seemed slower than I’d expect), but which was unable to resolve names with DNS. This was affecting IE, Firefox,  ping, basically anything that used the built-in Winsock calls such as gethostbyname(). NSLookup, on the other hand, worked just fine.

The first thing to do when facing any computer problem is to figure out where the problem lies, so it was time for a bit of sleuthing.

Continue reading (Fix) When DNS and ping Fail but nslookup Works (Windows)

Choosing Printers for the Office

For many small businesses, when it’s time to add or replace a printer in your office it’s easy to just go to an office supply store and buy whatever’s on sale. It’s also almost always a mistake.

It’s worth doing at least a little research when you’re purchasing technology items, particularly for items that you expect to last or that use consumables – specifically printers and fax machines. Because of the use of paper, toner or ink and possibly maintenance supplies, the up-front purchase price of a printer or fax machine is only a very small part of the total cost you’ll pay over several years of ownership. There may also be a surprisingly significant difference in setup costs between different pieces of equipment if you’re paying a third party to set up equipment and get it working for you.

This article leads off a series of occasional articles on purchasing printers for your office with a quick overview of some of the issues that I’ll examine in more detail in future articles.

Continue reading Choosing Printers for the Office

(Fix) r3953724.cn Malware/Adware Redirections

Quick Fix: have a program named procmon.exe running (copy of notepad.exe) to disable malware temporarily. This should let you run searches & download fixes. This is only temporary while you clean the system. Read this post for more details and please let me know in comments if this does or does not work for you.

Update/Fix:

The system did indeed have a corrupted atapi.sys file as noted in the comments, though I did not end up using ComboFix to clean it – I was able to replace the file with the identically-sized but binary-different one from the most recent service pack (C:\Windows\ServicePackFiles\i386\atapi.sys) and have not seen the same problem recurring.

In addition, if you need to prevent it from redirecting while you download fixes, you may be able to simply copy notepad.exe (or another common executable) to the name procmon.exe and run that. Last night while I still had the infection active it did not seem to redirect while procmon was running under that name, possibly as a measure to avoid detection.

At this point (several days after initial infection, more than a week after initial reports in the wild) I suspect that many of the tools linked below are updated with definitions that cover this malware so you can probably get by with simply running updated versions of those.

Continue reading (Fix) r3953724.cn Malware/Adware Redirections