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Symptoms of life

I'm jealous of my wife's computer. She spends more time with it than she does with me. Sure, she knows how to press my buttons, too, but lately the computer has been getting more attention than I have.

Of course, she turned to her computer because I was already spending too much time with mine. She'd call me for dinner and 45 minutes later I'd emerge from my office (which she calls "the hole") thinking just five minutes had passed. She couldn't understand it. Then she got a computer and now she understands and does it herself. If I dare ask "What's for dinner?" I'm lucky to get an answer in 45 minutes. And we have popcorn for dinner more than really seems necessary.

Sometimes I have to e-mail her downstairs to get her attention. At one point she took her computer to bed, but that was simply too much. Now she just has it on the sofa while she watches TV, which is fine except when we're watching TV together and she's glowing brighter than the screen—it brings a new meaning to "she has that special glow."

But I can't blame her—I understand all too well. My computer is more than a machine. It's a tool, sometimes a faithful friend, other times an evil nemesis. Sometimes a window to the world, other times an escape from it. Virtually always mesmerizing. It's not nearly as smart as my wife, and doesn't smell as good, but it does what I say more often.

I'm aware my computer is not alive (in the traditional sense). Since it's yet to recognize itself in a mirror, it probably can't pass for sentient. Still, it has all the symptoms of life. It puts out heat. It makes noise. It responds.

I know how to turn it on. It lights up when it sees me. It's always there for me. It does what I ask, more often than my wife (who is editing this and would have cut that sentence out if it had bothered her). I can communicate with it using touch alone. It informs me and nags me. Assists and confounds. Helps me focus and distracts me. It knows my secrets and does my bidding. It puts up with me, puts out for me and gets put out with me.

Yet like all relationships, this one has its share of pain. Sometimes we have difficulty communicating. At times we even seem to speak different languages. Occasionally I can't understand what on earth it's thinking. I ask it to do the smallest thing and it acts like it's an ordeal. If I'm upset, it just freezes, my electrical current conflicting with it. Often it just seems to ignore me. 

And lately it's started to hurt me. My hand started aching from years of moving the mouse. It's done this to me before, and usually a few day's rest and a wrist-brace get me over it, but this time it wouldn't go away. It moved into my arm, my shoulder, and then into this muscle I'd never even known existed that ran up my skull and ended in a little knot at the top of my ear. And did the computer show any sympathy? No. Come to think of it, that's also like some people I know...

I bought a wrist brace—you know the kind—it's beige and looks a little like an medieval instrument of torture. Badly designed, with Velcro and badly sewn edges that worked like sandpaper against my skin. I took it back. The computer, apparently repentant, helped me find info on the web that lead me to www.smartglove.com which was far more comfortable and helpful (but has yet to answer a single question I've posed to it, so I do wonder just how smart it is).

Next, my computer helped me find a mouse-substitute, a trackpad like the kind on laptops. I find it natural and comfortable to move the cursor just by pointing with my finger. The last time I tried to install one, it caused my previous computer to have a total nervous breakdown. This computer suggested a USB (the relationship-saving-port) one that just plugs in and works, no drivers. Now I can use any finger to point (depending on my mood!). It's helping my hand heal, and the computer enjoys accessorizing itself.

So we're back on good terms—for the time being, at least. Come to think of it, my wife would probably enjoy a little accessorizing herself. I think I'll turn off the computer now and go press my wife's buttons.

dwh sig

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Get Found On Search Sites

The last I read, over 85% of people use online use search engines to find what they're looking for. I know I do. So how do you get listed on them all? SubmitWizard, a NetObjects Matrix Service, submits your site to over 200 search engines and directories and helps your site get the exposure you've been looking for. SubmitWizard helps drive visitors to your site by automatically registering your site with Yahoo!, Excite, Alta Vista, Lycos, and the ever-popular "many more." The cost is as low as $59 for two URLs. This works for NetObjects Fusion, and everything else. Sign up for the free Matrix view at http://myservices.netobjects.com and get free photos.

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Save Your Hands, Let Someone Else Do The Work

I've found two web-based systems that make it easier for you to keep your site up to date. How? They let other people (you approve, of course) add and edit site content, so you don't have to.

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Edit A Site Section Through Your Browser

FuseDocs is the real-time way to update your Fusion web site through a web browser. With FuseDocs you can update your web site content anytime, from anywhere. Use FuseDocs for news, products, events, in fact any pages that are updated frequently.

Here's an example—you build a site but want numerous people to be able to add new pieces. With FuseDocs, they don't have to send them to you so you can put them up, they just add them to a "what's new" (or whatever you want to call it) page on your site. They do it through their own browser, too, so they don't need to have a copy of NetObjects Fusion or know how to use it.

FuseDocs doesn't let people update an entire site—just pages in one section and you need to either use Frames or IE's iFrames. Still, it's a good way to let more people work on the site.

If you're a site designer, it's also a way to let your clients update their site more frequently and easily without you having to do the editing in dribs and drabs. And FuseDocs can help you start a new revenue stream by reselling the service to your customers.

I'll be testing this on a real live site in the near future and will tell you how it goes. In the mean time, find out more at http://www.fusedocs.com

While you're at it, sign up for RedLeaf's free newsletter (short and not too often) and get four free sitestyles: http://www.redleaf.co.uk/html/free_sample.cfm

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Automate Your Links Page

Links pages are useful for you, your visitors and individuals or organizations related to what you do. Everybody wins. But links pages can also be a pain in the royal you-know to keep current. Links change. Sites disappear. People ask to trade links (you link to them, they link to you) and then you have to make sure you've added them.

I've found a site that automates link pages and lets you edit them through your web browser. http://www.linkbank.com lets you create Yahoo-style links pages, complete with categories, descriptions, and lets people search, sort, or visit just new or popular links.

Their "suggest a link" feature allows anyone to suggest a link—but you're the only one who can moderate and approve it. This means that people who want links enter their own info, and you only have to approve or reject them. The system also checks for broken links and stale links, so your links are always up to date.

There's a free version that use a basic style, paid versions with more features that can be customized to look like the rest of your site. I'll be testing this first hand in the next few weeks and will report back on how it works.

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Easy On The Hands

If your mouse is making your hand sore, you might find a trackpad a useful replacement as I did (but I'm not a doctor, so check with your doctor for medical advice!). The Cirque Easy Cat USB trackpad is under $40: http://store.yahoo.com/iesproducts/eastoucusb.html

You don't have to install any software—just plug it in and it works. That's a real improvement over pointing devices that use serial or PS/2 ports. Those need drivers and they can cause problems. But if you're using Windows 98 or later, or a Mac, USB devices really are "plug and play."

The trackpad comes with a "right tap" zone (so you can tap to get a right click) and if you slide down the right side, it's like using the scroll wheel on the mouse. Handy! You can also buy it directly from the manufacturer, http://www.cirque.com

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Paypal Adds Shopping Cart

http://www.paypal.com , the web's biggest and easiest way to take credit card payments online has added an important new feature—a secure shopping cart. This means people can now add multiple items and pay for them at once.

Their new shopping cart is free (you pay their new rate of 2.9% plus 30 cent transaction fee—less if you do over $1,000 a month—to process the credit card), and easy to use with any web building program. The only bummer—if you're already using their web-accept feature, you have to add new HTML for every single item you have. That's time-consuming, but if you do it one page at a time, then in a short time all your items will be converted.

In NetObjects Fusion, use their online wizard to create HTML, then drop it into NetObjects Fusion:

It's easy to drop your HTML into any NetObjects Fusion page:

  1. CREATE A TEXT BOX, OR DOUBLE CLICK INSIDE of an existing text box.
  2. Click your mouse where you want the HTML code.
  3. Press SHIFT-ENTER (or just plain ENTER) so that your code will be on its own line—this helps prevent formatting problems.
  4. Press the space bar once or twice. (This is optional, but it helps make the HTML icon easier to see, select and edit later).
  5. Click on the property palette's "HTML" button.
  6. Cut the HTML code from any source).
  7. Paste the code into this box and click on OK.

If you want to edit the code later, just double click on the blue icon and the HTML edit window will appear.

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Netobjects Forums Dot Com

Have questions about NetObjects Fusion? Want to meet and talk to other NetObjects Fusion people? Now there's a new place, the non-profit www.netobjectsforum.com created by Wilhem Pettersson. 

The site is new, so there isn't much traffic yet, but if you prefer web-based forums to NetObjects's own popular newsreader newsgroups (at http://www.netobjects.com/support/html/newsgroups.h tml ) then this is a place to check out.

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Coolmaps Stick 'Em Up

Want your logo or navigation to float down the page as your visitor scrolls? This kind of trick used to take a lot of hand-coded JavaScript, but coolmaps.com's StickUp component for NetObjects Fusion creates these floating with a drag and a drop (and a song in your heart). StickUp can float a single image or an entire layout region and its contents.

By allowing you to specify NOF layout regions as the floating element, StickUp lets you create custom navigation elements that stay with the user. If you place a TextTree, NOF nav buttons, or a SiteMap in the layout region, your site visitor has navigation at all times—without pesky frames.

See examples examples of StickUp in action at: http://club.coolmaps.com/examples/stickup2/index.html

Here's an example of floating "TextTree" navigation (just scroll down the page)
ttp://club.coolmaps.com/examples/stickup2/Component /component.html

Get more details at:
http://club.coolmaps.com/component_detail.cfm?nfx=77

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Do Good For Free With Just A Click

NOW is the time to visit these sites, and click to donate for free. Visit their advertisers, too, so they'll keep supporting these good causes.

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One More Thing: Computers that love

The new movie A.I. isn't great, but it does ask the interesting question of whether computers can love. (It also asks if people can love machines, but of course we can.)

Will machines ever love? Well, first we'll have to figure out what love really is (something the movie never gets into). And I imagine if finding what love is will be harder than decoding DNA. Love isn't something you can measure--it's different things for different people. And in the end, it's one of the great mysteries of the universe.

Finally, do we really want computers to love? Then they'd just get hurt feelings and be harder to work with. I think we should stick to people, animals and nature for love. Let machines be machines. They'll be happier that way.

dwh sig

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