Monday, July 20, 2009

Is Email Becoming Obsolete?

WXPNews: Published by Sunbelt Software since 2001
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Vol. 9, #80 - Jul 21, 2009 - Issue #388

 Is Email Becoming Obsolete?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Is Email Becoming Obsolete?
    • Follow-up: Web Browser as Operating System
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Google appears to be optimizing Chrome browser for Windows XP
    • How to keep XP running in a Windows 7 world
    • Tech Support Saga
    • Next Gen Notebook Computer Designs?
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to change the size of desktop icons in XP
  5. XP Security News
    • Phishing scam targets Hotmail users
  6. XP Question Corner
    • Is there a way to get gadgets in XP?
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Virtual memory error message when you try to start an Office program
    • Computer hangs if maximum log file size is set incorrectly
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • AceReader Pro

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 Editor's Corner

Is Email Becoming Obsolete?

It's been over a year since the "experts" cited by Bombay Business Standard pronounced email (along with instant messaging) an "obsolete tool that could act as a roadblock for the growth of web collaboration."
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Online-Networking

They weren't the first or only ones to declare email on its way out. A year earlier, I first read a NetAge blog post titled "Email is for Old People." The basic premise was that young folks see email as only slightly less primitive than communicating by carrier pigeon or smoke signals. "Young people post. They don't email," according to the speaker quoted in the post.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Old-People-Email

I admit I dismissed the idea at the time. My Inbox was as full as ever - hundreds of messages per day - and the vast majority of my business was conducted via email. I found it hard to imagine that any other technology could replace email, although I certainly saw the usefulness of other means of communication in certain situations. Well, here we are approaching the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, and email is still an important part of my communications infrastructure. Checking my mail is still the first thing I do when I sit down at my computer each day. I still get a large volume of mail from friends, family, readers and business associates.

However, I've noticed a significant decline in email traffic over the last year or so. I still get a lot, but not nearly as much as I once did. It's not that I'm communicating less or with fewer people - in fact, I'm communicating an increasing amount of information to more people than ever before - but I am, indeed, often using other tools to do it. And I like that flexibility.

I can't help but think social networking sites have caused some of this reduction in email. In many cases where I would previously have emailed several different friends and family members with a bit of news (such as the fact that my daughter was coming home for a visit or that my son was going to Spain for a chess tournament), now I just post that news to my Facebook site and all those same friends and family members see it there. For longer, one-to-one communications, I often find myself getting private messages on Facebook instead of emails. There are several email discussion lists I've belonged to for over a decade. Several of these lists that formerly were very active have gone almost dormant in the last year. It's not because the members suddenly stopped having anything to say to one another. It's because most of the members have joined Facebook, and we've formed groups there where we now carry on the discussions that were done via email in the past.

I'm getting less business-related email these days, too, even though I'm working as much as ever (and still doing most of it online). In cases where, in the past, I would have been emailing documents and revisions back and forth with editors or clients, now we post them to a SharePoint site or share them via Groove. And information that once might have been shared in email messages is now disseminated - with real time interaction and graphical illustrations - via Live Meeting.

Even WXPnews/VistaNews reader feedback has recently been moved from an email model to web forums. Why? There are several advantages. Before, I had to read through all the email messages and pick the ones to print in the follow-up. We were limited in the number we could share with the rest of the readers. With the forums, anyone can post and everyone can see all the posts - and readers can interact with each other, responding to one another's comments. It's also more timely; you don't have to wait until the next newsletter comes out to see what other people are saying. And with the old model, if your email got in after the next newsletter was written, it wouldn't get printed, no matter how insightful and profound it was. This is another example of a case where the web application works better than email for the specific purpose.

We're even getting less email spam than before, and have been wondering if that's because the spammers are starting to focus more on social networking sites and other more "modern" communications venues. After all, the youth market is a big one for marketers and if young people aren't using email, spam that's aimed at them will better reach its target audience through the technologies that they do embrace.

On the other hand, some say it's the other way around, that it's the prevalence of spam that has caused the decline in email. In fact, many people have apparently turned to text messaging instead of email to avoid spam - but that, of course, leads to a new phenomenon: spam text messages. In this case, the cure could be worse than the disease; if you don't have an unlimited texting plan, you not only end up with ads but you have to pay for them.

Maybe that's the reason web based communications such as Facebook and Twitter have gained so much popularity. This also signals a subtle change in the scope of our communications as well as just the technology by which we communicate, a move from one-to-one messaging toward one-to-many broadcasting. After all, it's much more efficient to impart the info to a group than to send it to one person at a time. Sure, we've always been about to copy an email message to multiple recipients, but there's a difference. Broadcasting to your Facebook friends list is more dynamic than sending an email message with a large cc: list.

So does all this mean I'm going to be uninstalling Outlook and tearing down my Exchange server? Hardly. The nice thing about today's technology is that you have more options, and you can pick the medium that best fits the message. I still use email a lot, but I also use Twitter for some types of communications, Facebook for others, instant messaging for still others. Heck, on occasion I still make phone calls or even go the really old-fashioned route and send a letter on paper in a stamped envelope through the postal service.

I'm learning, too, that certain people are best reached through particular venues. I have friends who have Facebook pages but they almost never visit or update them, whereas I know other folks who never check their email, but a Facebook message gets their attention immediately. Some people (like me) don't answer the phone any more than absolutely necessary and try to keep those conversations as short as possible. Others prefer voice communications over any other kind. Some are logged into their IM client all day and night, whereas others avoid instant messaging like the plague. Different strokes for different folks, and if you want your message to get to the right person, as quickly as possible, it pays to know your audience.

One thing that could drastically reduce my usage of email in a hurry is the implementation of a proposal that's being put forth by numerous people and organizations, to impose a tax of "a few cents per message" on email. It's an idea that's been floating around for a long time (including in hoax messages that falsely stated such a bill was already before the U.S. Congress), and most recently was semi-endorsed by a piece in the New York Times:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Taxing-eMail

In addition to killing newsletters such as this one (which would cost us over $10,000 per week if a one cent per message tax were imposed), such taxation would cause many individuals and businesses to find other ways to communicate over the Internet. We can send private messages on Facebook, set up more SharePoint servers, IM instead of emailing, and otherwise use alternatives to email that aren't subject to the tax. The tax is presented as a way to protect us from spam, but what it would really do, in my opinion, is make email obsolete.

What do you think? Do you use email as much as ever, or have you seen the amount of outgoing and/or incoming mail decline recently? Does that correspond to your use of social networking sites? Do you know people who never check their email at all? Are you one of those people? Which electronic communications method would you choose if you were limited to only one for all your communications? Would you stop sending email if you had to pay a tax on each message? We encourage you to discuss this topic in our forums at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Forum-Discussion


Follow-up: Web Browser as Operating System

As noted, we are actively transitioning to the web forums for feedback and discussion of the weekly editorial and other newsletter topics. We've gotten some pushback from readers who aren't happy with that decision, but many of you have started using the forums and it's made for some lively discussions.

Last week's editorial regarding Google's goal of making the web browser the OS (or perhaps more accurately, making the web browser the OS interface/shell) inspired much talk and a bit of disagreement in the forums about the proper role of government and anti-trust laws, as well as opinions about thin clients and cloud computing. It appears there's still a great deal of distrust and antipathy toward that concept among our readers.

And as MikeP1975 noted, no matter what Google may be calling it, "The Chrome OS isn't an OS at all. Linux is the OS in that package. The Chrome OS is just a user interface that Google designed which runs on top of Linux. It's no more an OS than Windows 3.1 was running on top of DOS."

I'm not about to get involved in the little tiff between Killing Time and Minnesota Slim. I do have to say that one thing I preferred about email feedback was that, in most cases, I knew the name (at least the first name) of the person whose feedback I was reading. I do believe that, in general, anonymity tends to loosen lips and make (some) people more disagreeable, but I commend our readers for staying pretty cordial and professional on the forums so far, even when in disagreement.

If you haven't joined the forums yet, check out these discussions at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Forums

Thanks to all of you who put your two cents' worth in on this topic!
'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor
feedback@wxpnews.com

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication called VistaNews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-VistaNews

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-WServerNews

Look up the WXPnews Fan Page and join us on Facebook!

Quotes of the Week

Ability will never catch up with the demand for it. - Malcolm Forbes (1919 - 1990)

Not even computers will replace committees, because committees buy computers. - Edward Shepherd Mead

If you aren't fire with enthusiasm, you will be fired, with enthusiasm. - Vince Lombardi (1913 - 1970)


Keep The Bad Guys Out With The Sunbelt Personal Firewall

Why do I need a firewall? Together with antivirus and antispyware, a firewall is a "must" to protect your computer. PC Magazine gave the Sunbelt Personal Firewall a "Very Good" rating with 4 Stars and a conclusion of "good protection". Check out the Reviews on the site and it will be clear why you need the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to protect your PC. One good example: Unlike the Windows XP and Vista Firewall, you can tell the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to look carefully at the data leaving your browser, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, bank account, social security number and PIN code do not get stolen by hackers!
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-SPF


 Cool Tools

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without

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Vista gets bogged down very quickly! Advanced Vista Optimizer will tweak Vista for Max performance. Easy to use:
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Backups? Why back up when you can sync? Simply replicate every piece of data to another drive in real-time.Set it and forget it.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-GoodSync


 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Google appears to be optimizing Chrome browser for Windows XP

Despite all the talk about Google coming out with their own operating system for netbooks, over the last few weeks it's appeared that they're working to optimize the Chrome browser for better performance on XP. After all, XP currently is the most popular OS for netbooks, and it looks as if they may be hoping to "sneak in through the back door" in that market by getting today's netbook users to adopt their browser. Read more here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Chrome3


How to keep XP running in a Windows 7 world

Many individuals and organizations will be moving to Windows 7 soon. The new OS has gotten excellent reviews prior to its release and many of those who chose not to upgrade to Vista are ready now to take the plunge. But if you're not one of them, there's still life in the old XP OS yet. Although it was written with a business audience in mind, many of the tips in this article also apply to individual XP users who want to stick with what they've got:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-XP-WIN7


Tech Support Saga

Last week, one of the nice, new, quiet Nehalem computers we recently bought suddenly started sounding like a 747 in its death throes. Thus began my adventure with HP technical support. Although we have five HPs in the house, we'd never before needed to call tech support, so this was an opportunity to find out how their service compared to that of Dell. You can read about my hour and half on the phone with them in my blog at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Tech-Support


Next Gen Notebook Computer Designs?

I've often thought that I could design a better notebook computer than any of those on the market. If only I could take some features from this model and combine them with other features from that model, I'd have the perfect portable. Well, apparently there are some designers out there who are willing to think outside the box - and some of these notebook designs are way outside. I still don't see my dream notebook here, but it's interesting to see what might be in the works when it comes to new and innovative notebook designs.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Notebook-Design


 How To: Using XP Features

How to change the size of desktop icons in XP

If you don't like the default size of the icons on your desktop, you can't just right click and select View like you can in Vista, but there are a couple of ways to make the change.
  1. In the Display Properties dialog box, click Appearance.
  2. Click Advanced.
  3. In the drop-down box, select Icon
  4. Change the size (larger number = large icon size)
Another way to change the icon size is with Deskview, a small free program that quickly changes icons from large to small. You can read about it and find a link to download it here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Deskview


 XP Security News

Phishing scam targets Hotmail users

If you have a Windows Live Hotmail account, don't be fooled by this phishing scam that purports to be an email sent from Hotmail Customer Care. It attempts to get you to provide your username, password, date of birth and country, threatening that your account will be shut down if you don't. Find out more here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Hotmail-Scams


 XP Question Corner

Is there a way to get gadgets in XP?

QUESTION:
My wife has Vista on her new laptop. She likes it, but she's also had a few problems. I don't like the "new and improved" Explorer and my older computer wouldn't run Vista very well, anyway, I'm afraid. What I do like about Vista: gadgets. I tried downloading a sidebar program for XP from Thoosje but it only lets you have the handful of gadgets that come with it. Is there any way to add gadgets to it or is there another program that offers more different gadgets on XP? I don't care if they're on a sidebar or just sit on the desktop. Thanks! - Jim L.

ANSWER:
The Thoosje sidebar has the basic gadgets similar to the default ones on the Vista sidebar - clock, calendar, notes, weather - but it certainly doesn't have the flexibility that the real Vista sidebar has. For those who only want those basics, you can download it at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Thoosje

If you want something a little more sophisticated, Stardock's DesktopX works on XP (and Vista) and lets you put objects and widgets (which are like gadgets) on your desktop. There is a whole gallery of widgets available for download and you can even create your own widgets. Find out more about it here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Desktopx


 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

Virtual memory error message when you try to start an Office program

If you attempt to start one of the Office 2003 or 2007 applications and you get an error message that says "Your system is low on virtual memory," it may be that the paging file value is set too low. To fix the problem, you need to increase the size of the paging file. To find out how to do that, see KB article 826513 at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Office-Memory-Error


Computer hangs if maximum log file size is set incorrectly

If you change the maximum log size settings for event logs and you don't apply the changes correctly, the log may grow too large and cause the services.exe process to use a large amount of memory, which can result in the computer hanging (stops responding). To find out more about this problem and its resolution, see KB article 329095 at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-Max-Log-File-Size


 Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: WXPNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.


 Product of the Week

AceReader Pro

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Do you pronounce words in your mind as you read? Do you find yourself re-reading sentences and paragraphs over and over again? If you answered yes to either of these two questions it is likely that you can become faster reader through learning how to "Speed Read". Ace Reader was again awarded the People's Choice Award for Best Educational Program or Game by the Software Industry Conference held in Boston July 15-18th, 2009. Find out how to cut your study time, get a competitive edge in this cut throat employment market. AceReader Pro really works! The more you practice the better you get. Read the whole story and download the free evaluation to start reading faster. WXPNews readers get an exclusive $5.00 discount with purchase.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090721-AceReader


 About WXPnews

What Our Lawyers Make Us Say
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