Thursday, December 20, 2007

Make Moolah Online

Make Moolah Online

You might think the Witness geek has gone cheap and sleazy with today’s catch line of making money online, but I’ve just spend a whole bunch of hours researching sincere means of using a computer with an internet connection to make money.

Recently, I “found” (internet style) an old friend of mine with whom I used to work in England. She is now a full time blogger and using my newfound gadget of choice, the RSS feeder, I subscribed to her blog and discovered that she is able to make money from her blog by rating and writing about products. The more “hits” her “blogs that pay the bills” get, the better for her. One can also hire out space on blogs for adverts, and again the more popular blogs catch the biggest fish. Google AdSense seem to be leading the way in this so called contextual advertising program where adverts are blog topic related. That’s how come you often see South African “Sponsored Links” next to your Google search. Aha.

Witness Geek becomes a blogger

Like an eagle on its prey, I zoomed in and hereby loftily announce: I have a geek blog spot: which will be a working and ongoing project. That is to say, I will, over time, load all past geek articles for you to peruse. This may just be the answer to my search for a means to avail past Witness Geek articles to readers without charge.

Next I visited a South African online Auctioneer. I’m still researching this and will be filling y’all in on this in detail in the New Year.

While sniffing around there, I came across a link to the South African E-Commerce Awards and when I had a peep on, I realised I was in the company of greatness. Listed are the country’s top e-commerce companies in their particular category. So if you are not brave enough to face pull parking lots, endless cues and pushing ‘n shoving at the mall this festive season but you’ve some money to spare, here is a full list of each website voted top of its notch. Needless to say they are mooted “safe” to purchase online from.

Best Auction Website: Bid or Buy (
Best Automotive Website: Autostyle Motorsport (
Best Online Bookstore: (
Best Clothing and Accessories Store: Rebelrock (
Best Computer Store: Digital Planet (
Best Electronics Store: WebAntics Online (
Best Flower and Gift Store: Netflorist (
Best Food and Wine Store: Woolworths (
Best Game Store: BT Games (
Best Health and Beauty Store: Manology (
Best Home and Garden Store: YuppieChef (
Best Jewelry and Watches Store: (
Best Kids and Baby Store: eDreams (
Best Music and Movie Store: Musica (
Best Photographic Store: SA Camera (
Best Property Website: Private Property (
Best Sports and Outdoor Store: Sportstuff (
Best Travel Booking Website: SafariNow (
Best E-Commerce Enabler: iGroup (
Best E-Commerce Website: (

The criteria against which these websites were judged included: Website Design, Navigation, Usability and User-friendliness, Product Range and Price, Ability to contact someone from the website, Payment Options, Shipping Cost and Quality of Data.
But as if this revelation was not enough, I then went and had a look who judged these sites to be the best. Public voting accounted for 49% while a panel of judges had 51% of say. It was a mind blow to see just how far South Africans have taken the Internet (no wonder that the statistics show usage of the Internet in South Africa has grown exponentially). Each member on the expert panel has their own Internet ventures and snooping around their websites revealed a wealth of information, while I looked for more info on “how to make money on the internet”. The judges (and their own websites) consisted of: Andrea Mitchell -, Arthur Goldstuck -, Eve Dmochowska -, Gillian Meier -, Mike Stopforth -, Matthew Buckland- and Vinny Lingham - When I grow up, I wanna be like them.

Seriously though, I noticed a couple of things: firstly there is such a thing as a business blog, in fact it’s really big! Secondly I noticed that I had totally underestimated the power of online marketing and e-commerce and its future. In other words, a company worth its salt needs to not only have a website, it needs to use the website ever increasingly to generate revenue. Big words for little mice, but for example, via Eve Dmochowska’s website I found a community for South African based entrepreneurs, developers, mentors and investors interested in the online space and it’s called Over and above that, Ms Dmochowska has not one but two RSS feed ready business blogs, separated by category.

Gillian Meier is a Search Engine Optimisation Analyst and Internet Marketing Professional, and I didn’t even know there was such a thing. It makes perfect sense to hire somebody like this if you want to raise your websites profile but have no idea how. I am so proud these two are South Africans as well as of the female persuasion. Now, if you want to learn the tricks of the trade yourself, Ms Meiers provides Web Intellect and Internet Marketing training. I couldn’t agree more to the concept of sharing knowledge.

So I’m thinking if there are matrics out there that have just been spewed onto the system without a prospective job in the New Year, I can envisage that entering this career path would be fertile ground as we are still in the growing stage.

To knock off todays article I found a funky website after my own heart, and it’s called Think Geek. specialises in Geek T-Shirts, Geek Toys and other Apparel and I had a good laugh surfing through some of the products, maybe you will, too?

The Witness Geek wishes all her reader a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. You can email her on

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Geeky Christmas presents

Geeky Christmas Ideas

The festive season is upon us and you need to rack your brains for some new gift ideas. So do I and I’ve been keeping a geeky eye on what’s out there.

Idea number one: If you’ve grasped the broadband nettle, you or your kids may want to play a game or two. I’ve searched local stores for a dinosaur game for my four year old and come up blank. I turned to the Internet and found a cute game called Diego`s Dinosaur Adventure. My son loves it. It came from a site called that prides itself on a new game per day. Their games are good and varied; there are kid’s games, puzzles, card games, word games, hidden treasure games and more. The games are either playable online or downloadable. You are expected to create an account after which you can try any game for free for an hour. Seeing as they have hundreds of games, that alone would keep you gaming for a while. Playing a game usually involves a chunky download procedure only recommended with broadband. I chose to buy a game and picked the Casual Pack option which allows me to download two games within two months for the price of approximately R70 per game and thus play as often as I like and for as long as I like. I paid by Credit Card and when I queried the BigFish Help desk if I can download the game on my home computer, I received a prompt and helpful return email, so the big fishies are on the ball. I recommend this site if you have cap left at the end of the month and you give the kids the go ahead to “play around”.

Idea number two: If you’ve splurged out and acquired an mp3 player, be it to enhance your jogging or hiking experience or if you are a married insomniac whose mind does not stop when your spouse expects lights out peace ‘n quiet, here’s an idea: Audio books. Having just returned from a visit to my family, I discovered that my sister is as much of a geek as I am. She has surfed the Net and shared three wonderful audio book sites with me:, and (which have free text and audio books). These sites allow you to download audio books in mp3 format for free. The trick here is to right click over the link and choose “Save Target As”. This will save the mp3 straight to your hard drive, from where you can transfer it to a DVD for your DVD player or to your mp3 player. The selection of audio books available is immense and the reason they are free is because they are old and the copyright has expired. Titles such as Huckleberry Finn by or Treasure Island are available. The books are separated into “human read” and “computerised text-to-voice conversions” and I wouldn’t bother with the computer version as it does not make for a pleasurable listening experience.
If you support South African music, visit for a selection of free SA music. I recommend the video ‘Dragonflies & Astronauts’ by the Parlotones, it’s phenomenal!

Idea number three: I dropped by my local Kodak Express shop at Scottsville today and owner Paul Henman proudly showed off his Kodak Printing Kiosk. You’ve probably seen these machines in photo printing shops all around town and at Cascades, the Mall, Howick with Fuji equivalents at Hayfields shopping centre. What these nifty little numbers do is allow us mere mortals to plug and play. They have zillions of slots under the monitor which take just about any interface you can think of from CD’s, DVD’s, stiffy’s, USB memory sticks, XD-Picture Cards, Mini SD, Multimedia/SD/RSMMC, Smart Media, Compact Flash to cell phones with either Bluetooth or infrared. The Kiosk siphons the photographs off your cell phone/memory stick/whatever and starts giving you printing options of photos you select. These options range from Christmas greeting cards inclusive of the photo of your choice, to ID Photos, 2008 Calendars by month or year your photo as centre piece, birthday cards, invites, announcements and refined collages of a range of your pictures. You are then guided through photographic enhancement options such as sepia or black and white conversions, as well as red eye reduction and contrast/brightness balance. It then bombards you with over one thousand border choices, background options and the ability to add your own text. It’s all touch screen and very simple. Once you have made your choices you can then print to your hearts content with print pricing as low as R2 per jumbo if you print ten or more. Greeting cards have panorama dimensions and A4 collages cost around R20. These photos are then not spewed out on a little home photo printer next to the Kiosk, in case you’re wondering, they are sent to and printed on the shops’ printing equipment and it all happens while you wait. You are even able to burn a CD with your selection of photos, which is ideal if you want to dump the pictures off of your cell phone.

Ho Ho Happy Christmas shopping to you all. You can contact the geek on

Get news delivered to your desktop

Feeding Frenzy

Before I fast forward this week into RSS feeds, I need to backtrack to the last geek column on Microsoft Backup. I need to add the following bit of information as I’ve had quite a few readers telling me they cannot find Backup in their version of Windows.

The Backup utility is not included in the default installation of Windows XP Home Edition. The Backup icon is not present on the Start menu in Windows XP Home Edition, nor is Backup listed in Add Remove Programs for Windows XP Home edition. You need to dig up the Windows CD and double-click the Ntbackup.msi file in the following location on the Windows XP Home Edition CD-ROM to start a wizard that installs Backup:

If you don’t come right with that, I asked a guru which free backup software he recommends outside Microsoft. He recommends Cobian and here’s the link to download it :

On with the news, particularly seeing as the Witness has revamped not only it’s printed format, but totally upped its website. I noticed it now has a RSS feed. I bit the bullet and fed myself with all the information surrounding this buzzword.

RSS has been around for a good ten years, but once I started playing around with it, I got as hooked as I ever have over numerous geek gadgets I’ve investigated in the past. That is because I’m a self confessed news junkie. I crave knowing what’s happening in the world and spend at least an hour a day surfing the net for news.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is mostly used for news and blog websites. If all the information you ever wanted to read was on one website, you could just keep that website open in your web browser and refresh it every now and then, to see new stories as they get added. But with diverse interests and blogs of friends you want to keep on top of, you end up surfing to several sites frequently. But if a website had a RSS feed (and not all do), the difference is that you could subscribe to this feed and see news in chronological order.

In its simplest form a RSS feed could be viewed and added to Favourites in Internet Explorer 7. If you open a website and the RSS icon in the toolbar goes from grey to orange, that website has a feed. You can access it by clicking on the down arrow next to the RSS icon and choosing the option. In the RSS feed page, you now have the option to subscribe to this feed, and it will put the link in your Favourites (click on the star), but under the Feed tab. A web feed in Internet Explorer looks like the head and shoulders of a number of news stories listed underneath each other. If you click on one, it opens up fully.

To get the full experience and to understand why feeds are so popular, you would need to get a feed reader. They are also known as
RSS readers, feed aggregators, news readers or search aggregators.

I asked someone in the know and he recommended RSS Bandit. It’s free from and the download clocks in at 8.4Mb. Subscribing to feeds is really only viable if you have a permanent internet connection, although you can use it with dial-up, but obviously if you wanted to expand a story or update the feeds, it will only do that when you’re online.

RSS Bandit looks and works very, very similarly to Outlook Express. It has the Outlook three-windows layout, which gets you orientated fast. A feed is not that unsimilar to an email, especially a newsletter type email which allows you to “click through” to the full story. I quickly came right.

A few blogs and news feeds are preloaded to give you an idea of how to organise your own “personal newspaper” as some refer to their feed reader as, and adding a new feed only requires you to know the web address where the feed is located. The subscription wizard will sniff out the rest. So, to add the Witness web feed, you would click on New (situated in the same place as New Email in Outlook Express) and when asked for a URL, you would put . It will sniff out the feed and allow you to add it in a folder of your choice (i.e. The News folder). It will list the feeds it finds in date order and you will be able to keep abreast of stories as they break, without having to wait for tomorrows printed edition. I also added the feed from and East Coast Radio’s news watch blog by using this URL :

Each feed can be configured individually, for example how often should the feed be updated (default is every hour) and how old the feeds can get before they fall off.

Blogs of your friends can be easily added and save you having to surf to their blog to see if something new has been posted. If there’s a new post, you will see it like an unread email. For instance, to add Zephyr, a local band’s blog, put this in the URL when clicking on the subscription wizard. Save it under Blogs and never miss their news. Or try find the Rama lady’s blog spot? Hahaha, just kidding, but a recipe blog would make the “What’s for dinner” decision easier, hmm? Mmmwhahaha, I will convert you yet, you will all be geek housewives! Go to to find blogs of your liking.

Another way to describe feeds is that content is “pulled” by the subscriber, not “pushed” by email or other means. The subscriber can also easily unsubscribe to the feed. It leaves you feeling more in control.

But technology being ever on the move, feed readers now have pod casting capabilities which can automatically download media files, such as
MP3 recordings.

Web-based feed readers are making inroads, with the Google Reader ( leading the way. Here the difference is that you can use any computer with Internet and surf to your Google feed reader and see the latest feeds you are interested in as it is customised using your Google username. I can see this catching on in South Africa as soon as “getting on the net” from just about any location becomes easy and affordable.

The Witness Geek can feed you more on this and other computer related issues. Email her on

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Backing up with MS Backup

Backing up with MS Backup

So you know how important backing up your vital information is, right?

When people talk about “their backup”, they are referring to their unique disaster recovery plan as it pertains to their information stored on their computer(s). It most certainly means different things to different people and involves different processes. Still, at its core is the copying of data. Yet everybody should revisit their procedures once in a while and check that they are still covered for all eventualities and a mock disaster recovery may highlight shortfalls early. For the home user this would mean checking that their backup process and media actually works by doing a test restore. I have repeatedly heard people recount how they had been under the impression that they were doing regular backups, but when an emergency arose and they needed to restore, they discovered that they had not been backing up correctly and no data was actually saved. Or that their memory stick had become corrupt. A costly mistake.

It is also important to assess exactly what data you deem important enough to back up and how often. The obvious choice would be documents usually stored in “My Documents”. Then there is the email address book and maybe even all the emails. Certainly data of financial or ERP packages should be backed up. (Many programs have an internal backup process.) System data, including registry data and the creation of a system disk chould be part of a full backup process. However, backing up of programs such as Microsoft Word or Excel are usually not necessary as reinstalling is probably easier.

In a recent article, I mentioned the different backup media available, be it CDs or DVDs, external hard drives or memory sticks. This time round, let’s talk about using backup software. Just before I dive in, I want to stress again how important it is to keep a recent backup of your data physically away from the location where your computer is, mainly for fire and theft eventualities.

Lately, I was introduced to the Microsoft Backup program. It’s got unique features that a normal copy & paste process does not allow for.

There is some specific terminology associated with backing up of data, so hang in there while I give you a brief 101.

Archived Yes or No
If you right click over a data file, and left click on “Properties”, you should see the files’ “Attributes” at the bottom. The interesting one is the “Archive” attribute which toggles between Yes and No. If a file has never been backed up before, the “Archive” box is ticked to indicate its willingness to be backed up.

Normal and/or Incremental Backups
If a “Normal” or “Incremental” Backup is done on this file, the “Archive” tick is cleared to proudly display the files’ relief at having been backed up. The minute a change is made to the file, i.e., the file is modified, the archive tick returns to indicate that this file needs to be backed up again.

Most commonly, you would do a “Normal” backup the first time you back up your data. This may take some time so plan this initial backup so as not to interfere with your daily workings.

The next time a backup is done, it is a good idea to use the “Incremental” setting. It will look through the “Archived” attributes described earlier and only those files which have changed or have been created since the “Normal” backup, will now be backed up. This form of backup saves time and space. The drawback is that in the event of a restore, it will have to go through all increments to sniff out the latest copies of all files.

This type of backup also sniffs out only those files which have a checked “Archived” attribute and backs them up. It does not, however, change the “Archive” status, but leaves it as it found them, i.e. “ticked”.

In a “Daily” backup, the Microsoft Backup program backs up only files that have been modified or created on that day. It does not care about, nor change the “Archive” status.

This type of backup allows the user to do a simple backup of the files specified, once again without change to the “Archive” status.

That’s some of the technical mumbo jumbo out the way.

How now brown cow?
Start MS Backup by clicking on Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Backup. If this is too much of a Schlepp, right click on ‘Backup’ and “Send to Desktop (create shortcut)” and use it from there.

If you’re using Backup for the first time, you will be launching the Wizard, which will ask you to Backup or Restore a bunch of files. Let’s start with an ordinary backup.

For a comprehensive backup, choose the top option available in the Wizard which is “My Documents and Settings”. It will take your “My Documents” folder along with your “Favourite” websites and keep your desktop settings and cookies. This backup will take some time and it will be rather large as backing up does not compress data.

If you know what you want to back up, you may want to “Let me choose what to back up”. This option allows you, via typical Windows navigation, to backup specific folders or files by ticking the box next to them.

For a complete hard drive dump, choose “All information on this computer”. This option backs up your data and even creates a system recovery disk which can restore Windows in emergencies. Needless to say this backup will be big and take long. I would recommend this backup to go onto an external or at least separate hard drive.

Once you’ve chosen what to back up, the next step is to choose a destination and a name, in other words where to dump the backup and what to call it. If you intend to burn this backup file to a CD or DVD afterwards, dump this file on your hard drive for now and burn it to disc afterwards. If you’re backing up to an external hard drive or a memory stick, you can choose this location straight away by clicking on “Browse”. It’s a good idea to create a dedicated folder for this purpose.

A good naming convention for your backup is to use the date, but don’t use symbols. So use a name such as 081107 to indicate 8 November 2007 instead of 8/11/2007.

If you click on Next now, you can choose “Advanced” to select the type of backup I described earlier (i.e.. Normal, Incremental, Differential, Daily or Copy).

More options
There are extra, extra options including data verification, shadow copying and whether you want to append (tack at the end of a previous backup) or overwrite a backup, and you can even schedule a time and date when the backup must run, but clicking your way past all these options will eventually kick start the backup process. Once it’s done, you are able to view the backup report or click on close to finish the backup process. A file with a .bkf extension is created.

System State
If you’re wondering how to back up the System State such as Boot files, COM and Class Registration Database as well as the Registry, choose “Let me choose what to back up”. Now find “My Computer” and expand it. Tick the option “System State” at the bottom and proceed.

Double clicking on the backup file will launch Microsoft Backup again and you can now choose to restore part or all the data you previously backed up.
Further restore options you have are to restore to the original location or a different location, and you get to choose whether to leave existing files or replace them.

For your real life backup when your computer is misbehaving, contact Andrea on