How IT Administrators Disable USB Ports in Offices

How IT Administrators Disable USB Ports in OfficesDesktop computers equipped with open USB ports are a common sight among offices. Unlike earlier computers that needed to sport obscure ports or connectors designed for each specific hardware, today’s typical USB port allows workers to utilize a multi-use, universal embrasure for a variety of productive tasks such as printing, scanning, storage, and networking, among many others.

However, enabling this kind of openness in the workplace for gizmos or other hardware can post great security threats since mischievous office staff can virtually plug in any capable flash drive, external hard disk drive, or even normal music player to copy or transfer sensitive corporate data to their devices in a breeze. Some ‘smart’ employees even resort to the unethical practice of copying licensed software for personal use through USB ports, while some wicked parties use them to inject Trojan horses, viruses, or spyware into their office networks.

While putting in and pulling off stuff into workplace networks can be convenient and efficient, some IT experts still find it potentially harmful. In the interest of network security, some admins only find it prudent to deliberately disable USB drives to prevent employees from using them. The ways in which IT administrators address security concerns involving USB ports are as follows.

The Smart Ways

  • Changing the BIOS settings for each workstation and then assigning passwords to the BIOS settings to prevent non-admins from modifying them.
  • Disabling write access or write privileges to USB ports via Windows Registry so that data cannot be transferred to a connected device (and thus rendering them as read-only).
  • Completely disabling users from attaching and reading USB storage devices by editing values of certain registry entries or adding new registry keys.
  • Disabling USB ports from the Device Manager function of Windows or uninstalling the USB mass storage drivers completely.
  • Creating a Group Policy that disables read and write access to USB devices attached to computers within the network.
  • Unplugging the built-in USB ports from the PC card or bracket within the motherboard to prevent users from connecting to this common PC component.

The Not-So-Smart Ways

  • Completely disabling USB ports by “gumming” them up, e.g., filling them with thick epoxy adhesives to render the ports unusable for life (the radical solution).
  • Fixing tapes over USB ports to prevent USB device insertion (the dumb solution).
  • Downloading paid or free software such as Intel’s USB Blocker or IntelliAdmin’s USB blocking tool for those who don’t want to mess around the registry entries.

Choosing among either the smart or the not-so-smart ways has a downside for IT administrators, however. Both approaches can eventually appear counter-productive because workers can no longer use and attach wireless mouse, USB keyboards, and/or cameras, printers, or microphones to their computers, which, for the most part, are still essential to the daily work grind.

Specifically, if sysads choose to go ply the radical route — a.k.a. making physical changes to the actual setup of the PCs — then future users of any given workstation will never be able to use the USB ports ever again. In essence, this is impractical because it’s akin to ruining an entire system just to disable one measly component.

Henry Conrad is a 29-year-old game developer from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Aside from gaming and being a tech junkie, he also dabbles in creative writing, which allows him to create great storylines and backgrounds for his characters. Follow him on Twitter and join him in Google+.

Image: USB Stencil Red by *USB* (via Flickr)

Fax Online for the Sake of Efficiency

Fax Online for the Sake of EfficiencyEvery day, new ways of using the Internet are being discovered. When people first started using the Internet, they used it to find new pieces of information that weren’t easily available in books at home or at the local library. As time has gone on, we’ve learned to use it for everything from seeking out bargains to finding directions to communicating and connecting with other people. Give it a few more years, and we might well wonder if there’s anything the Internet won’t be able to do.

Sometimes, we can even use the Internet to extend the usefulness of external technologies — such as sending text messages to our friends’ cellphones from our home computers. You can even fax documents to your customers with the help of a service like RingCentral. What is nice about this service is you can do it from anywhere without using a fax machine. This means that even you if you are at the beach or inside your hotel room during your vacation, you can still fax those important documents to your customer by using your computer or even your smartphone. Just make sure there is a strong Wi-Fi or Internet connection where you are located.

When you fax your documents to your customers, you can do away with asking for a fax tone before you can begin sending documents. What is important is that your customer’s fax machine is online. Just click on the Send as Internet Fax button and your document is off to your customer’s fax machine. If you feel the need to send another copy of the document, just click on the same button again. Unlike when you are using a fax machine, you don’t have to re-insert the document or documents in the machine to fax again.

What many businessmen like about sending fax through the Internet is that it’s cost efficient. If there is something you’d have to pay for before you can send a fax through the Internet, it would be just the fax service. The amount you’d pay for the fax service is such a small amount compared to what you’d have to spend for a fax machine or for its repair if it were to break down. (But if you happen to have a fax machine, I would suggest that you still keep it where it is. You may find it still handy just in case something happens to your Internet service!)

Speed is another reason I find sending fax through the Internet much better than using a fax machine. Documents travel faster through the Internet because it makes use of digital or electromagnetic signals, which travel faster. Don’t you find it boring to wait for the fax machine to finish scanning the documents before they’re finally sent down the telephone wire? The reason data travels slowly down the telephone wire is it’s in the form of analog or electrical signals.

These are just a few of the reasons that make sending fax through the Internet more economical and practical compared to using the fax machine. But even though this method of sending faxes is gradually gaining popularity, a lot of people still use the fax machine — especially if they are in a hurry to send documents that have no electronic copies or have yet to be scanned.

Do you still have a use for an old-fashioned fax machine, or do you rely on the Internet to do the job? Please leave a comment below and let us know!

Image: FAX and VHS — How Old Skool by schatz

Essential Apps for Business Phone Users

Essential Apps for Business Phone UsersWhen your company hands you a smartphone for office use, you may want to maximize its capabilities to help you out with work. You shouldn’t consider it as just a status symbol for your position within the company or as a way for your boss or colleagues to contact you. What you have in your hand is actually a tool for multitasking and making your work easier. You may not realize it, but with the right mobile applications, it could very well be a great personal assistant.

To help you understand just what your smartphone can do, here are some great apps for you to have:

Evernote

When you attend meetings, one of the most important things you can have is a note pad. What makes Evernote an awesome note-taking app is that it consolidates all media you can record that’s related to a meeting or event into virtual notebooks that you can peruse later. You can take pictures, record voice or sound, and even store videos of presentation as part of your “notebooks.” Another great thing about this app is that you can access it from your work or home PC afterwards.

Dropbox

When you’re working with a lot of files that people need access to all the time, this file-sharing app may be a great choice for your office. You can give all your staff access to this account and let them see work files even from their own PCs and mobile phones.

RingCentral

Communication through smartphones doesn’t stop with mobile phone networks. You can actually make and receive calls for your company through a smartphone. The RingCentral app comes free with its cheap business phone system. You can manage all the phones in your office through a simple mobile app. You can answer calls using your business phone number at the office with your smartphone as if it were two phones in one.

JotNot

Your smartphone can let you scan documents and send them directly to your email or even file-sharing apps like Dropbox. JotNot can let you copy notes, magazine articles, and other documents easily and upload them to the cloud for shared viewing. You can send large files in a variety of formats as well. This makes things much easier for you and cuts down on time you need to write down details.

SlideShark

You no longer have to lug a heavy laptop around just to be able to plug into a projector. With the right adaptor and app like SlideShark, you can use or handheld device to make presentations at meetings. You can even share or send the presentations via Bluetooth. What’s more, you can also actually edit the presentations right on your smartphone.

What apps increase your business productivity? Can you suggest any that I missed? Please leave a comment and let us know!

How Google Has Helped America’s Brick and Mortar Businesses

Surprising statistics indicate, according to Google, that Internet searches are actually contributing to the bottom line of brick and mortar businesses around the globe. In fact, Google’s statistics suggest that the average American alone will spend some $2000 a year, contributing to some $500 Billion in annual sales at an offline marketplace after first researching the desired product or service via the World Wide Web.

How Many People Who Look Online Buy Offline?

It is estimated that this strategy, which I have occasionally favored, is used by approximately 97% of Americans. However, in my case, I buy from brick and mortar businesses only when it is cheaper, faster, or the business offers an incentive. In other words, when it comes to my personal choice of when and how to make a purchase, it all depends on what we are looking to purchase. For example, my family has taken advantage of Groupon deals. These deals are offered online by local businesses, for limited time periods, in an attempt to promote their products or services. In addition, we have also researched and/or ordered many online products through Walmart.com and, while some of these could have been shipped to our home, there have been many others that we had to purchase or pick up at our local Walmart store. In fact, this happened just this last week when I wanted to purchase a Samsung II Exhibit cellphone for the T-Mobile network. As I surfed the Internet to find the best deal, I discovered that, while Amazon wanted $198.00 for this particular phone, I could purchase the same cellphone at a brick and mortar Walmart store for $175.00. It was enough of an incentive to get me into my car and make the five-minute drive. However, my shopping preference, in most cases, is to buy using my Prime account from Amazon.

How Will the Internet Change by the Year 2016?

How Google Has Helped America's Brick and Mortar BusinessesSince the first domain was registered back in 1985, the Internet hasn’t stopped growing. In fact, it is predicted that, by the year 2016, the following additional changes will take place:

  • There will be three billion people using the Internet, which is about half of the entire world’s population.
  • The Internet economy will have expanded, with the G-20 countries ranking as the fifth largest economy in the world just behind the US, China, Japan, and India.
  • The expansion of the Internet could be the biggest global explosion in individual consumer and business wealth since the Industrial Revolution.
  • Mobile devices will account for about four out of five connections to broadband Internet services.

If one were to read into this last prediction, it could prove to be a death knell or, at least, a nail in the coffin of a dying PC market.

How Easy is It to Get Your Business Online?

So, as people scurry to find the most cost-effective means to market their products and services, how difficult is it to get your business set up with an online site? To address this issue, and to make it easier for consumers and businesses to get online, Google has set up a website in conjunction with a host of other businesses to get you up and running quickly. In fact, after studying what GYBO (Get Your Business Online) had to offer, I can see no reason why any business would be unable to get online, especially when made aware of how it could potentially help to increase foot traffic at a brick and mortar business.

Here is what GYBO has to offer for business owners:

  • Easy-to-follow instructions.
  • Free Web hosting.
  • A free custom-designed domain name.
  • Free training and free tools for you to use.

However, before you just dive in, you need to know some of the ins and outs of what is required in order to get these freebies. Here is some of what you will need to set up your free website:

  • You must either register for or have a Google account.
  • You must provide a valid credit card number. This is set up to identify who you are in case someone tries to pirate your domain name.
  • After the first year you will be charged $2 a month for the domain name and $4.99 a month for Web hosting.
  • Only the first 30 days includes free email support.

As I glanced through all of this information, I decided to see what percentage of businesses were not currently represented by an online presence. To do this, I went through the business directories, provided from a dozen different states, and was surprised to learn that over 50% of businesses have no Web presence. This truly amazed me, since one would think that any business in today’s economy, even the mom and pop variety, would recognize the importance of offering products online. In fact, it seems to me that not to have this presence tells consumers, albeit by omission, that the business doesn’t need them. Remember, especially in a larger town, these consumers may not even know that a business that chooses not to have a website even exists. If a business isn’t listed, it could very well lose the opportunity to make a sale or to provide a service.

I do understand that cost and training is always a concern, but if you own a business and you use GYBO, you should be able to market your product and perhaps increase your sales enough to afford the future cost.

Comments welcome.

Source: Google Blog

Source: bcg.perspectives

Source: GYBO

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by SEOPlanter

QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition 2010 Review

Intuit, the company that brings simple accounting to small businesses, has a free edition of their popular software available for downloading. QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition 2010 is a trimmed down version of the QuickBooks accounting software that many businesses rely upon for their daily transaction and record keeping of expenses and income. Over the years Intuit has provided consumers and small business owners the tools necessary to keep track of their finances, employee payouts and also inventory control.

I used the 2009 version of Quickbooks Simple Start Free Edition for the past several years. When I saw that Intuit was still offering the software for free, I downloaded the newer version to my system and updated my backup files to work with the newer program. Speaking of downloading this program, it is a whopping 466MB, so a broadband connection is highly recommended. Also keep in mind that 2010 is the latest version of QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition because Intuit lags behind a year with free versions.

After the upgrade was completed and my company files were updated, I took the 2010 edition of QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition for a spin. What I immediately noticed is that the new version started quicker than the 2009 version. The older version had a ‘poky’ start and opened slowly. This never concerned me since it is a freebie software product and I am just appreciative that Intuit offers the software. I also noticed that opening of my company files was also quicker than before.

There are limitations to the software, including a limit of 20 employees to keep track of. In my opinion that in itself is a generous number and again will be appreciated by most users. The free edition also doesn’t provide the option to produce a backup copy for your accountant like the Pro edition does, but again, this is a small price to pay for the free version.

So who can benefit for the Quickbooks Simple Start Free Edition 2010? If you are like me and just need a simple to use accounting program to track expenses and income, this program does these functions extremely well. Also if you are a small shop with a limited number of employees, this free edition will work well. However, if you have a larger business or need the services of an accountant, your best option is to get the paid Pro edition of the software. The added features of the Pro version alone will make the additional cost well worth it when it comes tax time.

Direct download link for QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition

Comments welcome.

Can iPad And Tablet Use In The Enterprise Hurt Microsoft?

It has been interesting watching Redmond giant Microsoft not respond to the Apple iPad and other tablets, since it seems there was little concern for the devices. Even though Microsoft has seen the success of the Apple iPad being directed at the consumer market, the company had no fear that businesses would use either the Apple iPad nor any other tablet system. Now that more companies are introducing tablet computers that are mainly using Google’s Android OS, business organizations are starting to look at tablet computers to give their employees more flexibility.

So why is this happening? It seems that many companies dismissed the smartphone as a toy when it was introduced. Companies who didn’t provide smartphones to their employees regretted not doing so as they saw the benefits of the devices for business use. Businesses are not about to make the same mistake twice and therefore according to a Gartner bulletin, are starting to implement tablet computers to their employees.

But just how many companies will implement tablet computers into the work place? Some in the business world like Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore believes there might be quite a few. His estimates of PC growth has been slashed from 9% down to 4%. He cites the growth of the tablet by businesses which could stem the future growth of PC sales.

On the flip side Microsoft has stated that their upcoming Windows 8 will be tablet friendly. Microsoft and their partners could introduce a tablet next year and the selling feature would be its compatibility with Windows desktops and other Windows devices. This alone could make some businesses wait to see what Microsoft comes up with, before taking the plunge into the tablet market.

But before we write off Microsoft and run out and sell our Microsoft stock, there are a few facts that we must remember. According to the worldometers web site, there has been something like 1 billion PC computers in use through out the world. This number is expected to hit 2 billion by 2015. It is estimated that Apple has sold some 40 million iPad and iPad 2 tablets. Compared to a billion units that are most likely running Microsoft software, 40 million is hardly anything to worry about.

I believe this is why Microsoft is in no hurry to enter the tablet market.

Comments welcome.

Source – InformationWeek

Source – Worldometers

Do You Think That Facebook Can Be The Cause Of Your Anxiety?

There you are on your Facebook page when all of a sudden you can’t do anything. You click here, there and everywhere and nothing happens. Now you are frustrated and getting angry when, just as suddenly, the page starts working again. Is it an Internet moment, a fluke, or are the Facebook minions messing with your brain?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the folks at Facebook do, from time to time, stop by certain Facebook pages just to aggravate you. But don’t fret. It is all to improve the user experience. By finding out how people adjust when a page is messed with, it helps the Facebook folks improve the user experience for others who use Facebook.

But the people at Facebook also learned some other valuable lessons during their experimenting on various Facebook pages. If you mess with people too much, they will just drop out and stop using Facebook. Some 7% did not return to Facebook for an extended time after they were harassed in the name of improving the user experience. So Facebook does take note of people’s attitudes and complaints when they experiment which sometimes leads them to stopping the experiment.

Another interesting tidbit is that only about 48% of those who attempt to upload a photo doing in one shot. For some folks it takes them most of the day to complete the process. Facebook is trying to make that particular user experience easier.

It is funny because I believe we have all experienced some problems on Facebook that I have attributed to the system on Facebook just not functioning properly. It is good to know that there are people behind the scenes who are actually just messing with us.

So, do you mind being used as a guinea pig?

Comments welcome.

Source – ReadWriteWeb

Can You Spot A Fake Check Scam, Mystery Shopper Scam, Or A Counterfeit Money Order?

Many of us have received or are familiar with the many scams that end up in our email inbox and we know how to deal with the situation. Some scammers have improved on the way they attempt to deceive you and also will send counterfeit checks or money orders to try to suck you into their illegal ploy. So what exactly do we need to watch for?

The sudden riches scam is the easiest to spot and is basically known as the Nigerian scam. You receive an email from someone who claims they have come into a huge amount of money and need to get the amount out of their country. They will split the huge sum if you in turn will send them a certain amount of money as good faith. The scammers may pose as business people or government officials from a foreign country.

In some cases they may offer you work at home jobs, send you a commission check that is larger than what you should receive and ask you to return the over payment. Another is the ruse of renting an apartment or home and the check you receive is in excess of what it should be. They ask you to forward the additional amount to another person. The scammers may claim to have a medical emergency and need your help in cashing a check so funds can be sent to the ailing friend or relative.

There is also the mystery shopper scam that will appear as a genuine job offer. The job is fairly simple and requires you to only shop at certain stores and to report back on your findings. Your first warning sign is that there is no personal interview nor is a background check done since you are hired immediately. I had a friend of mine who fell for the mystery shopper scam when she was asked to test a money transfer service. She was asked to send $500 of her own money through a fake money service and was promised her $500 plus an additional $500 for her service. Unfortunately she never received her money back and was out $500. One could call her dumb, but we must understand her situation. She had been out of work for six months and was desperate to find any type of work.

Here is a question that often comes up. Why can’t your bank, credit union, or other financial institution determine that the check you are depositing is a fake or counterfeit check or money order when you make the deposit? The deposit is based on your identification only and the bank has no information as to the source of the check. When the check or money order is determined to be a fake, your are held responsible for the lost funds.

It is easy for those of us who have never been scammed to frown upon those who have. One would think that there have been so many warnings about these type of scams that only an idiot would fall for these or any other scam. Before we sit in judgment of others, we must remember there are a lot of people who have lost their jobs or are in the process of losing their homes and are desperate for cash. For them these scams seem like a quick way to obtain the cash they need.

Comments welcome.

Source – FakeChecks.org

If It Is So Easy, Why Doesn’t Everyone Start An Online Business?

This afternoon I was reading an article over at PC magazine about the steps one needs to take in order to start an online business. It is ironic that I read this particular article, since I personally spoke with an individual about online opportunities just last week. I had mentioned to this person how difficult it was to start either an online business or a blog and make money at it. Here is what happened.

Last week my wife was in the hospital for surgery for an ongoing colon/intestine problem that she has been suffering from for many years. After the surgery we spoke with the recovery nurse, and during the course of the conversation, learned that her husband was looking into any opportunities on the Internet, but wasn’t sure exactly where to start. I offered to speak with him and to determine if blogging might be of interest to him.

Here are a few things that I shared with him and are my personal opinion.

For every one who is making a living on the Internet, millions are not. Just because Mark Cuban sold his technology company for millions and bought the Mavericks basketball team doesn’t mean you will own your professional NBA team by starting your own technology company. It is as simple as that. One just needs to be realistic in their expectations.

There are other attributes that anyone who wants to make money on the Internet need: tenacity, a determined work ethic, and focus. If you lack any three of these, you will fail. Working from home is not as easy as one would think. Just because you have the leisure of being able to work in your pajamas doesn’t mean you will be able to allocate the time needed every day to focus on your work. There are no bosses, no managers, CEO, CFO, CIA, or KGB breathing down your back. You are on your own.

I guess what annoyed me about the article was the pie in the sky expectation, or what I refer to as delusions of grandeur. Don’t get me wrong. There are folks who are successful on the Internet and who are making good money selling, writing, and at auctioning. But I believe that it is not an easy task to venture out on the Internet and start your own business.

The article at PC Magazine was too general to provide any really useful information. In my opinion one should seek out professional advice from those who have succeeded in online business or in the technology field. One book that I recommend to those who are interested in starting a business online is this:

The Six-Figure Second Income: How To Start and Grow A Successful Online Business Without Quitting Your Day Job

You can read the article at PC Magazine linked below. Let me know what you think.

Comments welcome.

Source – PC Magazine

How Wi-Fi Helps Dramatically Cut Small Business Costs

It seems that no matter where you go these days, there is Wi-Fi available. Connecting to the web has become a part of our daily lives and being able to do so where you eat, shop, and mingle is part of what makes social networking really work. But are there more benefits of Wi-Fi to small business owners than attracting young tech-savvy visitors to their stores?

Even if your business doesn’t see customers face-to-face, Wi-Fi has been embraced as a cost saving tool for businesses that don’t want to go through the expense of having someone run expensive ethernet cable through their building. Having everyone’s work station on a wired connection is a pricey ordeal especially in an office environment. The contractor, cable, ports, routers, switches, and maintenance all require a substantial cost to the business owner. For an office requiring 25 ethernet jacks, the cost of having wired networking set up can reach in to the tens of thousands.

Setting up one or even multiple secured wireless routers is substantially cheaper and easier, and you won’t need a small team of contractors running cable to do it. All you need is a little know-how and a closet or spare desk space.

Wireless N brought about a much faster connection allowing practically the same throughput users were enjoying with wired 10/100 class connections. While some budget desktops used for business don’t currently support Wi-Fi out of the box, USB adapters are currently very cheap and generally work very well.

What if your office is just big enough that the signal isn’t very strong in certain areas of the building? Wireless repeaters and range expanders are an excellent way to boost the signal to reach the extra space.

Security is a concern often associated with wireless networking, and for good reason. Some popular and older methods of securing these networks are easily cracked and vulnerable to attacks. There are, however, methods for securing a wireless network that are pretty solid. The use WPA/WPA2-Enterprise, firewalls, VPNs, and VLANs the right way can lock down a wireless signal making it extremely difficult for a hacker to access the network in any realistic amount of time. Again, nothing is foolproof.

Wireless networking has and continues to save small businesses money. In some cases, the cost savings from minimizing the use of wired networking can be substantial enough to make a serious difference in a company’s financial outlook.

Do you agree or disagree? Please leave a comment below explaining your preferred method for cutting costs.

Microsoft Suggests 6 Ways To Speed Up Your PC

With all of the television advertisements from companies claiming to have the secret cure to speed up your PC, Microsoft has six easy ways to do it on your own. These six easy steps are nothing new and have been used for years by most people who consider themselves guru’s. In addition to these suggestions, there are also other free software for you to use to keep your computer running fast.

Step #1. Remove spyware from your computer. I recommend using the free version of Malwarebytes. You will also need a good anti-virus program and I am using the free edition of Avast on my Windows 7 boxes. Others like the free program from Microsoft called Security Essentials. Another program that gets mentioned is AntiVir personal edition.

Step #2. Free up disk space. Microsoft recommends using their Disk Cleanup tool. I personally like CCleaner or Glary Utilites. Both of these tools do a very good job of cleaning out the junk and gunk that can clog up your operating system.

Step #3. Use the Disk Defragmentation built into Windows. This according to Microsoft will speed up access to your data. There is much controversy as to the benefits of defragging a hard disk. My personal opinion is that I recommend doing it. There are free programs such as Defraggler or Auslogics Disk Defrag.

Step #4. Also recommended is checking your disk for errors using the check disk utility. Here’s how:

  1. Close all open files.
  2. Click Start, and then click Computer.
  3. In the Computer window (My Computer in Windows XP), right-click the hard disk you want to search for bad sectors, and then click Properties.
  4. In the Properties dialog box, click the Tools tab.
  5. Click the Check Now button.
  6. In the Check Disk dialog box (called Error-checking in Windows 7), select the Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors check box, and then click Start.

Step #5. If you are using Microsoft Windows Vista or Windows 7, Microsoft recommends using Ready Boost. According to Microsoft, Ready Boost can help speed up your system. IMO your results may vary.

Steps #6. Microsoft recommends upgrading to Windows 7. This suggestion is of course, if and only if, your computer can support Windows 7.

I have read and suggest to those who are new to computers to read the free .pdf manual, ‘Windows On Speed: Ultimate Acceleration Manual’. You can get your free copy here.

Windows On Speed: Ultimate Acceleration Manual

What suggestions do you have to speed up a Windows computer?

Comments welcome.

Source – Microsoft

Who Owns The Word ‘Footlong?’

Subway has been advertising its ‘footlong’ sandwiches, which is an indication that its sandwiches are 12″ long. Subway has also been trying to patent the term saying the ‘footlong’ is all its and its, alone. It has also sent out cease and desist orders to anyone who uses what it claims is its term. But one company has taken Subway to task and is suing Subway stating it does not have a right to the term and that anyone can use it.

The company is Casey’s General Sore with some 1,600 stores located mainly in the midwest. Casey’s General Store claims that Subway has no right to ask for proprietary use of the word and that anyone can use the word in their advertising. In one article it states that:

Casey’s is asking for a jury trial and is seeking a declaration that the term “footlong” is generic and does not violate any trademark owned by Subway. Casey’s is also asking for unspecified damages over Subway’s “frivolous” claims.

If anyone who has ever been to any beach resort on either coast know, the term ‘footlong’ has been used when advertising hot dogs that are one foot long. This term has been around a lot longer than Subway has been in business, since the franchise opened its first store in 1965. But Subway contends it has no issue with hot dogs being referred to as ‘footlong,’ just sandwiches.

If you have seen any of the Subway commercials, the term ‘footlong’ appears to me to be included in the term ‘five-dollar footlong.’ In fact, the commercial jungle includes both five-dollar and ‘footlong’ together. Subway seems to feel that when it comes to sandwiches, it owns ‘footlong’ and is willing to fight for that right.

It was ironic that my wife brought home my favorite ‘footlong’ sandwich today from Subway, which I really enjoy. But the term ‘footlong’ to me is generic, just like the word ‘pizza.’ Could you imagine if a pizza franchise sued everyone for using the word ‘pizza?’ I believe that ‘five-dollar footlong’ should be a Subway exclusive term.

It will be interesting to see how this turns out and what the court or jury decides.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source – USA Today

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Daughter Dies And Wells Fargo Bank Goes After Parents To Repay Student Loan

The story begins with a 22-year-old student who is attending college working on two degrees. The student, being an adult, secures student loans totaling $45,000 to further her education. The loans were given to her and her alone and no one, including her parents, co-signs for the loans. Now the unfortunate part. The student develops a rare form of cancer in her tear ducts, and after chemotherapy and radiation treatments, subsequently dies.

One would think that the misery for the family dealing with their young daughters death, would be enough for any family to deal with. Two of the lenders forgave the girls debt since she was deceased. But in steps Wells Fargo Bank and their bean counters. Wells Fargo Bank wants the parents to pay the debt in the amount of $6,000 and will not forgive nor forget what is owed to the bank.

In steps the local television station and confronts Wells Fargo Bank, who suddenly and inexplicable, forgives the debt. No sorry, no we made a mistake, no thing except the debt no longer needs to be paid by anyone.

What is surprising is that different lenders have different policies covering the death of a student who owes them money. What is also hard to understand is that the girls parents had no idea their daughter had even borrowed money and could not obtain any information because of the existing privacy laws. All they knew is that the bank wanted their money and that was that.

The bank continued to harass the family via letters and phone calls demanding payment.

Had the TV station not stepped in and made Wells Fargo Banks appear like loan sharks, one can only guess to what lengths the bank would have gone to get their blood money.

It is stories like these that make us all hate the banks, no matter which bank it is.

Comments welcome.

Source – kctv5.com

Source – ABC Money

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Elderly Homeowner Scammed Into Paying $4,800 To Have Snow Removed From Roof

As many of you have either read, or are experiencing, this winter has been a nasty one for snow. Many areas are recording record snow levels, and many communities have had a building fail when the snow load becomes to heavy for the roof. An acquaintance once mentioned to me that depending on water content, the snow on the roof of a standard home can weigh 38,000 lbs. Homeowners therefore may be concerned as snow builds up on the roof of their homes and scammers offer to remove the snow for a high price.

One homeowner in Newburyport, MA. was out in front of his home shoveling off his driveway. A trio of workers, driving a dump truck with a bobcat attached stopped in front of the home. One of the trio asked the homeowner if he wanted help clearing his walkway, which the homeowner mistakenly thought was going to be for free. The trio convinced the home owner that his roof also needed snow removed and when done presented the man with a bill for $4,800 dollars.

The man stated he didn’t have that much cash at home and the trio were kind enough to drive the man to his local bank. He paid the men the $4,800 and returned home. The elderly homeowner called police who knew exactly who the crooks were, since they have dealt with these scammers before. The crooks returned the money only keeping $250 for their services.

The news article identified the thief’s as:

Lt. Jeffrey Worthen identified the trio as 47-year-old Kevin Snow Sr. and his sons, Kevin Snow Jr., 23, and George Snow, 20.

Beside the obvious irony that two of these men are named ‘Snow’, what is also known about these people is that they go from state to state applying their trade. The trio have previously been arrested in California for another of their favorite scams. This scam involves sealing of asphalt driveways. The trio uses a watered down solution which does little except to make the driveway look black but does little to protect the asphalt from the elements.

If one is confronted by a group that stop in front of your home, you may wish to mention that you are going to call the cops. This may be enough to scare these scammers away.

I would follow-up with a real call to police to have these people stopped, identified and advised to leave your neighborhood.

Comments welcome.

Source – newburynews.com

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Would Bundling Your TV, Cell Phone And Electric Bill Make Sense To You?

In the town where I live, the bundling of utilities and billing are handled by the city. Our electric, garbage, water, trash and sewer are billed on a single bill. When I lived in California, each of these services were billed individually requiring separate payment for each service. Now some are predicting the possibility that we could see a bundling of services not only for utilities, but also for cell phone, TV, Internet and other services.

We have seen how cable companies ventured into providing Internet services and have expanded their offering to include phone services as well. This bundling of services by a single entity usually are advertised as a savings to consumers. If you purchase a bundling of services the company usually provides some type of discount on your monthly bill.

In a recent article it stated:

Bundling utility services into cellular and cable TV packages has begun in Australia and some other parts of the world, but it could spread. The idea is both simple and radical at the same time. Power and water are commodities delivered through monthly service contracts, just like Internet service.

When I first read this article the first thought that popped into my mind was Google. For years Google was the search king, but in recent years has expanded into other areas. Google Android now is said to be a commanding leader in software for smart phones, surpassing Apple. Google has also ventured into the computer market with their Chrome netbook, is developing a remote-controlled car, and is also become a venture capitalist interested in the development of a smart grid.

So is Google also in the electricity business? Google has developed their own solar panel grid to power the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA., that supplement their electricity usage. So Google is no strange when it comes to electricity and could venture into the electrical market in the near future.

I guess my main question would be is if you did purchase electricity from your cable company, who would repair the transmission lines during a power outage?

What do you think about the merging of cable and utilities?

Comments welcome.

Source – ecomagination