Free or paid online services: which should you choose?

flickr logoThere are a bunch of free services on the internet. There are services like Google Drive (formerly Docs) which is basically a free online word processor, spreadsheet app, and presentation app. There is Flickr which is a free photo sharing service. There’s Tumblr which is used for many types of sharing, but is most similar to a free blogging service.

All of these services (and many more) are great, and who doesn’t want free? Well, free isn’t always the best option.

Free support = no support

First, free usually means you are on your own if you need help. There is no 1-800 number to call for tech support. There might be an email address, but you may not get a response. If you are lucky there is a forum where other users go online to help other users who need it.

If you are paying for a service, you should be getting customer service also. There is usually an email address and/or a phone number to help when you need it. Now some place might have tiered service and give quicker responses based on your membership, but you should be getting some type of support if you are paying. For example, I use SmugMug for sharing photos and videos. This is a paid service. Not only do I love the site, but the customer service is fantastic. I usually get a response to my emails within an hour.

Lack of features

In addition to not having support free services usually come at a price of features. Many free services will offer the basics for free and when you want more you have to start paying. Some services might be thought of as a free demo or “lite” version and the full version comes with a fee. For example, you might be using a free online word processor that lets you type and save all of your documents. However, when you want to share or print a document or save in another format you have to pay. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this, but make sure you are aware of limitation before you start using a service and get hooked into it.

Free is still good

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use free services on the internet. There are a bunch of great ones out there, and I use several. For example, I use Dropbox and iCloud. Both are fantastic services and both are free. However, if I want more storage out of both services I have to start paying an annual fee (yes, there are ways to get more storage in Dropbox for free, but at some point that runs out too). If I needed to I would be happy to pay, but I know the limitations and make sure I don’t get to that point.

In the end, it is a good rule of thumb to do some research before jumping into a free service. Make sure it meets your needs. What are the limitations? Are you willing to pay a membership fee if you have to? Just remember, you get what you pay for and don’t start complaining when that free service isn’t enough.

Meet Uber, your on-demand private driver

2013-04-11_09h49_14Thanks to the Uber app for iOS and Android, gone are the days of standing outside trying to hail a cab or find a car service. I was recently in San Francisco for work and I met a friend for dinner across town. We were about to leave, and I said to her, “I really hope there are cabs in this area.” She looked at me and said, “You don’t have the Uber app?” I immediately pulled out my iPhone and download the app, within 5 minutes I signed up and had a taxi waiting for me outside the restaurant.

How it Works

Set up an account

First, you download the app to your iOS or Android device and create an account. You must enter a credit card in order to complete account set up. An email will be sent for you to confirm your information

Right now Uber can be used in the following cities: Amsterdam, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Hamptons, London, Los Angles, Melbourne, Milan, Minneapolis-St Paul, Napa, New York, Orange Count, Paris, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Washington DC.

Select the type of vehicle you want

The types of vehicles are listed below; however, not every type of vehicle is available in every city. When you launch the app GPS will locate what city you are in and give you the vehicle options for that area.

Taxi: No flagging or yelling required! Use Uber to request and pay for a taxi, at standard taxi rates plus a $1 booking fee. A 20% gratuity is automatically added for the driver.

UBERx: The convenience of Uber at a lower price with hybrid and mid-range cars in a variety of colors. Seats up to 4 people.

Black: Classic black car option is the default. Choose this and either a high-end sedan or SUV will be curbside in minutes. Note: choosing “Black” and being picked up by an SUV will not charge you the SUV rates. Seats up to 4 people.

SUV: When you’re rolling with more than four people, request only SUVs, for a higher rate. Seats up to 6 people

Use the app to tell Uber where you want to be picked up

You can use the map and your phone’s GPS to tell Uber your current location so they can pick you up. If the GPS does not find the exact location, you can manually type in the address.

www.uber.com
www.uber.com

Wait for Uber to respond

Uber will send you a text notifying you of how long you’ll need to wait before you can expect to be picked up, along with the driver’s name. When your Uber ride arrives, you’ll receive another text to let you know.

Wait for your payment to be automatically charged

Your card will be automatically charged, with the tip already included. You don’t need to manually hand over some cash or your card to the driver before you leave. It’s that simple.

Pricing

Uber’s pricing is similar to metered taxis, although all hiring and payment is handled exclusively through Uber and not with the driver personally. If the Uber car is traveling at a speed greater than 11 mph, the price is calculated on a distance basis. Otherwise, the price is calculated on a time basis. Prices are higher than prices charged by conventional taxicabs and 20% gratuity is automatically added.

At the end of a ride, the complete fare (which includes a tip) is automatically billed to the customer’s credit card. Uber has said that its high prices are the premium that the customers pay for a cab service that is not only reliable but also punctual and comfortable. Check out Uber’s website for prices per city.

Once the ride is over…

A receipt is sent to your email address (great for those who need to expense the ride) along with a survey to rate your experience. I also received an email for $10 off for every friend I get to sign up using the link they provide in the email.

Conclusion

Overall, my experience with Uber was great. The price may seem a little expensive to some people who give it a try, but when you work it out with the tip and realize that you’re paying for more of a high quality and convenient driver experience, it’s actually well worth the cost.

“List of Things For Sale” is the minimalist approach for selling your stuff

There are numerous ways to sell your miscellaneous junk on the internet nowadays. The most popular methods are arguably eBay and Craigslist. However, some people just want to create their own online store of sorts and list everything they’re selling on one page in a very minimalist way. This is where a brand new service called List of Things For Sale comes in extreme handy.

After you create an account, you simply type in what you’re selling, the price you’re selling it at, and any details you want to include in the text editor provided. It will then automatically format your items into easy-to-read boxes where you can also add photos. You can even add a sidebar introducing your page to visitors and change the background (although choices are limited here).

Customers can easily pay through PayPal or you can arrange for other payment arrangements to be made, such as cash or check. You can also specify whether you’ll ship the items or require local pick up.

One downfall is that if you list something with a long name, it’ll get cut off (as you can see in the photo). I couldn’t find any settings to adjust the size of the boxes, so what you see is what you get. *Fixed

You can, however, simply just click on the title and it will expand the box to include the full name of the item.

If you can get over the fact that you can’t manually adjust the box sizes, then List of Things For Sale really is a super-quick and easy way to throw your stuff up for sale on the internet. There really is no simpler way to create your own online store.

Currently, there are two types of accounts you can sign up for. The free account is limited to only five items at one time, but you can upgrade to a $10/month account where that limit is raised to 100 items.

How to Restore Aero Effects if the Windows Desktop Window Manager Crashes

Aero” is the graphical user interface that Microsoft introduced with Windows Vista and Windows 7. It includes many productivity features for managing your windowed desktop environment, but one of the most noticeable features is the glass-like transparency effect that is typically present on the borders of windows.

Aero window effects working properly

At times, the Desktop Window Manager (DWM) service that runs Aero can crash. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but I’ve most frequently seen it when using applications that are not fully compatible with Windows 7, or when undocking my laptop with a full-screen application open.

Error message shown after the Desktop Window Manager has crashed

When the Desktop Window Manager service crashes, you’ll immediately notice that the Aero transparency effects will disappear.

Aero effects are disabled after the Desktop Window Manager service has crashed

You can fix this problem by restarting your computer, but there’s an easy fix to restart the service and re-enable Aero effects.

Restarting the Desktop Window Manager Service

Step 1: Click the Start (Windows) button and type “run” in the search box. Select the “Run” application that appears in the Programs list.

Note: You can also press the Windows Key + R to access the Run dialog.

Step 2: Type services.msc and press enter.

Step 3: Locate the entry for Desktop Window Manager Session Manager, right click it, and select Restart.

That’s it! The Desktop Window Manager service should now have restarted and Aero effects should be re-enabled.

Optional – Restarting DWM via Command Line

You can also restart the Desktop Window Manager via command line, which is useful if you wanted to create a batch script to automatically restart DWM when it crashes.

To restart DWM via command line, open the command prompt (cmd.exe) and type:

net stop uxsms

Followed by:

net start uxsms

This will have the same effect as restarting the DWM service through the Windows Service Manager application.