Friday, 26 October 2007

Newsletter Issue 139, October 2007



Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 139, October 2007
Hi guys,
For anyone wanting a cheap and reliable valuation, go no further than Quotable Value Online.
A how to tip on Limiting System Restore space used on your PC. 
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Quotable Value Online

Property valuation company Quotable Value Ltd (QV) is selling more than half a million data products each year, now customers are ordering electronic valuation reports and property information, and paying online. Technology has allowed QV to shrug off its roots as a loss-making government department and re-launch itself as a profitable online business.
In 1998, when the former Valuation Department was privatised, their technology was green screens, no email and very few PCs. After restructuring and reducing staff from 320 to 250, QV started re-engineering its business processes, using technology solutions to add value.
QV launched a website in October 1999 and by February 2000 was ready to accept online credit card payments. This paved the way for what turned out to be one of QV’s most successful online products, e-Valuer, which provides an instant estimate of the market value of a property based on data from sales of comparable properties in the same area. QV is currently selling 60,000 e-Valuer reports per annum, which are now being accepted by banks for mortgage approval purposes.
QV has progressively refined its services by incorporating new databases, such as property title information and Census data, and by fine tuning its technology. QV uses a product called Map Xtreme which draws on geographical information stored on a dedicated mapping server to include in their products. QV uses IBM X346s for their mapping technology and for their web server, while SQL databases are hosted on an IBM X366.
QV's CIO Bryce Johnson, says that choosing the right software has been the key to achieving systems reliability. For example load balancing software provided by F5 has allowed QV’s servers to cope with the large spikes in traffic caused by promotions, when up to 10,000 free reports have been downloaded in one day. “If the software is humming the hardware looks after itself. We are now getting availability rate of 99.1%, that’s 24/7, 365 days a year.”
QV has also paid a lot of attention over the years to improving the ‘look and feel’ of its web offering. In August 2006, they introduced a “delayed login”, after the company noticed that too many users were leaving the website when they were being asked to log in “up front”. “We noticed that our conversion rate from the people visiting the site to people actually buying something was only 7%,” Johnson says. The mandatory login was obviously a “friction point” which had to be re-engineered. “Now when you arrive at our site you see a list of the reports available and you can drill down to get more information on any one — you only have to register when you click on a report to buy it. That changed our conversion rate from 7% to 20%.”
QV is New Zealand's largest valuation and property information company, operating from 22 offices throughout New Zealand and with subsidiary companies in three states of Australia.
Check out their reports at https://www.qv.co.nz/

Limiting System Restore

System Restore uses a shed-load of space; and that might be OK if System Restore was a really foolproof backup system, but it isn't.
Windows Secrets Newsletter says this month "At best, System Restore may get the core operating system running again after a bad crash, but it doesn't return all files to the pre-trouble state, and it can't remove all traces of a program that went bad. Because it's such a limited recovery tool, I don't feel it's worthwhile to devote vast amounts of disk space to it."
Windows Secrets suggest 'taming' your System Restore's insatiable hunger by:
  1. Right clicking on the My Computer icon on the desktop
  2. Select Properties from the pop-up menu. This opens the System Properties dialogue box.
  3. Click on the System Restore tab
  4. Select your main drive (usually C:)
  5. Slick Settings, and move the slider to reserve a reasonable amount of disk space (eg on an 80 Gb hard drive, select 2% - 6000Mb - or so).
However, if you already backup really regularly, you could move the System Restore slider completely to the left (0% or 200Mb), or disable it completely. But in general, having 6000Mb allocated to a system restore is not going to slow up your computing too much, and it could well save you having to reinstall post-crash.
Better to be safe than sorry!

Apophenics do it by the Numbers

What is it about some people and conspiracy? Are there really likely to be a huge secret organisations pulling many strings behind the scenes, interfering in our lives?
Hollywood movies have done well out of exploiting paranoia. I'm thinking JFK, both the Manchurian Candidate films, the Bourne franchise... to name a tiny few that immediately spring to mind.
And now, "The Number 23", reheated as a DVD release, attempts to exploit our paranoia a little more. Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) starts seeing connections when he becomes gripped by a second-hand book his wife (Virginia Madsen) gives him. Walter starts seeing unsettling similarities between the book's detective and his own life, becoming extremely paranoid when the detective commits a gruesome murder. The movie takes a while to unfold, so Walter is apparently quite a slow reader.
The title is based on the pop-culture numerology enigma that many things have 23 in them, such as the number of chromosomes we get from each parent, the Earth’s axis, summing dates (Titanic’s sinking on 15/4/1912, or the infamous 9/11/2001). This numerology conspiracy fascination is called apophenia, where people see unfounded connections in random or meaningless data.
Klaus Conrad defined apophenia in 1958 as the "unmotivated seeing of connections" accompanied by a "specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness". In statistics, apophenia would be classed as a Type I error (false positive, false alarm, caused by an excess in sensitivity).
From the review in the local paper for this Jim Carey in-serious-acting-mode movie, it is more likely to be a specific experience of an abnormal meaninglessness instead.

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs for you:
  • PVR, Personal Video Recorder. This is MySky and its compadr├ęs; personal HDDs to record programmes on to be watched at leisure.

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys
In this newsletter, we look at all you can do with Alt:
  • Access "Close the visible menu and submenu at the same time" Alt
  • Excel "Make the menu bar active, or close a visible menu and submenu at the same time" Alt
  • Publisher "Move between the menu bar and the publication" Alt
  • Excel "Close the visible menu and submenu at the same time; works with menu commands" Alt
  • FrontPage "Close the visible menu and submenu at the same time" Alt
  • Outlook "Close the visible menu and submenu at the same time; works with menu commands" Alt
  • Windows "Activate, or select, the main toolbar beginning with the first toolbar option on the left, usually File; after the first option is activated you can navigate through toolbar and menu options using the appropriate ARROW keys; press F10 or ALT again " Alt
  • Word "Close the visible menu and submenu at the same time; works with menu commands" Alt

Hot Linx
If you have a passion for recycling, check out the ultimate in recyclable wedding dresses at http://www.cheap-chic-weddings.com/wedding-contest-2006.html
For a horror tour of really, really, really bad art, check out the true awfulness of the un-gifted amateur painter at http://www.museumofbadart.org/collection/index.php
To know what is hot and what is not around the planet, all you have to do is dig for it - at http://www.digg.com/. Bookmark this site for news & views the world over
For a new approach to on demand media, try this Italian company which aims to change the way we interact with our world at http://www.babelgum.com/

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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