Earn Money by Being an Amazon Affiliate!

Prior to working on AnotherWindowsBlog, I was already a huge fan of Amazon. Nothing has changed till this day. Living on an island makes it very hard for us to find products of various categories. We don’t have the luxury of being able to shun one store and hop to another to make price comparisons. This is especially true when it comes to electronics and computer parts. It was only recently when I started looking for ways to monetize my blog that I stumbled upon Amazon’s Affiliate (AA) program. Within this program, you get a small commission every time a visitor successfully purchases something through Amazon as a result of clicking a link on your website or blog. I’m going to go over how easy it is to get started and why this program is such a good idea for blogs that isn’t necessarily at the top of the blog chain.

How Amazon’s Affiliate Program Works

To cut to the chase, AA’s program is very simple to understand.

  1. You first tell Amazon that you want to join in on the program. This can be easily done by signing in to your Amazon account and filling out a short form. In this form, you basically tell Amazon what your site/blog is about, where it’s located, how many visitors average do you have per day, etc.
  2. Amazon will then investigate your site. This is done more to prevent unprofessional blogs from being in their program. These most likely include blogs that promotes pirated software or pornography and the likes. Once you have been approved (which I’m sure you will as long as everything is legit), you’ll receive an email from Amazon welcoming you into their program. You’ll have your very own associate’s ID which ties in to all the links and banners you serve on your site.
  3. You then start to create product links to place on your website or blog and hope that not only does someone click on them, but to click on them in addition to purchasing an item. Amazon includes a myriad of ways for you to build links, banners and even fully customized widgets to put on your blog to attract potential customers. The HTML codes Amazon provides allow you to simply copy and paste them into your site. Everything else is done from Amazons side.
  4. Once you’ve earned enough money, Amazon can pay you in one of three ways. First, you can request an Amazon gift card/certificate. The minimum amount you would have to earn is $10. The second method is via a direct deposit to your banking account. Again, the minimum you would have to earn is $10. The third method is for Amazon to write you a personal check. This payment method requires you to earn a minimum of at least $100.

It’s important to understand that you will still earn a commission even if someone clicks on your links but doesn’t actually buy the product you’ve advertised but something else instead. For example, I could create a link to a specific camera model I have reviewed. A visitor is first interested in the camera and clicks the link to Amazon. However, after some research, he/she decides to buy a different model. You will still earn the commission for that product. Here is a more specific definition of how Amazon actually tracks referrals:

Please know that we do not use cookies to track the activity of Associate links. Even if a customer uses Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0, with their security settings on “HIGH – Block all cookies,” we can still track referrals coming from your links during that customer’s visit to Amazon. If a customer uses the “HIGH – Block all cookies” security setting or adds Amazon to his or her list of Restricted Sites, that customer’s Amazon session ID (and hence the Associate tag on the session) last no longer than that browser visit. All eligible purchases made during that visit will be properly credited to the Associate. If the customer does not complete an order between the time they click through to Amazon and close their browser, then the Associate does not earn a revenue share because the customer’s session is lost. Referrals are tracked for 24 hours for customers who use Internet Explorer’s default settings, even if they close their browsers.

Why Use This?

There are literally many different ways to monetize your blog. One such popular method is through Google’s own Adsense program. These types of advertisements work, or rather how you get paid, when a visitor clicks on the ads displayed on your site. The more clicks you receive, the more you earn. Sounds good right? Well, here’s the problem. Unless you know what the heck you’re doing, each commission you get on each click is relativiely small. I’m talking just a couple of cents. If your blog can only attract a small amount of visitors each day, then you’ll have even bigger problems. You’ll need a huge amount of clicks just to earn a couple of dollars. Also, because your primary method of earning commission is through visitor clicks, there are a ton of rules that you have to follow, otherwise your account will be banned and all commissions earned up until that point will be lost. Amazon obviously have their own rules as well but it’s much more easier to comprehend because you don’t get paid for a click. It’s much harder to “persuade” users to actually buy something than it is for a simple click.

With AA’s program,  a visitor must actually follow through and purchase an actual product for you to earn a commission. This might seem negative at first but the commission you’ll earn is a lot more than what you’ll get with Adsense or other similar type advertisements if you don’t have a high ranking site with thousands of visitors per day. You’ll start off small with just a 4% commission rate but as you get more referrals, the percentage climbs up. The maximum is is 8.50%. It’s definitely difficult in the beginning (isn’t everything?) but I’ve earned more money through AA’s program than I did with Google’s Adsense program even though I’ve implemented the former a lot earlier. If you don’t have a lot of visitors to your blog, it makes more sense to become an AA. You’ll earn more money if you get your visitors to purchase items from Amazon through your affiliate links.

Tips and Advices

– This is not a get rich scheme nor an easy way for you to earn the most amount of money in the least amount of time. Amazon, I’m sure you would agree with me, is a trusted source. By that I mean that they are a company who has a good standing reputation as an online merchandise provider. Be glad that they even offer the AA program so that individuals like you and me can hep generate some revenue through our website. You help them make money and they do the same for you. Fair enough right?

– In order to have even a small amount of success through the AA program, you have to work for it! Everything, and I mean everything, depends on the wellness of your website. If you don’t spend time maintaining and updating your blog, don’t expect to draw a huge crowd of visitors. The less visitors you receive, the less chances of you succeeding in your advertisement campaign. You can simply do a search online on how to legitimately attract more visitors to your site and I’m sure you’ll be able to learn a lot on the subject matter.

– Target your Amazon ads based on your website as best possible. There are two modes of thinking here. If your blog or website is all about new gadgets and technology, then it would make sense for you to place Amazon banners focusing on that category. This allows your campaign to be more successful because your readers are more likely to click on your ad and buy a certain product that they can actually relate to. Why would a reader click on your banner for automobile parts when your blog is about plants and gardens? This leads to the second mode. You can choose to advertise products that are hot in the market even though it might not have anything to do with your blog. For example, smart phones are all the craze now days. Therefore, you can place a banner for that category or for a specific phone product on your site in hopes to entice users (the sidebar is the best placement for this type of ads). You need to find out what works best for you and your site.

– Try to place your ads in a location where your readers can see them the best. The top of your blog along the space between your blog title and where your post actually begins is also a good location. Your sidebar area is also an often used space for advertisements. The other important factor is choosing the correct banner/widget size for each ad placement. Again, you’ll have to play around with it for a bit before you feel comfortable. My rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t look or feel right upon first glance, then go with your instinct and change it.

– Try not to bombard your site with advertisements. This is always the rule of thumb. Rather than placing 5-6 different banners and links to Amazon in random places, you’ll be better off placing just 2-3 links in highly “noticed” areas as mentioned above. Go overboard and not only will you risk the visitor not clicking on your link but also from them not visiting your blog ever again.

By default, ads served through Amazon’s servers are automatically blocked by ad-blocking software. A simple way to bypass this is to host the advertisement images yourself while still earning the commission should someone purchase something through your link. I’ve talked to Amazon and they have confirmed that I am definitely allowed to host the Amazon advertisement pictures myself, just as long as I don’t modify anything on the original banner image itself. I am allowed to re-size the picture, however. This also means that you can even create your own custom advertisement banners and logo images! If you want to know how to accomplish this, simply send me an email and I’ll gladly show you.
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Language Learning Software for Free!

I’m sure you would agree with me that being bi-lingual gains you a huge advantage over others who aren’t. In today’s tough and struggling economy and I clearly don’t mean just the United States, being able to speak another foreign language looks very good on your resume and makes you a lot more desirable than say another individual who has the same skill sets as yourself. Besides work related, isn’t it just cool to tell others that you can speak two or more languages?! You can communicate with a whole new bunch of people that wouldn’t have been possible before unless you had a personal translator (or some sort of smart phone app but that wouldn’t fun). But of course you probably all know this and don’t need me repeating it. However, learning a new language has always been difficult and a very taunting task for many. Were not learning how to add and subtract here. We are talking about learning a completely new communication language. Wouldn’t you agree that in order to conquer such a difficult task we should learn to break that task into smaller, more manageable parts? Just about every language learning software or method usually starts you off with the basics and then move on to the more difficult and advanced parts. With BYKI Express, we are able to do just that and should you want more, you’ll be glad to know that the price for the deluxe version wouldn’t make a huge dent in your wallet. Our economy is struggling, remember?

Learning a new language is difficult, we get that. There are definitely a number of language learning software you can choose from to help guide you to your goal. However, what usually separates one software from another (besides price) is in the method used to actually teach you your language of choice. Let’s face it. A huge part of how you’ll learn a new language is due to memory commitment. That’s why you’ve probably heard or read that the best time to learn a new language is during your childhood where it’s much easier to commit things to memory. Many language software incorporates different techniques to help you in this respect. If one doesn’t work for you, you’ll need to try something else. Just recently, I’ve discovered a language teaching software that has a free edition along with a paid version. This is very important because like I’ve said above, not every teaching method will work for you. Therefore, what’s better than being able to try out the software via the free (express) version before making the commitment? This way, I’ll get to see firsthand if the software is right for me or not.

I’m sorry, I had to do it. Whenever someone hears about learning to speak a new language, Rosetta Stone immediately pops up. Come on, admit it. I bet you had that same thought earlier on. Well, if you have ever used Rosetta Stone before, a whole lot of you will understand what I’m about to say: Do Not Waste Money on Rosetta Stone! It’s a complete ripoff where money is concerned and worst of all, it is not effective. Their method of using multiple pictures is poorly done and can be very confusing to some. Not to mention, having the narrator speak to you as if you already know the language doesn’t help one bit! Pictures are useful but the way Rosetta Stone actually teach you words and phrases is just confusing and not fun at all. Trust me, I’m not the only one who thinks this. Now, I’m 100% sure that there are also a lot of people out there that found success with this product but it just didn’t work for me or pretty much all the other people I’ve met. Rosetta Stone is actually used by the U.S. military to train students and soldiers but for the many I have talked to, a majority of them didn’t like it one bit. You’ve been warned.

BYKI

When I first heard about BYKI, I was thinking what the heck did it stood for. Well, it stands for Before You Know It. Basically, “before you know it”, you’ll be speaking a different language. Very clever. But does it work? Well, that’s something you have to find out for yourself. Luckily though, BYKI includes several different editions for purchase for each language and one edition completely free! This express edition allows you to taste a small sample of what BYKI is about before putting your money down.

BYKI Express uses a unique system called “lists” that comes pre-installed by default. These default lists are only a sample of what the full version will include. However, other users within the BYKI community can create and distribute custom lists for others to download and use. This allows you to get the most out of the program. These lists are usually “flash-card” based with picture and audio pronunciation. There’s actually a lot more activities, games and features to BYKI as a whole to help you learn your language but you’ll need to be a premium/deluxe member to take advantage of it. I’m not said premium member but judging from the free edition, it looks very promising.

BYKI, from my personal opinion, should not be considered a language software you would want to use to completely master a given language. I really don’t think that’s the intention of the software. What BYKI will do is get you to memorize many of the most used words and phrases for any of its offered languages. In my opinion, BYKI is a very good program to use if you are just starting out in your language journey. Want to learn Korean but not sure how tough it is? Well, download the express edition and find out for yourself!

You can download your BYKI language express edition from here. The download here is not the actual software download but just the front piece. Once you initiate the program, BYKI will then begin downloading and installing the actual language version you have selected from their servers. Also, one thing I don’t like about BYKI is the deception to get you to enter your personal email address. It states that the download link will be sent to your email but that’s not true at all. Once you enter in the information (whether using a real or fake email), you’re prompted to choose whether you want the Windows or Mac version of the software in your browser and the download proceeds all without having to check your email for the download link.
  1. You’ll be asked to create a user account to help keep track of your own progress.
  2. To get started, you’ll need to pick a individual list to work with in BYKI. Each list contains anywhere from 8-16 words and phrases. Each list is catered to a specific category, scenario or situation. For example, there are lists to learn specific words and phrases when trying to communicate directions, a list for greetings and so forth.
  3. Once you’ve selected a list, you’ll go through 3 steps/processes for each one. The first step is the “preview” step. Here you’ll get to read and hear the actual words and phrases. Some words actually have a picture to accommodate it and this actually helps you commit it into your memory. The best part is being able to slow down the audio by pressing the small turtle icon. This allows you to more clearly hear every pronunciation and syllable as best possible.  In the second step known as “recognize it”, BYKI provides the words and phrases in the language you’re trying to learn and you’ll get to to translate them back into English. In the final step known as “produce it”, BYKI will provide the definition in English while you have to translate them into the language being learned. This is the opposite of step two.
  4. Once you’re done with the default lists, you can actually download additional custom lists created by other BYKI users all for free! You can take a look at these lists here. Once you’ve found a list that you want, simply download the .b4u file. Back in BYKI, select the List drop-down menu at the top and then the Import List option. Browse to your downloaded .b4u file to import it. Once that’s done, simply select the list from your vault.

While costing you nothing, BYKI Express edition still offers a lot. I was actually surprised that they allowed even the express edition users to import custom lists downloaded through the Internet! This clearly could have been a premium only feature and include only 5-6 default lists for the express users.

I still firmly believe that BYKI is an excellent introduction for users wanting to learn a new language. The flash card based system is simple and effective. Also, the best feature in my opinion is being able to slow the audio pronunciation. Just remember that learning a new language by yourself is a very difficult task no matter what software you use. It’s to your advantage if you find one in which the teaching system and methods work for you. If you don’t like BYKI, that’s mighty fine as well. As long as you try it, there’s no harm being done. Good luck!

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Defeat Computer Stress with Aromatherapy!

No matter what it is you do for a living, stress somehow finds a way to creep into our lives. It’s inevitable. There are definitely many ways to combat stress but one of the method I like to use most often is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is based on smell and is used often by many people to alter their feelings, mind, body, health and mood. Have you ever went to a diner or restaurant where you didn’t think you were that hungry at all but as soon as you smelled some of the delicious food being offered, you have a complete change of heart? Although that’s not really considered aromatherapy, it’s a simple example to remind you of how powerful smells can be for a human brain. In this article, I’ll show you how easy it is to create your own aromatherapy setup from scratch to hopefully help you combat stress more effectively.

Why I Use it

I’ll admit that I’m not the neatest person you’ll ever meet. However, one thing that I always take pride in is how I smell. No matter what I do or where I go, I always make sure that I smell good. That’s because I believe smell is a very strong regulator where our moods are concerned. Also, how you smell is equally important for the people around you as well. It’s not all about you! To put it more simply, when you smell good, you’ll do good. This equally applies to my environment as well. If the place where I’m working at smells good, I’ll do good as well. However, it’s much more than that. Aromatherapy is named so because many different fragrances attributes to solving many different problems. For example, lavender is a insanely popular fragrance smell to help combat insomnia because it helps a person to relax. Eucalyptus or other types of minty smell helps to combat fatigue by helping a person stay focus and alert. You may think that all this is just nonsense and exists only because a person “wants to believe” it in their own mind but after trying it out, I can definitely say that aromatherapy helps, a lot. In my house, I have a simple aromatherapy setup (which I’ll show you how to make here) which I keep by my laptop where I do all my work. This helps me to focus on the task at hand and at the same time, relax a bit. Aromatherapy isn’t going to make all your troubles go away but it definitely helps you to deal with it more efficiently.

Reed Diffusers

Reed DiffuserThere are many different methods to achieve aromatherapy bliss. The easiest and more popular method is through a reed diffuser system. I’m sure you have seen these before. The setup consists of a glass jar of some sort filled with liquid oil. You then have 5-6 wooden looking sticks sticking out of the jar and that’s it. How this works is very simple. The liquid in the jar is a combination of a base oil mixed in with either synthetic fragrance oils or essential oils to give it a wonderful smell. However, by itself it doesn’t do anything and this is where the wooden sticks come into play. The sticks are not bamboo at all. These are called rattan reeds and is special because the material is porous. This allows the reeds to soak in the oil. Once the oils reach the top of the sticks, it evaporates and therefore, the fragrance is released into the air. The popularity of these reed diffusers have skyrocketed over the years because it is a much safer alternative than electronic or candle-lit aromatherapy kits.

How to Create Your Own Diffuser Kit

Technically, you don’t really have to create your own kit. You can go to the store right now and buy a reed diffuser system and skip the rest of this article. However, there are about three main reasons why I like to create my own. First, it is a lot cheaper. A reed diffuser system you buy at the store will usually cost you around $10 or more. When the oil is dried out, you’ll need to buy refills and once again, they can cost a lot. Second, I like to create my own scents. With store bought diffuser systems, you’ll still have a lot of choices to pick from but by creating your own, you get to use the exact fragrance of choice. Lastly, creating your own diffuser aromatherapy kit is much more safer because it doesn’t contain harmful chemicals and whatnot like those you buy from the store. Whatever your reasons are, creating your own diffuser kit is super simple and I’ll show you how to do it here!

Materials Needed

Luckily, not much is needed to begin creating your own kit. I have done the research for you and will tell you exactly what you need. I list Ebay items for two of the products because where I live, I really don’t have much choices. If I do find the things I need, they are usually very expensive. If you can’t find these materials in your local area for cheap, then go online like me and purchase them instead. The other items can be bought very easily. As for the glass jar, you don’t need anything fancy unless of course, you want to. If you’re like me and want to change scents often, get a smaller jar. In my picture, you can see that I just used a simple salt and pepper shaker. If you would like to have a constant smell of the same fragrance, then get a larger bottle (as you’ll fill it with more oil). A very cheap way to obtain one is by recycling a used beer bottle! Beer bottles like Heineken have a green tint and so it will definitely look nicer than compared to a plain ol’ see through jar. The preference is obviously up to you.  In my state, I couldn’t find 100 or 120 proof vodka. It could be that it’s illegal here as the higher the number, the stronger the alcohol content. However, using 80 proof vodka also worked. Just make sure that you find the cheapest one available. You don’t even need that much so a small bottle will last you a long time, unless you drink from it!

Baby Oil

100-120 Proof Vodka (80 proof should work as well if you can’t find any)

Glass jar with narrow opening

Fragrance or essential oil of choice (Ebay store here)

Rattan reeds (Ebay store here)

Materials

There is a difference between using synthetic fragrance oils and essential oils. Basically, synthetic oils are what I call “fake” oils in that many ingredients are combined together to make a fragrance. Essential oils are usually a lot more expensive in that they are “real” oils. They are extracted from real plants via a very complicated technique. Synthetic oils are fragrances you should be most familiar with. These smells include things like blueberry muffin, tropical paradise, fruit punch, vanilla almond etc. Essential oils include eucalyptus, lavender, jasmine, peppermint, and cedar wood.  For a more in depth knowledge between the two, a simple Google will turn up plenty of information.

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5 Techniques On How to Give a Perfect Presentation!

Now, I’m not one to always give technical presentations in front of huge audiences and whatnot but if you’re a technical fella of some sort, you understand when I say that sometimes you have to deal with a huge variety of customers. I mean not everyone is as technical as us otherwise they wouldn’t need our help or listen to us in the first place, would they? One of the things I always told myself when talking tech with different people has always been to “cater” to their needs. Basically, you want the conversation to be meaningful to the listener. It’s a very common sense kind of thing but you’ll be surprised at how often techies forget that they are talking to their financial bosses who have no clue about many technical things and ramble on and on with technical jargon. Soon enough, the conversation goes nowhere and the other party is left more confused than ever. I know, it’s hard for some of us because we just need to flex our muscles a bit sometimes and show other people that we are very smart when it comes to technical stuff. The major problem is, many of us don’t know when the right time is to get technical and when not to!

Mark Russinovich and Mark Minasi are probably two of the most popular Windows platform presenters on the planet. Mark Russinovich is insanely popular with the technical crowd due to his immense knowledge of the Windows platform and for his work with the Sysinternal tools he provides for the public. Mark Minasi is known for his books on the Windows server platform along with his always interesting presentations that he  gives to his audiences. They have joined together for a video instructing you many tips and secrets on how to give effective technical talks and presentations. Communication is big part of IT now. Gone are the days where network administrators get to hide out in the server basement room and play games or whatever it is they did back then. Nowadays, presentation and communication skills are necessary if you are to achieve success in pretty much any field. Therefore, by learning how to cater your presentation and talks to the right people, you’ll have a higher success rate at succeeding in whatever it was you were set out to teach.

You can watch the video by going here. You’ll need the Silverlight player from Microsoft to be able to watch the video online. However, if you don’t have it or don’t want it installed, you can also simply download the entire video itself and view it on your own desktop with your video player of choice. Because the video doesn’t consist of fancy graphics and whatnot, I suggest you download the “High Quality MP4” version of the video.

After watching the video, here are some of my favorite tips and tricks learned from the presentation:

The tips I go over here doesn’t just apply to giving technical talks. It applies to pretty much all presentations you might give.

Know Your Topic!

SmartI can’t stress about this enough! Whenever you give a presentation of any kind, not just technical related, you must have knowledge of your topic! Your audience is there to listen to you talk about that specific topic so wouldn’t it make you look like a fool if you had no idea what you were talking about? Knowing your topic well also gives you the confidence boost you’ll need to combat stage fright. By not putting enough time into your research, you’ll no doubt be worst off as now you’ll be scared that your audience members may know more of your topic than you do! When that happens, you’ll ultimately lose confidence in yourself and your presentation. If anything, even if you don’t follow any of the other advices from the video, make sure to follow this one! Your audience might find you a bore whenever they watch you present the next time around but at least they’ll have a peace of mind that you know your stuff and wouldn’t be wasting their time. People aren’t stupid. Many of your audience members probably have sat through dozens if not hundreds of presentations over time. I’m sure they can definitely tell whether or not you’ve just put your presentation together just last night vs. weeks ago. It’s also important to remember, although it can be a bit hard at times, that you might also have a few exceptionally smart audiences members as well. Don’t feel the constant need to prove that you are the smartest one in the room.

Know Your Audience Ahead of Time!

Wasting TimeWhether giving a presentation to 50-100 members or just 3-5, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you know your audience members! Why go all out and be super geeky when your audience members consists of your parents or siblings that don’t have the computer knowledge that you do? It will be a waste of not only your time but your audiences as well. Have a feel for who your audience members will be and talk accordingly to their level. It’s definitely OK to get a little technical at times but as long as you explain things through in a more clear manner, your audience will have more respect for you. Many a times, some audience members are embarrassed to ask technical questions in front of others because they don’t want to look weak. It’s your job as the presenter to make each member feel comfortable and striking a balance between dumbing down your content and being overly technical.

Get the Audience Members Involved!

QuestionsIt’s hard to imagine how anyone could give an hour long (or longer) presentation when all they will be doing is spouting out information after information. In other words, talk, talk, talk, rabble, rabble, rabble. However, I have actually seen presentations like this and while the presenter definitely proves that he/she knows the topic very well, the presentation itself is very boring! Remember, you’re talking to live human beings, not robots. They have feelings and emotions just like you do. Get them involved by asking them questions or vice-versa. Another trick is to put yourself in the audiences shoes and talk about their viewpoints. If the audience feels like you actually care about them, they will genuinely pay closer attention to what you have to say.  Heck, you can even try making jokes! Doing so is OK as long as you know when and how to deliver the joke. Also, make sure the joke is at least semi-funny! It would be really awkward if you told a joke that no one in the room laughs at or can relate too.

Speak Loud and Clear!

SpeakingAgain, this is a very common sense issue and one that everyone thinks they got it mastered but once presentation time rolls around, everything falls apart. No matter how big your audience, you have to understand that all eyes and focus will be on you. Therefore, you need to speak with a loud and commanding voice so that you can take control of your audiences. If you mumble a lot, it might portray you as either unprepared or just lacking confidence in general. Think about it. If it seems like you don’t want to be there, what makes you think your audience members will want to? Remember, you’re in charge when presenting so act the part!

Practice, Practice and more Practice!

PracticeEver heard of practice makes perfect? As with everything, the more times you do something, the better you’ll get at it. Or at the very least, be comfortable doing it without having the jitters. Start off by rehearsing by yourself. As you build confidence, perform it in front of your friends and peers and ask for honest opinions on what they liked and didn’t liked about the way you presented. When rehearsing by yourself, there are many times when you can actually spot out what you need to improve on yourself! For example, you’ll often times find yourself having the need to talk louder, finding the right time to speed things up a bit and when to slow it down, and taking the time to pronounce your words correctly. That is why practicing is very important. If you need some inspiration, take a look at videos of other popular speakers to pick up some hints and tips as to how to have successful presentations and speeches. Bill Gates and President Obama in my eyes are pretty good public speakers.

If you want to get a better insight as to how to become a better speaker and presenter, I suggest you read The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie. It’s an old book but many of the thoughts and ideas written in it still applies today. Think of it as Sun Tzu and his Art of War philosophies. It’s a free eBook and if you have a Kindle or another eBook reading device, you can download the version that applies to your device. If not, feel free to download the PDF version.

In the End…

I find this video presentation very beneficial. Almost immediately after watching, you’ll have a lot of information and advices that you can apply to the real world. I’m sure a lot of us dread having to give presentations but it’s something that we cannot avoid. In fact, the more you try to avoid it, the more difficult it’s going to get down the road. Instead of wasting all your time worrying about what could go wrong, you’re better off spending that time going over things that can minimize that potential instead. You can do that by watching the video by Mark Russinovich and Mark Minasi. Good luck!

Successful

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Are Advertisements Really that Evil?

This issue has been debated for quite some time already, yes, I already know that. This article is just another opinion from yet another “dude” somewhere out there in the world with a website/blog to his credit. Take it for what you will. Anyways, I thought it would be interesting for me to blog about this topic and dig deep down inside myself to see how I personally feel about this issue. Sometimes, people can be very hypocritical preaching one thing and then doing the complete opposite. I’m not going to lie. I can be like that as well at times and that’s why I like to write. It allows me to think before putting something down and so it allows me to reflect more deeply on the issue. Words on paper can sometimes be just as powerful as a voice.

What is it?

OK, to kick things off, let’s see how casual users like myself view commercials and advertisements in general. When we see a commercial on TV, there are a couple of emotions that can be emitted depending on the type of person you are. Well, actually, now that I think about it, it actually boils down to whether you like them or not! Some users may view it as a complete waste of time and want nothing more than for their regular programming to air again. On the other hand, there are some users that don’t mind the commercials in general but view it as just a intermission. They can either go about their restroom break during these commercials or in other cases, look for actual services and products of interest offered in the commercials. In the end, commercials are a form of advertisement. I think that much we can all agree on. While that might not hold true for 100% of the commercial content out there, it does hold a significant portion enough. Why? Well, it’s very simple. Money. Companies pay big bucks to have their commercials run on TV in hopes of getting you interested in their product or services. The more chances of your commercial being viewed (think during Superbowl or one the many popular TV dramas)  will obviously cost you a lot more compared to a commercial being broadcast at 3AM in the morning where everyone is most likely asleep. Heck, I’m sure there are many commercials out there that cost more to have it put out to public for broadcast than it is to actually create the video commercial itself! Bottom line is, commercials cost money.

So what about online advertisements? They can be considered somewhat like commercials but in many cases, much less intrusive in that it doesn’t take you completely away from the page you are viewing (although there are exceptions to this). Also, you have an option of whether to view the ad or to skip it entirely. That part is important to keep in mind when reading the rest of this article. With commercials, you have no choice but to watch it unless you are watching it pre-recorded from your DVR in which you can then fast forward it. With advertisements on websites, if an advertisement excites your interest, clicking on it will take you to a different website for more information on that product or service. If the advertisement fails, then nothing usually happens. The advertisement might be a bit distracting depending on the type being used but generally, it’s just going to sit there.

Site Adverts

How it Works

With all that being said, advertisement sucks! Well, at least that’s what a lot of people think. It’s a distraction and a complete waste of time. However, they don’t realize the importance of those advertisements. Once again though, it comes down to money and revenue. Many services can continue to offer you content because they have a generous revenue earned through their advertisement partners. A very simple example is Hulu. Hulu allow users to catch up on their favorite TV episodes online for free as long as they have a decent broadband connection. Yes, free. What many of these users don’t stop and think about is how this is made possible. Surely the giant TV companies and production studios isn’t going to give Hulu a free pass and allow them to freely stream their content on their site for free. Come on, money talks.  Hulu must pay some sort of licensing fee and whatnot to be able to give you those content. But how is it going to earn the money to pay those big companies if they don’t charge users a single penny?! I’m sure you catch on by now. By accepting to show advertisements to these users, Hulu is getting paid by these actual advertisement companies and earn revenue. Because Hulu is such a big name service, I’m sure many third-party services and product companies out there would love to pay Hulu to broadcast their commercials in hopes to reach a larger audience base which in turn would lead to more people hopefully purchasing or spreading word about their product.

Hulu Advert

Now let’s switch over to the web. Many freelance bloggers write content for everyone to read. In many cases, these content is generally of some help to the readers. These bloggers typically do not get paid whatsoever and they create content purely on their own free time. Is there a way for some of these bloggers to generate some revenue in hopes to either pay for their monthly web host or even go as far as generating their sole monthly income? Well, advertisement is the answer once again. By place adverts throughout their website in hopes of users clicking on them, they can generate some revenue. How much they earn is completely dependent on how effective their advertisements are and the amount of visitors they get on a daily basis. Advertisements is an easy way to help the content owner earn some revenue for taking the time to put together articles and other informational pieces for the general public.

Site Advert 2

The Problem

As mentioned earlier, many people don’t take too well on any form of advertisements. Many users expect everything out there on the Internet to be freely available. Therefore, advertisements are viewed not as a revenue channel for the source provider but as just an annoyance. Hardly would users stop and think about how it is possible that they are getting the content in the first place when it comes to television shows or that the actual person who wrote that helpful article they’ve just read is a human being just like them and they need to make a living as well, no matter how small or big. I’m sure there are people out there who would immediately dismiss a blog article the first chance they see an advertisement banner. For some reason, they either believe that the site is not reputable or that the owner of the blog is just begging for money. Commercials are nothing more than a “plot” by the big evil companies to brainwash us into buying yet another product we don’t really need. It sounds funny but I can assure you that it’s happening out there.

Page 2: My Opinion + AdBlock Plus –>

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Mafia 2 Review

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” You damn right I do. But when you write for a blog talking about Microsoft Windows and all these other geeky technologies, one would hardly consider that “gangster” at all. But hey, that’s why we have video games right? I mean, who doesn’t dream about rising to power and having men cower at your feet who will do just about anything to earn your respect? Who doesn’t want to surround themselves with expensive and fast sports cars along with beautiful women? Well, enter Mafia 2 by 2K Games. For the majority of us, playing a character in a video game is pretty much the only way we get to escape the real world and join a completely different one. With Mafia 2, you’ll get to be that gangster you’ve have always dreamed about. Well, sort of.

Story

You play as Vito Scaletta in Mafia 2. You’ve come back home from war to Empire Bay expecting the visit to last about a month or so before being pulled back into the military. However, things turn out quite differently once you get a surprised visit from your neighborhood friend, Joe. You’re broke, hate working a 9-5, and the fact that your family owes a large sum of money due to your dad pretty much sets the backdrop for you needing to earn some fast money. Joe knows the “right people”, fills you in, and the rest I’m pretty sure you can fill in yourselves. Some jobs go smoothly and some don’t. It’s usually the latter that sets up the story along the way throughout Mafia 2. Although this gangster story of Vito Scaletta (that name sounds too awesome) isn’t something that will blow your mind away, it still somehow manages to draw you in and force you to see it till the credits roll. One of Mafia 2’s main strong point is the story itself but it isn’t without its flaws.

One of the main disappointment I have with Mafia 2 is with the main character himself as far story progression goes. Throughout the game, you’ll no doubt take on many missions with your buddy. This order usually comes from a person in the crime family that has a higher status that you. That’s fine. I mean, no pain no gain right? Well, the problem here is, I experience a lot of pain but don’t gain much as a result. From start to finish, I feel just like another lackey for the higher up’s. Vito do this, Vito do that. Obviously, that has to be because its a video game! But throughout the whole experience, I don’t earn any true gangster status. I don’t have command of a group of lesser gangsters to accompany me to shoot out’s. I don’t get to make any decisions. What they tell me to do, I do. This is where many will think of Mafia 2 as a very linear game. It’s just you and the main storyline. No in between. While this isn’t a problem for me as I do love a game with a good plot, I just wished for more in the character progression department. The ending of Mafia 2 will hit you harder than a 100MPH fastball. Well, at least it did for me. I totally didn’t expect for it and was majorly disappointed. This could be blamed on the addicting storyline as I didn’t want the game to end right there and then.

Storyline

Gameplay

If you’ve ever played a third person shooter before, then Mafia 2 welcomes you. Let me say this right now: Mafia 2 is a pretty difficult game. I’m playing this on Normal difficulty and although I’m no noob to shooting games, I died a lot of times during shootouts in the game. I even had aim assistant to help me out. Why do you die a lot? It’s mainly due to you not being able to take many hits. This is a good thing because it makes you actually feel mortal. You’ll need to take cover for most shootouts and even then, enemies have very precise accuracy and there are times where you can get capped even when behind cover. Some people may dislike this but in order to move out of cover, you’ll have to again press the cover button rather than being able to slide out using the joystick. It’s not that bad and you’ll definitely get use to it after a couple of fights. You’ll get to use an assortment of standard weapons such as handguns, shotguns, sub-machine guns, grenades and molotov’s. Oh and your bare hands as well. Going in gun blazing Rambo style in a shootout will not get the job done. I don’t even want to think how it will be like on the hardest difficulty. For players looking for a challenge, I recommend turning off the auto-aim assistant in the options menu.

Shooting

As mentioned earlier, Mafia 2 is a linear game. The game is broken into several chapters. There are no manual saves in the game so you’ll have to note when the saving icon appears so you can exit the game knowing you’ll start at that point when you re-visit it next time. There really isn’t much to do in this big open world video game other than to follow the main storyline. It’s really a shame because Empire Bay is really big. Being able to drive through this beautiful landscape without being able to really do anything is similar to a really big tease. Look is fine but your hands are off-limits. Throughout the game, you basically drive around the city completing various missions. Literally, you drive down to meet with your buddies in a cafe, get the mission details, drive to the destination, perform your duties, drive back to a safe house, sleep, get awoken by a phone call asking you to come down to the cafe for another mission and it starts all over again. Heck even Vito realizes this during a phone call late in the game and takes a jab at this linear nature of the game.

The fact that money doesn’t play a big part in Mafia 2 hurts the gameplay as well. You would think that you would want to earn tons of cash in order to purchase nice things for yourself but that isn’t the case here. The only thing you would need to buy, believe it or not, are clothes. When you are wanted by the police, you’ll need to change your clothes at a clothing store. Bullets and ammunition? Hardly needed as you’ll most likely pick them up from the people you killed. How about money for food? Once again, not needed as you have a regenerating health system and besides, you can go back to your safe house and dig around in the refrigerator for a sandwich or a soda bottle to repair your health for free. You are able to rob stores for cash but this is really a hassle because the amount you get in return for doing so is very minimal when compared to that of selling cars to Bruski. Robbing a gun ammunition shop earned me a measly $250 while doing the same for a diner got me only $55. Selling a car to Bruski however, earns me around $420-$450. But other than one point in the story, earning money is not a necessity in the game.

Empire City

Since you’ll spend so much time in Mafia 2 driving around, it’s good to know there are many cars to choose from. However, many of them are very slow in the first half of the game (you’ll know what I mean if you play the game) but during the second half, it’s a little better. You’ll occasionally drive around looking for that sweet convertible sport car to jack. You can either pick a car’s lock (which is very easy as long as no cops are around you) or bash the windows. Your garage will help you hold 10 cars but I find it very unnecessary as if I want a new car, I simply just steal another one. Driving recklessly (yes, excessive speeding counts as well) while cops are around will get you in trouble. You’ll then need to drive away and lose them which isn’t very hard as long as you have a fairly fast car.

One thing I do wish Mafia 2 would have incorporated into the game are imaginary way-point routes on the road. It’s a constant irritation to have to keep taking your eyes off the road to look at the mini map at the lower right corner of the screen to make sure you are correctly driving to your destination. Also, because there really isn’t anything else to do in the city, the location marks on the maps hardly matter at all. You’ll drive past food establishments, ammo stores and telephones all without any thought.

Driving

Presentation

Mafia 2 is a very good looking open-world game. You really get the feeling that this game really does take place in the 1950s. From the environment, your clothing, the music, the way people talk and even the colors all do a good job of giving off that oldies styles feel to it. Drive around town and you’ll see people going about doing their own thing. Although this does give off some sort of liveliness to the city of Empire Bay, it’s such a shame that you really can’t interact with pretty much anything you come across (unless of course you’re trying to run people over with your car).

Vito

Overall…

I had a blast playing through Mafia 2. I finished the game in just a little over 12 hours. The story was very engaging for some very strange reason I can’t seem to figure out. There are however many disappointments. For one, having such a big city to explore but without having the ability to actually do anything in it, it feels really pointless. This makes the game very linear as all you’ll be doing is completing one mission after another to advance the main storyline. This isn’t a huge problem for gamers like myself but once again, why spend so much time building such an advance landscape without giving the gamers any side mission of any sort? The shooting feels a little stiff at times but it’s nothing to complain about. The story is what you would come to expect from any gangster type movie or video game. Another disappointment is the abrupt ending. Gamers looking to get the most out of their money will be disappointed to know that there is no multiplayer component in Mafia 2. This might be a deal breaker for many and so if you are one of those gamers, I’ll recommend waiting for the game to hit the bargain bins or better yet, a quick rental.

8/10

 

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