Bob and Joy Schwabach
 

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June 2008, Week 1  

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GOT THAT OLD MOLI WORKING

Moli.com  is a free business networking site created by the founders of Etrade, the online discount stockbroker. It went live this past January and already has 237,000 members. 

Before everyone groans and says “Oh no, not another networking site,” we     have to point out that this one has differences. Perhaps the major difference is the ease with which network members can create several pages and makeMoli them either public or private. For example, a business might create one page with information for suppliers, another for customers and still another just for important customers. Of course the pages can have video clips, photos and be open for online chats.  

What is true for a business is true for individuals. A person can have pages just for old-school alumni, fraternities, civic groups, and of course, family. Links to these pages need not show up on the site member’s profile if they prefer it that way. The goal is to manage both business and personal contacts on the same networking site. 

Networking sites are the new gold strikes, and both people and money are flocking to stake claims. Someone with a good idea and a powerful server with lots of storage can change an investment of a few thousand dollars into a product worth billions. Microsoft recently spent $240 million for a 1.6 percent investment in Facebook.com, which placed a nominal value of about $15 billion for the whole networking site. That would make Facebook worth considerably more than General Motors.  

There is no limit to how many pages you can have on Moli.com and you can add each one just by filling out a short form. More features are being added each month. New in May is a “Small Business Center,” where retired executives offer free advice in the “Ask an expert” forum. The center also offers franchise information, sample business plans, how-to guides and courses. You can visit the Small Business Center without having to sign up as a member of the network. 

The site is free, as we said, but there’s a charge of $4 a month if you want to have a store and $2.49 a month if you want your site to be free of ads. 

Wave If You’re Composing 

Beamz is a W-shaped device that lets you make music by waving your fingers between the arms. 

Interrupting a set of laser beams sends impulses to your computer. As the speed and duration of these impulses last, music emerges from your computer’s speakers. Much of that music is already built in to the accompanying software, which contains preset genre tracks for blues, jazz, Beamzclassical, rock, reggae, etc. Different instruments can be queued in, letting you compose with strings, keyboard, brass, woodwinds, including odd items like cow bells. You can add your own instruments as well. Waving your fingers through the air generates pulses, riffs, streams and loops of music stored in the computer.  

You can see and hear a performance with this strange instrument by going to SharperImage.com  and typing Beamz as your search term. The music has a slightly science fiction movie sound, but to Bob, a long-time sci-fi fan, that’s good. In fact, the Beamz instrument immediately recalls memories of the Theremin, an electronic instrument developed in 1919 and used to produce some eerie sounds in such movies as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” and the sci-fi movies “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” and “Mars Attacks.” Unlike Beamz, the Theremin has no instrumental variations and of course does not use laser beams, which after all, hadn’t been invented in 1919. 

The price for this intriguing toy is fairly stiff: $600, and for the moment we could find it only at  SharperImage.com .  

Easy Invoices 

FreshBooks.com  is a service for creating and sending out invoices while you’re online. You can send invoices by email,  postal mail or both.  

For postal mail, you need stamps, of course, and FreshBooks.com starts you out with two stamps already prepaid. You can buy more stamps using the same email procedure. They will seem much more expensive than simplyFreshBooks buying stamps in person, but that’s because the price includes the invoice, a return envelope and handling. 

FreshBooks has users in over 100 countries and they seem to be quite happy with it. The bills get sent out faster, and users report that they get paid faster as well, probably because the clients can  pay online. Records are kept by the service and accessible at any time. If there is tax involved, that is added automatically. 

The service is free if you have three or fewer active clients, or $14 a month for up to 25 clients. For $149 a month you can bill up to 5,000 clients this way.   

The Numbers Report 

The press lives! Newspaper web sites attracted 66.4 million unique visitors in the first quarter of 2008. That was 40.7 percent of all Internet users and a 12.3 percent increase over the same period last year. The numbers come from Nielsen-Online.com. 

“YourTech” is now Their Tech 

YourTechOnline, a great tech support service we’ve both used and written about, is no more. The web service was recently absorbed by Support.com , another tech support service, and in the process the price has gone way up. YourTechOnline used to charge $1 a minute for support and most problems were solved in less than 15 minutes, sometimes as little as one minute. Support.com now charges users a minimum of $75 and a flat fee of $130 for problems that aren’t part of a group they’ve defined. A reader alerted us to the change when he went for help and was dismayed by the new charges.  

 


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