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550.1.1: The Mark of The Microsoft Syndrome

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If 666 is the mark of the Anti-Christ, what is 550.1.1?  Why, it’s the identifying number of just another error code that bedevils computer users.  Taken in their totality, these codes comprise what I refer to as the Microsoft Syndrome.


Recently, I decided to update my e-mail by switching to Outlook Express.  This move eliminated the need to go to a specific web page to sign in; moreover, it enabled me to read my mail by clicking on the Outlook Express icon right there on my desktop.


Everything was fine with Outlook Express, until I added a new contact with an aol.com address, and that’s when I stopped enjoying sending my emails.  You see, I am the type of person that likes to resolve my own problems with or without help.


My first untoward encounter occurred when I sent my friend Ralph an e-mail message.  My server informed me that the message was undeliverable, due to error code 550.1.1.  This caused me to have concerns about my server.  Had I gotten a cheap version of Outlook Express, or was it some other computer glitch that denied the transmission of my email? After, all Microsoft is a pioneer in the industry.  According to Bill Gates, I’d venture to say that it’s the Cadillac of computer systems.  Yet, I felt short changed.  Did I get a lemon?


Having said that, and going one step further, I called my ISP to resolve the problem.  I spoke with a person named Joe in the tech support department.  Joe told me that it was a relay problem, but he did not know how to correct it.  So, he suggested that I contact Microsoft directly for the secret solution.


Now the plot thickens.  It is very difficult to get a simple answer from the pioneer of the industry.  In fact, while visiting Microsoft’s help site, I found that I wasn’t alone in trying to address error 550.1.1.  I could not count how many people that had the same problem with the Cadillac of the industry; it looked like millions! Getting free information from the site was out of the question.


Pursuing the problem, I entered the error code 550.1.1 into a search engine.  I discovered that many sites address the situation for a fee, and guaranteed a permanent fix. But, my Scottish ancestry got offended at the thought of paying real money to uncheck a box in my software.  Like the man in the Vonage advertisement says, “I don’t waste anything, especially my money!”


By now, I was completely frustrated. I was learning the hard way that the Internet is infested with Capitalistic ideology.  Owning a computer is a luxury when it comes to repairs, and it appears that things were designed that way.  First, they introduce you to technology.  Once you are hooked, you have got to pay.  Maybe this is the wave of the future.  But, it also can be a boon to the business of psychiatrists, who may attempt to unravel the error syndromes of computer addicts.


In searching for the answer to my problem, I have learned what all the titles of the e-mail stand for.   They start with Internet Service Provider (ISP) and go to Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). But after that, it’s all Searching Host Inquiry Topics (SHIT, to me).


In all of my experience, in times of war and times of peace, I have never been more frustrated in trying to resolve a problem. Whether it is Microsoft, aol.com or Comcast, the only way to resolve this problem is with money.  Whether it’s dollars, pesos, francs, pounds or deutschmarks, it’s all the same.  It all comes down to money.


In becoming an addict to this machine, I have noticed, from time to time, error messages politely informing me, “The program has encountered a problem and must shutdown.”  But, before it shuts down, I have to make the decision as to whether or not to send this free information to Microsoft in order to fix their software problems.  Supposedly, by sending an error report, I will receive future updates to resolve the problem with my software.  If this is true, then why are millions of PC users still waiting for an update on error code 550.1.1?


The answer to that question is — you guessed it! — MONEY!  These error messages are not generated by magic. They are programmed into the software, lying in wait like a hungry cat to pounce upon you.   If you have been the victim of such messages, have you ever noticed that once you shut your system down and then reboot it, the problem goes away?  Think about it!


Now that we’re on the topic of computers and money, have you ever considered the cost of running your computer, aside from the obvious cost of electricity?  There are modem rental Internet fees, anti-virus packages, add-ons for peripheral equipment, cables, and the cost of updating your operating system with the latest software releases.


In my travels and travails, I also found a site that mentioned something noteworthy about this subject.  It stated that people that use yahoo or gmail do not have these error problems.


Cut off from my friend Ralph via error code 550.1.1, I finally reached him the old fashioned way: by telephone.  I expressed my regrets in trying to reach him, and after a long talk about how expensive it is to use e-mail, he said, “I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t cost me a dime for my Internet service.”  Quizzically, I asked him how he had accomplished that feat.  He informed that he does not own a computer, and yet, he has found a way to have everything I have at no expense to him.


Well, you could have floored me with that remark.  I asked, “Ralph, what’s the secret?”  And then, he told me this fascinating story.


He said that, in his travels, he had noticed that many hotels, motels, and libraries offer free Internet service — so, he uses their equipment.  He sets up his documents and uses their servers for Internet connections.  If the computer crashes, the establishment fixes the problem and even restores his lost files.  All of the costs for these services are picked up by the establishment.


He also mentioned that, on one of his visits, he met a widow from Texas.  After their computer session, they had a cocktail in the bar of the establishment. During their conversation, which was about computer technology, she said, “I love the internet, because I can communicate with people all over this world.”  At that, Ralph interjected, “I would like to visit India.”  Without hesitation, she invited him to spend the night.


I now call him Lucky Ralph@aol.com. 


Ch-ch-changes in Career Strategies

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David Bowie montage

Has it crossed your mind to wonder why contemporary legends David Bowie and Madonna are still holding their own quite nicely against their much younger, hipper musical counterparts?  Hint: both the Thin White Duke and the Material Girl are savvy business people as well as artists.  To retain their competitive edge in an industry whose consumers have an insatiable appetite for what is new and different, they have continually reinvented themselves.  Both have taken serious risks in keeping their material and stage personas if not completely fresh, then at least a bit out of the mainstream, using approaches that keep audiences coming back for more.   Thirty-five years after his glam-rock Scary Spiders from Mars days, Bowie is still a crafty, talented songwriter and a consummate performer with a very respectable following.  For her part, Madonna recently came off a tour touted to be the highest grossing ever by a single artist.  Not bad for a rocker in his ’60’s and a punk ballerina past the half-century mark.

 

What Bowie, Madonna, and others like them who thrive beyond the lifecycle of the typical entertainer understand is that each of them is not merely a performer but a brand.  Performers are usually renowned for a particular talent and that talent is customarily associated with a particular niche or genre within the entertainment industry.  One-dimensional in nature, they usually fall out of favor with the public as tastes change and audiences become enamored of newer, fresher performers – usually younger and perceived as more physically attractive as well.

 

Brands, on the other hand, are often multi-dimensional – encompassing multiple products appealing to diverse consumers and markets.  By introducing new products, they continually reinvent themselves, expand their market base, and appeal to new generations of consumers.  And therefore, brands have a level of permanency that individuals can rarely hope to achieve.  Consider such household names as Disney, Johnson & Johnson, Sony, Verizon, and Apple.  Although each gained notoriety for a particular product, they are all currently major enterprises with products and markets transcending the bounds of country, language, culture, and race.

 

If the music industry were a shriveling job market in which Bowie and Madonna scrambled for jobs, both artists would be employing and cultivating their unique brands to advance their careers.  And, so should you.

 

Now, if you’re wondering whether or not you already have a unique personal brand, answer the following question:  if a prospective employer “googled” your name, what would he or she discover?  If your answer is “nothing of significance,” “very little,” or “something embarrassing,” then you are among the 90+% of people who – whether or not currently employed – find themselves adrift in the churning seas of our current economic downturn without a lifeboat.  You need to begin developing your personal brand without delay.

 

So, what is a personal brand and how do you create it?  Your personal brand is simply a combination of your talent(s), style, and values; essentially, the composite of who you are as an employee, potential employee, or business partner.  For purposes of this article, I am going to assume that you already know these things.  Should you need to discover yourself, you will need to do a thorough, searching assessment of your talents and perhaps solicit the input of a career counselor, coach, or other objective party.

 

Again, assuming that you know what you have to offer in the workplace, the primary hurdle for most people is building market exposure for their unique personal brand.  Fortunately, the Internet provides many helpful tools to assist you in reaching your target audience.  Your message, however, must be created by you or a professional with whom you may work to craft it.

 

Components of your personal branding strategy will or may include – in no particular order – your resume and cover letter, email address, business card, portfolio, profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, appearance, article marketing efforts, and blog or Website:

 

Use your resume and cover letter to create, via use of appropriate keywords and articulation of accomplishments, the best expression of you and what you have to offer a prospective employer.

 

If appropriate to your career, develop a portfolio – Web-based, print, or CD – providing more ample opportunity to display your talents or detail your achievements.

 

Create a professional email address and business card (yes, even if you are unemployed, you can and should create a card to distribute to networking contacts and prospective employers).

 

Use LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter as sites on which to create and publish professional profiles that will serve to advertise you and your talents to readers.

 

Writing and publication of articles on various articles boards (such as, EzineArticles or ArticlesBase) and/or on your own blog/Website will serve to build your authority as an expert in your particular field.

 

Finally, your wardrobe and personal appearance speak volumes about you.  Professional dress and bearing, in situations in which you are interviewing or networking, will go a long way in advancing your personal brand and prospects for achievement of career objectives.

 

So, as you see, there’s no need to don a silver jumpsuit or transform religious iconography into jewelry in order to stand out from the crowd of job seekers; just be cutting edge.  Use technology and simple personal branding strategies to your advantage in increasing your relevancy, and by inference, your value to prospective employers.

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