VOIP Telephone System

November 1st, 2010 6 comments

New Office
On October 14th we moved into a larger office and as part of that move, we needed to address the best way to ensure uninterrupted phone service. Perhaps, where you live, this means calling up the local phone company, they click some buttons, and now your phones magically start ringing at your new location. In Ocala, this is far from being so simple. Our local copper line phone service is provided by Sprint who, because of such a bad reputation, renamed themselves Embarq, and then when that didn’t work, sold out to CenturyLink. This company, no matter what they name themselves, is the worst company I have ever had the mis-pleasure of dealing with. I don’t exaggerate when I say that every single time I had them modify my service they would break my ability to receive phone calls.

Change Is In The Air
Sensing the opportunity to break free from the shackles of Sprint/Embarq/CenturyLink hell, I started investigating VOIP systems.  VOIP stands for Voice over IP and allows phone calls to be placed over the internet. VOIP can offer significant cost savings over traditional phone services, however, it does require a high-speed connection to the internet. I must confess that I have dabbled with VOIP in the past and the quality, at that time, was still lacking. I knew though, that it was time for a reevaluation. I fired up my trusty FireFox browser (with NoScript extension) and Googled “VOIP for business” and was astounded, confused, and a bit intimidated at just how many vendors there are. Aptela, 8×8, GrassHopper, Vocalocity, RingCentral and the list goes on and on. Their product offerings can be anywhere from very similar to wildly different. Their pricing can be unlimited or metered. And with all that, it’s next to impossible to figure out who the market leaders are in this space. With too many variables to process in my head and being naturally inclined to build spreadsheets, I fired up Excel to start documenting specific comparisons.

In the end, my spreadsheet made the choice for me. I decided to try out Aptela. They offer a reasonably priced unlimited voice package and their negative reviews online were few and far between. As a side note, whenever I’m researching a vendor/product I always Google the name of the product with the word “sucks” after it. I find this is the quickest way to get a ballpark estimate of real world feedback. I talked to an Aptela rep, and really liked their business practices which are similar to ours. They don’t require long term contracts, only month-to-month. If you don’t like the service, you can return the equipment for a refund within 30 days. With that peace of mind in place, I ordered our VOIP phones and received them in just a few days. The installation was straight forward and preliminary testing for quality passed our very unofficial “can you hear me now” tests.

Jumping In With Both Feet
With the move to the new office we forwarded our old phones to our new phones and never missed a beat. We now have more options and bells and whistles than we ever had with our old low-tech PBX. With our old PBX we had 5 lines. If all 5 lines were in use and someone needed to make a call out, they had to resort to their cell phone. With the VOIP systems, every extension has it’s own line and we never have to wait to dial out. The old PBX had a simple ring-down wherein if line 1 was busy, line 2 would ring, if line 2 was also busy, line 3 would ring, etc. We had one message if nobody answered and calling the auction-emergency number meant that our customers had to write down and dial a separate number. With the new VOIP system we set up an auto-attendant where customers Press 1 to talk to sales or support, or press 2 if they are having an auction emergency. The sale and support department is manned by dedicated support staff. The auction emergency department rings all workstations, the call is identified as an emergency phone call, and furthermore, if nobody answers in the office, the phone call auto-forwards to a dedicated 24-7 cell phone.

Other Nifty Features
The phones will literally work with any high speed internet connection, so even though we all work in a single office, it is completely feasible for us to have remote workers across the country all answering the phones exactly the same as they do now. You can configure extensions to automatically follow you, so that it rings the office 5 times then automatically forwards to your cell phone, or you can have it simultaneously ring your office phone and your cell phone. Administrators can monitor phone calls so that if one of our reps needs help on a phone call an adminstrator can listen in and talk directly to the Auction Flex rep without the customer hearing. This causes fewer delays for the customer getting the information they need while simultaneously building the knowledge of the representative.

Good Riddance
In short, I am absolutely thrilled with the VOIP service thus far. I can’t wait to cancel the Sprint/Embarq/CenturyLink service and tell that miserable company they no longer have me shackled. With VOIP we are now leaner and smarter and more flexible than ever. We can easily adjust our phone system to meet the needs of the company (imagine that). These baby-bells with their woeful customer service and antique phone systems are relegated to a by-gone era and will go the way of the Corvair. I have seen the future, and it is undoubtedly VOIP.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Cataloging with Detailed Entry

September 2nd, 2010 No comments

Good day Flexers,

I’ve put together a quick demo to show the capability of the Detailed Entry screen from Auction Lots and Preview. Combined with a Web Cam or Video Camera, we are able to quickly catalog an entire auction. In this particular video we are also showing the use of User Defined Fields and the Auto-Lead feature. These options are located from the Inventory drop down menu. Click on Inventory Type Maintenance to get started.

As always, if you would like additional support on this or any other topic, call the office and speak with our Support Staff.

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Effective E-Mail Marketing

July 29th, 2010 4 comments

Bulk email is a highly cost effective means to keep your customers and potential customers abreast of their topics of interest; namely, your auctions. The caveat here is that you must not abuse your goodwill. That means you must obey this list of do’s and don’ts.

DO (Good)

  • Always include an easy-to-use opt-out link in your emails.
  • Use plain text emails whenever possible – HTML emails look better but plain text emails are easier to read on smartphones and encourage you to be concise. If I want to look at auction images I will click on the link in the email.
  • Double-check ALL links in your emails. A broken link in your email aggravates your customers.
  • Clean up your email list to eliminate bouncebacks (bad emails). Failure to do this increases the likelihood of your emails getting marked as spam.
  • Send your emails from a branded email account like auctioninfo@myauctioncompany.com NOT from ilikechickensoup@noodles.com
  • Ensure you have an easy to use sign-up form on your home page where someone can simply enter the email address and click Submit. Let me repeat that: The only field you need is the email address.  

    DO NOT DO (Bad)

  • Do not send more than one or two emails a month. Sending more than this reduces your read percentage and yields higher opt-out rates.
  • Never, ever purchase or harvest email lists. Using purchased lists can immediately and irrevocably harm your company’s credibility not to mention it will elicit vile responses from the recipients.
  • Never use unscrupulous bulk email service providers. They will collect the email addresses you send to and sell them to spammers.
  • Avoid spammy keywords in your emails like FREE, CLICK NOW!, etc.

    Self-Service or Full Service

    You have the choice of sending your emails yourself or using a bulk email service provider. The biggest issue that most people face when attempting the self-service route is limitations from their Internet Service Provider (ISP). Most ISP’s limit how many emails you can send in an hour. This number is often very low (50 or less) which means that sending a bulk email blast of 5,000 emails would take 100 hours… ugh. That is where the bulk email service providers step in. Because they run their own servers that are connected directly to the internet they don’t have these limitations.



    I can attest to the following list of scrupulous bulk email service providers. They will automatically allow recipients to opt-out of your emails.  They will automatically eliminate bouncebacks from your email list. They will not harvest or sell your email lists to spammers. They can typically send your entire email blast out in less than a few hours. In short, they make bulk email easier to manage.

    Categories: Auctions, Software Tags:

    Auction Audio/Video Recording

    April 8th, 2010 No comments

    There is really only one reason that we record an auction; it provides indisputable evidence of the auction proceedings. If you don’t dot your i’s and cross your t’s then this can obviously work against you. But if you are a by-the-book, list-making, agenda-following auctioneer who always follows protocol, then the auction recording is your best friend.

    A customer suffering from bidder’s remorse might allege that the terms and conditions weren’t disclosed and somehow we’ve lost their signed registration card accepting the terms and conditions. This isn’t a big deal on a 5 dollar boxed lot, but up the ante a bit, and this becomes an expensive headache. A little playback from the recording where the auctioneer actually read, out loud, the terms and conditions prior to the auction, and poof! The bidder’s lawyer magically goes away and the bidder pays up. It’s not always that simple of course, but the message here is clear; recordings serve to cover our posteriors.

    Tapes O’Plenty
    It wasn’t that long ago that we used audio cassettes to record the auction. Typically, the cassette recorder was placed near the auctioneer and every hour or two the tape would be flipped or swapped for a new one. During a long auction this was tedious (to say the least). Then came along the early camcorders. One wise auctioneer postured that if audio was good, video must be better and I, for one, agree. But, unfortunately, the tape swapping issues remained.

    Digital Juice
    We now have the option of recording audio or video digitally. These recording devices have several advantages over their aged brethren.  1) No tapes  2) Can record 20+ hours of continuous audio/video 3) Files can be transferred to your computer for archiving. The beauty here is that we have no tapes to swap. We press the record button at the beginning of the auction and hit the stop button when the auction is done. Even if we’re doing an all day, 12-hour, industrial liquidation marathon, it’s no problem.

    Toys Toys Toys
    The Olympus Digital Voice Recorder VN 6200PC can be purchased from Amazon for $46. It provides 400+ hours of uninterrupted audio in LP mode.

    The Sony DCR-SR68 80GB hard disk drive camcorder that can be purchased from Amazon for $340. It’s a business expense and, rumor has it that it works just as well recording family outings.

    Both of these devices enabled you to transfer the audio or video file to your computer. From there you can treat the file like any other file. You can burn it to CD, email it, etc.

    What’s Your Angle?
    There tends to be two schools of thought on recording video of an auction. 1) Record the auctioneer or 2) Record the audience. There is, of course, a third option; do both with 2 video cameras. If the auction is large enough, and there is enough money at stake, this may be worth the extra effort.

    There are few things that offer as big a bang for the buck for your business as recording your auctions. The mere fact that disputed bid prices can be recalled and reviewed serves to eliminate the disputes to begin with. Scheisters know when the house is in the winning position and that’s what recording your auction does; it stacks the scales of justice in your favor.

    Categories: Auctions Tags:

    9 Keys to Success

    March 15th, 2010 No comments

    I’ve read my fair share of business books and articles over the last few years including; Mavericks at Work, What Would Google Do?, The Tipping Point, etc. These scribes inspired me to write my own keys to success, or rather more accurately put; to record the things they said that resonated with me the most. Drumroll please.

    If we don’t have passion for what we do, no amount of other chicanery is going to make up for this fatal shortcoming.  Without passion we’re just phoning it in and somebody else that actually does have passion is going to kick our butt doing whatever we do, but better.

    Confidence in oneself is crucial to success… even to the point of being over-confident, but tread carefully; there is a fine line between over-confidence and delusion.

    It may seem an odd characteristic to follow confidence, but remaining cognizant of our weaknesses is vital to our success. Misplaced delusions of grandeur serve only to provide an express ticket to failure. We all have weaknesses to go with our strengths. We must embrace those weaknesses so that we can avoid their inherent pitfalls.

    While dishonest people can succeed, being a straight-shooter makes success easier to attain. That, and I like to believe that karma eventually serves the liars their just due. 

    Our core beliefs provide the necessary foundation for our life-long success. Without a solid set of principals our lives meander like San Francisco’s Lombard Street.

    Calculated Risks
    Risk is a core function of life. The keyword here is the calculated before the risk. If there is quantifiable data to be measured, success thrives on taking the time to do the measuring. The calculated risks work out more often than the hunches. When those calculated risks fail, that’s okay. We can take that data and apply it in the future. When a hunch turns sour, we have nobody to blame but our lazy selves.

    We can not be afraid to fail otherwise we won’t ever achieve anything of merit. Failure means we have discovered one more way that doesn’t succeed. Failure means we have set our sights high enough that success on the first try isn’t a given.

    Never Give Up
    This is a simple one isn’t it? Without perseverance, nothing else matters. We must set our goals and unabashedly pursue them.

    Customers First
    Our customers are our most important and valuable form of marketing. No amount of money spent advertising a company is as effective as positive word of mouth and referrals. Consequently, a poor customer experience is more detrimental to a business than any marketing dollar can overcome. The proof of the pudding is in the eating; I just ran our marketing numbers for 2009 and Auction Flex added more new customers via referral than any other single marketing channel.

    Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

    Internet-Only Auctions

    February 9th, 2010 11 comments

    Definition Please
    Internet-only auctions (sometimes called timed auctions) are auctions that take place completely online. There is no live audience sitting together in a physical place in front of an auctioneer. Bidders bid online against other internet bidders. The internet bidder with the highest bid at the end wins the lot.

    Over the last few years we have watched the increasing success of our customers as they conduct internet-only auctions. During that time we have identified several key factors to succeeding with online auctions. I will expound on those keys in this post. Additionally, any features or capabilities described below are already built into Auction Flex and can be put to use immediately by any of our customers.

    Not Necessarily National
    Some people believe that the real benefit of internet auctions is the increase in the size of the potential bidder-pool based on the alleviation of geographical limitations. In other words, it’s online so I’m naturally going to have millions of bidders from around the country (or even around the world). I argue that even though this is certainly a possible benefit, it is not a necessary attribute for your online success. We have many customers that conduct internet-only auctions for the bidders in their own backyard. They have trained their existing customer base to bid online in lieu of attending an actual live auction.

    If You Build it, They Will Come = FAIL
    What would happen if you conducted an auction in a new location and didn’t advertise? Your bidder turnout would be horrible at best. That is exactly what will happen if you conduct an internet-only auction without advertising.  An internet-only auction must be marketed the same as you would market a regular live auction. In fact, if your traditional customer base is accustomed to attending live auctions, I will argue that for your first few internet-only auctions you need to market even MORE than regular.

    Preview Too
    An internet-only auction can have a preview just the same that a live auction can. Sometimes bidders will go to preview prior to bidding online. Sometimes bidders will see an item online that they want to look at closer prior to bidding. Either way, a preview is a vital tool that adds a layer of honesty and openness to your bidders. Additionally, it saves you from exhaustively describing and picturing each and every item (especially the lower dollar items that may not justify the time/expense).

    Show Me the Money
    A concern with internet-only auctions is payment, or lack thereof. Feedback from our customers has been that non-payment issues are commensurate with regular live auctions. One step you can take to help with this issue is to require authenticate credit card information before an internet bidder is allowed to bid. Additionally, I recommend that you explicitly state in your terms and conditions that you reserve the right to use the bidder’s credit card for payment in part or in full for any successful bids.

    Stagger Close
    Assume your catalog has 400 lots in it. We don’t want all 400 lots to close at exactly the same time. Instead, we want each lot to close a little bit after the previous lot. If we set the stagger time to 15 seconds and have lot 1 close at 5:00:00pm, then lot 2 will close at 5:00:15 and lot 3 will close at 5:00:30 and so on. This allows someone interested in multiple lots to have time to bid on those multiple lots. In the case of a 400 lot auction with a 15 second close, the duration of the internet auction will be approximately 100 minutes.

    Soft-Close > Sniping
    Typical internet-only auctions (think eBay) are susceptible to a practice called sniping. Auction sniping is the practice of a bidder waiting until the very last second to place a winning bid on an item with the hope that other bidders do not have time to raise their bid. The intent of sniping is to win an item below the potential high bid (market value). Using a soft-close in your online auction will eliminate this practice. A lot using a soft-close ending time will automatically have its bidding time extended if a bid is placed in those last few minutes. Assuming a soft-close setting of 3 minutes, if a bidder waits until the very last second to place a bid on lot 5, the bidding on lot 5 is extended for 3 more minutes. This gives other bidders 3 more minutes to re-raise their bid. It is not uncommon for a high-interest lot to extend hours past its original close time because multiple bidders keep bidding and extending the close time on the lot.

    Linked Soft-Close
    Linked soft-close is an extension of the soft-close functionality. It allows you to link multiple lots together so that when one lot is extended via soft-close, all other linked lots will also be extended. This is especially handy when you have multiple similar items. For example, say you have two tractors in your auction. These two tractors are identical except that one has much lower hours than the other. As a bidder, my preference is to win this lower-hour tractor and so I place a bid on it. Other bidders are also bidding on it and after several rounds of soft-close extensions, the bidding price has exceeded my budget. Here is the good part: Because both tractors are linked together for soft-close, the other higher-hour tractor is still open for bidding (even if no one was bidding on it). So now I am able to start bidding on this second best tractor and I eventually win it. If these two tractors were not linked together, the higher-hour tractor could have already closed.

    A common misconception is that internet-only auctions exclude all other bids. This is wrong. Just because you are conducting an internet-only auction doesn’t mean you can’t accept bids manually (in person, phone, faxed, etc.). There are some tech-phobic bidders that will refuse to bid online and that is okay; their money spends just the same. You can accept their bids, enter them into Auction Flex, and Auction Flex has the built-in capability to push these “floor” bids to the internet so that these bids compete with the internet bidders.

    Auction Day Labor = Nada
    On a live auction day consider the additional staff that has to be brought in; cashiers, clerks, ringmen, runners, etc., etc. Now consider the additional staff required to conduct an internet-only auction on closing day — none. Instead of finding 8 people to come work your auction for 6 hours once every 2 weeks, you can have 1 or 2 people who steadily describe/image lots and help customers with pickups. This can have the drastic affect of stabilizing your labor requirements.

    Shipping – The Headache-Maker
    If you are conducting internet-only auctions to your backyard bidders, shipping is not a concern. Backyard internet bidders tend to come pick up their merchandise. If you do have to arrange shipping I highly suggest forming a working relationship with two or more shippers so that you don’t have to handle the shipping yourself. In your terms and conditions make it clear that the bidder will deal with the shipping companies directly to arrange for packaging and shipping. Now you are not responsible for packaging, broken merchandise, etc. and that is a beautiful thing. The shipping company will be happy for the business (they’re built for this) and you don’t have to pull your hair out dealing with this issue.

    But Live Auctions are So Much Better
    As an auctioneer, you will naturally be inclined to perceive an auction without a bid-caller as a travesty of magnanimous proportion. I’m not going to argue the merits of live vs online as the pros and cons list could go on for a very, very long time. The variables that determine what makes a successful internet-only auction are specific to you, your bidders and consignors, and regional variables that only you can answer.

    One Size Does NOT Fit All
    Some types of auctions just beg to be conducted using an internet-only format. Other auctions have no business being conducted solely on the internet. You should consider internet-only auctions as yet another potential method to use in fulfilling your fiduciary obligation to your consignors to get the best possible price. Additionally, don’t discount the potential that internet-only auctions have to reduce your costs which can, of course, provide you a competitive advantage and/or increase your profits.

    Categories: Auctions, Computers, Software Tags:

    Phone Bid Scheduler

    January 6th, 2010 No comments

    Phone Bid SchedulerWhat is a Phone Bid?
    Phone bids are typically used by antique auction galleries, but can be used for any type of sale. When a bidder leaves a phone bid for a particular lot#, the auction house is agreeing to have an employee call the bidder when that lot comes on the block. During the phone call, the employee will relay the asking price from the auctioneer to the phone bidder and will relay bids from the phone bidder to the auctioneer.

    Why Phone Bids?
    Ideally, you would like your bidders to attend the auction, the benefits of which are myriad. Phone bids are ultimately a convenience offered to bidders that would otherwise not bid at your auction.

    • Phone bids allow the phone bidder to bid “live” on the lot against all other bidders (floor, internet, phone, etc.). This preserves the excitement of bidding live . 
    • The phone bidder who is only interested in a few lots does not have to attend the auction waiting hours for their lot(s) to come up.
    • Phone bids are a good alternative to ‘technologically challenged’ bidders who may refuse to bid live over the internet.
    • Phone bidders avoid having to pay the extra buyer’s premium fees typically charged for live internet bidding.
    • There is nothing to remember. The phone bidder will be automatically called when their lot(s) come up.
    • Location, location, location. The phone bidder can bid from anywhere there is cell phone reception.

    Why do I Need a Scheduler?
    It is not uncommon for a high-end auction gallery to have hundreds of phone bidders per auction. Each phone bidder may, in turn, be interested in anywhere from one single lot to 20 or 30 different lots. All of these phone bids are not spread evenly through the catalog. Many lots in the catalog won’t have any phone bids, but some high-interest lots will have many, many phone bids. The challenge to the auction house is to build a phone bid schedule that addresses several desirable attributes:

    • Use the fewest possible employees. The total number of employees required is loosely defined as the highest number of individual phone bids on any particular lot. So if lot 145 has 11 different phone bidders then we need at least 11 employees in our phone bank for this peak point in the auction.
    • Preserve employee-phone bidder stickyness. We want phone bidder John Smith to talk to the same employee as often as possible. It can be confusing for the phone bidder to talk to a different employee for each phone call.
    • Allow preferential phone bidder to employee assignations. We may want to ensure that a high-value phone bidder talks to a particular employee as much as possible. This may be the bidder’s preference or the auction house’s preference.
    • Define some employees as overflow only, meaning, they should only be used during peak phone bid times.
    • Language limitations. Some bidders may not speak English and can only be assigned to bilingual employees that speak their language.
    • X lots between phone calls. An employee needs a certain amount of time to courteously end their phone call and place a new phone call.

    What do I Get?
    As you can see, the various criteria above can make for a daunting manual task that takes many hours and results in a sub-optimal schedule at best. The Auction Flex phone bid scheduler takes into account all the criteria above and automatically produces a schedule that optimizes both employee-to-phone bidder stickyness and lots between phone calls. When the phone bid scheduler has generated the schedule, it then produces:

    • A master phone bid schedule with option to export to Excel.
    • Individual employee phone bid schedules. This gives each employee all the information they need, lot-by-lot, including lot info, bidder info, and any special calling instructions.
    • Employee phone bid cards with their phone bidder’s numbers. This allows the phone bidder to hold up the bidder number that they are bidding for during the auction.

    Feedback from our customers on the phone bid scheduler has been great. We hear over-and-over that it saves many hours of arduous work for each and every auction. If you are manually creating your phone bid schedules now, do yourself a favor and start using this fantastic Auction Flex feature.

    Special Thanks
    I would like to specifically thank Dallas Auction Gallery for taking the time (18 months ago now) to help me understand the phone bid schedule process. Their insight was critical in making the phone bid scheduler feature a success from its initial introduction in January, 2009.

    Categories: Auctions, Software Tags:

    Booklet Style Catalogs

    December 8th, 2009 No comments

    Like a Book, But Smaller
    Occasionally we get requests from our customers to print booklet style catalogs. A booklet style catalog is one that is center stapled and both sides of each page are printed. Think of a paperback book, only with fewer pages (unless your auction is really, really big).

    Paper Shrinkage
    A booklet is typically printed so that there are two pages of the catalog per side of 8.5×11 sheet of paper. You do this by turning the page landscape and then printing two smaller pages, 2 to a page (referred to as 2 up). Here is what that looks like:

    SheetLandscape  BookletPage1Page2

    So, in the above example we printed 2 pages on the front side of a sheet of paper. Now we turn that sheet of paper over and print 2 more pages on the back side. Compared to a typical catalog that is printed single-sided 1-up, this is a significant savings in paper. 

    There’s Always a Catch
    There is a catch to booklet printing and you probably have already thought of it. When you stack those papers into a pile and staple the middle, those pages have to be in a very particular order. Rather than try to explain, take a moment to look at this diagram:


    We’ve taken an 8-page catalog and printed it on 2 sheets of paper. Page 8 and 1 are on the front of sheet 1, page 2 and 7 are on the back of sheet 1, page 6 and 3 are on the front of sheet 2, page 4 and 5 are on the back of sheet 2. It’s easy to get confused when looking at this, so to understand how this works just grab a couple sheets of paper and do this exercise. Write Page 8 (to the left) and Page 1 (to the right) on the front of the 1st sheet of paper. Turn sheet 1 over (left to right) and write Page 2 (to the left) and Page 7 (to the right). Grab your second sheet of paper and write Page 6 (to the left) and Page 3 (to the right). Turn sheet 2 over and write Page 4 (to the left) and Page 5 (to the right). Place sheet 1 (with Page 8 and Page 1 visible) on top of sheet 2 (with Page 6 and Page 3 visible), fold in the middle and you will see your booklet come to life.

    Booklety Goodness
    I know you were probably hoping that I would tell you that the booklet printing capability is built into Auction Flex. Unfortunately, that is not the case. But fear not, I have some great 3rd party tools that provide this functionality and here’s the best part; these tools exist outside of Auction Flex which means you can use them for anything you want to print booklet style, not just Auction Flex catalogs!

    • http://www.bookletcreator.com  this one is an online tool and it’s free. You upload a regular PDF and it converts it to a booklet PDF for you.
    • http://www.fineprint.com/products/fineprint/index.html  this one is $49.95 but is very, very slick and easy to use. It acts as a printer in your system so there are not intermediary steps. You print to the FinePrint printer and then FinePrint walks you through the steps of booklet creation.

    The Auto-Flippa-Roo
    If you are lucky you already have a printer that can actually print both sides of a single sheet of paper in one pass. The printer literally prints a sheet of paper, flips it over, prints the other side, and then spits it out. This type of printing is called duplex printing and if you already have one of these printers, congratulations! I don’t and I’m a little bit jealous. Here are your instructions:

    • Using BookletCreator.com – Just print the auction catalog of your choice from Auction Flex to a PDF. Upload this PDF to bookletcreator.com. Take the returned booklet-style PDF and print it to your duplex printer using your printer’s duplex printer capabilities.
    • Using FinePrint – Just print the auction catalog of your choice from AuctionFlex to the FinePrint printer in your system and follow the FinePrint instructions. FinePrint will then send the output to your physical printer.

    When you are done printing a booklet catalog with your fancy duplex printer you will have a stack of paper that is ready for stapling.

    The Manual Flippa-Roo
    Lack of a duplex capable printer doesn’t mean you are locked out of printing booklet-style catalogs. It just means you’re going to have to work a little harder. 

    Here are your steps using BookletCreator.com

    1. Print a catalog from Auction Flex to a PDF
    2. Upload the PDF catalog to BookletCreator.com
    3. Open new booklet-style PDF in your PDF viewing program (I use Foxit PDF Reader)
    4.  Start by printing only the odd numbered sheets
    5. Feed the stack of paper back into the printer (now upside-down)
    6. Now print the even numbered sheets.

    Here are your steps using FinePrint

    1. Print a catalog from Auction Flex to the FinePrint printer in your system.
    2. Follow the FinePrint instructions to print the odd pages first, flip the stack, and then print the even pages.

    It might take a little bit of experimentation with your printer to get the hang of which way to turn and flip the 1/2 printed pages, so once you figure it out, tape a little cheatsheet to the printer for next time.

    If you decide to print booklet style catalogs for each and every auction then I would definitely invest in a duplex printer. A quick search on Amazon turned up quite a few very reasonably priced duplex laser printers.

    You’re also going to need a long-reach booklet stapler to reach the middle of the sheets.

    Acta est Fabula Plaudite
    I am a fan of booklet style catalogs; they are easier to flip back and forth between pages and are easier to carry around.  They look a little bit more sophisticated than the the standard full-sheet floppy catalog and with all the paper you will save, look for Greenpeace to come knocking at your door with your eco-friendly business person of the year award.

    Categories: Software Tags:

    Microsoft Security Essentials

    November 10th, 2009 1 comment

    Microsoft-Security-EssentialsWhat’s In a Name Anyways?
    Well, it doesn’t get any awards for having a catchy name, however Microsoft’s new anti-virus offering titled ‘Microsoft Security Essentials’  is a good product with a great price tag; free. I guess Microsoft Anti-Virus was too self-explanatory a name for the marketing gurus in Redmond. To be fair, however, MSE (my un-official abbreviation for Microsoft Security Essentials) is more than just anti-virus. It protects against spyware and other nasties too.

    Liberation with a Capital L
    MSE runs quietly, in the background, without pestering prompts, balloons, or any other annoyances. For that alone it deserves kudos. The reality is that you could open notepad and make the same claim. This leads to the most important question: Does MSE do a good job protecting your computer from viruses/spyware/etc.? The answer, so far, seems to be yes. The reviews I’ve read make the case that MSE is as good as other offerings from AVG, McAfee, Symantec, etc. The difference is that MSE is blissfully quiet! And did I mention free?

    Bundles of Grief
    My biggest complaint against most of the other anti-virus offerings (ahem… McAfee, Symantec) is that they want to bundle their anti-virus with “complete” internet security suites. Yuck! These bundles eat system resources,  slow your computer to a crawl, and cause instability issues. When you install anti-virus it should NOT come with a firewall, intrusion prevention, active web-filtering, pre-emptive cognitive destination avoidance, and a hands-free parallel parking system.  Just say NO to these bloat-ware suites!

    My New Number One
    I have been recommending AVG for years now but I am officially changing my recommendation to MSE. You heard it here first! I wouldn’t go out of my way to switch from AVG to MSE, but I would definitely uninstall McAfee or Symantec for MSE. Just my two cents.

    Download Microsoft Security Essentials

    Categories: Computers, Software Tags:

    Backups, Backups, Backups

    October 9th, 2009 2 comments

    BackupToDiskConfessions of an OCD Backup-Maker
    I have a confession to make; I habitually make backups…. and then I backup the backup… and then I have a program that automatically backs up my backup to an off-site backup. I’m a little bit OCD like that. But let’s not judge me. Let’s turn this around. When was the last time you made a backup? Was it a good backup or a bad backup (what’s the difference… keep reading)? I’m going to give you some suggestions on making good backups and provide some online tools to make even better backups. You ready? Here we go.

    External Hard Drives Are Your Friend
    An external hard drive is a type of hard disk drive which is typically connected to your computer via a USB cable. These devices are great for storing backups because they are cheap and large. You can easily find a 500GB external hard drive for $100. At the end of every day you can simply backup all your files to the external hard drive. Because the typical external hard drive is so large you can even keep multiple backups of the same files. For instance, when I backup files I will create a folder and name it based on the date. So, for today I would create a folder called 20091009 (military format for 2009 Oct 9th – it sorts better this way) and then I would backup my important files to that folder. A week from now I would create a folder called 20091016 and I would backup to that folder. I like to make dated backup because if I ever need to go back in time to a revision of a file from weeks (or months) ago, I can. Now, if your computer’s hard drive dies, you have backups of all your important files at the ready. Fix your old computer or buy a new computer, restore those important files and you’re off to the races.

    Thumb Drives Are Your Super-Portable Friend
    Thumb drives are small (pocket-size) USB devices that, when plugged into your computer, show up as a small hard drive. Thumb drives typically have a much smaller capacity than external hard drives but they have the advantage of being much more portable. Just like an external hard drive, you can copy files from your hard drive onto the USB thumb drive. Again, if your computer dies, you have backups.

    Location, Location, Location
    So, you’re feeling pretty smug about those backed up files aren’t you? And, a lot of you are going to leave that external hard drive right next to the computer, or you’re going to take that thumb drive and store it in your laptop bag with your laptop. Congratulations; you are now hosed if someone breaks into your office and steals everything, or someone steals your laptop bag on a trip, or if there is a fire, or if your 4 year-old nephew decides your laptop (with the thumbdrive sticking out of the USB port) is a fish and sets it free in the pond out back. In any event you get the idea that storing your backup with your computer is a bad idea. So, when you go to the store to buy that backup device, buy 2 (or more) of them. You need at least 2 because you always, always, want to keep one of them off-site, away from the computer that you are backing up. Now, if someone steals your laptop bag, or the entire contents of your office, or you have a fire, or a flood, or whatever; you’ve got an offsite backup. 

    But I Am Lazy, and/or Forgetful
    I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust myself to make backups manually. If you are like me, and just want the backups to create themselves then you are in luck; there is a solution. Online Backups. There are quite a few online backup providers out there. The big players are Mozy and Carbonite. They will provide a small program that you install that will automatically backup your important files to a secure offsite location via the internet. Their programs allow you to simply choose what files/folders to backup, when to back them up, and you are done.  Mozy even offers a free personal account that includes 2 gigabytes of disk space! The caveat here is that your computer needs an internet connection and needs to be turned on to make the backups… but the backups are automatic and that is worth the price of admission (which can be free). Now, if something bad happens, you have an online backup that you can access from anywhere.

    How Do I Choose?
    Here’s the thing about backups. There is no such thing as too many of them. Make backups to an external hard drive, and backup to thumb drives, and use an online backup service.

    Categories: Computers, Software Tags: