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A Review of Stephen King’s “On Writing” (non-fiction) 

Stephen King's Home

On Writing is part memoirs, part textbook. It has three forewords, four chapters, a postscript, and an appendix split into two parts.

The first chapter is divided into thirty-eight autobiographical sections. A little bit less than ninety pages.

The following three chapters are the textbook part:

What I Thought of Twin Peaks: The Return

Twin Peaks may be one of the most mystifying American TV series ever. I don't want to pay lip service without saying something intelligent, so I'd say that I see it as the X-Files of a past when the X-Files series was yet to be. Of course that Twin Peaks is much more than that. And I'm going to prove to the best of my abilities the depth of its more earth-bound, and therefore more humane, take on the unexplained.

practical advice content example

How To Dominate Your Digital Stuff — Practical Advice For Windows and Android Users

 

Who likes a lagging, hanging, stuttering, locking, flashing, stopping, rebooting, bleeping, skipping computer? I guess that nobody does. 

When one's setup starts to do things that get in the way of the daily workflow, one wants to be the next mass-shooter, in this case of software developers. But when it's the user's negligence and/or greed that make a computer start acting and annoying, it is not fair to throw the blames on the software.

If it takes you a day or more to modify your system, and get the upper hand with it, so be it. Let's wrestle with all the digital entropy that gets in the way and teach the misbehaving devices who is boss.

 

Essentials

Anti Virus

Theoretically, you can run Windows without an anti-virus running in the background. But in practice it is definitely unwise to do it. Especially if you are not well organized. If you open everything and run everything that you download.

I can’t recommend any for desktop at this moment. For Android, I’d recommend Lookout Mobile Security. I used this program since around 2011 and never had a problem with my tablet. If you have one of those almost impossible to remove android rootkits, LMS will be the last nail in the coffin to their demise. More info in this at the end of the article.

Anti Malware

A more sophisticated kind of viruses is the malware. Some of these malicious programs are the software version of the old-fashioned con-man. They will gain your trust slowly sucking you into their engineered victim journey. Sooner or later they're going to do something awful to your system and/or data.

Here is when software comes to the help. Malwarebytes is a good brand for this kind of software. If you don’t want to have anti-malware resources, at least have an anti-virus.

Modern ones aim at handling malware, adware, ransomware, chargeware and every other kind of -ware malicious program.

Dedicated Firewall

Windows firewall isn't enough. If you didn't run a third-party firewall from day one of the installations of Windows, it might be compromised.

Windows's firewall doesn't manage outbound calls. That's enough reason to use a third party solution. If you can find it, I’d recommend PC Tools Firewall Plus 7. It’s old (from 2010), but it serves its purpose. It’s shareware but you can use it with all its features enabled for life. Another is Comodo Personal Firewall, still updated and good as PC Tools Plus.

Some firewalls run on top of Windows firewall. And of course, there's Windows Firewall Control, a free program to at least control the outbound calls, if you don't want to use a third-party one. Using only this as the firewall solution is totally viable. I applaud you if you decide to go the WFC route.

 

KISS or Keep It Simple, Stupid

Let's say that you can narrow down your digital stuff to a couple of broad categories.

1. Online Data and Apps/Tools

If you're going online, make up your mind. Make up your mind that whatever happens, you will dominate your online digital environment. Like you did to your offline one when you installed the operating system, and set up the security systems before connecting to internet. Not the other way around.

If you are going to keep it simple, my recommendation is not to get carried away with downloads and installations. You can always have a secondary hard drive for data if that your thing, though. I'd highly recommend to have a secondary internal storage drive. It's useful to backup everything important that one has in the main drive.

To deal with the residues and obsolete entries in the registry that installations leave, get a third-party program uninstaller like Revo Uninstaller.

In this time and age, logins are very important. Get a password manager. With it, you're going to have all your access data to the sites on internet centralized. An excellent one is KeePass.

Whatever the program you use, when you or the program generates it, use 8-9 characters.

It's the number of password letters that will give you the fewer problems in the long run.

The Browser

It's difficult to recommend a browser type since a browser can have:

  • Different architecture
  • Different engine
  • Different settings

The best approach would be starting with half a dozen or more, and then testing them all and settling down for the one that has

1. The smallest RAM cost and/or storage footprint
2. The features that you need or like
3. The snappier, faster, more responsive performance

The Browser's Second Killer-app use: Webmail

Using webmail instead of a dedicated email client may sound modest. Still, using webmail is way more efficient than emailing the old way.

If you don't plan to subscribe to publications, sites and similar, go ahead and install your email client of choice.

But if you plan to manage heaps of incoming email, the better option is webmail. Your hard disks will be grateful for this. There are tons of companies that give webmail for free.

Web apps

I wouldn't keep my personal stuff in web apps. One thing is keeping emails in one of them. One very different is who is in control of your documents when you use cloud applications to create basic ones.

All the original stuff one creates, especially the different kinds of one's own intellectual property, should be kept locally.

Other than to use online applications on the go, I don't see the benefits. More like cons:

  • No easy/automatic physical backup copy (have to use the export feature)
  • They require internet connections
  • An intruder may read private documents or tamper with them

2. Offline Data and Apps/Tools

Tools

Without counting the anti-virus, firewall, and anti-malware, installed right away after installing Windows from a pen drive or similar, you'll need a few more maintenance tools:

1.Third-party fragmentation fixer: don't use the one that comes with Windows
2.Registry cleaner: A good one that isn't destructive, like for instance: Eusing Free
3.Everyday washer: Ccleaner with CCEnhancer installed or Wise Disk Cleaner
4.Maintenance washer: BleachBit, Drive Tidy and/or Puran's Disk Cleaner
5.Integrated Windows decay solver: Advanced SystemCare Pro 11 Portable Version

Organization

Once you have all the tools and applications you need to organize your usage. Commit to a daily overhead limit and don't go over it.

If you work with, say, two different browsers open at the same time, a spreadsheet program, and a text processor then don't load anything else.

If you, for some reason, have to load something extra, stop multitasking. Do whatever you had to do with the extra overhead and close it as soon as you did it.

If you have to sit, say, eight hours stretches doing the heavy opening and closing of programs, do program a reboot.

A reboot does wonders for a computer that begun to lag. Lags that are common after exerting it for hours, or after having extra overhead. A good choice would be, in the middle of the workday, rebooting it. So after four hours. This refreshes the caches and areas of the RAM that not even memory washers, like Wise Memory Optimizer, can ultimately de-lag.

Or you can install sixteen gigabytes of RAM or more and disregard the above paragraphs. In that case, install and open applications and tools to your heart's content.

Security Copies

This maintenance procedure has its own section because a backup makes all the difference. You have to find something that works for you to make automatic copies.

And I don't mean a software downloaded because those don't work. You have to work with Windows's scheduler. Make it periodically run a .BAT file that copies or compresses your valuable files to a secondary storage unit. 7-Zip is a great compressor, or cruncher if you will, to accomplish this.

For Android

The fastest and simplest way to backup Android is connecting the device to a PC by USB and copying everything in a separate folder. There have to be applications that make an image of the system, but I haven’t delved into any of them.

 

Dominate Your Mobile

An area in which you have to be a bit even more careful is your mobile devices. Install things from Google Play only.

If you install a lot of applications on your phone and load it with your data, it may begin to under-perform. In that case is time to clean it.

Superficial Cleaning

There are many cleaners. The best for me is CleanMaster. But the company that makes it receives a lot of hate. If you don’t like the makers of CleanMaster, go for an established brand. Like McAfee Mobile Booster & Cleaner. Superficial cleaning can greatly boost your device.

If superficial cleaning wasn’t enough and your phone still lags look for bundled from factory applications. If you have a lot of those it's time to put them into hibernation.

Deep Cleaning

If there are manufacturer and carrier bloatware in your mobile device you might not want to keep it. In that case, your device needs rooting.

Rooting is a procedure that unlocks system privileges. The procedures that a rooted device is able to perform are dangerous at the level of the operating system. That’s why root accounts come locked from the factory. Rooting requires mid to advanced technological knowledge. Even with programs that supposedly do 95% of the rooting procedure automatically.

I say supposedly because there is malware disguised as rooting programs. You have to be extra careful with rooting applications. I got Kingroot and Kinguser in two different devices and to this day I wasn’t able to eradicate them. Not even resetting Android to factory settings (wiping everything), I could take them out. Kingroot was the worst. It crashed my applications. But its worst act were its own crashes. To be reading a book and be taken out of focus by a window saying that Kingroot had stopped working was terrible.

Since I couldn’t uninstall it, not even resetting to factory settings I had to deal with it in another way. I had to use Debloater. The only application of its type for Android. It lets you block applications. The effect of DeBloater on Kingroot was great. When I deactivated Kingroot with it, I never had any more problems.

I practically forgot that a rootkit is still there. I achieved the same total silencing of Kinguser in the other device with a combination of Debloater and with the antivirus/firewall Lookout Mobile Security that I named at the start of this article. Additionally, you can use DeBloater to kill all those annoying bundled applications you never used and never will. It lets you either block them or completely uninstall them. It’s not an efficient or well-designed program and you need to know what you are doing. It’s slow and counter-intuitive, but for those without a rooted device, it’s a must-have.

 

© Martin Wensley 2019
Photo Credit: B Dungeon

 

 

The BBS Today — Obsolescence vs Coolness 

Martin Wensley
01-12-2018

 

CONTENTS

    1. Acknowledgements
    2. Abstract
    3. Methodology
      1. First Incarnation (2011 – ’12)
      2. Second Incarnation (2014)
    4. Conclusion
    5. Appendix A — If Interpreters
      1. Games Choice
    6. Appendix B
      1. How to Connect to a BBS in the Web 2.0 Age
          1. SyncTERM
    7. Bibliography

 

Acknowledgements

I wanted to thank my mentor Megga Hertz. The most thug-like artist of Remorse. Remorse is Acid’s ascii art division. Acid Productions is the dominant outfit of underground art scene. He imparted on me unselfish, indirect mentoring through the Tyrone e-zine. That must have been in or around 1996.

I must also thank my only IRC companions, my peers at #Remorse on EFnet (c. 2000), for accepting me into the fold.

With the broadband explosion that was going on in those years, BBSing was dying. To be accepted in the greatest ASCII art group of all time made me stay in the scene when I would otherwise have quit.

 

Abstract

To BBS like it was 1994, there are several options to run a board on modern hardware and operating systems. I’ll give three examples. There is Synchronet for Windows and *nix. Mystic for Windows, DOS, OS/2, OS X and *nix. And DayDream for Amiga and *nix. I didn’t research about the choices of contemporary BBS-hosting software for Mac.

But where is the fun of throwing by the window all the handsome BBS software of the past? One must get over the fact that BBS culture was current more than one generation ago. There is a living BBS scene. What was known before as scene BBSes are still here.

In this paper, on a first instance, I will take on account the time that the first phase of the project took. This variable will be factored in the Fun vs Drudge Equation. It will be done for every stage of the project’s tasks. Especially about how using legacy software can prove a time-sink . An obstacle in the implementation process.

The first live version of the BBS was a failure. It was a crippled take on streamlining old telecommunications applications with retro-gaming. It was a customized version of the BBS as front-end. A front end for a games server delivering single-player text adventures of the past. This first incarnation didn’t feature common BBS functionalities. It didn’t have messages, files bases, and the rest because I couldn’t make those work.

On a second instance, I will outline the steps I followed to let the BBS software of my choice (System/X) functioning. I was able to let it working at 99% 1990s-BBS-radness. The second phase, more than two years later, was a new start. A clean installation of the vanilla version of the BBS software. I managed to make it work on a server running Windows 7 32 bits. This time, almost all the features BBS were known to have available back in the ’90s were supported.

 

Methodology

As starting samples I used Desire 1.5 and System/X 1.5e (1.5 Alpha Strike Eagle edition) for the game server front-end BBS.

I used NetFOSS 1.04 as the BBS’s fossil driver (virtual modem).

I used Net2BBS as the BBS’s telnet server.

For the final deployment, I used System/X 1.5a for the BBS and Gamesrv 3.10.19b2 as virtual modem/telnet server.

 

First Broadband BBS (2011 – 2012)

At first, I used an already configured version of Desire 1.5 on Windows 2000 professional. I configured this setup of Desire 1.5 somewhere in 2004 on Windows 98 on a non-networked computer. Operating system-level compatibility issues were not present.

I was expecting to take advantage of Desire’s compatibility with System/X (version 1.5e). To make use of the varied door collections available for both systems. I don’t remember exactly the issue. Desire was a tough BBS software to return to BBSing after a decade and a half. The issue might have been a crash on load-up kind of problem because I don’t remember spending much time with it.

Desire or any old BBS software can be put to use with the help of DOSBox.

I’ve visited BBSes running legacy BBS software that ran on DOSBox. I just didn’t want to go that extra mile. The hardware I used as petri dish from my experiments was old. It was an HP Vectra from 1997 running Windows 2000. If it broke it would be a hassle to migrate the BBS. Also, I didn’t know how much overhead running the BBS on DOSBox would add to that old computer.

I used NetFOSS as virtual modem and Net2BBS as the telnet server. The telnet server package included these two utilities. It worked right from the first try. The setting up of it was through a simple .ini file. The switches and parameters of the modem’s .BAT file required minimum shell knowledge.

I got a sub-domain thanks to the free services of Afraid.org and begun testing the server through it. Minor incongruities with the former installation were fixed. That’s when I found that the version of Desire I had, an unregistered copy, did not run doors. I decided to try the other already configured setup I had tweaked in 2004. It was System/X. It was the 1.5e Alpha Strike Eagle edition with dA bALHED’s undocumented add-on doors.

This customized version of System/X was a release by the scene group Providence. It was available in warez BBSes around the time the software was released. It came with a large set of doors already installed.

This customized version had a problem. It was the lack of the documentation for the doors that came bundled with it.

Also, there were many different doors for a single BBS task of which only one was installed. Still, it was kind of easy to bring the BBS up. The pre-configured 1.5e version was something great compared to the original, plain System/X 1.5a.

But the documentation was f any of the many doors it came with had a READ-ME.1ST, it sure wasn’t of any use. The only thing I had was the BBS software manual. A 116kB plain text file in the System/X folder.

During the first week of the research, I configured the BBS further. I tried to understand the poorly-written System/X documentation. Yet, R2D2’s manual-writing style was muddy at best.

A thing took a lot of experimentation for me to understand it. It was that I needed to create a directory with copies of all the doors and of all the text files. It was necessary for it and other data files for each and every node that the BBS would host. Today I’m still not sure if this was the way that it ran on MS-DOS.

This way of managing nodes was a mess, in my humble opinion. I implemented just five nodes. Imagine a scenario of two-dozens nodes! To have to have twenty-four folders for each node, with equal copies of all the BBS data and executable files. Essential files like, the screens the user sees, file bases, message bases and doors. They are in the neighborhood of three-hundred per node. That would tax the server to no-end.

I found a problem with the full-fledged BBS setup. When an user was using the message bases or file areas, and a second user in another node accessed the same data. If they did it both at the same time, one of the two suffered a broken experience of the BBS.

I couldn’t narrow down the cause of this. My theory is that it has something to do with the obsolescence of the share.exe DOS tool. A bug caused due to using a 16 bit DOS software and its tools on 32 bit Windows 7.

A normal installation of System/X on a computer running DOS or a sixteen bits Windows should run better. It would require a simpler directory and node structure.

I guess that without the bugs and making correct use of the share DOS program, the software would work. It would run as it was intended to run. With centralized message, file, door, menu, and bulletin bases. By centralized I mean that they are all node independent. That System/X would somehow manage the accessing of that data by two users at the same time without issues.

I found only one way to make the BBS work as it should. It had to run natively, on Windows 7 with all the BBS data mirrored in each node. To achieve this I had to program additional batch script code. The batch files ran when the user logged out. They made sure that all the node-specific changes were reflected in all the other four nodes.

Like so:

:node1

copy /Y c:\BBS\NODE1\CONF1\MSGBASE\*.* c:\BBS\NODE2\CONF1\MSGBASE\
copy /Y c:\BBS\NODE1\CONF2\MSGBASE\*.* c:\BBS\NODE2\CONF2\MSGBASE\
copy /Y c:\BBS\NODE1\CONF3\MSGBASE\*.* c:\BBS\NODE2\CONF3\MSGBASE\

copy /Y c:\BBS\NODE1\CONF1\MSGBASE\*.* c:\BBS\NODE3\CONF1\MSGBASE\
copy /Y c:\BBS\NODE1\CONF2\MSGBASE\*.* c:\BBS\NODE3\CONF2\MSGBASE\
copy /Y c:\BBS\NODE1\CONF3\MSGBASE\*.* c:\BBS\NODE3\CONF3\MSGBASE\

 

There was another problem. The configuration was working, yet I was confronted with a new blunder. The first truly severe problem until that moment. A bug in the setup prevented, for some reason unknown to me, the text output of the BBS’s doors to display remotely.

When I used a command that loaded an external door, the output won’t show on the remote terminal. It will do in the server’s local BBS screen, though.

I lost around a day trying to fix this. I passed different switches and parameters to NetFOSS’ command line. Modifying the batch file that came with it. The file that fires up when the server receives a connection request. I think it was NF.BAT if my memory serves me right.

On the second day of frustration, I decided to ditch NetFOSS/Net2BBS.

The problem was the NetFOSS. I couldn’t redirect modem-based applications to virtual COM ports. Thus couldn’t redirect the output of the doors to TCP/telnet for it to show remotely.

I was advised on IRC against using Gamesrv. Yet, I wanted to give it a try. Because I couldn’t find any way to fix the doors’ output problem Gamesrv was my last resort. At first I fiddled with the latest version, but soon found it too difficult to configure.

Actually, the user-sensitiveness I expected wasn’t there at all, in the latest version. Still, I was sure that the software was of use for what I wanted to do. A few days before I connected to a BBS running on PCBoard with Gamesrv as a call-answering and login matrix.

I installed Gamesrv 3.10.19b2 and configured it. A task that might have taken barely five minutes to complete. The next thing I knew was that the doors’s outputs was showing remotely the way they were supposed to.

I ran many BBSes in the past, about half-dozen of them. I used Remote Access, PCBoard, and Waffle and each of my four or five boards had each a different theme to it. They supported all the features common to BBSes in their heyday.

To my dismay, I found that most of the other features, the core BBS ones, didn’t work. I wanted to believe that I wanted to strip my new BBS of the features that I thought didn’t age well. Namely message forums and file areas. In fact, that thought was a way to cope with my inability to make those features work.

I achieved this simply by disabling commands. I disabled uploads, message writing and message reading. Also all the other commands and jobs related to these three tasks. Like the file area search, message search, and generation of transfers statistics bulletins.

My idea was to create a text games server based on what was considered the rad system that System/X used to be.

For the games, the approach was to create three different areas of the BBS for each genre. Punk, horror, and science fiction.

I did a fast overview of what contemporary BBSes were offering. Most delivered BBS text games. I found that many of today’s systems share at least one or two games in common with their competitors.

 

Second Broadband BBS (2014)

I installed System/x 1.5a and moved all the configuration and text files. Then I configured the nodes in the correct way. This time the BBS worked well. At least all of its features worked, unlike the first time around, with the customized one.

Instead of using Gamesrv again, I gave a fresh new try to NetFOSS and Net2BBS. They seemed to run okay for a while, but a new problem came up.

I was running System/X natively and using its answering mode. Just like it was done in the past when it was through the telephone line.

Net2BBS just passed the telnet carrier to System/X and login was achieved.

This worked, but there was a problem. The telnet server began receiving connections from port-scanning spiders. This kind of activity froze System/X.

The easiest, but not seamless, solution I found was going back to Gamesrv. To use it as a login matrix.

In the 1990s, many BBSes had login matrices. Most of those that did, it was because the owner might have had restricted access to the system.

The login matrices served different purposes. Like applying for membership and checking the state of the membership application. They also had features like paging the sysop right from there. Some were like a mini-BBS that the user could use even before login into the BBS proper.

I configured Gamesrv to mimic a minimalist login matrix. I edited the .exe file with a binary editor to remove the splash text with Gamesrv’s version. In this way, I got rid of the port scanners and brute force attacks.

Software Used

Windows 7 32-bit
Gamesrv v13.07
System/X v1.5 Final
Doorway 2.22

System/X and Doorway worked natively were rather stable on Pentium M architecture. I wouldn’t have believed this if someone told me this.

My objective was to have something similar to the old thing. I wasn’t okay with adding the extra overhead that DOSBox would bring. Because of my stubborn approach I achieved it. That BBS ran 24/7/365 for almost four years.

 

Conclusion

The first version, the one without full BBS functionality took nine days of six or more hours per day work. I did it in the dog days of the summer of 2011 when I should be relaxing instead.

All the legacy software I used in the implementation process was weird. It was unresponsive, and errors and malfunctions were the rule. I toiled, and it was hard to enjoy the journey.

It wasn’t fun, it was a chore, and I felt I was losing time with obsolete software. Nine days is a long span of time. Compared to how much time it takes to deploy any games front-end software in a Windows setup. A mere five to ten minutes and your server is online.

While in the first instance I was willing to conform to the maimed BBS experience I created. I believed that no one else other than me could be interested in the thing, but I knew it wasn’t satisfactory nor cool.

I guess I was doing it just to showcase my smartness at picking interactive fiction games. It was part of a thought process. A deluded idea that there wasn’t any interpreter-neutral front-end for IF games yet. What I had created could work as a sort of front end. I only need to push a key to load an interactive fiction game. The same for a totally different game and interpreter. And that it was okay to share it with others.

After a while, maybe two, three or four months later the HP Vectra of the first incarnation died. In the two years that the BBS was down, a thought haunted me. The thought of having invested a considerable time in it, only for the project to fail. But I thought bygones should be gone.

But the fond BBS memories of my teenage years endured. The first thing I did after learning inter-networking in 2014, was picking up the project where I had left. I knew that it would be a cinch to set it up. With the benefit, of not having to type in the laptop I used as the server. With my newly acquired knowledge I did all the 2014 BBS work remotely, using TightVNC.

In about three days, my stubborn resolve to get a BBS working bore fruit.

I did it the way I wanted to do it. Running natively on Windows 7 x32, without the help of DOSBox. With all the BBS features in place and 99% functional, like I really wanted.

As of the updating of this white paper today on early 2018. I’m using Gamesrv v14. In the last years Gamesrv evolved and now it has an auto-ban feature. A great feature to deal with the constant brute force attacks. This version of Gamesrv even has text-mode waiting screen, like in the good old days!

 

Appendix — IF Interpreters

Years ago, probably in 2005 or so, I did research the best IF (Interactive Fiction) games available for free. To do this I studied a couple of IF games review magazines and other documents. There was a publication with good content about which IF games were worthy of playing to. It was the “Society For The Promotion of Adventure Games” e-zine.

Thanks to it, I made a long list of IF games that I considered were the best exponents of their respective genres. Ninety percent of them were text adventures. Most were participants on the Annual Interactive Fiction Competition.

I had thirty-four games in the original list, of which I chose nineteen to add to the game server. To do that I used Dudley Marshall’s Doorway v2.11. It took me several hours to get right the switches and parameters of the batch file for each door.

I found that the two most easy to implement IF formats were Inform and Adrift. In the list of games I chose to host there were other formats, like AGiliTy, TADS, and Glulxe. These gave me so much trouble to set up with Doorway, that I decided to just use Inform and Adrift games. GlkDOS 0.19.1 and Frotz 2.43, both for DOS, were used as the interpreters for the Adrift and Inform games.

There were games that didn’t display correctly. Irrespective of the parameters I’d pass to both Doorway and the interpreters. Because of this, the original list of around nineteen games was reduced to a dozen.

 

Frotz command line:

c:\bbs\node1\conf1\doors1\doorway.exe COM1F /H /M:48 /G: /F /O: /P:c:\bbs\node1\conf1\doors1\frotz.exe -d 0 -i -Z 0 <game>.z5

 

GlkDOS command line:

c:\bbs\node1\conf2\doors1\doorway.EXE COM1F /O: /V:D /G: /H: /M:48 /F: /P:c:\bbs\node1\conf2\doors1\GLKSCARE.EXE <game>.TAF

 

Games Choice

The games to host were of the punk, horror and science fiction genres (and sub-genres). Only Inform and Adrift format games were implemented.

 

Punk Section

  1. Punkirita Quest 1 (Stevens, 1996) bizarre/fantasy
  2. Punk Points (Munroe, 2000) punk bildungsroman
  3. Adoo’s Stinky Story (Perry, 2003) punk
  4. Slouching Towards Bedlam (Ravipinto and Foster, 1996) Victorian steam-punk (had to take it off, was not playable remotely)
  5. The HeBGB Horror! (Mayer, 1999) punk

 

Horror Section

  1. House of The Damned (McCall, 2000) horror
  2. The Zuni Doll (Burneko, 1997) horror
  3. Theatre (Wyber, 1995) horror
  4. Requiem (Whyld, 2006) horror, mystery
  5. Crypt (Herring, 1990) horror
  6. Madame L’Estrange and The Trouble Spirit (Ball and Young, 1997) horror mystery, science fiction

 

Science Fiction Section

  1. The Mind Electric (Dyer, 1995) science fiction
  2. The Edifice (Smith, 1995) historical science fiction
  3. Photopia (Cadre, 1998), surreal

 

Bibliography

Marshall, Dudley. Doorway 2.11 literature. Knoxville, TN 1987, 1988, 1989. Data World BBS, 1990.
Monfort, Rick. Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive fiction. USA 2003. MIT Press 2005.
Parrish, Rick. Gamesrv 3.10.19b2 literature. USA: R&M Software 2001. [available online: http://gamesrv.ca/documentation.php]
PC micro systems, Inc. NetFOSS 1.04 literature. Thousand Oaks, California: PC micro systems, Inc. [available online: http://pcmicro.com/NetFOSS/guide/]
R2D2. System/X Bulletin Board Software – Version 1.5a literature. UK: Fairlight and Hologram, 1995.
Squizzy. Desire Boardsystem version 1.5 literature. The Netherlands: xROADS, 1997.
Sadofsky, Jason Scott. GET LAMP. USA 2010. textfiles.com, youtube.com 2010. [available online: http://www.getlamp.com/]
Wilson, Kevin. SPAG e-zine. USA 1994-2011. David Monath, 2011. [available online: http://www.sparkynet.com/spag/]

 

© Martin Wensley, 2012-2018
Photo Credit: Monado

Broadband BBSing — A Case Study on Contemporary BBS Use 

Martin Wensley
17-1-2018case study example

Abstract

This paper is about my visit to ||||| and why after seeing it I think everyone should think of new ways of leveraging exciting legacy technology.

To pass time on BBSes in the second, (almost third) decade of the 21st century poses a problem. The problem of being disconnected from reality, for BBSes started to die circa 1995, when the commercial internet became the connect-to place for modem users, and the BBS global community practically disappeared.

Today, almost four decades after their invention, BBSes have returned. Those who loved them are back in business, those that couldn’t get enough of them are connecting to them again, and a new generation of users that were born (or where small kids or toddlers) when they were losing popularity is discovering them for the first time.

Yet, the problem of resorting to obsolete technology and making a culture out of it — be it social, of leisure, or of aesthetics — is that the time spent with it is time not invested or spent with current things, and taking advantage of the advances in technology that happened in the twenty-plus years since they stopped being the official, real-world version of cyberspace.

In this case study, I will show how ||||| BBS is a good example of re-purposing old technology to solve current problems (like censorship in cyberspace) and fill current needs.

 

Keywords

Elite BBS, Punk, Horror, Science Fiction, Interactive Fiction

 

A Return to Rad BBSing

I want to thank |||||, the sysop of ||||| for putting this BBS online and for allowing me to write this case study.

The BBS runs on System/X based on Gamesrv as telnet server and runs natively on Windows 7 32 bits.

The customization is a kind of Amiga Express ASCII theme, but it doesn’t stick to the Amiga color palette. This BBS in particular benefits greatly from using one of SyncTERM’s custom fonts, like the MicroKnight font. The steps to enable this kind of fonts to enjoy the BBS as it was meant to be used are laid out in the appendix, under the section that explains how to enable custom fonts in SyncTERM.

 

The BBS

A goal of this BBS, as the content in it puts it, is freeing the technology on which it’s based. It’s also an oasis on the internet in which those that connect can express and let recorded their feelings and emotions without having to be politically correct. Finally, it delivers the cream of punk, horror and science fiction interactive fiction games and a peculiar chatbot.

The BBS has a thread (I think it’s message #5) in the messages base of the punk courtyard that’s called The Venting Profanity Thread, it’s a thread that the sysop started to inspire others to vent their accumulated steam, especially if it’s technology-related anger. In that thread all expressions are welcomed, the more caustic, the better.

During the whole visit, use and abuse experience I used mainly Syncterm to connect to the BBS. I used mTelnet but only occasionally; because of its window-only interface that I disliked. If you want to know more about contemporary BBS client software, refer to the appendix at the bottom of this paper.

 

Rad Contents

If you want to experience a new take on BBSing, you should visit this BBS. Specially if you identify with punk, horror or science fiction fandom.

The BBS has three areas, what in the past were called conferences, but in it, they are called “courtyards”, the first one is the punk one, the second the horror one, and the third the science fiction one.

The BBS doesn’t belong to any group or echo messages network like the elite BBSes of the past used to do or like many of the present still do.

Its strong points are its selection of punk, horror, and science fiction scholar and leisure materials available in its file bases for download. Also, the punk chatbot |||||, in the punk courtyard is a conversation to be had.

 

Message Areas

There is one message area per courtyard, and they can be accessed by typing “R” and then enter. There is no list of message threads feature, but the simplistic message reading interface is self-explanatory if not totally user-sensitive, with its modest, text-mode simplicity.

 

File Bases

There are three file bases per courtyard, 1 is for games, 2 is for texts and 3 is for the files users upload. If one visits this BBS the file bases are a must see. Punk, horror and science fiction niche goodies await there, like for instance, The Raw and The Rotten: Punk Cuisine or the whole collection of the Punk Lives! punk magazine, the magazine that real punks ’77 read.

 

Online Games

There are four punk games, and a punk chatbot in the punk courtyard, six horror games in the horror courtyard, and three games in the science fiction one, they are accessed from the main menu directly.

 case study example

Conclusion

When there is a flood of choices of web communities to pick, a thing like BBSes, that in the past was a great mean to build communities, is not as relevant, especially for the technical barriers and steps required to access them. And I’m not saying anything yet about the reduced fun factor of text mode graphics and text mode design yet.

As I see it the BBS culture can’t stand on its feet for itself any longer and it hasn’t been for the last twenty-odd years. What before was not just a hobby, but also a culture, and a way of life now is relegated to the category of hobby only.

I think that a BBS of today should be something catering not to the BBS scene in general, but to a specific, narrow segment and deliver a one-time, museum-like, niche experience, like ||||| does.

I personally won’t be calling to BBSes anytime soon, but when I called ||||| it really was a paradigm-shifting experience. ||||| feels very legacy, but it’s a good example how obsolete things of the past, can become a solution to a modern problem.

Even if the human resource is nowadays lacking, to have a rad software like System/X running natively and working correctly on Windows 7, like |||||, is way cool, and can be interpreted as some kind of statement.

If we are stuck with old technology just because of the fun of it, we should revise our attitude. To me the worst thing — in BBSes and in everything else — is to be lost in the means of something. Yet, if we can give new ends to old means and, making it a satisfactory aesthetic experience, actually enjoy it, and even get something out of it, then we shouldn’t.

||||| is current since one of its main attractions is the punk chatbot in the welcoming area. There is a global market for chatbots, and if you really love and like them, once you chat with one, you want to chat with all available, the weirdest, the better.

It’s also relevant in the sense of its nature of its objective of being a liberated area where the fear of vulgarity doesn’t exist. 

 

Appendix

 

How to Connect to a BBS in the Web 2.0 Age

Yes, time passed and archaic technologies like telnet are almost forgotten. At least that is what I thought when trying to get my BBS up and running at a normal production pace. I thought that if this was leisure computing, how soul-killing could real work get.

I couldn’t relate to the pain I’ve been through to get a BBS up and running. It was very difficult to emulate the DOS era without using an emulator. It was obstacles everywhere—because of the 16 bits to 32 bits trade-off.

While a BBS scene still exists, it is nothing like it was in the past because while the commercial internet came of age, the Telnet era is pushing about forty years, and as I said, except for enthusiasts, the DOS era is logically dead.

Still, we mustn’t forget that BBSes were the internet of the eighties and most of the nineties.

BBSes never really went away, they evolved with the internet. I guess that in the years of the dial-up to broadband internet transition, to be in a Telnet-able BBS would have been fun. But this just if taking on account the things from the internet that were integrated into BBS systems. Features like IRC, FTP, telnet to another BBS from inside a BBS, and inter-BBS games.

 

Today

 

But nowadays even that has lost its novelty value. Who wants to chat by IRC these days? Not many, I guess. You can’t beat meta-IMs, the messengers of social networking portals, or VoIP with the old-hat trick of supporting IRC chat on ASCII text mode on a BBS. It’s not difficult to innovate anyhow. Some BBSes still online I’ve seen, in some ways, reflect the present with things that weren’t in the BBS’ heyday. Like delivering data extracted from web feeds.

Others BBSes dedicate themselves to be just like a time capsule, even offering old collections of software and information, like digital museums, which is neat, if you can find pearls among the heaps of shovel-ware and obsolete things.

 

SyncTERM vs mTelnet.

Get a telnet client: not many free ones with full BBS functionality to choose from.

 

SyncTERM

This telnet client is free, it has all the goodies one might need in using a BBS. After some trouble with the other option (mTelnet) I conclude SyncTERM is the way to go, besides, it includes even an Amiga font among its features.

The screen has two windows. The left side’s one is the BBSes directory. The right one, switch to it with the Tab key, is for the connection’s settings, screen, fonts, and options.

 

Text-Mode Vintage Fonts

As I said, one of the coolest features is the fonts, you access them by:

1. Tab to SyncTERM settings

2. Go to Default Connection Settings and press enter

3. Choose Font, and a big fonts menu appears

4. Choose your own text-mode font

 

Adding a BBS to SyncTERM’s Directory

Make sure you are in the directory, it has to be blue, and not cyan. In SyncTERM blue denotes the active window and cyan the inactive one (of the two on its front-end).

Remember, tab switches between the two.

1. Press the Insert key

2. Enter BBS name

3. Press Enter in Connection Type (Telnet)

4. Enter the BBS’ address, something like bbs.tolinkto.org and press Enter.

That’s it, you added it to the directory.

 case study example

Calling To A BBS

Scroll through the directory, choose a BBS of the many that come on the list with SyncTERM, and press enter. SyncTERM then proceeds to connect to the remote system. SyncTERM should connect to the remote BBS in one to five seconds. If this doesn’t happen it means the BBS is down. Press the Escape key to return to the directory in that case.

There aren’t many technicalities in calling to a BBS. When asked if the terminal supports ANSI it means if your client can display colors. Which the two clients recommended here can, thus answer yes.

Remember ALT+Enter will switch to full screen; to the console/text-mode screen.

 

About Registration

Most BBSes, I dare say ninety-nine percent of them, require you register to use them. Don’t panic, it’s an easy “questions and answers” process like in any web forum or community site on the web. It’s even easier than registering on a website.

Most, but not all, BBSes require you to be a validated user to use them. Because of this it’s good to register in a handful of different BBSes, forget them for about a week and then connect to them again to enjoy full privileges.

 

Using Login Macros With SyncTERM

You can edit a BBS entry by pressing CTRL-E or F2. A rather self-explanatory menu in a window appears and the entry’s settings can be edited. In the Edit Directory Entry dialog.

You can even set macros for your username and password at the BBS. By doing this, the next time you call you press the macro’s shortcut, ALT+L. Doing this, SyncTERM enters the username and the password semi-automatically.

 

Useful BBS Hot-Keys

SyncTERM has some standard BBS-era hotkeys:

  • ALT+C: Captures a log, creates a text file in your hard disk with a long snapshot of all the telnet session in ASCII
  • ALT+H: Terminates connection, when in aBBS and you want to quit it ALT+H will end the connection and return you to SyncTERM directory
  • ALT+Enter: Switch windowed and full-screenmodes

In SyncTERM BBSes directory:

  • CTRL+E: Edit directory entry
  • CTRL+D: Quick connect to a BBS, opens a dialog in which you can input an URL directly and connect to a BBS in two steps

 

mTelnet

A poor excuse for a terminal program mTelnet was all image and no functionality. Doesn’t have full-screen mode, and has “eecchhoo pprroobblleemmss” in some systems. Not recommended.

 

© 2018 Martin Wensley
Image Credits: Haunting the Chapel BBS, Black Flag BBS

The Total Noob Guide to Choosing a Vaping Device

It’s been years since you lit up your first butt. From a silly hobby to addiction, to be fed with it you feel that it’s time to try vaping for a change. Throw your cigs down the toilet and get the basic facts on vaping devices straight.

 

How to Choose a Vaping Device

The most important thing to consider at the moment of choosing a setup is where you are going to be vaping. Factors of portability, convenience and comfort have to be considered.

A box mod is more difficult to handle if on the move. A vape pen or clearomizer may feel limited for a sedentary person. An RDA would be very cumbersome to use while walking or hiking.

This guide will help you narrow down choices to your personal preference. Ultimately, once you try, you aren’t going to want to light up a single phallus of the devil anymore.

 

Give it a Try

buying guide example

To give vaping your first try, go for a cheap disposable e-cigarette like the blu. They retail for around five dollars apiece. One of these lasts 400 puffs or around thirty cigarettes. There’s no recharging or liquid involved.

 

Safety

There aren’t big batteries, wires or chargers involved with this type. The grade of safety of these devices is high compared to dedicated setups.

 buying guide example

Device

Disposables are the new cigalikes. They are an evolution of the cartomizer-based cigalikes of the past. While using cartomizers was similarly inexpensive, they had non-disposable parts. You can get this kind of electronic cigarettes easily since they’re everywhere.


Liquids

They come with liquid from the factory. The blu disposables, for example, come in many different grades of nicotine content. From 0% to 16%.

 

Transition To Vaping

You are a smoker. You are sure that you want to transition to vaping definitively. In this case, it makes more sense to go for a durable setup. If you never smoked, but want to try vaping do it with 0mg nicotine liquid. The choice of vaping equipment doesn’t relate to the nicotine.

 

Safety

These devices require careful handling. They require batteries bought from reputable sellers and made by qualified manufacturers. On the user side, they need care too.

The best things to look for at the moment of buying a mod is to check the manufacturer’s reputation. Their certifications and social proof. Also, find out if their products are safe. Find a model you’d like to buy. When you find it, check for safety measures built into the material and logical designs. Like vents in the battery case, digital short-circuit protection and the like.

 

Pens and Clearomizers

buying guide example

A vaping pen is a cylindrical and easily portable vaping device. They are capable of delivering vaporization in the three to five volts range. They support up to around 1000 mAh of charge. Two of these batteries are enough for a day, even if you want to vape constantly. Most batteries are charged with a USB cable or adapter that comes with the kits.

Some vape pen batteries have the by-pass function. The USB charger in by-pass capable batteries connects to the battery by micro-USB. In this way, you can vape while the battery is charging. One example of these batteries is the iTaste CLK!

A popular vape pen was the eGo C, by Joyetech. Probably the safest model of the eGo line. They had a re-fillable tank to plug in the atomizer unit. The tanks weren’t disposable but inexpensive if broken or lost.

Vape pens were superseded by clearomizers. Clearomizers are still pens, but with a tank system that is like a miniature RTA (see below). Some clearomizers use a kind of coil called BCC, for bottom changeable coil. Other types of clearomizer coils are dual coil and vertical coil.

 

Must Purchase

  • Atomizer head replacements: think two per month, but you can be lucky and make them last more than one month
  • Tanks and Clearomizers: in case you break or lose them
  • New set of batteries after x years

 

Liquids For Pens and Clearos

You can get anything from 0mg to around 30mg nicotine percentage. If you want to replace smoking you shouldn’t get any percentage below 18mg. If you feel that you don't get the cigarette experience, then get higher percentage liquid. Once you can exist without cigarettes, nicotine can be tapered out. You can buy liquid with less nicotine content to appreciate the flavors more.

You must also consider how are you going to vape. If it’s going to be once every forty-five minutes and a few drags in rapid succession, like a cigarette, get 18% or higher. If you plan to use your pen or clearomizer to vape constantly during the day, then get 16% or lower.

 

Regulated Mods

buying guide example

When buying as a beginner, remember it has to be a regulated mod. The other kind of vaping mods are mechanical mods and squonks. They aren’t recommended for beginners.

The modality for vaping with mods is sub-ohming. This practice is geared towards enhanced flavor and cloud production.

There is a wide range of models and prices. It may seem difficult to decide which one to get. An arbitrary standard to classify them could be how many batteries they require. Once you decide you want to have a mod with, say, just two batteries the choice narrows down considerably.

 

RTA

Rebuildable tank atomizers are either fully rebuildable or not, but all have a tank. Fully rebuildable are tank-atomizer combos that allow changing resistance coils. The other kind comes with some kind of replaceable atomizer. This latter category is just a modest improvement. You’ll still be buying something pre-made, like atomizer heads for a vape pen.

There are replaceable, pre-made atomizers. One example is the CCELL-GD used by the Guardian tank by Vaporesso. They last for around a month. These atomizers make for a very unpleasant experience by the end of their life-cycle.

 

RDTA

buying guide example

The RDTA is more of a hybrid. It pairs the rebuildable atomizer deck of an RDA with the tank technology of RTAs. These devices are more like an RDA with the convenience of a tank. This type of RBA is not for all novices. There is a learning curve. You’ll notice it when you buy the materials. Also when you assemble the rebuildable resistances.

Basic electrical knowledge, like Ohm’s law and a few tools, are a must too.

You can buy the wire coils pre-made. Others make them themselves. What you must do is place them in the vaporizer, screw them and then wick them with cotton. That’s why I’m saying these aren’t for entry-level vapers who can buy a wholly pre-made solution like the eGo AIO Box.

If you start with an RDTA configuration, you can go RDA later using the box mod and an RDA. This isn’t possible with pre-made solutions were all the components are proprietary.

The choice of coil material depends on what kind of vaping style you want to achieve. Each has a different temperature mode and must be used only in that mode. It’s possible to get coils of materials such as kanthal that will only work on wattage (power) mode.

 

Must Purchase

  • Battery, if the mod doesn’t come with batteries
  • A second set of batteries and charger, if it’s not enough for a day vaping
  • Replacement plug-in atomizers for replaceable RBA
  • Atomizer ohm meter (optional), these are neat devices where you screw the atomizer and get a reading

RBA/RDA hybrid type:

  • Pliers with a cutting section: To manipulate and clip the wire coils
  • Screwdriver to fix the coils in the atomizer. The tank/atomizer kit may include one
  • Prebuilt wire coils and cotton, for the wicks.

 

RDA

buying guide example

Once you put an RDA as vaporizer in your mod, it becomes something different. It can’t be denied that the flavor is different when you are using one of these. If you are fastidious about flavor, you must try an RDA.

You can buy a complete kit also and go straight the RDA way, without having used pens and RBAs before. All the pains of maintenance explained in the RBA/RDA hybrid apply. RDAs are for those that want to vape different flavors every day.

Dripping you can switch flavors on an hourly basis. Some flavor fanatics re-wick their atomizers daily. They do it to vape multiple flavors without tasting admixtures.

 

Must Purchase

  • The same things that RTA owners must buy
  • Rubber gaskets that keep the cap on the deck by pressure (replacements)

 

Liquids for RTA and RDA

From 0% to around 6% is standard. It’s pretty much a trial and error and relative to the setup. A consensus would be anything above 10% is overkill.

 

Not Recommended Devices: Squonk and Mech Mod

Unregulated Mechanical Mod
 

buying guide example

Most of the news about vaping accidents are because of fake products. Also, negligent use or abuse of genuine products, faulty batteries and user modding. Mechanical mods are the ones to blame the most. They are a very basic device. Mech mods evolved from tinkerers who created vaporizers out of flashlights.

 

Unregulated Squonk

buying guide example

Squonks are unregulated like mechanical mods and not recommended for beginners. Similar to box mods, they are bulkier than pens and clearomizers. They have a reservoir of liquid (squonk bottle) inside and feed the coil from below. Each time the coil runs out of liquid, a squeeze of the bottle replenishes the coil.

Not much different from the RTA/RDA hybrid type. The difference is that these dripping atomizers don’t have a tank. The drops of liquid are applied directly on the coil and the wick. The disadvantage of this kind of vaporizer is that you have to replenish the wick with liquid often.

 

Helpful Extras

These two extras prolong the lifetime of vaping devices

Heat Sinks

Heat sinks are a nice layer of protection for your device's 510 connector. They are similar to the heat sinks used in electronic devices like CPUs. If you plan on dry-burning your coils, a heat sink is a must.

Battery Chargers

Battery chargers will guarantee you two things. First, minimal use to non-use of the USB port of the mod, bypassing the risk of connecting it directly to the electric plug. And second, they have features to check your device's batteries, and to marry them if they have different charges.

 

Conclusion

The market for vaping devices has grown so much that choice became overwhelming. I didn’t recommend any device in particular because that would be very objective. Once you learned the basics you can get down to specifics. Do this by getting in touch with online vaping communities.

 
 
© Martin Wensley 2019
 

Free CRM — Leveraging WordPress with ZeroBS CRM

 


 

About ZeroBS CRM

short-form product review example

ZeroBS CRM is a free CRM system for sites based on WordPress. Installation is a snap, as simple as any other WordPress plugin. The developers of ZeroBS CRM call it a super simple CRM. It’s true, it’s very minimalist and to the point.

There isn’t any other CRM that gives you the functionality that ZBS CRM gives for free and at such ease. As far as my personal experience goes, even the ones touted as free are unusable for delivering a crippled, try-before-you-buy, not really free experiences.

ZBS CRM can also be used as a CRM without integrating it with a WordPress site, but still one needs to install it onto an existing WordPress installation to be able to use it. Using it this way defeats the purpose of making it a practically seamless part of your site’s customer acquisition and nurturing strategies as well as a part of the sales processing system. 

ZeroBS CRM Features

  • It accepts all file formats to automatize CRM tasks involving delivery of files. Documents, presentations, images, spreadsheets, audio. Archives or any other files for customers are called attachment in ZBS.
  • Interfaces with Contact Form 7 to funnel email addresses from the form system into the CRM.
  • Allows .CSV customer file import and keeps track of the imports you already did. It imports your contacts on Google. Imports Groove customers using Groove Sync. Also imports order history from WooCommerce through Woo Sync.
  • Generates leads with its proprietary Gravity Forms.
  • Invoicing Pro. Invoicing system for clients and contacts to pay you. Supports Stripe and PayPal. Also, your PayPal history can be imported with Paypal/Stripe Sync. Also supports importing of your customers using on WorldPay through WorldPay Sync.
  • Runs email campaigns (paid service).
  • Customers can be tagged to differentiate their kind/stage in the sales process.
  • Sales Dashboard extension (paid) for sales metrics

I was attracted to this software by its invoice generation capability. To have that, and also feature mail campaigns and statistics (paid plugin) was too good to be true. But I was amazed after installing it at how easy it is and how neatly each component of the system is structured.

I’m going to review the free version only. This is one of those pieces of software that gives big value for free. As a basic CRM, the free version succeeds as an application, and the paid plugins, which as of this writing are seventeen make it a complete solution.

If you were to buy all seventeen extensions (an unlikely scenario as I see it), ZeroBS CRM would cost you around $820 a year. Some are for the automation of customer and business data exchange with other platforms like Stripe, Groove, Envato, WooComerce and PayPal, while others unlock the more powerful paid-user modes of the core features.

If I ever buy something from the developers of ZBS, it will be the Sales Dashboard. No wonder that it’s the most expensive plugin. I personally think that for the functionality I need as a freelancer, this one would be the only plugin I’d buy, but that’s just my view.

ZeroBS CRM offers three yearly plans. The Sales Dashboard isn’t even included in the Freelancer plan, which is the cheapest at $129 a year.

You may feel the need to link ZeroBS CRM with your MailChimp funnels. ZBS CRM syncs the contacts with a MailChimp marketing list automatically. You might even want to integrate Awesome Support into your site, to make it have that other common CRM feature, a customer support help desk. But for small businesses, the free version is more than enough.

It must be nifty to have statistics about my sales all in one place, but until I have a substantial customer base I can get my sales analytics with another app. Only it’s a bit of a hassle to have to export and import the sales data around.

Once you start feeling limited by the free version, you can buy a year access to the plugins which range from $29 to $79, with the exception of the Sales Dashboard, that cost $129 for a year.

 

Installation & Setup

Once the plugin is installed and activated, we have a new menu in the WordPress left-side ribbon. Clicking on settings takes us to the settings section.

Before creating a customer and doing other tasks with the CRM to see how it works, go through all the settings and customize as pertinent.

ZBS Settings

These are the global settings of the CRM. All of the fields are self-explanatory.

A cool feature is its capability of overriding the WordPress logo on the login page for your users. Making use of this feature with your company’s makes the site more professional-looking for the registered user that has access to the site’s member’s area. 

ZeroBS CRM settings 940x498 converted 640x339

Custom Fields

The CRM has four types of main records:

  • Customers
  • Companies
  • Quotes
  • Invoices

These four types of records come with a predefined set of fields. If you need more fields you can define additional custom fields that fit your needs in this menu.

 

Field Sorts

This tab gives a detailed view of the fields assigned to each record. Dragging and dropping, you can re-arrange the order of the fields in any way that pleases you.

 

Front End Forms

This tab is to enable or disable the captcha system that protects the forms that the CRM generates from attacks.

 

Language

The language is chosen in the uppermost area of this section. Below it are most of the content strings of the CRM which can be changed to anything you like.

 

API

Here the CRM’s API keys are generated.

 

Quote Builder

Here the Quote Builder can be disabled.

 

Invoice Builder

In this section of the settings, all the content of the invoice must be plugged. The essentials are in the group of seven fields below the path to the company or business logo. It also has the email settings and comes with three invoice additional options: 

  • Show tax on invoices
  • Show discount on invoices
  • Show postage and packaging 

 

Testing the CRM — The Control Panel/Dashboard

zbs dashboard 940x529 converted 640x360

All the CRM's business processes are neatly laid out as blocks in the CRM's dashboard.

 

Customers

zbs customers 620x299

  • Manage Customers: to add customers and modify their records
  • Customer Search: self-explanatory
  • Customer Tags: tag costumers to target them separately in your email campaigns
  • Add Extra Customer Fields: takes you to the Custom Fields section of the global settings 

Quotes

  • Manage Quotes: in this section, you can manage delivered quotes/estimates. You can also create new ones. After you write the quote, there’s a pull-down menu to select the template. Once that’s done, the quote must be saved, assigned to a customer and then we are able to publish it. Publishing it means that the CRM uses Quote Builder to mail it to the customer. Manage Templates: In this section, multiple quotes templates can be created. The installation of ZBS comes with a Web Design quote example that shows how to use macros to personalize the quote.

Invoices

zbs invoices2 940x422 converted 640x287

To manage and create new invoices. You can keep it saved as a draft. Other statuses for the invoices are Unpaid, Paid and Overdue. Once the invoice is filled with the transaction’s data and assigned to a customer a new menu of options appears at the top right of it. It gives the option to Preview, Send, Send Test, and Save.

Transactions

zbs transactions 620x181

  • Manage Transactions: here you get a bird view of all your transactions
  • Transaction Tags: lets you add transaction tags to later make different groups. They can be built in a tree structure
  • Add New Transaction: self-explanatory

Forms

zbs forms 940x261 converted 640x178

In this section you create the forms for lead acquisition and list building. 

 

Data Tools

zbs import tools 768x677 converted 545x480

In this section, you have all the export options and the button in the middle takes you to the sales page of the paid import tools.

 

Sync Tools

zbs paid extensions 768x658 converted 560x480

Both the free and paid extensions are all listed in one place.

Wes Schaeffer14874127550 a346f896e6 o 620x388


 

Conclusion

I think that this software is excellent for its minimalism. I think that what it gives for free is acceptable only if you’re just starting out and you need a way to organize your customers with several additional features.

In my case, it was the capability of ZBS to export. PDF invoices. I’m satisfied with the free version because I didn’t want any of the paid features.

The need to pay to create email campaigns, or to automatically sync your MailChimp lists is something that limits the power of the free version a lot.

Since a CRM is just the digital version of a ledger, this lean and mean system excels as one. The feature creep was kept to a minimum and the attractive features of mail campaigns and the syncs to integrate other platforms to the CRM make it above average in off-the-shelf solutions that require almost 0% programming knowledge.

To visit the developer’s site, click here.

 

Written content © 2019 Martin Wensley
Image Credit: Wes Schaeffer

explanatory content example

Want To Make Big Money Helping the Needy, Less Privileged, Widowed, Motherless and the Disabled?
 

Here’s how to Earn Cash and Traffic Instantly!

 

Don’t spend a lot of money in multi-level marketing schemes. They not only don’t work but also might turn out to be some kind of dishonest, heartless get-rich-quick schemes. Without a product backing them, you may be given just an affiliate website. Then you must re-sell the lie again and again.

In most network marketing and multilevel schemes, you must not only buy yourself into the company. You also must buy products that you would probably never use. Let alone pestering family, friends, and acquaintances with products nobody needs or wants.

Share our vision of helping the needy. Become a partner today. With a one-time entry fee of forty dollars ($40), you become a life member in our original earning plan. Helping Hands International’s Adhitxpress is a charity-oriented network marketing plan. With a twist.

Your entry fee allows you to resell our plan and make a difference instantly. For yourself and for those that you bring to it. They become partners. You allow them to generate a steady income instantly.

When you join our charity-oriented instant cash-flow generation Matrix plan, you join a network that cares for its affiliates. We want you to become a philanthropist, a network marketer, and a great seller. And one of the most important parts of selling is advertising.

 

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anything about Internet advertising.

 

Register with us. For the one-time entry fee of forty dollars you will get 10000 free advertising credits. Spend them at your discretion. Do it in the advertising spots on our site and in our auto-surfing system.

 

WEEKLY CONTEST

 

If you have seven active referrals for the Matrix Plan in a week (Monday to Sunday) we will award you the Weekly Contest Prize, $100.

 

MONTHLY CONTEST

 

The top monthly referrer to the Matrix Plan gets $500.

You must have at least seven referrals in two weeks.

If you achieve two weeks with at least seven referrals per week you will qualify for the $500 prize.

 

MATRIX PLAN

You will earn in five stages and increasingly win bonuses:

 

ASSOCIATE STAGE (Stage 1)

The matrix you will have is called a Foundation Matrix and has six slots. As an associate, you become a sponsor and can introduce others to the matrix with a referral link or directly.

You will introduce two new members, and in turn, they will introduce another two. You will get 20% or $8 for each member you refer.

If you fill your Foundation Matrix with six referrals, you get $48 plus the matrix bonus of $10. Just by introducing two you will make $58, regaining and surpassing your initial investment!

 

MASTERS MATRIX (Stage 2)

When the two direct-referral members in your matrix refer each other another two, you get indirect referrals. You will now have six referrals in your matrix.

When the new four members brought by your first two direct referrals fill their matrix with two each, you will reach the Masters Matrix. They are already making returns for their investment while you collect a matrix bonus of $1000.

Our marketing plan is designed to provide a regular cash flow for members. You collect money as you and your referrals progress and then a bonus when your matrix is completely filled.

In this level, you get as an incentive a free laptop or iPad.

In this stage, you get the first Matching Bonus, which is another way for members to earn from direct referrals. You get a 10% match of the stage each of your referrals completes. When the members you brought as direct referrals fill their matrix and get their $1000 bonus, you are getting a $100 (10%) matching bonus!

 

SUPER MASTERS MATRIX (Stage 3)

When the members from level one to five in your 2 by 5 matrix become masters, you will get a $1500 bonus.

You get another $1500 when their matrices fill up. When this happens, you will reach the Super Master stage, besides the $1500 bonus you receive, your referrer gets a $150 bonus.

You will also get a Hyundai ix10 (a $10.000 value).

Reaching this stage is important not only for the rewards that you will reap but because YOU WILL BE ABLE TO RECOMMEND TWO PERSONS FOR EMPOWERMENT!

Both persons you choose for empowerment will receive $1000 each.

 

MINISTER MATRIX (Stage 4)

When your supporters filling your matrix become Super Master, you will get $2000 from the matrix’s levels one to five. Plus another $4000 when your matrix is completed. This amounts to a $6000 matrix bonus.

At the same time, your referrer will receive a matching bonus of $300.

You become a Prime Minister and earn a $6000 bonus.

On top of that you will receive:

  • An executive Hyundai (a $27000 value)
  • $1000 to donate to a motherless home or disabled home in your neighborhood
  • An interest-free loan, of up to $12000, with no collateral requirements.

 

PRIME MINISTER MATRIX (Stage 5)

This is the last stage. It’s a 2 by 2 matrix. When six members of your previous matrix join you in the Prime Minister stage, you will collect $12000 in two stages. The member who sponsored you will get a matching 5% bonus ($600).

When you fill level one of the Prime Minister stages, you receive $2000. When your matrix fills up completely, you collect $10000.

Completing the last phase of the Prime Minister stage you will receive the following incentives:

  • International Trip
  • Housing Fund
  • Educational Fund
  • Yearly Infinite Bonus
  • Yearly Elite Club Members Loan (up to $44000)

You can re-enter into the Prime Minister’s stage again.

Re-entry into this stage can go over and over. Each time you re-enter this matrix, $500 are deducted, and your status changes to Primer Minister (**). The two stars indicate the second tenure as Prime Minister.

You can re-enter this stage up to your sixth tenure as Prime Minister.

When your Prime Minister (******) sixth tenure ends, you are offered to occupy one of our prestigious Trustee (Director) positions.

The Board of Directors is a most coveted position in Helping Hands International. Enticing benefits and lots of luxuries and fulfillment packages await you as a Director!

 

MEMBER OF BOARD OF TRUSTEES (DIRECTOR) STAGE

The Trustee Matrix is a 2 by 3 matrix.

This stage requires two referrals on your first level, four in your second, and eight in your last level.

When this 2 by 3 matrix fills up you’ll be contacted and all the benefits will be paid.

 

The Trustee stage benefits:

  • Trustee Bonus (once), $80000
  • Global Profit Pool (yearly), $10000
  • Life Residual Income $10000
  • Position of Director in Charge in the country to be launched
  • Automatic qualification to attend the Annual Global Meeting (AGM) In Hawaii or Paris

 

That’s a 100000 (one-hundred thousand) dollars value!

 

Yearly Recommendations

  • Scholarship Award (yearly), to be given by you to two orphans of your choice.
  • Two more Scholarship Awards for two persons of your religious setting.

To reach the Director position four of your direct referrals must be on this matrix.
This means that four members you directly refer must be somewhere in levels one to three of your 2 by 3 Trustee matrix.

To reach this stage is the goal of every one of our help partners.

 

Please do visit our website at

http://www.adhitxpress.com

we have more information for you there!

 

© 2018 Wensley Evolo
Photo Credit: SomewhereInLife 


Design of Responsive and SEO Websites

b2c commercial website copy example 2

We offer you a site design service according to your needs, built in a week, or a maximum of ten days. In these times, a website is necessary for many purposes. It is not enough for a service or product to use non-digital methods or just social networks without a site.

You have to own website for your service, product or brand. The possibilities of placing yourself in front of your customers will multiply exponentially. Even if the project is not for a commercial purpose. Because your own site will guarantee a share of analyzable traffic. Therefore a larger audience, with all the possibilities that this implies. 

Sites Based on a CMS or Platform of your Choice

With the help of a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress.org or Joomla, it is possible to create dynamic sites. You can add all kinds of functionality to CMS-based sites. Some examples of the functionality of a CMS websites are:

  • Less hassle overall than using a different platform
  • They foster community and relationships building
  • Can be used as collaboration platform
  • Modular functionality, all kind of things can be added to it
  • Many options for search engine optimization

 

Types of CMS Functionality

Mobile Version Responsive/AMP

A correct display on phones and tablets based on the resolution of such devices. Accelerated Mobile Pages compliance.

Shopping Cart (e-commerce)

When you want to use the site to sell products.

Catalog

Be it commercial products or other things.

Customer Relationship System (CRM)

History of the customers of a business through the entire sales process.

Integration with Social Networks

The signals originated in social networks increase authority in the search engines.

Photo Galleries, Audio & Video

Smart ways to embed media in the pages of the site.

Slideshow

For SlideShare-style presentations.

Courses (e-learning)

Offer courses and be remunerated by credit card or internet payment system.

Mailing Lists

To communicate with customers, fans, or followers through emails and newsletters.

Artistic and Work Portfolios

Sites to display work samples to show potential employers and/or clients.

Contact Form

Many different uses. Generally for questions and support of a product or service.

Printable Coupons

For promotions that must be redeemed in physical establishments.

Blog, Phlog, and Vlog

For professional or amateur specialist content.

Events calendar

Keep users informed about certain events.

Chat

Chat system embedded in the pages of the site.

Downloads

Offering files to download on a site is a great way to get traffic.

Community Forums

To create a community of people with something in common.

Interactive Maps

To show the exact place of a business and ways to get there.

Voting Systems

One way to implement surveys.

Search Site

To find specific content, without having to resort to an external search engine.

Rating System

To evaluate content.

Related Links

To other sites, with sample thumbnails, reviews, etc.

Affiliate Products

Sell products from third parties.

 

Static Websites

For a fraction of the price of a CMS-based site, you can get a static website.

In the past, the CMS system was not widespread. There were some off-the-shelf options for static sites that added functionality. It was done via applets, and Java sites created with a multimedia suite. The sites in Java are in the past. It is more difficult to optimize them for results in search engines.

Basic functionality can be achieved with static websites. It is possible to offer features similar to dynamic sites. It can be configured for the owner to have statistical reports of their use. Needless to say, static sites can and should be optimized for search engines as a dynamic one.

 

Websites Based on Blogging Platforms

Get a website based on a blogging platform like Blogger or WordPress.com. For a fraction of the price of a static website.

Using a personal or business domain you can implement a decent site on a free web platform. Like Blogger, WordPress or Tumblr.

The downside of doing this, using the platform as a CMS, is that the options are much more limited. However, with the use of a personal domain, you can achieve simple blogs and quality sites that are sound budget-wise. With these sites functionality suffers. And the ability to obtain detailed statistics suffers much more.

The statistics options that come with free plans are basic. However, just like static websites, there are ways to better monitor site statistics. It’s done through web apps like, for example, cyfe.com.

Regarding the payment plans of these blogging platforms, we do not recommend them. We think that you are paying for a service that simply is not worth it.

 

Get Your Website in less than 10 Days

Through our website design service, we will provide you with a site with a basic search engine optimization. Our configuration will allow your site to start receiving visits and increasing its authority from day one.

Contact Site Design: xxxxxxxThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / Telephone: ***-*****

 

© Martin Wensley 2019
Image Credit: MedithIT

Transform Your Manuscript into an eBook Ready to be Sold

 

To create an eBook is tricky. It’s tough to do it the first time, but it gets easier with experience and practice, and finally, it becomes a snap to do it.

I’ll dissect the process of creating an eBook from a manuscript to a finished eBook with EPUB, PDF and Mobi versions.

All the tools used to create an eBook with this guide are free and available for download. They work with the manuscript in HTML form, but no HTML knowledge is required.

 

1 — The Manuscript

If you want to create an eBook with minimal hassle, the ideal is to begin writing it (and keep writing it until finished) directly in a text processor that is compatible with Microsoft Word.

Preferably, the text processor will be able to export EPUB, the new industry standard for documents of reading material. In these edition programs there's an option to enable formatting marks.

To see the formatting makes all the difference. I'll give two examples, TextMaker 2016 and WPS Office, two free programs. In WPS Office's Writer (also known as Kingsoft Writer) the feature I'm talking about is called “Show/Hide Editing Marks & Show All Formatting Symbols In The Document”, and it's an icon with arrows, in the Home section of the ribbon menu. In TextMaker 2016 it's a button with a green Pi symbol called “Show Paragraph Breaks, Tabs and Spaces”, near the right extreme of the icons menu.

If you have no problems with the dated interface of TextMarker 2016, I'd recommend you write the whole manuscript directly in that program. TextMaker has a great feature, and that's the option of exporting a structurally-sound EPUB file. Each page break (which you should use at the end of each chapter) functions as an html EoF (end of file), a way EPUB has of organizing a book. You can see this clearly if you decide, once the manuscript is finished, to edit it in an EPUB editor such as Sigil. Doing it is a good idea, to check for errors in the chapter titles. This is seen in a dialog called Book Browser in Sigil, in the left side of the editor's screen.

The way to see if the manuscript has errors in the chapter titles and overall structure I used, was exploring the finished manuscript's table of contents in Sigil. The table of contents should be a dialog in the right side of the screen in Sigil.

Some recommendations. One, don't use many fonts. Use two or three at most. Use common (preferably core) fonts. A sans serif for titles and a serif one for the content. Don't use fantasy fonts. Stick to the tried and proven ones. If this rises a red flag, please read a few articles about eBook fonts and the EPUB format.  You want to use a sans serif font for the chapter titles, and a serif one for the chapter’s gloss.

Two, formatting is a great temptation to attend to, but it doesn't make sense to give it importance when you are writing or rewriting the eBook. Why not to give one's best shot at the formatting, because it's not time-efficient. It's an edition task to be left for after the last correction.

Three, use blank space when appropriate. Specially at the start of each chapter. In a book I finished recently, I used seven soft breaks at the beginning of the first page of each chapter.

If you want to use different correction tools, the best way is to write the first draft using minimal formatting. Then, once you parsed the first draft with correction tools, corrected all the errors, and cleaned the formatting errors, apply the final formatting. The reason I'm propounding this way of sequencing the creation of the eBook has a reason. Books are a long kind of document, if your manuscript has a lot of errors, it may become a hassle to fix it manually. When correction tools have automated procedures to fix a manuscript one may want to use them. The catch here is that the tools I'm talking about aren't developed enough as to keep the more sophisticate formatting. Some of them, like for instance Hemingway, may have trouble even to keep the basic formatting. They generally work with plain text only. That's why I say to leave headings, blank space, perfect line and paragraph spacing, emphasis, italics and typesetting characters (like the curly double quotes) for the last thing to do.

Saving a manuscript in plain text is a great way to spot formatting errors. Once it's saved in plain text, the whole manuscript must be checked with any text software that can do word-wrapping. Also, I must repeat something once more. The more correction tools one uses, the plainer the formatting prior to the parsing through those tools. I'd recommend to parse the manuscript with at least three correction tools. First, and easiest, orthographic and vocabulary check with the spell checker of the word processor. Then it should be checked for grammar and style errors with tools that check for things as diverse as idioms, paragraph and sentence length in words, use of passive voice, use of adverbs. A good one is The Hemingway Tool, a fastidious alternative, The Language Tool.

The table of contents. It's not required, but can be generated to check for chapter title errors.

Check that each chapter title has a header HTML tag assigned, and use that tag only for the titles of the chapters. The h1 tag is too big and we need it for sections of the eBook like title page. Each chapter title should use h2, and each subsection of a chapter h3. Online eBook sales portals accept a reduced quantity of header levels. Lulu for instance accepts only h1, h2 and h3. 


Warning

Creating an eBook directly in an eBook creator like Sigil or BlueGriffon has a great disadvantage. You can't see formatting marks with them. They are great for those with knowledge of CSS and HTML. But for others that lack that knowledge all the cleaning up of the formatting has to be done in a text processor that can show them. Still, you should keep Sigil to check for EPUB errors.

The important marks that the word processor must show to check the formatting are:

  1. Soft Line Break (new line mark)
  2. Hard Line Break (new paragraph mark)
  3. Spaces

The eBook can have indented or block paragraph formatting. Block paragraphs is the method with more chances of working in any text processor.

Guide for Block Paragraphs Formatting:

  • Lines of the front and end matters: can have combination of hard soft breaks and use headers
  • Chapter Titles: hard break, h2
  • Chapter Section: hard break, h3
  • Paragraph: hard break, normal
  • Empty line between paragraphs: soft break

A good and free text processor that can show the editing marks is Kingsoft Writer. It's a button in the home ribbon that looks like two enter signs or arrows.

Other than fonts, headers, page breaks, italics, emphasis and paragraph style your manuscript shouldn't have any formatting.

 

Formatting No-Nos

Page numbers
Linked (or page-numbered) Table of Contents
Bullet lists
Numbered lists
Page sizes
Direct formatting (creating blank space or page breaks with, hard breaks, tabs and/or spaces)

Once the manuscript is clean and tight, it can be copied to a program like Sigil and check for errors in the EPUB structure, like I already explained.

 

2 — The Creation of The Table of Contents (optional)

If you are planning to create an EPUB that you can upload to eBook market portals like Lulu and SmashWords, then the eBook shouldn't have a ToC. It can have one, but it must not have links or page numbers.

First off, auto-generate a table of contents to spot any errors. The ToC has to have the same quantity of items as the book has chapters. If it has more, you used your chosen title h tag for something else other than chapter titles, and if it has less or none, it’s because you haven’t tagged all your chapter’s titles with the same h tag. Goes without saying that any piece of content that comes before the chapters must have a different h tag.

The auto-generated table of contents may have links or page numbers. In that case, copy to a plain text editor to remove all the formatting. Delete page numbers if any. Replace the ToC in the manuscript.

 

3 —The Placing of Front and End Matters

As you may know by now, EPUB, the contemporary eBook standard, doesn’t carry embedded fonts like PDF did. Every formatting niceties and emphasis must be achieved by header tags, font size, italics, and bold emphasis.

Read a guide on the web on how to write the front matter of your eBook, it’s all the content that comes before the main content.

If you think it’s too much work or you can’t find one, then get five paper books and study the first pages, you’ll see a more or less rigid pattern to it. Follow it as it is, don’t get creative with the front matter. Copy it, changing the content of the title of the book, the author’s name, and the rest of the front matter content.

The same goes for any additional content that is not the manuscript but the supplementary matter that you decided to put in the last pages, like bibliography, notes, appendixes.

 

4 — The Cover, The Spine and The Back Cover

Since this is just an eBook, we aren’t concerned with creating a spine cover. Also, I’ve seen many eBooks to have a cover but lack a back cover, I personally won’t go that far. It’s nice for an eBook to have a back cover, even if only for aesthetic reasons. Like the unlinked ToC.

Use a vectors program like Inkscape to design the cover. But first, you need a picture and the typography. Source an image by either designing it, shooting it yourself, buying it from a stock photography silo or getting it from Creative Commons (if you want a free image), and resize it to at least 1400 pixels wide to comply with most of the eBook markets.

Conventional book cover fonts to use are:

  • Baskerville
  • Bodoni
  • Calibri
  • Dings
  • Futura
  • Garamond
  • Helvetica

There are free imitations of these fonts that you can use without having to buy them.

Create also the back cover (generally a summary of the book and/or the writer’s bio) in the vector design program.

Export the images from the vector design software in a high definition format like .TIFF.

Embed the cover and back cover in the eBook. Save or Export as EPUB.

Presto! You created an eBook!

It’s time to go to Amazon, Lulu and Smaswords and begin selling it!

 

© Martin Wensley 2019
Photo Credit: Javier Candeira

Mystery Train A Long Train of Aesthetic Pleasure Passing by Memphis, Tennessee

still of Mystery Train

I went into Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train without expectations, my only feeling for this movie before watching it, other than the hope of seeing and learning things about Memphis, was the prejudiced notion that I would not like it as I liked his other movies, the ones I thought were more underground, and perfect examples of the no-wave film movement, like Permanent Vacation and Stranger Than Paradise.

Mystery Train is an anthology film transpiring in a down-and-out, hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, the Arcade Hotel. The hotel’s receptionist (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) and bellboy (Cinqué Lee) simplistic storyline serves the purpose of the movie’s wrapper.

In this movie, the three main storylines interlock nicely and we get a more meaningful narrative by seeing how the three segments were related, by the time the final events unfold; in the third and last segment of the movie.

The first segment is about a couple of Japanese tourists, Mitsuko (Yûki Kudô) and Jun (Masatoshi Nagase). They go to Memphis to visit the mostfamous rock and roll landmarks, like Graceland, the Sun Records studio and the Arcade Diner, where Elvis used to take his nourishment.

The second is about an Italian woman, Luisa (Nicoletta Braschi), dispatching her husband’s remains from Memphis to Italy, who has to pass the time until her plane’s departure time comes. She then meets with Dee Dee, (Elizabeth Bracco) and they book a room in the hotel together.

The third segment is about a British immigrant, Johnny (Joe Strummer), who’s fired from his job and his mind breaks. He ends up pushing his two friends into an emotional roller-coaster, first with a frustrated joyride and then with something way more serious.

short blog post example

 

No-wave Anthology?

At first, I thought that the first segment’s couple was a brother and sister thing, but they were actually a couple of kids in their late teenage years. It was strange, to see a couple of middle or middle-high class kids traveling so far from their home, but I saw it as a good depiction of rocker culture, even if coming from characters of that kind of pampered socioeconomic background. Some people may root for the Japanese girl and think that her boyfriend acted in a way that was too stoical, but that would be only out of ignorance of rocker/rockabilly/greaser culture, not knowing that the character’s way of being is a common attitude of the aforementioned youth culture tribes.

The second segment is where it hit me, this wasn’t a movie that was only about the characters, their transient take on Memphis, and a few Tennessee tourist spots. It is pretty much a movie about Tennessee too. In this segment, we are treated to some atmospheric shots of Memphis that we might have overlooked in the first.

There is a phone call scene in this segment that, I thought, was overacted. Yet, for others, it may come as a comic relief moment. In this part of the movie, I noted that the character Dee Dee was a blabbermouth, and I felt vindicated when the characters in the last segment talk about her and confirm it.

The third story was a surprise for me, to see Joe Strummer in the skin of the Johnny, AKA Elvis, character. It’s the most emotionally charged plot of the three and the part of the movie in which there are more action scenes. Like I said, his character was fired, and he’s drowning his sorrows in abar when he flips out and takes out a gun, his workmate, Will Robinson (Rick Aviles) calls his brother-in-law Charlie (Steve Buscemi), to pick them up. Things get worse from there, much worse.

Behind the simplicity of the stories and lack of plot, there lies a meta-narrative of which the hotel is the focal point, and the way in which the three stories and the wrapper were put together were something new. I personally think Quentin Tarantino must have drawn inspiration from this movie for Pulp Fiction because the manner in which the four stories are told is similar.

I was already thinking that from the scene in which we’re introduced to Buscemi’s character, Charlie the Barber, as he cuts the hair of a customer. In that scene the lines of dialog sounded suspiciously familiar:

“You know what? I saw it on television, that the Chinese who are in China they all wanted to eat maccaroni with cheese, don’t you think is kinda odd with all the Chinese food they got?”

I think there isn’t anything I don’t like about this movie. Maybe some scenes of the second story, but like I said, the atmospheric scenes of that segment make up for any of its shortcomings. I wanted to relax with a generally plot-less movie like the ones by Jarmusch that came before Mystery Train, and even though the cast has many known, and we could say mainstream, faces (and even the voice of Tom Waits as a
radio DJ) I think that with this movie, Jim stood true to his no-wave origins.

 

© Martin Wensley 2019

Primlabs SRL Sarmiento 7025,
3rd floor Suite 3 +54-911-746-63483
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, 2900

 

Dear Shannon:

I’m submitting this letter of inquiry on behalf of Primlabs SRL. I want to request your consideration to receive our investment proposal. We’ve just finished drafting it. We would like you to read it and tell us what you think. Is that okay with you? This opportunity is a great fit for you. We have proven successful as providers of amusements. We delivered amusements under the free-to-play and pay-as-you-like business models. Social gaming platforms, like Second Life, Blue Mars, Project Entropia and Facebook. We believe there’s an unexploited market in the trifle amusement niche you are seeking to fund. This is based in a recent customer research we conducted.

 

Problems to be Tackled

The rise of broadband consumer internet changed the urban landscape. It almost completely killed the community cinemas. Same for the video game galleries of the 1980s and ‘90s.

In megacities you can find different kinds of entertainment enthusiasts. For instance early adopters and video game aficionados. And other persons in need of entertainment. These peoples are nothing but disenfranchised while things stand as they are at present.

Before one could find plethora of the aforesaid businesses even in the marginal areas. Not to mention the downtown ones where this commercial phenomena reached colossal proportions. But here isn’t practically any of these venues any longer. If something still stands, is a minuscule remnant of the past.

Or even worse. Sometimes what’s left is not something of the previous eras. Sometimes it’s transplants of the mall’s leisure court to the streets. When the same buildings that housed video arcades house these transplants, it only amounts to an insult. If we bring this kind of business to the spots where it’s expected, we could fill a vacuum in the needs of an important market.

 

Virtual Reality Games Stand

Our idea is for a cost-effective opportunity. To bring cutting-edge recreation back to where it once flourished. Without the risk of tying it to any specific venue. We want to build a transportable “Virtual Reality Diversions Stand”. One person will operate it. It will have the capacity to run online games, first-person shooters, and games designed and programmed for VR platforms.

Customers will purchase passes for the attraction. Each pass will be valid for fifteen minutes of game-play time. We have outlined all the components of the business in detail in the proposal. Our proposal is for eleven thousand American dollars to establish the business and fund six months of advertising.

 

Additional Funding Sources

Facebook owns Oculus, one of the top three most popular companies in VR equipment sales. Striking a partnership early with either Oculus, Facebook or both may help the business grow greatly. Plans for strategic partnership agreements must be a core piece of the business model.

 

Summary

This opportunity would leverage the rise of consumer virtual reality.

Also the buzz around it, and the limelight is going to receive. The need for weekday/downtown area brief amusements is great and unfulfilled. We must evolve the trade from where this mass-market industry left off. It has a high chance of being profitable. VR is a market bound to thrive in upcoming years.

Let’s build on something that has proven time and time again to be successful with audiences. It has the potential to reap great dividends.

Thanks in advance for your time and consideration. We will be waiting to hear from you.

All the best,

Ennio Moretti, CFO at Primlabs SRL.

 

© Martin Wensley 2019
Image Credit: re: publica

Primlabs SRL
Sarmiento 7025, 3rd fl, ste D
+54-911-746-63483
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, 2900

There is going to be 200 million VR headsets sold by 2020. The research
firm tractica forecasts that the market for consumer virtual reality
content and hardware will reach a whopping $21.8 billion of revenue by
2020.

The rise of broadband consumer internet almost completely killed the
community cinema and video arcade of the 1980s and ‘90s.

 

Leisure Problem

In mega-cities in which amusement adopters, video game aficionados and
people in need or want of being entertained could find many of the aforesaid
businesses in the marginal areas — let alone the central ones — there isn’t
any anymore, or what is left is an aberrant vestige of the past.

What is more, in big cities that featured video arcade and “pleasure lane”
types of business street configuration, video game recreation is missing.
It has been clearly delegated to the malls’ leisure courts. Gone are the
days when video gaming formed part of fast-paced, day-to-day downtown and
uptown district life.

In the street malls and pedestrian streets of cramped mega-cities where
cinemas and video arcades where a part of the landscape, the situation is
felt when the shops that used to be video game galleries are now dingy
fairs and the cinemas, evangelist churches.

 

Tech Solution

My idea for a modest attempt at bettering this unsettled situation is to
bring cutting-edge leisure where it once thrived, without the risks of
getting stuck in any particular place by means of an easily transportable
virtual reality games stand of high-end hardware configuration.

It will be operated by one person and it will have the capacity to run
networked first-person shooters and games designed for VR platforms.

Customers will purchase passes for the attraction, each pass will be valid
for fifteen minutes of game-play time.

Facebook owns Oculus, one of the top three companies in VR equipment sales.
Because of this, striking a partnership with either Oculus, Facebook or both
companies may help the business grow greatly. An affiliate agreement for when
we refer a customer to Oculus and the customer buys from them should also
be added to the marketing mix.

This stand will be small, about a third the size of a common fair stand,
around thirty-two by twenty-two inches of surface size. This to give the
business capacity for mobility. Also, to do away easily with tying the outfit to
a particular venue to the exclusion of others.

As venues that come to mind we have thought of:

  • Getting a concession in a mall’s amusement court
  • Parks, squares, and street malls (previous granting of needed permits by
    the city)
  • Renting it, with an operator, for events (birthdays, etc)

If this business succeeds, it might allow for global escalation to bigger
markets than Argentina. Think USA, India and China.

 

Some Figures

We expect this business to make from 60 (sixty) to 120 (one-hundred and twenty)
dollars on the daily. In an ideal scenario of only half of all the work hours being
occupied by customers that buy passes, this business would make 6000 (six-
thousand) dollars monthly, or 72000 (seventy-two thousand) annually.

We need $11000* to develop this opportunity.

 

Costs Breakdown

1. Laptops (2) (Dell Inspiron 15 7000, 34watts): $3538.77

2. Headsets (2) (Oculus Bundles, Rift+Touch kits): $1712.31

3. Portable Generator (Honda Eu 20, Soundproofed Inverter): $1820.76

4. Game (two boxes): $97.03 (+ License to use as Paid Amusement, $…)

5. Cash Register: $913.23

6. Stainless Steel Cart: $570.77

7. Advertising Campaign and Promotional Material: $1847.23 (budget for ~six month)

8. Paperwork Fees: $…

 

© Martin Wensley 2019
Image Credit: Mike Lawrence

 

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