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Following Up on Fallacies about Getting Free Stuff “Free stuff” – the mere whisper of the words is often enough to make many people throw common sense out the window and head for the free goods like a missile to a target. And then there are those people whose eyes glaze over when they hear those words, because they can’t believe anything worth having can actually be free. The truth about free stuff is really somewhere in the middle. Yes, you can really and truly cash in on many freebie deals for things that you want to have, but a healthy sense of cynicism about free gear is also useful. Here are some of the important things to keep in mind about free stuff. The first myth you should throw out the window is that nothing good comes for free. The fact of the matter is that the price tag on a good doesn’t always match up to the quality, and there are many great free things out there. Case in point: music. Sure, everyone has heard the scare stories about file sharing online, and maybe some big record labels will come after you if you focus on their artists. Dig a little below the surface, however, and you can find a whole new world of really great bands that are more than happy for you to listen to their music over and over again. The same goes for free software. People on the cutting edge of technology who have a passion for creating new and efficient applications often develop open source code software. They’re doing it for the love of it, and they often have more talent than any ten suit-and-tie tech guys trying to hock their latest product for a mega profit margin. Here is where the reality part comes in, however. Yes, you can find wonderful things that are completely free – but yes, you can also find a lot of free things that aren’t worth your time at all and in some cases can cause you a lot of trouble. The net is a great place to fall victim to a “free stuff” scam, but you can also sometimes come across these scams in the mail as well. If something is free, but requires you to give your credit card number or bank details, run the other way. Another myth people have about free stuff, especially free stuff on the internet, is that when you try to cash in, the only free stuff you will be getting is an inbox full of more spam than you can handle. The truth about this is, well, that is can certainly be true. Many companies give away free things in exchange for your email address, so they can try to hit you up to purchase things in the future. What makes this a myth, however, is that it can be avoided. If you don’t want to choke on an inbox of spam, and who could blame you, set up a special (free) email account that you will use exclusively for freebie hunting. You’ll have the best of both worlds. The last myth about free stuff involves the “catch” people are always looking for. Often, for free stuff, the catch is a bit of junk mail or email or the fact that you have to submit to a time consuming survey. Sometimes, the catch is that if you get free stuff through a trial offer, if you don’t cancel it, it keeps coming, and this time you have to pay. The truth about these catches is, however, that the catch is in the eye of the beholder. These things don’t make products any less free; so don’t write off every free offer offhand. You might just find a catch you can live with to get a great free product you really want.

Web Hosting - Databases, What Are They and Do You Need One? 'Database' is one of the most commonly used terms that one encounters in web site design. Yet, what they really are and whether they're essential is often not clear to novices. A database is a collection of organized data, stored in files that have a specific structure. It's that organization and structure that allows for easy and rapid storage and retrieval. The need for a database generally only arises when you have a certain amount of information and that information needs to have some structure. If you have a half-dozen names and addresses to store, a database is usually overkill. If you have a blob of data with no relationships between any of the items in that blob, maintaining a database is usually more trouble than it's worth. Maintain a database? Yes, like other complex systems a database, to be effective, needs to be designed properly at the outset then kept 'tuned' for good performance. The alternative is to gradually allow the database to become more and more disorganized. That leads to difficulty in use, poor speed of retrieval and more frequent failures. With MySQL, Access or MS SQL Server, the three most common choices of database product for web sites today, setting up a database is relatively simple. Even those with limited technical skill can get one up and running just by following some simple instructions. But some thought should be given to how you want the information organized, and to maintaining the system during its lifetime. Suppose you have a set of names, addresses, email addresses, products purchased, date purchased and amount. If you have only a few dozen records it matters very little how these pieces are arranged and related. A database usually isn't even warranted in this scenario. Once you have several thousand or more records, it matters a lot. Speed, the ease of expanding the set of attributes (like adding, say, product category), and other issues come into play. Even those with little technical expertise, but a willingness to exert logical thought and invest some time, can build a very robust database. Think about how you would organize a set of data (called 'tables'). Should Name, Address, and Product be in the same table? Or should the personal information be stored in one table and any product information (product, price, ...) in another? Some experimentation may be needed to get it right, but the choices have an impact on how easy the tables are to maintain. It also affects the speed with which programs can fetch old data and store the new. Having a database also introduces new maintenance issues for the server administrator, since backups usually need to be done differently. Recovering a failed database is usually more complicated than simply re-copying files from yesterday. Ask your hosting company what tools and skills they have for dealing with any database system you consider. It's true that introducing a database creates more complexity and the need for additional thought and administrative effort. At a certain level, professional expertise will be needed. But clearly the advantages outweigh the costs in many cases. Companies large and small eventually use databases to store and organize data. At some point, you may be fortunate enough to be one of them.

To Enter or Not to Enter Writing Contests (writing contests) If you are a freelance writer, it is because you love to write. Why not put those abilities to use and enter a writing contest? You have nothing to loose and a lot to gain. You can find writing contests by simply searching the Internet. Writing groups and message boards may also have listing for these contests. No matter what you writing genre maybe poetry, fiction, non fiction, there is a contest out there for you. Read about them and choose which ones are right for you. It is not necessarily about winning or loosing but about the experience and knowledge that you gain to get there. Whether you win or not there are still valuable things that can be learned or gained by entering into contests. Entering writing contests will help you hone the skills that you have. Try something new, you may choose to write in a niche that you normally wouldn’t. You get constructive criticism from someone new. Someone that doesn’t have to worry about hurting your feelings and that is unbiased can be a wonderful asset to your career. The feedback you receive can be invaluable to you. It will get your name out there and give you a place to showcase your work. Depending on how good your story, if you make it to the next round your writings could be in front of editors and agents. This feedback and criticism is even more important than the first. Do not your eggs all in one basket. Enter a couple contests to get multiple feedback sources. Not every editor or agent is going to agree. By entering multiple contests and find common points about your writing that need perfecting you will be able to concentrate on a general consensus about your abilities. There are some downsides to entering writing contests, too. Chances are that a simple contest is not going to launch your career into star status. Do your research just as if you were going to write an article about contests. For many contests you give up your rights to your entry whether it wins or not. You need to decide whether or not you are willing to give up all rights to your story. If you win it is not a big deal, but if you loose your giving your work away. Are you willing to do this? Research the contest. You can search the Internet for reports or opinions on contests run by the company. You can find valuable information on if the contest is legitimate, if entering has had any effect of previous entrant’s careers, and if it is really worth it in the long run. The bigger and well-established companies will give credibility to your work if you win. But the bigger and more well know the companies are will also bring in tougher competition with well know authors. Some companies offer contests as a disguise. Yes they will give away prizes and declare winners but their main goal with the contest is advertising. It can be in the form of offering you to buy obscure book featuring your contest submission. Sometimes it is an editing company that offers a discount for its services or a company that will offer you discounts on writing classes. A writing contest is just a possible stepping stone. Whether it helps you or not is the unknown, but it definitely won’t hurt you. It may help you reach the next level of your career. You and only you will be able to make the decision on whether or not writing contests are a good move for your career.