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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-Do Lists an Important Part of Being a Better Employee What makes a good employee? Take a look at how the star employee in your office operates. Chances are that they don’t run around in a constant fog of stress and pressure. Good employees are usually calm and conscientious; they seem to always get the job done with a minimum of hair pulling and frantic rushing around. Is it just genes that these people have that allow them to work like this, or are some people just better at managing stress than others? The answer is probably not. If you take a closer look at the star employee in your office, you will are likely to see that they are so stress free and productive because they are good at managing their time. And chances are they manage that time with the help of a to-do list. The to-do list is an often-overlooked part of working life. While they are the kind of thing people expect housewives to carry around with them in their purse while they run errands, many people think they can do without them in the work place. This is a big mistake. Being productive at work is all about being able to carry out your tasks in a timely manner, and being productive at work is also about managing your stress. If you are too stressed out, your work will suffer for it. You will fall behind because you won’t be able to concentrate, and you will make mistakes you might not have made if you were able to take your time with your work. So, how can a to-do list help? To-do lists can do many things for you in your busy working life. For starters, to-do lists remove the problem of having that all important phone call or meetings slip your mind. When you have a to-do list, everything that needs to be accomplished is set out there for you, so there is no more explaining to your boss why you stood up your company’s most important client. With a to-do list, you can also see the bigger picture of everything that needs to be done, so you can plan your time wisely. Working on tasks one after another as they come up is not a smart way to accomplish things at the office. Some jobs are on a tight deadline, while other jobs can stand to wait a little while. When you set everything out for yourself in a to-do list, you will be able to prioritize your tasks in order of importance, so you get the crucial work out of the way first thing, and only move on to less important jobs when you have the time to devote to them. All of this organization will make your working life less stressful. Imagine a typical day without a to-do list. You come in to the office in the morning, you work through all of the email sitting in your inbox, you make a few phone calls, chat with some co-workers in the break room, answer a few more emails, and then bam! All of the sudden, you remember that the presentation your boss needs for the big meeting is due at 2 p.m., and you haven’t even started it. Now you resort to hair pulling and frantic working. Then, you give your boss the presentation over an hour late, and it is filled with mistakes and sloppy work. Now imagine the same day with a to-do list. You get the presentation out of the way first thing, and you have time to check it. Then you can move on to less important tasks without the dark cloud of stress hanging over you. To-do list writing is time well spent if you want to succeed at work.

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.

Can Facebook or MySpace Help You Land a Job? The Internet is quickly becoming the vehicle of choice for people looking for a job and for employers looking for people to hire. There are many job sites on the Internet dedicated to matching up employees and employers, and most people turn to the Internet today when they are hunting for a job instead of turning to the classified ads in the local paper. Job hunting websites may all be well and good when you are looking for a job, but what about social networking sites. Everyone knows how popular sites like Facebook and MySpace are online, but can they help you get a job? If you are in the job market, can these sites be your foot in the door, or a one way ticket to the unemployment line? The answer is that there is no easy answer. To know if you can find a job using Facebook or MySpace, you have to know how employers feel about these sites, and employers have mixed feeling about them. Some companies are actively using social networking sites to track down employees that meet their company’s employee profile and have had great success finding workers via social networking sites. Other companies wouldn’t touch these sites as a hiring tool with a ten-foot poll – in fact, many companies don’t even want you to access these websites from their company computers. The real answer to this question has more to do with exactly what kind of job you are looking for. Are you looking for an executive position at a company? Then stay off of the social networking sites, at least for job hunting (and maybe all together). No company is going to look for its top brass on a social networking site, and you will be wasting your time. However, if you are looking for entry level or hourly wage work, the social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook may be the answer for you. Many hourly wage employers in particular, like fast food restaurant chains and mall stores, use MySpace and Facebook to look for potential employees in their area. If a potential employer sees your profile and thinks you may be a good fit for their company, they will send you an email or an instant message and get the ball rolling. You should also, however, carefully consider the downsides of using social networking sites as a job tool – and you should carefully consider how and if you use these sites at all if you are in the market for a new job. Most people wouldn’t want their parents to see their social networking site profile, let alone potential employers. If you have rude and off color material, political or religious material, and inappropriate photos of yourself on your profile, a potential employer will be turned off, and you might lose your chance at that job. Most people give up way too much of their privacy when they use these kinds of sites, and your social networking site profile may offer a window into a side of you an employer might not be overly impressed with. Further, you can open yourself up to danger by using these sites to job hunt. If someone approached you in the street and offered you a job, would you accept? Then why would you accept a face value an approach by someone on social networking site? If you do get approached for an interview, never meet anyone in a private place, and do your homework to make sure the facts check out before you go for the interview. One last reality check – there are over 60 million users on MySpace alone. How will an employer find you in the crowd? MySpace and Facebook may help you in your job hunt, but don’t count on them as your sole avenue into the job market.