Monday, December 21, 2015
Using the Chrome browser:
1. Sign into your google account.
2. In a new tab, browse to the following address: https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout/custom/gmail,calendar
3. Follow the wizard. You can choose to make an archive just of your eMail and calendar, or you can select information from other services such as Google Drive.
4. Once you have selected the services that you want, click on Next
This shows the file version (zipped),
5. Click on Next again This starts the archive process. You can access the archive after it created by clicking on the link that Google sends to your eMail account.
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
Typical increments are 24, 100, and 500 participants. "Meetings" are usually limited to around 24 participants. "Webinars" can go up to 100, 500 and above. Some vendors have a free version for three or four participants. and many vendors have initial 30-day trials that don't require a credit-card
In addition for desktop applications that run on Windows and Macs, many vendors have apps for IOS and Android. Some newer programs are HTML5 only, and require only a modern browser. Older programs may install various plugins and additions such as Flash, Java or Silverlight to help with video and audio conferencing. In general these seem to work OK, but it is an extra step that is required before attending the webinar, Inexperienced users may require support to get plugins installed.
Before the WebinarAssuming that you aren't having a spontaneous web meeting, many packages allow you to schedule a webinar and have people pre-register to attend. The package may send out eMail invitations, or at the very least, you can obtain a unique Url to copy and paste into an email invitation sent from your own eMail account. If the package allows registration, then you can see how many have registered, and their locations and email addresses.
The ToolboxScreen sharing: Display a screen, an application, or a window interactively to show how to use a program. You may also be able to have another person share their screen with the full group, or have them control your screen.
YouTube Videos: Choose a YouTube video and play it within your webinar.
Chat Window: This is helpful if people need to alert the technical team if they are having problems. Chat is also a way for people to ask questions of the presenter, and provide commentary on the presentation. Chats can also be restricted to the presenters only, or to one-on-one conversations.
Whiteboard: Allows you to annotate and draw on either a blank white board, or on an existing document. Never used it myself.
Other considerations.Audio: Most webinar applications have some provision for people to talk and listen via a separate voice line. This is especially helpful when he voice-over-ip audio is substandard; people will tolerate problems with the video or presentations, but most of us have a much lower tolerance for problems with the sound. External voice integration varies from vendor to vendor, with some plans including a custom toll-free number for each of your presentations. Payment can also vary; sometimes the participant has to pay, at other times you do, or it may be free.
Some programs include recording as part of their functionality. With others, it is an add-on. Personally I watch many webinars as recorded events, as I'm unable to watch them in real-time, and often don't find a live version to have any added value over a recorded version.
And the Envelope Please!
Because we use GotoMeeting on a regular basis, we decided to stick with it, so chose GoTo Webinar, the extended version of GTM for up to 200 participants. We already know how to use it, and it appears to be pretty reliable. During testing we found some webinar software not to be as reliable as we might have hoped, with problems related to screen-sharing or audio.
Thursday, October 08, 2015
among different disk sizes, RAM, processors, redundancy, and various flavors of Linux. Access is via their web site, or via a secure terminal session.
Here's a shot of the backup screen, (click to enlarge).
There are some limitations...for example with MySQL database transactions. Linode recommends that you perform a data dump of your MySQL data so that the dump files get backed up.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
I was looking at our crontab on our backup server. This server is an Ubuntu 12.x LTS machine, and the logs for this were being sent to my predecessor, and I wanted to change the eMail address. The usual procedure is to run the following command to see and edit the contents of the crontab file:
This brings up the crontab file for the root user. Crontab is probably for another day, but basically the script shows a MAILTO address that I wanted to change.
# Edit this file to introduce tasks to be run by cron.
# m h dom mon dow command
0 23 * * * rsync -avz email@example.com:/opt/mysql_backup/ /backup/hive
0 18 * * * /backup/scripts/rsync_agave.sh
0 17 * * * /backup/scripts/rsync_basil.sh
0 1 * * * /backup/scripts/rsync_mysql1.sh
0 4 * * * /backup/scripts/rsync_mimic.sh
0 2 * * * /backup/scripts/rsync_petal2.sh
Running the crontab-e opens up the file in the default editor. Well, I didn't even realize I had a default editor on this machine, and the file opened in vim, which is an archaic program, beloved by Unix freaks. I prefer the nano editor, especially because I don't use a text editor much, and I know how nano works.
After some digging it appears that the default editor is set as an environment variable specific to the user. It can be changed by running the following command:
You can view your current environment variables, by typing
There will be a line similar to
In Ubuntu, you can also use the following command:
sudo update-alternatives --config editor
This will bring up a list of editors from which you can choose your favorite.
Monday, September 21, 2015
- A fully searchable archive with unlimited messages
- Unlimited external integrations
- Simple usage statistics
- Custom message retention policies
- Guest access
- Premium support
You'll note that this full list includes the standard default channels, "general", and "random". All of the other channels are related either to committees, or for planning of upcoming events. The committees include:
And I'd love to hear how you are using Slack in your non-profit; send a note or leave comments.
Tuesday, July 07, 2015
Monday, June 15, 2015
Coffee supplied by the organization was in the form of Keurig K-Cups that contained brand-name coffee from Green Mountain Roasters, Starbucks, Pete's, etc. We also would have a smattering of more exotic K-cups, such as green tea. This is not unlike almost every other office in the U.S. at this point.
As a person whose existence depends on this vital substance, this has been an interesting exercise. I've believe that I was placed on this earth as a vessel to take coffee as a raw material and convert it into software, so it was a bit of a wrench. I've been trying to figure out what to do next, now that I've been thrown back on my own resources.
Once I started doing long divisions, I also found the following:
Premium tea bags - Bigalow or Twinings English Breakfast comes in at about 14 cents per cup. (assuming the hot water is free. We actually get heated spring water out of our cooler, so maybe it would be another penny for the water, call it a total of 15 cents).
Cheap(ish) white wine, a Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio costs from $7.00 to $9.00 per 750ml bottle. I can get about 5 glasses per bottle, so my wine consumption comes in at $1.40 - 1.80 per glass.
Boxed tomato soup from Pacifica is $4.00 per package. I can probably get 3 servings out of a pack, at $1.33 each.
So, apart from tap water, which tastes fine around here... tea seems to be a pretty cost-effective beverage, especially compared to wine or coffee when consumed in the office. It also makes you wonder about the 500% markup for beverages consumed elsewhere. At our Starbucks, a Grande Pike is $2.15. Most restaurant wine is $6.00 to $8.00 per glass.
So, I'm going to try to really like tea.
But, why stop here?
My round-trip commute is around 30 miles. Gas now costs $2.75 per gallon, and I get 50 mpg on my old Prius. So, I'm spending $1.65 on gas per day.
Unless I take my bike in which case the commute is $0.00. But then, Ben and Jerry's premium ice cream is on sale at $2.75 per pint. I can get two to three servings per pint. Add the hot fudge and and walnuts.. and ... never mind.
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
The solution is a "server".... which runs the QuickBooks Database Manager program. We repurposed an older but reliable HP workstation by installing a fresh copy of Windows 7. Then, we ran the QuickBooks installation program from their support link.
While it looks as if you are installing the full QuickBooks program, an initial screen asks what kind of installation you want:
- Use QuickBooks on this machine, and access a company file stored elsewhere on the network
- Use QuickBooks on this machine and host the company file for others on the network
- Host the company file on this machine, but access it from Quickbooks on other machines
By choosing the hosting option, the installation program will install the QuickBooks Database Manager program only, on your server machine.
NetworkingAssuming you are not on a domain network, (i.e. your users' machines are set to be a workgroup) you need to create user accounts on the server machine which match the Windows 7 user accounts that users use to log into their personal workstations. This will allow people to connect to the server machine using their usual account name, without having to enter it a second time.
Set up the data folderCreate a folder on the server machine to hold the QuickBooks company file. Copy the company file into that folder.
This needs to be a shared folder on the network. The QuickBooks file doctor program will turn on folder sharing, and make the folder accessible. Download and run this program on the server.
FinalizingAt this point, you have the company file loaded on the server. Now, run the QuickBooks database manager program. This will ask you for your company folder so it can find the company file.
Note that the database manager runs as a background service, so you can exit the program, and the file will still be available to the network.
Now you can go to each workstation, and access the file over the network. I edited the opening QuickBooks screen to show just the networked copy of the file. The next time the user starts QuickBooks, it should automatically open the file without requiring a Windows network log in. Of course, the QuickBooks log in is still required.
Friday, April 17, 2015
I installed this in a virtual machine both to take a look at 10, but especially to take advantage of updates to Windows PowerShell, which are available only with Windows 8 or later. I'm happy to say the start button is there.
The start button leads to the tiles left over from Windows 8. Maybe this can be re-configured to avoid the tiles? Didn't Microsoft get the memo that people working on business-class desktop computers DON'T WANT TILES! At least not the default ones, with videos, the stock market, etc.
OK so you can right-click and delete a tile. I can imagine configuring this as a standard operation when deploying a new desktop computer to a co-worker.
If you look in the document explorer the new icons are even more cartoon-like than than before. It makes me nostalgic for the old "cartoon-like" icons of Windows XP.
Thursday, April 09, 2015
The front end of our web store is hosted with Shopify. Sales that are made through the web store are passed through to Brightpearl. Along the way we charge credit cards through Authorize.net, and have implemented a number of custom plugins or "apps" to modify both the Shopify store, and the Brightpearl application, notably from ShipRobot and Bold Apps.
The store took some time to get up and running. We had originally contracted with an outside consulting firm. After it became clear that they weren't smarter than we are, we brought the implementation in-house, and worked directly with our cloud vendors at Shopify and Brightpearl.
One of the trade-offs of cloud-based computing is that an application of any complexity can easily rely on code from multiple providers, so that some of the time saved in not coding, is spent on "vendor management". We have good relationships with our vendors, all of whom have provided timely tech and implementation support.
We replaced a system that used a web site hosted by a local programmer which fed the MOM Mail Order Manager program. Although we launched with a full suite of capability that matched our original specification, it is very feasible to launch a less elaborate site with Shopify, and add functionality as your needs grow.
Friday, March 06, 2015
Except for iDevices. At least for Dropbox,
Even with the Dropbox app installed, the familiar syncing process that works so smoothly on desktops and laptops isn't present on the iPad. The reason for this is that on actual computers Dropbox maintains copies of all files on all devices and the cloud. On the iPad that might be both a problem with storage space, and also a problem with the amount of data that is transferred.
This has come up with FileMaker files that are opened using the FileMaker Go app on the iPad. I'd prefer to go to the Dropbox app, find my FileMaker database file, and "Open in FileMaker Go", which is, in fact the procedure that one uses to download and use the FileMaker file on the iPad for the first time.
1. Here's the file shown in the Dropbox App. It is called UCHealth.fmp12 and it is an exercise tracking application.
Here FileMaker isn't shown, but if you tap the "Open In" application icon ....it will bring up additional options:
Tap the FileMaker Go icon, and the file is downloaded from Dropbox, and will be displayed in FileMaker Go's file listing for local files on the iPad
However, once the file is opened, it is copied to the iPad and it stays on the iPad. Changes to the file (new records, edited records, etc), are NOT synced back to the Dropbox cloud file.
The fix for this is a bit convoluted, but at least it works. It involves a manual copy of the file back to the Dropbox cloud.
1. In Dropbox, Delete the cloud version of the file. (If you are doing this next to your desktop computer you may see a notification on the desktop telling you that the file has been deleted from Dropbox.
2. In FileMaker Go - be sure to close the file.
a. Select the upper left menu, and choose Windows
Close the application window. (in this example, close the UCHealth application.)
That will bring you back to the file browser.
3. In FileMaker Go, choose "Device" This will show the list of files that on the iPad.
6. Choose "Open in Dropbox"
Depending on the size of the file there may be a delay as the file is copied to the Dropbox. And of course, this process doesn't work unless you are connected to the network.
This whole process isn't elegant, and is only workable for a single person moving files around. But it works.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Let's say you are launching an e-Shop. You have the web developer, the graphic designer, the photographer, the shop manager, the back-end developer and the testers working on the project. You have calendar schedules, product photos, text copy, html and .css files all in half-a-dozen sites and places; Google Drive, Trello, your calendar, the file server, the production web site, and the sandbox web site. All this is glued together using eMails with copies to the team... each person has their own copy of the email (you hope), and relevant attachments or links to files on Google Drive, Dropbox, your web server, or your file server. Its all a bit diffuse, and if anyone wanted to come up to speed on the whole project, then it would probably be pretty tough, because everything about the project isn't in one place.
Nine years ago, I was using Basecamp for several projects including grant applications. I have used Basecamp for many years, and sung its praises for writing grants, which is by nature a collaborative process with multiple players. About 2012, Basecamp got a major upgrade which seemed to break my workflow and processes. So, I started looking around at the alternatives, and there are a bunch.
The basic unit of Slack is the team.
Teams can create channels. Channels can be for a single department, or a single project. So, for our team we created a channel for each department:
with fonts and bullets.
For current projects that cross individual departments, we created specific channels.
- XYZ Grant Application
- 2015 Audit
Friday, February 13, 2015
The idea of asking for money raises another set of hindering attitudes, which are largely the inheritance of a predominantly Protestant culture infused with a Puritan ethic that affects most Americans, including those who are not Protestants. This set of values conveys a number of messages that influence our feelings and actions. For example, a Puritan ethic implies that if you are a good person and you work hard you will get what you deserve. It further implies that if you have to ask for something you are a weak person because strong people are self-sufficient. Further, most likely you have not worked hard enough and you probably don't deserve whatever you are asking for. Rounding out this series of beliefs is our deep distrust in the ability of government to solve social problems and a general convictions that the government wastes our money in unnecessary and inefficient bureaucratic red tape.
All of these beliefs can be found among people on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum as well as across age and race lines and different religious orientations. Where these beliefs will not be found is in two places:
- Other countries. Although many countries have various taboos related to money, none have as many contradictory ones as the United States. Our taboos about talking and learning about money are not universal.
Our beliefs about money are learned, and therefore they can be unlearned. The wonderful writer Ursula Le Guin once said in a lecture, "I never learned much from my teachers, but I learned a great deal from my un-teachers; the people who said to me, 'You shouldn't have learned that and you don't need to think it anymore.'"
- Children. Children have no trouble asking for money. They do not subscribe to the idea that self-sufficiency means not asking or that polite people don't ask. They ask, and the ask again and again. Our taboos about money are not natural--we are not born with them.
Fundraising for social change is in part about raising the money we need, but over a longer period of time it is also about creating healthy attitudes toward money, and many people find that aspect of fundraising to be most fascinating.
I'd love to quote the entire chapter, but that wouldn't be a blog post, it would be plagiarism! Instead, I suggest you check out the book yourself, her other books, and resources.
Thursday, January 08, 2015
/sbin/service httpd reload > /dev/null 2>/dev/null || true
Reading the logs for user log-ins.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
I'm trying to sell a few DocBoxes. These are industrial-strength Mini-Itx machines originally sourced from Logic Supply. The have AOpen cases and motherboards, using Intel Celeron chips, with 1 meg of memory, a 60 or 80 Gig hard drive, and a CD or DVD-ROM. I originally had them loaded with Windows XP embedded, or Windows 7 embedded, but have reformatted them to use Xubuntu, which is Ubuntu configured to use the XCFE interface, a lightweight front end which seems to work well with the limited 1 meg of RAM on these machines. The best thing that I liked about this was a stock installation of Xubuntu automatically found the wireless network interface, and my wireless router and my printer. With XP and Windows 7 I had to go rooting around to find drivers for both of these things.
Nothing precludes running the boxes on Windows...I've tried it with a stock Windows 7 Professional installation as well as the embedded versions. In their original lives, they were running Windows XP Embedded. The units might have a number of applications:
- Granny or kiddie workstation
- Thin client
- Industrial controller
- Process controller
- Mini file or media server
- Lightweight web server
The picture shows the docbox with a Logitech Orbit camera on top, which was the original configuration. I'm experimenting with how best to advertise and sell these, with a couple options, Craigslist, eBay via Global Garage, a third-party seller, and Do-It-Myself eBay.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
PITA of the week: The new OSX Yosemite transmits search data by default to Apple, Microsoft, and god-knows-where. This is a reversal from previous versions of OSX. There is a fix.
Powershell is turning out to be pretty amazing. There is an entertaining introductory video series from Microsoft Virtual Academy which includes Jeffery Snover, the original PowerShell author who explains why they do things the way they do.
Ozzie Zehner is a green-technology skeptic, in the sense that he suggests that our infatuation with alternative energy like photovoltaics and windmills really perpetuates the energy status quo. His top suggestions for committed environmentalists; empower women and girls.
Green Illusions pioneers a critique of alternative energy from an environmental perspective, arguing concerned citizens should instead focus on walkable communities, improved consumption, governance, and most notably, women’s rights.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
I put together a grants database screen (click to view full size) to consolidate information for funding sources, and to track dates and interactions.
It is definitely an evolving project, but contains the basic information need to contact the funder, the deadline dates involved, the funder's areas of interest, and the typical range of a grant award.
So far, I've been concentrating on foundation funding. Many foundations typically ask for a letter of interest before you put together a full proposal. So, I've included multiple date fields, a deadline for a letter of interest, a deadline for a full proposal, and a date when they announce their award.
Originally I thought that this database would be mostly for research, but after working with the online grants database, Grantstation, I think I will reserve this database for funders that I really expect to submit to. Some ideas for future enhancements include:
- Links to standard "boilerplate" paragraphs that are used in an application.
- Links to edit the proposal or letter directly in Word.
- Links to the PDFs of the proposal.
- Reports that create a grants calendar.
GrantwritingGrantstation is a subscription-based database of grant opportunities. You can purchase a l year Grantstation Membership for $99.00 per year if you are a member of TechSoup, on September 23 and 24.
The free Grantstation 1-hour orientation webinar is well worth the time. I learned, for example that their federal grants database is a front-end using data from Grants.gov.
Tech Soup is also sponsoring a free webinar by the CEO of Grantstation Cynthia Adams on September 18th.
Funding Rural America :
When has it ever been easy to secure funding for nonprofits and libraries in rural communities? Is there a way to level the playing field so organizations in small towns, counties, or boroughs without large metropolitan areas can compete for both government and private sector grants? What are the other options for financially supporting a rural project? Are collaborative efforts worth the effort? And, of course the biggest question: who is funding rural America?
These, and other relevant questions, along with current trends affecting rural funding will be addressed in this free, two-hour webinar presented by Cynthia Adams, CEO of GrantStation.
Finally, it is rare that we find a Grantmsanship Seminar in our neck of the woods (northern New England). But there will be a five-day Grantmanship training seminar located in Barre VT. December 8-12, 2014
Hardware and SoftwareInterconnection.org is another possible source for refurbished computers, (or a place to donate your old gear). They are one of the refurbishers for the Techsoup Refurbished Computer Initiative.
Techsoup has wonderful deals for software. A one-year subscription to FileMaker server is $209, and a subscription for FileMaker Pro (the desktop version that runs on a Mac or PC desktop) is $65.00. Visio Professional is available for $29.00.
MiscellaneousHere is an interesting academic discussion of luck, and how to have more of it. Thanks to Jeff Duntemann for the link.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
You want to execute this from your Windows computer.
The target computer runs CentOS 5.6 This is an (ancient) Red Hat Linux derivative, running (ancient) mySQL and Apache.
I ended up using PLink called from a Windows .CMD file to execute a bash shell script. The shell script looks like this:
# Rebootolator - Reboots Apache and mySQL on a target Server
# LK Microdesign June 25, 2014
echo 'Rebooting Apache and mySQL on myServer'
echo 'Restarting mySQL'
echo 'Restarting the Apache web server.'
echo 'Reboot procedure completed'
Note this script is not stored on the target server, but simply put in the same folder as the windows cmd file on my windows box.
Now for the Windows command file:
Reboot.CMD:: Batch file to restart services on myServer
:: Restarts mySQL and httpd
:: Uses the Rebootolator shell script
:: LK/Microdesign August 12, 2014
plink -ssh firstname.lastname@example.org -m rebootolator.sh -pw mypass
pause >nul | echo Press any key to exit.
So, lets deconstruct the Windows Reboot.CMD file.
The first four lines are comment lines. Turns out, you can use two colons to preface a comment in Windows, (who knew?) instead of REM.
Line 5 turns off output to the screen.
Line 6 clears the screen.
Line 7 and 8 put in blank lines.
All the work happens on line 9, using the PLINK command. PLINK is the command line version of PUTTY, a free open source terminal program for Windows workstations. Both PLINK and PUTTY are pretty wonderful and highly recommended if you need to access Linux machines from Windows.
-ssh means "use the secure socket layer protocol to log into this machine"
email@example.com is a administrator's account on the target machine, probably the root account.
-m rebootolator.sh is the name of the shell script (above) that needs to run on the target machine.
-pw mypass is the password for the account used to log into the machine.
Deconstructing the Rebootolator.sh script:
#!/bin/bash -p just means this is a BASH script
The two commands that actually restart the mySQL server, and the Apache server are:
The rest, (the echo commands) write out what is happening at the command line. The Term command is my attempt to avoid a harmless error message that occurs when the script starts to execute.
Since I didn't realize I could host the Rebootolator.sh script in my Windows folder, I originally though I'd have to log into one Linux box, and then execute the script on the target box. Turned out the whole thing was simpler using PLINK, which is the equivalent of SSH and SSHPASS programs used to access remote machines from the Linux command line.
Thursday, August 07, 2014
Random FileMaker-related resources:1. You can create an alternative icon for FileMaker 13. When you have multiple FileMaker versions installed, it sometimes is difficult to distinguish between them. FM12 and FM13 have virtually identical icons with the same color schemes. Here are alternative icons that can be installed, for both Win and Mac from HomeBase Software. HomeBase has a ton of of technical information on their web site.
3. Coding Standards for FileMaker
4. Modular FileMaker: is shared library of FileMaker functions. There are huge community-developed libraries for other languages such as PHP and Python. These folks are attempting a similar idea for FM. I've downloaded their JSON module, and am experimenting with it. Other examples include a nifty SQL query generator, and and another interface to Mailchimp.
Custom Functions are a way of adding small chunks of user-defined code that can be called within a FileMaker script. Brian Dunning is the guru here and curates the largest library of custom FM functions on the web. He also has sample data sets available for the U.S., Austria, Canada, and the UK. Five hundred records are free, and a million records are available for ten bucks.
5. If you need a 100,000 records or so, you could also download the database of public and private schools available at the National Center for Education Statistics. This includes demographic data as well as mailing and location addresses for schools. The data is fun to play around with. You can give yourself some sample exercises in FileMaker. For example:
6. What percentage of public school students are eligible for free or reduced lunch in your state? It is 38% in mine. Poking around in some other states, it looks like that isn't unusual; in many states it is 40-60% or more. The lunch program is often considered a proxy for the family poverty rate. But maybe that's another discussion.
I originally had OutLook eMail synced to my Google Apps email. Then I wanted to also use the Outlook calendar and have changes made there reflected in my Google Apps calendar which is the group calendar that we use in the office. A quick search found the Google Outlook synchronizer, an application that sits outside of Outlook and runs interference between Outlook and Google apps.
The nice thing about this is that that it doesn't require you to put in all kinds of IMAP information into your Outlook profile...you simply give it your Google Apps eMail address and off it goes and downloads everything from Google Apps, creates a new profile within OutLook, and then uploads everything into mailboxes in Outlook (see screenshot). If it works, it will great. I includes your contact lists, shared calendars, co-workers calendars, notes, and tasks.
The poor mans's Exchange Server?If you use Google Apps in the office, and have Windows computers, you could have this running on each machine, and essentially use Google Apps as a back-end Exchange Server.
Monday, July 28, 2014
SmartyStreets is a web-based address validator for U.S. addresses. Using the US Postal Service official address database, SmartyStreets will validate any address that you send to it with varying amounts of correction. Addresses are classified in a number of different ways, including:
- Nomatch The address is invalid.
- Mailable The address is valid and can receive mail.
- Mailable-Vacant: The address is valid but vacant
- Match-Inactive. The address is valid but inactive.
|Click to Enlarge.|
Friday, June 13, 2014
Thursday, June 12, 2014
We got several "really good deals" from NewEgg, for refurbished Lenovo desktop computers at $214.00. These appeared to be of "office quality", included Windows 7 Pro, and were nicely finished. Unfortunately, we have had 2/3 of the Western Digital Blue hard drives start to fail at some point. This has created no end of extra heartache for the users and an enormous amount of work for the IT staff.
NewEgg has been fine on returns, however, providing UPS shipping labels, and RMA procedures over the web.
OK....so much for NewEgg. We're looking at alternatives. (we have more time than money).
Techsoup has Dell refurbished computers that are prepared by a third party. For example:
One advantage here is that if you need licenses for Windows 7 and Office, they are included in the price. You would spend the $286.00 on those if you bought at retail, and maybe quite a lot less if you have a Microsoft Open, agreement. But, it like getting the hardware free.
The Dell Outlet looks promising with several machines in the $315-$390 range which still include Windows 7 as opposed to Windows 8, and have at least 500Gb drives, and 4 Gigs of RAM. These have more up-to-date processors than the Techsoup machines, and are certainly not as old. Most Dell Outlet machines were either not delivered, or were taken back within the warrenty period.
I've had solid results with Dell Outlet computers at the workstation and server level; mixed results with standard desktop machines, and a real disaster with older SX-series Optiplexes. The best seem to be the larger ones; towers or mini-towers. Smaller machines, "mini-desktops" may have suffer from the suboptimal cooling, and the older components may have reached their design end-of-life earlier than those installed in a larger case.
One thing we have often found is that dual monitors are wonderful, and this is something that I would recommend for anyone as a matter of course. If you need an extra monitor card, these can be found from NewEgg starting at around $35.00. Best to wait until you have received the machine, because there can be variations in the slots, and the available adapter space that aren't evident from the web page.
On the Mac side, I've purchased several Macbooks, iPods, iPads, from the Apple Store. These have always worked flawlessly. The Refurb store has a 21.5 inch iMac for $1099, which is the model from September 2013. The cost is only $200 or so less that of a new, similar iMac. It includes 8 gigs of RAM, and 1 terabyte hard drive, and of course the Mavrick OS, and iWork. If you've got more money than time, and just want to get to work, this might be the way to go.