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Communication Key to a Better Work Environment Everyone knows the story of A Christmas Carole. On Christmas Eve, poor Bob Cratchit, who is working late again, spends his day working up the courage to ask his boss, Mr. Scrooge, if he can have Christmas Day off from work to spend with his family. When he finally does get up the nerve to ask, Mr. Scrooge lets forth a tirade over lazy people using Christmas as an excuse to have a day a off from work. This fictional story unfortunately rings true for a lot of people who have to work up the courage to ask for things from their employers. An employee who has to feel about their employer the way Bob Cratchit felt about Mr. Scrooge is not a very happy and productive employee. To get the most of out of your workers, you have to create a much more hospitable working environment. To create a better working environment, keeping the lines of communication open is absolutely crucial. How does communication work in your office? Do you get the impression that everyone is walking around on eggshells around you? While this kind of fear from your employees may be good for your ego in some senses, it is really bad for your business. When your employees don?t feel like they can talk to you, you will lose control over what is going on with your business. You may be the boss, but your employees are the ones who are actually on the front lines. To know what is really going on out there, you need your employees to communicate honestly with you. If they feel that you are unapproachable, they will hide problems and concerns from you, and you won?t be able to act to fix them. You can?t expect to run your business with half of the information about what is actually going on, and so your business will suffer for your ?mean boss? routine. There are still other problems with creating an office environment in which your employees feel like you are unapproachable. In general, there will be a dark cloud over the office when you are around. The stress will keep employee morale low, and employees with low morale are employees with low productivity. Besides, who wants to work hard for someone they cannot approach or who doesn?t show they any respect? Shutting down those lines of communication will definitely affect your bottom line as employees ?phone it in? because they don?t feel invested in making your business a success. If you want a better working environment, you have to improve the lines of communication. If there has been a communication breakdown in the past, take the time to address it with your staff. If you staff is small, talk to them each one on one, letting them know that your door is always open and that you want more regular communication with them. If you have a larger staff, schedule a meeting to address the issue. Weekly office meetings are a great way to keep communication channels open and swap ideas in the office environment. If weekly meetings are not feasible, find some way of touching base with your staff on a regular basis, either through weekly emails or a weekly newsletter. Also, you should encourage your staff to communicate with each other. Sharing information among the staff is a great way to generate fresh ideas and fresh approaches to problems. If your office is suffering from a communication problem, make nipping it in the bud a priority. The pay off will be more productive workers and a whole lot less stress. Who knew work could actually be a pleasant place to be?

Staying Computer Safe while Searching for Freebies on the Net Who doesn?t love the idea of getting something for nothing? Free stuff can bring a smile to anyone?s face, and the Internet is destination number one when you are looking for cash in on a few freebies. The downside of free stuff online is that if you aren?t careful, the free item could end up causing plenty of headaches and heartaches, not to mention a lot of cold, hard cash. If you want to score with free stuff online, make safety your number one priority by following these tips. First and foremost, treat your personal information like its cash. That might sound a little dramatic, but anyone who manages to steal your identity online is after one thing, and one thing only, your money and any addition money they can grab by cashing in on your credit. Protecting your name, address, credit card number, bank account number, phone number, social security number, and so on and so forth when you are registering for free offers is the first step to making sure you don?t get hustled when you?re just trying to enjoy a good freebie. That means that if you are asked for some personal information that you don?t feel comfortable handing out, let the freebie go. Likewise, make sure the site from which you are getting your free stuff has a privacy policy and that you know it, understand it, and can live with it. Speaking of that site that is handing out the free goods: just who are these people? If you were walking down the street and a shady looking person said they would give you a free DVD player if you followed them, chances are you would run the other way. Online, it is hard to tell the legitimate people from the people looking at you like a free lunch, but there are a few red flags you can look out for. Does the website look like it was thrown up in about 5 minutes, full of clip art and bad spelling? Is it hard to find information about where the website is registered, or where the business the website is supposedly promoting is registered? If the website purports to be affiliated with a certain brand you know, does it really look like it is, or does the logo look different/colors look off? If you can?t get a reasonable feel for who are dealing with online, don?t deal with them. Red flag number one? Asking for too much personal info should send you running. Another way to protect yourself is to build a virtual fortress around your computer. The net is filled with people who know how to walk right into your virtual home ? your computer ? and flip through everything you have on there, taking whatever they want. Many of these kinds of hackers draw you in by creating phony freebie websites. The way to keep them out is to keep your computer on lockdown. Make sure your firewall is stronger than you think it needs to be, and make sure it is always updated. Also, make sure you have antivirus software on the patrol for you and that you keep this software updated as well. Last but not least, keep those passwords in the vault, and make sure they are extra strong. No freebie website has any reason to ask you about the passwords for your accounts so don?t give them away ? and don?t give them to anyone else online for that matter. Also, if you?re using your birthday or child?s name as password, don?t. Sure, it isn?t as easy to remember, but your password should be a random word and contain a collection of numbers and symbols as well. This will give you the extra layer of protection to make sure your online house is in order when you cash in on the freebies.

Software Copyright Laws Software Copyright Laws Fail to Provide Adequate Protection Software copyright laws are among the most difficult to enforce among the masses. Many companies and corporations are also well known for overlooking these laws, which were designed to protect the makes of software from not earning their worth. Perhaps one of the biggest hitches leading so many software businesses to go out of business is the fact that they have a great deal of difficulty actually enforcing the software copyright laws that are in place and getting the money that is owed them according to the agreements that have been made with those on the using end of the software. Software developers, particularly in the corporate world design software that makes other companies run more efficiently. The software allows these companies to save millions of dollars each year. Software copyright laws protect the interests of the software developers that create these massive programs. These programs are often designed specifically for that one company and are very expensive. The agreement often consists of a certain number of users with the company purchasing more licenses or copies of the software during expansions or paying some sort of royalties for the use of the software. The purchasing companies agree to this and then more often than not fail to honor that agreement. The agreement is what allows this company to use that software, this agreement is what allows that permission. When companies aren't living up to their end of this agreement they are not only guilty of breaching that agreement but also of breaking software copyright laws. The trouble always lies in proving that they are not honoring the contract and the extent and duration of the breach. Some of the ways that companies will argue in defense of them not paying the royalties, additional fees, purchasing additional software, etc. is that they upgraded computers and reused the old software (they did actually purchase the rights to use the original software and by doing so feel that they have broken no software copyright laws) the problem lies in the fact that adding ten new computers and placing the software on those should mean that you remove it from or get rid of 10 old computers. This is rarely how it works. So now they've basically stolen ten copies of software that can be well worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Multiply this by 10, 20, or 100 companies trying this or worse each year and the offending companies are costing software developers millions of dollars in profits. This is when software copyright laws are not as far reaching in their scope as they really need to be. Software copyright laws exist to protect the software companies from this type of abuse and misuse, however, the hands of the companies are almost unilaterally tied when it comes to proving that software copyright laws have been broken in court. There are always exceptions to every rule. In this case big business software developers that abuse the software copyright laws to the point of breaking make the exceptions rather than miserly consumers that do not wish to pay for the products they are consuming. The big boys are able to do this by offering licenses for their software and claiming that these laws do not apply to their situation because they are not actually selling the software only 'renting' out permission for people or companies to 'use' that software. The true irony is that these practices began as a response to the corporate irresponsibility mentioned above. It's amazing that the very software copyright laws that were created to protect these companies can't protect their consumers from the greed of the developing companies.

The Convenience of Online Writing Degree Programs (online writing degree programs) Online writing degree programs are not readily available, but they are growing in popularity. There are many traditional and online schools that offer online degree programs to busy writers. The online degree programs offer courses that teach students the basics of writing, including paragraph structure, theme writing, descriptive writing, tech writing, and grammar. Usually in writing degree programs, writers are given many assignments within one week, which range from analyzing the work of others to composing their own short stories and essays. The courses offered in an online writing degree program are much like the ones offered in traditional programs, and students will begin their program by taking beginner?s courses and eventually work their way up to the more advanced. The beginner?s course teaches the basics of writing, but after taking them, students will be able to take more specific courses, such as creative writing and tech writing. The online programs give students more freedom, but the workload is almost the same and students will have more and more writing assignments as they move further into the degree program. The online writing degree programs offer bachelor degrees as well as masters? and there are many schools that offer these online programs. Chatham College is one school that offers online writing degree programs. Chatham online is the online division of Chatham College, which offers online masters? degree programs for writers. The writing degree program offered by Chatham online offer 7-week courses and it has no residency requirement. The programs give students the freedom to study anytime or anywhere an Internet connection is available. Chatham online offers many degree options for its students, including the Master of Professional Writing degree, which gives students training to become technical writers, content developers for the web, advertising copywriters, and public relations specialist. It also offers the Graduate Certificate-Non-fiction Writing. This program gives students the opportunity to use their nonfiction writing skills and focus one subject, which include nature, environmental, or landscape writing. Students are given many writing assignments and attend many online writing workshops where their work is presented and critiqued. Once the program is finished writers will have a portfolio of their work that is of publishable quality. Another unique program is the Graduate Certificate-Writing for Children and Adolescents. The Certificate in Writing for Children and Adolescents provides students the chance to write fiction and nonfiction for children and adolescents. There are also many other colleges that offer online writing degree programs including Burlington College. Burlington College offers a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Literature through an online program. However, this school does require a four-day residency in Burlington, Vermont at the beginning of each semester. Goddard College is also a school that offers a master?s program online. The college offers a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree through their online program. In this program, students are able to study poetry, fiction writing, creative nonfiction writing, and memoir, play writing, and screen writing. A short residency is also required for the program at Goddard College. The University of Denver is another school that offers online writing degree programs. It offers the Certificate of Advanced Study in Creative Writing. The program includes a range of courses on content and writing processes for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and other areas of writing. There are many other colleges and universities that offer online writing degree programs including Goucher College, Lesley University, University of Central Florida, and Washington State University. Like all degrees, online writing degrees are not simple to obtain, but they can provide convenience and knowledge, which helps them advance as a writer, or develop writing skills to that will help them in the future.