5 Simple Security Tips for the WiFi-ing Road Warrior

As I travel to the Hashemite Kingdom next week, there are at least 5 simple things I can do to make my WiFi experiences a bit more secure. So can you, here’s how:

During my upcoming journey to Jordan, I’ll have ample opportunities to consume the culture on a variety of levels – including the ever growing WIFI connections that now abound in the Hashemite Kingdom. This in turn will give any nere-do-wells an opportunity to consume my personal and private information; if not zombie-fry my laptop altogether. And while I believe there is no such thing as total mobile security – there are ast least 5 simple things I can do to inconvenience the lesser-determined bad-guys to the point they move onto the guy computing next to me waiting for the airplane to board.

1. Connect Securely

How do you know you’re securely connected to the wireless router at your favorite coffee shop? Simple, you have inconvenience the barista or the hotel staff for a WEP, or even more secure, WPA key to access the Internet.

Yes, yes, yes, I know, WEP stinks in comparison to WPA, none-the-less, better a little hassle than to sign away one’s identity and security by confirming to use a ‘wide-open’ network.

2. Tunnel Safely

The problem with seeking out a WPA-PSK encryption is that many times, it just isn’t available. Merchants provide WiFi hot-spots as a competitive draw. It loses its return on investment if they find themselves busier teaching wireless laptop connectivity than selling biscotti.

For those who don’t mind taking security matters into their own hands – or at least putting them into the hands of 3rd parties who provide VPN services; some for free. Here is a short list in alphabetical order:

And for those on the road a lot, you might want to check to see if your hot-spot access service such as Boingo, iPass or TMobile/HS provides secure software.

3. Surf Encrypted

Many of us who buy stuff online already know to look for that little encryption lock in the status bar of our browser. However, have you considered looking for it when you login to an online email service?

How about when you use the same password you use for everything when you login to a blogging service or bulletin board?

Again, in cases where you are at the mercy of a service provider not offering secure logins and transactions, there are some not-so-stupid browser tricks you can employ – provided you have the right browser.

For example, while gMail does provide a secure login, it does not provide encryption when I’m emailing you about my upcoming trip to Jordan. Same too when I blog this post using Google Docs.

Fortunately, I use FireFox, which in turn allows me to plug-in the Customize Google extension, which in turn allows me to check an option to “Secure (switch to https).” Voila!

Similarly, I Pidgin-Encrypt my instant messaging (not to be confused with the actual IM Pidgin Client, though the two are related).

If I must to FTP, then I use SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) – and when possible – using an encrypted zip file. Yes, I’m aware the PKZip password protection is inherently weak, but it’s stronger than nothing.

4. Password Strongly

All the security in the world won’t help me if I use the same password for everything, and that password is something relatively easy to guess or crack. For example … a login of ‘dean’ and password of ‘peters’ I would think would take even the lames of script kiddie all of 5 seconds to figure out.

If you can’t figure out how to create a memorable but strong password, fear not. There are plenty of online services. Here are 3 that didn’t ask me who I was before generating some solutions:

5. Speak Nothing

Having spent some time with a top-secret security clearance, I know what the phrase “need to know” means:

  • the best way to keep a secret is not to tell anyone;
  • failing that, only tell the secret to those who must know;
  • never write anything down;
  • shred everything; and
  • trust no one.

So asides from keeping our ‘yaps shut’ – this also means

  • turning off any file, printer and/or other fun network sharing;
  • turning on any firewall, spyware and anti-virus detection; and
  • depending on your operating system and configuration, shutting down open ports.

Yeah, that last one is not too easy, but I figure if you’re savvy enough to run a server, you’re savvy enough to know you’ve got some entry ways your firewall may not catch (for the rest of you, just make sure your firewall application is running).


I know this last bit sounds a bit blunt – especially for those of you working with churches, charities and missions – especially that last point.

But the last thing we need is to have our personal lives, our ministries and/or our livelihoods imperiled by an ever constant swarm of sinners who would think nothing of emptying out your bank account, ruining your retirement fun, and tapping out your travel funds to fun places like Jordan.

Better to remain a little bit paranoid about private information so you can keep you mind on publicly pronouncing the good news that is Christ crucified and Christ resurrected.

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A good example of why online video trumps audio podcasts

With a show of hands, who here would rather listen to me podcast my upcoming visit Petra? How many would rather see the Temple of Hercules as online video at blogJordan.com? I asked my 7 year-old daughter that question earlier today. She sat up in my office chair, dropped a ball down the back and said “I would rather see the ball drop than listen to you tell me about it Daddy.

She’ll be receiving her MBA in marketing sometime soon having, in a single convincing demonstration, answered Alex Iskold’s related question from this past August: Will Podcasting Survive?

In Mr. Iskold’s post, he graphically points out his own findings via Google trends that:

snippet of some of Iskold's podcasting graphics“… recently there seems to have been a decrease in enthusiasm over podcasts. Before we look into the reason’s why, lets take a look at these three trend graphs below and draw a couple of conclusions from them. The podcast trend appears to have stagnated, while podcasting has just been going out of fashion at a steady clip. Podcast as a trend seems to be by far less popular than blog and video …”

Read the rest of the article, as I think it is very pertinent to anyone publishing online content for a church or charity website.

Meanwhile, I’m changing some gears for my upcoming press tour of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (Nov. 2-11) – as based upon my daughter’s killer logic – I’m spending some pre-trip prep time working with video embedding plug-ins for WordPress while leaving podcasts for some other time and project.

Like the following test video, presenting using the EasyTube plug-in, a little test-snippet I filmed this past Friday:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvMH7ouw89k&autoplay=0 350 350]

Got some tips along these lines? Think my test video is st000pid? Either way, leave a comment in love.

Oh and make sure you add to your aggregator blogjordan.com – the journey begins next Friday!

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Pardon my dyslexia sir, but your Arabic is backwards!

You would think with all the World traveling with which I’ve been blessed that I wouldn’t blunder about like such a stupid Yank! Fat chance. Seems that by trusting a Google English to Arabic translation of “blogJordan” gave me all the right letters, in all the wrong order! That’ll teach me to field un-vetted materials – hopefully you as well; without the following entertaining embarrassment:

Here’s what I’m talking about … what’s the difference between the two “blogJordan” logos?

visual side-by-side comparison blogJordan logos - which one's not correct?

For those of you, who like me, are at the mercy of online translating tools, it is the difference between “بلوق-الاردن” and “مدونة-الارد” … or “blog-Jordan” and “Code-Allardt.”

Fortunately, one of the great folks at the Jordanian telco providing me with Internet access all about the Hashemite Kingdom – ZAIN – clued me in on my blunder.

“By the way the Arabic text above the blog Jordan is incorrect. It seems the text is left to right and it should be right to left.”

Zain - Jordan's best wireless providerIn fact, y’all could do me a big favor by clicking on the icon – which will open a new window to their Jordanian web page. They have been most gracious in extending the World-famous hospitality the Arabic culture is deservingly ascribed. A big Shukran to the superior staff at Zain!

So why is this important to you?

Glad you asked. I realizd that it had been a while since I had written a “pull the plank outta old deano’s eye” post where we can all learn from my mistakes – once we wipe the tears of laughter from our eyes over my ‘stooopidity.’

So here’s the sermonette, purchased with the ever growing life experiences of your’s truly … and you can quote (and link) me on this:

As more and more Software-as-a-Service products become common day appliances – the more diligent we must become in vetting and/or testing the results of those tools before displaying their results on our church and/or charity websites.

Fortunately my mistake was both caught in time, and didn’t translate as some ancient Biblical curse like “Thou shalt accidentally insult Goliath, O ye relative of Herod!” or worse. Though I’m still not entirely secure in whatever the Wikipedia defined the ‘Allardt‘ as.

Point is, consume SaaS tools “… but test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

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Messin’ with Petra or my Google Maps of Jordan

For the two or three of you wondering why I haven’t been writing with as great a frequency as I should, it is because I’ve been busy preparing for my blog-tour of Jordan.

This includes quite a bit of time preparing Google maps of some of the locations – and their associated history and Biblical citations – I’ll be blogging about. For example, below is an annotated map of Petra that includes links to my über-secretive wiki no one else is supposed to know about until the trip:

Remember, blogJordan.com is supposed to be a secret, so if I catch you linking it … well let’s just say … I might have to return the volume with a hit generating reciprocal link.

You’ve been warned. I mean it, I’ll put the car over right here!

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Color Inspiration from the Masters of Painting

da Vinci, Picasso, Dali, Monet, van Gogh. what do these five artists have in common? Judicious use of color for one thing. Something I’ve seen often overlooked in a number of church and charity websites – more than one whom seem to think gold lamé and velvet red are the palette of the day.

Fortunately for those color impaired webmasters who’d rather their website’s schema NOT look like it came off the studio set of the Trinity Broadcast Network there is COLOURLovers.com and their collectin of ‘Color Inspiration from the Masters of Painting.’

For those unaware of this excellent website, COLOURLovers provides, among many things, community contributed color palettes drawn from the great masters of art – in a format that you can immediately employ in the design of your church and/or charity’s website.

Below is an example of how one contributor rendered a palette inspired by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer‘s ‘Christ in the House of Martha and Mary:’
Vermeer inspired color schema
What you’re supposed to glean from my lime green connectors is how the suggested palette derives its colors based upon the 5 dominant color features of this work of art.

Why is this important to you? Well aside from being an excellent and even entertaining tutorial in color selection – the examples on this website can also help you set the tone and personality of our website, at least in terms of color, from a work of the great masters.

One example that comes to mind is perhaps using the color palette from Edvard Munch ‘The Scream’ for one’s youth website?

a 'youthful' color scheme courtesyof Edvard Munch and ColourLover
Yeah, okay, maybe not, but you get the idea – and if you don’t, then why not then check out some of the color bar renderings from other masters such as Botticelli, Matisse, Warhol, Renoir, Munch, Magritte and Pollock offered by COLOURLovers.com?

If nothing else, a visit to this site might prevent the coloring of a certain church website along the schema found in roadside rendering of ‘Velvet Elvis‘ or ‘Dogs Playing Poker.’

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How to use gmail aliases to send yourself text notifications

Sending custom SMS text notifications to your cell phone has never been easier – thanks to 2 nifty gmail features. By combining filtering with gmail’s ability to add aliases to your existing gmail account, you can now have notifications of events, reservations, auctions, school closings and anything other text message you can send to your cell phone via email. It’s simple, here’s how:

  1. login to your gmail account (like say, gmailaccountname)
  2. click on the ‘settings’ menu on the upper right hand corner of your browser’s screen.
  3. click on the filters tab
    image identifying screen elements mentioned in steps 2 through 4
  4. click on the hyperlink that reads “create new filter”
  5. in the text box labeled “TO ” enter your gmail address + an alias, like so:
    image identifying screen elements mentioned in steps 5 through 6
  6. click on the “next step” hyperlink
  7. click on the check box labeled “Forward it to”
  8. enter your SMS phone number in the text box labeled “Forward it to” for example:
    image identifying screen elements mentioned in steps 7 through 9
  9. click on the button entitled “create filter”
  10. use your newly created gmailaccountname + alias address as needed (e.g. gmailaccountname+ebay@gmail.com).


This coming November I’ll be on a Biblical press tour of Jordan (see blogJordan.com for more details). I won’t have a phone, but I will have a wireless air card courtesy of the good folks at Ziad (formerly Fastlink). And since my schedule is not my own, I will be using email to send my wife a text message to let her know both of my whereabouts; and when to let my daughter know when to get to mommy’s PC for some kissy-huggy Skype sessions. Imagine doing the same on while you’re on a 2 week mission trip to Indonesia or Mexico (only contacting your wife, not mine).

It’s simple, let’s say my daughter’s email address is PrincessPepperDoodle@gmail.com. Using the steps above, I establish a filter that forwards any email addressed to PrincessPepperDoodle+BlossomVonYumYum@gmail.com to mom’s Verizon-served cell phone at 9195551212@vtext.com

Now some of you are saying “hey, but can’t you do the same thing filtering on the subject line?” Yes you’re right, but what about notifications from services that send you email whose subject lines you can’t control – or from friends who can’t remember to type in the super-special subject line you seek as easily as they can add your aliased email to their address book? Here’s are three examples that speaks for themselves:

  • PrincessPepperDoodle+ebay@gmail.com
  • PrincessPepperDoodle+calendar@gmail.com
  • PrincessPepperDoodle+basecamp@gmail.com


As with any such solution, there’s always the downside. No exception here as I see four:

  1. Message Size – Most mobile services have significant limitations on the size of the message sent. What I’ve discovered that, at least for my carrier, that’s okay as the merely truncate the message down to the first 128 characters. I can live with that. Your mileage may vary.
  2. Cost of promiscuous text – Please, please, please don’t run off trying this solution until you’ve first checked the cost of text messaging for your mobile phone service. If you’re looking at $0.20 a message, then you may want to either pass on this solution, or reserve it for only the most dire of occasions.
  3. Lack of Throttling – This is somewhat based on my concerns over cost – what happens if either a vendor or an auction goes crazy? What mechanisms do I have to put limits on inbound messages from a sender gone wild?
  4. Overzealous spam filtering – Some subject lines and or domains may cause an important message to get caught in gmails awesome spam filter.

All of these concerns aside, I still use the ‘wifey+daughter daddy is out of the country communications solution‘ described above.


The point is, by combining gmail filtering with + aliasing with your mobile carrier’s SMS services email address, you can begin to receive text message notifications of the emails important to you. I’ve provided an abbreviated list of some of the more popular SMS email address of your carriers below:

Virgin Mobile UK
Virgin Mobile USA

If your carrier wasn’t listed above – or even if it was – please, again, I implore you to FIRST CHECK with your mobile service as to the cost of receiving SMS messages. It could be that a run-away e-bay bid could cost you more in text messaging than you save on the auction.

Then again, it could all be worth it when it comes to keeping one’s family and/or congregation aware of what you’re up to while feeding the hungry, healing the sick and tending to the in needy in far away places – like Jordan.

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Bad church web design poster 0004 – Mission Statements (suck)

Programmer guru Joel Spolsky reminds us that usability tests often demonstrate that very few users read the words you put on screen. Couple this the fact that 1-in-3 users are un-churched, and I’d venture to say that Nielsen is right – just about nobody reads nuthin’. Instead like wild animals, they just hunt it, scan it, and categorize it in their pretty little pumpkin heads and move on.

Or as the good Dr. writes in his latest alert box entitled “Blah-Blah Text: Keep, Cut, or Kill?“:

Introductory text on Web pages is usually too long, so users skip it. But short intros can increase usability by explaining the remaining content’s purpose.

Which all leads me to yet another addition to our growing gallery of bad church website design posters, this one entitled “Mission Statements:”

For those of you who didn’t figure out that clicking on the thumbnail above gets you to ‘the big picture,’ – this poster basically preaches a lesson shouted from the mountain tops by Father Flanders that asserts:

“[Mission statements] should be abolished because every Mission Statement ever written can be summarized in four words — ‘All babies must eat.’”— Vincent Flanders, author of Son of Web Pages that Suck

Or to paraphrase Coding Horrors’ Jeff Atwood – replacing the term user and software to our advantage:

My intent is not to make fun of [church goers and/or seekers], but to illustrate that there are far more effective ways to communicate with your dog. Essentially, any time you’re asking [a visitor of your church website] to make a choice they don’t care about, you have failed the [visitor]. Well designed [church websites] takes care of “[Christianese or church-speak ]” all by itself, and leaves the [seeker] free to worry about things relevant to the [information they seek].

And for you fans of Gary Larson’s Far Side who recognize the inspiration for my poster, Mr. Atwood also has in the same article I just mis-quoted, an example of “what we say to dogs … vs … what they hear.

Once again, as a living reminder of not-so-intuitive design, you click on the small poster to see the full-sized version, but please, no hot-linking without providing a link back here to the article – not just the pix.

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10 Things an Effective Church Website can do for You

As I peruse the great cloud of witlessness that is the Body online, I find one of the primary problems afflicting many sites is vision. That is I often find those responsible for delivering the goods don’t really see their site as much more than an online color brochure. As a result, more often than not, very little staff and/or funds are allocated to the church’s web presence past the server, the domain name and perhaps a content management service.

In no particular order, I’d like to offer 10 real-world examples you can expand your church and/or charity’s impact by expanding your vision past mere ‘brochureware.’ A list that perhaps will come in useful the next time individuals in the ways and means committee seek to slash your web site’s funding.

  1. Reach New Residents

    I actually like new resident door hanger campaigns, especially those that offer a slice of pie and/or a free Wednesday night dinner. An ideas I got from my last church who had such a program entitled ‘People Involved in Evangelism’ or P.I.E. … hmmmm … pie …. but I digress.

    Having a well-indexed, search-engine friendly website goes one step further in bringing those new residents to your doorstep … in some cases, even before they move to town.

  2. Convert Seekers

    Perhaps one the strongest arguments I can make for providing the text of your sermons online is how such materials can draw-in those seeking God’s answers to life’s questions.

    Even in cases where said individual came in casually and unintentionally through something of relevance that caught their eye while primarily searching for something else.

  3. Build the Body Online

    By adopting a blog-centric approach to sermons and events you can easily and electronically inform the right hand of what the left hand is doing; and visa-versa.

  4. Maximize Press and Ad Campaigns

    Sometimes you only have a six second soundbite to get your church’s name, slogan and/or domain out into a newspaper, magazine or radio station.

    In those cases, leverage your website to provide all the additional fun, times, maps & directions, costs and pictures that can’t be printed in a single line of newsprint.

  5. Save on Printing and Postage

    By utilizing email lists, RSS deeds and other online tools, your church and/or charity can become better stewards of congregational contributions by dispensing such information online.

  6. Minimize Dead Ends

    By having an informative and complete church website that clearly represents your organization’s purpose and personality – you can reduce and/or eliminate time spent on leads whose interests are better served within the arms of some other congregation.

  7. Communicate Across Boundaries

    By taking advantage of both an effective website and a variety of web-based office and/or presentation applications – boundaries such as differing operating systems and/or geography are easily overcome.

    Similarly, there are mind-mapping and crowdsourcing tools that can be leveraged to encourage thinking that’s not only outside-the-box, but also doesn’t all have to happen within the 4 walls of your brick-n-mortar buildings.

  8. Reduce Staff Support Loads

    While I believe that every church website should make it easy and inviting to call anytime – having an up-to-date calendar of events can help minimize the number of ‘just calling to are what time it starts’ calls that can nickle and dime away your church staff’s effective work hours.

  9. Support Lay Ministries

    Consider utilizing class curriculum tools such as Moodle to support Bible studies. Along with that, give that hard-working 20% a break from having to physically attend each and every meeting by using cool communication tools such as WiPeer to hold web-based meetings and/or webinars.

  10. Gauge Relevant Interests

    By implementing and monitoring statistical tools such as google analytics and the now free FeedBurner you can track which aspects of your church website are effective and which require a but more healing.

    I’d also suggest adding a separate site tracking mechanism to content-rich areas of your website so you can easily which sermons and/or Bible studies are hot versus those that are not.

Point isn’t to freak-out already overwhelmed church webmasters, pastors and laypersons by enumerating all the things your church website doesn’t have …

… but rather to get churches and ministries of all sizes to realize that our ministries have been provided several new tools over the past couple of years that properly leveraged can enhance our efforts and enable our volunteers to better fulfill the Great Commission to which we are all called.

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment in love.

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PayPal goes down while PayPal labs goes up?

I don’t use PayPal much, but I do have the reasonable expectation of it being up at around 11 AM Eastern on a Friday afternoon. Especially during the same week said vendor has been hammering the press machine with their PayPal Labs offering. No such luck. PayPal is down and has been since Wed Oct 3 10:42:48 2007 according the message on the PayPal Systems Board as of the time of this posting.

PayPal Down Screenshot

Figures, I want to buy a digital camcorder for my upcoming press tour of Jordan and what do I get … an online payment system that is down. Meanwhile, the marketing department has been busy telling the World about their new war on phishing, their political campaign conduit and their labs showcase site for experimental products.

So what’s this have to do with me and my church website? Think object lesson:

If you are running a church and/or charity website – make sure you have the essential services and information covered and delivered before you start offering a buncha wiz-bang!

Here are some more articles on both the topic of PayPal Labs, and the current PayPal outage:

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5 Reasons to wait-n-see if Microsoft’s Office Live survives

Working for a company whose CEO once described it as ‘the poster child for Software as a Service,’ it should be no surprise that I’m taking a ‘can’t wait to see‘ approach to Microsoft’s entry into their ‘Software Plus Service‘ space.

Image Link to Office 'Almost' Live

A software delivery model recently re-asserted with the announced Office Live Workspace and a re-brand of Office Live, now Office Live Small Business. Yes, I know, it’s confusing – and one of my five reasons for pretending holding my breath while all the while inhaling through my nose.

  1. Brand Confusion?

    I know all big competitors play the fear, uncertainty and doubt – but I’m not so sure having people try to remember the difference between Office Live Workspace and Office Live Small Business is the best way asserts one “Software Plus Service” model to divide and conquer “Software as a Service” products that provide both an Internet Web Presence and a back-end intranet office – like Google Aps or Zoho.

    Me? If I’m running a small church or charity, I want it – in fact I need it – all under one roof; even at the cost of some functionality. Simplicity and directness is worth that much to my operations.Meaning, I think I’ll wait until Microsoft gets over their ‘Live’ brand identity crisis.

  2. 250 Mbyte 1,000 plus document limit

    I can understand from a business perspective why any Internet service company would want to limit the cost of storing files, and I don’t know of too many church and/or charities who are going to hit

    this limit with new content off-the-bat.But what about all those sermons and Bible studies one’s organization has generated and stowed on a Novell network somewhere? And what happens 2 or 3 years down-the-road when said limit is an issue?

    I think I’m going to wait-n-see how this plays out for others before I hand over the management of my compelling content to this new twist on the SaaS model.

  3. Security & Maturity

    Please don’t mistake me for an anti-Micro soft zealot. I’m not. In fact I find the obligatory, smarmy disdain held by the SlashdDot and digg clique tedious.

    That said, until Microsoft can get that big red bulls-eye off its back – and until they fully answer my concerns over backup, restoration, privacy and other security issues – I think I’ll wait.

  4. Software plus Service

    Perhaps it is my involvement with a successful SaaS company that has me scratching my head over a business model that asserts: “so long as MS Office is installed wherever you work, you can get to your documents wherever you are.”

    I mean, why create a boundary that basically locks you into a not-so-cheap thick client application that only really works on one of the three popular operating systems when I can collaborate on the same document from any computer on any operating system that runs a standard browser?

    I think I’ll wait until Microsoft can provide me a better reason for enduring such barriers.

  5. Nadaware

    Currently Office Live has no bugs, because it has no features. At the time of this writing, it’s still a month (or so) away.

    Meaning, even if I was satisfied with my other four concerns, I still have to wait because it’s still all vaporware.

For those who were expecting an online version of Microsoft Works – sorry. Still, for the few and the brave interested in running their church and/or charity computer operations under the “Software Plus Service” model, Microsoft is offering sign-ups for beta testing.

Let me know how that goes – as I continue to have a raging debate with myself over Google Aps versus Zoho Office versus Office Live (I’m so conflicted).

Finally, in no particular order, some additional ‘reading-room‘ materials on this topic:

  • Pocket-Link: Microsoft finally goes online with Office Live Workspace
  • Microsoft finally unveils its answer to Google Docs – ZD Net blog
  • ZDNet.UK: Microsoft prepares to take Office online
  • Microsoft shares Office Live Workspace (and Prawn2Bwild) – ComputerWorld
  • Microsoft Office heads to the Web – ZDNet News
  • Small Business Trends: Microsoft Re-Brands Office Live, But Little Changes
  • Microsoft Office Goes Kinda-Sorta Online – PCWorld
  • C|Net News: Microsoft Office heads to the Web
  • A comparative cornucopia of online office ’sweets’ – HealYourChurchWebSite.com
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