Family Money: Cash Deposits or Money Funds?
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.
As a result of the stock market turmoil and loss of
investor confidence in financial institutions, cash has regained the
throne, even if only temporarily. In the past three years equity investors
have seen their portfolios fall in value by more than 50%, while investors
with crystal balls or precogniscence put their money into high-interest
deposit accounts or fixed rate long-term deposit bonds, and earned 4% or
5% a year.
Stock markets will continue to be volatile and
difficult to read as long as the wider global economic picture remains
weak. In the process cash has suffered too. Interest rates are being cut
by most central banks to bolster stuttering economic growth. Rates in the
US, Europe and the UK are at 40-year lows.
Yet cash will remain an integral part of any expat’s
finances. Savings rates may not be high, with offshore accounts currently
topping around 4.5% for sterling denominated deposits, 3% for
euro-denominated ones, and under 1.5% for US dollar accounts. Not exciting
– but your money is safe, accessible, and earning something.
Better rate of return
Providers of money market funds (MMFs) boast that these
funds give you the security of a bank deposit, but with a better rate of
return. These collective investment vehicles put your money into a range
of socalled “money market instruments” – high-interest deposit
accounts, inter-bank deposits, floating rate notes, certificates of
deposit, short dated bonds, and so on. Managers sweep cash around the
globe searching out the best rates for your money. For example, many banks
or deposit accounts pay a “headline” interest rate for a short time
but then lower it once an account has attracted a sufficient number of
savers. MMFs can avoid losing out to such marketing practices by shifting
money to the best accounts. Most MMF managers charge a management fee,
which cuts into a fund’s performance, and some charge an entry fee as
What about the risk?
But whether or not you should switch assets out of
deposits and into MMFs depends on your attitude to risk. Despite looking
good in theory, most MMFs have failed to perform well enough over the long
term to win the argument against investing in straight deposit account or
fixed rate savings bonds.
In the past year some MMFs have performed well, but the
average performance of funds over three and five years is nothing
wonderful – in fact, most have significantly underperformed deposit
accounts. The top five MMFs returned at least 20% over three years –
6.66% per year – and the top three about 30%. But further down the list
and performance over three years shows losses greater than 20% –
comparable to equity funds – although in the past year several of these
poorer performers have bounced back to head the sector, reporting positive
returns of over 20%! To my mind, such volatility is worrisome and
associated more with equity funds than safe and reliable cash accounts!
How do you gauge which will be a top performer next year - or a lemon?
In short, MMFs can beat deposit account rates but over
the past three and five years they haven’t. If you want a safe place for
your cash, then the argument for savings accounts still stands. Rates will
be higher the longer you can afford to tie up your money, the best rates
being those of fixed-rate bonds that typically tie up your money for
three, four or five years – and for bigger deposits. The best fixed rate
account available at the time of writing was paying 4.75% for a
sterling-denominated one-year fixed-rate bond (Isle of Man-based Irish
Nationwide), which is a good rate given the general economic conditions.
What about guarantees?
There is another, more direct competitor to standard
deposit accounts and MMFs: the plethora of market-linked guaranteed
offshore savings products launched in the past year or so, with new ones
being launched virtually every month.
Essentially these products are deposit accounts that
typically lock up your money for three, five, or eight years and link any
interest rate or growth you may get to how one or several stock market
indices or basket of funds performs.
Guaranteed products come in an enormous variety of
shapes and sizes, but the underlying selling point of all guaranteed
products is the same: like a standard savings account, your initial
deposit or investment is safe, but if the stock market(s) or funds to
which the product is linked perform well, at maturity you will receive a
proportion – but not all – of that growth.
Your can’t lose your money – hence the word
“guarantee” – and the worst that can happen is that if the index or
investment the account is tracking falls or underperforms, you get back
just your initial deposit without any growth.
However, if you need to get at your money before the 5-
or 8-year maturity date, you will be charged an ‘early’ withdrawal
penalty – which might be quite high. You really have to buy and forget
these investment instruments, and hope the markets to which they’re
linked do well between now and maturity date. It’s the easy way for
nervous investors to protect their capital while taking a gamble on the
markets at the same time.
In the competitive fight for your money, then, which
wins? Deposit accounts, MMFs or guaranteed products? Deposit accounts are
the safest and some offer good returns. Guaranteed products are slightly
less safe, being exposed to inflation, but offer potentially higher rates
of return for your money. MMFs can do well, but the sector as a whole is
relatively volatile and performance variable and inconsistent. The average
is better than deposit accounts over one year but worse over three and
five years. Is the potential upside worth the added risk, especially when
there are guaranteed products available? It depends how adventurous you
feel. And if you feel adventurous, why not buy some selected equity funds?
Now that would be brave!
Personal Directions: Making Meetings Work
By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Asia Training Associates
Have you ever thought of introducing games to your meetings
to spice it up a little and to - most importantly - get the message across!
You might think it’s a bit ridiculous and not quite “business”, but for
anyone who has the responsibility of conducting meetings then clearly this
approach to making meetings work, is definitely worth thinking about.
Let’s face it, most of us become immediately disinterested when it comes to
attending a meeting, unless we know that something different is going to
How do you keep the board meeting from becoming a
“bored” meeting? The same question, of course, could be posed for staff,
sales, or committee meetings, or, for that matter, for just about any kind of
group get-together. How’s your team functioning? Could meetings with
your team members be more productive?
Ask almost any colleague or member of your staff about
meetings and you’ll likely get a response clearly less than positive. In
fact, many of us would emphatically state that far too many meetings are a
waste of time. Unfortunately, in many organizations, they are! But a certain
amount of “meeting” must happen as it forms part of the business ritual
and necessity to getting things done.
It is very much the view that many meetings miss their mark
simply for the lack of planning or preparation. One study of over 1000 middle
managers identified the top three reasons why meetings fail:
1. Getting off the subject
2. Lack of agenda or goals
3. Lasting too long
Sound familiar? I’m sure it does. How about the meeting
you ran the other day? How much time and money are wasted every day in
meetings that are unproductive? Every business day, wasteful meetings are held
- far too often with the same negative results. Games, however, can make your
meetings more engaging, more productive, and more cost-effective. Yes that’s
right - GAMES!
Games have been used to supplement and upgrade meetings
ever since it was discovered that people have very short attention spans! In
fact, studies claim that the span of attention for most of us varies anywhere
from ten seconds to three or four minutes! It’s easy to see, then, why
people become easily bored (or overwhelmed) with technical material and
respond much better when a meeting has life and variety.
In addition, our television-oriented society has
conditioned many of us to expect drama, excitement, and involvement in our
everyday lives. In short, group members expect meetings to be lively,
fast-paced, innovative, participative and imaginative. (Just for the fun of
it, how many of those words describe your last meeting?) Games can materially
help accomplish these objectives by focusing attention on the needs of the
attendees, not on those of the meeting leader.
The unique features of games make them usable and
appropriate for meetings because games usually:
1. Are quick to use. They can range for a five or
ten-second physical activity, through to a one-minute visual illustration or
verbal vignette, up to a 20 or 30-minute group discussion exercise. However,
since the activity should be used to add or supplement the main purpose or
content of the meeting, the time devoted to the game should be minimal.
2. Are inexpensive. In general, nothing has to be
purchased, nor does an outside facilitator or consultant have to be engaged.
Perhaps the addition of simple props can add emphasis to a point, but this
doesn’t have to cost much at all to add realism to the activity.
3. Are participative. To be used effectively, games
should involve participants either physically or psychologically. Games
typically help people to focus their attention and make them think, react,
speak, and, most importantly, have fun while doing their jobs!
4. Are adaptable. The best activities, like the best
humorous stories, can be adapted to fit almost any situation, and reinforce
the points that you want to make in your meeting. They can be modified
slightly and still retain their original flavour and character.
5. Are single-focus. Games are best used when they
demonstrate or illustrate just one major point. As such they are geared to
micro issues as opposed to macro issues and the simpler they are and the more
focused they are - the more they will do their job for you!
All of this doesn’t just happen - you as the leader of
the meeting have to plan and prepare - and the more effort you put into it at
this end in the initial stages, the far greater the results. Carefully
selecting the correct strategy to ensure the game will have the desired effect
is paramount. Perhaps you want to make a point without lecturing, uncover
people problems in a department, spark lively group discussions - planning and
preparation is everything.
Why are games good learning experiences?
Basically we can say that people learn best by “doing”.
It is a proven fact that people remember something much better if it is tied
to some kind of active, physical involvement. Since games and activities
invariably have built-in participation, this stimulates the learning process
and people are very responsive to this factor.
Games can be powerful tools to induce motivation in people.
They can be useful avenues to stimulate problem solving. They can be useful
starting points to get group members to accept the need for change and begin
to act on that need. Games can create a climate of openness and constructive
confrontation - in a “safe” environment - to reveal and address hidden
problems. They can be valuable stimulants for legitimizing candid conversation
about what it means to be a team. Games can be very effective in identifying
“communication breakdown” and ways to improve upon it.
Although it might seem that games are designed just to have
fun, in reality most games can communicate a point more effectively than just
If you need some direction in order to make your meetings
work better and do what they are supposed to do, then please contact me by
email at [email protected] - Asia Training Associates. Our programs
are designed to provide you with the appropriate methods and tools to get the
most out of your meetings.
Until next time - have a great week!
The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness: Coughs and sneezes spread diseases
by Dr. Iain Corness
It seems that we have just gone through a coughing season.
There have been croaky coughers everywhere you turn, all sneezing away, hoping
to get rid of their infection by passing it on to you (or me). So far I’ve
avoided it, but I must admit I have held my breath in a couple of lifts while
someone is happily filling it up with freshly coughed and incubated germs!
This is not really paranoia on my part, the way these
epidemics are spread is through what we call “droplet infection” as every
time a sufferer sneezes or coughs they spray bugs into the atmosphere, just
like you spray aerosol mozzie killers from the pressure can at home. You then
breathe in this cloud of bugs and if you are unlucky, they like you and
quickly settle into their new home - your lungs!
Now many people when they start to get those initial
symptoms of a scratchy throat, a bit of a sniffle and then good old gut
wrenching coughing, race off to the pharmacy and ask for their favourite
coloured antibiotic, or whatever the pharmacist decides you should have this
week, and that generally means the expensive ones!
Now this is a case where the most expensive is not
necessarily the best (for the condition or your wallet) and you should really
think twice before charging into the chemist.
To begin with, is your condition caused by a bacterium or a
virus? If caused by the latter you will need an anti-viral, not an
antibacterial. Another name for an antibacterial is an antibiotic. So, if your
infecting agent is a virus, you can take as many expensive antibiotics as you
like, they will not clean up your lungs (but will clean out your wallet, as
mentioned before). This is a good reason why you should not just start
throwing antibiotics down your throat like M&M’s.
Now how do we medico’s work out whether your infection is
bacterial or viral? Well, after asking whether or not the sputum is clear or
coloured, we can ask for a sputum sample and get the lab to try and grow the
bug. After getting the bug growing, we then feed it an antibiotic and see if
it keels over. This is called a ‘Culture and Sensitivity’ in lab speak.
Then there is a little thing called ‘clinical acumen’ which is the ‘gut
feeling’ that doctors get after many many years of looking and listening. It
also helps if you are in the middle of an epidemic and every one this week has
been caused by Staphylococcus aureus, then it is also fairly likely that you
have got that particular bug too.
What I am really proposing is that you should not rush to
the pharmacy at the first sign of a cough, but you should take some
symptomatic treatment initially (soothers for the throat and even a cough
suppressant) but if the condition continues and/or gets worse, then it is time
to see the doctor, not the pharmacist. I fully realise that the pharmacists
are now going to make effigies of me and stick them to the wall with skewers,
but I don’t care. In my book, doctors prescribe and pharmacists dispense.
It’s that clear-cut. I believe that arrangement is also better for you, the
With the new ban on smoking in restaurants and many of
the public places, my husband has decided to give up smoking. He has tried
many times before (he has been a smoker for almost 30 years) and every
time has been unsuccessful. He does seem to be truly interested in giving
up this time. What can I do to help?
What a wonderful wife you are! What can you do to
help? Well, the first thing would be to understand that he is going to be
in for a rough time for a couple of weeks. Plan some activities that he
enjoys, so that he is not left sitting in front of TV with a beer,
thinking about the cigarette he wants to smoke. Stay away from friends
that smoke and would be likely to offer him cigarettes, and continually
reinforce his decision to quit. Suggest going to dinner again, now that he
can taste the food. Finally, get rid of the ashtrays in the house. Lots of
luck to you both.
You may find this a strange request, but I am an
American interested in Buddhism and wondered if it would be possible that
on my next holiday here I could join a monastery. I would only have two
weeks but imagine that in that time I could at least get the basics of
Buddhism. Is this possible? I don’t mind where in Thailand that I would
go as I am interested in the study, not the geography or tourism side. I
have always been impressed watching the orange robes going along the
streets with their begging bowls in the mornings.
There is no such thing as “strange requests” in
Hillary’s letter box these days! I think I’ve seen them all. Now, to
yours. If you want to understand the basics of Buddhism, you have to start
long before you get on the plane to come to Thailand. To begin with, have
you looked to see if there is a Buddhist temple in your region in the US?
Discussions with the monks there will assist you in your quest. Monks in
America can generally all speak English, while in the temples here, they
naturally speak Thai and you would be lucky to find someone fluent in your
I would recommend that you get the following books
before going much further, “Buddhism Explained” (ISBN 974-7047-28-4)
by Khantipalo Bhikkhu, “Phra Farang, An English Monk in Thailand” by
Phra Peter Pannapadipo (ISBN 974-202-019-1) and “The Good Life. A guide
to Buddhism for the Westerner” by Gerald Roscoe (ISBN 974-8206-56-4).
Read these before ordering the saffron robes, Petal.
The beautiful girls of Thailand amaze me the way they
can sit sideways so gracefully on the rear of a motorcycle. When did this
custom start and do they fall off?
Traditional Thai dress has included the long wrap
skirt for many years and the Thai women have ridden buffaloes, elephants
and oxen long before the Japanese motorcycle invasion. Riding side-saddle
is an example of Thai practicality. Imagine wearing a tight skirt and
throwing your leg over the Honda/Yamaha/Suzuki 125, the ideal motorcycle
for a family of four. Impossible! But you can sit sideways. Do they fall
off? Yes they do, but only if the rider loses control.
At last you have included some success stories in your
column. Remember the very famous song “I got you babe” (Sunny &
Cher) that everyone who reads this column knows. It is about two people
who fall in love and think love will pay the bills. Well it does not work
in the UK or America or anywhere as we all know.
Two years ago I met a bar girl in Pattaya who was from
Isaan. She was intelligent and very proud of her family - did not like her
work - but as many do, did it for survival reasons. She went back to her
village 2 months after I met her and has now her pride back and works in a
simple family business and earns less than 150 baht a day. I send her help
every month and visit her village 3 times a year - and when I visit I am
treated like a family member by all her family. We intend to get married
in 1 year time and yes you have got to provide for the one you love no
matter where you live in the world, but the rewards in Thailand are well
Another Success Story
Dear Another Success Story,
Hillary will print success stories, when successful
people send them in, but the successful ones are people who are happy in
their relationship and do not need advice from an ‘agony aunt’ column
like this one, so this is why you do not read them so often. Your point is
well taken and should be understood by everyone who is contemplating
entering a relationship anywhere in the world. Love (alone) does not pay
the bills. There is an obligation to provide and I am very pleased to see
that you have accepted that, and that it is working out for you, but
remember too that one couple is not every couple. Interesting that you
picked on a Sunny and Cher song - remember what happened to them?
Camera Class: 500 issues at 1/500th of a second
Our sister publication, the Pattaya Mail this week has
reached the epoch making 500th issue, so in honour of that, we decided to pursue
the 500 theme in the regular columns. Since 500 photographs needs 14.888 rolls
of film, that did not look like something that was worth a column. For me, the
only real connection with 500 and photography is the shutter speed of 1/500th,
so here goes. What can you do at 1/500th? Well, I’ll start by saying something
that you probably can’t do at 1/500th - and that is to synchronise your flash
burst and the shutter speed, unless you have a camera with the shutter in the
lens. If you try you will usually get a black half of the print.
So what can you expect? Well, at that shutter speed you
should be able to stop a train in action, a runner, a bicycle and a car in the
suburbs. You won’t stop a plane or a racing car or motorcycle, as they
generally need shutter speeds of 1/1000 or faster if you really want pin-sharp
frozen action. However, if you’re into sport, set the shutter speed on
What you also get at 1/500th is a huge aperture at most light
levels. F16 @ 1/60th is the same exposure value as f5.6 @ 1/500th, the only
difference being that at f16 you get depth of field, but at f5.6 you do not. So
photographs taken at 1/500th will tend to have nice, out of focus backgrounds.
Portraits then taken at 1/500th will look spontaneous, because the shutter speed
is fast enough to stop the action of talking, shaking the head, fluffing the
hair, and the like, but will not have enough depth of field to give you an
untidy, distracting background. Try this, especially if your lady has long hair,
and you will get a very professional ‘advertising’ look in the finished
I mentioned Exposure Value (EV) in the 500 piece above, and
perhaps it is time to refresh your memory regarding EV’s. The EV is a measure
of the amount of light that comes through the camera lens and falls on the film.
It is a measure of aperture (f stop) related to time, and can take into account
the sensitivity of the film (ASA/ISO rating).
It is an “artificial” scale in that we have said that EV
1 is assumed to be 1 second exposure @ f1.4 for 100 ASA film. As you
progressively shorten the exposure (shutter speed) or decrease the amount of
light coming through the lens by selecting a smaller aperture, the EV number
increases. Look at the chart. EV 1 is 1 second @ f1.4, while EV 2 is half a
second @ f1.4, or 1 second @ f2. Confused? Don’t be, just remember that if you
want a constant exposure level, then you are actually dealing in EV numbers.
Once you know the EV, then you can change the way the photograph appears by
altering the shutter speed and aperture together to maintain the same EV.
Hasselblad lenses with the shutter in the lens are called “coupled” because
once you set the EV you can turn the lens barrel and automatically get the
correct parameter you need.
Recipes from Rattana: Sweet corn and prawn fritters
This is based on an old traditional Indonesian recipe (Bregedel
Jagung) that can be served hot or cold. Careful draining of the oil after
cooking is important as they should retain a crunchiness, rather than an
oiliness. If required you can increase the amount of chopped prawns, but then
correspondingly decrease the amount of sweet corn.
Ingredients Serves 4
Whole kernel sweet corn 440 gm can
Spring onions, chopped fine 5
Garlic, chopped 2 cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Plain flour 75 gm
Baking powder 1 1/2 tspn
Cooked prawns, chopped 100 gm
Coriander leaf chopped 1 tbspn
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Drain corn kernels and crush slightly. Mix spring onions,
garlic, corn, salt and pepper.
Beat eggs lightly and fold in the baking powder and plain
flour, then continue with corn mixture, prawns and coriander. Stir well until
batter is homogenous.
In a pan, heat the oil and gently drop in heaped teaspoons
of batter mixture and cook till a deep golden brown colour. Lift out with a
slotted spoon and drain well. Serve immediately as an appetizer, or they can be
served cold or quickly re-heated in the microwave on the following day.
Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums
By Dr Byte, Citec Asia
I promised in the last issue, that this week we would
look at some of our readers’ questions regarding tuning the Windows
Operating System. Think of this in much the same way you would tuning up
your car to run better, faster and more smoothly. I have concentrated on
Windows 98 but some of these tweaks can be applied successfully to newer
Q: Dear Dr Byte
I have been using Windows 98 Second Edition for 3 or 4
years now. The system is so slow, I can go and make breakfast when I turn
the computer on. Also, more often than not it hangs during the boot up and I
can then go and have lunch. I am thinking of upgrading to Windows ME, NT,
2000 or even XP. My PC is a Celeron 400 with 64K Ram and is about 2 years
old. Windows 98 usually works OK, but the system hangs for no reason. Can I
just upgrade to XP?
Curious, Wat Gate Chiang Mai.
A: Windows 98 is quite possibly the most elaborate
operating system ever created for home and small business use. Due to its
complexity and the fact that Windows 98 tries to be all things to all
people, Windows 98’s default setup may not represent the optimal
configuration for your PC. Hence the hanging problem you mention.
I would not recommend upgrading the Operating System
without considering upgrading the PC at the same time. Windows 98SE may have
some instability problems, but it really does work well on older PC’s. Do
not upgrade to Windows ME regardless of any friend’s commendations. Even
Microsoft acknowledges that the release of the ME Operating System was a
mistake. Also, it is much slower than Windows 98SE. I’ll grant that it is
Let’s get started by looking at the most basic and most
effective method of making Windows 98 run faster. The Windows 98 environment
isn’t composed of just a single program. Instead, it’s a collection of
many smaller programs that work together to accomplish the monumental task
of providing a truly diverse operating system.
Although most of these programs are required, some
aren’t. Programs that aren’t required to keep the operating system
functional eat up valuable system resources. For example, using Screen
Savers uses a large amount of system resources.
I imagine that you will have Winamp or a similar sound
player installed. Plus many people like to use Wallpaper and Screensaver
Applications that give your desktop some pretty pictures when you’re not
using the PC. All of these applications are started when Windows is started
and they all use some of your precious system resources.
You do need to have your Firewall and Antivirus running.
You also need to have the clock running and probably the Display Utility
that came with your PC. Apart from this, there is no need to have anything
start up until you want to use it.
The system tray on the right hand side of the Main
Windows Start Bar shows which utilities started with Windows. Look at each
small icon and right click. This will usually pop up a menu where you can
either disable or turn off the Application. Also look in the Start Up Folder
in your Programs Menu. This is also where some utilities are set to start
with Windows. Move these to their own Directories or to Accessories where
you can start them when you want.
My own computer only has Sound, the Firewall and
Anti-Virus running at startup. Everything else is disabled until I want to
Q: Dear Dr Byte
I live outside Chiang Mai and my PC is badly affected
with slow and fluctuating electrical current. My computer’s performance
fluctuates as badly as the current. Recently I can go and have a shower
while I open a picture sent to me by a friend.
Disgruntled, Doi Saket
A: The simple answer is to consider how to boost
your system’s performance.
Windows 98 offers many tuning mechanisms that will help
you boost the performance of your system. You can use many of these
mechanisms by going to the Control Panel and selecting the System icon. When
you do, you’ll see the System Properties sheet. Select the Performance
tab, and you’ll see a summary of your system’s free memory and other
resources. There are three basic ways in which you can tune from this
screen. First, check out the file system by clicking File System. When you
click this button, you’ll see the File System Properties sheet. Take a
look at the Hard Disk tab. Now, set the typical role of the computer to
Network Server—even if the system isn’t networked. Doing so increases
the number of cache buffers and increases the system’s performance in some
areas. You also should set the read ahead optimization to Full.
Second, take a look at the CD-ROM tab. Set the
Supplemental Cache Size to Large and set the Optimize Access Pattern for
Quad Speed or Higher. These settings make a huge difference to your file
system. You can test the settings on other tabs, BUT I recommend that you do
not enable the Write Behind Caching On Removable Drives—doing which can
lead to data loss. Stay away from the Troubleshooting tab, too. Items on
this tab can slow Windows down drastically; in some cases, playing with
these items can indirectly lead to data loss.
The last place to examine is the Graphics button on the
System Properties sheet’s Performance tab. Click this button and display
the Advanced Graphics Settings dialog box. Unless you have a really old
graphics card, set the Hardware Acceleration to Full. That way, you’ll
gain the full potential of your graphics card.
Other solutions include defragmenting the Registry and
the Hard Drive. This can make a huge difference to performance. Norton and
McAfee are the best known System Utility Applications. Norton started life
creating the original system utility for tuning Windows systems many years
ago. I do not like either. Both are resource hogs and take over the computer
to perform their functions.
I recommend that you look for and install OnTrack Fix-It
Version 3 for older Windows Versions or 4 for NT, 2000 and XP. This utility
is small, sits quietly in the background, and fixes most windows operating
system problems in one easy tune up. It’s also easy to use.
Q: Dear Dr Byte
I read somewhere that Windows Wallpaper and Screen
Savers should not be used. What do you suggest?
Happy user, Nong-Kwai
A: Yes I agree with what you read. Turn off
Windows wallpaper and screen savers.
You may never have thought about it, but several very
basic Windows 98 components consume resources and slow down your system. For
example, Windows wallpaper is a resource hog. Using Windows wallpaper,
especially a large photograph, can slow down the video updates on your
screen dramatically. Likewise, screen savers can bog down your system. Keep
in mind that Windows 98 is a multitasking environment. Often, Windows uses
idle processor time to perform various types of system maintenance. A screen
saver can slow down these tasks or even prevent them from running at all.
When a screen saver isn’t active, there’s always a counter that runs in
the background and starts keeping track of elapsed time after a key is
pressed or the mouse is moved. This counter also consumes system resources.
Instead, I suggest that you turn off the Monitor to save
the screen getting burnt.
Q: Dear Dr Byte
I use MS Word quite a lot to write letters and prepare
notes for my teaching class. When I started, it was exciting to discover
that there were so many fonts available on the Internet. Over the last 2
years, I guess I have loaded around 2,000. The result is that I rarely use
most of these fonts anyway. Also I notice that Windows has become very slow.
Is this because of the age of my computer and is it time to upgrade?
Word User, Suthep
A: Remove extra fonts.
One surprising waste of system resources is the Fonts
folder. Windows 98 works well with the built-in fonts and a dozen or so
extra fonts. However, Windows 98 requires resources to support each
installed font. As you add more fonts, Windows runs more slowly. To see for
yourself, just add a few hundred fonts to the system and watch how slowly
Windows runs. You should remove any fonts that you don’t use regularly.
Start by opening the Fonts applet in the Control Panel. Next, select a font
and choose the Delete command from the File menu. If you want to weed out
the fonts that are similar to one another, you can select the List Fonts By
Similarity command from the View menu. Then, you can select any given font
from a drop-down list, and Windows will tell you how similar the other fonts
on the system are to the one that you’ve selected.
I also suggest that you empty your trash. Another
resource hog is the Recycle Bin. Windows 98 depends on having ample hard
disk space. When you delete a file through Windows Explorer, the file is
copied to the Recycle Bin and encapsulated into a package that helps Windows
know how to restore the file (if necessary). Ironically, however, the
deleted file consumes more disk space in this encapsulated form than it did
before you deleted it. For example, if you were running low on hard disk
space, you might decide to delete some old files. Unless you clean out the
Recycle Bin after you’re finished, you’ll lose even more hard disk space
by deleting the files. So, clean out the Recycle Bin regularly and keep
Windows running properly. Do you want to keep your Recycle Bin empty? If
you’re sure that you want to delete a file, hold down the [Shift] key and
press [Delete]. Doing so permanently removes the file instead of storing it
in the Recycle Bin.
Get rid of that Internet cache. Have you ever watched
your disk space slowly disappear, and you didn’t know where it went? If
so, then there’s a good chance that the Internet Explorer cache is using a
really big chunk of hard disk real estate. Most Web pages are made up of
multiple files, including the HTML file that creates the page and various
graphic, sound, and script files that display on the page. Before Internet
Explorer can display a page, these files must be stored on your hard disk.
The location to which these files are copied is called the Internet Explorer
cache. Imagine how much disk space gets used when you surf thousands of Web
Fortunately, there’s a way of getting some of that lost
disk space back. First, select the Internet Options command from Internet
Explorer’s Tools menu. Next, you’ll see the Internet Options properties
sheet. Select the General Tab. There’s a button that allows you to delete
files. This button refers to all of the cached Web pages that are stored on
your system. Although clicking this button will clear the cache, you still
need to prevent it from filling back up. Try also to reduce the number of
days you cache history. The windows default is 20. I suggest you bring it
down to 3 days.
Conclusion… With only a few tweaks here and there, you
can force Windows 98 to perform better. Of course, the tips above are only a
starting point. There are other actions that you can take to create a
faster, more efficient system.
If you have any tips that you’d like to share, or if
you’d like to discuss the tips that were presented here, contact me: Dr
Byte, Chiangmai Mail.
Ask your local US Consul
In the case of a death, what information should Americans
who live in northern Thailand provide to the U.S. Consulate? What are the
Consulate’s policies and procedures relative to the death of an American?
Why does the Consulate even have to get involved when a U.S. citizen dies?
Good questions, all, and I’m glad you asked. Nobody
likes to think about these things, but knowing how the process works can
perhaps help ease - a tiny bit - some of the stress and confusion that
follows this kind of tragedy.
Consulates and embassies are the U.S. government
overseas. Thus, just as “the authorities” would have to be notified, at
some point, in the case of a death in the United States, the Consulate must
step in at some point in the aftermath of a death of an American in northern
Of course, you’re absolutely correct that making
arrangements following a death is an intensely personal and private matter
that is best handled by the family or friends of the deceased. The minimum
consular responsibility is for us to prepare a document based on the Thai
Death Certificate, called the Report of Death. The Report of Death is
accepted by U.S. courts, banks, and other institutions as authority for the
next of kin to resolve matters of estate. We also send the Report of Death
to appropriate government agencies, such as Social Security and the Veterans
Administration, which clears the way for family members to collect any
benefits to which they might be entitled. There are also instances in which
the Consulate does much more: the size of our role depends on whether the
deceased has surviving family, and where that family lives.
When a hospital, neighbor, or police officer notifies
the Consulate of a death, the first thing we do is try to contact the
next-of-kin. The next-of-kin is either the closest living relative (the
order of relation is established by U.S. law), a legally-appointed
representative, or the person the biological next-of-kin designates to
handle their affairs. If the family is in Thailand, we help them in any way
they request, but otherwise only prepare the documents the family will need.
If the family is overseas, we carry out their instructions for the
repatriation, local cremation, or interment of the remains. We also secure
the overseas estate of the deceased, provide an inventory of personal
effects, and repatriate the belongings or help arrange for their
Sadly, some Americans who die overseas were estranged
from their families “back home.” In those cases, if the family will not
involve themselves (or there is no surviving family), the Consulate makes
all arrangements and donates the estate to local charities.
Anyone who learns of the death of the U.S. citizen
should contact the Consulate as soon as possible; we often have resources
(passport records, etc.) to help locate the next-of-kin.
B.L., your questions also give me the chance to ask
everyone to please, today:
* Make sure you have, and maintain, an up-to-date list
of emergency contacts. If you have particular wishes for what is to happen
in the event of your death, write them down and keep them with that list of
contacts. If you suspect your next-of-kin might not honor those wishes, get
legal papers drawn up.
* Make sure your family, friends, or neighbors know
that you have important documents that need to be consulted in the event of
your death, and they know where they are.
* If you register with the Consulate - and this one of
a huge number of reasons all Americans in Thailand for more than a short
vacation should register with the Consulate - you can list emergency
contacts on the registration form. This will enable us to contact your
family immediately, if we receive word of serious injury, illness or death.
* Call your family to say hello. Not to imitate that
venerable American institution, Ann Landers, but cases of estrangement are
among the most heart-wrenching that we see. Be noble, show your strength:
take the first step, and make contact. The worst that can happen is not
nearly as bad as what happens if you don’t.
Thanks, B.L., for the opportunity to get that off my
— The Consul
Do you have a question about visas, passports, travel to the United
States, services for American citizens, or related issues? Ask the Consul.
Send your e-mail to [email protected] with “ask the consul” in the
subject line. If your question isn’t selected, you can get an answer by
calling the Consulate at 053-252-629, from 8 to 4.