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Ask Shak:
Crashing Windows & Accounting Software


One of the most important relationships you’ll ever have is with your personal computer. There’s perhaps no other component of our business life that’s more vexing as that box that sits on most people’s desks. Everyone has computer questions and we’re here to assist you in that department. Below are a few questions I’ve received recently from readers. I hope the answers will be useful to you.

Dear Shak:
I have a small jewelry business out here on the North Shore and use my PC for word processing, book keeping and surfing the net. So I’ll cut to the chase: I use Windows 98 and find it to be about as stable as the Indonesian Rupiah. It crashes nearly every day and drives me nuts. I’m fairly new to computing and wonder if I’m doing something wrong? Can you recommend a more stable operating system? Help!

Howie in Haleiwa

Dear Howie:
Don’t feel alone. And don’t think being a "Newbie" (new computer user) has anything to do with it. Everybody has problems with Windows 98 crashes. As a matter of fact, Walt Mossberg, at the Wall Street Journal, recently did a whole column on the unrelenting frequency of Windows 98 crashes. It wasn’t a pretty thing to read about. So what can you do? Not much I’m afraid. One thing I would try is disabling the power management settings on your Windows 98 system. You do this by going to Start, Settings, Control Panel and then click on the Power Management icon to disable the settings. In addition if you feel comfortable, you could go into your systems BIOS and disable the Power management features there. Perhaps it’s environmentally incorrect to suggest this but it makes the system quite a bit more stable. I won’t get into technical reasons—but take it from Shak—it works. Other than that, when you install non-Microsoft software make sure it is Windows 98 compliant. Look for the Windows 98 logo on the retail box before you buy it.

Another option is to change your operating system to Windows NT, which is a lot more stable. NT is an industrial-strength OS and it goes down a helluva lot less than Windows 98. However, it’s a bit more complicated to install because it doesn’t have the "plug and play" component. Nevertheless, if you can hang in there for a while longer with ‘98, I’d suggest this: I’d wait until Windows 2000, the new OS from Microsoft, is ready for prime time. It’s based on NT and should be a lot more stable than Windows 98. Hope springs eternal with Microsoft. We shall see…

Dear Shak:
My wife Leilani and I run a day care business out of our home and it’s starting to pick up. Our main challenge is keeping our books straight. We don’t own a computer but plan to purchase one soon. Can you recommend a computer and an accounting program that we might purchase that are reasonably priced?

Rick & Leilani in Pearl City

Dear Rick & Leilani:
Having a computer to help you with tasks such as accounting is an absolute necessity. With prices dropping all the time, you’ll be able to pick up a really good computer (and a decent printer) that will take care of your needs for $1500 or under. Computers are pretty much a commodity these days but quality does vary so you have to be careful. You can buy a good one (with quality components) assembled in Hawaii from a local computer shop or order a brand name from the Mainland via the Internet or with a toll free number. The main thing to be concerned about is service. I would speak to friends or relatives who have previous experience with local shops and see who they have dealt with locally. If you are going to buy Hawaiian look for someone who is willing to stand by their sale and preferably a company that has been in business for a while.

To answer your second question about what accounting program purchase is easy. We really like "Quickbooks Pro 99" or a less expensive version called "Quick Books" from a company called Intuit which has made accounting software for many years. We found setting up the program to be easy—and I think that would be the case even for inexperienced users. Both are ideally suited for sole proprietorships or small companies, but have the flexibility to allow for growth. The thing we liked was their simplicity. There’s no question that Quick Books helps you manage your payables and receivables. Both versions are proven products. Quick Books is priced at $199.95 while Quick Books Pro costs $219.95. Both are good for companies with up to 20 employees. The main difference is that the "Pro" version allows for more than one user, has time tracking and billing components as well as job costing and estimating features. The Pro version also integrates nicely with Microsoft’s word processing and spreadsheet applications. If you don’t need the extras, the less expensive version will work very well.

Shakil Ahmed is the founder of PDC Systems, a Honolulu computer and networking company established in 1991. Questions should be addressed to askshak@pdcsystems.com.

Pacific Business News, December 10, 1999

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