Corrections or additions?
This article was prepared for the August
8, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Revving Up Old Computers
It turns out that size matters quite a bit, much more
than speed. At least that is the case where computers are concerned.
Boosting your PC’s capacity can give you the fun of a whole new
— for a fraction of the price. The PC Users Group will show you
how to make the transformation happen when it meets on Monday, August
13, at 7 p.m. at the Lawrence Public Library on Route 1 South. Call
was founded 16 years ago, for six years. A graduate of the College
of New Jersey, Class of 1974, when the school was called Trenton
Kurivchack majored in electronics technology. He spent his first two
years of college at Middlesex Community College, where he met his
first computer. The machine, roughly the size of a bread box, used
a paper tape. Programming was done via "very basic Fortran."
Drawn to computing nearly 30 years ago, Kurivchack went into high
tech sales. His jobs included one where he sold large computer-based
control systems for refineries. The jobs, always involving high tech,
also involved lots of travel. With two children at home, Kurivchack
traded in flight time for a commuter ticket from his home in Raritan
to Manhattan, where he is a senior help desk specialist at MTV. He
unravels computer problems for employees at the MTV Network, Showtime,
Nickelodeon, and other Viacom divisions. This is how he summarizes
his work: "In the imperfect world of PCs, we just try to make
Two people his job makes very happy are his teen-age daughters, for
whom he has wrangled tickets to MTV in-studio concerts, including
one by N’SNYC, at which his younger daughter ended up sitting next
to one member of the group.
Asked how many PCs he has in his house, Kurivchack has to stop and
think. "Three up and running," he says after taking a mental
inventory, "one laptop, and two in pieces." Someone for whom
the thrill of computing is not dead, Kurivchack has tied the computers
together via a home network, and maintains a "hobby" business,
Krieffs Graphics, through which he builds the machines from scratch.
Only the third person to head up the Princeton PC Users Group,
jokes that he is president "by default. No one wants the job."
Kurivchack is just half kidding. Volunteerism among busy suburbanites
is dying, he says. Adding to the challenge in computer users’ clubs
is a big drop in the "cool" factor. "Computers are like
toasters now," he says. "Five, six years ago, we had 130
Now it’s 90."
The average age of the group’s members "has got to be 60,"
says Kurivchack. He points out that the two groups most interested
in computers are children, who value them as game-playing vehicles,
and seniors, who use the machines to communicate with friends and
family. Working at wiring his 70-something mother, Kurivchack says
computers are perfect for retired people, allowing them to stay in
touch with far-flung family and friends and ameliorate any sense of
isolation that can come with a move out of the workforce.
The age group that lies between Nintendo and shuffleboard has less
reason to fire up the home PC, says Kurivchack. But that may be
Relatively new computer utilities, including putting together digital
photo albums, taking web cam shots of the baby, and downloading music
— and even full length movies — is stirring up interest. These
activities are space hogs, however, calling for lots of memory and
hard drive space, more than computers purchased as recently as 15
or 18 months ago can deliver. Kurivchack says the problem can be
fairly easily. Most — but not all — core PC elements can be
replaced with more powerful parts. Here are Kurivchack’s guidelines
for turning an older PC into a machine capable of handling early-21st
century computing demands:
the number one improvement," says Kurivchack. Memory, expressed
as RAM, should be 128 megabytes if the computer is to run the latest
programs smoothly. Upgrading is easy. "The chip only fits one
way," he says. "You just have to know where to look on the
barely necessary to go back to the last century to find a time when
a 2 gig hard drive was considered huge. Now, says Kurivchack, many
programs take up half a gig of space — or 25 percent of the
real estate available for all uses. Video files, picture files (all
those digital snapshots), and music files take up a great deal of
space as well. Happily, Kurivchack reports that prices for hard drives
have dropped dramatically. Twenty gig can be had for about $89, he
says. Installation will double that amount, and he suggests that
interested in the upgrade might want to tackle the job at home.
instructions are pretty self-explanatory," he says.
will make an enormous difference in performance. Other upgrades
might consider are changing the computer’s video card and adding a
new sound card. Anyone with a modem slower than 56.6 kilobytes might
want to tackle that upgrade, too.
be possible, or even very helpful. Computer ads are all about
Users are sometimes shown wearing goggles while sitting in an armchair
that appears to be square in the middle of a wind tunnel. But
the high-powered processor that creates that speed often does not
work. Often new processors are not compatible with existing
says Kurivchack. And speed, he says, is not all that Intel and other
processor manufacturers would like you to think it is.
"Speed is not as important as RAM," Kurivchack says.
with one gig it’s like a Ferrari rather than a Corvette, but anything
over 400 or 500 megahertz will work. More is immaterial unless you’re
editing video. I have old, junk machines, five years old. My daughter
uses them to Instant Message and surf the Internet. She doesn’t know
they’re slow machines."
If a computer has 128 megabytes of RAM and a large hard drive —
at least 20 gig and maybe even 30 or 40 — it will deliver top
performance even at relatively low speeds. One reason this is so,
he says, is that there is a speed bump that has nothing to do with
the computer itself.
"The phone connection is the bottleneck," says Kurivchack.
"Speed doesn’t help with downloads." No matter how fast a
computer is, it will not handle speed-eating applications like
video if it has to get to the Internet through a 56.6 K modem, which
is the fastest connection anyone without DSL, T1, cable, or satellite
Internet access can use. Frustrated in Raritan, Kurivchack is not
among the lucky few home users — he puts the percentage at 10
to 20 percent — whose computers reside in a community where high
speed Internet access is available.
of upgrades — or less — will turn an older computer into the
equivalent of a new $1,000 machine. Computer owners have just one
thing to overcome. Lifting the case of a computer and staring into
its guts still terrifies many. Even most 20-somethings shrink from
the act, fearing they will irrevocably ruin the thing. "There’s
a fear factor out there," says Kurivchack.
On Tuesday, August 14, at 9:30 a.m. Project
a non-denominational service offered through the Jewish Family &
Service of Greater Mercer County, holds the first of the four sessions
in its program for unemployed individuals at its offices at 707
Road. Call 609-987-8100.
of job loss can include isolation, depression, anger, and grief, along
with financial distress and family upset. Project ReEmployment, where
participants are required to attend all four half-day sessions, is
designed to get people through all of this while helping them set
up a game plan for finding a good, new job.
"Most people underestimate the effect of a lay-off," says
Weitzenkorn, a 1999 graduate of Boston University who holds an MSW
from Rutgers. I can attest to the truth of her statement. While I
still don’t fully understand why, I do know that even the arrival
of a welcome pink slip can precipitate a blue funk.
The call came early on December 18, a Monday morning, just as I was
settling in for a day’s work in my home office. An employee of a
that reported on business news in the high tech, mostly Internet,
sector, I was just getting started on a quarterly summary of top tech
companies in New York City and Philadelphia. These companies had
increasingly hard to find during the eight months I reported on them.
Stock prices were being quoted in pennies, and every week brought
the cancellation of three or four IPO offerings. The CEO of one of
the top Internet sites catering to brides had told me months before
that he was sure no consumer-oriented Internet company would go public
again — not ever.
Even before I picked up the phone, I suspected what the news would
be. The caller ID announced the Florida number of my company’s
where the top executives and the IT guys worked. The rest of us —
editors and reporters — worked from home offices and knew each
other mostly through Instant Messaging. The voice on the other end
of the line confirmed my hunch. It was the online publication’s top
editor, my big boss. There had been some talk that I would start a
New Jersey beat, and for a nanosecond I thought maybe that was what
he was calling to discuss. But no, I really knew.
The exact words my editor, a decent man and a good boss, used were
a blur. My impression was that he was having a much harder time with
the call than I was. His message, transparently rehearsed, almost
certainly with a lawyer, was clear enough: Stop typing this second.
You have been laid off.
In the flurry of E-mails and Instant Messages that followed, I learned
that reporters and editors around the country were getting the same
call. Most, incredibly enough, were surprised, something I found hard
to understand given that our jobs were to report on dot-coms,
very much like ours. And for months the news had been unremittingly
Others were angry. They had been lied to! Misled! Well, yes, there
had been statements to the effect that more venture capital money
— enough to carry us to profitability — was due to roll in
any minute. Strange, I thought, that any of them, a pretty good bunch
of news people overall, had believed those statements to be anything
more than wishful thinking.
Me, I was neither surprised nor angry, or even unhappy. Quite the
opposite. In Christmas cards mailed just two days before the mass
lay-off, I had told friends I was quite sure I would be free to get
together with them soon. I expected to be laid off before New Year’s.
Getting a virtual pink slip a week before my older son was due home
for the holidays and my husband was scheduled to take vacation was
a bonus. On top of that, I was given far more severance pay than I
ever would have expected, and I was in the early stages of talking
about taking an excellent new job. (This one.)
The dot-com job, which had tied me to a desk in my home office from
before 8 a.m. until at least 6:30 p.m. had proved to be way too
for my taste. There had been talk, early on, of renting a satellite
office in Manhattan where I could work off and on. There had been
talk of staffing up so that I, and my reporting partner, who lived
in Brooklyn, could get out in the field to do face-to-face interviews.
But dwindling capital made it necessary for us to stick close to our
desks, turning out news stories based on telephone interviews as fast
as we could to fill up the site.
So, to review, I didn’t particularly like the job, knew a layoff had
to be coming, had a good shot at a better job, knew a good-sized
check was on the way, and was looking forward to time off at the
Elation would have been the proper reaction to that call from Florida.
But here is the odd part. I was depressed.
For me, a brisk walk through Manhattan — all around Central Park
and then down through Chelsea, the far west Village, Soho, and Tribeca
— is a sure cure for a little depression. I headed there on the
day after the Florida phone call. Instead of its usual magic, all
Manhattan held for me was streets full of purposeful people. Every
one of them heading for work, or so it seemed. I was the only person
on earth who did not have a job!
What nonsense, what rubbish, I kept telling myself. But the internal
lectures did not work. All through that day, and on the three days
that followed, I was inexplicably down. The weekend brought relief.
Come Saturday, I was part of a normal group of bookstore-browsing
loafers, not the only person on the street with nowhere to go.
Given my reaction to an absolutely welcome lay-off, imagine what
clients are going through. "Most of the individuals we see are
being downsized from major companies," she says. "They had
been working for their companies for 10, 15 years. They come to us
asking, `What do I do now?’"
Class size in Project ReEmployment ranges from five to 20.
tend to be corporate employees. "We had a vice president last
time," says Weitzenkorn, who has been running the programs for
one year. Right now, a number of IT professionals are coming in.
often feature guest speakers, including representatives from local
corporations, experts on budgeting, counselors from temporary
firms, and job search advisors from area colleges. Discussion is
and participants often pick up leads, search strategies, and tips
on coping with family and financial concerns from one another. Some
classes become close, and form a sort of alumni group to keep the
communication going after the sessions end.
Weitzenkorn also is available after the formal program to provide
counseling. Among her advice to job seekers — and their
it is normal to grieve. Most people, told they are no longer needed
at their jobs, are going to go through a process that is very much
like grieving the loss of a family member or close friend. "There
is shock, anger, depression, guilt," Weitzenkorn says. No serious
job search can begin until these emotions are out of the way, she
says. It may take a month, or six months. There are people who are
still unable to come to grips with the loss after a year. If working
through the emotions surrounding a lay-off takes this long, however,
counseling may be in order.
when they lose a job," says Weitzenkorn. "It’s so
A natural reaction is to hide out, but that is precisely the worst
thing to do when a good new job is the goal. "Almost everyone
gets a job through networking," she says. Try to swallow hard,
realize that the stigma once attached to a lay-off is now gone, and
tell absolutely everyone that you are looking for a good employment
"We teach people how to say this," says Weitzenkorn. While
many ex-execs choke on announcing to near-strangers that they need
a job, saying something like, "`I’m interested in getting into
export logistics, do you know anyone in the field I might be able
to talk to?’" can be much easier. Remember that people, almost
universally, enjoy helping if they themselves do not feel pressured.
newly-laid-off to accept, for a good number of people the event will
be remembered as a positive career milestone. Weitzenkorn has seen
a number of corporate employees, who, while missing their paychecks,
are happy to be freed from jobs they didn’t like all that well. Many
decide a change is in order. Weitzenkorn says work at a non-profit
looks attractive to a good number of her clients, and that teaching
is gaining in popularity among mathematicians and scientists.
an income right away to keep up on their financial obligations. To
help out, Project ReEmployment brings in credit counselors to teach
budgeting. "When we ask new participants if they are interested
in a course on budgeting, they say no," says Weitzenkorn. "But
that is one of our most popular classes. People always stay around
to ask questions." Project ReEmployment also brings in reps from
staffing agencies to discuss short term employment possibilities to
help keep the mortgage money flowing while the search for a good,
permanent job is in the works.
Families need to listen, and go easy on advice to their unemployed
relative, says Weitzenkorn. Coping with an empty mailbox weeks after
sending out 200 resumes is a strain. Putting yourself on the line
at interviews where the other candidate gets the nod is demoralizing.
At home, the lay-off victim needs support.
is a jolt, especially in a society where the first question we ask
one another invariably is: "So, what do you do for a living?"
An aim of Project ReEmployment is to show the unemployed that they’re
far from alone. At any given moment lots and lots of people are
for their next jobs, and that the experience, painful though it may
be, is often a stepping stone on the way to a better job — and
maybe a better life too. That’s the way it worked out for me.
For the newly unemployed, job fairs are a low-key way
to survey the employment scene. Get your hair cut, your resumes
in a clean folder, and off you go.
For the employer, job fairs can be a surreptitious way to meet
who might be persuaded to change careers. A nursing service might
encounter a programmer with a penchant for helping people. A hotel
might influence a burned-out social worker to go into hospitality
Pathfinder Consulting Group runs these fairs for profit, and they
call them "Mega Job Fairs." The next event is Wednesday,
15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Forsgate Country Club. Admission is
free and the minimum charge for employers is $200 for a six-foot table
($150 for nonprofits), with booths costing $400. The one after that
is on Wednesday, September 5, at the Raritan Convention Center in
Edison. Call 732-821-7048.
Professional Service Alumni Association, a spin-off of an organization
sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Labor, has set up its own
schedule of Job Fairs, with the first set for Tuesday, September 11,
7 to 10 p.m., at the East Brunswick Library. Job Fairs continue in
December, March, and June. (In alternate months, the PSAA has its
regular meetings.) Admission is free, but the cost to sponsors is
$100 per table, or $250 for three evenings, $300 for four evenings.
"We are seeing a resurgence of the 1995-1997 period, when the
economics of business saw the buyouts, furloughs, layoffs and
necessary for business to maintain itself," says
of PSAA. "These job fairs are for the sole purpose of bringing
the talent of a whole host of persons, of varying characteristics,
to the employers of our country. It is our belief that the face to
face relationship will accomplish the joining of talent and need."
Calendar alert: for Thursday, August 30 — the
Chamber has announced its speakers for the Business Trade Fair on
Thursday, August 30, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Doral Forrestal.
at lunch, and
at the pre-show coffee hour at 10 a.m. His topic: "The Pacific
Rim Countries — How They Affect Your Business and the American
Way of Life."
U.S. 1 Newspaper will hold its Technology & Computing Showcase in
conjunction with the chamber’s expo. It’s at the same location at
the same time and it is also free.
for industrial liaison for Princeton University, will speak at U.S.
1’s Technology Forum at 4 p.m. His topic: "From the Ivory Tower:
A Princeton Guide to Valuable Technology."
Also scheduled are tastings of wine and beer and specialty foods from
3 to 5 p.m., and handwriting analyses by Renee Martin, of Forgery
Forensics, from 2 to 3 and 4 to 5 p.m. For information about the
trade fair call 609-520-1776, and for the U.S. 1 Technology Forum,
in foster care to its Special Needs Reunion Camp, held at Camp
in Pittstown. This camp reunites brothers and sisters separated by
the foster care system for a week of outdoor fun. The program
family togetherness, character building, and social development
A donation of $275 will send one child to camp for a week. Call
low-cost legal assistance to people involved in tax disputes. Matching
grants worth up to $100,000 for the calendar year 2002 grant cycle
are available. Grants also are available for programs that assist
taxpayers for whom English is a second language.
Applications for the grants must be received by Friday, August 24.
The application package is available on the IRS website (www.irs.gov)
or by phone at 800-829-3676. To qualify for a grant, tax clinics must
be run by accredited law, business, or accounting schools whose
represent taxpayers in tax disputes with the IRS or in the courts,
or by tax-exempt organization.
David Novak, its marketing and communications director, to Gujarat,
India, where an earthquake killed more than 2,000. This chapter
the third largest dollar amount raised in the United States to aid
victims in that desert area, and Novak will document the relief
of Excellence for the 1999-2000 Annual Report for the Eden Family
of Services, a non-profit that provides lifespan services for children
and adults with autism, The report, "Celebrating 25 Years of
Services 1975-2000," was created by Peter Gialloreto, a graphic
Geisel, a California-based freelance writer and former Eden staff
Diabetes Foundation. In addition to a barbecue, hosted by the
North American sales department, Princeton Softech’s executives
to get all wet for the charity. Employees and friends paid $5 for
the chance to throw balls toward a target that would send an executive
plunging into a dunk pool.
to join up. The non-profit organization is dedicated to promoting
Princeton as a shopping, dining, and business destination. The
group’s annual promotions include an annual job fair and decorations,
carriage rides, and entertainment for the winter holidays. The
fee is $200. Checks in that amount can be sent to the organization
at Box 584, Princeton 08542.
management association, is developing an online directory of area
businesses that deliver. The organization finds that commuters refuse
to leave their cars home, at least in part because they want them
available during the workday for errands. The directory is to
office workers to car pool or take public transit, and have the dry
cleaning or prescription they would run to pick up at noon delivered
to their homes instead.
Keep Middlesex Moving is inviting any business that delivers to
to submit a listing for the directory. Possible categories include
florists, auto repair shops, dry cleaners, and pharmacies. Any
that wants an application for a free listing is invited to call
870 Mapleton Road, provides tools and strategies to local government,
citizens, and developers to encourage smart growth. The organization
is preparing its annual Resource Book and is offering sponsorship
ads for amounts ranging from $100 to $1,500. Call 609-452-1717.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.