Broadband access at home or in a small office is finally becoming affordable as internet providers begin to offer it for £20 a month or less. But watch out for the extra charges for connection and make sure you understand the deal before you sign. The cheapest is Gio Internet (www.giointernet.com), at £17.99 per month, but there is a £139 charge for a modem and connection. Tiscali charges £19.99 a month, but at a speed of 256kbps, compared with other suppliers’ minimums of 512kbps. Tiscali also charges £115 for connection and modem. It can take seven to 10 days to get your phoneline activated and many broadband suppliers lock you into a one-year contract, so if you move to an area without broadband access, you will be liable for the rest of the contract even without access. Even if you can get access, some providers charge £75 for reconnection. These contracts are unfair, especially if you are unhappy with your provider. Other forms of dial-up access can be terminated at one month’s notice and the same should apply to broadband.
Adobe’s PhotoShop Elements is still looking good. If you’re after software that allows you to manipulate images, but don’t want to spend hundreds of pounds, Elements 2.0, at up to £80, follows its predecessor and makes working with images a doddle, even for those who have never done so before. Many large publishers will shell out hundreds of pounds for Elements’ big brother PhotoShop 6 so their journalists can use images in stories if they are working on the web. But Elements 2.0 offers all the basics and more that web journalists could need. It can quickly crop images, save them in web mode and add borders and captions if needed.
If you need to set up a newsletter mailing list for your website, then Acmelist (www.acmelist.com), which costs £50, is worth looking at. Not only can you control all aspects of whatever you want to send out to your subscribers, but it features a very handy double opt-in and opt-out facility. Before someone subscribes, they confirm twice that they wish to be added to the list, which is useful, especially if someone tries to sign up a friend as a joke. Likewise, if someone wishes to leave the list, they receive an automatic e-mail to confirm that they wish to unsubscribe. Acmelist has many of the features of other programmes, but at a fraction of the cost. There is also a limited version available to try out for £20 and if you decide to upgrade to the full version, the money is credited against the cost.