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August 17, 2004

Here is another of our occasional Trainorders.com site updates. With summer winding down soon I hope everyone got out there and chased some trains whether it be in your backyard or across the ocean.

8th Anniversary
This week marks the 8th anniversary of Trainorders.com. It is hard to believe it has been that long. Nine web servers later we are still humming along. This time last year we launched our annual subscription program and it has proven very successful. Currently we have 2500 active premium members and another 2700 heritage members for a grand total of over 5000 users. The revenue has allowed for the purchase and development of new hardware and software.

So far during 2004 Trainorders.com has enjoyed uptime of 100%. I am proud that we have not had any downtime planned or unplanned. To keep the goal of 100% uptime we are looking to install complete redundant hardware early in 2005. The idea is to have the system capable of switching to the backup hardware automatically in the event of a failure. This fall we will be installing a brand new dual processor database server which should speed up the site. You thought things were fast now, wait until the new box is in place.

Saturday, September 11th we are tentatively planning to perform maintenance to our discussion database system to speed up response. The discussion area will be down between 2-3 hours during the maintenance window. We currently have over 750,000 messages in the database, and it needs to be optimized so we can jump the 1 million message hurdle. This work will result in the site running faster.

Our photo contests have proven popular. Earlier this year we held the railroad oddity contest which brought in hundreds of bizarre railroad images. In the spring we held the night image contest which also proved very successful. This fall we will launch our fall railroading in the weather contest.

For two weeks beginning on October 17 and ending on October 31, we will invite participants to submit images of railroading in the weather. This means rain, thunderstorms, wind, snow, hail, dew, and ice. Each week we will choose 4 first place winners who will receive a one year web site membership, and 7 runner ups who will each receive 3 month web site memberships. At the conclusion of the contest we will choose two grand prize winners who will each receive a check for $100. Look for more details in the coming months.

Partnership Offers
About 9 months ago I was contacted by one of the larger railroad preservation organizations about offering a reciprocal discount membership. I thought the idea had merit and I set off to build a partnership module into our payment system that would allows Trainorders.com to extend discount memberships to paying members of other organizations. The module is now complete and all we are waiting for is our first partner to send us their subscription list. So far we have a tentative agreement with Railfan & Railroad where if you subscribe to the magazine you will receive a discount membership to Trainorders.com. If you don.t receive the magazine, as a Trainorders.com member you will receive a discount on a Railfan & Railroad subscription. In the near future we hope to add additional partnership offers. Watch the web site for further details about new offers as they come available.

Nostalgia & History . https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/list.php?11
The Nostalgia & History Discussion forum is moving towards being the most popular railroad forum on Trainorders.com. This area is reserved for discussing the .good .ol days.. Images which would be considered quite boring when they were shot 25 years ago are now considered gold. If you have some old interesting pictures post them here. Have any old stories, post them here.

User Video Clips - https://www.trainorders.com/videos
The user video area now contains over 200 video clips. Most of them have been added by users FGS and DaveL. Both have become quite versed in compressing their video clips. They are also quite popular as collectively their clips have been viewed over 75,000 times. I invite you to take a look at the adventures of these two busy railfans. This area also allows you to add your own audio and video clips that you have compressed. Come share your material as it will be noticed. Most clips will receive 500+ viewings within a few days of posting.

Classified Ads . https://www.trainorders.com/classifieds
The Trainorders.com classified ad system has proven to be popular and I can only assume people are selling stuff on it. Paid web site members are permitted to have up to four classified ads displayed at any given time. Plus, the four most recent ads from different individuals will be displayed on the home page.

Trainorders.com Excursions - http://www.coastrail.com
Our next web site excursion will be in May 2006, granted Amtrak is still running long distance trains. However, I am experimenting with offering private railcar adventures to the non-railfan crowd. I have a web site setup at coastrail.com for purchasing these trips. My first trip will be up and down the California Coast this fall. I am mentioning this here because some people who could not make the last trip wanted to give one a try.

This is a little off topic, but I figured I would share this. A few weeks ago I signed up for internet telephone service for the Trainorders.com business line. Internet telephone service is one of those things that sounds cool, but also feels risky. I still have that feeling after getting hooked up. Here is how it works with net2phone.com: You purchase an internet telephone adapter for $99. Then sign up for service through various plans. I chose the $9.99 a month plan which includes 300 outgoing minutes each month. When the adapter arrives you hook up your cable modem or dsl router to the adapter. Once it has power you hook up any conventional telephone to it and you have a dial tone. You dial just like any other conventional telephone.

Now for the downside. Sound quality is fair to good. Although in every instance the caller was clear, sometimes there is an echo that creeps up. Plus if your internet line goes down so does you telephone. There is also no 911 service. Some internet phone services advertise 911 service, but if you read the fine print you will learn that 911 connects you to the non-emergency number of your local police department. They also don.t receive a readout indicating your address. Plus they state that there is no guarantee that the telephone number will be answered off hours and on weekends. Pretty scary.

On the positive side the cost is pretty low. They also offer all the bells and whistles at no charge. This includes voice mail which you can opt to listen to online, caller ID, call forwarding, and most other conventional telephone options. The settings can be modified online through an online control panel which makes it convenient for travelers. In my next report I will let you know if I decided to keep it.

That is it for this update. I plan to send another one out this fall. Start noticing the weather as it might make you a winner in our fall photo contest.

Todd Clark
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