Technology for your real world: make your professional and your personal life easier with these new applications and gadgets.
Does being the "communication guy" in the office make you a magnet for all your colleagues' technology woes? Fixing pagination or managing web conferences is one thing, but spending two hours of the day transferring the boss's Excel database onto his other PDA is another matter.
We know that technology increases the communication power of everything we do. But new gizmos, fixes, shortcuts and "hacks" appear faster than we can keep up. How do you find the tricks you need to help you do your job better? Here are a handful of neat ideas that provide practical solutions to everyday business needs.
Stack it up!
Frustrated by how much space most applications take up? I feel your pain. Even a 100-gigabyte hard drive runs out of storage pretty fast. Burning more CDs means having to keep track of which one you offloaded that logo or document to. Now there's help in a unique external storage unit that works like a CD carousel. Made by Imation, the Disc Stakka holds 100 CDs or DVDs and behaves like a hard drive. How? A USB cable connects the unit to your PG and makes every disc in the stack searchable. It comes with its own search engine, too. The 100-disc units can be stacked to create a CD tower of up to 500 discs. No external power cord is needed. Find out how it works at www.imation.com/products/disc_stakka.
Print labels fast
Raise your hand if you have never had a problem getting your word processor to format addresses on labels. No show of hands? Thought so! That's why you'll be excited about a tiny desktop device called Dymo LabelWriter 400 Turbo. It's about the same size as an electric pencil sharpener, but it actually is a printer that hooks up to your PC via a USB port. To print an address, you simply highlight the text in your word processor and click on the Dymo icon. Labels are standard size and print in high resolution. The good part is, there is no print cartridge-just thermal paper. Find it at office stores, or visit www .dymo.com. See a similar product from Seiko Instruments at www.siibusinessproducts.com.
We've come a long way since Dictaphones, those clunky recorders that resembled Sony Walkmans. Today's voice recorders, in our fiber-digital world, are slimmer than a pack of cigarettes and pack as much memory as your son's MP3 player. The Olympus VN960PC allows you to record 16 hours of audio--months' worth of interviews, memos and meetings. The best part is, the audio files can be offloaded to a PC and listened to at your desk or forwarded to someone else in the office. You can find out more at www.olympusamerica.com.
If you're into serious podcasting, there are other options. The Sony MiniDisc, which came on the scene much earlier than the snazzy MP3 players, arguably has much better recording quality than the MP3 players.
Bluetooth in the office
Bluetooth technology seems to have shed many of its geeky associations, and is becoming the software du jour for wireless headsets and for simplifying how we sync our PDAs and even print. Bluetooth headsets with the noise cancellation feature are quite the rage these days, but they come at a price: They are often as expensive as the phone itself. Then there is the Bluetooth adapter, which when plugged into a printer's USB port gives you the same benefit of a networked printer, minus the messy cabling. It's ideal for home offices, but also for crowded offices. If your laptop doesn't have the technology built in already, you'll need a second adapter.
VoIP to go
If you read this column in the January-February 2006 issue of CW, you'll recall VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and Skype, the downloadable software that allows you to make PC-to-PC phone calls for free. Now there's a niftier idea for those of us who leave our laptops behind when traveling. An application from a company called GizmoProject allows you to carry this VoIP application with you on a USB flash drive and then launch it on any PC via a DSL or other broadband connection. Find it at www.gizmoproject.com.
So you're going to do a presentation across the country and you absolutely, positively don't want to lug 30 copies of spiral-bound handouts through the airport. No problem. Online ordering has come a long way, with the speed and customization you thought you'd only get for being coffee mates with the manager of the copy shop down the street!
If you have ever stepped into a Kinko's (now FedEx Kinko's) in the U.S., check this one out. A little known feature called File, Print FedEx Kinko's works right from your PC, allowing you to print, bind and deliver a killer 20-page PowerPoint presentation--or even a killer 20-foot banner--to your hotel. No extra hardware required. All you have to do is log on to FedExKinkos.com and download an applet that lodges itself into the print menus of most document-creation and graphic applications. Then, when you are rushing out the door, you select the File, Print FedEx Kinko's tab on the print menu and send that 8-megabyte file to any FedEx Kinko's outlet in the country. No extra charges apply. In my experience, someone has even called me to ask if I wanted a proof and to confirm paper quality. Talk about high tech meeting high touch!
Stock photos on the cheap
This is probably the best-kept secret of graphic designers and in-house marketing people: royalty-free stock photos at rock-bottom prices at iStockphoto. If you always wince when purchasing stock photos for about US$329 a pop, this web site will make you wonder if there's a catch. There's absolutely none at iStockphoto, a completely different type of photo bazaar. Think of it as more of a community of photographers rather than an expensive image library. The commerce works differently, too. You are asked to buy credits (one dollar equals one credit) in advance. Then, when you are ready to download an image, you log on and pay with the credits. And the price? How about US$325 cheaper than the typical stock sites? A regular 8-by-10-inch high-resolution image costs just US$3. Check it out at www.-istockphoto.com.
Did you know that there's a TV program dedicated to Adobe Photoshop? Hosted by the self-proclaimed "Photoshop guys" of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, the program is available on the Web every Monday. Get it at www.photoshopguys.com/play. If you own an ipod, you can download the program from this link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/photoshoptv.
Remember how "push-to-talk" created a new category in cell phones? They suddenly became walkie-talkies, even as hands-free sets were rolling out. Cell phones come with speakerphones, MP3 players and cameras, but the technology that's really taking them into a new category is "texting," known in other parts of the world as SMS, or short message service. In the U.S., consumers have been slow to adopt the habit of SMS, but that may change with voice-to-text technology. You read it right: You can speak into your phone and have it deliver a text message. Those of us who are lousy thumb typists will not be able to stop blabbing. Samsung has a model (SGHP207) marketed by Cingular Wireless. Find it at www.phonescoop.com.
about the author
Angelo Fernando is a freelance writer based in Tempe, Arizona, covering business, marketing, media and technology,
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|Title Annotation:||tech talk|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2006|
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