Teleconference – Need a new phone?

In a recent post I wrote about my home telephone line and how much I needed it, but only when it wasn’t working properly. Since that time, the phone has been working well and of course, I don’t really need it much.

Today I participated via teleconference in a board meeting of a non-profit organization based  in a city two hours from where I live. I am a new board member and today was the first board meeting that I could attend was held. I might have attended the meeting in person if I had chosen to rearrange my schedule (pretty much impossible!) but I was thankful to learn that a teleconference meeting number and passcode was provided for those who could not be there in person.

Well, it seems that though the organization had the meeting numbers set up, a “good” teleconference telephone had not been purchased. I was disturbed that (pure conjecture but I’m pretty sure about this) that a regular telephone with regular speaker phone capability was in use. I called into the meeting via Skype and I could barely hear anyone despite having my speaker volume set at the highest level.

While discussing the newly formed board member attendance policy, someone (I couldn’t hear very well) said, “We prefer to have everyone meet here in person so that we can see each other, face to face.” Hmnnnn…videoconference anyone?

If I hadn’t resigned today, I might have volunteered to perform a financial analysis of the costs of reimbursing board members for travel around the state, compared with the cost of purchasing some conference room equipment. At any rate, my parting suggestion was that the board members consider purchasing new equipment. Perhaps a new committee will be formed to review available technology regularly against the organization’s growing needs for state-wide communications. Sounds like a good project for someone!

What has been your Technolo-gee business experiences with (or without) teleconferences and videoconferences? Let share ideas!

Technology Taken For Granted – Land Line Telephones

I’m sure some of the readers opted to skip this article after reading the title but if you’ve made it this far, enjoy!

I survived six days without use of my land line telephone service. After that shock, I am going to be a bit more appreciative of this older technology that many of us in the wireless communication age often take for granted.

Five years ago, squirrels chewed through the protective casing of the telephone lines and as I suspected, the same thing happened this past weekend. Despite the promises that I would be back in service yesterday, the repair technician did not arrive until late this afternoon. By that time I was just grateful to be back in service. I even looked forward to the next telemarketing call!  But back to the purpose of this post.

Dependency on the line

In the past, I relied on my land line telephone for DSL service but thankfully, I am using cable now. Otherwise, without the line in service, my DSL and my primary back-up internet connection (dial-up service) would have both been out for six days. As someone who can barely survive without her checking email every hour, that would have been a truly life-changing experience. Fortunately, I do have broadband service through my cell phone company and in the event that service failed, I will head off to the library to make a wireless connection!

In addition to providing a back-up internet connection, my land line is also my fax line. Whoa! Did I use that word? Well, although I have scanners, there have been occasions where I still need a fax machine. After this week, I have decided to search for good online fax services, which will be the subject of my next post. Let me know what you’re using!

In the meantime, if you are still using a land line telephone like me, I hope that your local squirrel population finds something else to chew.

Have a story about an odd technology failure! Let’s share ideas!

Using the iPod for more than just entertainment

It has been a while since my last post because of my busy schedule….and a busy schedule is great for at home professionals!

I will start the post today with a question: how much time do you have to sit down and read these days?

I do not have enough time to spend reading the financial and international news and other materials essential to being a successful trainer, translator, and investor. In addition, some days I do not have enough time to sit and study the Bible the way that I would like (at least 1 hour), or read books that I enjoy (except when I’m exercising and even then I may have to take work with me).

As I begin to receive more projects (thank GOD!) I am making an effort to utilize the technology available to me to be able to dual-task (something like multitasking except I limit myself to two activities!). Lately, I have gotten more use out of my iPod, a gift from my husband. I have downloaded books, news recordings, an audio Bible and study lessons, and language reviews (Spanish, French, Portuguese, German)

Last week, I traveled out-of-state to visit family and I took my iPod with me. During the day, I was helping out with food preparation, decorations (*for a surprise birthday party) and cleaning, so I turned the iPod on for several hours during several days (it has a great battery life!) to catch up on some of my “reading” and studying.

Eventually, I hope to seek transcription projects and I am planning to use the iPod as a tool to work remotely, i.e., while sitting in the waiting room of my dentist’s office, shopping, at the fitness center, or working in the yard at home.

How do you use your iPod in your work? Let’s share ideas!

Getting Organized: Professional and Personal Planning

This was a week to remember! First of all, that dreaded date, April 15, got here so fast. Second, I was blessed to receive a few translation projects. Third, months ago I signed up to volunteer in two different activities. Fourth, I had a DIY project that I started the week before and phase two was due to be completed today (April 16). In addition, I had to keep my home stuff (dinner, cleaning, time with husband, bible study in group and alone, phone time with relatives, etc.). So, how does a work-at-home professional keep it together with all of this going on? Very carefully (and with a lot of prayer)…

I program all of my important activities into the calendar of my phone. I have a smart phone, which has been a life saver for me. Other than maintaining my calendar, I read and respond to email messages, search for projects, send text messages and even occasionally use the device as a phone, often from while exercising at the fitness center (multi-tasking!). The calendar has a nice reminder feature that alerts me prior to important activities.

I had dinner with a colleague last night and she said that she had just gotten her first smart phone this past week. Once she gets used to all the features (some of them for entertainment purposes only), I know that she won’t be able to go back to the old style phone (“dumb” phone?).

I am always worried that I will forget about something, and I have a habit of destroying my cell phones, so I also use the Yahoo calendar as an additional means of keeping me on track. It allows me to send email message reminders so since I am always checking my email, I am always aware of important activities.

So how do you stay on schedule? What computer software are you using? Let’s share ideas!

PDF Document Image Instead of Text? OCR Text Recognition

Today I received a 130-page document from a potential client, around the same time my Adobe Acrobat software decided that an update was necessary. I clicked the update button…and then the email arrived.

The document was text was contained in an PDF image, pretty much what is created when someone copies a document on and the document is later scanned as a PDF. Since I needed to get an accurate word count in order to provide a quote for the translation job, I had to wait on my Adobe Acrobat to finish updating so that I could use the OCR Text Recognition tool (under Document on the menu bar). In the meantime, I decided look around the internet for other OCR text recognition software and websites offering the services. Here’s what I found:

NOTE: This is just a list of options found on the internet. I am not being paid to promote/advertise any products. The searches were conducted using bing.com and google.com. Anyone downloading software should take some time to learn how to protect against viruses or other executable files that could damage your computer!

1. Freeware: http://www.simpleocr.com/

2. Omnipage software http://www.nuance.com/imaging/products/omnipage.asp

3. Upload your document and scan it online at http://www.free-ocr.com/

4. Adobe Acrobat http://www.adobe.com (purchase alone or as part of suite)
What other options are you using? Let’s share ideas!

The Hype of Skype

I’ve been using Skype for over two years now and despite the occasional audio problem, I consider it an essential home office tool. Ever since Oprah started using the program on her television show to communicate with her audience all over the world, I’ve been reading and hearing more about its use.

If you haven’t felt the urge to download Skype to your PC or mobile phone device, here is a brief summary of how I use Skype.

Skype Chat

This past week I received an order for translation from an agency whose Project Manager was traveling to another country and would be working from a different time zone for the duration of the project. The PM is a pretty avid Skype chat user so I kept my computer status set to “connected” (conectado) for the five days from contracting through project delivery. I also set my status to connected on my mobile telephone so that I could still have real-time  communication during the time that I was teaching, while driving and during other non-PC face time. So, when the unexpected problems of this project arose, I was able to respond within seconds to all inquiries.

Skype Phone

I use my cell phone for business purposes and though my service package has a large number of included minutes, I prefer to conserve minutes whenever possible. Skype allows me to make national calls to non-Skype phones for a low annual rate.  As my business grows I will be able to communicate directly with customers in different countries, at no cost if they are also Skype users. I could also purchase one of the international pay plans. Currently, that would not be cost effective for me since I do not have a cluster of clients in any one country.

What impresses you most about Skype?  Don’t know Skype? Here’s a good page to view: www.skype.com/go/voip

Let’s share ideas!

Email Newsletters

Email newsletters have been around for a while but I have just ventured into the realm.

My husband asked me to do some research because he was interested in sending his clients regular news. I checked out a few info sites and found that, if the heart is willing and the spirit strong, someone like me could develop his/her own templates, link to the company website and zip and zap newsletters to multiple users. There are templates available for download for free (virus scans always recommended) and instructions galore.

However, since I do not have time to come up with email templates of my own, or even tinker around with the instructions, I opted for an email newsletter service. I’m sure many of you have heard of Constant Contact. They’ve been around for several years and last week, I signed up for an account.

The first sixty (yes 60!) days are free for the user to tool around and see if the service is worth the membership fee  of about $150 for an annual subscription. The dashboard is very user-friendly and after a few minutes I was able to put together a *slightly* impressive sample newsletter and emailed it off to my hubbie.

Also, it helps if there are people who really want to read about what I’m up to, right? So… I posted a “sign up for my newsletter” link on my website that links directly to Constant Contact. Very few people have subscribed. Until I get at least a higher number of subscribers, I cannot justify the expenditure. Great program though!

Let me know what you think about Constant Contact or any other similar service. Let’s share ideas!

Backing Up Documents Online – Storage Options

Does anyone besides me remember Yahoo! Briefcase? It was a great little online document storage tool unless files were large.

Well, today one of my colleagues and I had a discussion about online storage. I mentioned my recent incursion into the world of Windows workspace but he was looking for something different. Since I spent the time looking up some information about it, I thought I would share with the Technolo-gee gang.

I have not used any of the following sites except for Windows Skydrive but I am intrigued by the different capabilities of the various services to save different versions of files, share with other users, and automatically update files.  My primary concern is security so I’m hesitant about backing up my entire computer, o r even certain files to unknown sites. I will comment more on my experiences later. For now, here are a few companies offering online backup services:

Windows Sky Drive offers 25GB free. Since I already have a Windows Live ID I didn’t have to do anything to sign up. Very nice for the lazy in me!

Carbonite piqued my interest with the comment that the software “encrypts files twice” during the automated backup. Very affordable with plans starting at $55 per year. One of my educational colleagues has used this site for over a year and she  with the results. http://www.carbonite.com/

ADrive.com has plans for basic users (50 GB free) up to 1 terabyte for premium users ($139 annual fee). I don’t know anyone who is using this service so I cannot comment on how well it works. http://www.adrive.com/plans

What online storage services are you using? Let’s share ideas!

Internet Browsers – Why I like Firefox

At-home career professionals spend much of their time on the Internet. Whether for logging into secure systems, checking email or performing research, we have to be able to rely on our Internet browsers.

Right now, I am becoming disenchanted with Internet Explorer (IE). Until last week, I used IE7 for several years. Then suddenly it just kept shutting down on me—or rather, getting stuck in the land of “not responding.” I’m pretty sure it had something to do with Microsoft updates to my system. Well, I finally gave in and upgraded to IE8…and I’m not seeing any improvements, or any distinctions in the two versions for that matter.  For me, IE8 has too many lags and delays, the primary delay occurring when I upload documents from my computer.

Whether I am attaching a file to email or uploading to my website, the execution time can be counted in minutes and not seconds! I’m not a computer expert by any means so I’m not sure what could be causing it. And, though I am a diehard Microsoft fan, I am close to giving up completely on IE. In fact, for the past few days, I have opted to keep IE closed and use Mozilla Firefox.

With all that stated, I realize that I still have to use IE to access a few client proprietary web-based programs. It hasn’t been that long ago that I could only open webmail from my previous university in IE. So, though I like Firefox, it’s not an all-purpose solution.

On that note, I am happy to report that I have not had any problems with consistent lags or delays with Firefox on my PC. By the way, I just upgraded to the latest versions of Firefox on both my PC and Mac. When I started using the Mac version, the only slightly annoying aspect was that I had to select an application a dialog box when I opened a pdf document in the browser. After doing that twice, I opened the application preferences and set the default applications I wanted to use. No more annoyance! There are often delays with Firefox on the Mac, but no more than with the other browsers.

There are other options besides IE and Firefox. My husband (who gave up on IE in 2008) likes the Opera browser on his PC. He says that the pages load faster and videos play “like cable tv.” Before trying Opera, he had used Safari and liked that pretty well… until he learned about Opera.

My opinion of Safari is limited to my use of the browser on my Mac. Delays occur pretty often and that “rainbow pie of doom” appears on the screen. However, the program usually starts working within a minute. I use the Opera browser on my phone and it definitely works better than the mobile version of IE. I have downloaded Opera to my PC. I am not using it because for now, Firefox is working quite well.

Finally, I realize that Google Chrome has been out there but since I haven’t tried it, I cannot offer an opinion.

Which browser do you prefer to use on your Mac or PC? Why? Let’s share ideas!

Working With Office Documents on the Web Part II.

Well, after a few days of trying out Windows Live Workspace, I have to say it’s very useful way to back-up files, and also as I mentioned in Part I of this post, it helps me with document version control! One issue with Workspace so far: my PC runs on the Windows Vista O/S and when I use the service in Internet Explorer, the Vista “ring of doom” appears on the screen quite often.*  So, I probably won’t use the service too often until all the beta “bugs” are worked out. If you’ve used Workspace, let me know what you thought about it. Let’s share ideas!

*Note, I just updated to Internet Explorer 8, and I didn’t see much difference in the program compared to 7. I was going to attribute my problems with Windows Workspace to the new version of the browser; instead, I will use the problem to start another research project to find ways of speeding up my system. More later on this topic!