Remote Technology


Written by Lori Thiessen

Hang onto your business cards, kids, dot tel may make them a thing of the past. It’s a new domain name which is designed to be the one-stop shop for contact info. Able to handle more information than your average business card and adapting faster than a politician in a crisis, dot tel is touted as being the phonebook for the internet.

Run by Telnic in the UK, it claims that dot tel will enable businesses and individuals to place all their information on their dot tel domain name so they don’t have to bother with a website.

Dot tel allows a user to list everywhere they are virtually or in the real world from their favourite online gaming spot to their home address and favourite coffee shop.

You can prioritize your information or use privacy filters so that you can choose who sees your information.

Remember when you change email addresses or any other contact info, you sent out a mass email to everyone telling them to edit their contact info about you? Dot tel eliminates that messy process. When you edit your information on your dot tel, it automatically updates the information to anyone who has your dot tel in their PDA or smartphone or wherever they keep your info online.

Here in Canada, the company that hosts the dot tel registry is Webnames.ca. The cost for registering a dot tel name is $19.99USD for one year.

Some communications and business gurus think that dot tel is the next big thing in the online world. What do you think?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

 

 

 

 


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Written by Lori Thiessen

I came across this great post about how to be at your office without actually being there. Sounds magical and mysterious but it ain’t. Harry Potter fans can put away their spell books and wands and read on.

Jonathon Wilson wrote into Lifehacker.com that he uses Skype and VNC (virtual network computing) to simulate his presence in the office.

Wilson still has his cubicle at work and in the cubicle is a computer that is programmed to pick up automatically when he dials in on Skype.  The monitor at work connects with his desktop at home through VNC.

The upshot of all of this is that with the Skype connection, people at the office can stop by the cubical and chat with Wilson as if he was really there. The bonus feature is that he can listen to the office chatter going on around him. So that’s the old isolation problem sorted.

With the VNC connection, Wilson’s bosses and co-workers can see what he’s doing because his desktop is visible on the monitor in the office. Cool, eh? That’s the old productivity/supervision problem sorted.

Plus Wilson gets to miss the commute and the lunchtime rush out to the local fast food joints.

Though I wonder why Wilson is working through Skype and not a webcam? Inappropriate attire, one wonders? Hmmm. Perhaps it’s more cost efficient to work with Skype and not a webcam feed.

Nevertheless, I congratulate Jonathon Wilson on his clever and effective plan to make remote working really work for himself.

Q:  Do you know of other cost effective and efficient ways to connect remote to your co-workers?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

written by Lori Thiessen

As cafe commuters, our lives tend to rest solidly on technology and our ability to get information to clients at the agreed upon time.

The Mac or PC debate has been raging since the two systems were invented and developed. Which is the better system?

Just as people will defend (almost) to the death the superiority of say, their dentist over another person’s dentist, so will MAC and PC users vociferously advocate for their system of choice.

I must come clean on where I stand in this debate. I’ve been a PC user since I succumbed to the fact that computers were here to stay and I had to learn how to use ’em. My pathetic reason for being a PC user is that I learned on one and I’m used to it.  Over the years, I’ve not only learned how to use a PC but I’ve even become enamored of and far too reliant on its usefulness in carrying on my business and social life.

While MAC’s have cornered the market on sheer eye-appeal (you have to admit that MAC’s are pretty sexy looking) and their North American ads are clever as can be,  the anti-MAC brigade seems to score a few solid points.

The points being:

*program compatibility. As Adam McNutt pointed out in his critique of QuickBooks (see comments), he can’t send QB info from his MAC to his account who uses a PC.  I’ve run into other similar problems when trying to cross the MAC/PC divide when it comes to programs. Although, I understand it’s getting better now.

*not able to modify MAC OS easily.

*MAC is good at graphic design stuff but not other apps.

*according to a rather rude column by Charlie Brookner of the Guardian newspaper, MAC is ‘a Fisher-Price activity centre for grown-ups’. Which roughly translated, means that MAC is for fun and PC is for serious people who want to do business.

*MAC’s one-button mouse sucks.

*MAC’s are not easy to upgrade.

If you want to know where I, a computer illiterate, got my MAC info, look no further than an editorial by CBC’s own Paul Jay and his article entitled, “Mac vs. PC, the editorial smackdow“, as well as the many, many comments from his readers.

PC’s do have their flaws, I grant you. They are prone to viruses. The security is lax or non-existent sometimes.  And they do crash or hang from time to time — ah save me from the blitzkrieg of the blue screen of death! But in my experience it isn’t that often.

Basically, the debate boils down to people’s preferences. MAC is good for the click-‘n-go crowd and PC is the choice for those who like to tinker and customize.  That’s a very simplistic summary but apt, I believe.

As I commented earlier in this post, I’m no computer guru so if you are please feel free to comment. A couple of guidelines though, please don’t go on at great length and please don’t be rude.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Dear Readers,

I received a very informative comment from AA about the issue of security and remote working. AA gets into the more technical aspects of securing your data than I could so I thought I’d post his comment in a more prominent place for everyone’s benefit. Thanks so much, AA! Check out his blog at http://www.kalifasi.blogspot.com. FYI, the blog is in Greek but there is a translator button.

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When accessing services of your business intranet remotely, the primary problem might be the “eavesdroppers”.

This means either someone who can pick the conversation between your laptop’s wireless card and the cafe’s Access Point off the air (and this can be done fairly easily today), or someone who can tap the communications, between your laptop and the computer it is connected at the workplace, on some point further down the line.(A bit more difficult but still possible)

These links can be made more secure either through a so called Virtual Private Network or for individual services via the so called SSH Tunneling.

In either solution, you create an encrypted link between the two communicating computers. The eavesdropper can still intercept your traffic but they would not make any sense out of it. On top of this you can use the so called “Certificates” to ensure that either end is indeed who it claims to be. (”The person connecting to my server right now is indeed my worker” and “The server i am connecting to right now is indeed the server of my company”)

The VPN requires a bit more work to be set-up but usually this is already available in businesses that require remote access for their workers. It is also less difficult to set it up at the client’s end (that is your laptop sitting at the cafe :-D )

If VPN is not available and all you want to do is (for example) check your email securely, then you can set-up a secure tunnel with SSH. This might be a bit counter-intuitive to get, at first, because you will be setting up a connection to your local computer which is then forwarded (by SSH) to the other communicating computer. But once you get this concept, setting up tunnels towards any service will be easy.
(A short tutorial available from here:
http://www.no-junkmail.com/Secure-Tunnel.html)…If your laptop is a linux machine then SSH is (most probably) built in and you can use it right away.

Apart from these actual dangers, remote users are always exposed to the common dangers of everyday browsing…like spoofing sites trying to get your credentials, scam emails, etc.
In this case, a good idea is to have a well written informative document (no more than 3-5 pages maximum, otherwise no one is going to read it :-/ ) to pass it to your workers letting them know what it is they are doing and what are the dangers they might be facing. This can be part of an overall security policy of the company

On the other hand, servers at the company’s end will also be exposed to a number of dangers and threats from the outside world. A well thought security policy can also help there.

written by Lori Thiessen

Visiting in Cuba opened my eyes to things I had rarely thought about. I have mentioned in this blog before about my stationery addiction.  Because of the Embargo, good quality stationery is difficult to find. Sometimes even the poor quality stuff is hard to find.

Before leaving on the tour, the participants were encouraged to bring along such things as pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, thumb drives, batteries etc.  We went to many places among them an elementary school, an artists’ collective and several libraries. Everywhere we went, we dropped off stationery supplies and the recipients were grateful.

The upshot is: if you are planning on doing work from Cuba, then be sure to stock up on your necessary office supplies before you go.

We were told that Cubans were only allowed to buy and use cell phones just within the last couple of years.  And we did see relatively few cell phones around. Can you imagine what your life would be like if you didn’t have your cell phone? While some of you may be sighing with delusions of peace and quiet, others, I’m sure are horror struck at the idea of being without a phone. How would you service your clients properly if they couldn’t get in touch with you easily? Being without a cell phone these days, especially as a consultant, is madness.

It made me realize just what amazing choices we have in North America. We can choose to work remotely. We can choose what kind of stationery supplies we like. We can choose between the different brands of computer and other technology related products.

It’s all available for us to peruse and purchase at our leisure (and within our budgets, of course).

So before you start moaning about the downturn of the economy, take a moment to reflect on how much you do have: a computer (or access to one), maybe a PDA, a MP3 player, thumb drives, unlimited access to the internet, a digital camera and a hundred other gizmos and gadgets that you take for granted in your daily round as a remote worker.

And let’s not forget about the best thing to be grateful for: to make life enjoyable for yourself and your family through the opportunity and ability to work. My father always said that people need to work to feel good about themselves  as much or more than the paycheque.

Well, I should dismount from my soapbox for the moment, but…

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Q: What the one technological gizmo or gadget that really makes your life, better or easier?

written by Gregg Taylor

In my last post, I made reference to a couple of cool gifts that friends and family had given me this Christmas in support of my cafe commuting habits. I thought I’d share share more about them with you today.

The first is the USB Computer Vacuum– a handy little thing if I ever saw one! Small enough to fit into your laptop bag pocket, this baby will suck those cookie, muffin, and sandwich crumbs right out of your keyboard. (Perhaps the reason behind why som of yur key don sem to wrk!) It comes with two attachments – one round brush, and a flat head to reach between keys. Take a look for yourself….

Laptop VaccuumThis is the kind of thing I’ll use, although probably not as often as I should. The screen cleaning cloth I have in my laptop bag only seems to get pulled out when I can no longer see my desktop through the dust. But this is better than shaking my laptop upside down.

The second handy gift was this Combo Coffee Mug Warmer with USB Ports. Depending on how many USB ports your laptop has already, the base of this thing is very useful. Do you find yourself synching your iPhone, while using a mouse and saving to an external drive? Well you’re wired for action with 4 extra USB ports.
Coffee Cup warmer with USB Ports
Now, the cup and warmer seems like a nice idea – nothing like hot coffee while you work. Unfortunately my coffee shop doesn’t serve 4 oz coffees, which is about all this little cup will fit. So unless I decide to use it to warm up the last drops of my stale coffee, I think I’ll just keep the base handy for those heavy USB use days.
So, between my laptop, my added USB port gadget, vacuum, iPhone, muffin and coffee mug, that typical tiny coffee shop table just won’t do. I guess I’ll have to wait for the corner table that’s the size of an office desk….. I hope that guy leaves  soon….  Now where’s the power outlet?….
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If you haven’t already filled out our survey, then Lori and I invite you to share your cafe commuter experiences at www.coffeeshopsurvey.com.  We’ll be including the results of the survey in our upcoming book and through this blog! Thanks for dropping by and we’ll save your seat until next time….

Written by Lori Thiessen

Now that we are becoming normalized to people using coffee shops as their alternative offices, the next step is … well, anybody’s guess.

Here’s a guess from Changeboard, a UK based website that deals with all things HR. In a post on virtual working, the author forecasts that improvements in technology infrastructure will make WIFI hotspots a thing of the past. People will truly no longer be tied to any particular location.  The coffee shop office will give way to a truly virtual office; any time, anywhere.

The author also enthuses that this will mean less stress for everyone. I’m not so sure about that.

The 24/7 lifestyle is difficult to maintain especially since 24/7 means that work takes centre stage. When work was based mainly on office attendence, the work day was clearly defined. And there were some benefits to that. You knew when you left the building your life was your own again.

With improvements to technology infrastructure, it could mean that you never leave your office. Could this also mean that your life will never be your own? Is tech-slavery the next step beyond microserfdom?

My husband works for a company that specializes in large data storage systems. Their clients are all over the globe, but the customer service contract means that clients get to call whenever they are having an emergency. There have been times when my husband is the No. 1 call guy that we get calls at 3 am our time from Sweden, or while he’s taking a shower. Fortunately, he’s on a 2 week rota system so  this isn’t our life all the time. But being woken from a deep sleep because the Blackberry is tinkling away is not fun.

If remote working means that traditional working hours are done away with, then other clear time boundaries will need to be put in place.  Perhaps there will be a tech version of the old ‘back at’ sign, or people will be contracted to answer any email or voicemail within 2 hrs. I’ve noticed that some friends of mine are beginning to say things like, “After 6 pm, I shut off my work cell phone” or “I shut down my computer at 9 pm”. It’s just not possible or sustainable to be available 24/7.

There are many good things about remote working and being able to structure your work day that best suits you is one of them. But what starts out as a good thing can sometimes go wrong.

Being clear about your time boundaries is a great start to keeping a good thing good.

Q: How have you managed time in your cafe commuter life?

If you haven’t already filled out our survey, then Gregg and I invite you to share your cafe commuter experiences at

www.coffeeshopsurvey.com

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

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