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!






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!

Written by Lori Thiessen

Whether you are an entrepreneur or part of the management team for a company, it is important to create a technology budget.  Planning for new technology hardware and replacing old hardware will help keep operating costs under control.

If you are part of a management team for a company, you may have a dedicated IT guru on staff. If you are an entrepreneur or part of a small company, it might be wise to hire an IT consultant. Either way, it is critical to figure out what you really need technologically speaking.

Though tech gadgets are super cool, they aren’t necessarily going to support your business more efficiently. In fact, they may eat up more profits than they make.

If you don’t have a business plan, create one.  This exercise will help you think about the nature of your business and what you need to have to serve your clients well.  It doesn’t need to be the latest and greatest technology, it just has to work.

Let me tell you a story.

My father-in-law decided to switch careers and open up a woodworking business a few years ago. He rushed out and bought a very fancy and expensive fax machine to receive orders.  Now, in my mind, this was a waste of money that could have been put towards other business infrastructure needs, like tools, materials, advertising etc. However, my father-in-law was keen to get the best fax machine available at the time.

This little story illustrates a couple of points: being careful about what you spend your start-up money on and if that technology will be truly needed.

There is an urge in many of us, I think, to get the fanciest and the best straight off in order to create a successful business.

The amount of technological gadgetry your business requires depends on what you do. If you are a graphic designer chances are you will need far more fancy tech stuff than someone well, like me.

My bare bones tech requirements are a computer with a decent amount of memory,  fast internet access and a cell phone.  My wish list shows that I would like a photocopier, scanner, fax machine, Blackberry, iPhone and a printer just for photographs.

I don’t buy this stuff because I really don’t need it right now. There are other things in which I need to invest start-up money. However, I keep my wish list handy and I keep my eye on the sales.

Q: Are you a compulsive consumer when it comes to tech gear? If so, why?

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

Written by Lori Thiessen

For a cafe commuter, the communication devices that you use need to support your business activities. Period.

In a curious way, though, communication devices are also wardrobe accessories and image makers or breakers because you carry them around with you and you are seen with devices in public.

Choosing between a Blackberry or an iPhone becomes more than just decision about which device will give  you the communication connection that you need. It becomes a decision between practicality and pizazz.

Now I’m not speaking from experience on this comparison. I must admit that I just bought my first cellphone last September.  I had a cellphone before  which a friend had given  me, but she warned me that “it was so old and unfashionable that you should avoid using it in public.” Basically, I’m just one step beyond using two tin cans and a piece of string.

My co-author, Gregg,  bought an iPhone mostly because it is incredibly cool and sexy. The bonus was that it could support his business activities as well.  All of us in the office were ooh-ing and awe-ing over the way you could move things (words, pictures) around with a simple touch of a finger.  It was hard to resist the urge to run right out and get an iPhone for yourself after that.

After all, who doesn’t want to be seen as cool and sexy?

Frankly, I think it would take a lot more than just a communication device to make me look cool and sexy.  It’s a depressing thought being upstaged by my cellphone. But I digress.

Even though I’m not very familiar with either of these devices, fortunately, there are scads of bright sparks out there who do. And here’s some of the conclusions they’ve drawn.

The short answer is: Blackberry beats iPhone.  For now, at least.

Here are some of the reasons:

  • proprietary network
  • push messaging is instant
  • can do several things at once without having a lag or interruption from other apps
  • excellent security
  • ability to integrate businesses’ in-house apps
  • available on several major wireless carriers
  • a real keyboard, not a virtual one, so typing lengthy messages is easier

Check out http://itbusiness.ca for the complete low-down (or down-low) comparison between these two.

Which will win? Well, if the tale of the tortoise and the hare is anything to go by, my money’s on the Blackberry; maybe not flashy but plenty functional and built to go the distance.

Q: Which communication device do you use and why?

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.


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 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?….
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….