Information Technology related posts

iPhone and iPad Update | Great iPad Cases

Release Dates for New Devices?
As many of you know, we use the iPhone and iPad on a regular basis.  It is an interesting time of year as people speculate when the next versions of the iPhone (iPhone 5 and iPad 3) will go on sale.  If you don’t already know about MacRumors.com, you need to check that site out for breaking news on all things Apple.  I have been paying attention to the rumors from various technology sites including MacRumors, and the general consensus is that the iPhone 5 will be available in the middle of September and the iPad 3 will be out later… possibly for Christmas or Q1 next year.  Bottom line, is if you are in the market for the iPhone, wait until September before locking in to that 2 year hardware contract with AT&T or Verizon.  I also thought it was interesting that a poll showed that 35% of people surveyed were planning to buy an iPhone 5 within 12 months of the release.

Great Cases for the iPad 2
I am always looking for a good case for the iPad 2.  I recently found a company called DodoCase that has an interesting twist on cases for the iPad.  They used to be a book binding company and they were on their way to going out of business because of all the new eReaders that were hitting the market like the Kindle and iPad.  They decided to go with the times and make book binding cases for eReaders!  The cases look a lot like a book when you close them and are very well made.  I just received mine and I love it!  I also loved the video on the home page of the DodoCase site that shows the decades old binding machines making these cases for the iPad.  Great story of a company that reinvented itself because the market changed.  (For other iPad case options, I also like the one that Mike Jones uses that is made by Knomo.  For a laundry list of other top rated cases, go here.)

RoboForm Everywhere – The Ideal Password Management Solution

It is time for another update on our RoboForm Password Management solution.  RoboForm has made some excellent changes in the past few months and now have a solution called RoboForm Everywhere.  RoboForm used to be a USB key based system.  Now, it is purely software that runs on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android device and more.  It securely synchronizes to online storage and can be accessed securely from all of these devices for $20/year.  It is an excellent solution for managing your passwords and saving you a lot of time as you do your work.  If you prefer to have this set up and working for you, give us a call at (913) 944-4980!

We have mentioned this device in the past and we are bringing it up again because we have had so many of our clients that love it and say they can’t live without it.  Our goal at Blue Gurus is to educate you, save you time and help you grow your business.  Think about how many times each month you type in a username and password on a web site to do your job.  Now think about how many times you couldn’t remember the password and had to go through a “Password Reminder” process just to get to the point where you could actually log in to do your work.  What would it be worth to you not to have this problem ever again?  Our clients usually say “a lot”.

RoboForm pays attention to the web sites you are going to and asks if you want to remember passwords whenever it sees a new username and password entered.  It stores these in a secure, encrypted location on your device and also sends the encrypted file to the servers at RoboForm.  That way, all of your other devices can get the password information as well!  This comes in handy when you stored a password at the office but need access to the password when you do a little extra work from home that evening.  There are also things called SafeNotes that cover anything besides a username and password combo.  For example, if you need serial numbers, account numbers, your rep’s name, PIN numbers and more to access a site, you can put everything in a SafeNote for easier access.  (I have found this helpful with 401K web sites)

If you are a little technical, you can figure all this out on your own.  Start here: https://online.roboform.com/

RoboForm is easy to learn and the feedback we get is always something like, “that is amazing.  I can’t believe you guys are the first people to tell us how to solve the problem of managing our passwords.  This is going to save us a lot of time.”

We hope you will do this on your own if you have the time or call us if you don’t.  Stop keeping your passwords on a piece of paper in a file cabinet that you can’t get to from home.  You shouldn’t be wasting time trying to remember passwords and typing in your user name on web sites many times every day!

CardMunch – Save Time Managing Business Cards

We are always looking for ways to save time.  Mic mentioned an application to me a couple of weeks ago called CardMunch.  All I can say is that I love it!  I really loathe sitting down to type in the information from the business cards I get on a regular basis.  I used to email the person to ask for their vCard just so I wouldn’t have to type their information in.  (Of course I sent my vCard when asking to save them time as well…)

CardMunch is an application that currently works on the iPhone and BlackBerry with an Android version coming soon.  The thing that CardMunch does is allow you to capture the information on a business card without having to type everything in.  All you have to do is point your iPhone camera at the business card and take a picture.  The image is sent to a processing queue at CardMunch… and believe it or not… a human looks at the image and types the information in for you.  You get an email when the translation is done that your card is ready.

You can do all kinds of things once the card is translated:

– You can add them to your iPhone contacts.
– You can forward the vCard in an email to someone.
– You can invite the person to link in with you on LinkedIn (We think you should personalize the invitation though, so don’t use this!)

The service became popular enough that LinkedIn recently bought them and offers CardMunch as a free service tied to your LinkedIn account!  I have been using the application for 2 weeks and have good success with the business card conversion process.  It has definitely saved me time!  I think it would be worth your time to download this free iPhone app and check it out.

Here is the link to the iPhone version of CardMunch.

Let us know if this application ends up saving you time by posting a comment.  If you know of another good way to manage getting the information from physical business cards into your mobile phone, post a comment!

Apple iOS 5 – New Features You Will Love

At the recent Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple announced key new features in the upcoming iOS 5 operating system.  iOS 5 will be available in Fall 2011 for iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPads 1 and 2, and iPod Touch (third and fourth generations) devices.  Here is a list of the features we think are going to be the most valuable:

Over the Air Updates
This simple statement is actually a big deal.  In a world where just about everything is accessible via the internet, we still have to tether our favorite Apple device to a Mac or PC to sync with iTunes.  With iOS 5, we will all be able to download and install software updates over the air, requiring no connection to a computer.  We will also be able to backup and restore our devices if we leverage the new iCloud storage offering.

Enhanced Mail Application
The new Mail application has a TON of great new features.  Rich-text formatting like bold, underline and indentation.  Drag email addresses between the To, CC and Bcc fields.  Message flagging, and more.  I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to copy an email address to start a new message on my iPhone… it just doesn’t work.  Until this fall anyway.

FaceTime Will Work Over a 3G Connection
Mic and I use FaceTime on our iPhones or iPads to have our weekly status meeting.  Today, we are required to be connected to a WiFi hotspot for this to work.  In iOS 5, we will be able to use the 3G network provided by the phone carrier to have FaceTime conversations.  This will free us up to be just about anywhere and able to have our FaceTime call.

Revamped Notification System
Are you tired of all the little red circles with numbers in them telling you that their is a new message or notification with various applications on your device?  Combine that with the fact that a typical user has multiple pages of applications (meaning you have to scroll through pages to see the notification of new messages or updates).  The new notification system lives at the top of the screen as always available.  It will be a system wide notification system that collects notifications from all applications and keeps them in one nice, easy to access screen.  You simply use one finger and swipe down on the screen to access the Notification System.  Yay.

iMessages
iMessages is like a text messaging client on steroids.  It works over 3G and WiFi connections but only works between iOS users (other people with iPhones, iPads, etc.)  Kind of like those commercials that say, “If you don’t have an iPhone, you don’t have an iPhone.”  iMessages lets you share texts, photos, videos and more and supports persistent conversations.  Persistent conversation means you can start your communication with someone on your iPhone as you are driving home and then switch over to your iPad to continue the conversation seamlessly.

Custom Tones for System Events (Finally)
iOS 5 will support custom tones (and vibration patterns) for new voicemails, new email, sent email, and calendar alerts. With custom alerts, you’ll know immediately what type of notification you are getting. If you have an office or home with more than one iPhone or iPad user, setting custom tones will make it easier to know which device is getting calls, messages, or has a calendar reminder popping up.

Location Aware Reminders
This could get really interesting as App Developers write software to leverage this feature.  The new Reminders app lets you store multiple lists of reminders, including dates for each event.  It can also assign location, as in “remind me to call my wife when I leave the convention today” which uses a geo-fence to see when you’re outside of an area to send that reminder. Reminders sync on iCal on the Mac with CalDAV, and on Windows with MS Exchange.

Updated Safari Web Browser
If you are on the web on your iPhone or iPad as much as we are, you will appreciate the simple update of tabbed web pages in Safari and faster switching between pages.

There are 200 new features in the upcoming iOS 5 release.  We think this is going to be a great update to an already amazing operating system.  Let us know what feature you are most excited to have when the update is available!

Cut the Wires Holding You Down – Column in Thinking Bigger Business Magazine

I was excited to be a guest columnist in the new and improved version of Thinking Bigger Business Magazine, a full color version of the magazine starting with the April 2011 edition.  I was asked by David Day who is the Executive Editor and Director of Product Development for Thinking Bigger Media to contribute this column after he found our blog post on the Sprint Overdrive.  Another success story showing the power of social media at work!

Here is a link to the article on the iThinkBigger.com web site, and what follows is the article text. The bottom line is that it makes sense for every small business to have some kind of mobile internet access for convenience, flexibility or in case of emergency.  We use the Sprint Overdrive and appreciate the freedom it provides as we go to companies all over Kansas City.  We don’t have to rely on their internet access because we have what we need right there with us!

Article follows…

One of the biggest technology trends is the migration of business systems to the Internet (aka “the cloud”) rather than running on local servers.

With more being done in the cloud, a reliable Internet connection is even more important today than it has been in the past. And, how businesses connect to the Internet is changing, from being tied by cables to the freedom and flexibility of wireless.

A wireless broadband solution for your business can provide a number of advantages, such as flexibility for mobile workers or providing a backup to your Internet connection at the office in case your primary Internet service stops working.

Wireless Solutions

Wireless broadband solutions are available from all major carriers, including Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and Clear. On average, the programs cost $60 per month with a two-year commitment. You can avoid the long-term commitment by purchasing the device outright for roughly $350. But if you are going to use the device, you might as well let the carrier pay for the equipment.

Wireless broadband devices come in many different shapes and sizes:

Internal // Built right into a new laptop.
Pros: Ultimate convenience
Cons: If you need to buy a new computer, you will need to buy another broadband access card. Also, you can’t share your Internet connection.

USB Dongle // A small USB device about as the size of a pack of gum that plugs into your computer.
Pros: Able to physically share between different computers as long as they have a USB port. Small size. No need for an extra power cable because it gets power from the USB port.
Cons: Can’t share your Internet connection at the same time, because it only works with the currently connected computer.

Wireless Hotspot // These flexible devices, such as the Sprint Overdrive, are about the size of a hockey puck.
Pros: Allows up to five devices to connect at the same time, just like the wireless Internet connection in your home. Some of the devices have access to the 4G networks for even faster download speeds.
Cons: Requires an external power source if you plan on using it longer than three hours.

Moving your business systems to the cloud environment allows you to access the software and information you need anytime/anywhere. So, doesn’t it make sense to have Internet connectivity that also provides access anytime/anywhere? A mobile, high-speed, wireless Internet device for $60 per month is an investment in productivity that most small businesses can afford.

Jason Terry is principal of Blue Gurus. Jason has been consulting in Kansas City since 1994. He founded Blue Gurus to help small businesses grow through the effective use of social media and technology. (913) 944-4980 // jason@bluegurus.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it // www.BlueGurus.com

FuzeMeeting – Excellent web based conferencing that is affordable!

We often work with people outside of Kansas City and need to be able to talk to multiple people while showing them what we are doing on our computers.  Whether it is training a sales group of ten people in different locations on how to use LinkedIn more effectively or collaborating with a client on how their new web site is going to look, we need to be able to SHOW them what we are talking about.  We have had paid subscriptions to other solutions and so far FuzeMeeting is working more consistently and has some unique features.

I loved the description on the FuzeMeeting web site:
Fuze Meeting is a web conferencing tool that lets you share everything on your screen in high resolution with anyone, anywhere, on any device… on any continent, on any planet.

The great thing is that this statement is not far from the truth.  FuzeMeeting is a browser-based conferencing solution that is incredibly easy to set up and use.  Even better, it is affordable with programs costing between $29 and $69 per month depending on your needs.  We use the $29 per month option which gives us up to 25 attendees in a conference session.

Here are some of the features that we really like:

  • 100% Browser Based.  No software to install for the attendees.  (Yes, you have to install software as the presenter so you can share your screen, but all we really care about is that people joining the session don’t have to install anything so that we can move right into training instead of dealing with technical difficulties)
  • Desktop and Application sharing.  You can allow attendees to see anything on your desktop.  This could be as simple as web sites or as complex as a custom application that you want to demo.  This is perfect for training!
  • Scheduling.  There is a plugin for Microsoft Outlook that allows you to schedule a video conference with someone right from your calendar.  The invitation has all of the required information for the attendee to use to connect including the web site and conference PIN.
  • FuzeMeeting works on the iPhone, iPad, Android or BlackBerry devices.  There is an iOS application specifically for FuzeMeeting so that you can host a conference or attend one right from your iPhone or iPad.
  • You can record your Meeting for later streaming on the web (YouTube)
  • High Definition content.  FuzeMeeting allows you to upload HD content and share with conference attendees for a stronger presentation.
  • Integrated telephony.  Your attendees can dial into a number and be on the same conference call while you guide them through your presentation or training.

If you have been looking for an affordable way to connect with just one or even one hundred people to show them your screen while talking to them on the phone… this is a GREAT solution for you to try.  There is a 30 day free trial.

Click here for pricing and more information on FuzeMeeting.  Happy Conferencing!

Sprint Overdrive – Mobile Broadband Internet Access

Most companies rely heavily on the internet as an important part of their daily business.  The Blue Gurus absolutely rely on a reliable internet connection as part of our social media training efforts.  There are many times that I can remember arriving at a location and realizing that internet connectivity was going to be a problem.  We have solved that problem with the Sprint Overdrive.  This is one of many mobile broadband solutions out there from Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and Clear.  I did a lot of research on the best solution based on coverage, bandwidth and pricing and my choice came down to either Sprint or Verizon.  It was so close that I went with Sprint to give business back to our local economy.  (Note, Clear is doing a lot of advertising right now, but buyer beware.  There are many more negative comments about Clear than positive and one ranking site for ISPs gave Clear a 2.5 out of 5 stars)

What is the Sprint Overdrive?  Physically, it is a square shaped hockey puck with an AC adapter.  Technically, it is an extremely portable broadband device with a built in WiFi network.  You plug it in, and as long as you are within Sprint cellular network coverage you have instant broadband access.  The Overdrive WiFi hotspot that can accommodate up to 5 WiFi enabled devices at once.  For example, I was able to have 2 laptops, an iPad and an iPhone sharing the internet connection provided by the Overdrive at one time.  This is incredibly useful when you want to collaborate with someone but don’t have easy access to an internet connection.  I have been using the Overdrive for 2 weeks now and am happy with the speed (average connection speed of 5 MB download, 1 MB upload), reliability and convenience.

Pricing for the Sprint Overdrive is $35 to activate, $60 per month and a contract length of 2 years.  If you don’t like contracts, you can purchase the device outright for a little less than $300 and then pay month-to-month.  There is an equipment coverage protection plan that is an additional $7 per month.  I usually don’t buy these, but I have a feeling the Overdrive is going to get used a lot and moved around a lot.  Probably worth the $7 “no hassle” coverage for repairs.

Kodak Pulse – A Social Photo Frame

I have been looking for a digital photo frame that has WiFi access to my home network easily for months.  My wife Trista bought me the Kodak Pulse digital photo frame for Christmas and it has a unique and interesting twist.  It is a social digital photo frame!  What I mean by that is that you can connect Facebook Friend photos that get delivered wirelessly to the frame with no effort on your part.  And the best part is, it updates regularly as your friends add new albums on Facebook. That has always been my hang-up about these kinds of devices… I don’t want to have to pull a memory card out, plug it into my computer and update the pictures and then plug the memory card back into the frame.  Lazy, I know, but I really wanted a “set it and forget it” kind of device, and the Kodak Pulse is a great answer.

Setting up the pulse is a snap and involves three steps.  First, you connect to your wireless network and enter the password (assuming you are encrypting your WiFi network… and you should)  Second, you create an online account at www.kodakpulse.com that is the hub of your digital photo experience.  Third, you simply upload photos to your Kodak Pulse online account and within a few minutes they start showing up on your digital frame!  It is really fairly impressive.  It gets even better.  You can then connect your Facebook account to your Kodak Pulse online account and specify which of your friends you would like to have contribute to your photo hub.  (I recommend that you pick a couple of REALLY good friends at first instead of selecting all… you can fill up your digital frame pretty quickly if you have active Facebook friends)  You can also connect your Kodak Pulse account to Kodak Galleries.  Another interesting and useful feature is that you can create a custom email address for your frame like jasonterry@kodakpulse.com.  (No, this is not the email address for my frame… in case you are a spammer or want to have questionable pictures show up in my living room)  If you set up a custom email address, then all you have to do is provide that address to anyone you choose to allow to send pictures to your photo frame!

What I like about all this is that the setup took about 30 minutes and now the frame will continually update with new and interesting pictures without any additional work on my part.  We keep the photo frame in our living room so that we can see the pictures often.  It was an eye opener to see pictures of friends and family that I had not taken or even seen before just automagically show up on the digital frame.

The ten inch version of the frame has an MSRP of $200, but you can find it for $180 online.  I recommend you give it a look if you have been thinking about getting a digital photo frame or if you are tired of upgrading the photos on your old frame!

6 Quick Organizing Tips That Will Save You Time, Money and Pretty Much Change Your Life

One of the personal characteristics listed in the Summary section of my LinkedIn Profile reads as follows:

“Organized – My desk, my work, my email inbox, my car, my closet, my home….you name it, it’s organized.” (Help keep me honest and test me on this the next time you see me!)

For me, it’s a bit of a personal addiction. One of my pet peeves is wasting time, be it mine or others, so having things organized increases the probability that I won’t spend hours picking up around the house, cleaning out my email inbox, looking for my car keys, dealing with IT issues, or whatever it is that can end up wasting valuable time throughout the day.

It struck me the other day when I was at a client’s office and staring at mountains of paper, files, sticky notes, etc. that “being organized” is a unique skill-set. I know it seems some people are born with an “organization gene” coded into their DNA, but the reality is YOU TOO CAN BE ORGANIZED!

So please indulge me a bit as I share the following tips that can absolutely save you time, money, and pretty much change your life if you commit to implementing them: Read more

Changing Microsoft Word 2007 Default Settings

We often hear people complaining about the fact that Microsoft Word 2007 has screwy default settings when opening a new document.  If your favorite font is Calibri size 11, and you LIKE the fact that when you hit enter you get a carriage return and an extra blank line, please disregard this article.  Many of you will still be reading… <grin>

Changing Word 2007 default document settings is fairly straightforward.  First, you will want to find the not so obvious little settings icon next to Font in the ribbon bar.  See the graphic below.  It is the TINY icon that looks like the upper left portion of a square and a little arrow pointing down and to the right from within the square.  Clicking on this icon will bring up the Font Settings dialog in the 2nd image below.

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