Tech Tip – Scanning business cards make searching easier

#TechTip The Rolodex is so 80’s. Take a picture of business cards and upload them to a site that will store and make them searchable.

#TechTip The Rolodex is so 80’s. Take a picture of business cards and upload them to a site that will store and make them searchable.

Everything is searchable these days on the internet and on your Smartphone. shouldn’t your list of new contacts also be?

 It wasn’t that long ago I used to have a big book that I slid in all of the business cards I collected from networking functions.  They were great for seeing them as I flipped through the pages.  I did find though, after years of networking and collecting business cards in books and boxes, finding that one card I wanted was difficult.  Yes, I could see it easier by flipping through pages upon pages of cards in a book, but I still had to find it.  If I needed that card while I was out and about, then I was in trouble.  There was no way I was toting all those cards along with me every time I went out.  There had to be a better solution.  Fortunately, there is.  Lots of them.

Scanning your cards and uploading them to online databases is the easiest way to do so.  Evernote has always been my preferred go to for storing information for later retrieval.  Its ability to scan words, even in images makes searching really easy.  Using the camera feature built into Evernote, you can take a picture of the card and store it in a notebook just on cards.  When needed, simply search for a name, or even a keyword associated with that card (Something like “Mortgage” or “Legal” if you are looking for a Mortgage broker or Lawyer you once met)  Evernote will see the keywords on the card and make them searchable.

Shoeboxed is another service that takes your business cards, receipts and other documents and scans them for you.  You just send them over to them in the regular mail and they scan them for you and make them accessible online.  You can then take those scanned documents and sync them with your Evernote account or one of many other online storage spaces.

There are also a number of card scanner apps for your Smartphone that you can use.  They will scan a card, and take the relevant information from it to put in your contacts list.  There are almost too many to mention, but I have used CamScanner, which converts all your documents into pdf files.  Do a search in the App store for what

Evernote also makes another app called Hello.  While not a true card scanner, it allows you to enter information from a card, and have it pull information from the contacts LinkedIn profile and populate in a note on Evernote with all the details you need.  You can also take a picture of the card and attach it to the note.

These are just some of the different methods of using your Smartphone to throw out your old Rolodex and Business Card holders.  Do you have a preferred method of tracking your contacts?  Leave them in the comments below.

If you like this blog post, please share it with others to educate them on tools to help keep them connected.  If you would like to make a donation to this blog to help fund the #TechTip tweets and blog posts, please feel free to do so by sending a bitcoin donation to my address.

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Tech Tip: Choosing the right computer solution for you

#TechTip Find the tech solution that works for you. A Chromebook isn’t for everyone but for those always online it’s a great option.

There are now many more options out there for you instead of the traditional computers from the past.  Desktops and Laptops used to be the only real choice in your computer, but now you can choose between desktop, Laptop, Tablet, or Chromebook.  In addition there is also Smartphones and media centres and gaming platforms which do much of the work of computers for you as well.

How do you choose what is right for you?

Lets take a quick look at where each computer could be useful to help you make an informed decision:

Desktop: Yes, you have heard many times about the end of the desktop, but they are not dead yet.  Why would you want a desktop?  There are a few reasons.  First is how customizable desktops are.  You can purchase a decent desktop and add whatever additions you want, or you can build from scratch everything from the processor to hard drive to graphics processors.  If you wanted multiple media drives, DVD Burners, Blu-Ray players, additional hard drives, you can install them all in a desktop.  If you had software that you needed to run all the time, a desktop or server can be left on all the time and provide significant cooling to keep it running properly.  Yes they are fixed in a location,  but if you work in one spot all the time then there isn’t much of a difference.

Laptops:  Still popular are laptops.  Between Laptops, Ultrabooks and Netbooks, a portable computer with all the power of a desktop still is the go to computer for getting work done.  While not as customizable as desktops, the ability to do all your work everywhere and anywhere you want is still appealing.  Businesses have not had time to adjust to the shift to tablet computers, so for business, laptops are still pretty much required in order to get a lot of work done.

Tablets:  Becoming more popular over the last few years, Tablets have the ability to be more portable than a laptop and provide many of the features that a laptop would require.  Originally its acceptance was for entertainment and personal use as the iPad made it popular for watching shows and playing games on a bigger screen than could be seen on a smaller iPhone.   Businesses have started the shift to tablets, but as mentioned, many businesses are not there yet, and some software still works better on a laptop.  The trend from both personal and business is to shift to screens of all sizes either through responsive web design or apps for specific platforms.  The future is most definitely in the Tablet world.

Chromebook: The Chromebook, which is based on Google’s Chrome Operating system is a shift from the traditional laptop.  While it maintains the look and feel of a laptop, there is very little in the way of storage on the device.  Instead, the system boots up quickly and uses Google’s interface to access everything.  Essentially it needs to be connected to the Internet at all times to really work.  While not for everyone, it definitely serves a market of those needing to stay connected online with a device that has a fast boot up and automatic virus protection.  Its cost is also a huge draw as it is usually cheaper than most laptops.  Using Google’s array of services, you can do everything including email, web browsing, file management and document management all through Google’s core group of web apps.  It’s definitely worth a look if you want an inexpensive system and use Google’s products.

There is a growing list of Smartphones and media centres that can also manage some of the tasks normally associated with a computer.  For example, Smart TV’s have become common instead of the exception in new TV purchases.  For those that have  a Netflix subscription, or enjoy browsing YouTube for content, a Smart TV could be a great add in.  similar, Google’s Chromecast can add computing power to a TV, as well as most new gaming systems, including the XBOX One and PS4.

There is also the growing field of wearable technology, but that is in itself a whole other blog posting.  When you make a choice in the new year about a new computer, look at your lifestyle, your needs and wants, as well as budget requirements.  May your 2014 be wonderful as well as connected!

 

Tech Tip: Schedule time to contact loved ones face to face

#TechTip schedule in advance time to contact loved ones who live far away. Skype or Google hangouts are great to talk face 2 face

As much as we want to get together with our loved ones this holiday season, sometimes its not always doable.  Be it work commitments, distant relatives, or flight delays, the holidays can be hard when not everyone is present.  To help overcome this, use technology to help connect you.

Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime, or one of the many other video chat services are a great way to stay connected to those you love from far away.  Of course a phone call is easy and with long distance rates at their lowest point ever, it may make sense just to give a quick call.  But if you can set up a face to face video chat, it will brighten everyone’s day.

Skype is probably the most recognizable of all the online video chatting platforms.  Its used everywhere from staying in touch with Grandma to  journalists filing reports from the far reaches of the world.  Accounts are free to set up, and Skype to Skype video and voice calls are free.  There is a charge if you want to access the traditional phone lines or get your own phone number for Skype, but for most people it will work fine.  The video quality is decent enough for staying in touch and achieving that true face to face.

Google Hangouts is probably one most people haven’t heard about as much, but if you have a Google or Gmail account, you have access to hangouts.  If you have an Android phone, then chances are you have access to hangouts.  Like Skype, it will provide you with Voice or Video access for no charge.  You can access it by looking on the left hand side of your Gmail account for the contact names available.  If you know someone has a Gmail account, you can probably have a conversation with them.  Check out Google here to see how to use Hangouts.

Facetime, made popular by Apple and all its feel good commercials probably provides the best quality call with ease of use.  The one catch is each person needs to have an Apple product such as an iPhone, iPad or Mac that can support Facetime.  That has gotten a lot easier as more people use Apple products now than a few years ago when Facetime first came out.  Check out what Apple has to say on Facetime and how to use it.

Other services may be fun like Snapchat, which has gained popularity in recent months, as well as Vine and Instagram, but these are typically to record a short video message and sent out to others.  While it won’t provide you the 2 way interaction some may want, it is a great consideration for those short Post Card messages to many friends and family members.

The holidays is about connecting with your loved ones, and if you cant connect in person, maybe technology can give you a hand.

Tech Tip: Use a Password manager to keep track of all those different logins

#TechTip Use a password manager to record all logins and have 1 master password to access it.

As we continue on with our theme this week of password safety, Lets talk about how to keep track of all those passwords.

Previously, we discussed about how many passwords you need.  As stated, its strongly suggested you have a different password for each online portal you access.  The reason of course being if one of your passwords is compromised, it won’t affect all of your online platforms.  Changing one password isn’t too bad;  changing 50 or 100 would be torture!

So with so many logins and passwords, how do you keep track of them all?

I strongly recommend getting some password management software.  Yes you could always go for the good ol’ notebook with everything written down, but what happens if you lose that book?  You can also keep track of them in a document or spreadsheet file.  They would be backed up, but not necessarily secure.  Unless the file is encrypted or password protected, then it is vulnerable to prying eyes.  Even if you do have an electronic document that is encrypted, searching through many logins could be arduous to find that one login you need.

There are a number of great programs available to help you manage your passwords. Lets take a quick look at some of them.

KeePass

KeePass screenshot

KeePass screenshot

Personally I am a fan of KeePass Password safe.  It is a program that requires a password to open it up and houses a database of all the logins, passwords and site URLs for the web portals you visit.  It stores lots of information, and allows you to generate a random password based on the criteria you ask of it.  So if you are having trouble thinking up random gibberish for your passwords, let this program take care of it for you.

You can sort your password into categories, such as for home, work passwords or online stores to help keep things organized.  If you have lots of passwords, there is also a search feature which will let you find your login credentials easily.

This is also one of the few programs that works on most platforms available.  It is free and Open Source, and there are versions that work on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iPhone/iPad, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7, as well as a portable version designed for USB drives.  They may have slightly different names for the different versions because each version is created a little differently to work with the Operating System it is designed for, and some are compatible with slightly different versions of the database, so do a little research with this one depending on what platform you have.

LastPass

Another popular program for managing your passwords is LastPass.  There is both a free version as well as a premium version which includes a mobile component.

Where KeePass is solely a single database of your passwords, LastPass also integrates with an online portion that manages and syncs up your passwords.  The database may be synced online, but the password key to unlocking it is always stored locally so there is little to no risk of having it hacked online in the cloud. It shares similar traits to KeePass, but can also track the sites you visit so it can auto populate logins and passwords where needed.

LastPass has gone to great lengths to have it work on as many browsers and operating systems as possible so you can be comfortable using it on multiples devices, even if they are different technology.  The premium cost is around $1/month

 

Ironkey

We will go into more depth on the Ironkey in a future blog post.  For those that know I am a fan of the Ironkey for its security, but it too also has a password manager built into it.  Like LastPass it can detect what site you are visiting and auto populate the login and password info you need.  It also has a virtual keyboard that can pop up so you can enter passwords using your mouse, thus preventing any key logger malware from detecting your passwords.  The Ironkey solution will be talked about more soon, so stay tuned for that.

Now you know a little more about how to keep your logins secure, and keep your passwords safe.  While it may take a while to go through and adjust all your passwords and log the entries into your password database, doing it once and only once is a savings than having to worry about doing it everytime you one and only password for everything is compromised.

Check out our blog again soon for more tips on security online and password protection.

What’s better: Apple or Android? The answer may surprise you!

There has been a lot of discussion over the past few years over what is a better smartphone: Apple or Android. There are loyal camps on both ends and a lot of vigorously defiant camps in between. (BlackBerry, Microsoft etc.) Some of the fanboys (and fangirls) on both sides will gladly talk at length over why their preferred system is better than all the rest.

So who is right? What is the best mobile solution out there?

The answer? It doesn’t matter.

Both Apple and Android are 2 software ecosystems for connecting you to the digital world. BlackBerry, Windows Phone and all the other operating systems are also excellent at keeping you connected.

You are probably thinking “WELL THAT DOESN’T HELP ME!!!” “WHAT A STUPID ANSWER! OF COURSE MY _____ PHONE IS BETTER THAN ALL THE REST!”

And I have an answer to that rebuttal: You’re right. Your ____ phone is better than all the rest….For you.

There has been too much attention placed on why one is better than the other; but in truth, it all comes down to the same thing I have told people for over 14 years working in the telecom industry. There no such thing as the best phone, there is only the best phone for you!

Lets look at it from a different perspective. What do you need a Smartphone for? Staying connected. Phone calls, Text messages, emails, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the host of other connected solutions available. Really what does a smartphone do? It bridges the gap between your digital and personal worlds. Any one of the phones I have already mentioned can do that (Plus many more I haven’t even talked about yet) The thing is, everyone is different. Some people rely heavily on social media connectivity and need something that will work. Others just want secure email, while others just want it to work easily. Since everyone is different there is no way to make a blanket statement over what is the better Smartphone, especially in an industry that changes as rapidly as the telecom sector.

So what do you need to know to make the right decision?

Ultimately you need to find out what kind of user you are going to be. Do you need occasional connectivity or constant? Do you have specific applications that you rely on or will you be using more basic communication solutions? Whatever you decide you are, just know that your habits will change over time. What you think is the right solution for you now may not be the right solution for you in a years time. Change and adaptation is part of the technology ecosystem we live in.

There is one thing I will say that will separate ecosystems and hopefully make a decision easier. Platforms should be network and information agnostic. Your information should be accessible on all platforms. You should be able to switch ecosystems as easily as a pair of shoes and still maintain an adequate level of reliable communications. Anything that prevents you from doing that, or forces your information to only be locked to a single ecosystem should be reconsidered.

Open solutions are the only way to stay connected.