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: Sending Voicemail to Email

#TechTip Setup your voicemail to forward messages as email attachments. Then you have a record of all messages.

I have had a lot of people interested in finding out more about this Tech Tip of mine.  First, lets start by getting one thing clear:  While it can be easy to set this up, its not a one step process and may invoice extra fees.

Many people in the corporate world may be familiar with this feature that logs all their voicemails as email messages.  Major phone systems have been able to do this for years, including systems from Cisco and others.  For small businesses and individuals, there may be a few steps you need to take.

Lets look at mobile phones first:

All of the wireless carriers will provide voicemail service with your phone.  The basic service just records your message, but sometimes the enhanced services will offer features like Voice to Text emails.  This feature will take your voice message, have a computer analyze the recording and turn it into a plain text file that is then emailed to you.  (Often with a voice attachment included)  Telus I know does this, and Rogers has their Visual Voicemail Plus service which offers something similar.  The enhanced services often cost extra, but you may have them bundled into a feature package.  If you are not sure if it is set up, or if you have it, give your wireless provider a call and find out what steps you need to take to set it up.

Although its not available in Canada (yet!), Google Voice offers a service where it will take your message, and send you an email and/or text with the transcript available, as well as the voice attachment.  The Google Voice App also will send the message direct to your phone for quick play over a data connection instead of having to call in.  Google Voice has been very slow in deploying outside of the US, but rumours are that they want to increase their presence and Canada is the most likely next target.  I have used Google Voice myself for quite a while now using some sneaky work arounds and have been quite impressed with it.

VoIP Service

Voice over internet service providers have a lot to offer the average customer.  More than I plan to write about today.  But Voicemail to email is definitely one of those benefits.  Really, the number of ways you could hook this up is too high to list here, but let me give you an example of how I have some of my phones hooked up for this:

1 Number calling:  By Providing everyone with a VoIP number and having them call me through a VoIP phone system, calls can come to my office phone, and wireless phone at the same time, and if I don’t answer either, it goes to the Phone system voicemail.  That service then texts me and emails me to let me know there is a message.  I just download the attachment and listen to the message.

Cell phone forwarding: If everyone already calls your cell number, then you can try the call forwarding trick.  Check with your provider if you have Call Forwarding on your account, and activate the “Call Forwarding – No Answer” or “Call Forwarding – Unavailable” feature.  This will let your phone ring for a period of time, and if there is no answer, automatically forward to a phone number you designate.  Set up a phone number with A VoIP provider (Either a phone system or directly with a VoIP provider) that offers voicemail service and Voicemail-to-Email.  Direct your calls to forward to that number if you don’t answer your cell.  Once the VoIP provider picks up the voicemail, it will convert your message into a file and email it to you.

There are a number of providers out there that can do this, so before you make a decision, find out if you just need voicemail, or want to have a VoIP phone line that goes with it as well.  As mentioned, there will be some additional costs these ways, but depending on how important it is, it may be worth it.  Typically costs for any service like this can range from a couple of bucks up to maybe $15/month.

VoIP is an ever changing environment, and with new entrants possibly coming into Canada (Again, I’m looking at you GOOGLE!!!!) then expect features to improve and costs to come down.

If this has still peaked your interest, contact me and I can put you in touch with some options.

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.

TechTip: Use your Smartphone camera to catch candid shots

#TechTip: while nothing can really replace the quality of a good camera, using your smartphone will capture those candid moments

 
When most of us think back to our childhoods, many of the memories that pop up are around the holidays.  This may be due in part to the many photographs that were taken and those images tend to stick in our minds.  There will be no shortage of pictures taken this year as everyone gathers together, opening presents, preparing dinners and celebrating the holidays.
 
Good quality cameras have made significant improvements in features and size over the last decade.  Traditionally the best pictures have come from Digital SLR cameras, but smaller point and shoots have come a long way.  But while these cameras can produce some amazing pictures, they don’t tend to be with you at every moment during the holidays.  This means you could miss that great candid shot.  There is where you smartphone can save that special memory.
 
While not at the same quality as regular cameras, Smartphone cameras have also come a long way.  The average camera quality on a smartphone is about 8MP in image quality.  This is on par with your typical point and shoot camera.  The one major difference between the two is the optics.  A camera phone, even with the best optics, would have trouble rivaling a decent point and shoot camera, and most definitely can’t be compared with a Digital SLR camera.  But for the quality that you would lose, to be able to get that image for posterity is worth the trade off.
 
Nokia-Lumia-1020-with-Nokia-Pro-CameraSome phones, like the new Nokia Lumia 1020 have bridged that gap by including a 41MP sensor in the phone for stunning pictures.  Apple has also talked at great length about how good quality the iPhone’s camera is, but it doesn’t come close to the 41MP of the Nokia model.  Perhaps something to put on that Christmas wish list is a new camera phone.
 
Now that you have cameras to cover everything, where do you store all the pictures?  There are lots of online photo sharing sites like Flickr. com and Google Photo, (Formerly Picasa) plus sites like Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and many others.  Try and find one area, either online or on a computer, to store all your photographs for easy sorting later. 
 
 I use Google Photos on Google+ because it syncs up all the photos I take with my Smartphone immediately.  I also have an Eye-Fi digital storage card for my camera which also uploads my photos in real time to Google for sorting.  If you haven’t heard of Eye-Fi, you should check out their products.  Built in to your Standard SD card is a WiFi chip which connects to your wireless network and sends the pictures you take to an online storage site where you can transfer them to an online portal.  Makes it quick and easy to get your pictures and start sorting them.
 
This holiday, take lots of pictures and enjoy the company of those around you.  Who knows, many years from now, those candid camera phone shots may be some of your best memories.

Tech Tip: Using Social Media to hide an elf in creative ways

#TechTip do you have an Elf on the Shelf looking for places to go? Pinterest has lots of places for the elf to hide, as does Google

For those of you with kids, You’ve probably heard of the Elf on a Shelf.  For those that haven’t, its the story of a little elf who

Elf-on-the-Shelf

comes out and watches the kids for Santa to see if they are being naughty or nice.  The story itself, comes with a little elf that is supposed to hide around the house watching the kids.  This is where it gets creative.

Parents enjoy hiding the elf around different areas of the house as a little treat for the kids.  Each morning, the elf may be up to something different.  Perhaps hanging from a ceiling light, or in the Christmas tree.  Maybe its in a closet peeking out, or hanging out with the childs other toys.

Depending on when the Elf makes an appearance in December, there may be a number of days that the elf has to find places to hide, and it can get hard finding new places to hide it.

Thank you Social Media, has a quick Google search will help you find lots of ideas on where the elf can sneek away.  Pinterest is also a great place to look, especially for pictures of the elf in different locations.  Some are creative, others are the elf up to no good!  You can pick your favourite search engines, or go right to Pinterest and enter “Elf on the Shelf ideas” and BINGO! a plethora of new and interesting ways for the elf to find a home that night.

Also, consider setting a reminder on your smartphone to have the elf find a new place every night.  You wouldn’t want the elf to forget to go somewhere new and make the kiddies wonder what happened!

TechTip: Using 2 Factor Authentication for secure access to websites

#TechTip Use 2 factor authentication for the websites that have it. Makes it that much harder to hack & will alert you if someone tries

We continue our week of Password protection in our Tech Tips blog for the week.  As we mentioned the past few days, changing your password is important, and choosing a password that is complex enough not to be broken easily is essential to online security.  Along with that, each online login should have its own password, and you should use a password manager to keep them all secured.

Today we look at 2 Factor authentication.  Many website are starting to implement this to increase security to its users by making it difficult for someone just with a password to access your account.

What is 2 Factor Authentication?

800px-SecureID_token_newThe concept behind 2 factor authentication is that you basically have 2 passwords: Your normal password, and a separately generated password that is given to you each time you log on, or an item that you must use to access your information.  You may be most familiar with 2 factor authentication in the corporate world using secure login tokens.  When a company needs you to log into their secure computer system, you will have to enter your password, as well as a code generated in the token key.  Typically these systems have been reserved for businesses who can afford the high security, but not it is becoming made available to average users through different means.

For portals like Gmail, Google has introduced 2 factor authentication using text messages sent to your smartphone.  When you activate it and log on, a text message with a 6 digit code is sent via SMS to your mobile phone.  You then enter that number into the next screen after your password and then you are let in.  The obvious benefit to this is that even if someone gets your password, they won’t be able to access your email unless they can also intercept that text message.

Twitter as well has added additional verification as a security feature to your twitter account.  Twitter has both SMS verification as well as a feature built into the Twitter app for Android and iOS phones which require you to have your smartphone when you log into Twitter.  This ensures that anyone wishing to access your account will need both your password and your smartphone to get in.  More information on Twitters additional verification features can be found on their Support page.

PayPal has its own version of 2 factor authentication which includes either SMS or a digital token.  When you log on to your enabled Paypal account, you will be asked for a second step.  You can either have an SMS message sent to your phone, or you can get one of their authentication tokens.  They use a credit card sized token that generates a new passcode every time you press the button on the card.  It costs a few dollars to get the card, but its good security if you don’t want to use the SMS feature.

If you are concerned about access to a particular site, you can look in their help sections to see if they provide additional sign in options that will give you the extra security you need.

Tech Tip: Be cautious about posting vacation plans online

#TechTip: Be careful about what you post online over the holidays. Posted travel info can attract unwanted attention to your empty house.

The holidays are a great time for getting away from the cold to sunny spots down south.  Or maybe you’re planning a trip to visit family over the holidays.  Whatever your plans are, enjoy them.  Take lots of pictures.  Tell all your friends how great your trip was (or not so great, depending!) but just make sure to tell them AFTER you get back.

Social media is a wonderful tool to share your memories with friends and family about your travels and allow them to experience what you are in real time vicariously through you.  But this has also led to a number of unsavory individuals trolling the internet finding you your house is empty, and then proceeding to make sure your house is empty before you return home.

Here are a few tips to ensure you and your home are safe:

  • Don’t post your travel plans in advance on social media.  A tweet saying “Off to Cancun for the next week” might as well say “House is empty for the next week. Take what you want”
  • Know your Social media platforms. Twitter, Instagram and many others are public so anyone can see what you post.  Facebook and Google+ allow you to restrict who sees what posts.  If you are intending to post things online, choose outlets that reduce the likelihood of criminals finding out you are away
  • Foursquare is great for checking into places, especially when away, but make sure the list of people who follow you are actual friends, and don’t post your checkins to Twitter
  • Instagram is wonderful for sharing your pictures and videos, but again it is publicly accessible.  Save the pictures on your camera or smartphone until you have returned or are on your way home.
  • Make sure you have friends or neighbours checking on your place while you are gone.
  • Put lights on timers, or for those wanting to go the extra mile, set up a home automation system that you can remotely connect to while away

Don’t start the new year having to deal with insurance companies to replace all your home contents.  Take precautions and have an enjoyable trip.

 

Tech Tip: What are Hashtags and how can they be used?

#TechTip: Hashtags make your content searchable. You can also follow conversations by searching for a hashtag comment

Everyone from news stations to popular comedians have been talking about Hashtags recently, but for someone following from the outside, you may ask yourself: What exactly is a Hashtag?

Good Question!  Put simply, a Hashtag is a word or phrase written on social media outlets that starts with the Pound or Hash sign ( # ) and makes content searchable.  Example:  #TechTip

How does that happen?  With social media, tweets and posts come at an alarming rate and sometimes make it hard to follow.  A Tweet has a very short life span.  Depending on the content, your group of followers and any retweets, a tweet can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes before it falls off the radar.  Facebook posts and other social media platforms tend to have longer life spans, but even then not by a whole lot.  What a hashtag will do when added to your post or tweet makes it easy to be searchable.  It can actually do this in two ways.

1) Tweets can be seen in real time by people who do not follow you but follow the same hashtag.  You may not know who is talking about a specific topic, but if everyone who is uses a hashtag, then a quick search will pull up the current live conversation.  For example, if you wanted to see who was talking about Canadian politics, you can search for the hashtag #CDNpoli or about a specific event in Canadian politics such as #SenateCA .

2) Tweets can be pulled up even if they were sent out a while ago.  If you search for a hashtag, even one that doesn’t have a current conversation going, you can generally find that topic searchable.

There is a third use for hashtags that is a little different.  Since anyone can make a hashtag about anything, it has become common to use hashtags as a joke or to add emotion, emphasis or sarcasm to a tweet or post.  A tweet about hashtags could include something like #Whatiswithallofthesehashtags or something other to get a point across.

Hashtags can go anywhere in a post or tweet.  The only things you need to know are that you can not have any spaces between words and there can be no other punctuation in it.  Generally you should not include more than 1 or 2 hashtags in a post or tweet, but there are some exceptions for some social media platforms like Instagram where hashtagging almost every word to make it searchable has become quite common.

There are some great articles out there if you have more questions on hashtags such as this Beginners guide to Hashtags from Mashable or directly from Twitter.

There are many popular hashtags that people can follow such as #FollowFriday which encourages people to tweet out the usernames of people you think your followers should also follow.  Since anyone can make one, feel free to have some fun making your own or use it in a Google search or Twitter search for important or fun discussions online.

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Tech Tip: Using technology in the Kitchen

CookingwithTech

Tech Tip: Your Tablet and laptop can be great companions in the kitchen. Google recipes and clip the good ones in your notes application.

It seems rather fitting that we look at the use of technology in the kitchen today, being the American Thanksgiving and only a few short weeks away from family dinners around the holidays.  Laptops, tablets and smartphones all can provide a great deal of assistance during the dinner hours.

Deciding what to make can be daunting as it is. I have spent many evenings looking at the freezer and seeing what meats we have, only to get stuck on finding what would be the best way to prepare them.  This is where Google has been a great help to me.  A simple request asking for recipes for *Insert main food ingredient here* and I have a plethora of ideas from the simple to the gourmet available to me.  I find Chicken and Pork are the two meats that are staples in our house, but need to be changed up so as not to create the same boring meal every time.  Chicken recipes are plentiful on the Internet.  I’ve found many of my favourite recipes at allrecipes.combut it is by far not the only place to look.  That’s where Google comes in.  By entering what you want to cook, you will get a list of different sites and recipes.

What to do when you found your perfect recipe?

Recipe books and boxes to stash clipped recipes were great in the past, but instead of printing out that recipe, I back it up online.  As most regular readers know, I am a big fan of Evernote.  I have a notebook set aside just for recipes so I can merge the family traditional recipes passed on from my family as well as mix it with new recipes I find online.  You can tag each recipe with the main ingredient (such as Pork or Chicken) to make it easy to find later.  As a guy who really didn’t have many cooking skills until recently, I find it great to be able to easily access these on any device.  I can look up my meal choice, download it to Evernote from my computer at home, and then access it again easily from my Smartphone when shopping for ingredients. (Usually when I’m part way through cooking and realize I don’t have a main ingredient in the house!)

Timing the Turkey

Once you have your dinner prepped, depending what your cooking, you may need to time how long it takes to cook something.  Most clocks on smartphones now will have both a countdown and a count up timer.  Set your alarm for however long you need and walk away. (Don’t forget to check in now and then on your food though!)  Enjoy your company and not worry about missing the alarm on the oven, since you will probably have your phone with you.

Setting the ambiance

Now that dinner is cooked, use your smartphone to run some nice music through a pair of speakers.  You can find a pair of cheap, wired speakers almost anywhere for a few dollars, or splurge and go for a set of Bluetooth speakers.  iPhones are obvious choices for listening to music, but I actually use a music server called Subsonic.  It allows me to store all my music in one place and access it from any phone, computer or tablet I want through either an App or a web interface. So relax to some smooth jazz music, or blast out some Holiday cheer, whatever strikes your fancy when the family all shows up.

Hopefully these tips will help make your meal preparations go smoothly, and help change up the variety of foods and meals.  I can help you with the technology, but cooking skills…..you’re on your own!