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August 2013

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My Phone Can Do That?

Music Player:
I actually considered buying a portable MP3 player before realizing that maybe my smartphone could do that. It can. I was able to rip CDs to MP3s and transfer them to my phone. Then attach headphones and I’m all set to go. Now, on long trips, when the rest of the family is listening to the Little House on The Prairie – Book on CD (gag...), I can listen to the soundtrack from A Clockwork Orange.
The timer works great to remind me when to pay the parking meter. The alarm comes in handy for those things that I tend to easily forget to do otherwise, like pick up kids from school, leave for appointments, wake up in the morning, etc.
I wasn’t about to type in hundreds of contacts into my phone. However, I was able to upload the information from my computer to Google Contacts, then sync with my phone. Voila - lots of contacts (names and phone numbers), all accessible and dial-able on my phone.
Again, I wouldn’t think of entering calendar information into my phone directly, but entering it into Google Calendar and syncing with my phone makes my calendar available on my phone. This comes in handy when I’m out of the office.
PDF Reader:
Any documents you’d like to have handy for reference when out of the office? You can look at them on the phone. It’s an improvement over folding the documents and keeping them in a pocket.

Email Software? / Webmail?

In diagnosing email woes, my first question to clients is often “How do you get into your email?”. Most people reply that they click on such-and-such an icon. Many times that icon is Internet Explorer (IE).  A large percentage of those people don’t realize that they are actually using a website to access their email, webmail. They don’t realize that there are also email software programs (e.g. Outlook, Thunderbird) that allow you to browse and manipulate email in a faster and more straightforward fashion.  By the same token, many people who use Outlook don’t realize that they can also access their email through the web. This can be very useful if you don’t have immediate access to your computer. You can almost always access your email through any Internet-connected computer. Email software provides a relatively uniform interface regardless of who is hosting your email service. By contrast, webmail seems to always look different depending on the email service provider.
Email software downloads emails from the email server down to the computer. (Whether those emails are then removed from the server depends on preference settings.) This usually happens through POP3 or IMAP protocols. Then you’re working on the email locally on your computer. Webmail works by providing a website that accesses your email directly from the email server. Both methodologies are useful, but I use email software (Thunderbird) about 95% of the time. Webmail is also handy if you want to verify that your email password is correct (bypassing any issues relating to the email software). Webmail will also retain access to emails that might be been filtered as spam by your email software. Then you can distinguish if a particular email was filtered out by your software or was never received at the server to begin with.
Note also that with email software, your computer provides the primary storage for the email messages (aside from what’s still on the email server). That means that a computer failure can conceivably wipe out your emails as well. Furthermore, Outlook, at least, typically stores all email in a typically very large (.pst) file which doesn’t lend itself to easy backup. This file includes contacts and calendar information as well in one big ball of stuff. Needless to say, because of its great size and Outlook’s heavy reliance on it, this file has a much greater probability of being corrupted – which will also create email hassles and/or loss. Emails, contacts, and calendar all go down with the ship. Way to go, Microsoft!

Time Saving Tech Tips from David Pogue

See the following by tech columnist, David Pogue:


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