Archive for Communication

Going Paperless- The Definitive Guide

An on-going project that I have been working on this year has been to go paperless. It was one of my big projects for this year in order to to reduce clutter and make it easier to find information in much less time than it would take to sort through many paper documents. I started slowly and then expanded as it became feasible. I plan to not carry any paper documents with me next semester in school and to apply this also to other projects.

1. Manuals

I had a huge folder of user manuals, setup guides and other documentation in my filling cabinet that was difficult to transport between home and my dorm and also not necessary since I rarely use them.  The best way I found to digitize manuals  was to Google the device I needed the manual to and then “PDF”. Many manufacturers had PDFs available on their websites, while some of them where available as a webpage as PDFS which I just downloaded. For those that we just webpages or some other format, I converted them to PDF first.  On Windows this can be done by using Cute PDF Writer and on the Mac you can do it by clicking File—>Print or holding the Command+P keys on your keyboard and then choose PDF from the bottom left side of the print screen. I was able to find the majority of manuals online for my devices, if you can’t find them from Google or the manufacturer’s website where manuals can usually be found in the support page try Retrevo has many manuals posted in PDF format that are free and  easy to download.

2. Documents
To digitize my documents, I got a Doxie Document Scanner. Although any scanner can be used to scan documents (as long as it can save to PDF or other document format) I picked the Doxie  because it’s flat and fits under my computer stand and only requires a USB cable to operate. In addition to all that, it’s easy to transport and scans documents really well. My friend Michael Plasmeier uses an auto-feeding document scanner which allows him to scan many documents at once however, these are much more expensive and bulky which I didn’t want to have  t transport back and forth to school.  Doxie makes it easy to scan documents (photos too) and save them in a variety of file formats. I scan documents to PDF files although Doxie can also save to: Evernote, Google Docs and other cloud sites in addition to many file formats. One thing to note however, is that the Doxie, as of the writing of this article, does not support OCR (Optical Character Recognition) which lets you scan files and make them into editable text files on your computer. Personally most of the files that I scan are just for reading and do not need to be edited but be aware of this if that is something you need.

3. Receipts:
Receipts I do two different things with, for minor purchases, I just take a picture with my iPhone camera and save it as a note in Evernote which synchronizes across all my devices and  the cloud. Evernote allows me to conveniently access those receipts no matter where I am and can easily find them with a quick search.  For more major purchases, I scan them to a PDF using my Doxie scanner and then save them as a file on my computer in a reciepts folder which is organized for easy access. I do this to have a higher-quality scan of important receipts, although phone cameras are getting better, the scan is much better resolution. You don’t want to have a bad copy of a receipt which has important information that  you might need down the road. Another quick sidenote, the IRS has begun to accept digitized reciepts for taxes as well so scanning receipts can make it easier to get organized come tax season.

4. Business Cards
Being a college student, I don’t have many business cards that I need to hold onto but, I just use the camera on my iPhone to take a picture and then file them in Evernote for easy access like I do with receipts.  I also highly recommend copying the information into your address book so it can be easily access if you need it. There are also specialized apps on iOS and most mobile platforms to scan just Receipts and Business cards but, the cloud synchronization of Evernote and the fact that one app does many things, all in one app makes me choose to just use Evernote to simplify my life.

So, after I digitize these files, I organize the PDF files and put them in my Dropbox  which makes sure that they are accessible anywhere and a backed up so the files won’t be lost. Evernote takes care of everything stored there and syncs them across all my devices automatically.

My iPad was also a great help in going paperless, I use Good Reader to sync my Dropbox to my iPad for offline reading and  Evernote for accessing Evernote notes on my iPad. Both apps are also available on the iPhone as well for full portability.

The last question you probably have is: What do I do with the old papers? Anything with personal information should be shredded for security and then anything else, should be recycled. This way, you get rid of all the extra paper clutter from your home or office but get rid of it in an eco-friendly, green way. You may want to keep important paper files just to be safe but by digitizing them, you now have more options of what to do with them and more portability.

By following these steps, you should be able to eliminate much of the paper-clutter in your life and then as more arises, just continue to follow these steps to make sure no new paper clutter begins to accumulate. For example, when you have a receipt that you want to save from any e-commerce transaction, just save it as a PDF using the steps I mentioned above.  Also, remember that since you are relying on your computer even more for important information,  backup is critical. You should always backup to the cloud at least so that in case of a fire or anything else that would damage your work area, your files are safe. I highly recommend Backblaze which offers unlimited backup on internal and external hard drives for just $5/month.  Once you reduce the amount of paper you use in your life, you will find it easier to find information and less cumbersome.  If you also utilize the iPad, it will also be more portable because you can take what would be many heavy books full of papers in one lightweight, portable device.

FaceTime Thoughts

Last year when Apple introduced the new iPhone 4, they also introduced FaceTime which is a video calling service originally just for iPhone 4 users. Steve Jobs had said they were going to open up the protocol so that anyone can develop for FaceTime, although that still hasn’t happened at the writing of this article. Apple later released FaceTime clients for the newest iPod Touches with front-facing cameras, the Mac originally as a free beta download which is now 99 cents in the app store. Then, earlier this month, when Apple released the iPad 2 featuring a front-facing camera, they also put FaceTime on it. So as of right now, it’s a video calling services just for Apple users. I honestly think that once Skype finally releases a native app for iPad, FaceTime will loose many users (currently, you can jus use the iPhone app and 2X size). The reason is that instead of just being able to call other Apple users, you can call any Skype user on any platform that has a Skype client, which is millions of people!

FaceTime may be slightly higher-quality video but, for the very rare occasion that I make a video call, video quality isn’t the most important thing for me, I am much more concerned about the audio quality because that gets across the information, video is generally just a person’s face which I don’t need to see, although it makes the calls more personal.

If Apple really wants FaceTime to succeed, they should have made it an updated feature for iChat on the Mac and then make a free iChat app for the iOS platforms so they have a unified messaging system built-in and honestly, I never really use iChat on my computer as it is right now an I’m not going to spend 99 cents on an app that I have fewer people to talk to than Skype which is free. I think video calling will be a growing trend in the not-so-distant future, although I find it to be unnecessary, once the technology becomes widely available, many people will find it compelling to video call people whether they are just next-door or 1,000 miles away. Apple did a good job developing a system for a family or business that only uses Apple products but, unless they open it up for any developer to use the technology, people are more likely to choose the more open standards like Skype and Google Talk.

Google Voice: One Number to Rule Them All!

Google Voice is a service where you can get one local number and have it set to ring all your phones. This is great if you have a home, work and cell phone because you can give one number and have it ring everywhere. You can also have voicemails transcribed to text and emailed to you as well as have your text messages emailed to you. Also you can schedule it to ring certain phone numbers at certain times! This is perfect if you don’t already have a well known number because then you can give everyone you know one number and then when you recieve calls, you can pick up on whatever phone is convenient for you. You can also replace your cell phone voicemail with Google Voicemail giving you a centralized voicemail box that can be accessed over the internet. I think it will be a great way to centralize all you phones and just to get one number to ring them all. One downside though is because it is still a semi new product, it is invitation only but, if you can get an invitation, theyn give it a try to have one number to ring al your phones!

Google Wave Thoughts

When the idea of Google Wave came out, I got excited and thought that it will be a revolutionary communication platform. Then, I began to use it and i realized it really is nothing special. I was excited when I got ther invitation but, unless I am really missing something major, I don’t see the point of using Wave.

With Google Wave you can send messages, called Waves, in real-time to friends and you can collaborate in realtime. The biggest flaw in that is that very few people currently have Google Wave so there are very few people to communicate with and even then, the feature set is scarse. I think that if the application store that is rumored to come through may save Wave, but as it stands right now it is not as revolutionary as it claimed to be. I really hope that Google works to add more features and innovate, which Google is quite good at. If they do this, then they could easily make it the revolutionary platform that it set out to be. However, as it stands right now, I prefer regular email to Wave as of right now and think Google has a long way to go to make Google Wave the next “wave” in communication.

QWERTY Keyboards, A mandatory Feature For All Future Cell Phone

The average cell phone uses a three letter per key input for text input. However, this is very slow even for a seasoned user it is much slower than a QWERTY keyboard. Also if you even want to use double letters or just two characters on the same key, you will have to wait. This is where QWERTY comes in, QWERTY is which is a single letter key keyboard because it has a key for each character, users can input text much faster! The one downside of these is the fact that they take up more space and generally QWERTY phones are a bit larger in size. There are two main types of QWERTY keyboards: hardware and touch screen although they both have their pros and cons, which I will compare later this week. I believe that the era of multi-character keyboards is over and I reccommend everyone who is looking for a new phone and uses text input at all should get a QWERTY keyboard because they will save you, the user time in the long run.

Could Text-based messaging Replace Voice Communication

Anymore, more and more people are using text based messaging like SMS and Instant Messaging to communicate and use voice messaging like phone calls less. Many people believe that text could replace voice but, I think the opposite because text does not allow you to hear a person’s voice and hear their connotation and hear if they are being serious or not. I think text is good for quick messages to save time but over all, voice will still be prefered and I think will someday expand to video as well.

Satellite Radio- An Expensive Extention of An Outdated Technology

I already explained my distaste for radio, because it is outdated but, there is one thing that I dislike even more than radio, that is satellite radio, because very few people still listn tro terrestial radio so, why would people want to pay loads of money for satellite radio? Satellite radio offers subscribers commercial-free broadcasts that can be listened to anywhee, while terrestial radio is limited to a certain area and have numerous commercial breaks.

Although there are some benifits to satelittle radio,  there are two major fees involved with becoming a satelite radio subscriber: first, there is buying the reciever  which can be anywhere between $40 and $300, then after that there is the month subscription fee which can be anywhere from $6.99 to $18 each month, depending on how many channels you want.

I cannot understand why people would pay loads of money when they can get similar services for free!  Services like Pandora is an alternative to music radio and podcasts are alternatives for talk radio. If you are not able to access the internet, then you could just listen to bought music on your ipod. As fazr as i’m concerned, there is absolutly no point in paying for satellite radio  and because of the current economic crisis we have experienced SirusXM has filed for bankrupcy protection because people have been cutting back on frivolus spending. I do not think this will last nearly as long as radio and is just a passing trend.

Is Snail Mail Still Necessary?

With as many people who use email as their primary communication tool, I think that delivered postal mail better known online as “Snail Mail” is no longer necessary. I cannot remember the last time that I sent a written letter, while I send at least 2 e-mails everyday! Even important mail like bills can now be paid online with a credit card! The Internet can be used to send both card and share pictures, which are, even more things that do not need to be sent by postal mail. Money can be transferred or gifted via Paypal or any other similar service. The other advantage of communicating over the internet is that messages are received instantly while, postal mail takes at least 2 days to be received.

One service that needs to continue is for physical packages because that cannot be done any other way currently.  But, that will have to continue still!

Why Landlines Belong in the Past

In this highly computerized world I truly do not see the point of a person having a landline phone number. Anymore, everyone has a cellular phone that they carry around with them anywhere. Plus, if they want a phone line that they can have at  home Skype is a great option as are many voice-over-IP or VOIP solutions could be a great replacement. Not only can you access you VoIP from anywhere over the Internet but, you can also save a lot of money, Skype out, or making a call from VOIP to a regular phone number is $2.99 a month for UNLIMITED calls to the US and Canada and for Unlimited calls worldwide that is only $9.99/year. Plus to get a phone number coming in to your computer for receiving calls is $60/year. That is only $96/year and you can take that number anywhere you go and if you want to call unlimited internationally, then it is still about $180/year. That is still probably a major savings over your regular phone bill and can go anywhere!

The one disadvantage, is that you cannot make emergency service calls but, cell phones are. Plus, you are now relying that your Internet service is not down when you need to make the crucial business call. Also if you have a cell phone, then you can take your phone with you anywhere.

I believe that, landlines will evolve into VOIP and will then make the move to primary use of cell phones and then when worldwide WiFi is developed cell phones will switch to VOIP-based cell phones. I believe that these evolutions have already begun and will take full-spring in the next 5 years and then the second revision will come about in another 3-5 years depending on the availability of an omnipotent WiFi network.

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