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Working on Vacation…Yet Again

A couple weeks ago, the kids and I went to Universal Studios in Florida (painful with the current exchange rate) for the week. Before we left I decided I wasn’t going to actively work for the whole week, but with todays technology it was too easy to keep up.

I pro-actively decided to leave my work laptop at home, and only took my 8 inch Dell Venue Pro (runs full Office) and a Bluetooth keyboard. I also had my Nokia 920, which is my personal/work phone and has an awesome camera. My daughter took her tablet and Galaxy S3 and my son took his tablet. I really did set out to have a work-free vacation, but I knew I would have Wi-Fi at the hotel and I added a “roaming” plan to my phone. I did let people at the office know that I would be checking email in the evenings and would respond to important email. Best intentions.

Family Vacation

Ahhh!

At Universal Studios, Wi-Fi was available – and faster than the hotels. I could stand in the long lines waiting for an awesome ride (and the rides were freaking awesome), and review some of the 200+ emails that came in during the week. Thursday, our last full day in Florida, we hung out at the hotel, and my daughter grabbed the Bluetooth keyboard and worked on her 1000 word essay on her phone, and was in contact with her teachers and classmates. Watching her made me think about all the emails I could take off the agenda efficiently, and I started sorting through the emails and responding to them on my tablet. Because I have full Office and OneDrive, I easily accessed required files to edit, send, or reference during a conference call.

I know some of you are thinking “you were on vacation, why were you working?” This was my choice; I love my job and what I do, and honestly by Thursday, I was bored. This isn’t the first time I have worked on vacation, and I blogged about a similar vacation experience a couple of years ago, but what struck me this time was just how much easier despite being in another country. Back in the day, when I vacationed locally, I would tether to my phone or use my data plan. If I travelled out of the country, I would not use my phone plan this time, as Wi-Fi was abundant and fast everywhere.

Does this mean I think everyone should work on vacation? Absolutely not!  Vacation is time for family and re-charging, but if you feel you have to work or opt to (as I did), todays technology has everything you need to work efficiently and effectively.

If you are like me and find it really hard not to work, there are now resorts that take your devices away from you for the duration of your stay. Here’s a list for the USA. Personally, I think it’s all about balance and that balance will  be different for each of us.

Are you able to disconnect for a weekend, let alone a full week? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Categories: Digital Life Tags: ,

Wow! (Not World of Warcraft)

Biz TechI started blogging almost three years ago as a way to help small businesses deal with their tech needs. A few weeks ago, this blog passed the 10,000 views mark. I love blogging and I do hope I provide valuable information that is consise and easy to understand. My blog focuses on real clients (not paid actors) and what we have done to solve their technical pains. Each client is unique, and their needs are different from one another, but they all have the same goals in mind. This blog is designed to provide relevant information to the small business owner/manager in a non-alienating, free of geek-speak as possible, way.

I am proud to announce that this blog was nominated for BizTech’s 2013 Must-Read IT Blogs. I have known about their online magazine for several years, but haven’t been on the site for quite some time now. A friend in the industry called me today and told me I was nominated. What a pleasant surprise!

I would be truly grateful if you would go and vote for me. I love what I do and I am privileged to be recognized for the tech support advice I offer to small businesses. Here is the link to the panel of nominees: http://www.biztechmagazine.com/article/2013/06/biztechs-2013-must-read-it-blogs-nominees.

Thanks to the Biz Tech team for including me on their list, thank you reader, and a huge thank you to my clients for letting me take their stories and share them in the hopes that it helps another company. And, most of all, a big geeky thank you to my equally geeky family.

Categories: Digital Life Tags: ,

YouTube and Living outside the Box

upside down videoThis week, my “darling children” (Jamie 14, and Aedan 12) convinced me to use my virgin YouTube channel. I can honestly say that anything related to video-production scares me. (Not quite as much as improper server setups, but close; see article IT How Pennywise Would Have Done IT for some scary IT). I prefer the written word, but I do understand that not everybody likes to read, and video can be easier to learn from. Yesterday afternoon, my darling children and I sat down at the kitchen table and brainstormed ideas, wrote a script, and proceeded to record. In the past, I have struggled with video. I have had experience with being filmed, and it has never went without a hitch. The moment I look at the camera, I panic. End of story. It doesn’t matter if it’s video or still, it makes me squirm, and there are many pictures of me with some weird smile on my face. I don’t have the same problem when giving a presentation or teaching a class, until I notice a camera is capturing every word I say. I can be speaking very confidently, but the moment I see a video camera, I stumble. It would be much easier to avoid this altogether, but if I do that, then all I’m teaching my children is to hide from what scares them. I’m always telling my kids to live outside the box, and yet when they suggest something outside of my box, I try to crawl back into my pre-established comfort zone.

After working up enough courage to set up my phone (yes, I only used my S3), review the script, and try to find a way to keep the phone propped up, I took a deep breath, and started talking to my phone. My first couple of tries were horrible and frustrating. The language I was spewing would have resembled that of a Green Day concert (that I took my darling children to at ages 8 and 10). I hated every moment of it, from the hair in my eyes, to looking at my script, to squirming in my chair. But the kids kept encouraging me and told me that I couldn’t quit because I was uncomfortable, and that that would be going back into the box, where it’s safe. After a few more tries, we ended up with something I could work with.

Next came editing. I thought doing the recording was scary, but editing is a nightmare. My software kept crashing and wouldn’t save my edits. It was slow and I had to really get a feel where to splice the sequence (except for the part where I accidently left the “1, 2, 3, go” in). I am fairly happy with my final product, considering I had no idea what I was doing. Some of the outtakes are hilarious.

Next, I was ready to upload the video to YouTube. Again, the kids came to my rescue. “Mom you need to add a description. Mom you need to edit your profile. Mom you need to name your channel.” This quick little video was rapidly becoming a lot of work. Finally, I was uploading the final product. My kids couldn’t wait to view and critique it. Once it was up, they quickly loaded it and then started laughing hysterically. My heart dropped. What could be so funny about my video? It looked OK on my computer, was there food on my face, boogers hanging out my nose, maybe a funky hair thing? None of the above. My video was upside down! My first attempt did not go as planned, considering I pride myself on being the “infamous Guelph computer geeky girl”. I suspect this happened during a modification I made to the software to prevent the crashing issue. At least that’s my story.

I hope my first video – my introduction video – will be the wonkiest. Moving forward, my videos will be about topics I know, understand and speak about all the time. I am hoping my natural speaking ability will come through and I’ll get more comfortable with the camera itself.

I have come to realize you can’t always do what you are comfortable with; you’ll never grow and learn new things if you don’t try anything new, as scary as it may be.

Life’s too short to be stuck in the box.

If you wish to see my right-side-up video, click here.

Does someone else have your data?

Currently, I am working with a wonderful company that specializes in taking old computers and reselling them.  They are a not-for-profit organization and the proceeds go directly back to the community.  (Watch for a follow-up post on this amazing company and what we did to get them back on the right tech track.)  I had a chance to chat with one of the volunteers who mentioned that fully-functional systems come in with user data still intact.  The company wipes their hard disks without looking at the data, then they resell them.  Over the years, I have purchased several used computers, many of which with user data still accessible.  I have also seen companies toss, give away, or donate their old systems without wiping the system hard drive(s).  How would you feel if someone got their hands on your company data?

Now, you may be thinking that any reputable organization will be completely wiping the hard disks. Think again.  In 2011, Staples Canada was found to be re-selling computers with the previous owners data still intact.

Consider how much personal and private data you have on your computer.  Everything from banking information to email correspondence, from online purchases to other delicate data.  And I don’t know about you, but I used to have a bad habit of clicking the “remember my username and password” button on websites.  If I had given away or sold my system, the new owner would have had access to a variety of websites, including my bank and email accounts.

Before saying goodbye to your system, you should always wipe the hard drive, or even destroy it.  If your local repair shop or IT Pro has replaced the hard drive, ask for your original back or ensure the data on the original unit has been erased.  If you want to do this yourself, click here for a great how-to.  If you are uncomfortable doing this yourself, most IT Pros will do it for minimal cost.

Taking the time to wipe your hard drive protects you, your data, and your privacy.

What would you do if your new system had somebody else’s data on it?

Social Media and Georges Colliding Worlds

“It’s just common sense, anybody knows! You got to keep your worlds apart!”

-George Costanza

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPG3YMcSvzo

I used to have my “personal life” separate from my “work life”, and then social networking came along and threw a wrench into it.

Back in the day (2002), it was easy. I had a personal email account and a work email account. The two never crossed.  Now it’s not so easy. With Facebook, I am finding it more and more difficult to keep my personal life and work life separate.  Before my co-workers knew about Facebook, I could safely vent about work.  No one on my friends list knew my co-workers, and they were not on Facebook in the beginning. Then they discovered Facebook, and my two separate worlds started to collide. I got a friend request from one of my co-workers. Then another one, and another after that.  Eventually, my status updates could no longer include work, and I also had to filter out anything concerning my future employment options.  Okay, not a big problem, and when I left the company to start my own, these co-workers left my work life and joined my personal life.

End of problem right? Not at all.

Over the last year, I have had clients who have wished to become friends on Facebook. And I hope they are not offended, but I haven’t friended them, and don’t plan to.

I am very firm on keeping my Facebook page about my close friends and family.  I have a business page for my business friends, and I encourage others to have a fan/business page too for these reasons:
1. It is more professional
2. It keeps your private life private
3. It better ensures the privacy of your friends
4. Facebook has rules about using personal pages for business

I have been asked to be Facebook friends with clients, who are people I do consider to be casual friends with, but I won’t do it on Facebook.  There are several reasons for this:
1. It protects my family and their personal lives
2. It allows me to have a “safe” place to chat with friends and be myself

Right now some of you are probably thinking, “If you are who you say you are, then you should have nothing to hide, and friending someone on FB shouldn’t be a big deal”.  For me, it’s a very big deal.  I am a very private person who has very few close friends. Most of my Facebook friends are people I have known for 20+ years.

I have struggled with combining my two separate worlds into one since I started out with my own business.

The new marketing is all about being yourself and authentic, and I do agree with that, to a point.  What I don’t believe is that clients should expect to be allowed into your private world and I personally don’t think we should allow them in.  Once they are no longer clients or acquaintances and move to “true friends”, then by all means “friend” them.  Will this prevent me from developing deeper relationships with my clients?  Probably not.  If I want to get to know a client better, then a cup of coffee and a chat will replace Facebook any day.

However, if you want to fully divide your worlds, Facebook lets you filter content by creating groups, lists, and custom privacy settings.  For instructions and help on this, please see this link: http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=132569486817869

Personally, I have no interest in managing groups and lists on Facebook.

Are We Too Connected?

A few weeks ago, I decided to take a night off from the Internet, including my BlackBerry.  For those of you who know me, you know I am always connected.  I may not post, tweet, connect, update, Like, check-in or BBM for a few hours, but I am always scanning my networks. It was my birthday, and I decided to walk away from my laptop, phone, i-device and tablet for the evening and watch a couple of movies with my family.

The next day, I noticed a few texts and BBMs asking where I was.  Since I was still enjoying not being “connected”, I didn’t respond.  Later that day, I found out one of my friends thought I was upset with her because I hadn’t responded to her emails and BBM.

Did I create my own issue?  Do people always expect me to be “there”?  Do you always expect people to respond to you within a specific time frame, and then get frustrated when they don’t?

How many of us respond to “work” email into the evening or on weekends and holidays?  I know I did when I was an employee.   Or do you take your phone to bed, check it one last time before you go to sleep and reach for it as soon as you wake up?

There are many reasons why we should “turn off” but have we created a society where it is socially unacceptable to do so?

Or maybe we have just created a society where “being connected” all the time is the norm and we and our children don’t think twice about it anymore.  I know I didn’t until my friend thought I was avoiding her.

Please feel free to respond to this post but it may be a few hours before I comment back 🙂

Digital Life After You Die

Cross Grave Graveyard Clip ArtMy best “geek” girlfriend has stage 4 cancer. She knows she has X number of months to live.

During our last visit, our discussion turned to her digital life. How can she handle it before
her death? What was going to happen after she is gone?

As more and more of our lives become digital, the question becomes about what happens to our digital lives after we are gone or incapacitated. Consider all of your online accounts (Facebook, Linkedin, mail, banking, investments, forums, and any other online services you may use). How about your phone, laptop, and tablets? Does someone know how to access these devices or services if you are unable to do so?

There are companies who will handle these details for you after you are no longer able. See http://mylifescoop.com/featured-stories/2010/10/7-resources-for-handling-digital-life-after-death.html for a list.

My best “geek” girlfriends husband is not very tech-savvy. Because she handles the entire in-house tech and online banking, she has started considering what needs to be done now, so that he will not have to deal with it after she is gone. He is now familiar with the banking website. She has begun archiving and transferring photos and videos to the appropriate people. As her time comes closer, she will start turning off the servers in her house (did I mention she is a geek?). She plans to reduce her current household network infrastructure to just a modem, router, and her husbands PC. The network configuration will be clearly documented and left with her husband. If he requires help, someone can easily come and in provide any technical assistance he may need. It will be one less item her husband will have to deal with.

We started talking about her online digital life. After some research, I discovered Facebook will
convert her current profile into a memorial page once the appropriate documentation has been submitted. Other accounts will have to be disabled, deleted, or managed, based on her wishes. She can also give her usernames and passwords to a trusted friend. When the time comes, that trusted friend can post the update and then proceed with converting the Facebook page, if she wishes, and delete other accounts as required.

If there is a silver lining to this tragic and all too common story, at least she has the time to prepare her digital life for her physical death.

Categories: Digital Life
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