Seth Godin’s list of zoom and skype call tips – plus

Seth Godin just put out a list of tips for when you are on web conference calls. It’s a great list. I read everything he posts. But I think the simple guidance should have been “either attend the meeting or don’t.” If the meeting is worth your time and you can learn from it or contribute to it – be invested in it. Fully invested in it. Or don’t attend. That’s a good rule for face-to-face or remote meetings. So, my list would be:

  • Is this meeting worth your time? If so, block off time for the meeting and don’t try to multitask. Most of the time you aren’t multitasking, instead you are task switching and most humans don’t do it very well, honestly.
  • If you need to attend remotely via a web conference, use video whenever and wherever possible. Visual cues are very important in communication. Invest in a good camera.
  • And use a good headset or use the most soundproof room you can find.

Seth Godin’s list is still great and applicable. So maybe my list is more of a pre-call checklist? First determine if the meeting is worth your time and then actually invest it (and then apply Seth’s list of tips).

Link to Seth Godin’s post:


My most used iPhone and iPad Apps in 2013

Ok, it’s the end of another year (wow, 2013 went by fast!), so it’s time for another look at what apps I actually used during the year. There are a ton of apps available and new ones are coming out all the time. Honestly I think I have app exhaustion. I just upgraded my iPhone and during the upgrade I took advantage of it to not bring all the apps I had before over to the new phone. Simplify my life a little.

I won’t say these are the best apps or even the coolest apps out there, but they are the apps I use almost everyday. For the iPhone:

  • Evernote – Still my number one app. Evernote is a note taking app that sync’s notes between my laptop, iPhone and iPad. If you do not have it go get it now.
  • Google Search – love the voice search mode, much better than Siri
  • Googe Maps – was using the mobile browser version, but now they have a nice app
  • Google Authenticator – please tell me you have 2-factor security turned on for your gmail
  • Google Chrome – much better browser and it links up to my browser on my laptop
  • Waze – free navigation tool, but I can say on my last few trips during the holidays Waze had issues connecting to it’s routing server so I ended up just using Google Maps. I missed out on the police notifications, but at least Google Maps worked.
  • TripIt – can’t be beat when traveling
  • Kindle – don’t like reading on my phone, but works great on my iPad
  • Dropbox – online storage
  • Box – online storage
  • Skype – I have a remote team so Skype is essential for communication. With DC traffic I end up running late sometimes so I can just open up Skype and dial in (hands free of course) to the Skype call from my phone. I have learned it is better to have someone else start the call when I do this, just in case I drop the call.
  • Keynote, Pages, and Numbers – I hate working on my iPhone, but I can and have in a pinch. Keynote, Pages and Numbers work well and I love them on my iPad and MacBook Pro.
  • Twitter – cause sometimes you just have to share and Facebook keeps changing their privacy policies (I do not even have the Facebook app on my phone).
  • Reminders and Calendar – these are the applications that are native to iOS. I was using apps for this functionality, but Apple has caught up and the native apps they provide more than meet my needs now.
  • Rdio – I have all my music in the cloud (Amazon, Google and iTunes Match) but I still find Rdio handy for music I don’t own and I have been using it more than the iOS Music app lately.

And here are the apps I find I use the most on my iPad at work:

  • Keynote – Apple’s version of PowerPoint
  • Numbers – Apple’s version of Excel
  • Pages – Apple’s version of Word
  • Evernote – note taking app that sync’s notes between my laptop, iPhone and iPad. Again, go get it now if you don’t have it!
  • Skype – IM and web calls
  • Adobe Connect, joinme, and Fuze – online meetings for when we need to screen share
  • Google Search – love the voice search mode, much better than Siri
  • Google Chrome – much better browser and it links up to my browser on my laptop
  • Kindle – I love the feel of a real book, but this way I always have my ebooks with me
  • Dropbox – online storage
  • Box – online storage
  • Feedly – news reader
  • BBC News – for news of course

And on my Mac I find I use:

  • Evernote – sync’s note between all my laptops, my iPad, and iPhone (also works with droid)
  • Google Chrome – best browser out there still
  • Caffeine – let’s me turn off the auto sleep mode when I am giving a presentation
  • Window Tidy – allows me to have screens side by side in an easy quick way. Honestly I haven’t used it much this year…
  • Pocket – allows me to save articles I find to read later
  • Skype – with our distributed team at work we are on Skype all day every day for IM and calls
  • Box and Dropbox – again
  • ClamXav – antivirus for Mac
  • And I find I am actually using the native iOS Calendar and Reminder apps on my MacBook Pro now.
  • Oh, you are using Grab (in the utilities folder under applications)for capturing screen shots, right?

If the apps I use aren’t what you are looking for you can find the Apple Design Award winners from WWDC2013 at (and I agree Letterpress is addictive).  And Apple has their best of 2013 up on the iTunes store now.

Hope the list is helpful. Happy New Year!

Traveling to Canada and getting real tired of the phone fees!

So, I love my job.  No really.  I LOVE MY JOB.  One of the perks of my job is I get to (ok, sometimes have to – it is a job after all) travel.  I like a little travel now and then.  I go to some cool places; Austin, Boston, Seattle, LA, and even Newport Beach was ok.  And I have been going to Toronto quite a bit lately now.  It’s a nice city. I always have a good time there, but I am scared to death to turn my phone on.  I hear the horror stories of people making a few calls and ending up with $200+ phone bills. Or forgetting to turn off cellular and getting a $4,000 bill for data.   So the last couple of times I’ve traveled to Toronto I call Verizon ahead of time and turn on the international plan so Canada is covered, but I am getting really tired of the fees Verizon Wireless charges for traveling outside of the US.  This last trip I didn’t even use my phone at all except when I was on wifi and the fee was still $25.

So, I am looking at my alternatives.  Even though we are trading partners and some people say Canada is the 51st State up north, I can not find a US cell provider that offers reasonable coverage and rates in the US and Canada.  So do I buy a cheap unlocked phone and buy a SIM card when I am up there next?  I did that years ago with an old iPhone 3. I just read about Truphone’s Tru SIM international cards, but it’s pretty easy and probably cheaper to just buy a cheap SIM card once I get to where I am going.

Some guys that use to work for me bought an unlocked mifi in Singapore and then got a local SIM card so they could not only get their phones on wifi, but it also worked for their laptops.  And my iPad doesn’t get cellular service while I am in Canada either, so maybe that would be nice. Seems easier than the phone, but I foresee technical issues.

Honestly, I am getting tired of paying my standard Verizon Wireless bill here in the US and then also paying $20 a month for my iPad.  So is there an alternative mifi I can use in the US and in Canada (even better if it works in Europe too)?  I have looked at Karma and FreedomPop.  I love Karma’s pay for what you use model.  And they both seem very reasonable (much much cheaper than Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-mobile) and both have pretty good coverage in the DC area.  But neither work very well in Maine (or any other less populated area) and neither has coverage at all anywhere in Canada (or Europe).  So I do not see that route fixing my entire problem, at least until they expand their coverage significantly.

It won’t help me in the States, but if I plan ahead I could rent a XCom Global International mifi Hotspot.  But at almost $18 a day (plus you pay for shipping) that will quickly turn out to be more than I have been paying Verizon Wireless.

So, I am looking at Boingo.  Boingo looks like a win win – 1) it solves my $20 per month iPad fee from Verizon and 2) I’d be able to get online while in Toronto (and they say most of Europe too).  And I’d save money!  For Boingo’s mobile only plan, it’s just $8 a month for two devices.   From looking at their map they seem to have decent coverage in the DC area.  And I checked Austin, Boston, LA, and Seattle seem to have good coverage too.  And it looks like they have saturated the area around the University of Toronto, so I’d get excellent coverage there too.  Anyone have any hands-on experience with Boingo?  Should I ditch my iPad’s Verizon wireless plan and go Boingo instead?  It looks like I’d still get coverage here in DC and everywhere else I travel (including Toronto) and save $12 a month to boot.   I’d love to hear from people subscribing (or that use to subscribe) to Boingo about their experience.

Are you listening?

Are you listening to your employees?

I find it fascinating how often the employees have great suggestions and ideas and how they are just as often ignored until a 3rd party comes in and repeats exactly what they had been saying for free. If you have a great team, maybe listening a little closer could pay some great dividends? And I bet employee satisfaction goes up too.

Side note: don’t ask for feedback or suggestions if you aren’t going to do anything with the data. Asking for the feedback and then ignoring it is not only disrespectful but it will also teach the team their opinion will be ignored. Don’t waste that trust.

Asana – the future of team project work?

I recently discovered Asana. On their web site they say “We’re building the modern way to work together, a fast and versatile web application that connects everyone with what’s going on, their shared priorities, and who owns each part of the effort.

My one sentence summation is Asana is a revved up web based task list for teams. It’s simpler, but it also seems cleaner, than the 37signals Basecamp product. And you know I am a big fan of Basecamp.

Asana is fast and easy to use and anyone that can browse the web should be able to use Asana. Asana has made it very easy to create a work space then create projects under that work space. Under projects you create tasks. You can assign tasks to individuals (even if they haven’t signed up for Asana yet), assign due dates, attach files, assign followers of that task, and add notes. Assigned team members or followers can add comments to a task. And you can easily see the history of the task. You can create new tasks via email and the keyboard short cuts are a great time saver.

Asana also has apps for iOS and Android. I am using the iOS app on my iPhone and iPad and the apps give you all the functionality of the web based version.

I am using the standard (free) version of Asana which allows up to 30 members. For $100 a month you can upgrade to a premium workspace for up to 30 members that has project level features and priority support. For $300 a month you can have up to 50 member, $550 allows up to 75 members, and $800 a month allows up to 100 members.

Asana is missing some of the features of more mature products – you can’t assign a milestone date to a project (you may be able to do this with a paid plan?), you can’t see all late tasks for a project (you can see late tasks by person), no association of tasks to each other (IE predecessors), no threading of notes, no way to see all attached files across a workspace, etc.

And of course the big weakness of Asana, and honestly all project task lists, is you have to 1) put in all the tasks and then 2) maintain it. The tasks have to be actionable, but you don’t want to overwhelm the team members with minutia. Also, the team members have to agree to participate. A task list that never gets up dated isn’t helping the team get the project done. That was one of my biggest issues with Basecamp – getting all team members to consistently mark off the tasks they had done. Even with reminder emails, I ended up having to go over the tasks in our team meetings. With Basecamp, and I’m sure with Asana, it was quick and easy to walk through the open tasks, but still it wasted time in a meeting instead of freeing up that time to do “real” work.

Asana is cool, and they are getting a ton of buzz right now, but they are trying to break into a pretty crowded space. There are many other completing tools out there (Basecamp, Producteev, Zoho, Jira, even MS Project, etc). But if you are working on a team project with less than 30 members and want to improve your efficiency and communication I say try out the free version. There is very little to loose and maybe a lot to gain.


And, for my own personal task list, I still love Omnifocus.

Bring your own cloud to work

Back in March I wrote about BYOD (iPhones, Android phones, iPads, etc) in the Enterprise, but another worry IT management needs to address is BYOC – as in, bring your own cloud (storage).

Yesterday I covered seven popular cloud storage solutions. Between those seven solutions I have almost 100GB of storage. If I was an employee on your network what could I walk out with on 100GB of storage? I just did a quick unscientific scan of my documents folder and I had many MS Word docs of 100KB or less with very few Word doc files over 1MB. So assuming worse case and use 1MB as the average Word doc file size, that means I can walk out with over 100,000 documents! Talk about a wikileaks waiting to happen! Do you have digital rights management on your sensitive documents? Are you monitoring your network traffic for uploads to these cloud storage solutions?

But it doesn’t have to be malicious. With BYOD and the popularity of telecommuting the risk of sensitive data ending up on a consumer grade cloud solution is pretty high. Do your Executives have iPads? Is it possible your CFO could be working on his quarterly report on his iPad while traveling? And does he have sync’ing to iCloud turned on? Do you have a Sarbanes–Oxley Act (SOX) issue to deal with now? Depending on your industry, you could have other regulations to deal with, such as HIPAA or PCI, FFIEC, GLB, etc.

So, just like with BYOD, if you don’t have policies and procedures in place already you are behind… BYOC is in your enterprise already.


What cloud storage is best for you?

What cloud storage is best for you? I have accounts on Dropbox, SugarSync, Box, Microsoft SkyDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, and Amazon Cloud Drive. That gives me almost a 100GB of cloud storage. And there are even more out there (livedrive, justcloud, spideroak, etc.)! I know most people aren’t going to sign up for seven cloud storage solutions, so… which is the best for you?

They all have pluses and minuses, but I use Dropbox for most of my day to day cloud storage needs. Years ago I started with Dropbox because it worked with my password vault, and then with apps on my Droid X. And, now on my iPhone, again Dropbox just works with my apps. Dropbox also makes it real easy to sync from the Dropbox folder on my MacBook Pro. Just drag a file to the Dropbox folder and up it syncs. How easy can you get? But, you only get 2GB free storage to start. The good news is there are some simple ways to increase your Dropbox storage pretty quickly to 4 or 5GB (even more if you work at it).

That’s why I have accounts on SugarSync and Box. Their free offers gave me 5GB each. And of the two, SugarSync has a nice sync manager that comes with the free version. With Box, you have to step up to the business version (a paid version) to get desktop sync’ing. So, again, when I have files I want to access from my laptop and from my tablet, and my smart phone (and if I am not using Dropbox) I almost always use SugarSync.

But Box does have a nice clean web interface. And it integrates with LinkedIn. So I find I end up using Box for sharing documents and other files with other people. It has become my public sharing cloud storage. And back in March Box ran a promotion that bumped my storage up to 50GB, so it might soon become my de facto solution just because I have the room to actually store stuff there without having to clean it out all the time. I just wish the consumer free version had more features. Box has some great features for businesses and enterprises; things like integration with and Google Apps, AD groups and version control, and of course desktop sync.If a SMB was looking for a good cheap cloud storage solution, Box is what I would suggest (if they didn’t also need email, then I’d suggest looking at Google Apps for Business also). But, you don’t get any of those features in the personal free version.

Honestly I ended up with my Microsoft SkyDrive by default. I’ve had a Hotmail account since before Microsoft bought Hotmail (remember HoTMaIL? yes, I am old). A while ago I wanted to check out the Word Web App and Excel Web App to compare the functionality to Google Docs, so I uploaded a few documents. But that turned out to be lucky because Microsoft is giving out free upgrades to 25GB from their (generous) free 7GB. See my post on how to get the upgrade. Microsoft also has an app you can install so you have a drive right on your computer that syncs (I am using the Mac App that’s in beta). If I was still a PC person I could see using SkyDrive more. The integration with the Word Web App and Excel Web App is pretty slick. Microsoft has made it very easy.

I love music and occasionally use Amazon to buy MP3s, so when Amazon Cloud Drive launch of course I had to check it out. You get 5GB of storage free, but… and this is pretty nice… any music you buy from Amazon MP3 doesn’t count towards your 5GB limit. I use the cloud player to listen to music only occasionally (I always have my iPhone), but it’s nice to know it’s there and I have access to it from the web. I have a few documents on Amazon Cloud Drive, but like I said, I mainly just use it for music. It will be interesting to see how Amazon leverages the Kindle Fire Tablet (which is now accounting for over 50% of US Android tablets – Forbes) to encourage Cloud Drive usage.

iCloud is Apple’s solution to sync your email, calendar, contacts, photos, music, etc. across all your Apple devices. When you sign up you get 5GB free. But that 5GB goes pretty far because your photo steam, music, movies, and apps don’t count against your limit. What can I say – it just works. No matter what iOS device I am using I never have to worry about sync’ing files, iCloud takes care of all of it for me. I also use Keynote, Numbers, and Pages on my MacBook Pro and on my iPad and iCloud works great keeping everything sync’ed up. I know I am an Apple fan boy, but when something works that well you have to give them credit. But, with that said, I still use Dropbox for most of my file cloud storage. For me iCloud is just for all the magic Apple does in the back ground that makes using the iPhone and a iPad such a great experience.

And now Google Drive has finally launched (why did that take 5+ years?) with their 5GB of free storage. And Google doc file formats don’t count towards your limit. My first thought was, “how is this different from Google Docs?” Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Google Docs. In my limited use since Google Drive launched I haven’t seen that I lost any Google Docs functionality. And then I found Google Drive has an app that installs a local drive on your computer that syncs automatically; seems to work well. Which lead to my second thought of “it’s actually a lot like Dropbox.” Android has a Google Drive App, but right now you have to use your browser to access your files from iOS devices. So maybe not as good as Dropbox… I’ve used Google Docs quite a bit in the past, so I have a bunch of files uploaded to Google Drive. And now all those files are sync’ed down to my MacBook Pro.

It will be interesting to see what Google, Microsoft, Apple (and Amazon somewhat) are going to do in the cloud storage space in the near future. Box focused on the enterprise early, so I think they have a shot. At least get bought by one of the big players or someone wanting to get into the cloud storage game in a serious way (Salesforce? HP?). And Dropbox has been the Tech Geek favorite for quite a while, but I’d like to see their strategic plan of how they are going to compete with the big boys going forward. Very interesting times.

So, what cloud storage solution is best for you? Do you need a couple of them? All seven?

How to upgrade your SkyDrive to 25GB
How to upgrade your Box account to 50GB
A great comparison chart by ars technica
Link to get your own free SugarSync account
Link to get your own free Dropbox account

Microsoft Skydrive (cloud storage) free 25GB upgrade

I wrote about the free Box cloud storage upgrade last month (their promotion is over now). They bumped your storage from 5GB to 50GB! All you needed to do was to install their new Android app.

Well, now, Microsoft is giving you a chance to increase your MS SkyDrive storage from 7GB (which is still more than anyone else offers) to up to 25GB free. As long as you already have an account, and had a file upload before April 22nd, all you have to do is:

  • log into (or click on the skydrive link in the header from your hotmail page)
  • click on the “Manage storage” link on the bottom left (see the attached screen grab)
  • then click on the Free upgrade option (if you don’t see this option then the offer is over or it isn’t available to you)

And you are done. You now have 25GB of free storage space! Nice!

Even if you don’t have a SkyDrive account, but you do have a hotmail account, it’s worth a couple of minutes to see if you can update your MS SkyDrive also. Just follow the instruction above. Good luck!

More info from Microsoft can be found here: (external link)

BYOD in the Enterprise

Bring your own device (or BYOD) is real and is happening now in most enterprises. Employees today have their smart phones and are bringing iPads and other tablets to work already. It’s not if, it’s not when, it’s now. What are you doing to protect your network and your company data?
The Pew Internet Project recently reported that ownership of tablets among U.S. adults nearly doubled between mid-December 2011 and early January from 10 percent to 19 percent. According to a Cisco poll of 1,500 decision-making IT workers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain, conducted in late 2011, one tablet is requested for every three smartphones. Workers in the United States and France are asking for them the most at 21 percent. In addition, 64 percent of employees in the United States polled said they were bringing in devices without consent. So the devices are in your enterprise, with or without your knowledge and consent. Are your networks ready? Do you have the correct security policies in place?

With company issued laptops, you can enforce login screens, passwords, encryption and back ups. I personally always turn on the security features available to me on my devices, but how many of those un-authorized devices lack even a basic login screen when the smart phone or tablet is turned on? And the new iPad is just going to make it worse. The iPad2 was already a good device for doing presentation for a road warrior tired of lugging around their laptop (and it looks cooler too), but now the new iPad has an even better display and better graphics. Employees lose laptops. It is pretty common. How much easier is it to lose an iPad? Or get it stolen? What information is on that device? How much company confidential data is now loose in the wild? What data is in their email? What spreadsheets do they have? And confidential presentations?

If you don’t have policies and procedures in place already you are behind… BYOD is in your enterprise already.

Anti-virus continued… (for those with Windows PCs)

Ok, I was feeling bad.  I wrote a post last week about anti-virus for the Mac, but that is still a pretty small threat (at least it is if you are educated on the issues).  PC users have had to address this issue, from, if nothing else, Microsoft’s success of owning so much market share (and maybe they deserve a little of the blame too), for quite a while now.  I think almost all PC users are aware and guarded against malware and viruses.


I don’t know if you have heard of it before, but I am a big fan of Immunet (disclaimer – Immunet is owned by Sourcefire). But don’t take my word for it, even CNet gave it four and a half stars. 🙂 You can run Immunet’s free anti-virus even if you already have an anti-virus loaded on your PC.  The download can be found at


And, if you think you might already have a virus or malware, you might want to run Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0.  

You can download it at  That will make sure your anti-virus is working properly and make sure you don’t have any malware already on your PC.


Just remember the famous trademark phrase from Sergeant Phil Esterhaus: “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”  Be aware of what you are doing and who you trust, change your passwords often and use strong passwords.
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