Can you hear me now? Tales from a Cisco voice instructor


May 11, 2010  6:42 PM

Must Have iPad Apps for the Road Warrior – Part 2



Posted by: Dave Bateman
dropbox, iAnnotate, iPad, logmein, office 2 hd, travel

In the last article, I discussed the apps I use that allow me to travel without a laptop and complete all of my job tasks with just the iPad.  If you are reading this, you know that part of my work includes writing a blog, so I’ll I will start with the app I use for that.

Word Processing

I am currently using Office 2 HD to create and edit Word and Excel documents. I decided on this app mainly due to price. Apple has an app called Pages for documents and one called Numbers for spreadsheets. Both of these are fine products, but for less than half the price of these two packages, Office 2 HD offers similar features. If you currently use Pages and Numbers on a Mac, you may want to stick with those apps, but since I use MS Office, there just wasn’t enough reason to pay the higher price.

Remote Access

There are times when you simply need to use a PC for something. I deal with this by leaving my main work PC on at home and access it with Logmein. I have mentioned this remote access solution before. It offers basic free remote access to your PC via a web browser. To access the PC from the iPad, you need to purchase the Logmein app.
At first, it may seem pricey at 24.99, but it is about the best value app I have bought so far. I already owned it for the iPhone and was very happy to see they updated it for the iPad. On a side note, some developers are updating apps for the iPad and making you buy the iPad version even if you already own the iPhone version. Logmein did not do this. They upgraded the single app to work on both the iPhone and the iPad and did not charge their current customers to upgrade. I applaud them for that.

Remote file access

As I was on the plane leaving home, I realized that I had forgot to put a number of very important files on my iPad. No problem! When I got to my destination, I logged into my home PC (using Logmein) and copied them to my Dropbox folder on my home PC. Dropbox is a service that will allow you to access any files you have placed in your Dropbox folder from any PC with an Internet connection. And, of course, there is a Dropbox app for the iPad. All I had to do was fire up that app, and I had the files I needed. Dropbox also allows you to open the files in another app such as Office 2 HD. This allowed me to edit them and save them locally for future access.

PDF Reviewing

When it come to read PDFs, I highly recommend an app by the name of Goodreader. It does a very nice job presenting a PDF in the proper format. However, I often have the need not only to read but also proof PDF documents. That’s where iAnnotate comes in. iAnnotate allows you to view and mark up PDF documents and offers a very clean and simple interface. Currently, you cannot send or receive PDFs via email so you have to install a small app on your PC so that you can send and receive files. They are promising an email feature in a future version.

Of course, all work and no play makes Jack very bored, so in the next article I will discuss the apps I use to help relax or just kill time while waiting for a flight.

May 7, 2010  11:03 PM

Have iPad Will Travel – Must Have Apps for the Road Warrior



Posted by: Dave Bateman
iPad, travel

I bought an iPad a few weeks ago, but didn’t really want to offer a review until I put it through its paces. I felt I really couldn’t offer a complete review until I used it while traveling. I am currently sitting in my hotel room finishing up 10 days working from the road.

My goal was to see if I could travel without a laptop. Since I was not certain, I did pack my older (smaller) laptop just in case. I could make you wait until the end of the article for the verdict, but I won’t. While I did use my laptop once or twice, I didn’t really need it. I was able to do everything I needed using the iPad. I am sure you are wondering what “everything” really means, that is, what I was actually able to accomplish using just the iPad? I, of course, was able to do the normal tasks that you would expect the iPad to be capable of such as email, web surfing, and and listening to music. But, I was also able to proofread and markup PDF files, edit curriculum, attend WebEx meetings, and even make phone calls directly from the iPad. Just as any device, it is only as good as the software. I spent the week evaluating various apps to determine what ones are needed in order to travel laptop free. Here are a couple apps that I feel will allow many people to accomplish all of their job tasks from the road using only an iPad.

Email and calendar

The built in email client on the iPad is adequate, but could be better. It allows you to send and receive email as well as view certain types of attachments. It also allows you to open some attachments in other apps. The real weak part is the calendaring. I receive multiple Outlook calendar invites each day. While I can receive the invites via the iPad email app, I can not open them and they are not added to my calendar. I resolved this by using Google Sync on my PC at home. When my home PC receives an invite, it is added to the Outlook calendar and synced with my Google calendar. I also have my Google calendar set to sync both my iPad and iPhone.

WebEx

I have to attend several Webex meetings each week. Cisco has created an iPad Webex app which is available for free on iTunes. I used this app three time and it works well. When you connect to the meeting, it asks if you would like to have Webex call a phone or use the iPad for audio. I tried to use audio the iPad twice and both times was informed that the feature was not supported on the Webex server. I suppose this is something that will be added over time.

Well, as I said at the beginning of this article, I am sitting in the hotel and it is getting late, so I will continue this topic in the next post. Make sure to check back because some of the most useful (and fun) apps are yet to come.


April 28, 2010  8:29 PM

Website of the Week – Snapfiles



Posted by: Dave Bateman
download site, freeware, shareware, Snapfiles

Shareware and freeware is a great concept. People spend their time and talent to create software that anyone can afford. I am a huge fan of this type of software and use many such programs on a daily bases. However, there is a such thing as too much of a good thing. When searching for a particular type of software, I often run into two problems. This first is the “free download” software. This is the software that seems to be freeware until you install it and it tells you that you have to pay in order to use all the features. Without failure, the features I need are not included with the limited version. The other problem that I run into is the software I download is pure garbage. With these types of problems, finding what you are looking for can take hours. If you have to spend hours finding a free or low cost solution, you have to ask yourself: How much did you really save?

So, how can you find quality share/freeware? I started at a site called snapfiles.com. This site allows you to browse hundreds of quality software and offers a summary and rating for each. Notice I did not say it allows you to browses millions of titles. There are many sites like tucows.com and download.com that host millions of titles. The problem with that is that often trying to find the program you need is like finding a needle in a haystack. Part of the beauty of snapfiles.com is that much of the work is done for you and you are left with a few quality programs to choose from.

SnapFiles.com

In addition to providing summaries and ratings for each title, the site is nicely organized and easy to navigate. It also allows you to limit your search to freeware only if you like. So, the next time you are looking for a quality share/freeware program, give snapfiles a try.


April 24, 2010  7:47 PM

What’s Bad For Travel Could Be Good For Sales



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Telepresence, Volcano, WebEx

This has not been a fun week for people that have been trying to fly into, out of, or around Europe. No matter how advanced we become, Mother Nature seems to always be able to put us in our place. All she has to do is let off a little steam (and volcanic ash) and our lives are sent into a tail spin.

One of my colleagues got stuck in Europe for a few extra days, and he was none too happy about it. He had places to go and people to meet. While I thought about his predicament, I got a call from an instructor that was at home teaching a class via WebEx and, therefore, not at the mercy of Mother Nature (or the airlines).

Then I got a call about a conference next week, and the key speaker is flying in from Europe. Tens of thousands of dollars are all ready invested in this event and now it is in danger of being cancelled. A backup plan had to be devised and quickly. Many ideas were tossed around and one of them was to do the event via telepresence.

I can’t help but wonder how many other companies ran into similar issues and how many started to give telepresence more serious consideration than they had in the past. With the world climate (both weather and political) being so unstable lately, I can’t help but think this creates an excellent opportunity for companies that implement these types of solutions.

For those of you in this field, I would recommend you revisit the customers that were on the edge of purchasing this type of system and remind them of what just happened with air travel in Europe. Remember, many things other than a volcano can cause this type of disruption.
Once something has happened, it is a little too late to make a backup plan. Some may say that this type of approach is just feeding on people’s fears. That’s fine – they can say that, but the fact of the matter is that these types of events are nothing new. They have been happening since the beginning of time and will continue to. Your job as a consultant/salesperson/IT advisor is to recommend solutions that will allow your customers to be profitable. Being able to continue operating like normal while the competition is stalled due to an unexpected event can help make a company very profitable.


April 21, 2010  9:42 PM

Laptops in the Classroom – Maybe Not for Long



Posted by: Dave Bateman
college, education, laptops

Today I was reading an article about how colleges are starting to require students to “leave their laptops at the door.” Not literally, of course, but they are turning off internet access in classrooms and, in some cases, not allowing students to use laptops at all while in class. It is kind of ironic how education sometimes gets in the way of learning.

For years the push has been to get a laptop into the hands of every student possible. Now that we are getting closer to that goal, they want to “pull the plug.” When talking about K-12, I can understand the need to regulate it if and when laptops are used. But, when it comes to college age individuals, the decision isn’t so cut and dry.

This is a debate we have been having for quite sometime in the professional adult education field. As long as there have been laptops, students have been bringing them to class. Some use them to take notes, some do emails during breaks, and some spend the entire day surfing the Internet and end up learning nothing. Some of my colleagues think we should require all laptops to be shut during lecture. Others feel that Internet access should be restricted. While others say, ” let them do what they want.”

I really don’t think the question is whether adult students should be allowed to use laptops during class. The question is what is the real responsibility of the education provider? I may be over simplifying it, but the relationship between education provider and adult student is pretty straight forward. The student pays for knowledge and the educator delivers that knowledge. The educator should not put restrictions on how the student should process the knowledge nor can the educator force the student to receive the knowledge. They can only offer it. It is the student’s responsibility to grab hold of it and hold on to it using whatever tools they so choose and many choose to use laptops.

In the end, we can not force anyone to learn anything. They have to have the desire to learn and be willing to work for it. If a laptop is going to distract them, taking it away will only lead them to find something else to distract them. I remember when I was in high school, even before the idea of a laptop existed, I found all types of things to distract me. Most of the time it was simply watching the second hand on the clock make it’s excruciatingly slow revolutions. I guess they should have taken the clock out of the room. I am sure that would have help me pay attention to whatever it was that teacher was saying.


April 16, 2010  8:40 AM

Ransomware – How Malware Can Cost You Real Money



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Malware, Ransomware

We have all heard the malware horror stories, but what I read about today takes it to a whole new level. It seems that the new trend is not to just install malware and change your default search engine or load “virus detection software” that finds a dozen or so viruses.  It also tells you the only way to fix it is to “upgrade” to a certain company’s software. That was child’s play because anyone smart enough to know how to use a system point restore could resolve those problems. As users get smarter, so do the creeps and out right criminals. Now they are retrieving information and documents and holding them ransom until you send them your credit card information.

There are a couple of tactics that this type of malware uses. The first is that it captures a screenshot of your browser history and publishes it online. The hope is that there is information in the history that would cause you embarrassment. After the screenshot is posted, you receive an email telling you how to pay the ransom and have the information removed. This type of malware is loaded when someone tries to install software that they downloaded from sites that specialize is questionable content. The thought is that people that frequent these types of sites are more likely to have embarrassing information in their browser history, which increases the likelihood of extorting the ransom. If nothing else, the creators of this type of malware seem to know their “customer.” Currently, this type of malware is being reported by users of a file-service in Japan called “Winni.”

The other type of malware demanding a ransom is somewhat more sophisticated. It doesn’t use embarrassment, but simply holds your documents hostage. Once installed, it encrypts the documents on the PC and offers to sell you the encryption key to unlock your files.

And finally, one malware that works on nothing but fear. Once installed, a popup appears stating that the PC is about to be checked for illegal software. But, you are offered a pretrial settlement. All you have to do is give them your credit card, and they will bill you $400.00 and all is forgiven. The good news is that they don’t charge your credit card. The bad news is they sell your credit card information.

So, what can we learn from this? The first is that everyone on the Internet is a target so you have to be extremely careful of the sites you visit and the software you load. The other thing that comes to mind is just how important backups are. Typically, we think of backups in the case of hardware failure or accidental deletion, but it could also come in handy if your data is held for ransom. In the end, the best you can do is to exercise extreme care when you are online. Your best defense is knowledge, hopefully this article helps strengthen it.


April 15, 2010  8:14 PM

Study for Your CCNA on Your IPOD



Posted by: Dave Bateman
CCENT, CCNA, E-learning, IPhone, M-learning

How would you like to be able to study for an upcoming exam anytime/anywhere? For the last couple of years, I have been hearing about anytime/anywhere learning. The idea is that knowledge should not be confined to the classroom. I couldn’t agree more. Of course, learning has never been confined to the classroom. Life is constant learning. But what we are talking about here is learning that traditionally has been thought of as classroom learning starting to step outside into the hallways, roadways and sky ways. We have seen this in many forms such as audio books, Computer Based Training (CBT) and web-based training. One of the latest entries is M-learning. M-learning revolves around the idea of using portable computing devices.

Recently, Cisco entered the M-learning arena with M-learning modules that load on an Ipod Touch or IPhone. Currently, they offer 18 modules, each about 30 minutes long and cover CCENT and CCNA level material. These are being marketed as a product that supplements the exciting certified Cisco training and not a replacement for it. They are priced at 4.99 each and are downloadable from the Itunes store. Once downloaded, the content is viewable offline and expires. If these are successful, I am sure we will see the content extend to other certifications.

So, for just under $100.00 you get around nine hours of supplemental CCNA content. The next time you are sitting in the airport just wishing you could study for the CCNA, you are going to kick yourself if you haven’t downloaded one of these modules. Or, maybe you will just play a game of Bejeweled.


April 10, 2010  5:58 PM

How Do I Do That In Office 2007? – Website of the Week



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Excel, office 2007 help, PowerPoint, Word

In most cases, I am what you call an early adopter.  My home was one of the first in the state to have ISDN. I bought my first Tivo the first day Best Buy sold them, and I had my second one the next day. However, I don’t follow this trend when it comes to software and operating systems. I have been using Office 2003 for quite a while, and I am happy with it. I figure if it ain’t broke, why fix it? So, I didn’t. I fought the upgrade to 2007 for as long as I could. A project I am working on has forced me to upgrade. So here’s my question, why did they have to move everything? There are some changes that I like, but many of them are just frustrating. I work with templates a lot and it now takes me twice as many clicks to apply a template. WHY?

The most frustrating part is that the way you do many common tasks has changed. It was taking me far too much time to try to guess where they moved things. I was talking to a friend about this, and he told me about a Microsoft tool that he thought would help. It is a web site that brings up a Word 2003 interface in which you do the task that you are trying to figure how to do in 2007. It then shows you how to do it in 2007. It has saved me a lot of time and a little frustration. There is also one for Excel and PowerPoint.

Now that I have figured out how to use Office 2007, I think I might upgrade from Window 95 some day soon .


April 7, 2010  8:12 PM

Binary Game – Trying to Make Learning Binary Fun



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Binary, CCENT, CCNA

If someone were to ask me to make a list of the top ten fun things to do, math would not make the list. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t make the list no matter how long it was. I have never like math – nor been good at it. I’m not sure if I didn’t like math because I wasn’t good at it or I wasn’t good at it because I didn’t like it. I guess it really doesn’t matter. Now I find myself in front of a classroom teaching people how to convert decimal to binary and hex. Funny how things turn out sometimes. I say all this to let you know that I understand the struggle people have grasping decimal to binary conversion.  I have seen many eyes glaze over as I was explaining it. The most frustrating part is when the student finally gets it only to see it slip from their grasp into a pool of confusion. I wish I was here to say that I have found the secret to making  learning binary easy, but I haven’t. Different things work for different people. You just need to stick to it until you understand it.

Once you truly understand it, you will never really lose it. However, if you are learning it in preparation for a certification such as CCNA, you not only need to be able to do decimal to binary conversion, you need to be able to do it fast. The number one reason I hear people say they failed their CCNA is because it took them too long to do the subnetting. Since subnetting requires you to convert decimal to binary, you need to be able to do it quickly. The only way to improve your speed is to practice.

I know sitting down at the table with a list of 100 decimal numbers and converting them to binary each night doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. How about we make a game out of it. Well, we don’t have to because Cisco already did. It’s called the Binary Game. Currently, you can play it online at Cisco’s Learning Network. You will need a CCO account to access this page, so you might have to sign up if you don’t already have one. There are also plans to make it a game for the iPhone and Ipod Touch.

The game is kind of like Tetris meets flash cards. Rows of binary numbers appear, and you need to clear the rows before the screen fills up. It starts with a single row and slowly adds additional rows. The longer you are able to keep the screen from filling, the faster the rows start to appear. At the end of each row is a box. If the box is empty you need to enter the decimal number that is displayed in the binary row. If the box has a number in it, you need to set the binary number so that it is equal to the decimal number shown. The concept is pretty simple and somewhat engaging. I’m not saying it will drag you away from Call of Duty, but if you have to study binary, this beats anything I have run across so far.


April 1, 2010  7:19 PM

Cisco Targets Home Wireless Market



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Cisco Valet, Home Rotuer, Linksys E-series, Wireless Router

As many of you know, Cisco acquired Linksys a few years ago and, for the most part, has allowed it to function as a separate company. Linksys was the product for homes while Cisco continued to market itself as the business solution. It seems that is changing a little, or is it? Cisco made two announcements yesterday. The first one was about the new Cisco branded home wireless router called the Cisco Valet. The second one was about a new line of Linksys routers called the E-series. The more I looked into these new devices, the more they looked to be the same , kind of. So, here’s what I have been able to piece together. The routers, (both Valet and E-series), are aimed at the home market and have some pretty nice features for the home user. They claim to require only three steps to configure and allow things like guest networks and time limiting access. If I had children in the house, I might have ordered one today for the time limiting feature alone. it also allows you to block access to certain websites. All in all it seems like a very nice home router.

Now that we understand the target market and features of these routers, let’s get back to detemining what the difference is (if there any) between the Cisoc and Linksys devices. The Cisco Valet router is available in two models, one retails and $99, the other $149.

Cisco Valet

Cisco Valet

I expected to see the same thing when I looked in to the Linksys brand version of this router. However, what I found was four E-series model routers ranging from $79.99 to $179.99. Here’s a summary of the four Linksys devices:

E1000 – Wireless N with 100 MPS Ethernet (4 ports) – $69.99

E2000 – Wireless N with Gigibit Ethernet (4 ports) – $119.99

E2100L – Wireless N with 100 MPS Ethernet (4 ports), USB port to connect drives for sharing and a built in UPnP AV media server – $119.99

E2100L – Wireless N with Gigabit Ethernet (4 ports), USB port to connect drives for sharing and a built it UPnP AV media server – $179.99

Linksys E-Series

Linksys E-Series

All of these devices look like they are the perfect fit for the typical non-tech internet user. I hope everyone in my family goes out and buys one so I don’t have to spend hours on the phone trying to help them setup their wireless network. My only concern is, since there are essentially six devices that all do close to the same thing and made by the same company, I will now being spending hours on the phone helping my family decide which one they should buy. From a features and benefits side, I understand offering the customer more choices, but from the support side of things, the few choices they have, the less chance they have of making the wrong one.

So, the next time someone asks me what router they should buy for their home, I am going to point them to one of these devices and see if it really does reduce my time on the phone.

On a side note… this is not the first product that Cisco had called Valet. Years ago (many years ago) they had a voice mail product by the same name. It didn’t stay around too long. Let’s hope this product does not follow its namesake in that regard.


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