Category Archives: Tech

Conference Call Etiquette Should be Required Teaching in Schools

Today children, let’s discuss how to be a good conference call participant.  I attend many conference calls, for better or for worse.  I can tell you with iron clad confidence that there is only one critical aspect to being a good con-call participant:

Treat your mute button like a walkie-talkie

That’s it.

There’s just no reason you need to snort, sniff, sip, cough, breathe, gasp, chuckle, smack, slurp, swallow, blow, whistle, whoop, grunt, puff, groan, squeak, sigh, or wheeze even once that your fellow call participants can hear.  When you have something to say, collect your thoughts, come off mute and say it.  Then mute again.  Simple.  It also has the following side benefits:

  • It improves the audio quality on your end (and for everyone else)  since it reduces the bandwidth needed (don’t ask why I know this, but I can assure you that sadly I do)
  • Your friends/coworkers will appreciate it too, with fewer interruptions in the audio stream that sound like interjections that result in those awkward go/no you go moments.
  • You may find you are more purposeful in what you say since it’s not just an open channel for whatever falls from your brain onto your tongue.  That could mean shorter calls, and everyone can get behind those.

That’s it for today, kids.

Old timer discovers Podcasts, shakes stick

I am realizing lately that I am auditioning to become a certain variety of old person.  I haven’t got the part yet, but let’s just say I have received a call back.  I’m going to be a geek, certainly, but my particular flavour of old geek is one that enjoys music and radio a lot, as much as or more than I always did as a normal person.

The old geek I will become recently discovered he likes podcasts.  If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically free radio episodes you download over the Internet.  Most people use an app that let’s you discover the latest episodes automatically, you can listen to them off-line, and there are other technical details that appeal to the (eventually old) geek in me just fine.

I never really caught on to podcasts before now, I couldn’t really even tell you why.  I knew they existed, but maybe there were just too many to decide which ones to start with.  There are podcasts for every damn thing under the sun out there, seriously there are so many.  It seems to me that most podcasts follow a talk radio kind of format, so you may have to hunt around before you find one you really like.  Personally I haven’t found any of those that interest me, however there is another kind of podcast that definitely has caught my attention.

The Black Tapes podcast and my second recommendation TANIS are fictional serialized dramas.  These podcasts aren’t just inane chatter about whatever the hosts want to talk about.  This is a story, written with care and following an arc that takes you through it in a satisfying way.  The voice acting is generally good and there is care taken in production values, etc.  The whole experience rewards listening with headphones.  Both of these podcasts are actually from the same media company, which explains a few things, and some of the voices and people are the same in both.  They both also share some similarities in that they are just ever so slightly creepy.  If you want to try one, I would start with The Black Tapes since I find it to be slightly more accessible in nature.  It’s a paranormal-flavoured story line, but the overall arc is really good, the characters are great, and I’m hooked.  Season 2 begins soon, you might have time to get through the first season before it starts.

TANIS is quite a bit different, it’s definitely got a bit more of an X-Files theme to it.  It’s weirder, darker, and cooler.  It’s also newer so it has a little further to go before I can say for sure which one I like better.  I’m actually leaning towards TANIS at this point, we will see.

Also, if you do like what you hear you can support them via Patreon  (The Black Tapes link) as well, which I have done because that is also the kind of old geek I am auditioning for.  Why I am compelled to support and pay for things I enjoy that are generally available on the Internet for free is the topic of another, probably lengthy blog post.

There you go people, grab these things for a listen and tell ’em old Court sent ya.

TANIS-TRAIN-RUNNERS
Get off my RSS feed, you kids.

Contact Amnesia, or Good Friends are Cloud Worthy

“I got a new phone, so I lost all of my contacts, text me your names….”

Most of us probably know someone that has asked this question, usually on Facebook.  Maybe you have even had to do this yourself from time to time.  At best this is inconvenient, at worst you could lose something really important.   As a geek by profession, this would be personally embarrassing if it happened to me.

What if I told you it never has to happen again?

Let me now boldly claim:  I have never lost a digital contact in my life.  Every contact that I have ever created is still with me, through over a dozen different cell phones on different platforms.  Even better?  This monumental act of digital hoarding took exactly ZERO effort on my part.

How did I manage to achieve this seemingly herculean feat so easily where others fail?

It’s simple:  store contacts in your email account, and not on your phone.  That’s it.

Cloud Contact

Every cloud email provider today (outlook.com, gmail.com, etc.) has a contact feature that allows storage of all kinds of details about your contacts aside from their email address.   This storage of info is in the cloud, accessible from any device and survives the dreaded phone loss/damage/replacement problem easily. (In fact, when you combine that with OneDrive, there’s actually nothing stored permanently on my phone that I can’t recover instantly or with little effort).  Depending on your phone OS you may need to configure the contacts a little differently, but they all support this.  My vote goes to Office 365 or Outlook.com for pure simplicity, but you can get this done with most other major email providers.

 

Jar Jar is my friend
What’s that phone number?

Having your friend’s phone numbers stored on your phone’s internal SIM card is like telling them you don’t care enough to never forget them, and that might make them sad.

Good friends are cloud worthy.

However, I should warn you: this beautiful piece of advice comes with a dark side… Eventually you will need to get into that contacts list and clean it out.  Your dentist from 15 years ago?  Yeah, he’s still in there.  Even scarier:  Your ex?  Probably still in there.

So, you might want to add a reminder (in your Calendar, but that’s another post) for yourself to spend a minute or two every 6 months to delete those old contacts….  It could save some awkward conversations.

 

Windows 10 Calculator for Life’s Important Questions

Note: This post also appeared on the Microsoft Trending Hub, and Facebook, and Twitter which was pretty darn cool, although the images were broken and got mixed up with another post….  So I thought I would post it here with the right images.

If you are like me a calculator is something that essentially changed your life back in grade school.  Those dreaded times tables became child’s play with your trusty calculator handy.  OK so maybe the times tables weren’t so bad, but there were bigger nastier mathematical operations lurking in your future, and my trusty buddy would be there.

Looking sharp....
Looking sharp….

 

Years pass, and now I spend most of my time on my laptop.  But since my brain doesn’t get younger, I still rely on a calculator, which for years now has looked more or less like this.

My trusty friend...
My trusty friend…

 

The Windows XP calculator.  Serviceable, and functional to be sure.  Perhaps not terribly exciting though, and lacking in personality.

Lately though, my attention has been captured by a flashier model.  Windows 10 has brought many gifts, but one of the least known is the calculator…  Sure, it gets the job done with the regular math related stuff, and is very touch-friendly since that’s how we roll these days.

Win 10 Calculator
Win 10 Calculator

 

But what most people don’t know is just how life changing (yes, life changing) this calculator can be.  For instance, just click the hamburger and see what you get with this beauty.

Convert your LIFE

Yes folks, this calculator is also a CONVERTER of things; ever needed to know how many inches there are in 3 centimeters?  We got you covered.  How about how many teaspoons in 90 milliliters?  Yep we got that too.

Volume

Even better, there are other measurement suggestions given for each conversion.  For instance, 100Km/h when converted to miles/h looks like this.

Partial horses...

1.38 horses folks.  That’s something I wish I had known before…. Although the Knots conversion is also useful since I never really understood that before now.  It doesn’t take long to play around and find some other fun stuff.

Bathtubs

Bathtubs being a very reasonable quantity of measure, of course.

So, as if you needed another reason to use Windows 10 I would argue that this feature ALONE might even convert you.

(see what I did there?)

Words I wish I would finally stop typing

As an IT person, I type things a lot.  I type the same things a lot, even.  However, despite LITERALLY years of experience and practice typing some of the same damn things my fingers stubbornly refuse to learn some of them.  I mean, it’s pretty bad sometimes.

Here are some of my favourites.

ip[config
ipconig
etc

Ah yes, any nerd worth his salt knows this beauty.  And no, that damn bracket doesn’t belong there.  But, despite probably 20 years of practice, that’s what I type every damn time, or some jumble of things that look close, but not quite right.

Microsoft Excahnge

So, I work for Microsoft now, but even before that I essentially lived and breathed Microsoft Exchange (an email server product) for YEARS.  Needless to say, I have probably typed that word a million times in my lifetime.  Have I even come close to achieving proficiency?  Nope.

And finally, the shortest most frustrating word that for whatever reason just won’t come out right the first time:

pign

Yeah, that’s supposed to be ping.  Four letters.  Wrong like 75% of the time.  How is that even possible?

And all of this gets so much worse when someone is watching me type, it’s like my fingers are giving a 4th grade speech in front of the school.

Thanks for reading, I feel much better now, exorcising those denoms.

Windows Phone 8.1 for the win…

So, I might have mentioned last week that I was excited about the new Windows Phone update.  Well, it showed up bright and early Monday morning, and it was absolutely worth the wait.

Cortana is the biggest feature delivered by far.  It’s Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Now, but absolutely holds her own and more.  Considering it’s BRAND new this is an amazing feature that is able to compete very well indeed with the other players in this area that have had 2 years or more to come up to speed.  Have a look at this showdown to see what I mean.

Even more than that, the Word Flow Shape Writing keyboard is something I never really knew I was missing (something like this has been available as an Android app for a while) until you use it.  It’s nothing short of incredible to use.  The unbelievable accuracy of my random swiping around is literally amazing.  It’s already won a Guinness World Record, if that’s your thing.

Anyway, it’s just way too much fun for a geek like me to play with, and there’s more to come since it’s all just a developer preview…