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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What I use to stay connected

This week my parents got a laptop with an embedded camera that's usable for video Skype calls. I thought I would run through the communication technologies that we use.
  • Landline. We dropped off BellSouth/AT&T years ago and ported our number to a VoIP provider, now called Teleblend. Not only is it cheap, it has a great feature set. The most useful ones are call blocking by number -- I have blocked over 100 telemarketing numbers -- and an SMS notification when someone leaves a voicemail.
  • Landline calling card. Years ago I got an AT&T prepaid calling card at Walmart. Mostly I use it for personal long distance calls from the office.
  • Mobile. As a Nortel employee, I participated in the first field trial of GSM in North America, circa 1997. I've been a BellSouth/AT&T customer ever since. Gail and I use the iPhone 4S. Mine is an unlocked version so that I can use a UK SIM card when I'm there. The price of international data roaming is prohibitive.
  • Twitter. I have an account that I use for limited purposes -- mostly favorite comedians (e.g. Steve Martin, Albert Brooks, Larry Miller) and local hockey news, with some eclectic additions.
  • Web Browsing. Google Chrome with all its bells and whistles. Occasionally a cranky website requires me to use Internet Explorer.
  • PCs. We're an all-Dell family. Currently four laptops, plus my work laptop, plus an old desktop that we use as a print and file server. Critical data is backed up to a cloud with Comodo. Oh yeah, I also have another old desktop that runs Ubuntu Linux and Asterisk, although I rarely use it.
  • Tablet. Kindle Fire. A convenient way to check email, Facebook, and Twitter. It has a web browser of its own, but it's flaky for complex websites.
  • Email. My Time Warner address autoforwards to my Gmail address. I also use a handy applet called POP Peeper that lets me know which of my other email accounts has inbound mail, so I don't have to check them frequently. For email clients we have Outlook, which I've used at work for nearly 15 years.
  • Skype. I'm on it all day long for work. I use Skypeout but not Skypein.
  • Yahoo Instant Messenger. I don't use it as much as I once did. Mainly it's a way for Gail and me to stay in touch when one of us is traveling.
  • AOL Instant Messenger. No longer used. I believe I've removed it from all our laptops.
  • Cozi. This is new, a mechanism to sync calendars across my personal laptop, my work laptop, and Gail's laptop. Works better than Google Calendar Sync did, although it's not foolproof.
  • Soocial. A mechanism to sync address books across laptops.
  • WiFi. I have so many devices in the house with WiFi that I had to compile a spreadsheet with all the MAC addresses and DHCP assignments.
  • Bluetooth. I use an earpiece at work. Gail's Hyundai has hands-free to her mobile phone.