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Google docs app - a game changer?

24th February 2012
Categories: google, phones

What can you do with your smart phone?  To realise the impact of modern phones we just need to step back in time just a little.  Last night my son was telling me that one big topic of conversation at school was "who's got what phone?".  Imagine the conversation 30 years ago:

"We've got a black bakelite speed dialler 1000."

"That's nothing, we've got one of those with buttons you push, instead of a dial."

"Wow!"

Of course, with smart phones today you can access almost any kind of information from anywhere - encyclopaedias, maps, emails... - it's the stuff science fiction writers couldn't even imagine 40 or 50 years ago.

But what are we missing?

Would it be good if you could edit information?  If you could, perhaps, start a document or spreadsheet on your PC at work, and then when you're waiting for a meeting to start, make a quick edit on your phone, and without having to save or send the document back, it's ready to edit again in the office or at home, complete with your changes?

I'm not advocating working round the clock or not sometimes enjoying a moment of peace and quiet, but how often have you wished you had brought something with you when you hadn't, and suddenly you have time to do it?  This is one extra piece of the puzzle that lets you take everything with you!

Google have released an update for Google Docs for android, which I'm trying out as a write.  It brings the android phone in on  the docs world as more of a first class citizen, allowing you to see real time updates, and edit spreadsheets and word processing documents.  

If you have an android phone, you can download the app from the "marketplace".  If not, maybe it's time to upgrade?

The website that grew [a website fiction], part 1

21st February 2012
Categories: tWtG

When John's dad died in late 2011, John and Kate decided to move back to Aylesbury and run the cheese shop. Kate was already working in Aylesbury, and John had been doing odd jobs since he left university, so taking over the shop seemed a sensible idea.

The shop was a small, friendly shop, based off Picklegate, and had been serving fine cheese to the good people of Aylesbury since 1938.

John's mum, Nancy, did the accounts, and the shop employed an assistant, Martin. John had some idea of how the shop worked, but he'd need help.

The first meeting with Martin did not go well. Martin felt that he knew a whole lot more than John, and wanted to set him straight on a few things. The shop needed a better counter, better displays, a better stock system, and a website. John listened though, and wrote everything down, but talking to Nancy, he discovered that the shop couldn't afford any of those things.

"It seems in worse shape than I expected", John said to Kate that evening. "What are we going to do?"

They went over some of the ideas. Most of them would have to be postponed until they had more cash in the business. "My brother can help with the website, though" said Kate.

"Fine" said John, "Can you sort out the details with him? I just don't have time at the moment."

Kate didn't think this was the best way of doing things, but agreed to help out.

"Hi Katie, how's tricks?"

"Not bad, Harry. Have you got a moment?"

"Yeah, what's up?"

"John wants to do a website for the shop."

"OK,.. what sort of website?"

"Just a simple website, advertising the shop. Can you do it?"

"It'd be useful to talk to John about it."

"He says he's really busy; can we do it over phone or email? Or maybe you could come 'round at the weekend?"

"OK, how about lunch on Saturday?"

"Fine."

"But you owe me."

"OK Harry, no problem."

Harry ended up sitting down with both Kate and John to talk about the website, but after listing his main requirements ("it has to tell people where we are, and it can't have prices on, because it would be too much work updating it"), John got restless and went off to do something else.

Kate added that it should have photos of the shop counter and photos of John, Nancy, and Martin, and something about being a family-run business on the home page.

In the end Harry agreed to put something together, for Kate's approval, for the last week in February.

(And I'll tell you more about that in my next post)

You never know who's reading your blog

7th February 2012
Categories: blogging

An obvious statement of fact, I know, but I was surprised (and delighted) when attending a school parents' evening, that one of my eldest son's teachers (who hadn't met me before) had tracked my email address to our website and taken a look at this blog.

And if you're reading now, hi! (you know who you are!)

Anyone else reading this - I can imagine what you're thinking: "Why be surprised?  It's on the internet, it's public, it's linked to your email address... so what's the big deal?"

But it just might be a wake up call for people who blog on a regular basis, with two interesting implications:

  1. Whoever you're writing for - whether it's close friends or a vast anonymous public - they may not be the only audience.  If you're interested in not offending your neighbours and colleagues - be careful what you write.  On the other hand if you'd rather offend people - maybe you should be writing more on topics that are close to the bone!
  2. If you think your blog has no impact - for example if you're preaching to the converted (i.e. your customers), think bigger and write bigger. You may be reaching potential customers without knowing it.  What would they like to hear - and what's going to improve their lives or their businesses today?

Warning on in-browser viruses

6th February 2012
Categories: security

Online banking users are being warned of a new type of attack being dubbed the 'man-in-the-browser'.  Using this tool, hackers can not only get access to your banking details, but they can obscure the real status of your account, showing you false figures after making withdrawals.

So what can users to to prevent this sort of thing from happening?

Keep your browser up to date

If you have Chrome, it will update automatically, but you may need to turn on automatic updating for Firefox or Internet Explorer using the help menu.

Call your bank if something doesn't seem right

If you are asked to enter your whole password instead of just parts, or if your transaction seems to be taking longer than usual, or you're worried about the figures in your statement, call your bank.  Try to remember as many details as possible, such as the exact time this happened.

Remember, virus protection doesn't catch everything

Anti virus software focuses on checking a database of existing viruses, so new viruses do not get caught at first. Be wary if your machine starts slowing down dramatically or starts to exhibit strange behaviour.  Windows users should look at using Microsoft Security Essentials, a free anti-virus program which updates itself regularly.

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