The Key To Staying Connected is Using The Right Technology

The Key To Staying Connected is Using The Right Technology. 

I have been reading a number of blogs about technology and the cool gizmos, apps, plug-ins, devices, software, and services that many of our colleagues here on the ActiveRain swear by on a daily basis.  I did a post last year paperless desktopabout the Tech-on-My-Desk.  I have a Fujitsu Scansnap (on my home office desk and my office-office desk, an iPad, a laptop, and a 2nd monitor).  I love gizmos and find that even with all the advances in technology, I haven’t weaned myself to using just one device.  Each one provides a slightly more refined way to do several tasks that the others can only unreasonably simulate.

That being said, the one thing I would not do without and is the key to my sanity is Microsoft Exchange Server.  I know, I know.  It’s Microsoft – not Google Apps or anything as sexy as Mailchimp, SlyDial, DropBox, or DotLoop.  Bear with me, you’ll understand.

As I  mentioned above, I have a laptop, an ipad, and iPhone.  I use all three of these devices on a daily basis.  Some of their functions overlap but many of their functions are specialized depending on the terrain and the environment.   I use my laptop for keyboard intensive activities like writing blogs, creating presentations, and doing MLS research.  I use my iPad for on-fly-resarch and presentations and general reference – it is also my note-taking device.  With a flexible stainless mesh stylus, I can take dozens of pages of notes and never have to worry about needing more paper.  This is especially important on listing presentations, seminars, and classes.  My iPhone – well, I actually use it to talk to people, text people and many overlapping functions of both the iPad and laptop when I don’t have time to set up and just need the info in a quick and accessible format.

Microsoft T ShirtSo here’s the key – if my 3 devices don’t play nice and get along with each other – I’m screwed.  Each device becomes less valuable because it is data dependent.  Most of my communication with clients and lenders and title folks is still email.  I use Outlook (yeah, I’m a dinosaur, I get it).  That being said, when we opened our brokerage, I wasn’t about to give up the benefits of a Microsoft Exchange environment that allows me to sync ALL MY DEVICES WIRELESSLY.  Yes, WIRELESSLY.  GoDaddy offers a fully functional Exchange Server option for as low as $8 a month (including fully functional Outlook 2010) with plenty of storage and great service. 

Now this may not be any huge revelation to most but I know quite a few colleagues who still struggle to sync their phone data with their tablet data and their laptop data.  What a nightmare!  By using the Exchange server all my emails, contacts, notes, and calendar items sync back and forth SEAMLESSLY.  No more deleting emails from one device and then having to delete them again from another device.  Delete something  from one – it is deleted from all.  Create an appointment on my iPad – SWOOSH – the appointment magically appears on my laptop and my iPhone.  Combine this with a little DropBox and a Scansnap – not only are you paperless – but you have become DEVICE INTERDEPENDENT – not device DE-pendent.

And if this tech tip wasn’t hip enough or trendy enough – enjoy this quick Ted Talk from David Pogue – You’re bound to pick up something you didn’t know!


Shut-Off and Shut-Out: Going Tech-Free For a Day

Shut-Off and Shut-Out:  Going Tech-Free For a Day

Shut Off and Shut Out

Have you considered how much of your life is defined by the technology you rely on every day?  During a recent power outage, I found out just how much mine is.

A couple of nights ago in Northern Colorado, we were gifted with a humongous spring storm that started as rain and ended with a foot and a half of snow on the ground.  Actually, snow in May is not all that uncommon here, but given that we had just had a couple of days in the 80’s – this arctic blast required a substantial shift in attitude.  What started out as a somewhat inconvenient weather event turned out to be an exercise in the re-discovery of life

We live outside of Fort Collins, CO in a canyon carved out by the Cache La Poudre river (pronounced locally as poo-der).  Living in a rural mountain area provides numerous upside features like gorgeous rocky mountain landscapes, fewer neighbors, wildlife in your front yard, and best of all, a river to fish in just across the road.  Some downsides of mountain living include the threat of forest fires, isolation from emergency services, and wildlife that can eat you (mountain lions and bears, oh my!).  We also rely on electricity to run the pump for our well so we can have running water, propane to fuel our furnace, and satellite dishes to provide internet and TV.  Being in a canyon eliminates cell coverage and so we have to use a land line for telephone service.  When all systems are “go”, it is wonderful and we absolutely love it here!

Shut Out and Shut OffHowever, when all systems are “stop” a whole new world opens up that we don’t very often have to live in.  That spring storm I was talking about snapped tree limbs and iced-up power lines which is a perfect combination for losing power.  At 3:30 a.m. our electricity went out and we were instantaneously shut out from the modern world.  No TV, no running water, no internet, no heat.  Our old fashioned touch-tone phone and line was the only communication tool to the rest of the world… and it went out at lunch time.  I thought, “Oh, this will be fun!  We can just hunker down and huddle under blankets and ‘rough-it’ for a few hours until the power comes back on.”  Hunker down we did.  Huddle under blankets – great.  But I hadn’t charged my iPad and the night before the internet had flickered and corrupted my not quite newly updated Kindle app so I couldn’t continue with the book I was right in the middle of reading.  I had to actually pull an actual book made of paper from the shelf and actually turn pages manually!! 

Not only did I find myself cut-off from the rest of the civilized world, I found myself cut-off from the minute-to-minute attention demands that being continuously plugged in provides (just to be clear, “attention demands” is a euphemism for distractions).  For the first time in more years than I care to count, I actually stared out the window and just watched it snow!  I watched the dark-eyed juncos forage all over the thistle and black-oil sunflower feeders.  I made sure the early arriving hummingbirds had fresh nectar to feed on throughout the day to keep their energy up to stave off the cold.  One of the numerous red foxes we see also stopped by looking for stray seed or more likely, a distracted bird.

Shut Off and Shut Out

I sat quietly alone with my own thoughts…. not the random, scroll-through-the-newsfeed thoughts that Facebook delivers.  I read over 100 pages of an amazing book called “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek (thankfully, it wasn’t available as an e-book).  I scratched my dog, Cache behind the ears for longer than he thought was ever possible (and he still wanted more).  Best of all, my wife and I would look up from our books from time to time and have random conversations that weren’t interrupted by texts, TV commercials, email alerts, or phone calls.  I think I already mentioned the huddled up under the blankets part? 

Eventually the fearless linemen of our rural electric co-op restored power to our section of the canyon around 7 p.m.  The furnace roared to life; our microwave oven beeped, our fridge whirred back to life with the distinctive crash of a fresh batch of ice cubes falling into the bin.  While I was relieved we wouldn’t have to see how cold our cabin would get with an expected overnight low of 15 degrees, I found myself a little disappointed that the solitude and isolation to which I had resigned myself ended as abruptly as it began.  

Another question popped into my head:  Do you think there’s an iPad app that can create 24 hour power outages and vehicle failures on demand?  I hope so…  I really, really hope so.