Home working tech

I posted a quick update on my experiences with home working yesterday, but  thought I would provide some additional details, particularly in terms of my technology setup and some of the technology shortcomings.

First off, when I work from home I really don’t want to be tied to my desk all of the time,  this is particularly important to me for health reasons, but its useful for everyone. 

Here are some of the techniques I use at home:

  • I leave my desktop running all of the time,  that way a press of a key and the monitors power on and I can check email, IM messages, RSS feeds etc at a glance and then get out of the study and on to something else
  • I use a great utility call Wizmo that I assign to a shortcut key on my Microsoft keyboard,  a single press of the key and my monitors all go into power save mode.  Wizmo does all sorts of stuff but the command to power down monitors is “wizmo.exe monoff”
  • I synchronise my Tablet with my desktop,  so if I want to work somewhere else in the house I just grab it from its dock and go
  • I auto-forward my Treo 650 to my analogue business line when I dock the phone,  that way I only need to carry one phone around
  • I have a DECT phone and a speaker phone,  when I am not in the study I take my DECT phone with me,  it uses the same headset as my Treo and I have a strap that lets me hang it around my neck while I am walking around the house in conference calls
  • My wireless network and my DECT phone work anywhere in the house and garden,  I use a pre-n wireless access point with matched PC cards that have a range extender mode to get the coverage
  • When I am doing housework etc,  I tend to listen to podcasts on my Treo,  if I am backing bread etc then I watch web-casts or conference DVDs on my Tablet,  I have a spare docking station in the kitchen

When I am at my desk I want to be ultra efficient (In theory I only do 4 hours a day of desk work):Screen

  • I have three monitors and try to create workflows that make most use of the screen area I have available
  • I always like to know whether my contacts are online,  so I use Trillian which gives me a unified interface to Yahoo, Sametime, MSN and AOL.  One of the best features of Trillian is that it can be docked in an “always on top” configuration, in my case on my left monitor
  • I do a lot of web conferencing,  I use my left monitor for web conferences.  While I am in the web conference I can also see all of my IM contacts
  • Because most of my contacts have screens that run at 1024*768 res and I use 1280*1024 I have set up my web conferencing monitor so that the application area is roughly 1024*768 as well,  the rest of my screen area on that monitor is taken up by a “3 task high” task bar at the bottom and a set of custom toolbars and docked Trillian window on the far right.
  • I have all of my contacts in groups, so that when I start a conference call or web conference I open up the groups with the appropriate contacts
  • While I am in a web conference, sharing my screen, or watching someone else’s screen,  I have two additional 19” screens that I can use to view reference material, hold IM conversations, make notes, check email etc
  • I try to work paperless, which makes it much easier to work wherever I am,  I almost never have any paper on my desk except post it notes or index cards to scribble notes on and I have a whiteboard on my door, which I stick stuff onto with magnets as well as using it for reminders.
  • I have a notice that I can hang on the door so that the kids know to be quiet when they come home from school or come bounding into the study full of enthusiasm when I’m on a conference call
  • I have speakers that I use to listen to stuff while filing, scanning or otherwise moving around the study
  • I have a headset that I use when I want peace and quiet or want to use Skype
  • I use Skype and Pamela to record conference calls that are not interactive,  I then play them back while out walking or in the car
  • I use Polycom PVX for video conferences,  it provides great quality video,  I also sometimes use Skype.  Video is important to help with the bonding experience with new contacts
  • My Polycom Soundpoint speaker phone has two lines (home and work) and lets me seamlessly switch from headset, to speaker to handset.

I like to get out and about:

  • I have a Laptop and a Tablet but I tend to only use my Tablet when I am out of the house
  • I have a GPRS modem and I can use my phone as a modem to keep connected,  but most of the time I am happy to just get email on my Treo
  • I have two batteries for my Tablet to keep me going for about 4 hours if needed
  • I don’t use a case for my Tablet,  I just slip it into a division that’s built into my rucksack,  I used to use a case but in the end decided it was well enough protected without and I use it much more now because it’s so much quicker to get in and out, not a single scratch in 6 months!
  • I have several wired headsets for the Treo so I can listen into podcasts or dial into conference calls in all weathers and still hear what’s going on,  if its windy I need to stay on mute though!
  • I carry everything I have ever written or read (nearly) with me, although I just had to upgrade to a 100GB disk
  • I have a waterproof mp3 player that allows me to listen to podcasts or conference calls while I swim

Collaboration Software:

  • Lotus Notes and Quickplace for company email and databases
  • Outlook for personal email
  • FeedDemon for RSS subscriptions
  • Maxthon for all browsing with extensive use of tabs and groups of tabs
  • Groove for inter-company collaboration
  • Net-snippets and OneNote for note taking and research
  • Trillian for IM

Stuff I would like:

  • a more seamless phone experience, allowing me to switch between mobile, analogue and Skype as required
  • a remote that lets me easily toggle the phones mute on and off.  I use headset control at the moment that uses the Treo’s headset button to control the Pocket Tunes media player.
  • high speed always on Internet when I am away from wireless coverage,  at the moment it’s too slow and expensive
  • a way of cancelling out wind noise so I could do conference calls while out walking
  • better mobile coverage in my house
  • space for comfy chairs and a table in the study so I had a better place for chilling out and for meetings
  • improved collaboration software that made it easier to see what’s going on within the teams I work in,  probably using a combination of absolutely everything being RSS enabled and some sort of persistent multi-party IM discussion
  • IM while mobile
  • my Tablet to act like an ink enabled touch screen extension to my desktop whilst it is in proximity to it and a stand-alone device when it’s out of the room.  That way it would be easier to use it for note taking and sketching when on web conferences
  • when conferencing I would love software that handles different screen resolutions better and that can share applications on any monitor, not just the primary display
  • an easier way to establish ad-hoc web conferences, Sametime is not configured correctly (in my view) in my company
  • a tablet display that works in full sun,  I often sit in the sand dunes or in the garden and do conference calls,  but seeing my screen can be a real struggle
  • symmetric broadband, even 2mb would be ok,  but ideally symmetric 10mb
  • better video conferencing.  I would like full screen resolution and 4 people to a screen resolution,  with 3 screens video conferencing is definitely viable and useful
  • every application I need to access to be Internet facing, I hate VPN,  I do sometimes need to use VPN and when I do I run up a virtual machine and VPN from that so that it doesn’t interrupt my other activities
  • a whisper quiet printer, for when the kids decide to print in the middle of a conference call
  • a system that monitors where friends are right now,  to make it easier to decide to meet up for an hour in a local Cafe

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

1 Response

  1. Dale Carter says:

    Steve here are a few things you might want to look at

    http://www.jawbone.com/ This head set is really good for cutting out background noise.

    https://loopt.com/loopt/sess/index.aspx not sure if this is available in the UK but it is a way of locating your friends

    Also IM is going to be available as always on, on the iPhone, again in the USA, from September

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