Vol. 43, No. 1 November 2005 .pdf version
Tony Barnhart: Power of USBWA apparent
Joe Mitch: Celebrating our 50th anniversary
Andy Katz: Schools should know how to reach us
Tom Shatel: A shorter USBWA meeting?
Mike Waters: The press row seating problem
Ted Gangi: Don't lose your mind over memory
No. 1 Duke puts pair on 'Oscar' Watch List

Technical advice: Don't lose your mind over memory

By TED GANGI / Webmaster

We've all had it happen to us. Our laptop is lifeless. The hard drive crashed. You can't connect to the Internet or, worse, you can get connected, but you can't get into your company e-mail. Seemingly, you're in a huge jam. And, almost certainly, you're on deadline far from home.

There's nothing we can do to prevent some of those so-called acts of God. But, there are some little things you can do to make sure you can still get your job done. Here are some tips to help you be prepared for the worst.

First and foremost, if you don't have a web-based e-mail client like Yahoo! or Hotmail, get one. A basic account is free. Just go online and sign up. AOL will do, too, but you have to pay for it. By doing this, you will be sure to have an e-mail box you can access from the Internet on any computer, even if you have to ask a fellow writer to let you "borrow" some web time. Plus, there's always the business center at the hotel and/or a nearby Kinko's or coffee shop with Internet access. In most cases, you can configure any web-based e-mail to check your other accounts and, in some cases, leave those messages on the host server.

The next piece of advice might be more helpful. Invest in some backup memory. A jump or flash drive plugs right into one of your USB ports. With 256 KB or more of memory, you can store plenty of text on one. Drop your can't-lose files onto that drive. That way, if you computer decides to take the day off, gets lost with your luggage or dies on you completely, you won't lose critical work and/or research. Another option is an online "briefcase" with Yahoo! It's an online accessible file folder that you can always expand if you must for a small price.

Don't get caught in a situation where you not only can't use your laptop, but you can't even access critical files you might need. The best thing about a jump or flash drive is that it's small enough to put on your keychain or wear around your neck. And, like an online "briefcase," you can easily access the files from just about any computer.

Also, if you have a CD-RW drive, you should carry a couple of blank CDs in your bag, just in case. If not, at the very least, carry a blank floppy disk (if your laptop still has a floppy drive). You never know when you might have to get or receive a file from someone in the press room without the benefit of e-mail access. For example, if a pool of writers is breaking up
transcription duties after a news conference, you each can share the text without having to use e-mail. In many cases, you might be in a place where you can't get online. Both blank CDs and floppy disks are quite inexpensive.

These are just some small ways to you help take the headaches out of the unexpected events that often occur while trying to get your job done.

Ted Gangi serves as the webmaster of the USBWA's official site, www.usbwa.com and is the assistant sports editor for DallasNews.com, the website of The Dallas Morning News. His tech tips column will appear regularly in The Tipoff.

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