Vol. 45, No. 1 • November 2007 • .pdf version
• Andy Katz: There's help out there
• Joe Mitch: Send us your nominations
• Dick Jerardi: Nothing else like it
• Steve Carp: No let-up between tip, buzzer
• Ted Gangi: On the cutting edge
• Working media members code of ethics

Technical advice: Keeping us on the cutting edge

By TED GANGI / Webmaster

I am charged with trying to help the membership keep up with ever-changing technology and, in turn, helping you find tools that may help you do you job.

As we get set for the season, I thought I'd take up some space with a little preseason checklist of things you might want to carry with you or purchase for your use.

Since almost everything I do is done online, I'd like to think that I have accumulated some expertise on just about any situation. So, without further ado, here are my recommendation:

Battery-operated phone charger: Energizer (Energi To Go) and others make this great little device that runs on standard batteries. You simply plug it into your cell phone and it charges your phone. Hey, there's nothing worse than a dead cell phone in today's world.

Thumb drive: These handy little devices have gotten so cheap (around $10 or less), they are now sold at the cashier at most office supply stores. And, you don't need a 4 GB drive (unless you really feel compelled to spend more than you need to). Generally, a 512 MB or 1 GB thumb drive will do the trick as a place to store files and move them from one computer to another. They come in really handy if you are trying to exchange files with a colleague and cannot get online.

Blank CDs: Not as important, but it never hurts to have some in your bag just in case you are having USB and e-mail issues at the same time.

External hard drive: Now that they are falling in price and size, go get one and use. Store your personal and work files on it and backup your important information on it. Most of all keep large files off your hard drive when you can by storing them on an external. Laptop computers are subject to so much vibration and handling and the more you save and delete and save files on your internal hard drive, the more you risk a crash. Backing up with an external saves you in all situations. And, electronics stores are practically giving them away. Believe it or not, a 80-100 GB drive should do, but the cost per gigabyte decreases as you go up in size.

If you haven't already checked out SlingBox, trust me, you'll want to.

SlingBox: This is man's greatest new invention. If you haven't seen it in action, trust me. For around $150, you can “sling” your television to your laptop or smartphone. In other words, you can watch television on your laptop with any high-speed connection. Although I have encountered some places (namely schools) where you are firewalled, you can watch the local programming from your cable or satellite box or TiVo on your computer. While traveling in New York, for example, I can watch the local Dallas news. Or, I can watch a show or game that I have previously recorded. With no monthly fees, it's the best $150 you will spend this year.

A web-based e-mail account (gmail, Yahoo!, AOL or Hotmail): This is a must-have, especially if you depend on a secure business e-mail address. No telling when you will have problems with connections, firewalls, you name it. Having a free, web-based account allows you to communicate when you have a corporate e-mail breakdown. And, it's easy to set up an account in about five minutes.

Wireless mouse: Say goodbye to cords and that hand-cramping touchpad. I bought the Logitech Nano VX the other day with a USB transmitter that's so small that you just leave it in all the time. It also comes with a nice little carrying case. It's an inexpensive luxury (around $40 after rebate) to have if you have to be at the keyboard all day writing and researching.

A great laptop bag: Check out the LapTrap from Shaun Jackson Design (sjdesign.com). I have had this bag for several years and it's fantastic. It serves as a sleeve in a messenger bag, but has room for CD's and cables and other accessories. Shaun Jackson Design and Higher Ground Gear (highergroundgear.com) have other models as well. So, give your freebies to the kids and drop a few bucks on a great bag.

Since I am always looking for the next best thing in technology, look for more product suggestions throughout the year. But, I do hope this helps you get in gear for the season. See you in San Antonio!

Ted Gangi is the webmaster of the USBWA's official site, usbwa.com. He also runs collegepressbox.com, a media website for 56 schools in five Division I football conferences. He is based in Dallas.

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