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December 2003 Efficiency Newsletter

Technology does not create productive people. We do.

If you're interested in some technology ideas for holiday presents, please read on.  I apologize for a second newsletter this month but so many have asked for recommendations that I wanted everyone to benefit.  Given that many gadgets end up on a shelf or are rarely used to their fullest, SET would like to offer our services to help you with the "now what do I do with it."   We've already got a busy month ahead but in an attempt to save money for some certification courses for the fall, we will also be available on evenings and weekends to perform the below services.  Enjoy!  Feel free to contact us at 240-296-0800 or info@setconsulting.com for more information.

Technology and Non-Traditional Gift Ideas

Home Wireless Network - There's nothing quite like watching TV on the couch and checking email at the same time.  It's also a convenience and a cost-saver for all your family's PCs to share the same printer.

Recommendations: D-Link, Linksys, and Microsoft are SET's favorites.  Depending on your needs, choose an 802.11b or 802.11g router.  We highly recommend 802.11g for notebook PC Cards.  Try to buy the same brand of whichever wireless products you purchase.  It may be to your advantage to buy a router with ports on it-which may cut cost and help for compatibility with older hardware.  Lastly, be sure to set up wireless encryption (WEP 128-bit or similar) with a passphrase that's not easily guessable.  Estimate $60-120 for a router and $40-70 for each wireless card.

SET can help: 20% off all home wireless network installations*.  Wireless networks can be a pain, especially when different operating systems and sharing printers/files are involved.  We'll take care of everything from the hardware purchase (at retail cost) to the install and sharing.

Smartphone/PDA phone - No longer is there a need for a personal digital assistant (PDA) and a separate cellular phone.  Carry one device, drive more safely, and synchronize only a single phone book with the PC.  Even more, email and web access are a breeze with most major cellular providers.

Recommendations: For those hoping to correspond with email from their phone, the SprintPCS Treo 600 and Verizon Blackberry top the list.  The Treo also has a digital camera and ability to play MP3s; at present it is available for Sprint, Cingular Wireless, T-Mobile, and AT&T Wireless.  For those looking to access their PDA functions but do not need a full keyboard for correspondence, try the slick new Samsung I500 or Kyocera 7135..  Be sure to shop around as there are many other phones and some are available with different carriers.  Please note that in the coming months there are likely to be many incentives for switching carriers now that number portability has come into effect.

SET can help: If purchasing a Treo 300/600, we would be happy to provide tips and tricks for using the device efficiently.  For other PDAs, we'd be happy to assist with synchronization and importing/exporting for Outlook and/or your PDA's data.  20% off any PDA assistance*.

PC Tune-Up - A huge success last year, we're once again offering residential PC tune-ups for the holidays.  Improving performance and stability, minimizing spam, removing pop-ups and annoyances are all important but overlooked tasks for home PCs.  Perfect for a relative, a friend, or yourself, a tune-up will make time in front of the computer much more pleasant.  Two-hour Tune-Ups Certificates are 20% off*.  

Tablet PC - For the true road warrior, there is no cooler toy than a notebook PC that works like a pen-and-paper notebook.  This laptop device has a touch screen so you can annotate documents and take notes without typing.  Handwriting won't automatically turn into word processor text on a Tablet PC, but it's still much easier to organize notes and appear professional with clients.  For more information, visit http://www.tabletpctalk.com/faqs/faq.shtml.

Recommendations: As with any notebook purchase, be sure to purchase a 3 year next-business-day warranty so that you never have to mail it in for repairs and be out of commission for weeks.  Also make sure to have at least 384mb RAM, given that the complexity of the software that you'll use on your Tablet (like OneNote, Outlook 2003, etc.).  Be ready for a bit of a learning curve...that'll pay off in the long run.

SET can help: SET is working hard to master Tablet PCs as more clients begin to purchase them.  We'd like to help you out in your software decisions and using OneNote to organize your notes and research projects.  As with any new technology, it's only valuable if you use its features effectively.  40% off any OneNote or Tablet PC training*.

Microsoft Office 2003 Upgrade - If you're a heavy Outlook or PowerPoint user you'll immediately benefit from this new version of Office.  If you're still using Office 97 or Office 2000 this upgrade offers significant improvements.  Beware, however, Office 2003 only works with Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

Recommendations: A great site to purchase the upgrade from is Amazon.com, at the low cost of $260.  Just make sure if you're purchasing the upgrade that you already have Office 97 or greater installed or that you have the CDs for the software.  Also, before installing the Business Contact Manager you may want to talk to us...there are many strengths and weaknesses to consider.

SET can help: Business Contact Manager and the new Outlook (as well as PowerPoint) have significant advantages to offer, but they can also be very frustrating to work with.  Save yourself the trouble and have us assist you with some tips and tricks for Office 2003 that'll make the upgrade worthwhile:  25% off any personal training for Microsoft Office*We also would be willing to help in any other Microsoft Windows training topics that might be of interest to you, such as creating and maintaining a basic website with Dreamweaver, dazzling with PowerPoint, and organizing your PC's files.

Digital Camera - It's hard to dismiss the ease, cost, and accessibility of digital cameras.  Not only do we end up taking more pictures when we don't have to purchase additional film, but digital photographs can be easily shared on the web the same day.

Recommendations: Purchasing a digital camera is a bigger investment and takes more thought than many think.  Like any camera, portability (size) and quality (megapixels and lens) are huge considerations.  Some other things to note are whether the camera offers manual features, if it takes videos with sound, what type of media cards it uses, and its user ratings.  Also think twice before purchasing a photo printer, as there may be local stores (like Costco) that charge less and may produce higher quality photos.  Visit dpreview.com for information on choosing a model.

SET can help: We've worked with digital cameras for over 3 years and have extensive experience with picture organization, publishing to the web (at present we have over 4000 digital camera pictures published), image editing, working with manual settings, and choosing digital cameras.  We would be happy to also help with any of these features as well as to configure your PC to make photo manipulation and sharing a breeze.  25% off any digital camera training or assistance*.

MP3 Player - It's not difficult to carry over 500 CDs in your pocket these days.  Listening to music on the Metro, at the gym, in the office, or in the car are all made more possible by portable MP3 players.

Recommendations: For players that store 1000s of songs, consider the Dell DJ and Apple iPod.  Personally I bought the Dell DJ because it costs $100 less than the base Apple iPod ($199 vs. $299), stores 50% more music (15gb vs. 10gb), has double the battery life (16 vs. 8 hours), contains a built in mic, and recharges with a USB cable (the Apple can only do that with a Mac).  However, it's 2oz heavier and arguably not as stylish.  Then again, I'm biased as a longtime Dell user.  For a lighter player, consider the many portable players like the Rio Nitrus (1.5gb) and smaller flash players.  Just be careful of the warranties as the smaller players tend to break easily and often.

SET can help: We've worked with MP3s since 1996 and have owned many an MP3 player.  There are easy ways to organize and archive your music and we'd be happy to share.  There are also tricks to playing MP3s in a car with a portable player or installed player.  We'd be happy to offer advice and assist in your music archiving.  25% off any MP3 training or assistance*.

TiVo - This review was provided by Jack Ratzsch of Workforce Metrics:

"Every time you've said 'there's nothing good on TV,' you'll now be saying "'here's always something good on TiVo.'  TiVo can record up to 80 hours on its built in hard drive and the picture is fantastic.  It will record your favorite shows all season long (but won't record if your show is not on or if it's a re-run). While watching live TV, if the trip to the kitchen is going to take longer than the commercial break, you can freeze the action and not miss a moment. TiVo is even smart enough to change the channels on your cable box...but it won't bring you another piece of holiday pie."  http://www.tivo.com  

Recommendations: Spend the holidays with your family.  Then go out and buy a TiVo and get addicted.  The only advice we have is to consider that many other devices now ship with TiVo included.  There are competitors in terms of similar services and computer hardware that performs the same function.

Worthwhile, Less Expensive Ideas...

* These discounts must be redeemed by January 7th and work must be scheduled for before February 13th.  All scheduled work must be a minimum of 2 hours and be within an hour drive of College Park, MD 20740.

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