Dolphin networked radio service has brought out a lighter, Motorola-made phone handset with more features than its first-generation product, the d700. The handset, called the d1700, uses the TETRA radio standard – digital mobile technology used by the emergency services. This enables subscribers to communicate with each other wherever they are in the UK via a "press to talk" feature on the handset. This basic service is included in the subscription package. Users can also address groups of subscribers at the same time for an extra charge and make normal phone calls, as with an ordinary mobile phone. The d1700 weighs 193 g and has longer battery life than the previous handset, with up to 24 hours' standby and two hours' talktime. It also has a SIM card for the first time, so the phone's identity can be easily changed without reprogramming. The phone has a hands-free feature that works with radio and normal calls, and a four-way navigation key similar to those used on ordinary mobiles. Although it is not a ruggedised handset, the company says it is tougher than ordinary mobiles, and the buttons are further apart so it can be used with gloved hands. A range of accessories is available. The d1700 costs £234, although volume discounts are available.
Satellite modem for any location
Lucky enough to be working somewhere exotic, but frustrated that you can't keep in touch with the office? The Inmarsat Regional BGAN satellite modem could be the solution your are looking for. It is a box measuring 300 × 240 × 40 mm that plugs into a notebook or desktop PC, and enables you to link up to the web at broadband speeds via a satellite link, whether you are on top of Mount Everest or in a Welsh valley. Once connected, the modem determines its location and tells the user the best orientation for the optimum signal using the inbuilt web browser. In a similar way to GPRS, users are permanently connected to the web, but pay only for the data transmitted. According to the company, this satellite technology transmits data twice as fast as GPRS. PCs can be linked to the modem via an Ethernet or USB connection, or using Bluetooth. It can withstand being dropped onto concrete from 0.5 m, is dust- and water-resistant, weighs 1.8 kg, has a 36-hour standby and operates continuously for one hour. It retails for £1000, and a megabyte of data transmitted costs £10.
Tracking system for equipment
Recovering stolen plant equipment could become a whole lot easier with Quiktrak. A transponder is fitted onto the equipment and communicates with the main control centre using low-frequency radio waves that track its location within 10 m. As such, it is designed to work inside buildings, unlike GPS systems, and is less susceptible to signal jamming – the signal being able to travel through and around objects. It can also detect tampering, alert the control centre and send a text message. The service costs £25 a month, including monitoring. Other applications include vehicle movement monitoring and a personal alarm. Logistics managers can log onto the Quiktrak website, enter the transponder's unique identifying number and see a map that indicates where the vehicle is, enabling fleets to be managed more effectively. There is also a personal alarm, which looks like a mobile phone and could be useful for remote workers. On pressing a button to summon help, the system pinpoints the location of the worker for quick assistance. The monthly subscription for this service starts at £15, less than the equipment protection service because no monitoring is needed. The company operates its own series of radio beacons, which only cover greater London at present, although it plans to roll them out across the rest of the country. If you have your JCB stolen, just hope the thief doesn't live north of Watford.
Graphics tablet in platinum
Wacom has clothed its Intuos2 graphics tablet in a shiny platinum coloured case. Called the Intuos2 Platinum Edition, it enables users to draw on the screen and is connected to a computer, so the sketch transmits directly to the main computer screen.Architects and engineers could use it for freehand sketching, and for more sophisticated detail work. A variety of input media are available including pens, airbrushes and mice, which can be used in conjunction with programs such as Adobe Photoshop. The Intuos2 Platinum Edition is available in a range of sizes. The A4 version retails at £458. Users who prefer to see the image on the tablet screen can try the Cintiq range.
Lightweight notebook computer
Dell has added a lightweight notebook computer with a 12.1" screen to its Latitude D range. Called the D400, the company says it is the smallest product in its range, weighing 1.67 kg with battery. It has Intel's Centrino mobile technology with built-in wireless connectivity to Wi-Fi 802.11b networks. Customers can also opt for a 802.11 g connection or a combined 802.11a, b and g solution. The notebook also features Intel's latest 1.3 GHz 0r 1.4 GHz Pentium M processor that is said to help extend battery life. The notebook is supplied with Dell's D/Bay, an external modular bay that accepts a range of storage media including a floppy-disc drive, an additional hard drive or optical media such as a CD-ROM drive. Users can carry these as needed to keep the weight down. Prices start at £1372 depending on specification.
Handheld scanner for 3D surfaces
Designers who like working with real models and want to capture their work electronically should check out the FastSCAN Cobra. Made by American company Polhemus, this 3D digitiser scans opaque low-metal-content objects into a computer. To scan, sweep a laser scanner over the object; the image takes the form of a wireframe model, a series of points or a smooth, shaded image on a computer screen. Inbuilt software smoothes out any overlapping sweeps. The image can be saved in standard formats and imported into other programs. Virtalis sells it from £16,861.
Mini data storage device
VTEC has launched a cigarette-lighter-sized device that can store 1 Gb of data, making it suitable for carrying multiple large images and CAD drawings. Users plug the device, called the V-DRIVE, into the USB port of their computer and use a drag-and-drop function to move data across. The drive also has password protection in case it is lost.
Tough-wearing handheld terminals
Casio has launched two ruggedised handheld terminals. The IT500 is a PDA-style product with a 3.5" touch-sensitive screen which uses the Windows CE.NET operating system and Intel 400 MHz processor. It is dust- and water-resistant to IP54 and shock-resistant up to 1 m. It has an integrated laser barcode scanner, and can support both Wi-Fi 802.11b and Bluetooth. It is also compatible with voice-over IP, so it can function as a phone by transmitting speech over the internet. A model with a built-in camera is also available. The DT-X10 has the same-sized screen with a keyboard that doubles up as a handle. It is tougher than the IT500, and has a barcode scanner built in. Prices range from £1174 to £1464 for the IT500 and £1704 to £1900 for the DT-X10
Mini tablet PC with no keyboard
Ruggedised computer specialist Itronix has brought out its GoBook Tablet PC, said to be the smallest and lightest of its type. It comes with the standard Microsoft Tablet PC operating system and is a true tablet-type portable PC with no external keyboard. Light enough to pick up with one hand, it has a businesslike two-tone grey rubber and plastic outer casing. It has an 8.4" display, is 270 mm wide, 184 mm high and 42 mm deep, and weighs 1.7 kg with battery. It supports three wireless networks simultaneously so users can link a separate keyboard via Bluetooth and communicate with head office, or surf the net using a Wi-Fi or GPRS link at the same time. The company says it can withstand repeated drops from one metre and that it is water- and dust-resistant to IP54. It has a Pentium 111 866 mHz processor, a 30 Gb hard drive and can support up to 640 Mb of RAM. Available from September, when a range of accessories will also be available including a carry case, desk stand and handstrap. Available from September, it will retail from £2274.
10 ways to control your email inbox and save timeDr Monica Seeley, an IT consultant and founder of the Mesmo Consultancy, reckons we waste up to 16 days a year dealing with unwanted and unnecessary emails. The first stage is to identify who and where these are coming from and stop them entering your inbox in the first place. The second stage is to efficiently manage the emails that are in your inbox to save time. Below she suggests a 10-point plan to manage your email:
1 Put aside time to deal with email
Stop dipping in and out every few minutes: checking your inbox two or three times a day is adequate for most people. Use the “out of office” function to manage people’s expectations about your availability and switch off the “new mail notification”. When you do handle your inbox, remember the 3D rule: deal, delete or delegate. To make life easier, create an entry automatically in your electronic calendar or task list from an email that requires subsequent action.
2 Place emails in folders
Use folders to store and sort emails. Use the “rule” function found in most email software to sort existing and new incoming mail from known sources automatically into folders. Use colour to organise both existing and new incoming email.
3 Post back unwanted internal email
Remove yourself from every unwanted internal circulation list – ask senders not to send you a copy unless there is something for you to action.
4 Stop spam entering your inbox
Make sure your organisation and your internet service provider use robust anti-spam filtering software. Use the “rules” function to filter out any spam that does creep in. Notify your IT department and ISP of new sources of external spam. Anti-spam filters are only as good as the spam they know about. Do not return external spam as this just confirms to the sender who you are. But do remove yourself from reputable external mailing lists such as professional newsletters you no longer want.
5 Protect yourself against viruses
Make sure you and your ISP have adequate anti-virus software. Do not open unusual emails, even if they are from known colleagues and friends. If you regularly use the “preview panel”, switch it off when you see suspicious emails. Delete them and/or notify your IT department of any suspicious emails.
6 Pick the right medium
Email is one of many communications media. Your goal should be to send the right message, right first time. Ask yourself if email is the best medium for a message or are there more effective ways, for example, complex questions that really need a meeting for their resolution. Could you use another form of electronic communications such as instant messaging?
7 Pen your email in plain English
Write in a clear, concise manner. Before sending the email, ask yourself – “do I really mean what I have said”? Only address it to those who really need it. Avoid using the “cc” and”‘reply all” buttons. Use the “signature” function to automatically insert a sign-off and to generate template responses.
8 Point out the purpose of your emails
Insert a meaningful description in the subject line, including the purpose of the email – is it just information, or does it need an action?
9 Provide time for the recipient
Email speeds up the delivery time of your message but it does not necessarily shorten the decision-making time. Leave the recipient sufficient time to do justice to your email. Check whether they are in and when they expect your email. How many times do we rush to send an email only to find the recipient is away for the day?
10 Patrol your use of attachments
There are many ways to share information. Increasingly, organisations are investing in document-management and information-sharing technologies such as virtual team areas; external teams can share information using project collaboration packages. These are often far superior when disseminating large amounts of information and avoid clogging up everyone’s inbox with attachments.
For more information see Monica Seeley’s new book Managing in the email office or visit www.mesmo.co.uk
SoftwareComputer screen viewing online
Conferencing service provider MeetingZone has launched Glance, a service that enables remote viewing of other people’s computer screens over the web. The idea is that presentations can be delivered to a client’s computer screen and the person giving the presentation can talk the client through it over the phone at the same time. It could also be useful for consultants to show drawings to clients or other members of a project team and talk them through changes. Using the service is straightforward. The person intending to make the presentation signs up to the service and downloads the software onto their PC over the web. They can then give the client a web address to log onto and a PIN number over the phone. This enables the client to see the presenter’s screen, which is connected to the web. Each time the user presents to a new client, the system generates a different PIN number for security. A second service called Presenter allows multiple users to view a presentation simultaneously. The delegates can also submit questions online at the same time.
Fax management system
FaxCore has brought out a corporate fax software solution called 4300 compatible with Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003 web edition (.NET). This is an operating system called “thin-client” for companies that provide employees with screens linked to a central server, instead of everyone using a stand-alone PC on their desks. The fax software resides on the central server and enables users to fax straight from their desktops. The advantage offered by the 4300 version is that it is compatible with other .NET software, and as such it is relatively easy for IT managers to get all the compatible software users want to fax from, such as an accounts package to “talk” to the fax software. Users can send a fax and an email at the same time to notify end users that a fax has arrived. If they receive a fax they can choose to receive it on paper or to accept it as a PDF or graphics file. The software automatically archives each fax sent and received, so it is handy for sectors that are legally obliged to keep copies of correspondence.
Help with project management
Job Management Systems has introduced Version 5 of its JMS2000 project management software. The software is web-based, allowing authorised users to access it anywhere. It is for managing project costs, resources and time and has a number of new features. These include a job wizard to help users to set up new jobs easily and a quick timesheet function to use information from previously saved timesheets and jobsheets. It also has a new accounting function so users can create invoices in Microsoft Word and also export the data to other accounting systems, including Sage.
Job Management Systems
CAD viewing with added functions
NavisWorks has released version three of its 3D CAD viewing software. Several major changes have been made to the way the product is sold. A core version called Roamer is now sold containing the basic functionality of the program. When users want to add more functions, they just buy a plug-in module. These include Presenter, Clash Detective and Publisher. Previously, users had a choice of the three modules that included the base program as well. Other improvements include a free downloadable viewer, enabling anyone to see NavisWorks files. In this way, Publisher can be used to create the file and can then be viewed by anyone, in much the same way that people exchange PDF files. Finally, many other minor improvements have been made, including photo-realistic model creation available in Presenter.