A carapace for your computer
Motion controller for design professionals
Computers in the cab
Software round-upProject administration
Asta Development has added an optional module called Asta SiteProgress to its project management solution PowerProject. The web-based tool enables project planners who are in charge of several different projects to receive progress reports on email. Site staff use the software either online or offline to enter progress reports that are then emailed to a web-based location. The project planner can download this information straight into PowerProject – so avoiding errors caused by the repeated inputting of data when information is submitted by fax or verbally.
www.building.co.uk/enquiries 305 Digital switchboard
Companies who want a switchboard without paying for the services of a receptionist should consider Reality Telecom’s Call Navigator. This is a virtual switchboard that routes calls to specific people whether they are at their desk or on site for the day. Subscribers pay a one-off fee for the software and get a single 0870 national call rate number. When someone calls that number a pre-recorded message gives them a range of options, such as “press 3 for accounts”, or lists the names of individuals. The system routes the call to the right person, and, if they do not answer, it tries another extension or a mobile. It can also transfer the caller to a voicemail service. It can even text the recipient’s mobile to tell them that a voicemail message is waiting. The whole system is managed online, so subscribers can add or delete numbers and choose divert options, the system can handle up to 81 departments and 810 numbers. Once the software has been purchased, the only expense is the cost of diverting calls to mobile phones, which are charged at 25p a minute.
www.building.co.uk/enquiries 306 User-friendly design
Construction products and software group Eleco, which owns the ArCon CAD design and visualisation tool is about to launch ArCon 2003. This is an inexpensive, easy-to-learn design tool suitable for smaller residential and commercial projects. Users start by drawing a plan view, the software turns this into a 3D view, and building elements are added to create a whole building. The program can also model light and shade falling onto a structure. The program contains an object library of 3000 building components and items of furniture. Other objects can be imported into the program in the O2C format. This is a piece of software that compresses files to one eight-hundredth of their original size. The makers of construction products can convert visual object files created in other software such as 3D Studio to 02C files, and edit them ready for downloading into the drawing. ArCon 2003 has a number of improvements on previous models. For example, it can create O2C objects from scratch, it has a bigger library of roof types and more complex wall shapes.
www.building.co.uk/enquiries 307 PC access program
Expertcity has launched version 4.0 of its GoToMyPC software, which enables users to access the contents of their office PC over the internet. The company says the corporate version is easy for IT managers to deploy yet allows them to exercise full control over end-users access rights. The system enables users to have real time access and control over the contents of their PC including any network resources and databases. Version 4.0 has enhanced security and control options, easier set-up and the ability to access the system from a PDA is a standard feature. Another feature is that users can now access and control the contents of their PC on a PDA using a wireless link, if the PDA is running the Microsoft Windows CE 4.0 or later operating system, or Microsoft Windows Powered Pocket PC software.
10 ways to control your wireless costsAs wireless communication technologies become more popular, companies are becoming more concerned about controlling the costs of transferring data over wireless networks. Jason Salmon, an IT consultant from Imhotek, advises mobile phone and satellite firms on wireless data access. Imhotek checks that commonly used applications will work with the companies’ networks and develops software solutions to help them if they don’t. Here are his 10 tips for getting the best out of wireless networks. 1 Use a landline when you can
If a fixed landline is available, then use it. The cost of the connection will nearly always be cheaper than the equivalent wireless connection. Collecting your email in the morning before you go on the road means you only need to do short updates during the day. 2 Use the right tool for the job
If you’re out on the road and all you want to do is read your email, then use an appropriate email protocol or language to link your wireless device to the company email server. For example, MAPI is a protocol commonly used with Microsoft Outlook in an office environment, and enables the synchronisation of calendars and contacts in addition to transferring email. If you don’t need this, then don’t use it; you can read your email using an alternative protocol such as a POP3 or IMAP4 connection much more quickly and with much less data transfer required. 3 When web browsing, turn off graphics
Although websites with graphics may be pleasing to the eye, they can be expensive and time-consuming when browsing over a wireless link. In Internet Explorer you can turn graphics off with the tools > internet options > advanced menu, unchecking the “show pictures” option. 4 Block unwanted email from your inbox
Make sure you use anti-spam software. In Outlook you can use the ”rules” function to filter out spam that reaches your inbox. See below. 5 Review email before downloading
Most email servers support the IMAP4 protocol that allows you to download the headers of your emails, including the address of the sender, the subject and file size. You can then choose the ones that you want to download fully, delete spam and leave that bandwidth-hungry 2 Mb report until you are back in the office. 6 Effective searching
An effective search engine on an intranet can save time and money when accessed over a wireless link. The time taken to perform a search and then select the appropriate result can be significant. Also, consider whether an effective directory or index could reduce unnecessary searching. Internet search engine provider Google provides a number of wireless interface options for a range of different types of wireless device including the software to allow a wireless Google search to be performed at www.google.com/options/wireless.html. 7 SMS notifications
A lot of time can be wasted repeatedly checking to see if an email you’re waiting for has arrived. Consider subscribing to an SMS notification service. Good ones will send an SMS to your mobile phone informing you of the arrival of an email when one that matches specific criteria is received. 8 Make the technology work for you
Take time to understand how the technology is used in the field, and do not over-engineer the solution. For instance, when using the IMAP protocol with Outlook to send email, the default setting of the software saves a copy in your sent items. To do this, the email is sent twice, once to the recipient and then again to the sent items folder back to the office email server. This may be required for emails to customers, but not necessarily to colleagues, so the default settings can be changed. Similarly, applications that work over the office network may not be designed to work with a wireless protocol, so always ensure that they are fully tested before they are used in out of the office. 9 Employ a web proxy
Using a web proxy can speed up your access to website information by providing you with a cached copy. This is basically a “black box” that sits between you and a website, and it can store web pages. Every time a user goes to a site the proxy checks to see whether the page it has stored is the most up to date. If it is, the proxy will send this page from its memory, which is much faster than downloading it from the internet. This can be useful for companies with a mobile team who all regularly access similar resources, as once one person has accessed the web page, the rest of the team will be able to download it quickly. 10 Consider specialist software
There are a number of optimisation products on the market. Generally this software falls into two categories, network and application. The first involves making the best use of network bandwidth and ensures data is transmitted as efficiently as possible. There are a number of offerings available, although they are primarily aimed at the PC market rather than mobile devices. The second type optimises the data that is being sent over the wireless link. For example, some applications ensure the computer code programs used to communicate with each other are pared down to the minimum. Savings can be impressive although they may vary depending on the nature of the data sent. Imhotek has developed an email optimisation program called IXP, and this available free until January 2004, for more information see www.ixpmail.com.