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10 Technology Tips You Can Start Using Today – Michael Wahlster @ TCD May 12, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in ATA, Tech tips, Tools.

Although I enjoyed all of the presentations I attended at the TCD conference in DC, Michael Wahlster’s presentation on technology tips was my favorite. As Corinne has already mentioned, he used a new presentation technique called zooming presentation through Prezi. He basically had one file and zoomed in and out to the various points he was making. It was quite impressive. Anyway, despite being a huge tech geek even I walked away with quite a few things I want to look into.

* VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)
He talked a lot about Skype. I already use Skype for video conference or working with colleagues to ask quick questions about particularly troublesome sentences in the Chat feature, but Skype offers so much more. Some Skype-enabled phones work like a cordless phone through a router. It also allows you to forward your calls to an overseas number or gives you worldwide dial-in phone numbers (so you can live in Kansas and have a phone number in Japan) and block phone spam. SkypeIn allows you to select your area code (almost anything, but if you want the cachet of the 212 Manhattan area code you’re out of luck). With Skype2Go you can call from your regular cell phone anywhere in the world, many countries for only 2.3 cents a minute.

Since the presentation, it was reported that Microsoft is going to purchase Skype for 8.5 billion dollars. This raises the question if Skype is going to survive in the long run as the largest telephony company in the world with all the advantages it has now. There is a tendency among big tech companies to buy niche companies, take their best technologies and let the rest die. But Skype, a Luxemburg-based company, has been there before when it was purchased by eBay. It was involved in a lawsuit with eBay and the auction house threatened to pull the plug on Skype. Skype survived. Perhaps very cautious optimism is called for.

Google Voice is also a good option, although it doesn’t offer as many benefits as Skype. One plus is that it allows you to flag a phone number as spam (great if you want to ignore calls from an ex or a particularly bothersome client who won’t take no for an answer). Once the number is flagged you no longer have to see when the person calls.

* DNS (domain name service)
If you have had problems connecting to the Internet it may be your ISP’s domain name service, so Michael suggested we look into OpenDNS. It is faster and more reliable than most ISP’s. It makes your network more secure and reliable. Using OpenDNS means you enter their IP address is in your router or your network setup – not the one assigned to you by your ISP. It offers Web content filtering, so it is good for parents who want to filter their children’s access to content. It’s not an Internet service – it’s a IP translation service.

* Encryption
Encryption allows you to protect your own data assets, protect e-mail attachments and most importantly protect client confidentiality. With encryption you can make all or part of your hard drive invisible. Michael stressed that laptops must be encrypted, because they can walk away so easily. “Storing data in the cloud without encryption is like storing your suitcase in a locker in the airport without turning the key.” Encryption ensures that your data is secure. He recommends Truecrypt, which offers on-the-fly encryption and “plausible deniability” (for the advanced paranoid, if you want to protect data even in cases where you may be forced to reveal your password).

* Passwords
Michael suggests we use a password manager to keep track of all the various passwords we create for various websites. Passwords should always be at least 12 characters (using capital and lowercase letters, symbols instead of letters, special characters, etc.). You should create a strong passphrase for the password manager that only you know. Michael’s example was the common Latin phrase Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, which he shortened to Ge0d!p3 (using the number zero for the o and the ! for the i). Keepass is the tool he recommends. Keepass is a “free, open source, light-weight and easy-to-use password manager.” It stores all your passwords together and all you have to do is remember your one passphrase. He also urged us not to write down our passwords and not use personal information like birthdays, spouse or pet names, etc.

* Sharing + Collaboration
Most of us collaborate with each other and storing the files on the cloud can make life a lot simpler. Dropbox is the tool Michael (and I) recommend. Dropbox is a folder system that stores your data online (in “the cloud”). I use Dropbox to move files and folders between my desktop PC and my laptops. Michael suggested storing files such as your music and photos so you can use it at any computer. I export my TMs to Dropbox as a back-up beyond my data back-up system (more on that later). You can also use Dropbox to share files with colleagues and ensure everyone is using the latest version. If someone is using the file in the Dropbox folder the file is locked. The first 2 GB is free; anything over and above that you pay for. The nice thing about Dropbox is you can drag and drop files to the Dropbox folder. I also have Dropbox installed on my smartphone.

* Note Taking
You can use note taking software tools to save text, links, URLs, images, sounds, etc. No more Post-it notes littering your monitor screen or desk. Michael recommended Evernote (60 MB per month limit for the free version), but MS OneNote comes standard on most computers nowadays. The thing that intrigues me about Evernote is you can also sync it with your smartphone.

* Text Editors
Text editors go beyond the capacity of Notepad. They allow you to open plain text files and the formatting and tags are usually highlighted in another color (useful when you are handcoding or translating HTML files). Michael uses Notepad++. I like using UltraEdit.

* Uninterrupted Power Supply (not just battery back-up)
This is probably one of the most important tech tips you should know about. It is extremely important to have an uninterrupted power supply in case the power goes out, because a UPS allows you to back up the files you are working on and close the computer down in the event of a power outage. Battery back-ups take a split-second to switch over, which is usually not long enough for a computer. This avoids loss of the files you are working on. Michael suggested you buy as large a UPS as possible. I just bought replacement batteries for my UPSes the week before the conference. They are important!

* Data Backup
It is important to back up your data both to an external hard drive and to “the cloud” (aka the Internet). Backing up your data off-site is important in case there is a robbery (they will most likely steal your hard drive as well), fire, flood or other natural disaster. The two most trusted back-up systems are Carbonite and Mozy. You should remember to back up your files for your clients and don’t forget critical files like your TMs or other work products. I wrote a detailed post here about the importance of data backup back in January.

* Infections
Every translator should have an anti-virus program and malware/spyware removal programs running on their computer. I use a combination of AdAware and Spybot Search & Destroy. If your computer is running slowly the first thing you should do is run some malware/spyware removal programs on it. I also really like CCleaner to make my computer run faster and more efficiently. Michael talked about ComboFix, but urged us to be very careful when using it because it finds amazing things but erases everything suspicious (his quote was RTFM!).



1. Grace Bosworth - May 12, 2011

This was a great article for me, I appreciate the sharing of these technologies tips. For a company like mine that differentiates itself by being technically skilled and using technology in new ways, I like hearing what others are thinking about and knowing what they are using.

I am super interested in Prezi presentations, it sounds like this technique could really grab a customer’s attention. Also, I have to admit that we are not using Skype to its fullest capabilities, not at all. That single paragraph gave me a lot to think about. Finally, it was a neat checklist for a company: uninterrupted power supply. check! password manager. check! data backup. check!

I have not spent a lot of time on this blog but you have made me a fan!

Grace Bosworth
President, Global2Local Language Solutions LLC

2. Silvina - May 12, 2011


Thanks for sharing this information. I already downloaded Keepass and can’t wait to start playing with it. Currently, I keep all my passwords in a password-protected Excel spreadsheet. I’m not unhappy with my system, but I’m also open to try new tools 🙂

3. Michael - May 13, 2011

Thank you, Jill, for your detailed account of my presentation at TCDinDC. You all were a great audience! The “non-linear presentation tool” I used seems to have been a big hit – which goes to show that there is indeed PPT fatigue out there. For all those who want a clickable list of background information, two books that help make PPT more interesting, and a copy of my Prezi, go to http://goo.gl/GFtqR. Unfortunately, I could not add sound to my Prezi. That is still a weak spot of the tool.

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