Ag Communication Web Services

Tech info, tips & tricks

Using Your iPad for Business

There’s been a lot of interest in tablet devices recently and the market for them is getting interesting. Both the Nook and the Kindle, which were once only e-book readers, have evolved and become more tablet-like. However, the dominant player in the market is still the iPad (by some measures having a 97.5% share). It often comes up in conversation that people are really interested in them, but not quite sure how to use them to help them with their work.

Not knowing your work style or requirements, I’m going to let those better than I make suggestions regarding apps that could be of use. If you are looking for suggestions try the sources below:

Apple's iPad in Business Web Page
There are dozens of apps on this page that are some of the most common apps for the iPad. Short descriptions and a quick screen shot are all you get, but there are links to the apps themselves if one of them sparks your interest.

Apple's iPad in Business Video Podcast
This is a great resource straight from the horse’s mouth. Short videos highlight specific apps that are used by various businesses. Not all the apps will apply to you, and many of them have a cost, but they are quick and well done. They highlight some functions you may not have thought of.

@Work: Apps for Business
Right within iTunes, there’s a spot where work-friendly apps are corralled. These apps may change from week to week, so stop by every now and then to see what’s new. This area includes both free and paid apps, so you can stay within a budget if necessary.

For an offline source, a book, iPad at Work, was recently published that addresses many of the functions that an iPad can be used for such as calendars, writing, presentations, and task management. It talks about these types of functions and apps that address those functions, including how-tos and screenshots. It’s available from many places in both physical and digital forms - and of course, you can read it on your iPad.

There are also many independent places where you can learn about apps and get reviews. Try Googling “iPad business reviews” and see which ones interest you.

Apps for the iPad are being developed and released everyday. If you want to be able to do something with your iPad, chances are “there’s an app for that.”

-- Julie Kuehl


You may have heard us Web Services folks talking about “Working Differently in Extension.” As part of that discussion we’ve mentioned that there are several ways to move forward in the social media arena. And the first of these is listening.

In unfamiliar territory, it’s always a good idea to keep your eyes and ears open. Whether that territory is a foreign country or an online environment, there’s an existing culture that needs to be understood and respected. And learned from.

There will be accepted ways that people interact with each other. There will be courtesies expected. There will be topics considered in bad taste. There will be hot-button topics sure to bring a heated discussion every time. And people will reach out to the stranger, the new person unsure of themselves, and let them get away with faux pas that more native members would be chided for.

Like children growing, listening is a great place to start, but eventually you will want to, and be expected to, participate in the conversation. Because you’ve been listening, it should be an easy, comfortable step to take. You’ll know your way around and understand what people have been talking about.

There are many places to listen such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, etc. You don’t have to listen to all of them, but you should be listening. There are conversations going on about your area of interest and expertise - all currently without your interest and expertise. Like kids trying to describe things they don’t understand, sometimes the stories can get fanciful. Sharing your expertise can go a long way towards a better understanding. Which makes you a trusted source of information in their eyes.

-- Julie Kuehl


In the Cloud? What Cloud?

There’s plenty of talk these days of doing business “in the cloud.” But what does that mean?

To do business “in the cloud” means storing your information and files and with an online service rather than on your computer’s hard drive. There are many reasons this can be a good idea, and a few why maybe it’s not.

The biggest advantage of doing this is being able to access your information from any computer, or even a smartphone. It can also free up space on your local computer. And it can provide a backup in case anything were to happen to your machine.

You’re files are stored on (probably massive bank of) computers at some distant location. The best services have purposely chosen those locations for their security and risk exposure. They even look at the possibility of natural disasters. They practice leading edge security procedures and have multiple backups in multiple locations, often around the world. While nothing is risk-free (no, not even keeping it out of the cloud and on your local computer - or even keeping it off your computer completely), most cloud services are serious about managing those risks and can do a better job of it than you probably will.

Cloud services are available for nearly anything you’d do on a computer. From simple file sharing/backup services to online bookkeeping to music and video, someone will offer to help you do it online. When you are looking at such a service, be sure to read about their security/privacy policies. You may not understand everything, but look for words like encryption, SSL (secure sockets layer), redundancy, and controls. The more systems they have in place, the better.

The cloud will be the biggest shift in computing for some time to come. It has the potential to be as big as the shift from mainframe to desktop computing. Cloud computing is the infrastructure that will make access to your information at any time from any place using any device possible.

-- Julie Kuehl

Not For You?

So you think social networking isn’t for you? Sorry. Wrong answer.

What’s critical with social networking, your online presence, and pretty much everything else, is what your customers/clients/constituents want. It’s not about you. This is lesson number one to be successful. Not just successful online. Successful. Period.

I once had the experience of doing business with a company that is quite understandably not glued to their computers all day. That’s not their business. But for their customers that are, having a link on the website (or Facebook or Twitter account) that is left unattended was counter productive. I attempted to contact them in these proffered methods, but got no response. I don’t mean immediate response, I knew they weren’t sitting by their computer. I mean sometime this week. Eventually, I had to resort to calling them, but only after I was somewhat frustrated and certainly less enthusiastic. There are many times where people wouldn’t give you that much leeway. If there was no response by close of business, they would move on to another source.

I know it seems like one more thing to do, to keep up with the online world. But so is answering the phone or responding to mail and email. It’s become part of the job. It’s what people expect. And it’s up to them, not you, to decide which way they like best. And if you think your customers aren’t into that kind of thing - maybe that’s why they’re not your customers.

-- Julie Kuehl

Mobile Phones

Have you been shopping for a mobile phone lately? I have. And there’s a few things I’ve noticed.

First, non-smartphones (called feature phones) are becoming few and far between. The selection seems to be more limited every time I stop by to take a look. I think there will be feature phones available for some time to come, but they really will become second-class devices, if they’re not already. The biggest reason people stick with these phones is because they don’t want to pay for a data plan. They have a variety of features, but manufacturers interest and development has already begun to wane.

Then there are the smartphones. With AT&T and Verizon now both in the area, and both carrying the iPhone, the smartphone scene has changed dramatically since the first of the year. Even though there are other options out there (notably Windows phones and Blackberries) it really has become a two-horse race between Android and  iOS devices. iOS can only be found on iPhones, but Android can be found on a variety of handsets from various manufacturers. When looking at Android phones, make sure you are getting the latest version of the software as many devices cannot be upgraded. You may also want to take a look at the available apps (programs that can be added to your phone) as they vary between the iOS and Android platforms. Some apps are available on both, some only on one or the other. And apps cannot be transferred from iOS to Android or vice versa. Many of these apps have a small cost, and you may want to check this out in advance. Go to for the iOS apps and for the Android apps to see what’s available.

When it comes to picking the actual handset, you’ll have to go with your personal preferences. You may like the feel of a particular handset, or insist on a physical keyboard. You may want certain camera specs, or need the biggest screen possible. You usually never get everything you want, but find something that meets the majority of your wants.

Smartphones usually start around the $200 level when bought under contract, but then there’s an additional monthly fee for the data plan - which isn’t optional. Those fees can vary, but start at about $30 a month. Look at both if cost is important to your decision.

Buying mobile phones seems to have always been a confusing chore. But some of the new phones, and the apps that go with them, really take these devices from mobile phones to mobile computers.

-- Julie Kuehl

Pico Projectors

Imagine if you will, a time when a presentation will fit into the palm of your hand. Not the notes. Not the floppy disk. No, imagine instead a projector that can store the presentation on board and display it big enough and bright enough in a small meeting room for all to see. Don't believe me? It's true.

Pico projectors are a new type of projector produced by several manufacturers. "Pico" means one-trillionth if you want to get technical, but it is used here to describe a very small projector, not much bigger than your cell phone. These projectors can be connected to a computer, netbook, iPod, camera, camcorder, or used stand-alone. They're not going to replace the bigger projectors for bigger rooms/events, but for smaller gatherings they're much better than huddling over a laptop screen. (See some examples in the links below, especially the graphics on the Aaxa site.)

And if you thought their diminutive size was their most compelling feature, check out the price. Most models are under $500, roughly half or less what a larger projector costs. There are different makes and models with different sizes, features, and prices. But they can sure give a lot of bang for the buck. Something to consider if you typically are sharing with small groups or want a display for booth or event.


Author: Julie

Copyright 2009, North Dakota State University