Category Archives: Technology

What to Use for Conference Calls When Working From Home

I’ve been working from home regularly for a couple of years now. During that time I’ve been searching for the ideal kit to use to make conference calls to the office. I’ve experimented with a few different solutions and think i’ve finally found a cheap, well performing system that gets the job done.

Below are the various options i’ve tried….with the best at the bottom ūüėČ

1. Cordless landline phone on speaker mode

This was the first and worst solution I tried. It was so bad I thought our old cordless landline was at fault so I went out and bought another newer model…which turned out to be equally poor.

The microphones on both (Panasonic) models i tried¬†were terrible and the speaker seem to be even worse. I wasn’t sure why the Amazon reviews were so good! Conversations would tend to cut out regularly (usually at the worst time possible).

2. Routing calls to an iPhone and using the speaker

This was a much better solution. However I still found that on some calls with lots of attendees in a large conference room I couldn’t get the volume loud enough to hear all the participants. I’d find myself craning over the iphone to try and hear what was going on. The little speaker on phones is a bit tinny and not clear enough when turned up high.

3. Buying a dedicated conference call phone

These are the units we use at work and they are great. This was not something i did in the end as the high cost put me off – mainly because work wouldn’t pay for it ūüôĀ

4. Routing calls to an iPhone and using headphones

This worked quite well for a while. A cheap pair of in ear headphones with a built in mic¬†¬†allowed me to walk about when on boring calls and make a cup of tea etc. I was perfectly happy with this solution until i discovered…….

5. Routing calls to iphone and using a bluetooth speaker

Bingo! I bought one of these fantastic little speakers from Amazon and was blown away with it for playing music around the house and garden.

Simple to connect to phones and tablets, remarkably good/loud sound for it’s tiny size and a great battery life….all for about ¬£15. I’ve since bought a few for friends as I’ve been so pleased with ours.

Bluetooth Speaker for Conference Calls

Then I had the brainwave of using this little speaker for conference calls when working from home. This enabled me to turn up the volume and hear everything that was going on, even on crappy quality lines.

For speaking I continue to use the built in microphone in my iphone – it works just fine just as long as i keep the phone not too far away form me.

This solution works really well and still enables me to be mobile during calls. If i need to get up and wander to the next room I can just crank up the volume before I go. If a cup of tea is needed I just need to carry the speaker and phone down to the kitchen.

iPhone 4s Unable to Delete Emails

I recently hadf a problem on my iPhone 4s where i was unable to delet mails from one of my mailboxes. Everytime i tried to delete an email from the inbox in question I got an error stating ‘Unable to move message to folder Trash’. Here is the simple fix that solved the issue for me.

  1. Open Settings
  2. Select Mail, Contacts, Calanders
  3. Select the mail box affected
  4. Select Advanced
  5. Select Deleted Mailbox
  6. Click on Trash (even though it may already be checked)

As soon as I did this ti was suddenly able to successfully delete emails form my inbox again. Simples!

iPhone – How to See How Much Data I Use

With many mobile phone companies removing their unlimited data tarriffs many iphone users are worried about how much data they use and how much they may be charged in the future.

How To Check Your iPhone Usage

Navigate to the Settings application on your iphone then navigate to General > Usage. Down near the bottom of the screen you’ll see a Cellular Network Data – this tells you how much data you have both received and send.

iphone data usage

iphone data useage

You can reset this data by hitting the bottom of the screen. If you tariff has a monthly allowance you can simply reset the statistics every month. Below the reset button is the date the data was last reset.

A Media Player TV: Samsung 8000 LED LCD

As mentioned in my previous post I have recently been thinking about with the idea of buying a mac mini and turning it into a media centre to allow me to watch tv, play music and watch films. After doing a lot of research I finally decided on a much simpler option.
Instead of the mac mini I purchased a SAMSUNG UE40B8000 40″ 8000 Series LED LCD TV (infact even if i was going to buy a mac mini I also planned to buy an LCD TV). The great thing about this and other recent Samsung TVs is that they have what Samsung describe as ‘Media 2.0 capability’. This media 2.0 functionality includes the following four main features:
USB 2.0
This basically means you can plug an external usb storage device into the tv (such as a USB dongle or external hard drive) and play mp3s, movie files or view jpeg photographs through the tv. The built in media player has lots of codecs built in and has so far handled all of the video files I have thrown at it (avi, mpeg, wmv etc). I was a bit worried about the performance of this functionality however I have a 1TB external hard drive plugged in and have had no problems playing any of my media back. Ok so the interface is a bit clunky to navigate (especially when you have a large media collection) however it is usable and more importantly it’s reliable and plays all my media (something my windows laptop often struggled with!).
Internet@TV
This is a direct attempt by Samsung to greate a useful link between your internet and your TV, something that firms like Microsoft and Apple have been trying for years. You can connect you TV to your router via anetwork cable or by using a wireless dongle (this is about $50 extra). Content is delivered to your TV via a number of widgets, allowing you to access services such as flickr, yahoo news, yahoo weather, yahoo finance, youtube. Make no mistake you are not accessing the true internet as you would on a computer. Instead you are using available widgets or apps, in fact the experiance is very similar to the apps used on an apple iphone or ipod touch. Samsung promises the number of available widgets will increase over time. While I can’t see this being the complete future of Internet TV there are some useful apps and I can see myself using these features to check my flickr acocunt, look up the weather forcast etc.
Content Library
This is a preloaded collection of content that Samsung include on all shipped TVs. It includes a collection of example photographs, a few basic games, some recipes, fitness exercises and childrens learning activities. I believe you can connect the tv to the internet and download more content from the Samsung website. I am sure some people will find this content useflul – it may keep my niece and nephew quite for an hour or so if required. Personally I can’t see myself using this much (if at all). If i want a recipe i’ll hit google, not my samsung tv!
DNLA Wireless
This funcionality allows you to connect other devices to your TV wirelessly. ¬†Either by using the addition wireless dongle or connecting the TV to your wireless router you can stream movies, photos or music wirelessly from your laptop or PC.I’ve not really tested this yet but I imagine it will be iusefull for things such as showing the family my holiday snaps.

As mentioned in my previous post I have recently been thinking about with the idea of buying a mac mini and turning it into a home media centre to allow me to watch tv, play music and watch films. After doing a lot of research I finally decided on a much simpler option.

Instead of the mac mini I purchased a SAMSUNG UE40B8000 40″ Series LED LCD TV (infact even if i was going to buy a mac mini I also planned to buy an LCD TV). The great thing about this and other recent Samsung TVs is that they have what Samsung describe as ‘Media 2.0 capability’ or in other words a built in media player and usb¬†connectivity.

This media 2.0 functionality includes the following four main features:

USB 2.0

This basically means you can plug an external usb storage device into the tv (such as a USB dongle or external hard drive) and play mp3s, movie files or view jpeg photographs through the tv. The built in media player has lots of codecs built in and has so far handled all of the video files I have thrown at it (avi, mpeg, wmv etc).

I was a bit worried about the performance of this functionality however I have a 1TB external hard drive plugged in and have had no problems playing any of my media back. Ok so the interface is a bit clunky to navigate however it is usable and more importantly it’s reliable and plays all my media (something my windows laptop often struggled with!).

Samsung TV Playing mp3s from a 1TB Hard Drive

Samsung TV Playing mp3s from a 1TB Hard Drive

Internet@TV

This is a direct attempt by Samsung to greate a useful link between your internet and your TV, something that firms like Microsoft and Apple have been trying for years. You can connect you TV to your router via a network cable or by using a wireless dongle (this is about $50 extra).

Content is delivered to your TV via a number of widgets, allowing you to access services such as flickr, yahoo news, yahoo weather, yahoo finance, youtube. Make no mistake you are not accessing the true internet as you would on a computer. Instead you are using available widgets or apps, in fact the experience is very similar to the apps used on an apple iphone or ipod touch.

Samsung promises the number of available widgets will increase over time. While I can’t see this being the complete future of Internet TV there are some useful apps and I can see myself using these features to check my flickr account, look up the weather forcast etc.

Content Library

This is a preloaded collection of content that Samsung include on all shipped TVs. It includes a collection of example photographs, a few basic games, some recipes, fitness exercises and childrens learning activities. I believe you can connect the tv to the internet and download more content from the Samsung website.

I am sure some people will find this content useflul – it may keep my niece and nephew quite for an hour or so if required. Personally I can’t see myself using this much (if at all). If i want a recipe i’ll hit google, not my samsung tv!

DNLA Wireless

This¬†functionality¬†allows you to connect other devices to your TV wirelessly. ¬†Either by using the addition wireless dongle or connecting the TV to your wireless router you can stream movies, photos or music wirelessly from your laptop or PC. I’ve not really tested this yet but I imagine it will be i useful for things such as showing the family my holiday snaps.

Is This TV a Media Player?

After using this TV for a few days now it is mightily impressive. It does exactly what I wanted it too in terms of playing all of the media off my 1TB external hard drive.

Despite the huge amount of mp3s and films on my drive, navigation is fast even if it isn’t as slick an interface as something like itunes on a computer it gets the job done.

If you are thinking about a media center (either with a mac mini or windows pc) then you should definitly consider this samsung tv option.

Benefits of the Samsung 8000 over a computer based media centre:

  • No need for a computer. This solution just needs the TV and an external hard drive
  • I can control/play¬†everything¬†with just the TV remote control – no need for a mouse and keyboard or additional remote
  • Energy efficiency is much better as I am only powering the TV and the external hard drive (which powers down when i switch the TV off). No need to leave a pc running 24/7
  • Computer based media¬†centres¬†are unreliable. I used to run a windows based one and have heavily researched the mac mini option. This TV option simply works ALL the time.

Update: Another great reason I forgot to mention in the original post is that Samsung are currently offering £200 cash back on this TV.