Friday, January 26, 2018

Windows vs. Office - a relationship seemingly designed to confuse people!

Okay...let's start with a joke. And if you've read this one before, feel free to scroll past it! :-)

ABBOTT:  Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: Thanks. I'm  setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer. 
COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.
ABBOTT:  Your computer?
COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.
COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.
ABBOTT: What about Windows?
COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?
ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?
COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?
ABBOTT: Wallpaper.
COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.
ABBOTT: Software for Windows?
COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use  to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?
ABBOTT: I just did.
COSTELLO: You just did what?
ABBOTT: Recommend something.
COSTELLO: You recommended something?
COSTELLO: For my office?
COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!
ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows
COSTELLO: I  already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?
ABBOTT:  Word.
COSTELLO: What word?
ABBOTT: Word in Office.
COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.
ABBOTT:  The Word in Office for Windows.
COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?
ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue 'W'.
COSTELLO: I'm going to click your blue 'w' if you don't start with some straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?
ABBOTT:  Money.
COSTELLO: That's right. What do you have?
ABBOTT:  Money.
COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?
ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.
COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?
ABBOTT: Yes. No extra charge.
COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?
ABBOTT: One copy.
COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?
ABBOTT:  Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.
COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?
(A few days later)
ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?
ABBOTT: Click on 'START'.............

I am often asked questions about Windows and Office that reveal a very common confusion among everyday computer users about what exactly are these software products and what do they do for you. So let me see if I can resolve some of the confusion once and for all!

A computer is just a collection of electronic components without some software to allow it to accomplish basic functions. This basic software is called the “Operating System”. Computers by companies other than Apple are typically called “PCs” and the vast majority of them run the “Microsoft Windows” operating system. Apple computers, which include the iMac and Macbook, plus a few others, run Apple’s “Mac OS” operating system. Most PCs in use today run Windows 7 or Windows 10, and most Apple computers run some version of Mac OS X (pronounced oh-es-ten).

Completely separate from your operating system is the productivity software that you use to get your work done. Many years ago, Microsoft started bundling together their e-mail, calendar, and contact management software – called “Outlook” – with their word processor (“Word”), spreadsheet (“Excel”), presentation software (“PowerPoint”), and a few other programs too. This bundle of productivity software is called, collectively, “Microsoft Office”.

Microsoft used to name versions of both Windows and Office based on the year in which they were released – Windows 95 and Office 95, Windows 98 and Office 98, Windows 2000 and Office 2000. But after the year 2000, Microsoft has been wildly inconsistent in how they have named these products. Windows diverged after Windows 2000 and the last few versions have been called Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10. In the meantime, Office continued matching its name with the year of release through Office 2013, and then Office 365 came out. With Office 365, which is a subscription-based product, it is very difficult to know what version you actually have of various programs since they update it frequently over the Internet. You are also charged for your subscription based on when you bought Office 365 and NOT based on when Microsoft has something new to offer to you.

To add even more confusion, the versions of programs WITHIN Microsoft Office may still be found to correspond to the year. For example, you may have Office 365, but your version of Microsoft Word may be “Word 2016”. It is possible, however, that newer versions of Office 365 may contain programs whose versions track with the year – such as “Excel 2018”, or they may start tracking with the version of Office – such as “PowerPoint 2018”. Microsoft has been a bit unclear about their plans in this regard.

So, in summary, if somebody asks you what version of Windows you have (like a telephone tech support person), they are talking about your operating system – most likely Windows 7 or Windows 10 (for now!). If you are asked about your version of Office, that has to do with your collection of productivity programs and you may have Office 2013, Office 365, or something else older or newer. Finally, if they want to know your specific version of a program such as Outlook, Word, or Excel, they will have to walk you through checking the version of that program, or, possibly, take over your computer by remote control to check it out themselves!

I hope this is at least somewhat helpful in clearing up the confusion. As always, leave a comment or send an e-mail if you have questions.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Examining the Electoral College

Well we've done it again. For only the fourth time in our nation's history, but the second time in just 16 years, we will inaugurate a President of the United States who won a decisive victory in the Electoral College, but who did not receive a majority of the actual votes cast by citizens. Back in 2000, we viewed this result as the rare by-product of what we thought to be a contentious election and a closely divided electorate. Now, I suppose we might wax nostalgic for those halcyon days of "civility".

The "victors" will surely claim that the Electoral College performed exactly as it was designed - it mitigated the ability of the dense urban areas to dominate the larger but less populous areas of America, and to sublimate the needs and challenges of those areas to those of the so-called "elites". The "losers" will contend that the Electoral College is an anachronism - born of a time when the tyranny of kings was a very real threat, and when New York was two-days' ride from Philadelphia. In my humble opinion, neither view is entirely correct.

In response to the many talking heads and pundits on both sides, not to mention countless posts on social media (however ill-informed), I decided to undertake my own examination of the history, purpose, and effectiveness of the Electoral College. This is certainly not a "scholarly" work, and I will make no attempt to properly footnote and attribute everything I say here. I will simply assert that any claims of fact that I make may be verified easily by reliable sources accessible to any American with an Internet connection. I avoided any "opinion" sites or editorializing, and stuck to primary documents such as the text of the U.S. Constitution itself, or to objective sources such as the decennial Census of the United States.

It is my hope that this article will help to educate and enlighten the discussion, and that whatever ultimate conclusions I achieve may further inform discourse and present additional food for thought.

What is the origin of the Electoral College?

The Constitution defines the basic structure of our government as it continues to be used today. In fact, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest national Constitution still in use. In Article I, Section 2, the Constitution stipulates that there will be one elected Representative for every 30,000 persons, with a minimum of one Representative per State. A Person is defined as "Whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons." This is the famous clause treating slaves as three-fifths of a person. Section 3 of Article I further stipulates that there will be two Senators from each State.

The importance of the apportionment of Representatives and Senators to this discussion becomes apparent in Article II, Section 1, which states that the number of Electors from each State shall be equal to the number of Senators and Representatives to which the State is entitled. Electors are defined elsewhere in the Constitution as those persons responsible for electing the President and Vice President. It may easily be understood from reading the Constitution and other historical documents that the Founders were very concerned with striking a balance between Federal government power, with the efficiency and unity it can provide, and retaining power within the several States to ensure no abuses due to over-centralization of authority.

By having a Senate that provides equal representation for every State, a House that provides representation based on population, and requiring a great deal of conferencing and reconciliation to bring forth legislation, the Founders' design helps to protect the interests of both small and large States, with a slight bias toward the small States. It is clear from their writings that the Founders did not want it to be easy for a large, populous State to run roughshod over the rights of a smaller State. Thus, a State with a comparatively tiny population such as Rhode Island had, initially, a total of three elected members of Congress, while a very populous State like New York had eight. This may still seem like a large difference, but in proportion to its relatively small population at the time, Rhode Island had a disproportionate number of elected representatives. 

Later Amendments to the Constitution made small but important adjustments to the apportionment of Representatives. In the "Articles" introducing the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, which we know as the Bill of Rights, the Founders took the time to correct some of the computations of apportionment from the original document as they foresaw the population of this young Country growing rapidly in the future. Specifically, they expanded upon Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution by stating that there would be: one Representative for every 30,000 persons until there are 100 Representatives, then no less than 100 Representatives and no more than one Representative for every 40,000 persons until there are 200 Representatives, and no less than 200 Representatives and no more than one Representative for every 50,000 persons thereafter.

Every ten years, per the Constitution, there would a Census of the United States, which would result in an apportionment of elected Representatives based on the population of each State. Thus, the House grew steadily from an initial membership of 65 in 1789 to nearly 400 after the Census of 1900. However, dramatic changes to "Apportionment" were about to take place. 

Changes to Apportionment in the Early 20th Century

After the Census of 1910, it was clear that the next Apportionment of Representatives would take the size of the House up above 400 members. Even with only counting adult citizens, there were justifiable concerns about the size of the House becoming unwieldy. These concerns were, in fact, VERY justifiable as today's House would have over 5,000 members if the Founders' original formula of one Representative for every 50,000 people had been maintained!

Therefore, The Apportionment Act of 1911 fixed the House of Representatives' size at 435 Members - the size that it remains today. That Act also established procedures for redistricting, based on population, but this task was later delegated to the States, which is a subject of much political wrangling in recent decades. The Reapportionment Act of 1929 further established a method of using population for apportioning the 435 Representatives among the States after each census, but redistricting was left to the States, as previously described. Finally, the Apportionment Act of 1941 made the apportionment process after each census "automatic", to ensure that Congress did not need to pass a new Apportionment Act after each decennial census, which had been the subject of lengthy delays and missed deadlines in the preceding couple of decades.

Congressional Apportionment Today

Each State is apportioned a number of seats in the House that corresponds to its approximate share of the aggregate population of the 50 States. However, every State is constitutionally guaranteed at least one seat. There are an additional five delegates to the House of Representatives. They represent the District of Columbia and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico also elects a resident commissioner every four years.  Because the size of a State's total congressional delegation determines the size of its representation in the U.S. Electoral College, congressional apportionment also affects the U.S. presidential and vice-presidential election process. That is, the number of Electors from each State is affected directly by Apportionment in the House. 

The modern method of Apportionment is somewhat complex, mathematically - and it doesn't even address the contentious redistricting process at the State level. It is just the methodology used to divide a fixed number of Representatives among a growing and shifting population, and it ensures that every State has at least one Representative even if, after rounding, it would seem to be entitled to none. As a result, as of May 2016, there is approximately one Representative for every 720,000 people in each State, on average. However, States with smaller populations (Wyoming, Vermont, etc.) still get at least one Representative. Plus, of course, every State still gets its two Senators.

When the current state of congressional apportionment is extrapolated to the number of Electors, the difference between how many people are represented by each Elector from small versus large States becomes dramatic. As you can see from the chart below, small states have a lot fewer people represented by each Elector than large states. But remember, each Elector's vote counts equally in determining the President and Vice President, whether they are voting on behalf of fewer than 200,000 people or more than 700,000. This creates a disproportionate impact on the Electoral College for small states; however, as pointed out earlier, this was part of the Founders' design to avoid tyranny.

Abolish the Electoral College?

Given the disproportionate impact of less populous States described above, and its potential for dramatic effect on the outcome of very close elections (such as those we saw in 2000 and 2016), some have called for abolishing the Electoral College. The argument in favor of abolition certainly seems compelling on its surface - namely, that the Electoral College has outlived its usefulness in an age of instantaneous information and transcontinental travel times measured in hours rather than days or weeks. It surely seems anachronistic to have a group of people travel to Washington, D.C. to cast their electoral votes in what is almost always a symbolic gesture of affirmation of what took place weeks earlier.

In addition, the modern Electoral College has created a phenomenon of "swing states" - States that are closely contested, which receive the bulk of the major candidates' attention. In recent elections, those States have included places like Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. However, some of our most populous States - California, New York, and Texas - receive comparatively little attention. Why? Because they are reliably Democratic or Republican, so, the theory goes, there is little point in investing substantial time and money to win big States that you can count on to show up for a specific party. However, this aspect of the current process ensures that a lot of citizens' voices do not get heard - from both large States and small ones.

Furthermore, if narrow wins in a handful of "swing states" can cause a solid Electoral College victory for a candidate who receives substantially fewer individual votes from citizens, one might characterize the Electoral College as being more a defeater of the will of the electorate rather than a reflection of it. Since we now have the capability of tabulating votes rapidly and accurately, and relaying those tabulations to central authorities in seconds rather than hours or days, why not simply let the people decide as a whole? 

How about returning to the Founders' vision?

The Founders envisioned our Representatives representing a lot fewer people than they do at present. As cited above within this article, Electors currently represent about 700,000 people, versus the 50,000 people specified in the opening Articles of the Bill of Rights.

In Federalist No. 55, James Madison argued that the size of the House of Representatives has to balance the ability of the body to legislate with the need for legislators to have a relationship close enough to the people to understand their local circumstances. He went on to suggest that such representatives' social class be low enough to sympathize with the feelings of the mass of the people, and that their power be diluted enough to limit their abuse of the public trust and interests.

"... first, that so small a number of representatives will be an unsafe depositary of the public interests; secondly, that they will not possess a proper knowledge of the local circumstances of their numerous constituents; thirdly, that they will be taken from that class of citizens which will sympathize least with the feelings of the mass of the people, and be most likely to aim at a permanent elevation of the few on the depression of the many;..."

Clearly, he recognized that if Representatives were so far removed from their constituents, they would be less likely to relate to them. Furthermore, this would provide the proper and desired balance between the equality among States in the Senate. However, over time, it has turned out that there are good reasons for having limited the number of Representatives - most importantly avoiding a House with over 5,000 members! Madison himself argued against the assumption that more representation is always better:

"Sixty or seventy men may be more properly trusted with a given degree of power than six or seven. But it does not follow that six or seven hundred would be proportionally a better depositary. And if we carry on the supposition to six or seven thousand, the whole reasoning ought to be reversed. ... In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever character composed, passion never fails to wrest the scepter from reason."

There are currently a total of 538 electors, corresponding to the 435 Representatives, the 100 Senators, plus three electors for the District of Columbia. This is what creates the famous "270 electoral votes needed to win" phenomenon of which we are reminded quadrennially. Returning to the original vision of the Founders - even if only for the electoral college - would surely create a system so unwieldy as to be useless, as Madison himself pointed out.

So then what IS the problem with the current Electoral College process?

Almost all States have chosen electors on a "winner-take-all" basis since the 1800's. Under the winner-take-all system, the State's electors are awarded to the candidate with the most votes in that state. However, more recently, Maine and Nebraska adopted the "Congressional District Method" (CDM). Since electors are awarded to each state based on the number of House seats plus the number of Senate seats (always two), the congressional district method allocates one electoral vote to each congressional district. The winner of each district is awarded one electoral vote, and the winner of the state-wide vote is then awarded the state's remaining two electoral votes.

The CDM has been used in Maine since 1972 and Nebraska since 1996, but, since both states have adopted this approach, the statewide winners have swept all of the state's districts in every election except 2008 and 2016. In 2008, Nebraska gave four of its electoral votes to John McCain, but Barack Obama won a single electoral vote from Nebraska's 2nd congressional district. In 2016, Maine gave three of its electoral votes to Hillary Clinton, but Donald Trump won a single electoral vote in Maine's 2nd congressional district. In neither case did the method have a substantive effect on the election; however, it was used in only two states - both with relatively small populations (and a correspondingly small number of electoral votes).

If the CDM had been used more broadly in 2016, it might have had a very interesting impact in some "swing states". For example, Michigan would have given 11 electoral votes to Trump and 5 to Clinton; Ohio would have gone 14 to 4 for Trump, and Pennsylvania 14 to 6 for Trump as well. Thus, in those three battlegrounds, which gave all of their combined 54 electoral votes to Trump, a CDM-based vote would have gone 39 to 15 in Trump's favor. Of course, California has as many electoral votes as those three states combined; however, Trump would have picked up 7 of the 54 electoral votes in California if the CDM had been used.

As observed earlier, population per electoral vote is totally unbalanced from state-to-state. Small states and rural areas already have a disproportionate effect on the election by virtue of the Apportionment methods described previously, and the "winner-take-all" system exacerbates that effect. This is because even the tiniest States (population-wise) get three Electors. However, the Constitution and its various Articles and Amendments provides no mechanism or requirement for apportioning Electors - that task is left to the States. On the one hand, this is a bad thing in that it is just left up to the states to decide, and every state potentially could use a different method. On the other hand, this makes change a lot easier to achieve - particularly on an incremental basis. One state at a time can choose to adjust how they apportion Electors, with no need to have a national agreement on a Constitutional Amendment.

If we were to abolish the Electoral College completely, then every close election could involve at least one NATIONWIDE recount of votes. This would cause a repeat the lengthy process we witnessed in Florida in 2000 - but across the whole nation. Close elections could remain undecided for MONTHS on a regular basis. However, if we instead push to have electors apportioned proportionately in every state using the CDM, then recounts might only be required in very close races within individual Congressional districts - a much less onerous process. This would also mean that all states become worthy of attention since even those that go overwhelmingly for one party or the other might still have some electors that are "up for grabs". The Founders' vision would be more fully realized, and the voices of ALL citizens would have a chance to be heard.

The Call to Action

If all of this makes sense, then there is a simple course of action you can take - write to your STATE legislators and ask them to consider proportional allocation of Electors from your state using the Congressional District Method. You can paraphrase this article, or just link right to it directly.

If you need help figuring out how to contact your elected officials, I recommend you go to, which provides mechanisms for determining how best to contact them.

Together, through collective action, we can ensure the voices of all citizens are heard!

UPDATE: FairVote ( performed an analysis of the Congressional District Method, as well as other options for replacing the current method of apportioning Electors. They conclude that the Congressional District Method would not solve the problem effectively and present their own preferred alternative. I am not entirely convinced by their analysis as the principal objection cited is that gerrymandering of congressional districts means there are presently fewer "swing districts" than "swing states". (To learn more about gerrymandering, see or just search online for "gerrymandering".)

There is widespread agreement that gerrymandering needs to be addressed as well. So, I would not want to dismiss what may be the most effective method of improving our electoral process simply because another "broken" part of our system makes it less than perfect in the short term. Let's hope that improving our government is an iterative and ongoing process, and that gerrymandering is also resolved in the not-too-distant future. I suggest you read what FairVote has to say and come to your own conclusions.

What we all certainly agree upon is that the current system is not an effective way of representing the will of ALL citizens, while protecting the rights of citizens in smaller states not to have their rights trampled upon. Get involved, get informed, and take action!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Guide to the Perfect E-mail Signature - DOs and DON'Ts

Like a lot of business people, I receive hundreds of e-mail messages every day. While I employ a variety of junk mail filtering technologies (a good topic for another blog post), in the end there are still plenty of real e-mails from clients, business partners, friends, and family that I need to address. Also, like most of us these days, I read a high percentage of my e-mail on my smartphone as I travel from place to place, wait for appointments, or just occupy idle time at home. One of the most useful features of e-mail that everyone has but not everyone uses, is the lowly e-mail SIGNATURE.

The e-mail signature is the bunch of stuff that appears below your e-mail message whenever you write or reply to an e-mail. Every e-mail service, software, and mobile app allows you to create an e-mail signature. Search the help in your e-mail system for "signature" and you will find instructions for setting up your own e-mail signature. A GOOD signature helps the recipient to know exactly who is writing to them, and, most importantly, to respond easily to your message. A BAD or, worse yet, MISSING signature makes life more difficult for the recipient - especially if they are reading and responding to your message on a mobile device.

Here are my DOs and DON'Ts for effective e-mail signatures:

E-mail Signature DOs
  • Place your name, e-mail address, web site address, and PHONE NUMBER in your signature. Most e-mail programs make electronic addresses "clickable", and, if you view e-mails on a smartphone, they often make phone numbers click-to-dial as well. This will make it easier for your recipient to respond to your message promptly, wherever they are, through a variety of means.
  • Include ONE company logo graphic that is relatively small. This helps with branding your message, but a small graphic does not add much to the download time for your message - even on a slower Internet connection.
  • Include LINKS to your social media pages - particularly LinkedIn and Twitter for most businesses.
E-mail Signature DON'Ts
  • Do NOT include text at the bottom such as "Sent from my iPhone" or "Sent from my blah blah blah Wireless 4G LTE mobile phone". This tells everybody you don't know how to edit your signature, it advertises the type of phone you have (nobody cares), and it wastes space for no good reason. I have heard some people use the excuse that this helps to excuse typos they might make when sending business doesn't. If you are writing a business e-mail, you should proofread it wherever you are doing the writing - phone, iPad, laptop, wherever. If you have trouble touch-typing on your phone or tablet and are writing a lot of business e-mails, get an external keyboard.
  • Do NOT include social media graphic logos, logos of awards your company won, logos of partner companies, maps to your office, seasonal graphics, etc. Having lots of graphics makes your e-mails harder to read, slower to download on mobile networks, and communicates information that is either (a) useless, or (b) gleaned easily from your web site. This is simply not the place for a bunch of excess graphics.
  • Do NOT use fancy, colorful backgrounds. You may think they look nice, but they make your messages harder to read - especially on mobile devices. Save the pretty graphics for your web site and keep your e-mail communications simple and clear.
  • Do NOT include a bunch of your favorite quotes or other "colorful" stuff; if you must - pick ONE quote to put at the bottom - such as a company slogan, or a reminder of your new location...things like that. Remember that e-mail is about the RECIPIENT and not the sender! So PLEASE don't weigh down your messages with too much information that most recipients won't care about.

So if you follow these tips, you might end up with a signature that looks something like this:


This tip has nothing to do with an e-mail signature, but is more of an e-mail annoyance. ALWAYS include a Subject for your e-mail messages; however, PLEASE do not put your message content in the Subject line for your e-mail instead of the body. Leaving the Subject blank makes it hard to sort and review your e-mail messages, but some people treat this area like it's a text message. For example:

To: Jim Smith
From: Jane Doe
Date: November 25, 2014 14:26:28
Subject: This is an example of putting the content of the message in the subject line instead of the body of the message.

Jane Doe

This is bothersome because for two reasons:

  1. The formatting of the Subject of an e-mail on a mobile device can often make it hard to read the full text of a long subject line. It is much easier to sort and review messages with short, descriptive, but NOT blank subjects.
  2. Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and web site addresses that e-mail programs make "clickable" in the body of a message are almost always NOT clickable when they are in a Subject line. This makes it harder to respond to and follow up on your e-mail messages (see some of the DOs and DON'Ts above).

I hope that these tips are helpful to you in making your e-mail communication more friendly and useful!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

LogMeIn’s Free Service Discontinued

LogMeIn has been a popular way to get remote access to your systems for more than ten years. Earlier today, they announced that their popular free service will be discontinued and users will have to transition to one of their paid subscription products, or find another free remote access solution (see LogMeIn's Blog for more info).

For those of you unfamiliar with LogMeIn or other similar products, they allow you to install a small program on a computer you would like to access remotely – called a “Host” – and then gain access to it from other computing devices, called “Clients”. For example, you could install LogMeIn on a computer in your office, then access it remotely from Home, your laptop, or even your iPad or smartphone.

LogMeIn used to offer their “Host” service free, for non-commercial use (although many business people used the free software anyway). They also offer a variety of paid service products that historically have targeted technology professionals – products for remote technical support, secure networking between servers, remote updating of systems, and so on. Now, LogMeIn Pro accounts will start at $49 per year for two “Host” computers – a 50% discount off the price paid by current LogMeIn Pro customers. You have just seven days to upgrade to Pro after your next login to LogMeIn Free (see below).

LogMeIn Pro offers several benefits versus the formerly free product, most notably the ability to print on a local printer from a remote computer, support for mobile apps on iOS and Android, and an easy way to transfer files between Hosts and Clients. Even at $49, it’s still a pretty good value.

However, if you feel strongly about using a free solution, there are a number of options I can recommend:

  • TeamViewer – Operates much the way LogMeIn does, and offers support for Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile devices. It also has an “ad hoc” version that makes it easy for you to have a screen sharing session with a friend whenever you want. TeamViewer is free for non-commercial use, but they expect businesses to pay for one of their more advanced products.
  • Chrome Remote Desktop – Through an add-in to Google’s Chrome browser, you can establish on-demand or permanent remote access to a computer. Chrome works with desktop and laptop computers, Chromebooks, and even mobile devices. This option is 100% free and just requires a free Google (Gmail) account to set it up.
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection – Windows systems have had a built-in ability to set up remote access since Windows XP Professional came out more than ten years ago. This is the same “terminal services” technology used for quick, easy server support by IT professionals for many years. It’s free and built into just about every copy of Windows that’s out there. However, this is almost entirely a Windows technology, and for most users, setup generally requires technical assistance.

Whether you stick with LogMeIn or choose a free option, Remote Access software is an invaluable tool for keeping you productive whenever and wherever you like.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What will you leave behind: an inheritance or a legacy?

This isn't my usual technical post, but it is an interesting perspective on two technical titans. People who know me well know that I am not anti-Apple, but I am not a huge fan. They would also know that I used to be very ANTI Bill Gates, but have commented more recently on how he is a shining example of a man who became a better human being with the partnership of a wonderful woman. In any case...I didn't write this post, I just edited the article a bit for brevity...

Two people stand out as supreme examples of success in our generation.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates certainly made more money than anyone of us can ever realistically contemplate acquiring. They are paradigms of the entrepreneurial spirit. They reached the pinnacle of wealth, fame and prominence. Both are men of tremendous achievement. Jobs gave us Apple, and Gates gave us Microsoft. Their brilliance was responsible for stunning technological breakthroughs that have literally changed the world. While Jobs tragically passed away last year and Gates is thankfully still alive, we could surely assume that both will have earned lasting legacies that will make them be long remembered.

That's why I found it so incredible to learn what Malcolm Gladwell believes is in store for their memories. To be fair, Gladwell isn't a prophet and the future may very well prove him greatly mistaken. But it's certainly worth considering the views of this very influential author of The Tipping Point, Outliers and Blink, whose insights into cultural attitudes have made him a highly respected and influential analyst of contemporary society. As quoted in PC Magazine, Gladwell thinks that 50 years from now Steve Jobs will be no more than a minor footnote in the pages of history; Bill Gates, on the other hand, may well have statues erected in his honor in countries around the globe. The reason for the difference? Jobs was a business genius. He built a company like no other. He left us with incomparable products. Gates went beyond that. He reached a time in life when making money and creating ever newer software wasn't as important as the charitable work he could do through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And ultimately that is what gains us the eternal gratitude of generations that follow us.

Gladwell succinctly summarizes it this way: “I believe the future will ultimately remember tech giants more for what they gave back to society than for what they achieved business-wise.” Success isn't defined by what we manage to get, but rather by what we are able to give. And that's true even if we’re not in a position to start a foundation or to embark upon the kinds of projects that only a billionaire can tackle. We need to remember that legacies are created during our lifetimes. The key to achieving greatness is to be responsible for something that outlives us. Horace Mann put it beautifully when he said, "Be ashamed to die until you have achieved some victory for humanity."

Whether we have sufficient funds to create a foundation or just the means to give a little bit back to the world into which we were born and from which we derive so much, the true test of our character is always how much we are willing to do to justify the gift of our lives.

derived from an article by Rabbi Benjamin Blech that appeared on