Skype. I’ve never had much use for the third-party Voice over IP (VoIP) vendors. Vonage has always been on the verge of going under. And eBay’s purchase of Skype is now viewed as one of the worst tech investments in history. Nonetheless, on a recent trip to Africa, I found myself effectively without phone service of any kind … in a hotel with a broadband connection. So I dusted off the old Skype connections and voila! I had phone service. Not bad phone service at that, and dirt cheap even after the investment in a better microphone and earphones. If you travel overseas, Skype is worth looking at.
DVD Not Working. Talk about an epidemic! Hundreds of thousands of Vista users wake up one day to DVD and CD-ROM players that just don’t work. They won’t read the drive or they won’t read the diskette. Not good news going into tax season. The culprit is most likely a register setting related to the DVD stack. There’s a fix in the Microsoft KnowledgeBase. But also check any third-party video codecs and other video-related software. There’s lots of help online for this problem, so don’t panic!
QuickBooks 2009. Say what you want about QuickBooks, it remains integral to the practices of accountants serving small business and the mid-market. So the newest version should be of great interest to accountants due to a very beefed up Client Data Review feature that helps identify and correct problems in the client’s data files. Accountants can review and fix errors in account balances, charts of accounts and several other categories, all from a single screen. Intuit claims this feature will save accountants more than 30 percent of the time spent on each client, resulting in hundreds of hours saved per year. Fair ’nuff.
WiMax. Sprint is still holding parties to congrat-ulate itself over the launch of Xohm, its wireless WiMax service in Baltimore. But in spite of the party favors and happy talk, there are real problems with the underlying WiMax technology. It’s limited. It’s Expensive. And it is encumbered with silly marketing rules that make it less convenient to use. Worst of all, WiMax was conceived in a time before cellular 3G and higher services jumped into the fray. All in all, I don’t see WiMax working anywhere outside of third-world countries.
Street Atlas/GPS Combo. As long as you’re lugging that laptop off on trips (and driving to save on air fare), you may as well have a GPS navigation unit with you. Delorme is offering the new 2009 version of Street Atlas USA bundled with a Garmin GPS unit. The software runs on a laptop as well as other mobile devices, and the GPS unit plugs into any USB port. Total cost is $70 and well worth it.
INTERNET SITE OF THE MONTH
DIVX -- www.divx.org
DIVX is an interesting decoder for AVI video files that should prove of interest to accountants who travel. It allows the viewing of many more types of videos under Windows Media Player, and has a nifty conversion utility to translate massive DVD movies to smaller formats for viewing on portable devices. There’s a free trial, but the real thing will cost just $30.