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to ease communication

New products available
to ease communication

What is the well-dressed small office wearing today? Some of the latest computer tools, of course. In this month’s column, we investigate two products that can help your business be more productive. One is for communicating inside your office, the other for communicating with those outside.
Communicating inside: Cut the cables and air out your differences.
Do you have a desktop and a laptop computer? Are you tired of swapping printer cables back and forth, or shuttling diskettes between them to move documents around? Then take a look at LapLink Wireless from Traveling Software Inc. LapLink Wireless uses the AirShare unit from National Semiconductor Corp. to let two computers communicate up to 30 feet apart without cabling connecting them.
You can use AirShare to set up a mini local area network to let two computers share files and printers. The AirShare units, which are smaller than a deck of cards, plug into your computers’ serial ports and weigh less than 5 ounces with a battery. They have lights to indicate that there is power and that the units are able to communicate with each other. Power can come from the AC adapter that is provided with the package, a 9v battery pack (batteries not included) or from a keyboard port with the provided cable. You can have up to three sets of the units in an area, as there are three channels available.
With LapLink, the floppy and hard drives of each unit become additional drives on the other computer. The LapLink software uses familiar Windows file manager to work with files. In addition, Synchro Plus synchronizes your computers automatically (when the AirShare units come into range) or manually, in the background (the transfer does not stop other work you may be doing in Windows). You can set up “jobs”–instructions of what types of files you want to make sure are updated on both computers–so only the information you want is updated, automatically or with prompts for overwriting and updating files. Passwords let you limit who can access your system.
In addition, you can use printers attached to either computer. This provides a lot of freedom when you can move around an office with a portable unit and print without needing to connect directly to a network or a printer.
Not only can the LapLink software work with the AirShare units, but also with cables, infrared ports or over a modem. You can keep you systems updated automatically over a phone line.
The software is very easy to use. Unlike with LapLink Wireless’ main competition, you do not have to learn the intricacies of networking software to make a connection. A true wireless network, however, would use the same utilities and features as a cabled network; it would be transparent to end users whether or not they were cabled.
LapLink Wireless is great for archiving (moving copies of laptop files onto a larger desktop hard drive for storage), sharing a tape backup unit or using desktop printers without having to uncable.
One of the two computers needs to be a Windows PC. The other can be DOS only or DOS and Windows. In a speed test we transferred 7.5 megabytes from a laptop to a desktop unit in 16 minutes. A true network would be much faster; using floppy disks may have been faster, but a lot more work than using three mouse clicks. On our test laptop with both a modem and an internal mouse, the software sometimes caused the mouse to freeze.
Should you get LapLink Wireless? If you are looking for an inexpensive alternative to a wireless network, great software for automating the process of synchronizing a desktop and a notebook, and easy-to-use file transfer and printing, it is a great product.
Communicating outside: Where in the world is Cohen Computer Consulting?
Billed as “the ultimate utility for CD-ROM,” ProPhone (Pro CD Inc., Danvers, Mass.) is a series of CD-ROM-based telephone directories available on a one-time or subscription basis. There are offerings for combined business and residential, residential, toll-free, Canadian, Australian and European phone numbers.
DOS, Windows and Macintosh computers can run selectPHONE. The five-CD set is separated by Northeast, Great Lakes, South, Central and Pacific regions, and contains both residential and business listings. Using a technology called “Jericho” searching, you can look for information that spans the different regions.
You can search for listings by any combination of name, address, city, state, ZIP, telephone number and SIC code. You can do boolean searches to look for combinations of expressions. Want to look up everyone on your block (33 listings on mine)? Find out who those wrong numbers are really trying to reach? See how many Eric Cohens there are (23 in New York)? You can then print the results, export them into many different customizable file formats, or use the autodialer. Would it be helpful to your business if you could prepare a mailing to every mail-order business or CPA firm in a city or state?
One of the most interesting things you can do with the results is only available on the Windows version. The Windows version includes a limited version of a mapping program called MapLinx Lite. With this combination you can view where selected phone listings are, geographically. A salesperson can pick out names he will stop at, have them appear on the map and then calculate the rough mileage for the trip.
If you need phone numbers or addresses, this tool beats the paperbound versions hands down.
As you sit on your La-Z-Boy with your notebook computer, printing sales letters to your desktop printer 25 feet away without cables, using the targeted mailing list you created with your CD-ROM-based telephone directory, you may wonder: Can technology get much better than this?
(Eric E. Cohen CPA owns Cohen Computer Consulting, which helps growing businesses cope with and benefit from computer technology.)

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