Posts Tagged ‘Tech tips’

Tech Tips #2: Synchronise!

Posted: January 5, 2009 in Uncategorized

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people complaining that they’ve lost a cellphone for some reason or another and have lost all their contact information, too. There’s an easy way to solve that problem – keep your contacts information in your phone memory rather than on your SIM card and use the software and cable provided with it to synchronise the information with your computer from time to time. Yes, those extra pieces that came with your phone do have a purpose other than filling up dustbins or giving your two year old something extra to play with!


Setting it up to use the phone memory shouldn’t be difficult, as most phones will ask you whether you want to use phone memory or SIM memory when you run them for the first time. Choosing the phone memory means that, not only will you be able to store many more contacts, but you will also be able to store multiple items of information under the same name – so no more “John Cell”, “John Home” and “John Office” to scroll through! You can also store other items of information such as email addresses or home addresses – the latter being particularly useful if you have GPS software running on your phone as it can use the information to find your destination.

Setting up the synchronisation should be equally simple: if your phone came with a CD containing software and a cable, pop in the CD to install the software (all packages I know walk you through the process well), connect your phone via the cable provided and you should be able to follow on screen prompts to make sure the information on your phone is copied to the computer. Then you will have the advantage of having your contact information (and calendar and messages, if you choose) in at least two places and your risk of losing it is almost gone. Plus, you get other nifty advantages like being able to use your phone as a modem (more on that in a post to come). It’s a little extra work, admittedly, but the benefits are enormous.

If your phone was not sophisticated enough to come with either a cable or the software – hmm, I have some converting to do…


Feel free to skip these if you’re way ahead of me! Alternatively, if you know all about these, why not use it as a prompting for those you know who are not as advanced?

I’m always interested to see how seldom people take advantage of readily available technologies that could make their lives easier and one good example of this is their use of email. This is probably the one internet type technology that is really widely adopted – it’s all pervasive nature means that even technological luddites have had to take it up if they want to stay in touch.

Every ISP I know offers an email account when you sign up with them and it seems that this is the solution that most people use. All well and fine, because it “just works” for most people and it seems that this is all they want. However, somewhere down the line it becomes obvious that there are some drawbacks to using the ISP’s proprietary solution. One example of this is that there is usually a pretty limited space that you are given, so the mail has to be downloaded to your computer and is then deleted from the server; unless you do regular offsite backups (want to guess how many do?), that means you have a serious problem if your computer is lost or irrepairably damaged. This happened to my sister, who lost all the electronic receipts she had for equipment purchased. The second drawback is more obvious: change your ISP for any reason (to get a better deal, for example) and you lose your email address, which involves that torturous process of letting everyone know that it has changed and finding some way of ensuring you haven’t lost anything vital.

Fortunately, there is a really simple solution to these potential problems: take advantage of the free online email offerings available. Perhaps the best known of these in SA is the Gmail offering. This is my primary personal account (I have also taken up a couple of other free offerings) and I can certainly recommend the way it works.


Gmail overcomes the drawbacks mentioned above comprehensively: it offers over 7GB of storage space, which effectively means that you never have to delete an email again or worry about it being removed from the server – unless you’re in the habit of emailing movies to yourself! Also, because it’s independent of an ISP, you get to keep the address (and all your emails) no matter how you connect to the ‘net.

There are a lot of other advantages to using a Gmail account. After a little setup, it interacts seamlessly with whatever email program you use (Outlook Express, for example) and so your average user will never know the difference from an ISP email account in their average day to day use. For the more technologically literate, you get both POP3 and IMAP access. At the same time, though, the account can easily be accessed using a browser from any computer in the world, which is a great advantage if you are away from your usual machine but still need to check your mail. Secondly, you get to use Google’s great search facilities on your email account, which means that it becomes quite a useful archive facility – get people to send everything (receipts, bills, etc) to you electronically and you have a safe and accessible method of getting to all those documents.

The third advantage of a Gmail account that I would like to highlight and which it seems not many take advantage of is that it is very well set up for mobile access. You can get to your account on your cellphone using either the mobile optimised site or a little Java app that gives even greater functionality. You can do a surprising amount with Gmail’s mobile solutions and, besides the convenience for everyone of being able to check and respond to your emails on the go, this could be a great solution for those who don’t even have a computer – you still get to have almost complete email access and are so able to stay in touch digitally without expensive outlay.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up and get your friends to do the same! Did I mention that it’s free?