A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Friday, March 19, 2004

Wireless offices & VoIP

I had a lunch meeting recently with Pete Standring of PTS Consulting recently. PTS have been involved in helping companies with the IT associated with office reloactions, voice and data network tenders and other IT infrastructure projects for around 20 years. Pete has been involved in a laot of tenders recently around providing new voice systems and a couple of interesting things came up.

Firstly, if you want a new voice system today you can have a voice over IP system or a VoIP system. If you want a traditional voice switch you should try eBay. Does this matter? I don't think so. If you spec. it right you'll get what you need. If you have some wooly idea about what voice and data convergence can do for you, then you'll most likely trip up, but this would have been the case before you had the option of a VoIP system anyway.

Secondly, the wireless office (as in no cables for PCs or 'phones) is not upon us yet, nor is it likely to be for the next five to ten years. The problem is that current wireless standards do not allow for the density needed in a large office environment. Overlapping cells are the problem. This can be addressed to some extent by turning down the power on the transmitters, but these then have to be pointed directly at the devices that they are providing coverage to, which negates the benefits of being wireless in the first place.

You're a liability!

One other interesting thing which we discussed was what will limit the spread of homeworking. Interestingly, it seems that some organisations have stepped back from rolling out homeworking because of the issue of employer liability. Ensuring that employees are in a safe working environment whilst at home has proved tricky. Instead the use of small local hot-desking centres is being trialled.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Wiki wiki

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it the cousin of Chewbaka from Star Wars (who is a wookiee)? Dear me, this is a serious blog and look at me. Wiki is the latest thing in blogging, the word means quickly in Hawaiian, and it refers to a web page that anyone can edit. The potential of this is limitless it is being argued. Yes, there is a link. Have a look. Comments welcome. There is also an interesting article about blogs in Technology Quarterly, which is in this week's Economist, although I will not provide the link here as I want to encourage you to pick up a printed copy and have a look around yourselves. If you do, have a good look, because, somewhere in this week's issue, there is a (hidden?) picture of the Economist Tower building... and this is a competition. Whoever spots the Tower, please email me. The first person will get either the Complete Package of Patches from Microsoft (for this week), or a bag of Belgian hand-made chocolate, s/he will decide.

[Ed: See our previous entry on wikis for more....I'm currently trialling some wiki PC software in an attempt to organise myself a bit better; I'll let you know how I get on.]
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Monday, March 01, 2004

I started looking into RSS newsreaders last week, and there seem to be a lot of them out there, and for most platforms. I'm on Windows NT, and I was looking for a freeware one. I started with the free 30-day trial of FeedDemon (written by the guy who wrote HomeSite and TopStyle) and that seems pretty good, especially since it comes pre-loaded with lots of feeds so you can get a good idea of what's available out there. But the three different windows are a bit busy and I started to feel overwhelmed with all those readymade feeds, so I decided to keep looking....

The next one I tried was SharpReader but here I got caught on the need to have the .NET framework installed (which seems to be quite common among RSS newsreaders). It turns out my computer doesn't already have that, so I downloaded it from the Microsoft site but it persistently failed to install with "unspecified reasons". I tracked down the missing dll that the SharpReader installation error message mentioned, but I still couldn't get this going. So again, I kept on looking ....

And then I came across Bloglines. It's free and web-based, so like webmail I'll be able to get to my soon-to-be-favourite RSS feeds wherever I am, whatever platform (including PDA). It can be used it to keep track of blogs, which I guess is how it really started, and you can share lists of feeds with friends. The blurb tells me the system will also recommend feeds/blogs based on my existing ones, but that side of things seems a bit basic so far. But anyway, it all seems like a quite a good package to me, so I've stopped looking for now and am trying this one out.
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