Living in an older house, finding a comfortable temperature isn’t always easy. Constantly changing the temperature was a pain. Just when I’d get comfortable, my wife would be cold. Let me walk over to the thermostat and adjust it. Before you know it, it’s too hot, so back to the thermostat. There must be a better way.
I’ve had a Nest thermostat for four months. This is no ordinary thermostat. It does all the heavy lifting for me and it saves money on heating and cooling costs*. It’s pretty hard to imagine getting excited about a thermostat but when you’ve used one for even a few days, you’ll know why I would never go back. Continue reading »
The REALTOR® Secure program will soon be offering more resources than ever. We are proud to announce that we will be making bi-monthly updates that will include white papers, presentations, best practices, and more. These resources will come from a wide variety of sources across the security industry.
We recently added two new resources to help real estate professionals understand security concerns. These two resources involve the security of client data and protecting your privacy. These are two very important issues that every real estate professional needs to be familiar with. If you are attending the 2010 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in New Orleans, don’t miss the following REALTOR® Secure Track on Sunday, November 7, in the Convention Center, Room 224:
• Privacy Protection for You, Me, Anyone at 9-10:30am
• Protecing Yourself & Your Clients at 11am – 12:30pm
• How to Secure Your Company & Your Employees at 1:30-3pm
• Real Estate Security Panel Wrap-Up at 3:30-5pm
Current REALTOR® Secure programresources and additional updates can be found here.
For more information about the REALTOR® Secure program, please contact Greg Stinton
Part II: Smart Phones
Whether you’re an agent, broker, or an association executive, you will want a smartphone. Smart phones are common in today’s market. It seems anywhere you go, people are using smart phones. For our purposes, let’s define smart phone as any phone that runs a full operating system that is expandable by installing applications or apps.
There are numerous smart phone manufacturers and each one is vying for your business. This industry, more than almost any other, is expanding and evolving at an incredible pace. Each manufacturer attempts to differentiate itself by offering different operating systems and hardware. Many of these features can sway you to purchase one smart phone or another. However, I would offer the following advice when considering a new smart phone:
- Start by determining which wireless provider best serves your location or needs. With very few exceptions, when you purchase a smart phone, you are committing to a two year agreement with the wireless carrier. Your first decision when researching any cellular phone should be the carrier. Far too many people base their decision on a particular phone. Remember that you will use this phone and service for two years so it is vital that the phone works for all of your needs.
- After you’ve selected a carrier, you will likely have at least two options in terms of smart phone operating systems. There are four major players in the market: Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Mobile, and Android. While they all have their pros and cons, it’s important to remember that each one can easily perform the most important tasks, such as calls, texts, emails, Twitter, and Facebook. However, each platform will look, feel, and operate very differently. All of the major wireless carriers will allow you to use a demo phone in the store. You should spend at least ten minutes testing any phone platform you consider.
- The next step is to choose your hardware or hardware options. Every operating system offers multiple hardware options. As usual with any piece of technology, the newer the hardware, the m0re it is likely to cost. Sometimes it is a better decision to purchase an older smart phone and sometimes that’s a bad decision. All of the operating systems discussed offer some sort of software updates. However, the timing will vary in terms of hardware support. Your manufacturer or the creator of the operating system may decide that your hardware will no longer receive updates in the future. This could possibly happen before the end of your contract. This is yet another reason to be happy with what you purchase when you purchase it, not what it will or could be in the future.
- What is the price difference between your choices at this point? This is the point when you will need to talk with a representative from the wireless carrier. Each carrier has different pricing plans and some even have different plans for different smart phones. Calculate or ask the representative to calculate the total cost for the phone and the monthly payment for two years. Don’t be alarmed at how high the number is. The payments will be broken up, but the total cost at the end of the contract is the best way to compare phone prices at any carrier
Everyone has different needs when it comes to technology, so do your best to consider as many options as you can. And above all else, try before you buy. If you never play with the smart phone before you buy it, you’re never going to know if it’s right for you. It is vitally important that you know which device and operating system is right for your needs when you’ll be in a two year contract. Above all else, remember that although your new smart phone is capable of doing many things, it needs to function as a phone first. If you’re unable to use the most important features of the phone, you will be unhappy with your purchase. Balance what you need and which carrier provides them best. Finally, be sure not to fall into the trap of buying the newest, sleekest device just because it’s popular now.
There are literally thousands of products for businesspeople today, and finding the right products for your needs can be exceedingly difficult. The process of finding exactly the right tools and resources can be costly and time consuming. We at the Center for REALTOR® Technology realize that many REALTORS® want to become more tech savvy, but they don’t know where to start.
With that in mind, I’ll be discussing some of the most popular tools in detail over the next few months. Our blog and newsletters will be filled with advice and useful ideas to help you find the best mobile gadgets, software, and office hardware. To be clear, none of these guides will endorse any specific products. Rather, we hope to give you information about the tools that are available so that you can make a decision about whether or not you should consider a particular tech tool.
Part I: GPS
Whether you’re an agent, broker, or an association executive, you may want to consider a GPS unit for your car. GPS units are common in today’s market. Over the past five years the number of different GPS units available has been growing at an exponential rate. With recent advancements in mapping and location, finding where you are and where you want to go quickly and easily has never been simpler. The popularity of GPS units has been so great that most smartphone manufacturers now include GPS radios in their phones.
While most new smartphones have the ability to accurately track and map your location and destination, many phones still do not offer the versatility of a standalone GPS unit. In addition to the extra features available, personal GPS devices often come with screens that are much larger than a smartphone’s screen. This is not to say that smartphones with factory GPS applications or with apps that can be purchased are not valuable. Rather, I would suggest that GPS software on smartphones simply is not quite the equal of a standalone unit.
There are numerous GPS manufacturers and each one is vying for your business. Each manufacturer attempts to differentiate itself by offering different features. Many of these features can sway you to purchase one GPS or another. However, I would offer the following advice when considering a new GPS device:
1. How well does the routing work? This might seem like an easy question to answer for any GPS device, but my experience with different hardware would suggest otherwise. The most important feature of any GPS device is this: will it get you where you need to go?
2. Have you used the brand before? If not, do you know anyone who has? With the number of manufacturers in the GPS market, it has never been more important to know what you’re getting before you buy it. Your experience with a certain device will vary greatly between different brands. When you’re doing your research, talk to other people who have used the unit, or at the very least, the brand you’re considering.
3. Is the unit you want being offered at a super-mega-hyper discount? If the unit you’re considering is on sale for an incredibly low price, find out why. Many units that go on sale are perfectly well built and provide great features. However, buying the cheapest option simply because it’s the cheapest option is never good. Weigh the price against the features before making your purchase.
4. What are you going to use it for? How often? If you’re a REALTOR® who takes your clients from showing to showing on a daily basis, your needs will likely be higher than a REALTOR® who rarely does any driving.
5. What features do you really need? Don’t buy the unit with all the bells and whistles; you’ll probably never use half of the features it has. The software is so advanced in many devices that with the higher-end units, you really need to be a road warrior to justify the cost of those features.
Everyone has different needs when it comes to technology, so do your best to consider as many options as you can. And above all else, try before you buy. If you never play with the device before you buy it, you’re never going to know if it’s right for you. Most big box stores such as Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart have display units available to examine and use. Make sure you’re comfortable with the device in the store or you’ll never be comfortable once it’s talking to you in your car.
These days, it seems like I can’t go anywhere without hearing about Windows 7. With that in mind, let’s take a brief look at why everyone seems to be completely enamored by the software. For Windows Vista users, the change is pretty gradual. Windows 7 borrows many of the user interface enhancements that were first introduced in Vista. For XP users, however, the change is dramatic. Speaking as a lifelong Windows user, I can say that like many, I avoided Windows Vista due to the negativity surrounding it. Since making the jump from XP way back in January (when the public beta became available) I can’t imagine going back to XP mainly due to the advancements in the user interface.
If you haven’t already heard about the new features and changes in Microsoft’s latest operating system, here’s a brief rundown:
The taskbar in Windows 7 makes a significant leap forward. The main difference is that rather than displaying a long, rectangular box with your open programs, Windows 7 displays program icons. Using icons takes up much less space and allows you to see exactly what you have running at any given time. Additionally, there is a small rectangle at the end of the taskbar that when clicked, will minimize all open programs and display your desktop.
With pins, you can now add any program to your taskbar. Add your most commonly used programs and you can have easy access to them even when you’re not looking at your desktop. To pin a program to your taskbar, simply drag the desktop icon to your taskbar, or right click and select pin to taskbar.
From the taskbar, you can now perform multiple tasks within your programs before even opening them. Simply click an icon on your taskbar and drag up to view that program’s jump list. Combine jump lists with pins and you have quick and easy access to functions within your programs. Previously, some of the jump list functions would require you to open a program, wait for it to load, and then dig through the menus to find the correct action.
Aero peek is one of my favorite features in Windows 7. Simply moving your mouse over any open program on your taskbar will display a preview box above that icon. Within that preview box, you will see a miniaturized display of that program. I have found this to be especially useful when running multiple instances of the same program.
Aero shake is a quick way to clear away all of the clutter on your screen. When you want to view one program and minimize all the other windows, grab the program title bar with your mouse, and move it quickly left and right. This will automatically minimize all other open programs while leaving your selected window open. Performing the shake action a second time, will restore your other programs.
Aero snap is another one of my personal favorite functions. It allows you to resize your open applications much more easily than dragging a corner to the size you want. Simply drag the program title bar to the top of the screen and it will automatically maximize the window. Also, you can multitask by dragging the title bar to the side of your screen. This will maximize the open program on exactly half of your screen, allowing easy side by side viewing.
These are just some of the many new features in Windows 7. As you can probably tell, Windows 7 is all about making your computing experience easier. The new features allow you to do what you want to do on your computer, in the way you’re used to doing it (Vista and XP users), only faster. It may take some time to get used to the new features but once you do, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.
For more information and in depth reviews of Windows 7 follow these links:
Chicago, August 17, 2009: The Center for REALTOR® Technology today announced that the REALTOR® Secure program will be focusing more on security education and awareness and will be re-branded as REALTOR® Secure: Understanding and Identifying Your Personal, Corporate and Association Security Liability .
CRT will work with a range of third-party Security Consultants to update, enhance, and disseminate educational executive briefs, whitepapers, and guidebooks, as well as a self-evaluation checklist. Through these means and through newsletters, blogs, and other social media channels, REALTOR® Secure will deliver a consistent message to the members concerning privacy and security as it relates to the industry and its larger impact on technology in general. This refocus will provide an awareness of security issues that are affecting members’ business decisions.
During the 2010 REALTOR® Conference and Expo, a full-day security-intensive program will be available to convention participants. The program will progress through individual-, corporate- and association-level issues. It will build on the previously released content, thereby giving attendees a better appreciation of the security processes involved.
The Center for REALTOR® Technology is a division of NAR. Its mission is to serve REALTORS® as an industry advocate, implementation consultant and a technology-information resource. CRT directly supports NAR leadership’s initiatives and technology agenda. Further information about CRT is available at http://www.realtor.org/CRT.
I have recently been working on putting together some basic interactive flash videos that will help members get acquainted with different technologies. To create these videos, I will be using a utility called Wink. It allows me to capture all of the activity on my computer.
I have then edited the video frames and added text boxes to show what is happening in the video. I have tried my best to make this first video extremely basic so that anyone can follow along. It involves setting up a Gmail account in Mozilla Thunderbird. While many people will not find this extremely useful, I encourage even the most tech-savvy viewer to check it. At the very least, this should introduce the format of upcoming tutorials and demonstrations.
In an effort to reach more members, many of these videos will be fairly slow, yet very easy to follow. We hope in the coming weeks and months to add a number of demonstrations that we think are useful to members. I would appreciate any feedback and I will gear future videos to the needs of those who respond.
Edit:I have changed the video. It is now smaller so that the entire video can be seen. I have also sped up the frame rate. I hope that helps for anyone who had difficulties. I have also changed the video so that it opens above the current page. This should alleviate future issues of video sizes that are physically too large for the blog space.
So those of you that were in Orlando this year and visited the Blogger’s Lounge probably noticed that the CRT has a couple of new laptops. That’s pretty insignificant until you actually look at the size of these things. For those who don’t know or haven’t seen one yet, the EEE PC is a pretty popular and extremely portable laptop or “netbook.”
- Portability. It’s lightweight and very small, with a screen size of 8.9 inches. At 2.18 pounds with the battery attached, the EEE PC is a computer you can literally take anywhere.
- Full Windows XP. The model I used was the 900 series with Windows XP (this model is also offered with Linux). Having a full version of Windows XP in a piece of hardware this portable is excellent for all business functions.
- Built in wireless. Although this is a standard function of most laptops these days, it is still a great addition.
- Multi-touch trackpad and a good keyboard. The trackpad allows users to scroll and zoom in a web browser using just 2 fingers. I forgot to bring a mouse with me, so the trackpad got a lot of use. Also, I expected with a computer as small as this one I would have trouble using the keyboard. However, the keyboard is actually pretty well spaced out and I didn’t have much difficulty adjusting.
- All of the inputs. Built into this EEE PC are 3 USB 2.0 ports, an SD card reader, 3.5mm headphone jack, microphone jack, Ethernet port, and a VGA port. While the portability of this computer is the greatest feature, if you need extra functionality, it’s easy to bring some more gadgets to plug in.
- Solid State Drive. With a 16 GB solid state drive, Asus has made this laptop even more portable and stable. A solid state drive in the most simplistic terms means the computer can take a bit more abuse than hard drives with moving parts that can easily be jostled.
- Processor speed. This computer is dreadfully slow. Mine had a measly 900mhz processor and although the boot was fairly quick, any application takes a long time to load.
- Multitasking. When attempting to run multiple applications, things get a little difficult. This goes along with the processor speed, but specifically multitasking with any graphic intensive applications.
- Battery Life. A full charge of the battery lasts about 2-3 hours depending upon use. For me, this isn’t that big of a deal because this isn’t a desktop replacement, so I didn’t have any reason to use it for more than an hour or so at a time.
- Screen Size. The screen size is actually not that bad, but it is sometimes annoying when reading a lot of information. The zoom ability of the trackpad helped a lot by making text in my web browser bigger.
So there are the pros and cons I found when using the EEE PC. I can definitely say that I have not come across a more portable device that has all of the functions of a full PC. That said, the processor is very slow. I think these netbooks have been successful as an extension of a desktop used as a travel computer for presentations (easy with a built in VGA-out) or for web browsing.
Visit the Asus website for more information about the EEE PC line.