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Nov 2010–comunicating with family


Nov 2010–comunicating with family

Permalink 11:59:00 am by Brendan, Categories: Web Software, Free, Article

071Thanksgiving is more than anything, the holiday that's about family. And with people living so far apart, it's often tricky to keep in contact. However technology offers many options for keeping in touch.

First of all, the oldest and most basic option for keeping in touch is E-Mail. Every company that provides web access also provides you an e-mail address, plus you can get a free e-mail account from Hotmail or G-Mail to name a few.

So, what are some of e-mail's best tricks for keeping in touch with family? If you've got a large family, one time saving trick is to create groups Or lists as some programs call them. Go to the window for managing your e-mail address list (In Microsoft's products it's called Contacts, in many other it's called the Address Book.) Now find the Group or List button. In Live Mail, it's an option that drops down when you hit the New button, in Thunderbird there's a separate list button. Once you've created your list, you can either type in the addresses, or drag them from your main contact list.

The advantage of a group list is the fact you can just enter it into your e-mail program to send a separate copy of your e-mail to every address in the list. Better yet, since most e-mail programs try to anticipate your requests, just typing the first letters of your group name will bring it up as a suggestion, and pressing the enter key will complete it for you.

Other communications technologies offer other advantages in communicating online.

Instant messenger programs have the advantage of working real time, complete with detection options so you can see when someone you want to talk to is online. They can also send files like E-mail, and more importantly, most of the current generation of Instant messaging programs support Video Chat if you have a webcam hooked up.

Another option for video calling is Skype, accessible via This web based service supports video calls, and also voice only calls, with an option for calling real world phone numbers. Though only computer - computer calls are free.

Now, one thing E-mail and instant messaging do not do well is transfer large files or groups of files. There are however several online options to simplify sharing larger or more numerous files.

When you want to share a bunch of digital photo's, or a video or two, there are many options, but the most prominent are Yahoo's Flickr, Google's Picassa and Windows Live's photo album's. All of them offer options to upload pictures into a variety of files that you can then share with either specific groups or the whole web. Flickr and Picassa both have image editing software built in that Live lacks. On the other hand, Live makes the most space available in the free version, and has no restrictions on what sort of file you upload and share from it. Also Flickr allows limited video uploads, while Google handles videos via YouTube.

One more neat trick for using the web to share all sorts of things - Folder Synchronization. This is where you use a program to take one folder on your computer, and keep it identical to a folder online and other folders on other computers. So that for instance if you have synchronized a folder with one on a cousin's computer, whenever you save a picture to that folder, it will automatically be copied to their computer. If they add a picture of their own it will be copied to your computer (And website). If you save a document, then every time either one of you save changes, those changes will be copied to the other's computer.

There are a number of Sync programs available, but two prominent choices at the present are Live Mesh and Dropbox. They have a lot of similarities. You download and install their software (Mesh as part of Live Essentials, Dropbox from the Dropbox site), sign up an account with them, and then run the software and select a folder for sharing. Then after the initial synchronization, the website will offer an option to share with someone else, which they can set up from their own website after setting up their account. Both offer the service for free, with an online storage limit of 2 GB for Dropbox and 5GB for Mesh. If you need more storage, Dropbox offers monthly payment schemes for increasing storage to 50 or 100 GB while MS doesn't have any storage expansion options yet.

I hope this months article has helped you find better ways to stay connected to family, even if you're far apart. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for future articles, please e-mail me at Happy Thanksgiving

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