Monday, 10 October 2011

Fix My Mobile Fixed My Phone

I have had a mobile phone since the early 1990's. It was a Nokia model that was huge compared to today's phones but it worked well. Since then I have owned many phones and had very little trouble with them, and It wasn't until I upgraded my Palm to a Samsung Galaxy S that I damaged a phone to the point that it no longer worked.

The Galaxy S was only a few weeks old and I hadn't yet purchased a cover for it. So of course I tried to open the front gate in the dark with my hands full and I dropped the phone face down onto the slate pavers and smashed the screen. There was still a pretty rainbow colour in one corner and it still rang, but it was impossible to answer it as the touch screen didn't work. This phone is really important to my business as all my email, appointments etc are there for me to access when I am out of the office. Luckily I use Google Apps for Business for my emails and calendars so I could still get to my information from anywhere. I missed being able to use LogMeIn Ignition to manage client PC's and Servers from anywhere, but I managed.

I took my phone back to the local Telstra shop and they told me it would be away for weeks and weeks and probably cost at least $500.00 to fix it. I decided to use a local repair shop to fix it and they did a good job. The phone was only gone for a 5 days and the cost was less than Telstra. Unfortunately they screen was replaced with a non original Samsung screen and soon after I had issues with the screen displaying everything with a green tinge at times. The Green screen slowly worsened and eventually the whole screen failed.

This time I Googled for a solution, and came across Fix My Mobile. I was able to get a quote and book my phone in online. I carefully packaged the phone and sent it to Brisbane with fingers crossed. The Communication from the team at Fix My Mobile was outstanding, I knew when the phone had arrived, how much it was going to cost and when it was sent back. It was easy to pay for the repairs and I eagerly awaited the return of my phone.

Sadly this is where the first problem arose. For some reason known only to me, I had put an old PO box as my return address when I filled in the form (I blame form autofill for this! which is better than taking full responsibility myself!). Luckily Fix My Mobile had supplied me with an Australia Post Track and Trace number which showed the parcel as being returned after 1 day at the post office!!!!! I sent an email to Fix My Mobile explaining the situation, and they couldn't be more understanding and helpful. They chased the parcel up with Australia Post and called me with updates. As soon as the phone returned to them they called to re-confirm the correct address and sent it back.

I know have a fully functioning phone. I would like to thank Fix My Mobile for there outstanding service. While I hope to never have to use your services again ! I cannot recommend you highly enough and I will make sure all my clients know about you.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

End Of Month

I'm sure most people find doing the end of month accounts a pain, but I have made mine as easy as possible. First of all I don't have a large number of clients, but I do regular work for the clients that I do have.

My first step is to log all my time using minutedock. I can even log unbillable time or log time against tickets in Zendesk. I do work for some NGO's and I don't like to bill them for all my time, but I like to show it on my invoices.  I bill most of my clients monthly and I use minutedock to accrue the time and create a single end of month invoice.

At the end of the month, I simply use minutedock to create the invoices directly in Xero. I then login to Xero and email the invoices to my clients. This is a simple matter or sorting the Unpaid invoices by Sent status and selecting the unset invoices and clicking the email button. Previously I used to create a draft invoice in  Xero and just add time to this, but I found this a bit cumbersome.

minutedock makes it so much easier to not only create invoices, but to capture (nearly all!!!) of my time and Xero is just a fantastic piece of software.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Custom Xero Invoice Template

Just completed a customised Xero Invoice Template. It's easy to download the default template and adjust it. Naturally getting everything exactly as you want takes more fiddling around than it should, but that is more about me being fussy than the Xero templating system. Using Word 2007 to create a template isn't as hard as you might think, its just important to get the correct fields included.

Here is a zip file of the templates.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Managing My Business

As a sole trader working from home what tools do I use for working in and on my Business.

One of the most important tools I use for working In my business is LogMeIn. I have LogMeIn Free or LogMeIn Pro installed on nearly all clients Servers, Laptops and PC's. I also use LogMeIn Central which gives me a management console  that allows me to organise clients into groups.  LogMeIn Ignition on my Android Phone and Work PC gives me quick access without having to login to a webpage. My next buy will be an Android tablet.

Tracking time is always difficult, so I use Minutedock to track time. It uses a Twitter style interface for entering time, and the best thing for me is that it integrates with Xero Accounting. Minutedock retrieves the client list from Xero and also creates invoices in Xero, which makes is easier to capture time and bill for it. I am just testing Zendesk helpdesk system, but it doesn't integrate with Xero or Minutedock so I will be looking at WorkFlowMax to replace ZenDesk and maybe Minutedock.

Google Apps for Business is another essential element. Having all my email and calendars online an easily accessible from anywhere makes keeping track of appointment easy.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Google Apps Migration from Thunderbird

I have a small client with about 7 users. They have a Windows 2003 terminal server and have always used Mozilla Thunderbird as a POP3 client. Recently they have needed to use shared calendars and some webmail access from home and mobiles. I recommended that they move to Google Apps for Business and gave them a few options of how to use it. I  recommend and use Google Apps for Business and NetSolutions is a Google Apps Authorized Reseller.

Option 1 was to continue to use Thunderbird as a POP3 client and use Lightning for Calendars.
Option 2 was as above but move to IMAP.
Option 3 was to move to using the web interface to Google Apps.
Option 4 was to move to Outlook.

Initially they were tempted to use the Free Version of Google Apps and to go with Option 3, but they later decided on using Google Apps for Business and Outllook 2003 which they already had installed. One reason for the decision to use Outlook was that they currently use MYOB and that requires Outlook to send email, mainly for Payslips.

I went through the usual routine to deploy Google Apps for a client, including all the DNS changes for mail delivery, domain keys  and SPF setup. The next step was to install the Google Apps Sync software on the server and configure each user profile on the server to use Google Apps Sync for Outlook.

The biggest issue I encountered was migrating the old email in Thunderbird to Google Apps. The problem is that we have really poor ADSL connectivity in Regional NSW. Uploads, even from ADSL 2+ services are woeful, regardless of what the Telcos want to say.*

My first method of migrating the old emails to Google Apps was to configure an addiiotnal Google Apps IMAP account in thunderbird and simply copy the folders across. This worked for a few users who had very few messages and folders. With bigger users it was slow and unreliable. I even tried doing it after hours using remote access but this still caused problems as it would fail at some point and I had to manually figure out where it failed and restart the process.

I decided to install hMailServer (hMailServer is a free e-mail server for Microsoft Windows) on the windows server and created local mailboxes for all the users. I then added a IMAP account to the local hMailServer for each thunderbird profile and copied all the mailboxes/messages/folders to the hMailServer.

The Next step was to download and install the confusingly named Google Apps Migration for Microsoft® Exchange which also enables you to migrate from IMAP servers. I configured the firewall to allow external IMAP access, created the configuration file with the correct usernames and password, and kicked of the migration. I did have a few issues with the OAuth setup, but this worked well. I actually ran the migration over the weekend and it completed successfully.

The next issue was address books. I had to export each address book to a CSV file and import it into Google Apps via the web interface. This was a bit time consuming but easy to do.

Now The client has a fully functioning Google Apps for Business deployment that works in the Office, From their smartphones and from home via the web interface.

* I once had an abusive phone call from a Telstra Account Manager from Melbourne who was trying to install a service for a client, even though the client had previously requested a TPG service to be installed on the same number. Anyway the unprofessional bozo from Telstra was going to have me in court for some reason or another and made all these other threats. It seems Telstra still thinks it is the only Telco in Australia and that is there god given right to provide services to everyone. What a Dinosaur! I enjoyed his claim that the Telstra Business Broadband service that he was selling was far superior to any other service anyone could offer. Well, I have other clients with Telstra Business Broadband services and it performs no better (or worse) that any other service.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Helping out an NGO

My Partner works for a local Non Government Organisation (NGO) that is involved in community/social work in the local area.  They needed to setup a room that they could use for Parent-Child Interaction Therapy PCIT on a very tight budget. They asked me to have a look at what we could do.

Initially I contacted a Security firm that specialised in supplying CCTV solutions. This looked good as we would be able to take care of the video as well as audio requirements with one integrated solution. However this came at a price, and it was well over budget. I met with the team and they were able to get some information from the training that they did in Sydney, and I read through some specifications  from The OU Medicine Centre.

We finally decided on purchasing a basic Sony DCR-SX65E camcorder with a amall tripod, extra 16G memory card and a VCL-HGA07B wide angel conversion lens to enable us to record more of the room.

That took care of the video. This would enable all the activity and audio in the room to be recorded. The workers would set the camera up in the corner of the room and start recording. They should be able to get about 4 hours per memory module. The good thing about the handycam is that the screen can be tilted to the front of the camera making it easier to setup, as the camera would be in the corner of the room, against a wall.

The next problem was to enable the worker in the viewing room  to talk to the parent in the activity room without being heard by the child.  We solved this problem using a set of Callpod Dragon V2 Bluetooth Headsets from  Amazon. These units have the ability to be paired together and used as an intercom.

The final problem was how to record the audio of the Callpods. We simply decided to use the Sound Recorder on the new Windows 7 laptops to record the speech. We would place the laptop on the desk in front of the worker and it would pickup everything the worker said.

The final hurdle is to put together the audio recorded with the laptop with the Audio/Video from the camcorder, but there is plenty of software out there that does this, I just have to find it.

We are still waiting on all the equipment to arrive so we can test it, but everyone is happy and the total cost was much more acceptable.