16 September 2008

Work-From-Home Tech Tips

The thing with magazines for the general public is that they can sometimes miss the boat altogether. This afternoon I read the PC Magazine article The Telecommuter's Tech Toolbox and found myself constantly shaking my head thinking, "Where are these corporations they are talking about?" Definitely not where I work. The software list the article refers to are all so not allowed in my company. Google Docs? Twitter? Meebo? Sure sounds like the article was written for tiny companies that rely on the public Internet. Where I work, "fun" stuff like Twitter and Meebo are all blocked. You can only use whatever the corporate filter allows. No sending sensitive info to Internet addresses, including oneself.

I love tech tips and was obviously disappointed by the PC Mag article. Here's some real world tech tips I use every week, in a corporate environment:

  • DSL is not so great for certain disk-intensive tasks. I try to use MS Terminal Services (mstsc) or even Citrix whenever possible. Re-permissioning a folder with many files, loading a list of all objects in an ActiveDirectory, pulling info for a long list of usernames, all ideal candidates for putting the servers within the corporate network to work. I will get FIOS but even then will still rely on the muscles of the servers inside the network.
  • If I have a file that I edit frequently, then it stays on my C: drive to save the unnecessary trips writing to that far, far away server. If it needs to be elsewhere too then I would setup a schedule to copy it there every so often.
  • DOS is not dead and there are many DOS commands/utilities that can make your telecommute better.
    • map a drive with NET USE
    • list the folder's content with DIR
    • RMTSHARE tells you lots about a share, something most people rely on Hyena or DameWare for
    • FileACL gives you inside info about a folder/file's permission, no need to visit item and select File/Properties
    • to see a text file's content, use TYPE filename | MORE
  • Jump on instant messaging as soon as you can. I hate phone calls and love I.M.
  • Find out how to check your voicemail while outside the office. It should be a toll-free number or at most a local call. It is part of being reachable while working in your PJ.
  • Try not to write down phone messages but instead keep in the computer, perhaps as an entry in your calendar. If you write it down on a piece of paper at work then work at home the next day, how will you read that piece of paper.
  • Phone-forwarding is great. Where I am now the building is sorta old so phone forwarding is done over the phone, you just have to press the right sequence of buttons. Before, in a different building, we had IP phones and forwarding the phone was done in a browser window. I used to set the forwarding period so that after a certain hour no one would "accidentally" find me.
  • Unless you have a really very generous cell phone plan, don't forward your desk phone to your cell phone. Don't use your cell phone to attend conference calls just because it has a headset, something perhaps your home phone doesn't have. The minutes add up fast and you may end up with a big bill. The company may not reimburse you or have some convoluted reimbursement process.
  • With long-distance calls, ask the people in the office to call you if possible.
  • With the One PC Per Grunt policy, I can no longer control another machine from a machine at home, but if you can, make use of it. Only the screens are sent back and forth, so you can save a lot of time by making use of some machine already inside the network. Same idea like MS Terminal Services and Citrix.
I must give credits to the article for mentioning that it's good to go outside for a walk once or twice. Some days I got so into the tasks at hand and ended up spending the whole day inside... and was rewarded with a nasty headache for the evening. Now I try to go to the library, to the bank, pick up my son from school, or even to get coffee.

Happy Teleworking!

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