Home Office Blues http://homeofficeblues.com Helping You Beat the Home Office Blues Sun, 13 May 2012 22:28:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sprint Brings WiMax to Baltimore http://homeofficeblues.com/sprint-brings-wimax-to-baltimore/ http://homeofficeblues.com/sprint-brings-wimax-to-baltimore/#respond Wed, 01 Oct 2008 13:43:34 +0000 http://homeofficeblues.com/?p=202 This week, Sprint Nextel Corp launched WiMax in Baltimore, Maryland under the brand name XOHM. WiMax (which stands for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, aka 802.16 and 802.16e) is a broadband wireless technology that allows high speed internet access without wires. WiMax is similar to the ubiquitous WiFi you find in homes, airports, and coffee shops except it offers a much greater range and the ability maintain connectivity on the move.

XOHM is designed to be a direct competitor to cable, DSL, and FIOS in the home, providing competitive speeds without the need to install wires, cable, or fiber optics to the house. It is also a direct competitor to data services provided by cellular companies, providing twice the speed for a more competitive price.

Currently there are several service plans available:

  • Home – For a limited time, you can get home service for $25 a month, after the first six months that increases to $35 a month.
  • On the Go – For a limited time, you can get mobile service for $30 a month, after the first six months that increases to $45 a month.
  • Pick 2 – For a limited time you can get home and mobile service for $50 a month, the regular price is $65 a month
  • Daily On the Go – 24 hours of continuous Xohm access for $10.

It looks like Sprint has done a good job of positioning and pricing the technology to compete with in-home and mobile broadband services. It took me over three weeks to get either Comcast or Verizon to figure out how to get their service to my house. If XOHM had been available at the time, I could have gotten instant access.

Looking at their coverage map, my house is about 100 yards outside their green zone, so I don’t know how well the service will work for me. Hopefully, I will be able to convince them to lend me some equipment so I can test the On The Go service and get back to you with a first hand review.

Baltimore is the first city to go live, but they are schedule to roll out to Washington DC and Chicago next.

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How to Set Up a Home Office Network Part 2: Getting Connected – A Visual Guide http://homeofficeblues.com/how-to-set-up-a-home-office-network-part-2-getting-connected-a-visual-guide/ http://homeofficeblues.com/how-to-set-up-a-home-office-network-part-2-getting-connected-a-visual-guide/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2007 00:18:40 +0000 http://homeofficeblues.smartfaremedia.com/?p=24 There are a lot of ways to set up a network. How you do it depends on how many devices you want to connect, what they do, and where they are in relation to each other.

In this article, I am going to give several scenarios with visual guides. I will start with the simplest scenario and gradually add devices and functionality. This should help you understand how networks are built and what equipment is necessary to achieve your goals.

Scenario 1: Connecting One Computer to the Internet

In this simple scenario you need:

  • Broadband Modem – This is often provided by the ISP and may be called a gateway or router.
  • Cable – Network Cable (RJ-45) is the most common cable to use, but in a single computer setup USB cable may also be an option depending on the Broadband Modem. (See What Types of Cables Do You Need? below for a visual guide to cables.)
  • Network Interface Card (NIC) – An RJ-45 network port is built into most new computers and laptops. If yours does not have one, you need a NIC which costs around $20.00. If your computer does not have a NIC you may have the option to use a USB connection.

Scenario 2: Connecting Multiple Computers or Devices

In this scenario you need:

  • Broadband Modem
  • Cable – Network Cable (RJ-45)
  • Switch/Hub – These are devices that allow multiple devices to connect to a network. Switches and hubs perform the same function of connecting multiple devices. Switches are generally more expensive then hubs, but they are smarter than hubs, perform much better and are the recommended equipment.
  • Network Interface Cards (NIC) for each device

Scenario 3: Connecting Multiple Computers with Wireless

In this scenario you need:

  • Broadband Modem
  • Cable – Network Cable (RJ-45) – Optional
  • Combined Switch/Router/Wireless Access Point (WAP) – These are devices that combine the functionality of a switch, a router and a Wireless Access Point. They are a very cost effective way of building a small wireless network. This is the recommended configuration for a new network. If you are adding wireless to an existing wired network, you can buy a standalone WAP that will be connected to the wired switch with network cable.
  • Wired or Wireless Network Interface Cards (NIC) for each device depending on connection type. Many (but not all) new laptops have wireless network cards built-in.

Scenario 4: Adding VoIP to an existing Network

  • Broadband Modem
  • VoIP device – Voice over Internet (Protocol). This is a very inexpensive way to get phone service in your home office. (see our resource directory for more info)
  • Cable – Network Cable (RJ-45) – Optional
  • Combined Switch/Router/Wireless Access Point
  • Wired or Wireless Network Interface Cards (NIC) for each device depending on connection type. Many (but certainly not all) new laptops have wireless network cards built-in.

What Types of Cables Do You Need?

  • Network Cable – Also known as Cat5, ethernet cable, or RJ-45. This is the cable that carries most network signals in a local network. The connector looks like an oversize phone jack and each cable holds 8 wires.
  • USB Cable – In some cases, if you are connecting a single computer directly to a broadband modem, you can use a USB cable. The boxy type B end plugs into the modem and the flatter type A end connects to the computer.
  • Phone Cable – Also known as RJ-11. This is the cable you use to plug in your phone. This type of connector may fit into a network jack but it will not work. Phone cable is only used to connect your phone to a VoIP adaptor.

What Kind of Wireless Do You Need?

There are several flavors of wireless equipment available when you build your home office wireless network. These wireless types are denoted with the IEEE designation of 802.11 and a letter – A, B, G, or Draft-N. Generally, all of these flavors fall under the popular nickname Wi-Fi. Here is a brief explanation of each specification and a recommendation for what you should buy now.

802.11a – Speeds up to 54 Mbs, generally more expensive and harder to find. This is not recommended for a home office even if you can find it.

802.11b – Speeds up to 11 Mbs, this was the first popular wireless standard. It has been overshadowed by 802.11g in recent years because of G’s greater speed and range, but equipment can still be found at bargain prices in many places.

802.11g – Speeds up to 54 Mbs, this is the current standard in Wi-Fi networking. 802.11g has great advantages over 802.11b in terms of speed and range. Most Wireless G equipment is backwards compatible with 802.11b equipment and you may see some equipment with the explicit 802.11b/g designation to show this. 802.11g equipment can be found at good price points and is recommended for most people setting up a network today. At some point in 2007, this recommendation may change.

Draft-802.11n – Speeds up to 108Mbs, As of January 25, 2007, 802.11n is not a fully approved specification. It will/should become fully approved in the next couple months. In the meantime you may see equipment denoted as “pre-N”, “draft-N” or “MIMO”. Manufacturers have been selling pre-N equipment for over a year, with the assumption that their execution of it will become the new standard. If you buy any N designated equipment today, you will need to upgrade when 802.11n is officially approved. Depending on the equipment you purchase, this upgrade process may or may not be possible with a simple software fix and may require the purchase of additional or replacement hardware. If you are comfortable with the risk of upgrades or need the ability to stream video today, you may decide to go with a draft-N product.

Other Wireless Enhancements
In addition to B, G and N specifications you may see additional designations such as “Speedbooster”, “Super G”, “Xtreme” etc. These designations mark technological tricks used by manufactures to squeeze more performance out of an official 802.11x specification. Under most circumstances, you must match up the manufacture of the WAP/Router/Switch with the NIC to achieve these added performance levels. If you mix and match equipment from different manufactures you will likely see the standard performance (or less).

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Software for Starving Students (and other cheap folks) http://homeofficeblues.com/software-for-starving-students-and-other-cheap-folks/ http://homeofficeblues.com/software-for-starving-students-and-other-cheap-folks/#respond Sat, 13 Jan 2007 13:56:54 +0000 http://homeofficeblues.smartfaremedia.com/?p=66 If you are looking for a package of free software for your starving student or starving entrepreneur, check out SoftwareFor.org.

The good people over there have compiled a fairly large collection of best-in-class free software applications. The package includes multimedia, utilities, internet, academic tools, games and productivity software that would appeal to or be useful to a student. A complete list can be found here.

There are two different packages available, one is for Mac OS X the other is for Windows. The packages are in the form of CD images that you download and burn to disk.

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Start Thinking about Taxes http://homeofficeblues.com/start-thinking-about-taxes/ http://homeofficeblues.com/start-thinking-about-taxes/#respond Wed, 03 Jan 2007 14:05:11 +0000 http://homeofficeblues.smartfaremedia.com/?p=70 Tax season will be kicking off in a few weeks in the US. At least it will be for the proactive among us. Most of the rest won’t even consider their taxes until the second week of April.

I like tackling my taxes early and every year at about this time I am faced with the proposition of going with TurboTax (which I have used for over a decade) or switching to the cheaper TaxCut software from H&R Block.

Last year things came to a head when I found out that some of the investment tax wizards I needed were moved from TurboTax Deluxe to TurboTax Premier and I had to buy an upgrade in the middle of doing my taxes. It was pretty annoying, but it was easier to pay to unlock the upgrade than switch to a new software package mid-stream.

This year it looks like the people from H&R Block are really sweetening the deal by offering much more for much less in their assorted TaxCut software versions. The question is whether it is worth trying something new and risking having to start all over with a more expensive product later or simply going with the more expensive product that you know works.

I checked out the TaxCut Software Complete Features List and it appears that this software should do everything that I expect it to. But I will only find out by taking a chance and making the leap.

Does anyone have any advice? What do you use? How complicated are your taxes? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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Home Office Resolutions http://homeofficeblues.com/home-office-resolutions/ http://homeofficeblues.com/home-office-resolutions/#respond Tue, 02 Jan 2007 09:52:11 +0000 http://homeofficeblues.smartfaremedia.com/?p=92 I am not big on New Year’s Resolutions. Generally, I believe that if you realize you want or need to make a change in your life or behavior, you need to do it at the time your realize it. Why wait?

However, the beginning of a new year is an awfully convenient time to evaluate where you are and figure out where you want to go and how you want to get there.

So in the spirit of convenience and the need for a topic to write about, here is my list of Home Office Resolutions in no particular order!

  1. I resolve to shower and get dressed most days before I go to the home office.
  2. I resolve to exercise 1-4 times a week or when it is convenient. (Whichever comes first)
  3. I resolve to be genuinely interested in my job and be very disciplined in my performance of it.
  4. I resolve to put my family first and keep the door to my home office closed when I am not supposed to be in it.
  5. I resolve to be funny. Okay, at least I resolve to be funnier… that shouldn’t be too hard considering my starting point.

Happy 2007! Good luck with your resolutions. Feel free to share yours in the comments section.

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Don’t Be Indispensable – If You Want To Get Ahead http://homeofficeblues.com/dont-be-indispensable-if-you-want-to-get-ahead/ http://homeofficeblues.com/dont-be-indispensable-if-you-want-to-get-ahead/#comments Sat, 28 Oct 2006 12:02:16 +0000 http://homeofficeblues.smartfaremedia.com/?p=51 Many people think that if you want to get ahead you need to make yourself indispensable. This sounds logical and intuitive, but it is wrong.

Being indispensable is a fine way to gain job security, but this is not the same as getting ahead and job security is never permanent no matter how indispensable you are. Eventually some person, some technology, or plain bad luck will disrupt the status quo and your job security will disappear.

The truth is that if you make yourself indispensable, you can’t take a vacation without being bothered. If you are indispensable, you can’t get promoted because it would be too inconvenient to backfill your position. If you are indispensable, you will continue to be stuck doing the same job, the same tasks, until that job ceases to exist.

You don’t want to be indispensable.

This does not mean you shouldn’t do a good job. You need to do a good job. You should be doing a great job. But don’t be the only one that can do that job. Be a leader. Be dynamic. Teach others to do the job as well as you. If the job is too hard for others to do, then find ways to make it simpler. Create processes, procedures and tools that make your job so simple a hamster could do it. Make yourself obsolete.

As you become obsolete, expand your job to include other difficult tasks. Become great at doing those tasks. Find ways to make doing those tasks simple. Teach others to do them. Make yourself obsolete.

Make yourself obsolete. Make yourself obsolete, again and again.

Soon you will find that you are not great at doing tasks. You are great at solving problems. You are great at seeing the big picture and breaking it down into simple components. You will not be indispensable in your job because you are an expert at finding ways other people can do your job easier and cheaper.

You can be promoted and you can get ahead because you are not indispensable in your current job and the next job is always harder. Until you start doing it…

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A Shocking Discovery: Most mothers don’t get enough sleep http://homeofficeblues.com/a-shocking-discovery-most-mothers-dont-get-enough-sleep/ http://homeofficeblues.com/a-shocking-discovery-most-mothers-dont-get-enough-sleep/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2006 23:59:54 +0000 http://homeofficeblues.smartfaremedia.com/?p=100 A new report was unveiled today that found that U.S. mothers do not get enough sleep!

Um… did they really need a study to figure this out? Have the sponsors of this study not met any mothers before?

Well, upon further investigation, it appears that the study was sponsored by a pharmaceutical company that wants to encourage sleepless mothers to talk to doctors about prescription sleep aids. And guess what? That paraceutical company happens to sell prescription sleep aids!

They have a website called Sleepless Moms with tips on how to get more/better sleep, but none of the tips really address the societal reasons mothers are pulled in so many directions that they don’t have time to sleep.

What strategies do you use to balance work and life and still have enough time to get a good night’s sleep? Leave a comment and share your experiences.

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Book Club: A Short History of Nearly Everything http://homeofficeblues.com/book-club-a-short-history-of-nearly-everything/ http://homeofficeblues.com/book-club-a-short-history-of-nearly-everything/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2006 14:15:05 +0000 http://homeofficeblues.smartfaremedia.com/?p=77 I just finished a fantastic book by Bill Bryson that was written a couple of years ago. (What can I say, I am a little behind on my reading list.)

In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bryson takes on the enormous task of explaining the entire universe and our attempts at understanding it in an entertaining and easily accessible manner. Remarkably he succeeds.

This book is fascinating and hysterical at the same time. Bryson uses nickel and dime words to explain complex scientific observations and theories. He touches on a vast range of scientific topics from the beginning of the universe, to biology, geography, and black holes.

Some of the most engrossing and comical aspects of the book are descriptions of the scientists and their centuries long quest to uncover the mysteries of nature. The drama, eccentricities, stolen ideas, and feuds are simply unbelievable.

It struck me while reading this how little we really know and how recently we uncovered what we do know. The book was written in 2004 and already some of the items discussed have been turned on their heads.

The scope of this book is too broad to get terribly deep or completely accurate about any one topic, but that is not why one reads this book. This book is a written by a layman for laymen and it is a great place to get an extraordinarily entertaining overview of nearly everything.

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How to get promoted when you work from home http://homeofficeblues.com/how-to-get-promoted-when-you-work-from-home/ http://homeofficeblues.com/how-to-get-promoted-when-you-work-from-home/#comments Mon, 18 Sep 2006 01:48:36 +0000 http://homeofficeblues.smartfaremedia.com/?p=40 One of the dangers of working from home is that it is more difficult to move your career forward. “Out of sight, Out of mind” often applies to telecommuters. What options are available to the upwardly mobile teleworker? How do you set yourself up for promotion when the odds are stacked against you?

I’m glad you asked. It turns out that the steps that are necessary to get promoted when you work from home are the same as those that are necessary to get promoted when you work in an office. Like everything else however, the telecommuter must work smarter.

Here are the 3 steps to getting promoted:

1. Be valuable.

This is obvious. You must do good work, have a good work ethic, and be a real value to your company. Most people stop here assuming that their work speaks for itself. Don’t make that mistake. You must proceed to step two.

2. Be visible.

You must market yourself and your work. You must make your presence felt by making sure you are working on visible projects. And finally, you must network and build relationships across the organization (and beyond). Know what other people are working on and be sure they know what you are doing.

3. Ask for the promotion.

You are doing good work; people know it and you have paid your dues. Don’t stop there. If you want to be promoted, you have to ask for it. This is where most people drop the ball. For some reason people are afraid to ask for what they want.

How do you ask? First of all, remember you are asking, not demanding. Second, think of this as a process and not necessarily an event.

Set up time with your boss to discuss your career plans. Tell them your goals and ask them for concrete steps you can take to reach them. Listen to what your boss says. Write down their suggestions. Create a promotion road-map. Be specific. Revisit this road map with them on a regular basis as you achieve milestones. This strategy works because they become invested in the process and you learn exactly what is expected of you.

The above strategy works if you expect to get a promotion from your boss, but in today’s broad flat organizations that is a lot less likely. Your best opportunities may be elsewhere in the organization which is why it is so important to cultivate your network and relationships. If you can find a mentor you can have a similar conversation as above.

At the end of the day, being in the right place at the right time is often the way that promotions happen. The office in your home can be the right place, but you must work harder and smarter to convince the traditionalists.

This post in conjunction with the “how to” group writing project.

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New Web Site: Web Worker Daily http://homeofficeblues.com/new-web-site-web-worker-daily/ http://homeofficeblues.com/new-web-site-web-worker-daily/#respond Sat, 09 Sep 2006 13:45:36 +0000 http://homeofficeblues.smartfaremedia.com/?p=62 Om Malik of GigaOm recently introduded a new website called Web Worker Daily.

This site is going to highlight the lifestyle, work habits and technology of the mobile web workforce or the Web Bedouin as they call it.

The lead writer is Jackson West and he seems to have a nice readable style. I will be keeping an eye on them to see how much they cover issues facing home office workers. However, if you find yourself outside of the home office a lot, you should check them out too.

Welcome to the neighborhood!

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