Tech for Working Abroad (with kids)

A business growing like crazy with lots of new products coming online and customers coming in the door.  Three kids under seven.  Sounds like a perfect time to jump on a plane with the whole family and head to France for a month, right?

I’m pretty sure my wife and I talked about the possibility of travelng abroad during our very first conversation back in 1997.  It took us awhile to get there, but we just returned from an incredible month in France (Paris and Le Paradou in Provence) with our three children (all under 7 at the moment).  As I’ve shared this experience with friends and family, I’ve begun noticing some consistent questions about how we managed the kids, and how I was able to continue working (I didn’t take any time off in the end…next trip perhaps) remotely.  So, here you go:  some essential tools and tips we learned during our stay:

Apple iPad

The iPad is a magical device…for kids.  With its 10 hour battery life and lots of storage space, it ended up being the ultimate San Francisco-to-Paris warrior.  We loaded it up with movies, music, and games for the kids, and it made it all the way over with plenty of battery life to spare for another round of Toy Story or various kids games.  The parents enjoyed it too, as once we set-up wireless in the two places we stayed, it became a great email client and web browser for us to geek on during downtime.

Airport Express

I mentioned how the iPad was great for email and web browsing, but if you are traveling abroad, you don’t want to be using AT&T’s incredibly expensive data plans for the iPad, or your laptop, or your phones.  At the last minute, I grabbed the above AirPort Express and threw it in my bag thinking there could be a possibility of the “high-speed wireless” not working at our rentals.  It was a good call given that neither of the two locations had working wireless set-ups.  With this device plugged in, our iPads and computer were quite happy.

Adobe Connect

If you are going to be attempting to meet with your team, customers, and partners during your stay abroad, you aren’t going to want to hop on a plane nor sit on one end of the telephone for a long time.  I used Connect extensively during my travels as a way to make the discussions more social (webcams), as well as more productive (real-time document sharing, etc…).  Yes, I drink my own champagne.

Skype probably saved me several hundred dollars over the course of the month we were away.  Get the “Skype In” capability, so you can hook it up with the next wonderful service:

I’ve been using this as my primary number in my email-signature for awhile now, and it proved amazing while in France.  Folks call my Google Voice number, and I have it set to ring my mobile phone, my Skype account above, and even my office number.  As calls came in, I could answer them on my Skype account to make it basically free, without asking anyone to dial any new numbers, etc…  Very convenient for your callers, and you!

This one kind of just happened.  I had tried out foursquare awhile back, and it didn’t really click.  Early in the trip, however, I realized that having a log of all the fun places we went to (including little cafes, museums, parks, etc…) would be really nice, and this service is great for that.  I wish they had an easy way to export all of the locations we “checked-in” to, but it served us well and we found some good local places through the service.

ConnectSolutions Team

Last, but not least, I have to give credit to the team back at ConnectSolutions.  Their hard work ensured the business continued to be successful and grow while enabling me to get away with such an incredible trip with my family.  The welcome I received upon my return was the most impressive display of corporate pranks I have ever seen or heard of…and I look forward to returning the favor one day.

I’d love to hear from you all about what else could have made our trip even better!?!

Web Conferencing: "Meet" the desktop

ConnectSolutions has just "sneaked" a Beta of "MeetingPulse," a desktop application fully integrated with Acrobat Connect.  The app is based on Adobe AIR, and provides instant access to Connect meeting rooms, allowing users to quickly access their meeting rooms, be notified of participants joining their rooms, and viewing historical trends in their meeting usage.

The application is free to the Adobe Acrobat Connect community, and is available for download at:  http://labs.connectsolutions.com

For more information on the app, visit the official ConnectSolutions blog

Hope you enjoy it!

Changes

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here, but it is not because I’ve been lazy.  I’ve recently left Adobe to start a new business, and as a result, have been burning the midnight-oil to get that off the ground.  The new business is focused on providing managed services, with an initial focus on web conferencing.  If you’ve followed this blog, then you won’t be too surprised to hear that the web conferencing software of choice is Acrobat Connect.

You can read more about the new company here:  www.connectsolutions.com

I’ll be setting up a blog over there shortly that will focus on web conferencing & Acrobat Connect related topics, so I encourage you to subscribe to it if you are interested in that space.

Exposing some inaccuracies in feature comparisons of Vyew and Acrobat Connect

A post on TechCrunch today walked readers through feature comparisons of Adobe’s Acrobat Connect and Vyew.  It wasn’t made clear who provided the feature review (suggestion for the future TechCrunch…), but there are several inaccuracies I wanted to highlight:

  • Anytime Collaboration – Acrobat Connect has supported asynchronous and synchronous collaboration since 2003
  • 100% Browser Based – Vyew requires Adobe Flash, just like Acrobat Connect.
  • Multiple On-demand Sessions – Acrobat Connect (and formally Breeze, and formally Presedia) has supported on-demand viewing of documents since 2000.
  • Screen Capturing – Acrobat Connect supports the ability to take a snapshot of a shared screen, and even then layer whiteboarding tools and comments over that screenshot.
  • Custom Session URLs – Acrobat Connect has supported custom URLs since 2005.
  • External Publishing – Acrobat Connect has supported both taking presentations and content offline (for use on CDs), publishing to external websites, or simply referencing from external websites since 2003.
  • Custom Color Themes – Acrobat Connect has supported customization of theme colors and logos since 2005.

All that said, I think Vyew is doing some interesting things with a relatively bootstrapped team, and I look forward to continuing to watch their progress.  However, I didn’t want to let these inaccuracies go un-addressed.
The original article is here:

Vyew3A20Free20Live20Web20Conferencing

Document Collaboration – more than screensharing a document

The following is a review of Microsoft’s new beta, SharedView. It appears to be an attempt to merge document collaboration with web conferencing’s screen-sharing capabilities. As the review points out, screen-sharing is useful for real-time collaboration, but it limits the collaboration to single-user control over the editing experience. This type of workflow has been supported in web conferencing solutions (including Acrobat Connect) for years…

User research indicates this isn’t enough to solve the distributed document collaboration problem. Google has started to try to address this through Docs and Spreadsheets, along with a variety of other vendors that have recently cropped up in the web 2.0 bubble. Looks like MSFT has a ways to go in order to provide an effective, real-time, document collaboration solution.
First look: Microsoft SharedView beta

The “document collaboration” journey begins for me

I’ve recently taken on responsibility for a couple of new services at Adobe, including CreatePDF and Document Center.  These are both excellent services that provide simple value-propositions for individuals around document collaboration.  Both of these services allow for “try and buy” experiences, which you can sign-up for at the following URLs.  Enjoy, and let me know your feedback about how we can improve these services.
Create PDFs of virtually any file format:

Create Adobe® PDF Online: Easily convert and create PDF documents

and then apply policy-protection for electronic documents (think virtual-shredder, DRM for documents, etc…)

Adobe Document Center 

and of course, I’m still working on Acrobat Connect (web conferencing)

More On-line Presentation Tools…while Presenter celebrates its seventh birthday…

Techcrunch » Blog Archive » Preezo Enters Online Office Race

It’s articles like this that remind to keep in perspective how great the value proposition of Adobe Presenter (formally Macromedia Breeze Presenter) is.  Presenter is the original product within a series of applications that make up what is now called Adobe Connect (formally Macromedia Breeze), and has literally been out in the market since 2000.

When engaging with customers on the Connect/Breeze product line, I end up spending the majority of my time on our web conferencing or training solutions, basically assuming that people “get” the value proposition of being able to take your huge presentation with animations and such, add voice over, and publish it all together as a rich Flash application on the web.  However, every now and then I run into a customer who isn’t aware of this technology, and am reminded through their reactions of what a great concept this is.  Kudos to Keith and Kevin (Presedia founders) for having the vision back then…

Techcrunch » Blog Archive » DimDim launches FOSS challenge to WebEx

Techcrunch » Blog Archive » DimDim launches FOSS challenge to WebEx

I always love to see Webex challenged. I love it so much, I’ve made a living doing it for the past three+ years at Macromedia/Adobe. 😉

The platform limitation of this solution is a big issue though for any business considering using it as a tool to communicate and collaborate with external users. In these cases, you have no control over the desktop and application usage, which often results in you spending time asking your audience to configure software or networks vs. selling your product or delivering you message. That technology-challenge is exactly what generated an opportunity for Breeze, and was largely solved through the use of the Flash platform (98% of the world’s computers have Flash…).

The second challenge will be reliability. Web conferencing is a social experience, and when it fails, the egg falls first on the end-user (not the providing vendor). Because of this experience, it’s critical that web conferencing solutions provide failover and highly-available solutions. It’s something the Breeze solution has spent huge investments on from the beginning, and continue through version 5 and beyond. Web conferencing and collaboration is not your typical web-based application given the real-time nature of the interaction.

Anyway, nice to see the open-source community investing in the web conferencing and communication space…only good things can come from it.

The New Breeze Upgrade It’s A Tough Act To Beat – Online Collaboration and Web Conferencing Breaking News – Kolabora.com

The New Breeze Upgrade It’s A Tough Act To Beat – Online Collaboration and Web Conferencing Breaking News – Kolabora.com
http://www.kolabora.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.r67.cgi/286

Yeah, it’s an older article at this point, but it’s a nice overview of the product I spend my days working on…