Fun with Windows 7

April 11th, 2011

OK, this is nothing much to do directly with communicating, but I felt I should share this!

A few weeks ago I updated my main PC to Windows 7.  It was either that or a complete re-install of XP.

The thing had become really slow to start and was generally sluggish.  Sound familiar to anyone?  Hence the thoughts of a re-install.

Then I decided that if I was going to spend time re-installing everything, I might as well bite the bullet and upgrade as it wouldn’t take any longer!

So off I went, bought my DVD of Windows 7 professional and less than half an hour later I had a brand new operating system!  And what a difference it made!  Talk about fast, absolutely amazing.

Last week I started having problems………  Slow startup, constant freezing up and a general lack of performance.

Was I an unhappy bunny….  Then I got logical and thought back over what I’d done over the last couple of weeks.  The main thing was to re-arrange the hard drives in the PC and add a big (1 Terabyte) drive as a local backup.  The plan, by the way, is to sign up for an internet-based backup service once all my data is nice and tidy.

After a bit of head-scratching, plus a few hours trying all the fixes I found on Google, I wondered if I might be having problems with power.  After all, I have 4 hard drives, a fairly powerful graphics card and an additional sound card.

Now, at this point I have to confess to being a closet technical person.  So I added an extra power supply for the hard drives.

And all my problems have gone!  Every one of them.  Next step is to upgrade the power suply in the PC so I don’t have extra wires everywhere!

Now I can get back to doing all the stuff I should have been doing instead of messing about with a computer!

More on Windows and Mac

March 20th, 2011

In my last post I talked about how I decided on a Windows tablet instead of an iPad.

Part of the decision was based on our long term use of Powerpoint to create presentations.

I decided to take a more detailed look at the Mac presentation software, Keynote, so I’m currently learning how to use the handy 30 day free trial.  Did I mention we have a Mac as well as various PC’s?

So far, I’m finding the experience rather strange, as the whole way of working in Keynote feels very different from Powerpoint – hardly surprising really!

Visually, it is absolutely stunning and has a real quality feel to it that my current version of Powerpoint simply can’t match unless I create content with a dedicated graphics package, which I do quite a lot.  (I’m wiriting this instaed of working on the content for a presentation I’m delivering next week….. )

So far I’ve just been getting the feel of things.  The slide transitions are very pretty!

My first attempt at importing a Powerpoint was a mixed experience.  All the slides and graphics were imported just fine.  But the fonts I had used weren’t, even though they were embedded in the Powerpoint.   Probably something to do with licensing,  so I’ll have to install the same font set on the Mac.  Not a major issue, but an annoyance that wouldn’t happen if I opened the file on a PC.  Some fairly simple animations didn’t make it either.  Again, not a huge issue to re-do then, but another irritation.

Today I tried importing a different presentation.  Same font issue (haven’t installed then yet…..) and more animations not working.

Now I have to be fair here.  Keynote is able to import Powerpoint files, but even the latest version of Powerpoint cannot open Keynote files.

That said, it would probably be quicker to start from scratch than attempt to repair the non-functional animations.

I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s not really a competition between these two programmes – they appeal to different people and both are good in different ways.

I really need to evaluate Powerpoint 2010, as that’s probably the way we’ll go, at least for now.  I have a feeling that we’ll be adding Keynote presentations to our portfolio, if for no other reason than it opening up a new market for us.  And it’s not expensive, £70 for the whole iWorks package!  I was going to say that Office is very expensive, but I just remembered that for about £190 you get a license that allows installation on a desktop and a portable machine, so that works out at not much more per machine than iWorks.

Now I really must finish off the stuff for next week!

Should I buy an iPad?

March 16th, 2011

This has been bugging me for a while.  Ever since I saw a colleague at a breakfast meeting using an iPad to show off his business.

I had an “I need one of those” moments….. I mean, it just looked so amazing and easy to use.

So I started looking at how I would use it.  We deliver a lot of presentations, so I thought an iPad would be perfect.  Especially when I found out it runs Keynote which, for the odd person who may not know is Apple’s presentation software.  I could see myself delivering stunning presentations, wandering about holding my nice, shiny i-Pad.

Then I really looked into it.

Almost all of our work is done using PC software, although we do have a Mac that gets used for  the occasional bit of work.

OK, not a big deal because Keynote can import Powerpoint presentations.  Mostly.  Probably enough for most of our work.

But the version of Keynote that runs on the i-Pad doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the full desktop version.

So some of our best stuff wouldn’t work.  Bummer!

The i-Pad isn’t cheap either, although it is a wonderful piece of equipment, we would have to spend nearly £500 to get something we would only use to deliver stuff.

Android tablets are cheaper.  But no way could they be used to deliver presentations.  There just aren’t the apps to do it yet.

So I’ve arrived at the conclusion that a Windows 7 tablet is what we need.  Yes, really!

That would replace one of our delivery laptops with something smaller and lighter (not as small as an i-Pad, but still smaller than a laptop).

And it would run all of our main software anywhere. Even though battery life is less than an i-Pad (5 hours or so vs 10), that’s not really an issue for us.

We don’t do 10-hour presentations…….

A windows 7 tablet has USB ports and a card slot, as well as wireless and Bluetooth, so getting stuff onto it is so much more flexible.

So there you have it, a practical solution!

I still want an i-Pad though…….

It’s January – Must be time for New Year Resolutions!

January 3rd, 2011

Well, it would be, if I was going to make any!  There are all sorts of things I plan to do this year, making resolutions isn’t one of them.  Our goal this year is simply to keep going in spite of the economic situation and to find new customers who need and want our services.

I reckon it’s too easy to become swept along with the constant bad news and to forget all the good things going on out there.  Lots of businesses are just keeping their heads down and getting on with whatever they do.

We’ve recently had some work turn up from a previous customer who had a problem and called to find out if we could help.  Which, of course, we could!  Can’t say too much as I don’t want to compromise the client, but we’re enjoying the challenge of this project!  It involves a lot of work on communication and has started me wondering about the different ways people communicate today compared to how it was “when I was a lad”.

We ran a course just before Christmas (Workplace 911 if anyone is interested) and one of the people commented that he was amazed that he had managed to concentrate for two hours!  We’ve noticed in our work with young people that many struggle to maintain interest for much more than half an hour at a time.  It makes creating workshops, and particularly their associated presentations, quite a challenge.  It’s useful input for our wider work though, especially for Presentation Skills, as we are costantly learning new ways to engage and communicate with audiences.

I’m now busy getting rid of the few bulleted lists left in my slides……  And learning new ways of presenting information.

Which will all come in handy when we’re really busy in 2011!

Best wishes for a prosperous New Year!

Using words and communicating clearly

November 22nd, 2010

Something that interest us here at Chameleon is the use of clear, straightforward language.  So often, we read and hear examples of complex or confusing language.  So it was interesting to read on the BBC website that simple language can translate into profit!  Read the article for yourself here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11811150

I’m just off to read it again!

SEO adventures

November 9th, 2010

Like many businesses, we have a website.  It’s our shop window and, although we don’t rely on it as our primary means of attracting customers, more visitors are always welcome.  I had been thinking about optimising the site even while it was being built, but had put it off.  Then I started getting calls from companies offering to get me onto the first page of Google.  I started getting annoyed when they kept asking me the obvious questions “would a page one ranking help generate sales?”  Well, yes it might.  But they couldn’t give me a simple answer to how they would go about making my site different from all the other training companies out there.  I don’t mean specifics, I wouldn’t expect them to tell me all their secrets, but I would have thought they could give me at least an idea of what they would do. I got really mad when I told them we had no budget and they still came back with the same, “but surely you understand that a page one ranking, etc, etc…..”

So I decided to have a try at doing it myself.  Now, this is where Google truly is your friend! There’s a lot of help and advice out there!  This was one of my favourites: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/55-quick-seo-tips-even-your-mother-would-love/6760/#ixzz11UkgJeWJ

I also signed up to Google Analytics, which takes a little learning but is well worth the effort. Just Google “Analytics”, it will be near the top of the results page!

I got a lot of help from the online forums at Serif (www.serif.com) I use their software for photography, graphics and building websites. 

It took a while, but now I’m getting onto page 1 for at least some of the things I think people will search for! And there’s the heart of it for me. What will people type into Google when they’re looking for your services? We run a training company, so “training” would seem an obvious choice. But you need to be smarter than that! I’ve been looking at what appears in Google when I get onto page 1 and it’s pretty much down to the content on my pages. So I’m busy refining the page content and seeing what happens.

I suspect that’s what a lot of SEO companies do. Now, all of this may seem obvious to some opeople, but there’s a lot of hype out there.  (Yes, really!) I’m sure there’s more to optimisation that I still have to learn, but I’ve found that the basics are fairly simple – content, content, content.  And you really do need to think about what you expect people to be looking for – that’s the hardest bit.

So, if you have some time to invest, why not give it a try yourself. It does take time, but it’s strangely compelling and you can get decent results! Oh yes, don’t forget to get out there in person as well. That’s a really good way to get people looking for your site!

Even if you don’t do it yourself, you will still be better equipped to ask sensible questions when you speak to your SEO company!

What’s it all about…?

October 12th, 2010

Communicating.  We all speak, text, email, write letters (maybe!), deliver presentations, tweet, blog, the list goes on.  But how much of all that activity results in actual communication?  The sort where something meaningful happens and there’s a real connection between the participants?  That’s the issue at the heart of Chameleon.  After spending years in industry and some more as a consultant, I’ve lost count of the situations where a little effective communication would have really helped.  Oh yes, I’ve been guilty too! It’s often only when you have time to think that some of these issues become clear.

Which, I suppose, is why I wonder at how much of all this information that bombards us every day actually gets through.

Any why, here at Chameleon, we spend so much time working on things to do with communicating.

As this blog develops, I’ll share some of the things we find and maybe even a few hints and tips as we go along.

This is a voyage of discovery for me, never had a blog before, so it will be fascinating to see what happens and, more to the point, if I can communicate well enough to get people’s interest!

About this blog…

October 7th, 2010

This blog is maintained by me, Bill Kelly of Chameleon Associates.  We’re a training company, based in Southport in the North West of England.  Our website is here:  www.chameleonassociates.co.uk The theme that links all of our work is communication, in all it’s many and varied forms.  The name of the blog is linked to the time we spent living in Colombia, memo is the Spanish equivalent of “Bill”.

 So now all I have to do is learn how best to do this and how to get the best from blogging!