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ISSUE 561: July 25 2000

ALAN ZISMAN

It's easy to stay connected in today's wired world

One of the (perhaps) joys of our digital lifestyle is how you can go anywhere, taking your work with you, using e-mail to remain in touch.

For many of us, the key to doing this is to carry a computer everywhere we go. But you can still stay in touch even if you're not hauling your own notebook along.

I'm assuming that if you're computer-less (computer-free?), you still have access to an Internet-connected computer at the other office, or at an Internet caf?, or even a public library. You can now find a connected computer most places in the world. And once you're on the 'Net, with a little preparation, you can stay in touch and even access your key documents, address lists and more:

-- Get a free e-mail account. Even if you rarely use it, a free, Web-based mail account with any of literally dozens of providers can be accessed from any connected source. (Note that unless you clear the browser cache when you're done, with some services, the next user may be able to click on the back button and read your mail.) Before you leave, play around with the filters in your e-mail software at work to automatically forward your e-mail to your free account. Of course to do that, the computer at work needs to stay on all the time you're gone, with the e-mail software running.

-- Alternatively, check out a free e-mail gateway service. Services such as Thatweb.com, Webinbox.com, Mail2web.com and others can often be used to access your Internet e-mail from their Web page.

-- Neither of these methods will give you access to your stored e-mail address book, browser bookmarks or favourites, but you can cheat the system. Copy essential addresses into a text document and e-mail it to yourself. You can do the same with your schedule or any vital documents. That way, you can access this information from any system that gives you access to your e-mail.

-- Some documents, such as PowerPoint presentations, don't translate well to the plain-text world of e-mail. No problem. As long as you can get online, you can access any of a num-
ber of free disk space services. Set
this up before you go on the road and copy your documents online. Some of these services are Freedrive.com (50 megabytes of free space),
Myinternetdesktop (100 MB of space) and Xoom.com (promising as much as 500 MB of space). Mac users can sign on with Apple's iDisk, which is exceptionally well integrated into the Mac interface. (Apple wants to limit it to Mac OS9 users, though ways around this abound on the 'Net.) All of these services let you store copies of documents online and then access them from any computer connected to their Web pages. In some cases, you can keep some of your files private while making others accessible to anyone, a handy way to let clients access that PowerPoint presentation on their own.

-- Taking the free disk space idea one step further, Hotoffice.com not only provides 40 MB of online storage, it also offers an entire suite of useful tools such as a sharable group calendar, online confer-
encing and more.

And that's not all. Freedesk.com and MyWebOS promise complete office suites, online. Of course that means that you are word processing at the speed of the Net, rather than at the speed of your computer, so you're not likely to want to do this everyday. But it's something on which the big players are keeping a close eye. Sun is promising a Java-powered online version of it, while Microsoft is hinting that it will be offering something similar with its Office suite. And at June's PC Expo, Lotus promised online rental, over Into Networks' Playnow.com Web site, of its SmartSuite applications starting at US$2.99 for 48 hours use. The company claims this "marks the first time applications from a leading office software suite will be made available over the Internet with the same robust functionality and zero-latency performance that is available from packaged software."

Now, you may no longer need that notebook to take it all with you. *

*



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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan