I want to take just a few moments to give thanks for some technologies that I am grateful for in this Thanksgiving season. This list doesn’t rise to the level of things like life, family, and friends. However, these technologies help to make my life a little easier or have provided with me with a way to make a living and I just want to take a moment to express that.
The first technology that I’m thankful for is the IBM i. This platform has provided work for me solidly for more than 15 years. It is the first platform that I started programming on professionally and I still do a lot of work on this platform today. When I first started, the only operating system available on the machine was OS/400 which was really pretty advanced for its time. The operating system itself is object oriented and a lot of modern systems today are still struggling to try to make this leap. The way most people who accessed this machine was through an 80 column by 24 column old-fashioned green screen which is great for heads down data entry but not so great for data presentation. Today you can run a variety of technologies and operating systems on the IBM system i. I should note that it went through a couple of name changes but most people still refer to it as the AS/400. When I first started I was coding in only two programming languages, CL and RPG. Now, when I work on the system I typically code in one of five languages. These languages are CL, RPG, COBOL, PHP, and Java. This reliable system has been a pretty good career choice and I am thankful for it even if I have some complaints about it here and there.
The next technology that will give thanks for the combination of my Virgin Mobile account and my LG Rumor Touch cell phone. Now the phone is not as advanced as an android phone or an iPhone but I was looking for an economical solution. I had been a customer of T-Mobile for a number of years but when I called them to try to see if there was a way they could save me money they were no help. He told me about a customer loyalty program that they were very excited about but which turned out to be more expensive than the plan that I was currently on. So I switched to Virgin Mobile. My monthly bill is a mere $25 a month. I only get 300 minutes of talk time but I usually don’t use this many minutes anyway. The great part is that I have unlimited text and web access with the included data plan. The backbone for the data network is Sprint 3G network which isn’t necessarily the fastest but again I was looking for affordability. I’ve been happy with it since switching and that is why am thankful for this combination.
The next piece of technology that I’m thankful for is screen recording software. I use Camtasia studio at work to either help train someone on a technology or to document a business process, especially if this process only occurs sporadically. If you run a job so infrequently that you often forget how to do it and struggle through written documentation, you should consider using screen capturing software such as Camtasia studio.
At home I’m starting to use CamStudio which is an open-source screen recording software. It doesn’t have as many features as Camtasia but it provides a way for me to help teach my children about using the computer.
The next piece of technology that I am thankful for is Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Standard software. This software is a speech to text engine that transcribes spoken word for you. The software has saved me a lot of time in the past whenever I needed to write a long document or e-mail. With a good microphone you can write by talking instead of typing and it captures your idea in your favorite word processor. The software isn’t perfect and makes mistakes which are often comical but it is still a huge timesaver. It is one of the key components which has helped me to solve a
problem that I had of an unproductive drivetime. My office is a one hour drive away from my house and I often lamented the fact that my commute could not be productive. I have now found a use for this time by writing a book as part of the NaNoWriMo project. I record myself telling the story into my MP3 player and when I come home, I play my recording into the microphone jack of my computer. NaturallySpeaking does my writing for me. So not only is it a great timesaver but it has also opened new methods of expression for me.
The final technology I am thankful for is MagicJack. Again, this has cost saving element to it. My wife and I had gotten rid of our landline and were using only cell phones for a while. The problem that we ran into is that we wanted a phone available for when we had a babysitter watching our kids. Instead of leaving one cell phone behind, we decided to give MagicJack a try. We have had reliable service from MagicJack without any complaints. When we receive a voicemail, it gets sent as a wave file attachment. I have put a filter rule in my Gmail account so that my wife gets a copy of every voicemail too. This was something so simple that I almost overlooked it. But that’s one of its great assets. Once you start using it, it works so well that you forget it’s there.