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    Using LinkedIn

    September 7th, 2007

    LinkedIn is a powerful tool for enhancing and maintaining your professional people network. An article about the service was recently published in USA Today.

    I was first introduced to LinkedIn several years ago when I received an “invite” from someone I worked with on a project. My initial reaction was to ignore the invitation. I am suspicious of unexpected e-mail, and giving out any personal information unless I have a good understanding of how it will be used. LinkedIn’s web site identifies the following three primary benefits of the service:

    1. Find past and present colleagues and classmates quickly. LinkedIn makes staying in touch simple.
    2. Discover inside connections when you’re looking for a job or new business opportunity.
    3. Your network is full of industry experts willing to share advice. Have a question? Just ask.

    After some cursory steps to verify what LinkedIn was, I created an account and simply ignored it for over almost two years. During that time I never received any spam or unexpected communications as a result of having a LinkedIn account. Some time later, in 2006, I was reintroduced to LinkedIn during a meeting with colleagues. I saw how my coworker had developed an extensive LinkedIn network of peers and colleagues, and I decided I should do the same.

    Since that time I have used LinkedIn frequently. As a rule-of-thumb, I only send invites to people who are already a member of LinkedIn. I do seek out trusted colleagues, and new professional acquaintances who are already LinkedIn members to establish connections. There are over 14 million members, and it is growing every day.I avoid establishing connections to people I have not met or worked with.

    I set my public profile to read similar to a resume. It identifies all of my employers and a quick summary of my jobs. Since I have done lots of project work, I also list some specific customers — but not details of those engagements. This sometimes results in unwanted contacts from recruiters, but I have found those to be rare. This detailed public profile serves two important purposes for me.

    1. People who have heard of me, but do not know me, can quickly discover a little about my experiences and expertise.
    2. Those who have business opportunities that fit my background can find me.

    In practice I have found LinkedIn to be helpful in learning more about my colleagues and keeping track of those who move around. It is also worth noting that my current job the result of a contact made through LinkedIn. LinkedIn has worked for me, and it can work for you with a little effort. There are over 14 million members, you must know some of them!

    Frequently asked questions about LinkedIn are answered here.

    View Brendan Moon's profile on LinkedIn

    Microsoft OneNote

    August 8th, 2007

    I like to avoid paper whenever I can. Why? Because it is heavy to carry around, it is time consuming to make backups, and most importantly I am always misplacing it. Certainly paper has its place (bills, financial records, mileage logs, etc) but Microsoft OneNote lets me put notes into electronic form.

    Microsoft OneNote is a very simple and straightforward application. It will remind you of a WordProcessor, except it doesn’t have all of the formatting features a WordProcessor provides. The function of OneNote is to capture and organize information — not to make it look its best.

    Typing is how I get most of my notes into OneNote. I type faster than I write so this works best for me. OneNote has easy to use outlining features and allows you to annotate basic shapes easily. You can also easily cut/paste from other applications. The only significant missing feature is the lack of a “Paste Unformatted Text” command. If you want to remove formatting from text, you have to paste first into something like notepad.exe and then cut/paste into OneNote.

    Other than organizing your notes, the most powerful feature is search. When you type text into the search box, OneNote instantly searches an index of all of your notes and highlights the pages and result instances. This is great for typing in little nuggets of information like names to recall their context.

    Perhaps one of the fanciest features is OneNote’s compatibility with Tablet PCs. I used HP’s TC4400 for about a year with OneNote. OneNote can recognize and convert handwritten notes into text, or simply do the text conversion in the background for search purposes. Frankly I didn’t use the handwriting features much since I write so slowly, but it was very useful to use the Tablet stylus to draw shapes and diagrams.

    During in-person meetings, paper is king for notes. Using a laptop/tablet for note taking tends to be distracting to other participants. I have discovered that taking notes on a legal pad, and then scanning them into OneNote works for me. The OCR features don’t work on scanned notes, but at least they stay in your virtual “notebook.”

    One other handy feature of OneNote is its built in screen clipping capability. A hotkey will activate the clipping feature where you can then draw a square on any portion of your screen. The image is then either added to a new “note” or simply put into your Windows clipboard for later pasting into an application.

    Microsoft OneNote is a part of the MS Office suite. It is also available seperately.


    Dual-Monitor Display

    August 1st, 2007

    Many computers support a dual-monitor display, and I would bet that many people don’t even realize it. For instance, most laptops allow you to use the internal display and a monitor plugged into the VGA port at the same time. Many PC video cards support both VGA and DVI ports, both of which can typically be used at the same time. Newer PCs even allow you to insert more than one video card at a time.

    Why? Because you spend most of your computer time using one application — but that is not all you use. Your primary application may be a web browser, your e-mail client, a word processor, or perhaps even custom business software. Having two displays allows you to dedicate one monitor to your primary application, and use the other monitor when the occasional need to multi-task arises.

    You will also find dual displays useful if you need to reference one file while accessing another. For instance, when typing a report in Word, you need to reference a spreadsheet in Excel. Or perhaps you want to reference a web site when authoring an e-mail. Just think about times when you most often switch between open applications. Dual monitor displays may offer you an easy way to boost productivity.

    Windows XP and Windows Vista support multiple displays out-of-the box. The first time you boot your PC with both displays active, you may see the same image on both. Once Windows is running, open your display properties/settings to confirm that two monitors are visible to Windows. Then select the second monitor and enable the option “Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor.”

    Dual Display Option