Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Just the fax, Ma`am

This may come as a surprise to some, but many people still send and receive faxes. If you need to send or receive faxes, there are a couple methods that you can take advantage of to make sure your faxing requirements are met at the lowest possible costs. In this post, I'll discuss the various choices and methods that you can use, point out their advantages and disadvantages, and the targeted volume of faxes sent/received per month.

First, very low volume users- People that rarely have the need to send or receive a fax.

If you have a multi function printer (MFP) with faxing capability, you can connect it to your phone line. If you only have 1 phone line (we'll discuss a separate fax line later), you would typically set the defaults on the (MFP) to not answer incoming calls. To send a fax, you simply insert the document you want to send, dial the number on the MFP, and away it goes. To receive a fax, you would have to set the fax to answer mode, tell the sender to then send the fax and it would then be received on your end.

Advantages: Very low cost, simple setup and use.
Disadvantages: Typically, you need to be there to set the MFP to receive a fax. With some telephone service providers, you can arrange for a "distinctive ring" to signal the MFP to answer and receive an incoming fax, but this usually involves paying extra fees to the phone company. Also, some telephone service providers systems do not work well with the analog signals used by faxing machines.

If you only have the occasional need to send a fax, but not receive, there are several web sites ( as an example) where you can send a fax for free.

Advantages: Free.
Disadvantages: Steps involved- Attach the file you want to fax, enter confirmation code, log into e-mail and confirm you want to send, wait for successful receipt e-mail. Limited number of pages per fax and limited number of faxes per day. Also, this is only useful for sending a fax. If you need to receive one, other methods must be employed.

If you send and receive faxes on a regular basis, you might have a separate phone line dedicated just for faxes. I still have numerous customers that fit this situation.

Advantages: Probably the easiest to set up and use. Old world POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service).
Disadvantages: Cost. Typically a second phone line will run about $25.00 per month. I have seen people with dedicated fax lines that send/ receive less than a dozen faxes per month. This makes the cost of each fax absurdly expensive.

E-mail faxing. There are numerous services out there that can provide e-mail to fax service, such as E-Fax ( This is generally a less expensive way to go instead of a dedicated phone line. The service provider will provide you with a fax number. When someone sends you a fax, you receive an e-mail notification and the fax is either included with the e-mail or as an attachment.

Advantages: Less expensive (but not always) than a POTS.
Disadvantages: Can sometimes be cumbersome to use. May require proprietary software for it to work. Some vendors have strict limits on the number of pages/ faxes you can send.

The service I use is one from FaxAway ( In my next post, I'll describe how it works and why I think it's the best possible solution for faxing.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Go outside and play.

Here's an interesting article by David Leonhardt of the New York Times:

Carving out a Shultz Hour
The brain must have time off from technology.
When George Shultz was secretary of state in the 1980s, he liked to carve out one hour each week for quiet reflection. He sat down in his office with a pad of paper and pen, closed the door and told his secretary to interrupt him only if one of two people called:
“My wife or the president,” Mr. Shultz recalled.
Mr. Shultz, who’s now 96, told me that his hour of solitude was the only way he could find time to think about the strategic aspects of his job. Otherwise, he would be constantly pulled into moment-to-moment tactical issues, never able to focus on larger questions of the national interest. And the only way to do great work, in any field, is to find time to consider the larger questions.
The psychologist Amos Tversky had his own version of this point. “The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed,” Mr. Tversky said (as Michael Lewis describes in his latest book). “You waste years by not being able to waste hours.”
Likewise, Richard Thaler, the great behavioral economist and a Tversky protege, self-deprecatingly describes himself as lazy. But Mr. Thaler is not lazy, no matter how much he may insist otherwise. He is instead wise enough to know that constant activity isn’t an enjoyable or productive way to live.
These days, however, it is a very tempting way to live. It can be hard to live any other way, in fact. We carry supercomputers in our pockets and place them next to us as we sleep. They’re always there, with a new status update to be read, a new photograph to be taken, a new sports score or Trump outrage to be checked.
Even before smartphones, this country’s professional culture had come to venerate freneticism. How often do you hear somebody humble-brag about how busy they are? The saddest version, and I’ve heard it more than once, is the story of people who send work emails on their wedding day or from the hospital room where their child is born — and are proud of it.
Our society, or at least the white-collar portions of it, needs some more of Mr. Thaler’s laziness and Mr. Shultz’s reflection time. They are the route to meaningful ideas in almost any realm: personal relationships, academic papers, policy solutions, diplomatic strategies, new businesses. I find it striking that new-business formation has declined over the last 15 years, despite (or perhaps partly because of) the digital revolution.
My goal with this column is to persuade you to add a Shultz Hour, or something like it, to your week.
I’ve just begun to do so. I have committed to carving out an hour each week with no meetings, no phone calls, no email, no Twitter, no Facebook, no mobile alerts and no podcasts. Sometimes, I plan to spend the hour sitting down, as Mr. Shultz did, and other times taking a stroll. I keep a pen and paper with me and have set my phone to ring only if my wife calls. (My boss can’t start a war, so I’m willing to ignore him for an hour.)
The fact it felt hard to commit to a full hour was a sign of my need to do so. Like many people, I’m overly connected. I have confused the availability of new information with the importance of it. If you spend all your time collecting new information, you won’t leave enough time to make sense of it.
The science of the mind is clear about this point. Our brains can be in either “task-positive” or “task-negative” mode, but not both at once. Our brain benefits from spending time in each state.
Task-positive mode allows us to accomplish something in the moment. Task-negative mode is more colloquially known as daydreaming, and, as Daniel J. Levitin of McGill University has written, it “is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable.”
Whether you decide a Shultz Hour makes sense for you, I’d encourage you not to fool yourself into thinking that you can easily change your habits in little ways here and there. The ubiquity of smartphones, together with our culture of celebrating busyness, makes ad hoc approaches difficult. You are much more likely to carve out time for strategic thinking by making concrete changes to your habits.
Wake up to an alarm clock rather than a phone, to collect your thoughts at the start of each day. While you’re driving, put your phone out of reach, mostly for safety, but also to let your mind wander at red lights.
Around the house, hide your phone — in a backpack, a drawer or another room — for set periods of time, as Sherry Turkle of MIT recommends. Or carve out a few hours each week when no one in your house can check a phone. The filmmaker Tiffany Shlain and her family do so for an entire day — a “technology shabbat.”
Like sugar, technology makes life more enjoyable. But it’s better in moderation, and modern life pushes us toward excess.

 My wife and I when traveling are simply amazed at just how many people appear to be constantly staring at the screens on their smart phones instead of paying attention to what's around them.

While I really like technology and make my living from it, there is a point at which we all need to just STOP. We recently adopted a new dog and I've found that a pet helps keep me grounded. Walking a dog is a great way to disconnect from technology, just leave the phone at home.

More on this later, but I have to go outside and play now.