The Organizational Support Flowchart

I’ve been doing this customer service thing for awhile now. In that time I’ve seen the occasional round of people who always go “straight to the top”, even for the simplest of things.

So, here’s a flow chart resembling my place of employment that illustrates what happens when that person makes such a request:
ITworkflow

You see? Doing this doesn’t provide for “better” or “faster” service. More often than not, the request is re-directed to where it should have started in the first place and the request is often delayed because a good support organization already has a mechanism to make sure that the right group gets the right tasks.

To be crystal clear, that isn’t to say one should never engage with an organization’s leadership if you’ve gone through proper channels and have gotten nowhere. If you go this route your concern will carry much more weight when leadership realizes that you honestly tried to get things done per-procedure and it didn’t work out. This information can help an organization become better and plan for contingencies that may not have been foreseen. Once that unknown is identified, it can be included in the proper workflows to the benefit of all.

Dealing with MS Outlook winmail.dat Files

Everyone knows that anyone who’s anyone uses Microsoft Outlook products for email.

For the remaining 81% to 86% of us that don’t, based on a couple of places in the know about who uses what, we need to deal with their email encoding which often comes through as just winmail.dat files.

winmailThis happens primarily because some Outlook users/admins set their clients to send in what Microsoft calls their Transport Neutral Encapsulation Format (TNEF), which doesn’t seem to be neutral for anyone, and is a setting in OutLook for emails in a Rich Text Format. Outlook users/admins could prevent this by setting their clients to send in either straight text or html. Since many don’t, we need a way to read this format.

For OS X users, there is TNEF’s Enough (see what they did there?), which is a small application that you drag and drop the offending attachment onto and it’ll convert it into something usable.

For Windows users, there are a couple of options. The first is an add-on for Thunderbird called LookOut (go ahead, giggle, I did) that converts it on-the-fly within Thunderbird, and a stand-alone similar to TNEF’s Enough called Winmail Opener.

So go grab these free tools and pry open those emails!

CloudClip Manager

CloudClipMacOne of the first Tech Trinkets I wrote was about ClipMenu, which let you have a history of clippings on your Mac. That’s still a great tool, but what if you have multiple Macs and/or iOS devices?

CloudClip Menu is a similar app that lets you have multiple clippings just like ClipMenu, but also uses iCloud to sync those clippings across all your devices. It does this automatically too.

The one drawback is that it does not yet copy images from devices.

IMG_0020You do need to download the App for the Mac from the App Store and also the App for iOS from the iTunes store. Both are free.

Contacts Sync for Google Gmail

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 12.37.53 PMIf you have an Apple device, chances are you’re using iCloud and Apple’s Contacts app as your primary source of your contacts. But, what if you have a Google account with Gmail too? Google has their own system for contacts, and while you could add that as a contact source, things get messy when trying to keep it all organized.

Contacts Sync for Google Gmail is an App for Mac OS X or iOS that syncs your Apple Contacts with their Google counterparts. It does this very, very well.Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 12.38.16 PM

I found that the best way to configure it is to not setup your Google Contacts for use on your iOS device or on your Mac. In other words, if you have Google configured in the System Preferences… -> Internet Accounts (OS X) and/or under Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars (iOS device), make sure to uncheck “Contacts” in there.

This way, you’ll use your iCloud contacts exclusively and let Contacts Sync for Google Gmail manage Google’s contacts on their server by keeping things in a two-way sync as shown above. Even better, then you’re iOS/Macs can use iCloud to sync amongst themselves.

Of course, when you use a Google service like Gmail or Calendar, all of your contacts will be available as well.

The utility isn’t just for Gmail, either. If you have an Android based cell phone, it uses Google’s Contacts by default. Imagine having all your contacts stay in sync on your Mac, iPad, and Android cell phone.

The end result of doing it this makes Contacts Sync for Google Gmail a conduit between the services and your contact syncing would look like this:

SyncDiagramOnce set up, syncing is as easy as doing a sync now and watching as it pops-up with any questions. You’ll doubtless have duplicates if it is your first sync and you’ll be able to choose to keep one of the two or merge the information into a more complete contact. It’ll even sync the pictures of your contacts, if you have them. Once that sync is complete, just set it for automatic sync and let it go.

Contact Sync for Google Gmail is $3.99 for Mac OS X or $2.99 (manual sync) + 99¢ for the automatic sync add-on for iOS. You only need purchase one or the other if you have both a Mac and an iOS device, however, I strongly suggest you get the Mac app as using a computer as your “hub” for sync is the better choice in my opinion.

Gravatar

I discovered Gravatar while installing WordPress. Gravatar is a great idea, a single site that stores your preferred avatar aka icon, site image, picture, whatever-you-call-it.  Then, in a supported site, when you create content or comment, your avatar is automatically added to your post.

It works by linking email addresses to the images you choose.  As you can see below that you can have many images and you can easily select what email they tie to.  Then, depending on what you’ve registered with on a particular site, that image is displayed as your icon. If you change your Gravatar then your icon is updated everywhere, all at once.

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 12.11.21 PMUnfortunately, Gravatar doesn’t yet work with some popular sites like Facebook, but hopefully more and more will add support. On the flip side, I’ve been surprised at the number of sites that do support it. I’ll be on one of my regular techie sites, post a comment and, “oh hey! There is my icon. Cool.”

WordPress, and this blog, do support them if you leave a comment! Gravater is a free service.