Sunday, April 08, 2007

Book Review: Tech Savvy Real Estate Agent

The Tech Savvy Real Estate Agent

While this book was primarily written for Real Estate agents, the technology advice is applicable to any self-interested person who works with an established client base such as a mobile salesperson. The advice covers not just the programs to use, but how to set up your home office, and even some tips on how to use your cell phone.

As a technology consultant, I agreed with about 50-60% of his advice, partially because any book on technology is outdated the day after purchased. However, most of the advice was structural and will stand the test of time regardless of what program is used. His advice was extremely biased and assumed his way was the only way of doing something. The author takes us deep into his business operations and the reader can either do it his way or find another way. Ideally, the book should have given the reader multiple option for achieving their technology goals, especially when there isn't universal agreement on the idea.

Unfortunately, like the agent who quickly moves you through a house you expect to live in for the next 20 years, the author gave only a brief overview and lacked in the specific details on how to do something. The CD wasn't much help either. For example, he went into great detail on how to modify your website, but gave no advice or direction on how to do it. The book is designed to make you "savvy" but not an expert!

I'd recommend this book to any agent who hasn't quite figured out how to put their cell phone on vibrate or is still using a AOL or Earthlink email address on their business card. Agents who understand how to use email to keep in contact with their customers, have their own domain (and know what a domain is), and know how to create PDFs would find this book boring and would scratch their head and state "Well, duh, that's obvious." This book is for the agent that didn't grow up with technology.

Pros: Gives a good overview of how technology can help any salesperson, but in particular real estate agents
Cons: Very simplistic and often lack details on how to do something, and the alternatives

Monday, April 02, 2007

Windows Vista the Missing Manual

Windows Vista is arguably one of the greatest changes Microsoft made to its operating system since it introduced Windows 95. If you bought Windows 95, you got a decent manual that explained its features, and computer hardware manufacturers frequently included a Windows 95 "start here" CD that explained the new features Windows 95 had to offer. Those were the good old days, weren't they? Gas was under $3.00 a gallon and you didn't take your shoes off at the airport unless your feet were tired. In 2007, we have none of that. Windows Vista comes with many new features, wizards, and a complete change of the start menu, but Microsoft provided no printed guide explaining these features. Even worse, we now have up to seven different varities of Vista, each with different features.

As we know some things in life you can't avoid: death and taxes. I always add one other inevitable facts of life: great books by David Pogue. "Windows Vista, the Missing Manual" doesn't disappoint. Mine is already dog-eared, marked up, and has passed around more times than (insert inappropriate comment here). I'm not running Vista yet, but friends and family constantlyask me about its esoteric features.

"Missing Manuals" tend to always share common traits such as clearly explained examples and great screen shots to illustrate the points. While other books feel compelled to explain every esoteric function of a particular program or operating system, Pogue focuses on those features the average user would need help with. He also doesn't waste time explaining the basics such as how to use the mouse or how to turn off the computer. The reader should have a basic understanding of how to use a computer and simply wants to know how to maximize their use of Vista's features. By far the handiest feature of this book is clearly explaining which features work with which flavor of Windows. For example: which version have faxing and which have the cool Aero feature? Another part of the book I constantly refer to is the "where did it go" section.

I only have two complaints about the book. First, you can tell Mr. Pogue "cuts and pastes" from other versions. In addition, I would have liked to have seen more troubleshooting help in the appendix. Granted, this isn't a repair manual, but people often read manuals when something isn't working the way they want and I would have nominated the book for Sainthood if it had those features. Overall this is an outstanding book and should be purchased by anyone anxious or concerned about making the switch to Vista. Advanced users won't like the book because it doesn't go into enough details...but advanced users rarely read manuals anyway.

Pros: Perfect explanation of the features the average Vista user will need to know
Cons: Not enough troubleshooting advice.