7 Great Cloud Apps for Businesses and Teams

I recently started a part time, fully online/remote degree in Digital Design & Technology after working in a similar field, unqualified, for nearly 15 years. I thought I knew it all and knew the best tools of the trade. I was wrong.

The fact that my course is 100% online forced the usage of the apps/websites I’m about to detail but I’ll be using these for my own business, collaborative and personal use from here on in. All of the following apps are cloud based and available from any device with internet access. All (Except Coggle) have native app versions for mobile devices too which give a streamlined, better user interface if you’re not at your main desktop or laptop.

You may notice a slight Google bias here! Most are free for personal/lite usage.

1 Gmail

Gmail

Nothing new or groundbreaking here of course but you can’t beat gmail for reliable, cloud based email communication. Filtering, Labels & Folders and email search are dead handy as is syncing between different device versions.

Standout Feature: Multiple accounts.

https://www.google.com/gmail/

2 Google Drive

Google Drive

A file repository and storage system but with document sharing, commenting and integration with Google Docs, Sheets etc.. I love the live editing mode where you can actually see other people typing/editing on screen and commenting within documents is handy too.

Standout Feature: File & Folder access/sharing.

https://www.google.com/drive/

3 Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts

Excellent call conferencing and instant messaging system with good integration with Google Calendar, ie – click the link in a calendar event to join a call.

Standout Feature: Screen sharing to a group.

https://hangouts.google.com/

4 Google Calendar

Google Calendar

Event/task reminder system with event invites and reminder notifications. I can’t live without this in my life. I might forget to breathe without it. Automatic email notifications of event changes to event attendees is handy.

Standout Feature: Add other people to events/Indicate attendance.

https://www.google.com/calendar/

5 Google Apps (Docs, Sheets & Slides)

Google Apps

A cloud based alternative to the Microsoft Office suite of office apps. Apps are slightly less functional than the Microsoft versions but all are very capable still. I love that documents are automatically backed up and available across devices.

Standout Feature: Live simultaneous document editing by multiple people.

https://gsuite.google.com/

6 Coggle

Coggle

Simple collaborative mind mapping and idea generation tool. Initiate an idea in the centre and drag “idea” branches and sub branches out from it. Notifications of changes to branches are emailed to members automatically.

Standout Feature: Mind map exporting.

https://coggle.it/

7 Trello

Trello

I’ve saved the best until last. My OCD loves this one! Trello is a collaborative project management tool with “Cards” for each task and To Do, Doing and Done columns. It’s great for an Agile/Scrum environment as task cards can have deadlines etc.. You can organise everything from a major project to your whole life with Trello.

Standout Feature: Board notifications and integration with Google calendar.

https://trello.com/

How to Fix Ford Bluetooth Connection Issues with a Firmware Update

We just got a Ford Grand C-Max 2012 and I was quite excited (as only a man can be with the prospect of a new car gadget) by the Bluetooth functionality promised by the ton of Bluetooth buttons and controls built into the car’s dashboard. Unlike our last car which had just a Bluetooth kit that could only handle calls but not stream music from phones etc through the speakers, this car could do that and more. There’s even a phone keypad on the dashboard!

So imagine my disappointment when I just couldn’t get my Galaxy Note 4 (Or my wife’s S4) bonded with the car. The phone found the car’s Bluetooth no problem but kept saying it couldn’t connect because there were no available phone slots left. But when I tried to view current slots and debond the previous owner’s phones the car system threw a wobbly and timed out, sometimes turning itself off and only turning the engine on could start it up again. The cars Bluetooth function had obviously become corrupt in some way.

So I went off Googling, presuming to find a ton of easy fixes. Surely this was a common issue!? Not so. Any fixes I came across just suggested debonding the existing phones but my system wouldn’t let me do that. I then went looking for firmware updates for the audio system to see if that would help reset things but couldn’t find any on any Ford site. It seems they don’t want you doing this, perhaps preferring instead that you fork out for a fix with a local Ford dealer!?

Eventually I found some old firmware from 2012 on a website. It is supposed to be for all Ford Bluetooth with Voice Control car systems from 2008 to 2012 but only supported the C-Max up to Jan 2012 and my car was July 2012. Nevertheless, I downloaded it and ran the update procedure and everything works perfect now!

Make sure your phone is actually compatible with the car system before you do this obviously – http://www.ford.ie/Technology/MobileCompatibility

* Here’s the firmware I used – Download.

And here’s a simple procedure for updating:

  1. Download and extract the zip folder above.
  2. Copy the extracted files (not folder) to an empty USB drive formatted in FAT32.
  3. Turn on your car audio system via the button, ie – not ignition switch.
  4. Insert the USB drive and select AUX – USB input.
  5. Turn ignition key to position 1.
  6. The update process should start automatically and take about 20 mins.

Your audio system might turn itself off when the process is complete. Mine did. Just turn it back on with the USB drive still inserted and the system should say already up to date. That’s it done.

* Compatible with the following cars with a USB connection

C-Max/Grand C-Max – February 2008 to July 2012
Fiesta – July 2008 to December 2011
Focus – February 2008 to January 2012
Galaxy – September 2008 to January 2012
Kuga – February 2008 to January 2012
Mondeo – September 2008 to January 2012
Ranger – From April 2009
Transit – From June 2009

Disclaimer: This is not my firmware and no responsibility will be taken by me for damage done to your car audio system if it doesn’t work or there are compatibility issues.

 

What’s the Cost of Owning a Car?

We’ve been buying and selling cars a lot (no choice!) the last few years and have mostly had bad luck with what we’ve bought. All we ever seem to be able to afford are bangers that cause us endless headache and costs. But if nothing else, it’s led me to do a lot of research on how much a car can actually cost day to day. We’ve just invested in a newish car for once and I decided to make a spreadsheet that would calculate the difference in running costs between the old one and this new one just to see if we were going to save any money and if so how much exactly. It’s early days because we havn’t had the new car long but it turns out that the new car might potentially save us around €100 per week!

I’ve decided to modify my spreadsheet slightly for public consumption so you can input your own figures for things like Miles Per Gallon (MPG), Tax, CO2, Servicing/Repair and Insurance and see just how much exactly your car is costing you per year, per month and per week. Hopefully it might help you decide if it’s best to keep your car or invest in a cheaper to run one like it has for us.

Here are some resources you may need to use to get information on your car:

Irish Motor Tax Rates (Private Car Standard Engine size pre 2008 or Private Car CO2 Emissions post 2008) – Motortax.ie

SEAI CO2 Emissions band – Seai.ie

Car Specification & Reviews – Parkers.co.uk

Car Reliability Reviews – Honestjohn.co.uk

Here’s the spreadsheet (.XLSX)