Wednesday, June 13, 2012

IMPORTANT: don't leave bags, backpacks, or purses visible in your vehicle!


Hi everyone,

I have personally learned of six different people who have had laptops stolen from their vehicle in just the last three months. Please take a few minutes to read this message and apply as applicable—both for your company or organization's assets and your own valuable items!
  • Don’t ever leave a bag, carry case, backpack, or purse in your vehicle where someone can possibly see it.
  • It is best not to leave these items in your vehicle unattended, even if hidden from view. It is best to leave items of value at home or at work if possible, or carry your item with you if unavoidable (e.g., on your way to or home from work).
  • If you have to leave an item in your vehicle, move it to a locked trunk before you arrive at your destination (don’t do it at the parking lot of your destination where someone could see you move the item).
  • Work with your company or organization's IT to encrypt your work laptop’s hard drive. This keeps any sensitive data from being exposed after loss or theft. But do that after you have ensured your data is consistently backed up (see next bullet).
  • Always keep a current backup of all important data in case of theft, loss, or hardware failure.
    • If you have a work-owned Windows laptop, use a backup solution if they provide one. If not, ask your IT where you should store important data--e.g., in your work email, SharePoint, file server, or your My Documents folder (if it is sync’ed with the server). Files stored on your Desktop or elsewhere may not be protected.
    • If you have a work-owned Mac laptop, use a backup solution if they provide one. If not, follow the recommendations above or see if you are allowed to keep a Time Machine backup to an external drive.
    • If you have a personally owned laptop, consider storing personal files in Dropbox or an equivalent service, use webmail such as Gmail for email, use Evernote, and/or subscribe to a backup service like Carbonite.
  • Setup iCloud on all personally owned iPhones, iPads, or Macs so that you will be able to Find your iPhone, iPad, or Mac whenever necessary.
Other notes:
  • Five of the laptops I referred to were stolen from a restaurant or shopping center parking lot, and the other was stolen from a vehicle in a residential driveway. It may not seem ideal to carry the backpack or bag with you into a restaurant, but this would have saved 100% of these thefts (assuming the bag is kept you at all times in the restaurant or store also). Thieves know that people going to a restaurant before or after work are likely to have items of value with them.
  • A security guard last night told me that parking lots are often “staked out” by people in vehicles that are watching for opportunities as people leave their vehicles—they even pointed out a suspect to me. They especially target vehicles that have reduced visibility (e.g., two vehicles parked close to each other, or vehicles that are farther away from the building).
  • Windows that have been tinted are even more lucrative because breaking the window is quieter and makes less mess than a window without tinting film.
  • Be especially careful if you are traveling in a rental car, since there are usually markings that give them away and thieves know there may be items of value or suitcases in the vehicle or trunk.
  • You can consider purchasing LoJack for Laptops if you have personally owned equipment you want to protect, but that is more expensive and not as effective as the other options above.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Fellowship One Mobile Check-in

Our church uses the Fellowship One Church Management Software (ChMS) for many things, but for this article we will focus on its capability to check in children for safety and security, and check in students and adults to provide name tags and note attendance.

Fellowship One Check-In is currently an Internet-connected Windows application which operates at 800x600 resolution and works well with a touchscreen display. It can operate in both assisted and self check-in modes. Optionally, rapid identification can be obtained through assignment of a barcode or using biometrics.

While a traditional kiosk or wall-mounted PC works well in many cases, we've considered a mobile check-in solution which could help in some of the following scenarios:
  • Check-in at temporary or remote locations where a fixed solution would be difficult to transport, or where power or network jacks are not present.
  • Outdoor check-in, such as for people going to portable buildings or perhaps during golf cart rides in a large parking lot.
  • Augmenting self check-in kiosks for those requiring assistance without having to send people to a fixed location.
  • Enabling a check-in volunteer to seek out attendees, such as to find people who did not register for an event or do not have a name tag.
When we initially considered mobile check-in, tablet PCs were expensive and finicky. Then the iPad was introduced, which provides a good form factor and battery life at a reasonable price. However, because Fellowship One Check-In has neither a native iOS check-in app nor a published check-in API, iPad solutions currently require remote desktop software, terminal services infrastructure, and more technical volunteers to operate. If and when native iOS check-in is developed, I expect it to quickly become the touch-screen platform of choice for check-in due to its low price point and inherent mobility.

With the advent of the HP Slate 500 Tablet PC, we finally have a very mobile Windows tablet PC that works well within the software's constraints. Combined with a wireless Internet connection, a mobile Zebra printer, and optionally with a Bluetooth barcode scanner, we can now provide a relatively lightweight solution with no wires and full mobility. But be warned—you may win a geek award walking around with a printer strapped to your waist.



Solution as Tested
  1. HP Slate 500 Tablet PC - $799.00
  2. Zebra QL 320 Plus WiFi mobile printer (P/N Q3D-LUGA0000-00) - $922.30, Li-Ion running charger - $186.70, 3"x2" labels - $3.38, and optional desktop stand - $34.00
  3. Koamtac KDC200i Bluetooth barcode scanner - $399.00
Zebra QL 320 Plus, HP Slate 500 Tablet PC, KDC200i barcode reader
Notes
  • You'll need to download Zebra's Label Vista software to configure the QL 320 Plus for wireless operation and then the Zebra Designer driver to print. If you don't already have access to a USB Mini-B (5-pin) to USB Type A Male cable, you'll need to buy one for this initial configuration. I also had to call Zebra support to obtain instructions to configure the printer for Gap Print and ZPL mode.
  • The QL 320 Plus printer is offered with no wireless (USB/serial only), 802.11b/g WiFi, and Bluetooth versions. I chose the 802.11b/g model of the QL 320 Plus printer and can also confirm that it works fine connected by USB. Theoretically, I would expect the Bluetooth version to also work but have not tested it.
  • You can use a USB or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with the HP Slate if that makes it easier to perform the initial configuration.
  • Since the HP Slate's screen resolution is 1024x600 and the check-in application's resolution is 800x600, the combination works best if you move the Windows 7 taskbar to the right side of the screen, as shown above. You can also use the extra screen real estate on the right for frequently accessed icons if necessary.
  • The HP Slate has auto screen rotation that switches from landscape to portrait mode as necessary. However, the check-in application needs landscape mode. Fortunately, the HP Slate's sliding power button also provides a rotation lock position, so you will want to lock the rotation after turning it on.
Issues
  • At first, the printer would print one label with several blank labels between. Zebra Support helped reconfigure the printer correctly; see my blog post to save yourself the phone call and trouble.
  • The QL 320 Plus has a printable width of 2.9 inches, which is wide enough to print the entire label. However, the Fellowship One Check-in application indents the left margin slightly, which causes the right margin to get cut off slightly, affecting the far right portion of the church logo. This issue is not severe for adult check-in, but it cuts off about 2/3 of the third digit on the security code, so we do need the Fellowship Tech team's help to eliminate the extra margin when printing to these printers.
Alternatives
  • See Matt's Sea of Geek blog post on a Check-in a Box for a solution using Dell Inspiron Duos and desktop Zebra label printers.
  • Other Windows tablet computers are starting to become available. 
  • There are also less expensive Bluetooth barcode scanners if small size is not as important.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    How to configure the Zebra QL 320 Plus for Gap Print and ZPL mode

    To set up the Zebra QL 320 Plus WiFi mobile printer (P/N Q3D-LUGA0000-00), you'll need to download Zebra's Label Vista software to configure the QL 320 Plus for wireless operation and then the Zebra Designer driver to print. If you don't already have access to a USB Mini-B (5-pin) to USB Type A Male cable, you'll need to buy one for this initial configuration.

    I also had to call Zebra support to obtain instructions to configure the printer for Gap Print and ZPL mode, as described below.

    The printer was initially feeding multiple labels as it printed. To fix this, I had to set it to Gap Print. In Label Vista, go to Printer -> 1 Send File and load config.sys.txt. Then power off the printer, wait a few seconds, power on the printer, and in Label Vista, go to Printer -> Read Files and verify that config.sys is loaded.

    Then to change the default from CPL (which will just print blank labels) to ZPL mode, use Label Vista again, go to Printer -> 1 Send File and load zpl_calibrate_gap.txt. Then power off the printer, wait a few seconds, power on the printer, and in Label Vista, go to Printer -> Read Files and verify that zpl_calibrate_gap.txt is loaded.