Blog by Design

To Subscribe or purchase that is the question

Microsoft is looking to change the way you think, at least about MS Office.  Microsoft wants you to stop thinking of Office as a product and begin thinking of it as a service.  Microsoft doesn’t want you to buy Office outright. If you subscribe to Office 365 Home you can get Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher for $100 per year.  You can install the software on 5 PC’s or MAC.  You can also install the software on 5 tablets or phones.  You get 1 TB of storage on Microsoft’s cloud storage service called OneDrive. As long as you maintain the service you are entitled to the latest version of MS Office.  If you do not renew the subscription the software will deactivate.


Getting the big picture


So you want to display a file, a video or a web page on the ‘big screen’ in the conference room and you want to know about some options for accomplishing this.  Here is the setup we frequently recommend.  Purchase a good LED TV that has several HDMI ports.  You can get a Samsung 48” LED TV for about $425.  Purchase an Apple TV which costs $150.  If you are using a Windows notebook computer, you will want to purchase an application called AirParrot 2 for $15.

Once the Apple TV has been connected to the LED TV and your wireless internet, you are ready to access the big picture.  If your notebook has an HDMI port, you can connect it directly to the LED TV.  If your notebook does not have an HDMI port, you can connect to the LED TV by running AirParrot 2 on your computer and connect wireless to the Apple TV.  iPhones, iPads and Mac’s have ‘Air Play’ built into their operating system.  You can display your iPhone, iPad or Mac to the LED TV through Air Play and the Apple TV.

We have the same setup at our house.  When the kids and grandkids come over and want to show their iPhone pictures and videos, we fire up the Apple TV and breakout the popcorn.


Enter Once, View Everywhere

Having your email, contacts and calendar synchronized across your computer, your notebook, your phone and your tablet is huge!  If you respond to an email on your phone, it appears in the sent folder on your desktop automatically.  If you book an appointment on your Outlook calendar, the appointment is automatically pushed to your notebook, phone and tablet.  Your contacts are found on every device. Enter once, view everywhere!

Previously enterprise email, contact and calendar service was beyond the reach of most small businesses.  It required a significant capital expenditure for hardware and software along with professional IT support.

With hosted exchange the initial cost is minimal.  The ongoing cost is predictable and reasonable (about $7.50 per email account per month).  You are renting exchange server space on the service providers equipment.  A reliable provider like ensures your data is secure and has a 99% uptime service record.  Your data is protected by redundancy across multiple data centers.

When setting up a new computer, phone or tablet adding your hosted exchange mail is simple and fast.  The last phone I purchased at the store was downloading all my email, contacts and calendar before I reached my car in the parking lot.

by Bob Strain


App Store

I hate my favorite apps!

Say what? Let me explain. Someone publishes a list of their top 10 apps for their phone or computer. After reading the post I feel compelled to download the apps and give them a try. I later find my phone or computer littered with applications that I do not use. I’m done with getting an app and then trying to find a use for it in my daily routine.
My new approach is to identify a need and then see if there is an app that can answer the need. Remember the story of Cinderella? The King proclaims the Grand Duke will visit every house in the kingdom to find the girl whose foot fits the glass slipper. The prince was looking for Cinderella, the only one whose foot would fit the slipper.
The apps I regularly use are ones that comfortably meet a need. In my case I am frequently on the road away from the office. I need to know where each R&S worker is scheduled to be. The native iPhone calendar fits like the stepsister’s foot in Cinderella’s slipper. The Weekly Calendar app by from is a Cinderella app for me.
Instead of reading another blog listing someone’s top 10 apps, take 10 minutes to identify a need you regularly face then search to see if there is a Cinderella hiding in app store. Two or three Cinderella apps can add real value as you work through your daily routine.

by Bob Strain

Sonos Family half size

Roads, where we are going we don’t need roads

In the movie Back to the Future, Marty’s thinking was stuck in the past when he said, ‘Doc we better back up.  We don’t have enough road to get up to 88.’  Doctor Emmett Brown had been to the future and shows Marty a new way.  Sonos is not a car like the DeLorean.  It is a system to deliver music wireless in your home or office.  Sonos is a back to the future smart speaker system that streams all your favorite music to any room in your home or office.  You control your music with one simple app and fill your home with pure immersive sound.  You can play a different song in the living room, family room even the patio or play the same play list in every room.  All of us at R&S have been enjoying Sonos for several years in our office and homes.  Check out Sonos at

by Bob Strain


My Brush with greatness

When my daughter started her freshmen year at University of Pennsylvania, her assigned housing was the dormitory Hill House.  Across the street from Hill House is the Moore School of Electrical Engineering.  This was of particular interest to me since Moore is famed as the birthplace of the computer industry.  The first complete digital electronic computer, the ENIAC, was built between 1943 and 1946 at Moore School of Electrical Engineering.  I told Amy I wanted to visit Moore as a part of ENIAC was still housed at the school.

I have occasionally been asked by a client to help an interested parent by providing some computer assistance.  I was working with a retired business owner who had a request from a neighbor for some computer help.  On the appointed day, I sat down at his computer to begin when suddenly the connection was made.  I said, ‘Herman Goldstine … are you the Herman Goldstine associated with ENIAC?’  He said, ‘yes I am one of the three from the project.’  Just six months after expressing my desire to visit Moore I found myself sitting down one of the people instrumental in ENIAC.  After regaining my composure, I said, ‘Herman what am I doing working on this computer, you are the one of the fathers of this thing?’  His response, ‘these machines today are baffling.’

From that time forward till his death in 2004, I was honored to be Herman’s friend.

by Bob Strain


ihappy 😀


In June of 2007, my dad handed me a wrapped box. Inside was a brand new iPhone. He was so excited for me to have it. I was not. Why in the world would I want this giant thing when I had a perfectly good flip phone and I had an iPod with all my music. My husband used it more than I did until he got his own a week or two later.

It’s been 8 and a half years since my first iPhone. I’ve had 7 different versions (iPhone, 3G, 3GS, 4, 5, 5S and I currently have the 6) over that time period. I cannot imagine my life without it now.

My phone is so many things. It’s a book when I get to a client too early. It’s my radio in the car, on a walk or at the curling club. It’s the timer for both dinner and when the shared toy goes to the other brother. It’s the file folder for my 8 million spreadsheets and the spreadsheet that organizes my spreadsheets. It’s a distraction for the kids when the car ride gets too long. It’s the answer when I can’t remember who that actress was or why Pluto isn’t a planet anymore. It’s a connection to see my kids when I’m out of town and the flashlight I use to avoid legos when I check on them before I go to bed. It’s my wallet, my map, my bank, my photo album, my rolodex, my email, my recipe book, my tv and so much more.
But one of my favorite things is that it makes me happy. I try to send a few text messages every week to people I haven’t seen in a while or who might be having a hard time. I let them know I’m thinking about them or that they are awesome or that I saw a picture of a dinosaur farting and I thought of them. Taking the time to tell someone else that I appreciate them or want good things for them does more to change my own perspective than anything else I’ve found. 

So enjoy your phones. And if you find yourself with a free minute, send someone a funny picture or tell them that you care. The world gets a little brighter when you do.    

by Amy Mensch



In the Beginning . . . 

While my field of study in college was electrical engineering, that was not my start. The personal computer came years after I graduated from college. Fast forward to 1985. My family became the owners of an IBM 8086 computer, a CGA monitor and a daisy wheel printer, also not my start. My wife began working with DOS 1.1 and SSI’s (Satellite Software  International) Word Perfect 2.2. I had no interest in the machine. As my wife taught herself word processing she began to encounter computer problems. She handed me the manuals and requested my help. This was the start, I soon found myself investigating the PC out of personal curiosity.  For the next three weeks I spent every free moment teaching myself how to type. Over the next few months one computer turned into two. Surely there had to be a way to enable the machines to talk with each other. Soon there was a computer network at our house. A lot has changed in the past thirty years. Computer technology has exploded. After thirty years my curiosity is still alive and active. 

by Bob Strain