Monday, August 29, 2011

Solving Problems Remotely With Technology

Jing logoJing's "Magic Ball". Image via WikipediaOk, I'm a bad blogger... I know it's been "more than a while" since my last post and apologize for the lapse. The good news is that I've had a very busy summer, working on customer projects and traveling to present at conferences. As a business owner, keeping busy during these "challenging economic times" is a blessing and I'm grateful for the opportunities that I've had these past several months.

As I was contemplating what wisdom to share with my "return" blog post, I recently had an experience with a client that was having problems with their e-mail, which I was able to solve (remotely) thanks to a great free tool that I've talked about before... Jing. This program from the folks at TechSmith gives you the ability to capture screenshots and videos right from your desktop and quickly share them out to one person or many people with just a couple clicks of your mouse. Here's what happened...


As has been the case this summer, I was out of the office when one of my customers contacted me, stating they were having problems with their e-mail program. They were moving from POP to IMAP, while at the same time migrating from Outlook to Mozilla's Thunderbird mail client (the makers of Firefox). He had been working on this for almost an entire day, but was getting error messages when trying to send e-mail and was getting very frustrated (not only at the situation, but at the technology that WE were providing his business).

Step One - Download Thunderbird to Test
The first thing I did was to try and mimic what he was going through on my computer and I went out and downloaded the Thunderbird mail client and walked through the setup process while he was on the phone. This way I could "see what he sees" and since the program was free, no cost was involved. As his service provider, he was comfortable sharing his password with me so that I could log in "as him" and set up the system to check e-mail. There was one step that was overlooked, which we talked about, and then I was able to see all his mail and sent out some test messages. We made sure the settings were the same and viola! Problem solved... or so we thought.

Step Two - Sending Messages Does Not Work
About an hour later, he called me back and said that he was getting errors sending e-mail, and I could tell there was an increased level of frustration in his voice (understandably so). In order for me to see what was going on, I asked him to take some screenshots of the error messages and send them my way. At that time, I was away from the computer, but when I got back, was able to see the problem was in the authentication of the "outgoing mail server settings", which was keeping his mail from going out. I thought this was strange, because in the Thunderbird program that I installed, I didn't have any of these problems and did some further digging. That's when I opened up my Jing and was able to get to the bottom of this issue.

Step Three - Explore Further With Jing
Some of the Jing captures that I have saved on my computer,
ready to be shared with clients via Screencast.com.
I wasn't sure exactly what the problem was, but I knew one thing for sure... his mail settings were different than mine since the exact same program on my computer was working for me, but not at his end. So, I fired up Jing and turned on the video screen capture option. With the free version, you can capture up to five minutes of video from your screen, and that was going to be plenty.

So, with the video grabbing my actions, I went into the properties and settings, exploring all of the various options that could be chosen during the configuration process. The video was about three minutes in total and when done, I uploaded it to my Screencast.com account (a free account you get when you sign up for Jing that gives you the ability to share what you've captured easily). Once the upload of the video was done, I pasted the link into a message and sent it to him (since he was able to GET messages, just not send them).

Guess what! When he watched the video and walked through his Thunderbird settings he discovered (and I never would have thought to ask him to check this) another version of an outgoing mail server that was incorrectly set up the first time he tried installing the program. It seems this server configuration was conflicting with the "right" one and causing the problem with him sending e-mail. Once he removed this from the system, his e-mail worked like a champ. Thank you Jing!

This is an example of a screenshot capture of this blog post
showing how you can "mock up" the page, add callouts,
draw arrows and provide text description for different areas.
I continue to use Jing for lots of other things as well as troubleshooting problems like this. When we do website designs for customers, I'll use the screen grab feature to get a snapshot of the screen and then use the editing tools to draw boxes, arrows, add text and highlights to help explain what changes and modifications to make. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case Jing allows you to combine the picture and your words to tell the full story.

If you're not using Jing yet, what are you waiting for? This free program is a great tool to have on-hand and can be used for a variety of tasks. It's PC and Mac compatible and they also offer a paid version that does not limit the time of your videos for around $15. Once you give it a try, I have a feeling it will be one of your most favorite programs! What programs have you used in similar situations? I've love to hear your ideas and feedback.

Enjoy...
~Eric

P.S. You can also check out this comprehensive review of other screen capture solutions from the folks over at Cloudwards. Good stuff.
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