Tag Archives: network

What is Synergy?

Geek!This is Frank’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

I have 2 computers at my house that I use. I wanted a program that would enable me to use my keyboard and mouse from my desktop, to work on my laptop as well. I figured an application like this would definitely increase my productivity and make it easier from switching between computers. I know a lot of people out there who have multiple computers in there home or office would love that chance to have something that will free them from using more than one keyboard and mouse. Not only does using more than one of these devices become cluttered, but it slows down your efficiency to get work done. That’s why there’s an application called Synergy. Synergy allows you to share a keyboard and mouse from a host computer to multiple client computers. You need to download the program for both the host and client computers that you wish to use this feature on, but let me tell you… it is worth the time to download!

The setup is very easy to do and will work in a matter of seconds after installation. Although, to make sure connections from the host to client computers work, you have to configure the program so that it knows which is which. This can all be done using the easy to use interface that Synergy brings. In the beginning, Synergy gave me problems because I didn’t connect properly to the host computer from the client computer. The one major tip I can give that cleared this problem up is when you have the application on the client computer opened, make sure that you choose it as the “client” and you enter the host computers IP address in the box right below it.
Having the opportunity to be able to move my mouse from my host computer directly over to my laptop (client) and then use the keyboard as well has been a pleasant experience for me and is definitely one of my favorite applications to use!

Well, that’s my “What is” article on the program Synergy and how it has been a huge help with increasing my productivity.

By the way…this is open source cross platform software!!

How to Meet Geeks

You can take advantage of this growing community by being an active part of it. After all, it’s yours!

1. On the front page of http://geeks.pirillo.com/ you’ll find a list of the day’s registered birthdays. It takes less than 20 seconds to stop by someone’s profile and wish them well. You don’t have to be creative about it – a simple “happy birthday” is more than enough.

2. Watch http://geeks.pirillo.com/groups/group/list?sort=latestActivity for the latest happenings in the Groups. If you see something that interests you, join the group and start participating. Remember: it takes participation to evoke participation. If your favorite group isn’t showing up in “latest activity,” it’s because you’re not posting there. 🙂

3. Post your favorite daily news links and announcements in http://geeks.pirillo.com/forum as they come in throughout the day and night. No easier way of discovering who shares your thoughts. Posting a question that’s already been beaten to death isn’t very helpful at all. Did you just buy new hardware? Find new software? Tell everybody!

4. Keep an eye out for bloggers on http://geeks.pirillo.com/profiles/blog/list?pageSize=15 to see which geeks share your passions. Instead of simply leaving a commeent or passing the link to a friend account, why not click the user’s avatar and add them as a friend? Reach out!

5. Embed your own YouTube videos (or any of your videos) via http://geeks.pirillo.com/video/video/addEmbed and be sure to tag it accordingly. Your personality will draw people to you when they see what you’ve done!

6. Search for keywords on http://geeks.pirillo.com/memberSearch to see who matches you. Hopefully, every geek has filled out their own profile to the best of their ability. It’s all about discovery, my friends!

7. Go back to the front page when you have a moment – check out the latest activity that’s front and center! Not only can you click on member names and buddy icons, but their activity as well. Did they just upload a song you love? Did they just comment in a thread that sounds interesting? Did they just befriend one of your friends? The Activity Stream is incredibly revealing!

8. Keep your eye on http://geeks.pirillo.com/profiles/members/ which lists all the latest members to join the network. I wouldn’t recommend pouncing on them immediately, but once they’ve added a few things to their profile – why not personalize your greeting? Nothing would make a new geek feel more welcome!

9. When you do something interesting on Geeks, why not share the link with your Facebook or Twitter friends? It’s easy to do, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same people who follow you outside of Geeks would be more than interested in following you on Geeks.

10. Have you posted your event(s) to http://geeks.pirillo.com/events yet? Like, game tournaments, release dates, or anything else you’re interested in? Increase the chances of someone finding you before you find them… by simple participation.

To aid your navigation of Geeks features, several sub-menus were added to the menu bar recently. Go explore!

How Do You Find Files From Across the Network?

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I tried telling Wicket that everything would be fine, and that I had all the information at hand. He just wouldn’t listen to me. So, I showed him SearchLight. It allows me to access files from all across my network, including ones on my iPhone.

Search your Apple computer from all machines in your office, at home and even your iPhone. Expand Spotlight to work online: Searchlight’s, AJAX powered User Interface is designed to make the whole process of finding documents on your computer as simple as possible, no matter where you are on the network. Searchlight brings the power of Spotlight to your entire network, including Windows and Linux users, through a very simple web interface. A recent web browser is all you need. Use SearchLight to search for files with your iPhone. The iPhone interface was built from the ground up to give users the iPhone experience they expect and lets you access your mail archive and office files on the go.

I can search for everything, everywhere. Or, I can set up specific folders that I want to look in. I can even list only .pdf’s or choose to show thumbnails instead of just titles. Wicket just doesn’t care about the files, he cares about the Optimus Maximus keyboard.

I can browse all the files in my network in a Web interface. Even if I’m on the other side of the World, I can access my home network and get ahold of any files I may need on the go. How many times have you had to run across the house, or even drive across town to get a file? Seriously, how much time and even money can you save by using SearchLight? It’s well worth spending the money, just to save yourself the frustration.


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Troubleshooting User Network Performance Issues

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We all have networks of some kind. No matter whether you have two computers or 2000 on your network, you’ll need tools to manage it. This is why I love talking to Josh Stephens from SolarWinds. In the recent past, Josh and I got together to discuss Exchange Monitor. Today, we talked specifically about troubleshooting user performance on a network. I wanted to get his take on this, as I know it’s something he deals with on a daily basis.

According to Josh, networks today are more complex than they used to be. We’re using them for far more than we have in the past, and many of the things are bandwidth intensive. When he has to start narrowing down a problem, the first three rules of troubleshooting a network is check the cable, check the cable, check the cable. It sounds silly, but it happens much more often than you would think.

I asked Josh if turning on wireless actually impede the wired connections between computers on the network. Josh indicated that you can use some of the tools from SolarWinds to measure performance of your network both before and after you make any changes. If you’re having trouble with performance and you have wireless… check first to make sure if there’s a firmware update available for your access point. That can make a tremendous difference. There are many little things that could cause you to have issues with a wireless network, so using tools like SolarWinds has available can certainly help diagnose and manage it.

Another question that came up was wondering what Josh believed the greatest threat is to networks in the coming years. Josh tends to think that as far as things like viruses go, the network gear today is very well equipped to handle them. He doesn’t see threats like that as much of an issue. What he does feel that Network Admins should be aware of is the idea of having real-time collaborative conferencing. It’s really just barely starting to take off, and will likely grow very quickly. You need to stay a few steps ahead of the users you are providing support to.

I get a lot of people constantly asking me about tweaks. I wondered if many of the “popular” tweaks are actually valid. Josh stated there truly is a lot of things that can be tweaked in order to enhance your network performance. You definitely want to make sure you know what you’re doing before diving in to make major changes, and always back up everything you can before beginning.

The Engineer’s Toolset Engineer’s Toolset includes 49 powerful network management, monitoring and troubleshooting tools to easily and effectively manage your network. Some of the key features are:

  • Monitors and alerts on availability, bandwidth utilization, and health for hundreds of network devices
  • Provides robust network diagnostics for troubleshooting and quickly resolving complex network issues
  • Offers an array of network discovery tools that facilitate IP address management, port mapping and ping sweeps
  • Eases management of Cisco devices with tools for real-time NetFlow analysis, configuration management and router management

Please leave me your network optimization tips, so that everyone can learn. And be sure to check out everything SolarWinds has to offer.

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What Tools do you use for Your Mac Network?

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What is the Holy Grail, exactly? For everyone, it’s something different. As a Geek, what is your Holy Grail? Mine is finding great software and neat tools or apps to pass along to all of you. In my travels, I’ve found three helpful tools to help you maintain your Mac network.

DeployStudio was designed to manage large deployments of workstations, servers and cluster nodes with ease. Mac OS X is stable and robust but the capacity to (re)install completely a workstation or a server in a few minutes following a preset scenario that automatically restores the right disk image, configures and backs up what was planned by the administrator is a real benefit in terms of time and money. And this is where DeployStudio comes into play. You can easily manage and deploy images across your network. Best of all… this is completely free!

The DNS Performance Test will allow you to test the performance of your dns server ,and show you the results in chart form. This test is available for Mac, Windows and Linux. There are over 10,000 domain names listed in the domains.txt file. What the test will do is go out and measure the response times to any or all of these sites. The domains.txt can also be modified to suit your needs.

The HELIOS LanTest offers detailed Macintosh network evaluations for file and record locking as well as for many typical file system operations. LanTest results can be used for finding bottlenecks, for troubleshooting, or just for maintenance purposes. This will run a variety of test throughout your network, testing how fast transfers are actually going between the machine you’re running it from and any other on your network.

So those are three tools you may be able to use for your Mac. Do you have any other tools for any of the operating systems that is indispensable when managing or optimizing your network?


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What do you Need for a Wired Home Network?

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Mattstech writes: “Thought I’d share a basic top 6 list on how to hardwire a home network. For power users like me, wireless just doesn’t provide the speed and reliability that I need. I ran some CAT5e over to my room about a month ago, and wanted to share some tips with the community on how to get started.”

  • Get the cable and accessories. You can usually buy network cable by the foot at home improvement stores, such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. The big decision here is: how much and what type. As far as quantity goes, you could measure exactly where the cable will be run, but an educated guess can be just as effective. However, it might help to overshoot your estimate by about 10%, so that you don’t end up missing some cable. As for type, there are two major categories of network cable: CAT5e and CAT6. The main difference between the two is related to data transmission capabilities. CAT5e is usually capable of approximately 100 MHz of bandwidth, while CAT6 comes in around the 200 MHz mark. Yes, CAT6 is better, but it is also more expensive. If CAT6 is in your price range (check with your local home improvement stores), by all means go for it. If not, CAT5e will still produce excellent speeds, especially when compared to wireless. There are also some accessories you will need to purchase. Pick up some low-voltage wall boxes (one for each wall plate), RJ-45 jacks, and faceplates to cover it all up with. You also might want to think about getting some fish tape or glow sticks to make it easier to run the cable down the wall.
  • Cut the hole(s) for the wall jack(s). Before you cut anything, be sure to check where the studs are in the wall. You can do this by either using a stud finder, or just by knocking on the wall. If it sounds hollow, there is no stud in that location. If it sounds (and feels) solid, don’t cut there – you’ve got a stud! Once you’ve found an appropriate location to cut, hold up the low voltage plate to the wall, trace the outline, and score it lightly. Next, cut along the lines you’ve scored until the piece of sheetrock falls out. It helps to have a keyhole saw to do this, but a serrated kitchen knife will also do the job. It helps to pick a location close to other wall plates, such as cable and/or power. That way you won’t have to worry about drilling a hole in the attic to get the cable out from inside the wall.
  • Insert the low-voltage box(es). If you scored and cut correctly, then the low-voltage wall box should fit snug inside the hole. Once it is in, fold up the pieces of metal hanging down to secure the box.
  • Run the cable. Take the roll of cable you purchased and use a fish tape/glow stick to fish one end of the cable through the hole, and up into the wall. Again, if the wall plate is not close to others, you may need to drill a hole to get the cable up out of the wall. Otherwise, you should be able to run it through the existing hole. Once the cable is in the attic, continue to pull, and trail the cable over to where the other hole is located. Remember to run in wide swoops – don’t make abrupt turns and/or create kinks in the cable, as this will result in decreased performance. Once you reach the location of the other hole, run the cable down the (hopefully) pre-drilled hole and into the wall. Fish it out, and….your cable is run!
  • Wire the jacks. In a standard ethernet cable, there are usually eight wires, as described below:
    • White/Orange
    • Orange
    • White/Green
    • Blue
    • White/Blue
    • Green
    • White/Brown
    • Brown

    For RJ-45, there are two major wiring schemes that specify where the wires should be placed in the jack : (T568)A and (T568)B. If you’re wiring from computer to computer, use A. If you’re going from computer to hub, use B. The B scheme is demonstrated above in the list above, but most jacks have a label on the side with both schemes listed. The jack should have come with a punch down tool to use when seating the wires inside the appropriate slots. Once you’ve decided on a scheme, simply sit the wire on top of the corresponding slot, push down with the tool, and repeat for each wire.

  • Finish it up. Pop the jack inside the faceplate’s hole, and then screw the faceplate into the low-voltage box. Finally, go get some patch cables and connect your components!

While this is still a very rudimentary guide, I think I’ve covered most of the basics. Of course, every application is different, but if you’re looking to boost the speed and security of your home network – hardwiring can be just what you were looking for!


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Wireless Networks, Hard Drive Failures, Web Browsers

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Taking live calls on the 888-PIRILLO line is always fun, especially when the questions are so diverse! This video entails more than one question/topic, so it was three times the fun!

Tuxedo_Jericho is a long time chat regular, so talking to him was lots of fun. TJ first asked what are good ways to increase wireless range with his router. The biggest and easiest way is to try to get a better antenna, if possible. Also, eliminate any wireless signals that may lie between the access point and the devices connected. If it’s in a house, try to keep the access point centrally located. My router is in the lower level of my house. Trying to access it from upstairs wasn’t working too well. I ended up buying a USB device that plugs in. It looks like a little radar dish. You point it in the general direction of the access point, and your wireless signal is boosted immediately. It makes a BIG difference. Sometimes, changing the channel on the access point works, as well.

The next call was two questions. The first one was whether I would go with iWork 08 or Microsoft Office 2008 for the Mac. It’s funny he should ask that, b/c I just got ahold of Office 08 for the Mac today. First of all, I didn’t feel it was any faster than the earlier version of Office for the Mac. Even though the UI has supposedly been updated, it still feels clunky. I honestly prefer iWork myself.

The caller then said he had gotten his first Mac Mini. He plugged in the external 500GB Seagate firewire drive, and turned it off. It wouldn’t unmount properly. It screwed up the directory file for it, and the entire file system. Even when he plugs it into Windows, it tries to reformat it. I asked him if he can try running a repair on it, and he already had. Even DiskWarrior says it cannot be restored. DiskWarrior is the King of dealing with things on the Mac. If it had problems, I honestly am unsure if anything else will fix the problem. It’s formatted with Fat32, which made me grimace a bit. I recommend trying to recover the data, before trying much else.

The last caller for this video asked what Internet browser I prefer. My first question, of course, is which platform does the user use? Since they’re using OS X, I had an easy time answering this one. Despite Firefox’s default settings for OS X and how good they are… I still use Safari as my default browser. It’s crazy fast, and works great. If you’re a power user, you may want to use FireFox. Also, I know of people who use Opera on OS X, but the UI is kind of junky in my opinion.


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How to Secure Your Wireless Network

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One community member wrote: “After years of mistrust about wireless networks and creative use of Ethernet cabling I have now adopted a wireless network in my home for a laptop to access anywhere in the house. I have over the past week, done a lot of research and have some tips the community might want to consider in relation to the setup and/or use of wireless networks.”

Here are actually TWO Top 5 lists for helping make your wireless network more secure!

  • Am I secured? If you haven’t set up security passwords yourself then it’s not likely that you will be secured. To find out, simply go to ‘My Network Places’ on your PC and scan for your wireless network. In the list that appears, there should be a picture of a padlock next to the name of your network. If there is no padlock, then you need some security.
  • Use WPA. Most new routers now offer WiFi Protected Access (WPA) passwords as well as Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). WPA offers increased security, and if your computer and other hardware is compatible, you should always use WPA as it is far harder to hack into than previous encryption methods.
  • Added security. You should also always have comprehensive anti-virus software such as Norton or McAfee installed on your computer to protect you from viruses that can open your PC up to hackers. Make sure that these are always kept up to date by regularly checking for updates on the provider’s website. You should also use a firewall – many routers have one built-in but you should run one on your PC too.
  • Isolate your wireless signal. Wireless isolation works to make your signal invisible to anyone searching for WiFi in your area. Wireless Broadband UK is built-in to some routers but must be physically enabled by the user – so check your router’s manual for Wireless Broadband tips on how to do this.
  • Use an access list. If you’re still worried, you can create an access list. All computers have their own Media Access Control (MAC) address – a way of identifying each individual computer – and you can tell your router which MAC addresses it can allow access to; blocking all others. This means that anyone wanting to use your wireless signal would not only have to have your password but would have to be on the access list too.
  • Encrypt it! The first and most important consideration if you are thinking of running a wireless network is to make sure that you have not left the network totally unsecured, I say totally unsecured as no network is ever 100% secure and this is especially the case with wireless networks as they allow easier access for potential unsavory characters to get in. An unencrypted wireless connection can allow anyone within the range of your wireless signal to immediately connect to it and start using your Internet connection for personal and/or criminal purposes and also access any files you may have shared on the hard drives of the machines connected on the network.

    There are many guides available on securing your wireless network available on the Internet and your router’s manual should also provide a guide in doing so. A lot of the terminology and setup options may at first seem very technical to you but the couple of hours of research/setup is valuable time to spend where your privacy is concerned.
  • Be aware what you share, Most people using a wireless network or any network for that matter usually want to share files between computers on the network. Make sure you do not share any files in these shared areas which are in any way confidential or important enough that you would not want anyone to potentially see them. For example you might want to share some mp3s on a computer to listen to on another computer in your house which is fine, however sharing say a document with your bank details etc on is a definite no no.

    If totally unsecured, anyone within range of your wireless network can access any of these files without you noticing. Securing your wireless network will 99.9% of the time stop this intrusion but as mentioned no wireless network is 100% secure so just avoid sharing important files.

  • Be aware of public hot spots. There are many wireless hot spots in coffee shops or in general, wireless is everywhere! and where there is an abundance of something there are usually some individuals lurking about ready to exploit it. If you are thinking of or do use these wireless hot spots there are some things to remember. Turn off your shared files, even if they are only mp3s, it is still wise to make sure they cannot access your hard drive.

    Make sure any sites where you enter login details are secure. This can normally be determined with ‘https’ in the URI in the address bar or the padlock symbol in the bottom right of your browser window. This is because computers sharing the same network as you can (with the right software) see exactly what you are sending or receiving over that network unless that information is encrypted. This also means that it is possible for someone to snoop in on what websites you are visiting or the email you are sending (be aware that most secure sites merely secure the login details you enter, after that everything is visible on the network) so it is advisable to be a bit conservative on what you do on the Internet in these places. It is certainly a wise idea to wait until you get home to check your bank balance online or make an online purchase.

  • Keep your computer up to date and behind a firewall. Making sure you have your computer’s operating system up to date, a virus program installed and a firewall initiated on your machine should be something you have implemented anyway. However with the increased security risk a wireless network can expose you to, these things are totally essential in keeping you safe and secure. It is also the case I have found that users will often keep their main desktop computer up to date but neglect a laptop that they do not use as often. These laptops are likely the candidate machine that the user will be using to access a wireless network.
  • Turn it off. Simple yet most effective tip. If you are a moderate user simply turn your router/wifi off when you are not using it or schedule the wireless connection to only be off at times you know you will not be using it. If it is off then your wireless network is 100% safe.


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Wireless Routers Review

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We’re using a GoToMeeting to get together and share desktops again tonight. GoToMeeting is an easy and affordable way to host online meetings. Be sure and take advantage of our special savings! The current presenter is surfing sites relating to WiFi, since I am going to read you Sutty5’s tips for boosting wifi signal.

Hi, Chris i thought i should share out 5 tips on how to boost your Wi-Fi Signal. As i Was doing all these last week and i gotta tell you i got a great result.

  • Position your wireless router (or wireless access point) in a central location. When possible, place your wireless router in a central location in your home. If your wireless router is against an outside wall of your home, the signal will be weak on the other side of your home. Don’t worry if you can’t move your wireless router, because there are many other ways to improve your connection.
  • Replace your router’s antenna. The antennas supplied with your router are designed to be omni-directional, meaning they broadcast in all directions around the router. If your router is near an outside wall, half of the wireless signals will be sent outside your home, and much of your router’s power will be wasted. Most routers don’t allow you to increase the power output, but you can make better use of the power. Upgrade to a hi-gain antenna that focuses the wireless signals only one direction. You can aim the signal in the direction you need it most.
  • Replace your computer’s wireless network adapter. Wireless network signals must be sent both to and from your computer. Sometimes, your router can broadcast strongly enough to reach your computer, but your computer can’t send signals back to your router. To improve this, replace your laptop’s PC card-based wireless network adapter with a USB Network Adapter that uses an external antenna. In particular, consider the Hawking Hi-Gain Wireless USB network adapter, which adds an external, hi-gain antenna to your computer and can significantly improve your range. Laptops with built-in wireless typically have excellent antennas and don’t need to have their network adapters upgraded.
  • Add a wireless repeater. Wireless repeaters extend your wireless network range without requiring you to add any wiring. Just place the wireless repeater halfway between your wireless access point and your computer, and you’ll get an instant boost to your wireless signal strength. Check out the wireless repeaters from ViewSonic, D-Link, Linksys, and Buffalo Technology.
  • Pick equipment from a single vendor. While a Linksys router will work with a D-Link network adapter, you often get better performance if you pick a router and network adapter from the same vendor. Some vendors offer a performance boost of up to twice the performance when you choose their hardware: Linksys has the SpeedBooster technology, and D-Link has the 108G enhancement.

Robert sends us some more wifi tips

Yo Chris!

I’m emailing you from the country that brought you kiwi fruit, gum boots, LOTR and female goverment voting! Yes, NEW ZEALAND!

I thought of some more tips while watching you last video…

  • Use a cable when possible! If you have a desk top across the house don’t waste money on expensive wireless boosting products just because it is easier. Get a 100ft cable and run it under your house. This of course isn’t as practical if you are using a laptop.
  • Keep metal objects out of the way. Metal is good at reflecting wireless signals so try to position PCs, CRT screens and the like out of the way of the signal.
  • Centralized Location. If you want your router to be in a central location but don’t want your router to be in the middle of the house because there is a lounge or something where a router would look out of place, put it or a wireless access point in the attic or under the floor. Or maybe you can find a cunning object like a bookcase to hide it behind. This would involve running cables to your modem so might take some effort.
  • Use some tinfoil and paper to make a $1 booster. It really works! Bend the paper with tin foil stuck on around a semi-circle shaped piece of paper and stick a hole through the semi circular piece and slide it over your antenna.
  • Try and have your router in a high place, maybe up on a shelf or as suggested before in the attic. To show the importance of this I would like you to count the number of objects on the floor in the room you are in, and then count the objects on the ceiling. It is far less cluttered and there are fewer objects obstructing the signal!



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Firewire Target Disk Mode

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Did you ever notice your Firewire ports showing up in your network, and wonder why? Not only can you can also use a FireWire cable to set up a network between Mac computers, but you can use it to transfer data directly between them.

It’s easy to bring two Macs together using FireWire. Simply plug the cable into both Macs. Reboot one, while holding down the Tkey on the keyboard. As it boots back up, an icon for the drive will show up on the machine you left running.

Yes, it really is that simple – so simple, I probably overdescribed it. Despite what I said in the video, this isn’t so much a “networking” feature of FireWire. Several commenters in this post, as you will read, outline the feature in more detail.

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Several of us had a GoToMeeting the other night. GoToMeeting is the fastest, easiest, most secure way to train and collaborate online. Best of all, you can meet as much as you want for as long as you want – for one low flat rate. Sign up now and get an extended 45-day trial – no credit card required. Visit gotomeeting.com/chrispirillo for more info.