Burney's Legal Tech Reviews: Visioneer Strobe XP 100 Scanner and FutureDial Mobile Phone Software

Visioneer Strobe XP 100 Scanner and FutureDial Mobile Phone Software

By Brett Burney

Published June 30, 2003

Visioneer Strobe XP 100

The Visioneer Strobe XP 100 is for people that need a portable scanner. Weighing in at just under 11 ounces, it is literally the size of a paper towel tube (11.4” wide x 1.5” high x 2” deep). The Strobe XP 100 does not claim to be a top-of-the-line scanner and it will certainly not replace a desktop model with a sheet feeder. But because it is so light and only requires a USB cord to your PC for power (read: no bulky transformer power cord!), it is the perfect travel companion for those scanning jobs away from home.

Legal Friendly

Visioneer Inc. has gone out of their way to be friendly to the legal world. They’ve set up a dedicated site for legal professionals, hired a legal advisory board, and are the main attraction in Ross Kodner’s excellent Paper LESS Office TM. (You can view these presentations at http://www.microlaw.com/cle/plessindex.htm)

Installation Blues

As great as all that sounds, I did have a couple of issues with the XP 100. First, the installation of the scanner is slightly tricky. When I get a new toy, especially one with a USB cord, I tend to plug-in first, and look at instructions (ask questions) later. Bad move. When Windows asked for the driver, I couldn’t find it on the CD. Alas, all of the documentation that arrived with the scanner warned me to install the software first, before plugging the scanner into the PC. I started following the instructions at that point and installed ScanSoft PaperPort Deluxe 8.0, which brings me to my second issue.

I think PaperPort is a great application (the current version is 9). It does wonders for document management and is very easy to use. But I really wish I had an easy option to install the XP 100 as a scanner apart from the PaperPort software. Hardware-wise, the XP 100 is as simple as it can get – why can’t it be the same with the software? Just give me a simple TWAIN driver and let me scan in to whatever application that I choose. Again, PaperPort is an excellent application, I would just prefer to have the option of using the XP 100 without it.

After PaperPort finished installing, I was finally allowed to plug in the scanner and instructed to go through the calibration process. Visioneer included some calibration papers so the process is very simple.

Once everything was properly installed, I never had a problem plugging the scanner in again. Because the XP 100 is so portable, I carried it back and forth to work every other day. When I needed to scan something at my desk, I simply plugged in the USB cord and was ready to go immediately.

Scan Away

All you need to do to scan a document is slip a piece of paper into the slit on the front of the scanner which activates a switch that starts the scanning process. This also launches the included AutoScan software (which gets automatically installed during the above installation). You can configure AutoScan through the “OneTouch Configure” companion application. You tell AutoScan whether you want a color or black & white scan, and what size document/picture that you’re scanning. The configuration dialog box is very user-friendly and I liked creating my custom scanning profiles.

During the scan, a small window pops up that lets you to watch the progress of the actual scan. This was helpful because sometimes the scanner doesn’t completely grab the page correctly. Either it doesn’t get it at all or it will grab one corner better than the other and the whole thing will be skewed. The preview window helps you catch a scan gone wrong.

By default, AutoScan tosses the finish scan into PaperPort which automatically launches. I didn’t mind this because you have so many options for modification and output from within PaperPort. If you are not a fan of the AutoScan feature, you have the option of launching PaperPort manually and controlling the scan from there.

The biggest downside of the XP 100 is the fact that it can be un-reliable as far as consistently pulling in documents straight. Several times, I had to pull out a piece of paper I started to scan and start all over. Sometimes I had to guide the page through all the way to make sure it went in straight. This is annoying, but a small price to pay for such an incredibly portable machine.

The Strobe XP 100 can handle resolutions up to 600 dpi which is fantastic for a portable scanner. Keep in mind also that a sheet-fed scanner like the XP 100 can handle legal-sized documents as opposed to a flatbed scanner. For travel and even for cluttered desks, the Strobe XP 100 is a great choice for a simple scanner.

FutureDial

In the near future, everyone will have a PDA/phone combo like the new Kyocera 7135. But for now, many of us have to juggle looking up a number in our PDA, and then dialing that number on our cell phone. Wouldn’t it be great if you could synch up your cell phone like you synch your PDA? I found software from a company called FutureDial that will let you do just that and more.

Sync-a-Phone

I first heard about FutureDial when I picked up my new Sanyo SCP-5300 cell phone from Sprint PCS at the beginning of the year. FutureDial offers three separate pieces of software. First you have SnapSync which allows you to synch your contacts in Outlook with your cell phone. Second is SnapDialer which allows you to use your cell phone as a wireless modem. And lastly, SnapMedia lets you modify pictures and midi files on your PC and then send them over to your phone.

If you’re interested in any of this software, the first thing you need to do is visit http://www.futuredial.com and see if your phone is compatible with the software. FutureDial has done an excellent job of making their software compatible with a wide array of phones. They don’t have a lot of competitors and it’s probably because there are just so many phone makes and models out there that it’s hard to keep up.

The next thing you’ll need to do is obtain a data cable that will connect your phone to your PC. FutureDial sells just about every cable you could possibly need through their site and they all cost around $29.95.

Then it’s finally time to purchase the actual software. At the very least, I would highly recommend the SnapSync and SnapDialer Combo Pack. While you can probably do without the SnapMedia software, both SnapSync and SnapDialer are indispensable.

The packaging and accompanying documentation inform you to install the USB drivers before you connect your phone to your PC. When I received my SnapSync CD, I popped it in and faced a pleasant-looking install screen. The first option was to install the USB drivers and that’s exactly what I did. It went flawless and when I plugged the phone in to my PC, Windows found the "new device" without a problem. (Note – you may need to turn off HotSync or any similar applications that could be hogging a COM port.)

Next I installed the actual SnapSync software which was quick and painless. The first time I launched the software I received a message that told me I had to register the software within 7 days. A “Register” button took me to an Web site where I filled out the usual name, address, and e-mail address info. I received a registration code by via e-mail within 5 seconds, plugged it into the space provided, and I was on my way. (Another note – because of this registration process, you can only install the software on one machine. I was not able to register the software on two separate machines. I understand the reasons why, but it is still a pain that I am limited in this respect.)

As SnapSync launched, it read all of my contacts from my phone, then it read all contacts from Outlook. As soon it hit my Outlook contact database however, Outlook (I’m using XP/2002) popped up a message box informing me that something was trying to access my contact list. I told Outlook to allow access for 10 minutes (the maximum amount of time allowed), clicked Ok, and went into the program.

The interface to SnapSync is a dream – clean and simple. On one side of the window are your contacts from your cell phone, and the other side is your contacts from Outlook. I was able to double-click on one of my phone contacts and edit it right from my computer! No more having to navigate the screens on my phone! You can literally add, edit, and delete contacts on your phone without having to look at that tiny screen. And even better, you can select contacts that you have stored in Outlook on your PC and export them to your phone. It’s a simple concept and FutureDial has given you a simple interface for getting it done.

The only little annoyance was that my phone re-started whenever I 1) launched the application or 2) exported a contact to it. I thought this was a real problem until I read the software’s help file which said it was normal for some phone models.

A few other issues to keep in mind is that SnapSync only works with Outlook, although the company is looking to support Lotus Notes as well as ACT! soon. There is not a Mac version, and SnapSync will only synch with the top contacts folder of Outlook – it will not read any sub-folders that you may have created.

If those few issues don’t bother or pertain to you, and your phone is compatible with the software, then the money is well spent. It’s a great feeling knowing that you have access to all of your contacts on your cell phone and that the information is backed up if you should ever need it again.

Dialing is a Snap

Next I tried the SnapDialer software. In the past, I had hooked my Motorola Timeport phone up to my laptop through a serial cable but surfing was so slow that I never really tried it again. More recently, I’ve tried the Sierra Wireless AirCard 555 through Verizon Wireless’s Express Network with was much more pleasant. So it was with great anticipation that I installed the SnapDialer software on my laptop.

I was not disappointed. I could not believe how easy it was to setup and start using. The main screen resembles a Windows Dial-Up Connection screen. I literally launched launched the application and hit the Connect button. The software connected to my phone and since my phone already had my username and password saved for access to the Web through the phone, I was surfing within a minute and a half.

My Sprint plan allows me to enjoy unlimited access to the PCS Vision network. This means that I can surf the Web anywhere from 40-70 Kpbs on my laptop through my cell phone. Granted this isn’t broadband speeds, but it’s enough speed to let me get some work done as long as my phone can find service.

I was very impressed with the SnapDialer software and plan to never leave home without it on my laptop (I already wear my phone on my waist).

Media Friendly

Lastly, I decided to install the SnapMedia software. The application allows you to take pictures and midi files from your computer, modify them to fit on your phone, and then transfer them to your phone with the click of a button. Again, FutureDial did an excellent job of simplifying the interface and I was able to re-size a Halloween photo and export it to my phone within about 2 minutes. The software even gives you the option of assigning the picture to appear for a specific caller right from the software.

In my opinion, the SnapMedia software is slightly limited but it is still functional and just plain cool. It’s neat to be able to create your own wallpapers from pictures on your PC, but I don’t see myself using this software anywhere near as much as the other applications.

I expect to hear great things about FutureDial in the near future. They just recently re-vamped their Website and earlier this year announced agreements with Fry’s and Best Buy stores to sell their software. You can also buy from their online store (where you can save $20 on the SnapSync/SnapDialer combo pack).

Please feel free to e-mail me (bburney@bburney.net) with any questions, suggestions, comments, or any helpful tips and tricks that you might have relating to technology used in the practice of law.