Working in a Soho (small office/home office) environment may be lonely, but it does have its advantages. For a start, with no one else around to cause distractions, you tend to get more work done. Although home alone, there are still plenty of occasions when you need to interact with others, even if it is through your computer. In the old days, if you wanted to contact someone you used the telephone or, more recently, possibly sent a fax. While both of these methods are still popular, the rapid growth in Internet use means that e-mail is fast becoming the dominant means of communication. Think about it, when was the last time you received a business card without an e-mail address on it - and woe to those living in the dinosaur age who do not have one. I admit it, I love using e-mail. It is fast, efficient and guaranteed to arrive. Or at least if there is a problem, the mail server will tell you so. But do not be fooled into thinking electronic communication is simple. I recently had a telephone extension installed in my second bedroom, with the intention of turning it into an office. I got a double adaptor for the wall socket to allow me to plug both the telephone and modem in at the same time. This was meant to save me from having to unplug the telephone every time I wanted to use the modem. Unfortunately, everything has not worked out quite so simply. My laptop has an internal modem, so I assumed it was simply a matter of running a wire from the modem into the phone socket, with a separate wire from the telephone to the socket. At first everything was wonderful, I could make calls without leaving my seat, and could check my e-mail any time. Since this brief period of grace, an interesting anomaly has arisen. When I hit the number 1 key on my computer, the telephone rings once. At first I dismissed it as a small problem, but I have also discovered that the single ring can cause my telephone line to go dead. This naturally caused problems for people trying to call me, which in turn meant I was at a risk of losing offers for work. After fiddling around with the wires, the connections and the computer, the best explanation I could find was that there must be something wrong with the telephone. I had bought it for a couple of hundred dollars in a small electronics shop in Causeway Bay because my large combination telephone and fax machine would not fit easily on my new desk. This cheap version was put high on the suspect list. Whether the phone is guilty or not, I am resigned to either cutting back on my use of the number 1, or buying a new telephone. Since my telephone number includes the number 1, the first option seems unrealistic. The lesson to be learned from this fiasco is obvious: your communication system is vital. It is your connection to the outside world, so take care with it and do not take anything for granted. It might seem simple, but it is not, and without it you are very much alone.