Friday, December 30, 2011

iPhone Tricks that Will Make Your Life Easier

iPhones do a lot more than make calls! We can stream movies and TV shows, update our social sites, and listen to music. They can even give us direction to places we want to go. It appears as though the one thing they can’t do is the dishes. There is a lot you realize your iPhone can do, but we wanted to share a few timesaving tricks you may have been unaware of.

Saving Time

If you find it problematical to type a Web address on the small on-screen keyboard, before clicking in the address bar on your browser, turn your iPhone to a horizontal position. The keyboard will now be larger, making it easier to type an “e” and not a “w”. This is a timesaving tip for making phone calls. When browsing the Web, if you locate phone number you need to call, simply tap the telephone number on the screen and your phone will dial it.

More Efficient Typing

Apple itself offers a number of tips for getting more out of your iPhone. If you're typing using the on-screen keyboard, try tapping the space bar twice at the end of a sentence. Your iPhone will instantly include a period and then capitalize the next word you type. If you need to spice up your message with special characters, just touch and hold a letter for several seconds. As you do this, a variety of special characters will show up. You can then easily insert these symbols into your message.

Quick Printing, Personalized Entertainment

If you own an AirPrint-enabled printer, you are able to print documents, emails, and even Web pages from your iPhone. To print an email message, tap the Reply icon and then select “Print” and your phone will send the message to your printer. For a Web page, touch the “Action” icon and select “Print.”

Your iPhone can play your music, but did you know you can make a individualized music playlist on the go? Open the iPod application, tap the “Playlists” icon and chose the “Add Playlist” option. After renaming your playlist, just navigate to the song you wish to add and select it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Touchscreen Technology: How does it Work?

Touchscreens have become an integral part of our everyday life. When we interact with a device that has a touchscreen, we expect it to execute the action we want without a second thought. It wasn’t too far in the past that the concept of a touchscreen was a dream. Yet, today we see it as a common feature in lots of devices.

How, exactly, does touchscreen technology work? How do so many of our screens know what to do when we touch the icons displayed on them? The answer isn't that straightforward. That is because there are a few different types of touchscreen technologies, and each of them works in a different way.

Resistive touchscreens

This is the most common form of touchscreen technology. Resistive touchscreens are coated with an electrically conductive layer. Your fingertip changes the electric current whenever you touch it. This delivers a message to the device’s controller telling it what action you would like to perform. This technology is more affordable than other touchscreen technologies and also less sensitive.

Surface wave touchscreen

This type of touchscreen is popular as well. It relies on ultrasonic waves that pass over the touchscreen. When you touch the panel, you in essence change the wave. Depending on how and where it is changed, specific data is given to the device's controller to relay what action to preform.

Capacitive touchscreens

Capacitive touchscreens most often have the sharpest image quality. Devices using this technology are coated with a material that sends an electrical current across the screen. As the human body is electrical, whenever you touch the screen, you absorb some of the electric current which disrupts the flow across the device. Just as with the other types of touchscreen, the disruption sends information to the device’s controller. The device then performs the action that you requested, at the touch of a fingertip.

Fortunately, to enjoy touchscreen technology you don’t have to have a deep understanding of it. And you don’t have to be an engineer to realize this technology will become more popular, not less.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Demise of Paper Currency

Will digital currency one-day replace paper money? It may sound like something out of sci-fi, but it might not be as far-fetched as it sounds. Consider that consumers already rely heavily today on credit cards and online services as Paypal to pay their bills. They swipe credit cards at the fuel pump when filling their cars. They order movies online through Paypal. They even purchase their burgers and fries with gift cards pre-loaded with currency. When you look at it this way, we're really not that far away from ditching paper and coins for digital dollars.

The Bitcoin revolution?

Bitcoin has been around since 2009 and is a peer-to-peer digital currency.
It can be used to purchase products and services online. The technology behind Bitcoin is considered to be impossible to hack, which eases most security concerns.

Bitcoin isn't technically a legal tender and for that reason many, if not most, retailers outside the Bitcoin user database will not accept it.  It's very possible another alternative digital currency may pop up and over take Bitcoin, becoming more mainstream compared to the innovative Bitcoin.

The digital currency model

There are many advantages to ditching paper money. You can’t lose it, you don’t have to worry about having exact change, and there is no need to replace damaged currency, which saves time, energy, and funds.

Digital currency can be more secure than paper money, too. When you are robbed as you are walking down the street, you have little chance of recouping the money. However, if someone steals your credit card, it's easy to cancel the card, safeguarding yourself financially. The same scenario could easily exist with your digital dollars.

Holdouts

Of course, not everybody is going to be sold on digital currency. There are still individuals today who don't use credit cards and who have never banked at an ATM. They prefer to deal with their transactions the old-fashioned way with paper money that they can see and feel. Then again, paper money?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The 2011 Tokyo Motor Show

The Tokyo Motor Show showcased many of the most exciting concept cars of 2011. Many companies had efficiency in mind with their eco-friendly models while others pushed their concepts to the limits of creativity. Here we will explore a few of the more intriguing and eccentric designs of 2011.

Volkswagen

For those of us who like to rock and roll, Volkswagen revealed their newest Beetle. They have made friends with Fender to bring a sound system to this car that is ready for the main stage. The system includes a 400W 10-channel amplifier, a subwoofer, and two sets of tweeters, one set in the front and one in the back.


Honda

This year Honda debuted this an ultra tiny electric car they call their “micro commuter”. This eco-friendly automobile is only 98.4 inches long, 49.2 wide, and 56.3 tall and brings a video game feel to your morning drive. Two joysticks control the car. Its top speed is only 37 mph and carries three people. Although this may seem like a drawback, for anyone navigating a crowded city, its tiny size is perfect.

Daihatsu

This design may resemble a bus; it is actually the FC Sho Case fuel cell car. Daihatsu’s revolutionary design contains no rare earth metals, which makes it more affordable to produce then other fuel cells. The LCD screen on the exterior play relaxing wave patterns, but when getting into the car, passengers must step high over these to get in, making it hard for elderly people or those with injuries.

Toyota and Yamaha

We see more and more scooters on the road these days as people look for easy and fuel-efficient ways to get around town. Toyota and Yamaha partnered up to take this a step further with an electric tricycle called the EC-Miu. It has Wi-Fi capabilities and can be recharged at charging stations used by other electric vehicles.

This year’s concepts at the Tokyo Motor Show were very green focused. Every year the designs unveiled at the show seem to get more inventive. I can’t wait to see what they bring us next year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Android Phone Tips

There's a significant difference between Android smartphones and Apple's iPhones. Android phones, powered by Google, permit a remarkable level of customization. Android phones are open source. Which means you are able to personalize everything from your Android phone's home screen to the way you download apps and programs. This allows for a lot of freedom and best of all, customizing your Android smartphone is not much of a problem. Simply follow the tips below to create a smartphone that's as unique as you are.


One-Touch Dialing
There are undoubtedly certain numbers that you dial more frequently than others. With Android smartphones, you can set up one-touch dialing for those people that you call the most. Simply press an open space on your screen and select the “Shortcuts” option. Then press Direct Dial and pick the right person from your list of contacts. Now you'll be able to call that individual simply by pressing just one button.

Saving Time Searching the Web
Your Android phone can be customized to include your most regularly visited Web sites on the home screen. This is accomplished by pressing and holding the desired site in your browser's bookmarks. A list of options will pop up. Select the “Add Shortcut to Home” option. This will add the Web page to your phone's home page.

Organizing with Folders
By creating folders on your Android phone, you can better organize everything from your contacts to your most crucial work documents by grouping these items into their own folders. For example, if you're focusing on an important project for work, you can create a new folder that's reserved for documents, Web addresses, and contact numbers associated with this specific project. To make folders, press on a blank space on your phone's screen. When your list of options pops up, press “Folders.” This will enable you to create your own folder and name it. You can then drag and drop important documents, images, and files into these folders.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Phishing Scams: How To Protect Your Small Business From Cyber Thieves

Phishing scams are at the top of cyber criminals’ moneymaking lists. It’s disturbing that the important data of organizations such as Sony are under threat from phishing scams. But unlike the widespread view, these scams affect small enterprise owners as much as they affect the big corporations.

Over 300,000 complaints were filed in 2010 to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the National White Collar Crime Center and the FBI.  These grievances were from small businesses and individuals wronged by online phishing scams and a variety of other Internet related crimes.

To give you a better comprehension as to why your small business is of great worth to a cyber criminal, let's take a look at what phishing is exactly. 

What is phishing?

What does "phishing" mean? Phishing is the attempt to access private data, such as financial information, usernames, and passwords. This is achieved by making false websites, graphics, email accounts, and phone numbers. The subject is persuaded, by one method or another, to reveal these types of data that may be used to steal their identity (social security numbers are a popular target). For small businesses, phishing scams may attempt to obtain access to customer credit card information. 


Examples of small business phishing scams


Thousands of small business owners have been sent emails by an organization using incredibly realistic IRS-looking letters stating that W-4 forms or other additional forms must be filled out and returned via fax.  This frightened many owners into believing they would be audited or penalized by the IRS for not handling the issue immediately. Unfortunately, they were fraudulent emails and these companies were tricked out of their private information.

The IRS states on it's website at IRS.gov, that it will not initiate any contact by email and that you should never click any links on an email sent to you asking you to send anything to the IRS.


Your company email can be a target

Another way these thieves gain information is by targeting a specific person within a business by sending him or her some kind of phony communication that looks completely legitimate but ends up launching a virus or malware. This virus then infects the entire network, giving thieves access to private company data. 


Phone phishing

Phone phishing refers to fraudulent phone calls where thieves posture as banks and request the victim to “verify” account numbers over the phone in order to steal confidential information.

How to protect your business against phishing


Visiting the Anti-Phishing Work Group will give you wise advice to shield your business against phishing scams and gives you useful information on how to avoid becoming a victim. Some of their advice follows, such as:

  • Make sure your employees are aware of what phishing scams are, and are cautious when reading and responding to suspicious emails.  Always err on the side of caution.  Instead of clicking a link, open another browser window and go to the official website.
  • Never give out company financial information such as bank routing numbers to an inquiry made via email.  Your bank does not need you to confirm your account information...they already have that. An email like that even if it has your bank's logo is a fake. Make it a habit to check your accounts regularly for suspicious charges and withdrawals.
  • Make sure every computer used has up-to-date virus and malware protection.  Schedule regular full system scans.  Never download "anti-virus" software from an unknown entity. It's better to stick with trusted brands.

It is nearly impossible for law enforcement to stop phishing, so the best method of defense is the education of your employees for identifying, dealing with, and staying up to date with phishing scam trends.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Is Telecommuting the Future of Business or Will it Fade Out?

Trends in business change every day. One trend that appears to be gaining momentum is telecommuting, but is it a trend at all? There are plenty of opinions around whether telecommuting is good for business or not. Some of the questions raised are, “Will it make employees more productive? Will they be happier, lonelier, more connected or less? What are the benefits to the company?” These are all issues to consider when deciding if telecommuting is a good fit for your company’s culture.

There are some great benefits to telecommuting.  We’ve given you several pros and cons to consider below:

Pros

  • As people aren’t wasting time and money commuting they often work longer hours.
  • Telecommuting employees are generally less stressed.
  • Telecommuters are happier, as they have more freedom to manage work time with their family lives. Having the freedom to pick up the kids, or work during their prime productivity time, even if it’s midnight, can be a relief to the traditional structured nine-to-five
  • Telecommuting is great for those who do not thrive in the typical structured nine-to-five work environment.
  • Telecommuting encourages self-reliance and problem solving, and develops time management skills.
  • Telecommuting also gives employers more freedom to hire skilled individuals minus the cost of moving them across the globe.
  • Both the telecommuter and the employer save time and money.

Consthe other side of the coin

  • Telecommuting can lead to burnout especially for those with poor time management skills, which in turn results in resentment of the company.
  • A lack of socialization for individuals who crave social interaction can cause depression and loneliness.
  • Telecommuters can suffer a lack of motivation and if a manager isn’t fully engaged in the employee’s daily workload, the employee may take advantage and slack off.
  • Telecommuting can lead to a break down in communication due to distance.
  • Setting up a home office effectively can take more time than setting up in-office.

For both manager and employee, successful telecommuting takes strong communication, time management skills, and clarity of job responsibilities. We are seeing more and more people desiring an independent working environment. But in the end, whether telecommuting will work or not, depend on the company’s culture and the employees’ mindset. Tell us what you think; will telecommuting be the way most businesses are organized in the future or will it fade out?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fun Gadget Ideas for the Holidays

Does it appear like there are only two major gadgets to give this holiday season: either a smartphone or a tablet? We’re bombarded everyday with a new contender, be it the Samsung Galaxy II smartphone or Kindle Fire tablet. But, of course, there are thousands of other tech gadgets that will make that geeky friend on your list happy for a fraction of the cost. Without diving into every tech website out there, here are just a few to get your mind going in a different direction, be it for a more eco-conscious or just a more economical tech-geek gift.

Gadgets make great gifts – whether they’re practical or not


Someone may not love the 40-in-1 Swiss Army Knife, however they may be enamored with the 6-in-1 key chain. Either way, they’ll discover a use for it someday. Tech-geek gadgets are particularly good for people on a budget. So, while the Starship Enterprise pizza cutter (http://bit.ly/vR8K4y) or these crocheted headphones won’t break your budget, they're bound to please!

Gadgets for the hard-to-shop-for individual


So what makes a good gadget gift? It really depends on how tech-savvy the recipient is, and how much you’d like to spend. If you have a little bit more money and the person is environmentally conscious, you may opt for a “green” choice. Eco-friendly products abound and are especially sought after this year. From hand-powered paper shredders to solar-powered tiki torches, many options exist for that inner tree-hugger in all of us.

Tablet or smartphone owners

For those friends and relatives who already own smartphones or tablets, there are gadget accessories that are sure to brighten their day. In general, the intent for tablets and smartphone is to be solely touch-screen based. However, many people prefer a physical keyboard when typing for long periods of time on their tablet or smartphone. That’s why these gadgets are certain to be welcomed with open arms! Both of these cases, one for the iPad,  and one for the iPhone, are designed with a physical keyboard included.

The best part about gadgets and the reason they’re continuously sought after is that they’re always at hand. Gadgets, simply put, make our lives easier. However, you might not believe that there are other gift items out there besides phones or tablets, hopefully we’ve expanded your view to incorporate some that are under the radar!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Will new technologies affect the way we shop this holiday season?

While many shoppers won’t be battling the crowds this year by purchasing all of their gifts online, many more will be in line waiting for the doors to open. Armed with their smartphones and tablets, customers will be using apps which offer up great gift ideas, methods to comparison-shop, and even opportunities to buy online while in the store. So, for those of us who fearlessly venture out to the mega-mall, here are just a few ways technology will influence how we’re shopping this holiday season.


Mobile Apps

Perhaps the newest trend is the availability of apps on smartphones and tablets that are especially designed to make your holiday shopping smoother. One allows you to scan a barcode to see if it’s the best deal while another enables you to take a picture of the product and it gives you comparison prices. One app even allows you to beat other customers to the punch by locating the aisle holding that sought after gift.

Smartphone Marketing

One major trend this season is in the strategies taken by marketers to catch us even when we’re not tied to our computers. Smartphone marketing could have a big influence on purchasing, as online retailers hope to strategically time their messages to effectively ambush customers while standing in line. One such marketer, for example, is offering mobile-only deals at 6am, which might sway the would-be shopper from standing in the cold altogether.


Economical Technology Trends

Not only will we be using technology to make our shopping lives simpler, but we will also be looking for the next big improvement. The trend in technology is seen in the battle of the tablets—at half the cost, the Kindle Fire is posing a threat to iPad’s dominance, and a new iPhone competitor seems to be entering the market every day. Rightly so: the consumer is wary of the economy, will most likely spend less this year, and will be looking for both bargains and value.

Of course not all of us will be camped out in front of our computers making our holiday purchases this year. Many will have their smartphones and tablets at the ready to do battle against shop and shopper alike. But as technology gives us greater freedom as consumers to purchase wisely, we must also acknowledge how the tech itself is in that constant battle for our money. And, in this economy, the machines, gadgets and gizmos that offer the most value, will be the ones to beat.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Intel 4004: The Original Microprocessor

The Intel 4004 was the first CPU on a single chip as well as the first available to the commercial market. This week it celebrated it’s 40th birthday! We would like to say thank you to the microprocessor that grandfathered the CPUs we have today. A CPU is the brain of a computer. Known as the central processing unit, every piece of information in or out of a computer goes though the CPU. Just imagine what the Intel 4004, a tiny yet powerful CPU, did for the computing world in 1971. CPUs have come a long way since then, but they remain a huge part of our everyday lives.

The Intel 4004 debuted as the processor for a calculator, but as this was the first microprocessor commercially available, it inspired some incredible leaps in computing. While CPUs today are a lot more powerful than their original ancestor, many common devices would not exist without the Intel 4004’s influence on computer science, including iPods, cell phones, streetlights, and laptops. Millions of technologies that we enjoy in our daily lives today have a CPU. This makes the Intel 4004, quite literally, the grandfather of modern technology. Check out this article to see the evolution of the CPU’s role in technology.

While we celebrate Intel 4004’s birthday, I want to recognize the engineers who created it. Federico Faggin, Ted Hoff, and Stan Mazor were responsible for the planning and development of the Intel 4004. This little microprocessor reminds us of the humble origins of the ever-changing world of technology.

So lets set aside a second to show our esteem for the little microprocessor that grandfathered the modern CPU.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tips To Communicate Your IT Issues Effectively

It is inevitable that you will need to solicit the assistance of your IT service provider. They are a busy bunch, helping many people with frustrating problems. It’s not an easy job. When you ask for their help, there are some important things to bear in mind. Namely, they aren't mind readers. Provide as much important information in your initial request. Help them, help you. Here are a few steps to make your experience and theirs more streamlined and enjoyable.

Write an Informative Email Subject Line
Often, the IT department will get bombarded with requests ranging from those that require immediate response - “my computer is smoking and smells like burning plastic” - to those that can handle a one to two hour delay in response - “I want to send this 150 MB file but it just won’t upload to my email.” Using a detailed subject line will let them know the basics up front and help them prioritize the request appropriately.  For instance, the subject line “Installed ___ got error _____” will help them immediately know what your issue is all about.  Put simply, do not write “Computer problems!!!!!!!!!!” This is not helpful as it provides no real description of the problem.

Details, Details, Details
It is important that you include a detailed description including as much information as possible. Please include your OS, any steps you took, and any error messages. Error messages might not mean anything to you, but to an expert they are a source of useful information.

Be Frank
You want your issue resolved fast and so does your IT support team!  They are as busy as you are, so when outlining your issue, concentrate on the issue at hand and avoid including an excessive amount of nonessential detail.  Simply record the basic issue and send the message; if you include too much unnecessary detail, it lengthens the process and takes that much longer before tech support can resolve your issue.

In the end, you are all busy people and your IT services provider wants to help you quickly and efficiently. Help them do so by following the tips above!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Changing Face of Business

The face of business has turned online the past few years. There used to be less competition for business and getting your name out was straightforward, hire an ad agency or go door to door introducing your business. Now the amount of business that offer similar goods and services is astonishing and it’s easy to get lost amongst them. For this reason, small-business owners have had to reevaluate the way they sell. But how do you convice prospective customers that they should choose you out of the many. Developing a strong online presence is a proactive way to do this, below are a few options open to business owners today.

Becoming Mobile

Mobile devices are hardly rare now-a-days, people carry them to make their lives easier by staying connected to their business and personal life when they are on the go. Because of this many small-business owners choose to create mobile sites. These sites retain the branding that the company wants but allows for faster, easier navigation on a mobile device. Creating a mobile site makes your company more accessible to consumers.


Social Sites

Social sites, like Myspace, started off just social. But when Facebook came about it had a far more utilitarian interface and business caught the social site bug. Just about every business you can find has a Facebook page. Social sites allow companies to share fun and interesting content that is related to their industry with prospective clients, which creates an online community. Recently Google unveiled its business pages. This walk-though will show you how to build a Google business page. Social sites allow for such a noninvasive interaction between business and consumer I see the future of social sites as all business.

On-line Education

Offering educational content is another great way to reach an audience and differentiate yourself from your competitors. This can be done with blogs and webinars. On-line education shows your potential customers that you're knowledgeable and sets you up as a thought leader in your industry. Developing trust in this way can lead to sales down the road as consumers will be visiting your blog for interesting and educational information and think of you when they need a service you provide.

While we still see store fronts and most of us like to go to a local shop and meet the owner who is working behind the counter we can’t deny that the face of business is more Web facing then street. Being aware of this and knowing why this is will make us both a more informed consumer and/or business owner. This article has some good reasons for having an on-line presence.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The 2011 PhotoPlus Expo: For the Wealthy Shutterbug

At the recent PhotoPlus Expo in New York City, held between October27-29th, hundreds of exhibitors gathered to show off their latest and greatest accomplishments in technology.  From new developments in cameras, lenses, printers, clothing, gear, gizmos and gadgets, the Expo had it all.  However, if you consider yourself more of a novice or weekend “photog,” you might have felt a bit out of place. The expo is mostly geared toward the professional shutterbug.  Several of the newest innovations, however, were suitable for both the pro and novice alike, although not necessarily that affordable.  Here are just 3 of the awesome innovations found at the PhotoPlus Expo.  For a deeper detailing, Popsci.com provides a more thorough look.


Sony DEV-3 and DEV-5 3D Binoculars

The new Sony DEV-3 and DEV-5 3D Binoculars are out of this world with their amazing photographic and video potential. Of the two the DEV-5 is more advanced, but only the DEV-3 was on display. Both of them have incredible multifunctional capabilities and can be used as 3D binoculars, a 7MP camera or a 1080i video recorder. The DEV-5’s optical zoom capacity is an astounding 20X! One of the hurdles, however, is the high asking price of $2,000. The DEV-3 model has 10X zoom and costs $1400.  But for those who are searching for a high quality multimedia digital camera, these binoculars are worth looking into!


Gorillapod Micro 250 and 350

Joby is known for selling its line of bendy camera tripods. At their booth they displayed a new take on their tripod, the Gorillapod Micro. This new mini-tripod is stiff and can fold neatly under a camera without adding significant weight or bulk. They also come in a variety of sizes. Now you will be able to catch all those wonderful shots because you will never be without a tripod.

Wacom Cintiq 24HD Pen Display

The Wacom Cintiq 24HD Pen Display has a unique 24-inch display. The display is ideal for making sharp edits for those in 3D design, animation, game development, and industrial design. The price of $2600 doesn’t seem to be a detractor as they are in sought after and very hard to acquire.


As a novice or professional, it’s always good to keep up with cutting-edge technologies. We could only showcase a few of the impressive products that were displayed at the Expo. Browse the other cutting edge gadgets like state-of-the-art jackets, lighting, camera bags and gear here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Making Our Lives Easier One Device at a Time

The world is becoming more connected. When we say this, we don’t just mean as individuals. Our devices are becoming more connected to each other as well. This makes our everyday life easier by adding seamlessness to our day that wasn’t present before. You can now work on a document on the job, send it to your smartphone and use a voice transcription app to continue doing work in your car. This is just one example; this video is Microsoft’s vision of what connectivity will make our future look like. What types of devices, apps, or combination of the two will help create a future like this? Here are a couple I have found, let us know of any you can think of.

iControl

iControl


Comcast recently unveiled its home energy management and surveillance product called iControl. This robust product permits people to adjust the temperature of their homes, turn lights off and on, and monitor their homes through video. iControl software plus Comcast broadband along with additional hardware and apps allow customers to have full control over their home environments.


Air Sharing

You can turn your iPad or iPhone into an external hard drive for your computer with this application. This gives you freedom and mobility by allowing you to easily access your documents from your device.


AirPlay


The AirPlay function from Apple lets you stream music, videos, and photos wirelessly to an Apple TV. Picture yourself enjoying a podcast while in the car then coming home and effortlessly transferring the audio to your home without a pause to carry on enjoying it.


Will the future be filled with gadgets, apps, and software that synchronize all aspects of your life? In this age of connectivity, we are deeply connected to our devices. Hopefully they will one day be so interconnected that they will even be a few steps ahead of us. If this requires less effort on my part, I’m for it…what about you ??

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2011: Where are all the Hover Boards and Flying Cars?

In Back to the Future, Marty McFly travels back in time, from 1985 to 30 years earlier, arriving in a suped-up DeLorean to 1955. While in the past, he subsequently messes-up his parent’s first meeting, and must then change history while he tries to get them together to insure his own existence.  Likewise, in the film’s first sequel, Marty travels through time to help his children.  In the futuristic vision there are hover boards and flying cars.  Though fanciful, we can see areas where the world we live in mirrors much of what’s occurring in both films – but are we truly closer to the technology found in Hill Valley in 1955, or in the film’s futuristic sequel?

First, we should ask ourselves where we thought we would be by 2011. Of course we’d have flying cars and hover boards by now, wouldn’t we? Yet here we are, still driving fossil-fuel burning cars, riding scooters and bicycles, all the while wearing fairly normal clothes. Basically, if you took a step back and checked out the way we conduct our lives, much of the technology we use today existed 70 years ago. The television was invented. Cars already had modern features like air conditioning and radios. Movies were shown in color. The Wizard of Oz, made in 1939 has special effects that rival many independent moviemakers today.

Science-Fiction movies made decades ago have influenced and even prophesied many of the tools and machines we use today.  In Total Recall, Arnold is caught bringing a gun through a full-body x-ray screener, very much like the safety measures found in airports today.  Tom Cruise, in Minority Report uses tech very familiar to anyone who’s ever used a touch-screen tablet or seen 3D TV.  In Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Pan Am flies everyday people into space.  Individuals who have $200,000 lying around can board Richard Branson’s similar airship.


We might not have flying cars or hover boards, but we do have Jetson-like videophones.  We can Skype to the 4 corners of the earth and chat with relatives or friends for hours for free.  We can clone animals. We are in ethical debates over genetic engineering. We use lasers in everything from astronomy to surgery. Yet if you were to look at life all around us, does it look more like 1955 than 2055? We’re really no closer to being able to fly to work as Dorothy was to returning to Kansas when she first arrived in Oz.


Ultimately, there are advances seen around us everywhere to remind us that the future is happening now: Video billboards, the internet tracking our every move for our advertising dollars, 3D television, movies that cost $13 for some reason. But here is where the more things change the more they stay the same: Chevrolet is still making convertibles, Universal is still making movies, and you can still watch Back to the Future any time you want -- though I’d skip that 2nd one and go directly to the third.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Don't Get Stuck in The Web of Perfectionism

Do you find yourself agonizing over every little detail? Does it take you 3 times as long to accomplish a task because you are trying to get it “just right?” If so, you might be a perfectionist? It’s not an uncommon personality trait to see in the business world and it can help to push individuals to endeavor to do their best. In extreme cases, though, it leads to wasted time and resources.  The outcome usually doesn’t justify the immense effort that went into it. If you find yourself in the web of extreme perfectionism, here are a few tips that can lead you out.

Make a Decision and Stick to it
When you choose a direction to take and announce it to your employees, stick to it. One of the pitfalls of perfectionism is wasted time second-guessing yourself. If you're constantly changing gears after your team has started the project, then you have wasted those recourses. You might never know if your third, fourth, or fifth decision would be any better.  As they say, go with your gut!

Trus t your Employees
When you tell your staff your plan and what resources you'll need from them, listen to their input. They will let you know if it’s possible and if they think it’s a good idea. Listening to their insight will help prevent you from sliding into another guessing game. Another piece to this is, trusting your employees to do their part well. You hired them because they're skilled, right? Lastly, before you start implementing your plan, just in case…


Have a Plan B
You never know what’s going to happen! An obstacle may arise that cannot be overcome, so make sure you have a plan B. A backup plan will help you from getting entrenched to deeply in your first plan and devastated if things go wrong. The more flexible and ready for change you are, the easier it is to adapt to things life throws at you.

There is a fine line between perfectionism and having a critical eye. It’s important to always strive for the best, but worrying about getting something perfect is harmful to the project and your mental health. The steps I’ve outlined above will help you to free yourself from the perfectionist mindset, if you find yourself there. Here is a great article about avoiding the pitfalls of perfectionism all together.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Some Surprises at the T3 Gadget Awards

In a world where technological advances appear everyday in news-feeds and broadcasts, the annual T3 Gadget Awards is a microcosm of all of these advances in one location.  Like the Oscars for Technology, the T3 Gadget Awards nominate the most cutting-edge gadgets out today. With past releases like the iPad 2, Microsoft’s Kinect and huge advances in gaming, it’s worth a quick note to show some of the most important revelations which have taken place in 2011.  Over 960,000 votes, along with the final tabulations of a 6 person expert panel, decided the winners.  Here are just a few of the more interesting revelations, as well as some interesting--if not ironic--choices for winners.   

Ironic Winners


As gadgetry encompasses many arenas, so must the T3 categories.  This means that categories like Best Retailer and Gadget Personality of the Year are included.  The latter had one of the most ironic choices for winner:  Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.  Although one cannot argue his importance in the world of communication, he’s never been known for his George Clooney-esque charisma. Then there’s the category of Best Commuting Device.  Here, pitted against automobiles and electric bicycles, the winner was the Amazon Kindle.  True, it will help pass the time while traveling, but it does make a perplexing choice for Commuting Device of the Year.


Influential Winners

Another interesting revelation can be found in the voters’ decision that Twitter is the “Digital Media Service of the Year.”  Sure, Zuckerberg’s got the Personality, but Twitter won the bigger battle. To be sure, the principals of large corporations like Apple, Google and Facebook are probably not crying themselves to sleep because they didn’t win a Gadget gong. It is notable, however, that more votes were generated for Twitter than any other medium by the tech community themselves. Those in-the-know with lots of sway ought to be taken very seriously by the tech giants. Basically, Facebook can’t rest on its laurels (just look at MySpace for reference).

Surprising Winners

For many, the iPhone 4 would probably be guessed as the runaway winner of the Phone of the Year award. Instead--and more importantly--because more serious tech fans cast the votes, Samsung’s Galaxy S II walked away with the award. In the Tech Brand of the Year category, Google was the big winner, beating out rivals Facebook and Apple.  Again, it’s “just the T3 Gadget Awards”, but as always, it’s better to be the winner than the runner-up.  And when millions of dollars rides on person to person advertising and brand recognition, every tiny bit helps.

In the final analysis, the 2011 T3 Gadget Awards provided some fascinating insight into where technology is headed.  Some of the winners were surprising, with Samsung taking a number of Awards, showing that it’s not just the Giants in the industry making all the waves.  Please take some time to check out the complete list of Awards, categories and nominees.  You can even go back to 2008; the first year votes were cast, and see how much technology has changed, who the winners were in the past and whether or not they’re still relevant today.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Implementing Energy Monitoring

Becoming greener is on many people’s agendas these days. Whether the intention is to save money or reduce the impact to the environment, this is true not only for individuals, but many high-tech companies as well. A necessity to understanding how to conserve energy is becoming aware of the areas of your home or business that consume the most energy.

Japan recently hosted the annual CEATEC conference earlier this month just outside Tokyo. During the conference, Toshiba and Intel announced their recent developments in energy monitoring. It’s no real shock to see these companies coming forward with big developments that permit individuals and companies to regulate and monitor their energy consumption. The following are a couple of the changes they will implement in 2012 that may change the way companies and individuals regulate their energy consumption.

Intel

Intel has created an application that permits PC users to monitor the energy consumption of their PC. The application has an easy-to-read dashboard that organizes the data into graphs, charts, and statistics, which make it very user-friendly.

Toshiba


Toshiba is using it’s recent purchase of Landish Gyr as part of its “smart home” offering. Landish Gyr specialize in smart-meters for homes. With this offering people can monitor the volume of energy consumed throughout their homes. Also on the agenda is the development of “green cloud” technologies for a number of different industries covering anything from city infrastructure to healthcare.

While these two companies have big plans for energy monitoring in 2012, it seems as though many businesses in the US are moving away from it, namely, Microsoft and Google. In June, Microsoft announced the discontinuation of Hohm, their energy-monitoring service launched in 2009. Google also seems to be changing its green game by shutting down Google Powermeter, that they also launch in 2009.

We can see that though companies in the US are moving away from energy monitoring, companies in Japan are focused on it. What will the future be for the green technology world? It’s hard to say, but if you have any ideas or speculations about this, we would love to hear them!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Quick Take on the iPhone 4S - Is It Worth the Upgrade

The first time we heard the news that Apple was coming out with the next iPhone, we were as giddy as schoolchildren.  We all hoped that that it was going to be a game changing iPhone 5.  But, alas, it was not meant to be.  Instead, and with much fanfare, we got the iPhone 4S and we could only help but ask – is it just an iPhone 4 with a few more bells and whistles? Would it truly be worth the long wait in line?. Was the 4s destined to be revolutionary or evolutionary?  Below is a brief look at the 3 most noticeable upgrades found in the iPhone 4S.

Software


One of the most noticeable areas of improvement can be found in the amount of speed and power that the 4S commands.  Apple announced that the iPhone 4S has seven times the graphical prowess of its predecessor and is twice as powerful. It features the iPad 2’s dual-core A5 chip that makes opening apps, loading the web browser, scrolling through home screens and countless other operations smoother and faster.


Siri

One remarkable distinction between the iPhone 4 and the 4S is the addition of  your very own “personal assistant” named Siri.  When it works, it is an amazing feat of technology. You can just tell Siri to contact a friend and tell her you’re running late.  Tell Siri, “I’m feeling like Indian food,” and she will tell you where the nearest place serving Sag Paneer is located.  Even so, the caveat is “when it works.”  When Siri cannot understand a particular command, area or specific person, she will tell you humorously, if not annoyingly after a while, that she can’t process the info.  Undoubtedly this will be fixed in the future, but it would be wonderful if it worked flawlessly now.  See this article for another take on Siri.

iCloud


Similar to MobileMe, iCloud allows you to access all of your most critical data, pictures, apps, music and photos from any device, whether you access it from the device the content was created on, or if you want to use your iPad to show your friends a picture you took using your iPhone. One downfall, however, is that for users used to MobileMe’s specific syncing procedures, the user id it created doesn’t “play well” with iCloud. At the same time, iCloud doesn’t recognize email accounts like Yahoo or Gmail as they don’t contain a me.com email address.  Although it’s fantastic technology, the reality that it still has what appear to be fairly obvious faults makes it that much more frustrating to Apple enthusiasts.

In the final analysis, the iPhone 4S will of course be an enormous commercial success. But, are the upgrades worth the wait?  In the end, it depends on who you ask. If you’re a Mac-addict, always in need of the most up-to-date and coolest toy, then of course, it’s worth the wait.  With its improvements in power, efficiency, speed, software and upgrades, the 4S is an impressive machine.  However, if you’re able to get all you need from your old 3G(S), there’s really nothing completely revolutionary about the iPhone 4S.  As an evolutionary device, it’s still pretty cool.


Friday, October 14, 2011

How Tablets and the Cloud Support Creativity

The cloud has been advantageous for many businesses. Because of the massive amounts of information that can be stored in the cloud and the prevalence of tablets in our lives, creative businesses have greatly benefitted. The cloud gives people in creative industries an edge they didn’t previously have. It may not be obvious how creative businesses have improved due to the cloud, so here are just a few ways they have changed.


Portfolios
The size of someone’s portfolio used to be restricted to what they could physically carry.   Due to this size limitation, there were limitations to the content as well. Now, thanks to the cloud, they can create separate files tailored to each client’s needs, which they can quickly access from a tablet. This mobility can lead to more business more quickly.

Creative Collaboration
Collaborating used to be limited to people near you. This meant that very skilled people across the globe did not have much opportunity to collaborate on a project. If they were a part of the collaboration process, it meant sending large files back and forth, which produced duplicate copies and a slower working pace. When files are store in the cloud, you can work on them simultaneously and update only one copy. Tablets allow you to pull the project up anywhere and work on it, so creative inspiration is not stifled.


Brainstorming
Similarly, the cloud has improved the way groups brainstorm together. By creating mind maps in the cloud, anyone can develop a concept together. By accessing the mind map on a tablet or other mobile device, you can get opinions from colleagues and update the shared file with ease. Breaking down the distance barrier allows skilled individuals who previously could not contribute to do so.

With the expansiveness of the cloud and the mobility of the tablet, there are almost no limitations to where creativity can happen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to safeguard your computer

Computers are prized possessions, regardless of what they are being used for. They provide a practical value regarding the processes they allow us to automate, but there is also a financial value which should be considered. The high price level carried by computers means they are tempting targets for any thief. Here are a few quick tips to consider when beefing up your computer’s security.


Physical Security

Don’t mistake the cables plugged into your desktop as any kind of safeguard. Even if they are complicated and challenging to access, a thief is more than happy to leave with the bare bones of your machine. To avoid being left with only a tangle of wires, try using a strong security cable, preferably one that includes a key. These cables generally cost around $40 and are easy to install and use. They anchor your computer in a way that makes it extremely difficult to steal.

Data Security

A computer’s value is not only dependent on the physical items that make it up. Sensitive information can often be found by searching a computer’s hard drive. While copying and encrypting all of your information can be a good way to save and safeguard valuable data on any computer, it’s important to consider forego ing the storage of private and financial information anywhere on your machine. Information such as your checking account number, credit card information or social security number shouldn’t be stored permanently on a computer.


Keeping Track

There have been a lot of great computer tracking apps developed in recent years. While these apps need the hard drive to remain intact in order to work, if you act quickly, they highly increase your chances of recovery. There have been numerous cases in which a stolen laptop has been discovered using one of these services. While your laptop’s return may not be promised, it’s still a great safety measure to take.


While all of these tips are useful in keeping your computer safe, there is no replacement for common sense and reasonable vigilance. Make sure to take good care of your computer; chances are it takes good care of you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Education in the Workplace

Workplace education programs (WEP) can lead to positive rise in company morale. Companies can utilize this in small ways with educational handouts, education breaks as a group, or by providing full or half day classes to employees. In either case, learning interesting things keeps people inspired and exercises their minds. Employees will feel like you value them since it supports their personal goals of furthering their careers. Knowing their company is investing in them makes them feel secure in their position.

That being said, workplace education programs can be boring and if the classes aren’t challenging enough to hold employee interest, it can negate all of the positive results that can result from these programs.

Here are some ideas to keep your education programs enjoyable.

Divide employees into groups – Groups create healthy competition and encourages collaboration. They also help employees get acquainted with each other better, which can lead to an even more supportive team environment.

Give Incentives – Whether presented to groups or individuals, incentives can be a fantastic way to encourage people to pay attention and do their best.

Be Playful – Turning education into a game will help with retention of the materials being taught. Additionally, games also help to develop team-building skills.

Implementing education programs in the workplace not only supports your company by creating a more educated work environment but also promotes personal development. These programs can be exciting and a fun method to break up the week. If offering classes isn't something that your company can do in the future, try implementing something on a smaller scale, for example giving your staff a subject to study after which holding a quiz. Divide the group into teams and create a game out it.  The team with the most right answers wins donuts and coffee the next day. Workplace education programs can be scaled to fit your company; what is important is that, when done right, workplace education programs can have a strong positive effect on your company overall.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The PC Age is Alive and Well

Portable computing has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, bringing tablet and smartphone devices to the front lines of technological advancement. These gadgets are capable of doing some awesome things, but to what extent do they actually replace the use of the classic PC? Glitz and glamour aside, the personal computer remains to be the most practical option for a wide range of computing needs. Though tablets and smartphones seem to be the dominating technological force at the moment, PC lovers need not fear. Here are the top three reasons why the PC isn’t going anywhere.

Desktops Are Still Needed

    Tech critics have long predicted the death of the personal computer. However, PCs are still alive and well and, obviously, much needed. There are certain practical and physical limitations that always seem to keep desktop computers as the most powerful option. Even if technology eventually advances to a place where a current desktop’s power fits into a tablet, think how much power will then be able to fit into a desktop where that same technology is applied! No matter how sophisticated portable technologies become, desktops will always be the superior option in terms of pace and power.

Tablets Are Less Practical

    Tablets are great tools, useful in a variety of situations. While a tablet offers some great portability options, the PC is still the preferred machine for sophisticated computing. There are some tasks that are easier to complete on a PC based on practical sizing and style. A personal computer is superior for composing long documents, running sophisticated programs and even surfing the web to the full extent of Internet functionality. All of this to say, PCs are generally much more ergonomic than any tablet, making them the more practical option.

Smartphones Are Less Functional

    It seems like everyone has a smartphone these days. Smartphones are great for checking your email, watching YouTube videos or even making a phone call. Some critics claim that, as smartphones become more sophisticated, they will begin to steal away some of the laptop market. However, much like tablets, smartphones aren’t a practical choice for basic computing. Case in point: the screens are too small. This is an innate limitation, because no one wants a phone that can’t fit in his or her pocket. Can you imagine a college student writing an entire term paper on their smartphone? Neither can we.

While the portable industry has made remote computing better than ever, it’s still important to have faith in the importance of PCs. For more reasons why the PC age is still alive and well, take a look at this article.

Friday, September 30, 2011

More Communication, Fewer Manners

It seems like manners have gone out the window in this age of connectivity. In social situations, we are competing with smartphones and tablets for the attention of our associates. We see unintentional rudeness occurring due to devices all the time. Below are some examples of common connectivity faux pas and stategies to prevent committing them.

Phones at the Dinner Table – Just as you would not turn your back to someone you are talking with, texting or answering your phone while dining is not very polite.

Tips to Avoid this:

  • Excuse yourself from the table if you need to take an urgent call.
  • If you know you will be distracted and curious if your phone alerts you of a text, take a preventive step and turn it off.
  • For dinners lasting longer than an hour, you could suggest the table take a “cell phone break” for those who need or want to check their emails or messages.

Loud Phone Calls in Public Places – No one wants to hear the ins and outs of a stranger’s relationship. While you may not realize how loudly you are speaking or how quiet the environment around you is, you can be sure the people close to you do.

Tips to Avoid this:


  • Silence your phone and do not answer it
  • If you need to answer the call, step away to a secluded area to take it and tell the caller that their call is important and you will call them back in x amount of minutes.
  • If you must take the phone call and you are waiting in line, ask the person behind you to hold your spot and quickly go take your call.

Becoming Overly Dependent on Digital Communication – Email is a popular way to communicate but making it the only way people can get a hold of you will make you too dependent on your device. This can lead to disconnection and distraction in face-to-face social situations.


Tips to Avoid this:

  • Make the most of face-to-face communications.
  • Make your phone to be the best way to get a hold of you over email or texting.
  • Resist the urge to respond to email immediately, wait to check it after you leave your social engagement.

In the age of connectivity it is up to us to recognize when the things we do have a negative influence on our environment or our companions. Tell us of any examples you can think of where being overly connected has created social faux pas.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tips on how to network

We all network, every day. At its base level, networking is simply communicating with someone in an effective way. Whether it’s a conversation at the water cooler or at a business event, knowing how to effectively network is an important skill for anyone growing in his or her career. Here are some key tips and tricks to keep in mind whenever you find yourself in an important conversation. Remember, these tips may be applicable in all areas of life, but are especially helpful in developing a business personality.

You’re There to Give, not Get

    Giving an arduous monologue can easily get in the way of a meaningful conversation. Don’t let your portion of the conversation overrun that of the person with whom you are speaking. Remember, you should do your best to contribute to the conversation in a constructive way. This means allowing the conversation partner ample time to speak their mind and share their thoughts. Don’t forget to respect the speaking time of the other person in the conversation. You’re there to give a platform for the other person to speak.

Don’t Appear Desperate

    In this way, networking at a professional level is the same as dating. Being too desperate is a major turn off. If you find yourself networking with someone in a higher position or someone who could offer you something professionally, do your best to avoid appearing needy. Instead, find confidence in what you’re offering them. Believe that what you have to offer is valuable, because it most certainly is! If you don’t have confidence in what you can bring to the table professionally, it may be a sign that you should peruse other endeavors. Keep in mind, when networking professionally, confidence is key.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

    Keeping the conversation alive is important. Be careful to steer clear of “yes” or “no” questions, because they generally deny the responder the chance to elaborate. If you do have a “yes” or “no” question, try rephrasing it to make it more open ended. For example, asking, “do you play any sports” is not as effective as asking “what sports do you play?” Sure, there is a chance that the responder doesn’t play any sports, but that’s an answer that they will be able to give as well as elaborate on. Allowing the chance for elaboration makes the responder feel appreciated.

Networking is all about staying comfortable and maintaining sincere conversations. For more tips, check out this article.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Change in Service: A Lesson Learned

Sometimes companies have to alter the way they do business and change their service plans. As these changes often center around a price increase, new limitations, or dismissal of services altogether, customers can have a negative reaction to the news. For some companies, breaking the news goes smoothly as they take measures to soften the blow, while others spring the news to the clients with minimal warning or explanation.

The way in which Netflix managed its recent service changes is a perfect example of this type of news being received poorly. Netflix decided to separate their services, DVD-by-mail and streaming, and raise their prices significantly for both. Customers viewed the execution of the change as abrupt and confusing. In the brief time since the initial announcement, many of Netflix’s subscribers have canceled their accounts altogether. In fact, the number was significantly more than Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, was expecting.  In effort to apologize for the way Netflix handled the reorganization announcement, Hastings emailed all subscribers and posted a letter on the Netflix blog. He acknowledged that he “… messed up. [And owes] everyone an explanation,” but then went on to announce yet another change!  Netflix is separating the services even more into Qwikster, for DVD-by-mail, while the streaming services will remain as Netflix. This surprise did not have the designed effect and in fact elicited even more backlash. We will have to wait and see how Netflix deals with this new PR debacle and they may be realizing that sometimes an apology isn’t enough.

When AT&T changed their service plan in late June, it was not happy news to some existing and potential customers. They replaced their unlimited data plan with a tiered pricing plan. However they did allow subscribers who already had unlimited data plans remain grandfathered into the plan. This placated the customers who were reaping the benefits of the service being nixing. AT&T handled the situation with skill and there wasn’t a significant impact to their customer base consequently.

When companies change their services plans, regardless of the reasons for the decision, they inherently tread dangerous waters. Before alerting their customers and the world, they should develop a strategy that will minimize the backlash. If there is a drastic price increase or another product change equally undesirable from a customer’s viewpoint, here are a few strategies companies could consider to soften the effect:

  • Notice, and Lots of It:  Give the public plenty of notice and utilize a forum where customers, particularly those directly affected, can express questions and concerns.
  • Grandfathered Services:  Honor services and prices current clients have prior to the change.
  • Details:  Explain the change in detail! The more transparent you are with your announcement, the more your clients will trust your decision.
  • Discounts: Offer a free month of service or some other type of coupon if clients take advantage of multiple services

If you have any more ideas of ways companies could make the news of service plan changes easier, we’d love to hear from you!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bad office habits part 2

    We’ve talked about how easy it is to get distracted while working with the Internet at your fingertips. The Internet is one of the greatest technological advancements of the past 30 years, but workers have been getting distracted in the office long before the World Wide Web. Here are three of the most frequent ways that workers can get distracted in the office without the aid of the Internet (as well as a few steps on how to combat these bad habits).

The Water Cooler

    A strong work community is important for any business. Research has shown that workers who have developed a strong community will be more productive. However, making this community constructive for productivity is also a necessity. It’s easy to spend too much time discussing your personal life with coworkers during working hours. To help combat this, try planning a weekly after-work-hours gathering with your coworkers. This will help you stay up to date on each other’s lives without minimizing productivity during office hours.

Minesweeper

    No matter what computer you use, there is likely some kind of preloaded game saved to the hard drive. Whether it’s Minesweeper, Chess or Solitaire, there is always a mind numbing game to indulge in during work hours. With these games, it’s easy to let a few minutes of distraction turn into hours of wasted work time. In this situation, the best thing to do is to simply delete the game off your computer. Let’s be honest, you probably don’t even enjoy playing these games that much anymore.

Daydream

    We all know what it’s like to get lost in thought, daydreaming about our favorite TV show, book or movie. It’s something we do when we have low focus and it can be a big time waster. Try changing your lifestyle to help increase your focus to avoid daydreaming. Simple changes can help, like getting more sleep or eating foods that are lacking in processed sugar.

    Working without distractions can be a challenge. Even without the multiple distractions offered by the Internet, staying focused on your work can be difficult. Remember these tips during the workweek and do your best to stay on top of things. Don’t forget, 90% of productivity is focus!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Full Access: Changes in the Entertainment Industries

Entertainment industries have had to evolve in the past few years as we have gained more access to music, movies and television from online sources. Physical stores are disappearing as these businesses open online stores. Examples of these are Blockbuster, Borders, and, the iconic Virgin Megastore in Times Square. Online storefronts have become a great option for consumers as well as business as there are fewer overhead costs, which give buyers more options for less. Here are some examples of ways that access to entertainment has changed.


Independent and chain music stores have been affected by the increased access to music the Internet provides and many have had to close. Instead of buying whole albums, sites like Amazon MP3 and iTunes allow people to buy single songs for mere pocket change. Musicians have followed suit by selling or giving away their songs on their websites. Music has gotten so affordable that we have started to see the price of concert tickets increase so the record industry can turn a profit.


Another way that people are accessing music more easily is from streaming radio sites like Pandora and Grooveshark. These sites allow for free customizable radio with limited commercials. Many people use this type of service as their main household music source in place of buying music from a brick and mortar shop or even from an online source.

Another hot item that is changing the face of their industry is the eBook. Sites like Amazon sell eBooks for much cheaper than their paper counterparts. Another benefit is that they never sell out and they only weigh as much as the eBook reader they are stored on. We have seen many local and large chain bookstores close due to this competition.

 

Rather then pay hefty monthly prices for satellite or cable TV, many people opt to stream television and movies from an online source like Netflix or Hulu. The competition in the TV industry has pushed network channels to upload their most recently aired episodes onto their websites.

 

Gaining instant access to our entertainment through the Internet has made it easier and cheaper for both the consumer and businesses. You have probably heard that Netflix recently raised their prices and split their service offering into a streaming only offer or a physical DVD offer. Will this change help or hinder them? We will have to wait and see.  The outcome of this experiment may just entice other online business to follow Netflix’s example and we may see more prices rise.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Influence of the Tablet

Technology is consistently changing our lives. It happens so rapidly and seamlessly that we hardly notice.   It wasn’t long ago that stores used a manual machine to make a carbon imprint of your credit card when you made a purchases. Those machines are nearly obsolete thanks to WiFi technology and tablets. A person can now purchase an attachment for their tablet that allows them to scan credit cards virtually anywhere.


Tablets have changed a lot more than our purchasing ease and mobility. Many people have fundamentally changed their businesses thanks to tablets. The following companies use tablets in such intriguing and innovative ways it might surprise you.


 A high-end Italian restaurant in New York City called De Santos has given their entire wait staff iPad 2s. The staff uses them to take orders and even swipe your credit card after the meal. The reasoning is that this will reduce mistakes and increase efficiency.


Puma stores in Africa, Asia and Europe have installed iPad stations called The Creative Factory. At these stations customers can design sneakers and see other designs around from people around the globe as well as read about the other creators. Puma seeks to connect the world with active footwear.



At SHOPBOX, an addition to the DeKalb Market in Brooklyn, you won’t find a store or store clerks! What you will find is a shipping container with an iPad mounted on the side. Shoppers use the iPads to register then text the items they want to purchase to a number printed on the display glass. The items are then shipped to the shopper’s house. Talk about window-shopping!


As tablet technology improves, people will continue to come up with creative uses for it. How will innovation change the future? Will it eventually be “retro” to have human wait staff at restaurants? Will malls be done away with all together? Isaac Asimov said “The only constant is change” and this is glaringly true where technology is concerned. Advancements are made so quickly we hardly notice how drastically they change our lives. Usually these changes make our lives easier, so let’s relax, let it happen, and wait for our hovercrafts.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How to write the right email

Most of us compose several emails every day, to our friends, clients, coworkers and employers. It’s important to note that how we write these emails communicates more than we might realize. Taking time to choose your words carefully is important in order to avoid any discomforting miscommunication. What would your boss think if you ended an email with “Love?” Here are some tips on determining proper email language.

Opening an Email  

Informal

Composing a message to a close friend is best done in an informal tone. When writing an informal message, you don’t need to use much more than the recipient’s name. Even a simple “Hi,” will communicate a relaxed tone and let the reader know the email they are reading is from a close acquaintance.

Formal

Use this tone when writing an email to a coworker or employee, someone with whom you are familiar but also professional. Consider opening your email with “Dear,” followed by the recipient’s name or a more formal greeting such as “Good afternoon” or “Good evening.” This communicates that you respect the reader but are also approaching them with a tone of familiarity.

Respectful

When writing to a higher institution, like a prospective employer, make sure and open your email with a bit more formality. Generally, you’d use this tone if the receiver were someone you were not previously familiar with. The best opening in this case is “To whom it may concern.” Using this opening communicates respect to the reader.
 
Closing an Email  

Informal

Again, when writing to someone with whom you share a close personally history, you can end the email by simply writing your name or “Love,” followed by your name. This is informal and lets the reader know that you meant the message to be a romantic one.

Formal

End a formal email with “Sincerely,” or “Yours truly.” This is not as informal as closing with just your name, but it also communicates some kind of personal relationship. This is the best tone to use when corresponding professionally with someone you work with on a regular basis.

Respectful

Ending a professional and respectful email in the proper tone is very important. As in a formal tone, you may end the message with “Sincerely,” or even “Regards.” Both should adequately communicate respect. However, if the content of the message calls for it, ending with “Thank you for your time,” lets the reader know you are grateful for the time they’ve spent reading your message.

    Communicating the correct message is all a matter of vocabulary, so when composing your next email make sure to use the right words to communicate your desired message. This will help ensure that your friends don’t fear that you’ve become melancholy drone or lead your boss to believe you’ve become a hopeless romantic. Choose the right words so that you send the right message.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Funniest Tech Lawsuits of the Decade

Usually when people file lawsuits it’s very serious business, but every so often lawsuits are filed that are rather ridiculous. Below are a few interesting and amusing tech industry lawsuits which have been filed within the last ten years.

Pentium Allergy? – In 2002, a Dutch woman filed a lawsuit against Intel because she said she got hives from her Pentium processor. However, the 486-base processor did not have the same affect on her. The case never went to court. I suppose no one was “itching” to take it.


A Woman Lead into Danger by Google? - In 2009, Google was sued by a woman who was hit by a car on a dark narrow highway that did not have pedestrian walkways. She blamed Google because she was just following the walking directions they gave her. A judge dismissed her case and Google “dodged” the lawsuit.

Sony Killed Star Wars Galaxies! - In 2010, distraught fans of the online MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies put together a class-action lawsuit against Sony for shutting it down. Due to dwindling subscriptions, Sony continued with the shut down plans.  Unfortunately, I think the “force” is not strong with this particular case.


Woman sues man over a failed Mafia Wars romance - A woman fell in love with another player of the Facebook game, Mafia Wars, and spent thousands of dollars on Mafia Wars gifts for her beau. After the relationship ended she sued him for the money she had spent.  Her case and her love life are now “sleeping with the fishes.”


I hope these unbelievable tech lawsuits made you smile. If you have heard of any more, please share them with us by leaving a comment here or on one of our other social media accounts! 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Constant connectivity is changing how we get content

Connected devices are generally thought of as tablets, smartphones and laptops. These devices offer a quick and trustworthy connection to the Internet and other such connected devices. However, even more gadgets fit into the connected cannon, like HDTVs, gaming consoles and even most Blu-ray players.

    Access to the Internet is, relatively speaking, easy and the information found online is easier to access. Traditionally, information was gathered through research and manual searching that required a large amount of dedicated time in order to find enough useful information. With an increase in connectivity, all we have to do is type a search query into Google utilizing a smartphone. How has the way we consume content changed now that from almost any location, we can access an almost endless library of knowledge?

Faster Access of Information

    Locating specific details can be done almost instantaneously with the help of the right device. Content was once delivered in hardbound books, but now it’s offered on websites, wikis, blogs and email. Because so many devices can access the Internet, finding the information you need is no longer a matter of locale. This makes the researching process much faster and allows for content to be consumed more quickly.

Faster Generation of Information

    Content generation is simply a matter of supply and demand. Because content is so much easier to consume with connected gadgets, there is an ever growing need for more content. The answer to this, of course, is faster content generation. As most connected devices can also be used to upload new content, online content and information is being generated and published faster than ever.

High Rate of Communication

    The time and effort needed to communicate has decreased due to the speed and connectedness of modern devices. Because of this, information can now be communicated from user to user at a much higher rate.  For example, a YouTube video with interesting content can go viral in a matter of minutes. Users can share the video through Facebook, Twitter, Google, email, HTML embedding, Internet enabled TVs, and even texting!

    How have connected devices changed the way we consume content? Speed, speed and speed. The rate at which content is generated, consumed and then disregarded is almost staggering. Information is easier to access than ever before, and at impressively high speeds. What we decided to do with that information is entirely up to us.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Access Restricted: Censorship worldwide

As a species we are connected. Our access to information is growing exponentially. Many authorities and governments worldwide have fears about what this access could mean for the people in their countries. These concerns lead them to censor the degree of communication that individuals have or cut them off entirely if they feel the threat is too great.

This dilemma is at the forefront of many world leader’s mind and many governments have different approaches and levels of constraint for the Internet, cellular phones, and other varieties of communication via technology. Here are some examples of differing severity levels of censorship in various countries.

The United States – The US censors technology very little. In the US it is illegal to use cell phone jammers for private use. However, federal officials can use them in some instances. Recently, transit officials in San Francisco shut down power to cellular towers preventing all cell phone usage on the BART in order to prevent protesters from organizing on stations and platforms to convene upon.   This censorship incited a public outrage and government investigation regarding the legality of the shutdown.

China – It is common practice for Chinese officials to monitor chat rooms, private screen, and black list websites. Their censorship of the Internet is referred to as the “Great Firewall of China”. Go to this link to find out if your website is blocked in China.

North Korea – The government of North Korea has total control of all computers with Internet access. Only three websites can be accessed in North Korea and they only contain academic information. There are some chat rooms allowed, but they are heavily supervised by the government. The high level of censorship has created a huge cell phone black market in North Korea.

As you can see, different governments approach the idea of technology censorship very differently throughout the world. And the socio-political reasons behind the amount of restrictions vary just as much. Here are some common arguments for and against censorship:

Reasons why censorship is necessary

  • Censorship can protect the safety of the public
  • Censorship can prevent youths from being exposed to inappropriate content
  • Censorship can protect social unity and national glory
  • Censorship can prevent disturbing the social order
  • Censorship can protect national security


Reasons why censorship can be dangerous

  • Censorship violates the natural right of self-expression
  • Censorship can prevent people who have an emergency from getting help
  • Censorship can lead to ignorance of the world and other cultures
  • Extreme censorship can lead to social upheaval
  • Extreme censorship can lead to an oppressed and uneducated society


A professor at the University of Kansas, Barney Warf, published a definitive study of the geography of Internet censorship in an issue of GeoJournal. He believes that the more globalized a country becomes, the harder it is to control types and amounts of information the public can access. Whether or not technological censorship is right or wrong is situational and up to individual opinion. As the world becomes more connected it will become harder for nations to control the flow of information and we will see this issue continue to arise worldwide.

You can read this article to learn more about Professor Barney Warf and his study.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anonymity on the Web



You may have noticed some issues with choosing pseudonyms if you were an early user of Google .  Social media sites have, traditionally, allowed users to create accounts with phony names. Google’s decision to remove anonymity has had made some users upset. One of the great things about the Internet is that it allows anyone the ability to be anonymous. However, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of cost-free anonymity in an age where more and more social interactions are taking place online.

 

Pros

 

Most account-based websites don’t require users to provide their real name or even utilize effective methods of verifying identity. This practice makes it quite simple to assume multiple personalities on the web. There is a layer of safety in this for many users who might be endangered if they were to reveal their full identity. Consider those who have been victims of stalking or spousal abuse. The ability to act anonymously on the Internet allows users to lower their accessibility and therefore decrease their susceptibility. There are instances in which anonymity on the Internet is a necessity.

 

Cons

 

Most Internet based difficulties begin with the abuse of anonymity. Spam, social media spam and profile hacks start with the creation of a fake Internet identity. While there are ways of tracking down the true identity of users with methods such as IP tracing, most users don’t have the time or resources to do such extensive background checks. Internet bullying, stalking and thievery are all products of free anonymity.

 

Is Google on the right track with disavowing Internet anonymity? The reality is, the moral value of using pseudonyms is based on personal responsibility. When deciding your stance on the issue, first consider how you use it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tips for recovery from an email hack

Every email account is vulnerable to the nefarious plots of hackers. Though there are several steps you can take to protect and secure your private information, there will always be a chance that your personal email account could one day be compromised. So, what do you do after your email has been hacked? The important thing to remember in this situation is that there are proactive steps you can take to regain control of your digital life. Here are 3 things to consider.

Notify Webmail Provider

    It’s important to let your webmail provider know that your account has been compromised. Informing them of your situation will help them to identify the problem and fortify their security to make future hacking attempts even more difficult for the hackers. While most webmail providers are not liable for successful hacking attempts, they definitely want to do all they can to prevent them.

Change Password

    This may be the most important thing to do after your account has been hacked. You’ve heard the term “the criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.” Well, the same can be said for hackers. Once you’ve determined that your email has been hacked, make sure and change your password to one that is both complex and totally different. If your house were broken into, you’d change the locks. The same measure of safety should be considered for your online identity.

Notify your contact list

    Make sure to send a message to everyone on your email contact list informing them of the recent hack. It is likely that they will have received SPAM messages from your account that could either be virus transferring Trojans or some strange solicitation for money. Make sure and communicate the situation clearly and concisely in the subject of your email, as many on your contact list may already be wary of opening emails from your account.

No one likes having his or her personal information compromised. It’s important to remember that, if your email has been hacked, your online banking and other Internet handled services may also be compromised. If you’d like additional information on what you should with a hacked email, please take a look at this article.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Set Goals to Motivate Your Team

Having life goals keeps us motivated. The issues we overcome make us stronger and as we reach each goal we should set new goals. Every step moves us towards the lives we want. We apply this to our individual lives but do we apply it to our professional lives?

We spend approximately 30% of our lives at work. For many people a large amount of this time is unfulfilling. Redundancy in our jobs can cause us to feel like we have no control over how we spend our day. We repeat the same projects day after day i.e. monitor our inbox, file paperwork, return phone calls, and wait to get off work. This leads to an uninspiring work natural environment and employees who feel detached from the business and constantly watch the clock. Setting goals can keep things new and help combat the rut that people are stuck in at work.

  1. Set or Assess Goals Every 3-6 Months – Schedule a meeting or set time aside dedicated to setting goals. This timeframe will keep the goals fresh and it will be easier to celebrate achievements.
  2. Write Down Your Goals – Physical documentation of your goals will help the group keep the focused on those goals. .
  3. Aim High – A challenging goal once completed is sure to provide a great sense of accomplishment.
  4. Find a System to Measure Performance – Set a timeframe for the steps to be completed or skills that need to be learned for the goal to be achieved.
  5. Celebrate Each Achievement – No matter if you are part of a team or working separately, celebrating accomplishments is motivating and builds pride in the work being done.
  6. Schedule the Next Goal Setting Meeting Ahead of Time – You may lose perspective and drive if you do not refresh your goals. Goals keep us feeling excited and accomplished and that leads to job satisfaction.


Feeling pride in our work and feeling like we contribute is valuable to everyone. Setting and reaching goals reminds us of the important part we play in the larger goal.