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.