Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Mouse: Good Night and Good Luck

Mouse-free computing is something we've just begun to taste. We have touchscreens on many devices including tablets, phones, and e-readers. These allow us to access the web; send texts, and emails all without a mouse. So is this the shape of things to come? Will we eventually leave the mouse in the dust and move on to more advanced ways of communicating with our computers?

Gesture sensing

Gesture sensing is one thing most gamers are familiar with. The PlayStation and Wii both make use of this technology. Simply by using a wireless remote you are able to control the game using only body movements. This technology hasn't been perfected or widely applied to computing but think about the possibilities. Perhaps in the future we will boot our computer by putting on a sensor bracelet and every little gesture we make will perform a task on our computer!

Multi-touch technology

Multi-touch technology is yet another interactive innovation. This is what is being applied whenever you tap your smartphone screen to access programs, or swipe your finger across the surface of your tablet to switch screens. In the past couple of years we have seen lots of growth in this technology. Do you think this will become the primary way we navigate around our computers?

Voice recognition

Another possibility for controlling computers is vocal recognition. This technology already exists and is quickly gaining in popularity as developers work out the kinks. One of the most common vendors is Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Vocal recognition technology has a ways to go before it is perfect, but technologies improve so rapidly these days that I don’t see it being a long time before voice-command functionality becomes standard in every devices.

While there are lots of ways computing can be improved through hands free navigation technologies. It’s likely we will not see the well known mouse disappear for years.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Smartphone Charging Pads: Analysis

You use your smartphone to order movie tickets, download your favorite songs, and make online reservations at the new French restaurant. However, if your smartphone battery dies, it's not possible to do any of this. And let's be honest, charging your smartphone the old-fashioned way is a drag. You have to plug your charger into an outlet leaving it connected long enough to give it sufficient power.

Now by using a smartphone charge pad, charging your phone is easier.

Charge your phone wirelessly

These flat pads, which look like little mats, allow smartphone users to charge their phones wirelessly. What this means is no hunting for an available outlet and no fumbling with tangled cords. Better yet, you can place several devices on your charge pads at the same time and charge them all at one time. Charge pads work with everything from smartphones and electronic readers to iPods, iPads, and digital cameras.

But how do these devices work? Fundamentally, a charge pad relies on electro-magnetic induction charging. They produce a magnetic field atop the mat that provides power to the batteries of your devices.

Charge pads a technology in progress

You would imagine that these would be more widely used then they are. But, there are a couple of reasons why they aren't. First of all, they are a bit costly, often costing as much as the gadgets you intend to charge.

Additionally, they take up space. For individuals hoping to save space and get rid of mess, this negates their purpose.

An improving wireless world

Wireless technology is always improving; so we are bound to see charge pad technology improve. Hopefully they'll become smaller and less expensive which might make these items a must-have for modern homes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Increase Your Productivity in Windows 7

Windows 7 is a big improvement over previous Windows operating systems. Learning to use this version well can enhance your productivity considerably.

By mastering a few simple tricks, you can get the most out of Windows 7.

  • If you want to move images to outside disks, you can now achieve this simply with Windows 7. The operating system allows you to burn ISO images onto CDs or DVDs. To do this, you just have to double-click on the ISO image, tell Windows 7 the drive that holds your blank disc, and click on the "burn" option. Windows 7 will do the rest.
  • Finding and fixing problems is quite simple with Windows 7. If you feel as if your OS is behaving oddly select the “troubleshooting” option from the “Control Panel”. This gives you access to several wizards that can help you get rid of clutter and clean up your system.
  • Installing too much cumbersome software will slow your system down. You can prevent this by utilizing the AppLocker feature. This lets you pre-approve specified programs for installation. Which prevents any non-preapproved software from being downloaded.
  • One great feature for individuals that work remotely is its power efficiency service. It’s simple to get specifics about the quantity of power your laptop is using, which is often important if you're working on a project and are away from a power source.

Friday, February 17, 2012

WordPress: A Growing Platform

Once used chiefly as a blogging platform, WordPress is now just about the most popular website publishing and content management tools on the internet. According to Tech Crunch, about 22 out of every 100 new active domains in the U.S. run WordPress. What’s more, one of the most popular publishers in the world uses WordPress.

Here are 7 things you should know about WordPress:

  1. WordPress offers dynamic page generation. This means no more reconstructing all your pages every time you update your website! Updating your site’s content and design is simple and fast, and the required server storage space usage is nominal.
  2. You can obtain a free website at with subdomains. This can be a great way to reduce costs if you don’t mind at the end of your domain.
  3. WordPress also provides what they call their ‘famous 5-minute install’, which makes it easy to install WordPress if you already have a domain and a hosting service. What’s more, no coding expertise required.
  4. If you do own your own domain there are a few minimum requirements to run WordPress. You have to be sure you have the correct and compliant versions of PHP and MySQL. This will ensure that you can receive reliable WordPress support as required.
  5. To make your site look nice, there is an wide-ranging selection of templates, called “themes”, available online. Some are free, while others are not. Regardless, using these it is possible to easily and quickly tailor your site the way you like.
  6. WordPress has centralized management. Making managing your pages, posts, as well as your users simple with WordPress.
  7. WordPress encourages e-commerce. There's an abundance of plugins that have already been designed that allow you to accept payments, advertise, and more on your website. The easy plugin search keeps these options at your fingertips.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Less Then Successful Tech

Smartphones, iPads, iPods, and notebook computers remain examples of the must-have devices of the last five years. However, for every iPad there's an Apple TV—a tech failure. Organizations take a chance every time they send a new piece of technology into the market. There is absolutely no guarantee that no matter how cool or helpful a gadget is that it'll catch on with the buying public. With that in mind, listed here is a quick look at some of the most widely known technology failures of the last decade.

Famous tech failures

  • Apple TV: This gadget gives users the capability to purchase entertainment from iTunes then stream it to the device of their choice. Good idea? Possibly, if it wasn’t so restricted to iTunes. 
  • Sony Mylo: Mylo came in under the radar that is why you may not remember it. This was a Wi-Fi-enabled mobile device from Sony that allowed people to connect to the Internet, send e-mail and it came with Skype! It didn’t get much attention as the iPhone and its app store overwhelmed it.

The Segway peters out

  • Segway PT: It was believed that the Segway PT would replace cars in urban areas. It made it simple for people to just zip to the market or make the short commute downtown. But it never quite caught on. Unfortunately for the manufacturers, people believed balancing on two wheels made them look a little silly.

The CueCat doesn’t purr

  • CueCat: The CueCat was a portable barcode reader in the shape of a cat. Consumers would use it to scan any barcode and it would navigate them to the company’s website. This did not catch on but did it pave the way for QR codes?

Friday, February 10, 2012

3 Tricks Every Microsoft Outlook User Should Know

We usually tend to take Microsoft Outlook for granted. In fact, we've been using this program to read email messages and manage our schedules for many years now. Nonetheless, Microsoft Outlook is a remarkably powerful program. If you want to make the most out of it, it's time to explore some of its hidden features. Here are three key tips that can help you save time and work more proficiently when connected to Microsoft Outlook.

Eliminate the Clutter

Outlook's “Conversation View,” which lists messages and replies under one heading, can lessen the time it takes you to find a key email, but sometimes these conversations can become messy with repetitive quoted content. You can resolve this problem quickly by right-clicking the conversation, and then clicking on the "Clean Up Conversation" selection. This will eliminate all the recurring quoted parts of the messages in a conversation.

Say it in a Picture

If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine how much time you’ll save by including screenshots in your emails.  Including screenshots can be very beneficial particularly when sending a support ticket.  Outlook makes including a screenshot extremely simple. Click the “Insert” tab and then select “Screenshot.” A series of images of all open windows on your desktop will be displayed.  Pick the window that is appropriate and Outlook will place the screenshot directly into your email – simple as that!

Take Out the Trash

It's not uncommon to leave our email trash folders crammed with old and undesired messages. Unfortunately, this trash takes up space. To remedy this, Outlook allows you to quickly empty this trash without thinking about it every time you quit the program. Telling Outlook to do this is simple. Click Outlook's “File” menu. Click the “Options” tab and then click “Advanced.” Once here, identify the Outlook “Start” and “Exit” options. Add a check next to the “Empty Deleted Items” folder when exiting Outlook option. In this way, your trashed email messages will vanish every time you leave Outlook.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What You Need to Know About Data Security

When it comes to data security, you might think you have enough safeguards set up to defend your small business. After all, you most likely regularly update your antivirus software and other security protocols as well. And it's not as if you're a large organization that has to worry about having their systems breached by sophisticated hacking techniques. With tens of thousands of sensitive customer records on file, these big firms are the ones who must worry about cyber attacks, right? In fact, digital thieves have significantly escalated their efforts in relation to stealing from small businesses. To help you learn more about your level of danger, let's look at this important topic in greater detail below.

Small firms: low-hanging fruit

Regrettably, small businesses make easy targets, so hackers are starting to focus on them. Small firms are quick hacks and the criminals can make more hacks at a quicker rate. With increased chances, their odds of stealing beneficial information goes up dramatically. As a small company, you may not think you have any valuable information, but in today’s world even the simplest information can be used to do damage to someone else. Credit card purchases are the most common targets of cyber criminals. Every time your system runs a transaction, it must validate the cardholder’s information. This information can contain card numbers, addresses, names, and more. Your customers don't want this information stolen!

How hackers gain access to your data

Even though you probably have systems in position to defend your data, hackers will make use of multiple points of entry, so firewalls alone might not be enough. Malicious email attachments are one of the biggest offenders. These attachments can leave your system wide open for data mining. This year alone in the first quarter, 6 million malware programs were found. Apart from these more high-tech tactics, cyber criminals also use low-tech way to steal information. Phone calls or even personal visits by someone posing as a network administrator or security firm can be detrimental. We all hope our employees are smart enough not to fall for an apparent phishing scam, but it only takes one slip up to open yourself up for attack.

The buck stops with you

You may believe that preserving your data security isn't that important, as the credit card companies are liable for any fraudulent charges that occur. While this is true for the consumer, as a business owner you could experience a very different result. Often if your systems have been compromised, they will hold you responsible for finding the breach. This may cost thousands of dollars and can ruin your profit margin for the whole year. In truth, some small businesses have been bankrupted by cyber attacks, closing their doors because of just one incident.

An ounce of prevention…

Data security is very important and any extra precautions you can take would be wise. Use strong passwords and update your existing security systems often. Educate your staff on safety measures they can take, such as creating strong passwords and never giving out login information. Hiring an outside consultant to help you ensure you and your client’s information is safe is another good idea. Simple measures can give you peace of mind that your systems are safe, and your clients will know you have their best interests at heart.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Part 2: Improving the Culture Within Your Company

Earlier this week we explained the reasons why your company’s culture influences your brand. A balanced company culture will have a very beneficial effect on your daily operations and the way the average person views your company. Measuring the cultural health of your company is one thing, but where do you go from there. Below we’ll look into some ideas to improve or give your company a cultural makeover.

The first step is to ask yourself a few questions to get a sense of the “feel” you'd like your organization to have:

  • What attributes do you want your company’s environment to embody? Originality, respectfulness, acceptance, fun, etc.
  • What are the major values or focus of your company? How can you make that prominent in the culture?
  • How is information currently distributed in the company and how does this affect the culture?
  • How are employees currently recognized? 
  • Does the company give everyone a “voice?” Are employees asked to share their ideas and views?

These can result in more questions. To discover answers try brainstorming with your colleagues. Here are some suggestions to get the process started:

Suggestion/Thought box – Providing people with a way to share their thoughts, anonymously or not, makes the culture of a company feel more open. You may learn some significant things that need tweaking and may wish to bring them up in companywide meetings.

Empower employees – Give people control over their jobs by treating them like peers as opposed to peons. You can accomplish this by being more transparent; don’t just communicate when you have successes, tell them when things aren’t going flawlessly. It will develop a team full of mutual support.

Flexible hours – Providing people with some flexibility to get their work done exhibits trust. Trusting them to regulate themselves will lead them to respect you more.

Dress code – Gone are the days of the suit and tie on a daily basis (at least for most fields), so let personnel express themselves with their clothing. This can make them feel free and accepted. Another thought is to have themed clothing days. Examples of this are: wig day, silly t-shirt day, hat day, etc. Let employees make recommendations for themes. A little silly goes a long way.

Celebrate – You're all part of the same business and hopefully share the same goals. Observe this by having a monthly movie day, a team event after work, or a lunch time game day - something fun that gets the group doing something collectively.

Below is a list of things that real companies have done to incorporate some fun to their culture:

  • Spontaneous Nerf gun wars
  • Painting inspirational quotes on the walls
  • Hitting a loud gong when there is a success to let the whole company know
  • Foosball tournaments
  • Lunchtime Yoga
  • Lunchtime Crafting Club
  • Monday Mad Libs, whoever wishes to contribute, does, and then the completed Mad Lib is emailed to the company

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Importance of a Healthy Company Culture: Part 1

Strategy is usually at the forefront of a company’s focus. Strategy is not the only thing which makes a company successful. Culture also plays a vital role. The culture of your company impacts your branding, your marketing success, and daily operations, all of which have an effect on how the world sees your organization. The logos of brands like Apple, Google, and Starbucks are identifiable not only because they seem to be everywhere, but also these businesses have strong cultures that shine through their employees, storefronts, and logos. These positive, strong cultures all begin inside the walls of their offices.

Why Culture is so Important

If people work in a place where they feel ownership, pride, and empowerment they will put their hearts into the work they do. They will take more risks and be more willing to think outside of the box. A healthy culture builds creativity and innovative thinking. When individuals feel like they are being stifled by their work or they have no control over their jobs, they will do the work assigned to them with no additional effort. This can not only lead to a sad individual but a sad atmosphere where every task put toward your brand is given the minimum level of effort. Instead, you want a energetic and alive environment so your brand sticks out from the rest. Nurturing a healthy culture is the responsibility of everyone in the company, from the CEO to HR to the receptionist.

If you are not yet convinced, here are a few of the obvious benefits of cultivating a healthy culture.

  • Focus – Keeping employees dedicated to the same goal helps a company run with efficiency. Getting people to care about the goal comes with having a healthy focus. If your employees feel like they are a significant part of accomplishing that goal they'll be more likely to push themselves. When people feel like they have no impact on the main goal, they loose focus, and can become cynical.
  • Cohesion – The basis of cohesion is strong communication between associates, whether they are facing successes or roadblocks. Strong communication strengthens teamwork and makes operations run more smoothly. In a workplace with an unhealthy culture, people could be nervous to provide feedback about issues that arise or might not care enough to act quickly when issues do arise.
  • Motivation – A inspired workforce gets things done. That might seem apparent, but companies that don't pay attention to the health of their culture could be suffering with regards to efficiency. Being motivated to work hard is a trait that ought to be present in every individual in the company if the culture is healthy.

Measuring the Cultural Health of Your Company

Cultural health should be evaluated regularly. So how do you evaluate the cultural health of a company? First, look at how people are supervised, are they just given a job with no input or do they have some control over their jobs? Are repetitive tasks distributed so everyone has the opportunity to be challenged? While a few people may never be happy, if you find the overwhelming consensus to be negative it may be time for you to look at making a few adjustments to how the business is run to improve the culture and the overall health of the company. Visit again soon to learn some helpful tips on creating a positive work environment.