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Windows 8

Nine unanswered questions about the new OS

Pioneer 15x Blu-ray burner

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Humanity Behind the Invention of the Computer

What would existence be like without a computer? It’s difficult to imagine but it wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t have them. Now many of us carry numerous computers, i.e. laptops, e-readers, and smartphones.

How did our culture go from no computers to having so much access to them in such a short time? George Dyson, a science historian, asks this question in his book, Turing’s Cathedral.

Dyson has a distinctive vantage point that makes him the perfect author for this book. He’s the son of a top scientist, Freeman Dyson and, as a result, has spent much of his years at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. The Institute was home to the globe’s most accomplished scientific minds – included Einstein’s – as they were in the midst of building and operating the first digital computers under the guidance of scientist Josh von Neumann.

Turing’s Cathedral explores the creation of the computer, featuring the clashing personalities which were thrown together to work on the project. It also examines what was involved in the creation of the computer, much of which was chance.

When great minds work on a project there are bound to be rivalries and heated disagreements, the development of the computer was no different. This book shows that the individuals that worked on this project were geniuses, not necessarily saints. In addition there were some moral problems that the creators of the computer faced while working on this project, because the work they were doing had a close association with the U.S. nuclear weapons project.

You may have the idea that a history book about computers will not only be dry but also full of complicated jargon. This is not true with Turing’s Cathedral; nearly everybody who use computers will find this book fascinating. And that is a lot of people these days.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Security Challenges and Hacktivism

As technology changes cyber-criminals adapt to it. Recently MIT’s Technology Review published an article about the biggest technology security threats of 2012. A lot of us spend much of our time online: working, surfing the Web, or just chatting with friends via social media. If you spend time online, being conscious of these threats can help guard you and your data.

Stolen, Spoofed Certificates

One major issue the article concentrates on is stole or faked certificates. Certificates are used by websites that you log into, like your bank, that prove the site can be trusted. In 2011 the faking of these was a popular strategy used by cyber-criminals and it is thought to be a continuing problem in 2012.

A Common Security Mechanism in Trouble?

Sites use certificates as a security measure more than any other means. If they are no longer seen as trustworthy it might affect everyone, from the consumer, to the large company that is charged with protecting your information.

Another crucial security challenge that we should become aware of is “hacktivism”. “Hacktivism” is the combination of the words activism and hack. Groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec target organizations that they believe are either guilty of wrongdoings or just want to prove the companies have poor security. Whatever the reason, Technology Review says we should expect groups like these to carry on their “hacktivism” well into the future.

Home Automation

The growing popularity of home automation also presents security risks in 2012. As Technology Review writes, an increasing amount of automation systems link security systems, thermostats, lights, as well as the locks to homes’ front doors to the internet. Consider the damage that hackers can do if they break into these systems.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Step Up Your Game in Excel

Are you gunning for a raise or a promotion? Perhaps you simply want to stand out for job security. In either case, this can be achieved by impressing your supervisor, but how?

Why not look into Excel? This spreadsheet program may seem like just a simple, albeit important, business tool, but the truth is that there are several lesser-known Excel tips that enable you to work more efficiently.

    Hiding Information: Did you know that you can hide columns, rather then deleteing them, when printing a spreadsheet? This can be convenient, for instance, if the spreadsheet has private information such as salary. In order to hide rows or columns, click the associated number or letter of the row or column to highlight it, then right-click on the highlighted row or column and select the Hide option. You can Unhide a row or column in the same way after you have printed or displayed your spreadsheet.
    Timestamping: If you want to attach a date to your spreadsheet, you can use the Timestamp function. Just hold Ctrl as you press the semicolon key. If you want the current date and time hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys while pressing the semicolon.
    A Better-Looking Spreadsheet: You can spruce up an ordinary spreadsheet with Excel’s Themes option. You will find this option in Excel’s Ribbon. Just click on it, and you’ll discover a variety of different fonts and colors that can be used on your previously dull spreadsheets.
    Tracking Trends: This is only applicable if you have a more up to date version of Excel. The feature is called Sparklines and with it you can create charts that show trends in the information in your spreadsheet. One way this can be used is to quickly and easily figure out how many software bundles your company’s salespeople sold in the first quarter of 2011.
    Conditional Formatting: With conditional formatting, you can automatically change the look of spreadsheet cells that meet certain criteria. For example, a cell showing that product sales rose by more than 100 percent in a given month could take on a different shade so that it quickly stands out.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Effects of Constant Connectivity

Remember downtime? That was when you could take your dog on a walk without having to answer your cell phone. It was when you would watch your child’s little league baseball game without also scanning your e-mail messages on your smartphone. And it was when you’d enjoy a movie at home without also working on your expense report on your tablet computer. In this era of interconnectivity, downtime appears to be a thing of the past. The important question? Is this healthy?

Our devices have clearly made our lives easier. We can get directions at the touch of a button. Find the nearest restaurant in minutes and Google the answer to a question with ease and speed.

But are we paying for this connectivity more then just monetarily? As we are usually connected, we rarely, if ever, are alone with our ideas. Many people have wondered if this is negatively impacting the philosophical, pensive, aspect of humanity.

That isn’t a question we will examine here, but it’s something to think about. A more pressing question is, what is being continually plugged in doing to our health?

It’s not healthy to constantly be working. It’s equally unhealthy to always be in search of the next piece of entertainment, gossip, or tweet from a associate. In other words, the body needs time to rest, to reflect, to think. If you find that you simply can’t go five minutes without checking your e-mail, sending a text, or Tweeting a friend, perhaps it’s time to unplug.

Relationships can be affected as well by being too plugged in. When spending time with loved ones it could be useful to unplug and just enjoy the art of conversation. In today’s world it is easier to communicate on Facebook or via text rather than face to face.

If you find that you’re rarely with no electronic gizmo in your hand, think about unplugging, at least for a short while. You might find that working less makes you more productive and much less stressed.

Friday, May 25, 2012

5 Smartphone Apps That Save Time

You are a busy person; you really are always focusing on several projects and trying to hit deadlines.  It’s hard enough to find the time to fit a trip to the gym in, let alone play games on your smartphone. You would like smartphone apps that will save you time, not waste it, but you don’t have time to hunt for them. Well, you are in luck; below is a list of 5 smartphone apps that will actually simplify your life.

Top 5 Business Apps

    WhosHere: This app enables you to find freelance contractors in your area easily. Say you need to finish a project due tomorrow in Chicago and you are flying today. You can search for freelancers with the app then send a free text or call to the people who respond to your search.
    Locale: What’s more uncomfortable then hearing your phone blaring during the middle of a vital business meeting? You won’t have to worry about this with Locale. This service enables you to select your phone settings determined by your most common locations. For instance, you can automatically set your phone to vibrate mode whenever you enter your office or the local cafe.
    WaveSecure: One of the hazards of traveling often is the chance of loosing your phone. This app will let you lock your phone and backup the data stored on it remotely, as well as monitor its location through the SIM card. Talk about reassurance.
    Bump: Bump is an incredible little app. It allows you to exchange contact information with fellow business professionals merely by tapping that person’s phone with yours.
    Scan2PDF Mobile: The Scan2PDF Mobile app lets you scan invoices, proposals, business reports, and other documents using your smartphone camera and convert them into color PDFs. You can then e-mail these scanned documents straight to your computer’s desktop.

The Growing Remote Workforce

Thanks to improved technology, a growing number of employees have the ability to accomplish most or all of their work from home. Smartphones, tablet computers, teleconferencing, and WiFi-equipped bookstores and coffee shops have made this achievable. This presents a big advantage for employers: the more employees that work at home, the less money companies need to spend. Many companies, for instance, do not have assigned computers and desks for each of their workers as so much of their workforce is working remotely. Additionally, employees working remotely are frequently more productive; they’re not wasting time and energy commuting to work every day. And they’re not exchanging office gossip in front of the water cooler when in the office.

Remote Worker Challenges

One worry that many employers have when deciding to hire remote workers is, how can they monitor the amount of work they do? How do they know they are really working and not just playing games on their computer all day long?

One easy way to monitor the amount of work being completed by remote workers is to set reasonable goals that they must hit. This puts the focus on the end result and helps prevent the manager from worrying about it, provided that the goals are being met. This also gives the employee flexibility to work within the hours they are most fruitful.

Setting Remote Worker Deadlines

Employers might tell their remote workers that they must turn in a certain amount of work every Wednesday and Friday. This will make sure that remote employees are doing their work. Employers might also schedule regular updates by phone, video chat, or through instant messaging, during which workers can explain how far along they are with certain tasks. Some employers may opt to require that their remote workers spend at least one day a week, or two days a month, on site. This gives these workers face time with their managers, something that helps everyone stay focused on upcoming deadlines and goals.

Off-Site Not a Permanent Condition

Employers need to remember, as well, that remote workers do not have to stay that way. If employers see that their off-site workers are not meeting deadlines or are delivering sub-par work, they can require that these workers return to the office on a full-time basis. Trust continues to be the key element of a remote working relationship. Companies must place some trust in their workers that they will finish their jobs on time. Workers must demonstrate that they are deserving of this trust by hitting their deadlines, delivering quality work, and responding quickly to phone calls or email messages.

Explaining the Benefits of the Hybrid Cloud

Cloud computing has undoubtedly caught on. People can access data that is stored in the cloud—databases located far from their own computer drives. They are able to store their favorite songs, access powerful word-processing software, and send their business proposals to the cloud. This saves tons of computer memory, as everything that’s stored in the cloud isn’t stored on a personal computer. The effect is a faster computing experience, as fewer programs gum up the running speed of home computers.

Not All Clouds are the Same

However; there are various kinds of clouds. You have the public cloud, the private cloud, and the hybrid cloud. The majority of us use the public cloud, companies that wish to use cloud services to store very sensitive data can elect to use a private cloud, and the hybrid cloud is a combination of the two.

For an organization to provide a hybrid cloud, they store a client’s most confidential data on their in-house private cloud, and data that requires less protection on a public cloud. For instance, archived files and big programs.

The Hybrid Cloud Approach Makes Sense

The hybrid cloud is a great way for organizations to both save money and save space. It takes advantage of the less expensive public cloud while insuring that highly sensitive information is secured.

Because of this it’s not surprising that the hybrid cloud is so popular. Businesses these days have too much data to store on their own servers but they don’t want the security risk that can come with the public cloud. Utilizing the hybrid cloud they are able to keep space in their systems free while protecting their data.

Exploring Bing

When it comes to online search engines, Google is still king. Microsoft isn’t pleased with this. That is why the company launched Bing in 2009, its own search engine and a direct competitor with Google. Ever since then, Bing has gone the way of most Google-search competitors: It’s mostly an afterthought when computer users want to search the web. Most searchers still rely on Google for this task. However, that doesn’t mean that Bing offers nothing for computer users. The truth is, Microsoft did a lot right with Bing, and the search engine delivers plenty of intriguing features that users should not ignore.

Taking Another Look at Bing

When searching on Bing you may get more information about your search results then you do from Google. There’s a navigation panel on the left that includes related searches; this can help you refine your search if you didn’t get the information you were seeking. There is also a “search history” navigation panel to enable you to easily navigate to past pages if needed. This feature can be toggled off and on.

Bing Goes Beyond Search Results

Another great thing about Bing is that it doesn’t just bring up search results. It also brings up relevant videos, music, and images. Although this is an element of Google as well, Bing makes it more user friendly, as the categories are right below the search bar. Bing beats Google for travel searches too. They use something called Farecast Technology in the Bing Travel site; it lets users find the least expensive flights quickly and easily.

Bing Video Search Shines

Bing shines, too, when it comes to searching for videos. Before searching, users can tell Bing how long they’d like their videos to be, what screen size they’d like them to be, and what resolution they’d prefer. Users can start their videos simply by hovering their cursors over a screen capture.

These are a few of the reasons why computer users should not be so quick to discount Bing. Yes, Google remains the go-to player with regards to search engines. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the only good option today.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Improving Battery Technology

The more we rely on mobile devices the more we rely on one little technology. Batteries. Have you ever reached for your smartphone to look something up or to get directions and discovered that it has died? Well, in a few years, that could be something you don’t have to worry about.

A Better Battery on the Way?

Engineers at Chicago’s Northwestern University have been working on advancements in battery technology and may have found a way to make batteries charge in minutes and last considerably longer.

According to the article, Northwestern’s researchers have found a way to extend the charge-life of a new lithium-ion battery by a factor of 10. Even after 150 charges—which researchers say represents a year or more of operation—this new battery would still be five times more effective than the today’s lithium-ion batteries.

A Charged Battery for a Week

This might be hard to believe, particularly with all the apps we run on our devices, but this new battery may stay charged for an entire week. And the charging time may be less then 15 minutes. Which will definitely make life easier but this technology may have a much more significant impact then that. It could be applied to the batteries used in electric cars, causing them to be far more efficient, and drastically decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Batteries Powering Technological Change

While this new battery technology may have a significant impact on many aspects of our life, it will not be available to the general public for three to five years, says Northwestern researchers. Batteries are often over looked when we think of advanced technologies, but the more we rely on mobile devices the more important they become.  Breakthroughs in battery technology may in reality hold the key to an even greater technological movement.