Monthly Archives: December 2011

From Rearview Mirror to the Horizon Ahead

As I write, we are on the verge of a brand-new year. Christmas has passed and our new socks have found their home in the drawer with our holey (as opposed to holy) old friends (my socks definitely aren’t holy!!!). This is the time to reflect on the year that was and look ahead to the year to come.

As I look back, my thoughts go to the tech news-makers of the year. This is, after all, a tech blog. So, who made news in 2011? Well, once again, there was much attention focused on Apple at the release of the iPad 2 in March. Throughout the summer, rumors and imaginations grew at the anticipated fall release of the iPhone 5. Instead, we were introduced to the 4S. Initial disappointment turned once again to excitement as the world had its first conversation with Siri; the voice recognition app that came standard with the iPhone 4S. I say “conversation” because Siri is much more than the voice recognition of the past. “She” is intelligent. So much so that MacLife magazine featured an interview with Siri in their latest issue (http://www.maclife.com/article/features/chat_siri). Siri is quite amazing.

In the midst of all of the Apple excitement, the world lost one of its truly innovative minds when Steve Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011. We will never forget Jobs’ keynotes, wearing his signature jeans and black turtleneck as he casually walked the stage, revealing to the world the next big thing.

While there were many innovations in 2011, we saw one thing remain a constant; Facebook users continued to be moved to uproar over the occasional random changes that are forced upon them. Many of our “friends” threaten to kiss Facebook goodbye every time the change comes, but yet they remain. Why? Well, although there have been competitors rise up, none can compare to the connectivity of the giant. It seems that everyone is on Facebook!

As we consider the pivotal time of year at which we now stand, I have two questions for your comment. Here’s question number one: What was your favorite tech news of 2011?

Now, let us turn our attention toward 2012. Put on your special future-seeing glasses and let’s gaze into the months to come. What do you see? One of my Twitter followers, Cinnamon, says, “I think the iPad 3 is going to take the world by storm… I know I am waiting for its launch in spring 2012.” I’m with her on that one! While the iPad 2 was thinner and lighter than the first generation, I believe that the third offering of this tablet will be another forward leap. Some of the buzz is in anticipation for a smaller, perhaps 7” model. Fellow-blog-writer Chrissy is hoping that the next generation iPad will finally get the Retina display that iPhone and iPod Touch users enjoy. One thing is for sure; we techies will be on the edge of our seats the day of the spring Apple event.

I am feeling that 2012 will also be the year of Microsoft as the much-scrutinized Windows 8 is released. Some are excited to get their hands on this new tiled version of Windows and others are dreading its release. As I mentioned in a previous article, I also think we will see a major wave in the tablet market as the mobile version of Windows 8 leads the way for greater convergence between desktop and mobile computing.

This all leads me to my second question for your consideration: What tech advances do you see coming in 2012? What’s the next big gadget that we won’t be able to live without? Let’s dream a little.

It will be interesting to look back on this article at the end of 2012 to see if our predictions came true and perhaps laugh about those big things that we never saw coming. Just remember to take off those funny-looking future-seeing glasses after you finish dreaming. You really shouldn’t wear them out in public.

Randy Kightlinger

Computer Service Technician

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Your Safety – Technology at your Fingertip

At CS Technologies, we provide security and life safety solutions in a variety of packages. We provide security and video surveillance systems for both businesses and home, in addition we carry a line of 911 life safety pendants.  You can call us any time to see what product might suit your needs.

Below are two simple tips for using common technology (that we may already have) at our fingertips. Some newer cell phones now have “In Case of Emergency” at the top of the contact list.  This is your ICE person.  Be sure you have at least one ICE contact listed.  If it isn’t designated on your phone, simply add a contact “ICE – Dad”.  If you lose your cell phone, the finder could call your ICE contact who hopefully, can quickly identify you as the owner of that phone.

There are also “In Case of Emergency” applications that you can download to your  phone and some of those applications will permit you to add more than one ICE contact. You can also add family members along with their allergy, medication list with basic information about each family member such as blood type etc (information that emergency personnel need during a crises). The application I downloaded on my iPhone allows me to add wallpaper to set my lock screen and/or my home screen or both that identifies my emergency contact name along with my allergies.

An important benefit of ICE is that emergency responders may be able to quickly contact your emergency contact if something happens to you and you cannot make a call.

Here is another precaution you can take to be safe:  Most of us carry a security alarm with us and we don’t even realize it.  Our car remote has a “panic” button.  As you are out shopping, walking across large parking lots, have your keys in your hand.  A honking horn gets attention if you need it. Test your car remote to see if it works from your bedroom.  If so, carry that remote to bed with you.  Make a  safe neighbor pact to call police for each other if your horn starts blowing in the middle of the night. 

As we enter into a new year we will blog about tips on keeping you and your family safe. Your comments and ongoing discussions are always welcome. If you have any safety tips that you would like to share with us, don’t be shy, we would love to hear from you.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Holly Lynn Berlin, General Manager

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The Growing Popularity of E-Readers

Acer IconiaE-books have been around for quite a while. They appeared in PDF forms and early versions of e-readers called Mobi Books.  Then the Amazon Kindle was introduced in 2007. It became mainstream when Oprah Winfrey mentioned the e-book reader on her “Favorite” List.

After that, Amazon could not keep their Kindles in stock as it became one of society’s new pop culture gadgets.  Barnes & Noble then developed its own device called the “Nook”. Borders followed with the “Kobo” and Sony also has its own e-reader.

What makes e-readers popular are their convenience and instant gratification access. You can download e-books anywhere, anytime, and within seconds, the book is at your disposal.

Can’t sleep at night? Download a book to read while the bookstores are closed and you are in your pajamas.  E-books are also cheaper than its hardback counterpart.

There two types of e-readers devices available.  The E-Ink version allows you to read text similar to a page of a book. The color version allows you to view in color with added features, for example, to read magazines, browse the Internet, watch movies, listen to music, or play games.

One thing to remember is that the E-Ink version is readable in outdoor sunlight. The color version screen, although readable in outdoor light, will get a reflection glare, similar to that of a tablet/laptop screen.

You can buy e-readers as a standalone device like the Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook.  If you have an iPhone, a tablet (iPad, Acer, Dell) or a PC, you can download the free Kindle or Nook reader application. I have the original Kindle, but also installed the Kindle app on my iTouch. I can synchronize both devices so I’ll always be “on the same page”, whichever one I am using when I’m reading.

According to paidcontent.org, an estimated 28.9 people will own an e-reader by 2012.  My daughter is 5 years old and is already well versed in learning via the iTouch and computer. Will she be getting an e-reader when she’s ready? Yes, but that won’t be for another 5-7 years.

I do want her to appreciate the paperback books for as long as she can. With how fast technology is changing, e-books for children are going interactive, filled with e-learning capability.

So what do you think, will e-readers take over, and paper books be obsolete? Will our future generation prefer technology and e-reading over that of paper books? Your comments and ongoing discussions are always welcome!

Chrissy Le, Technology Marketing Specialist

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We can’t explain how it works, but it ain’t magic.

I once told a class that I loved teaching adults because it was the only time my words would be taken as gospel. While the class laughed, there is a serious issue with believing that what anyone tells you about computers is true, or that what appears on a computer monitor is the valid.   

The 6/5/1993 issue of The New Yorker magazine published the cartoon below by Peter Steiner. Keep in mind that at this point, there were only 50 known web servers in the world. That year saw the first web browser, Mosaic; the Pentium chip by Intel; and the first version of DOOM.

 Overnight, the computer became magic. Everyone wanted to believe that what they saw and read on a computer was true. As a result, computer viruses, hoaxes, scams, and other nefarious tricks grew by magnitudes. Television news broadcasts, magazines and newspapers are continuously issuing warnings about being taken advantage of through your computer.

(I’ll give you a sneaky example of how people can be tricked into being taken advantage of: many of the larger anti-virus protection companies hammer home the idea that MORE is BETTER. It’s a classic case of purchasing an 18-wheeler when a hatchback would have been just fine. And, yes. Our service department is kept busy with people bring in their computers that can’t work because they’ve got several versions of spyware removers, virus protectors and adware blockers on their systems.)

I remember a time when photograph was definite proof in a course of law. Even I can take a simple picture and change it radically. While the pros? Well, see the examples below:

 

https://ccrma.stanford.edu/~jacobliu/368Report

Who or What can you believe?

There are some wonderful web sites that allow you to search for and verify the factualness of anything. My favorite is www.snopes.com. If the item is questionable, they’ve researched it. Each submitted story is rated either False, True or a mixture.

Another popular site is urbanlegends.about.com.  Two examples of what they look into is:

Did you hear about the teenage girl back in the 1960s who was so enamored of her beehive hairdo she refused to wash it? Fatal mistake.

 

 

 

Today’s too-good-to-be-true Facebook scam is a $100 or $1,000 gift card from Costco.

(I go to the about.com urban legend site for humor and to see what the ‘dark side’ of computing is up to.)

With the explosion in social networking, our exposure to hoaxes and scams has changed. The entire world has become our playground for meeting, greeting and gaming with people. Conversely, we can become the unwitting participants in someone else’s scam, hoax, or sham.

I know you’ve heard the following two sayings:

  • If it appears too good to be true, it probably is.
  • There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

The site listed here is a good guide to using Facebook. This is NOT an official written-by-Facebook site, What makes it good is that the authors admit that fact. It’s also a great tool to refer to when you hear about disasters befalling people who use social networking.

http://www.allfacebook.com/

Stay safe by remembering a line from Benjamin Franklin: Moderation in all things.

DO get virus and malware protection for your computer, but don’t lock it down like it belongs to the Pentagon.

Do read and puzzle over what amazing story someone sends you but don’t believe it until you check it out.

And remember: Outside, there be Dragons

 Your comments and0ngoing discussions are always welcome.

Carol Smith, Training Manager

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Organize Your Life with Evernote

There has been quite a bit of buzz in the air over the past year or so about “cloud computing.” What is it and how can it benefit you and me? Think of it as your own personal storage space located out there on the web; a place where you can store some of your own personal data to be accessed by your various devices from different locations other than sitting at your desk at home. There are many services using the cloud these days. I wish to discuss one: Evernote.

Evernote (www.evernote.com) is a feature-rich note-taking and storage resource. I signed up for my free account in July 2010 and have been an avid user and fan ever since. The basic account is free and the level of storage at that level is generous. Even after daily use on the job, my monthly usage is only about 2% of what I am allowed. A premium account is also available for $5.00 per month, but I find it unnecessary to upgrade in the foreseeable future.

Upon signing up for your free account, you will be able to download and install the Evernote software (again, free) on your computer (or computers – I have it on 4). The Mac or PC software is a good way to navigate and use Evernote. However, if you ever find yourself at someone else’s computer who does not have Evernote, just log in to the Evernote web site and access your notes in the cloud.

Evernote also offers (again, free… I love that word!) apps for most of the popular mobile devices including smart phones and tablet computers. So, in addition to my computers, I have the app installed on my iPad, iPod Touch and Blackberry. This is very convenient as I can now carry my notes in my pocket.

Along with your Evernote account, you will receive a special e-mail address to which you can send anything that you want imported into Evernote. The best way to tell you about all of the possibilities for its use is to just let you know how I use Evernote and hopefully that will prompt you to use your imagination to come up with creative ways to help it meet your needs.

I find that I use Evernote the most on the job at CS Technologies Plus. I have several checklists that I use when setting up or repairing computers. I store them in Evernote and they are available to me at my desk or in the field as I am working, sometimes an hour or more away from my desk. My notes are as close as the phone in my pocket or the iPad in my bag.

I also use Evernote to log my daily work activities in a journal file. This is very convenient as I can add to the journal at any time; not just when I’m sitting back at my desk. I’ve used Evernote to make lists of tools I need, music I want to check out later, and more. Lists with check boxes are easily created and maintained in Evernote. You are only limited by your imagination.

Your folders and notes can be shared with other Evernote users too! I found this to be particularly helpful as I was training a coworker to work one of our jobs outside the store. The coworker set up an account for herself and I simply sent a few key notes to her special Evernote e-mail address, then she had access to the same notes in her Evernote.

Another great use for Evernote that I am currently working with is traveling. I am planning a trip to Florida in the near future. I ordered our airline tickets online. When the e-mail confirmation came, I simply forwarded it to my Evernote address. Then, I created a travel folder in the software and placed the confirmation in that folder. Next, I reserved a hotel. Again, I sent the confirmation to Evernote. Then, I reserved a rental car and sent the details to Evernote. So now, when I travel, I will have in my pocket all of my travel confirmations.

I’ve also used Evernote when comparison shopping. I simply take a picture of an item with my phone and send it to my Evernote e-mail address. This is especially helpful if you are putting together a proposal for your workplace as you can then create a quote for your team and paste in the pictures from Evernote. Or better yet, just share that particular folder and all of your team will be able to view it.

I realize I’m sounding like a big fan. Well, that’s because I am! I could go on, telling how I’ve used Evernote to help me write sermons (I’m also a pastor) or to have a password-protected Christmas list of gift ideas for my wife, and much more. With the many uses I have found for Evernote, I am barely scratching the surface.

Want to learn more? Go to http://www.evernote.com/about/video/#zHom6bgqg9Y|1|1 and watch their introductory video. And if you really want to delve into the minds of those behind this great service, go to iTunes and subscribe to the Evernote Podcast.

Let’s continue the conversation. What uses have you found for cloud computing? Are you an Evernote user? If so, what creative way do you use the service? Do you have another application that serves you in a similar way? Tell us about it?

Your comments and ongoing discussion are always welcome.

~ Randy Kightlinger

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