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September 16th, 2011

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.

Music sites and applications like iTunes or Amazon’s MP3 Store allow people to buy single songs rather then the whole album. Some musicians allow individuals to purchase songs directly from them on their websites and many simply give their songs away. This new structure for shopping for music has caused many independent and chain stores to close and the power of record companies to shrink. The price of full albums has gone down, but the price of concert tickets and merchandise has risen to compensate for lower album sales.

Streaming music sites such as Pandora and Grooveshark allow for free customized radio with few commercials. The music is available on most Internet connected devices anywhere at any time. Many people use these services to “try out” music before purchasing and often times use them instead of purchasing new music.

EBook Readers are also a hot item these days. Digital versions of books can purchased for much less than their physical counterparts found in brick and mortar bookstores. Because these digital books can never sell out, sites like Amazon have seen tremendous success, whereas classic shops like Borders are closing their doors forever.

 

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.

 

Instant access to all of our entertainment needs via the Internet has greatly decreased the cost we used to have to pay for these services. Recently, however, it’s been big news that Netflix has raised their prices and segmented their service offering. There is a lot of speculation about whether this will help or hinder them. Their success with this change over the next few months will most likely determine if other online entertainment services will follow suit. Only time will tell.

September 14th, 2011

Forming a habit can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the nature of the habit. For instance, paying close attention to detail and making sure your workspace is clean and tidy are good habits to form in the office. We are all also aware of some bad habits workers can form. Research shows that any habit requires a minimum of 21 days to change. That sounds like a lot of work to put into breaking a bad habit. Wouldn’t it be easier to avoid forming the bad habit in the first place?  Here are a few bad working habits, as well as some tips on how to avoid them proactively.

Working Through Lunch

    It’s not uncommon for your day to get out of hand before noon. The reality is, sometimes working through lunch is unavoidable. However, developing this habit can actually be detrimental to your productivity. We need to take breaks and give ourselves time to cool down and regroup. If you’re having a stressful day at the office, it’s best to take a full lunch rather than to try to power through. Try setting strict time boundaries on your lunchtime and start viewing it as its own work assignment.

Idealizing

    For most of us, the grass is always greener at another job. When we’ve had a bad day in the office, it’s easy to relive our childhood daydreams of exciting and harmful professions such as being an astronaut or firefighter.. Unfortunately, idealizing another line of work makes it difficult to be happy in your current position. Instead, try making a list of all the good things your job provides for you. Documenting each small joy will help you appreciate the job you have.

Work Time Distractions

    Hilarious YouTube videos and entertaining flash games are added to the Internet every minute of every day. It’s easy to waste hours of work time on these simple distractions. This is a bad habit to form, and one that should definitely be avoided. To help, schedule “small breaks” throughout the day.  Reward yourself after finishing a large project or after working solidly for several hours. Creating these time boundaries will help prevent forming a habit of being sidetracked.

    Forming bad habits can be easier than you’d think and breaking a bad habit can be much more difficult than you’d imagine. The next time you notice yourself slipping into any of these bad habits, take some time to consider what good habits you could form to combat them.

September 9th, 2011

The rapidly evolving world of technology has changed the way we do business. Not long ago we used to have to use a manual press to make an imprint of credit cards in order to purchase something? Now thank to wireless Internet and tablets, we are able to run a credit card purchase almost anywhere in the world.

Tablets have changed a lot more than our purchasing ease and mobility. Many people have fundamentally changed their businesses as a result of tablets. The following companies use tablets in such interesting and innovative ways it may 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 idea 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 and also learn about the other creators. Puma seeks to connect the world with active footwear.

The DeKalb Market in Brooklyn has a new addition called SHOPBOX. People can shop at SHOPBOX but it has no store clerks and no storefront! SHOPBOX is made up of shipping containers with an iPads installed on the ends. Shoppers register on the iPads then text the item number they would like to purchase to the phone number that is printed on the glass on each SHOPBOX. The item is then shipped to a location of their choice. This definitely redefines window-shopping!

People will continue to find innovative uses for tablets as technology improves. It may eventually become outdated to have a wait staff in restaurants and future generations may wonder what the purpose of a mall was. It is the nature of the world to change, and the more advanced technology gets the faster change happen. Maybe one day we’ll get teleportation devices after all.

September 7th, 2011

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 recipient 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 an intimate 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 communicating 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.

September 2nd, 2011

Usually lawsuits are very serious news and not to be laughed at. The tech industry has had its fair share of these more serious suits. However, we sometimes hear about ones that we can’t help but be amused by. This list of unbelievable tech lawsuits from the past 10 years is sure to tickle your funny bone.

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 a similar 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 had been hit by a car on a dark narrow highway that did not have pedestrian paths. 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.

Failed Mafia Wars Romance Ends With a Lawsuit – A woman sued a man over for damages from their broken Mafia Wars romance. After meeting and falling in love over the Facebook game, Mafia Wars, the woman spent thousands of dollars on game credits and gifts for her new love interest. After the relationship ended, she sued him for the money spent. Both the relationship along with the case are now “sleeping with the fishes.”

While most lawsuits are no laughing matter, every once in a while you find one that is absolutely amusing. These examples of unbelievable tech industry lawsuits are perfect illustrations of this. If you have heard of any please share them by leaving a comment here or on one of our other social media accounts! 

August 31st, 2011

Connected devices are generally thought of as tablets, smartphones and laptops. These devices offer a quick and reliable 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 using 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 location. 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 information 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 gadgets. Because of this, information can now be communicated from user to user at a much higher rate.  For example, a YouTube video with intriguing 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.

August 26th, 2011

As technology grows we become increasingly more connected as a species and our access to information is expanded with every new connection. Authorities worldwide have differing views on how this increased access to information will affect the citizens of their countries and the way to approach it. Some governments loosely regulate the flow of data. Some restrict access to various forms of content.  Others choose to have complete control over the content people are exposed to.

The countries below approach the idea of censorship with different levels of severity when restricting Internet, cell phones, and other forms of technological communication.

The United States – The US employs minor censorship of the Internet along with other technologies. It is illegal in the US to use cell phone jammers for private use however, in some instances, federal officials can.  Recently in San Francisco, an anti-police brutality protest was foiled when transit officials turned off power to cellular towers throughout the BART. This unprecedented mass shutdown inflamed the general public and instigated a government investigation as to the legality of the measures taken by the transit officials.

China – Chat rooms and private screens are highly monitored by the government in China and several websites are black listed. Go to this link to see if your website is blocked in China.

North Korea –North Korea is considered one of the most technologically censored countries worldwide. The government has control over all computers with access to the Internet. Only three websites can be accessed in North Korea and they solely contain academic information. The authorities heavily monitor the few chat rooms allowed. This higher level of censorship has created a huge black market for cell phones in North Korea.

The socio-political reasons behind the amount of restrictions vary as much as the courses of action different governments take. Here are a few reasons that are often given:

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 definitive study of the geography of Internet censorship, written by Professor Barney Warf, was published in the 2010 December issue of GeoJournal. His conclusion is that the more globalized a country becomes, the more difficult it is to monitor and control information. The worldwide debate of whether technological censorship is right or wrong will continue as we become more and more connected. Issues will arise and it will become increasingly difficult for governments to censor what the content their citizens are exposed to.

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

August 19th, 2011

New technologies are developed daily; so much so that it seems like the moment we upgrade, a bigger and better version is released. Even though we see technologies come and go, it may shock you that the primary technology of many of these have stayed the same for decades.

What makes a technology retain its usefulness throughout time? A strong design? Popularity? Whatever the cause, here is a list of several technologies that have not needed much alteration for over 4 decades.

Virtual Memory – 1962 – This allows systems to employ hardware memory more resourcefully by recycling space used for memory. This approach led to time-sharing or the ability for systems to multi-task.

MOS Chip – 1967 – Metal-oxide semiconductor. This technology is used today to make computer chips and is known as CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor). The technology has transformed a bit over time so adaptability is one trait that has kept it alive.

C programming language – 1969 – Designed by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs, C is the most common and widely used programming language in the world. When you get something right why change it?

These technologies have maintained their validity for over 50 years and are the core platform of a variety of technologies today. As we demand more out of our tech we may see these evolve or fade away. But for now they remain some of the most steadfast, innovative creations in the computer world for the past century.

You can find more tech that has withstood the test of time here: http://www.osnews.com/thread?484715

August 17th, 2011

No matter how challenging your email password is, there is always a chance that a hacker will find a way to decipher your information and gain access to your digital personality. So what do you do once you’ve realized that your personal email account has been jeopardized? It is important to be proactive in this type of situation. Taking the appropriate steps can help you repair any damage done by a hacker as well as help prevent future hacks from being successful. Here are some important steps to take.

Notify Webmail Provider

    Letting your webmail provider know that your account has been compromised is an important step that many email users might not think of. When you notify your webmail provider of a problem it gives them the chance to rectify the situation and further strengthen their security against potential hacks. Your particular hack could be a part of a much larger security breach, letting your webmail provider know about it gives them the opportunity to fix it.

Change Password

    This is most likely the most important thing to do once you’ve regained control of your email account. Doing so will prevent whomever hacked your account from taking over again or from providing your password to another hacker. Make sure to make your password completely different and, if possible, make sure it shares no characters with your previous password. Also, remember to make it complex. The hacker who broke into your account may have personal information, like your birthday, that would help them decipher any new password you created that was too simple.

Notify your contact list

    One of the main reasons hackers break into personal email accounts is to send out well disguised spam. A spam email is more likely to be successful if it is sent to a victim through a recognized account. Letting your contact list know that your account has been compromised can warn them against these attempts and likely prevent the transfer of viruses or a successful scam. Make sure and relay the message clearly in your subject line, so that your contacts will know that you’ve regained control over your account without needing to open your email.

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 managed 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.

August 12th, 2011

Most of us set goals in our personal lives. It keeps us motivated and each accomplishment gives us the drive to keep reaching further. We do this in our home life so why not do this in our work life too?

Somewhere around 30% of our lives are spent at work. Some people are unfulfilled by this time. Many people do not feel that they are an active part of the company and let whatever comes into their inbox dictate how their time is spent. Setting goals gives people a sense of control and allows them to choose how they spend their day. They feel like an active member of the team as they have a say in creating  goals and the part they will play in their completion.

More than ever people work autonomously; people who work like this must be proactive about setting goals. Regardless of whether you work in a group or autonomously, here are a few tips that will help you start the process of goal setting.

  1. Set or Assess Goals Every 3-6 Months – Motivate employees and keep goals fresh by scheduling a meeting exclusively dedicated to setting goals.
  2. Write Goals Down – Documentation helps to solidify the goals in your mind and provides a reference point for inspiration or redirection.
  3. Aim High – Set goals a little outside your comfort zone. This can lead to learning new skills and finding pride in one’s work. Remember, don’t set your goals so high that it is an extreme burden or unachievable for you or your team.
  4. Find a System to Measure Performance – By breaking goals down into smaller ones and determining the skills that need to be perfected, you can more easily measure the progress toward the completion of the goal.
  5. Celebrate Each Achievement – Whether working independently or with a team, be sure to celebrate each step that has been reached that supports the larger goal. Positive reinforcement goes a long way and it can be as simple as a word of acknowledgment.
  6. Schedule the Next Goal Setting Meeting – Keep goals fresh, new, and on the top of everyone’s agendas by thinking in advance and scheduling the next meeting.

Setting and reaching goals gives us pride in our work and makes us feel that we are important and contribute to the larger picture.