Tag Archive: technology


HackerToday’s post deviates a bit from the norm, but Techsnoop believes that small business owners should learn from the mistakes of large business.  Small business owners have thin margins for error so it pays to keep an eye on and learn from, Big Biz.

During the late 80s and early 90s, many employees explored flexible work options with employers to assist in balancing their work and family responsibilities.  One option was job sharing where 2 employees would share one full-time job.  Another was the ability to complete work tasks from home.  The work from home option required a solid plan on the part of employees where they could demonstrate responsibility and capability to actually be productive outside the office.

Once it was proven that employees working from home were actually more productive than those in the office, employers embraced this option on a larger scale.  Not only was it good for productivity, it allowed businesses to increase staff while keeping square footage overhead low.  A true win-win policy, work from home allows employees to accept smaller monetary compensation due to lower commute, lunch and wardrobe costs.  In a flat financial economy, both business and staff are able to reduce costs and exist on lower margins.

Fast forward to 2013

As more start-ups and small businesses use work from home policies to recruit top staff and keep overhead low, Yahoo bucks the trend and decides to eliminate this valuable policy.  The official word is that the productivity of some work from homers is low.  However, this “toss the baby with the bathwater” management approach has been proven to be unsuccessful.

When a business has under performing employees, managers need to directly meet with offenders armed with an objective list of actions that are not meeting standards.  A discussion then needs to outline the expected corrections, acceptable outcomes and results of meeting or not meeting the targets.  The manager then sets the target date for the improvements to be reached.

Should the targets not be met, the employee is let go.  Period.

When a company tries to correct individual behavior by imposing changes on an entire group, the employees who are not abusing the policy become upset and their productivity drops.

Those employees who in good faith, took a work from home position and are meeting and exceeding productivity levels, are being punished.  Even the most faithful will suffer from a morale drop and a feeling that they are being cheated or unfairly punished.  When employees feel they are not being equitably compensated, they will try to level the playing field by reducing productivity or other behavior.

No one likes to be group punished for the errors of others.  Yahoo, take note; this is a dangerous path.  Your superstar workers will be disgruntled and start looking to move to the competition.  Additionally, this move does not address the actual problem; low productivity of some workers.  Just being in the office does not raise productivity.  What actually will happen (Techsnoop predicts) is that the slackers will find ways to make their problems seem to be someone else’s fault.  Dissention will grow in the ranks and a toxic environment will ensue.

Lessons Learned

One way small businesses can keep their costs low is to use independent contractors whenever possible.  These freelancers require no benefits, pay their own taxes and are highly motivated to complete projects timely and professionally.  But if you are successful, at some point you will need an actual employee.  An employee is one whose schedule and duties are directed by the company and/or manager.

The ability to work from home, at least some of the time, can be a big selling point for a job with a company that has fewer benefits and lower payroll capability.  This nets you higher quality workers for lower wages.  Technology has made work from home jobs a great option for workers and employers.  Employers who choose to go backwards with options reveal a culture that will drive away the talented and creative workers needed to be successful.

htcEVO4gLTELosing your technology gadgets just got a whole lot easier.

Polytron Technologies has made the invisible smartphone a reality and next will come screens, laptops and tablets.  While this technology was fun to watch in Ironman and The Avengers, in practical everyday use, invisible smartphones are going to be a problem.  Techsnoop already has enough problems finding the phone and laptop.  How many of you have to have another person call your phone to find it?  Now, compound this with the phone being invisible.  Whoa, do we really need this?  We’re going to need to lojack every device.

But, the tech is here, therefore it will be used at some point in production.   Maybe someone will develop a voice activated retrieval system.  Hmm… Techsnoop needs to get busy.

Let us know if you think see-through tech is a good idea.

Multi-ScreenIf you are an avid eBook reader like Techsnoop and use several sources, it can get very frustrating trying to find a particular book.

Well along comes Calibre an eBook reader, manager and converter.  The Calibre application can read nearly any format of eBook and even convert from one format to another.  This works for books, comics (yah!), news and magazines.  If any of your books is missing data or covers, you can edit the metadata to add this information.  But the best thing of all is not having to search through 3 or more applications for a book.  You can add them all to Calibre and browse in one window for your next great read.

Calibre works with all readers, PCs, phones and tablets.  Calibre has all the usual functions such as resizing text, but it also allows you to tag books for even more searchability.

And the most important, it is FREE.  But consider donating to the creator as this is too great to lose out on.

Happy Reading!

AkashTabletChristmas has come and gone and many children did not get the hoped-for iPad.  Well parents, looking forward to birthdays and graduations to middle school, you may have a more affordable choice.

DataWind has developed a second generation low-cost tablet to be sold for $40.00.  Primarily directed at developing nations for educational purposes, this could be a game changer in the tablet landscape.  If it can be reasonably sold even with minimal specs for $40.00, other affordable tablets could appear here in the US.

In India the government has committed to paying half the cost of the tablet so families can outfit children for only $21.00.  However in countries like the U.S. it will cost about $64.00.  Don’t complain.  Compared with $400 to $900 for a high-end name brand tablet, that’s chump change.  Or the cost of about 18 medium lattes.  Hmm… priorities, priorities.

With specs like a 1GHz Cortex A8 processor, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of memory (with a micro SD slot expandable to 32GB ) and a 7-inch capacitive display with  800×480 pixel resolution it makes a great choice for parents to get for younger children.  If it is damaged, it is cheap enough to replace without raising your blood pressure.

Let’s all wish the Aakash from Datawind well.  It’s in our own best interests.

twitterwinnerSocial Media is by nature a quick, off the cuff means of communicating. But in business, especially small business,  it is important to know that cyberwords are never forgotten and never go away.  Even so-called private texts and e-mails can become public.  One upset critic can decide to upload every embarrassing message you ever sent.

For 2013 commit to not making assumptions or disparaging others in writing and to not re-posting unchecked information as “fact”.  Being certain of your information gives you credibility and increases your personal presence.

The best way to screen your online communication is to create a social media strategy that reflects the image you want to project.  Use technology tools such as BufferApp to help you choose and schedule posts.  Pre-type your tweets and posts in Word or another text program and hold for 15 to 30 minutes, then read again and make sure it conveys your message accurately.

Techsnoop and DKemp Designs wish you a great and prosperous New Year!

If you like to be on top of the latest in technology, here is a round-up of the most useful items coming out soon.

Human-technology interfaces are undergoing upheaval.   The mouse is dying and the physical keyboard may be next.  Touch screen and gesture based technology is growing fast.  Now LuminAR has developed the light bulb as touch screen interface to be placed anywhere.  The projection creates an instant display that interacts with user gestures.  It can be used as a display or to scan and send documents.  The bulb will be able to be placed in any lamp as plug and play with your wireless network.

For on-the-go pet owners Pintofeed lets you feed your furry family from your smartphone.  There is a feeder that can be programmed manually or, with a downloadable app, can be remotely programmed to kick out a half-cup of food for Fido or Felicity.

 

More human-machine interface technology comes from the portable, virtual keyboard which can be used with any device;

 

Samsung is on fire with great tablets, smartphones and now the man-cave dream; an 85″ ultra HD TV with 8 million pixels.  Yes, 8 million.  If money is no object, treat your hubby to ultimate bragging rights this Christmas.

Parents everywhere will appreciate the Owlet baby monitor which straps onto baby’s foot and monitors heart rate and blood oxygen levels.  An alert is sent to your smartphone if there are changes.  Created to give parents extra response time in case baby stops breathing.  Not yet ready for production, it will bring huge peace of mind to parents everywhere.

Happy Holidays from Techsnoop.  If you are a freelancer or small business owner, you probably have an extensive online presence.  Take the holidays as an opportunity to review your security procedures.

Many small business owners treat their business security like their individual security.  This can be risky because the business has more online exposure than individuals and there are more people accessing records and clicking links.  If you sell online, my friends at Garage Sale Academy.com can give you great tips on selling safely.

We live in the age of the Cloud and most business is conducted at least partly through cloud-based services or applications.  These transactions generally happen smoothly with no issues.  But, one tiny mistake can cost you your business or online life.

According to Wired.com,

“Hackers are increasingly going after small businesses,” says Jeremy Grant, who runs the Department of Commerce’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. Essentially, he’s the guy in charge of figuring out how to get us past the current password regime. “They have more money than individuals and less protection than large corporations.”

This puts small business owners in the hacker sweet-spot for targeting.

Staying Safe

First, passwords.  Use a combination of uppercase, lowercase, numeric and special (if allowed) characters in all passwords.  Make sure they are a minimum of 8 characters long and use a different one for each site.  Yes, it is a lot of work, but isn’t keeping your business worth it?

Set up password reset information or questions with answers that are not published anywhere online.  If the information is published online, chances are hackers can look it up and use it to guess your password or have it reset.

Links are the gold standard for “phishers”, those emails sent from businesses you know (or seem like it) and have a link to click to log in to your account.  Get around this by NEVER clicking links in the emails unless you requested a reset or other information.  Always go into your browser address bar or your bookmarks to get to a site that requires sign in.

Delete employees or partners who have left the company right away.  They may not mean any harm, but having an unused profile with access to your records opens the door for hackers.

Change passwords frequently.  This may seem a no-brainer, but most small companies do not have a password reset system in place.  Also, have common passwords blocked from your system.  In the year 2012 the word “password” is the most used password online.

Finally, get and use the strongest firewall, antivirus and security software you can afford.  This is not the place to skimp in your business.  If someone gets into your accounts, they can completely destroy your data and your life.

Have a safe and prosperous year.

 

 

When making out your Christmas shopping list, keep in mind what values your dollars support.  If you support processes that cripple the economy, you are creating an economy that will cripple your children.

That said, take a few minutes to research the items on your family’s gift lists.  For instance, much was made during the election of jobs being outsourced to China.  One of China’s biggest manufacturing firms is Foxconn who makes tablets for Apple.  Foxconn was criticized because they had an epidemic of employee suicides due to poor working conditions.  Now, they have chosen the oh so compassionate route of ending employee dissatisfaction by replacing them with robots.

Yes, they are going to replace the troublesome humans with robots.  Techsnoop finds this disturbing.  If Apple continues to use this company and allows this to go forward, US dollars will be used to outsource jobs to Chinese robots.

What a concept.  We will go from sending our dollars to support humans in another country, to supporting robots in another country.  This might be marginally acceptable if the price of an iPad dropped to $100.00, but these prices are not dropping, each edition is more pricey than the last.  Not to pick on Apple, their products are great, but this is just the most glaring example of a massive company using your consumer dollars to support human slavery.

As you seek to get the best value for your Christmas shopping dollars, remember that your money decisions create more than immediate happiness for the recipient.  Money and how it is spent reinforces how large companies treat their employees and customers.

Buying fewer gifts from local merchants and businesses keeps your neighborhood clean and safe and makes sure your children  remember the little store on the corner.  When businesses such as these disappear, the community suffers.  Who will hire and train your teenagers?  Robots?

Tony Stark is the ultimate geek.  He has the brains to consistently come up with the uber-coolest tech, and the money to make his designs come to production life.  What’s not to love?  Although he is arrogant and snarky, he pulls both off with such panache, you have to root for him.

In Iron Man 3, Tony appears to be grappling with the results of his hubris and trying to come to terms with the concept of consequences.  Robert Downey, Jr. excels at this type of “tortured genius” conflict so the character should prove compelling.  The movie also brings in the concept of “extremis” the nano-technology from the comic series that allows Tony Stark to control the Iron Man armor with his brain.  And it also seems they are bringing in the Iron Patriot who I hate.

But if they kill off Pepper, I’m going to be looking for my own suit of armor to start fighting.  Marvel/Disney, I hope you learned from X-Men 3, don’t kill off all the popular characters.

samsungs3 vs iPhone5This ultimate test of smartphones lies firmly in the “don’t try this at home” category.

Both phones are placed in a Blendtec blender and blended till smooth.  While this is not an accurate test of a smartphone’s capabilities, notice that the Samsung Galaxy S3 took a lot longer to turn to e-dust than the iPhone 5.  Surprising since many have dissed the Galaxy S3 as seeming frail in construction.

Apparently, thinness and lightness are not an accurate predictor of durability.  Congrats to the Galaxy S3 for standing up to the Blendtec for a longer time.  Ultimately, however, no phone is going to compete with high-density steel blades rotating at high speeds for long.  But, your phone may survive a few additional drops from your pocket longer.