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Media Technology Updates

Be decisive!

Technology can be both a help and a hindrance.

Emails

An @ symbol in an envelopeEmails are a fantastic way to communicate. They are fast, they are fairly reliable, it is possible to tell when someone has received your message, you can send pictures and files via them etc.

I love emails, emails are great.

There is a problem with emails though. They have the ability to suck a massive amount of time from your life. According to this study, at work many of us spend over a quarter of our time dealing with emails. I have also heard statistics that we each spend an hour of our lives every day reading and replying to emails. I have access to emails on my phone and as am guilty as many other people, I check my emails every so often. Those ‘every so oftens’ add up though.

The reason I am writing this – and the reason for the title – is because I have just been decisive. This blog is a hobby for me. I enjoy writing, I enjoy updating/fixing the site, and I also enjoy reading what others write.

The thing that annoys me is I don’t particularly enjoy dealing with emails. It used to be okay when just 2 or 3 a day came in, maybe even enjoyable at that rate, but now I get hundreds each week, it has started to become a chore. A chore that I am maybe not always keeping on top of.

I try to deal with emails when they come in, but some are too time-consuming, so I will scan read them and then leave them for later. Later often never comes though.

Moving Forward

So, because this is a hobby, I want to spend time doing the things I enjoy. I can cope with a few small emails.

I have just marked all the emails in Technology Bloggers inbox as read. All those messages I had scan read and then left for later are now gone – all 120 of them!

That’s sorted the problem out for now, but what about the future? 3 lines. 3 lines is all you are getting. If you are going to contact us through our contact form, you can only write up to 500 characters – about 3 lines. You work hard to be clear and concise and I will do the same back.

If you want to take up the 3 sentence challenge, you might want to consider letting people know why your emails are so short.

Lets see if this works.

Categories
How To Guides Internet

Dealing with emails

Emails.

We all get them – well, I am assuming…

If you are in business or academia, then you probably get a lot; sometimes an overwhelming amount.

It is also not uncommon to have more than one email address, nowadays, many sites actually try to get you to sign up for one – take Google and Facebook for example.

An @ symbol in an envelopeIn order to deal with the vast quantity of electronic mail we receive many of us choose to collate all our emails in one place. Some choose Outlook, some Thunderbird, and others Gmail.

One common theme between [almost] all mailboxes, be it online or a dedicated program, is folders. You can create folders to file your messages. Do you use these folders effectively though?

Is your mailbox a manic mess, or a well organised, tidy space? If you think you would be interested in some simple email tips, read on.

A while back, a well respected blogger (who I follow) named Ari Herzog wrote a post containing his tips to improve your email efficiency. The main points he made were:

  1. Create folders and set filters to move emails into folders – this makes things more manageable and means emails are sorted into orderly folders, so you know where to find things
  2. Keep your inbox empty – this tip I was a little confused by at first, but now I understand Ari’s reasoning, it makes a lot of sense. At the end of each day, make sure all your emails are either filed into their relevant folder, or in a ‘to do’ folder, so you know which messages require your attention
  3. Don’t check your emails every 5 minutes – a valid point, as you can waste a lot of time checking your messages. The way I handle new emails is I have Outlook running in the background all the time, and every 10-15 minutes or so it auto-checks for new mail, it gives me a quick preview, and if it’s urgent, I see to it, if not, I leave it and visit Outlook later
  4. Unsubscribe from junk – this is one of the tips on the top of my list too, if you are signed up to receive updates from companies/websites that you rarely if ever find useful, unsubscribe! Famously, the biggest lie on the internet is the word ‘unsubscribe’ as in many cases it doesn’t work, but companies like Wal-Mart and Shell are obliged to honour the request when you request to no longer receive their mail
  5. Check your spam folder every so often, as things get caught by mistake – I have found this a real issue in the past, so have turned off the spam folder function in my email client, I just delete it as soon as it comes in, and if it persists, I set a filter (rule) to set it to be deleted upon being received

I likes Ari’s tips, which is why I thought I would share them (and my view of them) with you.

The one I was most curious about was point number 2 – keep your inbox empty. I like the idea, but is that really practical? My personal way of dealing with messages there is to keep them unread until I have dealt with them. This does sometimes lead to a massive backlog, which can be left not dealt with for months on end! Higher property emails are always dealt with.

Short But Sweet

Too many emails are a problem, there is no doubt in that. Wouldn’t you love it if all the emails you got were short, concise and to the point?

Too much time is wasted writing unnecessarily long emails, and reading them.

In 2013 I have made a pledge to myself to evaluate long emails before I send them, to see if I can reduce the size. I feel that doing this enables you to express yourself better, and your email is more likely to be read, and sooner – many of us put off reading those long emails until later.

If you want to go a step further, why not make sure that all of your messages are five lines or less? If all your emails were just five sentences, how easy would they be to deal with.

If you are interested in this, there is a handy link you can put in your email footer to let people know about the way you write your emails. Visit 5 sentences or less, which suggests:

“Treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response. Since it’s too hard to count letters, we count sentences instead.”

Why not give it a go?

Signature

On a final note, think about your signature. Keep it simple. Email signatures take up unnecessary space. If you have just emailed someone, they probably know your email address, so don’t bother including that. Logos make emails much bigger and some email systems block them anyway, so they are a waste of time.

A signature being signedSay who you are and give the person a link to where they can find out more.

My Technology Bloggers signature:

Christopher – Technology Bloggers Admin Team

www.technologybloggers.org

or you can link to a profile like about.me – see below:

Christopher

about.me/ChristopherRoberts

Over to You

So what is your view on emails? Do you use multiple email clients, or try to gather all your messages together into one? How do you deal with your messages, and is it an effective method? If so why, and if not why not?

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Gadgets

Google Android powered glasses

Google shocked us all last week, when it launched its ‘Project Glass’ video. If you have seen it you will know what I am on about, if not, check out the video below.

Here is what Google have to say about the video:

“We believe technology should work for you — to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don’t.”

I am still not 100% sure that Google are completely serious about Project Glass, but from everyone else’s response, it would seem they are.

The glasses are viable, and could actually be made, so it is possible. Using very advanced technology, cloud computing, advanced Wi-Fi, projection technology, voice interpretation technology and Android, it is possible that these glasses could be developed.

See the weather with Google's Project GlassIn the video Google have produced, they show the glasses doing things that our smartphones can already do today, just being done right in front of your face, as a projection, rather than a physical object that you have to hold and more around.

There are some issues with this futuristic design though, and most of them are with privacy and security.

What happens if you put the glasses down? Your virtual life is connected to those glasses, your emails, potentially bank, diary etc. so what happens if you put them down, and someone picks them up. They could have access to all your data, right in front of them.

Another issue is that it could be hard to distinguish reality from virtual reality! At first it could be very confusing for you, and others around you. You may start looking where you wouldn’t be without the glasses, you could start talking to yourself, or the glasses. It could be a bit difficult to deal with socially. How would we deal with these problems?

Remember when wireless headsets first came out, people used to look like they were talking to themselves, now we know of the technology thought we know that it not the case. Would the same be the case with the glasses.

Another big issue would be ads. People are currently unhappy how Google watches them on the web, and then presents them with ads relevant to the content they are browsing. Imagine the uproar, were Google to see everywhere you are going. They would then be able to present you with perfectly tailored ads!

For more information, check out Project Glass Google+ profile.

What do you think about the glasses? There are loads of rumours and a lot of speculation out there, but what do you believe, and what do you think will/wont happen?

Categories
Internet

Why does superfast broadband matter?

Technology Blogger has had many articles about broadband speeds, superfast internet connections, and how the general trend is that global internet speeds are on the rise, but the question is, why is that important? Why do superfast speeds matter?

Download and Upload

There are two types of internet speed, your download speed, and your upload speed. Your download speed is how fast you can receive data from the internet – how fast you can stream media, receive emails, load websites etc. Your upload speed refers to how fast you can send information to the internet – how fast you can send emails, upload media, update your status etc.

When people talk about broadband speeds on the rise, they are usually referring to download speeds, as most of us get a lot more from the internet than we upload. Both upload and download speeds are on the rise, but upload speeds are usually only around 10% of download speeds – depending upon your location.


So superfast broadband means that we can do things faster, we can download and upload content quicker than we used to be able to. But that does that mean?

More Going On

Faster internet speeds mean that you can be doing more things at once on the internet, with less lag or jitter. You can be on an online game, whilst streaming the radio, and in the background sending emails, all at the same time! You can have more internet hungry applications running at the same time, and the speed of your activities (providing you have adequate processing power) should be the same as if you just had one activity going on.

Improved Internet Call Quality

Faster internet speeds will allow for smother internet calling, with less lag and better quality. You will be able to chat with friend across the globe and stage a conversation as though they were there in the room with you. VoIP will be significantly improved, as faster speeds meant that the media you are sending out is of higher quality, and the stream you are receiving is better too.

Such improvements could significantly benefit businesses, as VoIP can significantly lower the cost of holding meetings with fellow colleges based in different locations, thanks to better, more affordable online conference calling.

Furthermore, improvements in internet call quality can make remote working more viable, meaning that employees can spend more time working and less time commuting, thanks to them being connected all the time. This can save time, money and office space, as more employees are able to work off-site.

Improvements in Healthcare and Education

As Rashed suggested in his recent article (Five changes in video conferencing for the next decade) improvements in internet calls could lead to an improvement in the provision of telemedicine, meaning that the best doctors can help patients from across the world.

There is also similar potential for education. The best lecturers and teachers will be able to educate far greater numbers of individuals from across the world, thanks to faster broadband speeds. Improvements in such technology could be very beneficial for those living in isolated communities.

Cloud Computing Becomes More Viable

Cloud computing has huge potential to cut costs, improve efficiency and improve data security, and superfast broadband makes it more viable! With faster broadband, more and bigger files can be stored in the cloud, meaning that files are less likely to be lost if one device fails, and are more likely to be accessible from any location.

Media Streaming

Streaming media from across the internet is smother, faster and more seamless with faster internet connections. You can watch online videos with less buffering, or even in high definition.

Furthermore, internet TV and other similar services become more viable than ever before. In the last quarter of 2011, Virgin Media reported profits of £48 million, which it is believed is mainly down to faster broadband speeds encouraging more users to user its TV and internet services.

Virgin Media's logo

More People Online

Every day thousands of new people around the world make the leap and go online. For every extra person on the internet demanding resources, the whole system slows down a little. However with superfast broadband, more people can be online with less of an effect on speeds. In large offices, more employees can be connected, with less of an effect on the speeds received. This is also true in households, more people can be downloading media, whilst it not affecting others on online games.

Your Speed

Superfast broadband is very important and is revolutionising the way we do business and live our lives. The question is, how fast is your broadband speed? Are you likely to benefit from the things I mentioned above, or do you need to think about switching provider? Try testing your broadband speed and comparing it to what you are paying for; could you be getting a better deal elsewhere?

Categories
Business Technology

Five changes in video conferencing for the next decade

The collapse of the global economy has left big business needing to cut costs in every coroner it possibly can. For many executives the solution lies in finding high tech alternatives to many of the most costly aspects of business. One of the most effective ways this is being done is through video conferencing.

The constant stream of meetings and sales pitches being presented all over the world in the flesh accompanied by high priced business class air fairs and four star hotel rooms are coming to an end. More and more organisations are looking to replace this with video conferencing, making international meetings a far quicker and cheaper process.

As the quality of video conference technology improves and the experience gets closer to that of a real life encounter the adoption of video conferencing technology is only going to become more wide spread.

Video conferencing is already available in extremely fast frame rates at full HD resolutions, but what else can be done to help make the form of communication seem more real. What are the technological developments we can expect in the next decade?

Skype's Logo
Skype can be used as a video conferencing tool

1 – Translation software

With video conferencing making global operations affordable for even smaller business, more business are going to be looking to have presence over seas and this will call for low cost translation services.

Translation software is quickly developing; two years ago we saw the iPod app that used it’s camera to instantly translate any written text, and this will quickly be combined with high quality voice recognition technologies that are become standard on the new generation of smart phones. We are not far off software that will quickly and efficiently translate the spoken word.

2 – Holographic projection

Previously the types of light needed for this kind of projection were too hot to be used in the kinds of small devices available in offices. However laser lighting means that holographic projectors will soon be able to be built small enough for not only office use, but could also be built into many portable devices such as smartphones.

Flash memory in smart phones could soon be replaced with a new storage format based on this technology, holographic memory. This will greatly increase storage capacities as the same area of a storage device can be used multiple times by projecting the light at different angles, read speeds will also become much faster as holo-memory can be read from many different points in parallel. This eliminates many of the large file size issues that have been hindering the spread of video technology

3 – Video takes over from the written word

As high quality webcams become more standard features on modern netbooks and better integrated with communications services such as Facebook, it is expected that people will begin to move away from writing emails and instead compose video mail instead.

For many a video message is quicker and easier and also seems more personal, now that it is as easy as clicking a button on Facebook to send one it is only a matter of time until they over take emails in the frequency with which they are sent for personal communication. The paper trail that emails leave behind may mean it takes longer for them to be used in business.

4 – A rise in personal broadcasting

YouTube videos are increasingly becoming an entertainment format that rivals television. The content on You Tube that is produced by individuals or very small companies is now genuinely entertaining yet far cheaper to produce than more traditional formats. With cost cutting becoming more essential these lower budget forms of entertainment are only going to increase. This could shift the way the entertainment industry is structured with more talent choosing to run there own company and be there own boss broadcasting themselves over the web.

5 – Increased usage of Telehealth

Also expect to see the medical industries developing more technologies based on video conferencing which will allow doctors to diagnose and treat patients from a distance. Telehealth hardware is already on track to be a $990 million market by 2015 and predictions are that this will continue to $6 billion five years after that.

At the moment telemedicine technologies are very much focused on developing countries, where there are shortages of doctors in rural communities. As telemedicine technology improves though it could be adopted in the west too allowing anyone to be treated by the best doctors in the world, no matter there location.

Categories
Computers How To Guides Internet

How to choose the right laptop for you

After my recent post on how to be a smart online buyer, I thought why just help people get a good priced product, as a good price doesn’t always mean good value.

As a laptop is something most people probably buy online, and as it is also something that often costs a lot of money, I thought why not help people choose which is best for them. Maybe in the future I will do the same for mobile phones, digital cameras and who knows what else!

What is it going to be used for?

The main thing you have to work out is what is the laptop going to be used for? Do you need something that can cope with 3D HD gaming, or are we just looking at text editing, emails and the web?

The more you want to be able to do with your laptop, the greater ability it will need to have, meaning that it is more likely to need a higher spec, and therefore probably a more costly speck.

I only really use the internet

If most of the stuff you do is online, then you probably don’t need a very high spec laptop – just a good internet connection. If you laptop is mainly used for blogging using an online system like WordPress, Blogger or TypePad, playing your favourite online games, typing emails using an online webmail service, and socialising using Facebook and Twitter (I should point out other social media sites are available ;-)) then you might want to look into Chromebooks – or low spec laptops.

The Google Chrome LogoGoogle says that Chromebooks are ‘nothing but the web.’ They run a 100% cloud based operating system, meaning that all your data, settings etc. are stored online, safe and secure in the cloud. This means they only take secconds (literally 8 or 9) to boot up, meaning you are off and working/playing in an instant.

Here is how Google describes Chromebooks:

“Chromebooks are built and optimised for the web, where you already spend most of your computing time. So, you get a faster, simpler and more secure experience without all the headaches of ordinary computers.”

Chromebooks are very fast as they need no virus protection, have no background processes slowing them down, neither does it need updates, since all of that happens in the cloud, basically everything runs from the browser.

If you don’t want a Chromebook, you probably only need a really low spec laptop, so that could be very cheap. Regarding operating system, if you like pretty styles, then go for Windows7, as that it stable and also ‘looks good’ avoid Vista, especially on low spec laptops, as it can really slow them down – XP and 2000 are also good.

It’s going to be a family laptop

If you are looking for a typical family laptop, where some of the kids will want to play flash games, but they will also need to do their homework, and the adults want to be able to check their emails and social profiles for updates, then you are probably going to be looking for a pretty standard PC.

To make sure it is quick and doesn’t slow down you would probably benefit from a dual-core processor. Dual-core means that the computer possess more than one CPU. Extra CPU’s means that you can process data faster, therefore your laptop will run quicker.

In order for your extra CPU’s to be effective, it would be a good idea to have at least 1 gigabyte (gb) of RAM, and preferably 2.

Windows7 would be perfect for family usage, as would XP. 2000 may look and feel a little dated, and Vista is likely to cause you a lot of grief!

I edit photos and run games and watch online media

If you like to have a lot open, and often are found editing photos, playing CPU intensive games, and watching HD videos, then you probably need a pretty powerful processor, along with a decent sized hard disk, a good amount of RAM, and a dedicated graphics card. Screen display resolution is also likely to be important, as if you like HD, but have only a standard screen, you can’t display HD.

Intel make a type of processor called i3 and another called i5. These are very well designed processors and run very well. If you see i3 or i5 on a PC, it is probably going to be a good one. Photo editing and gaming can be very hard disk space hungry tasks, so I would recommend getting at least a 250gb (preferably a 360gb) hard disk. With a laptop, short of getting an external hard drive, there is no easy way of expanding the amount of space you have.

This type of user would benefit best from 4gb of RAM, and a dedicated graphics card – this basically means that the graphics card is a separate component within the PC, which has it’s only memory and processing unit.

I do all of the above and more, and I do it all at the same time!

If you can never seem to find a laptop that is powerful enough for you there are a few options available to you – sadly, they area all rather expensive ones!

The first would be to get a powerful MacBook. MacBooks are notorious for their high specs, stable operating systems and therefore lack of time spent loading.

The second would to be to buy a quad-core i7 spec laptop. Most MacBooks run off core i5 and i7 processors anyway, however Windows also performs very well when being run on a core i7 machine.

The intel Core i7 proccessor badgeA dedicated graphics card is a must for this type of user, and 4-8 gig of RAM is recommended. Depending on how long you want to keep your laptop will determine how big your hard disk will need to be. My advice would be that if you are likely to want to keep the same laptop for any more that 4 or 5 years, get a terabyte hard disk.

Another option would be to have a custom built laptop. These can sometimes work out cheaper, but you need to be cautious, as if you, or whoever is building the laptop aren’t 100% sure of what’s what, then you could face compatibility issues.

Certain processors work better with certain types of RAM, certain operating systems require certain types of graphics cards, and certain hard disks are needed in order to be compatible with the rest of the machine. Basically certain part of the laptop will naturally work well together, however if you custom build your laptop, you might have 8gb of RAM, but the problem is, your processor finds it hard to deal with that type of RAM.

Other things to consider

When choosing a laptop, it is also important to consider things like who it’s made by. Different firms have different reputations for the quality of their laptops, but also consider the quality of their customer service. If their automated calling systems drive you mad, then it may be wise not to buy one of their laptops.

Furthermore, consider your other devices like cameras and phones when buying a new laptop. Some devices may not be compatible with your operating system, or you may need to get some new camera cables if your current devices can’t plug in to your new laptop.

Connectivity is another important factor: does your laptop have inbuilt Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or infrared? If you are forever connecting to mobile Wi-Fi, or your phone to download pictures, then it would be useful to have such functions inbuilt.

An inbuilt webcam and microphone can be very handy if you are often using programmes like Skype to talk to friends on the internet.

Also don’t forget the battery. If you barely use your laptop when you are away from a plug, then the battery is probably not of much importance to you, however if your laptop battery is important to you, you may want to avoid second hand laptops. Laptop batteries from second hand machines can often be less powerful and last less time than a normal battery would.

The right laptop for you

Getting the right laptop for you can be crucial in making sure that you get value for money, as a laptop with spare capacity is a waste of money, as is a laptop that cannot perform to the standard you need.

If you need any more help in choosing the right laptop for you, drop a comment below 🙂