Category Archives: Connected Devices

Google Nexus 4 – The Best Android Device Ever?

Google’s Nexus 4 might just be the best Android device around. Guest writer Allison Foster walks you through a comprehensive overview – see what you think.

imageIn keeping with the aesthetics and innovative features of its bigger brothers, the Google Nexus 4 is a smartphone to contend with. This device has the technological benefits of the tablet line condensed into a small pocket version with access to telecommunications.

Providing overwhelming graphic capabilities as well as processing power, the Nexus 4 is loaded with the hardware it needs in order to accomplish virtually any task. It is a phone that can engage a person on a variety of levels whether it is for entertainment, professional, or personal use.

1. Display – Using a 4.7-inch display, the Google Nexus 4 runs at a resolution of 1280×768 with 320 pixels per inch. This provides an amazing clarity for video and graphics, making it ideal for streaming movies or playing games. Operating at such resolutions also makes web browsing ideal as one would be able to see the website as it would be on a desktop computer system or view the condensed site if it had been optimized for smartphones. Protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2, one could feel comfortable with carrying the Nexus 4 in his or her pocket without worry of keys or other materials scratching the glass.

2. Connections – The Google Nexus 4 is compatible with a number of carriers as it uses GSM, EDGE, and GPRS on 850, 900, 1800, and 1900MHz bands. This unlocked smartphone is capable of using 3G networks, support for more than 200 service carriers, and can connect to virtually any wireless access point supporting 802.11 a/b/g/n. As an added bonus, Bluetooth and Android Beam technologies increase connectivity across millions of devices.

Keeping true to using innovative technologies, the Google Nexus 4 is capable of wireless charging. This form of replenishment is also called inductive charging and uses electromagnetic fields in order to transfer energy from a charging base to the receiving unit. This technology has been utilized in the past in key-cards and readers.

3. CPU and Memory – Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 CPU, the Google Nexus 4 operates at 1.5Ghz with a quad-core chipset. Backed by 2GB of memory, this smartphone has power to burn for running multiple apps simultaneously. Even Google admits to the Nexus 4 as being, “our snappiest smartphone yet.”

4. Features – Loaded with the standard apps that accompany any Android device, the Nexus 4 also supports:

i. An 8MP rear and 1.3MP front facing camera – This provides amazingly clear and detailed images

ii. A built-in microphone – When combined with one of the built-in cameras, this phone can utilize video conferencing through Google+ with exceptional quality

iii. The ability to voice search – Searching the Internet is easier if you don’t have to type in the letters. Just tell the Nexus 4 what it is you need to search

iv. Gesture Typing – No longer will you have to press each letter individually in order to create sentences. With Gesture Typing, you simply run your fingers across the letters of the on-screen keyboard in a fluid motion

Google Wallet – Contain the information of your credit and debit cards within Google Wallet in order to use your phone for wireless payment at one of more than 200,000 locations around the United States

The Google Nexus 4 is a premier phone that is built for longevity and multitasking. With access to apps such as Google Play, Netflix, and more this phone can provide a wealth of entertainment and communication wrapped in the sleek and elegant design of its chassis. This impressive addition to the Nexus family is more than a simple smartphone; it’s a tool of unlimited possibilities.

Author Byline:

Blogging was a natural progression for Allison once she graduated from college, as it allowed her to combine her two passions: writing and children. She has enjoyed furthering her writing career with www.nannyclassifieds.com. She can be reached through e-mail – allisonDOTnannyclassifiedsATgmail – the rest you know.

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Filed under Android, Connected Devices, Guest Writers, Interconnectivity, Smart Phone

Holiday Season Shows the Importance of Mobile Interaction

This guest post is contributed by Grady Winston. Grady is an avid writer and Internet entrepreneur from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising – implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.

In 2012, shoppers spent $1.46 billion online on the Monday following Thanksgiving (also known as “Cyber Monday”). And more than 18 percent of shoppers used a mobile device to access retail sites that day. As mobile devices become more available – and as retailers designer their websites to be more mobile-friendly – the trend in online shopping is expected to continue.

Of particular interest to retailers is the fact that people who use mobile devices to shop online exhibit a slightly higher rate of conversion when compared to their desktop computer-using counterparts. That’s why it pays to develop a strategy for capturing this audience.

Buying habits

Shopping data pulled from Black Friday and Cyber Monday show that the average mobile shopper is approximately 7 percent more likely to make a purchase in the evening than during the day. While they may not be outside of their home in the evening, the convenience of their tablets and cell phones makes for easy shopping from their favorite leisure spot in their home. To take advantage of this trend, be sure to coordinate your efforts to take place after dinner time to achieve better conversion rates.

Best practices

To achieve sales conversions, you should engage the potential customer in a variety of ways. Some good approaches include:

  • Optimizing your mobile site – To convert visits to sales, you need to use simple features on your website. Especially when dealing with mobile devices, which have less precise input and smaller screens, an optimized site is easier for shoppers to use. Make sure to include basic features customers may be looking for, such as “subscribe” and “contact” fields.
  • Implementing social media campaigns – While a long-term campaign is needed to build a significant following, you can ramp-up customer excitement about sales or new inventory by carefully timing tweets and social media posts. Tying in your message to your other channels (including blogs, emails and print publications) will help to unify your message for any special sales or deals available. Consider including deals or discounts for followers of your accounts to foster brand loyalty.
  • Using SMS messages to get immediate results – A text message is frequently read within four minutes, which can lead to quick conversions on limited-time offers. Brands such as Redbox and Papa John’s effectively use SMS to deliver coupon codes to subscribers, encouraging them to take advantage of deals and generate business on specific days.
  • Building a subscriber list – When it comes to digital marketing, email is a very effective solution. A subscriber list can bring customers back repeatedly, especially if you deliver limited-quantity offers to subscribers on occasion. Making your brand advocates feel appreciated will lead to higher conversions – and people who appreciate your brand are more likely to spread the word about positive interactions with your business.

Mobile shopping could eventually become the main way people buy goods and services. Plan accordingly, always being mindful of how mobile-friendly your website is. And don’t be afraid to ask for input and ideas from your customers – they’ll happily share their opinions about what might make your website easier to use.

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Filed under Connected Devices, Guest Writers, Point of View, Web Site Design

Laptop vs. Tablet: Which One Do I Need?

Guest article.

imageEver since the first laptops became available in the 1980s – in a very different incarnation from the sleek creations we’ve grown accustomed to today – the option of portable computers has revolutionized the market. All sorts of people, from business professionals to home users, welcomed their ease of use and mobility.

However, today that market has leaped much further with the introduction of tablets, smartphones and netbooks, giving users enhanced portability and an ever-increasing choice of technology, and posing a new question: which is better, a laptop or tablet?

For many users, the laptop remains the number one choice. Whereas some struggle with the touch screen keyboards featured on tablets, the fully integrated keyboards of laptops are simple to use, enabling faster and more accurate typing.

The larger screen size is also preferable for many people, particularly when dealing with complicated data on spreadsheets, which can become tricky to view on the smaller tablet screens.

Yet the laptop does not necessarily out-do the tablet in all respects. Despite being introduced as a portable alternative to desktop PCs, laptops are now quite bulky compared to other devices on the market. Whereas a tablet can slip discreetly into a day bag, most laptops require a separate carry case, which can seem cumbersome to many users.

This is where tablets really come into their own. With their integrated touch screen technology, tablets are incredibly lightweight and portable, with many weighing less than a pound. And despite their small size, the majority of devices can still store large quantities of music, video and photo files, making them a top choice for leisure users seeking entertainment on long journeys.

The touch screen, though tricky for some users to negotiate, also has its own advantages over the traditional keyboard and mouse set-up, with the hands-on, tactile technology often proving particularly useful for designers and digital artists.

With both laptops and tablets offering their own benefits, the decision of which product to choose must ultimately come down to your own personal needs and preferences – if you’re a fairly casual computer user who is often on the go, a tablet may be the best option for you.

On the other hand, if you often need to carry out complex word processing and data handling tasks, a fully-equipped laptop is likely to serve you better.

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Filed under Connected Devices, Guest Writers, Tablet Computing

Snapdragon: Changing the Mobile World

This guest post is contributed by Grady Winston. Grady is an avid writer and Internet entrepreneur from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising – implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.

imageSnapdragon is a mobile processor completely built on a single chip that brings you longer battery life and keeps you going in your everyday life. Battery life is great and an important part of any device’s usability, but that alone wasn’t enough for Qualcomm. Snapdragon is next-generation technology that provides all users with some exciting new features sure to change the way mobile devices are used.

Whether you’re a developer, a gamer or just an avid mobile device user, these next-generation technologies are going to impact the applications, games and other features on all mobile devices in the future.

Here are just a few reasons to get excited about Snapdragon:

  • Blink and smile detection: Have you ever been in that situation where you wanted to take a photograph of a group of people and the camera on your mobile device decides to focus in on just one person? It happens all the time. However, with Snapdragon, you get blink and smile detection that helps with facial processing and gives you a much better and higher quality photo of a group of people. Facial processing simply has never been this well done. Your camera will be able to recognize when someone is blinking, smiling or looking away from the camera; which helps you get the best picture possible.
  • Burst camera mode: Sometimes getting that perfect shot is really hard to do, especially when something is moving. Most cameras allow you to turn the shutter off or at least adjust the shutter speed, but this technology hasn’t really translated over to mobile devices – until now. The burst capture feature provided by Snapdragon allows even amateur photographers to capture a series of pictures with no shutter lag between shots.
  • Graphics: Qualcomm built the Snapdragon processor with gamers in mind — they designed it to take gaming to a whole new level with high resolution and realistic 3D graphics and effects. Just because you’re gaming on your mobile device doesn’t mean you should have to sacrifice quality. In fact, with Snapdragon, you’ll soon be able to play games that rival any console gaming experience.
  • Surround sound recording: Sometimes, recording a video on your mobile device can leave you wanting something more. Maybe you missed something someone was saying or maybe there’s too much noise to really hear what you want. With Snapdragon technology, you get some amazing audio features that allow you to record in 5.1 surround sound. With Snapdragon, Fluence Surround Sound Recording uses the existing microphones on the device to bring you an HD camcorder sound and experience.
  • Indoor location: Have you ever been using the location feature on your phone only to realize it won’t work when you are inside? With Snapdragon, you don’t have to worry about that. The location feature on Snapdragon technology provides users with amazing experience. Not only does the location feature will allow you to search local points of interest, give you great walking and driving directions and give you object tracking, but it also gives you precise indoor position. You won’t have to worry about finding where you are because you are indoors; your mobile device will do that for you.

Snapdragon by Qualcomm is changing the ways in which users interact with their mobile devices. It pushes the limits on what traditional technology has brought consumers and is opening up a wide world of possibilities for next-generation consumer technology. For Qualcomm, it’s clearly not just about the technology itself. It’s about the way users interact with the technology they build and they want to make that experience the best one possible.

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Filed under Connected Devices, Guest Writers, Opinion, Smart Phone

RedNightHawk to Writerdood – Right Back at Ya!

I make a point of recognizing the importance of reader comments by including the following as a Blog sidebar item – “Comments are an important feature of this Blog. So, please feel free to let me, and other readers, know what your views are.”

It’s simple really – often, through a reader’s comment, others can gather additional information, gain exposure to issues and debates, learn from the experience of other readers,………….

Yesterday, for example, I highlighted comments by Writerdood who had opened debate on Grady Winston’s latest guest article – Nasty Competition: iPhone vs. Android. In today’s post, you’ll find RedNightHawk’s thoughtful and occasionally provocative responses to Writerdood.

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imageLet me begin, by saying I’m not picking on you (Writerdood), you raised some excellent points and even managed to do it without the fanboy attitude that so often needlessly pervades these types of discussions.

“RIM has fallen and can’t get up…”

I’m not so sure about that. I went to a recent BlackBerry Jam event in my area, and they demonstrated they have a lot of ways for developers to launch their products on their new BB OS10 platform (Android developers can port their apps over, and many, many other development options are available). I was surprised how many different ways people could leverage their existing knowledge to get into BlackBerry development. Here’s an article about an iOS developer porting their game to the PlayBook:

Don’t get me wrong, I had just about given up on them after years of frustration with OS updates that featured ever so slight loosening of the Java reins (Java!), and corporate thinking that showed just how out of touch they were with the new smartphone realities, but the move to QNX (BB OS10) looks like they got the message loud and clear and are ready to introduce a viable alternative to Android and iOS. Much like Apple, they also have a very loyal fanbase (though they lost some of them due to years of letting them down). Developers also make more money on BlackBerry since more BlackBerry owners actually purchase apps, so they are getting some quality apps ready for the upcoming launch.

“What we’re missing is the functionality innovations – the leaps in operational use that allow users to do more things with their mobile devices.”
“Who will be the first to add infrared control as a standard in phones (allowing users to control their televisions without needing specific hardware)?”

Dammit. When I had a Palm PDA the infrared port was one of my favorite features on it. My laptop then also had an infrared port and it was nice to be able to communicate wirelessly long before the days of Wi-Fi. I do still miss it. That said, I don’t know if anyone will be willing to use the space in a modern day handset to add an IR port. With appliances becoming more and more connected, I would love to see a protocol to allow easy connection using existing hardware on the phone – Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi. So many things could be done if people had an easy way to make their own drivers for hardware so they could do things like connect their phone’s keyboard to their TV over Wi-Fi.

“Will NFC take off and become a desired utility (allowing users to make payments or upload data with a wave of their phone)?”

I’m not hot on the technology myself, but one of the lead BlackBerry OS developers is, and, as a company, they have invested pretty heavily in it being a selling point for their upcoming phones (and some current models). Apps have been made for payment and secured entry. Apple seems more intent on developing their own alternative and still haven’t equipped their phones with NFC ability. Some Android sets have it. It will be interesting to see how consumers embrace it (some people will, some won’t), and why.

“Will phones start to come stock with projectors?”

I’ve heard of a few of these, but definitely more of a rarity than something mainstream. I think this is an interesting thing – most people would say I have no need for a projector phone…but, the right app could likely make them think otherwise. A phone company that not only built the projector technology into their phone, but also paired it with well-made software that got people thinking about HOW they would use it (rather than if they would or not) would likely be able to sell it…by creating a market (more on this shortly).

As you said though, so many companies aren’t innovating.

Palm made devices I really liked – I would love to see a graffiti type app on some current touch screen phones since it’s still something I miss (I also had a nice folding keyboard that made it easy to travel with and setup a full-size keyboard on the go). But they reached a point where they were happy to sit on their laurels; where they not only stopped innovating, but stopped listening to their customers needs. By the time they started innovating again, it was too late. In the past, I’ve often compared RIM to Palm. This may be why you feel they’ve fallen and can’t get up, since they definitely went through a period where they weren’t paying attention to the right things. Apple now seems to be moving into that mode, as RIM moves out of it.

A few years back I’d read about VMware, the maker of the software that allows people to easily setup virtual computers on their existing OS and run a different OS on the virtual machine, working on a mobile version. That set off all sorts of daydreams for me about being able to have one piece of hardware that ran virtual machines which had different mobile OSes installed.

I think, as you mentioned, it’ll be interesting to see how the mobile space pans out in the next few years. It’s definitely becoming more volatile as once main players can quickly and easily lose their spot. This oddly enough makes the current main players both harder to unseat, and more vulnerable!

While companies like Samsung make 101 different types of phones, and ones like Apple make 1 type of phone (and keep old ones to sell off), what I’d like to see is a sort of build-your-own phone where you can custom order as if it was a PC or laptop (and let’s face it, nowadays the specs on phones are pretty close), choosing upgrades to the base RAM, processor speed, etc. and have an OS that can work with that.

Back to my earlier comment about how the right app might be able to sell projector phones to the masses. One of the reasons I liked the Palm PDA so much was that I used to use it to write – I could take it down to the waterfront and write using the stylus and graffiti, or take the folding keyboard and sit in a coffee shop and type, then I could later easily bring the files into my computer and work with them there.

Now, if you look at why more and more people are using smartphones, it isn’t because the hardware has gotten better (well, it sort of is – no one wants a laggy phone with a bad screen), it’s because they have an app or apps that make it necessary or desirable for them to have a tool that allows them to use the app where ever they are – it’s not enough to have a laptop because they need instant and convenient access to that app.

The app might be Facebook, allowing them to keep in touch with their friends and family more so than without the app, it might be a combination of being able to take a photo or video and quickly share it online, it might be YouTube, it might be a good music player, it might be some custom work software (dispatch, some of the waiter/waitress order taking software, etc.), or a combination of all of the above.

While you mention some hardware you’d like to see, I think a killer app that uses any new hardware will be the difference between people really feeling that the hardware is a selling point or not. And if there’s killer apps (more than one) for that hardware – more reasons to buy in, all the better.

This leaves a huge (and much less expensive) area for innovation as well if the phone companies actually start making those apps (which in some cases, the OSes, especially when they first came out, felt like killer apps – they made you excited about the possibilities of how you could use them, leaving you imagining what you could or would do with them).

P.S. In response to Grady’s question about Linux making a phone – I was discussing something with a friend a few weeks ago: I found it interesting that iOS is based on MacOS, which was derived/based on a Unix variation; Android is (as others have mentioned) a variation of linux, and QNX (RIM’s new BlackBerry base for the OS) is Unix like too.

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Filed under Apple, Blackberry Playbook, Connected Devices, Opinion, Point of View, Smart Phone

Nasty Competition: iPhone vs. Android

This guest post is contributed by Grady Winston. Grady is an avid writer and Internet entrepreneur from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising – implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.

imageiPhone versus Android. The choice between the two smartphone platforms is as contentious as the battle between being a Mac or PC person. However, thanks to the war emerging between Apple and Google, the battle is not just heated — it’s just plain nasty.

It’s no secret Apple was displeased when Google entered the smartphone arena with army of Android phones and an app market, recently rebranded as Google Play. However, it shouldn’t have been a shock either.

Those who have a disdain for Apple products — and there are a lot of people on the planet who fit that description, despite the seeming ubiquity of iPhones — had as much right to inundate their smartphones with apps as iPhone users.

Although the Android app market is still small in comparison to Apple — 70,000 to 230,000 apps, respectively — the Android market is quickly gaining ground in the world of mobile application development. Incensing Apple even further, many Android apps are free. Why pay $.99 for an app on an iPhone when you can get it for nothing on a Galaxy III?

As tech goliaths, Apple and Google have run into more than a few disputes. Remember when Instagram moved from iOS-only to Android? Apple recently unveiled its new proprietary Maps application, designed to supplant Google’s ultra-popular-to-the-point-of-being-de-facto offering.

In a similar move, Apple is removing the YouTube app from its phones, effective with iOS6. This probably won’t be enough to make people chuck their iPhones, especially since the app hasn’t been recently updated, but it might make consumers on the fence choose an Android the next time their contract expires.

It’s hard to say if these differences will affect the populace in any more than a divisive capacity. Even when it comes to price, there isn’t much difference between the iPhone and Android phones. The iPhone 5 is priced at $199 with a contract, which is in the ballpark of the Galaxy and other mid- to upper-range smartphones. The decision may become clearer as the dust kicked up by the iPhone 5′s release begins to settle, even though it will be stirred up again with the next major smartphone release.

So, who’s going to emerge as the winner? As much as Apple and Google want to think they have the power to destroy each other through the end user, the bottom line is Apple people are Apple people and Android people are Android people. It’s really not much different than the Mac versus PC debate.

Sure, you do have people who cross over — some Mac people have Android phones and some PC users have iPhones — but for the most part, people are loyal to their brands. If Apple or Google want to crush each other, they’ll really have to do it without the help of the consumer. However, if they both continue to play nasty games, they make themselves ripe for a third player to emerge on the scene and take a share of both their markets away. I wonder if Linux plans to enter the cell phone market…

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Filed under Android, Apple, Connected Devices, Google, Guest Writers, iPhone

Design Tips and Practice for Non-Smartphone Mobile Hardware (which still exist)

This guest post is contributed by Grady Winston. Grady is an avid writer and Internet entrepreneur from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising – implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.

imageBreaking news: there’s an alternative to smartphones. It’s called a feature phone. You may remember them. They existed long before Android, iOS, Windows Phones and even BlackBerry. If you’ve been paying attention, which most people haven’t, you’ll notice they make up a huge portion of the global market. In fact, they’re very much alive and well.

Most developers completely overlook the feature phone market entirely, ignoring a massive market segment. In other words, there’s plenty of money to make with mass-market phones.

More About Feature Phones:

According to a recent Forbes piece, feature phones are now far more profitable than mid-market smartphones. How can this be?

As smartphones began their steady rise to dominance, popular handset makers from all over the world abandoned the feature phone market. Since most handset makers stopped development for mass-market mobile phones, it left a huge market wide open for Nokia and handful of feature phone developers throughout Asia. While the feature phone market is experiencing a decline, as of 2012, over a billion mass-market handsets are being sold annually. The bottom line: it’s time for developers to get in the feature phone development game.

Top Feature Phone Development Platforms

Brew MP

· About – The Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW) platform, developed by the engineers at Qualcomm, has been around for upwards of a decade. To date, over a billion devices have been sold with BREW as the chief OS platform. Additionally, over $3 billion has been paid out to BREW developers.

The big idea behind BREW is that it seamlessly integrates simple applications with feature phones. The way it does this is kind of misleading. Yes, BREW-powered phones can be programmed in C+ or C++, but for all intents and purposes, BREW works as the pseudo operating system.

While the faux-OS allows you to run native code on each device, you don’t need to code applications for a specific device. This is largely because the runtime library is actually a part of each BREW-powered phone’s on-chip firmware. In other words, BREW is among the most flexible and powerful feature phone development platforms out there.

· Navigation & Basic BREW Development Concepts – Start by downloading the BREW SDK from the Qualcomm site. Once you download the SDK or DevKit from the BREW resources page, you’ll find the Brew Simulator or Emulator, depending on the SDK release.

Throughout the dev process, the simulator offers multiple levels of application signatures: one signature to authenticate you (the developer), and another signature to ensure the application has passed all BREW-related app testing.

Testing apps involves transferring them to-and-from a BREW-powered handset via USB using the Brew AppLoader tool built by Qualcomm. If the app isn’t configured correctly, BREW will automatically delete the app once you restart the phone. From here, apps can be deleted and removed from the handset via USB to free up onboard memory for further app testing.

Symbian

· About – While the Nokia-owned Symbian OS has recently been re-tooled to focus on smartphone development; its history is in feature phone development. The platform is based in C++ programming, but there tends to be multiple issues with the Symbian platform to date. Essentially, Nokia had big plans for the OS – mainly to provide a development community with a repository of standardized code to work with – but third-party developers own much of the code. This essentially means that only a select number of development firms have access to the full source code.

In 2010, the development platform was switched over to open source, which marks the largest open-source code migration in the history of mobile development.

· Basic Symbian Development Concepts – The bad news is that the Symbian development platform is fairly complex. The good news is that once you wrap your head around it, it can prove to be a powerful platform for feature phone development.

For starters, the platform is fairly versatile. While the bulk of apps are programmed in C++, you can easily code with languages as diverse as Python, Java ME, Flash Lite, Ruby and .NET.

Downloading the SDK will reveal some crucial components you’ll need to spend some time with – namely the header files, library files and the Windows-based emulator.

The basics of Symbian development can be broken down into three main components: descriptors, active object and the cleanup stack. The problem with using these components is that they’re based on older, out-of-date Windows hardware components. While you can use a wide range of MobileDev languages to create apps, implementation is often limited to a small number of Nokia handsets.

Most Symbian developers use third-party tools like Carbide C++ express. With these coding tools, programmers can benefit from UI design features and other app debugging tools to get apps ready for deployment in a timely fashion.

The same development concepts that apply to smartphone apps also apply to feature phones: create an app people can use and you can make money off of. The key takeaway is this: there’s a $3 billion+ development market that many mobile developers have given up on. Don’t let that be you.

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Filed under Business Development, cell phone, Connected Devices, Guest Writers

Though There is Much To Be Desired, Online Schools Have Come a Long Way

In today’s guest post, Estelle Shumann explores the recent advances made in online education and the steps still needed before online education will be a viable and secure platform.

imageOnline education has taken enormous strides in 2012. If progress continues at this pace, there may soon be a low-cost, high-quality alternative to traditional education widely available to students of every stripe. In fact, free learning may become a possibility for everyone with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and computer or mobile device.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the big milestones reached, as well as the areas that need improvement before learning becomes completely democratized.

Why was 2012 such a groundbreaking year? Firstly, Internet connection speeds have increased, so most people can stream video easily and without interruption. This format allows professors to speak directly to students, even if they are thousands of miles apart.

As studies and experience have shown, there is simply no decent alternative to watching and listening to a real person discuss a topic. Tone of voice, gestures, and demeanor are crucial to the successful transmission of complex ideas. Moreover, recent experiments have demonstrated that classes are more successful when offered in real-time segments. Lectures may be recorded, but are released on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The past decade has allowed institutions to gain experience with online class environments, making them more efficient and effective.

The University of Phoenix and Khan Academy are no longer the only entities trying out new ideas. There are now a vast number of traditional universities experimenting with online education. Stanford University has been a pioneer in this arena offering online classes for over a decade. MIT started offering open courseware in 2011, which gave anyone interested access to video-lectures, assignments, tests, and quizzes. In the fall of 2012, MIT and Harvard will join forces and offer a combined platform, called EdX.

Also in 2012, a team of Stanford professors came together and went live with Coursera, a collaborative approach to online education that allows any university to join and offer free classes through its website. Thus far, 16 universities have joined, including Stanford University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Michigan. Institutions in France, Canada, and the United Kingdom have also joined what is now an international effort. These universities are adding their prestige and pull to Coursera and online education in general.

Despite the advances in online education, there remain some large problems to solve before it will become universally useful to consumers. One major issue involves certification and assessments. Many classes on Coursera, for example, offer certificates signed by professors, but the value of these remains dubious.

The reputation of these certificates is hampered by the possibility of hacking and cheating. It would be impossible for these universities to monitor individual students and ensure fairness. Until there is a secure way to know that students have completed their own work without external help, online classes will not mean very much to prospective employers.

Also problematic is the limitation of single-course offerings. In order to prepare for a profession in the real world, students need to earn some type of certification or degree, which requires a prescribed set of completed classes. Thus, students may still need to attend traditional university programs if they want to significantly improve their earning potential.

Online classes fail to meet the goal of democratizing the education system, but they are progressing rapidly.

Author Bio:

Writing for the education resource OnlineSchools.org, Estelle is familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of both online and traditional schools. Estell’s article builds on a December 2011 post from Bill Mullins’ Weblog, which suggests that online education resources like Khan Academy are proof that the content of online course offerings remains more important than the method of delivery.

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Filed under Connected Devices, Education, Guest Writers, Interconnectivity, Online Learning

Scan a QR code – Expose yourself to mobile malware

Guest post by David Maman – CTO & Founder of GreenSQL.

imageA single poisoned link is all it takes to expose an entire organization to a full-scale attack.

Hackers write sophisticated browser-based attacks that operate quite stealthily. Now, they’re going after our mobile phones, which are soon to be the number one way we access the web.

As QR codes have evolved, they now can offer users – and thieves – unlimited information within seconds of scanning.

And we scan them voluntarily.

We’ve already been trained to think twice before entering an unknown link we get from a stranger or even a friend, but almost anyone will scan an unknown QR code with a smartphone or a tablet, if the offer it’s embedded in looks tempting enough.

The Experiment:

Over a three-day security conference in London, I created a small poster featuring a big security company’s logo and the sentence “Just Scan to Win an iPAD.” Thousands of people walked by, no one asked where the sign came from, and no one took it down, not even a representative of the company featured on the sign.

The results: 455 people scanned the sign and browsed the link over the three days. The breakdown: 142 iPhone users, 211 Android users, 61 Blackberry, and 41 unknown browsers.

Remember, this was a conference for security professionals.

As I’m a nice guy fighting for the right side, the QR code simply linked to a web page featuring a smiley face. If I had decided to include a malware or poisoned URL attack based on multiple mobile smart phone browsers, I wonder whose phone I would have penetrated…

To make a long story short: QR codes are becoming more and more prevalent. And most of us don’t have the same AV or URL filtering technology on our phones or tablets that we have on our PCs.

The question is: Can we really fully trust the QR codes we see on the streets, in restaurants, or in ads? Regretfully, the answer is no.

Any attacker can take advantage of QR codes. And remember, unlike computers, most mobile devices do not include antivirus solutions to protect us against mobile malware.

Think before you scan.

· Does this QR code seem to come from a reliable source?

· After scanning the QR code and seeing the link, is the link really from whom it claimed to be?

· Would I click on this link if it came through my email?

Even if you miss out on the iPAD or the free ice cream cone, you’re probably better off.

Author bio:

David Maman is CTO & Founder of GreenSQL, the database security company.

About GreenSQL:

GreenSQL, the Database Security Company, delivers out-of-the-box database security solutions for small and mid-sized organizations. Started as an open source project back in 2006, GreenSQL became the no. 1 database security solution for MySQL with 100,000 users worldwide. In 2009, in response to market needs, GreenSQL LTD developed a commercial version, bringing a fresh approach to protecting databases of small- and medium-sized businesses.

GreenSQL provides database security solutions that are affordable and easy to install and maintain. GreenSQL supports Microsoft Azure, SQL Server (all versions including SQL Server 2012), MySQL and PostgreSQL.

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Filed under Connected Devices, Cyber Crime, Don't Get Hacked, Guest Writers, Internet Safety Tools

How Will the Cloud Change Computers?

Kelsey Clark brings her perspective on “The Cloud” in this guest article.

The Cloud is one of the tech world’s most-discussed concepts. Embracing a wide variety of different paradigms, the Cloud is an evolving concept. The basics of what the Cloud means, however, are well established. Here are a few questions people are asking themselves about what the Cloud will mean for computing in the future.

1. Security Changes
With the data stored on remote hard drives and computation being done on remote processors, the Cloud promises to move most security issues to servers. Local security issues will not necessarily lead to data being compromised. However, server security will become even more important; compromising a major Cloud server will potentially lead to thousands or millions of users having their data compromised. Are current security measures enough to prevent hackers from accessing personal data?

2. Privacy
Having all data on a remote site will raises questions about how companies will use this data. Will minor encroachments on privacy be met with customer resistance? Will users tolerate having their data scanned and used for targeted ads? In the tech world, low prices help increase a customer base. Finding the right balance of low cost and sufficient privacy, however, may take some time for the market to determine.

3. Performance
For some types of programs, the Cloud paradigm works well. Whether all programs can be run in a Cloud environment, however, remains an open question. Some envision the future Cloud as a paradigm that takes advantage of local processing power and RAM, but others believe that this eliminates some of the advantages of Cloud computing. Further developments may be necessary to ensure that the Cloud performs as well as users demand.

4. Operating Systems
Some are speculating if the Cloud will remove the importance of having a modern operating system. A browser may be all that is necessary to run important programs, so will users begin to use alternative operating systems more often? Apple’s operating systems currently suffer from their inability to run certain industry-specific programs needed for work, and Linux distributions flourish in the server world but languish on the desktop. Will the Cloud increase these platforms’ presences?

5. Sense of Ownership
Many expect that the Cloud programs of the future will require that users pay a monthly or yearly fee to access the program. In this sense, users do not truly own the program. Studies have shown that people prefer to buy products outright instead of paying for access when necessary. Will this lead consumers to reject the Cloud?

The Cloud is clearly making inroads in the business world. For individuals, however, its impact remains unclear. With a number of programs expected to become available online in the coming years, the tech world may get some indication on how popular the Cloud will be.

Author Byline:

Kelsey is the editor in chief for www.findananny.net/. She loves to write article and ideas that parents & nannies would be interested in hearing. She helps society on giving information about nannies through nanny services. She is a professional writer and loves writing on anything.

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Filed under Cloud Computing, Connected Devices, Guest Writers, Opinion