Gadgets: From Under-the-Radar to Under the Tree

As the holidays quickly approach, advertisers seem to be pushing smartphones and tablets as the only tech gifts available this season. However, there are many other good high-tech gift ideas that will make that tech savvy relative happy without breaking the bank, and many of these are flying below the shopping radar. Some are ideal for the eco-conscious, some are great for that inner geek in all of us, and some are even perfect for those lucky ones who already own a smartphone and tablet.

As the holidays quickly approach, advertisers seem to be pushing smartphones and tablets as the only tech gifts available this season. However, there are many other good high-tech gift ideas that will make that tech savvy relative happy without breaking the bank, and many of these are flying below the shopping radar. Some are ideal for the eco-conscious, some are great for that inner geek in all of us, and some are even perfect for those lucky ones who already own a smartphone and tablet.

Gadgets make great gifts – whether they’re practical or not

Someone may not love the 40-in-1 Swiss Army Knife, but they may be enamored with the 6-in-1 key chain. Either way, they’ll discover a use for it at some point. Tech-geek gadgets are especially suitable for people on a budget. So, while the Starship Enterprise pizza cutter (http://bit.ly/vR8K4y) or these crocheted headphones won’t break your budget, they’re bound to please!

Gadgets for the hard-to-shop-for individual

So what makes a good gadget gift? It really depends on how tech-savvy the recipient is, and how much you’d like to spend. If you have a bit more money and the person is environmentally conscious, you might opt for a “green” choice. Eco-friendly products abound and are especially sought after this year. From hand-powered paper shredders to solar-powered tiki torches, many options exist for that inner tree-hugger in all of us.

Tablet or smartphone owners

For those who already own a smartphone and tablet, there are some terrific accessories to brighten their day, from iPhone “wallet cases” to iPad docking stations. As most tablets and smartphones don’t have separate keyboards, here are two accessory ideas, one for the iPad, one for the iPhone. These gadgets will have an immediate effect on the user’s experience!

The wonderful aspect of gadgets is that they are always at hand. Gadgets may make our lives easier and a a bit more fun. Hopefully these “under-the-radar” gift ideas might enable you to stretch your mind somewhat this holiday season and find that special someone a techy gadget they’ll treasure.

Armed and Dangerous – The Tech-Savvy Holiday Shopper

With the ease and security of online shopping, you’d think everyone would be shopping at home this holiday season. Of course, that’s not the case.

With the ease and security of online shopping, you’d think everyone would be shopping at home this holiday season. Of course, that’s not the case. Thousands of bargain hunters will be lined up waiting for the retail stores to open. And these savvy shoppers will have new bargain-hunting weapons at their disposal: cellular devices. Everyone with a smartphone or tablet will have with them specifically designed apps to help them navigate everything from where an item is in a store, to seeing if it is the best price, to being able to buy it online—in the store. Here are just a few of the ways technology is influencing our habits this holiday season.

Mobile Apps

If you own a smartphone or a tablet, you’re in luck when it comes to simplifying your shopping experience this year. Specifically designed apps provide several services to the hectic shopper, from being able to locate items, to comparing a product’s price across the board. One app even allows you to take a picture of the product, and it will search the Internet to find you the best price and availability.

Smartphone Marketing

A big trend this holiday season is in the use of online merchants reaching customers with smartphones while they’re at the retail store, specifically timed to catch the shopper in line. For those shoppers waiting around for the doors to open in the wee hours of the morning, many online marketers will present a cunning ambush, offering mobile-only deals at 6am. Though this may be an unwanted and even annoying technology, it’s still an interesting difference in this year’s holiday trends.

Economical Technology Trends

This season we’ll be using technology in ways we hadn’t even dreamed of 5 years ago—shopping with a tablet in hand and phone strapped to our ear. And the good news is, with the economy’s outlook, the technology itself is in a billion-dollar battle to generate good quality products for the least amount. So the consumer wins in a way, if they have the means to purchase anything at all this holiday season.

For those of us intent on going to the brick-and-mortars this season, technology can be a great help, from finding great prices to gift ideas. Apps might help us while we’re in the store, and our mobile phones may ring signaling that we’re paying too much! But the trends that make our shopping easier may take a backseat to those that signal the sign of these times: only the technologies that offer the very best value will be the hot commodities as the economy continues to stumble along.

Happy Birthday, Intel 4004!

The Intel 4004 was the first CPU on a single chip as well as the first available to the commercial market. Recently it celebrated it’s 40th birthday! We wish to say thank you to the microprocessor that grandfathered the CPUs we have today. A CPU is the brain of a computer.

The Intel 4004 was the first CPU on a single chip as well as the first available to the commercial market. Recently it celebrated it’s 40th birthday! We wish to say thank you to the microprocessor that grandfathered the CPUs we have today. A CPU is the brain of a computer. Known as the central processing unit, every piece of information in or out of a computer goes though the CPU. Just imagine what the Intel 4004, a tiny yet powerful CPU, did for the computing world in 1971. CPUs have come a considerable ways since then, but they remain a huge part of our everyday lives.

The Intel 4004 was originally created for a calculator, but it quickly led to technological leaps in computing. Many common gadgets would not exist if it weren’t for the powerful CPUs born from the Intel 4004. These devices include laptops, streetlights, and cell phones. The Intel 4004 quite literally grandfathered many modern technologies. Here is a great article showing the evolution of technology as a result of CPU.

While we celebrate Intel 4004’s birthday, I want to recognize the engineers who created it. Federico Faggin, Ted Hoff, and Stan Mazor were in charge of the design and development of the Intel 4004. This little microprocessor reminds us of the humble origins of the ever-changing world of technology.

So lets take a moment to show our respect for the little microprocessor that grandfathered the present day CPU.

The IT Department: Not Coded Breakers

Without question, there’ll be an occasion when you’ll need help from your IT service provider. Be aware that they are responsible for aiding many people with a wide variety of challenging problems.  In order to receive the best possible response to your request, be sure you include as much important information when you initially ask for help

Without question, there’ll be an occasion when you’ll need help from your IT service provider. Be aware that they are responsible for aiding many people with a wide variety of challenging problems.  In order to receive the best possible response to your request, be sure you include as much important information when you initially ask for help. You can’t assume they will understand your problem if you don’t supply them with all the details. By following these few steps, you can be assured that the whole experience goes smoothly and efficiently.

Write an Informative Email Subject Line
Often, the IT department will get inundated with requests ranging from those that require immediate response – “my computer is smoking and smells like burning plastic” – to those that can handle a one to two hour delay in response – “I want to send this 150 MB file but it just won’t upload to my email.” Using a detailed subject line will let them know the basics up front and help them prioritize the request appropriately.  For example, the subject line “Installed ___ got error _____” will help them immediately know what your issue is all about.  In other words, do not write “Computer problems!!!!!!!!!!” This is not helpful as it provides no real description of the problem.

Details, Details, Details
In the body of your email, be sure to include as much information as possible, i.e. what OS you are running, what actions you took, and what error messages you see. Error messages may not mean anything to people outside of the IT world, but they can offer a lot of insight into what’s happening with your machine. Also, don’t be vague and say, “followed recommended procedure,” as the person receiving your email may not know what that is.  Instead, explain the exact steps you took.

Be Frank
You are a busy person and so is your IT support team.  Even though it is necessary to explain details, don’t write a book about your annoyance.  Provide the required information in a detailed but succinct manner.  Offering too many unimportant details increases the time it takes to provide you an answer to your problem.

In the end, you are all busy people and your IT services provider wants to help you quickly and efficiently. Help them do so by following the tips above!

From Street to Web: The Changing Face of Business

The face of business is evolving, it wasn’t long ago that the best way to get your name out was to work with an ad agency, get a billboard, or simply go door-to-door introducing your company to prospective clients.

The face of business is evolving, it wasn’t long ago that the best way to get your name out was to work with an ad agency, get a billboard, or simply go door-to-door introducing your company to prospective clients. Now with the plethora of options open to consumers and the ease at which they can acquire services or items business have had to alter their approach to selling. When there were less options, and local stores had cornered the market in their industry, selling was just that, selling. People needed something they came to your store because you sold it. With all the options open to people now businesses have to come up with creative ways to be appealing, reach a wider market, and give consumers reasons to choose them as the company they want to work with. Below are a few ways companies can do this.

Becoming Mobile

Mobile devices are hardly rare now-a-days, people carry them to make their lives easier by staying connected to their business and personal life when they are on the go. Because of this many small-business owners want to create mobile sites. These sites retain the branding that the company wants but allows for faster, easier navigation on a mobile device. Making a mobile site makes your company more available to consumers.

Social Sites

At first social sites were just that, social, websites for connecting people in a social way. Myspace was a great example of that, with its highly customizable interface. Then Facebook came out, its much more utilitarian and accessible, the style attracted businesses. Now nearly every business you come across has a Facebook page, sharing content related to their industry and building a fun playful dialog with prospective customers. Now that Google recently unveiled their business pages the future of social sites is all business. Here is a great walk-though for setting up a Google business page.

On-line Education

Providing something educational for prospective clients is a great way to develop trust. A couple of ways companies can do this is through webinars and blogs. You have probably noticed the growing interest in blogs. Companies can stand out from their competitors by showing their in depth knowledge in their field with on-line education.

While the on-line business community keeps growing we can still visit local shop where the owner works behind the counter but more then likely that business has some type of on-line presence. Business are not just street facing anymore but Web facing as well. Being aware of the changing face of business and open to it will make you a more educated business owner and/or consumer.  Here is another article about why creating an on-line presence is good business practice.

The 2011 PhotoPlus Expo: For the Wealthy Shutterbug

At the recent PhotoPlus Expo in New York City, held between October27-29th, numerous exhibitors gathered to show off their latest and greatest triumphs in technology.  From new developments in cameras, lenses, printers, clothing, gear, gizmos and gadgets, the Expo had it all.  However, if you consider yourself more of a enthusiast or weekend “photog,” you might have felt a tad out of place. The expo is mostly geared toward the professional shutterbug.  Many of the newest innovations, however, were suitable for both the pro and novice alike, although not necessarily that affordable.  Here are just 3 of the awesome innovations found at the PhotoPlus Expo.  For a deeper detailing, Popsci.com provides a more thorough look.

Sony DEV-3 and DEV-5 3D Binoculars

The Sony DEV-3 and DEV-5 3D Binoculars are like a gizmo straight out of the last blockbuster sci-fi movie! The videos and photographs shot from these binoculars products are astounding. Only the more complex model, the DEV-5, was on display.  This multimedia camera boasts several amazing features including 3D binoculars, a 7-megapixel camera, and a 1080i video recorder. Ranging between $1400 – $2000, the DEV-3 and DEV-5 cost a pretty penny. However, if you are shopping for a superior quality, multifunctional digital camera, these binoculars may be a great choice.

Gorillapod Micro 250 and 350

Joby is renowned for selling its line of bendy camera tripods. At their booth they displayed a new take on their tripod, the Gorillapod Micro. This new mini-tripod is stiff and can fold neatly under a camera without adding significant weight or bulk. They also come in a variety of sizes. Now you will be able to catch all those wonderful shots because you will never be without a tripod.

Wacom Cintiq 24HD Pen Display

Here’s a 24-inch display excellent for professional photographers and designers alike. However, for the more “well-off” hobbyist who aims to generate exacting edits to pictures and designs, it may be worth the price tag. The Wacom Cintiq 24HD Display retails for right around $2,600.  Still, they’re in such high demand, that they’re fairly hard to come by.  The display is known for its remarkable responsiveness and exacting detail, perfect for anyone working in 3D design, animation, game development, industrial design and visual effects who is no longer willing to compromise with regards to image quality.

The recent PhotoPlus Exposition was aimed primarily to professional photographers, artists and designers.  As a novice or hobbyist, however, it’s always good to keep up with cutting-edge technologies. Here we could only list a few of the hundreds of impressive items like state-of-the-art jackets, lighting, camera bags and gear. Make sure you take a look at other articles about the Expo, as well as reviews on many of the other products on display.

The Connectivity of Devices

You have likely read a lot about the world becoming increasingly connected. We don’t only mean with people but within our own lives as well. Having our devices more connected makes life simpler. Device connectivity can prevent you from interrupting your work, for instance, by transferring a document you are working on at home to your smartphone you can work on it during your commute using a voice transcription app. Microsoft has an interesting take on the future of connectivity, click here to see a video of their vision. This may not be very far off and it begs the question: what apps, devices, or combination of the two will help create a future such as this? Here are a few which I have found.

iControl

Comcast recently unveiled its home energy management and surveillance product called iControl. This robust product permits people to adjust the temperature of their homes, turn lights on and off, and monitor their homes through video. iControl software plus Comcast broadband along with additional hardware and apps allow customers to have full control over their home environments.

Air Sharing

This app for the iPad enables you to use your iPad or iPhone as an external hard drive for your computer. Having the ability to easily access and transfer your documents allows for more mobility in your workday.

AirPlay

The AirPlay function from Apple lets you stream music, videos, and photos wirelessly to an Apple TV. Picture yourself enjoying a podcast while in the car then coming home and effortlessly transferring the audio to your home without a pause to continue enjoying it.

I see a future filled with gadgets, apps, and software that work harmoniously to make our day-to-day lives flow with ease. Connectivity does not just mean that we are linked to the rest of the world but that all aspects of our lives are connected together so that our technology can execute tasks one step ahead of us. If this means less waiting, I’m all for it…are you?

2011: Are We Closer to Hover Boards or 1955 Chevys?

It’s been 25 years since Back to the Future played in movie theaters.  In the original film, Marty McFly travels back in time to 1955 Hill Valley. While there, he inadvertently disrupts the space-time continuum and his mother ends up falling for him instead of his dad.  Freudian theories aside, Marty is able to salvage his parent’s relationship and his ultimate existence.  After he’s able to return to 1985, he immediately learns that he must travel into the future to save his kids. Through his travels, we see Hill Valley as it was in 1955, 1985 and the future. If you were to step back and look at where we are in 2011, does our existence today look more like the film’s past or the second film’s vision of the future?

Certainly there would be flying cars and hover boards by 2011, wouldn’t there?  But we still have our feet firmly on the ground, riding bicycles, skateboards, scooters and driving gas-powered cars.  As we look around us, the computer is the obvious difference between the present and the past. Yet, if we take a step back, a lot of the technology we employ everyday has been around for years.  The television was invented in the 1930s, cars had air conditioning and radios by 1940, and films were in color.  If you’ve seen The Wizard of Oz recently, the special effects are still pretty good — and they’re 80 years old.

Many movies in the past, however, have prophesied some of the advances we use today.  Arnold Schwarzenegger was caught carrying a gun through a full-body x-ray machine trying to board a plane in Total Recall.  Airports are now employing very similar tech. In Minority Report, Tom Cruise deftly moves from image to image, mirroring the type of touch screen technology, 3D monitors and holograms that will exist – if they don’t already – in the very near future.  In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Pan Am flies the common man to outer space.  Virgin Atlantic is making that possible today for that same traveler, though they need to shell out $200,000 for a seat.

Today we can communicate with Jetson-like videophones, talk to the other side found on earth on your personal computer for hours – for free. We have such science-fiction movie staples as cloning, genetic engineering, laser surgery and more. Yet are we closer to 1950’s tech or the science fiction dreams of the 2050s? In the mental picture so many of us had about the 21st century, we’re no closer to flying our car to work as Dorothy was to finding her way back to Kansas when she first landed in Oz.

Ultimately, there are advances seen around us everywhere to remind us that the future is happening now: Video billboards, the internet tracking our every move for our advertising dollars, 3D television, movies that cost $13 for some reason. But here is where the more things change the more they stay the same: Chevrolet is still making convertibles, Universal is still making movies, and you can still watch Back to the Future any time you want — though I’d skip that 2nd one and go directly to the third.