The Price of Immediate Delivery

How many times have you checked the mail today? Are you waiting on a holiday package? Did you spend more shipping a gift across the country than you did on the gift? While you are anxiously watching for the last of your holiday packages to arrive have you wondered Why can’t they just get here FASTER?

Well, they can, at least, if Amazon has their way. Amazon is currently in development stages of a new program that they are calling Amazon Prime Air. Using drone octocopters Amazon would aim to deliver to your doorstep within 30 minutes of your order being placed. Watch this short video if you can’t imagine what that could look like.

Simple, right? What could be wrong with the option to have your items delivered almost immediately? No more waiting on that last item. You could order it in the morning while you made coffee and have it delivered and wrapped and ready to go before you were finished with your shower. So, what could be wrong with this?

Critics have made the obvious complaint. In order for Amazon Prime Air to work out Amazon will need to have fulfillment centers everywhere. Everywhere. What I envision is that, once we all become dual citizens of the United States and the Republic of Amazonia (with Jeff Bezos as our Supreme Leader), and Amazon gains the power of eminent domain, the company will be able to demolish, say, every 50th home in every neighborhood (hopefully the ugliest house owned by that family nobody likes) and replace it with a mini-warehouse stocked with colorful iPhone cases, boxes of Huggies, pints of Ben & Jerry’s, what have you. Simon Dumenco, of AdAge.com makes an important point.

But what if you started to salivate at the idea of getting your deliveries immediately? You’re in luck if you live in one of these metropolitan cities: New York, Dallas, Chicago or San Francisco. Ebay Now! What is Ebay Now? You log in to your area and if you are in their (limited) delivery area you can choose from a group of participating retailers. Ebay Now’s slogan Local products from local stores, hand-delivered to you in about an hour for just $5 per order! gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling like you are supporting your local economy (and I suppose they might have some mom and pop stores signed up) but the majority of the local stores are national big-box retailers like Office Depot, GNC, Target, Babies R Us and Best Buy and Macy’s. The idea is simple. You place your order and an Ebay Now employee goes to the store and picks up your item and delivers it to you – $25 minimum and a $5 delivery fee.

What do you think? Would you be willing to pay a premium for quick delivery? Or do you think that delivery in under an hour is feeding the beast that is our current culture of immediate gratification?

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2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Are you still on the fence about the best holiday gift for the tech-minded guy or gal on your list? I can’t blame you. There are so many options! Where do you start? Tablets and e-book readerssmartphonescamerasportable audio deviceshome theater systemsand televisions, even wearable technology and appliances!

The very best Holiday Gift Guide that I have run across is on CNET. CNET has been offering tech reviews year round since 1994 and their gift guide reflects that. They know what they are doing. Interested in home theater systems? Click through to that section and you will have the options: home theater gearsound barsstreaming video boxes orAV receivers. Not sure what a sound bar even is? Even better. CNET’s Holiday Gift Guide can help you find products that you didn’t even know were out there. (I won’t make you go look it up. A sound bar or a soundbar is the name for the long, single cabinet speaker. For acoustic purposes they are much wider than they are tall.)

 If you’ve already finished the bulk of your shopping (congratulations!) than it is time for stocking stuffers! Here’s my top five picks for the stocking!

Crabble Folding Smartphone stand ($5) Watch movies while a tiny little stand that can fit in your wallet holds your phone! If you know a traveler this is a great option. They can prop their phone up on a flight and watch the movie of their choosing!

Battletank Desk Pet($49) Have a loved one that is a kid at heart? These smartphone-controlled little robots designed to run around your desk are a perfect gift!

Woodgrain Design Keyboard Cover ($6) Maybe someone you know is both a techie and a tree-hugger? Let them feel close to nature with this woodgrain keyboard cover.

Mustache Earbud holder($16)2013 is the year of the mustache. Sadly, for many of us, it is also the year of the wicked tangled earbud cords. Let this fashionable mustache design serve as a solution!

Touchscreen Gloves Maybe you remember the 2010 news story about the Korean sausage maker that experienced a boom in his sales? An unusually cold winter forced Korean techies to get creative and they turned to sausages as a stylus for their touchpads. Several years later REI offers touchscreen gloves in an array of price points. No need to keep a sausage in your coat pocket. And no need to have cold hands just so you can text at the metro stop!

Kate Spade iPhone buttons($15) It isn’t easy to drop a little designer something in to your favorite ladies’ stocking without breaking the bank. These iPhone buttons from Kate Spade will do the trick!

Good luck with your shopping!!

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Black Friday

Black Friday: Are you one of the millions of Americans trying to figure out how quickly you can duck out of Thanksgiving festivities to rest up for the all-night shopping bonanza? Or are you one of the many that not only plans to skip out on the insanity that is Black Friday shopping but also finds it deplorable that a holiday dedicated to gratitude is being trampled by a day that symbolizes excessive consumerism?689e68ea556527ba295e98f06ab14937

Perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle. You’re not looking forward to fighting the crowds and you definitely have no plans to be at the mall before the sun rises but you have items on your holiday shopping list that could benefit from a price reduction courtesy of Black Friday deals.

 

What to do? Take advantage of online Black Friday deals! How are you going to find them all? Well, there’s an app for that.

TGI Black Friday iOs, Android: This app allows you to make shopping lists and compare prices all in one place! It does not allow you to scan UPC symbols, however, a feature that I can see being handy if you were planning on hitting the stores.

Amazon Price Check: Speaking of scanning an item, it doesn’t get much easier than AmazonFat Wallet Black Friday: If you are really looking to one-stop shop from the comfort of your own living room The Fat Wallet Black Friday app is what you are looking for. Using their app (or their website) you can browse products and click through to the retailer’s website or purchase directly from Fat Wallet.

Where can we anticipate seeing the best deals? Similar to years past the biggest savings seem to be on televisions, tablets and smart phones. According to this list of top ten biggest Black Friday deals it looks like you can find some big savings at Best Buy this year.

What are you looking for this year? What’s on the top of your wish list?

 

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How to Protect Yourself Against Ransomware

Malware can result in hours worth of searching for files and recovering lost documents. Those hours that you spend putting your computer back together and recovering your documents can equate to a hefty sum of money in nearly any business. What if a piece of malware wasted not only your time but your actual cash, too?

That’s exactly what a new piece of malware known as ransomware has been doing to infected users. Ransomware enters a users computer and network and restricts access to their files. At this time a window will pop up with instructions on how to pay the attacker a sum of money in the hopes that their files will then be released. Accompanying the ransom note is a countdown of hours until the encryption key is erased.

The most recent ransomware known as Crypto-Locker has been affecting Microsoft Windows systems running Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, and XP operating systems. The infection takes place via an email containing an infected attachment.

If you believe your computer or network has been attacked immediately disconnect your computer form your network (the ransomware can spread via network connections) and call our help desk. Do not submit payment.

Many victims have reported that making payment did not free up their infected files. Call our Help Desk immediately and we will begin the process of reporting this attack to the FBI at theInternet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

How can you protect yourself against this kind of attack?

  • Up to date anti-virus software: The expired copy of an old anti-virus software will not protect you against new releases of viruses.
  • Be suspicious. If something doesn’t look right DO NOT install it. Do not hesitate to call a business or the phone number in an e-mail and ask for more information. This recent attack known as Crypto-Locker has been spread using phishing emails masquerading as postal tracking emails.
  • Update your operating system regularly. It seems like a no-brainer but so many people click by their update with a Remind Me Later thinking that they simply do not have time to restart their system. Again, your time IS valuable and the time spent recovering your infected files far exceeds the time spent to update your OS.
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What would you spend for a panoramic camera?

What would you spend on a 360 degree panoramic camera? $100? More? Less? What would you do with one? Well, if you were a realtor you could take panoramic images of spacious living rooms and wow your prospective clients. If you’re planning a trip to Egypt you could capture the majesty of the pyramids. Or if you are amazed at the destruction one two year old can create in your living room you could take a 360 degree photograph of a single afternoon’s wreckage.

I might have recently taken that last picture. And I didn’t need to spend a cent on a fancy program or a fancy camera.

With the app, Cycloramic, for Google Android phones and iPhones you can utilize yourhandsets vibrating motors to actually physically rotate the device on a flat surface while recording. Simply remove your phone from the case (you do keep your phone in a case, don’t you?) and place it on a smooth surface. Kitchen counters worked better than my kitchen table. Even better – when I tried to take a photo in my living room I placed my phone on a dinner plate.

Cycloramic is not a new app but they have recently done several updates and it is free in the app store right now. So, go ahead and download it. Play with it. Stop by ourFacebook page and show me what you made! I want to see what it would look like if I sat in the middle of your kitchen table on a lazy susan.

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FAA Lifts the Ban on Electronic Devices

I have never purchased an item from a SkyMall magazine.  But I have spent countless hours looking at every single page.  The minutes that pass until the flight attendant tells me I can turn on my electronic device seem like an eternity.  

It takes the average adult about a minute and a half to read a page in a novel, whether that page is printed or on a screen.  It is my understanding that it takes only a few minutes to play Candy Crush. (I am fairly proud of myself that I have not yet succumbed to the addictive game’s siren call.) The pre-credits, the period of a film before the opening credits begin, is usually between three to five minutes long.  

If my math is correct you can now do all of those things in the time you’d have spent sitting on an airplane reading SkyMall.  You can read your Kindle, play Candy Crush on your phone and watch a movie on your laptop!!  You can do all of those things at once if you are a master of multi-tasking or you can just take your time because you don’t have to turn your electronic devices off before take off anymore!

 

The FAA has announced that passengers no longer have to have all of their electronic devices turned off during landing and take-off, or below 10,000 feet.  What does this mean for passengers? It means you can go ahead and watch previously downloaded material on your devices and fiddle around on your phone so long as it is in “airplane mode.”  

 

What does this mean for flight attendants?  It will mean that their difficult jobs are more difficult.  How will they know if your phone is in “airplane mode?”  And perhaps more importantly – have you ever tried to get someone’s attention while they stare mindlessly at their phone wearing headphones? What if you what you were trying to get their attention for was to give them a quick summary of safety regulations they have heard before?  I know that my eyes glaze over a bit as I watch the flight attendant draw my attention to the oxygen masks and point with the signature two finger point at the exits.  But there is nothing else to be doing at that moment, so I’d guess I listen with about 70% of my brain.  Now that flight attendants will have to compete with electronic devices can we be expecting the review of safety regulations to get more exciting? Maybe that is how we will choose out flights from now on. “I heard the safety show on Delta has singing and a light show!”

Enjoy your flights!  

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Google’s Hummingbird: What does it mean for my small business?

It has been one month since Google released an update to their search algorithm. The update, named Hummingbird, is said to deliver more relevant answers to the more human questions we ask a search engine. With the prevalence of “smart” software in our lives we no longer use search engines in the same way that we did ten years ago.

For example, ten years ago if we were looking for a place to buy a screwdriver in our hometown we might have searched “Hardware Store” and the name of our town. We used a search engine in much the same way that we used a phone book or a card catalogue. But now we might be just as likely to type in “Where can I buy a screwdriver?” and not include the name of our town at all. Google’s Hummingbird is aiming to deliver an answer to a question like this one.

What does this mean to you? As an end user it will mean you might be able to get an answer to a question more easily. If you search for something you will likely get fresh, new content first. As the Internet moves more and more towards delivering information via blogs and social media and less and less from archived data on static websites, Google’s Hummingbird will differentiate between the new information and the older information and serve up the new info first.

What does this mean to the small business owner? It means the website that you worked hard on and the search engine optimization that you did last year won’t be enough to keep you on top forever. Hummingbird will not abandon “PageRank” or the other methods used to determine relevance but it will require the small business owner to continue to update their site.

Fresh data. Relevant content. Solutions. If your website continues to deliver these three things to your customers than Hummingbird can only help you.

Still not quite clear on what Hummingbird will do? Check out this excellent FAQ.

 

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Facebook: Do you have privacy concerns? You should.

Facebook. Are you in or are you out? Do you have a Facebook account or have you decided that it is more trouble than it is worth?

I am tempted to believe that “I’m not on Facebook” is the 2013 equivalent of the early 90′s “Kill Your Television” sticker. Are you really anti-Facebook or are you just so anti-mainstream culture that Facebook had to go? If you could be on Facebook and no one knew you were on Facebook would you stay?

So, perhaps that is the biggest problem with Facebook’s latest privacy update. You can’t hide anymore. Prior to October of 2013 a user could choose to control whether or not they showed when someone searched for their name. For example, if you are a school teacher and you do not want to have to repeatedly choose to decline friend requests from students you could instead choose to have your Timeline and profile invisible to anyone that searched your name. It would appear to all those that you’d not friended as though you did not exist at all! Not anymore.

The other recent change to Facebook’s settings that has ruffled the feathers of some users is a change pertaining to teenager users. Previously, if you were a Facebook user between 13 and 17 years old you were only allowed to share your posts with “friends” or “friends of friends.” Now teenage users will be allowed to choose to make their posts open to the public. Facebook has suggested that teens are arguably among the most tech savvy users and that they will be cautious with their choice to make their posts public. They’ve even gone on to say that now teenagers will enjoy a greater sense of public activism. But what’s the real reason behind lifting the restriction? I will give you one hint: it rhymes with honey. Okay, two hints. It also rhymes with Schmadvertising. Yep. Money and advertising. Posts that are open to the public will allow a greater revenue stream for advertisers. Facebook is losing popularity with teen users and it is believed that more targeted advertising might prove to be more engaging.

If you’re concerned about your Timeline being visible or about what might show up here’s a quick fix. Enter your Facebook Privacy Settings. There you will find a question: Who can see my stuff? You have the option to change all of your old posts to Friends only. This is handy if you are concerned that posts might have been made as Public. However, it will undo any exceptions you have made to individual posts. For example, those embarrassing high school reunion pictures you hid from your in-laws? Poof! Visible. So, choose this option only if you have not ever restricted the privacy on any previous posts.

And what about moving forward? You have options. Make sure you check and double-check the settings for what you post. Create groups of friends and choose to share your posts to only certain friends. Or, take a page out of my book. As a blogger I already have a fair amount of my life spilled out all over the Internet. I don’t post anything to Facebook that I don’t want public. I don’t “check in” anywhere. I have “Location Services” disabled on my posts and photos so that you can not figure out from my timeline my precise location. Most of my posts are public. Why? Because then I don’t have to think and over think about what I post. If I wouldn’t say it in public, than I don’t post it.

I’d suggest that no matter how you or your teenagers choose to proceed you follow that last bit of advice. If you wouldn’t say it in public, don’t say it on Facebook.

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Vonage Acquires Vocalocity

VOIP. Voice over Internet Protocol.  As the costs of internet, cable television and telephone services have crept up over the last decade many people have turned towards the solution of combining these necessities.  What better way to save some coin than to eliminate one of them altogether?  If you can use the “telephone” via the internet and eliminate the cost of phone services than why not?

Vonage has been a major player in the VOIP game since the early 2000s.  Vonage, a global company serving more than 2.3 million customers, recently made a big move.  In Jason Wernick’s words, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Vonage,

“As we looked at our goals: faster growth domestically, more strategic relationships, international expansion, adding more advanced features like mobility, it became apparent that we had a range of options for helping us move faster to capitalize on our potential.  We discussed many options as a company and after careful consideration we decided that combining with Vonage was the best path for Vocalocity to reach its full potential.

 

It became clear that, together, well be able to further increase the pace at which we are redefining the standard in Internet communications.  Well also be able to strengthen our ability to address the challenges, innovations, and evolutions of new technology solutions in this space. And as a single entity, we will be able to build the optimal platform and services portfolio for business and residential users, exceeding what any competitor can offer.”

Vocalocity has a focus on the small-business market.  Vonage says 85 percent of small businesses still use traditional carriers at rates that are 40 to 50 percent higher than what Vocalocity charges.  Over the next five years, the market for VoIP services among small and medium-sized businesses is forecast to grow at an annual rate of 27.5 percent, according to Vonage.

If you still have a home phone what has kept you from eliminating that expense?  If you are a decision maker in a small business will be taking advantage of the combined powers of Vonage and Vocalocity to lower your costs?

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Does E-mail actually save you time?

Communication is at the core of every business.  How do you communicate with your clients? How do you communicate with your co-workers? For many of us the answer to that is e-mail.  Communication also plays a pretty key role in our personal lives.  How do you make plans with a group of friends on a Saturday night? Do you text? Call?  E-mail?

If your clients, co-workers and friends and family are all sending emails that doesn’t leave much time for the numerous list-servs, advertisements, spam, newsletters and FYIs you receive each day.

So how do you get a handle on your Inbox?  Managing e-mail is a popular subject.  A quick google of “how do I manage my inbox” turns up lots of tips.  Here are a few of my favorites!

  • Don’t check your e-mail first thing in the morning.  Why? Checking your e-mail before you put together your mental list for the day leaves the door open for your e-mail to dictate your actions.  You are in charge of your timeline, not your inbox. Set a time later in the morning to check your e-mail. No one is going to explode if they don’t hear from you before 7 am.
  • Be mindful of the e-mail that you send.  ”Can we meet next week?” will result in a reply that says “Sure, when are you free?” But sending an email that says “I am free to meet next week at these three times, please choose one that works for you and let me know by the end of the week” will guarantee that you set up a meeting efficiently.
  • Turn off “push notifications.” Just turn them off.  Zach Epstein, writer forBGR makes this point beautifully.

But how will you know when you get new emails on your phone?!
This is a good question with a simple answer: I don’t care.
While I’m at work, I see a pop-up on my screen as new emails arrive so I certainly do not need my phone dancing around on my desk. When I’m not at work, my phone is always on me and even late at night, rarely does a half-hour go by without at least one glance at my phone. With or without push notifications buzzing constantly, I’ll see any email I receive within 15 or 20 minutes while I’m awake.

  • He’s right.  We don’t need to know the moment we get an e-mail.  Many of us spend hours a day in front of our computers.  Isn’t that enough?
  • Develop a system and stick to it.  Do you like to “star” your e-mails that require an action?  Do you have folders?  Whatever your system, keep it up.  Digital “piles” can be just as overwhelming as the piles of “to be filed” papers we used to let clutter our desks.  If you don’t have a system there are numerous options to choose from.  Here is a nice overview of several options if you are looking to shop around.  My favorite one is a simple one: The Email Game.  The Email Game awards you points for quickly processing your mail.  Delete it, archive it or reply, but make it snappy because there are points on the line! I used The Email Game to cull through more than a thousand messages in my inbox this week.  It was time consuming, but I’d never have done it were it not for the points.  What can I say?  I am motivated by meaningless point systems!
  • The last tip is not for everyone.  I just did it last night and I still feel a little weird.  Clean it out.  All the way out.  Your inbox doesn’t have to be littered with every single e-mail you might want to think about it in the future.  To begin with I “archived” every single e-mail that was from more than a month ago.  Let’s face it, if I haven’t taken care of it in a month it wasn’t happening.  If I ever find myself needing it I can certainly search for it.   Next I looked at each e-mail in my inbox and I archived it or responded. After I responded if the message did not contain a call to action or a detail I would need as a trigger for my to-do list I went ahead and moved that out of my inbox.  When I was finished I had three emails.  Three.  This is just step one.
  • Step two – I didn’t check my e-mail today unless I had time to do something about it. This was actually harder than cleaning it out. I frequently think “I will get to this in a minute.”  All those minutes add up and then I don’t have an hour to spend on e-mail so they just keep piling up.  This system seems to be a good one for me.  I feel the pressure of my to-do list and it keeps me from being present. If I don’t know there is an e-mail waiting for me than I am focused on what I am doing in the moment and not mentally calculating my to-do list for later in the afternoon.

Are you thinking about how you can streamline your e-mail processes?  Does the idea of a clean e-mail box appeal to you?  On the off chance you have an hour to spend to think about saving some time check out Merlin Mann’s live presentation on Inbox Zero.

That’s it. I have spent enough time talking about saving time!  Go!  Delete a few e-mails.  You’ll feel amazing.

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