I have been having a debate with several guys for the past couple of years about giving up cable/satellite and just leveraging the Internet for all of my families TV needs. So far no one I know who watches TV on a regular basis has done this yet. The key word is yet, since there will be a time soon when I'll see people doing this.
For me the key thing is the experience. I do not want to have to buy a PC to hook up to the TV and use a keyboard/mouse/remote control just to watch TV. It has to be a seamless experience like it is now. Thankfully, more and more hardware devices are being released that go a long way to achieve this goal (including TV's with built-in Internet connection). Some systems work better than others and to complicate matters, each works with different Internet sites for the movies/TV programs.
Let's face it, cable TV is expensive so why not leverage the high speed Internet connection we are already paying for. It is inevitable that this will happen so it is just a matter of time.
- Netflix - streams movies and TV series on demand.
- Hulu - stream on demand a lot of TV series and random shows
- You Tube - lots of random choices for video (not that most are worth watching though)
- ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, etc. - All have streaming content of their TV shows.
- Many many other sites for video streaming are available
Here is a good clog entry that goes over the current major hardware to help make this closer to reality. Internet TV: Roku still trumps Apple, Google, and Boxee http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/hiner/?p=6866&tag=content;leftCol
I'm not ready to toss my AT&T U-Verse yet. Even with the newest hardware and all of the content on the Internet, the user experience is still not what normal cable TV is. It is getting closer every year so some day....
Android, Windows Mobile, and iPhones sync directly with an email server. Blackberry's sync with a Blackberry Enterprise server. With all of the iPhone, windows Mobile, and Android devices being released over the past couple of years, RIM decided to create a free version of their Blackberry server to help compete with the free syncing of the other smartphones. But is the free Blackberry Enterprise Server Express software really free? Kinda.
The program itself is free and includes one free support incident. Not bad at all and it does work very well. The other advantage to the free version is that the data plan with the cell carrier just needs to be the basic one and not the Blackberry Enterprise plan. Usually this translates to switching users from a $45 a month plan to $30 and that can add up if you have a lot of Blackberry users.
Does it makes sense to move from the current Blackberry server to the free one? In many cases the answer is yes. Just keep some things in mind before embarking ion the adventure
- The system can be installed directly on your email server or any server for that matter, but expect to add 2 gigs more RAM since you will need it.
- Time - the download is free but the server install is a bit complex and expect to spend a couple of hours. Then you need to switch users over from the old server to the new server which takes anywhere from 10 minutes to hours per person depending on the users needs (do they need to backup all of their old emails to then be put back on?).
- The old Blackberry server and the new one can run in parallel making it easier to switch users over on their schedule. Both systems cannot reside on the same server though.
- There is no over the air activation using the free Blackberry Enterprise Server Express. You need to plug the phone into a computer using a usb cable and then you pull up the servers web page to do the activation. Easy enough to get done. Just not as elegant as doing it wirelessly on the Blackberry only.
We have found that clients have switched from the old server to the free one with no real user impact. A project for us to get this done may cost them $3,000, but the monthly cell plan cost savings make up for the consulting fees pretty quickly not to mention the fact that new users can be added with no cost and the server platform is the latest and injects additional reliability in to the equation.
Official details on the Blackberry Enterprise Server Express software http://us.blackberry.com/apps-software/business/server/express/?CPID=STCUSNAUSFY11Q3000000128200001600041001CUS012 BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express offers IT control and security features you can trust even for employees that choose to bring their own BlackBerry smartphones into your business. Download this free license to support up to 75 users on your existing Exchange Server
These might not be the best deals out there, but if you are looking for some cool technology gifts, below are some places and items to check out.
Think Geek - has a lot of fun, interesting, and inexpensive items – http://www.thinkgeek.com/holiday2010/
Meritline – has a ton of cheap and interesting items. Not the highest of quality at times but some cool stuff. www.meritline.com
DealNews – Has a host of good deals on pretty much everything you can think of www.dealnews.com
Crazy Town Deals – Also has a host of good deals on pretty much everything you can think of http://crazytowndeals.com/
- Miracle Berry Tablets - http://www.thinkgeek.com/caffeine/wacky-edibles/ab3f/
- Eviltron - http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/electronic/c427/
- Goo for the bath - http://www.thinkgeek.com/geek-kids/7-13-years/e6d1/
- USB Car and Wall Power Adaptor - http://www.cellularfactory.com/deals/item-38647_1250.html?eng=dn
- Veebeam - http://www.veebeam.com/
- Ambient Weather WS-1170 (http://www.ambientweather.com/amws1170.html)
- EVGA USB Video Adaptor - http://www.evga.com/uvplus/
- Portable Audio Speaker - http://www.amazon.com/GSI-Quality-Hamburger-Capsule-Speaker/dp/B003VVO060
Microsoft OneNote (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/onenote/)
OneNote has been around for years, but not many people know about it or use the powerful tool. The people who do use it, are usually vocal advocates of how it can help them in many ways. OneNote is what I would consider a hybrid application that is part Word/PowerPoint/Publisher with a host of other features tossed in. You can do notes obviously, but it will also do screen grabs, convert voice and handwritten notes to text as well as being searchable. It integrates really well with SharePoint, and the program is laid out like a notebook so it is easy to get around. The list of features goes on and on. Now that it is included in Office 2010, it might be worth taking a look at to see if it is a good fit for you.
Ambient Weather WS-1170 (http://www.ambientweather.com/amws1170.html)
I’m not a big weather person. Living in Chicago you quickly get used to just dealing with the crazy weather changes. A couple of years ago I received a weather station as a holiday gift. It worked OK and it was helpful knowing what the outside temperature was at that moment. Well, the device died and since I was used to having one, it was time to look for a replacement. After doing some research, I found the Ambient Weather one and for only $30 it is a bargain that packs a lot of features for the price. This device shows temperature of course, but also dew point, humidity, and even a barometric pressure history with some simple weather guides showing you a fairly accurate forecast of what to expect in the near future (IE: symbol of rain clouds moving to sunshine, etc.). The large display makes it easy to see and read from across the room. If you want a weather station then check this one out since it works great.
There is no right time to upgrade company computers. We have clients that upgrade all of their machines every 3 years and others that have no upgrade plans at all. There is no one right way to handle this, but I have listed some things below that may give you a little guidance or things to think about.
- Upgrade only for the right reasons and not just “because”. The project must have a business case driver behind it.
- Reducing the Ghosts – Being a support organization, our Helpdesk continually finds a clear metric that a PC with Windows 7 and Office 2010 have a much lower rate of random problems (ghosts) than a 5 year old PC running 10 year old software (IE: Windows XP and Office 2003). Reducing the ghosts will only increase the user productivity.
- What is your risk comfort – Inherently, the older the computer the more likely it will have a hardware failure. Does it make sense for your company to limit this risk of downtime by investing in new PC’s?
- Upgrading core server applications – If you do a server upgrade it may make sense to look at the PC side for additional benefits. For example, SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 have a very good integration and work wonderfully together. Using SharePoint 2010 and Office 2003 greatly limits the end user benefits.
- Upgrade by departments or groups of users – A lot of our clients are still using the tried and true XP/Office 2003 combinations. Dropping in a new PC with Windows 7 and Office 2010 is fine, but you need to expect to have usability issues (IE: Word 2010 looks different than Word 2003 so the user cannot go to their neighbor for help with a feature) and incompatibility problems with Word and Excel files. If you upgrade a department at the same time, then much of the change problems go away.
- Get a good deal – Dell and other manufacturers have deals toward the end of the month. These are usually pre-configured machines so if they have what you are looking for, you can pick up a great machine for a great price.
General PC specs to look for
- 3 year warranty – I normally recommend people hang on to a new computer for at least 3 years so get the warranty to match.
- Manufacturer – Dell, IBM, HP, etc. Any major brand should be OK. I recommend sticking with one manufacturer rather than just buying anything at the moment you need a PC.
- Don’t spend a lot of dough – PC’s can be really cheap or really expensive. For general business use I recommend getting an inexpensive computer that fits the specifications you need. Don’t buy cheap, but buy cost effective. $600 seems to be the bang for the buck lately.
- Windows 7 – Get Windows 7 since it has been around for a while and seems to work great compared to Vista. If you are a Mac type then go for it since we have seen more and more people using a Mac for business and there are usually no issues with doing all of the basics. Just make sure your business applications have a Mac version or you will be stuck running a Windows session on the Mac.
- 3 gigs of RAM for a 32 bit OS and 4 gigs for a 64 bit OS. Basically a 32 bit OS will not be able to use more than 3 gigs of RAM. A 64 bit OS can use a lot more than 3 gigs, but make sure your applications will work on a 64 bit machine (for the most part all newer programs will be fine).
- Processor – I tell people to get the best bang for the buck. All of today’s processors will be more than fast enough to do what you need. Generally shy away from the low end ones and look for a dual core, core duo, i3, or i5 processor. AMD or Intel both work fine. 64 bit will give you some performance benefits.
- Hard drive – Pretty much anything will be larger than you need unless you are looking to store audio or video files. If you do get a large hard drive, take advantage of it and use a backup application that takes snapshots of your system. If you get a back spyware or virus infection; you can just revert to an earlier snapshot. Lenovo’s include an application for this as do other manufacturers.
- Form Factor – I try to get machines that are smaller rather than the huge tower models. No one opens up the machine for upgrades any longer so get something that is small, quiet, and does not take up too much space.
- Monitor – LCD is a given nowadays. I will not buy anything less than 19”. No need for digital unless you need it. Shop around since I’ve seen the same monitor at one place be 70% more at another vendor. Dell seems to throw the monitor in for almost “free” often.
- Consider dual monitors – once you go dual you never go back. Buy some like the eVGA USB Video Adaptor (http://www.evga.com/uvplus/) for $50 (more depending on the resolution you need) and plug in a monitor and you are ready to go. You can have up to 4 monitors using these devices.
- Laptops – large screen and heavier? Small screen and lighter? Need a docking station? Extra AC adaptors or batteries? Getting a laptop in general is more expensive and you end up with a less powerful machine compared to a desktop. Stick with a desktop unless you really need a laptop.
Veebeam - http://www.veebeam.com/
OK, it is not a software application, but it is an appealing little device that will allow your laptop to wirelessly transmit its screen and sound to your TV in HD. I’ve actually been looking for such a device for a while to use in some clients’ conference room allowing them to limit the amount of cords trailing all over the floor.
iPhone Case with Flip-Out Keyboard - http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/cellphone/e66e/?cpg=140H&link
Another non-application item, but I figured it was worth mentioning. Not sure how well it works, but it would solve the lack of physical keyboard problems with an iPhone though you do sacrifice some of the svelte styling to have one.
USB Car and Wall Power Adaptor - http://www.cellularfactory.com/deals/item-38647_1250.html?eng=dn
Keeping with the hardware instead of application theme, this tool is something that I keep in my laptop bag at all times. I’ve used a similar model for years. It weighs almost nothing and allows me to charge my Droid using a wall outlet or the car. No need for multiple adaptors. Definitely worth getting something like this if you travel.
NuSport DuffelPak – http://www.nusportworld.com/
It is a duffel bag, it is a laptop bag, it is a backpack, it is a cooler, it is all of that and much more. I recently got a chance to get my hands on one of these and I was really impressed. It screamed quality and has nearly as many features as my Droid phone. Hmmm, this may make a great company holiday gift to brand and give out to clients and even employees….. Bob Green here knows the inventor and owner of the company so let me know if you want an intro.
I did not plan on switching my beloved Droid to the new Droid 2. About a month ago, my Droid power button broke, which made it nearly impossible to turn the phone on/off. I called Verizon and got a warranty replacement. I used the replacement phone for less than a month and had to call Verizon again since that phone would get very hot and go from a full charge to a dead battery in about 5 hours even if it was just sitting on my desk not being used. For perspective, my first Droid would easily last a full day from 6:30 AM to 10:00 PM and still have 60% battery life left. So I called Verizon to get yet another warranty replacement and due to a lack of inventory of the original Droid, they gave me a brand new Droid 2.
It has been a couple of weeks and so far there is a lot to like about the Droid 2. Not much has changed or is different from the original Droid, and some things are plain stupid. Luckily nothing that cannot be managed around so the good things outweigh the bad.
I found a site which details the differences between the Droid and Droid 2 if you are interested:
The good and the great
- Battery life is awesome. Then again I thought the original Droid was great as well.
- Really fast – Definitely noticeable. Some of my apps just fly now and for my Touchdown email app, there is no noticeable delay at all.
- Keyboard – still getting used to it, but it is better than the original. The keys are larger, no clunky D-pad to deal with, and all of the keys are a bit raised for easier typing. Still not perfect by any means, but good enough for me and better than the original.
- Includes the virtual keyboard program called Swipe that gives you the ability to swipe between the letters rather than “typing”.
- 7 home screen panels – not sure if I will ever use them all, but there is enough to give the kids one for their games.
Verizon is up to its old tricks again. When I got the original Droid, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were no bloatware garbage apps on the device that Verizon pre-loaded. This was a first and it was great. Now with the Droid 2, that has changed back to the bad old days.
- NFS Shift Car Racing Game, City Search, Blockbuster, and many others – lots of crappy applications with many of them unable to be uninstalled. To make things worse, some apps are demo’s and you get prompted to buy them with cryptic small text and you get billed on your Verizon bill. What a big scam that is…..
- Wifi Hot Spot ability – The commercials make it seem like a great addition, but it does not work by default and it costs you $20 a month to sign up for the service.
I have to wonder if the beauty of the Android system openness will also be its downfall. If the carriers can do whatever they want, they will ultimately run the platform. Not sure if Apple has it right, but there is a sense of normalcy to keep things locked down to keep the carrier out.
Chicago, IL (September 15, 2010) – Waident Technology Solutions, a national technology support, management, and strategy firm and Apex Consulting Group, a Chicago based managed solution provider, today announces Apex clients and employees will join the Waident team. This merger highlights Apex’s strategic focus of delivering high touch client support and leveraging the virtual IT department offering for small and mid-sized business.
Apex built a strong client base and business over the years and was moving to the next level. “Rather than build out our own expanded platform, I felt it would be best to integrate in to a larger organization that had the same client focused approach as we do” said Brad DeSent, Apex’s Chief Executive Officer.
“It became clear pretty quickly that both organizations would work great together. We both approach technology from the client perspective and think it is more about the people than the technology itself.” said John Ahlberg, Waident’s Chief Executive Officer and founder.
Apex Consulting Group provides strategic and tactical technology solutions that improve business performance. As a premier information technology services firm and advisor, Apex is recognized for its ability to transform technology investments into a strategic business advantage. Apex helps clients realize that information technology is a true business asset, not an expense.
Waident Technology Solutions provides a complete technology support and management platform for small to mid-sized organizations in Health Care, Commercial Real Estate, Finance, and Professional Services. By providing responsive helpdesk support for end users, comprehensive technology management, and CIO strategic guidance, Waident’s clients leverage a cost effective solution to handle all of their technology needs and gain a robust IT department.
In the context of one of my earlier blog postings about the EMR needs assessment (http://www.waident.com/blog/viewpost/460) I wanted to take a moment to reiterate the need for a process both in EMR selection and in ongoing use. Rather than thinking about how to convert a paper process into an electronic one, think about process improvements instead. Setting goals for how the EMR system can provide more timely information, including alerts for the physician and other staff, will be a meaningful step towards recognizing value with your EMR system. The key being not to overlook anyone in your process, as everyone has some impact on the medical practice workflow.
Here is an interesting article that provides some insight on how physicians are using EMR’s in the context of meaningful use:
I have talked with many physicians and practice managers in small and midsized practices across specialties about their thoughts and concerns on the path to EHR selection, implementation and meaningful use. Some of these conversations steer toward waiting to see what their affiliated hospital will do. While alignment with the affiliated hospital is certainly an important aspect of the EHR for the medical practice, the ongoing concern must be continuous process improvement within the practice. Meaningful use can be part of the even bigger picture of your practice. This is not only a change from paper to electronic but also provides more sophisticated and timely information. The challenge many times is getting buy-in to the idea that everyone will be creating a new process and it does not happen overnight or even after a 3-day “go-live” with the EHR system. The bottom line is that if everyone in the medical practice buys-in to defining and developing the new process within the EHR, there can be real benefits to making this leap. If you have ongoing concerns about achieving meaningful use within the practice, here is an interesting article on the concerns that CIO’s of the hospitals have in this process:
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 Next > End >>