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Videoconferencing is an increasingly viable communication tool for businesses of all sizes. However, there is no one-size-fits-all videoconferencing solution; the one that fits best depends on the size of a business, the nature of a business, and what a business wants to accomplish.
Larger businesses can opt for providing all employees with desktop videoconferencing capabilities, multiple room-based systems, one or more immersive telepresence systems, or some combination thereof. Whatever the configurations you choose, the muscle and might resides on the core of your network, in the IT closet.
Systems may include per-seat licenses for as many employees as necessary, each endpoint (a desktop or a room) equipped with the necessary cameras, microphones, and videoconferencing software. The addition of a bridge, which can handle anywhere from a dozen or so users up to hundreds of users, enables multi-way videoconferencing; multiple bridges, which can be placed in various offices or branches, multiply the number of possible simultaneous users.
You can also add a recording box to the system, which allows you to record video conferences and stream content to dozens of users. With the addition of a dedicated streaming box, you can create a sort of corporate YouTube where thousands of users can access recorded content at once.
The crème de la crème solution is the immersive telepresence system, which is essentially a room containing a video display wall, the ability to hold simultaneous calls between large groups of people, and the ability to call virtually any other videoconferencing system. Immersive telepresence is ideal for corporate training sessions, conducting university classes online, and government applications.
You don’t need special bandwidth capabilities to run even the most elaborate system; the broadband Internet that most companies already have in place is sufficient.
The cost of a videoconferencing system varies widely. In general, however, the more functionality you add to a system, the higher the price. Instead of buying every component separately, it’s typical to buy everything you need as a package from a single vendor. However, many customers buy the displays—typically large-screen HDTVs—on their own, as it’s often more cost-effective that way.
Desktop endpoints cost in the neighborhood of $100 per seat, with rooms running anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on how elaborate a given room is. Bridges cost between about $25,000 up to a couple hundred thousand dollars, depending on how many simultaneous users they support. A recording box may cost around $25,000, and you can expect to pay approximately $75,000 for a streaming box. Immersive telepresence solutions run between about $150,000 to $500,000 per room, depending on the scale of a given installation and its amenities.
How to browse the Web, run apps, play music and games— and most important, watch what you want, when you want it.
“Smart TV” is the new hot buzzword these days. Imagine, for a moment, that your HDTV combined the simplicity of the
normal TV-and-remote experience with the powerful search features and video-on-demand libraries you’re accustomed to on the Web. Toss in social networking, photo sharing, music, gaming, and a hundred kinds of Web content. That’s what
“smart TV” means. It means never needing to settle for anything less than having what you want to watch (or hear, or
play) running in big-screen glory right now, while you master the universe from the couch with your all-powerful remote.
Don’t let all the TV and tech companies out there fool you, however. You have many ways to make your existing TV
smarter, other than just buying a new connected TV with all the bells and whistles built in. You don’t have to purchase a
brand-new PC or yet another set-top box, either. and you don’t have to let your cable-TV subscription hold your eyeballs
(or your wallet) hostage with hundreds of channels you’ll never watch.
Looking to buy a new HDTV? Choose the right TV—one that connects directly to the Internet—and you can enjoy loads of
Web features and apps without having to buy any add-ons or boxes. But choosing may not be easy: all the major TV manufacturers now have some package of Internet-connected features built into their midrange and high-end models.
In early Internet-connected TVs, packages included only a few additional “channels”—Netfl ix Instant Watch, YouTube, and a few video-rental services like amazon Instant Video, CinemaNow, and Vudu. Connected-television features have since advanced quickly.
New connected TV sets come packed with apps, games, and Internet video channels, often with options exclusive to the manufacturer.
Cost: You’ll have to pay for the television ($1000 to $2000 for midrange to high-end sets). The good news: You don’t necessarily have to pay a premium for an Internetconnected TV: Some manufacturers, such as Vizio, sell lowend models that are priced in the $750 to $830 range. The cost of an HDTV will generally de pend on the set’s size and on its panel technology (a 50-inch plasma set will cost more than a 50-inch LED one). and you won’t have to pay for access to the smart-TV service itself—just for the subscriptions to specifi c services such as Hulu Plus or Netfl ix, as well as the video-download rental fees.
Advantages: Connected TVs are simple and elegant. You can use your TV’s own remote, you don’t need to worry about
running extra power cords or audio/video cables as you do with a set-top box or a home theater PC, and many HDTV sets
include built-in Wi-Fi support (so you don’t even need to plug an ethernet cable into the back).
What’s more, newer TV sets often come with new remote controls that make it easier to use the Internet features. For
example, Lg’s Magic Motion remote is a gesture-oriented remote control similar to the Nintendo Wii controller (just
point the remote at the TV to move your cursor), which lets you more easily use the built-in Web browser of Lg sets.
Vizio’s high-end sets include a Bluetooth remote with a slideout keyboard to facilitate typing.
Disadvantages: Connected TVs aren’t particularly versatile. If your set-top box doesn’t have a channel you want, you can go buy a new one, but you won’t be able to do such a thing so easily with a big, expensive HDTV. also, if you’re big on live TV, you’ll still need your cable-TV subscription, as the Internet features are mostly on-demand video only.
Advanced tips: Most connected TVs include uSB ports and DLNa support (see the glossary on page 65), meaning that
you can watch your locally stored video, photos, and music from a uSB drive by plugging it straight into your TV or from
other PCs on your network—handy for the times when the video you want to watch is sitting on your PC in the den.
Future-proof? Yes—but only if you choose wisely. although early Internet features in HDTVs looked pitiful compared with what a standard set-top box could offer, the big players in the HDTV market (Lg, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio) are each looking to make their Web-connected TV sets your entertainment hub by adding new features, video channels, and even their own app stores. For example, Panasonic’s “Viera Connect” Internet features include Facebook, Skype, Twitter, and even downloadable games from gameloft in addition to a whole host of media-streaming services like
amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Netfl ix, and Pandora.
Smartphone malware isn’t yet as big a threat as you might think, but it’s coming. Here are some tips to help you avoid it.
Malicious software is leaping from PCs to cell phones, as malware makers target the platform in hopes of making a quick buck. Examples include the infected Droid Dream and Plankton Android apps. An infected app released into the
Android market can infect several thousand users’ phones before anyone discovers the presence of the malware.
In the DroidDream incident, several thousand people downloaded software infected with a Trojan horse that rooted their phone and sent data such as the user’s location and phone number to a remote server. That same day, Google killed the contaminated apps in the Android Market, wiped the apps from phones remotely, and issued an update to patch and repair the damage that the DroidDream Trojan horse had done.
Because of how Android apps are built, a malware writer can disassemble a popular app, repackage it with malware, and reupload it to the Android Market with a slightly different title.
Nevertheless, we’ve yet to see any mobile malware infestations or threats on the scale of desktop PC problems. Thus
far, all of the reported mobile malware incidents have been small, isolated outbreaks that malware fighters have patched or identified within several hours of their appearance. According to Symantec, it’s still early in the smartphone malware game; and though the threat may seem overblown today, outbreaks are nevertheless very likely to increase in the future.
Threats to Watch Out For:
Malware makers favor Android because it is an open platform that allows users to load custom applications onto their devices. But other mobile gadgets are at risk of malware, too.
In its closed app ecosystem, Apple screens apps to ensure that they don’t contain objectionable content. But Apple does not check every bit in every app submitted to the App Store.
In July 2010, an app called Handy Light passed Apple’s screening process and appeared in the App Store. Though Handy Light looked like a simple flashlight app, it contained a hidden unofficial tethering function that let users treat their iPhones as cellular modems. Handy Light wasn’t malicious, but it showed that no vetting system is entirely safe. Most of the mobile malware we’ve encountered so far has taken the form of infected apps on the Android platform. For a phone to become infected, its user must install the compromised app; it isn’t vulnerable to drive-by downloads and other infection methods, as PCs are. That situation may change as malware makers begin to target other smartphone operating systems.
Ultimately, it’s up to users to make the right decisions when choosing where to download apps and which apps to install. In June of this year, McAfee Labs released a report stating that BUGS & FIXES alternative third-party app stores unofficial app markets not sanctioned by Google or Apple had more malware on average than the official markets. The Gemini trojan for Android, for example, was distributed exclusively through third-party app stores in China.
How to Protect Yourself
The safest course is to avoid apps that you’ve never heard of and to research apps and their publishers thoroughly before pressing the Download button. When you install an app, you’ll see a list of permissions for services that the app can access on your device. but an alarm clock app, say, probably shouldn’t need to access your contacts. If something
in the permissions screen looks fishy, just don’t download the app.
You should also be wary of what you click (or tap) while browsing the Web. In late June, mobile security company Lookout discovered malicious advertisements aimed at smartphone users and designed to trick them into installing infected apps. Some types of mobile antivirus software, like Lookout mobile Security, have features intended to protect you from phishing attacks like these.
If possible, install antivirus software on your phone. most big-name security companies like AVG, mcAfee, and Symantec have a downloadable mobile app for protecting your phone. besides guarding against malware, these apps have such features as the ability to lock and wipe your phone remotely. When you receive a new phone, it’s a good idea to install an antivirus program before you add any other apps. That way, your phone will be better protected against malware from the get-go.
At least for the moment, smartphone malware is relatively easy to avoid; but being aware that it exists is the first step toward protecting yourself and your data from falling victim to it.
WHO HAS YOUR private info? Who knows, given how common security breaches have become. And credit card information is one of the most common types of personal data we volunteer online. So what can you do to minimize credit card fraud? Well, you can’t stop the break-ins, but here are four ways to keep your funds out of the hands of the bad guys.
Disposable credit card numbers: Why share your 16-digit number with online merchants, particularly those you’ve never heard of? Many major banks let you create a unique, temporary card number for each online purchase.
For instance, ShopSafe (www.bankofamerica.com/shopsafe) is a free service for Bank of America Visa and MasterCard holders who bank online with the fi nancial giant. When you want to make a purchase online, you open a new browser window and sign in to your Bank of America account. Next, you follow the ShopSafe instructions to create a 16-digit credit card number, which you use on the vendor’s site in lieu of your regular number. (The vendor won’t know the difference.) The temporary number has its own expiration date and security code, and is valid at only one online vendor. You may reuse the number when you buy from that vendor again, however. Other institutions, including Citibank (www.citibank.com/us/cards) and EntroPay (fi nd.pcworld.com/71872), have similar services.
Even if you don’t use a disposable number, you’re protected from unauthorized credit card purchases. If someone uses
your card without your permission, your liability typically ends at the fi rst $50, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (fi nd.pcworld.com/71873 ). And many card issuers now have zero-liability policies, where you won’t have to pay a penny.
Online payment services: The free Google Checkout service (checkout.google.com) stores your credit card details and doesn’t share your full card number with merchants. If a vendor accepts Google’s payment service, you can make a purchase simply by clicking the Google Checkout button on its site. Naturally, you’ll have to sign in to your Google account to complete a transaction. The venerable PayPal (www.paypal.com) is another option, and it won’t charge you a fee to buy stuff online. Both sites will reimburse any unauthorized purchases in full, as long as you report the fraud within 60 days.
Prepaid credit cards: Personal finances shaky? Can’t obtain a regular credit card? you still have online-shopping options, albeit pricey ones. usually you can get a Visa Prepaid card without a credit card or bank account (find.pcworld.com/71874). When you buy a prepaid card, you load it with the cash amount you want; as you buy stuff, the goods’ purchase total is deducted from the balance. Visa’s zero-liability policy applies to prepaid cards, as well. Just remember that these cards are often loaded with sneaky fees. A Western union Prepaid Visa Card (www.westernunion.com), for instance, has a $10 “non-refundable activation fee” and a $5 “load fee.”
Secure cards: For additional protection online, consider services such as MasterCard secureCode (find.pcworld.
com/71877) and Verified by Visa (find.pcworld.com/71878). Both require you to enter a password to complete a transaction. The lists of participating vendors are short, but if you regularly buy, say, plane tickets on British Airways, using an extra layer of security could help throw potential fraudsters off your tracks.
One last important rule of thumb: Never use wire transfers. “it’s just like sending cash—once it’s gone, it’s gone.
you can’t get it back,” the FtC’s Consumer Alert site warns. the agency also points out that using cash equivalents,
including debit cards, personal checks, cashier’s checks, or money orders, to buy online is wise only if you’re familiar with the seller. Buying a $50 herbal supplement from a dubious siberian pharmacy? say nyet to cash.
Using any of these methods can help you significantly reduce the chances of being duped by a malicious seller or site hacker. Of course, even if you take steps to disguise your financial information, you should regularly check your
accounts to spot fraud more quickly. But with a little vigilance and extra effort, you can stay one step ahead of
Many leading brands that are eager to get closer to customers have come to embrace Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other similar platforms as their primary vehicles for customer engagement and lead generation. In many cases, domestic social media efforts have paid off in measurable, impressive returns on investment (ROI).
However, social media strategy becomes significantly more complicated when companies expand it to include multiple international markets. For all of its allure, social media is not a panacea for globalization needs. It can be a useful tool, but website owners who include social media as one aspect of a more complete, integrated campaign often see better results abroad than those who put all their localization efforts into tweets and Facebook updates. Below are five facts that all Web businesses should know about international social media:
1.Social media is not effective in every market
There are some industries in which social media lives up to its promise for better business. In these markets, customers respond in droves to carefully crafted tweets, and they like and share Facebook posts, leading directly to increased conversion rates.
In other spaces, however, the impact of social media is nominal. In such cases, website owners must carefully consider the value of translating social media content for international audiences.
For internationally focused companies, social media activities can be time- and resourceintensive, since multilingual social media cannot be managed by machines alone. One hundred and forty characters in English, for example, do not neatly translate into Russian or German tweets. Human experts are required to oversee that process, as well as other
social media tasks, such as responding to wall posts on Facebook or answering messages on a blog.
Before retailers invest in these activities, they should consider its potential value and examine the predominant sources of their website traffic in various regions. They should look at the way they define conversion and find out what their conversion rates are. They must look at the effect of social media on their home market and seek out evidence that
might predict its impact abroad. Finally, businesses on the Web should determine whether they have the resources in place to manage localized social media on a global scale.
2. It can be easy and difficult at the same time
It seems so simple: Write a short blog post, send a pithy tweet, craft an irresistible Facebook missive, create a video for YouTube. These activities seem straightforward enough, and valuable, too, since the company retains control over a message that could go viral. Globalization, however, complicates matters.
Effective localization for international prospects requires more than plugging words into a machine that returns literal translations. This is certainly true for global websites, but the importance of connotation intensifies as communication gets more compact.
Twitter’s strict length parameters, for example, make every character choice a critical one. Translating for this kind of platform requires not only timesaving software solutions but seasoned human translators, as well. These experts are needed to choose the right words, as well as understand the cultural implications and potential reactions of the target markets.
Additionally, creating short, frequent content requires ongoing local support, since the expectation of social media is not a one-sided broadcast but an interactive conversation. For business owners that want a one-time invest investment
in international marketing that requires little follow-up effort, social media is not the best option.
3. If you want to go social abroad, hire locally
There is, of course, a reason for all of the hype around social media. When it is done well and prospects embrace it, social media marketing can pay off. This is not only true locally but also with international campaigns.
Online businesses that succeed in international social media marketing do so because they factor translation, international messaging, cultural norms, local news and localized search engine parameters into their strategies. They recognize that social media itself is not a marketing campaign; rather, they view it as an element of an integrated approach.
When websites look at the way all available media and mediums can function together to reach a goal, they capture a greater return on their efforts.
Those who succeed also recognize that social media outreach makes numerous demands, including the following:
-Writing fresh, relevant content on a frequent basis.
-Monitoring other blogs, tweets and posts in the market, and commenting regularly.
– Calling on a local voice to manage these tasks to ensure that language nuances and cultural practices ring true.
– Investing in a local marketing professional who can devote time to content creation and social media management.
4. Social media marketing works best when it is part of a complete campaign
When it comes to international outreach and localization, the real return on investment comes from a well-integrated campaign that potentially includes social media as one element. Other common elements include targeted pay-per-click ads tied to a comprehensive international search engine marketing (ISEM) campaign, culturally relevant landing pages for fast conversions, multilingual rich media, adapted banner ads and marketing, out-of-home advertising, experiential marketing with people on the ground, philanthropic community involvement and events like launch parties and networking functions.
Unfortunately, too many companies see that their website traffic is low and respond hastily with carelessly translated ads or machine translation that replicates their domestic blogs and churns them out in international markets. Both of these activities fail to achieve their overall marketing goals — building business globally, generating new leads and spreading awareness about products and services.
5.International search engine maketing:
Before companies take on social media, they need to build a foundation to support their outreach to international markets. That foundation is not as flashy as Facebook, but it can be far more effective. Furthermore, ISEM enables
every effort that comes after it, increasing penetration in new markets.
ISEM starts with the careful creation of keywords. Literal translation does not work for keyword creation, as slang and local vernacular play a significant role in regional search practices. The next step involves research into local search engine preferences.
In most of the world, the results will all point to one engine: Google. However, in some countries such as China, a local search engine will dominate. In these cases, businesses must learn the algorithms of the local favorite and create the keywords, ad placements, website content and tags most likely to boost rankings.
It’s unlikely that any business can drive international prospects to its landing pages without an integrated marketing campaign. Social media alone cannot build business abroad. For example, a retailer who leads prospects to a landing page that is irrelevant to the ad they viewed sees the impact in lower conversion rates. If a website fails to use high-quality translation, its search engine results — as well as conversion rates — will fall. These problems are solved first by ISEM, and then by an integrated group of marketing efforts. While there is a lot of international excitement around social media, the business reality is that these mediums require resources and effort; they are not quick fixes or replacements for a missing strategy.
However, when international social media outreach is incorporated into a larger, more complete marketing campaign,
it can be an effective method for reaching new prospects around the world.