Mar 2, 2015

Smart Business: 4 Contract-Free Tech Upgrades

In the Harvard Business Review's report, "Smart but Safe: How Small Businesses Use Technology to Grow Revenue," 40 percent of small- and medium-sized companies are still not using hosted/cloud solutions. Meanwhile, those same companies are spending $2,000 annually (per employee) for IT needs alone. Small and large businesses alike can reduce IT costs and protect their data by tapping into online and cloud-based resources. Everything from office security to project management can now be addressed in the cloud and save your company time and money. Here are four ways to get started with contract-free solutions that streamline your business.

Online Cloud Backup

It's no longer necessary to hire an expensive IT consultant, stock your equipment room with bulky servers and sign lengthy contracts for data-backup systems. An online system can store all of your data and programs in the cloud and keep them within reach even during a disaster. Use a system like Google Drive for business for automatic backup, protect critical files and give you access to your info from anywhere. That means if your system goes down while you're on a flight to see an important client, you can still log in with your airline's Wi-Fi and restore all of your data right from your computer.

Security Camera Systems

Internet cameras, IP or Internet Protocol cams send and receive data over a local area network (LAN) over the Internet. This gives business owners the peace of mind to see what's going on at the office when you're not around. Check-in to see who's still working or if anyone is in the building that shouldn't be. Lorex is among the first IP cameras on the market that can be set up without the need for an IT guru or complex technology knowledge. Instead, just use your smartphone with Lorex's ping mobile app and QR code located on the back of the camera to get it up and running. Best of all, Lorex offers contract-free service.

Streamline Project Management

Outsourcing your project management needs can be simplified with a tool like Asana. Born within Facebook to help streamline its management needs, Asana rapidly grew and became available to the public. The system now offers an easy way to collaborate with your entire team no matter if they're in the office or working remotely. Users can log in, create a task and invite others to collaborate. Read responses within Asana, approve next steps and upload files as needed.

Get Inbound Marketing Help

Business owners may have in-depth management experience and ideas but lack effective marketing skills. It’s also impossible for businesses to do it all from running a company to finding new clients. Get inbound marketing help with a service like HubSpot to get education and consulting to help your business grow. Choose from packages ranging from inbound consulting to getting priority technical support to help with your marketing campaigns. You can even get the scoop on A/B testing and advanced analytics to measure what's working and what's not.

Feb 27, 2015

Net Neutrality Wins! New FCC Rules Protect The Internet from ISP's!

Some interesting stats from the public's recent victory over evil ISP's wishing to put a strangle hold on our free and open Internet!

Via Battle For The Net

Feb 25, 2015

Your Roku Plex app is asking for money? Don't panic!

My smoking hot girlfriend recently cut the cable at her house and switched over to using Roku Sticks. Very similar to what I did a few years ago. She signed up for Netflix and Hulu, and since I'm a veteran I introduced her to the wonderful world of Torrents and Plex!

Well, the other night she sent me a text saying that her Plex App on Roku was telling her that her trial has expired and that she has to pay to activate it! What the hell? When did that happen? I've been using Plex for years and haven't had to pay a dime!

Well, apparently if you are a new user to Plex (Anyone who has signed up after December 2013) then they make you pay a one time fee of $5 to use their app on Roku. I suppose the fee is nominal, and Plex should be supported, but you know me... I like free!

The good news for cheap skates like me, and my smoking hot girlfriend is that there is a free alternative to the Plex App for Roku users. It's called RARflix!

The look and feel is almost identical to the Plex App, but if you are a new user to Plex, you don't have to pay the $5 admittance fee!

Here is a picture of the RARflix icon next to the Plex App icon on my daughter's Roku:


As you can see, the RARflix icon is almost identical to the original Plex icon. The look and functionality of the app itself is also almost identical except the video/TV show icons are a little bit smaller. Here is a screen shot of that:


To install the RARflix channel, just click here to add it to your Roku account.

If you have been looking for a way to get out of paying $5 to use Plex, I think you've found it!

Feb 23, 2015

The Top Technical Features PC Gamers Want From Developers

One thing that stands out about PC games is the ability of developers to offer technical options that are not available to console gamers. The reports about the imminent death of PC gaming have been greatly exaggerated—in fact, Gearnuke reports that the PC game market dominates the worldwide gaming market with a 51 percent share, while console gaming makes up only about a third. PCs come in many shapes and sizes, and developers should embrace their mutability by offering some key technical options as standards within the PC game industry. Here's a look at just a few of the technical options we'd like to see become industry standards:

Graphics Customization

There are thousands of permutations of computer hardware used in gaming PCs, and no one set of graphical options is one-size-fits-all. PC gamers need scaled performance options in their titles, so that the wide range of PCs can run a game at a level of performance quality that is acceptable and takes full advantage of whatever hardware is being used.

Options such as texture quality, draw distance and shadow resolution are somewhat standard for PC games, but individual effect and rendering control are also important features for many gamers. Simply having a “low” to “high” sliding bar for effects isn't enough control. Rather than relying on editing configuration files or inputting console commands, gamers should have these features made available to them right from the video options menu.

Finally, borderless full screen mode isn't that hard to implement and should be a standard customization option.

Dump 'Common' Resolution Options

Arbitrary resolution control is a simple and effective means of performance scaling that is so easy to implement in development that it is a wonder it isn't already the standard for PC games. With arbitrary resolution settings, PC gamers are no longer a slave to the “normal” resolutions that are commonly used. Monitors and display devices come in countless variations, and simply having a title query the player's OS to populate the resolution options enables players who use unusual display options to fully enjoy their games without resorting to strange resolution settings. Games like “Battlefield: Hardline” are massive blockbusters played on every display imaginable, and should be able to natively render to these displays without trouble.

Not everyone is playing on standard monitors, and developers should make it easy for those of us with unorthodox settings to get the highest performance possible from their titles instead of defaulting to the closest setting.

Full Mod and Screenshot Support

While at first it may seem like full developer support for mods and better screenshot support are disconnected ideas, they both address a need from hardcore fans of titles. When gamers are passionate about a title, they want to share their experience and build social communities around it. Take, for instance, the "The Elder Scrolls" games, which have thriving mod communities. Gamespot reports that since 2011, more than 20 million copies of “Skyrim” alone have been purchased. This is in no small part thanks to Bethesda's long-time support of modder culture. Some screenshots taken in “Skyrim” are beautiful, and gamers love to capture these moments.

Offering PC gamers free camera control, HUD hiding and a timestop console command enables them to take screenshots of these moments unhindered by clumsy graphical capture programs. When you make it easy for PC gamers to share and connect in adoration of your title, it translates into direct appreciation and long-term fandom. Let us be your fans.

Feb 20, 2015

How to use Crashplan to backup to a NAS or network share in Windows

A few years ago I did a Tech Chop video on how to build your own cloud backup solution using CrashPlan. Here is that episode if you want to check it out:



Well I'm happy to report that I'm still using CrashPlan for backing up servers at my company as well as laptops. Now that I'm a remote employee though, I wanted to be able to not only backup to my company's storage in California, I wanted to backup locally to my NAS at home for faster recovery should I need it.

The problem with the free version of CrashPlan is that it won't let you select a network share as a backup destination. It will however let you backup to a local folder on your C: drive. To get around that, I decided that I had to mount my NAS's network share as a folder on my C: drive which I wrote about yesterday.

Once you have your network share mounted to a local folder, CrashPlan will see the contents of your network share as a local folder and you can backup to it!


That's it! Super simple right? Do you use CrashPlan? Do you like it? If you don't use CrashPlan, do you use another cloud backup solution? Let us know in the comments!

Feb 19, 2015

How to mount a network SMB/CIFS share as a folder in Windows

Today I was trying to figure out a solution to a problem that I will write more about tomorrow, but it involved having to figure out how to mount a network SMB/CIFS share as a folder instead of a drive letter in Windows. This was because the program I was using couldn't see network shares for some reason, and could only use folders on the C drive.

Well, it turns our it's pretty easy to do this from the command line. You run the following which creates a symbolic link folder to your CIFS share:
mklink /d  C:\FolderName\ \\Server\ShareName\

Obviously you need to modify the command to suit your needs. Also, you have to let the command create your linked folder. If you try to manually create the folder on your local drive before running the command, you will get an error saying, "Cannot create a file when that file already exists."

After that, you can access your CIFS share through the local folder, and programs will see that share now as a local folder.

Feb 10, 2015

Ubuntu Server 14.04 and XenServer 6.2

At my day job I like to use XenServer for home office virtualization. The reason being is that it's free, you can cluster it easily and it has most of the features of VMWare without the price tag. Well the other day I was trying stand up a new Ubuntu 14.04 server and I kept getting an error saying:
The bootloader for this VM returned an error - did the VM installation succeed? Unable to find partition containing kernel

I found an Ubuntu Forum thread talking about this and they suggest using the Debian Trusty template, and during installation switching from grub2 to grub. Awesome, but there is an easier way to stand up Ubuntu 14.04 on Xen 6.2...

Use the Windows XP 32 bit template!

You don't need to do anything else special. Just run the install and it works! You can still use Ubuntu 14.04 64 bit with this template as well.


By the way, if you are an Ubuntu fan do you have your free Powered by Ubuntu stickers yet?

Feb 2, 2015

What Are IP Codes and How Do They Help You Buy a Smartphone?

Americans have spent over $23.5 billion dollars on smartphone repairs in less than a decade, states a study by SquareTrade. That figure accounts for accidental breakage, cracked screens, water damage and other mishaps. While some repair costs may result from faulty software or hardware from the manufacturer, much of that figure is our own fault. Luckily, we can drastically reduce the amount spent on repairs by investing in a quality phone with rigorous standards. If you aren't sure how to tell if a phone is high quality or not, the IP rating is a good place to start.

What Is an IP Code?

The Electro Technical Commission started the Ingress Protection rating or International Protection Marking, otherwise known as IP, to rate the protection given to electrical parts. Specifically, the ratings help identify how well electronics and parts are protected against different types of intrusion or immersion in water.

The IP code is two digits and applies to all types of electrical devices, including smartphones and tablets. The first number represents the durability against solid objects and the second by water. So, if the first number is zero (or marked with an X), it has no protection against solid objects. If the second number is four, this means it is protected against objects that are bigger than 2.5 mm, such as wires.

How Does IP Benefit the Customer?

Without an IP code standard, manufacturers potentially could claim any device is waterproof without much accountability for it. The IP code helps standardize what to expect from manufacturer claims. You may never actually check to see what the code is, but the manufacturer must create their product according to standard to secure the rating they want. This can prove challenging depending on the product, but it helps deliver reliable products to the public.

How Do IP Codes Affect Smartphones?

As smartphones evolve, so do their IP codes and manufacturing standards. Currently, there are dozens of waterproof and even self-healing smartphones on the market. For example, the Sony Xperia Z3 claims a slim, waterproof design. But what does that really mean?

The Sony Xperia Z offers a rating of IP55 and IP58 for dust and water, respectively, reports Phone Cruncher. More specifically, this means the device is protected against low-pressure jets or rain. However, it also can be kept in 1.5 meters of fresh water for up to half an hour at a time, which makes it compliant with the rating IP 58.

What Does Waterproof Entail?

A waterproof and dustproof smartphone can lower the odds of permanent damage to your phone, but it doesn't mean you can drop your smartphone in a pool, use it underwater for hours, abandon it and then expect it to work. Ports for your charger and headphones generally need to be closed and your touchscreen probably won't work very well while underwater. However, a quality smartphone with a solid IP rating can save you from spending hundreds of dollars a year to replace your phone if you accidentally get it wet or drop it in the sand.

How Can You Make Smart Purchases?

When shopping for a new smartphone, you don’t need to get overwhelmed by cross-referencing multiple IP ratings. Instead, look for ratings that give reasonable protection to your phone based on your lifestyle. If you spend a lot of time in the water or sand, you’ll benefit from a more robust rating. Sites like Android Police or Digital Trends can help demystify IP ratings and help you identify what kind of protection you need. While a great IP rating can’t protect your smartphone from every unforeseen event, it can help save you a bundle in replacing your phone just because you got caught out in the rain.



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