Array of laptops on sale
It is school holidays and Christmas items are appearing in the shops!
Kids are everywhere and maybe you are already being prompted about technology gifts for Santa. Are you ready?

Here are some hints to help you cope.
1) Use the holidays to find out what the young people in your life expect from technology and what their caregivers want for them. For example, Miss Five might want an IPhone but mum might feel she isn’t ready. Don’t buy anything for a child still living at home unless the family are happy with it. If you are a parent, discuss is with your partner.
Non humans can also enjoy technology. Did you know there is an app for dogs to draw on IPad?
2) If youngsters are old enough, ask them to help with your technology questions and teach you games and activities they enjoy.
3) Have non technology related fun with them too. The weather is too nice to be indoors all the time!
3) Before purchasing anything, do your research on Google. This should include the nightmare test that I often talk about. Google the product name and the word nightmare. Also try problem to be extra sure . For example “Galaxy s6 nightmare ” or “IPhone 6 nightmare”

Mini PCs are an interesting concept, which I am hoping to soon explore hands on. Based on research and discussion with others, my first impressions are
– they are useful devices for applications that don’t need much computing power
– they are not good at doing more than one thing at once due to not having much main memory
– they are cheap, portable and useful in media centre type applications, such as viewing streaming videeo
– they do have USB and in some cases microUsb connections unlike some tablets
– those with microUsb connections can be used as an external drive connected to a conventional PC or laptop
For more information and some examples from PC World magazine have a look at this link
There are also some Intel branded options which are commonly available in Australia. Intel Nucs and the Intel Compute Stick are easy to obtain. Be aware that NUCs are often sold with no disk storage and memory and the user needs to complete them in these cases. If you don’t feel comfortable working on computers, negotiate a deal with a technician to do this. Some suppliers sell them ready configured.

Galaxy s5
Are you having issues with the sound quality on videos and podcasts that you record from your phone? Just buy an external mic compatible with your phone. This can be resolved much more easily and cheaply than you think. I’ve actually been told by several consumer electronics stores that no such device exists but being a stubborn software engineer, I hunted one down. I now own a Rode mic which travels everywhere with me and can make videos on the fly without others finding them hard to hear. This is what I chose (Rode SmartLAV+)
(because it was on special) https://www.videopro.com.au/p-7780-rode-smartlav-smartphone-microphone-smartlavplus.aspx. Other brands and types may be better value at other times so check up but make sure that it is compatible with your phone. Most phones require a TRS connector. That’s the one with the three rings on. For more on connectors, look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phone_connector_%28audio%29
Once you have one with the right connector, it will usually work with most phones. I’ve tested mine with an Android Samsung Galaxy S5 phone. The two videos above are an illustration of the benefit. Note that 2 is much clearer, while 1 is fuzzy. That’s the difference!

tablet with keyboard

Tablet and keyboard

Kids are heading back to school and uni, so a huge array of “back to school” specials are everywhere. If you have kids, you have no doubt outfitted them everything from shoes and uniforms to IPads or tablets. But what about your business? Are sales tempting you to buy? If you ask yourself the right questions before you shop, you are much more likely to make the right choice. And now, the top question to ask.
Does it solve a problem for me?
Being tempted by the latest shiny new thing is very understandable but you won’t find it helpful in your business unless you know how you are going to use what it does. I’m lucky being in IT because I can sometimes get around this by claiming I need to research and understand a new thing. Before you buy something for your business, know how it will work in your business. Think as if you were interviewing an employee. Will this electronic “staff member” be a good fit?
A final tip, if you aren’t sure, ask an independent expert. We can help if you need advice.

What is it?  Logitech c920 web cam

A high quality web cam which has the following – good quality sound recording – HD video – wide field of view so if, for example, up to three people gather at a workstation, they can all join in. Mine is a Logitech C920 but this is not advertisement and others may also do the same job. When picking one it is important to make sure it has all the features you want and picture and sound quality are up to scratch. Check reviews online if you haven’t seen it in action. I can say that I have used it for still photos and training videos with audio as well as on Skype calls and have found it excellent. I am using a photo taken with it on my Skype profile.

It can be purchased in local shops for under $140. Watch out for special deals as there are currently some around for $83 or less from reputable suppliers.

How does it help? 

Webcams are often popularly associated with adult entertainment or Skype calls to family. This is a view of their capabilities which is too limited. They are also a serious business tool.

Some ways they are useful include

– making promotional videos

– making training materials for clients or staff

– taking still pictures for social media profiles

– video conferences with clients. This can be done with simple software such as Skype

Can you think of others? Please let me know if you have found a web cam useful in your business.

Phones on saleWhat should I ask?

Explain how I would seek service if required. If my device has be sent away, where to and how long is it likely to take?

Why is it important?
The written warranty doesn’t give you a feel for how long you might be without your device if it needs service. Even if the company has a service centre in your city, it still might have to go elsewhere. If it’s essential for your business, you need to be back on deck quickly. If you do buy something with this type of arrangement, make sure you have a “Plan B” such as keeping an old device as emergency backup.

The Nightmare Test
Finally, verify the sales staff or manufacturer’s claims. A simple way to do this is Google the product name and the terms nightmare then problem. This will uncover cases where service didn’t go smoothly, especially if the incidents were numerous or widespread.

Those who follow me on social media will know that my Nexus has been in for repairs. That’s a story for another day and fortunately has a happy ending. As a result though, I was among the first people to look at the newly released Galaxy S5 when they arrived yesterday. My first impressions were
1) it has a lovely screen, clear and easy to read.
2) the overseas reviews were accurate about new features – dust and water resistant, improved battery life, Heart rate monitor
3) it feels larger to hold and my impression was that it was the offspring of an s4 and a Note 🙂 Pick one up to see if you like the feel before you buy.
Should I buy one? I’d say,only if you are looking for a new phone now. I wouldn’t judge it as worth upgrading a working S4 but if you are off contract or have an older phone, this is definitely one worth a look. It’s a very powerful phone in an attractive, neat package and is 4G compatible . As usual with Samsung, the SAR value is low, which is an advantage if you are concerned about radiation. This article gives a great summary of the differences between S4 and S4 as sold in Australia.

Oftentimes people will try to sell you technology solutions. The best way to know if they will be helpful to you is to have a good understanding of your business processes. This means being able to explain to someone outside your business exactly what you do, at a deeper level than the pitch. It might time time to document them fully but understanding how your business ticks can save you from unhelpful technology purchases and help you focus your efforts. You want to look beyond your products and services, to how you deliver them. For example, if you sell hand made products online, when do you update your web site and from what device – computer or tablet? Do you take photos at client sites, e.g of a property or new swimming pool? Do you make appointments on the go? How do your staff know what appointments you have made? Do you work from the same location all the time or do you travel? What I recommend is that you write down each product and service that you provide or intend to provide on a page of paper or as headings in a document on your computer/ tablet.
Then for each, write down the steps you take to deliver it.
Review each of these and consider if your technology is working as well as it can for you or if something needs to change. If you don’t know what can be changed, then at least you are well prepared to answer your IT consultant’s questions about how you will use the program or device and ask him or her appropriate questions to determine if the proposed solution meets your needs. In the coming weeks, we will cover some techniques for looking at your business processes. If you are a visual learner, there are easy diagramming techniques which you may find helpful. Shiny new laptop

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