Category Archives: Technology

iPad vs Microsoft Surface

Advantage iPad: The iPad with Apples iOS is much more intuitive, much more fun, much more friendly and always online. It has a much nicer acceptance of your finger as a pointer and selection tool. The iPad Store has more than 300,000 apps available compared to Microsoft Store under 20,000. The iPad is 4G compatible which means you don’t need to be near a hot spot to be connected. Lastly, the iPad is just plane fun!

Advantage Surface: The Surface has a wonderful wide screen display wonderful for HD Movies and Videos. It is a Windows device, so if you are a Windows user, all the software you have been using is available. It has a USB, so I can and do connect a wireless mouse. It can and will replace the need for me to carry my 17″ laptop around when I travel! The Surface has a Micro-HDMI port along with USB and Micro SD slot. The iPad requires an adapter. The entire bevy of Windows software is available for the Surface with Windows 8 Pro. Lastly, the Surface is a business tool with the familiarity and capability of your desktop at home or the office.
Bottom line? Winner? No clear winner! I need both!

Posted in Technology.

Windows 8 Pro

Windows 8 is the new OS from Microsoft replacing Windows 7 and giving it a new look and feel

20130217-135147.jpgdesigned for touch screens and especially tablets. It might be a natural for Xbox 360 users because that is the interface that you will first see.

So it takes a little getting used to begin using your new Windows 8 computer because there is no familiar desktop, no start button in the lower left hand corner. But on closer scrutiny, you will find a desktop and a task bar just like the good old days. But you will never find the start button. It is gone! However, there are now 3rd party applications which will bring it back to life in a big way.
With touch screen on a tablet, you can sweep your finger from the left to change applications or see a list of running applications. Sweep from the right and you will see the date and time along with start, search and settings options.

The Start option provides a ‘metro’ look at available programs in square or rectangle icons. The icons are dynamic, so your photos icon displays photos from your computer, Facebook, SkyDrive or Flickr online accounts. The People icon displays images from your social network like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Connect, etc.

In summary, we will all get used to Windows 8 but Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, continues to take two steps forward and one step back.

Posted in Technology.

Microsoft Surface

At first glance, the Surface is a sleek wide-screen (16:9) high resolution tablet with super crisp

20130217-134218.jpgdisplay. It has a magnesium stand (the entire device is magnesium clad) that clicks out from the back side and a sleek keyboard cover that snaps into place magnetically into place making it look more like a laptop than a tablet. It starts quickly and easily with Windows 8 Pro which I will talk about in the next section. IT has a USB port (awesome) and a Micro SD memory card slot. It also has an earphone jack and an interesting magnetic connector for power or pen. The USB port is wonderful because you can connect a mouse or normal keyboard or a USB Hub so you can connect multiple USB devices. Being able to use a mouse and full keyboard makes seem like a laptop or desktop.

Mine came with 64gb of disk solid-state space (because the 128gb model was out of stock). After I installed a full version of Office 2010, I was left with a mere 20gb of space. Not a lot of space! That said, with the use of cloud computing options like Microsoft Skydrive, Yahoo Flickr, Dropbox, Vimeo, Facebook, and others, most of my data is in the cloud so the space required is really used on programs.

There are two choices in keypads available. A touch and a type. The touch is a slim 3mm thick with embossed keys that are touch sensitive. The type keyboard is more like a normal keyboard. I like both very much although it takes a short time to get used to the touch version.

The Microsoft Surface has a Corning Gorilla Glass 2 screen which makes it nearly impervious to scratches or cracking.

All things considered, I love the design, clarity and Windows of the new Surface! I also love that it is a Windows device with all the features of my desktop. Things I use everyday like Outlook, OneNote, Excel, a Mouse and a keyboard!

Posted in Technology. Tagged with .

People Tracking with RFID

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) was thought to be a transportation and logistics tool for managing inventory of packages, especially high value products like Gillette razor blades or Pfizer packages of Viagra. Although not in every store just yet, RFID is hitting it big when it comes to tracking people. 

Sometimes called spy chips, these tiny devices are connected to a particular package or person. They might be thought of as electronic bar codes. A court just upheld the legality of using RFID tags as an electronic badge for students of a Texas High School that wants to use RFID tags to manage the security of students.

Disney World plans to begin using RFID tags installed in bracelets this spring. These wrist bands (MyMagic+ bracelets) will be used for park admission, room keys, charge cards and FastPass’s (used to make reservations on popular attractions). This will replace the plastic “Card to the Kingdom” which resort guests use today as park access, room access and charge cards. The RFID scanners (pictured here) will be located everywhere and will track each individual as we move through the parks. All information gathered will feed a comprehensive logistics application to better monitor crowd levels, queue lines, and store activity. Although not specifically disclosed, the RFID bracelets will also be able to track the use of restrooms, front desks, concierge, buses, boats, monorail, automobile, room use, resort amenities such as spas, exercise facilities, lobby’s, bars, restaurants and walkways. 

Fortunately, Disney guests will of course be able to accessorize the MyMagic+ Bracelets with charms and Mouse paraphernalia. Thank Goodness! So Mickey Mouse has become our Big Brother.

Posted in Customer Service, geodata, mapping statistics, Technology.

Calendar 20-20

Here is an opening for a conversation. Calendar 20-20 is the name we have given to a new calendar project we are working on at TRI this month. We have used the calendar in Outlook for more than a decade and we have used the Google calendar for almost as long. These calendars are only moderately adequate. Here is a short requirements list of things we feel are missing from our Outlook or Google calendar. We intend to fix that problem.

  • Associate calendar entries to a project
  • Associate calendar entries to a client, associate or contact
  • Associate calendar entries to an employee or group member
  • Associate calendar entries to a task
  • Permit drag and drop editing
  • Grouping calendar entries by task within project, within client or contact within employee
  • Manage projects better by allowing all the tasks associated with a project to be rescheduled or cancelled as the project changes state
  • Prioritizing calendar entries
  • Adding comments to calendar entries
  • Add activities or requirements to calendar entries
  • Allow clients to see and/or manage calendar entries specific to them on the web
  • Allow employees to see and/or manage calendar entries specific to them on the web
  • Allow supervisors to review calendar entries for all employees
  • and clients Although Calendar 20-20 will replace the need to use the Outlook calendar, for those who wish, Calendar 20-20 can be downloaded and overlaid on top of an Outlook calendar.
  • Print or display calendars in special report formats
    • Listings by task by date
    • Listings by client and include tasks and dates
    • Listing by employee and include clients, tasks and dates
    • Daily task list for employees and supervisors
    • Special Monthly or Weekly calendars with avatars depicting employees, projects, clients and tasks
  • Interactive day view that allows a supervisor or employee to better manage a client

If you agree that we need to bring calendaring into the new millennium, please drop us a line and let us know what we are missing. How can a calendar be improved to help YOU in your business? Let us know!

Posted in Scheduling, Services, Technology. Tagged with .

Cloud Computing

What is it about the cloud? Why are we drawn to it? How do we use it? Is it good for us? Is it secure? Who can see it? What can we do with it, in it? Can we trust it?

Everyone is asking these questions. Why? Because the cloud offers some capabilities and features not possible within the confines of your own computer, network or workplace.

It offers scalability. That is, it can grow as big as you want. It can be comprised of hundreds of computers all working in harmony to delivery the power and information needed at any given time. It offers fault tolerance. That means that if one computer in the cloud breaks down, another computer in the cloud takes its place instantly. It offers global availability. Because it is in the cloud, you can reach it no matter where you are as long as you can connect to the Internet.

Here are some straight answers for you to consider when moving to the cloud. The cloud is a network of computers in unnamed locations around the world that have computing power and data storage and are interconnected via the Internet. These computers provide fault tolerant services because they are always watching out for themselves and take immediate action if a problem arises. That’s a good thing.

One of the concerns is the cloud might be a couple of computers in a dusty data center in Mexico City or an enormous datacenter in Virginia or a combination of datacenter’s around the world. You don’t really know. The computers might be connected to a single pair of copper wires or tied to the backbone of the Internet by multiple fiber connections. The computers might be protected by a power supply with a 30 minute life cycle if power goes out or it might be connected to million watt auto-fail-over generators that will last for 30 days without interruption. So the cloud can mean different things to different people. Lesson number one: you need to know where your cloud is located. You need to know what your cloud is made of. You need to know how your cloud is protected and you need to know how your cloud is connected.

Computers connect to the Internet and are generally protected by a firewall. The firewall watches over the connections to the computer from the outside world. It does that by watching the connections to certain ports (windows) into certain IP addresses. The firewall blocks unwanted access and permits approved access. Lesson number two: you need to know the capabilities of the firewall and how it secures your data.

The Internet is not a safe and secure place. Communication across the Internet occurs in packets of information. These packets are created by the sending computer transmitting information. These packets are received and assembled by the receiving computer. Anyone tapping into the connection between the sending and receiving computer can look at these packets. One question would be why. If the information is sensitive, that might be the answer. So in those cases, the packets need to be encrypted so even if the packets are captured, they are unintelligible. Lesson Number three: Be aware of the encryption used if any.

Harnessing the power of the cloud can be as simple as signing up for a Google account and using their cloud features of docs, email, groups, calendar, video and more or it can be a daunting task of configuring particular server instance on the Amazon EC2 backbone or arranging for fault tolerant blade servers in a hosted datacenter with custom fail-over protection. Lesson Number four: Have a clear idea of what you need before you move to the cloud.

If you are considering using the cloud or would like to know how it might benefit your organization, reach out to us at TRI. We understand how the cloud works and can help you venture safely into the cloud.

Posted in security issue, Services, Technology, travelling. Tagged with , , , .

TRI Starts Video Blogging

As with all thing, we start slow. Believe me when I say that creating a video blog is more work than it appears. There are issues as you can see in my first video blog. There are lighting concerns, there are audio issues, there is the quality of the video editing and of course there is the content. This is a beginning. Please judge with an open heart. In time, we will improve our lighting, enhance our sound, improve our content, and come up with better methods of presentation. But for now, enjoy and thanks for watching.

Posted in document imaging, scanned documents, Technology, Uncategorized.

Dell Financial Services

In a mishap that took nearly two months to resolve, I learned a little bit about dealing with Dell Financial Services. So here is a word to the wise, a cautionary tale, and at the same time, a plea for change.  You see my plight is not uncommon.  It is far too common.  It is unimportant what the problem was, let’s just say it was of my own doing.  I accidentally paid them too much money when making an online payment.  I recognize that was my error.  But the stakes were high and I needed to correct the problem.  It was too late for me to correct the problem on-line, so here is the saga.

I made the phone call.  Yes, of course I got sucked into the voicemail maze which our larger companies seem to think we appreciate.  Well we don’t.  When we press zero, it means we want to speak with a human being.  We don’t want to hear what our balance is, or the date of the payment or when the next payment is due. Pressing zero is a cry for help.  So few companies understand that.  So I finally persevered and spoke to a human being.  Oh if only I knew other languages.  Well I don’t.  I have learned some Spanish along the way. At least what 3 years of US Schools can teach you.  Hello, my name is…  I don’t speak Hindi nor Bengali, and I certainly haven’t had a chance to learn Filipino.  Well there are the two choices, I head to the Philippines first.  Lovely people who try their hardest to find a solution.  If they only understood how things work.  Well how can they.  The system is so convoluted within the DFS organization that it is nearly impossible.  So after 40 minutes, I ask for a supervisor.  Well actually, after this much time getting nowhere, I confess to raising my voice and adjusting my tone. I made no threats.  Like magic, the call is transferred to another service representative.  Oh good, English is a little better.  Well I tell my tale of woe yet again.  I am told that a request will be placed with the research department.  It will take up to 48 hours to get a response.

Fast forward 48 hours.  Yes, I have to call back.  Ah, but now I have a case number.  Everyone understands a case number.  And they do have a call center system that permits the entry of verbiage.  Now I am told that a check will be sent to me but it will take up to 10 days to get it.  OK.  I can understand.  It is a lot of money. Debits need to be issued.  Checks and balances need to be managed.  So I wait.

I see that a debit adjustment was issued to my DFS account.  OK.  They are moving in the right direction.  But I have no money yet.

Fast forward 12 days.  I call again.  I am told that some confirmation authorization needs to be obtained to send me a check.  I gave them that authorization.  I wait 5 days.  No check.  I call again.  Yes, back to the Philippines. The young woman and I are getting to know one another.  I am actually understanding her much better although I need to tell her to articulate her words every once in a while.  I am told that a check will be sent overnight.  Great.  I wait.  I call back in 2 days.  I am told no check has been sent.  As it turns out they are not going to send me a check.  Oh, my God.  Help me be patient.  No, no help is available.  I am getting visibly angry at this point.  I demand to speak with a supervisor under threat of legal action and involving the state attorney general.  No help.  No supervisor is available.  I demand to speak to someone in the United States.  I get a phone number and an extension.  Oh, too bad. No answer.

I call back the main number for DFS.  Oh goody. I have travelled to India where I learn that DFS has two and only two call centers, yes that’s right, the Philippines and India.  The lovely gal from New Delhi or Mumbai told me that there was nothing she could do but transfer me to the supervisor in the Philippines that was handling my issue.  So much for trying a new angle.  I start researching DFS through the Better Business Bureau and the standard Internet search engines.  Well, I learn a great deal about why I shouldn’t do business with Dell Financial Services. 

So back to the Philippines I go. Oh good, a new story.

Seems Dell issues an ACH transfer to Checkfree, I am not sure which, for the amount I am looking for.  Why?  To this day, I have no idea.  But they seemed to think that Checkfree was the service I used to make my payment originally to DFS.  Well if it was, I didn’t know that.  I signed on to Dell Financial Services at this URL,  Sure seemed like I was dealing with Dell.  Well, allright.  I speak with a lovely woman from Checkfree in Ohio.  Refreshingly excellent verbal skills.   They don’t know anything about my issue.  They need to send the issue to the research department in California.  It may take a couple of days to get a response.  Great.  I am not a happy camper.  In fact, I am pretty upset.   I do a little research on Checkfree.  Oh great, BBB Rated F.  I am feeling doomed.  The money has been reversed on my account and now sits with a company that has an F rating on BBB.  This can’t have a happy ending I am thinking.

Ok, so I go back to Dell and ask to speak to a supervisor because as far as I was concerned this was a Dell issue.  I was not given a supervisor but told that the issue would be resolved by Checkfree.  I am asked to please give it another 48 hours.  I do.  I go back to my contact at Checkfree and she can’t help me.  No response from research is available.  I ask for her supervisor.  I get a gentlemen from Ohio who also has mastered the English language.  He assures me that my issue has been tagged as urgent and is being handled as such. Please give it 24 hours.  So the day drifts by.  I get a call, yes, that is correct, I get a call from the lovely woman in Ohio. She tells me that the funds will be deposited into my account in the next 2 to 5 days.  Thank goodness for electronic fund transfers. 2 to five days.  OK, well they said it would happen.  What am I to do. 

Lo and behold.  51 days had passed.  The funds were miraculously back in my account safe and sound.  Later that day, I get a call from a charming woman who works for Dell Financial Services in Atlanta.  She just wanted to make sure everything was settled.  I was so elated to have my money back, I didn’t even swear at her before I hung up the phone.

So that is my tale.  Corporations, take note.  We (the proverbial 140 million members of the silent majority) don’t like being treated like this.  Change your ways.  We will eventually band together and pound you into the ground.  As soon as we can rescue our checkbooks from the near 30% finance charge you are extorting from us.

Posted in business climate, Credit Card, Technology.

A New Way of Communicating

Or is it…. For a few months now I have been dabbling with an artistic iPad App and Community. I have written about it before. It is called Sketchclub. It is a high end low cost drawing/painting creation program that combines the best of what the iPad has to offer with the best that digital drawing tools Oxymoron by Dahave to offer. Sketchclub also links this powerful drawing tool with a worldwide community of thousands of artists. These artists are as varied as their locations would indicate. From the United States to Russia and everywhere in between. From Japan to Australia and all points in between. It is a community of thousands of artists that all have something to say. Some have the ability to speak in art, some do not. 

I provide here an example of an artist that knows how to communicate with digital drawings. The artist goes by the name of Da and resides in Croatia. This piece drives home the dichotomy of beautiful music, wildlife and nature with starvation, killing and war. Some may love it, some may not, but everyone will understand its meaning.  To see the process of creation in motion is awesome. SketchClub enables the artist to record the entire creation process and if desirable, set it to music. You can watch the five minute video of this drawing on Youtube. You can look at the drawing full screen on SketchClub. This artist has much to say and has found a way to communicate her minds eye through digital art using SketchClub. Artists have long since spoken their minds through art and now they can speak using digital art and also document the process. If you have an iPad, look for the App on the iTunes Store.

Posted in Apple, Art, Technology.

Apple is Taking Flight!

Apple is constructing new headquarters and it looks like it may have flight capabilities.  Being built in Cupertino, CA this looks to be the most awesome building ever. It will be constructed on 175 acres near I-280.  Said to have 2.5 million square feet, it will have a 1,000 seat auditorium, fitness center, a power plant, and underground parking.

Breaking ground in 2015, it will be home to more than 12,000 Apple employees.  For more pictures, click here.

Posted in Apple, Technology.