Editorial

By July 20, 2014 Read More →

The Energy Challenge Unboxing

Image2Gareth has unboxed an efergy Elite Classic Energy Monitor Set for a challenge set by Moneysupermarket.com. Over the next month Gareth will be monitoring this electricity consumption and attempting to make a saving by comparing his results online.

In this video Gareth opens up the Elite Classic 3.0 In-Home Energy Monitor and one of two EMS 2.0 In-Home Energy Monitors. With these devices Gareth hopes to get a handle on his energy consumption, and perhaps identify a better tariff. To compliment the challenge we will be linking to content with some tips for consumers on the MoneySuperMarket.com website.

Energy comsumption is something that is always at the back of our minds. We hear stories of how leaving your TV on standby contributes a little extra to your energy bill over the course of the month. I am just a guilty as the next man for thinking that it cannot be that much and the hassle of actually turning it off at the wall is more than worth the cost. When Moneysupermarket.com contacted me with the opportunity of actually seeing the impact these little indecresions had on my electricity bill I had to admit it might be time well spent.

An important factor is that I do not come under the standard “Big Six” on the mainland. England has a dizzying variety of energy providers and all I hear is horror stories of tariffs, confusion and contracts. Here is cosy Northern Ireland we have the “Big Two,” Power NI and Airtricity. At the moment I believe these companies offer only one tariff each and what you see is what you get. Over the next month I will investigate the options, tariffs and prices available and when the results of the study are revealed I may be asking some very simple questions to those companies about the findings.

By July 18, 2014 Read More →

Could this be the coolest TV screen ever?

From HD resolutions to curved screens, the TV game is always changing. LG has recently announced the latest ground-breaking development in the market, which takes the form of rollable TVs, as the BBC reports.

Taking how we tune in to the next level, the paper-thin televisions are so slight they can be rolled into a 3cm-diameter tube. And the company is not stopping there: LG is hoping to produce a huge 60in rollable TV by 2017.

This new development means that the humble gogglebox can be used in ways like never before. In honour of this, we’ve decided to take a look at some of the coolest TVs to ever have graced our planet.

Projector screens

Watching sport simply wouldn’t be the same without the trusty projector screen that takes pride of place in your local bar. In fact, recent times have seen them creep into our homes too, as telly addicts swap the small screen for a significantly larger one.

Previously, projectors and screens were costly to buy. Nowadays, you can pick up a quality projector from brands like Epson for around £250. Throw in a £56 projector screen from Rapid, and this option becomes incredibly affordable.

Piccadilly Circus

It would be difficult to install the next screen on our list in your home, but it definitely deserves a place in our run down. Piccadilly Lights, found near London’s Piccadilly underground station, is one of the city’s most famous landmarks.

Back in 2013, the advertising platform was brought into the 21st century with the installation of a new 24.6m by 4.8m SMD LED screen. Boasting 774,144 pixels, the screen is certainly a sight to behold — often by some 71,760,000 pedestrians a year.          

By July 9, 2014 Read More →

Enhancing security in the workplace

swipeFilled with important information and personal details, the last thing you want is unauthorised personnel gaining access to your workplace. Here are a few ways you can enhance security to ensure your premises is safe.

 

Restrict access to a building

You face a tough challenge monitoring who is entering a workplace if you make it possible for anybody to enter as and when they please.

Install a safety mechanism onto your entrances so that admission is only permitted when people either insert the correct code or show an access card. This way, visitors will need to speak with an employee or employer before they are granted access.

 

Have only one entrance for visitors

While it may be convenient to have multiple entrances when you employ hundreds or thousands of staff members, it’s not always necessary to make these accessible to visitors too.

Pick an easy-to-find entrance around your building — perhaps one facing out onto a main street or where there are no steps to climb — and then put up signs on every other door guiding visitors to the correct point of entry.

If you have the space and resources, go a step further by creating a reception area at this entrance. That way, someone will always be on hand to welcome guests and determine why they are visiting your offices.

 

Use visitor badges

Once you have determined that someone is permitted to be in your workplace, provide them with a visitor badge that is to be worn throughout the duration of their appointment.

This piece of equipment will instantly distinguish visitors from staff members and are great for informing employees about who someone is and where they work — no need for someone to introduce themselves over and over again!

Do you receive a number of visitors on a daily basis? Invest in a top-quality ID card printer from a specialist brand like Kalamazoo Direct and you can save yourself the hassle of having to outsource visitor badges every time a new client arranges a meeting at your workplace.

 

Keep crucial information out of sight

No matter how much you try to enhance security around your workplace, you are asking for trouble if you leave sensitive documents in clear sight.

Encourage members of staff to put important information in a locked cabinet once they have finished using it or when they have to leave their desks for a meeting.

On a similar note, employees who use computers should be told that their computer should be locked if they are away from the device for a sustained period of time.

 

Posted in: Editorial
By July 8, 2014 Read More →

4 Ways to Convince Your Boss to Let You Work from Home

Salesman working from home and talking on phoneThat traffic jam last week is what finally pushed you over the edge—your normally long commute of 30 minutes grew to two hours as you tried to get home from work. Although you like your job and your co-workers and your boss, lately you have found yourself dreaming of working from home—and that endless commute convinced you to set up a time to speak with your supervisor about doing just that.

The following tips can help you show your boss how and why working from home will be a great option:

Arm Yourself With Statistics

Before you go in to speak with your supervisor, you might want to print out some articles that show how employees who telecommute are more productive. For example, this digital article from Inc. Magazine notes that employers save an average of $11,000 per year if an employee telecommutes half the time. And, in case your boss questions if you would be putting in the required number of hours from home, assure him or her that telecommuters are almost two times as likely to work even more than they are required.

Have the Right Equipment

In order to successfully work from home, you’ll need the right tools and equipment as well as a home office that is amenable to getting a lot of work done. Before speaking with your supervisor, take some photos of your home office, and make sure that you have—or can easily get—the right equipment that is needed to telecommute. For example, most bosses will want you to have a decent computer, a reliable printer, great cell phone reception and secure access to any remote files.

If you are not already on the cloud at home, you may want to research cloud-based storage options that will prove to your boss that you can easily share documents and files with him or her and your co-workers. If you are confused about cloud storage, a website like Top 10 Cloud Storage does a great job of offering tips and advice about which cloud-based systems are best suited to your needs.

Explain Your Reasons

As Skip the Drive notes, your boss will probably want to know why you want to work from home. Prepare for this question ahead of time, and come up with serious and compelling reasons of why you want to telecommute. Instead of saying things like “I am so seriously tired of the office dress code, and at home I can dress the way I want to”—which will probably get you sent back to your cubicle in a matter of seconds—calmly and confidently explain how you will be more productive in a quiet home-based office, how your long commute is really draining or how you feel you could get more done without the distractions of co-workers.

Be Willing to Compromise

When speaking with your boss about working from home, offer compromises. Suggest that you give it a try two days a week, and take it from there. Or, if you feel super strongly about telecommuting and your boss seems to be less-than-thrilled about the idea, offer to take a small pay cut. Showing that you are willing to bend and work with your supervisor may help to convince him or her to give telecommuting a try.

Posted in: Editorial
By July 6, 2014 Read More →

Barclays introduce talking cash machines

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is something we all are now taking for granted, a convenience we know and enjoy however for some the ability to pay for an item is not as easy as swiping a card and and entering easy to remember 4 digit number. Forget about having the funds available, we take for granted the simplest of abilities when standing at a checkout in the supermarket, vision. For 20 years my Father-In-Law has had to deal with macular degeneration, a condition whereby he cannot see anything only in his peripheral vision. Financials have always been a pain for him. Reading a statement, available balances and handling international money transfers have been problematic. There has rarely been a level of support for a person in his position short of making the journey to the bank and dealing with staff face to face.

Barclays look to be paving the way as the first high street bank to introduce an audio feature to cash machines. Obviously, this does not shout your available balance for everyone to hear, instead a customer can plug in an earphone to listen to the instructions that are appearing on-screen. A helping hand for those who wish to make use of the convenience. A long over due first step to helping those who have long been without assistance.

  • Digital Eagles  – Giving practical advice in Barclays Branches around the UK, to help build the knowledge and confidence when using technology
  • Online Guides – Easy to understand online guides on a wide range of computer topics including setting up email accounts and using online and mobile banking, amongst many others!
  • Accessibility Developments  – Covers Talking ATMs, personalised debit cards, contactless payments   

Locate your nearest machine with their online branch locator.

  1. Visit the branch locator on the website.
  2. Enter your town or postcode.
  3. Under ‘Where’s my nearest…?’ select ‘Barclays cash machine’.
  4. Tick the box marked ‘Internal cash machine with audio’ or ‘External cash machine with audio’ (or both) and hit ‘Search’. 

Non-Barclays customers can also use the audio cash machines, found at branches across England and Wales and at selected Asda supermarkets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Tell your friends and family that this technology is available, Barclays are providing over 7000 “Digital Eagles” to help with any concerns and making it easier for anyone, visually impaired, or perhaps suffering from dyslexia or learning disabilities to use cash machines and online banking .

Posted in: Editorial
By July 1, 2014 Read More →

How Social Media Shaped Cell Phone Design

shutterstock_180921581In 1984, “The Brick” started the cell phone revolution—even with its bulky size and cost. Eventually the phone evolved into a sleek design with capabilities beyond the vision of the original designers of the mobile phone. In the last 30 years, cell phones have been updated from bricks to flip phones to the iconic iPhone. But phones weren’t the only thing that was changing. We were also revolutionizing the way we communicate with each other. Innovative social media platforms available on cell phones have enabled us to connect in a different ways. Designers have to continually keep up with the trends, so who knows where we will end up 30 years from now. Here are just a few ways that cell phones have advanced:

Increased Camera Capabilities

Social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, who boast a base of 26 million and 200 million users respectively, have forced companies to release phones with enhanced camera capabilities.

Selfie was without a doubt the biggest word of the year. People would take photos using their front-facing cameras and call it a selfie. Even though Sony Ericsson first introduced the front facing camera in 2003 with the Z1010, it wasn’t until Apple released the iPhone 4 that the phenomenon really took off. Now, virtually all smartphones include a front-facing camera so users can take selfies at the Grammy’s, on top of the Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, or take selfies at the gym.

Sprint’s PM8920 released the first camera phone, featuring a 1.3-megapixel camera. This number is dwarfed in comparison to what we have today. The iPhone features an 8-megapixel camera, the Sony Xperia contains 13-Megapixel camera and the Nokia Lumia 1020 has an astounding 41-megapixel camera. The increase allows users to take higher quality pictures to share with their friends on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Phone buyers are now cognizant of the camera quality in smartphones and often account for that in their purchasing decision. Even more amazingly, these phones are a fraction of the price they were in the ’80s and they are widely available from the major service providers.

Enhanced Video Recording

Smartphones are also equipped with the latest video technology. The best smartphones have the capability to shoot at a high frame rate. The amount of frames per second (fps) is the amount of unique images created in a second, thus raising the quality of the video. The Mobile Choice Awards named the HTC One the Best Video Phone of 2013 because it shoots at a remarkable 30 fps, allowing users to create videos mimicking the quality of Hollywood films. The newest technologies also work to regulate light so your shots have the optimum brightness.

YouTube, Instagram and Vine also are responsible for the advancement in video capability for smartphones. People love to share their experiences on video through their social media networks. Whether it’s capturing a child’s first step or recording your favorite band’s set, you will want to record it to share with your followers. Beyond sharing intimate, family moments there is a growing amount of people making money from their smartphone videos. Some Youtubers and Viners are even making a living off their creative aptitude, and they will continue to push for further video capturing innovations.

Keyboard Design

Cell phone manufacturers have had to alter device designs to keep up with all the different types of messaging and status updates. Innovative keyboard design all started with the immensely popular Sidekick, which featured a slide out keyboard that allowed users to easily text their BFFs. The BlackBerry has also been at the forefront of keyboard design because of their easy layout, which has sustained a dedicated base of users. Nowadays, touch screen keyboards are king as it allows users to quickly enter their status updates. There are even swipe keyboards that allow users to type faster than ever.

Posted in: Editorial, Phones
By June 29, 2014 Read More →

Reviving Blackberry: What Their Plan is To Mount a Comeback

9193372352_c10a310d30_zIn 1999, the first BlackBerry to hit the market was an email pager. At the time, it was a huge step in technology and connectivity. However, the company has faced recent woes as other smartphone companies chip away at their market share with newer and more advanced phones. Yet, behind the vision and leadership of a new CEO, the company has plans to mount a comeback and regain some of that market.

 

Once A Dominant Force in the Market

Before 2007, BlackBerry was one of the biggest phones on the market and the go-to phone for business people. It was one of the first phones on the market that could handle more than just calls and email. However, the company didn’t expect the threat that the iPhone would have on their market. While BlackBerry believed that people cared about security and efficiency on their phones, Apple focused more on ease of use and performance. In the end, sales for the company tanked, and they faced an uphill battle to regain the top spot they once held.

 

A New CEO with A New Vision

In 2013, BlackBerry tried to regain some its smartphone market by releasing the all-touch Z10. However, consumer reception was weak, and the company ended up having to cut its workforce by 40 percent and take charge of nearly $960 million in unsold phones. In the end, CEO Thornsten Heinz stepped down, and the company brought in John Chen, former CEO of Sybase to turn things around. Chen made it clear that his vision for turning around the struggling company was to focus on their core strength of providing strong and secure phones to businesses in the health care, government and financial industries.

 

Providing Services to the Enterprise Market

Chen also believes that the business market, which is often called the enterprise market, is where the company’s core customer base lies. He felt that by listening to what this market does and doesn’t like about their phones, he would be able to serve them better. As a result, Chen learnt that there were many features that BlackBerry had abandoned that customers actually enjoyed and wanted them to bring back. In the end, Chen also felt it was necessary to assure the over 60 million mobile phone subscribers that they weren’t going to get lost in the rush. However, he did point out that to bring the financial side of the company back up, they would be focusing on the enterprise market first.

 

Focusing on Business Services

Part of what the phone company is eyeing in the enterprise market is the latest trend of BYOD, or bring your own device. Here, companies are allowing their employees to bring their personal mobile devices to the workplace, and use those devices to conduct business and access confidential company information. While there are security concerns with BYOD, companies also see it as a way to increase productivity and employee satisfaction. With the latest BlackBerry phones, utilizing BlackBerry BYOD can make companies for efficient and cost-effective with minimal effort. They can offer the security BlackBerry is known for, while still providing a device employees are comfortable using.

 

The Newest BlackBerry Releases

The Z3 is the latest device that BlackBerry will launch. This phone will release in Indonesia first, before expanding to other markets in southeast Asia, and it’s expected to compete with other low-cost smartphones in that market. Additionally, Chen announced that at some point in the foreseeable future, the company would also be releasing a faster phone with 4G connectivity to the rest of the world. This phone, called the Q20, will have a keyboard and control keys with a track pad in response to consumer demands.

Like so many other companies, BlackBerry has faced its share of highs and lows. The company was criticised for not completely acknowledging how much of a threat the latest generation of smartphones would be to their market share. However, under the leadership of their new CEO, and with the release of new phones, they believe they’re ready to compete in the market once more.

 

Posted in: Editorial, Phones
By June 28, 2014 Read More →

3 ways to make your office more energy efficient

System_separat.inddOffices waste a phenomenal amount of energy. Computers, lighting, copiers and other office equipment is often left on all day. This not only damages the environment, but significantly increases monthly outgoings. There are plenty of ways to make the office space more energy efficient; however, managing a whole team of people and trying to keep them motivated about energy efficiency can be very difficult.

These three techniques are easy to implement; will inspire your workforce; and save you a huge amount of cash over time. 

Install Air Conditioning

Comfort is the most important element of retaining a good level of employee morale. An uncomfortable workforce will lead to unhappy employees and reduce productivity by roughly 30%. The simple addition of air conditioning will create a more relaxing work environment, which will almost certainly reflect positively in your employees. 

With regards to energy bills, there’s a common misconception that air conditioning will cost more; however, that’s simply not the case. Macair state that a decent HVAC system can reduce energy bills and carbon emissions by up to 15%. Programmable thermostats will retain a constant temperature and ensure you don’t waste excess energy over-cooling or over-heating your workspace.

Turn off computers

In most office spaces computers are left on all day and all night; apart from on weekends. Turning off the monitor won’t cut it. At the very least turn off computers during the night. If possible, tell your staff to turn off their computers if they won’t be in use for an extended period of time – during lunch breaks and meetings, etc. Electricity is without a doubt the largest office expense in the billing department, yet most bosses won’t bat an eyelid when they see computers and monitors left on when they’re not in use.

In addition to turning off computers, tell your employees to turn of lights and other office equipment when they leave a room. If you need help inspiring your workforce, give them some kind of incentive program. For example, set a quota and use some of the saved cash to buy them treats, such as a box of morning donuts.

Install decent lighting

Installing decent lighting is vital. Wherever possible use natural sunlight. If you lack windows, ceiling lights or skylights are the best option. Think about energy efficient bulbs; while they can take a little longer to get bright, they’ll be far better in the long run, especially if you need to keep them on all day.

Think about your light placement. Sometimes it’s not the power of the bulb that needs adjusting, it’s the positioning. If you use lamps, place them in a triangular formation to maximize light projection. In addition, think about repainting the office. White walls and ceilings will reflect light better than dark colour schemes and could significantly brighten up the space.

Creating an energy efficient office isn’t just about reducing bills and protecting the environment, it can also positively affect business. Many companies will only choose to work with people who have green initiatives, even if they are more costly.

Set yourself targets and try to keep everyone motivated. Consider assigning one of your employees the role of energy coordinator and  make them your “eyes in the office.” This will help to keep your team aware of wasting energy.

Image Credit: Emco Klima

Image Caption: Installing an air conditioning system can significantly reduce bills and emissions.

 

Posted in: Editorial
By June 27, 2014 Read More →

Top 3 reasons to own an iPod car adapter

connected your ipod to your carWith summer upon us, many of us will be packing up the car, strapping on our seatbelts and heading on a road trip. Staying entertained while on the road can be difficult and, while books and game consoles may keep the passengers quiet, drivers will need to find amusement in audio.

Listening to the radio is okay to start with, but there’s only so many times you can listen to the same annoying advertisements and repeated songs. Surely there has to be another option?! There is — an iPod car adapter. Read on to find our top three reasons why you must own one.

1.      Shuffle

Listening to CDs is good, but what do you do when you come to the end of the album? Do you run the risk of attempting to switch CDs while driving — something we do not advise — or simply press play and endure the same 12 or so songs over and over again?

The shuffle function on your iPod puts an end to this. No longer are you bound to the limits of one album or artist. Simply hit shuffle and delight as your tunes jump from Jay Z to Jason Mraz, from Britney to Blondie. You’ll definitely have plenty of ‘I forgot how much I love this song’ moments during your journey!

2.      Genius playlists

With an iPod adapter, you get the best of both worlds. If you fear that jumping from the dulcet tones of Barry White to the infectious lyrics of the Black Eyed Peas will distract you from your driving, there is another option.

Apple’s Genius function automatically creates playlists of songs of similar genres. This means they won’t be any sudden changes from a cheesy pop ballad to a death metal anthem, so you’re sure of no surprises during your trip.

3.      Prevent arguments

It’s no secret that family holidays can become quite tense. While we love them dearly, there’s only so much time you can spend in close proximity to your loved ones. While mum might love listening to Rod Stewart, it might not be shared amongst the group.

Having an iPod car adapter enables you to switch between genres easily. This means you can keep everyone happy by taking it in turns to pick a song. It’s the fairest way when musical tastes differ.

So now you know why you need an iPod car adapter, where can you get your hands on one? Specialist retailers like In Car Connections stock a variety of in-car adapters to suit many types of cars, from BMWs to Renaults. Choose the one that’s right for you and prepare to hit the open road.

Posted in: Editorial, Gadgets
By June 27, 2014 Read More →

5 accessories every smartphone owner needs

allveb-2Your smartphone might’ve replaced everything from the humble calculator and calendar to the digital camera and MP3 player, but you still need the odd accessory to get the most out of it. Check out our list of must-haves below.

1. Smartphone case

High-end smartphones are worth upwards of £500, so it’s important that you shield them against damage. Repairing cracked screens is expensive, and scratches and scuffs ruin the appearance of your handset, reducing its resale value.

It’s a good idea to buy your smartphone case direct from the manufacturer, as it’s more likely to hold it snugly and leave spaces for connectors and camera lenses. You can browse the range of Nokia cases here, HTC cases here, Samsung cases here, and Apple-approved iPhone cases here.

2. High-quality earphones

Most smartphones come with a pair of earphones, but they’re not always of the highest quality. If you want to make the most of watching movies, listening to music and playing games on your device, purchasing some new earphones might be a good idea.                      

John Lewis has a wide range of premium headphones, and includes a minimum two-year guarantee with every purchase. Take a look at the reviews as well as the specifications to ensure you invest wisely — Bose tends to be one of the top brands.                

3. Speaker dock

For similar reasons, a speaker dock is a must-have. Smartphone speakers can’t produce high volumes and tend to compromise quality. Get your hands on a Bluetooth dock so you can enjoy quality sound wirelessly. There’s one for every budget available at Amazon.     

4. Emergency phone charger

One of the few downsides to owning a smartphone rather than an old-school handset is the reduced battery time. All those apps, a high-resolution screen and impressive processors are power hungry, so you can often find yourself low on juice.

For those occasions you need to charge while on the go, a power pack is a necessity. Check out the range at Gizoo, which includes chargers that are compatible with most devices. There are compact power packs that are small enough to fit in your pocket, and larger models that can top up your battery again and again.

5. Window mount

Anyone with a smartphone and a car needs a window mount. These accessories keep your device safely away from hands, so you’re not tempted to answer texts or check emails unsafely. They’re also indispensable when using your handset’s built-in sat nav.                                                                               

                                                                               

                                                                               

                                                                               

                               

Posted in: Editorial, Phones
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