Category Archives: Life in the Cloud

An App in Pursuit of Finding Wi-Fi

Finding a strong wireless signal has become essential for those carrying almost any piece of technology. Aside from smartphones, tablets, and laptops, now even digital cameras are entering the internet-connectivity fray. But as dependent as people and their mobile devices are on the internet, finding a wireless signal to stay connected to is usually a recurring hurdle.

And that’s where the one-beat — yet still brilliant — ‘Wi-Fi Finder’ app comes into play. JiWire’s Wi-Fi Finder, like Google Maps, uses geo-tracking to find your location, but it is then able to direct you to a variety of wireless internet options in your vicinity.

With Wi-Fi Finder, not only can you uncover internet anywhere, but also, prospective users can further filter the types of internet they’d like to use. In addition to toggling between “paid” and “free” (or both) connections, the app features “location type” (store, restaurant, park, etc.), “providers” (AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.), or whether there’s just an internet hotspot (e.g. Boingo) available.

As handy as Wi-Fi Finder can be in a pinch, the app can also be used ahead of time too. For instance, if you’re specifically looking for a cafe on Charles Street in Manhattan’s West Village, the app can inform you which cafes have wireless and whether you’ll have to pay for it.

(Screenshot #1: the search filters)

Wi-Fi Finder App Search Filters

 

(Screenshot #2: the map feature)

Wi-Fi Finder App Map Screen

(Screenshot #3: the search results)

Wi-Fi Finder App Search Results

But perhaps the app’s best feature is its off-line database. Even if you don’t have a network connection, users can still access Wi-Fi Finder’s off-line database to find a nearby hotspot. This function is particularly helpful while abroad, especially if you want to use your home smart phone, but would rather not pay the exorbitant roaming fees.

Wi-Fi Finder is a free app, and can be downloaded in either the iTunes Store (for the iPhone or iPad) or Google Play Store (for any Android device).

 

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Cleaning up your life with digital feng shui

Feng Shui RocksIt’s hard to let go, believe me.

I’ve clung onto files I’ll never use with the firm belief that they’ll be useful one day.

I’m totally gonna need that A+ essay I wrote in 10th grade on “Six Characters in Search of an Author” as a professional writing sample! 

Really?!

I can’t even remember what folder I’ve stuffed it in on my laptop from high school. Needless to say, it’s somewhere in PC purgatory.

Now if that laptop stops working, that essay I was so proud of will be lost forever. When my laptop finally does stop functioning, it will likely be because it has decided to retire itself after the four years of abuse I put it through during high school and the additional five years it has survived my father’s torture.

The truth is, my writing has (hopefully) improved beyond a 10th-grade writing level, so there’s no need for me to reference any essay that’s more than a few years old. But what about my more recent written pieces, or those incredibly important files that I absolutely must cling onto for the rest of my life?

I can’t just cross my fingers hoping that if I treat my current laptop well, it — along with all my precious files — will stay with me for a lifetime.

While it hasn’t failed me yet, I used to hate my computer.

Folders filled with documents I don’t use. Works I can’t remember authoring. Drafts that should never see the light of day.

It’s a mess.

I realized all the unorganized files I kept scattered around my desktop interrupted my workflow and put me in a bad mood every time I just looked at them.

To create peace of mind, I uploaded everything I owned to a cloud server and deleted anything that wasn’t created recently or part of an on-going project to maintain a clean, uncluttered desktop.

I no longer have thousands of files glaring at me on my PC. I can flexibly manage all of my files in the cloud and never have to worry about clogging up my hard drive. My computer also runs smoother now that there’s less ‘junk’ it has to put up with.

Let’s get cleaning!

If any of this resonates with you, here’s how you can start cleaning up your digital life:

First, locate all the files you have on your computer that you wouldn’t mind relocating. Second, get rid of anything you no longer need — stop being so clingy! Finally, take whatever is left, and move it to your new cloud server.

For a small monthly fee, you save yourself a ton of headaches and stress never having to look at a cluttered desktop again. There is also an added benefit of having easy access to your files on any electronic device with a solid internet connection.

Digital feng shui is good.

For some, it’s a ritual to open your own computer and know exactly where your files are kept and stored. For me, it was a nightmare to turn on my laptop and look at the mess I’ve accumulated.

But now I can hop of any computer, access my files anywhere and everywhere, and since I’ve organized all of my files after uploading them to the cloud, I can pull up any document I need within seconds and am ready to rock-n-roll.

 

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SnapChat Revolutionizes How Users Share Private Media

Snapchat ScreenshotAs proven by the hundred million users on Instagram, people love to share all kinds of photos. But when it comes to sharing those more intimate types of media, there’s little preventing the recipient from publicly re-sharing it with a wider audience. To help solve that troubling disparity, SnapChat has become the first mainstream app to put an end to user’s privacy concerns.

Unlike sending a picture through regular text, SnapChat pictures will self-destruct. Senders can set a specific life for the picture — from one to ten seconds — for viewers to be able to view the picture. After the time runs out, it is terminated forever. The media is also deleted from SnapChat’s servers too. Considering how Instragram’s designs to own and profit from user’s content backfired, this already puts SnapChat ahead of the terms-of-service curve.

Even though SnapChat has been around since September 2011, it has emerged as a innovative social media more recently. According to co-founder Evan Spiegel, more than twenty million photos are shared per day, with over a billion photos shared since it’s debut. Apparently Facebook took notice, and created its own version of the app, revitalizing the formerly-dead ‘Poke’ function. And while Facebook could technically tap into its existing base to propel the application’s success, SnapChat might still be the superior option as Poke fails to alert users when recipients take screenshots of the supposedly-private conversation. In this respect, Poke fails the privacy test, which is essentially the whole initial point of the app.

Technology experts have questioned whether SnapChat’s ceiling is merely a tool for provocative messaging, or if it has the depth to become the next photo-sharing giant, but regardless of accusations, the company has seemingly found a large enough niche to monetize in the near future.

 

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How the Cloud Makes Travel Easy

I’ve climbed the Great Wall in Beijing, China. I’ve played with elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’ve swam the shores of Punta del Este, Uruguay. And I’ve wandered the concrete jungle that is Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a seasoned traveler, I thought I knew it all.

Backpack, check. Clothes, check. Digital camera, check.

I’ve been in towns where no one spoke English and I didn’t speak the local language (at least not competently). I had to learn how to navigate big cities and small villages, and most importantly, how to find my way back to wherever I was staying. I’ve even run out of money.

How the Cloud makes travel easier

Phrasebook, map, $20 bill stashed so secretly, I remembered it only when desperate times called for desperate measures.

I’ve also survived violent food poisoning and getting hit by a car.

While I have most of these moments committed to memory (I mean, who can forget getting hit by a car?!), it’s not the easiest task to recall each story one-by-one and articulately share the play-by-play.

One camera. One memory card. 

When I’m off on a trip, I prefer to pack as light as possible. A light backpack that’s comfortable and secure. Enough clothes and underwear to last me the whole trip, or a few days worth so I have time to find a nearby laundromat. A camera to capture all those crazy moments.

After a day’s worth of hiking, city wandering, or people watching, my camera would blink, warning me it’s almost at full capacity. Once home, at my hotel/hostel, or friend-of-a-friend’s couch, I would use whatever computer was available (or find the nearest digital cafe) and upload my hundreds of photos and tens of outrageous videos to the cloud.

No need to lug around my own computer. No need for a bulky hard drive, or any of those easily forgotten flash drives.

I just needed a solid internet connection and a computer for no more than 30 minutes until I was the envy of all my family and friends back home.

Using cloud storage, I am able to minimize the number of things I have to pack when traveling. I also never have to fuss over breaking or losing any costly devices other than my camera, which is practically attached to me except when I’ve asked a friend or stranger to help me capture one more memory from my travels.

Best of all, when I return home, I never have to worry about the photos and videos taking up too much local storage space or getting lost in the overwhelming litter of files I can’t seem to organize or get rid of.

So, when I’m sitting in front of my laptop, right before I pull out all of my hair because I can’t locate ‘forgot-your-name file’ in the ‘not-a-clue folder,’ I cross my fingers hoping my internet won’t act up on me again, go to my cloud server, and meditate reminiscing about that tranquil afternoon at the Moroccan bath.

 

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FedEx vs. the Internet

If you wanted to transfer hundreds of gigabytes of data across the country, you have a couple different options to consider.

You could upload the information to a file sharing service and then access and download the files on the recipient’s computer.

Or, you could take the physical storage containing the information (hard drives, USB thumb drives, SD cards, etc.) and use a package delivery service similar to FedEx to send the files, and then access them at the destination.

Wait for data to upload, or ship?

Which of these is faster?

The blog “What If” recently took a calculated look at this question, using shipping giant FedEx to stand in for the physical shipping service.

Cisco estimates that total internet traffic currently averages 167 terabits per second. FedEx has a fleet of 654 aircraft with a lift capacity of 26.5 million pounds daily. A solid-state laptop drive weighs about 78 grams and can hold up to a terabyte.
That means FedEx is capable of transferring 150 exabytes of data per day, or 14 petabits per second—almost a hundred times the current throughput of the internet.

In fact, based on current Internet traffic growth estimates (29% annually), it will continue to be faster to ship your data until the year 2040. However, because the amount of data hard drives are capable of holding will increase as well, that estimate may not be accurate.

According to “What If“:

The only way to actually reach the FedEx point is if transfer rates grow much faster than storage rates. In an intuitive sense, this seems unlikely, since storage and transfer are fundamentally linked—all that data is coming from somewhere and going somewhere—but there’s no way to predict usage patterns for sure.

So for the foreseeable future, it’s faster to send your physical data to another location rather than trying to transfer it via the internet.

How can you take advantage of this with your business data? Do you have a server with hundreds of gigabytes or even a terabyte or two of information that you want to back up online? Of course you could back it up “over the wire”, taking weeks or even months to get your information stored online. (We could say talk about LAN bandwidth competition, IT pain caused by monitoring network traffic and kicking off backups at night for prolonged periods of time, but you can see where we’re going with this.)

Mozy Data Shuttle

But what if you want to expedite the process? Enter the Mozy Data Shuttle. After you order a Data Shuttle device from Mozy, we’ll overnight it to you (some areas in the EU are priority mail which means it will arrive within 3-5 days typically), and you do the initial backup to the shuttle device. (Incremental backups can occur following the initial backup to the Data Shuttle, even before the shuttle arrives to Mozy.) Put it back in the box and ship it to our data center and you’ve skipped the initial upload over the wire (saving your IT staff time and unclogging your network so your team can actually work) Fast. Simple. Secure.

By using this method, you can take advantage of the speed of a shipping company as well as the convenience, security, and experience of MozyPro Online Backup.

How Technology Can Cure Tax Season Headaches

Tax Stressed BusinessmanTax season is one of the most stressful times of the year for many Americans, but according to accounting experts, the proper use of technology is a better cure for tax-season headaches than a few aspirin.

“We live in a digital world,” explained Rebecca Berneck, founder of Officeheads, a provider of operational strategies and back office services to small companies. “There are a variety of different things taxpayers and business owners can do electronically throughout the year to make things much easier come tax time.”

One of the biggest hassles that can be avoided, according to Berneck, is having to carry around piles and piles of paper receipts. There are several ways you can now store them on your computer or mobile devices, she said.

According to Berneck, taxpayers should look to their mobile phones and devices for apps that allow you to scan in receipts and save them digitally. One such app is Proongo, an application and website where you can record your receipts, mileage, credit card information, and more, so it’s easily accessible come tax time.

She also suggests using your smartphone to take photos of the odometer in your car when you get gas, receipts from company dinners and outings, and any other expenses you plan to claim on your return.

Even if you’re not comfortable using apps or smartphones, you should at least consider scanning in important documents, like receipts and tax forms, said Julie Miller a spokesperson for TurboTax. TurboTax now offers tax software online, through tablet or smartphone, or via CD/Download. (Many employers are even starting to offer tax forms in PDF format so individuals don’t have to do it themselves, she said).

One new technological idea TurboTax has brought to the table to help with tax claims is ItsDeductible Online, a site that allows individuals to enter charitable donations right when they make them. ItsDeductible Online will automatically add those donations as deductions to the taxpayer’s TurboTax account. (In case you’re wondering, yes, you do have to use TurboTax to file your taxes for this feature to be useful).

The biggest downside to going digital with all of your tax documents is the fact that sometimes computers can crash and data can be lost, said Berneck of Officeheads . However, there’s an easy way to prevent that from happening: cloud software, she explained.

“Cloud provides secure and seamless accessibility,” she said, adding that having cloud software has saved her on numerous occasions. “These are extremely important documents,” she said. “When you work with them on a daily basis you want to make sure they’re as safe as can be. Cloud provides that needed security.”

So whether you use an accountant for your taxes, or you do them online yourself, technology can make your life easier. And all the experts agree that you should be recording your tax data electronically all year long. Do not wait until the last minute when tax season hits.

“The best thing you can do is get organized in advance of sitting down to do your taxes. More and more people are wanting to keep those documents electronically,” Miller said. “You want to make sure you get every dollar you deserve. Being organized is the best step to making that happen.”

 

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Hukkster: The Future of Discounted, Online Clothes Shopping

Hukkster HomepagePeople who enjoy fashion know their favorite designer brands. So, when sites like Gilt, Rue La La, and Haute Look offer heavily discounted deals from Rag & Bone, John Varvatos, and Jack Spade, for instance, buyers tend to, well, buy. Yet even though these sites are extremely successful, in most cases, the discounted items are not necessarily the popular designs featured in the company’s flagship locations on 5th Avenue or SoHo. If anything, they’re more like sample sale items.

But that is not to say that even the most yearned-after paisley tie from Brooks Brothers is never heavily discounted. For one reason or another, popular clothing companies will mark down normally-priced items on their online stores, but might not advertise the discount to the public. More importantly, there’s a good chance these discounted items will never be placed on popular “deal” sites.

So aside from incessantly checking online stores, how else would a prospective consumer easily find out about the discount? The answer: Hukkster.

The difference between all these established, mainstream online shopping websites and Hukkster is that Hukkster isn’t trying to spam discounts you would never buy in the first place. The online tool, which was founded Katie Finnegan and Erica Bell, and financed by the famed Winklevoss twins, simply tracks products you personally select, and notifies you via email when they go on sale.

“Online deals are being pushed to people today in a very untargeted method,”said Cameron to Time.com. He explained that Hukkster aims to empower retailers to target their deals and shoppers to find exactly what they want.

Hukkster is designed for a user-friendly experience. A prospective “Hukker” can sign-into the site using either their GMail or Facebook account, and simply drag the “Hukk It” tool into her browser’s toolbar. When a user stumbles upon a desired article of clothing, she can press the “Hukk It” tool, and seamlessly add to her “My Hukks.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Hukkster has amassed more than 2,000 active monthly users. About a quarter of its users are men. Among these beta users, Hukkster’s founders report that 90% of them open Hukkster email notifications and at least 60% click through to look at the items on sale.”

Hukkster acts in real time too, so as soon as your designed belt, button-down, or dress pant goes on sale, a user is immediately notified.

The new online shopping tool not only just poses to save people a lot of money on clothes they actually want, but also, could revolutionize how consumers shop on the internet.

 

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Super Bowl Blackouts and Online Backup

 If you were one of the millions of people who tuned into the Super Bowl last night, you saw a great football game, 55 commercials, Beyoncé’s half time show and, most unexpectedly, a 34 minute delay due to a loss of power at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisana.

The Superdome had been selected as the site for the 2013 Super Bowl (Super Bowl XLVII) in 2009. Preparations for this game have been in the works for years. The Superdome is also the regular season home to the NFL’s New Orleans’ Saints, and is no stranger to hosting impressive sporting events, having play host to boxing matches, basketball games, soccer games, gymnastics meets and countless other gatherings.

Super Bowl XLVII

The power outage (currently being blamed on an ‘abnormality’ in the Superdome power system) became one of the main talking points of this version of the Super Bowl a hotly contested 34-31 win for the Baltimore Ravens over the San Francisco 49ers.

Even with all of the preparation that went into hosting the biggest football game of the year, something went wrong. This is a good reminder that something can go wrong at any time, and usually when you least expect it. The only way to prepare for something like this is to make sure that the things are the most important or irreplaceable are protected.

Whether it’s a house fire or a a flooding river, we’ll all likely experience our own “power outages” – make the right choice and make sure that your data is safe and protected, backed up online.

Image Credit: 2013 Super Bowl XLVII / RMTip21 / CC BY 2.0

The world didn’t end – the New Year begins…now what??

If you subscribed to the idea that December 21st was the end of the world, as opposed to the end of the cyclical Mayan calendar – what did you do when you woke up on the 22nd? Hopefully you didn’t blow your entire life savings during a weekend trip to Vegas or quit your job or say something really nasty to that wench in the apartment down the hall. The world didn’t end….so, what now? What’s your Plan B? Is having a Plan B pessimistic? Do you really need a Plan B?

What is your plan B?Maybe I can blame it on my Type A personality but I like knowing all the details about (fill in the blank) so I can formulate a sustainable Plan B. I remember once, as a little girl, I had received the prettiest baby doll – she has large blue eyes, auburn curls and the sweetest dimples in her cheeks. She had a soft, pale lavender onesie with a matching binky. And as all little girls that play Mommy to their dolls, I wanted to give her a bath and wrap her in a blanket so I could feed her a “bottle.” As I started to get the bath water ready, I was hit with the realization that I had never given this particular baby doll a bath and I might ruin her. So the first thing I did was come up with a Plan B of what I would tell my mother if by chance I did ruin the doll – do I blame it on the dog or do I come clean? But all’s well that ends well and it turned out that I didn’t have to resort to my Plan B since my pretty baby doll had her first bath of many and she survived.

Now that I have kids of my own, especially as a working mom, I think about “If this plan doesn’t work, then what can I do so I’m not up the river without a paddle?” I have certainly imparted some of this behavior to my 5-year-old. I came to this realization as I watched him get ready to build a snowman in our backyard a couple weeks ago. I watched as he assembled all the tools he needed in one spot then started another menagerie of tools in another spot. He then began to build the snowman, step-by-step, taking meticulous care of positing and packing the snow so the resulting snowman was quite impressive, given his skill level. As he was sipping his hot chocolate a little later, I asked why he had created the two separate piles of tools. He looked at me, with his rosy cheeks, and said “I wanted to make sure that if my snowman fell over on this pile of tools, my other pile would be just fine and I could finish my awesome ninja snowman.” – is he a chip off the ol’ block or what??!!

So moral of the story is – have a Plan B! Plan Bs extend to every possible part of our lives – from building snowmen to backing up data. Plan Bs are for those that are prepared – even if nothing were to ever go wrong *fingers crossed*.

 
Shash Cates is the Creative Project Manager on the Mozy Marketing team.

Non-Profits Making Transition to Cloud

There are approximately 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the United States, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS). Some of the key components of running a successful non-profit are being able to maintain accurate records, staying on top of the most up-to-date software, and keeping in touch with people within your network, said April Greene, editor for Idealist.org, a non-profit hub that helps to connect people, ideas and resources.

Non-profits making a move to the cloud

With the growing amount of files, photos, and other documents that need to be kept safe, many non-profit organizations are starting to jump aboard cloud technology, Greene said.

In its 2012 State of the NonProfit Cloud Report, NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network) reported that 91 percent of 780 non-profits they surveyed were using some type of cloud-based software.

“Non profits are attracted to cloud because it’s cheaper than buying software,” Greene explained. “Plus it offers a whole lot more. A lot of non-profit organization have people working remotely and it makes their lives much easier,” said said, explaining that one of Idealist.org’s managers lives in San Francisco and because of cloud he can access important documents and data in a matter of seconds. “You don’t have to send attachments anymore,” she said. “Everything is central.”

One non-profit using cloud to its advantage is Legacy Counseling in Dallas, Texas, an organization that has 20 years of providing quality mental healthcare, substance abuse treatment, and special care housing services for people challenged with HIV and AIDS. Executive Director Melissa Grove said she found out just how valuable cloud storage was when her computer crashed earlier this year and everything on it was lost. But thankfully she had recently signed up cloud storage and was able to get everything back right away.

“Cloud probably saved me from having to redo about 500 or 600 hours of work,” she said. “We aren’t big enough for an IT staff, and technology keeps changing. Cloud is a wonderful solution and it’s very simple to use.”

Grove said that she signed up for cloud storage about a year ago and it has made her job–and her life–so much easier. “I was able to get rid of all the hard drives and I stopped storing things at home for safety. We now have thousands of photos from events, grant documents, a donor list, and other files right at our fingertips. They are safe and easily accessible for all of our employees.”

 

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