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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Technically Speaking: Stories of the Week – March 1

Each week we scour the internet to find the best stories on technology, digital living and news of note. This week, we have Google going retail, t-shirts going biometric and a 3D printer helping a child overcome disability. All that and more in this week’s edition of Mozy’s Technically Speaking.

5 Year Old with Disability Recipient of “Robohand” 

Liam and his Robot Hand

A 5-year-old boy born without fingers was the recipient of a new robohand this week, thanks to new technology and a remarkable collaboration. The robohand, “an open-sourced device built with customized prosthetic fingers,” according to Mashable’s Camille Bautista, was built using 3D printing. The duo that created the device live across the world from each other (one in Washington state, the other in South Africa) and used Skype to communicate and share ideas.

Coming to a Shopping Mall Near You: Google Stores

One of the companies you’re used to seeing all over the web may soon be all over your local shopping malls as well. Venture Beat reports that Google plans to launch its own retail stores just in time for the 2013 holiday season. The move could be considered an attempt to compete with Apple, which currently operates 400 stores in 12 countries, according to the article. The Google stores will feature the company’s products, like the new Chromebook, and will also have employees offering technical support, similar to what Apple does.

President Obama Urges Schools to Focus More on Technology

President Obama mentioned technology in his State of the Union Address last week, saying that he would like to see schools “meet the demands of a high-tech economy.” The President suggested that schools focusing more on technology—and subjects like science, engineering, and math—would be rewarded. While exciting people who have been pushing for more coding to be taught in schools, implementation may be an uphill battle. According to Forbes’ Anthony Wing Kosner, schools face challenges such as a lack of computer science teachers and time in their current daily schedules.

Under Armour Working on Technology for Touchscreen Tees

Technology and exercise have become fast friends. Smartphones are now valuable devices for workouts, as several apps and features have emerged to help motivate and keep track of miles, time, weight, and more. But what if you didn’t need your phone at all? If Under Armour’s vision comes true, all of that technology might be available right on a person’s arm—in the fabric of the shirt they’re wearing. Ryan Gearhardt for Mashable writes that, while the idea hasn’t been perfected yet, the company is hard at work on developing “wearable” technology, or touchscreen shirts.

 

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A Small-Business Guide to the Fiscal Cliff: 2013 Edition

Fiscal Cliff 2013Seems like we’ve been hearing about the fiscal cliff forever, now, and with March 1 comes the latest iteration: sequestration. What does this mean for small businesses, and what can owners do to help mitigate the impact of what’s already been done?

Let’s look at a rundown of what’s next on the line, but also some fresh strategies for grappling with what U.S. lawmaking has so far left it in its fiscal wake.

Fiscal Cliff 2013: Sequestration

So, yes, the fiscal cliff — at least a version of it — looms anew, with this March representing another crucial turning point. The newest round of wrangling has to do with sequestration — the ways that the federal government may (indiscriminately) cut into $85 billion worth of spending, programs, and services.

Experts say that if the sequester locks in, small business may very well feel the impact.

Here’s what Stephen Fuller, professor at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy told a House committee about his predictions on the matter, last fall.

“The size and specialized nature of small businesses make them more vulnerable to sequestration than large businesses,” Fuller said. “As a result, small businesses will  bear a disproportional impact of the federal spending reductions under  sequestration. While these impacts can be measured in the loss of jobs by small businesses that are prime federal contractors (34.1% of all prime federal contractor job losses), small businesses that are subcontractors, suppliers and vendors and  whose existence depend on consumer spending that would be negatively impacted by the losses of labor income resulting from sequestration, would account for 57  percent of the associated job losses across the country.”

This is why small-business owners watch for the outcome of the March 1 sequester deadline with weariness.

The Story So Far: What SMBs Can Do (Right Now)

In an effort to show a path through what may be some already difficult territory — into the next 9–10 months and beyond — accounting-software experts at Xero put their heads together with Jody Padar, CEO and principle of New Vision CPA Group, and Jason Lawhorn, of Lawhorn CPA Group, Inc.

Together, they’ve broken out helpful tips and notes about the state of affairs for SMBs, right now. Here are some fundamentals, and what owners can do to protect themselves. They’ve categorized their main points as good, bad, and ugly, regarding what’s happened in the fiscal-cliff scenario, so far.

The Good:

– The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) relief, and extended Bonus Depreciation and Section 179 deductions. The AMT was created to tax high-wage earners, corporations, estates and trusts. At its advent, middle class and solo workers were exempt up to earnings of $45,000. But the bill did not account for inflation and wages have definitely increased since 1969 when the bill was first introduced. Had the relief law not been passed, a significant number of middle income taxpayers would have been subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax which is substantially higher than the exemption from regular income tax.

– Congress also extended the Bonus Depreciation and Section 179 deductions, which allow SMBs to recover the cost of investing in new infrastructure and property. The deductions will continue to stimulate spending, support SMBs, and encourage economic growth. At present, Congress says the approved AMT relief and tax deductions are permanent fixes. Word of caution though, say Padar and Lawhorn, no fix is ever permanent with the tax code.

The Bad:

If your small business is defined as an LLC you will see a 3.8 percent tax on your earned income as part of the Healthcare bill beginning this year. One way to mitigate this is to change your status from an LLC to an S-Corp. Here’s the key to the timeframe: if you change you status before March 15 this will apply for 2013, whereas if you change after the cut-off date you will not be eligible until 2014.

The Ugly:

A misnomer is that the the $450,000 tax increase is on the “rich” and independently wealthy, but this is not the case. S-Corps and LLCs are in the same tax pool as individuals. Additionally, most of the $450,000 earners are small business owners. Your average person is not making this type of salary, suggest Padar and Lawhorn, and the small business owners that are may be using this as “flow-through” money — that is, reinvesting this capital back into their businesses. However, because of their tax designation (S-Corp, LLC) they still fall into this bracket and their taxes will be increased.

What to Do: 2013 and the Next Steps

The main thing to be aware of is the complexity of the law changes.

For small-business owners, finances are already complicated. Padar and Lawhorn said that dealing with undecided government regulations can feel like driving in a blizzard. They recommend (of course), that owners secure the services of a qualified accountant. And the idea is to work with that accountant to navigate the new landscape all year long, not just at tax time.

“If you read or see something that does not make sense, contact your accountant,” they said. “Sticking your head in the sand when it comes to your finances is as good as leaving the cash drawer open while you’re out.”

 

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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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Backing Up Celebrities

Roll out the red carpet… Mozy is star struck! With both the Grammys and the Oscars taking place during the month of February, we’ve got celebrities on the mind. We’re big fans of the entertainers and artists whose work we celebrate and honor at these two events, and (while we’re on that topic) we still can’t believe that Saving Private Ryan didn’t win Best Picture in 1999.

As their songs and movies pile up, the space needed to store the works of these artists digitally is only increasing. So take a look… which of this year’s Academy Awards nominees would take up the most hard drive space? Which Grammy winner needs the most USB drives to store all of their albums?

 

 

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Mozy Cloud Backup Available on the Comcast Upware Marketplace

Mozy’s industry leading cloud back up service for small and medium businesses, MozyPro, has joined the Upware marketplace from Comcast Business to offer the industry-leading Mozy backup service to small businesses.

The Upware™ marketplace is a suite of cloud-based business tools that can be purchased through one easy-to-use web portal. It contains cloud apps covering every aspect a business might need: data backup, data security, document collaboration and web collaboration. Upware helps simplify the world of IT for small businesses.

MozyPro supports small businesses like the Snohomish Fire Department.

Small businesses like the Snohomish Fire Department benefit from using cloud tools like MozyPro Online Backup.

More and more, small and medium-sized businesses are purchasing bundles of cloud-based business applications from a single trusted provider. The Upware™ marketplace from Comcast Business makes it easy to purchase and manage those applications all in one place. With a selection of the best business apps, Upwire allows businesses to deal with one administrative console and one consolidated bill.

“Comcast has sought out the best providers of business applications that our SMB customers need to run their business,” said Kevin O’Toole, senior vice president/general manager, new business solutions at Comcast Business Services. “We’re proud to partner with Mozy to offer a data protection and backup solution that can help our customers keep their information securely stored in the cloud.”

“We’ve heard from an increasing number of service providers looking to offer our best-of-breed cloud backup solution to their customers,” said Russell Stockdale, GM of Mozy. “In response Mozy has made it even easier for service providers to include Mozy as one of their core market offerings. By including Mozy in this marketplace we’re enabling Comcast Business Class to offer their valued customers the world-class cloud backup service they’re looking for.”

Mozy is available now on the Upware marketplace for Comcast Business at https://upware.comcast.com/home

Mozy Winter Photo Contest

Mozy Winter Picture ContestPhotos: you take them, Mozy backs them up! Here is your chance to show off your photography skills by highlighting some of the pictures you’ve taken this winter. Find your favorite shot and upload it in the comment section below by March 1, 2013. Images must be less than 1 MB in size and will be approved before they are posted, so if you don’t see your comment right away check back later. We’ll select our favorite and the winner will receive a $200 Amazon gift card. Two runner ups will receive $50 gift cards.

Judging will be based on:

  • How “wintery” the picture makes us feel
  • Originality
  • The “Awe” factor – As in “awe cute” and or “in awe” of the scene.

The photos must be your own work. By submitting them to our contest, you agree to let Mozy post them on our website. Of course, we’ll give credit where credit is due.

This contest is open to Mozy and non-Mozy customers alike. If you’re not a Mozy customer, you may want to consider our free Mozy account and the accompanying Stash and mobile app.

Best of luck to all and we look forward to seeing your amazing work!

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.