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What is hot at the 2012 DEMO Spring conference?

The DEMO Spring 2012 conference, the “launchpad for emerging technology”, is going on this week and, already, many great ideas have emerged from it. One of the key focuses of the conference is social technology. These are some of the best products so far, social or otherwise:

Websense’s Defensio for Facebook

Defensio for Facebook helps companies that use the social network protect their information. It prevents unwanted content, spam and spyware. Since spam-riddled Pages and discussion threads are very unattractive to customers and prospects, it is best to keep your Page free of clutter.

Users can set preferences so that they can moderate all posts on their Page’s wall. They can also block their Page from linking to certain sites.


Social relationship manager Nimble allows users to connect all of their contacts, calendars and communications. It currently integrates email, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to bring all of your connections to one place. 

Nimble hopes to make it easier for companies to maintain a dialogue and improve interactions with their customers. Once it is integrated with more social networks, it will become even more useful.

mSignia’s Dynamic Device Identity

mSignia works on Android devices to make access to cloud services easier. It secures your smartphone while eliminating the need to enter passwords on every site.

mSignia tracks your phone as well as the cloud services you access. Once you change phones, it will eliminate credentials on the old device so that phone can no longer access your information. Seeing as our mobile phones are often our primary means of accessing cloud-based services, this service could be a huge time-saver.

These products, along with many others being presented at the DEMO Spring 2012 event, make conducting business simpler and more seamless.

Spam levels are drastically declining

Spam in the form of email has seen a drastic decline in the last few months. One report shows a fall from 200 billion spam messages being sent each day in August to only 50 billion per day in December. It’s difficult to say exactly why this has happened, but there are several theories.

Inactive botnets

Botnets are networks of infected computers which account for the majority of the world’s spam. Just one of the botnets, Rustock, was responsible for nearly 50% of all global spam at its peak. Rustock, along with two of the other prominent botnets stopped churning out so much spam in December.

Usually, botnets stop spamming because they have been temporarily disturbed, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Rustock. The most practical explanation is simply that the people controlling Rustock decided to stop spamming as much.

Anti-spam campaigns

Spammers are primarily driven by profit. When they stop seeing profit as a result of their work, they are likely to give up and move on to something else.

Recent anti-spam campaigns have been successful in disrupting spammers’ efforts therefore decreasing their profitability. This could be a reason for their halted efforts.

Other outlets

One very plausible explanation could be that spam isn’t declining so much as it is just being transferred to other forms of media. Twitter and Facebook, for example, have recently become huge outlets for spam.

These are all logical theories behind the decline of email spam. However, nobody can be certain as to what specifically is causing it. For more information on the topic, check out this BBC News article.

Should I disconnect a USB device without ejecting it?

We’ve all seen the frightening warning icon that pops up on an iPod when you plug it into your computer. It warns that if you disconnect it, something dreadful will happen. So, just how risky is it to unplug a USB device without unplugging it first?

Most of us have taken the risk of removing the device without taking the proper steps. And for many of us, the device came out unscathed. But what are the other potential consequences?

One of two things can happen if you remove the device before ejecting it:

  1. Nothing. Your data will remain intact and you will cause no harm to the USB device or to the computer
  2. The device can become corrupted, along with all its contents. This is sometimes reparable, but can be extremely frustrating nonetheless

Although there is a great possibility that you won’t do any damage by preemptively unplugging the device, it’s generally not worth the risk. The inconvenience of losing your data is far greater than the convenience of removing a mechanism before ejecting it.

Take a look at this article for additional information on quickly and easily ejecting USB drives.

The secret to finding your ideal desk height

Choosing a suitable desk can be essential to your everyday comfort. Despite its importance, a lot of people overlook one of the key factors when picking out a desk: desk height.

Utilizing office furniture that’s ergonomically correct can prevent you from experiencing long-term strain on your body. People often find that it makes them more productive because of the added comfort.

In order to ensure a desk is the right height for you, you should:

  • Sit down in the position you’d be in while using the desk
  • Rest your arms at your sides
  • Bend your elbow at a 90 degree angle keeping your upper arms in line with your torso

If the desk is a good height for you, your hands should rest comfortable on its surface. For minor adjustments, think about using an adjustable chair or a desk with a pullout keyboard drawer. 

Finding a desk with the proper height is a simple way to save you a lot of discomfort and potential back problems. That alone can make the time and effort well worth it.

For more information on finding the proper desk height, check out this Lifehacker article.

Good practices that help preserve your smartphone battery

For many of us, our smartphone is our main connection to the outside world. So, when that smartphone is out of commission due to a dead battery or something worse, we often feel totally lost. Fortunately, there are a number of easy tricks that may help preserve your phone’s battery life for both the short and long-term.


Disable 3G or 4G

3G and 4G capabilities allow your phone to regularly “talk” to the Internet, which can use a great deal of battery power. Try turning it off unless you’re in need of the speed it offers.


Adjust the brightness of your screen

If your screen is too bright, it can burn battery quite fast. Take it down a few notches for a simple way to minimize excessive battery drain.

Disable push notifications

If you have push notifications for email and other applications enabled on your phone, it is regularly sending out signals to ask for data. Disabling this setting can save a lot of battery power.

Know when to charge your battery

Find out what type of battery your phone uses. Lithium ion batteries can be charged anytime without affecting the long-term battery life. Nickel-based batteries, however, lose their power over time if you charge them too much, so make sure they’re completely drained first.


These are a few easy tips that can greatly improve battery life and keep you from having to live without your phone. For more tips and tricks, check out this Business Insider article.

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is a phrase that perplexes most people. It seems like a simple enough concept, but different sources provide different definitions, leaving many of us confused as to what it really is.

What it is:

Cloud computing is a broad term that incorporates Hardware as a Service (Haas), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Within those services, businesses can offer versatile and scalable monthly programs for:

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Anti-spam
  • Storage servers

Most providers concur that cloud computing always offers three things:

  1. On-demand services with monthly or set pricing.
  2. Flexibility to scale services as necessary.
  3. The consumer simply needs a computer and Internet access to use the service or program.

The complexity of cloud computing can scare people away, but it is a tool that always uses the power of the Internet to provide products and services to consumers. If you’d like more information on cloud computing, you should check out this InfoWorld article.

6 tips for creating more effective PowerPoint presentations

Microsoft PowerPoint is a popular presentation resource in both the academic and business worlds. But when most of us are tasked with creating a presentation on our own, we discover we don’t know how to properly use PowerPoint to create a strong, memorable presentation.

Most professional presenters that utilize PowerPoint are in agreement that the most essential thing to remember when making a presentation is not to overwhelm your audience. Slides flooded with information often confuse and bore, not engage, your audience.  And even worse, text heavy slides are usually read by the audience, and in the process, the speaker is ignored.

With this in mind, here are 6 things to think about next time you are building a PowerPoint presentation:

  1. If your presentation centers on a narrative, stick to a small number of slides that contain powerful supporting images, text and statistics. Use the slides to make a point, not steal the show.
  2. If you are presenting how-to’s or other instructional information, don’t be afraid to create dozens of slides that individually highlight only a single key idea or concept.
  3. When presenting a process or structured data use bullet points, not sentences or paragraphs. This helps the viewers’ eyes move down the slide and catch each item.
  4. If you can avoid it, don’t use Clip Art, animations or fancy slide transitions. When it comes down to it, they distract from your presentation and reduce the effectiveness of your message. 
  5. Focus on branding your business by keeping your logo on every page and keeping your presentation consistent with your color palette.
  6. Practice first! It’s often quite obvious to an audience if you haven’t practiced your presentation using your slides before getting on stage. Avoid the embarrassment and get your timing and speech dialed in before you present.

By following these tips, you may be on your way to more effective presentations for your business.

For more professional tips and tricks for using PowerPoint make sure you check out this Inc. article.

These 3 applications make creating expense reports a breeze

If you do a lot of travelling for work or simply have a lot of work-related expenses, you know how much of a hassle it can be to record receipts. Well, you’re in luck. There are now plenty of mobile apps that can do just that.


iReceipt is more basic than these other applications and includes an easy-to-navigate interface. You can take pictures of receipts or manually enter data. The application then sends you an expense report via text message.

Shoeboxed Receipt Tracker

Shoeboxed is an awesome application for anyone who’s not interested in writing out all the details of their expenses. All you must do is take a picture of your receipt with your phone and the app instantly enters the data: total, payment type and category. It then generates expense reports that you can send from your phone or export to Quicken or Quickbooks.


This app is ideal for just about anybody as it works across several mobile platforms. It can automatically import expenses and receipts directly from your credit cards, so you virtually have to do nothing but swipe your credit card. Like Shoeboxed, it is supported by Quickbooks and creates expense reports quickly and easily.

These are all fantastic options if you’re looking for a more streamlined approach to expense reports. There are plenty more options out there as well.

Check out this Mashable article for some applications that can work for anybody.

Are your passwords secure enough?

Creating a strong password doesn’t seem like it should be that hard but, surprisingly, many people still use shockingly obvious passwords. The password rules are easy and straightforward, making them very easy to follow.

  • Always make your passwords longer than six characters
  • Include a blend of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and special characters
  • Don’t use a name or any word in the dictionary
  • Try using a phrase instead of a word
  • Don’t use the same password on multiple sites

The most important of these rules is the last one. Unfortunately, that is the one that is most often disregarded. It is essential because someone may potentially crack your password for one account and then have access to each and every account you have on the web.

Multiple passwords can get tricky to keep track of but, luckily, there are tools for that. KeePass and Tiny Password are great tools for managing a database of passwords. It’s important to keep in mind that the hassle of remembering multiple passwords is nothing compared to the hassle of having all of your accounts hacked.

For more password tips and pointers check out this Lifehacker article.

Microfiber cloths – are they actually all they're cracked up to be?

People commonly praise microfiber cloths as a great tool for cleaning computer screens. Some might question, however, just how crucial these cloths are and if some other tool may work just the same.

Although purchasing a microfiber cloth and cleaning solution might be the safest bet for cleaning your computer, phone or eReader screen, many people use old t-shirts without inflicting any damage. This can be a fast and easy way to clean your computer screen that doesn’t require purchasing a microfiber towel.

Homemade cleaning solution

You can also make your own harmless screen cleaning solution with everyday household products. You simply need:

  • ½ cup of white vinegar
  • ½ cup of distilled water
  • a squirt bottle

Cleaning your screen

Just spray a 100% cotton t-shirt with the cleaning solution just so that the t-shirt is damp and wipe the screen in a circular motion. Rub the screen with a dry section of the t-shirt for a streak-free finish.

If you’re concerned about the safety of your screen, microfiber cloths and cleaning solutions are relatively inexpensive, and readily available for purchase at electronic stores. However, the t-shirt method is a great, simple substitute that can help you out in a crunch.