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Mobile hotspots – what they are and how to benefit from them

The Verizon iPhone’s release has the tech world abuzz with talk of what the smartphone may offer. A few of the major themes are tethering and personal hotspots – two things many people are still confused about.

What they are

A mobile hotspot is basically a mobile broadband gadget that can be connected to the Internet just about anywhere. People can set up their smartphones to work as mobile hotspots as well. Tethering is the action of using your phone as a hotspot so that you can connect your computer or another device to the Internet.

Why they’re great

These hotspots are particularly useful for anyone who does a considerable amount of work on the road or even at coffee shops. The free Wi-Fi that is available at many locations is not secure, making any data you transmit vulnerable.

A mobile hotspot minimizes that security dilemma since it is a closed network that, in the case of a smartphone, will only be open to one user. 

How you can utilize one

Fortunately, many mobile providers make available mobile hotspot and tethering features in their wireless plans. When it comes to the new Verizon iPhone, hotspots will come at a price of $20 per month for 2 GB of data along with the required $30 data plan for the iPhone.

Because hotspot and tethering features come at a price, they aren’t ideal for everyone. If you access the Internet mainly from one location, it could be more convenient to utilize standard broadband Internet, which generally permits unlimited usage.

What does 4G really mean?

Plenty of people have been tossing around the term 4G lately. It seems like every mobile carrier claims to have the biggest or fastest 4G network around. So, what precisely is this 4G that everybody’s talking about?



Even though each of the key wireless providers, such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, have recently introduced smartphones with a “4G” network connection, it appears the definition of 4G varies from network to network. Let’s discuss the various definitions of “4G”.





Both AT&T and T-Mobile have been utilizing HSPA for their 3G networks and HSPA is basically the same network with enhanced capacity. T-Mobile is now offering the improved technology in more major metropolitan areas than their HSPA competitor.





This is the technology that is currently being implemented by Verizon. The LTE network is based on Global System for Media (GSM) technology, rather than Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), which Verizon has always used. LTE has a higher capacity and offers download speeds of 5-12 Mbps, the equivalent of a typical home broadband connection.



In Verizon’s case, the LTE network is completely separate from the network that Verizon’s current users are on, reducing the chances of overcrowding.





Wi-Max is also GSM-based, and it was originally regarded as the major contender for a 4G standard. Unfortunately, Wi-Max is not as fast as Verizon’s LTE network, but it is faster than AT&T and T-Mobile’s HSPA .



Unlike the other mobile carriers, Sprint’s version of a 4G network has been around for many months, meaning that their users were able to benefit from this technology long before users of other networks.



As you can see, there is no standard definition of a “4G” network. Luckily for us, the options are improving and the coverage is growing. Pretty soon, every carrier will have an enhanced network to choose from.



For more information on 4G networks and what they really mean, check out this Popular Science article.

Keyboard shortcuts – a great way to boost productivity

A keyboard shortcut is a straightforward, easy-to-use tool that may save you time on everyday tasks. Surprisingly, many people still don’t take advantage of these simple tools to help improve their efficiency.

Many programs, such as Microsoft Office and most web browsers, have built-in keyboard shortcuts. These shortcuts can shorten and simplify tasks such as:

  • Launching a new browser window
  • Searching for a document
  • Saving a document
  • Attaching a document to an email

While these tasks aren’t all that time-consuming when performed with a mouse, the combined time you could potentially save by utilizing keyboard shortcuts is quite substantial.

If you find yourself performing lots of repetitive tasks, learning their shortcuts could surely be worth the effort. If there isn’t already a built-in shortcut for that task, creating your own shortcuts can be quite easy, depending on the program.

For tips on how to create your own keyboard shortcuts, check out these articles on:

The SMS of death – what it actually is and how it may impact you

Talk of receiving an “SMS of death” has a number of people worrying about their cell phones’ susceptibility to viruses. Surprisingly, this supposed deadly text message is rather different than one would imagine.

How can this affect me?

As opposed to most viruses that affect cell phones, this attack focuses on “feature phones” rather than smartphones. Feature phones are more basic cell phones that have one particular feature that distinguishes them, such as an MP3 player or web browsing capabilities.

Because feature phones rather than smartphones are at risk for this virus attack, most phones employed for business purposes are out of danger. In order for the attack to be effective, the hacker needs to know the make and model of the phone, otherwise the text would simply be read as nonsense.

Possible indicators of an attack include:

  • The phone can shut down without warning
  • Some phones may then be rendered useless and the SIM card must be placed in another phone to be functional

Luckily, due to the nature of the ”SMS of death” hack, it will be extremely difficult for hackers to insert their own code into the phone and steal any data. Those kinds of attacks are typically reserved for more high-tech smartphones.

How can I protect myself?

These SMS attacks are preventable simply by updating security software, something that most people with basic feature phones don’t do. Updates usually need to be purchased since most feature phones don’t come with USB cables to update security software.

For more information on this “SMS of death” and how to keep your phone safe, check out this IT World article.

CES 2011′s best products for business

The 2012 Consumer Electronics Show was rich in great ideas and products for business. These are three of the products that could be the most influential for small businesses this year.



BlackBerry Presenter


This portable presenter connects to any standard projector and lets you run PowerPoint wirelessly from your BlackBerry. This gets rid of the need for a laptop, which is convenient for one-day trips. It also gets rid of the common issues that come with hooking up a laptop to an unfamiliar projector.



Splashtop Remote app for Android


The Splashtop Remote program first popped up on the iPad and is now available for use on Android devices. This application permits you to log in to your home or office computer and perform many crucial tasks such as:


  • Maneuver around the desktop
  • Use programs and applications based on your computer
  • Watch videos
  • Access documents, images and videos that are stored on your computer


This application is especially useful for people who do a lot of business on the go. The Splashtop Remote app currently works on Android 2.2 and up.



For more information on the software, check out the Splashtop website.



PlasticLogic QUE proReader


Called a “wireless briefcase” by PlasticLogic’s CEO, the QUE proReader is much more than just an eReader, as it was originally intended to be. The QUE proReader:


  • Syncs with Microsoft Exchange
  • Allows for “print-to-device” technology
  • Reads PDFs and Microsoft Office documents
  • Lets BlackBerry users transfer information from their phones
  • Already has deals in place with all of the top business periodicals


The QUE ranges in price from $650 to $800, making it a little steep for some small businesses, but with all of the functionality it offers, it will likely prove itself to be worth the money.



These are just three of the many remarkable products that were showcased at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, but they are bound to be some of the most beneficial to small businesses. For more information on devices and services that were popular at this year’s CES, check out the Consumer Electronics Show’s “Trends” page.

McAfee’s forecast for 2011

McAfee, one of the world’s most reputable computer security organizations, has just unveiled its predictions for cyber attack targets in 2012 and the list contains a few tools that are quite popular. On the list are both the Android and iPhone in addition to several other programs and devices.



URL Shorteners


McAfee says that URL-shortening programs such as are going to be used for spamming and spreading malicious content. These programs are used by many people to share links over social media sites so they are ideal for cyber criminals spreading malicious content. McAfee recently released its own URL shortener,, that aims to make URL shortening more secure.



Geolocation Services


A second possible target for cyber criminals will be geolocation services such as Foursquare and Facebook Places, since they show sensitive information like the user’s location and what applications they’re using and allow for a more targeted attack.





Mobile devices are likely to be a big target for cyber criminals as more people are conducting business on their smartphones. Many individuals do not take the proper measures to ensure that their smartphones are secure enough for business use, so the devices are particularly vulnerable. For tips on securing your smartphone, check out this article.



The other targets, as outlined by McAfee, are Apple products and Google TV along with a rise in politically-motivated attacks a la Wikileaks.



For more information on these threats, read this article on Tech Crunch. Also, go to for information on the latest threats and advice on keeping your devices secure.

Did you unintentionally get rid of a crucial file? How to undelete it

Mistakenly deleting files can lead to a lot of trouble. Lucky for you, those files are commonly still intact and on your computer if you search for them soon enough. Here’s a guide to undeleting files before they’re gone for good.

Before you panic:

Check to see if you mistakenly saved the file to a different location. People frequently save files to their Downloads or other folders without realizing it, so do a search of all your documents before presuming that it’s gone.

Search for recovered files. Often, if you close a program or your computer shuts down without warning, there is a recovered files folder that saves whatever you were working on. Search your system for those documents before losing hope.

Search your email. If you emailed a version of the file to someone, it may still be in your Sent Messages folder. Checking here first can save you a lot of time and stress.

Check your Recycle Bin, as this is where many files hang out until they are entirely deleted.

When those don’t work

There are some times when these tricks simply won’t be able to recover the files you want. If this happens, your best bet is to contact your IT services provider for help.

Losing files can be scary. Fortunately, they’re usually not totally lost. These tips are straightforward and easy to follow – and when they don’t work, your IT services provider is usually just a phone call away.

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