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Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Cloud, Day 3: Choosing an Online Productivity Suite


I'm a writer. It makes sense, then, that finding a cloud-based tool to substitute for my trusty Microsoft Word is priority one on this "30 Days With the Cloud" journey. A word processor is rarely an island unto itself, though, so choosing one means selecting a complete productivity suite, including word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tools.

There are a number of potential options, but I am going to narrow my focus to three: Microsoft Office Web apps, Google Docs, and Zoho Docs. I'd prefer to use free tools and services where possible, so I am only going to look at the free options rather than the subscription services like Office 365 or Google Apps.

I have dabbled in the online tools from Microsoft and Google in the past, and I did a review a while back involving Zoho, so I am somewhat familiar with all three. But, there have been some tweaks and changes since then, so over the course of the next few days I will check each out in more detail, keeping the following criteria in mind:

User Interface

The interface should be functional. Working with Web browsers and Web protocols is different than delivering a user experience via locally-installed software, and I will be comparing how each of these productivity suites matches up.
It will help if things are where I am used to them being in Microsoft Word--so that probably gives Office Web Apps an advantage out of the gate. But, it is not a deal-breaker as long as the controls seem intuitive enough.
File Storage

There are two things to consider when it comes to file storage…maybe three. First, how much storage space is provided for free, and how much will additional space cost if necessary? Second, can the files be accessed from any device or platform? And, third, how secure and reliable is the data storage?


I need to weigh the cloud productivity suites and choose the best one for me.Although there are alternatives to Microsoft Office--both cloud-based and locally-installed software, it is still a Microsoft Office world. The value of a productivity suite is largely a function of how well it can create, open, edit, and otherwise work with files in Microsoft Office formats.

Sharing and Collaboration

One of the benefits of cloud-based productivity suites is that many different users around the world can be logged into the same document at the same time, and teams of people can share files and collaborate in real time. Some are better than others, though, and being able to collaborate is only useful if those you want to collaborate with are using the same service, or are at least willing to log into the service you choose.


Most of the time, I will be using my chosen Web-based tools and services from the comfort of my home office. But, one of the factors that I will be considering in selecting a cloud productivity suite is how well it works with my iPhone, iPad, and Motorola Xoom tablet.

That should sum things up nicely. Starting with Day 4 I will take a look at Microsoft Office Web apps, Google Docs, and Zoho Docs, viewing them through this lens and measuring them against these criteria.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Cloud, Day 2: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Cloud

The first step in spending 30 days relying on cloud-based tools and services is to explore my options and choose the ones I want to use to work and live online. Email and writing are the most crucial functions of my PC for me, so I am going to start by finding suitable online options for email and writing. Actually, I planned to start there, but I ran into a little hiccup--my PC won't cooperate.

My Dell XPS M1330 may be on its last legs. The CPU is constantly maxed at 100 percent, making the system slow and unresponsive. Just opening Microsoft Word up--never mind actually writing anything--could take two or three minutes. I spent the last couple days reinstalling Windows 7 assuming that a fresh install would do the trick, but it doesn't seem like it so far.

My Dell notebook is having issues, but iCloud let me continue working anyway. This is where the cloud comes to the rescue, though, so it's actually sort of apropos for this month. I am writing this post from my iPad 2. I have already done 30 Days With the iPad so I know that it can fill in for my notebook in a pinch. With iOS 5 and iCloud, I now have the added bonus that what I am typing in Pages on my iPad 2 will automatically be synced with iCloud and to my iPhone as well. Once I get a functional laptop again (I think I hear a MacBook Air calling my name), I can just log into iCloud and this document will be available to me.

To me, this is one of the most significant advantages of using the cloud. I am not tied to my currently crippled (or possibly dying) Dell notebook. I can use other devices like my iPad, or I could just borrow a Web-connected PC from someone else, and I can continue working and remain productive. When I get my Dell restored, or replace it with some other notebook, all of my data will be instantly available to me because it is not tied to any specific hardware.

Had this same thing happened a year or two ago, it would be a much more arduous undertaking to get up and running again. The fact that I have my files and data synced and available to me online makes things much easier.

Had this same thing happened a month from now, I would probably have gotten back into the groove much more quickly. I still spent a couple days stubbornly trying to troubleshoot and revive my Dell PC. Once I decided to look for alternatives, I went to the iPad 2 which isn't exactly a cloud-based tool, and iCloud which isn't the only cloud data storage and syncing option available. If I were more committed to the cloud I could have just picked up any Web-connected device and jumped on to Google Docs, or Office 365 and accessed data from or Dropbox, and never missed a beat.

Starting with the Day 3 post, I will begin taking a closer look at the options available for cloud-based email and productivity suites. By the time this 30 Days series is over, I expect that next time my PC croaks I will barely even notice.

Monday, 25 February 2013

The Cloud, Day 1 - 30 Days With the Cloud

Courtesy – Tony Bradley, PCWorld

30 Days With the Cloud: Day 1

I'm back. I didn't take the month of October off from writing altogether, but I did take a break from the "30 Days" series. Now it's November and I am ready to embark on another 30-day journey. This time, I am going to spend the 30 days in the cloud.
I love my Windows 7 PC, and I'm attached to having software locally installed. I like knowing that my software is right here where I need it, and that I am not dependent on a reliable Internet connection just to access my own information or get anything done. I don't like the fact that a server outage somewhere on the other side I know that way of computing is quickly becoming outdated, though.

I also realize there are many potential benefits to using cloud-based products. As much as I appreciate having my software and data stored locally, there is an advantage to having access to my tools and data from virtually anywhere as long as I have a Web-enabled device and an Internet connection. If my PC crashes, or gets dropped in a pool or something, all I need to do is buy or borrow another PC and I'll be in business as if nothing happened.
As much as is possible, I will rely on Web-based tools. I can use the cloud for productivity software like word processing and spreadsheets, keeping track of my finances, scheduling and tracking my calendar and time, storing my data--including my music library, or just using a cloud-based music service in lieu of my library. There isn't much I can't do from the cloud these days.
Part of the journey will be devoted to trying out different tools and services of a given type and choosing the one I prefer. Then, the rest of the 30 days will be devoted to just using the cloud services I choose, and chronicling my experience--what works and what doesn't, as well as tips, tricks, pitfalls, and shortcuts.
Some of the cloud-based options are obvious, like Google Docs and Office 365, or Gmail and Hotmail. If you have any Web-based tools and services you use, or just suggestions for tools you are aware of and might like to know more about, send me your ideas. I can't promise I will get to them all, but I appreciate any input you can provide to help me find some of the more obscure "diamond in the rough" options.
So, let's get started on the 30 Days With the Cloud journey. Below is the 30 Day Cloud articles.

The Cloud, Day 1: 30 Days With the Cloud
The Cloud, Day 2: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Cloud
The Cloud, Day 3: Choosing an Online Productivity Suite
The Cloud, Day 4: Checking Out Google Docs
The Cloud, Day 5: Taking a Look at Zoho Docs
The Cloud, Day 6: Working With Microsoft Office Web Apps
The Cloud, Day 7: Email in the Cloud
The Cloud, Day 8: A Different Approach to Email
The Cloud, Day 9: Hey! Where'd My Cloud Go?
The Cloud, Day 10: Storing Data in the Cloud
The Cloud, Day 11: Music In the Cloud
The Cloud, Day 12: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
The Cloud, Day 13: Storing and Managing Pictures in the Cloud
The Cloud, Day 14: Don't Trust All Your Eggs to One Basket
The Cloud, Day 15: Dollars and Cents in the Cloud
The Cloud, Day 16: Stuck in Upload Hell
The Cloud, Day 17: Cloud Entertainment Comes with Strings Attached
The Cloud, Day 18: Riding the Cloud from My iPad
The Cloud, Day 19: IT Department Included
The Cloud, Day 20: What About Security?
The Cloud, Day 21: My Data Might Be Safer in the Cloud
The Cloud, Day 22: In and Out of the Cloud
The Cloud, Day 23: Wherever You Go, There It Is
The Cloud, Day 24: Backing Up Your Cloud
The Cloud, Day 25: The Cloud Is Becoming Mandatory
The Cloud, Day 26: Too Much Cloud Can Be a Bad Thing
The Cloud, Day 27: All the Rest of the Cloud
The Cloud, Day 28: My Five Biggest Cloud Complaints
The Cloud, Day 29: Five Things I Like Most About the Cloud.
The Cloud, Day 30: Forecast--Increasingly Cloudy

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Next Generation Job Training And Green Jobs

een Jobs, Energy Jobs, High Tech Jobs, Manufacturing Jobs, and new Job Training are all combined in the JOBS category at the top of the Obama Administration’s list of priorities for economic recovery. President Obama spoke at the February 12, 2013 State of the Union Address extensively about the need for new job creation and U.S. manufacturing in the context of clean technology.

The American Campus Efficiency Prize “ACE Prize” ( may have found a sponsor that brings this range of jobs together. Independence LED, is a U.S. Manufacturer of LED tube products that save 50% of the energy over traditional fluorescent tubes. They have committed up to $10 Million in Scholarships for the A.C.E. Prize initiative. The amount of money is less core to this green job creation path than the innovation of the joint academic and business initiative to provide “Learn and Earn” benefits.

“Independence LED has already seen the value come in several ways. We have recently identified two of the students in the program that exhibited particularly high potential, and they are now trained in lighting energy auditing and on Return on Investment (ROI) Savings Report software. So, we are relocating them to Greater Philadelphia to join us this summer…” – Charlie Szoradi – Chairman, Independence LED. See the full quote, here:

Independence LED believes that the next generation of their green job employees are the students that are currently enrolled in college and about to graduate. The LED tube company has started to mentor students to create what they call a “career launch pad” with practical business experience as a compliment to the students’ academic work. Independence LED then provides the scholarships as retrofit projects unfold on the students’ own campuses.

The Multi-Win Benefits:

1. Students benefit with knowledge and financial support.
2. Schools benefit with reduced operating costs on their lighting.
3. Independence LED benefits with a larger pool of prospective employees and installations at schools across the country.
4. America benefits with more U.S. manufactured products, an “energy-smart” trained workforce, and overall energy footprint reduction.
5. The planet benefits with reduced C02 emissions from major colleges and universities, since the LED tubes reduce 1.3 lbs of C02 for every annual kilowatt hour (kWh) saved.

Academic institutions across America face economic challenges in the same way that businesses and government agencies face budget challenges. Energy reduction is one powerful way to control the rising operating costs of education. Many schools seek federal and/or state support funding for energy retrofits. For schools that choose to retrofit with an LED tube system, as of November 30th 2012, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Funded projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) now require that each U.S. Made LED tube complies with the "Buy American" Standards.

This idea of energy or clean-tech job creation through building retrofits has been embraced since the initial Obama 2008 campaign and also specifically at the end of 2011 by the Obama Administration. The White House Office of the Press Secretary release on December 02, 2011:

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

SUBJECT: Implementation of Energy Savings Projects and Performance-Based Contracting for Energy Savings

“The Federal Government owns and operates nearly 3 billion square feet of Federal building space. Upgrading the energy performance of buildings is one of the fastest and most effective ways to reduce energy costs, cut pollution, and create jobs in the construction and energy sectors. We have a responsibility to lead by example, reduce our energy use, and operate our buildings efficiently.” – President Obama. Source:

Campus facilities could become the templates and hubs for the next generation of energy performance buildings. If students actively participate from the beginning through energy auditing job training, they may find efficiencies leading to cost-effective retrofits. Measurement is often the key to energy management , and students most likely can start by easily counting everything from inefficient fluorescent tubes to facility hours of operation. The new generation of green job recipients may increase the likelihood of new technology adoption like the led tube and create further demand for more green jobs. The ACE Prize with the Independence LED tubes may have landed at the center of property efficiency and high tech jobs ranging from manufacturing jobs to engineering jobs across the energy job sector. The A.C.E. Prize encourages other U.S. Manufacturers of Energy Efficiency or Renewable Energy products beyond the LED tube sector to also participate in their "Learn and Earn" initiatives.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Introducing uniRow version 2.0 (aka Seabiscuit)

We are glad to announce the release of uniRow version 2, which we have named Seabiscuit.
Fast, Agile and Trained to Win, the Seabiscuit was one of the most remarkable race horses despite its small size. uniRow Version 2 is named Seabiscuit in respect to the power and agility of this small, yet remarkable animal.

What is new ?

1. Faster Connectivity: uniRow Seabiscuit loads 3 times faster and is even lighter on your bandwidth. Our dynamic bandwidth detection ensures your experience doesn’t suffer in multi-party collaboration.
2. Smoother Collaboration Tools: uniRow collaboration is now on HTML5. This significantly improves interactivity and control during white-boarding, document sharing or polls. You can now switch between different collaboration types with the click of a button.
3. Redesigned Polls: We redesigned the polls to make sure you can test participant alertness and attentiveness quickly.
4. Integrated Toll-Free Dial In: Join a uniRow session with a computer or telephone. This allows your team members, customers and students to join from areas where Internet is a challenge. Toll Free dial-in numbers are available for more than 30 countries. If you wish to know more about it, please contact our sales team ( or +1-650-318-3852)
5. Instant Participant Feedback: Participants can give instant feedback or request the presenter to go slow, repeat or speed up. All this, with the click of a button.
Instant Feedback
6. Play Recordings on Tablets or Mobile devices: We ensure all your previous sessions are retained for reference and reuse. Now we went a step further and have added support for recording playback on any smartphone or tablet device.
7. Faster Screen Sharing: Screen Sharing is now faster and consumes lesser bandwidth. See the screen sharing preview and receive chat messages while you are away from your uniRow window.
8. Improved API and Integration: Our API allows you to integrate the uniRow experience within your website or application. It is not just single sign on. We ensure the uniRow experience is delivered within your product. For more details on API and integration, write to us on

Saturday, 9 February 2013

New Cisco certifications validate Video-Voice-over-IP skills

Highlighting the increasing use of high-quality video traffic over the network, Cisco announced the release of the Cisco CCNA Video and Cisco Video Network Specialist certifications. CCNA Video is designed for video professionals who design, install and support video solutions on Video-Voice-over-IP networks.

The new Cisco Video Network Specialist certification enables traditional analog audiovisual (Pro A/V) specialists, as well as other networking professionals, to extend their skills to meet the growing demand for networked video job roles.

These programs expand career opportunities for employees of enterprise, government, service provider and reseller partner organizations transitioning from other areas such as routing and switching, voice and unified communications to video networking.

CCNA Video

A job-role-focused training and certification program, CCNA Video establishes an individual’s ability to deploy video endpoints, set up new users, and operate networked voice and video solutions for job duties that include configuring voice and video single-screen endpoint devices, supporting telephony and video applications, and troubleshooting. The certification also validates a candidate’s knowledge of the architecture, components, functionalities and features of Cisco Unified Communications Manager solutions.

VIVND 200-001 and ICOMM 640-461 exams are requirements for the CCNA Video certification. Recommended training is available from Cisco and authorized Cisco Learning Partners.

Cisco Video Network Specialist

In order to prepare individuals for career opportunities as video technicians, video administrators or audiovisual installers in IP-networked environments, the Cisco Video Network Specialist certification establishes and enhances key skills including the ability to configure video single-screen endpoints, set up new user accounts, support video applications and troubleshoot networked video solutions.

The VIVND 200-001 exam is required for Cisco Video Network Specialist certification.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Cisco shows the global picture of information security

Cisco released findings from two global studies that provide a vivid picture of the rising security challenges that businesses, IT departments and individuals face, particularly as employees become more mobile in blending work and personal lifestyles throughout their waking hours.

Despite popular assumptions that security risks increase as a person's online activity becomes shadier, the highest concentration of online security threats do not target pornography, pharmaceutical or gambling sites as much as they do legitimate destinations visited by mass audiences, such as major search engines, retail sites and social media outlets.

In fact, Cisco found that online shopping sites are 21 times as likely, and search engines are 27 times as likely, to deliver malicious content than a counterfeit software site. Viewing online advertisements? Advertisements are 182 as times likely to deliver malicious content than pornography.

Security risks rise in businesses because many employees adopt "my way" work lifestyles in which their devices, work and online behavior mix with their personal lives virtually anywhere – in the office, at home and everywhere in between. The business security implications of this "consumerization" trend are magnified by a second set of findings from the Cisco Connected World Technology Report (CCWTR), which provides insight into the attitudes of the world's next generation of workers, Generation Y.

According to the study, most Generation Y employees believe the age of privacy is over (91%), but one third say that they are not worried about all the data that is stored and captured about them. They are willing to sacrifice personal information for socialization online. In fact, more Generation Y workers globally said they feel more comfortable sharing personal information with retail sites than with their own employers' IT departments – departments that are paid to protect employee identities and devices.

As Generation Y graduates from college and enters the workforce in greater numbers, they test corporate cultures and policies with expectations of social media freedom, device choice, and mobile lifestyles that the generations before them never demanded.

As the first chapter of the Connected World Technology Report indicated in December, Gen Y is constantly checking social media, email and text updates, whether it's in bed (3 of 4 surveyed globally), at the dinner table (almost half), in the bathroom (1 of 3), or driving (1 of 5). That lifestyle is entering work environments in greater numbers, spotlighting the future of work and how companies must consider competing for the next wave of talent. Unfortunately, what the security studies show is the next-generation workforce's lifestyles are also introducing security challenges that companies have never had to address on this scale.

Spam trends:

  • Spam volume dropped 18 percent from 2011 to 2012, with spammers working "banker's hours" for a 25 percent drop in spam over the weekend.
  • In 2012, the majority of spam was sent during the workweek – Tuesday was the heaviest spam day of the year.
  • India is the top source of spam worldwide, with the U.S. moving from sixth in 2011 to second in 2012. Korea, China and Vietnam round out the top five. (ASR)
  • The top spoofed brands involve prescription drugs like Viagra and Cialis and luxury watches like Rolex and Omega.
  • Spammers maximize the ROI of their efforts, targeting real-world events with specific and short-lived campaigns.

IT policy compliance:
  • Nine of 10 (90 percent) IT professionals surveyed said they have a policy governing the use of certain devices at work, yet only two of five Gen Y respondents said they were aware of such a policy.
  • To make matters worse, four out of five Gen Y respondents who were aware of IT's policies said they do not obey those policies.
  • IT professionals know that many employees don't follow the rules, but they don't understand how prevalent it is: More than half (52 percent) of IT professionals globally believe their employees obey IT policies, but nearly 3 out of 4 (71 percent) of the Gen Y workforce say that they don't obey policies.
  • Two of three (66 percent) Gen Y respondents globally said IT has no right to monitor their online behavior, even if that behavior is conducted using company-issued devices on corporate networks.
  • The aversion to employer IT monitoring was greater than the aversion Gen Y respondents had to retail sites monitoring their online behavior. In other words, Gen Y is less averse to complete strangers at retail sites monitoring their activity than their own employers' IT teams – teams that are there to protect them and their companies' information.