How to respond to nasty emails

Shane Davis : June 24, 2015 5:13 pm : Blog, Inspiration

bad_boss We’ve all been on the receiving end of a nasty email, as well as its secretive, vaguely insulting cousins. You know the messages I’m referring to. They don’t need exclamation points or all caps to be full with anger and dripping with sarcasm.

Dressing someone down via email is tempting because it’s easy, you have plenty of time to vision up daggers that strike straight to the heart, and you lack the inhibition that’s present when the recipient is staring you in the face. This type of email is known in cyberspace as “flaming,” and all such messages have a single thing in common, a complete and utter lack of emotional intelligence.

A recent survey (sponsored by communications device manufacturer Plantronics) found that 83% of today’s workforce considers email to be more critical to their success than any other form of communication.

Email has been around in the world long enough that you’d think that we’d all be pros at using it to communicate effectively. But we are all human and if you think about it we haven’t mastered face-to-face communication either.

The bottom line is that we can all use a little help. The five strategies that follow are some methods for keeping your emotions within reason, so that you don’t hit send while your emails, tweets, comments, and virtual chime-ins are still flaming.

1. Follow Honest Abe’s First Rule of Netiquette

Lincoln in his younger years, had a bad habit of applying his legendary wit when writing insulting letters to, and about, his political rivals. But after one predominantly contemptuous letter led a rival to challenge Lincoln to a duel, Lincoln learned a valuable lesson, words impact the receiver in ways that the sender can’t completely comprehend.

By the time he died, Lincoln had amassed stacks of flaming letters that verbally shredded his rivals and subordinates for their bone-headed mistakes. However, Lincoln never sent them. He vented his frustration on paper, and then stuffed that sheet away in a drawer. The following day, the full intensity of his emotions having subsided, Lincoln wrote and sent a much more pleasant and appeasing letter.

We can all benefit from learning to do the same with email. Your emotions are a valid representation of how you feel no matter how intense but that does not mean that acting on them in the moment serves you well. Go ahead and vent—tap out your anger and frustration on the keyboard. Save the draft and come back to it later when you’ve cooled down. By then you’ll be rational enough to edit the message and pare down the parts that burn, or even better rewrite the kind of message that you want to be remembered by. Just remember leave the “To” part blank.

2. Know the Limits of Virtual Humor

Some people show their disapproval with words typed in ALL CAPS and a barrage of exclamation points. Others, though, express dissatisfaction more subtly with sarcasm and satire. The latter is no less of a breakdown in the core emotional intelligence skill of self-management, and it can be even more dangerous because it’s harder to detect when you’re doing it. The sender can always convince him or herself that the spite was just a little joke.

3. Remember That People Online Are Still People

While captivated by the warm glow of a computer monitor, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that there is a living, breathing human who will end up reading your message. Studies have shown that people who are communicating online experience a “disinhibition effect.” Without the real time feedback between sender and receiver that takes place in normal face-to-face and telecommunication, we simply just don’t worry as much about offending people online.

We don’t have to experience the discomfort of watching someone else grow confused, unhappy, or angry because of something that we said. When these natural consequences are delayed, we tend to spill onto the screen whatever happens to be on our mind.

4. Know How The Internet Feels ;-) :-( :-o

Emoticons have a mixed reputation in the business world. Some people and even organizations believe that smiley faces, winks and other symbols of digital emotion are unprofessional, undignified, and have no place outside of a high school hallway.

When used properly, however, a Dutch research team has shown that emoticons can effectively enhance the desired tone of a message. The team led by Daantje Derks at the Open University of the Netherlands concluded that “to a large extent, emoticons serve the same functions as actual nonverbal behavior.” Seeing that nonverbal behavior accounts for between 70 and 90% of a message when communicating face to face, it might be time to ditch the stigma attached to emoticons in the business setting.

For those leery of dropping a smiley face into your next email, I’m not suggesting that you smile, wink, and frown your way through every email you write. Just don’t be afraid to peck out a quick :-) the next time you want to be assured that the recipient is aware of your tongue in cheek.

5. Know When Online Chats Need To Become Offline Discussions

Managing online relationships will always be a somewhat difficult task for people built to communicate in person. However, managing critical email conversations is even more difficult for those programmed to communicate via email. Significant, prolonged, and heated email exchanges are almost always better taken offline and finished in person.



With so much communication taking place via email these days, it can be hard to initiate a face-to-face conversation when you feel that an online interaction is becoming too heated or simply too difficult to continue online. Online technologies have become extremely useful for increasing the speed and efficiency of communication, but they have a long way to go before they become the primary source for creating and maintaining quality human relationships.

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Security Tips & Advice on Safe Internet Browsing Habits

Shane Davis : June 23, 2015 5:13 pm : Blog, Security

private_browsing If there is one item that pretty much everyone is familiar with on the Internet, it is the very thing we use to browse it, the Web Browser. Whether you use Firefox, Chrome, Safari, on a Desktop or Mobile device, this article concerns you. How you use a Web Browser has implications about your security position and any information that you handle.

1. Do not trust your browser.

It’s simple really, there are just as many ways to compromise a browser and its host operating system as there are to skin the mythical cat. Software exploits for all major browsers are being developed and sold on the black market and also officially by well-known businesses. This means that even if you update regularly and follow good security practices, you are still at risk of getting your browser and its host machine compromised. Once that happens, all bets are off. Therefore it makes even more sense to develop good habits when it comes to using your web browser.

2. Never store passwords in your browser Password Manager.

Yes, storing them, stops you from having to remember them. Well, that’s lovely, guess who else doesn’t have to remember them either? Mr./Ms. Random J Hacker. All he/she has to do is compromise your browser to get your login credentials to your Bank, Insurance Company or Company VPN. There is an option in your settings which can stop the browser from ever asking you to save them. Where should you store them? Use an encrypted off-line password-manager and keep its database on an encrypted USB stick/drive.

3. Learn how to enable and disable particular browser extensions or plug-ins.

Malicious browser extensions bring about security risks as they often lead to system infection. There are more bugs and exploits for browser extensions and plug-ins than you can conceive. There are many cases where these extensions are needed and cases where they’re not needed. Learn to recognize the difference.

4. Frequently clear your browser cache, saved passwords, cookies, history and form data

Your browser will store data while you are using it. What websites you’ve browsed, any cookies from sites you have visited, forms that you have filled and passwords that you have saved (see number 2), the content of visited websites, such as pictures, videos, scripts and text content etc. All of that data can be used to do bad things. Your browser will work fine without that data. If you’re afraid of losing a page you’ve visited just bookmark it.

5. Do not carelessly give your data and information to a web site.

In the course of browsing the Internet, many times will you be asked for various bits of information. It could be something as simple as a user name and a password but could go as far as requesting your full name, address, phone number, email, names of siblings and so on. Just because a web site is asking for that information does not mean they actually NEED IT. Ask yourself whether that Vintage Cars forum really needs to know where you live. If you do not intend to buy something or do not intend to do any business transactions with a website, refrain from providing such information.

6. Install HTTPS Anywhere

When data is transmitted to and from a website, it can be done in a secure way or an insecure way. The secure way will use HTTPS, the insecure one will use HTTP. When data is transmitted with HTTP, a hacker could intercept your traffic and read it or modify it at will, while you’re browsing. If HTTPS is used instead, intercepted traffic is encrypted and cannot be read. That’s a gross over-simplification but will suffice in this context. Not all websites support HTTPS but by using the browser extension HTTPSAnywhere you’ll automatically force any website that you visit (that supports HTTPS) to use HTTPS by default. Remember always check with your IT department before installing anything to your machine.


web_address_internet_browsingSome simple habits will make your browsing experience and information safer. It is easier to avoid bad habits than to break them. Now is the time to give up these bad security habits. Use technology tools available to move your organizations security habits in the right direction. Practicing these habits does not guarantee that your browser won’t be compromised but at least you won’t be the “low hanging fruit.”

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Windows 10 is now free for everyone

Shane Davis : June 22, 2015 5:08 pm : Blog, New Tech

Windows_10_freeOver the weekend Microsoft delivered a bombshell. Windows 10 is now free for anyone who wants it. In short, anyone who installs the latest Windows 10 beta will be upgraded automatically for free to the full Windows 10 Home retail version when it is released on July 29th. This is regardless of whether the previous version of Windows you were running was eligible for the free upgrade or not.

To be more specific Windows XP, Windows Vista, excluded Windows 7 and Windows 8 users and even fake copies of the install Windows 10 beta build 10130 (available from the Windows Insider website) will get a full copy of Windows 10 for free and with no future costs during the lifetime of the platform. So why would Microsoft suddenly make this decision? In my opinion it’s for these reasons:

Reason #1: Perfect PR

Truthfully I believe the move is a marketing win for Microsoft at the perfect moment. Offering more users your latest software for free will only be greeted positively and it reinforces the image of a ‘New Microsoft’ under Satya Nadella that is more progressive and open to the wishes of all customers.

The humiliation surrounding Microsoft after it horrible Windows 8 operating system may well be washed away in an instant.

Reason #2: Establish the Platform

Microsoft needs all the good will it can get at the moment because, basically, Windows 10 is Microsoft’s most important software release in about a decade. If you doubt that just ask yourself why Microsoft is calling it ‘Windows 10’ in the first place?

What makes it so crucial is Windows 10 truly marries both desktop and mobile, and a massive take-up of Windows 10 on PC is crucial if Microsoft is to stand any chance of regaining a foothold in the smartphone and tablet markets. After the relative failure of Windows 8, Windows 10 is all about increasing market share across every possible hardware device and that is more important than profit margins right now to a company with deep cash reserves.

Reason #3: Minimal Cost

For those who do doubt Microsoft’s decision from a financial perspective, I would contend the cost of encompassing Windows 10 to XP and Vista users will be minimal. After all these ageing machines will still need to meet Windows 10’s minimum specification requirements, which will rule out many however see Microsoft retain the moral high ground because the free offer was still there. Of course legitimizing Windows for millions of pirates (illegal downloaders) around the world could be seen as significantly greater lost revenue. But let’s be honest, this revenue was already lost by definition because these customers are pirates. On the other hand giving pirates legitimate copies could well re-monetize this lost group with sales of other apps and services by capitalizing on their goodwill in being made legitimate, so there’s nothing to lose.

Reason #4: A Final Mass Beta Test

By creating the caveat that previously excluded users must install the latest Windows 10 beta to get Windows 10 free, Microsoft will now gain millions of additional testers prior to launch. This should give the company masses of extra data and the potential to fix any outstanding bugs all these new PCs reveal.

Having seen both Vista and Windows 8 buried by buggy launches (despite the fact both were actually strong platforms after several updates) shows how crucial a positive, bug-free launch is. Windows 10 now looks certain to have that.

Reason #5: Security

Extra beta testers not only means a less buggy launch, but the benefit of getting millions more on Windows 10 should also mean users have a safer and more secure platform. This will go a long way to countering Windows’ reputation for viruses and malware.

Even more essential, Microsoft no longer protects Windows XP from new threats and Windows Vista will be cut off in 2017. By contrast Windows 10 should be supported for at least a decade after launch.


Despite all this, I’m sure many will still complain and there is some substance to the main complaints.

For starters the obligation to install beta software on your main computer to qualify for the free upgrade will be a risk many dislike. On top of this Windows 10 launches in just over a month so there isn’t a great deal of time for users to take advantage of the offer. There is also a lack of clarity about several points, including:

  • Can users install the beta after the Windows 10 official release and still qualify?
  • Why make beta installation a step at all?
  • Why only quietly announce this major move within a low profile blog post that millions will miss?
  • Why announce it so late?

Windows_10There will also be many who wonder if this is all part of some master plan by Microsoft to get users onto subscription payments. Personally I don’t believe this will apply to Windows 10, but Microsoft has said its successor (just named ‘Windows’) is going to use a subscription model and there will be suspicions that getting customers on Windows 10 will in some way make it easier to then force them onto ‘Windows’.

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What’s the perk to owning a iPhone… Apps!

Shane Davis : June 12, 2015 5:25 pm : Blog, Software

apple One of the best things about owning an iPhone is that you get a lot of the newest apps first before they arrive on Android. It may not be fair, but it’s a great perk for iPhone users. That means there’s always something new to try. You can enjoy exclusive apps from Instagram, cutting-edge photography apps, and even an app that will tell you the exact minute it’s going to start raining.

Manual ($1.99) lets you open up the hood of your iPhone’s camera, giving you full independent control of advanced settings like shutter, ISO, white balance, focus, and exposure compensation.

You don’t have to pay any commission fees when you use Robinhood (Free), a stylish new trading app that’s backed by Marc Andreessen and Snoop Dogg. You can access market data and quotes in real-time, and Robinhood makes it easy to stay on top of your portfolio with its Apple Watch app and iPhone widget that you can check from your lock screen.

Fresh Air (Free) is a stunning new weather app that emphasizes visuals with its minimalist weather graph. You can scroll forward in time to see how the weather will be in the future, and it also connects to your calendar app to give you forecasts on upcoming appointments.

Vesper ($9.99) is a note-taking app that takes a lot of the hassle out of organizing your thoughts. You can easily tag each entry so you can search for a specific thought by keyword later, and all your notes will be synced to your Vesper account, free of charge.

Until recently, to create smooth time-lapse videos, you needed expensive tripods and stabilization gear. Luckily, Hyperlapse (Free) from Instagram uses its image-stabilization techniques to smooth out shaky footage, and the results are impressive. It’s great for capturing sports moments, car rides, weather, crowds, and journeys on foot.

Product Hunt (Free) has evolved to become Silicon Valley’s go-to list of rising startups and apps, and there’s now a games category as well. The app allows you to follow startup founders, view curated collections, post new products on the fly, and download apps directly while browsing.

Litely (Free) is a powerful photo app for adding subtle filters to your photos, giving them a film-like tone. You can tap the screen with two fingers to see what your photo looked like before adding any presets, and the app’s non-destructive editing features means you never have to worry about losing your original.

Dark Sky ($3.99) does one thing very well: It tells you exactly when inclement weather, like rain or snow, is going to happen. The app is beautifully designed and features a precipitation timeline that lets you know minute-by-minute predictions for when you can expect rain.

Timeful (Free) is an intelligent calendar app mixed with a to-do list. The app’s algorithm learns how you get stuff done and smartly suggests ways to build new habits and get things taken care of, all on your own terms. Google recently acquired Timeful to incorporate its technology into new products, but you’ll still be able to continue using the app.

Clear ($4.99) is one of the simplest ways to keep track of what you need to do. You can easily drag and re-order your to-dos, and adding a new item is as easy as pulling down your list and typing it in. When you’re done with a task, just swipe right.

Pedometer++ (Free) is perfect for viewing your daily activity and fitness goals with a quick glance. There’s two quick ways to check your daily progress: You can swipe down and see the Pedometer++ widget in your iPhone’s Notification Center, or you can check the tiny red badge on the app icon, which displays your current steps.

Reddit, the so-called “front page of the internet,” is an ever-changing ecosystem of interesting articles, pictures, and discussions, but it’s notoriously messy to browse on your smartphone. Alien Blue (Free) fixes that, wrapping Reddit’s content into an eye-catching design that brings to focus the essentials information like photos, post titles, and comments.

Storehouse (Free) makes it easy to snap pictures and format them into a beautiful and smart layout that lets you tell a story. The Storehouse Newsfeed also features great curated content, and it’s a great place to discover picture-based narratives from talented photographers.

apple_storeMoleskine’s new calendar app, Timepage ($4.99), is both beautiful and simple to use. The app organizes your appointments in list — there’s no month view — and it also incorporates weather forecasts and lets you quickly hail an Uber right from within the app.

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How-To Wipe your Devices

Shane Davis : June 11, 2015 5:03 pm : Blog, How To

You should always wipe your drives, devices, and anything that potentially contained sensitive files before getting rid of it. Whether you are disposing of it, selling it, or giving it away. Securely erase your data first. This is necessary because it is possible to recover deleted files from many types of drives. The data is not always deleted from the drive.

USB Drives, External Hard Drives, and SD Cards

This is necessary for USB drives and external hard drives. Yes, even though your USB drive contains solid-state flash memory and even though your external hard drive might contain a proper solid-state drive — you need to worry about this. TRIM (a command that immediately clears old sectors on your drive) isn’t supported via the USB interface, which means someone could potentially recover sensitive files from an old USB drive after you get rid of it.

CCleaner driver wiperTo wipe an external drive on Windows, you can use one of many drive-wiping tools. CCleaner is a predominantly the easy one to use and you just need the free version. Insert the USB drive or plug in the external hard drive, open CCleaner, and use the Tools > Drive Wiper feature.

Bear in mind that this will reduce your drive’s lifespan, especially for cheap flash drives. But, if you are about to dispose of the drive this is fine.

On a Mac, open the Disk Utility application, select the drive in the list, and click the Erase heading. Click Security Options and tell it to erase the drive once, and then erase it.

On a laptop or desktop, your internal hard drives only need to be wiped if they’re mechanical hard drives or hybrid hard drives (most of your drives fall under this category). When you delete a file on a solid-state drive, the file is automatically wiped from the drive due to TRIM — this helps keep your SSD speedy.

On Windows 8 and 8.1, you can simply choose the “Reset your PC” feature and tell Windows to securely erase the drive. Choose the “Fully clean the drive” option to ensure none of your files can be recovered later.

Smartphones and Tablets

Apple’s iPhones and iPads use encryption, which means you can just reset them with the “Erase All Content and Settings” option and your personal data will be inaccessible. Any fragments of data are stored on the device in encrypted form, and no one can access them.

On Android smartphones and tablets, encryption has historically not been enabled by default. That means simply performing a factory reset will not help and sensitive personal data may be left on the phone’s internal storage.

android_enable_encryptionTo securely wipe an Android phone or tablet, first go into its settings and encrypt the storage. You can then erase the device and restore it to factory settings. Because the data stored on the device was encrypted before you performed the factory reset, the data stored on the device will be scrambled and incomprehensible. If you have external memory, you can either remove the personal data or card itself. If you want to wipe it you can always plug in your phone to a computer and clean it using one of the above computer methods.

If you have a CD or DVD you want to remove sensitive files from, you can erase it if it’s rewriteable. Otherwise, be sure to physically destroy the CDs or DVDs before disposing of them. This could mean grabbing a pair of scissors and cutting them into one or more parts.

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Everything you need to know about iOS 9

Shane Davis : June 10, 2015 5:08 pm : Blog, Mobile



Apple has unveiled its iOS 9 mobile platform for iPhone and iPad and while the presentation didn’t offer much in the way of surprises, it did showcase some attractive new features. Here’s all you need to know about iOS 9.

Apple is promising better performance and more efficiency from iOS 9, quoting a 50% reduction in CPU usage and faster animation than ever before. iOS 9 will also offer iPhone and iPad users at least an extra hour of battery life compared to iOS 8 and up to three extra hours with its improved low-power mode.

The new OS is estimated to be around 1.8 GB so it is unlikely to fill up your device’s storage space. If you are concerned about cloud security, your sensitive information and photos will benefit from the inclusion of the two-factor authentication for iCloud.

The digital assistant Siri is getting an upgrade, with iOS 9 introducing a redesigned interface and improved intelligence. A new feature Apple is calling Proactive will see an increase in Siri’s contextual awareness and will attempt to compete with Android’s Google Now.

Proactive will see Siri use ‘context-sensitive’ data – like your location, the time of day, and what you are currently doing on your device to anticipate what you will need or do next, and offer suggestions unprompted. An example of this would be opening your Music apps when you plug in your headphones, automatically adding invites to your calendar, and searching your email for new phone numbers you haven’t added to your Contacts. In addition, Proactive will learn your routine based on your day-to-day activities and locations, and offer tailored suggestions such as traffic reports, potential new contacts and other info. If any of this sounds oddly familiar it’s because Google has offered this features for years now.

Although you’ll notice Proactive the most when using Siri, the service will also be integrated into Spotlight and throughout iOS 9. Unlike Google Now, Proactive doesn’t share your info with third parties or even link to Apple services. The feature uses data stored locally on your device, doesn’t require your Apple ID to use, and keeps all your info anonymous. The home screen search feature will have even more capabilities in iOS 9. The built-in search will now be able to pull up results from third-party apps thanks to ‘deep-linking’, so you’ll be able to search and discover app content directly from the Spotlight screen.

Again, this is something that Google has already begun integrating into Android. But a smarter built-in search means Apple users are less likely to open their Google search app or browser when looking for info at least that’s what Apple is hoping for.

Newstands is set to be killed off, and replaced with the all-new News app. News will feature daily news and magazine content in a customized, scrollable grid, with users able to select favorite publications and add bookmarks, save articles and topics, and receive personalized suggestions based on reading interests.

For publishers, News brings an all-new digital publishing format (dubbed Apple News Format), which allows for easy content creation and plenty of multimedia options, including photo galleries, video and animation, custom fonts, maps and Multi-Touch gestures. Apple has so far signed up over 20 big-name publishers including the New York Times, Time Inc., ESPN, CNN and Bloomberg.

Apple is still trying to make Maps successful, and the app will now include public transit directions for selected cities. Users will be able to view routes and maps for buses, trains, ferries and subways for major US cities including Baltimore, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington DC.

Public transport info will also be available for London, Berlin and Tokyo, and for more than 300 Chinese cities including Beijing and Shenzhen. Presumably, Apple will continue to add locations in order to try and keep up with Google Maps’ integrated public transit features.

The popular Health suite of features will also be improved. iOS 9 will see the addition of new health data, such as UV exposure and the ability for women to track their menstrual cycles and reproductive health.


If you are a Notes user, you will get to enjoy a brand-new toolbar and formatting options. You’ll also be able to add and take photos directly from the app, as well as draw basic sketches and create checklists. Users can also add contacts directly from Safari, Maps and other apps straight to the Notes screen.
iPad owners will benefit from a bunch of new multitasking features, including a split-screen mode and picture-in-picture video viewing. You can also run two apps side-by-side at once, and the keyboard will also receive much-needed updates and shortcuts.

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8 Motivational tips for entrepreneurs

Shane Davis : June 8, 2015 5:06 pm : Blog, Inspiration

3620643190_15926cdf52_oBeing an entrepreneur means that you will often blaze you own trail. No career guides, counselor or maps will guide you from one step to the next. You have to make it up as you go. Here are some tips to keep you entrepreneurs motivated.

 1. Keep the big vision in sight.

A big vision will take you far. When things go wrong on the path to your success, and they will, keeping the big vision in mind will enable you to steer your way back to a successful course. It may not always be the course you imagined, but your big vision becomes your north star, which in turn helps you navigate and orient yourself through the darkness. Your vision is your base, compass and cosmic beacon, lighting the way forward.

2. Fuel your vision with perseverance.

What should go hand-in-hand with a big vision is the perseverance you’ll need to keep moving forward. If you’re a Game of Thrones watcher, there was a great line in a recent episode when Stannis Baratheon was being advised about the lack of wisdom in starting a battle in the snow. He responded: “We march to victory or we march to defeat, but we go forward, only forward.”

Sometimes, when things get challenging on your path as an entrepreneur, you have to commit yourself to moving forward, regardless of the anxiety and fear surrounding the next steps. When you fuel your big vision with determination and the spirit of “only forward,” in time you will meet your success.

3. Make a plan, but be flexible.

You need a few sets of plans, even if each is only a few pages. A business plan, with a complementary marketing outline, are important blueprints for success. They help you map out the major landmarks of the road ahead, state your success and break the journey into important milestones you can track your progress against.

Most people don’t like giant, robust plans nobody will access, but I am a believer in a more modest go-to plan that can act as your basic instruction manual and hold you accountable to specific numbers. The reason most people don’t support highly detailed plans is that they believe you need the flexibility to alter the course as necessary. Sometimes, large changes in a plan will be unavoidable.

4. Embrace your expertise.

If you are already naturally good at something, or have a skillset, embrace it. Don’t try to be all things for all aspects of your business. Hire out or sign contracts with agencies for the things you can’t do, and focus on your strengths as quickly and often as possible. Don’t be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. For all those computer problems remember Apex IT Solutions is here for you ready to provide you with fast, reliable services at affordable rates. We offer computer repair & support, IT consulting, server support, cabling services, and much more.

5. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

What is already working in other people’s business models, in your industry, in software applications and other business operations that you can emulate instead of re-create? Don’t waste your time trying to set up systems when you can simply purchase and install one, saving precious time and spending little money. Sometimes the best decision is to take on the expense of some good systems so you don’t have to waste time and make mistakes building your own.

6. Don’t burn out.

This isn’t a piece of advice. Your health is literally the most important thing in your life. When your body gives out, you’re done. Your heart doesn’t care how good a business you have; your circulatory system isn’t all that impressed with your money or accomplishments. Try to eat really good food, get good sleep and take as much time as you can to enjoy the small things in life. You will burn out if you sacrifice your physical and mental health on the “altar” of your business. So, take care of yourself.

7. Leverage everything.

Learning life hacks may seem cliché, but they can teach you an important mini-lesson in leverage. When you use leverage to your advantage in every aspect of your life, you go further, faster. Leverage outsourced help to streamline tasks and gain traffic time for important phone calls. Leverage down time waiting anywhere (the doctor’s office, your child’s school, your auto shop, an airport) to get stuff done.


8. Keep your sense of humor.


If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re missing out. I too am guilty of not doing this enough however laughing is a good cure to diffuse stress. So put some joy into life and get some perspective on the fact that this is only life after all you don’t have to take it so seriously.

So, try to laugh more and stress a little less. It strengthens your emotional and mental well-being, keeps other people from getting under your skin and keeps you cool and collected, plus it makes you a lot more fun to be around.

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Dell’s Premium Support promises to find issues before they happen

Shane Davis : June 5, 2015 5:10 pm : Blog, Portable

Dell_LogoImagine a world where a new hard drive shows up in the mail to replace the one in your laptop before the old one does. That is exactly what Dell’s new Premium Support service promises to do, and it’ll even remind you to back up your data too.

Premium Support requires an additional purchase on top of the standard Dell warranty you get on every system. In return, you get an expanded support service that covers PCs and tablets from Dell’s Inspiron, XPS, Alienware, Venue and Chromebook lines. The increased coverage offers three main improvements: support for both hardware and software issues, next business day in-home service, and proactive SupportAssist software technology which finds potential issues before they become real problems. Prices start at $39 per year for Inspiron systems and go up to $69 for Alienware gaming machines, while XPS owners get a year of Premium Support included with a new purchase.

SupportAssist comes from Dell’s enterprise business; along with Premium Support, it’s now making its debut for home users, a first for consumers anywhere. Users can opt-in to the technology by downloading the software from Dell. After installation, SupportAssist monitors your computer in the background, and sends data to one of Dell’s command centers for analysis. This lets Dell monitor stats such as storage read/write speeds, so the PC maker knows when your HDD is about to fail, or CPU/motherboard temps in the event of a faulty fan.

If there is an issue, a support agent can call you up or email or text if you prefer, alert you to the problem and offer a choice of fixes, from sending you a replacement part in the mail to scheduling a repairmen to stop by your house. Better yet, with Premium Support, agents will always be located in your region, so communication should be crisp and speedy.

Dell claims that because SupportAssist is able to supply support agents with important info before you call, Premium Support users spend 90 percent less time on the phone, and run though 69 percent fewer steps during the support process versus top-tier support plans from rivals including Apple, Lenovo and HP.

The combination of hardware and software help also means that support agents can do more than just fix issues with bad drivers; they also can troubleshoot problems with your Wi-Fi, help set up a printer, or assist you in upgrading to Windows 10 when the operating system update arrives later this year.

If you worry about prospective “Nigerian princes” impersonating Dell support agents, Dell already has the pertinent information about you and your system from the time you sign up for Premium Support. As a result, real agents don’t need to ask you for sensitive financial or personal data. Dell also says that SupportAssist has a small impact on performance, so there is no need to worry about slowing down your system to get better care.

Premium Support is available for eligible new and used systems, regardless if you bought them directly from Dell or through a third-party retailer like Amazon or Best Buy. You can sign up now by phone or at Dell’s website.

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Facebook cares about your Privacy

Shane Davis : June 2, 2015 4:57 pm : Blog, Security

Facebook_like_thumbThe social network is rolling out a security for users to use the encryption standard OpenPGP to protect e-mail notifications sent by the company, and to share their public encryption keys with their friends or with the public. The feature is being rolled out to users starting June 1st 2015.

PGP, short for “Pretty Good Privacy,” is a way of scrambling emails or other chunks of text in such a way that, in theory, only the intended recipient can read. To use PGP, you create a pair of keys essentially long stings of letters and numbers used to encrypt and decrypt a message. One is a public key that you can share with everyone, and a private key that you keep a closely guarded secret. People can then use the public key to create a message that can only be deciphered using your private key. That way, even if someone is able to intercept your email, they can’t read the encrypted messages.

Incorporating PGP into Facebook could help protect activists who use the service for political organizing, though it won’t protect all Facebook communications.

Facebook can use PGP to encrypt emails it sends you, such as new message notifications from other users or password reset requests. But messages sent from you to other Facebook users through Facebook itself will remain unencrypted. That means that if someone gains access to your Facebook account or Facebook is forced to hand your account over to law enforcement those messages will be readable. Still, if someone only has access to your email account, and not to your private encryption key or Facebook account, they won’t be able to reset your password or read private notifications sent to you from Facebook.

This is the latest attempt by Facebook to tighten up its security and privacy credentials. Earlier this year Facebook announced that it will help fund the development of GnuPGP, an open source implementation of the OpenPGP standard. The company began encrypting all of its web traffic in 2013, making it harder for crooks and spies to eavesdrop on communications, and last year it added support for the concealment tool Tor. Moreover, WhatsApp, the messaging company Facebook acquired last year, incorporated an encryption system from Open Whisper Systems into the Android version of its app last year.

Meanwhile, Google and Yahoo have been developing a PGP based encryption system for web mail called End-to-End which could help bring PGP to a much wider audience.

Despite its limitations, privacy advocates are welcoming the new Facebook feature as an important step towards improving security online.

1000px-Facebook_LogoThere are things that Facebook does that we don’t want. The advertising business requires that they collect more data than we want. However, their security team wants to work with the privacy community and there they can make a real difference. Although it’s tempting to say that people with serious security concerns simply shouldn’t use Facebook has a billion and a half users and they’re not going away. Facebook, even if it’s not going to be an organization platform, will always be an outreach platform. It will be a place where people go to do political work, and letting people secure the accounts they use to do that political work is really important. The most important thing for now may be getting more people to use PGP and improving the ecosystem of tools that support the standard. In my opinion Facebook is acting as a trend leader to drag other big platforms into this world. When you think about it if only a thousandth of a percent of Facebook’s users end up using this feature that’s still 15,000 people. By adopting these tools, Facebook is making it harder to for criminals to steal your credentials or read your messages and that’s a good thing because that improves the overall security of Facebook. These tools actually build a better internet for everyone.

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Google reveals Android M at Google I/O 2015

Shane Davis : June 1, 2015 4:59 pm : Blog, New Tech

Google_IOGoogle revealed Android M at its I/O developer conference last week, a powerful step forward for the world’s most popular mobile operating system. Google made a conscious effort to improve the platform’s performance and stability, but was sure to include a few great features.

Many of the features are small enough that Google didn’t highlight them on stage. Some of the less-sexy additions include: easy word selection and floating clipboard toolbar, simplified volume controls, undo/redo keyboard shortcuts, improved trusted face reliability, unified Google/device settings, Wi-Fi power improvements, and stylus support.

Google Now On Tap is by far the most impressive addition to Android M. It’s all about context and situational awareness. Google says the intent behind Now On Tap is to make it easier for Android users to get assistance when and where they need it.

“If your friend texts you about dinner at a new restaurant,” explains Google, “without leaving the app, you can ask Google Now for help. Using just that context, Google can find menus, reviews, help you book a table, navigate there, and deep link you into relevant apps.” Users need only long-press the home button and Google will automatically do everything else. The possibilities here are powerful.

Android Pay will compete directly with Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Android pay largely replaces Google Wallet. In fact, it’s an entirely new product built on the fragments of Softcard. In the US, Android Pay will be supported by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Device owners will be able to make tap-and-go payments at about 700,000 retailers around the country when it launches. With Google’s support, mobile payment may get the shot in the arm it really needs for widespread adoption.

More importantly, Android Pay and everything else on Android M smartphones, can be secured with fingerprint authentication. Until now, only select manufacturers offered application program interfaces (API) for developers to access their hardware’s fingerprint readers. Now, Android supports fingerprint authentication system-wide for unlocking the device, approved purchases, and securing files or folders. The latest software development kit (SDK) from Google already includes the new fingerprint API. This will have great implications for business users.

It may not seem all that important, but Android M’s new power management features are something to get excited about. To start, a new feature called Doze can double standby battery life. Doze uses internal sensors to decide when the device hasn’t been moved in a while. It then aggressively shuts down notifications and other power-sapping activities until the device is picked up or moved. This means if you forget to plug your device in overnight, it won’t be dead in the morning. Also, Android M adds support for USB Type C, which has a reversible plug and reversible power flow. In other words, this means you will be able to use an Android M smartphone to charge an accessory such as a Bluetooth headset.


App Links is the last of the new features that will improve the day-to-day experience on Android devices. As Android functions today, users often encounter popup dialog boxes when clicking links. For example, let’s say someone is scanning through Twitter and encounters a link to an Instagram photo. Clicking the link opens a dialog asking the user to choose which app to use to open the link (in this case, Chrome or Instagram). With App Links in Android M, applications will be able to verify such links automatically. This means clicking an Instagram link in Twitter will open the photo in Instagram, no questions asked.

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