Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Skype Now Available For Outlook.com - Video Calling Directly From The Inbox

Users in the UK will now be able to make audio and video calls as well as send Skype instant messages via Outlook.com by downloading a browser plug-in. The plugin is required for audio/visual functionality but not for IM and is currently available for Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox. This same functionality for Outlook will be coming to the US and Germany within the next few weeks. 
In 2011, Microsoft paid $8.5 billion to take over Skype, buying out the previous owners (eBay and some private investors). 
"Sometimes that quick call can accomplish more than a long email reply. That's why we are bringing Skype audio and video calling to your Outlook.com inbox," Microsoft posted in a blog post on Tuesday. "With Skype for Outlook.com, you can choose the right medium for your message, whether it is an email, call, video call or instant message (IM) — you can connect with your Skype and Messenger friends all in the same place."
Microsoft has recently refreshed the calendar in Outlook, updated the Outlook app for Android and established two-factor authentication for Outlook accounts.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

LivingSocial Latest Site To Be Hacked

Online deals site LivingSocial, which recently was breached by cyber-attackers, has had to temporarily freeze its customer phone support due to large call volumes that they've been receiving from security-worried users. LivingSocial sent notification emails about the hacking attempt to all users that were affected. The daily promotion site has reported that more than 50 million accounts have been potentially breached, making this one of the largest password breaches of the year. 
Due to the suspension of customer phone support, LivingSocial is currently only accept web-based support. According to Tim O'Shaughnessy, the CEO of LivingSocial, this will result in fewer frustrated customers.
“Because we anticipate a high call volume and may not be able to answer or return all calls in a responsible fashion, we are likely to temporarily suspend consumer phone-based servicing,” O’Shaughnessy told Marketwatch. We will be devoting all available resources to our Web-based servicing.”
While the exact nature of how the system was breached is yet to be found out, LivingSocial is actively investigating and working with authorities to figure out how the hack took place. If you have a LivingSocial account, you should change your password immediately as well as change the login credentials for any other website where you are using the same username/email/password combinaion as LivingSocial. Also, be wary of any emails sent from unknown sources as they may be phishing attempts to gather more information. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Amazon's Trojan Horse: Developing Set-Top Box

Amazon created the Kindle to breathe life into electronic books. They then came out with their own tablet, the Kindle Fire, which took over the low end of the tablet market. Now according to a Bloomberg Businessweek report, it appears that Amazon will be looking to stream video to TV sets which their own set-top box, which will compete directly with Apple TV.

The company is developing a television set-top box, which Amazon hopes to have available in the fall of 2013, and has begun discussions with outside providers of content to distribute their video services to the device, according to three people briefed on the plan, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Amazon product had not yet been announced and remained confidential.

At first, it may not seem immediately clear why Amazon would want to sell their own set-top box as their video service is available, as an app, on hundreds of devices including gaming systems, digital video recorders, television sets and DVD players. However, these existing devices don't put Amazon's services front and center, which would be one reason for Amazon to develop their own set-top box.

Another reason to introduce the set-top box could be viewed as a 'Trojan horse" which is to say that Amazon hopes to get additional subscribers to Amazon Prime. Part of being a Prime member, aside from free two-day shipping on products shipped directly from Amazon, is the ability to stream more than 40,000 movies and TV episodes for free. Amazon does have a much broader library, totally over 150,000 titles, that anyone, including non-Prime members, can buy or rent. 

Additionally, it's all about the content.  Amazon has actively been developing a studio giving them the ability to create their own original content. The kind of content that would be perfect for their own set-top which in turn could generate additional subscribers to their service.

Finally, it wouldn't be a surprise if Amazon started to add commercials to their original content as well as the content that's currently available to Amazon Prime members. They can even analyze data from their customer's purchasing history and then figure out and tailor the advertisements specifically for each individual. Or,

Amazon could allow for interactive product placement, allowing brands to pay for product placement in Amazon's original content and then allowing people to make purchases from the set-top which would be associated with their prime account. 
Even though Amazon is late to the game, they could undercut the competition on price, just as they did with the Kindle Fire. With a competitive price and the amount of content that Amazon currently has and is looking to create, their set-top box could be a huge success. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fixing Some Major Annoyances With Windows 8

Windows 8 from Microsoft hasn't been very well received for the most part and it looks like MS will look to release an update to fix some annoyances that people are currently experiencing, like reinstating the missing start button and getting you into your desktop upon bootup. For those of you who can't wait, I'll show you how to fix some of the biggest annoyances that most people complain about with Windows 8. 
Add a Start Button
The easiest way to bring back Start is to download a free program called Classic Shell. It adds a slightly modified icon to the lower left corner. When you click on it, a standard set of Windows menus opens up.  You can also customize Windows Explorer to be more like Windows XP or Windows 7.
'Hidden' Power Button

Whereas with previous iterations of Windows, the Shut Down and Restart buttons were easily found from the Start Menu, with Windows 8, it's an entire procedure where you need to go through the Charms menu, click on Settings, then Power, and then select Shut Down. 

Microsoft designed Windows 8 with tablet users in mind, which is the only explanation I can think of for burying the shutdown and restart buttons since one rarely needs to do it with a tablet. 
To waste less time, you should create your own shortcuts for shutting down or restarting Windows 8.Just assign the shortcuts to the command-line commands "shutdown /s /t 0" (shutdown) and "shutdown /r /t 0" (restart), respectively. Be sure to pin these shortcuts to the Start screen and taskbar for easy access.
Bring Back Confirmation Box When Deleting Files
Currently, when you delete a file in Windows 8, it currently puts the file directly into the Recycle Bin as opposed to asking you first for confirmation. If you want that extra safety net, you can right-click on the Recycle Bin, go to Properties, and check the "Display Delete Confirmation Dialog" box.
The Touchpad Or Mouse Is Driving You Crazy, Right?
As I stated earlier, it appears Microsoft designed Windows 8 for tablets. It's all fine when you have touch screen as manipulating items on the screen works pretty well, and the built in gestures can be used to navigate more quickly and efficiently, however these gestures just doesn't translate well to the mouse or touchpad.  
For example, if you swipe from the left edge of the touchpad, it automatically switches to another open application. So if you're moving the cursor from the left edge of your touchpad you may end up switching to a different tab or equally frustrating, if you swipe from the right side of the touchpad, your movement brings the charms bar onto the page. 
Thankfully, you can disable the gesture from your desktop by hitting Windows + I, then Change PC settings, General, Turn off  the button for “When I swipe from the left edge, switch directly to my most recent app.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Associated Press Twitter Account Hacked

Hackers took over the verified Twitter account of The Associated Press (@AP) today and posted 'an erroneous tweet' about an attack at the White House.
The tweet claimed that there had been two explosions that occurred at the White House and that President Obama had been injured during the attack. The hack of the Associated Press' twitter account was preceded by a phishing attempt of their corporate network.
The twitter account of the Associated Press has been suspended and currently AP is working on trying to correct the issue.
After the false tweet (confirmed false by White House spokesman Jay Carney moments after the tweet went out) was sent out, the Dow Industrial Average dropped close to 140 points. Those 'loses' were brief as the Down 'recovered' almost immediately.

The Syrian Electronic Army is taking credit for this hack, however their currently is no evidence to link them to the event. Over the weekend though, Twitter suspended the group's main account after they took responsibility for hacking "60 Minutes" and "48 hours".

Monday, April 22, 2013

Facebook’s New Emoticons Really Just Another Method For Facebook To Provide Targeted Ads

On the surface, it looks like Facebook is taking a page from MySpace and LiveJournal by introducing a new emoticon feature that will allow users to share different emoticons expressing what they're doing or feeling through the status update box.

Facebook's emoticons range from simple animations allowing users to express how they're feeling (tired, happy, wonderful, sad, etc.) to activity based, allowing users to let their friends know what they're up to (drinking a beverage, watching a show, reading a book, and others).

This may seem innocent enough, but the drop-down menu give users the ability to connect their activity with pages of interest, specific products or brands, businesses and anything else that's likeable on Facebook. For example, if you're drinking a cup of coffee, you can tag 'coffee' with 'Starbucks' Facebook' page or with a specific drink like 'Starbucks Peppermint Mocha'.
So while this new feature might seem like a fun and more interactive way for users to share specifics of what they're doing, this feature is really being introduced to allow Facebook to increase advertising without seeming invasive.

It was reported last month that Facebook is able to provide targeted advertisements based on a users offline choices. This new tool is just another method for Facebook to collect data about users to further their agenda of providing targeted ads.

As reported by Slate and explained by Josh Constine: “By selecting your current activity instead of merely writing it out, you structure data for Facebook.”

"If you choose a particular pre-formatted emotion, piece of media, or food, Facebook could potentially use that behavior to pinpoint you with ads. If you listen to a Daft Punk song, it could target you with ads for their new album or [a] nearby concert. Coffee shops might be able to pay to reach coffee drinkers, and Netflix would probably love to target sad users who could be primed to stay home and watch some videos. Going further, Facebook could even sell “Sponsored Activities,” where advertisers could pay to have themselves suggested as what someone was up to in the category selector."

Basically, emoticons along with 'like', hashtags and other features that Facebook offers gets its users to do much of the hard work themselves for Facebook.

Aside from being able to provide targeted ads to users, this is just another way for Facebook to go after Google and make a more determined play within the search niche. The more data that Facebook is able to collect about specific individuals, the better they can  integrate with Facebook's new "Graph Search" which allows members to conduct complex queries related to their friends' profiles, allowing people to find particular restaurants, products or websites based off of their friends.

It'll be interesting to see if users take to this new method of tagging or will see this for what it really is - a bid to capture more of their consumer habits.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What is Social Business Collaboration?

“Social business collaboration” is the new buzzword that is going around in the C-suite circles. The plethora of social networking sites and the proliferation of advanced mobile and cloud computing technologies have encouraged many progressive entrepreneurs to consider social business collaboration as a method to facilitate improved and more effective communication between employees, clients, business partners, suppliers, and vendors scattered all over the world.

Social business collaboration means virtually dispersing and sharing work-related information between the various stakeholders of a company using social media tools. In a dynamic and inter-connected operational environment, this process lets users communicate and/or respond as promptly and effectively as they can when they use the social media for their personal needs. It is evident that social business collaboration facilitates quicker decision-making, eases access to critical information and that too, in real time by doing away with the need to wait for mails or announcements, and thus increases productivity of the employees.

Given the numerous significant benefits of social business collaboration, it is imperative that companies learn about the ways in which they can either improve their process of enterprise collaboration or adopt it as part of their internal communication strategy. If you are a decision-maker in your company, then consider the following ways in which you can optimize social business collaboration process:

·     Adopt the latest enterprise collaboration tools. It goes without saying that the success of this virtual mode of collaboration depends largely on the tools being used. So, you must keep abreast of the latest enterprise collaboration platforms, tools, and technologies to achieve optimal results. For instance, there are social collaboration software that let users search for and share relevant organizational or task-related information using videos and screenshots. Some of these platforms are also compatible with smartphones making it possible for your employees to access and share knowledge and obtain real-time business updates on the move.

·   Adopt social business collaboration tools customized for your business needs. There are sundry enterprise collaboration tools out there and while browsing through their specs, you may be forgiven for feeling lost. Choose one based on your immediate business goals, like optimizing collaboration between immediate team members for a mission-critical project or expanding the talent pool of your business for specific tasks and assignments. This tip makes sense especially if your business is a newbie on the social business collaboration bandwagon. Tread softly on the pedal so that your employees and infrastructure can adapt to the changes without getting overwhelmed, and then up the tempo.

·     Improve employee acceptance and/or adoption of the enterprise collaboration concept. Often the challenge of adopting new digital tools is not in shelling out the costs involved or upgrading the existing communication infrastructure but in getting employees to accept and adopt the new technology. Many entrepreneurs report that employees either do not use these new productivity tools or shun them after using for a few days or a month. So, you have to ensure that you adopt enterprise collaboration tools that are easy to learn and implement and also facilitate learning with regular training sessions. Encourage your employees to embrace the new tools by educating them on the benefits of using these.

     The above-mentioned ways to reap the productivity benefits of using social business collaboration are easy to implement but you should make sure that you do not lose sight of your business goals or ignore efforts to pump up employee motivation. And remember, social business collaboration is an ongoing process; so you will need to keep yourself updated always.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bitcoin loses more than half its value in one day; rebounds slightly

Bitcoin, the peer-to-peer virtual currency that was created by an anonymous hacker four years ago, lost more than $160 (£104), dropping to $105 in a flash crash today before bouncing back to $130... this was just hours after the currency had hit a new high of $266. Even after such a crash, it's unlikely to put off speculators as each 'coin' in the currency's history has been worth less than $10.

Bitcoin garnered a lot of attention this year in the wake of the economic uncertainty that has occured in Europe, followed by the banking crisis in Cyprus. All of these concerns about the health of government-backed paper currencies like the euro and the U.S. dollar is what has most likely led to such a surge of speculators piling into this digital currency and causing such a 'bubble' to happen. However, it should be noted that Bitcoin crashed before in 2011 when it hit a low of $7 before hitting a high of $32 two months later.

Check this article from Forbes on more information about Bitcoins.