Archive for July, 2011

Windows-powered table has 55-inch multitouch screen

Ideum announced a Windows-powered table with a 55-inch screen that responds to as many as 32 simultaneous touches. The MT55 Platform has 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, an Intel Core i5-560M processor, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD (solid state disk), HDMI input/output, and hidden USB 2.0 ports, the company says.
Aimed at museums, research labs, schools, tradeshows, and other commercial users, Ideum’s MT55 Platform is a lower-cost successor to the MT55 HD the New Mexico-based company introduced in April. That model, now christened the MT55 Pro, has an HP Core i7-powered computer integrated into its pedestal and is priced from $21,950, according to the company.

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The MT55 Platform begins at a more affordable $17,950, has an Intel Core i5-560M processor (clocked at 2.66GHz), and does without the dual hard disk drives and built-in UPS of the MT55 Pro. (There’s also no longer any mention of a discrete graphics card, which is an Nvidia Quadro Pro on the MT55 Pro, or of the senior model’s Bose speakers.)

Ideum’s MT55 Platform has a slim pedestal
(Click to enlarge)

But, where the MT55 Pro looks like what it is — a display glued to the top of a powerful tower PC — the MT55 Platform gains a slim, highly styled pedestal. The screen on top, just three inches thick, is functionally the same as the one on the MT55 Pro.

According to Ideum, the MT55 Platform’s LED-backlit display measures 55 inches diagonaly and incorporates an optical multitouch system, with support for up to 32 simultaneous inputs. The screen provides 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, has a 500-nit brightness rating, and has an extremely high 5,000,000:1 contrast ratio, the company adds.

Standing 31 inches high (for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance), the MT55 Platform conceals its other components inside the pedestal, which has hidden bolt holes for added security. The computer inside has the Core i5-560M processor (or, for another $750, a 3.06GHz Core i7-860); 8GB of DDR3 memory; and a 128GB SSD (256GB on the Core i7 model), Ideum says.

According to Ideum, the device also includes an Ethernet port, 802.11b/g/n wireless networking, and Bluetooth. Audio I/O and USB ports are provided in a recess within the pedestal, though we’re guessing any cables connected to these would have to be run through holes drilled in the floor.

It’s said the MT55 Platform can run any touch-enabled Windows 7 application, but of course the device is intended to be used with custom, site-specific software. The table again ships with a copy of the GestureWorks software development kit, designed to work with Adobe’s Flash and Flex. Also provided is a license for the open source multitouch-enabled exhibit components found at, Ideum adds.

According to Open Exhibits, such components include:

* Mask Image Viewer Project Thumbnail Mask Image Viewer — This multitouch module gives the ability to view interactive masked images. It uses two images and a shaped mask to dynamically mask sections of one image using the second. Users can pan around the mask using the drag gesture, zoom and rotate. Additionally the image itself can be dragged, scaled and rotated using the gestures on the image frame.

* Panoramic Viewer Project ThumbnailPanoramic Viewer — The PanoramicViewer is a module that uses the AWAY3D API to create interactive high resolution zoomable 360 degree panoramic viewing windows. Multiple touch object windows can independently display individual panoramic views with different sizes and orientations.

* Live Video Viewer Project ThumbnailLive Video Viewer — The LiveVideoViewer module can be used to display live web camera video. The video feed viewing area can be resized and dragged about the stage with each web cam or live video feed acting as an independent multitouch object.

* Collection Viewer Project ThumbnailCollection Viewer — The Collection Viewer is a stand-alone media viewing application. It can use any combination of the six Open Exhibits core modules (Flickr Viewer, Key Viewer, Video Viewer, YouTube Viewer, Image Viewer and GMap Viewer) to create a rich application with image, video, and mapping objects and a customizable onscreen keyboard.

Ideum says the MT55 Platform weighs 195 pounds — more than 50 pounds less than the MT55 Pro — and measures 51.5 x 31 x 30.5 inches. The device comes with a two-year warranty and sturdy wooden packing crate, the company adds.

10 tips to help improve your wireless network

If the Windows operating system ever notifies you about a weak Wi-Fi signal, it probably means that your connection isn’t as fast or as reliable as it could be. Worse, you might lose your connection entirely in some parts of your home. If you want to boost the signal for your wireless network (WLAN), try some of these tips for extending your wireless range and improving your wireless network speed and performance.


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1. Position your wireless router, modem router, or access point in a central location
When possible, place your wireless router, wireless modem router (a DSL or cable modem with a built-in wireless router), or wireless access point (WAP) in a central location in your home. If your wireless router, modem router, or access point is against an outside wall of your home, the signal will be weak on the other side of your home. If your router is on the first floor and your PC or laptop is on the second floor, place the router high on a shelf in the room where it is located. Don’t worry if you can’t move your wireless router, because there are many other ways to improve your connection.


2. Move the router off the floor and away from walls and metal objects (such as metal file cabinets)
Metal objects, walls, and floors will interfere with your router’s wireless signals. The closer your router is to these obstructions, the more severe the interference, and the weaker your connection will be.


3. Replace your router’s antenna
The antennas supplied with your router are designed to be omnidirectional, meaning that they broadcast in all directions around the router. If your router is near an outside wall, half of the wireless signals will be sent outside your home, and much of your router’s power will be wasted. Most routers don’t allow you to increase the power output, but you can make better use of the power. If your router’s antenna is removable, you can upgrade to a high-gain antenna that focuses the wireless signals in only one direction. You can even aim the signal in the direction you need it most. Consider a Linksys high-gain antenna—they’re powerful and easy to install. Or shop for other high-gain antennas.


4. Replace your laptop’s wireless PC card-based network adapter
Laptops with built-in wireless networking capability typically have excellent antennas and don’t need to have their network adapters upgraded. These tips are for laptops that do not have built-in wireless networking.

Wireless network signals must be sent both to and from your computer. Sometimes your router can broadcast strongly enough to reach your computer, but your computer can’t send signals back to your router. To improve this, replace your laptop’s PC card-based wireless network adapter with a USB wireless network adapter that uses an external antenna. In particular, consider a Linksys Wireless-N or Hawking Hi-Gain Wireless-N USB network adapter. These add an external, high-gain antenna to your computer and can significantly extend your wireless range.


5. Add a wireless repeater
Wireless repeaters extend your wireless network range without requiring you to add any wiring. Just place the wireless repeater halfway between your wireless router, modem router, or access point and your computer, and you can get an instant boost to your wireless signal strength. Check out the wireless-N repeaters from Linksys, Hawking Hi-Gain, ViewSonic, D-Link, and Buffalo Technology, or shop for a wireless-N repeater.


6. Change your wireless channel
Wireless routers can broadcast on several different channels, similar to the way radio stations use different channels. In the United States and Canada, these channels are 1, 6, and 11. Just as you’ll sometimes hear interference on one radio station while another is perfectly clear, sometimes one wireless channel is clearer than others. Try changing your wireless router’s channel through your router’s configuration page to see if your signal strength improves. You don’t need to change your computer’s configuration, because it can automatically detect the new channel.

To find your router configuration page, consult this quick reference table, which shows the default addresses for common router manufacturers. If the address is not listed here, read the documentation that came with your router, or visit the manufacturer’s webpage.





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7. Reduce wireless interference
The most common wireless technology, 802.11g (wireless-G), operates at a frequency of 2.4 gigahertz (GHz). Many cordless phones, microwave ovens, baby monitors, garage door openers, and other wireless electronics also use this frequency. If you use these wireless devices in your home, your computer might not be able to “hear” your router over the noise coming from them.

If your network uses wireless-G, you can quiet the noise by avoiding wireless electronics that use the 2.4 GHz frequency. Instead, look for cordless phones and other devices that use the 5.8 GHz or 900 megahertz (MHz) frequencies. Because 802.11n (wireless-N) operates at both 2.4 GHz and the less frequently used 5.0 GHz frequency, you may experience less interference on your network if you use this technology.


8. Update your firmware or your network adapter driver
Router manufacturers regularly make free improvements to their routers. Sometimes, these improvements increase performance. To get the latest firmware updates for your router, visit your router manufacturer’s website.

Similarly, network adapter vendors occasionally update the software that Windows uses to communicate with your network adapter, known as the driver. These updates typically improve performance and reliability. To get the driver updates, follow the instructions for your operating system:

Windows 7

Windows Vista

Windows XPVisit Microsoft Update, click Custom, and then wait while Windows XP looks for the latest updates for your computer.

Install any updates relating to your wireless adapter.


9. Pick equipment from a single vendor
Although a Linksys router will work with a D-Link network adapter, you often get better performance if you pick a router and network adapter from the same vendor. Some vendors offer a performance boost of up to twice the performance when you choose their hardware (like their USB wireless network adapters). Linksys has the SpeedBooster technology for its wireless-G devices, and D-Link has the 108G enhancement for its wireless-G devices. These enhancements can be helpful if you have wireless-G devices and you need to transmit over a long distance or you live in an older house (old walls tend to block the signal more than newly built ones do).

If speeding up your connection is important to you, consider the next tip—upgrading your wireless technology.


10. Upgrade 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g devices to 802.11n
Although wireless-G (802.11g) may be the most common type of wireless network, wireless-N (802.11n) is at least twice as fast and it has better range and stability. Wireless-N is backward-compatible with 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g, so you can still use any existing wireless equipment that you have—though you won’t see much improvement in performance until you upgrade your computer or network adapter to wireless-G, too.

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If you’re using wireless-B or wireless-G and you’re unhappy with your network’s speed and performance, consider replacing your router and network adapters with wireless-N equipment. If you’re buying new equipment, definitely choose wireless-N. Linksys Wireless-N routers, for example, are powerful, secure, and simple to set up. So are Linksys Wireless-N USB wireless network adapters.

E-commerce sites based on open source code under attack

Security vendor Armorize says it believes at least 100,000 Web pages based on OS Commerce hit

About 100,000 Web pages for e-commerce sites based on the open source OS Commerce software have been compromised with malware through a mass iFrame injection attack, according to security firm Armorize.

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The ongoing mass-injection attacks appear to be carried out from Ukraine against the e-commerce sites. The sites that are successfully attacked are compromised with malware which is then used to try and attack visitors to these e-commerce sites, said Wayne Huang, chief technology officer at Armorize.

While attacks across the Web are not uncommon, Huang says this one is notable because it’s a mass-injection type of attack that’s reminiscent of attacks that were carried out about three years ago in high frequency but are not as common today.

The attackers “may be leveraging a known vulnerability” in the open-source software, Huang says, adding that attackers tend to lurk and watch for any information that’s shared publicly about newly found vulnerabilities in software. He notes that OS Commerce open source is a popular foundation for an e-commerce site which is then given a different “look and feel” through various templates that are typically sold. He notes that some of the customization this brings may be hard to upgrade because it is sometimes “hardcoded.”

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According to its website, the OS Commerce open source group counts 249,500 store owners as using its Online Merchant software, which is available for free under the GNU General Public License. There was no immediate response to questions emailed to OS Commerce.

Read more about security in Network World’s Security section.

With LightSquared deal, Sprint finally gives in to LTE

Sprint had been last carrier to not support the standard

Assuming all goes according to plan with the FCC, Sprint will soon have an LTE network up and running. The big question is whether Sprint has once again taken too much on its plate, as the carrier is just now recovering from the multiple problems it encountered while trying to run both its EV-DO Rev. A network and the iDEN network it inherited when it bought Nextel in 2005. Gartner analyst Philip Redman told Network World recently that Sprint essentially has no option but to use both wireless standards as it switches gradually from WiMax to LTE, as it can’t simply abandon its WiMax subscribers. Redman noted that Sprint’s dilemma showed the dangers of any wireless company trying to buck industry trends to get a time-to-market advantage.


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“For a tier-one provider trying to compete against other tier-one providers, going your own way is expensive in an industry where standardization is important,” he said. “There’s no doubt they’re going to start diminishing their investment in WiMax … it’s a big challenge but the alternative is even worse so it’s something they really have to do.”

Microsoft exploits uproar over Firefox 4’s retirement to beat IE drum

Company exec pleads IE’s case to enterprise in open letter to IBMer

Computerworld – A Microsoft executive late Thursday used the furor over Mozilla’s decision to curtail support for Firefox 4 to plead the case for Internet Explorer in the enterprise.


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“I think I speak for everyone on the IE team when I say we’d like the opportunity to win back your business,” said Ari Bixhorn, director of IE at Microsoft, in a post on his personal blog. “We’ve got a great solution for corporate customers with both IE8 and IE9, and believe we could help you address the challenges you’re currently facing.”

Bixhorn addressed his open letter to John Walicki, the manager of workplace and mobility in the office of IBM’s CIO. Earlier Thursday, Walicki and others had voiced their displeasure with Mozilla’s decision to retire Firefox 4 from security support when it launched the new Firefox 5 this week.

In a comment appended to a blog maintained by Michael Kaply, a consultant who specializes in customizing Firefox, Walicki called Mozilla’s decision to end security support for Firefox 4 a “kick in the stomach.”

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Walicki said his company has 500,000 corporate users on Firefox — a year ago IBM set the open-source browser as the default on all new PCs assigned to workers — and complained that IBM had just completed testing Firefox 4 and was planning to roll it out later this year as a replacement for Firefox 3.6.

“I’m now in the terrible position of choosing to deploy a Firefox 4 release with potentially unpatched vulnerabilities, reset the test cycle for thousands of internal apps to validate Firefox 5 or stay on a patched Firefox 3.6.x,” Walicki wrote.

Bixhorn was quick to exploit the opportunity.

“Although I’m in no position to question a competitor’s approach to customer engagement and support, I did want to take the opportunity to clarify the Internet Explorer team’s commitment to, and support for, our corporate customers,” said Bixhorn, who then spelled out Microsoft’s position.

“Enterprises have always been, and will always be, an important focus of ours,” Bixhorn said.

He also reminded Walicki of Microsoft’s long-standing policy to support each edition of IE “as long as the latest version of Windows that it runs on is supported.”

That means, Bixhorn continued, Microsoft will support IE9, which launched a week before Firefox 4, through January 2020.

Mozilla pulled the support plug on Firefox 4 three months after its late March debut.

Asa Dotzler, director of Firefox, has made it clear he doesn’t consider enterprise users worth supporting.

In several comments added to a follow-up post by Kaply, Dotzler did not mince words.

“Enterprise has never been (and I’ll argue, shouldn’t be) a focus of ours,” Dotzler said. “I can’t imagine why we’d focus at all on the kinds of environments you care so much about.”

Later Thursday, Dotzler essentially said it was a return-on-investment decision.

“Years ago, we didn’t have the resources [to solve the enterprise support problem]. Today, I argue, we shouldn’t care even if we do have the resources because of the cost benefit trade,” Dotzler said. “A minute spent making a corporate user happy can better be spent making many regular users happy. I’d much rather Mozilla spend its limited resources looking out for the billions of users that don’t have enterprise support systems already taking care of them.”

Near day’s end, he was even more blunt: “I’m basically saying that I don’t care about making Firefox enterprise-friendly,” Dotzler said.

Some commenters weren’t sure how to take his comments.

“Sorry Asa … I seriously do not know if this is a joke or if you honestly think that the world loves FF [Firefox] that much,” said a commenter identified only as “Eric.”

But Bixhorn seemed certain that Mozilla’s message was coming through loud and clear.

“And John [Walicki], as you point out, Mozilla’s recent decision to accelerate the pace of their releases further accentuates the problem of only supporting the latest version of Firefox,” said Bixhorn.

“Let me know if you’d like to discuss this further,” he concluded, and published his email address.

Should Microsoft unload Bing? Heck, no!

A pair of bloggers in the New York Times today recommend that Microsoft sell Bing as a way to pare the company’s online losses and fatten the bottom line for investors. Selling Bing may save money in the short term, but in the long term it would ensure Microsoft’s eventual irrelevancy in the Internet and mobile future.


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Robert Cyran and Martin Hutchinson, in their Reuters Breakingviews blog, have this to say about selling Bing:

Microsoft needs to concentrate on a different kind of search: finding a buyer for Bing, its online search business. Bing is the industry’s distant No. 2 after Google. It has become a distraction for the software giant — one that costs shareholders dearly. The division that houses Bing lost $2.6 billion in the latest fiscal year. Facebook, or even Apple, might make a better home for Bing. A sale would be a boon for Microsoft’s investors.

They go on to claim that Microsoft could sell Bing for $11 billion, based on sales related to search, and that overall, it would result in a 10 percent increase in profit for the company by unloading the search engine.

There’s so much wrong with the argument, it’s hard to know where to begin. First is that the numbers are off-kilter; Bing didn’t lose $2.6 billion for Microsoft in the past year; the entire online division did. There are plenty of other products and services in the division that bring in little or no revenue. As the bloggers themselves write, Bing brought in $2.5 billion in sales for the year that just ended on June 30. So it’s hard to know the bottom line numbers for Bing by itself.

Beyond that, though, Bing is central to the future of Microsoft, especially in mobile, where the greatest growth is. Ultimately, a major reason Microsoft needs Windows Phone to succeed is because of ad revenue from online searching, which is a tremendous growth market. In addition, mobile search will become the glue that holds many other mobile services together, an area where Microsoft desperately needs to succeed.

Google, for example, doesn’t get any money at all from licensing Android; its revenue comes from search, maps, Gmail, and other Google services. Microsoft will need the same business plan if it is to succeed in mobile. And for that it needs a search engine, and a very good one. And Bing is a very good one, and constantly getting better.

In addition, as the bloggers themselves note, Bing and sites it powers like Yahoo make up 27 percent of the U.S. market. They see this as a bad thing. But it’s certainly not that — 27 percent of the U.S. search market is a tremendous revenue opportunity. In addition, if Microsoft abandons Bing, it might as well just about abandon its entire online presence, because, aside from Hotmail, Bing is its only substantial Internet service. But giving up online as well as mobile would ensure that Microsoft will never see high-growth days.

So yes, selling Bing would certainly be good in the very short term for Microsoft, because it would bring in substantial revenue from the sale and pare short-term losses. In the long run, though, it would be a disaster.

Microsoft’s Gamble: Metro UI as the New Face of Windows

The tile-based Metro user interface that runs on Windows Phones will soon be the look and feel of all devices in Microsoft’s ecosystem. Is this smart streamlining or a foolish consistency?

At its Worldwide Partner Conference last week, Microsoft strongly implied that the Metro user interface that adorns its Windows Phones will become the standard design across the PC, phone and Xbox 360 when Windows 8 arrives.

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Microsoft did not formally announced this as such, but showed an image at WPC 2011 (below) that has the tile-friendly Metro design plastered on a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone and on an HD television via Xbox 360.

At WPC, CEO Steve Ballmer referred to the image above and alluded to Metro as the new face of Windows.

“We’re moving in a great direction in terms of a common and coherent design language and user interface across phone, slate, PC and TV.”

This was not surprising, as Microsoft has already displayed the Metro UI within Windows 8 at All Things Digital’s D9 conference in late May. But it was almost startling to see the myriad Metro-based devices together in one image. <i>Windows is soon going to look … different.</i>

As for the Metro design itself, it grows on you. Aesthetically, the tile-based look is not going to win any awards, but it does organize lots of information simply and efficiently.

Nevertheless, it’s still a bold move for the software giant in that Metro will be a different interface experience for traditional Windows PC users. In addition, even though Metro has been somewhat successful as a small-screen UI on Windows Phone 7, it has no history as a big-screen PC interface design. Users will be able to opt out of Metro and run a traditional desktop interface with Windows 8, but Metro on a PC will introduce confusion.

ZDNet blogger Adrian Kingsley-Hughes had these strong words for Metro in a blog post: “Shoving the same UI on devices that are used in different ways is either lazy or hubristic … and it disturbs me.”

You could argue that Microsoft is fixing something that isn’t broken. But although the Windows 7 PC experience is not broken, the rapidly approaching post-PC era will demand that the Windows experience be more fluid and flexible. And right now, Windows is fragmented.

Currently, Microsoft has: successful client OS Windows 7 running on traditional PCs and netbooks, a struggling Windows Phone with a completely different UI than Windows 7, and no tablets to speak of other than “Windows 7 tablets”, which run about as smoothly as a broken-down lawnmower. So Microsoft will surely need streamlined branding and a consistent look and feel as Windows expands outside of the traditional PC.

Sure, it’s a risk to trust an unproven small-screen UI as the one size that fits all. But as PC sales continue to dwindle, Windows needs to be seen as one OS that floats around every device. A common interface will help create that important perception.

What do you think of the Metro UI as the new face of Windows? Love it or hate it?

IT workers with heart

For these companies, employee volunteerism means improved collaboration and productivity on the job

Computerworld – You might think Steve Kranson, who works at Comerica Bank in Auburn Hills, Mich., is your average IT manager. But he’s also been known to log hours dressed up like the Easter Bunny, to the delight of local kids.


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Paychex: Boosting pride while touching the community

Five years ago, when celebrity poker was all the rage, an IT director at Rochester, N.Y.-based Paychex suggested that the company’s 1,000-person IT department stage its own poker tournament and donate the proceeds to breast cancer research. Twenty bucks got you into the game, which was limited to 100 players. That year, proceeds came to about $2,000, all of which went directly to cancer research.

Since then, the tournament has become an annual event, raising $2,000 to $2,500 a year.

Another Paychex IT director proposed that the department get involved with inner-city Rochester schoolchildren. He felt that the company’s IT professionals could mentor students and encourage them to do well in school and pursue careers in the technology arena.
Paychex IT staffers recently volunteered as a group to help clean up at a local arboretum.

That effort annually involves between 15 and 20 IT staffers who volunteer their time to the students who, at the end of the program, are formally recognized at a graduation ceremony and luncheon at Paychex’s headquarters.

“There is no tracking of activities relative to company time,” notes Canzano. “The company encourages employees to participate [in volunteer activities]. It’s absolutely part of our culture and a source of pride for us.”

It’s also a big morale booster for employees like Donna Deffenbaugh, administrative assistant to the IT department. Deffenbaugh has been on volunteer teams that have done gardening work at a local arboretum and helped out at a group home for disadvantaged people.

“This year, we went to a senior citizen home, and the back of my shirt said ‘Paychex,'” Deffenbaugh recalls. “One woman at the home worked at Paychex in the mid-1970s, and she was so excited and told me how she used to do payroll. They were thrilled to come up and ask us about Paychex. It’s very motivating.”

Booz Allen Hamilton: Employees pick their projects

“I’ve done everything from refurbishing homes in the D.C. area to helping organize a bowling event for a scholarship program for kids,” says Derrick Burton, director of internal IT strategy at McLean, Va.-based Booz Allen Hamilton. “There’s a culture here that says you don’t just work for Booz, you work for the community you’re in,” he explains. As Burton sees it, IT brings unique talents to bear on all variety of volunteer projects.

“Engineering and IT people are good at diagnosing the problem and mapping out the project. People in IT are also used to hard deadlines and used to doing a lot with a little money. Those skills and the drive to make sure it’s done right all come out in the variety of projects we work on,” he says.

Volunteering on outside projects also gives IT employees an opportunity to match names and email addresses with real, live co-workers.

“With mobility and people working all over the place, you do a lot of collaborating, but you don’t know folks and you don’t see folks,” Burton notes. “Bringing them together builds teamwork and camaraderie. You also have junior and senior people working together on the same projects. What you find out is people are just people. They’ve got kids to raise and bills to pay. You get the opportunity to have conversations with other people in the firm who you may not have been comfortable having a conversation with before because you thought they were somehow superior.”

For the most part, employees come up with the volunteer projects to work on. The company kicks in with dollars, offering employees who donate 40 hours of their time to charitable works the opportunity to apply for a service grant.

“This way, you have dollars plus employees delivering value with their skills,” notes Joe Suarez, senior adviser, community partnership and philanthropy, at Booz Allen Hamilton.

The benefit of this employee-centric model is that it allows employees to choose projects where they know they can best apply their own skills and have the greatest impact, he adds.

Adventist Health: Making connections among busy staffers

IT employees at Adventist Health System can volunteer an hour a week on company time and get paid for it. They take a team approach, pooling their skills and their time to, among other things, help a charity called the Center for Independent Living by building ramps at the homes of people who rely on wheelchairs. In the past five years, IT workers have built 15 to 20 ramps.

“It requires no experience and after many years, we’ve gotten pretty good at it,” says Francisco Manalo, an IT director at Adventist Health’s Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital in Tarpon Springs, Fla.

“It helps to build a strong team because most of our IT folks don’t work together,” he says.

“It’s also a very rewarding experience seeing the homeowner [use the ramp for the first time] after the building is completed,” says IT manager David Walker, who is the coordinator for the ramp-building projects.

Other volunteer projects Adventist employees have worked on as a team include building homes for Habitat for Humanity, cleaning up litter on highways, refurbishing playgrounds and working at a food bank.

“We encourage volunteerism from the top down, but it’s also a grass-roots effort,” says CIO John McLendon. Even though the focus is volunteering for the project at hand, work-related benefits also accrue.

“You’d be surprised how much work you get done picking up trash on the side of the road,” he says. “[The] added bonus is that when you come back to work and need help from someone in applications support or another department, you have something in common with that person. When relationships are made through volunteerism, it paves the way for efficiency.”

Read more about Management and Careers in Computerworld’s Management and Careers Topic Center.

Elgan: Why Twitter is obsolete

Suddenly, Twitter is unnecessary, outdated, overvalued and headed for the ash heap of abandoned social services

Computerworld – The microblogging service Twitter debuted five years ago, and by all accounts it’s one of the great success stories of the social media era.


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Twitter’s Twitter problem

It’s worth noting that Twitter’s apparent success is something of a mirage. People tend to think that Twitter has a lot of users. But if you look closely, the illusion falls apart. Millions of people have signed up for the service but have never used it. Millions more used it for a while, but stopped.

For example, out of 175 million registered accounts, only 119 million were actually following someone in April. If you don’t follow on Twitter, you don’t see any posts. Only 85 million accounts had one or more followers. If nobody follows you, you’re not communicating with anyone. You’re not really a “user” if you’re not using the service.

Twitter defines an “active user” as one who follows at least 30 people and has at least 10 people who follow him. A source with access to Twitter’s API who was quoted by Business Insider in April says that there were only 21 million people or accounts on Twitter that met the “active user” criteria.

Google+ probably has more than 21 million users already, although numbers on how many of those are “active” have not been published. In other words, the number of users Google+ has gained in three weeks is equal to the number of active users Twitter has gained in five years.

Twitter is extraordinarily vulnerable, especially since Google+ users are exactly the same kinds of people who will want to use Google+: Pundits, celebrities, business owners, bloggers and people involved in politics. In addition, Google+ will appeal to the kinds of users turned off by Twitter: teens, Facebook refugees, and the masses of people who don’t want to learn Twitter’s unique slang and command codes.

I believe a majority of Twitter’s most active users will also be on Google+ within a few months after Google opens its social networking site to the public. But most of the active users of Google+ will not be on Twitter.

I also predict that a growing number of the links on Twitter will direct followers to original posts on Google+, where a real conversation can take place.

Increasingly, Twitter will become an empty shell, a place where most of the posts are placed there automatically from the services where people are genuinely active, and where many of the links will take followers outside of Twitter to social sites like Google+ for ensuing conversation.

Celebrities will prefer G+ because its pictures, videos and viral sharing will give them better control over their images and because it will give them access to a bigger potential audience for their posts.

Pundits will like G+ better because it’s better for crowdsourcing and feedback. (I crowdsourced ideas for this column on Google+ and got high-quality input from 100 people in three hours.)

Bloggers will like it because Google+ is the most friction-free blogging platform, with most of the social attributes of Tumblr. Several prominent bloggers have already closed their existing blogs and now just use Google+. In the future, many bloggers will feed their blogs into Google+, or will feed their public Google+ posts out of that service and into their custom-designed blogs.

Today, Twitter still has a lot of fans and defenders, even on Google+. Twitter is currently a better megaphone than Google+; it’s better for talking at a large audience without having them engage you back. It’s much better today for quick news because all the news sources have established feeds on Twitter. It’s easier to skim, unlike Google+, which is wordy and time-consuming. And Twitter allows anonymity, which is better for people who want to criticize repressive governments.

But that’s today. Tomorrow, most or all of those advantages will be erased by improvements to Google+, the addition of third-party add-ons and apps, and the participation of businesses, publications and a lot more people.

I don’t see how Twitter can defend itself from the Google+ challenge.

When you add up what Google+ can do today and what it will do tomorrow, it’s clear that Twitter is perfectly obsolete.

Hands on: Mac OS X, iOS morph into Lion

Apple goes all in on multi-touch gestures in its new OS

Computerworld – Apple has finally unleashed OS X 10.7 Lion, the revamped operating system for the company’s desktops and laptops. Lion is the latest in a string of major OS revisions released over the past 11 years, and this newest cat borrows some tricks from Apple’s mobile lineup.


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One thing users are likely to notice in Lion is something they can’t see: Apple’s annoying decision to hide the User/Library folder from view. (The move mimics the way system files are hidden on the iPad and iPhone, and makes it harder for people to muck things up.)

Given that a user’s Library folder is where apps store settings and data, this change will no doubt make things a little more difficult for IT types who have to help users troubleshoot their computers. Smartly, Apple included a workaround: If you need to get to your user Library, click on Go in the Finder menu bar and hold down the option key. You’ll see the Library in the drop down list.
Gestures and scroll reversal

New gestures in Lion may be what has the biggest impact on how people use their Macs. For laptop users with trackpads, the additional gestures will really help you fly though files, windows and multiple desktops. For iMac, Mac Pro and Mac Mini users, a word of advice: Get a $69 Apple Magic Trackpad. It’s the best way to take advantage of some genuinely useful techniques, something you won’t be able to do as well with a mouse — even Apple’s Magic Mouse.

With that said, there’s one gesture-related change in particular that users will notice right away: The way you scroll through documents and Web pages has been reversed.

Blame iOS. Scrolling in Lion is now focused on the principle of manipulating on-screen graphics. For instance, if you place two fingers on a trackpad and push up, the contents in the document you’re viewing will scroll up. Push two fingers down, and the document scrolls down. (It works the same way with Apple’s Magic Mouse.) Essentially, you’re “pushing” the document’s contents in the same direction your fingers are moving. In Snow Leopard and previous versions of OS X, two-finger scrolls were more like grabbing the scroll bars (which moves in the opposite direction as the content), not the content itself.

The new scroll direction feels weird for about five minutes, then it feels natural. And if you really hate it, you can turn it off in the Trackpad (or Mouse) system preference under the Scroll & Zoom tab. Note, too, that the scrollbars are now thin and gray, just as they are on the iPad, and you can choose whether they’re always on, off, or variable depending on input device. If you’re using a regular mouse, you’ll want to make sure they’re on so you can grab scrollbars and scroll as you always have.

The Trackpad system preference pane allows you to turn 14 distinct gestures and behaviors on or off, and you can specify the number of fingers necessary to trigger an event. (If you’re not using a trackpad, you can configure gestures in the Mouse preference pane.)

Among the gestures now available: A two-finger tap can be used to zoom in on Web page content in Safari; the same can be done with images. Three- or four-finger swipes allow you to switch among Spaces (useful when apps are in the new full-screen mode); two-finger side swipes let you go backward (swipe left) and forward (swipe right) in Safari’s browser history. Spread three or four fingers and your thumb to reveal the desktop, and pinch together three or four fingers and your thumb to activate the new Launchpad app. Swiping three fingers down in an app isolates that app’s windows and brings up a list of recently opened documents. Swiping up with four fingers reveals Mission Control, allowing you access to Spaces; and within Mission Control, four-finger swipes right or left flip through your Spaces.
Trackpad gestures
New gestures can be used with a Trackpad — and to a lesser extent a mouse — to navigate through Lion. The Trackpad system preference is used to modify how many fingers are needed for specific gestures. (See full visual tour.)

It’s amazing how quickly you get used to flipping through Lion’s interface with gestures, especially if you’re using a trackpad. Using a three- or four-finger swipe up to activate Mission Control, for instance, feels like you’re pushing open windows into neat, little stacks — with the animation to match. After a while, the combination of gestures and motion feels almost organic.

Lion now offers the same rubber-banding “bounce” behavior found in iOS devices, where once the end of a document is reached, the scroll effect sort of stretches and bounces back, indicating that you can’t scroll further. It’s a neat effect in iOS, and it works well here, too.

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