Tech

Microsoft prepares Windows 10 for panoply of sensors

With the Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, users can view virtual 3D images within the everyday real world.
Credit: Microsoft

A unified sensor interface will allow Windows 10 devices to support a slew of new environmental, biometric, proximity and motion sensors

Windows 10 devices in the future could be measuring temperature, environmental pressure and carbon dioxide levels, as Microsoft provides an interface to support a wide range of sensors.

Microsoft is building a unified sensor interface and universal driver for Windows 10 that will support a slew of environmental, biometric, proximity, health and motion sensors, the company said last week at the WinHEC trade show in Shenzhen. Microsoft is also providing the building blocks for Windows 10 to support sensors that haven’t yet been released.

With support for more sensors, Microsoft hopes to bring “new functionality” to PCs, smartphones, tablets, gadgets and electronics running Windows 10, according to a slide from a presentation.

Microsoft is putting Windows 10 — which is due for release later this year — in PCs, tablets, smartphones, smart devices, wearables, gadgets and Internet of things devices. The company has also shown the future-looking HoloLens holographic headset working with Windows 10; together, the OS and the headset could act as a launchpad for new sensor applications.

Device makers could add barometer, pollution, ultraviolet, temperature, altitude and other sensors to Windows 10 devices. Also through the drivers, motion detection sensors will be able to track activities such as the number of steps users take in a day, and exchange data easily with other Windows 10 devices. The motion detection sensors will also take into account where devices are — on pockets, in hand or in bag — to ensure accurate measurements.

Microsoft is also using sensors to improve the way users interact with Windows 10 devices.
For example, a major attraction of Windows 10 is its ability to automatically switch between tablet and PC modes, which is made possible by sensors in hinges that detect the position of a laptop. Through a feature called Windows Hello, Microsoft is also using sensors to bring biometric authentication to Windows 10 PCs and tablets.

Windows 10 is friendlier to sensors than predecessor operating systems, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard officials said at a press gathering last month.

But sensors need to be identified and supported by the OS, much like other hardware components. The universal driver is designed to let device makers could plug a variety of sensors into Windows 10 devices and not worry about driver development. Microsoft will also provide a separate development kit for those who want to develop independent sensor drivers to expand the functionality of hardware.

Sensors are ubiquitous across devices, and a unified driver interface could aid Microsoft’s effort to put Windows 10 in more gadgets, appliances and other data-collecting instruments, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

Supporting more sensors in Windows 10 is also a key part of Microsoft’s plans to expand into the Internet of Things market, which revolves around data-collecting instruments feeding telemetry to Microsoft’s Azure cloud service, McGregor said.

Device makers could put sensors in mobile devices, but some sensors such as temperature and pollution monitors are more likely to go in street lamps or traffic lights. As part of Microsoft’s “mobile-first, cloud-first” strategy, data from such sources could be fed to Azure for further analysis, McGregor said.

“You have to be able to support the broadest array of applications, and the sensor data is critical,” McGregor said.

Microsoft is trying to unite disparate mobile, PC and embedded Windows operating systems under the Windows 10 umbrella. The company is encouraging the development of Windows-based devices via boards like Raspberry Pi 2 and Qualcomm’s DragonBoard 410c, which will be able to run a custom version of Windows 10 called Athens. Makers — do-it-yourselfers — have developed sensor-packed robots, drone, health monitors, gadgets and wearables with those boards.

In a separate presentation at WinHEC, Microsoft said it would also bring Windows 10 to its own Sharks Cove and Intel’s MinnowBoard Max board, which are used to prototype electronics, appliances and devices with sensors. The devices have low-power ports such as GPIO, SPI, I2C, and UART to which a variety of motion, imaging and other sensors can be attached.


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Future-proof your IT career: 8 tech areas that will still be hot in 2020

It’s prudent for IT pros to cultivate skills that are in high demand. Even better are skills that will stay in demand. Here are eight key technology areas that show no signs of falling out of favor.

Wanted: Programmers, security experts, cloud capacity managers
More than 90% of U.S. companies are using some form of cloud computing, according to CompTIA’s most recent Trends in Cloud Computing study. Moreover, the November 2014 report found that companies are moving infrastructure or applications between private and public clouds. IT leaders predict that movement will accelerate in the future, which will generate a host of cloud-centric jobs, including cloud security.

A related position will be dedicated to cloud capacity management. “We expect many [organizations] will operate in a hybrid environment, a mix of private and public cloud, so the question becomes how to dynamically switch demand for compute and storage from private and public clouds,” says Mike Sutcliff, group chief executive for Accenture Digital. “That’s going to require new techniques and disciplines that many IT organizations don’t have in place today.”

Programmers skilled in Perl, Ruby, Ruby on Rails and Python, Java and JavaScript, as well as those comfortable with API development and a DevOps environment, will also be in high demand, because cloud technology depends heavily on those disciplines. (See 10 hot cloud computing skills for details.)

Wanted: Data architects, integration experts, Hadoop pros
Cliff Justice, leader of KPMG’s Shared Services and Outsourcing Advisory practice, says organizational needs around analytics will be huge, driven partly by the sheer volume of data collected but also by the increasing number of applications (such as robotics) fueled by analytical output. As a result, companies are adding and creating IT positions to handle the work.

According to Barry Brunsman, principal in KPMG’s CIO Advisory Management Consulting practice (pdf), you’ll see roles like these: Data architects, who design the structure to support emerging needs; data integration engineers, who ensure that data solutions and analytics from any number of sources can be integrated; and IT planning analysts, who aggregate and analyze data from many internal and external sources to help IT know what its business partners are likely to need in the future.

Technical titles that are and will remain hot include Hadoop developer, data engineer, big data software architect and enterprise data architect, says Christian P. Hagen, a partner with the Strategic IT Practice at management consulting firm A.T. Kearney.

At the same time, organizational demands around analytics will create a new batch of leadership positions tasked with understanding how to use analytics to achieve goals and objectives. “Analytics won’t mean just working with tools. Companies will need someone out in front, someone who can get at how analytics will transform the company and IT as well,” Hagen says.

Hagen says leadership positions emerging in this field are chief analytics officer, chief data officer, chief digital officer, head of business analytics and vice president of enterprise data.

Wanted: “Digital artisans”
The pressure to be more than a pure technologist will continue in the upcoming years – and that means more than adding one or two business skills to your resume. Tech pros who successfully navigate the changes roiling the industry will be able to demonstrate business acumen across the spectrum, says R “Ray” Wang, founder and principal analyst with Constellation Research Inc. He calls these new specialists “digital artisans,” explaining that they’re “those who can balance right brain and left brain skills.”

Middle-of-the-road products, services and solutions aren’t enough to sustain companies in an increasingly competitive landscape, Wang says. To thrive in the next five to 10 years, organizations need to seek out talent “that can think outside of the box but execute within the system,” he says. To deliver that kind of strategic value, IT pros need to be authentic, relevant, transformation-minded, intelligent, speedy, artistic and non-conformist. (Get it? A-R-T-I-S-A-N.)

Wanted: Hardware, software, analytics experts
The 2014 PwC report The Wearable Future (pdf) sees a world where wearable devices will be used to train new employees, speed up the sales process, improve customer service, create hands-free guidance for workers and improve the accuracy of information collected to serve the growing analytics movement at companies everywhere.

Jack Cullen, president of IT staffing firm Modis, predicts the move to wearables could spur as much, if not more, new development as did the move to smartphones. “By the time 2020 rolls around, wearable devices could be as common as the iPhone today, and that creates all new opportunities,” Cullen says.

Cullen expects that organizations of all kinds will identify workers and processes that could benefit from wearables, which it turn means IT departments will seek out technologists with the ability to deploy, manage and maintain hardware as well as experts who can develop, customize and support the applications and analytics programs that will make wearables useful within their specific organizations.

Wanted: In-the-weeds tinkerers and big-picture thinkers
Research firm IDC predicts in its Worldwide and Regional Internet of Things 2014-2020 Forecast that the global IoT market will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020.

“Technology is being built into almost everything we have,” says David Dodd, vice president of IT and CIO at Stevens Institute of Technology. That means a bright future for technologists who understand the underpinnings of this kind of connectivity. Indeed, IoT could breed a new specialist who can combine skills in hardware, engineering, programming, analytics, privacy and security.

Dodd, though, believes the IoT skill most in demand will be in understanding what value comes from all this connectivity. Organizations are realizing it’s not enough to simply connect items and gather data, they need to know how those connections and the data they generate can solve problems or advance organizational goals. Companies “want people who can understand and formulate the future of IoT,” he says.

Position yourself for long-term growth
Smart companies have a corporate roadmap that spells out where they’d like to be three, five and 10 years out, how they’re going to get there, and how technology fits into that vision. As a smart IT professional, can you say how your skills and position figure into your company’s plans — or the industry’s as a whole?

Sure, organizations will still need programmers and developers, but they’ll want (and pay better salaries to) programmers who know how to work with robots and developers who know how to apply their craft to wearable devices. So, yes, while labor market experts expect that IT as a whole will continue to add good jobs through 2020 and beyond, savvy tech pros are taking pains to ensure their personal roadmap is steering them towards concentrations with maximum longevity.

What follows are some specialties worth pursuing to future-proof your tech career.

Wanted: Tech experts to lay the groundwork for enterprise AI/robotics
Artificial intelligence and robotics have already moved from science fiction to reality, and soon they’ll be coming to a business near you. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center report (pdf), these technologies “will permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025, with huge implications for a range of industries such as healthcare, transportation and logistics, customer service and home maintenance.”

Not surprisingly, technologists skilled in this area will be in high demand, says KPMG’s Justice. He notes that IT professionals will have roles to play in programming, integrating and building out the infrastructure for organizational applications of AI and robotics.

Wanted: Programmers to tap internal, external power of APIs
There’s already plenty of buzz around application program interfaces (APIs) — the sets of routines, protocols and tools that specify how software components should interact and facilitate access to Web-based applications.

Software vendors have been providing API for years, and now companies of all disciplines are making theirs public so other developers can design applications that interact with their original software. For that reason, the importance of APIs is about to explode. Companies will require more and more APIs to tap the power of emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things, robotics and artificial intelligence, as well as maximize value for existing tech-driven trends such as mobile connectivity.

IT shops will need professionals to actively develop and manage APIs for use within the organization and to connect with outside users, Accenture’s Sutcliff says. These technologists need to have strong development skills as well as an understanding of data sources, data structures and the organization’s applications portfolios. Sutcliff notes that this position won’t be about one specific language or API, but more about assembling pieces together.

Wanted: Broad and deep security chops
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 37% growth in information security analyst positions between 2012 and 2022 for good reason — all these emerging technologies are requiring, and will continue to demand, even more attention from an organization’s security program.

“For all the great opportunities that social and mobile and cloud and analytics and the Internet of Things are going to bring, any economic gains that will be realized by all these new technologies can be undercut significantly if there aren’t really robust security programs and protocols in place,” says Matt Aiello, a partner in the Washington office of Heidrick & Struggles, which specializes in recruiting CIOs and senior-level technology, engineering and operations executives. Aiello and others say the security expert of the future will need to ensure that security is embedded in all levels.


 

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The Big Question Rises How To Become Microsoft, Cisco, ComTIA Certified

The big question rises how to become the Microsoft certified , All Microsoft certifications are acquired by simply taking a series of exams. If you can self-study for said exams, and then pass them, then you can acquire the certification for the mere cost of the exam (and maybe whatever self-study materials you purchase).

You’ll also need, at minimum (in addition to the MCTS), the CompTIA A+, Network+ and Security+ certs; as well as the Cisco CCNA cert.

Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) – This is the basic entry point of Microsoft Certifications. You only need to pass a single certification test to be considered an MCTS and there are numerous different courses and certifications that would grant you this after passing one. If you are shooting for some of the higher certifications that will be discussed below, then you’ll get this on your way there.

Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) – This certification was Microsoft’s previous “Developer Certification” meaning that this was the highest certification that was offered that consisted strictly of development-related material. Receiving it involved passing four exams within specific areas (based on the focus of your certification). You can find the complete list of courses and paths required for the MCPD here.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) – This is Microsoft’s most recent “Developer Certification” which will replace the MCPD Certification (which is being deprecated / retired in July of 2013). The MCSD focuses within three major areas of very recent Microsoft development technologies and would likely be the best to persue if you wanted to focus on current and emerging skills that will be relevant in the coming years. You can find the complete list of courses and paths required for the MCSD here.

The Microsoft Certifications that you listed are basically all of the major ones within the realm of development. I’ll cover each of the major ones and what they are :

Most people, however, take some kind of course. Some colleges — especially career and some community colleges — offer such courses (though usually they’re non-credit). Other providers of such courses are private… some of them Microsoft Certified vendors of one type or another, who offer the courses in such settings as sitting around a conference table in their offices. Still others specialize in Microsoft certification training, and so have nice classrooms set up in their offices.

There are also some online (and other forms of distance learning) courses to help prepare for the exams.

The cost of taking classes to prepare can vary wildly. Some are actually free (or very nearly so), while others can cost hundreds of dollars. It all just depends on the provider.

And here’s a Google search of MCTS training resources (which can be mind-numbing in their sheer numbers and types, so be careful what you choose):

There are some pretty good, yet relatively inexpensive, ways to get vendor certificate training. Be careful not to sign-up for something expensive and involved when something cheaper — like subscribing to an “all the certificates you care to study for one flat rate” web site — would, in addition to purchasing a study guide or two at a bookstore, likely be better.

If you want a career in IT, then you need to have both an accredited degree in same (preferably a bachelors over an associates), and also a variety of IT certifications. The MCTS is but one that you will need.

You should probably also get the Microsoft MCSE and/or MCSA. The ICS CISSP. And the ITIL.

There are others, but if you have those, you’ll be evidencing a broad range of IT expertise that will be useful, generally. Then, in addition, if the particular IT job in which you end-up requires additional specialist certification, then you can get that, too (hopefully at the expense of your employer who requires it of you).

Then, whenever (if ever) you’re interested in a masters in IT, here’s something really cool of which you should be aware…

There’s a big (and fully-accredited, fully-legitimate) university in Australia which has partnered with Microsoft and several other vendors to structure distance learning degrees which include various certifications; and in which degrees, considerable amounts of credit may be earned simply by acquiring said certifications. It’s WAY cool.

One can, for example, get up to half of the credit toward a Masters degree in information technology by simply getting an MCSE (though the exams which make it up must be certain ones which correspond with the university’s courses). I’ve always said that if one were going to get an MCSE, first consult the web site of this university and make sure that one takes the specific MCSE exams that this school requires so that if ever one later decided to enter said school’s masters program, one will have already earned up to half its degree’s credits by simply having the MCSE under his/her belt. Is that cool, or what?

I wouldn’t rely on them over experience (which is far and away the most valuable asset out there) but they are worth pursuing especially if you don’t feel like you have enough experience and need to demonstrate that you have the necessary skills to land a position as a developer.

If you are going to pursue a certification, I would recommend going after the MCSD (Web Applications Track) as it is a very recent certification that focuses on several emerging technologies that will still be very relevant (if not more-so) in the coming years. You’ll pick up the MCTS along the way and then you’ll have both of those under your belt. MCPD would be very difficult to achieve based on the short time constraints (passing four quite difficult tests within just a few months is feasible, but I don’t believe that it is worth it since it will be “retired” soon after).

No job experience at all is necessary for any of the Microsoft Certifications, you can take them at any time as long as you feel confident enough with the materials of the specific exam you should be fine. The tests are quite difficult by most standards and typically cover large amounts of material, but with what it sounds like a good bit of time to study and prepare you should be fine.

Certifications, in addition to degrees, are so important in the IT field, now, that one may almost no longer get a job in that field without both. The certifications, though, are so important that one who has a little IT experience can get a pretty good job even without a degree as long as he has all the right certs. But don’t do that. Definitely get the degree… and not merely an associates. Get the bachelors in IT; and make sure it’s from a “regionally” accredited school.

Then get the certs I mentioned (being mindful, if you think you’ll ever get an IT masters, to take the specific exams that that Strut masters program requires so that you’ll have already earned up to half the credit just from the certs).

If you already have two years of experience in working in the .NET environment, a certification isn’t going to guarantee that you will get employed, a salary increase or any other bonuses for achieving the honor. However, it can help supplement your resume by indicating that you are familiar with specific technologies enough to apply them in real-world applications to solve problems.

If your ready for career change and looking for Microsoft MCTS Training, Microsoft MCITP Training or any other Microsoft Certification preparation get the best online training from Certkingdom.com they offer all Microsoft, Cisco, Comptia certification exams training in just one Unlimited Life Time Access Pack, included self study training kits including, Q&A, Study Guides, Testing Engines, Videos, Audio, Preparation Labs for over 2000+ exams, save your money on boot camps, training institutes, It’s also save your traveling and time. All training materials are “Guaranteed” to pass your exams and get you certified on the fist attempt, due to best training they become no1 site 2012.

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10 best tech jobs in America

Find out which tech jobs offer the most job satisfaction, average salaries and growth opportunity, according to data from Glassdoor.

The Best Tech Jobs in America
Glassdoor recently released its list of the best jobs in America and 10 of the top 25 jobs listed are in the technology sector. When you combine that with the fact that technology-related careers continue to have unemployment rates lower than national average and, according to BLS statistics, tech jobs are expected to grow 21.5 percent between now and 2022, it’s easy to see that the demand for highly skilled technology workers is exploding. It is one of the few areas in the job market that the BLS predicts double-digit growth. So whether you’re just entering the tech market or you’re looking to make a change, the jobs on this list highlight some of the best that this industry has to offer.

Methodology: The Glassdoor Best Jobs report identifies 25 jobs with the highest overall job score rating. They base this on a 5-point scale, where 5 equals the highest score. Glassdoor uses its data to determine the weight of the following three factors:

Earning potential (average annual base salary)
Career opportunities rating
Number of open job listings

The results in this list that follows represent job titles that rate highly among all three categories:
“For a job title to be considered, it must receive at least 75 salary reports and at least 75 career opportunity ratings shared by U.S.-based employees over the past year (from January 1, 2014 to January 9, 2015). The number of openings per job title represents the total number posted on Glassdoor over the past three months (October 21, 2014 to January 1, 2015): Note, this report takes into account job title normalization that groups similar job titles, according to Glassdoor representative, MaryJo Fitzgerald.

So here it is — the list of best tech jobs in America.

10. Sales Engineer
“A sales engineer has a technological and scientific understanding of the product being sold, “says Fitzgerald. These salespeople specialize, selling complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They need to take these multifaceted products and be able to explain to potential clients/customers the business value. Sales engineers need to be able to adjust their level of tech jargon and complexity to suit their audience; know their products/services inside and out, as well as the underlying technologies that support them and know the problems facing organizations that use their product or service.

9. Mobile Developer
If you’re a mobile developer, it’s your time to shine. The proliferation of responsive design, the explosion of new mobile devices and the apps that power them have sent competition for mobile development skills skyrocketing.

8. IT Project Manager
The project manager is a special breed; these individuals need to be steeped in technology with great time-management and communication skills. They ensure the project stays within guidelines, that deadlines are met and that everything stays within budget. To do that they have to allocate resources, know who is good at what and be able to talk to people from all walks of the business, i.e., customer, developer, accountant, etc.

7. Network Engineer
If your network goes down, your business comes to a halt. Network engineers work to make sure that doesn’t happen. These IT pros deal with all of the organization’s hardware and the computer networks that live within. Unlike network admins, network engineers focus mainly on top level design and planning as opposed to the daily operations and support of the network. Responsibilities range depending on the company size. In smaller companies network engineers might work with a small team or alone, wearing many different hats, like sysadmins, for example. Larger organizations may have an entire staff of network engineers, installing new hardware and wiring, adding hubs and switches and more.

6. QA Engineer
Whether your company offers products, services or both, QA engineers are a necessary part of technology execution. QA engineers oversee the entire development process from concept to final product/service ensuring whatever it is your organization creates is built to a standard with customer experience in mind. That customer might be someone who buys a piece of software or a product or a worker using a tool supplied by IT.

5. Solutions Architect
These tech workers are accountable for designing and organizing computer systems and custom applications used by their organization. While similar to an IT consultant, this role is more focused on the development and implementation of an interface that any employee can use to make their job easier and more efficient, according to MaryJo Fitzgerald, a public relations representative from Glassdoor.

From a technology standpoint, these workers must define current problems along with future goals to build a roadmap to get the business from point A to point B. This role has evolved over the years to become more of a technical role than it was originally.

4. Data Scientist
These IT workers delve into some of businesses most complex issues. Using often-times disparate sources of data, data scientists work to find insight and actionable data. Math, communication, business and statistics skills are all part of the data scientists skillset.

Josh Willis, a data scientist for Cloudera said a data scientist is a, “person who is better at statistics than any software engineer and better at software engineering than any statistician.”

3. Product Manager
Timing is everything in this role. These IT professionals work closely with engineering, sales and marketing teams to ensure a product meets the business’ overall strategy and goals. They take a product from concept to reality. In between they take input from stakeholders and customers and ensure that the product aligns with business objectives and work on things like maximizing business value and user experience.

Although it’s listed in the tech jobs category, the right person for this role needs a strategic mind and a strong understanding of the business needs.

2. Database Administrator
Organizations have lots of data and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. In fact, IDC reports that in 2012 the amount of data stored globally reached 2.8 zettabytes and they now forecast that organizations will generate 40 zettabytes (ZB) by the year 2020. That’s an astounding number.

Along with all that data comes job security for those skilled in the art of storing and organizing data. These individuals work to maintain the integrity of their respective data and make sure its deliverable to analysts when necessary. They maintain and create new database systems as well as make sure things like back-ups are performed, plan security and ensuring that data comes from reliable sources.

1. Software Engineer
Computer science, engineering and math skills are what it takes to rise to the top of the software engineer talent pool. These professionals design, develop, test, debug and evaluate the software and systems required to keep businesses both big and small moving forward.

These IT pros must be familiar with different OSes and middleware to make sure that when push comes to shove, the software “just works.” The process begins by evaluating user needs, then developing software and algorithms to support business needs.


 

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Twelve Industries That May Not Exist By 2020

Some of these industries, such as paper and home phones, you can guess. But some will surprise you.

The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Metropolitan Taxi Systems
The dual driving force of decentralized apps (Uber, Lyft) and self-driving technologies will cause the centralized taxi industry to disintegrate. In just a few short years, Uber has already made a sizable dent in their business and will continue to do so. On the other hand, automated taxis will spread like wildfire once viable. As an NYC resident, all I have to say is good riddance, yellow cabs!

2. The USPS
Almost all of the processes that used to require a mail response are completely online now, and the USPS today is essentially one big junk mail courier for companies wanting to advertise at a 1.4 percent conversion rate on average. The only spectacular aspect of the USPS is their Media Mail rate, but if the industry was privatized, the price would be just as competitive via the nature of private industry, e.g. UPS (UPS) and Fed-Ex (FDX) .

3. The Paper Industry
The paper industry won’t ever disappear completely, but it will be almost obsolete by 2020 as everything is digitized.

4. Home Phones
I believe home telephones will be obsolete by 2020, if not sooner. Smartphones have outpaced landlines as a far more convenient and necessary form of communication. It’s already very rare to meet someone without a cell phone. We even contemplated this year switching all our office phones to cell phones. (T, VZ, S, TMUS).

5. Mobile Phones
Years ago, mobile phones became portable computers; we just insisted on thinking of them as mobile phones. The industry dedicated to making and supporting phones is already in rapid decline in the U.S. Over the next five years, that will spread globally. All data will just be data, and no distinction will be made between phone data and Internet data. Companies caught on the wrong side will be gone.

6. Credit Cards
Just like music CDs and VCRs, the plastic card that we walk around with in our wallets could very well disappear. Sooner or later, they will be replaced with mobile payments. It’s awkward each time we have to type 16 numbers into a web page, swipe an overused card repeatedly, or have to wait for the machine to spit out that receipt. Even worse, having to sign it. Smartphones will disrupt this. Bad news for MasterCard (MA), Visa (V), American Express (AXP) and Discover (DFS).

7. Movie Theaters
Sales have been declining steadily and with good reason: for the price, seeing a movie in theaters just doesn’t deliver good value. The only benefit used to be the huge screen and great sound system, but with HDTV and a small investment at home, you can create an experience that’s much superior. As more movies become available for streaming and download, movie theaters will slowly fade away.

8. Storage Media
CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray Discs, External Hard Drives, Memory Cards, etc. With the increasing presence of cloud storage, the desire to remain connected to the digital world and the increasing presence of streaming media services, many forms of physical storage will become obsolete.

9. Retail Health Insurance Agencies
The Affordable Care Act has created marketplaces for individuals to purchase health insurance. The brokerage incentives to provide individual insurance coverage will continue to evaporate and health policies will no longer be promoted by your neighborhood insurance broker.

10. Cable TV
The Internet is changing the way we consume video. Millions have already ditched their cable subscriptions in favor of Netflix accounts. As high-speed Internet reaches more places, there will be less of a need to keep paying for your old cable service. You can already get almost everything you want on demand except live sports. When that fully switches to live streaming, it’s game over. (TWC, VZ).

11. Wallets
Mobile payment apps like LevelUp, Venmo, Google Wallet (GOOGL) and ApplePay (AAPL) make it fast, easy and convenient to pay for anything. As more retailers adopt alternative payment methods and new technologies, there will soon be no need to fish out the old leather wallet from the back pocket or pay a visit to the ATM for cash.

12. Fast Food Workers
Pay attention McDonald’s (MCD) and Burger King (BKW): in a restaurant atmosphere that’s all about low price and fast service, the workers themselves will quickly become expendable. This is because customers don’t care so much about service, but rather that they can get the right order in the same amount of time or less. With the push for higher wages, this could become reality sooner rather than later.

 


 

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7 critical things to cover in your disaster-recovery plan

As always, you never know when a disaster will strike, so better to have a checklist on hand so that panic doesn’t set in when the network goes down.

1. Creating a plan
Cloud services company Evolve IP has created a list of suggestions for executives to evaluate their current disaster avoidance plans or, should a plan not exist, provide directional measures to protect their information and communications systems.

2. Establish a disaster recovery functional team
Elect one spokesperson from the group for communication. In the event of a multi-location organization each location should have a core team or representative that works with the corporate entity.

3. Risk assessment
Identify risks in the following areas:

Information – What information and information systems are most vital to continue to run the business at an acceptable level?

Communication Infrastructure – What communications (email, toll free lines, call centers, VPNs, Terminal Services) are most vital to continue to run the business at an acceptable level?

Access and Authorization – Who needs to access the above systems and in what secure manner (VPN, SSL, DR Site) in the event of a disaster?

Physical Work Environment – What is necessary to conduct business in an emergency should the affected location not be available?

Internal and External Communication – Who do we need to contact in the event of an emergency and with what information?

4. Cloud-based data centers and applications
Create a written recovery plan that is hosted remotely in a secure and redundant data center. Schedule and test your plan at least once per year or in accordance with regulatory/compliance requirements. Ensure employees can access the hosted environment (both from within the business confines and remotely) during fail-over mode from the designated locations.

5. Premise-based data centers
Produce a written recovery plan that is stored remotely. Identify water entry areas throughout the building and have sandbags available. Install VESDA smoke detection and thermal detectors. Have a fail-safe alarm system. Place high-temperature sensors on fire sprinkler heads if non-water based fire-suppression is unavailable. Keep your data center above street level. If you are in a single-floor building, raise your racks from the floor. Employ multiple Internet service/data providers and test for failover regularly.

6. Data back-up
Tape back-ups should be removed daily and stored in a secure, easily accessed public building with at least 2-3 individuals having keys to the location. Back-up data to a geographically distant location, either electronically, or ensure physical media is in a diverse location.

7. Hosted telephony systems
Employ multiple Internet providers and test for failover regularly. Verify that critical phone numbers have the ability to call forward in an unreachable condition.

8. Call center
Identify key business applications required and how call center staff will access these applications from alternative locations. Identify critical call types that must be answered and determine mechanism to segregate those calls. Identify alternative locations to house the staff with the appropriate systems, phones, and work environment. Ensure administrative staff has the ability to remotely change call routing, messaging, and related call center functionality.


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10 alternative carriers that can save you serious cash on your smartphone bill

When it comes time to choose a wireless carrier, most Americans just go with AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon. Recently, more and more people have been tempted by T-Mobile’s cost-slashing “Uncarrier” moves, but that’s about where it ends: the four major carriers.

And that reluctance to look beyond the big guys could be costing you money.

Did you know there are a host of different carriers in the U.S. that use the same networks as the big companies but offer some serious discounts on your monthly bill? They’re called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and piggyback on the major carrier’s networks.

If you’ve never heard of MVNOs, you soon will. Google reportedly wants to get in on the MVNO game and offer its own cell plans using the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile, paired with Wi-Fi. Beyond MVNOs, another report says Cablevision is planning a mobile carrier service called Freewheel that will depend entirely on Wi-Fi—including free access to the company’s more than one million public hotspots.

But you don’t have to wait for Cablevision and Google to get in the cell phone service game. There are already numerous MVNOs running on networks from all four major carriers, and some that also offer Wi-Fi only plans. Many of the more interesting carriers run on Sprint, but there are also a number of options that use T-Mobile for anyone looking to use a GSM-based phone.

In no particular order, here’s a look at 10 MVNOs that are well worth a look, at least on paper. We haven’t been able to test these networks ourselves so you’ll have to judge their quality on your own.

It should also go without saying, but if you plan to bring your own device (BYOD) to an MVNO—not all allow it—the device must be compatible with that MVNO’s underlying network, be it Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, or AT&T.

1. Ting
Carrier: Sprint
BYOD: Yes (some restrictions)
Cost: $21 per month (monthly average)
LTE: Yes

Ting is one of the more interesting choices among MVNOs. The company offers what is more or less a pay-as-you-go model. Ting categorizes usage by buckets. The first 1-100 minutes, for example, cost $3, the next bucket $9, and the next $18. There are also buckets for SMS and MB of data usage, and you must pay a monthly per-device fee of $6 each. The company’s complete rates are on its site. Ting says the average monthly cost per device is $21.

A variety of phones are available with Ting, including the iPhone 5s, Nexus 5, and Galaxy S5. If you’re thinking of moving to Ting, the company says it will pay 25 percent of the early termination fee (ETF) from your current carrier, up to $75.

2. Republic Wireless

Carrier: Sprint
BYOD: No
Cost: $5-$40 per month
LTE: Yes

Republic Wireless is one of several carriers that integrates Wi-Fi, reverting to a cellular connection only when Wi-Fi isn’t available. In fact, if you live in an urban environment and are daring enough, you can pay just $5 per month for a Wi-Fi-only plan. The bad news is that if you aren’t connected to Wi-Fi your phone won’t work. Nevertheless, this might be an ideal plan for a university student who lives on campus.

After the Wi-Fi plan, how much you pay really depends on what you need. For $40 per month you can get unlimited talk, text, and data on 4G and Wi-Fi, though the data is throttled after 5GB/mo. There’s also a $10 plan that’s talk and text on cell and Wi-Fi, plus Wi-Fi only data. Whichever plan you choose, Republic phones default to Wi-Fi whenever possible.

3. FreedomPop

Carrier: Sprint
BYOD: Yes
Cost: Free to $80 per year
LTE: Yes

Another Wi-Fi centric carrier similar to Republic, FreedomPop offers a $5 Wi-Fi-only plan. You can also get unlimited voice, text, and 500MB of data for $11 per month, or you can pay $80 up-front for an entire year of the same plan. There’s also a $20 monthly plan that offers unlimited everything over Sprint’s 4G network, but data is downgraded to 3G speeds after the first gigabyte.

4. Scratch Wireless

Carrier: Sprint
BYOD: No
Cost: $2 to $4 per day, $25 to $40 per month
LTE: Yes

Scratch Wireless takes another interesting pay-as-you-go approach like Ting. Instead of buckets, Scratch uses a “passes” concept. You can get a daily pass for $2 offering unlimited voice, and pay another $2 for unlimited data for a day. If you need a monthly pass, Scratch offers $25 for unlimited data and another $15 gets you a month of unlimited voice. Scratch does not charge for SMS, which is free under all its plans.

5. MetroPCS
Carrier: T-Mobile
BYOD: Yes
Cost: $40-$60 per month
LTE: Yes

An actual part of T-Mobile, MetroPCS offers standard prepaid packages similar to the mainstream carriers. You can still save some money, however, as MetroPCS offers unlimited talk and text along with 2GB of LTE and unlimited data at “average MetroPCS network speeds” beyond that for $40 per month. Plans with 4GB of LTE and unlimited LTE cost $50 and $60 per month, respectively.

6. Brightspot

Carrier: T-Mobile
BYOD: Yes
Cost: $30-$55 per month
LTE: Yes

Target’s MVNO Brightspot offers a number of basic plans. If you’re not a big talker, you can get a $35 plan that includes unlimited text, up to 3GB of data at 4G speeds, and 300 minutes of voice.

7. UltraMobile

Carrier: T-Mobile
BYOD: Yes
Cost: $19-$59 per month
LTE: Yes

Ultra Mobile offers a number of standard plans that can meet your needs. The company also offers some international options for those who need to call overseas (as do a number of other MVNOs, including Brightspot). For $29 Ultra Mobile offers unlimited talk and text, and 1GB of LTE data.
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Michael Homnick

8. Net10

Carrier: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon
BYOD: Yes
Cost: $25-$80 per month
LTE: Yes

Owned by TracFone, Net10 offers connections on all four networks depending on your preferences. For $40 per month you can get unlimited talk, text, and data. The downside is Net10 only offers the first 500MB of data at LTE speeds.

9. PTel

Carrier: T-Mobile
BYOD: Yes
Cost: $20-$65 per month
LTE: Yes

A T-Mobile-based MVNO, PTel is a little bit cheaper than Net10 with $35 per month for unlimited talk, text, and data. Like Net10, PTel only offers the first 500MB at LTE speeds.

10. RingPlus

Carrier: Sprint
BYOD: Yes
Cost: $2-$33 per month
LTE: Yes

If you can get past the cutesy names of its monthly plans (such as Kate, Hazel, and Bella,) RingPlus has a wide range of offerings. The most realistic plan for serious smartphone users is Data, priced at $30 per month. This plan gets you 300 voice minutes, unlimited text, 2GB of data, and unlimited Wi-Fi calling. RingPlus charges 6 cents extra per message for MMS.
Switch and save?

Switching to an MVNO is not for everybody, especially if you live somewhere with limited cellular connectivity options. But if you’re in an area where networks like Sprint and T-Mobile offer good service you could save yourself some serious cash.


 

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People don’t trust mobile wallets and apps

Worries over security and privacy hold back mobile phone users, survey finds

Trust is eroding among mobile device users when it comes to making purchases or app downloads.

A survey of 15,000 mobile users in 15 countries found that their trust level is degraded because they believe that payment systems aren’t secure or they don’t trust a service or online merchant. Mobile users are also worried about having to share too much personal information when downloading an app.

This lack of trust grew the most in the U.S. The lack of trust across all areas jumped from 26% in 2013 to 35% in 2014 among U.S. respondents. The latest survey was conducted in the third quarter of 2014, but was made public last week. Smartphone and feature phone users were sent an SMS to join the survey and completed the survey on their devices.

The implications of the survey could limit and possibly diminish the rollout of mobile payment and electronic wallet systems, such as Apple Pay, and the growth in app downloads, according to analysts.

Near half of the respondents said this overall lack of trust limits the the number of apps they download, while 72% said they were unhappy sharing location data or contact details.

The survey was commissioned by MEF, an international trade association focused on mobile content and commerce. MEF, based in London, includes hundreds of large companies as members, including Samsung, Microsoft, and MasterCard, with more than 35 companies from North America alone.

Andrew Bud, chairman of MEF, said the survey results should prompt companies offering mobile payments, content and services to consistently apply “high levels of transparency, security and privacy to every mobile transaction.”

The MEF launched a privacy policy initiative in 2014 to make it easy for app developers to integrate a line of code within an app that offers customers a short explanation of privacy in plain English. Details are on the MEF website at appprivacy.net.

One of the most dramatic findings in the survey shows that 72% of respondents said they were unhappy sharing personal information when using an app, an increase from 65% in 2013. In the U.S., the 2014 number was 79% who said they were not comfortable sharing personal information. And 69% said they had the right to own any data collected through their smart devices.

“These figures have significant consequences for those looking to develop the Internet of Things which seeks to connect billions of devices to the Internet and to each other,” the survey report said.

Because of a lack of trust over security, 36% in the overall survey said they hadn’t tried out a mobile wallet on a smartphone. Meanwhile, only 15% said they had already used a mobile wallet or were thinking of doing so. Mobile users are concerned their personal information might be used without their consent, including 22% who are concerned their financial data might be stolen.


 

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15 essential open source tools for Windows admins

Sure, Microsoft has a ton of useful admin tools, but terrific, complementary open source tools abound

15 essential open source tools for Windows admins
Microsoft admins seeking solid server-side tools know the mothership offers a mother lode of solutions for supporting Windows Server, Exchange Server, SQL Server, SharePoint, and so on. But for those with an eye on the bottom line or looking to branch out in supporting their Microsoft-based server room, plenty of free, open source tools from both Microsoft, via CodePlex, and third-party providers are available. Given Microsoft’s ongoing shift toward hosted solutions like Azure and Office 365, there is more incentive for Microsoft admins to keep an eye on what’s evolving in the Windows admin tools ecosystem.

Following is a roundup of open source tools every Windows admin should be aware of. We last surveyed this territory three years ago, and while some tools have cemented their place in the Windows admin arsenal, Microsoft’s shift in focus toward the cloud is giving rise to a new set of essentials.

Don’t see your favorite tool(s)? Use the comments section to contribute to the list!

WinDirStat
WinDirStat, aka Windows Directory Statistics, is a disk usage tool that provides a variety of statistical views for analyzing how a system’s disk is being used. Every admin wrestles with disk space issues time and again, whether in support of user systems or when monitoring software generates an alert for a critical production server. Sometimes you can quickly see what is taking up all of the disk space on the troubled system, but for those times when it’s not so obvious or you are in a hurry, there is WinDirStat.

Wireshark
Network packet analysis and troubleshooting is a real art, one that requires solid training and years of hands-on experience. But a tool like Wireshark helps ease the learning curve, thanks to its many powerful features. One look at this free software-based protocol analyzer’s color-coding features and you’ll see how its superior usability makes Wireshark a worthwhile tool for any Microsoft shop.

Download: http://www.wireshark.org/

PuTTY
No list of open source tools used by system administrators would be complete without a mention of PuTTY, one of the most widely used terminal emulators. Whether you need to make a serial connection to a switch, telnet, SSH, SCP, or rlogin, PuTTY can handle it. It’s been around since the late ’90s and has spawned dozens of imitators, but none quite like the original.

Download: http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/download.html

AMANDA Network Backup
Admins looking to ease the pain of backing up Windows-based systems should check out AMANDA, aka Advanced Maryland Automatic Network Disk Archiver. AMANDA provides the ability for an administrator to set up a single master backup server that can support both Windows desktops and servers over the network to a variety of media, including tape drives, disks, or optical media with NTFS support.

ZMANDA maintains and supports the freely available AMANDA, as well as ZMANDA Recovery Manager for MySQL. It also provides network and cloud backup services it sells commercially.

Download: http://www.zmanda.com/download-amanda.php

Nmap
Nmap is a network mapping tool that is great for finding out what hosts and services are connected to a given network. While Nmap is often used in the context of security auditing, particularly for detecting open ports and vulnerabilities, many system administrators find it useful for simply keeping track of what is on their network, such as determining the operating system and hardware address of various hosts.

That’s merely scratching the surface. Nmap can be used in so many ways that it is very much worth exploring if you haven’t already. In addition to network inventory, Nmap can manage service upgrade schedules and monitor host or service uptime.

Download: http://nmap.org/

PowerGUI
If you’re looking for a more graphical means of tapping PowerShell (aside from PowerShell ISE), then you should check out PowerGUI. This free graphical user interface and script editor is valuable in its own right, but perhaps more valuable is the community built around PowerGUI, which offers a vast store of contributed scripts and libraries for administering your fleet.

This tool was originally kept up to date through Quest, which was acquired by Dell. Some worried it wouldn’t be improved on going forward, but Dell has indeed continued to work on it.

Download: http://www.powergui.org/

7-Zip
7-Zip is a free, open source archive utility for compressing files. It’s a great alternative to better-known shareware, which should help you avoid the headaches of registering software or clicking through a bunch of warnings about an expired trial period. It supports 256-bit AES encryption and a wide variety of archive formats, so you probably won’t have to resort to another archive solution any time soon. Combine all this with fast, effective compression, and 7-Zip is easily a tool that you will find useful for yourself and the users you support in your organization.

Download: http://www.7-zip.org/

Azure Storage Explorer
Although still in Beta, Azure Storage Explorer is swiftly progressing. It is a GUI tool for inspecting the data in your Azure cloud storage projects, including the logs of your cloud-hosted applications.

Keep in mind the variety of Azure storage “explorers” since folks often want to view their data easily. Jeff Irwin, program manager for Windows Azure Storage, put together a list of these storage explorers, and you can quickly see Azure Storage Explorer compares with other offerings. It is one of the few with the ability to work with block blob storage, page blob storage, tables, and queues.

Download: https://azurestorageexplorer.codeplex.com/

Notepad++
If you find yourself often jotting quick notes in Notepad, you might want to check out Notepad++. Though easy and lightweight, Notepad is sorely lacking in anything but the basics. Notepad++, as the name implies, is an even better take on the trusty, built-in Notepad application. It’s a source code editor and Notepad replacement.

This is no program for simply taking quick notes. It has a tabbed interface that allows you to switch quickly and easily between multiple open files, and it offers spell-check, auto-complete, and syntax highlighting — perfect for writing scripts.

That’s only scratching the surface of what Notepad++ has in store. There are many text editors, but Notepad++ is one to always have at the ready.

Download: http://notepad-plus-plus.org/

UltraDefrag
UltraDefrag is a tool for Windows that can defrag system files, registry hives, and the paging file. It can handle NTFS metafile defragmentation, MFT defragmentation, the defragging of hibernation files, and more. It also provides HTML readable reports. This valuable addition to any Windows environment is continually updated to ensure improvements in performance.

Download: http://ultradefrag.sourceforge.net/

VirtualBox
VirtualBox is a must-have open source virtualization solution for any admin seeking to run guest OSes on Windows, Linux, Macintosh, or Solaris machines. Familiarity with virtualization is fast becoming essential for all system administrators. VirtualBox is a quick and easy way to get started running your own virtual machines. Whether you want to test something out before running it in production or sharpen your skills on an OS you are less familiar with, VirtualBox is a great way to try out virtualization without having to invest in costly software.

Using VirtualBox, admins can run virtual instances of a wide array of operating systems, including Windows, Linux, OpenSolaris, OS/2, OpenBSD, and even DOS. It’s an open source community effort backed by Oracle.

Download: http://www.virtualbox.org/

Angry IP Scanner
Admins often need to quickly scan their network to find a particular workstation or device. There are lots of ways of doing this and plenty of tools to choose from, but when I need something quick and simple, I use Angry IP Scanner.

Angry IP Scanner offers loads of features and can be extended further with additional plug-ins, but I like it for the fact that it is lightweight, not even requiring an installation. Give it a try and I’m sure it will become an indispensable part of your toolkit as well.

Download: http://angryip.org/

Windows Azure Platform Management Tool (MMC)
The Windows Azure Platform Management Tool enables you to manage your Azure-hosted services and storage accounts through an installed MMC console GUI. You can perform a variety of administration and management operations through WAPMMC, including hosted service management, diagnostics, certificate management, storage services, blog storage management, and so on. Anyone moving to Microsoft’s cloud will find this tool indispensable.

Download: http://wapmmc.codeplex.com/

Google Analytics SharePoint 2013 / Office 365
This is an interesting solution for those folks who want to use the powerful and familiar Google Analytics tools within SharePoint and Office 365. It’s a sandbox solution that allows you to then paste the analytics code into Office 365 sites. It works with publishing sites and collaboration sites, so if your organization is hosting team sites, blogs, and the like, check it out.

Download: http://googleanalytics365.codeplex.com/

ClamWin
This free, open source antivirus solution is essential for security-minded admins. ClamWin supports Microsoft Windows versions ranging from Windows 98 to Windows 8, as well as Windows Server 2012, 2008, and 2003. It includes a scanning scheduler that you can use to configure appropriate scan times, automatic signature updates, Microsoft Outlook attachment scan/removal, and more.

Although it may not be 100 percent comparable to a commercial real-time option for virus scanning, ClamWin is certainly a worthwhile tool, especially for shops seeking a free solution. There are other free solutions, obviously, but this one is also open source, a definite plus.

Download: http://www.clamwin.com/


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2015 Unified Communications Predictions Part I

As has been our custom for over a decade, it’s time for our annual predictions on what will happen in the coming year for Unified Communications (UC). We’ll start with what is a clear 2014 trend that will continue in 2015: the growing adoption of cloud-based UC.

Most cloud providers have reported double-digit growth this year of their IP Telephony (IPT) and UC portfolios, while premise-based systems growth remains in the high single digits year-over-year. We attribute this to both to the adoption of stand-alone cloud services, plus the adoption of cloud-based UC as a hybrid solution that also includes premise-based components. We expect to see continued UC endpoint growth as organizations move beyond simple IPT, especially in hybrid solutions that integrate cloud-based UC with private IPT systems.

Both end users and IT organizations continue to become more comfortable with a mobile device or softphone as an IPT endpoint, and we expect that trend to continue, although many users will cling to their desktop phones for years to come.

Another 2014 trend that will accelerate is the proliferation of Voice over LTE (VoLTE) in the U. S. market. AT&T and Verizon network adoption of VoLTE will be especially noteworthy in 2015, as these two carriers move to eventually retire their 3G voice network—providing consumers and business customers with wideband (high-definition) voice and increased compatibility/interoperability with video and other collaboration media. VoLTE acceleration will also help as a prerequisite for replacing the legacy PSTN for carriers who maintain both wired and wireless networks.

The PSTN will continue a steady march toward retirement as AT&T and Verizon lay the groundwork to replace their legacy switching with an all-IP network. AT&T plans to retire its TDM and SS7 infrastructures by 2020. We expect that AT&T and Verizon will still need a host of gateways in 2020 to interconnect with other carriers that aren’t as aggressive with full-scale replacement within the next five years, so the network planners will be very busy with internal projects and interconnect proposals for an orderly transition.

Next time, we’ll cover some other UC news, and then return in 2015 after the holidays with part two of our predictions.


 

 

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