I recently had the pleasure of participating in an advisory board for a technical school in Washington, DC. The school is looking to improve the employability of its graduates, with a distinct focus on computer proficiency.
The meeting went very well. It is always encouraging to see professionals come together with the goal of creating greater opportunities for those wanting to learn and grow in a career. One overriding thing I noticed however, is a growing chasm that has supposedly been closed for some time. Here are my thoughts.
The “Digital Divide” as it’s called, or the inequality of access to digital information, has existed since the beginning of the Internet. Many believe that because the Internet is so pervasive, it alone can bridge this divide and level the playing field for those who are less fortunate.
Unfortunately, I am witnessing a distressing trend. It has been said that the explosion of smartphones and tablets, especially among people of lower economic status, is the great equalizer of this generation. Mobile devices have brought the Internet to countless people who otherwise would have limited, if any access otherwise.
As with any technology, the rule of unintended consequences applies. While mobile devices have indeed granted access to millions, it has done so in a way that limits the overall utility of the information that is accessed.
A Narrow View
Mobile devices are basically small computers, and through a web browser and apps, give their owner a wealth of information and capabilities. The downside is that these devices also foster a “good enough” mentality which results in a lack of professional skills that are needed in any modern work environment.
An excellent example is keyboard skills. While schools can teach typing, not practicing those skills at home (because of a lack of a computer) creates a situation where one subconsciously types as they do on a smartphone — namely, in abbreviations, poor spelling, and brief, often unintelligible speech. Certainly their friends know what they are saying, but such a message in an e-mail would not be acceptable in a professional environment.
Speaking of e-mail, it is also telling that many young people do not know how to address and send an e-mail. Apps have given us easy access to messaging through Facebook, Whatsapp, Kik, Snapchat, etc. After the initial e-mail address setup of an Android or Apple account, many never use that e-mail address again, thus forgetting how to use this most basic communication method.
The web is amazing, but have you ever stopped to think about how many websites are not easily usable on a phone or tablet? For example, have you ever tried to submit a job application on a smartphone? How about writing a resume? Not having access to a computer limits the things you can do, mobile device or not. The idea that a mobile device can completely replace a computer is a great fallacy that sadly many of us blindly believe.
As you read this, you may be thinking, “what is he talking about? I use e-mail, the web, etc. every day!” Of course you do – but those in my age group (40 and up) are not the problem. It is the group of young people coming out of high school and looking to enter the workforce who are lacking these most basic skills.
So how do we solve this issue? I think that we need to take a step back and understand that while technology changes, there will always be a basic set of skills and capabilities that all job candidates need to be successful in the workforce. “Hunt and peck” typing is not acceptable, even in environments where a computer is not accessed all day. A mobile device cannot completely replace a computer — proper typing, the ability to create professional documents, and the need to access information in a large format will always be necessary.
We (parents and school systems) have a responsibility to make access to, and usage of computers a priority. The amount of money spent on a smartphone and cell service these days easily exceeds the cost of a basic laptop. We also need to embrace and encourage these skills from an early age. Today’s young people are very adept at picking up new technologies, but it’s up to us to show them just how important a real computer is. A smartphone is great but it is a companion device, not a replacement, especially for someone who is competing for a job.
Here is an interesting story about a laptop battery exploding. If you ever decide to replace the battery in your laptop, be sure to buy a genuine battery from your laptop manufacturer. There are tons of deals out there on sites like Amazon and eBay, but the quality of those batteries is often suspect. Check out the story below for more info:
Today is the day. After almost 13 years, Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP, perhaps the most popular operating system of all time. While it was great in its heyday, it has become a mess to maintain and has been greatly surpassed by the speed and security of Windows 7 and 8.
If you are still using Windows XP at home or in your workplace, you are putting yourself at serious risk. It is widely believed that hackers, scammers and other miscreants will attack XP with renewed vigor since they know there will be no new security updates coming along. Do not fall into the false hope that your anti-virus software will protect you. Flaws in the operating system itself can easily slip by undetected, so it is in your best interest to upgrade or replace those aging computers.
You need a plan. It does not need to be complicated, but you definitely need to have a strategy in place. The transition process will take several hours, and you basically you have two choices; upgrade to a newer Windows version on your current computer, or replace the computer. Either way, hire a professional. I say this because there are many potential pitfalls involved in an upgrade or replacement, and a pro will have the skills, experience and tools needed to make the transition as smooth as possible. A pro will also be sure to preserve your data.
Of course, Divergex offers a specially-designed service just for the transition from XP to Windows 7 or 8, starting at $325 per PC (including the cost of Windows). Give us a call at 916-271-6369 or visit our contact page for more information.
Electronics giant Sony has announced that it will be closing 20 of its 31 U.S. Stores. The stores were a showcase for Sony’s products, most notably including televisions, laptops, tablets, phones and of course the PlayStation line. With the recent sale of Sony’s PC business, Sony is doing some serious cutting in order to become a smaller, leaner and hopefully more profitable company. Personally I will miss the Valley Fair store in Santa Clara most. Below is a list of the stores that will be closed, and you can read the entire press release here.
- Tysons, VA
- University Village, WA
- Galleria Dallas, TX
- Forum Shops, NV
- Pentagon, VA
- Boca Raton, FL
- Menlo Park, NJ
- Las Americas, CA
- Camarillo, CA
- Aurora, IL
- Gilroy, CA
- Wrentham, MA
- Pleasant Prairie, WI
- San Marcos, TX
- Cherry Creek, CO
- Dolphin, FL
- Century City, CA
- Valley Fair, CA
- Phildelphia, PA (Comcast Center)
- Central Valley, N.Y. (Woodbury Common Outlets)
So you’ve been good this year and Santa brought you a new computer. Congratulations! Here are ten things to do before anything else.
1. Backup the stuff on your existing computer. You should have this already, but if not, do it now.
2. Decide where you’re going to use your new computer most, then clean that place. Too many computers sit in dusty, cluttered, not-meant-for-a-computer spaces. You don’t need furniture polish. A Swiffer is not necessary. A damp paper towel works fine.
3. Figure out where you’re going to plug everything in. Get a good surge protector. There’s nothing worse than plugging a $500+ purchase into a $2 power strip. Stop being cheap. Yes cheap. Make sure there is no chance of tripping over anything.
4. Turn it on and personalize it. This process can take a while, so be patient. Let the computer do its thing. It will probably ask you a lot of stuff about this trial and that trial. Refuse as much as you can. Do you want anything to start up with the computer? Basically no.
5. Start cleaning stuff off. All those things you said no to? You probably should uninstall them. For some reason Windows PCs always come with crap. It’s even called crapware. You want it gone. Get thee to the Control Panel and remove anything that is not important. Not sure? Ask me or someone else who studies this stuff.
6. Look for an office suite. If your computer came with Microsoft Office, congratulations. Is it a trial version? then that congratulations is a bit more muted. No office suite? No problem. Go to http://www.libreoffice.org/ and give LibreOffice a try. It’s a very capable suite that I use myself. Best of all it’s 100% free to download and use. Download it. Install it. Enjoy it. Consider donating to the cause.
7. Copy your files over. You do have a fresh backup from your old computer, right? Copy it over. Organize your stuff so it’s easy to find. Avoid hundreds of desktop icons.
8. Set up anything else you need to get to work. Install your printer/scanner/other doodads. Test it all. If needed, get Skype going with your webcam. Get your iTunes and iPod/Pad/Phone all set up. Plug in your Android phone so that the computer will recognize it.
9. Sit back and marvel at your accomplishment.
10. Figure out what you’re going to do with this new piece of modern tech, then do it. If you need help along the way, contact Divergex for professional help you can afford.
2013 has been an eye-opening year for me. Most of my clients are small business owners so I get to see first hand the problems they face. I have noticed though that one of those problems is often of their own creation. There is no plan in place to deal with catastrophic data loss.
Businesses that use e-mail marketing services are often faced with one large question – how many people actually opened their message. Many e-mail clients, both desktop and web-based, block images by default, as they are used for tracking and in many cases spam. The unintended consequence of these settings is that the user has to manually choose to show the images for certain addresses or messages.
Google has come up with a way to eliminate that problem for Gmail users. They will now cache email images on their own servers, breaking the tracking capabilities of senders. This means that Gmail will now show all images by default, but it also means that tracking the success of e-mail marketing campaigns will now be more difficult because of the sheer number of Gmail users.
UPDATE: MailChimp, one of the most popular e-mail marketing services, has posted a blog entry with their thoughts on the issue. You can read it here.
Over the years I have serviced my share of busted laptops. From coffee-infused keyboards to seemingly inconceivable dents to cracked screens, I really have seen it all. One of the key takeaways from these laptops is that many people don’t take proper precautions. This article will lay out some steps you can take to avoid damaging that precious piece of tech.
Laptop keyboards are much more delicate than their desktop counterparts. The keys are easier to remove and because the electronics of the laptop itself are directly underneath, a spill can have catastrophic consequences.
Avoid having beverages of any kind around your laptop. While many laptops are equipped with “spill-resistant” keyboards, it is better not to take the chance.
If you do have a spill, immediately press and hold the power button until the laptop turns off. Use a soft, absorbent towel to immediately dry as much liquid as possible. If you can, hold the laptop so that the keyboard is perpendicular to a table, so that the liquid will flow down instead of onto the electronics underneath. Be sure to allow everything to dry completely (meaning several hours) before attempting to turn the laptop back on.
If you are fortunate, any damage will be confined to the keyboard, which is usually not overly difficult to replace. Have the work done by a reputable repair service.
I would have to say that a broken screen is likely the most common problem I have seen. Do a quick check on eBay and you will find thousands of laptops with broken screens for sale. Because laptop screens are made with very thin glass, they are prone to breakage when too much pressure or flex is applied.
Basically, once the screen is broken, the laptop becomes pretty useless unless you connect it to an external monitor. The screen can often be replaced, but the process can be tedious and can easily cost more than simply replacing the laptop.
To avoid breakage, there are a few things you can do. Always open and close your laptop’s screen gently, avoiding using the screen’s corners. Using the corners can, however rarely, create enough flex to crack a screen. When transporting your laptop, use a case or backpack with a well padded laptop compartment. This is especially important for students, who may have several heavy books in that same backpack. The padded compartment will provide a nice barrier between the laptop and the weight of the books.
Also, consider purchasing a padded laptop sleeve. These provide protection from dust but most importantly add much needed padding regardless of the type of bag you use to transport the laptop in. A sleeve also provides a bit of cushioning for those times when you are carrying the laptop by hand.
Most people forget about the heat vents found on most laptops. The processor in your laptop creates heat that needs to be dissipated and vented out, and blocked vents can cause overheating and possible damage. Cleaning the vents is often as simple as using a soft cloth to wipe them off. If you have a lot of dust, you may want to use a can of compressed air to blow it out (you can use it to remove dust from the keyboard as well). Doing this once a month will help prolong the life of the exhaust fan, which is another common point of failure.
- If you use your laptop plugged into a wall outlet all the time, at least once a month unplug it and use it on the battery until the battery is low. This will maximize the life of the battery.
- When shutting down, be sure to wait until the computer is completely off before closing the screen. I have seen cases where the screen was closed too soon, confusing the laptop into trying to sleep instead of shut down. This confusion results in the processor continuing to run, causing excessive heat and possible damage to the battery. Remember that batteries can explode or ignite when they overheat.
- Take a moment to think about where you plug your laptop in. Tripping over the power cord can send your laptop flying across the room and can damage the power jack. Make sure the power cord is positioned in such a way that tripping is not a possibility.
- Always use your laptop on a laptop tray or a flat desk or table. The name “Laptop” makes us immediately think of using it on our laps, but doing so can block those important heat vents. Using a tray or table ensures proper airflow. Avoid sitting the laptop directly on a bed, a sofa, or carpet while it is running.
If you treat it well, your laptop can give you several years of trouble free performance. But just in case, always remember to back up your data. Laptops, like any electronic device, can and will fail eventually.
For several years I have been working on a project that deals with philanthropy. It has been challenging at times, pushing my coding skills to the limit, but the longer I have worked on it the more passionate about it I have become. One of the great things about this project is that the people involved are located all over the world but technology allows us to collaborate as if we were all in the same room.
The primary funding for this project comes from Dame Stephanie Shirley. While she may not be a household name in the U.S., she is certainly known in the U.K. She is a true entrepreneur and technology pioneer, having started her own business in 1962 upon hitting the “glass ceiling” at her then current place of employment. She also made it a point to hire women; one only needs to read various technology sites to see how important it is to have more women involved in the technology industry.
Why am I talking about this? Because yesterday I finally had the honor of meeting Dame Stephanie (or “Steve” as she is commonly called) in person. I had spoken to her via telephone but we never had the opportunity to meet until now. We had a couple hours to talk, and exchanged stories about philanthropy, how we got started in computers, women bringing much needed diversity to tech and any number of other topics. She is highly intelligent and strongly believes in what we are doing.
|Me and Dame Stephanie Shirley at the Fairmount Hotel in San Francisco|
Needless to say it was wonderful to meet someone who not only is a fellow entrepreneur, but who pioneered the hiring of women in a time when doing so was not mainstream at all. She also uses her wealth to help others, including Autism research as her own son was autistic.
Meeting Dame Stephanie in person has made me even more passionate about our project and its role in philanthropy. I look forward to continuing our work.
Next, we need to create a new date object (in this case represented by the variable “dt” and assign the current year to variable ‘yr’.
2 var dt = new Date(); // Create a new date object with variable dt
3 var yr = dt.getFullYear(); // Use the getFullYear method to assign the current year to variable yr
Now that we have the current year, we can output the text that site visitors will see.
4 document.write(‘<span style=”color: #888888;”>’); // Output our opening span tag and set the text color
5 document.write(“Copyright © ” + yr + ” Company Name. All Rights Reserved”); // Output the copyright notice
6 document.write(‘</span>’); // Output the closing span tag
I used a span tag so that I can apply an inline style (the text color) and I used document.write so that the entire output will be on a single line. To finish off our notice, I apply the final tag to denote the end of the script.
And that does it! Of course, you can replace “Company Name” in the code above to be whatever you desire. Here is what our finished copyright notice will look like:
Copyright © 2013 Company Name. All Rights Reserved
Here is a look at the entire piece of code, without comments:
2 var dt = new Date();
3 var yr = dt.getFullYear();
4 document.write(‘<span style=”color: #888888;”>’);
5 document.write(“Copyright © ” + yr + ” Company Name. All Rights Reserved”);