oogle to the rescue again after the great help and success of their Person Finder and Crisis Response applications during the Christchurch, New Zealand Earthquake. Businesses rely heavily on email communication these days and if you are running an in-house mail server or simply downloading your emails directly to your individual workstations; due to the power outages, police cordons or your building being damaged this may no longer be an option. In fact I have a client that had this EXACT setup which we switched over to Google Apps for them post the Sept 4th quake who are now in this situation with the recent earthquake but are able to still access this vital communication tool. Google Apps is a great email infrastructure not to mention it gives you shared calendars and also wordprocessing and spreadsheet tools via their Google Docs application all available 24/7. It is very simple to setup and transition over to, at this point I will however point out that you will need access to the following:
What can I say, the Christchurch earthquake has been an extreme tradgedy and totally devistating to the Canterbury region and New Zealand as a nation. Having been in Christchurch on business for the September 4th quake last year and experienced the original quake that started this all we were very lucky, no loss of life and business re-opened in the CBD in a relatively short space of time... this time however it is a beast of a different nature. Being stuck here in Wellington while many of my family, friends and clients are roughing it out in the shaken city I thought I could help just a little through my skills of consulting, technology advice and blogging by offering some how-to's and advice for businesses needing to get back up and some-what operational as they start to work out "where to from here?" and start to rebuild and re-open for business. One thing is for sure, this time the CBD will not be business as usual for a very long time.
As someone who likes to be an early adopter it's a hard life... well not really we play with the cool toys before most of our friends and are constantly on the lookout for the next innovation that's going to change the way we do everyday things.
This month I'm looking mainly at media centre devices and consoles as well as the human interfaces.
The thing that make it a hard knock life for us is our budgets for new toys, and this month sees both the Boxee Box and Xbox Kinect com onto the market (here in New Zealand).
The Boxee Box is something I have followed for a number of years and is the first release of the Boxee software in a dedicated hardware device. Boxee is one of the best open source media centre software apps I have used, it plays virtually anything thrown at it and what I like best is that it pulls related material from the web to augment the media you are watching. It also pulls the best of the web video channels and puts them into an easy to master interface, whether you like to watch a lot of YouTube or TED talks you can find and watch this content all through Boxee. The hardware brings a ready to go media centre with an HDMI port to the party. Produced by D-Link (Who make a lot of routers and other IT equipment) the hardware sports an interesting slanted design and a remote which flips over to give the user a full QWERTY keyboard to interface with the Boxee software.
On the other hand, this month also sees the Xbox 360 Kinect interface to the market, again something I have been following since its original working title "Project Natal". This device using motion capture and depth perception cameras allows you to interface with your Xbox through gesture. Seeing as the Xbox also sports a good media centre, I am leaning towards purchasing this over the Boxee Box purely as I beleive gesture based interfaces will become the next big inovation in the way we humans interact with our technology. We are already seeing this on many other devices such as the iPhone, iPad, many Android phones and of course the Apple trackpad with its multi-finger gesture system.
So many toys, not enough time!
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I got an interesting email through from Rackspace Cloud last week... (Rackspace Cloud being a cloud based hosting, virtual server and storage/CDN available from Rackspace hosting.) The are starting an initiative called "OpenStack" which is essentially the open source software they are using to power their cloud hosting platform. Check out the video below for a good overview.
The company I work for has been with Rackspace Cloud for several years now, seeing as our core business is in delivering and supporting our products and services to our customers, we made the clear cut distinction that we were NOT in the server administration game. We made a major push at the start of this year to move our entire codebase, websites, and web services we had been running on a dedicated server over to the Cloud architecture.
We haven't looked back since as it has added almost unlimited scalability to our web applications, lower cost per GB for delivery to our customers as well as transforming what was a reasonably high fixed cost expense every year (for dedicated server racks) into a variable cost (we now only pay for the bandwidth we actually use to deliver our services!).
All in all if your a company that is in the business of delivering a product online to your customers, quickly and cost effectively heading towards the Cloud might be the move for you.
I am very excited in thinking about the future of Cloud based computing and services for all businesses but where I believe it will make the most difference is in those small to medium size enterprises (SME's) who need email, communication tools and automated business processes (Sales Dashboards, business intelligence statistics). This means your average business can now communicate much more effectively for a fraction of the cost (if not free with tools such as Google Apps Standard), hopefully those days of the clunky old server sitting in the back of the office are numbered!
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I finished reading Seth's book tribes a few weeks back and really enjoy his work... Check out this great video, I will be posting a few other videos and interesting internet/techy/new thinking bits and pieces over the next couple of weeks as there are no journal questions for the next 2 weeks as we are on a break from university.
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So for a "Samuari Tech Geek" i haven't really put up anything on the tech tip yet so I thought I would talk about a couple of useful little tools I have been using.
I just spotted an interesting article on Read Write Web (a great tech blog I read) about a backup tool for Google Docs.
I had a quick read and installed the software only to find it is only for the Enterprise Version of Google Apps (And for those of you out there using Google Apps it looks like a good tool). Myself being a big cloud computing advocate (I live in gmail and Google Docs nowadays and haven't even opened Outlook since the start of the year!) I wanted something that would work with my personal GDocs to have a backup of everything sitting in the Cloud. A quick search turned up a tool called GDocBackup which does exacly what I want. Within a few mouse clicks I had all my documents and spreadsheets saved to a USB drive!
On to useful tool number 2!
The most annoying thing I think about windows is that as time goes on and you are constantly installing new applications and removing old ones Windows just seems to collect fat in its arteries and slow down. I think I experieced this on every windows machine I've ever used. Rather than having to do a fresh install of windows everytime I came across this tool called Registry Fix (Which I now run on every windows machine I work on and even installed it on my parent's computer to keep them from having a techno freakout). I usually run this tool every month or just whenever I feel my machine has become a bit slow of the mark. It takes only a few minutes to zip through and cleans everything up in your windows registry and gains back that bit of lost performance and productivity while not breaking the bank.
SO thats all from me on the tech tip today, I hope to post more useful tools, websites and write some articles on getting the most out of todays technology and looking forward to tomorrow's.
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