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4 Easy Ways to Keep Your Computer Safe

Most of us don’t think about computer security until our desktops and laptops are suddenly infected by viruses. When we can’t log onto the Internet or access our email messages because of malware, we suddenly wish we had taken the steps to protect our computers.

The good news is that protecting your computer is a relatively easy task. It mostly requires some common sense and a few quick fixes.

Business Insider recently provided some suggestions for computer users who want to boost the safety of their machines.

1. Turn off Java

Business Insider led with this for a reason. Java, software that runs interactive functions on some web pages, often opens the doors to hackers. Business Insider cited the 700,000 Apple computers that were—earlier this year—infected with the Flashback Trojan malware. All of the computers were running out-of-date versions of add-ons that let their web browsers run Java.

Turning off Java requires different steps depending on what browsers you are running. If you need assistance, check your browser’s Help section. (Or get in touch with us.)

2. Stay current with all software updates

Busy computer users sometimes forget to check their operating systems for updates. This can be a key mistake: Updates often include protection from the latest viruses. If you ignore software updates, you might be leaving your computer vulnerable to hackers.

If you work on a Mac computer, your updates will be delivered through a system called Software Update. PC software updates come from Windows Update.

3. Lock your computer

Business Insider recommends, appropriately, that computer users lock their computers when the machines are sleeping. Doing this requires that you create a password that users must type in to access your computer.

This might seem like an inconvenience. But, as Business Insider points out, what if someone steals your laptop? If this thief can access your computer without a password, the criminal could easily rummage through your personal files and information.

4. Change your passwords

Business Insider recommends that you change your passwords every month. The site also advises you to create passwords that are difficult for others to guess, like ones that contain letters, numbers, and symbols.

Posted in: Business, Computer Maintenance, Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Apps That Speak Your Language, and Everyone Else’s

You’re traveling overseas this summer for the family vacation of a lifetime. Or maybe you need to travel to a foreign country for business. Problem is, you don’t speak the language.

There’s hope, though, and you can get it from your smartphone. Tech companies today offer a wide range of translation apps for tourists and business professionals who are traveling the globe.

Amy Burke, writing for the American Express OPEN Forum, recently highlighted some of the best of these apps. Here’s what she recommends for travelers who need to surmount those language barriers.

Jibbigo

Burke recommends this app, which charges users $4.99 for every language they need to speak, for its ease of use. The app, available on both iPhone and Android devices, allows users to speak into their smartphones or tablets in their native language. It then provides a quick translation into a specific language via text and voice.

Jibbigo comes with more than 40,000 words in its vocabulary. It also doesn’t require a network connection. This can be important to travelers in remote locations.

Dean Foster’s Culture Guides

These guides are a bit more advanced than Jibbigo. As Burke writes, the guides are available for 12 countries so far. The apps provide users with an overview of these countries, maps, weather reports, and currency exchange rates. Of course, it also provides solid translation services.

Word Lens

Here’s an interesting app that relies on your smartphone’s camera to translate. With this app, instead of typing in words or phrases, you can snap a photo of a street sign, menu, or brochure, and Word Lens will translate the writing for you.

The app is a bit limited so far; Burke writes that it only includes Spanish, French, and Italian to English — and vice versa — so far.

Still, it’s a neat idea. The app is free, but each language will cost you $4.99.

These apps represent just a small sampling of translation tools available to travelers today. If you’re making a jaunt overseas, be sure to search your app marketplace for other tools. You might just find the perfect app to get you over the language bump.

Posted in: Business, Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners, Technology

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Odd Romance: Japan Still Loves the Fax Machine

We think of Japan as being infatuated with all things high-tech. It’s why Apple loves the place; Japanese consumers gobble up the latest iPad and iPod offerings voraciously.

However, there’s one piece of old, old technology for which Japanese consumers still have an unaccountable love — the humble and outdated fax machine.

In the United States we view fax machines as relics—but not at all charming and quaint like, say, an Underwood typewriter. It’s a pain to deal with fax machines and remember all those numbers. And that screeching modem sound? We can certainly live without that.

But in Japan, the fax machine, despite the rise of email, is booming.

Loving the fax

A recent story by BBC News took a closer look at the prominence that the fax machine still holds in Japan. The BBC cited a survey by the Internet Fax Research Institute that found that an amazing 87.5 percent of Japanese businesspeople consider the fax machine to be an indispensable business tool.

The BBC starts its story by interviewing a public-relations expert at a Japanese talent agency. Instead of emailing a proposal for a new project, the public-relations pro was handwriting a letter and faxing it.

His explanation? Communicating in this way better allows his feelings and passions come through.

Handwriting still king

This isn’t unusual in Japan. According to the BBC story, handwriting remains important. In fact, most job seekers handwrite their resumes because Japanese employers judge people’s personalities and character in part from the way they write.

It’s why Japanese holiday cards are almost never sent electronically.

Hard copies are a must

The BBC story says that Japanese people also prefer to hold actual hard copies of documents and correspondence in their hands. This way, there is a more tangible record of what was said during meetings and what was proposed during business workshops.

It might be difficult to imagine in the United States, but there is a high-tech land in which the fax machine isn’t considered a nuisance. So if you’re a fan of the humble fax machine, consider taking a trip to Japan. You’ll get some great food, see some amazing sights, and you’ll be able to enjoy the screeching sound of fax machines in the air.

Posted in: Business, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Not using LinkedIn to Market Your Business? You’re Missing Out

LinkedIn deserves to be ranked among the big three of social media sites, right alongside Facebook and Twitter. But LinkedIn is actually more important for your small business because unlike its rivals, this social-media site focuses specifically on business.

In other words, you won’t have people on LinkedIn posting about how good their oatmeal tasted this morning.

Stephanie Buck, a writer for Mashable.com, recently wrote an illuminating post about how important it is for businesses to turn to LinkedIn for marketing. Here are some of her key points.

Share your successes

As a small business owner you work hard. You have a right to share your success stories. Besides, promoting your company’s successes will also encourage others to look at your business as a successful, thriving company. That’s good marketing.

Buck recommends that small business owners post regularly about their new product lines, hires, and milestones on LinkedIn. She also recommends that owners include links in these posts to their external websites or to their YouTube channels.

Once business owners post these news bits, their updates will automatically show up on the activity feed on their company overview page and on the homepages of those LinkedIn members who follow them.

Find new workers

If your small business is growing, you’ll undoubtedly need to hire new employees. LinkedIn is a great place to find new workers.

When posting new job announcements on LinkedIn, not only will you be attracting the attention of an ever-growing network of business professionals, you’ll also be telling your fellow business pros that you are, indeed, growing. This, too, is positive marketing for your small business.

Expert advice

Buck also points out another benefit of posting regularly on LinkedIn: You can uncover great advice on both marketing and running a successful business from other pros who’ve already done this.

LinkedIn attracts some of the most successful owners of small businesses in the world, and many of these business pros are happy to share their advice and tips with others. Don’t be shy: Ask your fellow LinkedIn professionals for their tips on how to keep a small business bustling in today’s challenging economy.

Posted in: Business, Social Media Marketing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Need Some Brain Food? Follow These People on Twitter

Admit it: Your Twitter friends just aren’t that engaging. They’re wasting your time tweeting about what they ate for breakfast or what happened to their favorite character on their favorite reality show.

You crave more from Twitter. You actually want to learn something.

You’re in luck. Mashable recently ran a list of 25 Twitter accounts that will make you smarter. Need some brain food? Then follow some of these mentally enriching Twitter accounts.

Trivia that matters

Mashable lists Mental Floss first in its list of 25 must-follow Twitter accounts. The @mental_floss account is actually an extension of Mental Floss magazine. The magazine publishes esoteric trivia on a wide range of topics. For instance, the Mental Floss Twitter example published by Mashable states that for several years fine-art competitions were part of the Olympics. Did you know that?

In the same vein is the @GoogleFacts Twitter account. Though this account isn’t actually affiliated with Google, it does provide plenty of offbeat facts to help make you at least seem smarter. Mashable’s example? “You can’t snore and dream at the same time.”

Some words from the experts

Of course, the best Twitter feeds are often from individuals. Fortunately, Mashable found plenty of smart people using Twitter to share their knowledge with the rest of us. One is Neil deGrasse Tyson. He’s an astrophysicist who answers some often strange questions. Again, Mashable provides a great example: Did you know that a fly adds weight to an airplane even if the fly never lands during the plane’s trip?

Elon Musk is plenty interesting, too. He’s the CEO of SpaceX and CEO of Tesla Motors. He usually tweets about science and statistics. For instance, Mashable points to a recent tweet in which Musk pokes fun at the tobacco industry for saying 30 years ago that scientists still disagree on whether smoking causes cancer even though 98 percent of those scientists said that it did.

The big brains

You can also find plenty of stimulating tweets from the biggest brains at the most important scientific and research organizations across the country. Mashable cited NASA as a prime example. NASA’s tweets were especially relevant during the Mars Curiosity rover landing. You might also be interested in following the Twitter account of DARPA, part of the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for developing new military technology.

Posted in: Business, Social Media Marketing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Facing an Emergency? Turn to These Apps

These are dangerous times. Mother Nature is unleashing droughts and record-setting high temperatures. It seems a new tornado is ripping through the Midwest every day. And those are just the big emergencies. What if you lock yourself out of your car when your toddler’s stuck inside it?

Fortunately, there’s a whole class of apps that can help you deal with emergencies big and small.

Here is a closer look at three of these apps that might be able to bail you out in case of an emergency.

AroundMe

AroundMe has been around for a while, but it remains a top locator app. With it, you can find everything from the nearest gas station to the nearest bank.

It’s easy, too, to see how AroundMe might help in case of an emergency.

Say your toddler is sick, you’re in a strange city, and you need to find a hospital as soon as possible. Just log onto the app, click the category that you need — in this case, “Hospital” — and find the nearest medical provider to you.

It’s little surprise that many consumers consider AroundMe to be a must-have app.

CPR & Choking

The name of this app says it all: CPR & Choking will give you tips and full-fledged lessons on how to deal with a person who is choking or who is not breathing. It can be especially handy if you’ve never taken CPR classes or have forgotten what you’ve learned.

This app, which is free, was developed by the University of Washington and King County EMS to save lives. It contains a variety of videos that tell you exactly what to do if someone you know is in the middle of a medical emergency or cardiac event.

There aren’t too many apps that can save a life. CPR & Choking is one of them.

Emergency Radio Free

What if there’s an armed criminal on the loose in your community? What if a tornado has been spotted?

You can stay informed with Emergency Radio Free, an app that lets you access hundreds of police, fire, weather, and other live emergency radio feeds from around the country.

It’s easy, too, to identify and tune into radio feeds in your specific community. You can also save radio feeds to a favorites area so that you can access them quickly should an emergency strike.

Of course, no app, no matter how impressive, will be able to protect you completely from harm should danger arise. These apps, though, will give you the chance to be better prepared should an emergency strike.

Posted in: Business, Social Media Marketing, Tech Tips for Business Owners, Technology

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Avoid the Most Common PowerPoint Mistakes

PowerPoint presentations are the vacation slide shows of the business world: we’ve all sat through boring ones that seemed to last forever.

Fortunately, there are several tips that you can follow to avoid creating a PowerPoint presentation that bores your co-workers. This is important: You create PowerPoint presentations to spread your message, promote products and achieve results.

You can’t do this if no one’s paying attention to them.

Don’t Forget the Creativity

As the writers at Microsoft’s Business Hub say, PowerPoint doesn’t give you permission to get lazy. You still have to be creative if you want to develop a winning presentation that grabs the attention of your audience.

This means that you can’t let PowerPoint’s ease of use trick you into thinking that you don’t have to come up with compelling content. Just because you can create an endless series of text-filled slides doesn’t mean that you should.

So don’t. Come to your sales pitch or company meeting armed with interesting and useful information. Don’t just slap some sales numbers on a series of slides. Instead, explain what these numbers mean.

Come with Solutions

You’ll also want to come armed with ways in which your company’s employees can improve these sales numbers.

Another fault of many PowerPoint presentations: they provide information. But they don’t provide useful strategies for how employees can use that information to better the company’s performance.

If your PowerPoint presentation shows that sales are down, make sure you follow up with your own suggestions on why sales have fallen and what the company can do to boost them. If sales are up? Provide information on how your company can maintain its momentum.

Don’t Get Too Fancy

As TrainSignal Training says, it is possible to get too creative with PowerPoint. Many managers clutter their slides with unnecessary photos and graphics. Others stuff charts that are too small to read on their slides. Still others add moving images that do little other than distract. Don’t fall into this trap. The best way to convey a business message is to do it as directly and simply as possible.

And don’t simply fill your PowerPoint slides with the same words that you’re going to read aloud to your audience. You’re not in the first grade. Your audience doesn’t want to read along while you repeat every word that’s on your PowerPoint slides.

PowerPoint remains a powerful business tool. But it’s one that is easy to misuse. Don’t make the mistake of creating a PowerPoint presentation that turns off your audience.

Get more useful tips at Garr Reynolds’ website.

Posted in: Business, MS Office Tips and Tricks, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Don’t Waste Money on Antivirus Software for Your Phone

Antivirus software has taken a beating lately in the news, mostly because it has struggled to identify and contain some of the bigger malware attacks in recent months.

Antivirus Not Necessary on Smartphones?

Then there’s the realization that antivirus software isn’t much use to consumers who do much of their computing on smartphones. This is important, because so many consumers today read email messages, surf the Web and access social media through their smartphones. If antivirus software isn’t really helping these folks, then the antivirus industry is losing out on a load of potential customers.

Patrick Lambert, a writer for the TechRepublic blog, does a good job at explaining just why consumers needn’t bother with protecting their smartphones with antivirus software.

Smartphones vs. PCs

First, modern smartphones operate differently than do traditional PCs and laptops. On a smartphone, each app is provided with its own work environment and is not able to access the data contained in other apps. This is actually a nice security upgrade from the world of PCs and laptops. Malware that is just installed onto a smartphone will be able to do little harm.

So there’s the first strike against traditional antivirus software: there’s not as much need for it on a smartphone.

Secondly, because of the way smartphones work, antivirus software won’t be able to do much to combat any malware smartphone users do pick up. That’s because antivirus software won’t be able to scan multiple apps to look for trouble.

Smartphone Antivirus Programs

That hasn’t stopped companies from offering antivirus apps for smartphones. Lambert points to VirusBarrier, an antivirus program that smartphone users can purchase in Apple’s App Store. The problem is that the program doesn’t scan anything on a smartphone because it can’t. Consumers, then, who want to scan email attachments have to send it to VirusBarrier from within their mail program. This is not only aggravating, it’s also fairly useless.

Consumers should consider this good news. There really is no reason for them to waste their money on antivirus software for their smartphones.

Learn more at TechRepublic by clicking here.

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Be a Better Procrastinator with These Facebook Tips

Facebook is a great way to waste time. Don’t want to read that business report? Why not log onto your Facebook page? Not in the mood to put the finishing touches on that PowerPoint presentation? Now’s a good time to post about your upcoming family vacation to Disney.

But as good as you may be at procrastinating with Facebook, the odds are good that the following three tips — brought to us by the savvy tech writers at the New York Times’ Gadgetwise column — can boost your time-wasting skills.

Filtering Friends

Do you have a Facebook friend that posts far too often? Maybe there’s not a headline that goes by that this friend doesn’t forward. Maybe this friend posts what he ate at every lunch or what she thinks about every reality show on cable TV.

You need to block this friend’s posts. And you need to do it without resorting to a de-friending.

There is hope. As Gadgetwise says, Facebook lets you trim the content you receive in your news feed and filter out updates from specific sources. Find an update from a person you’d like to eliminate from your news feed and click on the arrow that pops up when you move your mouse’s cursor over the top right side of the update. A menu will show on the screen. Choose “unsubscribe from status updates” for that person to block messages.

Extending Messages, not Friendships

Here’s another nifty Facebook tip: You can send messages to people without first sending them a friend request. Simply go to the Facebook page of the non-friends to which you want to send messages. Search for the “message” button on the upper-right corner of the page. People who let others send them messages without first befriending them will have this button.

Connecting Facebook Chat to Other Services

Did you know that you can connect Facebook Chat to other services? It’s true. If you are a Hotmail user, you can link your Windows Live profile to Facebook. This allows you to chat with online friends directly from your mail window.

You can do the same with instant message services such as Yahoo messenger. Simply search Facebook for information on how you can connect your chat programs to the service.

Read more at Gadgetwise by clicking here.

Posted in: Business, Social Media Marketing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Take the Steps to Protect Your Business Accounts from Hackers

A recent New York Times story should serve as a warning to business owners: They may not be protected should a cyber criminal clear out their bank accounts.

The Times story highlights the 2010 case of an engineering and construction company in California that lost more than $125,000 when criminals hacked into its bank account, using the name and password of the office manager to route the money to eight banks across the country.

The shocking part of the story? Most business owners mistakenly believe that the protection they have on their personal bank accounts extends to their business accounts. In most cases, it doesn’t, and companies can permanently lose the money that hackers have stolen from them.

Keeping Hackers out of Your Business Accounts

How, then, can business owners protect their business accounts from hackers? The Times story recommends that business owners keep firewalls updated and limit the number of employees with access to their business bank accounts.

Businesses should never fall behind on applying security patches to their operating systems, the Times story recommends (and we do too!).

Changing Employee Behavior

Equally important, though, is for businesses to have in place and enforce strict rules monitoring employee behavior. Businesses should forbid employees from accessing social media sites on workplace computers. Businesses should also educate employees on how to recognize unusual links and email messages that might contain viruses or phishing scams.

These email attacks are fairly common. As the New York Times story says, employees might receive email messages that look like they are coming from the IRS or other government agencies. When employees open these messages and click on the links inside them, they might accidentally infect the business’ computer network.

Education is the Key

Attacks like this underscore an important fact: even the most advanced antivirus software can be useless unless employees are educated on safe Internet use.

In the California case cited by the Times, for instance, the company’s office manager had violated the business’ policy by visiting a social networking site from a work computer. The company says that this is probably how the manager’s computer became infected with malware that the company’s antivirus software did not detect.

Read more at The New York Times by clicking here.

Posted in: Business, Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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