Saturday, September 15, 2012

As Microsoft gains, VMware insists that it maintains the upper hand

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA—Each year at VMworld, the questions about Microsoft become a little more insistent. With the maker of Windows Server providing virtualization that’s cheaper and good enough for many IT shops, how long can VMware remain king of the hill?

The questions at the latest VMworld conference that began today have been as frequent as ever. But like always, VMware has answers. After VMware this morning announced it’s dumping a controversial pricing scheme, reporters asked if the move was in response to advances that bring Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization platform and the System Center management tools closer to parity with VMware.

“Everyone in this room knows you cannot compete against Microsoft on price,” VMware Chief Marketing Officer Rick Jackson said in a press conference. “They are the world’s most profitable for-free company ever. You compete against Microsoft on value.”

Simply put, VMware killed its new pricing model (which charged customers for use of virtual memory rather than physical resources) because customers hated it.

“It is an admission that we made things overly complex and we are rectifying that mistake. So, mea culpa,” said VMware’s Paul Maritz, who spent the last four years as CEO and is handing off the position to Pat Gelsinger.

With the pricing fiasco out of the way, VMware has to contend with the real technological advances made by Microsoft. While Hyper-V has traditionally lagged behind VMware in features, Microsoft is beginning to push the envelope.

With the third major version of Hyper-V recently released alongside Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8, Microsoft allowed live migration of virtual machines from one host to another even if they don’t share the same storage.

On this one feature, VMware had to play catchup, and did so today with the announcement that vSphere 5.1 will allow live migration (or vMotion) regardless of what storage a virtual machine’s host server is attached to. The advance was announced as part of vSphere 5.1, which will be available on September 11.

But VMware argued that it has lots of other stuff Microsoft doesn’t have, particularly in the realm of managing virtual machines and automating data center operations.

Maritz, a former Microsoft Windows executive, said “[Microsoft’s] strategy for the last seven years has been to say 'our products are good enough,' not that it’s the leading product but it’s good enough. The reality is people’s expectations of what is needed are rapidly changing.”

“Everybody has a hypervisor today and everybody gives it away for free,” Maritz continued. “What it’s all about are the automation layers on top of it,” and extending the benefits of virtualization from servers to the entire network.

How is VMware achieving that? The company today explained it wants to make “virtual data center” a phrase just as commonly uttered as virtual machines. Instead of merely virtualizing CPU capacity, a virtual data center brings CPU, storage, network services, security, load balancing, and other characteristics together into a single profile that can be easily reproduced and provisioned.

This is part of vCloud Director 5.1, which can create the so-called virtual data centers consisting of up to 30,000 virtual machines and associated resources. The software doesn’t really automate every aspect of data center management, but it should make things quite a bit easier.

VMware Product Manager Michael Adams explained in an interview that an IT shop might create a virtual data center with certain storage, security, and availability characteristics, and be able to provision it to different business units. Not all business units’ needs are the same, so the IT shop could create several versions, with higher or lower performance and cost. It’s similar to the concept of creating standard virtual machine images, but expanded to encompass storage, networking, availability, and security characteristics instead of just the virtual machine itself.

VMware executives claimed that the software can reduce the time it takes to set up entire virtual networks from days to minutes.

vCloud Director is one of those automation layers referenced by Maritz, available for an extra fee beyond what you pay for vSphere (the core virtualization platform). vSphere 5.1 makes numerous improvements in addition to the live migration enhancement mentioned earlier.

Virtual machines created by vSphere can now be twice as big, with up to 64 virtual CPUs, and 1TB of virtual RAM, putting vSphere on par with Hyper-V 3.0. Hyper-V can support bigger hosts, though, up to 320 CPUs and 4TB of RAM, compared to vSphere 5.1’s limits of 160 CPUs and 2TB RAM. VMware claims to be able to pump out one million input/output operations per second on a single virtual machine.

More important for most regular users are improvements to everyday operations. Adams said VMware’s distributed switch has added a network health checker which searches for potentially unstable network configurations and recommends fixes. The virtual switch’s configuration can now be backed up and restored, and rolled back to a previous state, while support for the Link Aggregation Control Protocol helps with failover and network utilization, he said.

Other new features include data protection that relies on EMC Avamar technology to back up virtual machine data, with de-duplication as a standard feature. This replaces the previous vSphere data recovery product.

Some pre-existing features that required purchase of separate products have been integrated into vSphere 5.1. For example, a virtual machine replication service that was part of the separate Site Recovery Manager software is now part of vSphere. vShield EndPoint, a security product that monitors traffic going into and out of a virtual machine instead of relying on traditional antivirus software inside the VM, is also now a part of all versions of vSphere.

vSphere comes in several editions that vary by features and price. A breakdown of each can be found in this VMware document.

It's clear that virtualization is becoming more important. VMware and Microsoft will remain major players in the data centers of both the world’s biggest companies and the smallest IT shops for many years to come. Already, more than 60 percent of the world’s x86 server-based applications are running on virtual machines, VMware said, citing numbers from IDC. VMware also cites research from Gartner indicating that 81 percent of virtualized workloads run on VMware.

But that latter statistic is from mid-2010—Microsoft and other competitors such as Citrix XenServer and KVM may have gained some share in the meantime. After being pretty much the only game in town a few years ago, VMware is being forced to explain why it should still be considered the best in the business.


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Google's New Nexus 7 Tablet Gives Android an Instant Boost

Google’s slick Nexus 7 tablet - running the latest version of Android, dubbed Jelly Bean - arrived in stores in the middle of July. For the next couple of weeks, the Nexus 7 was so popular it was virtually impossible to find. The wait for delivery on the Google Play store was more than a week. And even beyond fast early sales, the Nexus 7 and Jelly Bean are already having a profound impact on Android.

According to numbers from Google, Jelly Bean is running on 0.8% of Android devices. While 0.8% may not seem that significant, it's actually quite impressive when you put it in context.

About 1 million Android devices are activated across the globe daily. The vast majority of even those new devices are not running the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system. In fact, most Android devices are still running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, released at the end of 2010. The latest numbers from Google pin Gingerbread at 60.6% of all Android devices.

It is important to note that Google measures these numbers by calculating the types of devices that have accessed its Android Google Play store over any 14-day period. If a device did not access Google Play, it is likely not among the monthly stats that Google gives developers.

One complaint that many consumers have about Android is that their devices do not receive new versions of the platform in a timely manner - or ever. Google announces the versions once or twice a year but new devices that are sold with the latest software do not come for months. Existing devices often take even longer to get updates, if they get them at all.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) was announced at the end of 2011 and represented a big step up for the platform in terms of performance, design and function. The problem was that ICS was available on just one device, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and through limited carriers. Updates and new devices running Android 4.0 did not arrive until the middle of spring 2012.

For instance, the first ICS device (the HTC One X) did not show up on the nation’s second largest carrier, AT&T, until the middle of May. More than six months after ICS was announced, the operating had barely been installed on 3% of all Android devices. As more devices are being updated and shipped using ICS, Android 4.0 has risen to 15.9% of all devices.

Further extrapolation of Google’s data shows us that larger screens comprise an increasing segment of the active Android user base. This is in large part because of the Nexus 7. Google defines “large” screen devices as those with displays between five and seven inches. It further classifies devices between four levels of pixel density (low, medium, high and extra high). With a resolution of 1280x800, the Nexus 7 falls into the “extra high” category.

Taken together, large screens with extra-high pixel density now make up 4.5% of Android devices that have accessed Google Play. That number was virtually zero in the months leading up to the release of the Nexus 7, as there were basically no seven-inch tablets with extra-high resolutions on the market.

What does that tell us? First, the Nexus 7 is selling extremely well in relation to the rest of the Android ecosystem. Second, people with Nexus 7 devices are accessing Google Play at high rates. That makes sense. The first thing that people do when they get a new mobile device is access the store to find apps and other content to use with their new toys.

In many ways, that 4.5% Google Play access figure is more telling for Android and Google than the 0.8% of devices that are running the  Jelly Bean operating system.

The question for the long run is how well the Nexus 7 sustains this rate of growth. Consumers, and especially Android enthusiasts, are naturally excited about Google’s first flagship tablet with the latest version of its operating system. When Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet was released late in 2011, it saw a similar spike in adoption in its first few months on the market. Sales and use of the Kindle Fire have since tapered off.

So far, as we see through the Jelly Bean adoption rates, Google’s entrance into the tablet market with the Nexus 7 has been a success. That will be cause for celebration for many Android fans and employees at Google (and its manufacturing partner ASUS, which built the tablet).

That excitement is justified. Google has registered a clear win with the Nexus 7, and by correlation, its Jelly Bean-deployment strategy. But Google's celebrations should be tempered as the market awaits fall (or, really, holiday) tablet plans from Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. Whether the Nexus 7's success is lasting or fleeting will be evident by the end of 2012.


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Good ideas, middling execution: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 reviewed

Smartphones and tablets with touchscreens have succeeded in no small part because of their simplicity. Things like memory management and multiple layered windows were removed from the equation and replaced with fullscreen applications that allowed for only minimal background activity. To varying degrees, multitasking via applications running in the background has come to iOS and Android, but even Windows is moving away from windowed programs toward a brave new fullscreen future.

At least, to a point. Windows 8 will retain its traditional desktop to enable more versatile computing when desired, and we hope to see more versatile multitasking to come to other tablets as well. Samsung's new Galaxy Note 10.1 wants to be one of those tablets, trying a couple of different multitasking methods that actually work quite well—or they would, if they could support any applications that weren't built in to the device.

The hardware: High-end inside, cheap and plasticky outside
Let's start with the good: the Note 10.1, which measures 7.1" x 1.3" x 10.3" and weighs 1.3 pounds, is powered by a 1.4GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos 4412 CPU and an ARM Mali-400 MP4 GPU. As our benchmarks will show, this is a fast combination that compares favorably to other Android tablets and to Apple's iPad. 16GB and 32GB capacities are available now, with a 64GB version planned for release at an unspecified future date—for now, up to 32GB of additional storage can be added via the MicroSD card slot. A 5.0 megapixel rear camera with flash and a 1.9 megapixel front camera are also included; the latter is suitable for video chatting and not much else, and the former takes passable-but-noisy photos with muted colors.

Rounding out the hardware is dual-band WiFi (a 3G version is forthcoming) and Bluetooth 4.0; HDMI output and USB On-The-Go support are both possible if you purchase the required dongles. One odd but interesting inclusion is the presence of an IR blaster, which can be used to control your television and other boxes in your home entertainment center via the included Peel Smart Remote app—this feature has also been available in some past Galaxy Tab hardware. An equally interesting omission is its lack of an NFC chip, meaning that you won't be able to beam information easily between the Note 10.1 and your Galaxy S III or Galaxy Nexus.

Now that we've got the good stuff out of the way, let's talk about the physical construction of the tablet.

The body of the Note 10.1 is made entirely of plastic, so it weighs less than both the latest iPad and older tablets like the Motorola Xoom, making it a bit more pleasant to use in portrait mode. However, the plastic has a lot of flex to it, especially on the back, and it contributes to a cheap feeling that belies the Note 10.1's premium pricing. There are ways to do plastic well—I'd hold up the Nexus 7 and Nokia Lumia 900 as good examples—but the Note 10.1 doesn't stand up to either of those two. The Galaxy Note smartphone is similarly light and all-plastic, but its more rigid, texturized plastic back and lack of chintzy silver trim (which the Note 10.1 has) make it look and feel better in the hand.

The screen is also a disappointment—it's bright and has good color and viewing angles, but a 1280x800 screen in a $500 tablet is a definite strike when other tablets in the same price range are offering 1920x1200 (in the case of ASUS' Transformer Pad Infinity) or 2048x1536 (Apple's newest iPad). It's a perfectly serviceable screen, but that's the nicest adjective it elicits.

Benchmarks and battery life

The extra CPU cores in the Nexus 7 and Note 10.1 give them better Geekbench scores than the iOS devices, though as the Sunspider scores show, additional processing power doesn't always translate directly into increased performance. In this case, the Note 10.1 is still faster than the Nexus 7 and both iPads.
In our GPU tests, our first with the recently released GLBenchmark 2.5, the Note 10.1 edges out the old iPad 2, but falls far short of the Retina iPad—Apple's tablets have always placed a heavy emphasis on GPU performance, so this should come as no surprise.

The Exynos 4 is manufactured on a 32nm process, so this power doesn't come at the cost of battery life. In our usage, which combined Netflix streaming, Web browsing, note-taking with the S Pen, and light gaming—all with WiFi enabled and the screen at 50 percent brightness—the 7,000mAh battery lasted for about eight-and-a-half hours, comparable to other tablets of this size. Your mileage will obviously vary depending on the specific tasks you're performing.

The thing that Samsung hopes will differentiate the Note 10.1 from other Android tablets is the S Pen, a small, light stylus that slides into the tablet's case while not in use. As we discussed in our original hands-on, the stylus interacts with an additional layer underneath the LCD—it won't work with any old tablet, but the additional hardware makes it a bit more accurate than plain capacitive styli (it also allows the tablet to detect the tip of the pen even if it isn't touching the screen). The tablet's Wacom digitizer is pressure-sensitive, though Samsung's advertised 1,000 sensitivity levels seems a bit optimistic based on our usage.

The Note 10.1 features a few apps designed to use the S Pen—the most prominent is Samsung's own S Note, which allows for both the scrawling of notes and the drawing of pictures. Its many buttons and settings are a bit oblique at first, but a set of instructions and some poking around will soon familiarize you with its features. S Note also includes handwriting recognition for text and equations, which works fairly well, but I was able to get the application to crash pretty consistently if I threw too much at it too quickly—the worse the handwriting, the quicker the app was to crash.

The other apps designed to showcase the S Pen include Adobe Photoshop Touch, which is made much more accurate by the tablet's ability to detect the tip of the pen from a couple of inches away; Crayon Physics Deluxe, a fun if nearly four-year-old game; and, an e-textbook app that lets you highlight passages of books and write notes in the margins. Other apps designed with the S Pen in mind are available in Samsung's app store, though the majority of applications from the Google Play store are going to be designed with fingers in mind.

The software: TouchWiz and multitasking

Users of the Galaxy SIII, the original Galaxy Note, or other recent Samsung phones won't be surprised much by the TouchWiz interface—this is the same skinned version of Android we've seen before. A handful of Samsung and third-party applications are preinstalled. TouchWiz's most useful changes are small ones: easy controls for enabling and disabling WiFi, Bluetooth, and other features are now available in the Notification Center, and the tablet's five home screens loop back around from left to right or vice versa as you swipe through them. Samsung's software keyboard also offers several advantages over the stock keyboard, including Swype support and an always-on row of number keys. Other changes are more superfluous—the most obvious example is the dedicated screenshot button in the menu bar, which is there despite the fact that taking screenshots by pressing the volume down and power buttons simultaneously still works.
TouchWiz is still running on top of Android 4.0 (with a 4.1 update promised later in the year), and while its fast hardware helps to keep things smooth during general usage, it's unfortunately plagued by some of the intermittent stuttering that affects pre-Jelly Bean versions of the software. Scrolling up and down a webpage remains the most reliable way to get the device to stutter, and some of the home screen widgets enabled by default on the Note 10.1 are also performance killers that could leave the wrong impression with people using the tablet for the first time.

There are two ways in which the Note 10.1 attempts to bring multitasking to Android: the first is its list of mini apps, including a calculator, a basic mail widget, a task manager, a music player, and a few others. Tapping the arrow in the middle of the menu bar will bring up the list, and tapping the app will launch it over top of the currently running Android app. These apps are easy to invoke, use, move around, and dismiss, and they're a logical evolution of the existing Android widget system.

The second multitasking addition the Note 10.1 makes to Android is called Multiscreen, and it allows you to run a few of the preinstalled applications side-by-side, with each taking up half of the screen. You invoke it by opening up one of the supported applications, tapping the Multiscreen button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, and then tapping the other app you'd like to open. Unlike the Snap feature in the upcoming Windows 8, which lets you run two applications simultaneously but restricts one of them to a narrow strip on the left or right side of the screen, Samsung's Multiscreen lets you use two full-featured applications at once.

We noticed some intermittent lag when switching between applications—S Note was again the most frequent offender, and the Gallery application actually locked up and crashed once—but when it works, it's a solid addition to Android, and offers another benefit of using 10" tablets over 7" tablets.

Applications that support this functionality include the built-in browser, the S Note app, the built-in Polaris Office suite, the photo gallery, the video player, and the e-mail app (but not the Gmail app). Therein lies the feature's biggest weakness: at this point, it doesn't support third-party applications, so if you want to use Chrome alongside your word processor of choice, there's not much you can do. Multiscreen is ultimately a decent concept that falls apart once you need anything other than the half-dozen applications that support it.

The multitasking implementation on the Note 10.1 isn't half bad. The concept of mini apps is a marriage of standard Android widgets and traditional windowed multitasking that mostly works, and while the multiscreen mode does exhibit some lag when trying to switch between applications, it gets the job done.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 has too many problems to be a great tablet. It's too flimsy and its screen doesn't hold a candle to other similarly priced tablets. It's too expensive as well. The tablet's performance and battery life are good, but they certainly don't blow the competition out of the water—we probably won't see that until the Exynos 5 and other Cortex A15-based SoCs begin showing up in devices. The S Pen makes Samsung's latest a bit more interesting for artists or heavy note takers and enables the use of apps (like spreadsheet or image editing programs) that benefit from the additional precision, but most Android applications will still be developed for fingers first.

The Note 10.1's more interesting ideas are in its software—if some of its multitasking ideas were integrated more fully into Android, smoothing out the rougher edges and giving third-party developers the ability to support the features, they could point a way forward for Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and any other company looking to close the multitasking gap between tablets and traditional laptops.
The good

    Speedy internals and lots of RAM
    S Pen is comfortable and responsive
    Mini apps and Multiscreen mode are good ideas, but they're limited by the small number of available apps
    Good battery life
    Front-facing speakers

The bad

    Lack of Jelly Bean leads to intermittent jerkiness despite the hardware
    Bright screen with good colors and viewing angles is marred by a low resolution for this price range
    S Note is promising but unstable, especially in handwriting recognition mode
    Middling cameras
    Lack of NFC

The ugly

    Cheap, flexible plastic doesn't feel like a $500 tablet should


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Hurricane Isaac 2012: Death Toll In Haiti Rises To 10

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Haitians began to dig themselves out of the mud on Sunday, one day after Tropical Storm Isaac doused the Caribbean nation and killed eight people here and another two in neighboring Dominican Republic.

With a reported total of 10 deaths for the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by the two countries, the scale of devastation was less than many people had feared.

But the capital and countryside of disaster-prone Haiti did suffer sporadic flooding, fallen poles and scores of toppled tents that housed people who lost their homes in the massive 2010 earthquake.

Joseph Edgard Celestin of Haiti's Civil Protection Office offered few details on the storm-related deaths, but said one man was swept away as he tried to cross a river in a village in the country's north.

Haiti's Civil Protection Office said in a separate report that a 51-year-old woman was killed in the southern coastal town of Marigot after a tree fell on her home. A 10-year-old girl was killed in the village of Thomazeau after a wall collapsed on her.

In neighboring Dominican Republic, police reported that two men were swept away by flooded rivers that burst their banks. One victim was identified as Pedro Peralta, a former mayor in Villa Altagracia, a town northwest of the capital of Santo Domingo. His body was recovered Sunday by rescuers on the banks of the Haina River.

Another male victim, whose identity was not disclosed, was swept away by the Yaguaza River, Dominican police said.

Across Haiti, the number of people evacuated due to flooding rose over the weekend. More than 14,000 people had left their homes and another 13,500 people were living in temporary shelters until Saturday night, the Civil Protection Office reported. Some 8,400 evacuees were in the country's western department, the most populous and where the capital of Port-au-Prince is located.

The World Food Program had distributed two days of food to 8,300 of the people who had left their houses for 18 camps.

The Haitian government reported that a dozen houses were destroyed and another 269 damaged.

Impoverished Haiti is prone to flooding and mudslides because much of the country is heavily deforested and rainwater rushes down barren mountainsides. It's not uncommon for storms to turn deadly; a storm in the Caribbean last year unleashed mudslides that killed more than 20 people in the capital.

In Fourgy, a hardscrabble neighborhood in the northern part of Port-au-Prince, residents used buckets and brooms to clean out mud from their homes and courtyards as chocolate-color flood waters from the nearby Grise River began to recede.

The water arrived early Saturday morning, rising up to the waist of an average adult, but by Sunday it had dropped to about shin high. Still, it was enough to destroy the few belongings of some people.

Rene Stevenson readily gave an inventory of possessions lost to the flood: bed, radio, TV set, plastic chairs.

"Everything's totally lost," fumed Stevenson, a 24-year-old cab driver with dried mud on his bare chest.

If mud caused anguish in Fourgy, wind was the source of despair down the street in Pwa Kongo neighborhood. Isaac blew down rows of tents and other temporary shelters people had lived since they lost their homes in the 2010 earthquake.

Displaced again, the several dozen occupants took their belongings and spent Saturday night sleeping on the wooden pews of a small church next door.

"There's a church so we're here," said Arel Homme Derastel, a 32-year-old father of three. "All's broken."


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Top 10 Tips to Write Effective Emails

I don’t know about you, but I get a good amount of emails every single day. We’re talking a minimum of about 50-100 emails a day that I absolutely have to read, generally more. This of course doesn’t include the emails that I can skim or just ignore. These are in the absolutely need to read, critical emails.

And as such, I’ve noticed over time that some emails are much much easier to read than other. There’s so much of a difference that some emails I cringe at the thought of having to read them whereas others I’m almost looking forward to reading them. We all make snap decisions on whether an email will be pleasant to read or not with just a single glance, before we even know what it’s about!

Which is why today I’m going to share with you the Top 10 Tips I’ve come up with that can improve any email. These tips will prevent your emails from being ignored, or being put on hold because the receiver is not looking forward to reading them. I’m going to give you some simple tips to improve your emailing.

1. Use sentences

I really hate to have to bring this up, but it must be said, and it must be said first and foremost. When you write an email, use sentences. The first letter of the first word of a new sentence should be uppercase. It’s important because it makes your email that much more readable. I’ve received too many emails where all the letters were lowercase. It might not seem like a big issue but it definitely makes reading any email much harder. Especially if you have longer paragraphs. Then it just becomes brutal!! If you’re guilty of this and you don’t believe me, try having someone send you a full page with no sentences. You’ll be surprised at how hard it is to read.

2. Break it up into paragraphs

You might not be writing a paper, but I can’t stress how much it helps if you break up your email into paragraphs. That is logical groups of sentences that deal with a specific theme or thought. Having a full page of text with no paragraphs is also almost impossible to read. You start to lose context. You lose focus of where you’re at. It makes it really hard. And good luck trying to respond to such an email in parts.

3. Re-read your emails

Please please please re-read your emails. Too many emails are quickly written and not even re-read once. It’s obvious when you get one of these. Nothing makes sense. The sentences don’t even make sense. It’s all over the place. Not all the time, but many times it’s hard to just understand what the other person is trying to say. Please be careful to re-read your emails if at all possible, especially if you’re asking for something. It can make a huge difference.

4. Take a minute to write a good subject title

Many times the decision on whether to read an email now or later, or if at all, is made by just reading the subject title. Now I’m not talking about writing headlines that attract people to your emails like spammy emails do. I’m talking about writing subjects that will make sense to the person receiving the email. For example, if your email is about a company meeting, then make sure to reference that in the subject. Basically make it obvious to the person receiving it what the email is about because it really helps. Not only that, but it also makes looking for emails later on that much easier. What, you mean the email you sent me about our decision to use Malbolge as our programming language, let me see if I can’t find it. There’s nothing here, I’ll have to do a full search, give me a few minutes to find it because there’s a few dozen emails that appeared in the search results. Ugh.

5. Keep it short if possible

Unless it’s a personal correspondence, you generally want to keep your emails as short and sweet as possible. It’s great that you can write amazing poetic and elegant verses, but when it comes to business please keep it as simple and as much to the point as possible.

6. Be careful of the tone

Unfortunately with email, it’s very easy to say something one way and have the other person take it in a completely different way. Tone is something that’s easy to do with a phone call but hard to convey by email. This is why you sometimes see emoticons (more for personal emails), so that you can make sure the person correctly interprets your tone. Whether or not you use emoticons, because in many situations they aren’t appropriate, be very careful what you write so that it cannot be interpreted in a wrong way.

7. Make it respond-able

This goes back a lot to tip #2, “Break it up into paragraphs”. Basically if you want someone to reply, try to break up your email into chunks, chunks that make it easier for the person to reply and respond to. For example avoid writing 10 questions in one paragraph, break each question into it’s own line, or something like that.

8. Avoid background images and pictures in your signature

They may look cute on your computer, but it’s much harder for other people to read. That and not all systems that read email are able to display them correctly. On top of this they sometimes make your email much harder to read. I’ve seen some background images that made reading the text virtually impossible until I copy & pasted it out into another application. If someone has to do this, odds are they won’t read it.

9. Correctly setup your from email address

A lot of people forget to setup their from email address, and this is unfortunate. The reason you want to set this up is to let people know who is sending the email. Sure it’s cool to see the email address, but sometimes it’s even better to have a name. I may not know that is your email address and may therefore ignore it, or assume it’s unimportant. Instead let me see your name so I don’t have to make the association between you and some random email address.

10. Avoid attachments

If at all possible, put the text in the email itself. As cool as it is to write a Word document, a PowerPoint presentation, a PDF, and so on, if at all possible please put the content directly in the email. The odds of someone reading your email quickly decrease if they have to open up attachments. It’s one more step that’s annoying, especially if there’s no reason for it. And there’s also the possibility of viruses because how can I trust your attachment is safe for my computer. As well, if I ever have to look up what we said, I can’t do a search through the file attachments. This means that the only way I can find your message is by opening the messages and attachments one by one. That’s brutal!!

Bonus Tip 1: Don’t assume your email will remain private. Yes, all emails are suppose to be confidential, but the unfortunate reality is that this isn’t always the case. Therefore be attentive and careful about what you write because you never know where the email will end up. In  most cases it’s ok, but you never know.

Bonus Tip 2: Not all emails are urgent. I can’t stress this enough. I know of a few people that mark almost all of their emails as urgent. This is actually quite annoying. Not only that, but have you ever heard of the story of the boy who cried wolf too many times? That’s what will eventually happen.

Source -

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Monday, September 10, 2012

How To Delete All Facebook Messages In One Click [Quicktip]

Deleting messages on Facebook is not as easy as deleting your email, as Facebook intends to keep your conversation history in Messages and Facebook Chat intact.
Facebook Messages
To delete messages on Facebook, you will need to open the individual message, go to options and start selecting the message you want to delete. If you have many messages, the process can be very time-consuming. Otherwise, you can simply remove the messages from the message list, but doing this will not remove the message permanently. Instead it will be archived, and will reappear when the person sends you a new message.
Here’s where we bring in some help i.e. ‘Facebook Fast Delete Messages‘, an extension for your Chrome browser that will allow you to delete Facebook messages with a single click.

Deleting Facebook Messages (Slow)

You can open your Facebook messages and you can select to send your messages to ‘Archive’, one by one. However, the message you delete will not be removed permanently; it will reappear when the person sends you new messages.
Delete messeges

To delete individual messages, you need to open each message first. Do this by clicking on theActions button and select Delete Messages.
Action delete

You will see all your messages with this friend, with checkboxes on the side of each message. Select the messages you want to delete by ‘checking’ the box next to the message, or simply click on the Delete all button.
Delete all
It’s tedious, isn’t it?

Delete All Facebook Messages At Once

To take control of your Facebook messages, go to the Facebook Fast Delete Messages extension page with your Chrome browser and click the Add to Chrome button to install.
Facebook Fast Delete Messages
Once installed, the extension is activated automatically. Now to delete your Facebook messages with only one click without having to open the individual conversation pages open your Facebook Message page. You will see two extra buttons, one at the top bar and another highlighted in red. Click these buttons to permanently delete your messages and conversations.
Delete message


With this chrome extension, you don’t have to go through the long process of message deleting, forever clicking to delete your Facebook messages. Get the extension installed onto your Chrome browser, and you can now delete messages with a single click!

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5 Things You Should Consider Before Getting A DSLR
You have a lot of love and passion for photography, and you are constantly clicking with whatever you have – your iPhone camera, your film camera, your point and shoot, etc. You are browsing the Internet, most probably Flickr, Facebook or deviantART and you notice some sharp, well-executed photographs.

(Image Source: Sam)
On checking the EXIF data of the available image, you come to find out that the image was shot using a DSLR. After this, you start checking the DSLR prices on Amazon, or any other online website, and decide it is time you buy youself a DSLR camera and produce great shots yourself; but the real question is – do you actually need one?
I have been into photography for the last 6-7 years and had only recently bought my own DSLR around a year ago. I noticed that many people start their passion for photography with a DSLR (usually a medium end one). I’m not sure that it’s really something that you should start with, since I believe that getting a DSLR require some pondering.
Here are some of the things you should consider before emptying your pockets for a DSLR.
1. Type Of Photography
One of the first things to consider when buying a DSLR is the type of photography practiced by you. Whether you mostly shoot weddings, or family events, schools events or just at random, the type of photography greatly influences the type of camera to use for the purpose.
For example, using the idea of wedding photography, a photographer may be required to film videos as well. Carrying an extra HD video camera would just increase the bulk and hassle. It would be much wiser to use a DSLR that supports HD video recording – such as the Canon EOS 5D MKII and Nikon alternative D700.

(Image Source: Videomaker)
Another consideration to be taken into account is the weight of the camera, which includes all the accessories. If a person is a wedding photographer or a travel photographer, he or she may have assistants carrying the accessories and thus weight may not be the prime problem.
However, if you are a photojournalist or a war-photojournalist, you would be on the move constantly. Carrying bulky items would not be the most intelligent, let alone safe thing to do.
On the other hand, if you photograph family events and you take thousands of images every day, do you really need an SLR? I would rather spend on a good Point-and-Shoot camera than spend on an expensive DSLR if the only purpose of my camera is to take photographs of family events, and snapshots as I go out with family, friends, relatives, and so on.

2. Professional Or Hobbyist

If you are a professional photographer, do you have to have a DSLR? No.
True, being a professional requires you to have equipment worthy of the task at hand, but just because you are a professional does not mean you must work only on the DSLR. In fact, many professionals still rely on 35mm film cameras, abeit the good ones. How about if you are new to photography, or have just started it, and have caught the photo-bug while indulging in it, do you need the DSLR? The answer is yet again, no.

(Image Source: Crezalyn Nerona Uratsuji)
I would suggest using a Point & Shoot camera for the first 1-2 years and then gradually moving onto a UZ camera (Ultra-Zoom). Once you feel comfortable using a UZ camera and believe that you have learned all the basics of photography and that your photos have reached their maximum level of ‘goodness’ then I’d suggest trying your hands on an entry level DSLR camera.
If you are a professional photographer and want to move into the "digital" age, then get yourself a full-frame sensor DSLR camera. Remember your camera is only as good as you get.

3. Maintenance Of A DSLR

Getting a DSLR is no child’s play. It requires your utmost dedication. You don’t just play with it, you have to always ensure that the camera is always in perfect condition. As with other normal Point & Shoot cameras, your DSLR is not just made to stand "shoot and forget" attitudes. Before each shot, you need to make sure that the lens is clean, the sensor is clean and that there is absolutely no speck on dust on either of the items.

(Image Source: Mumbai Pav)
Owning a DSLR is like owning a car. If you keep it under regular check it would work best, if not, you would encounter some problems later on with the camera that would cost you.
Now, how exactly can you take care of your precious, expensive DSLR? The answer is to buy a sensor cleaning kit. That would help you clean most of the items: sensor, lens, viewfinder lens, etc. Any dust that lands on the lens or sensor would show up on the final image. Thus, it is very important for the specks of dust to be cleaned right away – they could also end up scratching your lens or sensor, rendering them useless unless you like extra decorations in your pictures. If you don’t, this means a dent in your wallet.
Dust in the viewfinder will be visible through your viewfinder scope and even though it is not that dangerous, it is wise to clean the dust to avoid any risks.

4. Price

This is one of the main factors that determines whether you should get a DSLR or not. The very first thing is to chalk out a budget plan for yourself – including the price of camera, lenses, and accessories if any – and see which camera comes in your range.
Once you have a list of potential cameras in your budget range, you should visit a website like to compare the cameras, and find the best three from your list. Keep in mind that you do not necessarily have to buy the best camera in your budget and you could always compromise a little money on the body itself (as long as they both have the same sensor size) and get an additional lens instead.

(Image Source: Claudio Matsuoka)
If you have a smaller budget of say below $500 then it would be much wise to get a Point & Shoot camera, keeping in mind the type of photography that interests you.
Nevertheless, if you want to get into the wedding photography or similar fields, it would be wiser to save money for a DSLR; P&S cameras do not do the newlyweds justice.
Finally, always remember that once you get a DSLR you are in an "expensive" hobby. Unlike P&S cameras, DSLR require regular cleaning and maintainance to keep them in their best possible condition. Not only that but lenses cost a fortune at times and the type of photography you do would influence the type of lens required, whether it is a wide-angle lens, prime-lense or so on.

5. Funding Your DSLR

This portion is only important if you finally decide to get a DSLR and some good lenses. Now that you have posted a tweet on Twitter saying "Ouch! Photography is an expensive hobby" or something similar, note that you can recover your losses and fund your DSLR with your DSLR, with a bit of hard work and some time, of course. One way to do this is by selling stock images or selling prints.
Stock images are used by advertising agencies and people to complement their projects. These shots are taken mostly in-studio, some out, depicting models doing one action or another that can be used to supplement any written material in the right context, for example, an executive talking on phone, jewellery photographs, etc.
Selling prints gives the user the option to sell their images to people who would want to hang it on their walls at their home or office. Selling prints is far more difficult as it needs the photographer to be passionate about his photograph and come with results that amaze the peer – rendering the impulse in them to hang such a photograph on their wall.
Users can also put their lens up for rent – though it might be a risky business and will require users to use their own judgement when picking the people who want to rent the lens. Finally, the user can always shoot portraits, weddings and commercial photographs, taking money for each shoot. Do it well enough, and you can even earn your livelihood with it.

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10 Tips To Conserve Your Smartphone Battery

Apple, BlackBerry, Samsung and other global brands have come up with smartphones equipped with powerful mobile operating systems such as Google’s Android, Nokia’s Symbian, Apple’s iOS, etc, that allows users to play games, listen to mp3s, snap pictures, have access to the Net and even stream videos.
Given their diverse range of capabilities and multi-functionality running on a mobile (as in on-the-go) platform, it’s no wonder that battery life has always been a concern for developers, manufacturers and the users themselves. On average, most smartphone batteries last between one and two days before being completely depleted, and in need of a recharge.
Increase Battery Life

(Image Source: Dokisoft)
While we wait for the hardware development to catch up, the alternative will be to conserve battery life. As it is with our energy levels, battery life can be effectively utilized and managed, leaving nothing to go to waste. Without a battery charger or a spare battery with you everywhere you go, you’ll have to make due with minimizing the consumption of battery juice.
Here are 10 essential tips how you can conserve your smartphone’s battery.

1. Turn Off Vibrations

Vibrations are great for notifying you about incoming calls or messages when you’re in the theatre, meetings or other places where it’s necessary to keep the phone silent. In places where it doesn’t matter, it will be better for you to use your ringtone as notification if you want to keep your smartphones on longer.
Vibrations actually use up more power than ringtones. The sounds produced by ringtones are just very tiny vibrations in your smartphone’s speaker. Compare that to the shaking of the entire phone via vibrating a smart weight, playing a ringtone definitely zaps less of your battery. The same applies for using vibration for tactile feedback. If you don’t think it’s necessary, then disable vibrations or at the very least, lessen the magnitude of the vibrations.

2. Dim Your Screen

This one tip affects battery life drastically. It’s obvious that dimming your screen will reduce your smartphone’s power consumption since we all have to activate the screen whenever we use our phones. If our screen is brightly lit up every couple of minutes when we check our emails and such, it eventually will zap battery juice. Auto-brightness setting enable the smartphone to adjust the brightness to its optimal level for reading while conserving battery life.
On the other hand though, you may consider tuning the level permanently to the dimmest level that you can still read under without straining your eyes. Doing so may do wonders to your battery life in the long run.

3. Shorten Screen Timeout

In the same manner, if you wish to minimize the power consumption of your smartphone of the screen display, you ought to consider shortening the screen timeout. This decides how long the screen will remain lit after you finish interacting with it.
Some of us do not have the habit of ‘locking’ the phone after we we are done with it; we just let it go lights out by itself. Keeping the timeout duration short will ensure that the phone doesn’t waste power when you’re not using it.

4. Switching Off When Inactive

Although it is true that turning on your phone consumes more power than unlocking your phone,switching it off for a couple of hours can save more battery than leaving it on sleep or inactive mode. If you know you’re not going to touch your phone for an extended period of time, such as when you’re attending a meeting or sleeping, you can actually cut down a significant amount of energy consumption if you simply switch it off.
You might be wondering why you should even bother about battery level when you’ve a charger with you at home while you sleep. Well, the thing is that repeated charging for certain kind of batteries eats up the battery volume. For such batteries, the best way is to conserve as much as you can so that your battery retains its original capacity as much as possible.

5. Charge Your Battery Correctly

Speaking of phone charging, there are generally two kinds of rechargeable batteries commonly used for smartphones: Lithium-ion (Li-Ion), and Nickel-based batteries: namely Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd).
The battery capacity in NiCd batteries are reduced every time you recharge them. Nonetheless, NiCd batteries have longer life cycles i.e. they can be recharged more often than NiMH batteries before stop working. Nickel-based batteries should be charged (to the full amount) when they’re more or less out of power, and not when there’s still a good amount of energy left.

(Image Source: Slairea)
Li-Ion batteries have the longest life cycle among the three types of batteries but they also need to be charged more frequently (even when the battery is not fully used up) to maintain its original capacity. To keep your battery lasting longer, find out more about the type of battery that your smartphone uses and maintain the appropriate charging strategy for optimum usage.

6. Close Unnecessary Apps

Some of us open app after app and don’t bother to close them even after we no longer need to use them. This multi-tasking capability is a common feature of smartphones, but it is also a main reason why battery life gets drained away easily. The worst thing is that you’re losing battery juice when you are not even using them. Leaving them open will leave your battery at half-bar in no time.
As often as possible, kill your apps if you are not using them. There are some valuable apps out there that manage the multitasking ability of your smartphone to ensure it performs at its best to conserve battery life without jeopardizing usage. One such Android app is the Advanced Task Killer.

7. Disable GPS

Certain apps eat up more battery juice than others, particularly apps which utilize the GPS system to track your location. Your smartphone has a GPS unit that allows the sending and receiving of signals to and from satellites to determine your exact location, which is integral for some apps to work, for example, map-based apps like Google Maps or to check-in on Facebook.

(Image Source: Fotolia)
When left running in the background, some of these apps may continue to send and receive signals. It takes a lot out of your battery to continuously do that, even if you aren’t aware of it. Hence, you should ensure that those particular apps are closed when you really don’t need them. A more extreme way is to disable location services when prompted by these apps. It may slow down the efficiency of these apps but you won’t be tracked on your location and some users deliberately do that for privacy reasons.

8. No Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G/4G When Not In Use

Energy is consumed whenever your smartphone searches for signals, Wi-Fi, 3G or Bluetooth etc. When the reception is poor, the phone will continue scanning to attain a good connection.Repeated searches for these signals can easily make your battery level drop a notch.
What I’m saying is that you should turn off your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth when you don’t need to be connected. One convenient way to do it is to switch to ‘Airplane Mode’ or just switch your phone off when you know you can’t get any signal.
On the other hand, when you need good reception for your smartphone, place or position your phone in high connectivity zones. This will prevent your smartphones from constantly seeking for a connection and wasting your precious battery power switching from one signal to the other.

9. Minimize Notifications

With constant connectivity to the Internet, we tend to get notifications on our smartphones all the time, be it updates on the latest news, emails, high scores from games, add-ons for apps etc. But I’m sure that you would only want to be notified on the more essential stuffs like new text messages, or messages from Whatsapp.

(Image Source: Taakoses)
Not only is it annoying to constantly receive irrelevant notifications that can actually wait, it is also a powersucker for each of these notifications. Every incoming notification will light up your screen, make a sound alert or vibrate.
Manage your settings well and disable unnecessary notifications to save a little battery power (and avoid being frustrated with these constant notifications).

10. Maintain Cool Temperature

Some of us might have observed that our battery runs out faster when our smartphones are warm. Put simply, don’t leave your smartphones under direct sunlight or in any place that is hot.
One of the more common occurrences would be leaving the smartphone in a car parked under the sun. The battery will function optimally in cooler environments, so do look out for, and try to avoid, scenarios where your phone is exposed to unnecessary and excessive heat.

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