Thoughts on Technology & Business

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Windows 8 Will Include Native Support for USB 3.0

Microsoft is integrating a software stack into the Windows 8 to provide a native support for USB 3.0 devices, which is likely a response to Intel’s Thunderbolt. USB 3.0 is a direct successor to USB 2.0 and promises ten times faster data transfer between PCs and external devices such as storage devices and cameras. USB 2.0 ports are now available on desktops and laptops, while USB 3.0 ports are offered as option. At this moment, Windows 7 doesn’t natively support USB 3.0 but drivers are available for the OS. The wide usage of previous USB versions and the growing support for USB 3.0 are compelling reasons for the integration of the USB 3.0 software stack in Windows 8. By 2015, analysts expect that all new devices will have native USB 3.0 support. But because there only a few of USB 3.0 devices on the market, Microsoft needs to build and simulate virtual USB 3.0 devices, hubs and ports.   

Supports for USB 3.0 grow steadily and Intel will integrate USB 3.0 support for its future chipsets, which will be used for a CPU family called Ivy Bridge. AMD’s Fusion chipset already support USB 3.0 and motherboards based on the chipset are already widely available today. USB 3.0 can transfer up to 5Gbps, which is somewhat slower than the competing Intel’s solution, the Thunderbolt. Intel promises that its technology will allow 10Gbps data transfer between computers with external devices such as portable storage and monitor. Although people view Thunderbolt as a competitor to USB 3.0 standard, Intel claims that its technology is only intended as complementary, Apple will use Thunderbolt for its future products. Thunderbolt also supports DisplayPort and PCI Express protocols and it has minimal software requirements.

Despite the slower performance, experts still believe that the USB technology will still become the predominant interface for data transfers, because many manufacturers and users already tied heavily to the standard. It’s quite possible that Thunderbolt will join Firewire and IEEE 1394 as optional peripheral solutions. At this moment, Thunderbolt is developed based on copper wires, but eventually the next improvement of the technology will be based on optical technology, which will boost its effective distance and transfer speed.

Provided it takes off, the wireless charging could eventually trump both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt and although the data transfer is not as fast, the possibility of transmitting energy wirelessly has attracted many device makers. Wireless charging may eliminate all cables when using mobile devices.

For average Windows users, drivers are usually not something that they worry about, but the integration of native support for the latest USB standard can’t hurt. Native support can effectively eliminate possible USB 3.0 compatibility issues. Because Windows 7 doesn’t natively support USB 3.0, some users found that USB 3.0 devices can only transfer files at USB 2.0 data speed. Possible problems may lie on faulty drivers, as the result the USB 3.0 speed can’t be achieved when equipments are initialized at wrong order or when the computer is overclocked.    

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Should You Use a Mascot for Your Website?

An emotional website design can evoke favorable and positive feelings among its visitors. To achieve a good lasting impression, many website owners use certain visual cues that can help first-time visitors to remember the website better in the future. Some use pretty illustrations, photos, color schemes and eye candies to attract users’ attention.


Mascots are also a good way to help people remember you. Of course, they are commonly associated with sports team and sports events, but when designed accordingly based on your website’s tone, it can evoke sympathy among early visitors of your website.


Now mascots are used in many areas, Tux, the Penguin is a widely known mascot for Linux OS, while Mr. Jeeves is a famous mascot for Ask.com.   


Human-like creatures and animals are often used for mascots than abstract, fantasy creatures. The reason is obvious; users are more attracted with something they recognize, so it is better to use common creatures such as a small, cute elephant than a fire-breathing dragon-lion hybrid. Abstract creatures need to be understood first and many early visitors don’t have the patience and the time to do that. Although it’s still possible to use abstract creatures, a memorable mascot based on widely-known animals is better.


A successful mascot often can act as a carrier for positive feeling and offers a hint of joy to those who see it for the first time. To leave a positive and lasing impression, mascots are made as cute, as pity, as adorable, as sweet and often as silly as possible. These mascots also often have very short names, which make it easy for people to refer to.


Many mascots are hand-drawn and they are sometimes also used as a logo. They may also be displayed in different postures to motivate visitors perform certain actions, e.g. to fill in a survey or to visit a site section.

A well-designed mascot can fill your site with a small, nice detail, which it would miss otherwise. Your final mascot design should be clean and fit perfectly with your site design. For example, a cute, laughing blue dolphin won’t help a site that sells climbing equipments. Also, an illustration is not similar with mascot, as illustrations only help users to visualize a topic shown in a single page and inconsistent across the site.


If you have a mascot that is highly memorable and can blend well to your site, you should definitely use it.


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Setting the Scene For A Successful Business Blog

After setting primary goals for your blog, you must lay a solid foundation for success, by providing enough resources for your blog. Elements that contribute significantly to the success or even the survival of your blog must be carefully planned before you set your blog loose in the World Wide Web.


Finding bloggers

Because those who write for your blog speak on behalf of the company, they should be reliable, conscientious, accurate and reliable. In addition, you need to find bloggers who are knowledgeable on the subjects of the blog - and is completely interested in spreading the information.

Remember that marketing professionals, though well trained in communicating business messages and conveying important information to the public, may not always be a good choice. Their skill can really work against them. To many potential buyers, they may look like “marketing shills” and can not be completely trusted. It may be cruel, but something that you should consider when choosing bloggers.


Should you edit a business blog?

The blogosphere was full with arguments for and against the blog editing. Today the issue has been discussed very thoroughly and the consensus seem to be that in certain cases, an editing is useful, most of the time only to check for grammar and spelling. Nowadays, only very few blog owners have the policy to edit the work of its bloggers. 

However, maintaining a sense of spontaneity and freshness of a blog can be rather difficult if every new post must go through an editor committee for approval. A better technique is to establish a firm policy that your bloggers must follow. If you have faith in your bloggers, you should let them work with responsibility and freedom.


Appropriate policies for a business blog

For business blogs, defining the guidelines for blogging is important. You must create a proper climate in which bloggers can be highly productive, but also won’t give you worries and headaches.

The guidelines shouldn’t be complex or too formal, in addition, it must establish certain principles to make bloggers stay productive and responsible. If you can impose the guideline well, you may not need an editor. It is also important to consider how you should handle errors and make corrections, preferably before you launch the blog.

An editorial policy should also include a clear linking policy. For example, is it allowable to link to competitors or should you include links to review site that may criticize your products or services?


Try to get familiar with latest developments in the blogosphere

When you plan to start a business blog, join major blogger communities, especially those that are in similar industry with you. Because you choose to use a blog as the medium, you should pay attention to what experienced bloggers have to say.

Choose a blogger group (in a forum, for example) that has plenty of discussions among themselves. Some of them could be respected members of media organizations. Because many of them are personal bloggers, they may not hesitate to criticize what you do or can become a watchdog for business blogs.

Increasingly, their opinions have an impact in the blogosphere. So pay attention to the common conventions of the blogosphere. Visit their blogs and spend some time studying them, even if many of them have nothing to do with your industry. . Always take note of best practices and general conventions, and participate actively in the discussion. The payoff can be significant and you’ll improve your chance for success.


Choosing an easy-to-remember name

This is a very important decision for your blog. You’ve probably noticed that some successful blogs have unusual, quirky names, often only consisted of one or two words. Many business blogs simply use the name of the company, which is appropriate in many cases.

If you don’t have a physical, real-world company and are planning to establish a new online business, you should find an easy-to-remember name and it shouldn’t be confused with other websites or blogs. If you want to make a blog for a physical company, it’s probably not a good idea to brand the blog with the blogger’s name - if the person leaves your company in the future, the blog name won’t make sense.


Use phrases or slogans smartly. The product or service that you concentrate on should have good name and slogan and if possible use them for the name and slogan of your blog. If you create a blog solely for providing information related to your real-world company, find a name that defines the blog as a resource and reference. Follow these tips to help you make a decision:

  • You must choose a blog name that does not require the use of spaces. If possible, it can be collapsed for the domain name and still makes sense.
  • Make sure your blog and domain name is not a double entendre
  • Include an identifying noun. For example, if you are blogging about mobile phones, it is a good idea to include the word “phone” for your blog and domain name.
  • The name should be easy to spell or pronounce.
  • Never use hyphens, because they are inaudible and advertising is based on verbal identification.


It is interesting to note that most bloggers don’t include the term ‘blog’, ‘journal’ or ‘weblog’ for the name. Just like the way the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times don’t include the word ‘newspaper’. When choosing a name for your blog, always make sure that the domain name is still available, so your blog name and blog URL are similar.

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Using Server Log Files To Improve Your Online Business

If you purchase a web hosting solution, you should be able to view your log files. It is simply a record of every user activity registered by the server. Log files contain raw, unfiltered information, however they can be significantly affect the decision-making process of your online business. Let’s just be honest, very few of us have even bothered to check the log files. However, knowing what it contains may make a difference between a highly successful online business operation and an unsuccessful one. These are main components of log files:

ñ  IP Address: It is a set of sixteen numbers that identify the logical location of your visitors. Each network has their own unique IP address. With an advanced traffic tool you can identify whether these addresses are based in .com, .org, .edu or .gov networks.

ñ  Date: It is usually placed inside the [ ] bracket. This information allows you to determine the exact time of weekly and daily traffic spikes. Your site may get the most visits at weekends and after 5 PM each day. This way, you can prepare fresh interesting contents or products just before the spikes occur and make server maintenance when the traffic is at its lowest.

ñ  Page URL: This information allows you to determine the most visited pages in your site. It allows you to decide on what topics or products to focus on. By accommodating to your visitors’ demand, you may eventually notice a huge boost in additional traffic and income.   

ñ  Server response code: It indicates how the server responds to a request. The normal response is a ‘200’, which means the server gives the data properly. A 404 response code can be considered as a serious error, because the server fails to give the data to the users. A 404 response means that visitors tried to request a non-existent page. Of course, getting rid of all these 404 errors can be impossible, however with a log file, you can regularly detect new causes of 404 errors and deal with them quickly. A common solution is to divert the visitors to a special page that informs that the requested page is unavailable and recommends other available pages in the site that may closely match the visitors’ requests. Many site owners make mistake by funneling some of their visitors into a hidden 404 trap and fail to fix the problem for years, causing them to lose a large amount of potential revenue.

ñ  File size: It provides an information on the size of files transferred to visitors’ computer. It allows you to improve the web server performance, for example by optimizing pages, images, videos, sound and any uncompressed file. Some web owners make a mistake by using huge, unoptimized images in their webpages, which can degrade server performance during peak hours, causing some of the customers to switch to the competitors.

ñ  Referrer URL: It is another interesting bit of information in the log files. Referrer is a page where the request is originated. Referrers can be a page on other site, a page in your site and a search engine result. By analyzing your referrer URLs, you’ll know who sends you the traffic and at what keywords. This will allow you to optimize the main traffic sources and improve under-performing traffic sources.

ñ  User agent: After the referral information, you can get the information of program used to request your page, also called the user agent. This information is important because you’ll know what browsers people use to visit your page. Each browser has unique features and characteristics, often it is necessary to test your site on each browser. It can also tell whether there is potential compatibility problem with your site. For example, if there are very few visitors who use Safari from a Mac, your site may not work well for them, so it’s a good idea to confirm your suspicion.


Spending too much time studying the log files without making real actions is clearly useless, however, by checking it at least every week, you may eventually get a few eye-opener facts. There could be some surprises, such as, the emergence of an obscure browser, a resurgence of new demands for your old blog posts and the origin of most loyal buyers, It’s a diverse and dynamic online world out there, by checking on your log files regularly, you can adapt to recent developments, changes and demands.