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Category: Business

How to get Internet access while traveling

Most people today need to be connected while traveling or on the road, this is often a challenge despite that wireless networks are popping up virtually everywhere. Follow our tips to stay connected while on the move.

Free Wi-Fi

This one is a no-brainer, but the world is littered with free Wi-Fi spots, they are most often found in coffee shops, fast food restaurants, airports and train stations. Some common global coffee shops with free Wi-Fi are; Starbucks and Costa Coffee (in the UK). McDonalds and Burger King often have free Wi-Fi in their restaurants around the world.

Getting free Internet access in airports might prove to be more problematic, often the first hour is free and then you pay a fee. Beware of fake Wi-Fi-networks when in public places designed to steal information, they may often be named “Free public Wi-Fi” or similar.

Mobile broadband

Going abroad and surfing using your current data plan is not recommended, most carriers charge heavily for using data abroad, it can get really expensive. Check with your carrier to see if they offer data packages for going aborad, many of the major carriers do, such as AT&T.

Get an extra sim from a local carrier

If you are going to be in a region for a longer period, your best option may be to purchase a prepaid SIM card with a data plan from a local carrier. Just make sure that your phone is unlocked and can handle other carriers.

KeepGo, WorldSim and other similar services

There are multiple global SIM-data card providers. One of them is KeepGo, which have a number of packages depending on the region you are visiting. With KeepGo you also have the option of renting a a phone while on the road, or buying a portable WiFi router.

Another neat option is using a WorldSim data card, which is a prepaid SIM card with a data plan that can be used in most countries around the world. The SIM card can be inserted into an IPad, phone or laptop. Other similar providers are Maxroam and GoSIM.

 

Three promising Crowdfunding tech campaigns

Crowdfunding is all the rage and small businesses are lining up to get a piece of the action. We have sifted through the wide range of app  crowd-funding campaigns, below you will find three campaigns that seem promising.

 

Ubuntu Edge

Perhaps the most obvious one. Canonical is looking for a whopping $30 000 000 in financing for their future device and platform Ubuntu Edge. The Edge will basically be a mobile with a desktop in one device. It will run Android, Ubuntu Mobile, and Ubuntu Desktop, have 128 GB of storage and 4 GB RAM.

Since the Ubuntu Edge will be able to run Android its users will already be able to use a vast number of apps, had Canonical only chosen Ubuntu Mobile and Desktop they would be in the same situation as Windows Phone, without any apps.

Ubuntu Edge is an interesting project with many backers already, however we have seen attempts of it in the past, failing because of the trade-off and compromises that has to be done when developing a mobile and yet being able to use it as a desktop. However the potential is also huge, we haven’t forgotten the great Nokia phones running Linux.

 

MailPile

MailPile is a project with the aim of creating a web-based and desktop e-mail client with user friendly support for encryption such as OpenPGP. This project is interesting, especially since given the different privacy concerns on the Internet.  It also has a number of other aims regarding creating a user friendly interface with themes and a platform for plug-in development.

Unfortunately the project is currently developing for Linux  and MAC, which is a fraction of the Windows operating systems on the market, if the project is backed there will be a Windows-version as well.

 

Ghost Blogging Platform

Ghost is a Kickstarter project with the aim of developing yet another open-source blog platform and content management system.

One of the key benefits with Ghost is publishing and the attempt to make it easier to write your own blog posts within the actual platform. In order to do this there will be a split screen, on the left side it’s possible to write a blogpost in markdown, with a preview of the post on the right.

Another interesting feature is the built-in statistics dashboard, which will not only show the number of visitors, bounce rate etc, but also social media statistics and subscribers to newsfeeds.

The Ghost project also have the aim of improving the actual content management part of the blogging experience, the inspiration is the way email is handled with different labels and drag and drop. Expect a review on Syntax30 when the Ghost blog platform is released.

 

 

Top 5 Outlook.com Tricks

Microsoft is taking a shot at Gmail replacing Hotmail with their revamped e-mail service Outlook.com, including a new interface and various other options. Of course there was an outcry in the Hotmail community for changing the interface, but the service now have 25 million users.

Continue reading to find out how you can be more effective when using Outlook.com (most of our tips are located in the “More mail settings section”).

 

1. Sweep it

If your inbox is like mine, that is a dark hole of endless messages, it’s often time consuming to clear it up. Outlook.com features a simple feature called “sweep”, it works basically the same way as the label system in Gmail where messages with certain characteristics are filed or deleted. It’s also possible to schedule sweeps.

For example it’s possible to file messages from a specific sender or delete them all together.

Outlook.com Sweep

 

 

2. Use Skydrive to send attachments

Outlook.com has a limit of 25 MB when sending attachements, anything above that and the service will suggest using Skydrive, which means that your attachement is uploaded into Skydrive and sent with a URL to the location instead.

If you often send large attachments or if you don’t want to clog people’s inboxes it’s possible to have Skydrive set as default for attachments.

 

3. Customize the layout

Outlook.com comes with a set of options to customize the layout of your inbox. For example it’s possible to change colors and the location of the reading pane (right or bottom). Another nice feature is the Group by conversation option, which basically creates conversation threads instead of displaying individual messages.

Outlook.com Group By Conversation

 

 

4. Keyboard shortcuts

Outlook.com has a set of keyboard shotcuts as most mail services do. However if you are coming from Gmail or Yahoo! Mail, there are also mapped keyboard shortcuts for those services.

Outlook.com Keyboard Shortcuts

 

5. Security, connect your mobile

We recommend connecting your Microsoft Live Account with a mobile device, this means that if you have lost your password or if you account has been hacked you can still access the account from a code recieved by text message (two-step verification).

Google Drive – Google moves into cloud storage

Google has finally released their own online file sync service after years of rumors; Google Drive will primarily enhance the experience for existing Google Docs users but also strikes a blow to some existing file sync and sharing services.

It’s not like there isn’t any competition in the online backup and file sync sector with services like Carbonite, Dropbox and Microsoft’s Skydrive. Although it isn’t surprising that Google is moving in to the space it is much less dramatic than most industry “experts” seem to think.

Each Google user have to apply for Google Drive before it’s activated, once it is up and running the existing Google Docs directory will become Google Drive. The difference between Google Drive and the old Docs directory is that it is possible to automatically sync files between Google Docs, a desktop/laptop computer and Android devices (Ipad and Iphone apps are on the way when this is written).

Syncing from a desktop or laptop is done by downloading an application running in the background automatically syncing selected files. We tested the app with Windows 7 without any issues.

Another interesting part of Google Drive is the collaboration options, although they already existed in Google Docs it’s now possible to easily share a document using Google + or even better e-mail a link to a bulky document in Google Drive using Gmail.

Google Drive also saves all changes to documents, making it possible to go back to previous versions easily. This makes Google Drive more similar to Dropbox than pure backup services like Carbonite.

When we tested Google Drive it was apparent that Google put some time into making the app display different file formats, for example it is possible to view Photoshop and Illustrator files without any third party programs.

Google offers 5 GB of free storage, which falls somewhere in between Dropbox (2 GB) and Skydrive (7 GB). It is enough storage for most personal needs, however Google offers up to 16 TB of data. 25 GB of data costs $2.49 / month and 100 GB $4.99, compared to Dropbox which offers 100 GB for 19.99/month this is cheap. When buying Google Drive space, the storage can also be used for Picasa.

The ones that should be scared of Google Drive is not Microsoft, because it is not a threat to Skydrive as Microsoft’s alternative is integrated in Microsoft Office, tightly. Instead Google Drive is a direct attack on services like Dropbox and Sugarsync, which has nothing to offer in terms of integration. Overall Google Drive is a good product, it has more value than Dropbox but is also a solid alternative in it’s free version.

Ipad Office Suites: Apple Pages

Apple Pages has been around for the Mac since 2005, it is marketed as a word processing program, but also a light layout application. In 2009 Apple released Pages to the Ipad, while there certainly are many word processors for the Ipad available, Pages should be the ultimate one given that Apple both control the software and the hardware.

Apple Pages for Ipad

When first launching Pages for the Ipad it is clear that it is one of the more beautiful word processing apps for iOS. However beautiful doesn’t cut it, it also have to be efficient to use. Pages integrate neatly with ICloud (Apples sync application), however Quickoffice Pro HD and other office apps have similar integration.

A somewhat strange sync thing is that Pages on the Ipad will not sync with Pages on the Mac, even-though they are apps from the same company in the same environment. Also Apple didn’t include any sync with services such as Google Docs or Dropbox, which other office suites have (such as Quickoffice Pro HD)

Apple Pages is easy to use, the interface design breathes Apple and should work for most people, even if you are used to Windows or Android software previously. It is possible to set margins and the overall size of the document as well as line spacing. Also Pages makes it possible to add more columns than one and create numbered lists.

Pages does have more layouting options than other word processing apps for the Ipad, for example it is possible to insert images and create tables (something that is lacking in Quickoffice Pro HD, where it is only possible to edit existing tables). Pages for Ipad also behave faster than the competition, for example when writing using the Apple Wireless keyboard with Ipad there is generally a slight input lag in Quickoffice Pro HD, but none in Pages.

A neat feature in Pages is the predefined templates for creating various publications, included are 16 templates for reports, invitations, letters and so on. However it is not possible to create custom templates in Pages for the Ipad, for example it is unlikely that a real estate broker would use a standard template from Apple, of course most businesses want their own custom templates.

Pages can handle most common files from for example Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx) and Pages (for OSx), it is also possible to view PDF-files.

Overall Pages for Ipad is the best word processing App for the Ipad, that doesn’t make it perfect. It is easy to use but has its own set of issues, such as a lack of creating custom templates even-though Apple market it as a layout application.

If you are buying Pages for word processing and some light layout you will not be disappointed, but if you are after InDesign for the Ipad you are out of luck. Pages is also more expensive than the competition. At least if you want a whole office suite, since you will have to add Numbers and Keynote to the purchasing list, which all together will cost more than Quickoffice Pro HD or Office HD.

Ipad Office Suites: Quickoffice Pro HD

Can tablets and mobile devices really be an alternative for heavy office users? Is it time to ditch the laptop in favor of your Ipad or Samsung Galaxy Tab? Read our review of Quickoffice Pro HD and find out how it compares to other mobile office suites.

Quickoffice Pro is available both for the Iphone and Ipad(HD), it is also available for Android devices and tablets. It is one of the more affordable alternatives on the market for tablet Office Suites. For $14.99 in the Apple Appstore you get Word-processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations and a PDF-reader. Compare that to Apple’s IWork where each separate application is about $9.99.

In the Word-processing application it is possible to do all the basic things, such as change font-size, add bullets change colors etc. If you would like to create more complex documents containing graphics, tables (it is possible to edit existing tables) or table of contents it will not be possible in Quick office Pro HD, but for writing memos, short summaries etc it works great. However Pages (from Apple) have most of the more complex features, such as inserting graphics and creating tables.

Similarly the Spreadsheet app works well for creating basic spreadsheets, with borders, different number formats, and developing simple functions (such as =SUM) etc. For more heavy duty spreadsheet work Quickoffice Pro HD will not be sufficient, for example you can’t use more complex formulas (such as COUNTIF, SUMIF etc).

Another downside with the Spreadsheet part is the lack of charting features, which actually should have been included, especially given the price for Quickoffice Pro. The feature is available in Numbers from Apple, according to Quickoffice it should be possible to view charts created in Excel. Presentations in Quickoffice Pro HD is one of the suites stronger points, here it suddenly is possible to insert images from the Ipad. Also editing and creating a presentations is easy, but it is however somewhat limited and can be difficult if you are having a lot of objects stacked in proximity because of the touch interface. There are no animations or transition options.

Using Microsoft Office documents in Quickoffice Pro HD was no problem, they rendered without any problems and looked ok both in Quickoffice and in Microsoft Office on the desktop. Formats supported are Word (.doc and .docx) and Excel (.xls and .xlsx). When it comes to presentations the .pptx is format is not supported but the original PowerPoint format is (.ppt).

A nice feature in Quickoffice Pro HD is the sharing and syncing options, for example it it possible to connect it to Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote, SugarSync, Box, Huddle Catch and MobileMe. It is also very neatly integrated into the app using folders and is easily accessible. Quickoffice Pro HD also have built in e-mail capabilities, but they are a bit strange since it isn’t integrated with the Ipad or Android mail setup on the device. You have to manually enter your own e-mail address as well, when we tested the e-mail service it didn’t work and returned an application error.

It is also possible to read PDF-files and save existing documents to PDF, something that often is needed in a business setting. As a PDF-reader the app works likes a charm.

Overall Quickoffice Pro HD is a solid application for reading and editing existing documents and spreadsheets, it’s perfect to use when away from your desktop or laptop. It is also easy to understand the user interface.

When we tested QuickOffice Pro HD we used it a lot on flights and airports, where you probably will not do any longer editing, but still need to get some work done. However Quickoffice Pro HD is limited to basic writing and editing, and is in most cases no replacement for a regular laptop office suite such as Microsoft Office or iWork.

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Microsoft Office Web Apps

Microsoft Office Web Apps is a free online office suite, it is a direct response from Redmond to Google Docs and Zoho Docs, and is a first attempt to bring Microsoft Office into the cloud.

Office Web Apps was launched pretty late compared to Google Docs, and many other competitors. The suite makes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote accessible from any web-browser using the familiar (to many) Microsoft Office interface.

To use Office Web Apps a Windows Live-account is needed, the rest of the suite is free. Using Office Web Apps is actually pretty easy, it’s fast (even on slower connections such as mobile broadband) and works well in a Windows 7 / Internet Explorer environment.

The interface is a stripped down version of the ribbon used in Office 2007 and 2010. Word is very similar to the desktop version, however creating and managing tables is a little bit different since there aren’t the same editing capabilities (for example resizing the whole table by dragging it).

Microsoft Office Web Apps connects with iStockphoto and similar services when inserting clip art imagery, it is also possible to insert your own images, links etc.

Using Excel is a nice experience, it is a basic version of Excel but strangely sufficient for most needs. For example it’s possible to use multiple sheets, create charts and a lot of functions are also available.

PowerPoint is also part of Microsoft Office Web Apps, it is however a bit limited when creating presentations compared to the desktop version. For example it isn’t possible to draw (but you can use the SmartArt tool), animations are not possible and the embedding video features is absent. However for creating basic presentations or editing existing ones created in the desktop application, it works.

Microsoft OneNote is also included, it isn’t as easy to work with as the desktop version since it’s slower to cut and paste images and other material into the notebook. However OneNote is a perfect complement to the desktop and also the recently released IPad app.

Finally Microsoft figured out what to do with its ugly duckling storage service, Skydrive. It is now an integrated part of Web Apps with sharing and collaboration options. For example it’s possible to upload a document from Office 2010 to Skydrive and continue working on it in the cloud.

Overall Microsoft Web Apps is a solid online office suite, the best part is that it is familiar to Office users and can be used in integration with already existing desktop applications. It is even better than Google Docs in the sense that it integrates with the most familiar Office suite out there. Some reports even suggest that Microsoft Web Apps even have more users than Google Docs, which is not surprising.

Microsoft Office Web Apps is  sufficient for most needs, sure it isn’t possible to create advanced scripts, macros or templates, but then again I think most users actually do more simple tasks in Microsoft Office, meaning that the desktop Office suite from Redmond is overkill for average users.

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Creating Flowcharts and Diagrams with Dia

Microsoft Visio has long been the standard for drawing flow-charts and other diagrams, however things have changed rapidly and now the open-source application Dia is mature enough to be an alternative.

Dialogo

Dia can be used for a variety of tasks; flowcharts, UML-diagram, network diagrams and electrical circuits. There are also several shape repositories available online to extend the program further.

The user-interface in Dia is similar to Microsoft Visio, which has a solid user interface by default. It is easy to understand and work with. Sometimes it is even more intuitive than more powerful and commercial applications. The toolbox is easy to understand for most users and the way Dia handles shapes is intuitive.

Flow-charts are often not drawn in a bubble, they usually have some other usage, for example in an application, or on the web.  Dia has a number of export options, including .SVG,  .PNG, .WMF etc. However the export options are not as well developed as in Microsoft Visio. For example it isn’t possible to create clickable flowcharts, which can be displayed in a web-browser.  There is obviously a lack of Microsoft Sharepoint integration in Dia but also integration with open-source content management systems.

Dia also has a limitation when it comes to assigning characteristic and other information to shapes.  Other applications have the ability to integrate data with the shapes, for example if a shape of a computer could contain processing power etc. This might not seem like a big draw-back but when drawing complex flows and networks it is actually a huge benefit being able to assign information to objects.

Overall Dia is a pretty good light-weight program for drawing flow-charts, network diagrams and what not. It is not as powerful and integrated as commercial alternatives such as Microsoft Visio, but it is still a viable alternative to get basic drawing done quickly.  When on the road I was using my net book, it didn’t have Microsoft Visio installed so I downloaded Dia for the first time. In just a matter of minutes I was up and running drawing flow-charts, that is how powerful open-source software can be. Dia is available for Windows and Linux. With a little tweaking it can also be compiled on MAC OS X.


Microsoft Visio has long been the standard for drawing flow-charts and other diagrams, however things have changed rapidly and now the open-source application Dia is mature enough to be an alternative.

Dia can be used for a variety of tasks; flowcharts, UML-diagram, network diagrams and electrical circuits. There are also several shape repositories available online to extend the program further.

The user-interface in Dia is similar to Microsoft Visio, which has a solid user interface by default. It is easy to understand and work with. Sometimes it is even more intuitive than more powerful and commercial applications. The toolbox is easy to understand for most users and the way Dia handles shapes is intuitive.

Flow-charts are often not drawn in a bubble, they usually have some other usage, for example in an application, or on the web.Dia has a number of export options, including .SVG, .PNG, .WMF etc. However the export options are not as well developed as in Microsoft Visio. For example it isn’t possible to create clickable flowcharts, which can be displayed in a web-browser. There is obviously a lack of Microsoft Sharepoint integration in Dia but also integration with open-source content management systems.

Dia is limited when it comes to assigning characteristic and other information to shapes. Other applications have the ability to integrate data with the shapes, for example if a shape of a computer could contain processing power etc. This might not seem like a big draw-back but when drawing complex flows and networks it is actually a huge benefit being able to assign information to objects.

Overall Dia is a pretty good light-weight program for drawing flow-charts, network diagrams and what not. It is not as powerful and integrated as commercial alternatives such as Microsoft Visio, but it is still a viable alternative to get basic drawing done quickly. When on the road I was using my netbook, it didn’t have Microsoft Visio installed so I downloaded Dia for the first time. In just a matter of minutes I was up and running drawing flow-charts, that is how powerful open-source software can be. Dia is available for Windows and Linux. With a little tweaking it can also be compiled on MAC OS X.

Foxit PDF Reader – Alternative to Acrobat Reader

Foxit is the most widely spread free alternative to the massive Adobe Acrobat Reader.   It is said to be more light-weight and faster than the Acrobat Reader, of course we wanted to find that out.

For reading PDF files Adobe Acrobat Reader takes up 230 MBs, that is a lot of space compared to Foxit, which does the same thing only taking up 7 MB. Hard drive space is not really an issue today, but it does make you wonder what Adobe put in their reader that Foxit did not.


Installing Foxit is a breeze, the executable is just 3.6 MB and the whole installation process takes about 30 seconds on a reasonable fast machine.  After install you get the option of installing different plug-ins, for example there is a plug-in for Firefox (which we will get back to).

The interface in Foxit is less cluttered than Adobe Acrobat Reader but looks a bit dated. However if you worked with Adobe Acrobat Reader you will feel at home in Foxit.  While Foxit features the standard array of tools and features it brings nothing new to the table. From a feature stand-point users will do just as well with Acrobat Reader.

Foxit is pretty fast, we have not done any scientific tests but viewing a 25 MB PDF-file with a lot of images was surprisingly fast. Even the Foxit PDF viewer in Internet Explorer is much faster than Adobes.

Foxit also came with a Firefox plug-in, which we did not have any luck with. When opening a PDF file in Firefox the browser notified us of that the server was busy, and then the browser crashed.  Then we tried again and it happened all over again.

In other third party PDF readers the files often looked differently than in Acrobat Reader, Foxit does a great job rendering PDF files and we could not tell any difference between the two readers.

Adobe Acrobat Reader have a number of different features to sign documents digitally, this is very handy if you or your business is using one of Adobes lifecycle products. Foxit has no similar features built in, which makes it less useable in an already established Adobe environment.

What does the Foxit people make money on if their PDF reader is free, there has to be a catch, right? Indeed, Foxit has applied the same business model as Adobe, to get the Pro version of Foxit you have to pay. The pro version contains the possibility to draw in PDF files, attach files and save them without evaluation markings. However commenting works fine in the free version.

For small businesses and individuals Foxit is a very good alternative to Adobe Acrobat Reader, it is overall leaner and faster. However in a business setting with clients using extra Adobe unique features (such as document signatures or security options) Adobe Acrobat Reader is a better choice.

Online Office Suites Part 4: Microsoft Office Live Beta

Microsoft has obviously felt pressure from all the online office suites out there in the cloud.  Last year the Redmond company launched Microsoft Office Live Beta to get their foot in the door. But why should Microsoft bother about small-time cloud applications when they have by far the largest market share with in the business application segment? And making tons of money?

The answer is really that the future of software will be in the cloud, client installed applications such as Office 2007 will not be as popular or frequently used as today.  Right now cloud based applications are usually used by small businesses and individuals; they are also often tailored for those particular groups.

Microsoft Office Live Beta is no exception, when you register with the Beta-program you get the basics; Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The Office Live interface resembles a lot of other Microsoft online applications, it is easy to work with and the interface is after all something you recognize. The concept is that you create a workspace, add or create documents and then share it with friends or colleges. That is basically how all other online collaboration apps work.

Editing a document in Google Docs or Zoho is easy,  you do it in your web-browser from any computer in the world. To my surprise Microsoft Office Live works differently, first of all you have to download a setup file, which renders it useless in public environments. Then you have to go through an installation that requires you to restart your computer. It is a long way from the simplicity in Zoho.

After the restart you are good to go, but documents can only be edited in their native applications. It means that you will need Office installed and when you open a document from Office Live it will launch Microsoft Office on your desktop. I like Microsoft Office 2007, but I think the whole point of office suites in the cloud where the ability to edit the documents from any computer anywhere.  Redmond does not seem think so, their vision of cloud computing is collaboration. So what Office Live adds to Office 2007 is the ability for other users to comment or view your documents.

Office Live is very simple and it works great as a collaboration tool for Office users. But it can’t live up to the competition since it is not possible to edit documents in the web-browser, probably because Microsoft operate under the illusion that they are defending their Office market by forcing customers to buy a copy of Office.

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