Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Adobe CS6 Design and Web Premium Mac Review

Adobe CS6 Design and Web Premium
Mac (Image via Amazon aStore)
If you're serious about production and design for the web, then the Adobe products are pretty much where you can expect to spend your life. Adobe CS6 Design and Web Premium is a good balance of capabilities for the price, including Dreamweaver, PhotoShop, Illustrator, Acrobat, Flash, InDesign and more. Thanks to Amazon's absolutely fantastic pricing, I was able to get off the month-by-month rental Adobe offers, and take ownership of my own copy.

The software is quite large and needs a fairly heavy-duty machine to work best. My 27" iMac with a 3.4Ghz quad-core i7 processor, 1TB solid-state drive and 16GB of memory is blindingly fast with most apps, but only "okay" with some of the more complex PhotoShop filters. Some of the blur and sharpen algorithms can take 15-20 seconds on my system. I do a lot of serious photography, and driving my Epson R3000 with PhotoShop seems to produce (very) slightly better looking prints than any other app I've used, including older versions of PhotoShop - I guess this makes all the resources worth it.

I tend to use PhotoShop and Dreamweaver more than the other apps, and the CS6 upgrade was a major difference for me and definitely worth the upgrade from CS5. I admit to having a bit of a "love/hate" relationship with PhotoShop - I know what it can do, but I tend to spend way too much time searching for just the right tool and outcome I want. No different from previous versions of PhotoShop, for all the power of these products, Adobe certainly could use a few lessons in user-experience design.

There's a whole community of add-on apps for PhotoShop, and I'm happy to report that most of the ones I tried, especially the Nik Software ones, worked flawlessly with CS6. To me, this would have been a deal-breaker, so I'm glad things just seemed to work.

To be clear, while these are some of the industry's most powerful apps for web design, they aren't really best for the casual user. It can take months to master each of the capabilities in this suite, and unless you're willing to put in the time, you'll probably find yourself overwhelmed. Adobe has a very good trial program where you can try before you buy - definitely take advantage of it if you're not sure what you're getting into.

Still, with the right commitment, the rewards can be stunning, world-class web sites, beautiful photographs, compelling documents and so forth...

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Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy
(Image via Amazon aStore)
I think plot details have been reviewed pretty well by this time, so I'd like to comment on the characters.

What I have always loved about Rowling's writing is her ability to create characters that seem real. She knows her characters,she knows what to do with them, and she isn't afraid to let bad things happen to them. In this novel, she has dozens of characters to work with, and oftentimes background information has to be supplied and the actual plot suspended so that the reader can keep up with everyone. I personally don't mind because I find these characters absolutely fascinating, but the lack of action isn't going to appeal to everyone.

With many books it is very clear who the reader should be "rooting" for, since one character seems to stand above the rest morally or in talent. If you are expecting the same formula in this book you will be disappointed, because each character is deeply flawed, each with his or her own ugliness. My point is that there is no hero, unless you count the deceased Barry Fairbrother, and I even wonder about him. Again, I find this refreshing. It makes me irrationally annoyed to see so many bestsellers about a klutzy, yet otherwise completely endearing protagonist attracting all men within a ten mile radius. You will not find that here. Thank God.

The counterpoint to this is that each character is also endearing or relatable in his or her own way. With each shifting viewpoint (and there are many), new insights are revealed that make it easier to understand each character. It is a style that makes it hard to put the book down, since she never gives you all you want to know at once.

Other points: I'm a fast reader, and ordinarily I'd have knocked this out in a night, but I decided to stretch it out over a couple of days. I really think this helps for understanding the characters and their connections better -- if you don't get those, you won't understand the plot.

Also, many people are commenting on the use of strong language, sexuality, and rape. Personally, I think if you are going to write about problems in a small town and the people in it, these things almost beg to be addressed. That Rowling did not avoid them speaks to her strength as a character writer; it doesn't mean, for example, that she's using four letter words just because she can't think of a better one.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Microsoft Windows 8 Pro Review

Microsoft Windows 8 Pro
(Image via Amazon aStore)
I've installed the Developer and Public Releases of Windows 8. Up front I'd like to say that I'm impressed. It's true that Microsoft is attempting to provide a unified, touch friendly user experience across multiple devices - so is Apple. As a business student, I learned that companies who do not innovate quickly go the way of the DoDo Bird. Look at IBM, Kodak and HP to name a few Fortune 500. They are shells of their former selves.

There are complaints that Windows 8 boots directly to the Metro Screen, I mean Windows 8 style interface. The Windows 8 Quick User Interface supports what most people do on computers 90% of the time - surf the internet and social network ~ one click to run IE10, email, Facebook, listen to music, or look at photos are just a few quick actions. Windows 8 installs in 20min, cold boots in 10-20sec, and wakes from sleep in 2-5sec. I think that is a huge improvement over Windows 7.

Windows 8 is not a new, alien system or interface; it's a better Windows 7 that is Unique and very Intuitive. It can use any combo of touch, keyboard, and/or mouse. For those without touch, there are very few differences when it comes to using the desktop - drag, point, and click [no need to genetically alter your arms, hands, or eyes]. However, the desktop is missing the familiar button. This leads to my biggest gripe. After installing new software, you have to return to the Windows 8 screen to run the application if it did not make a desktop shortcut. So go to the Windows 8 screen or litter you desktop with all kinds of shortcuts. I'm sure button "Dock" style software will fill the void. People and Software programmers have a way of adapting. My second issue is that Media Center is not included as a standard. Additional money must be spent to acquire this feature. I do applaud Microsoft for keeping upgrade prices reasonable. The only way to combat theft and piracy is to keep upgrade prices low while generating revenue through use of their products ~ like Amazon has done with the Kindle Fire. I also like the concept of the App Store.

To those people who want the same look and feel. Stay with Windows 7, no one will force you to upgrade for at least 10 years. I believe People are Smart, Capable and want Better Computer Systems. Making progress does not always mean keeping the same "look and feel". Name an automobile company that is still around today because they are producing the exact same look and feel. Companies survive by upgrading their products and corporate image.

Windows 8 is not an abortion or a disaster. I welcome the changes. It is progress toward a unified ecosystem for a company that is doing what every company should; provide value to its shareholders by being innovative, forward thinking, and creative. I do not work for Microsoft or own stock. I do have a Windows 7 phone and plan to upgrade to a new WP8 when they are released.

By the way, I've been using [sorry for the passive voice] my Windows 7 touch laptop for two years without installing any additional virus protection software. I have not had a virus or spyware issue. People using Apple PC's think that their systems cannot get viruses. The fact of the matter is that 80% of homes and 95% of businesses use Windows. If you are a malicious hacker, which system would you target to propagate your malware?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

4G: LTE/LTE-Advanced for Mobile Broadband Review

4G: LTE / LTE-Advanced for Mobile Broadband
(Image via Amazon aStore)
The book starts with standards and basic technologies - the role of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)in standards, multiplexing (TDMA, FDMA, OFDM), transmission (DFT-Spread OFDM), modulation (QPSK, 16QAM, 64QAM), multi-antenna technologies. The discussion of LTE starts in detail in Chapter 7. Chapter 8 shows the radio network architecture, with a useful downlink protocol architecture diagram (Figure 8.4). This book focuses on the Radio Access Network. For the packet core network architecture (Evolved Packet Core - EPC), the reader is referred to SAE and the Evolved Packet Core: Driving the Mobile Broadband Revolution. LTE has different implementations for the wide range of devices and environments that it supports. Spectrum flexibility, a key feature of LTE in a spectrum starved world, is discussed in detail. There are also multiple transmission modes, described in support of the different types of antenna systems in Chapter 10.

The signaling for the downlink in Chapter 10 and Chapter 11, which focuses on the physical layer uplink channel processing and transmission, is described in detail. Chapter 12 focuses on retransmission which is a two-level structure using the MAC and RLC network layers. Chapter 13 looks at the power control and scheduling, then goes into how inter-cell interference is handled. It analyzes both pico cells and macro cells. Chapter 14 discusses how a device finds the network cells. It also discusses how a network can page a device to wake it up.

Chapter 15 describes broadcasting using Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services (MBMS). The book notes the benefits to the device - battery savings - as well as to the network - reduced load. Chapter 16 gets into using the backhaul network to repeat signals - with or without decoding and recoding. Chapter 17 gets into available spectrum and has useful tables detailing current allocated spectrum in major markets. Wireless performance is highly dependent on terrain, buildings and impediments to radio signals. The book quotes 3GPP (Third Generation Partnership Project) base station and device output power for test environments - indoor, microcellular, urban base coverage and rural high speed coverage. The chapter also looks at the cell spectral efficiency.

Chapter 19 could almost be at the beginning as it compares LTE to alternative technologies. The book ends with a list of references. The book needs challenging questions and examples at the end of each chapter if it is to be used as a textbook. It also lacks a glossary of acronyms, however given the number of websites that provide lists this is not a serious omission.

The book is ideal for product managers, marketing managers and engineers in telecom equipment vendors or service provider companies who want a general understanding of LTE and how the different protocol layers fit together.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Brands on Instagram for Marketing

English: A Red Bull advertising car spotted on...
English: A Red Bull advertising car spotted on Perry Street in Durham, North Carolina. Blacknall Presbyterian Church is visible in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The popular photo-sharing app, Instagram, gives its 50 million users the opportunity to become armature photographers with a unique photo editing feature set that has exploded in popularity over the last year. However, Instagram has not only provided a creative new medium for wannabe photographers, but for brands as well. Many brands have taken advantage of the opportunity to give consumers an artistic, behind-the-scenes look at what their products and services have to offer.

Today, some brands are using Instagram to give consumers behind-the-scenes looks at sporting events or fashion shows. Some brands have even enlisted highly influential Instagram users for advertising purposes. Here are a few brands that are effectively using Instagram for marketing, branding and advertising purposes:

1. Red Bull: From the average social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, to the new and uncharted social apps like the popular video sharing app, Viddy, Red Bull is definitely an industry leader when it comes to online marketing - and their Instagram presence is no exception. Red Bull posts a "daily awesome" photo, and maintains the tradition of "Flying Friday" to keep fans and followers engaged. However, Red Bull doesn't stop with just posting engaging content, the brand has also been known to "Like" other users photos as well.

2. Puma: Rather than simply celebrating shoes, Puma's Instagram was set up to highlight all the cool places that shoes take you. Puma has been known to send influential Instagram users to big events across the globe and take pictures. Puma even sent some very lucky and influential Instagram users to Abu Dhabi so they can Instagram the Volvo Ocean Race. Since Puma doesn't have the following of some other brands (like Red Bull), this strategy of employing influential users to photograph events was a good way of ensuring more people saw the pictures.

3. Tiffany's: Tiffany's adopted Instagram as part of its campaign about true love. They employed a well-known fashion blogging couple to take snapshots of love stories in Paris and New York and them on Instagram. Tiffany's also gave couples the opportunity to submit their own photos using the Tiffany's downloadable Instagram filter. Beyond just incorporating Instagram into their true love campaign, Tiffany's also used the photo-sharing app to give fans an inside look at how jewelry is made.

Though Instagram is still a fairly new medium for online marketing, many brands are realizing the power of and advantages of using the photo-sharing app for marketing purposes. Though it may require a great deal of creativity and thought to work Instagram into a company's social media strategy, those that have done so have seen amazing results and been greatly accepted by users on the platform.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

How to Use Facebook for Business - Your Quickstart Guide for Getting Customers Fast (Social Media for Business)

How to Use Facebook For Business:
Your Quickstart Guide for Getting New
Customers Fast (Image via Amazon aStore)
With Facebook you can identify exactly who wants your products and then actively attract them, according to Wynne Pirini in this book. Facebook enables people to voice their opinion about your business to hundreds of their friends instantly, and you can choose to take control of this new frontier, or you can leave it to others to influence what the market thinks about your business.

This short ebook focuses more on the practical steps involved in getting started on Facebook rather than the philosophical aspects or the broader business consequences. The author uses clear instructions and helpful illustrations to show how to set up a personal profile, how to set up a business fan page, how to advertise to a targeted audience, how to use images to enhance engagement, and why Facebook Apps are useful.

There mere use of Facebook does not guarantee a return for a business. Many of the advertisements currently appearing on the site are a waste of space. In order to succeed, a business needs to find a creative way of engaging customers and potential customers. Some businesses are naturally more interesting than others, but the book does give some hints as to engagement strategies that might work even for boring businesses.

Before reading the book I was of the opinion that it was not worthwhile for most businesses to devote resources to Facebook. Facebook ads are usually not appealing or very relevant. But now I am not so sure. There is endless scope for low-cost experimentation, and with sufficient expertise and ingenuity it clearly is possible to create a campaign that achieves results. If you have not already experimented with a Facebook fan page, this book provides a handy step-by-step guide for you to follow.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Social Media ROI: La gestión y medición de los esfuerzos de medios sociales en su organización

La Otra
La Otra (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Durante los últimos años, los ejecutivos corporativos hábilmente derribado evangelistas medios de comunicación social con la cuestión de la muerte: "Ah, sí, es así, ¿cuál es el ROI de los medios sociales, ¿eh?" Los evangelistas desconcertados y gurús balbuceó algo como, "se trata de la relación", o alguna otra más nueva era mantra de resonancia.

Ahora los ejecutivos corporativos y los gurús de los medios sociales por igual pueden respirar un suspiro de alivio. Olivier Blanchard responde no sólo a la cuestión específica de retorno de la inversión, sino que también proporciona un marco sólido para evaluar la verdadera pregunta: "¿Cuál es el valor de los medios sociales?" Aunque las preguntas sonar como la misma cosa, son muy diferentes. Una de ellas es por el dinero. La otra es de aproximadamente propósito. Armado con ROI Social Media le sabrá la diferencia y usted será capaz de responder a las dos preguntas con inteligencia.

Olivier libro es una lectura esencial para cualquier persona que busca utilizar los medios sociales para lograr los objetivos del negocio.

Para obtener el máximo valor del libro, comprarlo, leerlo, marcarlo y luego aprovechar el poder de los medios sociales por sí mismo y ver el valor de todas estas cosas nuevas mediante la conexión con Olivier en Twitter y comentando en su blog . Cuando lo hagas, te va a tomar su propio desarrollo profesional a un nivel superior y te sentirás como si hubieras ganado su MBA en marketing. Es una buena sensación.

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