Jul 222015
 
radio programs for techonology, web, social media, cloud computing and computer advice

Security problems with smartcars and dating sites along with asking if a new version of Microsoft Windows matters any more are the topics for July’s Nightlife tech spot.

Paul Wallbank regularly joins Tony Delroy on ABC Nightlife on to discuss how technology affects your business and life.

If you missed this month’s show, you can listen to the program through the ABC website.

July’s Nightlife

A decade ago people lined up all night for a new version of the Windows operating system. Next week Microsoft will be launching Windows 10 to an indifferent market place, does what was once the world’s biggest software company matter anymore in a world of smartphones, connected cars and cloud computing?

Some of the questions we’ll be answering include.

  • So what are Microsoft announcing next week?
  • What happened to Windows 9?
  • Does Windows really matter any more?
  • The internet has changed things but not always for the better. What about connected cars being hacked?
  • Is this a bigger problem than just connected cars when we’re seeing things like kettles being wired up to the internet?
  • Of course it’s not just cars suffering problems on the Internet, adult dating site Ashley Madison has had potentially 37 million customers’ details leaked online.
  • Could this happen to any business? How do we protect ourselves?

Listeners’ questions

A few of the questions from listeners couldn’t be answered on air.

Running Flash of iPhones and iPads: Steve Jobs’ hatred of Adobe Flash was legendary and as consequence iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad don’t come with the ability to run the software. That’s a problem for those who need Flash for some packages.

The Puffin web browser gives iPad and iPhone users the ability to use Flash on their devices and is available from the iTunes store.

Securing Android: While smartphones are less prone to viruses and malware than personal computers, they still are at risk. For Android users there is no shortage of choice for security packages, some of which include;

Android power hogs: A downside with smartphone apps is they can drain battery life. One excellent feature on Android phones is the ability to easily check what’s using your juice.

  • Open device settings
  • Scroll to “about phone”
  • Click on “battery use”

Join us

Tune in on your local ABC radio station from 10pm Australian Eastern Summer time or listen online at www.abc.net.au/nightlife.

We’d love to hear your views so join the conversation with your on-air questions, ideas or comments; phone in on 1300 800 222 within Australia or +61 2 8333 1000 from outside Australia.

You can SMS Nightlife’s talkback on 19922702, or through twitter to@paulwallbank using the #abcnightlife hashtag or visit the Nightlife Facebook page.

 

Jun 162015
 
Should we be watching more TV in the Internet age

“We seek news on Twitter but bump into it on Facebook” points out the Reuters’ 2015 Digital News Report in its analysis of global media consumption.

The broad trends from surveying over 20,000 online news consumers in the US, UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Finland, Brazil, Japan and Australia are clear – social media is becoming the main way people are finding their news while television is slowly declining.

Probably most concerning for the television networks how younger viewers have turned away from TV with only a quarter of those aged between 18 and 25 tuning in as opposed to two thirds of those aged over 65.

Given the aging of television network audiences it’s not surprising that last week Australia’s Network Ten, part owned by Lachlan Murdoch, found a lifeline from the country’s main cable network as the broadcaster is finding revenues declining.

The question is how long advertisers are going to stick with television as audiences increasingly move online creating a revenue gap estimated by analyst Mary Meeker to be worth around thirty billion dollars a year.

For the moment, the great hope for the online world is Facebook with Reuters finding the service is dominating users’ time. In that light it’s not surprising the company has such a huge market valuation.

The competing social media services are still facing challenges, particularly with Twitter showing a far lower level of penetration with the general public, leading Harvard professor Bill George to speculate the company risked becoming the new BlackBerry.

While the online services struggle for supremacy and television slowly declines, the real pain continues to felt by the newspapers who continue to find their relevance erode and few of their readers prepared to pay for their content.

The Reuters report confirms the trends we already know while giving insights into the unique peculiarities of each market.

Jun 042015
 
http_website_links

Five years ago I did a presentation describing how a website was essential for every business’ online strategy.

The Business Cornerstone was delivered at the time where many advisers proclaiming Google Places and Facebook as adequate for building an internet presence.

Over time, the importance of having your own domain and website has been proved as different platforms have messed users around with changing terms, arbitrary rulings and often simply closing down services.

The importance of doing things your own way was underlined yesterday with the announcement by Medium, and Twitter, founder Ev Williams that the company is restructuring and shouldn’t be considered a publishing platform.

For those who’ve published pieces on Medium that the service is not a publishing platform would have come as a surprise given the company has spent the last 18 months encouraging people to contribute to their site.

That Medium is pivoting into something else – a Facebook, an Instagram or a Google Plus – shouldn’t be surprising but once again it illustrates the interests of this services are not necessarily the same as yours and when they conflict it’s your interests that will come off second best.

While platforms like Medium, Facebook and LinkedIn are useful for distributing your message, the best long term online presence you can have is your own website. It’s a lesson those who rely on free third party services keep having to learn.

May 162015
 
ge-jet-engine

One thing that’s becoming clear in researching and writing on the Internet of Things is how three distinct strands of the concept exist due to the different needs of industry and the marketplace.

This is articulated best by Bill Ruh, the Vice President of GEs Global Software Center, who in an interview this week – which I’ll post later – suggested the IoT is best divided into the industrial internet, the enterprise internet and the consumer internet.

At the base level the consumer internet includes the bulk of startups and the devices that get most of the publicity; the Apple Watches, Nest thermostats and smart door locks.

Largely operating on a ‘best effort’ basis, consumer IoT vendors don’t guarantee service and security is often an afterthought. This is going to present a few challenges for both consumers and retailers as the inevitable problems arise.

Catering for the enterprise

The IT industry vendors are at the next level, the Enterprise internet, where companies like Microsoft, Cisco and VMWear are adapting their businesses to the cloud and Internet of Things.

At this level, which Cisco calls the Internet of Everything, the security and reliability challenges are understood and the practices of the IT and communications industry lend themselves to the widespread transmission of data from smart devices.

Similarly most of the telcos with their machine to machine (M2M) technologies fall into the enterprise internet camp.

Driving the industrial internet

While the enterprise vendors are providing robust systems, the IT industry levels of service don’t quite meet the needs of mission – and often life – critical applications found in jet engines, precision manufacturing and most industrial processes.

Providing that level of security, precision, reliability and low latency is where the industrial internet is applied. This is where the companies such as GE and the other big engineering companies come in.

At the industrial internet level it’s far harder for startups to disrupt the existing players as it requires both specialist knowledge of their industry sectors and deep pockets to provide the necessary capital for product development.

However the existing industrial conglomerates don’t have all the skills in house and that’s an opportunity for smaller companies and startups to enter the industry.

The long product times are another aspect of the industrial internet, as Rue points out, GE are still supporting equipment that is over eighty years old. While that equipment will probably never be connected to the internet, the machines being designed today will be expected to have similar lifespans.

While the three different IoTs have their own characteristics, and in many instances overlap, all three are opportunities for savvy developers and entrepreneurs.

The difficulty some businesses, both as vendors and customers, will face with the IoT is applying the wrong technology set to their problems and industry.

Apr 252015
 
wellington-new-zealand-city-view

It bills itself as ‘the coolest little capital in the world’ however something is going on in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, as its technology sector takes off.

Last week I was in Wellington, partly to attend the Open Source, Open Society conference and also to have a look at how the city is doing so well as one of the leading startup cities.

While I’ll have a number of posts about the city, startup scene and conference over the next couple of weeks, it’s worthwhile noting some basic impressions that came from the visit.

The size of the city, Wellington is a small town with a population of 200,000, brings both advantages and negatives for the business and startup communities.

Small is sweet

One of the advantages of being so small is the business community is relatively accessible, a number of entrepreneurs told me how easy it is for them to find the specialists they need given there’s usually two degrees or less separation between everyone.

Normally having a small business community means it gets insular, particularly in a capital city where the business of government can create a bubble effect. What’s notable about Wellington is most of the businesses are looking outward towards the US, Australia and East Asia.

The city’s intimate business environment also improves trust within the community as one Aussie expat told me, “if you rip off anyone in this town pretty well everyone knows about it by the end of the weekend. It keeps everyone honest.”

Being small, the city makes it easy to walk around which compounds the business networking opportunities. A businesswoman, who is also a lifelong Wellingtonian, observed how she allows an extra 15 minutes to walk anywhere as she finds herself stopping for conversations.

Three dominant businesses

Having three successful businesses in the city – TradeMe, Xero and Weta – has both its upsides and disadvantages with the bigger players tending to dominate the employment market and funding opportunities.

Of the three businesses, TradeMe is the most domestically focused while Xero is growing in the tech sector and Weta is the most diverse with its range of special effects and movie production services.

With Weta, the business is exposed to the vagaries of the global film industry as Statistic New Zealand survey of movie production shows.

The film industry is one of Wellington’s important employers with the sector supporting around two thousand businesses in the city, although I didn’t get time to explore how much of an overlap there is between the tech and film industries.

TradeMe is largely a domestic focused business that provides a steady work and skills base for the local workforce. While it’s the least internationally exposed business of the three, it’s probably also the most consistent.

Xero, like Weta, is a globally expanding business and its success is attracting investors and expats from North America and Australia. While its the smallest of the three it’s probably the business that has done the most raise Wellington’s profile in the tech industry.

Community spaces

What’s particularly notable are the number of coworking spaces in Wellington ranging from the straightforward Bizdojo startup space and Creative HQ through to the quirky Enspiral coworking space.

The availability of shared spaces makes the city attractive to startups and adds to the vibrancy of the local tech community which links into hipster pursuits such as craft beer.

Communities like Enspiral also add another dimension to the local startup and creative industries environment by connecting entrepreneurs with their peers and service providers.

Partnerships with government

One aspect I didn’t get to explore while in Wellington was the relationship between the city’s business community and educational institutions, particularly Victoria University.

Similarly I didn’t get the opportunity to discover how much of a role local and national governments have had in the development of Wellington’s tech scene. It seems to be relatively hands off although some government agencies have supported Weta with co-investment funds.

What I did meet though were plenty of immigrants; from Croatia, Denmark, Holland, the US and, most of all, Australia.

Talking to some of the US and Australian expats it was clear that lifestyle combined with opportunity with lifestyle, as one Aussie emigre told me “I couldn’t get the water views, access to the city and be able to walk to work back home like I can here.”

While these are superficial thoughts that I’ll expand on over the next week as I decipher notes and listen to interviews, there’s no doubt that Wellington is carving a position as one of the global centres of the new economy. How big it becomes will depend on how many other businesses grow to the size of Xero or Weta.

Apr 222015
 
facebook-for-the-phone

Over the last few weeks much has been written about Google’s mobile search update that went live on Wednesday, some said it would be the death of small business on the internet while others claimed it would be the end of corporates online.

While all the focus has been on Google’s search changes Facebook quietly made a change that will probably be more vexing for many businesses.

Both Facebook and Google are struggling with making their services more useful for users, with the Google changes the intention is to make search on mobile devices more useful in giving preference to websites that work on smaller screens.

In a post on Google’s webmaster blog, Developer Programs Tech Lead Maile Ohye answered the basic questions about the search engine changes which dispelled much of the hysteria and myths about the update. The main point of Ohye’s post is that Google want to show users useful information.

Facebook have a similar problem, they have to balance the often competing interests of their users and advertisers with the main aim being keeping visitors on their site for as long as possible.

The objective of keeping users engaged is the reason for a series of tweaks Facebook announced this week that change the newsfeed visitors see.

The goal of News Feed is to show you the content that matters to you. This means we need to give you the right mix of updates from friends and public figures, publishers, businesses and community organizations you are connected to. This balance is different for everyone depending on what people are most interested in learning about every day. As more people and pages are sharing more content, we need to keep improving News Feed to get this balance right.

Facebook are putting their users priorities first in making sure the news feed is interesting and relevant, which the company believes will entice visitors to spend longer on the site and make advertising more attractive.

If it works then it’s a win for Facebook, their users and those who pay to advertise on the site. Again though, the losers are the companies and brands not advertising who thought they could get views by the quality of their content.

Unless the content is very good, those companies not paying Facebook are in for more disappointment as their reach collapses even further than its current pathetic rates.

Google’s change too is something that puts users first; rather than dumping mobile web surfers onto an unreadable page, they are making sure people get to sites that are useful.

In many ways Google is only encouraging what has been best practice for at least five years, that every site should work equally well on mobile devices as they do on desktop computers.

What Facebook and Google are showing us is the value of putting users’ needs first. If your guests are happy then your business model has a much better chance of succeeding, regardless of who the eventual customer is.

Making business more user friendly should be a priority for all companies in a competitive world.

Apr 212015
 
lenovo-tower-server-thinkserver-td350-front-1

One of the key factors in bringing the Personal Computer era of business to a close was the end of the upgrade cycle where users tended to buy new systems every three to five years.

For companies like Dell, Acer, IBM and Microsoft this cycle was an important and reliable income stream.

In the early 2000s though it stopped as customers decided that with most new innovations coming onto their computers through web browsers they didn’t need to buy new systems.

For the PC industry, particularly Microsoft, this presented a huge threat to their business models and all of them have been trying to find ways to refocus their businesses.

The ModernBiz Technology Make-Over

Late last year I was asked by Microsoft Australia to participate in their ModernBiz Technology Make-Over where a small business running Windows XP and Server 2003 was given a free tech upgrade to the latest equipment.

This was interesting as it was an opportunity to see how Microsoft and the market are adapting to a very changed industry.

As well I still carry the many scars – most psychological but some physical – from my years of running PC Rescue where upgrading companies’ old technology was a core part of the business.

Doing a tough job

The fallacy many managers and inexperienced companies fall for is that migration customers from old equipment to new systems is a simple matter of copying a few files. It is never that simple.

Upgrading company computers a tough field as every business is unique and in workplace where the technology has been in use for over a decade the learning curve onto new software is insanely steep for staff and management alike.

So watching the process from a relatively safe distance where I wasn’t worrying about losing customers’ data or trying to complete a complex task within a short deadline was quite attractive. Basically I wanted to see the other guys sweat.

Another attraction in participating was to see how Microsoft are managing the transition from supplying business servers to provisioning cloud services and how customers are managing that change in product offerings.

Dealing with a shifting market

For both Microsoft and their customers the shift from one off hardware and license purchases to cloud based monthly subscriptions is a major change in mindset, so seeing how small business users adapt to online services will be interesting.

Overall the technology makeover promises to be an interesting exercise on how the small business computer industry is changing.

For his participation in the Modern Biz Technology Makeover program, Microsoft gave Paul a Lenovo laptop which he hasn’t yet used.