Using Kickstarter to explore outer space?

On December 30, 2013, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Crowdfunding is hot. We like the idea of gathering a lot of people together, getting them to all make small donations and fund beneficial projects. But can this funding model work for something really big? Something such as the private space race? It’s a question asked by a recent PCMag story. And the answer? Quite possibly.

Kickstarter in space?

The PCMag story highlights the efforts of Michael Laine, former NASA engineer and the founder of LiftPort. He’s wanting to develop a new, rocket-less way to get to the moon, what he calls a lunar elevator. Will it work? Who knows? But Laine has captivated the eye of investors by using a Kickstarter campaign. His goal for the campaign had been to raise $8,000. Instead, it raised a remarkable $110,000.

Why it’s needed

NASA’s decision to conclude its shuttle program presented a unique opening for private entrepreneurs. NASA is taking a break from exploring space. But private entrepreneurs aren’t. And they’re increasingly using sites such as Kickstarter to fund their own quest into space.

A new telescope

For another example of space-age crowdfunding, PCMag highlights asteroid-mining company Planetary Resources. This company ran a Kickstarter campaign to generate $1 million to develop a low-Earth orbit telescope. The campaign received more than $1.5 million from 17,600 supporters in just 32 days. The company intends to use the excess funds to search deeper into space, perhaps for alien worlds.

 

Console wars are nothing new

On December 26, 2013, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Think this holiday season is the very first time that big-name video-game makers have battled for the dollars and hearts of buyers? Not a chance. Yes, Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 are set to fight it out this holiday season. But, as a recent story by PCMag.com shows, video-game console wars are nothing out of the ordinary. Here’s a brief background of the battles between video-game companies.

Quiet times

The PCMag story traces the history of console wars to the late 1970s. This is when the Atari 2600 exploded on the scene. The console didn’t feature nifty graphics. And its games were rather simple point-and-shoot affairs. Even so the console dominated its time period. Its main challenger was probably Mattel’s Intellivision. But the Intellivision, despite better graphics, never really mounted a serious challenge to the 2600′s popularity.

Sega takes on Nintendo

Nintendo has always been a video-game heavyweight. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the company relished long-running success with its NES and Super Nintendo home-gaming systems. But Sega was a tough competitor with its Genesis home system. Sega never backed down from taking potshots at its rival, including an infamous “Genesis does what Nintendon’t” ad campaign. Still, Nintendo continually ranked as the top gaming company of this period.

The modern age

Much of the 2000s have been dominated by a three-way battle between Sony’s PlayStation, Microsoft’s Xbox and Nintendo’s Wii. Serious gamers scoff at the Wii. But Nintendo’s console, appealing to family and casual gamers, has sold a ton since its introduction. In the mean time, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are set to battle for the attention of the country’s hardcore gaming audience. Who’ll win? That’s an open question.

 

Beware of spear phishing

On December 23, 2013, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Do you and your team members understand the perils of spear phishing? If not, you may be setting your company up for an online security breach, giving cyber criminals a chance to break into your business’ network. PCWorld recently discussed the very real menace of scammers using fake social network IDs to fool employees into surrendering information that enables these criminals to sneak into company networks.

How it works

The PCWorld story highlighted a recent phishing scam where a cybercriminal made a fake LinkedIn account for a make-believe woman who allegedly worked at a real online dating site. This criminal used the identity to amass followers at companies across the globe, and attempted to get enough details from these followers to hack into business’ networks.

Ill-prepared

The truth is, as the PCWorld story shows, too many businesses are not prepared for phishing attacks. A survey by ThreatSim found out that almost 60 percent of 300 IT executives, administrators and professionals in U.S. organizations considered phishing to be a minimal threat.

Reality

The PCWorld story makes it clear that phishing is anything but a minimal threat for businesses. As reported by the same survey, more than one in four respondents reported phishing attacks that led to a material breach within the last year. The message here? Watch out for those people your staff members meet on social networks. You never know which ones aren’t legitimate.

 

Surface 2 upgrade negligible

On December 12, 2013, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Is the Microsoft Surface 2 a tablet worth buying? Not according to a recent review by PCWorld writer Jon Phillips. The reviewer claims that Microsoft’s second attempt to create an entry-level Surface tablet is far too cautious to provide the struggling tablet relevance.

Too much competition?

The greatest challenge confronting the Surface 2 is the competition these days. There are plenty of lower-priced tablets that offer a lot of the same features as the Surface 2. And many of them are simpler to use. So how can the Surface 2 compete in this crowded field?

Timid

This, Phillips writes, is Microsoft’s fault. The company should have produced bigger changes for its Surface tablet. Instead, Microsoft settled for making relatively minor tweaks. The tweaks do improve the tablet. Nonetheless they don’t improve it enough to really make it a top option in the crowded tablet marketplace.

What’s new?

The Surface 2 is faster than the original. Its kickstand is more robust. However, the tablet still only supports the apps that you can find in the Windows store, and these apps aren’t that many or exciting, according to Phillips. There simply aren’t enough changes here to overcome the fact that the Surface 2 is a fairly bland entry to the tablet lineup.

 

Handicapping the favorites to become Microsoft CEO

On December 10, 2013, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

If you were going to bet on who would become the new chief executive officer of Microsoft, what tech names do you point to? Of course, no one knows for certain who will take over this key tech position. But PCWorld writer Mark Hachman gave it a go, listing some of his top candidates for the spot.

The insider

Stephen Elop carries a big advantage when it comes to the CEO spot: He’s spent a great deal of his career working at Microsoft. As Hachman highlights, which means that he understands how the tech giant works. Elop joined Microsoft’s business division in 2008 and then moved into its Office group and Microsoft Dynamics. Beginning in 2010, he began serving as Nokia’s executive vice president of devices and services.

The engineer

Hachman points to 68-year-old Alan Mulally as a favorite for the key Microsoft post. This engineer worked at Boeing for 37 years, eventually becoming chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airlines. He joined Ford as its president in 2006, and received praise for guiding the automaker through the downturn in the economy while refusing government bailout dollars. He is, however, nearly 70, and some ponder whether that may hurt his chances.

The hotshot

The 46-year-old Tony Bates also deserves attention, according to Hachman. Bates forged a successful career at Cisco, ultimately rising to a post in which he oversaw thousands of employees as SVP in charge of enterprise, commercial and small business. He is now at Skype, serving as its CEO beginning in 2010. His priority there has been to expand VoIP technology into the world of business.

 

These video games feel an awful lot like work

On December 5, 2013, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Don’t get sufficient work time at the office? You’re in luck. The video-gaming world is filled with games that feel more like work than fun. So take a look at these games highlighted in a recent PCWorld story if you’re wanting to bring a bit more work in your after-office hours.

Running a city

No dispute here that running a city isn’t hard work. And thanks to the classic SimCity video game, you, too, can suffer the frustrations and long hours of operating a metropolis. And you won’t even need to run for mayor to make it happen. As PCWorld says, succeeding in SimCity takes long hours. You need to plan housing developments, open shopping centers, lay roads and collect taxes. While you’re doing this? The residents of your city will likely hate you.

World of Warcraft

They say war is hell. But when it comes to the video game World of Warcraft, it’s hard work, too. Do you like to follow orders? Do you enjoy completing menial tasks for sometimes small rewards? Then World of Warcraft is the game for you.

Cart Life

Cart Life is that most unconventional game that lets you relive all the stress and dull routine of daily life, only now you’re calling it a game. In Cart Life, you’ll play either as a single mom working as a barista, a flustered newsstand operator or a hectic baker. None of the options are enjoyable, and each requires you to balance daily demands with making enough money to earn the rent and pay bills each month.

 

Live in Los Angeles, New York or London? Then don’t be shocked to see your postal carrier appearing on Sunday with a package from Amazon. As the TechCrunch Web site recently reported, the online business giant has started Sunday delivery for its Prime customers located in these three large cities.

Holiday business

It’s little surprise that Amazon is extending into Sundays for the holiday season. The online retailer has become a key player when it comes to holiday-season purchases. The retailer is now working with the United States Postal Service to overcome some of its holiday crush by delivering on Sundays.

Not all qualify

Even if you live in one of the key three cities, though, you might not be eligible for Amazon Sunday delivery. That’s due to the fact only Amazon Prime members can obtain these special deliveries. Amazon Prime is a preferred-customer service, and it isn’t free. To be a Prime member, you will need to pay $79 a year.

The future

If you don’t live in New York, Los Angeles or London, don’t worry. This is merely a pilot program for Amazon. The business has plans to expand the Sunday-deliver program to other markets — including cities such as Dallas, Houston and New Orleans — in 2014.