Tag Archives: business

Travel By Train For Extra Productivity!



Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

In the most recent GNC podcast, Todd talked about an article from BBC which asked if responding to corporate email during the daily commute counted as work. That reminded me of a company that I used to deal with which always encouraged its consultants to travel to customer sites by train and paid for first class travel too. I thought this was a great perk as the company I worked for wasn’t so generous.

However, after a few beers will new colleagues one night, I discovered that this wasn’t quite as caring as it sounded. What was happening was this….

Say the consultant was travelling to visit client A on-site for a day’s work. Travel time was charged at half the normal hourly rate. But while travelling in first class, the consultant was expected to do (paper) work for client B, which could then be charged at the full hourly rate. An hour of travel time became the equivalent of one and half hours of work time.

As the consultants were being charged out at GB£120 per hour, travel time was a good earner for the company. Now do you think commuters should be paid for work email?


Microsoft Surface set to expand its business footprint



Family_v4_Hero_01Surface Pro 3 has seen widespread adoption, at least if Microsoft is to be believed. The tablet-laptop hybrid is heading into the business world, where it provides portability for those on the go. Now the company would like to expand on that market, announcing new plans to do just that.

Microsoft laments that it’s business channel has been a bit limited thus far, but now it’s time to change that with many new offerings.

“We are expanding our channel and will go from having a few hundred partners selling and servicing Surface to a few thousand globally in the coming months”.

Microsoft claims it’s excited to welcome new hardware integrators to the world of Surface, anxiously expecting to grow its market share. “Interested partners should go to the Microsoft Partner Network Device Partner Portal and contact an Authorized Device Distributor to learn how to become a partner”, the company’s Brian Hall claims.

As for Hub that was recently announced, that will be delayed. “We started taking pre-orders on July 1 and we’ve seen strong demand out of the gate. Based on the early interest we see, we’re tuning our manufacturing process to prepare for production at broader scale. To do this, we are adjusting our product roll-out schedule to ensure we deliver a great customer experience and set our partners up for success. We will not start shipping on September 1 now. We’ll have more details on our updated shipment schedule in early August. In the meantime, we will continue to take pre-orders”.


Businessfriend is Where Professionals Collaborate at CES



BusinessFriend logoLove ’em or hate ’em, social networks are here to stay. Over the years, many companies have entered this market. Networks like Facebook want to connect everyone, while networks like LinkedIn are aimed at business users. A new network called Businessfriend hopes to bridge the gap between the personal and professional social network.

Scott met with Glenn from Businessfriend. Glenn explained that Businessfriend is a “one-stop shop” for social networking and collaboration tools. Businessfriend users can do standard social-network stuff like follow the feeds of friends, colleagues and brands. But Businessfriend users can also access tools like instant messaging, video chat, audio chat and cloud-based document collaboration. Best of all, Businessfriend is one app that can be accessed via desktop computers or iOS and Android mobile apps, allowing users to connect no matter what platform they’re on.

Interview by Scott of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology for the TechPodcast Network.

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Optoma ML1500 DLP Projector Review



Optoma LogoThe Optoma ML1500 DLP Projector is a stylish ultra mobile LED projector which pretty much does it all in a very neat little package with a good complement of ports, connections and fun tricks. Let’s take a look.

Optoma Front

Measuring just 27 x 17 x 4.5 cm and weighing only 1.4 kg, the ML1500 is very portable and comes with a neoprene carrying case. As you’ll see from the photos, the projector is attractively styled, with the ports on the back and a touchpad on the top. The touchpad can be used to operate the built-in menus to control the ML1500 and there is also a supplied remote control for when changes need to be made from afar. On the bottom, a third leg can be screwed in and out to adjust the angle, and a standard photo mount allows the projector to be hung from above. Finally, a lever on the side controls the focus.

Optoma ML1500 Rear

Round the back there is a plethora of connections, with composite video, HDMI and VGA connectors, 3.5mm jacks for audio and microUSB, USB and SD card slots. Connect up the ML1500 to a PC or laptop and it appears as an Optoma WXGA (1280×800) monitor and with suitable OS, you can do the usual tricks of either reproducing the current desktop or extending the desktop to the ML1500’s display. Locking onto the VGA signal took a second or two, but nothing out of the ordinary. The small size of the projector meant that I could keep it on my desk and if I needed to have an impromptu team meeting that needed something shown, I could quickly turn the ML1500 onto a nearby wall, rather than everyone huddle round a monitor.

Optoma ML1500 Remote ControlOn the fun side, the ML1500 makes a good partner to mini media streamers like the Roku Streaming Stick or Chromecast. The stick can be plugged into the ML1500’s HDMI sockets and power pulled from an adjacent USB socket. All set and good to watch Netflix or other streaming service with minimum of fuss.

The ML1500 does a few other tricks up its sleeve (or USB port as the case may be). First of all, the projector has a built-in media player and office document viewer that will show films, play music and display Word, Excel, Powerpoint and PDF files directly from either an SD card or USB memory stick. I didn’t deliberately try to break the viewer but the ML1500 managed to cope with all the Office documents that I threw at it. It’s relatively easy to navigate round the documents and zoom in or out with the remote control. The on-screen menus are easy to navigate with large friendly icons showing the way.

Playing movies is cool too, with the ML1500 handling mp4, avi and mov format files (though I didn’t confirm the codecs inside each). The presentation is good with the projector keeping up with the action and the picture is fine in unlit room – it doesn’t need to be darkened. Obviously you can have a pretty big screen if you want – I watched a couple of films and really got into the cinematic feel of things. Colours were good and sound is ok – it’s not hifi but you can connect up via a 3.5 mm jack if you want more oomph.

Optoma WiFi DongleNext on the list of clever things is the USB wifi dongle which plugs into the ML1500. Once connected to the “Optoma Display” wireless network, you can use an app on your smartphone or tablet to play presentations and display media. I used WiFi-Doc on Android and the app is available for iPhone and iPad too. It’s easy to use – select what you want to show and it’ll be shown by the ML1500. You can zoom in and out of photos and documents, and about a second later, the projector will update to show the change. Here’s the app showing a photo of the house that Mel Gibson used while filming Braveheart. The app wasn’t quite as good as the built-in player when it came showing office files as a couple of pdfs had missing images.WiFi-Doc App

A final nifty feature was auto-keystone correction, where the ML1500 automatically adjusts the projection to account for the angle of the projector, which means that the picture on the screen is always rectangular and not fatter at the top than the bottom.

One minor niggle is that adjusting the focus has to be done manually and it can’t be corrected using the remote control. Not a big deal in most circumstances but could be an issue if the projector was mounted high up.

Although I’m not a projector expert, I enjoyed putting the ML1500 through its paces. Its comprehensive ports and built-in media player make it a good choice for both business and pleasure, and for those on the move, the low weight and PC-free capabilities, are attractive. I think it’s priced about right too at under £700.

Thanks to Optoma for the review unit.


Payleven Mobile Payments at The Gadget Show



Payleven Chip and PINOne of the common problems facing start-ups and small businesses are the costs associated with taking credit card payments. The transaction costs can be high for small turnovers and point-of-sale machines are expensive with a monthly rental fee. To counter this problem, Payleven offers a low-cost mobile payment solution for European businesses using a Chip’n’PIN card reader that uses Bluetooth to communicate with both Apple, Android and Amazon smartphones and tablets. The Chip’n’PIN unit costs only GB£60 (ex-VAT) with a transaction charge of 2.75%. Payleven have partnered with GoTab to offer a complete solution for around £250 including a tablet and the card reader.

The approach is similar to US-based Square, but as Chip’n’PIN is only beginning to be required across the pond, Square’s reader unit is a simpler card-swipe device that plugs straight into the smartphone. Having a full Chip’n’PIN card reader in Europe is a necessity but the independent unit makes the transaction look much more professional anyway.

Simon from Payleven tells me about their solution and takes me through some of the features.


Ford Acquires Software Developer Livio for In-Dash App Connection



Livio Connect API
Livio Connect API

Ford has been the innovator on connected in-dash infotainment since they first announced their new systems in 2007. So now with all the other car companies coming up fast on in-app systems, Ford needs to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Today, they have continued their strength with purchasing Livio for an undisclosed sum, but less than 10 million dollars.

Livio is a company which links applications for iOS, Android and Blackberry to your car. Livio takes the devices Programming interfaces and makes sure they can talk to the Ford Sync system. Livio created Sync Applink for just that purpose.

Ford_logoFord is also getting a product that is an industry standard. This would give app creators a single platform to work with, resulting in faster development of higher quality apps. Consumers – in turn – would have a safe way to access digital content on the go.

“With the additional expertise Livio provides us, Ford intends to continue to lead the next generation of in-car connectivity with technology advancements that give consumers more options to access their devices on the go,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president, Ford Research and Innovation.

Livio was co-founded by Jake Sigal and Massimo Baldini in 2008. Their motto: More music, less work. based in Metro-Detroit, the company has grown since.

Find out more: Todd and Don interviewed Livio on the CES Live Feed


Kickstarter Team GB



Kickstarter LogoUs Brits are pretty good at inventing stuff. Telephone and TV; radar and jet engine; antibiotics and vaccination; pneumatic tyres and hovercraft; these are all great British inventions or discoveries. And don’t forget that new-fangled worldwide web thingy from Sir Tim Berners-Lee. We might be a nation of shopkeepers but we’re also a nation of cracking inventors.

Consequently, I’m delighted to see that Kickstarter is now allowing for UK-based projects, which if nothing else, will save on the typical $20 postage across the Atlantic. From today, proposers will be able to start putting together their Kickstarter projects for launch on 31 October (not October 31).

Intelligently, there won’t be separate UK Kickstarter site: all Kickstarter projects will appear together so brilliant ideas can be funded from across the world – you’ll just have to pay in pounds sterling rather than US dollars. I doubt this will reverse our trade deficit but every little bit helps.

The only obvious difference at this stage seems to be that payments won’t be made through Amazon but an unspecified “third party payments processor”.

I’m very much looking forwards to funding some truly British Kickstarter projects and I’ll keep GNC posted as I do.

(For pedants everywhere, I know that UK and GB are not synonymous but I really can’t be bothered explaining the difference to Johnny Foreigner every time.)