Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You Don’t Accept Credit Cards Yet? Why not?

Several years ago a client asked me if I accepted credit cards, to which I replied, “Not yet, why?” This was a large project in terms of the potential dollars she would be spending with me, and because I wanted to keep her happy, the next day I signed up through my bank to accept credit card payments, not just from her, but from all my clients.

What a bookkeeping nightmare that was! As soon as her project was completed, I cancelled the service with no regrets.

SMARTPHONES AND CREDIT CARDS UNITE
Time lapse five years forward and now the iPhone and Android phones, plus the iPad (none of which existed then) are standard tools for business owners.

So what do smartphones have to do with credit card payments?

Everything when you add to that smartphone or iPad a little square device that inserts into the earphone plug hole. Voilá, your smartphone just became a credit card terminal, and you can easily accept credit cards from your customers and clients, right there, on the spot. Cool!

WHAT’S THAT LITTLE SQUARE?
Funnily enough, it’s called “Square,” and what it does is when you swipe a credit card through it is that it transmits the credit card holder’s information to Square’s site where you have an account. They debit the card holder for the amount you indicate and Square deposits the money, less their 2.75% fee, into your bank account. No contracts, monthly fees, or merchant accounts. It’s simple, clean, easy.

HOW DO I GET A SQUARE?
Apple is so enthusiastic about this little device that you can even purchase it at the Apple store and on-line at iTunes, which is saying a lot about it.

iPhone and iPad users click HERE to learn more about how to get it through iTunes.

Android users click HERE to learn more about getting it for your smartphone.

Of course, you can also order it via Square’s web site: Square.

I M H O
I believe that Square, and other technology of this ilk, is on the way to making cash, and especially payments by check, obsolete. But that’s just my thinking. What’s yours?

UPDATE; June 4, 2012
If your business accepts credit or debit cards (no matter how you take them), then this IRS tax code change should be of interest to you: "The New Merchant Card Reporting Requirements require businesses who accept payments from credit and debit cards to report that income separately....This requirement will be enforced in the 2012 tax year."

UPDATE: March 15th, 2011
Now PayPal's hat is in the smartphone payment ring with their new device and technology. To read more, please click HERE to be taken to their web site information page.

Information contained herein is for guideline purposes only, is not an endorsement of a vendor or its product, and is no guarantee that you will become a millionaire because you’ve used it.

Photos courtesy of Technotechniques.com and squareup.com, pubpages.unh.edu

Copyright © The B. Hammil Company, 2011



Monday, April 25, 2011

LOCK YOUR COMPUTER! Really? Why?

A few weeks ago I posted a blog, “You Lock Your House, Lock your Smartphone Too.”  And a lot of you read it. Great! Sooo, the next question is, “Why aren't you locking your computer too?”

If your computer is stolen or you inadvertently leave your laptop somewhere, if it isn't locked (password protected), then all the information on it is available to be viewed by whoever has it, and since you don’t know who that is, that’s definitely not a good thing.

WHY NOT LOCK YOUR COMPUTER?
Given what’s been in the news lately, I can’t think of a single good reason not to password protect the valuable information that resides in your computer, can you?


We regularly hear about an employee of some large corporation or  bank who's lost his or her laptop at the airport, and it contained really personal information about the company’s clients; often that information contains their clients' Social Security numbers, account information, names, addresses, et cetera ad nauseum. Scary thought. The least that employee could have done was to password protect their computer. Duh.

WHAT DOES LOCKING A COMPUTER ENTAIL?
Locking a computer doesn’t mean chaining it down to the table, though that’s a good way to prevent a laptop from being stolen at a trade show if you happen to turn your back on it.

In every computer, whether it's a PC or Mac, a desk unit or laptop, and in every operating system, is the ability to password protect access to its contents, the files. You can configure the computer to request a login password before it restarts or reopens because of inactivity. Some PC laptops even use your own fingerprint as a form of “password” protection. All of this is a good thing.

It’s not complicated to do; anyone is capable of setting it up.




Somewhere in your computer is a “help” window, a place where you can access instructions about how to do stuff. Type in “password” and several options should show up. Browse around until you find the right one. The place to set up passwords is often in the “preferences” section, and within there it could be a sub-section called “security.”

A very important thing to do is to make a note of the password and store it somewhere other than in the computer so if you forget your password you can easily retrieve it. Just be careful about the password you select. Why? Read my blog: “Are You Inviting Identity Theft? Probably...

Now you know why and the basics of how, so you shouldn’t have any excuses, good or otherwise, not do this.


UPDATE: July 22, 2012
If you're concerned that your tracking capability won't work if your computer is password protected, here's an easy solution; set your computer up so guests can use it without seeing your files and screens. Then, when you finish each work session, log out of your "side" of the computer and open up the guest side. Now your computer is active and your tracking capability will function. Easy!


Information contained herein is for guideline purposes only, and is not a guarantee of results.

Images courtesy of corporateradical.com, itsecurity.vermont.gov


Copyright © The B. Hammil Company, 2011





Saturday, April 23, 2011

Gas Prices Bugging You? Fight Back With an App for That

Not much else to say except that there’s an app for that. There are many different gas savings apps for the iPhone, but this is the only one that's available for the iPhone, Droid, and Windows systems. Additionally, it's the best rated of them all.


Find the cheapest gas on the go. In one click, locate gas stations near you and see their current gas prices. GasBuddy is comprised of a community of users working together to update gas prices and help everyone save on gas!


This information appeared in an earlier post, so check out the other ways you can save money while shopping “There’s an App For That – Shopping!




This information is for guidance only and is not an endorsement of the product nor does it guarantee the results.


Copyright © The B. Hammil Company, 2011



Thursday, April 21, 2011

iPhone Tracking - what's it all about, anyway?

On April 20th, 2011, while at a tech conference in San Francisco, two guys announced that they had discovered a hidden software code within 3G enabled iPhones and iPads that allows Apple to track your every move via a piece of hidden software in the devices.

Well, yes, the device has the ability to track someone’s location, and no, Apple is not collecting the data. In fact, the day after the media carried front-page stories about your location being tracked and stored in computers when synched, Apple came out with an announcement that said this ability was created as a result of a bug in their iOS software and would be addressed in the next update.

So what’s it for? Good question. Geo-tracking is an ability that can be turned on if you want location markers on photographs taken with an iPhone. If you turn this ability off, these markers won’t be there. But that’s only for photos.

iPhones also have the ability to know where you are so you can map your route, get a good deal at a nearby store, and find the latest movies being shown near where you are. But, again, you have the choice to turn this ability on and off. Whether this information is being collected by third parties is another matter, and the answer to this question is open to debate, depending on whom you’re asking.

But the software in question is stored in your IPhone and downloads mapping information when you synch your device to your computer. It’s then stored in the hard drive, which brings up the subject about locking our hard drive, which will be the topic of a future posting here.

If you want to see what your own movement history looks like, unencrypted and visualized, you can download iPhone Tracking software HERE. It’s free. Based on viewing my own history, it looks only partially accurate. Just know, that it was almost impossible for the average person to access your information in a readable format before those aforementioned guys created this software.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of information on the Internet about this subject. Below are some of the most reliable sources with links to their articles so you can read about it and make up your own mind.

I hope this clears the matter up a bit for you. Just remember, no matter where you go outside your home, you are being watched on monitors, your movement tracked by the GPS in your car, and your image is being recorded on video tape every time you walk into a mall, store, street and office building, basically, any time you’re in public. Your activities are also known when you use your land line phone, credit card, or bank. In other words, the subject of privacy is something that has to be viewed differently than it was just a few years ago.

As a wise person said, “If you don’t want to see it on the front page of the New York Times, don’t do it.”


UPDATES: 


iPhone Software Update Released - May 4th, 


Apple's Q & A Press Release in response via Business Wire - April 28th


CBS News: April 24th Q&A: Smartphone Tracking


Walll Street Journal: April 22nd Apple, Google Collect User Data


NY Times, Pogue Post: April 21st Your iPhone is Tracking You. So What?


ReadWriteWeb April 20th Your iPhone is Tracking Your Every Move – includes 20 minute video





Photo courtesy of kottke.org, NY Times


Copyright © The B. Hammil Company, 2011



Net Lingo – Get With It

FTW, IMHO, URL, RSS, “phishing,” and what do @ and # really mean in Twitter-talk? This doesn’t even include the “emoticons,” those cute little visuals creatively made up from simple letters, symbols and numbers, though they’re fairly easy to figure out just by looking at them.  ;-)    FYI:  that’s me smiling and winking at you.

If this all just so much alphabet soup for you, here’s a way to unscramble the meaning and get with it as you dip your toe into the fast moving river of social media, texting, Tweeting and chatting on Facebook (though now you can actually talk with someone there). *

This is also especially useful to know if you have kids who are texting their little thumbs off, and you want to make sure they’re safe and not being inappropriate in their use of social media.

COMMONLY USED JARGON
For “newbies,” those who are not familiar with all this tech stuff, here are some of the most commonly used alphabet shortcuts found in any social media environment. Many of them have crept into everyday discussion, and OMG even made it into Webster’s dictionary this year.


ALPHABET ACRONYMS
In no particular order, here are some of them:





·    OMG – Oh my gosh, Oh my god
·    LOL – Laughing out loud
·    ROTFL – Rolling on the floor laughing (Alt: ROTFLOL)
·    ROTFLMAO – Rolling on the floor laughing my a** off
·    BTW – by the way
·    IMHO – in my humble opinion
·    FTW – for the win (it’s a good thing, thumbs up, etc)
·    WOOT – same as FTW
·    GF – girl friend
·    FAQ – frequently asked questions (you’ll often see this on customer service pages)
·    PDF - “Portable Document Format” from Abobe’s software, an app used to compress documents and images to they can be efficiently transferred on-line via email, etc.
·    URL – Universal Resource Locator. For the purpose of this list, and in everyday language, this is the address of a web page.
·    VR – virtual reality, an artificial, computer generated simulated environment that feels real.
·    RSS – Really Simple Syndication – read my earlier blog, RSS = Really Simple Syndication to learn how to use it. Apps that help make it easier to read articles on-line can be found in “There’s An App For That – RSS Readers.”

REAL WORDS AND WHAT THEY MEAN
·    App – this is the short term for “application,” that software that makes your smartphone and computer do what it does so well.

·    Cloud – that amorphous place where data is stored and accessed via the internet. To learn more about this, read Is Your Head in the Cloud About Data Storage?

·    Phishing, Pharming – this is a form of email hoax wherein the bad guys get us to think that their email is coming from a legitimate, recognized source so they can get our personal information and use it for their malicious purposes. Read my blog on this: “Gone Phishing – Protect Your Information From Fraud.”

·    Spam – unsolicited junk email sent out in bulk.

·    Zine – electronic magazine; could be the on-line version of a printed mag, or a magazine that exists only on-line, a.k.a.: cyberspace.
TEXTING JARGON
As you can imagine, with kids texting more than talking on the phone, never mind at the dinner table, there’s a whole dictionary of short cuts to express long and often complicated thoughts. Here are just a few of the most basic:

·    2G2BT – too good to be true

·    404 – I haven’t a clue

·    459– I love you

·    831 – I love you

·    9 – parent is watching

·    86 – it’s over, out of, gone

·    ?^ - hook up

·    AAMOF – as a matter of fact

·    IMOH – in my humble opinion

·    10Q – thank you

A FEW BASICS ABOUT SYMBOLS
It you’re on Twitter, by now you should know that the @ (at) symbol with a user name after it means that someone has mentioned this name in their tweet and it can be referenced.

The # (hash mark, hash tag) symbol means that it’s a subject with people discussing it, so if you’re talking about “kitchens,” any time you put #kitchen in the search window, guess what? You’ll see a list of all the recent twitter posts about kitchens.

Twitter chats, those lively interactions between people, usually at a set time of day, use # to create a stream of discussion that anyone can jump in on to observe and contribute. Each post will include the # and name of the discussion, and the whole list of tweets can be referenced at a later time if you couldn’t participate in real time.

BTW
If you type in all caps, that’s considered shouting, and definitely not cool, SO DON’T DO IT!


I hope this gives you a sense of how the language is evolving to give peeps (people) a way to communicate, often from smartphones where speed and efficiency are paramount.

If you want more information about text and chat acronyms, I suggest you visit NetLingo. This site draws the curtain so everyone can see how the language has morphed (transformed, changed, almost as if by magic), and what some words and letter combinations now mean.

 * See my post about talking on Facebook chat; "Talk on Facebook Chat? Yup, It's Really Here."


This information is for guideline purposes only, and is no guarantee that your teenagers will listen to you, even after you starting using these acronyms in an endeavor to effectively communicate with them.

Images courtesy of internetadvertisingdictionary.com, domki-jaroslawiec.pl, cafepress.com




Copyright © The B. Hammil Company, 2011





Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TALK ON FACEBOOK? Yup, it’s here!

UPDATE: April 24, 2011
As my own experience with this new service will attest, Bobsled and Facebook were so not ready to launch this service. It was buggy and unreliable. Hence, they have removed it until further notice. Sorry to have gotten everyone's hopes up, and I will keep you posted as more information becomes available.


April 26, 2011 - Technorati
Facebook's Voice Chat Not Ready For Prime Time 
An editorial that I wrote about my experience with this app.


_________________________________________________________________________


Are you ready to actually talk with a friend on Facebook instead of typing out cryptic chats? Now you can because Facebook has teamed up with T-Mobile and Bobsled to bring you this capability. 

It’s live now, and, the best part is that it’s free!



You need to download the application onto your PC or Mac, sign the agreement, let it install on your computer’s hard drive, and you’re ready to talk. 


There’s a handy list of FAQ with concise, easy to understand answers that shows up on the right hand side of the chat window when you click the icon that looks like a telephone receiver.

The biggest question will be, “Does my FB friend have to have this installed for us to talk?” The answer is “No.” Instead, they will receive a text link in Facebook chat. When your friend clicks the link, you will be connected.

What happens if they don’t answer your call? Naturally, there’s a way to leave them a recorded message with a note either on their wall or as a private DM, your choice.

This doesn’t work on mobile devices, yet, but I’m sure that will come along soon enough.


To get to the Bobsled app on Facebook, click HERE.

Isn't technology amazing? I think so!



This is information is intended as a guideline, and is not an endorsement of the vendor, nor does it guarantee results.

Images courtesy of Facebook


Copyright © The B. Hammil Company, 2011



Monday, April 18, 2011

There’s an App For That – QR Reader for Your Smartphone




2nd in the on-going series “QR Codes”



Because of the tremendous response to my recent blog, What’s QR Code and is it Right For Your Business?, I thought it would be only appropriate for me to introduce you to QR code reader apps for your smartphone so you can get on this train before it leaves the station.

FIRST, A FEW THOUGHTS
While QR codes have been around since the mid 1990’s, smartphones haven’t, so businesses in the United States are just now discovering new ways to apply this most interesting technology to mobile phones, and are still feeling their way around for how people want to use it. (Japan is way ahead in using this technology to the point that you'll even find QR codes on McDonald wrappers when you're there, so my comments about usage applies only to within the USA.)

Basically, what a QR reader does is translates those strange markings into a link the smartphone understands and opens up a dedicated web site (URL). 

My article for Technorati, Are People Using QR Codes; If so, How?”, discusses early research findings. It seems, and there’s no surprise here, that we want to “pull” information in rather than having it “pushed” at us.

HOW QR CODES ARE BEING USED
From the research we also learned that right now people are using it mostly for discount coupons and POP (point of purchase) informational links, like signage in supermarkets for recipes using the products shown. Because so many travelers have smartphones, some airlines are starting to use it for efficient check-in at the gate, and Realtors are starting to use it to market homes for sale. 

Some people are using QR codes on their business cards so more information than just what can be printed on a little piece of cardboard is available to the recipient.

HOW I’M USING QR CODES
You’ll see that my interior design company’s Facebook page now has my company’s QR code, and when used with a QR reader app, it takes people to a page that I created specifically for it. I can also track where you saw my QR, great for market research. Just to whet your appetite, here’s a link to the page that you’d see if you were linking from a QR reader: Beryn Hammil Designs.

If you clicked on this link, you’d see that this page includes hot links to specific pages on my company’s web site, a video portfolio link, Twitter and FB links, as well as a long list of the interior design services my company provides. And my email address and phone number, which are linked, of course. Try putting all that on a little business card! Furthermore, once someone has this QR link on their smartphone, wherever they are they'll have this information with links to my web site. Excellent!



QR SMARTPHONE APPS        
So, without further ado, here are just a few of the many QR apps available for your smartphone. From a basic standpoint, they all do the same thing; link to a URL. It's when the bells and whistles get added that it becomes interesting.


I’ve arranged them by device type, so scroll to the one that’s right for you, then click on the name of each app to go to a page about it.


iPHONE – compatible with iPhone 3Gs and 4, Touch 4, iPad2

This is a well-reviewed QR app in part because it’s the fastest and has different sharing options; Facebook, Twitter, Instapaper, etc., and you can email links out, dials a phone number shown on the page, and gives geo tags. The biggest differentiator is that you can create your own QR code while on the go. Because it’s free, there are small adds on the bottom of the screen, but you can lose them if you pay $ .99

This is a close second to the above app, grabs the QR image without closely focusing on it, and will “View on Map” if you press that option. The interface isn’t as elegant as QR Reader, but that’s a small issue for most people.

This app allows you to capture the QR image in either landscape or vertical mode, but its biggest difference from the others is that it lets you capture multiple codes quickly and without visiting the local archive in-between, useful if you’re at a trade show and moving around quickly.


OPTISCAN 
This app not only scans QR codes, but generates them as well. You can save scans, which is great for sharing your own business card with others, and save QR codes from the web in your photo gallery and easily reference them here.



BLACKBERRY  - check the app store to find out which app works for which device.

This app launches your browser, dials a phone number, email, SMM, and imports a contact from a vCard. It also vibrates when the scan is complete, confirming the action is good.

With careful focus in your smartphone’s camera window, this reader will capture the code and link to URL’s, automatically launching web sites, videos and more.

Read UPC, Data Matrix barcode, and QR codes with this app so you can compare product prices, go to URL’s, view videos, and more.


ANDROID / DROID - check the app store to find out which app works for which device.

In addition to the usual functions, this app lets you create QR codes from contacts in your address book, images in your phone, from GEO-locations, SMS, and more. With lots of functionality in this app, it received excellent reviews from users.

Again, lots of functionality and ways to create and store information, and allows auto-scanning of multiple barcode formats: Quick Code, QR code, Data Matrix, EAN 8/13, Code 39 and Code 128.

Visits the web site, dials the phone, stores the information, sends SMS or email messages and more, just like you’d expect it to.



COMING SOON...
Armed with all this information, you should be ready to scan QR codes like a pro no matter what kind of smartphone you have. In a future blog, I'll discuss how to create QR codes for your business and some interesting ways to apply it, so stay tuned.


UPDATE: Here's a link to the above mentioned article, "Using QR Code in Your Business."


UPDATE: May 16, 2011
I just learned about this newish QR code reader, checked it out, and like it. 
PAPERLINKS
In addition to scanning QR codes quickly, it keeps a history of them as URL's so you can quickly go back to one you viewed earlier.


UPDATE: June 19, 2011
Here's a site that offers links to what they consider the top mobile bar code companies, and descriptions of the different types of services provided: Top 34 Bar Code Companies. It's a great chart and reference tool. Check it out.

This information is for guideline purposes only, is not an endorsement of any product or vendor, and is no guarantee of the results.

Images from iTunes, Blackberry, Android app stores and msnbc.com


Copyright © The B. Hammil Company, 2011