Category Archives: Twitter

10 Tools That Will Make You a Social Media Guru

These 10 tools will help you manage your individual or business social media accounts without breaking the bank.

10 Tools That Will Make You a Social Media Guru
Do you aspire to be a social media guru but find yourself befuddled by the large number of social media tools available? Here we help you narrow the options for managing your social media accounts by identifying 10 of the best online tools. All are either free or available for a reasonable subscription fee that any individual or a small business can afford.

Bitly, probably the best-known UR- shortening service around, helps keep the links that you post on your social media accounts neat and tidy. Under the hood, the service features real-time analytics so you can track actual clicks. More importantly, the service supports the use of one custom domain name for free and implements all the necessary logic. You can brand your shortened URL the same way the big-time players do, like (The New York Times) and (The Economist).

Buffer ranks among the most popular social media message scheduling service available. You can share content and schedule posts across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ pages with a single click. The service makes it possible to stagger content throughout the day, constantly populating your social media feeds with new updates. Buffer also offers analytics about the reach of your posts and makes it easy to re-post popular content.

Hootsuite is an advanced social media management dashboard designed to help organizations or power users manage multiple social media accounts. The online service works with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ pages and other popular social networks. It offers a comprehensive range of reports that let you gain greater insights into ongoing social campaigns. Hootsuite starts off as a free service for individuals; various subscription tiers are available for power or business users.

The Pagemodo social marketing suite can help small businesses quickly create engaging visuals for Facebook. Its features include tools to manage Facebook pages and to create customized, eye-catching cover photos, visual posts and even custom tabs for contests. New posts go live immediately or according to a schedule, and they can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms.

Social Mention
The Social Mention real-time social media search and analysis tool scrapes user-generated content across more than 100 social media sites for mentions of a given company name, brand, product or search term. Considered among the best free listening tools on the market, Social Mention’s analyses delivers relevant results, with metrics that includes unique authors, reach, frequency of mentions and top keywords.

SocialBro helps businesses better target and engage with their Twitter audience. It can analyze followers’ timelines of followers to generate reports (such as the optimal time to tweet for reach and engagements), to identify key influencers and competitors, and to gain general analytics insights. SocialBro works best when coupled with a scheduling tool such as Buffer or Hootsuite. It’s free with basic features for accounts with less than 5,000 Twitter followers.

The SocialOomph Web service offers a long list of productivity enhancements across supported services. That list includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Plurk, as well as blogs built with WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr and Moveable Type. Available for free with some basic features, the paid version of SocialOomph can schedule Facebook updates and LinkedIn shares, automatically follow back followers, search for worthwhile Twitter friends to follow and even tweet via email.

Sprout Social
The Sprout Social management and engagement tool can post, monitor and analyze multiple social media accounts from one location. The service offers the ability to monitor messages across Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn personal profiles, all through a single inbox. A paid service that comes with a free 30-day trial, Sprout Social also offers real-time brand monitoring and comprehensive reporting tools to help users understand important metrics.

The Twitter-only management tool Tweepi makes it easy to identify (and get rid of) followers who unfollow and inactive users, as well as to find interesting new users by scraping the followers of specified Twitter accounts. The paid version offers smart shortcuts that let users quickly follow or unfollow large number of users at a time. It ranks among the more powerful tool for managing Twitter accounts with thousands of followers.

As its name suggests, the free TweetDeck (now owned by Twitter) is a Web and desktop solution for monitoring and managing Twitter feeds on a single screen. TweetDeck incorporates powerful filters based on specific keywords or conditions. It also offers the flexibility to customize the display to show or hide columns to better focus on what matters. TweetDeck is available for the Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari browsers, as well as Windows and Mac computers.

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Free cooling lures Facebook to Arctic’s edge

Data center in northern Sweden will use outside air year-round to cool machines, draw on renewable hydroelectricity for powerIn a move that will further bolster Facebook’s green data center credentials, the social networking giant plans to build an enormous new 120MW data center in Luleå, Sweden, just 62 miles south of the Arctic Circle. The company will make the official announcement Thursday, according to the Telegraph.


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The allure of the locale is three-fold: First, it’s a prime location for taking advantage of free cooling — that is, using outside air to chill machines instead of running costly CRAC (computer room air conditioner) units 24/7. Second, dams on the Luleå river generate an abundance of renewable electricity — enough so that half is exported — so Facebook needn’t worry about an energy shortfall any time soon. Third, Sweden has a dense fiber-optic network, which means data can flow reliably and easily through Finland and on into Eastern Europe and Russia.

For the past few years now, organizations have struggled with strategies to cut costs and energy consumption within their data centers. Free cooling has proven a paricularly desirable technique as the cost of generating artificially chilled air can be quite considerable. Facebook employs free cooling at its data center in Prineville, Ore., for example, though the AC sometimes needs to be turned on during the summer. That contributes to the facility’s remarkably low PUE (Power Utilization Effectiveness); Facebook claims the figure is 1.07.

This new Luleå facility — the first Facebook data center to be built outside the United States — could be cooled freely throughout the year: The average temperature in the region is around 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Telegraph, and the temperature has not exceeded 86 degrees for more than 24 hours for the past 50 years. ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) recommends operating data centers at a temperature range of 64.4 to 80.6 degrees.

Notably, server vendors are taking note of the growing trend toward using outside air to cool datacenters. Earlier this year, Dell began to warranty servers running in temperatures as high as 133 degrees.

The abundance of renewable energy is another boon for Facebook, as it earns the company eco-points by reducing its overall carbon footprint. Other data center operators, too, have turned to alternative energy to cut operation costs and to improve cut emissions. Google, for example, has a huge solar installation, while Fujitsu installed a hydrogen fuel cell at its Sunnyvale, Calif., campus.

How Microsoft SQL and Oracle Certifications Compare

Which database certification is the most marketable? It is clear when searching online job sites that Oracle, DB2, and SQL Server certifications are what employers are expecting from a qualified database administrator (DBA). Being aware of the different standards for each industry will help you decide which is best for you 70-640 Training .


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SQL Server 2008 is the current version and offers progressive certification levels entitled Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), IT Professional (MCITP), Master (MCM), and Architect (MCA). The MCTS Implementation and Maintenance certification is required for the MCITP DBA exam Microsoft Free MCTS Training and MCTS Online Training.

The MCTS Database Development certification is required for the MCITP Database Developer exam. Both the MCITP DBA and the Database Developer certifications are required for the MCM exam. The MCM certification is required to reach MCA. The MCA certification requires a review board interview conducted by Microsoft. This would be the most marketable certification for someone wanting to move into a senior DBA position at a small to medium size company.
Oracle has historically been the most popular platform for larger companies. It has a balanced presence across all platforms and currently dominates all forms of UNIX. It is a close second to SQL Server on Windows and has been the most marketable certification internationally for years. The Oracle 9i Release 2 certification has three progressive levels of advancement called Associate (OCA), Administrator (OCP), and Master (OCM). An OCM will work best for someone looking forward to joining a large company and is willing to relocate.

DB2 is the platform of choice for most mainframes. It has a significant UNIX and Linux market presence because it runs on almost any operating system. DB2 offers a highly scalable and flexible product in a setting where most of the customer interaction happens through an ATM or kiosk of some kind. These custom devices require custom software and applications that can eventually report to an Oracle or SQL database but cannot run the software themselves.

The progressive certifications for DB2 are IBM Certified Database Associate, Administrator, and Advanced DBA. The Associate level is the prerequisite to the Administrator, which includes DBA for Linux, UNIX, and Windows (LUW), Mainframe DB2 DBA for z/OS, and IBM-Certified Application Developer. These certifications are only for a dedicated DB2 and mainframe professional as DB2 is not marketable is other industries and platforms.

Microsoft quietly finding, reporting security holes in Apple, Google products

Researchers at Microsoft have been quietly finding — and helping to fix — security defects in products made by third-party vendors, including Apple and Google.

This month alone, the MSVR (Microsoft Security Vulnerability Research) team released advisories to document vulnerabilities in WordPress and Apple’s Safari browser and in July, software flaws were found and fixed in Google Picasa and Facebook.

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The MSVR program, launched two three years ago, gives Microsoft researchers freedom to audit the code of third-party software and work in a collaborative way with the affected vendor to get those issues fixed before they are publicly compromised.

The team’s work gained prominence in 2009 when a dangerous security hole in Google Chrome Frame was found and fixed but it’s not very well known that the team has spent the last year disclosing hundreds of security defects in third-party software.

Since July 2010, Microsoft said the MSVR team identified and responsibly disclosed 109 different software vulnerabilities affecting a total of 38 vendors.

More than 93 percent of the third-party vulnerabilities found through MSVR since July 2010 were rated as Critical or Important, the company explained.

“Vendors have responded and have coordinated on 97 percent of all reported vulnerabilities; 29 percent of third-party vulnerabilities found since July 2010 have already been resolved, and none of the vulnerabilities without updates have been observed in any attacks,” Microsoft said.

This week’s discoveries:

A vulnerability exists in the way Safari handles certain content types. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability to cause Safari to execute script content and disclose potentially sensitive information. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability would gain sensitive information that could be used in further attacks.
A vulnerability exists in the way that WordPress previously implemented protection against cross site scripting and content-type validation. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability to achieve script execution.

Microsoft, Google War of Words Marked Week

Microsoft and Google intensified their animosity in a war of words related to mobile patents, even as new data suggests Microsoft’s smartphone share continues to fall.

Microsoft’s competition with Google proved the highlight of the week, as a series of Tweets and blog postings by the respective companies’ executives threatened to make an already-tense relationship even more acrimonious.

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The stage was set earlier this year, when Microsoft and a handful of other companies submitted a winning $4.5 billion bid for the 6,000 wireless technology patents and patent applications formerly owned by Nortel Networks. Google had previously offered some $900 million for the patents. In July, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross, in Wilmington, Del., and Ontario Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Morawetz signaled their approval of the deal in a joint session.

According to unnamed sources speaking to The Wall Street Journal, federal regulators are examining whether members of the winning consortium are planning to file additional patent-infringement suits against Android device-makers: “The Justice Department wants to know whether it intends to use [the patents] defensively to deter patent lawsuits against its members, or offensively against rivals.”

But now Google’s crying foul over the deal.

“Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other’s throats, so when they get into bed together you have to start wondering what’s going on,” David Drummond, Google’s senior vice president and chief legal officer, wrote in an Aug. 3 posting on The Official Google Blog. “Fortunately, the law frowns on the accumulation of dubious patents for anti-competitive means—which means these deals are likely to draw regulatory scrutiny, and this patent bubble will pop.”

He went on to claim that the Justice Department is “looking into whether Microsoft and Apple acquired the Nortel patents for anticompetitive means.”

Google’s competitors have taken to the courts to stop Android’s rise. Over the past several months, Microsoft has convinced several manufacturers to pay it royalties on their Android-based devices, and is currently locked in patent-infringement lawsuits with Motorola and Barnes & Noble. Meanwhile, Apple is embroiled in court cases with HTC, Samsung and Motorola over the use of Android technology.

Following Drummond’s blog post, Microsoft decided to take the battle to the Internets.

“Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, wrote in an Aug. 3 Tweet. “Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.”

The same day, Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of corporate communications (say that three times fast), also Tweeted: “Free advice for David Drummond – next time check with Kent Walker before you blog.”

He included a link to an Oct. 28 email sent to Brad Smith by Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, suggesting that “a joint bid wouldn’t be advisable for us on this one.”

Drummond felt compelled to update his post Aug. 4: “If you think about it, it’s obvious why we turned down Microsoft’s offer,” he wrote. A joint acquisition of the patents “that gave all parties a license would have eliminated any protection these patents could offer to Android against attacks from Microsoft and its bidding partners.”

However the legal side of that patent battle turns out, the two companies will continue to batter each other for smartphone market share—although Google Android continues to handily outpace Microsoft’s own efforts in the space. According to research firm comScore, Microsoft saw its smartphone market-share decline in the three-month period ending in June, from 7.5 percent to 5.8 percent, over a period when both arch-rivals Google and Apple experienced gains.

Microsoft’s market share included both its antiquated Windows Mobile platform and the newer Windows Phone, which was supposed to reinvigorate the company’s fortunes in the smartphone space.

Instead, Windows Phone is showing signs of anemic adoption by consumers and businesses. According to data from Nielsen, Microsoft occupied some 9 percent of the U.S. smartphone market in June—trailing Google Android with 39 percent, Apple’s iPhone with 28 percent, and RIM with 20 percent.

During a July 11 keynote speech at the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference, CEO Steve Ballmer described Windows Phone’s market share as “very small,” but insisted that other metrics (such as consumer satisfaction) boded well for the platform overall.

Meanwhile, former Microsoft executive Steven VanRoekel has been tapped to become the nation’s second federal CIO. He will replace Vivek Kundra, who accepted a fellowship at Harvard University.

VanRoekel worked at Microsoft for 15 years, eventually rising to senior director for the Windows Server and Tools Division. After leaving the company in 2009, he served as the Federal Communications Commission’s managing director before leaping to USAID in 2011.

5 ways to make your keyboard easier to use

How to use a keyboard might seem academic, but there’s more to typing than just tapping the keys. For most people, the keyboard is the primary computer input and control device—that’s why it’s important to leverage the features and shortcuts that keyboards offer. Read on for tips to maximize ease of use, comfort, and efficiency.

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1. Get to know your keyboard

Whether your keyboard is just out of the box or it has seen years of use, it may have features you don’t know about. Take a moment to review the literature that came with your keyboard, visit the manufacturer’s product website, and familiarize yourself with the layout of the keys. Knowing your keyboard’s capabilities and limitations—and where to find time-saving keys—can make it easier to use and can even increase your productivity.
2. Customize keyboard settings

After you’re familiar with your keyboard, customizing just a few basic settings can further improve your efficiency and accuracy. For instance, you can adjust:

The pause before a character starts repeating.

The speed at which characters repeat, which can help you avoid typing errors.

The rate at which the cursor blinks, which can enhance its visibility.

You can make these changes right now:

Windows 7

Windows Vista

Windows XP

3. Take shortcuts

Even if you’re a genius with the mouse, keyboard shortcuts can still save you time. They’re called shortcuts for a reason—they reduce multiple clicks to a single combination of keys, like hitting a chord on a piano. They also economize hand and arm motion.

Using keyboard shortcuts for the things you do all the time, like saving or closing files, can make computing much easier and faster. So whether you want to work more easily and efficiently in Internet Explorer, streamline your Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 experience, or key international characters into your emails, you’ll find scores of shortcuts to speed you on your way. The table below offers only a few common standard-keyboard shortcuts, many of which work across Office applications—from Outlook to Access, from Visio to PowerPoint, from Word to Excel. You can find a more complete list of built-in keyboard shortcuts for a particular application by searching in Help for keyboard shortcuts. You can even peruse keyboard-shortcut lists:

Windows 7

Windows Vista

Windows XP

Press this

To do this


Open Help


Check the spelling of titles or words in any Office application with the Spelling & Grammar checker

Windows logo keyWindows logo key

Open the Start menu


Quit a program


Switch between open programs or windows


Open a new (blank) document


Select all content in a document, window, or text box


Save the current file or document (works in most programs)


Copy the selection


Cut the selection


Paste the selection


Print a document or webpage


Undo an action


Redo an action


Find text in a document


Find and replace text in a document


Boldface text


Italicize text


Underline text


Go to a page, line, or bookmark in a document

Windows logo key Windows logo key +F1

Display Windows Help and Support


Cancel the current task

Application key Application key

Open a menu of commands related to a selection in a program (equivalent to right-clicking the selection)
4. Make it easier to press multiple keys

If pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del seems an acrobatic feat, you can set up Sticky Keys. The Sticky Keys feature lets you hit shortcut keys one at a time rather than all at once. You can even set Sticky Keys to make a noise so you know it’s working.
All together now

You can set up Sticky Keys:

Windows 7

Windows Vista

Windows XP

(Tip: In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, Sticky Keys has a keyboard shortcut—press Shift five times in a row.)
5. Find a comfortable keyboard

Keyboards come in many shapes and sizes, and the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard your coworker swears by might feel downright awkward compared to the Comfort Curve 2000 you covet. Keyboards come in a variety of colors and key styles, too, not to mention with and without wires. And some keyboards are definitely louder than others. All Microsoft keyboards are carefully designed to balance form and function with comfort. Test drive a keyboard or two to find the right one for you.

Although using the right keyboard can really make a difference, ergonomics also play a key role when it comes to typing comfortably.
Tips for using your keyboard ergonomically

It is essential to use good ergonomic practices to help prevent or reduce soreness or injury to your wrists, hands, and arms. It is particularly important if you’re in front of your computer for long periods.

Here are some ergonomic tips for a safer, more comfortable computer session:

Position your keyboard at elbow level, with your upper arms relaxed at your sides.

Center your keyboard in front of you. If it has a numeric keypad, use the Spacebar as the centering point.

While typing, use a light touch and keep your wrists straight.

When you’re not typing, relax your arms and hands.

Take a short break every 15 to 20 minutes.

Type with your hands and wrists floating above the keyboard, so that you can use your whole arm to reach for distant keys instead of stretching your fingers.

Avoid resting your palms or wrists on any surface while typing. If your keyboard has a palm rest, use it only during breaks from typing.

How you use the keyboard is up to you. But by taking the time to adjust a few settings and to follow the guidelines above, typing on it can become easier, faster, and even safer.

As Twitter turns 5, it delivers 350B ‘tweets’ per day

IDG News Service – Twitter launched its microblogging service five years ago today and the company is marking the occasion by doling out some impressive usage stats.

About 600,000 people sign up for a Twitter account every day, but it took Twitter almost a year-and-a-half to attract its first 600,000 members, the company said on Friday in its official Twitter feed.

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In its first day, users sent 224 “tweets,” which is the number the current user base sends every tenth of a second.

Meanwhile, the company’s engineering team disclosed on its own feed that users send 350 billion “tweets” every day.

Last week, Twitter said that it had recently topped 1 million registered applications for its platform built by 750,000 external developers.

The usage metrics released by Twitter contrast with the ones that Google CEO Larry Page provided about the company’s new Google+ social networking site on Thursday.

Speaking during his company’s second-quarter earnings call, Page said that, although Google+ is still in a limited trial phase and available only by invitation, about 10 million people have signed up for the site. They share about 1 billion items every day.

“Delivering 350 billion Tweets a day is a terribly fun engineering challenge. But, it doesn’t capture how passionate our users are,” the post by Twitter’s Engineering team reads.

Looking back, Twitter has improved tremendously its site stability, availability and performance, which early on were notoriously uneven, making the service vulnerable to frequent outages, slowdowns and glitches.

Today, Twitter’s “Fail Whale” graphic, which became a mainstream symbol for things gone wrong, is seen much less often, and the company has moved on to other challenges, such as building a sustainable revenue stream based primarily on online ads.

Twitter is also facing discontent from some longtime developers who created applications that provided complementary functionality for the site, only to find that in the past 18 months or so, Twitter has decided to build those features natively into its service.

What’s not in doubt is that it is the undisputed, preferred microblogging tool of public figures, companies and private individuals for posting short text messages online and sharing links.

It has even played an important and controversial part in political uprisings, in particular in countries with totalitarian regimes where pro-democracy activists have found Twitter to be an effective yet stealthy communications tool.

Although it caters to the consumer market, its microblogging concept has been adapted by a growing number of enterprise software vendors who now provide Twitter-like services for workplace collaboration and communication.

As it celebrates its fifth birthday, Twitter also finds itself without several of its most public representatives, including co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams, who have recently moved on to other ventures.

$25,000 Windows tablet cures network ills

Fluke’s new OptiView XG is one tablet we’d hate to see in the hands of a hacker. This Windows 7 device includes five wired and two wireless network interfaces, seven antennas, 128GB of storage, multiple automatic analysis capabilities — including searching for any word or phrase — and the ability to guzzle data at up to 10Gbps.


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Fluke Networks has a long history of providing network analyzers that gladden the hearts of engineers, but the OptiView XG is the most intriguing yet. The tablet-style, battery-operable device includes specialized hardware and software that allows it to “analyze and troubleshoot applications, wired networks (1GbE, 10GbE) and wireless networks from the perspective of either remote or local users,” according to the company.

According to Fluke, the Optiview XG runs a 64-bit edition of Windows 7 via a 1.2GHz Intel Core Duo processor. It includes 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive that, because it may be removed and replaced with a spare, allows the device to be moved to and from classified environments, the company adds.

Fluke’s OptiView XG
Other basic tablet functionality includes a 10.25-inch touchscreen that provides a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels and two-point multitouch, plus two USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, and a port for an external monitor. Two hot-swappable battery packs provide a total cordless operating time of three hours, Fluke says.

To this, Fluke adds three gigabit Ethernet ports (two for network analysis, one for management), one 100Mbps/1Gbps SFP (small form factor pluggable) optical port, and one SFP+ port for 1/10Gbps. The device also packs dual 802.11a/b/g/n wireless adapters — with seven internal antennas and an external antenna input — and a spectrum analysis radio, the company adds.

The OptiView XG has five wired network interfaces and dual WLAN adapters
According to Fluke, the OptiView XG is capable of 10Gbps full-line-rate data capture, and has a dedicated 4GB capture buffer. The device can give network engineers a head start on solving problems by collecting and analyzing granular data for 24 hours, Fluke says, adding that it automatically identifies more than 40 different network problems and offers possible causes, impacts and solutions.

Claimed functionality for the OptiView XG is simply too numerous to list here, but is detailed in full on the device’s data sheet. Some of the abilities that caught our eye, however, are as follows:

* Automated problem detection — Automatically scans for errors in the network infrastructure. These errors are collected in a problem log that can be categorized and sorted. Examples of problems detected are: performance problems, duplicate IP addresses, incorrect subnet masks, default router not responding, and many more.

* Path analysis — Monitors all the interfaces that are along the path of the application. Also provides packet loss, delay and response time at each device. Enables the user to keep a close eye on interface utilization along the path and any other system resources at the server.

* Trace switchRoute — Uses a combination of layer 2 and layer 3 trace routes to identify entire network path between the application client and the application server, speeding problem isolation. During the discovery, if a switch is discovered in the path, Trace SwitchRoute starts its switch path discovery. Displayed results include the DNS name and IP address, the inter-switch connections by port number, together with link speed and VLAN information.

* Free string match — Can match any set of words or phrases when detected (regardless of the position in the packet — payload or header) in real-time. Can capture traffic around any application error message, or identify illicit use of the network via words, phrases, or file names. Can also identify and track applications that are not allowed on the network, such as streaming media that may consume valuable bandwidth, or P2P traffic that may pose a security risk.

* Advanced network discovery — Begins to discover devices on the network as soon as it is connected. Categorizes devices by type: interconnect (routers, switches), servers, hypervisors, virtual machines, printers, SNMPagents, VoIP devices, wireless devices, and other hosts. Additionally, networks are classified by IPv4 and IPv6 subnets, VLANs, NetBIOSdomains and IPX networks, and wireless networks, together with host membership within each classification.

Fluke’s AirMagnet software (above) is one of many functions included in the OptiView XG
According to Fluke, the OptiView XG can also be used to stress a network with simulated traffic up to the full 10Gbps. In addition, it can work with a second Fluke network analyzer to verify LAN and/or WAN throughput. A built-in web server allows remote retrieval of saved reports and capture files, the company adds.

Fluke says the OptiView XG may be used in temperatures ranging from 50 to 86 deg. F (up to 95% relative humidity) or 32 to 122 deg. F (75% relative humidity). In case the network you were thinking of checking is on an airplane, the device works up to 15,000 feet, adds the company.

Stupid user tricks 5: IT’s weakest link

But we were prepped. We were almost grinning, because we were about to be heroes. We told the IT guy that we have virtual images of his servers, that we had their configs registered with a local outfit that will rent us replacement infrastructure until he gets the new stuff on order, so all we need are the backup tapes and we can have him up and running in about a day, maybe less.


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Boy, that would have been nice. But we also learned that Mr. IT had gotten tired of going to the second floor to replace backup tapes. After all, that disk array was doing just fine as a backup. So the last tape they had was from four months before the four-post header.

Fallout: Not only did Mr. IT get fired, but the IT team lost the contract — unfair.

Moral: Do your daily backups, and don’t treat your  IT infrastructure like a fridge.

Stupid user trick No. 5: Letting mom monkey around with the admin console
Incident: One IT consultant tells tale of yet another hard-learned lesson in proper password management brought to you by that time-honored IT pro, mom.

A small-business client had us install a Small Business Server box for her. She had about 12 people working for her, including her mom, who was doubling as the office manager and her daughter’s personal assistant.

We did as we were asked. Everything was set up, tested, and found to be working. We established an admin account on the server and left it with the owner with strict instructions that it’s for emergencies when she’s on the phone with us only. She, of course, gave the admin account info to her mom to keep someplace safe without passing on the last part of the instructions.

Her mother went exploring and found this thing called Active Directory. Next thing we know, we’re getting an angry call from the daughter because our email server was sending strange emails to all her clients and friends. The story: Her mom had figured out how to get into Computers and Users and had been adding everyone in her daughter’s address book into AD, along with generating them an internal email address in addition to the one listed in her daughter’s rolodex. The system sent everyone a welcome email with an introduction to the “new” network they’d just joined.

Fallout: Apology emails around, consultant fees to delete all those users and set AD right, and palpable tension between daughter and mom.

Moral: Server passwords aren’t status symbols. If a person doesn’t need one, don’t share it.

Stupid user trick No. 6: Paying before planning
Incident: Hubris is no stranger to the world of IT. But when a trumped-up higher-up puts the purchase before the plan, the fallout can mean only one thing — a derailed career, as one developer recounts.

I worked for an Internet startup back in the late ’90s, complete with big-time VC funding and a small DNA kernel of three business whizzes and one techno geek who gleefully grabbed the CTO title.

The startup’s goal was to create a Java-based vertical accounting system followed by inventory and sales systems that would eventually comprise a “suite” of offerings. The three kernel guys land a huge bundle of first-round financing and sit down with two “experts” from the vertical to discuss what the initial application should look like and how it should run.

They’re in germination meetings for about a week, coming out with huge schematics and wireframes for the first rev. The CTO decided a messaging bus platform is absolutely required and proceeded to do a deal with the leader in that space at the time (name withheld), for — wait for it — $5 million.

Why is Microsoft buying Skype?

Steve Ballmer and Tony Bates explain, in a video-teleconference that took place late this morning. While this sounds cliché, the deal is about synergy around personal communications — for work and home — and the direct sales and potential advertising possibilities, particularly video.

Additionally, and this is something Ballmer only alludes to: Skype fits nicely into Microsoft’s three-screen strategy around the TV, smartphone and PC.


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As previously reported, Microsoft is spending $8.5 billion — all cash — to buy Skype from investment firm Silver Lake. When the deal closes, assuming regulatory approval, Skype will become a separate division of Microsoft.

The acquisition, which was unexpected, is groundbreaking for Microsoft and perhaps in some small way rectifies a past mistake. In early 2005, Microsoft passed on an opportunity to buy YouTube for $500 million. Google snatched up the video service for $1.6 billion in October of that year. Microsoft chose to build rather than to buy a video service, which later proved to be a huge mistake.

Now video is front and center again, but instead of impersonal content posted for the world to see, Microsoft is betting on intimacy — whether personal or professional communications. Sometimes you build and sometimes you buy, Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, says. Advertising will be one of Microsoft’s core objectives for monetizing Skype.

“We think advertising is a very powerful monetization stream for us,” says Bates, who is Skype’s CEO and will be president of the Microsoft Skype Business Division, when the deal completes later this year (timeframe given by both companies, again, subject to regulatory approval).

Microsoft device strategy

Microsoft and Skype had already been pursuing an advertising deal, which helped precipitate the acquisition. “We have even more to do together as a single company.” Ballmer says. He describes the offer to buy Skype as unsolicited. The companies agreed on the price in mid-April and signed the definitive agreement last night.

Microsoft is using overseas cash to make the purchase — and, yes, the $8.5 billion is all cash. Ballmer says this isn’t so unusual since Skype is based in Luxemburg.

“I’m excited about the Skype business,” Ballmer says. “Skype is a great business.”

Ballmer and Bates both emphasize Skype’s business potential, noting:

* 170 million connected users
* 600,000 new registrations per day
* 30 million average concurrent users
* 40 percent year-over-year EBITA growth
* 20 percent year-over-year revenue growth in 2010
* 45 percent compound annual growth rate for video ads
* 207 billion minutes of voice and video calls made during 2010

Both men emphasize the importance of video, with Bates boasting: “Video is in our DNA.” Video accounts for about 40 percent of calls now made using Skype, regardless of device. Again, video advertising will be a priority, with Skype already claiming to display 5 percent of U.S. video ads.

Bates describes Skype as an “engaged user base” — or what he calls “hundred-hundred club.” That’s 100 million users a month and 100 minutes average on Skype a month. Skype’s  priorities related to its users: core communications, subscription premium services and advertising.

Skype Trends

From Microsoft’s perspective, integration will be a top priority, as Skype functionality connects to Lync, Outlook and Xbox Live, initially, and also to Windows Live Hotmail and Messenger. Skype is better known as a consumer product, while Microsoft’s Lync is about business communications. Lync is “off to a fantastic start.” Ballmer says, with Lync revenue up 30 percent in fiscal third quarter. Skype will become part of that, he emphasizes.

The theme for Skype is similar to Office — providing tools bridging overlapping personal and professional lifestyles. Microsoft wants to offer “tools that help you communicate to everybody in your life,” Ballmer says “Skype joins quite naturally. It fits in with work and home.” Stated differently: “People do have one life.” Microsoft wants to “stitch together” home and work lifestyles.

In my earlier analysis of the Skype acquisition, ahead of the video conference, I identified five benefits to Microsoft:

1. Brand affinity and global reach

2. Extending Microsoft’s real-time communications investments

3. Video on Nokia handsets running Windows Phone

4. Keeping the PC relevant

5. 4G networks boosting video’s appeal

Steve Ballmer at Skype announcement

Ballmer’s and Bates’ emphasis on video advertising and bridging work and home lifestyles add two more to the list. But there is another, and this relates to Microsoft’s three-screen strategy: Television. Ballmer describes a situation where someone could participate in a family event from afar, on the TV connected to Xbox using Kinect. While not the same as being there, the video chat would be much more like it before a big-screen TV and motion-response from Kinect. “We’re already on 50 million TVs today,” Bates emphasizes. Kinect and Xbox would be a big next step.

I ended my earlier analysis with two unanswered questions. The first: whether or not Microsoft would continue to offer Skype on multiple platforms or not. “We’re committed to the Skype user base” — now and into the future. Ballmer emphasizes, stating there would be continued support for “non-Microsoft” platforms. Bates describes support for multiple platforms as “absolutely critical.”

The other question is about carrier conflict. Would carriers balk at Windows Phone and Skype together, offering free calls on their networks and choking bandwidth with video? Ballmer says he received calls from several carrier partners this morning, and they are “enthusiastic” about the acquisition. Oh yeah? Well, did they Skype?