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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

F1

Open Help

F7

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

Alt+F4

Quit a program

Alt+Tab

Switch between open programs or windows

Ctrl+N

Open a new (blank) document

Ctrl+A

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

Ctrl+S

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

Ctrl+C

Copy the selection

Ctrl+X

Cut the selection

Ctrl+V

Paste the selection

Ctrl+P

Print a document or webpage

Ctrl+Z

Undo an action

Ctrl+Y

Redo an action

Ctrl+F

Find text in a document

Ctrl+H

Find and replace text in a document

Ctrl+B

Boldface text

Ctrl+I

Italicize text

Ctrl+U

Underline text

Ctrl+G

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

Windows logo key Windows logo key +F1

Display Windows Help and Support

Esc

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.

Google, Facebook promise new IPv6 services after successful trial

Google leaves IPv6 on for YouTube; Facebook adds IPv6 to developers’ site; Yahoo sees ‘minimal risk’ to IPv6
One day after completing a successful 24-hour trial of IPv6, Facebook, Google and Yahoo said at a joint press conference that they would begin permanently supporting this upgrade to the Internet’s main communications protocol on some of their key websites.

 

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Joined by two content delivery networks — Akamai and Limelight, which also pledged their commitment to IPv6 deployment — these popular websites proclaimed the World IPv6 Day trial to be a resounding success. All three companies said they had handled a significant increase in IPv6 traffic on June 8 without suffering serious technical glitches.

IPv6 features an expanded addressing scheme, so it can handle vastly more devices connected directly to the Internet than its predecessor called IPv4. However, IPv6 is not backward compatible with IPv4, which means website operators have to upgrade their network equipment and software to support IPv6 traffic.

Google said it has decided to leave its main YouTube website enabled for IPv6 for the time being. Since 2008, Google has supported IPv6 on separate websites — such as www.ipv6.google.com — rather than on its main websites.

“We saw 65% growth in our IPv6 traffic on World IPv6 Day,” said Lorenzo Colitti, IPv6 Software Engineer at Google, who pointed out that Google added IPv6 support to several new services including Orkut for the trial. “This event has really been successful in galvanizing the community.”

“At Facebook, we saw over 1 million of our users reach us over IPv6,” said Don Lee, senior network engineer at Facebook. “There were no technical glitches in this 24-hour period. We were encouraged by the many positive comments on our blog. … It is really interesting to see how passionate people were about IPv6 around the world.”

Because of the positive results from World IPv6 Day, Facebook has decided to support IPv6 on its Website for developers, which is www.developers.facebook.com.

“We will continue to adapt our entire code base to support IPv6,” Lee added. “IPv6 will allow the Internet to continue its amazing development.”

BY THE NUMBERS: IPv6 traffic surges at launch of World IPv6 Day

World IPv6 Day was held yesterday and was sponsored by the Internet Society. The event attracted 400-plus corporate, government and university participants that deployed IPv6 on more than 1,000 websites for the day.

Leslie Daigle, chief Internet technology officer for the Internet Society, said World IPv6 Day was designed to motivate service providers, website operators, hardware makers and software suppliers to test-drive IPv6 and to identify any remaining technical issues that need to be resolved with this emerging technology.

“It was perceived to be quite a successful day,” Daigle said. “It was an amazing display of cross-industry participation. … It’s an important step in the Internet’s progress. We are running out of IPv4 addresses, and IPv6 is definitely the way to move forward to make sure the Internet is a platform for innovation.”

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.

How to Recycle Your Technology

We love our computers and electronics. That is, until they stop working. Then these computers and their peripherals, from printers to monitors, not to mention your handhelds, batteries, and accessories, often become digital garbage.

These things aren’t made to last after all. (No computer or phone maker is going to mind if you buy an upgrade every year or two.) Consequently, all of this junk ends up in the back of your closet or stored in your garage, collecting dust, because you aren’t sure what to do with the stuff. The best thing to do with this growing accumulation of old electronic equipment is to either donate or recycle it.

 



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Donate your old computers and phones whenever you can to groups that will fix and clean them up and then put them back to good use. Even the oldest computer, something you consider the most obsolete of digital dinosaurs, can probably be used by someone.

There are times, though, when a device is too far gone and there’s nothing else that can be done to bring it back to life again. Even a charity doesn’t want your unusable junk. That junk—called e-waste—is potentially dangerous. Electronics are filled with “heavy metals” (read: toxic metals) and carcinogenic chemicals that are fine when you’re using them, but not so much when sitting in a landfill or, worse, when people try to recycle them incorrectly. Thousands of tons of e-waste is shipped overseas yearly to countries like China and India where it gets dumped and maybe burned, which puts mercury and lead into the air.

So on this 41st Earth Day, we want to point out the places you can take your old or even dead electronics, so they can end up either being used by someone in need or safely recycled.

InfoWorld preview: Office 365 beta

In spite of what you may have heard, Microsoft isn’t betting the farm on Office 365. But Redmond is certainly sacrificing its largest cash cow to the cloud gods.

With Office 365 available in open beta today, everyone has a chance to see what’s new, what’s old, and what’s in desperate need of improvement. Permit me to point out some of the high spots. I’ll also show you how to avoid a few pitfalls I encountered when getting started.

 

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[ Microsoft's Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online combo is good. Is it good enough to cost you your job? See "Will Office 365 get you fired?" | Follow the latest Windows developments in InfoWorld's Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]

A few pitfalls notwithstanding, the beta itself seems quite stable. I had no problems with any part of the beta using Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 4, or Chrome 10, and I used all of them extensively.

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Best of all, Microsoft has done a remarkable job of making Admin functions accessible to people with no Exchange, SharePoint, or Lync experience. Individuals and small companies that have shied away from the big server tools now have a chance to catch up with the large corporate installations, without breaking the bank or seconding an employee to full-time server servitude. That’s a notable achievement.

What, exactly, is an Office 365?
The best way to explain Office 365 to your boss is that it includes Office 2010, if you want it. But mostly, it includes cloud-based versions of the server glue that ties the Office pieces together: Exchange for email, SharePoint for document collaboration and Team Sites, and Lync for live communications.

For smaller organizations, Office 365 means getting all of those glue-together pieces without running your own servers or hiring network admins because Microsoft provides simplified forms for controlling the glue, as well as providing all of the server oomph your organization needs over the Internet.

There are lots of good things in the glue. For instance, Exchange lets you get at all of your email through the Outlook Web App, so you can move freely back and forth between Outlook on your PC or Mac and Outlook in a browser or on a phone or iPad. Actions you take on one device (such as sending or deleting an email) show up on the others. Exchange also lets you share calendars and contacts. SharePoint supports central document storage and collaboration in Team Sites. It even has a click-and-drag, rudimentary Web page construction application. Lync covers instant messaging, VoIP calling, and videoconferences, and it ties into Outlook and SharePoint Team Sites.

For larger organizations, Office 365 can, at least in theory, off-load some of the work currently performed by your network admins and make it considerably simpler to set up far-flung locations. Even a single location can mix Office 365 and non-Office 365 users. If your company is eyeing Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010, and Lync 2010, Office 365 makes the deployment simpler. Microsoft guarantees backup, security, and uptime. There’s a great deal of debate as to how much of the network admin function should be off-loaded to Microsoft. And the process of moving from in-house servers to Microsoft’s servers in the sky promises to be a fertile, lucrative ground for specialized consultants for the next decade or two.

Google’s first quarter earnings miss projections as expenses spike; Page makes brief appearance

Google’s first quarter earnings fell short of Wall Street expectations as the company continued to invest heavily in data center infrastructure and headcount.

Google reported first quarter earnings of $2.8 billion, or $7.04 a share, on revenue excluding traffic acquisition costs of $6.54 billion (statement, preview). Non-GAAP earnings were $8.08 a share. Wall Street was expecting earnings of $8.10 a share on revenue of $6.32 billion.

 



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Google CEO Larry Page made a brief appearance on the company’s conference call. He said the reorganization has gone as planned and the team has “hit the ground running.” Page added that the quarter worked out well and he was excited about moves to “simplify our org.

“I’m very optimistic about our future,” said Page. Here’s what Page said in full:

It’s great to take just a few minutes with all of you. We’ve had a tremendous quarter, 27% year over year revenue growth in Q1. I’m really excited about that and I think it shows the strength of our business and our continuing — kind of continuing growth really in the tech industry. It’s really still at the beginning from a user perspective. There’s tremendous improvements to be had in our core products and our core business, and we are really excited about that. I also wanted to mention a little bit about the management team. Everything we told you last quarter has happened as we expected. It’s all working very well, exactly as we planned. I’ll just reiterate that quickly I am managing the day-to-day operations of Google as CEO, working very closely with my team, and I’m really excited about the progress we’ve had there. I think we really hit the ground running. Eric (Schmidt) of course is focused externally on the government partnerships, government relations, and partnership outreaches. Last quarter alone, he was in Germany, Brazil, Argentina and Spain. He’s been just doing tremendous things for the Company. Sergey, as we mentioned, is working very intensely on a few emerging projects for us. Like I said, this is all exactly as we planned, and I’m very, very excited about those changes. I’d also mention we made a number of changes to just simplify our org and improve our velocity and execution, basically simplify our reporting structures and such. Now I’m very excited about Google and our momentum, and I’m very, very optimistic about our future. I also just want to mention we have Jonathan Rosenberg, who’s usually done this call, is transitioning out of the Company as we have announced a while ago. I really wanted to thank him for all of his insights and hard work and all of the fine communication with all of you. And so we will clearly miss him, and we really want to thank him from the bottom of our hearts. So those are the main things I wanted to say. I’m tremendously excited about all of the things that lay before us as a company, and I also want us to say you’re in very good hands with the team here.

With Google it’s a tug-of-war between earnings today and investments for tomorrow. Indeed, Google beefed up a good bit and ended the first quarter with 26,316 employees compared to 24,400 at the end of the fourth quarter. That level of investment has investors worried about profit margins.

CFO Patrick Pichette kept Google’s common refrain going. “It’s clear that our past investments have been crucial to our success today–which is why we continue to invest for the long term,” he said. “We will continue to make capital investments.”

All units at Google are expected to show productivity as they invest, said Pichette. Pichette was making the case that Google closely watches expenses, but analysts were skeptical.

On the conference call, Pichette was upbeat about Google’s progress and cited Android, display ad progress and YouTube develop as a win-win platform.

Highlights from Google’s earnings call:

* 350,000 Android devices activated every day.
* Google is investing in marketing the Chrome browser. Why? It’s a locked in user and that lowers traffic acquisition costs. Google is tracking the lifetime value of a Chrome user and there are real returns there.
* Enterprise business continues to grow.
* Japan hurt international revenue.
* New hires are working on areas  “In fact, over half the [newglers] who joined this quarter are going to be working in high potential and revenue growth areas like YouTube, mobile, Chrome, commerce and local, and enterprise,” said Jeff Huber, senior vice president of commerce and local at Google.
* Social is a important as a search results signal.

By the numbers:

* Google’s owned and operated sites generated $5.88 billion in first quarter revenue, or 69 percent of total sales. AdSense delivered first quarter sales of $2.43 billion, or 28 percent of revenue.
* International revenue was 53 percent of the total sales pie in line with the year ago percentage.
* Paid clicks were up 18 percent in the first quarter compared to a year ago. Cost per click was up 8 percent.
* Data center expenses—or other cost of revenue—were $897 million, or 10 percent of sales.
* Google ended the quarter with $36.7 billion in cash and equivalents.

2011 Q1 Google Earnings Slides
View more presentations from Earnings

Oracle to patch 73 critical DB server flaws

The next batch of security patches from Oracle will be a biggie: 73 new security vulnerability fixes across hundreds of Oracle products.

According to an advance notice from the database server giant, some of the vulnerabilities affect multiple products and may be exploited over a network without the need for a username and password.

 

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The patches, scheduled for release next Tuesday (April 19, 2011), will affect the following products and components:

Security vulnerabilities addressed by this Critical Patch Update affect the following products:

* Oracle Database 11g Release 2, versions 11.2.0.1, 11.2.0.2
* Oracle Database 11g Release 1, version 11.1.0.7
* Oracle Database 10g Release 2, versions 10.2.0.3, 10.2.0.4, 10.2.0.5
* Oracle Database 10g Release 1, version 10.1.0.5
* Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g Release 1, versions 11.1.1.2.0, 11.1.1.3.0, 11.1.1.4.0
* Oracle Application Server 10g Release 3, version 10.1.3.5.0
* Oracle Application Server 10g Release 2, version 10.1.2.3.0
* Oracle Identity Management 10g, versions 10.1.4.0.1, 10.1.4.3
* Oracle JRockit, versions R27.6.8 and earlier (JDK/JRE 1.4.2, 5, 6), R28.1.1 and earlier (JDK/JRE 5, 6)
* Oracle Outside In Technology, versions 8.3.2.0, 8.3.5.0
* Oracle WebLogic Server, versions 8.1.6, 9.2.3, 9.2.4, 10.0.2, 11gR1 (10.3.2, 10.3.3, 10.3.4)
* Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12, versions 12.0.6, 12.1.1, 12.1.2, 12.1.3
* Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i, version 11.5.10.2
* Oracle Agile Technology Platform, versions 9.3.0.2, 9.3.1
* Oracle PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM, version 8.9
* Oracle PeopleSoft Enterprise ELS, versions 9.0, 9.1
* Oracle PeopleSoft Enterprise HRMS, versions 9.0, 9.1
* Oracle PeopleSoft Enterprise Portal, versions 8.8, 8.9, 9.0, 9.1
* Oracle PeopleSoft Enterprise People Tools, versions 8.49, 8.50, 8.51
* Oracle JD Edwards OneWorld Tools, version 24.1.x
* Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Tools, version 8.98.x
* Oracle Siebel CRM Core, versions 7.8.2, 8.0.0, 8.1.1
* Oracle InForm, versions 4.5, 4.6, 5.0
* Oracle Sun Product Suite
* Oracle Open Office, version 3 and StarOffice/StarSuite, versions 7, 8

The highest CVSS 2.0 Base Score for vulnerabilities in this Critical Patch Update is 10.0 for Oracle JRockit of Oracle Fusion Middleware and Sun GlassFish Enterprise Server, Sun Java System Application Server of Oracle Sun Products Suite, the company said.

“Due to the threat posed by a successful attack, Oracle strongly recommends that customers apply Critical Patch Update fixes as soon as possible.”

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RIM BlackBerry PlayBook: The Unboxing

Next week, RIM’s first tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook, will finally go on sale. Before we took the PlayBook to the labs for testing and itsfull review, we unboxed the tablet and played with it, taking photos all along the way, to give you a look at what you’ll get if you buy a PlayBook when it becomes available on April 19th.

 

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At launch, you can buy one of three versions of the tablet, all identical except for varying amounts of built-in storage. All current models are Wi-Fi-only, but 3G and 4G models are on the way. The 16BG model will sell for $499.99, the 32GB for $599.99 and the 64GB for $699.99—the same prices and capacities as the Wi-Fi-only Apple iPad 2.

Included with the PlayBook is a soft carrying pouch. And we also got our hands on optional rubber and leather cases from RIM. None of the cases have magnets or special interactions with the tablet, unlike the Apple iPad Smart Cover, which can wake up the iPad or put it to sleep by simply moving the cover on or off the tablet’s screen. The cases have cutouts for the Volume and Power buttons, and for the front- and back-facing webcams. Pricing has not yet been announced for either case.

The PlayBook runs a new operating system, optimized for tablets, called the BlackBerry Tablet OS. In the past few months, other competitors have redesigned their mobile operating systems to be optimized for tablets as well (like Google’s Android 3.0 and HP’s upcoming WebOS 3.0 for the HP TouchPad.)

Check out our full BlackBerry PlayBook review to see how the latest tablet stacks up against the competition. And hit the slideshow below for the unboxing photos.

The Week in Tweets: RIP Flip Camera

It’s hard to get a seasoned journalist to express shock and dismay, but on Tuesday, CNN’s Anderson Cooper got rather emotional over a certain piece of news.

“I can’t believe the Flip camera is being discontinued. I love my Flip,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

Meanwhile a more dramatic David Pogue of the New York Times tweeted, “WHAT THE HEY!?!?? Cisco is killing off the Flip camcorder! I know our phones take video, but—come on.”

 

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Product extinction happens frequently in the fast-paced world of technology, as sleeker, faster, more efficient devices cannibalize old ones. But nearly everyone was shocked on Tuesday when Cisco announced that it was ending its Flip line of cameras, a well-regarded product that Cisco acquired in 2009 for $590 million. Yesterday Pogue reported that Flip cameras represented 35 percent of the camcorder market, and was the bestselling camcorder on Amazon.

So why did Cisco kill the Flip? To focus on what it knows best: enterprise. After dabbling in the consumer electronics market with Flip, Cisco said it planned to restructure the company, refocus its home-networking business, and integrate its ūmi home telepresence product into its enterprise offerings. By the end of the year, Cisco will shed 550 Flip-related employees.

Flip founder Jonathan Kaplan told reporters he was sad Cisco decided to ditch the brand, and that he still believed people wanted a standalone, handheld camera in addition to a smartphone. On Friday, Sony and Kodak also said they weren’t worried about smartphones cannibalizing their lines of personal camcorders.

This Week in Tweets we captured all sorts of reactions to the news of Flip’s death. While many admitted to “two-timing” the Flip with their smartphone cameras and others saw it as a logical business decision, there was a widespread feeling that the Flip had died a premature death.

Meanwhile if you’re looking for a replacement, PC Mag has compiled Ten Top-Notch Flip Video Camera Alternatives.

Online Tax Prep Services

It’s that time of year again. Tax time. A few of your documents may still be straggling in, but chances are you’ve at least got your W-2s, and you’ve either got all the receipts you’re going to need for your deductions or you’re going to wing anyways. So why not get to work now? I suppose you could wait until Sunday to get started, but who needs all that last-minute pressure? It’s never been simpler to get started—you don’t even have to schlep down to the electronics store to buy a copy of the software anymore, or, worse, spend time haunting a depressing tax center waiting room. As long as you’ve got access to a browser, you can do your taxes without ever leaving home. Unless you’ve got a horribly complex return or have an issue with exposing your financials over the Internet, doing your taxes online is the simplest way to go about it. Accordingly, we’ve reviewed the best online tax packages for tax year 2010.



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All the major tax prep players have had Web-based versions for years, and all look and work like their desktop counterparts, letting you save partially finished returns and finish them in multiple sessions. It’s convenient, and the sites remember your data from year to year. Even if your local copy gets hosed, you’ve got a copy on the tax-prep site. And there’s a good chance much of your basic data will carry over from year to year, giving you a headstart on the process.

Once you’ve chosen a tax-prep package, you’ll need to decide which of the many versions of that company’s service to use—the free 1040EZ version (generally you still have to pay to e-file for your state taxes at least), or the high-end SMB version, or something in between. You’ll have to do a little research to make sure you get the right forms, for, say, your small business’ income. But don’t assume that you need the full-on ultimate premium premier version—with the exception of extra forms (and occasionally some higher-end help functionality) they’re pretty much the same as the freebies, in terms of function and interface and so on. Don’t overpay. If price is the determining factor for you, definitely check out TaxACT—even its high-end versions are dirt cheap.

I won’t tell you that any of these online tax services can make tax time enjoyable, but the best of them can at least make the process relatively quick and painless.

Note that the thumbnail descriptions below link to our full reviews of the major players in the tax-prep space. Click through to read the full reviews by tax expert Kathy Yakal.

CompleteTax OnlineCompleteTax Online

CompleteTax, a service of global financial services provider CCH, has some of the best guidance available on tax preparation sites. It also does a good job of exploring tax topics, and is offering free Premium versions to select populations for 2010.

H&R Block At Home PremiumH&R Block At Home Premium

H&R Block At Home Premium Online gives TurboTax a run for its money every year. Premium’s Best of Both option provides beginning-to-end support that no one else has ever offered, at a reasonable price.

TaxSlayer.com Premium EditionTaxSlayer.com Premium Edition

TaxSlayer.com’s parent company has been in the tax preparation business for over 40 years, and its online offering is a capable 1040-tamer. But the site could use some improvement in the areas of navigation and help.

TaxACT Online Ultimate BundleTaxACT Online Ultimate Bundle

TaxACT is the best buy available for the 2010 tax filing year. It supports all e-filable IRS forms, walks the user easily and quickly through the 1040, and offers unlimited professional help for only $7.95 extra.

TurboTax logoTurboTax Premier Online Edition
Editors
TurboTax remains king of the hill. Though it has stiff competition, its combination of financial topics, guidance, navigational tools, and interface excellence make it the best choice for 2010 taxes.