Should you use a microfiber cloth to clean your computer screen?

Cleaning your computer screen may seem like a fairly simple task. Unfortunately, damage can easily be done to your screen if you don’t take the appropriate measures. Microfiber cloths are thought to be the best tool, but are there other materials that are just as effective?

Although purchasing a microfiber cloth and cleaning solution might be the safest bet for cleaning your computer, phone or eReader screen, many people use old t-shirts without creating any damage. This can be a fast and easy way to clean your computer screen that doesn’t require purchasing a microfiber towel.

Homemade cleaning solution
You can also make your own safe screen cleaning solution with everyday household items. You simply need: 

  • ½ cup of white vinegar
  • ½ cup of distilled water
  • a squirt bottle

Cleaning your screen
Just spray a 100% cotton t-shirt with the cleaning solution just until the t-shirt is damp and wipe the screen in a circular motion. Wipe the screen with a dry portion of the t-shirt for a streak-free finish.

If you’re concerned about the safety of your screen, microfiber cloths and cleaning solutions are relatively inexpensive, and readily available for purchase at electronic stores. However, the t-shirt method is a terrific, simple option that can certainly help you out in a pinch.

What precisely is a mobile hotspot?

As the Verizon iPhone makes its way onto the market, a lot of people are talking about personal hotspots and tethering. But just what these hotspots are and how to best use them are still mysteries to many people.

What they are
A mobile hotspot is fundamentally a mobile broadband gadget that can be connected to the Internet anywhere. People may configure their smartphones to work as mobile hotspots as well. Tethering is the action of using your smartphone as a hotspot in order to connect your computer or another device to the Internet.

Why they’re great
These hotspots are particularly useful for anyone who does lots of work on the road or even at coffee shops. The free Wi-Fi that is available at many locations is not secure, making any information you transmit vulnerable.

A mobile hotspot minimizes that security concern because it is a closed network that, in the case of a smartphone, will only be open to one user. 

How you can use one
Thankfully, many mobile providers make available mobile hotspot and tethering capabilities in their wireless plans. When it comes to the new Verizon iPhone, hotspots will come at a price of $20 per month for 2 GB of data on top of the required $30 data plan for the iPhone.

Because hotspot and tethering features come at a price, they aren’t best for everyone. If you use the Internet primarily from one location, it may be more practical to use standard broadband Internet, which generally allows for unlimited usage.

The mystery that is 4G

4G networks appear to be all any mobile carrier can talk about nowadays. The catch is, with so many carriers claiming to have the biggest or fastest network, the 4G landscape can get pretty complex. As it turns out, 4G isn’t as clear-cut as it may seem.

While all of the major wireless providers, such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, have recently released smartphones with a “4G” network connection, it seems the definition of 4G varies from network to network. Let’s discuss the many definitions of “4G”.

Both AT&T and T-Mobile have been employing HSPA for their 3G networks and HSPA is essentially the same network with enhanced capacity. T-Mobile is already offering the improved technology in more major metropolitan areas than their HSPA competitor.

This is the technology that is currently being implemented by Verizon. The LTE network is based on Global System for Media (GSM) technology, rather than Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), which Verizon has always utilized. LTE has a higher capacity and features download speeds of 5-12 Mbps, the equivalent of a typical home broadband connection.

In Verizon’s case, the LTE network is completely separate from the network that Verizon’s current users are on, lowering the chances of overcrowding.

Wi-Max is also GSM-based, and it was originally regarded as the major contender for a 4G standard. Unfortunately, Wi-Max is not as fast as Verizon’s LTE network, but it is faster than AT&T and T-Mobile’s HSPA .

Unlike the other mobile carriers, Sprint’s version of a 4G network has been around for many months, meaning that their users were able to benefit from this technology long before users of other networks.

As you can see, there is no standard definition of a “4G” network. Luckily for us, the options are improving and the coverage is growing. Pretty soon, every carrier will have an enhanced network to choose from.

For more information on 4G networks and what they really mean, check out this Popular Science article.

Keyboard shortcuts – what they are and how they may help you

A keyboard shortcut is a seemingly basic concept. It is a combination of keystrokes that shortens a task, such as opening up a browser or saving a document. Surprisingly, a lot of people don’t take advantage of these simple time-savers.

Plenty of programs, such as Microsoft Office and most web browsers, have built-in keyboard shortcuts. These shortcuts can shorten and simplify tasks such as: 

  • Opening up a new browser window
  • Searching for a document
  • Saving a document
  • Attaching a document to an email

While these tasks aren’t too time-consuming when performed with a mouse, the combined time you could possibly save by using keyboard shortcuts is fairly substantial.

If you find yourself performing a lot of repetitive tasks, knowing their shortcuts could certainly be worth the effort. If there isn’t already a built-in shortcut for that task, creating your own shortcuts can be rather easy, depending on the program.

For tips on how to create your own keyboard shortcuts, check out these articles on: 

Implementing PPM software to manage your projects more effectively

Project and portfolio management solutions, also called PPM solutions, are a big trend in business right now, and it’s clear why. The tools included in PPM software, like scheduling, budget management and collaboration tools, make it easier for business to reach their goals more effectively. 

Are PPM solutions limited to big businesses?
There are many varieties of PPM solutions available today, so there is really an option for virtually every sized business. These programs are particularly useful for small businesses looking to get more organized with their projects.

 How can I utilize the software?
PPM programs such as Basecamp allow you to generate and share tasks lists and project schedules and give you and your coworkers an overview of what the project is and each task involved.

Because PPM software allows you to focused project information and can be viewed by everyone, it’s easier for a team to troubleshoot problems with a project before it gets started; if there is a miscommunication somewhere, someone is likely to find it more quickly through these collaborative programs.

Once a project has started, PPM software is a great way to make sure that all of your employees are on the same page and on track when working on collaborative projects. And since they are centralized, they can keep a detailed record of all communications during the project.

Overall, PPM solutions can really boost a small business’ effectiveness since they streamline otherwise complex projects and make them easier to manage. If you are interested in learning more about PPM software and want to see how to use it for your business, click here.

The SMS of death – what it really is and how it may impact you

Lately, there has been plenty of talk about an “SMS of death”. The fact is, this supposedly deadly text isn’t actually a problem for most phones. Read on to see who may be in danger and how to protect yourself.

How can this impact me?
Unlike most viruses that threaten cell phones, this attack targets “feature phones” rather than smartphones. Feature phones are more basic cell phones that have one specific feature that distinguishes them, such as an MP3 player or web browsing capabilities.

Because feature phones rather than smartphones are at risk for this virus attack, most phones used for business purposes are out of danger. In order for the attack to be effective, the hacker must know the make and model of the phone, otherwise the text would simply be read as spam.

Possible indicators of an attack include: 

  • The phone can shut down without warning
  • Some phones may then be rendered useless and the SIM card must be placed in another phone to be functional

 Luckily, due to the nature of the ”SMS of death” hack, it will be almost impossible for hackers to insert their own code into the phone and steal any data. Those kinds of attacks are typically reserved for more high-tech smartphones.

 How can I protect myself?
These SMS attacks are avoidable simply by updating security software, something that most people with basic feature phones don’t do. Updates generally need to be purchased because most feature phones don’t come with USB cables to update security software.

For more information on this “SMS of death” and how to keep your phone safe, check out this IT World article.

Top 3 business products from the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show showcased many great ideas and devices that will influence businesses of all sizes. Now that the show is over, let’s reflect on three of the top products that could have an influence on small businesses in 2011.

BlackBerry Presenter
This portable presenter connects to any standard projector and permits you to run PowerPoint wirelessly from your BlackBerry. This eliminates the need for a laptop, which is great for one-day trips. It also eliminates the common difficulties that come with hooking up a laptop to an unfamiliar projector.

Splashtop Remote app for Android
The Splashtop Remote program first popped up on the iPad and is now available for use on Android devices. This app allows you to log in to your home or office computer and perform many crucial functions such as:

  • Maneuver around the desktop
  • Use programs and applications based on your computer
  • Watch videos
  • Access documents, images and videos that are stored on your computer

This application is especially helpful for people who do a lot of work on the go. The Splashtop Remote app currently works on Android 2.2 and up.

For more information on the app, check out the Splashtop website.

PlasticLogic QUE proReader
Called a “wireless briefcase” by PlasticLogic’s CEO, the QUE proReader is much more than just an eReader, as it was initially intended to be. The QUE proReader: 

  • Syncs with Microsoft Exchange
  • Allows for “print-to-device” technology
  • Reads PDFs and Microsoft Office documents
  • Lets BlackBerry users transfer information from their phones
  • Already has deals in place with all of the top business periodical

The QUE ranges in price from $650 to $800, making it a little steep for some small businesses, but with all of the features it offers, it will likely prove itself to be worth the money.

These are just three of the many great products that were showcased at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, but they are bound to be some of the most beneficial to small businesses. For more information on devices and services that were popular at this year’s CES, check out the Consumer Electronics Show’s “Trends” page.

Undelete critical files that you deleted on accident

Accidentally deleting essential files is a common mistake and can cause you quite a bit of trouble. The good news is that if you catch the mistake quickly enough, the file will most likely still be on your computer and in one piece. Keep reading for tips on how to undelete files before they’re gone for good.

Before you panic: 

• Check to see if you mistakenly saved the file to a different location. People commonly save files to their Downloads or other folders without realizing it, so do a search of all your documents before presuming that it’s gone.

• Check out recovered files. Often, if you close a program or your computer shuts down without warning, there is a recovered files folder that saves whatever you were working on. Search your system for those files before losing hope.

• Search your email. If you emailed a copy of the file to someone, it may still be in your Sent Messages folder. Checking here first can save you a lot of time and stress.

• Check your Recycle Bin, as this is where many files hang out until they are entirely erased.

When those don’t work
There are some times when these tricks simply won’t be able to recover the files you need. If this happens, your best bet is to contact your IT services provider for help.

Losing files can be scary. Fortunately, they’re often not completely lost. These tips are straightforward and easy to follow – and when they don’t work, your IT services provider is usually just a phone call away.