Software & Services

Amazon Introduces Cloud Drive and Cloud Player

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Amazon.com now offers both online file storage and streaming media through two new cloud services. Cloud Drive is your “hard drive in the cloud” where you can store your music, photos, videos or documents. Your first 5 GB are free. Cloud Player is a streaming media player that you can use in a web browser or on an Android device.  The player lets you access your stored music from anywhere, organize your collection, and create playlists.   It gets better:  any purchases from the Amazon MP3 store do not count toward your storage quota, and when you purchase any MP3 album (many are $5) your Cloud Drive will be upgraded to 20 GB for a year.  Still nervous about the “cloud”?  Don’t be scared.

Amazon has been offering cloud services to businesses for several years through its Amazon Web Services, but now it is finally leveraging its web-based infrastructure to serve its consumer customer base. If Amazon invented the Kindle to stimulate book sales, this new duo of services is clearly intended to boost its music sales. With a free online music player and free storage for purchases made from its MP3 store, the retail giant has created a compelling offering that can attract and lock-in customers — giving them a competitive advantage in the marketplaces for both digital music and online storage. What’s up Google and Apple?

4 Steps to Get Over Your Fear of the Cloud

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With the growing use of web-based software, more of us today are becoming accustomed to working “in the cloud”.  Cloud Computing simply refers to the sharing of computer resources using the internet.  You are using the cloud when you’re writing an article for your blog on WordPress.com, uploading your photos to Flickr.com, or entering your customer information into Salesforce.com.  Despite the benefits to using the cloud, many people are still uncomfortable with the idea of storing their information in vague locations around the internet.  While it’s prudent to be cautious about the online services you use, there is no reason to be fearful of the technology itself.  Most people were apprehensive about shopping on the internet during its infancy, but today it would be hard to find someone who hasn’t bought something online at least once.  If you’re one of those folks having trouble getting cozy with the cloud, here are a few steps to help put you at ease: (more…)

Ning Turns Pay-Only, But Free Software Here to Stay

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Ning, a popular online provider of social network platforms, recently moved to discontinue its free service and focus only on paying customers.  This has raised questions about the future of free online applications in general. Ning may offer a service that is sufficiently valuable and reputable at this point that they can survive with a paid-only model, but “free” isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  On the contrary, there are more and more free (and free versions) of online applications being offered every day. (more…)

Tools to Organize Your Digital Life

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Everyday we find more and more online sources of news and information that we would like to connect with to stay informed. The challenge is keeping up with our favorite news columns, industry journals, and blogs as well as our friends, family, and colleagues … not to mention maybe a few celebrities, tv programs, and products.  While bookmarking sites like Yahoo! Bookmarks and Delicious make good reference tools, they don’t actively notify us of updates.  Most websites provide the option to sign up for updates and newsletters by email, but this can make your inbox more difficult to manage (and you still often have to visit the individual websites to see the full content).  If you are an email subscription junkie, you should use Filters to organize your mailbox.  In most mail applications, you can setup filters to automatically sort your incoming mail into folders based on email address, subject line, etc.  This keeps lower-priority emails out of your inbox, but easy to find.

Almost any person, place, or thing you may have an interest in following has a presence on Facebook and Twitter these days.  Many professional, educational, and industry organizations have pages or forums on LinkedIn.  There are also numerous other niche communities for specific interests including music, photos, and recipes.  While these sites enable you to connect to a large number of people and organizations, the downside of most of these networks is that you have to continually monitor your real-time information streams and filter through them to find the items of most interest to you, which can be time consuming. (more…)

Windows 7: To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade

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There is lot of buzz about Microsoft’s latest operating system, and the consensus seems to be that this upgrade is more meaningful and more stable than the previous release of Windows Vista.  But rushing to upgrade before you’re prepared could leave you hanging.  In business, downtime can mean lost income, so before jumping in there are few things you’ll want to consider:

Your Hardware: You’ll need to verify that your current computer hardware will meet the requirements for Windows 7.  Any computers you have that are running Windows Vista will probably support Windows 7, but your older hardware running XP may need to be upgraded or replaced.  So, you’ll want to decide on the best timing to invest in either of these options if necessary.  Sure, lots of computer stores have been running specials coinciding with the launch, but as with most technology, pricing will only go down, not up. (more…)

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