Cool WordPress Plugins – Stuff You Should Be Using

Author: | Categories: Miscellaneous, Reviews, Web, WordPress No comments

wordpress

WordPress is awesome, if you want an easy to use CMS that has functionality you would never dream of developing then you need to be using it now.

One of the coolest things about WordPress are the millions of plugins that extend the functionality, there are so many to chose from its a little tough to work out where to start – here are a few of my favourites both paid and free.

I will not be going over them in great detail here and some of them will require further follow up posts to dig deeper in to what they can do. (more…)

New Features of Windows 8.1 – Top Ten Updates

Author: | Categories: Miscellaneous, News, Reviews, Software, Windows No comments

windows-8.1-top-ten-features

The MS Windows operating system has been has been about now for almost 30 years (see wikipedia here), starting with Windows V1 in 1985. This was not a native operating system but an operating environment that would sit on MS DOS and would try to make things a little more visually appealing for the consumer to little avail.

I have been a Microsoft Windows user for almost the same amount of time its been around, I remember the good old days of booting up to a nice command line and then running my OS operating environment… I must have installed Windows 3.11 thousands and thousands of times.

Fast forward to now and we have Windows version 8 and the recently updated 8.1.

For anyone who skipped previous version of Windows this may be worth a look, there are a number of smart new features, benefits that could make your life easier, let take a look: (more…)

Mobile Apps Let You Turn Your Phone Into a Fax Machine

Author: | Categories: News No comments

We’ve come a long way since fax was first introduced in businesses all over the World. Despite the fact that many people think fax technology is dead, the truth is that thousands of businesses still rely on this type of communications when it comes to dealing with important documents, especially in certain industries such as manufacturing, law and health.

One of the biggest disadvantages with traditional faxing though, is that it isn’t very portable (it requires the use of a fax machine and a dedicated line). This all changed with digital faxing, a type of technology that enables you to send fax from email.

Digital Faxing Goes Mobile

Digital faxing is nothing new. In the past few years many companies have started offering fax services which let you fax from Gmail, Outlook or any other email provider of your choice. This is a genuine advantage over traditional faxing, making things faster and documents more readable than ever before.

These same fax services now have come up with a great way to turn your phone into a mobile fax machine. Simply download an app to your phone, access the service using your login credentials and you are ready to both send and receive faxes! Documents arrive automatically to your phone as well as your chosen email address once the app is installed, and you get a sound notification when that happens.

Sending and Receiving Faxes on your Phone

Receiving a fax on your smartphone is a fully automated process. Once you have an account with a mobile fax service and download the app, you can rest assured faxes will be received on your phone. From there you can read, save or even forward the fax if you need to.

On the other hand, sending a fax can be done through two different methods. The first one is to actually write the contents of the message on the compose window of your mobile app. The second one involves using your phone’s camera, and basically you have to follow this process.

- Open your preferred mobile fax app, and click on Compose.
- Click the button to snap a picture of the document.
- Take the picture.
- Take care of the fields detailing the recipient’s number and cover message.

As you can see, this is a pretty simple process which help you send a fax very quickly. Unfortunately not all fax services offer this alternative yet. Personally I have used eFax and RingCentral because they offer this alternative, but once I had the opportunity to try out Nextiva and I just was allowed to receive fax notifications on my phone. Just be sure you ask this question before deciding on a service.

I’m going to also say here that things don’t always goes that smoothly. My app has actually shut down a couple of times using eFax, I’m hoping services fix these issue sin upcoming updates. But most of the times you should be able to fax without much delays. In any case mobile fax has proved to be a very important tool in the office, so if you are still using a fax machine I suggest you give it a try!

The Best Construction Estimating Software of 2014

Author: | Categories: News No comments

When you submit a bid for a project you need to keep many things in mind. There are multiple considerations for every project whether the job is a government, industrial or residential bid. The easiest way to lose the bid or lose money on the job is to miss important aspects or overlook details that the competition doesn’t. If you get the bid but underestimate your costs you won’t stay in business long!

There are many software products on the market today that position themselves as an industry leader but we have gone through and looked at all the major players so you don’t have to waste time learning about all the different companies and products. Some of the top players creating construction estimating software these days are ProContractorMX, Estimation and Bid4Build. These packages all seek to simplify the process of calculating overall costs. They also integrate smart technology to eliminate common mistakes that could cost thousands. Another great benefit is all these packages can track the bid with the actual cost helping you get better at bidding over time. The standout in all our tests was ProMX.

When you use this software you will have a distinct competitive advantage over the other guys. This software can handle your costs as well as having multiple subcontractors’ bids. This is a great way to keep track of the basic subcontractors like electricians and carpenters. And it can even handle very specific projects like the specialists that come in to install the direct venting on the demand water heaters. All of this and it can still generate a detailed and profitable bid that is easy for your clients to understand while giving you all the information you need about labor, materials, and equipment costs.

All of these features work together to make your job easier. Also included is a way to track job costs in real time and perform general office management details like invoice processing and document preparation. There are also ways to easily integrate accounting software and networking so you can share this information with your office management team.

While all this may sound complex and sophisticated rest assured that this software has a great user interface and a wonderful user experience. You can also feel confident that the software works just as well on big projects like a government bid as is does on small residential projects like replacing a leaky water heater.

Flexibility is one of this product’s prime features; it has the ability to grow with your needs.
Construction estimating software is sometime quite difficult to get the hang of, but not with this application. It has an extremely easy to use, organized interface. Everything is presented in a very logical manner and even the most junior member of your team should be able to get the hang of it quickly.

You will also be happy to know this will integrate easily with other third-party applications such as all the popular accounting software. It also works seamlessly with tablets, high-end mobile devices and all laptops so you can update your projects on the go.

How Much Better Are You at Programming After a Good Night’s Sleep?

Author: | Categories: News No comments

100 bugs to fix in the code, 100 bugs to fix
Take one down, fix and run
438 bugs to fix in the code.

We’ve all been there. Coding is part science, part art and almost entirely alchemy. Some days the coding gods are with you and you can hit the zone and stay there for hours, fixing bugs, catching problems and commenting everything so well that future generations of coders will marvel at your work. But then, on other days, everything goes wrong. Every bug you fix spawns 23 more problems as soon as the program is recompiled. When you’re off your game, it shows and coding becomes the most difficult task in the world. Every coder has days like that and, more often than not, the culprit is a lousy night’s sleep.

Before you laugh this off, take some time to consider what a poor night’s sleep actually does to your body. Like any high spec machine, your body has certain requirements which must be met for optimal functionality. Food, water, sunlight… all of these things are important, and so is sleep. A study published in 2014 revealed that poor quality sleep could impair a person’s cognitive skills by up to 50%. Subjects had their sleep patterns monitored and were tested across a number of cognitive skills including:

  • Planning
  • decision making
  • error correction
  • trouble shooting
  • abstract thinking

Sound like a familiar skill set? Subjects with disrupted or erratic sleep patterns scored low in each area. In some cases, their skill level was slashed in half when the sleep problems were a chronic issue.

Investing in a new mattress is great but unless your mattress is really old or poorly made, chances are the problem lies elsewhere. The best way to get the sleep you need to make an investment in your bedding, specifically your pillow. A high quality pillow gives your head and neck the support they need which helps you get some real rest – namely the REM sleep your brain needs in order to function at its peak performance. It’s also worth considering how you sleep, for instance do you sleep on your side, you might not think it, but there are some really specific buyers guide out there (I’d personally recommend this article on the best pillows for side sleepers).

Being a coder isn’t an easy calling. You comb through lines and lines of code written by god knows who, searching for mistakes that may or may not create more problems that need to be fixed. When you’re not doing that, you’re working with teams of salesmen, business professionals and clients who know what they want but then change their minds while you try to keep up. It’s a job that requires a clear head and the ability to perform under pressure – skills that rely heavily on a well rested mind. Getting the sleep you need boils down to making sure you’re as comfortable and supported as possible. Using a high quality pillow gives you exactly what you need so that you can take the weight of the world off your shoulders, clear your mind and settle in for a restful night of sleep.

Five Ways to Get a Six Pack (Or At Least Stay Slim) If You’re Sat in a Stationary Position All Day

Author: | Categories: News No comments

Who doesn’t want a nice set of 6-pack abs? But when you’re stuck in an office all day it can be hard to get that washboard stomach. Being chained to the desk 8 or more hours a day doesn’t do a lot for your physique but these five tips can help you make sure your time chained to the desk doesn’t give you a gut.

1. Hit the (Water) Bottle
Staying hydrated is the best way to prevent bloat, encourage healthy digestion and ward off the afternoon nibbles. Drinking plenty of water will keep you feeling full all day, can clear up your skin and is the single most effective dieting trick in history. Make sure you’re getting 64 ounces a day for best results.

2. Reorganize Your Space
Losing that gut and keeping trim is all about staying on the move. No matter if you’re working in a large office all to yourself or if you just have a small space in a shared office, organize your space to encourage more movement. Store pens, forms, paperclips and other common office supplies in out of the way places. Store your stapler on a shelf above your desk and get in some stretching while you work. Store forms in low cabinets just behind you so that you can twist at the waist and reach to get them.

3. Get On the Ball
Most offices have a resident health nut who has thrown out their office chair in favor of a stability ball. These large exercise balls are more than just oversized space hoppers, they can actually help you to works to ab muscles throughout the day. Without a back rest – or chair legs – to rely on, you need to maintain your balance throughout the day. Your core muscles will get a workout and your sense of balance will improve as well.

4. Sitting, But Not Sitting Still
No matter what you’re sitting in during the day, you can keep moving with a few simple desk safe exercises. If you’re in a chair, sit straight and put your hands on your desk or on the armrests. Keeping them bent, lift your legs off the floor until your knees are level with your stomach. Hold for a count of five then lower to the floor. Repeat in sets of 10. For both ball and chair workers, the simple ab crunch is the simplest move. Just contract your ab muscles while you’re sitting. Hold the position for a count of five and repeat.

5. Do Your Homework
These simple office steps will help you stay slim, but they won’t do any good unless you follow it up with working out at home. In order to get abs worth keeping up, start working out with an abdominal training machine. Some machines are able to target the entire core through resistance training which means better all over results more quickly. Since you’ll feel the results from day one, you’ll be motivated to keep up the routine at work.

Mobile vs. Web Apps And The Hardware That Runs It

Author: | Categories: News No comments

Ever since the mobile computing revolution has come along there has been a core battle of technologies. The battle takes place on two fronts. Software and Hardware. The pattern though is clear. The world is going mobile. The leverage of mobile technologies to provide targeted results and experiences is changing the world. The consumer demand has been pushing several technologies to their breaking points. The landscaping is changing often on the companies involved as user sentiment shifts with every new device and trend. Out of it all though there are a few solid axioms that we can see to be true.

Users are moving to Mobile

According to all the numbers from every organization in the world, users are going mobile. The global mobile usage is expected to overcome desktop in 2014., US in 2015, and China already did back in 2012. As a result the users of these devices are requiring faster hardware to run their mobile lives. This has two parts, the hardware for the phones and the hardware for the ISP’s.

Hardware Trends

ISP’s are fighting an uphill battle. As the mobile hardware in our cellphones become more and more powerful, the strain they exert on the ISP towers providing the bandwidth is immense. Netflix alone is dominating the internets traffic enough to have provoked a court battle with the ISP’s over throttled traffic. It’s so big, ISP companies feel they deserve a slice of the profits. What’s worse, is that only a small percentage of the world currently uses smartphones. Most of the world relies on feature phones. There are also services that buy and sell cellphones such as https://techpayout.com that are capitalizing on the transfer of technology, the ISP’s are struggling to keep up. There are more people in Africa than the US and they are all about to get smartphones. Whoever provides them low cost to free internet will make a fortune.

Software Trends

When the iPhone first came out with the App store, CEO Steve Jobs touted Web Apps to be the most natural method of developing native apps for the iPhone. There were categories in the app store for it that no longer remain. Entire pieces of their site at the webapps subdirectory is no longer reachable and the company seems to have moved on. The reason is the difference in experience and control of the devices exerted from native code and interfaces. In the beginning it was much harder for webapps to trigger mobile device hardware like a camera, or video recording. Also, the methods for mobile on the web weren’t yet fully developed. As the company has moved on, so has the technology behind it. The mobile web has made a comeback with webapp languages like Meteor.js and Angular.js that allow robust development of web apps. Responsive web design and HTML5 has now advanced to be able to leverage real graphics and UI’s. Libraries like famou.se are positioned to launch any day and change the way we think of web interactions. It seems that times are right for a changing of the guard.

Why Web Apps are better Apps

It all comes down to freedom and control. The Apple, Android and Windows 8 App store are all designed with control in mind. They pick and choose what is allowed on their platforms with impunity. They are notorious for taking huge percentages, 30% by Apple, and delaying updates that often time destroy user base for apps. It’s unforgiving and regulated. The exact opposite environment needed for pure creative development. This makes web apps the best solution for windows apps, android apps, and iphone apps alike. You can find some amazing apps at http://bestwindows8apps.org. The unregulated freedom to do something daring and let the markets decide is the spirit Steve Jobs tried to imbue into the devices. It may be time for it come to pass as many developers are becoming increasingly unhappy with the regulations and limits of the app stores.

Whether it’s school, real estate, or cleaning – there’s a web app designed to do it for you!

Author: | Categories: News No comments

Is there a Saturday morning chore that you always procrastinate doing? Maybe there’s a monthly obligation that you avoid doing at all costs. These annoying chores are a fact of life, but chances are there’s a web app aimed at simplifying these common-day tasks.

While the internet became what it is today on the backs of e-commerce and research websites, there has been a significant change over the past few years with the development of dynamic web content and the widespread adoption of mobile devices. At this point, just about any kid with some familiarity in programming has tried to come up with the “next big thing.” Everyone has an incredibly sophisticated computer in the palm of his or her hands, and there’s some start-up out there looking to help you with whatever task you may be doing at the moment.

Want to know what your dog is up to while you’re at work. Done with the click of a mouse. Feel like ordering Chinese food, but don’t want the hassle of having to speak with another live human being? Not a problem; your food is on its way. Want to rent that apartment above your garage, but you don’t have the time to hang up flyers around town or pull credit reports. Don’t worry, there are plenty of tenant screening web apps that’ll do all that for you. It may be a focus-group cliché, but it’s true: whatever it is that you need to do, there’s an app for that.

But this post isn’t meant to decry the devolution of human interaction – in fact, just the opposite. While these tasks may be ordinary, simplifying them to the point that they can be accomplished with the mere swipe of a finger on a 5-inch piece of machinery is the extraordinary aspect of entrepreneurship. Our lives are no longer changed and improved only by the inventions of the 60 year old tycoon, but can just as easily be affected by the 16-year-old kid in his parents’ basement. There are no rules, and there are no limits. Just imagine what’s coming next!

How my friend became an electrician

Author: | Categories: News No comments

There was a time in my life when I was very much hacking through the career jungle, and I was reminded of those times when talking to a friend last night who has finally found a career he enjoys. When you’ve found a career that you really enjoy you tend to forget the more uncertain times so I was a little shocked as my friend describes the trials and tribulations he’d been through before finding the career he really wanted.

Computers

My friend and I we’re both a bit knerdy in high school but after a short period as computer salesman (man, I really sucked at that job!) I found my vocation in computer programming and I haven’t really looked back since. In fact, I’ll have been programming for ten years this July – time really does fly by ! During those same ten years my friend has floated from one McJob to the other and I suspect that it was the birth of his first child that really made him sit down and think what he wanted to do.

I’d always told him that he should follow me in to computers, he was always good at maths at school and we’d both messed around building PCs in our teens. He’d always told me that he just couldn’t face sitting in front of computer though, which always seemed a bit strange given that a number of his jobs involved been sat behind a till for most of the day!

Becoming an electrician

It turns out that my friend had always thought about becoming an electrician but had just never got himself motivated to find out what he needed to do to make the jump into a fully fledged career. In fact he told me that it took him ages to get round to researching simple things like how much does an electrician earn. I’ve often thought I was lucky that I could enter my career in computer programming in a very gradual way, I more or less taught myself how to program on evenings and weekends and then via a website that allows you to show off your coding prowess I was able to enter the profession without ever proving myself in an industrial environment or gaining any formal qualifications.

For my friend though, things have been different, there are some things that you can do to hone your trade skills in the privacy of your own home. But, due to the sheer responsibility of a job such as an electrician you have to prove yourself via qualifications and apprenticeships before you can start earning money. I think my friend had always shied away from doing the research required to get the job he wanted. This is understandable I think, modern life is hard afterall and I think we can all struggle to put time aside for future plans/life changes.

My friend said that the real turning point for him was finding a website that went through everything he needed to do in a step by step manner, after that he was able to work out his next steps and things just snowballed for him form there (my friend was keen that I gave a plug to the excellent website he used by the way).

So, here’s to my friend and many happy years as a jobbing electrician!

Building a website is easier than ever

Author: | Categories: News No comments

The skills needed to build a website used to belong to a select few individuals who sat down and absorbed a significant amount of information to understand how everything works. Virtually every website would be custom made, so if you wanted your own website you either had to learn to make one yourself from scratch or hire someone else to do it at significant expense. Nowadays the web has greatly matured and there a far greater variety of options available should you wish to make your own website. You no longer need to know everything as many things are pre-made thanks to the likes of WordPress and Twitter Bootstrap, which will be outlined below.

CMS software such as WordPress allows you to set up a website and manage it without knowing anything about website development or software engineering. The WordPress developers have gone to great lengths to ensure that using WordPress is as simple as possible and the fact that it powers millions of websites is a testament to that. Originally it started out as blogging software but due to its incredible flexibility and versatility it has turned into a one-stop platform for all manner of websites. Installation is painless, customisation of features is simple and upgrading is easy.

The one area of website development that still requires a knowledgeable individual is website design. WordPress comes with a default theme and offers thousands of free and paid custom themes, but if you want to design a website to look exactly as you wish then you’ll still need to find someone who knows how to do that. Fortunately, even website design has evolved and become far simpler and modular than it used to be! Thanks to the likes of Twitter Bootstrap, it has never been simpler to create and maintain a great looking website.

Twitter Bootstrap is very roughly a ‘template’ for the building blocks that make up a website. Twitter Bootstrap was originally created by Twitter to make website design simple. Very simply it is a framework that tells the website how each button should look, how titles should be displayed, how font should look like, what colour different elements should be and all other sorts of visual design aspects. It’s also compatible with all major browsers and supports responsive design, which takes away a lot of the hassle of web development by sorting out a lot of awkward edge cases for you.

What used to take days is now as simple as replacing some files. Twitter Bootstrap works to a common standard so you only need to drop in a different Bootstrap Theme to completely alter the look of your website. As you might imagine, this makes custom website development a lot cheaper, too! Website designers will already be familiar with Twitter Bootstrap so it’s incredibly easy to describe the sort of look you’re going for and have a website designer come up with a pleasing, eye catching design.

Creating Twitter Bootstrap themes is a lot simpler than the old way of completely redeveloping websites every time a new website design was desired, meaning it’s less work for the website designer and less downtime for your website. There are many websites that even offer pre-made Twitter Bootstrap templates so you don’t even need to shell out for a website designer! Some of the best bootstrap themes cost as little as $40 each, yet they look like they’d cost 10 times that. In this day and age you have you no excuse having an ugly website.

Let’s Talk About Smart Watches!

Author: | Categories: News No comments

We’ve all heard of them. They are taking smart technology to the next level. First it was our computer, and then it was the smart phone, then the tablet, now and the smart watch.

Like any new technology revelation, there are tons to follow. So how do you know which is the best new smart watch? We have chosen a few of our favorites and have broken them down for you!

The Pebble Smart watch:

The Pebble happens to be our favorite, and it seems to be the top pick of the lot of new smart watches. The Pebble is loaded with awesome features, and the continue to provide upgrades and more features. However, one major criticism is that the Pebble lacks the ability to be updated with good software. This is a big issue but the tech giant seemed to have heard our gripe. They have unleashed a newer model called the Pebble Steel, which supposedly fixed those glitches.

The Martian Smart watch:

Unlike other smart watches that have been designed to be stand-alone devices, meaning they are their own device just like any tablet or computer, the Martian has been designed as simply an extension of your smart device. This has turned some people off of the Martian. However, it’s a fantastic product, and we think the extension design is a good idea. We are so in sync with our smart phone, but we can’t always take them with us. The smart watch acts as a good liaison to our smart phone when we can’t take it with us.

The I’m Watch:

The I’m Watch from what we know isn’t an extension of Apple. They provide what we think is a spitting image of what an Apple watch would look like. However, an Italian company beautifully engineered the I’m Watch. It looks great, it had great, simple features, and it comes at a price that won’t break the bank!

The Sony Smart watch 2 SW2:

What can we say? Sony has always been a tech giant, and they have always provided a great product. As you can see by the name, it was really just a slightly upgraded version of the SW 1. It’s good looking, functional, and it’s Sony’s first shot at a smart watch, which should count for something!

Connectedevice Cookoo Smart watch:

Like the Martian, the Cookoo is simply an extension of the user’s smart phone. It is not meant to replace the user’s smart device. The Cookoo is well made, functional, and had a few all right features. It certainly doesn’t have the pizzazz of the other watches, but it definitely gets the job done.

Conclusion:

So far, the biggest obstacle we have seen tech giant’s battle with the smart watch is providing good software and firmware with updates. There has certainly been a struggle, and it comes down to whomever can work the issue out the best will then provide the best smart watch.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave us a comment!

Home Improvement Apps for iPhone

Author: | Categories: News No comments

Do you love home improvement projects but hate math? Are you lacking the time to search around the home improvement store to find what you need? Mobile phone apps have changed the way we do things over the past several years and the home improvement/DIY niche is no exception. Below are a few apps that are very helpful for DIY projects around the house.

Home Improvement Calcs

There are many calculations on home improvement projects that can be quite tricky if you don’t know the math. Take for example, cutting stair stringers for a deck or porch. This is something I ran into a few months back when I tried to fix the broken stairs on the deck at the rear of my house. I purchased the lumber and got out my best circular saw. After doing some math and laying out my cut lines I fired up the saw, and made all of the cuts. But when I went to test fit my stringers I found out I had cut them all too short!

If I had only known about the Home Improvement Calcs app back then, I would have saved myself a lot of frustration (and an expensive piece of lumber!). The app has a built in feature to calculate the proper riser height and tread depth for a given total rise and run. It will ensure that stairs meet code requirements and you do not waste lumber due to bad calculations.

The app includes calculators for roofing and rafters – convert roof pitch to degrees, slope and grade or back again to pitch. It can do electrical calculations, like determining amps from watts of power and voltage. It has a calculator to tell you how many studs you will need to frame out a wall of a given length.

This app does so many great things that we can’t even list them all here. If you are into home improvement projects, you can purchase it from the app store for $1.99.

Lowe’s

If you are a DIY’er you probably spend a lot of time at home improvement stores. The Lowe’s app can make your life easier by allowing you to shop from the convenience of your phone. Say you are at the store looking for a new table saw. You can pull up the app and check out other customers’ table saw reviews to make sure you are getting the one that will work best for you. Or, if you already know which product you want, purchase it on the app and pick it up in the store. This saves time when you are busily working on a project and don’t want to go all the way through the store to find what you need. If you need help with a project, the app links to useful how-to videos and has an “Ideas and Inspiration” section where builders and architects include pictures of their most recent projects. Overall, it’s a really handy app that makes the shopping process go much more smoothly and also contains valuable information. You can download it for free from the app store.