Sunday, August 5, 2012

Business Ideas

Electric planes
You might already be aware of his desire to built an electric aircraft, a plan wryly alluded to in the film Iron Man 2, in which Musk cameos--but in the interview he spoke of his thoughts behind the idea, too.
It was inspired by the retirement of supersonic airliner Concorde, which Musk rues he never got to ride. He notes that it's possible to go faster and longer at high altitude, though there's a limit for combustion aircraft due to low levels of oxygen higher in the atmosphere.
No such issues for electric aircraft, which Elon describes as being potentially "super efficient and super fast". And, as Musk notes, "With SpaceX and Tesla I kind of have the ingredients..."
At the moment, there are essentially four methods of transport--aircraft, boats, cars and trains. Musk wants a fifth, which he dubs "Hyperloop".
He doesn't reveal a great deal, but the concept seems similar to the citywide tube system in the cartoon Futurama, where people can be whisked great distances very quickly and easily. Musk says he'd aim for a journey time of less than thirty minutes between downtown L.A. and downtown San Francisco, with a lower cost than any current journey option--thanks to inexpensive and clean solar power.
Other ideas
He doesn't stop there--among his other hopes for the future are cold fusion and a pre-fabricated, raised lane down the center divider of freeways for mass transit, speeding up journey times.
Elon also touches on other subjects, such as hydrogen fuel cells ("People at Tesla call them fool cells") and his retirement, which he wants to do on Mars.
We'd certainly encourage you to watch the whole video (just over an hour of it), even if it's not really about the subject most familiar to GreenCarReports readers, Tesla Motors. What it is, is a fascinating insight into the mind of a real entrepreneur--and one with even bigger ideas on the horizon.
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Facebook for iPad App Review

Although Apple has offered the iPad since 2010, it took it until now to release a Facebook app for iPad. This app is worth getting because it is designed specifically with the iPad in mind and allows you to take advantage of all your iPad’s features while using Facebook.
Unlike other apps you might use to access Facebook from your iPad, the Facebook for iPad app allows you to use Facebook the same way you would use it on a desktop or laptop computer. The display is similar to Facebook for computers, with a status bar on the top informing you of your notifications and the news feed on the right side of the screen. You can tap any post to like or comment on it.
If you tap on a particular item on your news feed, such as a status you want to comment on, the iPad brings up a comment feed for that post on the right hand side of the page. You can then read through and like other people’s comments on the post.
You can also easily go to your page, read your notifications, or create a status by touching the appropriate areas of the screen. The iPad allows you to easily share photos or to check in to your current location just like the iPhone or other smartphones do.
Integration of iPad Technology
The best thing about the Facebook app is that it was built with iPad technology in mind. You can use your iPad’s built-in camera to take photos and share them directly from Facebook. The Facebook app also considers the iPad’s screen–the app can be oriented in either portrait or landscape, depending on how you hold the iPad, and the messaging system was designed with the iPad’s wide screen in mind. When you look at your messages, you see the friend’s name in one column and all of his or her messages in another.
Ease of Navigation
The Facebook app is fairly easy to navigate. There’s a bar on the left-hand side of your status bar that you can tap to bring up navigation options; you can easily tap through to see a friend’s profile, go to your own or read your messages. Friends are listed in alphabetical order when you tap on “go to friend’s profile;” however, you can easily navigate to the friend you want by taking advantage of the A-Z directory listing.
Ability to Multitask
One advantage the iPad app for Facebook has over the desktop version is that you can do several things on Facebook at once. For example, you can read and respond to messages without exiting your News Feed so that you can still catch up on what your friends are doing while you respond to a particular friend’s message. You can also chat with friends while browsing your news feed by swiping from right to left while using landscape orientation.
Make Plans Easily
The check-in feature on the iPad Facebook app allows you to see where your friends are checked in so that if they’re nearby, you can easily contact them and make plans.
There are very few disadvantages to the iPad Facebook app. Since the iPad uses Wi-Fi technology rather than GPS, your check-ins may not be as accurate as you would like; otherwise, the Facebook app for iPad gives users a pleasurable experience that is comprable to surfing Facebook from a desktop or laptop computer.
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India's mid-tier information technology firms

MUMBAI: India's mid-tier information technology firms have reported better sales and operating profit growth compared to the biggies in the business at the aggregate level in each of the past five quarters, riding on their intrinsic strengths of operating in niche segments and strong demand in select verticals and bucking the trend of smaller companies taking a beating during a downturn.

At a time when industry leaders such as Infosys and Wipro have provided a sluggish future growth guidance, a clutch of mid-tier IT companies sound far more confident about growth in the next few quarters of FY13. Both analysts and industry officials reckon that this trend is likely to be maintained for at least the next couple of years, which could lead to an improved valuation of these companies.

An ETIG analysis of 17 tier-2 IT firms, which announced their financials for the quarter to June 2012, shows a growth of 38.4 per cent in revenue and an impressive rise of 78 per cent in net profit at the aggregate level from a year ago. For the top four IT companies - TCS, Infosys, Wipro and HCL Technologies - sales rose 33.5 per cent, while profit grew 43.4 per cent. Besides, half of the companies among the 14 tier-2 players that reported double-digit topline growth surpassed revenue growth reported by each of the top four firms, the analysis shows. 

Mid-tier companies such as Geometric, KPIT Cummins, Hexaware Technologies, Mastek, NIIT Technologies and Zensar Technologies reported a strong performance for the June 2012 quarter. In contrast, top tier players such as Infosys and Wipro reported deceleration in sales and profit growth. Though their relatively smaller scale of operations has indeed helped, the changing trend in vendor allocation by global clients, a favourable currency movement, and strong demand in select verticals, which are niche areas for medium and small IT vendors helped them record a stellar performance.

Industry officials also say that long-term management stability in these firms has been critical to their success. "The large players that are not doing well have seen management churn. If you look at mid-size companies that are doing well, they have all had consistent management," says Pradeep Udhas, who is partner and head of IT-BPO consulting firm KPMG. According to him, a stable leadership has helped the smaller companies to specialise and compete with large companies. What counts in the final analysis, he says, are leadership and the ability to be agile.

Select tier-two or mid-rung companies were also able to expand their operating margins against the backdrop of tight IT budget spending. "Compared with top-tier companies, small and medium firms have more levers to improve performance - be it tweaking of employee matrix to include more freshers or reduction in selling and administrative costs," says Angel Broking's IT analyst Ankita Somani.

She draws attention to the fact that historically, smaller IT companies had just over 10 per cent freshers in the employee pyramid compared to over 30 per cent for the top IT companies. A higher proportion of employees with less than three years of experience helps in bringing down operating costs.

The robust show of these companies has not gone unnoticed by the big daddies in the industry. Rajeev Gupta, president of Fujitsu Consulting India (FCI), the Indian arm of global IT solutions firm Fujitsu says that the smaller firms are more agile when it comes to projects worth less than $10 million. "The robust show of tier-2 firms is not only because of a depreciating home currency, it is also about the way clients have started allocating a chunk of their projects to smaller companies."

Global clients are now more than willing to open their doors to second-rung Indian IT companies that are more than willing to take up smaller assignments. "The large IT firms don't go after $5-10 million deals, which we are quite happy to accept," says Zensar Technologies' Ganesh Natarajan. Deals worth $50-100 million are fewer as companies are cutting back on spending or postponing investments, he says.

Their upbeat performance has also helped such companies control employee attrition rates. Most mid-tier firms, which announced results for the quarter to June, showed lower attrition rates. Hexaware, headquartered in Mumbai, reported 9.6 per cent rate of attrition, the lowest compared with 12-16 per cent reported by the top four IT firms. "We declared a salary increase of 10.5 per cent this year, but it is not only about money. Employees are excited about the kind of projects we are handling," says Hexaware's chairman Atul Nishar.

What has also helped is the renewed focus on the manufacturing sector, which has boosted the performance of companies such as Cummins and MindTree, thanks to the rebound in the manufacturing vertical. However, companies such as Persistence Systems, which focus more on discretionary solutions, are likely to report weak numbers. Companies such as KPIT Cummins have taken the inorganic route to enhance skill sets. KPIT's acquisition of Systime in May 2011 strengthened its enterprise solutions offerings and also provided it access to the Brazilian market. "Strategically, the acquisition fits very snugly," says KPIT's chairman Ravi Pandit.

Analysts reckon that the momentum will continue at least in the medium term, given the trend of clients slashing large deals into smaller tranches and engaging mid-tier companies during vendor allocations. "We are likely to see sustained performance by some of these companies, considering their strong order pipeline," says Angel Broking's Somani.

FCI's Gupta also says that the trend should continue for at least another two years. According to industry trackers, the smaller firms are often quick to adapt to the changing requirements of clients, helping them bag deals and expand the scope of services over a period. 

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Oracle pilots solution for java


Oracle is planning to introduce Java programming and skills training to its academic education programme, as part of its ongoing work to plug the IT employment gap.
The new classes – called Java Fundamentals and Java Programming – will form part of the Oracle Academy curriculum, which is used by secondary schools and higher education institutes to inform their IT curriculum.
The Java courses are currently being piloted by 39 teachers across the UK and Scotland, and are expected to become a fully fledged part of Oracle’s curriculum during the 2012/2013 academic year.
Jane Richardson, EMEA senior manager of the Oracle Education Foundation, said a firm grounding in Java is important for students that want to pursue a career in IT.
“It’s used in billions of mobile devices and across the internet. There are not many applications that don’t require Java,” she told IT Pro.
“When we look at young people who want to have a career in the IT industry, Java is almost the most important language they have to learn, alongside SQL and C++.”
Citing recent labour market figures from IT training council e-Skills, Richardson said the new courses were also designed to meet the growing demand for Java programmers.
“E-skills’ data shows employment in IT is set grow by two times the national average through to 2020.
We are also seeing that there are over 750,000 jobs unfilled across Europe in programming and IT skills, particularly in Java, SQL and C++,” said Richardson.
“There’s a huge interest from students in these languages because they want to develop these applications themselves.”
The teachers that take part in the pilot programme will be certified to teach the Java Curriculum to their students using a mix of online and classroom-based teaching.
Students that complete the Oracle courses typically use them to enter the world of work or to add weight to their university and college applications, added Richardson.
“We’ve also had students study [other Oracle Academy] courses that have gone into law and other disciplines [because] the ability to recognise and analyse data is not industry-specific,” she said.
“The use of technology is not industry-specific and more and more of what we do in our everyday lives relies on our ability to understand how to take and use data in a business context.”
Caroline Cheverton, director of enterprise computing at the Leigh Technology Academy, has been putting students through Oracle’s programmes since 2002.
Speaking to IT Pro, Cheverton said some of her students have also used the skills gained through Oracle courses to set up their own IT businesses.
“It is an entrepreneurial curriculum. Some of my students have got into designing mobile apps, databases and have set up small businesses, which they have used to fund their university education,” she said.
“It is not just about developing more employees for big businesses, but allowing the SMB sector to flourish, too.”
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Twitter's Instagram API Access


Instagram users can no longer access the app’s “Find Friends on Twitter” feature, a result from a change in Twitter’s API restrictions for the photo-sharing application.
While Instagram users can still tweet their photos out to their Twitter streams, they can no longer use the feature to add those they already follow on Twitter to their Instagram account.
Why? It could be because of an old beef with Facebook.
If you’ll recall, Facebook blocked Twitter’s API access way back in 2010, when Twitter created its own “Find Your Friends” feature to help users follow their existing Facebook friends on Twitter. Though the Face-tagram acquisition has yet to even close, it could be that Twitter is preparing for what may be inevitable — the day when Instagram becomes a part of Facebook.
The restrictions also come in the wake of a controversial recent blog post from product VP Michael Sippey, broadly sketching a future Twitter where its API will look much different than it does today. “In the coming weeks,” Sippey wrote, “we will be introducing stricter guidelines around how the Twitter API is used.”
But while that note foretells of a sweeping API sea change, the Instagram smackdown portends of something much more targeted, a slap back at its major competitor.
Twitter’s official response was effusive, yet blunt: “We understand that there’s great value associated with Twitter’s follow graph data, and we can confirm that it is no longer available within Instagram,” a spokesperson told me in a statement.
Think about it in terms of Twitter’s conspicuous “value” comment: What is Twitter giving away to Instagram, a potential future competitor, in this instance? Something as simple as boosting engagement inside of Instagram by using Twitter’s API to onboard followers may not be quantifiable “value” in terms of dollars, but it is valuable, for certain.
Facebook had no comment, as indeed the deal has not gone through yet. Instagram, too, had no comment.
The pawn in all of this — albeit a massively popular, extremely valuable pawn — is Instagram, which must suffer a reduced feature set while waiting in limbo for the Facebook purchase to go through. That’s probably why, instead of sweeping the loss of the “Find Your Friends” feature under the rug, Instagram made it a point to deliver a prompt to users, letting them know exactly what they lost:
“Twitter no longer allows its users to access this information in Instagram via the Twitter API,” the prompt states. “We apologize for any inconvenience.”
It’s basically Instagram waving a giant middle finger back in Twitter’s face, making Twitter look like the bad guy.
The real loser here? The unassuming new Instagram user, who won’t be able to take advantage of the feature.
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Aapps for smart TVs: Netflix, YouTube

“Younger  desire a more social TV viewing experience," says Manny Flores, Senior Vice President at Harris Interactive. "With the proliferation of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, younger are not only more tech savvy, but are accustomed to being able to share their online experiences with their friends and family. So why not add TV viewing to the list of online experiences to share?"
"As the TV becomes a more overall entertainment device, it is only a matter of time before we see the mainstream use of additional content apps, such as Facebook, being used on the TV," added Flores.
The number of apps available for smart TVs pales in comparison to the some 500,000-700,000+ apps and games available through Apple’s App Store or the Google Play store, although the market is quickly growing.
Interestingly, many of the same apps that are popular on the iOS and Android platforms are also popular on smart TVs. Netflix and YouTube were the most popular with smart TV owners, with 47% and 44% saying they are “must have” apps on the smart TV respectively.
Social networking site Facebook (35%), online marketplace Amazon (34%) and streaming radio app Pandora (28%) also ranked within the top five must-have apps according to Harris Interactive.
The hugely popular app Angry Birds wasn’t on the list, but it may soon become a hot favorite with smart TV owners too. On July 19 Samsung announced the global availability of the app -- which is the first to feature motion controls -- on Samsung smart TVs.
Samsung Vice President of Visual Display Business Kyungsik Lee said, “Samsung Smart TV will become the first TV to offer the world’s most popular game and set a new standard in the industry by offering a game for smart TVs controlled by hand gestures.”
The Harris Poll was conducted online between May 7 and May 15, 2012.
Top 15 must-have apps for smart TVs according to Harris Interactive:
1.  Netflix - 47%
2.  YouTube - 44%
3.  Facebook - 35%
4.  Amazon - 34%
5.  Pandora - 28%
6.  ESPN - 21%
7.  Hulu + - 21%
8.  Twitter - 17%
9.  Syfy - 14%
10. HBO Go - 13%
11. Rhapsody - 9%
12. - 8%
13. Vudu HD Movies - 7%
14. Conema Now - 7%
15. Vimeo - 5%
16. None of these - 23%
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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blade unveils updated smart-phone app

The Blade has launched new applications for smart phones and tablet devices that are more colorful, more interactive, and more inclusive of what readers find online and in print.
Brad Vriezelaar, The Blade's new media manager, said The Blade's old smart-phone app, developed about two years ago, was getting tired. The new one is much updated and has been modeled after other popular applications.
"With the new app, we've tried to incorporate the best of all the other apps out there -- Facebook, Twitter -- and we've tried to take the way they navigate, the way they work, and make them into our news app," Mr. Vriezelaar said.
The new app, which is available today, includes The Blade's obituaries, events calendar, OurTown content (special sites for Perrysburg and Sylvania), and opinion section -- all of which are new additions. The app will still have The Blade's news, sports, business, and arts & entertainment sections.
Another new addition is a built-in weather tab that has current conditions, a 10-day forecast that includes hourly projections, and both radar and infrared maps.
The app is free, and available for both iPhones and android-based smart phones, as well as the iPad. It is also available on all Apple and android tablets. It will soon be available on the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook. The new app will be available through Apple's App Store, Google Play Store, and the app stores for Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Mr. Vriezelaar said The Blade used feedback from the current apps users while developing the new one.
"A lot of features and ideas came right from end users," he said. "It should be a lot more user-friendly."
The new app has larger photos for featured articles. A drop-down menu gives users the selection of different sections, such as news, business, sports, and weather. Users can flip through photo galleries and articles with the swipe of a finger. Photos can be viewed full screen.
There is also an option to share any article or photo via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter.
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