Archive

Author Archive

Considering Crowdfunding? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Crowdfunding

The Ultimate Guide to CrowdfundingIf you haven’t heard of crowdfunding by now, it’s not too late. Even if you have heard of it, you might not really understand it. The Ultimate Guide to Crowdfunding is your one-stop source for a lot of information on crowdfunding, successful crowdfunding projects, and the best sources/sites for crowdfunding. The Ultimate Guide to Crowdfunding is an infographic that has hyperlinks to more information about each topic, each source, and each story behind it.

At the top of the infographic, there are links for finding out exactly what crowdfunding is and an analysis of whether it’s right for your business.

On the infographic, you also have a profile of 14 of the top crowdfunding sites with an associated review and a success story.

One thing to note about crowdfunding is that you have to be motivated to raise your funds. It’s not a “set it and forget it” type of thing. And I want to warn you, the results in the success stories are not typical. They are big success stories. For all the projects that get funding, thousands more do not.

Kickstarter, for example, might be the biggest name out there, but in my opinion, it’s the worst of the lot because of its ‘all or nothing’ funding scheme. Again, in my opinion, Indiegogo is a much better site for funding those types of projects. I’ve seen too many good projects go unfunded on Kickstarter that would have benefitted from Indiegogo’s partial funding successes.

In other words, if you setup a $50,000 campaign on Kickstarter and you receive $49,999, you get $0. With Indiegogo, you get $49,999 or however much your contributors pledged toward your campaign. There’s also the problem of non-payment on some of these platforms. Some, like Kickstarter, take the pledges and hold them in escrow until the end of the campaign.

I have yet to use a crowdfunding site for any of my projects, although I’m pondering doing so within the next few months. I have contributed to a number of successful and unsuccessful campaigns on Kickstarter and on Indiegogo.

To setup a crowdfunded project, you have to offer your contributors ‘perks.’ Perks are tokens of your appreciation and incentives for people to contribute to your project. I usually don’t take the perks because I want the artists to receive all the funds I send them without strings and I don’t want them hassled with having to worry about perks when they should focus their energies on the projects that I’m funding.

Crowdfunding can be a great way to get your ideas off the ground, but remember that your contributors will hold you accountable for their earned perks and the project itself, so you’d better be prepared to deliver.

Generally, there’s no payback associated with crowdfunding, although I haven’t checked out all 14 of the sites listed on the infographic. The payback is the project. People like to contribute to something that’s bigger than themselves. Some people, like myself, like to contribute to artists and filmmakers to see just what’s possible through donations. It gives me the power to help people realize their dreams that otherwise they might not have the opportunity to do so.

If I ever win the lottery, I will set aside a portion of the money for artistic projects and endowments. I think that there’s no greater achievement in this world than to create. Whether it’s a mural in the ‘hood’ or a feature-length film, I want to see it happen.

But, this isn’t about me. It’s about the projects and their creators. Crowdfunding is an excellent way to put something into action. If you have the money, go to some of the listed sites, pick some projects, select your perks (if you want them), and fund some hope. If you, on the other hand, are someone who has a project in mind that crowdfunding is a fit for, sign up on one of the sites that’s appropriate for your project and get busy.

Remember that the perks you offer can be very small, such as mention on a website as a contributor. But, as the amount of contribution rises, so do the perk values. Some people offer all expenses paid trips to large contributors, special privileges to the project, part ownership, or some other creative perk. While this is not a review of one particular site/system over another, crowdfunding is a thing and it’s a good thing.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to sign up, log on, create your campaign, develop your perks, and get busy on that project. And one of the ancillary requirements of your campaigns is that you let me know about them. No, I’m not kidding. I’ll even help fund some of them.

I’d like to thank Choice Loans for sharing this infographic.

The Brydge+ Keyboard for iPad (Review)

Brydge+ Keyboard for iPad with SpeakersBrydge+ Keyboard for iPad
Brydge
$99

I’ve reviewed several keyboards for the iPad and I’ve also refused to review some (You don’t see those), but the Brydge+ keyboard for iPad is a very fine accessory. I really like it. In fact, it’s rarely been off my iPad since I received it in the mail almost a month ago. Yes, I’m a bit slow with some reviews–not because of the products, but because I have so many in my queue to do. I have finally caught up to this one and I’m glad because I really like this keyboard. It matches my iPad perfect in material and in looks.

The Brydge+ is made of the same aircraft aluminum as the iPad itself. Same color, same weight, and same lines. In fact, you’d probably assume that it’s made by Apple, but it isn’t. The Brydge keyboard line began life as a Kickstarter project.

Their Kickstarter campaign is one of the most successful that I’ve ever seen. They asked for $90K and received almost $800K. Yes, you read that correctly. It can happen, even on Kickstarter, which I really don’t like. That said, it does work for some people.

The keyboard coupled with the iPad makes for a bit of heavy lifting. I’m pretty sure that the keyboard more than doubles the weight of the iPad. I also have the built-in speaker version which probably weighs heavier than the non speaker version. But if you’re used to carrying around a full-sized laptop computer, this little combo will seem lightweight to you.

The keyboard has keys that mimic the iPad’s Home button, lock button, music controls, brightness, search, and sound volume. The best additional functionality is that you can press the keyboard’s Home button and Lock button at the same time to take screenshots. That’s a great feature! It’s great because I have a hard time doing it with the actual iPad buttons. If my timing is a little off, either I lock the iPad or I close the App that I’m using.

One thing to note about the Brydge keyboard: the charge lasts a very long time. I’ve charged my iPad five or six times compared to two charges on the keyboard.

The keyboard pairs easily with your iPad and stays paired, even after prolonged non-use, it will stay paired. And by prolonged, I mean days not hours. If you haven’t had your keyboard paired in several days, just switch it on and tap a key. It might take a second or two to re-establish the link, but you really have to do nothing else to re-establish the pairing. I like that. I don’t like having to repeat the same process to pair a device with my iPad every time the two become disconnected. I consider such behavior a fail.

Your iPad slips into the keyboards clamps with the help of silicone rubber protectors that also hold your device with a pretty good grip. Don’t worry, it won’t slip out. You have to pull it out of the clamps. You can adjust the iPad’s angle from closed for carrying to 180 degrees flat. The clamps are sturdy and ready to work. When you have your keyboard attached, you can place your iPad/keyboard combination on an table surface safely because of the keyboard’s protective feet. Of course, the same goes for when it’s open and in use. Don’t worry, you won’t get yelled at for scratching someone’s mahogany table with your fancy thingamajig.

I’ve never had any problem with the Brydge+ keyboard from first use. The keys have a nice touch to them, good feedback, and no repeated characters. This is a well made product that’s durable, elegant in design, professional quality, and priced well for the market at $99. The non-speaker model is $79. For the extra $20, I say go for the speakers, especially if you have a hard time adjusting sound on your iPad to get the right volume.

The speakers are located at the top of the keyboard above the keys, which makes the sound project back to your ears very well because it bounces off the iPad and back toward you. I can tell from the craftsmanship, attention to detail, and key quality that a lot of thought went into this product. This is definitely not some thrown together gadget that’s meant to entice you, extract $100 from you, and then promptly leave its usefulness in the ad. The Brydge+ keyboard basically turns your $800 iPad into an $1,800 laptop computer that folds up into a neat little package.

The only negative I find with the Brydge keyboard is that, depending on your iPad’s generation (2,3,4), some of the function keys might not work. For example, on my iPad 4, the Internet key doesn’t work and neither does the Photos key that opens your Camera Roll. Minor issues to be sure, still worth mentioning.

Why it’s Frugal: The Brydge+ keyboard with speakers is a frugal choice because not only does the keyboard protect your iPad, when folded, it is an extremely functional device. It also uses very little power and requires very little intervention from the user. The keyboard offers you a laptop look and feel, with a design esthetic that says, “Made for Apple.” It’s a frugal choice for your iPad.

The instructions that come with your Brydge keyboard are clear and concise. You connect the keyboard in the usual way via your iPad’s Bluetooth settings and powering on the keyboard. To pair the speakers is not as intuitive and might require a try or two to get it right.
Press Ctrl-B on the keyboard and hold it until you hear four beeps, watch your iPad’s Bluetooth settings to confirm the pairing. I had to pair/unpair a few times before I got the hang of it. Now the unit pairs by itself without my intervention.

I’ve read a few other reviews of the Brydge keyboard and there are two points they mention that I’d like to respond to. First, they write that the back of the iPad isn’t protected. It’s true that the Brydge keyboard, when folded only protects the somewhat delicate glass portion of the iPad. You know, the most important part. The back of the iPad is made of aircraft aluminum like the keyboard. That is its protection.
If there were another protective cover, the unit would be even heavier. That, and the fact that nothing protects your laptop when it’s folded. I have yet to see a protective cover for a laptop except for carrying cases.

Second, they state the price of $99 as being high. If you read my other reviews, you’ll see that I do mention price often as a negative point for some of these products. However, I balance value with price. That is to say that I measure a product’s quality against its price. If the quality, design, and craftsmanship justify the price, so be it, as is the case with the Brydge keyboard. Its $99 price tag doesn’t detract from its functionality, ease of use, design, materials, features, and esthetic.

The Brydge+ keyboard with speakers is an excellent choice for your iPad. The keyboard operates on very little power. It looks good. It feels good. And the price is right. Check out the official promotional video to get a better look at it and its functionality.

Rating: 9.5/10

Recommendation: Once you use it, you probably will never separate your iPad from it again. Buy it from the Brydge keyboards website.

Buyer Beware: The Hidden Costs of Free Software for Nonprofits

Contributed Article bNon-Profit Easyy Gretchen Barry, of NonProfitEasy.com
The Appeal and Illusion of Free
When it comes to purchasing new software, many organizations do so to increase efficiency, save time, and reduce costs. This is particularly true of nonprofits, which often have limited staff and busy schedules.
 
Enter “free” software: on its surface, a simple, cost-effective solution. However, free software isn’t always free, and nonprofit executives often learn this the hard way: after incurring costs from implementation, consultants, ancillary features, support, and ongoing maintenance. These costs add up to more than a solution with an upfront cost but long-term savings.
 
Below are pitfalls to avoid and tips to help you select something that will be a better fit for you, your nonprofit, and your budget over the long haul.
 
The Misleading Sales Pitch
Low purchase prices and robust “communities” of users tempt nonprofit executives to invest in these free solutions. However, the “free” program is typically a bare-bones solution, containing only limited functionality. The sales staff exalts the limitations as a selling point, telling potential clients that their software is highly customizable. While this is true, it’s this customization that contributes to the overall cost.
 
If You Can’t Implement the Software, It Will Cost You in the Long Run
Consultant fees for implementing a system you can’t negate any initial cost savings. Why? Transforming the basic software into a usable solution for your organization typically requires consultants. Most nonprofits do not have IT personnel on staff, which means that they are completely dependent on these consultants to implement the software. More complex features increase implementation cost. Consultants work on an hourly basis, often charging up to $150 per hour. And once the system is up and running, the staff needs to learn how to use it. There is often limited documentation on these low-cost products, and the trainers to help also cost additional money. What does this say about a system that is so difficult to understand that it requires consultants to manage? In the end, the nonprofit could have paid a higher up-front fee for an all-inclusive software solution and greatly lowered their costs.
 
How to Find a Comprehensive and Cost-Effective Solution
Organizations should look for all-in-one software solutions which don’t require external consultants to set up or maintain. All-inclusive CRM solutions will provide many of the above costs in their total pricing. That means that nonprofit executives know exactly what their up-front and ongoing costs will be.
 
Ask providers the following:
• How many of their clients require consultants or trainers during implementation.
• The price per hour for any consultants.
• The average cost of total implementation for most of their clients. 
• A detailed price breakdown of:
 - purchase price for the software
 - installation and implementation costs
 - customization options
 - migration of your data from the old to new system
 - ongoing monthly fees
 - staff training
 - ongoing product support
 
Research Now, Save Later
While it can be tempting to “save now and pay later,” it is worth your time, now, to do your homework, test drive software, and calculate the full cost of “free” and paid software solutions. Free often comes at a higher cost in the long run.
 
About the Author:
Gretchen is Director of Marketing for NonProfitEasy, an all-in-one software solution provider whose mission it is to change the status quo for the greater good. Gretchen’s passion is to ensure that every nonprofit has the technology to deliver services to their communities as affordably and efficiently as possible.

Cloud is Reshaping the World of Business for SMBs

Cloud: Reshaping the World of BusinessOn Thursday, June 26, I participated in an hour-long IBM Business Insider Spreecast titled, “Cloud: Reshaping the World of Business,” where host Paul Gillin led the panel through a series of questions and thought points concerning Cloud and small to medium-sized businesses. There was also an associated Twitter Chat that used hashtag, #SMB4Cloud, that I participated in during the event. Though you can’t attend the live event now, you can click the link above and connect to the Spreecast and gain insight into the discussion that we had.

There were a few major highlights that sprang from the panel and participants. First, is the concept that mature businesses move slower to adopt new technologies than their newer counterparts do. Startups are especially onboard with new technologies, such as cloud computing, cloud storage, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Startups don’t always have the capital to purchase infrastructure and data center space that can run into the millions of dollars for the kind of computing power required to run high capacity applications, to store big data, to maintain a potentially huge number of customers, to supply adequate bandwidth, and to provide 24×7 service uptimes.

Startups have to leverage cloud computing, IaaS, and new technologies in order to get into the market and compete effectively against established businesses.

Second, cloud computing allows companies, at any stage of development, to get to market faster than is possible with traditional computing infrastructure. Provisioning times with IaaS is measured in minutes rather than in weeks or in months.

Third, using a cloud provider or managed service provider (MSP) allows a company to use expertise that might not be available within the company. MSPs also allows companies to leverage these skills that might be out of their salary range. SMBs can effectively compete on a scale and at a speed that wasn’t possible just a few years ago. Only large companies could move infrastructure, people, and skills fast enough and on a large enough scale to take on significant contracts. Cloud computing has opened up new possibilities and expanded business opportunities for SMBs.

Fourth, cloud computing offers a high level of simplicity for SMBs. There are services available that are very easy to use. If the business doesn’t require a lot of customization or specialized services, then cloud usage can be as simple as a few mouse clicks, which allows SMBs to use current employee skillsets to step into cloud services without the complexity.

Finally, the cloud transforms IT people into business people. Fixing computers and troubleshooting problems now shifts to a provider. IT people are now becoming more focused on business outcomes, customer satisfaction, and business growth rather than day-to-day break/fix and operational objectives of running an IT shop.

Panelists:

Paul Gillin – Paul Gillin Communications, Host.
John Mason - General Manager, Midmarket at IBM.
Laurie McCabe – Co-founder and Partner, The SBM Group.
Subbu Balakrishnan – CTO and Co-founder, Good.co.

One of the panelists noted that, “Cloud works for DIY and “Do It For Me” businesses alike.”

That statement covers the gamut of what cloud computing can do for businesses at whatever comfort or expertise level they have at their disposal. Although it’s difficult for some IT people, even CIOs, to see is that if your company isn’t an IT company, then there’s no reason to be in the IT business. Cloud makes it possible to be in the business you’re in, but have the computing power you need to run your business without becoming an IT business.

The conclusions from the Spreecast and the Twitter Chat can be summarized as the following:

  • Established businesses must embrace cloud computing to remain relevant
  • Startups and young businesses use new technologies and adapt faster
  • Cloud computing enables a faster startup and faster presence for new services
  • Cloud computing is transforming IT from a service to a business quality organization
  • IaaS significantly shortens infrastructure provisioning times
  • Cloud computing allows businesses to focus on business rather than on IT

Cloud computing, for some, is quite controversial, but few would argue that cloud isn’t transformative and a paradigm shift from business as usual. Businesses that want to remain relevant and those that want to become agile, or even virtual, should examine the possibilities of what cloud can offer them.

If you’re considering cloud computing for your business, check out IBM’s Cloud Computing Marketplace.
IBM_logoThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

WaterField Designs Unveils Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Cases

San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) June 24, 2014

Waterfield Designs Surface Pro 3 CaseWaterField Designs, an innovative maker of custom laptop sleeves, and designer bags and cases for digital gear, unveils four new custom Microsoft Pro 3 cases: two protective sleeves—the SleeveCase ™ and the Outback Sleeve—and two tablet and accessory cases that can be converted into minimalist shoulder bags—the Travel Express and the Outback Solo.

“We’re happy to support Surface Pro users with four carrying options so that they can choose the one that best fits their lifestyle,” explained company owner, Gary Waterfield. “Our Surface Pro cases have done well in the past. The new Pro 3 model is even more impressive, and over the last few months customers have emailed specifics about what cases they’d like.”

Surface Pro 3 SleeveCase: A water-resistant, black ballistic nylon shell envelops shock-absorbing neoprene for ultimate protection. Two custom sizes: one fits just the Surface Pro 3 and the other fits the tablet with the Type Cover attached. Choices include three trim colors, horizontal or vertical orientation, and add-on options including a lightly padded flap closure, d-rings and a strap, and a Piggyback accessory pouch. TSA-friendly.

Surface Pro 3 Outback Sleeve: Same excellent protection as the WaterField SleeveCase. A brown, waxed-canvas shell and grizzly or chocolate leather trim combine for a TSA-friendly sleeve. Two custom sizes: one fits just the Surface Pro 3 and the other fits the tablet with the Type Cover attached. Choices include a horizontal or vertical orientation, and add-on options including a lightly padded flap closure, d-rings and a strap, and a Piggyback accessory pouch; TSA-friendly.

Surface Pro 3 Travel Express: This grab-and-go case includes a custom-sized pocket for the Surface Pro 3 plus space for additional necessities. Features include scratch-free interior pockets, foam lining, an impact-resistant plastic insert, and an optional strap. Made from water-resistant black ballistic nylon with a bold stripe in a choice of seven colors.

Surface Pro 3 Outback Solo: Two layers of protection—high-grade neoprene enveloped in highly water-resistant, tan waxed canvas. An offset, distressed leather flap secures contents with a firm magnetic closure and lends the bag a vintage look. Two front pockets fit a smartphone and necessities like a charger, wallet and keys. An optional strap transforms the Surface Pro 3 case into a svelte, minimalist over-the-shoulder bag.

Pricing & Availability 

SleeveCase™— 
Price: $49. Size: 16 fits Surface Pro 3 ‘naked’ and size 17 fits Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover. Color: Black with trim in lead checkered Indium, or brown or black leather (+$10). Options—Flap: $15. D-rings only: $5. Simple Strap: $12. Suspension Shoulder Strap: $22. Piggyback accessory pouch: $25-$27. Pre-order now. Ships July 7, 2014.

Outback Sleeve™— 
Price: $59. Sizes: 16 fits Surface Pro 3 ‘naked’ and size 17 fits Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover. Color: Tan waxed canvas with trim in grizzly or chocolate full-grain leather. Options—Flap: $20. D-rings only: $8. Simple Strap: $14. Suspension Shoulder Strap: $24. Piggyback accessory pouch: $30. Pre-order now. Ships July 7, 2014.

Travel Express—
Price: $79. One size. Color: black ballistic nylon with stripe in black, copper, flame, green, pearl, pine, or brown leather (+$10). Options—Simple Strap: $14. Suspension Shoulder Strap: $24. Pre-order now. Ships July 7, 2014.

Outback Solo™— 
Price: $109. One size. Color: Tan waxed canvas with chocolate leather flap.
Options—Shoulder strap: $19. Pre-order now. Ships July 14, 2014.

About WaterField Designs
WaterField Designs manufactures custom-fitted, high-quality cases and bags for a full-range of laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, gaming devices, and other digital gear. All products are manufactured to exacting standards entirely in San Francisco. More information is available at the company website under “Our Story.”

Open Mic Night: IK Multimedia’s iRig Voice Microphone (Review)

Irig Voice MicrophoneiRig Voice Microphone
IK Multimedia
$39.99

If you’re like a majority of surveyed people, you want to sing. You also want to write what you sing. Singer/songwriters are a very common person type. Other than a good singing voice and an audience, you need some basic equipment with which to record your masterpieces, namely a microphone and some recording equipment. These days, your required recording equipment can be emulated with software. You can record, mix, add effects, and export your works to a variety of formats for public consumption.

The iRig Voice microphone is a standard microphone with a 3.5mm jack, but also includes a free working lite recording studio app named EZ Voice. The input jack also features an earphone jack so that you can speak and listen through the same interface.

The EZ Voice App (Free) allows you to do some basic voice recording, add some live effects, and record foreground vocals with your songs. But, the iRig Voice microphone is compatible with other multimedia apps as well. It works on the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, newer Mac models and Android devices. I’ve personally tested it on my iPhone 5, iPad 4, Mac mini, Windows Phone (Nokia 928B) Metro, and my Android-based HP Slate 7+. All successful and perfect.

Audio App Compatibility List

  • EZ Voice
  • Dragon Dictation
  • QuickVoice
  • Skype
  • SP Multitrack
  • Garage Band

I recorded a short message using the EZ Voice app for you as a demonstration.

I don’t sing well enough to record a music demo, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

EZ Voice Main Screen

EZ Voice Main Screen

The microphone feels and sounds like any professional microphone I’ve ever used. The mic and apps worked together the first time without any issues. I did have to turn off Siri on my iPhone and on my iPad, but that might just be my experience and not yours. Siri kept popping up when I spoke into the mic during testing, so to avoid that annoyance, I disabled Siri.

This is one of the few products that I’ve ever reviewed that I’m absolutely convinced that the pricing is spot on. At $39.99, the iRig Voice is a great value. It performs as well as any microphone that I’ve ever used. I do suggest, as I would with any microphone, that you purchase a pop filter (about $3.00) to alleviate wind noise, pop, and some ambient noise.

Don’t use the mic when you’re charging your device because it creates a little bit of static, or it did for me, on my iPhone.

Why it’s Frugal: The iRig Voice microphone is frugal because its $39.99 price tag is perfect for anyone who wants to get into podcasting, song recording, or voiceover acting without spending a huge amount of money. It’s a great microphone at a great price. It’s an excellent value. Sure, you could spend $1,000 on a better microphone, but why would you?

EZ Voice - List of Effects

EZ Voice – List of Effects

The microphone’s clarity is demonstrated very well when using it with the Dragon Dictation app on the iPhone or on the iPad. I’m not the best at enunciating my words (It’s a Texas thing), but the software picked up and correctly typed out every word I said on my iPhone and on my iPad. That’s impressive. I’ve never had that happen before and I always use the same lines for testing:

“Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party” and “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function”.

Those are two fun phrases that can confuse dictation software due to speech patterns. If you don’t think you can confuse the software, try it by using your device’s built-in microphone. It almost never gets them perfect.

Features

  • Handheld vocal microphone delivers professional sound quality
  • Compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, newer Mac models and Android devices
  • Compact cardioid pattern minimizes feedback
  • Constructed of durable, lightweight thermoplastic
  • Available in 5 colors: Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink and White
  • Comes with EZ Voice app
  • Works with dozens of karaoke, sing-along and music making apps
  • Headphone jack for real-time monitoring
  • Convenient on/off switch located on the mic

EZ Voice, while free of charge, does prompt you to purchase sound effect add-ons for $0.99 each. I purchased Tune and Morph, although I’m not sure exactly how to use them. I tap the FX icon and then tap the settings but the same list of settings shows up for each, so I must be doing something wrong. I’m not sure at this point if it’s me, that the app isn’t intuitive enough, or that it’s working as designed and I just don’t realize it.

EZ Voice - In App Effect Purchases

EZ Voice – In App Effect Purchases

In either case, $2.00 isn’t a lot to spend trying out an app. It’s just too bad that it isn’t more obvious how to use the effects. There is a long list of effects that cover everything from arena to robotic to extremely deep to childlike. The effects are a lot of fun. There is one very cool effect called ‘Diana’ that changes your voice into a normal sounding female voice. It’s useful in case you need to sing a female part or speak a female part but don’t have a woman to provide the voice for you. It would work great for recording script dialog or for creating a voiceover for a product or service. It’s very impressive and I recommend it.

The app also allows you to sing along with and record your favorite songs. The instrumental parts are normal volume but the original vocals become background for you. EZ Voice is very well constructed and well thought out app. I do wish it were more obvious how to use the effects, but that isn’t a major flaw, but a little annoying.

I really like the iRig Voice microphone and the EZ Voice app. The microphone is a welcome addition to any musician’s, aspiring singer/songwriter’s, or voice artist’s toolbox. It’s cool to have multiple colors from which to choose. The only problem is that you might not be able to choose a color without a little buyer’s remorse. I suppose that you could collect all six and have one for every mood or gig.

I chose the green one for review because that lime green color has a special meaning for my daughter and me. The microphones are sturdy and well-built. They’re heavy on the end, just like you’d expect, and although IK Multimedia sells a professional digital microphone (iRig Mic HD), this one feels right and sounds right to me. But, this mic is probably best suited for song demos, podcasting, and voiceover work where extreme quality isn’t needed. The ads tell you that it’s perfect for karaoke and portable vocal studio. I’d have to agree, but you won’t be at all disappointed with the quality or the good looks of this mic. For $40, you can’t go wrong.

Rating: 9/10

Recommendation: Buy it, have some fun, and maybe hit the big time!

EZ Voice - Recording My Test Message

EZ Voice – Recording My Test Message

Note: I tested the iRig Voice microphone on my Windows Nokia 928B phone. This is not an officially ‘certified’ product and IK Multimedia does not endorse the use of the microphone on the Windows phone, so your mileage may vary. I tried it just to see if it would work and it did without any issues, but don’t blame me or IK Multimedia if the mic doesn’t work on your Windows phone.

You can also follow IK Multimedia and share your audio and video material on our YouTubeTwitterFacebook and SoundCloud channels.

Also, check out the complete range of iOS accessories and apps for vocalists and recording!

iRig MIC HD, digital handheld microphone for iPhone/iPod touch/iPad and Mac
iRig Voice, new colored handheld microphones for smartphones and tablets
iRig MIC, the first handheld microphone for iPhone/iPod touch/iPad and Android
iRig MIC Cast, ultra-compact microphone for iPhone/iPod touch/iPad and Android
iRig PRO, universal audio/MIDI interface for iPhone/iPod touch/iPad and Mac
iRig PRE, XLR microphone interface for iPhone/iPod touch/iPad and Android
iLoud, studio quality portable speaker

VocaLive, professional vocal effects/recording suite
iRig Recorder, audio recorder and editor

EZ Voice - Recording Playback

EZ Voice – Recording Playback

And also check out IK‘s:

iKlip, range of stage and studio support and stand for your mobile device
iLine, range of quality audio cable adapters
- All the music creation accessories and apps
- All the music software for Mac/PC

IK Multimedia is a “Musicians First” music technology company. It makes a complete range of sound and tone solutions for Guitar & Bass players, Keyboardists, Sound Designers, Engineers, DJs and Producers. You can check out their full line of professional mobile and studio performance products at www.ikmultimedia.com.

IK Multimedia launches iRig Voice – The colorful vocal microphone for the singer in you

June 19, 2014 - IK Multimedia, the global leader in mobile apps and accessories for musicians and music fans on the move, is pleased to announce the new iRig® Voice microphone line – the fun, easy-to-use and affordable vocal microphone for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android devices. iRig Voice comes with the new free EZ Voice app, which lets you quickly and easily sing along and record with any song on your iOS or Android mobile device’s music library.

iRig Voice is designed specifically for quality voice recording and is the perfect companion to the most popular singing and music apps like IK’s EZ Voice and partner apps like Smule’s Sing! Karaoke and AutoRap, plus The Voice: On Stage by StarMaker, musiXmatch, Karaoke Anywhere by JoltSoft and many more.

iRig Voice features an ergonomic design for comfortable handheld performance, and its shape fits easily into most standard microphone stand clips for stage use. And for maximum clarity its unidirectional cardioid design features a pickup that minimizes feedback when used with speaker systems.

iRig Voice provides a unidirectional close voice pickup that’s tuned for optimal vocal frequency range reproduction. It has an on/off slide switch for quick muting, and it connects through the microphone/headphone jack found on all iOS and Android devices providing a stereo output to connect headphones or earbuds for private practice and performance.

Fun and Easy to Use for Everyone
iRig Voice is extremely easy to use. Simply connect the microphone, connect headphones or speakers, launch its free EZ Voice companion app (compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android) and you are ready to start singing for hours of fun. You don’t need any audio skills to use EZ Voice, it’s the simple-to-use sing along app that lets you quickly and easily import your favorite songs from your music library, cancel the original vocals and add professional quality effects like reverb, chorus, pitch correction and more. Then when you’re ready, EZ Voice lets you record your performances and share them with the world via email or SoundCloud. With EZ Voice, iRig Voice is packed with a powerful app that can turn any mobile device into a fun, great sounding vocal and recording suite.

The Color of Sound – Bling it
iRig Voice comes in 5 eye-catching colors that look great on stage: Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink and White match the colors of the iPhone 5C adding a bright new level of style to any performance.

The Microphone for Everyone
With a street price comparable to a phone case, iRig Voice is so affordable that anyone can get started down the path to vocal stardom. iRig Voice is also perfect for capturing broadcast interviews in the field, conference calls, school projects, parties – it’s an ideal solution anytime vocals need to be captured.

Pricing and Availability
iRig Voice costs only $39.99/€29.99 (excluding tax) and is now shipping from music and electronics retailers worldwide and from the IK Multimedia online store. EZ Voice is a free app available for download from the App StoreSM and from the Google Play™ store.

Watch the Video

80 Percent of IT Administrators Fear Exposure Through Mobile Devices

GFI SoftwareDURHAM, N.C., June 4, 2014 – GFI Software™ today announced the findings of an extensive independent research project examining the “Internet of Things” (IoT) and the impact IT administrators expect from the increased volume of internet-enabled and addressable devices on their network. Respondents overwhelmingly cited greater exposure to existing and undiscovered threats, particularly from mobile devices, as among their most pressing concerns about the onward march of the Internet of Things into their organization.

The survey of 202 IT decision makers in U.S. workplaces employing up to 250 people was conducted by Opinion Matters for GFI Software, and revealed that the growing relevance of IoT for small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) means growing security threats, greater device management challenges and increased costs for IT management.

Analysts expect the number of devices – or “things” – that will connect to the Internet to grow radically by 2020, with Gartner estimating that 26 billion addressable devices will find a home on a corporate network. This spike in connected devices will create billions of new unsecured endpoints that will in turn produce new vectors of attack designed to either compromise the device or gain access to the infrastructure.

Disruption is a significant concern, as 96.5 percent of IT decision makers surveyed said that IoT would produce at least some negative impacts for their organizations, with more than half (55 percent) saying it will impose new security threats while extending existing threats to a greater number of devices. Furthermore, 30 percent said IoT will result in an increased IT spend, while 26.7 percent expected device management to spiral out of control as a result of the rise of IoT. 14 percent expect that deploying patches across multiple platforms will present a particular challenge.

“The research findings reveal that the Internet of Things will transform business security, as even standard employee devices could present an opportunity for exploitation and pose a real danger to organizations if they are connected to the Internet without proper security protections,” said Sergio, Galindo, general manager, infrastructure business unit at GFI Software. “With billions of devices poised to connect to the Internet, organizations are exposed to billions of insecure new endpoints that can compromise the network. The key takeaway is clear: IT organizations must plan effectively to ensure adequate operating system, firmware and patch support within the new IoT age.”

A Sea-Change for IT Administration

Each new modern innovation requires adaption to new technologies – not only to take advantage of the new opportunities, but also to adjust to the new problems that inevitably arise from it. So it goes with the Internet of Things, as more than three-quarters (78.6 percent) of IT administrators expect their security practices to change as a result of IoT. Among these changes, nearly one-third (30  percent) expect to have to revise policies about connectivity in the workplace to manage this adaption.

Going Mobile: Danger Ahead

The increasingly prominent role wireless devices play in the daily lives of employees results in greater security risks in general for an organization. When it comes to IoT, the risks from mobile devices become particularly acute, according to survey respondents, 81.7 percent of whom indicated that mobile devices create the most potential as a point of exploitation in the IoT age.

Build That Wall

Existing anti-spam, anti-virus and anti-malware infrastructure may not do the job of protecting against the multitude of risks posed by the billions of insecure new endpoints. When asked to rank priority areas of security focus, 45 percent of IT decision makers surveyed pointed to firewalls as their very top priority, while 35.7 percent cited mobile device management. Anti-virus was cited as a top priority by less than a fifth (18.7 percent) of respondents.

###

About GFI

GFI Software™ develops quality IT solutions for small to mid-sized businesses with generally up to 1,000 users. GFI® offers two main technology solutions: GFI MAX™, which enables managed service providers (MSPs) to deliver superior services to their customers; and GFI Cloud™, which empowers companies with their own internal IT teams to manage and maintain their networks via the cloud. Serving an expanding customer base of more than 200,000 companies, GFI’s product line also includes collaboration, network security, anti-spam, patch management, faxing, mail archiving and web monitoring. GFI is a channel-focused company with thousands of partners throughout the world. The company has received numerous awards and industry accolades, and is a longtime Microsoft® Gold ISV Partner.

 

IBM’s Entry into Software-Defined Storage: Elastic Storage

StorageBy now, everyone has heard of the hot new buzzword: software-defined data center (SDDC). SDDC is the new data center paradigm where everything is software-defined: network, computers, and storage. Yes, there’s underlying hardware making the whole thing possible but what do software-defined resources really do for us? The answer is simple: It abstracts hardware into pooled resources that users can partake of in discreet slices for cloud applications and for cloud workloads.

But the real story here is IBM’s venture into software-defined storage that it calls Elastic Storage. On May 12, 2014, IBM announced a portfolio of software defined storage products that deliver improved economics at the same time they enable organizations to access and process any type of data, on any type of storage device, anywhere in the world. Elastic Storage offers unprecedented performance, infinite scale, and is capable of reducing storage costs up to 90 percent by automatically moving data onto the most economical storage device.

For example, if a company has data that’s accessed infrequently, that data will be moved to tape or to low cost disk systems for archiving. Alternatively, data that’s accessed regularly or that requires high speed access will be moved to flash storage. Data redistribution is based on policy-driven rules and data analytics. This type of automated data movement shows cost savings of up to 90 percent.

“Born in IBM Research Labs, this new, patented breakthrough technology allows enterprises to exploit – not just manage – the exploding growth of data in a variety of forms generated by countless devices, sensors, business processes, and social networks. The new storage software is ideally suited for the most data-intensive applications, which require high-speed access to massive volumes of information – from seismic data processing, risk management and financial analysis, weather modeling, and scientific research, to determining the next best action in real-time retail situations.”

Elastic Storage features and benefits:

As for performance, IBM’s Elastic Storages boasts the capability of scanning over 10 billion files on just one cluster in less than 45 minutes. This type of performance as extreme implications for analytics and big data applications. IBM’s Elastic Storage solution is built for performance for big data and is based on the same technologies used in the Watson computer.

“Elastic Storage offers unprecedented performance, infinite scale, and is capable of reducing storage costs up to 90 percent by automatically moving data onto the most economical storage device.”

 

Part of Elastic Storage’s performance enhancement is due to IBM’s parallel data access technology: (General Parallel File System (GPFS). It eliminates the performance bottlenecks and so-called “choke” points of other data access algorithms and technologies.

What it all means is that now you have the same capability to access, analyze, and report on huge data sets in a fraction of the time it used to take to perform these analyses as large companies have. Elastic Storage puts the data where it needs to be to best serve you and your data requirements at a tremendous cost savings.

IBM Elastic Storage supports OpenStack Cinder and Swift interfaces. IBM is a platinum sponsor of OpenStack Foundation and is now its second most prolific contributor. It also supports other open APIs, such as POSIX and Hadoop.

IBM_logoThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

The Nova Wireless Flash for iPhone (Review)

2014/05/27 1 comment

Nova LogoNova Wireless Flash Unit for iPhone
Sneaky Squid, LLC.
$59 (Order from http://wantnova.com)

Any photographer worth his or her salt (no salt print pun intended) will tell you that light is the key to great photos. A well lit subject has an appeal, whether it’s a portrait, a landscape, or a product that you’re going to sell; good lighting makes photographs better. The Nova Wireless Flash Unit for iPhone (Nova) excited me when I saw it. I definitely wanted one and I needed one. I’m guessing a lot of other people did as well because they received $85,480 of their $25,000 Kickstarter goal. Not many projects do that well on Kickstarter or any other so-called crowdfunding sites.

connor_novaI’ve demonstrated the Nova for several people and they love it. I don’t simply run up to unsuspecting friends and coworkers and show them the Nova and give them the elevator speech. I have a clever way of introducing the product: I let them hold it and try to figure out what it is that I’m showing them.

While they’re figuring out what I’ve handed them, I grab my phone, open the Nova app, and snap their picture. It’s always a shock to the system, but after that initial shock, they always want to know all about it and they also want one.

The cool part of it is that the photos are always natural and unexpected, as you can see in the photo of my son analyzing the Nova.

You can also see that, although I didn’t tamper with the default settings and he’s holding the Nova quite close, his face isn’t washed out with light. That’s an amazing feat for camera flash of any kind.

The Nova flash unit is small–about the size of a credit card. It’s also quite thin (less than the iPhone’s thickness). The size makes it easy to handle and use in a variety of situations. You can hold it high to light large areas, you can hold it close for spotlighting, or you can have your subject hold it to get a nice even light for portraits.

The price for the Nova Wireless Flash for iPhone is $59, which to me, is high. I think a better price point would be in the $29 to $39 range, but apparently people knew the price going into the Kickstarter campaign, so I might be wrong. I’m sure that if it’s ever sold on Amazon, the price will be more along the lines of what I’ve suggested.

  • Size: 86mm × 53mm × 6.3mm (3.4″ × 2.1″ × 0.25″)
  • Weight: 28g (1oz)
  • Supported OS: iOS 7
  • Supported devices: iPhone 4S/5/5C/5S, iPad 3/4/Mini/Air, iPod Touch 5G
  • Wireless communication: Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy
  • Battery: Built-in lithium-ion polymer battery
  • Charging: USB Micro B cable (included)

Nova App Flash SettingsYou can change the flash settings from Off to custom settings, as shown in the photo. If one of the presets (Default is Warm) doesn’t work for you, you can setup custom lighting conditions that fit your needs.

If you select Custom, you’ll see two sliders that offer a range of brightness and lighting tone. The two scales are: Cool Brightness and Warm Brightness. I suggest that you test a range of custom lighting settings before you attempt to use it on a field shoot. And I’m not telling you that because the settings are random or that they don’t work–they do, but you’ll need to understand what changing the sliders means to the light output that you get.

For those of you who aren’t pro photographer types, “Cool” means that it will have a bluish tone and “Warm” means more yellows/browns in the light.

Experimentation will give you the best results. If you’re in a hurry, my suggestion would be to use the default (Warm) setting or the Bright setting. The Bright setting gives you kind of a standard bright blue light.

Why it’s Frugal: The Nova is frugal if you take a lot of pictures with your iPhone and you require good lighting. The iPhone has a pretty good back-facing camera and some photographers and iPhoneographers use it extensively. The off camera flash gives you the opportunity to use more professional lighting for your shots, without investing hundreds of dollars on light fixtures that are cumbersome and power hungry.

The Nova Wireless FlashThe Nova is an impressive little device. There’s no Bluetooth pairing required. Once you open the Nova App, it’s already paired for you and it’s ready to use.

If you’re an avid iPhoneographer and you need better light than the built-in flash can give you, the Nova is a great item to have. It’s there when you need it and it’s not big, bulky, or cumbersome to use. It powers up in a couple of hours via the mini USB cable that’s included and a full charge will carry you through hundreds of well-lit photographs.

Rating: 9/10

Recommendation: Buy it and take your iPhoneography to a whole new level.

Categories: Product Review
phoenixlonestarpress

Phoenix Republic - The Lone Star Gambit

Off The Broiler

Food Musings From the Mind of eGullet Founder Jason Perlow

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 16,420 other followers

%d bloggers like this: