Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Stone-age technology

Stone-age technology

Phones, tablets and processors always seem to be improving, yet some tech has barely advanced in decades. We look at the stone-age technologies that are in need of a bit of evolution


Does anyone actually like voicemail? Born from the dying embers of answering machines, it once seemed useful - but not any more. Often you’re forced to wade through menus, pressing random digits on your handset to hear a rambling message with no actionable points, which would have been far better expressed in an email - despite the limitations of that medium, as we’ll discuss below.

Voicemail has evolved somewhat over time. Voice messages can now be attached to emails, or automatically transcribed by services such as VoiceCloud. Google also offers its own Google Voice transcription service, if you happen to be one of the three people worldwide who use Google Chat.

But none of this is enough to give us hope. The best we can wish for is that in the future our various personal systems become so interconnected and clever that they’re aware if we’re available to take a call or not; and if we’re not, they can invite people to call back later, leave a brief message to be automatically transcribed, or just leave us in peace.

The true cost of crapware


Preinstalled pests or added value? Either way, this clutter will clog up your machine. Mike Jennings looks at how much you can save by cutting it out

Unboxing a new laptop can be an emotional roller coaster. You peel off the plastic, gently raise the lid, tap the power button and watch with bated breath as the screen and LEDs blaze into life for the first time. Then, the familiar Start screen appears and» your face falls when you realise it’s littered with ugly, unwanted Live Tiles for programs you never asked for. Switch to the desktop and things aren’t much better - you're confronted with a mess of confusing extra icons and attention-grabbing pop-ups.

Crapware can have a real impact on performance: having to load up extra software means your PC takes longer to boot and uses more memory'. All those additional processes running constantly in the background can also tie up your hard disk and CPU, slowing down the applications you might actually want to use. Crapware is almost always easy to remove, but when your system comes with dozens of preinstalled packages - not all of them easy to identify, and some potentially masquerading as important system tools - it’s understandable that many choose to live with it.

But then you may start to wonder why you bothered spending all that money on a powerful PC, only to waste its resources in this way. Or, to turn the question around, what’s the value of the performance you can gain by ridding your system of crapware?

Promoting your business on Facebook

Social networking can help your business reach a vast audience. Kevin Partner explains how to make it work for you

With more than 1.3 billion active users, Facebook is the world’s largest social network by some margin - and its commercial future is built partly on encouraging businesses to use it as an advertising platform. This makes it a welcoming place for companies of all sizes, but the challenge is to create a campaign that serves your needs, rather than merely lining Mark Zuckerberg's pockets.

One of Facebook’s greatest strengths is its broad spread of users across age ranges, educational levels, incomes and genders; unless you have a very targeted demographic to aim for, there’s a good chance of reaching some potential customers. Even if you primarily target other businesses, Facebook is a good place to start: employees of prospective clients will be using it even if their company doesn’t have an official presence.

Before you begin to plan a Facebook marketing campaign, it’s important to work out what you want to achieve. In almost every case, promotional efforts should aim to improve your bottom line; simply chasing follower numbers isn’t necessarily the correct strategy - it’s important to build the right audience rather than merely aiming for the largest possible one.