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Open Letter: The Web We Want

We’ve become dependent on the web as a civilization. Our future – the children – are dependent on it as well. Shouldn’t it be accessible by all? If you agree with Firefox that user privacy is important and that the web is for everyone, join them. Sound off at http://mzl.la/1hHyqBq

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Is a Handyman in Your Smartphone a Good Idea?

You have access to absolutely everything in your smartphone, from YouTube videos on how to fix a garbage disposal to apps on the basics for being a handyman. This is certainly convenient, and in some cases it can save you a lot of money and hassle.

However, no technology can be a genuine substitute for a true handyman. Is the trend of everyone going DIY and being frugal getting out of hand?

There are some handyman services you can certainly do yourself most of the time, such as swapping out a light bulb or cleaning a rain gutter, assuming you’re physically capable. However, handymen do a lot more than that, such as full remodeling, plumbing, and some are even certified electricians.

Many of these tasks require a license for a reason; they can be dangerous in a newbie’s hands. Here’s how to tell if a handyman task is doable for you, or you should get professional help instead.

Know where the technology comes from

If you look at a six-minute Vine video on how to install a deadbolt, you might have a better idea than you did six minutes ago, but you’re no handyman. While there’s no chance of getting electrocuted as there would be with doorbell wiring, do you really want to risk having a door that’s less than 100 percent safe?

If a burglar targets your home, you want the peace of mind of knowing an expert installed the locks. Websites such as YouTube and Vine certainly have some very helpful tutorials, but you need to look closer and see who posted them.

Read the handyman reviews and see if the social media site links to a professional company or organization. Is the person who made the video a certified expert who has testimonies to back him or her up? If so, you’re on the right path.

Understand your own limits

There are how-to guides online and apps targeted for fellow handyman professionals and Average Joes alike. It’s not the creator’s job to keep you safe from yourself, so make sure you understand if you’re in the target demographic or not.

If everything sounds Greek but you think you may be able to follow along, it’s probably better to sit this one out and call in the experts. It’s understandable that you desire that grand feeling that comes from taking care of your own homestead, though.

If you want to improve your handyman skills, there are many ways to do it. It can provide you with great satisfaction in the long run, but you shouldn’t dive into the deep end right away.

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last update: September 16, 2014

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Apps for Choosing the Perfect Paint

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Choosing the color of a house or apartment building can give you a lot of stress. You want it to stand out, but in the right way; yet the building still needs to look like it matches the neighborhood.

You don’t want to be that bright purple matte house in a sea of beiges and grays. But you also want your style and personality to shine through. Looking at a swatch of color in the home improvement store isn’t much help, but fortunately there are apps that will come to your rescue.

First, your should recognize that painting a residential structure yourself is rarely a good idea. Go to a local professional company that won’t just do a standout job, but can help you identify a color scheme that’s perfect for you.

Next, start considering which apps can help you find the ideal color, just in case you want a little more variety. The DIY Home Color app enables you to explore a slew of recommendations based on style, the effect you want to achieve, and general trends.

An app for all homeowners

The HGTV Color Guide is a sure thing, because the Home and Garden network is already a proven expert in all things home-related. Browse by color, check out more than 150 themes, and enjoy insider tips on the best paint colors by style.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, the AnyPaintColor app features 130,000 hues from scores of designers, so you’ll have pretty much every option at your fingertip.

For those who have a more refined taste and are up for trendsetting when it comes to curb appeal, the Benjamin Moore Color Capture app allows you to turn any favorite photo into a color scheme.

Love that snapshot of the beach? You can mimic the photograph and the feel of that day by reproducing the palette in your mobile device.

A colorful life

Download ColorClix by Olympic Print and enjoy an approach that’s similar to Benjamin Moore, but with a more traditional twist. Sherwin-Williams’s Color Snap is another option, and this app lets you share your ideas easily.

Yet another alternative, Voice of Color, offers a similar approach but is known for designer twists that can be achieved with a frugal budget.

No matter which app helps you pick, keep in mind that nothing compares to quality paint with a professional touch. While it might seem like you’re saving a lot of money going DIY, what’s the end result really going to look like?

You certainly wouldn’t paint your car yourself, and your home has the potential to be an even bigger eye catcher (in a good or bad way).

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What Techies Can Learn from “Basic” Technology

It seems as if the disparity between blue-collar workers, such as mechanics and utility laborers, and the techies of Silicon Valley is getting bigger every year. But these two industries have a lot more in common than you might think. gadgets

At the heart of each is technology and innovation, though Silicon Valley has a stronger leaning toward electronic technology as opposed to old-fashioned nuts and bolts. If you recall that the old-fashioned variety is preceded modern technology, then it’s easy to see how the two can learn from each other.

For example, utility workers can boast of combined experience that’s decades longer than the technology industry. This is the industry that created debris caps to optimize safety and was literally “in the field” well before Intel sent drivers out to test rural Wi-Fi as its idea of fieldwork

Auto workers were doing test drives to ensure those Google employees got to work safely well before the Google car was a twinkle in an engineer’s eye. So what might be some of the rules and tricks of traditional technology that could transfer to contemporary high-tech?

Testing, testing

If you think a software engineer does a lot of tests, that’s nothing compared to the civil engineer who’s charged with ensuring that buildings and bridges are stable, or a utility expert who has to keep buildings safe in the event of earthquakes and other natural disasters.

The rules of testing, re-testing, and a triage system for getting as many eyes on a project as possible began in more traditional fields. Many mistakes were made in the beginning, because human lives were at stake, and the end result is that today’s engineers (in all fields) are fairly well protected when they’re on the job.

From the day the wheel was created, innovation has been the foundation of all specialties of engineering. There’s always room for improvement, whether you’re talking about a car or the latest smartphone.

There’s also a lot of overlap these days, with airplanes full of software and electrical engineering. The skill set necessary for all types of engineers, whether you’re in utility management or hardware development, is so refined that this is the reason they receive that hefty salary.

Back to basics

The greatest thing modern tech geeks can learn from their predecessors is that there’s no reason to re-invent the wheel … and safety always comes first. Look at the path that’s already been set down for you. It’s been tried and tested many times over the years, so take advantage of it.

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Explore the New World of Mobile Banking

Our world has become a place where everyone’s glued to a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. Fewer people are visiting their bank in person these days. mobilebanking

Gone are the days when you drive to the bank, wait in the queue, and conduct a transaction with a teller in front of you. Today, we order a wire transfer while commuting to work on a bus or waiting in line at a restaurant.

What is mobile banking?

Mobile banking refers to a financial transaction conducted via a smartphone or similar mobile device. Mobile phones have become ever cheaper and therefore more available to billions of people around the globe.

This has inevitably led to mobile banking solutions that were happily embraced by customers everywhere. The introduction of apps on popular iOS and Android mobile platforms has contributed to the unprecedented success of mobile banking.

Most of the major banks such as Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citi, and HSBC offer access to banking services via mobile devices.

Mobile banking services

Most of the services offered at a typical bank branch are now available via mobile apps. For example, you can view balances, study statements, withdraw cash, deposit checks or cash, email receipts, transfer balances, view tax forms, review credit and debit card transactions, locate ATMs and branches, set account alerts, and contact customer support … all via your mobile device.

Reasons for the fast acceptance of mobile banking

There are several possible reasons for the swift and massive acceptance of mobile banking services. The main one is the convenience of being able to do banking transactions anytime, anywhere.

Most institutions are not charging any fees for mobile banking services. When it’s free, people seldom think twice before trying the service.

A bank’s reputation depends on providing an application that’s secure. Most banking apps offer a secure environment to conduct business. So it’s no surprise that mobile banking services have enjoyed positive customer response across the globe.

Mobile banking in developing nations

It’s been estimated that the total number of mobile banking users will reach 1 billion by 2015. Around 80% of these will access the services from developing nations.

Mobile banking is expected to outgrow traffic via online banking. Mobile operators are scrambling to build partnerships with banks and technology companies to increase the access to mobile banking services.

Users in emerging countries are using mobile services for paying utility bills, domestic and international money transfers, and much more.

The case for secure transactions

Despite the success of mobile banking, security experts are still concerned about the potential risks associated with banking via mobile devices. Financial institutions are increasingly scrutinized by regulators for compliance with banking rules while securing billions of transactions handled via mobile devices.

New sets of payment security standards are constantly introduced and reviewed by security experts.

It’s hard to predict the future of mobile banking. Mobile banking may wipe out many physical branch offices in the next few decades. But whatever happens, the future likely belongs to customers who will benefit from increased access to banking services.

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Tech Makes Property Permits, Development, and Buying Easier

There was a time when Realtors were often buried in paperwork, and unable to get out into the field. Technology has changed all that, whether you’re helping clients to lease, rent, buy, or purchase property.

Not that the process of actually doing “property business” has become easier, but technology has made huge strides in streamlining the process. It goes well beyond the customer being able to compare rates online and see how large a mortgage he or she can qualify for.

Government agencies have partnered up with software companies to provide full, digital financial services, which makes meeting in person and juggling hard copies a thing of the past. You can get bundling discounts, finance your e-plan, and have 24/7 access to virtual support with the right agencies.

But this is just a couple slivers of the whole pie. Here are more ways that technology has made all property deals a lot easier.

Apps for everything

There are apps for home buyers, home sellers, real estate agents, brokers, and those who arrange mortgages. The apps range from free to somewhat pricey.

They can notify you the instant your dream house goes on the market. With regard to financing, you can keep up with the latest interest rates, monitor your credit score, and ensure your online banking is routing funds toward your housing fund.

For building permits and development projects, you can depend on cloud solutions in order to “green up” the process. It’s now simple for everyone from developers to government entities to have the latest information and forms at their fingertips.

All the players are moving into the cloud, even the Department of Defense (DoD), which could mean the traditional nightmares of red tape when you’re seeking permits may finally be getting gentler.

Digitizing the Electronic Plan Review (EPR)

The EPR is a web-based solution for everything related to permits and development. It could be just the thing for commercial buyers who are scouting out residential zones, developers looking to build the next Street of Dreams, and a host of others in the property market.

However, not all EPRs are created equally. In order to pick the best EPR for you, do your homework and match your needs to what each EPR has to offer.

This is a crucial step in the process, so don’t go with the first one you find, or depend on word of mouth. There’s a perfect fit for you out there, and it can make a world of difference when you find yourself in the middle of getting those permits filed.

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The Emergence of LinkedIn as the Recruiter’s Favorite Tool

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LinkedIn has dramatically changed the landscape of recruiting services in the past few years. This site created a whole new way to find the right candidates in the shortest amount of time.

Previously, companies and recruiters depended on sites such as Dice, Monster, and CareerBuilder to find qualified workers. The drawback with this approach was that recruiters could use only the information gleaned from the resume supplied by the candidate.

It’s not necessarily possible for HR professionals to know whether the resume is current or not. Many candidates update their profiles only when they decide to pursue new jobs.

What’s different about LinkedIn

LinkedIn provided a platform for working professionals to combine social networking with a living version of their resume. It enabled them to network with other professionals around the world.

LinkedIn allows professionals to keep in touch with colleagues from previous employers and to study potential future employers. The benefit of retaining and growing your professional network is obvious in an interconnected world.

Everyone is more likely to keep his or her profile current on LinkedIn, because it’s always visible to the person’s professional network. LinkedIn also allows members to request professional recommendations from peers, bosses, and professional contacts.

Recommendations are a great way for recruiters and future employers to assess the candidate’s strengths and skills. LinkedIn also allows recruiters to contact a member directly to match job openings.

A game-changer for recruiters

LinkedIn offers services to recruiters via the Hiring Solutions platform. Hiring Solutions consists of LinkedIn Recruiter, LinkedIn Job Postings, LinkedIn Employment Branding, and the LinkedIn Talent Pipeline.

• LinkedIn Recruiter provides recruiters access to a massive database of more than 300 million members around the globe.

• LinkedIn Job Postings allows recruiters to buy targeted ads, which are displayed to the targeted demographic.

• LinkedIn Employment Branding is a service that allows companies to create their own career portal on LinkedIn, with job postings, company benefits, and other company news.

• LinkedIn Talent Pipeline allows recruiters to monitor and track potential candidates with skills that match a company’s job openings.

LinkedIn also offers automated features to “source” candidates more effectively. Employers can cut down the amount of time needed to find new candidates.

They don’t need to maintain an in-house database of potential candidates anymore. Instead, companies can tap into a single, global source of candidates at any time. LinkedIn is changing the structure of the $130 billion recruiting industry with its innovative Hiring Solutions.

The most compelling reasons to recruit via LinkedIn

• Recent expansion into new markets such as China

• Easy access to a searchable database of professionals

• LinkedIn profiles are much more accurate than those on other social media sites

• It takes candidates less than a minute to review and apply for new jobs

• LinkedIn supports ads targeted toward top level executives in selected companies

• LinkedIn offers the InMail feature so recruiters may communicate directly with potential candidates

LinkedIn continues to transform the recruiting industry. It appears to have more room to grow and recruiters see several compelling reasons to go with LinkedIn.

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Signs You’ll Thrive at an Online University

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Do you dream of earning a degree while writing term papers on your couch in comfy pajamas with Grey’s Anatomy on mute? It can be a reality for students at an online university, but not everyone is cut out for it.

While you might be able to train yourself to complete a degree program, you might be better suited to a more structured atmosphere where you have to attend lectures and show up to class in person. Are you ready to find out which camp you likely belong to?

First, you should recognize that any reputable online university is accredited and has likely been around for some time. In many cases, these online universities are actually virtual versions of brick-and-mortar schools.

This can be convenient since there’s still a bit of a stigma in certain circles toward online degrees, although that’s been changing. Going online isn’t a shortcut or “easier,” but it can certainly be more convenient. So what might indicate this is for you?

1. You hate procrastination

You’ll have deadlines and perhaps even more work in an online university, so you’ll need to thrive with your own time management. Some students need a professor physically breathing down their necks in order to get assignments in on time. If you’re prone to procrastination, this might not be for you.

2. You’re a total Type A

Type A personalities do phenomenally well with online schools because they’re naturally driven and ambitious, and want to do their best. If this is you, make sure the online school has plenty of options for working virtually in groups, so you don’t get a case of cabin fever. Many Type A’s are also extroverts, but not all of them.

3. You’re a bit of a loner

This might seem to fly in the face of sign number two above, but for those who always hated raising their hand in class and feel they communicate better in writing, online universities are a place you can shine. It’s a medium that’s more comfortable for you and allows you to process and reflect rather than being forced into the Socratic method.

4. You’re tech savvy

No matter how user-friendly the classroom, you’re going to need some tech skills to succeed with an online school. If you’re naturally inclined toward technology, this might be a perfect match. If you’re not, there are training courses to help you catch up.

Think you have what it takes to make the most of an online university? Then it’s time to start preparing and researching which schools are your best match.

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