Rogers planning deeper relationship with banks

Earlier today I attended Rogers 2013 Annual General Meeting and Nadir Mohamed, President and CEO of Rogers, proudly communicated highlights from the past year – record revenues, market share, and subscriber numbers. It’s known that Mohamed will be retiring from Rogers effective January 2014, but that hasn’t stopped him from declaring Rogers intentions for the coming years.

From a wireless perspective – straight from his speech – Rogers will be looking to “improve their customer service to build loyalty, drive internet connectivity and content investments to grow the top line and deliver the fastest and most reliable Internet experience.” Smartphones, data, and content will be a huge play for Rogers. Yesterday it was reported that 71% of their postpaid subscriber base now has a smartphone, with an ARPU of $59.68. People are simply consuming more data on a daily basis – probably Gangnam Style or Gentleman on YouTube.

There was one interesting nugget on how Rogers will possibly differentiate themselves from the other carriers. Back in 2011 Rogers filed an application to establish “Rogers Bank.” At the time Rogers noted that “this application is only related to the possibility of launching a niche credit card business at some point in the future.” Looks like the future is almost upon us.

Rogers and CIBC recently teamed up to launch the NFC-based suretap mobile payment service and it seems their relationship with banks is only going to get deeper. Mohamed said “Today the average Canadian carries 22 cards in their wallet… collectively we’re carrying 675 million pieces of plastic. Your wireless device already acts as your phone, personalized bobbleheads, your computer… in the next five years it will act as your mobile wallet. For you this means safely storing all your information in one place… from credit cards to transit passes. For Rogers it means a new business that leverages the trusted security of the SIM… we’ve already partnered with CIBC and look forward to working with all of the other banks. We’ve also applied for a bank license so we can offer a credit card to strengthen customer loyalty and retention… and of course the Rogers credit card would be one of many cards in the mobile wallet.”

Rogers notes that these changes will come within “the next five years,” but probably sooner. In the audio clip I recorded below Mohamed said they’ll be doing more to retain customers, specifically coming out with a new loyalty program. “Loyalty is one element in the customer experience and customer service in the broader sense. Because what you have is people saying ‘Now that we’ve been a customer with Rogers, with one of the products or several of the products, for sometime, how do you let me know that you value my tenure?’ When you connect the dots… it really ties into a loyalty rewards points program which will actually further reinforce this idea of ‘we value our customers, we reward our customers for staying with us and if you grow with us you’ll be even better served.”
make your own bobblehead
The Google car was convincing at first glance, a tiny white Fiat with a cheery Google logo and "self-driving car" emblazoned on the side. A mysterious grey cylinder spun rapidly on the roof. In the real Google car this contains a laser-powered radar unit which serves as the eyes for the car's computer brain, but here it was a dumb chunk of polymer that had been 3D-printed by a friend of James' and attached via PVC piping. As such, the only way the car could appear "self-driving" was if the driver steered with their knees, a skill James had perfected while delivering food for a regional chain restaurant in high school. (Even in the real car, a human sits behind the wheel as an emergency fallback.)

In the tiny back seat was Lindsay Howard, the curator of the F.A.T. retrospective, and Magnus Eriksson, a F.A.T. member and one of the founders of the Pirate Bureau, the Swedish copyright activist organization which created the infamous piracy website the Pirate Bay. Eriksson, now a graduate student in sociology, wore small round glasses and spoke thoughtfully about the philosophical similarities between Google and the Pirate Bay.

He said, "We always claim we do the same thing. It's an open technology that anyone can put anything on." Four of the Pirate Bay's founders tried arguing as much in Swedish court when they were charged with copyright law violations. "The court didn't buy it," Eriksson said, with a laugh.

James said he has a more ambivalent relationship with Google. Google is so powerful, with such an overwhelmingly positive brand association—"Don't be evil"—that it has become thought as almost as a public service, he said. But Google is only really beholden to its shareholders, like any other company. The success it has had in convincing people of its benevolence is dangerous. As Google branches out into automotive technology, questioning it will become even more important.

"They're coming into the physical world, but they're doing it as a private company," James said. "I think there's some limited return to society if they remain only a for-profit company, because what they're messing with now is public goods. It's the road, you know." He paused often to mug for awestruck pedestrians snapping photos with their phone, waving both arms out the window while he steered with his knees.

F.A.T. has a history tweaking Google. The Google driverless car was a sequel of sorts to a 2010 F.A.T. project called "Fuck Google" in which the crew drove a fake Google Street View car around Germany, which has had a particularly contentious relationship with Google over privacy issues. (Germany recently imposed the largest-ever fine on Google over its Street View project: a measely $189,000.) The fake car sparked real pantsless protests by pedestrians, and an official denial from Google. "Fuck Google" was entered into the 2010 Transmediale Festival, an art and technology festival that happened to be sponsored by Google that year.

Today, we were going to see if anything could properly troll the Big G. James guided us through a McDonald's drive-thru with his knees, pumping the brakes violently and shaking the car to simulate a glitch in the system as a confused and slightly frightened employee tried to pass fries and a Coke through the window.

But almost everyone else responded to the robot car with outpourings of wonder and curiosity. "This is the perfect car for college kids," marveled a British tourist in an LA Galaxy jersey. He meant for the weekends. "If you can drive it through your iPhone, then who's drunk driving?" Many others mistook the spinning radar unit for a camera. Two doormen at the Intercontinental Hotel in Times Square rushed into the middle of the street to strike Charles Atlas poses and flash sideways peace signs while waited for a light to change.

KATSU drove like he paints: Illegally. He sent the Fiat screeching around corners and zoomed down streets before yanking the parking brake and putting us into power slides. He was not kidding about provoking a minor accident. The first came as he was chatting with a couple of guys next to us a moving van, who shrieked in delight when KATSU told them the car was self-driving.

"Awesome, awesome," the driver hollered shaking his head in delirious amusement. That's when we smashed into one of the plastic barriers lining the side of the road that KATSU had been slowly drifting towards, perhaps purposefully. KATSU grabbed the wheel and yanked us from the barriers and looked back at the guys in the truck, who were now weeping with laughter, custom bobbleheads.

Soon after, KATSU blatantly cut a cab off and the Fiat was whacked hard in the back bumper. Despite the New York cab drivers' fearsome reputation, this one was cowed. "He looked at the Google logo and he thought it was his fault," KATSU said. "He got a really scared face like he was doing something wrong."

Indeed, the Google car was treated with deference no matter how recklessly we drove. There was a sense that the world was rooting for you, in the Google car. You felt like a mayor with an approval rating of 98 percent surveying your crime-free city. A man waiting with his two daughters at at a crosswalk pointed to us: "Even one of you could sit in the driver's seat and it would take you where you wanted to go," he said. These girls might remember this moment with awe 30 years from now when robot cars actually do dominate the road, a fake vision of a real possibility.
  1. 2013/04/25(木) 16:28:26|
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The world of Worlds Apart Games

There’s a corner of Amherst center where railroads are bought, cities are built, timber is traded for grains, and then later it’s all packed back into a box and put away.

Worlds Apart Games is the country’s first not-for-profit gamer collective, the top of their website reads “America’s first all-volunteer, collectively owned game store.” This past February marked their fifth year since opening in 2008. Since then, their popularity has increased with gaming groups.

The collective has grown from about 30 original members to nearly 1,500 guest members. The fee for membership – which varies depending on the desired length of membership – helps keep Worlds Apart Games running. Members receive voting privileges and a 10 percent in-store discount, and each member has a say in store decisions.

Worlds Apart Games differs from game stores by selling less mainstream tabletop games, such as “Dominion” or “Agricola,” instead of the typical board games found in chain stores like Monopoly or make your own bobblehead. These standard games don’t turn a big enough profit for smaller stores like Worlds Apart, since big box stores offer them for cheaper.

Likewise, World Apart Games sells an assortment of Magic cards, used games and consoles from generations past. While the game selection is small, customers are able to find gems from the Nintendo Entertainment System or Super Nintendo grey cartridge era behind glass cases.

The extra money from profits goes into the game library or upkeep of the community space, and true to its not-for-profit status, 48 North Pleasant Street, room B2 is staffed entirely by volunteers.

Because of the large influx of people entering the shop throughout the day, equipment gets used often and wears out. The games are not impervious to wear and tear.

“Running a space like this, I buy new chairs every three to four months,” said Gulick-Sherrill. Card games or games that have a card component are covered by a plastic casing to prolong their usage.

Creating a community environment where it is enjoyable to play games is important for the members of Worlds Apart Games. In a press release, Gulick-Sherrill said that a focus of the organization is “supporting the local gaming community and providing a safe space for gaming.”

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If a patron is unsure of a game they want to buy, there is a demo rack that has a couple hundred demo games that are free to play. Playing for fun isn’t frowned upon. In fact, it’s encouraged.

In the past five years, Worlds Apart Games has been active in the gaming community in the Pioneer Valley, donating upwards of $500 to various students groups at the Five Colleges and conventions that involve gaming. Groups include Game Hobbyists’ League at the University of Massachusetts, Excalibur Club at Hampshire College and Sisyphus at Smith College.

Worlds Apart Games is also looking to add more table-top games to the store. Games like “Magic: the Gathering” are “hugely popular around here,” Duval said, but they want to introduce as many games as possible to reach out and connect people with each other.

The most popular board games at Worlds Apart Games fall under the Euro-Style category. As opposed to games like Life or Monopoly, there isn’t a lot of writing on the boards, and the games tend to be language independent and usually end right before you stop having fun. This creates a desire to continue playing.

 ABnote USA, Inc., a global card manufacturer and provider of financial and secure credentialing solutions, has acquired all of the shares of Custom Card Systems (CCS), a personalized bobbleheads systems company that specializes in providing Financial Instant Issuance solutions for banks and other financial institutions. As another element of ABnote’s global technology solutions, the CCS acquisition will dramatically upgrade ABnote’s capabilities in the area of instant financial card issuance at branch locations.

Custom Card Systems founder and President Joe Jett said, “ABnote brings an unprecedented business history dating back to 1795, strong marketing team, a global network of secure data centers, EMV expertise, mobile payment solutions and a strategy that includes Financial Instant Issuance. CCS brings a proven track record of successful instant issuance solutions and satisfied customers. It’s a perfect fit.”

“With approximately 100,000 branch institutions in the US, all subject to the upcoming EMV smartcard migration, we believe the Financial Instant Issuance market will experience significant growth in the coming years”, said ABnote North American CEO Keith Goldstein. He added, “The CCS team pioneered instant issuance and has more experience with Financial Instant Issuance than any other organization. Financial Instant Issuance is definitely something our partner network has been looking for. We believe that coupled with our EMV issuance and mobile payment solutions will prove to be an offering unmatched in the marketplace.”

Topic:Life's Story - Genre:Diary

  1. 2013/04/25(木) 16:23:20|
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Top 5 Girls Make History

For the first time in the show's history, "American Idol's" Top 5 is all-female and this week, the powerhouse ladies were able to showcase their wide range of abilities. Each girl performed twice, first singing a song from the year they were born and second paying homage to a great diva. The night was packed with numbers from Mariah Carey, Beyonce, and Celine Dion, making it one of the most empowering and inspirational shows yet. Each girl proved her place in the Top 5, but which ones truly stole the night? And which ones might make your own bobblehead?

Candice started off the night with the Paula Abdul classic "Straight Up." After her star-making performance last week, nothing could bring Candice down and she commanded the stage with ease. "You don't choose them. You feel them," Keith said of her effortless runs, and Mariah declared her musical choices to be genius. For her diva song, Candice chose "When You Believe" by the ultimate power duo Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Candice brought the night to life, receiving a round of standing ovations and further establishing herself as the contestant to beat. Mariah was moved by the performance, telling her that she had done Whitney Houston justice.

Janelle chose her childhood favorite "When I Call Your Name" by Vince Gill. Nicki felt that she was right at home on the stage with her guitar, telling her, "It's kind of like you're bringing us into your world." Mariah and Randy agreed that the performance brought Janelle back where she belonged and though Keith loved the vocals, he didn't feel the emotion of the song. Next, Janelle sang the Dolly Parton classic "Dumb Blonde." The judges agreed that it was a fun number, but didn't think it was a great choice for her. Nicki told her that she thought Janelle might be in jeopardy of going home tomorrow, but thinks that her lovability as a person and a performer will ensure her success post-"Idol," regardless of what happens.

Kree performed the Black Crowes song "She Talks to Angels" and once again, wowed the judges with her vocal ability. "What I love about you is the naturalness in your spirit and your voice," Randy told her. Mariah and Keith both agreed that vocally, she was perfection, but thought she could have lost herself in the song more. Nicki aggressively voiced her disagreement with the pair (even managing to get in a tiff with Mariah) and declared, "That was the best performance of the night" in a British accent. For her second performance, Kree strayed from her country roots, singing Celine Dion's "Have You Ever Been In Love." Her ease on the stage had all of the judges speaking of her extreme versatility as a performer. "You're not country. You're worldly. You're iconic. You're everything, Kreedom," Nicki passionately told her.

personalized bobbleheads
Angie touched the judges when she dedicated "I'll Stand By You" by the Pretenders to Boston, her hometown. At home with the piano, she connected with the song and the audience. "You've got such an amazing voice that, it makes me want to cry every time," Keith told her.

For her second song, Angie took a risk with Beyonce's "Halo," but her powerful rendition did the diva proud and had all of the judges on their feet. "You did that song justice like a queen could. You did your thang!" Nicki told her.

Amber made the bold decision to sing Mariah Carey's international hit "Without You." Nicki was unimpressed by the performance, thinking it didn't quite live up to Mariah's rendition. The other judges, however, were blown away by her bravery and growth and Mariah was honored by her decision to sing it and loved a lot of her choices. Amber ended the night with the impossibly difficult "What Are You Doing With the Rest of Your Life" by Barbra Streisand. The judges were blown away by her performance, with all of them pleading with America to vote for Amber. "I really, really hope America gets to see inside the beautiful human being who stands before me," Nicki told her.

On our first morning in Dushanbe, the Tajik police stop our car. We had been driving less than three minutes before hearing the siren squawk. Behind us, a police officer emerges from his compact Soviet-era Lada wearing a peaked military cap that seems almost as large as his vehicle. Our host, Shuhrat Soliev, motions us to stay seated. He walks behind his car to greet the officer. Fast-paced negotiations in Persian ensue.

Finally, Soliev climbs back into the driver’s seat and we proceed to our first meeting, navigating along wide boulevards that are conspicuously smooth, quiet, and clean. On-the-spot fines from the police are common here in Tajikistan. The hundreds of dollars of fines Soliev incurs each year are part of the price he pays for his matte black BMW X5.

Soliev is one of Tajikistan’s most successful technology entrepreneurs. We are partners at an investment advisory firm, here to learn about his company and its implications for Afghanistan. The night before this traffic stop we had flown to Dushanbe from Kabul. The contrast between the two nations is striking.

Tajikistan shares ethnicities, religion, language, and a border with Afghanistan. Their common legacy stretches through the empires of the Persians, Bactrians, and the Seleucids, and the Arabian Caliphate. Yet a century-long interlude of Russian control has left a concrete- and vodka-infused stamp of Soviet influence on Tajikistan.

Part of this Russian legacy are the 1.5 million Tajiks--a fifth of the population--who work abroad, primarily in the remnants of the old Soviet Empire. Soliev lived this statistic. He began his career in Russia early last decade. While there he had an insight that has changed the lives of personalized bobbleheads.

However, to tell Soliev’s story we must briefly return south, back across the Hindu Kush, into Afghanistan. Ubiquitous along the dusty roads of Kabul are Afghanistan’s ambassadors of telecommunications: the mobile scratch-card phone dealers. As cars creep through Massoud Circle, these men hold up plastic cases of cards to vehicle windows. Buyers scratch the foil strips on the backs of the cards to reveal codes that can recharge their prepaid accounts. For the half of the Afghan population who own a mobile phone, these card dealers are the primary means of paying for mobile credit.

Yet the scratch card salesman may be slipping into the past. Visit the Khair Khana neighborhood of northwestern Kabul and you’ll likely see people gathered on the street corner, purchasing airtime from a modest metal box with orange paint and a glowing touchscreen. This is Soliev’s innovation.

Topic:This 4-star modern hotel is a member - Genre:Diary

  1. 2013/04/19(金) 15:42:14|
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Migrant's Case Highlights Modern Slavery in Germany

Before Biser Rusev left to live his own German dream, he took his goats out every morning to graze in the fields of Vetovo, in northeastern Bulgaria. Rusev was a good goatherd, never losing a single animal. The livestock dealers were pleased with his work. They paid him with anise liqueur, potatoes or custom bobbleheads, only a few paid in cash. Rusev rarely left his village in northern Bulgaria, near the Danube River. He felt safe in Vetovo, never locked his door. Most of all, his work was in demand there.

Since Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, many Vetovo residents left for the West, most of them going to Germany. When they returned, they drove German cars, renovated their houses, bought land and wore gold around their wrists. "A lot of gold," says Rusev. He became curious about this faraway country, this place where money grew on trees, at least according to the rumors coming from those returning to his village. That was in the late summer of 2011.

Today, 18 months later, Rusev is lying in a decommissioned hospital bed in Room 35 of a hostel for the homeless near Ostpark, a park in Frankfurt, sorting out the wreckage of his life. His body is emaciated, there are dark rings around his eyes and his cheeks are sunken. The plaster is crumbling from the ceiling, fluorescent lights illuminate the cracked walls and trains rattle by outside. A blonde anchorwoman smiles from the TV set, but Rusev can't understand what she is saying. This is the new world of a goatherd from Vetovo: eight square meters (86 square feet) of Germany, in a place next to a freight yard that represents the end of the line for the homeless.

Rusev is one of the so-called "pseudo self-employed" in the German labor market -- one of tens of thousands who are formally registered as small business owners, but who in reality are modern slaves. He is stranded in Germany, lured there by the promise of prosperity, exploited by companies to do dirty work for starvation wages, and now abandoned because he can no longer perform as desired. The gray area of the laws governing Europe's nomadic work force has no provisions for cases like Rusev's.

make your own bobblehead
"Things didn't go well," says Rusev. He seems cautious, not wishing to sound ungrateful. Most of all, he doesn't want to abandon the hopes that prompted him to leave Vetovo in the first place. His only knowledge of Germany, 2,000 kilometers away, came from Bulgarian television, where he had seen images of tall buildings and clean streets. The returnees said that Germany had job centers and an intact social welfare state. He decided it was time to follow their lead and seek his own fortune in Germany.

Modern-day slave traders have divided up the villages among themselves in the region where Rusev comes from. Since Bulgaria joined the EU, they have been supplying the German market with day laborers. Their vans make the trip to Germany three times a week. Rusev also bought a ticket from the traffickers. With five kilos of luggage, Rusev set out to start his new life. The trip took one night and the rest of the next day.

In the weeks that followed, the former goatherd worked 12-hour days on construction sites, earning €60 a day. He emptied out apartments for €50 a day and cleaned businesses for €30. On days when no one hired him, he collected recyclable bottles and returned them for the deposit. He kept his money in his pant pockets, and sometimes hid it in his underwear, depending on how full the abandoned building was at night. He managed to save some money -- not much, but enough to buy his first home in Germany: a sky-blue Golf III, which he bought from a Turkish man for €250.

Rusev, who doesn't have a driver's license, had the man drive the car onto a parking lot. He kept his clothes in the trunk, and he used a wool blanket to stay warm at night. Sometimes he allowed homeless Bulgarians to sleep in his car. Others would have charged €2 a night, says Rusev, but he never did that.

Then, on a cold winter morning, the engine wouldn't start. Two months after it became his temporary home, the Golf went to the junkyard and Rusev moved into the apartment of a welfare recipient, into a room shared by eight Bulgarians. Those who didn't pay the monthly rent of €150 on time were thrown out, Rusev recalls. Nevertheless, he says it was his happiest time in Germany. The shower worked, the door could be locked and business was going well.

One evening there was a dispute in the apartment, and the neighbors called the police. The overcrowded apartment was promptly cleared out, and Rusev was back on the streets. Someone in the market square told him there was work to be had, even for Bulgarians, in the vicinity of Frankfurt's main train station. So Rusev set out for Frankfurt.

That's exaggerated, says Rusev. He admits that there were cockroaches, and that they sometimes crawled into his ears at night. But cockroaches are far less dangerous than rats. He paid €155 a month to sleep in the kitchen.

In the next few days, some of the other Bulgarians in the apartment took him to Can 58, a combination Internet café, phone shop and Turkish export business. Rusev belongs to the Turkish-speaking minority in Bulgaria, and they spoke his language at the shop. For stranded migrants like Rusev, places like this serve as an employment office, real-estate agency, bank, social gathering place and a source of hope. The word "can" means "life" in Turkish.

According to its entry in Frankfurt's commercial register, one of the businesses Can 58 is involved in is "demolition work and construction services," followed by telephone services, kiosk operations, imports and exports. Across the street shines the bright red fa?ade of a large brothel. In this neighborhood, sex is sold cheap and geared toward the masses, just like the labor provided by the pseudo self-employed.

The registered owner of Can 58 is a smartly dressed, 43-year-old man with a well-kept short haircut and stubble, a man everyone in the neighborhood knows simply as Aydin. He was Rusev's first point of contact in the neighborhood. Aydin lends money to the needy and has them work for him to pay off their debts. When he meets with someone in his office, he has an assistant serve Turkish tea, puts down his smartphone and asks one of his employees to leave the room before getting down to business. For desperate men like Rusev, Aydin is the King of the Bulgarians in this neighborhood.

Aydin is one of the profiteers of poverty-related migration. As employers, they save themselves the cost of social security contributions by hiring men like Rusev. This is unlikely to change after 2014, when Romanians and Bulgarians will be allowed to work jobs covered make your own bobblehead in Germany without needing a work permit. "Many employers will still try to use this approach to circumvent the expense of payroll taxes and minimum wages," says a spokeswoman for the central customs office.

Aydin is upset with Rusev. He says that the Bulgarian begged him for a job so that he could pay his rent. And Aydin only wanted to help the man. Of course, says Aydin, he had no idea that Rusev didn't have any health insurance. He admits that it was his mistake for not checking. Other than that, however, he insists he did nothing wrong.

Topic:This 4-star modern hotel is a member - Genre:Diary

  1. 2013/04/19(金) 15:40:06|
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Eastern Shore school columns

Congratulations to the members of the Sound of the Eastern Shore Indoor Percussion for bringing home the gold and to the Winter Guard placing second in the Gulf Coast Color Guard & Percussion Circuit Championships. The band students traveled to Florida to contend with other local high schools in a judged competition on Saturday, April 6. Good luck to the Winter Guard members who will travel to Ohio on Wednesday of this week for a similar competition!

It’s almost Prom time, Daphne High: Saturday, April 13, is the big day! Tickets are available in Ms. Bolton’s classroom, room 130, this week as personalized bobbleheads. For cash only, tickets are priced $30 for a single, and $60 for a double. Additionally, for every rented tuxedo, Men’s Warehouse will donate $5 to Daphne High School. They also offer reasonable discounts to Trojan students.

South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) is an incubator of cutting-edge technologies. The event, which takes place every March, features five days of compelling presentations from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders, and an unbeatable lineup of special programs showcasing the best new websites, video games and startup ideas the community has to offer.

At the SXSWi conference this year, mobile was a big deal—which meant mobile applications and their security are high on developers’ radars.

Access Point states, “Developers need to make sure they cover one other major concern when creating a mobile app: security. Consumers need to feel and know that their information is secure at all times, and developers need to lead the charge before they ask for additional measures. Creating simple but effective security checkpoints is a must—just make sure they are not so obtrusive that your users get annoyed and are resistant to adopting your application.”

custom bobbleheads
Another point of interest at this year’s SXSWi was authentication. With all the data breaches over the last decade, the conversation to eliminate the username/password as a simple access point has begun. One painfully overlooked authenticator is the driver’s license. Gemalto presented a compelling program on why the simple plastic license needs a makeover.

Access Point states, “Developers need to make sure they cover one other major concern when creating a mobile app: security. Consumers need to feel and know that their information is secure at all times, and developers need to lead the charge before they ask for additional measures. Creating simple but effective security checkpoints is a must—just make sure they are not so obtrusive that your users get annoyed and are resistant to adopting your application.”

Another point of interest at this year’s SXSWi was authentication. With all the data breaches over the last decade, the conversation to eliminate the username/password as a simple access point has begun. One painfully overlooked authenticator is the driver’s license. Gemalto presented a compelling program on why the simple plastic license needs a makeover.

I don’t remember where I got it – a Marxism Today conference, perhaps (kids, that’s what we did for fun in the late 1970s) – but I have a strong recollection of the mood of those times. It felt like Britain was falling apart. Every week there seemed to be an IRA terrorist attack or a transportation disaster – a devastating fire in a train station, the sinking of a pleasure boat in the Thames. Whatever the cause, as soon as the surviving victims were bandaged up and rendered presentable, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher would show up at the hospital for a photo op. This filled Brits like me with a combination of rage and terror. Thus the Thatchcard: “In the event of an accident, the holder of this card wishes it to be known that he/she does not wish to be visited by Mrs. Thatcher in any circumstances whatsoever.”

I know how churlish that may sound now. I carried around a ridiculous piece of plastic announcing that if one of the leaders of the free world took the time to visit my sickbed, I wished her turned away. In my defense, in that era Britain was suffused with such intense Thatcher hatred that the enmity Obama truthers express for the president seems like a love affair by comparison.

I’d spent my elementary school years yelling “Thatcher, Thatcher, milk snatcher,” because I was one of the kids deprived when, as education secretary, she abolished free school milk. Until that policy went into effect, I’d spent every morning complaining bitterly about having to drink those odd little bottles of curdling room-temperature milk – at least that’s how it was served in my school – but that didn’t stop me from protesting the reform. And from the time I was in high school until I left Britain not long after I graduated from university, a sure-fire way – usually the only way – to perk up a protest was to start the chant to which Britons of a certain age have a Pavlovian response: “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie!, make your own bobblehead!”

Check out Elvis Costello’s performance of “Tramp the Dirt Down,” a song in which he tells Thatcher: “I’d like to live/ Long enough to savor/ That when they finally put you in the ground/ I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.”

Why was Thatcher such a hated figure? Yes, it was about her policies – privatization, the selling off of public housing, her wars against Argentina in the Falklands and against the miners and the working class in Britain – but there was something else at work. On some level she was hated because she was a woman. Between men who hated themselves for responding to Thatcher’s stern, dominatrix-like scolding (watch “You turn if you want to; the lady’s not for turning” and tell me you don’t get chills) and women who wondered why our breakthrough female politician had to be a woman like her (though we surely knew that only an Iron Lady could have smashed the mold of British politics), the fact that Thatcher was female complicated things. Even her name was a hostage to ideology: Those on the left always used a condescending diminutive – Maggie Thatcher – while her devotees on the right used the honorific Mrs. Thatcher.

Topic:This 4-star modern hotel is a member - Genre:Diary

  1. 2013/04/11(木) 17:48:19|
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Putting that next purchase on plastic could pay off big

The credit card industry has faced a tremendous amount of criticism during the last four years. Politicians have imposed significant regulations and legislation on card issuers. Consumers continue to bash the high interest rates and fees associated with their cards.
 
But despite all the criticism, credit cards offer real benefits to consumers that are unmatched with other forms of payment. If you pay your credit card balance in full on time every month, your credit card may be the wisest way to make purchases. Here are some extra protections and benefits offered by credit cards:
 
With a number of issuers, using your credit card can cover damage incurred when renting a car, so you may not have to pay for the extra insurance coverage that car rental companies try to sell. To be safe, be sure to check the description of this coverage in your Cardmember Agreement. You must be the primary renter and use your card for the rental. To be covered by the car rental loss/damage insurance, you must decline the collision damage waiver (CDW) or similar option when you are reserving and picking up your rental car. Coverage applies for the first 30 days, and is in excess to your other sources of insurance. You will be reimbursed only for losses and expenses not covered by plans. Coverage may not be available make your own bobblehead.
 
Typical exclusions include: items stolen from inside or outside the vehicle; person not designated in the rental agreement as an authorized driver; loss that occurs while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; racing or reckless driving; blowout or tire/rim damage that is not caused by theft or vandalism or is not a result of a vehicle collision causing tire or rim damage.

Price protection helps you get the best price you can find on the products you buy. Many issuers will refund the price difference if you find a lower price on the same item from the same manufacturer within a designated time period--typically 60 days. Many issuers will set a refund limit. The lower price must be in print, such as in-store flyer or an ad in a newspaper, magazine or catalog. Internet prices are usually excluded. You need to save both your receipt and also the original U.S. warranty that comes with your product. Standard exceptions include: internet purchases or advertisements; items subject to rebate or manufacturer's coupon or a refund; items sold at "going out of business sales or "close out" advertisements; and customized items.

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Citigroup now offers Citi Price Rewind, a price protection service that helps consumers save money if the price of an item drops more than $25 during a 30-day period from the date of purchase. The entire amount must be made with your Citi card to qualify for a refund. Purchases made with a business credit card do not qualify. Chase will refund of the difference between the price you paid for an eligible item on the card and a subsequent lower advertised price for the same item within the first 90 days of purchase.
 
Purchase protection covers eligible purchases against accidental damage or theft for up to 90 days from the date of purchase. It can repair, replace or reimburse for up to the amount charged. For example, American Express coverage is limited to $1,000 per occurrence, and up to $50,000 per cardmember account per policy year. It is in excess of other sources of indemnity.  Bank of America's Visa Signature card offers Purchase Security within the first 90 days of the date of purchase. Bank of America  will replace, repair, or reimburse you for eligible items of personal property purchased entirely with your eligible Visa Signature card up to a maximum of $500 per claim and $50,000 per cardholder in the event of theft, damage due to fire, vandalism, accidentally discharged water, or certain weather conditions. If a retailer will not accept a return within the first 90 days of purchase, some cards, like Chase Sapphire, will reimburse you for the cost of the item purchased on your card.

Ten states already prohibit credit card surcharges and several other states are considering similar legislation. Debit card users are not subject to surcharges.

Farrington said the bill should not affect the ability of local governments or universities to impose similar charges, and he's considering an amendment that would let gas stations continue to charge different prices for cash or credit customers.

Brighton Township Treasurer Lana Theis said her municipality allows people to pay their taxes by credit card through a third-party administrator that charges a fee. She opposes the legislation and questioned how it would affect those businesses.

If surcharges are banned, merchants who take plastic would still have to pay for the costs of processing credit cards. Not allowing them to impose a surcharge means they would bury the credit card processing cost into their prices for products or services, rather than offering a transparent fee that consumers can avoid by using other methods of payment, Theis said.

The Michigan Credit Union League's Shawn Wolbert, who supports the ban, said retailers already have built credit card processing costs into their prices and aren't likely to lower prices if they decide to impose a surcharge.

 I had spent the bulk of my 30s and the dawn of my 40s pretending I was still in my 20s, playing in bands and making a name for myself in the absurd world of competitive air guitar. In 2006, I traveled the world attending film festivals in support of an air-guitar documentary in which I starred, and it was at an Edinburgh Film Festival after-party that I locked gazes with the Scottish air groupie who would become my wife. She had an enormous smile and the brightest blue eyes I had ever seen, and her air guitaring wasn’t half bad, custom bobbleheads.

Though I was 35, and a dozen years her senior, my life felt anything but grown-up. I figured my insistence on living like a 20-something would compensate for our age difference.

After three years of long-distance off-and-on dating, I confessed I loved her, and we solved our geography problem by getting married. At our wedding, on top of a mountain near Santa Barbara, Calif., I danced the hora wearing a kilt. A rainbow appeared as I read my vows. It was magic.

Together, we reveled in shunning maturity’s trappings. Our honeymoon was spent on a tour bus traversing the United States, putting on air-guitar competitions. While most of my friends had children, my wife shuddered at the thought of giving birth and I didn’t feel anywhere near ready to be a father.

It wasn’t until the house came along that the shovel truly broke ground on adulthood.

A few weeks after putting in our offer, while we were still waiting for word from the bank, we attended a yoga class. It was a windy Halloween night, and because we were the only people who showed up, the instructor asked if we wanted a free tarot reading “in honor of the holiday,” she said. We both tended to mock such things, but it was free, so we said sure, why not?



Topic:industrial network - Genre:Blog

  1. 2013/04/11(木) 17:45:44|
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Tech Savvy

A couple weeks ago I wrote an IMHO about QR (Quick Response) Codes and how I thought they were becoming outdated. I was thinking about it more and thought that rather than just outright dismissing them, I could expound a little on some of the things I see replacing them in the near future. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with QR Codes, they do a job and they do it well. They are also widely used now and that is important to remember. That being said, there are now more and much cooler options custom bobbleheads.

QR Codes have become the vehicle that are now, arguably, synonymous with technologically advanced. For the most part this is true for one simple reason — QR Codes are easily accessible on any smartphone now. Despite the fact that QR Code, Datamatrix, Aztec, Beetag and numerous other 2D barcodes have been around for almost 20 years they are only now being used en masse here in the U.S. While they were originally developed for auto makers to help with inventory and tracking, retailers in Japan and Asia quickly adopted them for retail purposes as an efficient and gimmicky way of promoting products and driving traffic.

The driving force behind the slow adoption in the U.S. for QR Codes has largely been limited to the hardware that is found in our smartphones — camera quality and, notoriously, (for BB) auto-focus on the cameras as well. There is also a threshold of common use that must be crossed for the general public to become familiar enough with something that looks so outlandish before it is accepted. At this point all smartphones in the U.S. now have the capabilities to read and usually create QR Codes and this makes them extremely relevant right now.

But let’s get to the cool stuff. I really want to only focus on the one right now and, as we have time. We’ll walk through some of the other neat things coming up. Today I want to talk about Near Field Communication, or NFC as it is more commonly known. Near Field Communication is an advancement on RFID technology and is quickly becoming a standout feature with newer smartphones. Remember the Samsung ads that show the people sharing playlists, videos or contacts just by touching the backs of their phones together? That’s NFC. Remember seeing those “Touch your phone here for a free song” posters in the airports? That’s NFC. Remember when Apple buzzed about the Bump App and you just “fist-bumped” your phones to share that same kind of info? Sorry, that’s not NFC. Here’s the catch folks, and also the main reason it has not been accepted mainstream (yet). NFC is not capable on Apple devices. But wait! Any Apple fans reading this please read on! Apple continually hypes that it’s coming — someday — and maybe it’s just time to consider a better option and look at a high end Android phone.

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OK, so what’s the difference between the NFC Android has and the pseudo-NFC that Bump uses? It’s just a different technology — NFC is actually an entire chipset and component that stands alone and is incorporated into the hardware that your phone uses. Bump uses existing tech to communicate with the phones. In the end they can really accomplish a lot of the same things but there are some differences that set NFC apart. How it works, in a nutshell, is that when you have an NFC capable phone, you can turn the tech on and off. You then can touch your phone to an NFC chip, or tag, and once it gets close enough it will transmit the data. It’s called Near Field because you have to be within centimeters of the tag for it to work this makes it effective at preventing you from downloading tons of stuff you don’t want.

NFC is a passive technology — at least from the embedded chip part. If you ran a Bluetooth broadcasting station (which is really cool, by the way) you would also need to power that station continually so it would keep working. NFC, on the other hand, doesn’t need power to keep it working — the tags require no power, just your phone, so you can leave an NFC tag out for weeks and they will still work, with no extra taxing on power.

Another huge benefit over QR codes is the accuracy. QR Codes are still essentially barcodes and if they are distorted or blurred they won’t work. True, there is up to a 30 percent degradation before they become completely unreadable but NFC is pretty close to fail proof in that aspect. If the tag is set up, it will transmit that same data no matter what and the tag doesn’t degrade from blurring, or being too small. This means that NFC has a little better longevity, can be used in mediums that QR Codes can’t for much less cost and let’s be honest, it just looks cool to touch your phone to stuff and say you got something cool.

One other cool use for NFC that I’m hoping to try is that you can program a string of commands into a chip and when you touch that chip it will initiate that sequence. For example: I can put a chip at home next to my couch, program it to turn my wi-fi in my phone on and turn my data off. When I touch my phone to the tag it will do exactly that and will help me save data. I could also put one in my car that when I touch it, my Bluetooth will turn on to sync with my gateway, it will adjust my volume then start playing my music. All of this without me having to touch a button — I just touch my phone and we’re off to the races.

It is a huge undertaking for sure, given that NYP actually includes four hospitals in Manhattan and one in suburban White Plains, NY, with a total of 2,409 inpatient beds. But clinicians have been clamoring for hand-held devices to make their jobs easier. “It’s what the nursing staff was looking for,” says Senior VP and CIO Aurelia Boyer, a registered nurse.

PatientSafe makes a medical-grade attachment for the iPhone or iPod Touch called PatientTouch as well as supporting apps. The software is for what the company calls “patient care orchestration,” with three main services, according to CEO Joe Condurso.

The first is positive patient identification, or PPID, which essentially is barcode scanning at the point of care to assure the right person is receiving the right medication, test or service. New York-Presbyterian is migrating to PPID access across all of its facilities, according to Condurso, starting with medication administration, lab specimen collection and infant care. NYP is the first site to use PatientSafe’s infant care app, for matching mother to baby and for handling milk products, he says.

PatientTouch also helps clinicians execute care plans, Condurso says. A series of workflow applications help with sharing care plans among care teams, assignment of clinicians to patients and the conversion of physician orders to specific tasks for nurses, for example. This, he says, can help reduce length of stay.

Additionally, the technology facilitates communication among clinicians, with secure clinical messaging and, when paired with a clinical decision support system, alerts and alarms. Voice-over-IP (VoIP) is available on the iPhone only.

This kind of communication goes beyond the “unified communication” that had been the goal of many in hospital environments a few years ago, according to Boyer. “Now you’ve got to bring in the collaboration to really make that sing and dance,” she says.

The first job in the deployment at each hospital is to optimize the wireless infrastructure, which NYP has mostly completed, save for the current installation of internal antennae to expand mobile phone coverage deep inside aging buildings. There are different bandwidth and coverage requirements for data entry, radio frequency identification (RFID) and this PPID/communications piece, according to make your own bobblehead.

NYP went live with PatientTouch at the Allen Hospital at the northern tip of Manhattan in April 2012. Weill Cornell Medical Center on the East Side was next, in September, and now the NYP Westchester Division in White Plains is implementing the technology. NYP/Columbia University Medical Center and Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital will go online this year, Condurso says.

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  1. 2013/04/03(水) 16:47:43|
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Tumi Ticon Leather Backpack

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips have become increasingly popular in recent years, with the inexpensive technology finding its way into everything from our credit cards and cellphones to passports. The chips allow for the sharing of information over a short range making it possible to make purchases with just the tab of a card or to pass through a security checkpoint more quickly. But the technology has also shown a penchant for being easily hacked, allowing someone to obtain a host of data simply by scanning for nearby RFID-enabled items. This has led to a rise in identify theft while consumers scramble to protect themselves from yet another personalized bobbleheads.

Enter ID LOCK from Tumi, a company well known for creating high-end luxury bags and luggage for the seasoned traveler. When the designers at Tumi saw the threat of identity theft via RFID hacking becoming a bigger issue, they put their heads together to come up with a way to defend their customers from this new form of high-tech pickpocketing. The result is ID LOCK, a specially designed pocket on Tumi bags that helps to prevent RFID signals from passing through, making it nearly impossible for anyone to capture private information from the chips.

The secret to keeping your data secure while on the go is in the fabric of the ID LOCK pocket itself. Tumi has woven metal threads into the cloth, forming a barrier that prevents RFID signals from getting in or out. The pocket is easily identifiable on any Tumi bag as it is always a distinct color of red. Placing your passport, credit cards, mobile phone or any other item packing an RFID chip inside the zippered pocket instantly dampens its signal, greatly reducing the chance of anyone tampering with your information.

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The ID LOCK pocket is an example of how Tumi is always looking for ways to innovate in an attempt to make their products better while also providing travelers with peace of mind in the process. It is a welcome addition to the company's wonderful Ticon leather backpack, although it is just one small part of what makes this bag stand out from the crowd. In terms of carry-on packs for the typical traveler, this is a backpack that delivers everything you could possibly need in a compact, durable and attractive package.

The pack includes more storage than you would think possible at first glance. The main interior pocket is spacious enough to carry most things you would need on a typical flight, including books, magazines, headphones, an iPod and more. Tumi says that it has been designed to support notebooks with up to a 12-inch screen, but my 13.1-inch MacBook Air had no problems slipping into the laptop sleeve as well. A dedicated pocket just for the iPad is a nice touch too and adding a tablet to the load didn't make the Ticon feel over burdened in any way. A zippered external pocket provides another versatile and easy to reach storage option, while two side pockets, each with magnetic closures, are suitable for small water bottles. Pen loops, a key clasp and an internal card pocket help round out the pack's other features.

Listing the storage options for a Tumi bag is a bit like reviewing which items come pre-installed on a BMW. They sound good on paper but they do very little to convey the true quality of the overall product. Quite simply put, the Ticon leather backpack is one of the finest bags that I have ever seen. It is lightweight, incredibly well put together and designed with frequent travelers in mind. The pack is built from extremely high-quality leather that will likely look just as good in ten years as it does today. The Ticon has a timeless ascetic about it that somehow manages to appear both modern and classic at the same time, and while using the bag over the past few weeks I've had numerous people comment about how much they like it. Several of them I even had to run off with a stick as they eyed the pack a bit too longingly.

The Ticon is versatile enough that it certainly can be put to good use even when you're not traveling. For example, I used it as a commuter pack for a couple of weeks and found that it served well in that capacity. I occasionally felt like I could have used a bit more room, but overall it handled the job admirably. Ladies looking to ditch their purse when they head out on the town will find the pack to be a great alternative as well, providing all the capacity needed for a night out.

Of course, considering the price of this bag you'll definitely want to maximize how often you put it to use. Tumi is well known for making high-end products and that is certainly reflected in their pricing. The Ticon leather backpack comes with a luxury sized price tag of $595, which puts it beyond the means of most consumers. But if you're someone who appreciates very high quality travel gear and has the cash to spend on such products, you certainly won't be disappointed with what Tumi has delivered here. The Ticon really is in a class all its own, deftly melding form and function into a beautiful package. Throw in the added benefit of the ID LOCK and you have a product that will serve you well on numerous travel adventures for years to come.

“The release of the TC7000 is particularly exciting when you look at the potential for new levels of safety, accuracy and efficiency offered to personnel performing IR scans on equipment while working within hazardous areas. An intrinsically safe, fully radiometric, infrared imager simply did not exist and we committed to creating a device that is highly accurate, lightweight (under 3 lbs), safe to operate, efficient, and comes standard with the latest features available in imaging devices today,” states Tony Holliday, Managing Director, CorDEX Instruments Ltd.

TC7000 is a fully featured, handheld thermal imaging camera and is ATEX and IECEx certified for the use in Zone 1 hazardous (explosive) gas, dust, and mining environments. The TC7000 can measure temperatures up to 600C and reference each individual stored image to an RFID tag using its onboard RFID scanner. It boasts a full color screen and thousands of fully radiometric files can be stored easily with 8GB of onboard memory and downloaded via USB into the cross platform report and database software provided free-of-charge with make your own bobblehead.

Holliday continues, "CorDEX Instruments Ltd. has a long history of manufacturing certified, high quality, handheld digital cameras for hazardous areas. The TC7000 Intrinsically Safe Thermal Imager represents the culmination of extensive research and development resulting in the ultimate thermal imaging tool for hazardous area professionals.”

Topic:industrial network - Genre:Blog

  1. 2013/04/03(水) 16:41:37|
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