The Internet – no longer free?

The news that The Times and Sunday Times are going to start charging for their online content is a worrying paradigm shift in the way that online information will be made available in the future.

Whilst of course, charging for online content is not a new idea – there are numerous sites that do this – it is a concern that the desire to monetize online operations will restrict the web’s universal availability. There are numerous ways of getting a financial return from web content – Google are masters at this with their advertising revenues – Twitter have yet to work it out.

But to charge in the way that the Times proposes changes the balance. The Web was always meant to be a Universal Resource and sites such as Wikipedia and the numerous other information providers have embraced this – and long may they continue to do so.

Irrespective of “the cost of free” – information is out there to be communicated and I hope that the Times won’t be the start of a trend.

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Head in the Cloud – feet on the Ground?

I have been working hard on the set up for my “big new client”. A major element of the brief was the change over from their existing Sage accounting system to E-conomic a Cloud based SaaS application. As part of the process, the client has requested that we bring into E-conomic, the historical data so that there is a full history available.

This is by no means a unique situation and for anyone considering the transition from on premise to Cloud will need to consider the ease with which large amounts of data can be transferred. In this instance there were some 15,000 entries which needed to be uploaded and I took on the challenge with my usual enthusiasm and flair (!).

As with all tasks of this nature, pre-planning is essential and having carefully reviewed the extracted Sage data with which I had been presented I set about some preliminary data sorting requirements prior to commencing the import.

Different SaaS applications will handle these imports in their own way but the important issue is that they can be done with some preliminary preparation. This is of vital importance and the significance of the data import facility is that it provides that essential link between the on premise and the Cloud.

For the “biblical” amongst us it is like Jacob’s Ladder connecting Heaven to Earth or perhaps – more realistically – the digital umbilical cord connecting the old and the new.

As for my data import – it went like a dream and I can strongly recommend it as a stress busting exercise – for when it works it is strangely satisfying!

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My computer doesn’t understand me (sob!)

Back in the distant past of the late 90’s, I experimented with using voice dictation software. This was meant to be the next great thing – imagine, dictating directly to the computer, just print out and you’re done. No need for secretaries, cut down on your overheads and your away. Simples!

Except, of course, it wasn’t. The act of talking s..l..o..w..ley and clearly was tiresome. Correcting all the misspelling and gobbleygook took forever and by the time you had something anywhere ready to send out as a letter, the day had gone and you wondered why you bothered. Needles to say the experiment was soon abandoned.

Interestingly, with the advent of the Iphone, there are a number of voice activation packages which I have been trying, together with the phone’s own built-in software. What is apparent is that after all these years, I can’t see a major improvement to the results.

The three apps I have been playing with are:
Dragon Dictate Interestingly, this is the same software that I used in the 90’s now upgraded for the iphone. I must confess that I had limited success with this and one of its drawbacks, apart from its accuracy (or lack of) is the requirement to copy and paste the final message into your text or email application. All time-consuming.

Vlingo I had more success with this and, as with most of these apps, the more you use it the better they get. The nice touch about this app is that by giving the command “email” the programme enters the dictation directly into the email application without the need to copy and paste. The accuracy is not bad and I shall persevere with this.

Dial2Do This is not an Iphone application as such but a hands free aid to use when driving. The web site enables you to set up your contacts (you can import these from Google mail, Outlook etc) and configure the services you want to use. You can set up email, twitter and text plus a few others so by dialing Dial2Do and saying “text” or “email” for example, you can dictate a message which is sent without any further intervention. Depending on your phone connection at the time, the accuracy is not bad and its very useful for those occasions when you remember something you should have sent just as you have left the office.

There was a wonderful moment in one of the original Star Trek films when our intrepid heroes travelled back in time to 1980’s San Francisco (as one does) and Scotty was trying to work on a 1980’s PC by talking to it. He was quite dismissive when it was pointed out that he had to use a keyboard and mouse.

With the advancements in all things IT, it is interesting that voice activation is not quite there yet – in the end, in this instance, the old ways are often the best.

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