Increase your computer satisfaction with Soluto’s anti-frustration service

PC boot times

One of the banes of modern computer life is booting up, the process that happens to your computer when you switch it on.

On my office desktop computer running 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate, it takes well over five minutes from the moment I turn the machine on to the moment when realistically I can start using it.

That’s well over the average time in the UK – and significantly more than the global average – according to Soluto, an Israeli software and web service company whose business is all about improving boot times (and some other things).

The lengthy start-up typically increases over time as you add and remove programs, fiddle with things, misconfigure other things, tweak this and that, and maybe add or remove some hardware.

It’s one reason why I tend to start over with everything about once a year, savouring the first week or so after a fresh install when things take just a couple of minutes to be ready for you.

Today, though, I’m enjoying getting to the PC in less than three minutes after turning it on instead of the more than five minutes I’ve resigned myself to each time until another fresh install thanks to Soluto.

What Soluto does when you first use it is analyse your computer’s start up, looking at every program and service that runs when the computer is booting up to determine the most efficient and optimum way all of those things work together, to get your machine in a ready-to-use state in the shortest practical time.

Then each time you boot your machine, Soluto’s monitoring gets to know your computer better, making further recommendations on programs or services you can remove from boot, delay running until the bootup procedures are complete, or leave in the process.

Soluto

It can all add up to significant time saving. In my case, Soluto’s getting-to-know-your-PC procedure has now got me to the state of a ready machine in less than two minutes, a further one minute improvement from its initial use yesterday, about six bootups ago as I speed up the learning process.

It’s done it, basically, by sorting out the kinds of things that are tricky for you to do unless you are very knowledgeable about your device’s inner workings and know exactly how to tune every program, app or service that runs on bootup.

I’ve not uninstalled anything – often a route you go down when you experience a slow computer – or stopped using a program. All that’s happened is the computer start-up procedure has now become much more efficient in three ways:

  1. I’ve removed many apps from the bootup process entirely (31 in fact) based largely on Soluto’s guidance and the generic metrics they show on what other users do, saving over 3 minutes;
  2. Essential apps and services – mostly related to the computer’s operating system and connected hardware devices – run as normal during boot up; and
  3. Other programs I need but not until the computer’s completed booting-up are delayed until after that point.

I first heard about Soluto in early 2011 when it launched in beta. I tried it then and was impressed even though it was indeed beta. Today, it’s evolved impressively into a tool that, in my experience, works well and is one you can have confidence in using.

Soluto’s database in the cloud grows over time as more users share their experiences. I can see how it could especially help inexperienced users in guiding them on choosing what to boot, what to tweak and what to skip.

The service does a lot more than tune-up your computer’s boot process, though. Here’s Soluto’s full list:

What can you do with Soluto?

  • Manage multiple PCs from anywhere.
  • Shorten PC boot time and get your PC started fast.
  • See which apps are crashing and hogging CPU.
  • Remotely install and configure useful apps like Skype and Dropbox.
  • Customize your default browser, homepage, and search engine.
  • Keep your PC up-to-date with silent software updates.
  • Catch hardware issues before they cause problems.
  • Defrag and clear disk space to keep things running smooth and fast.
  • Help others get more out of their PCs too.

Whether you use just one or perhaps a handful of computers – a desktop and a couple of laptops, for instance – or you administer a network embracing iPhones and iPads as well, Soluto has an option with different plans ranging from a free one (the one I’m currently using) for managing up to 3 devices to the enterprise-level of up to 200 devices.

If you want to save time every time you start up your device – desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone – Soluto might have a solution for you.

Now I need to change my early-morning custom of making a pot of tea while the office desktop computer boots up. There’s no time any more!

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Getting to know the Olympus LS-14 and LS-12

Olympus LS-14

As a podcaster, I’m interested in portable digital audio recorders as tools that I can use to record interviews, for example, when out and about.

So when I hear about a new portable audio-recording device on the market, I’m curious to know how it might fare as a device for use such as mine. That’s the situation in the case of the recorder you see pictured here, an Olympus LS-14 recently launched in the UK.

As a company, Olympus is pretty well known for its professional cameras. I remember owning an Olympus 35mm SLR camera many years ago when photography was a keen interest of mine.

During the past few years, though, Olympus has featured prominently in mainstream media not for its cool products but for the ousting of its whistle-blowing British CEO precipitating a fraud and false accounting scandal that wiped 75 percent off its stock market valuation in one of the biggest and most durable business scandals in the history of corporate Japan.

Notwithstanding such an assault on its corporate reputation, Olympus continues to bring products to market that excite its customers and attract positive attention (and sales).

I’d count Olympus’ wide range of audio products – from dictation systems to high-end audio recorders – firmly in that area, and the LS-14 is a great example of a product that excites.

Olympus sent me the LS-14 along with its lesser-spec sibling, the LS-12, to get to know and review them. Both devices are pitched by Olympus primarily at musicians. My focus, though, is using them and reviewing them from the perspective of a podcaster – someone who will record voice rather than music.

Here’s an example of what a voice recording sounds like in a short clip I recorded on the LS-14:

The original was recorded in uncompressed WAV format (one of the recording formats the device supports); all I’ve done prior to saving it as an MP3 is run the WAV through Levelator, then save it as an MP3 in Adobe Audition. No editing.

How will they stack up? As I mention in the clip, I plan to review these devices on  their own merits rather than in comparison to any other device I use or have used.

First, though, I’m getting to know them. Review to come soon.

Do you use either of these devices or other Olympus digital audio recorders? If you’re willing to share your thoughts, I’d love to know what you think.

See (listen) also:

Get things done even faster on EE 4G

Need for Speed

Since I started using EE’s 4G cellular service last December courtesy of EE and the ambassador programme I’m participating in, the one thing that constantly impresses me is simply how fast it is so that you can get things done, well, faster.

Uploading Instagram photos and videos, status updates on Twitter or Facebook, opening a file in your Dropbox, streaming a TV show with iPlayer… you can do all of these things on your 4G mobile device when you’re out and about with the same confidence of having a great experience as you expect to have when you’re connected to your home/office broadband network or high-speed wifi.

EE started rolling out its 4G service last October, and says it’s currently available in 85 towns and cities across the country, offering 4G access to more than 55 percent of the UK population. EE adds that its 4G network is on track to cover 98 percent of the population by the end of 2014.

Last April, EE doubled the speed of its 4G network across some of the UK with headline 4G speeds of 80Mbps or more, making its service very competitive indeed in speed terms to high-speed cable broadband and wifi.

Today, July 4, EE is doubling speeds again with more double-speed 4G in twelve cities – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.

The company says that this latest double-speed 4G will see EE’s network reach a theoretical maximum top speed of 150Mbps – that’s much faster than typical cable broadband speeds – and will double the current average speeds to 24-30Mbps, giving the UK a 4G network that’s unequalled in Europe, faster than mobile networks in the US and Japan, and equal to the best in South Korea.

It’s good news for existing 4G customers in the cities where the new double speed is rolling out as you’ll get the faster service at no additional cost, says EE.

And that’s not all.

In its announcement yesterday, EE also announced a raft of new 4G-related and other services:

To meet the growing needs of customers and allow them to realise the potential of 4G and Fibre broadband, EE will launch a pioneering range of new services on 17th July, making it as simple and as easy as possible for people to access EE’s superfast network:

  • The UK’s first Shared 4GEE Plans, allowing customers to connect up to five separate devices to one 4GEE plan. Customers will receive one bill for all of their devices on their Shared plan, providing greater convenience and value.
  • The UK’s first range of Pay As You Go 4GEE Mobile Broadband Plans for customers who want the convenience of superfast speeds on tablets or laptops without a monthly contract.
  • Cash on Tap, in partnership with MasterCard – a quick, secure and convenient way for customers to make payments via their mobile.
  • EE will also be launching the Bright Box 2 wireless router for Fibre broadband customers later this summer. The Bright Box 2 is designed to offer a stronger Wi-Fi signal and less drop-off in speed when a customer moves around, as well as plug and play set up.

Read the details in EE’s press release: EE Launches Next Generation Services On World’s Fastest Network.

EE will soon lose its position as the only provider of 4G services in the UK when other UK mobile operators – Vodafone, O2 and Three – start rolling out their 4G services over the next few months.

Until then, you have one 4G network on which you can get things done really fast almost wherever you are – and even faster in one of those twelve cities with double speed.

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Content is king but so is the delivery platform

CW

One of the benefits of being a member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is the bi-monthly magazine, CW.

Every other month, the printed publication originally known as Communication World would come through your letterbox filled with useful and highly-readable content that offered knowledge, insight, interviews, case studies, how-to features and a host of articles addressing issues, trends and the actualities of modern communication management, internal and external, as practiced by people across the world.

In my two-plus decades of IABC membership, I regarded CW as among the top three most valuable member benefits, alongside professional development and member connectivity. I was an occasional contributor to the magazine for a number of years since the early 90s.

Some months ago, it emerged that IABC would cease publication of the printed CW and offer it only in digital form. On May 14, IABC announced the first edition of the new CW digital that will be published monthly, available on desktop, mobile and iOS devices with an Android version coming (and which is now available).

[…] “The great thing about going completely digital is that Communication World will be available to download anywhere — on your smartphone, computer or tablet. And all the content is shareable with a tap of your finger, even video,” said Natasha Nicholson, executive editor for Communication World. “Having CW available as an interactive app is going to create a much better, more interactive experience for the reader.”

One of the main reasons the magazine went completely digital was because some overseas members of IABC wouldn’t receive their copies for several weeks after mailing, making the content far less timely. Nicholson explains that by going digital, everyone will be able to receive each issue as soon as it becomes available.

There’s more to IABC’s news, too. For the next four months, IABC says that CW digital will be free of charge to anyone.

[…] the magazine will be available to anyone in the world for free for the next four months (until the end of September 2013), at which time the subscription will continue to be free to members while non-members will pay $119 per year or $12.99 per issue.

I think this is a great move by IABC although I can imagine the complete shutdown of the print publication won’t be easy for some members to warmly embrace.

Part of winning those hearts and minds to the new-format CW will be what the “CW digital experience” is like, one that ought to be utterly compelling so that you don’t really miss not having the paper magazine in your hands.

I would define “utterly compelling” as a combination of things like these:

  1. Great content which, in IABC’s case, can literally go without saying.
  2. Easy access and seamless retrieval of each edition, whether that’s downloading or reading on the website.
  3. Mobile apps that not only aid the pleasurable content-consumption experience but also enable and encourage reader/author/publisher engagement.

Based on my experience with this first edition of CW digital, the content is unquestionably terrific! However, IABC has some major work to do with the other two items I’ve mentioned.

Some screenshots illustrate what I experienced.

Accessing CW digital from the link in IABC’s press release produced a visual mess in my default Chrome browser on a Windows 7 desktop computer.

cw-chrome

I just couldn’t get that menu to reduce or minimize or whatever so that I could see the content itself. Maybe a glitch at the time I accessed the publication. But it did this every time I tried it.

The only success I got was using Internet Explorer. It’s not a browser I ever use unless I have to…

cw-ie

Not a good start.

I decided to download the publication from the download link at the top right of the screen display. Clicking it produced a little window telling me that a 4-meg PDF would download. Another click to begin, and the magazine arrived.

cw-pdf

To be honest, the last thing I ever want to do is read a publication as a PDF file on a computer. It’s not an experience I associate with a good time. One option I have is to load it onto my Kindle ebook reader. What would be great, though, is if IABC made a version for Kindle available. Easy to do.

What strikes me most about these steps – apart from  the hurdle-jumping I had to do – is how the digital magazine looks just like content output from a print-publishing system. It’s what CW was like before.

Maybe that’s part of the plan but it seems to me that something huge is missing in the evolution to digital only: look at the example of what Atlantic Media has done with Quartz magazine.

I have Android mobile devices so I was very interested when the news came that the Android app was available. I thought I’d install it on my Android tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 LTE from EE, running Android version 4.1.2.

When I went to get the app from Google Play on the tablet, imagine my surprise and disappointment to see the message “Your device isn’t compatible with this version.”

cw-tabletgoogleplay

I tried again, this time from a Samsung Galaxy SII smartphone also running Android 4.1.2.

Success this time. But the app offered me a confusing and unsatisfactory experience, starting with being given choices that suggest I need to subscribe or at least pay for the issue (it’s supposed to be free until September, remember?).

cw-sii-1cw-sii-2cw-sii-3

In summary, CW digital has great content. It’s a good move by IABC to migrate its flagship publication to a digital format, for the reasons they mention in their announcement (and others, too, I imagine, eg, cost savings).

Yet the poor execution of the platform isn’t a good start and, in my view, is a major impediment to gaining enthusiastic adoption of the new publication that now has no alternative form.

I look at it this way: IABC has three months to listen to feedback and get it right – to aim for that utterly compelling experience – before charging kicks in in September.

[Note: I was an active IABC member for 23 years until last November, so I’m currently a lapsed member. I have critical opinions about IABC and its current leadership. None of that has influenced anything I’ve written in this post about CW; I’m mentioning this fact purely for transparency.]

You’ll enjoy #Attenzi: it’s far more than just a good read

AttenziPhilip Sheldrake‘s new business book Attenzi is published today. Earlier today, I published an FIR Book Review of it as I’d had the opportunity of reading it prior to formal publication.

I don’t do many book reviews these days – our FIR Book Reviews Editor, Bob LeDrew, does an admirable and far better job – and I wanted to prepare well for this one. So I wrote up my notes as a narrative and that’s what made it into the podcast.

As I have that narrative – in essence, the transcript of the podcast – I’m publishing it here as an additional review: the words on a screen that will show up in search results whereas audio yet cannot.

Think of it as bonus content, Philip!

Attenzi review notes

Hello, I’m Neville Hobson, co-host of the For Immediate Release podcast series, with a review of Attenzi – A Social Business Story, the new book by Philip Sheldrake published on May the 15th, 2013.

Attenzi is a business book with a huge difference – it’s not a business book, it’s a novel.

It tells a compelling and credible story of one man’s journey that, unbeknownst to him at the start, would help him and his leadership team “redefine the way we all think about our business and its place in the market and its place in the world.”

With Attenzi, Philip Sheldrake presents a sympathetic character in the story-teller Eli Appel, newly-installed CEO of Attenzi, a fictional international company that makes and sells top-range kitchen equipment and services.

Philip gives us a believable hero in Eli, a man who many readers will easily identify with in his desire to understand the shifting sands of contemporary consumer behaviours, the needs to respond to those changes in ways very different to old management and leadership preconceptions; and his endeavours to knit together a team of people that will be the driving force to enable Attenzi to make the jump to that next level.

As the tale unfolds, we see Eli and his colleagues consider aspects of organizational design, business performance management, marketing, public relations, branding, complexity, and the imminent empowerment of the individuals that make up all organizations.

The story also begins to explore the evolution of the customer-centric mindset that, Philip says, has dominated management thinking for the past two decades.

It’s good writing, good story development, credible characters all. It’s a highly probable storyline of individuals trying to understand the changes in their business world, and in their business itself, figuring out what it all means for them and their business, and working out what to do, who will do it, and when.

The kinds of things that business leaders face all the time in the real world.

Philip has done well in presenting business themes and topics that anyone really could grasp without getting lost or losing interest.

As Eli notes early on in the story, ‘social business’  is the kind of buzz word or buzz phrase you hear about at conferences yet have little belief that even those who bandy the words around have much real idea of what they mean to businesses.

I think Attenzi will make you really think about social business, probably in a way you might not have if you’ve thought about those two words before.

The thinking will be about the very things Eli Appel tells his story about – behaviours, engagement, influence, new ideas, organization culture, change, risks, rewards, and so on. It’s not about the tools and channels of social media.

That’s where I think Philip’s story works well. Yes it’s about social business. But unlike every  other business book on this topic, it’s not a business book – it’s story-telling, it’s a novel, a work of fiction.

In sum, it’s a surprisingly good read on a topic that doesn’t sound like it would be. Social business? That dry old thing?

I think you’ll enjoy Attenzi. It’s not just a good read, a passive activity, though. You could engage with the primary characters, each of which you can find on Twitter. You could add to the content, build on it, with chapters of your own that you can connect via the hashtag #attenzi.

After all, Eli concludes his tale with: “I’m finishing this first part of the new Attenzi story.” In the concluding words of Adam Pisoni, Microsoft Yammer co-founder and CTO, who wrote the foreword, addressing you the reader: “Perhaps you’ll even write the sequel?”

Philip has written this book to give away under a Creative Commons license. The more people who read it, the possibility increases that they’ll talk about it, hopefully favourably, attracting more interest and readers. Word of mouth in action.

You can download a copy of Attenzi free of charge in a variety of digital formats: HTML, PDF, ePub, Kindle, and iBooks. There’s also a version on Scribd.

All available right now from www.attenzi.com.

If you have comments or questions about this FIR Book Review, or suggestions for future reviews, please share them in the online FIR community on Google+. You can also email us at fircomments@gmail.com; and connect with us on Twitter: @FIRpodcast.

You can find more information about the For Immediate Release podcasts, including the weekly business show The Hobson and Holtz Report, at www.forimmediaterelease.biz.

Thanks for listening.

Philip’s set up the foundation for a community surrounding the book, and its broader concepts, on Google+. Well worth being part of that in developing, influencing and extending the conversation.

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EE ups the 4G game

A daily commute

If you’re a customer of EE on a 4G cellular service plan, you’ll relish the latest news from the UK’s only mobile operator with a commercial 4G service.

EE announced today that it is doubling the speed and capacity of its 4G network that, the company says, will boost headline 4G speeds to 80Mbps plus, and double the average speeds for 4GEE customers to more than 20Mbps.

EE says double-speed 4G will initially be available in ten cities by the summer: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield.

If you’re like me, what you’re interested in knowing is what does that mean in your daily use of your 4G-capable mobile device on EE’s 4G network?

Here’s how EE describes it:

What it means for 4GEE consumer and business customers

With double-speed 4G for mobile broadband and smartphones:

  • Pictures can be uploaded and downloaded in HD, on larger screens, with greater resolution.
  • HD video can be uploaded and shared, and peer-to-peer video can be pin-point sharp and viewed with zero delay.
  • Multi-tasking on the move can become even quicker, with support for image and video-heavy online shopping, while uploading to Facebook and downloading an HD video.
  • ‘Always on’ technology, constantly taking in and sharing information from what we’re seeing and doing, can be supported.
  • Files so large that they previously required a fibre connection can be uploaded and shared, or stored in the cloud – all on the move from a mobile device, revolutionising working practices for content-heavy businesses.
  • A truly mobile office can be a reality, with smartphones, tablets and laptops connected by a 4G Mobile Wi-Fi device, serviced by average speeds around 20Mbps.
  • Streaming an HD video while uploading a presentation and speaking on a video conference call over IP, all in real time on mobile.

4G cellular service has now been available in the UK for about six months after EE  – the combination of Orange and T-Mobile – launched its service, dubbed 4GEE.

As a user myself of some of EE’s products on its 4G network – first, a Samsung Galaxy SIII LTE smartphone and, most recently, a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 LTE tablet courtesy of EE and the ambassador programme I’m participating in – the most significant aspect of it clearly is how it enables you to get things done faster.

You may have seen some of EE’s TV ads featuring Hollywood actor Kevin Bacon. Mixed opinions about the ads and Bacon abound. I like them, though: this one, for instance, from last November, very apt in light of today’s announcement about faster speeds:

(If you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

EE’s 4G service is currently available in 50 UK towns and cities across the UK: Amersham, Barnsley, Belfast, Bingley, Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford , Bristol, Cardiff, Chelmsford, Chorley, Coventry, Derby, Doncaster, Dudley, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Harpenden, Hemel Hempstead, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Lichfield, Liverpool, London, Loughborough, Luton, Maidenhead, Manchester, Newbury, Newcastle, Newport, Nottingham, Preston, Reading, Rotherham, Sheffield, Shipley, Slough, Southampton, Southend-on-Sea, St Albans, Stockport, Sunderland, Sutton Coldfield, Telford, Walsall, Watford, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton.

EE says it’s aiming for 98 percent of the UK population to be covered by the end of 2014.

Soon, EE’s competitors in the UK will be rolling out their own 4G services. That’s when things will get really interesting in the mobile market in the UK from a business and a consumer perspective – what it all lets you do (faster), and how much it will cost to do it. Meanwhile, EE has a head start and is clearly intending to extend its footprint to maximize its first-mover advantage.

Read EE’s full announcement in their press release, embedded below (or see it in EE’s online newsroom).

(Picture at top of page courtesy CNET.)

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