5 Things - Week Ending 1/4/13

This is the 33rd post in a series called 5 Things. Each week I will share a combination of technology articles and apps that I have discovered and liked in the past week. Anything highlighted in blue is a link to an article, an app, or another section of my website.

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Barnes & Noble is the last national chain of book stores in America. And its eBook strategy simply isn’t working. This was the Christmas when the earlier collapse of the Borders chain should have boosted Barnes & Noble’s fortunes. Instead, Nook volumes declined and retail segment revenue crashed by 10.9% compared to the previous Christmas. Now, both brick and mortar as well as digital sales are spiraling down.

I have the feeling that Barnes & Noble is going to have a very difficult time competing with Amazon. Barnes & Noble is seeing both traditional & digital book sales declining. It is extremely hard to compete with a company like Amazon that is willing to earn razor thin margins when you operate close to 700 retail locations that have major overhead costs asssociated with them.

Will Barnes & Noble go the way of Borders? At this point, I am going to have a hard time recommending a Nook product to my clients due to uncertainity about the long term viability of Barnes & Noble.


U.S. Internet Users Pay More for Slower Service

Susan Crawford:

Internet access, like electricity, is crucial to the economic and social health of the country. Electricity, however, is provided by largely reliable, taxpayer-supported entities, and no one seems to think the country would be better off if a purely private, wholly deregulated operator were in charge. Such a company might decide to provide service only in New York, Washington and other big cities, at very high rates for those who could afford it, and refuse to serve small towns and less- successful areas.
The Internet has taken the place of the telephone as the world’s basic, general-purpose, two-way communication medium. All Americans need high-speed access, just as they need clean water, clean air and electricity. But they have allowed a naive belief in the power and beneficence of the free market to cloud their vision. As things stand, the U.S. has the worst of both worlds: no competition and no regulation.

This is a MUST READ article. In my opinion, this is an issue that the federal government must address. I can't tell you how many of my clients have expressed their frustration about the high costs and lack of options they have when it comes to internet access.

If you read this article you will discover that other countries are way ahead of us when it comes to availabity of fast and affordable internet access. This will have negative effects on our ability to compete in a global economy.


Gregory’s iPhone Contract

Janell Burley Hoffman:

Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good & responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.

I applaud this mom for laying down some ground rules for her teenage son. I think it is very important to be an active parent and teach your kid healthy boundaries when it comes to technology.

Make sure to click the article link above to read the 18 rules that Janell laid out for her son.


How Hackable Is Your Bank Account? Call Customer Service to Find Out

Melanie Pinola:

I was recently stupefied to find out it’s extremely easy to get into my (former) bank accounts. All you needed to do was call up customer service and verify very basic information. One bank even reset my security questions when I said I didn’t remember them. This is unacceptable; here’s how to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

I teach a class called Staying Safe In A Digital World and I discuss the importance of having an unique strong password for your bank accounts. The best password in the world won't do much good if your bank does not practice proper security measures.

My primary bank ING Direct will ask various security questions over the phone and if you don't know the answers they will snail mail you something to reset your password which should prevent someone from breaking into your account.


The Answer is Just a Click Away

David Pell:

One by one, each person described an obstacle. I need to manage my team more effectively. I need to make more efficient use of my time. I need to spend more time connecting with my kids before they’re too old to need me. While the themes were varied, the obstacles really weren’t. In each case, the key obstacle being described was resting on the table, for a rare moment, just beyond arm’s reach.

Everyone was basically complaining about technology.

David Pell makes a compelling case in this blog post that the answer to a balanced life is simply turning off our technology.

I took eight days off in December in which I barely used any technology. It was awesome! I took a six mile walk yesterday where I didn't use my iPhone to text, tweet, or email. It was great!

I like to use Do Not Disturb on my iPhone between 10pm and 7am to limit interruptions at the end and beginning of my day.

I would encourage you to turn your phone on silent, ignore your email for a day, or take a vacation that is technology free and find some balance in your life.