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New Console? How to Safely Kick the Old One


According to Bloomberg.com, video game hardware purchases like gaming consoles reached their highest peak in three years. And in the last year, hardware sales increased 28 percent to topple $1.37 billion in sales. Whether you’re a gaming addict or just love to game, there’s always a new console or system coming out ready to master. Create a plan of action to get rid of your old console before you add a new one to your list this holiday season. Don’t simply throw it out; this entails a risk of identity theft and a missed opportunity to earn a little money or give back to your community. Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of what to consider when getting rid of your old console.

Back Up Your Old Console

Consoles like the Xbox can be backed up with their cloud storage system or USB. Their cloud storage requires a paid subscription to start. For USB back-ups, you’ll need a large drive with 1GB or more of space. There’s no rule you have to back-up your old system, but it can keep important games and information at your fingertips to possibly transfer to your new console as needed. Currently, Xbox doesn’t replace MP3 songs you download, and recommends burning them to a CD or hard drive instead.

Check your gaming console’s online support to find out how to back it up. PlayStation’s Backup Utility feature can back-up all of your data from your system Hard Disk Drive on a USB, memory stick or other removable storage device. But PlayStation makes it even easier. Unless you purchased videos, all other content purchased through its store can be re-downloaded and doesn’t even need to be backed up.

Get Rid of Personal Information

Your gaming console has personal information stored that could be compromised. Wipe all of your information off the old console before getting rid of it. For a console like PlayStation 3, go to the “System Settings” and click on the restore system option to delete everything on your system’s hard drive. Connect your gaming console to your computer and run a program like “Eraser” to get rid of all personal information. The fact is, personal information is plastered on the internet, on all your devices and is easily accessible. If you still feel uncomfortable getting rid of your ex-gaming system, you might find peace of mind with a service like Lifelock, which keeps an eye on credit, finances and sends up a red flag when anything is suspicious.

Sell It

Unload your old console and get some cash at the same time. Sites like CashForGamers.com, Craigslist and eBay all regularly sell consoles. Check the sites to see what similar consoles are going for and set your prices accordingly. Don’t forget about calling small retailers in your area and pawn shops to see if they’re interested in a trade-in for credit or cash.

Donate It

Believe it or not there are deserving charities that will gladly accept gaming consoles and video games. The Get Well Gamers Foundation serves hundreds of children’s hospitals to bring its young patients entertainment and fun. The idea is that while many children’s hospitals have the best in cutting-edge technology and research, they lack real fun for the kids. Tax-deductible receipts are also available upon request.

Recycle It

Simply throwing away your old console in the trash can have disastrous effects on the environment. Instead, find a qualified recycler who will properly dispose of your gaming system for you. Sites like e-Stewards.org offer information on registered recyclers meeting specific qualifications. If you come up empty, remember that sites like Craigslist also have a “Free” section. Post an ad offering it to anyone willing to pick it up and get it out of your house to make room for a new one.

Making successful investments: What’s your strategy?


When there is a little extra money in the bank, or when monthly earnings exceed monthly expenditure, it is wise to resist spending everything on treats. Instead, consideration can be given to investing the extra capital. There are many ways to do this, but the successful investor, who adds to their holdings each year, usually follows a pre-defined investment strategy.

The appeal of investing

In investment, the cliché that time is money can be true. The appeal of investment is that hard-earned money can, over time, produce further wealth by itself. The ideal is for the investor to sit back and watch their savings grow; however, especially in challenging economic conditions such as at present, a little more input is generally required. The investor needs an investment strategy that is in line with their aims and aspirations.

Why it can be difficult to find a successful investment strategy

For an ambitious investment strategy, it is not always simple to find a rate of return above general bank interest rates. A savings account at a high-street bank offers a safe haven with fairly low levels of interest, but also low levels of risk. Achieving higher rates of return requires more knowledge of the investment markets concerned. It also includes an acceptance of some risk. This means that an investor should set out the goals for their investment, and act accordingly. Market analysis from the likes of financial guru Ken Fisher identifies some of the hot investment topics currently, and can help even novice investors to better understand the present financial climate.

The main types of investment available

For many people, investment beyond a bank account is linked to the stock market, however, while this is a key investment area, it is not the only one, and there are several ways of approaching it. To start with, a beginner in stock market investment may be well advised to consider a mutual fund for the initial investment. Such a fund places the management of capital in the hands of investment professionals, who seek to gain the best return within given strategic parameters. More experienced investors may venture into choosing specific company stocks themselves. These choices can be made according to, for example, the foreseen growth of a company or the anticipated regular dividends paid out on well-established stocks. Alternatives to stocks include commodities like gold and silver, or government and corporate bonds, which can be based on fixed interest returns.

Where to find more information

An investment advisor or stockbroker can provide expert guidance on investment choices. However, there is also a wealth of information available online, from which investment guidance can be drawn. To make the most of such advice, it is important to explore fundamental concepts, such as the terminology of investment. Without understanding ideas like price-to-earnings ratio, or without being able to read a graph of stock-market performance, making the right investment choices becomes even more difficult.

The risks associated with investing

All investment carries an element of risk. While some risk is minor, such as a bank going out of business, other risk is more significant, such as the stock on an unproven company losing value. It is necessary to understand the risks associated with a chosen investment strategy when setting financial strategies and goals.

Strategies that are likely to be successful

One of the key words in managing risk and building a successful investment strategy is diversification. An investor who holds a range of different stocks, plus a range of different bonds, plus some cash and commodities, for example, has a few advantages. One advantage is that the risks associated with one element of the investment strategy may be balanced by the other elements, so that not everything is risked on one market segment. For example, returns on bonds tend to increase when returns on stocks fall, so a wider portfolio is more balanced. Another advantage is that this diversification can help to take advantage of unforeseen growth, if one element of the portfolio proves to be unexpectedly profitable.

Tips on how to succeed and avoid failure

These, then, are the fundamental tips behind a successful investment strategy.

  • Follow current market trends such as those outlined by Ken Fisher, and be aware of potential consequences.
  • Learn some of the basics of market terminology and how to read market data.
  • Set investment goals and choose investments that can help to reach these goals.
  • Think of diversification and don’t put all your eggs in one financial basket.
  • Take professional guidance when it seems necessary.

By putting all these tips into place, even uncertain times like the present can provide opportunities for investment and financial growth.

Steppingstones to a successful tech career


Anyone about to graduate will probably already have an eye on a career. With a whole generation of the brightest and best now being computer literate, the world of hi-tech is increasingly attractive.

One of the reasons why tech is popular as a career is the number of opportunities available. These include programming/application development, software development, project management, tech support, mobile applications and device management, database administration, as well as security compliance, and that list is not exclusive.

The opportunities for those wanting to come into tech are extensive, particularly for those trained in programming and coding. And with the world of computing now involved as much in leisure as it is industry, there are exciting prospects available in gaming and entertainments IT.

By having a natural interest in computer tech skills and receiving the necessary education and training, the sky can be the limit for those entering the profession. However, before anyone embarking on a career can even dream of success they have to take those first steps.

The first steppingstone for the vast majority is to be recruited by a company involved in computer technology. Here the natural interest, a good grounding, and IT education is crucial in securing that first job. As the novice gains experience and begins to display his talents even more, then opportunities may arise for the advancement within the company, or elsewhere. However, there is another option for those who want to enjoy increased success and gain even more personal and professional satisfaction within the tech industry, and that is by going freelance and becoming a contractor.

The contractor hires out his/her services to companies needing them. A major plus here is that this kind of work can be potentially lucrative, but on the downside the freelancer/contractor is no longer earning a regular wage. By the same token the contractor, no longer constrained by the demands of an employer, has the freedom to exploit his skillset to the maximum. Being a freelancer/contractor also means the professional tech enthusiast no longer faces the daunting prospect of being stuck in a “dead end” job that is likely to suck the joy and enthusiasm of his work out of him. Computer tech is an ever developing industry and by “going it alone” the professional has the opportunity to secure the benefits to the maximum.

However, no one should embark on the world of the contractor with their eyes closed to the realities. They should firstly have the capital available to ensure their new enterprise gets off the ground. Secondly, they should be ready to handle the demands of accounts and taxes. Unlike the company employee, the freelancer or contractor will not have his taxes deducted at source. Accounts also need to be kept and this can be a time consuming task.

There is a way around this thru using the services of an umbrella services company such as can be found at www.atlantic-umbrella.com.

The steppingstones of a successful tech career involve a real passion for the subject, training and experience in the chosen specialty, and the crucial decision to remain an employee and enjoy a secure salary, or take the big step and become a freelancer/contractor where the prospects can be lucrative.

No Expense Spared: Three Outlandish Celebrity Rides


Rich and famous usually also means outlandish and ostentatious when it comes to the vehicles that Hollywood celebrities, professional athletes and musicians drive. Cars are the ultimate status symbol, so ordinary simply does not cut it when forced to make and keep up appearances.

Imagination runs wild when money is no object. Here are three examples of melodramatic motoring by celebrities.

Bieber’s Batmobile

West Coast Customs in Corona, California, got the privilege of turning a brand new Cadillac CTS-V into the Canadian pop-sensation’s personal superhero conveyance. The custom black paint job, matte finish, 20-inch wheels and BF Goodrich g-Force Comp-2s, which are popular for this model of Cadillac, only begin to describe this automotive marvel (or is it DC?).

Justin Bieber had “suicide” doors installed, the ones that are hinged at the rear as opposed to the front. The Batmobile logo is on the steering wheel and the front grill of the car. The front seats are made with custom Italian leather, completed with crystalline bling of his initials “JB” near the headrests. All of the stitching is purple, Bieber’s favorite color, and the three woofers in the trunk provide enough thump to wake up everyone in the neighborhood.

The total cost of the vehicle is unknown to the public, but speculators estimate a few hundred thousand dollars.

Leno’s Ecojet

The former Tonight Show host said he first thought of the idea of a jet-powered car when he attended the World Fair in 1964 and saw one with his own eyes. Jay Leno wrote in Popular Mechanics that he enlisted two engineers from the GM Advance Design Studio to draw sketches of one that might be possible to build. The rest, as they say, is history.

The chassis was built right in Leno’s garage, while Gaffoglios Metalcrafters (who also made custom trucks for the Stray Cats and Aerosmith) built the body. The aerodynamic design doesn’t necessarily scream sportscar, but will certainly turn heads as it passes. The turbine is a Honeywell LTS-101, the same one used in military helicopters. It requires a custom torque converter to curtail its 40,000 maximum rpm at idle speed. The car is capable of reaching 245 mph, and Leno said he beat an airplane in a race to 165 on a runway when the car was finished. The car even sounds like an airplane at takeoff.

The name Ecojet is not just for kicks either. Though the gas mileage is not Prius-comparable, all the seats are made from artificial suede as opposed to animal hides.

Mayweather’s Armored SUV

Floyd Mayweather is not shy about flashing his money. He earned $72 million for his last two fights and posted photocopies of the checks on Twitter. But everybody wants a piece of “Money,” particularly rapper 50 Cent. The two have been in an ongoing feud since Fiddy joked about Mayweather struggling to read an advertisement on the radio. Maybe that is why Floyd, on the defensive, shows up at strip clubs in his extended armored SUV.

The “Money Truck” features a bathroom, kitchen, and of course, bullet-proof glass. The truck is built to withstand a missile truck if Floyd ever finds himself in a warzone. It has been reported that a chef rides with Floyd whenever he takes the vehicle out, in case he gets hungry for fresh filet mignon.

No expense was spared building the truck. The price tag was more than $2 million.

Stay Connected: 4 Ways to Get Wi-Fi Anywhere


Today, nearly everyone has a wireless router in their home creating a local Wi-Fi network, and most social gathering locations including every Starbucks across the country have free Wi-Fi available for their patrons. Additionally, many cities have started including free Wi-Fi zones including downtown Denver, Colorado and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

But, what do you do if you aren’t lucky enough to be in one of these cities? You will need to create your own mobile hotspot or use a satellite connection. Here are four ways you can accomplish this:

Use Your Cell Phone

The easiest and quickest way to get mobile Wi-Fi is with your cell phone. Most smartphones can be converted into mobile hotspots for multiple devices with a limited range. If this is your preferred option, make sure you have a phone that can handle the strain on the battery as well as an appropriate data addition on your plan so you don’t get hit with crazy overage charges and hidden fees.

Purchase a Hotspot Device

If you don’t want to use your cell phone, you can always get a stand-alone Wi-Fi hotspot device. These work similarly to your phone hotspot by creating a localized area of Internet access around the device that can handle multiple phones, tablets, laptops or whatever else. You will have to have an accompanying data plan with one of the local cellular companies for data access with the device, so make sure you do your research and pick the best one for you.

Get an International Hotspot

While most phones today have international roaming plans, the data access charges can be extreme. Most major cities abroad have local Wi-Fi hotspots similar to coffee shops in the states, but they may be few and far between. The alternative is to pick up a pre-paid international Mi-Fi hotspot like the XCom Global. All you have to do is let them know which country you are going to, and they will send you a device pre-loaded with a SIM card for that area. With the case and two batteries included, you can easily get through an entire day even when connecting multiple devices. The hotspot is much more affordable than cellular roaming plans and, it works in the 44 countries where XCom has towers.

Buy a Satellite Phone

On the occasions where you are nowhere near a cell tower, a satellite phone like the Iridium Go! by Roadpost can connect directly to a global satellite network. These phones work from anywhere on the planet and provide you with a local Wi-Fi network for high-speed Internet access on up to five devices. The standard battery gives you over five hours of talk time, is built to military grade ruggedness and is small enough to fit in your pocket.

Whatever your needs and wherever you are going, make sure you are prepared and can stay connected. Whether you just want to keep up to date on current events or quickly and reliably connect with your friends and family, these four options are sure to help you from anywhere in the world.

3 Simple Questions to Ask before Downloading Companion Apps


shutterstock_160207868As game developers test the viability of companion apps, some excellent second-screen gaming experiences have surfaced along with more than a couple epic fails. How can you tell the duds apart from the surefire hits? Ask yourself these three easy questions before tapping that download button.

1. Is the app available on your mobile device?

Discovering all the ways a companion app augments your game can be quite the letdown after learning it’s not available on your device. With the Disney Infinity Toy Box companion to Disney Infinity, players can transfer any custom-built games and worlds from the console to their tablet and vice-versa. At one year post launch only iPad and Windows tablet owners may do so, leaving Android tablet owners out of luck. Imagine explaining that to an eight-year-old.

Microsoft got this one right when launching their next-gen console companion app, Xbox One Smartglass. It allows gamers to connect to their Xbox One remotely, view the console dashboard, interact with friends online and shop the digital storefront. Since the app is available across most current Android, iOS and Windows devices you can purchase an Xbox One without worrying about second-screen compatibility. By comparison, the PlayStation App offers many comparable features but it is not presently available on Windows phones or tablets.

2. Are there known technical issues?

Even the most impressive app features fail to impress when hindered by bugs, glitches or other problems. Case in point, the Hockey Ultimate Team or HUT companion app was supposed to deliver on-the-go access to the NHL 14 auction house, plus personal trade and watch lists. Unfortunately, the app was plagued with technical issues ranging from frequent crashing on some devices to log in problems and server errors. EA pulled the app from the mobile market in late June. When asked about the possibility of an HUT app for NHL 15 in a September pre-launch FAQ, EA thanked fans for using the previous app and did not indicate any plans for a new, improved version.

Whether you plan to download a companion app on launch day or months later, checking the available app reviews in the store for widespread comments about technical failures prior to downloading could save you from experiencing the same frustration.

With its extensive continuous content plans for Destiny, Bungie isn’t leaving the companion behind. The app continues to see improvements since its pre-Beta launch, refining features and functions based on customer feedback.

3. Are the app’s features helpful or useful to you?

Since utilization of a second-screen experiences is supplementary in nature and is not required to play many popular PS4 games or games on other consoles, the content and features included in some apps may not be applicable to your personal play style and preferences.

First-person shooters offer an excellent example. The companion app for Titanfall gives players a live mini-map of the active game area complete with filter options. The problem is, depending on where the phone or tablet is placed, you have to look down or away from the main screen to view the map on the second screen. Amidst all the fast-paced action, looking away for even a second could lead to an untimely death. For campers and snipers, it may not be as much of an issue.

The official Call of Duty application from Activision doesn’t even try to compete with the action on the main screen. Instead, it utilizes the ease and convenience of touch controls to allow players to quickly set clan preferences and customize loadouts whenever they aren’t blasting away in-game.

When it comes to open-world exploration, the Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Companion is one of the better experiences out there. You can use the app for utility purposes like tracking game progress or viewing treasure maps. The interactive game map is much larger than the on-screen version, which is helpful for setting a waypoint for your ship or viewing enemies on your intended course. Plus, you can manage the Edward’s Fleet mini-game on your phone or tablet while you’re away from the console to maximize your gold earnings.

In spite of the flops, the hits give gamers a reason to expect good things from future companion apps, and with these three simple questions as your guide, it’s easy to keep expectations in check.

Introducing the Passport Smartphone


 

There’s already been plenty of controversy surrounding John Chen as CEO of BlackBerry, but his latest offering is the most mind boggling yet. BlackBerry shot to success with handset devices, and there was a time when the company couldn’t be touched. However, Apple and Samsun quickly caught up and surpassed BlackBerry, leaving it in the dust—Chen was supposed to save the company, but he might be sinking it quicker than ever. He’s only been at the helm for less than a year, and he’s noted that any future will be in selling security and mobile management to agencies and corporations.

 

And then Chen made a reach for the smartphone market again. He’s pitching Passport, which will be the first new BlackBerry phone device since he took office. This is a last ditch effort. If it fails, it will likely be the end of BlackBerry as we know it and (perhaps) the end of Chen’s rein. Unveiled in Dubai, Toronto and London, Passport has admittedly modest features including an actual keyboard and simple square display.

 

Chen’s vision

 

Although Chen believes in BlackBerry as a smartphone leader, he says he’s also realistic. “It could be extremely important to me in the turnaround as part of the strategy, but it does not have to be. As long as it does not lose money, this will not affect my turnaround plan in a negative way. We will make money on the handsel; if we don’t, we’ll have to get out.”

 

The target market for Passport will be BlackBerry’s tried and true demographics, including industries like government agencies, military, banks and healthcare. However, security concerns are already popping up, taking precedence over the sticker shock. Experts are saying that there are a plethora of obstacles for BlackBerry to tackle before even think about releasing the BlackBerry Classis. It’s slated to nip at the heels of Passport depending on how Passport is received.

 

The experts weigh in

 

According to an analyst with ABI Research, Nick Spencer, “I do wonder how they can actually have an impact. It’s an awfully long way back for them.” Getting back into the hardware game with a goal of just breaking even is a strategy that requires cost and price analysis. Unfortunately, the Passport can’t be touted as an executive phone that demands a high price since it simply doesn’t have the features or clout to do so.

 

The majority of analysts agree that Apple has tapped out the top tier for smartphone costs. Compare the base model iPhone 6 at $550 to the Passport at $600 and there’s no reason for the $50 difference. Of course, smartphones are designed for massive manufacturing which leads to big savings. Scale can make or break a hardware business and it’s not something that BlackBerry excels at now.

 

A fighting chance?

 

It was estimated by research company IDC that Apple ships around 33 million iPhones per quarter. BlackBerry only ships 1.5 million. BlackBerry is doing moderately well selling bargain-priced phones to developing countries, and that might be where their smartphone ventures end. In these markets, security concerns aren’t an issue but in Canada and the US there’s no getting around it.

 

Chen guesses that about 70 percent of the Passport’s innards are on par with all other companies. However, he notes that the higher Passport cost is due simply to smaller production. There’s no excuse or luxury item tucked away. It doesn’t seem like Chen is going to pull through, but it’s still too early to tell how the Passport will be greeted by the public.

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Author Bio: Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.