Friday, Nov 21 2014

Common Technology Myths (Busted!)

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There are plenty of things “everybody knows” about technology. For instance, everyone knows you can’t use cell phones and gas pumps at the same time, or put metal in the microwave, or stick a magnet on your computer tower.

So it may be a surprise to learn that all these known technology dangers, and many more, are wrong. Some are exaggerations, and some are just flat-out incorrect. Here’s a list of common myths about technology that you’ve probably believed.

If you pump gas while you’re on your phone, your car will catch fire

So far, the number of gas station fires that have involved a cell phone have been one — and in that case, it was found that the phone didn’t actually start the fire. While the FCC says it’s “theoretically possible” an electric spark from a cell phone could ignite gasoline fumes, even they admit the possibility is “very remote.” There have been several studies and an episode of Mythbusters disproving this myth.

Magnets + stored data = poof!

As the belief goes, placing a magnet on any electronic device that stores data will erase everything on there — so unless you’re playing a cruel practical joke, keep magnets away from computers and thumb drives. But the truth is, solid state drives like thumb drives won’t be affected at all. And computer hard drive disks can be erased with magnets, but only really big ones like those used for MRI machines.

If you microwave a metal object, it will spark and your microwave will explode

It’s hard to dispute this one. Most people have either seen a video where a fork is being microwaved and shooting sparks everywhere, or they’ve tried the fork trick themselves. The myth lies in believing that any metal object will produce this effect. The sparking isn’t caused by the metal of the fork — instead, it’s the shape of it. Sharp edges conduct the electrons that cause sparks. But microwave a spoon, and pretty much nothing will happen. Note: we do not suggest you run out and microwave any or all metal items in your home.

Standing next to a microwave will pump you full of radiation

This myth has lost some ground over time, but plenty of people still believe that if you stand next to a microwave while it’s running, you could turn into Spiderman or Godzilla from the radiation. But while it’s true that microwaves sometimes leak radiation, the FDA explains that the lifetime radiation an appliance emits is “far below the level known to harm people.”

More megapixels = better photos

Smartphone cameras have come a long way in a short time, and it’s all because they keep adding megapixels to the image resolution. But equating more megapixels with higher quality photos is one of the most common misconceptions in all of digital photography. You can’t take a great picture with a crappy resolution — but you can take a fantastic photo with a decent resolution, if your phone camera has a good lens, circuitry, sensors, and controls, and you have an eye for lighting and composition. More megapixels do not create instant master photographers.

Internet, World Wide Web…same difference

The Internet and the Web are not two different terms for the same thing. The World Wide Web is actually what most people consider the Internet: all the websites that start with www. But the Internet is more than the Web — it’s the infrastructure that enables information sharing between networks around the globe, including computers, smartphone, and software networks. The Web needs the Internet, but the Internet can exist without the Web.

If you don’t completely drain and recharge your phone/laptop, the battery can’t hold a full charge

This is a myth that used to be true. Older cell and laptop batteries had this problem, but battery technology has advanced along with the devices they power. Most modern devices use lithium-ion batteries, which can be charged whenever it’s convenient — and even a quick charge just to get enough power to send a text won’t harm the battery capacity.

Private or “incognito” browsing lets you be anonymous online

Whether you’re paranoid or just don’t want anyone to know about your Hello Kitty obsession, you might feel safer browsing online in “private mode.” This stealth setting for some browsers keeps the websites you visit out of your history, and prevents you from being automatically logged into your accounts (so you don’t accidentally post about Hello Kitty on your Facebook page). However, incognito mode doesn’t make you invisible to the sites you’re visiting — and your footprints are still findable with some tech savvy.

Your phone is giving you cancer

This myth has been particularly polarizing. In the 1990s and 2000s, there were people who believed this with a passion, and others who called those people paranoid Luddites for thinking it. But the truth is actually…not certain. Several studies, including an exhaustive 11-year-long research program in the UK, have failed to find any link between cell phones and brain cancer, or any other type of cancer. But the studies have also stated that “more research is needed,” so this myth can’t be truly retired yet.

Want to know more about these myths, or have an IT inquiry about jobs or open positions? Contact the experts at The Armada Group today.

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Secrets You Need to Know Before a Career Change

For the modern IT professional, career changes are not only normal — they’re expected. Over the course of your IT career, you can probably expect to change jobs, change companies, and even change fields or specialties. You might start out a Python programmer and make your way to Java front-end developer, or climb up from help desk support to IT project manager. The one constant in IT is that nothing is constant, and everything changes.

But that doesn’t make a career change any easier or less personally nerve-wracking.

If you’re in the midst of changing your career or thinking about making a move — whether it’s up, down, lateral, or a quantum shift to something completely new — here’s what you should know to make the transition smoother.

It’s not a challenge — it’s an opportunity

Starting something new can be exciting, but usually it’s more terrifying. When you step out of your comfort zone into unfamiliar territory, you’re likely to experience fear that you’ll do something wrong, and regret that you’ve left your safety net behind for something you might not succeed with.

Your new area may be challenging, but what’s most important is the opportunity you have to test yourself, improve your skills, and expand your accomplishments. Learning that you can complete something you’ve never done before gives you an incredible boost in self-confidence, and primes you to try even more new and exciting things.

Interviews are your chance to learn

When you’re facing a career change, you may be dreading the very idea of job interviews. Maybe you were feeling relieved when you landed your current job because you’d never have to interview again, or maybe it’s been so long since you’ve been on a job interview that you’ve completely forgotten the basics — do they still shake hands, or should you just wave casually when you walk in?

In any case, keep in mind that interviews are just as important an opportunity for you as they are for the interviewers. They’re your chance to learn more about your new career, to ask questions about the team, the infrastructure, and the job itself. When you treat interviews as your opportunity to interview a department or company, you’ll be better positioned to make sure the new job is a good fit for you — which enables you to start with more confidence.

Understand what you bring to the table

A career change means you’re starting a new position for the first time. But it also means it’s the first time the new position has you — and all of the unique skills and experiences you’re bringing along. Your newness is an asset in an IT world that thrives on innovation.

Because you’re working in a certain capacity for the first time, you don’t have the ingrained habits and perceptions of your more experienced colleagues. You’ll be able to bring a fresh perspective to the work you do, and view challenges at different angles that can produce unexpected results. This is the definition of innovation, and you are uniquely suited to achieve great things in your new IT career.

For more help with a new career or career transition, contact the recruiting experts at The Armada Group. They can assist you in finding the IT career you’re looking for, today.

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5 Tips for Defending Your Systems Against Security Breaches

Every modern business has to worry about security. The threat of hackers and damaging attacks hangs over everyone with an infrastructure — as Boston Children’s Hospital discovered this spring, when hackers claiming to represent Anonymous hit them with phishing and DDoS attacks.

Fortunately, the hospital was prepared to fight back, and patient data remained secure during and after the attacks. Here are five tips from Boston Children’s Hospital’s handling of the situation that can help you safeguard your business from security breaches:

Take an active learning approach to digital security

The best defense is a good offense. Be proactive in your security measures, with preventative strategies that include:

  • Active, real-time surveillance for emerging threats
  • Risk-based modeling and analysis that considers key security factors, including risks, threats, and information systems vulnerabilities
  • Effective regulation that ensures both privacy and safety without creating excess burden

Understand your system resource dependence

In order to mount an effective defense, you need to know which systems work internally, and which rely on external Internet access. Systems connected to the Internet are at risk for security breaches and attacks — for example, the hospital’s EHR (electronic health records) system was spared in the attacks, but its e-prescribing system that connects to pharmacies online was not.

Have an email alternative

In the interests of being prepared for the worst, have a secure access and communication system in place to guard against the possibility of compromised email during an attack. At Children’s, when DDoS attacks increased beyond what the hospital’s internal IT solutions were capable of handling, they were able to shut down all websites and email, and use a secure text messaging application to communicate internally and access patient records.

React when you see smoke — don’t wait for fire

Don’t hesitate to push the button on extreme security measures, such as shutting down websites and email. If you have the right precautions in place, you can avoid business disruption — and the ability to take swift action could save you millions in damages if cyber attacks are successful.

Don’t neglect teleconferences

Phone communications are equally at risk for security breaches. Never include conference passcodes in the body of a calendar invitation — this could get your call recorded and posted online before you even hang up. Instead, send passcodes securely through email or text applications.

Hackers pose a growing threat to the safety and security of information in every industry. Not even a children’s hospital is safe from cyber attacks. Stay up-to-date with the latest security measures, and make sure you’re protected with a proactive strategy that fights back against hackers. If you need help implementing a proactive security plan for your company, or need dedicated IT specialists to handle these threats, speak to the IT experts at The Armada Group.

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Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Being a great leader — whether you’re already in an executive position or looking to be promoted to one — requires strong emotional intelligence. And an important part of emotional intelligence is the ability to keep negativity out of your communication and interaction with other people. Negative thinking and emotion prevents you from getting results both for yourself and with others. What’s more, negativity can spread stress like it’s contagious — studies have shown that negative thoughts transmit stress-producing hormones that affect those around you.

Even if you have high emotional intelligence, you may be putting out negative vibes without realizing it. Here are five subtle but common ways you might not know you’re being negative, and what to do if you spot yourself engaging in them.

Not accepting compliments

For many people, responding to compliments with a demurral is an instinctive reaction. If you’re told you did a good job, your instinct may be to downplay the sentiment by crediting someone else, insisting it wasn’t that hard, or even saying you were just lucky. You may think you’re being humble — but this type of reaction actually undermines your confidence and makes it harder for other people to trust your skills or abilities.

Instead of demurring, learn to accept compliments with grace (and a dash of humility). Own your positive actions or accomplishments, even if your response is a simple “thank you” with no further discussion on the subject of the compliment.

Negating a positive

Negative inferences happen when you make a positive statement, and then follow it up with something negative that undermines the effect. For example, you might say, “My last performance review was fantastic, but I’m still not making the salary I should.”

The first part of this statement is positive and worth both consideration and discussion. But when it’s followed immediately with negativity, the positive value goes out the window — and suddenly you’re one of those people who always sees the glass as half empty. Negative inferences crush enthusiasm and prevent others from taking your side.

Instead, keep your positive statements positive and focused on your options. For example, you might say, “My last performance review was fantastic, so now I’m going to work on presenting my accomplishments better so I can negotiate a higher salary.”

Reacting too quickly

When something goes wrong, people have a tendency to react — and in the heat of the moment, your reaction might be less than emotionally intelligent. For instance, if a team member says something unfortunate during a meeting, you might approach them after the meeting with a comment along the lines of, “That was a stupid thing to say!” This type of reaction is not constructive, and can quickly break down relationships.

A better way to handle moments like these is to focus on responding, instead of reacting. When you respond to a problem, issue, or negative situation, you give yourself time to consider what really happened and why it might have happened — and then formulate a thoughtful reply that is constructive and considerate.

“Yeah, but…” mode

Everyone’s said it from time to time. Someone makes a suggestion, and you want to agree, but you immediately calculate the problems with the idea and your response sentence starts with “Yeah, but…”

This opening is a blocker. The word “but” dismisses anything positive that came before it, and makes collaboration with other people difficult. If you find yourself saying “Yeah, but” frequently, people will lose interest in listening to you.

Instead of agreeing, and then immediately disagreeing, focus on validating ideas that you believe are worthy, and offering possible changes or alternatives for those that don’t quite seem there yet. Keep the “but” out of your responses.

Bringing others down to raise yourself up

Emotionally intelligent people understand that the path to success is not forged by blatantly stepping on others along the way. However, you could be engaging in a more subtle form of diminishing other people, through statements that contain gossip or put-downs — even if they seem innocuous.

Besides the risk of having these negative comments get back to the people you’ve made them about, the person you’re talking to may wonder what you’re saying about them to others. If you’re tempted to put someone else down in order to feel better, ask yourself what your real motivation is for making these damaging statements. It might be insecurity about your own performance, jealousy of someone else’s abilities, or simply just a bad habit of engaging in gossip.

This type of negativity can be the most difficult to overcome — but it’s also the most rewarding. When you have genuine respect and kindness for others, they’ll reciprocate, and you’ll be better positioned for leadership.

Want to learn more about being an emotionally intelligent leader? Contact the staffing and recruiting experts at The Armada Group. We can help you find – and retain – the best in IT management and professionalism

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Wednesday, Nov 12 2014

Fact vs. Fiction: Driverless Cars

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Fact vs Fiction- Driverless Cars

Driverless cars have been a dream for decades — but these days they’re moving from science fiction to science fact. The first self-driving vehicles have already been developed, and while they’re not on the market yet, researchers are working toward the glorious day when cars drive themselves, and humans can sit back and enjoy the ride.

Because driverless cars aren’t in widespread use, there are plenty of rumors surrounding this technology. Here are some of the top myths about driverless cars, as well as some truths that may shape the self-driving future.

Myth 1: Driverless cars eliminate the risk of human error

In a utopian world, self-driving cars would completely eliminate accidents because machines don’t sleep, text, get drunk, or stop paying attention. However, driverless cars do contain room for human error in their programming and design.

This could be a positive or a negative. On the positive side, the ability to program a self-driving car in a non-stressful environment — rather than while it’s being driven — can lead to significant increases in safety. But there is also risk with programming driverless cars, which must be ready to handle any situation. If the developers haven’t envisioned a particular scenario, the car won’t be equipped to handle it.

Myth 2: Self-driving cars can drive anywhere

It’s nice to envision driverless cars able to take on any road, anywhere, in any condition. But the fact is that at least for now, self-driving cars are extremely limited on where they can go. Because they rely on GPS for direction, these cars can only operate in very good weather conditions and can’t navigate in places like tunnels or parking garages, where there’s no GPS signal.

Myth 3: People are bad at driving

Anyone driving in rush hour traffic would disagree, but the idea that humans are inherently poor drivers is a myth — especially when compared to machine drivers. Experience and intuition go a long way toward making human drivers superior to mechanical ones. People also have the advantage of being able to understand their environment, and factor context and perceptions into their driving reactions.

Myth 4: Driverless cars are hands-off driving

The idea of climbing into a car, programming your destination, and curling up to sleep in the back seat isn’t possible with current driverless technology. The human owners of self-driving cars still have to pay attention during the drive, and keep a hand on the wheel and a foot near the brake. In fact, driverless cars have safety features that require at least one hand on the wheel at all times — because the car could fail at any point.

Fact 1: Self-driving cars can be more energy efficient

Cars require a lot of energy to move — but a majority of that energy is used to move the car itself, rather than the person inside it. Modern cars contain thousands of pounds of steel, which is primarily for crash protection. But if driverless cars moving at lower speeds remove the possibility of deadly collisions, they can be designed with more energy- and fuel-efficient materials.

Fact 2: Driverless technology is steeped in ethical debate

The ethics of allowing self-driving cars are a major hurdle for the automotive industry. Questions that must be answered include how conservative these cars should be in the interests of avoiding accidents, whether cars should be programmed to break laws and speed limits if required to keep passengers safe, and how much control the car’s programming should have over the driving process.

Fact 3: Experts disagree whether cars should be connected

Connectivity may seem like an obvious good feature for driverless cars, and many feel they should be connected. Allowing self-driving cars to communicate with each other may make driving more efficient, and provide enhanced safety. But others feel this level of connectivity is unnecessary — because human drivers use only their eyes, driverless cars should in theory be able to rely on camera vision alone.

Fact 4: No one is empowered to decide these issues

Even if the ethical and connectivity debates could be settled, driverless technology has no centralized governance that is able to enforce decisions. While states and government agencies are working with the issues, and a standards committee with the Society of Automotive Engineers is developing voluntary standards for driverless vehicle design, there are currently no decision-makers to guide the industry into consumer markets.

Want to learn more about the cutting-edge of IT innovation? Need top IT candidates to fill open positions at your company? Contact the experts at The Armada Group today!

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What Makes a Successful IT Professional

With the demand for skilled tech workers increasing, many of today’s IT professionals are able to enjoy challenging and lucrative careers. Of course, in every industry there are some pros more successful than others. So what’s the recipe for IT success?

Below are some of the characteristics shared by successful IT professionals across many different fields and career paths. Cultivate these qualities, and you can enjoy a long and rewarding career as an IT pro.

Successful IT pros love technology — and share the love

It’s a given that everyone performs better when they’re doing what they love. The best IT pros have a demonstrable passion for technology, and it’s often contagious. If you’re excited about your work, that excitement rubs off on your co-workers, your supervisors, your customers, and everyone you engage with professionally — which means they enjoy working with you and want to get involved.

As an expansion of passion for technology, successful tech professionals are happy to share their knowledge and skills with others. IT pros who believe their knowledge is too valuable to share aren’t going to get very far — but those who share and help others are able to build loyalty, enhance their professional reputation, and win promotions.

Successful IT pros understand the business

With the world relying more on technology every day, you can find IT professionals in just about every industry — from tech companies to retail, finance to food service, manufacturing to education. One of the key aspects shared by successful tech pros is a thorough understanding of not just IT, but the particular industry they work in.

One of the most sought-after qualities in IT pros is the ability to break down concepts to a non-tech level, and communicate the value of IT services or solutions to key people who don’t work in IT, such as customers, shareholders, and other departments. This requires a strong business understanding and knowledge of how your work relates to other functions of your industry.

The top IT pros are skilled business professionals who know a lot about technology. With a comprehensive knowledge of your industry, you can deliver superior solutions and more innovation, which enhances both your reputation and your value as a professional.

Successful IT pros know (almost) everything, but specialize in something

One of the most effective paths to IT success is specialization. Regardless of your actual position, if you’re the best in your field, you’ll find greater success than a well-rounded tech generalist. So if you’re a data communications pro, your focus should be on knowing everything about the hardware and software that sends and receives data. If you’re a project manager, you should be exceptional at leading projects and people.

However, no IT position functions in a vacuum — so it’s equally important to be proficient in the areas that relate to your expertise. For example, a successful top Java programmer will have a strong working knowledge of database design and stored procedures. The best project managers will understand software development and testing. With the complexity of modern business, IT pros must understand all the components that feed into their specialties.

Successful IT pros love a good challenge

Technology can be extremely complex, and every IT pro faces challenges and problems on a regular basis. Rather than letting themselves become frustrated and stressed, the best tech professionals view problems as learning opportunities, and face new challenges with excitement at the possibilities.

Even technical problems that appear impossible at the start can help you broaden your horizons and increase your skills, knowledge, experience, and problem-solving capabilities. Continual learning is an important part of facing challenges — with the rapid pace of IT evolution, there is always some new platform, language, or tool that can impact your job and your industry.

To be successful in IT, keep learning and loving what you do — and share that passion with others. Employers will notice your skills and enthusiasm, and you’ll find yourself cultivating a rewarding career in technology.

Want to find out more about what it takes to become a successful IT pro? Or need a top industry professional to fill a position within your company? The Armada Group knows what – and who – it takes to be the best in the business. Contact us today

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