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Amazon EC2 Spot Instances

On December 14, Amazon announced Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) Spot Instances. This new beta service allows consumers to bid on unused EC2 capacity and run instances as long as their bid exceeds the current Spot Price (which fluctuates based on supply and demand).

According to Amazon, here are a few applications well-suited to EC2 Spot Instances:

What do you think of Google's real-time search?

Earlier this week, Google announced the launch of their real-time search features. With real-time search you can see updates from Twitter, FriendFeed, news stories, and blogs within seconds of when they are published. The real-time results show up on your search results page in a scrolling Latest Results window.

Google Public DNS

A few days ago, Google announced the availability of the Google Public DNS. This is a replacement for the DNS service you may already have in place and Google positions this service as being more secure and faster than the average service provider's DNS response time.

Website Redesign Checklist

Within seconds of arriving at your website, visitors will begin to make assumptions about your organization, and in some cases they will decide to leave the website immediately. Knowing this, do you think your website properly represents your business?

You can use the following checklist to determine if it's time to consider a website update.

My website:

…does not align with my current business goals and strategy.

…is made up of entirely static content.

…has outdated information.

…contains mistakes, typos, and broken links.

Look Up... In Outlook

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that I like words. But frankly, I don't always spell or use them correctly. I might get it right 99.9999% of the time, but there is still the 0.0001% when I need to check on usage. I will also hear a new word in a particular context and want to use it in my communications. If you are like me, then here's a quick tip to expand your lexicon by using new words you hear or read from others.

Santa uses Twitter, shouldn't you?

This week I discovered that Santa has a Twitter account. (Well, actually there are several Santas on Twitter, but that is not the point.) So this holiday season even Old St. Nick is using social media for promotional purposes, but are you?

Be Bold with Wikipedia

Although few truths are absolute, there is one truth that is indisputably absolute. That truth is that you know something that others do not. And, Wikipedia wants you to be bold and share this knowledge with the rest of humanity. So, be bold and go to wikipedia and contribute this knowledge.

Multiplatform .Net Development with Mono Tools

The well known mono project has just released the new Mono Tools for Visual Studio 1.0. This commercial product plugs into your existing Visual Studio IDE and allows you to develop and debug mono apps. For those unfamiliar with mono, it is a .Net environment for Linux and MacOS machines (although it also runs on Windows and other platforms).

Web Templates vs. Custom Design & Development

When it comes to creating a website, many companies wonder, "What's wrong with buying off the shelf?" This can be a difficult question, as every company has different needs and requirements, but custom web design and development offers some definite advantages.

Technorati Troubles

Technorati, the first blog search engine, has released a new beta version of their website. As you can tell from the site's support forums, the new website has met with some mixed reviews. In the least, it seems that Technorati could have done a better job communicating with their members before the new changes took effect.

The redesigned Technorati site has the following features:

Amazon RDS goes Beta

Amazon Web Services is now in a beta release of its newest service called the Relational Database Service (RDS). The announcement states that RDS is:

Oh Mighty Drush

If you have ever maintained a Drupal site, you know that keeping up with the continuous stream of module updates can be a daunting task. If you manually download, unpack, install, then run an update for each module you might as well get a good cup of coffee and be prepared for some sysadmin time.

The Whitehouse Goes Drupal

October 24, 2009 - Whitehouse.gov is now based on the open source content management system Drupal. A press release to the Associated Press on Saturday reports that a software package purchased at the end of the Bush administration was ill suited as an online platform for the tech-savvy Obama team.

BlackBerry - Mac Sync

Due to some unfortunate events, I recently had to return my BlackBerry and receive a new one. I was not excited about moving all of my information over. I had yet to sync my contacts, calendar, etc. with my computer because I have a Mac. I previously looked into some software options that would allow me to sync the two devices, but I was slightly turned off by the price/features so I held off.

5 SEO Necessities

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your website's search engine page rank, thereby increasing traffic and attracting prospective customers. Here are 5 SEO necessities to increase your search engine visibility and improve your page rank:

Delete files faster in XP

Ever try to delete a file in XP and watch as it takes 20 or 30 seconds?

The delay is because XP searches the recycle bin for similarly named items before deleting them (i.e. adding them to the recycle bin). This takes time - don't ask me why, since it takes nearly no time in Linux.

Ecommerce Tip #10

Ecommerce Tip - Make customers feel safe and secure.

When it comes to sharing information over the internet, fraud and identity theft are always a concern. It is important that your site use security encryption measures, such as SSL or TSL, to ensure the safety of customer information. You can then put customers at ease by displaying security badges on your web pages so shoppers know that they are protected.

This post is number 10 of 10 in a series of ecommerce tips.

Ecommerce Tip #9

Ecommerce Tip - Remember customer service is key.

Ecommerce Tip #8

Ecommerce Tip - Keep the checkout process simple.

Remember that people enjoy shopping online because it is fast and easy. Don't overwhelm users with required information fields and numerous unnecessary steps in the checkout process. If checkout must require several steps, use proper headings or breadcrumb navigation to help shoppers identify where they are within the checkout process.

This post is number 8 of 10 in a series of ecommerce tips.

Ecommerce Tip #7

Ecommerce Tip - Give them options.

Every online shopper is unique. To best accommodate their needs, you should offer multiple payment and shipping options. In some cases, it is also a good idea to give shoppers the option of adding items to a "wish list." For various reasons shoppers may not be ready to buy during their first visit, but with a wish list shoppers can save their desired items to purchase later.

This post is number 7 of 10 in a series of ecommerce tips.

Ecommerce Tip #6

Ecommerce Tip - Don't forget to cross-sell.

Shoppers don't always know exactly what they want or need. To solve this problem, take a cue from traditional retail stores. Think about how they group particular items together so that shoppers can compare similar items or purchase related products.

Ecommerce stores should duplicate this practice by displaying alternative and/or complimentary products to those that a shopper has selected. Look to other e-tailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble for cross-selling and up-selling inspiration.

Ecommerce Tip #5

Ecommerce Tip - Always display shopping cart items.

During a shopping session, users want to be aware of which items they have selected. Many successful ecommerce sites have implemented small shopping carts that display on every page. These mini carts are usually located at the top of a web page or in a sidebar. Mini carts may display a number of selected items, a list of the selected items, and/or a running total. Once shoppers proceed to checkout, a detailed full-page shopping cart is displayed.

This post is number 5 of 10 in a series of ecommerce tips.

Ecommerce Tip #4

Ecommerce Tip - Include plenty of product details.

Unlike traditional brick and mortar stores, ecommerce websites do not allow consumers to inspect or try out a tangible product. Make sure your shoppers know exactly what they are getting by providing detailed product information.

Ecommerce Tip #3

Ecommerce Tip - Clearly identify actions.

All buttons (such as add to cart, continue shopping, and checkout) should be obvious and easy for users to locate. Try to keep buttons above the fold (visible on the screen without scrolling). Using both icons and text can also make actions easily identifiable.

Ecommerce Tip #2

Ecommerce Tip - Don't ask for too much information up front.

Many shoppers will be turned off if they are asked to fill out a registration form as soon as they begin shopping. Keep shoppers happy by allowing them to add items to their shopping cart without registering. This will create a more pleasant shopping experience without unnecessary interruptions. The shopper's information can be gathered later during the checkout process.

This post is number 2 of 10 in a series of ecommerce tips.

Ecommerce Tip #1

When it comes to online purchases, shoppers are looking for something safe, quick, and easy. In the next 10 posts, I will be sharing tips to help you create an online shopping experience that will lead to happy repeat customers.

Ecommerce Tip - Make your products easy to find.

Confused by the cloud?

Are you still confused by the term cloud computing? According to Wikipedia, "Cloud computing is a paradigm of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the Internet." In other words, cloud computing allows you to access resources over the Internet rather than storing those resources in-house.

More Cloud Terminology

Bing Now Has Visual Search

Microsoft announced a beta version of Visual Search for Bing today at Tech Crunch 50 in San Francisco. Visual Search allows you to search by images rather than text. This should come in handy when you know what something or someone looks like, but you can't remember the name for it.

Storm Clouds on the Horizon?

As most people already know, there was a Gmail outage earlier this week. In fact, with the extensive news, blog, and social network coverage, you would almost have to be living under a rock not to have heard about it. The Gmail outage left both those with personal and business accounts without email for a reported 100 minutes.

Will it Snow this weekend?

Apple released Mac OS 10.6, aka Snow Leopard today. The big question is whether to run out and get a copy to install over the weekend.

The corollary question is whether I want to have to go out and upgrade all my applications this weekend and spend the weekend backing up, installing and debugging. With Snow Leopard's push to be 64 bit, along with other changes, some applications and support software (printer/scanner) drivers will require updates (http://snowleopard.wikidot.com/). While a number are already documented, there are probably a few gotchas to come.