The rare option is to stuff a SIM in your laptop; yes, there really are laptops with SIM slots just like they used to have modems back in the Dark Ages. Think Lenovo T420, for example. Next is the option of a 3G USB stick, which is one of the most popular approaches and which is actually pretty usable these days. When they first came out, particularly before Windows Vista, compatibility between dongle and operating system was a nightmare. My favourite is a “MiFi” portable access point – it connects to the 3G data network and presents the connection to your laptop via a mini WiFi hotspot. Mine cost me 30 quid, it charges quickly via a USB port, and if we're in an out-of-office meeting several of us can share it between our various laptops and non-3G-equipped tablets.You'll have noticed that I keep talking about 3G, and you're probably wondering: “What about 4G”?The answer: it's just the same. 3G was the first mobile technology that was actually fast enough to use for real computing on the move. Although 4G is a different technology, that difference is hidden from you and all you see is a much faster link. You just pick “4G” or “LTE” instead of “3G” in the settings and the device does the rest. And I really mean “much faster” - I saw a lab test run a 4G download at over 140Mbit/sec recently, for instance.
One word of warning: if you're paying by the megabyte, be careful when you go for fast technologies: a fatter “pipe” means that you can download more data than before, and hence rack up a bigger bill than before, in a given time period.So, we've talked about getting the devices connected to the world so you can access stuff with them, but how do we make that “stuff” accessible? With regards to what we mean by “stuff”, it starts with the basic email and calendar functions that we all have on our phones and then works up through browser-based applications (which again can be accessed natively from pretty much any device, as everything has a browser on it these days) and ends with applications that can only run on a particular platform and which can't be accessed natively on a portable device.The most common examples of the latter are Windows-based apps. No matter how hard you try you're not, for example, going to be able to dip into your database stats with SQL Server Management Studio on your iPhone because there isn't an iPhone version. The answer is to run them on a corporate server and to provide a “window” into that server, which means you'll have an application such as a simple Windows Remote Desktop client or perhaps a more proprietary equivalent like the VMware Horizon Client or Citrix Receiver.
In its basic form, access to email, calendars and browser-based applications is pretty noddy: for email you present an ActiveSync service as an Internet-facing service on your firewall, and you reverse-proxy your applications in a similar way to present them securely via your Internet connection, preferably using two-factor authentication, please. The users point their devices at the appropriate host, and Bob's their collective uncle. Presenting platform-specific apps will require some more thought, of course, because if you're going to give the user a VMware, Terminal Services or Citrix presentation on their client device you'll need to implement the corresponding VMware, Terminal Services or Citrix services at the server end too. Basic Terminal Services is pretty straightforward; the others are more performant and robust but more complex.Increasingly, we're told, IT types who understand their organisation's business can help their business and get ahead. But what does “understanding” the business actually mean? Why does it matter and how does an ambitious IT professional get the mix of skills needed to attain that understanding and also hit the fast track?
The IT recruitment market is flying, having picked up to a post-recession high. As IT recruiters battle to fill vacancies, competition for the best people has led to a frenzied market, with the right candidates being offered jobs at interview stage and the most sought-after skills commanding salaries up 10 per cent on this time last year.Despite the buoyancy of the market, companies still complain of skills shortages as the quest for a new breed of business-focused IT pros steps up a pace. And while the temptation may be for technical roles to wow prospective bosses with jargon and lists of technical certifications, many roles today encourage you to park the geek-speak.From programmer to project manager, regardless of the technical intricacies of your role “employers increasingly favour well-rounded IT workers with a mix of soft skills, business savvy and technical knowledge, over one-dimensional techies,” Tom Reilly, vice president at CompTIA Learning, told The Reg. Such is the need for people who can straddle both business and IT that companies are resorting to moving technically minded business people into IT in their desperation to achieve that blend.
The IT department is increasingly being seen as a profit rather than a cost centre with IT budgets commonly split between keeping the lights on and spend on innovation and revenue-generating projects. “Historically IT was about keeping the infrastructure running and there was no real understanding outside of that, but the days of IT being locked in a basement are gradually changing,” managing director of recruiter Spring Technology Richard Protherough said.The evolution shouldn’t come as a surprise: the IT department is increasingly being seen as a profit rather than a cost centre with IT budgets commonly split between keeping the lights on and spend on innovation and revenue-generating projects. We’re also seeing far more CIOs on the board rather than reporting into the CFO or director of resources.Rob White, a specialist technology and project recruitment consultant at Venn Group, has noticed growing demand for roles that can straddle business and IT competencies. Project managers have long been in demand but now the role of product manager is one increasingly in demand among tech start-ups in particular, White says. “They don’t need to write the code but they need to understand technology to deliver the project as quickly as possible,” he adds.
You're not as daft as you're cabbage looking: Train up and you can beat the MBAs at their own game And yet a recent report by the Prince’s Trust revealed that more than 40 per cent of companies are experiencing skills gaps within their firms, prompting the Royal Academy of Engineering earlier this year to launch a new programme through its Enterprise Hub to help growing businesses overcome their skills gaps.Pathways to Growth invites SMEs to apply for up to £20,000 to provide training and support in any area that will help them grow their business. “From the first round of applications, we’ve seen that these organisations have especially been looking for support to develop staff skills in sales, marketing, networking and design,” says Arnoud Jullens, head of enterprise at the Royal Academy of Engineering.For those corporates racking their brains as to the best way to achieve that mix of skills, Protherough says companies have to accept that they will have to take on a lot of the responsibility for training staff. “You’ll have to grow your own. It’s about cross-training, engaging the business into IT and getting departments to collaborate on projects.
For ambitious individuals, it’s more important than ever that they can show themselves, whether through their CVs, social media presence or during the interview process, as being in possession of the skills needed to interact with the multiple business departments in an engaging and approachable way.Rather than rely on your boss to send you on a training course, employees with a career game plan need to take responsibility for their own development and nurture the business skills so sought after by industry. Fundamentally it’s about being interested, according to Protherough.Breaking Fad What was your first streaming device? Over recent months, there has been a glut of them, but the first to find a space on my network was a Roku SoundBridge (or, more accurately, Pinnacle SoundBridge HomeMusic, as it was known in the UK).It's pretty basic by modern standards, with a decidedly clunky interface and a two line LCD display, but it can be controlled by smartphone apps, and as well as playing music stored on my Synology, it can also pick up internet radio streams.
Next up was a rather more chunky Neodigits Helios X5000, which was built like a tank, with audiophile grade components, the ability to play a wide range of HD video formats and also FLAC audio. It can't be used for audio without a TV, didn't support H.264 and turned out to have a decidedly dodgy approach to electrical insulation. So, while the SoundBridge soldiers on in the bedroom, the X5000 hasn't even been plugged in for years and just takes up space.That's something that certainly can't be said of the latest wave of streaming gadgets. There seems to have been something of a deluge of these coming my way lately, and since they're also the sort of thing that may find their way into a gadget-lover's Xmas shopping list, I thought I'd take a look at some of the things worth bearing in mind when you're shopping – though given the space, this won't be a full scale review of any of them.The QED uPlay streamer supports FLAC and AppleLossless, though the app is a little clunky The QED uPlay streamer supports FLAC and AppleLossless, though the app is a little clunky The QED uPlay streamer supports FLAC and AppleLossless, though the app is a little clunky