Defining Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Needs

RecoveryWhat kind of Technology do you use?   Is your entire business on a single Desktop PC or Notebook?  Does your office use a File Server or multiple Application Servers? Do you have multiple offices?  Do you have just a few employees or an office of hundreds?  Are any of your services, such a email already hosted in “The Cloud?” Does your business use traditional phone lines, a PBX, Voice Over IP?  Is your company already using inherently resilient Software-as-a-Service products for Customer Relationship Management, Business Intelligences, Project Management, or Financial/Accounting Services?

Technology is the great equalizer and remarkably, many of the Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Solutions are similar regardless of the size of the organization or specific technologies in use.

Every Business has the same goal:  Restore business operations as quickly as possible.

For example, all Businesses need the following Disaster Recovery Services to achieve Business Continuity as the recovery progresses:
Reliable Communication to Family, Friends, and Emergency Services
Power
Food and Water
Extended Communication Capabilities to Staff, Customers, and the Media
Access to Business Critical Data (Sales and Financial Systems)
Ability to recover and return to normal operations as quickly as possible
Cross-Training of Staff to assist in Rapid Recovery

How these functions are accomplished depends on the scale required to accommodate the number of Staff affected by the Disaster or Disruption to normal business operations.

If you are an individual consultant that only bills once per week and you backup your data after each accounting session, then the inability to bill for a few days may not be an issue.  However, if you are a sales based organization with the need to file customer orders throughout the day, being off-line for more than a day could seriously impact your cash flow.

The key consideration is in designing any Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plan is to determine how much data can you afford to lose between the time of the interruption event and the last backup of your data.  And, how long can you afford to be off-line, without access to your Business Critical Operations before it negatively or permanently impacts your business?

A brief refresher in Traditional Analog and Digital Voice Telephony

Bell System Logo

Bell System Logo

If you have a telephone company provided wall jack for each individual phone line in your home or office, you probably have POTS – Plain Old Telephone Service – an affectionate name for traditional Analog copper phone line service.    This is a physical pair of copper wires that are directly connected between your home or office and the Telephone Company Central Office.  Each pair of copper wires from the Telephone Company provides an individual dial tone and phone number for your Telephone.

Traditionally, it is the responsibility of the Telephone Company Central Office to provide dial tone, line voltage, and ring voltage to that copper pair – the power that makes the phone work.  As many of us remember in the days before the Internet, even if the Utility Power was out, we could still make and receive phone calls.  Telephone sets had mechanical or electronic bells completely powered by the electricity provided from the Telephone Company Central Office.

If you have a larger organization with dozens of telephones and each person has their own direct dial telephone number and/or dedicated extension, you probably have a PBX (Private Branch Exchange – On-Premise Telephone Switch or Phone System) in a closet with one or more Primary Rate Interface (PRI) Digital Circuits from the Telephone Company.   Each PRI is capable of providing up to 23 simultaneous voice conversations.  A PRI is a special type of copper wire circuit, again between the Telephone Company Central Office and your Office.

Unlike the Analog POTS circuit described above, where there is a one to one relationship between the pair of copper and a telephone number, with a PRI, a virtually unlimited quantity of telephone numbers can be supported but only 23 simultaneous voice conversations can occur at one time per PRI circuit.

In either case, the similarities are that there is very long copper wire between the Telephone Company and your home or office.

If you have Telephone Service from a Cable company, you have a hybrid service that is a combination of both Digital and Analog services.  The “long copper wire” described above is replaced by a digital VoIP (Voice Over IP) service provided through a Cable Modem.

VoIP is a fancy term for delivering traditional telephone services over an IP Data Network, in this context, the Internet.

The VoIP service connects back to the Cable Company Telephone Central Office over the same Coaxial Cable that carries your television service.  Your existing telephone plugs in to an ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter – usually built in to the Cable Modem) that converts the digital VoIP data in to the traditional Analog, two wire pair that your telephone can use.

If you have Telephone Service from Verizon FiOS, you have a hybrid service that is also a combination of both Digital and Analog services similar to that which is provided by the Cable Company.  The difference is that the digital VoIP (Voice Over IP) service travels through a Fiber Optic Cable as laser pulsed light, instead of as electrical signals through Coaxial Cable, back to the Verizon Telephone Central Office.  Your existing telephone plugs in to an ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) that is built in to an ONT – Optical Network Transmission unit.  The ONT is a specialized piece of equipment that converts the laser pulsed light in the Fiber Optic cable to an electrical signal that the ATA can use to provide dial-tone and a telephone number to your single line telephone.

The Telephony infrastructure is changing at a rapid pace.   It is now extremely rare to have an actual single pair of copper wire connected between your home or office and a Telephone Central Office five or twenty five miles away.  From the beginning of telephone service as we know it dating back over a century, this was common practice and exactly how the original AT&T Telephone Network was built.

In the examples above, Verizon FiOS is converting the Analog electrical signal that your telephone needs to a Digital Light Pulse inside the ONT installed in your home or office.   In essence, Verizon has replaced the miles of traditional copper wire with a Fiber Optic Cable directly connecting your home or office to the Verizon Telephone Central Office.

In areas where Verizon cannot bring Fiber Cable directly to your home or office, they replace the hundreds of pairs and miles of copper wire with Fiber Optic Cable to Junction Boxes in each neighborhood.  (One Fiber Optic Cable can replace hundreds or even thousands of copper pairs of wires.)  In each Junction Box is a monster size ONT that does exactly the same thing as the one used in the Verizon FiOS installation in your home or office above:  It converts the Analog Electrical Signals for the hundreds of pairs of copper wires that run from the Junction Box to your home or office in to pulses of light that travel over the Fiber Optic Cable back to the Verizon Central Telephone Office.

Can a Small Business Windows PC User move to a Mac?

Mac Windows LogosAdmit it.  You’ve looked at them.  We have all looked at them.  Apple has spent millions in advertising so that we cannot miss them:  The New Mac Book Air and Mac Book Pro notebook computers.  The Mac Book Air is ultra light.  The Mac Book Pro has an amazing screen.  And the iMac and Mac Mini desktops are more like sculptures than computers.

But you live in a Windows world with Microsoft Office and Quickbooks and probably feel like all you can do is longingly gaze at those sleek aluminum cases and dream about the day that you might be able to run your business on a Mac.

Well someday may be today for you.

There is a good chance that Microsoft Office for Mac and Quickbooks for Mac versions may just set you free from Microsoft Windows.  Especially if you are not using any of the advanced features of the Windows version and you have limited sharing needs for your Calendar and don’t need to share you Quickbooks data file with other users.

There are a few key differences in Microsoft Office for Mac:
The keyboard short cuts will be a little different due to the differences between the Windows and Mac keyboard command structure.  For example, PC’s have a “Windows” key and Mac’s have a “Command” key.

The fonts may be slightly different so you may have to substitute or purchase fonts for a close or exact match. However, if you use the standard font in the Windows version there is a very similar Mac version so spacing and document layout should be maintained without issue.

Macro support is not as comprehensive on the Mac version.  If you have extensive use of Macros, you will want to test your documents and spreadsheets before fully committing.

Outlook sync to other services, such as Google, is not as strong in the Mac version and some calendar/event tagging is handled differently.

If you predominantly write letters and simple reports, create basic spreadsheets with standard formula tools, and use Outlook as an email client with a Contact address book and Calendar, you should be fine.  Both Windows and Mac versions can open and save each other’s Microsoft Office files without issue.

Here are some key differences for Quickbooks for Mac:

Quickbooks for Mac does not offer the Premier Specialized Editions. One key benefit of a Premier Edition is the predefined reports.  However, you can easily duplicate most of those reports through the report writer.

The only Intuit Payroll option is “Quickbooks Complete Payroll” which is Intuit’s version of a payroll service.  (You report the hours, Quickbooks Complete Payroll takes care of the rest including direct deposit or mailing checks and all tax filings.)  If you presently use a third party payroll service like ADP or PayChex, then there is no issue at all as nothing changes.

If on your Windows version, you use the Basic Payroll (Tax Tables Only) or the Enhanced Payroll (Tax Tables plus Federal and State Tax Forms Printing), you are out-of-luck.

There is no multi-user version of Quickbooks for Mac.  It is a single install, single user program.

If you are the only user of your Quickbooks program, do not do payroll yourself and don’t need predefined advanced reports, the QuickBooks for Mac will certainly do the job without issue.

Quickbooks has a one-time conversion process to move the data file from the Windows to Mac version.  After that, once you Start Quickbooks for the first time on a Mac, the layout, look, and feel are pretty much the same – only cooler – because it is on a Mac.

Mobile Device Management – Verizon VZ Manager Software

Verizon VZ Access Manager Logo

Verizon VZ Access Manager

If you are a Verizon Wireless Cellular Data customer, you most likely use the Verizon VZ Manager program to manage your connection to the Internet.  VZ Manager is available for both the Mac and PC Operating Systems.  You need to run the correct version of VZ Manager based on the specific Verizon Wireless Cellular Data Device you are using.  In some cases, newer versions of the Verizon VZ Manager Software that support 4G devices may not support older Verizon 3G Cellular Data Devices.

To find the correct version and download the VZ Manager Software for your specific Verizon Cellular Data device, visit:

http://www.vzam.net/download/supported.aspx

Once you load the VZ Manager Software on either a Mac or PC and connect your Verizon Cellular Data Device, the first thing you need to do is to activate the device.   This is accomplished from the OPTIONS menu by clicking on “Activation.”

If everything works properly, the VZ Manager Software will make an initial connection to the Verizon Wireless Cellular Data Network and link your new device to your account enabling you to connect to the Internet.  During the initial connection, you may be prompted to allow the VZ Manager Software to either update itself or download Firmware updates to your device.

You may be prompted to reconnect multiple times during this update process.  The last update is usually a roaming list that includes specialized network information to allow you to connect to both the Verizon Cellular Network and other Cellular Carries where Verizon has Cellular Data Network Sharing agreements.

There is a special caveat for Mac users:  The Mac version of the Verizon VZ Manager Software is unable to update the Firmware of the Cellular Data Cards.  This must be done using the Microsoft Windows version of the Verizon VZ Manager Software.  (Firmware is a specialized kind of software that manages the autonomic functions of the device.  The best analogy is that you do not have to think for your heart to beat, your lungs to breath, or your eyes to see. Your body just takes care of these things.)

There are few options to accomplish this task.  If you are fortunate enough to have a Windows notebook that is also compatible with your Verizon Cellular Data card, just follow the instructions above to install the updates and prepare your card for Mac use.

If you are running a Microsoft Windows Virtual Machine in either VMWare Fusion or Parallels for Mac, you can assign your device to the Windows Virtual Machine; Download the Microsoft Windows version of the Verizon VZ Manager Software for your particular Cellular Device, perform the activation again, and apply the updates. Upon completion, you simply disconnect from your Windows Virtual Machine and re-launch your Mac version of the Verizon VZ Manager Software.  At least once every three months, and preferably monthly, you should repeat this process so that your Verizon Cellular Device is always up-to-date.

NOTE:  If the previous paragraph made no sense to you then you are not running a Microsoft Virtual Machine, so move on to the next option.

If you do not have a Windows Virtual Machine on your Mac, and you do not own a Windows Notebook that is compatible with your specific Verizon Cellular Data Card, then find a friend who does.  Hopefully, they will let you download and install the Verizon VZ Manager Software for Windows and update your Verizon Cellular Data Card.  Not to worry, activation and updating of your Verizon Cellular Data Card is Air Time Free and does not dip in to your Data Plan.

For AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile customers, the procedure is pretty much the same.  One company, Smith Micro, pretty much writes the software and rebrands it for each Cellular Data Carrier.  And, only a few companies, such as Novatel, Pantech, LG, and Kyocera manufacture the majority of PCMCIA, Express, and USB Stick Cellular Data Devices.

Mobile Device Management – Containing The Mobile Invasion

Mobile Devices

Mobile Devices

When Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” was walking through the Forrest, she exclaimed, “Lions and Tigers and Bears – Oh my.”    Trust me when I say that most Information Technology Staff have the very same sentiment, “Cell Phones, Tablets, and Notebooks – Oh My” when walking through the office and seeing the extreme variety, feel every bit as much in peril as Dorothy.

Why?  Because every one of those devices is a potentially unsecured entry point in to the corporate network and might be able to access sensitive data.

What is an Information Technology Manager to do?   Ban all mobile devices from accessing the Network?  Demand that only mobile devices issued by the Company and properly secured may connect to the Network?  Tell the CEO that she cannot use her iPad to read her mail?  Tell the CFO that he cannot access or look at the latest corporate financials on his iPhone because Apple does not understand “enterprise security?”  Make everyone use a Blackberry curve?

There must be a better answer and there is.

It is called Mobile Device Management.  The technology is available from a number of different vendors.  It enables Information Technology Staff to secure and manage most well know brands of Smart Cell Phones, Tablets, and Notebooks from a centralized console.

Each Mobile Device Management vendor implements the solution slightly differently but with the same general result:  the Information Technology Staff can apply and enforce usage policies, approve specific apps, determine the location of the device, enforce proper login credentials, and remotely wipe lost or stolen devices.

Another great feature is the standardization of Management Interface (Dashboard) of the various mobile platforms.  The Information Technology person does not need to be concerned about if he or she is managing an iPhone or an Android phone.  The Mobile Device Management software presents a single, unified view by class of device:  All Cell Phones and All Tablets.  Of course the granularity is there should one want to take advantage of specific features available in say an IOS device (iPhone, iPod, iPad) vs. and Android phone or tablet.

When performing a review of Mobile Device Management software platforms, there are a number of considerations to review.  These include how many devices you have to manage?  Are they predominantly Apple devices, Android Devices or something else?  Are the mobile devices being used in your corporate environment by your employees supported?  Does the Mobile Device Management Platform support all the versions of the mobile device operating systems in-use?  And, from an Administrative perspective:  Is the software license purchased as a one-time fee or is this a monthly service?

The important take-away from this article is that mobile devices, especially ones that your own Information Technology Department do not official support represent a real threat to your sensitive corporate data and need to be “cleared” prior to being allowed to access data on your network.

Think of it this way:  For those of you that work in larger offices, visitors are signed in, logged, and guided.  They don’t just wander in the front door and walk aimlessly around office.

Why would you allow a perfect stranger, such as someone’s personal smart phone, access your corporate data network without being escorted in?

The answer:  You wouldn’t

It’s 2013 – Do you know where your sensitive corporate data is?

Data File Security

Data File Security

There was a time in the 1970’s through about 1995, before the modern Internet, when the person who managed your Information Technology could say with absolute certainty that he or she knew all of the possible entry points in to your network and exactly where your sensitive corporate data was stored.

In the early days of Information Technology, data resided on a mini-computer or mainframe that was installed in a special room that was physically locked in the center of your office space.  Green Screen “Dumb” terminals were the only way to access the Corporate Data.  There was no connectivity to the outside world.  The only way data entered or exited your office was on paper or possibly a heavily guarded backup tape in-transit to an off-site storage location.

In the late 1980’s, the Green Screen “Dumb” Terminal begins to be replaced with the “Smart” Personal Computer.  In fact, the mini-computer and mainframe for many applications also begins to be replaced by more powerful Personal Computers known as Servers.  With the dawn of the Personal Computer, came the Floppy Disk, Zip Disk, and similar precursors to the modern day USB Flash Stick Drive.

Even though data was now being created and stored outside the highly secured “Server Room”, the Information Technology Manager still had a significant amount of control as floppy disk drives could be disabled.  Data stored on Floppy Disks or Tape had the potential for “mobility” but could be serialized and tracked like any other corporate asset.

Few PC’s had direct communications capabilities to the outside world and even if they did, Modems were extremely slow.   Since Modems used regular phone lines, and all pricing was “per minute” it was easy, even if after the fact, to notice a multi-hour phone call to AOL or Compuserve (early online services) and investigate.

Data, up until the turn of the century, mostly left an organization the old fashioned way:  on paper.  Again, depending on the volume of information being printed, the Information Technology person might notice excessive printing activity and then investigate.

After about 1995, with the accessibility of the Internet starting to become common place and significant price drops in the cost of Personal Computers, for the first time, an employee might actually be able to take data from the office and bring it home to continue working on it.  Communication speeds increase dramatically and now instead of taking hours for a file to be transferred via Electronic Mail or a File Sharing Service, it takes minutes or seconds.

It is at this point in the timeline of the modern computer era that the Information Technology Staff can no longer say with any certainty or confidence that they “know were all of the corporate data is.”

No longer is the transport of sensitive corporate data limited to that which could be physically carried out the door on paper or a disk, but now it can be sent across town or across the country or globe in an almost untraceable manner over the Internet.  I say almost untraceable because the tools were not widely available to the average Information Technology person, nor was there a mindset, of securing and tracking both the creation, management, and transport of sensitive corporate data in the majority of businesses.  (Banks, Public Companies, and Government Agencies are generally the exception.)

As the realization hits home that data has become mobile, technology catches up and businesses start to create policies and implement tools that are able to track the movement of sensitive information within an organization and in many cases prevent it from leaving the confines of the company.

Tools to accomplish this include the ability to log the username of every person who accessed specific files, such as Microsoft Word Document or Excel Spreadsheet for real time or after the fact review (audit trails); Advanced Content Filtering Firewalls that can scan every email and attachment going in and out of a company via the Internet looking for key words that might indicate a security breach or espionage; and, Company Policy Manuals that explicitly and politely remind employees about the definitions of “Confidential” and “Proprietary.”  Even though most every Personal Computer has a USB or CD/DVD drive, the Write functions can be disabled or password controlled as an added measure of security.

So when you walk in to your office today, take a look around and ask yourself, “Do you know where your sensitive Corporate Data is?”  And, more importantly, “What have you done to secure it?”

If you or your Information Technology person cannot answer this question with the same certainty of 30 years ago, engage a Data Security Professional who can help put the “Genie back in the Bottle” and keep your sensitive corporate data secure.

MoCA Ethernet over Coax Cable – It’s not just for TV anymore!

Actiontec ECB2500C

Actiontec ECB2500C

Thanks to the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA), a standard is emerging to enable devices such as set-top boxes, computers, and smart TV’s to communicate with each other and network over the existing Coaxial cable (Cable TV Wire) already in the walls of most homes and offices. It does not matter if the Coax wire is in use to distribute TV service from a cable company, Verizon FiOS, or Over-the-Are Free Broadcast DTV or not in use at all and just sitting there.

Some background:   Wi-Fi® enabled Internet Routers in many homes and small offices have replaced the need to run classic network data cables meeting the Cat 5e or Cat6 standard.  Unfortunately, Wi-Fi® is susceptible to interference. traffic jams and distance/range limitations.  There are only so many channels in which Wi-Fi® can operate and in densely populated areas during peak times, Wi-Fi® can experience a kind of traffic jam similar to the Long Island Expressway at rush hour.  In other cases, the WiFi signal is just not strong enough to reach to every corner of the home or office.

When running new data network cabling is not possible, making the Cable TV wire already in your home or offices do double duty may be your best option. It is MoCA to the rescue to enable you to run Ethernet over the Coax wire already in every room.

For example:  MoCA enabled devices, such as the FiOS Internet Routers, already serve up IP network addresses to the FiOS Set-top boxes over Coax.  (This is how your FiOS set-top boxes get Guide and Widget information and their Internet functionality.)  In fact, the new TiVo Premiere devices are MoCA capable and can use the Coax for their Ethernet/Internet connection instead of traditional network data cabling.

By adding a MoCA Network Adapter, to which you can connect any standard Ethernet enabled device such top computers, notebooks, smart TV’s, media streaming devices (like AppleTV or Internet Radio), and Blu-ray players, you now have a rock-solid network connection to your FiOS Internet Router.

(By standard Ethernet device, I am referring to any device that has an RJ-45 female jack and uses a standard male/mail RJ-45 Cat5e or Cat6 data patch cable to connect to a wired network.  And, a MoCA Network Adapter has a single Ethernet port and Coax Connection to bridge the two different technologies.)

You are probably thinking, “But I don’t have FiOS.  I have Cablevision, Comcast or some other CATV provider.”  Not an issue. Just add one additional MoCA Network adapter to the Coax cable that feeds your Cable Modem.  Then connect the Ethernet Port on the Adapter to one of the Jacks on your Internet Router.  You have just IP enabled your Coax to serve up Ethernet over Coax to every room in your home or office.  By adding additional MoCA Ethernet over Coax adapters anywhere you have Coax cable you can immediately get “hard wired” network stability and performance to share files between devices or access the Internet.

Privacy Note:  It is important that if you are using MoCA Network Adapters connected to Coax that is also delivering your TV, Internet or Phone Service from outside your home or office, that you use a MoCA “Point of Entry” Filter where the Coax first enters your premises.  This would usually be where the grounding block is installed.  The MoCA Point of Entry filter keeps the IP address information that is being distributed across your Coax INSIDE your home or office.  Otherwise anyone adding a MoCA Network Adapter could access your network.

Technical Note:  The most popular brand and widely available MoCA Network Adapter is from Actiontec.  It is a model ECB2500C or ECB2200V.  The models are functionally identical except the V suffix indicates a Verizon Logo on the unit.  They are available as a single unit or as a pair.  Visit the Actiontec Site here: http://bit.ly/ZqQ52y

Sales Note:  At the time of this writing, TiVo is selling the Actiontec MoCA Network Adapter for $49.99 which is significantly less than the normal price of $79. TiVo also sells the MoCA Point of Entry Filter for $8.99.  Visit the TiVo store here: http://www.tivo.com/products/tivo-accessories/index.html

Car Tech – The New 2014 Range Rover Sport – Naught to 60 in 5.0 Seconds

2014 Range Rover Sport

2014 Range Rover Sport

The 2014 Range Rover Sport is a marriage of technology and machine like no other.  This is what happens when you take the DNA of the family of most capable of sport utility vehicles on the planet and merge it with the latest advances in design, performance, safety, and technology.

This is the fastest Land Rover ever thanks to an all new aluminum architecture that has reduced the weight of the Sport by about 800lbs.  Add to this an advanced ZF eight-speed transmission connected to a sixth-generation, twin vortex, supercharged 510bhp 5-litre V8 and you get 0-60mph acceleration in 5.0 seconds.  Now you can leave a significant number of your friends “in-the-dust” at the stop light.  No longer do you have to sacrifice fun and performance for SUV capability and ruggedness.  The synergy is complete in the 2014 NEW Range Rover Sport.

I attended the world premier launch party in Manhattan tonight and what makes the 2014 Range Rover Sport exceptionally interesting to me is the leap forward in vehicle technologies.  These include almost every new innovation in automotive safety and convenience available.

In addition to “Lane Departure Warning” which will vibrate the steering wheel if the vehicle starts to drift from the lane without an obvious lane change, Land Rover added in “Traffic Sign Recognition.”  This feature uses a camera to identify traffic signs, regardless of position: left, right, or overhead, and displays it in the Instrument Cluster.  As the vehicle moves away from the sign, the displayed sign fades away.  Land Rover also brings back a classic “Automatic High Beam Assist” that automatically switches the head lights between high and low by tracking oncoming head lights from approaching vehicles and the taillights of those ahead of you.

A great new feature for those of us who frequent self-park garages is something called “Flank Guard.”  Think of this as proximity radar for your car.  With the addition of extra sensors on the front and rear bumpers, the 2014 Range Rover Sport does a better job of warning you about pillars, barriers, and other vehicles.  It does so through the central instrument cluster by displaying a graphical image indicating the proximity of objects with distance bars.  It combines this with your current steering angle and trajectory to warn of any impending impact.  These sensors are also used for traditional “Reverse Traffic Detection” to warn of any objects or people behind the vehicle while backing up.

Land Rover has taken “Adaptive Cruise Control” to a new level.  This new function operates both at lower speeds and even when the vehicle is stationary to help keep the vehicle at a pre-set time gap (distance) to the vehicle in front of you.  An enhancement called “Queue Assist” will even allow the vehicle to come to a complete stop in a traffic jam.  In addition, Land Rover has introduced an “Adjustable Speed Limiter Device” which enables you to set a personal maximum speed limit.  This should help drivers stay within the “acceptable” speed limit when transiting the many traffic enforcement zones throughout the North East.

Related driver assistance technologies include “Blind Spot Monitoring” using side mounted radar sensors to alert the driver when other vehicles enter in to blind spots.  And, a brand new technology called “Closing Vehicle Sensing” which scans much further behind your vehicle to detect fast approaching vehicles from behind moving in to your blind spot that may interfere with a lane change.

Perhaps my absolute favorite technological feature is Land Rover’s “Surround Camera System” which in addition to showing a 360 degree view around the vehicle also includes trailer reverse park guidance showing the track of both the vehicle and the trailer.  The 360 degree view is especially useful while parallel parking in New York City as frequently there are railings around trees, errant garbage cans and trash that spill over the curb that can potentially ding your vehicle.  It also takes 100% of the guess work out of exactly how much more room you have before you “tap” the car in front or behind you, or the curb.

Land Rover moves in to the next generation of Artificial Intelligence with “Advanced Park Assist” functions.  These include “Park Assist” which both helps identify if that parking space is really big enough for you to squeeze in to, then automatically steers your vehicle in to it.  “Park Exit” which steers you out of that tight parking space back to the road; and, “Perpendicular Park” which helps you back in to a space and makes sure that you have enough clearance to open the doors.

“There’s an App for that.”  The 2014 New Range Rover Sport is the first Land Rover to have a 3G WiFi Hotspot and the Land Rover Smart App.  You will be able to check how much Fuel is in the tank, see your trip history, find your Land Rover if you have forgotten where you parked, (very useful in large mall parking lots), and it will alert you if you have forgotten to lock your vehicle.  Your Range Rover Sport will be fully connected to a real-time information system and passengers will be able to browse the Web.  (For more information on Wi-Fi®, see my article, “Mobile Communications Technology Overview.”)

Land Rover is also introducing “InTouch” which appears to be a distinctly British implementation of what GM markets as “OnStar.”  The “InTouch” system will enable you to summon help without a phone and automatically call for help if it detects a serious accident or air bag deployment.

For the “Top Gun” Fighter Pilot in all of us, the Range Rover Sport will be the first Land Rover to offer a “Heads-up Display” which will project key vehicle and navigation data directly in to the drivers view.  This is the one feature that I have always wanted just for the pure “cool toy” factor.  Now if they can just add in the James Bond style missiles and machine guns… or at least perhaps innocuous laser beams that you could fire at the cars in front of you to pretend that you are clearing the road of errant drivers, it would make driving really fun.

The 2014 New Range Rover Sport is perhaps one of the most technologically advanced vehicles soon to be on the road.  Land Rover has truly pulled ahead of the competition and is now the absolute leader in the Sport Luxury SUV class.

The 2014 New Range Rover Sport should start to arrive in Land Rover showrooms in September of 2013.  For more information, visit https://newrangeroversport.landrover.com/us/en#launch or http://www.landrover.com

One final note:  For those of you like me that may prefer the Land Rover LR4, the redesign is due for the 2015 model year.  At the launch event, I met Gerry McGovern, Design Director & Chief Creative Officer of Land Rover, who told me personally, (loosely translated from British speak), “…It will knock your socks off…”  And also, John Edwards, Global Brand Director, Land Rover, that the Land Rover LR4 is at the core of everything Land Rover and that the next generation will be similarly, if not more impressive in its’ evolution. (I gave him my card and perhaps I will get invited to a preview focus group or at least to the launch party.)  I am counting down the days…

Hurricane Tech – Make your Smartphone a WiFi Hot Spot with Tethering

WiFi TetherWhen the Power is out, if you do not have a Generator, access to the Internet through your home or office Wired or WiFi Router will be out as well.  Fortunately, Smartphones and many WiFi capable devices such as iPad’s, eReader’s, and Notebook Computers can run on Battery Power when Electrical Power is not available.

A technology called “Tethering” allows many Smartphones to share their Internet data connection capability through the embedded WiFi in the Smartphone.  This enables the Smartphone to become a mobile Hot Spot, similar to a MiFi so that any other WiFi enabled device, like your WiFi only iPad, eReader, or Notebook Computer can access the Internet through your Smartphone.

(For more details on mobile data Internet connections, see my article “Mobile Communications Technology Overview”.)

In many cases the Cellular Carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint charge an extra monthly fee for the Tethering capability and a separate Data Plan for the additional usage.  This is especially true if your phone has a grandfathered “Unlimited Data Plan.”  Verizon requires Unlimited Data Plan users to have a separate data plan for Tethering.  With the new Verizon Share Everything Plans, the Data usage and Tethering capability are included and you only pay for the Data you use across all of the devices on your Share Everything Plan.  With other Carriers you may still be required to pay an extra fee for the Tethering capability of your Smartphone.

However, every rule has its’ exceptions.  With certain Smartphones based on the Android mobile operating system, (that would be most phones that are NOT iPhones, Windows based, or Blackberry’s), “unofficially” no additional fee is required.  At Verizon, it is official, based on the FCC Tethering consent decree in July 2012. You need only to browse the Google Play Store, searching on the word, “Tethering” to download an “App” that can turn the Tethering Feature “On” for you.

To clarify:  If you have either a 3G or 4G Tiered Data (like the Verizon Share Everything Plan or AT&T Mobile Share Plan), you can download any number of 3rd Party Apps which will enable your Android to Tether and become Mobile Hot Spot.  Unlimited Data Plan Users technically still need to pay Verizon or AT&T a Tethering Fee and have a separate data plan.  You should call your Cellular Carrier to verify the usage terms of your Agreement.

Be advised that right now some of the Carriers seem to be ignoring this grey area of the usage policy but that is subject to change. Keep in mind that the Carrier will absolutely know if you are sharing your Smartphone Data capability using Tethering – so you have been warned.  It is possible that you could get a call or letter from your mobile phone Carrier stating that you need to pay an additional fee or purchase an additional data plan.

A Special Note for iPhone Users:  If your iPhone supports Tethering, (IOS 4 or later), you may need to use either the USB Charging Cable or pair the Notebook Computer with your iPhone via Bluetooth to use the Internet capability of your phone with your Notebook Computer.  If you have an iPhone5, then you can definitely Tether via WiFi as described above. IOS 6 has a built-in App for turning the iPhone5 in to a Mobile Hot Spot. (Apple prefers to call it a “Personal Hot Spot.”)  If you use the native Apple IOS 6 App, you will definitely need either one of the NEW Mobile Share Plans from AT&T or the one of the NEW Share Everything Plans from Verizon or similar plan from your Carrier.

Hurricane Tech – Powering your Generator – Natural Gas

It is quite common for Whole House Generators and some Portable Generators to support both Natural Gas and Liquid Propane as Fuel sources.  However, the Generator must be specifically configured to accept either Natural Gas OR Liquid Propane as the fittings and pressures are different for each Fuel type.

If an option, usually the best Fuel choice for your Generator is Utility Supplied Natural Gas.  It is delivered in pipes buried in the ground under high pressure.  Delivery is based on pressure physics and not at all dependent on Electricity.  Natural Gas is stored in huge tanks with floating tops at the Utility.  As the Natural Gas in the tank is consumed by customers, the delicately balanced weight of the top of the tank lowers and forces the Natural Gas out of the tank and in to the Distribution pipes to your home.  The Utility Gas Supply is rarely disrupted during even the worst storms specifically because the delivery system is not dependent on external electrical power and the pipes are mostly underground.

I have never lost my Natural Gas Service due to a Storm.  Check with your local Natural Gas Utility for the history of outages in your area.  For example, in the North Shore of Long Island, NY, Gas Service is virtually 100% reliable.  But in parts of the South Shore of Long Island, due to an antiquated delivery system, every time severe flooding occurs, Gas Service is suspended.

The significant advantage of Natural Gas as a Fuel source for a Generator is that it is a continuous, 24/7 supply – provided that Gas Service has not been disrupted – which as stated for most areas is rare.  Natural Gas is usually the least expensive of all Fuel Options.

The only significant disadvantage of Natural Gas is that it is not necessarily the most efficient of the Fuel sources.  In my article, “Hurricane Tech – The Whole House Generator Option”, I discuss the efficiency differences between Liquid Propane and Natural Gas.  However, the convenience and low cost of Natural Gas far outweigh the marginal loss in Generator efficiency.  A minor issue is also the increased cost of initial installation.  You may need Permits from your town and are usually required to use a Licensed Plumber.  A Town Building Inspector will want to perform a Pressure Test to make sure the connection is at the proper specification.