Jon Sooy

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Don’t Be Afraid of the Big, Bad QR Code

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I don’t see QR Codes fading into the realm of techno-gimmick anytime soon. A recent article in Print Solutions Magazine provides some compelling data that clearly suggests the opposite. The number of Americans who are only using mobile devices is dramatically increasing. From Print Solutions Magazine: “After all, one in five U.S. mobile phone owners uses the mobile Internet every day (“2011 Mobile Internet Attitudes Report,” Antenna Software). Not only this but according to On Device Research, 25 percent of U.S. mobile phone users are mobile only. In other words, they do not (or very rarely use) a desktop, laptop or tablet to access the Internet.” (full article here on page 24) In other words; Americans are becoming very proficient at navigating our physical and electronic world with our mobile devices acting as our trusted sidekick.

In a few of my public speaking engagements on technology, I have used the example of scanning regular bar codes in retail stores with my cell phone to find out if I find and item for less money at another store. In fact, in a bizaar coincidence, eBay did an Internet commercial to this effect and the actor here (Casey Robertson) happens to be a personal friend:

As our mobile devices become more and more sophisticated, the possibilities are almost limitless with regard to our ability to access information. QR Codes are one of the first mobile innovations that begin to bridge the gap between a brand and our ability to access to more information about that brand. Additionally QR Codes fit very nicely into the concept of engagement marketing (as opposed to interruption marketing) in that we, as the consumer, choose what information to access.

Here is some more data to support the idea that QR Codes are here to stay (taken from Print Solutions, June 2011 issue, page 26):

QR Code Stats

I think QR Codes are like many other great innovations that are just starting to take root. There is skepticism, disbelief and confusion about how they work and how marketers might use them. But, remember what people said about Facebook and Twitter when they made their way into the mainstream. I heard comments like ‘It’s a fad’ or ‘it’s just another MySpace’ or ‘it’s for kids, not business.’ Don’t be left behind with QR Codes because even if they do evolve into a different form down the road, understanding their potential now will put you ahead of your competition.

Written by Jon Sooy

June 19th, 2011 at 8:10 pm

XBMC for Ubuntu

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For several years now I have been tinkering around with media center PC’s. Without exception I have used old PCs that no longer have the power to handle my heavy usage. After beginning my experimentation with Ubuntu as a lighter weight alternative to Windows, I set out on a quest to build a media center PC on Ubuntu. I have experimented with Hulu, Boxee, GBPVR, Myth and a few others that are not worth mentioning. My first goals was to be able to watch and record TV. But having Dish Networks has made this sort of pointless. What I have decided to do is to build a machine that will easily handle the other great media in my life: internet media content, mp3 files, movies and family videos/photos. Boxee does work fine for this but now that I have installed XBMC on Ubuntu 10.10, it’s bye bye Boxee for me.

If you are new to Linux, I don’t recommend that you start a project like this until you have learned how to navigate Ubuntu’s Software Center and have some experience with using the terminal.  I won’t go into details but will provide the links you need in order to build your system. The great thing about Linux and XBMC, for that matter is that if you get stuck there are tons of people on the internet that will help you! Like I tell most people who come to me with technical questions… ‘Google it, and if you still can’t figure it out, call me.’

In a nutshell, XBMC is an open source media center application that enables you to use a home PC as a device to view internet content and your own private library of movies, music and photos. To learn more about XBMC, go to their website and check out the ‘about’ page.

To build my media center PC, I used an old Dell Latitude D610 Laptop rescued from destruction from my place of work. Rather than use Windows XP (I would have to purchase a license and deal with all the craziness that is Microsoft) I downloaded and installed Ubuntu (free Linux distro that is much less needy in terms of system resources). If you haven’t tried the newer flavors of Linux, I highly recommend that you do! My personal laptop is running Ubuntu along with 3 other computers at home and 1 at work. Quite simply: they rock. All of them are on older machines that most people would have tossed out due to how slow they are running Windows. Once Ubuntu was installed, I installed Samba (which enables the Ubuntu machine to easily connect with other computers on our home network). This will make it easy to transfer movies, music, pictures or whatever. Samba instructions here.

Next, I installed XBMC. Intructions are here. I ran a video cable and and audio cable from the TV to my component cabinet (I just used a regular computer monitor cable – if your computer has an HDMI port, I would use it). With the TV set up as a second monitor I was able to remove the laptop monitor. Not difficult to do if you are comfortable with taking things apart. Obviously one should be careful. I took the monitor off the laptop because I wanted the system to be as cool as possible and with it inside a cabinet, I didn’t want to have to close the laptop. A closed laptop that is running will tend to suffer in terms of cooling.

The final piece to the puzzle was setting up some sort of remote control. I used a Logitech diNovo Mini. It installed on the Ubuntu machine without any configuration at all. I just plugged in the USB dongle and it worked within 30 seconds. Again… Ubuntu rocks and so does this remote. It has a full QWERTY keyboard and a small mouse device integrated. It’s only about 5-6 inches wide and man does it work great.

That’s it! The expense for this project was only the price of the remote control. The laptop was one that was deemed too slow for use at my office and was to be discarded. All the software was free. The other great thing about XBMC is that it is highly customizable with tons of free skins and settings that you can tinker with. Now I can stream music through my surround sound system, watch movies from my collection that I have ripped and turned into .avi files (Highly recommend Handbrake for this – yes… it’s open source too). I can also play slideshows of family events and even watch my YouTube favorites. ALL from the comfort of my couch!

Written by Jon Sooy

April 23rd, 2011 at 7:07 am

QR Codes for Dummies

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QR CodeHave you ever had a lot to say but not enough room to say it? QR Codes might just be what the doctor ordered. You’ve probably seen these odd looking square images pop up on posters, business cards, websites, billboards and even tattoos. QR stands for Quick Response and while it is just starting to take a foothold in the United States, the technology has been around for over a decade and is very popular in Asia. As more and more of us are migrating to smartphones, the use of QR Codes will undoubtedly be a powerful tool for marketing efforts and more.

What makes them special, as compared to a normal barcode, is the fact that they can relay much more information. A regular barcode contains 20 digits in a horizontal arrangement while a QR code can contain up to 7,000 digits, both horizontal and vertical. Simple to scan by using any smartphone with a scanner app, the user simply points his camera at the code and captures the image/data. Then the information within the code is read and pops up on the smartphone. It might be a link to a website, an image or text. Possibilities include but are not limited to: Text, Website URL, Telephone Number, SMS Message, Email Address, Email Message, Contact Details (VCARD), Event (VCALENDAR), Google Maps Location, Wifi Login (Android Only), Paypal Buy Now Link, Social Media, iTunes Link, YouTube Video and more. The possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination.

To make a code, you can do it yourself! A few websites that will generate a QR Code are Kaywa or QRstuff. If you don’t have a scanner on your phone already, just search the app store on your smartphone device for ‘QR Code Scanner.’ For Marketers, I recommend that you use QR Codes on your brochures, business cards, billboards, menus, wearables, websites or anywhere you have the need to easily connect your audience with more information.

Jon Sooy
VP Sales and Marketing

Written by Jon Sooy

March 15th, 2011 at 12:03 pm