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Amazon Virtual Private Cloud

Amazon Web Services has just introduced their Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC). The AWS website states that Amazon VPC is a secure and seamless bridge between a company's existing IT infrastructure and Amazon. It enables enterprises to connect their existing infrastructure to a set of isolated AWS compute resources via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection, and to extend their existing management capabilities such as security services, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems to include their AWS resources.

Google Adds Some Kick with Caffeine

Yesterday Google revealed their next-generation search architecture, code-named Caffeine, which they have been secretly working on for several months. According to their Webmaster Central Blog, "it's the first step in a process that will let [Google] push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions."

Bing Travel: Price Predictor

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of buzz around search with the introduction of new engines like Wolfram Alpha, real-time Twitter Search, the launch of Bing, and now the partnership between Microsoft and Yahoo! In all honesty, I didn't feel like these factors would change the way I personally search online.

Foxit PDF Reader

I have never really liked Acrobat. It is very heavy weight (in the many 10s of megabytes), it loads up slooooooooowly, and it provides no real tools to make it easy to read/bookmark/markup a PDF.

Microsoft, Yahoo! Deal Confirmed

This morning an official press release confirmed a long rumored agreement between Yahoo! and Microsoft. The release "announced an agreement that will improve the Web search experience for users and advertisers, and deliver sustained innovation to the industry. In simple terms, Microsoft will now power Yahoo! search while Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies' premium search advertisers."

Website Design Tips: Usability

The past two blog posts have discussed tips for creating a website design strategy and layout, but for a website to be truly valuable, it must be easy to use. The following tips will help to ensure your website is useful to site visitors and functions properly.

Website Design Tips: Layout

In a previous blog, we discussed tips for developing a website design strategy. The following tips focus on making your design elements visually appealing.

Keep it simple - Don't overwhelm your audience. Avoid using flashing graphics and don't cover the entire site with images and content. Remember that white space can be an important element in design. Also, try to keep page content concise. Web users don't enjoy constantly scrolling to read text.

Website Design Tips: Strategy

Designing a website goes beyond creating something visually appealing. A successful design project must incorporate aesthetics, business strategy, audience needs, functionality, and usability. The following tips will help you create a successful website design strategy.

Mozilla Open Web Tools Directory

The Mozilla Labs blog announced yesterday the launch of a new Open Web Tools Directory. (Mozilla Note: a modern browser with canvas is required to view directory, like Firefox 3.5, Safari 4, Chrome 2, or Opera 9)This directory is meant to give web developers a central access point to the overwhelming number of development tools available.

IT Helps You Weather the Economic Storm, Part II

A while back, we posted a blog titled IT Helps You Weather the Economic Storm. This post outlines four reasons to invest in Information Technology during the recession. I recently discovered an article about a study commissioned by Microsoft that sheds some more light on the importance of this subject.

Guidelight's Favorite Firefox Add-ons

As a relatively new Firefox user, I have only recently discovered the world of Firefox add-ons. As I started to explore the multitude of available add-ons, I thought it would be interesting to ask other Guidelight team members which add-ons/plugins are their favorite. The following items made our list:

Web User Tools

Extended Lifespan for Windows XP

Rumor has it that Windows XP could be offered on new PCs as late as April 2011. Previously, reports stated that computer makers would only be allowed to sell PCs with Windows XP for six months after the launch of Windows 7 (Launch date: October 22, 2009).

Have you considered a CMS?

In my last blog, I discussed adopting an always beta approach for your website, in which every web page is subject to constant evaluation and change for the better. Always beta has become a contemporary best practice as static websites continue to be less and less effective.

Unfortunately, not every company has highly-trained staff available to make these constant web updates. If this is the case for your company, you may consider implementing a Content Management System.

Should you adopt an Always Beta mindset?

Always Beta is a mindset brought about by the nature of the Internet. The web is constantly evolving with new sites, information, and applications being created all the time. Both web developers and users have embraced the fluid nature of the web leading to the development and popularity of sites like Wikipedia and Twitter.

Mac OS X Snow Leopard

Today at the Worldwide Developer's Conference in San Francisco, Apple unveiled Mac OS X Snow Leopard. The updated version of the operating system will be available to current Mac OS X Leopard users in September 2009 for $29. The Apple website dubs Mac OS X Snow Leopard "The world's most advanced operating system. Finely tuned."

Here are some of the enhancements to the OS:

What is Google Wave?

This week, most people were expecting the official announcement of Microsoft's new search engine Bing, but many were surprised that Google made an announcement of their own at Google I/O 2009.

So what is Google Wave?

Microsoft Bing - It's Official!

Today Microsoft has officially announced the upcoming release of its new search engine Bing. The search engine is said to go beyond search and help users make better decisions in these initial focus areas: making a purchase decision, planning a trip, researching a health condition or finding a local business. Microsoft is referring to Bing as a "Decision Engine."

Search Engine Celebrity Deathmatch

The world of search seems to be changing around us. First, Wolfram Alpha was recently released with quite a buzz. Wolfram Alpha is not a traditional search engine, but rather a computational knowledge engine. What's the difference? According to the Wolfram Alpha site, "Search engines give you links to pages that exist on the web. Wolfram Alpha computes answers to specific questions using its built-in knowledge base and algorithms. Wolfram Alpha has sidebar links for doing web searches."

Google Chrome Turns 2.0!

Chrome lovers will be thrilled with the new release of their favorite browser. Google Chrome v2 was released today. This major release has several hundred bugs cleaned up and is touted as more stable and faster than before.

One nice feature is full-screen mode. So, if you write your presentations in S5, then you can go into fullscreen mode and have a much cleaner look for your audiences.

AWS Import/Export

Amazon Web Services has recently announced a limited beta of an Import/Export service for handling physical, portable storage. So, if you have several terabytes of data that you want to place into S3 for crunching using a hadoop-based parallel application, then you can send them tapes of the data and they will load it up for you.

If you deal with oil-well geological data, large imagery data, human genome data, or any number of very large data sets, and are planning on using AWS as your cloud vendor, then this Import/Export is the way to go.

5 Reasons to Consider Drupal

Drupal is a highly customizable, open-source content management system (CMS) used for a vast number and variety of websites, including corporate sites, social networks, online communities, personal sites, and Intranets. Why should you consider Drupal?

1. Features & Functionality - The available Drupal add-on modules and extensions make it possible to integrate numerous features and functions such as: ecommerce, news feeds, event calendars, photo galleries, blogs, forums, social networking, SEO, and many more.

Zotero and Web Research (UPDATED)

We've all done it. Searching the web, reading from dozens of good sources for information on a specific topic. Sometimes we go down wrong alleys. Other times we find a gem of an article and bookmark it. After a few hours, or days, we go back to find key information we read - only to not be able to find it in any of our bookmarks no matter how hard we try.

Elastic Load Balancing

Amazon Web Services (AWS) users will be happy to hear about one of the new features of the Elastic Compute Cloud(EC2). The Elastic Load Balancing(ELB) capability does what many of us have solved using a special AMI instance. Specifically, instead of making an instance with a load balancer such as NGINX or Squid so as to maximize performance of a system, you can now use the ELB instead.

Online Reputation Management

Online Reputation Management (ORM) is basically the practice of managing, monitoring, and responding to a business or individual's online reputation. In previous blog posts, we have discussed using social media as a business tool, search engine optimization, and website improvements. All of these things will affect your company's reputation, but it is important to remember that your company-released content only makes up one piece of the ORM puzzle.

Elastic Block Store on AWS

Amazon Web Services is frankly the best thing since sliced bread. We've been using it for over a year and it gets better and better all the time. The APIs are robust, and the structure of the compute and storages services is such that you must think in new ways to make a solution 'elastic' to conserve resources (and reduce costs).

IT Helps You Weather the Economic Storm

Four reasons to invest in Information Technology during a recession:

1. Increase Productivity While Reducing Costs
Information systems streamline business operations and help you do more with less. By investing in new technologies and automating business processes, you can run your business more efficiently. It may even be a good time to consider moving your systems "into the cloud." Cloud computing can reduce your hardware and maintenance costs while giving you increased capacity and greater scalability.

Windows 7 RC Now Available

The results are in. Microsoft has collected feedback from its Windows 7 Beta trial and has now officially released the Windows 7 Release Candidate. For those of you that are interested in testing this pre-release version of the software, it will be available for download through July 2009 and will expire on June 1, 2010.

Does Gmail make sense for your business?

During the current economic climate, most businesses are looking for ways to cut costs and many have begun to move applications "into the cloud." If your small business is re-evaluating business needs and interested in cutting IT costs, you may want to consider using Gmail for your professional email accounts.

How does Google represent you?

In the past few days I have heard a lot of buzz about Google Profiles, so I had to check it out. According to Google, "A Google profile is simply how you present yourself on Google products to other Google users. It allows you to control how you appear on Google and tell others a bit more about who you are."

Is Twitter Making an Impact on Your Business?

The micro-blogging site, Twitter, is still growing like wildfire and has become a popular social media marketing tool for business. But how do you judge success on Twitter? Do you look at your number of followers, @ messages, direct messages, retweets?