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June 30th, 2011

Every month or so we like to have fun with a blog about the latest gadgets, from rumored to real. In fact, long before we had iPad rentals we followed the story of Apple’s tablet in the “gadget blogs.” If you don’t want us to decide what the hippest, coolest gadgets are – and want to see 100′s of gadgets rather than the 4 or 5 we can offer in one blog – then start mining these top gadget sites yourself:

Gizmodo.com was the first truly popular gadget site, and it’s in the top handful still. In fact, Engadget’s founder left to start Gizmodo. It rivals Engadget in breaking (and leaking) news – including early photos of our latest-generation iMac rentals – but the tone is playful, as opposed to the button-down professional tone of other sites.

Engadget.com is one of the two or three top gadget blogs (depending on how you measure). It covers all categories and is a prime source for corporate “leaks” and spy-worthy photos of unreleased devices.

Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine

Geek.com is like Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine in a way, as it evokes the feeling of “OG” (Original Geek). You’ll get the whole spread here, from video games and futuristic flights of fancy to the new Thunderbolt I/O technology found in the latest MacBook Pro rentals.

GeekSugar.com proves what we already knew, that women are as tech-savvy as men. Our render farm rentals and other high-end gear isn’t exclusive to the male of the species, but the chic, stylish gadget gabfest at Geeksugar is targeted to a female audience. It’s the feminine take on tech, and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, folks.

TechCrunch.com has carved out something of a niche, with coverage focused on Web-linked or -enabled gadgets. Now that everything from tablet PC rentals to telephones fit the definition, the site’s coverage has expanded – considerably!

CNET.com is more than a gadget blog. The site covers the “big stories,” too, like Apple’s years-long development of the brains and brawn now residing in CRE’s Mac Pro rentals. This is a trusted site with podcasts and videos that actually demonstrate new products as no print review can.

TUAW.com, “The Unofficial Apple Weblog,” covers more than just Apple products, but does concentrate on iPhones, iPads, Macintoshes, iPods, AppleTV – and its library of Steve Jobs’ keynote addresses. You can also trust the site’s comparative reviews, in case you want to see how different computer rentals line up with your particular needs.

Gadgets for workflow, workplace and workstation

Speaking of particular gadget needs, whether yours is for convention rentals or everything required to open up a branch office tomorrow (yes, tomorrow), CRE is your one-stop solution. Call or e-mail an experienced Account Executive, or use our Quick Rental Quote form, and get a workflow, workplace or workstation gadget solution right now!

June 28th, 2011

Green conventions are much more numerous than they were when we first blogged about them (read our post on Best Practices Checklist) from 2009. More importantly, they are no longer an “alternative” style, but a primary one. Since CRE is the go-to firm for conferences, with expertise in everything from convention rentals and presentations to tech support and logistics, we’re well qualified to point the way to “greener pastures.”

How Green are Convention Centers

Shades of green

Rather than tactics or activities, which we’ve blogged about elsewhere, this is about how to spot a good convention facility to achieve your “green” goal.  You cannot assume anything about a hotel or convention center simply because it calls itself “green.” There are no legal standards in effect for using the term.

It’s your responsibility to figure out how to (excuse the pun) greenlight the candidates for your firm’s convention site. Consider this a “profiling” task and look for the following “character traits”:

• Accessibility (real and virtual) – The site, if not itself a hotel complex, should be within walking distance of hotels, eateries and public transportation. You also need access to both your data and your colleagues, so site-wide Wi-Fi is key to keeping your team’s iPad rentals, tablets and other devices connected to the Web – and each other.

• Saving water – The “deep green” convention sites have the latest in forced-air hand driers, low-flow toilets and other water-saving devices in restrooms.

• Serving water – Less waste is generated if the convention center provides glassware and large pitchers of water, rather than costly individual water bottles.

• The paper chase – Convention centers should help attendees reduce the use of paper, starting with Wi-Fi for programs and registration. Laptops, iPad 2, tablet PC rentals – CRE has the right wireless rental solutions for all your different needs.

• Setup and teardown efficiency – Green facilities will have a strategy for reducing utility costs (lights, a/c, heat) during setup and teardown in the exhibit area. CRE Rentals’  setup personnel will handle everything including schooling you in the most efficient use of the latest LCD touchscreen monitor rentals.

• Site-wide efficiency – The convention center should also reduce energy usage by cutting off lights in unused rooms, at all hours.

• Commitment – The convention center should have a comprehensive recycling program already in place and a policy similar to CRE’s own “Green Statement.”

CRE can help you “go green” at a convention or “stay green” right in your office – with everything from energy-saving office equipment rentals to high-end, high horsepower post-production gear that reduces project time to save you money. Ready for lean and green? Call or send an e-mail to an expert Account Executive now. As always, if you know what you need, head for the Quick Rental Quote form and we’ll be right on it!

June 23rd, 2011

In the mid 1960s, Star Trek featured some futuristic Outpacing Star Trektechnology we will never see (faster-than-light travel) but also predicted the development of  “memory cards,” with Capt. Kirk and the crew plugging domino-sized storage devices into the (talking) computer. These accurately foreshadowed today’s flash memory, whose status as a “standard” was assured only after card slots appeared on iMac rentals.

Interestingly, flash memory didn’t even make the list of “Top 10 ‘Star Trek’ Technologies that Actually Came True” – check it out, it’s a cool list! And if you think that Mr. Spock’s Tricorder looks quite a bit like one of CRE’s iPad rentals, well, you’d be right.

Flash review

Flash memory was introduced in the late 1980s. There are various form factors – CompactFlash, Sony MemoryStick, etc. – but the most popular appears to be SecureDigital. The latest generation of  SDXC cards have capacities up to 2TB. The popular SDHC cards hold from 4 to 32GB of data, and slots are built into many of CRE’s computer rentals.

These slots are turning up on most (not all) new Macintoshes, too. Apple may not be the earliest adopter of new tech all the time, but when the company adds a feature to the Mac line, you can be sure it’s been widely tested and is a true standard. These slots are now in CRE’s iMacs and MacBook Pro rentals, as well as Mac minis.

Flash forward

Due to its insanely successful products, Apple has passed HP and every other electronics/tech manufacturer to become the largest consumer of semiconductors on the planet. A market research firm reports that Apple spent $17.5 billion on semiconductors in 2010, an astonishing 79.6% increase over what it bought in 2009. And don’t get started on Apple dominating touchscreen purchases – that’s enough for a whole other blog (on its way soon).

Apple uses flash memory for Solid State Drives (SSDs) in iPods, iPhones and the crazy-popular iPads, making Apple the world’s top purchaser of flash memory. Measured against the total amount used, about one-eighth (11.9%) will end up in tablets and by 2014, tablets will account for 16% of all flash memory. After that, who knows?

Future flash

Who knows – and how? The way companies spend money yields clues about their plans. Where’s Apple headed? Well, the firm spent more than 60% of its 2010 semiconductor budget on wireless “iDevices” while Hewlett-Packard spent over 80% of its semiconductor budget on servers, desktops and notebooks. These are two very different approaches, but it may take both to build Star Fleet. We’ll keep you posted!

While you’re waiting for the 23rd century, CRE has your convention rentals and high-end post-production gear, too. Our expert Account Executives are ready to help you right now, by phone or e-mail – or use the Quick Rental Quote form for even faster service. We are ready to help, right now!

June 21st, 2011

Reports from last week’s WWDC 2011 conference confirm that Apple’s Mac OS X Lion (10.7) is going through a process of “iPadification,” borrowing visual cues and multi-touch gestures from the iOS that runs CRE’s iPad rentals. But the two operating systems will not merge. OS X will remain a computer-only creature while iOS will run Apple’s tablets and phones.

Microsoft has decided to think different, to coin a phrase. Following the botched Vista and the well-received Windows 7, Microsoft settled on a new tablet-style interface for Microsoft Windows 8Windows 8 and will deploy it for desktops, laptops and tablets. In the MS lineup, it will be phones not PCs, that have their own OS (now called Windows 7 Phone). Microsoft has to begin seriously competing in an insane tablet market of the iPad’s making.

Share and share alike

Windows has an installed base of some 93% of the world’s PCs. Sounds great, but it’s a big challenge: MS must keep existing Windows users happy on their desktops and laptops, while capturing (and satisfying) tablet users with the same user interface. Remember, too, that Windows 8 will be designed for touch functionality.

Blogger Mike Halsey runs the Web site Windows8News, where he recently likened the upcoming OS to a “mashup.” Programmers drafted bits and pieces of Zune, Windows Phone and Media Center Metro to fashion a tablet-type user interface, but “big chunks” of classic Windows are there to maintain the “MS look and feel.” Its designers must make it as efficient with laptops and computer rentals as with the various styles and sizes of wireless devices.

Shared OS…it just might work

Some pundits are dubbing Microsoft’s strategy a “have your cake and eat it, too” approach that will only work if MS can merge the two interfaces seamlessly. From recent peeks, official and otherwise, they may be getting close. In the Apple universe, it would be as if the iPad had a secret “stealth mode” for using OS X when needed. But that’s not how the story was written, and Apple’s astonishing success suggests Steve Jobs made the right call.

A shared-OS approach doesn’t make sense for Apple. Does it for Microsoft? Perhaps. If the company retains ties to Windows’ original, “old school” heritage as it moves into the mobile market – pads, phones, tablet PC rentals, etc. – it will have a potent OS offering real options. If users don’t like the Windows 8 “tile” user interface, for instance, they can easily switch to the “classic” Windows look. Windows 8 will be released in 2012, according to a Senior Marketing Executive.

Windows has always given users the freedom to choose software, hardware components and drivers, so providing a choice of interfaces builds on a core strength. CRE’s core strength is helping you break through challenges and workflow bottlenecks. Call or e-mail an expert Account Executive, or use the Quick Rental Quote form, and get hold of the solutions you need right now!

June 16th, 2011

PowerPoint PresentationCRE helps you make the most of your presentations with fabulous plasma rentals and everything else you need to look good. Of course, your presentation is only part visual – a PowerPoint “deck,” an Apple Keynote document, a slide show – and the other part is verbal. So, what’s the best way to cook up a persuasive presentation with these ingredients?

Listen to the audience

As with other challenges, it may be easier to tell you what not to do. Professional speaker and presentation guru David Paradi surveyed audiences about presentations. Following each negative comment is the percentage of agreement:

• Speaker reads slide copy (69.2%)
• Text unreadably small (48.2%)
• Sentences rather than bullet points (48%)
• Colors unreadable (33%)
• “Busy” graphics, special effects (27.9%)

It’s impossible to list all the good ideas and tell you what you should do, but there are some agreed-upon basics for creating effective presentations. Start here and stay teachable as you look around for more help.

Five steps to a better presentation

1. Successful slides are supportive, giving your message impact and making it memorable. A slide must clarify, reinforce, make an emotional appeal, take the audience to a different “mental location” and/or portray complex concepts simply. Using graphics sparingly maintains their power. Using too many dilutes it.

2. Establish a powerful presence by making your slides readable from the back row. Keep copy simple and follow the “Rule of 66” – six lines of text per screen with six words maximum per line (minimum 24-pt type). Viewing screens with white backgrounds, whether you use monitors or CRE projector rentals, can be like “like staring into headlights” for audiences. Use light text on dark backgrounds.

3. Make your point with “bullets” using the absolute minimum verbiage. Full sentences, if you must use them, should be memorable, brief (15-20 words) and clearly superior to shorter alternatives. Audiences typically remember things with impact, like quotes.

4. Simpler is better for graphs that grab and charts that clarify. Do your fancy effects add to audience understanding? If not, they likely cloud meaning while cluttering the screen. Making clear points is hard enough without annoying people.

5. Show a “map” so your audiences know where you’re headed. You can divide your presentation into sections, using different background colors or icons to show progress and position. Explain the agenda in your opening and never leave your audience guessing.

Don’t dilute your message

Remember, visuals must add power and/or clarity to your presentation or you shouldn’t use them. Used wrongly, they will dilute your message and can even alienate your audience. You should consider one of CRE’s audience response system rentals so you can get real-time feedback on your presentations, in-house and at conferences, for ongoing improvement.

From PCs, displays and office equipment to specialized gear like render farm rentals, CRE is your one-stop solution. Call or e-mail an experienced Account Executive, or tell us what you need with the Quick Rental Quote form. We’re ready with your solutions right now!

June 14th, 2011

WWDC 2011Before this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2011), which took place on June 6, Apple released a bit more information than the company typically provides about upcoming events. It may be that Apple was so busy with the new Mac OS X Lion and iOS5 that it wanted to get a few things out of the way. As it turns out, it meant more stage time for Steve Jobs and his “insanely great” stuff.

The ailing but energized Jobs and a team of Apple executives put on a great show. Jobs, as predicted, unveiled Apple’s new iCloud service. Attendees also got a nice dose of information on the next iteration (iOS 5) of the mobile operating system used in CRE’s iPad rentals, as well as details about the long-awaited OS X 10.7 (Lion).

OS X Lion arrives in July

The subject of a recent blog, Lion OS is being finalized for a July debut. The WWDC presentation confirmed that Lion will feature

• increased Magic Trackpad integration for multi-touch gestures, furthering the Mac’s “iPadification”;

• an upgraded Mail application with threaded messages;

• the new “AirDrop” file transfer utility for simple, short-range exchanges;

• a “Versions” feature whereby apps save “editions” of documents as you work, automatically, letting you to return to any saved version, any time;

• some new capabilities for the FileVault data encryption scheme; and

• an Auto Save feature for everything you do, in every application.

Apple announces iCloud

Wherever you are – at work with CRE’s high-end Mac Pro rentals, at home with your iPod, on location for a commercial shoot with a laptop – Apple wants you to have access to your digital media, hence the new iCloud service. A user can stream media to computers or iOS 5 devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch), as well as through them to wireless networks and devices, via both Wi-Fi and 3G. If you have songs in your library that didn’t come from iTunes, a new service will add it from the online database or let you upload it manually. Called the iTunes Match service, it will cost $25 a year.

As far as the new features coming in iOS 5, there will be a long-overdue overhaul of iOS notifications, “a weak spot in a strong OS.” The new notification system will work like the well-rated third-party “push notification” app, Boxcar, which integrates all message notifications (texts, tweets, IMs, etc.) into one window. Finally, OS X Dashboard-style widgets migrate to iOS, as well as voice-recognition for text-to-speech and speech-to-text functionality.

Speaking of text and speech, you can contact an experienced Account Executive by e-mail or phone, or let us know what you need by filling out the handy Quick Rental Quote form. From audiovisual rentals to the best in post-production gear, CRE is ready to equip you for success!

June 9th, 2011

CRE has a wide range of clients taking advantage of its computer rentals, post-production technology and trade show expertise. Because of what economists call the “economy of scale”,  some of the most cost-effective rental strategies besides conventions involve employee training. Because you reap immediate and long-term benefits from well-trained employees, paying for training can truly be considered investing in your employees and your firm. Let’s take a look at how CRE Rentals can help you.

Training adds value

Training your EmployeesThere are many kinds of training that can empower your employees – one-on-one, small and large groups using CRE’s iMac rentals, offline, online or some combination – and the challenge is finding one that works the best for the majority of the people you are training. Worker productivity increases 88% with assisted training versus 24% for employee self-training, according to a recent report from the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD). Work with your employees to find out how they learn the best.

“Mentoring” was also found very effective in that report, especially as the term is no longer narrowly defined as a one-on-one relationship with private study. Although that’s the way most people think of it, mentoring is now understood as an ongoing process wherein more experienced employees or managers help the less experienced. It can be done individually or in groups – the important thing is learning!

A culture of learning

After investing time and money creating FCP experts to work with AJA Io HD rentals on vital projects, you need to keep them. Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and other firms that have invested heavily in mentoring and training have discovered that effective programs nurture leaders, reduce learning costs and help retain valuable employees. If you want to customize your own training, companies like MediaPro offer programs, procedures and tools to do so. But there’s free help, too.

SCORE (Service Corps Of Retired Executives) has 13,000+ mentors in over 500 fields, making it the premier source of free business advice for small businesses. You can connect with them any which way – in person, by e-mail or on the phone. For a group, you can even set up video conference calls on large-screen plasma rentals (one for a small group, or several for a large group). SCORE’s Web site is full of resources, old-time smarts and new ideas. Did we mention it’s all free?

CRE’s expert Account Executives always have new ideas for you, too, whether you need potent Mac Pro rentals or the comprehensive attention of our event production specialists. Whatever your project, simply call or e-mail for assistance, or help yourself with the Quick Rental Quote form if you know what you need. Our job is to help you get your jobs done, whatever it takes.

June 7th, 2011

Linux OSIn 1991, Linus Torvalds created Linux, a Unix-based operating system that is freely distributed and evolves via the contributions of users. After the dot-com bust, Linux was hailed as a possible “savior of computing,” and there were predictions the OS would take over corporate America (and home users, too). Needless to say, that never happened.

Specialty vs. commodity PCs

Instead, Linux has come to occupy a special niche or two, with a strong presence on Web servers and in engineering environments.

Generally speaking, however, you can get most office work done quite nicely on Windows PCs, CRE iMac rentals or “Linux boxes,” as they are sometimes called. All offer MS-Office-compatible software suites, access the Internet easily and connect to zillions of peripherals (printers, scanners, etc.). Generic, low-cost “commodity PCs” could run any Linux OS and handle basic business tasks.

Linux Operating System advantage?

Linux’s early adopters called the grueling installation one of Linux’s “life lessons,” but the OS now comes with slick installers. Many firms put their names on “distributions” of the OS (Ubuntu, Fedora, etc.) and CRE can install one on your computer rentals if you so desire.

If you are considering replacing a general-purpose Mac or PC with a Linux box, here are five solid pluses of Linux OS:

It’s free – You can download Linux free or pay a small price for a boxed version with all the programs you would otherwise have to download. On the Internet you can get free software for almost any purpose.

It’s stable – Complaints about Linux instability were valid early on, as device drivers didn’t always work, but Linux has gotten dramatically more stable.

It’s efficient – On older (slower) computers, Windows 7 is a challenge. Any Linux OS will run faster on aging systems than any current Windows version. Linux also runs fine on all makes and models of laptop rentals.

It’s secure – Neither Macs nor Linux PCs are immune to malware, but they are less susceptible than Windows PCs. Unix-based operating systems are designed from the ground up to be secure.

It’s simple – Frankly, Linux is easy to use. You have a choice of user interfaces and can customize things to your liking. For general computing and office tasks, Linux computers are grown up and ready for work. If you can use a Mac and/or a PC, you can use Linux.

CRE has the expertise to help you with everything from Mac Pro rentals for a new FX project or a slew of iPad rentals for your upcoming conference. Our experienced Account Executives will help you find a solution with a call or an e-mail, while our Quick Rental Quote form makes helping yourself fast and easy. We are always ready to help!

June 2nd, 2011

We haven’t shown you any cool new tech products in awhile, so lets catch up with this quartet of curious commodities.

1. Acer Iconia Tab A100

Every company wants to make the tablet that will replace our iPad rentals. Many have tried. But in addition to the usual trouble bringing new products to market – design, production, marketing, etc. – Acer has even had an “act of God” delay the launch of its Iconia Tab A100 tablet. The 7-inch unit, powered by a Tegra 2 processor and Google’s Honeycomb OS (Android 3.0), is taking a “tedious trip to market,” according to one tech blogger, because of the earthquake in Japan. First scheduled for a May release, the Iconia won’t be available before July.

2. Nokia Custom C7 Phone

Nokia Custom C7 PhoneIf you have to have the very best of everything, here’s your new cell phone. Based on the C7 model, this new Nokia will cost $1,200+ when it’s released in late 2011 in certain European and Asian countries. It has great features – sharp 3.5-inch screen with the same technology as our LCD touchscreen monitor rentals, 720p video recording, 8-megapixel camera – but the gold plating and leather rear cover make it special. It looks good and is a net-savvy phone that does real work, as discussed in our blog about collaborative workflows.

3. Altec Lansing iM810

Altec Lansing iM810Many iPhone and iPod docks are downright tiny, but the Altec Lansing iM810 takes the old-fashioned approach. The boombox-sized device is now iPhone 4 certified. Also, the gold trim was changed to silver and the amber LED to blue. The unit features a 5.25-inch subwoofer and a seven-band graphic equalizer, and eight D batteries make it portable. In fact, the unit is powerful enough to fill a dance hall, has a microphone input and can be used as a PA for that training session you’re doing with a room full of employees and MacBook Pro rentals.

4. Pioneer AppRadio

The Pioneer AppRadio was the subject of lots of net rumors last month, and the firm has finally released it. Briefly, it’s a big, powerful car stereo that works with Apple’s iOS. With the 800- x 400-pixel, 6.1-inch, multitouch capacitive screen and Bluetooth connectivity, it connects to your iPhone or iPod touch (with iOS 4.2) with a 30-pin connector and the embedded AppRadio app. It goes on sale in late June, sporting an external microphone input, GPS antenna, Google Maps, complete iPod music control and customized apps from Rdio and Pandora.

We keep up on technology – all of it – so that we can be a single source for the expertise and the equipment you need. From office equipment rentals to high-end post-production gear like our render farm rentals, CRE knows what you need, and we know you need it now (or yesterday). One call or e-mail, or a trip to our online Quick Rental Quote form, is all it takes. We’re ready…!