How Does Touch Screen Technology Work?

It’s something that we’re already taking for granted: When we touch an icon on the screens of our iPhones, iPads, or Galaxy Tabs, we expect something to happen. And not just anything, either; we expect our mobile device to do exactly what we want it to do when we want it done, and all at the touch of a fingertip.

It wasn’t too long ago that touch screen technology was a source of wonder. Today, touch screen technology is a given for many of the latest gizmos – everything from tablet computers to GPS units to smart phones.

How, exactly, does touch screen technology work? How do so many of our screens know what to do when we touch the icons displayed on them?

The answer isn’t that simple. That’s because there are several different types of touch screen technologies, and each of them works in a different way.

Resistive touch screens

Many touch screens today operate on the resistive model. Resistive touch screens are coated with a thin electrically conductive layer. When you touch the screen, your fingertip causes the electrical current to change. This information is instantly sent to the device’s controller, which causes the device to react to your touch.

Resistive touch screen technology is cheaper, and is the most common form of touch screen used in products today. However, such touch screens are not the most sensitive.

Surface wave touch screen

Another popular form of touch screen is the surface wave model. This type of screen relies on ultrasonic waves that pass across the touch screen panel. When you touch the panel, you absorb a part of the wave. Again, this sends information to the device’s controller, which then tells the device what you want it to do.

Capacitive touch screens

Devices that rely on capacitive touch screens tend to have the sharpest image quality. Capacitive touch screens are coated with a material that sends a continuous electrical current across the sensor. Fortunately, the human body is also a type of electrical device. This means that when you touch the screen you absorb some of the current. The device registers this disruption, causing it to send information to its controller. The device will then perform the action that you requested.

Fortunately, we don’t have to truly understand the science behind touch screen technology to enjoy it, and we don’t have to be engineers to understand that this technology isn’t going away any time soon.

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Photoshop Too Costly? Try One of These Free Alternatives

Adobe Photoshop is an amazing tool, one that lets small businesses edit the images they need to quickly create professional-looking brochures, pamphlets, and marketing materials.

Problem is that Photoshop is far from inexpensive. A quick online scan will show that newer versions of this image-editing program can run higher than $600.

For small business owners on a budget, this program simply isn’t feasible.

This doesn’t mean, though, that these small business owners don’t have photo-editing options. In fact, businesses can choose from a host of alternatives to Photoshop that are not only cheaper but are actually free.

These programs might not contain all the elements that Photoshop boasts, but they have more than enough photo-editing features for most small business owners.

Here are three of the best free photo-editing programs now available:

GIMP

GIMP, which stands for GNU image manipulation program, is the choice of many a cost-conscious designer. That’s because this free program contains many of the most important features of Photoshop. The GIMP Web site even offers a version of the program — cleverly named GIMPShop — that features a screen layout that is a virtual twin of Photoshop’s.

Paint.NET

Remember that old MSPaint program that came with your Windows program? Paint.NET is the successor to this, and it’s a surprisingly powerful – and free – photo editor. Paint.NET comes with its own special effects, an unlimited undo (a nice feature for those designers who are far from perfect), and an online form full of users who aren’t shy about sharing their favorite tips and strategies for using this program.

The only negative with Paint.NET? It only works with Windows-based systems.

Picnik

Picnik has become a popular free photo editor for several reasons. First, it works on the Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems. Secondly, users don’t have to download any files to their computers to use the program.

The program is also known for its speed. It’s simple and easy to learn the basics of cropping, resizing, and rotating photos. It’s easy, too, to add special effects and to turn blurry, dark images into clear, light ones.

Business owners needn’t let Photoshop’s high prices keep them from inserting professionally edited photos into their marketing materials. With just a bit of online hunting, even the most frugal of business owners will find the perfect alternative.

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Manage your projects effectively with these online tools

The odds are good that you as a small business owner are juggling several projects at once, and the odds are equally high in this age of virtual workers that several freelancers and consultants spread across the country are working on these projects.

It can be challenging to keep track of the progress of these projects, and it can be equally difficult to assign new tasks, share important documents, and request updates from these far-flung workers.

Project management solutions

Fortunately, several companies offer top-notch project management tools for small business owners. By using these tools, you can keep your various projects on track and avoid costly missed deadlines.

Here is a quick look at some of the best project management tools available today:

1. Basecamp remains one of the most popular online project management tools for entrepreneurs. There’s a simple reason for this: It boasts an easily understood interface that allows you to quickly manage any of your small business projects. You can tap into the system to communicate with project managers, assign new tasks, give your okay to submitted documents and marketing materials, or schedule meetings. You can even allow your clients to access Basecamp so that they can provide feedback on the work that you and your team have already completed.

Alternatives to Basecamp

2. Quickbase has a lot to recommend it, not least of all the fact that the maker of Intuit business software is behind this program. Quickbase performs the same general tasks as does Basecamp. However, it offers its own version of a simple interface and is equally useful for both large and tiny small businesses.

3. Some projects require more creativity than others. That’s where Huddle comes in. This project management tool is designed specifically to handle the more creative marketing and advertising projects that small business owners must occasionally take on. Huddle features a power live-conferencing tool that can make holding impromptu meetings an easy task.

4. DeskAway is a good tool for giving you an instant snapshot of the progress that’s been made on a project. After reviewing this progress, you can use DeskAway to send quick messages to team members to either congratulate them on their work or to request changes or updates. DeskAway also gives you the ability to create and post to a blog designed specifically for your current project.

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You can have a life while working from home — really

Workers who trudge into an office every day envy those who work from home. After all, the work-from-home crowd doesn’t have to fight rush-hour traffic, listen to office gossip, or smell the day-old fish that their fellow employees are microwaving in the office cafeteria.

What these office workers don’t understand is that working from home comes with its own potential pitfalls. Namely, it can be difficult for home workers to shut off their workday. It’s not unusual for professionals who work from home to look up and see that it’s midnight and they’re still writing reports.

Maintaining a healthy work/life balance can prove a complicated balancing act for those who work from home. Long hours can damage relationships between spouses and between parents and their children.

Fortunately, work-from-homers can take steps to improve their work/life balance and retain their sanity.

The most important step is to set a real close to the business day. Give yourself a deadline, whether it’s 5 p.m. or 8 p.m., and resolve to shut off your computer and close your office door for the night. Resist the temptation to write one more paragraph or make one more sales call.

Next, make sure to do something for yourself after you end your workday. This can be something simple: Maybe you want to relax on the couch and stream a few episodes of your favorite sitcom. Or it can be a bigger deal, such as a dinner date with a friend or a trip to the movies. Just make sure that at least once a month you plan an event that gets you out of the house and into the public.

This leads to a third key to retaining your sanity while working from home: Leave the house. It’s easy as a work-from-homer to spend all of your time at home. You look up, see it’s the end of the week, and realize that the only time you’ve lost your house was to run to the grocery store when you ran out of cereal. Don’t become a work-from-home shut-in. It’s simply not healthy.

Overwork leads to stress, no matter whether you work from home, in an office, or out in the field. The key to retaining your sanity no matter how you work is reserve non-work time for yourself.

And if you can’t force yourself to shut off the workday? Maybe it’s time to consider returning to the office where there’s always someone around to shut off those lights and chase you out of your cubicle.

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Moving Beyond the Mouse: Connecting with our Computers in the Future

We’ve already had a taste of mouse-free computing. Touchscreens on our smart phones and tablets allow us to search the Internet, compose e-mail messages, send texts, and stream movies, all without using a mouse.

But what about the future? How will we interact with our computers in the coming decades? Once we ditch the mouse, what comes next?

Gesture sensing

Consumers who own Wii or PlayStation video games already have an idea. Both of these game systems offer users the chance to play games and explore the Web through wireless remotes that synch with body movements. Wii players can smack a tennis ball by swinging their hands when they hold a wireless remote. They can jog in place, climb a virtual mountain, or shoot menacing robots in the same way. This is known as gesture sensing. The tech isn’t quite ready for standard computing yet. However, it’s not difficult to imagine a future in which gesture sensing becomes one of the primary modes of interacting with out computers.

Multi-touch technology

But this is just one interaction innovation. There’s also multi-touch technology. Again, iPad and other tablet users are already familiar with this. By tapping icons on their screen, they can open apps and programs. By swiping their fingers across the screen, they can flip to a new page on a website. By pinching pages, they can zoom on an image to make it larger.

Voice recognition

Another possible tech jump involves voice recognition. Rather than clicking on a mouse button to open a program, users can simply tell their computers to open a particular word file or close iTunes. Some of this already exists, most notable Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which allows users to dictate reports and stories to their word-processing programs. Again, the tech still needs refinement, but a future in which we talk to our computers isn’t all that far-fetched.

No matter what happens, though, the odds are that we’ll still rely at least somewhat on the humble mouse. After all, it’s served us well for many years.

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