Archive for June, 2013

What is Siri? And Does Siri Have Competitors?

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

what is siri

If you own a recent iPhone or iPad, you know what Siri is.  For those who don’t, we’re going to briefly explain Siri, including what it does, and some alternatives to Siri.

Siri is the name of a module for voice commands on Apple devices.  Siri lets you control the iPhone with your voice.  You can ask Siri questions using your voice — without typing.  Siri answers in a human-sounding voice, also.

You can use Siri to search the Web, send emails, find text messages and read them to you out loud, post social media updates, make phone calls, and even set up appointments or reminders.  You can also use Siri as a dictation device to dictate notes you want to remember.

Because of those types of activities, Apple calls Siri a “personal assistant.”  Siri is built into recent-model Apple devices so there is nothing for you to download.  It’s already available.

Apple says that you don’t need to talk slowly or pronounce things carefully — you can speak in a natural voice.  There’s no need to “teach” it — although like most voice recognition programs it does get better the more you use it, as it does learn to recognize your speech patterns.

Siri was launched with a media campaign that featured Samuel L. Jackson in one commercial (embedded below).  At first, while Siri was still a novelty, people wrote about it and used it.  But after a while, the romance with Siri soured.  people found that it wasn’t 100% accurate.  One report put accuracy at under 70% in delivering correct responses.

The way it works is that your requests and commands to Siri are uploaded to Apple servers somewhere, interpreted, and then a response comes back to you.

Some companies, like IBM, at one point banned Siri on privacy and security grounds, because it’s not clear what happens to the queries and whether they are saved by Apple.

There are alternatives.  These are considered two of the best:

Google Mobile Search for Android – Google has voice activated search for Android devices.  You can request a variety of things.

Dragon Mobile Assistant – By Nuance Communications, the makers of Dragon voice activated software, comes this mobile assistant.

Our take:  while Siri and other mobile assistants hold promise, they aren’t at the point where they can be relied upon 100% of the time with 100% accuracy.  However, if you are looking for a way to be more productive in your daily work, these mobile assistants can cut down time.

Image: Apple

The post What is Siri? And Does Siri Have Competitors? appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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Ex Energy Minister: Belene NPP, Tsankov Kamak HPP Drove Bulgaria’s Power Co into Debts

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Bulgaria’s National Electric Company (NEK) would have resources of BGN 600 M if the Belene nuclear power plant and the Tsankov Kamak hydropower plant had not eaten up a total of BGN 2.5 B, according to Delyan Dobrev, former Minister of Economy and Energy and current MP of center-right party GERB.

Speaking at a press conference in Haskovo on Sunday, Dobrev, as cited by the Focus news agency, commented on the situation of NEK and Bulgaria’s energy sector.

Dobrev noted that the emphasis of Thursday’s extraordinary press conference of Dragomir Stoynev had been the fact that NEK had run up debts of BGN 1.9 B, most of which were obligations to the Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) and the Kozloduy NPP (over BGN 1 B).

“This is indeed true – these figures cannot be manipulated – but we must also take into account the fact that NEK would now have BGN 600 M if the company had not spent BGN 1.5 B on the Belene NPP project and BGN 1 B on the Tsankov Kamak hydropower plant. When citing figures, it would be a good idea to keep in mind where all of these debts of NEK came from,” Dobrev declared.

Stoynev stated earlier on Sunday that NEK was in a critical condition due to its debts of BGN 1.9 B.

He specified that NEK owed the Bulgarian Energy Holding a total of BGN 755 M, its debt to the Kozloduy nuclear power plant amounted to BGN 320 M, and its debt to heating utilities stood at BGN 60 M.

He also noted that Bulgaria faced a fine of BGN 9000 a day over its failure to complete the spin-off of the Electricity System Operator (ESO) from NEK by June 30, 2013, as required by the EU’s Thired Energy Package.

Stoynev argued that the caretaker government had deliberately blocked the spin-off procedure by restructuring the Board of Directors of ESO and amending its articles of associations 2 days before Stoynev assumed the office of Energy Minister.

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US refiners buoyed by lower costs

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Onshore production of shale in states led by North Dakota and Texas has opened a wide gap between prices for inland US oil and internationally traded crude

Obama in $7bn Africa power initiative

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Deficit of power generation in African nations is one of the critical infrastructure constraints hampering development and stymying investment into the continent

Mayoral Race in Bulgaria’s Varna Registers Record Low Turnout

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

The mayoral elections in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna are taking place amid a record low turnout.

By 1:30 pm on Sunday, a total of 25 023 Varna residents had cast ballots, out of a total of 290 000 with voting rights, setting voter turnout at 8.59%, according to reports of Sega daily.

The extraordinary mayoral elections in Bulgaria’s third-largest city were organized after Kiril Yordanov, longtime Mayor of Varna, resigned after weeks of mass protests against the impact of shady business group TIM over the Varna district, as well as the poor governance of the city.

The demonstrations also tragically included a number of fatal self-immolations, many of them due to poverty and personal distress.

In Varna, 36-year-old Plamen Goranov, dubbed by some “Bulgaria’s Jan Palach”, perished after setting himself on fire in an act of protest against the corruption plaguing the city.

A total of nine candidates are running for Mayor of Varna, including four independent candidates and five nominees of political parties, among whom former ruling GERB party candidate Ivan Portnih and local businessman Veselin Mareshki.

A runoff, if necessary, will be held on July 7.

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Women Business Owners: Are You Following Finerman’s Rules?

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Finermans RulesForgive me as I pontificate on the joys of middle age (it will only take a minute).  There is something glorious that happens when you cross that magical line of actually being mature enough to have an opinion on something and stand by it.  It doesn’t have to be true for everyone – it just has to be true for you.

When you have that epiphany, it feels like a big, fat, oppressive blanket has been lifted off your shoulders.  You suddenly “get” the world and you’re okay with it.  It’s that “Things I know for sure” kind of phase in your life.  Once you’re in it – people will notice.

That’s what I get from Karen Finerman (@karenfinerman), CNBC’s “The Chairwoman,” CEO of Metropolitan Capital Advisors, mother of two (yes two) sets of twins and all around super woman of Wall Street. And now, the author of Finerman’s Rules:  Exerts I’d Only Tell My Daughters About Business and Life.  I received a review copy of the book and placed it on my summer reading list.

If you’re a woman in business, it goes without saying that you’re going to want to read this book.  It’s guaranteed to get you emotional.  Think of this as the working mom versus stay at home mom debate kind of topic.  Except that it’s targeted toward working women, who they are and how they are at work and how being that way has probably worked against them.

So You Want to Get ahead in Business…

While Finerman’s Rules is written as a guide book for women in any professional situation, a lot of these rules come directly from her experiences on Wall Street and in a corporate environment.  By saying that, I mean – not necessarily entrepreneurial.  It’s just a different overall culture and situation.

That said, let’s get you a flavor for some of these rules:

“Realize that working from home is like a sexual fantasy: It (mostly) doesn’t work out in the real world.”

Oh yeah, this one got my emotion up for sure.  I’ve worked in corporate and I currently work from home and it totally works for me.  I also work onsite with clients and that doesn’t work for me.

This is what I mean when I say that you will have an emotional response to some of these rules; you will cheer at some and jeer at others.  That’s what makes the book so much fun:

“Recognize there still exists a serious double standard and plan for it:  A man who takes a few hours to go to his kid’s soccer game is considered a great dad.  A woman who does the same is ‘unprofessional’.”

I’m on board with this one.  I don’t like it and I recognize that it exists.  And this is what I like about Finerman’s writing in this book.  She’s just telling you what she’s experienced and what’s true for her.  It may or may not be true for you, but you will find wisdom between the covers of this book.

There are more rules, but I’m going to let you stew on those two until you get your own copy of this book.

Let’s move on to how to live inside the rules.

A Framework for Success for Today’s Working Woman

Don’t worry.  This isn’t a preachy book at all, Finerman shares a framework that she’s developed to survive and thrive in today’s working environment.  Here’s a short summary:

  1. Frame the problem: Clearly define the problem and eliminate the noise.
  2. Take your emotions out of the equation:  Oh yes, women do get caught up in the emotional thing.  Lose the emotion when you’re making decisions.
  3. Know your options:  While Finerman is a big believer in NOT taking polls to make your decisions, she also advocates making sure you’ve done your research and have as much information as you need to make a good decision.
  4. Recognize what needs to be decided and what doesn’t.  When you have a big decision to make, wait as long as you can to decide because new information may present itself that will help.  But don’t sweat the small stuff – decide as quickly as you can.  (This is my favorite one).
  5. Cut your losses:  If one of your decisions doesn’t go as well as you’d like – cut your losses and move on.  Stop holding on to a bad decision and wishing it would have gone differently.

But Wait – There Are Even More Rules

There is so much good stuff in this book.  You’ll find even more rules to help guide you on your road to success; eight rules to finding your personal style, ten rules for raising kids as a working mom and everything in between.

All of Finerman’s rules are delivered in a frank and engaging writing style through her own personal stories and professional life experiences .  The only thing I thought was sort of ironic was the subtitle of the book: Secrets I’d Only Tell My Daughters About Business and Life.

They aren’t secrets and she’s not just telling her daughters – she’s sharing it with the world – and it’s worth listening to.

The post Women Business Owners: Are You Following Finerman’s Rules? appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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Bulgaria Faces Fine of BGN 9000 a Day over Delayed Implementation of EU’s 3rd Energy Package

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Bulgaria’s National Electric Company (NEK) may face penalty payments of BGN 9000 a day for months on end, according to Economy and Energy Minister Dragomir Stoynev.

Stoynev, as cited by Darik radio, announced at an extraordinary press conference on Sunday that Bulgaria could be penalized by the European Commission over its failure to separate the electricity transmission network from the Electricity System Operator (ESO) by June 30.

Stoynev explained that the delay of the spin-off of ESO from NEK had been caused by the caretaker government.

He made clear that the caretaker government had deliberately blocked the spin-off procedure by restructuring the Board of Directors of ESO and amending its articles of associations 2 days before Stoynev assumed the office of Energy Minister.

Bulgaria’s Energy Minister informed that ESO would move to finalize the change of ownership and the transfer of its shares to the new owner, the Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH), in the coming week, adding that Bulgaria faced a penalty of BGN 9000 a day by the EC until the completion of the transaction.

Stoynev went on to say that NEK was in a critical condition due to its debts of BGN 1.9 B.

He specified that NEK owed the Bulgarian Energy Holding a total of BGN 755 M, its debt to the Kozloduy nuclear power plant amounted to BGN 320 M, and its debt to heating utilities stood at BGN 60 M.

Stoynev told journalists that the Kozloduy NPP had signed contracts envisaging price tags of around BGN 55/MWh, instead of the actual price of BGN 67/MWh, thereby boosting the profits of companies exporting cheap electricity at the expense of Bulgarian citizens.

“One and the same product made by one and the same company was sold at a price difference of by BGN 12/MWh, which benefitted certain companies and related persons. The N-plant is to sell electricity at the same price on the domestic and foreign markets, following market principles. Otherwise the Kozloduy NPP artificially reduces the price of electricity sold on the Bulgarian market,” he stated.

Stoynev also drew attention to the fact that Valentin Nikolov, in his capacity as Chair of the Board of Directors of BEH, had signed a contract with Mihail Andonov, then-CEO of BEH, enabling him to dispose of 10% of BEH’s long-term assets without seeking permission from the company’s Board of Directors.

Stoynev argued that the step had given Andonov unprecedented powers, such as to sell all dams and hydropower cascades of NEK, and should have been opposed by caretaker Economy and Energy Minister Asen Vasilev.

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Bulgaria’s Pironkova Overcomes Croatia’s Martic at Wimbledon

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova made it to the fourth round of Wimbledon for the third time in her career after scoring a victory over Croatian Petra Martic.

Pironkova won 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 over the Croatian Martic in just under two hours on Saturday.

Pironkova reached the semi finals in 2010 and the quarter finals in 2011 at Wimbledon, scoring wins over five-time champion Venus Williams on both occasions.

The Bulgarian, who is ranked no. 72 in the world, will face fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska for a place in the quarter finals.

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Fans Nabbed after Thrashing Bulgarian Football Union Office

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Scores of fans of troubled Bulgarian top football team CSKA Sofia, as well as Romania’s Steaua and Serbia’s Partizan have been arrested in Sofia on Sunday morning.

Enraged fans of CSKA Sofia attacked and vandalized the office of the Bulgarian Football Union in central Sofia little after Saturday noon.

The door and windows of the office were broken, but no one has been injured, officially confirmed the police.

Some 1,000 CSKA fans assembled at the Ariana lake near the busy Orlov Most (Eagles Bridge) intersection at noon, and then proceeded to the Football Union office on Ivan Asen II Str. nearby.

Some were throwing pavements stones and smoke bombs.

After thrashing the Bulgarian Football Union office, the fans proceeded to the CSKA stadium in the nearby Borisova Gradina park.

CSKA fans are protesting the takeover of the team by former football legend Hristo Stoichkov, and its possible merger with the team of Litex Lovech.

The change of ownership comes after years of financial trouble and unconvincing performance by CSKA, which however finished third in Bulgaria’s latest national football championship.

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Bulgaria’s Embattled Govt Supporters Stage Fourth Rally

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Scores of citizens staged on Sunday a fourth rally to show support with the embattled cabinet of PM Plamen Oresharski.

“Your presence is obligatory, if you care for Bulgaria’s future,” organizers of the protest wrote on Facebook.

According to the people assembled, the cabinet should be given the opportunity to show what it can do. They point out that just a few weeks into office, the Socialist-backed government has already made significant efforts in improving social benefits and lowering the prices of electricity.

The protesters in front of the National Palace of Culture said they are supporters of different political parties, but come united because they care for Bulgaria.

The small rally comes against the backdrop of thousands-strong anti-cabinet protests that Saturday enter their 16th consecutive day.

Anti-government protesters are rallying against a number of questionable appointments, as well as against a perceived lack of representativeness in the parliament elected at snap elections May 12.

They are calling for cabinet resignation, a revision of Bulgaria’s Election Code, and new early elections.

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