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Subscribe to Jake Ludington's Digital Lifestyle Newsletter Jake Ludington's Delighted Robot newsletter brings you the latest tips for maximizing productivity, simplifying digital video and audio frustrations, and solving computer problems.

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Audio and Video conferencing solutions help make our world smaller. When traveling isn't practical, a video conference can be the next best thing to meeting face-to-face.

LifeSize, one of the companies doing interesting work in the video conferencing space is looking for your help to make high-definition video conferencing even better.

If you can take 5 minutes to share how you use audio and video conferencing solutions in your workplace, you will automatically be entered in a giveaway for one of five $200 Amazon Gift Cards. Complete the 5 minute survey now.

Recipients of the five gift cards will be randomly selected from all completed entries between received between April 7 - April 18, 2014.

LifeSize video conferencing camera

"My computer only has a VGA connection for video, is there anything I can use to go from VGA to HDMI for my HDTV?"

Purchasing a video card with HDMI or DVI-out, rather than using your current VGA card is a better suggestion if your computer is a desktop system you can upgrade. If you have a laptop that only includes VGA output, a VGA to HDMI adapter is really your only viable option. The reason I recommend a new video card is partly because the new card will also have additional video RAM, as well as being able to support native HD resolutions. If you really need a VGA to HDMI adapter, such components do exist. My favorite source for HDMI cables and other cabling needs, Monoprice, is a good place to get what you are looking for.

Monoprice sells a VGA+RCA to HDMI solution that allows you to take both the video from your VGA connection and your sound card output, passing them through a converter box and outputting HDMI on the other side for about $40. I haven't personally used this device, but similar devices have been known to end up with audio and video slightly out of sync, so it should work well for displaying your computer screen, but might not be ideal for playing video from your PC.

VGA to HDMI Adapter

If you don't need an adapter that connects both audio and video to the HDMI port on your TV, another great alternative is the AmazonBasics VGA to HDMI adapter from

Attempting to predict the future is generally seen as a fool's errand. There are too many variables to expect to achieve anything but a small degree of accuracy, particularly when you start looking more than a few months to a year out. What's happening now and what's known to be on the horizon can provide some space for educated guesses, but even with that knowledge, the risk of being dead wrong is incredibly high.

When you're in the business of serving one of the largest industry sectors in the world, information technology, making educated guesses in an attempt to understand what customers will need in the future is required. Without making those educated guesses, there's an even bigger risk of failing to remain relevant in the next business cycle.

With that in mind, HP took on the daunting task of asking Chief Information Officers what enterprise computing and the IT landscape will look like in the year 2020 as part of the HP Enterprise 20/20 initiative. You can read the research findings on the Enterprise 20/20 site.

I had a chance to speak with Mike Shaw from HP Software about the project. He distilled some of the key findings in the interview below:

Most companies have a fair degree of experience defending their own data centers or at least have a trusted partner managing data center security. For companies who put their infrastructure in a public cloud provider, like AWS or Rackspace, there are plenty of security models to follow as well. But what about companies that move data from their in-house data center to the public cloud and back again?

Hybrid cloud environments that combine in-house infrastructure as a service in the company data center, with additional capacity in public cloud environments, face some slightly different challenges. Data may be protected in the data center. It may also be protected once it's in the cloud. But what about when data is in transit between the two? Are there unique vulnerabilities that need to be accounted for? Does creating a link between the data center and a public cloud provider create additional vulnerabilities?

I spoke with Ben de Bont about these challenges at HP Discover. The video interview below is the result of that conversation.

If there's a single number that should give any business a scare, it's that the average security breach goes undetected for 243 days. That means when someone breaks through your network defenses, they've got roughly 8 months to poke around without beng detected. Nevermind the cleanup that's required to resolve the breach after detection is complete.

The HP Enterprise Security team is aiming to dramatically reduce this time by improving the way security information is shared between organizations. Currently most of the sharing is done in a highly manual fashion, but as Jacob West points out in the video interview included below, there's plenty of room for improvement. Find out what HP is doing to help companies of all sizes improve their time to detection and provide incentive to find and fix security problems in this interview from HP Discover.

Several months ago, Shab Madina from HP walked me through the features of the new Gen8 ProLiant MicroServer. It's positioned to be a server for the small business market, but it's powerful enough that it makes a great solution for many purposes and affordable enough that it would work as a home office server too. Based on Shab's explanation of the MicroServer, I called it a great small business server.

Last week a Gen8 ProLiant MicroServer arrived on my doorstep, provided to me by HP so that I can provide a complete review.

I'm part of a review program that includes the following other bloggers:

Phil Sellers of TechTalk

BladeWatch from Martin MacLeod

Mauricio Freitas of Geekzone

Luigi Tiano and Ernesto Pelligrino of 1CloudRoad

TechBizTalk from TJ McCue

Chris White at Neowin

HP Gen8 ProLiant MicroServer

Look for a number of posts both here and over on Delighted Robot during the coming weeks. Also, be sure to sign up for the newsletter so you'll be in the know when I announce a giveaway for your chance to get your hands on your own Gen8 ProLiant MicroServer.

"Is there a version of GarageBand for iPad? I'd really like to make music with my iPad and I love GarageBand on my Mac."

Apple makes versions of GarageBand, iPhoto, and iMovie for the iPad. In each case, they adapted the familiar Mac version of the interface for a touch screen experience, including a new series of Touch Instruments. With an iPad accessory like the iRig, you can even plug a guitar into your iPad and record. Each project can have up to eight tracks.

The touch-capable instruments are great for tapping out drum tracks, playing guitar and piano chords, or mixing tracks with numerous virtual instruments. Much like the Mac version of GarageBand, there are 250 loops you can use to create backing tracks to your own original recordings.

GarageBand for iPad

There's even a feature of the iPad version that lets you collaborate with up to three other musicians over WiFi. One person is designated bandleader, the person who defines the tempo, time signature and key of the performance. The bandleader can then combine your individual tracks at the end for a complete song.

You can also use GarageBand on an iPhone or iPod, though I find the screen size to be more limiting in those form factors. At $4.99, GarageBand for the iPad is a pretty great deal. The only possible downside to GarageBand on an iPad is all the space those recordings take up on the iPad's fairly limited storage. You can overcome this limitation by sharing your recordings back to a Mac or saving them to iCloud.

If I had to pick my least favorite part of the iPhone, iPod, iPad ecosystem, it's all the ways Apple complicates making data portable. Instead of allowing you to easily move things between all the various devices you own, from computers, to tablets, to smartphones, Apple largely traps your content into a single iOS device and computer pairing. While it's not impossible to move songs from an iOS device to your computer, it's a big hassle.

MobileGo for iOS solves the headaches of moving data between your iPhone, iPad, iPod and any computers you may need to sync.

Managing Multiple iOS Music Libraries

Consider the scenario at my house, which I'm guessing is fairly common in other households too. I have an iTunes Store account and so does my wife. We manage them from separate computers, so the songs and movies we purchase are only synced to our respective devices.

When I'm driving the kids around, it never fails that they will want to listen to something that's only on their mom's phone and I'm sure the same thing happens to her.

With MobileGo, we can connect both of our iPhones to the same computer and combine our music libraries. We could also sync contacts, photos and other data between devices too.

MobileGo for iOS

Backup SMS Text Messages and Search with iMessage

I used to be skeptical about backing up iMessage SMS messages from my phone. Over time, I've changed my mind. There are some lengthy conversations in my iMessage that are just as useful as an email exchange. Apple backs up your iMessages as part of the complete iPhone backup, but you can't search those backups and you definitely can't export your messages. Here again MobileGo comes to the rescue. You can search all the messages on your phone,

Manage Contacts and Merge Duplicates

If you have contacts from multiple sources, it can be a mess to quickly find the correct info for the person you are trying to reach. The contacts on my iPhone are from a blend of 5 different sources, including multiple email accounts and Facebook. According to MobileGo, my phone currently has 76 duplicates. I can merge those duplicates making it easier to keep track of all the important people in my world.

MobileGo also allows you to sync your contacts with Microsoft Outlook or Windows Mail.

Convert Music and Videos for iPhone and iPad Playback

Depending on where you downloaded music and movie files from, you might not be able to play some of the files on your iOS device. MobileGo can convert those files (without deleting the original) so that any video or audio file can be played on your iPhone or iPad.

Keep Your iTunes and iOS Data in Sync

Another strong feature of MobileGo is the ability to keep iTunes and your iOS data in sync, without needing to have everything on your device from the same library. This speaks to the issue of Apple trying to tie one device to one iTunes library.

There have been times when I downloaded a iTunes movie to a computer that wasn't my "official" iTunes library. The result was a message from iTunes telling me it was going to wipe the library on my iPad and replace it with the library from the computer. Not a good scenario when what I really wanted was the movie and everything that was already on my iPad. MobileGo will merge both libraries, avoiding the issue of figuring out which devices should be synced.

Merge iTunes and iPhone or iPad libraries

Manage iOS Photo Libraries

The photos on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod are all visible as a mass storage device, like connecting an external hard drive. MobileGo puts a nice photo browser on top of this functionality so you can easily look at photos, copy them to your computer, and manage the ones you want to share between devices. My only complaint about photo management is I'd like to be able to click and "checkmark" the photos I want to copy, rather than holding down the CTRL button while I select a handful of photos, but that's a minor annoyance.

The Bottom Line on MobileGo

If you ever need to transfer your music library from an iOS device to a new computer, MobileGo is currently the easiest way to get the job done. If you want to sync the libraries between two (or more) devices, MobileGo makes it painless. SMS backup is rapidly becoming a must have feature - here again, MobileGo does a great job.

If those were the only features of MobileGo, it would be a must-have solution. And it does so much more that MobileGo for iOS really is the software Apple should be shipping with every iPhone, iPad, and iPod device. There's also a version of MobileGo for Android as well.

Back when the Windows Mobile version of the Palm Treo was still my favorite smartphone, I used an excellent Chinese dictionary to quickly look up characters. I haven't spent any time in China for a few years, so I'd kind of forgotten about Pleco. Thankfully the company didn't forget how important it is to have a highly functional Chinese dictionary. They've since added an iPhone version that looks and performs every bit as well as my old favorite from the Treo.

Pleco Chinese DictionaryThe app is designed to make looking up Chinese characters faster than you could ever do with traditional paper or type in dictionaries by using the handwriting recognition built into portable devices. As I've already learned, one of the biggest frustrations in learning Chinese is remembering the meaning of the thousands of characters. Looking up characters manually takes minutes per character with traditional characters. Looking them up using a stylus takes mere seconds.

Anyone who travels to Asia with an iPhone should definitely own this app for looking up characters. If you need to do the reverse, and write in characters to decipher them, there are paid upgrades to help you out.

Get Pleco Chinese Dictionary on your iPhone

Download VueScan

I can't believe it took becoming a Mac user to discover VueScan way back in 2002. I downloaded the trial version on an old Mac, launched the application, and without issue scanned documents natively on a UMAX scanner that hasn't seen new Apple drivers since 1998.

You don't have to be a Mac user to appreciate this level of compatibility - VueScan also works for Windows and Linux. You also don't need a 15 year old scanner either, though if you have one, chances are good it will work with VueScan.

The TWAIN drivers typically used for scanning are bypassed entirely, which seems to be more effective in terms of program speed. Scanning via VueScan seems to be faster than when using native drivers in some cases. Most of us can get by with the basic preview, crop, and scan solution at the core of this application.

If you are a power scanning user there's an advanced version with a long list of cool features more comprehensive than I can document here. Lets just say, if you wanted to configure something about your scanner, this app can probably do it. Most of us probably have a scanner or two that still works from a mechanical standpoint, but is no longer supported by our most recent operating system upgrade. VueScan solves these incompatibilities on over 2100 different scanner models.

Registration permits you to use the application on up to four machines. The trial version watermarks scanned images. If you have a smartphone, VueScan Mobile is free for iOS or Android. [Win/Mac OS X/Linux $39.95 or $79.95]