Monthly Archives: September 2013

Windows Start Button Resurrected

Microsoft’s New Windows 8.1 Ad Shows Off The Start Button!

With Windows 8 now the go to operating system for consumers and business users alike, Microsoft is hoping that bringing back the Start button in Windows 8.1 will make users fall in love with its newest operating system.

Users told Microsoft not to kill the Start button. Even Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen publicly griped about its loss when he reviewed an early version of Windows 8. After a lot of soul searching, Microsoft saw the light and listened to users.

Bringing it back is a step in the right direction, but, as mentioned before, if you already tried Windows 8, and hated it, Windows 8.1 probably won’t change your mind, Start button or not. The bigger problem is that the user interface just isn’t intuitive in a whole bunch of ways. It’s almost downright confusing. But, we have little choice in the matter, aside from abandoning PC’s and jumping to a MAC or Linux based system, we’ll all need to learn to like it.

On top of that – April of next year is the drop dead date for Windows XP’s extended support & security updates so if you don’t make a change before April 9th 2014, you’ll be surfing the net with a 12 year old operating system (that’s ancient in technology terms). When Windows XP was first developed the internet was a different place. Smartphones were non-existent, laptops were a luxury and tablet computers were a thing of science fiction

That said, here’s a YouTube video showing how the revived Start button will look when Windows 8.1 is released to the public on Oct. 18:

Updated Windows 8.1 Demo




Get Emergency Information On Your Smartphone

ACTSmart – Be Prepared!  Get Emergency Information on Your Cellphone from!  There are now two primary methods that Massachusetts citizens can get emergency information on their cellphones, Ping4alerts! and Wireless Emergency Alerts.

Both of these methods will provide timely and important information about emergencies and hazards in your area and how you should respond to ensure your safety. Important messages may be delivered using both methods.


Q: What type of alerts will I receive?

A: The app receives a data feed from the National Weather Service for certain severe weather events. Messages are sent for watches and warnings for tornados, thunderstorms, flash floods, blizzards, hurricanes, and others. In addition, MEMA also uses Ping4alerts to send important information about potential or actual emergencies.

Q: How will Ping4alerts! notify me if an alert has been sent about severe weather or other emergencies?

A: When a new alert is sent, Ping4alerts! Will cause your phone to sound an audible alert and it will push a notification to your phone’s screen. In addition, certain severe messages about life threatening conditions may override the phone’s silent or vibrate settings to ensure that the user gets the message.

Wireless Emergency Alert system: Have you received an emergency alert on your cell phone about severe weather, an AMBER Alert or another emergency and were unsure of what it was or where it came from? Beginning in June 2012, the Wireless Association and the wireless industry joined the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to offer a robust and reliable Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system.

There are three different kinds of WEA alerts:

1. Imminent Threat Alerts – Alerts that include severe man-made or natural disasters where an imminent threat to life or property exists:-Most WEAs will be issued by NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS). WEAs will be used by the NWS only for the most imminent and severe weather conditions. This includes automatic alerts when Warnings are issued for: Tornados, Flash Floods, Blizzards, Ice Storms, Hurricanes, and Tsunamis.

-Imminent Threat alerts may be issued by authorized state officials, such as the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). Alerts must meet certain criteria that are established in the FCC rules to ensure that only the most urgent messages are sent as a WEA.

2. AMBER Alerts – Alerts that meet the U.S. Department of Justice’s criteria to help law enforcement search for and locate an abducted child. These alerts are sent by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

3. Presidential Alerts – Alerts issued by the President or a designee. While these alerts will appear on a person’s mobile device similar to a text message, they are differentiated from a regular text message because they include a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice. WEAs are not text messages but instead use a different kind of technology to ensure they are delivered immediately and are not subjected to potential congestion (or delays) on wireless networks. There are no fees/charges for this service (does not count as a text message). The device’s location information is used only for the delivery of the Wireless Emergency Alert and is not tracked by the provider or the government.

WEAs will be sent to those within a targeted area, unlike text messages, which are not location based. While WEAs will be targeted, an alert usually is sent to an entire county. As some counties are quite large, you may need to investigate further after you receive a WEA to learn whether you may be in harm’s way. Your best use of WEA is to immediately seek additional information about the imminent threat impacting your area.

If you have a WEA-enabled phone, you are automatically enrolled. The number of WEA-capable devices continues to grow, and many of the new phones (both smartphones and non-smartphones) that are sold from participating carriers will be able to receive these alerts. If your device has the Wireless Emergency Alerts logo (see logo to right), then it is WEA-capable. If you have an older phone, you might need to only upgrade your device’s software, rather than purchase a new one. To confirm Wireless Emergency Alerts are available in your area and your device is capable of receiving the alerts, please check with your carrier.

Wireless Emergency Alerts are just one notification tool available to the public. If you do not have a WEA-enabled phone, then you can still rely on other means of receiving emergency information. This includes NOAA Weather Radios, news media coverage, ping4alerts!, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on radio and TV broadcasts, social media, and other alerting methods. Many communities in Massachusetts operate some type of local emergency notification (“reverse 911” type) system that may require registration in order to get local alerts and messages from the community. WEAs are designed to supplement, not replace these other notification methods (which can be done by contacting local public safety agencies).

More information about WEA (including links to cell phone carrier information) is available on the CTIA website. For FAQs, see FEMA’s WEA/CMAS website or the National Weather Service website. WEA is also known as the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) and the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN). WEA/CMAS/PLAN are part of FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).


Protecting Your Pets During A Natural Disaster

ACTSmart – Be Prepared!  If a natural disaster strikes, what will happen to your pet? Be prepared: make a plan and prepare a disaster kit for your pet. 

Last week we talked about and what they are suggesting for natural and man-made disasters.  This week we’ve recommending the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and what they recommend in case of a disaster.  We especially liked their recommendations for your pets!  There were LOTS of great suggestions that we hadn’t thought about!  And, you can sign up for email updates and RSS feeds about any topic that interests you!

Prepare a Pet Disaster Kit

Prepare a disaster kit for your pet(s), so evacuation will go smoothly for your entire family. Ask your veterinarian for help putting it together. Here is a checklist to get you started. Some examples of what to include are:

Disaster Supplies for Pets

  • Food (in airtight waterproof containers or cans) and water for at least 2 weeks for each pet
  • Food and water bowls and a manual can opener
  • For cats: litter box and litter
  • For dogs: plastic bags for poop
  • Clean-up items for bathroom accidents (paper towels, plastic trash bags, bleach-containing cleaning agent)
  • Medications for at least 2 weeks, along with any treats used to give the medications and pharmacy contact for refills
  • Medical records
    • Rabies vaccination certificate
    • Current vaccination record
    • If your pet has a microchip, a record of the microchip number
    • Prescription for medication(s)
    • For cats, most recent FeLV/FIV test result or vaccination date
    • Summary of pertinent medical history; ask your veterinarian for a copy
  • Sturdy leashes or harnesses
  • Carrier or cage that is large enough for your pet to stand comfortably and turn around; towels or blankets
  • Pet toys and bed (familiar items to help the pet[s] feel more comfortable).
  • A handout containing identification information (in the event you get separated from your pet)
    • Current photo of pet
    • Pet’s descriptive features (age, sex, neutered/non-neutered status, color(s), and approximate weight)
    • Microchip number
    • Owner contact information (cell phone, work phone, home phone)
    • Contact information of a close relative or friend,
  • A handout with boarding instructions, such as feeding schedule, medications, and any known allergies and behavior problems
  • Documents, medications, and food should be stored in waterproof containers

September Is Disaster Preparedness Month

Even though the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, which forecasters had predicted would be more active than normal, has turned out to be something of a dud so far…. that’s no reason to consider it over!  Today marks the statistical “peak day” for the season which runs from June 1st to November 30th.  We’re saying, ACTSmart – Be Prepared!  All month long we’ll be posting preparedness tips and information on Facebook as well as on our web site. 

We’re including business, family and even pet tips, many that we found when we signed up at which FEMA has created to help citizens “Plan, Prepare and Stay Informed.”  We’ve joined the National Preparedness Community whose mission is to harness the power of every individual through education, training, and volunteer service to make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to the threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues, and disasters of all kinds.”

Anyone can join and it’s FREE – simply go to and click on the “Pledge To Prepare” button where you’ll fill out a simple form with your email address and geographic location. Signing up will get you access to exclusive resources, regional groups, national forms, and updates from FEMA and emergency management personnel.  If you sign up for their monthly news email, they keep you informed about all types of issues and send them directly to you via email.

It’s not just for hurricane season either – the information is timely and relevant for:

  • Basic Disaster Supplies Kit recommended items
  • Business Continuity Planning
  • KIDS Activities including “Call a Family Meeting and Make a Plan!”

One “disaster” tip that we’re formulating into a company policy is “Communications during and after a disaster.”   A common problem during and after a disaster is lack of power, phone and internet communication lines.  Our new policy is that we will also communicate via Facebook and Twitter with our clients.  All clients will be receiving our emergency communications procedure so they’ll know how to reach us and how we’ll communicate with them in the event of a “communications out” situation.  It’s a great policy for every business and every family to consider putting in place.

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