Grants for Small Businesses: Understanding How It Works

Every year, small businesses are awarded billions of dollars in form of government grants. Although most people know that grants exist, few clearly understand where to get them, how to qualify for them, or even how to apply for them. In connection to this, the following are a few facts that you need to understand to leverage on grants for small businesses.

Coin Bronze Dollar Sign Small Business Loans Versus Grants

Small business loans and grants are two completely different things. While a business loan may be easier to obtain in terms of the procedure and qualification procedures needed, it is never “free money”. The money has to be paid back with some interests. On the contrary, grants are awarded to small businesses with the knowledge that they don’t necessarily have to pay them back.

Coin Bronze Dollar Sign Qualification

Grant-giving institutions in Canada seldom provide grants to individual entrepreneurs looking to start or expand their businesses. In fact, these institutions don’t even supply grants to individuals who are planning to start their own non-profits. Most institutions are interested in providing grants to specific types of organizations and groups. Although there are some grant–giving organizations that might consider grant requests from certain non-profits, they only do so if they are located in areas where the institutions have existing business presence. In other words, these institutions only offer grants to projects that are, or will be consistent with their goals and objectives. On the other hand, government grants are only available to educational institutions and non-profits whose major focus is scientific research, education, medicine, or technology development. Moreover, if you do qualify for government grants for small businesses, it is important to note that the proceeds must be consistent with the funding institution’s objectives.

Coin Bronze Dollar Sign Partial Cover for Business Costs

Unlike grants received by government bodies and institutions, project-based grants require applicants to provide alternative or counter funding. Additionally, grants for small businesses may only cover just a fraction of the project’s cost. In fact, it is very rare to get a grant that covers 100% of the total cost needed to start or expand a small business.

Coin Bronze Dollar Sign Bottom Line

Contrary to what many people believe, “free money” in form of grants are available—real business grants exist. In fact, every year, hundreds of small businesses and other minority-owned businesses in Canada receive such grants from a wide range of government agencies and other non-profit organizations. While grants don’t have to be repaid, they have to be used to at least start a new business or expand an existing one—and based on the funding institution’s goals and objectives. Other types of grants must also be used for innovation research. If you would like to learn more, visit Ontario Centres of Excellence and check out their online resources.

When Is It Worth Automating System Integration Testing?

If you have a software or software/hardware product or tool that you are rolling out to employees or customers, system integration testing will normally be manual. At the same time, it doesn’t always have to be a completely manual process.

Most development teams at larger firms run unit tests against the individuals systems that they are working with while the product is being built. Many unit tests are automated to the extent that they are a script that runs against each build.

Yet when it comes to putting all of the pieces together for a round of software testing when you have full functionality, the same companies normally use software testers that can get in and take the software product through its paces in terms of features. In order to be successful with an automation effort at the system integration testing level, it is necessary to validate that the automation effort will be cost-effective for the coverage that it provides.

Here are some reasons to consider automating system integration testing:

Application quality assurance:

Sometimes people get confused between what the difference between quality assurance and quality control. It is easy to automate software quality control. You are merely testing the features that you are planning to release. It can be a little more discreet to test with quality assurance overtones. Your focus would shift and you would primarily be looking for trends that show that the application is not faring well as development work progresses. In essence, it may be getting buggier as the project moves forward. Having scripts ready that can check an application and validate the human testing work can give managers the control that they need to make decisions as the project moves forward.

ROI:

10 years ago, the bulk of system integration testing was still done by people that worked onsite at the place where the software was being released. Today, mobile lifestyles have created a sort of two-tier system where people work offsite through aggregators that pay by the defect instead of the hour. The other group of system integration people continues to work onsite at companies, providing services that add value in a way that other workers may not be able to. The reason that automation has crept into both areas is that it can be justified by using ROI as a measure of whether or not a specific automation effort should go forward or not. ROI, or return on investment is simply a formula that can help you show whether a new process is more cost-effective than the previous process.

Canadians involved with system integration testing can expect to work more with automation as time goes on. The positive news is that the opportunity to develop as an automation specialist is a gateway to being a full-fledged software developer. More information can be found at QA Consultants.

Modification of GPS for Effective Use in Indoor Navigation

Since it was released for civilian use by the US government, Global Positioning System (GPS) has had a reputation as the most reliable navigation system in comparison to its Russian, European, Indian and Chinese alternatives. For a long time, however, its glory has been blemished by its poor performance in indoor navigation. The main weakness lies in the attenuation and scattering of GPS satellites signals by obstructive objects such as walls and roofs. The effort to modify the navigation system for efficient indoor localization is, therefore, great news.

GPS Repeaters and Modified Positioning

Although the limitations of GPS signal penetration into an enclosed environment are still valid, latest technological innovations have reduced their effect. They involve a combination of an indoor position system utilizing GPS repeaters and positioning algorithm which has been modified to serve the purpose of processing of GPS data captured on real time. Moreover, the addition of certain hardware to the building as well as an update of the software is essential in enhancing the reception of signals by the GPS receiver.

Amplification of Signals

Since the efficiency in the use of GPS for indoors navigation is greatly affected by the weakening of the signals by physical barriers, much of the remedy lies in strengthening them. In this quest, you need more than two sets of GPS repeaters together with independent GPS directional antennas in order to pick the signals from different areas in the sky. This allows the strengthening and retransmission of the signals from different satellites into a specific building.

No Hardware Addition to the GPS Receiver

The positioning system only utilizes GPS signals. Therefore, all that is required is the modification of the software working with a standard GPS receiver. There should be no change to the receiver’s hardware in term of additions. However, you will need to come up with a system that includes antennas and GPS repeaters as the main features.

Keep in mind that the modification of the system is much simpler than of those which require installation of infrastructure. For instance, a patent application calls for the use of amplifiers in addition to antennas to enable repetition of indoor GPS signals. On the other hand, this system calls for much emphasis on the reception of the GPS signals from different areas of the sky, their amplification and their retransmission into an indoor space.

Conclusion

The use of GPS in such areas as provision of services including medical assistance in emergency situations and management of traffic is forever rising in popularity. Although it has not been the greatest of choices when it comes to using it with indoor maps for indoor localization, a lot of research aimed at improving its efficiency is on-going. Admittedly, it is fairly complicated, but the strengthening of the signals picked from different parts of the sky and their retransmission into the enclosed environment is a great way of getting through the barriers to their efficient use.

The New Features Found On Microsoft Office 2010

Every few years, Microsoft releases a new version of their Office software package that includes key programs like Excel, Word and Outlook. The upgrade to Office 2010 Suites saw several big changes to the classic look and feel of the software. While a few changes were jarring to some users who were accustomed to older versions, many of them are now considered key features that will appear in future versions of Microsoft Office.

The Office Ribbon

Perhaps the most notable, and controversial, change is the addition the Ribbon. This new feature first appeared in Office 2007, but the 2010 version saw it expanded across all of the programs in the package. The Ribbon is a collection of buttons that represent common or important commands that users might need on a regular basis. This includes buttons for changing the font of text, adding highlights or changing the orientation of a paragraph.

Office 2010 saw an expansion of the Ribbon interface to allow users to customize their toolbars to match their individual needs. This resolved some of the complaints made by Office 2007 users, who were frustrated at the forced changes. Users can add the commands they use frequently to the Ribbon so they are always in reach.

Media Functionality

Bloggers and tutorial writers now have a much easier time capturing images in Office 2010 Suites thanks to a simpler screenshot function. The default Ribbon now includes a Screenshot button, which shows available images to choose from when pressed. Photo editing tools are now displayed automatically when an image is added to a document, so users can make adjustments quickly and move on.

Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook also saw a big improvement in photo editing options compared to older versions of the software. Users can apply different filters and effects on pictures from within the application, so they don’t have to modify the image with a third-party program first. While this functionality isn’t as sophisticated as a complete photo editing program, it does have many of the basic tools needed for document creation.

Simultaneous Editing

Writers and editors that collaborate with colleagues to create document drafts have long been frustrated by the “file in use” error when another user has the document opened. Office 2010 alleviates this problem by allowing multiple users to access and change a document at the same time. The new suite also offers automatic synchronization of offline and networked documents.

Exploring Office 2010

There are tons of smaller features and upgrades in the Microsoft Office 2010 Suite, including a few notable ones for each program. Frequent Excel users may be interested in the new sparklines, which are tiny graphs depicting changes in data in connected cells. No matter what part of the suite you use most, you are sure to notice some new features and interface options in the latest version.

Types of Documents That Needs To Be Properly Shredded

You’ve probably heard about the importance of document shredding to protect your personal information. According to the Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus, identify theft costs the nation $2 billion annually. But what constitutes the sensitive information fraudsters are looking for? And are there types of documents that you should keep?

What You Should Shred
Typically, protecting yourself requires shredding any paperwork that includes:

* Account numbers
* Passwords and PIN numbers
* Social Insurance Numbers and Tax IDs
* Signatures
* Birth date

Any of this information could be used to impersonate you and gain access to your accounts or apply for credit in your name. To be safe, you should also shred anything with personal information such as your name, address, email, or phone number that make it easier to impersonate you or uncover more information. Maybe some of this information is public knowledge, but simply tossing it in into the trash makes it so much easier for it to be stolen and used.

Some documents you should keep for a period of time if they will help to avoid possible legal issues in the future. These should be kept stored in a locked metal box in a discrete location. If you have an electric shredder for your home or office (and you should), document destruction should include everything you have no need of.

Junk Mail
If you aren’t going to open it, shred it. Even letters to “Occupant” might be credit card offers that could provide a thief with a credit card in your name.

Credit Card Statements
Some people advise keeping them for awhile, especially if you need them for tax purposes. Your usual process should be to make sure every charge is legitimate, then shred any receipts once they’re paid. Even better, sign up for paperless billing so that there are no documents for thieves to find.

Mortgage and Tax Documents
For legal reasons, save mortgages and any records of property improvements until five to six years after you’ve sold the property. Save tax information 6-to-7 years before shredding.

Pay Stubs
Save them, but once you’ve done your taxes, shred the check stubs you don’t need.

Medical and Financial Statement
Keep them for a year in case there are disputes or errors. When they’ve been paid and cleared, shred them.

Insurance Documents
Shred bills as they are paid. After coverage has expired or been cancelled, wait five years before shredding the policy documents.

Utility Bills and Store/ATM Receipts
If this is something that can help with your taxes, save them. Otherwise, as always, verify billing charges are legit and shred them as soon as they are paid.

The government passed tough laws in 2009 meant to discourage identify theft – but it’s still on the rise. The odds are against any thief going to all the trouble to reassemble random documents from shredded paper. A cross-shredder that reduces them to confetti is even more of a deterrent. Paper shredding is the first and best way to safeguard personal information.