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Here’s a recap on some useful marketing, business promotion and other interesting stories from the past week:

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EU-funded tool to help our brain deal with big data

Every single minute, the world generates 1.7 million billion bytes of data, equal to 360,000 DVDs. Ask yourself: How can our brain deal with increasingly big and complex datasets?

EU researchers are developing an interactive system, which not only presents data the way you like it, but also changes the presentation constantly in order to prevent brain overload. The project could enable students to study more efficiently or journalists to cross check sources more quickly. Several museums in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the United States have already showed interest in the new technology. Data is everywhere: it can either be created by people or generated by machines, such as sensors gathering climate information, satellite imagery, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, GPS signals, etc. This information is a real gold mine. But it is also challenging: today’s datasets are so huge and complex to process that they require new ideas, tools and infrastructures.
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H&R Block Reaches out to Attract Accounting Firms

You must have heard about a US tax return preparer called H&R Block. They are very big. And well respected. They have now created a new program to attract accountants who are interested in selling their practices or becoming H&R Block franchisees, with a new service spearheaded by accounting industry consultant Jennifer Katrulya. She will continue to manage her consulting practice, BMRG Advisory Services, which provides firms with education, resources, tools and advisory services for modernizing their accounting practices, while also joining Block as director of accounting operations for H&R Block Small Business Services.

The emergence of cloud-based technology is changing the way accounting firms offer and price their services, Block noted, and the launch of the H&R /BMRG (Business Management Resource Group) program aims to address both problems. “As we’re looking to move into the client accounting services space, with bookkeeping, payroll, etc., an important thing for us was having a certain level of operational and strategic expertise, which Jennifer absolutely brings to the table,” said Jeremy Smith, director of H&R Block Small Business Services. “But also we want to be a constructive player in this space and part of the community. An important part of this is we know a big problem within the accounting space is succession.”

Watch out for the move to do the same in the UK – it could be sooner than you think. In the meantime, read more at:

New computer chip mimics the brain

It’s as fast as a supercomputer and as small as a postage stamp: the new computer chip that mimics the brain… What is it?

“TrueNorth” is a new computer chip that has been developed by scientists to mimic the organisation of the brain. Just three millimetres in width, it consists of a grid of one million “neurons” each connecting to 256 other neurons. The result is over 256 million connections, or “synapses”, between them. By working together, the neurons are able to identify the most important features in a visual scene in real time.

The project was first launched by American technology company IBM in 2011, but since then a number of other companies have also become involved. The details of the new chip are published in the journal Science. Dr Dharmendra Modha, the publication’s senior author, told the BBC that it was “a new machine for a new era”. He said that he foresees a wide range of next-generation applications, from glasses that help visually impaired people navigate, to robots that can investigate disaster scenes. Its capabilities are more advanced than other computer chips, which is the result of the processor being “endlessly scaleable”, according to Modha. “This isn’t a 10-15% improvement,” he said. “You’re talking about orders and orders of magnitude.”
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Your USB drives could cause serious injuries

The ubiquitous USB is ‘critically flawed’ after bug discovery, researchers say. Dave Lee, Technology reporter, BBC News says that cyber-security experts have dramatically called into question the safety and security of using USB to connect devices to computers. Berlin-based researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell demonstrated how any USB device could be used to infect a computer without the user’s knowledge. The duo said there is no practical way to defend against the vulnerability.

The body responsible for the USB standard said manufacturers could build in extra security. It is not uncommon for USB sticks to be used as a way of getting viruses and other malicious code onto target computers. Most famously, the Stuxnet attack on Iranian nuclear centrifuges was believed to have been caused by an infected USB stick.  However, this latest research demonstrated a new level of threat – where a USB device that appears completely empty can still contain malware, even when formatted.
Don’t say you weren’t warned.
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Business plans for the 21st century

Previous articles in this series have looked at the whys and whats of business plans. John Stokdyk and the AccountingWEB team complete the series by looking at how people compile their plans and ask why they have proved so resistant to technological change.

The content, structure and composition of business plans have changed relatively little over the past decade. And the same could be said of the techniques used to create them. The web and other technologies such as tablets and smartphones offer a wealth of new ways to both create and communicate business plans. But the tools most people used 10 years ago – Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel – are just as ubiquitous in 2014.

As FD Works founder Jon Gaunt said of Excel 2013 in a recent blog, “Nothing comes close for business planning.”
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Warning – Too much Twitter use may make you psychotic: Study

If you have a tendency to read and post tweets for several hours a day, watch out for psychiatric disorders. According to researchers, an overdose of Twitter may drive you psychotic. The study detailed the case of Mrs C — a 31-year-old heavy Twitter user — who was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Germany because of intensive suicidal thoughts.

Mrs C’s development of psychotic symptoms coincided with her “excessive” use of Twitter — up to several hours a day reading and posting tweets, claimed the paper titled Twitter Psychosis: A Rare Variation or a Distinct Syndrome?
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The top 10 fixes for PC problems

The top 10 fixes for PC problems – read about that and more in PCWorld’s August Digital Edition. The onslaught of tech information is relentless. Stay on top of the latest with PCWorld’s Digital Edition. Available as single copies or as a year-long subscription, it highlights the best content from—the most important news, the key product reviews, and the most useful features and how-to stories—in a curated Enhanced Edition for Android, iOS, and Kindle, as well as in a Replica Edition.

The Enhanced Edition includes videos, slideshows, podcasts, and other interactive features—all designed for consuming on your tablet. The Replica Edition is a PDF-like version that’s enabled for your mobile device’s touchscreen.

How to subscribe and start reading:
Current subscribers can visit to learn how to access PCWorld on any device and start reading the August issue right away. Not a subscriber? With the PCWorld Digital All-Access Pass, you can get access to the digital magazine on as many devices as you’d like! Plus, you get access to both the Enhanced Editions and the Replica Editions—all for $19.97 a year. Subscribe today, or learn about other purchasing options by visiting
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Time’s up: The benefits and challenges of moving away from the billable hour

This is from the USA but provides useful lessons for UK firms: Debbi Warden, CPA, CGMA, still remembers exactly why her bookkeeping firm decided to—as she colourfully puts it—jump off a cliff. “It felt as if every other week we were putting dollar signs in front of our clients,” she said of her firm’s previous billing practices. “We are a relationship business. And we didn’t want dollar signs interfering with the relationship.”

Warden, who runs an accounting firm called The Business Manager near Denver, Colorado, wondered if changing her billing model might help. It’s a question many CPAs have considered in recent years, especially as more and more consultants have called for the elimination of the billable hour. Warden’s experience provides an instructive case study for firms that want to understand the challenges and potential benefits of such a change.

She jettisoned the firm’s old model, in which practitioners charged most clients $75 an hour and invoiced after the work was completed. Instead, a majority of clients began pre-paying a flat rate through an automatic monthly bank draft. The rate varied by client.
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Real productivity and total freedom: The Citrix Paperless Office Suite

Do you ever wish there was a way you could be in two places at once — being both productive at work and still present in your personal life? Now, there is. The Paperless Office Suite from Citrix combines the data-sharing power of ShareFile, virtual conferencing from GoToMeeting and total remote access to your computer from GoToMyPC to deliver on the promise of freedom and productivity found with true mobility.

Follow the real-world example below and then imagine how much more you could get done at work and in life with the Citrix Paperless solution.
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Tax rates, allowances and reliefs 2014/15: ICAEW TAXtools 5 issued

The Tax Faculty of ICAEW has issued TAXTools 5 which sets out a summary of 2013/14 and 2014/15 key tax rates, allowances and reliefs for business tax, indirect taxes, national insurance and personal tax. It includes information relevant for both members in practice and in business in an easy-to-use format. Additional and more detailed information can be found at the end of each section by following hyper-links to HMRC guidance.

TAXtools 5 is available online at TAXtools 5: Tax rates, allowances and reliefs 2013/14 and 2014/15 where drop-down menus can help you find what you need. It is free to all and not restricted to Tax Faculty members. You can save the webpage as a favourite, download or print a pdf version to keep on your desk. If you find it useful why not forward it to your colleagues?
Read more:–allowances-and-reliefs-2013-14-and-2014-15–ICAEW-TAXtools-5-issued

Going Local: Keys to Grassroots Marketing

Understanding and optimizing local opportunities can be the most powerful type of marketing possible. Generally, business owners are grappling with a host of new marketing imperatives. They have to “grab eyeballs”, drive traffic to their website, monitor page views and calculate their conversion to sales. If you ran a big company, you’d be increasingly dependent on technology to keep track of customer buying patterns, preferences, and needs. But if you’re running a local small firm, you start each day with a significant competitive edge: you actually know your customers.

This allows you to provide a level of customer service and personalised attention that larger organisations can only simulate or dream about. The added dimension of customer connection alters the playing field for business owners whose market is local. Your customers know they can shop for your products or services not only locally, but also online. But you can win and retain their loyalty by making your personal relationship so valuable that levels on which you can’t compete, such as price, take a back seat to the importance they place on doing business with you.

A free publication can be downloaded from:
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Martin Pollins
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