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When you’ve decided to start up a new business, there are many exciting aspects to plan and organise; the launch of the business, the marketing of the brand and the first order received and shipped out.

One of the less exciting aspects is handling your tax affairs once you are self employed. This is a very important area to organise as soon as you decide to become your own boss because if you leave it for a while you could end up with a complicated situation and even the possibility of backdated tax bills or even unwanted penalties.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) handle all tax issues in the UK. You will need to tell them as soon as possible that you are self-employed. Even if you already file a Self Assessment tax return for other reasons, they still need to be made aware so they can set up your tax records correctly. Registering online is straight forward and to begin with you will just need a few basic details of you and your business. They will then arrange for you to receive information and relevant documents with regards to Self Assessment, National Insurance contributions and PAYE if you already have employees. You will be set up with your own online account where you will need to file a tax return each year. This is something you can do yourself or ask an accountant to do. The important thing to remember is to keep records of all your transactions and not to throw away your receipts for any item or service which is relevant to the business. Keep your bank statements in an orderly fashion and you’ll have no problems filing a return.

As you will be self employed, you’ll need to pay your own National Insurance contributions. These are called Class 2 contributions and HMRC can arrange for you to pay them automatically through a direct debit so it’s one less thing to have to think about each month and makes it much easier to budget for. If you expect your earnings to be low, you can ask for a Class 2 National Insurance exemption certificate which means you are not liable for payment.

One aspect of having your own business is its name. You’ll be asked for this on your tax return so at the same time as you make the decision as to what you want to call your company; it is worth looking into registering it as a trademark. A trademark will protect you for the future and will ensure that nobody else can copy you. To do research into and for further information about trademark attorneys visit LondonIP where you will find everything you need to know.

Setting up in business is an incredible experience. Every day is a mixture of challenges and success, decisions and achievements. By organising your tax situation from day one, you will know that you can enjoy the thrill of the ride and know all your financial affairs are being looked after leaving you to enjoy the fruits of your work.

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Car manufacturers always come up with all sorts of different names for the technologies that they create for use with their vehicles. In the case of Japanese car manufacturer Mazda, the latest series of technologies that they produced are classed under the SKYACTIV moniker.

But what exactly is SKYACTIV, and how does it affect engine performance and general car driveability? I take a look into what SKYACTIV is all about, and help to demystify the technology.

Where did SKYACTIV come from?

Perhaps the earliest known predecessor to the Mazda SKYACTIV technology dates back to 2009 when the carmaker featured the Kiyora concept car with SKY-G and SKY-D engines at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Fast-forward a couple of years and the technology is now being used across a number of different Mazda models.

What exactly is SKYACTIV?

SKYACTIV refers to a series of engine, transmission and chassis technologies that are designed to make Mazda cars cheaper to run, more powerful and generally more efficient on the road.

The car manufacturer claims that the technology makes their standard models perform just as well as sports cars, with no compromise on safety, performance or drivability. Here is a more-detailed rundown on how the Mazda SKYACTIV technologies work:

Engines

When referring specifically to engine technology, SKYACTIV features a number of petrol (SKYACTIV-G) and diesel (SKYACTIV-D) engines, both of which are high-compression engines; the Mazda website says that the engines have a compression ratio of 14:0:1 with no “pinking” (engine knocking).

For those of you that don’t know much about how internal combustion engines work, if the compression in an engine is high this will result in better performance and fuel economy because the combustion process is more-efficient.

Diesel engines are typically high-compression anyway, but car manufacturers have not been able to produce high-compression petrol engines due to problems with engine knocking when used with lower octane petrol (such as 95-RON). For Mazda, this is obviously a great breakthrough in the motor industry because it means people can still buy cheaper grades of petrol for their Mazda but benefit from bigger performance and fuel economy figures.

Transmissions

Mazda has produced a series of manual and automatic transmissions that fall under the SKYACTIV moniker. The producer of models such as the MX-5 and the CX-5 say that these new transmissions are designed to be as efficient as possible, whilst not negatively affecting driver operation.

Chassis

An important part of how future Mazda models are developed is down to what every individual component is housed in – the chassis. Some existing and all future models use SKYACTIV chassis technology to offer excellent rigidity whilst making the body as lightweight as possible.

Such differences in chassis technology mean that engines don’t have to be as powerful or heavy in order to achieve certain desired levels of performance (something known in the motor industry as the power to weight ratio).

The car manufacturer had decided to set themselves a target weight loss of 100 kilograms in the current models they build, and they were able to do so thanks to the re-engineered and redesigned chassis structures.

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Image via Flickr

 

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Starting your own business in this modern world means shaking hands with, and embracing the latest technology. There are a few businesses that may avoid the need for it, but for most it is essential. Offices these days need to be interconnected with local, and remote, networks that span the globe.

If you are thinking of starting your own business, here is some of the equipment and software you are likely to need.

Equipment

Most of us are familiar with computers and peripherals now so the terms here shouldn’t phase you when reading this list of required equipment.

  • Workstation Computers. These need to be mid range computers with networking and internet capabilities. They often work as terminals to the main servers.

  • Main Servers. These are powerful computers that are at the heart of your network. They will rout emails and other communications, have massive storage facilities for files, and may be local or remote depending on your needs. The server may turn out to be your biggest expense.

  • Network Printers. There are cheap printers on the market, but they are designed to use ink as quickly as possible, and they break down if used heavily. Invest in good network printers that will withstand prolonged heavy use.

  • Photocopier. Using the copy button on a printer is expensive, and the results are not perfect. Invest in a good photocopier where the toner cartridges last longer, and the quality of the copies is high.

Software

Now there is an important decision to be made. Do you buy and install your own software or use online software? There are free online applications for daily office tasks that work perfectly well and more specialised applications that are available for a reasonable price. Recently launched web based hr software is a prime example of high quality software that will never charge for updates or suffer from malicious attack.

Here are some basic office applications that are either available to use online for free, or that can be downloaded and installed on your local machines.

  • Microsoft Office (Install)

  • Apache OpenOffice (Install)

  • Google Docs (Web)

  • Microsoft Office Docs (Web)

If you require more than the basic office applications, there are solutions for almost every task to be found. Software development is big business and just because an application hasn’t been created by one of the big players doesn’t mean it isn’t just what your business needs.

Installing software locally has issues. As stated earlier, businesses are constantly under attack from viruses and malware. The big players on the internet are in a far stronger position to wage this war than you are and their applications and cloud based storage are far more secure if you implement strong passwords.

There is also the issue of cost. By using online software and services, the whole business could move to the cloud and save thousands of pounds on servers and local systems. It begs the question; is there any need for local networks now that the internet is available to every business? There is a strong possibility that more businesses will be cloud based than not within the next ten years. Maybe you should jump on the bandwagon from the very beginning and design your office around the cloud, saving you thousands in setup costs.

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While there are some technological advances which have given us the benefits we expected, what about the ones we didn’t expect? The following are some of the things which have gotten better in recent years without us even really noticing all that much.

Taking, Editing and Sharing Photos

For some people taking photos has always been fun but modern technology has moved it on a whole new level. For a start, most of us now walk about with the sort of quality camera on our phone which takes great photos effortlessly. It is then a real pleasure to edit them and share them with friends online. Can you imagine the difference if we now had to go back to the old days of using a big, bulky camera and only getting to see the finished version of the photos once the film was developed? It seems safe to say that it would be a lot less fun for most of us. Don’t forget that we can also take high quality videos wherever we go and instantly share them as well. This means that we can share our experiences almost as soon as they happen these days, which is a wonderful ability if you think about it.

Playing Bingo

What would people have thought a decade or so ago if you had said that bingo would be as popular with such a wide group of people as it is now. It is now a game which is widely advertised on TV and at sporting events, with people of all age groups enjoying the odd game. It wasn’t always like this though. The arrival of the internet and the software which makes online playing possible has elevated this classic game to previously un-thought of popularity. Sites like https://www.gamevillage.com/ provide a good example of the sort of place where you can play a lot of different internet games and even have a wager into the bargain. The popularity of gaming sites like this shows no sign of slowing down, with mobile access now letting even more people join them no matter where they are and what else they are doing.

Sightseeing

Going on a trip to a lovely city and having a look around it has always been one of the great pleasures of life. However, it is now even more exciting for a number of reasons associated with technology. Even before you leave home you can look up Google Maps and see what the place is like, as well as learn some of the language online and find out about the best places to see. Once you are there you can use your phone or tablet for a variety of things. Perhaps the most interesting of all is the type of augmented reality app which really brings cities to life for visitors. With the number of these apps expected to grow in number over the coming years, we can all expect to be able to see the hidden treasures and secret stories of the places we visit.

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The world of baby scans has come on leaps and bounds in the last decade or so. The introduction of 3D scans, a few years ago, and now the development of 4D scans have blown parents minds.

If you are a parent, you are going to be excited about the prospect of your first scan. It will be the first time you get to meet your baby, so to speak. The traditional 2D scan is the one that every Mum will have done in the hospital, and even though this can be good, some images still come out all blurry and grey. If you do get a picture, where you can’t tell the baby’s head from its feet, then it is not the ideal way to see your baby for the first time. It often leaves a sour taste in prospective mother’s mouths. The traditional 2D scan will also only show you the outline of your baby, and the image will portray all of the baby’s internal organs too.

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(Thank you to Tess Watson for this amazing 3D scan image, via Flickr)

However, with the technological advances in the sciences and scans, the 3D and 4D scan is available so you can see your baby, and all their features. With a 3D or 4D scan you will be able to see baby’s skin, the shape of your baby’s nose, mouth and ears, as well as their little fingers and toes. You may also see your baby stick out their tongue or suck their thumb. The possibilities are endless, and have had new Mums very excited.

However, there is a catch as 3D and 4D scans are not available on the NHS, and are only available through private companies. This means that you will have to pay a few between £100 and £300 depending on what package you want. You can also request a DVD of your baby’s 3D or 4D scan, which you can play back for family and friends, and embarrass the little one when they grow up.

The people who work within sonography jobs will help you throughout your process at the clinic.

The technology that allows these 3D and 4D scans are expensive, and there are no clear benefits to Mum, baby or medical practitioner, so many experts conclude that these scans will not replace 2D scans or become a free preferred option.

Like the traditional 2D scan, there is a ‘best time’ to have your 3D or 4D scan. That time is between 26 weeks and 30 weeks. However, each pregnancy is different and you may be best to wait until 28 weeks if the placenta is at the front of the uterus. It may be best to ask your GP or midwife when is best to book yourself in for a 3D or 4D scan.

If you attend your 3D or 4D scan and the baby is facing the other way, or is in a difficult position to get a clear image, then the sonographer may ask you to move around a little to try and get the baby to switch positions. This is not guaranteed to work, but it is worth a try. If nothing has come, and you cannot get a clear image of your baby’s face then you may have to settle for fingers and toes.

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Over the last few years, Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) has really developed, and is now being used in more elements of business than ever before.

But what does this mean for the more traditional photography industry?

In truth, CGI has been making inroads into the more traditional, commercial photography industry for the last couple of years. CGI allows for the creation of an image without having to take a single photograph. The image can be as complex or as simple as the business requires it to be. Ikea have led the way, in a commercial sense, as all of the product images that feature online and within the catalogue were created on the computer using CGI.

With anything new, businesses like to dip their toe in the water before deciding what to do with elements of their marketing. This is why product images are very popular amongst new CGI adopters. However, it is these product images that make up the conventional photography ‘bread and butter’. Now that they are losing their ‘bread and butter’ some photography studios are in real danger of shutting and never opening again.

If change is embraced, and CGI is invested in, then the studios can go from strength to strength. However, the investment in CGI software and training is an expensive one and there is no guarantee that a CGI image will ever be as realistic as using traditional photography.

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(Image by Thor, via Flickr)

The initial setup cost of CGI could actually cost more to the client initially. This is because it takes longer to set up to produce a studio product shot. The real savings come a little later as more images are created. The more images the bigger the potential savings.

The easiest way to think about how CGI could save you money is to think logically. If you had a physical product that needed to be photographed you would have to consider:

-          Number of products to be located and shipped

-          Time spent in the studio

-          Retouching and any other expenses

With traditional photography there are certain elements that the studio have limited control over. For example, shadows falling or lack of full depth focus. With CGI, none of these examples are a problem. There are no reshoots for CGI, compared to traditional photography, as the only cost is the replacement of the elements within the CGI scene and the CGI rendering.

All the above really points to the extermination of photographers. However, this will never happen, especially for individuals and within certain industries. For example, the food and fashion industry really are not ready for CGI, they require a human element both behind the camera and in-front of it.

So, who wins in this battle between CGI and Photography?

There is no winner, or they are both winners. Whilst CGI has taken some work away from more traditional photographers, we are living in a world where they can work better together than against each other. For business owners it is very much about getting the right mix for your audience.

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Wherever we go and whatever we do, it is likely that we will be filmed at some time in our day. Technology had advanced so fast over the last decade that it is now possible to record at higher quality and more cheaply than ever before. The invention of hard disc recorders means that terabytes of recordings can be made before the storage media needs to be overwritten. Well, we can’t fight it, and it is adding to our security and peacekeeping, so maybe it is a good thing.

Video cameras are now smaller and lighter than ever too. Some may still use tapes, but they are being overtaken in popularity by solid state flash drive technology. Since prices have plummeted over the last few years, the case for owning a personal video camera of some kind is compelling.

Here are some reasons why you should go out and buy one or more cameras yourself before you regret the time wasted without one.

Be a Director

Movies such as The Blair Witch Project are en vogue still. Armed with a script and a high definition video camera, anyone can make their own movie if they are wise. The aforementioned movie, for example, used no special effects at all; simply natural surroundings.

Wildlife

By placing cameras in the woods, or even your back garden, you will be able to see what critters move around at night. By using the best bird box cameras, which are incredible pieces of technology, you will be able to watch parents rear their young in real time. You will probably catch foxes roaming at night, and, if you are lucky, badgers. More commonly though will be hedgehogs and cats. Still, it is great fun viewing the tapes with the children and getting them interested in wildlife.

Security

We are filmed on the streets, and if you feel insecure at home, you can be filmed there too. Video camera systems come in kits that are easily installed in and around the home. Despite what you may read, the evidence from these camera systems can be submitted in a court of law. To be on the safe side, you should always place a warning sign on the outside of your property to inform intruders that they are being filmed. That always seems a bit ridiculous to me but, as they say, the law is an ass.

Memories

Filming your family is, arguably, the number one reason for owning a video camera. Lives move on, and it is heartwarming to be able to revisit old times and see how we once were. It is too easy to forget how beautiful the children were at a young age, and a video camera is a magical solution to this. Everyone groans when dad turns the camera on, but they are all glad he did years later when they look back nostalgically.

Of course, in the memories section, there will be big occasions to film, such as weddings and birthdays. All of these occasions need to be recorded for prosperity. The video camera is a perfect tool for this. Everyone loves to see their nan drunk!

Are you convinced yet that the argument for owning a camera is sufficiently strong to make you go out and buy one? If not, you soon will be now that your curiosity is aroused.

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Home entertainment, today, is unrecognisable compared to what it was only twenty years ago. The birth of the digital age signalled a new era for our way of lives. We are now in contact with the rest of the world at the push of a button in so many ways.

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Twenty years ago, we were restricted in home entertainment to watching four or five television channels, listening to the radio, or playing DVDs and vinyl records. No-one could imagine the wonders that were about to hit our homes and senses.

Here are some of the ways today, that we can be entertained with movies, sometimes from the other side of the globe, without leaving our living rooms.

DVD

The Digital Versatile Disc was a great leap ahead of the video tapes that dominated home entertainment at that time. The quality of the picture and sound was near perfect compared to the tape. Scenes can be easily skipped forwards or backwards, and pausing leaves a clear image.

During the years of the DVD, soundtrack technology has advanced until now it is standard that a movie will have 5.1 sound encoded. This amount of information was impossible to store on a VHS tape. The quality of the sound is beauty to the ears. It can make one feel as if they were in the movie itself.

Streaming

If a person is in the mood to watch Grand Masti at a time that is convenient for them, then it is easy to do with the latest movie streaming services online. We have an unbelievable library available at little or no cost. With a smart television or a computer connected, movies are at our fingertips 24 hours a day. In order to stream movies successfully, a broadband connection of reasonable speed is needed. This often doesn’t present a problem, however, as this facility is in most homes these days.

Blu-Ray

Technology advanced once more with the advent of the Blu-Ray disc, so called because of the colour of the laser used to read the information. Blu-Ray discs can hold more than twice the information of a standard dual-layer DVD and so movies can be shown in higher definition than ever before. Bl-Ray machines were initially very expensive, as were the televisions that could show the movies in the highest definition. Time marched on, however, and now that the televisions have become cheaper, Blu-Ray players are becoming a standard piece of kit. The introduction of these players had caused the cost of an ordinary DVD player to drop below twenty pounds in some cases.

Hard Drives and Memory Sticks

It is now a simple matter to store movies digitally. Memory sticks have a large amount of storage for saving movies in any format, and whole libraries can be stored on hard drives. Soon enough all televisions will have USB ports; many do already, so the stored movies can be directly accessed.

Technology has come so far in the last thirty years that it boggles the mind. What do the next thirty years have in store for us? Well, we will have to wait and see. Hopefully, it will not create a society like that in George Orwell’s 1984, who knows? Maybe it is best that we remain on our guard.

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SEO tools can be a bit hit and miss: there are some out there that can save you loads of time and effort, while others are complete waste of time and money. It can be hard to differentiate between the two at first though, as they are all marketed to sound so good! To help you decide what tools to get this year, I’ve made a list of some of the most awesome SEO tools ever. These tools will all save you time and help you with your projects every single day – you won’t be able to live without them!

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Image Author

Screaming Frog SEO Spider

This is a very popular crawl tool – one of my personal favourites! It’s an amazing tool for SEO’s, site managers, and developers. What does it do? You can probably guess; it crawls a site just like any search engine spider would! It’s an amazing tool to audit a site from a technical viewpoint, and will quickly gather up all of the information you need to improve a site. The other great thing about it is that it’ll run quietly in the background of your Mac without disturbing your work. Although this is a great tool for professionals, if you just need a simple SEO audit, you’re better off getting a free website SEO analysis.

Integrity for Mac

You can easily find annoying broken links on your site with this great tool. As you probably already know, broken links are a huge waste of link strength, and even give the user a bad experience while on the site.The tool is free and is amazing for checking small sites when they’re finished. You’ll even be able to see your pages that are most linked to and just how many links they have!

SEMRUsh

This tool can do so much for busy marketers and SEO’s…for example:

  • Let you see the keywords that look popular in your niche.

  • Let you see related keywords, phrases, and terms that you could consider putting in your content.

  • Let’s you see top ranking sites competing for the same keywords.

  • Let’s you see how much on average a keywords would be worth in Google Adwords.

  • And more!

Majestic SEO and Link Research Tools

The best link building tool available could well be Majestic SEO. You can use it for so many different things, including:

  • To find any obvious shortcuts you could take advantage of.

  • Find out the competitors that are really spamming and getting away with it.

  • Find ideas about post for a clients site.

  • Pick out links from quality, respected sites that you may usually have problems getting.

  • Learn exactly how other sites have got where they are today.

  • Give you ideas you might not have thought of.

There are many tools out there that can help with your SEO, but these are the most awesome by a mile. Some tools make work for you that didn’t work for me, so feel free to try them out and let me know how it went in the comments!

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Cruises are a popular way for people to holiday. Whilst many people prefer to fly to various destinations around the world, there isn’t much to do on a crowded and stuffy plane, and don’t forget that there are some folks that would not step foot on a plane even if you paid them to!

For those that seek a relaxing holiday from start to finish, going on cruises is definitely one way of holidaying that ticks all the boxes! Cruise ships have a wide range of activities for people of all ages to get involved with, and they are so luxurious you would wonder why people bother with alternative ways of going on holiday!

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But as with any other type of holiday, the experience can be somewhat enhanced by getting a helping hand from technology. On that note, here are some of 2014’s best travel gadgets that cruise-goers can get their hands on.

SteriPEN Adventurer Opti UV Water Purifier

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Although you might be used to having access to clean drinking water on a daily basis, if your cruise ship docks at some far-flung corner of the globe that you want to go out and investigate for the day, and the drinking water on land is somewhat questionable, you need to take a SteriPEN Adventurer Opti UV Water Purifier with you!

You simply hold the device in your cup of water for approximately 48 seconds and it purifies it for you; extremely simple and easy to use by anyone!

USB & Wind-Up Dynamo Torch

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Sometimes when you are on land, you might end up travelling to a dimly-lit part of town. If that’s the case, you should make sure that you are fully prepared by lighting up the way with this handy USB & Wind-Up Dynamo Torch!

It has five LED lights and be operated by using the winder (a minute’s worth of winding is the equivalent of 15 minutes worth of light), but if you’ve got your laptop on your cruise ship with you or there are USB chargers on board, you can get 6 hours worth of light from a single charge via USB!

Apple iPad Air

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Although you might have booked an awesome cruise through Cruise1st.ie, for example, and there is plenty for you to see, do and take part in on your cruise adventure, there are times where you might want to just sit back and relax.

At this point, many people might read a book or even use an ebook reader, but I’d recommend using an Apple iPad Air instead. Why? Because Apple’s latest tablet incarnation is extremely lightweight, especially in comparison to its predecessors, and not only can you read books, in colour, on the iPad Air, but you can also use your favourite apps, check your email and go online via the cruise ship’s Wi-Fi.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ40

Let’s face it; everybody wants to have some photos of their cruise adventures, and what better way is there to accomplish this task than to use the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ40 digital camera!

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