Trending February 2024 # Are Remote Workers Good Or Bad For Business? # Suggested March 2024 # Top 3 Popular

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For years, businesses have treated remote work and telecommuting as an occasional thing which an employee can do on a Friday. But thanks to the constant march of technology, more people are now working remotely on a regular or even a full-time basis. Employees are no longer bound to their desks from 9 to 5, and this trend will only increase as the ever-increasing millennial workforce demands greater flexibility.

Employers should understandably be concerned about workers not being immediately available, and there are unique challenges towards telecommuting which a business must address. But if telecommuting is managed correctly, it can be a net benefit for a business as long as employers know the differences between managing workers in the office and home.

Remote Talent Is Better Talent

Obviously, some employees are wholly unsuited for telecommuting and will do nothing without structure or someone monitoring them. But a business committed to telecommuting can generally find better workers and improve the productivity of its current workers.

In the former case, a business can pick up extremely talented employees who would not be able to move to its headquarters and thus can recruit from the best people in the world instead of the best people in just a city or region. For the latter case, it has been well-documented that remote workers are happier, report themselves to be more productive, and are more willing to work longer hours and less willing to leave. As employees work more hours and a business hires people from across the world, those businesses can now be available 24/7 instead of merely 40 hours per week.

Using more remote workers carries other benefits as well. A business with fewer office workers can get a smaller, cheaper office which saves money in supplies, utilities, and rent. Workers should be always ready to work at their home computers easily get to their computers at home instead of being late thanks to commuter traffic. Businesses should view telecommuting not as an occasional treat, but as a company policy which will save money and result in happier and better workers.

But Beware of Communication Issues

Telecommuting done right can result in a better, more efficient office. But the emphasis here is on “done right”, and there are problems with telecommuting beyond workers using the free time to goof off.

The biggest problem with telecommuting is communication. Technology like the Internet and Skype has made telecommuting possible and easier, but face to face remains the most effective means of communication.

These communication problems can take on several forms. It can be harder for unprepared employers to get on top of what progress has been made. If you hire workers from across the world, time zone differences can cause missed meetings. But the biggest problem is that communicating through a computer does not build the same emotional bonds compared to face to face.

While a 2024 employee survey found that telecommuting was generally beneficial for the reasons listed above, it observed that “remote employees do rate their ‘relationships with co-workers’ lower than do all workers.” Remote employees cannot chat with each other about sports or their personal lives, creating a purely professional relationship without camaraderie. In fact, relationships can become more negative as those who are barred from telecommuting become jealous of those who can.

Other issues with telecommuting include the fact that some employees need structure and employee fears that they will be forgotten and passed up for promotion if they are not in the office. But practically all telecommuting issues revolve around communication, which requires stern yet open management to address.

In the End, Remote Workers Are Still Worth It

Telecommuting is generally beneficial for employee and employer, but it requires serious, diligent management and communication to attain the greatest benefits. Employers must ensure that employees do not become isolated by technology and feel that they are truly part of the company instead of mere mercenaries.

There are plenty of approaches towards building camaraderie, but the basic idea is to constantly communicate with your employees outside of delivering and receiving assignments. Hold regular one on one meetings. You can do this by setting up an efficient VPN, encourage remote workers to fly to headquarters on a semi-routine basis to see their company with their own eyes, and do not forget about their long-term career aspirations.

Read More – The Best VPNs for Remote Workers

Other aspects of managing remote employees include promoting a results-driven approach which ensures that they complete their assignments efficiently and making sure that goals should be well-defined. Do not try to monitor them by demanding regular progress reports which distract them from their actual jobs and kills trust, but make it clear that telecommuting is a perk and not a right.

The nature of telecommuting means that more than ever, managers will have to really manage and keep track of employee performance while ensuring that they feel like part of a team. But while managing telecommuting is challenging, it offers numerous benefits that make it worthwhile. If your business does not have a telecommuting plan, start one. If it does, look at expanding it.

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Good Copy, Bad Copy: The Magic Is In The Headlines

So what happens when the traffic gets there?

With only a few seconds to grab the attention of your site visitor and pull them into your site – your headline is the most important element of your website (this applies to email subject lines, headlines on ad copy, and headlines on articles – really all of your marketing)

Many people think of their website as a store, and they open with “Welcome.”  While it’s nice to welcome people and that is what you would do if someone walked into a physical store, it is not the same for a website. Let me explain.

When someone lands on your site, they are not actually in your store yet.  This important fact is something most people don’t realize.

When someone lands on your homepage, they are really standing outside your store – they are looking at the sign and the window display and trying to decide if they want to come in.

Your headline is your sign and your window display – it has to entice visitors to come in and browse!

Now your site has to sell them – your content acts as your sales person and describes the benefits of the items you are offering.

So often people think they don’t need a headline – they think they have great content and great quality information and it will “sell itself”.  To be very blunt, that is a mistake and one I see site owners make far too often.

A lot of time, effort and research (testing) have gone into writing the perfect headline over the years.

Do you know how much testing magazines do to come up with the headlines you see on the covers each month?  It’s shocking!  (Tip: take a look at headlines on Vogue and Elle and other magazines and try using their formula for your own headlines – they’ve spent a ton of money getting those headlines right so use them as a guide!)

Creating The Best Headline For You:

There are different headline approaches – which headline is best really depends on your product or service and your audiencet.  Is it an ad headline, a Blog post, an article headline, headline text on a corporate web page, or a headline on a sales page?

If you want to go with a strong headline but don’t want too much hype, then you should go with a benefit-oriented headline that promises something but isn’t too over-the-top.  You can also create some curiosity.

Here are a few samples:

The Real Truth About SEO

What You MUST Know Before You Hire An SEO Firm

Insider SEO Secrets To Increase Rankings and Traffic

You’ve created curiosity, you’ve told them what they can expect to learn and you’ve kept the hype to a minimum.

These headlines are strong and effective but sometimes you need to pack a little more power.  If your competitors are all promising the same info, then yours isn’t really going to stand out so you need to step your game up.

Before we go into some more power-packed headlines, let me address a common concern I hear all the time…

“But I know my audience/customers/readers/industry and they just don’t like this over-the-top hype”

While you do know your industry/clients/readers and you do know what they like, unless you are a trained copywriter that has tested tons of different headlines, you don’t really know what will work.  The truth is most people are afraid to get bolder in their marketing.  No one wants to offend their readers or harm their credibility.  But the truth is, this stuff works!

There is definitely something to be said for knowing your audience and targeting your copy and there is definitely merit to doing that but there is also a time to push the envelope and see if you can improve your response.

OK, back to some other headline examples:

Other effective headlines are ones that talk to people’s pain – they tap into whatever emotion people have based on their need.  It taps into their worry, fear, frustration, anger etc.

(Tip: Fear of loss is a greater motivator than desire to gain! That means people are more often motivated by missing out on something than they are by the thought of gaining that same thing.  The end result is the same – they acquire an item – but it’s how you present it – Get This versus Don’t Miss Out On This.  When you word it like they may be missing out on something it motivates them more.)

Here are some headlines that tap into the “pain” (the emotion behind the need).

Stop Banging Your Head Against The Wall To Get Top Rankings – Don’t Miss Out On Insider Secrets To Make Your Quest For Rankings Easier.

I’ve addressed their pain and I’ve also promised a benefit and played up the fear of loss angle.

Another sample headline:

Stop The Insanity: Easy Link Building For Beginners (Including My Top Secret Link Building Strategy You Won’t Want To Miss)

Tired Of Wasting Time On Twitter?  Learn How I Used Twitter To Generate $39, 872

(Notice the specificity of the number. Claims are always more believable when they are very specific)

Please remember that you too should test different headlines and find out what works for you.

For those that want to play around with what I’ve already shared, go ahead and get started.  If your appetite has been whetted and you want to delve a little deeper, here is some more in-depth information on crafting compelling headlines.

You may be familiar with AIDA.  It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.  To break it down further, it means you have to remember to: capture your reader’s attention, arouse their interest, increase their desire and lead them to take some kind of action.

So, what does it mean to increase their desire?  What it really means is to elicit an emotional response from them.  People buy based on emotion.  So, the key to remember is that you want to illicit an emotional response for the reader.

Look at this headline “Discover The Top 3 Crucial Tips You Must Know To Create Powerful Headlines ….” – the first part can cause people to feel uncomfortable (fear) – they don’t want to be the only one that doesn’t know!

Improving Step By Step

I’ve worked with clients to get them to jazz up headlines and create more impact and it’s often a process.  They often start with something that is scaled back and more comfortable and then I push for more impact.  Here are a series of headlines that show how you can go from basic to dazzling with a few tweaks.

Draft 1…

Information You Need About Headlines

This is short, to the point and tells people what they can expect.  However there is nothing exciting, it does mention information “you need” but it just doesn’t have enough of an impact to really cause people to feel they are missing something.

Draft 2….

The Most Important Information You Must Have About Headlines

This is getting better but it is still not right.  You are implying there is a lot of information out there and telling them that you have the most important information.  It is still too vague though, so let’s take another stab and make it more specific.

Draft 3…

The Top 3 Things You Must Know About Headlines

This is more direct and makes people feel like there are some very important and specific pieces of information they need to have.  This has now created an element of fear – fear that they are going to miss out on knowing the Top 3 most important things.  Of all the things there are to know, these 3 are the things that must know, no matter what.

And finally, the last version…

Discover The Top 3 Crucial Tips You Must Know To Create Powerful Headlines and Stop Losing Sales

I have added another element to be afraid of.  Now people are not only afraid of what they don’t know but they are also afraid of losing sales because of it.  I also added a verb at the start and jazzed up the wording to create more of an impact.

OK, so that covers step 1 (using AIDA)  Now on to step 2….

Use action words – verbs! Verbs encourage readership and guides them.  You can use words like:

Discover

Find

Get

Learn

Join

See

Read

Etc

An example would be:  “Discover Top Weight Loss Secrets” instead of just saying “Top Weight Loss Secrets”.

Give and Get

Another approach is to let people know what they have to give up to get the info you are promising:

For Only $7 Get Insider Secrets From Top Bloggers

For Only 6 Minutes Of Your Time You Can Learn The Number One Mistake Most People Make With Their Facebook Fan Page

You’ll notice the specificity again – I used 6 minutes.  If I had said 5 or 10 there would be less impact.

Get Going

Stay tuned for the next article in the Good Copy, Bad Copy series where I talk about body content, calls to action and getting people to take your MDA (most desired action).

Mobile Hotspot Or Satellite Internet For Business

As remote work continues to permeate the professional landscape, the use of mobile broadband internet solutions with business-level reliability and speeds becomes essential. Whether you’re using it for travel, supplementing a spotty internet connection at your home office or taking video conferences, a mobile hotspot or satellite internet connection could be a viable solution. Read on to learn which type of internet connection is best for your needs.

What is a mobile hotspot?

A mobile hotspot provides access to the internet wherever you can find a strong cellular signal. Internet-connected hotspots can be created through smartphones and shared with other devices (like tablets and laptops) via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB cables.

For a better signal and faster service, you can also use a dedicated hotspot device, like the Jetpack MiFi 8800L for Verizon or the Nighthawk LTE for AT&T, to create a Wi-Fi hub and share your broadband connection with multiple devices. You can expect better speeds and signal strength when using a dedicated hotspot device than when tethering with a smartphone.

Prices, speeds and data caps vary widely by provider, so make sure to read the fine print before committing to a new contract for a dedicated mobile device. Even if you have an unlimited data plan through your mobile service provider, it probably does not apply to hotspots. But if you have the budget for new hardware and you’re operating where there is consistently strong 4G LTE or 5G cellular service, a dedicated mobile hotspot is an excellent way to stay connected to clients, vendors and co-workers wherever your business takes you.

One reason hotspots have become such a popular mobile internet solution is their accessibility, since smartphones come with hotspot or tethering features ready to enable. If you use your smartphone as a hotspot regularly, your battery will be drained incredibly fast. Dedicated mobile devices, on the other hand, are built for the sole purpose of sharing a data connection with multiple devices. As a result, they’re equipped with much larger antennas and lithium-ion batteries capable of delivering a broadband internet connection for 24 hours at a time.

What is satellite internet?

Satellite internet can provide you with a data connection wherever you can find clear skies for your satellite dish. Download speeds can range anywhere from 12 Mbps to 150 Mbps, depending on your service provider. However, watch out for data caps.

Once you install your dish and point it in the right direction, you’ll be able to access broadband speeds through a modem and/or Wi-Fi router, just as you would for a standard cable internet system. However, satellite internet users often have to deal with poor download speeds, very long latency, multiyear contracts and data usage limits. But for many businesses operating in rural areas, a satellite internet plan is often the only way to get online with decent data speeds and reliability.

Availability, prices, speeds and data limits vary by provider. Your signal strength and speeds are also dependent on your location and access to the sky. If you work in an area surrounded by tall trees, large hills or mountains, or your building is nestled between larger structures, you may not be able to keep direct contact with enough of the sky to send data in a straight line to your orbiting satellite.

Mobile hotspot vs. satellite internet speeds

In the best conditions, dedicated mobile hotspot devices can provide around 50 Mbps to share among connected devices. Mobile hotspots benefit from low latency of around 60 ms, with upload speeds that hover around half of the download speed. That’s a strong enough connection for HD video conferencing with a couple of devices in areas with solid reception. And it’s more than enough for day-to-day tasks, like sending emails, making VoIP calls, streaming music and sharing basic internet functionality with multiple devices. If you can find great cellular reception, you can expect a fast connection from a mobile hotspot device.

With the clearest skies in the best locations, satellites can provide up to 100 Mbps, but most providers struggle to provide latency below even 500 milliseconds (ms) because of the distance the signal must travel between orbiting satellites and the dish at your location. While that delay won’t make a big difference in sending emails or downloading files, it could make live video conferencing a frustrating experience.

Satellites also suffer from incredibly low upload speeds, so it will take a very long time to upload a video tutorial to YouTube at 3 Mbps, for example. And for travel, you won’t have luck maintaining a signal if you’re constantly changing the location of your dish. However, if you do have a clear view of the sky, the internet speeds offered by satellite providers do outperform the mobile alternative.

Some of the biggest technology leaders are addressing many of the significant drawbacks of satellite internet performance. For example, SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network should reach speeds of up to 300 Mbps, with a latency of 20 ms, in 2023, according to a February tweet from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. That would put Starlink on par with many home cable internet plans, which could make satellite internet a very attractive option for small businesses anywhere on the planet.

Mobile hotspot vs. satellite internet pricing and caps

The main factors to consider when comparing pricing for mobile hotspots and satellite internet are the speeds and the data limits, plus any equipment expenses associated with your plan. Generally speaking, satellite service is more expensive. You could spend $25 to $45 per month for a 25 Mbps cable plan, whereas the same plan through a satellite provider could cost $50 to $150 per month.

Satellites may also be a bit costlier in terms of their data caps, but that may be changing soon with pressure from more competition. A one-hour video conference can use about 1GB of data. While your internet access will not be cut off completely once you exceed your monthly hotspot data allowance, it might be throttled or slowed to the point of not being usable for any tasks that require broadband access. Both hotspot and satellite providers handle throttling differently, so make sure to be aware of your “backup” internet speeds and potential overages once you pass your allowance. If data caps are among your biggest concerns, you’ll generally find fewer restrictions with a satellite internet provider.

Starlink currently offers its service with standard unlimited monthly data, which you won’t be able to find from any other satellite or mobile hotspot service provider. While the trade-off may be the one-time $499 equipment fee for your satellite dish, the promise of faster speeds with greatly improved latency makes Starlink an ideal option for businesses in rural areas without alternative internet options such as cable or fiber.

Mobile hotspot providers

Many of the best internet service providers also offer mobile hotspot devices and data plans. Verizon has the reputation for providing the best speeds, but if you’ve experienced better cellular reception in your area with another provider, that will probably be your best option. We’re providing stand-alone pricing, but you may be able to bundle a dedicated hotspot device with an existing mobile plan.

Verizon internet service review

Data: Up to 30GB

Speed: 5G

Price: $40 to $90 per month

AT&T internet service review

Data: Up to 35GB

Speed: 5G

Price: $35 to $85 per month

T-Mobile

Data: Up to 40GB

Speed: 5G

Price: $28 to $85 per month

Boost Mobile

Data: 50GB

Speed: 4G LTE

Price: $50 per month

Satellite providers

Two major satellite internet service providers, HughesNet and Viasat, offer nationwide coverage with speeds that vary by location. Newcomer Starlink has more than 1,200 satellites in orbit, with long-term plans to launch a low-orbit constellation of more than 40,000 satellites capable of delivering higher speeds and lower latency to dishes anywhere on the planet. Starlink’s current lack of a data cap makes it the clear choice for business use, but availability is still limited by location.

Amazon plans to invest $10 billion with subsidiary Project Kuiper to develop similar low-Earth-orbit satellite internet systems, with public access expected in the next few years. Other companies, such as OneWeb, are also gearing up with competing services. With increasing download speeds, low latency and unlimited data plans on the horizon, the future is growing brighter for satellite internet each year.

Starlink

Data: Unlimited

Speed: Up to 150 Mbps

Price: $99 per month; $499 one-time equipment fee

HughesNet

Data: Up to 50GB

Speed: Up to 25 Mbps

Price: $60 to $150 per month

Viasat Business

Data: Up to 200GB

Speed: Up to 100 Mbps

Price: $50 to $400 per month

4 Ways To Put Windows Remote Desktop To Good Use

The ability to control your computer at home from another system helps you access your system resources, files, and much more. Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is used for these connections and is the most secure way to connect to a remote Windows PC.

Here we examine the topmost ways to put your Windows Remote Desktop to good use.

1. Connect Remote Windows PCs

The biggest and most common use of Microsoft Remote Desktop is to access your remote Windows PC or laptop from another Windows system. You should have minimum Windows 7 SP1, 8.1, 10, or Windows Server, and the 64-bit version of Windows installed on both ends. You need Windows 10 Professional or Enterprise editions to access the system.

There are two ways to get started: you can either establish the connection over a Remote Desktop app for Windows 10 or run the application from Microsoft Store. For the former, you can open the program from the Start menu in administrator mode.

Go to your destination computer’s “System” settings and verify the name and username you use for login. It is better to save the credentials.

As soon as you hit “Connect,” a remote connection will be initiated, and the two computers join each other. You must allow “remote connections to this computer” from the Start menu.

For Windows 10 Professional and Enterprise users, you can also connect from the Microsoft Store, which offers a more engaging user interface. Go to the relevant app and install it on your Windows 10 PC.  

Go to “+” to add a new computer for remote access. Get your target PC name and username details, and save it in the app.

You need to enable additional options including whether you need to connect to an admin session (without which the remote connection won’t occur), the screen resolution, and other session settings such as “starting the connection in full screen.” You can also start each connection in a new window if there is more than one remote PC involved.

You can enable additional options to prevent timeout, show desktop previews, and send anonymous data to Microsoft.

Once the remote connections are established, you can get an overview of all the remote PCs through desktop previews.

2. Connect from Android/iOS

Apart from accessing remote Windows PC on another Windows device, you can also access it using iOS and Android apps.

Before downloading the apps on your phone, ensure that you have enabled “remote connections to the target computer” from its Start menu. You can also do it from “Remote Desktop Settings.”

Keep “Enable Remote Desktop” slider turned on for the access from other computers or phones.

Give a name to the remote PC based on About System settings, give it a friendly name, and make sure you can connect to the Admin session on your phone.

The connection for the remote PC with the phone is being established as shown below.

3. Configuring Remote Desktop (RD) Gateway

Windows Remote Desktop service can be used to configure the Remote Desktop (RD) gateway. It enables people to securely log in to their company’s Windows computers from any Internet-enabled device that’s running a Remote Desktop client app.

To configure such a remote desktop gateway on the client machine, go to the RD Gateway server settings.

Choose the automatic settings for establishing a connection. Otherwise, if your network admin has given you a server name or other logon credentials, enter those details. In that case, select “use my RD Gateway credentials for the remote computer.”

If you have Remote Desktop installed on your mobile device as shown above, you can access “Gateways” in a side panel.

Add the required gateway IP address and other details to establish a connection.

4. Connect Local Devices and Resources

You may want to access specific local resources on a remote computer. This can be done from the “Local devices and resources” tab of the Microsoft Remote Desktop app (also from Microsoft Store).

The choices you have include specific hardware, printers, smart cards, webcams, drives, and more.

Sayak Boral

Sayak Boral is a technology writer with over eleven years of experience working in different industries including semiconductors, IoT, enterprise IT, telecommunications OSS/BSS, and network security. He has been writing for MakeTechEasier on a wide range of technical topics including Windows, Android, Internet, Hardware Guides, Browsers, Software Tools, and Product Reviews.

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Cubot X11 Review: Good Mt6592 Devices Are Still Possible, Indeed!

But what if we now tell you that recently we had our hands on a device that still runs on such an old 32-bit SoC yet have been very impressed by it? Well, you probably would be curious which device it is and why we have been impressed. And that’s what we gonna talk about here and now: the Cubot X11 and why we believe that this beauty still is a good phone. Enjoy the read!

Cubot X11 Review: Unboxing, Design & Build

All of you who know Cubot should be familiar with the business policy of this manufacturer. They always try to create devices that just work, are well thought out and do not come loaded with unnecessary features and stuff. Usually that meant a very simple packaging as well, but they somehow changed a bit there. While they still keep packaging simple, they managed to throw in a tad of elegance, which leaves a very positive impression right after unboxing the device. It isn’t only well designed but comes with quite some accessories that includes a wall charger, USB cable, silicon bumper, screen protector, SIM tray opening tool and even a user manual which is very detailed with lots of pictures and professional multi-language translation into German, English, Spanish, Italian and many other languages.

Design-wise the Cubot X11 is an extremely impressive device and immediately makes the (at the first look) high price-tag of $180 seem less expensive immediately. Really, you probably haven’t seen a sub $200 MT6592-powered phone before that offers such a high build quality and nice design. It is entirely made from metal, and not just a thin metal frame, but a real CNC crafted chassis that is one part with the frame which itself is several millimeters thick. Along two glass panels on the front and rear, this doesn’t only make the phone look beautiful but very sturdy as well. Cubot even managed to retain a certain slimness at 7mm (other dimensions are 150 x 71mm) yet haven’t been able to reduce the weight. All the metal makes the Cubot X11 end up with 178g of weight. The best part is yet to come however: the Cubot X11 will survive contact with water! Drops, water jets and even short dips into water are no problem for the device, which we tested ourselves numerous times. We even managed to get one unit through a 7 minute under water test, which unfortunately it didn’t survive after one day because a tiny amount of water managed to get in. Anyway, for an IP65 certified device this is very impressive and is a proof for how good Cubot did there as well as the high build quality of the device.

Cubot X11 Review: Display

We’ve been satisfied with the quality of the Cubot X11’s display since it delivers exactly what you expect from a brand display. Colors, contrast and sharpness are on a level we cannot complain about. The brightness unfortunately is just OK, a tad more wouldn’t have hurt them. Also, the automatic brightness control should be improved since it doesn’t react properly from time to time. The viewing angles could be a little better as well since we noticed a slight change in colors and contrast from extreme angles. The touch screen works like a charm for a device in this price range but the glass could be a little smoother.

Cubot X11 Review: Specs & Performance

Initially we mentioned that the Cubot X11 specs-wise isn’t as impressive as it does look in terms of design and build. Indeed, a MT6592M clocked at 1.4GHz, a Mali 450MP GPU, 2GB of RAM, no LTE support and no 64-bit might not exactly be what you are looking for in a phone today, but we simply cannot deny that there are people who actually are catered well with such specs. Not everyone needs LTE and not everyone needs the best performance available. Let’s face it: a MT6592 still is enough for your social media apps and e-mail clients. The only thing it won’t handle too nice anymore are games. And yep, that actually has been our experience with the Cubot X11 as well. So if you are not into massive multi-tasking and gaming, the MT6592 still is good for you – period.

Cubot X11 Review: Software

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The Cubot X11 like the majority of MT6592 devices runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat. Cubot apparently did a very good job optimizing the software since this is one of the smoothest Android experiences we ever had on this chipset. Unless you throw some massive multi tasking at the chip you won’t get any UI lags at all which is very nice. The ROM offers a pure vanilla Android experience with no customizations except a slightly modified launcher which you can replace in case you don’t like it. The software gets updated through OTA frequently, which we appreciate. There’s one thing we miss though and that’s support for off screen gestures, which have been left unsupported for whatever reason.

Cubot X11 Review: Audio

The internal media speaker built into the Cubot X11’s frame surprised us with a decent quality. It sounds quite clear and doesn’t distort even at the highest volume. Together with a slight playback of bass it sounds good enough for enjoying some music without any demands for superior hi-fi quality. A little disappointing was the output through the headphone jack, which sounds kinda flat. Luckily this isn’t caused by some hardware issue and can be sorted out by installing an audio enhancer of your choice. Phone call quality is ok as well, not overly clear and there is no noise cancellation, but still it’s good enough to be usable.

Cubot X11 Review: Reception Quality

Now for a phone that doesn’t support 4G LTE in the age of fast mobile Internet we expect such a device to at least offer reception quality near high-end level. And yes, the Cubot X11 indeed delivers. Despite all the metal around and inside the device the reception quality is very good across all network types. Even GPS is working outstandingly well, which indeed is surprising since those older Mediatek chipsets usually mean bad GPS. Anyway, with a good antenna you can get the magic to happen. Even though the chipset doesn’t support GLONASS we managed to reach an accuracy of 2 meters and got fixes outside within just a few seconds. Signal strength was way above average, on-par with some Qualcomm powered devices. This means that navigation works just find and the only flaw left is some tracking apps that go nuts on 32-bit MTK chipsets – that still hasn’t changed to date. Google My Tracks works fine though.

Cubot X11 Review: Camera

The Cubot X11 comes with a 13 mega pixel rear camera with an (officially) unspecified Sony sensor and a 8 mega pixel selfie shooter. The rear camera can be interpolated to 16MP if you wish to do so. We asked Cubot which sensor they use for the X11 and they claim it is a Sony IMX214. While we can neither confirm nor deny that,we can indeed confirm that this handset has the best camera we’ve seen on a MT6592 device to date. It creates crisp and sharp pictures with lots of details and very nice colors. The shutter time is decent and so is the focus time. It even performs well in low-light and HDR mode, which is anything but usual within this price-range. We especially loved the dual LED dual tone flash, which is one of the brightest we have seen on phones to date. It has no issues lighting up large rooms and retains the colors as they should be. The only part we have to complain about is, that the flash is too bright for macro shots. It will overexpose the preview, preventing the camera from focusing properly. Another thing we dislike is the video quality, which in no way does reflect the picture quality. Videos just don’t look good and tend to lag. This might be a software issue that will be sorted out with a future update. The front camera is capable of taking good-enough selfies on daylight but sucks in low light.

Cubot X11 Review: Battery

The Cubot X11 comes with a built-in, non-replaceable Lithium Polymer battery that offers a capacity of 2,850mAh. This is fairly enough to get you throughout one day and if you stay away from GPS usage or games you will be able to get into the night as well. More however isn’t possible since those old MTK chipsets aren’t the best when it comes to energy efficiency. Still, the Geekbench battery test managed to suck out more than 8 hours of screen-on juice of the cell. Charging the phone takes about 3.5 hours with the charger Cubot ships with the device.

Cubot X11 Review: Verdict

The Cubot X11 is probably the best proof for what still is possible to do with an older SoC those days. Obviously, it isn’t a phone for those of you who want to get as much performance as possible and the latest specs, but for those who only run basic apps, don’t need LTE but pay a lot attention to build quality, sturdiness and who need a phone that doesn’t have any issue with water contact the Cubot X11 seems like the way to go. We have been impressed in a very positive way with this device after being very skeptical about it at first. Now there’s one question left: If Cubot are able to create something like this at $180, what can they do with a decent processor and a higher price-tag of let’s say $249? We really hope they will show that to us soon!

We want to thank Cubot for providing us with a review sample of the X11.

Why Are We So Bad At Producing The Right Flu Vaccines?

Everyone loves to be the stickler who points out how ineffective the flu vaccine is, or how poor our track record is on predicting the right match. The shot has to protect against three or four distinct viruses, each with their own unique genetic profile, and often the annual prediction is off. Cue the naysayers.

And they’re not wrong. Why is it so hard to know what kind of vaccine to make? And how can we get better?

The flu is a sneaky little devil

Influenza viruses are tricky. Unlike more stable diseases, the flu is constantly morphing into ever-so-slightly different forms to evade our annual vaccine campaigns. This is at the core of our need for an annual shot—there’s always a new genetic variant. It’s somewhat akin to antibiotic resistance. Viruses tend to have more genetic mutations because their replication method is prone to errors. To more complex organisms, constant mutations would be problematic (it only takes a few key ones to give humans cancer). But the flu virus thrives on mutations. The abundance of mistakes means that at some point, one of the strains is different enough that vaccine-induced immunity stops working.

Most viruses undergo some form of this evolution, but the influenza virus is especially speedy (HIV is even quicker—it can adapt to evade a new drug in a single day). By the time the flu has spread from China to the U.S., it’s already taken on a totally new form.

Because of this constant change, the World Health Organization has to wait to make the call on what vaccine should be available until the February before the Northern Hemisphere’s flu season. This gives pharmaceutical companies enough time to manufacture the shot, but is hopefully close enough to the season’s start to get the prediction right. But six or so months is a lot of time for the virus to evolve, so sometimes the vaccine ends up being a poor protector. If we could manufacture shots instantaneously—or know what the virus would look like each winter—we’d get it right more often. But we don’t.

We’re finally developing forecasting tools

In recent years, there’s been something of an uptick in the tools available to predict the flu. The Epidemic Prediction Initiative, run by the Centers for Disease Control, takes predictions from 28 different models and monitors how well each is able to predict the flu season. EPI also combines those models into one uber-model, which is generally more accurate than any individual estimate.

Each model takes different factors into account and predicts specific variables. Some focus on the timing of outbreaks, others on which strains will dominate. One system from Carnegie Mellon University took weekly polls from volunteers and attempted to predict outbreaks based on the wisdom of the crowds. That model did almost as well as their other system, which used machine learning to analyze data from the CDC. Both outperformed the combined model.

Other universities have also joined the forecasting fray, but so far none of the systems are solid enough to base real decisions on.

Taking virus evolution into account could improve forecasts

In June 2024, unbeknownst to the public, researchers at the University of Chicago were predicting how many flu cases would turn up in the upcoming season. Their system uses standard epidemiological data, but it also includes information about how much the virus is evolving. That extra component allowed them to accurately predict the severity of outbreaks during the 2024-17 season. They published their results in Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday.

A quick note of caution: this particular analysis only focused on one region of the U.S., and it didn’t look at outbreak timing at all. That being said, it did outpace all of our current forecasting methods. Right now, we’re reliant on data as it comes in during the flu season, whereas this model was able to make a prediction the summer before. That’s not early enough to affect the vaccine choice, but it could be early enough to allow health care systems time to prepare better. If particular areas were known to be high risk, we could provide more vaccines and other supplies.

This is all preliminary—we’re not going to be forecasting next year’s flu with any especially high degree of accuracy—but it’s all important progress in fighting an annual battle that we too often lose. People don’t tend to take influenza very seriously, even though it kills around 40-50,000 people a year in the U.S. alone. If we had better predictions, we might motivate more people to get vaccinated—and maybe save a few lives in the process.

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