Thursday, November 12, 2009

Servoy 5 Launched In 20 Minutes

I'm in the middle of the Dutch countryside in the middle of no where about 30km from the German border (at ServoyCamp) listening to Servoy CTO Jan Blok talk about all the new features in Servoy 5.0 that will be officially live in about 20 minutes. It is a terrific new release with over 200+ new features, including drag and drop, server clustering, web enhancements and much, much more (

Posted via web from Bob's World

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I Love The Smell of Camo In The Morning

Sometimes it's the little things in life that piss me off. Sometimes it's like I have a rock in my shoe and just can't get it out... this morning was one of those times.

In most ways it was a typical morning - nothing out of the ordinary. Kids came down while I was making breakfast (pancakes for him, cereal for her) - and everything was fine until my son (for whom no rule is too small) loudly informed my daughter that she's not allowed to wear camouflage to school.

Ummm.... what?

It was only then that I noticed that my daughter was wearing a dress with a really muted camouflage theme to it. Now, anyone who knows my daughter knows that she has always "marched to her own drummer" when it comes to her fashion sense - so I guess I'm just used to her dressing... ummm... "creatively."

Time for that whole "engaged parenting" thing...

When I asked my son if that's true - he said that the last time HE wore a camo shirt to school - he was sent to the principal's office. Apparently the principal explained to my 9 year old that because "...some kids who wore cammo took some guns to school and shot people..." that it was against the rules to wear camo.


Not wanting my daughter to face that situation - I asked her to change (and after wailing and gnashing of teeth and a pretty serious "stink eye") she agreed.

A few minutes later she came down in a pretty blue dress with red and white striped shoulder thingies and dark blue bows. Adorable!

When I asked why she was wearing the camo dress - she said it was because today at school they were having a big assembly to honor the veterans who were going to come to their school in honor of Veteran's Day. She went on to explain that last year some of the veterans wore camo, and so she wanted to wear camo as well - so they "wouldn't feel different."

Boy, did I feel like an ass... but since it was time to go - we just let it drop.

It was only after I got back to the office that this issue started to bug me...

I mean, I understand the intent behind the rule, and I know it's a stupid, silly rule made by a bunch of whining, out-of-touch-with-reality bureaucrats - but the more I thought about it - the more angry I got. My kids go to a public school - so it's not like they have to wear uniforms or anything - but it seems silly to me to restrict clothing with one type of design on it because some crazy kids with irresponsible parents brought some guns to school and killed innocent people.

I'm just glad those whack jobs didn't wear jeans and a t-shirt! What ever would we do?!? Would our kids be forced to wear a suit and tie to school? Or shorts only? What if they wore red, white and blue? Would we ban all colored clothing?

I mean, here are grade school kids - going to celebrate the sacrifice of our honored military and the ones who survived World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, War with Iraq and some folks coming back from Afghanistan - people who fought (and others who died) in order to preserve our precious freedoms... as long as they're dressed "correctly?"

According to the Jefferson County Colorado Sheriff (as reported by CNN) the two shooters at Columbine were not wearing camo:

Klebold was dressed in cargo pants, a black T-shirt that said “Wrath,” and a black trench coat.... Harris, also wearing a black trench coat, wore a white T-shirt underneath that said, “Natural Selection.”

DOH! Now I guess black T-shirts, white T-shirts, cargo pants and black trench coats are also "out"...

HEY - WAIT - I don't think I see anything about camouflage in there. I guess that means either the school district bureaucrats are:

a) Scared of people who hunt
b) Scared of the military
c) Believe that all people who wear camo have guns
d) Believe that all parents of 9 year olds who wear camo have idiot parents who leave loaded guns around the house and encourage little Johnny to bring them to school

I think it's time for a little reality check. Shootings (regardless of where they happen) are a serious issue. Shootings at schools are a terrible, terrible tragedy and every effort should be made to help ensure our kids' safety at school.

I'm just not convinced that a ban on a camo shirt (or dress) is one of the most effective ways to help protect our kids.

Monday, October 26, 2009

SUD Detectors

In the world of software - there is a whole set of lingo behind-the-scenes. Most software developers I know (and this is a GROSS generalization) are the type of people that are.... ehem... well... are the sort of people that regard the binary "purity" of a computer that does exactly what you tell it to be preferable to the sort of unpredictable behavior found in... well... actual live people.

If you ask 100 hard-core programming geeks what their LEAST favorite thing about their job is - I bet 98 will say "user interface."

After all, leave it to the "user" (said while usually speaking through gritted teeth or punctuated with a small bit of spittle) to "screw up" a perfectly good piece of software.

More times than most people will probably think - the feature requests from non-technical people are greeted (internally) with rolling-eyes and finger-and-thumb-to-the-forehead "Stupid User Detected" (SUD) motion.

And, to be fair, the programmers are mostly right.

There is no "Do My Work" button; no, the software CANNOT pick up your dry cleaning and have your car washed... ok, well maybe in the 3.0 version... but that's not the point!

The point is that these "ignorant users" - who should not be allowed to even USE computers - dare to question the unerring judgement of US - the programmers - charged with the holiest of tasks - the optimization and automation of the lowly jetsam heaped upon the mere mortals - neigh - slaves - to process for the good of the machine...

But, I digress.

The point is - that not all IT guys are Nick Burns from SNL.

Wait, let me qualify that... most are. Especially if they are PC IT guys.

Over the past 2 months, I've found a difference. It's called a Mac. I've found that IT guys who support the Mac, are, well... more like the Mac guy on the Apple ads than the PC guy in the Apple ads.

They understand that users are not the "great unwashed masses" - they are, well... human. And, as humans, they make mistakes, have some unrealistic expectations about what are possible - AND - the really amazing thing is - they plan for that when they write their software.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am (have been) in the former camp rather than the latter - for a good part of my career. My default response when dealing with most people was RTFM ("Read The ... ahem... "Fine"... "Manual"... LOSER!)

However, I find myself humbled as I am fumbling through my re-introduction to the way computing SHOULD BE (on my Mac).

I'm struggling with the command-Q for quit, versus command-Tab (for switching applications) - as the keys are right next to each other. I often open multiple windows in my email client, web browser and other applications as my slightly ADD side kicks in.

So, I had about 8 emails open in Apple Mail (after searching through thousands of emails in fractions of a second!) - and I accidentally hit command-Q (Quit) rather than command-tab (switch programs).

My heart sank.

While I re-launched the email application - issuing a steady stream of curses at myself for being so stupid, and lamenting the fact it would take another 20-25 minutes of work to find all those emails and threads and get them back on-screen - I was shocked 10 seconds later.

There, the email program was re-opened - and all my email windows were open (in the same stacking order as when I accidently existed the program). It's like I had never been the newby, stupid, stupid, stupid "USER" I actually am.

The program gracefully accepted the fact that if you were looking at stuff when you quit, that you may find it helpful to have all the stuff you had opened during the last session restored when you returned.

What the ??

I was just sure it was going to open the main window, defaulted to the inbox, just staring me in face. After all I was expecting the default PC experience: "I mean, you told me to exit! How was I supposed to know you wanted those windows opened when you returned? You DID say "exit" - which I did with the utmost speed and efficiency (only 192 milliseconds!). Oh, you WANTED those windows restored - then you shouldn't have chosen to exit. SUD!"

WOW. The "old" way just seems so hostile. I mean, it's not that big of a deal (programatically) to restore the open windows when the application is re-launched - but to someone who is already a bit self-conscience about his ineptness on a new platform - I felt so surprised and relieved that it prompted me to write this blog post about it.

I'm not saying that all programs on the Mac are sunshine and balloons - there are some that are clearly written by guys who have never even USED a Mac... but the majority just assume that you're not a software expert - that you have some other talent (or interest) and that's why you bought or used their software in the first place.

That got me to thinking about the way that I program projects for my customers... and I have been busy re-tooling a bunch of projects to make them more friendly, more forgiving and more intelligent about what "we think you want" - and not just what you SAY you want.

I'm thinking about new ways to do what you "need" to get done - not just present you with 1,000 choices about what you "can" do. About making software more personal, more like people.

People don't think in a linear fashion. Humans are non-linear by nature (I have 35 tabs open in Safari right now - all spawned by reading a single article - just because there was an "interesting" link in the successive stories/reviews/reports that sparked more thought).

The entire function of software is to help automate real-world procedures. Software's role in people's lives should not be so much about "new, cutting edge, acronym-filled" crap, but about how effective it is for the person on the other end of the keyboard to get their job done and go home.

Functions should not be a light switch, but a dimmer. Configuration (within reason!) should be the default. Training should be a 4-letter word. "Easy" should NOT be a 4-letter word that equals SUD. Easy should equal elegant. Easy should equal useful. Easy should equal what-I-meant-not-what-I-said.

In software, easy is HARD. Just ask the folks at Apple. Or Google.

Don't ask the guys at Microsoft because they will just roll their eyes, grit their teeth, and mutter under their breath - "RTFM you SUD!"

Friday, October 23, 2009

Windows 7 - NEW!

[BIAS DISCLAIMER: I'm a newly minted Mac fanboy - but until a month ago I used the PC as my primary platform for 12 years]

So, with great fanfare Microsoft "introduced" Windows 7 yesterday. They did all kinds of live promotions (including teaming up with Burger King in Japan to offer a 7 patty whopper [via Engadget]).

Windows 7 reviews are all over the web - so I 'll leave you do the digging - but even noted Mac-bigot Walt Mossberg seems to like it.

NEW! Sucks less than Vista!
NEW! No more annoying dialogs every 3 seconds!
NEW! Only 4 minutes to boot!
NEW! Now your printers might even work!
NEW! Now has LESS bundled applications - because, hey, who needs Mail, Calendar, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, and Address Book anyway?

So, this is the Vista that was supposed to be, but never was. Of course, as with any Microsoft OS upgrade, you'll need either new hardware, or need to shell out to increase your RAM, hard drive and graphics card if your hardware is greater than 2-3 years old.

Oh, and one more thing: if you're on XP (and who isn't?) - there's one more little thing you'll have to do to upgrade to Windows 7: fully backup your hard drive, wipe the contents, and re-install everything.


Not kidding.

NICE! Yeah, sure, let me just tell my mom (who was going to pay BestBuy $50 to re-install Skype for her) how to backup all her data, make a list of the installed applications (and their updates), her settings, preferences, bookmarks, and email - then wipe her drive, then have her (simply!) re-download, install and configure all her applications and data on a brand-new interface where nothing is familiar.

Sure, no problem. Piece of cake.

I've done re-format, re-install many, many times before (as I think 98.754% of everyone whose used Windows for more than 4 years) - and it just plain sucks. It takes about 2-3 full DAYS to restore everything and get it where you were before.

Backing up data, downloading apps (because all those CDs you have for 32-bit apps are now 100% USELESS), installing apps, restarting 20 times because certain programs write to the registry, creating new folders, moving pictures, migrating your iTunes library, etc.

If you're going to go through that much of a cluster - I have a better idea. DUMP Windows completely.

I'm serious.

Either just keep XP for the next 3 years - or buy a new machine with Windows 7 already installed... better yet get off the Microsoft bandwagon and just buy a Mac. Yes, the Mac is more expensive. Yes, you can get a no-name PC laptop for $500 (or even a brand-name at $650).

Yes, the Mac has OS updates and upgrades just like Windows; yes, the Mac has security updates (albeit 700 times less frequently) ... BUT - at least with the Mac - you'll want to poke your eyes out about 98% less.

  • I'm done with "patch Tuesdays";
  • I'm done with stupid security and firewall settings that are so restrictive you can't install software or get anything to work without having to Google for 30 minutes to figure out how to do it;
  • I'm done with cryptic error messages that don't offer any hope of you actually figuring out what the hell is actually wrong so you can fix it;
  • I'm done with the need to reformat and re-install all my stuff - EVER!
So, is Windows 7 the spawn of the devil? No, probably not. It's probably a really useful and good update to the aging XP.

However, I'll never know... I'll be be on my Mac trying to get Snow Leopard to work with SVN...

Friday, October 09, 2009

What's Old Is New

So I was doing some surfing this week and I came across a product called Runtime Revolution. They claim to have some software that will:
Create outstanding applications yourself with a programming environment you can quickly understand. Achieve immediate results with a visual, drag-and-drop interface builder. Use English, the language you already know, to describe program logic. Deploy powerful cross-platform solutions without the huge learning curve of other development environments.
Well - being the geek that I am - I checked out their tutorials and videos, etc. I was looking at it and looking at it - and it seemed VERY familiar... turns out it is - it's HyperCard!!

Yeah, really, HyperCard! What the?!?

It seems that the passion for the product never died - and those Scottish coders (whomever they are) have been updating the products GUI capabilities while keeping all of the easy-to-use goodness and SmallTalk-based language basically intact.

The idea is that you can create extremely rich GUIs in a way that is MUCH easier than Flash, AIR, OpenLaszlo, etc. This thing runs (and can be edited) on Mac, Windows and Linux (Unix). It creates double-clickable applications for any platform - AND (using a browser plug-in) will work in the web - all with ZERO code changes!

Here's an overview of the features:
  • Author on your favorite operating system - Studio is available for Windows, Mac, Linux or Unix.
  • Create standalone applications for any platform with native appearance and behaviours
  • Fully-featured, English-like programming language with 1596 commands and functions
  • Extensible with code libraries and compiled externals you write yourself or obtain from third parties
  • Ability to automate system functions and "office" applications
  • Embedded web browsers.
  • Powerful libraries for manipulating Internet protocols, XML, compression, encoding/decoding
  • Your very own User Space with 10 MB free space to share your stacks online.
  • Integrated connectivity for ODBC, MySQL, PostgreSQL SQLite and Valentina databases**
  • Flexible chunk expressions, regular expressions, arrays, and sorting functions for manipulating data
  • Complete printing and reporting facilities for professional output
  • Ability to run as CGI process on web servers

At it's most basic: it's an IDE. You simply drag your control to the form ("card") and then attach code to any one of the 1,000,000 events that are exposed. There is a full even hierarchy - so while you can attach a script to an individual object - you don't have to. You can attach it to the card (form) or the "stack" (application).

You have 100% FULL control over EVERYTHING in the entire GUI:
  • Windows including: modal, non-modal, palettes, stay on top, min size, max size, drag and drop events, title bar controls
  • Transitions/effects
  • Alpha masking
  • Custom button appearance
  • Geometry editor - for telling it how to resize individual elements when the form is resized
  • Support for custom radio buttons (and checkboxes)
  • Grid editor
  • Rich text, inline html (WITH images), list boxes, data grids (with icon types, auto-sort, drag column order, etc),
  • Graphics containers - including QuickTime containers and image containers that support multiple graphics formats as well as built-in graphs
  • Native vector graphics that include gradients, splines, polygons, boxes, ovals, lines, text, etc.
  • Full visual menu editor that works for popup menus as well as application menus
  • Tab controls
  • Scrollbar objects
  • Web browser object
  • Groups of objects that can be dragged, edited and moved at runtime - including nested groups that all work independently of each other
  • Dialog "sheets" and slide-out "drawers" (Mac OS only)
  • Main window can be a CUSTOM SHAPE - based on a background image(!)
  • Named property "profiles" - for defining any (or all) of an object's properties and then switching them out (live) at runtime
  • Etc

In short - it's an extremely rich GUI builder that exposes all the events and types of things that you could ever want when building an application.

Yeah, but what about the code?

The coding language is an offshoot of SmallTalk - and is English-based.

put the height of field "Text" into myVar

put the width of image "My Image" + 17 after field "Values"

if item 1 of the location of me > zero then beep

set the loc of button "OK" to 32,104

set the name of field "Old Name" to "New Name"

select after text of field "New Name"

Yeah, it's fairly verbose - but very straight forward. You can do anything you want - including working with arrays, calling external plug-ins (written in C), pass events to individual objects, create functions, etc.

Oh yeah, and it's object oriented (all the properties of objects inherit the properties of objects higher in the hierarchy). For example - if you don't specify a background color for a field - it will take the background color of the card, or stack.

Yeah, but what about SQL stuff?

It supports ODBC - but also has native (direct access) connect to: Oracle, MySQL, SQLite, PostgreSQL, Valentina. It has a built-in query editor and you can "bind" field objects directly to database columns - so you don't have to write your own SQL for inserts/updates/deletes - it's all handled automatically.

Of course, you can also run your own queries and get your own datasets and do stuff with it (like you can in any other coding environment) - and you can dynamically change the binding on a field object at any time (at runtime).

You can create databases and table (and alter their schema) ON-THE-FLY - and you can programatically create new objects and bind them to your new table(s) at runtime(!!).

OK - so what's missing?
  • Automatic data broadcasting
  • Native HTML/CSS browser implementation (you have to use a browser plug-in)
  • Multi-developer (SVN/CVS) support
  • Runtime fees (the "Media" edition is free, "Professional" is $249 and "Enterprise" [allows native connection to Oracle] is $499). There are ZERO other fees.
This thing sounds VERY cool - and sounds like it will be a welcome addition to my toolbox!

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Way It Should Be

So, I've had this old P.O.S. Linksys router for about 3 years (it replaced another Linksys router I had for 4 years), and it was on the way out.

I had to "reset" it 3 or 4 times a week (unplug/re-plug) - and I was just done with it. So, I was in the market for a new router.

I'm absolutely LOVING my Macbook Pro (some people have accused me of being an overzealous fanboi - which I am) - so I thought I'd give the Airport Extreme a try.

Now, I've set up a few routers in my day - and it's not pretty. There are 1,000,000 arcane settings - so I had screen shots of all the router settings, my ISP settings handy and had poured a nice glass of wine - knowing that I was in for a long night.

I unpacked the router, installed the software (<>

Oh crap. Here we go...

I guzzled some wine, then opened the configuration utility. It showed the device, so I clicked on it and it asked if I was setting up a new network, was extending an existing one, or replacing an existing router.

I told it I was replacing an existing router - and it had a list of all the previous connections. It told me to pick my old one - which I did - and then clicked "Continue."

I was so busy gathering up all the screen shots and print outs - that it took me 5 minutes to notice the software said: "Airport Extreme configured."


I clicked "Continue" and the router restarted in 20 seconds. It glowed a fabulous green and the Macbook just automatically recognized it (it even kept the old SID [network] name).

Whoa. Cool!

BUT - there was a problem. The network was wide open. So, I re-launched the configuration utility and clicked "Continue" a couple of times to get to the security settings. I chose the security protocol, entered a password and the router restarted itself again.

Then the Mac asked for the new password - which I entered - and BAM - connection was made.

So far, so good. I had expected as much - Apple router + Apple hardware + Apple OS = easy.

BUT - there was another problem. I have a few PCs here - as well wireless printers, iPhones, etc. I knew the iPhone and the printer were going to be OK - but I was really dreading getting the XP computers to connect to the new network.

After a healthy swig of wine - I tried the first one... changed the security protocol, entered the new password... and prayed.

IT WORKED. The first time.

Next was the 2nd XP machine. Same thing! Then the iPhones - easy. Then the printer - a snap.

I installed a new router with almost ZERO configuration, added a Mac and 3 PCs, 2 printers and 2 iPhones to the network in 20 MINUTES (not HOURS, minutes!).

The Airport Extreme was about $75 more than a new Linksys would have been - and I was careful with the packaging in case (probably) I had to return it... but I have to honestly say - I have never in my 20 years in working with computers - have had such an absolutely painless router install.

Now, that's the way it SHOULD be!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Upside of Social Media

If you've read any of my earlier posts - you'll know that I've always had mixed feelings when it comes to social media.

On the one hand, it's a huge time-suck and it's easy to get distracted and spend useless hours updating your status(es), profile(s), and all responding to others' messages, opening cool links with YouTube videos in them, etc.

With so many social media outlet clamoring for attention - you also have to check multiple services with multiple logins - and then try to keep track of all the "friends" (or "followers" or whatever) you have on each service - and then post relevant stuff to that particular site.

Which site do you check most often? Where should you invest your time? If you have a Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Plaxo, MySpace and Yammer accounts (which I do) - who the hell has time to check/update all those sites? Even with aggregation tools, it's a nightmare.

Every time I watch Twitter feeds live - I feel like I'm watching the matrix of humanity just like in the movie.

So, I've started to focus a lot of my attention on a couple of services: Twitter and Facebook. Just those two are enough for me at this point! Even then, I have a fairly large number of "friends" on Facebook - but it's nice to read the interesting status updates, browse other folks' pictures and just keep in touch with people.

There are a lot of sad moments, happy moments, silly moments and basically everything in between. I don't comment on a lot of the posts - I mainly just "lurk" - but there are some people who could just really use a bit of encouragement now and then - so I'll post a comment (or snarky remark!).

I don't know about you, but I feel a bit impotent writing "You're in our thoughts" or "You'll make it, don't worry" or some other equally dazzling comment. I mean, I really hope that person gets it worked out or that things turn around for them - or whatever - but it just feels like a store-bought card versus a hand-written one.

You never really know if what you said was even read - much less if it even helped the other person.

So, I've been sort of lax in my commenting of other people's status updates lately - but all that is going to change.

You see, this weekend I was on the receiving end of those comments - when Brenda went into the hospital with a heart attack scare (she's fine - heart is OK). Beyond the incredible support of our family (shout out to Theresa, Julie and my mom!) - the number of caring, thoughful posts on the status updates were something that really helped me out.

In the long hours sitting and waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting!) - I was able to update my status multiple times - and would find myself checking back every 10 minutes to see if anyone responded yet... and 90% of the time - someone did.

It feel really good to know that others were out there lending a sympathetic ear and offering their encouragement and support.

It was beyond just what they said (which was really encouraging) - it was the fact that they took the time to read my status update (among the 100's they have in their News Feed) - and then took the time to formulate a response.

It really made a difference to me - and was very moving.

For those of you who don't have a Facebook account yet - sign up at - and if you are on Facebook - look me up: and "add" me as a friend (there's no "acquaintance" or "some jerk" buttons, unfortunately).

Once again, I want to THANK all the Facebook folks who responded to our situation over the weekend from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mac - I'm Lovin' It!

I've only been using my Mac for two days - and let me just say this: I'm so happy I could just scream!

The performance is incredible. Apps that launch like dogs on my XP-based PC simply appear in 1-2 seconds. A reboot (yes, I did one - just to time it) - 25 seconds from off to fully up and running - versus 8 MINUTES on my PC.

Plugged in my Dell monitor - WHAM - it just appears. At the right resolution.

Plugged in my USB headset - WHAM - it just works.

Plugged in an external windows-formatted USB drive - WHAM - recognized it instantly.

Plugged in a Windows 1 TB external drive for the Time Machine backups - and it asked if I wanted to use it for Time Machine backups? Yes. Needs to be re-formatted - proceed? Ummmm... what?? Oh crap - this is going to take forever, but yeah, OK, go ahead... WHAM 12 SECONDS later the backup is starting.

Auto-discovery of my PC - including all my share folders - WHAM - instantly.

iTunes-dedicated keys on the keyboard for prev/next/play/pause - CHECK.

Mac Mail program - setup and checking 5 accounts - CHECK.

iChat instantly setup - and now I can send media effortlessly and do group chats with zero effort - CHECK.

Skype set - and the machine actually remains responsive even with 10 programs running - CHECK.

Photos imported into iPhoto (from the PC) - and it recognizing faces of people in pictures and allows me to change the orientation by turning my fingers on the glass trackpad - CHECK.

With the great suggestions from fellow Mac folks on Facebook and comments from yesterday's story - I got loaded up with some nifty (and free) utilities and programs. I even got OpenOffice 3.0 up and running with ZERO problems - and used it to create some documents - that I copied to my PC and opened with ZERO problems.

The next OS update is coming out Friday - and even though Apple will still charge me $29 for the upgrade (bless their little revenue-generating hearts) - I'll do it to get a true 64-bit OS - so it will go even FASTER (if that's possible).

The crappiest part of the setup so far was finding and downloading and installing the HP drivers for my Officejet printer... but even that was no more difficult than doing it on a PC.

I hear people bitching about how much more expensive the Macs are than PCs. This is true. They are more expensive - but THEY WORK! I'll bet that if you added up all the time you spent SCREWING with your PC, downloading and restarting after patch Tuesday, in trying to get peripherals to work, in just the general care and feeding of your PC - it's WAY more expensive than the $1,000 difference in up-front price.

I'm researching Mac alternatives to Illustrator and Photoshop (that can read the .ai and .psd files)... so if you are using something you like - leave a comment and let me know!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hell Freezes Over...

OK - it's official. I'm now a Mac.

I'm writing this entry from my brand-spanking-new 15" MacBook Pro. 

Really. I just got it. Like an hour ago.

Those of you who have had the courage to read this rant for long enough know that I started out as a die-hard Mac fanatic. I was the typical Mac fanboy - long before the word existed.

I would even spell Windoze wrong and made fun of all those people who used it.

Then, I became a PC.

Why? Well, all of my customers had dumped the Mac and had gone with Windows - and when you're focusing on integrating desktop databases with SQL - you had better get yourself a Windoze box (still the case today).

Then, I don't know what happened... I slowly actually became that PC guy in the Apple ads.

I started to think PCs as more capable than Macs (at least in some areas) - and I just accepted the complete B.S. patches and upgrades as a way of life. I just grew to accept the 5-8 MINUTE boot times, the crappy auto-restarts, the sheer insecurity and fragility of the Windows OS as a fact of life...

Well - that's past. I've been ranting about how much Windoze sucks for so long - that it was time to either put up or shut up (or both). So, I literally arrived back from Australia less than 5 hours ago - and I dragged my jet-lagged ass to the Apple Store in Thousand Oaks.

I had my MacBook, mini-DVI-VGA adapter (for my 26" Dell monitor), a neoprene cover and I was out the door in less than 15 minutes.

I got home, unpacked the box, entered the WEP address of my router to get on the Internet - and that's it folks... done deal.

I've downloaded Firefox, and I'm now downloading the 650+ MB of updates to the OS (no worse than the typical MS patch cycle!). But the thing about this Mac is that (so far) everything just works.

I'm still getting used to the glass trackpad and the 20 finger gestures - but everything else is pretty natural. I've configured some settings, changed the dock location and size - and have started to hit my favorite websites and store them as bookmarks, etc.

I can't tell you the number of times I've reformatted my PC hard drive over the years - and have had to "start from scratch" like this. Only - this time - if I need to transfer stuff to a new Mac it will just do it for me automatically.

What's the fate of my trusty (albeit slow) Dell D430 laptop? Well, for the time being it will be my trusty companion until I get all the stuff off of it, and have a chance to re-buy all my favorite software for the Mac (assuming I can get all my favorite software on a Mac)...

So, we'll see. I'm sure I'll have to use the PC for some stuff - and it will be a great testing machine for all the Servoy development work I'm doing - but, starting today - the Mac will be my primary platform.

Considering the last time I had a Mac as my primary platform - OS 9 was all the rage - there will be a learning curve, to be sure... and I also have to now go and read all the online sites that I've never really cared about (Mac-centric ones) to see what all the best goodies are... but all-in-all I'm excited about the process of becoming a Mac again.

If you have suggestions for your favorite Mac utilities and stuff - let me know...

I'm Bob Cusick... and I'm a Mac...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Office 2010 - Who Cares?

Well, Microsoft is supposed to launch a limited preview of their upgrade to Office - called Office 2010 - sometime today. I didn't pre-sign-up for an access code to check it out - because, quite frankly, I really don't care.

Curious, yes - caring - no.

I read an overview on TechCrunch and they menti0ned that Microsoft was going to come out with a FREE version of Office on the web - in direct competition with Google Docs.

Ummmmm... yeah.

The good news is that it's rumored to have the same crappy and confusing "Ribbon" user interface as the desktop version (!), and although it won't have as many features (of course) - it will still allow you to actually create... wait for it... TEXT DOCUMENTS IN THE "BROWSER"! Whoo hoo!

Oh, and they're also going to give away this spiffy new version of Excel that allows you to actually do simple spreadsheets - again - IN THE "BROWSER"! Wow!

Jeez. Are they kidding?

I mean I know that they hate Google and everything - and Google must have gone up their a** 100 miles when they announced the Chrome OS last week - but really. A free Office Suite? 4 years after Google did it? 4 years after Zoho and all the rest of the OTHER 1,000,000 players who have free word processing, image processing, spreadsheets and presentation software?

If anything, Microsoft's delay in giving away the goods has allowed all these other players to get people used to NOT using Microsoft's Office tools (in the browser). They have all made it easy to import and export their browser-based documents for consumption by Office or OpenOffice or PDF or whatever it is you use on your desktop.

They allow multiple authors to collaborate in near-realtime, support version control, and permission-based security. Oh yeah, and these "other" productivity tools run in any browser you might have lying around - NOT just in IE.

They also (for the most part) have open APIs - that allow developers to tie these applications into larger workflow applications - or to combine the data and create custom mashups. I'm sure that Microsoft will have some APIs as well - but it will be interesting to see whether they extend to the desktop version as well.

In some ways, it's cool that the 800 pound gorilla is getting into the free online business apps market. Maybe that competition will force Google and the other players to up the ante and create some truly innovative features (and enhance some of the stuff that's in there now).

I'm not sure what their business model for the free web versions is (other than the typical Microsoft FUD-factor)... because if you're not using Office now (or have an old version that meets your needs and you're using some other online tools as well) - what will make people jump to the online versions?

The other big question is - how long until someone creates a virus or worm that will infect the Active X components that will surely play a part? Will they run on other browsers? Will users of other browsers need to install anything? Will users even CARE?

Will YOU use the free Office tools when they finally ship (late next year)?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Senior Citizen Idol

I don't know how many of you follow American Idol - but last night (in case you were living under a rock) - was the grand finale of the season - where the winner was announced.

The show was in a 2 hour slot. TWO HOURS to announce one winner in less than 30 seconds? Ugh.

I was prepared for it to be like the Academy Awards or Emmies - where it just drags and drags for so long that I just want to poke my eye out with a fork rather than continue watching.

But this show was very different. Oh sure, they did the usual Simon Fuller let's-pimp-the-top-13-singing-songs-so-people-will-buy-tickets-to-the-50-city-tour "thing" - and the now-I-own-your-soul-so-dance-monkey-boy "thing" - but the twist was the number of artists they had come out and sing along with the contestants.

I'm in my mid 40's - so I grew up with songs of the late 60's, all of the 1970's and the early 80's. All the songs except for a couple of those younger, rap-type songs (I felt like screaming - "You kids stay off of my lawn!" like an "old" person) - I knew by heart.

So when one of the contestants started singing a Rod Stewart song - it was all well and good... until the part where they said "...ladies and gentlemen... Rod Stewart!".

Huh? I thought he was dead...

And sure enough - he WAS dead - but apparently he didn't get the memo. Rather than the tanned, dapper, ladies' man that he was in the 70's - out came.... well.... a guy that's about 8 years younger than my DAD.


He had some mileage on him - and his voice wasn't nearly as strong - but by gosh - he gave it his all.

As I was sitting there shaking my head in disbelief, another contestant came out with Cyndi Lauper (you younger kids can Google her).

Whoa, man! Really, Cyndi - still doing the songs from late 1979? How's that working out for you? Geez - she looked fairly OK - although I had no problems picturing her living in a trailer park...

and it JUST... DIDN'T... STOP!

They had Lionel Richie, Steve Martin (playing banjo) and to top it all off - KISS and Queen!

Ummm... yeah - KISS. In full makeup. Wearing their trademark 5" platform shoes. Gene Simmons was sticking his tongue out so much, I thought it was going to fall out.

Yeah, THAT Gene Simmons. The one with the TV show. The guy that was on "The Apprentice" with Donald Trump. THAT guy. The OLD guy. Gene is in his mid 60's for goodness sake.

Then they had Queen. QUEEN! Really. I guess they forgot that Freddie Mercury (their ex lead singer) died in 1991... but there they were in all their glory... and OLD. Sounding GREAT - but just old.

All of them had some new project to promote, or some venue they just committed to (Carlos Santa will be at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas for 2 years...) - so I get WHY they were there...

I was just still amazed that 1/2 of them were alive and kicking.

It just goes to show - Americans like what's familiar (or if you wait enough time - the "kids" will discover you for the first time). So, my hat's off to the American Idol folks - it was probably one of the most entertaining "awards" type shows I've seen in a long time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Non MS OSes Gaining Ground

In order to celebrate my 300th blog entry - I decided to revert to one of my favorite topics: slamming Microsoft... and predicting the demise of this (truly) evil empire.

In what is just the latest in a long history of time-sucking, headache-inducing, blood-pressure-raising events - I stupidly set the auto-update of my parent's aging Dell (XP Professional) to on.

When it decided to do an SP3 update - it hosed the boot block of the hard drive. So, I used the recover CD to "repair" the install, issue a DOS "fixboot" and "chkdsk" commands - and go it to book back into windows.

The BAD news is that as soon as one of the profiles is clicked on - the installation script - in its infinite wisdom and desire to "help" - promptly resumed where it left off and proceeded to hose the boot block again.

The end result is that my parents have a useless computer - with outdated backups, and now I need to spend the better part of 2 days doing a full wipe/install/update.

THANKS Microsoft! Awesome QA!

Yes, I know - just because I'm pissed off about having to restore yet ANOTHER install of Windows (I've done it on my own machines countless times) - I'm really at the point of turning Windows into my occasionally-used-for-testing-only operating system.

I'm just sick of it. Sick of the 10 minute boot time, sick of the endless patches, sick of Service Packs that render printers useless, sick of the bloat, just sick of the OS, period.

So, I did a little looking around the Internet - and I'm seeing that there are LOTS more people just as fed up as I am - AND they're voting with their dollars.

People are into "mobile" and anything "small" and "portable."

I mean, really - when was the last time you bought a "desktop" computer? Sure, there are uses for dedicated desktop boxes for things like video-editing, music composing, hard-core software development, etc.

But, in the main, people are buying laptops - and now, netbooks.

Ah, netbooks. Netbooks are the new Model T - but they come in more colors than just black. And with more than one choice in processors. And with more than one choice of operating system.

These (usually) sub-$500 machines come with solid state 128MB hard drives, 1-2 GB of RAM, a VGA-out port (ok, ok, so the 1024 x 768 resolution sucks), a battery that lasts between 5 and 9 hours and an operating system that can be Windows XP, Ubuntu, and now - TA DA - Android (for less than $300!).

The combination of the price point, the capabilities and the fact that most people use their computers to surf the web, check email, do some word processing and spreadsheets - oh, and play games - and viola! It's huge hit in the making.

"Sure, sure", you're saying - "but that's just on the consumer side. Everyone knows that consumers will jump at anything that's inexpensive and shiny."

That's true - but these consumers WILL buy and adopt - and that WILL force corporate IT (and web designers, and major company webmasters) to sit up and take notice. Ever hear of the iPhone? Look what a profound change has (is) occurring because of it... sits have dedicated iPhone "versions" of their sites, IT has been forced to make MS Exchange work nice, and IT - at the end of the day - has had to bow to the mighty forces of "cool" and "useful" over their (in some cases) strenuous objections.

"Well, OK" - you concede. "But Windows is more than just a consumer OS - it's what powers more than half of all the back end servers in the world."

Yep - for sure. However, Linux is no slouch with almost 1 in 3 computers using that OS for their back end servers. Linux, in its various distributions and forms, has been battle-tested and has been proven in the real world over time. Linux isn't going away any time soon.

Sure, it won't displace Windows Server in the near term - but I think the adoption rates will flip-flop as more and more consumers get used to non-Windows devices. As consumers drive the adoption of more non-Windows devices and as more IT folks get used to supporting non-Windows devices - it's only logical that IT's adoption of non-Windows devices will increase as well.

Will the "winner" be Android? Or Oracle's Solaris? Or Ubuntu? Or Red Hat? Or some new operating system not invented yet? Dunno... all I know is - the sooner the better!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Microblog: The New Sun's Oracle

Oh man... Larry Ellison just bought Sun.


Well, if it's one thing Oracle knows how to do - that's monetize their software assets. He gets to kill off MySQL and "own" Java all in one fell swoop - for about the price that's a steal - $5.9 billion.

What will happen to MySQL and Java and Solaris and JavaFX and all the other Intellectual Property of Sun? Only Larry knows for sure... but I bet there are some people in Aramonk, New York that are absolutely kicking themselves that they didn't take a man pill and try harder to secure the Sun acquisition.

Now IBM is in the delicate position of having their #1 rival own the language (Java) that it has based it's whole company and infrastructure on... NICE!

Will this mean an end to MySQL?

Will Oracle start demanding some kind of licensing for Java?

Will they splinter the Java core into their own "brand" of Java?

Now that Oracle's in the hardware business - what does that mean for customers? For HP? For IBM?

It's sure going to be Mr. Toad's wild ride as Oracle assimilates the company... wow! My hat's off to Mr. Ellison - you've really pulled off a shocker!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Open Letter to Assh*** Credit Companies

Dear ___________ (fill in assh*** credit company or bank here),

I have had an account with you for the past ___ years. I've made 99.9% of my payments on time, and have paid at least double the minimum amounts - even when times were tough. In many cases, I have paid off the balances in full three or four times - and you've increased my credit line on 6 different occasions - in response to my 'excellent' record of payments and my credit worthiness.

I just received your letter in the mail informing me that you have now cut my credit limit by 50-80% because I didn't max out my credit limit. This "excess credit" - and thus the definition of "credit" - is there for when (if) I need it - and it's something that has taken me years of hard work to create, build and maintain.

Now, I appreciate the fact that my credit is a potential liability for your company. But, since I'm a taxpayer, and now a majority shareholder in your company - I want my credit line restored.

I know that you have a "super cool" computer algorithm that goes through all your accounts and looks for any possible reason (or none at all) to reduce your liabilities and that absolutely zero human review takes place before you ruthlessly destroy faith in your company and the loyalty of long time customers.

However, I would respectfully suggest that you add two more factors into your obviously flawed algorithm: a) the lifetime value of me as a customer; and b) the number of years I've been doing business with you.

I have been worth tens of thousands of dollars to you in terms of interest payments over the last ____ years - and it just seems to me that it's really not very sound business practice to completely screw over the people that have consistently paid you tons of cash over many years. But hey, that's just me.

Since you place absolutely ZERO worth on our business history, and you don't give a rat's ass about the money I've paid you over the years - I have really good news!

When this recession fades (and it WILL) - I will pay off your balance in full - and then I will close my account (as you might expect).

However, the one thing you should also know is that under zero circumstances will I EVER do business with you or any of your affiliated companies again as long as I live. Not only that - but I will go to great lengths to vocally discourage all of my family, friends, co-workers, business associates, church members, civic groups, and anyone else I come in contact with to do the same.

You may have screwed me over successfully - but you have no idea who I know (and who they know) - and therefore, you have no idea how I can affect your bottom line when things turn around.

So, congratulations! Along with tossing me aside like a piece of sh*t - you've also just flushed all of the time and money you've spent in successfully marketing to me as well as all the goodwill your brand as created over the past 15 years - and you've managed to do it in one, single, 12 sentence letter.


Bob Cusick

Friday, April 03, 2009

Microblog: So Long Solaris!

Well, it's not a totally "done deal", but IBM is still looking to acquire Sun. If they do - it'll be interesting to see what happens to Sun's operating system: Solaris.

My guess = c ya! IBM already controls 37% of the high-end Unix market. Guess who is #2? Yep, Sun - with 28%.

Hmmmm.... nice. Buy 'em, kill Solaris... and nearly double your Unix marketshare overnight. Sweet!

Sun's shares were in the $5 range - making its market cap about $3.6 billion (don't get me started on why the hell they bought MySQL for $1 billion!) - and IBM is offering a 100% premium of $10 per share.

So - for only about $6.5 billion IBM can basically kill the #2 competitor. Oh yeah, they could also sell off Sun's hardware stuff - and probably recoup around $1 billion or so.

AND, if you act right NOW- you'll also get Java for no additional cost - we'll even pay shipping and handling! IBM is ALL about Java. Hopefully, if the buyout is successful, they'll FINALLY put some resources into updating the thing (it's LONG overdue!).

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Google Is The Next Linux Desktop

Since HP announced that it was "thinking about" using Android as the operating system for its new netbooks, and since both Asus and Freescale have also announced plans to do so - I got to thinking about Linux on the desktop.

It's been the "holy grail" of Linux to find a home on the desktop as a real, viable alternative to Windows. However it's taken many, many years and there is still a lot of "competition" among the various Linux distributions as to who is best for the desktop user.

The current reigning champion in the desktop Linux world is Ubuntu - and it's been embraced by Dell and HP in various combinations and configurations for some time. HP even went so far as to write their own user interface for Ubuntu (be THAT was fun!).

Now, I really like Ubuntu - and I've installed it and have used it (at the GUI level - not at the command-prompt level) and it's pretty cool. It does take some getting used to - it's like switching to OpenOffice from MS Office. The features are "similar" and the paradigms are "similar" - but there are enough differences to where there is a slight learning curve.

The problem with Ubuntu is not the distribution. It's not the still somewhat lacking UI, it's not the limited number of applications (that part is improving in general). The reason that Ubuntu hasn't become the "real" alternative to Windows is the fact that Canonical, Ubuntu's developer, hasn't beat the consumer drum and put out a really slick GUI that people will love.

They haven't spent the marketing millions that it would require to drive "pull" adoption (people asking for it). They really don' t have the industry muscle to drive wide adoption.

However, there IS one company that has all those things and more: Google. Yep, ever since Android first appeared (and the collective groan about yet another mobile operating system rang out) - both developers and consumers have been interested in seeing if the search giant could bring to an operating system the "coolness" and simplicity it had to search.

It wasn't long after the first Google mobile phones shipped that some smart folks got the OS to run on a netbook - instead of just a phone. The netbook, just like a phone - uses the Atom processor - rather than an x86 processor found in "regular" computers. These little powerhouses sip the power and don't heat up to microwave-hot temperatures like the other chips do.

So, we have the brewing of a perfect storm: an operating system based on the free, open-source Linux kernel; a huge, international company with a huge consumer and business base of customers; a huge, international company with extremely deep pockets to spend on marketing (not to mention that 1 in 3 people who use the web visit their site EVERY DAY); brand-name hardware manufacturers who want to leverage Google's brand to move inexpensive hardware.

To be sure, there are other operating systems that might have a run - the WebOS by Palm (not likely), the Symbian OS (could be interesting - but it's years away) - or maybe even Ubuntu itself (but not until it runs on a phone!).

But, given Google's track record to try things; and the fact it's already invested a huge sum to make Android work on phones; and given the fact that iPhone users are turning into Mac users at a record rate... they could be on to something.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I'm WORKING Here, People!

First of all - many thanks to all of you who have emailed and called and IM'd and social media'd me about the fact that you miss the regular updates to Bob's World! It's nice to know that people actually read this thing. :-)

And, I do apologize for being a total slacker for the last couple of weeks... BUT - since I've restarted Clickware I've been switching hats so often that I'm getting tennis elbow.

That's one thing that I totally forgot about - when you're (re)starting a venture YOU are where the buck stops. Literally. As in: "If you don't do some work/promotion/billing/marketing/sales/support/follow up today - you won't get paid tomorrow."

I got spoiled when I was working for Servoy I had a terrific staff who all kicked-ass and were experts in their own fields. This allowed me the luxury of actually running the US Operations and update the social media, blogs, talk to analysts, write articles, do product plans, explore new concepts, make videos, etc.

Now, I still need to do all of those things - but I have to do all the other functions as well... and frankly, with that whole "there's only 24 hours in a day" thing, it's tough to do. If it were up to me - I would officially make each day at least 36 hours long - so at least I could get caught up in the span of a couple of weeks.

But, alas, I can't alter the space/time continuum - so I started to take my own advice. You see, I wrote a white paper a while ago called "How To Get Stuff Done" (you can get it here) - and you know, it really does help!

There are so many things that "should" be done - but very few that "need" to be done. I'm finding if I just start with those things that need to be done (and not all the "fun" projects that tend to suck time like a 5 year old drinking chocolate milk) - and then also apply the appropriate "filter" - I can actually get things OFF my "to do" list.

This blog is one of the things that I "should" do - but also one I "need" to do as well. I'll try to keep it updated a few times a week... so DO check back - and please DO keep those cards, letters, emails and comments coming!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Future: Less IS More

After taking this week "off" from my social media commitments - I jumped back (literally) into the "stream" of the social collective this morning.

Now, those of you who know me know that I'm not the most "social" person out there - and that at the beginning of this wave of social media - I was skeptical (at best). But after being "out of the loop" for a week - I found that I actually missed the time-sucking, endless noise filtering and discovery of hidden gems in my social networks.


Just due to the sheer number of posts and the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and the fact that I actually need to do "work" as well - I'm finding that the thing I long for is not *less* information - but information that is categorized in the way that's important to me.

For example, I have limited my followings on Twitter to people that say stuff that I find interesting. Now, I'm only following 76 people - but damn Spanky - some of those folks Tweet in real time. Some of the time it's interesting, and some of the time it's just plain annoying to have (literally) 100+ tweets by ONE person a day.

Even if I could process 7,600 tweets per day (100 tweets * 76 people) - there's no way I actually could. I mean, seriously, can you process 500 of ANYTHING in a single day?

That's just one outlet - Twitter. Then there's Facebook. I have a fair number of friends - a lot of whom are really interesting people - and I make every effort to read their status updates and sometimes the links and videos they post. And, more times than not, they have great things to day.

Then there's the "real time" communications - instant messaging via AIM, GoogleTalk, MSN (yeah, I know!), ICQ, and Skype... these generally are the communications that take the place of a phone call. I typically have 3-20 conversations a day (some are really short) to ping friends, colleagues and customers.

Then, there's Skype, my land line phone and my mobile phone. Oh, and then I check my Gmail, email, SMS, and voicemail.

Then, I read blogs and articles, write blogs and articles - and then I check my snail mail.

Ummmm... yeah.

So this past week I entered my time capsule and have only answered phone calls, "traditional" email and voicemail ( ok, ok, so I did a few IM sessions as well) - and I found out that I really felt out of touch. Yeah, I know - it surprised me as well!

So I started looking around for some stuff to help me to collapse all these information streams so I don't lose (what's left) of my mind. Now before I get 1,000 comments, tweets, IM's, emails, voice mails, status updates - I know that there are a great number of tools that will help me manage the Twitter feed.

That's not the problem.

I need something that will help unify all the streams and then help me to put them in context. To help me keep track of my customer's outgoing and incoming communications, my friend's outgoing and incoming communications, my colleagues' outgoing and incoming communications. That way, I have a context in which I can interact.

One of the services I use is called - it helps me to update all my various social networks in one fell swoop. I use Twitterfeed for the same thing for the incoming Tweets. I use RSS readers for blog updates. I use FriendFeed to try to aggregate the social stuff.

The killer app of the future is NOT going to be another way to stream your thoughts or your content. The killer app of the future is one that will coordinate and help you manage all the stuff you're consuming and creating - by author, by group, by relationship type, by content type, by time frame. It will allow you to set a preferred communication channel for each of these contacts and then when you blast your own content - it will reach out and communicate to the masses - but also in a personalized way to the selected contacts you've indicated in the way(s) those contacts prefers to be contacted in.

The future is LESS, not more. Less programs to manage stream of outgoing and incoming communications, less time spent sifting through 12 different types of communications, less hassles in knowing how to communicate effectively with those you need to communicate with.

Yeah, I've seen the future - and less IS more.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Credit Card Entrepreneur

Conventional wisdom would suggest that and economic depression (we're way beyond recession here, folks) is the worst time to start a business.

I, for one, would strongly disagree. And so would FedEx. And Burger King. And IBM. And about two dozen more "household names" that were all founded during economic downturns. I think that now is a terrific time to start a business (or expand the one you already have).

Why? Well, we're at a unique place in history.

Any "normal" economic downturn forces businesses and people to do one thing that they normally don't do: examine where they are going and stop doing the things that are stupid and waste time and money. They "get back to the basics" and focus on things that are important to them.

For individuals - it too often also means that they've grabbed their seat cushion because the "unlikely event of a water landing" has happened to them in terms of their career. They have to focus on the skills that they have that are not only "marketable" or "hireable" but that will actually add value to whomever will toss them money so they can live.

For businesses (the ones that are not stuck in an ostrich pose with their heads in the ground and asses in the air) - it also represents a prime opportunity for them to examine the same thing - where do they add value to THEIR customers? Do they? If not - then it's time to join the ranks of the deadpooled companies and stop doing whatever it is they're doing.

This renewed focus on adding value, and I would argue, just STOPPING all the "activity" that seems to consume our lives - can gently lead people to view things in different, radical, potentially life-changing ways. In the "downtime" of waiting in the unemployment line or waiting for the site to load - there can be moments of clarity that can lead to great things - in terms of monetary success as well as lifestyle adjustments.

In this way - recessions, depressions, wars, and other catastrophic events are the same. They cause people and companies to focus.

But of course focus isn't enough. If you focus long enough, hard enough, and you put yourself in the place of others (either the poor schmoe who's out of work or the poor schmoe who is left to do 8 people's work and not get a raise for the next 3 years) - that's where the intersection of needs, wants, desires, opportunity and desperation collide into "the idea."

But, of course, the "idea" isn't enough in and of itself. There's that whole pesky implementation "thing." That's where the technological advances of the modern age really come into play.

Never before in history have we had the ability to start an international business where we don't have to stock product, don't have to have a shipping department, don't need to buy computers or software, and don't need to hire people to answer phones in order to make money selling stuff.

All we need is a credit card and the the unique knowledge that we possess on how to add value to someone, somewhere.

All the other functions of what it would take to start a "real" business can be purchased, rented, and consumed via a single computer, a browser, and Internet access.

The barriers to entry in the "new" business world - the "utility" parts needed to run a business - have already been virtualized (or are getting there). You can rent hardware, software, have companies handle your phones, faxes, shipping, warehousing, product creation, order processing, payment processing, order fulfillment, customer service, technical support, marketing, promotions and advertising.

The thing that hasn't (and can't) be virtualized - is the VALUE that you bring to the table and the RELATIONSHIPS you have with friends, customers, colleagues and fellow business owners. Everyone is in the same boat in these times. Everyone has a certain skill set, business process knowledge and/or a set of experiences that are unique to them.

There's never been a better time to figure out the value you can add - and then come up with a plan on how to share that value with the people that need it. People will pay you for the value you add - even in a down economy.

The key is to get focused... and get started!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Facetweet - Will Facebook Kill Twitter?

Well - as seen on numerous blogs around the world today - it's finally come out that Facebook really DID try to buy Twitter last fall. There had been rumors all over the place that Mark and team was vying to snap up the microblogging site - and roll it into their own offering.

So after the negotiations had come to an unfruitful end (from Facebook's perspective) - they took a play out of the Gates handbook for business 101 - and just decided to build their own microblog format. I say good for them!

Now I don't know Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter personally, and I don't have any inside information as to what they have in the works - but it just seems to me that if someone like Mark Zuckerberg and team come to you and want to buy your brand (for an "undisclosed sum" - read: HUGE cash) - then unless you have a really, really, really good plan to monetize your platform - you should just sell the damn thing.

I mean, really! So, you invented the space of microblogging. Bully for you! It's still not really caught on to the mainstream yet - and your own site's features are so anemic that a whole industry and dozens of others have stepped into the ecosystem to siphon off users from your site (read: less eyeballs for ads)...

So, you have a super simple site - which is a good thing. You have a medium that lots of tech folks (and PR folks) use as sort of a "live AP" feed - also good.

But... ummm... the idea and the tech behind it are... well... just NOT that hard to re-create. The barrier of entry to create another service just like yours is, well, trivial. Just look at all the Twitter-like, me-too spin offs that have come about.

Yeah, you have first-mover advantage, but the Facebook people have a little think called "150 million registered users." Oh, and a valuation that's backed by the largest software company in the world - Microsoft. Oh, and some really, really smart people.... AND... a really robust infrastructure.... AND... did I mention 150 million registered users?

I think it's a good thing that Facebook will put in a microblogging feature - I think that people will use it and that it will really be a welcomed addition to their service. In a way - it's already there. You can see the status updates of your friends, get a "live feed" of what others are doing... so it just makes sense that if you could "broadcast" your status to anyone... you're done.

So - Twitter - unless you're going to announce something (and soon) - I'm afraid you'll be relegated to the MySpace bid of "cool idea, first-mover advantage" slow death. The difference is - you didn't sell out for $850 (while the getting was good).

I hope I'm wrong. Maybe all the people who are addicted to Twitter will continue to tweet forever. I'm sure that people who have used the service for a long time will continue to use it. However, all the "new" people who are just discovering social media (both individuals and businesses) - they WILL sign up for Facebook.

And when they do - they will have a new option to "broadcast" their stuff to anyone on the Internet - as well as to "subscribe" to other feeds. All in the CONTEXT of their friends, customers and other relationships.

OR - they could choose to go to yet another source, start cross posting (or do what I do - and use the EXCELLENT to do it for me) and reading two sets of feeds.

Ummmm... yeah. In-context feeds all in one aggregated place with the largest social network on the planet - or a spartan interface in scrolling format.

My money's on Facebook to win and Twitter to place.

Monday, March 02, 2009

IE Round 2? Has the Giant Awakened?

Ok, ok, so as much as I (and everyone else) bitches about Microsoft - I think they've had another "Ah, the Internet!" moment.

I was reading Mary-Jo Foley's EXCELLENT blog entry on Microsoft's "Cloud OS" (code name: Red Dog) and at the same time read in ComputerWorld about how Microsoft was bringing the (almost) full "power" of SQL Server to the cloud... when all of a sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks: somebody, somewhere, (or everybody everywhere) told Microsoft that they were missing the boat.

And here's the "best" part: they actually listened.

It sort of reminded me of when Bill Gates (rest his Microsoft soul) finally "got" that the browser was the wave of the future. Back in 1995 Bill bought the rights to Spyglass - the raw underbelly HTML rendering engine that powered the then-numero-uno Netscape "browser."

Once he assembled Spyglass into "the collective" and renamed it "Internet Explorer" - he proceeded to write an internal memo - a manifesto, if you wish, about the Internet - wherein he basically said - '...NOW I see it. This 'Internet' thing is going to be huge. Let's buy the biggest player - make up our own crap (screw the "standards") and give it away for free. We'll kill those Netscape ass**les yet!" (well, he DIDN'T SAY THAT - but that's my take on the gist of it)

So, they proceeded to kick the browser market's a**, and eventually forced Netscape out of business (only to be revived in the Mozilla project and Firefox).

Get ready for IE round 2.

So, Microsoft is going to port a lot of the functionality of MS SQL Sever into "the cloud." They're coming up with their own OS - Azure (code name: Red Dog), they've got Ray Ozzie and the whole "Mesh" thing going on...

Yeah, the 1.0 version will suck and it will take them 2-3 years to get the version to where it's actually usable.... but still, I think they've basically "got the plot" on the fact that they can't rely on the Windows OS and Office to fill the company coffers forever.

I'll bet you it's all Bill's idea! He has nothing better to do now - and I mean - how many cocktail receptions can you go to in order GIVE AWAY your children's inheritance? To be fair - Bill Gates didn't get to be the richest man in America so many times by being stupid (or by being "nice").

My personal opinion is that he has daily calls with Steve Ballmer - and Steve has become his puppet master. Meantime, back at the Bat Cave, Bill has been the ultimate puppet master: pulling the heartstrings of charity and overall worldwide "do-gooder" while secretly slipping into his "evil" black spandex "Internet War" suit at night.

He probably has that golden bust that Batman had with the big red button - and he pushes it to open the bookcase where there are pole he slides down into the "Bad Cave" to call his head henchman (Ballmer) to plan how to overtake all the other "losers" in the whole Internet game (Amazon, Google, Zoho, et al).

OR - he really doesn't give a crap. He has enough money to last his lifetime and, as long as the stock stays above... well... ZERO... has nothing to lose... except the thrill of an "evil" opponent and the dream of world domination...

But that's just "crazy talk"....

Friday, February 27, 2009

Retweet: Microsoft vs. GM

As I was trying to think up something witty and poignant for today's entry - I came across an old story from 1997 that pitted Microsoft against the now-up-sh*ts-creek-without-a-paddle - GM.

Back in the heady days of the late 90's the computer industry was bragging about how far the technology had come in comparison to the automotive industry. That spawned a single 3 line joke with a cool punchline:
There's word in business circles that the computer industry likes to measure itself against the Big Three auto-makers. The comparison goes this way: If automotive technology had kept pace with Silicon Valley, motorists could buy a V-32 engine that goes 10,000 m.p.h. or a 30-pound car that gets 1,000 miles to the gallon — either one at a sticker price of less than $ 50. Detroit's response: "OK. But who would want a car that crashes twice a day?"


The over time the joke morphed from that simple 3 liner into one that has replaced the "computer industry" with Bill Gates and the "automotive industry" with GM. Somewhere along the way, some unnamed person added some additional observations and it circulated around the (then spanking new) Internet via something called "email."

Over the years it's turned into one of those urban legends that has been repeated so many times that people think it's actually true. Well, it's not - but I think it's especially enlightening given the current circumstances with both GM and the on-going Vista controversy.

Plus, it made me chuckle - and I think we could all use a little more of that these days:
If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:
  1. For no reason at all, your car would crash twice a day.

  2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road, you would have to buy a new car.

  3. Occasionally, executing a manoeuver such as a left-turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, and you would have to reinstall the engine.

  4. When your car died on the freeway for no reason, you would just accept this, restart and drive on.

  5. Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought 'Car95' or 'CarNT', and then added more seats.

  6. Apple would make a car powered by the sun, reliable, five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but would run on only five per cent of the roads.

  7. Oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single 'general car default' warning light.

  8. New seats would force every-one to have the same size butt.

  9. The airbag would say 'Are you sure?' before going off.

  10. Occasionally, for no reason, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key, and grabbed the radio antenna.

  11. GM would require all car buyers to also purchase a deluxe set of road maps from Rand-McNally (a subsidiary of GM), even though they neither need them nor want them. Trying to delete this option would immediately cause the car's performance to diminish by 50%t or more. Moreover, GM would become a target for investigation by the Justice Department.

  12. Every time GM introduced a new model, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

  13. You would press the 'start' button to shut off the engine.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Microblog: Gmail Is Only Human

Nothing in the world works 100% of the time. That's a fact of life.

Why is it then when Gmail goes down for two hours - or the Twitter "fail whale" comes up - people go crazy? Hey - people - do YOU ever do anything 100% of the time - every day, all day, every day of the year?

Neither do I.

Why, then do most people just expect all software, hardware and Internet connections to be up 100% of the time? Well, I guess because we're starting to come to see them as utilities like electricity and phone. They're just supposed to "work" all the time.

And, when they don't - we get a little panicked. Do you remember the last time the electricity went out?

It also means that if you have only a single source for your email (or social networks or whatever) - then you're choosing to put all of your eggs in one basket. That means - that WHEN (not IF) your favorite service goes down (and they ALL will at some point) - take a chill.

Pull out some paper and jot down your notes with a "pen" - or save them in a text file so you can immediately flame the company and have your inflammatory blog post all ready to go when the service DOES come back up.

That's what I do...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Demonstrate Value - Or Die

The level of panic in companies is getting almost palpable. They are cutting, cutting, cutting - and a lot of the time not THINKING about the ramifications of those cuts.

Some companies are cutting valuable IT staff, killing business-enabling (and enhancing) projects, and doing other stupid things like cutting benefits, reducing work hours and making the overworked people who are "fortunate" enough to be left behind after massive layoffs the most de-motivated group of people on the planet.

Yes, these are uncertain economic times.
Yes, in many cases, cuts do have to be made.
Yes, not every single project should be continued (or even started in the first place).
Yes, dead wood needs to be trimmed.
Yes, business does need to keep a careful eye on expenses and especially cash flow.

If you find yourself one of these "fortunate" few who survived (so far) - then here's a little tip to help ensure you make the next round of cuts: help your company to measure the contribution of your role/project/salary in terms of cash flow, tangible benefits and consequences if they kill it/fire you/lay you off.

At the end of the day no one knows your project/role like you do. And if you're working on a high-profile project or you're making a decent, livable salary - there's no doubt that you're in the sights for future "cost savings."

The time to act is now.

Step 1: Take a good look at your project/role and make a quick spreadsheet that lists all of the costs in one column and hard-dollar revenues (and when they'll occur) that you/your project influence. If the costs exceed the hard dollar revenue (or hard dollar cost savings) - then it's time to go to Step 2.

If your costs are lower than your hard dollar revenues (or savings) - then jump right to Step 3.

Step 2: Double check your assumptions and figures. If you're still coming up short - then figure out how much it will cost in time, money and resources to make the + side greater than the revenue side. If you're able to pull it out - then go on to Step 3. If you can't - then you should either be getting your resume polished up or make friends with someone whose calculations ARE in the black - and get re-assigned to that project and/or make yourself invaluable to the other person in their role.

Step 3: Share your work. Don't wait for bad news to "hit you" - you should take a proactive approach and share the information you've discovered with your boss (or executive committee or whomever you report to). Talk them through the numbers and show them how your project/role is adding value to the company.

It's not so much about cover your ass - as it is about being perceived as someone who cares about the company and cares enough to take the time to quantify it. I can guarantee you this - if there are 20 people/projects on the potential chopping block and you can cost-justify your project/role - then there will only be 19 projects/people on the chopping block and you will NOT be one of them.

On the other hand - if you can't wait to get out of where ever it is you're working - it might be a good time to keep your numbers to yourself. There might be a possibility for you to work with your current employer on a consulting basis - in which everyone wins.

Your company will reduce taxes, overhead, benefits, and conserve cash flow - while you gain flexibility, a solid project to start with, and an in-depth knowledge of the process and people involved in order to help ensure the project is successful.

Regardless of which way you go in the end - it's still a good practice to cost-justify what you're working on and what value you bring to the company. If you don't do it - chances are good that someone else (usually a bean counter) will - and other decisions will be made that are outside of your influence/control.

Change is inevitable. You can either make it happen - or have it happen to you.

Microblog: MS Accidentally Finds Its Soul

It seems that Microsoft does have a heart after all (or just a really, really, big aversion to bad PR)...

After laying off 1,400 workers - it accidentally overpaid some of them by $4,000 to $5,000. Once HR realized the error - the laid off workers were promptly written an letter that demanded they give the money BACK to Microsoft.


In an abrupt about-face, Microsoft has now said that the people can keep the money:
"In the normal course of business, we may underpay or overpay in a bonus situation," said Lisa Brummel, senior vice president of human resources at Microsoft. "If we overpay, we ask that the money be returned. Severance is not unlike that. "But this is a unique time and our normal practice didn't make sense."
Oh yeah, and the fact that 1,000,000 bloggers have been raking Microsoft over the coals every since? I'm sure it had no impact on Microsoft's ethical decision making process - and constant zealous care for the people that make them money....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Now That We Own Some Banks...

This whole bailout "thing" has got me a bit pissed off. Never mind the fact that the presses are working overtime to print money we don't have to give it to companies that have such inept (and greedy) management that they "managed" their companies into the ground and took the economy with it... no, the real thing that gets my goat is the fact that NO ONE seems to know where this money is going.

A perfect example is the $42 BILLION we gave to Bank of America and Citibank. Just handed them the cash - and walked away - "trusting" they would do "the right thing" with the money.

What the ??

We didn't even insist they fire the management. There were "no strings" attached to the money whatsoever. So, now, let me get this straight: we (the taxpayers) have given $42 BILLION to 2 banks... oh and guaranteed another $412 BILLION to cover their losses... and we got squat in return?

For just the $42 BILLION we could have bought ALL the common shares of Bank of America and Citibank about 4 times over. ALL of it.

Instead - we hand over the money - and allow them to keep the same idiots running the place that got them into this mess in the fist place?

Yeah! Great plan!

At the very least we (as taxpayers - and the government as our representatives) should INSIST that the Board of Directors be removed - if not the entire management team. "But... but... but... it will shake things up if we do that - they know how the system works..." - yeah, my ass!

They know how to play the system, cover up losses, hide questionable loans, all for the sake of their stock options and bonus pay. THAT's what they know how to do. There are PLENTY of other very smart, very capable, very responsible, very knowledgeable people in the world that can run those banks.

And just where the hell are they putting all the money? Good question. NO ONE KNOWS. There is ZERO accountability for using OUR (taxpayer) money. They could be buying back stock or stuffing it all in a mattress for all we know.

Since we (unofficially) "own" those banks - it's time they come clean on where the money is going. They should be forced to have 100% transparency on where every dime of that money goes. They should be forced to remove their management and/or boards - and they should be held accountable for their own damn losses.

Now the Obama money-printing-factory wants to print up ANOTHER $75 BILLION to keep people from going into foreclosure. That's a good idea. Make SURE that their debts are 100% forgiven - and let the people keep their homes.

DO NOT just hand banks money and not demand anything in return! Does no one in Washington understand how business actually works?

Oh and by the way - how about MY bailout? Where's MY no-strings-attached money? Screw the banks and the car companies and give every American who PAYS taxes a Visa card with $100,000 on it - and make it good only for 90 days. They can't get cash with it, they can't use it to pay off debts - they have to spend it or lose it.

You want people to spend money to get the economy going - that's the way to do it - NOT giving BILLIONS to huge companies who don't care and who, left to their own devices, will be back with their hands out in another 6 months.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's A Cloud, Cloud, Cloud World

I had my iPhone cranked up listening to my "favorites" channel and just let my mind wonder.... and in one of my rare moments of clarity - I was thinking about the future of computing. I come to the decision that the future of computing will not be about hardware, or operating systems, or which applications are "better" than others - it will all come down to a single thing: the screen.

Yep, that's it. The screen.

I think that the computing experience for most people (within the next 10 years) will be based around cloud services that are delivered to whatever device you happen to be using. Those devices could be fixed - like your TV, or to a thin PC, or a laptop-like device (nettop, netbook, laptop), or even your mobile phone.

The days of installing patches and fixes and hot fixes will be a thing of the past - since your operating system will be running in the cloud - there will be some poor IT schmoe someplace that has to deal with all the hassles and compatibility problems - and your system will just always be "up to date."

You'll always have the latest versions of all the software you use - or "subscribe" to - and you'll pay for computing services much the way you do for electricity or phone service. Companies will vie for your business by providing content "channels" that you can subscribe to.

If you like the Apple OS - then subscribe to the Apple Channel. Prefer Vista? Too bad, Microsoft won't have a channel until they see that Apple has dominated the space and then will try to build their entirely own complete service rather than just have a channel that people can subscribe to... but I digress.

These software (and services) "channels" would all co-exist in your main "session" - and would be available (and configurable) as either icons or as services that are already running. You could just switch between channels the way you do now - with Alt+Tab or by clicking an icon.

There would be free channels (like basic cable) - and then premium content (I predict that porn folks will be an early adopter) would be available. Whether you're interested in sports and want to see live video, or have an instance of a browser loaded with links to all your favorite teams - it's all pre-configured in the "ESPN Sports Channel."

Likewise, if you're a news junkie, love cooking, or can't get enough celebrity gossip - the content will be available in a unified manner. Video, websites, applications, premium content - ready to go and able to be delivered on whatever device you're watching where ever you are.

The issue of whether to buy a new Xbox or Playstation will be a thing of the past. You can have both - just subscribe to the channel(s). It will come with some basic games, and you can add others on a rental basis - or as a flat fee (like today). Rather than having 200 game jewel cases lying around - the game provider would collect payment and install the instance of the game on in your session. It would be ready nearly instantly.

What about the more "mundane" tasks of email, presentations, collaboration, word processing and (the dreaded) spreadsheet? Those would all be handled at an "at work" channel. It could be branded by your company - and you can have a "home office" channel as well as a "London office" channel. All your data will be stored just as you left it - files in folders like you have today.

There would be some limited local storage for the rare occasion you're not connected to the network - documents will be stored and forwarded when you connect again. Each channel would make certain applications available offline (although not all apps) - but it really won't be an issue. We'll look at good, reliable access to the Internet like we do electricity and sewer services. It will be everywhere - mostly all the time.

You'll be able to easily move data between channels and have all your documents accessible from all the other channels as well. You can seamlessly share and collaborate with others - with text or video like you can today with instant messaging and video chat.

In other words - your computing experience will be amazingly similar to what it is today, and all you have to buy is a HDTV, mobile phone or other device of your choice - and chances are you already have all the hardware you'll need.

Rather than tossing (or donating) that "old" cell phone or laptop or desktop - you can just pick up a new one at any store, kiosk or outlet - log into your provider and whammo - all your stuff is there. No more local backups (but you can if you want to), no more downloading and installing programs over on the new computer, the hours of setup, the restoration of all your preferences - it will all "just work."

Yes, I think the pendulum is swinging back to the "centralized" computer model. That's why mainframes haven't gone away - they've just been waiting for this next round of "what's old is new." Well, the time is coming.

The virtualization software is getting better and better and cheaper and cheaper. The delivery mechanisms for delivering the specific user sessions and price of mass online storage are nearing the zero mark. There are some technical and infrastructure hurdles, to be sure - but it's all within the realm of what's happening in terms of growing consumer (and business) acceptance of SaaS applications and cheap, commodity hosted virtual systems.

And now - with the Obama White House printing money like it's going out of style for infrastructure upgrades - I'm hopeful that within 5 years I will be able to actually have ONE cell conversation without having one side or the other drop.... but that's another story.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Micoblog: Enough With "Beta" Already

So, I don't know about you - but I'm getting a little tired of the word "Beta" when it comes to commercial software and especially with Web 2.0 applications.

Now, most people aren't in the technology field - but I am - and the word beta has a traditional meaning that's getting more and more obscured as time goes on. Traditionally, a piece of software was considered beta - when it was feature complete and undergoing the final bug fixes and performance tweaks.

Software was considered "shipping" software when companies put it out to the public and charged money for it.

That's all changed.

Companies now are putting up services like hotcakes labeled as "Beta" - which either means they're doing some market fishing and seeing if what they came up with will actually stick or not - or they expect customers to be their quality assurance team and find all the bugs.

Microsoft has labeled it's Windows 7 operating system as "Beta." I'm sure it's feature complete and is just getting the final bugs worked out...

Yeah, right!

Gmail has been in "Beta" for over 5 years now (and counting) - and yet they are charging money for it. What the??

It's time companies stepped up and grow a pair and put a "1.0" label on their stuff. Call it "shipping" - and stop being total wussies about it.

When they do have a release that's meant to get public opinion or to show off the future of what they're working on in the labs - that's terrific! Call it a "Public Preview" or "Pre-Release" or something else - but just please stop calling all your stuff "Beta" for 5 years. Same thing for you Web 2.0 folks - having a "closed beta" is fine - even a public "beta" period is good - but a product should not be in "beta" if:
  1. People are paying for it
  2. It's been more than 3 months since you made it live
  3. If you have more than 5,000 people using it
  4. If you advertise the new version as if it were shipping
  5. You're just doing it to create FUD in the marketplace to stop people from buying a competitor's product (Microsoft - take note!)
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