Archive for July, 2007

Do we need more features or more productivity

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Lets face it people. Software does everything under the sun. It does even more with a little bit of tweaking knowledge. Let’s just look at the example of Microsoft Excel or Openoffice.org’s Calc. What else can you really do with a spreadsheet? At the same time the problem is if they don’t come up with something crazy to say is a new feature then you’ll feel they’re falling behind.  In a previous post (Visionary vs. Reationary) I said that Lotus 1-2-3 fell behind and eventually got forced out of the market.  What happened is that while they realized that they did all that needed to be done at the time for spreadsheets they sat on their hands not thinking about one small thing.  A pretty look in windows.  Microsoft didn’t miss this and stole their market and did the same to dBase.

My thinking here is that people are not really looking into the program they’re using to figure out how to be more productive.  I know. I know.  Here I am again always forcing you to do more work.  Your life is probably busy enough.  However, for the most part software has gotten like computer monitors.  The technology has pretty much come to a standstill but for a good reason.  It’s already good enough.  Now, I’m not talking about applications for multimedia or graphics because that’s always changing and growing but Microsoft Word?  DONE!  Word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, and almost email (Outlook and MS Access are still the killer business apps that I can’t totally leave Microsoft for or I’d be 100% Linux).

It seems one group of people realize this.  Google.  They bought the company Writely a while back so that they could use they’re online word processor.  They’re putting a whole suite of applications online and don’t worry about training because if you use any one at home you can figure out theirs.  They’re all really the same.

My conclusion is simple.  The ball is in your court.  Microsoft Office 97 did everything you need to do things today the same way.  Openoffice is free and so is Google‘s office suite and they do everything you need.  The Mac desktop and the Linux Desktop do everything you need just because all the main programs are the same for the majority of users.  It’s not your computer’s limitations anymore.  It’s YOU.  Doing just enough won’t do anymore.

Help fight spam with Project Honeypot

Monday, July 30th, 2007

In a random web search I came across this website and found myself blessed in finding it. It’s called Project Honeypot it’s a simple idea that could really help. It’s an attempt to stop spammers by giving them what’s called “honey pots.” Basically, what a honey pot is is a way to weed out hackers by giving them a server that looks good for the taking once they get in but they don’t realize that it’s there on purpose to stall them and gather information about them while they’re looking for bad things to do.

Spammers go about collecting addresses off web pages for the most part. Say for instance your company has a website and they mention you and your email address. Spammers have “bots” that just search the web looking for email addresses to grab and then they send out emails. This project makes honey pots of websites with email addresses. The second a spammer sends an email to that address it updates a list that reports him as a spammer.

It still has a couple rough edges but you might want to give this a try.

Lot of servers. Lot of Linux.

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

As a consultant (a word I hate because of it’s perceptions) I have to deal with a lot of different types of companies. Lately, I’ve been noticing how many companies are running server rooms of 100 computers or more. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand the economics. I explained it to my wife (who does use my laptop in Kubuntu Linux rarely) this way: “To do the same thing with Windows would cost you more that $100,000 for less functionality or room for growth.” Should be an easy call for smaller server rooms too. You can throw vmware on one of the machines if you just HAVE to run a Windows app from the server or Exchange server.

Here’s my problem. I’ve been curious to see what other people do to make their lives easier in environments like this but I only want to use open source products. I also want to put some books on my shelf in this area. Who can help me?

Send me resources for big enterprise Linux. Big environments. Big business. Big Linux!

Visionary vs. Reactionary

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

The world is a very predictable place in a lot of ways. I have yet to document my methodology for picking winners but I have to learn to truly take advantage of this ability. As a person who is big on the stock market but only puts money on stock with a widget that I use like a fantasy league (and yes I’m winning a lot with my starting line up) you can tell how much I really jump out on a limb for new ideas in areas outside my expertise.

Thus my commentary today was a throw back to a conversation I had earlier with a friend of mine that I just figured out was a tech guy of the Cisco router persuasion. My cousin in tech enlightened me on the fact that he is big into Voice over IP and it took me back for a second. I knew that would be a big winner. I remember at the time telling a friend of mine that was a telecommunications guy, “I don’t think people are really going to want to pay $50,000 for a phone system just to get 20 phone lines in the near future. You should really get your Cisco or Nortel certifications in this area and stay ahead of the curve.” Of course I laughed talking to my new cousin in tech about where that person is now relating his staunch rebuttal of “This will NEVER dry up” as the calling card of the VHS over DVD guys.

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Is that how you type without makeup?

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

There are few things in life that I really believe have changed life in a very good way.  Today I pay and ode to that word processing and blog function that’s accolades have long been overdue.  Let me speak of this function that has made society a much better place to live and read. In the future they will refer to this thing as the grandfather of the universal translator.  Of course what I’m talking about is “Spell Check” and it’s cousins Grammar checker, Thesaurus, etc.

As I often notice the rare few people in the world that ignore the little red line under their text. That red line that says, “Fourth grade teacher I didn’t need you for English just like I thought.”  Why do we so often forget this savior of our language and so many others?  Does his cousin not give you the green underline to warn you that your sentence may not look as beautiful as you think?

I have had the unique pleasure lately of looking at the writing of a “techie” (oh I know I get the red line for that word but spell check isn’t ALL knowing) guy stuck without spell check. Yikes!  Some computer people have never really excelled in the soft skill known as writing.  Those that have have gone into areas of technology known as documentation so others can understand how something works.

Believe in the red line!  It is your friend.  If it doesn’t work in one place please know your limitations.  If English isn’t your strong suit (oddly enough I am actually pretty good at spelling since that spelling bee championship in 6th grade but I’m not bragging) don’t force the issue.  Let it do what it’s here for.  To help you.  This technology has not gotten it’s due and so I raise a glass for it today.  “Here’s to you Spell Check.  You have made this world a much better place.”

The ugly girl quitting you

Friday, July 20th, 2007

I don’t know how many of you out there are self-employed like I am so I’m not sure if you’ll be able to relate but follow along anyway. I was not in the best of moods yesterday and I’ve got to say that’s abnormal for me. On any given day you will find me smiling, laughing, and generally enjoying life. However, yesterday dealt me a curve that I was unprepared for. It was all over a business deal.

I had been referred to a client and all the initial meetings went beyond great. They loved me and were prepared to compensate me at my rate without question. I was a little weary of the fact that they were a dot-com company that really looked like a rip off of another company that I will remain nameless. However, I figured I’d give it a go. The next thing I know I got a call that they had a smaller budget than expected and could I come down off my rate a bit. Reluctantly, I decided that I wanted to take it just for the challenges they were experiencing. That afternoon, the owners of the company were there and decided they wanted to talk with me. I could barely understand them through their accents but I felt I had outstanding answers to their questions.

The next morning I was leaving the house at 7am and called the guy who referred me to them because he was going to since he was trying to work another deal with them as well. To my shock he’d found out even earlier that morning that they decided they didn’t want me and cancelled the contract.

“They can’t do that to me!” I thought. “I was helping them out. I even lowered my rate!” That’s like going out with someone that you know is ugly out of the kindness of your heart then they dump you. The ugly girl can’t dump me! I should have dumped the ugly girl before she was in a position of power.

Don’t be like me. I felt this was a bad match because of my instincts telling me that they were not the right kind of people for me but I still settled on my rate. Stick firm to your instincts in situations like this. In retrospect I lost more money by booking them for time that I could have been somewhere else.

Live Free Die Hard: Don’t fear world it’s just a movie

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

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Your ever perservering tech guy had his arm twisted yesterday to go and see a movie. A family member of mine is still enamored by the “Die Hard” movies. I must admit that I did enjoy them in the past but thought the series should end with the last installment. However, I was offered a free ticket so I chose to go and keep an open mind. You probably will never read another movie review from me but I felt that there were so many misconceptions being portrayed about hacking it just got corny. I don’t want to give away the movie to those who haven’t watched it so if it may bother you. Stop reading now.

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I’m glad I’m the boring IT guy

Monday, July 9th, 2007

I spent a little quality time with my kids today and I caught an episode of Futurama. The robot character (Bender) floats off into deep space and encounters a cluster of stars that talk and light up while talking. He believes them to be God or a digital version thereof. The key moment that made me think in this episode is a saying I’d known a variant of for a long time.

“When you do things right it can almost seem like you’re not doing anything at all.”

As far as life goes many people would never say I’m boring but I do want to be the “boring” IT guy because nothing big should ever seem like it’s happening. I pride myself on that very premise.  Everything just looks easy and just works.  It has caused way too many problems for me in the past as people don’t know that you’re doing so much work to make everything just work.

Many may not understand what you do.  Many may not think you’re doing anything but rest easy and enjoy your family and friends on the weekend because you’re doing things right.  That’s why I love all the inspiration from the people out there that are reading and supporting my blog.  We’re learning new things and becoming better people and IT people at the same time.

Where are the ideas?

Monday, July 9th, 2007

As you may have noticed. I haven’t posted in about a week. Unfortunately, I have been sick with the flu. This is horrible during a beautiful California summer. On top of the fact that I rarely ever get sick I didn’t remember how to cure myself of what to do while I’m sick. I’ve had tons of ideas and book reviews in the works but found myself totally brain dead, dehydrated, and sleeping all the time.

As you may guest I’m not good at being sick. I was totally restless and kept a couple books next to the bed, laptop at the ready, and magazines to boot. In the last 5 days I’ve used absolutely none of them. My brain has just started to form coherent thoughts so I will be back with more interesting posts on software, operating systems, tips and tricks, and all kinds of fun life lessons.

Not being sick many times, this has been a life lesson for me. When I do honestly get totally sick I’m going to give in and not fight it. Forcing yourself to think during those times is totally counter-prodcutive.

Media has changed your accent

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

I don’t do an extravagant amount of travel. However, I do watch a lot of videos on the internet, BBC on the TV, and talk on the phone to people all over the globe. Even as a child I watched a lot of TV shows on PBS from England. I have found one thing that over time has changed to me. Media has changed our accent.

This is my own hypothesis but I have found that with the world getting smaller and smaller because of TV and internet Texans don’t sound so southern. New Yorkers don’t sound so different. British people don’t sound so British and people from India sound more like people from down the street. Of course there are exceptions but in general this is true.

I am keeping an objective mind to this because I know how I felt crowds were much louder at sporting events when I was a kid but when you grow up people don’t seem as tall either. Take that idea for a stroll around your neighborhood and see what you find. I hope this doesn’t make your ears overly keen though. You may start to notice all the differences you never noticed before.