Friday, December 30, 2011

Perfect Cube Dwellers' Contest -- Make some Change for Your Messy Workspace

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Contest Factory. All opinions are 100% mine.


I have to admit, I don't enter many contests. But this one caught my eye, so I went ahead and entered. Pimp My Cube is searching for the most pathetic, messy, disheveled office or cubicle. Have bad furniture, an organization problem, or work in a cave? This is your chance to capitalize on your own misfortune! 


PMC is looking for people to upload a video showing their cube, office or workspace, with details explaining how horrible it is, and why Contest Factory should stop by and "pimp" their cube! Pimp My Cube Contest


And you should enter, too, since it's easy to do, from your phone or your laptop. With so few uploaded this early in the game, your chances of winning (and mine) are high, right now. From what I've read, the funnier the video, the better chance of a win. 


Visit the PMC site now to upload, and spread the word so you (and I) have a better chance of getting our hands on a new high end PC system, a comfy chair, better desk, and the needed entertainment, er, productivity-enhancing tools, such as stereo and espresso machine. Contest runs from 12/5/11 until 1/31/12 at 12:00PM. 

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Win8 is good for the Cloud? Tom Calls BS!

In this article, Greg Pierce claims the Windows 8 tablet is the best solution to speed up cloud adoption... because... "Beneath the “shell” is a full-featured version of Windows." He goes on to state that "Several problems that have plagued tile versions of Windows in the past, including required hardware, power consumption and especially interface, have been addressed." That's a hoot... how is Microsoft supposed to police makers of Win tablets, to ensure hardware, power consumption and other integration problems truly are solved? I would be very surprised to see a single code base run across processors and platforms seamlessly. ;-)

Greg's focus is clearly MS-centric, as he claims not seeing someone's Exchange calendar on an iPad is a deficiency of that device. Only if you care about Exchange. Cloud adoption, by definition, ends vendor lock-n. If Exchange's proprietary calendar interface won't work with HTML 5, who is to blame? As my da used to say, it's a poor carpenter who blames his tools for crappy 'implementation' (last word is my version, sorry).

Greg makes his point clear: "Software providers will be given a tablet platform in which their full-featured applications will work out of the box. In order to tailor the app for Windows 8 tablets, there will be GUI changes to make the tactile experience easier – but the app does not need to be re-written." Don't re-write to leverage the platform, but stick with your old, hackney code.

No, thanks. Objective C development on the iPad and iPhone has yielded amazing new apps, not possible in the previous MS-centric world. Building true service-oriented enterprise solutions opens the door to platform flexibility. Few would argue that the iOS interface is the benchmark for touch on a mobile device; slapping some oversized icons on Windows is not a solution. Re-thinking your approach to integration of enterprise, mobile user needs, and freedom of data is a way forward... IMHO.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Gift Possibility - Steve's Car

No, not that Steve. A Porsche once owned by the "King of Cool," Steve McQueen, is being sold at auction this summer. The 1970 911 S was featured in the opening sequence of McQueen's epic, "Le Mans," used as the actor's personal car during the filming of the movie in France. Factoid: the Porsche is painted nearly the same shade of green as the car McQueen is better known for, the Ford Mustang that he drove crazily around San Francisco in the 1968 excellent film “Bullitt.”


Monday, December 26, 2011

Bike Share in the Suburbs

I recently returned from cycling in Dublin (and Connemara, briefly), happy to see a new bike sharing scheme in use. Even with the winter temperatures, there was palpable enthusiasm for the service. I'm a big fan of the Washington DC version, even though I tend to be self-reliant.

So now Montgomery County, Maryland is seeking funds to bring Capital Bikeshare to the area... awesome! Let's hope that traffic cooperates, since suburban drivers tend to move more quickly, with less bandwidth for attention to the road.

If you dress right, the winter can be a good time to free yourself of the chains of the automobile -- get in shape while saving money and time getting where you need to go. Just be visible, to avoid getting smooshed.

Snapdragon Stadium - for a limited time only!

This post brought to you by Snapdragon by Qualcomm. All opinions are 100% mine.

Since Dec 18 (yes, a special day for me, the day after the anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight), Qualcomm Stadium has been renamed Snapdragon Stadium. In the world of marketing, this type of campaign is an excellent way to draw attention to something that we take for granted -- Snapdragon processors are under the hood of some many cool mobile devices.

The San Diego wireless chip giant, which has held the naming rights on the Mission Valley stadium since the late 1990s, is temporarily changing the stadium's name to the brand name of the companies family of application processors that power smart phones -- Snapdragon processors by Qualcomm are the digital brains inside mobile devices made by Samsung, LG, HTC, and Nokia.

"System on a chip" architecture is a favorite of mine, offering up the engineering opportunity to enable higher performance multi-media (and other computationally intensive operations). Lower production costs, wide range of functionality, and leveraging embedded characteristics to attack specific computing tasks makes the Snapdragon architecture a winner, in my book.

If I were visiting my buddies in San Diego (best weather on the planet?!), I'd probably attend a game. During this time the stadium will play host to a Chargers Sunday night game against Baltimore along with two college bowl games: the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 21) and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (Dec. 28). Check out more about football and more here.

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Today, the Settling of Grievances

The day after Xmas (or perhaps, on Festivus itself), the airing of grievances is a regular event in the Termini household. This corresponds with Wren's Day (St Stephen's day), when kids mark betrayal by the tiny wren…

So I'm marking today with a list of tech issues I'd like to see addressed in the coming new year.

  • Apple TV. No, not this one, I mean a forthcoming Apple TV. Will I be speaking to my TV, instead of fumbling with remotes? In the Termini house, we use a Mac Mini connected to a Visio tv to get our info-tainment. I got to sample the above-mention AppleTV over Xmas, and mostly liked it. But still too limiting (filtered access to YouTube?? Really, Apple).
  • Kill off NetBooks already. As regular readers know, I did make an initial foray into the NetBook world while ago (well, ok, maybe I dabbled in Hakintosh). And quickly abandoned it (well, re-gifted to my daughter) when I started developing for the iPad. If you look at the apps available for iPad that are business-savvy (Pages, Keynote, Bento), the battery life, the form-factor, you'd agree. NetBooks are a dead-end branch of the PC tree.
  • Speaking of killing off, get rid of the wallet! In Japan, you pay for many things with your mobile phone. Google is in the forefront with their approach. I have attempted a kludge approach myself. Come on VISA and MasterCard, get on board to end the tyranny of plastic cards.
  • Cyber-criminals. Please, people, lock up your data! At least encrypt peoples' login/password or other vital data, so when the inevitable Chinese or Russian hacker snatches your data, they can't run up credit card bills.

Finally, in concluding the tradition, I'll end with a happy thought, instead of a b*tch. I enjoy working in the tech field -- I get to meet lots of people, I feel like I'm frequently solving problems and making some small part of peoples' lives easier, and I get to tackle unusual problems. As much the above complaints might nag me, I am thankful to be in this field, making good use of my talents.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why bankruptcy is key to entrepreneurship

In the states, business incorporations are down, but the fact is, new businesses are started every year, no matter what the economy. One reason is that there is a culture of failure, and redemption, in the U.S. When small business fails, the owner may file bankruptcy. Many states offer exemptions for small business assets so they can continue to operate during and after personal bankruptcy.

In Ireland, unlike in many western countries, bankruptcy is not an option -- only 29 people were declared bankrupt in 2010 and 17 in 2009. It takes 12 years to be discharged from bankruptcy in Ireland compared to just one year in the UK.

Successive Irish governments have been advised to reform Ireland’s punitive bankruptcy laws, which business leaders say inhibit the development of an entrepreneurial culture. The EU-IMF has made reform of the bankruptcy and personal debt regime a condition of its €85bn bail-out and set a deadline of next March to draw up new legislation.

Matthew Elderfield, Ireland’s financial regulator, recently warned that too short a discharge period for people with mortgage debt could damage the banks, which have been recapitalized with €63bn in taxpayers’ money. “Any approach to restructuring needs to take account of the risk that it creates incentives for borrowers to cease meeting their obligations,” he said.

Funny how everyone is worried about the banks losing out -- when it is the underlying assets that are troubled. In the case of Ireland, those assets are made up of property securing the notes. Why not let people fail, let the banks take a hit, and wipe the slate clean? Starting over is the best way to jump-start the economy, on both side of the Atlantic.

Monday, December 19, 2011

App overload - why don't I use the 328 apps I've downloaded in the last year?

It seems I'm not alone -- while the App Store experience is one of the compelling reasons people love the iPhone, we get overloaded with impulse downloads. I don't even count the plethora of games I've snagged for my kids (on their own iPhones or on mine); often times I'll read a description of some cool sounding app, and want to try it for myself. Case in point, the "find me a left" app from Uber. A cool concept, one I hope helps drive down the cost of a taxi while increasing utilization of public transport. Yes, taxis are a form of public transport, leveraging the free market (to some extent, unless cities overly restrict licenses).

So my new year's resolution (ok, not my *only* one) is to slim down. Slim down my [ ] app inventory. And my waistline. Is there an app for that? This is an excellent summary of similar peoples' experiences, want to share yours in the comments below?

What's the best tool for the chronic multi-tasker?

This post brought to you by LG DoublePlay™. All opinions are 100% mine.


I'll admit it, I am a chronic multi-tasker. I am constantly reading my email, checking texts, talking to a vendor or client, and sometimes even taking a photo or two. I only have so many hours in the day, and I tend to think I can get everything done -- so I multitask some things in order to make up lost ground. 


I came across the LG DoublePlay, which has the features and functionality that makes it a weapon of choice for the Intellectual Capitalist looking for a leg up, multi-tasking-wise. Think about how many hour you spend Social Networking on your phone each month… how would a phone (running Android and with a fully QUERTY keyboard, with an innovative split style) increase my ability to interact? How many times have you found yourself taking a photo, uploading to FB or Twitter, and reading a text? Comments welcome on the vicissitudes of mutli-tasking, and how something like the LG DoublePlay might change your view of social networking and mobile communications.


About the device: the LG DoublePlay features Android (and the Android Market for apps, of course), interesting multiple messaging options such as Cloud Text and Group Text, which enables sending/receiving messages from multiple platforms (your PC or a tablet, for example). See more here at the only source for this device, T-Mobile.


Ok, have I waxed philosophically enough about the virtues of multi-tasking? Check out the LG DoublePlay™ at a T-Mobile store, if you think it would change the way you text or post to your FaceBook or Twitter accounts. Let me know (in the comments) how many hours you spend texting, or otherwise using your phone to connect to your ever-widening circle of fellow Intellectual Capitalists…


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Thursday, December 15, 2011

yikes… all tablets are not created equal

So you think one tablet is the same as another? I did get to pick up an HP tablet with WebOS a few months ago at fire-sale prices (mostly out of curiosity, but also to give my son a Flash-based platform for games). You know what -- he hated it. He said, "Da, I can do without the Flash games, I'd rather have an iPad." Well, Damon, maybe Santa will come through for you since your father dropped the ball.

Certainly others are finding that the Kindle is no iPad replacement. Can it be that the GUI on other tablets, designed by software people, just isn't up to snuff?

Some complaints:

...few of their many complaints: there is no external volume control. The off switch is easy to hit by accident. Web pages take a long time to load. There is no privacy on the device; a spouse or child who picks it up will instantly know everything you have been doing. The touch screen is frequently hesitant and sometimes downright balky…

So what does this mean? Well, getting the interface right is at least as important as the hardware platform that the operating system runs on. Seems intuitive, but obviously a substantial challenge, nevertheless.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New bicycle lanes - update

Following up my previous post on Chicago's new bike lanes, it looks like DC is planning more lanes. DC is regard by some as being cyclist-friendly already, so more lanes can only be a good thing.

Dublin is somewhat bike friendly, and has had good success with its bike share program.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Next city to embrace bicycles...

The next city (in the U.S., at least) to embrace the bike is... Chicago. The plan, apparently, is a wide deployment of so-called "protected" lanes, where traffic is segregated from cyclists. Such systems make safety a priority. (In case you need some tips on staying alive on your bike, check out this site.)

I wonder if they will plow these lanes for winter-time comfort?

Pay it forward, or your code will continue to accrue big debts

In undertaking performance re-engineering analysis for the US Department of Health and Human Services and another commercial client, I've come across several cases where code violates what would be considered good architectural practices -- resulting in something called "technical debt," a phrase gaining attention.

Fixing code -- especially Java -- costs a significant amount of money. In the cases I've been involved with lately, the applications were being slated to move to a cloud model, and so were being "bottom up" SOA enabled. APIs were identified to expose to the wider world, and, in some case because the existing code was just too broken, select processes were just being wrapped in new Java service layers.

Read more about the concept thought up by Ward Cunningham. No matter how important an application may be, the patches, cobbled-together fixes, and duct tape approach to keeping the lights on all add up to larger costs down the road. And maybe not too far down that road -- giving new meaning to "paying it forward" when your developers spend the effort to refractor code.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Corporations - should they be treated same as people are? Yes!

The argument against corporate personhood seems reasonable -- after all, corporations are legal entities, but how can they be treated the same as people? The word "corporation" comes from the Latin Corpus (body), a "body of people." That is, a group of people authorized to act as an individual (OED).

In the U.S. (and in some jurisdictions abroad, mostly who follow Scottish or English styles of lawmaking), corporations have been considered "artificial people" for a very long time. Certainly from a legal standpoint, corporations can do many of the same things that people do -- buy and sell property, hire / fire staff, sue and be sued, etc. After an important ruling in the 1880s, corporations' status became ensconced in case law, mostly through a bizarre set of circumstances.

Is this status as an "artificial person" really that bad? After all, the concept of corporate democracy is a key aspect of the form of capitalism practiced in the U.S. (and other places, like the Republic of Ireland). Corporations, like it or not, are an integral aspect of the economic (and broader) world we live in. If the notion of this personhood were dispelled, would there be negative impacts? I heartily say, yes!

When (not if, but when) artificial intelligence becomes viable, and robotics, married with the computing power of quantum computing, yields autonomous artificial people (be they androids or other forms of robots), will we not see a huge legal (and possibly physical) fight to deny or confirm such artificial persons' rights? What about clones? Would they become second class citizens? Laugh now, these Star Trek scenarios may not be so far off…

So let's refine the concept of corporate personhood -- it is probably the model for how we treat our robot/belly-buttonless brethren in the future -- and not throw the "artificial" baby out with the bath water.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Germany needs the euro, UK doesn't

It should have been obvious when the UK went its own way with the (non)adoption of the euro more than 12 years ago. Germany (and to some extent, France) wants to off-set inflationary pressures in its export-heavy, manufacturing-based economy -- largest in Europe and probably 4th largest world-wide.

David Cameron made an easy move declining to accept the larger European pact on granting the European Central Bank more control. What is interesting to me is the gradual move towards a model similar to the US model. Rhetoric from the recent meeting indicates many value an independent central bank; clearly the influence of Germany belays this. I am unclear how the EU will ensure the independence of the ECB when the Germans continue to obsess over austerity controls Europe-wide.

Unfortunately, this leaves Ireland to be buffeted by the gale-force winds of monetary policy managed elsewhere. Is this really a bad thing? If you view Ireland as a sovereign state within the EU maybe not. The greater size/influence of the EU, as projected through the ECB, will only come when the ECB is accepted by all members as governing monetary policy -- the way US states eventually gave in to a central banking model. When the Bank of the US folded, it was because too many foreign interests controlled the flow of money. The central bank model championed in the US early assisted in evolving America's economy into a more unified one.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tablets have been in the sights of futurists for awhile

In 1994, publisher Knight-Ridder produced a video showing a tablet device with many of the elements embodied in the iPad (and, well, the World Wide Web). Some of the functionality -- like flagging items of interest -- appear in app such as Flipboard or Zite. However, Knight Ridder did nothing to make this vision a reality.

On the other hand, Apple had a clear idea a long time ago...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why an iPad is in your (enterprise) future

When considering how your workforce will be more productive in the coming years, the iPad should be on your list of 'must have' technologies. Why? First off, it's purpose built to have a responsive interface and a lightweight form factor. This exceptional portability means the tool will be easily carted around, and the instant accessibility (no boot time) encourages the use of this tablet. This will open the door to making more information -- say, from an executive information system -- accessible, converting enterprise data into easily digestible information. Think about the fuel gauge in your car -- glance at it, and you know how much remains in the tank to get you where you are going.

Another consideration that makes the iPad tablet a must-have tool is the concept of Collaboration Two-Point-Oh. While the meeting, and the virtual meet enabled by video conference or Skype, is the go-to collaboration tool, social collaboration (think "FaceBook for Business") is fast becoming the avenue of choice to facilitate team work. Of course, Bluedog's Workbench "Always on the Job!" fills this need nicely, and its iPad client app works well to demonstrate the value of Collaboration Two-Point-Oh. Clearly technology won't replace human interaction, but think of this platform as the graphite lubricant to the gears of business.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How big a phenom is social media? For the short-attention-span, watch this video

Interesting video from a Dutch firm, Video Infographs, showing the major statistics for social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Youtube, LinkedIn and others. This paints a picture of how social media is expanding -- think of Youtube reaching 700 billion playbacks in the last 12 months! This is amazing, and, coupled with mobile browsing, I am convinced the untethering of the internet only spells good things...

Social media, is, ahem, already in the mainstream. And, let's face it, mobile platforms are the way people *want* to interact via this conduit. Sharing content via a mobile device (ok, let's just say it, iPhone or iPad) is a growing trend. Location-based interactions are increasingly the way to monetize or realize the potential of this model.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Microsoft Surface? How about a desk that does the same thing?

I have fantasies of the Minority Report style interface, for a totally immersive computing experience. And awesome gaming! This desk, sort of like MS's Surface concept, might be the closest thing. (If I'm liking a Microsoft technology, you gotta know it is cool....)

Think "giant iPad" -- the EXOdesk looks like desktop, which will apparently cost $1,299, includes the ability to drag and drop content around the surface as well as pulling in data such as RSS feeds and latest tweets. Oh joy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Fed, in the midst of this crisis

To quote the Bloomberg article:

On September 16, 2008, Morgan Stanley owed $21.5 billion to the Fed. The next day, that number doubled, to $40.5 billion. And eight working days later, on the 29th, the bank’s total borrowings from the Fed reached $107 billion. The Fed didn’t blink: it kept on lending, as much as it could, to any bank which needed the money, because, in a crisis, that’s its job.

Haters might think the Fed is part of the conspiracy, but, as a former Fed staffer, I have a different perspective. And this article sums up why we are lucky to have this model.