Mac update — top good and bad things I’ve seen

June 30, 2008 at 7:48 am | Posted in Technology Trends | Leave a comment
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First, I must say I’m glad I got a Mac for at least one reason: It has come up in 3 business conversations in the past few weeks.  Mac seems to be making more inroads into organizations via executives.  Interesting.  So, that allows me to post it here under technology trends.

For those that care, here’s an update on my experience after a few weekends of playing with my new iMac.

my last post on my Mac generated a lot of conversation and I’ve even made a few new cyber friends, whom I promised updates from time to time.  Right now, there’s more good than bad about my Mac experience.  Here are the top 5 things that really impress me:

1) Resource management.  I can multi-task some seriously intensive activity with pretty amazing results.  Even thought my i/o and/or CPU seems pegged, the ability to still navigate with reasonable responsiveness seems far superior to Vista.  (I have a 6-mo old vista machine on roughly the same level of hardware levels)

2) Spaces.  Should be a requirement for any graphical interface.

3) Installs.  Drop a file into a directory.  I was hearkened back to my first experiences with Oracle when I realized how easy it was to install multiple database instances on a Unix box.

4) Uninstalls.  Delete the file.  Ahhhhhh.  Gotta love that unix.

5) Webcam/photo booth.  The quality of the built-in webcam on the iMac is really top notch.  does great in low light, which every other webcam I’ve had does not.  And Photo Booth is an amazing hit with my kids and their friends.  They crack up in tears when I let them take shots of themselves with all those distortion effects.

Top negative things

1) I hit the Mac version of the famed “blue screen of death”.  Mac’s was prettier, and multi-lingual, and gracefully washed my screen dark grey before the error, but a fatal error nonetheless.

2) Mighty Mouse.  Probably pure preference, but killed my index finger (how wimpy is that?)  Switched to my logitech and all is well.

3) Keyboard shortcuts.  I use the mouse very little when typing.  I do all highlighting using keyboard shortcuts, but the ones on the Mac don’t always work on non-Mac native software apps (like in a web browser).  Things like “quick highlight to the end of a line” can be frustrating.

4) Time Machine drive setup. This post says it all.  The company who once ran a great ad busting on MSFT for the whole “c colon backslash” thing is talking about GUIDS and Partitions?  Ouch.  Need to find a way to make it more intuitive given who they are.

5) Quicktime, AIFF, mac formats.  Not their fault, but proprietarily frustrating nonetheless.  Can’t we all just get along? 😉

On balance, I’m much happier now than I was a couple of weeks ago and am glad I made the purchase.   When I get my copy of Final Cut Express and have time to mess with it, I’ll post back on that experience as that is the real reason (video editing) I bought it in the first place.

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who is your booth coach?

June 30, 2008 at 7:11 am | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment
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Watch a football game and sooner or later they’ll give you a camera shot of the booth coaches. They sit high in the stands, well above the field, and talk to the coaches on the field via headsets. They are invaluable for several reasons:

1) They are far enough from the fray that they can see things for what they are. Contrary to popular belief, being on the sidelines is a LOUSY place to watch a football game. Your perspective is all wrong. It’s tough to see the big picture. The booth coaches can see it perfectly from their vantage point.

2) They can think clearer. It gets very, very emotional on the sidelines. You’re trying to coach right from the trenches, so to speak. Players are flying around in front of you, you’re trying to deal with officials, often you’re fighting the weather, too. It’s chaotic. Your coach in the booth is far enough away to not get entangled by those things in his thinking.

3) They are usually better strategists than the coaches on the field. As a head coach, identifying which guys have the right kind of thinking to keep in the booth during games is often one of the most critical aspects of the job.

I believe we should all have a booth coach. Someone who knows our life and career game plans. Someone who is objective and not entwined in the emotions of our problems. Someone we trust as a good strategist and clear thinker that we can trust. Someone with skills in areas where we may be weak. Do you have someone like that? Talked to them lately? I’ll be calling mine tomorrow for a catch up. Always valuable, that is.

wanted: wade-through-mountains-of-data-o-matic-thing

June 28, 2008 at 10:22 pm | Posted in Technology Trends | 4 Comments
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In commenting on my post about choice (thanks to EGM for that video, btw), kbarrette said:

There’s a skill to eliminating choices from consideration to reduce that sense of overload.

Ain’t it the truth. I think we’re all pretty good at it within our areas of expertise. For example, when we would go to coaching clinics, we’d be faced with dozens and dozens of presentations by experts on various systems to run and coaching methodologies. But the longer you coach, the easier it is to get there, scan the list, and know what will be applicable to you. Voila. Instant choice narrowing occurs.

But take something I’m not experienced at like my Mac. Which thanks to a free iPod Touch, also led to the chaotic, satanic, underworld of darkness known as backing up your DVDs. No, I’m not talking about stealing. I’m talking about my own videos. The ones my kids lose, and scratch, and leave behind on trips. Those. Mine. The ones I *bought* and *own* and just want to backup to a medium I can play in other places than the DVD player. But that’s a whole other post. Check that. That’s a whole book.

To the point here, the THOUSANDS of hits I get back in Google when searching for anything related to my backup challenges is overwhelming. And I don’t have the expertise to quickly wade through them to the ones I need. And, joy of joys, nothing like seeing a post that you think is perfectly on the mark, only to realize it was published in 1994 with version -0.2 of your software package that is now at version 12.5.

Internet search is awesome, but man is there room for improvement.

choice — what a terrible thing?

June 27, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Professional Development | 2 Comments

Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice.  It is an interesting position with which I agree now that we are raising three kids.  Give them too many choices, and it overloads them.  You can see it plain as day in kids.  I doubt we adults are much different, other than we have learned how to mask it better.

There is one thing in Schwartz’s video that stood out to me: the regret that exists after choosing something when so many choices were in front of you.  I see this in software development all the time.  It’s so easy to look back and play the “if only we had…” game.

So on the front end, you’ve got potential “analysis paralysis” with all the choices, and on the back end you’ve got regret.  Sigh.  Maybe at a subconscious level, that’s why I bought a Mac!

you too can be a successful, fit, bazillionaire

June 25, 2008 at 11:11 pm | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment
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Guess I’m in a cynical mood tonight. Just read Seth Godin’s post on the five easy pieces of marketing.  The other day I was looking at the pragmatic marketing framework, which they have successfully made into their corporate logo.  And while at the gym I saw that they were interviewing Richard Kiyosaki to get his “expert” advice on the mortgage situation.  Seems we’re just swimming in folks who have it all figured out.

What is an “expert” anyway?  How many successes do you need to make you one?  And what credentials are required before you can start amassing a following?  Every Saturday morning during college football season, I watch college game day.  And every Saturday night I laugh at how they know no more than anyone else as to what would happen that day.  There are just way too many variables to calculate and you’re dealing with those pesky humans who tend to screw up the best “predictive models” with their emotions, passions, prejudices, etc.  Seems some folks are just experts and being experts. For my money, the best “experts” are the ones who make you think.  And work.  And enable you to solve problems and create you OWN methodology to fit a problem you encounter.

So how ’bout it?  What do you get out of “experts?”  How much do you really retain over time?  How much do you implement?  Can they really lead to success by copying their formulas?  Or does success much more depend on that crazy chemistry thing I talked about yesterday?

get your saas in gear

June 25, 2008 at 11:45 am | Posted in Technology Trends | Leave a comment
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A while back I posted some thoughts on the technical challenges of organic growth that generated some good discussion. At that time, I was looking at organic technical growth vs growth through acquisition. But there’s another angle to this, which is SaaS (Software as a Service).

Bob Warfield has a really interesting post that details some of the same challenges I listed (which just about anyone who’s been in software for more than 5 years can list), but for him acquisitions aren’t the answer as they only delay the problem. For him, the answer is SaaS.

SaaS does provide quite an appealing model, but I have to believe that the “Law of Unintended Consequences” is going to provide us some real fun with SaaS at some point in the future. Is it the next best thing? Sure seems like it. But I wonder how long before multi-tenant applications get too limiting in ways we maybe cannot see today?

chemistry, it’s amazing — in coaching and in business

June 24, 2008 at 11:12 pm | Posted in Business | 2 Comments
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For years, I have been trying to figure out what makes a coach successful. At first I thought it must be experience. That’s why I guy like Bill Belichick could get run out of Cleveland on a rail for being a failure, then gain experience and go build a dynasty in lowly New England. But wait… then there’s Jimmy Johnson, who was successful as a college coach, then built a dynasty in Dallas, but ultimately failed badly when taking over in Miami. Ah, so it must be the players! But that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny either because teams often swing wildly from year to year with the same crop of healthy talent, sometimes the coach makes a difference, sometimes not.

I thought about this due to all the recent rumblings (like this one) over Yahoo! CEO Jerry Chang. The CEO comparison game starts, and folks start talking about track records of failures, and turnarounds, and stock prices, and profitability, etc., etc. And I thought, “man does this feel the same as a team looking for a new head coach!”

Here are two things I’m sure of after playing and coaching for many years:

1) Head coaches get way too much credit for a team’s success.

2) Head coaches get way too much blame for a team’s failure.

To me, it boils down to chemistry. What’s that mean? It’s a confluence of incalculable factors that lead to the success or failure of a group of people. Yes, there are things you can do to mitigate risk and increase your chances of success, but in the end, it’s the unknown variable combinations that seem to dictate the final outcome. If the outcome is good, there’s a lot of chest thumping. If it’s bad, there’s a lot of finger pointing. And I’m just not sure either is justified.

can you innovate a commodity?

June 24, 2008 at 9:05 am | Posted in Business, Technology Trends | 4 Comments
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Yesterday I talked about Seth Godin’s comments regarding that you are only a commodity by choice.

Tony then had a nice comment, where he ended with this question:

Can you have a successful product strategy in which you don’t innovate but instead just force the commoditization of your competitor’s products? Probably, but who wants to be there?

I think the answer is that a lot of companies want to be there. In fact, I think MySQL has exactly one billion reasons to be happy about being there! 😉 Which brings me to this post.

If you talked to MySQL, they would argue that they are, in fact, an innovation company. They would say that their pluggable table engines and their MySQL cluster are just a few of the ways they have innovated the RDBMS landscape. But, I don’t agree. Would they be where they are if they charged for their database from the outset? Doubtful.

So the question is…. was the fact that they carved out a commodity niche in the ancient (by technology standards) RBDMS market, in and of itself, an “innovative” approach? Did they engineer things differently to allow that model to work? Why didn’t PostgreSQL (who was there first, and was free, and was open source, and had more features) win that battle? Did MySQL do some “innovation” of the entire process (not just the technology) that allowed them to succeed after coming a bit late to the game with less features?

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just block that guy and the play will work

June 23, 2008 at 4:56 pm | Posted in Business | 2 Comments
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Sounds simple enough. Just block him and the play will work. Problem is, the guy is a 6’6″ 340 pound beast who happens to be pretty dang good. So “just block him and the play will work” is certainly a valid theory, but getting there is a bit more challenging than the “simple” statement implies. That’s how I feel about a recent post from Seth Godwin on commoditized pricing.

Basically he says that you don’t need to lower your price, just increase your value. Here’s a quote:

You need to increase your value. If people don’t want to pay, it’s because you’re not delivering enough value for the money you’re charging. You’re not selling a commodity unless you want to.

Talk about your platitudes. Of course, he’s right. Value and pricing are typically inextricably linked. The real question is: Does a market ever reach a point where there is no more value to be added that would allow you to move the pricing needle? A friend of mine says, “No.” I brought up the example of nails, and he has set out to prove me wrong there. He also muttered something about $100 toilet bowl brushes (not sold to the government, he claims!), but if he wishes to expand on that one, I’ll let him do so in the comments section.

I tend to think that in theory Seth may be right; but in practice, it seems loaded with some really major challenges that can be dangerous. How long do you pursue that fleeting “value” with more and more resources before calling the market a commodity and reacting accordingly?

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apple’s little monopoly?

June 22, 2008 at 3:11 pm | Posted in Technology Trends | 12 Comments
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I know, MSFT is the evil empire. Apple is the loose-hangin’, freedom lovin’, artistic genius company that will save us from the Orwellian future that MSFT will lead us to. So, to be a non-conformist, I bought a Mac last week. An iMac to be specific. Seriously, the real reason is that I was tired of fighting my video editing programs. After a week of being on my iMac… now I’m tired of fighting my NEW video editing programs.

There are things I like about the Mac over the PC. No doubt. But as my friend put it, there is a bit of “the Emperor’s New Clothes” going on in Mac world, let me tell ya. Bad on me for not doing my homework better, but turns out that Apple is using a bit of its proprietary leverage on its customers to wrench them into upgrades. Do a search on “iMovie 08” and “chapters” as an example. Or “Final Cut Express 4” and “soundtrack”. Mac has evidently taken to REMOVING lots of key functionality from “upgrade” releases, but fear not, they are still available in the higher-end packages, which cost significantly more.

So right now I’m left with a really lame movie making package (iMovie) that omits even some of the most basic functionality like creating chapters. I know I can do it in Garage Band, but c’mon… seriously. I mean, CHAPTERS! We’re not talking about making Star Wars here, just some home videos that allow easy navigation. Used to be in the old iMovie, but not in the new version.

I could go site some other examples, but the bottom line is this: Mac users are so loyal to the goodness in their products that they really put up with a lot of stuff that I’m not sure Apple could get away with if there were more competition in terms of software on the Mac. But because most everything is so proprietary, it seems they can get away with it. It seems to me, a newcomer, that they are definitely exercising their “monopoly” over their base. Not saying this is a bad thing, but coming into it with a fresh set of eyes, it looks that way from here.

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