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Mom To Ubuntu: Progress Update

I found an old hard drive (10.2GB), network card (she uses wireless), and 128MB of memory. Her machine is now up to 256MB. I had some trouble early on with the screen sitting at GRUB endlessly but that appears to have resolved itself (mysteriously).

I ran the updater to retrieve the latest for everything already installed. I also added a few items such as a wireless LAN config tool, PDF viewer (I also installed the FireFox plug-in), etc. I've configured security to auto-login my Mom and allow me to remote in.

Finally, I installed Automatix2 to ease configuration (write-up). I actually found the Add/Remove software package dialog sufficient but a good tool noetheless. I still need to:
-Install AV
-Configure firewall
-Switch to strong passwords
-Configure SSH, DynDNS for remote administration/resolution
-Train Mom

My new schedule is to "release" to Mom in mid January.

Cardinal Solutions is Hiring

Cardinal Solutions (my firm) has many full-time opportunities open in Columbus and Cincinnati/Dayton. We're looking for strong .Net, Java, data, and project services (PM, QA, BA) people.

If you have someone to refer, please leave a comment on how to contact.

Progress on Mom's Ubuntu Workstation

I've replaced the hard drive, added an old NIC card, and added an additional memory SIMM to take us to 256MB. I downloaded, checked the MD5, and burned an ISO image of Ubuntu 6.10. Finally, I booted the workstation into Ubuntu and started the install off the CD.

Right now, my biggest headache is the need to commandeer the family (and my wife's business) KVM to work on Mom's workstation (she's out of town and I didn't want to bother her with bringing all the wires and a giant monitor...). So, I'll work when the wife is out or sleeping...best time to get stuff done anyway!

I'm starting to consider training for Mom. Primarily, it will be us sitting down and walking through the most common tasks. These look like good books but perhaps even a bit to much for Mom (maybe better for me!).

Ubuntu Linux for Non-Geeks
Ubuntu Linux For Dummies

Beginning Ubuntu Linux

Any advice out there? I'm not finding much on Google...

Ubuntu: Green Light for Mom's System

Just spoke with my Mom. I attempted (successfully, I think) to explain my reasoning for going with Ubuntu on her old workstation (Dell Dimension XPS T-450). She gave me the green light to move ahead (I think she found the $0 cost compelling...!).

Step 1: determine minimum system requirements; upgrade if necessary
Step 2: determine Ubuntu distro: regular or alternate (or Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc.)
Step 3: download Ubuntu 6.10
Step 4: determine KDE or Gnome (need to determine prior to download; KDE is Kubuntu)
Step 5: burn ISO CD
Step 3: replace defective hard drive (I just happened to find an old hard drive down in the basement
Step 6: research (ongoing...) and planning
Step 7: (big one) installation and configuration
Step 8: training and hand-off
Step 9: ongoing support (hopefully this is minimal and facilitated by remote admin)

So, I need to determine my configuration. Off the top of my head, here's what I need to cover:
-wireless support (Mom's router is upstairs from the workstation)
-A…

Switching the Parents to Ubuntu...?

I spent a half hour or so recently on the phone walking my Mom through a technical issue. Tentatively, I diagnosed her issue as a hard drive failure. She brought it over on her last visit and sure enough, the Dell XPS 450 from circa 1999 sounds like a bad coin-operated laundry at full capacity.

I was aghast to discover she's running Windows 98. Ugh. Also, her recovery disk is just that--for recovery. I don't believe I'll be able to re-install Win98 on a new hard drive. That, coupled with the end of Microsoft (and Dell) support for Win98, got me thinking about Linux. (and she's not intense about her computing needs...and she doesn't want to spend much money...)

I've been reading good things about switching one's parents to Ubuntu. Any thoughts out there?

Buckeye Fans Getting the Broadcast Run-around

I am not a fan of Time Warner [Cable] but I'm hating the ESPN manipulation even more. We're only going to see more of this in the future as the cable content providers start to wield power over the cable delivery services. Interesting to see how this will play out. My speculation: 5-10 years from now, ESPN will broadcast via the Internet...bypassing the cable companies entirely (although, what if your ISP is a cable company?) I really thought the satellite firms would wallop cable but that just doesn't seem to be the case/trend. Wired still trumps wireless. Perhaps Wi-MAX or UMTS will be strong Internet "carriers" in 5-10 years; or Broadband over Power Lines. Regardless, I think an alternative to cable will help drive competition, innovation, and thus, reduced prices.

Jeff...

ESPN blocks rerun of game Tuesday, October 24, 2006 Though widely promoted, the planned rerun of the Ohio State-Indiana football game on Time Warner analog Channel 24 didn’t happen. ESPN told …

Frivolous Lawsuit and/or Poor Marketing of the Day

Emerson filed a federal lawsuit in St. Louis on Monday, seeking to block the NBC television network from rebroadcasting the pilot episode of the new show "Heroes," which depicts a woman damaging her hand in a garbage disposal made by the company.

The Ferguson-based maker of electric products says NBC Universal Television Studios did not have the right to use the company's In-Sink-Erator brand disposal in the show without permission.

Yeah, we need to stand up to The Man! No way will I buy an InSink Erator the next time I purchase a disposal. Grrrrrrr. ;-)

This suit is so ridiculous. I'm surprised anyone even noticed this let alone allow it to affect a purchasing decision--on an oft-purchased disposal. Please. If this sticks, does that mean studios will have to ask permission for every single item used on the set? "Hey! That 6-panel Chuck's Doors door was used without permission! I'm filing suit!" Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Theories:
(1) Emerson is marketing-cluele…

Moral Fortitude Doesn't Take a Day Off

I'm troubled at this trend as a society to blame inequities for our lapses in judgement. "But, I'm an alcoholic." or "What do you expect, I'm on welfare." or "I'm [fill in racial minority]...how can I possibly overcome?" We all go through tough times. But I reject those of us who would hide behind a false crutch; requesting a "pass" on unacceptable behavior.

Did Lance Armstrong ask for pity when stricken with life-threatening cancer? No. He proceeded to attack the disease and use it to propell him to unprecidented cycling success. Did Oprah Winfrey give up because she was born into near-poverty? Did she use her minority status to give up? No. She used this situation to build herself into one of the wealthiest and most successful women in business and entertainment today.

If you make a mistake, own up to it. Take responsibility and make it right. If your life takes a rough tumble, use it as a plat…

The Truth Will Set You Free

I'm a conspiracy theorist at heart (no, I'm not a wacko about it...more a hobby than anything) so I really enjoy "dispelling myths" offerings: Freakonomics, John Stossel's new book, the "10 Things..." series in SmartMoney Magazine...

Here's a hilarious and well-written article in The Economist detailing a lot of airline travel myths. It's so pleasing to call "B.S." on some of this garbage.

Wright Tosses Microsoft

I'm not familar with this gentleman but I admire his pursuit of passion. This is something I've not done a good job managing in my career. Peter seems bitter but I can understand; I've developed with Microsoft products my entire career. I think it's important to remember though, Microsoft helped us get where we are today. If nothing else, they pushed technology and other firms to innovate.

Reflections on 9/11

I finished watching 'The Path to 9/11' last night. Factual or not, it brought back a lot of memories. I can easily play back the 24 hours following the attack in my head. My wife was on a plane due to arrive at LaGuardia around 9am. She was diverted to Philadelphia. Thank God she was ok and I was able to drive from Chicago to pick her up and bring her home.

It is easy to look back at the years since 9/11 and criticize. Despite this, I think the criticism is warranted. Terrorism has not won the war but they've won the first several rounds. They will continue to win as long as we continue to focus on politics and spin ignorning positive change.

Watching 'The Path to 9/11', it occurred to me that I really don't care who is to blame. Democrats simply drew more attention to the program by flipping out over it a few days beforehand. I don't care if Clinton screwed up. I don't care if Bush screwed up...the CIA, FBI, INS, Congress, Democrats, Republicans, the Flo…

You've Been Marketed!

My office "won" a free lunch yesterday at a local eatery. Unsuspecting, naive professionals that we are, we all figured, how fortuitous of us--we won! Wrong. We were about to be 'marketed'.

Gathering at the front door of the restaurant, one of our crowd didn't belong. Who's this guy, I thought. Oops, I'm out of the loop again...new employee. Nope, that's not it. Why is he wearing a suit?

"Hi, I'm Ron. I'm hosting your lunch today. I have a table ready over here for us." Ok, so this guy is with the restaurant. He's milking the opportunity to show off the restaurant. Fine. Although, what's up with the suit?

After we sit down, Ron goes on to explain he's a financial advisor with Ameriprise. Huh? Where'd you come from pal? Then it hits me: he's "purchased" our time. Brilliant! Now I'm really into this. I start reviewing the marketing:
captive audiencegetting something in exchange for listening to a pitchtarg…

Broadcast 'The Path to 9/11'

The blogosphere is erupting this morning in debate over ABC's "docu-drama" (?). Democrats want it pulled from the airwaves. ABC is [reportedly] taking a ton of heat.

I support the airing of this program. Yes, it needs to be historically accurate and correctly identified (is it a documentary?, is it complete fiction?, is it historical fiction...?) but the message should not fail to air due to political pressure. Our country was built on freedom. Let the people judge for themselves. If it doesn't air, should we then burn the 9/11 Commission Report?

Only a single poster on Jim Rose writes intelligently this morning on the issue:

Seriously, this is a really sad affair for our country. We have a group of politicians that are willing to abuse their power and bully a corporation in order to get their way. I've said time and time again, the new war is not the war on terror, it's the war for the control of information. Take it to the bank.

An Open Letter to Sears...

Related to my previous post seeking a refund for a part ordered from Sears, a fellow blogger (thanks for reading, Ellen!) posted a provocative comment prompting me to take the next step: propose some solutions for Sears to improve their customer service. The old phrase, "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem" comes to mind. In that spirit, I propose several actions Sears could take today to improve customer satisfaction:

#1 Assume a "One Sears" Attitude and Structure
I've always been impressed at the businesses Sears tackles: retail, installation, parts, contractor work, finance, etc. However, it appears these many aspects of Sears also creates fragmentation which further distances Sears from customers.

First and foremost, consolidate customer touch-points. Sears has (as far as I can tell) dozens of 800 numbers as well as local numbers. There are also contact points through the web site and email. Consolidate these such that any ti…

Sears: Poor Customer Service; Poor Systems

Update: My comments highlighted on Free Money Finance.

A bit off topic but I'd like to publicize this in an attempt to resolve the situation and to warn others about Sears lack of customer service.

I ordered a part from Sears for my refrigerator, attempted to cancel that part the following day, was informed Sears can't cancel part orders (huh?), followed the return instructions to a "T", and have yet to see a full refund after 60 days. I've had 6+ communications with Sears only to receive the run-around every time.

My advice: don't shop at Sears. If anything goes wrong, they will drown you in bureaucracy betting that they'll outlast you.

My comment posted to Free Money Finance received a highlight (scroll down) recently. FMF's author is fighting Sears on about a malfunctioning elliptical exercise machine.

Here are the full details of my tussle wrapped into a recent email to Sears. I'm posting the response which is consistent with the previous 6 respons…

Sun is Setting

Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's recently-named CEO suceeding Scott McNealy, purchased a life-sized art rendering of Hewlett and Packard, founders of HP. Schwartz, who somehow believes Sun is actually a competitor of HP (laughable...even with HP's stumbles with Carly), purchased the artwork for $6,000 to declare "...a rebirth of fun at Sun"

Sun has plumeted so far from valuable or useful, I can't believe I'm even giving this non-event writing time. But I must...

First off, this "owning" Hewlett and Packard and taking photos with them is not funny. It is lame. It is uncreative. It is unproductive. It's certainly not funny. What would be funny is if H&P were somehow resurrected, came back and beat the life out of Sun's senior management team using an old HP 9810A. Now that's funny!

If I were a Sun stockholder, I might like to carry out a bit of my own bashing. A 52-week high of $5.20/share with a whopping P/E of -19 (yes, that's a negative si…

How to Buy Technology Products

Excellent piece on the ails of technology products and how they miss the mark for business. Not always the case but all too often, IMO.

My favorite paragraph:

A lack of communication occurs between Mr. VP and Mr. IT:Mr. IT: “Dude, you’ll need all these features. It’s rockin’ Web 2.0! WEB 2.0! If you don’t have it, your company will die. A crazy death.”Mr. VP: “Wow! Okay! Buy, buy!”Mr. IT: “Everybody dance now!”

Security: Educating Users

Schneier blames poor security on the computer industry...

I have to disagree. My dad (sorry dad...no offence) has no excuse for constantly screwing up his system at home. I've educated the heck out of him and he still finds the need to "tweak". He seriously calls me at least once a month with an issue. Last month, he'd somehow bridged his wireless and wireline network adapters. What? Don't mess with what you don't fully understand.

I also disagree it's the industry's fault from a corporate standpoint. If some fool can install software on their bank workstation, it's the bank IT department's fault. Hello? Group Policy. It's pure IT laziness (or misaligned priorities...or ignorance) not to have group policy prohibiting installation of software on machines.

Should we castigate Edison when some fool misuses electricity and injures themselves? No. If users fail to observe safety or recommended precautions, there's no one else to blame--oper…

Passed RUP Certification Exam!

I passed the Essentials of Rational Unified Process (RUP - 639) certification exam this morning. Some preparation information:
Preparation ResourcesPrinciples of IBM Rational Unified Process v7.0: PRJ110v3 [WBT]
The Rational Unified Process Made Easy: A Practitioner's Guide to Rational Unified Process
The Rational Unified Process: An Introduction, Third Edition
Online Resourceshttp://www-03.ibm.com/certify/certs/rlrcrup3.shtml
http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/rational/training/catalog.html#10
http://proquest.safaribooksonline.com/?XmlId=0-321-16609-4
http://proquest.safaribooksonline.com/?XmlId=0-321-19770-4

Recommended Preparation ApproachIf you’re unfamiliar with the RUP, pick up the two books listed under Preparation Resources. They give a good general overview as well as providing specific examples of the RUP given different project situations. If you’re familiar with the RUP, this review will provide little value. After covering the basics, digest, absorb, and memorize the RUP …

SBOB: Choosing a Name

Time to pick a name for our new small business owner / entrepreneur's insight blog. This site will focus on the nitty gritty about business, not the Harvard MBA kind of stuff. The advice and info will be practical, down to earth and blunt. Below are several potential names we've been playing with. Do any of these definitely turn you on or turn you off? Just leave a comment... thanks!
Bull On Biz

All Biz No Bull
Biz Beyond the BS The Freestyle Entrepreneur
Business Savvy
Hard Knocks Business ModelBitter Sweet – Real Life Business
Biz-a-holic
The Business Funhouse
The Misfortune 500
The Bullheaded Business Owner

.Net 2.0: Hash with Salt using SecureString

Cryptography Simplified in Microsoft .NET
Security Guidelines: .NET Framework 2.0

Ideally, we would return a SecureString here and make the consuming developer work with that but for our example...

public string HashInput(string input, int saltLength)
{
byte[] ssBytes;

// create salt
byte[] bytSalt = new byte[saltLength];
RNGCryptoServiceProvider rng = new RNGCryptoServiceProvider();
rng.GetBytes(bytSalt);

// create secure string for concatinating input and salt
using (SecureString ss = new SecureString())
{
// append original string
foreach (char c in input.ToCharArray())
{
ss.AppendChar(c);
}

// append salt
foreach (byte b in bytSalt)
{
ss.AppendChar(Convert.ToChar(b));
}

// prevent SecureString manipulation

Snakes on a Plane Voicemail: Best Marketing EVER

I am a media and advertising cynic. I pride myself on avoiding almost all marketing and never secumming to The Man. I never go out and buy something because I saw an advertisement. Well, I've met my match. This is the best viral marketing I've ever encountered. I will see this movie. I will spend money to see this movie. And right now, my brother in law is laughing his ass off at the personalized Samuel L. Jackson voicemail I just sent him from this marketing site. This is huge. It's revolutionary. It's disruptive.

Props to Hal Halliday for alerting us to this masterpiece. Outstanding.

Sun's McNealy Leads Non-Profit Open-Source Drive

Finally, Scott McNealy is heading in a positive direction! I've detested this guy for years. No doubt he's smart but he squandered an amazing opportunity (with Sun) in fighting (and clearly losing to) Microsoft instead of innovating and creating value. Sun maintains a storied history of innovation and greatness. However, just like HP, Sun hasn't innovated or provided shareholder value for 15 years. They've been riding customer maintenance fees and hanging on by a thread.

Perhaps it's too soon to call but McNealy stepping down and giving Schwartz the lead will allow the otherwise highly intelligent McNealy to stop the negative banter and bring about positive change. He makes several insightful and BS-clearing statements in a recent article regarding his new pet project the Global Education and Learning Community (GELC).

I've often wondered why someone doesn't publish textbooks online. This disruption to the elementary and college publisher gravy train is lon…

SBOB: Provider Chosen

I've chosen TypePad to host our new blog. We'll likely go with the Plus version for $9/mo at first and then upgrade to Pro if we need it. I like their features of tagging/categorization, 3 blogs supported, photos and non-blogging pages, log files, and file uploading. From a negative side, TypePad doesn't support captchas nor searching. Eh, hit Technorati for search!

The only downside of Plus in our situation is lack of multiple author/poster support. However, I can field all postings at first and we'll upgrade to Pro if it becomes problematic. Or, we could share account credentials for a while. I really want to make sure he's well-versed in how a blog works and how to administer it. This is one of my primary goals.

[update]: After comparing Basic and Plus, I see only one difference: Basic hosts only a single blog. Well, we're only creating a single blog. Otherwise, they appear identical. We'll go with Basic for now.
[/update]

Oh, and BTW, I'll stop callin…

Starting a New Blog with my Cousin

On 9/15/2006, my cousin (he's really a 2nd cousin many times removed...I'm not convinced we're actually related ;-) John Ingrisano and I will launch a new blog targeted to the small business owner. He'll provide most of the content and I will provide the technical and marketing expertise.

Ok, ok, starting a blog isn't rocket science but we're aiming to [eventually] derive some sort of profit from this venture, so I plan on doing this right. The two blogs I currently maintain live on the free Blogger.com and LiveJournal.com. I'll be covering the adventure here on Effective Thoughts--providing insight as to what worked and what didn't.

To start off, our first activities are:
Choose a name and a themeFind a hostHelp John learn the ins and outs of blogging
Implement the site: look/feel, about/bio, 1st content, announcements, etc.
Understand marketing best practices To this end, here is some research I compiled:

Finding a host
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog_hos…

Why I Do Not Support Net Neutrality

It's simple, actually:

1. Nothing is free (as in beer)
2. Usually, items that are perceived as free (highways, the Internet, Welfare, Medicare, public safety services, etc.) are paid for by the government
3. The U.S. government gets its funding from its citizens--that is you and me
4. I indirectly (through taxes or through "add-on" cost-recovery fees from corporations) do not want to pay for someone else's Internet service.

If someone wants a faster pipe (or improved routing), that's fine. They can pay for that pipe. But I don't want to pay for their faster pipe. Also, with net neutrality, there's no incentive to improve delivery. If I'm Sprint, Verizon, or AT&T, why would I improve my service? There's no financial incentive. With Net Neutrality, I can't charge more for it. The Internet is not free (as in beer). It's no more free than making a phone call or getting cable TV.

Uncle Sam may have built Arpanet but the communications firms of th…

Workstation Backups Made Easy

Difficultly finding a secure, reliable, low-cost offsite backup solution for your home or business workstation? I've fiddled around with all the usual solutions: NT Backup scheduled job out to a USB drive, Linux Samba file server on my network, periodic CD burns, etc. None of these solutions truly hit the mark for my needs: the job failed, I missed some files, I hadn't performed the manual backup in a while, etc.

Mozy.com to the rescue. This free (2GB), online service and application utilizes encryption to regularly post your local files up to a Mozy server. I run the application on my work laptop and one of my desktops at home. There's a 1:1 limit on email address to Mozy account but I have several addresses I can pull from.

Downsides include the size limitation, agreeing to accept a weekly marketing email from Mozy, and some firewall difficulties. Regarding size, 2GB is perfect for me. Primarily, I want my wife's and my work files and our family photos backed up. We&#…

"If I Didn't Develop it Custom from Scratch, it's No Good"

It's time for developers to lose the "if I didn't develop it custom from scratch, it's no good" attitude. The other day, we were all sitting around at an internal technology presentation when suddenly, one of my collegues remarks snidely, "...with all these drag-and-drop, code-generating wizards driving development, are my .Net developers going to be writing code anymore?" Another collegue presented .Net Mobile 5.0 and all the new enhancements within Visual Studio 2005. Following the theme of "get developers away from developing plumbing and "every project needs _____ (logging, exception handling, data access, etc.)" code", these Microsoft tools take away many of the headaches involved with mobile development for the Windows Mobile platform.

Get over yourself! Code generators, IDE drag-and-drop functionality, and open/shared source frameworks serve as strong examples of industry innovation. One might be a strong coder/programmer but …

Me and the Kid at OSU vs. Texas 2005

Stick it to The Man

I'm a sucker for the David and Goliath story line: Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Atlas Shrugged...all inspiring and entertaining. Lately, I've been following the story at 37Signals of how they self-published their book Getting Real. As of today, they're up to an estimated $175,000 in revenue! Congratulations, guys!

If you know anything about publishing (which, I do not...well, at least not before following this story), most of the revenue from books goes to the publisher. With the approach 37Signals took, they retain almost all of the $19 a copy they charge for the book. Granted, they don't benefit from the strong marketing channels publishers maintain and 37Signals refrained from publishing a hard-copy (it's only available electronically as a PDF...for now) but selling 14,000 copies is a significant accomplishment. I'd pass out with glee if something I authored sold 14,000 times.

The Getting Real success story, thankfully, is one we're seeing more and more …

SOA Primer

Internationalization and Globalization Support within .Net

Assignment Manager

http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1372407,00.asp
http://msdn.microsoft.com/academic/techdown/sharedsource/ssassignmentmgr/getstartassignmgr/default.aspx
http://msdn.microsoft.com/academic/techdown/sharedsource/ssassignmentmgr/default.aspx

Assignment Manager is a student computer science project submittal and tracking software product written in C# Microsoft ships with the Academic SKU of Visual Studio. My firm was contracted by Microsoft to build the original Assignment Manager in early 2000-before .Net was even released. It was intended to serve as an example of how best to compile a solution of this nature. The product has since become shared source and has changed somewhat.
From the official description:

The Assignment Manager enables faculty to manage courses, track assignments, notify students of grades as well as student modules. And the Visual Studio .Net Academic Tools Source Licensing Program gives academic users access to source code for the Assignment Mana…

A Better Way to Build Quality Business Software

Develop Iteratively - to reduce risk and improve quality Manage Requirements - because software requirements usually evolve rather than materialize Use Component Architectures - because we expect software to be flexible over time Model Visually - so that business people, and software people can develop a common understanding of the system requirements and design Continuously Verify Quality - because mistakes caught late in the process can cost 200 times more Manage Change - because change is an unavoidable fact of software development projects.