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Showing posts from August, 2006

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…