Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Announcing the OpenEMR Certified Consultant Program

When I first launched OpenEMR HQ, I thought I'd be joining a rich community of committed entrepreneurs who were all concerned about the state of health care and thought their products could help improve it. It certainly was one of the main reasons I got into the industry and continues to be one of the driving reasons I work so hard to make sure I get the word out about OpenEMR, OpenMRS, and VistA. I genuinely believe that these three solid software packages can make a difference in the quality of care doctors provide and I'm 100% committed to working to make sure they get into the hands of as many people as we can possibly reach.

But as time went by, we began getting calls from potential customers who had a hint of desperation in their voices. We heard stories about how companies had taken thousands of dollars in consulting fees and never delivered a working implementation and how some doctors couldn't even get some of these companies to return their calls so they could actually give them money and do business with them! I quickly learned that the electronic medical records industry is largely one where the customer is treated poorly, not served well, and definitely not 'always right' as the old saying goes.

So I decided to change that.

In early September, I met with 15 doctors from around the Midwest to discuss what their 'issues' were with EMR providers. One after another told stories similar to the ones I'd heard from other customers and all of them expressed how valuable it would be to have some sort of quality guarantee that would allow them to at least somewhat quantify the level of commitment a given consultant had to the product they were using (in our case, OpenEMR).

That meeting led to more discussions and the skeleton of a certification program slowly began to emerge. We kept it under wraps for months until we got it right and covered all of the issues we'd heard were so pressing to doctors looking at buying EMR: technical acuity, product knowledge, support skills, and training were all included in our certification criteria.

Today, marks the culmination of the last 4 months of hard work.

Today, we're happy to announce the formal launch of the OpenEMR Certified Consultant and the OpenEMR Gold Certification Program. These two certifications, created for individual consultants and consulting companies respectively, will provide doctors with a way to know that the consultant or company they've chosen for their OpenEMR needs has formally demonstrated their commitment and knowledge of the OpenEMR platform and have taken time to invest in their chosen field through education, service, and time.

Additionally, I'm going to take this opportunity to announce that, as of January 15th, 2009, OpenEMR HQ will only contract with Certified Consultants or Certified Gold Partners to provide installation or support services to our customers. This affords us the same benefit it affords our customers: a measured guarantee of proficiency and knowledge. We'll continue to do business with our currently contracted partners and will support them in achieving their certifications as we move forward but we will slowly phase out non-certified contractors starting on the 15th.

Personally, I believe that the new certification programs will lead to very good things for the OpenEMR community. Our goal is to place OpenEMR squarely on the table alongside other commercial, proprietary EMR systems and this program will be yet another step in that direction. Everyone benefits: customers, contractors, and the community. Most importantly, OpenEMR moves forward.

Thank you to all of you who worked so hard with me over the last few months to create this certification program. OpenEMR has a bright future and it's even brighter because of your work.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My letter to Philips

I don't usually beat a dead horse but this situation between Philips and myself has me angry. While I understand that some problems are beyond their control, I strongly feel the situation with my webcam problem was poorly handled and totally botched. So, I'm going to beat a dead horse and I'm contacting corporate over the issue. Here's a copy of the email I just sent them. Yes, it will be followed up by a call. The camera was only $80 but I still feel that as a customer, I deserve better. What are your opinions?

"Dear Philips,

I'm writing to express both my frustration and my disappointment with Philips Corp.

On 12/17 I purchased a Philips SPC-1300NC webcam from my local Walmart. I went through the installation process on my desktop computer and everything worked fine. Once I rebooted my PC and plugged the cam in, things went wrong. Windows detected the device (audio, video, etc) but then displayed an error message saying something went wrong and the device couldn't be used. I uninstalled and reinstalled the driver several times with the exact same results.

I then went to another PC (a laptop) and attempted to install the camera. While the camera worked, it continually turned on and off and so I decided to call customer support.

The three people I spoke to in three different calls were absolutely no help at all. They told me to reinstall the software, reinstall the driver, uninstall my anti-virus, all of which I did to absolutely no avail. Finally, I was told 'you have a bad camera' and headed back to Walmart to exchange it.

The next TWO SPC-1300NC's did the exact same thing so I was convinced it was NOT a hardware problem - and it wasn't.

The problem (on the laptop with the camera turning on and off) was caused by the automatic camera management feature of the software. When I disabled it, the camera worked fine. Problem solved. An annoyance I could live with.

The desktop installation, however, did not go any more smoothly than before and, in utter frustration, I once again called customer support and spoke to Nancy.

All Nancy did was walk me through doing the EXACT same thing I'd done 5-9 times before: removing and reinstalling the driver. When it didn't work. she told me 'well, I don't know what else to do. All we do here is walk you through installing it once and that's it. Call Microsoft".

I am so angry about this lack of any kind of real tech support that I will not buy another Philips product for a long while. I am disappointed that my value as a customer is so little that nobody actually cares to solve my problem. Sure, I didn't buy a $2500 television from the company but I am a paying customer and I deserve better than 'sorry, call Microsoft'.

This is Philips hardware, not Microsoft's. It's Philips problem and Philips should fix it.

I can't say enough how disappointed I am in this company.

Anthony Papillion

A gripe about Philips

I just had the most horrible tech support call with Philips. Here's my story

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Seesmic launches new site and kicks total ass!

There are two reasons why the popular video discussion site has been such a smashing success. First, it's a great concept that's attracted a fantastic group of people to it. Second, and perhaps as if not more important, is the leadership shown by its CEO Loic LeMeur and his willingness to change things in response to his members requests.

Loic listens.
And that's something pretty rare in startups these days.

Earlier today, in response to many well chronicled problems with the site, LeMeur announced a long awaited update to Seesmic that will all but solve the issues users had been having. Because the original site was designed entirely in Flash, things were very clunky and the service was getting harder and harder to use. Videos were getting lost, the public timeline was often inaccessible, the site would cause your browser to crash, and there were all sorts of other nasties that were threatening to take Seesmic down the road of so many other failed startups.

But one thing was different: LeMeur and his team were eating their own dog food. A huge portion of Seesmic staff, including LeMeur, actively participated on Seesmic and, as such, were acutely aware of the platforms limitations and issues.

Today's release is a major step in bringing Seesmic into a new age. The slow, depressingly black site has been retooled as a spiffy, bright, site with nearly all of the Flash components gone. The site is super responsive, thanks to an AJAX backed platform, and the team took this time to introduce a host of new features to the service for which users had been begging for for months.

For the full details on the new Seesmic release, visit Loic's blog or his video post from last night. All-in-all, this release is fantastic and, while there are admittedly a few bugs, it's incredibly better than the old site and, according to several followup post by LeMeur, the team is not finished yet.

Good job Seesmic. You're an example of the way a startup should be run: lean, responsive, and involved. You guys are definitely a top-shelf service.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cut through the endless discussion with Zapproved!

Anyone who's ever submitted a proposal knows the endless discussion that can crop up around even the most basic decisions. Things that should take minutes end up in hours or days long discussion and debate and that can often ground even the most important projects to a screeching halt. It's annoying, it's anti-productive, and, unfortunately, it happens all the time.

Enter Zapproved, a new startup launched today who's goal is to bring your proposal to a final yes/no vote. Using Zapproved, you create a proposal, submit it to your approvers, and they get a chance to vote it up or down. No discussion. No debate. Just action.

Personally, I love this idea and I rushed over to sign up for an account. I can already see a thousand ways using this strategy can save both time and money. Sure, sometimes you need to discuss things in depth, but other times people tend to use discussion as a stalling tactic. Using Zapproved will forces these stragglers to either make a decision or get right to the point about why they've failed to do so.

In our increasingly horrible economy and what seems to be turning out to be an era that will have the higest failure rates since the dot com bust, a new startup rises to one of the biggest challenges of its life.

And this one just might survive.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Why Microsoft shouldn't (and won't) launch a Zune Phone

For at least the fifth time since the original device was launched in mid-2006, rumors are again circulating that Microsoft is considering producing a phone based off of its hardly enthusiastically received Zune Media Player.

Zune was originally launched as a competitor to the strong Apple iPod brand but it seems that, with the exception of software updates, Microsoft has all but lost interest in the device. While I'm sure many people would love to see Microsoft produce a "dream phone" based on the Zune device, I think there's two major reasons why it'll never happen:

1. Microsoft can't win. The Zune, even 2 years after it's release, isn't a very strong device. Sure, it's managed to carve out a small portion of the market Apple dominates but, when people think MP3 player, they don't think Zune. Microsoft would have to start from the ground up with device redesign and advertising and it still probably couldn't pull the Zune brand out of the ditch. Short of buying Apple, this is not a market that Microsoft can compete and win in. With a few exceptions, Microsoft is not a hardware company. And, even when they have produced hardware, it's never been anything spectacular. Yes, I'm including the XBOX and XBOX 360 in that mix.

2. Microsoft tries too hard for integration. To Microsoft, everything revolves around the Windows death star. In order for ZunePhone to succeed, Microsoft would have to seriously support the device on platforms other than Windows (yes, I mean Mac) and that would place them far to far out from home and into hostile territory, again taking it further away from platform integration.

Personally, I think Microsoft regrets Zune. It was released at a time when the media player market was on fire and Microsoft wanted to cash in on it. You can tell from Zunes' first design model that there was no passion behind it. The device had no soul. Believe me, I bought one and tried to like it. But iPod is just a better made, sexier device and has a smarter, sexier store (they even sell movies!)

Two years later, iPod is still enjoying higher and higher adoption rates while Zune is still struggling for relevance in the marketplace. It's become an 'also-ran' device that never really ran to begin with. It simply doesn't make sense to expand the brand into yet another market it'll fail in.

For the reasons above, I don't think we'll see the ZunePhone anytime soon - or anytime at all for that matter. Instead, I expect to see an announcement fairly soon that Microsoft is pulling out of the media player business entirely and refocusing on their 'core'.

In today's economy, even the Beast of Redmond can't afford to waste money on a dying platform.

Soon, the final chapter will be written on the sad life of the little media player that tried but failed. And we, the buying public, will write its death certificate.

Monday, December 8, 2008

To follow or not to follow? Challenging Twitters social rules

There's an interesting discussion going on at Twitter about the ritual of following your followers. In an ecosystem that seems obsessed with building the highest connection count, it might seem that the obvious answer would be 'of course you should follow those who follow you' and it might even seem rude to some not to do so. But I suggest doing the exact opposite if you really want to make connections and contribute to the overall quality of Twitter.

The purpose of Twitter is to connect and engage. Making random connections with everyone who follows you only fulfills half of that purpose. To finish the balance, we have to have some common ground on which we can build a relationship and deepen the connection. Otherwise, the entire connection boils down to two people talking at each other instead of with each other and no useful interaction takes place.

For example, last week, I was followed by a structural engineer. While I was flattered that someone of his caliber would find my tweets interesting enough to want to consume on a regular basis, I chose not to follow him back. Why? Because he and I had nothing in common.

When I checked out his tweet stream, I saw that most of his tweets were about, you guessed it, engineering; particularly structural engineering, which I know nothing about. Now, I could have followed this gentleman and probably even discussed a few things with him. But the majority of what he was interested in held no interests for me whatsoever. More importantly, I did not have the knowledge of his field that would have allowed me to intelligently discourse with him or even understand a lot of his tweets.

Following this tweeter would have served only one purpose: to give him an ego boost by having another follower because I wouldn't have been following him based on my interest in him but rather some weird sense of duty. It would have been a totally useless and, for both of us I fear, largely uninteresting connection.

The bottom line is this: if you want quantity, follow everyone who follows you and you'll soon find a large and eventful time line. But if you want quality - the kind where you can really engage with the people you follow - be selective in who you follow back. Your stats will grow slower than the 'frenzied followers' out there, but your connections will be of higher quality.

So what about you? Do you automatically follow everyone who follows you? Do you think it's rude if someone you follow doesn't follow you back? Would you even stop following someone who didn't follow you in a reasonable time? Sound off and let me know!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Social Media: why VC's and Angels should jump even harder!

Those of us who regularly haunt services like Next2Friends, Twitter, and a few other social sites out there already know how much fun they are and the power of the connections you can make on them. Every day, everything from important, world changing ideas to what we're making for dinner (complete with live demonstrations) are discussed on these sites and friends that may very well last a lifetime are discovered. There are some absolutely fantastic social media sites out there but, unfortunately, with the recession sitting firmly in place, venture and angel money for such services seem to be quickly drying up and many of these sites could very well face shutting down if they can't pay the bills.

I'd like to put forward that investing in social media even in a recession is one of the best investments a firm can make and smart firms will be investing more into social media as times get tougher instead of less.

As our financial belts tighten, we have a natural desire to connect strongly with other. We're not comfortable suffering in silence and we long to reach out to others for validation, confirmation that we're not alone, and just plain old companionship. I think that's one of the reasons movie going skyrocketed during the great depression. People don't want to be alone when they are in crisis.

Unfortunately, the 1920's and 1930's had a much smaller population who's friends and acquaintances were much less geographically spread out than we do today. Today, it's not uncommon for an ordinary person to have friends in five or six foreign countries and maintain regular contact with them all. I know I've personally stayed up extra late just to chat with friends in remote areas of the world and I'll bet you have to. It's the nature of wanting a human connection.

So, as the worldwide financial crisis tightens, people are going to be looking for ways to, not only keep in touch with their friends, but deepen those relationships and create new ones. Travel will become more and more costly so the average person won't be able to simply jump on a plane and fly from Kansas City to Mumbai just to attend a party or spend a week with a new friend. This, I believe is where social media; particularly services like Qik and Next2Friends are going to come in.

Last Thursday, a friend in Pakistan invited me to his wedding. I was very sad that I couldn't attend because this is someone who I consider a good friend. We began discussing ways I could get a video tape and then we hit upon the idea of using a video broadcasting service like Next2Friends to stream it live over the internet to remote friends and family. In the end, I, and nearly 100 of his other friends and family, were able to attend his wedding via his live Qik stream (which was archived so others can enjoy it too).

My point is that there is a huge untapped market in social media. As people are forced to make decisions between travel or rent, they're not going to simply abandon their friends and pay the rent. They're going to look for new ways to interact. Social media, in particular live broadcasting and interactive chat, is going to quickly become the de facto solution chosen by an intimacy hungry world. I could easily see services like Next2Friends, Qik, and even Seesmic (which isn't live) become the next internet darlings, pulling in insane amounts of VC money and posting sky high valuations.

VC's and Angel's out there: now is the time to get in the game and really pour some money into these services. Entrepreneurs, now is the time to think big and create something huge. Don't limit your thinking. Create something that connects people or makes their already existing connections more real.

In the end, the sky will be the limit.
And, really, wouldn't we all like to learn to fly?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Making a living with open source software

There's no doubt that the open source universe is huge. Just about anyone wanting to make a living developing, supporting, or consulting, on open source software can easily do so and will find an enormous amount of peer support as they navigate the waters of FOSS.

In the video above, Indian Linux/Open Source guru Raj Mathur discusses his involvement in open source and how open and large the market is for newcomers. It's a brief, impromptu video shot at Raj's home office in New Delhi.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Create phone applications the easy way with Twilio

Those of you who read this blog regularly know how easily excited about new technology I tend to become. But I have to admit that it's been a very long time since anything knocked me out and filled my eyes with stars as much as, new kid on the Web 2.0 block, Twilio has.

Twilio is a new service that offers a simple, REST based API on which developers can create telephony applications. Using Twilio, anyone with a basic understanding of REST and their particular language of choice can easy create an application that serves info to callers, records and responds to things the callers do, and just about anything else your techy mind can dream up.

Using Twilio is dead simple too. In less than a day, I learned the API and created a fully functioning application for OpenEMR that I'm now selling to customers. In less than a week, I've just about completely developed a new service around Twilio that should go live by Friday. Give Twilio a month and who knows what one can develop?

One of the other attractive features of Twilio is its price: free to learn and as little as $0.03 per call and $5.00 a month if you want an inbound number. Really, they've taken all of the hard work out of building telephony applications.

Lastly, let me revisit how easy it is to actually use Twilio. Once you've signed up for a free account and received your account id and authorization token, it only takes a few lines of code and a simple XML file to actually make a call.

Here's an example in PHP:


$ApiVersion = "2008-08-01";
$AccountSid = "YOUR_ACCOUNT_SID";


/* Instantiate a new Twilio Rest Client */
$client = new TwilioRestClient($AccountSid, $AuthToken);

$response = $client->request("/$ApiVersion/Accounts/
$AccountSid/Calls", "POST", array("Caller" =>
$CallerID, "Called" => "NUMBER_TO_CALL",
"Url" => ""));

That's all the PHP code it takes to make a call. You'll notice that we're also passing a standard URL to the API. This URL should contain instructions for Twilio do do once the call is connected. It can be a static XML file or something dynamic that returns XML. In our case, let's call the file "play2caller.xml". All play2caller does is plays a .WAV file to the caller then hangs up.

Here's the code (note that the periods were inserted so the code would show up in Blogger. Remove them if you plan to use this code):

<.?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8' ?>

That's it! It's that easy to make a call using Twilio. Now using other Twilio "verbs" as they are called, you can enhance the system and allow your program do do things like let the called enter touch tones, dial other number, do branch logic, record spoken information, and a whole bunch of other things.

Once you get a handle on Twilio (which you can do in a weekend) you can build incredibly powerful applications that interact with the phone. Twilio is probably one of the most innovative new API's and technologies I've seen in the last two years and I'm really excited to see where they take their product.

So go ahead, sign up for an account. Build something cool and unleash it on the world. Let your application dreams run wild.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Is Walmart to blame for Black Friday death?

A Long Island Walmart worker was thrown to the ground and trampled when anxious shoppers tore the doors off their hinges in an effort to get into the store to shop the annual Black Friday sale. The unnamed worker dies a short while after at a local hospital and the store was closed for the rest of the day to deal with the tragedy.

Of course, it only took a few hours before the talking heads began searching for someone to blame and, as expected, that someone turned out the be Walmart. Why not? After all, Walmart has quickly become a popular whipping post that can be blamed for everything from sweatshops in China to killing our kids with lead laden toys.

It's easy to blame Walmart.
They're big. They're powerful. And, let's face it, they are a bit evil.

But I think to lay blame at the company's doorstep for this poor workers death would not only be premature but would also be wrong.

I've worked at Walmart during Black Friday. And, as anyone who's ever worked in retail during a mega-sale will tell you, you can only hold out anxious shoppers for so long before unrest settles in and problems start to rear their ugly head. These people are not going to a sale; they're going to war and they're prepared to fight their fellow shoppers - and even store staff if they need to - to save a few dollars.

This problem isn't Walmart's fault. There is no amount of security or crowd control that could have prevented this unfortunate incident. I've worked during many big product launches and, I can tell you firsthand, Walmart does an phenomenal job with crowd control. The fault lies solely with the uncontrolled masses that roam the streets on Black Friday searching for a deal.

On Black Friday, the rules of politeness are suspended by our entire society. If you dare to go out to shop, you should expect to be cursed, treated rudely, shoved about, and maybe even punched or bitten. It's become a free for all and people lose total control.

No, Walmart isn't to blame for this. It's the 'do whatever you need to do to get what you want' mentality that our society's developed. We're greedy and we're willing to treat our fellow people like trash for a $4.00 toy.

I've seen it happen.
It's disgusting.

Unfortunately, it's human nature.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oklahoma puppy mill rescue

NOTICE: This video has horrible quality because it was filmed by a video camera pointed at the television. Sorry, it was all I had at the moment.

Puppy mills are one of the worst things we offer to our beloved animal companions. Often, dogs are forced to live in filthy, unsanitary conditions and suffer from everything from untreated illnesses to living for extended amounts of time with other dogs dead in their cage.

Thankfully, the Humane Society of America is starting to take a stand for these defenseless animals and are closing down puppy mills around the country. This video is the story of one such puppy mill and the dogs rescued from it.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Want free books? I got ya free books!

If you'd like any of the books shown in this video, send an email to with the subject 'Books'. I'll give the books away but you pay shipping

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Are we pushing our kids over the edge?

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Microsoft porting Visual Studio to Linux

As a long time Windows developer, I've come to love Microsoft developer tools. Nothing is more satisfying that firing up a copy of Visual Studio and almost immediately being productive. The tool gets out of your way. It helps you where you need help and stays pretty silent and in the corner otherwise. Development tools like Visual Studio are definitely one of the many things Microsoft does very right.

There are times, like now for example, where I need to be cross-platform. I want to not only develop cross-platform code but I want the ability to work on any platform I choose: Windows now, Linux tonight. Unfortunately, the minute I step out of the Windows world, I wave a sad goodbye to my old friend Visual Studio and my productivity goes sharply down.

Don't get me wrong, I can code C# and VB.NET by hand if I have to as easily as I can hand code HTML when I have to so the problem isn't that I don't understand the technology. The problem is that Visual Studio takes the headache out of the trivial stuff like UI design, and allows the developer to focus on creating the solution and banging out the business logic.

Visual Studio has it.
MonoDevelop, SharpDevelop, etc don't.

I don't expect Microsoft to do a full port of Visual Studio complete with compilers, linkers, and all the bells and whistles to Linux. They don't have to. Mono provides all those things and they are just as easy to use. What I would like to see is Microsoft port the Visual Studio designer to Linux, thereby allowing developers to walk between both worlds with ease and no lost productivity.

Don't get me wrong, I understand their reasons for not doing this but I think it would not only be an incredible new revenue stream for the company but final proof that Microsoft really wants to change the tech landscape for the better, regardless of what your platform is. It would be a proverbial olive branch that would go a long way in uniting the Windows and Linux worlds under the common Microsoft flag.

It would totally kick ass too.


I'm just sayin'

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sometimes, cats are very odd

I don't have a cat. But this video definitely makes me want to get one. This car obviously has a problem with printers. Anyone out there ready to offer it help?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I'm giving away $5,000. Want it?

About six months ago, my small team and I developed a technology that would allow retailers to serve their customers better, reduce staffing costs, and better control their inventory. We've tested it heavily and it works very well. We've even spoken to a few small local stores and they love it (though, because of the nature of their operations, can't use it).

Now, we believe that the technology is ready for the national scene; a big name retailer who really wants to throw down the gauntlet to the competition. Of course, my company is no focused on something totally different and our sales team doesn't have the experience with the product to properly push it.

So, I'm turning to you, the community, for help and I'm willing to pay for it. Here's the deal:

I need a meeting with someone who has the authority to buy or is one step removed from the buyer at one of the large big box chains in the USA. It can be Walmart, KMart, whatever, I don't care, I just want to get this technology into their hands.

Now, here's the $5k part: if this meeting results in a sale, I'll give you $5,000 to $7,000 as a way to say thank you. And I'm willing to do this for every single retailer you can bring to me that closes the sale.

All-in-all, it's a good deal. 15-30 minutes of your time for five to seven thousand dollars.

Now, I'm sure you'll want to know more before you jump in so please feel free to either contact me by email at or by phone at (918) 926-0139. I'll tell you more about what we've done. Also, if you're an investor, we are totally open to fully monetizing this project apart from OpenEMR.

Thanks guys!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Last night, our country changed

Last night, our country turned a corner. We came out of the darkness of hundreds of years of inequality and oppression and boldly and decisively stepped into a new world. One where fears, doubts, and half-truths no longer rule our collective psyche but rather one where hope for a better tomorrow has once again been ignited within Ronald Regan's "City on a Hill". Last night, almost 100 million people spoke with one voice, one will, and one purpose:

To elect Barack H. Obama the 44th President of the United States of America.

Those of you who've followed both this blog and my Twitter feed know I have not been a fan of Barack Obama. There are numerous reasons why I don't trust him at face value and I worry about what his election means for our country. But last night was special. Last night was our country moving forward. Last night was one of the most powerfully moving nights of my entire life.

Politics aside, President-Elect Obama has already delivered on his promise of change and hope. The very fact that an African-American man from humble beginnings could rise to take the most powerful office in the land is a testament to his own courage, the power of his message, and the hope of a country. It shows that America is capable of reinventing itself and growing. It shows that we are not the nation we once were. It shows that a single person acting with conviction, dedication, and purpose, can effect change on a global scale.

No, I don't agree with much of Barack Obama's politics. But, for this day, I don't care. Today is a day for celebration. Today is a day to heal our collective national wounds.

Today, by the sheer force of American will, our country changed.

And I find it hard, even with my opposing political views, to believe that the election of Sen. Barack Obama was in any way a bad thing.

Indeed, I refuse to believe it.

Congratulations Sen. Obama! You fought a long and honorable war and you've come out victorious. And I do believe that, because of you, this country will emerge victorious once again very soon.

Monday, October 27, 2008

FINALLY RELEASED: Qik for Blackberry!

I've probably emailed Qik 25 times asking about when they were going to release the Qik application for the Blackberry. I never got a response but I always knew it couldn't be far away with OS 4.5 bringing video recording to almost all recent Blackberry devices.

Imagine how I almost peed my pants to find that Qik announced and released the Qik Blackberry client on yesterday and that it, not only works, but works incredibly well.

Thank you Qik for making my week. This is awesome.

If you have a Blackberry and OS 4.5 I strongly suggest that you head over to Qik and try out the application. It doesn't have the social community of Next2Friends, but it's still a pretty cool application!

Now, I am going to bed.
Ok, really I am going to download Qik.
Then, I am going to bed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Up to something new? Try Next2Friends!

UPDATE: 5:46pm CT - I just received an email from Next2Friends Hans Erik informing me that Next2Friends Live does not work on the iPhone because the iPhone has locked out video. Doesn't Apple realize the value that applications like Next2Friends, Qik, and others like them could bring to the iPhone? For all their glamour, Apple still has a way to go.

The power to create compelling media is definitely firmly in the hands of the people. Never before has it been easier for anyone to capture an event as it's happening and share it with the world in an instant. Thanks to the ever growing use of low cost mobile phones and video devices like The Flip coupled with nearly ubiquitous Internet access, just about anyone can become an instant videographer and share their creation with an ever hungry public.

To support such community video efforts, numerous sites like Flixwagon, Seesmic, Qik, and others have quickly popped up around the web. Today, I'd like to introduce you to the site I use to stream my videos, Next2Friends.

Next2Friends is a fairly new company that was launched earlier this year. Like Qik and its brethren, it allows almost anyone with an internet connected phone to stream live video to the Internet. This includes owners of the iPhone and the Blackberry (the latter of which usually presents a problem with services like Qik since video recording is fairly new to the Blackberry). The video quality of the streams are very good and, even with my really bad rural T-Mobile Blackberry connection, I was able to create videos with very few quality issues.

The nicest thing about Next2Friends is the social network around the streaming service. Users can communicate one to one, one to many, or in various combinations that allow real connections to be formed. Think of it as a combination of YouTube and Seesmic but with live video.

The company is backed with $12M in private funding so it's likely to stick around for a while assuming they can either keep up funding or monetize at some point. Judging from the community I've seen developing there, monetization won't be a problem. The community is eager, established, and active.

I think you'll find something different at Next2Friends. It's not Seesmic and it's not Qik. It has its own flow and a unique community that you can immediately connect with. Give it a try and see what you think.

The power of media is definitely in our hands!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ashley Todd: Psycho or Warrior?

By now, just about everyone in the world has heard about the allegedly horrible ordeal 20 year old student Ashley Todd endured on yesterday when she was supposedly attacked at an ATM by a man enraged by her McCain/Palin bumper sticker. If you follow the news, you probably already know she's now admitted it was all a hoax; a kind of guerrilla campaigning tactic designed to help her candidate of choice win the election.

While most of the media is labeling Ms. Todd a psycho and a liar, I want to take a slightly different approach on the issue:

Ashley Todd is a warrior in her own mind.

The 2008 election is perhaps one of the most important elections in 50 years. It's nothing short of a battle for the heart and soul of the American republic and we have two men with very different views on how our country should move forward. Many people see the upcoming election as a moral choice between an untrustworthy, evil man (Barack Obama) and a proven, reliable leader (John McCain). Whether they are right or wrong voting on perceived moral issues always creates a passion that often leads to some pretty radical behavior.

Like faking an attack to hurt your opponent.
Like carving a letter on yourself.

I don't think Ms. Todd is psycho. I think she's someone with good intentions and who deeply loves her country. She is, like many people, concerned about the direction her country will take if the wrong person becomes president. I believe she sees this election on a moral ground and, as such, all bets are off.

Don't get me wrong, I don't agree with what she did and I think there were a lot better ways she could have made a much more effective statement for her beliefs. But I do understand her passion. I do understand her concerns.

I think that, instead of judging Ms. Todd as a psycho or unstable, we should see her as what she is: collateral damage in the war for America. Yes, it's tragic that she took things to the level she did, but I understand it in an odd sort of way. In her mind, this election is no different than how Americans might see the War on Terror. In her mind, losing control of the country to her candidates opponent would deeply and fundamentally harm America.

In an odd way, I understand her thoughts..
In an odd way, I actually respect her.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lessons I learned from Jason Calacanis

Yesterday. Mahalo CEO and serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis sent a very moving and informative post down his mailing list breaking the news publicly that his company was going to have to do layoff's. Firing people you care about and who've been through the battle with you is tough. It's made even tougher when you're a high profile company with a cheerleader at the helm who's used to focusing on what is so right with the company and the industry. What's really different about this situation though, is how Calacanis has chosen to be so public about the layoff's and turn it into a lesson that startup founders around the world can learn from.

In the email, Calacanis discusses the decision making process, the emotions behind laying off 10% of your workforce, and how he chose to handle it in a unique, unemotional, but still compassionate way. His words are written in a raw, honest voice that I believe expose the tough emotions he's dealing with at Mahalo.

Because of copyright restrictions, I'm not going to reprint the email here. But I'd like to share with you a few of the lessons taught in it. I think they will benefit anyone who's wrestling with these hard issues in their business:

1. Analyze where you're at and set a goal. Pull out your P&L statement and do a line by line audit. Toss out everything that isn't a necessity. Reduce your capital burn rate. The more you save, the less human capital you have to cut.

It's also important that you have a goal. Know where you are and where you need to go. From there, it's a matter of finding the right road to get you there which makes the entire process much easier.

2. Rethink your strategy. Maybe the way you've operated for the last year worked when you could burn through $50,000 a month. But, when you have to conserve on every dollar you spend, question everything. Change the way you do things, look at business processes, ask your staff to help you find ways to cut costs. Let nothing be sacred. Everything is up for grabs.

3. Focus on revenue. Most companies spend a lot of time doing non revenue generating things. Stop. Look at your procedures and cut everything that isn't positively effecting your bottom line. Survival is the goal here. You can live without the luxuries for a while if it ensures your company will survive.

Don't forget to look for new ways to bring in new revenue while you're cutting out things that flat line it. Think outside the box and look at non-traditional things that will have fast and long term effects on your growth or stabilization.

Unfortunately, there are times when the above 4 methods simply won't cut it and you have to lay people off. Calacanis offers some nuggets of wisdom for this too:

1. Do it right away and all at once. Don't bring people one by one into your office and try to explain everything. It gets to emotional and messy, throws the other employees into a panic, and creates a lot of fear. Instead, gather everyone together and tell them all at once. This will be a very emotional time so be sensitive of that. Be prepared for emotional reactions but keep it professional.

2. Don't sugar coat the situation. You're firing people. You can't make it better unless you don't fire them. Be direct and honest. Lay it on the line.

3. Don't cut salaries in an effort to save people. It demoralizes employees and generally fosters fear because everyone knows it's a last ditch effort that probably won't work anyway. Plus, in a way, I always look at salary cuts as a way of telling people 'you're just not worth what we're paying you'. It's demoralizing, degrading, and will make them resent you even more than layoff's will.

4. Be generous. Yes, the company is in trouble and you're getting rid of staff. But that doesn't mean you have to be heartless about it. These people have poured their entire lives into your company. Treat them well. Give them good references, offer decent severance packages, make sure they feel like they were valued. Believe it or not, you can fire someone and still have a good relationship with them. It's all about how you handle it.

The big message I got from Calacanis' email was that you need to focus on your company and how it can add or create future value. Not making the tough decisions now and letting go of a few people will only hurt everyone you employ in the future and then you'll be responsible for hurting a lot more. You have a responsibility to your staff and your business to make sure you will be there in the future. Sometimes, that means thinning the herd out for the short term.

All-in-all, I think Mahalo did the right thing and Calacanis handled the situation incredibly well. It forced me to take a long, hard, look at my own business practices and evaluate what we need to do to make sure we'll be around when the market settles.

Jason Calacanis is a smart guy. This email also shows that he's a pretty awesome person as well.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Just a little blues to spice up your weekend...

Buddy Guy is probably one of my all time favorite Blues musicians and he did an absolutely awesome set over at the Yahoo/Nissan Live Set. This is just one of the songs he did. This man is incredible. Old style blues with a definite attitude.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The social aspect of content consumption

I've noticed that the ways I consume and experience content -- both web based and traditional -- has changed over the years. There once was a time where I was content to sit in front of the computer to read articles, listen to podcasts, watch videos or rush home at the end of the day in the hopes of not being late for the start of my favorite program which I'd often sit alone and watch.

Those days are gone.

Now, my content consumption is much more socially based and tailored to my schedule. I want to watch the news while commutting, I want to catch the latest episode of my favorite shows whenever I have time, I want to listen to podcasts and other programs while I walk or bicycle. I want all of my media consumption to cater to me and my lifestyle and not have to schedule my life around my media consumption.

Perhaps most importantly, I want a good deal of that consumption to be social; I want to share it with other people and interact with it in a way that adds value.

Last night's presidential debate was a good example of my desire to have a social experience through the media I consume. Dave Winer totally changed the landscape of the debate for me by introducing the simple element of a live IRC discussion while the debate was going on. Now, instead of passively watching the candidates debate the issues, I was able to participate in a worldwide discussion about the debate and the issues surrounding the election with other people in a real-time format.

There once was a time when the 'instant reaction' meter at the bottom of the network screens mattered to me. It didn't last night because I was experiencing something much richer than pundits and a select group of people reacting to what was being said. I was experiencing the socialization of the debate and it augmented and enhanced the entire experience with me. Now, I was experiencing the event, not in the privacy of my living room, but right along with hundreds of other people as it happened and it totally rocked.

Most importantly, I got to experience it on multiple levels and through multiple communities: there was the instant reaction of the television networks, the live chat on IRC, Twitter and Seesmic discussions, Friendfeed posts, even SMS messages friends were sending me. It was an inclusive experience that made the debate much more personal and "real" for me.

What makes experiencing media with a social aspect different? Interaction and challenge.

In times past, I'd sit in my living room viewing the debate through my unique pair of rose colored glasses. I experienced it through my own experiences, my own judgements, and my own political leanings. If there were other people with me, they usually agreed with what I thought because those are the people I'd invite to watch with me. Last night was different. Last night, it was a free for all. I couldn't choose who participated with me so I got everybody. My thoughts, prejudices, political leanings were all challenged and I was forced to think in ways I might not have thought had I been alone or with a close group of friends.

And I came out better for it.
It was a richer and more intelligent experience.
I grew.

Experiencing media - any type of media - with a social aspect always enhances the experience. It totally changes the way you perceive what you're watching or listening to because you get the immediate thoughts and input of a collective of minds instead of your own limited view. And everyone is catching on to the value of socializing media. Major television networks are including live internet based discussion during some of their programs, radio shows routinely include IM and Skype interactions with the hosts, and those who create media are realizing that there is value to socializing it. It engages people in ways that the passive experience simply can't. It emotionally involves your consumers at a deeper level than passive consumption. It solidifies their connection to both the media and to each other and that adds value to both their lives and the media they're consuming. It morphs it from something they are experiencing to something they are part of and that's a very powerful thing.

Personally, I don't think this trend is going away. We're seeing the beginning of a worldwide revolution in media consumption and interaction. Right now, it's usually the viewers and listeners who organize the social aspect of group consumption. In time, we'll see more content creators formalize that experience and we'll see richer and even more engaging experiences emerge. It's going to be chat, voice, IM -- a conglomerate of technologies coming together to deepen our ties to what we're consuming and each other.

It's going to be a worldwide party and everyone will be invited.
Black tie and tails will be optional.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

CrossLoop: A must have tool for remote tech support...

Update 10/15/2008 - 17:47 CT - I was contacted by Dmitry over at CrossLoop and informed that the new version of the software does indeed contain an IM chat client. I think this just goes to show how this team is pushing this project forward and always making it better. Thanks Dmitry for the correction!

How many times have you walked a friend, family member, or client through fixing a computer issue over the phone? If you're like most savvy computer users, you've likely been through this ordeal more than you care to admit. While there have always been free tools like VNC that you could use to view and operate the remote computer, it's also been a very cumbersome and error prone process to walk a neophyte user through setting the software up and giving you the information you needed to access their computer.

Enter CrossLoop.

CrossLoop is a software product that makes accessing and controlling a remote computer very easy. When you use CrossLoop, you and the person you're helping don't need to worry about things like IP addresses, network firewalls, and all the other things that come with most remote administration packages. That's because CrossLoop layers their own proprietary software on top of the standard VNC program to create a package that's both lightweight and easy to use.

To use CrossLoop, both you and the person you're providing help to agree on a common password. Each of you put the password into the CrossLoop program and click connect. In seconds, you're viewing and controlling the remote computer just as though you were sitting in front of it. Access is snappy and you have total control. You can even transfer files between the two connected PC's.

CrossLoop is one of those programs that you absolutely have to have if you're providing remote support or even if you're just needing to remotely control your various home and office PC's. I'd definitely give it four stars for both functionality and ease of use.

There are only two features I wish CrossLoop had that it doesn't and both aren't really that important: I wish it had some sort of VoIP/IM client so the two connected parties could talk or IM with each other while in a session and I wish the screen session could be recorded. I realize the first point can be negated by using a secondary software like Skype but it would be nice to have it all integrated into one package.

All-in-all, I think CrossLoop is one of the most useful packages a system administrator or support technician (both professional and non-professional) can have in their arsenal. The CrossLoop team is hard working and they really listen to their customers.

A team that listen to its customers and provides uncomplicated, free software?
Hmm...something must be terribly wrong here.

Maybe CrossLoop is starting a cult.
If so, hand me a big cup of fresh KoolAide.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

For those who *still* dont understand the recent financial crisis...

The recent near collapse of the American economy is an incredibly complicated and multi-layered thing. But it was all triggered by a very simple process that, anyone with common sense, should have known better than to do.

This video, created by Hank from VlogBrothers, explains the recent financial crisis pretty completely and with a good dose of humor. It's a great introductory video for anyone who's still confused by the crisis and wants a better understanding.

Hat tip to Harold Pulliam on Twitter for sharing this with me.

Friday, October 10, 2008

One week with the ASUS EeePC 1000H

I received my new ASUS EeePC 1000H last Thursday and I've now had a full week to work with the machine. When I picked it up from last week, I was very skeptical about how useful the netbook (what these devices are now being called) could really be.  As far as laptops go, it was pretty low powered sporting only a 1.6Ghz processor and I doubted that it could be used for any serious work. Still, I thought it'd be nice to have an easily portable device so that when I went on presentations, I could leave my hefty notebook at home.

All-in-all, I'm very pleasantly surprised.

The 1000H is a speedy little devil that handles just about all of the non-development work that I do throughout the day. Whether I'm creating a proposal or presentation or I'm chatting on Seesmic or Eyejot, the 1000H can seemingly handle anything I throw at it.  Sure, I'm not going to install Visual Studio on it, but that isn't the point. That's better left for my work laptop or my desktop. The 1000H was designed for people who need to do basic to semi-advanced task on the go and it does that incredibly well.

Some of you probably noticed that I mentioned Seesmic and Eyejot in my last paragraph. That's right, the 1000H has a built in 1.3 megapixel web camera built right into the unit. Combine that with built in WiFi and you have instant video conferencing capabilities from anywhere with a wifi hotspot. Perhaps most shocking of all, the wireless card even supports wireless N!  The built-in microphone is surprisingly sensitive and can pick up your voice clearly even in noisy environments.

Other specs for the 1000H include 1 gigabyte of RAM, an 80 gigabyte hard drive, and room to expand your memory through the use of SD/MMC slots, and a whopping 6 cell 7 hour battery. Yes, you read that right: 7 hours.  Even on a good day running very minimal applications, my higher end Acer can only manage about 4 hours. How's that for incredible?  The system rounds out with 3 USB ports so you can easily connect just about any peripheral  you want to it including printers, flash drives, and external webcams and mics.

About the only thing I don't like about the EeePC 1000H is its incredibly small screen. It's fine for occasional use, but if you're going to use it for more than an hour, the 10.2 inch screen can quickly strain your eyes to the point of exhaustion. I believe that other EeePC models offer the option of a larger screen but this was the only size available for this model when I ordered.  It's not a deal breaker for an otherwise solid unit but it certainly would make life a difficult for someone trying to use this netbook  as their main PC.

The system runs on Windows XP Home but I've been told it's fairly easy to install Ubuntu Linux on it and have just about everything work right out of the box. I'm going to try that this weekend but I'll probably go the dual boot route, keeping Windows XP Home and installing Ubuntu Hardy in an extra partition.

Personally, I don't think the EeePC 1000H lives up to all of the hype surrounding it; I think it surpasses it. For under $500 you get a pretty rock solid little PC that you can easily take anywhere with very little trouble. It's so easy to use and so reliable that I'm seriously considering equipping our entire sales staff with 1000's so they can quickly and easily connect from the field.

Like I said, it's not your high end laptop or desktop.
But if you wanted that, why would you have bought the EeePC in the first place??

The beauty of this PC is indeed, its elegance, simplicity, and rock solid design.
It's one of the few PC hardware products I'd give 4 stars to.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

$80 billion dollars buys a lot of champagne

You would think that if your company were in enough financial trouble to need an $80 billion dollar loan from the government, throwing lavish parties that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars probably isn't very high on your priority list. And even if you'd already suffered a lapse in judgement and actually thrown one of these lavish parties on the governments dime, you wouldn't be so foolish as to try it again.

Unless you're AIG.

That's right: the boneheads who ran a stable, trusted, American company into the ground thought that it might be a good idea to get some R&R at an exclusive hotel complete with $500 a night rooms. The argument, according to AIG, is that they serve a high end clientele and have to maintain an image.

I guess it's hard to maintain a high end image when your entire company just went on welfare.

This is just another example of why this bailout was such a bad idea. Corporate fat cats are partying and feasting as hard and heavy as ever before and you, the American taxpayer, are paying for it all. I don't think it's just AIG either. I expect similar reports to emerge over the coming weeks about executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because these people simply won't give up their lavish lifestyles for anything. Even the collapse of the economy around them and the abject failure of their company aren't enough to reign them in. They are motivated by pure and utter greed.

When was the last time you had a $300 bottle of champagne?
Get a job with AIG and it might become a routine.

To be fair, which I really don't want to be right now, AIG did tell FoxNews that they cancelled the retreat. I guess the first one will have to hold them for a while now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

One of the coolest pieces of mobile software ever!

Demo of
Vlingo is perhaps one of the coolest pieces of mobile software I've ever come across. Those of you who are tired of fiddling with your phone keypad just to send a text message, email, or call someone now have a real alternative.

Vlingo allows anyone with a Blackberry smartphone to speak commands into their device to do things like send an email, send a text message, update Twitter and Facebook, search the web, and call contacts.

The software is free for now and version 2.0 is available in private beta right away. If you've got a few minutes and want to try something useful and cool, I encourage you to try Vlingo today.

This is probably not the best recruiting stratagy...

I dont need you to help me make money

Sometimes, people who are promoting work at home opportunities are slick, well thought out, well spoken, salespeople. Other times, not so much. The video above, posted by a Seesmic user, is an example of the 'not so much' type of recruiter.

While his video definitely doesn't make me want to join his cause, which he never gets around to actually telling us what it is, he does provide a great comedic break to a boring day.

Remember though...he doesn't need your ass to make his money. He just wanted to stop by and tell you that.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bet Nirvana never saw this coming...


"Smells like Teen Spirit" is one of my favorite Nirvana songs. So you can imagine my scepticism when I came across this video on Seesmic of the song being done by a "ukulele orchestra". Surprisingly though, these guys rock. One of the coolest, and different, renditions of this song I've ever heard.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My American flag is almost gone...

As you probably already know, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1424 today, the nearly 1 trillion dollar bailout bill commonly known as the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. This bill is so typically Washington that I can almost smell the burning end of Marion Barry's crack pipe as I write this. It's chock full of handouts and totally unrelated subsidies for things like wooden arrows for children (because they need to learn to hunt for when we all go broke and there's no food), and broader support for insurance companies extending greater coverage for mental health treatment.

But, in this case, it's not the pork that's bothering me. It's the fact that with the single stroke of a pen, our President effectively introduced socialism to America.

What is it with politicians these days that they can't simply admit that, sometimes, things fail. Sometimes, really important and big things fail. And those failures can often have a huge effect on our country. But that doesn't mean it's an excuse to step in and take control.

The market has a unique way of taking care of itself. First things fail and people get scared and pull out. Then, as the dust settles, things start to stabilize and investor confidence slowly goes up. The good of the market survives while the bad of it dies. Bailing out the bad just shows them that there are absolutely no repercussions for their bad behavior.

Swindle the American consumer? No problem!
Defraud a large section of the economy? It's okay!
Because, at the end of the day, the federal government's got your back.

And don't think this is a single party thing either. While the bill was heavily pushed by Republicans and the President, lawmakers from both sides participated in ushering in our new socialistic system. Barack Obama? Yep. John McCain? You betchya! The blame lies on both parties equally. Both parties have betrayed the American people and the Constitution of the United States. This bailout strikes at the very foundation of the free market system and, I hate to tell you, it's just the beginning. It's not going to end with this bailout. It's not going to stop at one industry.

Ranting? You bet I am! I'm mad as hell that people who are elected to represent us are more interested in protecting their Wall Street buddies (who I agree, do need some protection in some cases) than their Main Street constituents. I'm livid that we're being told one story and sold another. I'm sick of them treating the American people like we're too stupid to understand what this is. 'Rescue Plan' my ass. Unless the rescuing they're doing is of their large campaign contributors, this is a bailout of Wall Street plain and simple. It's an example of back scratching at its very ugliest,

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and burn another piece of my well-worn American flag. There's barely any of it left anymore and it saddens me.

I wonder what the last piece will fall to?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Same song + 30 years = same message

Sometimes, it amazes me how far we've come with our technology and our societal change. Other times, I'm just profoundly saddened by how little progress we've really made.

30 years ago, when this video was recorded at the Washington Peace Rally, America was engaged in an unpopular war, the energy crisis was soon to begin, and the country was strongly divided on many issues. Fast forward 30 years an you'll see how little things have really changed.

This song, by one of my favorite 60's folk groups, Peter, Paul, and Mary, was recorded during a time of national turbulence. Isn't it amazing how this song, 30 years later, is still so relevant?

Amazing and sad.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Because naked clowns are HOT!

Just when we thought the pleas of desperation from charities seeking to raise money couldn't get any worse, I'd like to point you to both one of the funniest and saddest things I've seen all week:

The Naked Clown Calendar

No, I am not joking.
Yes, you will have nightmares about this.

Apparently, professional clown, juggler, and wanna be porn star Judy Finelli and a few of her twisted buddies came up with the idea - probably after a wild night of drunken clown orgies - that people would pay to see clowns naked.

Oh, yeah, and support finding a cure for MS. But, really, do you care about finding a cure for MS? Admit it, you might say you're buying the calendar to help support those with MS but we both know you really just wanna see naked clowns. I mean, really, who wouldn't?

Why? Because naked clowns are HOT!
Don't believe me? Buy the 2009 calendar here and find out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is all the Vista hate legit or just uninformed?

Windows Vista has been a problem for Microsoft.

Since its introduction nearly two years ago, Vista has gone from being one of the most anticipated operating systems ever to one of the most hated. That, of course, is not without reason. There were a lot of problems Windows Vista users had to overcome if they were early adopters of the OS. Things like drivers not working, things randomly breaking, and the entire thing running incredibly slow on even decent hardware all conspired against Microsoft to make Vista one big PR nightmare.

But what about now?  How do Vista users fare in this post SP1 world?

Things have gotten a lot better!

Overall, nearly all of the early driver issues have been resolved. Every major hardware vendor has now issued Vista compatible drivers for their products and Vista itself includes very impressive out of the box hardware support.  SP1 fixed a lot of the crashes which, it turns out, were largely caused by incompatible hardware drivers being installed on the system and, the speed issue has been resolved largely due to a concerted campaign by Microsoft to ensure users understood the hardware power that was required to run Vista comfortably.

So what about the Vista haters still out there?  What is still so wrong with Vista that a large section of the IT world are still advising users to stick with XP until Windows 7 comes out in 2009?


Microsoft, through the Mojave Experiment, has learned that a lot of the Vista hate out there is simply bandwagon emotions brought on by all the negative things they've heard about pre-SP1 Vista. When users are sat in front of a computer and told that what they are working with is the NEW OS from Microsoft, they generally like it. They talk about things like how speedy and stable it is and how visually appealing it looks. When they are told it's really Vista, they are genuinely shocked because everything they know about Vista doesn't usually come first hand but rather from other Vista hating friends, family, and IT people who sometimes haven't even tried the OS at all.

The bottom line is this: Vista has come a long way. It's a very usable, stable, and reliable operating system that, while it still has some problems, Microsoft is working very hard to fix. If you've got a little extra money and your hardware is powerful enough, it is well worth the upgrade. Visually, you're going to love it and the ease of use and user friendly nature of the OS is going to shock you.

Why not have your own Mojave  Experiment today? Go to Best Buy and try out some Vista machines. One time and I guarantee you'll be hooked. It's not perfect and it might not be compelling enough to move from XP. But all-in-all, it's pretty sweet.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Help save an innocent man from his death tonigh!


Latest News: 10:25pm 09/23 - STAY OF EXECUTION!!
The U.S. Supreme Court has stayed Troy Davis' execution until Monday, September 29. You can learn more about it here

Latest news: 6:00pm 09/23 - A request for a stay of execution is before the Georgia Supreme Court and another before the US Supreme Court. Also, the Parole Board is being asked to reconsider its position and grant clemency.

Troy Davis, a now 40 year old man incarcerated in Georgia is scheduled to be executed tonight for a crime he didn't commit. Mr. Davis has launched several appeals and the court, Georgia Board of Pardons, and Governor of Georgia have all refused to step in and help.

You can read the details of Troy's case here but here are the highlights:

  • Off-Duty Savannah Police Officer Mark A. MacPhailen was murdered in 1989 by unknown assailants.

  • Shortly after the murder, Troy Davis was arrested and has spent the last 17 years on death row based on the testimony of 9 witnesses against him.

  • 7 of those 9 witnesses have since recanted their testimony.

  • No gun has ever been produced linking Troy to the murder

  • One of the witnesses that has not recanted his testimony is Mr. Sylvester Coles. There is new evidence that he may be the real gunman.

    Troy was convicted solely on police wittiness testimony. 7 of 9 of them have recanted their story

    Yet he is still on death row!
    He will still be murdered tonight for a crime he did not commit.

    I encourage all of you to visit the Troy Davis Amnesty International site and take action before it's too late. I'm writing this post quickly to get the word out and with no editing at all. Amnesty does a much better job of explaining things than I do. They also provide ways you can help save Troy.

    Thank you for your help.
  • Monday, September 22, 2008

    Microsoft pitches a tent

    Christian Balady and Sean James are insane. Why else would perfectly reasonable, educated, and skilled people, working in a multi-billion dollar company with some of the largest data centers in the world suddenly decide to take some servers and stick them under a tent in the fuel yard?

    Absolute lunacy? Maybe not.

    According to the pair, both Microsoft employees, the servers ran for 7 months with no downtime. Water dripped onto the rack. Nothing happened. Heat hit the tent. Nothing happened. A leaf stuck to a server panel. Nothing happened.

    What this means is that servers might be a lot hardier than we once thought and all this insanity of 35 degree cooled rooms that cost ungodly amounts of money per month to run might prove to be the real lunacy in this mix.

    Microsoft has already been running one of its Irish data centers on mostly outside air and has saved thousands of dollars in the process. Sure, when the temperatures soar, you have to turn on the air. But as long as things don't go above 80F, everything seems to be fine.

    I've been telling people for years that this obsession with super-cooled server rooms was silly. One of the first things I've always done when taking over a new server room is to make sure that the servers have proper breathing room and air circulation and then turn up the temperature. I've kept most of my rooms at 70F+ with no problems at all and cooling the room only when temps got uncomfortable.

    Don't get me wrong, nobody is saying that super-cooled server rooms are a thing of the past - yet. But it's becoming very obvious that we don't need to go to the lengths or the expense that's often associated with them. What we're seeing is a huge shift in the way we treat our servers and that's a good, economical thing.

    Servers, after all, should be green too.

    Saturday, September 20, 2008

    Interview with Rebecca Norlander of Microsoft

    Rebecca Norlander - Challenge and Success

    Rebecca Norlander works at Microsoft. She has been involved in the Windows XP SP2 project, the Excel and Internet Explorer projects, and has worked as part of the Windows Vista Security Team. She now serves as Technical Strategist to Chief Software Architect, Ray Ozzie.

    In this video, Rebecca discusses the challenges and successes she's experienced during her rise and ride through the Microsoft machine.


    Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    Who's to blame for the recent financial collapse? Maybe you!

    Today, the United States Government announced that it will offer an $80 billion dollar aide package to failing insurance company American International Group, commonly known as AIG. While experts agree that this amount might not be enough to prevent the company from eventually collapsing under its own weight, there are others who argue that the government should not have stepped in at all and should have let the company fail.

    I am one of those people.

    The recent Wall Street collapse of giants such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and even AIG can largely be tracked directly back to the whole sub-prime mortgage problems that started to come to light late last year and early this year.

    In a nutshell, companies such as Countrywide Financial got people financed through banks who were willing to extend loans to people with high risk. Often, these people had little or no verifiable sources of income and, in some cases, didn't even have jobs. Banks made bets on these people and companies like AIG made bets on the banks.

    Both lost.

    When the sub-prime mortgage industry collapsed earlier this year, the banks who made these exploitative loans were the first to be hit. Losing billions of dollars in a single week, three of the five major U.S. banks were forced into seeking protection and the government stepped in to help. Companies like AIG, because they insured the nearly bogus loans these banks issued, were soon effected too and quickly found themselves in very hot financial waters.

    Really, the insurance failures shouldn't surprise anyone once you understand how closely these companies were tied to bank and mortgage companies. It's all a domino effect and, while it might not seem like it, it will end when the market is cleaned up of the sub-prime mess. And, while the U.S. economy remains fairly strong, I believe we can reasonably expect more companies in the sector to fail just as a result of their own involvement in the wholly corrupt sub-prime industry.

    What I do not believe is that the government should come to the rescue of these companies. They understood the risks involved in dealing with a specific demographic of people and decided to accept the risks because they thought they could make money. There is a reason why our credit rating system exist: it is to allow people to gauge the likelihood of repayment failure should they extend payment to you. When someone has a low credit score, has defaulted on loans, has a bankruptcy, or doesn't have a job or other source of income, it could reasonably be assumed that they are highly likely to default on a new loan. If you choose to extend credit to them anyway, then that is a risk you are taking in the hopes that things will tip in your favor and you will be the loan they choose to repay.

    You'll be wrong most of the time.
    You'll lose money most of the time.
    You don't form an entire industry on this big of a bet.

    Companies like Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and AIG took a bet and lost. That's their problem, not the American taxpayers'. These companies should be allowed to fail because, when they accepted the risks, they did so with the understanding that things might not go their way. The government is not the insurance companies insurance company. Nor should it be banks banks or lenders lenders. Businesses should stand or fall based on their decisions and actions. Nothing more.

    Now, don't think I'm placing all the blame on these companies doorsteps. I blame the consumers who got these loans just as much, if not even more, than the companies who issued them. They knew they should not have gotten these loans. They knew they couldn't repay them. They knew that, eventually, there was a very good chance they would default.

    That is why they went to a high risk lender in the first place.

    They made a stupid and poor financial decision and now they are having to pay for it. It's sad that they lost their home but, really, it's a home they should not have had in the first place. They were not qualified to have the type of debt they assumed and they now have to pay the piper.

    The blame for the ongoing collapse of Wall Street? It rests on AIG. It rests on Freddie Mac. It rests on Fannie Mae. But it also rests on the shoulders of every single person who applied for and got a sub-prime loan. That's not a popular thought. But it's honest. And it's true.

    Once could almost call it a conspiracy of idiots. Unfortunately, we all have to pay for it now.

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    Is partnering with Microsoft right for your business?

    These days, it seems like everyone needs a villain. OU has the Texas Longhorns, McCain has Obama, and the computer world has Microsoft. Over the past 20 years, Microsoft has slowly moved from being one of the most respected companies in the industry to one of the most vilified and it might be very hard for any rational business person to imagine the idea of forging an actual partnership with the company that has become known for being greedy, anti-competitive, and even outright incompetent.

    But let's look at a different side of Microsoft for a moment. Let's look at its partner program. It's widely regarded as one of the absolute best in the industry and very friendly to small businesses willing to commit to the company's technology and programs and move beyond the religious frenzy that's sprung up over the years.

    I signed up my small company, OpenEMR HQ, as a "Registered Microsoft Partner" about six months ago. This is the lowest partner level one can commit to and requires no financial committment at all. At this low level, you might ask, what benefit could we get from the program? Isn't the entire goal of the Partner Program to make money?

    When we signed up for the program, I thought the very same thing. But I have been very pleasantly surprised by Microsoft's commitment to our business success. While their involvement in our company hasn't been as deep as it would be if we'd signed up to one of the higher levels, we're getting incredible benefits from our association with the company.

    At the "Registered Partner" level, Microsoft makes available an enormous amount of resources. Sales information, marketing materials, training, discounts, special customer promotions, and access to an incredibly diverse technology stack that really allows my company to offer a best of breed solution to our customers.

    As an independent software developer (ISV), it definitely doesn't hurt us to go into a meeting and mention that we're a Microsoft Partner. But Microsoft also provides us with a wealth of development tools, information, and training that make developing our software on the Windows Server and Windows Desktop platforms dead simple. In fact, as much as I'm an advocate of Linux, we would not have been able to move as fast on creating our new PhoenixEMR desktop application or be as productive as quickly had we stuck to that platform.

    I'm not saying we're abandoning Linux in any way. I'm saying we're slowly becoming more technology agnostic and realizing that 'evil' is, when it comes to some things, in the eye of the beholder.

    So how could a partnership with Microsoft help your business? There are a number of ways...

    First, you have access to Partner Resources. This alone provides you with enough information that you could build an entire business around it and never hunger for money. Partner resources include marketing information, technical sales information, full-featured marketing campaigns, podcasts with other Microsoft Partners who's done what you're trying to do, and more. It's really one of the most valuable aspects of the program.

    You'll also have access to technology discounts through Microsoft Action Packs. These low costs bundles provide full-version internal use software to help you run your business. You do have to meet some requirements and their is a fee associated with the program but they are well worth the costs and will save you incredible amounts of money.

    Lastly, we can't forget the technical sales and support that comes with partnering with Microsoft. Customers server down? No problem, call Microsoft and they will help you troubleshoot and resolve the issue for free. Need to put together a unique proposal for a new client? Call Microsoft and they'll give you current, discount pricing on everything you need that will help you win the deal.

    Keep in mind that everything we've discussed is available to "Registered Partners" which means there is no financial commitment. Increase your alignment with Microsoft and they will deepen their relationship with you. You invest in them and they invest with you. It really is a real partner situation.

    All-in-all, I realize that moving our business quickly forward is going to come with the help of Microsoft. We're aligning ourselves more closely with them and are already seeing returns from that alignment. We're learning that Microsoft is a good company that likes to win. And they understand that, when they help their partners win, they win too. They invest time, money, and resources in their partners like no other company I've worked with and I can tell that this is going to be a great partnership.

    We're upgrading our partnership this afternoon.

    Sunday, September 7, 2008

    Wednesday could be the end of the world

    The end of the world starting Wednesday the 10th ...the Vidéo of the Black Hole :
    press release :

    On Wednesday, 10 September, 2008, The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) will test the new Large Hadron Collider (LHC). This collider is the largest particle accelerator ever built and could become an incredible asset to scientists as they try to better understand our early universe from the Big Bang forward.

    While some project scientists have doubt that the LHC will even work at all, others within the program have expressed concern over what could happen if the process gets out of control for even a few fractions of a second. The results, these scientists say, could create a super massive black hole that, within hours, would swallow the entire earth and its nearby neighbors. The problem, say these scientists, is that nobody really knows what's going to happen when the collider is switched on. It's never been done before on this level.

    Colliders such as the LHC work by accelerating particles and then smashing them into each other thereby creating an explosion that, for a brief moment, creates a miniature version of the Big Bang. Smashing atoms in a collider on this scale could give the most accurate view of the formation of the universe we've ever seen. Or, it could end it all.

    The videos above are from a discussion on the video website Seesmic on the topic. The originator of the topic also provides links to both the CERN Press Release on the collider and a YouTube video that provides a simulation of what might happen if things go terribly wrong.

    What do you think will happen?
    If things go wrong, we might have as much as 36 to 72 hours before we're all toast.
    What would you do during those hours?