Archive for the 'Technology' Category

30
Apr
10

Dell & the Tegra2 Tablet? Forget it!

http://www.engadget.com/2010/04/21/dell-looking-glass-tablet-leaks-tegra-2-coming-your-way-in-nove/

As if they haven’t brought enough mediocrity to the laptop and desktop, Dell has set their sites on the new tablet/pad space Apple has opened up in computer hardware with its iPad. in typical form, Dell will try to appeal on price –casting aside such nice-to-haves like usability and quality.
You couldn’t give me a Dell computer or peripheral. Their new products are garbage — loaded down with enough begware out of box to make the product unusable. Who are they serving? Customers or Vendors? Most of the products preloaded on their boxes are worthless or second-rate to begin with. How much LESS could Dell care about their customers? I wrote Jeff Clarke (head of Dell Mfg-Americas) a note expressing concern over the amount of begware and garbage installed on new Dell computers. The bastard couldn’t be bothered to even answer.

Yo Jeff: I have no interest in a second rate product sold and supported by outsourced sales teams. Dell NO LONGER has any real engineering competency (they laid them all off–cheap bastards) in the US – so they are relying on the Chinese copycats to help provide the technologies they are clueless on how to provide.

The effort to migrate mfg to the Chinese was so hopeless that Dell had to rehire a BIOS engineering buddy of mine (Dell HATES spending money on anyone competent) to hold their hands (via tele-conf) because the company now lacks any real problem-solving creativity.

Hopefully Dell bastards will be acquired soon. The best thing Mikey Dell could do for shareholders if he gave one shit would be to sell the company off in pieces, give the shareholders their money back & get out of the hardware biz. Yes, I know it sounds a little like the advice the egomaniac gave Steve Jobs re: Apple about 10 years ago when Mikey THOUGHT he was on top.

Yo Mikey Dell: YOUR COMPANY CULTURE IS IN RUINS & *YOUR PRODUCTS ARE NO LONGER LEADERS, THEY ARE PATHETIC LOW QUALITY CRAP. * Dell can’t even keep its contract with the State of Texas because the products and services the dell lemmings sell and support are so poor. Texas is the even company’s HOME STATE as well as its place of incorporation! If they won’t buy, who will? Neophytes? Transactional business?

The only good thing about the Tegra2 would appear to be its use of Android, Google’s mobile device O/S..
However, I’d still stick to Apple’s iPad and keep your eye on Palm|HP & RIMM’s forthcoming offerings.

31
Mar
10

The State of Media Player

Home entertainment is in the midst of a transformation that may give consumers the ability to truly watch and listen to what they want when they want. I am, of course, describing the media center appliance, an appliance-like unit that marries to one’s home entertainment system and allows for multimedia content from various sources (traditional cable, home file server via TCP/IP network, VCR, DVD etc) to be utilized as the user chooses. These media players have been around in one form or another since VGA ports started commonly appearing on the back of TV sets over almost a decade ago. The problem has been two-fold: the UI (user interface) and the content control.

User interface design (or HCI) is a study of reducing and simplifying the number of visual cues required for humans to quickly and easily accomplish computer-based tasking. Without going into great description, it would suffice to say that the efforts the market has seen so far have been mediocre, at best. Too often (as in Microsoft’s “Media Center” and “Home Server” products) the products introduced are nothing more than sophomoric regurgitations of existing products (MS Media Center used a re-factored XP) — often performing some of the key features of a media appliance as though it were a “bolt-on” or an after-thought.

Media control is likely the largest factor in the glacial pace that the innovation of the media appliance has taken. Media rights groups (MPAA, RIAA, etc) feel a concern that copyrighted and trademarked materials will be abused if the media player mfgs are not compelled to design equipment that respects the digital rights of media creators. The reality is these greedy media pigs are probably more of an impediment to a meaningful solution than any sort of catalyst. There is no doubt digital rights need to be preserved, however, at a time when we are seeing intellectual property in other realms (i.e., pharma, bio, medicine, agri, etc) be afforded shorter windows of exclusivity it would seem daft and out-of-step not to see similar considerations made on multimedia properties as well.

Presently, I am using an AppleTV, a stripped down PC and a Sonos unit (ZP120) and I like them all. That said, I wish I could have the features each has in one box/appliance. The AppleTV works well for me however, the fact it will play only Quicktime MOV, MP3 and M4V make it less than a complete solution. Apple stupidly made iTunes the “sync-n-add” mechanism for the AppleTV rather than having the Apple TV unit operate with a web interface on-board to manage these all load and organize tasks. This was an odd mistake for Apple – only further demonstrating that even those with good track records in providing consumer electronics have not had a winner here yet.

The Sonos is a real winner and – if it had a means to offer video as well – would likely be my choice. However, it does not — leaving the product a good match only for my sound (not visual) needs.

The stripped down PC is by far the most useful but the least easy to use. The keyboard and mouse (std.io) is clunky and a piss-poor match for the needs one has in a home entertainment landscape.  No matter – sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

BTW, if any of you have good things to say about any and all media server/centers please feel free to embellish in comments.  I would love to get some insights from others on this topic.

17
Oct
09

Ad Hoc Reporting Tools Begin to Come of Age

Lately, I have been reviewing various web-delivered,ad-hoc reporting platforms for a client and I have been surprised at the improvement in overall quality that is now available for small budgets with limited technical skill-sets.   Many small and middle-sized businesses with insufficient reporting capabilities on their primary business transaction systems (POS/OLTP) have historically not had the money, time or intellectual resources to put many business intelligence (BI) products into their business operations and decision-making.  The time and cost of development for these systems was often in excess of what all but the fastest growing and most technically-savvy and resourced corporations  could afford.   It’s clear that the times have changed – or perhaps we are in the midst of change. Rapid change.   I would argue the latter.

Products like LogiXML and Pentaho are  examples of the sort of reporting product platforms I see as adding value to decision-making, data mining and trend analysis in many small businesses.  These products are easily configured and can be re-configured or rebuilt at any time. This allows businesses to “crawl-walk-run” in their adoption of an ad hoc platform.

The Microsoft SQL Service Analysis Services/Reporting Services 2005/2008 tools can be used to meet the needs of many of the reporting needs of businesses , however it appears to lack ad-hoc capabilities from what I have seen thus far.   Perhaps more study and diligence will reveal my ignorance first hand. <grin>  Stay tuned.

LogiXML

29
Jul
09

Apple–why do you insist on screwing your iPhone customers?

Most people have speculated that Google Voice was rejected from the App Store at AT&T’s behest. The reason? Apple’s official line is that Google Voice duplicates features already on the iPhone—namely the Phone and Messages app. Of course, none of that holds water, considering the App Store is already full of alternate SMS apps and apps like Skype that sport a telephone dialer.
Limiting apps from the App Store is a gutless, chicken shit move. I have long been a proponent of Apple products but this is a great example of Apple S-C-R-E-W-I-N-G their customers and concerning themselves less with the community and more with their relationship with AT&T.  As an iPhone customer (2 times over now), I can attest to the fact that AT&T’s quality of service (QOS) is horrible in many US cities. Without the exclusive iPhone contract, I would no sooner use AT&T for my mobile communications than I would jump from a moving vehicle (both are painful- being an AT&T customer may be worse).  It is simply because of the iPhone that they can count me and so many others in their customer ranks.

Apple needs to wake up and realize that customer loyalty is a competency that they cannot afford to trivialize and allow to be frittered away.  Limiting the marketplace for the sake of (weak) alliances and partnerships is a mistake – and sadly one that Apple seems to have made.  And why?  I guess the money must have been good to sell out your soul.

03
Jul
09

iMac Upgrade

Paul was doing some edgy stuff in a VM when his iMac’s hard drive gave out.
After a few attempts at resuscitation, Paul went and bought a new drive and got some extra RAM while he was there.
I agreed to come over and help him with the install. Paul has good experience but had not cracked a lot of Mac cases. He did his research – finding a video on YouTube that we watched the way a football coach watches an opposing teams tapes (rewind play rewind play rewind play…). We were finally able to (carefully) remove the LCD and get to the drive. Apple couldn’t make this more difficult. With two of us, we were able to eventually get everything accomplished but what a pain in the ass!
Clearly there is a need for easy access to the hard drive for both the owner and the technician. I guess the greed-heads at Apple didn’t get that memo.

26
May
09

Migrate to a 3g iPhone?

My wife and I have been thinking about trading in our 2g iPhones for a pair of new ones. The sleak design and additional GPS feature would be useful.

What stands in the way?

Well, for starters the fPhoto 3act that the data plan costs $10 more per month than with the 2g phone. Again, the only difference in the two phones from a feature perspective is GPS – so why the price difference… and why do I have to abandon my superior plan?

Second, is the actual price of the phone. The new iPhone prices at $599 if you do NOT sign up for a new plan at the time you buy the phone. What an absolute rip-off! It’s peers price more than 20% less than that. If you are willing to bend over and “take it” (the plan, that is) they will be happy to sell you the phone for $199. So lame. So lame- in fact – you would think Apple had employed Dell’s customer service or Microsoft’s product management (two abysmally unsuccessful groups grasping at straws for a clue) to develop the marketing plan and sales playbook for the 3g iPhone.

OK APPLE — “LISTEN UP”: Why not offer EXISTING 2g customers a “migration path” to the new product? It seems foolish to lock up the early adopters in the old 2g model. These are your evangelists! They should have your latest products!
These are the people that helped get the word out about your phone product initially before you had a track record. So why do you punish them?

How can you help them, Apple?  Offer a trade-in program for working 2g phones with active AT&T contracts:  Trade in a 2g phone + $199 for a new iPhone 3g AND stay on your existing plan BUT add 2 additional years to the contract length. This would serve everyone’s interests and likely boost adoption rates.
This is the most logical path for Apple to take to increase penetration and help reduce acct erosion when Android is more widely deployed later this year. Think about it. I’m waiting….

12
Aug
08

Business Intelligence : Oxymoron?

According to Wikipedia : “Business Intelligence (BI) refers to technologies, applications and practices for the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of business information to better support business decision making.”

Phew!  That’s a mouthful.  What does that really mean?

I think if you asked a lot of my former employers they would tell you that BI gave them something to talk about and a means of understanding whether the business was successful or not in its objectives.  That is, of course, a limited definition of the power of BI — limiting BI to simple runrate metrics.  While barely scratching the surface of BI, this is a common usage scenario.   Too often, companies are satisfied to just have timely data for reporting – forget rule-based inclusion/exclusion (exception reporting) or any serious analysis.

For BI of any sort to be effective, it must be (1) timely, (2) accurate, and (3) directive. There are many analysis-based exercises that are not so structured:  these can generally be characterized as “data mining”.  BI is a means of understanding how current performance fares against expectations and how it might be improved.  What is sometimes unclear to folks is the importance and necessity of having a functional subject expert define and quality assure the reporting product to be developed.  Without having these people’s input and their buy-in the effort is likely to fail.

Recognizing the benefits of BI is a team effort.  I/T-centric or business unit – centric solutions are doomed to failure – albeit due to cost, ineffectiveness or corporate politics.  Organizations must make every effort to ensure that BI reporting efforts are carefully defined by technologists and functionals if the effort is to be ultimately successful.  The buy-in of the team – end to end – is critical.

I recently came across the website Zoho (http://www.zoho.com/).  If you have not been to this site, please do check it out for yourself.  The site provides a variety of online applications and low-cost alternatives to enterprise platforms (e.g., CRM).  Cool stuff- but even they don’t have an ETL tool!




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