Monday, 13 October 2008

Space Aliens for McCain or Obama? Could be... Someone's trying to get the vote word out, that's for sure.

Updates: The corn field in the video is at Baggenstos Farms, and you can go walk through it. Also, I'm geeking out a bit on the fact that I filed the video as a CNN iReport that was featured all day today on the homepage of and was viewed by 220,000 people in one day (wow). A portion of it was also aired on TV tonight on Anderson Cooper 360. That was fun.

I had a flying lesson Monday morning and on the way back to our home airport, my instructor and I saw an unusual crop formation in a corn field from about 1000 feet above the ground. You'd never see it otherwise. You think someone out there is trying to send us a message? I captured it for you to see with my new Kodak Zi6 pocket HD video camera. You can get the higher-quality version of the video here.

Oh, and by the way: Don't forget to vote!

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Random Stuff
Monday, 13 October 2008 14:21:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Analyst and research company Gartner revised its IT industry projection figures and - as reported this morning by ZDNet and released by Gartner themselves - presented them during a symposium keynote at the company's big annual IT conference, which opened this morning. In a nutshell, Gartner analyst Peter Sondergard says they still expect growth, and that even in the very worst case, IT spending next year will fall about 2.5 percent. From ZDNET:

  • Gartner had expected budgets to grow 3.3 percent in 2009.
  • Now the most likely case is IT budget growth of 2.3 percent to 0 percent.
  • The worst case is that IT budgets will be down 2.5 percent.

Forrester Research also recently cut it's projections for 2009 IT spending, but still ended up with figures in positive growth territory. So, if the analysts are to be believed, the business sector feeding products and services to IT should still see some growth.

The question is, where will that growth happen? My guess would be that one good place to be doing business is anywhere products or services are commoditized and can be outsourced, as well as in key technology areas like security and high availability.

Having successfully managed an IT organization at a "dot-com" company through a few years of painful economic times early in this decade, I can say from experience that at the time we had to cut overall IT spending dramatically to allow the company to survive. We went quickly from buying lots of new computers and software and building out data centers to buying practically nothing new for two full years. We renegotiated stacks of contracts with vendors and major software suppliers, consolidated services, convinced vendors to charge us less, and in the end prioritized every single project and said "no" a lot.

As a result, we cut our multi-million dollar budget almost in half and - in combination with other business changes - put ourselves in a position where we were just able to weather the storm financially. It was painful and a bit scary at times, and we had to deal with the side effects of substantial change. We had to get very creative in leveraging what we already had and nothing more, but in the end we all learned a difficult yet necessary lesson: You don't have to spend, spend spend to survive, or even to thrive in some cases.

In fact, what we needed to do was just the opposite of the "spend" approach. We would still spend where it made the most sense - but our decision-making process changed dramatically. You have to shift where the money goes to maximize your dollar's impact in the specific environment, adapt to the rapid changes in the marketplace, and work with your business partners and vendors to make it through to the other side. Smart vendors and good partners know that doing whatever it takes to survive a storm together means a better relationship when we all come out of the clouds.

Gartner has a list of ten things they say IT organizations need to consider when faced with tough economic times. They are not easy or happy things. But I think they're spot-on. I've had to do all of these things when times were toughest.

  • Reduce headcount or freeze hiring
  • Renegotiate with technology and service providers
  • Curtail data center expansion, virtualize assets and lease them back
  • Consolidate systems
  • Outsource commodity
  • Offshore outsource
  • Investment shutdown
  • Prioritize projects
  • Mothball businesses and projects
  • Change leadership and restructure IT teams

What's your IT plan? Are your budgets shrinking, or staying about the same? How would you prepare for tight times ahead?

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Monday, 13 October 2008 07:30:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 10 October 2008

Over and over it's obvious that the vast majority of people I speak with have no real idea what the current financial situation is all about, how it happened and how it works.

It's not often I'll ask people to take the time to listen to an audio show, no matter what. But in this case, I think it's important enough. With all the media discussion about the gloom and doom of the current economic mess, there's been little or no meaningful education about what caused it and where we are now. Panic reporting doesn't prepare anyone. History and analysis does.

So: Listen to two audio episodes of a show called This American Life, which are linked below, and you'll be a much more aware citizen. You'll find yourself much better prepared to think about where we're at and where we're going. Understanding how we got here is critical to understanding where we're going, and why.

I hope this is helpful to at least one person. I know I found the reporting and explanations cogent, thoughtful, understandable, non-partisan and non-political, and - as a result - quite valuable.

Let me know what you think.

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Friday, 10 October 2008 12:11:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 07 October 2008

The Chumby is a cool little Internet-enabled device that sits pretty much wherever you want and does all sorts of cool things. You can check it out here. Today it became even better that before, in a way that I especially appreciate, so I jumped on eBay to see if any were available there (you can buy them online new, too).

So what's this new cool thing that makes it even better in my eyes? Pandora - the Internet "radio station" app that I already use on my computer as well as my iPhone, is now available for Chumby.

I'm looking forward to waking up to my Pandora stations, viewing the latest weather for flying, playing new podcasts when they become available, displaying some of my favorite pictures. I'm sure there are a ton of cool things I'll be able to use it for that I can't possibly think of yet. I'll have to take a look at the Chumby Widgets guide while I wait for it to arrive.

A bit about the Chumby:

Chumby was designed from the beginning to take all your favorite parts of the internet, whether they’re video clips, or internet radio stations, or anime cartoons, or sports scores or the weather, or anything else, and, using your existing wi-fi connection, simply deliver them to you at a glance. Automatically, one after the next. You just leave it on — don’t worry, your carbon footprint isn’t getting much deeper, chumby draws far less power than a light bulb. No need to go to your study and boot up your computer and launch a browser, no need to fish your smartphone out of your purse and launch the browser application (…and wait) to get your favorite bits of online goodness.

Do you have one? What do (or would) you use it for?

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Geek Out | Tech
Tuesday, 07 October 2008 18:53:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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DirecTV had an unusual technical glitch sometime in the past 48 hours, and as a result customers with either standard or HD DVRs might experience issues with a "frozen remote" or similar behavior. DirecTV Has emailed customers to let them know (see below).

This is important because if your DVR is in the hung state they describe, you need to reset it, or your scheduled recordings will likely not be recorded.

I had the issue exactly as described the night before last on my HD-DVR, and did a red button reset (RBR) at that time in order to restore it to normal functionality, which is pretty much what the email from DirecTV says to do:


In our effort to improve and expand our service, we experienced a temporary technical glitch. If your HD DVR or DVR receiver is not responding to your remote control or front panel commands, you can resolve this issue by pressing the red "Reset" button located inside the small door on the front right corner of your receiver. Please allow about 15 minutes for your receiver to complete the resetting process. Once completed, your picture will return automatically. Unfortunately, any show you may have scheduled to record yesterday will not be available on your DVR.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. Our promise is to provide you with the best television experience, and to resolve any issues that might arise as quickly as possible. If you have any further concerns, please do not hesitate in contacting us at 1-800-347-3288.

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Random Stuff | Tech
Tuesday, 07 October 2008 16:43:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Larry Dignan posted some interesting charts, graphs and figures today over at ZDNet looking at advertising revenue for the first half of 2008, compared to previous periods. He also asks what will happen to advertising revenue in the faltering economy. Good question.

What I know best is my experience, which is undoubtedly unique since this site is not exactly huge (about 750K pageviews/month). However, over the past few years I have watched my revenue trends from contextual advertising rise and fall. In these most recent "tough" times for the overall economy, my advertising numbers (meaning impressions, click-through rates, eCPM, daily revenue, etc.) have increased somewhat dramatically.

If you think about it, this could actually make some sense. Less discretionary, from-the-hip spending by various types of consumers means the market needs to find effective ways to reach out to buyers. In many cases, where consumers are looking to save a few bucks on a purchase, they will naturally turn to the Internet for better deals. So, maybe the Internet advertising world has a real opportunity.

My weblog and the few other site I have don't rely on financial services or automotive industry related advertising, granted. I could be way off base here. Yet I can't help but wonder what the second half will look like. I have at least some confidence it will weather this storm. Time will tell.


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AudioBlogging | Random Stuff
Tuesday, 07 October 2008 11:37:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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