Saturday, 31 January 2009

Good or bad, we live and work in an increasingly binary world.

More and more I notice our collective bipolar mentality. Everything is completely one extreme or another, with no time or thought put into the idea that there might be something much more realistic and reasonable in-between. It's black or it's white. You're conservative or you're liberal. It's all the way on or it's shut completely off. It's awesomely great or it's despairingly terrible.

What happened to the various shades and levels of gray, moderation and good? Perhaps this is a result of our increasingly computer-centric boolean society, where everything at it's core can be distilled down to one's and zero's, on and off, yes or no - with nothing in-between. But the organic world has never worked that way, and I think maybe we're seeing the signs that people have forgotten to look for the compromise.

One case in point, among many: A blog article today at TechCrunch reports that management at a large company, Nielson, has decided to remove the Reply-All button from all instances of outlook. Apparently some executive committee decided this would reduce waste and increase productivity. Certainly they must be right: It's a technology problem, right? Whoever the person was that thought of the reply-all concept originally couldn't possibly have been thinking about the consequences of including this feature. They must have been misguided, unknowing and wrong.

Or were they?

To take such drastic action as to completely remove the reply-all button from Outlook seems - well - misguided, unknowing and wrong. It takes a people problem, assumes (incorrectly) that it's a technology problem, and in the end creates a new - and potentially larger - business problem.

Don't get me wrong. I hate rampant reply-all email threads as much as anyone, maybe even more so. I especially dislike the passive-aggressive, nasty, insolent and rude behavior that people often use (often, ironically, in a reply-all email) to try to tell people how much they dislike email spam. If I'm copied on a business topic thread that I don't feel the need to review and would especially like to avoid, I don't like it. But I really hate it when people include me on their angry extension of the thread where they insult the original sender and complain. At least the original thread had a business purpose.

As a senior manager, several times I've replied-to-all to say "This thread is closed, please restrict the distribution of future info those those who are needed." In every case, the goal was to get people to stop and think. It almost always worked.

Now, I can see where accidental reply-all's and excess email would business and technology people to look for a way to just make it stop. I'm not saying there's not a problem to be solved - quite the contrary. But reply-all also provides a legitimate and useful piece of business functionality, one that makes people more efficient and in many cases ensures all the right people are in the loop.

The real problem here is people-related: There's a time and a place for using reply-all, and when people get lazy or don't think things through, the situation can become spammy, annoying and time-consuming. When it's useful it's very useful. When its misused it's a real pain.

Given that fact, taking the all-or-nothing, binary technology approach and removing the functionality entirely seems to be a poor method for dealing with is - at it's root - a people behavior problem.

In fact, for years there have been other options available. One example is the Reply to All Monitor (pay software, try code RA26BA50 for a possible 50% price reduction). There are other apps out there, as well. If you don't want to buy software, you can also program some VBA code to modify Outlook's behavior and prompt the user before they can send ("Are you sure you want to reply-all?"). Plus, there are a variety of ways to configure all your Outlook instances to use a plugin or your own VBA code. Of course, if you're removing the reply-all button from all the Outlook instances at a company, you probably already know this.

Imagine: Someone else might have had this problem and found a smart way to solve it. I guess the thing that really bothers me is what looks and feels like a reactive decision, likely made by people without complete information. Do you really want to completely disable all reply-all's, or is the true intent and desire to try to get people to think before they send, while allowing reply-all in cases where it makes sense?

Anyhow, I think you get the point. You can't really solve people problems with technology. Instead we should use technology to try to support people in behaving in the way we need then to. But in the end, it's all about the person's behavior, not the computer's.

Or you could say, "Buttons don't reply-to-all, people reply-to-all."



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Tech | Things that Suck
Saturday, 31 January 2009 13:20:41 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 26 January 2009

Although there's not a specific release date or price available yet, AT&T has posted some information on their web site that points to the future release of their new, in-home 3G cell station, which I mentioned here a couple weeks ago.

Engadget has some details about the device from the AT&T web site (details since removed from att,com, copied below), and images (like the one above) have started to show up on AT&T's site, as well. The pictures show two manufacturer names: Cisco on the case and Scientific Atlanta on the model/serial number label.

I'm looking forward to this, as I technically live outside the usable AT&T service area and can only occasionally/barely get a wireless signal at my home.

What is an AT&T 3G MicroCellâ„¢?

AT&T 3G MicroCell acts like a mini cellular tower in your home or small business environment. It connects to AT&T's network via your existing broadband internet service (such as DSL or cable) and is designed to support up to 10 3G capable wireless phones in a home or small business setting. With AT&T 3G MicroCell, you receive improved cellular signal performance for both voice calls and cellular data applications, like picture messaging and surfing the web for up to 4 simultaneous users.

Device Features:

  • Enhanced coverage indoors - supports both voice and data up to 5000 square feet.
  • Available unlimited minute plans - Individual or Family Plan.
  • 3G handset compatible - works with any AT&T 3G Phone.
  • Up to 4 simultaneous voice or data users supported.
  • Device is secure - cannot be accessed by unauthorized users, easy and secure online management of device settings
  • Seamless call hand-over - start calls on your 3G MicroCell and continue uninterrupted even if you leave the building.

Device Requirements:

  • 3G wireless phone/device
  • Broadband service over DSL or cable
  • Computer with internet access for online registration

Additional Information:

  • Installing your device near a window is strongly recommended to ensure access to Global Positioning System (GPS). A GPS link is needed to verify the device location during the initial startup.
  • The 3G MicroCell device is portable. The device may be moved, provided the new location is within the AT&T authorized service area and properly registered online.


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Mobile | Tech
Monday, 26 January 2009 18:40:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 09 January 2009

Microsoft has turned loose its Windows 7 Beta release to the public, and you can download it now. The beta times-out in the fall (it is a test version, after all), and is apparently limited to 2.5 million installs (product keys). You can learn more about the Windows 7 Beta release in our interview with Microsoft's Stephen Rose on RunAs Radio.

As of 11:45 a.m. Pacific time, the "profile.microsoft.com" servers responsible for the first phase of getting the new software were - not surprisingly - too busy. Try again later. We might see things improve in a few minutes (Update: no change after the advertised time, just to many excited people), since the official release time is actually noon Pacific time (GMT -8). But it would be unusual for TechNet to post the page without the software being rolled out.

TechNet Plus subscribers (only) should download the software here.

You can use a program like ImgBurn (cool little app) to put the ISO image on your writable blank DVD.

I already have my downloaded copy and key, so time to install it on my HP laptop machine now that I have some spare time available for the next hour or so.



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Geek Out | Tech | Windows
Friday, 09 January 2009 11:48:15 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 07 January 2009

The CES Keynote is over, so now you can listen to our exclusive Windows 7 interview with Microsoft Sr. Community Manager for Windows Client IT Pros, Stephen Rose, available at these links:

RunAs Radio Web Site | Download MP3 file | Download WMA file

Alongside a core message of stepping up expectations in technology despite the economy, Microsoft announced this evening that it's releasing its Windows 7 Beta (build 7000) to the public for open testing and feedback. Last week Richard Campbell and I interviewed Microsoft's Stephen Rose for today's episode of RunAs Radio to discuss today's beta release, which was officially announced by Steve Ballmer during his keynote at CES tonight.

The general public gets it to download it this weekend, while MSDN and TechNet customers can get it now (product keys through the standard methods). Our interview with Stephen Rose contains some details about the how's and when's of getting the beta software for different people, as well as what one can expect from Windows 7.

It's good to see Microsoft adopting an open-beta model, where anyone who wants to can participate in the feedback process. It's going to be quite the undertaking to manage so many downloads and users, but I imagine it will be very much worth it in the end.

Of course, running a beta OS (which I tend to do regularly) isn't for the timid nor faint of heart. But for those who are comfortable, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with the new version and what it has to offer when you check it out. Note that both 32- and 64-bit editions are available and the beta expires/times-out in the fall of this year.

Links for more information about and access to the Windows 7 Beta:



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Geek Out | Tech | Windows
Wednesday, 07 January 2009 18:56:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Unfortunately, I'm not one of the customers that AT&T has apparently been reaching out to in their testing of in-home micro wireless stations. I wish I was, since I live in the sticks and barely get service at all on my AT&T wireless phone. This is exactly what I need: A broadband-connected device that gives you local 3G coverage in your home.

Ars Technica reports that AT&T has described the device this way:

"AT&T's new product is a small, security-enabled cellular base station that easily connects to your home DSL or Cable Internet, providing a reliable wireless signal for any 3G phone in every room of your house. The device allows you to have unlimited, nationwide Anytime Minutes for incoming or outgoing calls."

If anyone from AT&T happens to be reading, I'd be ecstatic to try the device out and provide detailed feedback. Feel free to contact me, my email and phone number are over in the sidebar. I'm just sayin' ... :-)



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Mobile | Tech
Wednesday, 07 January 2009 15:49:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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SD cards have become a de facto standard format for media in most devices, with a couple holdouts (namely Sony, which predictably uses a proprietary format). As such, the format has grown and there's been quite a bit of innovation effort focused in the SD arena.

A couple of announcements made this week at the CES show in Las Vegas are worth paying attention to. In one announcement, we learn that the SD format will support massively larger storage. In the other announcement, a popular WiFi-enabled SD card gains some nifty new video-handling features.

SDXC means on-card storage increase to a theoretical 2 terabytes

The SD Association announced a new standard (links to PDF file) that will soon have us leveraging massively larger storage capabilities (with much higher purchase prices, one would have to assume - we will have to see what the economies of scale bring us):

"The new SDXC specification provides up to 2 terabytes storage capacity and accelerates SD interface read/write speeds to 104 megabytes per second this year, with a road map to 300 megabytes per second."

That's some serious storage and speed. Photographers and HD videographers can soon rejoice. Just don't lose your little 2-terabyte card. Of course, it's likely that new devices will be needed to support the new standard. The SD Association says the SDHC, Embedded SD and SDIO specifications will also benefit from the new SD interface speeds. I'd be very (and pleasantly) surprised if we can take advantage of the larger storage capabilities in existing devices.

New Eye-Fi SD cards will allow direct HD uploads to YouTube

Eye-Fi already has a great thing going with their SD cards that use WiFi to transfer digital images, and now they're previewing a new card technology that will allow you to directly transfer your HD video content straight from the card to YouTube via WiFi. Now that's cool. I really want one of those for use in my Kodak Zi6 HD camera, and I'd use it in my full-sized HD camera, too. The power-requirement questions rattling around in my head will have to be answered at a later date, and I hope it will handle video as well as still images on the same card. Unfortunately they're not available yet, and no date was set for release. But I, for one, will definitely be watching for this.



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Mobile | Tech
Wednesday, 07 January 2009 14:29:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Ever wonder how they put that amazing magical yellow line on the line of scrimmage and at the first-down point on the college and NFL football games we watch on TV? It's a terrific technology and has in many ways made watching football very different since it was adopted several years ago.

Well, for those of use who have wondered exactly how they do it, here's a video via FANDOME that explains in some technical detail how the magic TV line on the football field works:


Very cool stuff.



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Geek Out | Tech
Wednesday, 07 January 2009 13:41:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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This is pretty cool. Not completely new, but interesting for the future.

LG will (eventually) be shipping a wrist-wearable cell phone that they just showed at the CES show in Las Vegas. I'm just pointing it out because this might just be the first watch I'd be willing to actually wear. Maybe. I'll probably hold out for a little thinner and smaller. Regardless, it's pretty cool.

There's an Engadget video of it at: http://www.viddler.com/explore/engadget/videos/116/

Would you want to wear a phone on your wrist? Useful or just geeky? I can hear the wrist-cancer complaints coming already...

(via Engadget)

Update - More links:

IntoMobile coverage - with lots of pics



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Geek Out | Mobile | Tech
Wednesday, 07 January 2009 12:16:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 06 January 2009

I've written here several times in the past about Pandora, the slick Internet music app that streams music it determines you'll like based on a starting point you give it (like a specific artist, for example). You can refine the channel by voting up or down, song by song. Based on your votes and the "genetic" makeup of the music you rate, it determines what other music to put into the channel. The greatest aspect of using Pandora is discovering some truly great music and artists, many of which I never heard of before Pandora. It changed my music world.

Not too long ago, Pandora for the iPhone was released, and it was the number-one free iPhone app for 2008, and for good reason. It works well on WiFi or 3G networks and provides the majority of the functionality you get on the full-blown web app.

Well, today Pandora released v2 of their iPhone app, and they've added even more to it. Gleaned from the release notes, here are the new features:

  • Tap the album art to see a progress bar, create a station from the current song or artist, or to email the station to a friend
  • View the "back side" of the album art to read artist bios
  • Rotates to a landscape layout to see recently played songs (coverflow-style)
  • Play samples of each of your bookmarked songs
  • Create a station based on genre

It's a cool update. I just wish I could close it and have it play in the background while I do other thing son my iPhone. I mean, come on Apple - It's the number-one app, make an exception, please! Anyhow, I don't know if I will use it more (it was already pretty great), but it adds some smart new functionality that's appreciated. You can find it here (links to iTunes App Store) or just get it for free via the App Store icon on your iPhone or iPod Touch.

A few photos to show you what I'm talking about:


Artist bio


'Create New Station' options


Sending to a friend without leaving the app


Coverflow-like view of past-played songs



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Apple | Mobile | Tech
Tuesday, 06 January 2009 20:01:50 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 04 January 2009

Mark Minasi is a true character, and always a fun guy to have a conversation with. While in Las Vegas at the Connections conference Richard Campbell and I had a couple fun discussions with Mark, including one on the concept of Cloud Computing, and in the context of Microsoft's recent Azure announcement.

Mark's take on the whole cloud-computing thing is an interesting one. You can listen to our conversation with him via the RunAs Radio show link (Site|MP3).

While you're at it, you might also be interested in our other interview discussion with Mark that we did in Vegas, in which we covered (sort of, and among many other random things) Windows 7 (Site|MP3). It's a little crazy and chaotic, but was also a lot of fun.

Enjoy.



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RunAs Radio | Tech
Sunday, 04 January 2009 12:17:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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