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Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer CEO of Yahoo! …

… Is being castigated for her decision to end a work from home policy for Yahoo employees.

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo via Yahoo News

I saw the story from Huffington Post by Lisa Belkin earlier today via friends on Facebook and I’m watching this trend with interest.

Ironically…

…the one place this isn’t trending is on Yahoo‘s newly revamped homepage.

At first glance this kind of story inspires total and utter outrage; especially, if you have ever benefitted from a company who allows or encourages work from home as a policy.

Interestingly Enough …

…The only major change at Yahoo! Since Marissa Mayer took the reins is this revamped homepage:

yahoo homepage

The revamped Yahoo homepage

Most likely in banning work from home at Yahoo! many employees who have until now relied on this policy to make a crust will be forced to look elsewhere.

Mayer has promoted a workforce reduction / cost cutting on salaries, benefits, health care et cetera without being the CEO who actively gutted the personnel roster of the company.

Is this all just linkbait?

Are We Missing The Point?

To be fair to Marissa Mayer she is sitting in the CEO’s office with access to data and statistics that we simply don’t have. She has made a tough decision one assumes based on that knowledge.

Yahoo seems stuck in place and if it has grown as large and unwieldy as it is rumored then this may be a sound strategy for encouraging streamlining and not a mass firing.

Did Mayer look at all the metrics and decide that work at home was not producing sound results? The HR memo cites the benefits of impromptu water-cooler / corridor meetings. The truth is simply allowing work at home without implementing a sound policy of what meetings have to be face to face, what tools have to be used and or what level of productivity is expected of a 100% work at home employee is setting yourself and this policy up to fail.

Yahoo has allowed this policy forever and yet one would expect that they and not Google’s Google+ or Skype (paid version) would be the forerunners of group video chat. This is a tool that should have been developed in-house (for internal use based on NEED way before Google Hangouts or Skype Group Calls) and then released to Yahoo Mail / Messenger users. Nutshell: Missed opportunity.

Marissa Mayer may have made a very tough decision to bite the bullet and set Yahoo on a path to becoming a leaner company where face-time drives innovation and the employees who simply cannot comply with this ban on work from home are at this moment updating their resumes.

The Warptest POV

On the face of it this is an harsh decision that simply does not factor individual employees personal situations or contributions to the company. It seems to speak to a disconnect between upper management and those employees who have no choice due to personal situation but to work a portion of their time from home.

Productivity and innovation are not always inspired by long work hours in the cube farm or increasingly tough changes to work conditions. You want your employees happily focused on work, feeling creative and driven unless you are the King of Sparta.

Whilst I believe that Marissa Mayer has more to show us than this decision in reshaping Yahoo, I would be more impressed if there were whispers of unveiling a dramatic new direction for Yahoo beyond homepage redesign with continuous scroll.

Maybe we are in for a surprise at Mobile World Congress or SXSW but for now what I’m seeing is corporate strategy and I hope that there more than this ahead for Yahoo.

Do you use Facebook Events? It’s a feature I like and end up using a lot.

(Saying that I don’t manage my calendar from Facebook and I find the export event feature a real pain. I tend to just copy paste to my GCal then sync with my mobile.)

Facebook has another really nice feature Places. It’s the Facebook entry into Locational Services and “Check-Ins” and at present is available mainly to iPhone and Android phones or on other Web enabled mobiles via the following URL: –

http://touch.facebook.com

This feature allows the user to share their latest or real-time location.

How come Events and Places don’t converge and work together?

Places uses Bing Maps and has a “Get Directions” Feature but when I checked, it doesn’t use the last check-in as Start or End point.

If I was testing this feature I would definitely be reporting this as a bug.

Facebook_Mobile_Places

m.bing.map

If I accept an Event why doesn’t Facebook piggyback on Places to offer me a route to the Event. Neat options would be: –

1. Give me a route now (at time of accepting the Event invite).

2. Offer me a route each time my location changes in Places.

3. Let me set an “alarm” for x hours before the Event to check my location and offer me a route to the Event.

So what do you think, should Facebook start maximizing these features to give users a more convergent experience?

Technorati Tags: ,,,,,,Locational Services

There you are happily drinking your coffee, starting your day off with strong, productive intent and something goes wrong with your PC.

An application freezes, hangs or crashes. Things are unresponsive and you feel frustrated, annoyed and held back from getting down to work.

The list of possible culprits can be endless and rather than shooting in the dark at a diagnosis there are a few things you can do to track down and resolve the issue: –

  • Contact me or my brother’s company and we’ll sort out your problems [remember, nothing’s free in life :-)]

    image

  • If a website or web application is misbehaving consider using a cache cleaning tool like CCleaner, nCleaner or Windows Live One Care Clean-Up or simply try using an alternative browser.

    image

  • If this doesn’t help, then it may be a bad plugin / add-on in your browser; run your browser in safe mode to see if the problem recurs. If not then you are going to have to test to see which add-on is the problem by activating them one at a time and returning to the problem site: –

    1. Internet Explorer (IE8) – right click the IE icon on the desktop and select from the menu Start without add-ons.
    2. Firefox (3.x) – from the Start Menu – run and type in the command line "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe” -safe-mode" and enter
    3. Chrome – simply open an incognito window and plugins etc will be temporarily disabled
    4. Opera – open Opera – from the menu go to Settings – select Quick Preferences and from the menu deselect the Enable Plug-Ins  checkbox.

Let’s say you did all this and things are still not working, what next?

Windows has a set of Administrative Tools in the Control Panel of the OS and amongst them is a tool known as the Event Viewer. The Event Viewer records by category the occurrence of various Events during the boot and operation of the PC.

OPERATION:

  1. From the command line (Start – Run) type the command "eventvwr" and enter.
  2. Or, from the Start Menu – Settings – Control Panel
    1. Select the Administrative Tools icon image
    2. Now select the Event Viewer image

The Event Viewer contains a categorized tree that breaks down the different issues being logged. For our purposes the two most important are Applications and System. From the left pane select one and scroll down looking for Warnings  and Errors.

imageBy selecting the properties of an error you can drill-down and find the error code and then search on Bing or Google for the specific exception or error message.

This can provide a good direction for finding the problem.

As an added bonus you can go to the Action menu and save the log file. This can be helpful if your Tech support doesn’t have Remote Access to your PC – save the file as a *.CSV and they can open it in Excel and filter the data to display the errors.

All this assumes the following: –

  • Your OS is kept up-to-date.
  • Your 3rd Party programs and plugins are kept up-to-date.
  • Your antivirus and or anti-malware are up-to-date and you have recently scanned your computer to ensure no malware is present.
  • Your computer is not being used to try out and then uninstall a variety of trialware. If you have to do this then try using a Virtual machine the best being either Microsoft Virtual PC or VMware. I guess I’ll get into the whole virtualization discussion in another blog piece but if you want to know more feel free to contact me.

Hopefully, at some point in this list you will have struck success and are able to continue to work without to much outlay of time and effort. Good luck!

Technorati Tags: ,,,,,,nCleaner,,One Care Live,,Event Viewer,

As those of you who follow my tweets @jonathanross will know, I was recently in the UK for a couple of weeks on a working holiday.

Some of that work was done with my [disclosure] brother’s company, and as such I spent some time in his office. One of the things that fascinated me was their test-bed PC.

First Contact is a Panda Security reseller amongst other things and they often use the test-bed PC for certain security related functions.

The mainstay in their toolbox is Panda Internet Security. Panda has a great product line of security software that from year to year, in response to user input has only gotten better.

One of the things I like the most about Panda Internet Security (yes I have it installed on both our computers at home) is the relatively small footprint compared to some of their competitors in terms of CPU and RAM usage. The exception to this is the few moments after an update when Panda devours whatever CPU / RAM is available to it however, this is minor as it does little to interfere with continued work and has yet to have any negative impact on other open applications.

If I were to suggest any change at all to their update module it would be to allow for either time scheduled checks for updates or to go the Adobe Acrobat path where the user can simply delay the upgrade until a more convenient time when the bandwidth/ resources are free to use. The obvious problem with this is that not upgrading malware definitions can leave your PC exposed to the most recently discovered malware. Other than this, Panda makes it eminently simple for the average user to install and use their security products without complex, tweaky settings leaving users befuddled or annoyed.

The_Scream

Putting performance aside, the true mark of a great security tool is does it catch the malware? There are no tools or methods that 100% protect your PC from infection short of never switching it on however, Panda scores high both in my experience (I have been using Panda since 2001) and Av-test.org published results of their comparative testing;

av-test-2010-q2-fx-2

Their results show Panda has only two competitors in these tests: Kaspersky and Symantec. I have used recent versions of both and come the time to choose between renewing my license or moving to another product I’ll be staying with Panda.

Panda also led the way in and yes, it is free for home users.

Okay, I guess you get it. I really like Panda’s product line but also I like their Social web presence and interaction with their customer-base. Panda has a blog, Twitter feeds for @pandatechsup – Panda Technical Support, the blog and for their company entity or brand @Panda_Security.

Anyway back to Manchester and sitting in the – I was sitting eating a scone and sipping my morning double espresso from the local Kosher Bakery and looking at the conclusion of a Panda scan on an infected PC. I had briefly been discussing ways of increasing their web presence and looking at their website when I had one of those random, caffeine inspired ideas.

"Wouldn’t it be great if you had a widget on your website that showed how many viruses/ malware you found and disinfected for you customers using Panda?"

It then occurred to me to simply tweet Panda and ask them if they had something like this. As I said Panda clearly believes in engagement and interaction with their customer-base: –

image

The truth is having a Panda branded widget that sits on a company web-site and gives metrics of successful disinfections is win-win for Panda and the reseller/ support entity. Apparently Panda has some smart folks running their brand and saw the benefit of this.

What next? Well if it was me (and having read a Gartner report on tech to watch out for in 2010-2011) I would look to see if Panda Cloud Antivirus is going to support Smart Phones and Cloud storage/ services like Windows Live / Skydrive or Google Apps / Documents.

So having once again shamelessly self-promoted an idea from the grey matter of Jonathan Ross I will bid you all a good evening. I need to make supper for the little guy, have another double espresso and see what the next idea will be.

Guy Kawasaki the founder of several Start-Up companies including the great Alltop and his blog How to Change the World has been busy.

My Photoimage image

He is one of those people I make a big effort to pay attention to and frankly would love to meet in person.

When he’s not blogging or rocking the world of the Web, he finds time to write books and for his latest he offered a competition to designers. In addition to a cash prize of $1000 the best cover design for his new book will be selected to be the cover for his new book.

I thought that was pretty cool. Some undiscovered talent was going to suddenly be thrust into the limelight and have a great credit to their portfolio.

Apparently though this competition caused a wave of unrest and anger even with cries of "exploitation", folks quoting the rules and regulations and so on.

Whilst I was digesting all this, watching my Twitter feed, scheduling appointments for an impending trip and dealing with tasks on my To Do list all this percolated thru my cerebellum. It reminded me of an article that I read several months ago on Rodale Publishing’s Men’s Health Magazine (don’t judge me) http://www.menshealth.com/men/best-life/life-lessons/the-hazards-of-cynicism/article/2d63f48b03776210vgnvcm10000030281eac 

image

Mike Zimmerman, the author and a pretty good writer (to understate the case) writes about "Why Men Fail" and shows from some of the successful men in business, entertainment and sports he has met and interviewed a common trait that none of them exhibit – cynicism.

This article spoke to me on many levels at the time and since and in this case with Guy Kawasaki’s competition it popped into my head again. I don’t want to rail on the folks criticizing the competition as I don’t know you all. I assume some of you are sincere in your comments but at least some of you have fallen into the cynical trap of assuming the worst here and to my mind YOU’VE MISSED THE POINT!!!

There are times even if you are on the top of your game, a big name in your field that you are going to want to indulge a bit and do work for little if not any monetary reward (short term).

I’m a QA / Testing Professional, often a manager, team leader or consultant. I have joked recently that I should start a company and call it the QA-Team and get permission to use the A-Team logo and theme to brand myself. (Yes I thought of this prior to the reboot of the TV series)

qateam

The point is that there are times when it is in your interest to think that the value of the recommendation you get or improving your exposure virally are worth more in the long term than the money itself. Now don’t get me wrong, I try not to refuse payment for my work but I’m imagining someone like Guy Kawasaki opening his contact list and letting all the relevant contacts know they should be hiring me.

At the end of the day the folks who want to see this for what it really is, a tremendous opportunity for exposure and a virally raised profile, will do so. The others won’t. I know which camp I would rather be in.

Okay so your shiny PC / laptop is sitting there quietly humming away, doing its job and making you productive (or even more productive).

The problem is that to keep it shiny and in good working order requires a bit of work and a block of time. I should also mention to those of you who keep calling me over to your house to do this an updated PC tends to be more secure: a lot of these patches are because of newly discovered security bugs.

There are two issues here: –

  • Your Operating System – as we are referring to a PC we are talking Windows (whatever version) and Windows Update.
  • 3rd Party Applications – these fall into two categories: paid and free. The paid applications are usually quite good about updates but free apps range from the sublime to the ridiculous in terms of how they update, how often and what this does to your PC.

I’m going to mostly gloss over Windows Update because if you are smart you have this setup to do all the work for you; at the minimum to download the updates and inform you they need installing.

illuminated

Windows Update will often force a restart at the end or at least keep flashing the annoying dialog box to restart. It is important that the user not think the update is complete until they restart but if you have a slightly older, slower computer and don’t need another coffee then you start to ask yourself if this whole restart thing isn’t just a big pain in the %$^$^.

What’s missing though?  You have just downloaded from Windows Update website, installed new or updated software and made significant changes to your registry. Microsoft has the marvellous One Care Live site which  has a Cleanup tool. I’m suggesting this should be the final, optional stage of any Microsoft Update.

1careLive

3rd Party Applications:

I once suggested that it is in fact possible to have a PC  running with only Microsoft software on. The fact is that this is possible but not realistic. Simply to browse the internet and have a rich, immersive experience you need 3rd Party plugins like Flash or Shockwave. More than occasionally you are going to receive a PDF (Adobe Acrobat) and most of us have a 3rd Party alternative to Microsoft Security Essentials to cope with Malware, Viruses etc.

Some of this software is great as seamlessly updating: you ensure the settings are to check for new updates and automatically install them (assuming that you feel that new versions are always robust and to be trusted) most 3rd Party applications however require varying degrees of manual intervention: –

  • Automatic download and installation: an example of this is the Firefox browser but a good Twitter friend reminded me that frequently this may not be a good idea as some updates can be buggy and cause subsequent browser / OS problems. Cheers @Taltalk

tweets-ff

  • Download updates automatically but require the user to click on the installer to run it and at several stages approve the process: Adobe Acrobat takes this one step further and installs an updater that downloads only when your internet connection is free. Other examples of software with updaters like this are Div-X and Java Runtime.
  • The other extreme is if you didn’t go and check the 3rd Party Application’s check for updates feature then you have no idea how many versions behind you are.
  • Lest we forget, there are applications which still refuse to play nicely and insist on placing icons on your desktop and adding themselves to your Startup causing unnecessary bloat and slowing down your boot routine. You can ignore the icons until Windows asks if you want to delete unused Desktop Icons or manually delete them. Startup bloat is dealt with nicely by the fantastic Israeli Startup Soluto . I’m going to offer an alternative for those of you who like to keep control of these things in your own hands (see later). Icon offenders include Adobe Acrobat and Div-X (come on guys 4 shortcuts on my desktop?!??) but Startup bloat offenders include: Real Player, Quicktime, Adobe Acrobat, Java Runtime and others. Suggestion: if you are going to do this then offer it as an option and explain why I really want your application running as part of my boot routine otherwise just cut it out.

My personal favorite method for dealing with 3rd Party Application management is partially automated but still requires some manual intervention: –

filehippologo

  • Go to http://www.filehippo.com and install their Update Checker. This tiny app will see what you have installed that matches it’s database and offer a webpage with links to new versions via their site with an additional section of Beta updates.

Filehippo has a categorized list of 3rd Party software and not just for Windows and you will probably find yourself installing something from there that you didn’t have but decide you need. You simply click on each link to download the installer for each update and if you don’t want the latest version then each application’s webpage on Filehippo has a list in the right column of previous versions.

  • Once you have completed your installations and pay heed that some installers will ask you to close open browser windows (this includes the other downloads) e.g. Java Runtime; you will probably have to restart. Knowing which one’s these are in advance I tend to run all the other downloads first, install them one after the other and then run the installer(s) that require the other browser windows be closed last.
  • Following my restart I run the One Care Live site which  has a Cleanup tool (N.B. this will clean your cache too).

  • If you are using the aforementioned Soluto then now would be a good time to run it to see if the updates added bloat and what to do about it.

This next step is not for the uninitiated or faint of heart .. tread carefully with your OS settings 🙂

  • Otherwise you can go to the Start – Run in Windows and type MSConfig and go to the Startup tab

image

  • The startup items are listed with a checkbox next to each item; disable those you know you don’t want and this will prevent them from running at Startup.

Of course over time this list will grow and MSConfig doesn’t allow the user to actually delete items from here even once disabled. These remain disabled but in the Registry. There are various tools for dealing with this and checking or even deleting Startup items: two of my favorites have been mentioned in past blog pieces: NCleaner and CCleaner each of which does a great job. NCleaner slightly beats CCleaner in this feature with the right-click menu "Google" feature which saves you the trouble of searching for that one Startup item you don’t recognize.

ncleaner-startup CCleaner-startup

In summary, of all the tools to help the average user here Filehippo and Soluto are definitely the most intuitive and user-friendly but if you are like me and enjoy the drill-down into how Windows does all this stuff then the alternatives can be fun too.

Facebook, love them or hate them they are game changers, paradigm breakers and even dare I say it revolutionaries.

The introduction of the Like button and subsequent roll-out for usage on outside of Facebook sites has changed the game and I don’t think we have seen just how much yet. If you look to your left you will see one on my modest little blog in the left frame, feel free to Like me 🙂

Like facebook

One of my pet peeves (as I’m sure you know) is the World Series philosophy when it comes to online entertainment: only the US need apply.

jail

Hulu and others either require a US (or other permitted countries) IP address or in the case of iTunes a US credit card and billing address. I was at Techonomy 2010 yesterday in Ramat Gan, Israel and listened to Robert Scoble talk about this and how an Israeli journo explained that this web-isolationism (my phrase) forces anyone who wants to enter the digital age to go the Torrent route.

I spoke in a previous blog piece about creating a democratic TV: TV is not borderless or democratic .. so what- 

Today I read an article on BoingBoing by Craig Engler, General Manager and Senior VP of the one Channel I would love to come to Israel (or get access to via Hulu),

“Why watching TV online (mostly) doesn’t help ratings (for now).”

I follow him on Twitter as @syfy, we have never conversed mainly because I am sure he is swamped with tweets from fans and I am a needle in that huge haystack.

I enjoy what he has to say and enjoyed the article too, it got me thinking. Ratings… ratings… these statistics are huge money-makers and online just isn’t there perhaps because in the US the Nielsen Ratings system has been going on since 1920 without a great deal of change.

Now let’s take Facebook’s Like button and simply embed this at the end of each episode of an online TV program. Add some kind of incentive via the online platform for the participants and presto you have the Zuckerberg Ratings Company (Mark are you listening, let’s do lunch)

The added value is again, if you are Mr TV Exec and look at the Likes from other countries you can get an accurate predictor of how many oodles of cash your show is going to make in that country.

Correct me if I’m wrong, this is not rocket science. Let’s wax ideological for a moment even and say that entertainment as a common denominator between different cultures may build common ground.

What do you think?

So watching the tech news sites and blogs this week you might think that Adobe is Inego Montoya and Apple is Count Tyrone Rugen  from The Princess Bride:

Movie style vendetta’s and the argument about 3rd Party Development Platforms for Apple aside, Adobe is an interesting company.

It’s difficult to know exactly what their flagship product is but in terms of ubiquity there is Acrobat and the PDF format.

get_adobe_reader

  • PDF is a fantastic format for document control and distribution of finished product and simply because most of everyone uses it. Occasionally it gets frustrating with fonts particularly Hebrew and other right-to-left fonts but this is more if you want to copy-paste text to an editor. (We had this with an apartment rental contract a few years ago and at the end of the day I ended up retyping 8 pages of Hebrew text to edit and make changes).

In Israel PDF is much loved by the government for online forms etc. but wider use is a subject for another article.

  • In addition I am a huge fan of Acrobat.com I was an early adopter and way back when even wrote a review of it. Back then Adobe called their online, collaborative document editing suite Buzzword.

What impressed me the most was that I received a reply to the review from Tad at Adobe who was working on Buzzword addressing the issues I raised.

Adobe_saysOf course since then this product has matured into so much more and in writing this I am also adding a note to my To Do list to refresh myself with an outstanding productivity tool.

  • If you are a frequent reader of my blog you will also know that I have written two pieces regarding FLASH:

get_adobe_flash_player

First regarding a bug I discovered testing in Windows where Flash and Sun Java Runtime were not playing nicely together – again nice going Adobe for addressing my bug and even thanking me for reporting it to you, as opposed to Sun who didn’t.

Second was my article looking at Steve Jobs harsh criticism of Flash, his take on why he doesn’t like it and my speculation on other reasons too. (Let’s be honest guys Flash everywhere you look on the Web, when was the last time you opened a website and said to yourself "”Great they used Quicktime not Flash for multimedia”? Apropos I am a fan of Quicktime even if that last comment didn’t sound like it).

Flash is one of those technologies that does cool stuff nicely and easily. I have experienced bugs with it but it continues (for now) to be the plugin/ add-on for web multimedia.

  • The online gamers out there are probably thinking “Hey, what about SHOCKWAVE?”

adobe_shockwave_player The last time I had a look at Shockwave, it and Flash were still part of Macromedia; prior to Adobe purchasing the company. I was testing it as one of many 3rd party plugins for a company that developed educational E-Book technologies.

  • More recently I was involved in a testing project using FLEX for the front-end of a rich web application. I was impressed by Adobe’s development of this product and how well the company was able to implement their product using this platform.

flex-logo

  • Which brings me to AIR. Adobe defines AIR as:

“The Adobe® AIR® runtime lets developers use proven web technologies to build rich Internet applications that run outside the browser on multiple operating systems” 

792x150_fma_air_v2I have a couple of AIR applications on my desktop PC, for example the great Twitter client Tweetdeck .

Of course this is not the full extent of Adobe’s extensive product line, merely those I have come into contact with myself. My overall impression of Adobe is they are truly committed to elegantly designed and implemented products that provide the user with great solutions. They have demonstrated to me an interest in what is being written about them at blog and in customer defects (bugs) submitted and a willingness to interact with their consumer base on these issues.

What could be next for Adobe and specifically AIR? AIR has a great deal of potential. Any company developing for the future is looking to the mobile market.

Of course AIR has been strongly tied to Google Android but Adobe has promised that other than the iPhone AIR will be supported on all mobile OS/ platforms.

I know that I am going to continue using Adobe products and watching with great interest where their product-line is going to evolve to; and maybe we will see I’m an iPhone, I’m an Adobe Air Phone  ads in the future.

Facebook. I’m not a huge fan-boy for many reasons. A few are: –

  • Their proprietary attitude to owning our life data.
  • Their desire to be a digital country  but without any enforcement of standards of acceptable free speech or not.
  • No I didn’t want you to go wild and tag me in all your photos – approval process DOH!
  • Dude. Security?

However, Facebook is only growing and has become the common platform for many of our communications both personal and business.

facebook

There is a lot going for Facebook beyond ubiquity and a huge market share. Ease of use, a wealth of applications and tools for doing all sorts of things.

Events. Events are neat, easy to use, robust, scalable and you get to choose which of your contacts are invited.

Yesterday one of the folks I follow on Twitter asked if anyone knew how to auto-sync Facebook Events with Google Calendar. I don’t know what surprised me more: that I hadn’t thought of that the hundreds of times I used the Events or that this wasn’t built into Facebook.

Is it good business sense for Facebook to allow Google, Hotmail, Yahoo Calendars etc to sync on the fly automatically for each of your events? Does this diminish the usability of Events within Facebook or my claim to “their  proprietary attitude to owning our life data”?

The fact is that giving users what they want can be good and bad: where do you draw the line?

To be fair, Facebook allows the export of individual events to Calendars but if you are a Calendar/ Event driven person then who needs the repetitive strain?

Anyhow, I searched for an easy solution finding a 3rd Party Application fbcal and a Greasemonkey script for Firefox. However, let me state I do not use Firefox. I test with it but will not keep it installed on my PC. I just don’t like it.

The cool folks at fbcal tweeted after seeing my link to them to me and my tweep offering an alternate host in case the original one was buggy.

image

Following this I decided to go back to the search engines and keep tweaking my search terms to see what I could find. I like the way that doing this can trigger all sorts of ideas in my head and I got to thinking about,

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Office Smart Tags worked for Web Page content via Internet Explorer?

Why don’t they? IE8 could have a neat accelerator for right-clicking recognized date and time data ADD TO OUTLOOK / LIVE CALENDAR.

Now this too is not auto-synchronization; the idea is that the user define which state of events in Facebook are on the fly transferred to their respective Web Calendar. Subsequent changes to content therein should be reviewed at any sync and changed according to user selection of options.

At the end of the day you have to ask yourself, why isn’t this a feature on Facebook?

At this time there is no indication that Facebook events will send SMS reminders to our mobiles as Google Calendar does.

So ask yourself these questions: –

  1. Can I get on-the-go, Real Time reminders to my cellular phone about appointments/ events?
  2. Can I sync to the calendar on my cellular phone?
Technorati Tags: ,GCal,,Smart Tags,

Over the last couple of days Israel has been in the throes of a major dust storm; this is usual for us around this time of year (actually it is normally a little later on). We refer to it in Hebrew as Sharav and in Arabic they call it Hamsin (I believe this refers to the 50 days this weather can last).

sat_il

It is typically very hot, dry and extremely dusty, effectively a sand storm. This weather plays havoc with visibility but is dangerous for asthmatics and anyone who suffers from other breathing disorders. This is also often an issue for the elderly and pregnant women.

asthma1Most of us know someone with asthma or with a child with asthma and we have seen them taking their medications via inhaler (often called a puffer). These can be for either maintenance of their condition or what is known as a Rescue Inhaler for when they have difficulty breathing and need to take medication to resolve this rapidly and safely.

The problem is that if you are someone who needs to manage your asthma and extreme weather or air pollution is obviously a problem then how do you know in Real Time?

Most of us are registered with our respective health funds and with specific Doctors. Many of us have cellular phones.

The Ministry of Health in Israel does issue warnings of this nature that are normally broadcast via TV or Radio but why not have the respective Health Funds send SMS/ Email or pre-recorded messages / alerts to the phones of people registered in their databases as at risk?

This is not rocket science but it would probably save lives, reduce overloading of the hospitals and emergency services and reduce sick days. Preventative medicine is cheap, effective and easy to implement.

I discussed this with a Doctor who is considering if he can implement this. Probably there are issues of privacy and patient permission but logic does seem to dictate that this is a good idea.

What do you think?

Technorati Tags: ,,,,Practical Technology,,,

A couple of weeks ago I received a notification in my Gmail that one of my Facebook friends had written something to / about me.

I connected to the link and in the email and discovered a really nice recommendation for me and this blog. The Facebook comment linked back to my friend Sam’s company blog.

http://web.magicsoftware.com/MagicSoftwareBlog/bid/23896/Practical-Technology-Tips-from-a-QA-Professional

magic_blogI know, now I have finished patting myself on the back I should get to the point. Firstly, it was a really nice thing to do, thanks Sam.

Secondly, even before meeting Sam, Magic was one of those companies that fascinated me as a place with a strong brand and a great reputation. The blog certainly lives up to to that; anyhow, I decided to take a look at the uniPaaS Discovery Edition as mentioned/ requested  in the blog piece.

I should stress from the get go that I don’t consider myself a developer, I do some scripting when needed but the last serious coding I did was in Pascal and Assembler back in the day.

Still I have tested a big enough variety of software and technology to setup my own criteria and simply put that is what I did here.

Installation – this was well formed, self explanatory and easy to do. I felt confident during the install and resources never went off the charts on a Dual Core, 2Gb laptop.

Documentation – most guys don’t read instructions or ask for directions (thank goodness for GPS right?) but documentation is a great meter to evaluate the overall commitment of a company to their brand and product(s): the Documentation here is excellent, well structured and with a consistent format and layout. I found it logical and easy to follow.

Look and Feel – I like my Web 2.0 sites to adopt a Web 2.0 look and feel and my Development Suites / Enterprise Apps to have an elegant, business-like look and feel.

uniPaaS

On running the uniPaaS Discovery Suite I saw a distinctive yet familiar style of environment. The GUI and toolbars are elegant and match expectation for this type of software. Users of Visual Studio etc will feel at home and not forced to relearn the wheel.

Getting to work – I found it simplicity itself to create a new project, refer to the documentation and begin work, but perhaps the best way to display the strengths and possibilities of this type of environment is to bundle one or more small sample applications with source code that the User Documentation refers to. Microsoft SQL Server is a classic example of this where a tremendous, versatile application references itself with the wonderful Northwind database samples that were classically provided for the user.

Playing nicely with others –  As I mentioned my test bed was my humble laptop; however uniPaas played nicely with other applications not hogging resources even allowing me to tab between using it, writing a draft of this blog in Windows Live Writer, running Twitter, Facebook, Gmail and Outlook.

I experienced no crashes, hangs or freezes and just kept on working.

Cleanup –  one of the clearest indications of professional development that respects their users / customers is how a product uninstalls. Once I had completed looking at uniPaaS I decided to run the uninstall. The process was rapid, simple and on review comprehensive.

I ran nCleaner from NKprods an installed Cache, Temporary Files and Registry Cleaner. It found two registry entries remaining:

nCleaner

This is pretty good compared to other software I have had to clean up after in the past which I could write about should I ever decide to under the heading “The good, the bad and the ugly!”

What else – I am sure I could have gone on for weeks trying different things with uniPaas and I was definitely impressed with it. Magic have identified a niche and provided what seems to be a nice solution within that niche. They have made it easy to learn and use and provided a strong set of documentation for the user.

Going back to the Magic website their motto above the logo is “Do it once, do it right.” well it seems that with uniPaaS they have lived up to their motto and stuck to their brand.

I would recommend two things:

  1. Sam, please pass on my congratulations to whoever is in charge of this.
  2. If you are competitor of Magic in this area you may need to seriously evaluate if your product can compete with theirs.
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Last year I experienced the spontaneous death of my cellular phone, the total failure of my cellular provider to repair or replace the device and my subsequent adoption and love of Windows Mobile / Smartphones.

Initially I used a loaner from my brother an iMate with Windows 2003 Mobile on. The device was a candybar phone with a jog/ joystick controller. It was robust, stable and exactly what I expected but didn’t quite do everything I wanted.

windows-mobile-2003

Subsequent research and investigation based on a wish list of features I made versus price led me to purchase a cellular phone in the UK.

I literally stumbled across a review for the Toshiba Portege G810 and was wowed by the features, design and look and feel/ GUI.

G810The GUI includes a 3rd party Add-on for Windows Mobile 6 by Spb Software House. The Spb Mobile Shell is an extremely flexible and user friendly app that makes the user experience that much richer on Windows Mobile. In the case of the Toshiba Portege G810 this comes bundled with the phone and customized for Toshiba.

The G810 is a touchscreen phone which was a new experience for me but luckily Toshiba anticipated a user demographic like me and on the right of the device is a stylus for the larger fingered amongst us who simply can’t use the virtual keyboard without selecting the fullscreen option (not always a convenient choice).

Anyway I can honestly say I am happy with the phone. Reception and sound quality are good. I can surf the web via Wi-Fi or Cellular Data (GPRS).

The charger / data connection is via mini-USB which in my opinion is one of the great underdeveloped ideas in device connection: The phone has a built-in cellular modem (de facto) if I connect to my laptop why doesn’t Windows on the laptop not detect the modem as a plug and play device and allow me to use the cellular phone to browse / email etc from my laptop browser?

In addition the G810 sports a Mini-SD port. I purchased a 2Gb card and have the onboard camera set to save video and photos to the Mini-SD card by default.

The only major shortfall of the device is that in Windows Mobile 6.1 Microsoft has still not resolved the issue of true termination of applications when the user exits them. The applications remain open until the user runs the Task Manager and closes the apps from there. The novice user can stumble on this design flaw several times where the device needs resetting as the hidden but running apps eat up all the resources freezing the device.

Having bought a phone for use in Israel I have still resisted purchasing 3rd party Hebrew for Windows Mobile which leaves me with several issues to deal with: –

  • SMS – if I receive SMS in Hebrew e.g. from my Cellular provider it appears as a series of cubes; standard for a font not installed in Windows. Luckily the Missus has a phone with Hebrew and is kind enough to let me forward these SMS to her when curiosity gets the better of me.
  • Any websites, emails or documents cannot display Hebrew.
  • In addition to font support the Localization for Israel also allows the user to select the geographical region. Windows Mobile does not include all world regions by default.

Regardless this is an excellent Smartphone, in terms of specs it packs a big punch that can give any of its competitors a good run for their money and pricewise comes in cheaper that most of the others.

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