Archive for January, 2008

Jan 31 2008

Boeing 787: A Hacker’s Dreamliner?

Published by under General,Technology

Boeing 787: A Hacker's Dreamliner? - 1/7/2008 1:04:00 PM - Design News

I smell a Bruce Willis movie (or is it that guy with the pony tail who slaps people a lot?). Thanks to Jim Leonard for the pointer, evidently inspired by my JetBlue non-working networking experience.

"Is the Boeing 787 safe from attack by computer hackers? With the plane still months away from its first commercial flight, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week issued a document that raises questions about the security of the 787’s computer architecture."

Essentially Design News reports that there are fears of a bridge between onboard IT systems and a passenger riding a Net connection would be able to penetrate the avionics.

One response so far

Jan 29 2008

Rubber Chicken Tech Support

Published by under Technology

Late yesterday I got the call I've come to dread:

"Dad, my laptop is dead."

Being the inhouse Geek Squad, I've long ago given up any hope of providing viable tech support over the phone. I can upgrade RAM, even replace a cracked LCD, but trying to recover a PC from the state of rowboat anchor over the phone, over a cell phone at that, is hopeless in my experience. I ask my son the usual -- did you try another AC adapter, did you try taking out the battery and plugging in the adapter -- but he was a step ahead of me and it looked as if his two year old Z61 was slated for a motherboard replacement.

I know he has screenplays on the thing, and all sorts of school stuff, so tossing the machine was not an option. It will probably be a few weeks before I return to NYC, so hands on transfer of the old hard drive to a new system would have to wait.

Ugh. Off I went to the Lenovo Employee Purchase site to find a deal on an R61, I really don't want to eat $750 for a new PC.

This morning I idly Googled "dead ThinkPad" and found one of the wackiest solutions ever seen proposed for reviving the dead. This was on Masnick.com, Mike Masnick of TechDirt's personal blog.

"So I called up IBM support and explained the situation. The guy on the other end then let me in on the secret power button code to revive your dead Thinkpad. After assessing the situation (totally dead laptop) he warned me: “Okay, this is going to sound totally bizarre, but I want you to give this a try…” He then had me unplug the AC adapter and take out the battery. Then, you push the power button 10 times in a row at one second intervals. Next, you push and hold the power button for 30 seconds. Then you put the battery back in and push the power button… and she lives. The computer came back, good as ever."

I called my son this morning and walked him through the process. He was skeptical, but went through the motions.

There was silence. Then those wonderful words: "Oh my god .....thank you thank you thank you."

I don't know what happened, I don't want to know what happened, but all I know is a single Google search saved me nearly a thousand bucks.

31 responses so far

Jan 28 2008

Vest-iges of Senescence

Published by under Favorite Things

I've taken to wearing a vest while I work at home – an affectation brought on by the need to keep the thermostat down and my core temperature up on those winter days when I find myself in my home office and not on the road or in Raleigh. I've never worn one before – with the exception of a down vest at some point in the late 1970s when down vests were all the rage – and have never owned a three piece suit and the sartorial version with a watch pocket and a satin back.

My vest is from Filson – the Seattle outfitter I've blogged of in the past – and it is essentially a cut up green wool army blanket that is thick, itchy, and warmer than expected. It has six pockets to house reading glasses, pens, pencils, Swiss Army Knife, phone, and cold hands; has five buttons, and is the antithesis of any modern "performance" garment with a name like TechWick or GoreTex. Filson makes it out of 26 ounce "Mackinaw" wool and I suspect it will outlast me by 50 years if the moths don't get at it first. This is something to take to the Yukon. Jack London clothing. Something from the turn of the century and I don't mean 1999.

One has to love a garment marketed as being "quiet in the field." There is something vaguely Mister Wilson-ish about vests, not quite as fuddy-duddy as say a sweater vest, but right up there. Proclaiming the utility of pockets to one's critics sounds completely incriminatory, and the verb "to putter" comes to mind whenever I put it on. I'd classify it as a Goldilocks form of outerwear – a "just-right" thing for brief outdoor excursions, a great layer when the going gets frigid, but light enough to wear inside without boiling over.

3 responses so far

Jan 28 2008

Marketing In A Down Market – Forbes.com

Marketing In A Down Market - Forbes.com
Marc Babej, ex-Forbes writer and current NYC marketing consultant and Forbes.com columnist, writes in his current column on marketing tactics in a recession:

"5. Shift media spending to accountable media. Not because they necessarily perform better, but because investment in them can be justified in terms of return on investment. A heavy bias toward accountable spending is the best way to protect marketing budgets from profit-starved CFOs."

This would bias spends towards search and email marketing -- put a hurt on print which would be irrecoverable for some publications with already shaky balance sheets -- and see the rise of auction models against remaindered traditional impressions (GoogleTV rushes to mind). It will be interesting to see how the supply of "accountable" media impressions holds. Right now the conventional wisdom shows a glut, so CPM pressure should be low.

2 responses so far

Jan 28 2008

Snow days – whereabouts week of Jan 28

Published by under Cape Cod,Travel

When I was a kid, the suspense of figuring out whether there would be a snow day was crushing. Mom would kick us out of bed, and while she made breakfast we'd listen to WBZ for the announcer to read the list of closings. With 365 towns in the Commonwealth, and who knows how many nursery schools, senior centers, and knitting circles to work through, hearing the magic words that one's town was closed was like hearing we had achieved victory in Germany and Japan simultaneously.

Then she'd promptly slip old plastic bread bags over our socked feet, stick them in buckled rubber boots, and kick us, swaddled in low tech wool, out into the maelstrom to spend the day moaning to be let back inside.

This morning I go to a website and tell in an instant whether or not I have to mess with the streets and kick Junior out of bed. He's up there now, blissfully oblivious and missing out on the anticipation of days gone by. I look at my cell phone and learn that at some prudent point in the past I actually signed up for a SMS alert.

About a foot of snow fell last night in strong northerly winds. I'd classify it as a baby blizzard. We didn't lose lights. The driveway is a mess. Cousin Pete needs to plow me out before I contemplate travel. So .... this week, Cotuit is the plan. North Carolina next week for lots of meetings.

Now to kick the snow off the wood pile and get a fire blazing before my 7 am Olympic marketing call with Beijing.

One response so far

Jan 26 2008

The reformation of the RealPlayer

RealPlayer -- the first (or one of the first) rich media players from the earliest days of the web -- has undergone some zigs and zags in its business model over the past decade that I won't try to summarize. But we all know that eventually, somewhere, there's a video clip that demands a download from RealNetworks, and in the past that was one of the worst experiences in web plug-ins, taking over your system, demanding emails, trying to trick one into a premium upgrade .... in short, once you downloaded a Real player you started to see tons of popup crap and other badness. SuperPass, Gold Edition, Rhapsody ... they all have their merits I'm sure, but there was an irritation to the Real download process that left a bad taste.
Not anymore. I don't know what happened to management, maybe someone listened to the users, but the upsell crap, the confusing medly of paid media come-ons and personal information trickery has vanished with RealPlayer Version 11.
But here's the thing. I installed the latest version of the player last week and answered yes to a prompt to embed what I can best describe as Snag-It for video (see the "Download This Video" tab on the HP ad below). Now I have the capability to watch a video and download it locally. This is a big deal for me, especially in capturing flash (.flv) video ads to show our CMO and my team as examples of what the competition or other advertisers are doing. Some people may shrug and say, hey there's a ton of stuff to do that already, but I didn't know I needed it until Real gave it to me. Further, once I play the clip locally in the RealPlayer I have the option to share it with a friend, helping me alert people to a clip I want them to pay attention to.

So, wow, all of a sudden Real went from a bad thing to a good thing. Big respect to Rob Glaser for turning an annoyance into a much better product. My only suggestion is to make it more intuitive to rename clips -- right now they inherit the title tag from the site they were drawn from.

2 responses so far

Jan 25 2008

Google reader annoyances

Published by under General,WTF?

Google Reader won't display my subscriptions -- hasn't done so for the past few days. I've logged off and on, flushed my cache, and still, I get the page, the header, but none of my stuff. My feeds are appearing inside of the iGoogle reader gadget, so the subs haven't disappeared. Annoying. None of my other google accounts display in reader either.

3 responses so far

Jan 24 2008

The Gates Speech — Rebuilding Capitalism

Published by under Global

Bill Gates -- in the twilight of his technical career at Microsoft, on the eve of his new one in philanthropy at the helm of his Gates Foundation -- is set to speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos, CH today to call for a "kinder, creative" capitalism (according to the subject line of the Wall Street Journal's email alert this morning). This should be a classic Davos speech, the kind of thing captains of industry and heads of state and rock and roll front men want to discuss, and it should kick off a furious bout of analysis, guffaws, and more important, heavy thinking about the role of corporate social responsibility.

""We have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well," Mr. Gates will tell world leaders at the forum, according to a copy of the speech seen by The Wall Street Journal."

"Among the fixes he plans to call for: Companies should create businesses that focus on building products and services for the poor. "Such a system would have a twin mission: making profits and also improving lives for those who don't fully benefit from market forces," he plans to say."

I strongly recommend a read of the Journal story, it's a deep look at how the richest man in the world intends to leave his mark on the world, and that mark won't look like this if he has his way.

Corporate Social Responsibility is due to be changed in some tangible ways. Lenovo is lucky to have Bill Stevenson guiding its efforts, and I'll be interested in his thoughts on today's speech by Gates. You can read Bill's blog at Lenovoblogs.com

Jeff Jarvis is liveblogging from Davos and hits on the Gore/Bono-Google sessions.

3 responses so far

Jan 23 2008

Lenovo Blog Gadget

Published by under Colleagues

Esteban Panzeri crafted this nice gadget that carries the Lenovo blogroll right into iGoogle. Click the picture to add it to your portal page. Gadgets are cool and tip of the hat to Esteban for making this one actually cool.

2 responses so far

Jan 23 2008

WordPress.com Creator Raises $29.5M – GigaOM

Published by under General,Technology

WordPress.com Creator Raises $29.5M - GigaOM
I started blogging on Blogger in 2001, but Om Malik talked me into hosting my own WordPress install in 2003. I haven't looked back since.  I would declare WordPress to be the single best piece of software-technology-platform I have experienced in 30 years of fooling around with software -- and that includes XyWrite (wordprocessor for pros in the DOS days), Civilization II (Sid Meier's strategy game classic), and every other online service with the possible exception of Google Search.
If anyone asks me what to do when they need to open a blog, I send them to wordpress.com. Automattic, the parent company, just raised its series B. If I were looking for a smart acquisition, Automattic would be on the short list. This technology has done more to revolutionize content creation and production, and democratized it, than anything previously seen.

"It is quite an event for the company, which began with Matt mucking around with code in his Houston bedroom. As one of the first adopters of WordPress, I got to know Matt well, yelling at him for not fixing bugs (which I still do) and always telling him what “features to add.” He took note of all it, and some of those features have actually shown up in the software. Eventually he moved out to San Francisco and started Automattic."

One response so far

Jan 22 2008

Daddy, what’s a recession?

Published by under General

"A recession is when you lose your job.

A depression is when I lose mine."

Sidney Harris

Today will doubtlessly be a lesson in dismal economics, to wit, what is a recession? I believe the proper definition is two consecutive quarters of decline in the gross domestic product -- or GDP -- which sometimes means the recession is underway because reporting on things like the GDP tend to lag a while and are not calculated in real time. For the public, it's a perception of the stock market. A few shrill headlines, the plunging line on the chart, the addition of the word "Black" to whatever day of the week it happens to be, and self-fulfilling chaos ensues. I'm not saying ignore the headlines, just pointing out that most of the people who write them have no idea what they are talking about.

One response so far

Jan 21 2008

Making Sense of 210 Million Chinese Internauts

Published by under China

Making Sense of 210 Million Chinese Internauts : techblog86
David Feng's techblog86 has some interesting stats on Chinese internet use:

• December 2005: 111 million Internet users in China
• June 2006: 123 million
• December 2006: 137 million
• June 2007: 162 million
• December 2007: 210 million

One response so far

Jan 21 2008

Study: Chinese Internet Users Talk Most About Lenovo

Published by under China

ChinaTechNews.com

Interesting analysis of buzz based on gross mentions across the Chinese intrawebs:

"In a study of how Chinese Internet users discuss notebook computers online, Shanghai-based Internet Word of Mouth research firm CIC says Lenovo and ThinkPad dominate manufacturer buzz."

No responses yet

Jan 21 2008

The Pocket PDA

Published by under Favorite Things

It's been a while since I've said anything about lifehacking -- the art of getting things done efficiently through an almost martial arts approach to calendars, inboxes, and to-do lists. There are far wiser voices than I -- David Allen's 43 folder approach is one I looked at and rejected as too paper based -- and some make for pretty interesting reads I highly recommend.

The heart and soul of my to-do list is the 3x5" index card and its leather companion, the pocket ....I don't know what to call it .... leather sleeve? pocket PDA? I these little wallet-like leather sleeves hold about ten blank cards, a few business cards, hotel room keys, subway cards .... and look quite spiffy poking out of one's shirt pocket if I must say so.

I got into the habit of carrying one thanks to my best friend, a surgeon who is constantly in need of something to jot down information on the fly. I've gone through three or four -- ranging from fancy alligator skin ones to my current clunky, but heavy-duty Levenger Shirt Pocket Briefcase.

So, if your New Year's Resolution was to get your you-know-what together, this is a good start.

9 responses so far

Jan 20 2008

Whereabouts week of 1.21.08

Published by under General

In Cotuit all week. Raleigh the following (postponed Beijing until after their new year).

No responses yet

Jan 20 2008

Andy Berndt to Marketers: Experiment Like Google -

Marketers: Experiment Like Google - Advertising Age - Digital

I picked up this from John Battelle -- former Ogilvy exec (and advisor to Lenovo), Andy Berndt, explains his role at Google running its Creative Lab:

"If anyone leaves here with just one thing, let it be this: Google is not starting an ad agency."

update: Peter Kim @ Forrester was at the Sapient event where Berndt spoke.

One response so far

Jan 20 2008

When employees blog and comment off the farm

Here's a conundrum for which there is no answer: what do you do when an employee decides, on their own, to go off and comment on a customer's blog and a) disagree with them, b) divulge incorrect information, or c) opens an "anonymous" blog of their own and begins to talk     about life inside the organization?

From editing Wikipedia to commenting on customer blogs to launching their own blog, I predict the next great issue, in corporate blog policies will be how to stem the tide and reputational risk factor of employees who decide to engage with the world at large on their own terms. I have no issue with a disgruntled employee or ex-employee grinding an axe in public – that sort of thing is inevitable. But how do you let the body politic know there is a mechanism and a policy for getting the word out there and connecting to customers?

PR people never had to worry about someone in manufacturing issuing their own press release. Social Media Marketing teams, in effect, do.

7 responses so far

Jan 20 2008

Rag-tag band of merry men: making Social Media Marketing official

If one were to chart the arc of corporate blogging – aka Social Media Marketing, aka SMM – over the past three years, I suppose some consistent milestones could be identified, something like Erikson's Eight Stages of PsychoSocial Development. Right now I'd say SMM has reached its majority among technology companies within the early adopters like Microsoft, Sun, IBM, Dell and Lenovo. And elsewhere, probably is entering puberty, cracked voice and zits included.

The indications of SMM going far more formal into the organization are:

  1. Emergence of third-party tools, agencies, consultants pushing SMM solutions from buzz meters to blog detectors
  2. A lot of theoretical hand-waving by consultants banging the Cluetrain drum on blogs like this
  3. Debates over metrics, ROI, and formal placement in the org chart
  4. Conferences devoted to best practice exchanges

Last week I was in a conversation with our CMO and he challenged me to take Lenovo's social media activities to the next level, from what he termed "a rag-tag band of merry men" to a more formal organization than the current loose federation that informally crosses teams and departments. This opens up the fundamental issue of where Social should live in the organization. Three owners are obvious.

  1. Corporate communications
  2. Customer Service
  3. Marketing

Since #s 1 and 3 are basically in the same domain under a CMO, I think the partnership is pretty obvious and tracks exactly to the current structure at Lenovo. Two groups – Service and Support/Marketing – collaborate on the common goals of increasing customer happiness through listening, fixing, inviting and collaborating with a massive constituency traditionally relegated to private conversations on service calls and angry letters to the CEO. The drivers of the customer revolution – the rise of the Better Business Blog instead of the Better Business Bureau as it were – are obvious, but what seems to be occurring with more frequency is the importance of the operation for a new model of outbound corporate communications, using the corporate blog (especially if the organization has settled on a canonical approach around a single blog such as Dell and Southwest Airlines) or blogs (the dispersed model adopted by Sun, IBM, Microsoft, etc.) to right a wrong, or notify constituents of a change, announcement, or other piece of news.

As Corp Comm comes into the picture, I think the first phases of SMM – monitor, detect, respond and fix – progress to the point where suddenly things need to get buttoned down for the simple reason that outbound communications needs far more management than quick give and take activities with customers who need resources, updates or fixes, leading to a model of -- monitor, detect, respond, fix, and push messages.

I won't digress into the canned vs. authentic messaging – my perspectives on PR are too skewed from the receiving side of the Press Relations model as an ex-reporter, versus the new model of Public Relations where corp comm evolves beyond mass media management to public perception management.

Communications isn't the only catalyst towards formalization of what was two years ago a guerilla operation in many companies. From the earliest manifestations of employees with personal blogs, to customer service people reaching out, without permission to quench negative posts …. Social Media Marketing is no longer the two-headed chicken of 2005, an anomaly and revelation verging on revolution. Okay, okay, it is exciting stuff, the shift from one-way message manipulation marketing and customer communications to this new upside down world of transparent engagement and nekkid conversations … right, we all get it. Now let's move to the next phase, where a rag-rag-band of merry men, as my CMO puts it, moves to a formal team with responsibilities, goals, budgets, and the other trappings of organizational life that spell the difference between skunk works style business development to the stuff of which business school curricula are based.

It was inevitable that corporate blogging would get to this point, I'm not sure what happens when it gets formalized, when job descriptions are settled on, and best practices are established and the operation becomes semi-standardized. ROI isn't the driver –that will be the source of constant tension as companies try to justify their investment in people and tools – nor is brand reputation, whatever that intangible is. What drives formal adoption after informal experimentation is results, and the number of success stories are now so pervasive that no one can reasonably express doubts that a Social Media Marketing practice is an option. Today it's a must-have operation. The questions that needs to be clarified are:

  1. Can SMM survive as a function crossing internal organizational lines?
  2. Is SMM a strategic function that innovates new revenue opportunities?
  3. Is SMM a service/utility like IT that every department needs?

This is stuff the recently launched (and disparaged) Blog Council needs to tackle. I feel a Harvard Business Review article coming on.

5 responses so far

Jan 19 2008

Wild Clamming

Published by under Clamming,General

Maine Clammer's Association
founded by Maine’s wild clammers (as opposed, I guess, to aquaculturists)

2 responses so far

Jan 18 2008

Beta blues – Jet Blue’s almost-internet in the sky

Published by under General

On the second half of my march home from Raleigh I was on a JetBlue Airbus between New York City and Boston that was equipped with JetBlue's new internet service, BetaBlue. Basically it's a 802.11b/g wifi node which is accessible once the plane hits 10,000 feet. One can connect to it via notebook or wifi smartphone (certain Blackberries for example). Once connected there are two services – Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Messenger. This modern magic is performed with some 800Mhz spectrum, a method for switching rapidly between cell towers on the ground, and custom versions of the Yahoo apps. If you get in the air without a Yahoo account you're SOL, though account opening is coming.

I had my X61 ThinkPad tablet snoozing in suspend mode, so as soon as the steward said it was cool for electronic dee-vices, I had Access Connections hunting for a wireless node … and there they were; two of them. I connected, opened Firefox, and was hit with the usual terms and conditions blah blah.

54 mb of inflight goodness at 97% signal – what could be better than internet in the air?

Well, given the name "beta" and given the price, "Free" I won't rant about this uselessness. The service at present only does two things – access Yahoo mail, and Yahoo instant messaging. Okay. I don't use my Yahoo mail account and I don't use Yahoo's messaging directly (I aggregate my account with Trillian), so there wasn't going to be any inflight air blogging that night.

And, wouldn't you know it, neither mail nor messenger worked in the scant 15 minutes I had at the top of the Kennedy-Logan parabola somewhere over Long Island Sound. I'm patient – I've only had full Internet above 30,000 feet once, and that was a Boeing Connexion service on JAL from Tokyo to Boston. If I recall that connection cost me some $20 bucks but was a good thing, albeit a bit vexing to be in 100% uptime connectivity with the office, thus ruining one of the last bastions of interruption free meditation in modern corporate life – business class.

Engadget reviewed last month after the press flight.

"Ultimately the utility of this service comes down to one's own particular mindset, it would seem: those folks who just want to stay connected at any cost will find this to be a great perk that isn't available anywhere else, while anyone expecting an open pipe or even broadband speeds is likely to be severely disappointed. When and if JetBlue begins adding more local multimedia content and opening up its network to other service providers, however, BetaBlue could eventually force other domestic carriers to finally get with the times and stop ruining our otherwise ubiquitous connections to the Grid."

JetBlue is predicting better stuff:

"Customers on BetaBlue will not be able to access the Internet. This is not an

Internet-surfing connection.

We wanted to provide a product that everyone can use and at a great price: FREE.

BetaBlue's email and instant messaging services are pioneering service

enhancements, and we will continue to listen to what our Customers want as we test

the aircraft's current offerings. BetaBlue is our trial aircraft for new connectivity

services available in-flight. Stay tuned for future enhancements!"

No responses yet

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