Archive for April, 2005

Privacy? Nope–"1984" on tech steroids

Friday, April 29th, 2005

Now I ask you, do you hit “Send” to inform Microsoft every time that little dialog box pops up when a program–like Word–crashes again? I guess Microsoft is getting edgy about us not sending them the information that want.

Yep, Big-Brother-Software-Giant is putting spies in your computer. This time it’s not Hal talking; it’s a Microsoft ‘black box’ for Windows.

In the near future, when your black-box-enabled computer crashes, the black box contents–showing everything you were doing with your computer, including contents of emails and documents and your Internet browsing history–will be sent to Microsoft for analysis. Most companies will undoubtedly also ask their internal IT department staffers to examine those contents, and woe to those who were doing the wrong thing.

You know, I learned not to lie when I was a little kid, of course, because God didn’t like it. But also in no small measure because my parents caught me sometimes–and meted out strong justice often enough that I concluded permanently that lying wasn’t worth the price. But it feels somehow different to be spied on as an adult. Yet many companies already do it–some even tap employee telephones.

Guess we all better start thinking twice before playing games or emailing about finding a new job while we’re at work. And of course, the next step will be collecting everything we’ve ever done from our computer–and who knows, maybe even the government going to Microsoft for documents and emails to profile “suspicious” people.

Surveys have indicated that younger people say they’re much less concerned about privacy than older people. I wonder if the black box and its ilk will change that anytime soon?

Also posted to Blogcritics

And we wonder why corporate leaders have trouble behaving…

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

The New York Times says the House has overturned questionable new ethics rules set by Republican leaders–some believe to shield one of their members DeLay from inquiries about his practices.

Democrats “applauded the backtracking, which represented a significant political embarrassment for a majority accustomed to winning almost all of its fights. It was the second time in recent months that Republicans had to back off such a change; in January, House Republicans restored a rule prohibiting their leaders from staying in their posts if indicted.”

Oh, yeah. So amazing that corporate America plays fast and loose with ethics. What is Congress except, in many ways, another bastion of coprorate-like privilege that encourages winking at the rules. Power does it–been doing it for eons.

Outsourcing teaching old lessons

Friday, April 22nd, 2005

“Success with outsourcing mirrors that in the divorce rate; that is, one in five deals end within a year, and 50% of all deals end in five years.” — Ken Landis, Deloitte Consulting

The normal caveat when outsourcing is don’t send out core functions, Information Week reminds us. But what qualifies as a core function? Business people are apt to think only in terms of high-level strategic stuff that executives do. But the truth is, even answering the telephone or accounts payable can be considered strategic–if it doesn’t work right, your customers and/or vendors can get upset and take their business elsewhere.

I find it amusing to think that it’s going to take outsourcing for some business owners/execs to realize that the people in the trenches actually are important to their success. The idea of “internal customers” has been around a long time–but falling on many deaf ears. It seems so obvious that if you don’t treat people right, they might not have good attitudes when they’re dealing with your customers. But I guess if your eyes are only on the bottom line, that can easily fall into the category of “who cares?”

So if you go, go quietly into the maze of outsourcing–and pay close attention to the details. Survey your customers often, and act when you see a potential problem.

Adobe buys Macromedia – for HOW much? Geez

Thursday, April 21st, 2005

Yep. This is big. Adobe aggressively markets its products and isn’t the least bit afraid to phase out a product–no matter how venerable, like Pagemaker–if it thinks it’s got something better. But in the web design world, Macromedia has had it all over them. The Adobe GoLive product–I think only a small group of loyal Mac users were using it–has been running a way-distant second to Dreamweaver since it came on the market. So I’ve been wondering what the giant Adboe might do. Now we have the answer: Adobe to Buy Macromedia in $3.4 Billion Deal.

Whew. Three point four billion dollars–I had to write it out because it’s just too big to grasp in simple numbers. Pardon me, but who among us has $3.4 Billion dollars to spend on killing the competition?

Okay, okay. So I can’t get my arms around deals of this magnitude. Still it makes me wonder how long it will take this giant to catch up with the quintessential category-killer Microsoft and finally make it EASIER for customers, instead of continually befuddling them with so much power their hard drives can’t hold the GB and their brains can’t hold even a fraction of the functionality.

Where will it all end? I hope somebody besides the CFO is looking out for how it all affects the consumer. Or one day, we’ll end up with all the open-source applications becoming giant-killers.

Great idea for promoting public transportation

Tuesday, April 19th, 2005

It’s green. It’s cool. I’m impressed. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Commuter Advantage Program

“Savings grow when employers and employees use the Commuter Advantage Program. RTA monthly passes are purchased through employers, with pre-tax payroll deductions.

That means that money used to buy RTA passes is taken from a salary before income tax is calculated. Those who pay commuter costs with pre-tax dollars are, in effect, receiving a discount.”

Buy your monthly express passes with pre-tax dollars and save at least 10 percent, depending on your tax bracket. It’s simple and elegant. Now all they have to do (no easy task to finance) maek sure service is available to all those taxpayers.

Highest profit margin in history?

Sunday, April 17th, 2005

A wireless router is a modestly priced bit of equipment that packs a nice wallop–access to the world of the Internet without having to find telephone lines. Now SBC is promising to set up wireless access at several rest stops on the Ohio turnpike.

Charges will be minimal for current customers, promises SBC. Two bucks a month for those already paying SBC’s DSL fat monthly fees. Hmmm. Let’s see. They get all kinds of people subscribing at eight bucks a day to use it randomly. And they simply raise the bill of those who are already paying them–for something that’s costing them a few bucks per location. $2 times hundreds of thousands customers a month–gravy.

I don’t know about you, but I’d sure like to come up with a business model like that.

Capitalists unite

Friday, April 15th, 2005

Well, at least the ones in the Northeast Ohio area.

There’s a new force out there–called Capitalist Cleveland–that’s crying out the good news about how entrepreneurs in the Cleveland area are bringing home the bacon for themselves and frying more of it for others in the form of jobs. Don Larson and Jeff Chaney interview local business owners on the Capitalist Cleveland radio show every Tuesday, 8 a.m. on 1300 AM. Enthusiasts gather at the Gorilla Group meeting every first Tuesday evening at the Market Avenue Wine Bar.

And now I’ve been invited to author the Capitalist Cleveland blog. Read about how a Cleveland entrepreneur’s software played a part in making IBM the company it is today.

Giant News Folks Support Bloggers against Apple

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005

How do we decide who’s right? Yes, there are always two sides to a story, and a fellow BlogCritics blogger made a good point that the bloggers being sued should have refrained from publishing information they knew to be secret.

But now come the official agencies of the news–The Associated Press, for heavenssake–claiming they shouldn’t have had to make that decision.

Recent corporate scandals involving Worldcom, Enron and the tobacco industry all undoubtedly involved the reporting of information that the companies involved would have preferred to remain unknown to the public,” the 38-page brief stated. “Just because a statute seeks to protect secrecy of such information does not mean that the First Amendment protections provided to the news media to inform the public are wiped away.”

I was pretty convinced that the bloggers should have avoided printing it because it was a trade secret–not some kind of scandalous dirt that would hurt the public or damage the trustees. But I think I see the point here–it’s a principle that, if eroded in this case, might start to lose its teeth for much more important issues.

Sometimes I hate it when I see both sides of the story, but most of the time I realize that’s just how life is.
Posted to Blogcritics

The painful truth about the Internet

Friday, April 8th, 2005

Yes, it was bound to come out sooner or later. The elegance and excitement of the Internet’s simple, free and open access to virtually the entire world brings with it a few challenges.

“In the world of e-commerce, competition is fierce — so fierce that rival companies aren’t above driving up the fees for a company’s paid search ad by simply clicking on it repeatedly. While the big portals and search engines insist that there are safeguards in place to detect so-called click fraud, senior Yahoo! product manager John Slade said, “Anyone who says this is not a real challenge is kidding you.” The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Yes, I know. It hurts to think that the bad guys are out there with the same freedom we all have–to pretend we’re bigger than we are, more important than our revenues would indicate, trading globally when all we did was order software from the UK, etc. etc. But the news reporters are doing us a favor by pointing this out to us–and we’ll be doing our customers a favor by helping them understand the potential risks.

As with everything in life and in business, if you’re high profile, you’re a prime target for mischief. If you’re REALLY high profile–or if somebody with too much time on their hands and not enough therapy in their past thinks you’ve done something to hurt them–you can get your plans tampered with big time. So be cautious. If something doesn’t look right, take another look.

No more film?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2005

It makes an awful lot of sense. Digital technology is fast replacing everything from film photographs to taped music. The Disney studios are saying that the movie theater format is next to go:

“I’m referring to digital cinema. In today’s world you go to a theater to view a piece of 35-millimeter film that uses an intense light source behind it to project onto a big screen. The notion of shipping, warehousing, reclaiming, restoring, and destroying reels of film will one day, potentially sometime in our lifetime, become obsolete.

“This will happen in favor of a digital system where everything from the way the camera captures the image, through the method the content is edited and cut into a final product, to the manufacturing process for distribution, which will most likely occur on DVDs, distributed through satellite or another form of terrestrial distribution. [It's] all to be determined. It will have a dramatic impact on supplier relationships and infrastructure supporting all that supply chain. “

I don’t own a high-definition TV, so honestly, I don’t notice much difference on my (to my friends) ‘totally outdated’ 4-year-old television between DVDs and VHS tapes (except for the white snow that more frequently decorates the screen with VHS), so I guess it’ll be fun to see the really sharp pictures at the movie show when digital hits.

But as for photography, the pros are still out on the question of completely changing over. When it comes to speed and ease of printing, no comparison. Digital wins by a landslide. But digital photo quality is another story.

Well, whatever the professional art and magazine photographers decide–and who knows where the technology will go–business has taken to digital like a magic tonic. We’ve all become (we think) graphic artists now that we can readily play with images. We email heavy-duty photos and files full of graphics around with abandon. This is certainly a fun thing–but if you’re a small business, don’t fool yourself. Professional work will still make the difference in your marketing materials–and everyone will recognize amateur junk when they see it.

Just as with copywriting, don’t risk looking small time with your graphics. Hire a professional.

Posted to Blogcritics, too.