July 02, 2009

Proclamation: Doing my own thing!

So after being home and spending time with the family; I’m taking this opportunity to really decide what I want to do.  And while I’ve interviewed and made great contacts with companies out there I haven’t found something that newly challenges me and makes me as passionate as my first gig did with Centra Software so many years ago.

If there’s an opportunity like that I’ve yet to find it and believe it or not people are hiring.  But I’m at a juncture in my career where I feel like I need to put up or shut up.  Many people in my life have always said, “I can’t wait to see where that kid is when he’s 35 yrs old”.  Well I can tell you if I keep in the regular “rigah-ma-role”,  I’ll be someone in middle management at a mid-size company not in control of my destiny.

With that said; I’m taking these years experience and this diverse background to begin to implement and launch a few projects and businesses that are core to my skills and passion.  I’ve been fortunate to be in great company with these ventures so I’m really excited to see what we can do.

I’m telling you all because like any good grass roots operation we’ll need your help getting the word out and who knows maybe we can do something for you too!  No problem is too small or large will be something you’ll hear preached from the onset!  So god bless all of you and stay tuned for some exciting stuff coming from us!

Peace, love, chicken grease!


May 09, 2009

Is Twitter really ready for prime time?

So now after the likes of Oprah and Ellen and many other stars are adopting it's use we should take a step back and ask ourselves is Twitter ready for prime time? Plagued with inconsistent page loads and widget display errors I got to take a step back and think about the media coverage this little handy tool gets and while I understand press is press; I'm not so sure I'm convinced this product is ready for likes of mainstream adoption.

Many people know about it at this point; but for those who don't. Twitter is a social media application that allows you to provide near real-time updates to a group of connections they call followers. The updates can be as meaningful or meaningless as you like them and people can subsequently reply to them if they follow you. I like to view Twitter as a great messaging engine that connects all of my friends across all communication mediums (Email, IM, PC/Mac, Mobiles, etc) to see what I'm up to or blabbing about at a particular point in time in 140 characters or less of course. If you are looking for a great new way to connect and communicate with people in conjunction with sites like Facebook and LinkedIn I recommend checking it out and feel free to follow me @here.

Now, back to the original question; is it ready for the mainstream "fame" it's been getting? For me, I say it's not quite; for a couple a reasons. While it's a free consumer application its up-time and availability is only "near-decent" when you access it thru 3rd party applications (digsby, tweetdeck, twhirl, etc) that leverage the Twitter API's to connect users to the messaging engine. But when you attempt to perform your updates directly from the Twitter website page loads are lethargic at best and once the page loads it often does load properly prompting to refresh the page.

So what's wrong? I'm not sure since I don't work for Twitter I can only speculate but I tend to be pretty good judge of things and if I had to put on my troubleshooting hat and play armchair tech ops manager, I'd say it's a combination of two things. The application is still fairly immature and is accessed by a user base that growing by the millions each week and its possible both the code and the infrastructure (the systems that support the application) aren't configured to handle that capacity. To me, it operates like a beta (prototype) buggy product. what's sad about this is that it's not even an installed application it's web-based; I tell you my mobile phone is running an alpha (pre-prototype) version of Windows Mobile 6.5 that's more predictable then the service experiences I've had with Twitter especially now that everyone in Hollywood and Athlete-land is using it to tell their fans when they are taking their next shower or dump.

Isn't this company like Facebook and kicking around tons of venture-backed funds? Come on people invest a little make the application work the way we all know it should; stop running on that T1 pipe and man up to a T3. Invest in more developer resources to fix the issues at the application level. I shouldn't have to install a "Twitter-based" status client like the applications mentioned above to use your web browser-based application. Unless that's how you figured out how to finally monetize your business model is buy licensing your API to these 3rd party vendors.

Ok, I'm done ranting and will close-out by saying while it's obvious Twitter has some issues it still is an little application that I like to refer to as my universal messaging application. With many users adopting it and with mainstream coverage Twitter may be the first of the big 3 consumer-based social media applications to "break the code" and have a real revenue model that may prove as the much DNA for its sister companies to get the space out of the hump and make some serious dough. The first company is usually the name for that market, Google, Microsoft, Oracle all figured it out first and gobbled up the rest Twitter may do the same if Facebook doesn't do it first.

Time will tell.

Peace, love, and chicken grease.

April 14, 2009

Quick Tips to Optimize and Keep your PC Healthy

So after recently doing some routine maintenance and fixing a couple of PC's for family and friends I wanted to take a step back and provide some quick tips I've found useful for keeping my pc's up and running. These are easy and effective steps that anyone can do simply by reading the instructions, following the steps, and be confident! Also do some Googling on these various topics to gain more of an industry perspective and to get more opinions I'm only one person and these are the methods I find useful but certainly aren't the "say-all" de facto; but they have worked for me. to keep my PC's healthy.

Lastly, one point of caution; use these steps at your own risk! If even after reading the instructional materials you still feel you lack the experience to perform these tasks don't. Because you can end up putting your PC in a position to work improperly or not at all. If you need assistance and live within the North Central Massachusetts area I'd be happy to make a house call, for a nominal fee of course ;-).

The Approaches

Clearing your temporary internet files or "cache" - This is a common issue that often plagues users who do a lot of web surfing and can experience a host of slow issues like internet page loads, connection speeds, and even system processing issues like opening new files from applications like Word, Excel, etc. This is because many web pages nowadays store temp data and content in our web browsers file directory and this file store unless configured to; will not empty itself and uses up unnecessary disk space.

To easily clean these files:

  1. open your Internet Web Browser (Internet Explorer is used here)

  2. click Tools>Internet Options>Delete (under the Browsing History section as shown in the image below)

  3. Then you can easily pick and choose which temporary areas you would like to clean; you'll notice your password data is separate from other data points

Note: Remember things like cookies do hold some "remember me" type information for many of your websites that require authorized access. So delete with care!!!

Defragging your disk - Disk Defragmentation basically reorganizes your data in such a way that allows your computer to more easily and quickly access it. When data is saved to your PC hard drive it isn't always saved in a particular order. So over time this can degrade your PC's ability to perform operations and accessing files. Most folks don't have to do this if they are simply web browsing and creating documents; but for heavy users of music/ media downloads, moving and removing files on/off the PC hard drive should do this once a month. Before you get started please note this could take some time and by time I mean hours if this has never been performed so plan to not use your PC while this function is being performed.

You'll need administrator access to perform this function (most home pc owners have this; business owner do not perform this step you have an admin this is what they get paid for :-), and if you don't have one I'm available as a contractor

To defrag do the following:

  1. click Start>Settings>Control Panel

  2. dbl click Administrative Tools

  3. then open Computer Management (in older Windows systems it's called Management Console or MMC)

  4. then expand "storage" and click Disk Defragmenter

  5. Then you'll first click "Analyze" we do this to assess if the hard drive needs to be defragged

  6. Once the test is finished it will tell you how you should proceed with a pop window that says "You should defrag this volume" or "You do not need to defrag this volume"

Based on the result conduct the appropriate action and if defragging allow it to complete with only that application open.

The System Rebuild - Some people say "if it ain't broke don't fix it", well in the case of a PC's it all depends on how much use your pc gets and how much it varies over time. Rebuilds are performed to keep a PC running optimum and to the specification we need it; PC usage tends to change and as it changes we accumulate "stuff" we simply don't need and it wastes valuable disk space that ultimately effect the performance of our rig.

I'm not saying stop what you're doing and rebuild but look at your usage; is it different than what it was if so how different is it? If it's drastic and your pc seems a bit sluggish then you should probably considered doing a system rebuild. I won't cover the exact steps because that's part of the fun of learning but I will give you some best practices so you are bold enough you'll be able to try it out on your own.

Some practices to consider prior to performing a system rebuild:

  1. Block out a day or two as this could take that if longer depending on your experience and the systems hardware processing ability
  2. Find ALL disks used in your initial install along with serial keys for easy reinstall (this includes all of your applications installed to the operating system aka OS)
    NOTE: If you don't have the system recovery discs or OS install disks Google how to make them!

  3. Backup all of the files you'd like to keep because once you start they will be deleted until they are restored to the newly built OS

  4. If you can invest software that completely purges your hard drive to almost new specification; it's always good to start fresh...here's the one I use
  5. Consider hardware upgrades like RAM upgrades; the more RAM the better performance and more multi-tasking your PC can do (like running more than one application)

Few closing thoughts

These are some things I consider when doing a rebuild and have been successful doing. Other things that keep your PC safe and healthy and running peak are running things like Anti-virus software's and Anti-ad/spam programs. For me, I use an all in one that is free to public users and not to business called AVG Free, it has a built in Anti-Ad program which works awesome and that coupled with the appropriate web browser security settings I don't have any issues. I especially like that for the price of AVG Free; it works much better than leading "pay-for" anti-virus solutions. I also employ the use of Windows built-in firewall in addition to the NAT-based firewall on my home network router.

Performing all or even some of these tasks routinely can help keep your PC up and running and out living any of its predecessors! Good luck, and remember we covered a lot here so if you plan to do it yourself, which I encourage, work the steps and DO the research before pulling the trigger. And if all else fails invest in paying a professional; our lives have become pretty dependent on technology so I can imagine a down pc could be detrimental to your livelihood (i.e. paying bills, email, facebook).

That's all from me for now,

April 06, 2009

It's Not Technical, It's Simply Learning

As I wrapped up my most recent semester of school taking a refresher course in web development and a week of interviews with a couple of software companies. After describing my skills and work experience to many recruiters, hiring managers and employees of the companies. It made me take a step back and ponder why people, in general, think having technical ability as it relates to computers and various software applications is so hard? Why is this such a difficult thing for people to grasp or obtain to complete their "tool kits"? For me I think it's simple and it boils down to two basic facts; 1. People are either not interested or 2. not motivated to commit something to their memory.

As you dissect a person's "technical aptitude" (me in this case), all it is really, is their ability to apply knowledge they've learned about a particular subject matter. For me it's how I learn and apply what I've learned in the areas of computers and software applications; with others it could be chemistry, medicine, criminal justice, etc. So does this mean "rocket science" isn't rocket science? No, but it does mean that someone could learn about and apply the knowledge related to rocket science and sound like an expert without ever conducting an experiment. Think about it; all our lives we learn and apply what we've learned and with the resources available to us we shouldn't ask so many questions; or should we?

Well, I wouldn't say we should ask questions because that's what makes us grow; but I would say be proactive in "quenching" your thirst for knowledge. There a far too many solid resources out there for people to not search first, then ask an even more educated question. Just a thought from a guy who thrives himself on only asking a question once when it relates to learning new things, namely technology. So why did I decide to post this you may ask yourself; it's a ramble about learning or the ability to learn, why should I care? It's simple since I've been on the hunt for a new gig I've had the opportunity to speak with many recruiters and hiring managers and have answered many different types of questions that are commonly asked during interviews.

The one question that was asked that really provoked this whole blog post was probably the best question I've had the opportunity to answer during an interview in a really long time. Basically I was asked "if there was one thing that I'd want someone to remember about me from an interview, what would it be?" I know awesome question, so I took a minute took a step back and said, "while I have a diverse background and various valuable skills, I would say I think I'd want you to remember that I have a strong aptitude for learning new things and applying them. Whether it's technology or services a particular company offers; I have a knack for learning what's and who's so that I can be effective and contribute to the main goal of making that company a success."

I thought this was the best answer because it's true that what I feel my best attribute is and in honesty if you ever get a chance to visit my LinkedIn profile where I've been fortunate enough to have colleagues contribute recommendations to my profile. In just about every recommendation is commentary that speaks to my learning aptitiude; things like being able to "pick things up quickly and apply them" or "Geophrey has the ability to understand the client's needs and propose the right solution". Okay I'm done with all of that talk about myself but the point I'm trying to make is all that I've done is taking the ability to learn and made useful to me in my career.

In closing this was just something that hit me as I looked back on my week of closing out a semester and a series of interviews. Next time you have a question or get asked a question answer but also encourage that person to learn more if it makes sense. Like they say, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."


March 27, 2009

Fiscal Responsibility

Let's chat a minute about this; on the eve of probably another article, news report, or panel discussion about a failing financial services company asking for more money, let's ask ourselves am I and my employer being fiscally responsible?

Being that I was recently invited to a "corporate-sponsored" vacation this is a bit of a subject I'm familiar. Since I'm such a "class act" as one of my colleagues put it; this won't be a platform to whine and gripe about any potential irresponsibility that happened to me. But rather focus on the things that employers may be (or should be) discussing and what employees should want to know (if given a chance to ask).

A Little Housekeeping

Before we talk about specifics and let's bring it up a level for those who may not be super-familiar with how companies and organizations operate. There are two types of companies public and private; public companies are traded and some of us own shares (a percentage ownership stakeholder) in them through our retirement plans. These types of companies are bound by law to disclose just about everything that has to do with their financial standings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Anyone can access these public filings through the SEC's site, so employees do take a look at these to see what's going on if your company doesn't hold quarterly meetings. Private companies are just about the exact opposite; they answer to themselves and their financial investors which could be just about anybody with a checkbook.

In either case companies exist to provide services to their clients but in providing those services also have to make commitments on hitting various goals for their investors. By hitting the goals the investors keep investing and make a profit and everyone is happy; failing on the goals is effectively the exact opposite. Lastly, company health is often measured in terms that we use in everyday life but for other things. Here's a couple and their meanings: "churn", this usually refers to the company's ability to manage existing clients and retain and grow those relationships, "burn" or "run" rate, this refers to the expense to operate the company and do business with new and existing clients.

Why is this business 101 lesson so important?

It's simple, you are now equipped to read your company's health meter and really understand if it's "good times" or to be prepared for cost cutting measures. And by cost cutting measures I don't mean the coffee maker and water bubblers in the kitchen. Depending on the company you work for they may have different practices. In software companies which is my industry, they tend to look at research and development which is one of their most expensive operations then other departments like sales, marketing, and IT. Again this is in MY experience and not a traditional "fact" but tends to be par for the course I play on.

So if you are in these areas of practice it's simple; keep your head on a swivel, bust your hump, and try your best to be part of the solution and not the problem. If you are a salesperson and struggling this quarter don't be the person at the meeting asking questions about company "churn and burn". This raises an even bigger point about questions. Do ask your questions but people be willing to help fix it. For example, "What's our churn rate and how can I help sustain or improve it?" is much better than "What's our churn rate and do I need to start looking for a new job". Again my advice and you don't have to follow it but seems to be a smart suggestion to me.

Tying it all together

So as we wrap up on this ramble let's remember the reason why we find out these bits of information about our employers is so we too can assess and manage our OWN fiscal responsibility. If the company is cutting back, you should too. Be prepared and save as much as you can so in the event that you are laid off you don't have to worry about making the mortgage or rent in the coming months. I know it's tough, my wife will tell you I'm a spender, but luckily for me I married a hermit so while I'm currently in search of my next venture the lights will stay on.

In closing you noticed I didn't make mention or give examples of irresponsibility but simply the tools to decide for yourself. If a company is doing poorly with things like "churn" and "burn" but still hiring like crazy; buying odd stuff like foosball tables, free snacks like cookies'ncake'njunk'nstuff, then chances are you should know after reading this post its not good and should be looking for a new gig.

As a sidebar a little light read for those of us watching this debacle that is the "bailout"

See Article By PETER EDMONSTON March 20, 2009


March 24, 2009

First Time OUT, keep with me and we'll get it!

Hey Everyone,

After several years of accruing bits of knowledge during my nearly 10 yrs in software I need some therapy. What better way to treat myself then to post it here for your enjoyment; comeback soon we got some stuff that may be of interest to you!

A question was asked if this was to treat me or readers. My hope is we all get a lil something out of what is shared.