Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pads, Tablets, and Netbooks

With the recent announcement of the Apple iPad, I thought I might pen my opinion on the topic of tablets and other similar devices. From a developer’s perspective, I can’t see where I would use one. From a Joe-Consumer perspective, I would LOVE to have one. Just the thought of having a light-weight device I can take anywhere is very appealing. A device I can watch videos, read books and articles, and…well…do the things I typically use my web browser for… would be great. I certainly would not use this to compile a program or write a novel; but as a device for soaking up information, these things are great. I think the KEY aspect here is the intended use is for receiving, not producing, stuff.

I believe the key to the success of these devices will be based on network connectivity, ease of use, the flexibility to work with the many different media formats now, and those to come, and they must have the ability to install new applications. A device without all of these abilities will probably be destined for failure. I did not mention price because that factor is almost a given and the cost to enable these features should not break the bank. Consumers want flexible devices they can configure and grow with as new applications become available. Like

Within in the next several months, we will probably start hearing about devices based on the Google Chrome operating system. Like the iPad, the Google Chrome OS is targeting the market for a lightweight portable device intended for the average consumer. At the moment, the prototype devices are more like Netbooks than they are tablets. If the market proves to be favorable for the iPad, you can almost guarantee there will be some tablet form running the Google Chrome OS.

What about Windows Mobile or Windows 7 devices? That is a good questions and Microsoft is certainly a wild card in this area of consumer devices. Sure, they had a superior mobile platform, with Windows Mobile; however, the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android are cleaning their clock. Microsoft will have to play some serious catch-up if they want to regain their dominance in the mobile market. Rumors of the Pink project and the Zune Phone sounds promising, but Application and Google have things people can see and touch, Microsoft’s stuff is still only available to the people working on it.

So, let me hear from you. Are you excited about these new devices, or is this just another fad?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Don't trip on your ego

My last blog entry was about communication skills. A few people took the time to email me with comments which suggested communication skills were not important or were minor factors in contributing to successful teams. These assertions may be correct, to some degree. I have been on a number of very successful teams where some team members had tremendous difficulties communicating. In one situation, a very intelligent and highly successful team member had a severe speech impediment which made it extremely difficult to understand what he was saying. Despite his communication issues, his code was brilliant and everyone accepted him as an equal member of the team. Situations like this are more the exception, than the norm. More often, people who fail to have the ability to communicate are seen as an outcast or are perceived (wrongly) as being less intelligent. Sure, they may be able to contribute to the team; however, their contributions could have been much, much greater, if only they had better communication skills.

The next topic to address regarding being a successful team member has to do with ego.
There is an old saying modesty is the best policy. This old saying rings true in the IT field and is another skill which can be very valuable to someone looking to improve their team-building capabilities. All too often I get the chance to work with some extremely bright but incredibly narcissistic developers. Maybe I am just getting older or perhaps I am just starting to notice; but, it seems more and more of the younger generation have over inflated egos and are not shy to let you know how excellent they are.

Being self confident is one thing, but there is a point where one’s own self confidence can be an anti-team building pattern. Letting your team members know how good you are is the equivalent of telling everyone on the team they are not as good as you. This, almost always, is a sure-fire way to build walls and turn people off. Sure, you might be a genius developer and you can code rings around everyone on the team, but keep your comments of self-greatness to yourself. Let your code do the talking for you; or, better yet, let your customers sing your praises. Rarely is there ever a good time to tell anyone how great you are. Exceptions to this might be interviews and performance reviews.

Along the lines of ego, a related characteristic I have found to be abrasive is the practice of showing off ones code. There is a fine line between being overly helpful and being a bragger. This also includes showing off how your code was so much better than the code which previously existed. I have seen many cases where a member of the team made it a point to tell everyone how poorly written some existing code was and only they were able to make it much more efficient. Sure, they were able to improve the code, but at the same time they alienated members of the team. Who knows, maybe the boss (or your future boss) wrote the code and by pointing out how bad it is might come back to haunt you. Exercise restraint when you get the urge to spout off on how you were able to save the world by coming up with a more clever algorithm in the payroll application.

My advice is to exhibit self confidence but exercise self control when it comes to patting yourself on the back. Self confidence is an excellent leadership trait and is a quality which is highly desired in the consulting field. There should, however, be a balance of self confidence and self praising and it may be better to exercise on the side of caution when you have the desire to let people know how good you are.

Dale Carnegie has a series of books, one being “How To Win Friends and Influence People
.” This should be mandatory reading for anyone looking to move into management or for if you want to become a successful consultant. The lessons taught in the book are very applicable to just about any situation where you have interaction with people.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Soft Skills - Communication is critical

The next few blog entries will focus more on soft skills, rather than with a specific technology topic. Having been in the field for a number of years as both a solution developer and manager, I have had the opportunity to work with a number of different people with just as many different personalities. For the next few installments, I am going to write about being a team player. In many circumstances, being a good team member can be more valuable than being a programming guru.

I am always amazed by the number of technology web sites/blogs which focus on architecture, technology, or a programming language; and, rarely (if ever) mention team dynamics. Sure, they can rattle off an infinite number of articles on TDD or the fad-of-the-week way to design a system; but they would be hard pressed to say anything about team work. Why is this? I suspect people take it for granted the skill of being a good team player. Maybe, the people writing the articles don’t have to interact with people. For whatever the reason might be, more and more of the people in our industry seem like they could use some coaching on how to be a good team player.

Being able to communicate with coworkers
To start out my discussion of being a good team player, I am going to zero-in on an important skill – which is the ability to communicate with other humans. Being able to communicate means more than your ability to talk in the same language as your co-workers. Being able to communicate means you truly can interact with others and fully be understood and understand what is being said. Communication is a two-way dialog and both parties need to understand not only what is being said, but what each person means. This is especially true when one of the persons in the dialog is from another country, or even a different region of the same country.

Once you have a command of the language, knowing the local accent and slang can win you over as an expert communicator. All too often, I have conversations with someone, in English, and I find myself asking them to repeat because their accent was too much for my brain to translate. A good tip might be to slow down. There may even be some cultural groups in your locale which can offer advice on improving communication skills. My best advice is to interact with your coworkers and really observe how they communicate with each other. Pick up on the slang and the way they interact.

I am not advocating that everyone talk the same. I am suggesting it is very advantageous if everyone on the team can understand and comprehend a conversation without too much trouble. If you are a person who is having other issues with teamwork, then poor communication skills will be another point against you.

In the next series of blog entries, I’ll talk more about communication and team dynamics. Let me know if you have any tips or stories which might highlight the importance of good communication skills.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Not the Nexus for the rest of us

My first real blog entry for 2010 will be about Google’s press conference regarding their new phone, the Nexus. For a little more than $500, you can own the newest, and coolest, phone on the market running the coolest mobile operating system on the market. Owners of this new phone will have a 1Ghz processor running the Android operating system and interfacing with some fancy accessories (accelerometers, proximity and light sensors, OLED displays, and others). This, however, is not what my blog entry will focus on. There are many other fanboy sites where people are just gushing about this phone. My blog will take a different look.

For $500, I can buy a very nice laptop AND a decent cell phone. Sure, both of them will not have a huge WOW factor, but the two devices will be able to do almost the same things, if not more, than just the Nexus phone. This, mind you, is if you were to purchase the cell phone, outright. Sure, you could have the cost of the phone deferred over the duration of a service contract, which will make the price of the Nexus more palatable, for some. This, however, will have people locked into a mobile contract where the monthly fees are still, in my opinion, very high.

This brings me to the REAL focus of my blog entry. If you are like me, and have a family who wants to be “Connected,” then all of these technologies and innovations take second stage to the price of being connected. A family of four who wants Internet, cable (or satellite) TV, phone service, and mobile service, can spend more money each month on communication than what a no-money-down new car payment would be. In some cases, a mortgage payment might be less than the sum of the communication bills. The real annoying factor is that all of these services are just different forms of sending bits from one location to another.

Yes, there are ways to save money with bundled services and elimination of some services, like land-line and mobile; however, some people still need a POTS line AND mobile service. Also, would one really save if each computer in the house used mobile data versus a routed DSL connection? The needs of each member of my family is different, which is a considering factor in the services I pay for. Also, don’t get me started on all of the taxes and fees which are tacked on to the monthly bills and are also different for each type of service (cable versus pots versus mobile).

What I was looking for, with the Google announcement of Nexus, was something which might change the playing field of data communication charges. I wanted a revolution to start with it ending in a situation where I pay a single, monthly, communication bill which is reasonable for families where each member can be connected. Sadly, all we got was another fancy phone.

At some point in time, people will come to the realization network connectivity is the only service we really need. I wanted Google to usher in that concept. Sadly, I will still have to wait for the total harmonization of communication services. Who knows, maybe when the Apple tablet, Google Chrome devices, and the next Android phone come around, there will be some entrepreneur who will offer a total communication package which will be reasonable in price for individuals AND for families.

Until then, I will still be paying an arm and a leg.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Starting 2010 on the blog

As will all resolutions we try to make for the new year, many of them last only a few short months. Going to the gym, eating healthy food, and saving money are a few of the more common resolutions; however, one of mine will be to work on my blogs. It is my intention to keep with it and maintain a fairly updated collection of web sites.

I have three blogs and one web site. The blog you are reading, now, will be one of the three. The other two pertain to baseball, specifically, youth baseball. Technology and coaching are two of my passions and will be the subject of my musings for 2010.

On the I.T. side, I will share with you things I find interesting and perhaps a little helpful. There are a number of projects I am working on, as well as new responsibilities which are part of my career. Some of these topics will be career-related and pertinent to working in the field of information technology.

On the baseball side, I will be maintaining a web site and a blog with a focus on helping people new to coaching youth baseball. In the number of years I have been managing a baseball team, I have run across a number of coaches who either had no clue, or no business, coaching youth baseball. My blog and web site will hopefully be of some help to those people who have found themselves drafted into coaching and could use some help.
Here are the links to the baseball sites. Feel free to visit and let me know what you think!

Newbie Baseball, web site
Bill on Baseball, Blog

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Is the end near for the RIAA?

I believe the recording industry, as we know it, is dieing. It is dieing because they refuse to change with the times. Like the old horse and buggy whip makers, they are in a line of business which is fading away. I also feel the recording artists are also clinging on to an old and outdated model and must either move-on, or move over.

Why is the RIAA so hot about this? They are hot because they know the end is near. There is no longer a need for the recording industry anymore because of low-cost technology and the Internet. Just about any artist can produce high-quality content. With digital players, there is no need to mass-produce CDs or cassettes. Web sites, like MySpace and YouTube, reduce the need for distribution.

Artists need to realize they will have to work for their money and earn a living off of concerts and selling their brand-name (t-shirts, commercials, sound tracks, video games, etc.).

Now, how many whip makers are there today? In ten years, the recording industry will be the same way. Those who roll with the changes will be successful and make money; those who resist will eventually perish.

For the consumer, this will user in a new era of quality because people will be buying songs they like; not whole albums having one good song and nine crappy tracks of filler.

As a technologist, I have been laughing at the RIAA for years now because they refuse to see the writing on the wall. When I downloaded my first MP3 song in the late-80s, I new the game was changing – and it amazes me to see it has taken the recording industry this long.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Technology Predictions for 2008

As many writers who concentrate on information technology will do at the end of the year; I, too, will prognosticate on what will be hot for 2008. In no particular order, here are ten of my predictions.

1) Bandwidth changes will be coming. It would be easy to leave it at that, but I think the United States is on the verge of some major changes to the bandwidth infrastructure. I believe the largest change will have to do with the price per speed. Either the price will go down, with little change in speed; or, price will remain about the same and we will get more speed for our bucks. This will be driven by wireless broadband and the fiber to the curb.

2) Increasing availability for wireless Internet access. Verizon and AT&T will step up their offerings for WiFi Internet access. This will add significant competition to Cable TV internet access. The result will be more competitive pricing and packages for consumers. This competition will do more for innovation than Net Neutraility.

3) Fiber to the curb will be more of an option for consumers. Our thirst for bandwidth and regulations on copper will be driving factors in the telecommunication companies offering fiber to the pole (or curb) for consumer access.

4) Google will become a telecommunication infrastructure company. Google will bid, and win, the 700MHz spectrum bid and will become a telecommunication company. They will probably team up with an existing wireless company and merge their infrastructures with Google’s “Dark Fiber” network. The gPhone will be a part of this.

5) Microsoft will dominate the mobile application space. This will be a short-win because stiff competition with Google’s Android offering. Apple will have the IPhone, Google will have the GPhone, and Microsoft will have Windows Mobile 6 and the legion of .net developers. People will like the “Eye Candy” from Apple and the “Open’ness” of Android; however, the easy of .netcf and the corporate-adoption of Mobile 6 will prevail – for 2008.

6) Apple will continue on their world domination fight in the consumer electronics space. Look for a few more iPhone announcements and the eventual merging of iPod and iPhone. Apple will also move into the video distribution game, utilizing some “iMediaDevice” and Apple TV.

7) Botnets will move from the “Hacker” world to the “Corporate” world and the legitimate use of this parallel system will take root. The business world will not know how to do this. Perhaps the emergence of a “Corporate IntraBotNet” system will spring up. Hummmmm.

8) Corporate VoIP will be the next killer application. Microsoft will take the lead in providing the merging of Telephone, IM, and Email. We will see more “Headsets” on desks and slow decrease in telephones. 2008 will mark the year the traditional desk phone starts to go extinct.

9) Ajax and Silverlight will weigh heavy on the minds of developers. Maybe 2008 will see a possible solution to the desire to have “Disconnected Web Applications.”

10) Sun will make another stab at re-branding Java. Renewed interest in the Java Applet will be fueled by the legions of Java developers already familiar with programming, but want something better than Ajax and Silverlight. Applets may be a possible answer to “Disconnected Web Applications.”

Those are mine... what do you predict for 2008?