Wednesday, December 31, 2008

66 posts for 2008

Wrapping up for 2008...

Back in March I signed up for a KM class at DePaul. I owe my foray into blogging to that course. For those of you who don't know my story about the Masters program I am doing backwards, I present:

Being a self professed and arrogant "know it all", I expected DePaul to hand me a Graduate diploma because I have 17 years of mileage in information systems which is my second profession, the first one being an Architect which I practiced for about the first 20 years of my professional life. My advisor at DePaul understood where I was coming from but insisted that I have to take the 13 required graduate courses without which there was no go. My company pays DePaul $2400 a class so that works out to about $31 grand. I guess I would do the same if the roles were reversed. Taken that money I mean.

So I started my masters program in dead earnest. From Top - Down!!. Not sure how my choices of classes got by DePaul's admissions team for so long, But I started with the Capstone on down, making sure the only grade I received in each of the classes was an A. I still have  about 4 classes to complete, but it is an interesting perspective doing your Masters programs backwards. As you get to the end, you are doing courses that summarizes what you learned!!

Speaking of backwards, normally kids growup go to college, graduate and get to work. Well not mua!! obviously. Here I am at 54, while most of my collegues are VP's and Directors at various companies, I am wrapping up my masters on my way to doing my PhD program. Strange thing is, I am enjoying it. Speaking of that PhD program, truth be told, that is the reason for my blogging this year. So this backwards thing is a pattern obviously, not sure if it was by design, perhaps by some grand design.

I posted 65 times, my idea was to write a 500 word post each weekend, which evolved into "My weekly Rant", all in preparation for the gruelling writing I forsee during the PhD program. They say you have to write 1000 words a day. My very words back in March.

While I have been doing my Masters backwards, it does not for a moment mean I have not been learning. I have grown leaps and bounds, is the honest truth. The power of knowledge can be and has always shown itself in the work I do, day in and day out. After all way back before Knowledge Management templates were even born, I was thinking Automation of repetition. Honest to God ask folks who have worked with me about my passion for Automating, targetting and triangulated reconciliation and they will point you to one that truly believes in "Real Men dont Click" way before it was fashionable.

The courses that made a significant impact on me so far have to be: Virtual Collaboration, Datamining, Supply Chain management, and User Centered Design. I have to admit I grew a few inches with those bad boys. The most important concept I learned this year has to be: "LISTENING" and The most important toolset: "Listening Tools".

It is going to be a challenging year in more ways than one. But it has the makings of a great year, I can feel it already. if all turns out well, our trip to Kenya will be a blast. If all turns out well, I will complete my graduate program. If all turns out well, next year this time I will have decided on my PhD program. if all turns out well, I will see some of those frequent ideas that turn me on,  through to fruition.

I therefore dedicate 2009 to "Listening", hopefully we all will grow by leaps and bounds. If you had one wish this year, any wish at all what would it be? 

Friday, December 26, 2008

Twitter Brand distribution

Twitter is media's play toy!!

So you want to be an evangelist?

When I was just a wee lad, me mom said, son I would like it if you became a priest some day. So I grew up with the notion that if I did not become a doctor or lawyer or an Engineer perhaps that would be the way to go. That was a profound notion and I did not really realize it, till now.

Fast forward 40 years: I did not become a priest, but I often think of myself as an Evangelist. It is a self endowed title, and I dont even preach all that often. So what makes me think I am an Evangelist? I have this urge to improve the common good, do selfless acts, improve what is around me without profit. Problem is, I get caught up in sustenance, so most times these lofty thoughts and ideas go by the wayside.

So am I an Evangelist for just having these thoughts and urges to do good by my brotha? umm NO. I think it has to go beyond that. What I found through years of having these thoughts and urges is something that the Priests and Nuns and brothers had figured out long time ago. Here it is in a nut shell:

If you want to do good: your basic nessesities have to be taken care of. If you are independantly wealthy, you are well on your way to becoming an evangelist, unless ofcourse you want to multiply what you have. Start a foundation, adopt kids from Africa, Save the homeless are easier to embark on, if you dont have to worry about being laid off, if you dont have to worry about your kids schooling, if you dont have to worry about Christmas gifts, you get the picture. If you want to do good, you have a better chance if you are a Priest or a Nun, where those important selfish things are taken care of, so you can concentrate on doing good by others.

So become a man of the cloth: You can then truly say you are an evangelist. Otherwise you will always be someone else's boy toy, perhaps Seagate or kmart or whoever will pay your rent, or throw you an occasional bone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What is your pretty face doing on that avatar?.

I recently had this idea: It is about Avatars and what they should really represent.

I have a pretty face and I use it as my avatar, folks look at it and go, there's a pretty face, I like that face. I will listen to what that person says, because it is a trustworthy face. We have come to associate trust with a pretty face/appearance. Does not matter if the substance is poor or divisive or hateful, as long as I have a pretty face, its okay.

So how did we get here? At what point did we make appearance primary to Substance? I believe it goes way back, meaning it was always like that, and we are slowly evolving out of this paradigm of form before substance, substance follows form. Form before Function. Form, Form, Form. Gotta be pretty and so on!!

So I should not put my pretty face on my Avatar anymore?. Dont stop that cold turkey. Do a gradual. Keep this in mind: what if your Avatar, said something profound, something that folks seeing it would benefit, something that added to the sum of human consciousness, something that you share, because you can?.

Lots of possibilities for sure, and you thought avatars were just pretty pictures no?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What I learned this year and What I would have like to.

I will be travelling this weekend, so the Rant is being published a tad earlier. Mostly it is a look back and look forward, but it is all good.

What I would have like to have to learned this Year:

C. Well at least I bought the book and started the exercises. I think I would have been much further along if not for the technical difficulties along the way. The most important one being getting ubuntu running in vmplayer with gcc and base-essentials. Well without that you cant compile the 'hello world' program. So there. This one will carry over to next year.

What I enjoyed learning well this year:
I took my dings on lessons this year, but the most enjoyable as I look back has to be Supply Chain Management and what I learned in that class. The interesting side bar is that, I could not for the life of me understand the Professor. In the end this forced me to learn on my own, which ended up being the best thing that happened this year. So of course I will share and here it is below, all of what I learnt during the Internet Supply Chain Management. Bon appetite!! you can click on the image to zoom in.


There was quite a bit more, but cognition related thoughts surfaced to the top, I wont repeat it here as I blogged about it last week. One recurring theme this past year has been STEALTH KM, I keep seeing this concept surfacing quite often, in pretty much everything. This could possibly be because there has been a renewed emphasis on TRANSPARENCY in my life.

This has also been a year of change professionally. I moved over from IT Operations Line Management to Cross Functional Support. Basically went from Managing System Engineers to mostly Forest view and Project management Stuff. I am still learning to manage Change.

This year brings me closer to finishing my Masters program and the plan is to move on to a PhD program. I have told my family that my epitaph has to say: Here lie the remains of the esteemed Dr. Fernandez!! Morbid If I have to say so myself. It is also a way to lead by example. My kids 12 and 9 are already planning on getting their PhD's done before they are 30. Dad Struggling at 54 is not a pretty picture obviously.

Speaking of Epitaph's: I lost two dear family members this year. Aunty Tressy and Aunty Mattie. My parents generation is currently at the top of the stack, with my siblings and me getting up there. We all have to go sometime, the trick is to go gracefully.

Finally Thanks to those who went above and beyond this year: I got a chance to visit India after 20 years and what struck me most of all is what my Sister Crystal has been been doing and continues to do even today. There is no doubt about the sacrifice she is making for which all my siblings are extremely grateful. My Mom must have done something incredible in her life to have such good care. Next on the list but necessarily in that order: for an incredible amount of patience, day in and day out and 7 days a week, my wife Jen. My kids are the luckiest ones on this whole planet. I truly believe that patience is key to development!!.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Merry/Happy what ever your heart follows!! 2009 Here we come.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Problem Solving Revisited - A story about Cognition

Just because I have not ranted these past weeks does not mean I did not have any thing to say, on the contrary I did have quite a bit, but did not know how to put it in words. So I started drawing and sketching and procrastinating instead. I should really change that order to: Procrastinating, Sketching and Drawing. Eventually I realized that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, so here are a few sketches involving my thoughts these past few weeks.

Problem solving free hand sketch:
I still love to doodle and sketch, and sometime when faced with a problem, I gravitate toward the pencil and paper and the sharpie. Many iterations later, I arrive at a sketch, I want to show folks, but I think I loose something in translation. Remember when our math teacher would say, "Show how you arrived at solving the problem and you will at least get partial credit", well that is really true. So here is the doodle and the final sketch of my problem solving methodology that I arrived at.
1) the Genesis - A Doodles of fair significance:

2) The final Sketch - born out of refinement and discussion:



Problem solving mind map:
Once I arrived at the freehand sketch, it was easy to use a tool like Mindmap and translate that, but as you will see there is something lost in translation.



I lost two loved ones these past few weeks: Aunty Mattie - My Dad's brothers wife and Aunty Tressy - My mom's sister. Each of them impacted me significantly as I was growing up. Each contributed quite a bit in my cognitive development. I owe my problem solving skills in part to them. Thank you.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Going green

I am on this "less self centered kick" as mentioned in last weeks rant. This week I l am looking at this from a Going Green perspective. Imagine the impact we can make if we could combine three concepts "Less self centered" + "Green" + "Masses". I am sure you want me to to elaborate, so take a seat, put on your listening ears, as I take you through this tour of my going green masses pyramid scheme.

Going Green:
If each household saved just a little bit in electrical energy consumed, the potential Energy savings for the country as a whole has be exponential. I set about trying to find out how to methodically go about saving energy at home, with this intent of publishing a template so others can benefit from my experience. As with any project I started with a baseline of energy consumption in the house. I got that from taking a reading from the Power meter outside. I also walked around the house and documented the devices that was hooked into the electrical circuits int he house. This is a room by room list that includes lights, appliances, and anything can be plugged in to the sockets, even if it currently is not.

Benchmark: Benchmarking power consumption should not last more than a week. A seven day cycle of consumption documented daily should be our goal.

Documentation: Room by Room documentation of light fixtures, appliances, gadgets, computers, monitors, and any device that has the potential to draw current, will be used to tweak our benchmark, and set goals. If our goal translates of 1KWHour per day, it is reasonable to assume that we as a nation have the potential to save 1 Million KWHours per day, by engaging 1 million households in this effort.

Template approach: Any project that involves massive numbers should use templates for consistency, with that in mind, the idea behind this evaluation is to generate those templates and distribute them for others to use.

The Business Model for profiting from this scheme: How does one motivate a million households to save just a fraction of what they use on a daily basis?. How does this project then turn that savings generated by the million households for a larger purpose?.

Answer: Dashboards.
Dashboards provide us view into that what we take for granted. They can help by reminding us that you can tweak this and gain that. The more interactive the Dashboard becomes, the more involved the user becomes. If my dashboard says by turning these 5 lights for 3 hours in a day, I will gain my great grand children a forest, that could be significant motivation?


Calculating costs: Here is a great site on everything Electricity, from average cost of kWh by state to how much does a 100 watt light bulb burn if kept on for a month. Ideally what we need is a gadget that can map our electricity usage, so we can see "real time" how electricity is being used. The idea: if we can see where it is going, we can put in controls needed. I went looking for such a device and found this product by TED that actually has some pretty cool features. The only problem with this solution is that it will cost you around $200 for the gadget + footprint software, then you will have to get an electrician to install it. So lets say around $300 investment. Not many people will go for that is my guess. So what we need is a solution that every household should have, if we we are going to control our spending and making inroads in this area. In fact, I think this should be subsidized so its use becomes ubiquitous.

Collaborative savings
: are nothing new, many business models are built requires a community based business model that can leverage the strength in numbers to advantage. The idea is if a million households saved a million Kilowatt hours, what can they collectively gain from that?

That's my Saturday morning Rant, Next week I might be spewing Usability sensibilities as I will be studying all week for the HCI 440 exam. Wish me luck.



Saturday, November 08, 2008

On being less self centered

The elections are over, my HCI 440 class is coming to an end. My next class is in January so I plan on talking about "being less self centered".

Why?
In the end we need to take care of each other, the trickle just wont get us to where we want to go. So my next few posts will focus on the things I do on a regular basis and how over a period of time I have learned to do it smarter.

The Do It Yourself online store: We all have something to sell. So why not own a store, that you call your own and sell. It could be ideas, products or even advice. The point is you need a store and here is how you can set it up and maintain it for $10 a month.

1) Pick an ISP to host your website, this should cost you around $8 a month. Register your domain name for $2 a month, I think you can get it cheaper. Total for ISP and domain = $10. That is the extent of your hard costs.
2) Point your domain name to your ISP's name servers. Or follow their instructions to park your domain there.
3) Install OsCommerce (2.2 rc2 is the one that I installed the other day) using "Simple scripts", Bluehost my ISP has this available for free. I am not affiliated with Bluehost, It just happens I picked them instead of many comparable ISP's out there.
4) For ease of getting OsCommerce developer plugins to work, install OsCommerce in the /Catalog folder. For example, I installed mine as a test here
5) Once installed, login as admin, and change the machine generated password to your choosing
6) Change settings in the configuration submodules, go through each one of them and customize, if is fairly self explanatory. You can always come back here and tweak it further so dont go overboard in this step
7) Install the Easy populate module. You will need this to upload inventory, Later on you will find this really useful for mass updates. Trust me you need this feature, unless you like doing boring stuff manually. I installed "Easypopulate v2.76f-MS2 (with attributes) r1". Modules are easy to install, follow the readme and install documentation and test.
8) Install the Page Editor module, You need this to add pages or modify existing pages, again trust me on this. I installed PageEditorv1.6. Please note that this module requires you make changes to the DB, but the sql script is provided. I followed the install instructions which requires you to copy a few files and update a few. This is a little tedious, but if you want to know what is being modified, follow the manual editing process. If you trust this module, go ahead and copy the files provided. Test the module once installed.
9) Install the PayPal express check out module, you will need to get a paypal API access with the UID/PWD and signature, follow instructions on paypal for this, fairly easy to get it working. The payPay express module for OsCommerce I used for this is: paypal_express_checkout_IPN_v0_4_1. There is a module already installed in the default install, you will need to disable that, install this one and then enable the configuration
10) Install the USPS plugin. Again this requires you to get a UID/PWD from USPS. I installed version USPS Methods 4_1_4. Follow the readme file to get your account created, it takes about a day to get that going.

There you have it. Easy 10 Steps to setup your own online store. Why is this attractive? Simply becuase Amazon will charge you $99 a month to do the same thing and give you attitude to boot. So you dont need Amazon's charity trickling down to you any more!!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Preparing for the HCI 440 final exam

I have always wanted to be different. While many other bloggers will rant about the historic elections, I will move on to more pressing personal topics, such as my upcoming exams. I had (last few weeks in play) the privilege of attending a HCI 440 course this Fall, as it is winding down, it is fitting I write about my User Experience (pun not intended or intended) this Saturday morning.

Design Theory: My bachelors degree many moons ago was in Architecture, this course in many ways was a rehash of design theories I learned and have forgotten since. There has been a lot of progress in 30 years in the field of design. But the essential fundamentals remain the same. ie. you are designing FOR USERS. The big difference this time around was the amount of involvement of users in the design process. There has been a significant body of research that has gone into cognitive studies understanding why and how we do things. This in my opinion has greatly enhanced the design process. I highly recommend this course to those of you who started out many years ago as I did.

The largest impact in my opinion is the application of design principles, processes and cognitive research that has gone into making what HCI (Human computer interaction) and UCD (User centered design) is today. There are many heavy weights who have contributed to this discipline. Names such as Jakob Nielsen, Bruce Tognazzini are just a few to scratch the surface.

So what exactly did I learn in these 11 weeks? The material we covered in class came from the book: "Beyond Human-Computer interaction" by Yvonne Sharp, Helen Sharp and Jenny Preece. Lots of great material in the book that spans Requirements gathering, Analysis, Design/Prototyping, Iteration, Evaluation and testing. Iteration by far was the most powerful concept that I latched on to. We also worked in a group of 6 to collaboratively design a Mobile application that replaces your remote controls around the house. It appears we will have a fairly decent final prototype by the 11th week.

We also covered various Theories, models and Frameworks that was a segway into Agile and SCRUM methodologies. I got a chance to watch what Jeff Sutherland did at google on the Adword project and what Jensen Harris did with the User Experience team at Microsoft as they developed the ribbon user experience for office 2007. Included here are links for your viewing pleasure if you are into that sort of thing.

Usabilty and User experience goals along with design principles and how cognitive theories tie into these, was fertile fodder. Use of metaphors was a fascinating study as you look around and see the rampant use of metaphors in design these days. Trashcan, desktop, Search engine, Browsing and exploring are all great examples of how metaphors have been used in todays design world.

I will leave you folks with these three thoughts:

The Architects of yesterday will really enjoy and benefit from this course, for it explains many approaches we gravitated to intutively years ago. The medium of design has certainly changed, and so has the process. Yet innovation, creativity and immagination are attributes that we will always strive to in our designs in years to come.

November 13th is World usability day. A lot of good events are planned around the world on this day, a testament to how far we have come. If you are inclined and wish to make time explore the world usability day event map is a great place to start

If you get an opportunity, try out Mozilla labs Ubiquity. It told me that there are some really sharp folks out there creating and innovating. All we have to do is be there to enjoy the USER EXPERIENCE.

That folks, is my Saturday Morning Rant for this Saturday November 8th 2008.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Store our family history on the world wide web for the future generations to read and enjoy?

First of all, I am going to break the 500 word rule and the Saturday morning Rant Rule. What I want to RANT about this morning is all about different ways to solve a problem, thanks to two of my relatives, One from Atlanta and one from Australia.

The problem at hand:

1) Why should we use Geni to document Family history? Why not facebook, Orkuchee (orkut), myspace, and other social media collaboration outlets that we currently use?
2) Why document Family history at all?.

Two questions with many answers: I hope I can get decent momentum going here. I don't plan on solving this problem, It would be foolish to do it by myself when I have 222 blood relatives on my Mom's side all participating (begrudgingly I think) on Geni. Insted I just plan on presenting some thoughts, that might provoke deeper insight, in the young minds of the Dsouza clan.

Documenting Family history: I have been a big proponent of documenting Family history for a long time now. I remember about 25 years ago a conversation I had with my Aunty Benna (then a principle of Mount carmel's mother ship) about this. The fact that I am still on this kick should mean something. There is also another reason. When I lived in India, not once was I asked to explain, why I have a Hispanic last name. After I came to the US, I have been asked this many a time. So I set out in search of the truth, at least the documented truth. What I found or did not find surprised me and increased my resolve to find out more.

Why not just use the world wide web as the repository for our family history?

I really believe we can pull this off:
But to understand how, we need to look at a similar problem space. A few years ago Google came out with the Google desktop. The feature that made it stand out from the rest was its capability to index all your files and even mail. By doing so they gave us an option to do away with filing/categorizing data. The premise was, you store data where ever and however you want to. Then when you need to retrieve a file, you simply search using key words and it pulls it up. So remember the time we used to spend cleaning our files and filing them away, If you were smart and used this indexing, you did not need to.

Let me give you an analogy. Lets say you lived in a college dorm. Your parents are not around to ask you to clean up your room. You just let it pile up. But mentally you arrive at this ingenious solution. Your mind indexed the contents of the room, so whenever you needed something, it was easy to find. So no sorting, no cleaning, no mus, no fuss. Its all there, and you get it when you need it. Indexing at its sophisticated best!!

The premise was simple: They did away with elaborate folder heiarachies to store and retrieve data, instead they just indexed every word in each document. It is an amazing retrieval system which they developed for the world wide web and just scaled it down to the desktop and it was a paradigm shift from the older ways of thinking about information retrieval.

So In theory we the M&M clan should be able to use any social network out there, and post our Zeitegeist as we live. If at any time any one wishes to retrieve how it came to be that Terry lives in Kalamazoo today, about 12000 miles where he was born. You can serch for Terry+Trichur+Fernandez Lane+Kalamazoo and wallah!! you have the answer.

I got out a couple of concepts there so let me tag them so folks can easily get to this information:
Semantic Web, cognition and recall, Indexing, Social media, Social networks, Search algorithms, Information retrieval.

The question is how do I capture the Stories I heard Dennis Britto tell us when we were young?. How can I capture and convey the moment, when he let us put our finger in the hole in his head? Gary V. is perhpas one answer. Any one who has watched Gary V and his incredible story telling, will agree he is Dennis Britto reincarnated. There are other great story tellers out there: Sir Ken Robinson, Larry Lessing, Jon Steward, Ze Frank to name a few. They all have one thing in common, they use other forms of media to convey their stories.

So lots of questions for the future generations in the M&M clan to sink their teeth into. One thing is for sure, When my Uncles, Aunts, Cousins travelled far away from Managalore (uncle George, Aunty Flavy, Uncle Willy, Uncle Jimmy to name just a few) their only medium of communication was writing letters. Whats more, I am sure there were Stories like Edgar told us the other day about a Dog named Puski that we are not priviy to becuase there was not way to use the world wide web as a repository and google was not aournd to index the information. With the result, we lost a lot of history. What are we going to do about it?

Let history repeat it self?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

November pictures



My goal as all goals go, is to write at least 500 words a week on this blog, to help improve my writing skills for the days ahead. So please dont look for any hidden agenda here. I dont think I have ever explained why this blog is called http. Well, the honest truth is, I was in search of a kitchy name for a brand that did not have any true substance other than being a sandbox. So I looked around, liked the metaphorical approach that slasdot, digg, 37 signals and the rest of the folks had taken and decided to invest in http. Remind me to tell you how I took on the moniker of mibdepot sometime.

This particular post is an experiment in sending pictures from my phone to the blog. What you see here is my teeny balcony off my home office, yes I am lucky to have that, and a view of the backyard as the leaves are falling in preparation for the winter from the said balcony.




I have been writing to prepare for some intense research and writing the next 5 years. This brand of this blog is just that. My research,writing and publishing sandbox. Pictures are worth a thousand words they say. So I am playing around with how to get pictures to the blog the unconentional way or any which way possible.

Podcasts and Videocasts will be next I am sure.

Saturday Morning Fall Shot

Saturday morning Fall Shot in November.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

its all about Perspective

This one is all about perspective when used as a metaphor. Sometimes it is necessary to see beyond our point of view to get a better understanding of what is going on. Sometimes it does not matter, but most times we get to see way more than what is apparent if we change our viewpoint.

We are in the midst of a historic election year and there is just about 10 days till America elects a new president. I will use that backdrop to explain my point about perspective and viewpoints.

In Knowledge management circles there is a concept called "conformational bias". Basically this means that if your thought process is inclined one way, you tend to analyze and dissect events from the point of view of your BIAS. So if you are a democrat, everything the Republican candidate says and does is phooey and vice versa. So if conformational bias can skew our perspective where does the truth lie?.

Lets take a look at John Mccain's (Republican candidate) campaign for a moment: He is running on a ticket where the current president's approval rating is in the single digits, the economy is in a bad state and we are still fighting a war that was never popular. So if you walk in his shoes, he has quite a campaign going. The big question is can we learn something from it?. If you were put in a situation of not having a snowball's chance in hell, but you were knee deep in it, how do stay motivated?

Well it is all about perspective and viewpoints.

Take a game, your favorite game. You are down at half time, so way down that you dont really have a chance of winning, what do you do?. Do you throw in the towel? or do you play the game out and making it a point to learn, so the next game you play, you have learnt from it? My heart goes out to the loosing team, becuase it takes a lot more to play the game out than the winning team. It is easy for the baser side of human emotion to come out when you are put in a state of being a loosing team and it is easy to not concentrate on skill, but rather on unproductive paths.

So if you see charector assasination taking a frontal role or a focus for the loosing side, you know why. it is all about perspective and viewpoint.

So my hats off to the Mccain campaing for still being in the game. And remember when his team does not concentrate on issues that matter, and focus on socialism, race and other base emotional issues, they are just human beings, playing on a loosing team.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The GOP academy and the Madrassa's

If you join the GOP academy, you can learn how to wink, pronounce NUCLEAR in a folksy way and the subtle art of "Management by Fear". If you join a Madrassa, I am not sure if they teach you how to wink in public, or pronounce NUCLEAR a folksy way, but they will teach you "Management by Fear". So in our heart of hearts the ideology is not very different, so why do we have a big problem about the Madrassas?.

If you answered "They are evil" or "They are the enemy" then you score 100 points on this quiz. Which is what this Saturday morning Rant is all about. Quizzes.

You see, to mobilize the masses you need a common enemy, in the "Management by Fear" approach. You find one, you paint them as evil and you go after them, regardless of cast, creed, culture. It is also very cyclical. Meaning one year your enemy might be this group, next year they will be another and so on. In the past our enemies have been, the Japanese, the Russians, the chineese, the Vietnamese, the Germans, the Moslems, Wall Street and who knows who is next. The fact remains that to stay united, to drown our miseries, to get relief from truth, we need an an ememy. An enemy that we can rally around. That is the corner stone of "Management by Fear".

So what does all this have to do with Quizzess? Well, glad you roped me back to the main theme.

If you asked me a question and I did not know the answer, you are bound to think lesser of me. If this were an exam, the result would be, I would not get a passing grade. However, if you asked me a question and I made you feel that you asked me the wrong question and perhaps you should have asked me the question that I knew a very good answer to, we all come away winners. So remember this. If you are asked a question, and you dont know the answer, formulate your own question, anwer it well and chastise the one asking the question for asking you the wrong question. That my friends is the ultimate in Management by Fear.

So next time you hear of people with power tell you, that the sky is falling, be very afraid, this is has never happened before, ask yourself the question. Is this Management by Fear?. Would it make it any better if I winked and pronounced NUCLEAR in a folksy way?. You are right gosh darn it. You Betcha!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Continuity

I had a thought today and it was fairly discontinuous. As I was attending the HCI 440 Class, my mind wandered. We were into Conceptual models and wandering and mental chatter can happen particularly when you are doing a distance online class.

So I thought of continuity. How I can connect thoughts that are discontinuous over time. More of how to categorize or come up with thought buckets.

This past weekend I attended a wedding and memories from that event will go into a Family and friends Event bucket, within that, it would go into a Wedding bucket and so on. Then over time as the thought becomes discontinuous, I can easily store thoughts into its proper taxonomy.

At some point in time collection of thoughts in these buckets turn into intuition. Cognitive sciences are all over this for ages. For example, you tell a child, dont touch fire, the child touches fire, bucktizes the information about how it burns when he/she touched fire and then eventually never touches fire with her bare hands. Interestingly never revisiting that truth ever again, becuase hot is hot and will continue to stay that way.

My exposure to electricity is pretty similar. I always cringe when I change a bulb for fear of touching a wrong part. I dont ever remeber ever getting an electric shock, but some how the cognitive process registerd this into my intution and now I tread lightly.

However I see electricians work with electrical equipment and electricity in general with disdain born out of knowing electricity well. I wish I had that knowledge in everything I did. I wish all of us have that power to undertand. That power can actually eliminate fear. Continuity can be a wonderful thing, for it provides a window into those buckets of the past.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Who Said Ducks Cant Dance?.

It is true that Ducks cant Dance, but they do Waddle and more importantly they know how to have fun. Perhaps they even drink?

And so it came to pass that last Weekend most of the D'Souza cousins (extended of course) met in Cleveland to celebrate Vinay and Angela's wedding. I had promised myself, I would keep up with the writing even if I were at the wedding, but good times prevailed, and the writing hit the dust.

These past few days, there has been a lot of email traffic with the trendy topics of discussion revolving around, the happy couple, contended parents and of course the duck footed D'Souza cousins. My take: they are not duck footed at all, there are some amongst the cousins who are way too good, making the rest of us look duck footed. But dancing lessons would be a good thing, No?

By Sunday morning, as each of the families started to leave for home, we all felt we should do this again. The place of choice appears to be North Carolina in June of 2009. On Tap: Dancing lessons, Cricket, sunshine on the beach and good food.

I wanted to leave you folks with my thoughts on the wedding:

The rehersal dinner on Friday night was great, loved the place, loved the food and most of all loved the company. Denzil, Ronnie and Lynn did a great job making sure no one was left behind. I know some of you thought the bus driver did not know what he was doing, but he got you there on time. The night before the wedding: We drank and sang and got security to visit us. Always a sign of a great party. The Roce: it is a tradition, a little messy for some but great for the rest. Aunty Celene, Jennifer, Yvette, Antoinette, George, your oveos are the best in the continental US. Loved you guys reading off the blackberry, shows we can be traditional and cutting edge at the same time. The Wedding: On time, short and sweet and that priest was good. The Choir deserves major kudos. You guys sounded so professional, it was truly a treat. Jim Bab and Willie Bab, I am sure were watching, truly proud of thier offspring. The Reception was a great party, great fun and lots of terrific dancing, we wished it did not end.

  • Vinay and Angela, you guys looked Marvellous, such poise and what great smiles.
  • Dawn and Jose, you have passed the milestone of milestones and you did it with grace and style. Now for those "grandchillen"
  • Sannu and Tom: You are the Smartest and cutest couple we know. You make us proud, and it is a pleasure to just hang around you guys. Remember your Mom and Dad want "grandchillen". I had this anecdote that I wanted to share about a goat who knocked down Sannu, when she was yeah tall in Salem. Not sure if anyone remembers, but Mom, Dad and I do. Sannu you were about 15 months old then.

  • Sydney, Sanjay, Anosh, Michelle and Liam (Angella's brother)
    reminded me of the good times we used have at various weddings many
    years ago. I still hear the pigs squealing at 5 in the morning, but
    what a great memory.

  • Maya was so excited weeks before we left for the wedding, she
    was excited to meet up with Merryl and have fun, it is nice to see
    cousins grow up.
  • My Brotha Denzil, thank you for being you. Thank you for all the hard work and thank you for getting us to the church on time.

  • Lynn and Peter, Great toast from Lynn, but then I dont think anyone expected anything less.
  • Aunty Celene, in a wedding steeped in tradition, it was fitting that you
    presided as the D'souza elder. Thank you for representing Mommy, I am
    sure she would not have it any other way. Shanti for the great konkani
    songs after the rehsersal dinner. I am amazed how well you remember all
    those songs and yes I will come for your Birthday if you invite me.

  • Eugie, Merv and Raju, it was great seeing you guys after 25+ years, I agree with Seema, Raj is the handsomest of the lot.
  • Geetha and Mario, it is always great to see you guys. You have great children and Jennifer owes Michelle big time.

  • Jennifer and Cyrus, you bring back memories of Chickamaglur, white house, the church next door and ofcourse Balehithlu estate.
  • Antoinette
    and George you guys are simply amazing, those are not just words. The
    roce and the Wedding would not have been the same without you guys.
  • Vernon and Carly, thank you for coming down and sharing. Hope you
    will continue to join the gang and keep up the traditon of good times
  • Yvette
    and Mike, You both were spectacular on the dance floor and your singing
    is out of this world, I am truly honored to have such great cousins.
  • Geraldine and Shaidan, You both just blew my mind, you have so much energy and such grace, it was a treat. Thank you.
  • Ronnie,
    Seema you are the coolest couple I know. More importantly, Seema what
    magic do you possess? the kids behave like angles when they are at your
    table.

  • Loy and Margaret, it was great seeing you after 20 years.
    Vivek this was our first time meeting, it is great to see the next
    generation kick into high gear.
  • Shayla, thank you for being there. Freeda has many reasons to be proud in you.




Friday, September 12, 2008

Validating Truths every so often

If you are a Project Manager, one of the things you do as you run the project is to review the requirements at certain intervals to make sure your project produces a product that will be used when complete.

It happens in real life as well, take our school system for example. I remember when I was in the 6th grade, I did something I should not have done, I got called into the principles office, where this nun pulled out a long narrow flexible cane, made me stick out my palm and whacked me a few times across it. We don't do that any more in most schools. At least I think we have validated our truth about discipline and use other methods to discipline our children. I don't think we do this enough, because if we did, we would have evolved faster or at least we would have shed some truths that need shedding very badly. Perhaps I should make a list like Earl on his hit show My Name is Earl.

What made me write about this today?. Well as you know I am taking a HCI class at DePaul this quarter. The first assignment was the proverbial usability experience analysis of an "Alarm Clock". It is a cliche in the UX (Usability eXperience)world to use the alarm clock and usability in the same breath because of the ubiquitous nature of the device and the ubiquitous nature of the fact that we wake up every morning to do something. As I set down to write this paper, I realized that we never validated the truth about the the alarm clock. Is it a time keeper or is it a device to wake me up?.

If I were asked to design a device to wake people up today, from scratch as Google did with the new browser, what would I do? What would you do?

Here is what I came up with:

Having used an Alarm clock for over 30 years now, I never once had to validate the truth about Alarm clock design, until I got to this HCI class. As a designer, I believe in validating design requirements often, hence this approach. Consider this is an academic/design exercise and I start with validating the truth as follows:

In my years of using the Alarm Clock, I have come to associate an alarm clock to have 3 major components:

1) Alarm/Alerting mechanism;
When an event occurs, send out an alert indicating it occurred.

2) Time displaying mechanism:
A device that displays universal time that is adjusted for time zones represented by geograpic locations

3) Setup/Configuration process: The user is given hardware and instructions on how to program the Alerting mechanism as well as the Time displaying device.

Validating Truth behind the purpose of the device:

The question is what are we trying to accomplish? If the mission is to be woken up at a specific time, then we need a device to wake us from slumber/sleep/state of rest at at a time we specify before that state or have specified as a recurring event. The whole object is to to be awakened from Sleep. That is the purpose, the object, the criteria we should design for.

Through time and iterations of industrial design, we have arrived at the modern day alarm clock. When I was growing up, my Mom or my sister used to wake me up. I always woke up as they persisted until I woke up. In essence my job was to wake up and the job of reminding me to wake up and persisting till I woke up was removed from me in a state of slumber. The closest that any "Wake up" method of today comes to that effective way of being woken up at a specified time is the Wake up call, where you call into a system, be it the front desk of a hotel or a wake up service and it automatically calls you at a specified time.

If I were given a fresh start were asked to design a Alarm clock today, that is exactly what I would do. with this method, I am not investing in a Clock, but more in a Wake up device.

So my truth (validated) today amounts to this. If I need a Wake up call, I should use the most efficient way of doing just that. If I need a clock, then look for a device that provides the most Accurate time for you and your current state. If you are blind, you should get a audible time display device, If you are deaf you should have a Visual or sensory display and so on.

Should Alarm Clocks be designed as a combination Alerting mechanism + Accurate Time keeper + interface for Users to configure Alerting and Time?
Perhaps they should and if so let us design for each of the 3 parts and then consolidate them to arrive at a good design that fits our UI and UE (user interface and experience needs). Following are guidelines for each of these components:

1) Keep it simple: means using known, stable methods and technology that consistently provides alerts, keeps correct time and provides a simple UI. Failure is within six sigma limits.
2) Keep it redundant: means making sure in case of failure, a back up plan kicks in, keeping Failure with the six sigma limits.

Keep on Validating your TRUTHS, that's my Saturday morning Rant for this week.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Of Content and Content deliverers.


Last weeks Rant was all about Listening: Natural progression would be to talk about the yang of that Yin. Which brings me this week to "Content and How to deliver it so folks would listen".

Let me start with some examples from current events:
1) Google created a Web Browser from scratch and released it with a COMIC STRIP this week. They spoke through a comic strip.
2) RNC (Republican National Convention) kept the media/analysts away during their speeches, so the Content would not be sliced and diced in real time.

While listening is more of a passive role, meaning you listen to what is being said or deliverd, Delivering content appears to be very dynamic and often times takes ingenuity. Take this scenario:

Back in the 80's the guys at the Xerox Palo Alto labs, wanted machines to talk, so here is what they came up with:

CSMA/CD Carrier Sense Multiple Access / Collision Detection: The low level network arbitration protocol used on Ethernet. Nodes wait for quiet on the net before starting to transmit and listen while they are transmitting. If two nodes transmit at once the data gets corrupted. The nodes detect this and continue to transmit for a certain length of time to ensure that all nodes detect the collision. The transmitting nodes then wait for a random time before attempting to transmit again thus minimizing the chance of another collision. The ability to detect collision during transmission reduces the amount of bandwidth wasted on collisions compared with simple ALOHA broadcasting. (1995-02-23)

In every sense, we converse very much like the Protocol but still are in a state of conflict, are we creating protocols better than we can humanly interact?. When will human communications and interaction learn from switching, multiplexing, compression, stateless and stateful packet filtering?

Why is this relevant? We create in our likeness, so pay close attention as I dissect this using a metaphor approach. On the left is What is our creation and the right side is Human perception.

1) Protocol = grammer
2) Ethernet = Language
3) Nodes = People
4) transmit = deliver content.
5) Collision and detection = from a transmitters point of view, eliminate noise

What is missing appears to be the listening part. Why was that left out?. Perhaps at that time, LISTENING was not important enough to those who developed Ethernet. Circling back to my current events thought from earlier in this post, Google said they created a new browser because things have changed since the first days of the web and the HTTP protocol. So they developed a browser from scratch to meet the new paradigms of today. Quite a concept. So if Ethernet were developed today (again) would the emphasis be on LISTENING? and not so much as TRANSMISSION? Food for thought perhaps which leads us to WE NEED TO VALIDATE OUR TRUTHS OFTEN.

Problem I see with using metaphors to get a point across, is that one can get lost along the way or your reader can loose his way in the maze so the trick is to use these design principles

SIMPLE
DIRECT
VALIDATE the content periodically.

VALIDATING CONTENT , introduces the element of TIME. So the big question is should we validate our TRUTHS from time to time? and when it comes to LISTENING and SPEAKING, do our concepts need validation? Most probably.

Circling back one more time to the RNC convention mentioned above: Quite a few half truths were presented to make the point that we should vote for the Mccain/Palin ticket. Lots of innuendo's, and an approach of instilling FEAR was evident in most of the speeches. The CONTENT and the DELIVERY can be a powerful way to sway our perception even if they are half TRUTHS.

I have rambled on about the other half of the equation that makes up a CONVERSATION today. Not sure if it is a cohesive set of arguments. I will leave you with that for now.

Remember VALIDATE your TRUTHS frequently. The result might surprise you.




Saturday, August 30, 2008

Listen Now, Hear me later.

I suddenly have this urge to listen. Not sure when it started but its there and it is not going away. So this week I am going to talk about LISTENING

One on One listening
Listening in a Group
Listening to the the World
Listening to Oneself
Listening Tools
Deterrents to Listening, the Noise.

One on One listening:
Face to Face listening, mostly falls into two categories, Same time/Same Place and Same time/Different Place but they both involve direct one on one conversations. The stake of each participant in the conversation defines the intensity with which they listen. The higher the stake, the greater the intensity. It could be a conversation with a child, spouse, significant other, a friend, an acquaintance, a relative, colleague, superior, the list goes on. Fact remains that in a conversation you have to listen, which defines the quality of the exchange of information. Listening is a such an integral part of our lives that we seldom stop to measure how well we listen or how much we gain out of a conversation. How well we listen also depends on the deterrents to listening, the Noise that comes into play as we listen. A lot of the noise is our own mental chatter, our predispositions and our confirmational biases that we have grown to accept as part of our make up. Srikumar Rao has talked about mental chatter in his book " Are you ready to Succeed" . Any good Knowledge management book or course will tell you that Confirmational Bias is a strong deterrent to effective listening. So there is a good chance that we dont listen effectively at all and perhaps we should start paying attention.
Listening in a Group:
Again as in the One on One listening, Listening in a Group, falls into the two categories of Time/Place. In a social setting when there are more than a few folks interacting, listening can take on a different path. If the group comprises of like minded people, you will hear what you always wanted to hear and what sustains your interest in the subject. In a group, listening follows the traditional norm of followers and leaders. We tend to listen to a strong leader more than the collective intelligence. We often prefer listening to the trickle down from a few strong leaders still after so many years of evolution. So what does it take to listen to the collective intelligence?. To understand that, we need to look at how the social media movement has generated listening tools and how these tools can provide us plethora of avenues to fine tune our listening skills.
Listening to the the World:
An extension of listening in a Group, listening to the world is becoming far more possible in the 21st century. We do hear more about Wars, famine, hunger, disasters and we hear about them faster than we did in the past. Development in Media and technology has pushed the envelope to the point where we are starting to see an information overload. We cant listen effectively to it all, but we can listen effectively to what we choose to. We are a planet of 6 billion people, of which today may be a billion can tap into the resources through the internet, telling us that we have a long way to go, and we should get there sooner than later.
On a side note, for those of you are into technology, we will run out of IP (IPv4) addresses spaces in the next 3 to 4 years, so get ready for a change to IPv6. We might have to revisiting our addressing technology on the whole.
Listening to Oneself:
Listening to ourself has become so engrained into us that we seldom stop to think of how we do it. Unless ofcourse you are studing the congnitive process in a academic setting. But it is important particularly becuase of the mental chatter I mentioned before. This mental chatter has a way of distracting us from effectively listening. There have been various forms of meditation tracks that have tools to manage the mental chatter, but we seldom have the time or inclination to work at fine tuning the art of Listening to Oneself.
Listening Tools:
In IT Operations management, listening tools are huge, and so are Unattended Event Notifications that are driven out of the listening tools. As human beings we have invented these tools that can help us manage our business. There are some pretty incredible algorithms and slick methods developed that help us with the competitive advantage. So why not scale those techniques down to the individual? We are slowly starting to see a progression in that direction. There are many technology evangelists like Chris Brogan who are pushing the envelop in this area, perhaps we should all STOP and LISTEN.
Deterrents to Listening, the Noise:
Finally deterrents to listening: If you lived on a farm or in a remote place, they say the pace is slower. They say you dont need to multitask as much. They say your head is clearer, the air is sweeter, the water more refreshing and so on and so forth. In fact those of us who can afford it even take vacations to sleepy villages in Portugal to enjoy this serenity. Deterrents to Listening is the lack of serenity perhaps and does not have to be limited to some places/some times? So what does it take to reduce the deterrents to Listening?.

I really belive it takes more that using tools to manage your time better. It take more than following the 7 habits of succeful people, and countless others who have made it rich by writing books about how to effectively manage your precious time.

It really might be as simple as listening to your self once in a while. Leave your confirmational biases at the door, and start LISTENING, it might just make a difference.

Thats my Saturday morning Rant for this labor day weekend. Happy Listening.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Setup an Online Store for $10 a month, while Amazon will charge you $99.99 for the same

As promised, Here is how I setup an online store for $10 a month, I felt compelled to write this after I realized that Amazon charges $99.99 for the same. I learned this the hard way by porting my store to Amazon and then shut it down, when I realized I was being treated as a dumb customer.

1) Pick an ISP to host your website, this should cost you around $8 a month. Register your domain name for $2 a month, I think you can get it cheaper, Total for ISP and domain = $10. That is the extent of your costs.
2) Point your domain name to your ISP's name servers. Or follow their instructions to park your domain there.
3) Install OsCommerce (2.2 rc2 is the one that I installed the other day) using "Simple scripts", Bluehost my ISP has this available for free. I am not affiliated with Bluehost, It just happens I picked them instead of many comparable ISP's out there.
4) For ease of getting OsCommerce developer plugins to work, install OsCommerce in the /Catalog folder. For example, I installed mine at http://fernandi.com/catalog
5) Once installed, login as admin, and change the machine generated password to your choosing
6) Change settings in the configuration submodules, go through each one of them and customize, if is fairly self explanatory. You can always come back here and tweak it further so dont go overboard in this step
7) Install the Easy populate module. You will need this to upload inventory, Later on you will find this really useful for mass updates. Trust me you need this feature, unless you like doing boring stuff manually. I installed "Easypopulate v2.76f-MS2 (with attributes) r1". Modules are easy to install, follow the readme and install documentation and test.
8) Install the Page Editor module, You need this to add pages or modify existing pages, again trust me on this. I installed PageEditorv1.6. Please note that this module requires you make changes to the DB, but the sql script is provided. I followed the install instructions which requires you to copy a few files and update a few. This is a little tedious, but if you want to know what is being modified, follow the manual editing process. If you trust this module, go ahead and copy the files provided. Test the module once installed.
9) Install the PayPal express check out module, you will need to get a paypal API access with the UID/PWD and signature, follow instructions on paypal for this, fairly easy to get it working. The payPay express module for OsCommerce I used for this is: paypal_express_checkout_IPN_v0_4_1. There is a module already installed in the defaul install, you will need to disable that, install this one and then enable the configuration
10) Install the USPS plugin. Again this requires you to get a UID/PWD from USPS. I installed version USPS Methods 4_1_4. Follow the readme file to get your account created, it takes about a day to get that going.

Once you have all this going, you now have to upload your inventory. Download the inventory from the default install as a template. Clean up the data there and add your own inventory. Make sure you save it as tab delimited format before uploading. Test by uploading a few records first. It is fairly straightforward if you follow instructions in the Easy Populate module.

That is it Folks, your have your online store running. Some very important things to note:
1) when installing OsCommerce using simple scripts make sure you install it in the /catalog directory. Most plugins are written with this structure in mind, so make it easier on your self and do it this way.
2) keep the mods and plugin's to a bare minimum, The first time around I installed numerous plugins, in the end, I lost track of all the changes that went in and was afraid to touch it lest I break something. Notice I have not even installed SSL. Since PayPal is taking care of payments, I dont want to deal with encryption. Also the minute you get into SSL your ISP will have you purchasing a separate IP and the SSL module.
3) The only modules I have added to the stock install of OsCommerce are: a) Easy Populate and b) Page editor. The other two the paypal express checkout and USPS shipping are updates to what is already there, but you need to update to get proper functionality.
4) Test your uploads and mass updates, this will come in real handy later on as your inventory grows.

Thats all there is to it. If you have a lot of money to spare go for the Amazon Seller Central deal for $99.99. But why do that when you can get pretty much the same results for $10.

My journey - August 2008

Past three weeks have been hectic, for most folks summer is a time to kick back and relax, enjoy beach time with the family. It has been all that and much more, so my Saturday morning rant for this week covers a lot of ground.

The August Journey:

1) Got really busy at work because I had to fill in for my boss who had not taken a 2 week vacation in 10 years, on top of that we had an important FIOS release and a looming strike which added to the normal work load.
2) Family renunion, the annual Casey reunion at Southhaven, I will post pictures when the Jaicks send me some.
3) Amazon SellerCentral snafu, after a week of working with Amazon's seller central to build up the entire Joy of Fabrics online store, I pulled out disillusioned with the games Amazon plays. More on this below
4) OsCommerce tweaking. I had built Joy of Fabrics online store using OsCommerce in 2005. After the disaster with Amazon, I picked it up again and tweaked it down to a science. That was the silver lining of the Summer of 2008.

Work Scene:
Filling in for my boss, was a lot of work but not all that hard. The toughest part was the extra effort in having to understand what his boss wanted to see. One thing I learnt from Knowledge Management classes (Thank you Al Burns) is to figure out what someone wants, and provide that. This falls in the realm of eliciting tacit knowledge and can be hard, particularly if you dont interact with the person frequently. The looming strike and the preparation that went into gearing up for that did add quite a bit of load into the normal routine, but some of us had it much easier than the others. I have friends who were assigned other Jobs and had to train for it for 3 months. It all turned out okay in the end. A new contract for 3 years was finally signed.

Family reunion:
Every year our families meet in Southhaven. It used to be Siesta Key in Florida and then it got too much of a distance for the Grand Parents, so now for the past 4 years, the destination has been Southhaven Michigan a sleepy beach town. The The whole family was there including Linda who came from Nairobi for a few days. Always a pleasure to see the Jaicks, the Fialkos since they dont live around here like Dan, Barb and we do. So it was a week of eating drinking and being merry for the family and birthday celebrations for Ellen, Beth, Sean and Mike. Ofcouse, the Strike situation at work, put me on standby, which meant that I could only join the clan a couple days. But all in all it was a good time.

This was the year that Sydney decided to get a mohawk, and Barb gave him her blessing by saying "You have a good nut Syd". Mike exclaimed "Aw right!!". The rest of us just went with the flow.







This was also the summer that Maya figured out she could do something that most folks in the world cannot do, you guessed it, she can lick her own elbow. The mohawk and the elbow licking, Need I add that it is a proud summer in the Fernandi household!!






Its all about lack of Transparency:
It appears that this theme is a broken record in my mind. I keep coming back to the lack of transparency. These past two weeks, I got a sizable dose of that, from no other than Amazon Seller Central. Short story, I moved the Joy of Fabrics online store to Amazon's Seller Central. It tooks some doing and was fun, took about 2 days of figuring out the upload schema and dns zone files. Then realized that Amazon did some false advertising to get me to move and now that I did, they felt they had me where they could milk it for all they could. I feel sorry for many who do not have the same choices as I did. My choice was to pull out, shut down my store and go back to OsCommerce based online store. I did not like the fact that Amazon's parting gift was an announcement that Joy of Fabrics was shutting down instead of saying that Joy of Fabrics is going elsewhere because they were unhappy with the bad service!!. I am very disapointed with Amazon right now, I some how felt that a web 2.0 company should be above "used car sales techniques". Live and learn I guess.

Amazon and Jeff Bezos if you are listening:
What got you where you are is the "VALUE" you bring to the customer, dont throw it all away with "I got you by your balls, and I will do anything I choose and there is nothing the customer can do" attitude. This customer walked out on you, and this customer will tell other customers and who knows the word might spread.

OsCommerce and Joy Of Fabrics:
Back in 2004, when my wife wanted to sell her fabric creations such as fabric vases, fabric bowls, fabric quilts, she teamed up with a buddy who charged her 40% for selling her products. So I stepped in, built a linux box, got an ssl cert, got OsCommerce working as her storefront. Joy of Fabrics had an online presence with very little startup costs. She did have some sales, but really lacked the PR and Marketting and the SEO push to take it to the next level.

On the technology side, while she could manage inventory and product uploads through the admin gui, I soon realized that this store might be better of in a hosted envrironment. I had really tweaked OsCommerce to get it where I wanted, but the tweaks were so numerous, that managing it, let alone porting it else where, would take some serious doing. Well, our move to Kalamazoo last summer, clinched it. Since then the Store has been in maintenance mode, until I got this note from Amazon Central saying they could host my site for $39.95 a month. So I jumped at the opportunity and you know the rest of the story. The silve lining was, I was now in a mode of getting things to work, so I picked up OsCommerce once again and should add that I am glad I did.

This time the key was to keep the mods down to the barest minimum: Install OsCommerce through simple scripts, Install the easy populate contribution, install the page editor contribution, install the PayPal express check out contribution/modification and finally the USPS shipping contribution/modification. I made sure to do all this in a test bed, so I can document and tune it down to a science. The Amazon Seller Central experience pushed me to tweaking OsCommerce to a "Not Magic Anymore" state. I will document the step by step shortly, hopefully others can take advantage of the experience. Yes folks, you can run an online store for just the cost of your hosting service. In my case, Bluehost costs $8 a month. Compare that to $99.99 a month for the Amazon Seller central attitude driven bad service.

Now if any one asks, why has Terry been so quiet these past few weeks, you know the answer.

Parting note:
Last night we went to watch Kalamazoo Kings baseball. Barb, Jen, Syd, Maya and Myself. We had good seats courtsey of Barb's financial planner. '







Well it was'nt wriggly field, but there is something magical about going to a sports stadium and being part of it.







Hope you are all having a great summer. If you came away with a silver lining, like I did, then it is all Okay in my book.

See you next week.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

My 4.5 mile daily bike ride in the hood

This is a pretty town for a bike ride. Very Hilly (is that really a word?) and no traffic, great to ride and push those endorphins to the maximum production. It takes me about 22 minutes, but I really break a sweat and feel good when done.

My goal is to do this daily, but stuff happens and things come in the way. So I try. Take a look at the elevation at the bottom of the map, which should tell you why I break a sweat. I am actually working my way up to joining a group that rides regularly, I believe they do about 15 miles which is 3 times what I do currently. Will get there. in the mean time enjoy the map.

Now for a little about my bike. I bought this Schwinn LeTour, 20 years ago in Chicago and never used it much. A couple of years ago when my kids started learning to ride I decided to get the bike looked over. The best $400 I spent in a while. The thing rides like a champ. Will post pictures of it soon.

Non Trivial availaibilty lessons for today's Thought Leaders.

Suppose I were a leader with a whole slew of followers. What does my day look like?. For some it looks like this: (confession: took the following 4 bullets from Chris Brogan's note this morning)

  1. Reading what friends write.
  2. Reading about the “new marketing” industry and the tech industry (fishbowl).
  3. Reading what people recommend.
  4. Reading off the wall stuff that inspires new thoughts (outside the bowl).
The purpose behind these 4 bullets, of course is to "make things" that the followers find useful. But what of availability?

There are two kinds: Trivial and non Trivial. For most thought leaders today, availability does not even enter into the picture. Why? because with Availability there is a sense of immediacy. And the plain and simple truth is most so called thought leaders cant be bothered by that. Remember the God Father? He presided over these sessions where his followers would come to him and he would grant them his wishes. Great availability story there. We all knew exactly where we stood and he was always available to this followers.

Okay I am going somewhere with this and it mostly has to do with Non-Trivial availability. Some time ago, I had a boss who was always available when challenges were Trivial, but the minute it got any where near non-Trivial, the man was no where to be found. He must have thought that if he stays away I will always find a way. So why come in between a good thing.

You see I work in IT operations and Availability is a huge yardstick for us. So this generated a lot of discussion with SELF!!. It made me want to be available for the guys even more. Every time there was a situation, the picture of this boss who was never available when needed most came to mind and I would over compensate. To the point where I had enough material to write a dissertation on the subject.

It all started not too long ago. I was in a Data Mining class, Professor Mobashar (one of the best in my opinon) dropped this idea in passing about mining for availability and why it is important to categorize it into two buckets. Of course that was in the context of machine availability at that time, but boy did it get me thinking. What a concept.

So circling back to our Thought Leaders and what availability means to them. What is YOUR availability to your followers?. What percentage is Trivial availability?. Are you in the availability business at all?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Windows server performance monitoring benchmark taken from Steven Choy article 08042008

Taken from Steven Choy's article on Server pulse

Hard Disk Bottleneck

LogicalDisk\% Free Space: This measures the percentage of free space on the selected logical disk drive. Take note if this falls below 15 percent, as you risk running out of free space for the OS to store critical files. One obvious solution here is to add more disk space.

PhysicalDisk\% Idle Time: This measures the percentage of time the disk was idle during the sample interval. If this counter falls below 20 percent, the disk system is saturated. You may consider replacing the current disk system with a faster disk system.

PhysicalDisk\Avg. Disk Sec/Read: This measures the average time, in seconds, to read data from the disk. If the number is larger than 25 milliseconds (ms), that means the disk system is experiencing latency when reading from the disk. For mission-critical servers hosting SQL Server® and Exchange Server, the acceptable threshold is much lower, approximately 10 ms. The most logical solution here is to replace the current disk system with a faster disk system.

PhysicalDisk\Avg. Disk Sec/Write: This measures the average time, in seconds, it takes to write data to the disk. If the number is larger than 25 ms, the disk system experiences latency when writing to the disk. For mission-critical servers hosting SQL Server and Exchange Server, the acceptable threshold is much lower, approximately 10 ms. The likely solution here is to replace the disk system with a faster disk system.

PhysicalDisk\Avg. Disk Queue Length: This indicates how many I/O operations are waiting for the hard drive to become available. If the value here is larger than the number of spindles plus two, that means the disk itself may be the bottleneck.
Memory\Cache Bytes: This indicates the amount of memory being used for the file system cache. There may be a disk bottleneck if this value is greater than 200MB.

Memory Bottleneck

Memory\% Committed Bytes in Use: This measures the ratio of Committed Bytes to the Commit Limit—in other words, the amount of virtual memory in use. This indicates insufficient
memory if the number is greater than 80 percent. The obvious solution for this is to add more memory.

Memory\% Available Mbytes: This measures the amount of physical memory, in megabytes, available for running processes. If this value is less than 5 percent of the total physical RAM, that means there is insufficient memory, and that can increase paging activity. To resolve this problem, you should simply add more memory.

Memory\Free System Page Table Entries: This indicates the number of page table entries not currently in use by the system. If the number is less than 5,000, there may well be a memory
leak.

Memory\Pool Non-Paged Bytes: This measures the size, in bytes, of the non-paged pool. This is an area of system memory for objects that cannot be written to disk but instead must remain in physical memory as long as they are allocated. There is a possible memory leak if the value is greater than 175MB (or 100MB with the /3GB switch). A typical Event ID 2019 is recorded in the system event log.

Memory\Pool Paged Bytes: This measures the size, in bytes, of the paged pool. This is an area of system memory used for objects that can be written to disk when they are not being used. There may be a memory leak if this value is greater than 250MB (or 170MB with the /3GB switch). A typical Event ID 2020 is recorded in the system event log.

Memory\Pages per Second: This measures the rate at which pages are read from or written to disk to resolve hard page faults. If the value is greater than 1,000, as a result of excessive paging, there may be a memory leak.

Processor Bottleneck

Processor\% Processor Time: Thismeasures the percentage of elapsed time the processor spends executing a non-idle thread. If the percentage is greater than 85 percent, the processor is overwhelmed and the server may require a faster processor.

Processor\% User Time: This measures the percentage of elapsed time the processor spends in user mode. If this value is high, the server is busy with the application. One possible solution here is to optimize the application that is using up the processor resources.

Processor\% Interrupt Time: This measures the time the processor spends receiving and servicing hardware interruptions during specific sample intervals. This counter indicates a possible hardware issue if the value is greater than 15 percent.

System\Processor Queue Length: This indicates the number of threads in the processor queue. The server doesn't have enough processor power if the value is more than two times the number of CPUs for an extended period of time.

Network Bottleneck

Network Interface\Bytes Total/Sec: This measures the rate at which bytes are sent and received over each network adapter, including framing characters. The network is saturated if you discover that more than 70 percent of the interface is consumed. For a 100-Mbps NIC, the interface consumed is 8.7MB/sec (100Mbps =100000kbps = 12.5MB/sec* 70 percent). In a situation like this, you may want to add a faster network card or segment the network.

Network Interface\Output Queue Length: This measures the length of the output packet queue, in packets. There is network saturation if the value is more than 2. You can address this problem by adding a faster network card or segmenting the network.

Process Bottleneck

Process\Handle Count: This measures the total number of handles that are currently open by a
process. This counter indicates a possible handle leak if the number is greater than 10,000.

Process\Thread Count: This measures the number of threads currently active in a process. There may be a thread leak if this number is more than 500 between the minimum and maximum number of threads.

Process\Private Bytes: This indicates the amount of memory that this process has allocated that
cannot be shared with other processes. If the value is greater than 250 between the minimum and maximum number of threads, there may be a memory leak.




Saturday, August 02, 2008

Yesteryear pedagogy and his friend

Mr. Yesteryear pedagogy and his friend the right Rev. honorable Mob Mentality.

Yesteryear was a fried of mine. He came from a school where it was okay to have slaves and trade them. He also would burn loot and riot if you caricatured his strong beliefs and he had his faithful friend and preacher Mob Mentality to help him in his pedagogy. Wait that's not Yesteryear, that's this year, what am I thinking...

We need to have a course in how not to succumb to the pressure of Mob Mentality. What a novel idea, we need to have a pedagogy on how to think for ourselves.Here is a stinka, If we came to point where the Mob learned to think individually, would that be Mob Mentality as well?. hmm..

Home(less) thoughts...

The Followers and Leaders, the Pew and the Pulpit.

After so many years of intellectual development what has changed?. Nothing in my opinion. We are still a global culture of Followers and Leaders, the Pew and the Pulpit, the Soap box and the on lookers. Need I continue.

The age of electronic media has changed how we follow or Lead perhaps. The Pulpit is no longer a physical object and the Soap box in Hyde park is no longer just that. But this article is not about leaders or the elite or the trickle down goodness that we have all faithfully condoned and accepted for so long. It is about the faithful, about the followers and the listeners in each of us and how potent the collective consciousness can be.

So what does this all mean? Can we get to a point where there are no leaders, no pulpit and no soap box?. Can the listeners and the followers and the innocent bystanders become a collective whole. How much more effective would we be if the Leaders were just Data Miners and Knowledge experts who provide us the message without imparting their subjective spin on the collective thoughts?. Leadership today is sustained by the power it brings them. Can we change this model. I would like to see our future leaders become leaders not for the power it brings them, but for total selflessness. If not get out of the business.

The Open source model starts out with this selfless concept, but then quickly gets swallowed up by how much power the concept of giving stuff away for free can bring us. So much so today we give away for free and when we have enough followers, we Sell out.

We have always been people centric. We adore and worship the person(s) who deliver the message and deliver it well. In short the message takes a secondary role to the messenger. So much so, even if the the message is bad, as long as it is delivered by our favorite messenger, all is well. We are okay with it. Conformational BIAS is what it all amounts to. But it is driven by our model of Leaders and Followers. Until we break away from that, we will forever be defined by our MESSENGERS and not the MESSAGE.

With that I end my Saturday morning Rant.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In search of an optimal Cognitive process

If Jung had a son, could he explain this to him. If he did then, it is all worth it is my take.





The Eight Cognitive Processes

Adapted from Linda V. Berens and Dario Nardi, Understanding Yourself and Others®: An Introduction to the Personality Type Code (Telos Publications, 2004) *Used with permission.

Perception

Jung classified the functions into two major groupings. He noted that
there are two major kinds of mental processes. One is perception, a
process of becoming aware of something. In the perceptive process,
there is some sort of stimulation and we become aware of or attend to
that stimulation. It is how we gather or access information. Jung
called this an irrational process since the awareness simply comes to
us. Jung identified two kinds of perception: Sensation and Intuition.
Sensing is a process of becoming aware of tangible information.
INtuiting* is a process of becoming aware of conceptual information.
Sensing and iNtuiting can both be done in either the outer, extraverted
world or in the inner, introverted world.


Judgment

The other kind of mental process identified by Jung is that of
judgment, a process of organizing, evaluating, and coming to
conclusions. Using the judging process, some sort of evaluation is
made. Jung identified two kinds of judgment: Thinking and Feeling, both
of which can be used in either the outer, extraverted world or in the
inner, introverted world. Simply put, Thinking judgments are based on
objective criteria or principles, and Feeling judgments are based on
personal, interpersonal, or universal values.

Se - extraverted Sensing

Experiencing
the immediate context; noticing changes and opportunities for action;
being drawn to act on the physical world; accumulating experiences;
scanning for visible reactions and relevant data; recognizing “what
is”.


Si - introverted Sensing

Reviewing
past experiences; “what is” evoking “what was”; seeking detailed
information and links to what is known; recalling stored impressions;
accumulating data; recognizing the way things have always been.


Ne - extraverted iNtuiting

Interpreting
situations and relationships; picking up meanings and interconnections;
being drawn to change “what is” for “what could possibly be”; noticing
what is not said and threads of meaning emerging across multiple
contexts.


Ni - introverted iNtuiting

Foreseeing
implications and likely effects without external data; realizing “what
will be”; conceptualizing new ways of seeing things; envisioning
transformations; getting an image of profound meaning or far-reaching
symbols.


Te - extraverted Thinking

Ordering;
organizing for efficiency; systematizing; applying logic; structuring;
checking for consequences; monitoring for standards or specifications
being met; setting boundaries, guidelines, and parameters; deciding if
something is working or not.


Ti - introverted Thinking

Analyzing;
categorizing; evaluating according to principles and whether something
fits the framework or model; figuring out the principles on which
something works; checking for inconsistencies; clarifying definitions
to get more precision.


Fe - extraverted Feeling

Connecting;
considering others and the group—organizing to meet their needs and
honor their values and feelings; maintaining societal, organizational,
or group values; adjusting and accommodating others; deciding if
something is appropriate or acceptable to others.


Fi - introverted Feeling

Valuing;
considering importance and worth; reviewing for incongruity; evaluating
something based on the truths on which it is based; clarifying values
to achieve accord; deciding if something is of significance and worth
standing up for.


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