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
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

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.