Friday, June 27, 2008

Wonder If He Got a Gold Pen (or a gold mine): Bill Gates Retires from Microsoft

Today marks Bill Gates' last day in his office digs at Microsoft. And while he will continue on as advisor and Board Convener (if we can add EVOO to the lexicon because Rachael Frelling Ray uses it over an over and over, we can come up with gender-neutral language), he'll focus his energies on his foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

A Computer in Every Home

Gates et al (see the picture of the original 11 Microsoft employees) didn't create the personal computer. However, their efforts were energized by their commitment to have a PC in every home. Mr. Gates wanted to facilitate communication between computers so that they spoke a common language and could easily pass information from one computer to another. Decades later, this vision helped to inspire MIT's One Laptop Per Child project, which seeks to put a computer into the hands of the world's poorest children (see Seymour Papert's groundbreaking Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas).

The Evil Empire
Not so happily, Microsoft was involved in one of the largest anti-trust suits in the nation for its anti-competitive and exclusionary practices. In May 1998, the U.S. Justice Department charged Microsoft with having operating practices that helped it maintain its monopoly in personal computer operating systems and Internet browsing software. This from NPR:

"The evidence presented in court today demonstrates that Microsoft used its
massive monopoly power to harm competition and to harm consumers," said Joel
Klein, head of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, outlining the
government's case against the company in 1998.

In the HR world, Microsoft's use of its own recently-downsized staffers to return immediately to work...and do exactly what they'd been doing before, working in temp roles indefinitely, gave us a new term--"Permatemp"--and had HR departments scrambling to create policies to routinely release temps before they set down roots (or expectations) and limit their opportunities for direct hire.

Bill's Second Life

While he's ramping down from his former day job at Microsoft, Mr. Gates will shift his efforts so that he will be spending only one day a week at MS and the bulk of the rest of his time at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on eradicating poverty, illiteracy and diseases such as TB and malaria. And having traveled and consulted in malaria and AIDS riddled parts of southern Africa, I can tell you this: Maslow was right when he said that higher order needs become subsumed by efforts to handle lower order, hide-bound safety needs.

Africa and other parts of the developing world will simply not be able to add their unique contributions to the world if the people have to keep burying their children.

For all the promise and challenge of Mr. Gates' tenure at the helm of Microsoft, his has been a story of vision and passion.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Absolutely brilliant!

One thing I like about Dyson is his's very good to see more baby boomers in the public eye doing progressive, innovative stuff.

Back to the product. as he mentions light yet strong, I remember my very first design project at the Caribbean School of Architecture. Actually it was a design challenge to see who could make the strongest bridge out of balsa. I forget who won, but I learned so much from that project it has stuck with me to this day. So anyway, check out the video!

James Dyson on Engineering and Design

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mourning a Comedian: George Carlin Dead at 71

Learned that George Carlin--stand-up comedian, philosopher, actor, writer--has passed away in Vegas this past weekend. How very sad to lose someone so terribly funny.

I remember when I 'd first heard George Carlin. I was a child and he was appearing as a guest on some children's show out of Chicago. He was doing a children's version of the Hippy Dippy Weatherman and I remember shifting my noggin back and forth--like a dog trying to make sense of some strange sound: Look at the strange adults...wonder what they're talking about.

His use of language and slant on American society and politics were legend with his "Seven Dirty Words" which challenged the government's right to control what was said in the public airwaves. To say his humor could be "black" just doesn't quite capture it--his humor was smouldering tar.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Momma Needs a New Pair of Shoes...

...but where the hell am I going to buy them?

In a stunning accounting of the fallout of this recession in the retail sector, Donald H has listed a staggering 2,179 store closings for this year. Here's a partial list:

    1. Ann Taylor closing 117 stores nationwide A company spokeswoman said the
      company hasn't revealed which stores will be shuttered. It will let the stores
      that will close this fiscal year know over the next month.
    2. Eddie Bauer to close more stores - Eddie Bauer has already closed 27 shops in the first quarter and plans to close up to two more outlet stores by the end of the year.
    3. Cache closing stores - Women's retailer Cache announced that it is closing 20 to 23 stores this year.
    4. Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherines closing 150 stores nationwide The owner of retailers Lane Bryant , Fashion Bug , Catherines Plus Sizes will close about 150 underperforming stores this year. The company hasn't provided a list of specific store closures and can't say when it will offer that info, spokeswoman Brooke Perry said today.
    5. Talbots, J. Jill closing stores - About a month ago, Talbots announced that it will be shuttering all 78 of its kids and men's stores. Now the company says it will close another 22 underperforming stores.The 22 stores will be a mix of Talbots women's and J. Jill, another chain it owns. The closures will occur this fiscal year, according to a company press release.
    6. Gap Inc. closing 85 stores - In addition to its namesake chain, Gap also owns Old Navy and Banana Republic. The company said the closures - all planned for fiscal 2008 - will be weighted toward the Gap brand. [ ... ]

The list of top-flight brands shuttering some or all of their doors amazed me, particularly with the running commentary from the news pundits and economists on whether or not we're in a recession.

Some of my fellow consultants who butter their bread in the retail industry have been singing the blues for quite some time. Now I can see why.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Monday Morning Melodies

Look out the window, people. It's going to be a lovely day!

Bill Withers ("Lean on Me"), A Lovely Day

Friday, June 13, 2008

NBC Luminary, Tim Russert, Dies at 58

Tim Russert with his trademark whiteboardGarland and I turned on the TV, just to start catching up with the day's news when we learned that NBC journalist and political bright light, Tim Russert, had just died. Mr. Russert was the host of "Meet the Press" and a news executive who ran the Washington Bureau. He was at is office when he succumbed.

He loved politics as well as public policy and he was interested in everything. An astute interviewer, he was known to pin his guests down to get to the root of the topic as it impacted the life of the nation or our society. Courteous and genuinely kind, he brought something useful as well as interesting. Mr. Russert was the premier interviewer in television news.

He was one of Time's 100 Most Influencial People for 2008. I can't agree more. It was from Meet the Press as well as NPR that I learned to love the news. He cause me to move from skeptical to more thoughtful about the news. He knew he'd hit the lottery in life and he wanted to share his winnings with us.

Here's Mr. Russert's last go at Meet the Press before leaving for his last vacation with his beloved family. Classic Russert.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Laptop

I'm willing to admit it: My laptop weighs a ton. It's like lugging around a two year old.

Give me a second. I'm going to weigh this thing...Oh, God! Sixteen pounds with my laptop, cables, backpack and the one or two books or mags I generally carry. My cat doesn't even weigh a whole five pounds. And at three and a half years strong, it's getting long in the bluetooth (could have resisted, but didn't). So, I'm looking for a computer--an ultramobile workhorse. Even now, I'm away from my desk as I post this, waiting for a meeting.

Vista worries me as it should. It was a poor roll out with device drivers not supported and other bits of Microsoft Weirdness (meaning, they beta test on paying customers). Except for the fact that my laptop (the HP Pavilion with the crystal clear screen and six hour battery life) is a Windows box, I'd gleefully get another. I just cant risk the squirrely Vista operating system.

So, in looking for a small computer, I'm working from a set of criterion that will be hard to get in one box:

  • Solid operating system
  • Works with my existing software (Quickbooks, Office Pro including Visio)
  • Facilitates podcast creation
  • Small form factor
  • Easy to read screen
  • Moderate cost
  • Did I already say solid operating system?

Trouble is: we're not quite there yet with the UMPC's (computers with less than three pounds). Here's what I'm looking at.

The MacBook Air, at $1,800, is the leader cost-wise. Though it's got the more solid Mac OS, it seems a bit like a Sony Vaio without the optical drive, fixed battery (instead of replaceable ones) and mono speakers. Might make a better bookmark than high-functioning computer, though I know Yorkali will read this with a disapproving glance.

The 1.6GHz chip is a little bit, well, pokey, but the heat output is low enough that you don't have to consider wearing a codpiece to use it (though us girlie types love the heat on cold days). It's got a full-sized keyboard and integrated 802.11n with solid performance.

So, unless I really need to put my computer in a manila envelope or use it at a murder weapon (you can swing it like an unwieldy hatchet), it just doesn't quite seem like a workable solution.

Then there's the offerings from HTC. One is the Shift, which is powerful enough to run most business applications, including Windows Vista, and has SnapVUE, a feature that lets the operator view common information apps (like calendar and email) without powering the machine up. It includes Sprint WWAN for connectivity, had lots of imput options and two resolutions and a full QWERTY keyboard. However, that keyboard is small (but OK for my little paws), has poor battery life and I've heard that the fan is kind of noisy. Oh, and that leather thingy on the bottown can't be removed as far as I can see. It's kind of a weird little tablet computer hybrid between smartphone and laptop.

HTC's other offering, the Athena Advantage, at first look, is like carrying around a brick. Still, it's geared towards playing media, working with documents or emails and web browsing easy. The screen is crystal clear (as you can see even from the image) and integrates Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Shunning Vista, it runs on Windows Mobile 6. It has a built-in camera and a full keyboard. Note to self: this kind of keyboard doesn't work well for women with nails that extend beyond the tips of the fingers, making it hard to strike the keys. The speakerphone is said to be weak and though it can be used as a phone, I double-dog dare you to try it. You'll be in therapy by the end of the day (though you won't be able to use the Advantage to call for help). The Advantage costs around $1.599.

Asus as a new ultramobile, the Eee (nope, didn't stutter). It's tiny and relatively cheap at about $600, though an earlier Linux version suffered from short battery life , cramped keyboard and skimpy memory, the Eee 900 has a slightly bigger screen, touch pad and longer battery life. Still, there's not as much storage space as with the Linux version.

Tornado Kills Four at Iowa Boy Scout Camp

In this morning's news, I watched a report on the aftermath of a Tornado that killed four at an Iowa Boy Scout camp. Over 40 were injured. I watched one boy, an older Scout, speak of radioing into his Scout leader to figure out what to do and how he ran to offer first aid and support to those who were injured and offered to help with the recovery of bodies from a flattened shelter.

I watched in horror and admiration.

I used to be a Girl Scout Executive at a council just north of here and one of my biggest fears involved exactly this--a storm in the midst of the night, with a camp (Talitha or Sycamore) full of girls, the phones out and....

OK. You get the picture.

In all the things we hear about our children--obesity, sullen anger and disrespect, low test scores, fearful futures--I'm heartened to hear about children who are everything we hope for.

Cross-posted at the American Values Alliance

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Do not forget this day....Apple's iPhone is twice as fast for half the price.

Today’s message is pretty simple: Apple is going for iPhone market share in a big, big, way.
Daring Fireball

If you have money in any form, buy Apple This isn't just some Mac fan boy reveling in the afterglow of another great Stevenote,  but someone who has gotten an intensely acute view of the immediate future.

Apple will be the next great global tech company.

Forget who has the greater share of the PC market. That metric is for saps! If Apple has it's way, the baby on the breast in Sub-Saharan Africa will be wielding a glossy black brick of 3G goodness.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.My friends, Windows was just the beginning, Dell... a passing fancy. Jobs knows that these guys are beaten even though Apple currently only has a sliver of the global computer market. But for those who saw Monday's keynote, remember the image of the 3 legged stool at the very beginning.  One of those legs is about to get very FAT.

While very few people worldwide can afford a computer, the real pool of black gold that is waiting to be tapped is mobile phones. Apple has realized that it's global dominance is tied not to beating up on Vista but spreading it's design DNA pollen globally on the back of the iPhone not the iMac. Apple's global roll-out strategy for mobile market dominance is nothing short of the same poetry with which it designs, builds and markets all of it's other products. Study how they did this with almost every product since Steve returned to Apple. It's simplicity is deviously disarming.

Create the market before you sell the product.

Make the consumer start sucking vigorously on the teet long before the milk is even there. How did they do this? Design, create and sell to the market segment with the most disposable income. Establish the product as a must have for the rich. Once the halo of I-gotta-have-it is sufficiently bright around the product (hence justifying it's existence) you sell it to everybody else for a song  (pun intended). By this time you have made back your R&D money the back of the richest of the rich. You are now going for the jugular that's throbbing with the real life blood of revenue. The Mass Market. You have achieved critical mass in global mind-share now all you have to do is put a couple cracks in the glass ceiling of price and watch global dominance flood the earth. It is a small world after all.

So forget this old metric of PC market share. The mobile market is where the real moola is at. Cell phones are the platform of the future and every IT company worth it's salt knows this. But no one has a product like the iPhone. And for a long time no one ever will. Apple is just too many design cycles ahead of the rest of the field. So while the rest of the world copies this gleaming brick of techno-lust, Steven "Plainview" Jobs is drinking their milkshake. And his big fat straw is the iPhone.
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Monday, June 09, 2008

Monday Morning Melodies

It's going to be that kind of week. I'll need super powers to get it all packed in. I've got a little more than two months and I've finished my Masters, while operating my little empire, maintaining my relationship, supporting my widowed Dad and keeping the spiders at bay (they decided to move in when it started to pour a while back).

I need my Wonder Twin.

Here are two version of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" sometimes known as the theme song to Inspector Gadget, a show my brother, Rodney, and I used to watch when we shared an apartment the first time I was in grad school. We love this show and I love these versions of the Grieg classic.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

LNB #053: Help! I Need Someone!

I remember seeing the Beatles' movie, Help! when I was a kid. Love the lyrics, which are so brilliant:

(Help) I need somebody
(Help) Not just anybody
(Help) You know I need someone

When I was younger, so much younger than today
I never needed anybody's help in any way
But now these days are gone
I'm not so self assured
Now I find I've changed my mind
I've opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me

In case you don't know the song (like, you're a Namibian goatherd), here it is.

I can almost hear the strains of this song on the phone when prospects call me to ask, sometimes convolutedly, for help ("I really don't need help, but if I did, what could you do for me?").

Where I see businesses get into trouble is knowing when to ask for information and when to pay for it. According to the SBA, businesses fail for several reasons, chief of which are lack of planning, capital and other resources. In this biz environment, operating without the key information needed is almost criminal, given the massive amounts of information available on the Net.

Michael Gerber, author of the The E-Myth Revisited, spoke of "working on your business, not in it," staying out of the tactical weeds and into the strategic mission and vision. To do this, Gerber spoke of the importance of creating systems that tied directly into those strategic aims. Burning daylight poring over website after website, looking for information defies our ability to be strategic and our ability to get the most out of our time. The Wild Hunt for information, particularly when you need it to be right and you need it right now, can be the greatest of all cul de sacs.

This week, we hear from Jim Patton of J Patton Consulting and his Prepaid Legal affiliation. What Jim offers is a business service that, for a monthly fee, allows members to pose real-life problems to legal, accounting and other professionals and get real life answers. One example he gave was the business owner who needed to let an employee go. That owner posted the question in the service and got back a checklist for terminations that allowed him to stay fair, square and legal.

Be sure to grab a copy of a copy of The Dip as well.

Listen Now: 24.40

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

GM to Close Four SUV/Truck Plants

Finally, figuring out that gas prices, which were less than $1.50 in 2003 are not going to decline much from their record four bucks a gallon, General Motors Corp. has announced that it will shutter production at four pickup truck and sport utility vehicle plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico starting later this year.

CNBC lists those factories along with the models they make along with the numbers of workers each factory employs.:

Oshawa, Ontario: Employs 2,900. Makes Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra
pickups. Likely to end production in 2009.

Moraine, Ohio: Employs 2,400. Makes Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Saab 9-7 mid-size SUVs. Closes at end of model run in 2010 or sooner if demand warrants. GM's last midsize SUV plant, meaning models won't be built any more.

Janesville, Wis.: Employs 2,800. Makes Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban SUVs. Also GMC Yukon and Chevrolet, GMC, Isuzu medium-duty trucks. Medium-duty production done by end of 2009. SUV production ends in 2010 or sooner if demand remains weak.

Toluca, Mexico: Affected line employs 250. Makes Chevrolet Kodiak medium-duty trucks; production ends by end of 2008. Other production at the Toluca complex will continue.

Eighty-five hundred people. I wonder how many of these jobs could have been saved had GM operated with a tab more foresight.

And the Hummer, that gas hog that puzzled everyone who didn't own an oil well, is up for sale or a dramatic revamp.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Monday Morning Melodies

I know. I'm way too young to have experienced Bo Diddley, but I remember watching my mother putting on his records and rocking the house for years. It's from her that I got the love of old, old school and Miles, Herbie Hancock and Miriam Makeba who were the staples of Momma's repertoire throughout our lives. I'm still an old school girl.

Well Bo, "The Originator," died today at age 79. He gave us "I'm a Man" (remade by George Thorogood as "Bad to the Bone,"), "Who Do You Love" and much, much more.

Hey Bo Diddley in 1966. He's backed up by Norma-Jean "The Duchess" Wofford on the second guitar and the Bo-ettes, Lilly "Bee Bee" Jamieson and Gloria Morgan.

Who Do You Love, which starts

I walked 47 miles of barbed wire,
Used a cobra snake for a neck tie.
Got a brand new house on the roadside,
Made out of rattlesnake hide.
I got a brand new chimney made on top,
Made out of human skulls.
Now come on darling let's take a little walk, tell me,
Who do you love,
Who do you love, Who do you love, Who do you love.

Dang! No wonder I strolled over in the land of punk!