Wednesday, August 31, 2011

XCom Global MiFi: Review after "practical" use

During the meetings today, I ran some short tests to the effectiveness of the MiFi wireless access point we rented from XCom. This post for example I create using the connection created by the device, and try to upload some pictures and see how well it works.

speed tests with connection via HSPA

this image uploaded in about 4-5 seconds during this test 0.5 MB
larger resolution images:
15-17 seconds for this higher resolution 1.3 MB
I dare not at this time try to stream a video (i should be paying attention)....
and see if location in the room finds me access to the 3g network which is not consistent in this area of Italy.

Cannot make any complaints about the Device or the service (it is not XCom issue that the Italian ether is not friendly for a 3G signal during my trip).


  • relative ease: ordered online, shipped to office, flew to Italy and Bang on the internet
  • no surprises: Flat rate for the daily internet hook-up
  • Multiple users on single wireless connection and rate-plan
  • reasonable price of occasional short trips, with my amount of travel I might be better off getting a local flat rate SIM
  • Battery life (could use for about 2-3 hours on single charge, supplied back up battery is helpful. but in Foreign land where converters and power is a premium might be nice to last longer, or ship with a USB-micro cable so I could charge on the fly with my Zagg Sparq2.0
  • shipping costs if booked less than 10 days in advance
  • Italian SIM did not work in cities where I had connecting flights (Netherlands) may have been my fault, for not indicating that I needed a roaming SIM
Overall I have to say that for the occasional traveler this could be listed among the essentials, especially as US mobile providers clamp down on roaming Data charges. Nobody has All-You-Can-Eat global any more.

Xcom Global is a winner

Friday, August 26, 2011

XCom Global: Mobile Hotspot review (pre-trip)

For an upcoming trip, I along with 5 colleagues will be traveling to Italy for a Corporate Sales Meeting. With all  our sales people out of the office, this could be damaging for our ability to respond to software licensing concerns, sales issues, and general business. To minimize any potential fallout from falling off the grid for a few days we rented a Wireless Hotpot from XCom global.

What arrives from XCom
Once you order the device from the companies website you will receive (a few day prior to the start of the trip)  the contents shown above and a carry case in the mail. They use a standard mi-fi by Novatel with a pre-installed SIM for the country we plan to travel to, in this case Italy.

Rates quoted start at $14.95 per day for "unlimited data" XCom does not mention any variable speed throttling but we will have to see.

To use the Access Point we should be able to find the device from the WiFi finder of any of our laptops and smart phones up to 5 Devices at a time.

Once connected the first browser window brings you straight to the admin page and Login window. After keying in the Login you can connect to the internet via the MiFi.

Another option is to buy your own device and use a prepaid or Flat rate SIM card from Whichever European country you like.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Employee Morale

Cains Brain ( not too long ago posted this cartoon, only recently brought to my attention by Guy Kawasaki and the folks at HolyKaw and

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Telecommuting: is it a good idea

As a consultant, employee, and manager I have often struggled with the topic of Telecommuting. Working from home was one of the "perks" of going independent for me years ago, the result was mixed: days and weeks cut off from humanity, with a dash of inefficiency, mingled with guilt and resentment on the part of my colleagues. 
Credit: via
In my own experience I had one job where the office was 4 hours drive from home, and I was the only employee who lived outside the city, state/province, country boundaries. Typically my job involved me calling on our customers on-site, performing training on-site, and supporting sales on-site. This was mostly a 3-4 day per week activity, with general administrative labor and follow-up being done from a "home-office"-the basement in my suburban rental home.
Other office staff resented the fact that I worked from home rather than and "office". The Solution? The Self-proclaimed-die-expert and Techni-ho was asked to drive from home to the office on the off days. Not just AN office, but THE office. So the policy was that if I had an off day, i would rent a car, drive to the office and "work" and leave when time allowed me to complete by drive before the end of the work day.

Correct. If I had one day off, I would rent the car, drive-in, walk-in eat lunch (on expenses) and leave for home (it made for just over a nine-hour day. Efficient? No, did it put an end to the debate over home-offices? Not really. It did put an end to my willingness to stay at that company, but created my first consultancy, once I was a consultant they no longer cared what I did on off days.

As we weigh the possibilities of allowing our staff to work from home one could unilaterally make an edict (usually not constructive) or just roll with it. In either case we might pay a price later. The Infographic below sums it up all very nicely (a little bit snarky but for the most part on the mark).
Credit: Mindflash
When you make the decision to either work from home or not, or to create an open policy for Home office hours. Be sure to have rational reasoning behind the policy. It can succeed, but only if you create the environment for it to work.

Treat your employees like grown-ups and they might prove worthy; treat them like children who can't be trusted you most definitely get what you expected. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stereotypes, bias, and the mind

As a member of a culturally stigmatized group (Americans) in the eyes of many of the people I come into contact with while I travel for work. I found these designs by Yanko Tsvetkov highly entertaining. After all, I recognize that the we, of the much vilified USA, have earned our bad reputation. We often are loud talking, impatient, greedy capitalists.
From Yanko Tsvetkov's Mapping Stereotypes
Stereotypes of many Europeans that are held my Americans are not too far off the mark. Stereotypes and biases (cultural or otherwise) are an important part of how people work. With the amount of data that the typical person is confronted with daily, to process every decision, each interaction from a neutral stand point is a veritable impossibility. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

What can we do when the sales team accepts the customers Status Quo?

In a recent workshop with the sales and technical team of a small, yet significant CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) software company I was struck by the number of times that the sales team conceded that the "customer doesn't do it that way" so they don't see them changing methods.

Since when is selling about letting the status quo be good good enough? How about this? The status quo is that we don't get any revenue from the prospect, why challenge that in the eyes of the customer?

Ron Popeil never sold anything by accepting others view of good enough (image
Is it not the challenge for the sales person to convince the Desert Nomad to buy sand, or the Eskimo Ice, or the Lady in the white gloves want Ketchup flavored Popsicles? Then why, when I present the use-case for our software, do we roll over when the customer expresses that the model doesn't fit there current business paradigm? OK, if you say so. No need to grow our business. Have a nice day.

  • Since when has selling bee about completely ceding the value-arguments to our technical people?
  • Why is it so bad to challenge the customers feeling that "we are fine" without any change?
  • No, you don't tell them they've been doing it wrong, you just show them a better way.

If you don't believe that what your are selling is a needed improvement to the status quo, please move on; get out of the way of those who can offer change.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Infographic: the Freelancer’s Game of Life

The folks at FreshBooks posted this infographic on their blog.
Infographic: the Freelancer’s Game of Life

Of course it is fun to imagine that freelancing is all rainbows and kittens, but in the game of life there are often more pitfalls than the few move back # spaces possible landing areas.

  • You realize that taking vacation is the same as UNEMPLOYMENT lose 2 moves
  • Selling time for money means you never have any time move back 3
  • There are 24 billable hours in each day, land overseas account, tele-presence and move forward
  • Tax deductible is not the same as free, pay the bank $2000
  • Your non-equity partners make off with your account, move back 1 space
  • You finished the job, now get them to pay you, sit out next round
  • You need find a contract house to manage the project move forward 5 spaces
Being successful as a freelancer is still something that eludes most who try. I doubt there are stats out there, but I would not be surprised if more than 75% of freelancers have to resort to going native after the first 2 years. Having survived 7 myself before getting a J.O.B. it is not always a sunny as this infographic makes it sound. First of all, i don't know many freelancers that even know the meaning of retirement.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Streetwalking, trolling and phishing: Getting the freelance gig

Getting yourself out "there" is a constant challenge for the full-time Techni-HO. Sure there are Social Media outlets like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. And of course we keep up blogs, journal articles, and public speaking events. But for day-to-day promoting yourself or finding other like minded "HOs" where can we go? In the realm of selling your time for money--Techni-ho fashion--word of mouth alone will not put food on the table.
Build Your Team
Elance provides ways to create and manage your "e-presence" team
Elance offers a solution-and I hope they don't mind the allusion-to become your TechniPimp. As mentioned in earlier blog posts one of the downsides of going fully Freelance is not only finding the work and doing the work, but getting paid for the work. This also means negotiating and collecting fees.
Elance offers an online solution to many of those growing pains.

By offering a single storefront wherein "Johns" can cruise for talent, and the "Hos" can show their wares. Elance provides a method by which Techni-Hos and Johns can meet up, set up the commercial aspects of the job, and even ways to manage the project-by allowing for reviews of "Work-in-progress".

Start by creating a Free Account and first Free Job posting.
Looking for work? Sign up at Elance and search over 30,000 jobs today.
Find a world of talent online at Elance. Post your job today.
From there you can access all the of the services that Elance offers. As a contractor all the fees will be paid by the Johns as is right. The fees for the Johns to pay are very reasonable for role that they pay-as far as techni-pimps go very reasonable. 6.75%-8.75% as far as mark-ups go is very reasonable.

A World of Talent Ready to Work

Unlike many contract houses they are not trying to get ungodly mark-ups on the talent the offer, after off the value-add for most contract houses is exceptionally disproportionate to the mark-up factors. I once worked with a Pimp who charged a 3x markup for a proposal that I wrote, filling a niche that I uniquely fit, with 0-zip-nil value add; when the client puked on the price they had the gall to tell me that my rate was too high.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The ZaggSparq2.0 in action

One airport finally doing what is long overdue and making power outlets more available. At DTW McNamara terminal they are installing AC power outlets at the ends of the rows of seats near each gate. Regularly spaced every few rows they are a welcome change from having to shuffle around near the walls to try to share the outlets with the other passengers desperate for a charge.

On missing element: a shallow shelf. Cords stretching down to the floor and nearby seats is sub-optimal.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The personal touch wins again

The extra two seconds it takes to smile and offer kindness to your customers often goes unnoticed. But failure to do so always gets our goat.

Today let's decide to reward those positive interactions with customer service. Fuad and Cane provided another great example of positive and genuinely welcoming service, that I could have easily let transparently float past me. Delta as a company does something that I haven't seen enough. They encouraged me to look for and reward exemplary customer service.

Each year I get 5 "mydeltarewards" vouchers that give me a chance to note and reward great customer service. My question to Delta is: why are medallion members the only ones who you encourage to look for this?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why don't all technical explanations make this much sense

Go to see a great video dusted off from the archives at Boingboing and it got me thinking. IN todays world why are we not getting such good brass tacks explanations anymore.

The writers and producers of this video did something that we are getting less and less today. They broke the problem into reasonable chunks of content and presented it in a logical manner. Without condescension or over simplification. Started with the basic observations, and added the appropriate amount of information with each step.

I todays world of 140 characters, and short attention spans it seems like people assume they are too busy to do that extra homework in advance. But it is now with these abbreviated communications that we need to make sure that the bursts of information we give to people hit the mark effectively.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Have you read Seth's Blog: The triumph of coal marketing

As I read the RSS feed for Seth's Blog: The triumph of coal marketing I was struck by the fact that with all the disaster that we see coming from the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami and the nuclear plants there, that many opportunists are heading straight to the anti-nuclear (pro-coal) message.

Read Seth's blog since he makes a different point than i do here.

Fear mongering and pandering to special interests are heading straight into overdrive at certain news outlets. Now this is not to make a point as if the death toll from the nuclear incidents in Japan, or those we remember from Chernobyl are insignificant. NO FAR FROM IT. But merely that we tend to "amplify sudden and horrible outcomes than it is to talk about the slow, grinding reality of day to day strife".

Right now people all over the world are reacting to the issue, by stopping plans for future nuclear reactors, questioning and challenging the elected officials who previously backed them, and politicians are backpedaling away from prior positions supporting nuclear energy.

The INCONVENIENT TRUTH here is that we cannot sustain the world populace's energy demand with our current power sources. Emerging countries and developed nations if they turn their back on nuclear will have to resort to Gas, oil, and what little we can get from Solar and Wind. But unfortunately, that will not fill the gap left by nuclear.

to Paraphrase Winston Churchill: Nuclear power is the worst form of energy, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Zagg Sparq2.0 initial thoughts

Last month I mentioned that I was going to order the Zagg Sparq2.0 emergency battery charger for my own personal use. I unpacked my own this past weekend and charged it Saturday night. The instructions ask for a 7-9 hour initial charge and i followed those instructions.

After the over-night charge I left the Sparq unused for three days to see if the battery leached power the way some negative reviewers had said it would. Today (Tuesday) was the first shot at using. My own Droid2 had run its battery down to just over 15% (the point where i get reminders to charge). I plugged the unit in to the MicroUSB cord and my phone. 55 minutes later my phone was upto 70% and the Sparq showed all 4 LEDs (effectively fully charged).

Later, my colleague plugged in his Android Phone. He charged his up from about 20% to 85% in just over and hour leaving my Sparq with 2 LEDs lit. Supposedly at a 50% reserve. So far, so good. I will use only the Sparq2.0 over the next day or so to provide my phone charge to see if I can get the 4 charges from it the the manufacturer promises. But I am impressed so far.

At this point a must have for all business travelers who use smart phones.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Global communication: Smart phones, data plans, etc

This post today is coming to you from the Air France lounge in Dusseldorf, where normally there is NO WiFi access for free (Pay as you go from Vodafone) or some pitifully unstable walk up terminals (usually crash every time you get 3/4 of the thing you try to accomplish on the terminal complete.

Nope, no more. Today I am posting this using my Motorola DROID 2 Global Android Phone, from Verizon Wireless with my Global Data plan.

How? you may ask. Tethering which is usually blocked by Verizon. Since they want to sell you the Novatel MiFi 2200 Mobile Wi-Fi Modem (Verizon Wireless). But it is possible instead to use your own Android Phone with data plan to accomplish the same thing.

First get yourself a phone that is Global Data ready. I chose the Verizon Droid2. Android OS and Fully Rooted (which means I ran a simple app on it that gives me super user capability--jail breaking).

Second make sure you have the Verizon Global Data plan. Verizon is one of the few cell carriers that sells a All-you-can-eat data plan that is truly All-you-can-eat. No limits (at least so far).

Next install the Android App. "Wireless Tether" this app lets you connect to your phone wia secure WPA or WEP connection to use the data that your phone down loads.

Simple as that.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Birth of a Word: TED Talk 2011

TED talks are amazing places to watch, hear, learn, and discover some of the most amazing things. From Deb Roy's presentation on the Birth of a word it is tricky to force oneself to get over the technological tricks they had to invent to perform this research (video correcting 10+ fisheye video feeds into a near 3D representation of Deb  Roys home that can allow us to follow him, his wife, their son and the nanny through their house for a few years) to discover the patterns in that lead to the successful emergence of word use.

Had to watch this a couple of times before I could let the point of it, sink past my utter amazement as to HOW they parsed it, to what they found. The 120 Terabytes of data, the linking of the various feeds into a single cohesive (and virtually 3D) time space environment. And get where it was going.

The space time tracking of movement in the video to find the feeds where they could locate his sons specific word use. the ability to get audio transcripts from disparate video sources into a coherent "stream" of communication. This turns into different methods of tracing the communication threads throughout our society and our social structures.

Not sure what it all means yet, but to quote Deb Roy and son.   "wow"

Friday, March 4, 2011

Careful the legacy you leave

Here's a funny story with only a small moral:

The engineering director of a medium to large tool shop paid a call on his former employers, now customers. He stopped by the desk of the administrative assistant to ask if she would note his arrival for his appointment which was set to start in 15 minutes, and if possible announce his presence to the Mr. Big the chief of this operation.

The conversation went a little like this [slightly altered to protect the ignorant]:

"Hi, I'm Bob Namechanged. I'm here for an appointment with your boss, Mr. Big."
"Oh? And where should I say you are from Mr. Namechanged?"
"Tool and Dieshop Inc."
"Oh, good. Be sure to mention that you are from Tool and Dieshop Inc. Because we used to have a guy here named Bob Namechanged too. But nobody liked him. Apparently he was a bit of an A-Hole."

What on earth did Mr. Namechanged do while at his former employer to earn this reputation?
How surprised he and his new colleagues must have been to find that his relationship with the old shop was not rosy; no doubt expectations of a healthy relationship may have even been part of his hiring at "Tool and Die Inc."

We must all be careful of the legacy we leave behind. The world is getting flatter and as Kevin Bacon will attest we are all only 6 degrees of separation from anybody else.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Flying to Korea? Good airline food .... unbelievable

Three syllables: bi bim bap

Korean Air Lines meals are certainly one of the very few coach class meals that a weary road warrior can look forward to. Instead of ingesting the usual tv dinner rejects that they pass off as meals while in flight, you can get a nice bowl full of white rice, kimchee, veggies and seasoned beef.

Gam sa, ham nee da. KAL a pleasant change of pace. It would be great if for other meals on planes they offered more simple but tasty alternatives.

Broadcasting from an undisclosed location

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fun makes the stairs more appealing [video] - Holy Kaw!

It should com as no surprise that if you want to get people to embrace change, that injecting a little WiiFM like making it fun will have a positive effect on the unstated change initiative the VW was attempting (they wanted to prove that fun made it worthwhile). Also the fact that they did not tell people that they were trying to alter their behavior increases the (i) perceived input. It was their idea after all to enjoy the musical step.

Re-Blogged from AlltopFun makes the stairs more appealing [video] - Holy Kaw!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Motorola Droid 2 Global: Further notes

On it's second trip to Europe, the Global version of the motorola Droid2 is still performing admirably. I have been to the tops of mountains, and by rail all over Switzerland and can't complain much about performance. One gripe is battery life. I don't think I quite make it a full 8 hour work day without getting dangerously low on battery. Charging options can be quite frustrating since carrying a charger everywhere one goes is not ideal. Nor are the battery options.

My wife picked up from Ebay or Amazon a charger and battery for the Motorola Droid line of phones. However it should be noted that the battery pictured shows a battery with Motorola logo, but the battery you will receive is not authentic. Of course it should stand to reason that if the USB charging cable from MOTO cost $8 why would the battery cost less?

No now I started shopping for those rapid battery chargers, that use USB cable to charge the phone. These chargers allow you to pre-charge a larger high capacity battery using your USB cable. Then you carry around what is supposed to be around 3 iPhone charges.

From what I can see. There is quite a range of possibilities. Prices are quite variable but it looks like one has to buy in the $50 range to insure that you have a battery with 4000-5000 mAh (3-4 charges of the DROID by the numbers) The Duracell seems to be the better bargain at only $20 but only 1100mAh. which may get you going once per reload.

The so-called powerhouse by Duracell runs the price up to nearly $45 for only 2000mAh. So the brand is adding some price (but who knows how much value). The size of these things is a little daunting considering that our pockets are getting more and more packed with gadgets. So I guess I will try the GUM Plus or the Splash intense. Each of which have slightly less than obnoxious form factor and are at least no larger than the phone itself.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

poor video from the Technopark presentation

Tried to capture some video of the presentation, but unfortunately the batter on the camera is pure crap. In any case I salvaged some video thanks to Roald who saw the camera stop.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Brown Bag Lunch: Selling Innovation/Change

I made the presentation, but unfortunately my camera has such a disappointing battery that I have not video of the talk. But here is the slide show instead. I post via slideshare.

Since the talking I do is not captured, I have to make sure that I give credit where it is due. Also, for more places to see, things to read, or inspiring voices you can look up:

  • Simon Sinek, Start with Why (the what, how, is not original)
  • Dan Ariely for the comparative difference thought starter
  • mondaydots for first showing comparitive difference to me, and planting ideas for the simplicity of the presentation

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Don't Talk with your Mouth full: Technopark Zurich Brownbag lunch presentation

I have been invited to make a presentation at the Zurich Technopark. Apparently the Self-Proclaimed-Die-Expert and Techni-ho is a "world renowned" expert on Technical Evangelism.

I will be presenting on the theme:

Selling innovation/change
Technical Evangelism by the numbers

The basic theme of the presentation will be a return to one of my earlier concepts; and attempt to quantify the amount of resistance that people have to new ideas:
I doubt that any of the 3 people who read this blog will necessarily be in the Zurich Area this week (the presentation is Thursday the 20th of January, 2011 at 12:30). But if I cared whether or not people listened or read what I do, this blog would not exist. 

I will consider posting the entire presentation after the debut on Thursday.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Droid2 Global by Verizon: thoughts and review

I just got the new Droid2 Global by Moto for Verizon (not just got it. I already took it out for a 8000 mile trip to EU and Switzerland and back).

I have to say that so far I am VERY VERY happy with the performance of the phone. For starters I should mention that my previous phone was TERRIBLE (BB 8830 World Edition). The old phone was about as advanced as a set of tin cans connected with string compared to the Droid2.

Not gonna run down some kind of over the top Cnet type benchmark for you but here is what I like:

  • sync with MS Exchange server from work was seemless (mail, contacts, and Calenders)
  • Wifi
  • GPS (with navigation by google maps)
  • Touchscreen
  • Slide-out keyboard
  • overall communication options (phone good, VOIP using Fring, IM using GoogleTalk, SMS-oip using GoogleVoice, social stalking using Facebook/twitter/LinkedIn)
no issues getting data overseas (once i turned it on) and everything else has been simple. Not using it too much for games (Angry Birds), or music or Movies. But using it a personal communication hub has been perfect.

more as I use it more....