Text messages, and why I hate them.

Actually, “hate” might not be strong enough. Despise? Deplore?

Not all text messages are bad, mind you.

I like texts from my wife. I like texts that are of the “FYI” variety.

It worked! — that’s a good text. It’s nice to know that you got it figured out, and I can feel happy with you and then forget about it without having to remember to do anything later.

Found it! — yep, I can handle that. I might even text you back, “great!

Bob dropped off a check for the website — this is a fine use of the SMS protocol.

What, then, are bad texts? (more…)

Written by in: Business,Technology |

Do Macs get viruses?

About 25% of our business involves IT–server administration, help desk stuff, malware removal, etc.  I field dozens of computer questions every week. One that I’m getting a lot lately is, “I’m thinking about getting a Mac. What do you think about them?” That is almost always followed by, “I’ve heard that you don’t need to worry about viruses on a Mac. Are they really that much safer?”

In an article called, “Why Malware for Macs is on its way,” Ed Bott makes the same arguments I’ve been making for years: Macs are less likely to become infected not due to superior technology, but because of economic reasons. If you are going to produce a virus or some other form of malware, you want to impact the maximum possible number of machines. Since Windows  has way more market share, Windows is a much larger target.

Quoted in the article:

But most security experts agree that malicious software these days is driven by financial incentives, and it’s far more profitable to target the dominant platform. […] At some point, assuming Apple continues to make appealing products, we Mac users will become bigger targets and face a higher level of risk.

More malware is likely on the way for Apple, but for now at least, your risk of infection with a Mac is pretty low. Then again, the premium you pay for Mac hardware could pay for quite a few copies of Norton Anitvirus.


Getting things done at 6am

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I’m not a morning person. For as long as I can remember, I’ve done my best work between 10pm and 2am. Nobody calls you, few people e-mail you — you can just focus and get a whole day’s work done in a few hours.

Mornings? Not so much. I’m pretty much useless before 8 o’clock, and whenever possible, I prefer sleeping ’till 9.

So it may come as a surprise when I tell you that I’ve been up at 6 every day this year.* (more…)

Written by in: Business |

Blue Screen of Death

You’ve heard of Blue Screens of Death, right? Some people call them BSoDs. They tend to be scary, frustrating, and confusing all at the same time.

You’ve been working on a paper or project (or maybe just playing a game) for hours, and suddenly your computer freezes and up comes this huge blue screen with a completely useless error message on it like “Windows has encountered a critical error and will be shut down.” A few seconds later, the whole system grinds to a halt and blinks off.

Ever wonder why the screen is blue? It’s just text, right? No graphics. Kind of like DOS. But DOS was a black screen with white text.

Why aren’t these error messages black and white, too?

I found out today. This is great. Are you ready for this?

It turns out that, long ago, the folks at Microsoft studied psychology and found out that blue is a calming color. Get it? Ever since that day, those “critical errors” have been calming experiences.

I imagine that future versions will come with a computerized voice:

“Hello. This is just a friendly announcement that you’ve lost the last 4 hours of your work. Hopefully your computer hasn’t suffered permenant damage, but if so, computers are on sale this week for $499 at Wal-Mart. Or, Geek Squad can try to repair it for $129/hour. Please be calm. Don’t worry; be happy….”

See what I mean? It’s the blue that makes all the difference.

Written by in: Business,Humor,Technology |

The Difference a Smile Makes

So I was in a Burger King a couple of days ago, grabbing a quick bite between meetings, thinking about how very unimpressive the place was and how I’d probably never come back. The employees generally acted like they didn’t care a thing about the customer, did their work slowly, and did only the bare minimum as far as I could tell.

The place was empty except for me and a senior citizen couple on the other side of the dining room, and the drive through was slow, so they should have had time to tidy up. However, about 6 feet from my table, right in the aisle, a large drink formed a slowly-expanding pool filling the grout lines and generally drowning the tile floor.

Alack and alas, I sat there for almost the whole meal before someone slinked out from the kitchen with a mop and made a half-hearted attempt to soak it up.

As I was leaving, sipping on the little bit of water that remained in my cup, I was startled by a different employee–one I hadn’t seen before. Apparently she had just started her shift. She was of foreign nationality–I know not what–maybe Vietnamese, and English was obviously not her first language. But, as I rose to leave, drink and trash in hand, she walked toward me and pointed to my cup, then made a drinking pantomime. “More?” This was said with a large smile, which I couldn’t help but return.

And just like that, my whole Burger King experience changed. Yes, they still had unimpressive service, and the dining room wasn’t all that clean. But some nice person just offered to get me a refill, and did so with a pleasant smile, and somehow Burger King was a better place for a moment. I declined, but thanked her, and went on my way. And reflected on the difference a smile makes.

Written by in: Business,Personal |

Charter Communications Wrap-up

I was really, really frustrated when I wrote the last post about our problems with Charter. Apparently God has a sense of humor, because the next day, things started to get better. I published my post late Monday night. Tuesday afternoon, Tim got a call from a guy at Charter corporate. He had seen my post, and they were ready to fix our problem.

Our customer service experience over the next few days was completely different from the previous one. We got to talk to knowledgeable people. Those people actually called us back. They even gave us e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers so that we could reach them. On Wednesday, Tim talked to a network engineer for the Greenville area. I don’t know why it required a blog post for that to happen; Tim had told the customer service reps a week ago, the very first time we called, that we needed to speak with a local network engineer. Apparently, you have to take drastic action to be heard.

Anyway, that was gratifying for Tim to find out that he was right all along. The network engineer did his job, and the problem was fixed by late Thursday afternoon.

So, it took Charter an entire week to fix a simple problem, all because their people would not listen to us. But now the problem is fixed, so I’m happy about that.

And yes, they did adjust our bill. It was a token amount that didn’t begin to compensate us for all of the hours that we spent trying to get Charter to fix their own problem, but it was something. Of course, we had to call and request that adjustment. Once they thought that the problem was fixed, all calls from them stopped (even though two people had promised to call us on Friday and make sure it was working ok).

From this experience, I learned that I need to trust God more. Charter was wrong, very wrong, but I did not react properly.

I also learned that blogging works. Yay blogging!

Finally, Charter is planning to file for bankruptcy. That makes my sense of justice very happy.


Rules of the Garage

That last post of about "Unwritten Rules" made me think of some written rules that HP has promoted among its Indian operations. It seems like a lot of large corporations would do well to heed them. The rules are as follows:

  • Believe you can change the world.
  • Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever.
  • Know when to work alone and when to work together.
  • Share tools, ideas. Trust your colleagues.
  • No Politics. No bureaucracy. (These are ridiculous in a garage).
  • The customer defines a job well done.
  • Radical ideas are not bad ideas.
  • Invent different ways of working.
  • Make a contribution every day.
  • If it doesn't contribute, it doesn't leave the garage.
  • Believe that together we can do anything.
  • Invent.


Written by in: Business |

Popular Business Rules were Plagiarized

William H. Swanson, CEO of Raytheon, recently published a booklet called "Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management." Freely available on Raytheon's website, it's become quite a hit. Something else "unwritten" about it is that not all the rules are Swanson's.

In fact, Nos. 6-22 (of 33 total) are almost exact replicas from a 1944 book on Engineering, called, interestingly enough, "Unwritten Laws of Engineering."  

These high-profile cases of plagiarism keep popping up, and you'd think that people would eventually get the hint that it's wrong and that it will be discovered.

This becomes even more ironic when you consider the following quotation, taken from their website:

We at Raytheon are proud of our reputation for excellence: a reputation based on our commitment to the highest ethical standards.

For details, see the NY Times Article.

The rules, btw, are probably worth reading if you're into business.


Written by in: Business |