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Comment: Re:You Don't (Score 2, Informative) 384

by bdh (#46238861) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Do You To Tell Your Client That His "Expert" Is an Idiot?

(This is almost a universal truth. You can quit your job, and come back as a consultant and the same management will fall all over itself doing what you recommend. You just have to give them long enough to forget you recommended the same damn thing as an employee).

It's not always necessary to wait that long.

"Advice is worth what you pay for it", appears to be the rule.

I worked at a Fortune 50 outfit, working on choosing a vendor for a major contract. Since the contract would eventually be worth at least seven figures, we spent about 18 months doing competitive analysis and proper due diligence. Ten vendors (A-J) were whittled down to five (A-E), and then finally to two vendors (A and B), who each ended up running their systems on site in the final execution round.

Vendor A wasn't popular politically, but won on technical merit. Vendor B was a serious player, and had previously held 80% of the market in that segment, but (a) had fallen behind technically, and (b) their presentation had truly been Keystone Kops level bad, unfortunately. They simply didn't take it seriously; they expected to win on name recognition, so they basically just phoned it in.

Ultimately, my customer selected Vendor A. I had to write a competitive analysis for my boss to justify my rankings, and I wrote about 20 pages, detailing the scoring criteria I used, my observations and analysis, etc. Some of the vendors were extremely interested in this (vendor C, in particular, since they just missed the final round by a whisker), and my customer approved my giving each vendor a subset of my report. They'd each get the criteria used and the evaluation of their bid, but not of the other vendors. I added a recommendation section to each, of the "this is what you'd have to do in order to win the bid" variety.

Vendor B basically told me/my customer what we could do with this analysis, since "they were the vendor of record for 80% of the industry", and we didn't know what we were talking about, etc. Vendor C, in contrast, flew up two guys (one business guy, one tech) to take me out to lunch/dinner and get a Vulcan Mind Meld with me; their approach was "we came in number three, what do we need to improve to be number one".

A year later, Vendor B was sitting at 20% of the market, and unlikely to hang on to that, as both Vendor A and Vendor C had passed them. And so, they brought in a consultancy firm to do a competitive analysis. Said competitive analysis cost low six figures to produce, took a team to generate, and the report was passed around at their board meeting, before being sent down from on high to the troops.

A friend of mine was at Vendor B at the time. He compared my (free) analysis with the multi hundred thousand dollar report. The difference? Mine lacked "a leather binder, buzzwords, and spelling mistakes". The most important section, the recommendations, were now commandments from on high.

Comment: Re:So when will the price come down? (Score 1) 267

by bdh (#39279145) Attached to: Nearly Half of American Adults Are Smartphone Owners
Well, after years as a Nokia fanboy, I finally went out and picked up cheapo Android phone last summer. I grabbed the LG Optimus One for $99 (Canadian), and I use SpeakOut wireless as my provider. It's a "pay as you go" provider, so I pay 30 cents or so a minute for phone calls, plus about $1.25 a month for 911 service. The only stipulation is that I have to top up once a year for a minimum of $25. The phone has wifi, and since I don't use data, I disabled 3G, so I get about 5-8 days battery life on average. I've been told it's not "really" a smartphone, since I don't have mobile data. Maybe not, but this setup replaces my old Palm Pilot (PDA), MP3 player, GPS (NavFree is a nice free offline GPS that works quite well, at least in my area), and alarm clock. It also happens to make and receive phone calls and the occasional SMS people send me. You're right about email, though. A 3.2" screen is pitiful for a web-based mail client, and the whole pinch/zoom thing is a pain. It will do in a pinch (like when you're in a restaurant with wifi), but I certainly cannot see pay $50 a month for the few times I want to check email or something and there's no hotspot around.

Comment: Re:Eh (Score 1) 461

by bdh (#39158727) Attached to: Comparing Today's Computers To 1995's

I certainly did, as did most of my friends. I contracted at IBM from 1990 to 1992, and I remember helping several co-workers set up home internet access. Being IBMers, they were familiar with internal email, but the internet was something new, something that they could use to connect with non-IBMers.

At the time, most international email was done though BBSes, although even as far back as 1990 or so, internet email was accessible though those gateways at those BBSes, such as Canada Remote Systems (I was user 283 :-) and Rose Media.

By 1993-1994, everyone I knew was messing with various versions of WinSock, and using FTP and Telnet. And once O'Reilly started selling their "Internet in a Box" kit, it provided one stop shopping for non-technical users to get online. At that point, Microsoft and Apple were jumping online by adding native TCP/IP and phone dialer support in their current operating systems, so pretty much anyone buying new PC, or a copy of Windows 95, was online in some capacity.

It wasn't like today, where everyone has a 7/24 connection. Most people with dialup had 20 hours a month or so, but for most non-technical people, that was enough.

Comment: Re:Why update? (Score 1) 270

by bdh (#39158381) Attached to: The Dark Side of Digital Distribution
For things like my PC operating system, I do updates, for security reasons. But I also have an image backup of my C: drive, so if the update bricks my systems, I can unbrick it.

Other devices, such as my WDTV, O!Play, or Asus Transformer, I do not, unless (a) the update has someone thing I really, really want/need, and (b) the update is at least a month old, and I've seen positive feedback. Both Asus and WD have had firmware updates that bricked units, and the solution was to get an RMA number and send the unit back to the factory. And what benefit would this firmware update have provided, anyway? In one case, I believe it was Hebrew subtitle support; in another, support for some hard drive model I don't own. So a simple risk analysis shows that to get features I wouldn't (or can't) even use, I have the potential of breaking the existing system.

A pet peeve I have is my Asus Transformer occasionally will blithely announce that it's going to do a firmware update, and I can delay it up to three days. Then I read on forums where X% of users have bricked their units by the update. Nice, really nice. Especially when you read nonsense like "we've improved the update process, so now we actually check the MD5 of the downloaded file before reflashing the OS". You mean you didn't before?

Comment: Re:Shocked. (Score 1) 851

by bdh (#38467500) Attached to: Do You Really Need a Smart Phone?
I am on Speakout, and I should point out that they do not have, nor do they advertise, unlimited data. What they have is unlimited browsing. Only ports 80 and 443 are open, so applications other than web browsers don't work. You can read your Gmail on the gmail web site, for example, but the GMail application (with push notification doesn't work).

At this point, any number of people will rush in and point out that there are numerous proxy applications for Android (and for non-Android OSes, as well). And that's true. People do root their phones with Cyanogen (which is required for any of these proxies), install the proxy, and get it to work. I know a number who have. But I also know a number who've rooted their phone, installed the proxy, and only "sort of" got it to work. I know one guy who got his data plan working, but disabled his GPS in so doing. When he reflashed the pre-Cyanogen mod, he restored his GPS, and lost data access again.

I'm not trying to say it doesn't work, by any means. But when people say that Speakout has "unlimited data for $10 a month", it's misleading; it makes it sound like SpeakOut is offering a supported, out-of-the-box solution. It isn't. If you're comfortable rooting your phone and configuring a proxy, it can be a great solution. But of course, SpeakOut won't help you with it, the phone vendor won't help you with it, so you're pretty much on your own.

Let's be honest, if SpeakOut was selling the same thing for $10/month that Rogers/Bell/Telus are selling for $50/month or more, it wouldn't be the obscure MNVO that it is.

I should also mention that PetroCanada sells the same service, except their annual minimum is $100 compared to 7-11's $25. But if you use more than 300 minutes a year (not counting texting), you'll be spending $100 a year anyway, and there are a lot more PetroCan stations than their are 7-11s.

There's a discussion forum at http://www.speakoutwireless.ca/ for those interested in finding out more.

Comment: Re:Skewed perceptions (Score 1) 960

by bdh (#38182522) Attached to: Why Everyone Hates the IT Department

They changed our anti-virus from Symantec, which ate about 10% CPU time when checking, to McAfee, which eats about 40%. I/O heavy processes that used to take around 2 minutes now take 8. They got McAfee free in a bundle - it's a shame about the cost to our productivity. The snoopware that checks every path on your drive - including ones inside archives (yes, including jars - we're mostly Java developers) will thrash your disk for about 20 minutes and then will consume a whole CPU core for another 10 zipping up the list to send back to base. Since the change of antivirus, reading all those files of course also thrashes the CPU. This grinds some of our machines to a halt so well that you can watch the display being rendered, one raster line at a time.

We have a similar situation. On "Virus Wednesdays", our MacAfee scanners go hog-wild, and our. pee. cees. slow. to. a. crawl. A 40% drop in performance would be nothing. Twenty minutes? These scans usually take 18 hours or more. On our build machines, the virus scan takes upwards of four days (Wed, Thu, Fri, and often part of Saturday). A normal two hour build takes over a day.

More importantly, our core application - that which we are employed to build, sell, enhance, and support, in other words, the reason for our business' existence - cannot be run, because the serial and network connections all time out. We have about a 500ms window for comm traffic, and normally it's in the 100ms-200ms range. When the virus scanner runs, those packets can take 8-10 seconds each to process, so we have a timeout rate of 100%, with resultant application failure. It's like trying to test a new web browser when the network is disconnected. And this is in loopback mode, I might add.

Initially, developers were using task manager to lower the priority of the scanner so it didn't cripple the machine. IT discovered that their end of week reports were showing that the development machines weren't completing the scan by the expected time, so they locked the process such that developers couldn't change it. So, developers started rebooting their PCs to escape the process. The next step was to have the scan restart after every reboot so that it was inescapable.

Not a day goes past without my colleague cursing because his machine is doing the bidding of the IT department instead of compiling his code.

We have the same. Since my company is currently in one of those "efficiency initiative" drives where staff can suggest to management ways to improve the company, it was suggested that maybe these performance-sapping scans could be run, like, overnight rather than in core hours? Or on a weekend? Some in my department did the math, and showed that the performance hit was effectively the same as four full time developers in terms of hours being chewed up uselessly.

The IT director's response was "since the development department is showing that they are still able to make deadlines with the virus scan running, an alternative cost saving would be to move the virus scan to non-core hours, and terminate four positions from the development department". He put that in writing, in the "efficiency initiative" wiki.

Management is now scratching their heads, inquiring as to why suggestions have dried up, and no one seems to be submitting any new ideas for efficiency savings.

Of course, management is starting to take notice, because a major customer made an urgent request, and made the mistake of asking for it on a Tuesday. Of course, the "we must ship by Friday" edict ran head first into the "virus scan on the build machine means the build can't complete until Saturday" problem, which hopefully might escalate the problem to the point where it's taken seriously. But it's a shame that it had to negatively impact a customer deliverable before it's given serious attention.

Comment: Re:Delete it (Score 4, Interesting) 619

by bdh (#36377678) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What To Do With Other People's Email?
It's not your problem. Don't make it your problem.

I have a personal domain which has the same problem. My domain name is a four letter latin word (not wanting to slashdot my poor server, I won't mention the name). There's a Belgian rock band with the same name, a video game with a similar name, and at least one medical ward in a Boston hospital which uses a typographical variation.

I used to be inundated with (a) Flemish grunge fans who were indignant that I had "stolen" the name of "their" band's website (fans, not the band itself), (b) people asking/demanding help in the game, and (c) confidential reports from the hospital. And when I say inundated, I mean I was getting between 3,000 and 7,000 spam/misdirected email a day. Probably 50 of those a day were misdirected emails that weren't flagged as spam.

Ten years ago, I used to send back a boilerplate "this isn't the web site you're looking for" response to these guys (I set up a script in the Bat mailer I was using at the time). The results I got for this were:

a) the grungers demanded I give "back" my domain to their favourite band;
b) the gamers told me "I'll never buy another one of your effing games again"; and, for the win
c) the hospital types said "you have illegally intercepted confidential medical data, we're going to sue you into the ground"

To be fair, there were a number of "oops, sorry, thought you were the other guys" apologies (and one rambling email in Portuguese from a woman who wanted to know if she should marry her boyfriend whom she didn't love, and should wait for Mr. Right instead)

Nothing ever came from it, other than my deciding to say the hell with it. Most of it was nonsense, but it could easily become a time suck.

More recently, I've started getting "confirmations" from companies that my application has been pre-approved. This isn't spam, it's actually some bozo using my email address, despite giving different address/phone information when applying. The fact that he's getting these pre-approvals says something about the approval process, to be sure. I called the first few, thinking maybe my account had been hacked, but it's just someone else (it's always the same address he gives) who doesn't seem to know his own email address.

Comment: Re:Calibration? (Score 1) 238

by bdh (#35576058) Attached to: System Measures Stress In Emergency Callers' Voice
How do you "calibrate" a system that accommodates both the Steven Wrights of the world, and the Sam Kinisons, at the same time?

One of the problems reported in some airline crashes is that professional airline pilots can be too professional. In one case, a pilot was calling a mayday and was pretty much ignored because his voice was a monotone, as he'd been trained.

My mom was an emergency room RN, and I found out early as a child that it's possible to be too dispassionate about things. On the one hand, when I was stabbed, it was really good to have a professional trauma nurse for a mom. On the other, it took a while to get the neighbours to react (phoning the hospital to know we were coming, getting a ride, clearing the streets, etc), because Mom wasn't running around screaming and attracting attention the way a normal civilian would, to get attention. Fortunately, my grandmother (whose dials started at 11, and worked up from there) was available to provide the necessary hysterics that got the neighbourhood going.

Comment: Re:An interesting question. (Score 1) 722

by bdh (#35397850) Attached to: Is Apple Turning Into the Next "Evil Empire"?

I never thought I'd see the day when Apple is considered an "evil empire", and Microsoft is kind of the underdog/good-guy.

Well, I never thought I'd see the day when Microsoft was considered an "evil empire", and IBM was kind of the underdog/good-guy. But it happened.

Corporations are not inherently virtuous or villainous; they work in their own best interests. When they are the top dog, they will want to maintain the status quo, and treat such changes as a potential (or real) threat. The further back in the pack the company is, the more it will try to change the status quo in their favour.

Unfortunately, a lot of people romanticize it, and tend to form emotional attachments to companies and their products. This results in a correspondingly wildly unrealistic viewpoint. You'll see people lambaste Microsoft as evil and monopolistic for their practices, yet absolve Sun or Apple for the exact same behaviour, if not worse.

The problem is that the company will inevitably do something you disagree with. If you think of it as a company, it makes sense. But if you're viewing it as a morality play of good versus evil, all of a sudden it's a betrayal, and the company is "turning its' back on people", etc.

I've seen this happen to IBM, to Sun, to AT&T, to Apple, to Microsoft, and it's now happening with both Google and Nokia. Eventually, the markets will shift, behaviours will adapt, new players will enter the market, and the cycle will restart, with Google as the scrappy competitor again.

Plus ca change, and all that.

Comment: Re:open systems will 'win' in the end." (Score 1) 246

by bdh (#35249620) Attached to: Intel CEO: Nokia Should Have Gone With Android

Linux has been around since 1991. Windows did not really take off until 1995.

Conversely, Windows has been around since 1985, and Linux did not really take off until around 1998 or so. Both were either hobbyist projects (Linux) are in-house R&D efforts (Windows) that were really only suitable to hacker types. I'd say Windows "took off" around May 1990, when Windows 3.0 came out (and basically buried OS/2 v1), and Linux "took off" probably when Red Hat kicked out their 1.0 release in 1994.

Comment: Re:Consumer choice (Score 1) 246

by bdh (#35249582) Attached to: Intel CEO: Nokia Should Have Gone With Android

I still recall hacking my phone to enable basic features like the ability to transfer files over USB instead of having to spent $0.75 a shot emailing *my own* pictures to myself or being able to upload custom ringtones instead of having to buy them from the telco's ringtone store.

That's one of the reasons I chose my Nokia 6585 in the first place. Never mind wanting $.075 to send pictures to yourself; they wanted me to spend money to put a calendar entry into my phone. And using my own MP3? Why would I want to do that? PC Suite was the major selling point for me. I could, and have, ditched one Nokia phone for another, and the syncing process was 15 minutes, and free. In the beginning, I had to crack the phone, just to be able to hook it up, because the carrier locked it down. To switch to a Samsung, or Motorola, or LG, my carrier wanted me to pay them to move my own data between my own devices. Sod that. Even moving between one Samsung to another (as a friend did) was a nightmare of lost data and manually re-entering stuff. You're right; if Steve Jobs did nothing else, he did that. Not because he was brilliant, but because he had enough weight behind him to get his way.

Comment: Re:Pedigree speaks for itself (Score 1) 246

by bdh (#35249514) Attached to: Intel CEO: Nokia Should Have Gone With Android

While the "trojan horse" idea may appeal to the conspiracy theorist and the anti-MS crowds, Occam's razor would lead me to believe the opposite.

Which is more likely? That Nokia brought an ex-Microsoft exec on board to run the company and are shocked, shocked to discover that he's partnering them with MS? Or that the Nokia board already considered an MS/Nokia deal as likely/possible/inevitable, and got someone previously with Microsoft onto their side in order to be able to better negotiate terms? Personally, I'd suspect the latter.

I'm not keen on a Nokia/Microsoft partnership, but given that their choices are either (a) go under, (b) go Android, or (c) go W7, I don't think it's the worst choice.

I would have loved for them to buy Palm last year and put WebOS on Nokia hardware, but that ship has sailed. And getting Meego out the door in time was sounding increasingly unlikely; and it has its' own set of problems, too.

Going with Android was the easy (and obvious) choice. But the problem there is that Nokia becomes just one more vendor swimming in the shark pool. With MS, they've negotiated preferential treatment over other W7 providers, so the will be able to differentiate themselves from the other W7 vendors.

I'm still irritated that this happened, but I'm not writing Nokia off yet. The irony is that living in Canada, I'm much more likely to see Nokia's in a year than I am now, simply because they are much more likely to be able to be carried by some of the major carriers.

Comment: Re:Short Nokia stock (Score 2) 246

by bdh (#35249346) Attached to: Intel CEO: Nokia Should Have Gone With Android

it's a great pocket computer with phone capabilities

And therein lies the problem. It's a great phone for the /. crowd, but that's not what will make or break the company.

Nokia is getting stomped by the iPhone. Can anyone seriously say that iOS is superior to Symbian in terms of capabilities? No, the iPhone wins on services, ease of use, applications, etc. And that's what Nokia is looking to buy into with W7.

I really like my 5800, but I'm under no illusions that it will convert over anyone but techies from an iPhone. Sure, I know a lot more about the insides of my Nokia 5800 than most of my friends with iPhones know about theirs, but their money is just as good as mine. So what if their criteria for choosing a phone is different than mine?

Comment: Re:It didn't have this already? (Score 1) 266

by bdh (#35203230) Attached to: Windows Phone 7 To Get Multi-Tasking, IE9, Xbox Integration

How did this get ignored for so long in iOS and Windows phone?

Because other than in a bullet chart, multitasking doesn't show up in marketing.

I have a Nokia 5800. I have several friends with iPhones (3 and 4), and they're constantly trying to prove that the iPhone is "better". Sure, Symbian multitasks like no one's business, but the iPhone has more apps and a better UI. So iPhone grabbed something like 70% of the Japanese smartphone market in 3 years, while Nokia has had to partner with Microsoft just for survival.

Another example was OS/2. OS/2 had pre-emptive multitasking years before the Windows operating system(s) it was competing against, but it looked like crap, and users stayed away in droves. The same was true comparing Windows 95 to MacOS prior 1995; it wasn't until Apple went to a Unix based system in 1997-ish (my memory's fuzzy about the dates) that the Mac got features like pre-emptive multitasking and proper dynamic memory allocation.

Tech features may sell to slashdotters, but most of the population cares a lot more about the UI than what's under the hood.

Like most of my geek buddies, on Friday, I looked at Nokia's partnership with MS as one of the longer suicide notes in history. On Saturday, I was out with friends who aren't all techs, and I was surprised that many of them considered it a good thing, and were interested to see what a NokiaSoft phone would look like.

Comment: Re:Goodbye Palm and Nokia! (Score 1) 479

by bdh (#35177092) Attached to: Nokia and Microsoft Make Smartphone Alliance

That's the insane part, since Microsoft is supposed to be outright draconian about the hardware spec. Under this deal, Nokia basically get to choose the colour of the device, AFAIK.

Actually, that was one of the issues Esop addressed, Nokia can modify W7, something that HTC cannot do. He said that they probably won't, though.

I think that Nokia is basically supposed to become the reference platform for W7. How well that will work out is another story.

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