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User Journal

Journal: Now a Switchvox Reseller!

Journal by brentlaminack

OpenFace Systems, Inc. is proud to be a reseller of the VoIP PBX made by Switchvox. It's built on the open-source platform Asterisk. Asterisk is well-known for its power and flexibility, but equally well-known for its difficult configuration. Switchvox addresses this with a simple browser-based interface into Asterisk configuration. Hunt groups, call distribution groups, interactive voice response trees, VoIP trunking, all can be easily configured. We're excited to be able to offer this to our customers.

User Journal

Journal: Never Buy Samsung Disks

Journal by brentlaminack

I bought two Samsung 160GB drives at MicroCenter a while back. Both were in "OEM Packaging." One drive failed out of the box. I went to their website and got an RMA number and sent it off. They sent a replacement. Then the other drive failed. Same drill, but the replacement was also DOA. I'm getting tired of this. So... moral of the story: never buy Samsung hard drives.

Businesses

Journal: Branding Book That Makes Sense

Journal by brentlaminack
One of the few branding books that actually makes sense is written by my friend Nick Wreden. It's called FusionBranding. The key is everyday operational excellence. All the marketing dollars spent on customer acquisition (getting people in the front door) are wasted if customers aren't happy with the expreience and exit just as quickly out the back door.

The other major departure here is the concept of accountability. In order to be accoutable, the brand must be measurable by some metric. The metric he suggests is that of customer equity. A few CRM systems measure this, but most managers are clueless as to what to do with these measures.

Businesses

Journal: Marketing Books

Journal by brentlaminack
Just finished the latest edition of Marketing Without Advertising by Raspberry and Phillips. One of the many fine books from Nolo Press. I'd read the first edition many years before, but this includes Internet marketing. It's still one of the definitive books around. My main nit with the updated work is their lack of examples in the Internet chapters. The rest of the book has lots of real-world examples, but the new chapters are a bit weak in that area. Still, it's a good, solid, common-sense approach to business marketing.
Programming

Journal: XML in Office Suite Recap

Journal by brentlaminack
OK, yesterday I asked slashdot about the much-touted benefits of using XML in an office suite. See the story. The XML proponent said that the ability to look through documents with a perl script would do wonderful things. I asked has it?

The results:

The largest group was probably the naysayers. "XML is overrated", "Office Suites don't need XML", "Structured text is as old as Nroff/TeX/WordStar/whatever" This group largely missed the concept of "open standard" and "multiple tools".

There were some MS folk that said MS hasn't dropped the ball in XML, MS office does wonderful XML. Just use their tools and see how wonderful it works. I guess they missed the part about XML being open. Yes, MS office documents work with MS tools. That's not the point. Do they work with other tools? Is a word document really all XML? No. Several cited creating InfoPath documents with the MS tools and said they were wonderful. What's InfoPath? A MS client that seems to take the place of a browser. So instead of building web-centric applications as is smart, an organization would build InfoPath applications that lock them into MicroSoft. Yes, it reads XML but is a proprietary client.

Those that were actually using XML with Office were mostly doing it the other way around: using database and programming languages to GENERATE XML-based Office documents. Example: letting users format reports as they want, then using the user-generated file as a template for the program to fill with the actual data.

Has XML-based Office Programs lived up to the ballyhoo? No. Not yet. One poster said to ask again in about three years. Probably a good idea.

Technology

Journal: Dumbing Down of IT 1

Journal by brentlaminack
A recent I, Cringely column made reference to the 'dumbing-down' of IT. In talking with another, even older IT guy a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned the exact same phrase. So, is IT being 'dumbed-down'? Is using the Microsoft 'point, point, click, click' approach to IT causing IT to lose the fundamental underpinnings of what's really happening?

For instance: about two years ago, I was doing a prototype for a now-defunct alternate long-distance company. They were trying to look through many megabytes of call detail files looking for duplicate lines. They were loading it into Microsoft Access to manipulate it. A 50 MB file took several hours to process. Their ideal was to get it to under an hour. I wrote a dozen lines of C as a preprocessor, and did the rest in PHP. My program was able to process the file in 2 1/2 minutes. The IT guy asked me how I did it. I started explaining about building two-dimensional arrays in memory to index the fields... then I realized I might as well be speaking Martian. He had no clue what I was talking about. This was one of their top IT guys. He knew only Microsoft tools. He had been 'dumbed down.'

Are there other examples?

Linux Business

Journal: business for geeks

Journal by brentlaminack
There used to be a magazine called Midnight Engineering. It was for entreprenural engineers. It tended to lean to the embedded/hardward developer. I was in an e-mail discussion with one of its contributors just the other day that there is still a need for something similar, but with more emphasis on software, and some solid, down-to-earth advice about the nuts and bolts of running a business.

Today on /. is an oft-asked question of Funding Open Source. Somebody needs to address this. Should it be me?

One way to make your old car run better is to look up the price of a new model.

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