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User Journal

Journal Journal: Enterprise Collaboration Software Choices

Now that I've checked more into Zimbra and how it compares to Lotus Notes and other collaboration software, it turns out that Zimbra is not, in fact, a traditional behemoth collaboration software, but it does do the simple workgroup collaboration part of what Lotus Notes handles, namely email and calendaring collaboration. And of course, like any tool that doesn't try to be everything to everyone, it performs those specific tasks far better than a tool like Lotus Notes does.

Lotus Notes tries and fails miserably at doing everything everyone wants in an enterprise collaboration software. It's not that Notes doesn't try to do an admirable number of things in an admirable number of ways, it's just that it doesn't come close enough to what modern corporate users expect for all those things it offers. So the end result is that users hate it and tell their IT guys (like me) how bad it sucks. Notes was great 10+ years ago, but the world has changed faster than Notes has, assured death for any software product.

So I hear companies I'm talking to dreading the idea of moving from open source email/collaboration software to "enterprise" software like Microsoft Exchange Server as they grow. But huge growth in these companies is unavoidable, so they think they have no choice because "there is no open source equivalent to Exchange". Outsourcing Microsoft Exchange server hosting is fairly common because not only do users hate the idea of moving to Exchange, IT people do, too. And the Lotus Notes option? They only laugh at the mention of Notes, many saying they could swear that Lotus Notes disappeared like Lotus 1-2-3 or SGI (both of which still exist, by the way).

Anyway, as a LONG-time open source advocate, I can't believe there's no real open source alternative to Notes or Exchange. Just can't be. Well, what about the first one I found, Jive's Clearspace? Well, it's not completely open source, but from what I've read it's at least partly open source. Then there's Microsoft's Sharepoint Server, but I'm sure that would be a part of a package with Exchange, which is what people are desperately trying to avoid. Who knows, maybe Zimbra along with Clearspace could be a viable alternative to the dreaded enterprise software that nearly every user agrees is a modern corporate fiasco.

The only corporate users who would not agree that behemoth enterprise collaboration software is a modern disaster are the users with a vested interest in keeping it like in-house developers. Well, I'm sorry, but if you're perpetuating this problem in the modern workplace, you are part of that problem.

So, I'll be back soon with more reviews of the new "lightweight" enterprise collaboration software...
User Journal

Journal Journal: Yes, Virginia, Lotus Notes SUCKS.

Well, this is an interesting article.

After having used Lotus Notes, Sametime, and Skype in a corporate environment for years, I'm thinking how could anything not be better than the P.O.S. known as Lotus Notes/Domino/Sametime??? There are whole websites dedicated to the documentation in every detail of how bad Lotus Notes sucks:

Damien Katz: 70 Reasons Lotus Notes Sucks

Lotus Notes Sucks

Lotus Notes: Survival of the Unfittest

Hell, one guy even bothered to take the time to put a video on YouTube stating the fact:

"Lotus Notes Sucks!"

Of course, Google Apps is an alternative, but for a real corporate environment where the top execs are p-p-p-p-paranoid, there's a definite drive to keep systems like this exclusively in-house to completely control data in all corporate communications. Even though I really think Notes/Domino is a huge pile of crap, I can't say I am at all a fan of MS Outlook/Exchange given its many flaws and the fact that it won't even run on Linux/UNIX like Notes/Domino will.

So, I will be posting an objective comparison between Notes/Domino and Zimbra/Postfix soon since Zimbra/Postfix experience is actually in real demand these days while demand for Notes/Domino experience is literally non-existent. Stay tuned...
User Journal

Journal Journal: Google BigTable: Is There No End To Google's Innovation?

For a Comp Sci guy like me, Google is really doing some amazing stuff. Sometimes when I come across some of the stuff they are doing, I have to wonder how the heck they are funding it, and why I'm not involved. :-) Their work is even more interesting to me because most of their offices are within 10 miles of my house, but that's beside the point.

For example, Google BigTable. I'm talking to someone about a startup company in San Francisco today, and one of their needs from someone like me is experience with structured data systems like Google BigTable. So, I'm looking at the white paper, and I'm amazed at what Google has done in BigTable offering something for free to small businesses that we never could have dreamed of getting for less than a fortune 8+ years ago.

This truly is an exciting time for computer science, and it's got people like me working round the clock in the excitement...
User Journal

Journal Journal: What Do You Use Perl For?

After talking with a few colleagues recently, I realized I needed to brush up on my Perl knowledge for my professional work. I've been programming as an amateur and a professional for about 28 years (yeah, I started programming that young on a Commodore PET's and 64's), so filling in the gaps in my knowledge on Perl has been very easy and enjoyable.

I was pretty happy to realize that Perl is really a coder's programming or scripting language from the perspective of a traditional programmer like me, dealing with a lot of tediousness and rigidity of traditional languages I'm used to. Not like I haven't used Perl in a professional sense before, but it was pretty much for the purpose of troubleshooting problem CGI's or writing quick-and-dirty *NIX scripts to get a job done.

As I was going through the standard paces of learning a language from the ground-up to fill in any gaps I have, I realized something. I can use Perl for more than just my Linux server and network appliance work, Perl may actually be the modern programming language that I've been looking for to teach my kids the basics of programming like I did when I was about their age.

Not like Perl is the simplest of languages for a 6 or 8 year old to learn (hey, I started when I was about 8 to 10 years old), but the simple beginning-level exercises you go through are a great way to spark curiosity in kids about software development. From there you can move them along to other things that are even more relevant to modern computing and the Internet.

So, as I move forward consuming all knowledge about Perl to advance myself, I have a question for anyone out there who may be reading this. How do you use Perl? I've had other people ask me the same thing, so I'd like to hear how other people use Perl to automate server administration, processes, or anything else. Hell, I might get some cool ideas for my little geeks, so let me know!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Leaders Lose Followers By Demonstrating Incompetence

I have to say, after having led IT people for 13 years and being a U.S. Army veteran, I agree with:

"People want leaders who are honest, competent, forward-looking, and inspiring...People willingly follow only those who know what they are doing. One of the quickest ways for a leader to lose trust and commitment of followers is to demonstrate incompetence...Character and competence, the Be and the Know, underlie everything a leader does. But character and knowledge - while absolutely necessary - are not enough. Leaders act; they Do...They solve problems, overcome obstacles, strengthen teamwork, and achieve objectives. They use leadership to produce results."

I completely agree with what is said here, and maybe part of it has to do with spending 4 years in the U.S. Army as a grunt following leaders like my brother, who was an Army officer for about 10 years.

A leader who cannot produce results is not a leader anyone wants to follow. A leader who does not actually do, who does not actually solve problems, is not a leader at all. It's just the same in business as it is in the Army or in war. No IT person really respects the IT executive or leader who knows nothing more than how to delegate. How can an IT leader or ANY business leader all the way up to the top, CEO or chairman, actually get people to follow him if they do not demonstrate that they can do more than simply manage or delegate?

Look closely at any struggling or failing company, and you'll see what I'm talking about. In my 17 years in IT, 13 years in executive management, I've seen competent, inspiring leaders, and I've seen utterly incompetent, pathetic leaders. Sadly, I've seen far too much of the latter in recent years.

"... being a leader requires little more than honesty and competence."

Wow, I know how to lead, partly from watching my brother, but I've never seen the necessities of successful leadership ever, put so simply.

"No one is only a leader; each person in an organization is also a follower and part of a team. In fact, the old distinction between leaders and followers has blurred; complex twenty-first-century organizations require individuals to move seamlessly from one role to another in an organization, from leadership to `followership,' and back again."

If nothing else, this book is absolutely required reading for any leader, IT people included, for a foundation of success.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Smallest MicroATX Case For Embedded Linux Network Appliances 2

OK, so I'm working on an embedded Linux network appliance with "unspecified capabilities". :-) Anyway, I need a case that's as small as possible, but still accomodates one 5.25" drive and two 3.5" drives. I settled on the MicroATX platform, because the smaller motherboards would seem to be a waste of time and expense considering I have to incorporate those 3 drive types.

All I'm coming up with is rackmount servers, but I want something with a cube-like form factor that won't be intimidating to a small business owner and will be easy for them to plug in and use. Looking for something like that, pretty much all I find are home theater component-style cases.

Anybody out there have any ideas?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Microsoft and Windows Server 2008 UNIX Appeal?

Well, this article is interesting.

I actually like Microsoft's products including development products, because they have a strong history of listening to their customers, especially developers like me. But, all their past attempts at UNIX or Linux compatibility have been pathetic.

Everything I've read about Windows Server 2008 sounds really good to a hard-core Linux guy like me, but like Vista, I'll believe it when I see it running on my computers/servers. I have tried a beta release of 2008, but the features in these articles didn't seem to be there. But, then again, we were only able to get it working in VMware, not on any real servers.

Maybe the release version will give us more, but we'll see...
User Journal

Journal Journal: It's Time To Leave Your Job When...

Well, thank God I finally realized I was wasting my time working for a company who didn't appreciate my work or my department's. A company that now seems like the 7-11 of the Silicon Valley, with equally obsessive, loser executives who have nothing better to do but stand around watching employees surf the Internet or staring blankly out their office windows while sales lag, stock prices drop, and stock options become permanently worthless.

Oh, sorry, just had a retro-moment of bitterness there. :-) I'm all better now, really. But, please read these articles and feel free to discuss. Here are a few highlights that reflect on my personal situation:

Disappearing Workload: no successful business pays people to do nothing. One day without much to do is a welcome break, two or more and you'd better head for the lifeboats. If the people lining up the work don't have anything for you to do, that means the company isn't making any money, and that it won't be making money in the future, either. If work drops off and stays low, expect to need another job within two weeks.

Efficiency Cops: the minute anyone in management says the word "efficiency" or "productivity" you should get your resume out. This is code for "we're going broke, and need to squeeze everything we can out of our workers before we fire them." If management starts doing "efficiency reviews" or "strategic reevaluations" that means they are trying to find someone they can safely fire. If they go as far as hiring a "Bob", an outside consultant that starts examining everyone to see who can be cut, then you might as well just stop working and let them fire you.

Mysterious Lunches: when all else fails, pay attention to your coworkers. Many of them know more than you do. If you notice several of them taking extra long lunches, talking a lot on cell phones, or showing up to work in interview clothes, it's already too late. The smartest rats jump ship first. They're not coming in late because of a dentist appointment, not unless the dentist is hiring designers. Start looking for a new job before your buddies take all the good ones.

Top Management Defections: did you ever see the movie Titanic? Remember when the ship was sinking, there was a scene that showed all of the rats on the lower decks heading for high ground? While this may not be the most politically correct analogy, it demonstrates what usually happens when a company is sinking. Remember, these folks, like you and I, want or need to work. So, when things are heading seriously downhill, you will start to see senior members of the management team bail and take a job at a different company, In the meantime, current employees with less seniority will take the senior executives' places.

Big Insider/Institutional Sales: the "smart money" investors, meaning institutional and executive holders of the stock, typically dump their shares ahead of a bankruptcy filing or really difficult times. This goes back to my sinking ship analogy. Be on the lookout for big sales by these "smart money" people, as they may be a harbinger. One thing though: During the normal course of business some of these "smart money" players may sell the stock from time to time. In fact, it is perfectly normal. Essentially, you should pay attention to unusually large or frequent transactions, particularly those that occur in or around the time negative news is released.

Signs of a Sinking Ship

It's Time to Leave Your Job When

Wow, this top-10-list is a little too eery for me:

How To Know When It's Time To Leave Your Job Or Company
User Journal

Journal Journal: Most Appealing Company For An IT Geek To Work For?

Now that I've taken the leap to enlightenment from corporate grazer hell to independent computer geek, the question is where would be a great place to work in 21st century Silicon Valley?

First, you might ask what the heck is a corporate grazer? I just thought of the phrase, don't see any references on the Internet, so I'll explain it. If you've worked in a typical Silicon Valley office (think of the movie Office Space), you know the people who don't carry their own weight. That's not who I'm talking about. Worse than those people are the people who "work" to do nothing but bullshit all day while you work your ass off. I'll speak specifically to my workplace of the last 6 years -- the people who walk around talking and joking for an hour or more at a time, only to move onto the next place to "graze" off of social interaction with the next group of people. Now you get who I'm talking about.

Anyway, I guess I'm either looking for another startup to grow with or a bigger company to move up my career. I'm probably leaning toward the startup end of the spectrum to avoid just managing and working with grazers again.

So, I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area, and here are some candidates: Collab.net, Renkoo.com, Videobox.com, Mint.com, Linkedin.com, TrustE.com, TrustedID.com, Pickspal.com, etc.

Or maybe I should work independently for a while? There are a ton of little companies here that need real IT help and just aren't getting it. It's amazing how many companies are paying 50-100% more than I made in my last position just for someone to solve their IT problems.

If you had the opportunity to make a small change in the direction of your IT career, what would it be and why?

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