A Bedtime Story

A Bedtime Story (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 1-29-15)

(Author’s Note: More than a few years ago, back when my daughters still thought Dora was really cool, our bedtime routine would always include a nonsensical story about various and assorted talking animals in strange and interesting environments.  Somehow, I’ve always thought that the Metro Spirit would be the perfect place for such a story.  Especially right before the Superbowl…)

It was the monkey’s fault of course.

While a 1-year old seems to possess an innate understanding of how to buy stocks using an iPhone, primates seem to lack such knowledge.  In this case, the monkey got spooked by the Doberhauhau and tossed the phone back at the puppy.  The action caught the puppy off guard, of course.  The phone fell through the forest canopy and smashed against the protruding rock below.  The monkey looked back up at the puppy with a sheepish look on his face, as if searching for the right words.

“Umm…Sorry about that, chap.  I didn’t mean for it to fall.”

“Unbelievable!” barked the puppy.  “That’s the third phone you’ve dropped!  What kind of monkey are you?”

“C’mon, why don’t you lay off the monkey?” said the Clydesdale.  “You know he’s never gotten over being canned by E-Trade.  You couldn’t possibly imagine what it’s like to go from Superbowl commercial star to being replaced by a human baby.”

“You want me to lay off the monkey?” responded puppy.  “Of everyone here, you want me to lay off the only one with opposable thumbs.  I don’t feel sorry for the monkey.  He got another shot with Career Builder, and no doubt he’ll get another one, too.  Why they want to keep putting monkeys in commercials is beyond me!”

About that time, three frogs came hopping up the tree.  Each of the frogs was carrying a piece of a broken iPhone.

“Hey, Bud” said the monkey.  “What brings you up to our place?”

“Bud” said the first frog.  He wasn’t much of a talker.  But the second frog chimed right in.

“Wise…”  And that was all he could say before the third frog cut him off.

“Er”  With that, the third frog pretty much said it all.

It was then that the Doberhauhau spoke up.  “WASSUP!!!”

“Anywhoo…” said the puppy.  “I can’t believe that I have yet another iPhone to replace.  Did I tell you what happened last time I was at the Apple Store.  This man dressed in grey burlap tried to sell me a computer from 1984.  How am I supposed register domain names on that?”

(Off in the woods you hear the call, “Wardrobe Malfunction!”)

Meanwhile, a young boy walking through the forest hears all the chit chat from above.  The boy stops and looks around.  Obviously, he senses something different, a feeling that he hasn’t felt in quite a while.  Perhaps a disturbance in the Force?  If only he had is Darth Vadar outfit.

And a bag of Doritos.

And a bottle of Coca Cola.  With a smile, of course.  :-)

Until next time@gregory_a_baker

 

You’ve Got (A Lot Of) Mail

You’ve Got (A Lot Of) Mail (reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 1-22-15)

Undoubtedly, email has evolved into the most flexible, useful and ubiquitous form of communication.  Email is used for everything.  Think about it.  When you have a tidbit of information that you send out, how do you do it?  Email, of course.  Before the Internet, a bin on office desk used to be the repository for corporate memos.  Not anymore.  All those memos are now in your Inbox.  Did you forget to buy a birthday card for your grandmother?  Shame on you – You could have just emailed her a note.  We haven’t even started talking about the informative messages (i.e., “spam”) that companies send to help you stay up-to-date on their products and/or services.  Email is the technology that unifies all non-urgent communication, and a good deal of urgent communication, into a single messaging channel.

Still not a believer?  Let’s see what Hollywood has to say.  The two most popular movies based on the Internet are “You’ve Got Mail” and “The Social Network.”  Clearly, “You’ve Got Mail” is the superior movie.  First of all, Tom Hanks trumps Mark Zuckerberg.  Secondly, Meg Ryan.  Finally, when someone posts something about you on Facebook, how do you know?  Well, duh…Facebook sends you an email!

Ha!

(OK, fine.  In reality, when someone posts something about you, you usually find out because someone else texts you about it.  But I’m not one to let facts get in the way of a good story…)

I bring up all this talk about email because I see a good deal of email in my line of business.  Quite frankly, it’s incessant.  The email is flowing all the time, from supplier to vendor, from vendor to customer, from customer to spouse, from spouse to the store, from the store back to the supplier.  There are messages requesting information, requesting meetings, requesting a date, requesting money, requesting world peace and some just saying hello.  The deluge of information can be overwhelming and cause people to complain, and many do. “Why do I get so much email?” and “What can we do to block the spam?” are common refrains.  Mind you, these same people will get upset if there is so much as a five-minute disruption in their email service.

One of the more interesting habits I notice is the manner in which people manage their inbox.  Most people tend to collect messages into separate folders.  Most newbies collect by topic and generally get too detailed in their topic selection.  After only a few weeks, these users have as many folders as emails.  Some folks like to collect emails by person.  This method is useful when you have a good deal of one-on-one communication, but the method quickly falls apart when emailing groups.  I’ve found that most experienced users create folders by date.  While this isn’t as specific as users or groups, generally you can remember the email date close enough to find something if necessary.  Plus this method has the added benefit of providing the feeling of organization without having to work too hard.

One last method of organization I’ve observed is becoming more common.  This method requires the user to do nothing.  The number of emails in the Inbox simply continues to grow until the user’s inbox fills up.  While providing extreme annoyance to the IT Administrator (don’t doubt me on this), this organizational strategy holds much validity.  First of all, it’s easy.  Who doesn’t love doing something that doesn’t require them to do anything?  Secondly, it’s effective.  When everything is in one place, it’s much easier to search.  Finally, it always works.  Every email that you get will be in that one spot.  Guaranteed.

Over the last few months, I’ve experimented with the “do nothing” technique.  It’s been a rough transition.  My brain likes to organize the details and keep things in their place.  The sight of emails building up in my Inbox was very disconcerting at first.  The need to respond-and-clear almost became overwhelming, and when the Inbox count passed 1,000, I found myself unconsciously creating folders.  I persevered, and as the count reached 2,000, I began to sense a feeling of calm.  It was as though I had become unshackled from a great weight.  Had I finally broken the bonds of being a slave to email?  I went to bed that night with a sense of relaxation I hadn’t experienced in quite a while.  It was a good feeling.

Of course, a few hours later, my pager woke me up.  A piece of equipment at the data center decided to issue an alert.  Just for grins-and-giggles, can you guess how it sent the alert?  That’s right – Email.

Until next time@gregory_a_baker

Microsoft Server 2003 – Support Ends July 2015

What is happening with Microsoft Windows Server 2003?

As of July 14, 2015, Microsoft® Windows® Server 2003 will reach its end of support. That means Microsoft will no longer offer security updates, support, or technical content updates for this operating system. The impact on companies of all sizes who are still running applications on Windows Server 2003 could be significant:

  • Windows Server 2003 and the workloads and applications running on it will become more expensive to operate.
  • Security patches and hotfixes will no longer be available, leaving servers and applications vulnerable to security threats and downtime.
  • Outdated software will create compliance risks.
  • Lost opportunity – Can’t take advantage of modern IT infrastructure, management tools, cloud and application modernization options that HP and Microsoft invest in.

Your business and its operations will definitely be compromised in terms of productivity and effectiveness. Now is the time to plan your migration to Windows Server 2012 R2. This will help avoid the pitfalls of last minute, frantic and risky “forced” migration.

How do you benefit from the HP | Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Migration Program available from HP and HP authorized channel partners?

Migrating to Windows Server 2012 R2 enables a people ready, device ready, cloud ready business which is the foundational requirement to establishing a sustainable competitive advantage for your business. HP and Microsoft offer integrated products and solutions that are affordable, reliable and simple to install and manage, along with financing options and training to help you both migrate to Windows Server 2012 R2 in plenty of time and build the new IT infrastructure your business needs now and to scale into the future. With limited IT resources and the need to focus those resources on delivering business value, you can count on HP and HP authorized channel partners to take care of the technology issues so you can keep the focus on running your business.

We’ll also make sure your business can take advantage of all these advanced features of Windows Server 2012 R2 with a new physical or virtual server environment based on HP servers.

  • Beginning (or modernizing) your virtualization journey at a reduced cost vs. some      competitor solutions.
  • Advanced disaster recovery and data protection.
  • Low cost, high-performance storage.
  • Remote access and virtual desktop infrastructure.
  •  Management and access and information protection.

Please call CMA Technology for help or more information at (706) 860-1997.

Who’s Driving That Car?

Who’s Driving That Car? (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 1-15-15)

OK, let’s take care of the priority items first.  This past Monday was the College Championship Football Game.  I’m sure the game was good, but that’s not what was important.  In case you missed it, our hometown super group, Lady Antebellum, sang the national anthem.  Best national anthem ever.  Yeah, I know it’s not their first rodeo.  But something about the arrangement and the harmonies…dang it, you just got to love it when the local boys have done good.

So, speaking of football, I was one of the few people in Augusta that traveled to see my team play and win a major bowl this year.  My team hardly gets any coverage in the local press, but perhaps you’ve heard of them - the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.  Again, if you track the local sports guys, you may not realize that Georgia Tech is actually located in the state of Georgia, just up the road in Atlanta.  The Yellow Jackets went to the Orange Bowl and gave Mississippi State all they could handle.  It was a great game, and we had a great time.  After all, it always fun beatin’ the dawgs.

Eventually, celebration time ended, and we needed to head back to Augusta.  Normally, the 9-hour drive from Miami isn’t that big a deal, but this year was Christmas with the in-laws in Austin.  The day before driving to Miami, my family enjoyed the 16-hour ride back from Texas.  It was lovely – the 5 a.m.departure, the 7 a.m. car sick episode, the 11 a.m. “I’m hungry” melt-down, the 1-5:30 p.m. Austin & Ally marathon (broken headphones), the 6 p.m. “I’m hungry” melt-down, and the final three hours of “Are we there yet?”  (A cold beer never tasted so good.)  So, needless to say, the drive back from Miami was longer than usual.  By the time we got through Statesboro, I don’t think my wife nor I particularly cared if we took another road trip for the rest of our life.

So when some automakers presented a host of self-driving cars this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, I took a great interest.  I’ve always believed that driverless car would greatly improve the highways.  Let’s face it – pretty much all drivers are idiots.  The guy in front of you always drives too slow while the guy behind you always drives too fast.  No one goes when the light turns green, nobody stops when the light turns red, everyone is on his or her phone, and no one is paying attention.  The number one cause of automobile accidents is human error, so what could be better than taking the human out of the loop?

The driver assist packages should be the first technology to make it into production.  Adaptive cruise control is standard on most high-end cars, and the feature is quickly making its way into mid-range price models.  The adaptive cruise control monitors the speed and distance to the car directly ahead and adjusts the car’s speed accordingly to maintain a safe distance.  The innovations presented as CES 2015 showcase lane-keeping assist.  The lane-keeping assist monitors lane lines and other traffic to ensure the car stays in its lane and avoids obstacles.  The combination of speed and position awareness allows the driver to set the controls and relax during a long highway trip or through bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic.

To demonstrate advances in the technology, Audi self-drove its driverless model from San Jose to Los Vega to start the conference.  Several other companies, including BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen, all demonstrated their take at autonomous navigation.  The vision for the future is starting to take shape.  For a trip into the city, one would simply set the destination into the computer.  The car would autonomously navigate the route.  At the destination, the passengers would exit the car.  Here’s one of my favorite parts.  The car would locate a parking area and park itself!  When the passengers are ready to go, they would simply signal the car on their smartphone, and it would come pick them up.

According to the press reports, the driver assist packages should start showing up in high-end models within the next couple of years.  The autonomous navigation will likely take a little longer.  But, hopefully, it won’t be too much longer before we can take a trip to Grandma’s, or a Bowl game, and let the car do all the work.

Until next time@gregory_a_baker

Light Bulbs That Aren’t Dim

Light Bulbs That Aren’t Dim (reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 1-8-15)

A couple of months ago, my wife and I decided that the time had come to finally retire our old washer and dryer that had served us for the last 20 years.  We originally purchased the set from a recent college graduate whose parents wouldn’t let her continue to store the machines in their garage.  The set is very basic – one machine washes the clothes, and the other machine dries the clothes.  Neither device contains so much as a single microprocessor.  How could we believe that would be acceptable?  We were so naïve back then.  And, well, let’s face it.  The technology simply wasn’t available.  It was a dark time for household appliances.

Thankfully, this generation of young married couples is spared the misery of dumb household appliances.  The new batch of household appliances introduced at CES 2015 arrives with technology that is fully integrated.  In short, all new appliances must contain one or more of the following:

  •  ·      An associated smart phone app that allows you to monitor and control the appliance
  • ·      An alerting system that sends you text or email to notify you when the appliance has completed its function
  • ·      An added function that has nothing to do with its original purpose

For example, suppose that you had an early morning meeting one day.  Your alarm goes off, but you think, “It would be so much easier to get up if I had a fresh pot of coffee.”  You would be out of luck with a dumb appliance.  Fortunately, the Smarter Coffee Machine is a smart appliance.  This coffee maker starts with a design that takes raw coffee beans, grinds them and then brews the coffee automatically.  Here’s the best part – You start the process via a smart phone app while remaining safely snuggled within your bed.

Of course, home appliance command and control is not limited to coffee makers.  With the GE Profile line of appliances, a quick review of online status provides refrigerator information ranging from the amount of ice to the remaining life of the water filter.  Washer and dryer monitors communicate the amount of time left to wash the current load and send alerts when it’s the right time to remove items.  Smartphone apps also activate oven controls, allowing one to start pre-heating before they get home.  For example, maybe while you are sitting at the red light at Bobby Jones and Washington Road. 

The integration of technology and home appliances likely will result in novel devices.  Many appliances have maintained the same form and function for several decades.  Technology encourages out-of-the-box thinking, and many out-of-the-box ideas result from combining different functions.  The Sengled Light Bulbs typify this approach, and the result is potentially revolutionary.  Their Pulsed Solo integrates a dual speaker, Bluetooth audio system into an LED light bulb.  The light bulb fits into any regular light socket and brings music to any part of your house.  In a similar manner, a second light bulb called Boost acts as a Wi-Fi repeater, boosting your power and expanding coverage into areas with poor signal.  How is everything configured?  By the Sengled app downloaded to your smartphone, of course.

So, you ask about our new washer and dryer?  In retrospect, I’m disappointed that we stayed old school.  The washer washes the clothes, and the dryer dries the clothes.  No smartphone app to track detergent utilization, water usage or dryer efficiency.  Sadly, not even a text alert to notify when our clothes have attained perfect fluffiness.  However, it does play a nice chime when done, and occasionally, I’ll hear my wife singing…

 Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-A-Dee-A

The clothes are dry – time to put them away!

Shake out the wrinkles, then go out to play!

Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-A-Dee-A

Until next time@gregory_a_baker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit or Debit?

Credit or Debit? Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 6-26-14)

Every four or five days, my car requires a fill-up.  No big deal, right?  I pass two or three different Circle K’s on the way to the office (depending on which way I go), so it’s pretty convenient to fill up the tank.  While they’ve been around for years, those of you born last century can still relate to the convenience of pay-at-the-pump.  (As an aside, can you believe that kids born THIS century will start driving next year?!?)  At first pay-at-the-pump was awesome.  Pull in the car.  Swipe the card.  Fill the tank.  Get back to life.  It was great.  And then the up-sales and marketing began.

It all started with the automated car wash.  Do you remember that at first they were free?  Or at least the base option was free.  When you were done filling the tank, the question popped on the screen, “Would you like a car wash?”  Well, of course.  Who wouldn’t want a free car wash?  So you press the Yes button.  A four-digit code is printed on the receipt, and you drive around to let water jets and spiny cloths purge the dirt away from your car.

After a little bit of time, the car wash free option disappeared.  An interesting thing happened at that point.  People actually started buying the car wash.  “Ah ha,” said the convenience store owners, and now we get to spend 10 minutes punching through a list of options before the first drop of gasoline gets delivered to the tank.

“Would you like Credit or Debit?” For the life of me, I don’t know why anyone would ever select Debit.  Yes, technically the credit option can cause a hold on bank funds until the transaction clears.  But if you’re that tight on money, you should be using cash anyway.  Press Credit.

“Enter your zip code” OK, I understand the need for security, but be advised that just a name and zip code is all that needed to uniquely identify an individual in a marketing database.  If you don’t want your gas purchases to be tracked, use cash.  Otherwise, enter the zip code.  Or at least do the best you can on the non-touch sensitive keypad.

“Which reward program would you like?”  Please don’t’ get me started on these reward programs.  As the forerunner of online tracking, these programs monitor our shopping habits and scheme ways to persuade us to buy more stuff.  I don’t want to be targeted with advertising, and I don’t need cash back or discounts.  Also, if I choose this option and steal the discount from my wife…well, let’s just say it’s not in my interest take this option.

“Which gasoline additive would you like?”  Fortunately, these options don’t seem to be around much anymore.  I guess the vision of gook building up around your engine’s rings and cylinders don’t really provide enough motivation to spend an extra five bucks.

“Would you like a car wash?”  Yes, back to the mother of all gas pump inquiries.  This question presents a little bit of irony since the car wash at the gas station where I typically fill up hasn’t worked since it opened.  True story – at one point, they put signs on all the pumps to please not buy a car wash.

“Would you like a receipt?”  Sometimes, this question will be asked prior to filling the tank.  Sometimes, the question will be asked at the end.  If you’re lucky, you’ll just be told to see the attendant.  Unless, of course, you need the receipt to complete an expense report.  In which case, bummer.

“Please Select Grade and Start Filling”  Finally.  Hopefully, you won’t be at a station that plays audio or video during the fill-up.  The A/V was fine when the stations played FoxNews or something.  Now it’s just five minutes of screaming commercials letting you know that you can get a suitcase of Natty Lite for $10.

At the end of the day, all this targeted marketing hasn’t changed my behavior at all.  I still drive up, swipe the card, fill the tank and get back to life.  Instead of constantly badgering us to buy, why can’t retailers design a system that provides what we want and responds with gratitude for our patronage.  For example, when I drive up and swipe my credit card, why can’t I hear something like,

“Hi, Dr. Baker.  Welcome back.  It’s great to see you again.  I’m sure that you just want to fill up your car.  If you need anything else, please press a button or see the attendant.  I hope you have a wonderful day, and thank you for shopping at Circle K.”

Well, thank you.  That was nice.  Now that you mention it, I’m a little thirsty.  I think I’ll walk inside and get a Coke.  No, wait.  I think I heard there was a special on Natty Lite.

Until next time @gregory_a_baker