Category Archives: Ramblings


No Laptop for a Week

This past week I went to the PASS Summit 2012 in Seattle (more on that in a later post). But I did something that I haven’t done ever. I went to Seattle without my laptop.

Now, if you have ever been to a tech conference, first off the wifi and network in the hotels are slow because you have thousands of geeks doing the same thing. 3g/4g slow too, so you are already hampered by that fact.

Next, you are up early, to breakfast/conference sessions all day, usually till 6:30 pm, and you then have conference events every night till 9, 10, 11 whatever, so you aren’t in your hotel much, maybe to sleep, shower, drop your bag off.

I found that I could “get by” without my laptop, but there were things that weren’t easy, and things I couldn’t do easily when I wanted to.

First trial was an email sent to me with a PDF that asked “can you sign this and get it back today”. Ok, let’s see. Download a PDF signing app and do it in iOS. Works. Little hokey to get the file back and copied and back in the email, but works.

Then, a couple of days later, “go here and fill this web form out”.. well, let’s cross our fingers it works in mobile safari or chrome without issue. It was clunky but worked.

I would say the biggest gripe though I had was this: lack of keyboard. Now I know with iPad (and things like Surface with the touch cover) you can get a keyboard, but I don’t have one of those cases for my iPad so I was just winging it with the iPad.

With no keyboard, it is *very* hard to sit down and bang out paragraphs at any fast type of rate. Blog post? Not quickly. It is just a slow down without a physical keyboard to type on. Other things like emails, twitter, web, whatever, work fine with just the iPad. And of course consuming/reading content is great. Just that typing something like this post here, I waited till I was at my desktop at home to write it. I think I would pull my hair out just trying to use the soft keyboard on the iPad.

Overall it got me by like I said, but there are still some gaps, at least for me, in what I need to do that can’t be handled without a laptop or physical keyboard. Maybe next year :)

Operating a Computer is like Operating a Car

Old people. Yeah, well, older than me. Not part of the “Nintendo” generation. Computers are “hard”. They didn’t grow up with them. They need to learn how to use them. Now don’t get me wrong, many people in that older generation are actually the pioneers of the computer age (Bill Gates? Steve Jobs?, etc), many are very good and know how to use. But I am talking about.. parents, your average joe’s, etc. They have no clue.

Analogy: Owning the computer, and operating is, is like owning and operating your car.

Giving a computer, especially a Windows machine, to a baby boomer and saying “have fun”, is tantamount to giving the keys for your car to a seven year old, and showing them how to shift and hit the gas. Yea, they will be able to drive it for a little bit, but they are going to crash.

And then you hear “well, I am only checking email and surfing the web”.. and I would say, ok, well just give your seven year old the car and have them drive around your yard. They are still going to crash, just into the tree in your yard instead of the ditch.

You just don’t jump into a car and know how to operate and drive it, you actually need to get training and get a license. Same thing should go for computers. Simple things like, “go to this address” or “run this program”, etc. Knowing how to type in a URL and hit should be like unlocking your car and buckling up. Just common knowledge. If it isn’t, you need training. One other problem? Most boomers that need the training (and probably “want” it) don’t really want to take the time to learn. They just want it to work. They want to get email, surf the web, do eBay, see pictures, and not worry. So, go to days of training, have family members or the geek squad fix your computer over and over and over.

Or just get an iPad.

Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite… Check.In Fatigue

Location based services. They aren’t new. Back 5-6 years ago I was at Sprint PCS (Northern PCS) and dorking around with LBS from MIcrosoft and Cell phones. The stuff has just matured.

So, ok. You use the LBS apps. Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, Yelp, Loopt… whatever. Personally there is so much fragmentation it is ridiculous. No single “places” db. Some venues have mayorship deals, some don’t care about anything but one app, etc.

The best thing I have seen so far is Check.In (web app) on my iPhone, which will do all 3 major services (more coming) at once. The thing is, you have to be on network. Problem is, most places I go to , there is no wifi, or cell coverage. So you just can’t even check in.

The other thing that comes up often is “check in fatigue”. Which is what you get after you go to a ton of different places and you spend more time checking in or trying to check in rather than enjoying the venue.

In the little town I am living in, there is once place with deals for mayorship – a coffee shop. And guess who is mayor? An employee. Forget it. Why even have any deals?

I am seriously thinking of just jumping out of the LBS app game, when you get down to it, just not enough time in the day to worry about “checking in” and really not getting much out of it. I would rather see it that if i am walking by a place, they txt me with a deal or do something to catch my attention, then me fight for some check in deal that I would never get.

Mobile/LBS apps will grow and mature and it is exciting to see where the space will go. Mainstream? not for a while, if ever. Trying to keep with my “appless” mode, I haven’t installed any LBS apps on my phone yet this week. (I have installed 4 other apps, but it is minimal :))

Mayorship really gets you nothing but bragging rights (and who really cares?) and not much else. I would rather spend my time reading or learning or hanging out with my babby :)

One Thing About the iPhone 4..

I still love it. Like I said, I don’t use it as a phone. But I have noticed something different (And I blame AT&T for this – working for cell phone company for 5 years, I blame the carrier :))

In Madison/Sun Prairie, I get 3G ,works great, no issues. When I drive out to work, in the big city of Waterloo, WI – there is no 3G, just Edge/2G. I noticed that the phone is just “Searching..” or low bars – trying VERY hard to connect.

What I did was turn off 3G and it was at FULL bars. So once I get to work, I turn off 3G, and once I leave, I turn it back on.

What it is, the phone is hanging on to the 3G signal from the big town of Sun Prairie, and tries, tries, tries its hardest to hold on to that. Bad handoffs or something. The cell sites aren’t handing it off gracefully to the Edge/2G network, so I have to force it.

Go figure.

Foursquare in Your Business

I don’t own a business. So let’s just get that out of the way. But as a Foursquare user, and someone who frequents many businesses.. how could you use Foursquare as a business owner?

First, above all, you can know what the heck foursquare is… check it out.. .. ok, did you find your business on there?

Anyways, some places give discounts for mayors.. awesome. 15% at the local coffee shop for me, yet an employee is the mayor. Against the rules for places that give deals.

What else can you do? Well, you can know who is coming to your place. You can say “shout blahhhhhh” for a cool new badge

You can do other cool deals, like, the 100th checkin gets this, or the 10th checkin today gets this. Sky is the limit.

Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, etc. If you own your local business, you should be on there and know WTF is going on. Facebook – you should already be there. If not, for shame. It is 2010.

Engage your customers. Give them something, even if it is recognition, if they are utilizing these location based social apps with your business.

Your patrons will thank you and spread the word for you. Through twitter/facebook, or just word of mouth, for you.

iPhone, AT&T, MMS Messaging Not Working?

So…the iPhone and AT&T. Match made in .. who knows..

Back in 2007 I bought an iPhone 2G (a 4GB). I was on T-Mobile at the time, in PDX. I unlocked it and ran on T-Mobile for a while worked fine, moved to Madison, WI where T-Mob is non existent, so I switched to AT&T, at the same time I got an iPhone 3G. When the 3GS came out, I upgraded to that. Emily got the 2G phone when I got the 3G, and she used that until it died (wouldn’t charge anymore), and once I had the 3GS, she got the 3G.

Along comes MMS.. only works on 3G and higher.

Now, me on my 3GS, it worked right away, no issues. Emily on the 3G though? No dice. Wouldn’t work at all, so what did I do?

1) Made sure the phone had the carrier update – yes
2) Made sure MMS was turned on? – yes
3) Reloaded software, and restored from backup – yes
4) Reloaded software – fresh start – yes
5) Emily went to AT&T to check, they said she was on wrong data plan, changed her, MMS still not working
6) I went to AT&T and told them it has to be something with that specific # on my family plan account, they said no, its the phone or software, I said “bull$h!t” and left.
7) Put my own SIM card in the 3G phone. MMS worked! Awesome. This rules out the phone hardware and software – so the CSR from step #6 was completely wrong.
8) Called AT&T, told them the last 7 steps, but told them I think it is something to do with the phone #/account being on a 2G phone and not upgrading properly to a 3G in their system. She didn’t believe me and said it was the SIM card.. like #6 I called BS but went along with their advice, they sent me a free SIM card replacement.
9) Waited 3 days for SIM, put in phone. Need to activate – called AT&T again, took CSR 30 minutes to activate. She didn’t believe me when I told her she would need the SIM card info to activate it – doh.
10) Told CSR from step #9 the history of step 1-8 and she insisted it wasn’t the account. She had me test steps, etc, etc, etc for about an hour before basically giving up. I kept telling her “It isn’t the phone. It isn’t the software. It isn’t the SIM. It isn’t the network. It IS SOMETHING ON THE ACCOUNT!!!!.
11) CSR from Step 10 wouldn’t believe but before giving up sent me to tech support. Tech support dude FINALLY was like .. yeah, I see it here, that 3G phone is registered in one of our messaging systems as a iPhone 2G, restricting it from sending MMS.. should be able to fix.. he tried, but said sometimes it takes up to 5 days to go through, so now I wait until next week..

Really AT&T? The two CSR’s at the stores (different stores, etc) and then 2 on the phone, and no one would believe the actual problem. I needed to get on the phone with a FizzBuzz CSR (a CSR who you say the code word FizzBuzz to and they automatically know what you are talking about and won’t waste your time telling you to reboot and try settings you already tried about 100 times)

Figured I would blog this as searching Google (which I did about 20 times) on this issue didn’t warrant anything. Hopefully some pour soul that is encountering the same MMS issue on a iPhone that was upgraded through the different versions will stumble on this. One thing that blew my mind was that the AT&T Tech Support guy was like “this is the 4th one like this today I have had to fix” – which to me says “why don’t the first level CSR reps have this info somewhere they can find when troubleshooting MMS issues”..

In any event, we will see come next Wednesday if it works. I told the Tech Support dude to make notes in my account because no way in hell am I waiting and going through over an hour of troubleshooting to get this to work again. I told the CSR from step 10 that I would just cancel the number and add a brand new one to fix it since they couldn’t – and I bet a dollar that it would have worked.

People say “I can’t wait for AT&T to be on Verizon”, but I don’t think it would be much better. The huge multinational or crazy big corporations just can’t deal with customer service issues in a good way, I think they are just *way* to big.

Sent from my iPhone/iPad

Mini rant. Too much to write in one tweet. To everyone out there who has an iPhone (and now iPad): Do you not realize that even if you go into your mail settings, and remove the signature that will add

“Sent from my iPhone”

that we still know you sent it from your iPhone (mostly). Example: Outlook. Default now in Outlook is Calibri size 11 and black/blue for to and reply. And then we know you have have an iPhone, and we know you aren’t on your laptop 24/7, and then we receive an email that has jacked up all the formatting in Outlook and you are sending it with Times New Roman (or whatever font it comes in as) and it looks just an email that would have “Sent from my iPhone” at the end, yet that isn’t there.

Who are you trying to fool? Do you think we don’t know you are on your phone? Why care about letting us know – there is nothing “wrong” with sending an email from your iPhone. It might even make us think, “hey, so and so is working from their phone – so I won’t attach a 20 MB PDF back, or maybe I will give them a quick shout back, etc.

To all of those out there that removed the signature… why? And if you have, I think you should put it back!


Why isn’t there a Web 2.0 Ajax Visual Studio?

Was thinking about this today. You can now write Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations and the like all online (Google Docs, Zoho, etc, etc). You can record video straight to websites through your webcam, you can video conference directly through the web.

Visual Studio in the Cloud:

Why can’t you code directly into the web?

I would like to see an app that lets you create a new .NET project through a web interface, reference dll’s if you need to (upload them to your “space”) and then go about creating code, Intellisense through Ajax, you hit compile, it sends it off to the server, compiles, and gives you a result. You can then browse to your exe or your new website and view the results.

No need for a bulky IDE installed on your computer, no worries about dependencies, etc. You could code C#/VB.NET on linux and a mac with no need for mono (although you couldn’t run the exe’s – it would be the most beneficial for web apps)

You could target different versions of the framework, use new features if you wanted, all that. Heck why not have the same thing for your database. mySQL already has it with phpadmin and all the other tools, you can query and do whatever you need to through the web. Where are the offerings like this for MSFT products? Maybe I just don’t know about them.

There is CodeIDE – but it is limited in languages and options. I want to see more of a full fledged Visual Studio IDE in the browser. Why? Because I want to be able to fire up a computer and just go to work, no installing, no waiting, no upgrading.

I can already see it now, Adobe Air IDE’s you can run on your desktop and sync up source code to the online IDE.

One feature built right in to this “online IDE” would be source control, revision history, etc.

I might not be possible right now, but I say give it a few years, and we will see a product like this come out, and I can’t wait.

13 Things To Make Your Corporate Website Suck Less

Ok, lately I have been looking online at places all over Madison, either to eat out, or do something, or whatever, and I have noticed some trends and some “no-brainers” about corporate/commercial/business websites.

There are reasons people are using the web to find you. The first easy reason is, to get your phone number. Think old ways, where you would look in the phonebook for a place, and find the phone number, and call them. So..

#1 – always have your phone number on your website.

#1.1 – get technical, and have links to open skype with a link

Now, thinking back to our old phonebooks. Most places didn’t get a huge ad in the Yellow Pages, just their number, no other info, but that is different when you have a site. What else does the phone book let you have in there by default?

#2 – always have your address on your website.

And, lets get a little fancy here, a little technical. Not only can you just have the “text” of your address, you can make it easy for people to find you.

#2.1 – put a static map on your site

#2.2 – put a link to popular online map services with your address already in the link as the “to” destination

#2.3 – format your address so that people can just “copy” it and paste in online map services. Note, most map input boxes are NOT multiline. Ex:

this is good: 123 East Johnson St Madison WI, 53718

this is bad:

123 East Johnson St.
Madison WI, 53718

Ok, so we have the two major information items from the old phonebook taken care of. For a minute, lets look at some usability issues.

#3 – your main site page, if you decide you want to just have a crazy flash intro that 99% of people skip, should check if flash is enabled, and have a lo-fi version of your site. This is a big one for mobile browsers. The iPhone is 30% of searches or something, but no flash. I hit your site and can’t do anything, so I move on.

#4 – don’t play music in the background (check out the majority of “spa’s, salons, etc”, and martini lounges sites) – and if you really think you need to, have a big OFF button. NO, this music is not going to make me think I am at your spa, or martini lounge. I just want the information I need.

Now, what else do we need to make a good decision your business?

#5 – POST THE HOURS YOU ARE OPEN!! – nothing is worse than trying to find information on a place, and they don’t post the hours. What time are you open? When do you close? And note – “We close at bar time” or, “Our hours are 5 PM to Close” doesn’t really help. So we have to go figure out when bar time is? Till close? So you expect people to drive to your business, only to find it closed?

#6 – Allow me to email you an order, order a gift certificate online, basically avoid any human phone contact and allow me to do my business. – Local pizza place? Let me email you my order and have it ready when I get there. Online spa/salon, let me buy my girlfriend a gift certificate without having to call you, or even worse, drive there and figure it out. I don’t have time for that, I know what I want, I just don’t have an easy way to get it, give me the ability!

#7 – Post some pictures of you place, inside and out

#8 – Link to review sites (like Yelp, etc) so I can see reviews on your business – good or bad. Hey, even get technical and have a blog to explain or make up for negative reviews.

#9 – Don’t have “Under Construction” or “We want to have this site updated by Feb 2007″ on your site, anywhere, when its a year later and it is still not updated Shows us you don’t really care. If it is under construction, just remove it.

#10 – We would rather have a 1 page site, very toned down, basic, with all the info we need than a 15 page flash monster with sound playing, QuickTime movies, and no real info, rather just having each page with 2 sentences of info that doesn’t really give us information to decide if we should give you our money.

#11 – If you are a restaurant, have a PDF link to your menu

#12 – search yourself on Google. Let’s say I ran “Steve’s Pizza” in Madison, WI (another note, you should get a non-generic name for your business – How many Steve’s have pizza places all over the world?) Search for

a) “My Business Name Hours”  – “Steve’s Pizza Hours”

b) “My Business Name Address” – “Steve’s Pizza Address”

c) “My Business Name Phone” – “Steve’s Pizza Phone”

d) “My town/ zip code and your business name” – “Madison WI Steve’s Pizza”

e) “My town/ zip code and my industry” “53718 Pizza”

If you don’t show up first or in the first 10 results in Google, you are doing something wrong. If you don’t show at all you have real problems. Go buy some Google Adwords so that you actually start showing up. People are really searching for this info, and can’t find it, and give up.

#13 – if you don’t have a site at all or too cheap to make a basic site (hey, you can do this for like 100 dollars a year, and you don’t need to be a geek, or hire someone, see #10) – then you better go check out all the review sites – Yahoo Travel, Yellow Pages, Yelp, etc, etc and make sure that your address, phone, and hours are all updated there, but you shouldn’t depend on these sites to have your basic info.

So there we have it, a list of BASIC, EASY things you can do to make your corporate website suck less. Remember, people under 30 don’t care to use phonebooks anymore. Most don’t have home phones, or phonebooks. They have cell phones, and use the web as their phonebook. When you move your business online, remember to make the essential information available, we WANT to give you our business, we just want to be the most informed consumer first before we open our wallets!

A Good Memory Is A Great Thing To Have

Well, I haven’t posted in a while. Still busy as ever. Was up north for the 4th and my 10 Year reunion. Pics are on Flickr.

Anyways, this post is about a “Good Memory”, or even better, the ability to memorize things. Memorization.

So what does memorization have to do with anything? Well, as far as computer stuff goes, programming, development, database stuff, networking, sysadmin, all aspects, even just regular old users using their computers. Memory (not RAM), but remembering how to do things is going to make you better. Not just better, but substantially better.

Remembering things will probably make you a very good developer. How? You won’t have to keep looking things up. It should start out with you remembering the syntax of the language you are using. Then comes remembering how to setup and tweak your tools (IDE), then comes remembering different concepts (loops, OOP patterns, etc). Next comes remember old code you wrote to solve some problem, and going back to it and using it again. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

As any good developer should, you should be able to remember how to use the OS and tools you are using. If you can’t even do that, you probably shouldn’t be developing software. A simple example, like setting up a printer in Windows XP, or pinging Google, or using CTRL+C and CTRL+V – these simple concepts are going to make you a better computer user, not just a developer. There is no excuse for not knowing these simple things!

Now, if you can remember tons of little things like that, and then start adding in Framework libs, and IDE tricks and how the network works, or every other nugget of info you should be remembering. You might not remember every blog or site bookmark full content, but you should remember that you bookmarked it and why. Just little things.

Another area where memorization is key is with music. Playing music. Singing music. Take playing guitar or piano for instance. You can read off the music time and time again, but you are using part of your brain on that, not focusing on actually playing. Once you memorize the music, you can play it better, and focus on actually playing, not where you are on the music page.

Same thing with looking up things in help or guides for development. If you keep having to look up DATEDIFF in SQL books online, you are just wasting time. Learn how it works, learn the params and what they are, and memorize it.

I think the only time you should be using the help is to search for something that you haven’t memorized. Like, “I wonder if there is a C# function to do XYZ”. Then, you search help, even better Google, or ask someone who you think might know. But you shouldn’t have to Google or ask someone “Hey, do you know I set up a FOR loop?” – That you should know, and have memorized (plus a ton of other things!!)

The more you memorize, the better you will become, because you can focus on the problems to solve, not learning the tools and concepts you should already know. Oh, and you can play some wicked guitar as well :)