October 30, 2008

Revel in the celebration (and ridiculous chaos) with Philly's local papers.

October 30, 2008

So, Chrome (not the VNV Nation song) is now available from Google. Which means your choice of browsers has grown to three (basically): Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome (I'm not counting Safari in this edition). The basic question people ask is, which is best? The real question should be, what do you want to do?

Almost all sites will feature full functionality in IE; most will perform fine in Firefox; Chrome is so new that a number of sites won't work in the browser. From a security standpoint Firefox leads the charge; Chrome features good security but its newness gives it an advantage that won't last long; IE is getting better, but it's the primary target so it gets hit from all sides. (NOTE: I use Firefox as my default but have IE for those sites that don't support FF.)

Best advice for picking the right browser is to pick them all; test drive each to see which fits your surfing style, the sites you visit most, and the security you require. Make the one most compatible with you the default and the others serve as backup. It won't upset your machine to have them all there, so why not.


October 23, 2008

It's the economy, stupid. The phrase made famous by a Bill Clinton Post-It note during his 1992 presidential campaign. Sixteen years later, it's deja vu all over again.

So, business is tough, and for most small- and mid-sized businesses (including ourselves) it's become a matter of survival instead of growth. Best way to survive when revenue is stagnant - minimize costs. From a technology perspective this can be a tricky task. An owner's first inclination is to stop spending on IT all together; not the best solution, especially when most SMB's are now relying on technology to run their businesses (both day-to-day operations and actual line-of-business functions). There are simple steps you can take to maintain the health of your systems, and at the same time reduce the costs associated with down time and replacements.

1. Run application updates, but not without first checking Google -- to be honest, this is mostly for Microsoft updates. There is a history of Microsoft fixing one issue and creating another with their updates; Google the updates first to see if anyone has tested them and what systems may be negatively impacted. For the most parts the updates will run, reboot, and move on; but it doesn't hurt to be sure.

2. If you have customized applications or implemented work arounds, don't change anything within your environment -- you should still run the updates mentioned above but you have to be especially careful when you've built a non-standardized environment. Non-standard builds are common as businesses are unique and software isn't malleable. That said, work arounds are delicate and can break for a myriad of reasons. Maintaining your systems is a must but you want to limit changes so as not to break what you have built.

3. Be smart when browsing the web or opening e-mail attachments -- the majority of issues we encounter, especially on PC's and laptops, are caused by user error. Spyware, malware, viruses - all of them rely on users to initiate their programs. Stay away from questionable sites; if you get an e-mail with an attachment, take a moment to determine if the sender is legitimate or would actually send such an attachment. You can strengthen your anti-virus, -malware, etc. security, but be sure the stepped up security doesn't impede productivity.

There are a host of other steps you can take to minimize your IT expenditures, but the above are basics that give you a good starting point. If you outsource IT, talk to your provider to determine other ways you can reduce spend; if the provider is looking out for your best interest, they'll know it's in their long-term best interest to help you. When business picks up again, it becomes a win-win again.

SCOR (Let's go Phillies!)

October 22, 2008

With thanks to Rod Stewart, "Tonight's the night."  It's been 15 years since I was personally invested in a World Series Game 1... and 28 years since I was personally happy at the end of a World Series.  Butterflies don't begin to describe the action in my core.

OK, I'm not going to tell you anything you haven't already read on another site. Yes, on a purely talent level, the Rays are the stronger team - from starting four to line up and bench. That said, the Fightin's have yet to get on one of their team-wide hot streaks. I think given the make up of this team it's going to happen in this series. The key is how Howard handles the right-handed power pitchers. If he gets good swings I think good things are going to happen. Also think this starting on the road is good thing for the Phils. No hometown pressure right off the bat.

Phils in 6.

The Flyers have fallen to the lethargy you see in teams who get so far so fast. Consistency is missing - especially on defense. Thought the pre-season showed signs this team was going to start fast; ah well, 77 games to get it righted (and John Stevens is a calming force to have behind the bench, though he needs some fire behind closed doors).

Sixers are looking all right. With the sudden overload at power forward and center it's going to take Cheeks and company a bit of time to come up with the right system and comfort level. Brand and Miller are the keys; they play well and stay healthy this team is a legitimate eastern contender. Andre has his new contract, so he has no excuse for not coming outta the gate in a fit. And Speights just might turn into a real contributor this year; kid is good.

OK, I understand paybacks are a b****, but come on. What did we 49er faithful ever do to deserve the Yorks as owners? I'm not saying firing Nolan was wrong (and Singletary was the right choice over Martz), but do it in January, not late October. Ridiculous. The defense seems to have quit on a team whose offense can actually give it a real chance to win now; Singletary should be judged by how well that unit plays the rest of the year. Two bright spots - Willis on D and Morgan on O.

Haven't felt the pull of any feature, so been watching some really good TV. "House" is tops so far (until "Lost" returns), with "CSI" not too far behind. Hugh Laurie is the James Gandolfini of network TV - turning a truly repugnant human being into a heroic figure. For a totally different side of Laurie, rent a DVD of "Fry & Laurie," a UK variety show. Hilarious.

About to start "The Stranger" by Albert Camus. I'll give you my feedback in two weeks.

Been to the gym a good deal and Mudvayne has been in heavy rotation on the iPod. Adults only please.

Let's go Phillies! Let's go Phillies! Let's go Phillies!


October 09, 2008

You will have to forgive me if this posting meanders... first pitch is just 12 hours away and the adrenaline is already flowing. Phillies vs. Dodgers... I still have nightmares of the Dodgers from the late 70s ('77 & '78 to be exact). The Fightins have such a shot at making the Series. Rollins, as always, will be key to the offense, but Greg Dobbs is going to get a ton of playing time at 3rd (Dodgers have a heavy RHP stable) and I think he's better prepped to excel than Feliz right now. Utley & Howard obviously can't disappear like they did against the Brewers. And as much as good ol' Charlie has pulled the right strings this season (mostly), Coste needs some playing time; Ruiz's bat is worse than anemic.

On the pitching side, don't think I've been more confident in a Phils team since Carlton left. I think Hamels has the process down for pitching in the postseason (and starting at home) - let the adrenaline go (I have enough for both of us) and pitch. He's been spectacular against the Dodgers this year, should carry over. Myers is the big key - if he's on his game the Dodgers' righthanded hitters will be in for a long night. He's the opposite of Hamels - he needs the crowd to pump him up. Moyer and Blanton starting the first two away games gives the Phils four solid pros in just the right spots. The bullpen should be well rested and ready to chip in (unlike their last visit to LA in August); Lidge seems to have settled down, so I don't think he'll be impersonating Wild Thing in the 9th.

Prediction - Phils in 6.

In other sports news... Flyers open the season on Saturday vs. the Rangers. Still a very young team but if they accept how much harder they'll have to work this year to even match last year they will be OK. 49ers continue to baffle me on defense. Offense is OK (Josh Morgan needs to get healthy and back to preseason form), but how do you let the Patriots keep the ball for 40 minutes? It's frustrating that the strength of the team is now costing them games. Eagles & Giants next two weeks - not looking good. 76ers opened preseason with win vs. Celtics. NBA preseason actually means something for teams like the Sixers so I'll be watching closely.

Sherlock Holmes is still the ultimate neurotic detective... Stereophonics have a new album dropping soon - get it. Watch "Fringe," mostly for John Noble's performances (and keep watching "Lost," "House," "CSI" (original), "24," "Two and a Half Men," and "Dexter").

OK, your assignment (and you no option to accept or decline) is to will all positive thoughts the Phils way (unless you're a Dodgers fan). We're pushing the Phils toward the 2008 title - let's make it happen.

October 02, 2008

It has to be one of the single-most aggravating experiences in IT - re-building a PC.  The re-build is necessary for any number of reasons: virus/spyware infection, decreased performance, an update sends an installed application awry (all these have happened to us or one of our clients).  If you've ever done a re-build then you know the sheer torture the process exacts; it's time consuming (average of 5 hours), never smooth, and you invariably forget to backup some piece of information.

The question we always ask is - is it more cost effective to just buy a new machine?  I'm not saying technology has become fully disposable, but prices have come down so far on advanced systems that in some instances it doesn't pay to re-build a machine (though we always return a machine to factory settings for possible later use).  Even if you conduct the re-build yourself there are the soft costs of your time spent away from conducting business and the time spent catching up on what you missed.  If you pay an outside resource to do the work, then you probably spend more on their time than you would a new system.  That said, if your machine is unusable, how long can you wait for a new machine to arrive?  A re-build is a day in actual time; a new machine could result in days of down time.

Total cost of ownership (TCO) is real variable when talking about technology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_cost_of_ownership).  A machine re-build is part of that calculation; be sure if you are faced with a re-build situation you look at the hard and soft costs that you will incur.  The right decision will be that which is best for you and your business.