April Fools 2011

It’s April Fool’s day.  Here’s the funniest thing I’ve seen so far:

 

 

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FEMA loses access to data and why gov’t systems are prone to lose things.

InformationWeek is reporting a story about FEMA and how they lost access to their lessons learned database.  The inspector general concluded that FEMA cannot access lessons learned materials prior to May 2010.  Here’s the link to their story http://www.informationweek.com/news/government/enterprise-apps/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=229209496&subSection=News#

I’ve seen this sort of “out with the old” and “in with the new” technology updates a few times in my career and after reading the article I picked up on a few key phrases that suggest this is a fairly normal government technology/contracting update that didn’t work correctly.

The article gives me the impression that the old system was probably a legacy computer running older or even antiquated software.  Those systems are usually tended by an administrator who is, how shall I put this nicely, set in their ways.  A more direct approach would be to say they are system zealots who have love for their machine and program and everything else is trash.

Managers can become fearful of these types of admins and organizations, especially ones with important missions like FEMA, need to update their technology.  The article talks about the functions of the old system being covered by two new projects.

The trouble springs from a few places.  Given the length of time it takes to plan, write, bid, and select a government contractor acquisition of new things is very very slow.  Typically the new thing you get via the acquisitions process is outdated the day it arrives.

The second source of trouble is the writing of the requirements documents for the new system.  If you do have a zealot guarding the old system, good luck trying to figure out what you need the new system to do and how to import data from the legacy device.  Even with help of the legacy system admin/managers you’ll have to deal with the new vendors and their tendency to “yes-man” every question just to get the business.  From person experience I’ve had vendors promise that their system would accept data from a legacy machine that I needed to replace only to find out that what the vendor really meant was they promise to work with us to write a separate service contract to help migrate for out legacy machine for a price (and a pretty stiff one at that.)

So before you get torch and pitchfork and march on FEMA demanding their IT manager’s head we have to look a little deeper into the situation and unwind the tendrils of contracting, acquisition, personal management, and then find the root cause.

The end of all this investigation will bear out that government systems (really any systems in large bureaucratic organizations) have dangerously long life cycles and poor end-of-life transition plans.  This stems from a focus on the system and not a focus on mission assurance.

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Trying to find the Xperia Play (a.k.a. the Playstation Phone)

The commercials are funny. Since I’m not a big Daily Show fan I didn’t recognize the actress when I saw the Xperia Play commercials on youtube.  I’ve been following the Xperia play with some degree of interest.  My Playstation 3 has become a hub for everyone in the family and has surpassed the family iMac as the most used device in the house.  I’m a fan of my PSP and enjoy the connectivity between the handheld and the console.  It remind me of the Gamecube/Gameboy Advanced cable connectivity.

Unfortunately I can’t find any information about what carriers will offer the Play and which stores have demo models of the phone.  I’ve called the local AT&T and Verizon stores and neither one of them had any information on the phone.  Best Buy was also clueless.

 

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Explanation of nuclear troubles in Japan

I have to repost this, simply because it uses poop to explain something.  The video doesn’t dismiss the danger or demean the Japanese people.   I pray for them and encourage others to take positive action to assist the people suffering afflictions brought about by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear events.

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Why I’m a console gamer (or PC DRM sucks)

So a customer makes a snarky comment in the Bioware/EA forums and gets his account banned for 72 hours, effectively cutting off any games he’s purchased from Bioware/EA; including the brand new Dragon Age 2.   Wow, that’s harsh, Dragon Age 2 is the newest and shiniest game on the market.

Sure sucks to be that person and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if you bite the hand that feeds you games, you’ll get smacked sooner or later.  EA owns Bioware and we all know that EA places its own digital rights over the convience of its users.  You can’t play any Sims game without the install CD, Spore was a complete disaster, and low and behold Dragon Age 2 requires some on-line phone-home and make sure the user is in good standing to play buffoonery.

I’ve been playing games on computers since the Commodore 64 and I’ve seen all manner of digital rights management schemes.  I remember answering questions from the manual to prove I had a legitimate copy.  I recall various copy protection software schemes looking for specific “unreadable” tracks on 5.25″ and 3.5″ floppy disks.   That still holds true for many modern games that require the install disc to be inserted before they launch (a.k.a. Sims)

The problem is that I don’t want to truck around a stack of CDs with me when I travel.  If I’ve already got to go find a CD to insert to play a game; I might as well just get the console version of the game, put the media in the PS3/XBox/Wii and play.  Not to mention that I don’t have to worry about video settings or CPU speed or sound quality.  A PS3 version of Dragon Age 2 will function exactly how the designers meant it to function and I won’t get told by the vendor that my PC is too old or my graphics card is too weak for their game.  The additional bonus here is that I don’t have to deal with strange DRM tools to stop piracy.  My Dragon Age 2 blu ray inserted into one PS3 is the only way I can play.

There are precious few PC games that I play anymore and almost all of them are MMORPGs with FREE client downloads and a monthly/annual fee.  That’s right EA, if you provide a quality on-line experience with compelling content and good customer service people will pay you. You should check out Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean on-line, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, or Eve online for examples of success.  For the record, Spore was not a success.

Yes I am still sore over the flop/ruination of Spore at the hands of EA.  I’m sure that vitriol is evident but it’s not just EA.  Other software houses do it too.  Eventually the PC gamer market will die.  Not because the PC isn’t capable of playing good games, but because MMOs will figure out how to work on consoles and folks like PotCO, LotRO, Eve, and Blizzard will realize that they can get more bang for the buck selling to consoles and leveraging existing networks (Xbox live, PSN, Wii channels) rather than trying to maintain development efforts for PC and Mac over the open Internet.

Oh yeah I hear the nay-sayers lauding Steam… You don’t think they are trying to make Steam play on consoles?  Really? They probably aren’t speaking about it publicly but Steam on PS3/Xbox would be a have-to-have for everyone everywhere.

When that day comes, it’ll be the final nail in the PC game market’s coffin.  I’m sure that a few years after that happens we’ll have to send someone around to tell the C level execs at the PC gaming houses, precious few of them seem to really be connected with the gaming market anymore…

 

 

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The AF is trying to get control of social media

Slashdot had an article Air Force Wants Hundreds of Fake Online Identities but I think this is a misnomer.  In light of recent frauds committed by Facebook criminals abusing Air Force officers’ identifies I think this is a good move on the part of the Air Force and I believe we’ll see several government organizations and corporations follow suit.

Persona management will allow an organization to create Facebook accounts for users who may not wish to maintain a Facebook presence.  I’ve spoken with several people in leadership positions who are uncomfortable with a Facebook account that is related to their work.  Several questions arise:  Do I friend my subordinates?  Do I have to friend my subordinates?  How much work info should I share?  If I share too little does that reflect poorly on the company?  Do I friend non-work friends?  Etc. Etc.

If a company/organization builds a proper manager Facebook standard practice guide and employs a persona management system then those managers don’t have to worry.  They don’t have to build and maintain a Facebook profile, especially if they have no desire to be on Facebook.  This also protects the organization and manager from the manager’s identity being used for fraudulent purposes.

I really doubt the Air Force is trying to use a legion of Facebook sock puppets to gain intel or bolster recruiting efforts.  It’s more likely they have a whole legion of 50-somethings middle managers who don’t want to have to use Facebook.

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Return to a non-holiday theme

Here we are out of the holiday season.  Now it’s time for a different theme on the blog.  Good bye snowmen for now, we’ll see  you next year.

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A little free media relations advice for Time Warner’s CEO

Time Warner’s CEO is pejorative in his comments about Netflix.  Sorry Jeff, being dismissive of a new technology isn’t smart business it only serves to show your company as defensive and behind the times.  Anyone recall Steve Ballmer’s reaction to the first iPhone in an interview?  He dismissed it as being less than significant because no one wanted a device without a keyboard.   A) He was dead wrong and his snide tone only served to make him look more goon-like and B) Doesn’t Microsoft sell tables and now aren’t they in the mobile touch-screen device market?  Sorry non-keyboard input teams at Microsoft: Mr Ballmer thinks you guys are idiots…

So here is the article: http://www.electronista.com/articles/10/12/13/time.warner.chief.claims.netflix.insignificant/

Now Time Warner’s boss is saying Netflix is cheap and in the traditional world of big budget TV with network funded shows with megastars perhaps he’s right.  But look where content production is headed.  Let’s consider Felicia Day’s The Guild or Chad Vader from Blame Society.  These are excellent, high quality and entertaining series produced using smaller budgets and built to satisfy an ever diversifying audience.

So for Jeff and Steve here’s a little free advice. When you’re threatened by “the next thing”  try something other than belittling or insulting.  Have a shred of tact.  When the iPhone comes out don’t say, “no one will want it, it doesn’t have a keyboard”  Try this instead:  “I’m not sure that customers will want to learn a new user interface.”

And Jeff, rather than set yourself up as the guy who let the “Albanian Army” wipe out his company how about saying something like,”Netflix may have appeal for a certain sector of content consumers, but we believe that Time Warner offers premium content that our customers have come to expect from their entertainment choices.”

Tearing down up-and-coming companies or technologies isn’t smart.  You may feel better, but it tends to set you up for a bigger and more spectacular fall when the end eventually finds you…

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Almost Christmas

It’s almost Christmas and so I’m swapping out themes for the holidays.  I should probably do the same over at skoda.com.  Hopefully the new iWeb 11 will be easier to change themes on than ’09.  I’d love to see more love given to iWeb, it could be great rather than it’s current mediocre status as a web site/blog management system.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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Thwarted on Cyber Monday

The two big things I was looking for on cyber Monday didn’t happen. I was hoping for a reduced price on iPad apps (like Numbers and maybe the Monkey Island games) and a deal on Storymill from Mariner Software.

Oh well, I’ll just have to wait until next semester and buy them with teaching funds…

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