Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day!

A Message to Clients

After reviewing the work we have done over the past months, and knowing what we do about your home/office network, your computers and your peripherals, you are in the midst of a period of turn-over and change.
  • Key pieces of your technical infrastructure are old and/or failing and will need to be replaced sooner or later.
  • New communications, entertainment and computer technologies are continuously available. We all have to keep pace or fall behind.
  • Microsoft has rolled out Vista and Office 2007 which (as you may already know) will render your current knowledge of and investment in Windows XP and earlier versions of Office obsolete.
As a result, you will need Keystone more than ever going forward. I want you to feel good about calling Keystone for help, and not like we are torturing you with death by a thousand cuts.

If/when you want to talk about pro active measures designed to keep your IT infrastructure -- computers, network and software -- performing well, please give us a call. By implementing best practices, such as systems planning and routine maintenance, you can avoid problems and feel more in control of the situation.

The State of Tech

Apple stock is trading about where it was the day the iPhone was released in June 2007. Since Christmas '07, Apple stock has lost 40%. Even Steve Jobs has bad days/weeks/months...

Other tech stocks currently in the toilet include, Sprint Nextel (down 20% this week), Google (down 40% since November), Cisco (down 30% since November), and VMWare which is back near it's IPO price, under $60 after having run up to $125.

Just remember, markets will fluctuate.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Top 4 Reasons Office 2007 Sucks

  1. The "Ribbons." This change provides no real benefit for those of us who were competent with prior versions of Office. Microsoft says, "This change greatly improves the user's ability to use and find features in the 2007 Office release." NOT!
  2. No "Classic View." How dare they not give us a way to avoid using the Ribbons?!
  3. "User education is required," Microsoft warns. We get lots of pissed-off calls from users in need of just-in-time help/answers. It's neither fun nor interesting.
  4. Windows Vista + Office 2007 = Death. If you need a new computer, our recommendation is to buy one with Windows XP-Pro, then load your earlier version of Office (2003 Retail version). If you do not have install media for an earlier version of Office, then get yourself a Mac.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Good Song, BAD Software

I encountered Zone Alarm on a client's PC recently. It was not a rewarding experience for me or the client.

I've never been a fan of Zone Alarm's constant, misleading, annoying pop-ups; I've never understood how the product keeps getting positive reviews like this.

So when my client wanted me to uninstall Zone Alarm, I supported the decision and agreed to do it.

When Zone Alarm installs, it provides the user with an Uninstall program. I mistakenly assumed that I could click on the Uninstall application and Zone Alarm would be history. No such luck.

Instead, when I ran Zone Alarm Uninstall, it crashed on my client's machine. I got that Windows pop-up telling me that an error has occurred and asking if I want to send an error report to Microsoft. Do you suppose that Microsoft has people whose job it is to correct such errors or tell you how to avoid them?

I tried to coax the Uninstall application to work a number of different ways, using tricks and suggestions I found on the Internet. No luck.

Then, I installed Zone Alarm version 7 on top of the Zone Alarm version 6.5 I was trying to remove. Based on the messages displayed during the install of version 7.0, the install removed version 6.5 successfully before it installed version 7.0! But, the new(?) Uninstall app would not uninstall version 7.0. It crashed just like before, and I got the same Windows pop-up error message.

Having invested hours of time already and being no closer to a solution, I gave up and reloaded the operating system. This is not a quick, easy and cheap solution, but it is guaranteed to work, and it did.

So now I have another reason to hate Zone Alarm. It's like they sing in the Eagles song, Hotel California. "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!" Good song; BAD software.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sync Me Not

In a prior posting I wrote, "Voice recognition software. This will fundamentally change the way we interact with machines. "Computers" will be embedded in every device so that we can tell them what to do." In that posting, I wrote that current software from Microsoft, IBM, Dragon et al. was not up to the task.

Now, along comes Ford selling cars with Microsoft's "Sync," which claims to be a voice-controlled, on-board music, radio and communications system. What are the chances that this system works as advertised (see

Knowing what I do about the state of the art, I bet a colleague of mine that Sync's voice recognition feature does not work well enough to be useful -- certainly not like it does in one of the ads where a passenger orders up a Michael Bolton song. The implication is that the system hears someone sitting in the passenger seat when the car is moving and understands a voice that it has not been trained to understand. (This is something that I know from experience that high-powered PC cannot do adequately in a quiet office.)

For a preliminary answer, let's consult the Internet... For now, there's not a lot of real information about Sync. Several technology journalists tried Sync when it was unveiled. Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal wrote, "I found the voice-command system surprisingly reliable. In four days of testing, I encountered only a few instances in which my commands were misunderstood." (Source)

One fellow who owns a Ford Explorer with Sync comments, "I only use the SNYC for recharging the iPod and very rarely for voice commanding the iPod. (Not to mention feeling like an idiot yelling at your dashboard to play something and the voice commands giving you idiotic responces) I'll stick to a click or 2 on the iPod menu and leave the voice SYNC for handsfree phone."

In this instance, I am more inclined to believe the Ford Explorer guy (bad grammar, misspellings and all) than Walt Mossberg. Something tells me that Walt's ride was tricked out by Ford & Microsoft in ways that boosted his results/opinions.

I'm still a skeptic.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Oggs of Wisdom

I've been remiss in posting the radio interviews I've done over the last several months on KFNX, news/talk radio in Phoenix, Az. But the advice and opinions expressed therein are nearly timeless, so here they are; fresh as the day they were born.

  1. "Practical Precautions for Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft." Broadcast August 5th, 2007.
  2. "Behavioral Profiling." Broadcast November 25, 2007
  3. "Guess Who's Reading Your Email." Broadcast December 2, 2007.

NOTE: On May 16, 2007, the Free Software Foundation started a campaign to increase the use of Vorbis “as an ethically, legally and technically superior audio alternative to the proprietary MP3 format.” People are also encouraged to support the campaign by adding a web button to their website or blog. For those who don't want to download and use FSF's suggested Ogg player (VLC), the Xiph.Org Foundation has an official codec for QuickTime-based applications in Windows and Mac OS X, such as iTunes players and iMovie applications; and Windows users can install a Windows Media Player Ogg codec. Click here if you need to get set up to play ogg Vorbis media files.

And, lest you missed it, this is a link to the first KFNX interview/ broadcast I did, posted previously.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Web 2.N0

Web 2.0 is a term that dates from 2004. Based on Moore's Law, today we should be talking about Web > 4.0! Anyway, "social networking" is not the new new thing. Now that the money men and women are placing their bets, it will become (has become?) SPAM. Look what happened to email; it is more than 90% SPAM. Look at the blogosphere; its a wasteland.